Perfectly Flawed

coptic icon mosaic-Moses. by MinaNashed

Reading through my Bible lesson, I came to Hebrews 8:7. “For if the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.”  I did a double-take.  Not faultless?  But it’s talking about the Law of God!  I distinctly remember somewhere in the Psalms…  Yes, there it is.  Psalm 19, verse 7: “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.”  So if it’s perfect, how can it have faults?   How can I reconcile this seeming contradiction?  For just a moment, it troubled me.

God gave Israel a Law on Mount Sinai that He already knew would have a weak point—namely, that men could never keep it.  God knew that, but men did not know that.  Mankind has long suffered under the delusion that we can do pretty much anything.  We are made in the image of God Gen 1:27 but we are not made in His express image as Christ is. The NASB says Jesus is “the exact representation of His nature.”  We are more like a shadow or reflection of God, showing His form, but not the full effect.  We share many of God’s attributes, but not His perfection.  Any righteousness we can muster is only a shadow of His—like a photograph without depth or substance.  No, we are not perfect.  And yet, God made us, too.  God made flawed things!

The Mosaic law* was flawed.  And yet it was perfect.  The dichotomy of God.  Is He just trying to confuse us?  But no.  It all comes into focus when we realize that the Law was a teaching tool.  God gave the Law so that man could learn his own limitations.  We needed to be taught that we are unable of achieving perfection in our own strength.

A potter who teaches others may at some point make a pot that has a problem.  Perhaps it is top-heavy and cannot support its own weight.  Perhaps it has a less-obvious problem–a bubble in the clay that, when subjected to the heat of the kiln, will cause it to crack.  Those pots are flawed, for sure, but they fulfill their purpose perfectly.  They demonstrate to the students exactly why it is important to prepare and shape the clay carefully.  It shows them what doesn’t work, so that they can learn a better way.  The flawed pot is a perfect example to the students.

That’s exactly what God did with the Law.  We saw the beauty of the Law but needed to be shown our inability to achieve that righteous perfection.  We needed help.  We needed a better way.  He demonstrated to mankind our need of a Savior.

Instead of a perfect set of rules and a set of stones to stack, we needed a gracious gift and a better promise—one that took into consideration our handicap.  He gave us both.  He gave us Jesus, His Son, perfect in righteousness and thus a suitable sacrifice to make up for our inadequacy.  And then He promised that by His Spirit, we could gradually be conformed to His image—made perfect.

God didn’t want to just create perfect beings.  He could have done that simply by not allowing free will.  His goal seems to be to train people in relationship.  To disciple.  That is God’s heart toward us—to show us the way so that we would desire to walk in it with Him.  God’s Law was part of His training for humankind.

It’s all perfect.  Even the imperfect parts.

We are perfectly flawed, you and I.  Just as God intended.

Let’s learn from those flaws and allow Him to reshape us for His glory!

 

*Yes, the law given to Moses was called Mosaic Law.  Which always makes me wonder why artwork made from tiny chips of multi-colored tile is also called mosaic.  Are they related?  I guess that’s a word study for another day.  For now, I shall settle for a Mosaic mosaic to top this page.  😊

The beautiful Mosaic mosaic can be found at https://www.deviantart.com/minanashed/art/coptic-icon-mosaic-Moses-360367820

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Perfect Windows for Glory

While I was going through a mini Bible study with about ten other people, we began discussing perfectionism.  I wonder if everyone struggles with some degree of perfectionism, since it seemed that everyone in that room did.  Interestingly, the lesson paired perfectionism with fear.  Is it because we fear failure that we strive so hard to be perfect?  And why do I have such a fear of failure?  Is that based on pride…what others might think?

Someone called perfectionism a sin, which surprised me a bit. I have always seen it as a bit obsessive, but more good than bad—something that we roll our eyes about and need to relax at times, but not a sin, surely!  After all, it produces some very good work!  I was mulling that this morning and realized that in fact, perfectionism was the basis for the original sin!  In Genesis 3:5, the tempting serpent used the words, “You will be like God,” and how could anything be more God-like than perfection?

Somehow it had never entered my consciousness that not only is perfection impossible, but it is also an attempt to become God.  When we are unable to accept our own work as good enough, aren’t we actually saying that we are dissatisfied with what God has given?  Hebrews 13:5 says to be content with what you have, for God will never desert or forsake you.  2 Cor 12:9 says, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”  God gives us weakness on purpose, so that His perfect power can shine through it.  He loves for His grace to cover our imperfections!

Lord, remind me to focus on pleasing YOU,
not other people.
Help me to realize that the gaps
where I am unable to achieve perfection
are actually windows for Your glory to shine through!

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A New Year Without Fear

Since I have avoided any and all goal-setting for many years, I am tentatively *considering* sticking one little toe in the water. And I think I must explain WHY goal-setting is such an anathema to me. In the past, I have seen it as a surefire way to guarantee failure. I think that earlier in my life, I set ridiculously impossible goals, then beat myself up because I failed them so badly. In fact, I can remember times when I decided to get organized, spent time and money setting up a system, then never even used it for a day. It sat there for weeks, mocking me.  I have so many failed goals in my past that I simply learned to avoid and despise setting goals.

And that is all about fear.  I feared to set any goals because I didn’t accomplish the goals I set.  And of course, setting no goals made me unlikely to accomplish things.  But even right now I can feel a little tingle of that old fear…just to remember this failing of mine makes me conscious of its cold breath on my neck.  “Goals” is still a word that invites some trepidation in my heart.  And honestly, I feel a prickling of vulnerability as I admit this…I’m rather afraid that even speaking of it might lead to backsliding because in my past,  Goals equaled Failure.  So I’m still not quite ready to jump into “goal-setting.”  No more G-Word.

I read back over the words above and I see a lot of angst–something that I really want to step away from.  This past year has been a process of slogging through that muck and gradually, carefully, one tiny step at a time, blazing a path OUT of the swamp.  And praise be to GOD, I have seen progress!  Truly, I have.  There are signs that maybe the ground is firming up under my feet.  But it still feels a little bit fragile, as if I am still not 100% sure this is possible.  
I just read in Lara Casey’s book Cultivate a different wording that is more friendly to me:
  • One year from now, I want to know I …
  • I want to look back and see more _______ and less ________.
  • I want to have chosen ________ over _______.
  • I want to have cultivated…
Somehow that is nice. It sets a tone for future fruitfulness without putting so much pressure on today. So my plan for today is to continue the baby steps I have begun.  I have come up with a few answers for the questions above, and while they may not be big and important,  they also don’t inspire fear.  They are small things, things I am doing already.  I’m not planning to re-create my life, but simply to build on the foundation that is here.  Without fear.  Because it is truly God who is doing the building.

I am very grateful for how well 2017 has gone, and I am excited to see how God grows me in 2018.  Make me fruitful, Lord!

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Made Alive!

Col 2 13

I was dead.  In my sin.  I was wrapped in myself, completely enfolded in my excessive, unnecessary flesh, and Jesus gave me new life.  He had already forgiven all my sin, piling it on Himself during that time on the cross, and He poured life—new, vigorous, vibrant life—into me.

When I was born into this world, I had no choice in the matter.  I didn’t participate in my conception, made no decision about when, where, or how I would be born, and it was much the same when Jesus took on my deadly sin and gave me new life.

He poured His own life into me, quickening a vital core within the deadness of my flesh.  He knows that I am still surrounded by the products of my birthing, that excess decaying flesh, and He is lovingly and carefully removing it, little by little revealing the life that He has given.

Thank you, Jesus, for life.  Together with You.

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The Ransom

In today’s world, we mostly use the word ransom in connection with kidnapping. The kidnapper has taken a hostage and demands a ransom.  When I read that God “paid a ransom” to buy me back from sin, it bothered me.  A lot.  If God is all-powerful, how can Satan have Him over a barrel, demanding a ransom in order to return me to my rightful Master?  Was I kidnapped by Satan so that he could manipulate…GOD?  The God of the universe is surely above being exploited by one of His created beings!

Of course, the problem is in the continual evolution of language.  Though the word ransom today implies coercion and a forced payment, a better analogy would be one that was more common a few centuries ago–the indentured servant.

There were many people who found themselves indebted to the point of no return and essentially sold themselves as slaves in order to fulfill that debt.  Once in that system, it was not uncommon to find that there was no way out–the debt was simply too huge to be paid.  The only way to find liberty again would be if some good master had mercy and, after paying for you, set you free.

I was in a similar situation.  There was a debt of sin that surrounded me, towered above me…more than I could ever pay for.  And God in His mercy bought me.  And set me free.

The ransom wasn’t demanded.  God was not bullied or intimidated.  He simply saw my need, my helplessness.  And He set me free.  Not because He was forced, but because of His kind mercy.

God, who owns all riches, gave His most precious possession, His Son, the biggest ransom ever paid,

For me.

 

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It’s All About Sin

 Having greeted them, he showed them his hands and his side. The talmidim [disciples] were overjoyed to see the Lord. 21 Shalom aleikhem! [Peace be with you!]” Yeshua repeated. “Just as the Father sent me, I myself am also sending you.” Having said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Ruach HaKodesh [Holy Spirit]!” If you forgive someone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you hold them, they are held.”     —John 20:20-23  Complete Jewish Bible

I had never thought about it until this morning, but it’s remarkable how Jesus got straight to the point here.  When we read this passage, we are quite carried away by the thought of what it was like to see Jesus -alive!- after knowing without any doubt that He was dead.  But rather than dwelling on that most astonishing miracle, Jesus moved on.  He immediately told His disciples what to do next.  He sent them out, with His peace and the power of the Holy Spirit, and what did He send them to do?  Talk about sin!

Sometimes we forget how desperate we were without Jesus.  Jesus didn’t come to raise us to greater enlightenment, to make our lives easier, to empower us, to make us happy.  Jesus came because we were drowning in the pit–the toxic pit of our own sins!  

Jesus is not a cheery, sanitized, beam-me-up getaway from the mundane dreariness of this world.  Instead, He is the only hope, the hand that stretches out toward me above the quicksand, the strength that grasps hold when my frantic flailing is only dragging me deeper and deeper.

The cesspool we have fallen into is one of our own making, but we cannot possibly make our own way out.  There is no way out as long as we are continually adding to the sin that is drowning us.  The only way to emerge from the abyss is for Someone to take away the sin that is pulling us down.  And on the cross, Jesus accepted all the sins of the entire history of humanity–all those who choose to allow Him to bear them–and He took away their power over us.

An unimaginable weight…He bowed beneath the quicksand of all the sins of all the people of all time, and by his sinless perfection, they were nullified.  My sin dragged him down so that He, and then I, could be lifted up into new life.

It was ALL for sin.  That’s why He came, why He was needed, what it’s all about.  
The gospel–the Good News–is all about Sin.
Because Sin in the only barrier between me and the Father.

Freeing us from sin is the Essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yes, it’s simple.  But it’s vital.  At this pivotal moment in history, Jesus gave His disciples an assignment:  Make sure people understand about sin.  Help them to let go of it.

Because that is where the new life–the true life, the life we were created to live–begins.

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Pruning–the Cuts that Clean

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.                                                                                                                 John 15

I just discovered that prune in verse 2 and clean in verse 3 are forms of the same word! Somehow to me it was a striking thought.  You are already pruned.  I don’t know if you have ever pruned a tree or vine, but it seems a little violent if you think about it.  After all, you are actually cutting off pieces of a living thing.  It can be a little unnerving to think that God’s version of “clean” involves cutting things away.

It’s not too difficult to cut off dead or diseased limbs, but sometimes pruning involves cutting off a branch that looks quite healthy.  And THAT, my friends, is hard to do.  Why would you ever cut off something that seems good and productive?  Well, according to modernfarmer.com, you need to thin the branches to allow light and air into the canopy, and you don’t want multiple branches competing with one another.

A friend of mine had a couple of apple trees planted in her back yard and decided to consult with a local orchard owner on the best way to prune them in order to bear the most fruit.  As she stood considering her trees, she realized that if she pruned them the way she had been instructed, that they would have a completely different shape.  She eventually decided that the way they looked mattered more to her than their productivity, so she pruned them to make them pleasing to the eye.

God, however, doesn’t handle

apple-tree

Old apple trees sometimes remind me of gnarled arthritic hands.

things that way.  God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Sam 16:7)  When God prunes, He knows exactly what needs to be stripped away in order to bring us to full fruit-bearing.  His pruning may not look the way we expect – we may not like the way it looks at all – but He knows the perfect cuts to make, which branches must go, so that the others can flourish as He intends.  Even when a branch is bearing fruit, sometimes the tree as a whole is better off without it!

 

Sometimes those cuts hurt.  The sap may run for a time before healing over, and you may think that it just doesn’t look right.  But trust that God, the master gardener, knows exactly how to make you bear the very best fruit. His cuts are clean, and produce fruit for His glory!

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