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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Rag Doll Holiness

…“because by one sacrifice
he has made perfect forever
those who are being made holy.”
Hebrews 10:14 NIV

Yesterday I found myself outside of the garden. There was not a whole lot of time for meditating on scripture and prayer. My hubby was pressing me to hurry up because he was anxious to get an early start. Our destination for the day was the Blue Ridge Parkway. This time of year the mountains and the hills break forth in singing as the trees flaunt their fall foliage. This crisp autumn day was calling our names! I barley had time to grab my travel mug of coffee as I exited the door.
God is the faithful hound of heaven. He is always pursuing me even when I am in a rush! God had big plans for me as we drove the winding roads of the parkway. Each overlook was more beautiful than the last. You see, God is everywhere. He speaks. We learn. We process. We worship! Today was to be one of those days.
Through the magnificence of God’s creation I begin to see his perfect holiness. He is holy because there is none like him. He is holy because he is perfect in every way. He is holy because he is sinless. As I reflect on this truth, I remember that my holy God commands me to be holy because he is holy. God’s holiness is not unattainable by my human effort but it is always attainable through God’s power and my cooperation with that power. It is a joint endeavor between me and God. I have found great joy in participating in the process which allows me to taste of his holiness. This has not always been the case in my life.
In my early Christian life I was taught that without holiness no man shall see God and I believed that the word holiness was synonymous with perfection. I was also taught that after you become a Christian you then seek a second work of grace and it was that event that made you perfect. Now that may not have been the intent, but that was the way I perceived what I was taught. However, I just couldn’t seem to wrap my arms around this perfect holiness. In all honesty, knew I was NOT perfect! Yet, I kept trying to acquire this one time experience called holiness. I kept seeking the gift instead of the giver of the gift. I lived in constant fear that I would die without holiness and I was fearful I would never see the Lord! This was devastating to me because I loved the Lord! I believed that my lack of holiness canceled out my salvation. So my prayers were, God save me, God, forgive me, God sanctify me, God save me, God forgive me, God sanctify me, prayed over and over again. It is only by the grace of a God who never gave up on me that I didn’t give up on him! You see, God promises us that if we seek him, we will find him! 2 Chronicles 15:2
During those frustrating years I reminded myself of a “rag doll” that was limp and weak as water. There were no spiritual bones in my body that could support my wilting legs of failure. As I tried to attain that which was attainable I was filled with fear, void of joy, and worn out. To add to my confusion, there were those who testified of having obtained this holiness, but for me it remained illusive. During my search for perfection, I observed that those who had somehow managed to reach this level of spirituality, often behaved no better than me. When I was wearing this judgmental hat I observed that some of these folks seemed to behave far worse. Although actions and words seem to speak for themselves, the truth was, I did not know their hearts so I accepted their confession of holiness while I continued to find myself troubled, dissatisfied, and lacking. I attributed my “rag doll” failure as my own lack of faith. I took full responsibility for the fact that I couldn’t get it right. Most of the time, each fresh new attempt at attaining holiness usually failed before I made it home from church.
Then God in his mercy and grace taught me about holiness. I first had to learn what holiness was NOT! Holiness was NOT adhering to a list of do’s and don’t. Holiness was NOT doing good works. Holiness was NOT a second work of grace that came in one complete package. Holiness was NOT being perfect. Holiness was NOT something that I could attain through my own effort. Holiness was NOT living my Christian life in fear and trembling. I believed with all my heart that a Christian should be full of joy!
God taught me that holiness IS something that God and I will work on until the day I die. I began to realize that holiness IS becoming sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit and then following that prompting by choosing to obey God one prompting at a time. Holiness IS falling in love with Jesus to the point that I get up in the morning and choose Jesus over and over again all day long everyday. Salvation IS already mine but sanctification IS walking in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I must choose his words, his example, his friendship, his love, his joy, his peace, his patience, his kindness, his goodness, his faithfulness, his gentleness, his example of self-control, and his grace for my life every minute of the day. Do I do this perfectly? Absolutely not! Should I keep trying to do this better? Absolutely yes!
Pursuing holiness IS my work of obedience as I respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who IS already in my life! If that fact is not true, then I must sever the Trinity into three separate pieces. But God’s Word teaches that God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are One. How can one part of God enter my life and the others stay behind?
God then taught me the good news that I would not be perfect but not to worry, he has that covered too! When I experience failure in my walk with the Lord, what I have to do is to pick myself up, brush myself off, and start all over again. Praise God, the free gift of salvation was and is still mine, but sanctification was and still is a process whereby I must hold myself accountable every day. I learned that because of my sinful nature my flesh and spirit would struggle every day and because I am not yet in my perfect glorified body, I will still experience sinful thoughts, attitudes, and behavior in this life. This is not the same sin that separated me from my Creator. It is the sin in my daily life that clouds my relationship with Jesus; it dulls my witness, confuses my thinking, and causes me to take my eyes off of Jesus. When this occurs, the sin MUST be confessed and cleared up! In this life I must be accountable for my sinful behavior if I am to live an effective Christian life.
I praise God that I am currently an active participant in the school of sanctification. I am being made holy! …“because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:14 NIV I began to learn the more I love Jesus the more I want to please him. Out of my love and desire to please Jesus flows my accountability, my trust, my obedience, and my faithfulness. Gone are my days of fear.
I am amazed at the mystery of how God works when I choose to be obedient. God uses simple obedience as an instrument to transmit his shinning glory onto the pathway of others. When I choose to exhibit Christ like characteristics in all that concerns me, people see Jesus, not me, and that, my friend, is holiness! It is the holiness garment of Jesus Christ that covers my filthy rags. That is the stuff that stiffens the legs of this “rag doll” and keeps her walking the path with Jesus. That is what keeps me in joyful pursuit of holiness. My obedience brings glory to the only perfect one, Jesus Christ. Two bi-products of holy living are peace and joy! Even on my worst day and in my darkest hour, God is able to give me his peace and joy. As believers, all we have to do is take those wonderful gifts from his loving hands. Peace and joy are the perks of daily walking with Jesus in the way of holiness. I am so glad that God commands us to walk the joyful path of holiness not the path of perfection.
1. When it comes to pursuing holiness do you relate to feeling like a rag doll? (Sorry men, how about being a powerless super hero?)
2. Do you believe that holiness is perfection? Why or why not?
3. Do you believe that holiness is a process whereby God enables you to partake in His holiness?
4. When will holiness be a completed work in your life?


Dear Jesus,

Today I stand in the shadow of your holiness. My life cannot contain the full measure of holiness that you have for me. Help me Lord to walk daily with you in pursuit of joyful holy living. I thank you that I am “being made” holy. How I long for that day when your perfect holiness will also be mine. Until that day, I thank you for the privilege of being a partaker in you holiness. Jesus, I want to fall deeper and deeper in love with you so that my obedience will overflow out of my love for you. Just as Mary washed your feet with expensive perfume and dried your feet with her hair, I too, desire that to be my response. Spontaneous worship and love that is lavishly poured out on you my Lord. Jesus, I know that you desire the sweet perfume of obedience from all your children. True holiness is allowing you to help this struggling mind of mine to overcome daily my fleshly struggle to do things my way. True holiness is choosing to walk in your Spirit rather than following the desires of my fleshly will. How do I do this? Could it be it is as simple as one “yes Jesus” at a time, all day – every day.

It is in your sweet name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pursuing Holiness

“But just as he who called you is holy,
so be holy in all you do, for it is written:
“Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV

If you are still reading this blog, I have a pretty good idea that you are either seeking to know who God is or you have a desire to move forward in your  relationship with Jesus. You may be ecstatic or mildly curious regarding spiritual things, but regardless you are investigating Christianity and you are already walking toward God. You have ceased standing still! I want to encourage you to keep moving toward God even though you may not know exactly how to reach your destination. I promise you that God will lead you step by step as you seek to know him. God wants to show you how to live the abundant life he has for you.

If you are not a believer It is my prayer that you will embrace the fact that God loves you and realize that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. I want you to know that even if you were the only person in the entire world, Jesus Christ loves you enough that he would still have died for you alone. By placing your simple faith in Jesus Christ and what he did for you on the cross, you will be forgiven of your sin. You will not be separated from God after death; instead you will live in beautiful fellowship with God for all eternity. This is an opportunity well worth taking! By placing your trust in Jesus Christ there is absolutely nothing to loose and everything to gain.

If you are a new believer I would encourage you to connect with other believers. You must begin to read God’s Word. There may be many things written in the Bible that you may not understand but there is much that you will be able to understand. Begin reading and read until God gives you understanding and reveals truth to your mind. You must pray. Prayer is merely talking to God as you would any close friend. Simply tell God you love him, confess your weakness, state your needs, offer your thankfulness for all he provides for you, and ask him to give you understanding and guidance. This is prayer.

I am becoming more and more aware that as a long time believer I must continually raise my personal bar of spiritual learning as I seek to know more about God and his ways. There is always more to be learned about surrendering my will to God’s will. There is so much to know about trusting God in all things and obeying God’s commands and heeding the promptings of the Holy Spirit in my life. I must commit to learning more about walking in a relationship with Jesus Christ everyday. I must not allow myself to become satisfied because there is so much to be learned and so much joy to be had after the learning of a new truth has accomplished its work. I am to obey God’s command, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV

I believe that learning and personal obedience to what God is teaching me is the pathway to living a holy life. It has been my experience that understanding comes to believers in bits and pieces. God reveals his truth when our heart is ready to receive a new truth. It is the Holy Spirit that reveals to us knowledge that is found in the Word of God. After we act in simple obedience regarding the Biblical truth we are presently learning, the Holy Spirit will then reveal to us more spiritual truth. Truth is revealed to us in steps. We will not receive new truth if the next truth requires that we act upon a truth we have already been given. In other words, there is no skipping over a truth that requires our obedience. At times I have felt stuck in my fellowship with Jesus. My Shepard kept me where I needed to be until I was ready and willing to move ahead. God’s truth always presents itself, the Holy Spirit gives understanding, and we must choose to obediently act upon the knowledge given. That is the path to holiness.

Here in the garden today, I am surrounded by the beauty of creation and I am reminded that God is everywhere. The diversity of his creation always speaks volumes to me when I witness God’s creativity and purposes in nature. I am thankful for the lake that edges the east side of my heart’s garden. Today as I sit on the bank of this lake I am entertained by two ducks swimming in delight! It is here that my heart opens up and my spirit connects to God. I watch a beautiful mallard leading the way and a not so beautiful duck swimming closely behind. That reminds me that I am that duck and I must follow closely behind my Heavenly Father, because he alone know the way of holiness.

The variety that is found in nature inspires me to see that God is not a god of boredom. Likewise, being a Christian is never boring! God makes sure of that. When we say goodbye to religion and open our heart to a personal, intimate, active relationship we Jesus Christ, a whole new world of joy explodes within our spirit. We are curious to learn, we are joyful regarding what we have already learned, and we begin to experience a desire to learn more. My friend this is NOT dull, uninteresting, or boring!

Sometimes I wonder, if God is holy and he wants me to be holy, shouldn’t he just zap lasers of holiness into my very being? That would be nice but it doesn’t work that way. Holiness is a joint effort. As I live my life I am bombarded everyday with the world’s values system vs. God’s value system. I am faced with ungodly attitudes and responses. I must choose God’s heart and God’s response in all things. If I want to choose holiness, I must choose not to sin. This is especially hard when at times I want to sin! I have to admit that at times I want to participate in sinful behavior. Sometimes I want to hoard, I want to look, I want to get even, I want to indulge, I want to listen, and I want to speak words that will put people in their place. I want to gossip! I must confess that when I choose to do it my way over the promptings and warnings of God, I become an active participant in sin. Those words and those actions are totally void of God’s beautiful holiness.

As a believer, I must be diligent in my continual quest to choose holiness but at the same time I must remember that holiness is a life long process. I will never completely attain perfect holiness this side of heaven. When I begin to surrender the unholy parts of my life to God, he then reveals to me yet another dark area of my heart that needs to be surrendered. Even though I have given my life to God, he still is in pursuit of my total heart. God wants my love, my loyalties, my attitudes, my words, my desires, and my strong will. Choosing holiness can be painful and extremely difficult because pain, sorrow, disappointments, abuse, misunderstanding, greed, control, anger, and fear tries to attach themselves securely in my mind. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me. But God will always makes a way of escape if we look to him and ask for his help. It is God’s will that we become an overcommer. Choosing to walk away from sinful behavior and choosing the way of holiness is NOT impossible.

Without accepting Jesus Christ, every man and woman is hopelessly lost and eternally separated from God forever. God offers us an opportunity to get back to him and daily work at changing our sinful behavior. God has a plan.

Salvation – is the forgiveness of our sin.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3: 23 NIV

Sanctification – is a life long process that develops holiness within us.…“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV

Glorification – our glorification will take place when we enter heaven and the perfect robe of perfection is given to us for all of eternity.
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like him, as he is.”1 John 3:2 NIV

Our purpose in living this life is to love and enjoy God, to serve him as we minister to others, and to pursue holy living. Through us, God’s glory shines in a sinful world. Whereby, it is his magnificent glory, his holiness lived out in the lives of believers, that men and women, boys and girls become curious about our faith and are drawn to Him. We have no greater testimony than choosing to live holy and being prepared to share our story of faith and hope with others. Holiness is not a weird personal lifestyle. Holiness is living a life that is lived beautifully by loving God and loving others.


1. Are you currently investigating salvation?
2. Does it surprise you to learn that God has a plan for your life?
3. Are you a believer that is struggling with continued sinful behavior?
4. Are you wondering why you can never seem to get it holy living right
5. Does knowing that sanctification is a process encourage you?
6. Does pursuing holiness seem like a job or a joy?
7. How would falling deeper in love with Jesus help you become better at making holy choices?
8. Does the thought of glorification make you smile?


Dear Jesus,

I pray that you would place a desire in my heart to walk closer to you. I want to love you so completely that obeying you would be my first response. Jesus, I admit that sometimes I struggle with obedience. Forgive me when I allow my selfish will to get in the way of your holy will for my life. Heavenly Father, I am so grateful that you are giving me your joy as I pursue walking with you on the pathway of holiness. And yes, the thought of glorification does make me smile. It is my blessed eternal hope! Thank you Jesus.

In your name I pray. Amen.