A Peak Into My YA Romance: “Counterfeit”

Athena looked around the crowded room filled with the rich and snobby. They were just the kind of people that she hated, fake smiles, fake boobs, fake teeth, fake tans, and real money. That was exactly why she had invited each one. She gave her own fake smile to the elderly man with the orange tan that had just agreed to a large donation and quickly made her escape. Athena hated lying, but what else was she supposed to do? Trying to make it as truthful as possible she said she had something she needed to check on. He doesn’t need to know that the “something” is my aching toes.

She quickly passed through the side door, and found her way to the little room she had found earlier while setting up. There was enough light coming into the storage room that she didn’t bother turning on the light. No reason to let anyone know that the room is occupied. She eased down onto a wooden crate and sighed. Easing one of her ridiculously uncomfortable high heels off, she rubbed her aching toes.

Suddenly she heard a soft “bing” and she tried to figure out what it was. When she notices a soft glow coming from back in the corner of the room, behind some stacked chairs, she stood and limped over that way. Fully prepared to scream bloody murder if she had to, she unconsciously held her shoe with the sharp stiletto heal, like a weapon. As she peaked around the chairs she could just make out the glow of a cell phone between some fingers.

“Who’s there?” she asked in a stage whisper.

“You can put down that shoe, I’m not dangerous, just hiding,” came a manly voice.

“Why are you sitting in the dark?” Athena insisted.

“Why didn’t you turn on the light?”

“Oh, right,” she muttered. “Sorry, I’ll leave.”

“I take it you are hiding too,” he asked as she turned to leave.

“Well just for a minute. My feet are killing me and my head is starting to hurt,” she admitted.

Suddenly the phone came up and she could just make out the face of the person sitting in the corner.

“Landon?” Athena asked in surprise.

“Yep, that’s me. Aren’t you the hostess?”

Athena sighed again, “Yes.”

They both were silent for a minute.

“You don’t have to leave, I can go. I won’t tell a soul I saw you,” offered Landon.

“No! You were here first, I am sorry I intruded,” she stammered.

“Hey, I already wrote a check, you don’t have to worry about offending me.”

“Oh, that isn’t it,” she lied again.

He just looked up at her. Even though there wasn’t a lot of light in the room, she could tell he was calling her bluff.

“Look, I had my few minutes of escape,” he said checking the clock on his phone. “In fact in a few more, I can leave without stepping on any toes.”

“As long as they aren’t my literal toes, feel free to leave the building, after all, you already wrote the check,” she quipped.

The Sin Scale

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We all have one, a “sin scale”, where we weigh those bad things we do. Or worse yet, we use it to excuse our bad behavior or habits by saying to ourselves, “my white lie I told my boss is only a two, my co-worker’s adultery is a seven…at least my sin is not as bad as his.” A lot of us, who claim to be Christians, love to point out the sin of homosexuality, armed robbery, murder, child abuse, and so on, and if there really was a scale, we would all agree that those probably are off the chart. However, there is no such thing as a “sin scale.”

To God, sin is sin. There isn’t some worse than others, and even more importantly, sin really isn’t an action or lack of one, it’s a nature! Those horrible, or less-than-righteous things we do aren’t in themselves the sin, they are a symptom or a corresponding action to our sin nature. We are all born with one, due to the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. But, praise God, when we surrender our hearts to Him, he gives us His nature. His nature isn’t sin! We are then the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. We aren’t as good as God, but we are as right as Him. Not from anything we did, or can do, but because of what Jesus did. Because we aren’t as good as God, we aren’t perfect, we continue to mess up, and miss the mark.

Matthew 19:7 (KJB), “And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”

Thankfully, since Jesus died for our sins, we just confess and turn back to God. Soon we sin less and less. Our sin doesn’t make us “sinners” because we don’t get our old nature back; we still maintain our rightness with God as long as we humble ourselves and repent.

So instead of trying to excuse, or weigh our bad behavior, instead we should be trying to please God. We need to have faith in Him, be confident that He is doing a work in us, that we are being changed from the inside out. God had told us that without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). We need to hear Him, believe in His great power, stand firm on His word.

Let’s take a look at what Jesus said to His disciples as He sent them out:

Matthew 10:11-15 (NIV) “And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.”

He said, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words…it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment.” If you still have that sin scale on your mind, this should wipe it away. Not heeding, not hearing His “Good News” is worse than the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah…

Shall we continue?

Matthew 11:23-24 (NIV), “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”

Jesus came to point the way to the Father, He showed God’s love and mercy, forgiveness and kindness. Had those miracles been shown in Sodom, He says that it never would have been destroyed, inferring that they would have believed and repented!

Sin is sin. We can’t categorize it, weigh it, label it, or whitewash it. The only remedy for sin is surrender. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God and He will lift you up (James 4:10). He doesn’t cover it, as the blood of sacrifices did under the old covenant, He takes it away, and then even better, He forgets about it!

How many times have I stood at the altar (figuratively or literally) and thought to myself, “at least I am not like so-and-so” or “at least I have never done that”? Sound familiar?

Luke 18:9-14 (ESV), “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

How dare we stand like that Pharisee and think that somehow we are better because we placed our sin on the sin scale of our own making, and declared ourselves more righteous. As the body of Christ, we pray for souls, or should be, so we need to ask God to forgive us for expecting those souls to be rich, well dressed, un-broken, and good. Those very people we have looked down our noses at, those are the ones that our loving Father wants us to reach out to with His love. Separating ourselves from those who live in the world, can’t get us saved any more than hanging out with them will get us unsaved.

When they accused Jesus of wrongdoing when they found him eating and fellowshipping with sinners, His response was, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:7)

We don’t do what they do, we don’t participate in their wrong behavior, but we show them a better way. Hate doesn’t lead to repentance, judgmental attitudes won’t, God’s goodness will.

I think I will close with this scripture:

Luke 6: 35-35 (NASB), “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return

It’s An Inside Job

I Samuel 16:7 (NIV), “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.””

There is a very common saying that I have heard from the time I was little. I said it to my children, grandchildren, and those students that I had over the years. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s a way to convince children that we can’t write someone off just because they have frizzy hair, buck teeth, old clothes, or different color skin. However, we all do just that (especially when buying books!) Because we have a tendency to do this, we project this trait on God. We think that we have to clean ourselves up before we totally surrender to Him. Worse yet, we expect others to do the same. That somehow changing what you wear, covering the tattoos, losing the piercings, cutting your dreads, or wearing a suit and tie, make us more acceptable to God.

The good news is, He had always accepted you. He loved you before you were created, in fact before He even created time. He can’t ever love you more, even if you surrender your life to Him and live perfectly (not that we ever will be perfect). On the flip side, He will never love you less. If you were to turn your back on Him and deny His very existence, He wouldn’t stop loving you. You are accepted in the beloved. God loves people. All people. Why? Because He is love. Not, He shows love, has love, feels love…He is love. Because of this truth, the whole performance issue of trying to look and act a certain way to gain His favor and approval is ludicrous. We may be able to fool a few people, maybe eve ourselves, but we can’t fool God. He knows us better than we do. Our mask of “spirituality” is made of clear glass. He sees right through it into our hearts.

Isn’t that what Jesus told the Pharisees?

Matthew 23:25-28 (NASB), “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full from extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter, that the outside thereof may become clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but inwardly ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”

When has behaving “holier than thou” ever led someone to Jesus? Does that mask we put on make people want to be just like us? Isn’t that the main criticism of Christianity today, that we are a bunch of hypocrites?

So what do we do? Should we bag trying to live Holy and live like the world? God forbid. Do we need to air all of our dirty laundry and expose every weakness? Please don’t. But, we do need to be real! Our faith should be genuine, not an act. We will have days that our faith seems to be nonexistent, but we will attract people to God if we can show them that it is only a temporary setback, that God’s children get back up. We mess up, we act stupid, we forget who we are representing, often our foot is in our mouths, and we look ugly on the inside and the outside. The point is to let them see that we aren’t trying to just clean up the outside, that we are truly allowing God to clean us from the inside out. That it isn’t in our effort, but just in surrendering to Him and letting Him do the work in us. It’s about admitting those weaknesses and allowing God’s strength to work in and through us.

The greatest witness of Jesus is always His love. Was it His condemnation of that woman caught in adultery that changed her heart? No, He clearly said that He didn’t condemn her; He showed her love and compassion, by treating her with respect. Think about the things that Christ was criticized for compared to what modern Christians are criticized for: They complained that He was a friend to sinners, they say that we are judgmental and hate sinners. He ate with sinners and publicans, without conforming to their ideals and behaviors, we separate ourselves completely from them behaving like they have leprosy, or we behave just like they do and live the exact same way. He repeatedly said, “your sins are forgiven” and boy did that make the religious leaders mad, but we say “you’re going to hell.” He insisted that God loved them, we say “God hates homosexuals” or “God loves me, but not you.” Jesus wanted one big family of God, and we continue to preach “us and them.” He came to tear down walls, we continue to re-build them.

Before you get mad at me, I know that all Christians aren’t like this all the time. However, I confess that sometimes I find myself with that same ugly mindset. We have to constantly remind ourselves of who God is, and how we should be thinking. God is just like Jesus. He said so. We need to behave more like Him. Not is some cheesy “what would Jesus do” way, but in genuine love. Get to know the God we are supposed to be representing. Then represent Him well. God forgive us for letting the world think that you are unforgiving and quick to judge. Forgive us for letting them think that you don’t care about them, but are so concerned about how they think, act, and look. Forgive us for forcing them to think that they could never please you or earn your love. Help us to be more Christlike!

Romans 2:4 (NIV), “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

It’s when we show His love, how good He is to us, and to those who don’t even know Him yet, that they turn to Him. Repentance isn’t so much about turning away from sin, but more about turning to Him. Are we living in such a way as to help others turn to Him? Or are we too busy pointing out all of their faults, bad behaviors, wrong thinking, and sin? I have said it before, we aren’t called to be sin police. The Holy Spirit is quite able to do the job of convicting of sin and convincing of righteousness. We are called to preach the good news, heal the sick, cast out demons (including the demons of self righteousness and religion). We are called to love and to grow the family of God. What child in an orphanage wants to go home with the parents who spend their “getting acquainted” time pointing out all of the things they don’t like? “Your hair is much too curly, those fingernails will have to be clipped and washed, stop picking your nose, don’t play with that dirty boy over there, your grades are much too low, you need to apply yourself…” Some of those might be legitimate things to say to your own children as you help them grow up and train them up, others are just downright wrong, but all are inappropriate for conversation and expectations on adopting a new child. God has adopted us. Why did we run to Him? Because He convinced us of His love!

Are you getting this? The same thing that drew us to our new Daddy is what is going to draw this lost, broken, hurting world to Him. Love. All that stuff that needs to be healed and fixed, He’ll see to it in His own way and in His own time. We don’t have to try and clean them up. Again, not our job.

Loving others never means that we are accepting their sin as good. We can’t say, “So, you murdered your neighbor, that’s ok.” But we can say, “So you murdered your neighbor, God still loves you and wants your life to be better.” A victim of child molestation doesn’t want to hear that what happened to them was acceptable behavior, or worse, was ordained by God, but they do want to hear that God cares, He loved them, and wants to heal them. I am not saying we need to call evil good, or good evil, or that we ignore sin. I am saying that we need to convince them that their lifestyle choices don’t matter to God in the light of His love. He loves them anyway. Once they accept that, and they won’t do that if we keep pointing out how horrible they are, then the ever gentle, loving Holy Spirit will work on those things that need to be changed. We drive people from God, by pointing out sin. The Holy Spirit draws people to God, by wooing them with His love. Big difference.

Now, go be loving.

Not the Sin Police

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Who doesn’t love John 3:16?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (NASB)
But, what about verse 17?

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (NASB)

If Jesus, God in the flesh, didn’t come to condemn, to judge, the world, why do we think it is our job? I have been hearing and reading a lot about this lately. Which probably means that God is getting tired of our pharisaical and judgmental behavior. He is bringing some correction to His body. The whole reason that Jesus came was to fulfill the law, it is now done away with. So why do we try to hold people to certain rules and regulations. The Apostle Paul even said that to those who have surrendered to Christ, all things are legal, though not all beneficial. Yet we judge each other and even worse we judge the world. I have said it before and I will say it again, speaking into someone’s life that you are in relationship with,  pointing out some errors and even giving Godly council, is not judging! The difference between judging (condemnation) and interceding is all in the motivation. We don’t accept sinful behavior, we don’t say it is “ok,” but we do accept people who are bound in sin. We love them!

I thought that I was getting better at the not judging, being more loving. Then God brought some things to my attention, not by pointing out the condition  of my heart, but by bringing some things before my eyes. For months, maybe even a year or two, I have been struggling with how to love and accept homosexuals without accepting their lifestyle.  Then this whole Bruce Jenner thing had me recoiling in disgust. I won’t mention the things I was thinking and some things that were even said in private to my husband, but when I saw similar words written on social media by other Christians, I can’t describe what I felt. It was close to sorrow and embarrassment for my thoughts and word, and for the Body of Christ. Where was the love that Jesus talked about so often? Where was the goodness of God turning hearts to repentance?

A young family member, who struggles with the judgment of other Christians, he professes his love for God and his homosexual nature, posted something on his facebook page. It said, “Live your life in such a way that the Westboro Baptist Church will want to picket your funeral.” For those of you who may not know, members of this church, who call themselves Christians, go to funerals of homosexual service men and woman and disrupt the funeral by shouting and carrying signs. The words are full of hate, “God hates gays,” “Gays go to Hell,” and other such un-Christ-like verbiage. They have offended me from day one and I fully applauded those so called hard core bikers who surrounded those funerals and kept the families separated from the ugly behavior as much as they could. So, though I am filled with righteous anger at the actions of this church, I was saddened by the quote this young man shared. I did comment saying that I would prefer to live my life in such a way that my funeral would be a celebration of a daughter going home to daddy. His comment to this was, “The problem is that many Christians do not share the love that Jesus represented. They choose to be one sided. I love God & try to work on myself daily & fail daily. But no one is going to come to Jesus when hate is preached. I love everyone & just wish Christians would share the love that Jesus instructed them to.” That got me thinking even more.

We fail as the body of Christ if we can’t reach out to hurting, broken people (you know the way we were before) with the love of Christ. Jesus’ great commission was not to “point out peoples sin, set yourself above them, call them names and hate and revile them.” No, He said to And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” (NLT) What’s the “good news?” That God loves sinners! He doesn’t care what you’ve done, He loves you. He knows what your gonna do and He still loves you. He knows every one of your deep dark secrets and guess what? HE LOVES YOU. How many people have the Westboro Baptist Church led to Christ? I am not talking about their twisted followers who just want to jump on the bandwagon of hate, but true surrendered hearts to the Lordship of Jesus.

Jesus, when all others were condemning a woman caught in adultery said these words, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (KJB John 8:7a-11) Basically He told the people that if they were without sin, than to go ahead and condemn her to death, as that was the law. However, they each knew that they had some type of sin in their lives. He seeing they had left assured her that He wouldn’t condemn her, but he left her with the words, “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t tell her that her behavior was acceptable. He loved her, treated her with dignity and respect, and sent her on her way. He didn’t have to tell her what she was doing was wrong. She already knew it.

If we look at the whole passage in John 3:16-21  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” It is their lack of belief in Jesus that condemns them. They are already judged, we don’t have to do it. Our job is to show them the way out of their sentence, whether we think they deserve the sentence or not. We need to show them their advocate, Jesus.

That young man was right, no one is going to come to God when hate is preaches. They won’t if it is practiced either.

So what do we do? Well, to begin with I prayed about it. Then I did something I don’t always take the time to do. I listened for God’s answer. Can you guess what He said? Yep, He told me to love them and He promised to give me His love to do it with. Pretty simple huh?

Next time you want to point out someone’s sin and you aren’t their mother or father, mentor, or close friend, don’t do it. Instead talk about how much you love them, or how much God loves them. It’s a better way. It’s what Jesus did. In fact He is still doing it.