for my kids, at graduation

Today, we celebrate at the Soltys house. Tomorrow, Kara graduates as a Licensed Practical Nurse, and Dane is now officially a high school graduate. Congratulations!

I’ve made lots of mistakes with my kids. With those mistakes, I have two choices.

First, I can dwell on them. Look back constantly and say “I wish”. Think “if I’d have only”…but that option does nothing good for anyone.

The second option is to let them go. Let them be learning experiences for the kids, as well as me. Laugh about them. Look back on them and chat occasionally about “remember when I…”

001I am going to do my best to let the mistakes go. I really would like to rant about some of the things we couldn’t control, but I won’t…instead, I just pray that their mother and I have prepared them well for life.

As long as I live, I’ll be here for advice. I hope it’s solicited, but you two will continue to hear from me when I think you need to hear from me. I mean no offense. Most of the time I’m telling you stuff because I see you doing something that didn’t work for me.

On this day, as we look forward to the future, I’ll just give you a few tidbits of advice:

  1. There will always be assholes. They abound, and just when you think you’re rid of one, another shows up. Be nice to them…because you might be the only person who ever is nice to them.
  2. If you find yourself in a bind, your mom and I are still here for you 24/7/365. No questions asked. We just don’t pay fines…
  3. Your decisions are yours. You can ask my opinion, but ultimately, what you decide is what you will live with. You’ll screw up…
  4. Enjoy life. I’ve spent mine dwelling on whether people liked me or approved of me. Just don’t. Be you.

I cherish you both. Sometimes it might not seem like it, but I do. I pray that God grants you both long lives where you are a blessing to many! And always remember…you are a baptized child of God, forgiven and free.

I love you!

Dad

 

Audacity

I thought about the word “audacity” the other day. The dictionary referred me to the root word “audacious”. According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of the word “audacious” is:

recklessly bold

This is not a definition that I would have ever considered giving myself. Timid, maybe, but never ‘recklessly bold’. Being timid, I always felt my faith was inferior because my prayers weren’t good enough to fix me. I did not think God wanted me, and really felt that He hated me.

Audacity, however, is something that I’ve come to know. It shocks me. A reckless boldness that I never felt I would have is in my life all of the time, and guess what? It’s been there for decades. I just didn’t realize what it was.

He doesn’t want my cowering in fear of Him. Begging for forgiveness for the sins that I can’t seem to get past. He also doesn’t want me to present Him to others as a God who is “out to get you”. A judge who is just waiting for you to make that one big mistake so He can throw you into hell.

Every Sunday morning, I boldly stand in the sanctuary in my church and confess my faith. It’s not a faith that I was granted because I said the right prayer, or did the right thing. It’s a faith that was GIVEN to me, and I recite it in a creed. A creed that reminds me of what was done FOR ME, not what I have to do for Him, and somehow I have the audacity to believe it.

Then, my pastor assures me I’m forgiven. I don’t have to rack my brain to try to remember if I’ve confessed every sin. As Christ’s servant, he just tells me I’m forgiven, and somehow, I have the audacity to believe it.

But then, we even take it a step further. Pastor hands me a wafer; Christ’s body broken for me. Then lifts a cup to my mouth; Christ’s blood shed for me. Again, no trying to determine if I’ve remembered every little sin. Somehow, I have the audacity to believe it.

Me. A wretched sinner, still. Jealousy, anger, a filthy tongue. Thoughts I shouldn’t have. Sins. Falling short, just as I’ve done for as long as I can remember.

Sins, atoned for once and for all 2,000 years ago. By Someone who could atone for them, unlike me. All I can do is commit them, hide them, try to justify them.

But because of this “reckless boldness”, I am able to tell others just like me…people riddled with sin, regret, addiction…you name it, that their sin is atoned for, just like mine. Not because of anything we did, but because of what He did.

If you are not feeling “recklessly bold” about your faith, or God, or anything of the like, you’re not alone. You’re fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator who knows you, and will never let you go.

I’m a Rich Man

I am a rich man.

If that comes off as boastful, yes, that’s the case.

But I speak not of money, possessions, or anything else this world defines the word “rich” by.

Four years ago, I was doing my very best to live my life for me. It wasn’t going very well. I was always angry, and totally lost. I had no freaking idea what was going on.

My selfishness took me dangerously close to simply looking at my wife and kids and saying goodbye.

I have but one explanation as to why I can write about being rich today.

Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

It would take me way too long to explain everything that makes me rich, but here are a few key points.

1. Sufficient Grace12711075_1119742244725952_5143808723192329757_o

It’s why I write this blog, and why I got this tattoo. I don’t fully understand it, and probably never will.

 

2. Family

1904248_828436843856495_6423925873853001078_n.jpgI could dwell on my shame. Instead, I celebrate these three who walked through my darkest hours with me, and are still with me.

 

 

3. Brothers20170623_202542

Being known is something that is very uncomfortable. It exposes you, but after it does, and you realize there are still people around you, God help you to realize that He alone can provide that which we need most

4. The Church

The church is not limited to the four walls in which I worship. I have brothers and sisters all over this great country, and even ones on other continents.

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5. The Body & Blood of Christholycommunion-300x200

You’ll have your own take on communion. For me, it is his body and his blood. I don’t need to comprehend the mystery. I don’t need it to be grape juice, and I don’t want it from the little cups. Wine from the chalice for me, thanks very much.

6. Freedom20170531_123229

My last point this Thanksgiving is very personal, and very powerful to me. Something happened recently that I can’t really go into details about, but it’s from God. His timing. His will. I’m free from something that controlled me for close to forty years. I can say “I love you” to a man. Shake hands with a man. Hug a man. I can allow a man to touch me. The feelings that result are not sexual, but a bond of brotherhood that I simply can’t put into words, other than to say “Praise God”.

So, yes, I’m rich. But in order to see how rich I truly am, I first had to see how poor I was. How destitute, and how I was at rock bottom. How, in and of myself, I still am those things.

But through Christ, I want for nothing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Idols

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”

When God gave this command to Moses, He was pretty straightforward. Of course, He went on to explain further, when in the next verse we hear about ‘no graven images or likenesses’. He had to, because we don’t get it.014-moses-golden-calf

God knew that His people would screw this up, and yes, they managed. They did, and we still do. We create idols. I create idols.

When I was a teenager, I had my first experience where I recognized the theme of idolatry. It regarded the television. We lived out in the country, and cable was not available. Some people had satellite dishes, but most did not. An antenna, or “the aerial” as my grandfather called it, brought the local PBS and CBS stations in pretty clearly, and sometimes NBC came through as well.

A couple years after we started going to church, my mother announced that she had been convicted and that we would no longer have a television in our home. She gave the television to her grandfather. Mom perceived that the watching of television had become an idol, and she decided to do something about it, but I’m pretty sure that the idol of watching too much TV was replaced with the idol of making sure people knew why we didn’t have a TV.

Around the same time, we had a presenter come to our church to warn us against the satanic messages in Rock ‘n Roll music. We had a record burning. There is a photo somewhere of our youth group standing around the smoldering pile of vinyl. I stopped listening to said ‘evil’ music for a while, but I didn’t miraculously become a better Christian because of it.

In these actions, we aimed to separate ourselves from the world to prove to God that “we got this” and that He could count on us. “The world” was anyone who did not believe exactly what we did. Guess what? It was a farce. The holiness that we had to show the world became the newest idol. It was OK, though, because it was HOLY.

I was taught that it was my responsibility to make sure sinners knew they were going to hell. Since they were going to hate me anyway, I was taught that I might as well be blunt with them. Something was wrong, though…I just didn’t have the personality for it. I didn’t like confrontation; in fact, I feared it. I’ve never been in a fight, and to this day, I do not like to argue, negotiate, or do anything of the sort.

The responsibility of saving sinners by pointing out their sins was yet another idol. It was a goal. Kind of a badge of honor in the holiness world, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it because deep down, I knew I was a liar. I was as full of sin as I was the first day I went forward to the altar to confess my sins to Jesus.

My next idol was a three-decade long experiment in keeping God at arms’ length. I was pretty successful at worshiping this idol because I was always busy trying to find ways to make myself appear “good” while knowing deep down that I was “bad”. I knew I was a sinner, but I believed I had to atone for my sin. Be good, separate self from said world, point out their sin, hide yours, and you’ll make it. Can you say “idol”?

Focusing on idols comes naturally to us. I even let the good things in my life that are clear gifts from God become idols, which in turn cause me to embrace other ideas to make idols. A call to ministry became a way that I would escape from reality. Friendships became a way that I seek affirmation that I’m not a freak. Thinking I’m a freak is an idol that enables me to put up a wall between me and other people. I gradually move away from God. It’s a vicious, never-ending cycle.

I could go on and on, round and round. One thing I focus on becomes an idol, and then the way I try to break free of that idol becomes another. I’m sure I’m not alone…I’ve been told as much by many friends.

But does that stop me? Certainly not.

Idols are my specialty. They’re yours too. You might not believe it, but it’s true.

Fortunately, for you and for me, when we are in Christ, the Holy Spirit guides us away from idols.

When you sense Him leading you to stop and talk to that co-worker with a frown on their face, idols leave.

When He helps you remember that you have coins in your pocket as you pass the Salvation Army kettle, and you drop them in, idols leave.

When your kid’s teammate forgets their Gatorade, and you happen to have an extra, idols leave.

When you sit down to write your check for the offering plate on Sunday, and rather than figuring the exact percentage you’ve always been told to give, you just write a figure with a cheerful heart, idols leave.

When you run into an old friend who you know has fallen into many sinful habits, and instead of pointing those out, you sit down and catch up over a cup of coffee, idols leave.

Anything that comes between you and God is an idol, but until that moment when you leave this earth, or Christ returns, never be surprised when you find yourself looking at one instead of Him. But remember, Jesus paid the price once and for all. Rest in the knowledge that He’s not letting you go. He is the only thing to focus on that is NOT an idol.

Stop trying to rack up points with Him. Just love. That’s all He called you to do, and when you do, it will be hard to focus on idols.

Grace & peace!

 

 

 

 

 

People

Tonight was supposed to be a relaxing night with steaks on the grill and a glass of wine, but we changed our plans and decided to save the steaks for tomorrow night. Instead, we just decided to run to town and get something quick to eat, and pick up a couple things from the store.

Our first stop was at the donut shop chain where our daughter works. After we chatted with her and her co-worker for a little while, we sat and ate our supper, and for some reason I started noticing people. One lady sat in a corner seat. A couple stood in line and ordered, speaking to one another in a language I didn’t recognize. They left, and then the lady from the corner seat left and met a guy in the parking lot. Then they left. More people came and went as we ate.

After eating, we had to run for a few groceries. We made the dreaded trek up the hill to the major chain retailer that we both dislike visiting. Tonight, though, I needed the visit.

The enemy tells me repeatedly that I am a loser. That I am not worth others’ time, and they’re not worth mine. I get blurred vision, with the ability to only focus on the negatives in my life. It happens often, and I hate that I can’t stop it from happening. Picture a wall…8 feet tall, 12 feet wide. I could fill it with goodness…family, friends, memories…but there is that 8 inch by 12 inch section where the bad stuff is, and it is often all I see.

When I encounter these times where I believe the lies, I withdraw. I avoid people, walk around with my head down and a scowl on my face, sequester myself to my office, get angry, and sulk in my misery. Slowly but surely, though, God lifts me back out of the quicksand and shows me once again why I’m here.

People, community, friends, neighbors…all of these are why I’m here. I was not created to sit in a room, stew over the little things that are wrong, and separate myself from interaction with anyone. Tonight was just a little proof, with whispers from the Holy Spirit to help me see what is true…at the retail store. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not a place I find pleasant. It’s very large, often crowded, and frequently understaffed at the checkouts. But as we walked through, I got a message over and over from the Holy Spirit:

  • Jesus died for him. Jesus died for her. It wasn’t just for you, it was for them too. It was for all of you.
  • Jesus died for the young lady with hair a color that was not on God’s original color palette.
  • Jesus died for the guy with lots of piercings and tattoos who looks like he hasn’t slept well.
  • Jesus died for the person whose body odor puts off a distinct indicator that they drink way too much.
  • Jesus died for the lady who just got off work and still looks like she stepped right out of a catalog page.
  • Jesus died for the couple whose faces make clear that they don’t know how they’re going to pay for all the stuff in their cart.

Jesus died for sinners. Every last one of us. The church gossip. The alcoholic. The drug addict. The liar. The gambler. Sin is what separates us from God, and Jesus is what brings us back.

As I left that retail establishment, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend on Monday. I know that God has called me to serve others. When I first started college for my degree in religion, I reacted angrily at anyone who said that I was “following my dream”. It wasn’t my dream. I did not want this in my life. It’s costly, time consuming, and will expose me to others.

It’s also one of the best things that ever happened to me. I can’t regret that I didn’t listen to God when I was a teenager. I had to see what He could do with me, a sinner, to understand why He chose me.

God bless. Listen, pray, repeat…

 

God’s little reminders…

It’s not often that the title of an e-mail at work catches my eye. Today, one did:

20170315_174607 (002)

This Friday is a dress-down for charity day at CNB. I redeemed points on our employee recognition program to be able to wear jeans and a green shirt. Obviously, I know the e-mail was just telling me that my request to use my points was approved…but in a different context…

My redemption has been completed! Nothing I did made this possible. I know it’s early in the Lenten season, with Easter still several weeks away…but I look forward to Good Friday. That day when we will remember that Jesus uttered those final words, “it is finished”, as recorded in John 19:30.

May we all remember Christ’s gift to us as we anticipate His resurrection.

 

The Next Step

luterhanOn Sunday, February 5, Stacy left for a business trip on a Sunday morning, before church time. I intended to just skip church…to go back to bed and catch a couple hours more sleep. God had another plan.

I recently bought a book by RJ Grunewald called Reading Romans With Luther. I had read the introduction, but that morning I picked up the book from my headboard and began to read chapter one. As I read, I sensed the Holy Spirit moving me. Go. I got dressed, and I went.

My redemption story began over 2,000 years ago. Jesus died on a cross and was resurrected three days later. In what he did, He rescued you. He rescued me.

It continued three years ago. I realized for the first time in my life that God really loved me. Loved me, not the things I would do to make myself good enough to be loved by him. I was introduced to grace.

Sometime after, it continued when I watched a movie. This movie revealed what a privilege it is to worship the way we do today. Free, not to be forgiven by purchasing indulgences, but by Christ’s finished work on the cross.

A year ago, I met a bunch of people at a conference that changed my life. A lot of them believe a certain theology. I believe it too. This theology is celebrating a big anniversary in 2017 – 500 years. The Reformation…that movie I watched was “Luther”.

At the conference, I heard about grace to the unforgivable. I heard about doing my best in the vocation in which God has placed me. I heard about being free to share Christ’s love. I heard a phrase that I hold close to my heart, because I know it describes me, and it describes you. Simul Justus et Peccator. Simultaneously justified and a sinner.

This year, I am making it official. By mid-summer, I plan to officially be Lutheran. I’ve already started the process by worshiping with a new group of brothers and sisters. That Sunday morning two weeks ago, I went to the place where the Holy Spirit led me, and I knew before the service was over that I would become what I already knew I was.

The basis…it’s what Christ did on the cross for me, not what I do in the church for Him. This decision did not come easily. I believe the Holy Spirit put people and events in my path for this reason. I’ve attempted to be “Lutheran” where I am, but I keep falling into the “what I do for Jesus” mindset.

Some are hurt and offended by my decision, taking it personally. I still love them, consider them brothers and sisters, and will lift them up in prayer. If they need me, I will be there at a moment’s notice. I hope that someday, they will see that my decision was not about me, or them, but about what I felt the Holy Spirit was leading me to do. I have no idea what God has in store for this sinner that He chose to use.

Don’t sweat the details. He took care of them already. You’re forgiven, and you’re free.

Simul Justus et Peccator

Don’t Believe Every Meme…

Warning – this post might piss you off. It is not my intent to offend anyone with this post, but I know how it works.

These last few days have been trying. The United States is a country divided. I have friends on both sides. Friends who are intelligent, caring, and thoughtful people.

Trump was elected and inaugurated. Some people love this and some people hate this. The day after his inauguration, many who are in disagreement stood together in protests and marches around the world.

Today, I saw this picture abortionin a news feed. If you’re a Christian, you were likely offended by what their sign says. No surprise there. You believe Christ came to earth to save us, and these women are saying He shouldn’t have been born.

I can’t tell you why these women are holding this sign. They might or might not have had abortions. They might or might not have grown up in Christian homes. They might or might not have graduated high school. They might or might not be doctors. No idea.

What I do know is that now is not the time to be sanctimonious. If you are a Christian, and you were angered or hurt by the sign, I understand completely. I was taken aback, but then I got to thinking…has anyone ever shared the Gospel with them? Told them what Christ did on the cross was for them?  Told them that fact without giving them the expectation that salvation was unattainable because of their current belief? Somehow, I doubt it.

I know a couple of women who have had abortions. You might too. I don’t have to live with their decision, but they do. They remember it. Perhaps they live it all over again every day. Perhaps they regret it, perhaps they don’t. None of that matters. What matters is that those of us who understand the Gospel should be caring for them regardless of their decision. They should feel comfortable in our presence despite their past.

But here’s the kicker…and this pissed me off when I was researching…the photo is several years old! Because we’re so quick to believe memes, someone apparently thought it would further a cause to dredge it up and tie it to Saturday’s marches.

Christians, let’s do the world a favor. When someone offends us, let’s love them. Let’s show them Jesus, not beat them down because they believe something different from us.

 

 

 

 

 

Simplicity

john-3-16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Wow, that sounds really cool. But what’s the catch?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Where is the rest of this? It can’t possibly be complete.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

OK, listen…I think you’re trying to tell me something here, but I just can’t figure this out without rules.

And so it goes. Whether you heard these simple words for the first time when you were a child, or someone shared them with you when became an adult, somehow, they seem too simple…too basic…too good to be true.

God gave us minds for thinking and reasoning. He gave us these abilities so we can make choices. He doesn’t want robotic foot soldiers who think the approach to everything is through sameness. Psalm 139:14 tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully” made.

When we embrace the fact that the only way to the Father is through the Son, we often forget that the Son is the only perfect person who ever lived. In an attempt to rationalize the “one way”, we endeavor to apply that “one way” to ourselves. Our lives, which are all fearfully and wonderfully knit together in our mothers’ wombs, are all unique.

The One Way is Christ. Christ, who knows each of us individually. He knows each of our strengths and each of our weaknesses. He does not, however, believe that we are all the same.

You might be thinking “if there is only one way, why are there so many different Christian denominations?” I’ve thought this same thing, and there is a simple, yet not-so-simple answer. The simple answer is “man”. Yes, it’s our fault. What makes it not-so-simple is that we are all different. We interpret things differently. Somehow, we have created hundreds of different approaches to the One.

He knew we would do this. He knew that the law, which is what points us to Him, would instead become our focus. Generation upon generation of Christians have ignored Christ, instead striving to uphold the Ten Commandments. In our attempt to behave and follow these rules, we forget that we are all hopelessly flawed, and our only hope is Christ.

I grew up surrounded by religion. Religion. Lists of rules. Pray and your sin goes away. Show the world Jesus by how closely you toe the line, and make sure you shame them and point out their sins so they’ll come over to our side.

Although God’s love, grace, and mercy has surrounded me all my life, I observed the Gospel for the first time when I was 44 years old. I wanted desperately to deny God’s existence. My years of trying to be good just weren’t paying off. I was still embroiled in a personal battle over my darkest secret that had me at a point of desperation. I was about to declare that I was an atheist, so God placed a former atheist in my path. He showed me what transformation was meant to be.

In less than three years, I have learned more about our Savior than I had in the prior forty-four. You might think I mean that I’ve leapt into the Bible and can quote the right verse at the right time. No. That’s not what I mean. I mean this…God sent Jesus into the world…you, me, and everyone around us…to save us. We were already condemned. Through a simple act of listening to the Holy Spirit, believing what Christ did was sufficient to forgive my sins, and confessing those sins, I’ve been freed. Freed from a lifetime of thinking that I had to atone for my wrongs. The atonement took place on a cross and in an empty tomb, half a world away, two thousand years ago.

So, my “bare-bones” take on this whole salvation thing…in this life, I always have been, am still, and will always be a sinful human being. I’ll fall short, and when I do, I’ll realize that the penalty I should receive has already been taken care of by Jesus. I am His child, and I have to approach Him in that way. “Daddy, I’ve been bad and I’m sorry…Daddy, I need your help…Daddy, my friend needs to know you’re their Daddy too.”

Be simple, like a child, and you’ll see His majesty.

Note – this was originally published on a blog I wrote for this summer, which has since been closed. 

Psalm 103 Sermon – “Separate From Our Sins”

The Psalms were written for the people of Israel…God’s chosen people…over a period of nearly a thousand years. Obviously, to have that large a time span, several authors would have had to have been involved. We most commonly associate the Psalms with David, and he is who authored Psalm 103, in which he wrote:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

This passage from Psalm 103 is a promise of God’s love.

Throughout the Bible, God is presented to us in many ways. Nouns like Creator, Judge, and Father. Adjectives like Holy, Just, Perfect, and Righteous, but what I want to focus on today is God’s love for us. In noun form, God is Love. The adjective…loving. To me, one and the same.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve brought sin into the human race. God created them with the ability to tell right from wrong. God knew they would disobey Him. Just as when we bring a child into the world, and we know they will disobey us…God knew. We hope our children will be good and obedient…but we know. Look back at your own life. Did you always listen to mom & dad? I doubt it. Our moms & dads knew we wouldn’t. Some people probably listened more than others. And still we bring children into the world…knowing that woven in with the good things will be frustrations, heartache, and hurt. All of these things are brought about by one thing. Sin.

Sin. It’s a problem. Just look around you. Of course, many sins are obvious and the people who commit them are considered the lowest of the low in society. Murder. Rape. We rightfully want people who commit those sins to be locked away for what they did. We demand their deaths. We feel justified in doing so.

But here, we are presented with a problem. Don’t get me wrong…murderers and rapists should not be running wild in our streets. But…these are human beings. People with souls. Bad people…but, nevertheless…ones with souls, whom God loves. God didn’t cause them to do what they did…sin did that. Sin that, gone unchecked, causes us to do things that might be easily recognizable, unspeakable, and detestable. Or maybe sin that we are easily able to hide. Some sin is accepted and normalized in our society. We gossip and don’t even realize we’re doing it. We tell little white lies, and think nothing of it. Yet, sin is sin. Sin, that which separates us from God, regardless of what method of falling short we choose at that given moment.

In the Old Testament, there are many stories. The first five books…the Pentateuch…which are the formation, the background, the law. The Prophets…a glimpse of what is to come. The Writings…Psalms, Proverbs and a few others…referred to as the “Wisdom books”. The Old Testament makes up about two thirds of our Bible, but for most of my life, I chalked the Old Testament up to nothing but fairy tales, poems, and a whole bunch of unpronounceable names.

Last year, when I started college, one of my first classes was “Old Testament Survey”. I learned quickly that the Old Testament was far from what I thought. In each chapter of our workbook, at the top, there was a blank line after the words “the picture of Christ”, and we learned how each chapter points to Him. I began to see that the Old Testament was what told humanity’s story and the promise of a Savior.

God knew, just like He knew that we’d sin in the first place…that we’d just keep on sinning. Shaking our fists at him. Finding other “idols” to occupy our time. If you’re a parent, think about the heartache you experienced the first time your child found something else more important than you. Multiply that by billions. That’s what God experiences. Yet, He loves us anyway. Just as we should love our children in spite of the way they sometimes treat us…or how our parents love us in spite of the way we treat them.

The Hebrews, God’s chosen people, had several thousand years in which they were able to atone for their sin through messy sacrifice. They had a strict code of laws that they had to adhere to. No shellfish…no mixed fabrics…plus the ten we commonly see today. And not one of these chosen people…not one…was able to live up to God’s perfect law completely.

God knew this. He’s God…He knows everything. He knew what the solution would be. But unlike the Old Testament, where only the chosen people of God had a way to him, He made plans for all. Every…single…one…of…us. He made a way through His Son Jesus Christ.

Why would God do what He did? He had a perfect Trinity. Father…Spirit…Son. He could have written off the human race as just a bunch of disobedient nothings. When I look in the mirror, that’s often what I see. I know that I have, do, and will continue to disobey God. I’ve shaken my fist at Him, screamed at Him, blamed Him. Childish things that a human parent would react angrily to.

The answer to why he would do this is…He loves. He loves you. He loves me. The Good News…the Gospel. We’re sometimes completely and totally unlovable. I know I am, and if you look within yourself, I’m guessing you’ll see at least a little of the same thing. We do things that we are ashamed of. We fight with each other. We talk about other people behind their backs. We may be addicted to a behavior, or a substance. Our sin might control every facet of our life. We also might be prideful, or selfish. In our minds, those things make perfect sense. My accomplishments. My stuff. My time. Yet despite these sins…really, any and all of our sins, He loves us.

I grew up in a tradition that taught me that God’s love for me was dependent upon me. My acceptance of His free gift of salvation would have to be followed up by strict obedience to rules. My church attendance. How I dressed for church. How many times I opened the Bible and how many verses I could memorize and quote. How many sinners I witnessed to.

As a teenager, I quickly found out that I might as well give up because no matter how hard I tried, I just wasn’t going to accomplish what I was told was within my grasp. There was no joy in what I experienced in church…only a constant reminder that I must be doing things the wrong way because I was still a wretched sinner.

Psalm 103 verse 12 tells us that as far as the east is from the west, that is how far He has removed our transgressions…our sins…from us. But how? How is this possible? From east to west is about as far apart as you can get. I still sin. I know I do. I still fall short in so many areas. I have all my life.

Here’s how…Love. Jesus came to us as the good news…the Gospel. God became a man for the sake of man. In the song ‘Forever’ by Kari Jobe, a few lines sum up what Love is:

The Savior of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon him

One final breath he gave
As heaven looked away
The son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken

The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King
Has rendered you defeated

These words wreck me. I could stand before you and tell you to remember every sin you’ve ever committed. Dwell on them. Let them remind you of how awful you are. But why? God has forgotten them. For a long time, I felt like I was too far gone. That there was no way God would ever be able to reach me, forgive me, and love me. I revisited my sin over, and over, and over. But He proved me wrong. He showed me grace and mercy through His Holy Spirit. Through His work in other people. Jesus, the perfect human, justified you and me through his suffering, death, and resurrection.

If you are in the spot where I was, know that your Savior is right beside you, waiting for you to look to Him. To say, Jesus…I surrender. I can’t do this anymore. I need You to take over…and He’ll do just that.

I want to leave you with one word. It’s a Greek word. It was the last word that Jesus uttered in His human form. τετέλεσται. Translated, this means “it has been finished”. God unleashed all of His wrath on Jesus on that cross so we would not have to experience it. Believe it. It truly is finished. He didn’t take your burden away to give you another. Rest in Him. Jesus, who intercedes with God on your behalf. Jesus, whose spilled blood is what justifies you to be adoptable as one of God’s children.