Preferred Status- Chosen, Holy, Dearly Loved

I grew up in a small Missouri town. When I say small, I’m talking one stop light and no McDonalds until I was a teenager. Population 4,600. And I must emphasize, I grew up in town, small house on a lot with neighbors close by. Since I moved away and married, I have ended up living in the country. Some people may term my property as a small farm. I can stand out on my porch and hear cows mooing in the distance. Having never owned cows or livestock of any kind as a kid, I was not aware of the extent of care they could require in the winter months. A few years ago my husband ventured out into the livestock arena. We purchased a few cows, had them bred, and watched the little calves grow. It was alot of fun and a learning experience for me. Things that never occured to me like giving them bales of hay on an extremely cold day and breaking the ice on our pond so they could get a drink were part of the daily norm until we sold them. Yesterday I was scanning my facebook account where I saw a brief video my niece had posted. Her husband is a farmer. They had a little calf that was near to freezing in these subzero temps from the “Polar Vortex” we are experiencing. He came into their house with an armful of calf to be warmed up in their bathroom for awhile. This was much to the delight of her little boy. That calf had achieved prefered status.

The scene from that clip has been rolling around in my head this morning as I have read my Bible. I’ve been spending some time chewing on a couple of sections of scripture. One is John 21:15-22 and the other is Ephesians 4:1-3. The section of John is an account of Jesus and Peter having a conversation after Jesus had ressurected from the dead. Just prior to Jesus’ death Peter had denied Jesus three times in an effort to save his own skin. I’m not so sure I would have done much better in view of the circumstances. Peter had watched Jesus be arrested and hauled off to an unfair trial and knew the hatred the religious establishment had for Jesus and His teaching. When questioned about his affiliation with Jesus, he made it plain to those questioning that he didn’t know Him, the One he had previously said He would fight for and die for, never deny. Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him. Twice He used the term “agape”. Once He used the term “phileo”. “Peter do you agape me, ‘actively prefer me and self sacrifice for me’? Take care of my sheep.” “Peter do you phileo me- ‘ hold me affectionately in your heart’?”

Agape… digging around on my “Bible Hub” app. looking at the Strong’s concordance puts it in a brighter light. It’s a preferred love. A preferred status if you will. It’s placing someone as your priority, your preference that you would give yourself away for. Here’s where the second scripture comes in: “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…” That term for love comes from “agape” too. Except this time the focus of the agape is from God toward us. It speaks of us being chosen by God, set apart for Him, and dearly loved- preferred, sacrificed for. Kind of like that little calf of my niece and her husband. Quite honestly when I look at myself, I don’t see a whole lot for me to offer God. I’m like a little calf in a “Polar Vortex” freezing to death, but God looks at me as her husband, the farmer, did the calf, VALUABLE. Valuable enought to brave a cold winter storm, pick up the little calf and take it into his home to be warmed and cared for, given preferred status. Not every calf in the field gets the attention that little one did yesterday. The farmer saw the need and sacrificed to meet it.

I believe that from the moment we are born until the day we die, our enemy, Satan, spends his time trying to get us to view God as anything but the One who prefers us, the One who sacrificed for us, and the One who went out looking for us in our most desperate time of need so He could bring us in. Satan tries to paint the picture of God as the one who looks out on a sea of people that are expendible, and a pain in God’s side. Not enough time for us, not enough grace, not enough love, distant, uncaring, tired of our screw ups, etc… But God “agape’s” us. He’s the one who leaves the 99 to find the one. So He can give the prefered status of His forgiveness, care, and constant attention to us. It is when I am able to see myself as that little calf, brought in from the cold, delighted in that I understand God has set me with His “Preferred Status- Chosen, Holy, and Dearly Loved”.

Letting the baby see the calf

Big Head/ Low Self Esteem/ Beloved- That’s Just Right

My Grandma used to say I should be careful bragging on my kids too much. She’d say, “You’re going to give them the big head”. I didn’t pay any attention to her concern, because the way I saw it, in our world a kid needs all the praise, encouraging, and bragging they could get. BUT, I do get it. Pride is an awful thing, and being a conceited little snot is not what a young mother is aiming for in her sweet little child either. Somewhere in the middle between the proud person and the person with very low self esteem is where God created us to be. Jesus called that “the meek”. Someone humble enough to yield themselves to God and understanding enough to give Him glory for all good things.

I’ve been thinking alot about Performance Based religion and true Christianity lately. It may have taken me almost 50 years, but I’ve been seeing things a lot more clearly as of late. Performance Based Religion has many roots and fruits that have been on display for Years in our world. I’ve spent my time exhibiting both the roots and the fruits in my journey with God. Spiritual pride can be one of the fruits. I’ve spent time in religious groups that thought they had it all together. You know, they were all that and a bag of chips. “Our doctrine is the most Biblically accurate, our fellowship is the closest to the Acts church. Other churches don’t get the truth like we do…” and on and on and on. Those attitudes and beliefs isolate you from a lot of Brothers and Sisters in the Church (God’s family) that may not agree with you on every little detail of doctrine, yet they still have a precious walk with God. They also set up a standard that noone can live by. “We have this truth… So we must walk in a manner more spiritual than those around us. We have to NEVER let the other ones see us sweat… or they won’t ever see how superior our walk is to theirs.” Once again, Performance Based… Noone can be that good.

Romans 12:3 has alot to say about these things. “For by the grace [of God] given to me I say to everyone of you not to think more highly of himself [and of his importance and ability] than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has apportioned to each a degree of faith [and a purpose designed for service].” Amplified. or as the Message puts it “…The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are what we do for him.”

Understanding ourselves according to who God is and what He has done and continues to do Is HUGE. Whether you suffer from spiritual pride or from extremely low self esteem. Ultimately our relationship with God and our purpose within the church has nothing to do with US. It is all about glorifying God, and we can’t even do that rightly without God’s grace giving us the ability and the faith to do so. Let that take the pressure off. We don’t have to worry about having the Spiritual Big Head when we are always pointing to Jesus, and we don’t have to worry about not ever being enough when our goal is to have all eyes off of us and on Him.

The details of our awesome attributes we think we have to bring to the table or the knowledge of everything we lack both vanish when we see God right. It is true “our righteousness is like filthy rags.” We can’t “DO” enough. Good news for the one who feels like, and rightfully so, that they can’t measure up. You can’t… But God can. It’s also true that if we think we are all that we need, we should watch our step, “lest we fall”. Because we simply cannot be good enough on our own. We need Jesus. Understanding this makes our relationship with God real. We don’t have to be a show off and we don’t have to be a slave. We just have to be HIS… His Beloved and That is just right.

“Falling Into Grace”

It’s a cold, snowy day in my neck of the woods. Too cold for a walk outside and I’m too lazy to go to the Y so the treadmill it has to be. Walking on the treadmill requires something to keep my mind occupied otherwise it is the most mundane of task especially since mine faces a blank wall in my bedroom. Usually I spend my time watching “Garden Answers” YouTube videos so I can dream up new outdoor projects. Or I occasionally crank music as loud as I can through my headphones. Nothing like a good beat and blazing guitars to motivate the 30 minute walk on the “sidewalk that goes nowhere”.

I think it would work…

Today was a perfect day for loud music and the album of choice was “No Name Face” by Lifehouse. The past few days I’ve had one of their songs running through my mind. “Unknown”. The phrase that goes over and over in my head is “I am falling into grace, to the unknown, to where you are, and faith makes everybody scared it’s the unknown they don’t know that keeps me hanging on and on, and on to you.”

Performance based religion, legalism, when you’ve had that wired into your brain it’s hard to see anything else. There have been times that I have been involved in churches that lived and breathed performance… Fear of not being enough has ravaged my mind and heart. I believe the intentions of the people in those churches were very sincere. We wanted to live what the Bible said, and we would do it doggonit… , but sadly it was mainly in our own strength. That is a recipe for disaster. The truth of the matter is there is no system or set of rules, regulations, standards, etc. that will change the heart. Simply said we can’t do it on our own. Somewhere along the line we have to see ourselves rightly, more importantly see God rightly, and “fall into grace”.

Freedom for me hasn’t been in strapping myself to a list of things that I needed to do to be the Christian God wants. It has been in seeing that me, the one God wanted, was wanted when I was at my worst. As the Bible says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. And my value is not in how excellent I can be, it is in being the one God valued enough to pay the ultimate price for, His Son’s life and death on the cross. Nothing has hit me harder than that reality. You don’t pay high prices for things you don’t value. For example: I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t waste my time paying $1000 for a chewed piece of gum on a sidewalk. It has no value to me. I wouldn’t pay a penny either. But I would happily invest $1000 in a hot tub. Actually more than $1000 if I could find one that cheap lol. Anything to warm these chilled Midwestern girl’s bones… (winter blah…) I value the hot tub. It’s worth something to me. In the same way, God saw something worth something in me and paid a price, His Son, to bridge the gap between us so I could be His. That’s Good News.

Yes Please!! This would be so nice right now!!

The issue for me is “falling into grace” is a bit like tandem skydiving with God as my skydiving instructor. Ultimately, when I take the jump out of that plane, I have to trust. I have to trust that God knows what He’s doing. I have to trust that He will do exactly what He said He will do. Here’s the big one… I have to trust that the parachute will open at the right time. As one who is afraid of heights, this whole example would never happen in the real world unless for some reason you got me on a small plane and something went horribly wrong. Then there would be no other option, but to jump and to trust that the Master Jumper was able to rescue me. Here’s the deal, my life, in fact anyone’s life is like the passenger on that “doomed plane’. There’s no turning around the mess I’ve been in in my own strength. It’s only in taking the jump of faith, and holding on to the One who has ahold of me. Nothing I can do or will do at that point changes things because God is the one who gets me safely to where I am going by whatever means He deems necessary to get me there. He does not let go. Thank God.

“Falling into Grace” is really the only viable choice for my heart.. Sitting there when your plane’s going down doesn’t make any sense no matter how scary the options of life may be. Life is a long series of “unknown” circumstances. I just don’t know how it all will turn out. But if I am jumping tandem with God, I know I will arrive,and His Grace will, as the old hymn “Amazing Grace” says, “lead me home”.