1+1+God = 53

His father was a piece of work.
Selfish.
Abusive.
And addicted to alcohol.

Her mother was mentally ill.
Manipulative.
Needy.
And also abusive in a different way.

Human nature says that they should have repeated those patterns.
Become the sum of the nurturing they did not receive and the product of the harm heaped upon them.

And that probably would have happened.
Except God.

They both came to know Him as young people.
And not necessarily through the example of their parents.
His Mom sent him to church.
Her parents swung more to religion than to relationship with Christ, especially in those years.

But God.
He had a plan for them.
As He does for all of us.
If we will surrender to Him.
If we will yield.

I am very thankful that they did.
They met while she was in high school and he was starting out in the Navy.
A blind date.
Arranged by a human being, orchestrated by God.

And eventually they married.
53 years ago today, they promised to “love, honor and obey”.

They haven’t done it perfectly.
Not the marriage.
Not the parenting.
Not life in general.

Because they are sinners.
Just like you.
Just like me.

But God.

Long, long ago they committed to Him.
And then to each other.
God first.
Each other second.
My sister and I next.
And then everything else.

That was the goal.
And again, it wasn’t perfect.
But it was – it is – good.

Walking with Jesus for decades has not been an easy road.
Walking with each other for decades hasn’t been, either.
I remember years that were very, very lean as they made sacrifices to put us in private school, to work in ministries that couldn’t pay very well, to give generously to others.
I remember times when things were tense. When life got very hard. When the past came back with teeth bared. When they had to deal with the fallout of others’ choices – and their own.
And there have been many, many health situations over the years. Scary diagnoses. Innumerable doctors’ visits. Surgeries and procedures.

It has not been 53 years of “happily ever after”.
But it has been 53 years of glorifying God.
Of choosing to “trust in the Lord with all their hearts, leaning not on their own understanding.”
And that has led to 53 years of joy.

Perfect people?
Nope.
Perfect marriage?
No such thing.
Perfect parenting?
No. Again, it doesn’t exist.

But loved by a perfect God?
Yes.
Held together by His hand?
Definitely.
Choosing to trust Him day in and day out?
The only way they have made it.

Because life is hard.
Marriage is hard.
People in general are hard.

And it takes commitment.
And investment.
Trusting God in the storms.
Reveling in His goodness.
Letting Him heal old wounds.
And believing Him for great things.

So happy anniversary, Daddy and Mom.
Thanks for following the Good Shepherd and for teaching us to do the same.
Thanks for the lessons in commitment.
And the legacy you have built.
One day at a time.
One choice at a time.
One decision at a time.

I am more grateful than I can express.
For the model of “a long obedience in the same direction”.
For the introduction to Jesus.
For loving me. For loving us.
And most of all, for loving Him.

And that’s how 1+1+God = 53

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Resource? Or Source?

I am scrambling this week.
The details are many, the time is short, the deadlines are looming.
So naturally, I am overwhelmed.
And naturally, I turn to problem-solving.
Listing my resources.
Seeking solutions.

And the reality is that my personal list of resources is very long!
I am one blessed girl.
I have:

My brain
My (somewhat) functioning body
My bank account
My property
My credit history
My family
My friends
My coworkers
Stores
The internet
Access to professionals of various kinds
Technology
Freedoms of many kinds

I have tons and tons and tons of resources.
I am ridiculously blessed.
God has given me SO much.

Which makes it very, very easy to rely on my resources.

This week it is all about preparing for future events.
VBS next week.
The short-term trip to Guatemala in a little over two weeks.
And then moving to Guatemala for a year in a little over a month.

Other times my challenges look very different.
Something goes wrong.
An issue arises.
A challenge looms.

Regardless of what is causing the stress, my first instinct is to catalog my resources.
So I can then to go into problem-solving mode.
What (or who) can I use to meet this challenge?
How can I fix it?
What can I do to make it better?

But here’s the REAL problem.
The challenges I face – we face – shouldn’t make us seek our resources.
Because they are just that – RE-sources.
They are not The Source.

They are gifts from The Source.
Good things from the hand of a good God.
The God who created all things, including me.
The Giver of Good Gifts.
And the Ultimate Gift, Himself.
He needs to be where I turn FIRST.
He needs to be the One I automatically seek.
Not scrambling to gather my resources and figure it out.
Instead, turning to Him and asking Him to show me the answer.
Most likely, His answer will utilize some of my resources.
But they are not my hope.
Not my bottom line.
And it isn’t up to me to figure out how to best use them.

So, in every situation, I have to ask myself some hard questions.
Am I seeking the Resources?
Or do I seek the Source?
Am I after His hand?
Or am I seeking His heart?
Am I relying on the gifts He has given to meet my needs?
Or am I relying on Him?

It is a subtle distinction.
But it makes all the difference in my heart.
And my outlook.
In my decisions.
And in the truth of what I ACTUALLY believe vs. what I SAY I believe.

Because when our resources become the things we look to in order to solve a problem, they take His rightful place.
Whether that resource is a person – a best friend, a spouse, a coworker, or a mentor.
Or that resource is something tangible like money or possessions.
Even when that resource is our God-given talents and abilities.
When we rely on anything other than Him, it becomes our god.
The resources become the idols. .
The things we actually worship.
Because we look to them to provide. To protect.
To make us prosper. To show us the way. To guide our steps.
And we relegate Him to (at least) second place.

So we have a choice. I have a choice.

Problems hit.
They always will since we live in a fallen world.
And when they happen I have to choose.
Where do I go?
What do I do?
Do I start by cataloging my resources?
Or do I start by seeking Him first?
Do I say, “OK, Kathy, you can do this. Get yourself together and solve this!”
Or do I say, “OK, Abba, Daddy, King of Kings and My Source, here is the situation before me. What would You have me do?”

Who is on the throne?
Me?
Or Him?
My resources?
Or The Source?

I have found that having my resources in first place never, ever works.
People fail me.
Things fail me.
Systems fail me.
I fail me.

But putting Him in first place always, always works.
Seeking His heart about a matter.
Finding out what His Word says.
Modeling what I do after what Jesus did.
Laying every burden at His feet.

When I do that, He supplies the resources.
Bringing to mind something I haven’t considered.
Providing in a way I didn’t expect.
Showing up in the midst of my limited resources and multiplying them in astonishing ways.

I should add, this verbiage isn’t original to me.
I heard Tony Evans tell his congregation that if they ever figured out how to turn first to The Source rather than their resources, their lives would change.
And those words resonated with me.
It is exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God – and He will take care of the ALL details.” (Matthew 6:33, Kathy-tized)
He’s promised that if we keep Him as the Source, the Main Thing, the First Thing, He will supply every resource we could ever need.
Resources are good – but the Source?
He’s the very best.
Relying on my resources brings exhaustion.
Relying on my Source brings peace.
Relying on my resources means they may run out.
Relying on my Source means I have a limitless supply.
Relying on my resources brings glory to them or to me.
Relying on my Source gives Him all the praise He is due.

So today, I ask myself, “Resources? Or Source? Which will it be?”
And heartbeat to heartbeat, I want to choose Source.
How about you?

Shine!

My body and I have been at war from the very beginning.
I think that is true of every person.

The battle looks different for each of us.
But we all wrestle with some sense of failure with what our body looks like. Or how it performs. Or what is has in overabundance. Or what it lacks.

Sometimes this wrestling is because of unrealistic expectations.
We look at people in advertisements and sigh because we don’t look like them.
Of course, they don’t look like them either. It is make-up or lighting or Spanx or photo-shop or all of the above. Our brains know that. But our hearts don’t.

Sometimes the wrestling is because we have allowed food to be an idol. We overindulge one organ – our tongue and taste buds – at the expense of all of our other organs. Or we overindulge our stomachs in an attempt to fill a void in our souls. And then we hate ourselves for both our outward appearance and our inward lack of self-control.

And sometimes this wrestling is physiological. Because we live in a fallen, sinful world our bodies were born broken. And they become more broken as we go through this life. We wish we were more athletic. Or more graceful. Or less tall. Or more tall. With a bigger this-body-part and a smaller this-body-part. Or we wrestle with chronic illness. Maybe one that is visible. Or maybe one that no one can see.

We all wrestle with our bodies in some way, to some degree.
And we all have different ways of coping with it, don’t we?

Some of us make exercise and food an idol in the name of good health.
And some of us give up on eating well or exercising because we tell ourselves we don’t care – or we aren’t going to change anything anyway, so why try?

Some of us wallow in our frailties. We make sure everyone knows about our chronic condition and therefore excuse ourselves from living – or at least from doing that things we don’t want to do.
And others of us don’t know how to say, “I can’t do that” and we push past what we can endure.

Some of us obsess over the outward appearance of things, layering on outer trappings – clothing, make-up, hair dye, jewelry – to disguise our flaws.
And some of us give up and don’t even try to make the outside look pleasing to any eye, including our own.

So many traps.
So many pitfalls.
So much pain.
I get it.
Like I said, I have been at war with this body of mine from the very beginning.

But I was reading about Solomon’s temple that he built for the Lord.
And I realized that the way God had him build it is a fabulous metaphor for life – and particularly for our bodies.

The whole thing was made of stone. That was the foundation and the walls.
Massive stones, hewn out of a quarry and fit to size, then dragged to the building site and fitted together.

Overlaying the stones was cedar wood. Panel after panel of wood for each room, walls, ceiling and floor.

But then came the gold. Every bit of wood – even the floor – was overlaid with gold. I cannot even imagine walking on a floor made of gold!

The attention to detail in his temple was astonishing, too. Intricate carvings in the walls. Gorgeous flowers made of gold. Curtains with designs woven through them. Everything crafted to bring maximum glory to the God the temple was made to honor.

Solomon’s temple was destroyed thousands of years ago.

But Paul told the church at Corinth that WE are the temple of God now. If you are a follower of Jesus, YOU are God’s temple. And what struck me this week is that we are designed much like Solomon’s temple.

The foundation for your temple and mine is solid Rock. THE Rock. The Cornerstone. The Living God indwells those of us who are believers. Giving us all we need to stand firm. Filling us with His power. Enabling us to live for Him.

Layered on that rock are the wooden walls – in this case, our earthly frames. Skeletons, organs, skin, hair and nails.

But then comes the gold. And this is where we stumble so very, very often.

We think the “gold”, the things that makes us beautiful, desirable, worthy of love and attention are the outward layers, the things that the eyes see.
Clothing, makeup, jewelry.
Certain measurements and certain curves.
Or muscles in all the right places.
The right haircut and color.

And while there is nothing wrong with looking nice or being physically fit, these things are not the real gold.
They are the things that come and go.
Time, age, and circumstances all alter them.
Physical ailments and the treatments for them make them change.

But the things that make you sparkle, the things that make you shine, the real gold?
They are the things of eternity.

Are you kind? To everyone. Not just the people who look like you and agree with you?
Are you forgiving? Of everyone. Not just those who you decide deserve it?
Are you generous? Generous with your wallet, sure. But also with your love? Loving the unlovely, the ones who can’t do anything for you? Are you generous with your compassion? Putting yourself in the other guys’ shoes, his perspective? With your time? Laying aside your agenda to help someone else?

Are you thankful? Recognizing your many, many blessings instead of focusing on what you lack?
Are you available? Willing to let God use you however HE chooses, on HIS timetable, with HIS agenda?
Are you merciful? Showing others the mercy you have received, not treating them as their sin deserves because God has been merciful to you?

Those things – and many more – are the real gold.
The other stuff? The things we focus on so much?
Those things are fool’s gold.
They are not eternal.
And they will not last.

Please hear me.
Taking care of your body is a good, good thing.
Eating well.
Getting enough exercise.
Getting enough rest.
Clothing yourself in a way that looks good on you – and isn’t a stumbling block to others.
Highlighting the outer beauty that God has given to each of us.

These are good things.
But they are not THE thing.

You are His temple.
And the wood behind the gold – your body, your frame – that is important.
But the gold that layers it – your conduct, your heart for others, your heart for Him, your obedience, your attitude – that is what makes you shine.

There is fool’s gold that I have longed for my whole life.
But I will never be athletic.
And I will never be a teeny-tiny woman.
I will never be particularly graceful.

But I can shine.
And so can you.
Regardless of your list of “I will never be…”, you can shine with true gold.
Eternal gold.
So get glowing!
The world needs to see His glory in you.

On Sudoku, The Scriptures and Sinful Me…

Math in general and logic in particular – we just don’t get along very well.
Give me a word search, a game of Scrabble or a jigsaw puzzle any time.
But please don’t make me play a game that is all about logic.
I’ll be a good sport and attempt to play – but it won’t go well.
And if it is a partner game, you really want to pick someone else.

Don’t worry – I have learned enough math to get along just fine.
And because I found it difficult to learn myself, I can teach it really well.
To elementary school students.
But please don’t make me go above 5th grade math.

I tell you all of this to set the stage for a little known fact about me:
I play Sudoku every day.

Yes, a math game, used to teach logic.

I play it every day because I am bad at it.
I play it in order to exercise the part of my brain that is the weakest.

I do my very best to complete each puzzle without looking at the answer key in the back.
And for the easy ones – and even the medium ones – I don’t (usually) need to look.

But as I work through the book and get to the hardest ones in the back I have learned that it is in my best interest to check my thinking.
I will solve a square to the best of my ability.
But then I will double check that square with the answer key in the back.
Because just one fallacy – one wrong number – in one square – throws off the entire game.

I feel absolutely no guilt about checking the answer key, either.
I recognize that my logical brain has limits.
And that the answer key contains the truth of the matter.
Regardless of what makes sense to me.

The more I play, the more often I am correct when I compare my answer to the key.
But there are times when I am still badly wrong.

And so it is in my life.

My thought processes are weak in the areas of holiness and godliness.
I am naturally bent towards sin.
Selfishness.
A lack of love.
Pride.
A sharp tongue.
Etcetera.

We all are.
Because we were born with a sin nature.

Yes, when I chose to become a Christ-follower, the penalty for ALL my sin, past, present and future was placed on Him instead of me.
But that was only the beginning of the journey towards holiness, Christ-likeness, godliness.
The author of Hebrews says that “…having been made perfect, we are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
I stand before God fully justified – my sin-debt has been paid in full.
But I also walk with Him now in the process of being sanctified – being made more and more like Him.

And until I see Jesus face to face, I will wrestle with me, with that sinful bent, with temptation.

Just like playing Sudoku is a battle for logic for me, living a holy life will always be a struggle while I am in this body.
Because my brain and my heart are wired toward sin.
Therefore, I must keep a constant eye on the answer key, the Word of God.

Unlike Sudoku where I only have to heavily use the key on the “hard ones”, I have found that in life I need that “answer key” of the Word of God like I need oxygen.
Because everything about this life is “a hard one”.

I can never, ever sit back and say, “God, I’ve got this one. I don’t need Your perspective on how to handle it because I have complete understanding of the situation.”

Nope.
I have never once been all-knowing, all-powerful or all-present.
I have never once been able to understand another person completely.
I cannot know the motive or the heart of anyone else.
Shoot, I don’t even understand my own motives or heart half the time!
I have never found it easy to love my enemy.
And I have never found that it comes naturally to put your interests ahead of my own.
I have never found my brain to be wired so that forgiveness is my default answer.
Even in the most mundane, day in and day out situations.

So I am utterly and completely dependent on the “answer key” that is the Word of God.
But the beautiful thing about this Answer Key is that it not only provides the right answer to any situation.
It also gives me an example to follow.
As well as the power to be able to do it.

The Word of God in written form is the Bible.
But the Word of God – Jesus – became flesh and lived among us.
He showed us how to live – how to love – by example.
But then He took it a step farther when He traded places with the Holy Spirit after He ascended to heaven.
And God walking around in the flesh, trapped in place and time by a human body, sits at the right hand of the throne of God the Father. But He sent the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit to live inside of every believer.

So that I not only have the knowledge of the written Word, and the past example of how Jesus lived, but the very Power of God inside me “to will and to act according to His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Incredible truth!
And astonishing, dumbfounding, amazing grace.

There have been times where I have played an entire game of Sudoku without ever checking the answer key.
And it all seems to be going well.
Until I get to the last square.
And nothing fits correctly.

And there are many, many times where I do not access the Written Word or ask for help from the Living Word.
And it seems to be going well.
Until it all falls apart.
Because I was leaning on my own understanding instead of trusting Him.

So take my advice, friends, and check The Answer Key often. Daily. In every situation. Even the small ones.
Know the Word well.
And then do what it says. Do what He did. Do what He tells you to do.
It is the only safe and Kingdom-successful way to play this game of life!

Life In A Sentence, Take Two

I originally wrote this post in 2017.  But it is so true about my life today as well.  I am amazed at the sentence I am currently writing, one that will involved words like “When I was getting ready to move to Guatemala for a year…”  I had no idea God was leading there when I wrote this two years ago.  And who knows what life will look like two years from now? But the truth is truth – and I still want ALL my future sentences to reflect eternity.  May you and I both write well with each choice today! 

“When I was in college, I was a wild child.”

“My Mother-in-law and I never could see eye-to-eye on anything.”

“I traveled Europe after college and had an amazing time!”

We all do it.
We take a chunk of time, a period in our lives and reduce it to one or two sentences.
None of the sentences above apply to me. But some of mine might be:

“I was an incredible Pharisee in high school, filled with self-righteousness.”

“I lived in Japan for three years in my 20’s and had some of the best and some of the worst experiences of my life. But that time definitely shaped who I am today.”

“I taught for Charles County Public Schools for 9 years and have been on staff at South Potomac Church for the last 14 years; I loved both jobs, although both were (or are) difficult in their own way.”

One or two sentences.
Encompassing years.
And usually with some kind of descriptor attached that sums up that time, for good or for bad.

We all do it.
And there is nothing wrong with it.
It’s a way to catalog history, especially when you are just getting to know someone or perhaps filling them in on a chapter in your life.

True confessions, this idea is not original to me. I first heard it in a sermon by Andy Stanley several years ago. But it has stuck with me. Because, while it is true that I sum up vast periods of my life in a few sentences, there is an important fact that I – that we – often fail to recognize:

We’re writing those sentences today.
The ones we will use in another decade or two to describe this season of our lives.
And, to some extent, we have control over how those sentences are written!

“When my kids were little, I was more concerned with them than I was with the state of my housekeeping.”

“When my Grandmother was in the nursing home, I made sure I took the time to go see her.”

“During the 35 years of our marriage, we fought but we made sure we never went to bed angry.”

“While I had my chemo treatments, I tried really hard to remember to praise God in the storm.”

I have very little control over the circumstances of my life.
I can be a good steward of my money and still find myself in an impossible situation.
I can take care of my body and still find it wracked with illness.
I can marry a godly man and still find that marriage is hard work because we are both sinners.

But, while I have little control over what happens to me, I have complete control over my attitude while it’s happening.
How I face those circumstances, for good or for bad.
And the choices I make – the tiny, every-day, seemingly-inconsequential choices I make by the thousands in a 24-hour period – those I can control.

I can choose the option that puts God first.
I can choose the option that puts others ahead of myself.
The one that focuses on forgiveness rather than bitterness.
The one that feeds my soul and not my temptations.
The one that says my beliefs are more than just words I spout, songs I sing, or things I hear on Sunday.
The one that controls my words. My tone. My attitude. My thoughts. My actions. My reactions.

Because every choice I make today writes the sentence for a decade from now.

But even more than that, every choice I make today reflects the sentence I long to hear more than any other. At the end of my earthly existence – whenever that may be – I want God’s one sentence summary of my life to be, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

May you and I, today, write a fabulous sentence to the glory of God. And may we do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the one after that.

So, how’s that writing going?

 

 

On The Sea and Me…

God is NOT the author of confusion.
He is the God of Peace – the “peace that passes understanding”.

My confusion comes when I try to figure it all out.
Make it make sense.
When I look ahead – whether that is hours, days, months or years ahead – and try to sort out all the pieces.
When I strain to see the future and how He is going to move, provide, and execute the plans.

Confusion also comes when I expect people to fulfill me.
ANY person
On ANY level
Because people are people.
Sinners like me.
With their own baggage.
Their own perceptions.
And their own struggles.

Yet I am constantly setting my expectations on people and circumstances.
Anticipating how things will turn out.
Working hard to make things go my way.
Looking ahead to how circumstances will be.
How people will respond, react and interact.
Always planning, seeking, wondering, asking, and yes, trying to control.

Happy when they (the people or the circumstances) go my way;
sad when they do not.

Anxious when I don’t see the way through;
at peace when I have perceived answers.

Glad when I feel loved;
mad, sad, disappointed and hurt when I do not.

But both people and circumstances are fickle.
Changeable.
Unsteady.
Unreliable.
They remind me of the Sea of Galilee as it is recorded in Scripture during the time of Jesus.

Calm one moment; windswept, stormy and unsafe the next.

Sometimes providing fulfillment in great catches of fish.
Other times not giving up one single thing that I need.

At times, a mirror of glass, useful as a microphone from the platform of a boat.
And at other times, a raging maelstrom seemingly bent on my destruction.

But there are two things that were (and are) true about the Sea of Galilee:
1. It doesn’t go away. It is there as an obstacle or a road, an object lesson or a source of resources, a tool to be used or challenge to be faced.

2. And it is always under the sovereign hand of Almighty God.

He controls the storms.
Allowing some.
Calming others.
Making the fishing fruitful or sparse.

These things are true about the Sea of Galilee.
They are also true about my life.

And my little vessel – my life – on this sea of circumstances and people?
It is always in His control as well.
Even when I grab the rudder to go my own way, He still is with me.
Still redeems the circumstance.
Still guides me back on course.

Even when the wind and waves are high, He is with me.
Sometimes speaking to them and causing them to still.
Sometimes using them to demonstrate His miraculous power.
Sometimes appearing to do nothing.
But always in complete control.
And always with my best interest at heart.

I cannot change the Sea.
It remains fickle.
Consistently inconsistent.

I cannot control the storms.
Sometimes I see them coming.
And sometimes they spring up out of nowhere.

I cannot even provide my own resources.
Sometimes the way He provides breaks the nets in the abundance.
And sometimes I fish all night and catch nothing.

I cannot control the people in my life.
How they respond.
What they do or do not do.

And I cannot control the circumstances around me.
The good or the bad.

But I can trust the Master of the Wind and Waves.
I can rest in His promises, knowing He will never allow me to drown.
I can relax in the boat, putting all of my expectations on Him.
And NONE on the people or circumstances of my life.

Remembering that if He is for me, who can be against me?
And because He loves me, nothing can separate me from Him. (Romans 8)

And when I do that, cool stuff happens.
Like miraculous catches of fish.
And walking on water.
Like storms suddenly stopping.
And the waters going from boat-swamping waves to a sheet of glass.
Sometimes immediately.
And sometimes after a while.

I can look back through the years of my life and see His hand over and over and over again.
And I can look ahead with my eyes firmly fixed on Him, knowing He has good in store for me.
Will storms come? Of course.
Will He be with me? Of course.
Will He use them for my good and His glory? Of course.

I can’t control the Sea.
But I can trust the One Who does.
And life is so much sweeter when I do.

Not on the outside – the Sea will be the Sea, regardless of me.
But on the inside.
I can have peace.
Not dependent on you.
Or them.
Or the circumstances.
What the future may or may not hold.

But simply because of Him.
The Master of the Wind and Waves.
And the God Who calls me “friend”.

On Breathing…

I couldn’t breathe.
And it was terrifying.

It was in the recovery room after sinus surgery three, the most extensive one of them all.
You have three sets of sinus cavities in your face – your forehead, the bridge of your nose and your cheeks. This surgery had mucked with all three in an attempt to bring long-term relief.
So the packing in my face was extensive; literally layers of packing tucked from my forehead to my nostrils with a final piece of gauze taped across it all. No air was getting in that way.

And then, just as I was coming to consciousness, the nurse turned off the oxygen that was flowing into my mouth. But she forgot to remove the mask from my face.
I went from a steady flow of air to none.

She quickly realized what she had done as monitors blared.
But it was a terrifying way to wake up.

Thankfully that level of packing was only for the first 24 hours.
But it definitely gave me a deep, deep appreciation for breathing.

So what in the world does this have to do with spiritual things?

It’s about air.
And breathing.
And cutting off oxygen.

If you read last week’s blog, you know I have been reveling in the name of the Holy Spirit in the original languages: Ruach in Hebrew, Pneuma in Greek. Literally wind, breath or breeze.

And as I have been marinating in that Truth it struck me:
When I sin I am quite literally putting myself in the same danger I was in long ago in that recovery room.
I am cutting off the very air I breathe.

Am I saying that the Holy Spirit leaves the follower of Christ when we sin?
Absolutely not.

But when we choose to disobey God, we put a blockage between ourselves and Him.
Sin separates us from God.
Always has.
Always will.

And yes, Jesus died to take the penalty of my sin on the cross.
Someone always pays for sin by dying.
Either the sinner or Jesus.
So, for those of us who have chosen to put our faith in Christ, He has taken the ultimate punishment.
And He has given us the Holy Spirit as the power source for life, the change agent Who is working on us, refining us, making us more and more like Christ.

Scripture is very clear that we are literally saved from ourselves and our sin in stages.
The moment we accept Christ, we are justified before God.
He sees the penalty of our sin – past, present and future – as paid in full by the death of Jesus.
That’s why Paul told the church at Rome that “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

So we have been saved. Saved from the eternal consequences of our sin.
But we are also BEING saved as we walk with God in this Christian life.
The author of Hebrews put it this way: “Having been made perfect, we are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
I love that picture! I stand before God, complete and righteous because of Jesus.
I have been made perfect in His sight.
But I am being made holy as we go on together.
I am learning, growing, changing, transforming, becoming.

And then one day, one glorious day, we WILL BE saved.
For a follower of Jesus, the death of the body means entering an eternity with God.
And the struggle with sin will finally be over.
No more temptation.
No more mistakes.
No more wrestling.
We will finally be done with the struggle. Hallelujah!

So – back to the air we breathe.
In this life, as we are in the process of being saved, we have a choice about how hard that progression will be.
And that choice is all about surrender.
My will or His?
My glory or His?
My desires or His?
Yield to temptation? Or yield to His Spirit?

Paul told the Corinthians that “No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” (I Corinthians 10:13)

And he told the church at Philippi:
“So then, my dear ones, just as you have always obeyed [my instructions with enthusiasm], not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ]. For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

So you CAN resist the irresistible.
You CAN successfully fight temptation.
You CAN live a holy life.

It is all possible – because you have the Breath of God in your lungs.

But when you choose sin, you block His work.
When you choose disobedience, you cut off the very air supply that you desperately need.
He is still there – but you have rendered Him ineffective.
Just like the oxygen I needed was still in the air all around me in that recovery room – but it was blocked from my lungs.

That is why it is SO important to keep short accounts with God.
Because you will fail.
You will still sin.
You will give into temptation.
And He will not leave you when you do.
But His power supply to your life will be blocked.
And you are the only one who can remove the blockage.

That is why Paul told the church at Thessalonica, “Do not quench [subdue, or be unresponsive to the working and guidance of] the [Holy] Spirit.” (I Thessalonians 5:19)
We have the choice, day in and day out.
Breathe Him in, with all of His power and experience all of the fruit He brings – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

Or block His flow, quenching His work, cutting off the very air supply we need in order to live for Him by our own willful disobedience.

Choosing to keep short accounts with God will not make Him love you more.
“But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

But keeping your life free from sin so that the Breath of God can move freely in your life?
That will give you the abundant life Jesus promised in John 10.

You have the quantity of life either way – eternity with God because you are a Christ-follower.
The question is, what is the quality of your life with Him?
That part is entirely up to you.