Sunday Sheep Ponderings- April 23,2017

Pondering today on “MORE”. 
On Friday, I made the four hour drive, by myself, from my house in Georgia to Nashville. For the first part of the journey I listened to some country music and podcasts. At some point along the way, I sensed the spirit of God invite me into quiet. While the Spirit often speaks through songs and other people, I sensed that this particular moment was an “us” moment, a time that He had set aside for the two of us. 
After some silence, I began to pour out my heart. “Daddy, you have opened my eyes and my heart to so much new revelation the last 5 years. It’s been a journey that at times I have been thrilled to be on and at times, I have been hesitant to take the next step. It’s as if you have pulled the rug out from under me yet I stand on firmer ground. So many things that I thought to be true of You, You simply blew away like dust on a dresser. Daddy, I’m so thankful, BUT……..I sometimes feel like I’m being used as target practice for those who don’t agree with what You have shown me. Friends, family members and yes, Instagram followers have their arrows ready to launch as soon as my theology doesn’t line up with theirs. Are they right? Am I? Daddy, please just TELL ME MORE ABOUT JESUS. I know He was the exact representation of YOU and I can trust what He said and what He did.” 
Then, I waited. I don’t know how long I waited but not long. The Spirit began to show me the “MORE”. It took me through story after story of Jesus and through each one, I saw the “MORE”. For example, the woman caught in the act of adultery. Yes, he sent all of her accusers away and saved her life but there was MORE! He himself, God in flesh, assured her that HE did not condemn her either! Before the cross, before blood was shed, God did not condemn. Mind blown, drop the mic kind of moment. Jesus, the Divine, entered into humanity to say, “condemnation is not who God is, but acceptance and compassion is!” 
Another example. The parable of the workers in the field. Some worked all day and some came along late in the day but all got the same pay. Understandably, as humans, we think this is not fair. We have a system of checks and balances, fair and unfair, right and wrong, good and bad and when that balance is off, we try to fix it. The parable shows that at the end of the day, with God, all people are entitled to the same blessing. But the MORE is that God is not keeping score. God is not comparing you to others. God is not keeping a record. God doesn’t fall into the human trap of keeping things fair or balanced. God is generous with all people! God pours out grace upon grace upon grace. Some only need a few buckets full and some need waterfalls of it but the supply never runs out and he’s not keeping tabs on how much He gave you! Just when you think you’ve used up all you deserve, MORE pours out! The flow never stops. Jesus entered into humanity to say “God doesn’t need to keep records of wrongs, He is an endless supply of love and grace.”
I could go on and on with stories of the “MORE” the Spirit opened my eyes to but I’ll save them for another day. 
I will say this though, the “MORE” is in EVERY story Jesus told and EVERY story told about Him! You read the scriptures account and you see He is good and then you look deeper and see that He is even “gooder” than you thought! 
Isn’t that how it should be with God? A journey always towards “MORE”. Just when you think you have a grasp on His goodness, He reveals MORE! Just when you think you understand His grace, He pours out MORE! Just when you think you can describe His love, there is MORE than words can contain! 
My friends, when He invites you into quiet….go! There is MORE He wants to show you. Happy Sunday beloved. 

Sunday Sheep Ponderings- April 16,2017

Pondering today of MY crucifixion and resurrection.
I can hear the religious voices now, “Oh Wendy, this day is about Jesus, not you”. And yes, ALL the glory and credit go to Him but the benefit goes to me. 
I’ve been asking God many things about His death lately? I’ve heard man’s views and teachings on the subject for 50 years but I still had some pretty big questions. 
The common theology in the American church (but not the worldwide church) is the “depravity of man”. This is just a fancy way of saying that we are born bad. In this theology, we are always trying to become good, become Christlike, be acceptable to God. I was taught this at an early age and bought in fully to the idea that I was a wretch but if I asked Jesus into my heart, I would not be a wretch any more. 
But you know…pondering, asking questions and waiting for His answers…it changes things. 
You see, when I read the scriptures, I see a different story. I see that “I HAVE BEEN (past tense) crucified WITH Christ and that it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives within me!” I guess the big question is this…WHEN? When was I crucified with Christ? 
 It should be an easy answer. I was crucified when Christ was. But in our fallen human thinking, we change the good news to not so good news. We add a lot of “ifs” and conditions that simply aren’t there. Then we pass along those “ifs” and conditions to our children, and so on and so on. Did you know that the idea of “asking Jesus into your heart or life” is not anywhere in scripture! Jesus never said it, Paul never said it and the gospels never said it. 
Instead, the scriptures do say that “while we were STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us.” They also say that their is a mystery that has been revealed and that mystery is that “Christ is IN us!” And they say “God was in Christ reconciling THE WORLD to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them”! 
I could go on and on listing scriptures that tell us that what happened on Good Friday and Easter morning 2000 years ago was so much bigger and so much better than even most of us believe! That Jesus came to do a job…”not condemning the world but saving it”, “destroying death”, “setting the captives free”, being an “exact representation of the Father”, and “giving us abundant life”! And when He was done, He proclaimed…”IT IS FINISHED!” DONE DEAL! He completed His mission and YOU don’t have any part in it. The glory and credit are ALL His so stop trying to give yourself credit for “believing something”, “saying a certain prayer” or declaring you are “chosen” and that others aren’t. HE is the victor and ALL of creation is His prize! 
My friends, we are all on a journey. Not a journey of making what God said true by believing it – for that would make us the decision maker. We are on a journey of awakening and believing what has always been true – the truth that God was the decision maker, and He decided to love you! 
Happy Resurrection day my friends! “BEHOLD, HE HAS MADE ALL, ALL, ALL THINGS NEW!” Now dance the dance of Freedom! Sing the song of Restoration! Live the life of Acceptance! And surrender to the peace of rest! You are loved and you are His!

Sunday Sheep Ponderings- April 9,2017

Pondering today on guilt and the cross. Guilt – a feeling that you have done something wrong or bad or let someone down, or the state of having broken a law.
I was one of those kids that wanted to please. If a teacher got on to me in school, I would cry. I wanted to preform well and I wanted to be accepted. Guilt and shame were my constant companions, little voices constantly whispering in my ear that I was not good enough. 
These pesky little voices have been around from the beginning. They whispered in Adam and Eve’s ears, “Hide from God, you are naked and you should be ashamed”. They whispered in the Children of Israel’s ears, “You better sacrifice so you can be accepted by God”. They whispered in the Pharisee’s ears, “Kill this Jesus, his teachings will make you powerless over the people.”
Because of those lying little voices, I gladly, desperately and eagerly accepted the idea that Jesus died on the cross for my “sins”, my ” missing the mark”, my ” mess ups”. I wanted Him to take my guilt and shame away. BUT…I then felt even more guilty. I had put an innocent man to death to make me feel better. I must work hard and devote my life to paying him back for this “gift”. Talk about a religious guilt trip that lasted 40+ years! 
Today, I don’t hear those destructive little voices anymore. Oh, every now and then I see them yelling from a distance to try and get my attention, but their efforts fail. I don’t see the cross, or the death of Jesus, or guilt like I used to. I don’t believe the story I used to believe. 
The story that says…God created humans. Humans disobeyed God. Humans should be ashamed. God punished humans. God must separate Himself from shameful Humans. God sent humans to hell. God needed a sacrifice to overlook humans’ filthy humanness. God needed to kill Himself to save humans from a place He created. Humans are indebted to God. God saves some humans. God sends others to hell. The end.
As I read the story now, I see things I never saw before. I notice details, words, actions that I glossed over to make the story fit my church’s teachings. And now, every time I read it, I see even more. I see a love story!
Here is the story I read now.
God created humans in His image. God loved humans and said His creation was VERY GOOD. God enjoyed human’s company. Human’s made a mistake. God went looking for humans and covered humans’ shame. God protected humans from themselves. Humans felt separated from God because of their guilt. God accepted humans’ pointless sacrifices so humans could feel better. God was continually trying to teach humans that they were wrong about Him and they were wrong about themselves. God sent Jesus to set the record straight. God still loves and has always loved humans! God never needed sacrifices to love humans. God IS love. Humans needed sacrifices to feel worthy of God’s love. God sacrificed Himself to show human’s the depth of His love. Humans are free from the voices of guilt and shame. Humans realize that they have never been nor will ever be separated from God. Humans love God. Humans love all humans. 
Guilt and the Cross look very different to me now and for that, I am so thankful. I look different to me now. You look different to me now. Love looks different to me now. 
Happy Sunday my friends! Oh, and I almost forgot the end of the story…
“And they all lived happily ever after!”