Category Archives: Mercy

I Won’t Hide From Evil and Neither Will God

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There’s a lot of beauty and good in the world, but there’s also a whole lot of evil. And while I think it’s good to focus on the good and the positive so that God is glorified, I also believe that to ignore or deny the evil that’s in the world would be foolish, and would actually glorify the devil more than if we worshiped him outright. A quote from C.S. Lewis might explain this better than I can,

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. ~ from the Preface of The Screwtape Letters*

Something I’ve been thinking about lately: The Bible says in the Book of Psalms that God has numbered our days,

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. ~ Psalms 139:16, NLT.

I understand that to mean that God knows what will happen every day of my life, from the day of my birth clear through ’til the day of my death. What I’ve been thinking about is the day of my death, or more generically, the day of every person’s death. What I’m curious about is, does God ordain how a person dies, or just that he dies on a particular day? I mean, there are an almost infinite number of ways someone can die.

The reason I’m asking this is because when someone is murdered, (unless they’re killed in their sleep so they aren’t aware and wake up dead), they must experience extreme terror and horror right up to the moment of dying. I’m trying to understand what might be going through their mind during those hours and moments of extremity leading up to the moment of their death.

I’m also trying to understand how God fits into the picture. If someone is killed in a way that makes their last hours and moments full of mind-numbing, heart-stopping, hope-stealing and screaming terror that was caused by the person who murdered them, was that method of death ordained by God? I find it difficult to understand how God would want someone to experience that kind of negativity right before they die. If they’re already saved and they die like that, at least they have the hope of heaven. But if they’re not, in the minutes and hours, and sometimes even days, of terror and horror and fear before they’re murdered, how can they be expected to think clearly enough during that time to be able to call out to God for salvation?

Scripture says that God is both a just God and a merciful God. I’ve heard it said that since He’s both just and merciful, if someone dies in an unsaved state, He will take them where they’re at spiritually, and judge them based on their works. I don’t know how true this is, or if it’s true at all, but that’s what I’ve heard. A scriptural basis for this might be found in the Book of James,

For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. ~ James 2:13, NKJV.

Given the scenario I’ve described above, where someone’s ability to seek God is severely compromised, and the best he or she can do is cry out for help, God’s mercy is what is most desperately needed, not His judgment.

I could be wrong on that, but I hope I’m not.

 

*C.S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letters, HarperSanFrancisco, ©1942, Harper edition 2001, p. ix.

Am I Afraid of Anger, or Do I Get Angry at the Fear?

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I originally wrote this post back in April of 2013 for a blog that I kept on another blogging site. That blog was shut down by the website without my consent, and I was never able to get it back, so from time to time I’m going to repost some of the posts I wrote from that blog as they seem appropriate to what I’m dealing with now.

This post contains a letter that I wrote to my biological father to deal with some of the unexpressed anger and rage that I feel about what he did to me. My therapist suggested that I write it but not send it, so that’s what I’ve done. Here’s the post:

April 10, 2013 ~ I’ve come to realize that most of the anger I feel and/or express is misplaced and  misdirected, either at myself, or at the people in whatever TV program I’m watching at the time, especially if it’s something having to do with someone being raped or abused, or being treated unjustly or unfairly in anyway. I also get angry at certain news stories having to do with violence against children or women, or about registered sex offenders.

I’ve also found it interesting and a bit puzzling that I’ve never once felt, much less voiced, any anger towards my father for all the awful, horrible things he did to me. I have forgiven him, and I’ve never ever had any desire for revenge, but by the same token, I’ve also never felt any anger towards him. I don’t know if it’s because I’m terrified that he’ll come after me or because I’m afraid I’ll go ballistic if I start letting it out, or just what.

So maybe it’s time for me to do something about it. It’s not good to hold anger inside, especially for long periods of time, and while I’m getting better at not holding my anger inside, when I do let it out it’s almost always directed at the wrong person. So I’m thinking I should do something to express some of it towards my father, instead of towards me and all the other people who aren’t supposed to get it. My therapist says I should write him a letter, but I wouldn’t have to mail it to him. So that’s what I’ll do.

May 15, 2013 ~ I think it’s curious and probably significant that, after I start thinking about writing a letter to my father to tell him how angry I am at him, even if I know he’ll never see it, all of a sudden I avoid this blog like the plague. I wrote the first part of this post at the beginning of April and now it’s the middle of May.

Up until now I’ve always avoided dealing with any real feelings about Harry, and I think the reason is because I’ve been afraid, terrified, actually. Terrified that I wouldn’t be able to control my anger, petrified I’ll go ballistic and do something I’ll regret later ~ all because I’m panic-stricken at the idea of no longer hiding my true feelings about him. As I was sitting here thinking about what to write, I beat a retreat in the middle of this paragraph to play solitaire. Sometimes it helps me to think. Actually I think it’s an excuse for not having to think or write about what I’m supposed to be working on. Anyway, I started playing Solitaire and it wasn’t going the way I wanted it to (I was losing game after game) so I got more and more frustrated, and I ended up hitting myself a whole lot. Which is the point of all this in the first place: I get angry at myself instead of getting angry at the person ~ Harry ~ who’s the one I should be getting angry at.

So I’m going to step out in faith, and instead of being afraid of the anger, I’m going to get angry at the fear, and I’m going to start writing that letter. So here goes.

Harry:

First, I have to say that there are certain things about my childhood for which I’ve always been grateful: the piano lessons, and the love for classical music that you and Mom instilled in me, plus the keen intelligence, analytical mind, and desire for knowledge that have made me a voracious reader, and given me a life-long love of learning.

I have a lot of things to say to you. A LOT. You’re supposed to be my father, at least that’s the title they gave you on my birth certificate. I have to tell you, however, that I don’t buy it. You’ve never been a father to me. I’ve had a lot of memories of things you did to me when I was a child that no father should ever do to ANY child, much less his own daughter ~ that no human being should ever do to any other human being. Even animals shouldn’t be treated the way you treated me. So I have a hard time calling you my father.

You abused me. You abused me physically, verbally, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually. You made me hate you, and you made me hate myself. Everytime you abused me you told me you had to do it because God hated me. Everytime you abused me you told me I was as ugly as if someone had thrown acid in my face. I don’t know why you felt the need to say those awful, hateful things to me. It took me many, many years of healing before I could believe that God didn’t hate me, and many more years after that before I could believe that anyone, much less God, could love me. I’m still working on whether or not I’m ugly. I think I can finally say that I’m not ugly, but I’m not sure I can take it any farther than that yet.

I’ve finally decided that maybe you told me those things because you were projecting onto me how you felt about yourself. However, that’s no excuse for that kind of cruelty! Do you have any idea the kind of pain just those two statements spoken over and over into my life have caused me? Agony! Do you hear me? Agony! You caused me years and years of anguish and agony, plus nine suicide attempts just from those two statements, not to mention the torment from all the other horrific and terrible things you did to me.

You abused me within an inch of my life. The only reason I survived infancy is because God gave me the ability to become multiple.

You forced us to lie about what you were doing to us so you could keep on beating, raping, and otherwise assaulting the life out of us. You told us that if we ever told anyone what you were doing to us you would kill us, and then you played Russian Roulette with your revolver between our legs to make sure we believed you. There was no way we could have known back then that the gun was loaded with blanks. We were children, tiny children, so we had no choice but to believe you, and we had to become liars that no one could trust as a result. You stole our integrity,  our innocence, our childhood, and our hope when you did that, because you left us with no recourse and no ability to seek rescue.

Do you remember our habit of picking our cuticles? We started doing that at a very early age, as young as age two. Do you know why we did that? Because you told us we couldn’t tell anyone what you were doing to us, so we had to come up with a way to tell people without using words that we were in peril. So we picked holes in our cuticles, sometimes to the point of getting them infected. Tragically for us, our efforts were all for naught, because no one ever caught on or reached out to help.

You used rape as punishment for wrongdoing, and you kept changing the rules so we never knew what they were. It didn’t matter what we did or how we did it, it was never good enough, so no matter what, we were wrong and had to be punished, which meant you had yet another excuse to rape and/or hit us. I don’t know what we did to become the brunt of your rage; I doubt we did anything. We think you just needed a scapegoat, and we were small and weak enough that we couldn’t fight back.

And then there was the time when we were three when you decided that just raping us yourself wasn’t enough; you needed to spice it up by getting your friends involved. So you orchestrated a little gang-rape with four of your cronies. I don’t know what you were hoping to accomplish that day, but it certainly couldn’t have been anything good.

Do you have any idea of how traumatic that event was for us? That one incident was so devastating, so damaging to us that it, and you, caused the creation of 12, that’s right, twelve, new alters. It was so horrific that Catherine Belinda, the core personality, decided she’d had enough of your lies and betrayals. She determined that she couldn’t stand your abuse any longer, so despite the risk and menace inherent in your threats, she resolved to tell someone, anyone, what you were doing to us. But God and the rest of us, knew that you meant business when you said you’d kill us if we told. So God and the rest of us hid Catherine Belinda away and put her to sleep, and kept her that way for the next fifty years. In her place a new alter was created to run things. The new alter’s name was Sarah Abigail Kuriakos, but she answered to Catherine Belinda’s name so no one would notice or suspect anything was different.

You know, all we wanted was to be accepted and loved. That’s all any child wants. Was that too much to ask? We don’t think it was, but you couldn’t even give us that. A child is a gift from God, yet you treated us like trash. You acted like we were your personal property to kick around and beat up as you pleased. We were a small, innocent child! You were nothing more than a cowardly bully, picking on your own daughter, someone who was too small and defenseless to stand up for ourselves. If you’re going to pick on someone, pick on someone your own size!

I think the thing that hurts me more than anything else about all the horrors you visited on me/us throughout the years of my childhood is that you made it nigh unto impossible for me to have a relationship with a man, or with God. I’m terrified of men and I’m terrified of sex. As a consequence I’ve never been able to consider even going out on a date, much less anything more serious, because I might have to let him touch me, and ultimately I might have to marry him and have sex with him.

Fortunately, as far as a relationship with God is concerned, God had other plans, and it’s only by His grace and mercy that I’m alive to tell this story, or that I know anything about Him at all. I owe my life to God and to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and it’s only because of His healing power that I’m able to trust Him or believe in Him. I will never be able to express enough gratitude to God for all He has done for me in setting me free from all that you did to me. One thing you should know however, is that the God of Love who healed me won’t allow me to hate you anymore.

That’s right. Jesus loves you just as much as He loves me or anyone else, without reservation or condemnation, and because He’s healed me, He’s helped me to forgive you for everything you did to me. And yes, I have forgiven you. I don’t want revenge, I don’t desire any kind of evil to come to you, and I wish only good for you. This teeny weeny paragraph stating my forgiveness may sound a little simplistic and trite, like nothing more than a bunch of platitudes after my great long letter expressing a lot of pent up rage and vitriol. In truth I was only expressing my heart and my truth as I saw it. But my forgiveness is real and heartfelt, and the ball is now in your court. It’s your choice as to whether you will accept or reject it, because with my forgiveness, I’m also offering reconciliation with you and the possibility of a relationship. I don’t know if that’s something you desire, but my offer is there if you choose to accept it.

That’s all for now. I wish peace with God and health for your body and soul. I know that you now suffer from emphysema and are on 24-hour oxygen, and I wish healing for you from that as well.

Blessings and Peace,

Sarah

Well, thankfully it’s finished. As an addendum, I want to add a little bit of history to bring the story of the multiplicity aspect up to date.

As I said in the middle of the letter, at age 27, in October of 1980, I changed my name from Catherine Belinda Pfaff to Sarah Abigail Kuriakos. At the time I was only just beginning to have memories of being abused and I had no idea I was multiple. I thought I was changing my name to cut myself off from a heritage of abuse, and I thought I was choosing a new name. So I chose three names that were Bible names or words with really good meanings, and that meant things I had never meant to anyone before: Sarah means, “Princess,” and Sarah, of course, was Abraham’s wife and the mother of Isaac. Abigail means, “a father’s joy, or a joy to the Father,” and Abigail was one of David’s wives, and a virtuous woman in the Bible. And Kuriakos means, “belonging to God” and is used twice in the New Testament.

In reality, I was already Sarah Abigail Kuriakos, but I was consciously unaware of it. Everyone inside decided that the name of the body, which had been Catherine Belinda up until then, should be changed to match my name so there would be more congruence between inside and outside. It made sense. Catherine Belinda was hidden away and asleep, and had been for a long time, and would remain that way indefinitely, so it didn’t make any sense to keep using her name. It made much more sense to use my name because I was running things, so we found a lawyer amongst the people at my church, and we went to court and change it to my name. And strangely enough, the change wasn’t at all hard to adapt to. It was like that should have been my name all along. I’d had this weird feeling for awhile that Catherine Belinda was a name that belonged to someone else ~ which turned out to be true, interestingly enough, in a strange sort of way. Plus all my friends said that Sarah Abigail fit me much better than Catherine Belinda did. Funny thing! Maybe that was because Sarah Abigail was actually my name and Catherine Belinda wasn’t.

And being Sarah Abigail Kuriakos has made a huge difference in my life, and brought me closer to God. Everytime I hear the names I hear their meanings, and God has used that to heal me a tiny bit everyday. Plus I’m no longer multiple. In October of 2001 I decided I wanted to seek integration, so I went to the pastor of the church I was going to at the time, and asked him if they could help me with that. I knew that the process of integration takes many years, often in excess of ten, if it’s done in therapy, and I wanted God to do the healing, not some shrink. So my pastor and some people in the church who knew of my background set up a team of prayer warriors, and they prayed for me once a month over a period of 18 months, and by the end of that time I was fully integrated. It was a wonderful thing. Instead of being many I was one ~ for the first time in my entire life! There was no longer any chaos or confusion inside. Blessed peace! Wow!! Praise God!! And the really cool thing was that the process was complete right around my fiftieth birthday. And just before the final integration was done, God woke up Catherine Belinda and brought her out of hiding so that she could be integrated into the whole along with everyone else. Amazingly, God had been watching over her the whole time, and had been causing her to grow while she was asleep, so when she came back it wasn’t a huge shock to her system. I was seeing a really good Christian therapist at the time, and she was fully supportive of the prayer group’s work. I remember the day when Catherine Belinda woke up. It was March (?) of 1999 and the day of the First-Brush-Stroke Ceremony at the Bowers Museum for Raúl Anguiano’s first mural, and I had been invited, amazingly enough. I was working at Pearl Arts and Crafts Store in Huntington Beach, and Raúl had come into the store for his art supplies for the ceremony and for the mural completion to follow, and I had decided that I was going to be there when he came in, come what may. So when he came in, I was there and I helped him get what he needed. He was such a nice guy! So he invited me to the ceremony, and he allowed me to come and watch him paint the mural afterward, over a period of weeks. Wow! And then he gave me a gift of one of his small lithographs, personally signed by him to me!

Well anyway, the day of the ceremony, I had this strange feeling all day long that someone new was using the body, that it wasn’t really me. My eyes felt hypersensitive to light, like I’d been in a very dark place for a long time, and my eyes needed to have time to adjust to the light. Fortunately I had a therapy session that afternoon before I had to be at the ceremony at the Bowers, so I spent my session talking about the weird sensations I’d been having all day, and what they might mean. We finally came to the conclusion that Catherine Belinda was waking up so she, along with everyone else could go to the ceremony at the Bowers. It seemed like God had planned it that way, so who was I to argue>

And then there was the whole situation with Klepto, who was a little four-year-old girl who stole things because that was the only way she knew of to get what she wanted. Of course stealing is, and always has been, absolutely antithetical to everything I am, so when she came out and started stealing stuff from work (I was still working at Pearl at the time), I got very upset. The first thing we did was talk to her and tell her she couldn’t do this. She had to take everything back, and put it back where she got it without getting caught, because I didn’t want to lose my job. Then, on the advice of my therapist, we changed her name to Elizabeth, because Klepto as a name was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. She came out one more time in a toy store where she tried to shoplift a game. Fortunately I came out and stopped her before she could leave the store with it, but it was rather embarrassing. And then she was integrated into the whole, and was no longer a problem, thank God!

So, God gave me the most amazing and wonderful birthday gift for my fiftieth birthday, and I’ve been eternally grateful ever since. I can’t thank Him enough. Certainly I’ve had my struggles since then. There was the whole seven-year period where I was angry at God because I couldn’t understand how He could allow me to be abused. It turned out that what I really didn’t understand was about God’s sovereignty, and that I didn’t have the right to challenge it, which was what I had been doing. And then I realized that all I really wanted to know was where God was when I was being abused. And ultimately God showed me. He showed me that He had been right there with me, protecting me by making me multiple, saving my life by creating new alters as they were needed. Each time there was an abuse incident that was severe enough to require a new alter, God put His finger on my personality in the exact spot where He wanted the split to occur. It was God who created Sarah Abigail Kuriakos, and chose her name ~ which gives the meaning of the names even more significance when I think of it in that light. Wow…

Well, I guess I’d better finish this and post it. It’s turned out to be VERY long, a lot longer than I expected, though all of it was important and needed to be said.

Until next time then…

I Would Make a Great Hermit

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And I’m not saying that’s a necessarily a good thing, either, because I believe God created us to be in fellowship with other Christians, as it says in the Book of Hebrews,

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. ~ Hebrews 10:25, NLT.

Gathering together with other Christians keeps us sharp and sensitive towards God. Going to church and hearing the Word preached on a regular basis, in fellowship with other believers, does the same thing,

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. ~ Proverbs 27:17, NLT. 

All of that is to say that I like being alone. I’m a finest-kind introvert. I would much rather be by myself than spend time with other people. I don’t like talking on the phone just to talk. If the phone call doesn’t have a definite purpose other than to say hi, how are you, then I don’t want to participate in the conversation.

I’ve often thought that I’d love to find, or better yet build, a cabin out in the wilderness somewhere. I would want it to be a multilevel treehouse that has all the amenities, including wi-fi, and a full bathroom (NOT an outhouse). I want an indoor bathroom with indoor plumbing, and a full kitchen, even if the only cooking I do is nuking. I would be the only one living there with my cat and my dog, who would be close friends. And it would be way high up in a huge tree, so I wouldn’t have to come down, except for maybe once a month to drive out to purchase food and supplies.

I’ve wanted a treehouse for a long time, many years, in fact. Treehouse Masters was my favorite show on TV when they were airing new episodes. Unfortunately, they aren’t going to be on TV any longer. Pete Nelson sent out a newsletter a couple of weeks ago that said they won’t be making any new episodes.

I’m fairly certain that the foundation for my craving for isolation is my wonderful childhood (and, yes, that’s big-time tongue-in-cheek and sarcasm that you hear in my words). The only time I was safe was when I was by myself, and I couldn’t trust anyone but myself.

I have no illusions that my almost desperate desire for solitude is a godly one. I know it’s not, because my understanding of Scripture tells me it’s not. But, at least for the time being, it’s not something over which I have much control. As I can I try to place myself in contact with other people on a periodic basis, but only as I can do so and still remain in my comfort zone, so to speak. There are times when I try to step outside my comfort zone, but not very often. By definition, it’s too uncomfortable.

Obviously this will have to be a matter for discussion with McT.

HARRUMPH!!!

As Far As the East Is From the West

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I was driving to a friend’s house the other night (about 3 a.m. on May 28th), and listening to the radio as I was driving. I forget if it was a song, or something the DJ said, but whatever it was, it got me thinking about the phrase, “as far as the east is from the west”, which is a phrase used in Psalm 103,

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. ~ Psalm 103:11-12, NKJV.

So then I started thinking of all these questions: can you reach the east if you start in the west? Can you reach the west if you start in the east? I mean, you can reach the North Pole if you start from the South Pole, and vice versa, so why can’t you reach the east from the west? The problem is, there is no East Pole, nor is there a West Pole to use as starting points, as there is with the North and the South Poles.

So maybe being able to physically travel from west to east, or from east to west, isn’t the point of the idea.

What is the point, then?

When I asked myself that question, I started thinking about the images that come to mind when I think about the phrase, “as far as the east is from the west…”. Things like the infinitude of God’s love, and the limitless quality of His mercy. Most particularly, however, the image that comes to mind is that of Christ on the cross with His arms stretched out from east to west. It says in the Book of John,

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. ~ John 15:13, NKJV.

Jesus Christ’s whole purpose for stepping down from the Majesty on High and coming to earth was to go to the cross and take humanity’s place, to take the punishment for our sin. That’s how much God loved us, that He would plan, with His Son and the Holy Spirit, from the foundation of the world, to deal with the problem of sin by sending Jesus to earth to take our place and assume our punishment. And a terrible punishment it was, because our sin was terrible. It still is, but Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to take care of all of it for all time.

To me, this is beauty personified.

Oh my! When I think of that I’m left speechless! I am a sinful person. I’m full of pride, and I make mistakes all the time, every day. One of my many favorite verses in the Bible is from Romans 7,

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ~ Romans 7:24, NKJV.

I can so well relate to the Apostle Paul here! The preceding verses describe my day-to-day, sometimes minute-to-minute existence. Romans 7 portrays it so well,

I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. ~ Romans 7:19, NLT.

It’s almost as if God was watching me when He told Paul to write that passage of Scripture! And yet, He loves me and wants me, regardless of my sinfulness.

I thank God for that everyday and in every way.

O Wretched Man That I Am!

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Every once in awhile I do or say something that reminds me of just how sinful I truly am.

On May 5th (the second Sunday after Easter), Nick Vujicic, founder of Life Without Limbs, a ministry based in Australia, preached at my church. He’s very well known, so all three services were quite well attended, with the main sanctuary being packed, and the overflow seating as well.

I was able to get a seat in the main sanctuary, but only just barely. I have a compulsive need to sit on the aisle, because I feel closed in if there are people sitting on both sides of me, and the only aisle seat available was down in front next to the wall. Unfortunately, even though the seat was on the aisle, because it was next to the wall and by the stage ~ basically in the right front corner of the room ~ my ability to see the stage, and therefore Nick Vujicic, was extremely limited.

There was one open seat next to me that improved my visibility, so I sat there, and prayed that no one would take the aisle seat.

Actually, what I thought was, “I hope whoever sits there isn’t fat like me.”

Then I listened to what I’d just said to myself, and felt a wave of disgust wash over me. This couldn’t be pleasing to God! What was I to do?

I quickly decided that the most important thing I needed to do was repent, and ask for God’s forgiveness, so that’s what I did.

But God’s forgiveness notwithstanding, I was still left with the disquieting question of why I’d allowed myself to think like that in the first place.

That’s when the Holy Spirit reminded me of Romans, Chapter Seven,

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. … For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. … Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ~ Romans 7:15, 19, and 24, ESV.

When the Scriptures were originally written down they weren’t separated into chapters and verses, so Romans 7 and Romans 8 were transcribed as one long discourse.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that, because, while Romans 7:15 through the end of the chapter bemoan our sinfulness, Romans 8 gratefully and joyfully acknowledges Christ’s victory over that sin through His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Chapter 8 also specifically says that nothing, including our sin, can separate us from the love of Jesus,

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:38-39, ESV.

I’m so grateful and thankful for God’s love for me! Now I need to get my thought-life in line with God’s Word, and specifically the fruit of the Spirit listed in the Book of Galatians,

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. ~ Galatians 5:22-23, ESV.

So all is not lost. God’s Word is at work in my life, and while I did experience an unpleasant confrontation with my humanity and sinfulness, I also became aware once again of just how much God loves me regardless of my sin.

Thanks be to God for His unfathomable and unspeakable gift!

New Mercies Every Morning

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One of my favorite passages of scripture is from the Book of Lamentations (a short little five chapter book in the Old Testament right after the Book of Jeremiah),

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ~ Lamentations 3:21-23, NIV.

I love knowing that God has new mercies and fresh compassion for me every single day. It’s wonderful to know that His faithfulness towards me is such that I never have to worry that I might wake up one morning and find out that God is having a bad day. God isn’t capricious like my father was. I could never tell from one minute to the next how my father would be feeling, and therefore how he would treat me.

My father was diametrically opposite from, and opposed to, everything about God. The most dependable thing about my father was that you couldn’t depend on him for anything.

But God is everything my father wasn’t, and He never changes. It says this in a number of different ways throughout the Bible, and I am so very grateful and thankful to God for His constancy and faithfulness. The Book of Hebrews says,

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. ~ Hebrews 13:8, ESV.

It says in the Book of Numbers,

God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? ~ Numbers 23:19, NLT.

And one of my all-time favorites,

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. ~ James 1:17, KJV.

Last, but certainly not least,

35, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36, As it is written: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37, No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38, For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:35-39, NIV.

The Old Testament verse referenced in Verse 36 comes from the Book of Psalms,

Yet for Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. ~ Psalm 44:22, NIV.

It’s extremely comforting to me to know that it’s impossible to separate me from Christ’s love, that God won’t let anything, ANYTHING, come between me and Him, and He’s proven that to me too many times to count. The most obvious confirmation, of course, is the cross, but just the fact that He’s been with me and kept me alive all my life ~ even when I didn’t know Him ~ is all the evidence I need, even if I didn’t have the cross. But I thank God for the cross!

 

Author and Finisher

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I love the phrase, “…the author and finisher of our faith…” in Hebrews 12:2. It’s talking about Jesus, of course. I like the way the NIV puts it,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of [our] faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV.

It’s like my faith ~ my story ~ is a book, and Jesus is its author. He’s the One who began my story, and He’s the One who will finish it, as it says in Philippians,

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. ~ Philippians 1:6, NLT.

I love the Bible. It always tells the truth. The verses I quoted above tell the truth about God’s activity in my life. And the cardinal truth can be found in this verse in Hebrews,

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” ~ Hebrews 13:5, NLT.

Throughout my life ~ through all the abuse, all the times my mother tried to kill me, all the horrendous and terrible things my father did to me, all my suicide attempts, even during the period where I was enraged at God ~ through all of it, God was there, keeping me alive, shielding me from the worst of the abuse, and even protecting me from myself.

He’s never failed me, He’s never forsaken me, He’s never abandoned me, plus He’s given me beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning, as it says in Isaiah,

To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. ~ Isaiah 61:3, NKJV.

God has given me so much beauty in my life! He’s been so incredibly good to me, and He continues to be so on a daily, minute-by-minute basis. The cross is the best, most beautiful gift He could ever give me. It’s the best demonstration of true love anyone could ever give to another person, as it says in the Gospel of John,

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. ~ John 15:13, NLT.

Justice and Mercy Both Win at the Cross

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God showed me something this morning. I was driving to a doctor’s appointment and listening to a song on the radio. The song reminded me of a Scripture verse I’ve been thinking about recently, James 2:12-13,

So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. ~ James 2:12-13, NKJV.

What I realized was, at the cross God got the justice He required for humanity’s sin because Jesus bore the punishment for our sins by dying for us. But God isn’t only a just God, He’s also a merciful God; two of His attributes are justice and mercy, not just justice. And at the cross God required justice, but He also desired mercy for His dealings with mankind. So He got justice by allowing Jesus to bear the punishment we deserved, and then gave us His mercy and grace as a free gift instead.

How cool is that?!

Instead of the justice and punishment we deserved, we got the mercy and grace we didn’t earn ~ and sonship! We became sons and daughters of God because we were adopted into the family of God!

All we have to do is receive His free gift of salvation by faith. We don’t have to be good enough, or clean enough, or anything enough. All we have to do is confess with our mouth and believe in our hearts according to Romans 10:9-10,

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. ~ Romans 10:9-10, NLT.

It doesn’t seem like a fair exchange, does it? Maybe that’s because it’s not, but who am I to argue when I get by far the best end of the deal! I mean, all God gets is little ole, imperfect me. And I get Jesus Christ as a big brother, and saved, and redeemed, and the whole Kingdom of God, and Heaven, and a relationship with God, and EVERYTHING!!

Such a deal!! It absolutely boggles my mind, and fills me to overflowing with such gratitude that I can hardly think straight!

Thank you, Jesus!!

Monsters Aren’t Monsters. They’re Evil Humans.

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When someone commits a particularly heinous and horrific crime, especially if he perpetrates a whole series of extremely monstrous and evil acts, people ofttimes refer to that person as a monster. But I don’t think such a one is a monster because, it seems to me, giving them such a designation makes them less than human, and it feels like somehow that excuses their behavior.

I think rather they’re fully human, just as human as any other person on earth. The difference is, they’re giving place to the lowest, most sordid, wicked, degenerate, and evil desires that a human being can have. Rather than allowing God to reign in their minds, they’re giving Satan free rein. Rather than being a mix of evil and good, as most people are, they are entirely and perfectly evil, with no good in them, or at the most, very little good.

I’m not sure there is a human being who is perfectly evil with absolutely no good, because it’s hard for me to think about giving up on anyone. God didn’t give up on me when I was at my worst. Seems to me the only one who is entirely evil with absolutely no good is Satan himself, but I could be wrong about that. There might be others who’ve sold their souls to him, I suppose.

Another aspect of this, though the connection may be somewhat tenuous, is when people commit murder and then kill themselves. I’ve always thought people who commit such crimes perpetrate them and then commit suicide so they don’t have to face justice. But I think they’re only thinking about human justice, without considering divine justice, which is much more sure and all-encompassing, because God knows all the facts of the case.

Seems to me such people have, at the very least, a poor understanding of who God is, if they believe He exists at all. If they truly understood God they would know that it would be better to face justice in human courts than to have deal with the consequences of God’s divine justice. In a human court they might be able to get away with lying, if they’re good enough at it, plus they might be able to hide their true motivations before a human judge, whereas that’s not possible with God. God knows our deepest motivations, and the thoughts and intents of our hearts. You can’t put anything past God.

But there could be another reason why people commit suicide after they perpetrate these heinous crimes: maybe they all of a sudden realize what they’ve done, and they find it so unacceptable that they decide they don’t deserve to live any longer. In other words, they’ve created an extreme example of internal cognitive dissonance by their actions, so they kill themselves, thus exacting capital punishment on themselves before anyone else has time to carry it out.

However, in punishing themselves, they’re proving once again that they don’t understand God’s character at all. It says in James, Chapter 2,

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. ~ James 2:12-13, NIV.

What that says to me is that while God is a god of judgment, He is also a god of mercy, and if we are merciful in our dealings with other people, He will allow mercy to reign over judgment in His relationship with us. They’ve also shown that they believe they’ve committed the unpardonable sin, or at least it’s unpardonable to them, and they think it deserves the death penalty. Seems to me they’re saying that they know better than God, which sounds a little arrogant to me, but what do I know.

I for one would much rather have God’s mercy than His judgment, and God is far smarter than I am as far as whether my sins are forgivable or not, so I think I’ll let Him make those decisions!

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment…

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I’ve been thinking about a phrase from James, Chapter Two, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” ~ James 2:12-13,

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. ~ ESV.

And I especially like the way the New Living Translation says it, because it explains what’s meant by the phrase, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” I’ve long thought that mercy and judgment were inextricably intertwined, and the way the New Living Translation phrases it, it seems that I’m understanding it correctly:

There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.James 2:13, NLT.

I found a good illustration of this concept in Matthew 18:23-35, the parable that Jesus told of the unforgiving servant, and the New Living Translation tells it quite well:

Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold ~ along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned ~ to pay the debt. But the man fell down before his master and begged him, “Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.”

Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. “Be patient with me, and I will pay it,” he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called the man he had forgiven and said, “You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.

This says to me that for mercy to triumph over judgment, forgiveness must be offered by the wronged party to the person who wronged them. So, while God certainly plays a part in the matter, if we want God to judge us mercifully come judgment day, we must act with mercy towards others in our dealings with them in this life. We must forgive when we are wronged rather than holding a grudge or seeking revenge. Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (see Matthew 5:44), and that’s certainly what He did when He forgave those who crucified Him as He was on the cross (see Luke 23:34), which is all the more remarkable considering the agony and excruciating pain He was in at the time.

So Christ is our example, and He’s the best example we have. If I need to know what to do in any situation, all I have to do is figure out what Jesus would do, and if there’s no specific precedent to follow, then follow the path of Love.