The Stinging of the Hoarfrost

1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,

2 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

1 Peter 4:1,2

Know that in our Christian walk, we are not alone. Know on this walk that it is promised already that we have a seat at a glorious banquet set for us in heaven (a). Understand the width of the path on which we walk. Be assured that God is with us.

I have had many seasons in my life. There is one that I particularly loathed, yet am oddly fond of now for many reasons. Winter. It was a time when life was dismal and darkness coddled my restless soul. I was in the chains of captivity and through deception, I believed I was enjoying a well deserved freedom. Yes, I was paying my dues in life and deserved this freedom. I co-existed with other freedom seekers on what was a ship of fools. At the helm of this ship, was Satan himself. There was no freedom, but there was a Watcher with a keen interest from above. There was a Father from above who watched me until the dimly lit Sun of a cold winter was eclipsed with a lesser light, the dim, dying glow of self-reliance. It grew dark, and a restless soul became fatigued.

This was a time when I finally ran out of myself. Self-reliance was a cold, rushing river-ever fleeting. It enveloped and in its confines, I could no longer be sustained and I grasped, in a panic, at  straws at the river’s edge that eluded me – trying to hold me captive. It hurt. I wept. My Watcher watched over me already knowing that His perfect plan was in play. I was not suffering in vain, but suffering because I saw deception face-to-face.

I escaped the river. It was cold and each exhale was a cloud of my old self. In the distance there was a cottage. I saw inside a warm fire, a glow of welcome, of beckoning. In these moments the purpose of destination is of less importance than fixing current pain. But in the destination was a hope previously unseen. In the glow was a face with guardian eyes and outstretched, scarred hands. The One who knew pain asked me to tell Him of mine. I went toward the glow across the snow.

My bare feet stung as I walked across the hoarfrost covered grass to the warm light a short distance away. This inviting cottage with the warm glow of a fire shining through the windows beckoned me to walk a prickly walk, numb, into the heart of God – Jesus beckoned. I was warmly welcomed. His response was not of loud fanfare, it was a quiet serenity. A nodding compassion. A lucid moment. The changing of my seasons. I hurt. I wept. A new man was brought into the world.

I needed the pain of the hoarfrost winter. To reach the refreshing springtime. There was Jesus. He said “Follow me” (b). I heeded His words not even knowing the path I had chosen or the eternal destination.

I continue to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It is my choice not to be quiet about this. He has commissioned me to spread the good news of His death. Yes “good news” and “death”. A paradox of what we deem good and what we deem not good. Jesus died so that we who believe, would live. It is good news that we were in utter deception and in one instance transformed into full life through God’s grace. He gave us that which we did not deserve. Remember. But as Jesus said we are to take up our own cross – but we are crucified with Him (d). It will hurt and we will weep. But such tears are for new reasons now. The tears that fall from the ducts in my eyes fall to the ground in victory. They are joyful tears. During this season that is my walk in Christ, I now endure. Remember God watching me in my winter of frolicking discontent? How much more does He watch now that I am in His flock? I assure you. He not only watches, but holds onto me tightly. I flail no more. My trials are promised to refine me (c) 

Remember the pain Jesus suffered in His enduring of the scourge. One word of Scripture meaning so much. What can we learn? As sin is defeated through the scourging of Jesus,  we remember death is too defeated and in our remembrance of our own pain, we join in the victory over sin.

 “…for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,…”

When we follow Jesus, we accept that we too will carry our cross. We are to endure trials in the promise of the Lord’s word. We are in the flesh and trials we will have. We will endure. Even now I endure! With the promise that as I suffer, I have ceased from sin. God is telling me! I listen to Him. It is not for punishment of my hoarfrost winter, it is to remind me that He refines me and that I have victory over sin. I have ceased my sinful nature. I will be tempted back but I will resist the enemy because even as I weep in a pain that is for a correction, refining process, I walk in victory.

I was told, I may not always “see” this victory, but be assured that God is watching us and knows the glorious outcome. Prepare your heart for the banquet. Endure these trials in our flesh. Know that the stinging of bare feet on the hoarfrost will transform to the warm washing of feet of those we now minister too. Think first of God, then others. Love in that order. Then be satisfied in a joy unsurpassed. God is with you. God is with me.

Rick Stassi

May 27, 2012

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Doing well in God’s Eyes

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Gen 4:7

There is a line. Above this line one does well, below, one does what is good. In a bout of confusing semantics, how does one decipher what they have done is done well? What is good? In this tale of two brothers, Cain and Abel, the definition is given. The essence of doing well before God and doing good.  

These terms are very real in this world and are at the constant forefront of debate. What does God say pleases Him and what does Man say pleases God?

For the one that does good, there is an invariable earnest sincerity. Some will do good for their own gain, some will do good for the betterment of our world. The latter is noble to our existence.  Man is ultimately satisfied in doing good. He feels good about himself, he can check a box: one for good! It offsets, the one for bad stored from yesterday.  Doing something good is great for our self-assurance, our satisfaction, our self-worth, but it does not fortify a bond between our hearts and God. It is a misunderstanding to think otherwise. Doing good without a bound heart to God, is of the world.

Ask what is good. Is good what God wants, or, is good to help ease our personal guilt? Although the easing of guilt may seem to be the extreme argument, it is one possibility. There are really many reasons. All are in a private and singular mode of justification and a rationalizing of our eternity. In self-justification, we have crucified sin in a way outside of the sacrifice of Jesus. We have side-stepped an absolute way to eternity through our personal rationale. The one standing next to you has done the same, and as we continue down the line of these good people, we find a different crucifixion, a different redemption, a different god for each and every one. This is Relativism.

What is relative cannot be of the One truth. There is an equation: Justification through Jesus = Man with Faith. If the good person defines god, and if he rationalizes his eternal justification through his own good works, then faith has been replaced by self-justification. This replacement is new to every next person along a long line of hopeful souls who refuse to replace self-justification with faith in Jesus.

Why?

Cain did in earnest what he thought would please the Lord. He was dismayed that the Lord rejected his offering. The gentle admonishment from the Lord was thus: “…if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”   The key point here is that if we do only what we deem is good, we do not rule over the sin that lies in wait. He who does well has this power. Spiritually, he who does good by the toils of his labors, does so in vain.

How do we do well? It is perplexing because our minds understand what is good and bad in this world but have a hard time discerning doing the good of the world and doing well in the perspective of eternity. God teaches us to do well. We give our self not to toil but as a sacrifice. This is pleasing in God’s eyes. Even as we may sacrifice our self in our works, we are really only lending ourselves with our own personal assurance of a return to our selfish way. God desires a sacrifice of our self in the purity of sincerity and humility with our eyes fully forward focused on God without the worldly safety net of our self.

Pure sacrifice has a safety net that God will be there. Doing well and doing good are shown as a sacrifice of ourselves:  One is wholly and purely unconditionally, the other, a sacrifice to toil. Firstborn versus first fruits of the harvest. God wants our purity as we step onto His path that is led with sole reliance on He who leads us, loves us. The purity of the firstborn lamb is a picture of Jesus. He is the sacrifice for all and we do well by following Him. He is the justification without rationalization or self-satisfaction. Doing well is the desire to give all to God with a sincere heart.

So doing well is an offering. It is a sacrifice. It is the pure focus that we a redeemed through the One who became all sin for all who will have faith. Doing well is listening and following God’s will and surrendering our will. Doing well is not our works for the betterment of the world, but the betterment of the world through spiritual Love. We do well to have faith God will provide is all cases. He is there not when we deem the time, but always in His time. We do well to understand that all in our life is done in the sight of God and anything may be a lesson of wisdom and growth. Prepare yourself in pure sacrifice for we must lose our self and have faith. It is our gain. The sin that lies in wait is insurmountable without our faith because we are reliant on God. We have done well.

“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Matthew 16:26

Remember: God wants us wholly, He does not need us. We need Him. We will see that we want Him too! Give yourself to God in faith. Ask Him for wisdom. Know His love. Love others in His way. You will have done well.

Rick Stassi

May 21, 2012

Life is beautiful, and too, the music

7 And when the men of Ashdod saw how it was, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is harsh toward us and Dagon our god.”
8 Therefore they sent and gathered to themselves all the lords of the Philistines, and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?”
1 Samuel 5:7,8 (NKJV)

In our lives we seek comfort. We seek ease in our day, lightness in our footstep.  There is pleasure awaiting us at every turn in our day and we follow the alluring fragrance of a gratifying moment. We look from within a life filled with trials and turmoil, decisions, responsibility and we deserve respite from the heavy hand upon us. Don’t we? We are here on earth for but a moment and why should it be spent in heaviness?

There are ways of this world that hold solution to our need to nourish a gratified-starved soul.

There are many temptations in this world. They appear in our path at various stages in our walk to be opportune in timing to our exact situation. It is the false scent of lilac in a putrid day. It is the color of false riches in a gray and dreary season of want. It is the lust of flesh in a time when curiosity and boredom are upon us. An empty soul exists with mouth agape. It needs-no it wants! See if you were once there. I was. See if you were happy and filled. I was not. How is this state of want  remedied?

In my life I found that the ability to find a morsel to throw at a salivating soul was always available. The avarice of my want was on constant prowl. It was availed because there are gods of temptation who are always around us. They aren’t really gods at first. They are but a solution to a moment’s problem. They do, however, become our gods. I examine my life and see these gods on the shelves, counters, bed-stands, and cabinets. They were all once a convenient answer to a gripping desire to fill. To fill.

These times of wants for emptiness, were in my life before I saw a light shining through a small crack under my door. The gods I knew held me tight, but now I was curious. That light! Upon closer investigation, the light drew me closer and there was music. Beautiful music. There was a sweet fragrance-real fragrance. All behind the door. I talked with my gods and they all agreed that the door held nothing for me. They were sure and as I tended to my gods, the light would catch my attention. A glimpse, the wondering. Wondering….yes, wondering why my gods held me back so strongly. Each one existed for a particular moment of time and were always ready. I was always hungry and greedy for satisfaction! I deserved it. But this reasoning of being deserving always kept me seeking. Something was not right because the gratification I received was for a moment and one-by-one each god fed me then soon left me hungry. I want to be sustained.

Up and toward the door I curiously wandered in the dark room where I lived. I found that not only did my gods scoff at any long-term care for my empty heart, they also inflicted pain as my dependence on them became my master. We were all there. You and I. Somewhere, some god. Examine life. What holds our attention but then departs. The door beckoned as pain and emptiness grew. I struggled at the handle but it was locked. Only a key-hole through which I could peer through. Light the size of a key shone through. It was interesting in there behind the door. I saw smiles and hugs. I saw a place of warmth and contentment. I saw a Man whose eye saw me peering through the hole. He had a  warm smile and inviting eyes. He beckoned and I could see in His eyes that there was a fullness about Him that would close my soul, agape for want, and fill me. I could not get in as the door was locked and my gods all held tightly to my ankles as I shuffled them across the room. No! They cried. We give you solace for a moment then we will do it again the next.

I grew to hate this moment-by-moment way of life. My want turned to need as I now sought a type of completeness. The Man in the keyhole smiled warmly. “Knock”, He said.

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Luke 11:10 (KJV)

So I knocked. There was more than a man inside. He was a King whose majesty caused my gods to shirk away. His light penetrated my soul. He had a love that exuded to all areas of my heart and soul. My eyes welled with tears as my heart grew warm and a smile appeared. I have awaited this moment all of my life and did not even know it. I am still here in my house but have walked through a door that had been closed for many years until then.

The Man is Jesus and He told me many stories. He told me of times  when He had to grab my hand when I started to fall. When He wiped my brow glistening with sweat from toil and burden. He told me that He had always loved me and I listened intently. He told me about His Father and how He and I were co-heirs to our Father. My Lord, my Father. Smiling I sat like a child in wanderlust. My eyes were filled with tears. This was a time of contentment. It was a time when my life intersected with God and all my other gods were destroyed.  He knew the time and the place and He just waited.

Here I still smile with Him. What a glorious life in Jesus Christ. My soul is filled with comfort and my step is light. My burdens are cast aside. When my old gods come over to visit, I resist, most of the time. But I always know where to return because there is the outstretched hand of God ready to bring me home.

So, false gods are destroyed and the world wonders what to do with a King of such majesty. They will see someday. For me? My room is filled with a warm Light. It is fragrant and it is comforting. Jesus waited and I found Him. Life is beautiful, and too, the music.

Rick Stassi

May 10, 2012