Friday, April 18, 2014

PSALM 121 - And The Angel Said, "See, I Told You So!"

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
(Verse 8)

 It was the Sunday morning after the crucifixion of Jesus. The sky turned black in the middle of the afternoon on the Friday before. The planet quaked, taken in the Father's hands and shaken with outrage. The earth Jesus spoke into being nearly imploded at His death. Rocks split as the earth opened up, releasing the bodies of dead saints who walked the darkened streets, appearing to many in Jerusalem. The centurion at the foot of the cross got it. "This must be the Son of God!" He'd crucified many criminals. The deaths of none of them caused the globe to heave and the sun to eclipse. The coming to Earth of God Himself was marked by a quiet birth in a manger with other lambs. His physical death, His going out, rocked our world forever. These events were not accomplished in a vacuum. All of Jerusalem saw it. Probably still horrified by the aftermath. Wondering what happened--really happened when Jesus died. In her grief, Mary Magdalene came in the dark of that Sunday morning to try and convince the Roman guards to allow her in to see Jesus's body, to anoint it properly. It was a courageous move. Those who killed Jesus were afraid someone would come and steal the body. Not likely they'd let her get near Him. It was pitch black as she approached. Mary's grief mingling with her fear wasn't enough to keep her away from her Lord. Suddenly the earth became unsteady under her feet as it rumbled the way it had on Friday. A loud, cracking sound came from the direction of the tomb. Then there was a fiery light that guided Mary to the place where Jesus was.

The light was emanating from an angel who sat atop the giant stone that had guarded the entrance into the cave where Jesus was. It seemed the angel was made of light he was so bright. His white clothing was iridescent as it sparkled in the pre-dawn darkness. Beside the angel on the ground were the two Roman soldiers. Out cold. Maybe overtaken by fear. Perhaps overcome by the powerful presence of one who'd come straight from the throne of God. Mary, too, was trembling. Going to the grave had been a risky decision all along. Now she stood in resplendence, riveted to holy ground, trying to make her mind catch up with her experience. "Don't be afraid," says the angel, but it sounded like thunder or rushing water cascading over a cliff. "I know you came here looking for Jesus. But He isn't here any more. He came back to life, just like He said He would."

For these few days Mary's heart was ripped and perplexed. She loved Jesus. Now He was gone. No one understood how Messiah could die. It wasn't what they thought it would be--His coming to Earth. Now the angel proclaims Jesus is alive again. And she doesn't know how that could be. "Come in," invited the angelic being. "Come see where He was. Then go quickly into Galilee. That's where Jesus is going now. Tell His disciples He's risen from the dead."

At the invitation of the angel, Mary walked, stunned and shaken, into the tomb. "See," said the angel. "I told you." The resin cast that had been formed around the body of Jesus was in tact. As if He'd slid whole from it. The cloth that was over His face lay folded in a corner. And Mary believed.

It wasn't like anyone thought, the coming and going of God to Earth. Born in ignominy, crucified as a criminal, risen of His own accord. Salvation was accomplished without an army. No politics involved except as the weapon of His perceived destruction. Jesus was a Lamb, slaughtered. Not a king crowned. Not on earth, anyway. He ascended physically into heaven many days later. Departed in a confusing splendor. The Lamb now the Lion of Judah. In charge of everything that happens next. We, and the disciples, were left with these words: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Wherever we are. Going out or coming in. And it might not always look like we think, but it will be miraculous and purposeful and powerful. For we are called to be light and salt. To break down barriers and to build up love. To the end of the age. And forever more.

 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

PSALM 121 - Maundy Thursday: Sweating it Out

The sun cannot hurt you during the day, and the moon cannot hurt you at night. The Lord will protect you from all dangers. He will guard your life.   (Verses 6-7)

Jesus left the city and went to the Mount of Olives as He often did, and His followers went with Him. When He reached the place, He said to them, "Pray for strength against temptation." Then Jesus went about a stone's throw away from them.  He knelt down and prayed, "Father, if You are willing, take away this cup of suffering. But do what You want, not what I want." Then an angel from heaven appeared to strengthen Him. Being full of pain, Jesus prayed even harder. His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When He had finished praying, He went to His followers and found them asleep because of their sadness. Jesus said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray for strength against temptation!" Luke 22

What was Jesus tempted to do in the garden? Give up. Let life devour His purpose. Because what He knew was about to happen to him was horrifying--terrifying to such a maximum degree that He sweat profusely in His praying. Imagine understanding, in your own flesh, that you were going to be lied about, beaten until you were almost dead, vilified, and mocked as you attempted to carry an impossibly heavy cross to an unimaginable death. Jesus had seen this all before. He is God. So He knew what He came here to do. Be a Lamb. Bleed out on an altar conceived before the world was made. And this was His hour. And Jesus was made of flesh and blood that cringed at the pain. Trembled at the prospect of bearing our sins, knowing the separation from the Father necessitated by such unholy carrion. And He didn't want to do it. "Isn't there some other way, Father?"

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to pray specifically for strength to resist temptation. He says this twice. He knows the disciples will be tempted--and will fail. But Jesus understands the nature of His last battle with Satan on this earth, too. Hopeful that the Father has an alternative, Jesus cries out to be spared His personal holocaust. The Father's answer? God sent an angel to give Jesus courage. Not to fight for His Son with legions of other angels following from heaven. No. God sent a messenger to say there is no other way but this one--the one We've planned since the beginning. Jesus prayed for strength. That is what His Father gave Him. Not freedom from the suffering. Power to go through it. And Jesus prayed all the harder! Isn't that what we would do, too? Once we know that the will of the Father is for us to go through pain, our prayer changes from "Get me out of this!" to "Help me make it!" Knowing His own temptation to lose heart and quit, Jesus tells His disciples to get up and pray for strength to conquer their own temptation to bail on Him. To lose all Jesus had come to give them. To deny they ever knew Him and hide like roaches in the dark.

So if God keeps the sun from hurting us during the day and the moon from hurting us at night, protecting us from danger in all our ways, what are we to think when something horrific happens to us? I think the first thought is, "What did I do to deserve this?" I know that's what my mother and my friends who've battled cancer and either won or lost that battle have asked. First question. Always. Because we think if God loves us and we've been good little children, we won't experience pain. Jesus in the garden expels that myth. The only begotten Son of God, His absolutely favorite Child, from the beginning until now and forever more, was not exempt from excruciation. What God promised Jesus as He prayed is what He promises us in our Gethsemanes, His Presence in power. I can almost feel in the prayer Jesus prayed that He wasn't sure He could make it. Do the thing. Was there a what if with Him? He was, after all, carrying around a fleshy, corruptible body. So much so that He had to pray for strength. His praying made Jesus sweat with agony after the angel's message from the Father. There is no other way. But I will be there in it with you. Implicit in the plea, to me, is the thought that Jesus might fail. The human response to being called to save the world.

I know the psalmist didn't mean to create guilt for those of us who feel unprotected from the sun by day and the moon by night. Who think God hasn't kept us from danger all the time. So that if sun and moon damage is our experience in the moment, we believe God has abandoned us. Think Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They still went into the fire. Scared to death, knowing they would burn up. But Jesus walked around in there with them. He will not do less for us. The death of Jesus culminated in His resurrection. As will ours. And we will walk around heaven with Him forever, because Jesus has protected us from the one danger that would eternally destroy us. Conquered the enemy that would rob us of our very souls. In the meantime, the Father and Son will strengthen us for today, assuring us that we have not been called to any pain Jesus hasn't walked through. The great sweaty task of suffering ended in glory. God didn't lie when He said He'd guard us. He put Jesus in the way of the enemy for our sakes. The head of the serpent crushed forever under the Savior's heel. Take heart. He will strengthen us for every task under the sun and moon. I can do all things through Christ because He gives me strength!  Philippians 4:13

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PSALM 121 - The Black Widow and Me

He will not let your foot be moved. He Who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He Who keeps Israel will not slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper. The Lord is your shade on your right hand.  (Verses 3-5)

"Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one. While I was with them, I kept them in Your name, which You have given Me. I have guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled...I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one."    Jesus.  John 17

Vanessa and I went to her storage unit early in the afternoon on a hot summer day. There were some things she wanted to leave there and some things she wanted to take with her, so we moved boxes and furniture around to find her erstwhile treasures and park others. It had been a while since she'd opened the unit, giving time for all manner of spiders and bugs to arrange their lives in the dark. To spin their web homes in quiet joy or crawl safely into crevices they felt safe from human interruption. Then suddenly, light! And the minions of the microcosm scurried to the perceived safety of a box or two. One of which wound up in my car, unnoticed until we were ready to drive away. As Vanessa reached her hand to close the hatchback, a black widow, perceiving its mistake, was hurrying out of a box, carrying an egg sac on its back, in an effort to flee its captivity. My daughter screamed. "Mom, it's a huge spider!"

Those of us with children know that thing that kicks in when we think our kids are in danger. Crazy adrenaline that tells our brains, "Protect!" The little black spider with her shiny, slick legs didn't have a chance against my mother-mode. Before I could actually think, I reached out my hand, grabbed it, threw it onto the pavement and stomped it dead. A black widow. Not smart, maybe. But the threat was now mashed into the blacktop. My daughter was safe. I, much bigger than the spider, vanquished it in a moment. (Don't try this at home.)

At all times, we have a Father Who is watching over us. Keeping us. The Hebrew word is shamar: guard, watch over, attend carefully. Never sleeping. Never caught off-guard by the evil one's plans. The webs he'd trap us in. The venom he'd kill us with. When Satan hides in the bushes waiting to ambush us and push us down, it is our Father Who keeps us from falling and hitting our heads on the rocks in the ravine below. In His Passover prayer with His disciples on the night of His arrest, Jesus told His Father, "Look! I've kept them. I've done what You told me to, and they haven't fallen prey to the evil one." It feels to me like Jesus is proud that He did that for His disciples. Like, whew! I did it, Father! And it was work. Is work. The task of being vigilant over our hearts and lives. Standing so close by that His shadow is over our right fighting hand. The breath of the Father on our necks. Never far away in the battles that we wage.

I was only able to swat a spider and squash it for the sake of my daughter's well-being. I didn't die for her, though I would. As Easter approaches, the thought of Jesus saving us from evil with His own life, taking the poison on Himself so that we can avoid the consequences of its coursing through our lives, destroying us, melts me. Jesus saw the destruction moving toward us and threw Himself in front of it so I could go free. Kept me from evil by taking the venom into Himself, once and for all. Saved me forever from the penalty of my own dancing with the spiders and from the heinous purposes Satan has when he tries to blindside us in our innocence. The Father Himself is now mine. I'm bought and paid for, redeemed out of the web this world had woven around me, by the Son purchasing me with His blood from the father of lies. Adopted into a household whose patriarch doesn't ever fall asleep on me. I am guarded, well cared for, precious.

When people acknowledge Jesus as only a good teacher, a kind and compassionate healer of hearts, a prophet, misunderstood and wrongly crucified, I cringe. No! Jesus is God! And His heart for us sent Jesus to the earth He spoke into being because He saw our struggle with the black widow! Was called into action just as I was, out of love for His people! "No evil is going to take My children!" The lion's heart that came rushing down from the throne on which He sat to look evil in the face and stare it down. The early sacrifices hadn't been enough. Jesus came to do hand-to-hand combat with the enemy of our souls. Smash evil's ugly face into the dust forever! Victorious for me, dying in the process! But the sting of death was taken from the venom sac of Satan when our Savior rose from the grave, conquering the very last stronghold our enemy had. Our Jesus grabbed death by the throat and cast it down, never to be victorious over us again!

 I can't guarantee no more spiders for Vanessa, but Jesus can guarantee to me that evil has been conquered in my life, and He will keep me until that day when I will stand in front of Him and Jesus will confess my name before the Father and His angels (Revelation 3). Jesus will declare that I belong to Him and once again proclaim to the Father, "I have kept her." May I stay close.

Monday, April 14, 2014

PSALM 121 - Mountain Climbing

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord Who made heaven and earth.  (Verses 1-2)

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive tree fail and the fields yield no food and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer's; He makes me tread on my high places.  Habakkuk 3  Italics, mine

 We live most of our lives in the valley. By that I mean, we are involved in the circumstances of our day to day with barely time to spare. I remember when my children were at home, I'd be up at five in the morning donning my running shoes and sweats for the three to four mile run I'd finish before six. Then back home to get a pre-schooler ready and fed, lunches in sacks, take my shower and be at my place in the high school to begin teaching by eight-thirty. After school, I gathered children from their schools, graded papers, made dinner, often met with extra-curricular groups I was working with and fell into bed to do it all over again the next morning. Whew! Left precious little time to "lift up my eyes."    

But sometimes life throws a curve ball and we have to stop and look at our circumstances from a different vantage point. We need to get to higher ground so we can see with a bird's eye view the things that overwhelm us in the valley. Maybe that's why God tended to meet people on mountaintops. Remember Moses went to the top of Mt. Sinai to receive the commandments for Israel. Elijah met with God on a mountain where the Lord revealed Himself to the prophet in a whisper. Jesus was transfigured on a mountaintop where Moses and Elijah appeared to Him. The crucifixion even took place on a hill called The Place of the Skull, outside of Jerusalem. A bump of ground higher than the landscape around it so that all could see Christ sacrificed. Elevation matters.

Saturday night I didn't sleep very well. I tossed and turned praying for a young man who is struggling with his faith because of a huge disappointment in his life. I know that feeling. I've been there and made similar mistakes with my heart. My prayers turned more toward wanting to go deeper with Christ myself. Come on up higher. I heard it. And as I write this today, His words to me feel prescient. I hadn't read this psalm, yet, in preparation for writing about it. But there it is. Come up higher. An invitation to see life and circumstances from the mountain where He lives. Understanding that hiking to the heights has the advantage of hearing the whisperings of God. It changed Moses, Elijah and Jesus to meet God on the dizzying atmosphere of a cloud-shrouded mountain. To be encompassed by His essence and to hear Him speak their name. What else could matter, then? The God of All has looked you in the face and declared His Presence to be enough. Has walked you through the hurricane, the earthquake and the fire to meet you, assuring that the Maker of heaven and earth sees you in your need, and He is present.

Come up higher with me today. For some, I know it means just trying to lift your head toward the hills. Just that act will take all the energy left. But if we can just look to the hills, we'll remember, Ah, yes...that's where my help comes from. Because for some of us, the fig tree isn't blossoming and the fruit has all but dried up. But God isn't in the circumstances. He's waiting on the mountain to see our eyes look into His. For us to see His outstretched right hand bidding us come up higher, to a place where things are more clear, where the air is clean and cool, where the perspective is eternal, unhindered by the fading fruit or the empty pens of cattle. Our God is there, calling us to climb up and tread on holy ground.

Friday, April 11, 2014

PSALM 120 - A Fish Out of Water!

I'm doomed to live in Meshech, cursed with a home in Kedar, my whole life lived camping among quarreling neighbors. I'm all for peace, but the minute I tell them so, they go to war!
(Verses 5-7)

"But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." Jeremiah 29

"You're going to move to the land of fruits and nuts?" a rather red-necked neighbor asked when I told him Bill had been transferred from Texas to California again. "That's the most liberal state on the planet!" he said as he laughed raucously. Like we'd done lost our minds! We knew California. Had lived here briefly before. For a Christian, it might be a little like living in Meschech. The people there were referred to as the Moschoi. They'd settled in an area on the southeast edge of the Black Sea, which today is in northern Turkey. A long way from Jerusalem! The people of Kedar lived in the Arabian desert. The pining of the psalmist is for home where he knows people, they are his near or distant kin, and they have the same morals--the same God. He longs for the peace that common worship and a common God bring. Yet when he tries to bring accord in his alien place, they are ready to fight his ideas and morals. Sounding familiar?

I am feeling more and more uncomfortable in my world here by the sea, but not because I live in California. The entire world is falling apart, turned upside down, where wrong is right and right is persecuted. There is no longer a moral standard that guides us globally. We are making it up as we go along. Picketers carry placards from the right at funerals and on the left at pro-life rallies. It is harder and harder for me to share my opinions with my liberal friends because they feel a need to either shut me down or shut me off. Right and left, Christian, Jew or Muslim, man or woman...we just can't seem to make peace any more. Our beliefs, as Christians, are derided and called everything from homophobic to neurotic, with no room for us to quantify or qualify. The Lord predicted our predicament in Jeremiah 6: "Everyone's after the dishonest dollar, little people and big people alike. Prophets and priests and everyone in between twist words and doctor truth. My people are broken--shattered!--and they put on band-aids, saying, 'It's not so bad. You'll be just fine.' But things aren't just fine. Do you suppose they are embarrassed over this outrage? No, they have no shame. They don't even know how to blush. There's no hope for them. They've hit bottom and there's no getting up. As far as I'm concerned, they're finished." God has spoken.

So what do we do in our alien lives by the sea or in the desert where we are so out of place and becoming more and more uncomfortable? Pray for peace. Pray for the cities in which we live and more broadly for the country in which we live. If those around us become darker and darker, we must become lighter and brighter. We are called to be salt and light, not to be politically vigorous in our efforts to change human hearts. There are some wrongs that have been turned, by our government and its people, into right that make no logical sense. Yet the hearts of men and women want what they want. Politics doesn't have the power to take a heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh. Only our God can do that. Fighting about--arguing Him--isn't going to bring the peace for which we long on foreign shores. Heart must call to heart. Spirit to spirit. That is what it means to follow Jesus.
What it doesn't mean is that we lie down and roll over, compromising what we know to be true. But it does mean that once we manifest our faith in Christ, we live it. In the uncomfortable world away from home. And we pray for our city, state and country because their welfare directly affects ours...and those who come after us.

Jesus said we are each like a city set up on a hill. You will see that city from a distance. It can't be hidden because it is above the rest of the landscape (Matthew 5). I like that thought today. I am a city governed by a King Whose rule is from heaven, set apart and higher than that of the ruler of this world (John 12). It's not a pride thing--like I'm better than anyone who lives down the hill. Quite the opposite, I'm a city set up high so that others can come up there with me! I'm a beacon, not as an idol. I am a light in darkness (Matthew 5) not so I gleam more profusely than those whose wick is gone, but so people can see the difference in walking blind and moving in the light. This is what I am to be about in a foreign environment. Bringing peace not by my political or intellectual brilliance, but by offering the Light of the World to those who grope for meaning and real peace.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

PSALM 120 - Pants on Fire!

What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? A warrior's sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree! (Verses 3-4)

Repay no one evil for evil but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord."
Romans 12

It feels like a slap in the face when we find out someone has deceived us. Purposely lied to us. It's humiliating and patronizing. The liar duped us into believing him or her, making us vulnerable because we were taken in by the ruse. Since we're human, we get fighting mad. In 2008, Bernie Madoff was arrested for perpetrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history. He'd been siphoning the life savings of his clients for years and pretending to invest when he was simply moving money around and paying some clients while stalling others. At the time of his arrest, he was a billionaire with 4800 clients defrauded of 64.8 billion dollars. Elie Wiesel, the holocaust survivor and writer, had invested 15.2 million dollars through the foundation for life he'd founded. He and his wife, Marion, lost their life savings. As did hundreds of others who trusted Madoff while he lived high on their money. Madoff is safely in jail. But his son committed suicide in the aftermath. And hundreds of people now grapple with life in their retirement years after having lost their savings. A big liar. Hating those he duped. Enriching himself at their literal expense. It doesn't seem fair that God asks us not to repay evil with evil. But what, really, could we do? Kill him? I know some want to. Dip sharp arrows into the hot burning coals of a fire built from the broom tree? Yep. That might feel good in the moment. Make him pay! But our cheap vengeance lowers us to the liar's level...and, it can't be enough. Better to let our God handle it. If we don't, the outcome is bitterness, and we all know where that leads.

Repaying evil for evil makes us just like the world. Stirs up the same junk in us that used to drive us before we knew Jesus. Jesus showed us that mercy triumphs over judgment. Not so much mercy for the deceiver whose god is the father of lies. The lies that were told about Jesus at His trial were blatant and blasphemous. The Jewish leaders even found people to lie in their nighttime court! Trumped up charges that put Jesus on the cross from which He prayed, "Father, forgive them. They don't have any idea what they are doing." God's way of handling that was a risen Jesus by Sunday morning, walking with His own power out of death into eternal life and taking us all with Him. Jesus admitted He could have called all the angels out of heaven to fight for Him when the guards arrested Him in the garden of Gethsemane. But He saw something in the future--us, the joy before Him--and bore the lies He could have exposed. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us who know Him. The same God Who defeated Satan at the cross of Christ knows how to defeat our physical enemies here. Better than we do. If everything works together for the good of those who are His (Romans 8), then even the perverse deceit of our enemies can be turned around for our good in our lives. But if we take matters into our own hands, exact a flimsy revenge, we get in God's way, take over what is His. Make things worse. Become like what we hate.

I know it doesn't seem fair. Watching the broom tree singed arrows zing into the backside of the liar who has ruined our lives would indeed feel good for the moment, but the problem he or she created will still be with us to work out. The deceiver will run on down the road, grabbing his wounded butt and screaming, "Unfair!" And we want him to get as far away from us as possible! The reality is, though, that we must work out of the tangled web of our existence in the aftermath. We need faith to trust God to take care of us even when things are unfair. To trust that all of life's unexpected catastrophes are as safe with Him as are our victories. Evil lurks out there. Deceit is politically correct and morally vague. We can only expect honesty from ourselves. Demand it of our hearts. Intentionally live wrapped in it. Our Father will take care of the rest.
 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

PSALM 120 - I'm Going To Wash Your Mouth Out With Soap!


Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.   (Verse 2)

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. Colossians 3

My mother used to wash my mouth out with soap when I lied. Did yours? I can taste it even now. Of course, the idea was twofold. My mouth was dirty from the lies and I needed to be punished. It made me gag. But I'm not sure it kept me from lying. Maybe I was more careful not to lie when she could catch me, but I'm pretty sure the soap had no power to cleanse my conscience. The thing about lying, though, is that it builds upon itself, exponentially. To cover the first lie, there must be a second lie. To cover the first and second, there must be a third until it becomes harder and harder to remember what was even true. When someone discovers she is in relationship with another who habitually lies, there is no way to discern whether the liar is at any time telling the truth. Everything a liar says is under scrutiny. That person can't be trusted to ever be honest.

I find it ironic that Paul would actually have to tell us not to lie. It should be obvious, shouldn't it, that Christians don't lie to each other? But owning the truth is intentional. Knowing that we must tell the truth might change the way we live. We can't blame others for what we need to take responsibility for if we live an honest life. Even if we made a mistake...or worse...intended to do wrong. To avoid the ramifications of our wrongdoing and the revelation of it to others, we decide to do the right thing. But what happens when we do the right thing and we are lied to or about anyway? Seems to be what the psalmist is experiencing. He needs to be delivered from the deceitful people who are trying to ruin him.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave when we first practice to deceive (Sir Walter Scott)." And, oh how hard it is to untangle the mess. It must be why, in the list of the things God hates, a lying tongue is at the very top. "I feel like I'm going crazy," Georgette (not her real name) said to me in her frustration. "John tells me one thing and everyone else tells me another. Do you think he's cheating on me?"

I did. But I didn't know he was. "All I know is that he cheated on his first wife, Georgette. You knew that, too."

"But every time I ask John about it, he tells me how much he loves me. Says, 'Would I have married you if I wanted other women?'. There are things I wonder about, though. Things that don't feel right." She was wringing her hands. Worry lines creasing her brow. "It makes me wonder what I need to do to fix our marriage."

"Has he ever lied to you, that you know of?" I asked.

"Yes. But about little things...like where he was, who he was with. But when I've called him on it he makes me feel small for questioning it. Like I'm the one with the problem." Georgette even looked confused by her own recollection. Her next question was so telling, "I guess if he'd lie to me about small things he'd lie about big ones, huh?"

She's still feeling crazy. Nothing much has changed except she's trying to better herself through marriage workshops and making an effort to have a great marriage. All the while she lives with a man whose faithfulness she can't trust. But it must be her fault somehow...his wandering eye and his late nights. It's her third marriage, so what's she going to do? She thought she'd done it right this time. To come to grips with the fact that she failed again would be worse than to unravel all the lies she's being told in the present. And she's caught! Her feet more and more entangled in the web of her husband's lies...and the lies she tells herself as a result.

It's all that God hates. Deceit and manipulation. Every evil thing can spring from it. And the liar moves from person to person shooting web from his heart like Spiderman, entangling whoever will listen and believe in a prison of pain. I pray my friend will see it. Be delivered from it. But by then she'll have so much to unravel...so many lies to unspin. And she will have wasted her heart on one who lives as though he hates her as he willfully deceives her.

We who know Christ have a new character. A new heart. We are new people made in the image of our Creator, a God Who cannot lie: God is not a man that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and He will not do it? Or has He spoken and He will not fulfill it? (Numbers 23) We should be able to expect honesty of each other since we are now children of One Who can't lie. If God promises something, He does it! If we say we'll do something, we need to do it! Intentionally. People rely on us to tell them the truth. Even if the truth is, "I was wrong." No excuses. God doesn't wash our mouths out with soap, but cleanses us with the blood of Christ to be powerful over the sin that used to entangle us. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our faith without wavering, for He Who promised if faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10).  I want to live in the no-spin zone.