But Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit!

Mark 1:7-8 John announced, “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”

The context of this statement by John the Baptist is repentance and forgiveness. John invited people to be baptized to show “that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven” (verse 4). Obviously, Jesus didn’t need either to repent or to forgive. His baptism was sealed by a revelation of the Trinity, the Father affirming him with precious words we all love to hear when we make God our own Father, and the Holy Spirit descending on him.

But the linking Mark made in telling how John joined repentance to forgiveness reminded me of something I learned from one of Karis’s aides. I could write a book about our experiences with aides during the two and a half years they frequented our home! We had a huge turnover of aides, for all kinds of reasons. Two of them were a huge blessing and were with us for several months. Others—not so much.

One morning we met a new aide at the hospital in the waiting room for transplant clinic. After Karis had her blood drawn, we typically waited several hours for results to come back so she could see the doctor. I had urgent errands which I planned to accomplish during this waiting period while the aide stayed with Karis.

I carefully explained to our new gal what Karis would need while I was gone: principally, helping her to and in the rest room and getting water for her, since at that time she was not mobile on her own. I would be back in about an hour. The aide must not leave Karis’s side while I was gone, because no one else would care for her while she was in the waiting room.

I zipped through my errands and got back to the waiting room to find Karis frantic for the rest room and for a drink of water. “The aide left right after you did,” Karis told me through tears. “She said she was hungry.”

Angry smile face isolated on white background

GRRRR. I was settling Karis after tending to her needs when the aide wandered in, chatting on her phone and eating French fries from a fast food bag. When she saw me, her eyes widened, and she quickly ended her phone call. “I didn’t expect you back so quickly,” she said. “I was hungry.”

“Karis, are you OK now for a few minutes? We are going to find a more private place to talk.”

I described to the aide how I had found Karis when I returned. I asked her what I had said she must do while I was gone.

“Stay with her,” she remembered.

“But you didn’t stay with her.”

“Like I said, I was hungry.”

I explained that the number one requirement for being an aide for Karis was trust. Karis and I had to be able to trust her to do what we asked. Karis’s wellbeing absolutely depended on that. “You haven’t shown us you are trustworthy. Would you like the chance to do better?”

“Ma’am, I am digging deep into my soul for the strength and patience to be able to forgive you for what you just said to me. I am telling myself some mothers just get too attached to their daughters. I am willing to forgive you if you never speak to me that way again.”

“All right. I promise I will never speak that way to you again, because you are dismissed. I will call your agency to explain what happened. Goodbye.”

“But—I need this job! Can you at least give me a recommendation?”

“Uh—no. Goodbye.”

Our aide was far from repentant. In fact, she flipped the table to make it seem I was the one who needed her forgiveness.

Crazy, right? Frightening. Exasperating. Draining.

But haven’t you and I done the same thing with God from time to time? We blame God for the consequences of something we ourselves have done. And then feel noble when we decide to “forgive” God for “making” us suffer those consequences.

This Lent, I realized I’ve done exactly that with God regarding one specific aspect of my life. And you know what? I’ve found God generous with second chances. But first I needed to recognize what I had done, admit it (confess), repent (turn away from rather than keep trying to justify my attitude and behavior), and humbly ask for forgiveness. And then ask for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit to enable me to make restitution.

You too?

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness (1 John 1:8-9).

But God said, “You are wrong”

Zechariah 3:1-2 The Accuser, Satan, was there making accusations against Jeshua. But the Lord said to Satan, “I, the Lord, reject your accusations, Satan.” [CEV: But the Lord said, “Satan, you are wrong.”]

Dave was in Paraguay the first week of March when I took our 2005 Toyota Corolla to our mechanic for its annual inspection. I made the appointment as early in the month as possible because I was concerned about a warning light on our dashboard.

Indeed, our trusted mechanic called me with a list of problems. That little dashboard light signaled the most expensive of them: the catalytic converter. “Your car will never pass emissions testing,” he told me. “All told, even using recycled parts, you’re looking at several thousand dollars to pass inspection. Save your money to replace this car.”

I reported this to Dave by email, and he said he would start looking for a “new” reliable and affordable car when he got home. We would have three weeks to replace our car before we would become liable for fines for not renewing our inspection and emissions testing.

A couple of days later, the little light on the dashboard disappeared. It still had not come back on when I drove to the airport March 8 to pick up Dave. “Here’s what I think we should do,” I told him on our way home. “I think we should seek a second opinion.”

Dave agreed it couldn’t hurt (other than losing time on our car search). I made an appointment for Thursday, March 12 with a mechanic recommended by a friend. At that point, if the second opinion matched the first, we would have a little over two weeks to replace our car.

The little light stayed off, but the other mechanic had identified so many problems, I wasn’t optimistic.

“Your car is ready. Pick it up any time before 4:00.”

“Really? I mean—I beg your pardon?”

He probably thought I was half deaf. The mechanic repeated what he had said and hung up. When I got there, he handed me the bill and the keys. Our car sported bright shiny stickers with March 2021 on them. We were legal for another year.

“You didn’t find any problems?”

“Nope. Just a small oil leak. Looks like it’s been there for a while. Not worth fixing.”

“It passed the emissions test.”

“Yep. I did rotate your tires. Charged you $1 for that.”

“If it were you, would you keep this car?”

“Absolutely. She still has a lot of life in her.”

Bemused, I paid the inspection and emissions testing fees and drove home. Dave shrugged and we looked at each other with eyebrows raised. We still don’t know how to explain any of this. Or what will happen next. At the least, we gained a reprieve.

All that happened before social distancing and shelter-at-home became our new lifestyle. (Can that really be true? It seems like we’ve been doing this for a long time already!) We didn’t know that soon all non-essential businesses would be closed. We don’t know whether we would have been able to find a replacement car under these conditions.

The power of a second opinion

I thought of this experience when I re-read this intriguing passage from Zechariah, led there by the old and new clothing imagery in our Lenten reading in Ephesians. Keep reading in Zechariah to understand what I mean. It is so cool that God rejected Satan’s accusations while Jeshua still wore filthy clothes: See, I have taken away your sins, and now I am giving you these fine new clothes (Zech 3:4, compare with Ephesians 5:21-24 and Colossians 3:9-10).

I think Lent includes recognizing we can’t do anything for ourselves, other than accept God’s second opinion. What we can do is gratefully trust and lean into his new lease on life, for the joy of using the resources he gives us to serve others.

The dashboard light still hasn’t come back on. Which reminds me: I’m off to the grocery store in my Corolla to shop for a neighbor who can’t get out . . .

But Jesus unites us

Ephesians 2:12-18, 31 In those days you were living apart from Christ . . . But now you have been united with Christ Jesus . . . For Christ himself has brought peace to us . . . he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us . . . He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death . . . Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. . . We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve been dismayed by reports of people slurring racial groups over the coronavirus pandemic. This behavior may be par for the course for people who don’t know Jesus, but for us who want to follow him, it indicate basic misunderstanding of the Gospel: Jesus’ love for the world—for all people everywhere—and the role of the cross in breaking down racial hostility.

I love Jesus and have been adopted into his big family (Eph 1:5). Anyone anywhere who loves Jesus is my adopted brother or sister. Jesus tells us over and over to love each other. As John records it, I count nine times Jesus said this in his last few days on earth.

In case that’s not enough, Jesus also tells us to love those we consider “enemies”: But I say, love your enemies! (Matthew 5:44); Love your enemies! Do good to them . . . Then you will truly be acting as children of the Most High (Luke 6:35).

So, any time we think, speak, or act in racially prejudicial ways, we are acting AGAINST Jesus, rather than for him.

Why am I making such a point about something so obvious? The church has a horrible history of hate and hurt rather than love. And it can be subtle. Someone makes a racial slur as a joke. We laugh because we want to be accepted in our crowd. And because it got a laugh, we repeat it somewhere else . . . It can be as contagious as the virus.

Let’s so anchor ourselves to Jesus and let our roots grow down deep into his love (Ephesians 3:17-19) that we can help heal the harm that has been done in God’s name, rather than adding to it. COVID-19 offers us one more opportunity to do just that. Let’s make love contagious!

One organization seeking to heal the wounds: bethebridge.com

But God determines our steps

Proverbs 16:1-9, 16, 32 We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. . . We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

Like everyone, literally, around the world, Dave and I have been caught off guard by the sudden changes to our plans: events canceled, travel disrupted, churches, schools, libraries and businesses closed . . . with no certainty of how long this will last, or what the final costs will be in terms of lives and livelihoods.

So, chapter 16 of Proverbs, scheduled for today in the Anglican lectionary, feels timely, especially coming as it does in the middle of Lent. The Message translates verse 1 this way: Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. Dave usually makes his schedule a year ahead of time. He had no idea, of course, that COVID-19 would be part of the picture for 2020. But God knew, and I can imagine him smiling as we innocently (“pure in our own eyes”) made our “elaborate plans” for this year.

I’m NOT saying God made the coronavirus and unleashed it on the world! But I do think God has purposes he wants to accomplish in me, in us as a couple, during this time. He can use the frustrations and limitations to focus our attention and help us to hear him. Curious, I’m thinking about other proverbs in this chapter, asking God to show me where he wants me to grow. The one that stands out to me today is verse 20, Those who trust the Lord will be joyful.

If you’ve tracked with me for a while, you know that trust is not easy for me. Where the rubber hits the road for me today is the difficulty of trusting God with the lives of the people I love in Venezuela. Here in Pittsburgh, I’ve seen friends become anxious about the coronavirus. But we have food, clean water, warm houses, medical care, gas for our cars, electricity, internet . . . Imagine facing into the virus being able to count on none of these things. Imagine a population that has been in survival mode for years already being hit with yet this.

Yesterday, when President Duque of Colombia took the logical step of closing his border with Venezuela to protect his own people, I felt panic. That sense of fear is right below the surface for me. I face a huge temptation to give in to anxiety, rather than learning to trust the Lord in this situation. The fear fritzes my mind. I don’t know yet how to pray for Venezuela and specifically, for our dear ones there, with faith. That’s what I’ll be asking God to show me as I walk through this day. “Help, Lord!” is as far as I’ve gotten.

Though I’ll celebrate with my husband his 67th birthday (also my dear Venezuelan friend Idagly’s 40th birthday), thanking God for his faithfulness to us, another part of me will be listening, trying to understand how to grow in trust, and in joy.

Idagly, Otto, and their precious family, faithfully serving in Venezuela

And though I don’t have words of my own to pray, I can turn to the great prayer book of the Psalms and use those ancient prayers to be my own:

Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer. Answer [the prayers of those who love you in Venezuela] for they need your help. Protect them, for they are devoted to you. Save them, for they serve and trust you. You are their God. Be merciful to them, O Lord, for they are calling on you constantly. Give [Idagly] happiness [today on her birthday], for she gives herself to you. . . Listen closely to my prayer O Lord; hear my urgent cry. . . For you are great and perform wonderful deeds. You alone are God (Psalm 86:1-6, 10).

But God listens

Psalm 66:16-20 Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me. For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.

I grew up feeling that when I did something wrong, my parents’ love was withdrawn from me. It was painful. It taught me two things: 1) I must try to be perfect. 2) When I’m not, I must hide it. I became a skilled wearer of masks. People in general, but especially my family, seldom knew what was going on inside me. I was too afraid of their judgment and abandonment.

One time, for example, I went on a bike ride with my older brother. We had two bikes for our family of eight children, one regular-size and one small. I don’t remember how old I was, but young enough to use the small bike. My brother chose the road climbing steeply, around hairpin turns, up the mountain leading out of our village in Guatemala. “It’ll be worth it,” he promised me.

Climbing was exhausting. Flying back down was terrifying! I wiped out on one of those hairpin turns, soaring over my bike to land in a heap on the dirt road. My whole body, it seemed, was scraped and bleeding. “We can’t let Mom and Dad know,” my brother cautioned. “We’ll get in such big trouble.”

I didn’t need the caution. As I walked my bike down the hill and back home, my mind was busy calculating how I could keep my injuries covered and secret. We were able to sneak into our house without attracting notice. I scrubbed the blood from my dress (yes—in those days we girls wore dresses), hung it to dry in the kids’ shared closet, and wore a dress of my older sister’s, with long sleeves and long enough to cover my knees. I had a pair of knee socks, so they became part of my outfit. I came up with a story to explain the scrapes and bruises on my face, in case anyone noticed and asked (no one did).

My whole body ached, but my parents never knew about my mountain mishap. For some reason, years later in Brazil, I told this story to a friend. She laughed and recounted her own story. As a child, she climbed onto her barn roof, certain she could fly. She suffered a broken rib and toe. Like me, afraid of the consequences, she kept her pain secret from her parents. She discovered the breaks when as an adult a doctor asked, looking at x-rays, when she had broken a rib and a toe. She could only account for it with the barn roof-flying incident.

Our Father/Mother God is different, radically so. He cares about what’s going on with us, not to punish, but to forgive and restore us if that is needed. Even when we have done wrong, he does not withdraw his love from us. Instead, he helps us deal with the pain we suffer from our choices. We can trust his unfailing love.

This is a great thing to remember as we walk with Jesus toward Jerusalem this Lent and share intimate conversations along the way. We don’t need to pretend with him. He sees through our masks anyway, so why bother. He cleanses, comforts, counsels, binds up our soul-wounds, and even laughs with us when we’re ready to see humor in what we do. [The Lord says] I will comfort you as a mother comforts her child (Isaiah 66:13).

But God does not need our sacrifices; he wants our thankfulness

Psalm 50:7-10, 14 I am God, your God! I have no complaint about your sacrifices or the burnt offerings you constantly offer. But I do not need the bulls from your barns or the goats from your pens. For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. . . Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God and keep the vows you made to the Most High.

I feel better today! Not great yet, but clearly better! I have hope that I’ll be well and freed from my self-imposed quarantine (do NOT want to give this to anyone else!) by the time Rachel goes into labor (she’s due next week). That one tops my list this windy, rainy day. I won’t bore you with all my thankfulnesses this morning, but here are a few:

**My husband is home! And as far as we know, he successfully protected himself from dengue fever-bearing mosquitoes while in Paraguay. I’m thankful for what God is doing in that country.

**Talita Lucy is doing well. I’m thankful for this even though I can’t see or hold her right now.

**My niece gave birth safely to Bronwyn Faye, after a somewhat worrisome pregnancy. (Bronwyn is the third of five little girls being added to our family between Dec. 28 and May 10! Rachel and Brian’s baby is next.)

Bronwyn meeting her sibs

**I have food, clean water, electricity, a warm house, medical care available if I need it, and gas in our car (not things many people in Venezuela have today). I’m thankful for the faithfulness of our Venezuelan friends and the Lord sustaining them through so many basic, daily hardships, with no end yet in sight.

**I’m reading a great book, The Bible and the Ballot, Using Scripture in Political Decisions, by Tremper Longman III, Eerdmans, 2020—I highly recommend this book (thank you, Susan, for this gift). I’ve read almost the whole thing in two days.

**I had the privilege of watching the memorial service of a precious missionary friend in Brazil, who loved her Lord and cared for others to the end of her four-year battle with brain cancer. I am humbled and moved by Cindy’s and her family’s choice of thankfulness instead of bitterness.

**I’ve had time to research Ignace Jan Paderewski and Olga Wisinger-Florian for the historical novel I’m writing (Horse Thief 1898), and now starting on John Woolman. I’m learning so much from them!

**A friend gave me enthusiastic feedback on my “Gladness Book” manuscript—she read through it three times! SO encouraging.

**I’m discovering an approach to book marketing that actually feels accessible to me, not based in hours and hours on social media. For me, this feels like a miracle!

Like I said, just a few from my thankfulness list this morning.

Thou that has given so much to me, give one thing more, a grateful heart (George Herbert).

But Jesus would be raised from the dead

Matthew 16:15-16, 21-23 Then Jesus asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” . . . From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.

But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

At the family orientation to intestinal transplant, we went through classes called “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” There was enough Bad and Ugly that I wanted to walk out of that room, out of that hospital, out of that city, and never look back. Peter’s sentiment was mine: “Heaven forbid, Karis! This will never happen to you!” Like him, I didn’t even hear the Good.

Karis, sitting in the same classes, reacted differently. She heard the Bad and the Ugly, but she also heard the Good. She heard the possibility of new life, of the end of the suffering she had already experienced for so many years. She heard a chance of recovery from the many losses she had known. She felt hope. She said yes to a high-risk gamble. “Mom, even without eating, I’m sick all the time now. Since my intestine is no longer working, my life is measured by how long my central line lasts. If I do transplant and things go well, I’ll have a whole life ahead of me!”

Later, Karis went through her own Gethsemane. The first time she was offered an organ for transplant, terror flooded her, and she said no. But as she shared her agony with her Father, he gave her both peace and courage. The next time an organ became available, she was ready to say yes.

And she lived happily ever after. Um, no. Actually, everything went wrong. But she survived severe rejection and severe infection, when humanly the chances of doing so were zero. That fact grounded her in a different kind of hope—not the hope of a second transplant, since she knew now how fragile that hope was, but hope in the confidence of new life no matter what happened. Even death could not destroy that hope. Death would be the doorway into a brand new life, free from all suffering and loss. That was the hope that carried her through the craziness of the next nine years until God did take her Home.

I’m asking myself this morning, do I see things merely from a human point of view, or from God’s? And I have to say, my first instincts are definitely human. Gut-twisting anxious. I know things can go really, really wrong. I’ve experienced life getting really, really messy, out of control, perplexing, and unimaginably painful.

But as I walk with Jesus toward Jerusalem this Lent, I want to hear everything he is telling me. Like him, and unlike Peter and my own tendencies, I want to put my hope in the Good, even if there’s some Bad and Ugly on the way there.

Because of the joy awaiting him, Jesus endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne (Hebrews 12:2).

But God led them through the wilderness

Exodus 13:17-18 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness.

I like efficiency. You too? I like linear progress, from A to B to C . . . I value reaching the end of a day knowing what I have accomplished.

This week has been the opposite of that. I’ve spent most of my time on the couch and in bed fighting a nasty cold. I’ve cancelled appointments and events I’m disappointed not to participate in. I’ve postponed lunches and dinners. I haven’t held my newborn granddaughter or played with my two-year-old grandson. I think about tackling a project and instead end up back on the couch for another nap. I’ve accomplished hardly anything from my long to-do list. You’ve been here, right?

I have just enough energy to be frustrated by all this. I’m doing everything “right,” (lots of vitamin C, etc.) yet I keep on hacking and sneezing, and now the virus has gone to my eyes. I woke up with my eyes matted shut. Conjunctivitis or “pinkeye,” doubtless from the same virus as my cold.

Could God be leading me into and through this type of “wilderness”? Doesn’t he like me to be productive and connected?

I don’t intend to imply through that question that God gave me this cold. I know I caught one of the zillion viruses that inhabit our world all the time. But I know God can accomplish something in me while I’m slowed down, “off my game.” He can teach me things I’m usually too busy to contemplate.

One thing I’m doing is spending more time with the Litany of Penitence our church uses in Lent. Just in case I’m tempted to think I’m “doing pretty well, maybe better than most people,” here are phrases that catch me up:

For all our unfaithfulness and disobedience; for the pride, vanity, and hypocrisy of our lives

Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have sinned against you.

For our self-pity and impatience, and our envy of those we think more fortunate than ourselves

Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have sinned against you.

For our unrighteous anger, bitterness and resentment; for all lies, gossip, and slander against our neighbors

Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have sinned against you.

For our sexual impurity, our exploitation of other people, and our failure to give of ourselves in love

Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have sinned against you.

For our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our intemperate pursuit of worldly goods and comforts

Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have sinned against you.

For our dishonesty in daily life and work, our ingratitude for your gifts, and our failure to heed your call

Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have sinned against you.

For our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty

Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have sinned against you.

For our wastefulness and misuse of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us

Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have sinned against you.

For all false judgments, for prejudice and contempt of others, and for all uncharitable thoughts and actions toward our neighbors

Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have sinned against you.

For our negligence in prayer and worship, for our presumption and abuse of your means of grace

Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have sinned against you.

For seeking the praise of others rather than the approval of God

Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have sinned against you.

For our failure to commend the faith that is in us

Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have sinned against you.

Show favor to your people, O Lord, who turn to you in weeping, fasting, and prayer. For you are a merciful God, full of compassion, long-suffering, and abounding in steadfast love. You spare when we deserve punishment, and in your wrath you remember mercy. Spare your people, good Lord, spare us; in the multitude of your mercies, look upon us and forgive us; through the merits and mediation of your blessed Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

But God is my defender

Psalm 3:1-3 Lord, how they are increased who trouble me; many are those who rise against me. Many there are who say of my soul, “There is no help for him in his God.” But you, O Lord, are my defender; you are my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.

Since we are in Lent, I will make a confession. I often am my own chief critic, the one who says, “What’s the use? I’m stuck. This will never change. Because of what my past did to me, I’m a hopeless case.” When I’m in that mode, I don’t usually connect the dots to what I’m actually saying, that even God, Father, Son, and Spirit, can’t transform me into the person he wants me to be. Yikes!!

As part of my confession, I will say that this is a major area I’ve been working on with my spiritual director.

But you, O Lord, are my defender—defending me even against myself, against old “tapes” and habits of viewing myself and the world that don’t express faith and instead play into what the Enemy, the accuser, is trying to get me to believe. About myself. But more importantly, about God: his power, his mercy, and the worth of what Jesus did when he sacrificed himself for me, for you, for the world he loves so much.

During these weeks of Lent, I want to share with you some of the Scriptures and prayers that God is bringing to my attention as I open myself to him. In this one, notice the verb tenses:

1 Cor 6:9-11 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? [There follows a long list of what doing wrong can include.] Some of you WERE once like that. But you WERE cleansed; you WERE made holy; you WERE made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. This is one of the Trinity passages—it’s so important that Father, Son, and Spirit all get into the act.

And I’m convicted by God’s voice saying, “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean” (Acts 10:15).

So there’s the past, and there’s the present. First John 1:8-9 confirms what we all know, yes, we do still sin. But there’s a way forward to return to our “new normal”: cleansed, holy, right with God. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

When God forgives us, he’s not keeping a list to hold over our heads or to beat us into the ground the next time we fail. He’s all about picking us up, dusting us off, and setting us back on our feet. He has absolutely NOTHING vested in keeping us groveling. He wants us to live in freedom, joy, and thankfulness. He’s our chief advocate, our cheerleader; our mama bear defending us cubs against attacks from the enemy who does want to destroy us and knows exactly where we’re vulnerable.