Monday, April 28, 2014

Love Hurts

Last week I noticed my joy was challenged.  I dreaded writing and worried over what I wrote.  I worried over the counsel I would give to others.  I had no energy to go on.  The joy of the Lord is our strength.  I had no joy.

I thought of the verse in Gallatin's, when Paul ask what happened to all your joy.  They had returned to the law.  They had forgotten the gospel.  They had lost their freedom.  This was me.  I was more interested in what was on the outside of the cup instead of what was on the inside like the Pharisees.  I had lost all heart of love.

It came to me the thing I was to do was to return to God. Jesus pulled away from the crowds to be with the Father.   I was to pull out of ministering to others.  So I decided to make my focus on the love of God for me, his child, through Christ Jesus.  This is so simple a child can understand but so deep and profound it silences the wise.  We are told the love of God is beyond knowledge.  But it is poured out into our hearts.  God opened up our hearts and poured out Jesus by His Spirit.  His perfect love for us.

I want to share some of the ways I returned to God.  I prayed 1 Corinthians 13 in Lectio Divina prayer.  I focused on, not how I was to love others like this, not right now, but how God had loved me like this.  I ask for prayer.  I shared my need with others.  Others loved me and counseled me not for what I could do for them but just because they loved me for me.  I enjoyed being with friends.  I worked in my garden thinking about Gods love for me in giving me the strength to do it, even though slow.  I enjoyed Him through creation.  I gave God all the glory and it made my husband so happy.  I went to church and gloried in my redeemer. This is to be satisfied in Him alone.   Gods word of His faithfulness to me would cause me to persevere til the end.  A friend wrote me that our joy was the joy the Lord had in us.  That was it.  It was not something I had to muster up but it was something given, received.  I have heard it said we are to work like it all depends on us and trust like it all depends on God.  I need to think about that some more but sounds good to me.

Almost immediately after, I decide I would set a goal.  My goal would be to impart all the knowledge I had or would have, about God to my family and those my life touches and it would go on for generations to come.  Long after I am gone.  Then I thought, ok, God gave us a new law to love Him and love others.  All other laws are enveloped in these two laws.  I will teach others how to love people and love God.  I thought all I have ever wanted is for my family to love God and love each other.  Such a good goal.  This is what God wants from us.

Moments later we had a situation in our family and no one was loving each other.  I got angry and started to demand it.  I was resentful.  I thought I am the only one who knows how to love.  Then the Spirit broke me.  When what you want, even though it is a good thing, keeps you from loving others and loving God it is an idol of the worse kind, because it is so hard to see.  It takes the Spirit at work.  It is the love of God that shows us our need for Jesus to show us our sin.  How do I love others when they don't give me what I think I need?

I thought of a little child, even those who maybe raised in an abusive home, love their parents.  If they are removed for their protection, they always want to know and love and be returned their parents even later in life.  Not that they want to be mistreated, but they love them because of who they are, their mother and father.  Jesus tells us we need to be like a little child.  Full of faith and hope and trust, full of joy and love.  God loves us not because of what we do but because of who we are, His.  We do out of our love for Him and others.  It may take years but our love bares fruit in the life of another believer.  It even helps others to come to Him.

God was changing me.  I began to focus on how my family was loving each other.  That God was at work in us all. I thanked my husband for loving our children.  I passed this on to my kids.  They were loving each other in their own way.  It was not my way but none the less, a child of God has love in their hearts for others.  You can teach someone how to love but it is the Spirit of God that gives the heart of love.  It is His love.  I can't do it apart from Him.  It is those rivers of living water flowing through me.  Those  who are forgiven much love much.  The more we see our own need and God meeting that need, for our own love and forgiveness, the more we love others just as they are, because of Him.   We help each other change as we bring truth and love into their lives and trust God to first work in our own hearts and then the hearts of others. We point them to Jesus, to God who is love.  We have got to be willing to hope for love but be willing to be hurt by love.  They go hand in hand.  Love hurts. We have got to be willing to walk through the pain to get to the joy.   Jesus was our example of this.  But He hurt because of the joy of the love He hoped for, in us and His love for His Father.  He experience death because He was to help us experience His love that never dies.  It is His love in me that I love others with.  He had given me a deeper desire to love others and Him.  I had seen that it was not of me at all.  Apart from Him I can do nothing.  But He wanted to flow through me.  It is His joy, His love, His perseverance.  It is Him.  I have the joy of working with Jesus to love others.  He is my partner in love.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Blessings come through tears

Hebrews 11:6 Without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exist and that He rewords those who earnestly seek Him.

Some of you know that I relapsed this past year.  I have a mental disorder, but was doing very well for the last few years.  I was very discouraged by this.  I went to stay with some of my family to get 24/7 care so I didn't have to go to the hospital, but needed to be treated like I was in the hospital.  My doctors orders were no iPhone, no reading Christian books, no church, no driving, no computer, no talking to my friends about God.  He wanted my mind bored so it could heal.  I have read how horrible it is to be bored.  You read of inmates counting the cinder blocks when in isolation to keep their minds from being bored.   The lights from the phone and computer and other things I loved could weaken my mind.  I told my doctor, I could not give up my faith.  He agreed.  I was so upset.  God couldn't use me.  How could I hang on to Him through this without these things.

Then one of God's promises in Romans came to mind.  That God would use all things for our good and His glory for those who are called according to His purpose.  So I began to pray that somehow in my limitations I would grow.  I had no idea how this could happen.

At the beginning my family was all I was allowed to see.  I decided to help and be with my family any way I could.  I cleaned, organized, cooked, folded clothes.  I went on dates with my grandson.  Instead of email I wrote letters to my family, to Pastors and Christian leaders, to inmates in prison hoping to encourage them.  I did sketches and send them to my grandchildren in Texas. I meditated on Gods word.  I prayed more for others.  Then I was allowed to go out with friends.  I enjoyed beauty and Gods creation who whispers who He is.  I went on hikes, took pictures with thoughts and talks about God.  I meet with other women who struggled with the same thing.  I talked to them about resting in God and giving up striving for acceptance.  This blog was kept up by my friend Martha with old writings and it grew.  My devotional book was given to over a hundred women in prison and in addiction homes.

My focus had been on me and my limitations.  God was about teaching me many things, about how to pray for others, how to love, how to persevere, how to trust Him,  how to keep my eyes on Him and not my circumstances, about how my life is about His glory, how He is about blessing HIs children with good gifts.  That it was not me holding on to Him, but Him holding on to me.

I have been thinking a lot about the life of Peter.  Jesus called out to him, to come to Him and to walk on water.  Peter took a few steps, then he looked down and he began to sink.  He was looking at his circumstances and got his eyes off Jesus. Jesus reached out a hand.  He rescued Peter.   He refused for Jesus to wash his feet.  Jesus was pointing the disciples to the cross.  He said you have to be washed to be cleaned.  We are washed by His blood.  Jesus told Peter, satan has ask to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed your faith would not fail.  Jesus knew what Peter was about to go through and He prayed for Him.  Peter said he would never deny Jesus, but Jesus told him he would deny him 3 times.  Peter cursed and denied Jesus.  I cannot imagine the tears and the grief Peter felt as God granted him repentance.  After the cross, Jesus had an intimate dinner with His disciples.  I can only think on how Peter was feeling after what he had done and seeing Jesus.  Relieved but full of shame.  A bitter sweet.  Jesus ask Peter 3 times do you love me.  Peter answered yes, you know I love you Lord.  Jesus did not condemn Peter.  He said feed my sheep.  Jesus was full of blessing.  He used Peter to build the church.  He told Peter you are going to be led to go somewhere you do not want to go.  We are told in history books that Peter was crucified up side down.

It came to me today to quit praying my life gets easier but that whatever it looks like, God is glorified through what Jesus has done for me.  Somedays I feel as if I can't function.  I feel lost and disjointed.  I don't know what to do and I don't have the power to do it.  I can so tell when my eyes get on me.  I have to completely rely on Him.  He rescues me every time and I get through it by His power not my own.  I pray everyday for Him to keep my mind.  That I won't sin against Him in my thoughts.  Many days I do.  I weep at times it makes me so sad.  The Spirit reminds me of my sonship.  That I am Gods child.  I claim that I have the very mind of Christ.  That He is my righteousness.  I collapse on Jesus and my Father.  He rescues me from guilt and condemnation.  From looking at my sin instead of Him.  From looking at me instead of what He has done for me.  His love for me.  Much joy fills my heart.  I live life again to the fullest.  Being such a self reliant, strong person I see it is Gods mercy in me making me weak.  That is where I have opportunity to rely on His strength in me.

Even though I should ask for nothing more than what I have been given in the gracious gift of the Father's Son, Jesus and His Spirit, I do.  I ask for blessings and I believe them to come, not because I deserve them but because of who I am, my Abba's child because we are promised it so.  Not only that, but I am surprised by His many blessings.  I believe giving me good gifts delights Him and He receives great joy in it.  Sometimes though, they come through heartache.   Have you noticed how you have to go through the thorns to reach the rose?  We go through suffering to reach the blessing.  Life is lessons on how to follow Jesus.  We as christians, reflect some of who Jesus.  We are trophies of His grace.  Taste and see that the Lord is good.  Just as a writer is expressed through a novel he has written so creation speaks of God.  We can enjoy God and what He created.  We are created in the imagine of God.  We are His creation. Jesus went through great suffering on the cross for the joy set before Him.  What we go through does not compare to what Jesus suffered, out of love for us and the will of the Father.  What the Father suffered.  But we have to see, blessings come through tears.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

God's love never fails

There were two specific times in my childhood I remember taking leaps of faith.  We all believe something.  We all have faith.  It affects who I believe I am and what I am going to do as a result of that.  Faith without works is dead.  You know what you really believe by what you do.  We can have a theology, a knowledge, in our heads but until it reaches our hearts we are not changed.  The knowledge in our head is our responsibility, its moving to our heart is the Spirits responsibility.  The Spirit, the great Counselor, is the one who changes our hearts.  The question is... does what we believe in our heart match the knowledge in our head.  Or are we believing a lie altogether.

I remember being a child and giving a dare to my friends.  I will walk along the top bar of that swing set and jump off, with this umbrella if you will.  I really believed I could fly.  I could jump off that swing set, high up for a little girl, and just glide down.  Kinda like Mary Poppins.  This was even before her time, I do believe.  Of course they said yes and I climbed up on top of the swing set, opening my umbrella, steading myself to a stance and I jumped.  Well I am sure you are not knocked the breath out of me.  I laid flat on my back, gasping for breath and said you promised lol.  Well of course they were not going to jump.  They saw what happened to me and that I was believing a lie.  I did not have this kind of power and neither did they.

The next leap of faith I took was...we had a high diving board in the middle of a lake pool near our house.  I use to swim there a lot.  One thing I wanted to do really bad, as a child, was to jump off that high diving board.  I didn't know if after jumping off, if I would sink or swim so my dad said he would come and catch me.  Well as I climbed the steps to the platform of the high dive I had my eyes on my dad.  He was there waiting on me.  I inched forward on the board and out over the lake but did not take my eyes off my dad.  He did not move, but was waiting directly beneath the board, waiting for me to jump.  Waiting to catch me.   I had no doubt my father was there and he was going to catch me.  So I jumped and sure nuff my dad caught me.  My faith and trust was in my fathers ability to catch me and he did.  He had never let me down and I new he was not about to now.  My dad was a picture of Gods faithfulness to me til this day.

The first leap of faith I took, I was trusting in my own abilities.  It was a lie.  The second one I took, I was trusting in my dad.  He was faithful.  I knew he loved me and he was able to do what he said he would do.  To catch me.  We either believe in ourselves or in God.  If we believe in ourselves we are going to fail.  We just do not have the power and strength we think we do.  We are a weak people who find strength in the power of the Lord.  The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us and is made perfect in us in our weakness.

You might ask, where does faith come from?  Two places.  It is again our responsibility and Gods faithfulness to us.  Faith comes from hearing the Word of God.  We can do this through many ways, studying the bible, meditating on His Word, listening to sermons, telling ourselves the truth, listening to music, or being told by our friends and the reminding of the Spirit.  The Spirit writes Gods truth on our hearts and will remind us of it when we need it.  This is all done in relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit.  Those who seek find.  We are to ask for wisdom and faith.  We are not to gain knowledge just for the sake of knowing more.  It will make us proud.  It is to know God but not just in a head knowledge but intimately.

The other way we get faith is through God.  You are saved by faith but it is not of yourselves but is a gift from God.  Lord I believe help my unbelief.  Faith is a gift from God.

The purpose of faith is to have this ongoing relationship with God and with others.  We are to cooperate with what He is doing.  We are to depend on Him and not ourselves.  It is a love relationship.  We can serve others, we can have knowledge and faith but if we do not have love we have nothing.  We are to do good works.  The work we are to do is to be rooted in Gods love for us so we have a love for others and for God, believing in Gods Son.  That nothing we can do can make God love us more.  But we can please Him by trusting in His Son, period. Without faith it is impossible to please God.  We are to strive to rest.  To work to rest in His Son's finished work for us.   But this brings a fruit of acting out in faith, and by, that we can love others because He first loved us.  You shall know them by their love for one another.  You shall know them by their fruits.

We are in a dance with the Father, Son and Spirit.  They love us and others and we love them in return and giving this love to others.  It is a give and take.  We will receive love from others.  We do not need this love but we desire it. We have a need to be loved perfectly.  Only God can do this.   God does not need our love but it brings Him much joy and delight when we do.  God expects our love and we should expect others to love us. God is all about relationships.  God meets our deepest need to be loved but we find much joy in being loved by others.  Our love births love.  It is multiplied and returned.  We are not to hide our gifts or bury them, save them for a rainy day, no matter how small.  We are to use them to love others.  By this we are loving Him.  Love is as a seed planted that grows a tree.  It will grow and produce much fruit and even more seed to fall to the ground and grow more trees and on and on and on it goes.  We will someday leave this world but what will last is our love.  His love changes us, it changes others for generations to come. It brings light into a dark world.  Live and pray believing it.  A friend mentioned to me the possibility that the measure of our love has a direct connection in seeing our depravity and Gods love for us in it.  So I cannot judge another person because I could have done the same thing they did to me or to others.  But I am not identified with my sin.  We both, if in Christ, are identified with Him.  We have His righteousness.  We are a saint who God has made the unbelievable, believable.  Live out of faith in the One whose love is jealous, radical, patient and sacrificial.  His love never fails.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Christ Has Risen

I hope each and everyone of you had a blessed Easter. I am aware some may not have been able to be with family but we all, all of His children, were with Him. I am reminded tonight at the end of this Lent and Easter Season some of the things that the cross means to the believer, the child of God.

On the cross Jesus took our sin and gave us His perfect life. We have the righteousness of Christ put inside us, imputed to us. Our sins are forgiven past, present and future. When the Father looks at us He does not see us as a sinner but a Saint. He sees His Son's perfect life. We are forgiven, righteous, already. God does not see in time as we do. He sees it as already done. Jesus said on the cross, it is finished.

Jesus lived the life we should have lived but could not live. He died the death we should have died. That perfect death and life was credited to us. We received grace for forgiveness of our sins when Jesus died on the cross. Now we receive the grace to live the Christian life. To trust in Gods Son Jesus and not ourselves or the things of this world. We have the same Spirit living in us that raised Jesus from the dead. His same power lives in us. In our weakness we are made strong in Him. By trusting in Him. Jesus broke the bondage of sin, death and the evil one for us.

We can now live not marked by the sins of others or dragged down by our own sins but in the freedom of the Gospel of Jesus. We do not have to respond in sin when someone else sins against us. We do not have to be a product of our past. We do not have to live in the shame and guilt of our past and present sins but love God and love others.  We can live knowing that He uses our mistakes for good.  That even those things that have been broken can be better than they were before being lost because of Him.  He redeems the life of the believer making all things right.  Us giving to Him our sin and Him bringing beauty out of ashes.

We are the child of the King. He has set His gaze on us before time. He sent His Son to come and get us and bring us into the family of God, forever secure. Gods anger on our sin was turned on His Son. My God, my God why have you forsaken me. God turned His back on His One and only Son that He may never turn His back on us. We are made right with God because of Jesus. We can have a close, intimate, honest relationship with God, the Father. We are in Christ and the Spirit of the Father and Son now live in us. Now we live in joy and peace and freedom with Him, Father, Son and Spirit and with others. Asking for forgiveness from God and from others. Our lives have been restored to God and can be with many others by the power of His love. For His glory. We love because He first loved us.

So many we live in the resurrection power of the Gospel of Jesus my friends, brothers and sisters. All to the glory of God!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

When God Interrupts

 But we do see Him who was made [a]for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the [b]author of their salvation through sufferings.

It has been a hard, full, glorious week this week.  I had tried to make my plans following the leading of the Spirit but God interrupted lots of times.  Many people to love with the love of Jesus and be loved by them. Seeing how He brings people into my life and what a joy it is.  Learning much more about just how deep I need my Savior.  How the Fathers love was in display for all the world to see, in the cross, for me, for you, His children.  How Christ laid down His life to rescue us from ourselves, our self centeredness and our independence from Him, from evil.

I was weak and tired.  I had made plans to rest up that day, but God would once again, interrupt my plans. How would I respond? Would I trust Him?  Would I depend on Him? Bam, bam, bam, the door knocker beat heavily on the front door.  As I made my way to see what was going on, I opened the door to see a little 90 year old woman standing in the doorway.  She had white hair, black glasses.  She was wearing several sweaters and a long dress with white shoes and a cane that could hardly hold her up.

She immediately began to talk.  She was trying to find my son.  I said would you like to come in?  Yes, please.  She moved in through the door into the house, unsteady.  I said, would you like to sit down?  Yes, please.  She was talking all along the son had helped her the night before with her run away stallion and she couldn't find him, my son, that day.  Would you like a cup of coffee?  Yes, please.  How about a cookie?  Yes, please. I grabbed my set and just sat back.  I began to pray...Lord help me to listen to this woman.  Help me to love her.  This could be me one day.  Let me hear what she is saying.  You say to love the least of these I have loved you.  Help me love you Lord.  I am so weak.  I need your grace.

She lived on a nearby farm she had bought years ago.  She owned six stallions. Three were with fold.  I ask?  What are you going to do Easter?  She said she would probably pet her horses and read.  I talked to her about Jesus coming for our sins.  Are you a christian?  yes.  She began to talk about how Jesus had worked in someones life she knew.  I didn't hear anything about what He had done for her.

The coffee is good.  The cookie is delightful.  I have not eaten much today.  It was well into the afternoon.  She use to be a news paper reporter for 40 years.  She had this run away stallion.  It was taring down the fence.  I couldn't reach my son and my husband was out of town.  I told her maybe she needed to sell the horses if she couldn't take care of them.  I am trying to preserve this breed, this line.  I have done it for three generations.  I gave her some names of others who might could help her.  A veterinarian just down the road.  My car won't make it.  I don't think it has enough oil.  I reminded her of the people she was to call and was grieved as she made her way to the door and I helped her down the steps.  Others lived with her, able people.  I looked at the worn down car and said, "should you be driving"?  I am the only one who drives.  I told her I would tell my family she had come by.

She seemed to be living in property, but had much with what she owned, her horses that tied her to her land.  She didn't know what she had or was willing to live needy to keep her possessions tucked away for another day. 

I thought how we Christians are like this woman.  We don't see what Jesus has given us in Him. What He has done for us and given us.  We don't live in Easter every day.  We live as if we are spiritually about dead but yet we have been given eternal life, the abundant life.  We don't see what the Father has provided for us in His Son, our inheritance.  We live like poppers in our guilt and shame and in our sin. We don't live in the peace, joy and contentment, in the freedom that is ours in Christ.  That we are forgiven, loved and delighted in.  That we have eternal life.  That we are the very child of the King.  That we are the bride of Christ.  That we are higher than the angels and everything was made subject to us on this earth.  Yes, we are sinners and we will struggle with sin and fail until the day we see Him face to face but we are the very righteousness of Christ.  He lived the life we should have lived and died the dead we should have died.  He took our sin and gave us His very righteousness.  We are set free from condemnation.  We are the very crown of Jesus glory!  We are His most valuable possession and treasure of His grace.  We are precious to Him and He delights in us.  The Father is so pleased as we trust in His Son for our righteousness. But the Father is pleased, because He has chosen us before time, to set His love and grace and favor on us.  He is pleased with His Son and what Jesus did for us.  Our sins are marked paid in full.   We can give up our striving and pretending.  We can rest for Jesus said on the cross, it is finished.  He even uses our failures and our sins for good and His glory.  He uses it all.  Even when we fail to believe He believes for us.  He is for us and He is good.  He is faithful to the faithless.  It is all Him.  He even uses our sufferings for His glory.  Nothing is wasted in Him.

May we receive all the Father has for us in His Son this Easter.  He has given us their Spirit to dwell in us and nothing can separate us from the love of God.  He has loved us as His very own Son.  The Son loves us as He loves the Father.  May we live in the riches of His glory and grace.  May we laugh into tomorrow and trust Him with the past and press on toward the prize, Christ Jesus.  May we enjoy Him and others with the freedom that is ours not worrying about messing up but trusting Him with our very lives and hearts.  May we see Jesus.  May we see our need of Him and the very thing that we so desire is right before our very eyes in Him.  We are totally loved, accepted and forgiven.  We are given a purpose and value.  He has a plan for us and will be faithful to bring that plan about.  There is no second plan for our lives.  We haven't screwed it up so bad that He cannot redeem, make better than before we failed.  He is the Redeemer making all things right.

So celebrate with me this Easter our "Risen Christ" and the Faithfulness and love of the Father.  Lets sing the music of the gospel, that He has put in our hearts.  Lets tell others of the mystery, Christ in us.  The hope of glory!  If you don't know Him as your Lord and Savior then this Easter would be a wonderful time to finalize your life and your destiny and eternity.  Accept Him as He has accepted you.  God interrupted the whole world with the free gift of His Son, that cost Him everything.  Let God interrupt you day, your life, your world.  He has the whole world in His hands.  Trust Him now with your life.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Do You Love This Lamb?

That question came as a surprise.  My friend had just returned from touring Israel.  She said her tour guide told how Judaism’s priest, when presented a sacrifice lamb, would ask the family,

                                                             “Do you love this lamb?”

You probably remember that each person or family in Israel was responsible for choosing a male, first-born lamb, without spot or blemish.  Only a lamb perfect in both health and appearance was acceptable.  But more than just choosing the lamb, the family was required to keep it close by for a few days before taking it to be sacrificed.  In this way, the sacrifice of the lamb was meant to feel personal. 

So the priest's question, “Do you love this lamb?” reveals God’s heart.  He had no desire for a sacrifice absent of love.  For in each lamb’s death, there was the foreshadow of the ultimate sacrifice which would graphically, poignantly, display God’s love to the whole world.

But some who obeyed Judaism’s ritual command did not get the meaning of love.  More concerned about losing a choice animal, they would offer a less than perfect lamb.  Perhaps a hidden blemish, or one who was lame, or with some suspect health issue.  Its life-blood was not precious.  There was no love lost. 

God the Father’s sacrificial Lamb was most precious to Him.  It gave love its severest test.  He had only one First-Born.  Only one Beloved Lamb to sacrifice--His Son.  His love for His Son was stronger and deeper than any man had ever known for family or property, or hopes or dreams.  Yet the Father took His perfect and unblemished Messiah to the World, and offered His innocent life-blood for the “sins of the world.”  NO MORE sacrifices were, are, or ever will be, necessary to bring God to man and man to God.  No other sacrifice could be acceptable.

The blessing is that we can now come to Jesus with all our spots and blemishes and scathing scars.  By accepting Him--His blood sacrifice for our sin--He makes us acceptable to the Father--perfect in our Father’s eyes.  TOTALLY FREE from sin!  We are made new creations.  We can quit trying to impress, measure up, outweigh our bad with good, keep the rules, be better, do better, look better.  It is finished.  Salvation.  Sanctification.  We live forever in the cradle of God’s love.  He takes us from grace to grace and faith to faith.  He leads.  We follow in the wisdom and strength He Himself provides us with.  And since God’s Spirit has poured out God’s love into our hearts, we can now truthfully answer the question, “Do you love this Lamb?” with ...“Yes, I love this Lamb.” 
                                                                                                                                       ~ martha langley

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Jesus meets the deepest needs of our hearts

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

We must ask what are the needs of man's soul, His heart.  It is to be fully known and loved by God.  All other needs flow out of this one need.  The need for worth, purpose, acceptance, peace, joy, safety, life.  We long for perfect love and that is only met by God, through Jesus. 

 Adam and Eve had this perfect love relationship with God, in the garden.  Then  satan entered the picture and sin came in.  Eve wanted to be God and Adam wanted Eves approval. He did not lead and she did not follow.  She thought she had to know everything and he wanted the praise of man. They couldn't face their sin, so they blamed each other and hid themselves. They were ashamed and fearful.  So are we.  There was the curse.  Eve was to try to find her life in her husbands approval and Adam was to try to find his life in his work.  Man and woman are still struggling with this today, we see.  We try to find love and the relationship we think we need in our families and our jobs or the things we do.  We try to prove ourselves.  To earn love.  We reject and please based on how others respond to us.  We are either puffed up or torn down.  There is no contentment because man cannot satisfy us and we cannot satisfy man.  We are approval sucks and we suck the life out of each other.  Man will always fail us.  We will fail each other.  God never fails.

When we cannot have our need for relationship and love met, in the things of this world, we are searching for, we suffer from a deep pain, a loss.  A deep ache inside so we cover ourselves.  We wear mask and pretend to be something and someone we are not.  We numb our hearts.  We go into isolation, denial and feed our hungry souls, with the things of this world. We numb our pain, in our addictions.  These addictions can be from anything good to anything bad, that we run to, to relieve the ache in our hearts.  It can be from exercise to heroin.  We are a discontent, lonely, insecure, fearful, fake, hurting people.  We return to broken cisterns to find the water our hearts thirst for, trying to find love.  When the love of God melts our wax mask away and our needs are revealed, this is where God meets us.  We turn to Him, for He draws us. We long to know Him and be known by Him.  We long to know others and love them also.  To give them a taste of this fountain we have found, that has found us.   We are to respond and not harden our hearts but His love is greater than our rebellion.  We are the beauty of Christ, a new creation to reflect His glory and His grace.  Jesus is a fountain of His love that will never run dry, we can forever run to quench our thirsty souls for love.  We are pure and holy right now with the righteousness of Christ.  We must see ourselves as the Father sees us, a treasure, a valuable gift, He has given Jesus out of His love for His Son and His love for us.  We are perfect.  We are His delight.

Man could not chose God, so out of Gods unfailing love God chose man.  God put His affections on us before time.  He directed His love on us.  He made a plan to rescue man, from himself and evil, in Jesus, on the cross. Jesus came to know us and to reveal God to us.  To incarnate with us.  To be God, man.  He knows what it is to be rejected and alone, but He wanted to experience it.  To know was not enough for Him. God, Himself knows our deepest needs and He promises to meets those needs in Jesus.  He has set out to satisfy our deepest needs and will not rest until it is accomplished.  Gods love is lavished on us.  He has given us everything through Christ.  It cannot be earned or lost, but is so freely, joyfully given to us in His endless mercy and grace.

I love the book, Redeeming Love by Rivers.  It is a love story, based on the book of Hosea. She is a prostitute who is changed by the redeeming love, unconditional love, of her husband.  He would not give up on her, even though, she kept returning to the destructive way of her life, her prostitution,what was speaking the lie to her, that it could give her love, life.  Because of his love, she found life, beauty, purpose and a sense of belonging.  He found her.  Life found her.  She saw herself as unworthy, but this was not the way he saw her.  His love, made her the beauty she was meant to be, because of his affections for her.  His passion to see her whole and her life joyful and meaningful.

Jesus is the Husband of our souls.  He loves us with a jealous love, that will not give up on us.  He takes our weak attempts to love and returns an unfathomable love, that will not turn away.  His love will never fail us. He receives our love with great joy and pleasure in us. Tullian Tchividjian said, "the Christian life is a love affair with an unloseable lover!"  God gave us the end of the love story before we ever began. The victory for us has been won. The pursuit has begun.  We can know the start to finish, love story, now.  Our knight and shining Armor has come and He will rescue us, to a life, we could never have known, apart from Him.  Love isn't love, until it is given away.  He has brought us into a beautiful dance, with the Father and Spirit and Himself, by His Spirit.  Their love has overflowed to us in His Son.  The most unbelievable love story, has been made real and we will believe, by His most unbelievable, real grace, Jesus, His riches and glory.  His glory is revealed in us, a display of His grace for all the world to see.  He brags to the heavens over us throughout eternity.  We were a slave who has been made His queen.  It is a Cinderella story of all stories.  We are His.  We are free and we are loved.  He meets us at our deepest need.  The need to be fully known and loved by Him.  It is His delight and joy!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Free to Fail, Ride Like the Wind

 And we know that [a]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Several days ago, I was given the privilege to share with a group of women, at a nearby addiction home.  I shared with them the story God was giving me and His faithfulness to me, in it.  While sharing, one thing I told them I was learning was that they were free to fail.  That God was able to take our failures and use it, for even better, than if we had never failed.  That our time of failure was not wasted, but that God was using it for our good.  I spoke to them of my 15 years of depression and how God had used it to show me how to be alone with Him, and dependent on Him.  I mentioned to them that as a result of me being free to fail, that I was making more loving choices, wiser choices.

Then on the way home it was like the enemy said, "are you sure what you said it true?"  "Those women are going to go out and fail now, because of what you said."  Can grace, that much grace, really be true?  Can we give too much grace?  Does God truly keep His promises and His word.  Did I know it to really be true.  Does God really use our sin, our failures for good.

I did not tell them of the suffering my depression caused me or those I love, nor their failures.  They knew that.  I did not say, don't go out and fail.  That is why they were there, at the home.  Instead I gave them freedom.  I hope I took away the fear of failure and gave them a desire for life and loving and peace and joy.  A life in Christ and Christ alone.

One thing I loved to do, when I was a child, was ride my bike.  I remember when I first began to learn to ride. My dad was holding me up and I was leaning a lot on him. He would try to let me go a little at a time, but I was afraid.  I was peddling just so.  I was gripping my handle bars tightly.  I was looking down, looking back.  I was swerving from side to side.  I was afraid I was going to fall and I would have fallen many times, if it had not been for my father, holding me up.  Then, I remember, I thought I could ride on my own.  I got cocky.  I went where I should not have gone.  I thought I could handle it on my own.  I tried to ride fast into a pile of gravel.  I did fall and have the scars on my knees to prove it. I still remember the tender care of my father during that time.  I would make unwise decisions about where to ride and that I could handle things, unsafe on my own.

My father taught me well.  He let me fail.  I learned from my failures.  I gained confidence of making wise decisions, I could really ride and I was wise in doing so.  I knew the gravity would hold me up.  I remember taking my bike and taking a shoving start.  I placed my feet on the bars ahead of me.  I held my hands high in the sky and I looked ahead to the places my bike would take me. I was not afraid, I was going to fall, but enjoying the ride all the more.  I had the confidence I needed to ride with abandonment and no fear.  I rode into the wind with a big smile on my face.  I was free!

We can have this fairy tale of how our life should be and when our failures or the failures of others take it away, we can become bitter and angry and unforgiving.  Angry at God and others, because things didn't go as we had planned.  We can deaden our hearts and bury our pain in addiction  Or we can repent of our fears, unbelief and anger and know, as in Hebrews 2:8, that all things are under the subjection, or control of God.  It is the Fathers love that gives us the freedom to fail.  We may not understand life nor what has happened, but we can know the One who has tasted, fully, death for us so we can have life and life abundantly.  We can love as never before, without fear of failure.  We can ride this ride of life with abandonment of self, and place our trust in the One who will hold us up.  The one that has never failed for us, so we do not fear failure, but hope in what He has done on the cross and will do for us in bringing us to freedom and dependence, so we lean into Christ to sustain us, lead us and keep us from failing.  We now lean on our heavenly Father.  We will never fall too far out of His reach.  He will never let us go.  He will never leave us to ourselves to go too far from Him, but train us to trust and lean into Him and His wisdom and mighty power.  We can ride into the wind and never look back.  God keeps no lists of wrongs but uses it all for our good. We can have a better life than before we failed.  It seems God chooses those who fail to pour His grace and love to.  He chooses the sinner not the righteous.  Those who know their need of Him.  Sometimes He has to reveal that need to us through our failure, that love, that grace and mercy of His to us.

What I am trying to say is... I don't want to go back to my life before my failure.  My failure has helped me see my weakness, my need for Him. His mercy and grace and His great, jealous love for me and faithfulness to me a sinner, His child.  My failure has been Gods mercy to bring me out of myself to Himself. To lean on Him and not me.  I want to get on that bike, not in fear of failure, but to ride like the wind.  I am not saying I will try harder to do better but to laugh and love and be free.  To lean on Him.  For some reasons, I do not understand His power is made perfect in our weakness and child like trust.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Idols of the Heart

We were born to be worshipers.  We will worship anything, even good things.  God is seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

[a]What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? [b]Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask [c]with wrong motives, so that you may spend it [d]on your pleasures.

It has been said that we are like nest of idols.  Just imagine this nest and each stick is an idol.  Maybe I should first define what an idol is.  It is, of course anything we worship besides God.  It is something that we seek to give us the things that God wants to give us.  We seek after things, even good things to give us life and all that means.  We seek after significance, value, worth, love, acceptance, peace, joy, life and life abundant in everything but God.

As I have said, it can be a good thing.  It is when our desires become demands to be happy or to have life.  It can be to think, if I just had this happy marriage, or a marriage at all, I would be happy at last.  If my kids were successful and happy then life would have meaning. If I just felt better about me, more education, healthier, more attractive.   If no one is mad at me.  If they give me love and acceptance I will have value and worth.  I will be of value to someone then I will feel good about myself.  If I am a success, clean house, more possessions, climb the later at work, have a good ministry, understand and know theology, look a certain way.  If people think I am of value.  If they accept me as I am.  If I don't have to face rejection then I will be ok.  If I can just please this certain person or group of people.  If my family get along and I have no conflict in my life.  If my life goes along as I have planned with no suffering then that will be the abundant life.  These things that we think offer us this are an illusion, they are an idol.  We look for comfort and healing in things.  All these are things that God has promised us as His children, in the gospel, but we cling to like a magnet, to try to find ourselves and who we really are, rather than find these things we so desire, the deepest needs of our heart and what they can give us, in Christ.  What causes fights and quarrels among us is, we come up against these things we want to find life and value in and we do not get them.  We see others blocking these things.  It is God mercy in destroying the idols of our hearts in allowing these conflicts to happen.  They are stripped from us, if we would only, but love and let these things go to their rightful place, but we need Jesus to do what we cannot do. We are totally incapable of doing this on our own. It is through dying to self, to find life in Him and Him alone.  It is a painful process but it brings life.  God will be faithful to bring our hearts to a heart of worship of Him.  It is a supernatural thing when we love others and God as He loves us.  It is all of grace.  His Spirit reminds us of our Sonship.  We begin by remembering the cross and drinking in His love for us.  We love out of an abundance not a need.

Christ says we have value and worth in Him and Him alone.  That the Father is not angry at us but accepts us because of what Jesus has done for us.  That He will never leave us or reject us.  That He will never leave us, be disappointed in us, discouraged with us but totally love us.  That there is nothing we can do to make Him love us any more and nothing we can do to make Him love us any less.  He is forever for us.  He is on our side working all things together for us, so we can rest and enjoy the ride.  We don't have to be self conscience or second guess our steps, but go forth in joy and peace, knowing our Father is in control.  We are a child of the King and our place is in His Kingdom.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Satan and the world and the flesh will tell us we need to do more, try harder.  That we don't measure up and never will.  Jesus says it is finished.  That He is in charge of us becoming like Him and that when the Father looks at us He sees us as righteous with the righteousness of Christ.  That He can heal all our wounds, forgive all our sins and set us free to love and worship Him in Spirit and in truth.    He will hold on to us and keep us from falling.  He is the Truth and the way.  He is the Life.  It is through relationship and trusting Him that we find peace and joy and who we really are.  We are loved and never forgotten.  He does not slumber or sleep but is always working in our lives, the lives of those we love and on our behalf.  It is all of grace and all for His glory.  We are chosen and held on to and perfected in Him.  The Father sees us as the perfect righteousness of Christ now.  He loves us unconditionally, expecting nothing in return.  Loving the unloveable, us.  So now we can go out in grace loving others with this same love that lives in us, selflessly.  Loving others more for them that we do ourselves.  It is the idol of self that keeps us enslaved to all these other idols.

In this life we will never offer perfect love and worship to God.  We must come to Him on the merits of His Son.  We can die to ourselves.  We can come in His righteousness and His love for us, that is faithful. Our love will fail but His love never fails.