Desperately Seeking Jesus

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been one of the craziest years in our lifetime!  Political polarization.  Racial injustice.  Riots.  Murders.  Masks.  Earthquakes.  Fires.  Flooding.  Volcanic eruptions. Zoom meetings.  

In times like this, we are all looking to God for answers.  But how do we hear Him?  What do we even ask him?  And what is His response?

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

Sounds about right.

We desperately seek Him.  We want Him.  We know we need Him.  We cry out to him and yet the air is dry and thick around us.  It doesn’t feel like it’s even possible to hear from God in this mess.

But here’s what David did in Psalm 63:

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
    in your name I will lift up my hands.
Psalm 63:2-4

If I can’t feel God now, I will look for Him where I have seen Him.  I will remind myself of who He is.  I will remember that His Love supersedes all fear, all trials, all division.  I will remember and I will give myself to Him again.  Fresh with praise, I will seek the Lord and the promise of His unfailing love.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:5-8

And my praise turns to meditation.  It turns to the recollections of faithfulness that have been the hallmark of my relationship with Christ.  At night my mind stops wondering about the world and rests instead in the peace of God’s unending faithfulness.  

It’s so hard to feel God when we are in the midst of worldly trials.  Pain and conflict or hard to surrender to God because our flesh isn’t going to stop hurting just because we trust God’s faithfulness.  

Yet, in the agony, in the tumult of the storm, God is still with us.  

As David began to reflect on who God was instead of what God could give him, he began to feel a praise-worthy peace in his soul.  God had proven himself faithful to David.  Always faithful.  David could trust that even though his situation was dire and his weary, desperate heart was parched with raw emotion and fear, God would remain ever faithful.

We can trust that, too.  Even with the world falling down around us.

The trials will not stop in this lifetime.  Not until Jesus returns.  So we cling to Him.  We hold onto His promises.  We remember His faithfulness in our own lives.  We look back on our journey and see His provision and salvation.  We see Him.  And we know that in our current struggles he will remain faithful, just as he always has. 

The riots.  The politics.  The fear.  The desolations of this world.  They don’t matter anymore to the one who finds his peace in the shelter of the Almighty.  God’s wings are broad enough to cover all who would seek refuge there.  

But those who seek to destroy my life
    shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
    they shall be a portion for jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
    all who swear by him shall exult,
    for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
Psalm 63:9-11

And so we can rejoice.  God will have his way.  He is speaking.  He is acting.  He is doing all that He has always done.  He is faithful and His steadfast love is better than life.  So reach out your hands to the ones who are drowning, to the ones who are desperately crying out for salvation, and bring them to the Savior.  

Because at the end of the day, most of our questions to God can be paired down to this simple request: “Will you save me?”

And God’s answer is always, “Yes.”

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

The God of Jacob

The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:7

I have put all my trust in the God of Jacob.  But why the God of Jacob?  Why not “The God of Israel”.  That’s the question I can’t stop contemplating.  When you stop and think about it, something very specific is being magnified in that verse.  It’s the God of Jacob who is my fortress.

Jacob came out of the womb holding his twin brother’s heel.  His mother named him Jacob because the name meant to grab the heel of another person, or literally to supplant or trick someone out of something.  And Jacob’s name characterized him from the beginning.

Let’s look at him for a moment.  What is Jacob known for?  He tricked his brother out of his birthright.  He tricked his father-in-law out of his livestock. He was lied to and treated unfairly.  He was terrified and hid from his brother for years out of fear of retribution.  And then he wrestled with God and demanded a blessing.  

So, to recap: Jacob was a liar, a trickster, a scaredy cat, and a control freak who thought it was perfectly fine to make demands of God, steal from his family, and hide and run away from his enemies.

And it’s the God of Jacob that is our fortress.

Is it sinking in yet?  The God of Jacob is our fortress.  The God of the trickster, liar, coward, narcissist, control freak is our fortress.

I’ve had a lot of conversations with God about how unworthy I am.  I get hard on myself.  I’m overly critical.  I’m a perfectionist that fails at perfection on a daily–no, hourly–basis.  To chase a rabbit for a minute, sometimes I think that the only reason God loves me is because of Jesus.  Seems like a fair statement.  

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

So before Jesus I wasn’t good enough for God.  Right?  Not quite.  

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

So, he died for us while we were his enemies, while we were sinners.  Before He died for us He loved us.  And we know that because of Jacob.  (And a million other people in the Old Testament who were equally awful.)  We know that God loves us before and after our salvation.  

The God of Jacob is our fortress because God made a promise to Abraham and God doesn’t break His promises.  

 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty;[a] walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram,[b] but your name shall be Abraham,[c] for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
Genesis 17:1-8

The next time you think God isn’t with you because of what you’ve done, I want you to remember this one simple fact:  The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  

And who are we?  We are made by God with an offer to accept the rights of God’s promise to Abraham.  God made a way for us (and we know that way to be Jesus) and in that we have salvation from our enemies, even if your enemy is yourself.  

The God of Jacob is our fortress. It’s liberating, isn’t it? 

A Friend of God

People call me a deeply spiritual person.  A prayer girl.  A friend of God.  Someone who is praying continuously.  I’ve been proud of that.  I like that about myself.  And I suck at it. 

I get angry.  I get irritated.  I get frustrated.  People are stupid and most of the time I throw my hands up in the air with aggravation rather than deal with them.  A problem comes up and I try to handle it with love and kindness.  I try to be a peacemaker.  I really, really do.  Yet, I fail at it miserably all the time.  Because people are stupid.  And so am I.

I’m not nearly as spiritual as I think I am.  I’m not near as good of a friend to God as people think I am.  I’m not continually praying, even when I think I am.  I get distracted by emotion.  I get distracted by myself and my circumstances.  I turn into a victim or a tyrant or even a peacemaker and forget to bring God into the conversation at all.  

No wonder I fail miserably so often!

12We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,c encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22Abstain from every form of evil.

23Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

The other night the Lord said something to me that I can’t stop thinking about.  With all the kindness and tenderness of the sweetest southern gentleman, the Lord asked if I would invite him into the conversation.  The Lord asked me!  Wow.  The King of the Universe lovingly asked me if He could be a part of my conversations.  All of them.  

He didn’t ask me to be quiet.  He didn’t ask me to stop getting frustrated or angry or self righteous. He just asked me if He could be part of my conversations.  No judgement.  No criticism.  Just a gentle request.

I know I don’t invite Him in because deep down inside I think I’ve got it all figured out.  Either that, or I think He won’t like what I have to say, or He’ll stop me from having a voice at all.  He’s the Creator of All Things.  He doesn’t need me or want my opinion.  

What a filthy lie. 

The truth is, the God of the Universe made me in His image to be His friend.  And He loves me!  He doesn’t want a silent slave.  He wants a full fledged son with all the rights of inheritance He has given His Son.  All of it.

And He had to ask me to invite Him into the conversation.

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:15

Jesus, I confess that I’ve not been very good at inviting you into my conversations.  I’ve tried to figure things out on my own.  I’ve lived huge parts of my life only letting You in occasionally.  And I didn’t even realize I was doing it.  So, I’m sorry, Lord.  I’m sorry for not inviting You in.  I took Your forgiveness and neglected Your wisdom.  Please forgive me.  Help me to do better.  Destroy my fear and insecurity.  Destroy my arrogance and any power I think I can manage without Your input.  It’s all Yours, God.  Every bit of who I am You designed.  It’s Your DNA that made me.  Will You show me how to invite You in and still be me?  Will You show me what freedom in sonship looks like?  Will You teach me how to be in You more fully and trust You more deeply so that You are always a part of my conversations.  Always.  I love you, Jesus.  Help me act like it.  Amen.

Turn From Your Wicked Ways: 2 Chronicles 7:14

I’m perplexed.  A large group of Christians in this country are rallying around the scripture of 2 Chronicles 7:14.  People I know and love are gathering together to pray and humble themselves and receive healing for this land. They’re asking that God would make the pestilence that is the coronavirus miraculously pass over America on Easter weekend. 

God loves our prayer.  He loves to hear from us and consider our thoughts and desires.  He chose to partner with us and that means He chooses to listen to us.  He loves it when we pray. He loves it when we have faith to make bold and audacious requests to Him.  He can do it and we believe it! Look at this scripture. There are some big promises here.

11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished. 12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’

19 “But if you[c] turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you[d] up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’” 2 Chronicles 11-22

We are promised healing but we have defiled the house of the Lord.  I think repentance, not healing, needs to be our focus.

If we love God then we know He will use this contagian for His purposes.  He will use it! I keep seeing and hearing how He’s using it! Families are coming together. People are reaching out to each other with intentionality and love.  People are helping one another. Social distancing has brought a lot of good attention to our need to connect with people. And people are connecting!

What else will He do?  I can’t help but think of my years of chronic health problems.  For years people have prayed for my healing, but if I had been healed instantly every time, I would have lost so much!  I’ve learned how to draw close to Him in those times. So close. And in those times He has proven His love and care for me.

Now I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t pray for healing.  I want our land to be healed! But I want repentance more! I want to see this virus drive people to God.  I want to see God use it as a shepherd’s crook, pulling people close to Him. I don’t want one sheep to be lost.  

He will be coming soon to reclaim and rebuild His Kingdom, so how can we ask Him to allow the coronavirus to pass over us, when we know that it has stopped the worship of so many idols?  How can we ask Him to spare us, when we’ve taken part in the love of worldly freedom and arrogance? How can we ask Him to stop shaking the Earth, when we know He’s giving people one more chance to turn to Him?

 I would rather die of Covid-19 than see my neighbors spared the opportunity to drop to their knees in desperation and cry out to God for salvation.  Because I think that is what it’s going to take.

If people remain comfortable, if people can claim peace and security and watch the miracle of God’s protection from the coronavirus, will they repent?  Will they really? Will they turn to God and be saved because they were spared? Or will they continue in their wicked ways, oblivious still to the One True King.

Suffering, discomfort, fear:  these things will drive people to seek God.  I know this from personal experience. People will seek him because they have nothing else.  Let’s not ask God to deny them that opportunity.  

 Aren’t they worth it? 

I pray that we as Christians could stop asking for peace and comfort and healing, and start asking for the conviction of God to overcome us that we would repent of our sins and live as Christ: sacrificing our own comfort that those who are lost may be found.

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[g] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Matthew 16:24-27  

 

  

A Case of Stolen Identity

The world has gone nuts over the Covid-19 virus.  Our homes have become quarantine zones: a refuge from a suddenly terrifying hostile environment beyond our walls.  Hand-sanitizer, bleach products and toilet paper have disappeared off grocery store shelves. Everyone can tell you that you need an N95 respirator mask, but good luck finding one.

Everyone has become some sort of apocalypse prepper.

Every conversation is about this virus.  The news is all about how bad it is, or how bad it isn’t.  We’ve heard every statistic about the R naught value, fatality rates, countries infected, citizens at risk, complication rates, and on and on.   Have you seen some of those graphs!?

You have to be a mathematician to even understand it. 

What about social distancing?  It’s really just a fancy term for becoming a hermit.  Are you a loner? No? Well you better lock yourself in a closet, because you are now!  Or at least you better be if you’re listening to the preppers and the mathematicians. Stay away from people!  If you smile at a stranger you might get infected!

Solitary confinement is the new social butterfly in town.

Public gatherings are a thing of the past. Jimmy Falon is doing monologues from his living room.  My daughter’s high school graduation? Cancelled. Disney World? Cancelled. And you can forget about sports. Cancelled, cancelled, cancelled.  

Social media and Netflix here we come.

Then there’s church. Pastors are running around trying to solve this problem of not being able to congregate their congregations!  Live streaming sermons. Small groups? You guessed it! Mostly cancelled. We’ve got Zoom calls for prayer meetings. Praise and worship on Facebook live videos.  Long distance everything. We must have no human contact. What have we become?

We’ve become isolated and frightened mathematicians, with a special emphasis in the pseudo-sciences, desperately mumbling conspiracy theories and hoarding toilet paper like doomsday preppers with no N95 masks and nothing but a box of Cheerios in our cabinet.

Can I get an amen?

We are in a war with the world over our identity right now. We need to stop allowing Covid-19 and the complications there entailed, to define who we are! 

I’ll admit it, I’ve been an anxiety ridden mess.  I’ve been talking to the Lord about it and He’s been gently reminding me of who I really am.  I am a daughter of the King of Kings, yes, and I’ve never lost sight of that, but I’m also so much more.  I’m a warrior woman. A preacher. A worshiper and a prayer. I’m a mother, a grandmother, a wife, a friend.  I’m an encourager and a writer and a speaker of truth. I am alive in Christ and I don’t have to be afraid.

Has your identity been stolen from you?  

The enemy is doing his best to throw you into fear.  But fear doesn’t have to be who you are. Go ahead and let it be a feeling, that’s fine, that’s normal, but don’t let it rule you or define you.  

9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

God is with you, and He’s got this.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

 

 

Walking Miracles

Yesterday my daughter and I were having a conversation about current events.  I did my best to answer honestly and without fear about the coronavirus, self-quarantine, and the practicality of washing our hands and avoiding contact with others.  And perhaps for obvious reasons, the topic eventually turned to my month in the hospital last June.  

You see, I don’t really remember much about my time there.  I know an ambulance came and picked me up early one morning because I had excessive hemorrhaging and was in excruciating pain. I remember one of the EMTs told my husband that hydrogen peroxide would get the blood out of the mattress and sheets, and the other EMT recognized my husband from when he had spoken at his church.

I remember that EMT holding my hand and praying with me in the ambulance, but I don’t remember getting to the hospital, or going into surgery, or even the few weeks after the surgery. I’d had complications during and after a six hour surgery.  I never went to recovery, but went straight to the ICU. The surgeon took my husband into a private room and told him to say goodbye. He told him I probably wouldn’t make it through the night. 

For the next few weeks my husband heard doctor after doctor tell him the same thing. I’d rally for a few hours or maybe a day before something else would bring death knocking on my door again.  My lungs failed, my kidneys failed, I went into septic shock. It didn’t look good, but my husband was undaunted, and God’s church rallied around me in prayer, refusing to admit defeat. Refusing to see Daisy die.

So, that takes us back to my conversation with my daughter yesterday. She had been in the ICU with me and my husband on one of those occasions where things took a dark turn. 

My arms were restrained to keep me from panicking and pulling any tubes out.  I guess I fought at the restraints quite a bit. At some point that afternoon I forcibly yanked my arm free and pulled the breathing tube out before anyone could stop me!  Yes, I extubated myself. My daughter said that Daddy screamed “NO!” and then yelled at Sophia to go get a nurse.

And yesterday, my daughter talked to me about that experience.  She said that medical staff poured into my room. She told me how five nurses turned to fifteen and then she heard the terrifying words, “We’re losing her!” 

She ran out of the room so she didn’t have to watch me die.

She told me how she paced down the hallways around the ICU waiting area.  She saw people mourning. She heard a nurse say that I was the patient in the ICU most likely to die.  She saw other families suffering while they waited and wondered what was going on with their own loved ones in critical care.  So much death. So much fear. So little hope. She ended up praying with multiple families, serving others because there was no other way for her to work it out.

Yesterday was not the first time I’d heard this story.  But it was the first time I’d heard it from her. With so many uncertainties in her life right now:  Covid-19, graduating from HS, getting her first car, getting into the college she wants, the list could go on for days.  But that’s not what she wanted to talk about. She wanted to talk about the time she almost watched her mommy die.

We talked about her fear.  We talked about her courage.  We talked about God and His power to turn the worst situations into blessings.  We prayed together and held each other. And maybe we even cried a few tears together.  We connected over our own entangled tragedy. We connected through the shared experience of overcoming death. 

We stood in awe at the power of God.  

As our conversation started to conclude, my daughter looked at me earnestly and said, “You know, Mom, you’re a walking miracle.”  

I smiled and nodded and thought to myself, “Aren’t we all.” 

 

Be Perfect

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

That’s a lot of pressure!  Be perfect, Jesus? Or, uh, how about try to be perfect?  Trying is good, right?

I admit it. That verse has always confounded me.  I was taught as a child to be my own worst critic.  I was taught to seek nothing less than perfection. So, you better believe, I know full well just how imperfect I really am.  

I am not perfect. And neither are you.

So, does that mean we’re hosed?  Have we caught Jesus suggesting we do something that is impossible? 

For nothing will be impossible with God. Luke 1:37

There you have it, folks.  Nothing will be impossible for God.  God can do anything he wants. God gets to be perfect.  

Do you remember us talking about this the other day?  No? We did. When we talked about sharing God’s glory, we talked about the living God within us.  Remember? That’s the reason we can share His Glory. And guess what, there’s other stuff of His we get to share!

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[f] of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:14-17

Being perfect plays right into the truth of who we are.  We are no longer slaves to sin, but sons of the Living God, with the Spirit of God living within us.  Yes, even us girls are still sons. (Just like men get to be brides of Christ.)

We are made to be perfect.  Yes. Perfect.

There are some caveats to that perfection, though.  It seems that suffering plays a vital role in that. Paul said, “provided we suffer.”  So, God’s a sadist? Certainly not! But, boy oh boy, when we suffer for the Lord we sure do learn a lot about Him! Just like He showed us He knew a lot about us by submitting to death–even death on a cross!

This world is broken, we’re going to suffer.  But God made a way for that. God made suffering a vital part of our journey.  Not because He’s a sadist, but because God makes all things new. God brings encouragement from the worst of situations.  God takes death and restores it to life. 

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:1-11

I know that was a mouthful of scripture.  Maybe even a mouthful you just skimmed over because you already know what it says.  Or maybe you just got intimidated. If so, go back and read it. I’ll wait.  

Now that that’s done, let’s continue.  We need to act like Christ. When we act like Christ we are doing something very, very special.  We are walking in unity with him and with everyone else who is doing the same. When we walk in Christ, submitting to Him, listening to Him, and being in Him, we are…wait for it…

Being perfect.

I’ll let that sink in a minute.

It doesn’t matter what you think, or what you feel. You feel inadequate? You are! You feel weak? You are! You don’t know the answers? You don’t have to.

Because Jesus. Jesus is doing all the work.  He’s bringing death to life. And He’s doing it in you.

Jesus meme

You heard me.  Jesus. Only Jesus.  All Jesus all the time.  When you’re in Him, you are perfect.  When you’re not, you’re not. So, go be perfect, my loves! Go be perfect!

Here’s a link to a sermon I preached on this subject shortly after I wrote this blog.  Enjoy.

 

On Sharing the Gospel

 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery,[b] as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness.
1 Thessalonians 2:1-5

We often put so much pressure on ourselves when we consider sharing the Gospel.  We worry if we’ll say that right things, or get stumped by a question we can’t answer.  In our desire to represent Christ well, we freak out and get silent, shamed by our own sin.

But there’s never any shame in sharing the Gospel of Christ.  It’s not supposed to be hard. It’s not supposed to be scary. Just as we breathe by the grace of God the oxygen He provides, so too, should we share the glorious news of Christ Jesus as Savior.

When Paul and his companions brought the Gospel to Thessalonica, they knew their purpose.  Because they had joyfully received the salvation of Christ, they were driven to share it with boldness!  Not for their own honor, not for praise among men, not by any personal motivation.  

Having undergone incredible adversity and rejection, they continued to move forward with confidence, no matter what they might have been thinking. It wasn’t strategy, logic, or even fear that compelled them.  It was love. Love received by them from God through the forgiveness of sin, and desirous love for the lost bestowed on them by Christ.

 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle[c] among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 2:6-8

They loved like a mother loves her infant child.  They sought to care for, endure, and speak into the people in Thessalonica because they loved them.  They shared deeply of what Christ had done and also shared deeply of themselves! They opened up and got vulnerable. They were real people who likely tripped over hard questions, said stupid things, and feared potential judgement from the people they were sharing with.

It sort of puts things into perspective doesn’t it?  I know I am so guilty at times of looking at the apostles as “super” Christians, infallible Bible scholars with infinite debate and oratory skills.  Especially with Paul and all that talk about learning under Gamaliel and being a Hebrew of Hebrews. They were all so well qualified, right?  

Me? Well, I’m just a pretty girl from Texas who got saved at five and never took a Bible class, and that’s all I need to make me qualified.  I let Jesus become the Lord of my life. At five years old, I knew very little, if anything, about the sinful nature of man, or anything about the Bible.  But what I did know was that Jesus died for me and saved me from my sin, and I wanted everyone else to learn what I had learned! I wanted to run up and down my street, knock on every door, and share with everyone about Jesus and how He had saved me.

Oh, the faith of a child!

You don’t have to be a Bible scholar!  You don’t have to be “called”! The moment you accept Christ you are meant to share it!  You’re meant to be real with the people you come in contact with, give of yourself with love and compassion, and let everyone know that you are who you are because Jesus saved you. 

That’s not supposed to be hard, my friends.  

9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
1 Thessalonians 2:9-12

They followed the example of their savior and leaned on Him.  They portrayed Christ in their own bodies by diligently and faithfully allowing Him to work through them.  Everything they did mirrored their personal recognition of who Jesus was to them, how He had saved them from their sin, and empowered them to serve others as He did.

When Christ is in you, it’s okay (and even encouraged!) to let Him do the talking! I promise you, He will say what needs to be said.  You can’t screw it up. Christ will be glorified.

13 And we also thank God constantly[d] for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men[e] but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews,[f] 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16

When we speak the Gospel of Christ, He will defend it Himself.  No hindering will stop it. And people we find Him. They will find Him and follow Him regardless of the cost because they will see the fruit of His love fulfilled and advanced through you.  

The testimony of your own life with Christ is all you will ever need to share His Gospel.  Just like when you found Him, He will work through you to find others. So, don’t let fear of failure, lack of Bible knowledge, or insecurity of calling deter you from giving your whole testimony of what the Lord has done for you with every person you can.  That will be for His glory and joy as well as your own!

17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.
1 Thessalonians 2:17-20

 

Teach Me, Oh Lord

Do you ever feel like God is trying to tell you something and you think you’re hearing Him only to discover that He’s still talking and you don’t get it?  I realized last night that I wrote two consecutive blog posts about basically the same thing. Using a lot of the same verses, I wrote about the joy that comes after the suffering.  Even the titles were similar.

I didn’t notice until last night.

I wasn’t listening as clearly as I thought.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to listen and I was listening.  I desperately want to hear God’s voice. How am I supposed to function properly without the Lord’s direction and guidance along the way?  

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105

Without the light, how am I supposed to see?  Without God’s voice to guide me, how can I get anywhere?  

I’m missing something and it’s something important.  Unfortunately this isn’t one of those blog posts that’s full of great information or insight.  Instead it’s a blind girl trying to find hope and direction from a voice I don’t fully hear sometimes.

It’s like talking on the phone with someone when you don’t have a good signal.  You hear a part of every other word and you might grab the jist of it, but never the whole thing.

A week and a half ago, after the main part of church was over, a guy I never met before came over to me and wanted to pray for me.  I said ok and he began to pray and suddenly started prophesying. There’s a lot to it that I won’t go into, but I went home and wrote it all down.  I wanted to remember it. I wanted to hear God’s voice in it.

Then, last Sunday I went to a church I love dearly but don’t get to regularly attend because of ministry obligations.  My teenage daughter went with me and after the service she asked a lady (a friend of mine) to come and pray for me.

Guess what happened?  She began to pray and then started prophesying almost everything that the Lord had given me the previous week from someone else at a different church service with a different congregation. 

You think God was trying to tell me something?  It’s like these two people had read my deepest thoughts, and were speaking into them in ways only the Lord could do.  There was so much love. No judgement. No condemnation. Just love.

Then there’s this whole business of the two blogs in a row talking about the same thing.  Same verses, same message, same feelings. I feel pretty dense right now. But you know what?  I’m not going to beat myself up over it. That’s not the point.  

God never uses shame to get His point across.  He’s a good father. He’s so patient. His love is so fierce and true and righteous.  My God is not a God of shame. So, I’m not going to even say I need to listen better. I’m not going to say I suck at hearing God’s voice.  Nope. I’m not going to roll that way.

Instead, I’m going to listen.  

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Psalm 32:8

He’s teaching me tenderly so that I may learn and then teach others.  There’s something in that I don’t want to miss. In fact, I refuse to miss it.  I will accept a little bit of gentle correction, a bit of embarrassment, and receive the truth. I’m going to admit I’m not hearing it all and ask for more wisdom, more humility, and more correction.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
James 1:5-6

Lord, I want to hear Your voice.  I want to trust all that You have given me and nothing else.  Sift through the static for me, God, so I can hear only You. There’s something you want me to learn.  There’s always something. And I don’t want to miss any of it. Teach me. Correct me. Discipline me.

12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord,
    and whom you teach out of your law,
13 to give him rest from days of trouble,
    until a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 For the Lord will not forsake his people;
    he will not abandon his heritage;
15 for justice will return to the righteous,
    and all the upright in heart will follow it.
Psalms 94:12-15

Jesus has become my righteousness.  He has made me whole and pure in the eyes of God, my Father.  I want to be taught. I want to learn. I want to overflow with the wisdom and knowledge the Lord asks me to steward, whether the knowledge is for me alone or for me to share.  I want what He wants. His way is right. My way is broken.

16 Who rises up for me against the wicked?
    Who stands up for me against evildoers?
17 If the Lord had not been my help,
    my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
18 When I thought, “My foot slips,”
    your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
19When the cares of my heart are many,
    your consolations cheer my soul.
Psalm 94:16-19

Only in God is there victory.  Only in God is there rescue. Only in God is there deliverance.  Only in God. Only in God. Only in God. 

Let me be in unity with You, Lord, as the Father and Son are in unity.  Let us all be in unity with You, Jesus.

Precious Lord Jesus, You say it all.  I believe You. I trust You. I want what You want and to be in You as You are in the Father.  And I know that even this is the longing of Your Spirit within me. The Spirit that cries, “Abba, Father!” I’m crying out to You, Lord.  I’m crying out to You alone.

Jesus prayed,  20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
John 17:20-26

 

Complete Joy

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28

Sometimes I just get tired and defeated and I want to give up.  It hurts. I have war wounds that never seem to heal. I get delivered from one thing only to be devoured again by something else.  What’s the point of fighting? 

I say these things to remind myself that it’s okay to fall short.  It’s okay to be broken and sad about it. Really. It’s okay. This isn’t actually about you.  At least not in the ways you might think. The suffering of the Christ follower always has purpose.

10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

I stumble and fall, but I get back up again, even when I don’t want to.  I get up because I am weak and broken and yet I am triumphant. Yes, you heard me right.  It’s about triumph. It’s about trust in that triumph. Pain and failure are always an opportunity to need God desperately and find that He is utterly faithful, utterly strong, and utterly victorious.  Always.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him.
Psalm 37:39-40

Jesus looked really, really defeated on that Roman cross.  I think Satan thought he’d actually done it: defeated the King of Kings.  But we all know what happened next. After suffering horrifically, after scourging and mocking and humiliation, after slowly bleeding out and getting weaker and weaker, after agonizing asphyxiation, Jesus allowed himself to die. 

And that looked like the opposite of deliverance. Especially when we recall Psalms 37  “…he delivers them from the wicked and saves them…” 

Jesus couldn’t have victory over death until he’d experienced it.  

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
1 Peter 2:21-24

Death wasn’t the end for Jesus, and it’s not the end for us.  

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
Luke 24:1-7

That pretty much says it all, right?  

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:29-31

So when the time has come to suffer again, and I’m feeling weary from the pain, I will look to the cross of Christ and find my strength.  I will remember the suffering that leads to victory, and my joy will be as Christ’s.  Death isn’t the end.  

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