I’m the Girl Who Trusted Jesus: a Glimpse into My Missionary Dating Story

Twenty-six years ago I was a Christian but had never had any discipleship.  I had no growth.  I had no spiritual maturity.  I barely knew the Bible.  I was a good person.  I knew Jesus as savior and when I met a man who seemed to love God more than anything else in the world I married him.  And then I learned that the man I married was so zealous for God he was willing to do anything to prove it to him.  I married a zealous jihadist Muslim with a lust for martyrdom.

Two years later he came to Christ.

And that’s always what people remember when they hear our testimony.  See, I got so desperate for my husband to know Jesus as his savior, that all I could do was pray.  I literally had nowhere else to turn.  I had no background in apologetics.  I had no mentorship in my walk with Jesus.  I had nothing but the Holy Spirit of God within me and a passion to see my husband saved from eternal death.  So I prayed.  And I asked everyone who made eye contact with me to pray, too.

That’s what people hold onto.  That’s the part they remember about me.  They call me a mighty prayer warrior.  And a godly saint who prayed her husband to Jesus.

Yes, I did that.  But that’s not what I want people to know about me.  That’s not my story.  It never has been.

My story is about a girl who fell in love with Jesus when she was 5 years old but never learned anything beyond that.  My story is a girl who in desperation sought the Lord and He answered her.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34:4

I had nothing else.  Nowhere to turn.  No argument.  No help.  I had nothing but desperate pleas to the only One who had any power to do anything to help me:  Jesus.

I knew I’d made a mistake when I married my husband.  And no one ever wants to hear that part.  People who hear our testimony see the beauty that came from our ashes, but they don’t want to look at the ashes.  They want to see a hero when they see me.  They don’t want to see the broken girl that had nothing more to offer God than a broken and repentant heart and a desperate cry for help.

Sadly, stories come to me all the time from women who want to date or marry Muslim men in the hope that they can be like me.  This breaks my heart.  It should not be! 

Those two years before my husband’s salvation were the most painful and agonizing years of my life.  Dating a Muslim man or woman (or anyone who doesn’t know Jesus) is not the way to win them to Jesus.  It is arrogant and foolish.  You have no power to save anyone.  And neither did I.  It wasn’t me who saved my husband from Islam.  

Repentance and prayer.  That’s what invited my Lord into my problem.  That’s what got my Lord’s attention:  I came to the end of myself.  I gave up trying to fix the problem on my own.  I had a desperate need for His intervention.  I admitted I was wrong and I asked Him to fix it.  And He did.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In repentance and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
But you were unwilling
Isaiah 30:15

I was willing to admit there was nothing I could do.  But so many people are unwilling.  The Isrealites referenced above were unwilling. Humbling yourself is hard. It means admitting you were wrong.  It means admitting you can’t do it on your own.

 But I beg you to try!  Humble yourself and recognize your helplessness.  If you can’t humble yourself, ask God to help you!  Only the Lord can save you.  Not only does He save us from our sin, He rescues us from our mistakes.  He guides us out of the pits we throw ourselves in and restores us when we put our trust and hope in Him.

That’s what I want people to know about me.  That’s how I want to be remembered.  I’m the girl who was willing.  I’m the girl who realized I could do nothing without Jesus.  I’m the girl who cried out for forgiveness and asked for help.  I’m the girl who trusted Jesus and I’m the girl who trusts Him still.  

Don’t trust me.  Trust Him.

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  

 

  

Fear, Fear, and More Fear

Fear, fear, and more fear.  That’s all I hear from everyone.  Fear of getting sick.  Fear of getting quarantined.  Fear of falling apart in fear.  Fear of being fearful.

For me, I’ve been afraid of my husband getting stuck over seas.  Ya.  He’s due to travel over seas next week and he still feels like he is supposed to go.  He isn’t afraid.  He isn’t worried.  He’s just trying to obey what the Lord has been calling him to do.

And yes, I don’t want him to go.  And yes, it’s because I don’t want him to get stuck there, or end up sick, or end up carrying the illness home, or any number of other things.  I just want him home.  And guess what?  I’ve been afraid of “not being willing to obey God.”

No.  I’m not afraid of getting “the virus”.  I don’t think that’s really the issue for most people.  Really, I think people are just afraid of the unknown.  The chaos.  The unanswered questions.  The “who can I trust and who can’t I trust” resources.  The fear of fake news.

Haven’t we all got a list of “fears” around this stuff?  Whether it’s some kind of conspiracy, or infectious warfare, or an act of God, or the Apocalypse, we all just want to be okay.  We’re afraid of what we don’t know.  Will we be okay? Only God knows.

The answer will always be the same.  The only way to know you are going to be okay is to trust that whatever happens, God’s got it.  No virus, no chaos, no fear, no conspiracy can overcome the God of all things.  And that’s hard to hold onto sometimes.

We want to trust God in all things, but anyone who’s walked with Him for awhile, knows how hard it is.  It’s easy to trust when things are going great.  It’s a lot harder to trust God when things are not okay.  But, God has gotten me through a whole lot of chaos and uncertainty, and He’s likely done the same for you. He loves to prove to us He’s trustworthy.

This pandemic is no different.  It’s just another scary, chaotic, uncertainty that we must face, whether we want to or not.  Are people going to freak out?  Yes.  Are people going to do foolish things?  Yes.  Are you going to freak out?  Maybe.  Are you going to do foolish things?  Maybe.

Trust God.  Trust Him in the chaos.  Trust Him that He can use the chaos for our good and the good of others.  Trust the God of Peace to bring peace to your own heart in this tumultuous time.  Trust God and don’t look back.  God is trustworthy.

Psalm 23

The Lord Is My Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[a]
3     He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]
    for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
6 Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e] shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell[f] in the house of the Lord
    forever.[g]

I shared a prayer I had regarding this whole issue on my Facebook page.  I want to be comforted and I want other’s to be comforted.  Here is that prayer:

Jesus, we lift up the fearful as well as the fearless to You, Our King. Bring Your peace and wisdom. Settle hearts to receive You. Help us to keep from fighting fear with fear of fear. Lord, speak kindly to Your Church. Give us discernment to act when we should act and be still when we should be still. People are panicking. Protect them from the harm or actions they might take that would bring harm to themselves or others. Lord, we will not be ruled by fear, but we will also not be ruled by a stubborn desire to prove we are not afraid. We want to act on Your guidance alone. Help us not to waver from the path You have laid out for us. We trust You in all things. Amen.

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

 

For the Joy

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

God’s been talking to me a lot about these verses.  They keep coming up as I pray and listen to the Lord.  Jesus endured so much pain and suffering for us. And I know that it is the sin in us and the love in Him that sent him to that place of suffering on our behalf.

Yet I feel the burden of guilt and shame all the time.  He breaks me free from it and then before I realize it, I’ve picked it up again.  I grow weary and tired with all that I start carrying on account of sin.

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly 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

He wants to give me rest.  He wants to relieve my burdens.  He wants me to be free and carry the light load of His yoke. The only way that happens for me is if I continue to look at Him and learn from His example.

I think about Gethsemane.  I think about His suffering that night, all alone, full of the weight of what He had come to do. His friends fell asleep.  His Father listened and gave strength, but didn’t take the cup away.  

I want to do that.  I want to be like that.  I want to see the joy set before me.  I want to despise my shame and endure as Jesus endured.  

Sometimes I just get afraid that God will say no.  I decide that somehow God wants me to suffer. But did He want Jesus to suffer?  Did He really? NO! He didn’t. It was our sin that sent Christ to the cross, not the Father.  It’s the Father’s love that made it even possible. And it is for that love Christ endured.

That same love is in me.  That same power. That same God.  He is in me and working in me. And He alone is able to despise the shame, instill the courage, and win the victory through me. 

11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Romans 8:11

That’s a lot of pressure off my shoulders.  That great cloud of witnesses is watching and cheering the Lord Jesus Christ revealed in me.  There is never shame or fear in carrying that! I can run with confidence. I can run for the joy set before me.  

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31

 

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.  

john-1511

Revere the Lord

“When you come to appear before me,
   who has required of you
   this trampling of my courts?
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
   incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
   I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
   my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
   I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands,
   I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
   I will not listen;
   your hands are full of blood.
Isaiah 1:12-15

The Lord has been hitting me hard lately regarding my relationship with Him.  I fight hard against His love. I don’t want to believe it. I hear others say they don’t want to believe it.  Preachers cajole us from the pulpit to understand and accept God’s love for us. And how He loves us!

But something terrible has happened.  I think I’ve worked so hard to get myself to believe that God loves me, that I forgotten to revere Him the way I should.  It’s just so easy to see Jesus as my buddy if I’m going to accept that He does, in fact, love me no matter what. I know, I know, Jesus IS my buddy, my best friend.

But He’s also my King.  He’s King over everything.  Just as it is in His power to create me, it is in His power to destroy me.  Harsh, I know. But let’s just keep it real for a minute. Think about it. When we fall deep into God’s grace, we can neglect the very heart of why that grace was given in the first place: we didn’t earn it and we can’t earn it.  

Bear with me here, because I’m not at all saying that God’s grace is by any means a bad thing.  Our response to grace, however, can become a twisted cesspool of unrepentant sin and hidden idolatry.  We all know that Paul said that grace wasn’t an excuse to sin, but we do it anyway. Maybe not in obvious ways, but we still do it.  God wants all of us. Not just the parts other people see.

I think He especially wants the part of us that no one sees.  He wants us to revere Him and follow Him and serve Him because He is God.  He is from everlasting to everlasting, Creator of the universe, and Savior of the world.  We don’t want to defile that with idol chatter and gossip, or vain pursuits, or harlotry of the heart.  

We need to revere God.  He made us. He died for us.  And He has all sufficient grace for us.  He is worthy of our praise and obedience.  When we are in His Presence we need to worship Him first.  We need to honor Him fully with our hearts, our minds, and our bodies.  

“Come now, let us reason[c] together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
   they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
   they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
   you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
   you shall be eaten by the sword;
   for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Isaiah 1: 18-20

God wants us to speak frankly with Him, and God wants to cleanse us, but for rebellion He has no tolerance.  Let us be willing and obedient children to the Lord.

Lord, help me to be a better listener to Your instructions.  Help me to revere You instead of take you for granted. Make me a channel of blessing because I have learned from You how to be obedient.  Make my joy complete by my willing service to You. Let me be your willing and devoted servant because You are God and I am not. In You is all power of judgement.  I accept that Your judgement was poured out on the cross of Christ. Help me to respect Your righteous judgement and not take it for granted. Amen.

“For my name’s sake I defer my anger;
   for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
   that I may not cut you off.
10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
   I have tried[a] you in the furnace of affliction.
11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
   for how should my name[b] be profaned?
   My glory I will not give to another.
Isaiah 48:9-11

Oaks of Righteousness

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
   because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;[a]
   he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
   and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;[b]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
   and the day of vengeance of our God;
   to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
   to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
   the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
   the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.[c]::
Isaiah 61:1-3

There is good news for those who follow Christ: life, gladness, praise and righteousness.  But to so many in the Church, the only Good News that is ever received is salvation and that is where they stay.  Now don’t get me wrong. I’m so thankful for the salvation that comes through Christ!

Just don’t stop there!

To stop at salvation is to stop before our healing can be revealed, before our hearts can be liberated, before our mourning can become gladness.  All of those things are offered immediately by the Spirit of God through Christ, but if we stop at forgiveness, if we stop at that golden ticket to Heaven, we deny ourselves the fullness of Christ’s salvation.  

17 Now the Lord[d] is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,[e] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.[f] For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18

We are in the process of being transformed!  By God’s power we go from dead acorns to mighty oaks, so that we can proclaim the Good News!  How else can we bind up the broken hearted? How else can we praise God in the midst of trial and persecution?

The Spirit is with us, but it is not an instantaneous transformation.  It is learned and honed through practice and experience. Why else would we still suffer trials of many kinds?  A mighty oak doesn’t grow up in a day! It takes years and years to be made strong.

As we grow, nurtured and refined by the furnace of affliction, we testify to the power of God within us.  Our constant growth and transformation make us perfect ambassadors of God’s power and glory. Only then is God glorified.

The justice of God becomes Good News for all who know Christ.  It is the Good News of recompense for the wicked and the freedom from those consequences that we have received through Jesus.  Jesus paid the price for our wickedness as the wrath of God was poured out on Him for our sake. Justice became Good News.

Proclaim the year of God’s favor!  It is time to have our broken hearts bound up.  It is time to praise God with singing and laughter, instead of mourning our broken condition. We who were dead are no alive!

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:1-10

Is this the news of Heaven alone, after years of suffering and torment in an evil world? Or is the news of freedom from sin, freedom from death, freedom from the temporal and perishable in order to walk in life and celebration!?

Will suffering still happen? Yes.  Will sorrow afflict us? Yes. Will death mock us? Yes. Will we be broken and tormented and depressed at times? Yes.  But we do not need to lose heart in these things. In fact we can rejoice in these momentary afflictions!  The rejoicing sheds light on what Jesus has made us: the oak of righteousness that is our body. And that is so God may be glorified through us.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[d] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

The unseen can be seen through us!  God’s glory will shine through His people to bring Good News to the poor!  Oh, mighty Oaks of Righteousness, glorify the Risen Lord that all may know His rich love and mercy!

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
   my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
   he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
   and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
   and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
   to sprout up before all the nations.
Isaiah 61:10-11

 

Dying to Self

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
John 12:24

It’s hard to imagine that dying to self could be a pleasant experience.  It goes against all reason and sense. Dying is bad, right? Dying hurts.  Dying is the end. But not to God.

Each day I am dying to myself.  I am letting all that I am, all that I have, and all that I want be broken down into death so that it can be resurrected by Christ for His glory.  

To God, dying brought life and light to the world.  Jesus conquered death so that it no longer had to hold me with its fear and power.  Jesus rose from the dead! Jesus rose other people from the dead! Jesus brings life from death in all of His creation!  The seed that dies and is buried springs for life. Every 24 hours, the day itself dies in a glow of majestic color and beauty only to succumb quickly to darkness, and then be reborn again the following morning.  

So I guess death isn’t quite as bad as it sounds.  Nihilists make death the end. Not Jesus. Jesus proclaims death to self for us, so that we might live:  not on our own, with our sinful brokenness and decay, but with Christ who lives within us, magnified, glorified and free.

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

I don’t know about you, but I like the sound of freedom.  The evil in this world sickens me. It sickens most of us.  We hate it and we wonder why God would let it happen. But God has offered us a free solution if we want it.  And the solution is to let God make us alive through Jesus Christ. When we submit to Him and die to our own desires, we receive the fullness of life that God always intended.  

So, I choose to let myself be put to death so that I might find and enjoy life in Christ, because Christ Himself lives in me by His Spirit.

“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

In the Summer of 2016, while praying the verse above, I received the following vision:

On a plain pedestal rests a cracked and pitiful clay pot.  The pot is large. It is crazed with lines and imperfections.  It isn’t made to last. It isn’t even finished. It isn’t fired.  It’s fragile. Unpainted. Unadorned. But little beams of light stream out through the cracks and chips. The light inside the pot makes ornate patterns across the shell and beautiful pictures reflect on the walls of the room.  The pot is me.

Without warning a giant sledgehammer slams down on it.  The pot is annihilated. Dust and debris remain for a moment and then dissipate in the breeze. The light within the pot also explodes, but the light has form.  The light covers everything. It cannot be extinguished. The source of the light remains bright and strong. It throbs with power. It is joy and peace and love.  It is unquenchable. The light coats everything it touches with a thickness that spreads and grows. Little splatters become throbbing pulsing lights of their own.

 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:5

My earthen vessel, my jar of clay, has been shattered by the enemy, but the Lord’s hand is upon the hammer.  The Lord made the hammer and the jar. The Lord decides what the hammer can strike and what the outcome will be. The Lord will use the destruction of my body as an instrument to spread his enduring, powerful light, his love, his joy, his peace, to thousands upon thousands of people.  Even creation itself will be affected by the light that explodes out of me, and the light will never die. I will never die. The power of God will only spread and multiply.

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
John 12:24