Bound on a Train for Glory

I found myself weeping before the Lord this morning as I passionately renounced my most beloved and oldest demon friends for the thousandth time, and then longingly looked back at them heartbroken as the walked away at God’s command.

I cried out, “God, I don’t know why I’m doing that!  I hate them!  I don’t want them!  And a part of me loves them and wants them back already! Help me, God!!! Help me!”

“Worship me,” he whispered. I felt the soft touch of his gentle calloused hand gathering up the tears on my cheeks.

A touch from the Master had already begun to sand away another rough spot on my broken heart. His calloused hand.  A perfectly divine, resurrected body with a calloused hand and a rough, scratchy cheek and coarse dark hair.  

He smelled like sunshine and cedar.

I wept.  Jesus wept.  We wept together for the death of Lazarus in my own heart.  

“Lift your head, weary sinner,” He whispered.

Worship me.

I tell Google to play Lift Your Head Weary Sinner and I worship.  I weep and worship and weep and sing at the top of my lungs. Let the chains fall!  Let the chains fall! My repentance becomes worship.  I worship.

Worship me.

Daddy’s personal playlist for me kicked into full gear.  There is an Anchor played next. 

I kept my head lifted up and I fixed my eyes on the Lord’s gaze.  I’d renounced and confessed and repented.  I’d worshiped. Our eyes stayed locked.  He sees and he loves.  He sees me.  And he loves me.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.
Psalm 139:1-6 ESV

I felt so much relief. The Lord and I were locked in unity.  I allowed Him to keep my gaze, despite my fear and my torment, and He saw me. He saw all of me. 

He has always seen everything in me, every darkness, every fear, and He loves me. 

All those long lost beloved friends of perdition who whisper on the winds of my memories, with their shame and death and suffering, all just disappear into the glorious light. I know my gaze will wander. And I know His gaze wont falter even when mine does.

I don’t have to always understand.  I doubt.  I fear.  I worry.  I am human.  I was born on a train bound for death.  And Jesus loves me.  He offers Himself up to me so we can be one.

And I am reminded again that we are One. Oh, the audacity to consider my fears more terrible than God’s power! His light washes away everything that isn’t light.  

In Him there is no darkness.

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5 ESV

I will worship Him.  

I choose to be blinded by His love for me, bound on a train for Glory instead of death, no matter what familiar demons I hear screaming out the window.

Divine Collaboration

It’s hard to imagine isn’t it?  Divine collaboration.  Sounds like something out of a cerebral mythology thesis.  At least it does to me.  Yet, those are the words that keep coming to mind.  

“Daddy,” I asked. “What do you want from me? What do you want from Your Church?”

With a wink and a contagious grin the size of galaxies colliding, he replied, “I want Divine Collaboration.”  

This is an honorific to Him, I can tell.  It’s a title he likes to pin on all His kids.  We are all his Divine Collaborators. And I could tell He was thrilled that he’d gotten my attention.

Perplexed and definitely curious, I said, “Please explain.”

I am a philosopher and processing with God is something I like to savor.  I want to stew and chew and taste every scoop of insight the Lord ever gives me.  I feel delightfully compelled to savor and digest the nuanced flavor profile of God’s interactions, not just with me, but with his Body and with his Creation. I’ve learned a lot eating at the Lord’s table with Him.  We talk.  A lot.

The other day I was talking to a friend about this tattoo idea I had and all of a sudden I heard myself say, “It’s kind of like this ‘divine collaboration’ between God and me.”  It just made sense to me to say it that way.

I had to smile. There it was again. 

My husband and I took a road trip last month to celebrate our anniversary.  We drove along part of the iconic Route 66 through Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona all the way to the Grand Canyon.  As we drove through high desert devoid of much life and saw rock formations that put modern architecture to shame, I heard it again: divine collaboration.

The land spoke to me as I marveled at the spectacles and grandeur created where infinite pale sky meets striated rocks in various stages of petrification and erosion.  I felt the profundity of time’s endlessness: infinitely changing and staying the same all at once.  I had never felt closer to my Father God, the Creator of All Things than I did in those moments of experiencing his Creation.  His words were clear: this is divine collaboration.  

As I experienced the beauty of God’s world in all its intricacy I began to pray for the people who lived there, and I felt the land speak to my heart about them: these people that God loved so dearly and who had been so horribly abused by the “progress” of European settlers.  I wept and prayed and wept and prayed.  I fell in love with those impoverished and yet resilient indigenous people who continued to hold on through the worst types of adversity.  Serious divine collaboration.

 It’s so much more than just a “good conversation” with Jesus.

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

Even Jesus didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped, but he accepted it anyway and obediently emptied himself from fear and doubt and the entitlement of his status, and trusted that His Father in Heaven had his back and they were a team, even if it didn’t feel like it sometimes. 

Jesus humbled himself to the point of death on a cross because He trusted God.

1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1

How can we possibly be like Jesus? Jesus divinely collaborated with the God of the Universe, while considering equality with God something beyond his grasp, and obediently and humbly received and obeyed, even in angst, even in hunger, even in torment, even in fear.  He conquered because he humbled himself and obeyed in perfect unity with God.

Even though obedience made him look like a slave.

So maybe trusting God in obedience isn’t slavery, even if it might look like it is?  Maybe obedience is actually divine collaboration.  Maybe choosing to humble oneself, one can find exaltation in the Living God and be empowered in His Righteousness to be joint heirs with Christ.

14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sonsf of God. 15For 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!” 16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and 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 ESV

Divine collaboration: to trust that even obedience unto death will gain eternal reward and glory for God AND you.

It can be unimaginably painful, I’m not going to sugar coat it.  Yet, I know that suffering pays beautiful dividends for those who are willing to learn and grow from it.  Empathy, courage, salvation. It all come from suffering.  Death and suffering are not the end for those who are in Christ Jesus.  We know, because of Christ’s example of trust and faith, that God will be faithful to us as well.  

God doesn’t want mindless robots.  He’s not going to force you to do anything.  He asks.  He always asks, because he loves you.  He offers this divine collaboration to anyone who would accept it.  If you can get over yourself long enough to believe that it might actually be better with God than without, to accept for even just a moment that God is in fact good and trustworthy, you too can have this beautiful title of “Divine Collaborator”.

Divine collaboration means trusting God, submitting to God, and then freely talking to God without fear of condemnation. 

Daddy didn’t get angry with Jesus when he questioned Him in Gethsemane.  He listened.  He comforted.  He strengthened.  And Jesus endured to the end.  He trusted the Father, and on the third day was resurrected from the dead.

Jesus obeyed God and was raised up in Glory.

We have seen the truth of who God is in the flesh of Jesus Christ, and we believe in our hearts through faith, that God raised him from the dead and he will one day do the same for us.  We are saved from death into life and from orphan to first born son. God wants us to be his friends.  He wants unity in love.  Unity in love means divine collaboration. It means trusting that the source of love and life is from God and endowed to his children with generosity.

Divine collaboration isn’t passive.  It isn’t selfish.  It isn’t arrogant.  To walk in Divine collaboration with God is to actively believe in the reality of your shameless and righteous status as a child of God and fearlessly “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Heb 4:16) not just to receive forgiveness of sins, but to be lifted up into glory with God himself and receive wisdom and comfort from Him for eternity.  It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.  

Refuse to be silent receivers of God’s mercy and love.  Choose instead to be Divine Collaborators.  Let’s use the tools we have been given, infused with the Holy Spirit and the many gifts He has provided us, and share our thoughts and ideas with Jesus with confidence. Realize that He’s already decided to “use the foolish things to confound the wise” (1 Cor 1:27) so we can stop worrying about if God really wants to hear from us or not. Trust me, he does.  No, we’re not worthy of it on our own, but we’re not our own if we’ve given ourselves to Jesus.  

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 ESV

Divine Collaboration with one another is equally valuable.  God’s obedient and loving children are a collective force.

We are stronger together as Christ’s body here on Earth. Know that we are all one with Our Father in Heaven by His Spirit.  We should be unified as His image bearers and as walking tabernacles of His Presence.

Let us each humble ourselves and be divine collaborators together with our Lord.

Pro-Women, Pro-Choice, and Pro-Life

Did you know that the Bible actually endorses abortion under certain circumstances? I am a thousand percent pro life, and I also believe that there are times when an abortion is necessary…ie an ectopic pregnancy, incest, rape, etc. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to do as Christ, and give each person the right to work out their own salvation with God on their own terms with the assumption that the Lord will work in their heart to bring each person closer and closer to Him through and by His Spirit.

And by no means am I intending to imply any salvation except through Jesus Christ and him crucified and resurrected for the ultimate atonement of our iniquity.

It seems to me that it’s much easier to judge others (and even ourselves), before recognizing that to judge at all is to presume to know more than the Ultimate and Only Righteous King. He is the only One capable of judging each person with equity and love.

We see through the glass darkly, and we grow in humility when we acknowledge that God is at work in everything around us, working it for our good despite the cruel and desperate work of the enemy on the prowl to utterly destroy our lives.

Therefore, I choose to accept that God can work with whatever we are willing to give him, and that by choosing to tangibly love the ones who act like our enemies by providing support through the loving acceptance of personal autonomy, trusting that the One Who Made Us will work this stuff out, and that our prayers, love, and the sharing of the Gospel to all people (perhaps even especially toward the ones who are most different than us politically, religiously, morally, or otherwise) is what will make the most difference in the bringing of God’s Kingdom Come.

“Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.” ~Jesus

Roe v Wade

People are freaking out. Roe v Wade has been on the books for a long time. It’s scary to see such a huge change in our government laws. And it’s easy to begin to question the safety and ramifications of that change. We conjure up images of doctors of questionable character wearing blood soaked aprons performing back alleys procedures with a rusty hanger. Or at least I do.

And yet, I hold out hope that there are still enough “strategies and freedoms” in place in our government to protect women and their reproductive health AND protect the lives of the unborn people. The unborn have all of their “rights” ripped from their tiny little grasp before they have even had a chance to take a breath.

There is too much nuance regarding this issue, and Roe v Wade’s decision has never been our source of truth. As followers of Christ, we can put our hope and trust in Our Savior Jesus to manage all of these issues, and protect and honor the sanctity of all life, whether or not we are aware of how He is doing those things.

Reproductive rights are equally as important as the lives of the unborn. We get upset because we get pulled into absolutes, and this is never going to be an “absolute” situation. 

There are times when abortions are necessary, and their are times when abortions are just convenient birth control post coital contact. There are times when giving a baby over to abortion is best for all people. And there are beautiful times when God can use a tragedy, a mistake, or a lapse of judgment to provide life and beauty to a situation that had only darkness just by allowing an unborn child to live.

It’s complicated. Life is complicated. And God is still on His throne. We will survive this. We can trust God. We KNOW we can trust Him, so we can release our fear and insecurity over man’s choices. We don’t have any control over them. 

We can use our voice to be heard and be seen, and hopefully reflect Our Lord Jesus in the process.  We also cannot keep others from expressing that same right. And God’s hand of judgement and protection is outstretched still. He gives and He takes away. And we can trust Him with that.

I’ll leave you with this passage of scripture from the book of Romans, Chapter 8, English Standard Version of the Bible, with sub headings removed. 

Romans Chapter 8

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 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.

12 So then, brothers,[e] we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 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.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience

.26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In My Mind

In my mind.

Rubbed raw and brutal like burlap and salt on exposed wounds.

In my mind they fly

A tumult of debris in the hurricane of yesterday

Rubbing raw moments when hope was abandoned, when love became a tiresome and deceptive fear

In my mind.

When sex was rage and pain and blood and fear and loss.

No innocence left at five years old when hope was not a word I knew

In my mind. I listened and cried and waited.

Steel wool scraping away the rust of abandoned steel, twisted metal, fortune lost, potential extinguished.

In my mind where yesterday and today and tomorrow are jumbled together in frenzied footsteps and screams in black night.

Rubbed raw cheeks, burning eyes, a snow bank, a motorcycle, a tent

In my mind blowing away like glowing embers from a campfire, faerie dust fantasy.

In my mind so many words I do not know,

Pictures painted all at once with watercolors that run together and blur everything to numb dark and muddy gray.  Nothing but a stain.

In my mind.

Enter age like dried flowers, beauty and fragrance gone to memory, tight and lost and distant.

Blank pages filled with dark smears of tears and rage and fire.

Thick legs hold up what horror has melted like pure white snow into mud.

Pale body, mottled with scars, carries jagged stones in its fragile shell.

In my mind this sack of skin and blood and tissue and bone, leaking and torn and putrid, burned.

Worn down to sackcloth and ashes, mourning life lost.

In my mind a life fully spent, waits to finally, blissfully come to its end, come crashing down, come undone, come home.

Wicked thoughts despised, repressed, regressed, rubbed raw.

Through a glass dimly.

In my mind I tried.

Eyes of fire burn it down. No more raw, splintered metal.  No more rusted ruin extinguished, thirsty.

I am thirsty, in my mind.

Rubbed raw revelation, trickling down in a miniscule sliver of silver water that flows from within the pound of flesh fulfilled.

In my mind these heavy stones, these lumps of pummeled appendages grasping and scraping and wheezing

Cough one more breath as I lay dying.  Heart compressed into diamonds as many as the stars in the Heavens to share.

Forever treasures feasting, filling, finding one more breath again and again. One more drop of blood to move through this not quite corpse.

In my mind.

Champion’s crown of victory revealed in final breaths that never cease.  Always one more. That trickle of silver gleaming diamond water that grows and feeds and fulfills.

Sustain this bag of bones and flesh and blood.  Permeate.  Initiate.  Exonerate.

In my mind. Abundant life. Words on pages intangible.

Rubbed raw, relentless, but still one more breath.

Always one more breath, oh Breath of Life, oh River of Living Water.

I drink and drink and drink and life unfolds from this lump of mud and decay and death.

In His mind I am healed, refined, undaunted, vigorously restored, courageous, resplendent.

And in my mind, alive, renewed, I dance.

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

 

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

 

Trust Me

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?
Isaiah 7:10-13

Did you catch that? It makes me laugh because I’m so guilty of it.  We all are. God tells Ahaz to ask for a sign. Ahaz’s response? “NO! This is some kind of test.  You’re too scary. I won’t fall for Your tricks….God.” What the heck?!

God’s frustration with His people is palpable. After a million promises of victory just a few moments before, Ahaz questioned the simple request of God to ask for a sign, a big sign, anything.  

We’re so much like Ahaz, aren’t we?  We don’t trust God. We think we do. We say we do.  We encourage others to. We try and try and try to trust.  But we don’t.

What I want to focus on though, is God’s response to Ahaz.  Ahaz utterly disobeys and questions God to his face, and God’s response is to shake His head with weariness at humanity’s lack of trust, and then say:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Isaiah 7:14

Again, do you see what just happened there?  Because Ahaz is too scared, and because Ahaz can’t trust, and because Ahaz (as King) is the physical stand in of all of God’s people, God trusts for Ahaz.  God obeys for Ahaz.  God prophesys the coming Messiah, the Son of Man, Emmanuel: God is With Us, and in doing so, literally spells out to Ahaz that humanity can never stand in for themselves, so He will do even that for them!

I love that.  Frustrated and weary by the disobedience of man, God doesn’t raise his hands in frustration and walk away.  That’s what we do. Instead, God sighs with weariness, (and I believe sadness that man still can’t seem to trust Him after the millions of times He had already proven Himself trustworthy!) and says to humanity, “Okay, I’ll do it for you.”

When God asks me to trust Him, how often do I question it?  How often do I say, “Oh no, I can’t do that!”  I’m so thankful that God hasn’t, and won’t abandon me when I struggle.  Instead, He patiently helps me to do what I don’t trust Him to do.

That’s where the Power of the Holy Spirit comes in.  By God’s Spirit we are empowered to obey and trust God.  He gave us that Spirit, that Helper, that Wonderful Counselor, to gently show us and tell us what we can do if we trust Him.  

Our sweet partnership with the Lord comes from all the opportunities we are given to listen and to trust what He says to us.  Easier said than done, I know. It’s worth it, though. Trust me.

Come Let Us Reason Together

“Come now, let us reason 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.
Isaiah 1:18

Going back to the Garden of Eden, we get a story of how the Lord intended things for humanity.  He created a world that man and woman could live in, enjoy, and tend to. He gave them stewardship over all that He had created.  And in that creation, He walked with them. He listened and encouraged them. He gave advice. He made suggestions. He reasoned with them.  God and man worked together in His creation.

Only when Adam and Eve were seduced into the arrogant notion of gaining the “knowledge of good and evil” for themselves, did they cut God out of the picture, and fall into the terrible temptation and condemnation of sin.  They no longer reasoned with God over what was right or wrong, they decided for themselves.

The battle between right and wrong entered into the world of man, and with it life and death.  This perversion of God’s plan started a series of events that would culminate into the Salvation and Restoration of God’s people to Himself through Christ.

With it also came the tragic perceived contradictions in scripture that often play havoc with our intellect. If we are not clear and precise in our understanding of the character and transformative power of Jesus, we will question and doubt God, or worse, only consider ourselves in regard to our interaction with the world and God’s plan for it and us.  

The knowledge of good and evil broke our dependence on God to show us right from wrong, and brought into question every future act committed by man.  Right or wrong, man got to choose, and in so doing, his perspective might or might not line up with God’s. Man had been shown in the Garden that obedience and partnership with God brought life and happiness.  Unfortunately, man also learned that life apart from God would bring death.

To man, the human existence is life, followed by death.  Comprehending the reality of what life and death mean to the human condition is best explained by the Lord himself.

“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

Death comes before life. Jesus proved this point through His own body.  He allowed himself to die, be buried, and then resurrected, to give us the ultimate picture of the obedient sacrifice and what it would bring. He gave up His own “right” to life in order to receive the fullness of His deepest most joyful desire: the salvation of the lost (Hebrews 12:2).  His was a perfect sacrifice with perfect obedience. His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, right before being arrested was this:

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Luke 22:42

Too often I think our church culture suggests that we beat down who we are and what we think in regard and response to Jesus: that beating down our own thoughts is how we “die to self.”  We tell ourselves and each other that we must consider “what Jesus would do” and forget that Jesus might want to actually have a conversation with us about it. Jesus had a conversation with God in the garden of Gethsemane, not a silent robotic command.

We don’t give up our self to “live as Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  We let ourselves shine by sharing our thoughts with God and then letting him tell us how best to proceed, knowing that His decisions will lead us on a course of life.  We die to having the “final say” on what we will do. We let Him tell us what is right for us and what is wrong.

I’d like to add, though, that as we muse and ponder and plan with the Lord, though, we should act with care and caution.  Otherwise we open ourselves up to the attack of the enemy, who prowls around at all times, looking for ways to exploit our weakness and stir our insecurities.  

8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8

In our obedience to God, and our active intention to put to death our sinful desires, we find peace.  Peace and joy and power come from walking in the Presence of the Lord and reasoning together with Him. When we follow our own hearts without God’s input, we are submitting to the death of this world instead of receiving the life of Jesus that we are promised.

Jesus said,

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10