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.

To Follow Jesus

The heart of every believer is to follow Jesus and seek His will for their lives. But often that journey is wrought with fear, doubt, and confusion as we listen and try to discern His voice amidst the countless distractions of our busy lives.

My friend Kendra recently posted on Facebook about her own reflections regarding her journey with Jesus and with her permission I am sharing it here:

“At dinner with friends a few weeks ago, someone asked the table: “What would be your ideal? What would represent a ‘dream come true’ for you in regards to your work & life?”

“One friend thought for a moment and responded, “I am kind of done thinking like that. I am learning that God knows my longings and hopes and I can rest in trusting each offering and invitation as they come.”

“This casual defiance of a question has sat with me for a month and has begun to work its way into my being in a shaping way. Over the last few years, I’ve cultivated a way of being which has more often invited me into a place of urgency and confusion than into a place wonder and trust.

“A veracious desire to figure things out, seemed to rob me of the joy of relishing in each step as the path unfolds before me. There is mystery to be uncovered in the life of following Jesus, to be sure, but the mystery becomes a task-master when it becomes a puzzle to solve instead of a wooing to be responded to.

“I had no idea how deeply this misunderstanding had fatigued me over time, and how profoundly I had missed the heart of God in the midst of it. As (my husband) Chase and I prepare to welcome a new little one into the world, and as we, the church, prepare for the season of Advent, I sense that Jesus is inviting us each into a season of rest.

“We can rest, knowing that we can trust Jesus with the things to come, allowing us to be fully present to this Holy moment. We can rest, knowing that our unfulfilled longings and aching questions are held by the kindest love that the world has ever known. We can rest, trusting that the heart of God is for us, preparing our path as we have the courage and faith to keep stepping forward.

“Carla Harding captured this sense of abiding rest in Jesus so well: “Today I rest in the blessing of meekness. I don’t have to fight to make my own way or shout to make my voice heard. Jesus, you go before me. You prepare a place for me. I rest knowing that the earth is my inheritance.”

A photo of Kendra preparing to enjoy some rock climbing.

You Get Used to It

“You get used to it,” Jesus said.  

I’d settled into a folding chair inside the barn across from one of my horse friends, Loki.  She’s a giant Clydsdale paint that I’ve become acquainted with at the small farm I frequent on a weekly basis.  I’ve become pretty good friends with the three horses who live there, and because it was so stinking hot out that day, I’d asked Loki if she was as hot as I was.

And that’s when I heard Jesus say, “You get used to it.”

Now I’ve grown pretty accustomed to hearing from the Lord when I’m there at the ranch.  It’s just one of those places that’s so filled with the Presence of God that it’s palpable.  So, when He spoke, I knew there was a lot more to it than a simple comfort.  

Loki stood in her open box stall, her giant head stretched beyond the stall door, looking at me, quite content with the temperature over 100 degrees.  I’m not used to that kind of heat at all.  Sweat dripped across my forehead faster than I could wipe it away with my shirt sleeve.  

“You get used to it.”  

The Lord was speaking to my heart and I was all ears. I’m certainly not used to the heat!  Air conditioning is my friend and to me the heat seems like a terrible, terrible thing. To Loki, though, it was just another hot day in a series of hot days that would come and go in time.  

I’ve gotten used to a lot of things in my lifetime.  Air conditioning for one, and vacations, and food on the table.  I love church services and coffee dates with friends and wifi and smart phones and cable tv.  I’m definitely used to all of that.

But I’ve also gotten used to depression that lasted for months at a time, knees so bad I can barely walk, and constant chronic illness.  I spent three years bleeding to death because surgery was even more life threatening.  I got used to anemic fatigue and low oxygen concentration and blood transfusions and doctor’s visits.  I got used to slowly dying a little more day by day by day.

Sitting in the heat that day with Jesus made me uncomfortable, but I noticed something else, something beyond the discomfort.  I felt joy.  I really liked sitting there with my friend, Loki. It’s like my therapist is always saying to me, it can be both.  I can be uncomfortable AND happy.  I can be in physical pain AND be at peace.  I can be brave AND be afraid.  I can hate the heat and love being with that horse. God made us complicated and that’s a good thing!

Two years ago I decided to stop bleeding to death and get the surgery that would likely kill me.  Like I said, I’d suffered for three years bleeding to death and getting transfusion after transfusion just to stay alive.  Tests showed a lot of problems going on internally.  Logic told my specialist surgeon that I likely wouldn’t survive the surgery.  He only finally agreed to do it because I’d had so many blood transfusions that my body was going to start rejecting the blood I was getting and that would kill me.  

So, in the summer of 2019 I had the life saving surgery that would likely kill me and I survived.  I spent a month in the hospital, weeks in the ICU on a ventilator, and months in rehabilitation afterwards, but I lived.  

I now like to think of the Summer of 2019 as the time when I decided I no longer wanted to just get used to being sick and dying.  I wanted to live.  My scripture verse in that season was Psalm 118:17 “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”

For so long I thought I had to suffer to experience God’s full power and love.  After all, He’d gotten me through so much and Jesus did say no servant is greater than his Master.  But it truly is a work of God to live abundantly all the time.  To live in trouble and peace.  There is a time and purpose and a season for both.  

For everything there is a season, and a time for every [a]purpose under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I got used to being in a season of suffering.  It was all I knew how to do.  It’s how I survived, and I’m so thankful for that.  I know the Lord was with me in it, for better or worse.  I was used to trauma and torture and ruin, and God was with me in it.  Always, always with me.  But now I’m getting used to something new.  

Behold, I am doing a new thing;

    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

    and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19

So how hot does it have to get to move beyond the discomfort and into the joy?  Do you have to like the heat? No, but you can learn from it.  And you can be thankful for air conditioning and thankful for a Savior who’s with you in both.  

For me, sitting in the heat for a while with a big, beautiful Clydsdale is totally worth it.  But now I know I don’t have to live there.  I can be thankful for the air conditioning.

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.

Breath of Life

 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature
Genesis 2:7

If you follow my blog, or know me well in person, then you know that I was on a ventilator last year for almost two weeks.  (You can read all the details about it here) I don’t remember it.  Not really anyway.   All I know is that everyone but my husband knew I was going to die.  It was a grievous time.  People flocked to the hospital to give their respects.  To say goodbye.  To offer comfort.  Doctors told my husband to say goodbye to me multiple times.

People say that the ventilator kept me alive.   People are saying that a lot right now because of Covid-19.  Hospitals need ventilators to breathe for people and keep them alive.  But the source of life will never be a ventilator. 

The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
1 Samuel 2:6

When you need a ventilator they have to restrain you so you don’t do something stupid while you’re heavily sedated.  (Like I did when I self extubated and should have died…you can read more about that fun story here.)  And the Church has definitely been restrained.  Public gatherings have been shut down. 

Jesus has shown me the Church as it gasps for breath. In these wretched days, a ventilator seems like the only thing that will keep us alive, whether we’ve gotten sick or not.  Bills need to be paid.  Congregations need comfort and encouragement.  How can any of this happen while we practice social distancing?  Zoom can’t be our new normal, can it? It’s just a stop gap, right?  Until we can breathe on our own again, right?

But, wait a second.  Are we even supposed to be breathing on our own?

Jesus Christ is the breath of life.

When I self-extubated my lungs should have collapsed.  Instead I began to breathe “on my own.”  But here’s a news flash, folks:  I know full well I wasn’t breathing on my own.  Jesus breathed for me.

I pray that the beautiful body of Christ would stop looking for ventilators.  I know it seems logical.  I know it makes sense from human standards.  I know that a ventilator kept me alive last Summer.  But Jesus showed me that He alone keeps me alive.  He alone is my breath.  He alone is our breath.

“Do you think that’s air you’re breathing now?” ~ Morpheus, The Matrix (1999)

 

Maybe being extubated is exactly what we need.  We know right now that we can’t breathe on our own.  We just can’t.  All the things we keep doing are helpful, even encouraging to us.  We want to do something.  We need to do something.  It helps us feel like we are contributing to the life of the Church still somehow.  If we keep those tubes of action in place we don’t have to die.

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

Zoom and Facebook and YouTube have been useful and beautiful.  Wanting to live has value!  And these tools have shown us what matters and what doesn’t.  My prayer is that they don’t become just another way for us to live without Jesus.

I can tell you, I shouldn’t be alive. Not by human wisdom.  But Jesus could care less about human wisdom, and so I am alive.  

Can we trust Him in this?  Can we look to the Breath of Life for our resuscitation?  Can we trust Him?  Will we trust Him?  

Lord, thank you for Zoom and Facebook.  Thank you for exhorters and encouragers who say hard things.  Thank you for teachers and pastors who tenderly show us the Word of Life and offer us comfort.  Thank you for servants who weep for our needs in prayer and give beyond their means financially to support the Church.  Thank you, Father, that each member is a part of one body, Your Body.  Thank you that each of us brings something unique and beautiful to this mess that is the Church.  Help us to love one another and consider others higher than ourselves.  Let us love without judgment.  Let us trust that You are working even when we can’t seem to work together or have opposing points of view.  You are on Your Throne and that is something that we can all agree with.  Bring us unity.  Restore Your Church, Heavenly Father.  Bring Jesus back.  Set things right once and for all. Breathe for us, Daddy. Amen.

Peace and Security

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers,[a] you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4

We’ve all seen the info-graphics online.  X number of people have died since the outbreak.  X number of people have recovered since the outbreak.  X disease has killed more or less than the virus. X number of unborn babies have died since the outbreak. Cancer takes x number of lives every year.  Influenza kills x number of people every year. There’s a graphic out there to compare a million facts about death lately.  

Death is on our minds and we can’t stop thinking about it. 

But people have always been dying, haven’t they?  Death is the inevitable finish to life. And right now a lot of people are shaken to their core by the contemplation of a pandemic so powerful that it has shut down the world in order to save lives.  

Here in America, there’s been talk that it’s a political ploy to steal our freedom.  We have certainly lost a lot of freedom. And if you’ve invested all your hopes and dreams on the freedom of America, then of course you’re going to be shaken.

In our Western Church we’ve put a lot of emphasis on our freedom to freely worship God.  We are allowed to congregate and propagate and investigate without fear. We have incredible access to resources and teachings.  We can talk to strangers in coffee shops about our faith or share the Good News on the internet. Nothing has stopped us. Until now.

Undaunted, we push forward with our freedom of religion.  We get on Zoom calls. We have live gatherings on YouTube or Facebook.  We call people to repent and to pray and to trust and have faith. We are all about keeping up the freedom in our meetings. And maybe people who would never walk into a church building might actually get to hear what it’s all about for the first time in their lives.

What are we going to do about it?

Our president asked for prayer that the virus would pass over us on Passover.  Wouldn’t that be something? And all the world will see how blessed we are as Christians that God will protect us from this “China Virus”.  We are proud to be Americans where we have God on our side! Dang straight! God will protect us! God will protect our people. God will destroy our enemies and we will walk across safely on dry land, just like the Isrealites.  God will have the virus pass over us just like the Angel of Death passed over them in the final plague of the first born sons.

Except our first born son was slain. Our salvation from our slavery happened on the cross 2000 years ago, when our First Born Son, our One and Only Son, endured death for our sake.  The dry land we walk across it the dry land of Jesus Christ.  

Our faith is not in worldly protection anymore.  Our triumph is no longer freedom as man understands freedom.  Instead we stare with bold defiance at the face of our enemy and proclaim the victory won for us through Christ Jesus.  

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

We can triumphantly say our “Passover” has already happened!  Let’s not cheapen it with miracles meant to make us feel better. 

Our lives are so free that we have lost sight of the freedom we have found in Christ.  No matter what we must endure, no matter what affliction looms over us, we can claim our freedom and trust in our Savior, not our country or our healing or our protection.  

Our King, King Jesus will remain.  Nothing can steal His victory and the freedom He won back for us on the cross.  

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. Romans 8:38-39

So, it’s time to stop talking about death as it relates to death.  No more infographics. No more statistics. No more comparisons. No more compromise!  We are all going to die, my friends. Stop trying to beg God to save you from this inevitability of physical death.  Ask for your life in only so much as it would please Our Master. Stop mocking the healing God gave us that day on a cross on Golgotha and that bright and beautiful morning of His resurrection, by demanding something else!    

There is an eternal death, my friends, and Covid-19 can bring it the same way cancer does, the same way war does, the same way starvation does.  And Jesus Christ has already answered that death with life. No new salvation will ever be offered. No cure, no peace, no abortion law, no food for the hungry can replace the salvation of our One True King.  

When you die–and you will die–will you die to yourself, considering your own needs worthless compared to what the Lord has called us to in order to glorify the King?  Or will you cry for peace and security and watch the world fall back into death once again?

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:25

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  

 

  

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.

 

Our Glory

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. Romans 8:30

“Tell them to come and join us in our Glory,” my Lord said.

I thought about it for a moment.  Did He just say Our Glory? Like the Holy Trinity Glory? Or was He saying something else?  Something allegorical or maybe symbolic? I felt a rush of excitement. My heart pounded as I felt my Lord move me around the empty dance floor. I could see the throngs of people watching us.  I wanted them to be with us. And I suddenly knew that’s what He wanted, too.  He wanted them to join us in Our Glory.

“Invite them to join us in our Glory,” He said again.

In the natural world, about half of the ten or so people in the prayer room I was in had fallen to their faces in worship.  I wanted to say, “Come join us in His Glory!” but no words would come out. 

“Not right now,” the Lord said. 

As my Lord and I danced, the Glory of His Presence surrounded me and guided me lightly around the golden dance floor. I hid His words in my heart. 

“Tell them to join us in our Glory. Our Glory.”

Ours.

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 8:15-17

I hear the Lord calling me closer.  I feel His longing for our reunion. I feel His heart palpitate with eagerness and excitement.  His sweet Bride will one day share fully in His Awesome Glory. But even now, even waiting, He is beckoning us closer and closer to Him, to share His Glory in this dark and broken world.  

We live in a world withering away from the cancer of sin that has plagued it for so long.  This sin tears us down, taunts us with shame, throws us into fear, and rules over us with nothing but death.  But the Lord has brought us Light. Beautiful, beautiful light.  

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our[a] joy may be complete. 1 John 1:1-4

Come, let us join Him in His Glory.  It’s Ours to delight in! If Jesus is ours, and our bodies He has made His Own.  And if He has claimed fellowship with us, and offered us Joy. Let’s take it! Let’s join Him in His Glory: a Glory He freely offers to share with us!  

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

Where is our peace?  Where is our forgiveness?  Where is our hope? Where is our glory?  It is all with Him Who Is Glory! Jesus Who Is Light!  Jesus Who Loves Us. Will you come and join us in His Glory?  Will you allow yourself to be fully exposed, fully known, fully forgiven, fully loved? Come into Our Glory! 

It sounds crazy, even though I know it’s right.  The weight of our suffering in this dying world can bring the reality of darkness starkly to bare. We feel the push of shame, and fear, and unworthiness because of the sin of this world.  It throws us to the floor on our faces. We proclaim Worthy Is The Lamb, because we feel the weight of our own unworthiness! Yet, all the while Christ’s response to us is, “Worthy are my children whom I have made worthy! Join me in full unity!  Join me in my Glory!”

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. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:5-10

Can we try to hold onto that?  We are in the light because we are in Christ.  We no longer walk in darkness. We are free from the sin and shame that so deeply entangled us.  Let’s stand amazed in His Presence and feel the Glory of His love. Let’s join Him in Our Glory and finally be one with Him.