Saturday, January 25, 2020

#29




Our machinations and deliberations contrived to

keep us from the truth, from You.

We didn’t know the way, although we tried

to find our way to You.

What should have been clear

became smeared

with our own contrivances, motives

such that we couldn’t find yours.



Your way was so simple,

but we made it hard.

It was given us,

but we gave into making it our way

instead of yours.



The truth was always distorted

when it was once so plain.



If belief as a child is enough

than all this over-thinking and over-doing is tough

on a child’s heart.



Give me mine back.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Rise

Do you remember how you used to live?  Dead to life, buried by sin, wandering the course of the world's changing and perverse path.  The prince of the power of the air owned you, just as he controls all living in disobedience, as we all once did...such that we could all be called children of wrath.
BUT GOD, with the unfathomable richness of His love and mercy focused on us, united us with Jesus Christ and infused our lifeless souls with life - even though we were buried under mountains of sin - and saved us by grace.  He RAISED US UP with Him and seated us in the heavenly realms with Jesus the Messiah, the liberating King.  He did this so that for all eternity we will stand as a living testimony to the incredible riches of His grace and kindness that He freely gives to us by uniting us with Jesus, the Messiah, the one anointed for this purpose. 
For it is by God's grace that you have been saved, through faith.  It is God's gift, His offer to us that we didn't earn nor can ever earn by our own works.  In this new state, we are the product of His hand, created in the anointed one, Jesus, so as to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.
Ephesians 2:1-10  (selections)

We were once buried in sin.  I remember those days, feeling suffocated and held down by the choices I made and the world system which held me underneath it.  The world's lies and false promises held me captive.  But now, Jesus calls me out and places me in "heavenly realms," which allows me the gifts of heaven - love for God and others, power to live a righteous life, new vision and purpose - for today.

Over and over I read about the generosity of God and the sacrifice of Jesus which enabled the delivery of these riches.  These origins of the faith - grace and sacrifice - I cannot forget.  My peace comes from His torture, my healing from His wounds.  A life of meaning comes from the design of God.  That is to be my testimony:  a presentation of the possibilities of life with God.

Does my testimony speak loudly enough for people to see God? Does anyone say, "I want what you have?" Do they really understand the price that was paid to make it so for all of us?  Or the cost of obedience to bear His mark?  

I do not understand why God let us choose our own (destructive) design, but I am grateful to follow His plan and path out from under the mountainous weight of sin.  I am trying to grasp the scope of my new view from a heavenly perspective, and this I know - the world looks different now.  It no longer entices and I have compassion for the continued lostness of those also buried under the lies and system of the prince of the power of the air.  

I am emboldened to let my life be a testimony, a call to truth, of the great desire of God to have his people back.  My life and actions can now be a message of God's generosity, kindness, grace and mercy - the truest of riches.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJxrX42WcjQ







Monday, January 13, 2020

Grasp

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God's people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you.  I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.  

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called -- his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.  I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe him.
Ephesians 1:15-19b

There are so many rich words in this set of verses that seem to raise the level of our involvement with God to new heights:  spiritual wisdom, insight, flooded with light, confident hope, and, ultimately, the availability of God's power for us.  

That wisdom, which comes from God, is no ordinary wisdom by the world's standard.  It is broad and full of the knowledge of God's spiritual wisdom in a variety of matters, whether that is the accumulated wisdom of living with God, or learning or skill, or discernment of life and spiritual connectedness.  This wisdom provides the knowledge and practical application of God's intent for people.  Paul goes so far as to add revelation (here interpreted as "insight") to that expression of wisdom where timely truth can appear about the path we are on with others.

The intent of the gain of wisdom and insight serves the purpose of having the precise and correct knowledge of things ethical and divine.  When people can say, "I know it was God" or, my favorite, "I know that I know that I know," there is a peace and hope.  The translator of the New Living Translation, used here, calls it a "confident" hope because hope's definition has a positive, confident and joyful expectation of salvation, both present and future, based on the relationship with God.  It is not just knowledge, but the knowledge of God which brings hope.

As I consider the not-yet-fulfilled parts of my life, whether in relationships, my own maturity and growth, or heaven ultimately, it would be easy to be discouraged when I look at situations which don't always seem to change, but fully knowing God (and, His character,  His plan, His possibilities) changes my disappointment and discouragement into hope.  I must remember that God wants more for me than I want for myself.  In the seat of my emotions, in my heart, will shine the light of the future of what God intends.  When I am looking to Him,  the evidence is revealed and becomes clear and my "enlightenment" might actually shine light on the evidence right in front of me.  If I am looking for terror or delight, I will be sure to find it.

How does this happen? That incredible/surpassing greatness of God must be grasped.   The hyperbole (Gk: hyperballo) of the mass and weight, largeness and spaciousness, intensity, and splendid nature (Gk: megathos) of God's power which moves toward us and is for us must be grasped.  If we could grasp it, we might be stunned and knocked to our knees by it.  Would we dare understand it?  Why do we short-change ourselves on knowing this truly all-powerful and great God?

God, through Jesus Christ, wants believers to see the far-reaching effects of who He is and whose we are.  He wants us to believe it.  He wants us to look for it and connect to it.  He wants to secure our place in heaven and grant us His power and presence for today!  We can live the hyperbolic expectations of living as children of the King of heaven and earth!

Listen to the end of Paul's message:  This is THE SAME power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavens.  Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or ANYTHING ELSE - and not just in this world but in the world to come. Ephesians 1:19b-20.

Live by no other power. Be thankful for your involvement in the loving and generous character of our God!



Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Join

1 Corinthians 12:7-27

Here is Paul's famous metaphor of the "body of Christ."  He uses it to help us realize our significance as a unit.  He says we need each other, "all parts of the body are mutually dependent on and care for each other."  If one suffers, we all suffer; everyone is a vital member.  If ever you have stubbed a toe or smashed a fingernail, you know the experience of a seemingly forgotten body part suddenly impacting the entire body.  

And none of us can stand alone.  In The Message by Eugene Peterson, in verse 19, he interprets so we can see the catastrophe of over-exaltation of any given part of the body: "if the body were just an eye or just a hand, it would be a monster."  Some Christians have been monsters trying to be the beginning and end-all of the faith, or of a church, or of a family.  If everyone is a vital member, then none can be the "head," except Christ.

Specifically, Christ wants us to be humble enough to work together under his headship.  It is an act of love on his part to allow us a place to become a working element of the body of believers, no matter how small or large our position may seem.  I revel is the lesser role, the necessary role.  I am not the ultimate answer.  I am not negligible.  I have my place, designed for and assigned to.  I want to rest in that place  and work to be my best in that place.

It may take some trial and error to find that place for ourselves.  Where are our skills best used?  Where is the greatest need or lack within the church?  What wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, teaching, interpretation is needed?  What chair needs folded?  What hand needs held?  What meal needs prepared?

Our coordinated effort is what will call a world's attention to Christ.  Jesus says it himself in John 17:23 as he is praying for us within the relationship between him and the Father  :  "May they be brought to complete unity so the world will know that you sent me and have loved them, even as you have loved me."

Unity.  Unified.  Coordinated effort as a body performs its life functions.  Join in your space in this body and watch the miracle of life as never before!


Friday, November 22, 2019

Book Review: Life Signs by Henri Nouwen


The concepts Henri Nouwen wrote of in the chapter “Intimacy and Love” spoke right into the journey of healing I am on personally.  I was particularly struck by his statement that “we are so possessed by fear that we do not trust our innermost self as an intimate place, anxiously wandering around hoping to find it where we are not.”  He includes the explanation that as a result, people become strangers to themselves and he quipped, “as if they have an address, but are never home,” and thus are never able to answer the call to love.


After a series of personal crises, I began protecting myself by abandoning my inner space of intimacy, which had been violated, and I moved “to the outdoors” of my life.  I could keep the outside manicured and well-groomed, outdoing my neighbors and getting the proper rewards.  Staying outdoors provided stability and predictability.  My life was lodged in the cognitive where I could use reason and effort to maintain some semblance of control and order.  


Meanwhile, the interior of the house filled with cobwebs, was darkened and visited rarely by myself or those in relationship with me.  Thus, I rarely was in communion with others.  I definitely was well-entrenched into a state of mistrust and fear of my innermost self and not just because I had been wounded there. In the collapse of my own defenses, I had participated in my own injury:  I was not to be trusted with myself.


Being outdoors worked as long as the external world answered to my demands, but I became increasingly aware of the danger if the external world failed me.  I knew I was going to have to re-visit the rich and vast rooms of my own “interior castle.”  It was through the call to unconditional love, having to first give it and later receive it, that I realized I was going to have to re-enter.  


Nouwen’s concept stood out as I realized a language describing my personal recovery, although I would like to challenge some of the language the author used.  “Jesus creates the space to freely move around without fear, transcending feelings, emotions and passions.”  I would rather think of Jesus moving “through” feelings, emotions and passions instead of going “beyond” them.  Going beyond seems to indicate other-worldliness, which would be a favorite pastime of mine:  trying to remove myself from the reality of pain and suffering and risk-taking.  I like to think Jesus can embrace the intimate (and painful) parts of humanity and work and heal in light of them, independent of them, yet present with them.


Oh, to help people find their inner space, the place where Jesus can find them and get a call to them.  There is much to be modeled, said and taught about the impact of the busyness of today, the hurriedness of the day and the restlessness of the night.  The Lord Jesus has created a protective space around those he loves, but we fill it with the activities of daily living and do not use it to join him in that space.  Instead, we fill it with our works, hoping they will represent us in our stead.  Jesus is not interested in being close to our deeds and actions, he is interested in us.


I have been teaching an adult Sunday School class on spiritual disciplines and often we stop and create safe harbor in our learning.  I encourage them to find themselves in God’s word and God’s word in themselves.  Whether we reflect on God’s word, on the presence of God in fresh-baked cookies or explore the deeper meaning of our testimony, they get a taste of that inner space.  I pray it makes them hungry to spend more time there.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Faith

                                                                                     

love
belief →→→ →→→→ Faith→→→→→→→ trust
 loyalty

When belief turns into trust
and love is demonstrated through loyalty,
there Faith exists.

Confession

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you will not despise. Psalm 51:17

broken - shabar - shattered, destroyed, broken down, crippled or wrecked

contrite - dakah - crushed, broken in pieces

As I look for Jesus, I must remember my place. I have a feeling I don't regard sin with the same disdain as the Old Testament writers.  I white-wash it, minimize it.  I don't even own it sometimes.

God, be merciful to me a sinner.  Luke 18:10-14

God is seeking out and looking for those with contrite spirits.  They are the ones who most desire him, who don't have the shield of pride and ego up to protect themselves. Pride and ego have been shattered, reduced to dust and they must be because pride and ego keep me from God, from entering his presence.


God, be merciful to me a sinner.  Luke 18:10-14

I must bow down and cry out for the forgiveness that God wants to lavish on me.  I cannot receive it when my hands are full with defensiveness, excuse-making, fury or even shame.  I must empty myself of  these things so I can receive rightness, protection, healing and hope that can only come from God.  The slate must be cleared.

God, be merciful to me a sinner.  Luke 18:10-14


I desire God's desire.  Whatever confession I need to make to give me opportunity to be in God's company, to receive the grace of forgiveness and subsequent "rightness," I will do it.  I want to be in the tightest spot next to him as possible.  Thank you, Lord, for making a way and showing me how!

God, be merciful to me a sinner.  Luke 18:10-14

Amen.
Make it so!



Monday, November 11, 2019

The Struggle

I struggle.  I am besieged. I make mistakes.  I suffer with being human.

Every person comes into real and existential struggle.  Crisis emerges.  Trauma besieges us.  Being human - dealing with myself and others - is often taxing, in the least, devastating, in the worst.  

God wants to ease our struggle (as our champion) or for us embrace our struggle (necessary as Christ-following humans).   Yet, we often don't know what to do with our struggle because struggle is usually wrapped in shame.  

Shame can keep us from solution, from hope and from God.  In our struggle, when shame takes over, we pretend that the bad parts aren't that bad, or  maybe aren't even real.   Shame causes us to be paralyzed, because we can't see the possibility of hope.  Shame causes us to turn inward and fold out of a need to create a safe space for ourselves, helpless because no one is there to help us and we cannot ask for help because of shame.  

Some of our greatest cultural failures are exacerbated because of this.  When someone is physically assaulted, where does one access trauma recovery?  What is a real path out of poverty?  Who will mentor me out of it?  Where are those great resources for domestic workers, immigrants, women seeking greater pay equity, sex trafficking victims, abuse victims?

Our personal narratives must rise up, the voices must be heard so others can hear the story and be comforted in the fact that they are not alone.  When the struggle is voiced, we an remove shame from the struggle.  When we hear victory stories, we can see that nothing is permanent.  We may need to hear a different ending for victory where people find peace, community and their God in the struggle.

Yes, God offers a solution even when the situation does not improve.  "Go to the God of all comfort.." Paul tells the Corinthians.  Let Him be enough for you.  Let gaining awareness of His presence be the first step.   Give in to the one who knows the way out.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4