Sunday, September 14, 2014

Shine On




Sometimes the most unexpected things end up ministering to me right where I'm at.

For instance, a pizza box.

How, might you ask, could a cardboard box holding a piping hot pizza pie with pineapples, ham, and stringy mozzarella minister to my soul?

It was the words printed on the box:

MAKING THE OLD NEW

A little saying goes a long way. And, truth is truth no matter where you find it.

When we put our trust in Christ, we received the Holy Spirit, a pillar of cloud by day and a fire to guide us by night. 

Speaking to us. 

Reminding us. 

Of Who He is, who we are, and why we're here (Ephesians 1:3-14).

"He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud; they kept His statutes and the decrees He gave them (Psalm 99:7)."

When darkness clouds our vision, He will show us what to do.

 "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrew

 10:23)."

Gideon broke the fire-filled jars and the light shined in the darkness. Victory was won (Judges 6,7).

We can be brave. We can let our God-given holy fire light up the night.

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Phil. 4:13)."

The old, broken me is petrified of doing the hard right things. But...

"I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 5:22)."

For in Christ, we are new people, created to do acts of His goodness. To be light. Shining His ever-bright love in our hearts with our hands, our feet, and our joy (2 Corinthians 5:17).








It's okay to be weak. We have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that this power is from God and not from us (2 Corinthians 4:7). The more cracked and broken, the more His blazing glory shines.

So embrace your brokenness through Christ our Savior and shine on!



Saturday, September 6, 2014

He Knew Me

He knew me. I mean really knew me. Knew everything that I had done or failed to do. Yet, I found myself wrapped in His warm embrace. I closed my eyes and rested, being filled up with His love.
  
He covered my tattered rags with His woolen robe, the color of blood. I breathed in his scent. Fresh and woodsy. And my skin had changed. It was clean. Cleaner than if I’d bathed in a cool mountain spring.

I glanced up, but he was already a distance away. His skin was covered in what used to cover me, this thick oily substance, black as tar.

His stride was determined. He didn’t turn back. A cypress tree blocked my view. And, then he was gone.

I scanned the horizon. But, all I could see were the mountains that surrounded this lonely valley.

Then I spotted him. Climbing up a mountain. At the top stood a lone tree with two branches, one on each side. I rubbed my eyes. No, it wasn’t a tree. And, those weren't branches. It was a cross.

Dark clouds rolled in and covered the valley. Lightening crashed. I jumped a little and pulled the robe on tighter.

He was gone again. Oh, no. He was somehow fastened to the cross. Streams of red flowed down from his outstretched hands.

I heard Him cry out. Then, fall limp. No. Don’t die. I. love. You.

The sky went black.

Thick darkness covered the valley.

I huddled against a nearby rock, trembling and weeping. Exhaustion overtook me.

When I awoke, there was a light. But, not the sun. It came from within the mountain. A circle of light, as from a cave. Or tomb.

A silhouette. His. He was alive. I cried, but not from sorrow. Joy. My Savior. My King. Please come back. Please take me home.

The sun peeked over the horizon. But, He was no longer there. Don’t leave me. I don’t want to be alone.

A voice. Not outside but within. Deep in my heart. “You’ll never be alone again. I will come back. Soon. Remember. You are mine. And, you have work to do.”







Sunday, August 31, 2014

True Calling




When I turned thirty, I remember thinking, this is the age of Christ, when he began His ministry. But, I didn't feel like I was doing anything special for the Kingdom of God.
Only cooking, cleaning, changing stinky diapers, wiping runny noses, getting little sleep, barely getting out of the house. You know, nothing special.




Life went on. Birthdays 31, 32, and 33. I was the age of Christ when He gave His life as a payment for our sins, was resurrected and left this earth. Still, I was nothing special. Still...me. Still, a nobody.

Time to throw a pity party, right? Unless...

Maybe I got it all wrong.

Nothing special. Useless. A nobody. Doesn't sound like my Father's voice.

The flesh, the world, the devil himself, all send messages about who we are, why we're here, and what makes us valued. 

The flesh, that old sinful selfish part of me says in order to be something special, I need to do something great and have lots and lots of friends to be loved or valued.

The world chimes in that I need to achieve a certain status, to attain a certain unattainable lifestyle, to be known on a broad range to be loved or valued.

The devil will do anything to keep me from knowing my true identity. He will try to get me down by convincing me that I'm a useless nobody or puff me up with vanity that I might be consumed with my own perceived greatness. Whatever works.

Whatever keeps me from realizing my true identity and true calling.

Because if I knew, if all of us knew and woke up from our complacency, like Christ, we would flip over the tables of those who profit by our drowsy coasting through life. Our world would be turned upside down.

We must wake up from our slumber. From the false lullaby of the flesh, the world, and the devil, lulling us to sleep, making us miss opportunities to love a broken world.

Cause that's why we're here. To love. Christ commands it. Love God first and our neighbor next. In small ways, ways that nobody else will even notice. But, that doesn't make us nobodies.

The truth is,

We are loved and valued by God because through Christ, our whole life, has been, is being, and will be redeemed.




Apart from the truth, it doesn't matter what we have come to believe about ourselves, or what others have told us is important.

Nothing else matters but what Christ did on the cross and what that means for us and the world.

Christ is the center, the core, the missing page that has been torn out of our history books.

Everything hinges on Him, whether we acknowledge Him or not.

But, when we do, we change.

Our world changes. Turns upside down.

Or, maybe it was upside down to begin with.

In Christ, we are made right. Turned upright. Back to God. Back to the place and the Person where we are most valued and loved.

In light of His love and grace, we can reach out to our significant other, our children, our friends, acquaintances, even enemies. With love. Agape' love. The giving kind of love that pours itself out to the utmost. Because that is what Jesus did for us.

And that is what will change our world.















Friday, August 22, 2014

Peace in the Wait




In the fog of uncertainty, look for His light.

While you wait, seek His face.

Seeking Your face:
In the morning,
Pulling weeds,
Vacuuming,
Wiping counters clean.

Seeking Your face:
Teaching children,
Hugging a friend,
Holding hands
In the late evening.

Seeking Your face:
In Your Word
That sets me free,
In my poems
In my dreams
You are everything
to me.


"I will hear what God the Lord will speak,
For He will speak peace
To His people and to His saints;
But let them not turn back to folly.
Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him,
That glory may dwell in our land."

Psalm 85:8,9


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Paradise Now







"Deer!" I craned my head to catch a glimpse, as we drove the minivan toward the park. The one with the playground near the city dump. You can't see the dump around the bend. But, the Captain has packed up hazardous wastes and left them there, hoping they'd know what to do with it.

But, before the dump. Before all that trash. 
Trees. 
Conservation area, as it's called here.
And, then deer.
Not just a doe.
A fawn.
With slender legs and spotted side.

I spotted them. Then the children were bouncing in their seats. All grins and giggles.

Our world, our crazy, messed up, beautifully broken world is like that. The stark contrast between the innocent eyes of a fawn and the garbage dump.

And as the deer pants...
So the Psalmist says.

The deer thirsts, it's tongue hung loose.
So thirsty.
Longing,
Like us.

We are thirstier than we know.

Thirsty for a world made new.
Yearning
For death to be gone.
And war a faded memory.
Needing 
To know God.
Pleading to be right with Him.
Without Him, we would wither and die.

I lay me down. Struggling with discontent. And a sadness I couldn't put my finger on. Then I remembered. The escape.
 I don't have to feel this way.

Turning my thoughts from the broken things that linger. I gave thanks. (Isaiah 30:15)

Light pierced through the fog.

Heaven came in.

A life of thankfulness brings heaven here right now, in our hearts. 

We notice the good. Shun the evil. We wait and pray. Our hearts are still. Residing in the green.
That God-shaped hole, giving us palpitations
 Is in the shape of a cross.



Letting go of our idols, we let God fill that empty space.
Only He will suffice.

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.
Proverbs 11:28, NIV

Seeking the Lord in thankfulnesss
Letting Him fill us
Is a glimmer of grace
A taste
Of heaven on earth.

Paradise found.

Living in the now and the eternal.



What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.






Sunday, August 3, 2014

Baby Steps: Learning to Walk With Our Savior



A friend in her sixties revealed to me something profound. One time, she was about to go inside a store and caught a glimpse of an older woman in the glass door. Then she realized, "I'm that old woman!"

On the inside, in her inner person, she didn't feel old. She saw herself in her thirties.

Sometimes I wonder how old I am on the inside. In some ways, I feel much older than my years, with all the pain and suffering of life. 

But, there are times when I feel like a little child, not really knowing where I'm going or what I'm doing. Coasting along life. Feeling a little lost. Letting others make decisions for me. Making the same mistakes over and over again. Feeling overwhelmed by the bigness of the world.



I don't want to feel old and exhausted by the blows of life nor stuck making the same foolish mistakes and never growing up.




How does a person grow up and be who they were meant to be?





Trying to do things in my own strength is bound to exhaust. Venturing beyond the boundaries of my present naivety is impossible when I'm overwhelmed. What I need is

{GRACE}

Grace. Grace. And more grace. All the time. In every circumstance. When my eyes are opened to my own unworthiness, my sinfulness, my trusting in anyone or anything other than Christ and His power to save. I am undone.

I have nothing to give to God. It's all Him. All is grace.

And He gives it over and over again.

Each and every time, I receive His grace, I am placing my hand in His and receiving His mercy, His strength. 

I am right where I need to be. Walking with Him. It doesn't matter how old or how young I am, He is with me. Leading me. Guiding me into all truth. Creating in me a pure heart. Making me like Himself.





Walking with God is not a moon walk with giant leaps. It's putting one foot in front of the other, leaning on His dependability. He is with us to the very end of the age, every step of the way. In thoughts, words, and deeds.


"The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but theLord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7 NIV



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Simple Faith



If the gospel is true, then why doesn't everyone believe in Christ? 

To put it simply, 

Predestination. 

It is the destiny of those who are chosen to believe. 

But, those who believe still have a job to do. To seek out the lost and to present the gospel to them.

Most people are visual learners. What we see is what we believe.

But, we can't see Christ. He is in heaven until He returns. Which may be soon.



Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 ESV


How can we believe in Someone we cannot see? And, how can we expect others to believe in Him?



{Agape'}


Which means love in Greek. The kind of love expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:



Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.


Love is invisible until it is expressed, with not just words but in deeds and in truth. The gospel must be lived out in love for people to see it.

That is when the unveiling happens. The revelation. The Divine moment of truth.

Words become reality. The Word becomes visible. Real. 


{Love in the flesh}

So many times, we make Christianity about politics, a cultural standard of morality or living the "American Dream," but it's not about that.

I struggle with this too. The gospel is simple. So simple a child could understand it.

When we stray from it's simplicity, we are going down the wrong path and steering others away from Christ.

The gospel is simple, yet crucial to salvation.

There is One God, One Word, One Faith, One Savior (1 Timothy 2:5).

God loves us and wants us to know Him. He wouldn't make Himself so elusive that we wouldn't know how to find Him.

What makes Jesus

The Christ, our Savior, the Son of the Living God?

No one else claimed to be Divine, did the miracles He did, lived a life of perfect love, and was willing to die for us.

For the bad things we have done.

This simple fact sets Christ apart from all other ways to transcend the earthly to the heavenly. To touch the Divine. The One who holds eternity in His hands came down, as a human, 

A defenseless, helpless baby




To live the perfect life we should have lived and die the death we all deserve to die for our sins (Romans 3:23, 6:23).

Once we place our faith in Christ as the sacrifice for our sins, we are no longer condemned (Rom. 8:1).

Not only that but we are given the righteous standing of Christ Himself. We are marked as a child of God and given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the things to come (Eph. 1:13,14).

It seems so simple. Enough for a little child to understand. But, the thing is, none of us would believe if God didn't reach out and give us faith.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godnot by works, so that no one can boast. 

Ephesians 2:8,9 NIV

We're too proud. Too attached to living life without Him.

Things would change if we made that commitment.

We would have to make choices.

And, some of them would hurt for a time.

But, all of them would be for our good. And for a greater good and purpose.

Believing in Jesus and following Him is simple, yet life changing. If you haven't made that commitment, I urge you to consider Christ and His salvation. 

There is no other like Him. And, for those who have made the commitment, continue to press on, making the hard choices that come with following Him. He has a plan and purpose in everything. 

One day we'll see.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes...

Romans 1:16 NIV