Control, Faith, Holiness, Hope, Humility, Obedience, Perseverance, Pride, Righteousness, Self Righteousness, Submission, Surrender

Finish Well

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the LordHe also has rejected you from being king.”  1 Samuel 15:23

Crossing the finish line after a grueling marathon must incite a feeling of overwhelming relief and accomplishment.  I say “must” because I am not a runner.  However, I can imagine the feeling, having “finished” other things that seemed impossible and required perseverance to endure (like raising teenagers).   Unfortunately, King Saul did not finish well.  In fact, I would say he is one of the most prominent cautionary tales in the Old Testament.  Anointed the first king of Israel, as a young man King Saul was humble in his own sight.  However, as he grew in power he also grew in self-reliance and pride.  Therefore, by the time Samuel admonishes Saul in 1 Samuel 15, he is rebellious, prideful and distant from the Lord.

Personally, finishing well gives me great satisfaction and joy; especially since completing a project or achieving a goal is not my strongest attribute.  So, when it does happen I feel great, especially if God was glorified.  Even greater will the joy be when, at the end of my life, I finish the race, running across the finish line straight into the arms of Abba who says, “Well done!”  Still, the question remains, why didn’t King Saul finish well?  How did this tall, handsome, humble man become a king  with a hard heart?  Most importantly, how did this anointed King fall out of favor with God?  1 Samuel 15:10-11 tells us: “Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, ‘I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.’ And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night.”

Most assuredly, the answer is pride.  Saul had decided in his heart that he was just as capable of making “good” decisions as God.  Little by little Saul recessed into the bowels of self-absorption until he no longer honored God or His prophet, Samuel.  Self-absorption and hard-heartedness are stones that build a path to spiritual calamity.  We are all prone to the idea that we know better.  Romans 9:20a says, “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?”  The word translated “talk back to” is the Greek verb antapokrinomai.  It means “to contradict in reply, to answer by contradiction, reply against” (Strong’s G470).  Which prompts the question; am I talking back to God in any area of my life?  It can be a subtle slide into spiritual fatigue as we log the miles this side of Heaven.  I want to encourage you to finish well, as many have spurred me on in the race of life.  If you don’t already, surround yourself with Christian encouragers who are running with perseverance.  More importantly, be that encourager to someone else, thinking little of yourself as you “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24) so we may all finish well as we break the ribbon between heaven and Earth.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”  Acts 20:24

Obedience, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized, Victory

Do Not, But Be

be-transformed

Romans 12:2

Obedience.  It’s what loving parents teach their children, to be obedient for their own good. In fact, we tell our children what to do and what not to do ALL THE TIME because children, left to their own devices, are foolish.  Likewise, in Romans 12:2 our Heavenly Father gives us two imperatives; Do not, but be.

The first command, “Do not be conformed to this world,” is a powerful statement.  It implies danger and choice.  I remember when, as a toddler, my youngest son, Ryan,  was trying to see what was on top of the stove while I was cooking.  “Don’t touch the stove,” I warned,  “It’s hot.”  But, instead of backing away he plopped his hand on top of the stove and burned himself.  I didn’t tell him he would get hurt but I did tell him not to touch the stove.  Yes, his disobedience led to pain but he never did it again.  Ryan tells us today that he knew right from wrong growing up.  “You were good parents,” he told us.   “I chose to do things I knew were wrong at times because I wanted to do them.”

Isn’t that like all of us?  We are not ignorant of God’s Word, we just want to do what we want to do regardless of the consequences.  So, when God says, “do not be conformed to this world,” what does that mean?  What is it that we are not supposed to do?  Well, I believe the answer is in a previous chapter of Romans.  Romans 1 lays out a blueprint for what not to do as a child of God.  It’s a “how to” manual for rejecting God, the One who loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you.   It says, basically, don’t do whatever you want to do, acting like God doesn’t exist, or if He does He isn’t Holy or loving or even The Righteous Judge.  Don’t be deceived, don’t be sexually immoral, a drunkard, etc. But more importantly, don’t turn your back on God and worship the created (yourself or anything else) rather than the Creator.  In short, don’t try to be satisfied with anything other than Me.

The second imperative in Romans 12:2, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,”  is mysterious until you dig into the statement.  “But be transformed” means  “to change into another form, to transform, to transfigure,” from the Greek word metamorphoō (Strong’s G3339).  Think butterfly.  How are we to change into another form?  By the renewing of our minds!  This is our sanctifying cocoon.  Instead of being someone who is pulled toward the world, wants our own way no matter what the consequences, desires to be fulfilled at the expense of other people, indulgent and disobedient to God,  we can be transformed into an other-centered person who loves God and is compelled by His great love to a life of obedience, denying fleshly desires, and following Him even when we don’t fully understand.

This happens when we allow ourselves to be exposed to God’s promises and choose to believe Him over our impulses and feelings.  Even though, as Christians, we are no longer caterpillars we can choose to stay in the cocoon even after God has given us wings.  Or, we can choose to press in and allow God to do the painful work of sanctification in order that we may burst out by faith, trusting that He has given us new life and the ability to “fly” by His power.  We no longer have to let the world pull us down, keeping us grounded in defeat.   We can live in the reality of our new life in christ.  The story of the Ugly Duckling is a perfect illustration.  In the end the “duck” realizes he is a swan.  He has been a swan.  He belongs to a beautiful family of swans and no longer has to try to be a duck or feel ashamed that he is not accepted by the ducks because he doesn’t belong to the duck family anymore.  He is something new altogether.  So are you if you have received the gift God has given us in Jesus.

 

Why do we still choose to walk around on our little caterpillar legs eating milkweed when we have wings and can drink the nectar of fruits and flowers?   God has given us His Word so we can live in freedom today.  Not in Heaven only but right now.   I can hear God saying, “I love you so much I chose to take all the pain and suffering of disobedience.  I want you to live in reality.  I want you to fly and glorify Me as the sunlight bounces off your wings.”  You are free if you have believed that God exists and Jesus has died for your sins and rose again from the dead, proving He is the Son of God.  If you don’t believe it then you are thinking like the world thinks and God is calling you to renew your mind with His Word.  Sit at His feet.  Meditate on His promises.  Read the Gospels, shedding tears of joy because, “If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed!”  John 8:36

Faith, grace, Hope, Insecurity, Obedience, Rest, Sanctification, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized, Victory

Spike Collar

“Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”  Job 5:17

“Use a spike collar on me Lord!” This was my prayer after reading day nineteen in Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s devotional book, “Altar’d.”  In it she describes Jan as a person who is easily offended, overly sensitive and self focused.  I am Jan.  Not with everyone but with certain people who I fear may hurt me or have hurt me in the past.  I label people as “safe” or “unsafe” and treat them accordingly.  Of course their every word is filtered through these perceptions as well.  Similar to the reaction some dogs have when they encounter another dog and the hair on the back of their neck rises up, I too stand wary of the unknown and protect myself.   For dogs, in order to avoid this conflict they need to be reconditioned.  Their minds have to be renewed. How do you convince a dog that another dog is not a threat?  Some use distracting techniques (treats) that reinforce the “good” behavior, training the dog to focus on their master rather than the other dog.   Some owners use more controversial methods like a spike collar to snap them out of their adversarial mindset that compels to protect themselves.  Metaphorically speaking, I need a spike collar.  (Note: This is not an endorsement of the use of spike collars on dogs.)  But really, I need to be made aware when I am acting instinctively in the flesh instead of being controlled by the Spirit.

Because I am an adult child of an alcoholic (ACA) I learned very young to focus on other’s behavior, body language and words in order to protect myself adequately.  I was programmed to take offense for survival’s sake.  Emotional rejection was so common I also learned to spend a lot of time in isolation.  If I wasn’t watching TV, reading or daydreaming then I was talking to my imaginary friend.  In short, I learned to withdraw from stress very effectively.  My two “safe” places were self protection and isolation.  Carrying these coping mechanisms into adult life and even into my Christian experience was natural to me.  At the time it didn’t dawn on me that this behavior wasn’t a part of the abundant Christian life God promised and desired for me.  Even though I was saved at the age of twenty-eight it was seven years later before I became aware that this way of living wasn’t healthy or productive and certainly wasn’t God’s perfect plan for a believer.

However, two things happened that brought healing.  First, God provided a safe group of women who wanted to grow in the Lord and who truly loved each other.  Here we were able to be emotionally “naked and unashamed,” sharing our deepest fears, confessing sin and loving one another in Christ to a place of healing rest.  For the first time in my life I had a loving family.  Second,  I went there.  Encouraged to take back what the enemy had stolen, I invited God to search my heart.  (Trust me when I say God will answer this prayer directly.)  Both of these things occurred after God brought me into the fold of loving Christian women through a discipleship class called “The Search for Significance.”  In our time together we dove into other books as well like “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend, “Abba’s Child” by Brennan Manning, “Making Peace with Your Past” by Tim Sledge and “Changes that Heal” by Townsend.  While God used all of these books to renew my mind, He did it within a loving, safe, community by the power of His Holy Spirit.  A family who was sensitive to hurts and committed to help me in the healing process, not exploiting weakness, was entirely new to me.  This was the starting point to true emotional healing and spiritual maturity.  Grace and truth in loving community.

Fortunately, we can never get to the end of God.  He always reveals more dross that He wants us to be free of in order to experience Him more deeply.  This is where I found myself when I prayed for a spike collar.  Down deep I like protecting myself.  It feels safer than trusting God.   I want to avoid pain and pretend like the experiences of my past do not control me…but they do.   So, I’ll take the precious treats that keep my eyes focussed on my master, Jesus.  But, I’ll also receive discipline with open arms because this is the only thing that snaps me out of my conditioned response to perceived threats, keeping me from loving others fully and from receiving love.  Yes, how happy is this woman whom God reproves, I will not despise the discipline of the Almighty! And neither should you.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Romans 12:2 NLV

 

Anxiety, Control, Idolatry, Insecurity, Obedience, Pride, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Unbelief, Uncategorized

Chokehold

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'”  Mark 10:21

One Sunday morning in October I saw a young girl with her dad walking toward the Children’s Museum in our small, New England town.  The legs of a stuffed Pooh Bear dangled beneath her right arm, his head peeking over the top of her chokehold.  All three crossed the street together.  The little girl’s left hand was securely tucked into her father’s right as she trotted to keep up with his pace.  My first impression was of the sweet picture this portrayed of our daily walk with Jesus; our secure, surrendered life of following Him.  My second thought concerned the Pooh Bear.   This little girl wasn’t content just holding daddy’s hand as she followed.  She needed Pooh to make her feel secure.

Of course,  I have one or two Pooh Bears under my arm of control for security too.  While I know in my mind that Jesus is enough there is a tendency to cling to other things while trying to follow Jesus.  “Pooh Bears” like savings, good health, ministry and family make me feel safe and secure.  However, anxiety rushes into my heart whenever I fear they may be slipping away.  My grip tightening with every anxious thought, I hold on to what I perceive as essential for my security by its furry little neck.  This happened a couple of weeks ago when we received a large but expected bill.  Emotionally spinning because it was outside my comfort zone of spending, my mind started flipping from asking, “What were we thinking!”  to “Why is this service so expensive!”   My Pooh Bear (savings) was in danger!

This incident was so revealing because I didn’t even know I had a chokehold in this area.  It took a few days of unpacking for God to reveal the content of my heart.  Using the key of confession (I’m sorry Lord that I don’t trust You to take care of me and believe I have to protect myself) and repentance (I choose to believe You over my feelings of insecurity, accepting Your forgiveness and choosing to walk in the truth that You will never leave me or forsake me and You have given me everything for life and Godliness) God opens the door freedom.   When I choose to look up and see that my Father has my hand and will never let me go there is an overwhelming sense of peace and security.  My  Pooh Bears, I realize, are only gifts to enjoy.  Like a carrot in the hand of a child feeding a horse they are meant to be held with an open palm lest my fingers get nipped.  His love enables the open hand.

In addition, although there are times when I am totally surrendered, walking in lock-step with God’s glorious pace, admittedly there are also times when I do insist that Jesus “follow me.”   Instead of holding other things in my grip for security I try to get hold of Jesus ’round the neck and choke out the sound of His voice, refusing to surrender to His life in me.  The result is mental chaos and feelings of isolation.  No longer walking in The Light I grope around in emotional darkness.  Insisting on my way while stumbling across the dangerous terrain of rebellion until He brings me to the end of myself.    Here, again at the altar of confession and repentance,  He restores my soul while I allow Him to wash my feet, getting me ready to follow HIM once again.

So, whether the sin revealed is idolatry or rebellion He is waiting to heal every dark place.  The key is recognizing when you are stuffed with other things or getting ahead of Him.  How can we know?  The answer is in Psalm 139:23-24:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.”

If you ask Him He will search your heart, revealing any unclean thing and, with His righteous right hand holding yours, lead you in the everlasting way. His path is straight.  We can follow Him with confidence, joy and peace, trotting all the way to Heaven with His good gifts held loosely in open hands of praise. \O/

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”  John 8:12

Control, Hope, Humility, Obedience, Pride, Rest, Reverence, Sanctification, Self Righteousness, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized, Victory

From Tantrum to Trust

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  Galatians 5:24

“I want it! I want it! I want it!” echoed through the Target checkout area as a little boy sat screaming in the child seat of a shopping cart, his hands out stretched, tears streaming down his face.  Fascinated by the audacity of the child; I stared, curious to know what he wanted so desperately.  Alas, the moment he’d been waiting for arrived.  The item was placed in his chubby arms as he greedily clasped the large, round toy with his little fingers.  Then I realized, as I watched mom trying to keep her little guy from chucking the toy out of the cart onto the floor, that what he wanted wasn’t the toy at all.  What he wanted was his own way.  What he wanted was to be in charge. What he wanted is what we all want…control.

Now, I don’t have physical temper tantrums (too often) but I do communicate, “I want my way!” all the time.  In her book Altar’d, Jennifer Kennedy Dean writes, “Flesh is proud, possessive, demanding, grabby, angry, envious, wants to own and manage and manipulate and get its way.” [Altar’d, Day 1, Page 16]   Ouch!  My sights can be locked on something as small as a chocolate chip cookie and as big as wanting the Universe to revolve around my every whim.  And, like the toddler, if I get what I want then the target of my desire immediately changes.  Never satisfied, flesh destroys contentment, peace, love and relationship.  So what’s the remedy?  It is to live in denial.

“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'”  Luke 9:23

Deny myself?  How often does that happen?  Honestly, I rarely deny myself; but the choice is alway available.  The “if” in Jesus’ statement in Luke 9:23 implies choice and sacrifice.  To put shoe leather on this statement I’ll share what it would look like for me to personally deny myself and take up my cross daily:
  • If I would come after Jesus I would deny myself large food portions, exercise daily, and surrender to the Spirit’s leading to take care of the body God gave me in order to glorify Him like Jesus did.  
  • If I would come after Jesus, I would deny myself of sleeping in or browsing Facebook and take up my cross of laboring in prayer for family, friends, my church and our nation daily like Jesus did.  
  • If I were to come after Jesus I would deny myself taking offense to something someone said or did.  Instead I would forgive daily, nailing all offenses to the cross like Jesus did for me.
Why is this so difficult?  Because we want to be elevated. Like Adam and Eve we want to be like God.  However, we know that there can only be one master.  Mom needs to be in charge for things to go well for her toddler’s future.  God needs to be in charge for things to go well with your future and mine.  The good news is that God is always in charge and never gives in to our whining!   But, for me to be at peace with God (Not have a rift in our relationship) I need to acquiesce to God’s authority over my life.   Foundational to walking in freedom is the understanding that God is God.  Once that’s established then everything else falls into place.   Whether you struggle with same sex attraction, a critical spirit, smoking or overeating the solution is the same.  Jesus knows best and I will follow Him.  There may be times we don’t like what that means.  There may be times when we are tempted to yell. “I want it!”  But thanks be to God He will never give in.  We have to literally deny Him (instead of ourselves) to get something we want when God says, “No.”  Jesus is not a weak, sleep-deprived mom who just wants us to be quiet.  Jesus is the mighty King, holy and righteous who sovereignly dictates His loving boundaries because He loves us.  He has given us Himself.  We have everything we need for life and Godliness in Christ.  We are the children of the King, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1, and the Bride of Christ, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22.  The way up is to kneel down in a heart posture of humility.
Through this filter, picture the child in the shopping cart, eyes fixed on his momma.  He’s watching her every move.  He knows she loves him and will give him what is best for him.  He knows by experience that she is good, loving and generous.  He also knows that she is just and disciplines him when he needs it.  He is secure and at peace.  Anticipating good things, he smiles when she says, “I bought a gift for you.  When we get home we can play with it together.”  Then, he laughs and claps his hands in joyful expectation and says, “I love you, mommy.”
This is a picture of resting in Jesus and the work He has accomplished for us.   “I want it!” transitions to, “nevertheless, not my will but Your will be done.”  I encourage you to write out your own snapshot of hope as the Lord “is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13   What would your reality look like if you set your eyes like flint on Jesus, believing He is who He says He is?  What would your moments look like if you were living in the reality that you are healed?
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:5
Commitment, Insecurity, Love, Obedience, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized, Victory

Be Intentional

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  

Jeremiah 29:11

Intentional: done in a way that is planned or intended  (merriam-webster.com)

This word has been haunting me for the past several weeks and last night I woke up with the phrase “Be intentional” impressed on my heart.  Since I am an accomplished procrastinator and life floater I know this wasn’t from me.  Prior to its haunting, the word first came to me in May while attending Sean’s college graduation.  I was talking to another mom who shared how she purposed to have a conversation with her son.  In essence, she gave him permission to move on, letting go of the parent-child relationship and freeing him emotionally to leave and cleave.  I said, “You are so intentional in your parenting.”  to which she replied, “I try to be.”

The next morning at breakfast while talking about books, our son, Sean, said , “I like to finish stuff.”  He shared that whatever he starts, even if it’s not extremely enjoyable, he likes to see it to completion.  Between the two conversations I was convicted.  If I were to write a parenting book it could be titled Wing It or Raised by Grace.  (Maybe I will write the second one because it does sum up how my kids were raised!)  The opposite of intentional, my conversations with Sean and Ryan were usually spontaneous and even compulsive.  If you were to ask them (embarrassing) they would probably say I preached or lectured more than listened with intentionality.  And, as far as finishing stuff, let’s just say Sean didn’t get that trait from me.  It dawned on me that God is intentional. He planned everything from the beginning and is very intentional about following it all through to completion!  Thank God that He is not like me or many of us would be sitting on a shelf only half completed!

Unfortunately, not finishing projects is an old pattern in my life.  Usually, I feel like whatever I’m working on isn’t good enough to complete, and there is some merit to knowing when to cut your losses.  However, because I have allowed distraction to steal my minutes, most of the time my inability to complete something has more to do with not being intentional.  In reality, not planning and not being disciplined enough to eliminate distractions and set goals has been a safety net to avoid failure.  However, it also allows for the enemy to steal blessing and steal the joy that comes from doing things well for God’s glory.

For example,  while cleaning out some drawers recently I found photos and a blank photo album intended for Sean’s high school graduation memories.  The 2012 ribbon was still there, neatly rolled up with the extra pages I knew I would need to finish the project.  I had good intentions but I was not intentional.  Things happened, time went on and I put everything away in a drawer (probably because company was coming) and forgot to “finish stuff.”  I missed the blessing of being creative and Sean missed out on the joy of knowing I cared enough to intentionally create something meaningful for him.  And, of course, most importantly, it was a way to reflect God’s intentional love for His child.  I want to relinquish this pattern.  Perhaps it’s time to allow God to change me into something more Christlike; something less chaotic and more…finished.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence.  In love.  He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will…”  Ephesians 1:3-5

Faith, Love, Obedience, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized

Obedience Equals Love

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him and He will help you”  Psalm 37:4-5

These verses were lived out before my eyes this weekend and I really want to grab someone right here in the airport and share God’s faithfulness!  

“The Lord is gracious.” Psalm 145:8 is written above the slider in our prayer/sunroom. Everyday I am reminded of where I was when God found me and how He has shown me grace over these past nineteen years.  In the same way, when our oldest son, Sean, graduated from Wheaton College on Mother’s Day I was overwhelmed with God’s grace once again. 

Now, while contiplating the “what ifs,” I know my reality is so altered from the path I was on before God saved me.  Back then I was headed for divorce, single parenting, possible poverty and definitely depression and hopelessness.  Fortunately, I was attending a local Mother’s of Pre-Schoolers group where I heard the Gospel many times. Then, one rainy night, alone with my babies, I was made new. The Lord graciously gave me what author Jennifer Kennedy Dean calls a Blood transfusion; new life in Jesus Christ!  It was that fast – a blink of an eye and I was forever changed.  The best part was the cleanness I experienced that filled me with unexplainable joy. I was forgiven! 

Yes, it was painful being born again. The Lord brought to mind so many sins, things I had done that hurt others and offended God and my utter helplessness to change because I was dead inside. I was heartbroken and mourned the ugliness of it all. But God did not reveal this to me to condemn me but to forgive me. He literally gave me a New Spirit, life in Christ! Because He lives I live also!

Since then, over the past nineteen years, I have traveled some bumpy roads, made many mistakes and shown weakness and a lack of faith when it came to my children. Yet, God is faithful!  In spite of my weakness He has carried us through to a fruitful end.   

Still, obedience has never come easy for me. (Fortunately, God is constantly changing that too!) But, the love God has for me and the love I have for him manifests itself in obedience. In other words, obedience is the way I express my love for the Lord. The more I understand how deeply He loves me the more I want to obey Him. “The Love of Christ controls me!” 2 Corinthians 5:14.In retrospect, the celebration of our son’s graduation is like an Ebeneazer stone. It is a reminder of how very faithful, sovereign and good God is and how He blesses even clutzy obedience.  I know God’s ways are best even if I do not understand. I know God loves my children WAY more than I do because His motives are always pure.  My prayer is that, knowing who God is, you and I will continue to bend our knees in obedience, surrendering to the One Who loves and knows best, forever and always, Amen!

“For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man (Jesus) the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:19

Obedience, Rest, Submission, Trust, Uncategorized

Crowd Control

“At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place.” Luke 4:42a

After spending a December weekend in New York City I have a new appreciation for the crowds Jesus experienced, being surrounded by multitudes most of the time.   While on the streets of New York there were throngs of people everywhere.  It was exhausting!  Even so, Jesus purposed to move from one crowd to another showing Himself to be “The Holy One of God.” (Luke 4:34)  However, He didn’t have a nice hotel room as a retreat like we did.

In Luke 4:23-29 Jesus is speaking in His hometown of Nazareth when the audience tries to kill Him. He then leaves for Capernaum to teach yet another crowd of people where He frees a man from demon possession. After that, Jesus left the synagogue to rest at Peter’s house but found Peter’s mother-in-law was sick so Jesus took the time to touch her as well.  However, by sunset there was another swarm of needy people at the house.

 Jesus was pressed, busy, sought after and needed but verse 42 starts with, “At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place.”  Oh what a joy to know that Jesus needed His time alone with God and that it is not only okay but necessary for us to make time to rest and pray.  The end of verse 42 tells us that it wasn’t long before the crowds started looking for Jesus again, even trying to keep Him from His mission to “proclaim the Good News to the other towns as well.”

Our LORD and Savior prayed in isolation with His Father and purposed to do God’s will regardless of popular opinion.  However, when I pull away many times I say, “I need to decompress.” So, instead of praying I may watch an old movie or the cooking channel. Then, when the crowds come, I wonder why I’m overwhelmed.  The reason?  My armor is lying on the ground. I ceased to pray in the Spirit and I am weak and vulnerable.  In essence I become spiritually dehydrated and have nothing to offer that will quench the thirst of those seeking Jesus.  Furthermore, I lose track of my purpose. What is God’s will for this day?  How will I know if I refuse to take the time to ask?

In His wisdom the LORD brings crowds into our lives so we may pour out what He pours into our hearts. He also gives us opportunity for quiet times of rest to pray and be refreshed.  This is when we are ministered to by Him, being filled with His Spirit, loved on and equipped.   Intimacy with Jesus is found in this, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Be still, quiet, alone, engaged and relaxed. While staring into the eyes of Jesus Christ we are made new.  You are the bride of Christ and, just like in marriage, in order to maintain intimacy you must spend time alone with your Bridegroom so you know that you know that you know that you are not alone!

River City

Like rushing water the sidewalk still 

MoVeS

For throngs of souls make way.

                                      Foot

                                               upon block

                                                                    upon stone

                                                                                         upon walk,

Rumbling through the waves.  

The River of bodies bobs up and down

Hits rocks and brush of stone.

Rushing here and there and nowhere at all

Yet they are all

ALONE.

Marlene McKenna 12/26/2015

 

Love, Obedience, Trust, Victory

Living in Victory

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Romans 8:35-37 NLT

Living in New England, surrounded by avid sports fans and successful profession teams, it’s easy to live in victory when it comes to our regional identity.  But, I have to confess, most of the time I don’t care who wins or loses a sporting event. (Don’t hate me Patriot’s fans.) However, when one of my sons is playing I really want their team to win.  So, knowing that we are ALL on God’s Son’s team and that the victory is certain, I can also rest in my identity in Christ.  Jesus secured the victory and we now get to join Him by taking our place on the field day by day.  There is no condemnation if you drop the ball or strike out.  In the end, we are all going to celebrate.

Nevertheless, the empirical force unbelief sometimes has on me is crippling.  My fist holds tight to what I’ve experienced in the past when my heart longs to be free from the pain of living in a pool of insecurity.  Negative self talk from the enemy chokes creativity and convinces me not to try. “Why bother?  Nothing will come of it,” he hisses quietly.  “You aren’t that good so why would God use you?” or “You certainly don’t know what you’re doing.”  Then, to cinch paralysis, “You will be rejected, it will be painful and it’s not worth it.”  There it is, the crippling lie that “I’m unloveable” lurking under the feeling of inadequacy.

Having said this, I know, from experience, that my experiences do not define me.  Even still, I expect rejection and defeat because, growing up, that’s what I learned from  human relationships.  Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”  Because of this truth, the best weapon the enemy of our souls is armed with is the ability to convince us that we are not loved by God and He will not use us.  He first thrusts us to the edge of doubt before pushing us over the cliff of unbelief.  If we take the bait then we are taken captive by the enemy, bound by a fortress of lies.  The lies are effective because, in reality, we have blown it, experienced hardship and suffered rejection. The seen reality has told us we are unloved, worthless or unlovable.

But, God tells us clearly in His Word that He loves us so much He died for us.  He also tells us that He will never leave us, has good plans for us, has given us Himself and we have the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit within us to do whatever God calls us to do.  We shrug our saved shoulders and say, “Uh, okay?” This unbelief becomes a nagging injury that can only be healed by God’s truth.  God really will NEVER leave you or forsake you.  He really does, at all times and in all circumstances, whether you are cranky or having a bad hair day, deeply love you inside and out.  You are gifted and have a role to play, not on your merit but because Christ is in you and you were chosen.  If we could all live in the reality of the victory we have in Christ we would have complete freedom to love and be loved!  So, let’s believe in the unseen reality that we will never be cut from the team and play with confidence because our uniforms are red and white, a picture of the victory Christ secured for us all.

Commitment, Covenant, Hope, Humility, Love, Obedience, Submission, Trust, Uncategorized

Laser Focused Bride

“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:22-24

A wedding is a wonderful snapshot of hope. It is a picture of the covenant promise God made to His bride, the church.  This past week we were blessed to witness a covenant being made that mirrored God’s unconditional love and commitment.  Watching a beautiful bride allow herself to be tucked under the wing of her husband to be nourished and cherished by him gave me hope for our future wedding feast with Jesus Himself.  When we were born again we were united to the Bridegroom   We are now set apart for Christ alone, tucked under His mighty wing.

Because of this, we enjoy complete freedom in Christ, which can also be mirrored in marriage.  Emotionally, spiritually and physically, within this covenant, there is opportunity for intimacy.  Furthermore, God calls us to love Him with all our hearts and serve Him wholeheartedly.  This sounds to me very much like being subject to a husband by choice. In other words, we enter into a relationship of submission in marriage trusting our husbands to nourish and cherish us.  We are not to have divided hearts, looking outside of marriage for protection and romance. In the same, way we are not to look outside of Christ’s love for our identity or fulfillment.  (We should not even look to our husbands to fulfill the role only Christ can satisfy.)

The song, “I Only Have Eyes for You,” by The Flamingos, is a lyrical reminder that we are called to be a laser focused bride.  We are only to allow one man to meet our needs.  Therefore, entertaining the offer of another man’s affection is out of the question because we relate to our husband’s on an intimate level as “alive” and any other man as “dead.”  This is a picture of our faith walk with the LORD!

Having an undivided heart means denying others (including ourselves) for the love of One whom God has given us to meet all our needs.  This laser focus keeps us abiding in Christ AND faithful in marriage.  Why?  Because when we join our minds, hearts and wills with Christ,  we then allow the Holy Spirit to proclaim, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” Genesis 2:23a

“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:9