Monday, September 20, 2010

Unconditional Embrace

This morning I was flipping through my Bible trying to find a place to land. Sometimes I'll do this because it's a fun game to play with God...often the random page I land on is the very voice and whisper I need to hear Him speak. Today is no exception. This is where the pages flipped to:

All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God's purposes for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.                          ~Luke 7:29-30
All the people, even the tax collectors, had a stirring in their heart that Jesus, this new movement and out-of-the-box revolutionary, was the right way. They acknowledged that He was from God. However, this wasn't just a head acknowledgment. Their hearts were stirred beyond head agreement into heart action. Their love for God was activated and proven through the testimony of baptism. On the flip side, the Pharisees rejected God's purposes for themselves...how? By refusing to move their head knowledge into heart action. They produced no external fruit and testament of their faith in God. They rejected the baptism of John. What did this baptism represent? A move of God outside of their understanding and paradigm. This baptism represented the need as humans to surrender to the sovereign wisdom of God, and to humbly admit that we don't know everything about how He operates.

The phrase that smacked me between the eyes was, "the Pharisees rejected God's purposes for themselves." Talk about a fear of God moment! I'm one of those weird people who have a broken heart towards the Pharisees. I so badly want the Bible to be re-written, kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where in the end, the Pharisees' eyes are open to the truth and they run into the arms of Christ. I can't handle it that they missed it. It kills me, probably because I recognize in my own heart how easy it is to miss God's voice by being caught up in what seems normal and right. They rejected God's purposes for themselves. They missed it. They couldn't handle the new things of God and were so caught up in patting themselves on the back that they were not positioned to know truth when they saw it. They couldn't receive that God's goodness and holiness could possibly come in ways they did not understand or did not initiate in their own strength and righteousness.

How easy is it for us, for me, to accept God's goodness in the obvious? It's easy to accept that He is good when everything is going as planned, in the land that is plentiful. I can sing the glories of His goodness in these moments without waver. But, when things don't go the way I've foreseen, when disappointment sets in, when God moves in ways that I cannot comprehend...the fight to believe He is good takes the strength of every fiber of my being to believe. I believe this is where true faith begins. When God operates outside of my expectations, I need to call that good, too. He's not only good when good things happen. He never changes. His goodness is in the wilderness, the unknown. His goodness is around us in every aspect of our lives. I can't surrender my heart to God only in the times when things go my way...this isn't surrender. The Pharisees missed Jesus because they refused to surrender their right to understand and in so doing they rejected the purposes of God for their lives.  Bill Johnson said something in a recent sermon that has been stuck in my head:

"If you want the peace that passes understanding to guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, you have to lay down your right to understand."
I want to have a heart of unconditional embrace...I want to believe in God's goodness in both the land that is plentiful and the road marked with suffering. He is good all the time, and all the time He is good.

Friday, September 17, 2010

PSALM 119:4-8...STARE DOWN!

You have commanded Your precepts
to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping Your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all Your commandments.
I will praise You with an upright heart,
when I learn Your righteous rules.
I will keep Your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me!

I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the extent of what living a righteous life demands. I can't go a day without messing it up. Sometimes, I can't go more than a few minutes without messing it up! Lord, help me! Oh wait...He does! Look at the weight of Psalm 119:4 and how that burden is lifted in 119:5. The weight comes with the command to keep (obey) God's law DILIGENTLY. "Diligent" means to be contstant in effort to accomplish something. Diligent is a heavy, weighty word. The release from this weight is verse 5...we pray to the ONE who is able to help us keep our hearts steadfast. The weight is in the expectation of obedience to every jot and tittle of the God's Word. The release is that He is the mighty One who helps us succeed. This morning, while reading these verses, I became so thankful that I have a relationship with the Holy God. He is able to bear the weight of keeping ALL of His own commandments. Why? Because He is the Word incarnate. He is the walking, living embodiment of everything He commands us to do.

Look at the next verse...119:6..."then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all Your commandments." The first thing that comes to mind in reading this verse is Hebrews 12:2, where the writer tells us to FIX OUR EYES on Jesus, the author and PERFECTOR of our faith. Jesus is the Word (John 1:1). The way that we remain diligent, steadfast and absent of shame is to keep our eyes fixed on the Word, Jesus Christ. Everything He is is the embodiment and the answer for how we are to live. If you want to be released FROM the weight of the impossibility of living up to all of His commands TO the light and easy burden of actually being equipped to live them, then stare down Jesus! Watch Him in the Gospels. Watch Him in Matthew 5-7. Watch Him in creation. Watch Him in response to other people. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Get to the know Him intimately and watch how your heart will be released to be just like Him. We're not alone. Time for a stare down!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

PSALM 119:1-3...how to do the Happy Dance!

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in His ways!

The word "blessed" in Hebrew means "happy". There is such a striving around us to find happiness. We look for happiness in many things...relationships, money, possessions, gadgets, etc. Oh! And shoes! The world offers us so many options for immediate happiness, but all of what the world offers is temporal happiness. God is the only One equipped to offer us eternal bliss...and His offer isn't future but very now, very present.

Happy are those whose way is blameless. Happy are those who walk in the law of the Lord. King David wrote in Psalm 24, "Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place?" David is asking how do you find yourself in the Presence of God? How do you get there? David is hungry for Presence. David answers his question by saying, "He who has clean hands and a pure heart."

God isn't interested in a Pharisaical people only focused on the do's and dont's of His word. He's interested in a relationship with His Bride who desires to please Him. God has kindly given us the Bible, which reveals the things that make Him happy. In a true love relationship, each partner lives to do things to please their significant other. This often involves much sacrifice and other-mindedness rather than self-focus and self-fulfillment. The reward for this is a marriage or partnership that has joy, safety, trust and health. God, in His word, has given us the recipe for how we can live the self-less life and to live the life that pleases our Significant Other.

Today I am asking God to search my heart and show me the disobedient places in my life. What is He asking of me that I am still struggling to do? This is the first step towards an increase of bliss in my life!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

PSALM 119

This morning I was reading in Psalm 119 and was overwhelmed by the greatness of this chapter. I think I will be spending time in this chapter for a while and have decided to blog the things that I think or that I feel God reveals through meditating on it. Stay tuned! Here are some verses that really stood out to me today...


Confirm to Your servant Your promise, that You may be feared.

Remember Your word to Your servant, in which You have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your promise gives me life.

I entreat Your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to Your promise.

Those who fear You shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in Your word.

My eyes long for Your promise; I ask, "When will You comfort me?"

Uphold me according to Your promise that I may live, and let me know be put to shame in my hope!

My eyes lon gfor Your salvation and for the fulfillment of Your righteous promise.

Your promise is well tried, and Your servant loves it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

As in a Dry and Weary Land...

My week has been filled with unexpected ministry moments. I'm learning from Pastor John's example of how important it is to be interuptable. I have much to learn. God has brought across my path this week opportunities to bring truth to people with addictions and dependence on other things. Their situations are desperate, their families being highly affected and hurt by their dependency. I love these people and my heart aches for them to be free...but more than that, my heart aches for them to know the One who can free them. As I've been in conversation with these people, I've been, to the best I know how, pouring out God's truth to them. He is the only way, the only life, the only truth. He desires us to come to Him completely dependent and aware of lack of strength to do anything for ourselves. He desires relationship with Him, where we willingly yield our way of life to take up His. These things are true to the uttermost and I believe them...but to others who haven't been awakened to His steadfast love, these truths are just words. Without an encounter with the living God, these truths are just another set of advice from just one more person.

As I've been interceding for these people this week, I've been asking myself, "How are you doing in the area of dependence? If someone were to pinpoint the independent places in your heart, how would your words of truth sound to you?" Regarding my areas of weakness, I could easily have a response that says, "Easy for you to say, but you don't deal with my struggle day in and day out like I do." I'm in the same boat. Without an encounter with the living God, truth presented can be simply words.

Today I am meeting with one of these people again. I play out conversations in my head and I had a plan to ask them, "What are you doing to put yourself in a situation to win? How desperate are you to let go of unhealthy, comfortable patterns and to allow God to come in and transform you? Are you willing to go through the work it takes at any cost?" I'm thinking about these questions and asking them of myself now. I'm struggling in areas of money and relationships. I depend so heavily on these things. I haven't yet fully placed my dependedence on God in these places and it's weighing on me. My heart wants to do this. My mind is programed on a different course with what's familiar. But whether it be dependence on money, relationships, or alcohol or food...whatever the other trust-souce may be...dependence is nothing more than idolatry. Dependence on anything other than God is telling Him He's not able in that area of my life and I need a golden calf to make myself feel secure. I need to touch or see something physical in this weakness, rather than a God I can't touch or see.

This morning I am thinking about Psalm 63. David is running around in the wilderness of Judah. From day to day, Saul is pursuing to destroy his life and all he has to hang on is a promise that he will not die, but will rule all of Israel. His heart condition is matching his physical wilderness surroundings. He is desperate. He needs help. And this man who was able to kill the bear, the lion and giant has a choice - "I'm strong enough in my own power to kill this murderous king who's wreaking havoc in my life OR I can place my dependence on the One I love and can't see." David's choice?

Psalm 63:1            "O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water."

Psalm 63:8            "My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me."

I often think I'm so much stronger than I am. I think that I can handle it and that I don't need to bother God with this issue or that issue...I got this one. But I'm learning that part of God's character is that He desires to help us. He has all the answers and will lavish them upon us. My part, though, is to humble myself to dependence. To admit to my heart, my mind, my fears, my independent spirit that I can do nothing outside of Him...but with God ALL things are possible.

Holy Spirit, I am needy and weak. I cannot do anything without You. Please come today and break my independent heart that lives to do things my way and in my strength. Help me to accept Your way and to joyfully yield my will to You. Help me to remain Your child and to look to You as Father. Give me an obedient heart.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Road to Emmaus...

This past week at Redeemer we studied the story of the couple walking along Emmaus Road. For me, this story brought new revelation and hope to trust God to finish what He started, even when present circumstances seem bleak, chaotic or confusing. I'm so thankful for the way God encourages my heart and strengthens me to keep running the race He's set before me. 

Today while reading, I found some thoughts on this story by Winnie Banov that I think are interesting. I've included them below:

In Luke 24 we find two people on the road to Emmaus just days after Jesus had been crucified and buried. As they were walking, the resurrected Jesus showed up and said, "What is going on, guys? You look really sad." 

They were so disillusioned and confused. "Haven't you heard? You must be a stranger!" they replied. 

Jesus kept His poker face and said, "Tell Me what happened; fill Me in."

"We thought that Jesus was going to get us all out of the mess we were in." When they were finished telling their sad story, He began speaking and opened up the Word to them. They liked what they were hearing and asked Him to stay awhile longer. He agreed, and they sat down to eat together. All of a sudden, their scaly eyes were opened. Jesus revealed Himself and they now saw that it was the Resurrected One who was speaking with them all along. What a marvelous reunion! Then in the blink of an eye, Jesus disappeared. 

The "vanishing act" bothered me for quite some time. I asked, "Lord, why didn't You stay with them for a while and hang out? You labored with them all of that time. You were there, and they finally 'got it,' but then You disappeared. You didn't even hang out for dessert." 

Finally He helped me connect the dots. They were kept from recognizing Jesus on purpose - Jesus was teaching them a new form of communication. On their way back to Jerusalem, they were talking to each other and saying, "Were not our hearts burning within us? Were not our hearts burning when He was speaking to us?" He was teaching them to recognize the burning of the Word in their hearts, and His burning passion in their spirits. Since Jesus was no longer going to walk around with them in His earthly body, they had to start learning this new communication system right away. 

Pay attention to those burning passions and desires, for you have no idea the places that they will take you to. As you follow their lead, you will find yourself doing exactly what God has called you to do.

More Gratitude...

TODAY I AM THANKFUL BECAUSE...

*my life-story isn't finished yet and God has good things in store for me.

*God longs to partner with me and I've been able to ride along with Him the past few days to watch Him work in the lives of hurting people. 

*fall is almost here! Bring out the apple cider!

*I am not alone. 

*God woke me up this morning. His breath is in my lungs. 

*I'm alive and healthy.

*I have an eye appointment today and I get to order new glasses...accessory time!

*I get to spend 4-5 hours of uninterrupted time with my Jesus this afternoon. 

*of Isaiah 55:10-13.