Done

Christ-follower,

 

When eyes examine

Every way you look and act and talk,

And mock the way you live,

And you react in shock–stop.

 

For Jesus peered down

From the tree and saw the teasing eyes,

Yet cried that it was done,

To thaw the freezing ice inside your heart.

 

Look lovingly at jesters as they yell;

It could be done for them as well.

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Unfailing Love

What a vile, repulsive, delusional, unsightly thing sin is. It’s an insufficient, degrading substitute for real joy-giving, life-giving things. This week I felt as if the world were caving in on me and telling me that all I will ever find is sin. One of my closest sisters-in-Christ seems to be rejecting the faith, I accidentally discovered a Christian friend’s hidden sin, and the girls I have been witnessing to have been avoiding me the past few months because they do not want me to discover that they are deep in sin and far from the Lord… I’ve felt as if, at the end of all good things, sin will be sitting there with a mischievous smile, telling me that the joke is on me. In attempts to drowned out the unpleasant sound of this, I have covered myself in fear. Fear that others will fall into deep sins, and fear that I myself will. Does God hear the cries of my heart?  Does He listened to a prayer riddled with the sin of anxiety? And how discouraging it is when I think about how deep my worry sin is. Why can I not trust my Father? Why am I afraid of life? Why?

I am thankful, however, to say that even though I’ve felt so plagued by my thoughts of sin lately, God has also been slowly teaching me new things about Himself. Yesterday I stumbled upon Psalm 33, and felt the comfort of that chapter that came especially as a result of my recent struggles. Verses 4-5 brought rest to my soul as I meditated on it.

For the word of the Lord is right,
and all His work is trustworthy.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the Lord’s unfailing love.

When I feel as if all there is on this earth is sin, I see here that there is something else filling the earth–the unfailing love of the Lord. Unfailing. I fail, but He has saved me and will never fail to hold me fast in His love. People are not always trustworthy, but that is to make God’s trustworthiness shine. People are unrighteous and unjust. This makes His righteousness and justice look so beautiful! I am encouraged to meditate on the character of God when I am overwhelmed with my character, or the character of other people. It’s easy to begin to meditate on the sinful ways of man, but if we do not direct that way of thinking to the Savior, we will be left with a taste of reality, but no hope. But, when crushed under the weight of the sin filling the world, my Savior picks me up by His strong hand and lifts me to the highest mountain. I will stand and not be destroyed, only because of the unfailing love of Jesus.

Pleasing Prayers

You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires. James 4:3

It is vital that we come before the throne of God and desperately ask that He would search our heart and reveal sin to us. The sad thing is that we fail to realize that this type of prayer holds significantly more value than our insistent requests that our lives be comfortable and happy. Desires for comfort or happiness are in no way wrong, but when we begin to allow earthly desires to take a higher seat than our desire for God and His glory in our lives, that is when our desires become evil and destructive. The lusts of our flesh, when left unchecked, only keep growing and doing more damage to ourselves and those closest to us.

How thankful I am that the Lord does not leave His children to their sin! That He, with compassion, points out our sin and gives us the power to turn from it. When we were unsaved, we were blinded to our sin and unable to stop sinning. Now, by Christ’s power alone, we can turn from the sinful desires that were once impossible to turn from, and live a life pleasing to Him and nourishing to our souls.

The type of prayers that please God are prayers that align with His heart and His desires. Having faith in God as we pray does not mean we’re “speaking things we want into existence”, as the prosperity preachers would say, but rather we’re fully believing the promises of God that are given to us through His Word. He is fully able to give us the fruits of the spirit. He will not hesitate to give us more of Himself. He can give us spiritual gifts to use to build up the body of Christ. He is more than able to pour out upon us a peace that passes understanding as we are going through trials. We have been given amazing promises that He often uses our prayers to activate, as all part of His plan.

So, will we waste our prayer time by filling it with all fleshly requests, or will we beg God to grow us and change us?  Will we pray for salvation and/or sanctification for others? Will we ask for more of this world, or more of Him?

To Know His Power

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Power. God’s all-consuming, overwhelming power should take a Christian’s mind captive in a way that strengthens the heart and will. How could God’s servant Job go on in the midst of so much affliction? Did God give him hope of better earthly circumstances? No. Did the Lord lighten his misery? Not at first. Instead, the Lord answers Job by merely showing him the fringes of all His ways. He showed Job His power and all Job could do was cover His mouth in shame and awe. Job needed to know God’s power in order to get the best type of healing there is–an inward healing. When we’re faced with just a hint of God’s power, we can no longer believe we have the ability to do anything apart from Him. The God who crafted the skies and the land. He who formed our inward parts. How could we in any way be self-sufficient when everything comes from Him alone? We didn’t even have a say in our existence. So, why do we think we should be able to control our own lives, creating better circumstances for ourselves at all costs?

I wonder, if God were to show more than the fringes, if Job could handle it? It’s a mercy of God that He conceals most of Himself while we are still in our earthly tents, because until our bodies are glorified, I hardly think we could stand any more than fringes. But how sweet those fringes are!! And when God became a man, He healed some people with His powerful fringes.

Wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured. Mark 6:56

My prayer is just to touch, or see His fringes more… because that type of encounter leaves a heart forever changed.

Our Rescuer

Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift. For it says: ‘When He ascended on high, He took prisoners into captivity; He gave gifts to people. But what does ‘He ascended’ mean except that He descended to the lower parts of the earth?  The One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.” Ephesians 4:7-10

God has designed the church to function as a body; to have unity. We should be like-minded and focused on the same goal of glorifying God. We should share in each other’s victories, joys, weaknesses, pain, and disappointments. When the pinky-toe is stubbed, the whole body hurts. When you get poked in the eye, the whole body is focused on the throbbing pain. But when someone massages that knot out of your back, your whole body rejoices! So the body comprises of each individual part, and each individual part is absolutely vital. However, in our striving to be united, God has also designed us to work together through our diversity. Just as the body cannot consist only of a hand or head or foot, but functions best with each part, so the body of Christ must consist of all different types of spiritually gifted people in order for it to thrive. In the above verses from Ephesians, Paul likens Christ’s efforts to bring us our gifts to a verse in Psalms about God’s victory over the Jebusite city of Jerusalem. This gives us a mental picture of Christ descending to earth and fighting sin and death as a king descends to the lands He must conquer and restore for himself. Once the land is conquered, the remaining people who once belonged to said land, now belong to the king.

God’s elect are the prisoners of Satan that Jesus descended to rescue and bring to His land so we can become citizens of heaven. Once He rescues us and we have a new status, He freely gives us gifts of His own choosing. They’re not a result of works, so no one can boast about the size/measure of their gift. The bigger the gift, the more the receiver must continue to bring the glory and focus back to God. This in no aristocracy, this is a Kingdom that one can only enter by crawling. We must humbly enter, and never think more highly than we ought of ourselves.

What a beautiful picture of God rescuing us from evil and bringing us into a Kingdom so pure and untainted!

 

 

Not a Hollow Treasure

 

He is not a hollow treasure

promising us only pleasure.

He is not a diamond

weighed and measured.

 

He is Home;

and where I passed “alone”

and thrived

at Hebrews 13:5.

 

He is Rare;

when long before I thought

that He was common,

but He’s not.

 

He’s less common than

me hitting the jackpot,

which doesn’t happen a lot

or ever,

but He’s not that kind of treasure.

 

He is free

To those in rags on bended knees,

but for the pharisees and kings–

Jesus costs them everything.

 

 

The Underestimated God

“You know, when a voice whispers in your ear, ‘You ought to always have your heart’s desires.’ You can be assured that that voice always speaks with a hiss from a forked tongue. But when you hear a voice say to you, ‘You see that treasure? The thing that you want more than anything else in the world? You can’t have it, but I’ll give you Me instead.’ You can always be assured where that voice comes from. It’s just like you, Lord.” -Ligon Duncan

Run to God in your disappointments–you may then be able to see how much better He is than that thing you thought was better.

Seated At His Table

When I first read the story of Mephibosheth, I quickly scanned it without much thought at all. I was asked to teach this small chapter in the Bible to a group of children at a Bible club. The week of the Bible club I decided to give the story a little more thought before trying to teach the kids. What profound truths could come out of this, Lord? Some obscure Bible character finds favor with King David… that’s nice. I read it a few more times and thought, okay, it is sweet because even though he’s crippled David is nice to him. I began to have more of an appreciation for the ancient story, but still hadn’t seen the amazing truths it held until one serene summer night in a small chapel on a college campus. One of my friends and I walked in to pray together. Between prayers I told her it had been on my heart to meditate on the story of Mephibosheth as I prepared to teach it. We opened up to 2 Samuel 9 and as I softly read, it almost felt as if a light were illuminating on the pages. I am Mephibosheth! We, Christians, are Mephibosheth!

So here’s the story in a nutshell…

Israel looked around at other nations and saw that they had kings. Their covetous hearts longed for a physical king, so God finally gave them one in the form of Saul. Saul was tall, handsome, strong…but ungodly. He wanted his own glory, and was willing to do whatever it took to get it. Meanwhile, there was a boy named David who would not fit the description of a king due to his weak, small stature and lowly occupation as a shepherd boy…but he loved the Lord. He was not perfect, but the theme of his life was wanting God’s glory rather than his own. The Lord blessed him in all his endeavors. He defeated a giant named Goliath, and all his battles were successful. The women of the city would shout, “Saul has killed thousands, but David ten-thousands!”. Saul was furious and wanted to kill David who was now seen as a threat to his kingdom. Though he hated David, Saul’s son Jonathan loved David. His love for David was intense too–the Bible describes it, “…the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself”. Because Jonathan’s father wanted to kill David, they had to part ways as David went into hiding. But before leaving, David made a covenant with Jonathan to always show kindness to his family.

Fast-forward past many attempts made by Saul to kill David, and you come to the Battle at Gilboa where both Jonathan and King Saul die on the battlefield. When David gets word back he is devistated and rips his clothes and mourns. David then becomes King over Judah and eventually over all of Israel. As he sits on his throne in his high position, given to him by His merciful Father who so richly has blessed him, he has time to think. What will be his next move? Most kings would immediately begin scouting out any threats to their kingdom and eliminate them.  Isn’t that what Saul spent the bulk of his kingship doing? Hunting David down to murder him? Well, this is where the heart of David shines, as he quickly remembers that promise made to his dearest friend.  “Then David said, ‘Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?’” David was showing a heart of trust and integrity. He stayed true to his word, and he trusted the Lord with his life, instead of seeking to keep his position on his own.

And that’s where Mephibosheth comes into the picture. One of Saul’s former servants, Ziba, lets David know that Jonathan had had a son named Mephibosheth who was living in Lo-Debar. Lo-Debar means no pasture. This was a place for outcasts and the poor of society. Why would Jonathan’s son, once heir to the throne, be living there? Because now he would be considered a threat to King David, of course! He was in hiding, and to make it more pitiful, he was crippled. How did he become this way? A few chapters back (ch. 4) we’re told that once Saul and Jonathan died, their nurse picked the boy up and ran to find a place of safety so that he would not be killed.  However, in the haste she fell and dropped him, crippling him at the young age of 5. So that’s what we know about this wordy-named Bible character. He’s just this crippled orphan hiding from King David.

So the day Mephibosheth gets summoned to see the king, his heart must have dropped. It was probably the day he had been dreading most of his life. In his mind, this must have been a death sentence. When he comes before the King, he prostrates himself and shouts, “Here is your servant!”. All he can do is plea for mercy at this point. But David responds, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly”. I cannot imagine this sinking into Mephibosheth’s brain right away. He asks David why he would show regard for a dead dog like himself. He knew his rightful position. You see, Mephibosheth wasn’t only considered lowly because he was lame, but because of the very blood that flowed through his vains. He had the blood of the enemy! Of Saul! But this story shows how the blood of another trumped the blood of the enemy… the blood of David’s beloved friend Jonathan.

Sound familiar? We have the blood of Adam. Because of Adam, we’re all born into sin and rebel against God willingly. It’s our nature to be sinful because we are born under a sinner. But the blood of Jesus trumps the blood of the enemy. 1 Corinthians 15:22 says “For as in Adam all die, so all who are in Christ will be made alive”. As Mephibosheth benefited from the virtue of his father, so we benefit from the virtue of Christ. How wonderful that is! We bring nothing to the table when it comes to our salvation. We’re crippled enemies of God. So how are we saved?  By Christ! By trusting the merit of Jesus. His blood covers our sins. But it would have been enough for God to just not kills us as He rightfully could. Just simply allowing us to live should be enough! But even further, God adopts us and makes us heirs in his kingdom and we sit at his table!! What an amazing thing to meditate on. I’m sure you have read Ephesians 2 and been amazed at all that God has done for us, but have you ever read these verses in light of the old story of Mephibosheth?

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast… 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

The Lamb of Lambs

Helpless. That’s exactly where God wants us. When He showed mercy to Israel, it was only after they had exhausted all of their insufficient resources and had nowhere else to turn. God showed mercy to Jacob after a night of wrestling the angel and finally being broken. God used helpless little David to kill the monstrous Goliath. Sarah did not deliver her first child until long past child bearing stage. He blessed Jacob, though Esau was the strong, skilled brother. How helpless they all must have felt, but how easy it was for God to use them for His purposes. And if those examples do not hit close enough to home, consider that God refers to His people as sheep. David implies his sheephood in a Psalm addressing the Lord as His shepherd who “makes [him] lie down in green pastures” and “leads [him] beside quiet waters”. Jesus teaches that believers are His sheep who hear His voice and follow Him.

Sheep are as helpless and vulnerable as it gets, but can thrive with a decent shepherd looking after them. So, if God is our Shepherd, in our weakness we can have complete confidence in His strength! He is the best Shepherd there is, and even laid His own life down to save us!

One last thing that is really amazing to ponder… When God came in the flesh–Jesus–He became known as the Lamb. He became obedient and submissive to the Father. He took on another form of Himself that will submit to Himself in order to show us what it looks like practically to submit to Him! We learn by example. Like little sheep we follow the Lamb!

“for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” -Revelation 7:17

How thankful I am that I can know the way God wants me to act, and that I desire to act in that way because of the Spirit in me!

The Painful Gateway to Him

One of my co-workers passed away yesterday. I never worked with her directly, or got to know her very well, but I remember saying hi to her in the hallway only a few days prior. So while the loss is not extremely painful simply because there was never a close bond between us, it is a sad and shocking thing. It’s quite a wake up call, actually. She was just with us, jingling her keys in the hall and directing employees during disaster drills. I would sometimes walk behind her and admire her sense of fashion. She walked with professionalism and poise. For a woman in her 50’s, she definitely did not look it. However, when human standards would say that death was far off, it was creeping at her door. I can’t help but think who will be next?

It may be a morbid thought to some, but to me it is a thought I like to keep with me daily. As soon as I forget about death, I begin to waste my life and all usefulness I could be for Kingdom work. It’s a tragedy, really, that people ignore the black hole of life, because ignoring reality will never eliminate it. Ignorance will only leave a person unprepared for the inevitable. However, loving the thought of death is definitely not the answer either. Some people are so fearful of death, that they think the answer is to embrace it in a very obsessive way, and that is morbid. Running from it or embracing it are both very wrong responses to the fact of death. So what is the proper way to perceive our death?

Ray Comfort, in his most recent documentary entitled, “EXIT: The Appeal of Suicide”, compares a Christian’s experience with death being like jumping out of a plane with a parachute. You’re jumping, and it’s scary, but you will land! You will be alright. Those whose sins are covered by Christ’s blood can have confidence that they will be accepted by God when their judgment day comes. And I would even dive further into the metaphor to compare the styles of falling. A nonbeliever forcefully plummets toward the ground, out of control, to their terrifying demise, while the believer is gliding down safely to the earth, able to enjoy the beauty it contains without being destroyed by it. When the Spirit is at work in a person’s life, the person now has direction. They’re safe in the blessings of their obedience to their Father who guides them toward the light. Unbelievers, sadly, live their lives recklessly. Because they do not possess the Spirit, they do not love God’s laws. Instead, they live according to their own passions and lusts. They plummet through life, harming everyone in their path, including themselves.

Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning Than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart.” How many middle-class Americans would agree with that statement today, in our fluffy world of comfort? Logic tells an unregenerate heart that it is much better to block reality out with worldly medications like TV, relationships, shopping, or success–anything the heart desires. Because if you’re preoccupied with your worldly desires, that trumps your desire to think about death, right? But God’s will for the Christian is the opposite. He doesn’t want us to get attached to this world, and ignore death. He wants us to be strangers and aliens in this world, keeping our minds set on the things above. When your heart is set on heaven, your mission here on earth becomes much clearer and more urgent.

When you’re looking to the Lord, your earthly life will  probably begin to be less comfortable, but you will have the peace and stability of possessing Christ, the only possession that will last. I think of Amy Carmichael when she followed the Lord to China, leaving everyone she knew and loved behind.  Years later she wrote, “The night I sailed for China, March 3, 1893, my life, on the human side, was broken, and it never was mended again. But He has been enough.” And that is precisely the Christian life. Whether God rips your loves from you, or you gracefully let go of all idols as you look to Him, it does happen. God is jealous and wants our entire being. As we begin to lose our lives for Him, the irony of the universe is that we gain it. We gain purpose, direction, safety, love, and so much more. And just like Amy lost her life in order to make Christ’s salvation known to a hell-bound world, so should we.

So how should a Christian view death? When our hearts desire Jesus, death is just the painful gateway to closer communion with Him. So with every thought of death, we must long to desire Jesus more. With every thought of death, we must warn our friends and family.