Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fire in the Kitchen!

It seemed perfectly reasonable to me. I was 3 years old, watching my mother burn the feathers off the chicken. She had the burner on, flame high, as she ran the chicken wings through the fire on a pair tongs. Then she left the room....

Naturally, I picked up a piece of paper towel and decided to take the fire off the stove. To my surprise, even though I had taken some fire from the stove onto my paper towel, the fire was still on the stove! So I pondered this, then dropped the fire on the floor, until Mom rounded the corner, extinguished the flames, and beat my little butt.

I was reminded of this favorite childhood story (favorite because I was the child, not the horrified mom) as I read:

 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, - Hebrews 1:3

I've always looked at this passage theologically, but today God invited me to see it as so much more. Just as so many of us  puzzle about how Jesus could be God and the Father still be God, I had questioned the ability of fire to come from its source, be separated, but still of the same substance. How can fire be in my hand and on the stove? How can God be here on earth as Jesus and God still be on the Throne in Heaven? (let alone the Holy Spirit!)

My near tragic mishap holds the key: as the 'exact representation of His being' Jesus and the Father have to be of the same substance (i.e. fire). To be the radiance of God's glory, Jesus has to burn with the same brightness, purity, holiness, majesty, fire and beauty as the Godhead He came from, and He does. He is God - the same 'substance' or essence. He is also of the substance of human flesh. That's remarkable.

And -  The Holy Spirit within me is that very flame Who also descended from the Father. The very substance of God lives in ME. (Holy fireballs!) So I really can do all things through Christ who strengthens me because Christ, via the Holy Spirit - who is God- lives in me and I have access to all his power and all his strength and wisdom.

I don't have to have things all wrapped up in a bow. While I don't call everything I don't understand "mystery", I join with the apostle Paul and believers throughout the ages who have understood enough to marvel at the majestic paradox of the omnipresent God, our Father; Jesus Christ, God-with-us; and the Spirit, God-in-us.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sleepless in New York

I  was at a great workshop on stress relief. I was doing well until the presenter got to the part where she told us to "just Rest in God". Now, that's an expression I've heard a thousand times. Heck, I've used it a thousand times. This time around I could stay silent no longer. At least not before God. There are bills to be paid, a drop in income, unexpected circumstances... I said to Him at the top of my "inside my head" voice, "What exactly does this mean??!! Rest? I am an active, take charge person. I fix. I worry. How do I 'rest' in You?!"

Very quietly, in that still, small voice, I heard: "Watch what I do"The immediate response of my heart was ‘I can do that! I can watch You!’

It's like giving a child the spoon to lick while you bake the cake. Is God the best parent or what?
 I can passively rest while actively watching.

Watching, for me, means searching for clues in my everyday life with a spirit of anticipation. Staying attentive to all the subtle ways God may be moving the chess pieces into place. To look without putting my hands in the pot. 

Paul says in Romans 8 'For if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.' (v.25) 

The Israelites, during their exodus from Egypt, were not only chided for their lack of belief; one whole generation died in the wilderness, their bodies attesting to the value God puts on our faith. We are then encouraged by the writer of Hebrews to enter into the Sabbath rest offered only in Christ. Even with the Red Sea to the front and the Egyptian chariots on your back.

...for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from their works just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. - Hebrews 4:10-12 

Teach me how to enter into your rest by trusting you to the degree that resting becomes as effortless as breathing. I love You, Papa God. Amen

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Big Deal About the Cross - Part 2 - I'm Free from Accusation!

"I didn't do it!"  "Not my fault!" "S/he did it". My personal favorite: "An alien came and did it". My now grown children, and now (the last quote) grandchildren were/are incredible inventive when it came to deflecting blame. Blaming aliens, I must admit, really takes a straight face - on my part!

Sadly, I have found myself doing the same thing with God when I am wrong as heck, particularly in attitude or something I said. I've come close to blaming those big-eyed creatures more than once.

Why, when I know I've been forgiven, is my first instinct to run and hide and blame? Why, when I know how cleansing it is to ask forgiveness for the umpteenth time, and "go and sin no more"? How does the cross of Jesus Christ figure in? I asked the Lord this question.

As children we duck blame and even accuse our siblings wrongly because we want to avoid punishment: the consequence of our sin. Some parents were so brutal in their discipline it was a matter of self-preservation to blame someone else. It's hard-wired within us to escape "harm".

The thing about the cross is this: Jesus' brutally administered stripes and bone crushing nails on that hard, splintery cross, separation from God the Father, Himself, were harm enough, taken by Him on my behalf. Every time I come back to the remembrance of that sacrifice of atonement and bring my heart back into right alignment with His, I remind the enemy and remind myself that it's okay. 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us..  - 1 John 1:9

Yes, I did wrong. Yes, I repent and am forgiven and this is between me and my Father. No sibling, no judge, no demon from hell has anything to say about it. No accusations can ever be launched at me and stick. No harm will come to me for confessing. Jesus truly paid it all.

Colossians 1:22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Big Deal About the Cross - Part 1

For almost a week I tossed and turned at night, uncontrollably, audibly sighing “ uggghhh” every few minutes. It kept my husband up. I even sighed in the day time.

I had deeply hurt someone I love by my careless words and the weight of my guilt was doing me in. I couldn't undo it, I couldn't go back in time, yet I twisted my mind into a pretzel trying to figure out if I could. There was no way – no human way - to repair the relationship so I prayed. I prayed for the heart of the one I hurt to be healed and mended, that they would see themselves with the love of God, not with the words of my mouth. I prayed for my own forgiveness from God.

Bearing our Own Sins
There was eventually a day when I realized in my heart  that God had, in fact, forgiven me.

Soon after, as part of teaching a class on Jesus, I recounted my tale explaining why no mere man, but only a God-Man, could bear our sins on the cross. “If I was almost crushed under the weight of my own sin,” I said, “It would take a super-human to bear the sins of the whole world”.

In the film "The Mission" Robert Deniro's character becomes penitent after a religious conversion, wracked with guilt over having overseen the slaughter of indigenous South American people. So in one scene as he, a missionary and indigenous residents of the rain forest climb a steep cliff, his character climbs while dangerously toting a heavy, cumbersome sack of his armor and weapons - his way of carrying his cross and bearing his iniquities. (No one else was so encumbered)  When he reaches the top of the cliff one of the fellow climbers cuts the rope holding the sack. As it cascades down the cliff into the water below, Deniro's character convulses with sobs.

No one is expecting him to bear that weight anymore. He realized he has been forgiven by the very people whose families he massacred. (See video clip below)

Forgiveness. Even with all the sermons, I wonder if any one of us this side of heaven really fully grasps what was done for us when Jesus became sin for us on the cross, paying sin's penalty and why we must now live our lives in the light of it.

More than a pat on the head with the words, "It's Okay",  by choosing to not only make a way for us to be forgiven but by being the way Jesus showed us a mercy and grace that is humanly unfathomable. He chose to be the Lamb that was represented, in the natural, by millions of slaughtered animals and special rituals designed to provide pardon for Jews while pointing towards that more excellent, once-for-all sacrifice. Jesus made a way for us to have peace with the Father, be adopted into His family and have the right to be called a "holy people", clothed in white robes. Who loves like that??

Post Script
By God's grace and my "victim's" graciousness the relationship was restored. I am the happiest person on the planet. Being set free by Jesus - once we grasp the price that was paid - should similarly set our hearts to flight. In our giddiness we should gladly swing open the prison doors of unforgiveness and set the captives free, both our enemies and ourselves.

For He made him who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21

Scene from "The Mission"

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Putting Doubt to Bed

I was at a group during a devotional time last year and the leader read the oft-told bible passage about the disciples in a boat during a storm. Waves crashed about while Jesus slept through it all. But this time, when one part of that story was read, I distinctly felt in my heart that God was talking to me about my own doubts. "Teacher," a disciple cried, "Don't you care that we are going to drown?" I realized that with an impending financial loss, I had been holding that same accusation in my own heart. That stung.

In the passage Jesus, in an instance, calms the wind and the waves. Of course He wasn't worried. With the very same ease Jesus can and will come to my rescue as well. His sleeping on the boat actually signaled that 'all is well' even as it looked like 'anything but' to the rest of us.

Thomas was in that same  boat with all of the rest of the disciples when Jesus calmed the waters. He saw and even participated in the miracles with Him. But when Jesus rose - even seen by his closest buddies, he didn't believe it until he could see Jesus for himself.
Jesus said to Thomas, (Jn 20:27-9) Stop doubting and believe...v29  “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

You and I speak life or death over ourselves by speaking words of faith or doubt. Life and death are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit - Proverbs 18:21 We have the choice to empower hope in our lives or empower our doubts.

Doubt is to fear as hope is to faith.That means taking Him at His Word, without the 'buts'. He promises to provide for my every need, but... He said He would never leave me, but... He says He'll work all things  for good, but...Her testimony about God coming through was great, but...Prayer changes things, but...

When I doubt God, I make Him a liar. I become fearful of the outcomes in my life. That fear leads me to try to be self-sustaining and make things happen. I can surely  'make things happen' and they may even be good things, but not God things. Resting in hope is entirely different and with an entirely different result: I can hope because I have faith in the God on whom my hope depends. 

We put our doubts to bed and rest in the reassurance that we have a God who is quite ready and willing to fulfill the promises He's made to us and bring goodness out of our calamities (Romans 8:28).   It's an act of the will. 
It's speaking the truth out loud. It's testifying to the promises whether or not they have yet manifested. That disembowels doubt.

Oh Lord, help me to believe and remember that even when it seems that Jesus is asleep on the boat, at least He's in the same boat I'm in.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Leaving My Father's House

My father and grandparents' homestead in Limón, Costa Rica
True story. Six years ago I was sitting at my desk at the church I work for when the (then) senior pastor strolled by, stopped, and said to me: "This is the word of the Lord for you: Leave your father's house!" Now, the pastor wasn't given to sudden prophecy like that so I sat up and paid attention. Then I flinched realizing that the photo on my computer desktop was, literally, my father's house (above)! The pastor had no way of knowing that.

Thus began my journey of really meditating on what it means to leave my father's house for my Father's house.

Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:  Forget your people and your father’s house.  
Psalm 45:10

This wedding psalm of David's is one of my favorites. It is actually a prophetic psalm, starting as a love song from a bride to her groom, the King, then morphing by verse 6 into the Bride of Christ's love song to Jesus. Father God joins in by verse 10 as well. It speaks to me on so many levels, but the next line is a treasure:

Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;  honor him, for he is your lord.  v. 11

My experience as a child in my father's house certainly wasn't one of having the man of the house so taken by my beauty. His own brokenness made receiving love like getting a merit badge. You had to earn it and could lose it in an instance.

I had seen myself as long delivered from all of the effects of such conditional love, but God knew my heart better. I asked the Lord and still ask Him what it means to leave home.

To leave and to cleave.  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31,32

There is a progression in both scripture passages of first leaving home and then joining the household of the Beloved. 

If you and I don't make that transition from our earthly homes, we'll always stay out in the foyer of our Heavenly Father's house afraid to step inside. But inside is where the good stuff lies: a closeness, an intimate love and a safety we can know nowhere else. Our identity, our purpose. To "know even as we are known" (1 Corinthians 13:12); leaving our old self image, our old status in exchange for a new one.

Living as
 the daughter or son of another Father. As the bride in a royal house,the House of Yahweh. 

This is how we honor Him; by allowing Him to lavish His love on us. By allowing His captivated heart to change who we are on the inside.

Take a look at a picture of your father's house or your family homestead. Remember the joys. Remember the pain.  Have you truly left it, forsaking all others since you got married to Christ? Has an identity exchange occurred? 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

ZOMBIES!...Coming to a church near you

In talking about revival at today's bible study the topic naturally moved on to spiritual death. I likened it to the perennial "frog in a hot plate" scenario where the water is heated ever so slowly so that by the time the frog realizes it, he's already cooked.  Many Christians at one time or another also experience a slow but barely perceptible decline in their spiritual fervor, awareness of God, hunger and thirst for him until one day when they're beginning to doubt that they ever even believed.

Worst yet are those who are the "walking dead" but don't even know it. Writer Kimberly Jones  likens them to zombies - What a picture of spiritual slumber! They go to church, participate in ministry, even preach, but the fire is long gone.

Jesus tells the church of Sardis, "You have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead!" (Rev. 3:1 )

Remember the parable (Matthew 25) about the 10 virgins (bridesmaids) awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom (Jesus)? All of the virgins fell asleep waiting- it happens to all of us at times. But only those who had been cultivating their relationship with him all along were ready for him when they awakened. They had a reserve of "oil" to draw from. Perhaps those virgins who were unprepared, whose oil ran out, were simply bored from the wait!
"I was so excited about this wedding at first. I got all dressed and ready but it's been so long since I've seen the bridegroom zzzz..."

Many things contribute to this spiritual slumber, from the normal ebb and flow of our spiritual "feelings" to un-confessed sin and compromise. Aside from un-confessed sin, I think one of the greatest causes in the Western church is simply the loss of a even a vision of a full-blooded, take-no-prisoners passion for Christ. We lost the vision that years of living with a burning heart is not only attainable, it's essential.

My most precious seasons with the Lord have been during times of His loving discipline. My increased passion usually follows such seasons. Once, when I was in a long period of doing for God rather than being with God, He let me observe a male pigeon courting a disinterested female. While I studied the blasé female ignoring her suitor God whispered, "That's you!"  Yikes!

So what are some warning signs and how can we snap out of it?

When a person is sick and not eating, they may be force fed, through a feeding tube if necessary, on the hopes that their appetite will return and they will be strengthened and feed themselves. Likewise, when I feel myself fading I force-feed myself on the Word. I journal even my empty feelings. Pray even if it's rote. Put myself in places where there is vibrant worship; hang around people who are hot for God until my own fire returns. And then I gut it out, slogging along in faith that if I "draw near to God, He'll draw near to me" - James 4:8. Finally, I have to ruthlessly root out compromise from my life. The Holy Spirit won't give me peace until I do.

Whatever the cause, spiritual slumber is an EMERGENCY! We have to stop the zombies from not only becoming normal for the church, but replacing the church. Lackluster Christianity is not normal!

So I say "no!" to the creeping death of spiritual complacency and boredom and yes to an "abundant life" - a life overflowing with a conscious awareness of the presence of God; security in His burning desire towards me, and an eagerness to go wherever He goes no matter what.

The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Romans 13:11