Archive for the ‘March 2011’ Category

I love Paul’s words to the church in Corinth in 2 Cor. 6:11-13; 7:2-4.

He is so affectionate with the Corinthians. He speaks freely to them. He opens wide his heart to them. Yet they have withheld their affection from him, so he asks them as he would ask his own children to open wide their hearts to him. Make room in your hearts for me, he pleads. He insists that he does not speak condemnation on them, just like Jesus came not to condemn but to bless. He assures them, as we can be assured about Christ, they have such a place in his heart that he would live and die with them.

Paul’s heart for his local churches continually reminds me of Christ’s heart for his universal church. It’s a beautiful reflection.

Do we hear the Father speaking to us as His own children, Make room in your heart for Me. He is so affectionate with us. Have we been enjoying His heart for us? It is open. Have we been withholding our heart from Him? From others? Make room in your heart. Jesus comes to bless, not to condemn. Why hide? Let Him inside.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20).

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Trust Without Reason

You know those issues in life that for some reason are a bigger deal than we know they should be to us? We are walking along the path of life when suddenly along the way what looked like an ant hill becomes more like a steep hill to climb, or even a mountain that stops us in our tracks and we must supernaturally climb it or go around it.

All the while we think… I should have passed this by now…

I was praying over those certain issues today and I rejoiced in the Holy Spirit when I remembered the words Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen Me, yet believe and love Me.” Similarly, I believe we are blessed when we do not see reasons, yet we trust Him. How many situations remain unexplained in our lives? How often do we simply not see Jesus in a dilemma? Even after it is over? Yet we believe He is working in all things, and maybe we are not yet victorious and beyond the obstacle, but our faith is pleasing to Him.

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At Home in Him

‘May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality].’
(Ephesians 3:16 – Amplified Bible)

I was reading different versions of this great passage (Eph. 3:16-19) and I was struck once I read ‘personality’. I don’t want to be filled by the Spirit in a shallow way, but down to my innermost being and overflowing with His presence from my personality. When people are around me, I truly want to be like Christ in every way, including temperament and personality. I want Him to define me at every point, so that I am like His twin sister. So that when people are around me, they leave having been around Him. I deeply ache to consider that.

You might have the same desire, yet think like me.. that will take a LOT… well then may He grant us mighty power to be indwelled by, identified in, filled deep with His Spirit out of the rich treasury of His glory! Christ in me, the hope of glory. The deeper my need, the more of Himself He can pour into me. The more I am empty, the better it is for me because I make the most room for Him to fill and indwell. Jesus, make Your home in me. Be at home in me so I can be at home in You.

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Dancing in the Rain

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…
It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”
Vivian Greene

I am literally wet as I write because I was just outside running in the rain. I’m sure the mailman thought I was crazy, but I think you’d be crazy not to enjoy it at least every once in a while!

Jesus demonstrated the most beautiful dance of all while in the rain. Every step he took in the midst of the storm was in humility, submission, and grace. While others hide under umbrellas and cover up to stay warm and dry and comfortable, he is drenched but dancing outside.

We are so afraid of rain. Of change. Of looking crazy for adopting a whole new perspective that leads us to challenge what others accept and love what others reject and speak when others are silent and see where others are blinded and dance in the rain while others complain. But we are to be brave in the midst of defeat. To rejoice instead of despair even when there is no apparent victory. To hope against all hope.

We are not to conform to the culture of this world, but to the culture of the Kingdom, which is here in part and being built in our hearts. Christ is the center of our culture, and He assures us that ‘In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33). So even when the sky is black and we want to throw up our white flag, we remember that the victory has been won and even if these rains turn to floods we will not be overcome.

‘Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow… in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds‘ writes Paul (James 1:2; 2 Cor. 7:4). Every storm is a chance to learn another step of the dance. Jesus is the choreographer of our character, and he will teach us to move like he does, faithfully through defeat and gracefully into victory.

We may not understand a step in itself, but every step means perseverance and strength. And as soon as we’ve learned to put one foot in front of the other as we cling to Jesus and follow his lead, it will be a dance more beautiful than we could have ever dreamed. Looking back, we will not even ask why. The glory of the dance he has planned will be worth the pain and plain for all to see. (And no longer will we seem crazy!)

Anyone can dance on a sunny day, but only Jesus dances in the rain. Will we let him teach us to do the same?

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No Other Name

Naturally, our own name and renown are the desire of our hearts. We give endless time, energy, and thought to our reputation among men. We protect and promote it with our lives. We build our lives on making our name great through school, work, relationships, possessions, and even church. And of course those are not bad things in themselves… only when they are used with primarily self-centered motives. The right way to engage every part of our lives is to exalt the name and renown of Jesus, which will inevitably, to different degrees, risk our own. Whether or not we risk our name and renown for His is a good indicator of whose we truly seek.

I will be the first to admit that I fail daily to demonstrate ‘He must become greater; I must become less’ (John 3:30). But God is not failing to continually humble me and demonstrate His power and grace in my weakness.

Truly, at the end of the day, I need Jesus to be exalted above me and at the center of who I am because my temporal and eternal life depends on Him and not myself. He is the Rock, while I am a castle in the sand. I could go to sleep tonight as great as Mother Teresa, but if it is my last day, I will stand before God in filthy rags unless Jesus gives me His robes.

And what will I say as I stand before God Almighty? “Look how great I am?” Or will I show Him my resume? Or my healthy family? Or my active church? Or my many possessions and talents? I would be ashamed and on my face! I can’t even live up to my own standards.. how will I live up to His? To identify myself with Jesus Christ, the Father’s beloved Son, is the only hope I have for favor. To claim His name for my own is my saving grace.

Imagine that within 100 years all the people we’ve known and loved will stand before God. Does it matter what they have to say about us? All that will matter is what they thought about Jesus. All that will matter to them is what we said to them (word and deed) about Jesus.

It is humbling yet good to remember that every single person we know and love needs to esteem the name and renown of Jesus infinitely more than to esteem ours. We are only as valuable to people’s eternal souls as we communicate Jesus to be. For ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’
(Acts 4:12)

‘Yes, LORD… your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.’
Isaiah 26:8

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Lift My Eyes Higher

When you think into your future on earth, doesn’t it seem to go on forever? Like when you’re on a road trip and you’re in the car for so long you slip into feeling like the journey is the destination.

Today I was thinking about my future and all of the mountains that seem to be ahead. I needed to submit it all to God for peace and then I was struck with the fact that I could meet Jesus tomorrow.

Who says I’ll have 60 more years? Who says I’ll actually be climbing those mountains? I could go home in an instant, or He could come back like a thief in the night and take us away. I could see Jesus tomorrow! Maybe that shouldn’t be as comforting as it is… but it’s all I want to dream about right now.

I’m glad earth is not my home and I’m just passing through. Life is hard, but God is good. And I just need every part of my life to center around Him because that’s the closest to heaven I will be while I’m here.

Lord, please give me eyes into the future You’re preparing for me and not what I naturally see. The mountains ahead seem to stretch on forever, but they are only a stairway into Your Kingdom. Lift my eyes higher today, and please don’t let my vision of heaven fade.

‘Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.’
(2 Corinthians 2:14)

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Mercy in Defeat

I think as long as our fallen natures are in tact we will battle with areas of defeat. It’s not that we can’t overcome in Christ, but that it may take some time. And in the mean time, I have been learning to seek out mercy in the midst of defeat.

We tend to think that the only kind of mercy to seek in defeat is to overcome. But it is encouraging to know that this is a limited perspective. The Apostle Paul, one of the greatest saints, wrote that ‘in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh’ (2 Cor. 12:7). He prayed for deliverance, but God’s answer was to allow the weakness in order to best manifest His power and grace.

Before the Lord gives us complete victory, could we seek the mercy of humility in the midst of defeat? Or the mercy of perseverance? Or the mercy of fellowshipping with Christ in suffering? Or the mercy of deeper trust and greater faith? Or the mercy of God’s power and grace manifested in our lives?

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Beautiful Heart

I love Paul’s heart for the church. Do we ever speak so tenderly, passionately, and with such vulnerability to our Christian brothers and sisters?

‘For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.’ (2 Cor. 2:4)

I believe his heart is so beautiful because it mirrors Christ’s heart for us. Any distress, anguish, or tears Christ experienced was in order to communicate the dept of His love for us.

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The Crown He Found

I remember it like this. I spent hours and hours preparing a gift – a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I represented myself with each color and kind. I pondered and prayed how to offer it just right. I waited until they would bloom just in time. Finally it became a sufficient expression of me. In giving it, I knew I’d be offering myself. I wrapped it up in a package and dressed my best. I anticipated the response to my offer so much that I was trembling by the time I reached the door.

I was greeted with a smile and welcomed inside. The long-awaited moment arrived for me to offer my bouquet, and my heart began to race. I was trying to hide the expectation on my face. I came undone as the package was unwrapped. My heart was unlocked at the open box. But the look on their faces said something was wrong. We looked inside and I was shocked. Ashes and thorns were all we saw.

I left a mess. My gift rejected, and me along with it. Box still in hand but I might as well have tossed it to the wind. Yet I didn’t. I clung to it because although it was ash, it was all I had. All I was. It just wasn’t enough.

I had come beautifully wrapped, yet left in rags. “And all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6) took on meaning in a moment. My knees dug into the earth until I was reminded of another verse. “That beauty should be given unto them instead of ashes” (Is. 61:3) and it became my battle cry as surely as I was fighting for life.

I lifted my eyes, raised my box of ashes and thorns, and poured it out upon the feet of the Anointed One. For a moment as I offered my box I had wished He was blind. Something in me died as He reached inside. What else could He possibly find? And tell me, how does majesty befriend a mess? How does a wreck fellowship with holiness?

Grace is the only way we relate. So I poured out all I had as if I were proudly casting my crown. Grace gave me faith to believe, and that’s all He did see! Yes, it was a crown He found – more beautiful than I had dreamed! And then He dressed me in new robes for free! I had come ashamed, but now I stood amazed – no ashes or rags or thorns remained! Oh, how quickly my prayers of despair turned to songs of praise!

I looked up to ask Him where He found such a crown (surely it wasn’t mine!) but my words fell to the ground, for He heard my thoughts and took me back to the time when thorns were pressed into His brow. Surely they had been mine. And my rags – He was wearing them as He died. How sad yet sweet the look on His face. How terrible yet wonderful that great exchange. How could I ever be the same?

In a flash we were back. If ever I could question whether I had a mere vision, the scars on His hands and feet would answer me. Though this crown I have come to cherish, I will not cling to a thing aside from my King. Apart from the treasure He is, I have no good gift. Truly, all I am belongs to Him. So I take my crown and lay it down before His throne, thrilled to give my most beautiful possession and to know it will not come to ruin. Oh, that beauty I can offer Him instead of ash – what hope I have to give my gift at last!

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Compassion & Comfort

Despite how restless our souls can feel, God is the Father of compassion and comfort (2 Cor. 1:3). Verse 4 says He comforts us in our troubles – not in some, not in most, but He comforts us in all of our troubles. There is none too small.

Even if our trouble is something God could judge us for, He has not come to us to condemn us, but to save us through Christ (John 3:17). He comes to bring us grace – undeserved favor. And peace, even stillness in the storm.

Whatever our trouble, He offers comfort. ‘For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows’ (v. 5).

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