Hold To It

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

It’s not easy staying the course. I think my ideal is life should be smooth sailing, but as a dear one says often, “God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.” The turbulence in life can deter my attention, missing the actual moment God has created especially for me!

I’ve been thinking a great deal about the life of Moses lately. There’s really too many lessons with that man! But in my circumstances, there is much to gain by peeking into the life he lived. Chosen by God, Moses was given the task to lead the people of Israel from captivity (slavery) to the Promised Land (freedom). This being a place he’d never seen and trusted the words of God that what He said was true. Leading a million or more people through the desert had to have been the most challenging thing he had ever faced. This I know, because the Bible speaks of the whining, complaining, arrogant, disobedient, entitled people he was leading. And perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad had they made it there in the 11 or so days it should have taken, but instead, it took 40 years. In fact, Moses himself would never step foot on this land.

I mention Moses because in some ways, I feel like he must have felt. Tired, discouraged and faced with more questions than answers. Yet the lesson I can learn from Moses is much as Christ spoke about to the Jews from the book of John. It’s much easier to veer from the truth and slip into what I feel may be better . . . my way, not God’s way. But Jesus tells us, “hold true to my teaching . . .” Press on, stay the course, keep your chin up, trust, believe and know whom you have believed and am persuaded that He is able.

So, hold to it! Paul said in I Corinthians that it was “by the gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word” for it is in that “which you have taken your stand.”

Lord Jesus, pressing forward in the face of gale-force winds is draining. I feel somewhat discouraged, but I know that my hope is not in the journey. My hope comes from you alone! I am choosing to live in II Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Taking Position

‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  . . . You will not have to fight this battle.  Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’   II Chronicles 20:15, 17

Busyness and a burdened life will drag on your walk with Christ like an anchor in the shallows.  These things remove our focus from our Savior and creates an atmosphere of worry, anxiety and wonder.  We stand in our daily battle, “not against flesh and blood,” and merely survive.  But in our survival we lose sight of the cross in all things.  Oh, no doubt that we acknowledge the presence and purpose of the cross, the presence and purpose of our Savior in fact, but we tend to discount the call to complete surrender.

There was no question from David that the God of Abraham, which is our God, was present and the essence of life to the shepherd boy.  He was, in fact, so much united with God that when faced with a battle against a giant Philistine, he never questioned the outcome.  Worry over victory, anxiety over opposition, wonder of consequences never crossed his mind.  But the confidence in the One whom he served, trusted and obeyed was the capstone of strength that gave him the ability to worship and praise in reverential fear.

Lord Jesus, my days feel busy, burdened and otherwise overwhelming.  I need to pull up anchor and rest more in your peace and trust more in you than I do with my life.  Speak to me in the areas of needed change.  I am taking my position and standing firm to see the deliverance you have for me.  Thank you Lord for never leaving my side — ever!

‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’   John 14:27

From Not For

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:36

Just imagine, living a life where nothing matters.  A life where risk is paramount and failure is subject only to the level of risk.  What if life could be lived without the possibility of effect?  Where the response of others matters not?  Free to be all I want to be and soar the skies of life, moved only by the shifting winds.  Did I say free to be?

This past week I watched the 1998 movie, Rounders, starring Matt Damon who plays a man with a gambling lifestyle of big bets and bigger losses.  In the movie Damon’s character sits around the table with the toughest card shark around with the confidence of high return.  On an apparent strong hand he puts it all on the line, betting every chip of the $30,000 he brought to the table.  In a matter of a second, that confidence turned to fear while he watched his life savings zero out.

Living in true freedom takes risk!  But what truly is the price?  God has called me (us) to live a life free in Christ and yet, I remain shackled to the insecurities of my own understandings.  He says to trust in Him, but to trust in all His ways means a complete abandonment to self and releasing the grip of all I want and receiving all He wants.

What if, I’m living my life not as free as God has intended it to be?  What if, even in my limited knowledge of knowing Christ has set me free I am not nearly as free as I’d thought?  In the midst of crisis, or when things just don’t go the way I had ever hoped or planned, what about that moment gives way to the very essence of Christ in me?  Subjecting myself to the landslide of failures over and over again against the heavy terrain on the steep side of that mountain of healing gives the impression there is far more I must do before I am truly set free.  But God’s freedom does not come after the journey, but instead within the journey as I experience the very presence of Christ in me, through me!  It’s facing the biggest, most dangerous, risky moment of life, where anything and everything I’ve ever dreamed is on the line and placing it all in the arms of Jesus.  It’s not to say that the outcome will be any better and become rosy red, in fact it can all disappear, but God doesn’t want me to climb this mountain alone to find God waiting at the top.  That’s not freedom!  He wants to be in every step, every treacherous slip, every strained ounce of progress . . . that’s freedom to be!

It’s when all seems lost that our vision clouds with uncertainty, but when I am walking in intimate fellowship with Christ in all things — loss becomes gain.   For me, it’s living life from salvation, not for salvation.  It’s living life from His grace, not for grace.  It’s living life from His acceptance, not for my acceptance.  It’s living life from His love, not for love.

Dear Lord Jesus, I so often wrestle with living for others instead of from you.  There is nothing more important to me than living in full obedience to you.  Unshackle the chains of insecurity I have placed around my own mind and renew it with the confidence of Christ in the freedom of life that only comes through you!  I love you, I love you, I love you my Abba . . . Daddy, I love you!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1

Despite The Noise

He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.  Luke 19:3-4

By the time Jesus made it to Jericho, the buzz around the region about this man causing offense wherever he went and claiming to be the Messiah was strong.  With news of him coming to Jericho, the tax collector Zacchaeus was bound and determined to see him.  Scripture tells us there was a large crowd that had formed and I’m pretty confident many were shouting to buy a simple glance.  But Zachhaeus was a bit less likely to be heard, to be seen or able to see Jesus as He entered the city.  So despite the noise and distractions, he climbed a tree and found himself on a front row seat.  And, in the midst of the crowd, Jesus calls his name and has a life-changing conversation with Zachhaeus.

How easy is it to become distracted by the noise of our world?  Phones, messages, demands, schedules, opinions, family, people to name only a few of the many things that keep us from hearing or seeing Jesus daily.  The noise in my life right now is pretty loud — so loud that when I ride around in my car lately, I do so without the radio, so I can think.  Our society bombards us with noise that demands our time and attention.  But settling for the mere chance of Him walking near enough to grab His words speaks loudly enough of what I might think or expect in my own noise.

The beauty of Jesus is He has promised never to abandon, leave or forsake me and that alone brings me comfort.  But with the noise so loud and His whispering words to me, how am I supposed to hear Him?  I am listening, but so many things are crowding the streets of my life.

I’m taking a lesson from Zachhaeus, I’m climbing a tree!  Zach had it right — when things get noisy, noisy shouldn’t win!  His circumstances didn’t give him many benefit and an even smaller chance of being heard or seen.  So, as long as I continue to allow the noise to distract me from what is True — I’ll never hear what He has to say to me.  So, up I go!

Lord Jesus, I want to remain gazed on you at all times!!  There are times when I lose sight of you amidst the crowd and lose the clarity of your voice in the noise of my circumstances.  Clear for me the fog to see you clearly and silence the rambles of gossip and false teachings so my eyes will remain on the beauty of you alone.  It is in you I trust – despite the noise!

Mirage In The Sky

Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle.  They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away.  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.  He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.  Psalm 107:4-7

I wish desperately that life would never involve living in a desert.  But, the more I learn about the soul and the cry of my own heart, I am convinced that all will experience a journey into a desert at some point.  Provision and a satisfied spirit is commonplace in our hurried, busy and often troubled lives.  We ignore the fact that our soul is starving and our heart is thirsting for the Lord who reigns, but we ignore His Lordship and deny the grail of Living Water and find nourishment in the flesh instead.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8

In the desert, God restores and lifts up.  And remember, it was in the desert that Jesus was tempted by Satan.  This was not a preferred place to go for Christ, but He knew it was a place He needed to enter for all mankind.  A dry place where there were no distractions and where even a drop of water would be tempting.  Satan took upon himself the opportunity to present the most rewarding of all temptations and even so, Christ received the grail of Living Water and found nourishment for His soul in the comfort and protection of God the Father.

In the desert, life has new rules.  Most things are not as they appear.  The heat on the horizon feeds our minds the lie of flowing water.  The vast expanse disorients us without assured direction.  And overhead, in the skies is the mirage of death in waiting.  The buzzards circle in a dance of time that concludes at the side of death.  It’s here when loneliness and the begging of our soul cries out to be saved from torment, pain and grief.  But when God has held your hand to the edge of the desert and walked with you through the sands of pure dependence upon Him, the mirage in the sky is no buzzard at all.  Satan would have you think such a lie, would he not?

In the desert, where God’s children go to drink from the oasis of Life, there is an Eagle that soars the skies whose wings stretch far and wide.  These wings are the wings we too, soar upon and gain strength.  So, the shadow that falls upon us in the desert is not the shadow of death, it’s the shadow of the One who gives Life!

Lord Jesus, remind me of the comfort you bring when all seems barren and desolate, when growth seems impossible and you appear far away.  May your wings sustain me!

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

Desert Cure

He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, and fruitful land into a salt waste, because of the wickedness of those who lived there.  He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs; there he brought the hungry to live, and they founded a city where they could settle.    Psalm 107:33-36

I wish I could say that I’ve stepped foot onto an actual desert.  But then again, thinking about standing atop a living dune of sand with nothing but mirages glistening in every direction is not my idea of a pleasant experience.  Life seems to beg for mercy in the desert, crying out to but a dew drop to quench the thirst — to give life.  And yet, it’s beautiful.  Adorned with brilliance and elegance, sculpted upon an ever shifting canvas of sand, the desert is a place of renewal, dependence and discovery.

The desert is a place that whispers no words, but instead churns more questions than answers.  It’s a place that gives no breaks and no hint of relief.  A desert can be personal, God makes certain of that!   It’s hand-made, different for each one of us — and trust me, everyone will encounter a desert at some point.

The desert experience is found throughout the Bible in many of the familiar stories.  Joseph’s desert was him being betrayed and spending years as a slave.  The Israelites wandered throughout the desert for forty years.  David ran from Saul in the desert.  Paul spent his converted life wrestling with sin in his desert.  Lazarus became an example to all of new life that comes from the desert.  And Jesus stepped into the desert for forty days to reenact our own desert journeys by fasting and facing the temptations of Satan.  All of these experiences face the reality of their own desert while holding tight to the hope of God’s Word and promises.

It becomes a place where all that once sustained you is no longer there to satisfy the cravings of the flesh.  It’s a place of spiritual purging that cleanses the soul and dries out the tongue that no longer thirsts for junk.  Instead, it defines the true thirst of our hearts.  The desert becomes the best place for God to wilt away the false selves and bring life to an authentic self.

Lord Jesus, in my desert are many mirages.  My eyes fail me, my senses deceive me to think that what my mind thinks is there is true.  But I know you are the only Truth to trust and it is not found by my senses.  It is found in the faith of knowing who you are in me and I in you!  While I’m in my desert may I encounter the gift of your presence each day.  And in your presence, as I am so thirsty, may I drink from the abundance of your well of living water!  It is in knowing you are with me in the desert I experience your protective love that gives me the strength to continue in this journey.

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.   Psalm 63:1

The Abnormal Norm

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.  Proverbs 14:12

This morning I experienced a strong feeling of sadness.  While driving and thinking on the circumstance I couldn’t help but think also of the immense sadness God the Father must experience as He observes the abnormality of the world.

This place, once created and reserved for pure love, absolute peace, utter joy and full fellowship with the Father has, like silver exposed to the air, tarnished with sin.  Life has been set into motion and decay has become the norm.  Right?  After all, death is imminent.  For me, it’s all I’ve known and because I’ve refused to see the forest for the trees, I’ve accepted abnormal for today’s norm.  The entire gauge of what should be was reset and my heart, over time, drifted so far from the Father I replaced in my mind abnormal for normal.

But God’s intent was never for us to live as dysfunctional children within a dysfunctional world.  His plan all along was pure fellowship with Him in the healthiest of gardens where God walked among the ferns.  And that blasted snake ruined everything!  But just when he thought he got the upper-hand and continued to destroy all that God created, God did something so abnormal no one even noticed!  He came to earth!

God Himself in full perfection-sinless, became abnormal — abnormally abnormal.  And on that tender, sad, yet victorious day, Jesus said it was finished.  Jesus became The abnormal norm.  The consequences of sin continue to play out in the lives of those who choose to follow anything contrary to Christ, but Jesus paid the price and created a new place to dwell, in full fellowship by becoming my life!  And while the world measures abnormal against its standards, God measures my normal by Who lives in and through me!

Lord Jesus, today I’m sad for many reasons, but in the midst of this I am filled with joy that comes from knowing that the lies of the world are not what you use to measure what is normal!  May my life reflect a normal that the world sees as abnormal because the world does not know you like I know you!  Let those who do not understand why I serve you the way I serve you see in me a full measure of you.  I know that Anything + Me = a Mess!  And I know that Everything – You = Nothing . . . which means,  You + Nothing = EVERYTHING!

God saw all that he had made and it was very good.  Genesis 1:31

Bull Crap

–conflicts on the outside, fears within.  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us . . .   II Corinthians 7:5b-6a

In John Eldredge’s book, The Beautiful Outlaw he writes about the cunning nature of Jesus during his ministry on earth.  It is definitely a characteristic I’ve rarely associated with Christ and one, quite honestly, difficult to apply.  My Savior — sly and sneaky?  In some ways it is very much so, but in order to fulfill His purpose it was necessary for Him to do the impossible — hated, hunted and hung.

It was the greatest measure of dramatic irony time has ever witnessed.  God knew the end of this story, yet everyone, including satan himself, never saw it coming.  His cunning nature introduced me to a new aspect of Christ’s person that I had never considered.  An aspect of His humanity mixed with the foreknowledge of God unfolded before me Christ — to whom I can say the darndest things!

I know, there seems to be a leap from learning more of His cunning nature to the ability to express myself to Him.  But, it’s not so much how unbelievably smart Christ was [is] as much as it’s about how much He understands how scary it is to live on this earth.  He knows first-hand about hungry wolves and the sheep they appear to be.

And so, as I pulled into the parking spot, it just rolled off my tongue like He was sitting in the seat next to me.  He was near!  I spoke to Him a little different than I normally do.  I said with a muddled tone, “Bull crap!  That’s bull crap and you know it!  Right?  It’s bull crap right?”  And while serious as a heart attack with Him, I paused for a moment and busted out laughing!  I just said “bull crap” to my Jesus!  And He understood me!

I replayed that moment in my head over and over throughout the day.  I had thoughts of whether it was the right thing to say to Him, should I have said it different, and why would I even ask Him that question.  But then He reminded me that I wasn’t the first person to ever talk with Him like that — the disciple who denied Him and the disciple who betrayed Him said it in much different contexts as well.  The text is not the same, but the meaning certainly is.

Why do I mention these things?  It’s to remind me of the Comforter in Him.  He gets me!  Just like I am!  He knows my circumstances and I can be honest with Him, real with Him, expressive with Him as He comforts me and I take refuge in Him!

Lord Jesus, thank you for allowing me to be me with you!  In those moments of shedding facades and becoming vulnerable, show me the path you’ve paved for me and continue to give me wisdom as I step with you!

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.  For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.  Psalm 4:11-12

Abiding and Doing and Praying, Oh my!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1

It has been throughout my entire life that I have lived and placed myself under the law of Christianity.  Like an anvil on my heart and mind, the law has taught me to be a slave, to answer to it’s judicial ways.  Without realization, I have shaped my view of Christianity into nothing more than religiosity and with that guilt, shame and failure always follows.

But I am not subject to the burden of the law because I have been set free through the life of Christ living in and through me.  And it is in this spot I find myself this morning.  Thinking on how I abide in Him, thinking on what I do to measure up and reflecting on what conversations I have with Him.  Why these things?  Well, it’s me taking a look at me in the mirror, asking and seeing if today I’m in the will of my Father.  It’s me getting snagged up on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and examining my own heart of joy and measure of thanks in all things in continual prayer.

I have become so very proud of my own journey.  Look at me!!  And in it, I have come to establish my own routines of prayer and writing, finding comfort and worth in my own efforts to transform me. (There’s a whole lot of me in this!)  But there is NO amount of me that has the power to transform anything about me!  There is NO level of commitment or consistent routine that will reward me.  The temporary glue to hold my own fruit to the vine will never remain.  But the fruit that grows from the vine of Christ that lives in and through me will nourish the soul forever!  This comes when I abide in Him!

I remember one season when I planted in my garden sweet potatoes for the first time.  Not really knowing what I was doing and only with an idea of how it was done I planted the small potato eyes and walked away.  That harvest season I had more sweet potatoes than I knew what to do with — a true abundance!  This is exactly how Christ wants us to abide in Him always!  And when I do, the abundance of fruit from the heart will be more than enough.  It’s a way of leaning, a way of communicating, a way of letting.  For Christ who lives in me is my life!

Lord Jesus, I never want to get caught up in the religiosity of serving you!  My relationship is not a set of laws, but covered in an abundance of grace, through your unconditional love for me and rests in your hands.  My schedule is not your will unless it is your schedule for me.  May I journey abiding in you, in all things, always!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Galatians 5:22-23

Allow or Try

When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.   Colossians 3:4

My whole life I have tried hard to be something I am not.  I wished it weren’t so, but the amount of energy I have spent in my futile attempts to live at being the best Christian I could possibly be has fallen just short of exhausting.  It has robbed me of experiencing the life God has intended and exchanged it for dependence upon false fulfillment and a crisis of identity.  My heart rejoices in knowing this treasure of realization has been discovered, but is coupled by sadness as with it has been a lifetime of destruction.

Lord knows I have tried and in my efforts only found the worthless jewel of failure.  But why?  Kudos to me for getting back upon the horse each time, but why am I so apt to fall off so many times over?  Are my efforts in vain?  Am I not good enough?  Am I just that horrible of a Christian?  Even Paul cries out about himself, “What a wretched man I am!” (Romans 7:24)

But I am reminded of the life I NOW live!  A life not of worthlessness, but instead — victory!  Not because of anything I can do, but because of everything He has done.  It is not me trying to measure up to certain standards or conditions in order to demonstrate the life I ought to live, but instead finding the correct Who in which to use as a reference point to measuring up.  See, my reference point is no longer me trying to live a certain way and hiding failure from those I love, instead it is allowing Christ who is MY life live out who He is through me so that I may be a glory-carrier!

I cannot live the Christian life, only one person can do that and that is Christ!  So as long as I continue striving to live up to a standard of doing what the Bible says, doing all the right things, treating everyone a certain way, being to everyone what they think I should be, then of course, I’m going to fail.  Because I have to learn how to allow Christ, as my life, to radiate through me!  I have to learn more about what it means to allow Christ to live His life through me.  When I do — my actions no longer reflect a neediness, my attitude no longer drips with pity, my relationships reflect Christ’s love and my life springs with uncontainable glory!

Lord Jesus, I devote myself to allowing your life to live through me!  It says in your word (Romans 6) that through sin the parts of my body are offered as instruments of wickedness, but when I offer myself to you, I offer the parts of my body as instruments of righteousness.  This, I know, is how I live ‘Christ is my life!’  Today, and everyday, I offer the parts of my body as your instruments.  May I pause at the door frame of sin and allow you to live through me!

For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.   Romans 6:14