God is talking to me about LOVE this morning.  Yesterday Job was placed on my heart – and not the story that I’ve heard and know but a specific task in thinking over the story of Job… “Look at the process”…

When God asked Satan “Have you considered Job?”  Satan responded by complaining to God about his lack of ability to touch Job.  Satan said to God, “”Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.”  Then Satan said something major here.  He told God “if you reach out YOUR HAND and touch everything he has, then he will curse you.”  Satan didn’t say, “If you let ME at him.”…. He said “If YOUR HAND comes against Him.”  In response… “The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD…. and we know what happened next… Literally everything Job had was taken from him and destroyed – his riches, his servants, his family and even his health.  But there’s something BIG in this text.  Satan has NO power against anything on his own.  He complained to God that he can’t touch what God has protected, but even bigger is that satan reveals here that ONLY GOD can make the decision of what he chooses to protect and what he chooses to strike down.  How did God accomplish this?  He gave the authority (the OK) to Satan to go after Job’s stuff.  I’ve heard many preachers say things like “God is not in control” or “God didn’t want that to happen”…  Like there’s a war going on between God and Satan and Satan happened to get one over on God when a terrible thing occurs to someone or in someone’s life.  And this text just really exposes the truth behind our Almighty God and the endless sovereignty that HE and only HE holds over all of creation.

So why did God allow Job to go through all this?  Why would a loving God reach out HIS HAND and allow Satan the authority to destroy his life?  I really thought about the process a lot yesterday of Job’s story and what I saw was something amazing in that when Job got to a place of rock bottom, he cursed himself – he cursed his existence – he cursed the day that he was born.  It may not be perceived as “cursing God” but in a sense he was cursing God’s authority and decision to make him – to bring him into existence.  I’ve been there.  asking, “why did you even make me if my purpose is to suffer?”  It’s a painful text and a very deep, emotional text as Job questions what he is, why he’s here and confesses hatred towards his own being.  When that happened, we see God come against Job.  I don’t know the full meaning of what that must have looked like – I mean, Job had already lost everything that mattered to him.  However, in this text, God is really putting Job in his place.  But something peculiar happens after this… Job says that he had heard the Lord, but NOW HE SEES and he repented to the Lord.  Prior to anything changing for Job, his friends who had betrayed him came to him and Job prayed for them.  It’s amazing really, in his pain and hopelessness – in this horrible situation Job was living in – he delivers a heartfelt request to the Lord, not for himself but for his friends.  And the text says , “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.

Unselfishness….  taking our eyes off of ourselves even in the midst of horrible times… there’s something to this.

Unselfishness was also shown in the story of Lazarus and the rich man.  When the rich man was taken to hell, he begged Abraham to give him a drink and to save him for the fiery torture he was in.  After he was told that he can’t cross over from that place, he begged for Lazarus (one sent from the dead) to go warn his family and his five brothers.  But Abraham said, “if they wont listen to moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

And someone did… Jesus Christ.

Lazarus was a poor beggar..  Job was brought from riches and happiness to pain and emptiness.  What is God’s love?

Hebrews 12: 6-7…. 

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Either God isn’t real or he’s not good”.
An atheist told me awhile back that when his mother died, so did his belief in God. This was someone brought up in a church and I’ve thought much about this tying it to some of my own struggles in the past. What makes us feel deceived?.. betrayed?  LIES DO.
When promises are broken and someone doesn’t deliver what they say they will or they don’t show up when we expect them to be there for us, we feel betrayed.  We stop believing in them. And in digging into this question further as it relates to God, I remember feeling that way so many times – particularly throughout my teenage years which were very difficult. And I did all things I was taught to. I prayed nightly. I was mindful of the commandments that I’m not supposed to break and in result I found out that if Jesus is real, he doesn’t love me.. he doesn’t hear me. he doesn’t answer my prayers and he even gives me dirty looks when I stroll into a strange church alone because I didn’t have anyone to go with me and I’m not dressed the right way or I’m wearing too much make-up or my hair is too blonde or I’m to fat or too skinny or my blue jeans didn’t measure up to the dress code.
I felt like there was this “blessed life club” that I didn’t belong to. And in that rejection comes a cynical desire to make sense of it all… and call it “fake”.. Ironically, that’s exactly what it is. 
Today I can say that God is not fake, our RELIGIONS is fake. God himself said the only pure religion is to “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” I know there are some that walk like this – compassionate and truly led with a heart of God’s love (not man’s silly counterfeit idea of love), towards these living here are that incomplete, lonely, burdened, hurting, getting their teeth kicked in by this world.  But this certainly isn’t the walk taught by our society and this sunday thing we do called church in this country is a far cry from the demonstration given by God of what HE CALLS “pure religion”. 

And God never lied to us! People lied to us.

Honestly it hurts my heart that I thought this way and so many others do too – like the atheist that expected God to heal his mom and then concluded that he’s no good or not real because things didn’t work out the way we were taught to believe it should work out.  Because prayers aren’t answered according to our wants and our desires and our will, we conclude that God is a liar yet his word NEVER said our will should be done at any time, under any circumstance. “Well yeah, but God says he will give us the desires of our heart.”  No, Psalms 37:4 actually says this….  “Delight yourself IN THE LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Which means that if HE IS the desire of my heart, he will give me my desire, which is HIMSELF.  If HE is what I delight in, if HE is what I want, what I seek, what I long for, the object of my love and the GIFT that my soul longs for – my portion as David said, HE WILL GIVE ME THAT DESIRE.  He will fulfill me completely, wanting nothing more, throwing my crowns at his feet because they don’t matter, nothing matters, but HIM.  He’s the POINT.  He’s the missing piece of the puzzle that satisfies the hole that was created in our hearts that only he can fill.  And….  He is a jealous God, not wanting to share our hearts with anything or anyone, Jesus said LOVE GOD with ALL ****ALLLLLLLLLLL** of our heart, mind and soul.  He is the first and the last, the completion of all that is called desire if we are indeed walking in the spirit and not in the flesh.  He never lied to us.  He has reserved something for us that is better than anything we could ever ask for.  But people turn him into a vending machine.  Ask God to give you a new car.  Ask God to give you a big house and a beautiful family and a great job and ask him that all of your loved ones will be healthy and stay that way.  We can ask him and we should ask him because we aren’t supposed to be walking through this journey alone, carrying the hurt of this broken world on our feeble shoulders.  But newsflash, no flesh lives forever – we are born to die in this sand called our bodies, and if we’re in Christ that is supposed to be the best day of our lives – Paul said to live is Christ to die is GAIN.  We aren’t supposed to set our hearts on the things of this world to satisfy us.  I mean really, why would Jesus be led by the spirit to be tempted of the devil and faced with this scenario… “Look at this world… I will give you all this if you bow down to me.”  and Jesus said no.  Yet, our prize is to receive of the very things that Satan offered to Jesus and Jesus said no?  That stuff is meaningless, but God would want us to desire it?  My goodness, people are liars.  All of us… our carnal minds are enmity with God because we don’t know him and we don’t know him because we don’t chase after him and make him the one, prominent, above all desire of our hearts, to know him.  And that’s so hard…. every minute of everyday that’s so hard.
Father please unravel this web of lies that we’ve been taught Lord, that we’ve taught ourselves out of the ignorance and foolishness of our carnal minds.  Teach us our your ways and show us your mercy as we struggle and claw and fight to understand the things that are declared by you to be a mystery to mankind.  Silence the noise and be our eyes and ears – fill us with the seed of your son Christ and the Holy Spirit to comfort us and guide us and convict us as we walk through this haze and struggle to find our way back to you, where we belong, from which we were made for… we were made for you.
You are good God.  We are the ones that are lost and confused and filled with things we can’t combat by our own might.  Please help us and have mercy on us Father.

That’s the point of the test.  At least that’s what Satan said about it – word for word.  In the story about Job Satan basically said to God, “The only reason that guy loves you is because you’ve given him everything he wants.”  Then Satan said, “If you raise your hand and strike down his stuff, he will curse you.”  By stuff, we’re talking Job losing his entire family, all his riches, his friends and finally his own health.  I don’t know anyone who’s had THAT bad…  Would God allow such a test?  Yes he did allow it.  And the purpose defined in this exchange was to see if Job would curse him… if everything in his life was destroyed and he felt abandoned and full of the worst heartbreak and exterior pain that’s imaginable all in one… would he curse God?  Would he say, “I don’t even believe in you anymore!”  Would he say, “You can’t be real because you let all this happen to me.”

Man….  I have failed this in the past and I thank God for giving me another shot at this test.

In everything I go through, I pick up baggage. Good and bad. In my highest places I pick up self-confidence and in my lowest I pick up scars. Just two examples of the endless little souvenirs that find a home in my mind and in my heart. My mom pointed out today something I’d never really thought about. She said, “You were absolutely fearless when you were young. When did that change?” It’s a loaded question and even though I wrote about my encounter with “fear” in my book, and I’m very aware that still today I battle with that ugly little spirit, I’d never thought about the turning point of when it entered my life. It’s just one of the many that have been brought to light – pride was quite the shocker… ick.. anyway, when they brought the woman to Jesus to condemn her for her sin, he said nothing, (ignored them) while he wrote in the sand. Can you imagine if everything we’d ever done, ever thought and ever went through was written in the sand? Rather than etched inside of our painful memories or shoved deep into the dark crevices of our hearts.. if our stories were written in the sand they’d be washed away by the crashing of a wave against the shore or blotted out and covered up by a gust of wind. forgotten… gone.. like they never even happened. James said our lives are like a vapor.. vapor doesn’t even have form it just kind of hovers for a minute and then vanishes into nothing. It makes me wonder why I would even want to have a story at all.. if it’s nothing. Why even strive to live if we’re born dead – death is the only destination these bodies have that is absolute. If this sounds cryptic, perhaps it is… like the hard to digest words of Jesus who said “die to yourself daily.” What does that even mean? When I think deeply about what really imprisons me, it’s myself. My desires, my shortcomings, my fears and worries.. They can completely consume the mind and weight the heart. I’ve lost count of the many times I’ve said to myself, “I’m so tired of feeling like I’m carrying the world on my shoulders.”… and why does life at times feel so heavy? if it’s nothing more than a vapor…. I surely don’t do a good job of casting away my own burdens. And regrettably, when I allow life to wear me down it certainly doesn’t make it easy for me to love others the way I should. I wonder if that woman felt like this before she was faced with the one who writes in the sand. As everyone around laid such heavy burdens on her and even called for her death. And even in that extreme heaviness of fear, I imagine there was guilt too… regrets.. heartbreak that led to regrets.. boasting as she drank from dry wells in the pursuit of love and so much more that writes the stories that make our hearts sick. But he didn’t condemn her. He loved her. He set her free. Free from her past.. free from her fear… free from her enemies and accusers… free from HERSELF.

This world teaches us the importance of our stories – to make a name for ourselves.  I drank that koolaid for a long time and it never got me anywhere but miserable, lonely and stressed out.  When all is said and done, His story is the only one that will remain.  Why would I want to be anything but saved by Him? …  Seeking the one who writes in the sand tonight <3

What if the “least of these are all one”?  Because isn’t that what the Lord says?  That the least of these are HIS and not only belonging to Him, but in representation OF HIM.  He says what we do to the least of these we do unto Him – as they are ONE with Him and he is ONE with them – all pieces of His body – all members and important parts of HIM.  But who are they?

It’s easy to look at my husband and see “the least of these”… a man that wears his brokenness on the outside.  Jesus said these have unmet needs.  They are hungry or poor or sick.  They are in prison, they are in need of clothing.  He instructs us to visit the sick – saying that when we visit them, we are actually visiting HIM.  But partiality to persons makes it difficult to see the “oneness” of these.  I can spend everyday on the assignment I have been given – taking care of my husband, who I love.  He needs me and I am content in being his one that will do whatever I can to be there for him and to care for him and love him.  But how can I impart such love into one member of the least of these, yet disregard the others who might be placed in my path.

Its so easy to say to ourselves, “I’m already doing enough.”  We pick and choose who to love and who to care for.  And we pick and choose when to turn a cheek in the other direction.  In a sense of ONE BODY – we will nourish the hand but deny the foot.  Can I see the wholeness of the Lord in all who represent the task He has laid before us?  Can I not show partiality – even if the member stands against what I love, or even in the member is complete stranger to what I consider by my own definition of “in need.”  The Lord describes a mystery in the book of Revelation, revealing that things are not what they seem.  He says that those who THINK they are rich and their bellies are full and they are clothed and have everything they need are in reality poor, naked and hungry.

As I pray for my husband to be healed and to be spiritually made whole in the Lord’s perfect will, I pray for my own discernment to not have enmity with those who on the outside seem to have it all, but on the inside are in great need.  I pray for the Lord to show me the least of these – not by what’s obvious and easy to see with my eyes, but in the hidden things.  We’re all broken.  We’re all taught to hide that, but all hidden things will be revealed and even those of us who don’t realize what we lack, there will come a day when we do.  All of us will be refined and all of us will be tried.  Help me to show Love to the ones you place in my path – the ones that I don’t feel sorry for… the ones that are lost and don’t yet know it… And never allow me to see myself as immune to these evils that creep into our hearts in the name of pride.  Not one of us is good.  Whether we have been pressed to say “yes Lord” already – on our way into the journey of delivery, or whether that day will come tomorrow, your word says the FIRST WILL ME MADE LAST and the LAST WILL BE MADE FIRST.  Teach me to be a servant of you and to trust your perfect will, surrendering always to the mind of Christ and remembering his words as his heart cried out “Father please forgive them”… Give me the heart to love all and to want what you want Lord.

A woman that found me on facebook after reading my book posted last night about her husband attending church for the first time, and standing on his feet for the first time since his stroke that occurred several months back.  She shared her excitement repeatedly – attaching photos and video clips with heart-filled words of excitement and joy for this milestone of a day she experienced with her husband and grandkids.  You can almost feel her joy as you read through and attempt to experience this day with her.  What kind of joy is this?  To have your world turned upside down for months without end…. to have your husband living in a hospital instead of lying in the bed next to you each night…  to wake up each day, still caught in a nightmare of turmoil searching for hope and a return to normalcy that may never come.

Hope has a voice that speaks to the inner most secret places within our beings that only can be found in seasons where hope seems absent.  I’ve seen and felt and witnessed this hope with undescribable heightened senses of a story-line that exists beyond the physical realm in which I live in – with an absolute awareness that something bigger and greater than what my eyes can see is filling my conscious with emotions and desires that don’t make sense to the human mind.  It’s like watching the scene of a horrific train-wreck as the remnants of disaster still smell of burning metals, as the workers on the scene throw away the shattered pieces of irreparable destruction.  And underneath the ashes – sifting through twisted iron, a jewel of great value is discovered – that wouldn’t have been found, had the vessel not been crashed, broken and destroyed into thousands of pieces.

My beautiful daughter Kenna and new red hair color

I remember one night in particular that carries with it complete opposite ends of the pendulum between joy and pain – I would both love to experience that night again and at the same time I’d do anything to not experience that night again.  I was alone at the hospital in Josh’s icu room and his complications after the second brain surgery, with brain swelling, a brain bleed, a clot that could bust loose at any moment and a new infection causing his body temperature to spike sky high were all working against his unfavorable odds of surviving through the night.  I remember the anxiety was so strong, I didn’t even leave my feet to sit down that night.  I stood at his bedside, swaying back and forth in deep prayer, crying out with all my heart as my body was shaking, pleading with God to remove all of the attacks that were clearly winning in the battle for Josh’s life.  It was a moment of searching – God do you see what’s happening?  God do you care?  God are you there at all?  God are you going to let him die?  Don’t you know what will happen to my kids if he does?  God don’t you have compassion on us?  My son Josh sent a video to my phone around 10pm.  It was a clip of his sister, Kenna singing a song in front of the teens at the church she attended back then.  That song she chose had nothing to do with the battle we were in – it didn’t talk about hurting, healing or anything that my thoughts were focused on.  Yet ironically, this song she chose to sing from her heart was “the point” to how I was feeling too, (somewhere deep inside of me that was crying out from a desire that I didn’t even know existed).  And as I watched that video, I cried tears of joy from a place deprived deep inside of my soul… revealing a yearning for something that was far more precious than anything I’d ever seen or touched or felt before.  It’s like the deep crevices of my heart had been shown the missing puzzle piece that had the power to make it complete.

In a place of loss, the beauty of this world becomes pale and lifeless.  The object of life itself becomes cloudy and senseless, without purpose or meaning.  If we’re all here to climb some sort of self-appointed journey to success and happiness, why would we die at the end of that journey?  I mean really, we have no idea what the next minute or month or ten years may bring our way.  We don’t know if we’ll be homeless or bankrupt or disabled or sick or if we’ll hit the lottery and spend the next decade touring the world on a luxurious yacht.  But we all know one thing – every human being that enters this world has an ultimate destination of death – the result of all our days will end in leaving this place, as a coffin houses the corpse we once occupied.  No human being escapes death in this body.  And what is death?  Specific forms of nature has this beautiful way of demonstrating a process of death and rebirth.  The butterfly that’s formed from a caterpillar… a creature that’s clinging to death as it digests itself out of starvation and lays in a lifeless cocoon before being re-birthed into a beautiful new being with wings to fly.  The baby that’s delivered out a woman who’s laboring in the worst pain she’ll ever know..  NEW LIFE comes out of pain and sacrifice, and we know this to be true on the outside of natural occurrences but what is this joy that Paul speaks of, under circumstances that can’t possibly be defined as the human definition of joy and what is it that James speaks of when he talks about “rejoicing” in the midst of our suffering… The concept of such is impossible as “suffering” and “joy” are physical and mental places of opposition.  Or are they?

The lyrics to the song Kenna sang that night say, “I’m wide awake.  Drawing close… Stirred by Grace”…  In the greek language one of the many definitions of “JOY” also means “GRACE”.  And the Lord tells us that HIS GRACE is sufficient for us because HIS strength is made perfect in our weakness.  Again, two words that seem so far apart in our definition of these places of emotional circumstance.  Weakness is never something we associate with JOY or grace (as these two are one in the greek interpretation), yet the Lord says HIS GRACE is at work when we are in weakness….  HIS JOY (not ours) is sufficient, as it displays his strength, (but only when we are weak).

There’s a place where two worlds collide – the physical and eternal.  But this diamond in the rough moment of awakening can only be discovered when our physical senses are stretched to the limit of destruction and loss… of hopelessness in the temporal things of this life, that births a new hope in something that we can’t see or even describe.  And that internal discovery (a blessed hope revealed) – a veil removed from our internal eyes as the song says “I’m wade awake stirred by grace”, is an experience so beautiful and meaningful, that it can’t begin to compare to our hopes that we cling to inside of this temporary world.  In those moments, we can see the destruction of all things – the fleeting mortality of our human bodies and even the temporary state of this world that’s decaying with everyday that passes.  Our eyes are open to see LIFE that exists somewhere beyond the 12 to 18 hours that we spend each day touring this little place called earth.

I rejoice in this sweet lady’s day with her husband – believing that their journey through suffering and great pain is revealing this eternal and internal blessed hope.  I rejoice in my own journey of destruction and pain… As I celebrate things like finding the strength to drive my husband to our other house to take a shower yesterday… The ability to shower (one of the many things we take for granted when our bodies are still working).  My point of view on pretty much everything has changed so much.  I don’t know if Josh will be here tomorrow.  I don’t know if I’ll be here or my kids will be here.  This life is fleeting and it’s temporary (like a vapor that is here and gone so quickly), but I believe there’s a rebirth that comes from this place of suffering – this womb where we’re all temporarily growing and changing – awaiting our delivery.  I know this cocoon that makes me feel claustrophobic on most days, like we’re imprisoned in a season of much stress and restraint, will crack open soon… and when this vessel breaks open, I believe that we will be new creatures, birthed and resurrected by the seed of Jesus Christ – our forerunner that showed us what true suffering looks like, demonstrated unselfish love and self-sacrifice and proved that when a man lays down this temporary life for others and picks up a cross to follow the Lord down that narrow path to eternity, the will of the Father is completed by the resurrection of new life…..  a butterfly is re-born with new wings.. a baby is pulled from the water and takes its first breath.

I can say without a doubt that I would not choose this suffering.  In fact on most days, I cry for people I don’t even know, asking “why is this necessary?”  Why do children have to be born with horrible disease?  Why are people torturing one another for the sake of power and greed?  Why is love often spoken to end in heartbreak and betrayal?   Why are we so judgemental hurting others with every movement of our tongues?  Why are parents burying their children and children burying their parents? 

But the thought that I consistently end up at – the one point that I humbly remind myself daily of is this…  I don’t know the outcome.  My understanding of things is not the Lord’s understanding of things.  I know without a doubt if I were a caterpillar I would not want to starve and digest myself and die a slow death imprisoned in a cocoon – I wouldn’t choose that.  But if I knew that on the other side of my pain and suffering, I’d end up breaking forth in a better life with wings like an eagle…  Well, then I’d consider that it’s worth it… that all my horrible days weren’t even comparable to the glory that would be revealed to me after I was reborn as a new creature.  The God that said, “All things work for the good of those who are called according to his purpose” knows something I don’t.  And I believe this place of two worlds colliding – Joy found in Pain – is just a little glimpse of the process that many of us are in today.  He gives and takes away…  And perhaps when he takes away the things we “thought” we desired… we are one step closer to discovering what our hearts truly desire..  HIM.

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

I was watching a discussion yesterday and I felt a great amount of care and love towards two individuals who were participating in the controversial talk – as atheists.  But the elephant in the room – the labels that we wear and the ideas that are attached to them… they are so sad.  It’s like we’re placed in these groups with the utterance of a single word.  We’ve been trained to define another’s heart by the representation of a world that seeks to define everything, while misrepresenting everything.  And honestly, who we do we think we are?  If Jesus is the author and the last will be made first, how important are the days that we live in and the ones who are called in the final hour?  Only God can see the heart. 

One of the guys I was able to speak to alone for a few minutes, while we were standing outside of the studio.  He talked about his busy life and how art has been an escape for him from his PTSD that he believes he developed from many years of witnesses horrific trauma as an EMT.  I could sense the pain in his eyes as he spoke on the surface of something very difficult and deep that haunts him internally.  And I can only imagine the severity of what this man has seen – thinking through my own issues of panic disorder and sleeplessness following the horrific things I’ve experienced.  When the subject of God (in a religious sense was on the table) I could feel his anger and disappointment.  He shot out a few examples of horrible deaths he’d watched and the circumstances that destroyed lives.  “I just don’t believe that a good God would allow these things to happen.”  He concluded.  And one would (under a trained belief system of robotic response), likely call this blasphemy or ignorance.  But do the ones who travel through great trials land in ignorance because they don’t seek?  Or is that burning question that’s been tattood on their hearts perfectly situated with great purpose?  Truly seeking answers requires true reason to do so.  Everything else is face-value and on the surface.. bologna – meaningless.  Not one that came to know the Lord walked an easy path to wisdom.  Bless this man’s heart.  I feel his pain and I know his journey.  And I believe if it is the Lord’s will, an authentic revelation will manifest in this man’s pain.

The other man who said he’s an atheist had a more colorful approach to his beliefs – though also tinted with pain from experiencing the murder of a close family member – his grandfather, who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.  He too had a bit of anger resulting from the way his grandfather’s murderer was set free to walk the streets and live a normal life after taking so much from he and his family away.  Where is the justice?  Where is karma?  Where is any of this recorded and how does it make sense?  The temporary things perhaps never make sense but in God’s timing it certainly will.  The young man talked about our ignorance as a people in not educating ourselves on different beliefs, cultures and religions around the world.  But he spoke softly and lovingly about his beliefs in loving other people and treating people with respect.  He talked about caring for the poor (many beautiful ideas that should grace all of our hearts).  When I asked him a question using the name Jesus, I could sense the offense in his body language – his distaste in what he described as “religion” and specifically “Christianity”.

Is it ok to admit that I know exactly how he feels?  Is it ok to confess the opposition that I’ve felt towards Christianity, beginning when I was a child, outside looking in to behavior of a people that seemed outright backwards to me.  And is it ok to be transparent in the blatant hypocrisy that I’ve seen and felt and ran away from – driving my own questions, research and concluded disbelief in accordance to the populous called “Christianity” that I’m surrounded by?

Over 70% of the US population says they are Christians.  There’s a christian church of some sort (hundreds of variations – different belief systems and denominations) on virtually every corner of every city in this country.  And as we look at a broken system full of broken people that seems to worsen with every passing day, is it practical to ask ourselves what is wrong with this picture?  How a people of a “Christian nation” who profess the name Jesus Christ are responsible for a way of life that I’m not sure anyone can argue, is completely and utterly disgusting.  If that offends you, you’re not paying attention to whats going on in our communities and our world.  People are broken…. broken badly.  And who cares?

So what’s the answer to darkened hearts, lifestyles that are focused on selfish desire and self exaltation – a people that have zero to little care for the sick or the poor (we literally throw away our elderly and disabled as a system), we focus our efforts on a “what’s in it for me” mentality, we headline disputes with hatred, division and intolerance and we somehow do all this while wearing the label “Christians”.  We are masters at destroying one another and tearing people down.  We see little value in this competitive rat race to lift others up anymore.  Jesus said “don’t be conformed to this world.”  He said “many are called FEW ARE CHOSEN”.  He said the “path is narrow and FEW will find it”.  Yet somehow, we have merged culture with religion and stirred up this yucky pot of vomit to call this way of life we live “Christianity.”…. and we would be so naive to think that this 70-something percent of the population of the United States is actually on that narrow path that few will find…. the folks that Jesus calls “few”.  Where are these few today?

I remember as a teenager, in a very fragile time of my life, making a decision to attend church by myself.  I was in a really low place and I felt lost.  I was looking for answers and it didn’t matter what the preacher taught or what the point of Christ stood for, the thing I remember was feeling like an outcast – feeling nonredeemable and out of place – like a lost cause, a species that just didn’t fit the mold.  I remember thinking if Christ is real, he doesn’t like me much.  I stopped believing in Jesus.  Not that I every truly believed – but I opposed the teachings that I’d been brought up with.  And privately, I remained that way most of my life.

Today, I know for a fact that Jesus is Lord.  But this reality for me has nothing to do with what others say or claim. It has ZERO to do with what I’ve been taught.  In fact, today I struggle to find a people that I can relate to inside of a building called a church.  I don’t look down on these establishments and certainly respect the people that put their time and heart into these places, I just don’t feel the Lord in these gatherings – instead, I often feel the WORLD in them.  It seems like in present times, we take the Word of God and mold it into a tool to make us feel better about ourselves – motivational messages of self-help, self-healing, self-advancement – meshing the old with the new to create a wine that speaks the name of Jesus without a convicted change of heart – without a desire to lay down our lives, pick up a cross and follow the one we say we believe in.  And the sword that points directly at our hearts, we so easily redirect, placing a target on everyone else’s head.  Like we’re better than others – self-righteous discernment of good and evil that never delivers us to face the true enemy in the mirror.

When talking to those beautiful people yesterday, I just felt the resistance inside of myself, wanting to say, “Please don’t put me in that mold – in that group.”  I’m not religious – religion never saved me from anything.  I’m not judgemental – I know how horrible I am as to need a savior, so how can I look at you with hypocritical eyes?  I don’t claim Jesus because the world around me said so.  I know Him because in my disbelief, he revealed who he truly is to me.  But sadly, the label has been established and it’s a stronghold in our culture today.  Christianity means what anymore?  Again… where are these few?

I just feel so sad about this idea – loving people and yet feeling like they look at me with opposition, expecting me to be judgemental or holier than thou at the mention of the name of Jesus.  And that’s the opposite of how I feel in my heart.  I’m sad that it’s become this way, although I know that was framed way before I was ever placed here.  I’m sad about our lack of knowledge.  I’m sad about the twisting of the Gospel that’s taken place for thousands of years (and by the way, Paul spoke of this too).  1 Corinthians 4:15, he was trying to correct them – he spoke of the 10,000 instructors in Christ that tried to persuade this people, and he basically said, don’t buy into them, listen to ME.  I’m sad that the ways of the Western world hide under the name Christianity having no fruit of the love, compassion and sacrificial work of our Lord Jesus our Savior.  I’m sad that the wolves are indeed in sheeps clothing.  I’m sad that the enemy has successfully picked up the most crafty alibi possible — masquerading as an angel of light, implanting self-love, self-will and the very sin he committed that resulted in him falling from heaven.. into the eyes and minds and hearts of a broad path to destruction… and with it comes the label..

I don’t know… I mean who am I to even make a conclusion to where the world is at today or where the battle lines have been drawn?  It’s in trouble, I feel that strongly.  The earth is changing so rapidly and there’s pain and suffering every direction we turn.  Yet, it’s like we remain in this little bubble of false-securities, oblivious to all that hasn’t yet made it’s way into our own homes.  I’m just a girl on a journey with a broken heart for this messed up place that I know I don’t belong to.  My heart hurts for the lost… for the hurting… for the ones who feel I have and aren’t sure where to turn for answers and hope.  I know Jesus is with us.  He’s everywhere.  He knows and he sees and he has empathy and compassion for us.  I know He’s already won.  I just pray we can break free from ourselves and our foolish pride to truly find his mind and his heart and his love before it’s too late.  I pray that he’d reveal himself to us directly, because that’s the only thing that’s real.  I pray that we stop following others, and seeking answers from pharisees and doctrines of devils and that we humble ourselves and seek HIM DIRECTLY.  I pray that he breaks through our mountains of lies and convicts us for real to know Him and live for him with whatever time we have left.  I pray that HIS NAME be exalted in all the nations and these ideas and cultures and beliefs and things we’ve created to use against one another get torn down forever.  I pray that the veil be lifted and the tricks of the enemy be destroyed.  I pray for the first because we don’t seem to care about the last and I feel we’re all walking on dangerous grounds.  I pray that these groups and labels be exposed and the truth within our hearts come to surface.  And I don’t even know how to express that Lord.  But I know you’re near to the broken hearted and you save the contrite spirit.  Tear down the proud and get it out of me too.  I don’t want anything to do with it.  I don’t want to ever look at another human being and think that I’m above them in any way… that I’m smarter than them or wiser or better molded…. or that anything I have to give can save them..  I can’t even save myself.  You are the potter and I’m nothing without you.  None of us are.  Whatever we believe in Lord, it’s by your design.  Open the eyes of the ones you choose and whoever that “few” is…  Lord I pray for their strength and your protection over their hearts.  Your will be done.

I’ve found there are two types of convictions in our desire to know the Lord.  They oppose one another and one of the two is just simply not real.  It’s a knock off and a counterfeit (just as Satan himself is a fraud that masquerades himself as an angel of light)…. just as the wolves are wearing sheeps clothing… the ways of mankind have crept into our reasoning as it relates to ways of the Lord.

A few nights ago the Lord showed me something of importance.  I didn’t know why it was so important and I don’t know why I’ve not seen this clearly before.  Most of us have heard the story of Jesus sending out the disciples two by two.  There are some details that I’ve never really thought much about.  And as I was reminded of this event, I kept hearing, “Imagine what they look like…  Can you see them?”

In Luke it says the Lord told those that he was sending before him, “behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.”  There’s the visual I was led to seek deeper.  Imagine it…. These men were sent out broke and poor (no money with them), no food with them, no bags – nothing in their hands.  They were sent barefoot on their journey.

The very next morning, my daughter asked me to read over a paper that was due for her college English class.  She was assigned to write a paper about the single moment in her life that has impacted her the most. As I reached page 3 of her writing, I could feel the hair on my arms standing up.  It was a divine appointment with the Lord and a completion of what He was showing me with the description of the image of his disciples that He sent out.  My daughter has been through a lot.  She’s had her life shaped and molded through many trials at an early age, and this was the moment that impacted her the most of all the moments in her life thus far?

She writes:  “Why would he lay hands and pray for me?  I have everything I need and this man has nothing.”  The encounter she speaks of happened two years ago.  She was participating in a homeless simulation for a class project at AHS, in which they took this group of Juniors by bus to Waco, Texas, stripped them of all of their personal belongings and allowed them to keep only 3 items.  One sock for example, was 1 item.  Then they through them on the streets in downtown Waco as moneyless, half-dressed homeless kids.  After 3 days of walking miles in the hot sun with nothing to eat or drink and sleeping on the cold ground without blankets, my daughter’s group encountered a homeless man that she will never forget.  She told him the truth – that she’s not really homeless – that she lives a life with luxuries that we take for granted.  She has a nice home and clothes. She has running water and plenty of food to eat.  After explaining the situation to the man, he told her that he’d been homeless for over 20 years, and he seemed to pity her as he asked her if he could pray for her.  He prayed for Jesus to be the guidance of her life and he prayed for her eternal soul.  I can’t explain the impact that only she knows from this experience.  I can’t fully understand how this man changed my daughter, as she wrote about in her paper.  But I can say how amazing it is to read this paper of hers the morning after revelation of the condition of the disciples that Jesus sent out.  I could see the connection.  The disciples didn’t look like me.  They looked like the homeless man that prayed over my daughter in the park.

Jesus said in Mathew to those who are selected to inherit the Kingdom of his Father, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”  And in response these people didn’t know they had done ANYTHING for Jesus – which I interpret as, he appeared to them in ways they didn’t identify as him, or expect.  And reading into this further, I see the disciples again.  I see the homeless man that encountered my daughter.  I see the irony of WHO carries the word of the Lord and how different these vessels look than what we might anticipate.

If only I could understand how truly backwards my way of thinking is… how truly opposite my carnal thoughts and expectations are to the ways of the Living God.

My daughter wrote a word in her paper to conclude her encounter with the homeless man….. CONVICTED.  That man didn’t pray for her to have food to eat or clothes on her back.  He didn’t pray for her to have an easy life or to be sheltered from trials and suffering.  He prayed for her eternal soul… An alignment with the Will of God that is so simplistic, yet so difficult to grasp in our temporary state of foolish desire.

Lord thank you for sending a true disciple of your light to my child and giving her this milestone to always remember.

So… my iphone had been sitting on my dresser charging while I was in the other room.  Suddenly it started playing a song – apparently Siri chose it, as the song of choice isn’t anything I’ve ever heard of it and apparently doesn’t even exist anywhere on the internet outside of a post in itunes.  I can’t even find it by title.. no lyrics.. nothing.  I listened the best I could on repeat and I think this is the lyrics…

As I charted out my passage

Took a punch and i’ve been had

borrowed wisdom for my tender

self made plan and a self made man

Bankrupt dreams and empty promies

Do not ever satisfy

topshelf bottles life’s hard choices

swallowed hard but left me dry

sunlight’s gone the shadow branches

and I thought I saw you there

just a swaying dancing

to the music in the air

you’re right outside along the edges

of what I saw and thought I knew

Til the veil was finally lifted

and all things sad became untrue

I want to hear a real good story

and I want to pass it along

To anyone who might be listening

To the weak and to the strong

to the hungry and the helpless

til the right replaces wrong

til the author of the story

fill the earth with his good song

you’re right outside along the edges

of what i saw and thought i knew

til the veil is finally lifted

and all things sad become untrue

 

One of the bible verses I think I’ve seen most placed in people’s homes and shared so widely is 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7.  The version I’ve seen repeatedly goes something like this…

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

That translation isn’t even remotely close to the older texts.  In fact the word “jealousy” isn’t even in the NIV version of the Bible, yet somehow it’s been added in all of the prints of this text regurgitated in images and household gifts – mainstream quotes.  The Lord showed me a few weeks ago the importance of the power of jealousy.  And in knowing that God is LOVE, I try so often to frame up in my own thoughts of what LOVE means.  We have an almighty, all-knowing, all-capable, all-powerful God that created mankind for HIS glory.  And then we have a history of mankind betraying God for it’s own desires and self exaltation.  And somewhere in the middle of this it seems we’ve adopted as a people, the idea that God has changed… that God no longer requires all of our hearts and that God no longer is in the business of destruction, chastisement and ultimately wanting what HE wants.  It’s become all about us – what we want.. what we desire… our happiness… our comfort… our accomplishments and works.  I feel like we keep ripping the pen right out of Jesus’ hands to place God in a box that makes sense to our carnal minded desires and to shape the Almighty I AM into a character that makes us feel good about our lack of reverence to the one who made us with a purpose that has little to do with us and everything to do with him.

In the book of Exodus, it says the Lord’s NAME IS JEALOUS.  And throughout the Bible God’s Jealousy is discussed – as a warning of sorts.  It’s says HE is a jealous God and His jealousy is what provokes Him to anger.  In Deuteronomy it says if our Jealous God’s anger is kindled against us it will wipe us off the face of the earth.

I talk a lot about Fear of the Lord because I’ve been shown that it’s a life or death matter, eternally.  He loves us but HE’s NOT PLAYING WITH US!  And it’s so important that we stop playing a game with Him.

When I look at my relationship with the Lord, I’m ashamed.  There’s no candy-coating the fact that I adopted and bought into a modernized drive-thru version of Christianity.  A religion that justifies the evidence of Christ in our lives for the most part by one simple factor… Do you attend church on Sundays?  And that “membership” with a place and a people solidifies in our minds a commitment to Godly living.  It’s the pattern of society that’s found in virtually every part of our lives today.  We don’t have time to make meals so order food through a window.  We don’t have time for family so we designate days and call them “vacations” to make memories and make-up for the loss of our relationships that are held captive by our busy schedules.  We don’t need get-togethers and face to face human interaction, we’ve supplemented relationships with social media – tagging Grandma in pictures instead of visiting our loved ones regularly.  And in all this transition that we’ve been forced into for the most part, our relationship with the Lord has been captured by the same type of convenience that suits our busy lifestyles.  Why read the word, why pray, why work out our own salvation with trembling and why battle for a personal relationship with God when we can simply attend an hour sermon once a week and employ someone else to tell us who we are, why we’re here and what our Creator thinks, feels and demands or holds lack-of-demand in relationship to us.

Jealousy is one of the most powerful emotions known to mankind, when it stems from Love, (which is a very different thing from envy, which stems from self-desire, not love).  There’s only one time in my life that I’ve actually feared my husband – been afraid of what he might do… it came from jealousy.  A perfectly sound person (if there is such a thing), when in love with another, can be moved by anger that roars like a raging fire to when jealousy is ignited.  You can say that’s crazy if you want to but if you’ve ever really loved someone, you probably have felt the fire of jealousy at one point or another.

So here we are, smiling and clapping our hands once a week, shouting “amen” to ideas we haven’t even fact-checked by the Holy Spirit that’s available to all who will seek God with all their hearts.  We’re passionate about the Lord but we put him on the back-burner and trade-off conviction and heart-changing revelation for motivational speeches and encouraging uplift meetings.  We speak of the blood of Jesus like it’s a free pass to live for this world, be conformed by this world, to love this world and even convince ourselves this world is home and will never perish.  Jesus made it clear HE IS NOT OF THIS WORLD and this world WILL PASS AWAY.  This world did not accept Christ.  The ways of this world and the systems of this world were exalted above the Son of God and out of envy this world crucified Him and rejected his ways…. and nothing has changed under the sun.

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.

I pray today that we will fight against everything of this world that misleads us, consumes our minds and belittles the presence of God in our hearts.  I pray that we will WAKE UP and stop listening to mankind and the empty teachings that tickle our ears but do not pour truth into our hearts – that we remember the words of Jesus as he prayed that HIS PEOPLE would be set apart and sanctified – and that the Lord would give us understanding that anything that looks like the world, talks like the world and agrees with the world is NOT OF JESUS, who is NOT OF this world.  I pray that we see the Love of God as the consuming fire HE IS and find heartfelt reverence to His name and the sacrifice of His Son dying for us, with a burning desire to live and die for him.  I pray that we turn away from ideologies, doctrines and man made theories and seek the Lord for truth, while it can be found.  And I pray that the Fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of understanding will convict us, teach us and change us into a people that turn away from the corruption of our flesh and the lies that glorify the flesh, to seek the face of the Living God who loves us and is jealous for us and demands reverence to HIS WILL – the God who is and was and will always be on the throne of all of creation.