In the book of Galatians, Paul came to the people with a compassionate warning about the changes they had made to the way they were living their lives.  He came in correction pleading with them… Why are you doing this to one another?  Why are you doing this to yourselves?  Why are you allowing others to convince you of a lie?

Vanity… Glory that is developed in the mind, a counterfeit to the Glory of God, which is Christ Jesus… crucified.  The flesh killed and no longer of importance to matter in anything.  Yet we judge by the flesh, do by the flesh, justify by the flesh and live by the flesh creating a sculpture of righteousness in an image that is condemned by the nature of what it is and can never be….  Holy.

Today, I know that people all over this country will file into church buildings seeking justification for the flesh.  “Doing” a thing that will save them.  We will sing and clap and take notes and move our lips to the prayers of another’s heart.  We will post pictures, “check-in” on facebook and scroll our feeds to see who is and who is not sacrificing their time this morning to serve the Lord.  After an hour or so of doing this thing we do for the Lord, we’ll walk out of a building feeling renewed…. until lunchtime… or dinnertime if we’re lucky.

I met a young girl in the medical center a few months ago.  She was there because her baby was in the ICU, having seizures and the doctors couldn’t figure out why.  She told me that she was homeless – living in a shelter downtown. And she started talking to me about God. It’s funny how I look for opportunities to minister to others about Jesus and from the most unlikely vessels, HE ministers to me.  She can’t get to church because she has no transportation and more problems than I’d even know what to do with weighing her down with two children and no place to call home for them all.  But she said that she worked very hard to get to a service that weekend.  I didn’t have to ask why… I knew the answer.  I remember that feeling well, when you’re in the valley and your life is shattered in the wreckage of fear with something so dear to you slipping swiftly out of your hands.  I remember searching for an army that would stand by my side and pray for me and the miracle I so badly needed.  And when the dust settled in the slightest bit, as the storm raged on, the place I had to get to as fast as possible…it was the church.  I needed to be surrounded by brothers and sisters of faith.  I needed to be embraced by hearts that are overflowing with love and compassion – people who would help carry my burden of pain, walk with me through the nightmare I found myself entangled in and stand as warriors in prayer with me for the words I was too weak to speak myself…. to make requests before the throne of God that I was too wounded to utter in unwavering belief.  My eyes had been tainted – attacked by the manifestation of tragedy.  I’d seen things so horrible, my knees would buckle from underneath me and my legs could no longer stand.  I’d been told things so gut wrenching, the acids of my stomach churned in fright-fullness.  She was there now, this young girl.  She was walking through the valley clinging to a hope that her baby girl would make it through this trying time, overwhelmed by the delicacy of each passing moment and the unknown fate of her tomorrow.

As time has passed by, I have lost many friends – virtually all of them.  The ones that I felt close to before tragedy struck our lives we don’t hear from anymore.  Yet God has sent many people into our lives.  Some of these connections are so unlikely, it’s almost puzzling to recall how it all happened. One woman in particular that the Lord sent into my life lives half way across the country – a stranger that has become family to me today. When I was searching in all the places I knew to search to find “family”…. I found nothing but dry wells.  But God sent vessels in his timing and by his design that would walk with me through the fire… Eyes that would cry with me, hearts that would pray with me and battle for me and my family in the Spirit of the Lord.

It seems like today, when I end up in random conversations about the Lord, the most important question that surfaces (and it ALWAYS surfaces) is “Where do you attend church?”  There’s something extremely powerful in this notation – I can literally see and feel the enmity that comes forth in these discussions and it’s the same spirit ever single time I answer with “I don’t attend a church” – immediately forming thought of condemnation towards me.  I have been lectured by people numerous times.  I’ve been told, “You’re not doing your part…. You’re not serving the Lord.”  And I think about this young woman I met at the hospital.  I think about the people all over the world that can’t get to a church this morning.  And they want to…. They NEED a family.  They need someone to pray over them and love them and hug them and help them.  They are poor and hungry and have no transportation.  They are sick and confined to a bed in need of healing and hope.  They are lonely and guilt-stricken in the confinement of a prison cell.  They are holding their babygirl wondering how long the breath of life will remain in a body that’s operated by a brain malfunctioning in seizures.

How did this happen to us?  When did we start believing again that what we do can dictate or earn God?  When did we put ourselves on the cross and in our own pride make an image of sacrifice by the deeds of the one in the mirror?  When did we convince ourselves that our hands can harness the keys to salvation – looking down at fingers clasped together and finding NO EVIDENCE of nail scars in them.  HE DID what we are incapable of ever doing to the confession of our hearts in truth that everything WE do is vanity.

James 1:27 says this, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

Unspotted from the world….  Don’t do what they do… Don’t act like them, don’t dress like them, don’t talk like them, don’t believe what they believe and don’t masquerade in the life of self-indulgent pride, knitted into the work and deeds of the unclean lips and filthy hands of the flesh – only ONE right hand is lifted in righteousness and that’s GOD’S hand.  But who can stop “doing” long enough to start “being” a surrendered vessel to the hand of the Lord.  Unlearned from the ways of the world.  emptied out of the rules and beliefs of mankind… worshiping the creator, not the creation and fearing what the LORD thinks, not what people think….

I would like to visit the fatherless and the widows in their afflictions today… I’d like to because I know that those encounters are the ones with Jesus.  I know that if I want to see unity in Christ on this day, it will come from a vessel of affliction.  That’s the words of Christ not me –  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.” 

The Lord made it clear which vessels he dwells inside of and is made one with – the eyes that are a looking-glass for HIS spirit to see through.  But he also made it clear that we wouldn’t know or recognize when HE is working through us.  These spoken of in the text of Mathew 25 are confused…  They’re like, “What do you mean Jesus?  When did we do any of that stuff?”  They’re confused because it wasn’t them that was DOING anything at all… It was GOD in them – operating through a surrendered vessel – HIS hand moving, not the carnal mind deciding “here’s what I’ll do for God today” – that’s a whole other subject, how the carnal mind seeks to put God in its debt…. like he OWES us something because of our works.

Anyway…

Lord I surrender today, knowing that I can’t do anything to earn you or to achieve salvation from you.  You already did it and I need your help to accept that in truth and in faith.  I need your Spirit to guide me and silence me so that I can hear your voice through the corrupted noise that is called my thoughts.  I need your eyes to see that even the most unlikely vessels on the outside can and likely to my misunderstanding DO harness the power of your spirit.  I need your ears to hear what your spirit is saying, louder and more clearer than what the counterfeit voices in this world are saying.  Father pull me from the muddy sand that’s weighted under the burdens of the sea and place me on the seashore – at the surface where Jesus writes.  Help me to silence my desires and my will and to give HIM the pen so that he may use this temporary moment in which I live in to the Glory of your name, nailing my life to the cross with his own, null and void and passed away, but seated in the blessed hope of the life everlasting that is reserved for those who live in you and you in them.  Father will you bring us all there?  Lord will you have mercy on us, wake us up Father, please…. Shake us and wake us up to the pride that we are waring against and the selfishness that rules over our hearts condemning the likeness of what we are in our brothers and sisters and we can’t even see the gigantic beam of wood in our own eyes as we’re inspecting others trying to find the specks in their eyes.  Help us to see our fate Lord, as the criminal on the cross was made to see, the condemnation that we are all sentenced to and the absoluteness in the death that is reserved for the flesh and all those who live by the flesh and glory in the flesh and trust in the flesh and it’s ridiculous pursuit for salvation by its own means.  Help us Lord to surrender today more.  Help us to empty ourselves more, to be convicted and disgusted by the vileness of our own wills and to seek your perfect will.  I can’t even see it Lord.  Can you show it to me today?  Can you move my heart with compassion towards others in your love not this fake love that the enemy infects our hearts with.. YOUR TRUE LOVE….  Let me not be a hypocrite Jesus… Please don’t let me be led into a temptation that would cause me to think anything of myself above another.  Thank you for your long-suffering.  Thank you for your grace and mercy, that we so desperately need right now.

 

 

Can you imagine a man showing up at your doorstep barefoot and filthy, carrying nothing with him.  A man who doesn’t even have a spare set of clothes, he has no money, no food, no blankets, no toiletries.  He’s covered in dirt from sleeping on the ground and the soles of his feet are stained black inside of deep cuts from the graveled journey he had been traveling barefoot.  And he asks you…  Can I come in?  Will you receive me?

Jesus sent 72 disciples out before him to prepare the way in the places where he had planned to visit.  He gave them specific instructions, which included stripping them of every possession, including their shoes.  They weren’t to carry money or a napsack… they could take NOTHING with them.  And this journey must not have been intended to go so well, considering Jesus warned them, saying to them, “I’m sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” I assume those who received these empty handed, homeless men on foot were far and few between.  And I try to put myself in that position, envisioning what these men must have looked like and asking myself what I would do if they showed up here at my doorstep.

I’ve also thought that people who carry the word of the Lord are the ones who wear the blessings of the Lord on the outside.  I thought that the power within a church is illustrated by its popularity, its success, the size of the building and the number of people who attend on Sundays.  Thinking to myself, “If so many other people like this place, and follow its teachings then it must be the real deal.”

But Jesus illustrated something very different here.  His disciples didn’t have big congregations (they went out in 2’s) and they had nothing to offer – literally had nothing with them – nothing to show on the outside that would cause anyone to think they possessed something of value.  They didn’t even have food to feed themselves, much less state-of-the-art sound systems, smoke lights and projector screens.  I don’t even think the image of our modern homeless men and women would do this visual justice.  They had nothing….. not even socks.  I can only imagine how horrible their feet must have looked and there they stand.. on our doorstep.. asking to come inside.

The awesome thing about those filthy feet is that Jesus washed them.  The hands of God in the flesh cleaned the dirt off of his servant’s feet before he went to the cross.  How precious is that? We’ll save that for a later discussion.

After Jesus died on the cross, rose again and then finally ascended to the Father so that the Holy Spirit could come into His apostles and commission them, we learn about the journeys of these appointed men who carried the word of the Lord and preached the Gospel of Christ.  Their stories are extraordinary and their faith demonstrated in ways I can’t even comprehend.

They went against the world, without fear or worry for their own lives. They taught people the words of the Lord – his instructions to pick up a cross and follow him, to not love this world and to not care about our own lives. 1 John 2:15 says “–Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. (1 John 2:15)“. They spoke of Love, Hope, Peace, Joy and Faith, but not in the body – in the spirit.  Their bodies were quite troubled and their journey full of horrific trials.

Paul said, “I only know that in town after town the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions await me. Can you imagine God telling you these warnings everywhere you go… saying, “Hey Paul, it’s about to get really bad.  You’re about to be beaten and chained and tormented.”  Yet he still went.  Why did Paul go?  He continues in that passage saying, 24But I consider my life of no value to myself, if only I may finish my course and complete the ministry I have received from the Lord Jesus— the ministry of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

He was enduring great trials and he didn’t care about his own life.  In his letter to the church of Corinth, he said that he had faced more than he could endure in Asia, so much so, that they despaired life itself.

He certainly wasn’t a rich man or a successful man either by means of the physical things here.  He talks also in that letter about having unmet needs, yet asking for nothing from them.  He didn’t speak of a family here, he had no home, he was a prisoner multiple times, he was shipwrecked twice, he was beaten repeatedly, bitten by a deadly snake and the list goes on and on.  If I knew this man Paul today… I mean really, if we were watching his life unfold in our town during our generation right now, we would probably be calling this poor man cursed.  We’d probably assume he was nowhere near the grace or the favor of God because his life on the outside was a wreck.  And people did look at him that way.  Paul clarified this in the book of Hebrews when he talked about how fearful it is to fall into the hands of the Lord.  And that after we are illuminated by God, we must endure great afflictions and we are made a gazingstock.  The message bible commentaries translates gazingstock saying,  It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We’re the Messiah’s misfits. You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well-thought-of by others, but we’re mostly kicked around. Much of the time we don’t have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can make a living. When they call us names, we say, “God bless you.” When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen. And it’s not getting any better.

Gazingstock… this is how Paul described the ones who are walking in the light of Christ and he says that’s how the world will view those carrying the spirit of the Lord.  It’s interesting… Jesus basically said the same thing, except in a more harsh way.  Jesus said to his beloved disciples, “You will be hated by everyone for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  He also said in the book of John, in his last speech to his disciples, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, since I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

What is it like to be hated by the world as Jesus described?  And if the world hates those who belong to Jesus, then what is considered God’s grace and blessings?  Looking at Paul again.  This is a man that had the power of the Holy Spirit within Him – He casted out demons and healed the sick (just like Jesus did).  But his life was a disaster on the outside and he didn’t care. He said he didn’t care repeatedly.  He even said it was a blessing for him to suffer like Christ.  and he did suffer greatly.  Paul said his heart was full of sorrow and he had unceasing anguish, (Romans 9:2)… Can you imagine anguish that never gives you a break?  It’s just there heavy on your chest all day and all night, week after week and month after month, year after year…  But Paul describes this deep anguish was not for himself, it was for the loss of life of others (eternally… his brothers and sisters that would perish).  He saw something I don’t and he lived quite clearly the opposite of what is demonstrated in our world today.  Just like the disciples who went before the Lord… just like the Lord himself and just like the apostles who followed Christ.

Maybe things have just changed…. Maybe the world has changed and maybe the burden of the Lord looks different today then it did 2,000 years ago.  But why would it?  It’s still the same world that the Lord said NOT to love… not to conform to… and is it really so different?  In Paul’s letter in Corinthians he tells the people, “although you have 10000 instructors in Christ, you don’t have any fathers.  But I have begotten you in Christ.. Follow me.”  That church of Corinth had 10000 instructors in Christ?  Sounds like our towns today.  So many leaders speaking the name Christ and teaching on the things of Christ.  But, where are the Pauls and Peters and Johns and Timothy’s and James and Stephens.  Where are the disciples that carry nothing but harness the power of the word of the God inside of them.

Where are those that despise their own lives, deny themselves yet carry deep, unceasing anguish for the everlasting destination of their brothers and sisters.  Where are the gazingstocks and if they are here… would we even let them in our homes?… .

Father you know my heart and you know the answers to all of this I ponder.  Please have mercy on us…. Who can even understand these things Lord?

 

Is it ok to laugh Lord at the vileness of our intention

Is it ok to cry when the dust settles where your wind sends it

Is it ok to desire the slope after the crest of a wave

In normalcy i thank you for the short sobering breaks

And when i tremble at the burden of the heart that looks upon us broken

Is it ok that I weary in the heaviness of your words spoken

Will you forgive me for the resistance that i war with inside

Will you give me the strength to combat all these lies

And when this dust settles and the sandcastles are destroyed

Is it ok then, or will i regret all that’s void

Teach me to number the days of this walk

Teach me to fight for the jewels of your flock

Leave me no regrets as this vapor now scatters

Help me to find life beyond the deception of matter

Is it ok that i can’t shake the fear of this ending

Is ok that i long for the unseen beginning

Guard my heart in all things that are true

Cast away the heaviness of this world that’s not you

Bring me to the gates where the counsel awaits

But let me not go until you have sealed our faith

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

The Sandbox…

Last October, in a season of rest, I received many messages from the Lord. I was in a season of change that followed a very trying time for me both in the obstacles of everyday life but also in my own health – a battle that I strongly believe was influenced by the spirit of fear. And on the other side of this (during a time of rest from all this stuff that was bringing me down), He started talking to me about the three unclean spirits – what they are and where they reside…. I’ll save this for later.

So one morning the Lord told me to build a sandbox. I didn’t have any real understanding of “why” other than this box would have an actual function for me and in building it I would need to create a way for this sandbox to hold letters; notes – paper. Having learned to be obedient immediately and without question when the Lord lays instruction on my heart, I went to work building a box made of wood. I decorated it with lights, made a slit or hole in the wood for inserting letters, (I didn’t have any sand so I simply wrote “Sandbox” on it), and I attached a scripture referencing the one “who holds the key of David” and I thought it was cute but had no idea then what to do with it – nor did I know why I chose that reference, other than I presumed this sandbox has something to do with the bride as it is words that Jesus spoke to the church of Philadelphia.

The next day the Lord told me “Moses wrote in stone, Jesus writes in the sand.” This was huge, and I immediately went to the scriptures to study these occasions of the law, given by written commandments in stone and the mystery of Jesus writing in the sand as the woman accused of adultery was placed before him by her accusers. So the first amazing thing I see is that the Pharisees immediately referenced MOSES when they approached Jesus, saying: “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” (John 8)… So they are telling Jesus that according to the law of Moses, (the one who wrote in stone), the woman should be killed by stones – stoned to death – it’s the rules and its the law… And Jesus says nothing to them in response, but instead he bends down and writes in the sand. The exact phrase the Lord gave me is literally demonstrated IN CONTRAST of the old and new covenant as this woman is brought before Jesus. And I don’t know how to articulate this other than to just say this phrase….

The pharisees are the stones and the woman is the sand.

You see their conscious was made in stone. And stone can not be altered – shaped, molded into something new. Jesus couldn’t write on their hearts, their stoney hearts that seeked to kill Jesus and kill that woman too. But he could write on her heart, because she had surrendered herself… as sand. The stories of the new testament never show favor in the world towards the body of Christ. His disciples, apostles and namely himself were all treated horribly – they were accused and jailed and hated and beaten and killed in horrific ways. But in their deaths, they were made new. That’s a literal and spiritual reality of the walk we all will walk if we seek to follow Christ.

Finding the Lord is never an act of power, intellect, idea, or physical manifestation of acts that we do with our bodies. We can not create him, achieve him, learn him or earn him in our lives. We can die in surrender. That’s the only path to Christ that ever is or ever was.

Jesus said “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” – Mathew 10:39

So what is this sandbox Lord? It’s the remnant of stones that have been broken into pieces and delivered to the Lord who IS The author. Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith. HE’S THE WRITER – not ever us. The seed that was spoken of by the FATHER in promise to Abraham is described as stars and sand. God said this, “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” That SEED IS CHRIST (HE is the blessing that God gave) and the multiplication of HIS SEED is as the stars of the heaven and the sand upon the sea shore.

Now the Pharisees challenged Jesus by boasting to him about their bloodline. They told him they were the children (or seed) of Abraham – the children of the promise. And Jesus didn’t argue about their bloodline from a genealogy standpoint. However, he plainly stated to them that their father is the devil based on what was in their hearts – the desire to kill him.

This temporary season that we call life on earth is our walk in the sand – if we allow ourselves to be made into sand. And the only way to do that is to surrender. Jesus said this, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Well, Jesus carried his cross through a place called Golgatha, which means “skull” – as we know, this is the bone that protects the brain. It’s interesting that in the book of Ephesians, Paul says that Jesus “abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” Enmity is described as the carnal mind – Romans 8:7 says, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Both of these scriptures also reference the law of God or law of commandments. What CAN’T be subject to the law of God? The human mind. And where did Jesus carry that cross? Through a place called “skull” – the housing of the human brain or carnal mind, which is the enmity of God that Jesus ABOLISHED.

Jesus overcame the carnal mind by doing the WILL OF HIS FATHER and having no will of his own instructing his path. In doing the will of his Father he was sinless. He showed surrender in the purest and most beautiful form of the fallen-language idea of this word.

The human mind when controlled by “self” is a judge of good and evil, harnessing all spirits of torment in fear, worry, stress, desire, lust, pride, self-exaltation and creationism by the hands of man. The brain is a TREE of connections of thought energy that is continually branching new connections and in this confusion of man’s duality – in the fallen state of seeing both good and evil, man can not overcome HIMSELF. Thus, Christ was given.

This woman was at her ending. I’ve been there too. Defeated – overwhelmed by the weight of this world and the battle to keep treading water as the waves have become too tall for me to withstand. But in that place, she was delivered to the feet of Jesus...the author of our stories and the finisher of our faith. She was there forgiven and set free. I can’t find one place in the bible where Jesus wrote anything, except here, when this woman was at his feet facing her end. As they waited for him to condemn her and sentence her to the death she deserved, he said nothing – He bent down and with his finger, He wrote in the sand. Our Lord Jesus wrote in the sand – the very element our bodies are made of.. dust, tossed around with the might of the wind and washed away by the waves that crash along the shore. This life is fleeting and temporary as James called it – like a vapor; a substance that doesn’t even take form, it just lingers for a moment and then disappears as if it never existed at all – like the sand pouring through the hour-glass one grain at a time. When the last speck of dust that is called me settles at the bottom of that glass and time is no more, my only hope is that every last fiber of me is fully surrendered in the hands of the one who writes in the sand. The one who has the power to erase, create and set free each fiber of me that I’m willing to surrender to Him.

And so I do surrender.. sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. I ask the Lord to crush each stone that’s been formed inside of me. Make me the sand that carries the seed of the promise of Abraham, which IS the life of Christ. I ask the Lord to help me surrender to the Father’s will and demolish MY-SELF will. When something is weighting my heart, whether it’s a tough decision or a battle I’m losing, I write it down and put it in the sandbox. But only when I’m ready to surrender it fully to the Lord, with the understanding that I CAN NOT take back what I’ve given to Him. I place it in His hands and fully surrender it asking Him to author it, shape it, mold it and take the weight of it off my shoulders. Even if it hurts, even if I don’t understand what He’s doing, even if the outcome is me laying at his feet with the whole world chanting “stone her!”, if it’s in the sandbox, it’s no longer my fight. I give the battle to Him and understand that the REASON that I’m made weak is so that HE can be strong.