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.
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.