Monday, December 28, 2009

Bridge of Blessing

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. ~John 1:16~

As 2009 comes to a close, the words of John 1:16 fill my heart and mind. Throughout this year, one blessing after another has touched my life. Some blessings were packaged in struggle or disappointment; others were lovely surprises, far surpassing anything that my mind could have conceived...but each blessing of 2009 helped me to better understand a precious nugget of truth regarding blessing: My life is lived from one blessing to another...the blessing of this moment is a bridge to the blessing of the next moment -- in Christ, the cycle of blessing is never broken, it is unending.

There are moments which are marked by immense pain, making it difficult to associate the word blessing with that moment. Yet blessing is ever in the mind of my Lord. Because I know His character, I know that He would not allow a trial or difficulty unless blessing was engraved upon that moment of trial. In this realization, my understanding of blessing was adjusted...blessing is not defined as a release from hardship, stress, disappointment or illness...blessing is the very presence of the Lord in this moment, it is living in complete fellowship with Him whether a moment is pregnant with pain or rejoicing. Blessing is the grace which God granted when He provided a Way for me to know Him...and every proceeding moment is an opportunity to know Him more.

No matter the circumstance, God is the blessing of every moment. I guess you could say that He is the Bridge of Blessing, for only a moment without Him could be void of blessing.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fixed on Peace

I love nativity sets. If it were possible, each Christmas I would have one displayed in every room of my house. This year as I was setting out the pieces of my nativities, I was struck afresh by the way each participant is focused on the face of the Christ child. When this babe becomes a man, such worshipful gazes will be replaced with contempt...but on the night of Jesus' birth, and then later through the wisemen, Simeon and Anna, there was pure worship of the baby Messiah.

The night God's Son came to earth, in worship and praise the angels proclaimed a message of peace: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests". (Luke 2:14) The good news of Jesus is for all men (Luke 2:10), but God's peace can only be known by those on whom His favor rests. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, ...without faith it is impossible to please God. God's favor comes to rest on any person who believes Him. Simply put, only those who believe God can be pleasing to Him, and only those who are pleasing to God can experience His peace.

Luke 2:15 says, When the angels had left...the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing which has happened, which the Lord has told us about." Before the shepherds looked on the face of the Christ child, they first believed the words of the Lord. After they looked on Jesus' face, the shepherds glorified and praised God for all that they had heard and seen. They praised God because His words were true. Their praise was a sign of peace. They could praise because the Peace of God had captured their focus.

As I ponder that thought, Isaiah 26:3 comes to my mind. In speaking of God this passage says, You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you. (NLT) When my mind is fixed on the truth of God, my heart will be filled with peace. Such peace, as proclaimed by the angels, is the reason that God sent His Son to the earth: He wanted all men to experience the peace that comes from being made right with Him.

On that first Christmas night, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds were given the great privilege of focusing on the face of the Messiah. In like manner, until I can also fix my eyes on His face, I desire to fix my heart on His truth. Beautifully, as my mind and heart is fixed on His truth, the celebration of his birth, life, death and resurrection becomes an unending process...and the Peace proclaimed on that first Christmas night can daily be proclaimed through my life.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nothing to Distract, Part II

As I live to defend my rights, I am a distraction to the renown of God...I know my selfishness, my covetousness, and I am sobered as I think on these words. Yet, in Christ, there is another possibility for me: As I surrender my rights and allow Christ to respond through me, I will bring renown to God. To lay down my rights that others may see Christ, to embrace His truth over my own feelings and emotions, this is to allow my imaginations to be captured by Christ. As I allow Him to captivate my imaginations, I decrease. As I decrease, He is free to express Himself through me...and others can then see a true picture of Him. Christ living through me will say more than my words could ever express. His life in me is the call to all that is right.

A favorite story of mine, which magnificently demonstrates lives that desire to decrease that Christ may increase, is found in Acts 16:22-36. Sitting in the inner cell of a jail with their feet in stocks, we find a stripped and beaten Paul and Silas. They were treated in this manner because they cast demons out of a young girl whose owners used her as a fortune teller. Once the owners realized that their fortunes would no longer be amplified by this young girl, they were furious with Paul and Silas. They brought Paul and Silas before the authorities and accused them of slandering the Roman laws and customs. As a result, here sat Paul and Silas, feet in stocks, and yet instead of wallowing in their circumstances, instead of wailing, crying and questioning, they prayed and sang hymns to God. They praised their God, knowing that despite the change in their circumstances, He had not changed. They knew that His thoughts and purposes for them were full of love.

This is amazing in itself, but it is not the end of the story. As Paul and Silas sang, the prison was shaken, the doors flew open, and their chains were released. The prison guard, certain that the prisoners had escaped to freedom, took his sword and was about to kill himself, but Paul cried out, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!". The prison guard was overwhelmed. He went before Paul and Silas and asked them what he needed to do to be saved. He then took Paul and Silas home to his family, and he and all his family believed in God.

This story speaks to me of freedom and understood purpose. Because Paul and Silas understood truth, because their imaginations were captured by the truth of God, they were internally free. Even though they were externally beaten and chained, they were filled with joy and rest. It was this freedom and understood purpose which steadied them and caused them to remain within the prison after their chains had been released. If they had run as soon as the doors were opened, they would not have fulfilled a part of the purpose which God had designed for their imprisonment...and the prison guard would probably have known an eternity in agony rather than eternal security.

It would have been very easy for Paul and Silas to focus on themselves within that prison cell. To think on their discomfort...to feel outraged that God would allow this to happen to them...to care more for their own lives than for the life of the prison guard...to have thoughts that were consumed with release...but instead, they chose to rest in the One who loved them. They did not allow their circumstances to control their reaction, rather they praised the God who had captured their thoughts and imaginations. They saw this situation as an opportunity from Him, and they did not want to miss what He was going to do in them or through them. They wanted God's renown more than they wanted release.

I wonder how much my desire to be released from struggles, inconveniences and disappointments has hindered God's renown...I do not want my selfishness, my covetousness, to obscure the glory and truth of God. I long to wait on the Lord as Paul and Silas waited on Him, to surrender all my rights to the Lover of my soul and allow Him to capture my every imagination. May I see every moment of my days as an opportunity to decrease that God's renown may increase.

The path of the righteous is level, O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth. Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you, your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. Isaiah 26:7-8

Monday, November 30, 2009

Nothing to Distract, Part I

In the last couple weeks, the Lord has repeatedly brought my attention to the truth that every moment of my days is an opportunity to live for His renown. There are so many distractions which encompass me, both internally and externally: busyness, irritations, disappointments, heartbreaks, loss, expectations, rejection, choices of others, sickness...the list goes on and on. All of these distractions, if they capture my focus and imagination, can in turn affect me in such a way that I become a distraction to the renown of the Lord.

In II Corinthians 12:7-10, we find Paul in a similar situation of distraction. The Lord allowed something in Paul's life which Paul refers to as "a thorn in my flesh". This thorn in Paul's flesh was greatly disturbing to him. He went to the Lord three different times, pleading with Him to take this thorn from his life. The Lord's response to Paul was, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

When Paul received this answer from the Lord, a connection was made in his spirit. A deep understanding filled him and he said, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

These words greatly encourage me. They show me that the distractions which the Lord allows in my life are opportunities for His strength to be displayed through me. The question is: will I recognize these distractions as opportunities for His renown, or will I demand to see my own expectations fulfilled?

Romans 12:1 tells me that my spiritual act of worship is to offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. I am called to be an offering of uninterrupted worship. In essence this means that every part of my life is to point to God...nothing about me should detract from Him. Uninterrupted worship is what Jesus talks of in John 4:23...true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth...

Worshipping in spirit and truth means that my thoughts and imaginations are devoted to the truth of God. Nothing else is allowed to rule over my thoughts and imaginations. II Corinthians 10:3-5 says, For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. In other words, nothing that the world has to offer captivates me more than Christ -- not even its weapons! My imaginations are captured by the very Word of God.

Too often, my default reaction in distraction is to fight like the world. Belittling words are met with defense...hindrance is met with impatience...inconveniences are met with grumbling...ailments are met with complaint...the unexpected is met with fear...but in Christ, these default reactions need no longer be the norm for me. If they have surfaced, it is because I have allowed my thoughts and imaginations to be taken captive by the arguments and pretensions of the world. When this happens, I am allowing a situation to control me, permitting it to develop into such a distraction that it becomes a stronghold in my life...it has taken a stronger hold on my thoughts than the truth of Christ. Sadly, as a result, worship of the Father is rudely interrupted, for my focus is directed toward defending my own rights rather than living for His renown.

Part II will soon follow...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Just For Who He Is

My heart is overflowing with thankfulness, not just for all that the Lord has given me, but for who He is. How many times have I doubted Him? Yet He always longs to work in every situation for my good...He is faithful. Though I live in a chaotic and pain-filled world, as I surrender to Him, He redeems every pain...He is gracious. When serenity seems an impossibility, He surrounds me with rest and comfort...He is peace. He directs my steps in the way that is right and helps me understand His Word...He is truth. Through heartache and loss, He gives a contentment which words cannot explain...He is joy. Even in my darkest days, He provides glorious bits of sunshine...He is light. Every new day is filled with His mercies, with His promise of renewal...He is hope. Nothing can take me from His hand...He is love.

I am amazed that He longs to share Himself with me, that He wants to teach me of His perfections. Truly, my Creator, Redeemer, Master and Friend is More Than Enough for every moment of every day. May the offering of my life show how truly thankful I am.

Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like a great deep. O Lord, you preserve man and beast. How precious is your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They drink their fill of the abundance of your house; and you give them to drink of the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Psalm 36:5-9

Monday, November 16, 2009


Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's...The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love...he does not treat us as we deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us...Praise the Lord, O my soul. ~Psalm 103:1-5, 8, 10-12, 22~

Remember...the Lord has whispered this word into my spirit with great repetition. He calls me to remember His benefits, to revisit and meditate on who He is and what He has done...and as I remember, my heart is filled with gratitude, my mouth sings His praise. What wonders He has done in my life! I cannot think on them without thanksgiving.

When the work of your hands prospers...remember. When surrounded by those who love you...remember. When your body knows sweet health...remember. When peace fills your heart...remember. At the first sign of doubt...remember. When tears soak your pillow...remember. In sickness...remember. When your bank account balance does not equal the amount needed for your bills...remember. When the unexpected threatens your peace...remember. For the Lord gently whispers: "Circumstances may change, but I do not change. I AM the same yesterday, today and forever...I AM." Remember.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Isle of Exile

I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos...Revelation 1:9

Isle of Patmos. John. Banished. Suffering. Alone. And yet not alone: The great I AM, who is and who was and who is to come, was with him. This was the darkest time of John's life and yet amidst this dark and abandoned place, he was not abandoned. Far from it. Rather, on that Isle of Exile, God came to him in comfort and revelation.

This seemed like the end for John...his days of fruitfulness were over...or were they? Was not God in this forsaken place? Was not his ministry to God? Had he not always lived for an audience of One? This had not changed. His heart was ever surrendered to the Lover of his soul...as relationship with the Righteous One abounded, so, too, would fruit abound.

Despite this harsh existence, there was Love. There was purpose from the One that loved him - and His purpose is the only actuality. The One who works and wills to His good pleasure was present with John on that Isle of Exile.

In ostracism, John may have felt that he was being put "on the shelf", that the days of being used of God were over. Yet, in this lonely place, John was given the privilege of coming to know God in a way that few could even fathom. At a time of seeming unproductivity, John was given the Revelation of Jesus Christ as King of Kings.

I know nothing of physical exile or imprisonment, but my metaphorical exile has been illness. There have been many moments when, due to illness, I felt "out of service". But the faithfulness and love of God has dispelled that deception. For truly, I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

I have come to see that times of exile, metaphoric though they may be, are marked by love and purpose. In these seasons of seeming unproductivity, the activity of the One who works and wills to His good pleasure has not ceased. He weaves His wonder through every part of my days, gently calling me to trust the work of His hand. Through these pivotal time periods of my life, I have been reminded that relationship with God is the dearest treasure, that living for an audience of One is a priceless privilege.

The seasons of exile in a believer's life can have multi-faceted purposes: the birth of a new vision, preparation, a greater understanding of truth or even much needed rest...but whatever the appointment, these periods of life are first and foremost about sitting at the feet of our Master and learning more of Him. If we will seize the occasion, these seasons will have further reaching results than we could ever foresee.

Now I look for the revelation in my Isles of Illness. I embrace these periods of my life as an opportunity to learn more of God -- I seek His face, relish His Word, talk to Him about everything, and I am filled with awe that He brought me to the Isles of Illness so that I could know Him more.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I Want To See

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied. Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God...Luke 18:35-43

I love the persistence of this blind man. I love that he was not silenced by the rebukes of the people. He knew Jesus could heal him...and he wanted to be healed. When Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?". The simple reply was, "Lord, I want to see".

Though his eyes were darkened, this man saw the truth of Jesus that many sighted around Him failed to discern. He called out to the Son of David...the people had referred to Him as Jesus of Nazareth, but the blind man asked the Son of David to have mercy on him. Was he quoting the prophecy of Isaiah and requesting that the Branch of David judge his need with righteousness? (Isaiah 11:1-4) With the words, "Lord, I want to see" was he proclaiming his desire to see the Messiah with his own eyes? How many dimensions of meaning were enveloped in the words, "Lord, I want to see"? I cannot say with certainty, but I do know that this man believed Jesus was the One who caused the blind to see.

The plea of my heart is much like the plea of this visionless man, for my vision is so often blinded by the fleeting and the temporal. The simple request of this man resonates within me because I, too, long to see. I desire for the eyes of my heart to be enlightened. I want to see the unseen.

Like the blind man, I am persistent in my cries to Jesus. With a desire to discern wonderful things from His law, I say to my Lord, "I want to see". I know that Jesus is the One who causes the blind to see. I trust that in His light I will see light. Does not Jesus love the perseverant seeker? Is He not looking to reward hearts that long for Him?

Oh, yes! I believe that as I continue to pore over His Word, its rays of truth will illuminate the edges of the eternal; the temporal will lose distinction, and in high-definition, I will see the lasting beauty of eternity.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Ministry of Reconciliation, Part II

Living a life that is reconciled to truth means that I cease to see myself as the instigator or producer of change. I throw out all idea of trying to convince others, of trying to change their minds toward Christ. For I see that to bring change in anyway is not my job, nor is it even a possibility for me. I cannot change myself, why would I assume to change the minds or hearts of others?

Any form of discipline I inflict upon myself will not change my heart. My routine may become altered, my traditions may be adjusted, but my heart, who I am within, cannot be altered by actions to which I attempt to adhere. No, it is only Christ that can bring about change within me. Only submitting to His truth can relax and free my stiff-necked soul. Likewise, it is only the truth of Christ which can bring about change of mind and heart in others.

Definitely, I must know the truth. Knowing and surrendering to the truth is how I am prepared to always give an answer for the hope that is within me: as I surrender to truth, Christ will communicate the answer through me. The answer that is needed on every occasion can only be provided by Christ. I do not know the hearts of others. I know nothing of their inner suffering, their past hurts and triumphs, but Christ knows their thoughts. He knows what they need, and if I will surrender to be reconciled to the truth of His Father, I will be granted the privilege of His life being fitly spoken through me, both in word and deed.

A life reconciled to truth is a life transformed, a life that everywhere and in every way exudes the fragrance of Christ. Some will breathe in this fragrance and will also long to wear such a scent. Others will sniff with caution, unsure if they desire to be permeated by this perfume. Still others will cover their noses; overpowered by the draw toward change which such a scent demands, they will turn away their faces not wanting the redolence of truth to affect their fixed focus. All who encounter the scent of reconciliation will have to make a choice between the abundant aroma of Life or the withering stench of death.

Yet no matter how others respond to the fragrance of reconciliation, my sole responsibility is to allow the aroma of Christ to invade every pore of my being. Christ is the aroma of life, to exude His perfume is my inheritance, my privilege, my calling, my ministry.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Ministry of Reconciliation, Part I

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come! All this is from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation...II Corinthians 5:17-18

Christ died for all mankind so that each individual man and woman could be reconciled to God. At God's request, the sinless Christ became sin, thus providing the way for us to know and become the righteousness of God.

Once we are in Christ, we are a new creation. As II Corinthians 5:17 says, the old is gone, the new has come! This is an incredible gift of God -- it is the gift of constant renewal and unending reconciliation. Colossians 2:6 explains the sustenance of this incredible gift: ...just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him...Christ Jesus is received by grace through faith when a soul confesses with his/her mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in his/her heart that God raised Him from the dead. Likewise living in abundant newness of life is only possible by grace through faith.

This means the question which overshadows every second of a believer's life is: Who reigns?...Who reigns over my thoughts? Who reigns over my emotions? Who reigns over my body? Who reigns over every part of my life?

II Corinthians 5:15 tells us that Christ died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and rose again. Christ's death provided the way for the old man (the fleshly nature) to also die, thereby breaking the power of the old man in the life of any soul that would believe in His death and resurrection. The old man is only able to express himself when he has not been made subject to his Lord, when he is unreconciled to the truth of God.

Our calling is constant reconciliation, consistent alignment, to the truth of God. Alignment with the truth of God is only realized by grace through faith. This means that our mouths must continually confess that Jesus is Lord over every area of our lives and our hearts must continuously believe that His way is the only way of life, the only reality. Through continuous confession and belief, we are being crucified with Christ. By faith, we are bringing the old man's default actions into subjection, and the glorious outcome is Christ living in and through us. The life that is being lived in our body is lived by faith in the Son of God who lovingly gave Himself for us. (Galatians 2:19-20)

A life that is in every particular surrendered to truth is a life that is in every particular reconciled to truth. A truth-aligned life lives in the power of God; that same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is raising us to live in newness of life. Therefore, it is our ministry to live a truth-aligned life, for a life truly reconciled to God's truth causes others to ponder such reconciliation.

Part II will soon follow...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Great Faith, Part II

The humility with which the centurion approached Jesus makes me think of the words of Philippians 2:6-8. Describing Jesus Christ, this passage says: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!

Jesus did not demand or cling to His rights as God. He sacrificially released these rights so that He could pay the price for the sins of all mankind. Jesus believed God's plan. He showed that He believed God's plan by submitting to God's authority. In speaking with the Father about the need to pay the world's sin debt, Jesus says, "...if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39)

Jesus' very life taught great faith. His life was about fulfilling God's will on earth as it was fulfilled in heaven. He recognized the authority of His loving Father and surrendered every claim of entitlement. If anyone could claim entitlement, it was Him, but He released everything to the Father: His body, His reputation, His equality -- all of it was relinquished without expectation. He felt the freedom to say, "Father, I really would like to pass on this one, isn't there another way?" But He did not have expectations regarding God's answer. He knew God loved Him, so He knew God's response would be good, not harmful, and would be marked by love. Period.

Jesus was mocked, beaten and crucified... How can you possibly say God's plan for Jesus was good and not harmful? It may have been good for us, but good for Him?

While Jesus' act of surrender fulfilled God's plan of redemption, it also was the act of faith which effected God's good plan for Him. Though mocked, beaten and crucified, Christ did not stay in the grave. He rose on the third day, and Philippians 2:9-11 tells us that God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. It is true, Jesus relinquished every possession, but He sits now at the right hand of His Father and will ultimately be given the possession of all things.

God's plan is always for the good of those that love Him. This is what Christ wants us to grasp: Great faith, recognizing God's authority over every part of our lives and relinquishing every thought of entitlement, precedes great fulfillment. God loves His children and wants to give them everything that is good, but ultimate fulfillment can only be realized through great faith.

Like the centurion, Jesus wants our lives to be described by the greatness of our faith, for great faith renders all glory to a great God.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Great Faith, Part I

This week I was struck by the story of the centurion in Luke 7:1-10. The Lord used the centurion's story to add a new facet to my understanding of faith.

While we are not given the name of the centurion, we are given a very distinct and positive picture of this man: He is not a Jew. He is a Roman soldier, a symbol of Roman occupation within the Jewish homeland. But despite his position as a centurion, he has formed relationships with the Jews (vs. 5) even to the extent that he has built them a synagogue. He is a man who has authority over others (vs. 8), and yet he values those under his authority.

This is a man of character. A man, who upon finding his servant ill, has a desire to see him restored to health. This centurion has heard of Jesus. He knows Jesus has healed others of varying diseases and ailments, so he sends Jewish elders to ask Jesus to come and heal his servant.

After hearing the elders plead with Him on behalf of the centurion, Jesus accompanies the elders to the centurion's house. As Jesus and the elders approach the house, the centurion sends friends out to say these words to Jesus, "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with servants under me, I tell this one 'Go' and he goes; and that one 'Come' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this' and he does it."

These are powerful and humble words. Words filled with an understanding of authority. Jesus is amazed by these words. He tells all those following Him that He has not found faith this great in all of Israel. The friends, who had been sent to talk with Jesus, then return to the centurion's house. Upon returning, they find the servant has been healed.

Jesus said the centurion had great faith. What made his faith great? He believed that Jesus could heal his servant, but there was a deeper level to his faith than just believing Jesus could heal. This centurion recognized Jesus' authority. He knew Jesus needed only to say "Go" and the illness would go from his servant's body. Not only that, he recognized that Jesus did not need to be in the servant's presence in order to heal him. He knew that if Jesus said the word it would be done. Period. This shows that he understood that Jesus' authority was unlike any other authority.

The centurion realized Jesus was the Answer to his servant's need, but he did not feel entitled to that Answer. He sought Jesus with humble recognition of His authority.

Part II will soon follow.....

Monday, September 28, 2009

Now That's Love, Part II

If it is true that God can only act in love, then there would be no suffering, no evil, no condemnation, right?

No - suffering, evil and condemnation resulted because man did not love God not because God did not love man. Though God gave the first man and woman everything they could have wanted, they still wanted more. They wanted to be the Creator instead of the created. It was an impossible desire, but the allure of choice inflated man with the illusion of power and control.....for if they could break free of the boundary perhaps they could become their own master. The possibility of power was more appealing than relationship with the all-powerful Creator. But what they did not understand is that they were made for relationship with the Creator. When they chose to break free of the boundary, they lost a part of their identity and gained a burden that they were never intended to carry: the burden of being separated from Love and all of the decay that comes with such a separation.

God desired to keep them from ever knowing such decay, that is why He set the boundary. Yet it was God's love, as well as His desire to offer authentic relationship, that enabled them the option of overstepping the boundary. Authentic relationship always carries with it the possibility of rejection.

The hardest aspect for me to understand is God's desire for relationship with a created being when He has perfect relationship within the Trinity...He did not need relationship with man, He wanted relationship with man. He wanted to give life to a creation in His own image, a creation that could feel, think and express, because He wanted to bless that creation.

A Love without selfish intent is very hard to comprehend. You may feel that in creating us God showed selfishness - Didn't He create us for Himself? No, He created us to bless us with Himself, to share Himself with us. He wanted us to experience the perfect relationship that He shares within the Trinity. He is everything good. He is perfect love. To give perfect goodness and perfect love to someone else is not selfishness, it is an act of unnecessary kindness. We were created so that we could know Love -- and Love felt that sharing Love was worth the rejection -- now that's Love!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Now That's Love, Part I

There are many thoughts from C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity which produce deep thought in me. In fact, often it seems that some of the deepest meditation in me is sparked by Lewis' most simple thoughts. A plethora of ideas formed within me as a result of the following quote by Lewis: "The reason why I hated the things (cowardice, conceit, greed - my bad actions) was that I loved the man". With these words, Lewis was explaining that his love for himself was not evidenced when he liked all of his actions, rather it was in the dislike of his ugly actions that his love for himself was shown. By wanting his life to produce good fruit he is showing that he wants the best for himself. Wanting the best for himself shows that he loves himself.

The constant standard for love is a desire for truth. To love myself means that I desire my life to be built on truth. Likewise, to love others means that I desire their lives to be grounded in truth. As I Corinthians 13:6 says, Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. This is the love that God shows for all of sinful mankind. In Matthew 9:13, Jesus says that He did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. Would he call those that He did not love? Would God make a way of restoration if He did not love man? No, His love was relayed when while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

God's love is shown in that He desires the very best for every sinner. He does not delight in evil, He knows that evil is the path of destruction. Not wanting any to perish, but longing for all to come to repentance, God's heart is for every man to avoid the path of destruction. Such a desire shows His love for the sinner. But His love is not only shown by His good desire and plan, it is also shown by the allowance that He has given to man. Before the foundation of the world, God created the possibility of choosing relationship with Him or of choosing our own way. This very act of allowance is marked by love. Love says to His created, "I love you too much to make you love Me." God has made an allowance of free choice: He will not make the sinner choose Him. If God made the sinner choose Him, then He would not be loving the sinner; without free choice, the sinner would never experience Love. Those who have chosen Him love Him because He first loved them.

There will be those who do not choose Him. Even though He loves them and made a way for them to know His love, they will not come to recongnize this Love. This will happen because they do not understand that the offer of choice flows from Love. They think that since there is choice then obviously there is something good which God wants to keep from them, some pleasure or power that He does not want them to enjoy. These are their thoughts because they are looking at God through the lens of their own sinful heart and motives. They completely misunderstand a Love that has the power to create them, as well as the power to make them choose Him, and yet does not exercise the latter power.

If they had such power they would exercise it. They would make their creation submit to their every whim. Since God does not do this, He must not be very powerful, actually He must be trying to keep His creation from knowing His weaknesses -what other reason could there be for Him to allow choice? Wouldn't He only allow a choice if He had no choice? I guess in a sense, because He cannot deny Himself, He had no choice: since He is Love, He can only act in love.

Part II will soon follow....

Monday, September 14, 2009

My God Can Help Me Scale A Wall

You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop, with my God I can scale a wall. -Psalm 18:28-29

God recently used these verses to encourage me regarding the walls that develop in relationships....

To grow and flourish, a healthy relationship needs two people who are committed to the progress of that relationship. Each person must do their part to sustain the relationship. Nevertheless, even in healthy relationships, hurts, misunderstandings and disagreements can quickly arise. Before we can even blink, such hurts can lead to the construction of a formidable wall that stands stubbornly in the midst of that relationship. With God's help, these formidable walls can be scaled.

Yet, just as there are two sides to every relationship, there are two sides to every wall. To abolish the wall completely, both individuals must allow God to help them scale their side of the wall. If both individuals are not committed to the scaling process, then their relationship will cease to progress. Frequently, you will find that one individual is invested in the wall climbing exertion while the other individual has little desire to attempt the endeavor.

When I scale a wall, my goal is to make it to the other side....but what happens when there is a blockage that keeps me from making it to that other side? In this situation I am left with two options: climb back down or sit on top of the wall. This same scenario will often surface with relational walls. We are attempting to get to the other side of our relational wall, but find that our passage is blocked. The person on the other side of that wall is important to us....we desire to see this relationship restored, so we try to reach over the wall, around the wall even through the wall, yet every effort at restoration is met with an impenetrable barricade. At this point, we must decide if we are going to climb back down or if we are going to stay on top of that wall.

If we choose to climb back down the wall, we are essentially erecting our own barricade, a barricade which closes our heart off from forgiveness and freedom. If we choose to stay on top of that wall, we have freed ourselves to love and forgive. The initial barricade may remain, there may not be reciprocity, but we can know a restoration in our own spirit. The peace of God can rule in our hearts....others may not choose to scale the wall to peace, but as far as it depends on us, we can live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

Oh, yes! With my God I can scale this wall and be freed from bitterness, hurt feelings, anger, and even from the impatience that comes when I do not see much progress in the other person's scaling journey. I am not responsible for their side of the wall, nor does the weight of this relationship's success rest solely on my shoulders. By myself, I cannot make this relationship work....I can only trust God to do the work in me that enables me to scale my side of the wall.

Though reconciliation may not result, the scaling effort is not in vain, for the view from atop that wall is clear and unhindered. If scaling efforts are initiated on the other side, my peace-filled heart is prepared. Yet most importantly, because I did not allow a wall to tower over me, my relationship with God will continue to flourish.

Unscaled walls obstruct my relationship with God, but walls scaled in God's strength enrich my intimacy with Him.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Soul-Generosity, Part II

By surrendering to God's truth over our own fear-filled feelings and emotions, our store of seed is increased and the harvest of our righteousness is enlarged. Simply put, the seed of God's Word is fertilized by our belief thus enabling Christ's fruitfulness to explode through our lives.

When we trust and surrender to God, our soul becomes fat and fortified. We are filled with the means to be soul generous. II Corinthians 9:11 says, You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion. To be full of His fruit and overflowing in the richness of His ways is what God desires for each of His children.

He will provide the fortitude, patience, perseverance, kindness, love, etc. that is needed for every occasion. As we believe Him, He supplies everything needed for life and godliness! Along with this, since He is the Storehouse of our soul-generosity, we need not be concerned that our resources will be depleted. Our Storehouse cannot be drained of any resource, so as long as our connnection to the Storehouse is free and unhindered, our supply of soul fruit will thrive.

Yet, it is very important to remember that this fruit is not being cultivated within us so that we can hoard it for ourselves. We are graced so that we may grace others. God wants us to give His generosity to others, to grace them with His love....to be generous in our outlook of others, as God is toward us, for the more soul-generosity we give, the more God will harvest His righteousness within us.

As we rest in God's fruit, through belief and surrendered acceptance, His Spirit will then have a smooth, unobstructed path to express Himself through us -- this is truth being expressed through frailty, light flowing out of a tarnished glass.

I know that of myself, I am ungenerous. Generosity does not flow freely from me, but God has an unending flow -- With God as my confidence and strength, I can walk into any situation with open generosity of soul. God is my shield and my refuge, so I do not need to protect myself. If others do not respond generously toward me nevertheless God always will, for it is His very nature to be generous. Any generosity of soul that is realized through me is of Him and unto His glory. As I trust God's generous nature, I will be equipped to give generously on every occasion.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Soul-Generosity, Part I

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.... II Corinthians 9:10-11

God provides in abundant ways. His provision may come in the form of a needed amount of money, it may be that He stretches the monetary and physical resources that He has already provided, or it could mean that He defies all logic by allowing that old vehicle to start up every morning. God loves providing for His children. He has promised to provide our material and physical needs. But the most priceless provision that God promises to His children is provision of the soul. I have come to see that provision of the soul is my greatest need. Because such provision flows directly from my connection to God, it will always be His primary focus in my life.

As II Corinthians 9:10 says, God desires to enlarge the harvest of my righteousness. In other words, He wants my life to be brimming with soul fruit. He does not only want fruit to flow from my life, He wants MUCH fruit to flow from my life. This soul fruit is what Paul describes in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I know this list of soul fruit -- I even desire to be a producer of soul fruit -- but there seems to be a big disconnect between my soul desire and my soul production....perhaps my soul was not equipped with the instructions for fruit-production.....

No, I know this is not the case. I understand that once a soul is in Christ, that soul immediately begins producing fruit, but the amount of soul-fruit production is determined by belief. Unbelief drastically affects soul-fruit production. Do I believe the Provider of this fruit over my own feelings and emotions? Do I want to live His truth more than I want my own way? How many times have I chosen my own way over His and yet still expected Him to empower me? How many times have I chosen selfishness when God wanted to fill me with love and kindness or chosen fearfulness when God wanted to fill me with faithfulness?

When I am choosing my own way, these fruits cannot be harvested in my life. Faith-full-ness cannot be enlarged in me if I am living in fear-full-ness. II Timothy 1:3 says that I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind. This is a promise, but in order to receive the bounty of this promise, I must believe this promise. A sound mind filled with love and power is waiting to be realized, not only in my life, but in the life of every Christian.

By grace through faith, such fruits are part of every believer's inheritance in Christ -- will we bend our fear-filled hearts and allow the truth of God to reign supreme in our lives?

Part II will soon follow......

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Performer

When I was in high school, I enacted a monologue from a play that was written about Anne Boleyn. Anne had been unable to give Henry VIII a male heir, so he found a way to dispose of her. The scene I enacted finds Anne awaiting her execution...it depicts the thoughts of a woman sentenced to death, but not just a woman, a mother. Yes, she had produced a child. Her crime was that the child was female rather than male. She mourns leaving her child behind, mourns that her child must face the world without her.

The monologue was dramatic. I practiced my lines. I memorized them, but then I went past memorization....I began to think as Anne, what she felt, how she hurt and mourned. I empathized with her so deeply that in saying the lines, I became Anne.

At a national competition, I performed Anne's monologue. I poured my empathetic heart into the lines. I had no vision of winning the competition, after all, my piece was a monologue while other competitors entered pieces of complicated and intricate dialogue. Nevertheless, I had thrilled in being Anne. As I stood on that stage, I was Anne Boleyn.

The competition had taken place in the morning and awards would be presented in the evening, so my afternoon was free to take in other performances. As I was walking to a particular presentation, I passed by one of my judges. She looked at me, with a sparkle in her eye, and said, "Hello, Anne". My heart somersaulted within me. In that moment it made no difference to me if I won or lost the competition, my purpose had been realized: Anne's story was lived through me to such an extent that when my judge looked at me she did not see Crysta, she saw Anne Boleyn.

Today, as I was reading James 1, this memory came rushing back to me. James 1:22-23 says, ....receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. I looked up the word doers in the Greek and found that it is the word poietes which means poet or performer. I rolled this thought over and over in my mind. I know that a root of this same word is found in Ephesians 2:10 which says that we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. The word workmanship is from the same root word as doers. Workmanship is from the Greek word poiema meaning a product or a thing that is made.

My life is a play, or poem, of God. God has written the lines of the play, and He desires for me to beautifully express the lines of truth that He has written for me. In order to express these lines of truth, I must know the lines of truth, I must memorize the lines of truth...but I need to go past memorization and begin to think these lines of truth. These lines are to be breathed and eaten, they are to become my foundation and my only reality. Each minute of each day, I must stand on truth. To stand on truth requires that I fill my mind with God's lines and allow His lines to replace my default lines. These are not lines of improvisation or lines of my own interpretation, these lines require complete adherence.

Yet God is the Master Playwrite, for He does not require that I find it within myself to perform these lines. No, for anything that He has written, He has arranged a way of execution. Anything that He requires, He supplies. He makes no requirement without also making provision for the requirement. He knows that I am not capable of performing these lines. But the lines were not written for me to perform them, they were written that I would surrender to them. The lines of truth, the lines of God's Word, demand surrender. They are to be accepted as the only truth, the only reality.

Such surrender will mean that I no longer live to quote my own lines. Those error-filled lines have been transformed. Christ, the very Word of the play, has taken command of the sentence structure and has brought the story to life. This was the vision of the Master Playwrite, this story was written with one Performer in mind, no other could enact these truth-filled lines.

And thus the purpose of my play is realized: for as my Judge, peer jury, and a varying gallery of onlookers watch this play, they will not see Crysta, they will see only Christ.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Ultimate Upgrade, Part II

II Corinthians 4:16-18 tells us not to lose heart, Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day, for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The trials of this world cannot tarnish our inheritance in Christ. Every moment of every day Christ desires to make good on the internal-transformation-assurance policy that has been issued in your name. Ephesians 1:3 tells us that we have been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. To activate this policy on earthly soil, we must enter the activation code F-A-I-T-H. The Spirit will then remind us of the policy terms by speaking into our heart the words of Romans 12:1, ...offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Hebrews 11:6 promises that this activation code will be accepted and favored by the Father.

Simply put, we must trust Christ's love and surrender to His desires. But I thought you said this policy had no additional cost? If you go to the Frequently Answered Questions document, also known as God's Word, you will find the answer listed in II Peter 2:3-4: His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

The moment you surrendered to Christ's way of salvation and believed that He was the only Way to forgiveness and redemption, He became your Savior. Likewise, Christ is activated to live through you in each and every moment that you surrender to His free reign in your life and believe His truth over your own thoughts, feelings and emotions. Thus, you become a partaker of His divine nature. There truly was no cost to you, it was an even exchange: your decaying and error-filled flesh for His divine power and nature. It actually doesn't sound very even to me. He seems to be getting the raw end of the deal, but He sees it as beautifully and pleasingly even!

As you and I surrender to Christ's loving hands and believe His truth, we will find that our internal-transformation-assurance policy is upgraded with new and fresh benefits. The greatest being: enhanced intimacy with the One who is always new.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Ultimate Upgrade, Part I

Commercials bombard us with visions of the better and the faster - the newest model of the I-Phone, the latest, most-effective wrinkle cream, the better-equipped vehicle...Such visions lure us into upgrade mania - we want the newest and the best. We rush to buy the latest version, even when our current version is more than adequate. Lately, I have been wondering why we feel such a need for the new and fresh....Why do we want to look and feel younger? Are these feelings and desires only attributed to affective advertising and/or the appeal of worldly fame and success?

I feel certain that there is something greater at the heart of our desire for the new and fresh; in fact, I believe each of us was created with a deep desire for newness, with a strong urge to seek renewal, but we misinterpret these impulses.

These strong desires for the new and the better fill many people with an insatiable lust for more - more of anything that causes them to feel freshly alive or that gives them a sense of greater significance. They long for the unrivaled thrill, the bigger excitement, the best that money can buy, yet none of these pursuits retain their freshness. After just a day, the novelty of that new I-Phone begins to fade; the sensation of the latest thrill has become a pleasant memory. The newness is gone, but the longing for newness remains. This quest for renewal has led to empty sources of instant gratification, and the initial sense of satisfaction faded as quickly as the gratification was acquired.

Longings for newness will never be satisfied through upgraded machines, "fool-proof" creams or roller-coaster screams. These options will always leave behind an after-taste of unfulfillment. Does this mean that we are created with a yearning that cannot be fulfilled? No, it means that we are seeking renewal in the wrong places. The desire for renewal is placed within each of us to lead us to Christ, whose mercies are new every morning. Christ, who is constant and yet has such dimension that the universe itself could not contain the treasures that are waiting to be unearthed about Him. Christ alone is our Source of renewal. He is always fresh. He does not need to be upgraded or restored, but His newness will never fade. He truly is fool-proof. Even greater, He provides an eternal warranty. This eternal warranty requires no supplementary insurance, rather it has a special clause which entitles you to internal transformation assurance at no additional cost.

Part II will soon follow......