Thursday, September 11, 2014

Too Legit to Quit

My friend Leslie made a statement, while we were on the phone today, that rung inside me like the Liberty Bell.  We were talking about the obstacles I've been dealing with for the past couple of weeks, namely, two of my kids being sick at any given time.  This following a month long battle with lice during the summer that began right after Natalie broke her arm.

My prayer circle and I have been calling sickness off my house for awhile.  Well, I should say, first it was pestilence (with the lice) and now it's illness.  (I hope the other 2 horsemen of the Apocalypse are busy elsewhere at the moment.)  Still, it's lingering and crops up at fairly inconvenient times, although getting sick is never convenient.  On slower weeks, it is easier to handle, but we haven't had a "slow week," since well before school started.

The crux of the conversation was to restate the reason I've known all this to be happening.  The enemy has been nipping at my heels since I took on more prayer and a role to lead others in prayer at my church.  My spiritual Achilles heels are pretty sore.  We were discussing how the enemy certainly does not like it when we pray, especially when we are praying for big changes, big movements of God.

I told her that's what I've been doing. And that's when she said it.

We think sometimes Satan is trying to sneak up on us, but in reality, he often distracts us with what is already there, that we just haven't noticed.  Sometimes he provides legitimate distractions.

My kids being sick definitely falls in that category.

I didn't stumble, I didn't fall.  I didn't leave myself open for his attack by entertaining the idea of some besetting sin.  No, Satan is using something generally acceptable in life as a reason for me to check out.  All this care for my kids is a concerted effort to keep me out of the game, off the spiritual battlefield.  He has given me a legitimate excuse for hanging back from the responsibilities I've taken on and the growth in the Lord I'm pursuing.

He has given me legitimate reasons to quit.  I could check out and "everyone would understand."

I put that last part in quotes because they would.  They know my bandwidth and family situation.  They would give me a pass to take a breather and be really gracious about it.  Except that is a critical time: for me, our family, our community of faith - even for the world at large.

I'm not saying humanity depends on me.  But Jesus is depending on me.  He's given me a task and if I'm to witness Him in the work of it, I need to keep going.  If I don't, He will raise up someone else and they will get what was to be my crown, my blessings; now and in eternity.

The best reasons to quit always present themselves at the most critical time.  If making you fail is not an option, making you quit becomes the devil's greatest weapon.  If he can discourage you, make you tired and give you lots of good reasons to stay at home, rather than be out with God's people, praying, serving, learning and loving; He will do it.  Make no mistake, He will do it!  He is doing it right me. 

The beauty of all the reasons, distractions, excuses is....the Lord is giving me the chance to learn to see them as opportunities for the acceleration His work.

The ringed rainbow moon at 3:30 am
As I was driving back from the 24 hour Walgreen's at 3:30 am this morning (because we didn't have any infant Advil for Ella), the Lord put something on my heart.  He's been working, steadily and for a long time, to teach me to depend on Him moment-by-moment.  That's the essence of a victorious life in Christ - not the number of souls you save but the number of minutes a day you choose to trust Jesus over everything else.

In one second, He turned my head to see things His way.  He said,

You could keep doing laps around this mountain you want to climb, frustrated by all the interruptions.  Or, you could see this as my throwing you a rope, out of the muck and mire of irritation.  You can depend on me to pull you up, to do this My way and in My time; secure in the fact I know best and eventually this mountain will move, or I will move you around it.

So, there it is, once again: my choice, my challenge.  Believe God or be frustrated His plan (and my day) isn't going the way I envisioned.  Give into these legitimate opportunities to quit, or just take a break from working for the Lord.


(As the modern poet MC Hammer puts it)

I can be too legit to quit.

I am legitimately in Christ.  I am a blood bought purchase and I am every day called His Beloved.  I choose to live in that place, that identity.  I reject the thought I have to feel inconvenienced or this work for God is not worth all the shrapnel I'm being hit with.  I refuse to give Satan any more glory, to let him try and take back any more ground in my life.

It's a process and this preparation will not go to waste.  How and when He will use the character He is forming in me is up to Him,  My part is to let Him do the work.  My part is to let Him teach me how to handle the interruptions and distractions without malice, anger, frustration, irritation - but rather in joy, peace, patience, faithfulness kindness, goodness, and yes....even self-control.

That's what's really legit.

P.S. Don't forget you are just as legit.  Keep going, it will be worth it.

P. P.S. I asked the Lord to show me He can use me, even if I am legitimately distracted with concerns at home.  My best friend Lynn just experienced this phenomena, after being laid up with some health issues.  The Lord literally brought people into her house she could serve and witness to, so I asked for the same opportunity.

It happened!  I got confirmation late this afternoon someone I'm recently acquainted with reads this blog and shares my love for Jesus Calling.  She is encouraged by our story, especially Sophia's victory of cancer.  This confirmation is a reminder to keep doing what I'm doing, whether it feels like I'm making a big impact or not.

It doesn't matter where or who you are, God will make the best of it, when you let Him.

#Straight up #legit

Monday, September 8, 2014

Our Challenge

I regularly read Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  It is an incredible work of God, perhaps the deepest devotional of this new millennium.  She didn't write it for others, this work came out of a journal she wrote during her own quiet time.  She wasn't out to change the world for the Lord, she was out to let Him change her.

That's not only a challenge to me as a writer, but as a person of faith.  So many times, I seek the gift, not the Giver.  I seek the healing, not the healer.  I look for the results in creation, not the Creator.  I want His wisdom and discernment, rather than wanting to know His Mind.  I want what I see what I can touch, see, taste, smell and hear, instead of the One who is the foundation for all of those things.  I feel an internal pressure, in a good way, to seek Christ above all else; to experience Him in more and more ways, more and more moments, throughout my day.

Some days I blow it completely.  Sunday afternoons can be like that.  So, I'm learning and thanking Him for a family who is so quick to forgive me.  That is grace, a husband and children who hug and kiss you, with open arms, when you walk back through the door you stormed out of a little earlier.

But I'm learning to live more fully in this challenge of desiring Him above all.

As my pastor likes to say, that's a free one.  That's not the sermon.

The real challenge, as I said in the beginning, comes from today's entry, September 8th, in Jesus Calling.  One line stuck in my brain:  Your assignment is to trust Me absolutely, resting in My sovereignty and faithfulness.

The more I grow in this faith, the more this is exactly what it is about.  It's not about doing and there are no caveats.  There are no corollaries that say, "Well, today, I'll let you do it in your own strength because you are going to get the results from Sophia's scans."  Or, "You can do your own thing today because you've been dealing with sick children all week and need to tune out for a little while."

Or my favorite as of late, "You can do things in your own strength, pray with your own understanding instead of asking me for My perspective because you've been working so hard for My Kingdom lately."

OOO, ouch, that one hurts.  Nope, no caveats.  No corollaries.  No loopholes with God.  It is always and ever about trusting Him alone.  Not how I feel, not my circumstances, not how much good I've done.  Moment by moment the victory comes and that is a tall order.  It is a hard concept to have to rest alone, not work, not gain purpose and meaning from the work of our hands.

We derive our value from joining God in His work, not the work we do to please Him.

Is He pleased when we seek to work for Him?  Sure!  But the work is not to give us our meaning.  Our meaning comes from our identity in Christ.  Period.  No additions.  Who He is and What He has done is meant to define our purpose in life.  Our job, if you want to call it that, is to rest in that finished work, to declare it's praises and live our lives like that is the truth of the world, not how we understand things to be.

It's a new work and school week.  Do you think you could try this today?  Do you think you could surrender a little bit more to resting in the Lord, instead of getting busy on a Monday morning doing all the things you need to do?

You need to do them, but you need to rest in God more.  It's a complex balance, one I'm just beginning to grasp how to walk.  But people have and still do this every day - they walk with God, they walk in His peace, they walk in the joy of His presence all day long.  And when their "selves" take back over and they start getting all worked up about life (like Martha did so long ago), Jesus is still there.  He is waiting for us to remember what the better thing is.

And He is that better thing. So, your assignment and challenge, should you choose to accept it, is simple:  Trust God a little bit more.  Whether that's the state of your body, the context of your mind or the reality of your spirit, you can trust He is willing and working you in whatever you are facing.  He is sovereign, which means, He is bigger than anything and everything.  And He is faithful, which mean He is better than anything and everything.

I'm going to accept the challenge.  I'm going to seek Him more today than I did yesterday.  And I have a feeling today will end up much better than yesterday because of it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

My Fascination with Bible Study

If there has been one consistent theme in my walk as a Christian, it is this: I love to study the Bible.  There are a few folks I know that don't quite get this, but others that do.  Once I started, really dove into Scripture, there was nothing that could compare.  Early in my re-started walk, an atheist friend asked me,  "If you were stranded on a desert island and could one have one book, which would it be?"

I immediately said, "The Bible," and he looked at me as if I'd suddenly grown two heads.  With his eyes agog, he asked me why and I said, a little sarcastically, "Because it's fascinating.  And it is really 66 books in one so you never get bored."

Probably not my best attempt at soft evangelism, but it was and is the truth.  I love reading the Word because it never fails to inform, inspire and restore my trust.  Even in the hard sayings, I know if I stick with it long enough, the Teacher (that is, the Holy Spirit) will let me in on a little understanding.

This morning, as I finished my long reading of Mark last week (read about it here), I went ahead to John.  That's not the easiest Gospel to dive into.  In the past, I've found the beginning of it....challenging.  What stood out to me were these verses: John 1:1-5, 9-11, 14, 16-18.

I'm reading from the Complete Jewish Bible and NIV Translation side-by-side, and in the CJB, those verses stood out like never before because they were set apart in context.  I'd never seen these verses standing on their own, only lumped in with the rest.  Being a somewhat visual learner, this was a huge help because I can now see that these are not only a prologue to John's Gospel but seems like an early church creed, or statement of faith.

I wrote them out like that at the bottom of this post if you would like to read it as I did.  Of course, I made some notes too - musings really.  Perhaps these words were created to fight heresy, like Gnosticism, that denied the complete deity of Christ (which the Church still fights in evangelism of Jehovah's Witnesses today).  Certainly these words build faith and would have reminded First Century believers, both Jews and Greek, of who Jesus really was.

Not just a great teacher or moral system adviser.  No, Jesus said He was God-incarnate, which is arguably the most important doctrine of our faith (the Resurrection and Atonement for sin rank right up there too.)  Without Him being God, His words, His actions lose their weight and importance.

Indeed, to strip Christ of His Deity is to strip the Christian faith of hope. 

John the Baptist's story is interwoven with these verses, calling out who he was, too.  John 1:7 calls him a witness.  He was a prophet, a prophet's dual role is to bear witness to God and bring forth His message.  That applies to every believer, really.  Our jobs are to bear witness to the Light of the World, as revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ and proclaim His Word.

We are to be witnesses and messengers; to live, not for ourselves, our own path, or our own gain.  We can't just keep the benefits of Light on the inside.  My favorite theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, called that way of being a Christian cheap grace.  Knowing Christ is to prompt us to live for the demonstration of the love we've found.  We've been delivered from darkness, once blind but now we have sight.  It comes at a cost to our own desires, dreams and understanding, which is why Bonhoeffer called the true way of following Jesus costly grace.

This creed from John, as I'll call it, is meant to help us not just worship and serve Christ for our own benefit (although we do benefit from it, spiritually, emotionally and mentally speaking.  Another theologian, John Piper, wrote about this 20+ years ago, in his book Desiring God.  He called it being a Christian Hedonist and I really like that idea too.)  But yet, we can't hid our light under a bushel (NO!)  We have to let it shine. 

Our lives are meant to respond to love, to put God's love for us into action. We are meant to align the rhythm of our lives to movement of Christ's redemption being revealed through the ages.  All of Creation is set up like this.  The Creator set the systems of night and day, weather, the water cycle, the seasons, into place.  They take their cues from Him. 

As should we.

This statement of faith I found in John 1:1-18 is very conservative doctrine.  To me, that's good.  Doctrine should be conservative.  Still it allows for love and how we express that love to be liberal.  I believe love should be liberal, out of the box, radical.  That's who Jesus was - fully centered vertically and fully expressed horizontally.

It is this kind of meditation, this high-level thought process that keeps me coming back to the Bible.  There is deep, core-shaking truth found through out.  It is the Truth expressed, the last revelation of the Father.  It is brilliant. And that's why I am fascinated with Bible Study.

Deep thoughts for a Monday, Labor Day 2014, huh?

In the beginning was the Word, 
And the Word was with God, 
And the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.(v.1-4)

All things came to be through Him, 
And without Him, no thing made had being.
In Him was life
And the life was the Light of Mankind. (v. 5, 9)

The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
This was the true light, which gives light to everyone entering the world.
He was in the world - the world came to be through Him - yet the world did not know Him.
He came to His own homeland, yet His own people did not receive Him. (v. 10-11)

The Word became a human being and lived with us,
And we saw His Sh'kinah (glory),
The Sh'kinah (glory) of the Father's Only Son,
Full of grace and truth. (v. 14)

We have all received from His fullness,
Yes, grace upon grace.
For the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth through Jesus, the Messiah. (v. 16-17)

No one has ever see God, but the only and unique Son who is identical with God and is at His Father's side - He has made Him known. (v. 18)