Sunday, January 29, 2017

you do, in fact, belong

Dear you,

You at the edge of the social scene.

You in the corner near the punch.

You, counting the steps to the door, the minutes till home embraces your quaking heart like a warm blanket.

Dear you.

Let me pour you a cup of hot tea; give you something tangible to grip & receive as I speak these words over you.

You've been in hiding for so long, trying not to burden anyone.

If you're telling the truth, you've adopted the word "burden" like a name. Allow me to break that off of you right now.

That's not your name. That isn't your identity. And I promise you it's not what people think of when they think of you.

If someone has made you feel like that? If that is a wound you hold deep inside, & a fear always at the edge of your thoughts? Please, let me say this for us all - us blind, amateurs at love - let me say I am sorry. My heart hurts just knowing what you've gone through. Darling, I've been there.

I have felt the weighted gaze that seems to wonder what in the world I am doing there.

I have heard that voice from within that says, "What are you thinking? Who says you can even be here? Be a part of this?"

Thing is, I now know the answer to that.

I know who qualified me. {Colossians 1:12}

I know who chose me. {1 Peter 2:9}

I know who welcomed me in. {Matthew 19:21}

Let me breathe these words over your heart: you belong.

If you are in Christ, you just belong.

So much pressure falls away when we realize that, #1 - it's not on us to make sure we belong, #2 - nothing anyone else may say can disqualify us, #3 - wherever Jesus needs to be, we have a purpose & reason for being present (until the Lord bids us move).

If He calls you, He will equip you. {Romans 8:30, 2 Timothy 3:16-17}

Your past will not stop Him from choosing you. {e.g, Saul (who became Paul), Peter, Rahab}

Your stumbling will not cause Him to give up on you. {even after David sinned colossally, the Lord did not remove His friendship}

Your youth won't stop Him, your old age won't stop Him. {Jeremiah 1, Psalm 71}

The difference between your story & their story will not disqualify you. {Acts 10:45}

The Lord has made a place for you before time began, & He keeps choosing you, again & again. {Revelation 3:5}

Friend, there is so much freedom in this. Make your home here in these truths - you belong here.

So come on in.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Only One

"To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work." {Titus 1:15-16}

"I want to be the only one
On the throne of your heart
The only one that moves you

I will remove the names of your lovers
Even the memory of their face will fade away
I will write on you My name forever
I will be known by you as Faithful and True

So come back, come back
I'll take you to the start
Come back, come back
I'll take you to your First Love."
{Only One by Harvest}

There is a terrible habit one must be cautious of when approaching Scripture: the habit of skipping over things that you don't think are for you. I slip into this more than I'd like to admit. I close my eyes when the words are hard, I thumb through the pages for feel-good books. Or books that I can pretend are feel-good.

Don't get me wrong, it's all good news for the redeemed.

We just need to evaluate our definition of "good news."

I was struck by Luke's telling of John the Baptist's ministry ... John said a lot of hard, convicting things to the people. He preached repentance. He called people out and told them to change their ways{Luke 3:1-20}. He was passionate about holiness and righteous living. A people prepared for the Lord; emptied of their selves and their pride.

Luke says of John, "with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people." {Luke 3:18}

This hard truth was good news. This harsh light shining on our darkest places is good news.

This is all a part of preparing the way for Jesus to break into our lives.

We realize that we need Him, truly need Him.

I was challenged by a pastor to let the Scriptures read me, and not just read the Scriptures. I am too quick to discount harsh teachings as meant only for unbelievers, and so slow to admit that their is often an unbelieving spirit within me. A soul that needs revived and made clean.

The message of Scriptures is challenging. It's controversial. If it's doesn't make us uncomfortable at times in our flesh, then we're reading it wrong.

It's not safe, but it's good news.

I have been in a season of this ... the Scriptures reading me, and revealing things that I'm not comfortable with about myself. I have become all too aware of the sin within me.

The words that have been on repeat in my head (words that I have discounted in the past as not meant for me) are at the top of this post, along with a gentle reminder, "you have a will."

The Lord made us with a will and a choice. We've chosen wrongly so many times, and we've chosen rightly, too. We've chosen Jesus.

I am realizing that these aren't one-and-done choices. They're daily; moment-by-moment.

We are not slaves to circumstance; victims of position. We have the power of Christ's death and resurrection within us, and we have the choice to submit to His ways daily. To present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy to the Lord, washed by His blood.

To the pure, all things are pure.

To the pure, the choice is simple: Jesus, every time.

To the pure, the lines are black and white, because they have submitted their plans to the Lord, & He has drawn their boundaries in pleasant places. The places are pleasant, because we go farther than we ever dreamed, and we leave behind what kept us from His presence.

As those purified by the blood, we can choose to take our thoughts captive to obey Christ {2 Corinthians 10:5}. We have a will, and we can submit it to Him.

With this purity in mind, the Bible is transformed before me. Every hard teaching resonates, because it speaks to the parts of me that I know should die.

It's good news.

The Word does not condemn me, for I am found in Christ. Rather, it reads me, tests me, refines me. Prepares the way in me for the Lord. Making low the places I had exalted. Raising up the valleys in my soul. Making straight the path for His coming.

He wants to be the only one on the throne of my heart, and He desires my holiness. So bring on the fire.

As a dear friend once said, "I do not fear the fire and the water - I fear never going deeper."

There's always more in Him. Let us take off everything that weighs us down and keeps us from Him, and run to the throne of grace. He sees us, He knows us ... and still He loves us, wants all of us. Redeemed and whole.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Day

Someone told me today that they try not to think in terms of years, but rather, days.

I was thinking something along those lines this week as I prepared for the celebration of a new year's dawn.

That word alone struck me. Dawn. Sunrise.

My friend said that he wakes up, puts his yesterday behind him as he gets on his knees. It could have been the worst, most sinful day ... but he refuses to bear that shame for a full year when the Lord's mercies are new every morning.

So he starts each day with a prayer for forgiveness & a fresh start. (Note: I am in no ways endorsing a lifestyle that does not strive for holiness & then just says, "oh, God will forgive me." Neither was my friend. We are simply refusing to carry around chains that the Lord stands ready & willing to break.)

As I anticipated 2017, I simply asked the Lord for a new morning.

I can't erase every hard thing of 2016 from my memory or my reality - it changed me, & my world.

But I can roll over, face the light, climb out of my bed of passivity, & start again.

Choose love again.

Fight again.

Breathe again.

I can take every pain & regret to the cross & ask for the cleansing blood to sweep over every square inch of my heart.

I can refuse to close my eyes, ears & heart in bitterness from the anguish of last year.

My commitments say that I have to pull my body out of bed daily. There have been days of late when that's all I did. My feet hit the floor, but my heart stayed in bed. It stayed asleep.

I do not want to sleep through this dawn. I don't want to miss a single thing the Lord is doing.

I cannot shut off my emotions & expect to feel complete.

Lack of risk doesn't gain anything for me.

It's time to wake up. 

Lord Jesus,

Forgive me for every time I drowned You out because it felt easier, safer.

Awaken me to a fresh encounter with Your voice & Your Presence.

Awaken me.

I look at my days & it seems that so much of life is a choice to live as one who is awake or as one who is asleep.

When I am tempted to be asleep, passive to the problems of pain of others, awaken me. May I speak Your heart boldly, may I put others above myself.

When it seems easier to sleep through what I have set apart as sacred, awaken me. Teach me to love Your ways & Your words above my own life & plan.

When all I want is to be numb, awaken me. Help me to press on through the pain instead of letting it fester in my pseudo-distraction.

When the masks are easier to accept; to believe in, awaken me. Give me eyes to see as You do. Grant me discernment, & a will to do something about what I see.

When I want to be asleep to my own flaws; my own strongholds, awaken me! Reveal what You want me to remove, what You want me to bind & cast out of my life. Let me not remain passive to my own sinful nature, but desire holiness more with every day.

When I want to compromise, awaken me. There is no thing worth choosing less of You for.

When You're moving around me, awaken me. I don't want to miss one moment, not one opportunity.

You are the light that dawns on the world. Awaken me, King Jesus.