Sunday, March 1, 2015

When God Says No

This past January 2nd, I turned 31. I got sick that very day, was vomiting, and had to leave the office. My plans to babysit these sweet girls were suddenly cancelled—in case I had something contagious, and the Saturday street evangelism had been cancelled due to weather. Needless to say, I’m not sure anyone plans to be completely alone lying in bed the weekend of his or her birthday. But so it was. And for chunks of time it was so miserable—especially after having spent Christmas with my awesome family. I’m not sure what happens when a birthday comes that makes us so insecure about whether we matter to others. But so it is. And for at least 24 hours, I was so sad and cried so much.

Of course, I was not aware that there were surprise party plans for that Friday night, which had been postponed to Sunday afternoon because of my stomach bug. And what an awesome and amazing time it was that Sunday, the 4
th, full of favorite things and favorite people (like Keiana, who planned it) and thoughtful gifts and the opportunity to exalt Jesus in sharing bits of my story through a “hot seat.”

It’s always funny to whine to the Lord about something that seems so icky at the time and then come back to thank Him with a bit of embarrassment for not trusting in His sweet plans in the first place. It makes me think of the story of Lazarus (see John chapter 11), except to a much lesser degree in my case. The principle is the same nonetheless. So often it seems that the Lord has forgotten us. He has forgotten to resolve some painful circumstance. He has forgotten our unsaved loved ones. He has forgotten to cure our illness. He has forgotten to show mom or dad that he or she is supposed to care more. He has forgotten to bring to us the right person to marry or grant the gift of having children.

As a 30+ year-old Latina, not being married means life has gone wrong. At 28, when I thought I had found "the one" and was on track to be married, I thought that was it. Surely, it was the plan of God that I would be happily married and in a different kind of ministry as a wife and mom like so many others. But to this He said, "No." Not no to everyone. It felt like just no to me. Many assumptions and emotions brought us all the way to sending save-the-dates, choosing a reception hall, shopping for dresses, making necessary life changes, and sharing with the world. Yet something was not right in my heart. When I was alone and patient yet desperate enough, I could hear Him clearly tell me that those were my plans, not His. Without much explanation from Him, I knew I had to discuss this with my fiancĂ© at the time and make the hard decision. We broke off all wedding plans, let all of our confused loved ones know, and we have not seen each other since. It seemed as if the Lord had just forgotten to plan things out better. 

It also seemed to Martha and Mary that Jesus had forgotten them and Lazarus—all of whom the Scripture plainly states that Jesus loves. Verses 5 and 6 are remarkable:

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus
was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

That word SO! Jesus loved them SO he did not go up to heal Lazarus. Not despite His love because precisely because of it. Just the verse before, He had told them that the illness was for the glory of God, so that Jesus would be glorified through it.
His love is so great that He will allow us to suffer and feel forgotten because His plans are better. The goal of Christ in me is ultimately the glory of God since it is what my born-again soul will delight in more than ANYTHING I ask.

In essence, Martha and Mary want Jesus to heal Lazarus and Jesus in His actions says, “No.” And I cannot count how many times the Lord has—by His actions or lack thereof—said “No.” Oh, but after the fact! Oh, the sweetness of what He brings to life in His perfect timing! When will I learn that His plans are always better than mine? 

In fact, this has been quite the season of looking back and spending time thanking God for all the things He has said no to. I’m so glad He doesn’t always do what I ask! More than this, I am unspeakably glad that God did not take from Jesus the cup of wrath that He was going to endure on that cross! Jesus pleaded for the cup of God’s holy fury to be taken away from Him. The answer was no. Because God loved Him (and us!), He did not spare Jesus from that shameful death on a cross. In God’s wisdom, death comes before life, labor before birth, pain before gain, crucifixion before resurrection, a crown of thorns before a crown of glory.

And when that glorious resurrection of Lazarus came, I’m sure there was a level of embarrassment or a bit of shame. How could I have doubted Your goodness, Lord? Have I not yet learned that a “no” to something good is ALWAYS an “I have something better later?” Even if that later is after this short earthly life?

As I spend a year preparing to move my life to serve in Asia, I look back and thank my heavenly Father so much for every "no" He answered in love. I would not trade this journey or life of being single, satisfied, and sent with anything in the world. Jesus is so perfectly good and wise.

There is a precious seemingly contradictory tenderness happening in the moments of feeling forgotten by God. He is causing this pain by not doing what we ask. He knows this and must let the pain work in us what He desires to produce. He knows that what is coming is better and will make us even feel a little foolish for protesting in our hearts. And still! He is present in the moments of our pain. What?! 

Jesus shows up, after Lazarus is dead, and is so overcome with the grief that Mary is experiencing that He weeps! He knows He is about to resurrect Lazarus, but oh, the pain He feels in His heart because of our own temporary pain. He is not aloof. He does not stand by with apathy or even anger in our suffering. He knows we do not yet understand why He has done (or not done) what He has decided. And He mourns with us in our time of not knowing how it will end.

I must say, my Savior is so beautiful.

Truly the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

And so, I rejoice in my suffering. Knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3

When was the last time you thanked the Lord for all the things He has lovingly said NO to, only to bring about something better? 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Happy Sadness

Feel like I've been in a season of trying to reconcile an abundant life of deep, unshakable joy in the Lord and being like Him as a man of sorrows. 
Such a peculiar divine tension.

No one in their right mind pursues sorrow. No one wants to live in a state of mourning. But our Jesus was acquainted with grief. And rightly so. He is and was perfect in every way. He is and was holy while on this filthy earth. It’s like the Queen of England wearing her finest ensemble and hanging out in a pig pen, with pigs chewing on her pearls. How depressing. But worse, of course, because King Jesus came to HIS own creation and He was not received or even recognized. The rejection was personal. Man rejected the very One who—even in the moments that He was being rejected—sustained his breath. 

And He says to us: Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the poor in spirit. All of these thoughts come to mind and challenge many of my notions of what life in Christ is really supposed to be like.

Jesus Christ is the greatest joy ever known to mankind. He is who our souls were created to be satisfied in. The depth of joy in Him is difficult to even describe because it is so unlike anything the world offers. It cannot be compared to a sweet friendship, or a mother’s devotion, or a favorite team being down and winning in the end. It cannot be compared to being swept off my feet by a godly guy, or making a lot of money, or being recognized at work. It cannot even be compared to doing the kind of good deeds that instantly are applauded and admired. These things are joyful and can satisfy to some degree, for some time. But knowing the One who knows everything about me and loves me DESPITE these things, knowing the One who is perfection and beauty at every angle and being given the access and permission to come before Him and worship Him, knowing the One who has prepared a place for me to dwell with Him—sinless forever, what words can I even use to describe how unbelievable it is?

At the same time, we are most like Him and experience more of Him when suffering. He was a Man of sorrows. He knew He had come to be rejected. He knew that so many would misunderstand, others would be jealous, others indifferent (which is perhaps the greatest of all insults), others just plain angry, and still others who would perceive in Him worth, but foolishly assume their possessions would bring greater happiness. Ironically, the ones who found Him to be glorious, righteous, and true were the ones whose opinions didn't matter to the rest of the world. Like being the new kid in school and only being liked by other rejects. Almost worse than not being liked at all.

What impresses me about the Lord (you know, besides EVERYTHING about Him) is that He doesn't pretend that it doesn't affect Him. He really did grieve. It really did hurt Him to be not esteemed by people He loved. He suffered it even though He was so beyond it. He knew His own worth and even His own power to change His situation and still He took it.

At this point it looks as though deep joy in God given by His Spirit and the sorrows that describe the life of Christ are in contradiction. We may imagine that we cannot live with both. But I’m coming to realize that we must live in both—joy and sorrow.

Joy because nothing can touch us. People can only kill our bodies. No one can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. We have been rescued from the holy, hateful fury of God that we deserved for our sins. The anger has been absorbed. The punishment has been taken. Justice has been served, and served on a silver platter. Evil is used by God in our lives to bring good to us and glory to His name. The enemy is His puppet and has no power over the One who now lives in us. His Son saves us continually and sings over us as a mother does to her little ones. His Spirit fills us, guides us, corrects us, leads us, flows in us, and flows through us to bring life to others.

But sorrow because we live in a world where the majority of people continue to despise the One who is worthy of all worship and glory. We live in a world where sin divides homes and corrupts men and rapes women and bullies children and convinces us that it is better to worship creation over Creator. Sorrow because the only Answer to it all, the only Hope of every human on this planet is not known by a third of the earth’s population. Sorrow because most of the ones who claim to have this Hope spend their lives comfortably repeating the message of hope to each other—but in new ways—often while pursuing the same earthly comforts as those around them. Sorrow because multiplied millions of women are being raped
20 – 30 times a day by men who could care less about them or the wives and children they have at home. Sorrow because calamities wipe out entire communities, as the creation continues to groan, and because hunger has swallowed up so many children in the most forgotten places on earth.

It would be less painful to be indifferent. To be far removed. To change the channel. To avoid these news articles. To create a world where everything is happy and keep fingers crossed in hopes that no one who is part of that happiness gets cancer or is taken in a car accident. But we are called to mourn. Yes, I said it. We are called to suffer. If we are really serious about becoming like Jesus and getting close to Him, we will be ready to become as one who is acquainted with grief. And the greater the suffering, the more intense the joy will be at the thought of such a glorious and eternal hope as we now have.

Joy and sorrow perfectly coexist when we, like Christ, endure our cross for the joy set before us. When we can rejoice at the Father’s revealing of Himself to the simple, and weep over Jerusalem’s pride in refusing Him. When we can celebrate with those have been found by God and are accepted by faith in Christ, and mourn with those who prefer to live for worthless idols. When we can delight in worship and yet grieve over those who have yet to know such Beauty. 

We must be a people who is sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. It only makes sense. We rejoice in the hope that the sorrows are temporary. That, in fact, the sufferings are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. That the sufferings of this present world are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us. Suffering with Jesus guarantees that we will be glorified with Jesus. So that in the midst of pain, we rejoice. And in the midst of joy, we seek to bring this hope to those who suffer and assure His suffering people that we are rejected because He was and we will triumph because He has. Feeling His joy must remind me of how indebted I am to the world to bring the news that in Christ all suffering is temporary and meaningful. Feeling His pain must remind me of how indebted I am to the world to bring the news that in Christ all suffering is temporary and meaningful.

So this is it. The abundant life in all of its divine tensions. Full of pain, carrying the grief of many, mourning with those who mourn, enduring a cross of sorrow—yet full of joy, spreading the Hope to many, rejoicing with those who rejoice, awaiting a crown of glory.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Crisis: To Be or Not To Be

Not too long ago I had an identity crisis.

I did not know it at the time, but I know it now.

Jesus saved me out of a life of rebellion, lies, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, slander, arrogance, idolatry, and religiosity when I was 18. And everything changed. Everything I had once desired and loved and striven for radically changed. My flirtatious, boy-loving self suddenly did not want to date or be in any kind of romantic relationship so that I might be focused solely on knowing the God of the universe who had shown me the Light of Christ. 

Those years were so, so sweet for my soul. I hungered so much for the Word. Any chance I got I would open up the Scriptures and pore over every verse. My Savior, in every book of the Bible. Each page showed me something about Him I never knew. About His character. About what He loved and what He hated. About His nature and attributes. So many journals, so many memories there.

One thing I would always wonder aloud was “how will I ever be able to love a husband? There’s no room in my heart for that kind of devotion if I love Jesus this much.” Weird. I know. For a long time I didn't want to get married. I envisioned myself waking up next to another human being whose earthly delight was partly found in me and the thought made me nervous. 

“The first person I speak to and hear from each morning has been and will be the Lord. Wouldn't a husband ruin that?!” Ha. I know that with God all things are possible, but this was a sincere struggle!

Needless to say, I didn't really want to marry. I couldn't see myself married. I was actively serving the Lord in ministry, making disciples, doing life with people, learning and growing and can remember feeling so blessed to freely do that in light of friends who were married young. I did date some godly guys but those relationships didn't last long.

Then, as I began to grow and learn about what it means to be a godly woman, I noticed a pattern. Book after book, conference after conference, the big themes in womanhood were tied to being a godly wife and being a godly mother. And I must say: it is a beautiful role and calling! Without noticing, I slowly began to embrace the idea that if I was neither, I would not be all that I was supposed to be. Surely I must be married and raising children so I can connect with those ladies I would be meeting in the future! Or so I thought. When the opportunity came for me to potentially marry a solid Christian man who was a kind of a missionary and preparing to be a pastor I thought “This is it! This is who I am supposed to be. I have so much to learn and change to fit into this assigned role…”

At some point, I began writing my own story. I had been on this journey with the Lord where He was leading and unfolding His beautiful and often painful but joyful plan for me. And it’s almost as if I said “Okay, thanks Lord. But I can take it from here.”
My story was a cut and paste of different stories I had read. I would get married while Mr. “Right” was finishing seminary. I would work until my first child was born. We would land a job at a church where he would be the pastor and I would be the leading lady and of course, a stay-at-home wife and mother. I would home school. And eventually be immersed in also making disciples of the ladies in the church as I was raising my many future missionary/evangelist/pastor/teacher children—at least two to four of them adopted internationally (of course).

I looked forward to that being my new identity. In fact, in my heart and mind it was my identity for a few years. Until Mr. Right(Now) and I broke up.

My Heavenly Father graciously confronted me about my direction and decisions. I had written out my new life contract and had simply asked my Lord (who I was instead treating as my servant) to sign on the dotted line below.

The idea of who I was supposed to be was far from who I really was. Both he and I were putting pressure on me to be the woman I would read about. You know, the ideal godly wife and mom. I started becoming a different person. But not in the right way and all too suddenly and unnaturally. 

For this and other reasons that I will spare for now, we ended the relationship. For a time, I was shattered. I didn't know who I would then be or become. Until the Spirit sweetly spoke to me with the simplest of all truths. My identity is in Christ.

As in, HE is who I am. Where He goes, I go. Where He leads, I follow. HE writes my story. Because when it comes down to it, all of this life is about HIS story.
 This is His story! And I simply get to be a part of it. Gosh, maybe simply is a shabby word for such a glorious truth. I MIRACULOUSLY, AMAZINGLY, GRACIOUSLY, UNBELIEVABLY get to be a part of it. There is only One star and we all get to play supporting roles.

It is sufficient to know that I am His. And that He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. This is what He has always done. The joy that I have found in Him is so much deeper than any earthly gift, including the man I almost married and the life we could have had. His plans for me are sweeter even though I have no idea what they are even while they are unfolding.

I am now preparing to leave forever (or indefinitely) to serve the unreached with Gospel for Asia. I will serve in Texas. I will serve in South Asia. Indefinitely. Wholeheartedly. Wherever, whenever. That many would come to know the One, true Living God and the Son of God who purchased a people for Himself among them. 
Me with some of my students in Southeast Asia 2012 school year. :)

I leave August 22nd as a 30-year-old who is single, satisfied, and sent. And yet, Gospel for Asia is not my identity. It is my current, earthly assignment and privilege. My identity is that I am His. Whether I marry or not. Whether I teach or not. Whether I ever make money again or not. Whether I give my life in Asia or be spent in the U.S. on behalf of the unreached of Asia. Whether I make 100 disciples or 10. I have great confidence and can honestly say that my crisis and fears are done. I don’t need to know nor do I need to plan or worry. His track record is perfect and He is who I desire to be like.

HE Himself is my identity. 

Recommended article!
Single, Satisfied, and Sent

Sunday, February 3, 2013

God Makes Me Sick

I have a cold.
It's not anything ridiculous or life-threatening, but I feel, sound, and look icky. It slows down a normally hyperactive day and forces me to get the kind of rest that is needed and helpful, but frequently put off.
I find that when I am sick and in bed, I give myself time to meditate and have longer, more meaningful times with the Lord in between nose blowing and coughing. Some of my most memorable lessons and corrections from God have come in those times and it seems I always get sick at the wrong time which tends to be the right time.
When life gets busy and I'm off trying to take over the world (perhaps trying to 'save' the world is a better description), the first thing to go is my alone time with the Father. Whether it's because I go to bed late working on something and can't wake up early enough or because I even schedule things during that morning hour, I default to saying quick prayers in the shower and in the car, and reading a passage in between the to-do items on my never ending lists.
Then, suddenly, my throat hurts. I immediately whine in my heart and say that I don't have time to be sick. I don't have time for a few extra hours of rest.
'...Not now, Lord. I have to finish this or that. Then we will spend tons of time together...'
But busyness is quite an addiction. I'll have a time of overwhelming things to plan and prepare for. I go full force, leaving behind many and much. I start accomplishing tasks and I want to do more! It creates a desire to go to bed every night with the feeling of having finished much. So that even when one busy 'season' or week is over, I somehow find myself in another busy season and that needed longer time with the Lord doesn't come.
Now, I am a believer in praying without ceasing. Pray all day, for everything. Before teaching a class, before eating a meal, before having a conversation. Brief times of asking Jesus for wisdom to teach, love to give, grace to speak. And many, many times of thanking Him for the simple things that are there day after day. But...
Extended alone times with Him are crucial. My soul craves them. My life is built on them. Times of sitting and soaking and crying and laughing...with Him. Times of restoration and rememberance. And just when I have this terrible need I get sick.
I always wonder if it's the Lord at work in that, though I'm sure many would disagree that it's biblical for Him to grant me the gift of a temporary cold for me to be with Him. I won't go as far as to say that. But I will say that Psalm 23, one of my favorite passages to meditate on, says,
 "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul." 1-3a
I realize that He really does lead me and make me lie down. He makes a way for me to find my rest in Him again and again. He feeds me with His word and restores my soul. I suddenly remember how fascinating and glorious He is and how precious this gift of salvation is and how great a calling I have to be a minister of reconciliation and my strength is renewed. So, paradoxically, I often feel the strongest when I'm sick. As though God delighted to display His power in my weakness. :)
Whatever it takes, Lord.

Monday, July 23, 2012

There's No Place Like Home

I’ve realized that what is difficult about being in a foreign place, with unknown people, new foods, and totally different attire is simply the feeling of it being foreign. That is all. Often what is scary and undesirable about a person, place or thing (perhaps the word noun came to mind) is that it is unfamiliar.

Familiarity is one of the sweetest feelings ever. We love to grow closer to people and feel comfortable enough to open a friend’s fridge, sit on a friend’s bed or speak to him or her in a way that other people cannot or would dare not. We love the kinds of relationships where words aren’t even necessary. There is comfort there, in the familiarity of understanding and loving one another and rarely feeling awkward. In being able to communicate and be understood by the other. In many ways, even if other people treat us better, we prefer what is most familiar. In most cases, a child will choose mom even if she is critical or unstable or struggling with drug use or slow to show physical affection just because she’s mom. That connection is of the deepest with regards to familiarity.

I think about the movie Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith and his son. They faced serious struggles and in one of the saddest scenes they fall asleep on the bathroom floor of the dirty subway because they were homeless. Though Will Smith cried in that moment at the thought of not being able to provide his son with shelter, the boy fell asleep as happy as ever. Dad turned the situation into a game and there was much comfort and laughter for the boy until he fell asleep in his father’s arms. What a powerful scene. The comfort of being with dad was enough for the boy to remain emotionally stable and even content in these circumstances. There was a familiarity that was strong enough to make the foreign aspects of homelessness feel okay.

Being in India, learning different languages (yes, plural), eating a variety of different foods (almost all spicy), in a different way (I haven’t used a fork in two months), while wearing completely distinct clothing (trying to remember what jeans feel like), and embracing the unique mannerisms and unspoken social norms has not been that difficult. And living in the culture means I get to understand why people do or say the things they do or say, which makes it easier to adapt. The challenge is in the familiarity piece.
I’ve had to ask myself, what brings me most comfort? What or where is my familiar place?
If like Will Smith’s son, my place of comfort is in Dad’s Presence (capital D), then wherever He is feels like home. This has been one remarkable reality here. The feeling of being able to eat anything, wear whatever, sleep anywhere, and do whichever task is given, hangs on His presence. There is so much freedom in this thought. He will never leave me and will always lead me down paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.
Where He is present and I am faithfully abiding, that place will feel familiar. Where He is loved will never feel strange no matter what language is being spoken. Removing shoes and covering my head to enter a place of worship, where men and women sit on opposite sides and dare not speak until it’s time to pray aloud or greet others when the opportunity is granted is not a foreign feeling. This is how He is loved and exalted where I am.
Strange is being with people who claim to love Christ and look dead in worship. Foreign is the places or gatherings that are void of the Giver of Life.
The difficult days I’ve had here are the same as the difficult days at home---when I get distracted and stop abiding in Him. Everything feels uncomfortable in those times and I get the feeling that I’m missing something or someone or everything or everyone. Everything feels foreign. I’ve had so many moments of realizing how deeply attached I am or was or am or was (still struggling) to different people.  I miss so many people terribly. Especially those with whom I have the deepest fellowship—my sister, my team, my Jonathan. I’ve cried many tears over these people.
Through the pain of detachment though, there is a sweetness to feeling “at home” even in this room alone because God is here.
This is a gift. One that He promised to all those who would repent and believe in Christ, namely, the Holy Spirit. He is the reason people can move to foreign lands and learn new languages and eat new foods with people of another color and die and be buried thousands of miles from family. He is the reason people can endure hardships, trials, persecution, rejection, famine for the sake of Christ.
He is the One who has been boldly testifying to my heart that every place on earth is foreign because my home is in heaven. And yet every place can feel familiar because the One who reigns in heaven lives in me.

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Ephesians 2:19

 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35, 37-39

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Waiting To Hear

I sit here in India, meditating on my morning reading in Matthew 14.

A very familiar passage about Jesus walking on water and Peter getting out of the boat. Now, I've grown up in church so I've heard this passage preached a million times in different ways, but drawing the same point. Mainly about getting out of our "boat"or our "comfort zones" if we want to do the impossible and get to Jesus. It is right on.

But this morning as the Spirit spoke, I was drawn to Peter's words:

"Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."

Peter was known to put his foot in his mouth. He was the bolder one who would speak things without thinking first and would inevitably and continuously be corrected by the Lord. I mean, to the point where Peter tried to hinder Jesus from going to the cross and was sharply rebuked by Jesus with a "get behind me Satan." I don't know about you, but I would NEVER want to hear the Lord tell me that.

But in this case, he is commendable. He looks out, along with the other disciples, and sees something scary. It looked like a ghost. It was someone walking towards them ON WATER, in the dark, with the winds against him, at three or four in the morning. I'd be petrified, too. As soon as Peter realizes that this may be Jesus, he expresses his desire to go TOWARDS what is terrifying and in a way that only the Lord could enable. Walking on water.

I love that what is frightening suddenly becomes so intriguing because Jesus is there.

Here we are in this boat that represents safety and comfort, surrounded by others like ourselves. But there, in the winds, in the dark, above the elements which would normally cause us to sink, is Jesus. And man, does that boat look terribly dull. Knowing that Jesus is out in the scary and unknown makes staying in that boat scarier. It's the fear we feel when we're stuck in the same place just because we know nothing different or are unwilling to step into the unknown. The fear of being like a mouse in a wheel. Running and getting nowhere. When we look at it like that, we see that it should be more terrifying to STAY in the boat.

But beyond this, again, I am drawn to Peter's request. In his bold spontaneuity, he doesn't immediately climb out of the boat and run to Jesus. He calls upon Him and asks for Him to give the word.

Yes, God Himself had orchestrated this moment. But it came from Peter to request the command. He waited to hear the Lord speak and only then did he act. He saw what He could do--namely, the impossible--for the Lord and yet asked for Him to speak a word.

Jesus said, "Come."

Is it any surprise that Jesus would command that which is most difficult, most impossible and most challenging to his faith?

Is it any surprise that Jesus would command that which would put this kind of faith and dependence on display for others to see and give glory to Him?

Not at all. This is the Master I've come to know.

Sometimes the hardest word is, "stay."

Sometimes the hardest word is, "wait."

Regardless of what He commands, however, it is HIS will that we want. It is what HE knows is best that will lead us to more of Him and more souls to be added to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is HIS word that we must wait for.

But not passively.

Like Peter, we must see Him in the danger and say "please am I....send me....give the command...say the word...."
I reflected this morning on how He called me to India for this season. I can remember reading about this precious people. I remember looking out of my boat and seeing Jesus in the darkest, stormiest of places, conquering all natural elements to bring glory to the Father and salvation to those who would believe. I can remember wanting to be here and asking Him to give me the word. I can remember being invited to come by a man, but knowing it wasn't the time of the Lord. I was waiting for the command.

The command was given this past January. And I sit here now, in May, wondering what is about to unfold before me.

I wish to grow more in waiting to hear His voice. I desperately want to depend on "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

I want to be like the centurion. So confident in the authority of Jesus' words that he had no need for Him to physically lay hands on his sick servant. "But only say the word and my servant will be healed."

I want to be confident that if I look out and see a multitude too large to feed, that when Jesus says, "YOU give them something to eat," I trust that He will grant what He commands as He commands what He wills.

That I would wait for the command and go where He sends, when He sends, knowing that this kind of dependence and obedience produces more fruit than a thousand good deeds from my own strength and will.

That at His word I would cast a net and see what HE does when all submits to the authority of His word. It's HIS word that speaks life to dry bones. It's HIS word that speaks healing to a sick body or a wounded heart. It's HIS word that gives sight to the blind, both physically and spiritually. It's HIS word that even commands the winds and the seas. It's HIS word that casts out demons and binds the brokenhearted and even declares, in the depths of our depravity, "take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven."

Even today, I wait for the command. Whatever He speaks will be enough for me. And in obeying I will do the impossible and get to Jesus. What could be better?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Soul Food

There are things in this life that do nothing for my soul.

Well, maybe not nothing. But rather, nothing to stir up affections for the One in whom my soul is satisfied.

I know in my mind that my soul is satisfied in Christ alone. Yet I too often lie to myself and engage in “good” things or “harmless” things that don’t help me love Him more. And though I engage in these activities without the guilt of “committing sin,” I always realize when it’s over that if it wasn’t done fully for His glory or if it didn't produce thanksgiving in myself or others, my soul is disappointed. It will again long for something meaningful. Namely, anything that boasts in Jesus as the all-satisfying Treasure.
(Thanks, Piper.)

Take, for instance, shopping. I need to first say that shopping is not sinful, and in much of life it is in fact necessary. But man. Going to the mall does nothing for my soul.
It does not remind me of how rich I am in Christ Jesus.
It does not remind me of how much I have been given to steward on this earth.
Nor does it remind me that the Lord is my Shepherd and I shall not want.
It does not help me to remember that more than seventy percent of the world lives on two dollars a day or less.
It does not remind me of the urgency with which I must preach that God—not stuff—is what we truly crave because our souls were fashioned to be satisfied in Him alone.

If and when I leave a mall, having purchased something for myself, I usually don’t feel bad and I don’t have to.  But deep down, most times, I can readily admit that I didn't need what I had just purchased and would have felt a greater joy in using that money to show how much more I treasure Jesus.

So if you know me you know that you will likely never run into me at the mall. And these years of rarely going have given me a sweet freedom that is hard to explain.

Huge parenthesis:
(But because I do like to purchase things, and due to being somewhat impulsive in buying, I have found a greater joy in going online to a couple of different websites where I can “shop.” Such as:

· [buy sewing machines, scholarship for literacy classes, blankets, bibles, bicycles for missionaries, winter packets, etc.]
· [buy necklaces from impoverished women, many who have left shameful lifestyles to provide for poor families; donate towards feeding a village, etc.]
· [many of the best books were written by preachers from centuries past and they are both life changing and dirt cheap on Amazon.]

Again, my soul rejoices more in Jesus when, by His grace, I can stir my affections towards the things and people He loves most.)

As a second but last example for now, let’s take watching movies.

I’ve never been a fan of staring at a screen. So my boredom with television comes from my younger years not necessarily from when I came to know the Lord. I’ve always liked real people in real life. And even the movies that I do like are based on true stories.

In being adamantly opposed to legalism I have to say as I did with shopping: watching movies is not sinful. It can be very relaxing and entertaining at times.

But, let’s face it. The vast majority of what people watch in movies does nothing to stir our affections for the Lord.

There are many things the Lord Jesus despises that our society sees as normal.

It is normal in our day to know of couples who live and sleep together not being married. But not to the holy, loving God I know.

It is normal for people to flippantly use the Lord’s holy name. But the LORD has made it clear that we are not to use this glorious Name in vain.

It is normal to see couples on television or in life that are openly homosexual. And normal to joke about homosexuality. The Lord makes it clear that these relationships are unnatural and sinful.

It is normal in modern American society to see children defy their parents and openly slander people in authority. But our Creator demands that we honor our mother and father and all those who are in authority.

 What can we say about sexual immorality all together, if biblically we are not even to MENTION things that hint at sexual immorality or have any kind of course joking on our lips?

Or about hatred and murder? We can go on and on.

And yet these are all things we commonly see in the latest movies. Often, Lord help us, we laugh at the very things that God hates. The very things about man that our Savior was crucified for. We become numb to the taking of human life because we see people kill people in movies all the time. Relationships become cheap because they are based on lust, which Hollywood does a great job portraying as “love”. We see anger, jealousy and revenge and laugh. We hear our Lord’s name thrown around and we’ve become so accustomed that we don’t even notice.

I don’t know about you, but watching these things, even if they’re just hints throughout a movie, do nothing to help me love Jesus. Our fire can easily be quenched if we are in the habit of carelessly heeding to Hollywood’s way of life through constant viewing.

And worse. Over time, our minds, hearts, and souls shrink down to the level of what we see. We are what we eat. If our minds are constantly engaged in meaningless things that serve only to produce a quick laugh in the moment, our capacity to fathom true grandeur is greatly diminished. It’s like watching three hours of Family Guy and walking into church hoping to rejoice in the wonders of the cross and the glory of our eternal King. Good luck. It’s too long of a journey for my soul to go from profane to profound—vain to praiseworthy—in a moment. There’s too much of a disconnect. Our affections for Jesus are weakened. Our appetites for His Word are ruined. We fill our souls with crap and find ourselves too full to eat Bread of Life.

That’s not even to mention the countless hours spent watching and being emotionally involved with fictitious characters while real people, many who are on their way to a real eternity of suffering, surround us. Two billion (yes, two hundred million) are still waiting to hear about Jesus FOR THE FIRST TIME.

So I know that I have to be jealous. Jealous to keep my mind from being distracted. Jealous to keep my heart from wanting to be made complete in someone or something other than God. Jealous to keep my soul away from “good” things that don’t satisfy it and close to great things that stir me up in love and zeal for Jesus. I want to watch things that remind me that the world is LOST and hopeless without Christ. I want to listen to things that remind of God’s incomparable attributes. I want to read about things that remind me that as I lay down my life in love, He will use it to change the world. I want to engage in activities that at the end of the day leave me emptied of myself yet filled with Him. Yes. With Him.

My soul thirsts for the Living God. I will not give it anything less.   

Sweet meditation from one of my favorite chapters in Scripture:

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear me that you soul may live..." Isaiah 55:1-3a