Sunday, March 27, 2016

for this I have been born...

"For this I have been born,
and for this I have come into the cosmos:
to demonstrate the power of truth.
Everyone who seeks truth hears My voice."
~John 18:37

For this I have been born...

Waiting. It seems like so much of life is just waiting. I don't know about you, but I don't like waiting. I've spent a lot of time--years, even--waiting for my future to come, waiting to find out what God has in store for me.

Jesus was waiting His whole life, but He wasn't waiting for His plans to all work out.

He was waiting for the cross.

From the moment Jesus came into the world, His purpose was to face the cross--to take the punishment we deserve onto Himself.

Jesus spent His life waiting for an excruciating death on a cross which came after mockery and humiliation. He had the power to walk away from the cross, to call down legions of angels and have the armies of Heaven wipe out all those trying to kill Him.

But still, He chose the cross.

He chose to bear the humiliation of a crown of thorns placed on the head that rightly bore the crown of Heaven. He chose the agony of the cross, of separation from the Father, when He could have been seated on the throne beside Him.

And though His entire life was leading up to that moment--a time of unimaginable sorrow--in the midst of His own agony, Jesus was still focused on us.

If you know me, you know how much I like Peter. As Jesus was being mocked and beaten and falsely put on trial, Peter was fulfilling what Jesus had said. He was denying even knowing Jesus, let alone being His follower. With Peter's third denial, before the words were even out of his mouth, a rooster crowed.

And Peter knew what he had done.

There was Jesus, in the middle of a crowd of people who were mocking Him, beating Him, and spitting on Him. Yet when the rooster crowed, Luke 22:61 tells us "The LORD turned toward Peter, and their eyes met." While He was waiting for His death, knowing what He was about to face, Jesus made it a point to find Peter in the chaos, to look into the eyes of the friend who had just denied even so much as knowing Him.

Jesus spent His life waiting for the cross to save us from having to pay the penalty for our sins. He chose to suffer so we wouldn't have to.

The story could have stopped there, and it would have been enough. With His death, Jesus paid the price for our sins. He took our punishment upon Himself, which was more than any of us deserves. But that's not the end of the story.

"So we stand firm in the conviction
that death holds no power over God's Anointed,
because He was resurrected from the dead
never to face death again."
~Romans 6:9

Our sins were crucified with Christ, but that's not where God's mercy and grace stop. Instead, when we join with Him in the crucifixion, we also join with Him in the resurrection. When the stone was rolled away and the empty tomb was revealed, Jesus gave us the gift of eternity.

We're waiting. That's a big part of life. The thing is, since Jesus chose the cross we're not waiting for death. Instead, we're waiting for Life.



Saturday, March 26, 2016

broken people

How many times has it happened? Everyone gets up late, wanting to sleep in instead of getting up and around but knowing that they "have to." One kid complains about not having anything she wants to wear despite all the clothes hanging in the closet, another wants to wear his rainboots even though he's dressed up. It's time to walk out the door, and the kids still don't have shoes on their feet. The ride in the car is full of "Don't touch me!" and "Just leave each other alone if you can't be nice--I'm tired of all the yelling!" being yelled out. Everyone is fuming, mad at each other and frowning out the windows.

Then, you get to church.

Everyone plasters on a smile as you walk through the door, and answers all the "Good morning, how are you?"s with the popular answer-- "Great, how are you?" or the even more spiritual answer-- "We're blessed!"

Too often, when we walk through the doors of the church all our struggles are ignored. We tend to pretend like life is all daisies and butterflies, like we never have any problems that we don't immediately turn over to God. We have the Monday-Saturday version of ourselves, and then we have the version reserved for Sunday morning. That version has it all together, never gets frustrated or disappointed, and faces the day with nothing but a song of praise.

What would it be like, I wonder, if we as Christians started being real with each other?

What would happen if we shared our struggles and stopped pretending?

What would our love look like if we stepped into the middle of each other's mess and chose to love?

What would the rest of the world see then? Would they still see us as fake, angry hypocrites? Or would they see us as God sees us--imperfect, broken people who have been saved by nothing more or less than grace, people who are covered by the blood Jesus shed on the day of His crucifixion.

I'm blessed to be part of a church that is a family. We know each other's messes, because we don't hide behind fake smiles on Sunday morning. We're a small group at Living Word Fellowship, across the street from the sale barn in Green Forest. We're a family of broken people trying to learn together how to do this thing called life, trying desperately to figure out what God wants from us.

There's a song called "Broken Together" by Casting Crowns. Though it's about a husband and wife, I think it applies to all of us who are called to walk through life together under Christ. The chorus goes:
Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete
Could we just be broken together
If you can bring your shattered dreams and I'll bring mine
Could healing still be spoken and save us
The only way we'll last forever is broken together

 As God's people, we were made to walk through this life together. It wasn't so that we could be fake with each other, pretending not to have any issues that weigh us down or problems that we struggle to face. Instead, it was so that we could have someone to safely share with us in our brokenness, someone who could walk with us through the messy parts, rejoice with us during the amazing parts, and generally "do life" with us.

Besides my church family, I've been blessed with a cousin I get to do life with. Christy and I don't get to see each other very often, because we're both moms with all the chaos of life that that brings with it. Still, though, through texts and occasional "dates" we get to walk each other through the messy parts. We can let all the frustrations and disappointments show without worrying about trying to be fake or trying to smile through the ugly times. The amazing part is, though, that God's grace keeps pulling us through everything. We kick each other in the seat when it's needed, we remind each other that God's got this, and we de-stress together. I'm truly blessed to count her as both family and friend.



My own mess is about to be out there for all the world to see-- life. faithful. is about to become a book. I've taken a few of my posts from this blog and combined them with the messy parts I've left out. It's in the final editing stages right now, but with God's grace it will be out soon.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

faith like a child?

We're told to have faith like a child. So many times, it seems like people think that that means we should have a simplistic faith.

In 1 Samuel 17, we're told about a child and his faith. David was probably a teenager, but I have to tell you that the longer I'm around high school kids and the older I get, the more I realize that teenagers are still children. The Israelite army was scared to death, staring at the giant they were facing. None of them was willing to go out and face him, despite the king's offer of money, marriage to his daughter, and no more taxes for his whole family.

When David saw Goliath, he didn't see a giant. He saw someone who was taunting the army "of the living God." (v. 26)

With the faith of a child.

He volunteered to fight, despite the king's dissent and the ridicule of his brothers. As he walked out to face the giant he carried nothing more than a sling and some stones, having turned down the king's offer of armor. The giant taunted and cursed him, threatening to cut David up and feed his flesh to the animals.

Still, David walked forward.

With the faith of a child.

 "You come to me carrying a sword and spear and javelin as your weapons, but I come armed with the name of the Eternal One, the Commander of heavenly armies, the True God of the armies of Israel, the One you have insulted. [...] The battle is the Eternal One's, and He will give you into our hands." (v. 45, 47b)

Goliath's shield bearer walked ahead of him, but David didn't take his eyes off of the giant, the one trying to make God look bad. David put a single stone into a sling and killed a giant.

With the faith of a child.

What kind of faith does it take to face a giant with nothing but a sling and some rocks? If you call that kind of faith "simplistic," I don't even want to see the kind of faith you consider sophisticated.

The faith of a child is far from simplistic. The faith of a child is powerful, the kind of faith that can face any giant you throw out there, the kind of faith that arms itself not with armor and swords, but with the presence of the Eternal One, the Commander of Heavenly Armies.

With the faith of a child.

 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

when the foundation shakes

It's easy to get discouraged in this world when we look around ad see everything falling down. It seems like the foundation of everything good has been shaken. The wicked are attacking, working in the shadows to try to take down the remnant who still follow God.

"'If the foundations are crumbling,
is there hope for the righteous?'"
~Psalm 11:3

Sometimes, it feels like we have no hope.

And we would be hopeless--if it weren't for God.

No matter how the world is falling apart around us, the righteous still have hope. That's because we are not righteous in our own power or by our own doing, but because we are covered by the blood of the only One who is righteous, Jesus. We have hope because our righteousness is wrapped up in His, sealed by His victory over death and the grave. We have hope because our Foundation is God, and He is never shaken.

"But the Eternal has not moved; He remains in His holy temple. He sits squarely on His heavenly throne. He observes the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, examining us within and without, exploring every fiber of our beings."
~Psalm 11:4

This world can wear us down. It can leave us thinking that things are hopeless and we're on our own.

We have to remember that God is still on the throne. He will never be shaken, and He is our Hope.
Just be held.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

when the world is falling apart...

When you look around, what do you see?

Do you see a world that's falling apart? One where it seems like the "bad guys" are always winning? One where people have shunned God, His commands, and His values?

People have turned God' word upside down. They are calling right wrong and wrong right. The created have turned their backs on the Creator, attempting to drag His name through the mud in order to excuse their own bad behavior and poor choices.

We're told that we can choose our gender, marry anyone we want, kill "unwanted" babies, get something for nothing, and bend the truth to our will.

People mock God every day, and they seem to be getting their way. They parade their mockery in front of everyone, and they seem to be winning.

It's easy to get discouraged, to start wondering why God is allowing all of this to happen. We know that God is in control, but sometimes we forget.

"Trying to solve this mystery on my own exhausted me.
 I couldn’t bear to look at it any further.
So I took my questions to the True God,
    and in His sanctuary I realized something so chilling and final: 
their lives have a deadly end. 
Because You have certainly set the wicked upon a slippery slope,
    You’ve set them up to slide to their destruction. 
 And they won’t see it coming. It will happen so fast:
    first, a flash of terror, and then desolation."
~Psalm 73:16-19

We forget that the things of this life are temporary. We forget that everything we're facing right now will be gone in the blink of an eye in comparison to eternity.

All those people who are perverting and twisting Gods words? People who are using the Scriptures and Jesus' name for their own purposes? Those who are trying to put down God in order to lift themselves up?

Those people are sliding to their own destruction.

Despite all their efforts to run God through the mud, God will not be mocked.  His word will not be twisted to suit worldly views. The truth of the Creator stands, and it cannot be changed to fit the whims of the created.

"It will happen: whoever shuns You will be silenced forever;
 You will bring an end to all who refuse to be true to You. 
But the closer I am to You, my God,
the better because life with You is good.
O Lord, the Eternal, You keep me safe—
I will tell everyone what You have done."
~Psalm 73:27 & 28

Don't give in. Don't despair when it seems like God's opposition is winning. Don't start to believe their lies when they try to say that God's word doesn't apply today or when they try to twist His words to fit their purposes.

Stay close to God. Test everything against His word, no matter who is speaking or if they claim to be speaking for Him. In fact, test it more if it's supposed to be coming from Him.

Draw close to God, and tell others what He has done for you.

Cling to the Truth.
Cling to the Word.
Cling to the Father.