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In the Walmart parking lot tonight I passed by a husband throwing up his arms yelling at his wife for how stupid she was spending more money on Thanksgiving than she made this week. Ah, and so begins the highly anticipated and equally dreadful consumer holiday spirit. Thank you Hallmark and Target for the unreasonable expectations of a perfect holiday in a broken world.
The last time I got to have Thanksgiving with my mom was 20yrs ago, in her hospital room. The homemade feast we lugged up five floors was cold and the radiation burned in her stomach as we tried to “make the best of it.” That sucked. This year I have friends who can’t escape loneliness, one fighting to live through the chemo that’s trying to kill her cancer, a friend who is losing a job right now along with a few hundred of his co-workers, a customer who’s son got jailed for the 3rd time this year because “he’ll never learn”, etc. “Happy Holidays!” It’s a bit unfitting to say the least.
Earlier this month I read some FB-posts giving thanks for each day in November leading up to Thanksgiving. They were primarily remarks of thankfulness for favorable circumstances which in turn can make any of us less fortunate to feel cursed. So, I challenged myself. I wondered if I could come up with a “thankful” list that didn’t point to warm houses, new cars, good jobs, loyal friends, life long romances, and perfect kids. All of these “blessings” for sure feel good and are worthy of thanks. They are also at risk of a sudden loss and that can make a holiday suck. At my desk, in-between my 50+ phone calls, I jotted some thoughts and ended up with a list of 30 unchanging realities. I really wrote this for my own meditation but after the Walmart episode I thought I’d share. Maybe, if your circumstances suck right now, you’ll find something to be thankful for that promises to never change.
Jesus, Thank You for …
- Your stunning wisdom and revelation insight, You keep me fascinated
- Your prepaid forgiveness for everything, that astounds me
- Your blood, it lets You see me just-as-if I’ve never sinned
- Your looks of love toward me
- Your eternal desires to be with me, I still can’t understand that
- Not flinching at my uglies when I dare to expose them to You
- My doubts and objections never convincing You
- Collecting my tears, that makes me feel cherished
- Hearing me, after all who am I to be heard by You?
- Drawing near to me when I draw near to You
- Resisting my pride, I would have fallen so many times if You hadn’t got in my way
- Helping me to know Your voice
- Making it possible for me to live without offense more and more, BTW this is blowing my mind more and more
- Healing my heartbreaks, where would I be without You?
- Never fearing to tell me the truth
- Making me courageous with Your very courage
- Trusting me with Your mysteries
- Never giving up on my ass
- Liking me
- Claiming me as Your own like You’re proud of me or something
- Holding me out like a light for others to see because You think I’m worth looking at over and over again
- Defending me
- Never letting shame separate us
- Being faithful to me, You’re resilience makes me marvel
- Making plans to always set me up for a good outcome
- Putting me in You; You’ve made me worth good things that I will never deserve
- Staying captivated with my potential in You instead of my weakness
- Singing n dancing over me with delight, I’ve never had that before
- Making my hopes float when hoping makes me tired
- Wooing me to rest in You especially when it doesn’t make sense… oh, and
- Not letting me marry a dude who shames me in Walmart parking lots:-)
“Abraham labored 25 years for his promise. Then, when he got him, he gave him back up to God.” B Sorge 11-6-15
25 New Year mornings thinking “this could be the year” and 24 New Year eves resolving it was not. Impossible it is for one to wait for God to fulfill His words to you unless His grace is empowering you to believe one more day, one more year, one more decade…
I wonder… what year did doubt meet up with Abraham? What year did human reason try to work it’s mediocrity n twist God’s words? What year did his friends lose hope n stop encouraging his dream? In what year did the devil call him crazy? What year was it that the seduction of depression tried to win him over?
How many of those 25 years did he have to watch his friends get for themselves what he would only get through promise? Then how many more years did he have to watch his friend’s kids do the same while he remained managing his longings within the suspension of waiting through another year?
I wonder what year fatalism tried to take a seat? What year did the accusations against God push their lies? What about the year his aged body told him, no way man? What year was it that his own wife, needed to conceive n carry the promise, finally laughed him off….
Every year began with “maybe” only to end with “not yet”. Abraham walked upon a tight rope of God’s invisible words for over 9000 days of possibility. He saw them all pass him by but one. Absolutely impossible it was to endure faith without empowering grace.
Abraham’s next act of love for God would be greater than the first. Such love would have had no where to anchor if there had not been such a deep intimate history with God in faith through grace.
Everyone wants Abraham’s faith. Who wants Abraham’s wait?
“All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.”
Romans 8:22-25 MSG
We are making plans to spend Valentine’s Day with the man we hate to love: Mr. 50 Shades of Christian Grey! We’ll be there by the tens of thousands spending our tens of millions for a quickie: a quick escape, a quick entitlement, a quick hope, and yes – a hot quick thrill. As you pass us bye in the ticket lines next weekend you may wonder, who are we to be so enticed? Well let me tell you…
“It’s the fact that you are mine to do with as I see fit-ultimate control over someone else. And it turns me on.” – Christian Grey*
We are girls who want for greatness and don’t know we were already born from it. We’re attracted to masculine confidence but have learned to settle for big egos. Like Ana, we will tolerate male arrogance (against our better judgement) even if it eventually abuses us. We are looking for someone who appears great to tell us in turn we are great. We will let them define us and we’ll conform for the approval. So what if it comes with a side of pride and control freak? We can’t help it. We’ve simply not yet learned the glory of our own worth nor from where it has originated.
“Why did he say he couldn’t make love? I will do anything he wants.” – Ana Steele*
We are girls who long for intimacy and have learned to repress it for sex. We know – we know, Christian is not intimately acquainted with Ana. He won’t even let her look him in the eyes. However, he is intimately acquainted with the female body and we really like that. Thanks to the countless many he paid to practice his craft on; he is a master at timing, touch, and building anticipation in order to manipulate mind-blowing orgasms! Just like Ana, we secretly long for our men to study us in all of our ways but we’ll let them know our bodies first while we endlessly hope for the engagement of our souls. We don’t know to wait through the slow, mutual, and voluntary reveal of two trusting hearts and a daring martial vow. We’ve not had a grid for that kind of action for decades. Sucks, I know.
“I need to be able to show him affection than perhaps he can reciprocate…” -Ana Steele*
We are girls who long for justice and strive to self-redeem our own violations. We are the abused flocking to appease our secret abuses. We continue to give our sex away hoping one of these days, our sex will finally return the love we wished for the first time we gave it away. Please keep in mind, very few of us were introduced to sex in the context of its holiness, we have no idea the true ecstasy we’ve been compromising.
“I am grateful for your inexperience… Simply put, it means that you are mine in every way.” -Christian Grey*
We are girls who agonize to make an impact and we’re so easily deceived. Our hunger for romance makes us think that he was making a declaration of love until death parts them. The truth we can’t see is that his ego was swelling; knowing he got inside her first, marking her, staking his claim to never be forgotten! His heart wasn’t melting for Ana. She was simply his latest “greatest accomplishment*”. It’s a demonic rebel yell, a declaration of ownership. Now, you might be aware that the psychology of a sexual predator is to get-off on stealing purity, but we don’t. For some unknown reason get flattered by that crap.
“My stomach somersaults-he wants me … in a weird way, true, but this beautiful, strange, kinky man wants me.” -Ana Steele*
We are girls who dream to be counted among the beautiful and, well sometimes, we’re just shallow. We want someone beautiful to tell us we are beautiful because it just seems to counts more. Truth is, if we stripped Christian Grey of his beauty, money, and charisma we’d call him an ugly rapist, an impoverished abuser, a creepy stalker, and protest his pedophile-like perversions. As long as the perversions wear a pretty mask it’s all good with us. The truth is, sometimes we can be just as one dimensional as we accuse our guys to be. Why so shocked? You’ve been told the day was coming for lovers; lovers of self, money, and the profane. Right?
Mostly though, within our own relationships, we feel lonely for someone we have not met, not yet. We are bored with our choices and our insides are empty. We are starving for fascination. So when you see us girls standing in the ticket lines please forgive us, we know not what we do. We’ve mistaken this big-screen illustration of abuse, manipulation, and mutual masturbation for a love story. Pray for us, love on us, but please don’t hold it against us. For if we ever got a deeper glimpse of the beautiful innocence in One True Love, we want you to know we would be making different plans for Valentines Day.
*Quotes from 50 Shades of Grey by E L James 2011
Should I date or should I wait? Well, to the best of my knowledge the bible does not address dating. There is no biblical law against it nor is there any biblical counsel encouraging it. When it comes to dating, I no longer think “to date or not to date” is the relevant question. What God has given us is a series of relationship standards of “one anothering” that apply to all our relationships. He has also given us charges to flee sexual immoralities. That’s it. So basically our instruction is to be good to one another and don’t touch nor lust for what has not been given to us.
What does He say about waiting? A lot! To wait upon the Lord is not only encouraged, it is instructed, expected, and rewarded. He has also given us stories of His involvement in the three romantic matches previously mentioned. In them He has proved how faithful He is in the romantic. He is a wise Giver of good and fitting mates. My logical conclusion is simple; dating is unnecessary.
Keeping our romantic interests in prayer and submission to God works to purify our friendships with the opposite sex and preserve the hearts of everyone involved as well as future relationships. When Jesus spoke of the adulterous thought making us just as guilty as the adulterous act, He pointed to His greater concern: the purity of our hearts. So I wonder, “to be pure of heart or not to be pure of heart” might be the more relevant question. That’d be great because the answer to that question is a no-brainer.
When romantic interests strike and we decide to pursue it with dating we have to deal with the yoked of not being sexual with them. Because we want to do this right we’ll make our own rules to keep ourselves from obsessing, lusting, touching, and arousing one another. All of this becomes increasingly difficult to abide by because while we are resisting physically, we intercourse emotionally and affectionately. Our intertwining tightens, the questions of longevity surface and now we have to fight the pull and fog of our longings as we pray to know if this is “the one”.
It appears to me that all our efforts to compile do’s and don’ts for dating and engagement end up complicating the elementary nature of a giving God. The laborious do’s and don’ts are eliminating from our relationship with Him the very thing that brings Him pleasure: our faith. Either we believe what we see in the bible as His ability and desire to present His choice or we don’t. We wait or we don’t.
Unbelief in His vintage design leaves us alone to surrender ourselves to ourselves, leaving us with only what we can do for ourselves. Consequently, it robs our Father God of the superior pleasures our faith. The consequences domino from there; we are robbed; therefore the church is robbed until finally the earth is empty of righteousness and cries out for holy matrimonies.
What does waiting look like? It looks like wisdom; living preoccupied with Him, believing what He says, and receiving what He brings. If you want something to do while you wait; watch, pray, build friendships, and reserve romance for the one He discloses as His gift to you in His time. The dont’s will fall away in the light of His love for you. Why should we grope for what He is already longing to give?
I think we’re half way there…
In this portion of scripture Jesus is bringing light to a new way of approaching God; a kind of relationship with God that the prophets back in the day hinted:
New wine and new skins
Himself as a Bridegroom
Mourning will be the new fast
To help with context we need a definition on wineskins. A wineskin was a bag with a spigot traditionally made from goat hide to contain wine. New wine poured into skins would continue to ferment producing carbon dioxide gases, which exerted pressure. Fermentation: the conversion of sweet juices into intoxicating wine. Only new skins had the kind of elasticity needed to expand with the pressure of new wine. Old skins had no elasticity left in them. They could not stretch along with patches of new skin making them useless.
Reading between the lines we see Jesus cluing them in; the way they had been relating to God was about to expand into a relationship they had not fully considered before. They understood from the prophets Isaiah and Joel there would come a day when God would pour out His Holy Spirit upon all flesh and whosoever would call upon the Lord will be saved. God’s Holy Spirit would not only rest upon their flesh but also penetrate it making them a new creation. It would expand from an outward encounter to an inward transformation. Jesus would later meet Nicodemus and explain even further calling it being “born again”.
Up to this point the Pharisees and John’s disciples could only enjoy being a forgiven sinner. Being born-again would expand the believer’s experience from a sweet “grateful I’m forgiven” existence. The old system of atoning for sins and priestly service was about as effective as a patch of new skin on an old wine skin; their joy would only last until the next sin. I believe God had been waiting for ceremony and ritual to exhaust itself and prove what He’d known all along, it did nothing to change a man’s heart. He’d been holding out for this time in our history to finally open up an all access pass between Him and the ones He loved.
Jesus was setting them up to understand that His plan for a new Kingdom included a new creation; a new breed of humanity was going to take possession of earth. He was moving them away from a “try harder” religion and into an “all things are possible” joint adventure. This new relationship was to become an intoxicatingly intimate and empowering companionship with God.
Jesus the Bridegroom
For the first time we hear Jesus address Himself as a Bridegroom. Up to this point Matthew states references of: Son of David, Christ, King of the Jews, a Ruler who Shepherds, Nazarene, Beloved Son, Son of God, Lord, Teacher, Son of man. I wonder if the Pharisees and disciples heard the prophets words echoing in their hearts:
- Isaiah 54:5 ESV For your Maker is your husband…”
- Jeremiah 31:32 ESV “…took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband….”
- Hosea 2:19 ESV And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.
Considering Jesus as a Bridegroom was yanking on their current perspective of Him. Jesus calling Himself a Bridegroom exposed His deeper interest in them. His interest toward them was beyond their acts of service and zeal for world domination. He’s interest in them, like a Bridegroom in His Bride, was love and love at an intimate dimension. By His Spirit, He would soon be moving into them making Him closer to them than their own skin. Like any noble bridegroom in relation to his bride He would pursue them out of desire. Like a husband to a wife, He would move into them, taking the lead in their union by going ahead of them in all things. He would love them as He loved Himself. He would use His authority over them, not to dominate them but to empower them and elevate them by raising them up to sit with Him as a equally capable companion.
He was doing a new thing. Companionship with Jesus is two becoming a new creation. Consider it for yourself. What if this was your invitation to Christianity: The life you’ve managed alone up to this point is about to pass away. You are going to have to stop considering yourself as single and independent. Oneness with Jesus, like marriage, is a holy invasion of your privacy and independence. Oneness includes forever living in consideration of another. Your social circle is going to expand with other kinds of friends and family and recreation. You will no longer be your own. There are two sides to the companionship you long for: comfort and inconvenience. Do you really want it?
Fasting: an old idea
Fasting was an old practice of making religious pleas for deliverance from sin. Jesus was about to take care of the sin issue once and for all. It would be after He is taken away that fasting would resume but this time not as a means of attention getting and pleas of mercy. Fasting would become the new mourning. In other words a longing to be near Him would become the new motivation to fast. Sin would no longer be their excuse that separates them. Apathy would be the new danger. His soon coming absence is going to wound their hearts. That wound is going to awaken a depth of desire they did not know they had a capacity feel for Him. Soon they would long as though they were sick with love for the One Who saved them.
My initial experience with fasting was much like theirs. I fasted out of desperation for deliverance and intervention. I would do weekends, a full week, 21-days, I’ve done 40-days twice. What I have learned is that fasting does not earn us God’s attention nor does it motivate Him to act upon your behalf. He can’t be manipulated. The truth about fasting is it increases our spiritual sensitivities. His ancient words become new to us. Fasting is now voluntary. It works to make us aware of unholy appetites and violates our dullness with zeal. Fasting is like a bride searching out all things needed to make herself ready to go with her Bridegroom when He comes for her. Today, I fast just because I miss Him
He is the Rock to My Roll
The pressure we feel in regards to holiness is not restriction but expansion. I have two stories I want to share with you: my experience with fermentation/expansion/conversion: God’s Spirit wanting more room in my life…
Early on in companionship with Jesus I had been pretty steeped into the band scene. I liked my music loud, heavy, live, gritty, and a bit brooding. That kind of music gave a voice to the grinding questions and protests against the status quo that pounding in my heart. As I grew in the knowledge of Jesus I watched many things in my life change from the inside out. The affections of my heart were shifting and slowly my history with the bands peeled off my walls and shelves and found itself tightly packed into a 10×10 cardboard box in a corner of my room. One day I was listening to a message and the pastor said, “Do not keep a memorial to your past where it cherishes a life without Christ.” Cherished: where you loved your life without Christ.
He wounded my heart. I knew that I knew that I knew that 10×10 cardboard box was just that, me cherishing a history without Christ. I took it out to the burn pile in my backyard. I set it on fire. It was so condensed it took a couple of hours to burn through. I watched the flames turn image after image to ash. Images of what I lusted after. Images of who I wanted to be so I could be lusted after. This lifestyle, that put me in danger a couple of times, was a deep affection in my heart. It provided so much companionship.
Shortly after I remember being fretful over losing common ground with many of those friends. While in prayer the Lord showed my a silhouette of my most favored companions standing in front of the most tranquil blue light I had ever scene. He spoke to my heart, “All they need to do is turn toward the light.” It was such a simple move. I knew I could continue to go with God in confidence that He loved them as much as I did. I prayed for each of them by name. One of them is now better known as your pastor.
Now understand, He was not restricting me by wanting to take me out of the world. His desire is that I would no longer be conformed to its affections and ideals. I still like my music loud, heavy, gritty, live and a bit brooding. However the music and the lifestyle no longer answer anything for me; I no longer draw my substance from that place. He wasn’t calling me out of the world; He was expanding my world and shifting my affections. I got to embrace Him as a companion.
My second example is a little more abstract. While attending a service at Maranatha a thought came across my mind to buy new bed pillows. Then an even stranger thing happened, I felt my heart resist the idea as though I had affection for my pillows. Immediately my thoughts filled with remembrances of all the tears that had soaked those pillows. It had been a hard five years, those pillows had caught so many of my tears, tears of those kind of cries you don’t cry in front of other people: tears over losing my virginity to a rape and the bitter sweet pregnancy experience that resulted, tears from seeing my sins, watching my dad resent our family as we resented his alcoholism, tears of rejection, deep loneliness, tears of watching my mom die to soon.
If only our pillows could talk what tales of the deepest sorrow they could tell. They hold an untold history of our heartaches. In a split second He wounded my heart and a cry came forth, “Who is ever going to know the many depths of my grief?” He set me up so perfectly to hear Him, “I’ve collected every tear you’ve shed and I’ve recorded each one.” It may not be a big deal to go buy new pillows but He set me up to see He how intimately acquainted He was with me. My ideas about us were too small. Never at any point was I alone in my sadness. Unknown to me we had been making a history together. It’s the wounding of the heart that tears the veil for a greater view of Him and I got to embrace Him as a Comforter.
It’s Go Month!
Let’s changing our thinking about the pressure of expansion of holiness we feel? What if we stopped looking at the pressure as a restriction, something we don’t get to do, and more like expansion, something we get to do? Our relationship with Jesus should be defined by its passions not its regulations. I’ve got big gifts and I’m having a more difficult time knowing if people want to be my friend because they me for me or they want me for my gifts? Am I fellowshipping in a suffering of Jesus and it is making us tight.
We can only worship Him to the extent we can see Him. We can only obey Him to the extent that we can hear Him. We can only love Him to the extent we can feel His love. I am a firm believer the more you see Jesus the more you love Him. The more you love Him the more you can’t live without Him. The more you can’t live without Him the more you become sick with love. The more lovesick you are the more you’ll fast just because you miss Him. You’ll never be lovesick over someone you don’t know.
It’s Go Month, now is the time to make room for more of Him.
Like new wine in a new wineskin some of us are feeling an inward pressures to expand. He’s been setting you up. There are questions you’ve before the Lord and you can’t get God to say yes or no. You feel like your skin is going to split soon without an answer. The answer is Go.
Some of us need to Go and get saved for real, go ahead and call Ren your home, go for that thing that seems to good to be true, go ahead and walk onto the water of a scary opportunity:
- Be careful what you think to be coincidence may actually be destiny.
- You hope the answer is no, Go because no maybe on the other side of Go. It was for Abraham
- If you still have outstanding questions, Go. He’s not going to give you all the answers up front, He wants to see your faith
- You have the mind of Christ, Go. You might be surprised to find out the two of you are actually on the same page this time, desiring the same thing.
- Do not fear rejection nor disappointment. The disciples experienced both at the Cross of Jesus, did they regret their choice? He will turn it around for your good.
- You think you don’t deserve it, you’re right you don’t, Jesus does
- You’re afraid and you should be, its bigger than you. Fear God not your opportunity because it is the beginning of wisdom.
- What if I’m wrong, what if you are? He’s a good Father and brings correction without condemnation.
- It’s going to cost me, yes it will: it will cost you your pride and your comfort zones… you don’t need those things anyway
You are a new wineskin you were born again for expansion, you’ll stretch at the seams but you won’t break.
After 3 years and two site transitions I think I can say that I have flirted with this push-button publishing thing called blogging long enough. In an effort to challenge my capacities to write out the deep inspirations that abound within I will be pulling the shade on this blog until further notice.
Kimberlinez has been my weak attempt at stirring up the gifts within. In recent months, as I would consider what to post next, I found myself overwhelmed with a lil condition I like to call TMC; too much content. I began to find the work of trimming content into blog-bite-size pieces to be a bit disabling. I believe the time is now here to give myself to a bigger commitment.
As you read this I will be hiding out, working to funnel my writing efforts into the composition of my first full length book. This would be the paragraph where I would give voice to my insecurities and give my readers all kinds of reasons for them to not expect a lot out of me. I confess, I do have a dreadful history of not finishing what I’ve started. However, I think instead I will simply ask you to offer up petitions and supplications with me for this first of many literary projects to come forth in words of power.
Kimberlinez will remain up for viewing. If you are a first timer you can move to the about page to learn more about me. If you are a regular please know I remain eager to share the good news of God’s jealous love and would greatly enjoy coming to encourage your people groups in such knowledge. Visit the contact page to get something started.
To my readers, thanks for stopping by. I pray that you have been stirred to greater commitments in relationship to Jesus. To my commentators, you’re the bomb-diggidy. Feedback is food to a communicator so I thank you for daring to be heard with me. Lastly, if you are one given to intercession and feel the burden to partner with me in this upcoming literary project a small list of prayer topics will follow the closing.
Much Peace, and Love, and Grace to you all!
Hiding out until further notice,
- Employment transition that best favors the creative, financial, and time management elements needed for this project
- Enhanced style and organization skill for too much content
- Honest and original expression that stirs the most holy of emotions
- Proper grammar, usage, and punctuation
- Writer’s block dispelled
- Grace to finish
I was using my imagination to ponder the ancient scene; Jesus was dead. Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, dead and slaughtered and hanging on a criminal’s cross. All the hope and promise He embodied to His friends and family had drained into a pool of innocent blood at the foot of that cross.
I began to wonder, “If I was one of those who loved Him back then, how would I have responded to what I was seeing?” Just when I thought I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like, I was reminded I could.
I’ve stared at a lifeless body before. I’ve felt all hope and promise for happily ever after evaporate at the onset of death. I saw my mother, ravaged with cancer, breath her last breath in my presence. The death rattle had come to warn us. I was knelt down resting my head in her lap like I used to when I was a little girl as I hummed one of her favorite worship songs and held on as she left us.
As we awaited the coroner to certify her death, I stared. I sat in my father’s chair stunned with unbelief and stared. With great intensity I fixed my gaze upon her lap and just stared. I stared at the outlines of her precious body looking for it to raise a breath again. I stared because I had banked everything on all that Jesus had said to us about His love and His power. I stared until the determination to see her raised from the dead gave me an impossible prayer to pray. In my mind there was absolutely no way she was supposed to end this way, so I stared.
I love Jesus. I love that as I am pondering His death today He was simultaneously remembering me. I love even more that He interrupted my imaginations today to prove to me I would have been one of those who had the hope that hoped beyond His death. It was alive in me at my mother’s death and it is alive in me now.
Yeah, I think He is right. I would have been one of the “crazy” ones at the cross who stared. I would have been that one in the group rude with unbelief who stared. I would have fixed my gaze upon his core and just stared. I would have stared at the outlines of His broken body looking for it to raise a breath again. I would have stared because I had banked everything on Him all that He had said to us about His love and His power. I would have stared until the determination to see Him raised from the dead gave me an impossible prayer to pray. I would have been the one who secretly believed there was absolutely no way He was supposed to end this way…
my heart would have been telling me the truth when my eyes couldn’t
I’ve had to repent this Good Friday for loving this temporal life more than the promise of the eternal life. The truth is: life continues after death, not just for those who loved God and relocated to Heaven but for those of us who remain to love God from the Earth. The death we see with our eyes is a death our hearts can hardly believe and rightly so; we were never created to experience death, remember? Happily ever after forever with God was the original idea. Making Jesus the only way out of the sin and through its death back to the Father has been the best idea.
There is life after death my friends, don’t lose your stare … Sunday is coming
“It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all – was put to death and then made alive – to bring us to God.” 1 Peter 3:16-18, The Message
Blessing our enemies serves as a “human video,” a live demonstration of the crucifixion and the resurrection. Us, being right before God, taking the abuse of those who are wrong, and then choosing to bless them rather than repay them. It is our chance to prove He lives.
“This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, and it’s the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came His way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it step by step…They called Him every name in the book and He said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right.” 1 Peter 2:21-23, The Message
We suffer for doing what is right and we heal. This is the normal Christian life. To repay is to forfeit our healing. To be content in God to set things right frees us from experiencing the rage of self-righteousness and vengeance—emotions He never intended for us to live from.
I can walk more confidently today knowing that I am expected to suffer for doing right, just being right before God, and that healing is a sure companion to suffering. They go hand-in-hand, and I must engage my faith believing He is able and willing to set things right without my involvement. While I am tucked away in the healing of His wings, His vengeance is setting wrong things right. The blessing I inherit is healing, a greater fullness, and the open window for my offender to be reconciled back to the Father, too.
The Lord has been instructing me not to expose the weakness and brokenness of my offenders. Their offense toward me is not intentional. They are limited in the revelation and experience of Christ. Their brokenness (limitations) causes me to suffer pain even though they may love God too; they may cry out to be right before Him, as well. He is assuring me that my suffering is due to their weakness not intentional sin. And what is His response to my weakness? His love covers my weakness; He does not repay my weakness with weakness but strength. He does not repay my ignorance with ignorance, but with knowledge and revelation. He does not repay my brokenness with brokenness, but wholeness. He does not repay my unbelief with unbelief, but faith. I am not to respond in any way less than that.
Romans make a clear statement that the act of kindness is not to be a vengeful act. If my bible commentary is accurate: coals from a burnt offering (sacrifice) with incense (pleasing fragrance) covers the mercy-seat making the sacrifice acceptable to God for forgiveness. Is this a metaphor for our own acts of kindness? Kindness in response to evil is like a pleasing act of sacrifice (right and painful) making a way for God’s undeserved mercy to become available to a yet-repentant offender? Does my act of kindness pave the way for their eventual repentance?
Forgive Until You Feel It
So many Christians struggle with forgiveness. They say they have forgiven but cannot understand why the offense resurges with each remembrance. Is it because the forgiveness is incomplete when in word only? Is it possible that complete forgiveness goes beyond word, and beyond tolerance? Is it complete when it shows itself in deed? Is it the undeserved deeds of kindness that make an offender a renewed candidate for His mercy? Is a smoking head of coals a target for God to relent and bless? If so, we may find our own selves offended; our own self-righteousness, like Jonah resisting the kind deed of giving a warning for an undeserving people, are we too afraid God will follow through and grant them a mercy they don’t deserve? Forgiveness never says the offender was right. Giving sinners what they don’t deserve is grace, the unearned favor of God. It is what was given to me, and the humility of such undeserved kindness led to my own repentance.
Are we only kind while remembering the vengeance of God, thus fueling our self-righteousness? If returning acts of goodness for evil are for the sake of the offender getting what they deserve, then our so-called love for our enemies is really motivated by selfish gain. This is not love. Jesus looked upon those blind guides, the self-serving religious generation who nailed His body to a cross and said in words, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And then He followed through with a deed that backed-up His words and died for their sins.
The most challenging thing for us is to believe that same love—the ability to love the offender—lives on in us and is dying to be expressed through us. We don’t believe we can love those who offend us. We dare not consider it because we know it will cost us our best manmade defenses and we will have to live a life of vulnerability, like sheep among wolves. We get stuck in a crisis of faith and secretly, in our own hearts, doubt God. What kind of God would send sheep among wolves? A God we have yet to know in this way. If we dare to love our enemies then the reward is a life free of defenses, full of an undeserved love, and experiencing God to be all He has promised to be…narrow is the way and few are they who find Him like this.
Does my sacrifice of kindness returned for evil heap the burning coals intended to mark an undeserved enemy for God’s mercy to be demonstrated on the earth? Not only is this sacrifice pleasing to God, but our deed of love covers the sin and must make a way for God’s forgiveness to be received by the offender.
If we love only those who love us and simply tolerate our offenders, what credit is that to us? There must be an amazing well of invincible love for us to love from or He wouldn’t have asked us to love a hater.
The intro to an upcoming area seminar reads, “Does God serve us or do we serve God?” My traditional answer is, “Of course, we serve God.” However, in recent months Jesus has been challenging my perspective on this. He has me hedged into John 13 where Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. I can’t escape the possibility that maybe the answer to that question is “yes.” Yes, God serves us; and yes, we serve God.
Let Me Get the Door
Many months ago, the Lord commissioned me to let Him “get the door.” First, my natural abilities were confused. I thought, “I am a big girl. I can get the door. I have years of experience getting doors–heavy doors, awkward doors, car doors, garage doors, with both hands, one hand, with only my pinky, and sometimes I can pull out the skills with a knee-elbow combination while balancing bags of groceries.” Amazing, I know.
There was no sense of condemnation for having these natural abilities—they are God-given after all. And yet every time I was approaching a door, someone coming from behind was offering to get it for me. God, fully aware of my slow learning, understood it took me a little while to learn to stop at the invitation and wait for another to do for me what I was perfectly able to do for myself.
One day in particular, I was approaching an office door when my pastor came near and offered this relentless invitation: “Let me get the door for you.” I graciously responded, “That’s ok, I can get the door.” “I know you can, but I want to get it for you,” he said. It stunned me for a moment. He was motivated by a desire not an obligation. Through this simple act of kindness, Jesus began to speak volumes.
“If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” John 13:8
Is it fair to say that if we do not let Him serve us, we will have no part with Him?
Peter was clearly offended and did not see the offering of grace before him. To stick his filthy feet into the hands of the Son of God was simply out-of-order. To have your Savior wash your feet when you are perfectly able to do so for yourself (and probably should have before you sat to eat with Him) is undeserving. Peter was put in a position to receive what he did not deserve, and he was offended. What is unlocked in our hearts and minds when God serves us? Yes, the humility of Jesus is seen here. However, what can we gain from understanding the humility of a disciple who lets himself be served by God?
When God Serves You
I am understanding that there is an amazing humility worked into your soul when you let God serve you. When God serves you, the humility becomes more than you can contain, and a beautiful thing happens. The affections of your heart are awakened. It is no longer a “have to” lifestyle. It becomes an “I can’t wait to” lifestyle. I love because He first loved me. I live because He first served His life to me on a blood soaked cross. He serves His graces to me daily, which I cannot return. I cannot serve what has not first been served.
Later, after many invitations to wait for someone else to get the door for me, I asked the Lord, “What’s in this for You?” His reply? “It is My pleasure (to get the door for you).” Once again the Lord offends my mind to expose my heart—can it be that my yielding to God serving me gives Him pleasure? Isn’t that what I desire, to give Him pleasure? Yes, He takes pleasure in my giving, and now I am challenged to believe that He also takes pleasure in my receiving.
Lovers vs. Workers
We all understand that sacrifice—giving up what we cherish—produces humility, right? And, if you are like me, most of those experiences border on humiliation. Is the act of receiving also creating humility in us? For me, the act of receiving what I do not deserve mounts into an unexpected flood of vulnerability, a beautiful torrent of humility that melts my human heart to say “yes” all over again.
You get so much more accomplished with a lover than a worker, don’t you? A worker only works for what he can see. A worker is task oriented, fueled to work for only what was promised and always appreciates a little recognition. A worker wastes so much energy stressing through the commands in order to achieve and meet expectations.
A lover, however, already has her reward and whatever is asked becomes a pleasure to fulfill. A lover longs for the voice of her beloved to make His requests known. Because she has first received, she can’t wait for the chance to give out from those same riches. Because her beloved has no illusions about her, she does not fear disappointing the One who already knows everything about her. She lives from peace and is free to encounter joy in the serving. She goes the extra mile, giving herself to what she sees and what she has not seen (not yet anyway).
A worker will cover-up and compromise when the commands are impossible for him to achieve. A lover will simply see her need and boldly ask for more of what she doesn’t deserve. The strength of a worker weakens over the years, but a lover is continuously renewed in strength and empowered as she waits for Him to get the door for her.
Isaiah 55: 1-3 “WAIT and listen, everyone who is thirsty! Come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy, and eat! Yes, come, buy [priceless, spiritual] wine and milk without money and without price [simply for the self-surrender that accepts the blessing].
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your earnings for what does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness [the profuseness of spiritual joy]. Incline your ear [submit and consent to the divine will] and come to Me; hear, and your soul will revive; and I will make an everlasting covenant or league with you, even the sure mercy (kindness, goodwill, and compassion) promised to David.”