Tuesday, August 15, 2017

a simple Gospel

Life with Jesus.

It's an all or nothing thing.

I know that. I have known that. For a long time. But the thing about the Gospel is that I don't think we often take it at face value. Jesus said this, so therefore we must do *insert multiple other things that Jesus didn't say*. Or we feel the need to twist our understanding of the written word of God so that it can be as complicated as our lives are. Or we simply don't apply the basic truth the Gospel presents us with and are left wanting, coming to a faulty conclusion that this just not be worth it. 

But it is worth it. I just lose sight oftentimes.

I fail to see the simplicity of the Gospel sometimes. The fact that the Word of God is simply true and doesn't fail. It doesn't change it's meaning, and it works. But to be completely honest, I'm a works-oriented person and if I don't check my list off I feel like I've shortchanged God somehow. Like I've failed Him. I preach truth to others and tell them that the Gospel is about an exchanged life, it's about a passionate relationship, it's not about your works, and then I go and try and try again to pull off something that Jesus never asked me to do on my own. 

In fact, all He really ever asked me was for full possession of my life. 

He promises life abundant, joy everlasting, incredible strength, and victory immeasurable. But it's only accessible if I obey His simple commandment: take up your cross and follow Me. Following Jesus isn't about the things I do for Him, it's about resting in the work that He has already done. Life with Christ is about nothing else than me surrendering to what He did and wants to continue to do. Abundant and unhindered life comes from spending my time gazing at Jesus in awe and wonder, basking in the victory of Cross, and declaring myself to be nothing but His and His alone. As John the Baptist so simply put it, "He must increase, but I must decrease."  The Gospel is a simple Gospel. It's not confusing, it's nothing but an invitation for an exchanged life. My rags for His riches. My death for His life. 

I'm coming back to the understanding that though the Gospel is simple, if I don't walk in the simple truth that has been revealed it is nothing but wasted. The Gospel may be simple, but it is sacred and entrusted to us. If I choose to make it my battle cry, I must abide by it. I must abide in Him. My life will not declare to the nations, to the world, to my coworkers, to my family, to my church family, that Jesus is alive and worth it if I only give Him a small part of it. The Gospel isn't me fitting Him in. It's me laying prostrate at the feet of Jesus in adoration and letting Him rearrange me. It's me surrendering 100% of myself to gain 100% of Him. It's the exchanged life. There's no room for the both of us in me. It has to be Jesus or me. And I'm pretty tired of giving Him the throne and then pushing Him off, only to do it all again. If life with Jesus is as simple as picking up my cross to follow Him, and if it's worth the millions of Believers all over the world dying daily for His testimony, then I'm going to take it at face value. I'm going to believe that what He says is true and that IT WORKS. No matter what anyone else or any experience may say. I choose to believe the simple Gospel. 

He asked for full possession. What more could I do than to say, "Yes, Lord"?


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

power and love

Well, it's been awhile. I know I seem to say that every time I write a post, but I suppose that's because I'm not very consistent with writing. Which I would like to be, but life seems to take over oftentimes and I forget. I make mental notes, but... obviously those haven't helped very much. So anyways. I haven't fallen off the planet, for those of you who still happen to check in and read. I'm just busy. Nannying three little people, video work, family. It probably sounds like a lame excuse. Oh well. It's the truth.

Anyways.

I don't have a Bible study to share today. No long theological discourse (do I even write that way, anyways?). No brilliant "3 Ways to Grow Spiritually". All I want to share this morning is simply what Jesus is teaching me. It's been a hard past few months, full of ups and downs. Learning dependence upon Christ has not been an easy thing in my case, though I kick myself after the fact but it's oh so worth it and everything is just so much better with Him anyways, so why did I ever try to keep doing things myself? There's nothing like letting go of what I think I have to bring to the table, and simply allowing the Holy Spirit to use me to live His life. It was already His, right?

Lately I've been burdened. The people around me at work are not Christians, the people I pass while driving or walking down the street have their own story of brokenness to tell. I can't change any of it, but how I want to! The Lord began to teach me about power and love, two things which ought to flow from the life of one surrendered to the Holy Spirit of God.  Often I hear people say, "I don't even have to do anything but be nice, polite, and smile, because that's what Jesus would do. I want to show people the love of Jesus with my life." Okay, maybe they don't say that explicitly, but they live it. A Christian might be polite, sweet as sugar, and kind...but is that all a Christian is? Is saying "please" and "thank you" all that Jesus had to show for His ministry on this earth? At work there is a pressure to not say anything explicit about Jesus Christ and His saving work. While I won't be ashamed of my faith in the workplace, I feel like I've been given a chance to share the Gospel in a more roundabout, more creative fashion. I've begun to see the answer: power and love.

What does it truly look like to love with the love of God? This is a question that won't go away for me, and I've only begun to scratch the surface. I do know that it's not simply nice manners (I'm not encouraging anyone to stop using manners...please use them!), that though a smile is encouraging, it's not the fullness of the Gospel. There's something about actions powered by Love that stop people in their tracks and cause them to say, "What's different about you?" (hint: it's not saying 'thank you' and 'you're welcome') It's a poured out life. It's the type of living that means I'm willing to be walked over, disregarded, never noticed, if only for the sake of bringing a person to Jesus and letting them see His shining, glorious Light. It's being willing to stay hours past your shift to give someone the chance to encounter another Believer. It's taking the lowest place – whatever that place is – to see someone else prosper. It's living like Jesus, truly. This is the kind of love that catches peoples' eye and makes them wonder. And then, walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. Being able to withstand the storms in life that would crush others. Staying calm when the world is screaming. Praying for needs and seeing them answered. Laying hands on the sick and seeing them healed. Walking in a manner that demonstrates to the world around us, "My God is powerful, in control, and loves you." It's not about being powerful for the sake of having power, it's walking in authority as a son or daughter of God so that we can reach the world around us. It's living like Jesus.

Maybe I didn't communicate all that in the way in which is written in my heart, but I so deeply desire to see the world around me changed by the love and power of Jesus Christ. I have surrendered my life to Him, so why shouldn't He be using me? I am not my own, I am bought with a price...but more than that I am adopted as a child of King Jesus. I live in His Kingdom, like one of His. I am called to bring that Kingdom to this earth, and I am called to do so with the power and love of the Holy Spirit. He's good, y'all. He comes through. His love for us is only the beginning, and He wants to take me deeper so that I can point people higher. What a Jesus.

Monday, February 27, 2017

a joy restored

"Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit."
Psalm 51:12

Our family read this psalm sometime last week during our family devotions, and I haven't been able to get past it. For a week I've clung to it while the Lord used it to speak to me. The past week was one of those weeks where I was noticing a major lack of true joy in my life. I was irritated, probably irritating, and very frustrated. Then I see this verse. And I was grounded. Because it was exactly what I needed, and I knew it. I read this and realized exactly what had been happening.

I'm a geek, so whenever I study Scripture I have to include Greek and Hebrew definitions of words. For some reason I'm the type of person that comes to life by the type of verb tense used (I know, I'm crazy). But, hey. So I looked up some of these words (well, most all of them – but I'll only share some :).

The word restore in Hebrew means to turn back, to go back to. It's a returning to a place you once were. When David the Psalmist says "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation",  it's basically saying he's been there before. He's had something that's been lost. He left a place that he needs to return to. What is this place? It's the salvation of God. Not just the salvation of God, though, it's the joy. It struck me that this joy David speaks of is to self birthed. It's not produced by worldly entertainment or self pleasure. This is a joy that is birthed out of the Salvation of Jesus Christ. This is a joy that comes from spending time meditating on the truths of the work of Jesus in my life and setting Him ever before me. Which is incredible in and of itself: the salvation of Jesus is not a dreary thing – it's exciting and joy filled!

The word uphold in the Hebrew – I love it. You have no idea. Seriously. In short it means to support, to refresh, to sustain, to revive.  Before I go into this, I have to share what the definition of "generous" is. It means willing, noble, generous, free, liberal, inclined. He upholds us by His generous Spirit. He sustains me, revives me, and carries me by His Spirit, which He gives liberally, freely, with a willing heart. James 1 says that "Every good and perfect gift comes from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no shadow or variation of turning." This is our God. This is the Spirit that upholds us. He is free and generous with Himself. He gives us all we need for life and for godliness.

It's been so neat to mediate on this verse and mull it over in my mind. To think about what this is saying and how the Lord desires to use it in my life. If I could summarize what this verse has meant to me, I would say the following. True joy comes from beholding the salvation of God. Looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2). Keeping Him ever before my eyes, until I am filled with the joy I once had. When I surrendered everything to Jesus and was filled with the Holy Spirit, I can't even begin to tell you how joyful I was. Ask anyone in my family and they'll tell you that was the attribute that hallmarked my life after that day: joy. Not a fleshly, self-centered joy, but a true, lasting, Jesus-birthed joy. Looking at the last few weeks leading up to this past week, noticing the absence of that characteristic, I realized something. The lack of joy was a lack of beholding. It was a lack of turning back, returning to that place of seeing Jesus for who He is, in all simplicity. It was a lack of crying out to God day in and day out, setting myself before Him diligently. It was affecting me, and I felt like I had withered a bit. Something had died.  Yet David cries out, "Oh God! Uphold me by Your generous Spirit!" This is my cry today! God, take me! Revive me and sustain me my the greatest gift You've given!

Today I a setting myself before my Jesus. I am returning to the place of my first love. I am beholding Him for who He is – a mighty King, holy and set apart, who gave Himself in life and in death for me so that I might be sustained by His very Spirit. What a marvelous God I serve! I can't help but be filled with joy at the thought of this thing He has done. I'm overcome, I'm undone, I'm filled with awe and adoration. I am restored in Him. My joy is back because my priorities are straight again. It's Jesus, only Jesus.


Friday, January 27, 2017

it's not easy

I don't think it was ever supposed to be easy. Following Jesus and surrendering all, I mean. Life is hard, the daily battle against the enemy is waging all around us, and I seem to be stuck in the crossfire. There is chaos all around and sometimes it just overwhelms me. There's the temptation to give in to the enemy, to bow down to my flesh, to let stress and anxiety reign. After all, the voice shouts, you deserve it. To give in. Let go of these unrealistic expectations of joy in the midst of this craziness. Put your confidence in the fact that you can't do it...give in to fear. Don't believe. Don't surrender those dreams to Jesus...He'll fail you!  I'm given a choice. I can listen to the voice of doubt. Or, I can believe that the Word of God is for right now. That Jesus died for this moment. That everything I choose to surrender to Him is better left in His capable hands. 

It's never easy, I think, doing the right thing. It's full of challenges. It's an uphill climb. A swim upstream. But it's worth it. Because in the midst of the chaos, the confusion, the potential for stress and anxiety and fear, Jesus is there. I see Him next to me. There's light at the end of the tunnel. I know that there is a joy set before me: it's Him. He is my reward. My joy. My strength. It's not about me. It's not about my fears, my dreams, my aspirations. There's difficulty in giving everything to Jesus, but oh, it's worth it. Because He's worth it. 

Oh, may my eyes be ever fixed upon the Lord. He is my portion, my reward. Anything and everything is worth going through in order to obtain Him. I surrender all. I believe in the Word of God – I put 100% of my confidence in Him. 

He's worth it. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

seek first the kingdom

"The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; that which when a man has found, he hides, and for joy thereof goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."
-Matthew 13:44-46

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

-Matthew 6:33

I've been reading in Matthew the last couple of mornings, and haven't really been able to get past this passage right here. There's something about it that (though it's a simple two verses) is captivating, demanding, and exhilarating. I've been thinking a lot about Jesus lately. What's He's done for me, for you, for us. He gave His life for mine. But even more than that, I've been thinking about how I respond. How should one respond to the Gospel? I know for many of us we take it in stride and add it to our list of things we know, or put it on the shelf of great historical events. But the more I've been seeing Jesus – really seeing Him, digging into His Word and walking with Him throughout the day, the more I'm realizing that there is only one of two options that one can choose in response to the Gospel. It's take it or leave it.  A person can hear of what God has done for them and leave it, wether they 'believe' it or not. A person can hear of what God has done for them, see Jesus for who He is, and surrender everything. But there's no half-surrender. If there is, it doesn't matter. Jesus says he would rather have us be hot or cold (Rev 3:15).

I've been thinking about the parable Jesus gives us about the Kingdom in Matthew 13. At first glance it seems like a beautiful picture of two men finding these great treasures and giving everything for it, and they lived happily ever after with no consequences of their actions. As I've been looking at these parades, it's begun to hit me just how seriously they took this treasure. Think about it. The man in the field found a treasure that no one else knew about. Imagine him, excited, running home and beginning to gather everything together to sell it off. Who would've thought he was crazy? He most likely lost his good reputation with his family, his friends, the business world. After all, he just risked it all after a field...but what did he gain? The greatest treasure there was. He was willing to lose it all because he saw the worth of what he had found.

The merchant man found the greatest pearl he had ever beheld. What did he do? After recognizing its worth, he gave up everything he had for it. He didn't give half of what he had, he realized that in order to truly possess this treasure he had to pay full price for it. So what if those around him didn't recognize the value of the pearl? Would that be enough to dissuade him from forsaking everything for this treasure? No, because the opinion of those who didn't know could not dissuade him. He had seen that which cost everything and was willing to give it all in order to obtain it. 

 There was no question about the price of the prize for either of these men. They saw something that they knew would cost them all they had, but they were willing to lay down everything. Why? They knew the worth and value of that which they wished to obtain. This parable is compared to the Kingdom of Heaven. This is where the words of my Jesus hit me: if I want to follow Jesus I have to give everything. But before that, I must see Him for who He is. It begs the question, and it's one I've been asking myself this past week. What is Jesus worth to me? Whatever I see Him as will determine the extent of my surrender. I cannot serve God and mammon (Luke 16:13). I cannot follow Jesus without forsaking everything (Luke 14:33). I must pour out my most prized and precious possessions out in order to receive Him (Mark 14:3). This is a no-compromise, serve-one, sacrifice everything Gospel. But its not for the sake of giving stuff up. No, this is in order to receive the GREATEST treasure we could ever have! 

This is a challenge to my soul this morning, but I think I'm going to take it. I'm called to seek first the Kingdom of God, and I can't do that unless I really see who Jesus is. He's everything to me. What is Jesus worth to me? What am I going to give to seek Him first?

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."
[Matthew 6:33]