Jesus


prodigal daughter Someone recently asked me what my greatest fear is. Immediately I knew…

“That my life will not matter. That I will waste it.”

This is my greatest fear because I am routinely tripped up by habits and patterns of defeat.  I have allowed old lies to quench the fresh power of the Gospel in my heart and mind. Why can’t I just believe God and obey?
I’ve been an easy mark for the enemy. I don’t put up much of a fight. He knows my wounds and knows there are STILL parts of my heart that are not whole.

A little over a year ago I was in the Middle East serving alongside godly men and women who have given their lives in service to the Gospel. During that trip, an attack on some of our team members was evident and I was not prepared (spiritually) for my personal assault. A bitter root had grown in my heart and I foolishly did not rip it out the minute it took hold. One morning, around 3 a.m. I awoke to a familiar sound. It was different this time – I truly felt the enemy “singing” over me and it penetrated my soul. He was taunting me.  I never really talked about it or prayed about it -but I should have.

God knew where I was about to go- He knew my failures before I knew them. Yet in His GRACE He planned an escape route, deep healing, new purpose, godly guidance, financial provision and specific scripture – all in a matter of days – all waiting for me on the other side. Fully restored, fully cleansed and fully forgiven. I only had to reach out and take it! Jesus had already paid my debt and I am in awe.

I am still in the midst of this battle but I am praying the armor – fighting again and praying for WHOLENESS. Pray for me that God will not let me waste this experience. I am determined to stop living in defeat. But I (obviously) cannot do it in my own power. I have tried and I have failed and failed and failed…You’d think I would get the hint by now!

But I am HOPEFUL! Trust me…I have cause to be full of hope because of what I am learning about myself and what God’s word promises. I want FREEDOM!!!!

“Don’t be afraid that your life will end,
be afraid that it will never begin.”

Grace Hansen

300px-Augustine_of_Hippo …that we may, out of our dead sins, make stepping stones to rise to the heights of perfection. What did he mean by that?

He meant that the memory of our falls may breed in us such a humility, such a distrust of self, such a constant clinging to Christ as we could never have had without the experience of our own weakness.”

~James Stalker

chronicles-of-narnia-prince-caspian-aslan-and-edmundDo you remember this scene in Disney’s “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”? The one when Aslan brings Edmund back to camp and his siblings see him for the first time since his betrayal? Aslan and Edmund are seen talking by themselves in the distance, alone. When Aslan brings him back to face his brother and sisters he says,

“Here is your brother and there’s no need to talk about what’s in the past.”

As another blogger points out, Alsan did not excuse his behavior but did not condemn him either. We are led to believe that Edmund repented of his actions to Alsan (Jesus). Once forgiven by Jesus there is no need for any mention of it again by Christian brothers and sisters. That’s is what forgiveness and restoration is. So why is it that we as Christians seem so intent on making the sinner suffer even when forgiven and restored by God?

My thoughts :

1.We Are Afraid

We are creatures filled with fear and anxiety. If a person betrays us once they could do it again and we live in terror of this. The most frequent command Jesus spoke was, “Do not fear.” He knew because of our sin we will live in fear because our sin separates us from the assurance and comfort of God. As Beth Moore says, “We are not born brave and He knows it.”

2.We Need To Control

When others let us down it is almost impossible for a human to grant trust to that person again apart from God’s help. But honestly, giving trust to someone is always risk. Because our frail emotions are so inextricably tied to the actions of others we only extend trust if we get something in return. Ideally, trust and love should be given by the Christian with no expectation of anything in exchange. If we are filled with Christ we need nothing else from others. This is a lofty goal but is what Jesus taught – impossible to live out apart from the Spirit of God in us.

edmund-eats-white-witchs-food3.We Are Idolaters

So often we find our worth or reason for life in who someone else is rather that who we are in Christ. When they let us down we no longer know who we are. We lose our identity. Our leaders, our family, our bible teachers…all people – not gods. What would you do if the Christian teacher you most admire revealed moral failure? Would you feel betrayed by that person or by God?

5.We Are Hypocrites

We immediately distance ourselves from and gossip about those who have moral failure all the while ignoring  the planks in our own eyes. We measure sin for sin and at the end of the day feel better about our private sins when others’ are made public. We convince ourselves we are “not as bad as that guy!” Whew!

6. We Gravitate Toward the Law

No matter how much we talk about Grace we don’t live it out. When tested, our checklisted-boundary-filled-guidelined-clean and tidy lives have no room for deviations by others. Rules are safer than the messy life of those that love the bleeding and broken. If we live as Christ taught us to, we are guaranteed to be hurt by those we love. 100% chance of getting our heart broken. Yet, the precious gift is the power God gives us to leave our safe lives and get dirty with those would will betray us and still have the capacity to extend unmerited, scandalous grace. “They will know you by how you love each other.” “Forgive others as you have been forgiven.”

Your thoughts?

dd_narnia

300_89800

The world is full of messages about self.

You deserve it
You’re worth it
Take care of yourself
Pamper yourself
Love yourself

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:29

I have heard it taught concerning this passage that Jesus assumes we know we already love ourselves a lot – we are self-focused and self-centered and that we should apply the same energy and time we spend on ourselves on loving other people.

Questions

(Apart from the obviously idolatrous worship of self the world revolves around) Does this mean loving myself, as Christ loves me, is wrong? And if it is wrong, how am I supposed to view myself? Most of the teachers I read say something like this:

We are depraved creatures who, apart from the grace of God are nothing. In light of His glory we are worthless. (Or at least that is how is sounds to me.) I have embraced these teachings because it seems good to make much of God and not to make much of me. A Christ-centered gospel is good. A man-centered gospel is bad. I believe this!

But, I am wrestling with the every day battle that wars inside my soul. When I sin (regardless if I repent or not) I feel defeated. I feel that with each new sin I chip away at God’s grace for me and that He sees me as predictable and a failure. This makes me run away from Him for obvious reasons.

Then I think of the prodigal son. The father ran to him when he was a long way off, gave him the robe, the ring and the fattened calf. But what happened when he messed up again, 2 months after the big feast? What then? Was the father exasperated with the wayward, sin-prone son? Did He give up on him?

What about the woman at the well? Did she go back to her lover? Did she leave him only to shack up with another man years later? Did Jesus still love her or was he just disappointed in her failures?

So when Christ forgives me, cleanses me, and his Spirit indwells me, am I still bad and worthless?

How am I supposed to view myself? I am loved by the Creator God, redeemed by His son’s blood, indwelt and empowered by His Holy Spirit…but yet worthless, dirty and depraved? I can’t reconcile this.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” Psalm 139:13-14

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

Accepted

The best example I see in scripture is Peter. He failed, repented and was redeemed. He was changed. He now KNEW that God loved him more deeply than he had imagined – historians document the rest of his life as a life of dedication to the gospel and renunciation of self – I think because of his complete abandon to a life bathed in the unconditional love of Christ.

It seems to me easier to forge ahead in my life secure in the fact that I will be completely loved regardless of how many times I fall down!

Cleaned Up

There is so much pressure in today’s evangelical world to look “cleaned up.” My life might be a wreck on the inside but on the outside everyone sees a shiny, happy Amy. If I don’t show this false self to the world, who needs Christ, then I run the risk of “hurting my witness.” The potential guilt of leading someone away from Jesus and on to hell is too much for me – so sometimes I fake it. Yes, I said it 🙂

When a hurting, lost and dying world perceives that I have no problems and am “all cleaned up” is that attractive? Do they want Christ more when I present a false self? I am convinced they do not.

In my experience, the people I encounter feel the need to pretend to be like the false self I am portraying! They guard their speech and never really let me see their inner lives and struggles – that is until they see that I struggle too.

I have come to the conclusion that if Satan is the father of lies, then being someone I am not, even if it looks good, must be evil.

“I am the way, the truth and the life…” John 14:6

I am convinced that I cannot hate my fallen, sinful, depraved self and have a vibrant relationship with God. Self-hatred is self-centeredness that draws me away from God and toward the things of this world. I don’t know what this looks like but I am going to begin by going to my Father and believing that His love for me is bigger than my sin and my mistakes. I am going to believe that

He is not shocked by my failures and He is not deterred in His pursuit of me.

…”being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” Phil 1:6

I want to live like I am utterly loved and accepted and nothing can rob me of that – even my own sin.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

beggar

 I Haven’t Blogged in a While

 …’cause I really didn’t have  anything extraordinary to share. Life is really good and I am grateful. I am about  to be a first-time aunt and my sis and her  husband are finally back in the ‘ham. I  would love to have amazing things to constantly blog about but I don’t. It seems false for me to force it so I haven’t.

 But Today is a New Day

 …and I have something to share 🙂 I have recently been introduced to the writings of  Brennan Manning and he is challenging me  in ways I cannot yet articulate. (but there will be forthcoming posts soon!) Below is something fantastic and raw and I had to share it with you!

Excerpt from Ruthless Trust

“Sensing that if I bare my soul I will be abandonded by my friends and ridiculed by my enemies, I remain in hiding, borrowing from the cosmetic kit to put on my pretty face. I veil my unstated distrust behind a cheerful countenence, mask my fears behind sanguine pretense, and

present a false self that is mostly admirable, mildly prepossessing and superficially happy.

Later, I hate myself for my flagrant dishonesty. Who can I turn to?

In what may be the most stunning sentence in the entire Bible, Jesus says, “I call you my friend.

Raw honesty with Jesus about our doubts and anxieties, our lust and laziness, our shabby prayer life and stale religiosity, our mixed motives and divided hearts is the risk we take in the certainity or being acceptible and being accepted.

It is the full and mature expression of invincible trust.

Jesus is the friend who will never fail, the faithful one who will never be lacking in fidelity, even when people are unfaithful to Him, the stranger to self-hatred who estranges us from self-hatred.” 

Brennan Manning  “Ruthless Trust”
pp. 102-103

My Thoughts

I find myself hiding from God because of my own self-disillusionment. I think, “I’ve been a believer for 7 years! I should be “better” than I was when He first saved me, right?”

So I see myself as a failure, the condemnation sinks in and I hide. It is no better when the church I love so much reinforces my beliefs about what my failures mean:

I am weak
I am lazy 
I am an immature Christian
I should have “this” under control by now
I am not plugged in at church
I am not in a Sunday School class
My quiet times aren’t regular enough
I am not filled with enough of God’s spirit
I have not memorized enough scripture
I am not enough
I am not enough 

And when those who have put me on a pedestal see glimpses of my imperfections they in turn become disillusioned. They get angry. Their own fears rise up that if their preachers, teachers, leaders, elders, deacons, small group leaders and other pedestal-dwellers aren’t doing any better than they are then there is no hope for them either. I represent what they fear the most.

So we all end up hiding. We all end up far from communion with God because we believe He is keeping an account of all of our failures. This is the LIE that keeps us from Him, isn’t it? But there is hope in the TRUTH of the the gospel that calls all imperfect, haggard sinners to come and drink daily from the river of life. The Life-Giver who does not hate us as we hate ourselves says, “Come, all you who are weary…” 

The Lies I Learned in Church

I believed that I could come to Jesus initially as a ragamuffin but, later had to come as a Pharasee. After a undertmined amount of time had passed I was no longer allowed to come to Him as the messed up girl he rescued. I had to put on the appropriate clothes, speak appropriate “Christineese”, attend all of the appropriate church events (on time), serve in all of the appropraite ministries that complement my gifts and talents, please all of the appropriate people, meet all of their expectations and

just
sin
less.

The Poverty of My Soul

This, I am finding is a bunch of crap.

I ‘ve been miserable and I am tired of it! I want the freedom to live as a beggar EVERYDAY! I can play the role I was given when I entered the church, be clean on the outside and still be full of dead men’s bones-or I can come as a little child to the lap of Jesus -no matter how much mud covers me.

I am beginning a journey of learning what actually pleases God and not what pleases man. I apologize in advance-I am going to make some of you mad in the process. But I love you 🙂

My hope is that the outcome of authentic Christianity will be a richer prayer life and communion with God and that the overflow of this will be pleasing to him, joyful for me and attractive to a lost world.

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

Jesus
Mark 12:28-29 

 

There are so many things today that make my heart heavy The stories out of India of the believers in Orissa having their homes and churches burned by Hindu radicals. The advent of Ramadan and the lostness of 1.3 billion Muslims. My friends suffering overseas in closed, Musilm countries and right here at home a friend’s family being attacked by the enemy.

What makes my heart the heaviest is my lack of prayer for all of them. It is so easy to pretend that the details of my comfortable life are somehow more important than their need of my prayers. God have mercy on my prayerlessness and faithlessness. Awaken my soul to the leadings of Your Spirit and help me to throw off all of the things of this world that hinder. 

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“The happiest state of a Christian is the holiest state. Just as there is the most heat nearest to the sun, so there is the most happiness closest to Christ.

No Christian enjoys comfort when his eyes are fixed on falsehood–he finds no satisfaction unless his soul is quickened in the ways of God. The world may find happiness elsewhere, but he cannot.

I do not blame ungodly men for rushing to their pleasures. Why should I? Let them have their fill. That is all they have to enjoy. 

Christians must seek their delights in a higher sphere than the tasteless trifles or sinful enjoyments of the world. Empty pursuits are dangerous to renewed souls.

No Christian is safe when his soul is lazy, and his God is far from him. Every Christian is always safe as to the great matter of his standing in Christ, but he is not safe as regards his experience in holiness and communion with Jesus in this life.

Satan does not often attack a Christian who is living near to God. It is when the Christian departs from God, becomes spiritually starved, and tries to feed on lies that the devil discovers his moment of advantage. He may sometimes stand foot to foot with the child of God who is active in his Master’s service, but the battle is generally brief. He who slips as he goes down into the Valley of Humiliation will find that with every false step he invites the devil’s attack. O for grace to walk humbly with our God!”

-Charles Haddon Spurgeon

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