Monday, October 24, 2011

The Other Ditch

Last night I wrote a post called How Good Is Good Enough that only represents one ditch, one point of view. On the other side of the road is the equally dangerous ditch of "I'm not good enough." Sometimes we recognize our sinfulness in contrast to the holiness of God and think we are never going to be good enough to get into Heaven. Again, I don't believe you can read the Bible and come away with that message.

Don't hear me wrong...I'm not saying we will someday be good enough to get in on our own. What I am saying is that none of this is about us, but about God. When we tell ourselves that we aren't good enough for Jesus, as I did for a long time, we are making it about us, which is a subtle form of pride. To tell God, who sent His son for me, that it wasn't enough, is a slap in the face. I wrote about this a few months ago after a conversation with a friend, if this is a ditch you find yourself in.

Here is the truth: God loves you. He sent His son to die in your place, so that He could have a relationship with you. And in the words of the Apostle Paul,  I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I sometimes find myself so overwhelmed by the weight of this truth, the very weight of glory, that I can't get a breath. To live in the powerful presence of Jesus Christ, to taste a small sampling of what eterntiy holds...there are no words. I cannot get over Him.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How Good Is Good Enough?

Standing in church Sunday morning, singing a song that begs God to pour out His grace and mercy into my life, I was so thankful for the freedom found in Christ. I am done worrying about being good enough, or not good enough, to freely approach the throne. The Book of Hebrews tells us that is through confidence in Christ that we can come to God...He made the way for me, and I get to live in the freedom that brings. I felt sad for those still struggling, still in darkness, still trying to earn God's favor.

Andy Stanley has a small book by the name, How Good Is Good Enough, which examines the question of how we get to Heaven. According to a survey on Christian Answers, 60% of people surveyed feel they are going to Heaven because they are good enough.

I have to believe that most of those who say they are headed to Heaven because they are good enough have not actually read the Bible. That may be a bold and divisive statement, but I have yet to come across anything that makes me think that my final destination has anything to do with my goodness. I can store up treasures in Heaven, but that presupposes that I will be there to enjoy them in the first place.

Why do I need mercy if I am good enough?

Why do I need to repent if I am good enough?

Why does God offer grace and forgiveness if I am good enough?

Why did God send a Savior if I am good enough?

If I am good enough, why do I even need God? I've got it covered.

Friends, if you think God is going to let you into His Heaven on the basis of you being good enough, please don't be offended, but keep reading. Someday I want to look around and see everyone I care about worshiping God with me. It is only by the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that we do not go to hell for our sins. Ephesians 2:8 says "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-not the result of works so that no one may boast."

A gift by definition is something that is given, not earned. We do not earn our way to Heaven by doing more good than bad. One little "bad" keeps us out. We were sunk before we even knew it.

The reality is this: without Christ, I would be lost. If you find yourself tired of wondering if you are good enough to go to Heaven, I hope you find rest in the truth that there is no such thing. That is why we need Jesus.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Women of Faith Reflections

Our Women of Faith event was two weeks ago...

I waited to blog about it because I wanted to see what would make the most-lasting impression. With so many great messages, it can be a little like drinking from a firehose. In the heat of the moment, EVERYTHING was my favorite. Now that life has settled back down to a low boil, here are my biggest take-aways:
  • Dr. Henry Cloud's "Monkey" talk. In the days before PETA took over the world (his words,not mine, lol) a monkey was put in a cage with electrodes attached to his head. They were then seriously stressed out-buzzers, flashing lights, shaking cages, that sort of thing-and there stress indicators went through the roof. Then the cage was opened, and a buddy was put in with them. Although none of the stimuli changed, their stress levels came down because they were no longer alone. The moral of the story: grab your monkey as you go through this journey called life. We were not meant to travel alone.
  • Another Dr. Cloud: there is no shame in taking medication for depression. As Christians, we often feel like failures if we are clinically depressed, like we aren't praying hard enough or properly tapped into the joy of Christ. Medically, depression can result from our brain chemicals being out of whack or neurons not firing the way they are supposed to. Just like you would feel ok treating diabetes with insulin, you must respect the way God created you and care for that creation with what you need. There is no shame in helping your body be healthy.
  • The last take-away is not my own, but it is a great story. I received two tickets for blogging but gave them to a friend because I already had one with my church group. She took her mom who has been somewhat antagonistic towards the whole "Jesus" thing...By the end of Saturday, her mom bought a Bible and asked my friend to help her learn how to read it. Because of the stories and testimonies shared, she is willing to look afresh at Jesus Christ. I got the holy goosebumps when my friend emailed me. Praise God...He will never stop pursuing us.
Thank you, Women of Faith, for all you do to strengthen and encourage our relationships with the Lord and with each other. See you in Milwaukee next year!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Feeling Jabez-y

A few years ago, I picked up a little book at the Dollar Store called The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. I came home, read it in a few days, and went back to buy 20 more, just in case someone else wanted to read it. (I still have a few...)

We sometimes get the feeling that to ask for more blessings is unchristian, greedy even. We are supposed to be satisfied with whatever God provides and thank Him profusely for it... the good, the bad, and  the ugly. To define the word blessing, here is what Wilkinson has to say:
To bless in the biblical sense means to ask for or to impart supernatural favor. When we ask for God's blessing, we're not asking for more of what we could get for ourselves.

I have picked up my Jabez book again, because I am dreaming of big things, God-sized things, and need to get my mind back to a place of recognizing that I do not serve a meager God, a God hoping He has enough to go around. I serve a God of limitless possibility, a God who can feed 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and a couple fish and still have leftovers,  and to be frank, I want in. I want to be part of what God is doing, wherever He is doing it. I want in.

We are in a time that cries out for hope. Social programs and throwing dollars at problems only go so far. People need the transforming power of Jesus Christ in their lives, the power that opens the eyes of the blind and heals nations. We need that Hope for our city and I am believing God for it.

I took my boys to play on the school playground tonight where "Little Isaac" is attending, and walked the borders of the blacktop praying for light to come into that darkness, for the playground to be a place of safety and joy, for the teachers doing the best they can in an overwhelming situation, and for the new principal to create an environment of unity there. I prayed the "Jabez prayer", that God would bless us indeed there, that He would expand my influence there for Him, that His Hand would be upon me, working through me to make a difference for Him. I have been doing my best to trust Him all along on this journey, sitting in the dugout, waiting. Tonight I feel like I stepped onto the playing field.

When I got home, I opened my Jabez book to continue reading, and here is what I read:
Like any loving dad at the playground, God is watching and waiting for you to ask for the supernatural power He offers.
Oh. My. Word. And if that weren't enough, it was followed by one of my favorite go-to scriptures: "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are turned towards Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)"

Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done, in this city. Expect it, and stay tuned.

What are you believing God for? Is it big enough to need His help, His blessing? If it's something you can do yourself, alongside God, instead of Him working through you, it's time to dream bigger. Greater things are yet to come...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is There An App For That?

The three of us huddled close, my phone held tightly in my outstretched hand, all eyes watching the white arrow pointing us in the direction of the day's treasure. I've learned to use my smart phone for geocaching, looking for hidden caches based on GPS satellites.

Can you imagine if we could download an app to hear from God just as directly? I would call it the Jeremiah 29:13 app: You will seek me and find me when you seek with all of your heart. I get the seeking part; we need to pray and read His word to hear Him speak, and be attuned to the Holy Spirit whispers. But really, I would just like an arrow sometimes to tell me which direction to go and how many meters until I get to the prize.

 Scripture makes some things crystal clear, like don't lie or steal, honor your parents, and stop looking at your neighbor's new patio furniture with envy. Often, though, there is no right or wrong answer involved. Here is some of what He has shown me along the way:
  • Sometimes we get a glimpse of the big vision, but the timing is still in God's Hand. It doesn't mean we didn't hear Him or understand Him correctly. We just need to spend some time in the desert.
  • Following Him today opens doors for tomorrow. Our job is to honor Him at each little step and let Him reveal the next one and the one after that.
  • Time spent wandering in the desert is not wasted time. Often He is building up a character trait that we will need further on down the road.
Because we are new to geocaching, we sometimes go home without having attained the goal for the day. This is where seeking God and playing with my phone part ways. God says, in Isaiah 55:11, that the word that goes out of His mouth will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it.

So, sit tight my friend. Sit tight. He hasn't forgotten about you.

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    A Place To Let Go

    Sitting here in my pj's, ipod playing Your Great Name by Natalie Grant on repeat, with my dog, Gracie,  curled up next to me. It was no small process for her to settle in so close. Lots of sniffing, circling, walking back and forth across my lap, and test driving a few different spots was required. As she curled her little body in close to me, let out a deep sigh, and went to sleep, I saw my own journey flash before my eyes.

    We are all created with a need to fit in, to find meaning and significance. On my own journey, I sniffed around lots of places I didn't belong. My spiritual walk included the occult to a small degree in the 80's and "religion" in the 90's, trying to toe the line in a religion that measured success by following rules, with some Jesus thrown in for good measure. I turned to my own gods in the later 90's, trying to drown out the cry of my heart with illicit relationships.

    By 2003, I was exhausted. Imagine wandering around in a dark room, thinking you were in one place, and someone switches on the light, and you realize you have no idea where you are or how to get out of there. That pretty much sums up how my life felt at that time.  It was then that I heard Jesus calling my name, and finally turned to see Him. Not that He hadn't been there the whole time; I was just walking around Him, back and forth across His lap, in search of a better spot to curl up.

    Can I just tell you, as you find yourself wandering in your own life, that there is no sweeter place to rest than in the lap of Jesus Christ? Stop searching, stop trying to make things perfect, and just snuggle in. He is waiting for you. (I feel the need to say that this applies to Christians as well. Knowing our Savior does not mean we are immune from the wandering. We just do it in the Name of Jesus instead.)

    Take a minute and let yourself sink into His lap while listening to this amazing song of worship to our King, Jesus Christ.