He Taught Me How To Be A Daughter

The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. I John 5:10

How did Jesus relate to His Father?  He taught each of us how to live as a child of God. He was a Son; I am a daughter. If I want to know what God is like and how to live in relationship to Him, I watch Jesus. This is what it looked like.

  • Jesus was completely submissive to His Father. He waited for the timing of His call into ministry. He made no autonomous decisions. The Son is able to do nothing of His own accord; but the Son is able to do only what He sees His Father doing. Jn. 5:19 So, Jesus surprises me in His choices. He chose only one man to heal at the at pool of Bethesda though many wanted it. The rich young ruler went away from Him sad but Jesus didn’t go after him. Jesus made no wasted steps.
  • Jesus was one with His Father. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17: 20 This concept is repeated over and over again in John 17 – his long last heartfelt desire expressed in prayer. It must be MORE than important. What does it mean to be ONE with Jesus, as He is ONE with His Father?

I remember flying from New England to Atlanta some time ago. It was turbulent, too hard to read and even music didn’t appeal. I finally closed my eyes and said, “Lord, teach me something powerful that I do not know.” I began to pray into that – and God gave me this picture. I saw the Spirit of God move into my being – like He did when I was 7 yrs. old.  Then He let me see myself in Him – like a puzzle piece that He clicked in place inside of His heart. I could see the edges of me, as a puzzle piece, begin to get fuzzy…like the edges were dissolving and soon, I was no longer definable. I had melted into Jesus. This is what is to think, and act, and feel – as one. 

  • Jesus’ destiny of the cross never eroded His trust in His Father.  Did Jesus have memory of His intimacy with the Father? Did He remember the Garden and the fall? Did he feel the urgency of the ages in needing to redeem mankind? Or did God subject his mind/memory to finite time just as we live? I’m inclined to think that way. Whatever Jesus seemed to know about history, about Abraham and about the Torah, He knew from studying. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. Heb. 5:8 He probably did not have all the details surrounding his coming crucifixion. He knew He was born for this purpose, He trusted, He obeyed – and the seeming cruelty of God’s path for Him didn’t cause Jesus to stumble in relationship with His Father. Can you imagine how He felt when He studied Isaiah 53 and other prophetic passages? He thought, “This is talking about me. This will happen to me.”

 I have pined to know the future, at times. I think that it would benefit, that I could prepare for what’s coming. You have not given me that but I am equipped with everything I need. You surround me with Your promises and they are sure. In Jesus’ name, Amen

The Spirit Led Jesus Where?

And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. Mark 1:10-12

The same Spirit of God that descended on Jesus at His baptism proceeded to lead Him out into the desert to be tempted. That can be emotionally confusing to me as I seek to find a comfort zone in God’s character. One incredibly tender moment during His baptism ushers in stark moments when the humanity of Jesus is stretched to new limits. Why was that necessary?

Many bible teachers weigh in on the answer. One belief is that Jesus needed to be tempted in every way that we are tempted so that we know that we can run to Him as our High Priest. That was certainly accomplished in the wilderness. But there is another possibility.  By being led into the wilderness to be tempted, and by prevailing with righteous choices, He fulfilled what the Israelites had not been able to do during their 40-year wanderings. They had been led from Egypt to the Red Sea, then to the wilderness, in order to test their new faith. The pressures revealed the immaturity of their faith.

Ah, but testing would reveal the perfection of Jesus’ faith. He repeated Israel’s journey to complete what they had failed. One indication that this might be true is the passage Jesus quoted when Satan first tempted Him to turn the stones into bread. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” The context of Deuteronomy 8 is Israel’s wilderness experience.

Jesus came to redeem what was broken. The nation of Israel failed miserably while on their journey to the Promised Land. Jesus redeemed it by going into the same wilderness and doing it right. As His child, I am called to share in the redemption of what is broken. The Spirit of God leads me into situations where I can redeem the sinful patterns of my family. I am often led into places that mirror my own past experiences so that I can do it right the 2nd time around. I find that the stakes are high when I feel the most fragile. I can enter a wilderness with the best of intentions and with great resolve to succeed. But the nature of my wilderness will test my limits. Passion to succeed never brings success. This is a spiritual endeavor, not a human one. For me to pass the tests that the wilderness brings, I will have to humble myself and acknowledge my utter helplessness without the Holy Spirit’s help. Prevailing with righteous choices will only happen as the Spirit of God, resident in me, rises up to empower what is impossible with human effort.

Jesus redeemed Israel’s sin. What sin, whose journey, might He want to redeem through me today?

It’s exciting. It’s impossible without You. I am Your servant. Amen

And Jesus Gave Him Back To His Mother

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the stretcher they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:12-16

A dead son, an only son, was touched by Jesus. He rose to life and then ‘Jesus gave him back to his mother.’   In 2 Kings 4, Elisha laid on the dead son of a godly woman, her only son, and this boy also rose to life. The story concludes with the same line. ‘And he gave the boy back to his mother.’

There are circumstances only God can change. There are people only God can transform. There are loved ones we need to relinquish into God’s hands to do what only He can do. When He’s done, they return to us as different people.  For this mother from Nain, it wasn’t hard for her to let Jesus enter the picture. Things were desperate and death was the end of the road. But in the land of the living, we play the Savior —- trying to fix, inspire, motivate, chide —- and we don’t realize that it’s necessary to step back in order to let God step close. Loving from afar is difficult when we’ve been the caretaker. Entrusting them to Jesus’ care doesn’t seem like the most loving thing to do. His way of bringing about a yielded life is usually much more severe than ours. We like to cushion people to make their journey as easy as possible but Jesus is not so much about comfort as He is holiness. And isn’t that what we want for them? Is any divine measure too unkind if it culminates in surrender? Is any wound too bad if it is a saving wound?

For whom do I want change so badly that I stand in the way of God? Ultimately, it’s an issue of trust. Do I trust God with someone with whom I’ve been intimately involved? Wrapping my arms around a person and bringing them to the Savior in prayer is not failure on my part. It is the beginning of their redemptive story if they will just bow at the feet of Jesus.

Help us know how to apply this. People need You first, then we can love each other. Father us and help us relinquish control. Amen

When The Next Thing Happens, Is He Enough?

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. John 7:38

A person’s deep emptiness will only be filled by a relationship with Jesus. Not only will it be satisfied but it will overflow from the reservoir of life that Jesus pours in. That is the meaning of Jesus’ words here. Even on a bad day, a believer’s heart will spill out abundant life. Get that person talking about Jesus and tender words of love will flow.

When I was 30, I sat in a counselor’s office.  My mother had just died.  Unbelievably just nine months earlier, my husband’s mother also died.  We were so young with two young children who would not know any grandmas.  My counselor, on my first visit, asked me why I was there.  I told him that I just couldn’t lose one more person.  I asked him to promise me (on behalf of God) that I wouldn’t face any more impending tragedies.  Wisely, he looked at me and said, “The issue is not whether I can promise you a life without more pain.  The issue is this ~ When the next thing happens, will you know Jesus in a way where He is enough?”  That question registered deeply in my soul and set the course for the rest of my life.

With the events of this summer and the loss of our son, I can tell you that God has been enough.  More than enough.  No matter how desperate our need has been, and still is, He is deeper still.  The faith that we have needed to believe God for strength, comfort, and redemption has been granted to us one moment at a time.  We cling to His promises and they are sustaining us even when we can’t see our way ahead yet. The scriptures we have known and thought we have understood have taken on new dimensions and each one meets us where we hurt.

Many have asked me if I am angry with God.  I don’t understand the question.  What happened is not His fault.  Our son made a choice and God has been there to pick up the pieces of our hearts.  We are swimming in the ocean of His love even though grieving.  Living water carries our tears and our praises.

Father, You are still the beautiful answer to every cry of my heart. Amen

A Drop In An Ocean Of Need

“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” Mark 4:30-32

Kingdom seeds are so powerful when they are planted on earth. Jesus gave an example of this when talking about the tiniest of seeds, the mustard seed.  Each one grows into a 10 foot plant. Great things always start small.

How much do I really believe in the seeds of scripture? When a need is so great, whether in someone else or in me, it can seem hopeless to personalize a few verses. What difference is it really making when I don’t see immediate results? Does speaking a few kingdom words over an ocean of need even impact the void?

My greatest mistake would be to be misled by earth’s odds. If I look at the probability of change like I look at filling up a beach ~ one grain of sand at a time ~ of course I’ll give up. But that is not what happens when I consistently sow the seeds of heaven. These agents of the kingdom are energetic and highly effective. When inspired, and then spoken, they begin the process of change. How do I know? Jesus said, “If you plant it, it will bear fruit.” Whether I can see the changes is immaterial. God works in the deep, in the unseen and imperceptible.  He does soul surgery in masterful ways long before human beings can see the fruit.

What kind of seeds do you need to plant today? Belief. Joy. Peace. Unity. Sobriety. Pure sexual appetite. I need to plant faith seeds ~ faith that God holds the answers to unanswered questions and is trustworthy.  So, I speak God’s Word outloud over myself.  When declared, faith is ignited and spiritual forces are put on notice. It is the legal equivalent of serving the enemy legal papers. Oh, the cumulative effect of God’s spoken Word over time – spoken over me – spoken over the earth.

I believe and I have seen with my own eyes ~ my own transformation. Amen

 

When Disciples Retreat Behind A Locked Door

When the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  John 20:19

The disciples are hopeless.  They had grown to love Jesus.  He said he was King, but they watched as he was arrested, condemned to death, and then crucified.  The disciples had never faced a more desperate moment.  Now they meet to comfort one another in their shared loss.  To add to the grief they are experiencing over their Lord’s death, they also fear for their own lives.  So, they meet in secret.  The doors are locked.  Voices are hushed.  Anxiety and tension have peaked.  At that moment, Jesus enters the room that is off-limits to all others.  There is no obstacle that can prevent him from appearing.  He is God.

I understand the disciples well in this passage.  Do you?  I know what it is like to be locked away in fear.  When life took a series of bad turns in the 90’s, I retreated into a silent world and shut most everyone else out.  Not because I wanted to be antisocial but because the pain rendered me speechless.  The story was too long to tell, too cobwebbed to articulate, and the ability to interact through everyday chitchat was absent.  I became an emotional recluse and felt that I was destined to live a very long time in isolation.  I didn’t know how to connect with God either and felt that even that was improbable.

I experienced a deep healing of God over the course of three years.  At the end of that, Daughters of Promise was born in 2000.  My fear of people subsided in the arms of Jesus.  I learned to live in spacious places where my story became part of the collective story of the redeemed.  Life is still mixed, as yours is mixed, with joy and tears.  When searing pain marks my path, I find myself once again in the room with Jesus’s disciples who teeter on the edge of despair.  Our longing causes us to be still, look up, and wait for the breath of our Savior upon our cheek.

Since our son died just 5 weeks ago, I have felt His presence many times.  While there are understandably dark moments of grief, the indwelling presence of God is the rock which keeps our family steadfast.  Our feet have not slipped into unbelief because we are being carried by the wind of the Spirit – propelling us just above the storm.  Your prayers and many cards of encouragement have been part of His sustaining grace.

I don’t know if you are hiding today.  Perhaps your heart is sealed away in a tomb of disillusionment and fear.  Maybe you’re keeping your entire world on the other side of the door but you fear that even God cannot reach you.  He can!  He’s with me in the most challenging of times after a child’s suicide.  I want to shout ~ Yes, He calls our names and says, “I’m here.  Peace be with you.”

Help each of us call out to You so we can feel the healing of Your presence.  In that secret place, do spiritual surgery on our souls.  Amen

Beatitudes For A Limited Audience

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.  Then he opened his mouth and taught them. Matthew 5:1-2

Jesus withdrew from the crowd, went up on the mountain by himself, and was joined by his disciples. He began to teach the beatitudes.  Humanly speaking, His sermon could have benefited the crowd he left behind to possibly reshape their culture but instead, Jesus chose to share it with His chosen few.  Some messages just aren’t for everyone.

The beatitudes were a collection of kingdom principles so difficult that only the ears of true disciples could understand them. A group of religious leaders wouldn’t have grasped them because the spiritual posture of each beatitude could only be understood through a relationship with Jesus. True spiritual understanding is theology learned through intimacy with the Savior.

I have heard some anointed messages in my lifetime. By earthly definition, they weren’t always insightful or clever. Something otherworldly was transpiring. From the time the speaker opened his mouth, my heart was burning. As truths poured out in quick succession, I was too stunned to take notes. The message went to so deep a place that I couldn’t have explained to anyone what I was hearing. My body felt heavy under the warm hand of God and I just prayed someone had recorded it.

Such is the impact when reading the beatitudes.  When I take them in slowly, I am stunned by Jesus’ words. Each one is too hard for me to get my head around. I could wonder why Jesus would give a sermon if it were impossible for us to apply it?

The beatitudes hold up a mirror to His perfection and I see my fatally flawed reflection. Each one describes Jesus and I recognize my need for the Holy Spirit’s help.  With a personal Pentecost, I am able to walk by the power of the Spirit.

I can do things that look righteous but my heart can still be wicked.   Live through me and fill me with Your Spirit. Amen