Who is this King of glory?

Who is this King of glory?

Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, The LORD, might in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in.

Psalm 24:8-9 NLT

Take a little extra break here, fudge on the speed limit there. Tell a white lie to get out of a commitment. Look the other way when a Sister or Brother should really be confronted.  Serve the Lord or serve myself? Decisions, decisions.

This is hardly an exhaustive list of all the ways in which I choose my ways over God’s ways throughout the day. And what a laundry list it can become depending on how closely I keep track (assuming I don’t fudge on that too!)

One thing is for certain, I can pretend that my sins (read: disobedience) just float off into the atmosphere never to be dealt with again, like a lost balloon. Unfortunately, lost balloons have to come down sometime, and thus it is with sin. As a semi-mature believer I know two things right off the bat: 1. God desires obedience…  2. So that I will live the best life possible as I was designed to do.  (Joshua 1:8; Luke 11:28)

From simple experience, I already understand that when I decide to walk away and follow my own path, I start to go down a slow downward spiral, causing separation and isolation from Him. Not to mention from my fellow believers and loved ones. I know that when my heart isn’t in it, Bible reading becomes like a chore and I have no interest in the things of the Spirit. God promises to reveal himself to us when we seek him, but it is a conscious effort that requires our decision to do so. While He makes it possible for us to seek and find him, he does not force himself onto our agendas. Instead, he desires our first step of faith.

Whoever would draw near God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

And so my life is a see-saw of constant conversion. Several times a week, sometimes even several times a day, I have to first identify whom I will serve, and then confess it. “Who is this King of glory?” Who is it that I am effectively worshipping with my words, actions, attitude? Is it the Lord, or is it myself? 

Then as though that weren’t difficult enough to rip my natural impulses away from the comfortable easy route, I must proclaim him as my Lord again. Because if I don’t make an obvious effort to turn back to him, who’s to say that I ever repented at all?  He is the Lord, strong enough to handle my wounds, uncertainties, sins, prayers, questions. He is the Lord, mighty in battle – who battles on my behalf. 

And here’s the best news: No matter what circumstances you may have that caused you to push him out of your heart, however temporarily, for whatever reason, He is faithful to return and restore the brokenness. 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Psalm 51:17

He won’t force his way into your love, but he will enter in where invited. Why? Because He loves us more than we can imagine but he also respects our decisions like a good Father (Revelation 3:20).

So dear friend, if you happen to be far from the Lord at this moment, consider this the push you have been waiting for to return to your Lord, your King of glory. He is always good and always faithful.

“Choose today whom you will serve… But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

Reflect

  • In what area do you struggle with obedience?
  • What keeps you from repentance?
  • Read Joshua 24:14-15. What would it look like to obey in the particular area the Holy Spirit has brought to mind?

Pray

Spend some time reading and meditating over Psalm 51. God loves to hear from you. Bring it to him in prayer, trusting that he will not reject your heart as you seek his way.

He is sufficient

He is sufficient

Are you desperate for relief from your heavy burdens? For me, the dark early hours of a Monday are akin to staring down the barrel of a gun – but instead of a steel shaft, I see the days of the week lined up and advancing toward me. I can’t tell you how many mornings I have begrudgingly left the warm cocoon of my bed, feeling utterly abandoned by the weekend and unarmed/unprepared to meet the week.

That is, until this morning. Something has shifted in my understanding of a small corner of the Gospel message for me, and I’m grateful because I can finally connect the dots between this Earthly life and God’s promise of abundant life made complete in Jesus.

His grace is sufficient for me. Do you believe this? We don’t have to pray that it would be or ask why he hasn’t made it so… it already is. Lord, give us your wisdom to understand in our hearts, deep inside, that when life is hard, when thousands of burdens rail at us from the business side of a new week, what it means to be satisfied and contented with you.

Not with you and coffee. Not with you and a quiet uninterrupted time to pray and think. Not even with you and a desired outcome to a situation. But satisfied with you alone.

Lord, I confess how UNsatisfied I have been with you. I have passed over this verse with a “yeah, but…” and page turn to seek something clearer, easier, more attuned to my “needs”; some other bible verse that gives the secret recipe to Peace and Rest so I can thrive in this hectic world. I have even had well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ tell me point blank that I was anxious and panicking because I failed to trust in you. That made me mad. I honestly thought I did trust you. Well, at least my desire to trust was pure, and it could not be anything else because at the time I had only the amount of faith measured out to me. (You give us exactly what we can handle.) But now, some years later you have suddenly opened up my eyes to understand.

Lord, show us that we are already equipped with all that is needed to walk confidently through the day, doing good and seeking your face constantly. It took a very confusing detour to arrive at this conclusion, and although I know the winding path will keep on going, we pause today to praise you in this discovery, and like the biblical fathers, build an altar on the side of the road here to mark the place where we finally understood your grace really is all we need.

In the palm of His hand

In the palm of His hand

I recently met a woman whose exhaustion and loneliness was written on her face. She exuded defeat, though for the sake of her two children she tried to hold it together. A single mom of teenagers chain smoked vigorously throughout the day and smiled without really smiling. Something about her stopped me in my tracks.

Not being a naturally outgoing person, I might have walked past her on an ordinary evening. But in this moment I felt utterly compelled to walk up to her and… I don’t know what. I had never met her before, and I had no idea of what I would say. I just knew somehow that I was supposed to go over to her.

Luckily, I had an excellent ice breaker in my arms – my little daughter. She tends to attract attention wherever she goes. All manners of strangers reach out to touch her, from grisly biker dudes at the gas station, to the grandma standing in the grocery check-out line. For some reason a baby is a safe buffer; no one can feel intimidated or threatened when an adorable little one is around.

It was night time and getting dark. Many families and friends sat in groups talking near the campfire, but this woman sat on her own aloof and glassy-eyed. I could feel her sadness as we spoke. She told me that she wished she could hold the baby but, on account of being drunk, she would not. I thanked her for that and promised she could hold her in the morning. “Thank you for coming to talk to me,” she said.

Even the darkness couldn’t hide that slight quiver in her voice. What she didn’t know is that the infant whom she so desired to hold and cuddle, was currently wearing a onesie with the prophetic words of Isaiah scripted across the front: “God has you in the palm of His hand.” That she prohibited herself from reaching out due to her current state of inebriation was not lost on me.

This word of Isaiah’s is part of a passage where God comforts his people, reminding them of His promise to save them and give them an inheritance that will never spoil.

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,

   the Lord has forgotten me.”

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast

   and have no compassion on the child she has borne?

Though she may forget,

   I will not forget you!

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;

   your walls are ever before me…

“Though you were ruined and made desolate

   and your land laid waste,

now you will be too small for your people,

   and those who devoured you will be far away.

Isaiah 49:14-16, 19 NIV

Now days later she rests heavy on my heart because this is only one example of a person who feels her desperate need for redemption but either cannot or will not reach out and receive it because she believes she must first redeem herself to be accepted. Friends, this is not so!

Jesus promises an abundant life (John 10:10). And that promise of abundance is not delayed. Jesus is not just assuring us of some vague, future eternal life in Heaven with God. He’s talking about a present-tense, immediate abundance of life, today! Something we can take hold of that right here and now, just as we are: ruins and all.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8 NLT

Jesus didn’t wait until all the people repented and acknowledged him. Even his own disciples ran away and denied him in his hour of need. No, he stayed on that cross to finish the work, of taking our deserved punishment so that anyone could reach out and grab that bundle of joy.

This is the Good News: That through declaring Jesus as Lord and believing in Him, we may be welcomed into the family of God, to love and be loved without fear.

“But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am…”

1 Corinthians 15:10 MSG

For prayer, journaling, or meditation:

  • Prayerfully re-read Isaiah 49:14-16, 19
  • How would you respond to a friend who believes he/she has to earn their way into God’s good favor?
  • Can you think of a time when you have purposely held back from approaching God? How did you end up going back to Him? (If you haven’t yet, what is causing you to stay away?)

Leaning into Trust and Constant Prayer

Leaning into Trust and Constant Prayer

To be honest, I am still seeking a direction and vision for where I want to take this blog. I don’t particularly want to make it a self-indulgent place where I spill my guts, but I feel somewhat indebted to share what I’ve been up to, and how God has worked for, in and through me over the past year. He has been pleased to introduce two major themes to the forefront of my heart.

The first is Trust.

On August 24, 2017, in what cannot be anything other than an act of God I providently discovered that my blood pressure had suddenly rocketed up to 197/95, and refused to come down. I was at 31 weeks and 6 days of my pregnancy, just about 8 weeks shy of the due date. After about 4 hours of steady attempts to bring down my blood pressure to non-life-threatening levels, it turned out that the safest thing was to deliver the baby immediately. And so my little girl Lydia Brienne was born at 9:56 pm, well formed, perfect, and tiny. Due to being premature she spent 2 full months in the NICU, and we her parents faithfully visited every single day, driving back and forth the 15-odd miles to the hospital. It seemed like an eternity to live day by day, rejoicing with each half ounce gained and weeping from frustration of not being able to breastfeed or be there with her.

But God was so good to us – he provided financially, emotionally, spiritually, through family and friends, some of whom we had never even met. I can’t sum up the whole experience in one truncated post, nor do I desire to; there were so many things that happened that deserve attention (postpartum being a big one). However I will say for now that it’s much easier to stand back and see God’s hand moving even in the pain and hardships as we approach baby’s first birthday. In the moment it was hard to appreciate. God provided ample comfort in the form of loving people – nurses, doctors (basically all hospital staff) who lovingly cared for my baby when I couldn’t, church family who prayed, loved on us, and fed us for several weeks after my operation and once the baby came home, family and friends who visited and gave us the space we craved for processing.

The second has been Prayer.

Each year I make the attempt to start at the beginning in my One Year Bible (no judgement, I haven’t made it perfectly, but it’s more than nothing!). But this year I replaced that with a vow to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Before I began to cultivate a constant attitude of prayer, I will be absolutely honest – I found prayer to be boring, time consuming and not amounting to much. I considered it to be a last-ditch effort rarely bring results. That has changed.

I began small, a little prayer said for something that worried or bothered me as I stood in line at the store, or while I did monotonous chores like washing dishes. It was awkward at first, and felt a little silly. But as I did it more I found that more often than not that one little prayer would turn into another and another, longer ones, leading to more heartfelt worship. Prayer has a snowball effect where once I get started it is difficult to stop.

I’m still learning, but the combination of these two ongoing lessons has created an incredible peace that I am staying rooted in Jesus.

Anxiety is not too big for God

Anxiety is not too big for God

I am starting to experience the first of probably many anxiety dreams about having this new baby. Over the weekend two dreams carried a common theme, both of control and loss of control. In my waking thought life I understand intellectually that I will make various mistakes when handling this new little person, but I also am confident that I will get the hang of it. I’m not that worried when I’m awake. However, my dream life paints a different picture. Here’s a little taste from my journal:

I dreamed I was babysitting my 6 year old nephew and allowed some lady I didn’t know, but who claimed to be a professional, cut his hair. As she began he chopped chunks off here and there until he was partially bald in several spots. I was horrified, anticipating what my sister in law would say, since she is also a hairstylist. (Why was I getting his hair cut in the first place?) I angrily took him home and as I attempted to strap him in his car seat, he became an infant and fell right out of the car, hitting the curb and rolling into the gutter. Suddenly it was my own baby that I was holding close and kissing, apologizing to her over and over again. I couldn’t believe how I had allowed this all to happen under my supervision.

And then the following night, I dreamed I was caring for a salamander and a frog. In efforts to keep them safe, I held on to them firmly in my hand until I could place them in a larger tank. When I opened my hand, I realized to my horror that I had been holding on so tight that I had actually dismembered the poor frog at the midsection. The legs and some organs fell through my fingers and I woke up in a state of panic and sadness at the pain I had caused.

In the Bible, dreams are used by God to communicate to us, sometimes by clear instruction or else by symbolism. (See Genesis 37, Daniel 2, Matthew 1, etc.) As for myself, I’m not sure I am capable of discerning whether my dreams come from God. All I know is that the fear and anxiety I face at night may be what lies just beneath the surface of my distracted day times.

It makes me wonder about the mystery of our minds and sub consciousnesses, and whether there lurk other thoughts and emotions which I cannot consciously access.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

What does it mean that His Word is living and active? First, we now that the Word is also the name given to Jesus at the beginning of the book of John: “In the beginning the was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus will also be the one in the last times to judge: “Then I saw Heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war… He wore a robe dipped in blood and his title was the Word of God” (Revelation 19:11,13).

It is not just referring to the fact that the literal “words” of the Bible which are inspired by the Spirit of God to be recorded by men, are wise and life-giving. We take these things for granted. But there is another dimension altogether that we often miss when trudging through our verse-a-day Bible checklists.

I think His word is described as living and active, for a simple reason – that God is living and active in our lives. He IS his own Word and He cannot betray Himself.

Jesus admitted that he had so much more to say to us, but lacked enough Earthly time. Instead he comforted us by sending the Spirit to carry on: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13).

We must also consider the passage in context. Hebrews 4:13 goes on to warn us not to get too comfortable in our salvation. If we stop pursuing God because we believe are “good to go” to enter Heaven, our attitudes have changed. We no longer rely on Jesus’s mercy, but have now switched over to reliance on our self assuredness.

As long as we are alive on Earth we are still able to reject our own salvation. We must sill keep sober watch over our hearts, thoughts, actions, and attitudes.

Not a creature exists that is concealed from His sight, but all things are open and exposed, and revealed to the eyes of Him with whom we have to give account.

Hebrews 4:13

So as long as I remain always turning toward God and His will for me, even though disobedient trips and falls, and how I might appear to others, I can rest assured that He knows the inner motives and attitudes of my heart. PHEW! What mercy and comfort in knowing this! I am giving this fear of messing up as a mother way too much credit. The fear is there, but so is God.

Wide angle

Wide angle

I knew I was going to take the test last night, I waited all week for it. It was stupid to get my hopes up. Our first went to live with Jesus last year. Now each failure stabs a little deeper. I hate being disappointed so I usually try not to hope too much. But this time, for whatever reason, I really thought I’d be pregnant.

I find out that someone, who struggled with the same affliction, is pregnant. My mild mannered demeanor is shattered at this news. Jealousy overcomes and I’m an ugly monstrous version of myself. The mention of her name is normally enough to set my jaw and fix my gaze. And now she has a baby. And I remain barren.

I know the grudge I hold against her cannot continue. I’ve known this for some time. “I’ll get to it Lord,” I falsely promise. “…but shouldn’t I get to a place of greater faith first?” I’m not ready to face my hatred for her and what she has done and what pain her presence in my life brings. He tells me it’s already happening, and that I have all I need in the way of weaponry.

But this, Lord? Her?  This is too much.

My desire for children doesn’t come from a place of fear. Truth be told, I just want to nurture and teach, model godliness and grace, read mom blogs without feeling like a fraud. I want this more than anything. God knows. He also knows my heart isn’t ready.

Forgiveness is difficult enough even without jealousy to muddy the waters. I am Jonah pouting under a withered leaf and wiping the sweat from my furrowed brow. Arms crossed, I can see Ninevah’s salvation in the distance. While she praises you, my heart is stone.

What a strange thing it must seem to You, to see one of your creatures who at once understands and doesn’t understand. She gets my most cherished wish and I get a lesson. My head defiantly turns to the side. No. You are faithful, merciful, ever patient and too loving to comprehend. And you gave her a baby and not me. I want to scream at your throne. But I know You.

I do not require evidence. I do not struggle with the big questions of faith and doctrine. No, it takes something much simpler to trip me up: Your “no” to my deepest desire. It makes me wonder about all the other things that have come so easily. Others would call me blessed beyond measure, but my imperfect focus both sharpens and skews my will. And yet you say I already have the control.

How is it that I am overflowing with desire to show my child how to follow You when in the waiting place I won’t even try?

He’s showing me the lens dial. It moves from pointed focus to wide angle. If only I could see the rest of the picture I would know what he knows. For now, all he can do is discipline in love because I want but can’t have a child to discipline in love.  Now it is your humor that is too much.

Dear Jesus, forgive my bitter and jealous heart. You have dominion over every storm and every blessing. Let me always cling to the promise that you have a hope and future for me, even when I can’t see it – I will believe that you are good.

No longer a slave

No longer a slave

Unhealed pain creeps into the dark corners of our hearts, lying and locking the healing out. I did not fully understand this until today.

If I cannot embrace and accept that pain, neither will Jesus ever be invited into it. He’s not going to break down the door, but waits to be invited in.

Have you ever willingly embraced a hurt in order to let Jesus heal?

I want to share a message by  Christa Black Gifford here because it is so good, but in particular the section between 9:10 & 10:25 hit me like a ton of bricks:

If you cannot connect with God, I guarantee you it is because you have not connected with your own heart.

[We say] ‘No God, it’s all about you…’ No it isn’t… and let me tell you why: he had that. It’s called Pre-Creation.

He didn’t like it, so he created you.

He said ‘It’s not all about Me, it’s all about Me and you.’ The fullness of you combined with the fullness of Me…

It would be way better if it was all him, okay? Guys, we have to take ownership in the equation. He made you as a mini-him, a co-creator with him

We have to move out of the slavery zone into the friendship zone where we are completely submitted to him and we begin to act as co-creators to create things on this universe…

http://media.perpetuatech.com/watch?v=RkFBMTM3NDJDMw# 

Friends, my heart began to beat out of my chest when I heard that. Because I am SO all about pushing all the glory onto God and refusing to see my own mess as something I have control over. Control, in that I have the right as a child of God to ask for help. Instead however,  I become the slave in worship – Yes Lord, Yes Lord, it’s all You. And I deny it until my heart bursts and I land in the spiritual emergency room.

My messy, messy heart is so beloved by Him. He wants to be invited into it. Yes, to clean it up, but also to just be there in the mess. Pain is unavoidable in this broken world, and if it has to happen, I can think of no better Comforter to be there. He wants to stand there sweeping while I throw tantrums face down in the carpet. He is gloriously patient, loving, and so willing to work it all out alongside us.