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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

musings (part 2)

Before God can vindicate us, He must first scrutinize us. 1 Corinthians 4:4

Wisdom is simply defined as viewing the world through God’s perspective.

He loves dancing with me....even when I step on His feet.

Jesus’ first action on this earth was to completely trash Mary and Joseph’s reputations. Being Spirit-led is more important than man’s opinion.

“When you’re a child of the King, your relationships are an affair of state. you no longer have the right to just do what feels good. choose your friends accordingly.” (adapted from Stephanie. Her words below)

“You are a king’s daughter and your marriage is an affair of state. You can’t go shacking up with just anybody. Your affections, while significant are not the bottom line. The bottom line is the kingdom. Hear me out. A world lies in misery and poised on the brink of hell. You are of royal blood. You have duties of state that are incompatible with marriage for the sake of your own feelings alone. Your marriage must strengthen the kingdom and make those alliances which will guarantee the lasting peace, the salvation of souls, the triumph of mercy. You must trust the King your Father to arrange matters according to his plan and purpose which is to maximize your joy and his glory through you. He loves you. Love Him back. No more sheets. Get married God’s way or don’t get married at all.”
Love that does not shine under pressure is worthless when all is peaceful.

From rags to a wedding dress–this is the great exchange. My sin nature for His glory; my ashes for His beauty. I just have to say ‘yes!’

I will never fully experience God’s love directed towards me until I can first grasp how much I needed His cross.

It is when we reject the comfortable, turn our backs on all we’ve known, burn bridges, and cut ties that we enthrall the heart of God. Psalm 45:11

To walk with an ear open to the Holy Spirit is to live in that tension between people screaming, “don’t judge me” and Ezekiel 33:6. We cannot be so focused on not offending people that we fail to draw attention to sin; and we cannot be so wrapped up in addressing the sin that we begin to judge the person.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

battle scars and racing stripes

I was in an in-between, "sort of" dialogue with the Lord earlier today--meaning I was halfway praying and partly complaining, and He inserted Himself into my musings.

Let me be frank from the beginning and admit that I sometimes think He's unfair. Lately, I've resented His dealings with me and even entertained the thought that He is unjust and untrustworthy. It is only a testimony of His kindness that He hasn't blasted me with a "where were you when I...?" confrontation like he did Job.

The subject on my mind at this particular time was how bruised and scarred He allows His children to become through the spectrum of day-to-day knockings of life, to absolute tragedies. Where is justice for the oppressed? Why allow life to lacerate the fragile souls of men and women with wounds that never completely disappear? Scars are unattractive, and most of us go to great lengths to hide or decrease their appearance.

And then I heard Him: You see scars; I see racing stripes.

Lord, that makes absolutely no sense. Scars don't make us go any faster.

I began trying to rationalize the connection between stripes and scars, thinking about Jesus' sacrifice for us, and about how generals have to earn their stripes through tests; and while both parallels had merit, I couldn't get away from "racing stripes." After debating on it for several minutes, I turned to Google to find out if there was any significance to racing stripes other than an aesthetic one.

What I learned is that racing stripes initially served a practical purpose before they became a fashion trend.

"Racing Stripes" (also called "Rally Stripes") were originally applied to the hood of closed-wheel race cars so as to provide a straight line in alignment with the dricer's [sic] line od [sic] sight. Contrasting colors were used, and they assisted the driver in determining the direction of a car in the event of a spin, when tire smoke or dust could cause temporary disorientation." ~Shelby "Le Mans" Stripe Dimensions

Life can be disorienting. All too often, circumstances can cloud our judgment to where we can't even see the hand of the Lord working on our behalf. And to those who He seeks to accelerate in the race we run, He often grants the greatest searing of scars. These are not to disfigure us or to embitter us. Rather, they are tangible arrows pointing to His grace at leading us through past trials when we can't see Him in our temporary blindness. We align our scars with the path of His written word and find the strength not only to stand in faith that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, (Psalm 27:13), but also to continue to press on until we see the light again.

Monday, November 30, 2009

to say thanks (part 3)

22. jumping off the back of trailers with family-who-became-friends for the perfect picture.

23. helping me find my promise ring. i hadn't even worn it much lately, opting for silver instead of gold, but i mourned when i couldn't find it. the pledge to purity wouldn't have changed without it, but the history tied to the ring itself means so much.

24. the right to shoot at coke cans in the middle of the woods.

25. sitting with a kindred spirit in chummy silence.

26. old pictures of friends and family, and getting to laugh at former hair/clothing choices.

27. joe and miranda. too much to even go into there...

28. that weird little thrill that goes up my spine and the little ache that pierces my heart when i hear certain chord progressions. eric whitaker's "waternight" does it every time.

29. big words. pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis being the most recent, notable example. transubstantiationalist is another fun one.

30. baking Christmas cookies at all hours of the night. scratch that--baking any cookies at all hours of the night.

31. warm, fuzzy sweaters--the kind that make you want to curl up in a ball with a mug of hot chocolate and a black-and-white movie.

32. black and white movies. "white Christmas." "arsenic and old lace." "his girl friday." "week-end at the waldorf." and others...

33. shopping online. maybe i should put that one in all caps and bold.

34. the smell of freshly brewed coffee, fresh-baked-bread, and day-old garbanzo bean soup.

35. less than a month to onething09.

36. ted dekker's novels and a vivid imagination. it's day two and i'm almost done...and ready for the next one.

37. the beautiful, crisp days over the thanksgiving holiday.

38. giving my aging grandmothers strength. giving me a good relationship with both.

39. the sacrifices of our soldiers overseas. pictures speak volumes. those who give themselves away for people they may never meet remind me of another Man who gave everything for me.

40. unexpected blessings, and pleasant surprises.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Deliverer

I love the Lord;

He led me out with rejoicing.

He brought me forth with singing.

He delivered me.


He planted me--

An olive tree in His tabernacle,

And my fruit is the oil of joy.




Monday, November 9, 2009

Through His Eyes

I will not fear the desert place--it is there that You speak to me with greatest tenderness.

I will not mourn lost popularity--You speak Your secrets to the solitary who will take time to listen.

I will not begrudge sleepless nights--You never slumber nor sleep, and keep a midnight vigil with me.

I will not despise small beginings--my lowly state draws Your heart.

I will not compromise holiness--Jesus balanced His time among tax collectors and sinners with isolating Himself in Your presence.

I will not avoid trials--You test those You love, discipline Your sons, and bring judgment to Your house before Your pour out Your Spirit.

I will not doubt Your word--it has never failed.

I will not cling to anything above You. I will not hesitate to sacrifice anything that stands between us--You will only fill hands that are empty.

Jesus...give us Your perspective...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

love is a [...] thing

"God, I'm so tired of hurting. Love isn't supposed to be this difficult. I can't do this anymore."

The prayer had become second-nature. The teenage broken heart has no comfortable middle-ground between extremes. Almost ten years later, and after having nursed some adult-sized broken hearts, I've found my perspective changing on love.

Love is a bloody, smelly, wrenching thing. It demands the voluntary butchering of our most basic instinct of self-preservation. Love is a matter of weighing the options, recognizing the cost, and choosing to walk the road in humility anyway. It places no requirements on the recipient, making no demands, and shunning recognition for its sacrifice. It does not seek a name for itself. It just meekly and quietly is.

Jesus was the divine nature of God in human form, and He spoke passionately about love. His sacrifice on the cross encompassed all extremes from the height of suffering to the depth of humiliation, and all to personify the love His life had already defined. Love does not show its fullness of beauty in hazy, starry-eyed obsession. Instead, it shines in dust drinking slick drops of blood from a man writhing in agony for people who had rejected Him. Love looks like raised, red welts opening to jagged gashes on an innocent back; like deep purple bruises and bloodshot eyes. Love is a man utterly emptied of self even as His body clamored for attention. It is a man who sees the greatness of His sacrifice misunderstood and mocked even to this day, and still chooses to say, "You're worth My mercy." And it echoes in the voice of the Father as He grieves over the terror coming to a world unwilling to listen:

Your ways and your doings have procured these things for you. This is your wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reaches to your heart. O my soul, my soul! I am pained in my very heart! My heart makes a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because you have heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Jer. 4:18-19

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My 1000 Things (Part 2)

12. the memory of that one perfect day eating tuna fish sandwiches and catching catfish under a cloudless cerulean sky.

13. that one email that came out of nowhere the other day from a friend who didn't know just how much i needed to hear she'd been praying for me.

14. that You don't give up on me, and when You talk behind my back it's always a positive thing. You don't reprimand needlessly, and You choose to label me by my future and not my failures.

15. karen and her vision/leadership. sometimes i get so overwhelmed by the dream of a house of prayer here in the city. i feel like it can't possibly happen because we're so tiny and so weak. her enthusiasm and faith are contagious, and i always come away feeling inspired.

16. darron. so many ups and downs, so many painful memories but so much side-splitting laughter...and at the end of the day, sometimes he's the only one i feel understands me--even when he doesn't always agree.

17. the fact darron doesn't always agree...and says so.

18. random strangers who become friends.

19. monday night Bible study. we are the oddest assortment of people, and most of us have nothing in common except You, but somehow it works. i always learn something, and almost always meet someone new.

20. meeting new people. it's so funny that i used to be terrified of the thing that so often fulfills me now. You have such creativity, and finding that spark of "kindred spirit" in people feels like a treasure hunt. everybody has a story to tell. every person i meet shapes my life in some way...just like You intended.

21. the way ethan screams my name when he is surprised to see me. the great tragedy of adulthood is in how we so often mask our enthusiasm for the sake of pride.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

musings (part 1)

Passionate people with a God-focus always either provoke us to jealousy (and thus like-minded passion) or are “too much” and thus make us uncomfortable. Either way, they’re going to be controversial. Trying to hold onto thought patterns that God prunes away leaves us miserably tottering between two worlds. Sometimes we need to just let it go.

You know me well–my thoughts, motives, secret desires. You sit enthroned on the circle of the earth, supreme in Your vantage point and unrivaled in any good thing. You spoke the world into being, placed Your very breath inside of me, and hold all things in Your hands………and You choose to spend Your time praying for me. Love? We don’t even begin to know what that means.

So often I’ve felt abandoned when I prayed, “God show me what to do” and He never seemed to answer. Perhaps, just perhaps, His silence was simply an encouragement not to do anything. Psalm 27:13-14

The times I can’t seem to see God are usually the times He’s got my back….

We will never greatly influence those who look exactly like us. To be a world-changer requires demolishing our own comfort zones.

I am the rose and the lily; You wears my love like a diadem. I will waive my life as a banner; Your love is my standard. Everything fades in the light of Your glory; everything burns in the fire of Your word.

Your song is my slingshot; Your Word is your rock. I will open my mouth and cast the mountain into the sea.

I will embrace the lowest place; I’ll say “yes” to the process. You are faithful.

I have no control over other people’s integrity.

Monday, October 12, 2009

declaration

In order for faith to mature it needs situations where faith alone can sustain us. For this reason, God will allow us to go through times when we must trust Him in spite of how things appear. In those times, against the glaring face of a negative reality, true faith arises, appropriates courage and locks into the integrity of God’s promise. We must let faith arise in the context of resistance. This is the faith that touches God’s heart. — Francis Frangipane

God, do I touch You with my faith? Do I move Your emotions in my complete reliance on You? Do I ravish Your heart by saying again and again, “Lord, where could I go. You alone have the words of life?”

I can’t stand alone. It’s only in Your strength that I’m able to make it from one day to the next. It’s only Your love that sustains me in loving You. I’m confused and conflicted, twisted in knots, and easily distracted even on my best days. It’s only by Your grace that I’m able to face the next day in the faith that You do all things well. You don’t withhold good things from Your children. You don’t inflict needless suffering. Your heart has been moved with compassion again and again for the plight of Your children.

You don’t author confusion. You don’t create chaos. You call the imperfect and broken, beautiful. Though nothing is hidden from Your eyes, You choose to speak to my potential rather than my failures.

How can You prune with such tenderness? How is it that You know just the right mixture of joy and pain required to bear fruit in our lives? Do I wound You when I don’t trust—when I fall into double-mindedness, having forgotten Your goodness in the blindness of my circumstances?

In this I am confident: You are always, always, always, always, always good, and I will see Your goodness in the land of the living, for it follows me all the days of my life.

Monday, October 5, 2009

purpose

Life. Biological clocks. Career pressures. Trying to get ahead. Church business. Hanging out with friends. Grocery shopping. Buying a house. Finding that perfect pair of jeans. Day-dreaming about that one special person. Going to weddings. Planning weddings. Visiting people in hospitals. Getting hurt feelings. Forgiving those who hurt us. Having children. Baking birthday cakes. Potty-training....the dog. Longing for vacations. Cramming as many people as possible into Christmas. Realizing other people can't make you happy. Writing terrible, 3:00 a.m. poetry. Dyeing your hair. Planting a garden. Eating half-a-can of cake icing with a spoon. Getting sick of regimenting life. Going back to school. Catching up on your favorite television show. Worrying about aging parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/friends. Crying in the shower so nobody else can hear. Road trips. Church conferences. Youth retreats. Teaching Sunday school. Laughing at newspaper comics.

Sometimes in the busyness of life, we lose focus. I'm grateful for the way God always brings back perspective.

"There's gonna be a wedding; it's the reason that I'm living---to marry the Lamb." ~Tim Reimherr, "More than Ashes"


--

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My 1000 Things (part 1)

I found this idea on my "alter ego" blogsite (http://chrystalf.wordpress.com/ for all who are interested) and loved it...so I'm implimenting for myself. Some of you know of the "I Choose to be Grateful" fan page I set up on facebook--but this way I can be a little more specific. I have a feeling this will be an ongoing journey. Wish me luck!

__________
Thank You for:

1. my home. specifically that it's mine...though, perhaps that's a bad way of looking at it. i'm a steward of all You've given me, and You have the right to direct me to use those resources in any way You wish. but for the moment, anyway, i'm sole mistress of a haven to where i can retreat in any given storm.

2. a car that actually cranks every time. i've thanked You before, multiple times, but this one never gets old. the katrina-era lemon that required nights of charging the battery only to have it die again the second i parked is a distant memory, and a reminder to be grateful for reliability.

3. my college degree. the four years had their ups and downs, but the piece of paper is mine, and so is everything for which it stands.

4. my paralegal certification. it relates to the above, with the exception that i was fairly confident i'd pass college; i was beyond shocked to pass the paralegal exam. only You know the full extent of what the preparation process cost. only You got me through it. thank You.

5. gabriel's hugs. doesn't matter what the day has been like--when he throws his arms around my waist and burrows his head in my stomach, i feel alive again every time.

6. watermelon. seriously. i'd expect to be sick of it by now, but everything from the smell to the messy juice rolling down my forearms says "mom"....just like...

7. ...herbal essenses shampoo. i'm always taken back to the summer before my 16th birthday when i smell it--learning to drive adam's car, watching tyler feed the goats, pretending to "roll" aunt patsy's house with amber, teaching chris french in the hotel room before darron and becky's wedding. it's evocative.

8. and speaking of mom....my mother. she listens. always. the many hats she wears. and she's big enough to admit when God's still working on her in situations. i pray i'm that humble in thirty years.

9. my dad. his strength. his wisdom. his corny jokes. the way he preaches with passion, and isn't ashamed to cry under the anointing.

10. my incredible church family. they are "the church" more than any building. they are my family when flesh-and-blood are far away. i can't make it a week without seeing them.

11. JAMHOP. a convergence of like-minded people. i never leave without feeling refreshed and inspired. they are my unit. they are my support group.

Monday, September 28, 2009

useless fire

Pastor's sermon from yesterday about guarding our spiritual gates has continued to turn over in my mind today. It is perhaps for this reason that the following passage from Malachi 1 impacted me so much when I read it:


10 "Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you," says the LORD Almighty, "and I will accept no offering from your hands. ~Malachi 1:10
The context of this verse is that the people were offering less-than-perfect sacrifices on the altar--crippled, blind, and maimed animals that were not pleasing to God. They offered Him second-best (or perhaps it wasn't even second-best) and feigned shock that He was not pleased with them.

What struck me, though, was the concept of lighting useless fires. The fire was supposed to purify and refine the people, releasing a fragrant aroma to the Lord. However, in Malachi the Lord expressed His desire to bar the people from His presence--the fire was there, but the sacrifice wasn't right.

How often can this be said of our "pentecostal, charismatic, full-gospel" churches? How often do we have the "fire" of the manifestations, but don't seek to get the sacrifice right? How often do we seek the glory and neglect communing with the Spirit?

Taking it on a more personal level--how often do I say all the right words, raise my hands at the right time, pray in the Spirit, sing at the top of my lungs....all with emotions raging in my heart that simmer beneath a church mask? Does my going-through-the-motions please Him; or does He care more about my motives and the perfection of my sacrifice?

God's not fooled by my grandiose behavior. I don't convince Him that I love my neighbor as myself just by saying all the right words. He's weighing my heart, my motives, my intentions--every thought that flits through my mind. I don't want the doors of His throne room barred to me--to weary Him by my blatant disregard for His desires.

If I am to burn, God, let my life be a pleasing sacrifice before You.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

let creation shake

everything fades in the light of Your glory.
everything burns in the fire of Your word.
creation shakes when You respond to my voice--
You've never failed a promise,
never denied Your word.
You arm me with strength
because my hands are clean.

God,
my safe place--
i call to You
only You can save.

death comes around me
but You stand before me.

fill my mouth with the spirit of deliverance,
my hands with the tools for war.
i will speak Your liberty.

Your song is my slingshot.
Your word is my stone--
Jesus--
cornerstone.
i will release the song of the Lord,
fell the giant,
cast the mountain in the sea.

i will go out with a shout,
dance with all my might,
embrace the lowest place.

my dance is a march on the neck of my enemy.
my dance is a procession on the head of captivity.


--thoughts on 2 samuel 22

Thursday, September 3, 2009

weight of the Word

Scripture is God-breathed, God-inspired, God-orchestrated. It encourages and convicts. It pierces and divides, weighing motives and analyzing intentions. The power of intercession and the glory of the intercessor comes in learning to speak the Word written on our hearts. Intercession, at its foundational level, is simply conversing with God about what He's said.

What has blessed me so much today has been thinking about the weightiness of quoting Scripture. I know sometimes I've been guilty of falling in to the glib, sing-song recital approach of, "GodsolovedtheworldthatHegave. . . ." Make time. Get through it. Say it as fast as you can so you can move on to something else. Yeah...really spiritual, I know.

God honors His Word so much that He stakes His reputation on it. Think about it. He keeps His promises for His Name's sake. He forgives our sin for His Name's sake. The nature of grace is that it's all on Him--He extends it to us because of His desire for us. The full weight of His authority is behind His word. When we quote Scripture, we are exercising His delegated authority to us.

I think about the weight of the world that rested on the shoulders of Jesus as He approached the cross. Isaiah 53 tells us that He was utterly despised and rejected, totally familiar with grief, personally acquainted with sorrow. No man has ever suffered the depth to which He went. No man ever will. Jesus not only lived a holy life--He was holiness personified. There was no justifiable reason to punish Him--no one-time mistake that made the cross make sense. He died knowing He was innocent, knowing He had both the right and the power to save Himself, and choosing not to.

By His choice, we have accepted a lighter burden--that of covenant and relationship. The weight that rests on us now is the mantel of authority in brokenness, Holy Spirit power in weakness, honor in going low. May we arise as a Bride with the words of our Beloved springing up from hearts radically in love and into mouths purified and ready to speak the truth in love.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Just Judge

I finished reading through Leviticus this week, and I have to admit, I didn't enjoy the book any more than I expected to. One good thing, though, is that reading through the weight of the law put me in a proper perspective to appreciate Pastor's sermon on grace on Sunday (and God further emphasized the power of covenant over law to me when I skimmed through the book of Hebrews this morning). Sometimes I struggle to reconcile the God of love--the intimate Father whose voice I recognize--with the rule-imposing, strike-them-down-with-plague God in Exodus and Leviticus. I know that He is the same throughout history, but it's often hard for me to see His love through the burden of the law.

Perhaps because I'm a woman and therefore concerned about God's relation to women, or perhaps because I love babies, the requirements for a woman's purification after childbirth in Leviticus 12 grabbed my attention. My heart hurt to read that the time required for purification after childbirth was doubled when the woman had a female child. Is this really how You see us, God? Were women so far beneath Your esteem that our very births were cursed?

Fortunately for me, the Lord led me to an online blog that gave me a new perspective. One of the things that the author suggested was that the issue with the birth wasn't so much about a curse as it was about future gender roles. The purification sacrifice that the woman had to offer to be clean again was the same regardless of whether she gave birth to a boy or a girl; she didn't have to bring a bigger sacrifice for having a female child.

However, the time she was "unclean" was time she spent bonding with her newborn infant. The male child would enter into the covenant through circumcision eight days after his birth, and then embark on a journey into manhood with all the duties and responsibilities that entailed--duties and responsibilities he would learn from his father and from other men in his life. The female child, however, would be more dependent on her mother to teach her how to become a woman. The time allotted for a mother to bond with her female child was longer, setting up the foundation for their future relationship.

In the end, I learned that what I thought was God's displeasure against women was actually His blessing. How true this is in my own life. I complain against a perceived burden only to discover in time that it is really a blessing.

Billy Humphreys from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri, said something recently talking about the story of the unjust judge that really blessed me. The paraphrased version is this: If an unjust judge would finally grant justice to a widow because of her persistence, how much more will a God established in justice respond to the prayers of His bride?

He's just, He's faithful, and He loves you. Don't stop praying.

Friday, August 21, 2009

speak up already!

I'm reading in Leviticus at the moment, and one thing that struck me was early in chapter 5, which reads:
If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible. (Lev. 5:1)

This is one of the instructions that God gave to Moses when the two of them met together before the Tent of Meeting just after Moses received the Ten Commandments for the second time. God, in His mercy, was setting up a way for His people to walk with Him, despite the weight of the curse on their lives.

What's interesting to me, though, is that this particular "offense" wasn't based on what someone said, but on what they did not say. God viewed silence as sternly as He did outright deception.

Kinda like witnessing, huh? The terror's coming, and the blood is on the hands of the corporate church as a whole for our lethargic and dismissive attitude.

Thank the Lord for grace. He continues to give us opportunities to make up for the ones we squander because He is love at His core. Love by definition. Love in His entirety.

I've come away sobered and challenged again to speak, and pray that the Word would go forth with boldness. He will release His Word in power and authority through those who take the time to listen and snatch the opportunity to speak. My heart is so convicted yet again for the tendency I have to lose focus in the petty things (even when I think I'm not). Am I wrapped up in the "persecution" of that person who makes it a priority to disagree with me at any given opportunity, or am I meditating on Scripture, thanking the Lord for the lesson in humility, and moving forward in grace?

Don't miss a chance to speak up. May God grant unto you a spirit of boldness and power.

Much love.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

[untitled]

Spirit flame,
burn through my ashes
that i may offer passion.
my worship's on the altar
ready for refining
longing for life.

rain Your word.
water my garden
and i will scale the walls
with fruit to feed the nations,
open to the hungry,
calling for the shamed.

this is my sacrifice--
that which is holy,
that which is perfect and pleasing before You.
this is my offering--
my yearning devotion,
Yours.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

sin or standard?

I was 'trolling' through a friend's pictures on facebook recently. Actually, I suppose you could call this person more like an acquaintance now because we haven't had an actual conversation in years, nor do we live in the same area anymore. At any rate, a few of the pictures seemed to indicate that my friend no longer held some of the standards I once thought we shared.

With some chagrin, I must admit to jumping to snap conclusions and quietly judging my former friend in my heart. I also must 'fess up to feeling a fleeting dart of self-righteous pride, because I hadn't waivered in my convictions, unlike some people. And of course, there was that underlying disappointment, as though my friend had let me down personally for not believing just like I did.

As you may imagine, the Holy Spirit dealt with me pretty quickly on that one...

What came out of our little chat was me musing over the nature of sin versus standards. Of course, our desire should be to live as close to Jesus as we can, and not to try and live as close to the line as we can. The Lord's requirements for how we are to live our lives vary according to our specific callings and ministries. However, we can get caught up in judging each other when one person's version of "living close" is different than ours.

Some friends and I were discussing Hebrews 10 last night, and gripped with the sobering reality of verses 26-27:

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Heb. 10:26-27)

Obviously, the Lord is very serious about deliberate sin, and our attitude toward sin. But where do we draw the line between sin and standards? Do we sin when we break a personal standard that might not be a requirement of someone else, or is sin, sin across the board? What do you think? And do you have a list of absolutes for your own life?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

the burning tribe

The age of the warriors has come again.

I stand watch on the wall and see them coming--men and women with faces bronzed and glowing in the light of the Son. I see young children marked by destiny who've willingly laid aside childish things for the wisdom of eternity. I see young adults, hiding in humility, pressing forward in power. They have received their assignment; they break rank for no one. The ground trembles beneath the weight of their march.

These are the holy ones. They have made a covenant with their eyes, and they stick to it. They are the definition of radical. They are an army marked by who they are, not who they could be. They are known more for their reality than for their potential.

They have embraced the power of pain--pressing into the ache, leaning into the groan. They know the strength that suffering perfects. It is a badge they wear with honor.

They beat their bodies into submission. Their spirits are honed sharp through fasting and prayer. They position themselves between the living and the dead. They fight with passion. They progress with persistence. They never miss their mark.

These are the ones who live in the wilderness. They are the modern-day Nazarites. They live to be extreme. Try to tell them they're sacrificing too much--they won't listen. They love with everything, and give everything out of that love. They answer solely to One.

They don't fit in, but they recognize each other. They are fiercely loyal to their community and their calling. Find one and you will find others--shoulders pressed together, shields up, arms interlocked, hearts bound by blood. They make it their business to live for more than themselves. They join ranks with the faithful.

They shun labels, ignore titles, shrug off names. Life is their platform. Jesus is their goal. They are steady, relentless, strong, unstoppable. They always win because they never give up. Failure is not an option. Glory in success belongs exclusively to their Father.

Once you've heard their cry, you'll never forget it. They rage with a yell that comes again, and again, and again, and again, and again from their core--from the emotions at the heart of God Himself. They've pledged their lives to a cause. They live in preparation and longing.

And their cry has been heard. The day is coming when the Great One will come, and He will not be held back from them. Everyone will see the reunion; it will crush ambivalence and engage every heart either for or against. And He will win.

Are you ready?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

i can do...anything.

I spent some time in Philippians this morning, pausing to smile over the familiar passage in Philippians 4:13.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I wish I could remember how old I was when I first memorized that verse. In my family, it was one of those “bedrock” verses that you learned early, right up there beside John 3:16 and Romans 8:28. God often shakes me out of self-satisfied, complacent Christianity by choosing to speak to me through something I’ve read a thousand times. I’ll spend hours scouring through some obscure passage in Nahum searching for a revelation only to hear His voice come crashing through my circumstances and into my heart through John 8:32 (another one I memorized as a child, though this one was largely due to the fact that my dad preached several sermons on it).

What captivated me this morning was the context of Philippians 4:13. Paul is talking about the kindness of the Philippians, and how often they blessed him with gifts when he was in need. He then rushes to assure them that his praise for their generosity is not a hint that he needed anything, saying that he had learned to be content regardless of his situation.

God is pressing me toward gratitude on a daily basis. I get it more on some days than others. Paul’s statement—that he learned to be grateful in all things—blessed me so much because it is after saying this that he writes Philippians 4:13. His contentedness was not an easy thing. He had to learn it. He had to persevere to gratitude. And it was only through the strength of Christ that he had the grace to be content.

I often feel dissatisfied and unhappy with my life. Invariably, after I express my dissatisfaction, I begin to feel condemned for being ungrateful. While I never want to minimize the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, or excuse poor behavior that stems from an ungrateful heart, the Lord reminded me this morning that it’s only by His power that I am able to see the good in all things. Wallowing in how much I “missed it” the day before will only hinder me from progressing today. My only option is to press delete on the past and keep going.

I choose to be grateful. On some days I will be more successful than on others. Some days will be easier than others. What matters is if I keep going, beating my ungrateful nature into submission and fixing my eyes on the ultimate goal.

If we keep going, we win.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

just standing

I'm not sure I'm going to be able to say all this the way I want to say it. Sometimes I wish words didn't seem to shrink so much when we try to express what we feel.

I feel it most when I shut my eyes. It's a mix of contentment and tiredness--similar to what I feel at the end of a two hour worship service when I know I've pushed as deep into God as my weak flesh will allow for that time. Also mixed in is a tinge of accomplishment, like I feel when I've finished folding three loads of laundry, cooked dinner, and cleaned my home. And there's a small sense of emptiness, too, like the slow ebbing of adrenaline when a roller coaster slowly rolls back to the platform and part of your body is asking you, "Now what?"

It's a lost sort of found feeling, a latent excitement, a lethargic energy, a directed purpose.

It's my favorite place to be.

This is the feeling I have when I hear most clearly from God. It comes when I've finally pushed through all the external "stuff" and connect with His heart--raw, imperfect....real. He reminds me that I don't have to "do" anything when I come to Him; I can simply rest in His presence, in the throne room of the Almighty, seated with His Son, tucked under His care.

I fail a lot in that I often mentally diminish the power of God working in my life. He often allows painful situations to lag on for what seems like eternity in our lives because He's teaching us perseverance and growing character in our lives. We cannot get so caught up in the process that we forget the purpose. We cannot allow His patience to distort our perception of His strength, His power, His ability to move on behalf of those of us who love Him desperately.

I love this emotional place. I love it when He reminds me that He's still God, He's still in control, and He still has a plan. I walk through my day feeling clean and mended. This is casting our cares. This is the result of observing Sabbath with Him.

Stand before His throne and be confident in who you are to Him. He's God, and He does all things well.

Monday, June 22, 2009

siren's song

I'm singing The Prayer in a wedding soon, and even though the version I'm singing isn't exactly like the one that Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli have made so popular, I've been listening to their version regularly as a learning aid. Yesterday, in the course of clicking through various links on youtube trying to find a clearer recording of the song, I found myself suddenly listening to another of Celine's songs.

Let me say from the beginning that I have great musical respect for Celine Dion. She has an incredible vocal range and has had more worldwide recognition that most of us could ever dream of having. She also has a history of carrying herself with class, unlike many of her contemporaries.

This particular song was catchy. It featured a sitar riff that immediately appealed to me (perhaps because of my background of growing up in India) and the melody was catchy. I found my foot tapping and my head imperceptibly nodding.

Then I locked into to the words.

There was nothing truly "bad" in the song--no overt vulgarity or profanity. In fact, we could almost call the message of being faithful to one's significant other wholesome in the face of a society where broken relationships have become "normal." But I felt somewhat "checked" at references to a "devil inside" and being told to "keep your eyes only on me." I'm supposed to keep my eyes at all times on someone, but He's not you. No big deal...it's just a song... I reached to shut it off.

The instant the music stopped, I felt like I had the air knocked out of me and everything inside of me seemed to shrink. I had a raging desire just to hear the end of the song. I switched over to a Christian music station, and immediately felt bored. Yesterday was one of those days where I felt bored with my walk with Jesus in general. The Word seemed stale and my prayers felt like lead.

The strength of my inner struggle over the Celine Dion song shocked me. I make it a practice not to listen to secular music, not out of legalistic, "religious" reasons, but just because I find myself feeling dissatisfied with my life when I do. I am desperate to have open communication with God at all times--to be able to hear from Him no matter where I am or what I'm doing. When I listen to secular music (or even a lot of "positive Christian top-20 hits"), I find that the communication pipeline gets clogged.

However, I sometimes listen through a secular song on youtube that I've heard on a movie or when I'm walking through a store because I like the musical arrangement of it. I've never really thought much about it, justifying myself by thinking, I don't listen to it all the time. The struggle I had to pull out of it yesterday makes me believe that I may need to up my standards even higher, at least for this season of my life.

I realize this is a sensitive, highly personal subject, and that everybody has their own list of what they will and will not allow themselves to hear (much like the list of profanity deemed "acceptable" in movies....personally, I never understood how one curse word could be more offensive than another). I would challenge you, though, to examine your standards on a regular basis. The spirit behind a song will manifest itself whenever and wherever that song is played, and small compromises lead to huge concessions. We are to guard our hearts with extreme diligence, giving no chance for vulnerability, because our enemy does not rest seeking after our hearts.

May God strengthen you all with power in your inner man!

Psalm Studies -- Week 3

Week 3 -- Worship and Prophecy -- Psalm 27

Friday, June 12, 2009

unanswered prayers

Last night was night four of Vacation Bible School. It was an emotional night for me for various reasons, but the defining moment of the night for me was the final 20-minute segment (called the "Firefly Finale"). The roughly two-dozen children gathered around their respective crew-leaders and visualized putting the all the wrong things they've ever done in a big black trash bag each crew had. The crew-leaders placed the bags at the foot of a large cross, and one of the teachers, dressed as Jesus, came and carried the bags away as "Amazing Love" played in the background. When Kelly gave the children an opportunity to ask Jesus in their hearts immediately after that, at least four little ones raised their hands wanting to pray the prayer of salvation. We all had a time of worship in the altar while the crew-leaders finished praying with those who'd asked for prayer.

What struck me, however, was what happened just before all of this. I had gotten up to teach the kids a new song that talks about how God renews our strength when we wait on Him. Kelly and the crew-leaders had gone to a room in the back to pray about upcoming altar call, so I took a few minutes to introduce the song to the children and make sure they understood the concept of waiting on God (giving the adults time to pray). The Bible points we've learned so far this week have been: "God is with us," "God is powerful," "God does what He says He'll do," and "God gives us life." I opened by asking if any of the kids had ever prayed for something before. Immediately all of them raised their hands.

I followed by asking if any had ever prayed a prayer and nothing happened, and again, all of them raised their hands. I asked why they thought that was, and I'll admit that I was expecting a collection of blank faces and shoulder shrugs. To my surprise, however, one of the little girls to my left lifted her hand and, without a pause, said, "Maybe it's not the right time for God to do it, yet."

My eyes swam with tears as I praised her for her answer and went on to explain that we can trust God to give us strength to wait for His timing. All this time, however, my heart was crying, "Oh Jesus, no wonder you loved little children. They just understand."

I over-complicate things so much. God didn't answer because there's sin in your life. Or because you aren't asking what He wants. Or because He doesn't love you as much as _____. Or.... I don't take into account the fact that I strive daily to keep my heart free from hidden sins or that His Word says He loves me.

There was such a confidence in what my little friend said last night, though. There was no pause to check herself--no sense of, "I'm not good enough for Him to answer my prayers." She knew Jesus loves her and would answer her when she prayed to Him. If He didn't answer, all it could possibly mean was that He was waiting for a better time. It didn't mean she was forgotten, neglected...ignored.

What a blessing these little ones have been to me this week. I can't wait to see what happens tonight!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

missing you...

Things have felt a little distant this week with the one my heart loves. I've been helping out with Vacation Bible School at the church every night, so we haven't exactly had the time together I'm used to. I know there's no condemnation there, even though it's entirely my fault, but part of me feels so lost.

He's been part of every thought, ever breath, every action. I throw out numerous 30-second prayers His direction all through the day. I listen to live worship from the IHOP prayer room almost constantly. I've spent large parts of every evening this week telling thirty children about His attributes, singing about how He's always with us...even memorizing small slices from His Word. Isn't it funny how sometimes it feels like the more we talk about Him, the more distant we feel from Him?

I guess it's like any other relationship--there's no substitute for quality time (especially when that's one of your primary love languages). It's difficult to sustain intimacy in marriage if both parties don't make it a point to stay connected. Telling everyone about your husband's amazing qualities is no substitute for snatching up the moment to stop and listen to his heart. Nothing better communicates how greatly you value a person than making a point to shut down all outside interferences and give your full attention.

So much of our communicating is non-verbal. In my quest to become a better woman, there's a whole list of things about which I'm trying to become more aware when I interact with other people. How consistent am I at ignoring cellphone interruptions in one-on-one conversations? How often do I multi-task? How often do I interrupt? How often do I respond to something the other person said with a noncommittal one-liner and then change the subject? All of these are pet peeves of mine in other people--and yet, each is a personality trait I possess.

What becomes painful to notice, however, is how often I behave this way toward Him--cutting short our time together, responding to interruptions, making it all about me when we talk. He's always so patient with me, giving me such grace when, in my frailty, I miss it yet again. The Holy Spirit always comes again to breathe fire on my heart once again and prod me forward in passion and in love. Sometimes I just wish it wasn't necessary. What would it be like to live in a constant state of zeal--to never go through those seasons where my heart is cold? I was laughing with some friends yesterday that I seem to hit a dry spell every Thursday, and it tends to last until mid-Saturday afternoon. Weariness? Perhaps. Unwanted? Entirely.

I've jumped around a lot in this one, and I'm not even sure I've said what I meant to say. Maybe what I should have done from the beginning is this:

...I miss You. I miss just sitting in silence with You in perfect camaraderie. I know You're reading this, because You've already written in my heart what to say. All my words come from You. All my seasons are in Your hands. Draw me away.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

a tragedy

The following quote was in an email I received this morning from Bound4Life regarding the reprehensible murder of abortion doctor, George Tiller:

"There is merely bad luck in not being loved; there is tragedy in not loving." ~Camus

My heart aches for this man who died with the blood of babies on his hands, and for his wife who was in the choir and witnessed his death. Who knows but that his murder robbed him of an opportunity to repent? Life is life, whether it is a child in the womb or an adult about to draw his or her last breath, and resorting to violence in protest should never be an option for those who claim to be "pro-life."

Paul really captured the heart of it in the "love chapter" of I Corinthians 13 when he said, "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, "it profits me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:3) I found myself examining my heart and my motives this morning. How many choices do I make in a day? What do I choose to wear? Do I speak to the other person in the elevator? Do I cut off that teenager on his cellphone in rush hour traffic? How thorough am I in the tasks I receive at my job? Do I thank the cleaning lady who comes in every morning to keep the office bathroom fresh? Do I even see her? How often do I do things out of guilt or necessity, caught up in the drudgery of everyday life?

Paul's message was that every action is an opportunity, and every action that does not stem from love is an opportunity wasted. Sometimes we get caught up in the mindset that God only sees the extremes--donating half the church building fund, staying up until 3:00 in the morning to organize a food drive, speaking from a platform to millions of people; but God weighs the heart on the smaller decisions as well. Let's make them count.



Tuesday, May 26, 2009

eyes to see and ears to hear

I've been contending lately for an increase in prophetic anointing in my life. With creation groaning in the birth pains of the end times, sometimes it's helpful to stop and remember the promise of a massive revival that is coming as well. I want greater discernment in dreams in the night. I want visions during the day. I long to see into the Spirit, even as Elisha prayed that the Lord would open his servant's eyes to see the chariots of fire surrounding them.

I love the gentle promise of Matthew 5:8: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. I don't believe this is just limited to the coming of the Millenial Reign of Christ, although I do believe it will reach its fulfillment at that time when we no longer "see through a glass dimly." But I pray even now for a spirit of wisdom and revelation in my life, to see and know the times, to press into seeing the Lord.

So much of "religion" has left a bad taste in our mouths with its lists of requirements. The truth is simply this--I am under grace, and nothing is off limits. I do not restrict my actions to make myself "worthy" of salvation. Nothing I do will ever manage that. The standard to which I hold myself stems from a longing to see God. I crucify my flesh, make myself of no reputation, forgive those who wrongfully abuse me, ignore potential offenses, love without expecting anything in return, speak about my faith even to those who do not wish to hear, guard my heart, filter what enters my eye/ear gates, and strive to be perfect even as He is perfect because I am lovesick, and starving to see Him.

What's it worth to you?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

an experiment

Hello friends,

I'm going to begin teaching a class in a few weeks on prophecy and worship in the psalms, and want to be able to upload my notes for people to download if they so desire. This blog is just an experiment to see if I can figure out how to upload files in blogger. I'm attaching a study I did on the apostolic prayer Paul prayed over the church in Ephesians 1. You can find a list of key apostolic prayers on the IHOP website here.

God bless you all!

Apostolic Prayers -- Ephesians 1

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

'tis but a slip of a forked tongue

Today I'm thinking about a time when I discovered that someone was spreading her third-hand account of an event in my life to anybody who would listen. Hers were the most vicious category of rumors--the kind I couldn't just dismiss as a complete fabrication because they contained enough of the truth to stab through the heart. My emotions ranged from anger to pain at the injustice of the situation as I continued to learn of the depth, width and breadth of her gossip--which ranged from targeting random strangers to my closest friends.

I took some comfort from Romans 1, mentally chastising her as one filled with "every kind of wickedness" including gossip and slander. Faithless, heartless, ruthless...my angry heart ticked down the list with some glee. And with each "check" on my list, my own sense of self-worth grew.

And then, with reassuring predictability, the Holy Spirit turned the mirror of the Word on my own heart. "How many times have you carelessly spoken half-truths without searching out the whole story, Chrystal? When's the last time you envied something that wasn't yours? What was the last promise you failed to keep?"

I'll spare you the number of self-justifying, "but Lord" comments I made. The concept that He hates all sin equally still trips me up most of the time. The bottom line was simply that I had failed again at the charge He'd given me earlier to be quick to forgive and even quicker to judge myself. When James charged us to be swift to listen and slow to speak, he meant it.

I still struggle to love this person. I still often feel betrayed. But I'm challeged once again by the love the Lord has for us. It's an ongoing process, but it's better to take the low road and use words to encourage, exhort, and edify than for me to be exalted in my own eyes. I pray the grace to be humble over you as well. God bless.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

wind-tossed, borne aloft, and loving the ride

I spent some time with the Lord yesterday meditating on John 3. It was one of those precious occasions when He and I were able to dialogue about the Word without interruption. I'd wondered why He'd led me to such a familiar passage, but had determined that I was going to sit there and listen until He showed me what was on His heart.

Yesterday was one of those balmy, breezy, sunny-with-a-high-of-75 kind of days that remind me of why I love spring so much. I had the windows open throughout my home, and exulted in the fresh smells pouring in around me as I sat in the middle of my living room floor and let the ceiling fan play with the pages of my Bible. I had just read this:

"...The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."


when a sound outside arrested my attention.

Glancing up, I saw the branches of the big, beautiful trees outside my front windows dancing together as an unseen breeze swept through. I was losing myself in delight at the crashing sound of the leaves when I heard the soft voice of the Spirit speaking to my heart--a voice I've come to love and to trust even when it's asked me to do difficult things. So it is with everyone who is borne of the Spirit.

I laughed at the pun, but continued to stay in an attitude of prayer until His meaning crystalized in my heart. He was talking to me about the forerunner/pioneer calling.

The branches on the trees outside were moving in response to the wind passing through. Although the breeze continued one for a few minutes, the initial burst of wind that disturbed the trees had already moved ahead before the branches began to respond. I felt the Lord telling me that this is often how it is in the life of the front-runners in the church. They are borne aloft by the Spirit, carried from place to place, but on so many occasions this anointing mandates that they relinquish their right to see the fruit of their labors. The nature of a forerunner is that by the time the ground they've covered begins to react to their influence, the Spirit has already carried them on to the next goal. While they may at times reap the harvest of someone else's labors, the nature of a forerunner calling is that it they must constantly stay ahead of everyone else, eyes locked on Jesus and preparing the way for the people running after Him.

So often in my own life, I have alternately become discouraged at the apparent lack of answer to my prayers, or silently raged as someone else reaped the credit for building on the foundation I'd worked so hard with the Lord to lay. However, the Lord is reminding me that to stop and wait for the branches to move only stalls my spiritual momentum and deafens my ears to the Spirit's cry, "Come deeper...higher....further in..."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

i couldn't have said it any better myself...

.... so i won't. but here you go.

Unbeing dead isn't being alive. ~ e.e. cummings

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~ John 10:10

what do you believe, and how are you living?

Monday, April 20, 2009

ice house

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.
--William Shakespeare, Act IV, Scene 1, The Merchant of Venice

I’m Jonah under the shade tree, alone and miserable in my self-righteous diatribe. I’m the older brother of the prodigal son, hurt and angry that You promote humility over pride-laced constancy. I lay my complaint before You as judge and You weigh hearts, motives, purposes and desires in eternity past and present before rendering mercy. My clamoring flesh chafes under Your wisdom. I am not asking for justice, but for judgment. This mirror-me lurks just beneath the surface, teasing the corners of my dreams and waltzing with every unattended thought. This is the abhorrence waiting for me in every reflected space.

The questions scream on, erecting panes of bitter glass in a dome around me. Why did He...? How could He...? And the zenith—a delicate filigreed deception that shadows all light filtering through to my heart, Don’t you know He’s forgotten all about you? Even worse than the insidious claim that You are withholding from me is this assertion of indifference. At least withholding requires some emotion. Here, in this climate-controlled ice-house, my world is pristine and untouched.

That is, until a falling cross knifes through the haze, and suddenly I’m caught up in a bloodbath—heat, disorder, desire and passion all directed toward me. And there You are, utterly uncontrollable and ignoring my terror at feeling things again, one hand armed with hope and the other brimming over with love. Love. A love that is there solely for my benefit without expecting anything in return. A love whose face took on its most definite shape in the height of rage and the depth of grief. What other love would lash punishment onto itself to spare me? I long for something that is already in my hands.

Mercy grows from a love devoid of self. My own human jealousy struggles that You feel this way for everyone because I have yet to grasp that personal love does not diminish in the face of corporate love. Tune my heart to know the height and depth of Your obsession with me, that I may too hold fast to a lens of mercy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

where are the heroes?

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

I've been meditating some what James calls "true religion" in his book--to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. The word used for distress here is "thlipsis" which is also translated "tribulation" and "affliction." It is the same word that John used when he spoke of the saints coming out of great tribulation in Revelation 7.

It's interesting to me that James would draw such a comparison. Could it be that God views injustice to those who cannot defend themselves on the same level as physical violence? I would argue yes. Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 23:23 that justice ranked as one of the top three most important attributes of the law, right alongside kindness and a dependable character. The crux of Jesus' mission statement (quoting Isaiah 61) revolved around freedom for the oppressed. This God of compassion and abounding in love, who unleashed upon Himself the fullness of His own divine rage so that we would no longer have to bear the burden of the law and the pain of separation from Him, despises injustice.

I think sometimes we have a tendency to push the concept of "free grace" too much. No, God does not want us to live under condemnation, and yes, salvation is a free gift and not one of merit. I would never want to try and argue that anything we do could make us deserving of the sacrifice Jesus paid for us.

However, God is intimately tied up with our works. In the first four chapters of Revelation, Jesus dictates letters to seven churches in Asia, and He begins each letter with the same phrase: "I know your works." The final judgment at the end of time is also one that considers works, although the final deciding factor is whether the individual embraced the gift of salvation.

What it comes down to is closeness of relationship. We don't become intimate with someone without becoming involved in what stirs his or her passions. Just ask any parent who sits through fifteen of his or her child's soccer games. The point is not whether the child wins or loses the game--it's about the parent communicating, "Hey, you're valuable to me, and I'm going to make what is important to you a priority."

When the Father judges all things at the end of time, He's not going to be looking to see if our works justify us before Him. We've all already failed that test. His concern is relationship. His question is, "Did you love me enough to get involved in what matters to Me?"

Grace is free, and yet it isn't. We only prize that which costs us something. To preach a passive grace that does not require action on our part devalues its status in our lives. When I open my mouth to stand for integrity in the face of popular opinion, it is my ultimate expression of love. In doing so, I acknowledge a relationship that is more important to me than the esteem of men, and I overwhelm the heart of the One who loved me enough to do the same.

Friday, April 10, 2009

hope

yesterday afternoon found me chatting with a friend who's recently been going through a tough time. for a month, it's seemed as though she's been running full tilt into a stone wall in her prayers, with no discernible change in her circumstances. she said something that struck my heart, if for no other reason than that i've been there myself so many times. "it would be easier if i just had some hope of things changing, but i don't."

hope. it's almost a double-edged sword. hope for something (or in something) can motivate us to face another day when a broken heart would try to immobilize us. a hope that comes from God sparks life. however, we also set ourselves up for a season of crushing when we misplace our hope.

i've often thought Romans 5:5 didn't always ring entirely true. any woman whose doctor has nixed her dreams of having a child knows that hope deferred makes the heart sick. that for which we hope most earnestly also has the power to disappoint us most. what do we say when hope does disappoint--when the rain drenches us despite our speaking to the storm and we are left praying, "Jesus....i did what You said. now what?"

the king james version of romans 5:5 reads that hope does not make us ashamed. the greek word used here is kataischynō, meaning to "dishonour, disgrace, to put to shame, make ashamed." there is a world of difference between disappointment and disgrace. i'm disappointed when the company discontinues my favorite brand of lipstick, or when my soccer team fails to win one of their games. disappointment covers a spectrum of emotions, all the way up to heartbreak and depression. it is no minor emotion.

however, disgrace--shame--takes it further. disgrace can mark a person in a way that disappointment never does. it reflects back on the character of the person. one who is disgraced cannot separate himself or herself from the specific circumstance. while disappointment cuts, disgrace brands.

i love the final "thought" that strong's interpretation of the original greek gives. it says: "one is said to be put to shame who suffers a repulse, or whom some hope has deceived" (my emphasis added). hope can blind and deceive us--but the hope that is from God does not. this is what paul was saying. hope that springs out of trial for the cause of Christ does not disgrace us because God's hope is not deceptive, and because He overwhelms us with His love through the Holy Spirit to take the sting out of any disappointment we may face.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

i *want* to spend time with You, Jesus, but my world's upside down

just about anyone familiar with ihop in general and dana candler's teachings specifically is familiar with the story of mary of bethany. mary was the sister of lazarus who chose to sit at the feet of Jesus while her sister, martha, stressed out in the kitchen. mary poured out her life and her inheritance to wash Jesus' feet at dinner one night.

so often, we hold mary up as the paragon--the one we want to be like. we compare the sisters and find that Jesus (gently) rebuked martha and told her mary's choice to sit with Him was best in luke 10. mary was the more spiritual one.

the problem is, most of the time i've felt that i've had more in common with martha. don't get me wrong--i love spending hours in the Word and in prayer, listening to the song of the Lord over my life. however, when i sit down to spend time with Him, the enemy immediately floods my mind with the dishes i need to wash, the sheets i should probably change, the laundry that's piling up, that function at the church for which i need to bake cookies, and the fact that i need to take my car to get the oil changed. shouldn't spending time in the secret place be something i always want to do? is it really supposed to take that much effort?

the truth is, our flesh is always going to fight to maintain the discipline of a "quiet time" walk. it may be easier in some seasons than in others, but a walk with God--like any other relationship--takes effort, dedication, and work.

last night i was reading about mary and martha in john 11, and felt a tugging at my heart. Jesus and His disciples traveled to bethany because lazarus had died. although the sisters had called for Jesus to come earlier before lazarus died, Jesus purposefully waited so that His disciples would see His miracle and believe in Him. when they approached the home, both sisters ran out to greet Jesus at different times with the same reproach: "Lord, if You'd only been here, lazarus would still be alive."

what truly blessed me, though, is that while mary's plea tugged at Jesus' emotions and moved His heart, martha received the revelation.

Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” ~John 11:20-27
mary knew the Lord and had spent time with Him, and yet martha was the one who got to make the statement of faith. when peter made this same declaration in matthew 16, Jesus pronounced a blessing over him and called him a rock. Jesus loved martha. He wasn't comparing her to mary's standard of intimacy with Him. He didn't love mary better, even though mary prioritized time at His feet. no--He had revelation for martha too, even as encumbered as she was with running a home. and the revelation that He gave martha was something that came straight from the heart of the Father.

i don't always get it right. sometimes i think i have the heart of a mary, but the schedule of a martha. i feel pulled in fifteen different directions--spread so thinly that the cracks show through the veneer. and that's okay; He rates me on His standard for my life, not on someone else's.