Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The only thing that matters

"I care less and less what people think."

This line from an Ani Difranco song has stuck with me for years.  And the sentiment continues to actualize.  I don't think I mean it in quite as an arrogant of a way as it sounds.  In fact, I think that as we age, we should embrace a philosophy at least similar to this.  We have to grow out of that intense self-consciousness adopted somewhere in junior high. We have to grow into ourselves.

Part of this contemplation arises as I find myself  increasingly leaving the Christian 'box'.  I can no longer write or speak from a place of conformity or necessarily, to what I think the good Christians want to hear.  And yet, I also cannot be vague about the power of the gospel. It's a bit of a conundrum because who then is my audience?

There is so much more depth to Christianity than Christians want to confront.  And as a Christian faced with the failure of a marriage, I have to be honest enough to admit what God is showing me - that, in fact, He is still with me. And this merciful reality speaks so emphatically to my heart that I can't be quiet about the love I am receiving in spite of all that is transpiring.

So I was driving and thinking about all this, listening to worship music and suddenly I was overcome with the knowledge of why "I am not ashamed of the gospel

 because it is the ONLY thing that has the power to save"

 I know that I have been saved.  I know that He is here- with me.  He has used my pain to bless me with the experience of his presence and his comfort.

 Only when you are a sinner in need of this saving can you really appreciate this.  Yes, we're all sinners but how many of us know it?  Know it in the way that causes you to fall in love with Jesus. Knows it like the adulteress who Jesus saved from a stoning?  The knowing, is what finally, causes me to say, "He is mine".  Jesus is mine.  How then can I not talk about Him?

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

1 Corinthians 1:18 NKJV

So it seems, that no matter how much my self wants to plan what I'm going to say, consider the audience question, analyze what type of 'genre' I ought to be placed in, etc, my soul which is solely Jesus' possesses a louder voice.  And in the end, the only thing that really truly matters to me is God and sharing His love.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Not About Me

The sermon yesterday was called, "It's Not About You".

 I tend to forget this simple little fact.  Especially when life is not going the way I think it ought.  I needed the reminder.

Simply put, the pastor pointed out that taking up one's cross means dying to self which equates to the peace which surpasses all understanding.  Well, that sounds good.  So, why is it so hard?

"He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." John 12:25 NKJV


"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of bondservant...and He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death..."Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV

That's the mind we're to be in.  The mind which is willing to be of no reputation, the mind which will take the form of bondservant, and be humble enough to die to self.  The Greek word for reputation means 'to make empty'.  Wow.  I empty myself of self so Christ can live within.

This dying is how we know and how we show love

The pastor said that there is an outer shell to each of us which is our 'self' and inside is the Spirit.  But often the Spirit is not witnessed by others through us because the shell covering of us is hard. We need to allow God to break that shell and then people can see Jesus rather than us.  And we ought to allow this breaking happily.

And often, the best Christians do with this notion is create a religious hard shell.  Rather than dying to self, we just become religious.  Which is probably why the religious are not overly liked by the nonreligious. God still cannot be seen.  Hey look at religious me!  Oh, you want to see Jesus?  Well, look at religious ME!

"I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I might gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness...that I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death." Philippians 3:8-10 NKJV

The King James Version says, "I count it dung".

Yeah, I should count it such but really, I've been holding onto my petty desires in this life,well, pretty much my whole life.

2 Corinthians 4 says that we are jars of clay, "always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh."

Always - that.  Always - that.  Daily.  So that....

Sounds like there's a connection between Jesus within me and me dying to self.

Here it is point blank:

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me..." Galatians 2:20 NKJV

Tall order.

Sounds like total surrender.  And many times, I don't even want to lose a stupid argument, let alone my whole life. He asks if I will give over my rights. If I will see that He has abundant life to give to me if I will just  turn over my will.  He doesn't say it will be easy.  He knows it won't.  But He knows it will be worth it.

Lord, I do not know what to ask of you; only you know what I need.  I simply present myself to you; I open my heart to you. I have no other desire than to accomplish your will.  Teach me to pray.  Amen.

-Francois Fenelon in Little Book of Prayers


Friday, July 6, 2012

Not In Charge

So Wednesday, I'm driving to the grocery store to pick up items for a Fourth of July party we were going to that night and it's raining.  In Arizona. And I'm wondering if the store will not be packed as it usually is on a holiday.  I arrive and find that it is, in fact, crowded.  And I suddenly recognize what a hopeful people we really are whether we realize it or not.  All of these people at the store, purchasing their holiday goods refusing to accept the fact that barbecues might be cancelled, swimming might be called off.  And I started to observe stranger's faces.  One man sort of wandered in the rain with a look of wonderment as he gazed at the sky.  A woman walked with a soft smile on her face.  The store was busy but not frenzied.  Going to and from the store to cars, people strolled rather than the rain.  Because it's Arizona.  We don't get much rain, you know.  And I felt like most other places, people would be grouchy about the turn of weather.  They would be irritated that the one day it decides to rain, would of course be a holiday.  But we wouldn't dare do that here.  And I just felt this sense that people were sort of confused. How were they supposed to feel about the rain?  They didn't have the right to complain but then again, they have plans tonight.  I sensed a sort of resignation.  A, "well, that's the way it goes" attitude.

I probably read way more into all this than was really there.  And the rain stopped before the evening celebrations.  And fourth of July went off wonderfully and much cooler than we could have anticipated.  And it was a gift.

God is in charge, people.  It rains.  On the righteous and the unrighteous alike.  Well then.  Okay.  He is God and we are not.  And look at that - He just might know what He's doing.

I'm going to try to remember this when the rain comes in my life.  When it looks like God just wants to ruin my little plans, I'm going to try to recall that the rain might be a gift.  That if I just walk slowly and trust, cooler temperatures and a nice breeze might accompany a firework show that blows my socks off.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Keeping Calm

"Lord, I have gone to you for safety.  Don't let me ever be put to shame.  Save me because You do what is right. Pay attention to me.  Come quickly to help me. Be the rock I go to for safety...Lead me and guide me for the honor of Your name...Into Your hands I commit my very life.  Lord, set me free.You are my faithful God....I will be glad and full of joy because You love me...My whole life is in Your hands...Let Your face smile on me with favor." From Psalm 31 NIRV

 Today marks a new beginning and the range of my emotions is vast.  I feel both relieved and scared. I am believing that the next six months will be better than the last. I am finally trusting that God has made the path clear and yet, I know that though I have been set free, this is an inexplicable knowledge not easily translated and if I've ever needed to cling, it is now.

The 'today' I spoke of was Monday.  Today it is Wednesday.  Happy 4th of July!  

I've been doing a lot of this lately - starting a post and finding difficulty in finishing.  It could be writer's block but I suspect the block is more circumstantial than anything else.  I still find it a bit challenging to not only know what to reveal during these times of change, but also to just allow myself to feel it enough to write it.

But today, I woke up....happy. It's a feeling I haven't fully experienced in a bit. I've felt moments of peace and serenity, I've been able to laugh and I've attempted something close to hope but happiness has somewhat eluded me through this process.

But here it was this morning!  

"Weeping may remain for a night but rejoicing comes in the morning."  Psalm 30:5 NIV1984 

Maybe, it's that today is a day of freedom. While we celebrate our country's freedom, I'm also celebrating my freedom in Christ- freedom from the bondage of sin.  It could also be the weather.  I was up early and it is cool and breezy.  It even sprinkled for just a few minutes.  

"Be glad...rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness, He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before."  Joel 2:23 NIV1984

Summer showers, too!  There is a fresh season settling, and many changes already underfoot. I have that slightly giddy sensation that flutters to the stomach when you know everything's going to get turned around.  

It feels like a new year.  So, happy independence day and happy new year!

Source: via Nicole on Pinterest