25 November 2015

God, Here I Am

S: Isaiah 6:8 (HCSB)
"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying:
Who should I send?
Who will go for Us?
I said:
Here I am. Send me."
O: This phrase, translated from the Hebrew "hinneh", is used in response to God's voice by Abraham (Gen 22), Jacob (Gen 31 & 46), Moses (Exod 3) Samuel (1 Sam 3), Isaiah (Isa 6) and the prophet Ananias (Acts 9).

A: This is an admittedly backward Life Journal, as this answer to God came to me during worship a few weeks ago, and has come back to my mind many times since. It was Isaiah's words that I remembered first, and his situation that I identify most closely. It's a phrase that has become a key for me, as it's a way to present myself to God, to lay myself before Him exactly as I am, and offer myself for service however He might wish to use me. This phrase has the ability to strip away the fear that still so easily besets me, and literally casts my cares upon my God so I can get out of my own way and do what He asks.

P: Father God, thank You. Thank You for everything. For Your Son, for the unending patience and blessing that is mine because of Jesus, and for the miracle that it is that you can use me, in some way, to help any of Your children. I love you, God, so much, and I just want to live Your way, because that provides for the most happiness for both of us. :o) You know me; You love and bless me; and I thank You so much for this key to getting out of my own way. In Jesus' name, amen.

13 November 2015

Come unto Him. Oh, please.

Oh, my friends. My heart is breaking right now.

I keep seeing people I love, so dearly, that I know Jesus loves so dearly, people with repentant hearts and souls longing for their God, talking about how they hope, one day, they can know they are acceptable to God. I just want to shout from the rooftops: "Jesus LOVES every one of us! All the way! Nothing held back! Right! Now!"

He died for us while the world lay in sin . . . before most of us were even born. The price fully paid, He announced the work of redemption finished on the cross. All of heaven and earth rejoiced, as we read in Enoch's vision. Enoch went from refusing to be comforted to rejoicing with the seraphs, shouting, "Hallelujah, for the Lamb is slain!!!"

Every one of us is FULLY acceptable to God, right this minute. He has not a single reason to reject us. That's the whole point of everything Jesus did, and the meaning of the scripture that says God is storing up his wrath for the day of judgement. Jesus won so we could have this period of grace. Jesus was God . . . He left the place of perfect love and glory and joy to constrain Himself within mortal--Telestial--flesh, to endure all, to suffer the effects of sin and illness until He bled from every pore resisting sin, and then to die one of the most painful deaths devised. 

For you.

It's the price paid for something that declares the buyer's valuation, its worth in the buyer's eyes. And you, my friend, are worth the innocent, priceless blood of God.

By virtue of the cross, Jesus now has the right to come to each of us (right where we are!), and to walk with us through everything. Instead of having to do a bunch of stuff to make sure we're cleansed of sin and worthy of His presence so we won't be struck dead, His blood pays for all the junk we've got, and gives Him the right and power to remit our debt, forgive our sins, and BE with us, right now. Instead of being like the priests who went into the Holy of Holies wearing bells and with a rope tied to his ankle so if the bells stopped and he didn't yank back when the priests outside yanked on the rope, they could haul the body out without going in and being struck dead, too, our God can fill us with His Spirit, can appear to us, and we are not destroyed.

When Jesus died on the cross, not only did the earth shake, but the veil in the temple in Jerusalem was torn from top to bottom. Rent clean in twain. The priests in the holy place were given a view into the Holy of Holies, and they weren't struck dead. But, instead of realizing what had just happened, they quickly closed the veil up again, shutting off the view of heaven Jesus had just freely given them, going back to business as usual. 

Brothers and Sisters, the veil is TORN! There is no longer separation between man and God. We don't have to be "good enough" or "qualify" for His love, or His presence. We only have to WANT Him, to invite Him.

Can we be exalted in our sins? No. But that doesn't mean that we are cut off from Jesus until we're worthy of exaltation. That's the whole reason Jesus did what He did! He redeemed us from the fall . . . that's right now. We don't have to live subject to sin and death, separated from God.

About a year ago, I spent a lot of energy wondering about why Jesus had to die. I had just been taught by the Holy Spirit and scripture that the test of this life is whether we'll desire good or evil. Each man is rewarded according to his works, according to the desires of his heart (D&C 137). And if so, if Alvin Smith could be found on the right hand of God, if those who had never heard of Jesus were saved so long as their hearts longed for righteousness and they did their best based on what they knew, then why did Jesus have to die? Why did He have to go through all of that incredible pain? Why? Why???

As I labored in that heart cry of "Why???", His answer came. So sweetly, so powerfully. 

"So I could be with you."

God misses us. So much. The Fall took us from His presence, where we were designed to dwell, and all God wants is for us to be with Him again. Jesus' victory means so many things . . . but most of all it means He can come to His people. His name, Emmanuel, means God With Us. And in a day of hardcore idolatry and fertility cults, where every other god was a distant deity, demanding all manner of iniquity as worship, silent and utterly unreachable, here was Jesus Christ. He walked with mankind, sacrificing Himself--even God--so He could succor His people, heal them, walk with them, be in fellowship with them.

Please, oh please. Don't think that there is anything--and I mean ANYTHING--keeping you from God other than your own unbelief. The enemy looooves it when we believe his lies, whether it's the one that says Jesus can't come to you right now as you are, or the one that says you're not good enough. (That second one is especially nasty, because it's true--none of us are "good enough"--but it utterly denies the power of Jesus by virtue of His victory.) Jesus is the God of relentless mercy, all-pervading love, and abounding grace. He LONGS to be with you, right here. Now. He LONGS to pour out His Spirit on you as soon as you open your heart to receive it. Rock Waterman's experience of receiving the baptism of fire is a perfect example. He was seeking it, praying for it. But, ultimately, it came down to this. He said, in a comment on this page: "I had the faith. In fact, I felt that it was about time I allowed myself to REALLY receive the Holy Ghost. So just like that, it happened." He was, simply and truly, open to receive. To "allow" himself to "really receive the Holy Ghost". No works. No earning. Just open.

So please . . . I'm begging you with everything that's in me . . . don't deny our Lord the chance to come to you right now. I'm SO flawed, so weak, so fallible. And yet, He is there whenever I turn to Him. Whenever I raise my voice to worship Him. Whenever I open my mind and heart to Him. Every time. Always. So often when I read the accounts of those who have seen Jesus Christ, it's obvious that they didn't earn that visit. They didn't pay for it. He just came, because they believed He could.

Jesus descended below all things. He can come to you where you are.

06 November 2015

Paid in Full Study: Day One Journaling

(I'm starting to study Paid in Full, and thought I'd journal here. So, without further ado, here is Day One's entry: my testimony. Or rather, one facet of it. The more times I'm asked to share my testimony, the more ways I discover to tell the story, and the more I see and understand in my own history. It's fascinating and beautiful.)

About five years ago I began to look at my life and wonder where the joy was. Why, when God promised joy and peace to His followers, I had none. Zero. Zip. Nada. I remember AmberDawn sitting in my kitchen in #33, sharing about a friend struggling through motherhood with depression, and she said: "It's so sad: all of the work and none of the joy". That sentence lodged in my heart, and I began to push against the boundaries of my usual existence, looking for joy. I had never realized joy was an everyday occurrence for mothers, or that my own experience was so different from anyone else's. I knew Jesus' whole purpose was to open the way for us to live in His love, joy, and peace. We were created that we might have joy. Our very nature as children of God is such that joy should be a natural, regular part of our existence. I rejected the idea that I was supposed to grind out my existence, bearing the heavy weight that is a lack of joy, the whole purpose of my life being to endure it well.

So, where was it? Where was my joy???

That quest, which began with a strong desire--no, an insistence--that God make good on His promises, led to a journey of discovery about the nature and character of God and God's love for me that culminated in receiving the baptism of fire. That experience--the complete immersion in the fiery, overwhelming love of God--transformed how I saw everything, recreated my heart, and began a journey of ever-increasing relationship with Jesus that has healed so many broken places in me, began healing broken relationships, and has transformed my daily walk into one filled with hope, joy, and peace as I dive into His word, learn His character and nature through study and prayer and experience with those I love, and as a result I trust God more and more each day.

I want to exhort anyone reading this to seek after the things our God has promised each and every one of us. He gave us commandments so we could exist surrounded by His love (John 15:10-11). When God speaks, the word of God IS. If you insist that God make good on that word, pressing against the boundaries of where you've always existed, God will show you where you need to let Him in, He will teach you, increase your understanding, and open the way for you to walk in the fulfillment of His promises. He is such a good Father, and a patient and forgiving teacher. It wasn't His fault that I was living without joy . . . but instead of turning that back on me and telling me to figure it out, He welcomed my demands and questions, worked with me to begin to show me how to receive what I longed for, and has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams.

And I know He's only getting warmed up. :o)