Until nothing is left but You.

Scripture: Nehemiah 4:15-18 NKJV

And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work. So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me. 

Observation: It didn't matter what lengths had to be gone to--the work would go on. Can you imagine one-handed bricklaying or masonry work? Yeah.

Application: Our day and culture prizes optimization highly.  Highly. We want to do things in the easiest, most smooth, effortless ways.  There should be machines to do nearly everything we need, right? And then there's God's way. The way that gets so, soooo much messier before it gets cleaner. The way that strips everything away until nothing is left but Him, and He sets us free.

Prayer: Lord, let me work for You, in Your way. Not in mine. I'm pretty fond of my own ideas (as I'm sure You've noticed!), but Yours are so, so much better. Over and over lately, I've watched the wreckage of my plans for my day become the most perfect fulfillment of Yours--and I rejoice in it. :o) Glory to You, Father, and to Jesus . . . and let peace reign in my heart as I practice the exuberant art of loving You, and the peace-filled discipline of resting in your joy. In Jesus' most glorious and wonderful name, amen. :o)

Heiress of The King

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, Blessed is the man who trusts in You! (Psalms 84:10-12 NKJV)

I will hear what God the Lord will speak, For He will speak peace To His people and to His saints; But let them not turn back to folly. Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, That glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed. Truth shall spring out of the earth, And righteousness shall look down from heaven. Yes, the Lord will give what is good; And our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before Him, And shall make His footsteps our pathway. (Psalms 85:8-13 NKJV)

When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ ” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (Luke 7:20, 22, 23 NKJV)

Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:47, 48, 50 NKJV)

God is good. He is not anything else--cannot be anything else--nor can He be the source of anything not-good. He loves completely and generously, and is so eager to forgive. 

I truly would choose one incredibly love-wrapped day as a lowly servant in the House of God than a thousand years of being without Him. I feel so eager to continually lay things down so I make room in my life for the awesomeness that comes from Him. When I make space for Jesus, He always comes into my life and overflows the spaces I've cleared, simultaneously filling them and washing them clean. And as I told a good friend Sunday evening who cautioned me to be careful what I ask for: "I have a Good God. I'm not afraid of Him."

God, You ARE good! There isn't anything good that doesn't add to Your glory, drawing Your children toward You. I praise You for Your kindness, for the absolute trust I can place in You, and the knowledge that I truly need never fear. The battle IS WON. I am more than a conqueror in Christ--I am His daughter, purchased and saved by His blood, and heir with Him to the throne*. How can I not rejoice and praise and live in wonder all my days? I love You, my God. Always!

*Rev 3:20-21

Grace: the Ultimate Antidote

Today, I left a comment over at The Perfect Day, in answer to a reader question.  Below is the question, and my answer.  I wanted to keep a copy of my answer, because I was reminded of some deeply important things that I had forgotten over the last couple of days.

"One of my own personal difficulties, in relating to prayer, esp. evening prayers, is that it's so hard for me to get into the frame of mind to pray in a way that I really feel close to Heavenly Father in closing out my day. I think it has to do mostly with 'well...I set out this morning with all these great ambitions and look how I didn't achieve it, again.' Is there anything you do to 'prep' yourself for prayer? I've tried reading my scriptures and singing hymns before I pray but for some reason those nightly prayers -- reporting back when I always have something that I've messed up on (even though there's good stuff in there too) -- are always harder to feel the closeness for me.

Just wondering what you think. How can I let go and prepare myself better to pray when every night I just feel disappointed in all the things I've done wrong?

Thanks,

M"

M, it sounds like you're judging your performance each evening.  But you're in luck: these are things I've struggled with, as well! ;o)  Two thoughts:

1) Christ is the only judge.  And He has told us, over and over and over in scripture, that He isn't going to condemn us.  Our God isn't one to shake His finger in our faces, or alienate us from His presence.  Judgement, consignment to a certain distance from God, doesn't happen until Judgement Day.  So you can let go of that judgemental spirit. (Or cast it out, if you prefer.)  Self-condemnation (which includes disappointment in ourselves!) is one of the adversary's biggest, beefiest, most steel-studded bludgeons . . . and we take it from him and use it on ourselves with a will, thinking we're being good Saints as we do so.  But I have GREAT news!  Anything (and I mean ANYTHING) that keeps you from drawing closer to God is NOT of Him.  And if something isn't of God, then it's either of men or of the devil.  And we all know how effective those latter two are at bringing about salvation. ;o)

2) Performance.  This is a tough one, because it's so insidious, especially if you're a Latter-day Saint, or a member of another works-focused church.  The Law of Moses was a law of performances and ordinances.  And that law was fulfilled, down to the tiniest detail, by the sacrifice Jesus made: His perfect life, His atonement, His death, and His resurrection.  He has broken the bands of death and SIN . . . and freed us from them.  Period.  End.  It is done!!!  And whenever I think of that, I want to jump and shout and sing, because I don't have to EARN my salvation.  I don't have to perform to a certain standard in order to have the help of my Savior and Friend in this life.  I have to have a willing heart, and then He will walk me through whatever comes next.  It takes NO level of righteousness to "earn" access to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Who did He hang out with, and often, during His life?  Hated tax collectors for the oppressive government.  Women who were sold to whoever wanted them. Sinners.  He let all who wanted to come unto Him to come.  He BID them come.  "Come unto Me, all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!"  And He still calls us today.  Constantly.  Every one of us. All the time.

The grace of Jesus Christ means that He will be close to us AS we mess up, fall down, bloody our knees and noses, and blunder around through this life.  He will heal our hurts, the injuries of those who we've hurt through our own actions, and help us give it another go.

The next time you feel distant from God, for whatever reason, just stop.  Stop and quiet your mind.  Even if you're in the middle of a crowd, or there's a lot of distraction going on, you can quiet the inside of your own head, making stillness there.  And listen.  Listen with your spiritual ears for the sound of your name.  Because Jesus is calling you.  He's calling me.  Every one of us, every second of every day, He's calling us back to Him.  All we have to do is answer with a willing heart, and suddenly, He will be there.  You can talk to Him, and share with Him, and He'll feel closer and closer as you continue to praise and thank Him for all you have.  Then you can talk over what you need to work on, and He will take your hand, or gather you up into His amazing arms, and love you through whatever it is that you're going through.

Don't give up.  Just listen . . . He's there, waiting for you to turn your mind to Him!!!

Covenants: Old vs. New

Scripture: Nahum 1:2-8, John 5:1-3, 5-7, 8-12 NLT

The Lord  is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and rage. He takes revenge on all who oppose him and continues to rage against his enemies! The Lord  is slow to get angry, but his power is great, and he never lets the guilty go unpunished. He displays his power in the whirlwind and the storm. The billowing clouds are the dust beneath his feet. At his command the oceans dry up, and the rivers disappear. The lush pastures of Bashan and Carmel fade, and the green forests of Lebanon wither. In his presence the mountains quake, and the hills melt away; the earth trembles, and its people are destroyed. Who can stand before his fierce anger? Who can survive his burning fury? His rage blazes forth like fire, and the mountains crumble to dust in his presence. The Lord  is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him. But he will sweep away his enemies in an overwhelming flood. He will pursue his foes into the darkness of night.

**********

Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days.  Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda,  with five covered porches.  Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches.  

One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him,  “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him,  “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!

**********

But this miracle happened on the Sabbath,  so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!” But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded.

Observation:

These first two passages highlight, starkly, the difference between the Works- & Law-based covenant of the Old Testament, and the Covenant of the New Testament through the blood of Christ.  Nahum wrote about the power of a vengeful God over those who live without Christ in the world.  And John shows us the freedom and mercy and grace of Jesus in the miracle performed.  (Oh, He is SO GOOD! If you ever see me grinning from ear to ear, laughing, shouting, or jumping up and down, it's usually because I'm remembering just how amazingly Good our God is.  I'll do my best not to disrupt any meetings.) ;o)

But what really jumped out at me was the last passage: the collision of these two covenants.  Jesus freed that man, and then the Pharisees jumped all over him for having the audacity to break a rule they had made . . . quite possibly a rule that this man suddenly realized was as futile as the rest of the rules they had made.  When we're set free in Jesus, those still living in the old covenant, under the law, don't like it.  Not one single bit. Whether they're members or leaders in the body of Christ, they have a really hard time with it because it terrifies them.  When you see salvation as a matter of works, seeing someone else abandon the works you hold sacred (whether it's not carrying things on the Sabbath, what is worn to church, or the type of language used in prayer--not that I know *anything* about the last two ;oP), your gut reaction is to squash the deviant behavior, because you see that person as sliding into sin, flirting with losing their soul.

But that's the crazy part.  Now that I'm free, when I backslide, it's not this HUGE DEAL.  (Granted, I'm not falling back into heavy, destructive sin. It's mostly too much time on the computer and not getting enough sleep, or not spending enough time in the word & prayer. But is there any difference, really? Something tells me that there isn't . . . ) When I realize I'm regressing, I feel the spirit of confusion that traps me in those things leave immediately, and Jesus comes back and walks with me as I return to His path for me.  There's no recrimination. No guilt. No "Now, I told you . . . "  Just His love coming back in to wash over me and make me deeply hungry for more of Him.  And that's HUGE, people.  SO HUGE.  I hung my everything on the law for my entire adult life. It was such a prison--a salt mine--with the occasional glimpse of glorious light that just made me knuckle down and work all the harder.  And now, NOW I'M FREE!!!!  Can you wrap your minds around that? Imagine, for just a minute, what astounding, night and day, life and death, difference I feel.  Is it any wonder that I regularly make a goof of myself, getting all giddy over Jesus?  Yeah.  I thought you'd understand. ;o)

John 5:39-40 says “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!  Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life."

I was that person.  I came not unto Jesus because I thought I was already Doing It Right.  God blessed me for my efforts, and did not leave me entirely comfortless . . . I had the consequences of my works, which were good things.  But I chose the reward of my works, instead of the reward of Jesus.  I was missing out on all of the best stuff.  Of carrying the Holy Spirit with me, in joy and rejoicing, anytime I turn my heart to Jesus.  Of everything I do being worth it here, and now.  Of letting the price Jesus already paid settle my debt.

Prayer:

Father in Heaven, I THANK YOU, over and over and infinitely over again, for the mind-blowing gift of Jesus.  Please . . . show me when and how to bring others to Him . . . and fill me with Your love so completely that all they see is You.  I can hardly bear to think that others, especially others I know and love, might never know You like this; might never feel this lasting joy and light and continuous love that changes them, radically.  In Jesus' most glorious and liberating name, AMEN!

Be Truly Glad!

Scripture: 

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” And that word is the Good News that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:6-9, 13, 15, 16, 18-20, 22-25 NLT)

Observation:

When we're living in Christ the way we should, we WILL run afoul of those who aren't.  Not always, but it's just gonna happen.

Application:

It happened again, yesterday.

Once again, for whatever reasons, Vern and I were treated (very) poorly by someone in whom we should be able to trust completely.  (Well, as much as you can ever completely trust another human being.  Only God merits truly complete trust.)  It made for a difficult afternoon, and I praise God for His love that flows from and around those of His people we spent time with that evening.  The feeling of compressive stress, the knots in my stomach that plagued me from 2:20 on completely disappeared as we approached the building, and not a single thought of the trouble bothered me for the rest of the evening.  My whole family was blessed, and Vern and I were comforted by being there. And the trauma hasn't returned.  Praise be to God.

Prayer:

Lord, show us further to do.  Paul's letter this morning was sweet balm to my soul, and strengthened me so much--showing me what I need in this moment.  I praise You for the glorious freedom and peace and rejoicing I have in Christ Jesus, for the injunction to be holy, for the ransom Jesus paid so I could.  Free from the drama and turmoil of those I see floundering without You.  Free from the fear that motivates them.  Lord, strengthen me in Your Spirit.  Pour it out upon me and mine, and continue to show us Your will.  That's all I want to live. All Vern and I want to live.  Thank you for a companion who loves You as much as I do.  Who listens and obeys Your voice.  I cherish him.  And Lord, today I choose to be glad!  Though some things in life might tempt me otherwise, they are as ants under my feet! :o) In Jesus' name, amen!