Survival’s Cry

Another wave rose over his head, the crest curling inevitability toward him before engulfing him in another eternity. He didn’t have time for a full breath this time and water mixed with the air his lungs so desperately sought. He coughed out violently as his face broke the stormy surface. A huge gasp of air sucked in a split second before he was again pounded below the surface. His lungs burned, his vision clouded. Gone were the thoughts of how he got here. Lost were the feelings of regret, sorrow, and anger for the events leading to this moment. His next breath was all that mattered. His desperate need to stay above the waves was everything. Instinct. Survival. His next panicky intake of sweet oxygen.

Strength gone, eyes blinded by the sting of salt and spray, seeing nothing but blurred mountains of water rising all around, he cried out for help. The wind mocked him and whipped his words away on its howling journey past. His puny voice barely making it past blue lips. His arms reaching out in feeble attempts to stay afloat. The mountains rose above him, merging their menacing forms with the gray sky, outlined by white foamy caps racing to engulf him. All seems hopeless, yet still he cries out. Help seems so remote, yet still his hand grasps for saving.

Survival. That is the beautiful, terrible place where He meets me. The sinking Peter reaches instinctively for the hand of Jesus. Not because he is sorry, but because he is drowning. And the strong grip of Jesus pulls him up without hesitation. He does not ask Peter to apologize first before he will save him. He simply takes hold of the hand reaching out for Him. My very act of desperate dependence compels Jesus in his compassion and love to lift me above the waves. It is only then he gently chides me for my unbelief. I am safe in his arms, and his words are not condemning, but sweet food to my broken heart.

The prodigal son returns not because his stomach was “churning with compunction” due to breaking his father’s heart. He came home because he was starving.

Desperate, with a speech prepared, I drag myself home in stinking rags simply to survive. Hungry, with no money, I place one heavy foot in front of the other. Almost at the same moment my Father’s house comes into view I notice a figure running out the door toward me. I see it is my Dad, undignified and unselfconsciously running to meet me on the road leading to the house. He gives me no chance to give my speech. No chance to even speak. His arms wrap around me as his tears wet my kneck. He holds me tight and then stands back to look at me with tender longing. My mouth opens to speak. I must somehow earn my way in. I must say the words to make myself worthy. But Papa interrupts my attempts as his voice rises above mine to instruct the servants to prepare a meal and dress me! The fury of his love and affection for me is overwhelming. This undeserved generosity humbles my vain attempts. I can do nothing but receive. I have nothing with which to pay him back. I am his son. His baby boy. His beloved child. I am home.

Wine of God

 

“Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” SS 5:1b

The furious passion of Abba Father for us is free of dignity and constraint. It is not careful or cautious. It is not measured or hesitant. The Lover of our soul is careless and free in his expression of love. He pours out who he is to us with the abandon and vulnerability of the completely lovesick. He opens his heart with no thought of self or guarantee of returned love. Indeed, this lovesick Jesus experiences countless rejections every moment, yet is undeterred. His love is let loose like the waters rushing from a broken dam. His wounds gushing forth the dark red waters of reckless love to drown all who, instead of running away in fear, turn to face him – this God drunk with crazy love for us.

“You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride:” SS 4:9a

We are brought alongside Jesus as beloved companions, walking side-by-side with him through every moment of life and someday at the great wedding feast! He is delighted with us and we come before him spotless, glowing with beauty, washed and clean. We are His cherished bride, joined with Him in his death, resurrection, and freedom today. Joined with Him in a Sacred Romance as we are pursued by a captivated God. He has issued the invitation and initiated the dance, we have only to respond and invite his love to flow through us, letting him lead as we follow in step to the rhythm and flow of love’s music.

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine;” SS 6:3a

We are created for connection and relationship, but the paradox is we must open ourselves to the possibility of hurt in order to experience the fullness of intimacy available to us. But where we fall short, God in his foolish love does not. “I will never leave you or forsake you.” is His sacred vow. Nowhere is perfect love modeled better than in the story of God’s jealous, pursuing love and the passion of Jesus’ sacrificial love for the world. “For God so loved the world” is not a church billboard slogan, but a crazy, passionate declaration of a Father inebriated with love for us. Complete, wholehearted, undignified love personified for us in Jesus and made available for us to experience – toward Him, toward ourselves, toward others. This is a Divine Romance which makes the heart of God beat faster at the thought of you. Overwhelming, incomprehensible Love poured out, giving us the power to love in return.

Heart Travels

The human heart was created for freedom. It will search for freedom its whole life. It will look in places good and bad, searching for true freedom. When the heart can no longer bear the burden of slavery and the chains which bind it, there will be a mighty upheaval. At that point, the heart will break free and align itself to what it feels will give the most and best liberty. It has come to a fork in the road and will pause in its journey to contemplate, often amid the fog of war, which is the likely path to freedom.

It may choose to surrender to the power of Sin. In this way the heart seeks with the best of intentions to rid itself of the guilt, condemnation, and feelings of never measuring up. In this case, even in the choosing of Sin, the heart is seeking for the good choice. It seeks to break free in keeping with its natural longings for love, belonging, intimacy, and liberty. By answering the call of Sin, the heart feels an immediate sense of freedom. The negative feelings seem to disappear, for Sin covers them over with the warm blanket of present Pleasure. A sense of belonging is found in the company of fellow slaves, built on the shaky foundation of the opinions of others. The heart knows not that it has been shackled even tighter. It does not yet know its position as a slave to an evil master. A master who entices the heart by flattery and glitter. This is a master who seeks to destroy, steal, and kill the heart. A master who does not take “no” for an answer. It must always be obeyed, thus dragging the heart deeper into the dark fog of hopelessness and despair until all hope is lost. The heart has a place of desire that Sin promises to fill, yet never does. The heart wants to believe, and often will believe. All the way to its own death.

There is another road…..

The heart can turn to Love, in the person of Jesus. This is frightening. The way seems overgrown, little travelled, and more dangerous. Jesus is the Unknown. Jesus is untamable. Jesus is not controllable. Jesus is honest and upfront about who he is. The Way is presented in all its truth. It will obviously be an adventure. To come to Jesus the heart must bare all. Become completely vulnerable. Let go all that it has built and arranged. The heart must stop trying. It must be still. It must simply believe. In belief, a true and unharnessed freedom is realized. Self-worth is discovered which cannot be shaken. Sin loses it’s power and is overwhelmed in the great love of God. The heart discovers it is passionately loved, present sin and all! There is no longer a focus on Sin, for now all attention is on Jesus and who he is. What HE thinks becomes supreme, and sin takes its proper place. There is no earning, working, or trying to be enough. There is no more condemnation, guilt, or feeling of inadequacy. There is only the love of Jesus, which keeps no account of wrongs. Jesus, who says, “ I don’t remember.”, when we mention our sin to him. Who looks at us with our mess and doesn’t turn away but moves toward us with desire in His eyes and healing in his touch. Freedom begets freedom. Love begets love. Compassion begets compassion. Fruit begins to grow from our heart, unbidden. Fruit from His life. As we experience intimacy with the One who knows, we discover belonging. We begin to know Jesus as he is and unlearn the lies we believed about him. We discover truth and life. Fear is transformed by love and then fear becomes love. The heart is able to breathe again, and perhaps for the first time the child within begins to trust and play.

Freedom is the cry of every heart. God designed it that way and it is good. Freedom is why the Father sent Jesus to show us who he is and why he left the Spirit to journey with us. Our hearts were not designed to walk through this life alone, bound in chains, and so we often journey to a choice. As Robert Frost has written so beautifully, often that choice seems to be between two good ways in a heart seeking that for which it was created:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
photography of maple trees
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

 

Enough

How do I explain my love for Him? How do I communicate properly the freedom I have discovered and experience in His Life? What words are adequate to describe the transformation He has worked in me?

I walked in a world of my own making. It was a world of Fear, though I made believe there was none. I clothed myself in a false coat of goodness and control, but underneath was a wounded, scared, miserable, blind, and naked little dirt-smudged boy. My life was carefully structured, yet it hid a chaos no one could see. I grasped for control, but had none.

When the inevitable day arrived where all my arranging and striving came to nothing, my life was in ruins, and all I had left was my threadbare coat of counterfeit goodness and reputation. I cried out you You and in my poverty you came to me. Out of the dust from my rubble you came as if you had been waiting close by.

I said, “Show me who you really are!” And asked you to help me find my genuine self and live out an authentic life.

“You have it all already.” I heard You reply. “You lack one thing only. Take off your coat, deny your reputation and goodness, and follow Me.”

“But what will people think of me?!!”

“What is that to you?” Was his firm reply. “Ask Me what I think of you!”

I looked at Him in surprise. There was not found anywhere on his face the severity I had imagined it to possess. There was no gavel in his hand. No judgement in his gaze as He looked back at me. I saw instead the tenderness of a mother to her newborn child. Eyes filled with the furious longing of a lovesick Prince. A face which contained the agony of all my pain, which was in the same moment eclipsed by a compassion and love so powerful it stole my breath away.

“You are enough.” He said in kindness as my trembling fingers struggled to undo the fastenings on my coat of false self. In fear and desperation, my eyes never leaving His face lest I forget and lose courage, I pushed to my feet and on shaky legs stood in the middle of smoldering ruins. I could feel the weight of the coat suddenly as my self-righteous goodness and protected reputation slipped off my shoulders and fell to the ground.

Naked and vulnerable, I took my first step of freedom toward Jesus and heard him say again, “You are enough. Take courage.” Like a thousand whispers his words travelled to my heart and I felt it tremble.

In a strong voice like the clear sound of a bell, again I heard him say, “You are ENOUGH.” Cracks formed in the walls around my heart. It shook at the sound.

Again. His voice like the clap of thunder, “YOU ARE ENOUGH.”, and the walls fell in a rumbling cloud as light flooded the space!

With tear-filled eyes and childlike wonder I invited Jesus into every room. Opening windows and doors to let the quiet breeze of his Life flow through me. I was like a man who had spent his life in prison finding himself free for the first time and entranced by the wildness of his Savior. Every place he went was changed. He healed my wounds. He looked at my photo albums and showed me where he had been in every picture. He brought light to my darkest places. He delighted in me and who I am. There was nothing he came across where he showed any surprise, disappointment, or condemnation. He was a salve on my wounds. He was kind, gentle, understanding, and so very loving. He showed me who I am to him. That he likes me. That he made me unique and for a purpose. That he loves me desperately and longs to walk with me in intimate relationship through life. I love him so much.

Jesus is a friend like no other. I can tell him anything and he never looks away. Abba Father is my shelter. I hide myself in him and he extravagantly provides for all my needs. The Holy Spirit is my ever-present comfort and defender. In Him, I am spoken for.

In the Life which flows through me, I have found the sweetest freedom. He has taught me to treat myself as he does, with unending compassion, forgiveness, grace, love, and care. Through me He pours forth in generosity to those around me, and his love and blessings multiply in infinite creativity.

He is good, and I am so in love.

Like Son

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”  – Jesus

1 Kings 19 is an amazing story of the character and personality of God. It comes right after Elijah has had his showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. After mocking their attempts (“maybe Baal is going to the bathroom or sleeping, call louder”) he asks and God sends fire to the altar from heaven consuming the oxen, the wood, the stones, the dust, and even the water all the way to nothing. When God makes an intentional play in the passionate pursuit of his wife, the prostitute Israel, he doesn’t hold back. God takes on all her lovers in a reckless bid for her heart in an incredible display of power, and then kills the prophets of Baal in a final display of jealous affection.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,” (Eph. 3:17)

Chapter 19 begins with King Ahab telling his wife, Jezebel, all that had happened. She vows Elijah will not live past this time tomorrow and so Elijah, afraid for his life and exhausted from the showdown and outrunning Ahab’s chariot back to town, travels a bit beyond Beersheba into the wilderness to hide. Elijah is tired. He is exhausted from this journey with God to draw the heart of Israel to Himself. After the high emotions of seeing the power of God and being used by him, Elijah sinks into weariness and depression. Things are not going well. Jezebel wants his hide, his life is in danger because of his obedience to God, and he is hiding in the middle of nowhere under a juniper tree to get out of the sun. He cries out, “Just kill me, Lord, my life is worthless.” Oh, how the low lows so often proceed the high highs……where is God now?

I am reminded of the disciples in the boat, caught in a terrible storm and fearing for their very lives. They are there because Jesus told them to go. He is not in the boat with them. They think all is lost. But it’s not, and the compassion of Jesus follows them across the top of the rough waters intending to pass them by, unworried for their safety because He holds them tenderly in his hands and is walking in the storm with them.

What a picture of the Father’s intentions and feelings toward us! Elijah lays down, tired and hungry, and sleeps, only to be awakened by the gentle hand of an angel urging him to eat!  God is there. The Father is present and caring deeply for Elijah’s physical needs. He feeds the sparrow, after all, and are we not much more valuable than they? He created us with real human needs and desires. Food, water, rest, and even sex. He is intimately acquainted with all our ways. He created all of them! Then the angel of the Lord came a second time to Elijah and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” What tender concern. What incredible care. Elijah went on the strength of that food 40 days! When God sustains you or pursues you, he takes no half-measures. He is all in. Completely committed. Openly vulnerable. Extravagantly generous. If we would but take the time to see….

Elijah traveled on that meal 40 days to Horeb, the mountain of God, where he found a cave in which to lodge. God asks him what he’s doing there, and the weary, afraid, and alone Elijah again explains his predicament with Jezebel. God is pursuing Israel, but he also longs for personal relationship with every person individually. He is relentlessly pursuing Elijah’s heart. Elijah has loved God and sacrificed much in following Him, and this does not escape the notice of his generous and compassionate Abba. Nothing does. Even though we have experience 40 days of silence. Or 40 months. Our Papa knows and often, as with Elijah, He says, “Wait for me here.” We wait. Elijah waits. And then suddenly… “a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before Him.” What awe-inspiring power! What fearful might! What incredible displays of strength! “But the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake,” What Holy terror! What limitless ability the Father has to be able to shake the very foundations of the earth! Nothing is too difficult for him. “but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire,” What burning desire! What an uncontrollable, wild personality! What an all consuming passion! “but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire……

……..a sound of a gentle blowing.

Take a moment to savor the freedom of quiet peace our Father brings with his presence. When He walks into a room where you are, you instinctively know all will be well. There is a letting go of whatever burdens you may be carrying in the accepting presence of Abba. What peace. What calm. What gentleness. What stillness. That’s our Papa. The one who commands the storm, “Peace! Be still!” The One who’s yoke is easy and who’s burden is light. The One who doesn’t take into account a wrong suffered. The One who says, “Do not fear.” And “Trust ME.” The One in who’s eyes we see the twinkle of joyful love for us. The One on who’s breast we lean as we know the safety of His love.

He invites us on a journey with him. A journey of fellowship, adventure, peril, rescue, and beauty. He asks us to follow him, sustains us, accepts us, comforts us, heals us, trains us, understands us, and delights in our company. He has created this world for us to enjoy, yet playfully reminds us that even this world is but a shadow of things to come. At the restoration of all things we will unwrap that final Christmas present and discover a depth of love and desire for us we can not have even imagined. He surprises us here and now in this present moment with gifts of love every day, so how much greater the surprise will be when the shadow becomes the real. When life becomes Life indeed! Remember who He is and what he thinks of you as his favored child. Remember how much he loves you and never hesitate to press tightly into his chest. Abide there and know his unending compassion. Do not stop running until you have come home to Him. You will find his arms opened wide and his memory bad…….

Disruptive Love

The character of Jesus. There was no one like him. His ability to intentionally shock the religious sensibilities with unconventional truth. His utter trustworthiness. The intimate and holy relationships he had with women. The mischievous humor he displayed with unlikely people. His fierce compassion which compelled him to teach the ignorant, heal the sick, and spend time with prostitutes and thieves. The foolish men and women he invited to be his closest companions. His anger at stubborn hearts and religious exclusivity. His gentle dealings with people living in sin. His blunt honesty. His integrity. And, oh, the depth of his love! He wept, laughed, hurt, became angry, was amazed, enjoyed food and drink, struggled with obedience, longed for intimacy with the Father, delighted in friendships, loved deeply, breathed cool morning air, watched the sun rise and set, felt the wind on his skin, listened to the birds sing and the dogs bark, got dirty and breathed the dust, felt sweat roll down his back, and experienced all things in common with us up to terrible suffering and death.

Jesus is the same today as he was when he walked the earth. There is still no one like him. He still shocks the Christian religious culture with His unbridled freedom. His life in us if left to its wild, creative nature results in a multitude of odd, wild, and misunderstood disciples. We can tell him the deepest, darkest secrets of our hearts and He will never look away in disgust or speak with condemnation. If we seek him out with our whole heart he will call our silly selves down out of the tree and invite himself over for dinner. Coming to Him sick, broken, poor, destitute, and empty we will find in Him a depth of compassion and grace that will transform us if we abide there. He will take you by the hand, invite you to come with him, and introduce you to his Papa. As good friends. As blood brothers. As his cherished bride. As his intimate lover. Father, Son, and Spirit will overwhelm you with extravagant love. You are important to them. They enjoy your company immensely. Your daily restoration is their delight. The adventure of this moment’s journey is the destination. This present moment of intimate relationship is the precious treasure sought by them for you. Your transformation is the gentle work of their hands. Out of a love so deep there is no bottom, wider than a million horizons, and so large the universe itself cannot contain it.

The most transformation in me doesn’t happen in my service to God, loving Jesus, or in treating other people with kindness. Transformation comes to my life by really knowing and believing the reckless, vast, and vulnerable love of Jesus for me and the experiential knowledge of Abba which flows from this love. From that true knowledge, a knowing which is intimate and heartfelt, all else flows and overflows. “We love Him because He first loved us.” Remember who the Initiator is and who the responder is. Who the Giver is and who the receiver is. Who the Lover is and who the loved is. Who the Accepter is and who the accepted is. Who the Forgiver is and who the forgiven is. Who the Disrupter is and who the disrupted is.

“We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift…..This endless knowing and understanding – all this came through Jesus, the Messiah. No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day.” John 1:16-18 MSG

art beach beautiful clouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Graceful Oceans

The outpouring of love is generosity. Generosity to others and generosity to self. God is love. He does not have love, His very being is love. Grace is poured out in extravagant measure. There is no life being lived that out-lives or out-runs or out-sins the grace which pours out of the coffers of God’s love.

There is no amount of self-righteousness, pride, spiritual superiority, or self effort which cannot be drowned in the breakers of grace.

There is no self-hate, unworthiness, guilt, self-condemnation, or not being enough that cannot be dashed to pieces on the rocky shores of the ocean of grace.

There is not sufficient quantity of hopelessness, despair, sorrow, grief, loss, depression, or loss of heart that cannot be sunk in the unknowable depths of grace.

Overwhelming in its wildness, incomprehensible in its vastness, terrifying in its depth, Love’s generosity of grace is so completely Other. It captivates us by its calm, mesmerizes us with its unending ebb and flow, awes us in the fury of a storm, and refreshes us in the heat of our moments.

To accept the fullness of Love’s endless grace is to die. I must be drowned, surrendering my very breath to the flowing waters of Love’s unending grace. I must let go of the false life preservers. Control, righteousness, rightness, solutions, working, service, striving, reputation, knowledge. Anything to which I cling as justification for my inherent worth or belonging. To be free indeed, I must let go and sink into the depths of grace. Down, down, down I go. I have let go, but am still holding one more thing…..the final breath is my last grasping for control……and then I cannot hold it any longer. Love floods in and overcomes me. And I die. But what shock! In my death I discover Life flowing through me in all its vast wildness and unhindered freedom! I am enough! I am loved! I am adored! I am discovered and delighted in! Compassion flows through me – first from the Source of grace to me, and then from me to myself! I can never drown again, I am free to experience Jesus and begin to know him in the mystery of love!

Jesus is the embodiment of Love’s generosity of grace to me. He sees me in all my rags and does not look away. He runs to meet me. He invites me in. He wraps his arms around me in full acceptance, paying no attention to my filth and stink. He heals my wounds. He washes me clean. He dresses me in the softest cotton. He loves me. Generously. Every. Time.

Divine Comedy

Do we spend much time thinking about the divine sense of humor? In the seriousness of our cultural situations, weighty theological matters, social justice concerns, and taking ourselves seriously, do we give any thought to the one who created humor? Who gave us our funny bone? The God of laughter?

What about the imagery Jesus describes of attempting to run a camel through the eye of a needle? What about the comedy in the description of a blind man leading another blind man, both falling into a pit? What of the hilarity of catching a fish with a coin in its mouth to pay the taxes you owe? What about the chuckle of God to use a small boy’s lunch to feed a multitude? And the delightful humor of Jesus to not once, but twice, ask Peter to cast his nets on the other side of the boat after a wasted night of fishing? What about God coming to save the world as a helpless baby? I believe God finds humor in using the broken, foolish, and poor to shame the self-made, wise, and rich. The world is full of healthy laughter, and the heartiest is from those who take themselves the least seriously.

The foolish who knows he is foolish, the broken who knows she is broken, the poor who know their poverty, the ones who owe the most and find their debt forgiven are the ones who love and laugh most freely. It is not repentance which leads to forgiveness, it’s knowing you are forgiven in all your rags which leads to repentance. The divine sense of humor puts common sense and conventional thinking on their head. Jesus broke all stereotypes and continues doing so to those who truly find Him in their desperate searching.

“When Sarah was told she would soon be pregnant, she laughed in disbelief. But God had the last laugh. A son was born to them in their old age, and the mirthless human laugh of despair turned into the Father’s laughter of love. “They named their son ‘Laughter’ for he was the sign of the triumph of God’s levity over man’s gravity,” writes theologian John Shea.

Isaac, son of the promise made to Abraham, was a prophetic foreshadowing of Jesus in whom the promise is fulfilled. Jesus is God’s final laughter. Laughter is the celebration of incongruity, dissonance, lack of harmony. Nothing could be more incongruous in Hebrew tradition than a virgin having a baby.”1

Which brings us to the light, bubbling, free laughter of a child. Children view this world with open-hearted wonder. They bring no pre-conceived notions along with them. Every person to them is a potential friend. They do not see race, religion, or social status. They share laughter with the beggars and the wealthy. Their world has no past or future. Their smiles are indiscriminately given. It is in this carefree, open state we must meet Jesus. Like a child, we must see Him as he truly is in all his incongruity. Set him free of the strict, structured box we have placed Him safely in. Stop predicting His behavior and simply accept it in delight as He surprises you yet again. Jesus is not dry theology, but a living and vibrant person to be experienced! He came as the laughter of God to the world – shattering expectations of what a messiah was supposed to be and living a scandalously free life. His wild, irreligious, disruptive ways are for everyone. Especially for those who realize they are taking life and themselves too seriously and who allow themselves to press forward into the hilarious divine humor of a relentlessly pursuing God. The God who created the kittens clumsy play. The One who gave us the child’s giggle and the baby’s laugh. The Creator of the platypus and giraffe. The Person who gave us the ridiculous behaviors associated with falling in love. (And who behaves in such a way Himself towards us) The enjoyment He gives us in good food, wine, and dancing. His laughter echoes off the mountains, bubbles in clear brooks, thunders in the waves, builds in the crescendo of music, chatters from the dolphins, is heard in the playful bark of a fetching dog, and is found in the complex notes of a songbird. His laughter is a generously unexpected gift and is a healing balm for our hearts. His laughter is very the person of Jesus.

 

  1.  Quote from The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus by Brennan Manning (p.184)

Falls of Love

I look around and see tired, busy, and stressed men and women. I had a conversation with one at church who told me, “I guess tired is what I should expect. We are promised striving and hardship in this life.” I know it was tongue in cheek, but there was so much sincerity in his voice. A weariness and resignation he couldn’t fake.

I think as Christians we often adopt the attitude of trudging through this life as though carrying the burdens of this world is the price we pay for being a disciple of Jesus. As if righteousness in this life is defined by living under a pile.

What we miss out on is the truth. Gospel means “good news”. It’s not good news and the other shoe drops. It’s not good news with an addendum. It’s not good news but this is what you still owe. It’s just good news.  Listen to the verse in Isaiah Jesus chose to kick off his earthly ministry, and then what He said in Matthew later, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners;” (Isa 61:1) and later He said, “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)

Does your Christian experience reflect this life Jesus offers?

How is it that Paul could sit in prison and sing? Was he supernaturally endowed with an extra dose of power? Well. Yes! And it’s the same power of Christ present in you and me! Exactly the same! We have the fullness of Christ now, if only the eyes of our hearts would be opened to the truth! “…and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:19)

Jesus has come to heal our wounded hearts and set us free. Not healed in the next life. Healed now. Not free in the next life. Free now. Broken hearts healed. Prisoners freed. Lightened burdens. Souls at rest.

If there is another shoe to drop after the good news, it’s a very free, light, and restful shoe.

Then why do we live as though the burdens of this world are weighing us down? Why do we strive? Why do we live as if sin were still our master? Why do we act as though we are still prisoners? Why do the wounds of our hearts remain unhealed, still festering from within? Why do we still believe the lies and live in agreement with them?

This is not righteousness, but the furious, tender compassions of Jesus overwhelms even this admission. Inviting His presence into our darkest corners and accepting our acceptance is the first step towards the rest he has promised.

We did nothing to save ourselves, and we cannot now do anything of ourselves to truly live. The old man died with Christ. Our new lives are now hidden with Christ in God. We have been transformed! The old man has been done away with, and now our hearts are good! Shame disappears in the fullness of His grace. Insecurity and the false man fade away as the arms of Jesus wrap us in the safety of being seen by him as we are and not turning his face away. Guilt and the cycle of regret are disrupted at the loving gaze of Abba and the desperate longing we see in His eternal eyes for us. Pressing into Him becomes our daily salvation, and prayers become tender love songs to our Beloved. As the shipwrecked and destitute, we cling without thought or self-consciousness to the Preserver. Crying out our desperate need, we find it met at the Niagara Falls of God’s generosity. We are overwhelmed by the ever-present mist of the Father’s love, aware that the greater part of His untamed affection for us is thundering with unimaginable power just beyond what our eyes can see.

Do you need healing? Ask Jesus to enter your wound with you. Ask, as so many have, for His mercy and healing touch. Stop trying. Stop looking for answers. Look for Jesus. Ask Him, and receive. If you seek Him, you will find Him, if you seek Him with all your broken heart……

niagara

A Question of Trust

Do I strive to be a better man so as to get closer to God, or do I rest in and respond to His affections for me? Do I work to get His approval, or do I abide in His affirmation of who I already am to Him? Do I try to arrange and control things in a way so that God will come close to me, or do I humbly respond to His loving advances toward me? Is it about what I can do, or is it about what He has done, is doing, and will do? Did Joshua say, “I will take Jericho and show God how much I love and trust Him.”, or did God say, “I will give you Jericho to show you how much I love you.”? Who is the initiator, and who is the responder?

The life of Jesus shows us the heart of our Abba Father. Jesus borrowed Simon Peter’s boat in order to teach the crowd. (Luke 5) Afterward He said to Simon, “Put into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon does what Jesus says, even after explaining to Him how they had worked all night without catching a thing. Then, after their nets started breaking from the strain, he had to signal another boat to help them with all the fish! Both boats were filled to the point of sinking! It is as if Jesus is saying, “Look! My Father is generous beyond measure and loves you more than you can imagine.” Jesus again displays the Fathers crazy generosity in feeding the 4,000 and the 5,000. The disciples gathered up many extra baskets full after the crowds were completely fed. Why? To demonstrate the Father’s heart toward us. Wasteful generosity. He may ask you to do a simple thing, like bring the loaves and fish, and have everyone sit in groups, or put out into deep water and cast your nets, or walk around Jericho 7 times. He may ask you to stop and talk to someone or take an unscheduled trip. But when it comes down to it all we can do is sit and watch Jesus work miracles! Watch His reckless generosity in surprise and wonder. Watch His delight in crafting a beautiful gift for you out of an impossibility, and watch it overflow out of sufficiency into crazy overabundance.

“Do not fear.”, He gently tells one who will deny Him, “I will make you fishers of men.” The wholehearted invitation of Jesus is transforming. He loves me right where I am, knowing I will fail him. He reminds me not to fear. He offers to be my guide on epic adventures. He invites. All that is necessary is trust. Trust in the furious love and tender goodness of Abba Father for me.

John calls himself the disciple Jesus loved. That is my name. I am the disciple Jesus loves. I am the man Jesus calls His friend. I am Daddy’s favored child. I am my Beloved’s and He is mine. If I do not know that, how will I trust Him? I can trust a capable, qualified, powerful person to be able to accomplish things well and in an efficient manner. But will he do it for me? I don’t know that. But if that same person was also drunk with love for me, watched anxiously at the door for me to come home, left 99 others to search for me, and was desperate for my good – I would never wonder again. My trust in him would be complete.

Abba Father is the initiator in this relationship. He always has been, even when I didn’t see it. He is overly generous to me. His plans for me are good. He doesn’t share His plans with me, but there is no need for that, since I am walking the road beside Him. Where He is I want to be – wherever. “Do not fear”, He says. And His peace floods my soul.