Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Only Way, Truth and Life


I was working today at my kitchen table, logging in and out of tabs on my laptop...because I am always doing twenty things at once. Something in the news feed that caught my eye, Beth Chapman died.  Beth is Duan "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman's wife. I don't know about you, but I can say back in the day I have watched some of their shows. Beth died today. She had throat and lung cancer, and sadly, she lost her battle.  I believe she was a believer, so she is with Jesus.  Amen!

Cancer sucks.  Having my dad die of cancer, I can confidently tell you cancer sucks!

I felt my heart sink when I read that news, not because I knew Beth personally, obviously I didn't.  But because I had such a deep understanding in that moment, when I read that headline, that life is short.  It didn't touch me at a level where I feared for my life, but rather I felt such a strong sense of how critical it is to let go of this life and truly live for Jesus.  Like....REALLY do this!

Life. Is. So. Short.  I literally felt sick to my stomach, still do actually, thinking of people living today who don't know Jesus.  And the urgency of that hit me at such a guttural level I still physically feel sick.  It's urgent.  It's urgent we go to the nations and tell people about Jesus. (Matthew 28:19)  It's urgent we go, from Africa to our neighborhood, and tell people about Jesus and share His love.  This is serious.  There are people dying and they don't know Christ.  There are people living who don't know the Savior of our world, or worse yet, reject Him.  I don't say this to shame anyone or make anyone feel bad, but I just know His love and freedom and want EVERYONE to know His love and freedom.  It's a love and freedom that when everything else is falling apart, you know you are still tethered to the One who is Faithful and True. (Revelation 19:11)  He is an unshakable anchor! (Hebrews 6:19) If someone asked me to give them the most depressing thought I can think of, it would be living this life without Jesus.  I truly cannot think of anything more sad if I tried.  Well, maybe I'm exaggerating, because dying without Jesus is the most sad thing that comes to mind.

But living without Jesus!!  Today?!  How in the world could I possibly do that?  How would I survive day in and day out!  Surely there is no way.  Where would my hope lie?  Do you read the news on the daily?  Do you see what's going on in our world?  I won't go into my life right now, but I can assure you if I didn't have Jesus and the hope He brings, I would not be here right now.  And that's the truth. Just the last ten years of my life was enough to take me out, let alone many more years in addition to that. There is no explanation for the healing, peace and freedom in my life other than the grace of the One True Living God.  There is nothing or no one that could convince me otherwise!  I have seen Him and His power personally in my life.  I have felt Him as close as my breath.  There's nothing better than when you've tasted and seen that He is good. (Psalm 34:8)   

How can there be a way without Jesus when He is the only Way, Truth and Life. (John 14:6)

Just this morning I was reminded of this as I went through a Lectio Divina.

It was on Luke 9:57-62.

"As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." He said to another man, "Follow me." But he replied, "LORD, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Still another said, "I will follow you, LORD; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." 

Your first thought may be...well those aren't warm and chipper verses to share.  Oh, but they are! There's freedom in these verses.  When we truly let go of this "life" and follow Him, True life comes.  I am not suggesting this happens over night.  At least it hasn't for me.  :)  Honestly, the past several months the Lord has been pulling back layers in my I didn't even know I had.  It's been hard to say the least.  Excruciating actually.  But I know there's always beauty wrapped in the ugly.  So I wait on the Lord.  I want to follow Him above all else.  I can't do that if I am looking behind or to the left or right.  I must stay focused on Jesus; keep my hand on the plow and keep my eyes set on His eyes.

I can say over the past several months I have increasingly felt the Lord asking me to let go of the things of this life, to let go of the things that appear "normal" or the status quo.  And just when I thought I've let go, He shows me the places I am gripping for dear life. It has challenged me to the point where I am sure I won't make it out without a limp.  I am pretty sure I already have a limp.  My prayer is that my limp along with my ability to run the race set before me is a testimony of who He is and who I am in Him!  That's my prayer for you.  I pray you find freedom in His sacrifice.  Freedom comes with a cost.  It cost Jesus His life.  We cry out to Him in the dark places, He comes in, and then we lay our lives down before Him.  Not easy, but there's nothing better.  Jesus is better than anything this world has to offer.      

If you want to hear about Jesus and what He has done in my life and what I am positive He can do in your life, just ask.  Here's the best news of the day, you don't have to live without Jesus one more second.  He loves you. If you would like prayer, let me know, and I promise I will pray for you.

Psalm 130

A song of ascents.

"Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Loving Our Enemies


This morning I did a Lectio Devina through a Facebook group I am a part of called The Presence Project.  Let me know if you want to join the group and I will add you in.  :) The portion of Scripture we meditated on was Luke 6:27-32.  These verses are on loving our enemies.  These are some convicting verses to slow down and meditate on; to contemplate and allow the Lord to speak to your heart about.  The words "do good" stuck out to me.  Do good.  It's easy to do good to those we love.  It's easy to do good to those we know love us.  It's not so easy to do good to those who are difficult, who don't like us, let alone love us, and who, quite honestly, aren't looking out for us and want to see us fail.

I was listening to the Lord as I slowly settled into these verses, and He impressed on my heart that living in obedience to these words, these very words of Jesus, that's how we cut through the darkness.

We cut through the darkness and we love our enemies by clinging to these words of Jesus and allowing them to change us from the inside out.  We cannot do it without Him.  Without Him it's impossible.

What does this look like?  How do we love our enemies when our flesh so easily wants to do the opposite?

During this time of sitting in His presence, listening, being still, I opened my eyes for a moment and stared out my window. The sun was shining down on the ice covered world around me.  Trees and branches, bushes and thistles shimmering as the sun and ice connected; expelling light and color and beauty all around.



That's us!  We are filled and covered by the Spirit of God, and Jesus is shining on us, and in us and through us.  Just like those branches covered in ice, we expel light, His light, everywhere we go.

And because of that we can love people who don't love us.  We can pray for people that don't treat us well.  We don't have to retaliate.  We can go the extra mile, even with people that don't have our best interest at heart.  We can treat everyone the way we want to be treated.  We can be slow to speak and slow to anger.

But here's the clincher....we can't do this in the flesh. We can't do this with fake smiles and gritted teeth. There's a difference between that and allowing these words of Jesus to penetrate to the deepest parts of our hearts and bring change.  I have been praying lately that the Lord would continue to open the eyes of my heart. (Ephesians 1:18) How incredible when we can truly love our enemies from a place of freedom in Christ;  freedom from no longer needing to fight, freedom from our need to have the last word, freedom from feeling like we always have to defend ourselves, freedom from being so easily offended, freedom from feeling rejected by people.  Freedom comes when we allow the Truth of Him to flood our hearts and we can legitimately put our fists down.  When the Truth of whose we are becomes so real and tangible, we can offer our shirt to someone that has already taken our coat without hesitation or thinking twice about it.  It's only THAT kind of revelation that can cause us to turn the other cheek. When we are so covered and filled by Him we can freely give ourselves away, even in the hardest of places and under the toughest of circumstances with the most difficult of people. We are coming upon a time in America when His followers will need this kind of awakening and understanding. We can love our enemies well when we are truly awakened to the fact we have Jesus and have nothing to lose or prove this side of Heaven. So just as those branches outside are dripping water to the ground as the sun shines on them, we can drip with Living Water everywhere we go as the Son shines on us. That's how we change the world around us.    

Do you love your enemies?  My prayer for us today is that we will take time to listen to Jesus and allow His words from the Book of Luke to bring revelation by the power of His Spirit, and that we would abide so closely to the Father, just like Jesus did, and out of that abiding, obedience and surrender, we would truly love each other as Jesus commands.  My prayer for us all today is that the eyes of our hearts will be enlightened so that we may know the hope to which He has called us!  My prayer for us is that we will entrust ourselves to Him, even when in the presence of our enemies.      

"When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly." 1 Peter 2:23



***Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting to stay in an abusive situation or that you shouldn't have healthy boundaries.  That's not what I am speaking about in this blog post.  If you are in an abusive relationship or need help or support regarding any relationship that is causing you physical, emotional, sexual or spiritual harm, please reach out to resources in your community or someone you can trust for help.         



                   

 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Breakthrough is Coming


Breakthrough is Coming

As I was driving the other day I was looking at the trees. The leaves always strike me as so incredibly beautiful in the Fall. We have such an awesome Creator! I often marvel at all the different autumn shades adorning the trees this time of year, and quite honestly, I also wonder how anyone cannot believe in God! The trees declare His glory! Actually, all creation declares His glory! We can see Him all throughout creation and know beyond a shadow of a doubt He is God!

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." Romans 1:20

I also noticed recently many trees have already lost all of their leaves. Many trees are no longer adorning the hues of reds, oranges and golds. Their leaves finally turned brown, and they fell to the ground, leaving the tree barren and empty.


There is so much spiritual significance to me in the life cycle of a tree...too much to go into right now. :) I will say though, I have been thinking about those barren trees, and how even though they appear dead, they are not. They are in a season of being renewed. They are in a season of waiting to give birth to new growth in the Spring. New life out of a season of emptiness, or what appears to be emptiness to the eye. Those leafless winter trees look so alone, still and quiet; almost sad. Little do they know they are just in a season of waiting, their breakthrough is coming, and soon they will be filled with green, robust and plentiful life.

How often our own lives can relate to the barren tree. We feel empty. We feel like we are in a season of dying, a season of barrenness; where all seems eerily still and quite and we wonder what is happening? You know changes of season are essential to your growth. You know life comes from brokenness. You know His thoughts are not your thoughts. You know His ways are not your ways! But there you stand, still, emptied, like the tree that appears dead...wondering. 

Dying to self, to how you think things should go, to what you thought it was all supposed to look like. He is purging us of things that shouldn’t be there. He is preparing us, many times just like the winter tree, for the Spring...where He makes all things new.  All we can think about, though, is how we look like that tree whose once beautiful adornment is now laying on the ground beneath it brown, dried up and lifeless. How often we forget resurrection comes after death!

I recently took care of my father as he was dying of cancer. It was one of the hardest things I had to do...be up close and personal to someone I love dearly as they were in the dying process. I was one of his primary caretakers during his final months on earth. It was the ugliest yet most beautiful thing I have ever seen and gone through. What an honor to care for my father as he was preparing to leave this life and move on to the next. How blessed I am that I got to usher my dad right into the arms of Jesus. I can easily remember the bad memories leading up to his death, and Jesus quickly reminds me my dad is not dead. He is alive, and I will see him one day soon. My dad physically died and his breakthrough from suffering was in Heaven!! My dad's Breakthrough was holding his hand as he took his last breath.

Jesus is our Breakthrough.

Emptied. Surrendered. Death. Resurrection. Breakthrough.

What about dying to our flesh while we are still here on earth? Sometimes that can feel harder than physical death. We kick and scream. We fight it. When, in fact, we are called to surrender, to die to ourselves, daily. We can often feel like we are pressed on every side. We can be completely perplexed!! We can be struck down and persecuted. Why wouldn’t we when we carry the death of our Savior around in our own bodies?!  We must. How else will His life be revealed in us?

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”  2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Just as when our time on earth is ending and that breakthrough comes as we enter the arms of Jesus, breakthrough also often comes after we go through a time of pressing while still on earth. If you are in a time of dying to self, a time of pressing, a time you feel emptied to the point of your guts being removed, a time of being barren; even discouraged and uncomfortable, maybe it’s because your breakthrough is coming. Maybe it's because your breakthrough is around the corner.

Breakthrough is coming for many, but the enemy, at times, will push harder right before that time. He will try to discourage you, exhaust you, distract you. Hold on. Push through. Sometimes it's not the enemy, it's just the refining process. It's God pruning away the things that don't belong; the cutting away of what shouldn't be to produce the things that should be. In childbirth there's excruciating pain. But after an agonizing time of labor, new birth comes. Allow Jesus to walk you through the process of dying, the process of giving birth.  It can be ugly and agonizing, but yet it's so beautiful.  There’s life on the other side. There always is. Don't allow the enemy to discourage you. Hold on to the promises of God! Don't allow the temporary discomfort of Father cutting away to push you away from Him, the only One who is Faithful and True. Don't be distracted. Don't be discouraged. Breakthrough is coming. Just like it does for the winter tree, who doesn't realize a season of plenty is just around the corner. It’s coming.

Breakthrough is coming.




Monday, September 17, 2018

What If?





As I was driving to church Sunday morning, the Lord brought the Peace Prayer of St. Francis to mind. It's not a prayer I think about often...really at all if I'm being honest. But on my drive to church the first line of that prayer came to mind,

"Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace."

Make me an instrument of Your peace...

I googled the rest of the prayer when I got to church and had it up on my phone throughout the service, even looked at it from time to time that morning.

Make me an instrument of Your peace...

What does that mean to be an instrument of His peace?

Being an instrument of His peace must be really valuable, because His Word tells me,

"Blessed are the peacemakers." Matthew 5:9

As His follower, I am called to be a peacemaker, and I am called to be an instrument of His peace. It's a peace that doesn't come from this world, but only from Jesus.

"For He Himself is our peace." Ephesians 2:14

Make me an instrument of Your peace...

What if?

What if I always chose to love my neighbor as myself?

What if I chose to love the difficult one's by leaning into Jesus more?

What if I chose to do the brave things and shut down gossip and slander, hypocrisy and judgement with kind words and loving actions?

What if chose to move in the Spirit moment by moment?

What if every time I want to move in my flesh I actually choose the harder way, the way that calls me to die to myself, my wants, my desires.

What if I chose to live unoffended?

What if I chose to live unashamed and free of guilt, which is what He died for?

What if I chose to live with my heart on my sleeve and my hurts and vulnerabilities exposed? So when asked how I still have joy and peace, I will have all the more reason to give an account of who Jesus is and what He has done for me?

What if I lived as an instrument of His peace?

What if I chose to speak life and not death!

What if I chose to just......speak......less......sometimes......

SHHHHHH.................................

What if I sowed love where there was hatred?

What if I pardoned injury?

What if I replaced doubt with faith?

What if I chose hope over despair?

What if I always remembered I am His light to a lost and hurting world?

What if everyone around me were to see me, even in my darkest hour, and see that I still have joy! Because my joy doesn't come from this world.

What if instead of needing to be consoled, I consoled?

What if I stopped demanding to be understood and in turn I tried to understand where my brother or sister is coming from?

What if I just chose to love without keeping tabs on who is loving me?

Jesus loves me, and that is more than enough.

What if I gave never expecting anything in return?

What if I always chose to forgive?

What if I chose to wake up every day and say not my will, Father, but Your's be done?

What if I decided to care more about what my Father thinks of me than what anyone else thinks about me?

What if instead of telling my brother or sister they aren't seeing clearly, I realize I may not be seeing clearly either?

What if instead of telling my brother or sister they aren't hearing clearly, I realize I may not be hearing clearly either?

What if I truly lived for an audience of One?

What if I didn't take anyone's side but Jesus'?

What if I counted my suffering joy?

What if I considered everything "a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things." Phllippians 3:8

What if every morning, the first thing I did was drop to my knees and said, "Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace."

The enemy has come to kill, steal and destroy. He comes after our relationships. They are easy targets for him when we walk around with weapons of destruction on us. We are easy targets when we walk around with an arsenal on us ready to attack. How easily we forget our Savior went to the Cross without ever once pulling out weapons to attack! He didn't even open His mouth. He went to the Cross on our behalf, and it was for the joy set before Him! (Hebrews 12:2)

We carry weapons around in our back pockets. We hold weapons in our hands. We carry around the biggest weapon of all, at all times...our tongues. We are so quick to fight!

I can be so quick to fight.

We are so quick to fight with words that come out of our mouths. We praise God, then curse our brother and sister. Out of our mouths come praise and cursing. This shouldn't be! (James 3:10)

Father, forgive me for I have sinned.

What if we put down our earthly weapons, and instead picked up instruments of peace?

What if?

What if WE BECAME instruments of peace?

What if we put down our earthly weapons, and picked up our Kingdom weapons, and in doing so we started to dismantle the feeble attempts of our adversary to kill, steal and destroy?

What if it's as easy as loving like Jesus?

What if it started with me?


Monday, September 10, 2018

Don't Look Down




The above picture was taken at the Currituck Lighthouse which is located on the Outer Banks in Corolla, North Carolina. My family and I vacationed there this Summer. There's a landing spot after each flight of steps you go up. About half way to the top, I stopped and took a picture looking straight up to the remaining steps. This lighthouse is 162 feet high, and has 220 steps. There's nothing more telling about how out of shape you are than when you are climbing to the top of a lighthouse. I was out of breath and my legs felt like jelly a quarter of the way up! Oh, and did I mention I am PETRIFIED of heights?? Yup, I am. Completely petrified. Why then, you ask, would I climb to the top of a lighthouse? Because while I am terrified of heights, I refuse to allow that fear to have its way in my life. So when my husband and kids say let's go up, I say yes, even though I go slow, take pit stops along the way (hence the picture above) and hold onto the railing for dear life. There was one thing swirling through my mind the entire way up...well two actually.  First, am I going to make it to the top?  And two...DON'T LOOK DOWN!

See, if you are like me and you are scared of heights, you know the worst thing you can do is look down. Looking down reminds you of how high you are, and can immediately cause panic, which is never a good thing when you are half way up a 162 foot high lighthouse. Looking down causes you to lose focus of the step in front of you. Looking down causes you to lose sight of the goal ahead of you, which is to make it to the top.

We recently had a fundraiser to raise money to open a restoration home in Berks County for survivors coming out of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. It was an incredible night for all of us on the FREE team, as it truly exceeded all of our expectations. But the next morning when I woke up, I started to feel panic. What next? What does this next phase look like? How will it be accomplished? What should I do first? All of these thoughts hit my mind like a ton of bricks. Then the Lord reminded me...don't look down. He didn't scream it. It didn't sound like it sounded in my head as I was anxiously making my way up those lighthouse steps. It was quiet and peaceful. Don't look down, Andrea.

I had a vision of Him holding my hand, and taking one step up with me. Just one step. That's it. He said, just take one step up. I thought of rock climbing up a mountain, and with each step planted into the mountain crevice, rocks and dirt crumble out and fall into what seems like a never ending drop. It wouldn't do that person scaling the side of a rock encased mountain any good by constantly looking down, by constantly looking at the debris dropping underneath them. They must focus on what's in front of them. They can't worry about what's below. They have to focus on that next step in front of them.

Don't look down. How easily we start to look down and become fearful. We lose sight of Jesus who is right in front of us, and He is saying, don't look down, look right at Me. And in that moment we remember the King of the universe has us.  He is with us.  We don't even have to look up. He is as close to us as our breath.

If you are struggling today, if you are afraid or anxious about something going on in your life, if you are wondering how you are going to pull through, don't look down. Just look straight at Jesus. He's right there. You don't have to look far. He is right in front of you. He is holding your hand and He is saying, don't look down, just stay focused on Me. Just take one step up with Me. He wants you to know He is with you.  

In case you are wondering, I made it to the top of the lighthouse. My kids made me walk the full circle around the top, and I did, even though my back was plastered to the wall of the lighthouse the entire time.  I looked straight ahead.  I didn't look down. I even managed a panoramic picture. :)


Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10   

     

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Seat At The Table




Remember in elementary school when you had recess and were out on the playground, playing a great game of Dodge-ball or Red Rover? So much fun, right? Ah, the good old days, when things seemed simpler, lighter, easier; when time seemed to stand still. It was fun being a kid. But one thing I remember that wasn’t so much fun was being picked for these games. I don’t know about you, but at my school, captains were always picked first...I think they picked themselves actually. Then the rest of us, who didn’t quite have the nerve to pick ourselves as captains, made a long line as the captains picked who they wanted on their teams. One captain picked a person, then the other captain picked a person, and so on and so on until no one was left and both teams were filled. It was a tough few minutes there waiting to hear your destiny of being chosen or not; albeit a short one in those moments before the bell rang and you had to go back into class. Would you be picked 1st, 2nd,10th? The one captain didn’t seem to want you on their team, but surely the other captain would. Or would they? Being picked 1st, 2nd, or 3rd...well that is great! But what is going to happen if I’m picked 9th or 10th, or worse yet, what if I’m picked last? There’s like 25 of us standing in this line!! Nothing could be worse than that...last! Has anyone been there before? Being picked last, or second to last, or anywhere close to last?! Feeling like you aren’t wanted, that you aren’t good enough to be at least in the top five, or the top 15th for that matter. How about when you were looking for a spot to sit and eat your lunch, and you were standing around, lunch in hand, and you surveyed the entire lunch room looking for an empty seat, just somewhere to sit and fit in, and all the tables seem to look full, not just literally full, but even metaphorically speaking, because you knew you just wouldn’t be welcome at certain tables, even if there was a spot open. I have empathy for new students in schools, that first day, standing in the lunch room, not knowing anyone, trying to decide where to go, trying to look for a friendly face and an empty seat at a table. Actually, I have been in this situation as an adult, looking around and wondering where to sit, wondering if there’s room for me at the table, wondering if I find a seat and don’t feel welcome, would that really constitute as a seat at the table??

I have been thinking about this lately. About sitting at the table and what that looks like for us as Followers of Christ.

There’s been many times in my life where I have stood in the line, screaming on the inside, pick me, pick me! Pick me…I want to be on your team! Pick me...I want to be at your table! I want to use my voice at your table! Then once “chosen” I realize, maybe this isn’t the right table for me. Maybe I need to be at another table. And I ask the Lord, why? Why, Lord, would I finally make it to the table, then disqualify my own self from that seat? Why would I choose to disqualify my voice at the table? Will there be another table for me? And just like that He replies, "You are already at the table, my dear one; you are already at the table, and your voice is already being heard."

And just like that….peace. Understanding. Settled. Rest.

I am already at the table. 

I already have a voice. 

I am chosen.

Because of Jesus. 

I don’t have to find it. I don't have to look for it. I don't have to scream on the inside for it.

I am already sitting there, welcomed at the table, talking with the One whose ear is always turned toward me.

"Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live." 

(Psalm 116:2) 

This is not because of me. This is not because of other people. But because of Him. Christ has given me a seat at the table, His Table, and He has given me a voice to use at His Table. I am on His team! He picked me! Jesus picked me!!

So here’s what I know. When you use your voice for the oppressed and marginalized, you are at the table. When you stop for the one, you are at the table. When you stand in the gap in prayer and intercession, you are at the table. When you quietly serve in your church or in your neighborhood and do the things no one else wants to do, you are at the table. When you are doing the administrative work or keeping the finances in order, you are at the table. Whether you are on the stage singing, or you are singing along in the crowd, you are at the table. Whether you are in the front pew, or you are in the back pew, you are at the table. When people thank you, and when they don't, you are at the table. When you are seen by people, or when you go unnoticed, you are at the table. When you have plenty, or when you are in need, you are at the table. When you are doing great, or when you are struggling, you are at the table. When you are on the mountain top, or when you are in the valley, you are at the table. When you feel great, or when you feel completely broken, you are at the table. Whether you are male or female, you are at the table.  Whether you are black or white, you are at the table.  Whether you are a "leader" or a "lay-person," you are at the table. When you are with the multitude, or when you are alone in the Secret Place, you are at the table.

Here’s why. When you are in Christ, you are forever at the table. When you are in Christ, you have been given access to the table for all eternity, because it’s His Table, and at His Table there’s always room, and you are always welcome, and you always have a seat, and you ALWAYS have a voice! And that’s not something you ever have to doubt! That’s not something anyone else has any control over. You don’t have to depend on anyone to pick you. So here’s the Good News...you can get out of the line!! Jesus already picked you!! You are chosen. You are sitting at the most beautiful table you can imagine, and He set it just for you. And He has given you an incredible voice to use for such a time as this.

Don’t wait for someone to invite you in. Don’t stand in line waiting to be picked. Get out of the line. You already have a seat at the table. You already have a voice. Because of Jesus.

I don't know about you, but there’s no other team I’d rather be on, and there’s no other table I’d rather sit at than His.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. (Col. 1:9-12)

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Cry Of The Heart







Children being shot, people at war, human beings in the image of God being exploited and abused. Personal struggles, family and friends hurting. Things not going the way we imagined in our lives and in the lives of the one's we love, even in the lives of the one's we do not know, whether they live in another continent, the other side of our country, or in our own neighborhood, but yet our hearts are affected by their suffering and pain. We feel the pain. We feel the pain of affliction for ourselves and all of humanity. So we grieve. We grieve for us and them. We feel the pain. So we cry out.  We cry out for justice. We cry out for equality. We cry out for change. We cry out for awakening. We cry out for revival. We cry out because He is our God and we are His people. (Exodus 6:7)  We cry out because He is a God who hears us and delivers us from our troubles. (Psalm 34:17) 

We lament. 

To lament means to express regret or sorrow over something, to mourn for or over a situation. It's a passionate expression of grief; weeping. There's many things my heart grieves over. There's many things I weep over. Children being killed in our schools. Women being sex trafficked and exploited. People dying from drug addiction. The homeless person wandering the streets day in and day out with no place to call home. People literally starving to death all over this world.  People sitting right in our pews wondering if anyone will notice they are hurting, and they may appear to be okay on the outside, but on the inside they are screaming, "DO YOU SEE ME?"  People being treated with less value and worth based on the color of their skin or their gender. People alone with no one to love them. I feel the pain.  I feel the pain of those who are hurting. And I cry out.  I cry out, "I SEE YOU!" I can feel the pain and transparency of David the Psalmist when he says, 




"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from my cries of anguish? 

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

by night, but I find no rest." 

(Psalm 22:1-2)

I am grateful.  I am so grateful to serve a God who allows me to weep at His feet, who allows me to cry out to Him in lament, who allows me to sit in His presence, with truth, honesty and vulnerability residing together, and He comes.  He also allows me to come, with tears pouring down my cheeks and aching in my own suffering or for the suffering of people around me, and He is not offended by me bearing my soul to Him.  He is not offended when I scream out, "Why Lord?"  He actually bends down toward me.  He moves in even closer.  He hears. He listens.  He actually keeps track of my sorrows, He collects my tears, and He records each one in His book!  (Psalm 56:8)  In that quiet, tear filled space there is safety.  There is a knowing that rises up. Truth comes.  I am never alone. He is never far off.  He saves me, time and time and time again.  He will save you.  He has never failed me. He will never fail you.  Never.  I remember.  And I can still praise Him.

    "I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.

    You who fear the Lord, praise Him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor Him!
    Revere Him, all you descendants of Israel!

    For He has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
    He has not hidden His face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.

    From You comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear You I will fulfill my vows.

    The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise Him—
    may your hearts live forever!"
    (Psalm 22:22-26)
We repent, we pray, we intercede and we lament because we have hope, hope in our Father who comes, who restores, who redeems; we have hope in our Father who promises He will never leave us and He will never forsake us.  (Deuteronomy 31:6)  And because of this we can boldly enter His throne room and pour our hearts out to Him, on behalf of ourselves and on behalf of others. Jesus is acquainted with pain.  He was despised and rejected.  He was mocked, ridiculed and in the end, nailed to a Cross. He lamented. His final words,  "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?").  The veil was torn.  Now we can enter in, no longer separated, but Sons and Daughters now able to sit at the Table of Grace.  Now able to dance in joy, but also able to weep at His nail-pierced feet.  Always standing in hope even as we cry out for a lost and hurting humanity.  Even as we repent for what we know and even for what we don't!  We repent because we are always called to turn back to our Beloved.  We never have to wonder why.  Such relief.  We intercede for brothers and sisters around this world.  We stand in the gap.  We weep for them.  We cry out to God for them.  It's beautiful.  That space.  That time.  Sorrow, but joy.  Loss, but still having everything we need.  Grief, but hope.  Falling apart, but still held together. Lost, but found.  Injustice, but assurance that one day all things will be made right.  Inequality, but equal at the Foot of the Cross. Lies, but promises!  Rejected, but never alone.  Weak, but strong. Hated, but loved so dearly.  Hidden, but seen.  Poor, but rich.  Broken, yet a new creation.  Suffering, but getting to be partakers. Trials, but always taking heart because He has overcome the world!  We need You, Lord.  Thank you, Lord, that you are not a distant Father, but rather you are a Father that is close to the brokenhearted and You understand our pain.  (Psalm 34:18)         

We come together in lament, in faith, saying God, you are the only One that can help us and we know You are here.  We come together and cry out for justice, healing and restoration.  We come together to share in one another's burdens.  We come together because for all we know breakthrough is peaking around the corner for us and them.  We come together to be honest about our sins.  We come together to repent for things in our own lives or for the injustices we see everywhere we go. We come together in lament to experience intimacy with our Father, who understands and says, "Come as you are."  We come together in prayer and lament and we are reminded of His goodness, His love, His grace, His mercy and the eternal hope we have in Christ.  We come together in lament and are reminded He wraps His arms around us with the best hug we could ever get and He whispers, "You, my child, are everything to me."  And in those beautiful, tear stained moments we get to respond, "And you, my Papa, are everything to me too. Holy Spirit, come.  


"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for Him." Lamentations 3:21-24