Holy Ground

Easter is upon us. As I reflect on the most tremendous sacrifice of love the world has ever known, I am overwhelmed. I can’t wrap my mind around this kind of love. Before Creation, Jesus knew the sacrifice He was fully willing to make for you and for me. He knew every doubt, sin, unbelief and evil thought we would harbor; every selfish, unkind act we would commit; every self-sufficient attempt we would make to be in control of our lives and ignore the leading of His Spirit. He knew. He died for us anyway.
John 3:16 – “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
One of my favorite songs is Holy Ground by Passion. When I hear and sing the words to this song, I tear up. Not out of sadness or pain. These tears come from a heart that’s grateful for the grace, mercy, healing and compassion that is beyond what I can understand. Tears come out of love, awe and reverence for the power that is in the name of Jesus.  As the words to the song convey, the power in the name of Jesus changes everything! Absolutely everything. The personal encounters with Jesus I have been blessed and honored to have, of His presence, power and healing, leave me without adequate words. As you read the words to part of the song, I pray that they reach out and touch you in a personal way that is just between you and HIm. I pray the words you are desperate to hear from Him, the love you desire to know, the peace you have been so long in seeking, will fall down over you.
“Chains fall, Fear bow
Here, now
Jesus, you change everything.
Lives healed, Hope found
Here, now
Jesus, you change everything.”
He knows where healing and renewed hope are desperately needed. He knows every single detail about the chains that need to be broken and what caused them to bind you in the first place. He can heal all of that. Fear will be cast down and put in its place before the power of His great name. Jesus knows exactly why we need Him and in what circumstances we need to see a miracle. May our burning, beating hearts become holy ground, where the divine and humanity intersect and dwell together, creating something beautiful, miraculous and eternal.
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

 

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Living with Hope

1 Peter 1:6-9 NLT “So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.  These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery 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, you trust him; and even now you are happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy. Your reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”

These can be hard words to read when we are in the midst of a painful trial that seems to have no end in sight. Sometimes the trial blindsides us and we reel with feeling overwhelmed, unprepared and totally out of control. Maybe this trial was caused by the result of someone else’s choices and we didn’t see it coming. Other times, the trial is born out of our own poor choices and we are left stumbling through consequences that our own actions brought to our doorstep. We have all been there at least once in our lives. It hurts, we are confused and we desperately want Jesus to take it all away. It becomes easy to feel helpless and to want to throw our hands up and say, “forget it, what’s the use, God?”, especially when the trial we are going through is one that God wants to use to change us and move us away from destructive patterns and steer us in a new and healthy direction. Remember, that feeling helpless is NOT the same as being helpless. With God, we are never truly helpless. He is always close to us. We are not without hope because our God is the source of all hope. He never leaves us to face our trials alone.

The authors of the Life Recovery Bible (NLT) offer these words that bring comfort to the pain and weariness that the trials of life bring us. “The refiner would heat the gold in the fire in order to separate the worthless and impure dross from the precious and beautiful gold. The dross would be skimmed off until the refiner could see his image in the liquid gold. God uses the fiery trials and tribulations in our lives to purify and beautify our faith so that one day he will see clearly his image in us. This truth offers great comfort to those of us who struggle to make sense of a past marked by suffering. We can be confident that God will separate something priceless from the dross of our experiences.”

Imagine God looking down on us as he skims off the gunk and begins to see HIS image in us; something priceless. Oh, that I could see something priceless from the mess of my life experiences! I hope it makes you smile, that the God of the universe, Creator of galaxies, is so invested and in love with us, that he takes all the time necessary, with infinite patience, to allow us to feel the heat of trials, so that he can one day bring forth, for the world to see, the radiant beauty of our life testimonies; so that we can be a beacon of hope, salvation and love to a world full of his children who are hurting and need to hear a word of hope and see a life redeemed.

1 Peter 1: 3-5 NLT “Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see.”

Jesus with Skin On

Have you heard the expression, “Jesus with skin on?” There was a woman speaking to a group I was part of, who explained the analogy and it made a lot of sense.

When Jesus, who was fully man while remaining fully God, was born into this world, He literally had skin on, human flesh and blood. He knew, intimately, what it meant to be us. He understood and experienced everything we do; hunger, pain, the feel of sunshine on our faces, exhaustion, fellowship with others, belly laughs, belly pain, sadness, joy, etc.

Jesus also knew the deepest fears, sorrows, regrets, worries, and loneliness that humans experience. He created us in His image.

When I think of being created in God’s image, I think about how I am created to be like Him to my fellow sojourners, on this journey of life; to love people. To ask myself what He would do in everyday life situations.

What might that look like? Well, we see Jesus spending time with people who didn’t have it all together. They lied, cheated, were selfish, lived less than morally acceptable lives, were deeply hurt and outcasts from society. They were ill and in physical and emotional pain. They may have had mouths like sailors, drank too much and did things they regretted. They persecuted those who believed in Jesus and they rejected Him. These are those with whom Jesus spent a lot of time.

What did He do? He spoke to them and treated them as being made in His image. He healed them, fed them, listened to them, spoke truth in love, was with them when society rejected and shunned them. He didn’t tolerate the sin and pretend it didn’t exist. He called it out and forgave them. Most important of all, in my opinion, is that He saw them and their potential, and He LOVED THEM.

How might it look for us to be Jesus with skin on? Smile and acknowledge the existence of someone down on their luck, who might not be as clean as you prefer and might use words that offend you. Jesus loves them. Say hello to teens in the mall who glare and dress in ways you don’t like. Bring meals to those who are dealing with a job loss, illness or death in the family. Give someone your warm jacket or umbrella when they are stuck in the rain. Buy an extra burger combo or tacos and look for someone to bless. Listen to the one who’s hurting. Seek them out. It is ok to be with people who may not believe as you or don’t believe in anything at all. You can show them Jesus. He deeply loves them.

I have learned a lot about being Jesus with skin on from my two children, now 19 and almost 15. They have come from the little shopping center near our home, with stories of the homeless woman they talked to, who poured out her sadness over the loss of her husband. They were young teens and didn’t know exactly what to do, so they bought her whatever she wanted for lunch, listened to her and told her they hoped she would be ok. The woman cried because no one else had cared or even seen her. There is the time my daughter rushed home from 7/11, grabbed a backpack and filled it with non perishables from the pantry, water bottles, a gift card, blankets, a hat and other items she found in her room, and hurried out the door to go back and give it to a man she met who needed help.  That is Jesus with skin on.

It isn’t hard, but it does require us to look beyond the exterior picture we are seeing and find the one that Jesus loves so deeply. that He gave up His life for them, just like He did for you. My hope is that we all will find someone in our spheres to love on – to be Jesus with skin on.

What Are You Seeking?

John 1:38a says, “Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?”

When was the last time someone asked you what you wanted, besides the barista in your favorite coffee shop? I mean really asked you and wanted to hear the answer? Close your eyes for a moment and picture Jesus, sitting across from you, looking intently into your eyes, asking (insert your name here) “__________, what are you seeking?” How would you answer Him? Would you, in a panic, try to use your arsenal of Christian-ese, to impress Him with a lofty, holy, righteous answer? Would your mind go blank, because maybe you aren’t sure what it is you are seeking? Like me, you might want to blurt out, “I’m seeking You, Lord!”, but are we really? We may deeply wish that He was always our deepest desire, but if we are completely honest, sometimes He isn’t.  He is not impressed or fooled when we answer Him with what we think He wants to hear. Jesus can handle our honesty and already knows the real, raw, nitty-gritty answer.

What are you seeking? Is it to feel safe? Wanted? Accepted? Do you want to be known and seen? Are you seeking rest, because life is hard and you are worn down? Are you seeking a soul-mate or a good friend? Healing? These are all good things to seek; human things that humans need, desire and crave. Jesus knows this and doesn’t reject us for wanting them. The thing is, Jesus use these worldly, human desires to bring to us what He knows we seek most. It’s Him. Even if you don’t know it, feel it or believe it, it has always been Him.  In Jesus, the void is filled. In Jesus, we find meaning and value, safety and rest, healing, joy and peace, a best friend and an eternal soul-mate. I think that sometimes our most powerful testimony, is that what we were seeking, we ultimately found in Jesus.

So, what is it you are seeking? What does your soul crave? Tell Him and trust Him with the desires of your heart. I truly believe that whatever it is that your heart and soul seek, above all else, will ultimately be found in Jesus. Always. He is enough.

Psalm 38:9 (HCSB)

Lord, my every desire is known to You; my sighing is not hidden from You.

Psalm 27:8 (ESV)

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”

Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV)

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Who Told You That?

This is what the Lord asked Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It comes from Genesis 3:11a, “Who told you that….?” Please read Genesis 3:1-13 for a context refresher. In The Quest, written by Beth Moore, she asks us to allow God to ask it of us, as it relates to our belief systems, how we view ourselves, our self-talk, how we view God and what we really believe about Him.

I’ll be honest, this question makes me nervous. It requires more than trivial, surface answers. It begs to be taken to that deeper level that we often label as off-limits. Sometimes that level contains things we don’t want to look at or acknowledge, let alone start sifting through and digging up. Those things we keep hidden often shape our perceptions, attitudes and beliefs, causing us to act out, make choices (positive or negative) and form relationships.

I have looked deeper into some, but not all, of my off-limits places and done painful, difficult work to heal those wounds.  Many times pain, grief and anger preceded the healing, but the reward was worth the effort. As I thought about this question, “Who told you that?”, I realized I had not actually asked it of myself and it is a game changer!

What do you truly believe about yourself (good and bad) and God? Take some time to be honest with yourself, then express those beliefs to God and answer the question “Who told you that?”

I am absolutely a work in progress here, but I will share a couple of mine.

I am an overcomer. I still falter, but I know I am an overcomer though Christ who strengthens me. It is all Him! I truly began believing this when I went through breast cancer. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had walk through. It brought fear, despair, anger, confusion and exhaustion; yet hope, peace, joy and safety. God showed Himself faithful to me and my family, so extravagant with the hope He poured into me, so generous with bringing comfort and rest through music, nature and other people. The aching loneliness I felt drew me closer to Him. He was all I had to cling to and I found that He is more than enough. Who told me that? Jesus did. In His word, by all that I knew about His character and the gentle and miraculous ways He revealed Himself to me. I chose to believe what He told me. It is a choice.

For as long as I can remember, I have carried around vague, underlying feelings that I’m not enough, I’m not seen, I’m not valuable nor am I accepted. I am less than.  I never stopped to ask myself, “Who told you that?” I now know the answer is the Enemy of my soul. The same serpent that whispered lies to Eve has been hissing lies into my ear for years. I believed them. Bad things happened to me as a child and later as a young adult.  Those events led me to firmly believe those lies and entrench them into my core belief system. Yes, it left deep wounds and pain, but that is NOT what my Father sees when He looks at me. That is not who I am. Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV): “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

The Healer, Creator, Warrior, Redeemer and King, dances and sings over me. That fills me with awe, hope and joy. I am enough! I am valuable and worthy of being rejoiced over by my Father. Even as I type this, I am smiling! Who told me that? Jesus did.

What off limits place in your life does Jesus wants you to take a peek at today, with Him right by your side? I wonder when you dig a little, if you will discover who it was who told you the lies you may believe about yourself and God? Was it a family member? A friend? Was it your own self talk? An illness? Does your belief line up with the Word of God? If not, it is a lie from that same serpent that deceived Eve. Deception is always a thief. Take back what the Enemy has stolen from you! Will today will be the day you surrender that faulty belief system for the truth of God’s Word about you, your situation, His character? Trample on the head of that snake that whispers and hisses lies into your lovely head! It is written in Psalm 91:12-13 (ESV):

“For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.”

As you go about your day, challenge those faulty beliefs that you hold about yourself, your circumstances and God, by asking yourself, “who told me that?” If it isn’t Jesus and you can’t find it in His Word, then it isn’t truth.

I leave you with this scripture. I pray it soaks into your heart and accomplishes that for which it was sent. His word never returns void. You are loved.

Romans 8:37-39 (ESV):

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Where are you?

Life is filled with questions on a daily, sometimes minute by minute basis. Sometimes, for me, questions make me prickly and feisty. I don’t always like them because sometimes, the question I’m being asked forces me to think or re-think my point of view or assess my current thoughts, actions, ideas. It makes me take a hard look at where I am.

I recently started a Bible study by Beth Moore called The Quest. The very first week, Ms. Beth asked four “recalibrating questions” that have the ability to transform our walk with Jesus and to greatly increase our intimacy with Him, our prayer lives and boost our trust. They are designed as an opportunity for us to talk to Him, to be as raw and real with Jesus as we are willing to be with Him. According to Ms. Beth, “These divine questions have the potential to recalibrate and reignite a walk with God that has gotten off track, stuck in a cul-de-sac or has lost steam or our interest.” These questions are actually questions that God Himself is asking us and are found in the Old and New Testaments.

So, here is a challenge to you, if you are game, over the next four weeks:  find 5-10 minutes per day to take the question God is asking you and answer Him. You will get out of this, as much as you put in.  Journal the answers, pray it out, meditate on it; however you are lead. We are all in different seasons, so do what you can and trust that God will respond back to you, as you pour out your heart to Him. He is faithful. He loves you. Your voice in His ear is beautiful music.

I hope you will find healing, hope and intimacy with Christ, as you honestly talk Him and answer the question below. Remember, He already knows the answer. He wants intimacy with you. Not who you wish you were or dream about being; not who you compare yourself to or act like you are when others are watching you.

Question #1! Here we go!

This question comes from Genesis 3:9 (NLT) “The Lord God called to Adam, ‘where are you?’” If you need a quick context refresher, please read Genesis 3:1-9. In the Bible study, Ms. Beth asks us to switch places with Adam and let this divine question, from the very mouth of God, land on us. I firmly believe He is asking us this question over and over again. Hear Him ask you…

“Where are you, child?” Are you in a relatively good spot right now, with things humming along like a well-oiled machine, all the parts of your life working pretty well? Is your family, your job, ministry, hobbies, all moving forward at a good pace? If this is where you are, tell Him and rejoice and be thankful for that blessing! Pour out your gratitude and tell Him about all your hopes and dreams for what is to come.

“Where are you, child?” Are you in a valley that seems a bit monotonous and, dare I say, boring? Does life seem to be plugging along with the same-old/same-old things, without much excitement? He sees you in this place that appears to be a long and predictable holding pattern. Tell Him about it. Tell Him your desire for something new and exciting. Talk to Him about giving you bravery and courage for what is coming. He can give you peace and patience that you need for this season.  Remember, He is ALWAYS working on your behalf; organizing, shifting, and setting good things in motion.

“Where are you, child?” Maybe your season is one of pain, disappointment and heartache and you wonder if He is even there or even cares. Maybe it feels as if He has forgotten you, and your desperate prayers seem to float and drift, never landing at His feet. If this is you, tell Him! He reads your thoughts and knows every hurt and every wound. He can handle whatever you pour out to Him. Tell Him all of it, the raw, the ugly, the desperate; all the anger and deep disappointment. Nothing touches you that has not first been sifted through His hands of love, goodness and healing. It’s ok to turn the question around and ask God, “where are You?”

Now, go and get with your Father! May this scripture from Psalm 139 encourage you and powerfully remind you how very known and loved you are!
Psalm 139:3-5 and 17

You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable!

Perspective

Complaints. We all have them, don’t we? Some complaints are minor, daily life annoyances that come on strong, but fade quickly, such as; irritating drivers, long lines at the Starbucks drive thru, internet annoyances and teenage attitudes. Then there are those other complaints. The ones that stem from something deeper than mundane irritants; like unmet expectations, disappointments, loss, festering, soul deep wounds, simmering anger, injustice, illness and the list goes on.  Personally, I have experienced all these deeper complaints and some are still ongoing.  The feelings of frustration, anger and resentment that well up from these complaints can easily taint every interaction, every experience and every relationship. Our filters get off kilter and life becomes skewed. This is a hard and debilitating way to live.

Recently, I came upon this jewel.  It leaped off the pages of my Bible, like it had been waiting between the closed pages for the perfect time to reveal itself. I read it and gulped in a breath, and read it again. It spoke to my heart.

Habakkuk 2:1

I will climb up into my watchtower now and wait to see what the Lord will say to me and how he will answer my complaint.

I love imagery and so I sat still, closed my eyes and visualized myself actually climbing up into a watchtower. I noticed as I ascended, that things began to change. I wasn’t looking at the landscape in the same way, because my perspective was changing as I went higher up.  Mind you, the complaint was still the same, the geography of the problems hadn’t changed; however, the way I saw them, did change. In the watchtower, I am safe, secure, protected. I have a 360 degree view of the terrain. I see how the landscape melds and molds together, how certain things have to happen and have to “be”, before other things can exist. If there is a mountain, there is often an uphill climb that must take place, before one can reach the pinnacle, just as there is then a descent, sometimes into a valley or depression, that must be traversed, before coming into a wide open place; a space that is a bit easier to walk; safer, restful perhaps…

As I saw more of the surrounding land, I realized it was quite beautiful, how it all ran together in a sort of harmony. Rugged and dangerous mixed in with lovely, breathtaking, restful places; places that were safe and easy; places that were dangerous and even treacherous in spots. It all worked together, somehow, to be beautiful. Never minimizing or mocking the pain, the hurt and the loss that life and situations bring us, but focusing on a different perspective; like a tapestry that takes shape and becomes lovely, when all the threads are woven together just as they need to be; even if the process is long and tedious and often unclear.

I believe God wants us to bring all the hurt, rage, fear and injustice straight to Him. He already knows.  When we lay it before Him, and go up into our watchtower and wait for His answer, He gives us a new view; His divine perspective. Yes, the problems are still there; yes it still hurts and frustrates and enrages, yet…when we get just a glimpse of the full picture, when we look behind and see where we have come and remember all He HAS done, it gives all that lies ahead a new hue; a new filter through which to view our current complaints. He is with us. Always.

I picture the watchtower and the idea of going up into it, as a symbol of leaning into Jesus and getting closer to Him. There is safety there in Jesus, our watchtower. As we lay all the junk out before Him, saying “Well, here You go. This is all of it. I’m tired of trying to make it on my own with this stuff. I have no idea what to do with it, why You have allowed it, but here, please take it.”, that release allows Divine Perspective to come in. It allows it to heal, mend and counsel; to comfort, love and change the view of the landscape, to one of hope, healing and transformation. It takes time and patience and will produce a whole new level of trust. I have found immense comfort and even joy, yes joy!, when I head up into the watchtower and wait. Peace is always there. Beauty will follow. When I see from a Divine perspective, I become aware that nothing has been wasted. It was all necessary for what is to come, to unfold. Alpha, Omega; beginning and the end.