Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

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The Gospel

June 13, 2011
The Gospel is not some pithy catch phrase to gloss over our lives and make them whitewashed with goodness.  The Gospel isn’t some bumper sticker we place on our car as we join a club.  Instead, the Gospel is an invading force of light that penetrates every pore of our being until we ourselves become light so all the world might see.  It is my greatest pursuit that more of Jesus live in me today than yesterday.  That is only made possible by the provision of the Gospel.  You see, I use to SAY I believe, like some still do, but then live our lives as if the Gospel has no power.  It doesn’t.  Not in a life that believes but doesn’t embrace.  One of the scariest verses in the Bible for me is James 2:19- “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”  What is this faith then, that saves us?  It is the faith that chooses to allow Christ to transform us by HIS grace and not by our own attempts.  From death to life.  From darkness to light. From brokeness to wholeness.  From sinful to holy.  All made possible by the Gospel by which we live:  Christ lived perfect, died a sinner’s death, rose to life, and ascended into Heaven.  It’s simple… yet simply life altering.For me, the Gospel is everything.  It not only saves my soul from hell, but gives me everything I need for life and godliness.  When famine comes, it is my sustenance. When doubt comes, it is my truth. When fear comes, it is my peace.  I know that in the Gospel, I am nothing, but Christ in me is everything.  What a relief!  What a joy!  What a promise!

Sometimes I am scared at the reality of the Gospel.  As a believer I skim over the grotesque nature of sin so that I can live a comfortable life, not consumed with the depravity of others in order to penetrate my light in a way that will lead them away from darkness.  The questions we are faced with today with the ever-increasing wickedness around, the dissolution of morality, the severity of sickness and catastrophe;  I don’t have the answers for, so I often remain silent.  I excuse my responsibility by thinking “I don’t know the Bible enough, I don’t know their situation enough, I don’t want to damage our relationships.”

Well, the real only foolish thing is to remain silent on the one thing I do know.  Christ is life.  What that means in the places of sickness and poverty, I wish it could magically erase these devastations now (it will some day when Christ returns!).  But I am learning that the hope of the Gospel, the transforming nature of the Creator working in the lives of the believers; is available for anyone, even an awful sinner like me.  It’s not for the faint of heart, but for the brave.  It meets all of us where we are at and gives us the hope and purpose for it all … the good and the bad.  For the adventure He has me on takes me to uncomfortable places within my self and within the world.

The Gospel is not some pity catch phrase to gloss over our lives and make them whitewashed with goodness.  The Gospel is to die to myself so that others might live.  The Gospel gives me life… the Gospel is my life.  He died so I might live… and the life I live, I live by faith in Jesus Christ so others might live.  Yes, it’s sloppy.  No, I am not perfect.  But I desire to be changed from the inside out.  No whitewashed tomb here… just an overhaul in process…. thanks to the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Apron of Servitude

August 28, 2010

I walked along the beach, sandals in one hand and the Bible in the other. It’s been a long time since I strolled alone with Jesus on the seashore. I miss these days.

My heart full of fussiness, tangled in with frustration, selfishness, and pride like a ball of jumbled Christmas lights. “Where do I begin?” I asked the Lord. “Just talk.” The prompting of the Spirit within me said.

Boy did I talk, and talk, and talk. Every word made me start to feel somewhat sane again.

“Lord, I know you already know what is in my heart, so let’s just be real,” I said out loud. Passers by may have thought I was talking to myself, but I didn’t care. I’m not crazy. He is alive.

“I know that You have led me to stay home to take care of the family and to write. None of which I am any good at following through. I abhor housework, cooking is a chore, and every time I think about writing ‘the book’ I feel like a sixth grader having to write a report. I don’t know where to start, what to do, and like the deadline was a week ago. Lord, I am undone. Frazzled at all edges. I want to have joy in what you have called me to do.”

I looked up and on the brink of the cliff stood a beautiful home, cape cod style, but painted burnt ember with a stone chimney and an inviting deck. I imagined the inside decorated cottage style with mishmash of patterns that somehow meld together into a calming and therapeutic atmosphere. Drinking tea with the windows open, reading a good book or dosing off to take a nap.

“That is what I want, Lord. A break. Even if just for a day.”

“I am your rest,” the Spirit responded. “Take My yoke on you for My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“Yes. I know that, Lord. But how? How do I find joy in the mundane? How do I yield to you instead of living for myself? I know what the secret is, but HOW?”

“Every day you wake up in the morning, before you even get out of bed, put on your apron of servitude. In order to be My disciple, you must die to yourself and serve. It is not about you anymore. You no longer live for yourself, but for Me. I may lead you to housework all day or I may lead you to serve the church, or help someone in need, or bless you with a day to pamper yourself. The important thing to remember is whatever I lead you to do… you are a servant. No more. You are the least. No greater. Remember to wear your apron wherever you go.”

Wow. My apron of servitude. Okay, Lord. Thank You for reminding me. I am no greater than a servant.

The next morning I woke up for the early feeding, 5:00am. As I forced my eyes to peel open, I remembered to put on the apron. “I am no greater than a servant,” I told myself as I shuffled my way to the baby’s room.

Throughout the day as I tidied the house, made plans for dinner, even talked with others, the Spirit constantly reminded me that I am no greater than a servant if I want to follow Christ. For He “came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

A few days later, a dear friend stopped by the house. “I found something for you at Anthropologie,” she said. I opened the brown box tied with red ribbon and pulled out a beautiful, feminine, apron. My heart skipped, “My apron of servitude!”

I tear up at the Lord’s thoughtfulness. Yes. This lesson is from Him. Wear my apron of servitude and remember, no matter where I go, I am in service for the King. That focus brings abundant joy… even when I am scrubbing the toilets.

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Suffering and Pain leads us to Life

July 24, 2010

In the quiet moments of my soul my thoughts reflect upon the suffering so bountiful in this world.  I still question in absolute trust why the Lord allows such pain and sorrow.  My spirit quivers at the thought that the Lord is restraining the boundaries of sin and death.  I thank the Lord for His grace in my life.  If He did not restrain evil, I would be consumed.

This week He brings to mind some truths from scripture and the world that begin to help me understand the way of the universe in this season of life and death comingling.

First He instructs me from Christ’s own sufferings.  His death was necessary to bring about redemption.  Suffering proceeded victory. The pain lasted a day, but joy came three days later.

Then I think of creation itself.  In this imperfect world, affected by the fall of man in the garden, pain and/or death precede new life.  Seeds must die to bear a new crop; mothers must experience pangs to birth new life; the darkness of night leads the way to the light of day.

Another example comes from Jesus’ teachings to His disciples.  He uses the cycle of death and life in nature to illustrate what must happen in our own bodies to experience eternal life that He offers. John 12:24-25 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.

Paul also uses death and life to teach us about Christian living.  Romans 8:13 “for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

From these thoughts I ascertain that physical death comes before spiritual life.  I am to put to death the deeds of the sinful flesh to live by the Holy Spirit.  I also see that I must die to myself in order to live for Christ.  The battle to destroy sin and death comes before the victory dance.  Tribulations and trials are here and will continue to come before Christ’s return in glory (Mark 13).  Sorrow lasts for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).  Praise the Lord that we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37)!

I simmer in with these thoughts as I watch Kavin nap in his pack ‘n play.  I almost forget the pain of childbirth as I watch the glory of this little life dreaming away.  Yet, I do not forget the suffering of his time in the hospital.  I do not forget the pain I felt in my heart not being able to hold him, watching him squirm in discomfort from the needles and tubes.  I do not forget petitioning the Lord on my knees in the bathroom at the Ronald MacDonald house late into the night, “Lord, please spare the son of Your handmaiden!”  I do not forget the Lord telling me to “offer Kavin to Me.  Lay him on the alter of sacrifice.”  I still do not understand why.  Why the Lord allowed our family to experience such pain. But I know that through the pain, through dying to my unbelief and clinging to Christ, through sacrificing my understanding to trust in Him… God brought about new life.  New life in Kavin’s physical body, yes, but even further, a new depth of spiritual life in me as I walked through the valley of the shadow of death.  His rod and His staff comforted me.

Suffering leads to life, to fruitfulness, to new birth.  I don’t understand why, but I just know it does.  I wish there were another way, but Jesus even Himself asked the Lord, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)  May we all be strengthened to endure the evil of this present age, knowing that we look forward to His blessed hope.

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Missions and Motherhood

June 20, 2010

As I step back from the activities of the church, I begin to see more clearly the disconnect existing in my life between participating in the organization of church and simply embodying the church.

I recognize the activity of missions as no longer an event or program, but a lifestyle.  My heart is called to mission, yet my body is called to the home.  How can the two meet?  How can I glorify God in the world and make His name known where it is not yet, when I am dually called to godly wifedom, motherhood, and as a “worker in the home” (Titus 2)?

Over these past weeks this question dangled in the forefront of my mind: thoughts of condemnation and lack of faithfulness plaguing my consciousness.  Do these callings, these burdens, these longings to fulfill Christ’s mission in my life: do they conflict?  How do I live out in obedience and not compromise my faithfulness in any area?

It is for this reason I turn to the Word and discover the mission of Christ is one not solely fulfilled through the contemporary programs of church.  Christians in the Word lived out their faith in the daily routines of work and family.  Disciples fished, Paul built tents, Mary raised her family, and the Proverbs 31 woman managed the home, employees, and operated her own business (made belts and sold them, bought a field and planted a vineyard).  Their mission to be a light to the nations happened as they were living out their lives as a part of the body.  Not just as they passed the communion tray or participated on a short-term missions team.

I begin to realize I foolishly mistook activity for faithfulness. Somehow, I have surmised, if I am not actively involved in the programs of the church missions events, than I am forsaking my call to mission.  If I am not traveling the globe with the gospel, I am not living out my calling to be a voice for the nations.

Yet, the Word teaches us that life IS mission.  Where ever Christ sends us: to our homes, and/or to other nations, we are to embody Christ Himself to those we encounter. Life itself is a community-transforming platform of Christ-like development.

The passion of my heart to see all people groups worship Christ remains burning in my soul and in the tears I cry in prayer.  I dream of bowing before His throne and hearing Him worshipped in every language on the earth.  I am still called to be involved in bringing the Gospel to those who do not have a Christian witness among them. The church still must advocate and send out long-term workers to transform other communities where Christ is not known.  That is our mandate as the church.  Christ is to be exalted among the nations.  No options here. (Matthew 28).

Yet a new freedom flows from my deepened understanding of mission.  I am no longer foolish enough to limit God’s mission purpose to the programs of the church organization.  Yes! He certainly uses these programs and I still enjoy participation, but they are not all inclusive for the Christian mission life.  I no longer confuse the body, called to live out His mission, with the organization created to facilitate believers.  I’m not a Christian because I go to church, nor am I a missionary because I did an outreach event.  Missional living, as Ed Stetzer says, is “to live sent: to identify with and join God in His mission to seek, save, and serve others in the name of Christ.”

I now breath a new freedom in mission.  Even if I cannot participate in all the events of my church’s mission program, I can live out mission in each activity I am involved in… from praying as I wash dishes to crossing cultures to befriend my immigrant neighbors.

After all, I could spend all my time volunteering for church activities and never actually be following Christ in His mission for my life. (Matthew 7:21).  I long to say, “I finished the work You gave me to do” (John 17:4) when I see Christ in all His glory.