Eternal Manna

Last night I was feeling the tempting, and sinful pull of my various distractions.  I was feeling frustrated and despondent.  I wanted to sleep, but I knew I wouldn’t.  I didn’t want to take a sleeping pill.  I want to get out of the rut of depending on sleeping pills to sleep.  So my mind was coming up with all sorts of ways to ‘pass the time’ until I felt tired.  The passing of time is mostly just me escaping my life until my life is suitable and agreeable again … i.e. until I can go to sleep.  In the middle of one of my distractions I wasn’t feeling any better, any more sleepy and tired.  So I closed my eyes and prayed for help.  And in that moment I realized I just wanted Jesus.  So I went to the book of John and began to read.  Jesus helped soothe my mind by chapter 5 and I slept beautifully, soundly.

So when I got up this morning I felt well rested.  Rather than get up immediately I just spent some time talking with God.  I opened up the book of John to read chapter 6.  There is a section in this chapter that I have always struggled with.  So I can easily imagine the struggles the people who heard Jesus say these things had.  But as I read the passage this morning the Holy Spirit opened my heart and my mind … and I finally got it.  I finally understood what Jesus was saying.  So I want to write it down, to remember.  Who knows, it might help others who have struggled with this same passage.  Or you could completely disagree with me and the Holy Spirit can be working some other thoughts in your heart and mind.  Either way, considering the words of Jesus is never time ill spent.  So here is the handful of verses in John 6:25-59

                “When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Jesus answered them. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.  For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of god?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believe in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”  They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Jesus answered hem, “Do not grumble among yourselves.  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’  Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man gives us his flesh to eat?”

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Now I did not grow up as a devote Jew, but I still know that cannibalism is bad.  But the crowd of Jewish people who heard this had Scripture to guide them.  There are several places in the Old Testament where God gives commands not do eat the flesh of man.  God also gives a command never to eat meat that still has life’s blood in it.  That’s not to say we can’t eat rare steaks.  But we can’t eat meat that still has living blood in it, like eating the meat off of a living animal.  The Lord expressly forbids the drinking of blood, or the consumption of life’s blood in any way.  So if I, a dumb gentile, has stumbled through this teaching of Jesus …how much more did the Jews there stumble?  The disciples themselves say that this is a hard word to understand.

Then the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the beginning of John’s book.  John calls Jesus the Word of God.  Jesus is the living, breathing, incarnate Word of God.  Jesus himself says the only reason He lives is because of the Father.  Jesus emphatically and repeatedly says He is here to do the will of the Father.  His actions, His words, and His life are nothing more than the reflected will of God.  Which brings me back to Genesis, where the Lord says we are created in His image, to be His image bearers.  God the Father does not have a human form or body.  He is wholly spirit.  And if Jesus perfectly reflects that, He is not teaching about flesh and worldly things.  He is teaching about spirit things.

So how, and why, do I spiritually feed on Jesus’ flesh?  Jesus knew He was going to go to the cross.  He knew he would be beaten, scourged, and crucified.  His body, His flesh, would atone for every sin that everything and everyone has ever committed against God since the beginning of time until the end of time.  John the baptizer calls Jesus God’s atoning Lamb.  Jesus is a burnt offering to the LORD.  The perfect sacrifice.  Jesus repeatedly says this is the reason He came.  This is the very reason for His flesh.  This is the very reason He took on human form.  The only reason Jesus needed to have flesh for us to feast on is to atone for our trespasses.  So when he taught, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  He was not telling me to actually eat his flesh, He was telling me to spiritually feast on the only reason He had flesh.  I am to spiritually consume, daily, His perfect atoning sacrifice on the cross.  I will get to why I know He tells me to do this daily in a moment.  I want to talk through the drinking of His blood.

The Old Testament was taught to the Jews from birth.  They knew that the Lord required blood as the payment of sin.  God said in the garden of Eden that sin would lead to death.  And God repeatedly teaches that life is in the blood.  So the only way to cover the death created by our sin is to cover it in life, to cover it with blood.  The life in the blood would wash away the stain of death.  And as I mentioned above Jesus is the perfect, sinless, spotless sacrifice.  Therefore His blood is perfect and everlasting.  Jesus calls himself the living sacrifice, which means He lives through His sacrifice.  His blood will never stop flowing, because only death can stop blood from flowing.  Jesus’ blood covers my sin.  I must continually wash myself with His blood.  The body of Christ covers my body on the outside, my flesh, in His righteousness.  The blood of Christ covers me inside, for my own blood is inside me.  His skin is my skin.  His blood is my blood.  I cannot live without either my skin or my blood.  I cannot hope to live eternally without Jesus’ skin and Jesus’ blood.

So why daily?  Because Jesus teaches me this by comparing Himself to manna.  When God brought Israel out of the land of Egypt, across the Red Sea, they had no food to eat.  They feared they would starve to death.  So they cried out to the Lord and God provided.  God gives them manna from heaven.  It dusts everything around them.  The Jews were to gather it to make bread.  Good commands them to only gather as much as they need for the day.  When a few of the Jews try to gather more than what they needed that day …the manna rotted.  God was teaching the Jews how to depend on Him daily for the very basic necessity of food.  The Lord will provide.  Yet all those Jews who ate this life giving bread in the wilderness still died.  None of them are still walking around today.  That’s because the manna was a gift of bread and life.  It was not an everlasting gift of bread that would lead to an everlasting gift of life.  Manna would rot after only a day.  The Jews could not depend on manna to live.  They needed to depend on the LORD.

That is why Jesus taught, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Manna was never living.  It was a powder like substance that could be molded by human hands and turned into bread.  Eternal things are of God.  We cannot create eternal things.  We cannot alter, mold, or shape eternal things.  We are not little gods.  Jesus is saying that the Father is living, eternal, undying.  Jesus lives as the Father lives because the Father is in Him and He is in the Father.  Jesus is eternal.  Jesus died, but He did not stay dead.  That is why we do not know where He was buried.  Jesus isn’t there any more.  Jesus is the true manna from heaven, the ever living, ever eternal manna.  And just as the Jews at the manna to live in the wilderness … I must daily consume Jesus’ atonement for me in the wilderness of this world.

I know this might be a ‘no duh’ moment for some of you.  While these are things I have known, I have never really connected them to this very hard word.  I couldn’t see past the cannibalism I thought Jesus was calling these people to do.  This was one of those passages where I thought Jesus to be a little mean by giving such a hard word to the people.  But these were supposed to be godly Jews, who went to Synagogue every week.  They were to memorize the Old Testament.  These should have been things they knew.  They just didn’t have proper teachers.  Then there is the fact that Jesus is the perfect teacher.  He does not wish me to be a parrot of facts.  He does not want me to simply remember that  1+1 = 2.   He wants me to know why, and how that addition works so that I can apply the same idea to  2+2 to come up with the answer of 4.

So this was my ah-ha moment.  I no longer stumble over this piece of Scripture.  For that I am eternally grateful that the Holy Spirit took the time to teach me this morning.  And I find myself content, and at peace.  In this moment I feel completely loved by the LORD (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).  And I am so grateful that They take the time to come spend a morning with me for a little Bible study.  I am no one doing nothing in the middle of nowhere.  But to God I am His daughter, and Jesus has time for all His children, and there is never a place the Holy Spirit cannot go or find.  Which makes me perfectly special to the LORD.  And that is a miracle I would like to never get over.

Let God Be True

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

 (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

                I was pondering this verse today.  I have heard it before but I had never really studied it or given it thought.  It was one of those verses that I passed by, going “Yep, that’s true.”  And I never gave it a second glance.  So today it was odd that I looked at this verse and studied it.  I know this is a verse, now, that I will not forget.  I will know right where it is.  Today, as I sat out in the sun in my yard, with my Bible in hand, and a pad of paper, I had an Ah-ha moment.  And it came in a way I didn’t expect it to.

                I have spent so much of my life steeped in false religions.  I was a practicing pagan.  I fully embraced eastern religions and ideas.  I had well over $2000 in books about Druidism, Wicca, Tarot Cards, Hinduism, Buddhist Philosophy, and witchcraft.  I had spent many such days, out in the sun, worshipping the sun for its heat, praying to the wind that caressed my face, and sitting in the stew of the earth, the tree spirits, and the dirt beneath my feet.  But today was different.  And the reason it was different was because of 2 Timothy 3:16-17.  In all those books, all those ideas, all those blended faiths, I only ever had the vaguest grip of truth.  All those truths could be blended, edited, or mixed together like some cocktail.  But those two verses really changed things for me today.

                Today I felt capital T Truth.  This Bible is His work, His creation.  And as the first chapter in the book of Roman’s points out I had spent all that time worshiping created things rather than my Creator.  In my old life I needed all those books.  Now I only need this one book.  The LORD said He created the sun so as I enjoyed it’s heat I did so in fellowship, being created myself, knowing that the Lord was there with me, enjoying the heat.  His hand guided the wind across my shoulder.  His mouth brought into being the tree to my side and the dirt beneath my toes.  These are His gifts to me, to us.  Those moments today aren’t there to be worshipped, they are there to be enjoyed.  And they all glorify Him.  And if all these things I used to worship glorify God …. Shouldn’t I, who was made above and apart from all of it (according to Genesis) glorify God as well?  So why am I not?

                I looked back at these verses again and read the list.  The next thing that struck me is the words that are not there.  The Bible isn’t for condemnation, criticism, accusation, or guilt.  The Bible is a love letter, which I have heard before.  But today it really sort of hit me that this a letter written by my Abba, Father …to me His eternal daughter.  He is telling me all about Himself, and explaining why this creation ….this creation that I chose over Him before ….is all broken.  Why the world doesn’t work the way He designed it for me.  So I should pay attention.  I should hold it and know it as I hope my child would if I never got to see them….and all they had of me was this love letter.  And His wisdom, His counsel, is so much more perfect than mine could ever be.  So why do I treat it differently?  Why don’t I listen?  And I felt convicted.

                Then, immediately my mind burst open with the Holy Spirit.  God wrote this book through human authors.  Those human authors were not perfect.  They were sinful men, just like me.  They struggled through life, just like me.  But they had moments in time where the Holy Spirit just filled them.  Where the LORD used their talents, and gifts, to glorify Him.  Just as the sun glorifies Him.  Just as Jesus glorified Him.  These men had moments where the Holy Spirit filled them.  It didn’t happen all the time, and it won’t happen all the time with me.  But God used those men who He knew would listen, and knew they could find the words to say exactly what God wanted them to say.  He uses people who yield to His strength and His power and His mind.  All to glorify Him.  So why am I not doing that?  Why am I just content to be impressed with how much He uses others?  Why do I resist, or disbelieve?  He told me in this letter, this letter written by Him, that He would use me for His good works.  Sure, it won’t be the Bible, but it will still glorify Him.  And that is enough, or it should be.

My Mircale

[Jesus said] “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:31-34 NIV).

            This passage has really hit me this week.  Two weeks ago the LORD gifted me with a healing miracle.  I had a very nasty eye disease that would take a long while to clear up.  During the weeks or months of trying to get this condition under control I could develop scarring inside my eyes that could lead to blindness and/or glaucoma.  In the first week alone that I had this condition my eyes got worse and I had an intensely unpleasant migraine because of my eyes.  My doctor was concerned.  I was scared.  The Pastors at Mars Hill Church prayed over me that Sunday, and then my Community Group prayed over me on Thursday.  The following morning I went in to see the doctor.  Much to her surprise, and my own, she found absolutely no traces of the disease in my eyes.  She said she expected them to be worse, not to be completely healed.  I just laughed.  She said the medicine must have really worked with my body.  I told her I was pretty sure it was Jesus.

Following this miracle healing I had to tell everyone, naturally.  I felt so completely giddy inside.  I wish I could say I now have a better understanding of how the woman in this passage must have felt; but I doubt it would be accurate.  I had this eye problem for all of two weeks.  The woman in this passage had been bleeding for twelve years.  For twelve years she suffered.  She was an outcast.  She spent everything she had on trying to fix this problem.  Then in an instant, when she was bold enough to reach out to Jesus … to touch Him … she was healed.  Completely healed.  She was freed from her suffering.

While this is one of my favorite stories in the Bible it wasn’t until yesterday that I was struck sorta dumb by it.  When I first read this verse of Scripture I immediately thought of my eyes.  I did a mental jig with the Holy Ghost, and wiggled in my seat.  Then as I continued to read the “Girlfriends in God” devotional I was struck by my lack of understanding and faith.  I had no doubt in my heart that God could heal my eyes.  But I do have … maybe not doubt … more like a lack of understanding when it comes to a ‘condition’ I have been living with for twelve years.  What surprised me is I had never looked at this wonderful story and applied it to my condition.

For about twelve years now I have been doing everything I can to deal with my condition.  I poured out all my money into going to school to help me better deal with aspects of my condition.  I have kept myself an outcast, refusing to get close to people.  Twelve years ago the man I was in love with, engaged to, decided to do me harm.  I had been in a car accident.  I pinched three nerves in my lower back and crushed my kneecap.  I was in so much pain.  He didn’t want to hear about how sex hurt.  Not even when I begged him to stop.  So for six months he raped, abused, and tormented me every day and night.  The physical therapists couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better.  He was the only one there to help me.  So my abuser would assault me, then help me shower to get cleaned up, then take me to the doctor or to physical therapy, and then he would take me home to assault me again.

This destroyed a good decade of my life.  No one around us knew what was going on.  I had completely checked out.  It took me about seven years before I would check back in.  By that time it was too late to press charges.  And it took several more years for me to really understand it wasn’t my fault.  Sometimes I still slip into that lie.  But because of that abuse I put on a lot of weight.  I thought if I had gained weight he would no longer find me attractive and so he would leave me alone.  After we broke up I kept the weight on because I wanted to keep everyone away from me.  I felt so disgusting and horrible on the inside, it felt appropriate to look it on the outside.  It hasn’t been until this past year that I have been in a good enough place spiritually that I can finally start to work on my weight.  I hadn’t felt good enough inside until Christ.

Now I had become a Christian almost four years ago, but I was dealing with so many other issues that I hadn’t really immediately invited Jesus into this part of me.  I had always assumed I would always be completely broken inside.  My soul is like thousands of tiny shards of glass scattered across the ground.  Jesus and I are just starting to mend those pieces back together.  I went to Redemption Group at Mars Hill.  It was really good, but I fear I might need to go again.  I know I am just scratching the surface of all the ick I have locked away.  I know Jesus has taken away the sins done against me.  I know He takes away my shame.  I know these things, but my heart doesn’t always understand them.

So considering this is one of my favorite stories in the Gospels you can imagine my dumbfounded surprise when I read this devotional by “Girlfriends in God”.  I am freed from my suffering.  My faith healed my eyes.  I know I need to pray for the faith to heal these much deeper wounds.  The wounds that have spread into every aspect of my life.  Reading that verse over and over again my head knows all I have to do is reach out my hand to Jesus.  It is really that simple.  I can’t really explain to you why my heart thumps in my chest dimwittedly.  I don’t know why this concept is so hard to put into action.  I love Jesus.  I want Him in every part of my life.  But I am not entirely sure how to give this to Him.

It’s not like I don’t want to. I just don’t know how to.  This has been mine for so long, and I have been trying everything I can to simply function around people in a normal way as possible.  Most people are completely oblivious to how often I simply want to run, hide, scream, or freak out.  People have no idea how hard it is for me not to scratch the skin right off my hands sometimes.  It is getting better, so much better.  My PTSD is improving.  Since having giving my life to Jesus I haven’t had a single night terror where as I used to have them once a week.  I still haven’t had a good night’s sleep, however, in twelve years.  It is an improvement, but I know I am stuck.

I am working on a journal to walk through what happened to me with the LORD.  I am not enjoying that journaling.  Most of the time I avoid it for as long as I can.  I just don’t want to go there.  I am being stubborn about it, I know.  But I want more of this peace I am already tasting.  I want to be freed of my suffering.  I know a major part of my problem is I cling to the chains.  The chains are all I know for the last 12 years.  I have only known Jesus for almost four years.  I know Jesus is trustworthy, and yet I don’t know why I struggle with it.  I know part of it is shame, and fear, despite the fact I know Jesus took my shame and tells me to not fear.  It is a battle of wills and I want mine to lose.  I pray mine will lose.  I want my faith to heal me.  I want to be bold enough to reach out my hand to touch the hem of His robe.

It was so easy to do when it was my eyes.  It was so easy to trust the LORD with my health through cancer.  I even found it easier to sink into the love of my Savior with the crippling of my ankle/leg.  It is simple for me to trust with physical things.  The deeper things go, the more I clam up, and the more distant I become.  I don’t want that sort of relationship with Christ.  I know He doesn’t want that sort of relationship with me.  The deeper sides to me are no more complex to the LORD than my eyes.  He is fully capable of perfectly mending my soul.  It doesn’t make sense to doubt Him.  I know deep inside I don’t.  I am trying to figure out why these shallower and medium levels hesitate and resist.

Abba, Father I believe, please help me with my unbelief.  Turn this fear filled heart of stone to the trusting beating heart of flesh.  Build in me the trust for my deeper understanding of you.  Help me break  down these walls of fear and years of building.  I know I can’t do it on my own.  Only Your mighty hand, and Your great mercy can safe me from my self.  You are powerful enough to mend our broken bodies.  You are gracious enough to soothe our tortured souls.  You only are worthy of praise, worship, and unfailing trust.  And yet I fail to give you all those so often.  Please help us LORD to be better worshipers of Your glory.  Holy Spirit please soak me in love for Christ, drench us all in love to be the abject slaves of our Savior.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Flipped around Repentance

Oh my soul

Oh my Jesus

Judas sold You for thirty

I’d have done it for less

Oh my soul

Oh my savior

Peter denied You three times

I have denied You more

As the nails went in

I was standing right there

As you breathed Your last

I shook my head and I cried

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my soul

Oh my Jesus

Judas sold You thirty

I’d have done it for less

Oh my soul

Oh my Savior

Peter denied You three times

I have denied You more

And the blood ran down

I was standing right there

And the water poured

I shook my head and I cried

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We have destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We have destroyed Your Son

As the nails went in

I was standing right there

And You breathed Your last

–          Lyrics to “What have we done?”

This is one of my most favorite songs I have ever heard.  It is one of the most difficult and convicting songs I have ever heard.  Several of the bands at Mars Hill church sing this song.  And when I hear it being sung by so many voices around me … I am overwhelmed by this bitter sweet loving pain.  Because I don’t know if I would have been one of the women following Jesus, carrying His cross, and weeping.  Or would I be a scoffer?  Or in passive defiance of the Perfect Lamb by merely watching what was being done to Him?  I do know I wouldn’t have understood the cup of wrath I have been pouring into my entire life … was about to be drunk to the very last drop by Jesus.

And Jesus didn’t just drink my cup.  If every single sin that will ever be committed was but a single drop into that cup … I can’t even begin to fathom how huge that cup had to be.  Jesus drank every last drop.  He endured the wrath of God.  He did it for me.  He did it for You.  He did it for everyone.  Every last single person that has ever existed and will ever exist.  It is mind blowing.  It is completely scandalous!  The Holy Father, the Holy Son, and the Holy Ghost did all of this out of a love I won’t ever really understanding until I am standing in the presence of the LORD.

I recently listened to a sermon preached by Pastor Paris Reidhead, and he said that through the cross and the blood of Christ is the only way God could get glory out of a human being.  I wanted to argue with him but the stink of my pride in that argument shut me up pretty quickly.  His statement is bothersomely true; which is why my heart cringes and aches each time I sing “I was standing right there”.  It is why I am continually baffled by the love the LORD continues to pour out on me in spite of the fact that we have destroyed His Son.

It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t there myself.  I destroyed His Son with each sin I have committed and will commit.  I drove those nails in every time I deny Jesus because of fear of man issues that honestly mean nothing in eternity.  Every lash of the scourge that tore through His flesh I brought down on Him by willingly walking into and toward as many temptations as I could find.  And, yes, I do know I have been forgiven all of these things and a good deal more.  I know that right now I am hid in Christ before God, spotless and blameless.  I know I am cherished, loved, and a treasured daughter of the LORD.  These are all truths spoken to me from pages of the Bible.  But these heart felt facts don’t change what I have done, or what I still do.

Pastor Paris Reidhead spoke of repentance as well.  He said that most people’s idea of repentance is nothing more than Gospel glossed humanism.  That most people don’t understand the enormity of their sin, the depth of their guilt by a Holy and Righteous God; and, that they only repent and tremble in fear of God because their skin is about to be singed from the fires of hell.  He put it plainly when he said that repentance isn’t about a good person dealing with the punishments of a bad God.  It is about a bad person standing before a Holy, Righteous, and Good God.  That we all deserve hell, because we are sinners and we love our sin.  Every time we sin we have added another drop in that cup of wrath that Jesus drank.

Sure, He already drank it.  But I had never viewed my sin like that.  The LORD knows everything.  He knew how much I would sin.  He knew how much you would sin.  That cup of wrath is precise.  This doesn’t give me free license to carry on as if it is all taken care of.  If I truly love Jesus I can’t.  I don’t want to add any more to that cup.  I want my drops to decrease and not increase.  I am just sitting here so dumb at not having seen something this simple.  The LORD knows what I will do already, but now I am aware of this on a level I simply wasn’t before.  I know I have, but I don’t want to destroy Jesus.  He is my Savior.  I love Him.

Which is why I am really grateful for this song.  I can’t truly repent with all that I am unless I fully understand the weight of my sin.  I need to understand what my sin has completely done to my Holy God.  I know that only being thoroughly wrecked by my sin and failures can I then be picked up by the Holy Ghost to unimaginable heights of freedom in Christ, and drenched in the love of the LORD.  I can’t just take the gift of salvation without lovingly meditating on what this gift cost.  I want to savor every last drop of grace the LORD has given to me.  I don’t want to take it for granted.  I don’t want to see it as something casual or non-spectacular.  God’s grace is scandalous.  And I am thankful for that.

The last thing Reidhead touched on was how we love Jesus.  Do we approach the throne of God with the cross as a bargaining chip?  You know, I’ll take Jesus in exchange for heaven.  Jesus isn’t a bartering chip.  Jesus didn’t die on the cross for my eternal happiness as His prime product.  It is a by-product but it wasn’t the point.  Which is a real slap in the face because I think I have seen Jesus like that before in my life.  Pastor Reidhead then spoke a truth that woke me up, and made me truly examine how I feel about the LORD.  He said that those who truly love Jesus and worship Jesus, and obey Jesus … in their hearts say, “LORD I will love you, obey you, and worship you even if at the end of all things I end up in hell.  If that is where you want me to go.  Because YOU alone are worthy of my love, obedience, and worship.  Because YOU deserve all of me.  Hell isn’t a deciding factor.  YOU LORD are the only factor I see or care about.”

And I had never looked at my faith that way.  Would I still love Jesus, worship the LORD, and obey His laws … if I knew I was going to hell?  Would that change how I feel?  Would His holiness, His goodness, His righteousness … be enough for me to devote myself in abject adoration to the LORD simply because He deserves it?  I would have to say in past times of my life I shamefully say no.  Right now I think I give, and live out, an uncomfortable yes.  I know each day my yes becomes stronger and more comfortable bit by bit.  But this is definitely a lifetime of sanctification to get it there.  It just flips everything around.

I’m not a Christian because of anything I did.  I am saved by the Blood of Christ because I am His reward for His suffering.  He deserves me for the price He paid.  He deserves so much better than I give Him.  God willing, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, I am starting to change that.  Thank you LORD.  Thank you God.  Thank you Jesus.  Thank you Holy Ghost.  I am so blessed.  Undeservedly showered by Your grace.  Thank you.  And please continue to grow in me this vine of You and Your values.  For I am nothing without You and I can do nothing without You.  Amen.

Heavenly Father and earthly father

In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” (Matthew 6:9)

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:” (John 1:12)

                Talking to my earthly father is awkward at best.  We don’t have a bad relationship, but we don’t have a very good relationship.  I am trying to work on it, and I believe my father is too in his own way.  It is just that our ‘ways’ are so completely different.  It’s hard, and sometimes I get frustrated in sadness.  I want our relationship to be so great.  I want it to be like the relationship I hear my Pastor talk about having with his daughters.  But it’s not.  I am beginning to understand this yearning I feel for a wonderful relationship with my father is a fraction of the yearning my Heavenly Father must feel for me.

I am a pretty crappy daughter to my Heavenly Father.  Again, His ways and my ways are completely different.  He is holy and righteous and pure love … and I … well I rebel against Him, defy Him, and continually break His heart with my sin.  I cringe with this truth as I sit pretty on the thought that I am a pretty good daughter to my earthly father.  God hasn’t lied to me or about me.  God hasn’t betrayed me.  God has never hurt me.  God has never given up on me.  God always wants me around Him.  I am sitting here typing this out and I am completely at a loss why I don’t show as much devotion to the LORD as I do for my father who has done all those things.

I know it is easier to have a ‘good’ relationship with a father I am passingly involved with.  There is no real intimacy between my dad and me.  I seek intimacy with God.  As surreal as this sounds I actually think I know God better than my father; which isn’t saying a lot I know.  So I would like to ‘comfort’ myself with the idea that this somehow excuses all my failures.  It’s not true.  I know that.  I have a lot of sin when it comes to having God be Abba, Father.  And just sitting here now writing this I have to shamefully admit I actually have a lot of sin when it comes to my earthly father as well.

As confusing and frustrating as this all sounds to me I can take true comfort in one fact.  As a child of my father, and as a child of God, this will never change.  I will always be the daughter of my father, and the daughter of my God.  And, at least, in the relationship between Abba and myself He is perfect and not going to mess anything up.  My dad and I are good at that in our relationship.  I know I really need to try harder, and put more effort into our relationship.  Into both my relationships.  It is just so easy to be lazy with a dad who is equally lazy; and lazy with a Father who won’t ever leave, give up, or stop loving me.  And I really hate that I have to admit that.  But it is true.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” (John 20:17)

 “(16) And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them.  I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’

(17) Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.  Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’  (18) ‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.’” (2 Corinthians 6: 16-18)

                Jesus is the only  One who can redeem both of my relationships.  For God could not receive me as I was: I was unclean.  Through the blood of Christ I am made clean.  Because of the blood of Christ I am a living temple that the Holy Spirit can live within.  Thus Abba, Father will always draw me near.  I can be separate from the world on my life journey of sanctification.  Since Jesus has ascended I can cling to Him.  I need to cling to Him.  I need to bury myself so deep inside of Him so that I can do a better job of reflecting the glory of God.  This is perfect hope for an imperfect sinner.

With my earthly father things aren’t so much like that.  He will hurt me.  I will hurt him.  He will ignore me.  I will ignore him.  We will skirt around each other in a dance of acquaintances.  I don’t want that.  I don’t think he wants that.  Jesus is the only way to get closer to my dad.  Learning about Christ, how He related to God as His Father, will help mold me a path to follow to my dad.  Learning to love and forgive like Christ can continue to change me into a new creation so that I can better love and forgive my father.  I just can’t be lazy.  I don’t want to be lazy.  I really need to be in continually prayer for the Holy Spirit to take away this laziness.

Abba, Father I am struggling

“(2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  (4) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4 NKJV)

“(2) Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (3) because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (4) Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”   (James 1:2-4 NIV)

“(2) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, (3) for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  (4) And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1:2-4 ESV)

 

This is one of those life verses for me.  My life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses these last four years.  And I have only been a Christian for four years.  I didn’t become a Christian lightly or by chance.  It was by God’s design.  In God’s providence He prepped me right as I found out I had cancer.  The Holy Spirit gave me the will to read the Gospel of John three times before I had the surgery to have the cancerous tumors removed.  And then right before I went under Jesus spoke to me three very simple words, “You are mine.”

Those three words changed everything.  They rocked my world.  When I woke up everything was different.  I was a completely different person.  If I had the money I would have legally changed my name.  So many I was ‘lucky’ in the sense that I got saved while dealing with cancer.  I was never under the false impression that my life would be easy simply because I was a Christian.  Which is a really good thing because my life has been one really had challenge after another since Jesus reached down and claimed me for His team.

I have trials of many, various kinds.  And I put the three different versions of these verses up there because I think if you read the slightly different variations you get more out of them.  Or at least I do.  All of Scripture is God breathed, so I believe the various versions can really help paint an over all picture of what my Father is trying to say to me.  Especially when I am not feeling very patient, steadfast, or filled with perseverance.  I get there most days, but some days it is hard to reach that spot.  It is a daily walk, or hobble in my case.

My struggle right now is personal, and has nothing to do with my physical health.  It is a struggle I have been dealing with for a long time so I am actually pretty good at steadfastness and perseverance.  I waiver on the patience more than I ought to.  I try to change things even though I know I can’t.  All I can do is pray and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.  The one aspect of this struggle that I have a very hard time grasping is counting it as a joy.

I don’t see it as a joy at all.  It is painful.  It causes my heart harm.  Some nights this struggles has me cry myself to sleep.  I don’t know how to look at it and see it as a blessing.  It just hurts.  And I know it likely won’t stop hurting any time soon.

I know my lack of patience is a sin.  I know I am supposed to wait upon the Lord.  And when I am waiting during my trials, while I am persevering, and holding steadfast I am to turn to Jesus because he is my strength.  I know I cannot do this on my own.  I am not even sure why I try.  Pride.  Pride is why I try if I am honest.  I think I can handle this on my own, that I can do this on my own, that I should be able to take care of things on my own.  Pride.  Pride.  Pride.  Pride.  Pride.  I am not sure why my pride comes out so strongly when I am struggling.  Humility, humbly seeking out Jesus should always be my first response.

I, of course, say it is.  But I don’t do much more than say a quick prayer to him while I am annoyed.  I don’t seek Jesus out in His word.  In my frustrations and fears I turn inward, wanting to figure everything out myself (my pride again) and I alienate everyone around me.  Rather than turning to those who love me for help, rather than seeking the aid of fellow Christians, and rather than seeking out godly counsel.  Besides, I am in too bad a mood to listen to it anyway.  I wouldn’t want to subject them to me (pride again) so it is better if I just keep to myself.  The devil is really good at telling me little lies to feed my frustrations and lead me further and further from the very person who can help me.  Jesus.

Humility is hard.  Telling someone you can’t do something, and that you need help is hard.  Swallowing my pride and going before a large group of people and asking for help is hard.  Getting angry, getting frustrated, getting annoyed, and withdrawing from the world is easy.  The devil always makes his path easier than God’s path.  That is why his traps are so easy to fall into.  God’s way takes thought, effort, consideration, love, devotion, care, and utter selflessness.  We have to die to ourselves which means giving up my pride.

Which is really a kinda funny, odd sorta thing to realize.  The biggest struggle I have with finding joy in Jesus is pride.  Pride is the biggest thing this world tries to sell me.  I would rather have Jesus.  The joy isn’t what is important, Jesus is.  And I need to realize that when I go down that easier path, when I pick pride, annoyance, frustration, and anger….I am telling Jesus that He isn’t worth it.  I am telling Jesus He isn’t the most important thing.  I am telling Jesus He is second place.  I am saying Jesus, even though you are God and have promised me only good things….I don’t trust you enough to handle this.  So I am going it on my own.  I don’t need you.

“I don’t need you”

Those four words make my soul shutter, and I cry thinking about how my actions and deeds actually say that to Jesus.  I am horrified and shamed to think of how those four words stack up to the soul sweet, life altering three words Jesus spoke to me, “You are mine.”  And the thing is Jesus doesn’t need me.  Jesus wants me.  Jesus wants me and loves me.  Jesus pursues me even when I betray Him and give Him a gabillion reasons not to.  I am not just undeserving of Jesus, I am ill-deserving.  It is a miracle and a mystery why He would want me and love me.  I am just grateful God does.  And I am grateful that the Holy Spirit never gives up on me and is always by my side to pick me up again.

I know I will go to bed tonight wrecked and in tears over this struggle, repenting in my heart with the pure hope I will do better tomorrow.  I am also shamefully afraid that tomorrow I will do just as bad a job of it.  The one thing I am not afraid of, though, is losing Jesus’ love.  I do not fear the Holy Spirit turning His back on me no matter the countless times I have, and will, turn my back on Him.  I pray I will do a better job tomorrow.  I pray for joy in this trial, as well as the others in my life.  I know that Jesus fully understands what I am going through.  I know the Holy Spirit knows my mind and heart.  I know my Heavenly Father will answer my prayers, and only give me good things.  I know this in my heart to be true.  I just have to be patient.  I need to persevere.  I need to worship Him in steadfast love and adoration.

Abba Father, you know I am not perfect at this.  You know I never will be perfect this.  I will never give up trying.  Just as I know you will never give up on me, your daughter.  Thank you for being a dad on whose chest I can beat my fists in pain and frustrations.  Thank you for being a daddy in whose lap I can curl up and cry out my sorrows on Your chest.  Thank you Dad, for being somewhere safe for me to be myself, where I am enough….in all my flaws, brokenness, and imperfections …it is nothing but beauty and perfect for you.  Thank you for always being the one man in my life I can count on to be faithful, honest, and true.  To love me without conditions, restrictions, and comparisons.  Abba Father, I know you are Holy and Divine and Righteous.  The Creator of heaven and earth.  But tonight, right now, you are my heaven dad.  Just that, right now, for me.  So thank you daddy, for being here for me.  I love you when you are Mighty, and I love you when you are mine.  I love you when I am Yours.  Amen