Christians still killing Jesus

I read an article today that has been gnawing at my brain stem for most of the day.  I found myself filled with an anger I didn’t know how to categorize.  Was it righteous?  What exactly am I angry at?  So I have been gnawing on it with the Holy Spirit, talking to the Lord about what exactly has me so riled in spirit.  I am not used to my spirit being so riled.  My feelings, my pride, or my want to be right is often the source of my riling.  This felt new and different.  And it has taken me most of the day to figure out what has upset me.  As I talked it out with H.G. (aka the Holy Ghost) I came to realize that I am upset because we—meaning us Christians—are still killing Jesus.

I know I have probably just offended you if you are Christian reading this.  I offended myself when I realized I was complicit in the continued murder of my Savior.  But H.G. walked me through this offense and I hope some of you will walk along with me.

So my journey started when I read an article about how multi-site churches are from Satan.  I am a member of Mars Hill Church, a multi-site church, and so I was offended that someone said I basically am a member of satanic gathering.  I have also been a member of a small church of maybe 150 people.  Both Pastor Dan and Pastor Mark Driscoll love Jesus, preach Jesus, and have taught me a great deal.  I am not biased one way or another.  I think both styles of churches are needed to suit the countless styles of God’s children.  I belong to a non-denominational Church, and I have belonged to a Baptist church.  Again, I am not biased on denominations as long as they teach the Bible and preach the good news of Jesus Christ.  This isn’t about what type of church is best, or what style of church you prefer, or the personality of the Pastor you learn the Bible the best from.  That is between you and H.G.

What bothered me is that this article was written by a Christian and was posted for a Christian blog/magazine/website thing.  I don’t know how to categorize it anymore, but I am sure you get the point.   Now I would understand the point of this article if it said that these multi-site Pastors were not teaching the Bible, were not proclaiming the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and that the Holy Spirit was not involved in the church at all.  Then yes I would understand the article.  But that’s not what the article said.  Instead it went on about how these Pastors are guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  But guess what …every single person is guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  It doesn’t matter if you Pastor a large flock or a small flock.  I am guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  So if a church is ‘from Satan’ because the Pastors sinners, then all churches must be from Satan.

10 I appeal to you, brothers,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

The Bible teaches against this.  I don’t go to Mars Hill because I believe it will save me, or because I idolize Pastor Mark’s teaching ability.  I go to Mars Hill because I learn the Bible there.  Jesus is who saves me.  Do some people idolize Pastor Mark?  Sure.  But people idolize their small church Pastor’s too.   If I idolized Pastor Mark it wouldn’t be Pastor Mark’s fault.  It would be my fault.  It would be my sin to deal with and my heart issue.  As Christians we need to stop saying ‘my way of doing church is better and more holy than your way of doing church’.  If Jesus is proclaimed and the Bible is taught, PRAISE THE LORD!  Be grateful and thankful that God’s work is being done.  The world and potential-Christians criticizes us enough, we don’t need to give them fuel for their fire.

When I was a pagan this was a major problem I had with Christianity.  Churches and professing believers tore each other apart, slandered one another up and down the internet, and generally acted like middle-school kids.  And that is how I saw you treat people who were a part of the ‘family of God’.  Why would I want to be a part of that family?  Why would I voluntarily skip into the middle?  When you, as a Christian, come out and call a style of Church satanic…why would any non-believer then go to that Church?  How many people have we just cut off from the saving grace of the gospel because we disagree with how things should be done?  Is it really worth that person’s soul?  Is your opinion of how Church should be done so important that it is worth this cost?  Are you really that prideful?

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

The article talks about how sinful multi-site church Pastors are.  So I am going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret about Pastor Mark Driscoll.  He is not perfect.  He is a sinner.  He gets things wrong.  He says things wrong.  He gets angry.  He needs Jesus’ grace.  He needs forgiveness.  He is just like me.  Imagine that.  Pastor Mark Driscoll isn’t Jesus.  He says that often.  Want to know something else about Pastor Mark Driscoll that so many people tend to overlook?  He repents.  He repents publicly, in front of cameras, to thousands of people.  He apologizes to thousands of people.  He talks about his failures and his sins in front of thousands of people.  Unlike me.  I sometimes have a hard time talking about my failures with just my community group.  I don’t have to eat humble pie every Sunday in front of everyone.  I do it privately with my husband and H.G.

So yay, my Pastor isn’t perfect, but neither am I.  He shows me what repentance looks like.  He leads me in how to be humble, how to swallow my pride, and how to talk frankly about my sin.  And guess what …your Pastor should do this too.  I find it completely comforting to know that my Pastor gets it, and is willing to be humbled before the world so that I learn how to be more like Jesus.  The only perfect Pastor is Jesus Christ who happens to be in heaven right now.  All Pastors have sinned and all Pastors fall short of the glory of God.  We, as Christians, need to let this sink in and we need to stop crucifying them for being as imperfect as we are.

“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Stop throwing stones at my Pastor.  Stop throwing stones at Pastors who teach the Bible and preach the saving grace of God.  Just.  Stop.

“One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” (Proverbs 29:23)

The article then goes on to say that as a member of a multi-site church I cannot hold Pastor Mark Driscoll accountable.  As if I should be able to be the accountability partner in my teaching Pastor’s life.  That right there is a huge ego and pride check.  Pastor Mark teaches me the Bible, and preaches the saving grace of God.  Pastor Mark is not my accountability partner.  Pastor Mark is not my friend.  If I had a pressing issue in my life I wouldn’t run to Pastor Mark for the answers.  And guess what ….when I belonged to a small church it was the same way.  Why?  Because they aren’t my personal and close friends.  I don’t hang out with them.  I don’t have them over for dinner.  I am not against becoming friends, but I don’t demand that be a requirement for me to sit beneath their teaching.  The same way I wouldn’t demand a college professor to be my friend before I take his class.

Pastor Mark Driscoll has an amazing gift for teaching the Bible, as do other multi-site church Pastors.  I learn so much from Pastor Matt Chandler, Pastor James MacDonald, Pastor Rick Warren, and many others.  I don’t know any of them.  And I hardly think I need to nitpick my way through their lives and demand they explain everything to me.  If you need that close relationship to your Pastor, then by all means go to a small church where that is possible.  I don’t begrudge you that need, but please don’t call me a Satanist because I don’t share that need.

Pastor Mark Driscoll is my teaching Pastor at my church.  He isn’t my personal Pastor.  Pastor Dave Bruskus is a fatherly Pastor for me.  He is a Pastor I would reach out to for big questions as I have seen his wisdom and love for God’s children.  Pastor Sutton Turner is a warrior Pastor for me.  I see him on the front lines for God’s glory, working to spread the good news of Jesus Christ far and wide.  These two men are accountability partners for Pastor Mark Driscoll …and I completely trust them to do that job.  I don’t feel the need to do it myself.  Now my personal Pastor is actually at my Church at Mars Hill Downtown Seattle.  For a while it was Pastor Joel Brown, who is completely amazing at speaking the truth in God’s love.  He was the Pastor I went to when I needed a Pastor.  God has called him away to Mars Hill Tacoma.  So now my personal Pastor is Pastor Matthias.  I am still getting to know him, but I trust him already with knowing he is a man of God’s heart and would give wise counsel.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I am a member of a multi-site church, and I want people to know that I do have a Shepherd (Pastor) and I’m not just some consumer/groupie who stares at Pastor Mark on a screen.  I go to watch Pastor Mark on a screen because he teaches the Bible in a way I understand.  I do the same with the other Pastor’s above whom I mentioned.  But if that’s not for you, I get it.  We are all called to understand Scripture in different ways; just as all Pastors are called by the Holy Spirit to serve the spreading of Scripture in different ways.

31 “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.” (Matthew 12:31-32)

The last point that really rankled me in this article was the critique against the pastors who served these Multi-site churches.  A man needs to be called by the Holy Spirit to become a Pastor.  The Holy Spirit then usually calls a Pastor to a certain church for a certain ministry.  That calling is between that Pastor and the Holy Spirit.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus warns us very poignantly against calling the works of the Holy Spirit as something evil or from Satan.  We are really not supposed to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.  Which is what we are doing if we are saying what the Holy Spirit has called these men to do is from Satan.  Who am I, and who are you, to judge what exactly the calling of the Holy Spirit is on anyone else?  The will of the Holy Spirit cannot be held in check by anyone’s will, design, or church style.  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a small church, yay Jesus!  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a mega church, yay Jesus!  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a multi-site church, yay Jesus!  We should be rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit to still stir up the affections of men’s heart to serve the LORD rather than trying to dictate how that service should look like.  We, as Christians, really need to stop trying to shame one another into worshipping God as we see fit.  Otherwise we are exactly like the Pharisees.

Jesus did not teach like the Rabbis of the Pharisees.  Jesus did not follow their traditions or man-made rules and laws of what worshipping God should look like.  The gospels are full of this battle of wills, of these demands the Pharisees made that Jesus conform to how they thought synagogue should look, sound like, and be lived out.  They were so outraged by Jesus’ nonconformity that they failed to see people drawing closer to God, repenting, and living a new life.  They murdered Jesus for this.  And we are still doing it today.

Church is about Jesus.  As Christians we need to be about Jesus.  And when we lobby accusations and insults at other Christians who are worshiping Jesus in a different way ….we become a Pharisee.  We put our preferences, our traditions, and our own opinions about how serving the LORD should look before the fact that this is really supposed to be all about Jesus.  When we do this we kill Jesus for the non-believer.  When we do this we kill Jesus to the skeptic watching on.  The world around us is killing Jesus enough on its own ….the children of God shouldn’t be helping them.  Stop throwing stones.  Stop giving the LORD a bad reputation by our own preferences.  Enough already.

Is the Pastor teaching the Bible?  Is the Church preaching the saving grace of Jesus Christ?  Is the Holy Spirit moving the people toward God?  If the answer is yes …then shut up about how you think things should be done.  Go to a church that suits your needs and worship and praise the LORD for providing us with so many ways to glorify Him!  Put your stones down.

If you don’t like a Pastor, then don’t like that Pastor.  Don’t help the world tear a servant of the LORD down by adding fuel.  Don’t go on various social media’s and spread contempt for the servants of the LORD.  You aren’t serving Jesus by doing this.  You aren’t glorifying God by doing this.  We need to put our feelings and opinions (our pride) aside and seek after the glory of the LORD first ….not the glory of ourselves and our opinions.  As Christians, we need to stop killing Jesus before the world who is definitely watching us crucifying our own.

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)

 

“He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.” (Proverbs 13:3)

 

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” (Proverbs 21:23)

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” (Proverbs 15:28)

“A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. “ (Proverbs 18:7)

“The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11)

“A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” (Proverbs 29:11)

I am Deaf, Blind, and Dumb

“(1) Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (2) Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

This is a fitting note to ponder over considering just last night I finally yielded to the Holy Spirit and changed my name to Lael (Lay-el).  This was not an easy decision.  I will admit I haven’t even told my mom yet.  To be honest I am nervous about doing this.  I have no idea how she will react I just know it won’t be a good reaction.  It is a matter I am praying over.  But what this has made me wonder about is how many other urgings of the Holy Ghost am I disobeying?  How many commands has H.G. given me that I am completely unaware of because I am so wrapped up in my life?  The honest number frightens me.

Here I thought I was pretty good at listening to the Holy Ghost.  Last night shamed me, proved me wrong.  And that was a command H.G. had been pressing on my heart for years.  What other areas of my life am I completely failing at in the offering of being a living sacrifice?  This is not a fun list to compile.  As I start to think about this list I cringe and find myself getting physically lower and closer to the ground.  I can only guess this is an inkling of what people in the Bible felt when they were confronted with God, Jesus, or an angle … and they fell on their face.  I am truly sorry Holy Ghost that I am so deaf, blind, and dumb.

‘In view of God’s mercy.’  A mercy I am so ill-deserving of.  If this sin of mine makes me want to wretch I can’t imagine how it makes God feel.  I can’t imagine how many times I have broken the heart of the Holy Ghost.  He is with me always, talking to me to guide me in the right direction.  And I ignore Him.  I go on about my day as if He isn’t even there.  The closest thing I can akin this to would be having my fiancé at my side all day every day and simply ignoring his existence because I don’t need him.  Which is a complete lie.  I do need Jeremy.  I need H.G. even more.  So why is it so danged hard to listen to Him?

Because I am completely conformed to the pattern of this world.  I get caught up in the wants of my flesh, in the distractions of the world, and the whispering s of the enemy that I really don’t make time for the Holy Ghost to do His work in me and through me.  This means I am not truly and properly worshipping God.  This, in itself, is a terrifying and horrifying thought.  I dread the day of falling on my face before the throne of Christ … and Him showing me every missed, ignored, and denied opportunity I had to be a living sacrifice for Him.  I know there will be a ton of them.  I am a Chief among sinners.  I screw up all the time.

Just today I was listening to a sermon on the internet and I found my flesh wanting to distract myself with other things.  Not because the sermon wasn’t intense or wonderful.  It was simply because my fingers and mouse could click the button at the same time my ears are hearing.  I corrected myself of this no less than four times in the hour my Pastor was talking.  The Holy Ghost was poking at me, and giving me the strength to deny the need of my flesh to always be multitasking.  When I am at Church it is easy to sit still and listen with all my soul to what is being said.  But when I am home … my mind tells my body of all the other things that need to get done that I could be getting done while I ‘listened’ to the sermon.  The ginormous problem with this is … that wouldn’t be listening.  I would be hearing.  I wouldn’t be paying attention to the depths of my soul.  I wouldn’t be availing myself to hear the soft whispering of the Holy Ghost to the things He wants me to work on, notice, or be convicted of.  I become Martha who passes up time at Jesus’ feet because she has a list to complete.

The only list I should be completing is how to become holy and pleasing to God.  The only ‘to dos’ I need to really pay attention to are the things H.G. brings to my attention.  That is if He can get me to pay attention.  Yesterday I thought I was paying attention attentively.  I figured I was actually pretty good at this.  I am so completely, utterly, and dead wrong.

My life needs to be about God’s will.  It’s not that it ‘should be’ or that it ‘would be nice if’ it was all about God’s will.  It NEEDS to be about God’s will.  My heavenly Daddy is perfect, good, and altogether wonderful.  If I would just listen to the Holy Ghost I can’t even fathom where I would be right now.   I want my life, heart, and soul to be so close and tight with H.G. that someone might mistake us for a twizzler.

I am not a living sacrifice right now.  If I died tonight I don’t know if the light and love of Christ would be left in my wake.  Would people know Lael, or would they only remember all the things that Sarah did?  I am stunned into shame when I sit here thinking about all the ways I have failed to let Jesus’ light shine through me.  I don’t want people to say “Wow, she really loved Jesus.”  That would be nice.  What is nicer is what is said about the apostle John.  John is the beloved one of Christ.  The fact that John loved Jesus was so known, common, and consistent that everyone knew he loved the LORD.  What was more surprising, noteworthy, and shocking to people is how much Christ’s love for John shown throughout his life.  And I am certain that love spilled out of John onto everyone he met.  Jesus is like that.  God is perfect, pleasing and good.

Every moment of my life is an act of worship.  Am I worshiping the LORD as John did?  And if I am not what in the heck am I worshiping with every breath?  I don’t like this about me.  I am a perfectionist so I really hate being this bad at something.  I know I need to slow down.  I know I need to be in prayer more, constantly, with H.G. so I can strengthen my recognition of His voice.  I know I need to be in my Bible more so that I may get to know my God and my Savior better.  I know I never will be perfect at any of this, but the truth of the matter is I could be doing a heck of a lot better than I am right now.

So tonight I am frustrated and ashamed.  The good news is that tomorrow I am given a clean slate, a fresh start.  I know for certain that as I type these words out I am already forgiven … and thus I am spotless and without blemish … a pure white sheep before the Lamb of God.  The good news is that God is merciful and loving.  He gave us His only Son, Jesus Christ.  The good news is that no matter how many times I screw this up—and trust me it will be a lot—the Holy Ghost will never give up on me.  God will never abandon me.  And Christ will never let me go.  I am loved of God, and thankfully He has graced me with more chances to shine His abundant love onto everyone around me.

Abba, Father … thank you Daddy for being so good to me.  Thank you for your long suffering patient with this fallen, lost sheep.  You amaze me at the depths of love You will go to for me, and for us.  I know my understanding of all of this puts me in the kiddy pool of the ocean of Your affection for us.  I am so sorry for my countless missed chances, but I am eternally grateful for the slew and magnitude of chances You will continue to bestow on me.  Holy Ghost, please help me get out of my own way.  Please help me to unplug my ears, and open my eyes, so that I may receive Your guidance and love.  Jesus I yearn to be a living sacrifice for You and to You.  I hunger to truly and properly worship You.  I know I will never get this perfect, and probably not even close to good.  I will continue trying, though.  Thank You sooo much that Your mercy, righteousness, and forgiveness has nothing at all to do with my works … but are wholly dependent on Your work through the cross.  I do love You so much.  I will strive to be a more agreeable sheep tomorrow.  I am sorry You have to keep hiking through rough terrain to find me, and bring me back to the flock.  At the same time I am so glad You do.

I pray that one day You will find all my friends and family.  Please keep them out of Hell.  Holy Ghost would you please work on their hearts as You work on mine.  In Jesus’ name I pray all these things and more …the longings of my heart … Amen.

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

The Good Shepherd

“(7) Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. (8) All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. (9) I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  (10) The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

(11) I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (12) But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.  (13) The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.

(14) I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. (15) As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.  (16) And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (17) Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. (18) No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:7-18)

 

Today is Palm Sunday, a day I only half sort of got and understood growing up as a child.  I have been a Christian for about four years now and I really didn’t get the significance of it until this year.  Today is the day Jesus road into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.  This day was predicted hundreds of years before it happened.  It was predicted that it would occur on the very day it did occur which is why the people were waiting for the Messiah to show up.  And there Jesus of Nazareth was, on the back of a donkey.  Which is the exact way it was predicted He would enter.

It was a big deal.  The crowd was huge.  People were laying down palm branches for Jesus’ donkey to walk upon—which is where you get Palm Sunday from—as well as their cloaks.  And people only had one cloak.  So they put down their one and only cloak to get trampled on, caked and embedded with dirt and urine and animal waste.  This wasn’t a light gesture……but it would prove to be a heartless and thoughtless one in a few days.  But today throngs of people were gathering and singing out to the Lord, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  The King of Israle!”  The people were pumped and excited.  They had all just declared Jesus God, something He had been saying Himself for a while now.

Ne part of the story I had always heard, but hadn’t understood, until today was that the Pharisees were very upset.  They told Jesus to tell the people to stop saying these things.  Then Jesus told the Pharisees that even if the people were to stop the very rocks would declare it.  So in my mind I never understood why Jesus didn’t tell the people to shut up so the rocks would declare it.  How much more of a miracle would that be?  That would be awesome!  Creation itself would acknowledge God before man.  So I just always thought that God didn’t want to perform on command for the Pharisees another miracle they wouldn’t believe.  I didn’t get what Jesus was saying or showing.  It went right over my head until today when Pastor Phil spoke about it.

The rocks are the lesser miracle.  Creation, in all its glory, is always glorifying God and acknowledging Him as Lord and Christ.  The bigger miracle is when a sinner, fallen, enemy of God can turn away from himself and from Satan….repent….and look toward the Good Shepherd….and say You are Christ!  You are God!  You are my Savior, my Hope, and my Salvation!  My witness, my testimony, my voice crying out to Jesus as Savior is more of a miracle than a rock.  Because it wasn’t a rock that was crying out “CRUCIFY HIM!”  It was me.  The rocks already know who Christ is.  I am the one who stumbles and has troubles.  I am the one who had to be sought, bought, and saved.  I am the one in need of a Shepherd.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He did seek me out among the crags in the wilderness when I was lost, alone, hurt, and broken.  He picked me up and He is still carrying me home.  And He is carrying me with scarred hands, and walking on scarred feet.  And so when I read this passage today with the Our Daily Bread meditation I was struck by another thought.  Jesus knew He would die.  He spoke of it more than once.  He spoke of it here.   He said He would lay down His life for the sheep in His flock.  But He also said He was laying down His life for the sheep that weren’t yet in His flock…….but sheep that still belonged to Him.  Sheep like me.  Jesus said that no one would force Him to lay down His life, but that He would do it of His own accord.  He would lay it down because He wanted to, and then He would take it back up.  All because the Father commanded Him.  Jesus had the power and authority granted to Him by the Father; by my Heavenly Father.

So that means as I road in on that donkey, listening to the crowd He knew that in about 5 days He would be struggling to walk that street.  People who were throwing down palm branches and cloaks to cover the ground so the hooves of the donkey He road wouldn’t be dirty….soon would be spitting on His raw back as He left a trickled blood trail toward Calvary.  I can’t imagine what that donkey ride was like for Him.  I can’t imagine what it was like to witness the miracle of testimony of faith, knowing it was greater than rocks singing……..and knowing it was empty and meaningless.  I don’t know how Jesus smiled that day.  I don’t know how He hugged children, prayed for people.  I wonder if He shuddered, even just once, when He crossed over the spot where He would fall face first in the dirt with the cross across His shoulders….at the place where Simon would then have to carry it.

I don’t know how He did it.  On Palm Sunday Jesus was still the Good Shepherd looking for lost sheep.  On the last few days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday Jesus was still out there, calling out for His sheep.  We do know His voice.  He didn’t lie about that.  I have heard it; and trust me I wasn’t listening for it.  But I did know it when I heard it.  Jesus is still searching.  I was still found.  I am still being carried.  I can still touch scarred hands and kissed scarred feet.

And on Good Friday Jesus wasn’t dragged to the cross, or forced into the wolf’s den.  Jesus boldly walked up to the wolf.  Jesus followed the wolf home without fear or hesitation.  He approached the wolf without weapons, without defenses, and without armies.  Jesus sought out the wolf on his home territory, stood right in his face, and essentially said……give me your best shot.  Do your worst.  I dare you.  I can take it.

And the wolf was confused at first, put on a trial, waiting to see if Jesus would lash out.  Would Jesus bring down Holy fire from the heavens to wipe him out?  Would Christ fight back?  So the attack began, slowly at first.  But it built, and as it built it became more brutal.  Jesus took it.  He stood there.  He didn’t lash out.  He didn’t defend Himself.  He didn’t call down a heavenly host of angels.  He didn’t wipe the wolf from existence.  He let the wolf do his very worst unto Jesus’ death.  And the wolf danced away, believing he had won.  That the Messiah hadn’t been prepared for that kind of ‘worst’.

Three days later the stone was rolled away.  The tomb was empty.  And Jesus was alive.  And the wolf had to face the bitter truth that he wasn’t the one who took Jesus’ life…….Jesus was the one who gave it up.  And Jesus is the one who gave it back.  That the wolf’s most powerful tool…….that the wolf’s most destructive force…….death…..has no power what so ever over Christ.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost rule and reign over death as well.  So in bitter defeat the wolf slunk away.  Now he just lashes out more viciously……..trying to rip as many of us from God as he can.

You see Satan doesn’t care if you miss heaven by an inch….or by a mile.  Just as long as you miss out on being shepherded into the flock of Christ.  I had never thought of the wolf in that way before today.  There are a lot of first thoughts for me today.  But of all my thoughts I am very glad that the one to remain true and fast in my mind is that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd.  He knows my name, and I know His voice

Hope because I am Reconciled

“(1)Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  (3) And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulations produces perseverance;  (4) and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  (5) Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

(6) For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  (8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(9) Much more than, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  (10) For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  (11) And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (Romans 5:1-11)

 

This is a section of scripture that is very timely for me to hear.  It is also one I have to really pour myself into the very depths of, to drink up every last drop, and saturate my very soul in the depth of what these few sentences are saying.  I want to rush right into the hope spoken about in verse four.  I want to go there, grip there, and hold there.  But I know if I rush to the hope, and skip over everything else my grip will be weak, my hold will be shallow, and at the first shake I will lose what is in my hands.  I need to start at the reason for my hope: reconciliation.

Before I become a Christian I had no clue I needed to be reconciled to God.  I had heard Jesus died for my sins, but I didn’t get the whole “wrath averted” aspect of it.  It was a very little gesture to me.  This was back when I thought I was a good person.  I had never killed anyone.  I didn’t cheat people.  I wasn’t a liar.  I didn’t hurt people.  I didn’t steal.  I didn’t break the law.  I worked.  I paid taxes.  I was a nice person.  People seemed to enjoy my company, so why wouldn’t God?  I didn’t get it, at all.

I had gone to Church on Sunday since I was a child and I never once heard that I was an enemy of God.  No one told me that I was a sinner through and through, and thus I was at war with God.  I was on the losing side.  No one had ever told me I was deserving of God’s wrath.  The anger He poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah, His displeasure that came with the flood, and the righteous fury He will devastate the world with in Revelations is all something I was worthy of enduring.  I had earned such treatment.  No matter what justifications I could come up with, all of them will fall short of the Glory of God.  There was nothing I could do.  There is nothing I can say.  And it is a terrifying thought to sit in, to look at.  To know that I was against God, I was His adversary, I was His enemy.  Even though I thought I was good person.  Despite all my good deeds and good works I would still be destroyed.  I would still endure His wrath.

With that pulsing in my heart I look at the cross with new eyes.  I get what Paul was saying in Romans.  It is hard to find who will die for a righteous man.  Only a very small handful of people would even die for a good man.  We all like to say “I’d die for you” to the ones we love.  Some actually do this.  And we lift those people up, as we should.  Jesus commends the giving of our life for a friend.  But how many of us would give up our life for our enemy?  How many of us would be willing to get tortured, and then put to death for someone you are at war with?  Picture your enemy in your mind, bring that person’s face into your mind.  The person who hates you, persecutes you, ridicules you, and makes your life a living hell.  How many of us would give up everything in our lives to be tortured and put to death so that person could live?  I know I couldn’t do it.  I wouldn’t have the strength.  It takes a supernatural strength to do something like that.  It takes the Holy Spirit.

Jesus did that for me.  I was His enemy.  I was at war with Jesus as a non-believer.  I was in the crowd shouting “CRUCIFY HIM!”                 I was the soldier who hammered in the nails.  I was one of the guards who held the whip to scourge Him.  Judas betrayed Him for 30 silver; I would have done it for less.  I know all of this in my heart.  Jesus knows all of this about me in His heart.  And Jesus thought of me when each one of these happened.  He thought of me as He suffered.  He suffered each one of these things for me, His enemy.  He died the shame of the cross to reconcile me to God, to Himself.  So that when I stand before God I do not stand in the shadow of His wrath.  Instead I am bathed in the brilliant red light of Christ’s blood.  When God looks on me now He sees the righteousness of Jesus because I believed in Jesus and what He did.  All the wrath I have accrued, all the wrath I will accrue, was poured out on Jesus on the cross.  And Jesus went there willingly in my place, with me in mind, so I wouldn’t have to.

Through my faith in Jesus I am now justified.  I am cleansed.  I am now at peace with God.  I am in His good graces.  He poured out His grace on me through His only Son Jesus, and now I am able to be drenched to the core, full up and overflowing with, His grace if I only believe and trust His word.  The word above.  If I can hold to the truth of the scripture I read today in Our Daily bread.  Which is really hard for me considering I am going through the very thing it speaks about in the third verse.  My Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is coming back.  I have a lot of extreme, intense pain to look forward to.  I might lose more nerves in my leg.  I might lose my ability to walk again.  My foot is already swelling to the point that my shoe is hard to put on.  I will again have to be put on morphine, oxycodine, and gabapentin.  I will again lose the facilities of my mind.  I will again have to rely on other people to take me places because of my inability to drive.  I will have to rely on other people to help do every day things.  I fear the pain.  I am frustrated at the helplessness I know will come.  I really don’t want to do this again.  I don’t want this tribulation.

But just because I don’t want something doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a purpose and design through it.  Jesus didn’t want to be crucified, but God used it to save everyone who believes.  I know if I can trust the Bible that the world was made in six days that this should be no problem.  To worship God through tribulations does teach me how to persevere.  It also gives me a chance to understand a small portion of what Jesus went through.  It gives me a chance to draw closer to my Lord and Savior in a way others who don’t suffer can’t.  Because when I can’t walk, when I am weak, He is there to carry.

And I don’t know if that will help me build character, but it will help me grow and nurture a relationship with my Father, and with my Savior.  It will help me cultivate a prayer filled needful relationship with the Holy Spirit.  It will force me to rely on Them, rather than myself.  It will give me a more godly aspect to who I am, it will help draw me into Their intimate relationship in a way I couldn’t do if I wasn’t going to go through this again.  So maybe that is what Paul is talking about when he mentions character.  And if this is what he means he is right when he says this will lead to hope.

Hope is where I want to be.  Hope that it will be better.  Hope that I will be better, from the inside out.  Hope that people will see what the Lord is doing for me on the inside, rather than what I am experiencing in the world on the outside.  I have a hope that I can cleave to scripture and the truth of these words and others like that.  That when I am at my weakest, Jesus is my strength and He is strong enough.  Hope that I can trust in that without faltering and giving into my ‘what ifs’ or the here and now of pain.  Hope that my focus can remain vertical on all the good God is doing for me…..and I can shine His glory to the world…..rather than having my focus be horizontal and worldly and glow with the ache of circumstance.

Raw

“(1) Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him.  (2) And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan!  The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!  Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’

(3) Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.  (4) Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, ‘Take away the filthy garments from him.’  And to him He said, ‘See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.’

(5) And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’  So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him.  And the Angel of the Lord stood by.”  (Zechariah 3:1-5)

 

God truly does have a perfect sense of timing about things.  Today at Church Pastor Mark did a sermon on sexual assault; basically Chapter 7 of the book “Real Marriage” that he wrote with his wife.  If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it.  Even if you aren’t married you probably know people who are, or you likely will be married yourself one day.  This was a hard and uncomfortable sermon for me.  But timely.  I am currently reading the book “Rid of my Disgrace” by the Holcombs; another highly recommended book.  It deals with sexual assault in the light of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  Again, even if you have never been sexually assaulted I can promise you that you probably know someone who has so this would be an awesome book for you to read so you know what to say….and more importantly what not to say…to someone who is hurting from this.  I will warn you that this book is not an easy read, particularly if you have been sexually assaulted.  I am only able to get through maybe a chapter a week. Right now I am on Chapter 5, which is about denial, and I am really struggling with how much of that I have actually been doing since my assault.

 

So today’s ‘Our Daily Bread’ fit in with the sermon.  It is about taking away the filth of our iniquity to clothe us in rich robes.  Pastor Mark spoke about how Jesus takes away my shame, my defilement, and scorns it on the cross.  To be perfectly honest I don’t fully understand it.  I see the vague outline of it like looking through a frosted over window peering out through a dense fog.  I can see the outline of the cross there, but in light of what happened to me I struggle.  Which is why I am going to be going through a Redemption Group to help me with this.  This idea terrifies me; it makes me want to itch all over.  You see I thought I was past all of this.  I went to a Rape Counselor for about a year and a half just over 5 years ago to deal with all of this.  I thought I had moved beyond it.  That everything was fine.  Only to learn within the first two chapters of reading the book that I probably suffer from PTSD, and that I am really not okay with what happened to me.  At all.  I learned how to function again on a normal standard.  I learned how to check back into this world.  But I have no idea what it means to be healed or not feel the way I feel.

 

The Scripture reading today says that Joshua was dressed in filthy rags.  I know it is common for assault victims to feel dirty or gross.  I feel disgust.  I feel disgusting.  I often believe the lie that the Enemy tells me that my fiancé thinks I am disgusting.  I don’t like to look at myself in the mirror because of that disgust.  I was raped over ten years ago and I didn’t realize until a few weeks ago that I carried this identity from that assault.  It was always just sort of there in the back of my mind.  So when I read that verse in the Scripture I cringe.  It makes my stomach turn because I can imagine what Joshua was feeling in that moment standing before the lord wearing that.  And Pastor Mark hit it on the head today with one of the struggles I have been having.  What was I supposed to do, say “Forgive me Jesus for being raped repeatedly by my ex-fiancé at the time.”  It wasn’t my sin.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  How does that get off?  I can’t scrub it off, trust me I have tried to scrub it off to the point of bleeding before in my past.  I have never been able to ever really feel clean again.  I want to feel clean again.  Which is why I really, really want to go to this Redemption Group no matter how terrified I am.

 

So the devotional today spoke about how Jesus takes away our sin: something I totally understand and am eternally grateful for. But Pastor Mark spoke of something else which I don’t get so I thought to look up what the dictionary definition of “iniquity” is.  Iniquity: 1. Gross injustice or wickedness; and 2. A violation of right or duty, wicked act; sin.  If I use that first definition it helps me to see that cross a little more clearly.  The Angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ, takes away my gross injustices.  All the gross, disgusting, deplorable injustices done upon me that make it impossible for me to look at myself in the mirror…Jesus took away.  My head knows that, but my heart doesn’t understand it.  I want to understand it.  I know that my understanding of it won’t happen overnight.  I know it is something I need to mediate on, prayerfully seek out the Holy Spirit to help me.

 

So tonight I will go to bed with that prayer in my heart for help, comfort, and understanding.  And a new memory verse that Crystal from “Rid of my Disgrace”, was kind enough to share. “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” (Joel 2:25).  God is a good and faithful God.  I believe He will keep that promise.

Sluggard/Slacker

“(6) Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, (7) which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, (8) provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. (9) How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? (10) A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep—(11) So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man. (Proverbs 6:6-11)
                Wow. Another hard word for me today. I am actually sitting here rather shocked at, again, how relevant this to me right now. This is something else I am struggling with. This is something else I have asked people to pray for me about. This again has to do with the breaking of old habits of the forming of new habits. Since I am still fiddling with the depths of fear I was hoping to have a “consider the lilies” sort of day. Guess that isn’t going to happen. But today’s Our Daily Bread snippet is written by Cindy Hess Kasper. She, again, hits the nail right on the head with what I am struggling with. She also starts out with a very good suggestion to make this passage easier to read. Miss Kasper suggests changing the word ‘sluggard’ to the word ‘slacker’. Fitting, accurate, and something we can more easily relate to.
                This proverb section is all about the follies of being lazy. There are several such passages in the book of Proverbs. When I read them the first thing I usually think of is physical laziness. Oh I need to exercise more. I should really get out in the yard this weekend if it is nice. If it isn’t raining tonight I will go for a walk after dinner. This is one way to look at this proverb, and others like it. They do not encourage laziness. They do encourage us to do more. To get up and do more. So this did fit into me wanting to form more healthy and consistent exercising habits in my life. But that is not what I asked others to pray for me about. And exercise was not the point Ms. Kasper made in her devotional either. My degree of uncomfortable shame would be much less if it were.
                Ms. Kasper spoke of spiritual slackery. Yes, I just made that word up. Which is something that I do struggle with. I really need to tattoo the book of James more permanently on my heart. She talks about the various forms of slacking off spiritually: not witnessing, not reading the Bible, not praying, and not doing what God tells us to do. The one I struggle with is not doing what God tells me to do. The Holy Spirit has really leaned on my heart to get something done, several somethings in fact, but I have not devoted my whole self to those things as I should have. Oh I could give a long list of reasons and excuses as to why that is, but I really don’t want to offend the Holy Spirit more than I already have. The truth is there is no reason or excuse for my behaviors. He put these things on my heart, heavily on my heart, for a reason. They are important. That should have been enough.
                Instead I have been like Moses, but God who am I to talk to these people? I have also been a lot like Jonah, and have simply ran the other direction. Thankfully God did not see fit to have me swallowed by a giant fish. He very well could have, I have been taking a ferry across the Sound at least twice a week. I need to pray in my heart to respond more like Noah and Mary. Mary had questions but was obedient. Noah was simply immediately obedient in faith. I need their hearts. I need to follow their examples. And I know my biggest problem with all of this has been myself. I have been trying to do this all on my own, so I get distracted and stuck and lost along the way. With me at the center I get a whole lot of nowhere.
                I have only just recently begun to cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Since He is the one really leaning on my heart it would only make since to implore Him for His help, and to follow His lead. This, of course, means I have to give up my lead. I don’t have a problem with that, but I don’t have any real experience following the Holy Spirit, so I don’t know how this will go. I know He is patient with me, because He is still here with me after all of this. It has just been one of those “duh” sort of moments. Just like right now, despite the fact this was hard for me to read, it was a ‘duh’ sort of moment. The Holy Spirit is here with me now, showing up, answering prayer.
                I want to form the habit of following His lead. I want to break the habit of being a sluggard/slacker. I can’t do this on my own. I can’t do this without His help. Jesus told me this flat out, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 ESV) Apart from God, from the Holy Spirit, from Jesus, I am as effective as a fish out of water. I flounder really well. So although today’s devotional was a hard one for me to read, I take it as the Holy Spirit telling me to stop flopping around so He can put me back in the water. That way I can swim where He wants me to.  Which means He will put me in the right stream, going the right way; all I have to do is swim.
                Thank you Holy Spirit for waking me up out of my slumber. Thank you Jesus for giving us Yourself, and our Comforter. I am undeserving of the both of You. Holy Spirit I know that with Your help I can stop being a slacker, do the things I am meant to do to help shine the light of Jesus into all the dark places of this world.

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