Dear Voter: Do Not Be Afraid

I’m sure we’re all feeling it – the choke of helplessness as we approach the fateful decision that awaits our country in less than three weeks. I’ve never been so eager to see a ballot in the mail just so I can send it in and get it over with. This election, we’ve seen unprecedented unrest, division, and disrespect spattered across our society at almost every level. We may be tempted to say, “Lord, we need you more than ever before.” However, I believe that all this time, we have not felt our need for Him, and in His great mercy, He has given us an opportunity to answer the question, “Who do you trust?”

Succeeding the next President of the United States is a weighty and important decision. Voting is a privilege that we have been given for which I believe we will be held accountable. Our prayers are mighty, but we are both spirit and body, and must not neglect the practical aspects of making our voices heard by only favoring the spiritual.

At the same time, while we research, while we weigh the issues, mark the boxes, and pray, will we consign ourselves to despair if the decision is made that we fear most? Let us not be distracted by the possibilities that await us and fail to recognize the moment we’ve been given to entrust ourselves to the Lord’s very capable orchestration of history.

I’m reminded of Isaiah’s encounter with God in Chapter 6. He had experienced the righteous reign of Uzziah after the many generations of wicked kings that smeared Israel’s royal lineage. However, after making reforms to draw Israel back to the Lord, Uzziah became prideful, assuming his authority as a kind of Messiah, offered unlawful sacrifices, was struck with leprosy, and died. Isaiah’s grief is evident; His encounter with the Lord is specifically marked as the year of King Uzziah’s death. But it all fades away when He sees Jesus high and lifted up. Jesus’ majesty levels Isaiah to a stupor, as Isaiah realizes that no human solution, even the most righteous we have to offer, can compare with the One who is coming to reign and will make all things right.

I’m not going to encourage anyone to take a specific side in this post, but I will encourage us not to crumple in fear or steel ourselves with offense. Rather, let this opportunity work in us exactly what it’s meant to – an urgency to cry out to The Lord, to draw near to Him. What do we do next?

1. Worship: When John the Apostle was shown the events of the days before Jesus’ return, He was first shown the worship room of Heaven in chapter 4. He saw the eternal worship of God and His firm, deft hand orchestrating the events that would prepare the world to make the most important decision – whether they would submit King Jesus or not. We see two important things happening:
a. Heaven’s inhabitants’ worthy fascination and focus upon the Almighty God.
b. The fact that the events of the end times are released at the hand of Jesus himself as He opens the scroll.

When we focus on The Lord, our hearts are settled in confidence that He is in control and that regardless of what takes place, He is worthy of all honor, adoration, and praise.

2. Pray: We have been seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). He was given all authority on heaven and earth, and then told us to “go”, a license to draw from that authority as His representatives (Matt. 28:18). The first place we exercise this authority is in relationship with Him, agreeing with His plans, and then asking Him to release them on the earth (Matt 6:9-11). We can pray for our candidates, our elected representatives, and officials. We can move earth as we move the heart of Heaven.

3. Love: This election’s decision has the potential to be more divisive than any I’ve ever seen. Under normal circumstances, we are desperately in need of the resource of love that can only come from God to bestow upon one another. How much more in this instance. Too much division has already been caused as a result of this election process. Let us seek The Lord for His perspective of one another, choosing to see what He sees and love how He loves.

Additionally, it may be that in coming days, we will see a greater persecution of our rights as believers, and a removal of our entitlements. We have been given a privilege in America that few in our world have – fair representation and opportunity for all. Unfortunately, independence and isolation have become the fruit of our freedoms. In other places in the world, the pressure of persecution has driven people to depend upon one another and to draw closer. Whether we continue to enjoy our privileges – or not – we must allow the pressure to strengthen, not weaken, our need to love one another in practical, consistent ways.

4. Repent: The priesthood of various generations were hailed scourging condemnation that they were accountable for the dissolute state of the people. We must take a look at our own lives and ask for the Lord to cleanse us where we have chosen our own way instead of loving the joy of a holy life. And we must ask for wisdom to bring the Kingdom of God, moment-by-moment, relationship-by-relationship. We must refuse to depend solely upon legislation to establish morality, and allow the leading of the Holy Spirit in our individual lives to transform our surroundings..

5. Trust: In Psalm 2, as the nations “throw off the fetters” of God’s law, and decide to go their own way, God laughs. He has already established Jesus as the rightful ruler. His laughter is not a callous flippancy towards humanity, but rather reminds us that He is unimpressed with the efforts of the world to oppose Him. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The King’s heart is like channels of water in the hands of The Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” We can trust Him for the resolution of the world as much as we can trust Him with our individual lives.

So as we await the coming day, let’s walk responsibly in partnership with the Lord by voting and praying, and doing all of those practical things that He’s given us to do. But let us remember that we are ambassadors of another Kingdom, that, though unseen, is nevertheless more real and more imminent than we realize. I do not with to diminish the urgency of the hour; rather to heighten it from a different vantage point. We must pray. We must reach out in love to our neighbor. We must seek love, justice, and mercy. We must fight for reconciliation, healing, and biblical equity.

But we must not be afraid.

The Incomprehensible Word

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

John 1:1-5

John the Apostle could not have known the full physical linkage between sound and light — that they are both particles and waves, and therefore inherently linked. However, it could not be mere chance that provoked him to connect these two realities. Perhaps it was the striking idea that when God spoke, light came forth and it overwhelmed the void. John uses a particular word to describe the supremacy of the Word – who is the Light – “katalambano,” which is sometimes translated “overpower” ; however, it carries with it the connotations of “comprehend” or “perceive.” This word makes the connection complete. In the same way that light cannot be overpowered by the darkness, neither can the Word be fully comprehended.

This incomprehensibility of the Word is an affront to our modern mind, and yet it is a gift to us as a statement of His Lordship. In the Western mindset, to comprehend — to know with certainty through experimentation and observation — amounts to a kind of mastery. Knowledge is not simply prized. As the old adage says, “Knowledge is power.” Paul knew this when he wrote to the Corinthians,

“Knowledge makes arrogant [puffs up],
But love edifies [builds up].”

In obtaining knowledge, we create a ladder of understanding and then take the highest position as administrators. We begin a crusade of mastery of that knowledge — the discovery of useful applications. When properly stewarded, knowledge can help us fulfill our first assignment to subdue the earth. However, it can also assist men in exploiting their brother. In either case, the nature of knowledge is to assist in ruling.

When we come to the Word, however, we are confounded. In Him, we are limited in our domination by He who is limitless. The extent of His boundaries are too vast to be observed, categorized, and conquered, each attribute unfathomable in its depth, unsearchable in its height. His wealth of personhood gives rise to an interminable frustration that philosophies have been battling for all of human history: the search for a universal reality that brings a wholeness to the restless mind in pursuit of an explanation. The philosophies of our day have cried out at the unfairness of incomprehension, and are leading a revolt — the rejection of an ultimate authority that they cannot fully grasp, traded in for a system of subjective boundaries based on personal preferences.

Is this not the uprising of Psalm 2, not fundamentally military, but philosophic? The former will result out of the latter,

“The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
‘Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!'”

But the response of Heaven is the same here as it is in John 1,

 “But as for Me, I have installed My king [the Word]
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

The Word answers these cries with who He is.

He is the incomprehensible God. Uncontainable and unconquerable, He stands as Lord. In our confusion, we declare we will yield when we understand. But as we have seen above, this kind of understanding does not know submission, only rulership.

Most importantly, the Word is not simply unsearchable because He contains inconceivable ideas — but He is a person.

Philosophies and religions are overthrown by ideas and words, but a person is overthrown by love.

And is this not clearly shown in the cross? The Word, final and full, becomes a man — fully in love with humanity, He freely gives Himself to us. Where knowledge would seek to gain access by force, we are given access through the posture of submission and surrender.

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God… Who among men can know the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in Him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. For who has known the mind of the Lord that he should instruct him? But we have been given the mind of Christ.”
1 Cor. 2:11-12, 16

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”
1 Cor. 13:12

For though we cannot know the Word fully, we can know Him truly.

Unlikely Wineskins

Luke 5:27-39

“After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi siting in the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ And he left everything behind and got u and began to follow Him. And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’…

“And He was also telling htem a parable: ‘No one tear sa piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.'”

In this passage, Jesus doesn’t see broken, irreparable people, he sees sick people that need to be strengthened with Truth. He sees Levi and, without any other qualification, simply says, “Follow me.” I think we tend to see a delineation between those who are “significant” in the Kingdom, and those who are “just followers”. But The Lord does not. He just puts them on a track with Him and lets them discover who they are; their significance comes not from their position, but from their faithfulness to where they’ve been placed.

I feel like I got a new perception of what this passage is about, looking at the juxtaposition of the previous story and the proceeding parable. Granted, in between, the Pharisees ask about why the disciples don’t fast, and that is all part of it, but I think it also has to do with the coming of the kingdom, not simply into the world, but into individuals.

In this passage, Jesus uses the practical example of mending, commenting that common sense wouldn’t ruin what is new to repair what is old and wearing out. However, we can sometimes do this to people, take their desirable parts and fit them into our old system, instead of inviting them to take their place and strengthening them with what is foundational and beautiful about the old.

The same is with the wineskins – those new disciples who come to to Jesus are filled with the fresh word of The Lord and allow it to expand in their hearts and shape them and form them.

Lord, let us not be afraid of what we see, but truly, may we see with His eyes.

January the Prophet

I know few people who would favor January for anything but the celebration of the new year, and the necessity of being the month to start the rest of the more desirable twelve; at least February has Valentine’s Day to recommend itself. We only consider the drab gray and the cold, and miss the wonderment of anticipation. True, the frigid death of winter is its most prominent feature; however, it is just a cloak, like a parable, hiding the mystery of hope, like the very mist that so often shrouds the valleys in these days.

Anticipation is a mystery itself, the mist upon the future, the uncertainty that borders on discouragement and despair. But we must have eyes to see the hope of what shall yet be – not just a vague desire, but certainty. January urges us to look prophetically at what truly will be, and reminds us that hope is not unfounded wishful thinking, but a prior realization of what is to come, which is manifested in the heart, like a germinating seed, determined for the bearing of fruit, though at first unseen.

This is the work of a prophet – to endure the season of death, cultivating life in the deep dark of doubt until it is evident; it is seeing what already is, and assisting its growth until the breaking through of life into light.

Courage to Be Whole-Hearted

A thought: We talk frequently about being “whole-hearted” lovers of Jesus. This phrase, quite frankly, terrifies me. It means that I must surrender every piece of my heart to Him, and my greatest fear is that my foolish pride or some hidden lie will keep me in the habit I most greatly desire to break, and disable me from entrusting “my whole heart” to Him. And yet again, I will have failed.

However, I recently learned the definition of courage from the original latin, which is: “To tell your story with your whole heart.” What if being “whole-hearted” is less (initially) about being fully able to immediately surrender every part, and instead, starts in this place of vulnerability and raw honesty with God about where your heart really is?

Of course trust is the fundamental issue that keeps people from being vulnerable, much less fully giving oneself over. However, I find that trust is established in phases. And when I find that I can trust the gentility and mercy of God to receive my honesty, grace is released to trust Him with the issues themselves.

So what if being a “whole-hearted” lover of Jesus has more to do than we thought with our vulnerability and willingness before the Lord? Perhaps it’s less of a frightful, untimely tearing of the heart, and more like what we see in David, who hid nothing, exposed everything, and allowed the grace of God to work its way into His heart like a balm, healing the wounds and lies that were the true sources of his sin.

Just a thought.

Beloved Sons of Righteousness

Matthew 3:14-17

“But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’… After being baptized… behold the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'”

Two events dovetail (literally!) the baptism of Jesus – the descending of the Spirit, and the proclamation of the Lord from the Heavens. He tells John to baptize Him as a fulfillment of righteousness, either as a model for humanity or a fulfillment in His own life. But I think the whole experience is a model for humanity–not the physical baptism only.

We know baptism as the tangible symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and our own participation with His death. We know of baptism as our cleansing, our restoration. In this sense, this is the fulfillment of righteousness in our lives – we are new creations in Christ. We are clothed with His righteousness. And we’re done, right?

However, Jesus models here the whole package for the new believer. When we are made new, our renewed spirit becomes a home for the Holy Spirit. We are restored to what The Lord intended – complete connection with His presence. Righteousness is both given and enacted through the empowering presence through the Holy Spirit.

Finally, The Lord makes a declaration over His son. This is an integral part of fulfilling righteousness, which is not merely working out the details of behaving rightly, but of being right. I am only “right” before the Lord when I am conformed to the truth of what He says about me. And that is that I am His. I am beloved. I am someone whom He is well pleased in. When rooted in my identity as the Lord’s, my activities are not the primary confirmation or denial of my righteousness before Him–they are affirmations of the growth of my heart in the process of sanctification, but my status before The Lord does not rise and fall with my faithfulness (or lack therof).

Paul expresses this to the Corinthians:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is anew creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come” (2nd Cor. 5:7).

This is a simple message that we know — grace vs. works — but this encounter with Jesus reveals that to us the precious source of this grace — God the Father’s loving pronouncement upon us as sons.

What the Father says is true, whether we feel it or not. As we receive sonship, belovedness, and His pleasure from the sacrifice of the Son, we are continually renewed and made righteous.

The Song of The Lord: The Strength of Joy

This morning, I woke up, drenched in anxiety; it burned in my stomach. Life is pretty peaceful right now, but a couple of recent situations have presented me with opportunities to overthink and scrutinize insecurities about life, about my relationship with The Lord, and basically get myself tied up in a mess that I feel I have to reason my way out of.

However, the other day, someone sang a prayer over me, proclaiming that The Lord was singing and rejoicing over me. I remembered this as I was getting ready, thinking about Zephaniah 3:17:

“The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”

Suddenly, I felt The Lord speak this to me, “Lift up your eyes. Do you know that I am rejoicing over you? Will you allow yourself to be swept up into the reality of my joy over your life? Do you know how I exult in who you are and who you are becoming? I have no fear over your life, no fear at all in who you are, or my ability to finish the work I began in you. Today, I want you to join me in rejoicing over your life.”

In Nehemiah, he declares that the joy of The Lord is our strength. It is easy to feel that the best way to fix all of the wrong things I see in myself is to focus on them and just “try to do better.” Two observations contend with one another in me – one, I have a great desire to be close to The Lord, and two, I see everything that hinders me from that desire. My immediate response is to focus on it so that I can fix it. When my gaze is drawn to everything that is wrong and distorted, that which I am gazing upon becomes my resource. The product is shame, failure, despair – a never-ending cycle.

Instead, The Lord was calling me this morning to put my focus on Him again.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8).

It is here I catch a glimpse of my resource–the fullness of The Lord. And what I find is not only that He is strong, and good, and right, but He is delighting in me! Confidence and empowerment follow, and suddenly my joy multiplies.

I know that this is not just a message for me, but for anyone who is ardently seeking The Lord. Let us each know the confidence and the joy of The Lord over our lives today. Be blessed!

Living Water at the Well of Community

The details of Jesus’ encounter with the Woman at the Well mount with an exciting, and almost scandalous tension. With every reading, it is astounding to watch Jesus’ persistent, genuine pursuit of this person who, for so many reasons, is considered by many to be beyond hope:

  1. Jesus talks to a woman.
  2. Jesus talks to a woman — alone.
  3. This woman is a Samaritan, an outcast in the minds of the Jewish community.
  4. She is a broken woman who avoids the other women by going to the well at noon.
  5. Jesus astounds her with a word of knowledge by revealing her most ashamed secret–she has had 5 husbands, and is currently with a man she is not married to.
  6. Jesus and this hurting Samaritan woman have a profound theological discussion, which ends with the revelation of Himself as the Messiah, and points to the coming of the indwelling Holy Spirit who will fill every man, including the Samaritans, so that they may worship in Spirit and Truth.

This crescendo of events is enough to excite us, but I noticed one more detail on my most reason reading:

“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.’

“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty, nor come all the way here to draw.’”

It is after this statement that He identifies the reason she is coming here so late in the day:

“Go call your husband.”

The woman is eager to receive anything that will numb the pain of isolation, shame, and hurt. She has already found a means of avoiding those that would openly condemn her; already, she would rather risk the discomfort of the hot afternoon sun than stand beneath the heat of their judgmental glances. And now, here is an option to never risk encountering them again. This is what seems to be true freedom: this mysterious water that will enable her to completely avoid the pain altogether. Just pretend like it’s not there. If she never sees it, it doesn’t exist, right?

Our tendency is to prefer receiving the mercy of God in a personal and individualistic way—it’s easier. “Jesus, let me just talk with you here in my quiet time. That way I don’t have to face those people…”

However, the life of God cannot be received simply as a means to cover up shame, and continue to live in isolation. Oh no, He won’t permit it. Jesus’ grace in our lives does not hide, or even simply wash us of the shame that condemns us–He transforms us, He redeems. He takes that which was broken, and far beyond simply mending it, He remakes it altogether, refashioning it in its original design as He intended. And when we are made new creations, the transformation continues in the context of a community.

In the same way, this story does not end with their encounter. The disciples return, and as Jesus proclaims the reality that those who are to receive the gospel are ready and ripe, the city rushes to Jesus to hear more about Him. And why?

“…because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things I have done.’”

We find that the Samaritan woman is not only given back her dignity through the diverse ways in which she is acknowledged and validated as a human–a worshiper, a woman, and a theological equal–but because she is restored to her community. She is given a witness about the Messiah, and the people receive her, responding to her testimony by coming to receive for themselves.

Hidden shame perpetuates a lie that when shame is exposed, it will only produce more shame. Instead, here we see that when the Woman’s shame is exposed by the mercy and grace of Jesus, she is restored to the very thing that shame had taken away–her voice and participation in the community.

This story reveals the incredible value that the Lord puts on living as a family, instead of as individuals. Our broken culture proclaims that only those who are weak must resort to depending upon others. However, scripture tells us that we are a “Body”, so in fact we are created to be interdependent; it is when we are separated that we are broken and weak. The church does not function correctly when we are not in communication or communion. We see in this instance that not only is the Woman restored to her community, but her very presence is vital to their salvation. Had she not shared her story, no one would have received of the living water that Jesus had. Each member is important.

Through honestly loving one another as Christ sees us, we will see a generation transformed through the testimony of Living Water that flows freely.

Vision in the Delay (Or, “Lessons from a Chair”)

Chair 2 Last summer, I found a chair by the side of the road. The finish was worn and rubbed off, the upholstery torn, and the foam was crumbling in the dry summer sun. It was beautiful. Sitting unclaimed on a street corner next to a garbage can, I knew it was the answer to the prayer I’d prayed literally the morning before, “Lord, I need a chair for my desk–a good chair, a Hobbit-y chair, a writing chair, something I can finally apply this fabric to that I’ve been storing up, waiting for the perfect subject.”

It has taken me 10 months to pull every blasted staple out, remove all the old layers of foam and padding, strip the wood, refinish it, cut out the new materials, tack everything back in again, and re-adorn it with my beautiful bolt of fabric. I’m sitting in it right now, in fact. Though it was an immensely drawn out process, I was more concerned with the product to get discouraged by how long it was taking. When I started, I estimated the beginning of fall as my completion date. It is 8 months later.

I couldn’t have rushed this project if I tried. There are just certain things you can’t do all at once, which is directly opposed to our modern addiction to connecting desire and convenience; we assume that the plot line between desire and obtainment is very direct and short because everything is so accessible. But that simply is not the case, especially with some of the most important aspects of our lives–relationships, developing skills, shoot–just becoming who we are as a person. We know this in theory, but are somehow surprised when events turn unexpectedly or delay.

In this case, most reasons for the delay was in waiting for enough money to buy a paint stripping agent, and then subsequent supplies (varnish/finish, staples, foam, paint brushes); others involved the fact that it took about an hour to apply one coat of finish, and required about a full day for it to dry before I could think of doing another one. I think I ended up with 9 coats. And then, there’s a pesky little thing called “work”, or more broadly “priorities,” that can get in the way. There are only so many hours in the day. There was no question of diligence, or even a question of whether or not it would ever get finished; the end of it was certain. The question was rather, what lengths was I willing to go, and how long was I willing to wait to see it become what I envisioned when I saw it in the first place.

I sincerely disliked spending this much time on something that seemed so selfish, but I am grateful to see fruit emerging from the process–not to mention I really enjoy sitting in it, particularly in the morning. But truly, the process reminds me of life in so many ways. Here are a few:

  1. As I stated above, I could not rush this process. I had to take each step in stride and trust that one day, I would get to enjoy the fruits of my labor. This may sound cheesy in applying it to a chair, but honestly, I’ll take any experience that could even remotely draw me closer to Jesus.  Taking it as an analogy has helped me get through a situation where waiting is not just important–it’s required. I have no control over the situation, and having this project to work on reminded me that eventually, all processes truly have a completion. More than that, I have learned to put deep roots into trusting Jesus and communing with Him in the midst of it–because truly, that is the point more than the actual product. If I can’t rush it, I might as well enjoy the process itself. Truly, there is a delight in working as well as enjoying, and if this teaches me anything, it’s that waiting is certainly not passive. In fact, it seems to be even more active than obtaining.
  2. Convenience has a high price, which usually includes significant loss of the end product. I shredded a small part of the back frame by getting impatient with stapling. It sheered right through the wood. Thankfully there was no damage done to the structural integrity, and it’s not too noticeable, but had I continued, it would have splintered worse. I am not willing to sacrifice quality–or the big reveal at the end of the journey!– for the gratification of having something sooner, or at the expense of other important priorities. I’d rather something be done well. Even if the immediate cost is paid in waiting, it is a far smaller price to pay now than later.
  3. Life requires prophetic vision. This chair was beat-up, poorly painted in the first place (in my opinion :)), and  set out for the trash as worthless. But from the moment I saw it, I knew it had value, and knew exactly what it was going to look like if I just stuck with it. Hitting delays did not make me want it less–in fact, I desired its completion more. I was not discouraged by how long it was taking, or so anxious for the product that I didn’t enjoy the process. I’ll speak candidly here: we need to get a hold of this for our own lives. The great craftsman is not discouraged in any regard to our personal growth. In fact it is a joy to Him, 1, because He sees the end from the beginning, but 2, He actually enjoys growing in friendship with us throughout the process! And this is not just for our own lives, but for those around us. As I encounter God’s opinion of others, I treat them on that basis with tenderness and joy over the victory that is sure for them. Furthermore, I have the joy of watching them steadily grow into that destiny.
  4. The way is narrow. The world says, “Chase your dreams! If you desire it, go for it!” The Lord says, “Lean on me, wait on me, find your delight in me–and then I will give you everything.” Both opinions maintain a couple of foundational truths:  1, you are valuable, and 2, you are meant for greatness. The difference is a timing and priority issue. The Lord is so conscious of our desires because He put them there; however, He us to have relationship with Him, and to experience those desires in the context of that relationship. He is the master story-teller, unfolding the ultimate suspense and surprise. And truly, the end-result of all things is Him. The miraculous thing is that when we keep His glory as our vision and focus, He graciously extends us a hand to join Him in glory, in full partnership with Him.

Ah yes, but there must be a crisis moment. The victory just isn’t quite as sweet when there’s no crisis to overcome. The bolt of fabric I had was literally just enough to finish the project–maybe  enough left over for a miniscule footstool, but it would be a stretch. It seemed the chair was just meant to be. After completing the back and the foam on the seat, having already cut the fabric for the seat according to the former pattern, I was shocked to find the fabric just shy of fitting from edge to edge.

3 years of saving fabric. 10 months of work. Completion at hand. And was it all to be thwarted in these last few steps by an honest, but dreadful miscalculation?

I almost panicked and gave up, until I remembered how tightly the other chair had been stretched, and how new my padding was–but  could the fabric really be stretched that far?Chair 1

I drew in a deep breath and began to staple again. As it turned out, when it looked like the fabric couldn’t stretch any farther, it ended up fitting perfectly. We hit similar snags throughout life, some infinitely more serious and less trite than chair reupholstering. However,  I am realizing more and more that their presence does not mean defeat–but they do require us to stretch a little more. Again, when we stick with it, we find that the hardest won victories have the sweetest outcomes.

Poor in Spirit (Pt 4): Sharing Our Inheritance

“Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:3-4).

This Beatitude is such a deep well, and an abundant source for all of the following beatitudes. Even as I was asking for more revelation on it, I encountered a situation that indeed brought revelation–and broke my heart.

The other day, I saw someone from high school at the grocery store. I felt prompted to go and talk to him and… I choked and went on my merry way! I asked forgiveness and prayed that he would encounter the Lord’s love, even though I declined to be a vessel of it.  I felt a little better, especially since the Lord is merciful, and because I know that I am made righteous by the blood of Jesus.

As I was praying over this verse the next morning, I realized that I was ok with it because I was ok. Because I am still saved and still loved, I was ok with the loss of that conversation. Oh Lord, help me. Because I cannot be ok with disobedience, and further, I cannot be ok with people going to Hell–especially when the Holy Spirit prompts me to a ripe harvest.

This is not to dwell in condemnation (or to bring it), but to come to a revelation of the precious value of humanity to the Lord. I have lived too long complacent with this attitude. I’ve certainly felt grief over my sin when I’ve passed up an opportunity, but I’ve been predominantly concerned over my own status before the Lord and feeling right, vs. mourning over the other person, and being provoked to intercede for them.

Someone “Poor in Spirit” not only realizes the gap between their current state and heaven’s riches, but remembers the extent from which they have been saved–and furthermore, as mourning ensues over the devastation of sin in the world, are compelled to bring healing to this broken world so others may experience the glorious inheritance reserved for them in Christ.

A few weeks, ago, we were talking in our staff meeting about Romans 1:14:

“I am under obligation both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to wise and to foolish.”

Paul is now free to follow the Lord–he is not under obligation, right? So what does he mean? Our director, referenced Paul’s previous comment about his labor in prayer for the Roman church. Paul’s obligation, his compulsion, rather, comes from a realization of his own need, his own massive transformation, and all that he owes–so much so that nothing can stop him from preaching.

This is a dimension of being poor in spirit–the full awareness of, not only our current need, but also our previous circumstances, all considered in light of what we have inherited in the kingdom of heaven. As we gaze upon the glorious nature of the Lord, and are filled with desire for Him, let us be fueled to extend the Word of God to others with power. Let it start in the grand revelation and continual meditation on the Lord, that we not be consumed by our own efforts. Rather, as we burn with passionate love for the Godhead, let it erupt with joyful proclamation to the nations.

Lord, let your glory cover the earth as we become low.