What Jesus Really Does

When I was little I loved to untangle things. Slinkies, knotted jewelry, shoelaces that had been too zealously tied. There was a great comfort and satisfaction in taking something that looked beyond hope and putting it right again.

So you can imagine my joy when I found out that that’s Jesus’ heart too. God didn’t look at a world that had gone terribly, horribly wrong and say “ugh. Let’s just start over.” He could’ve. But He loves what He made. And anything that can be fixed — that is, is willing to be– will be fixed. Made whole again.

I watched this fantastic video yesterday about the true meaning of the Hebrew word shalom. As you might know, it is translated “peace.” But it means so much more than just the absence of turmoil. This is the heart of God…

Enjoy!

Sinking Lifeboat

Our sweet and stressed out fluffball, Muppet.

My dog is playful and fun and sweet with people, but on walks… well our walks are proof positive that you can love and hate something at the same time. Our 25 pound fluffy buddy gets so excited as the leash goes on but becomes an anxious and sometimes difficult to manage companion once we hit the pavement. I don’t know what he went through before we got him, but I don’t think being a stray was fun for him. He startles at noises and falls apart when he sees another dog. I’ve done my best to build his confidence, hired a trainer, watched all the Dog Whisperer, but I guess there’s only so much I can do. He needs healing in his doggy heart.

And a better world to live in.

Today as we walked (ran, startled, cowered, bolted…) I sighed and longed for the day to come when all things will be made new. When there’s no more anxiousness or fear. When there’s nothing left to cause harm in all creation.

And I asked the Lord what He had to say to us, as we suffer many difficulties and fears in this present, broken world, and I felt His kindness toward us. Then in my mind I saw us in a sinking lifeboat – the world as we currently know it – and Him holding out a hand of rescue to us from a mighty ship passing by.

“Behold I am making all things new…” Rev 21:5

He’s going to make everything right, friends! Hallelujah!! And He offers us all to be part of that new world. That is the gospel, the GOOD news! Good wins, evil and death and suffering are cast out forever, and a remade creation thrives in peace, justice, goodness, and perfection under the kind and wise rule of a leader, Jesus, the Creator whose very essence is Love.

Hallelujah!! What a God, what a hope!

Reach out Him, friends! Pray! If you’ve never taken His hand of rescue, today is the day.

“What I mean brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. … For the world in its present form is passing away.” 1 Corinthians 7:29a, 31b

Come Together…

 

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Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

“’Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’”
Mark 3:33-34

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

 

In case you missed this post, I’ve taken up the challenge of praying for my church every day for 30 days. Today is day 25, and the change this discipline has made in my attitude is dramatic. It renews my love every day as a necessary kind of maintenance. We live (in the well-written words of a friend of mine) “in the land of shiny things” where a myriad of things grab at our attention and our affection. To continue in love for a person, or a church, or Jesus Himself seems to require this daily discipline of concentrated love and focus.

A great, and I suppose not surprising side effect of this discipline has been the insights that the Lord sometimes gives during prayer – this isn’t a one-way street. Today He made me aware of the depth and value and power of a church community. Jesus said that those who do God’s will are His family. And in the days and culture where He walked the earth, family was everything. A person’s entire financial, physical and social well being were dependent on belonging to a family, so for Him to make such a statement would have meant much more to his contemporary hearers than it may to us today.

It made me think. When I look around the building on Sunday morning, do I see people with that same deep affinity and affection, with a sense of mutual reliance? Do I see them as integral to my spiritual life? Or are they just acquaintances and a few friends? Today it was impressed on my heart that we need each other, and that the presence of His Spirit in each of us ties us together with a bond even deeper than blood.

In Mark chapter 3 Jesus called some of His followers to be apostles, and remarkably some, to all appearances, had nothing to do with each other: Levi was a tax collector – a Jew that worked for the Roman government (and was therefore considered a vile traitor by his people), and Simon the Zealot who was among those calling Israel to violently overthrow the Roman rulers! Imagine them sitting in a room together. And yet Jesus called each of them to not only follow Him, but be among His closest companions and those entrusted with spreading the Gospel.

Man looks on the outward, but God looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

Not only are we called to simply be kind to each other, we are called to serve the Lord side by side with our whole hearts, knowing that His work to redeem and renew, to bring the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven is the greatest value of all and that anyone laboring with us toward God’s ends is our “brother and mother and sister.”

Ask the Lord today – who have you ignored, overlooked, or refused to interact with that He has accepted and called His son or daughter?

 

 

 

 

30 Days to Stay & Pray

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Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

I woke up yesterday for church feeling pretty lackluster. Even before the sun rose that morning I had been feeling these nagging questions in the back of my mind. Why do I go to church? What is even the point of this?

I could answer my own questions of course. Community is good. Maybe I’ll be encouraged or be able to encourage someone else. God moves through His people in community. The writer of Hebrews pretty much commanded we show up (Heb 10:25). All of these are good reasons to get in the car that have propped me up many a pooped-out Sunday morning.

But shouldn’t it feel good too? I used to get excited about going to church. I never wanted to miss it. What changed? I’m friends with many of the pastors & elders at my church, and I know they’re seeking God. It’s not them. My friends there are the same. Nothing minor has changed like the music or decor that would affect my mood.

Maybe it’s me.

I haven’t been to church much this summer. Between travel and sickness my Sundays were otherwise occupied. And here’s the thing: I find that the less I go, the less I want to go. If you’re thinking, “Well, maybe that’s telling. If you don’t miss it, maybe it’s not for you,” let me just say that I get that reasoning. But it’s the same way in my life with the Bible. The less I read the less I want to (and the converse is also true!). But the Bible is most definitely for me, and for you. Some things just take discipline, like exercise and eating well. The acquired pleasure in them, and the health they bring is the reward.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”Matt 6:21

Jesus was talking about where we spend our resources. And my time has been spent elsewhere this summer — I haven’t been attending or volunteering or praying. And so now I find my heart is elsewhere, too.

In those early morning minutes as I was dragging myself out of bed, a thought occurred to me. And it was such a powerful urge, laced with the certainty of its importance, that I suddenly turned to my husband and said,

“We need to pray for church. Every day for 30 days.”

So I’m committing to it: to invest in my church community by praying for it every day. And if you look around and see a church you don’t feel like going to anymore, will you pray for it? Or even if you DO feel like going, will you pray for it? Invite God’s work there. Pray for the leaders. Pray for the volunteers. Pray for the person sitting next to you! Ask the Lord where He would have you join the work there in any measure. Every day.

Because we go to church to encounter God together. He designed it to function this way. Don’t cut ties if you’re feeling thirsty, pray for rain! And if it’s already raining, pray for a soaking! Do it for your sake and for the sake of the person beside you in the pew, for the sake of the Kingdom.

30 days, every day. Even just a few sincere sentences on the drive to work or while you fold laundry.

Will you join me? Let’s see what the Spirit will do when we say “Thy will be done in this place.”

 

 

The Truth that Brings Freedom

A nagging thought has been plaguing me lately. As I look around me at a culture that is passionately on one side of the political spectrum, a culture I in many ways very much identify with, I began to wonder how much of what I believe is fueled by the influence of my peers, and their passions. How many of the stands I take (or don’t take) are truly from the Spirit in me, and how many are coming from the ideas of people (even well-meaning ones) around me?

Feeling a little lost and pretty sure this wasn’t something I was going to be able to see objectively, I started praying.

Lord, I want my heart to be Your heart. I want to see as You see.

It was as if the Jesus of Revelation with eyes of flaming fire, eyes that reveal His purity and purifying nature, turned to look at me, and the Spirit seemed to ask in my heart if I was prepared then to go against the crowd, to suffer as He did.

I was not expecting that. But I felt like Peter when Jesus asked his disciples, after a great desertion by many of His followers, if they would leave Him too.

“Simon Peter replied, ‘Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69

Friends, I believe that God is good. That all good things come from His hand, that He created us for fulfillment and joy in His presence. And that there is no true, lasting peace or joy or fulfillment apart from Him. So I said, yes, I want the truth and to speak the truth.

And I began to see a culture that has compromised with sin, as a value. We sometimes turn a blind eye to sin in people’s lives, excusing it because they are broken and needy. Saying that God is kind, and Jesus invites us to come as we are.

Yes, He is so very kind. He sent His son as a sacrifice to pay for our sins. So why would we trample that kindness underfoot and treat it as nothing, by continuing to sin? To ask, if it was possible, for Him to be more kind? To not only forgive the sin but also pretend it isn’t sin?

When God created us and set rules in place, those rules were to ensure our joyful, thriving survival, and that of the entire planet we were set to care for. This is why Paul says, for example, that those who sin sexually, sin against their own body. We were made to function according to certain parameters, and when we reject those, we break the delicate circuitry. And not only our own circuitry – we mess with others’ too. We are not able to see the long term effects, not for us or those around us. Some sin may seem to be small to us, but the effects it has are sometimes beyond our perception and always beyond our comprehension in their scope.

We all do this, me included. We participate in breaking the world God gave us. Or turn a blind eye when others do. Maybe someone has an affair, or is only attracted to the same sex and so decides to embrace that sexuality in their life. We might say, “Their spouse was unkind,” or “how hard to be born longing for someone you can’t have, I’m sure God understands.” God does understand, yes! He aches with us over the brokenness and loss of this world! He entered it as one of us and suffered (including being celibate for the sake of His calling). But He cannot call our malfunction a good, or say “yes, you should keep doing that.” If a starving man is eating poison, wouldn’t you bat it out of his hand?

And yet we rail at God and call Him unkind. As though Jesus Himself didn’t suffer homelessness, hunger, public abuse and abandonment by His own dearest friends and family; as though He wasn’t cruelly murdered by His enemies for His obedience to God.

It’s as if we gave a child a room stocked with wonderful toys and foods and the freedom to enjoy them, asking them only to take care of these things, and then they trashed the place, and called us mean because they stepped on a lego and called us cruel because they ruined all the food and tried to eat dust instead.

Every one of us has contributed to the state of the world we live in, and suffering comes to us in it. Only God can put it right, through us. We must walk in step with the Spirit -wholly turning from sin in ourselves and not excusing it in others, but rather gently and joyfully calling them to walk with the Lord of Creation, being part of His rescue plan that is founded in truth and righteousness and brings real, lasting, never-disappointing hope.

To live in the light, the truth, in this decaying world is hard. It is costly. We aren’t promised happiness in this phase of life any more than Jesus was. But we are promised eternity in a glorious, remade world, one free of sickness and suffering and death. And even now we can have Him, the One who truly loves us and satisfies our deepest longings with Himself. There is the joy and hope to press on!

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Rom 8:18

 

One Nation…Under God?

I’ve been reading a drop-everything-and-read-it-too book called Epic of Eden by Sandra Richter, a professor of biblical studies at Westmont College. I would love to rave more about this book and how it has clarified all my confusion about the old testament but you can read my review on Goodreads. Suffice it to say, you need to read this book and buy it for all your Christian friends.

But I digress.

I grew up believing that the United States was a Christian country. When bad things happened to America, I heard people saying that we were being judged. But it never quite made sense – if we were a Christian country, why is there freedom of religion in the Constitution? The Jews weren’t free to worship any other gods! That’s what got them into trouble!

Cue years of annoying cognitive dissonance.

In Richter’s book I found relief. She points out two enormous differences between ancient Israel (and the covenant in effect at that time) and the church age (from Jesus’ ascension to right now). In the past, God dwelled in Israel. Literally – the presence of God on earth was above the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies. Furthermore, Israel itself was a theocracy – God was their ruler. Yes, they had kings, but God specifically installed them and when they didn’t follow Him, He sent the prophets to set them straight or remove them. This was the way of it from King Saul until Israel was taken captive and ruled by other nations. Then, even though they were still God’s people, His presence left and their kings were of the pagan, occupying-force variety.

400 silent years…

Enter Jesus.

At His baptism with John the Baptist, there was more than a baptism as we know it going on. The imagery of the dove descending (an anointing, as all the kings before Him were by the prophets) and the language God uses in the voice from above indicates that Jesus is the new King. But Jesus would not just be king of the Jews. He became Lord of Heaven and Earth. His kingdom reaches out to include Gentiles too – people from every geopolitical nation! Furthermore, Paul states that we ourselves are now the Temple (1 Cor 6:19), the place where God’s presence is found on earth.

See where this is going?

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

Just because our pledge of allegiance says “One nation under God” it does not make us a theocracy. In fact, the language of our national charter in the United States, unlike Israel’s, is very specifically against a theocratic form of government. Read: separation of church and state.  We’re not ancient Israel – the church, dispersed all over the world, has become His “holy nation.”

I love waving flags and celebrating my homeland and the people who fought (and fight) to make it a pretty great place to live! But I can’t make the mistake of calling it what it isn’t, or being surprised when its changing ideals rub up badly against mine. My job is to pray for my country and city, to bring God’s love and light, His kingdom, to my corner of this planet, as you must bring it to yours.

Lord, let Your good, perfect, pleasing will be done here on earth, through us.

 

Thoughts & Theology

Back in college I nearly abandoned the Christianity I had grown up with. So many things I had come to “understand” didn’t make sense. And I no longer wanted to live with the cognitive dissonance. If what I believed was the Truth, it had to be consistent with itself, and livable. It claimed to bring hope to the world, so where it brought confusion or hurt it needed to be prayerfully examined.

What I know with certainty is that God is good and true. He gives understanding that brings peace and hope. All of these journeys have ended so far in joy for me as He turns the lights on. I hope what I’m learning helps you too.