Discipleship

Casting Our Eyes at JESUS

Have you ever gone to the Word, opening up the ancient text… looking for comfort, peace, hope, maybe some bravery for the day…

I woke up at 6am, grabbed my cup of coffee, and headed to the table with my Bible and journal under my arm. 6:05. Okay, I have exactly 55 minutes… before the children’s alarms begin to ring and the day begins for all of us. I opened the Word. I read… I went back and read the parts my mind began to wander in…

I pray. The time is ticking and too quickly 7am approaches. I’m not done, Lord. I don’t have what I need for the day. I’m confused about this portion of Scripture. The Old Testament and the New Testament seem to contradict here. I don’t trust you enough- right now for this day… and I’m not ready…

RING!!!!

RING!!!!

RING!!!

All

Three

Alarms.

Sometimes, we can go to the Scripture and come up dry with a big bowl of something we might call gruel. We were looking for bread, for light, for Jesus and we find we stirred up confusion, anxiety, our own doubts and fear. We can forget what we used to know… what we’ve learned before.

Some people stay away from Scripture, call it confusing, and choose to hold on to a few comforting verses… afraid to tread the waters of the ancient truth… afraid of what may be found on the pages, or maybe what is in their own hearts.

We can begin to question… maybe this raw Bible study is for the “professionals”.

I can relate. Quiet times like what I described tug at my heart to quit, to be faint, to sleep in and forget this seeking after Him. BUT the Scripture says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.  In Him was life and that life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend itAnd the Word became flesh

and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father,

full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5 and 14

Jesus is synonymous with the WORD. The Scripture from beginning to end points to Jesus. Jesus shining on Earth, said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”. Basically, He is saying, “Despite how I rock your religious world here… I and the I AM are ONE. I contradict nothing in the WORD because I am the WORD, holy, righteous, infallible, merciful, savior, GOD.”

His purpose was and is:

To show us the Father

To reconcile us to the Father

The Holy Scriptures, Dear Reader, are not meant to be a polite meal… but a HOLY Rocking OF OUR BOATS. You know the kind of rocking that reveals our neediness for Him- the kind that would make us lose our manners,our pride- feel our starving hearts, jump on knees and eat with our hands- both hands cupped fully aware that we need HIM for life… and grateful that He, The One True God, would have us come.

That without the Word, we would live starved, anemic lives… that our spirits would shrink.

The Holy Scriptures aren’t meant to do OUR will for the day… We don’t go through a drive through window called Scripture and order what we want, “Yes, I’d like some comfort, a side of hope and right thinking, a large drink of love. Thank you.” The study of the Holy Scriptures is about the relationship between a Father and His daughter, The Redeemer and His redeemed, , The King of Kings and His subject,The Great High Priest and you -prayer warrior in training, The Bridegroom and His beloved bride, whom He is preparing for His return.

Confusion is NOT from God, but Perseverance despite our circumstances and emotions IS.

And Dear Reader, don’t do this. Don’t think it is easy for the ones you might put on a pedestal. I am saying this to myself, too. Are you ever tempted to think Beth Moore just opens her Bible with no struggle? Do you think Ann Voskamp is better than you? God likes her more… Truth and grace just flow from her naturally?

May I remind us? He has no favorites. He picks you. No one is left out in Jesus. He doesn’t have favorites. He has intimates.

Are you and I willing to be His intimates? He is willing for us to be.

Dear Reader,

I have given into doubt and cowardice more times than I care to admit. I have given into my thinking to survive, just breathe… just hang on…in the midst of an inexplicable battle that taunts me with, “What’s wrong with me? Everything is fine and I am losing it. I should be okay. I should be grateful.” Anxiety spinning around me. Should, should, should… religious condemnation beating me down.

Casting my eyes at Jesus, over and over and over.

Those alarms were ringing and each one shut off one by one. I knew I had a few minutes before my children began to trickle in and before I had to go get the one, who would not trickle in. So, I stood up, quieted my mind and quoted truth. “Without faith it is impossible to please God”. Then I put my faith in Him. I asked Him to speak to my heart and I bent my 5 foot 1 inch self down and whispered, “I am getting up under your hand, doubts, anxieties, confusions and all. You want me to keep seeking You. You are for me not against me”.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Jesus said this in Matthew 7:7

“Come all you who are weary and I will give you rest”. Jesus said this in Matthew 11:28

There is a way we can cast our eyes at Jesus, looking at Him, and never seeking Him; especially if we are religious. And Dear Reader, we are all religious. We are made to be worshipers and we will worship something, somewhere and we will do it religiously… even if it is our own anxieties and confusions. You know we can be just so darn used to being riled up, used to the chaos. We can have Jesus on our lips, crosses on our doors, Scriptures in our purses, scheduled Bible studies, Christian radio blaring, and all of it can add up to a sum of casted glances at Him without ever seeking Him. We can look over at Him with a heart full of anxiety and look away with a heart still full of anxiety.

To place our eyes in His direction does not equal our seeking Him.

Seeking Him is work. Seeking Him is faith in Him and refusing to put distance between us because He’s not responding the way I’d like. Seeking Him is taking that fear and doubt and laying it down at His feet and taking His strength, His armor in it’s place.

I knew a pastor, who used to describe being unsaved as swimming downstream and being saved as swimming upstream. Expect opposition was the clear message here.

Expect Work and Whatever it Takes.

Whatever it takes- like 5am cause 6 isn’t enough time for me. I know this about myself already.

Battle Mentality, Sisters.

It is a gift of Jesus to let us in on our confusions, our anxieties… our desperate condition… how needy we are for Him. It is a gift from Him not to let up on the disciplines He is building into our lives.

It is like an alarm that signals us to more, more time with Him. More time to listen, to read, to wrestle… to hear from our King. He’s talking, Dear Reader, and He is looking for listeners. And I know, the taunting. I know how it feels to want to believe you’ve made up His love for you. I know what it means to doubt, to fear, to think… have I made any progress on the inside?

May I remind you to remember where you came from? What was that miry pit He saved you from to set your feet on a rock? How has He been faithful to you over and over and over?

Dear Reader, I bless you with seeking your Father because

Your Father, who loves you is patient with you, kind to you. Your Father’s love is not rude, nor self- seeking, not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. Your Father’s love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Your Father’s love always protects you, always hopes (believes the best about you), always perseveres and never gives up on you. Your Father’s love never fails. Taken from Prayer Portions by Sylvia Gunter from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

In Christ Alone,

Diana

P.S. He was faithful that day to carry my burdens and minister to me. Answers came to those confusions, peace calmed the storm, and Jesus was glorified in my heart and home. AND the alarm has been going off at 4:30 because He is NOT letting up on me. I praise Him for being a good Father!

P.S.S. And may I also encourage you that just because I get up at 4:30 doesn’t mean I am sitting there for two and a half hours just studying my Bible and praying in a seated position. It also means I get ready for the day, begin chores while meditating on the Scriptures I am memorizing, singing songs of praise to Him, and praying. It is just disciplined, quiet time in preparation for the day ahead and I personally know it is best for me to rise that early.

The Good News for the Battle Weary

It doesn’t sound like good news.

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. Matthew 27:1

Doesn’t sound like it, but Good News indeed, well that is if it is our good news- if we own it… if it owns us. If we’ve been purchased with the blood that was shed.

The best news.

This story. Truth and Grace made ours by His blood.

But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. John 19:15

Still, here it doesn’t sound like Good News either.

Sounds bad. Like front page Memphis, political, back room scheming, depressing news.

O but to the ones who have been called according to His purposes… who know that plan was carried out and that it was ON PURPOSE that the innocent should die because He loved the guilty so much. He paid the penalty. And for the ones who know that there is no remission for sin unless the innocent dies on behalf of the guilty- this is GOOD NEWS Indeed!

 

The Bible says we are born INTO sin.

The Bible also says there is no way we can get ourselves OUT of sin, or the sin OUT of us- not on our own.

There is not one person who has escaped the wretched stench of death producing sin. Not one. But because of THIS GOOD NEWS DEATH, Jesus can take every death and breathe life into it.

THIS GOOD NEWS.

You could make a list of what you’ve lost, what has died in your life because of sin: your sin and others.

I’m wondering who you are and what your list is and if we could share ours, would we be able to relate to one another? I’m certain that we could.

And I’m wondering how the enemy whispers in your ear and reminds you of your shame, tells you you are a victim. Does he cast ungodly images in your mind, thoughts, desires? How does he remind you of all that’s been lost? Do you suffer in silence? Do you fight, sometimes or often to seemingly no avail?

Are you battle weary?

Sometimes I get this feeling come over me, like a blanket, and I can’t describe it any other way but with the word: DEFEAT. It “feels” like that word is “on” me. Can you relate to that? I’ve had to learn to push through that… to place my faith IN HIM, not MYSELF and to weed out the lies from the truth.

I want to share something about the Good News with you.

It is right to “own” a problem, a sin, an issue, a pain…

photo 1

to point it out- call it what it is. Say, “This is mine”.

“I’m an alcoholic. I’ve tried and tried and I cannot drink normally”.

“My husband is on porn”. (or you for that matter)

“I’m having an emotional affair”.

“I was abused as a child”.

“I am anxious”.

“I’m greedy”.

“I control and manipulate to get my way”.

“I’m having sex outside of marriage”.

“I am depressed”.

“I don’t trust you with ______, God”.

It is a right thing to take ownership, responsibility. To say: I have this with an open hand pointing at it calling it what it is.

The GOOD NEWS is meant to STOP the intimidation and bullying of sin’s condemnation and death sentence over us which often keeps us secretive and stuck or religious and just as stuck.

Here is the line, though.  Pay attention to the difference in this picture.

photo 2

I’ve closed my hand on the sin, the issue.  Now I’m calling it, mine in an inappropriate way. I’m saying that this is WHO I am- me! I’m unwilling to let it go. I’m covering it with my hand. I start to believe that sin is my identity. In this label rich culture, this is happening all around us. This is where this leads:

photo 3

Right here. Is where Satan wants that problem, so close to our hearts that it is an identity: loser, bad mother, failure, dirty, gay, depressed, anxious, addicted, stupid, whore, liar, freak, pothead, unlovable, unwanted… you fill in the blank…

Now-

Listen closely to what Jesus commands: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor …” Luke 10:27 

There is no one or anything that is supposed to be closer to our hearts than Him.

Our hearts are meant to let Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be in first place… with the whisperings of His truth and grace closer than any other.  Believers, we are NEVER meant to allow the enemy that close.

When we do, we become all twisted up.

Anybody ever been twisted up?

When we have become so intimate with lies… they truly seem like they are part of who we are.

photo 4

Here is the proper posture.

Hands open.

First here:

Admit it. Own it. Point to it. Speak plainly- no candy coated rambling.

photo 1

 Next, do not close that hand. Do not draw it close.

Open those hands,

and receive His nail scarred hands in yours

 photo 4

in exchange for every sin, issue, problem in your life.

Take a moment to meditate on that.

This Good News of Jesus taking deadly sin and giving us Himself.

Close your eyes, open your hands out in front of you and imagine His nail scarred hands slipping into yours and pulling you up close to His heart, His life.

Because, Dear Reader, after that bloody death, three days later He rose again.

Death has no sting.

In His Strength, He reigns.

Not In ours.

We are not to be intimidated by our wounds, weakness, neediness or our temptations.

They are just evidences that His Word is true.

The Good News- He was already aware of it all- all our weaknesses… Hence the cross, where the blood payed for every last bit of it.

I bless you with pressing on into Jesus, confessing your sin boldly at the Throne of Grace and receiving His hands in yours.

Bless you with knowing Him as your perfect Abba Father, with laying your head down against His chest and letting Him love you as His beloved daughter.

Bless you with NOT recognizing yourself according to the flesh because you are in Christ, you are a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  Bless Him, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,… (adapted from 2Corinthians 5:16-18)

In Christ Alone,

Diana


What’s a Christ Follower to Be in a Culture of Boxes and Labels

1 Timothy 1:15

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.

This was written by the Apostle Paul to Timothy, his true son in the faith.

The book of First Timothy was written to give Timothy instructions to lead the believers in Ephesus. This was not an easy task in that it included dealing with false doctrine, disorder in worship, the need for leaders, and materialism.

Timothy was in the midst of a complicated culture as are we.

TODAY, there are talking heads in abundance, opinions galore, experts in extreme, and labels for everything and… yes everyone.

In this environment our main goal is to keep our eyes on Jesus and the simplicity of the Gospel because that is where we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit leaving behind wrong thoughts about who we are and are not.

Let’s look at our culture together and see how this Scripture applies to us so beautifully.

CULTURE’S LABELS: Alcoholic, Bulimic, Kleptomaniac, Homosexual, Heterosexual, Bisexual, Transgender, Pyromaniac, Manic depressive, ADHD, Left-winger, Right-Winger, not to mention denominational and religious labels… and how about emo, gangsta, prep, stoner, rocker, nerd, preppy? As you noticed, I listed a wide variety- from clinical to slang.

Labels in and of themselves are not bad usually. They can help people take responsibility like saying, “I am an alcoholic”, which is a huge step for a person, who has perfected the art of blaming. Responsibility is a big step in the right direction. Labels help doctors identify and treat issues like postpartum depression. And if a girl wants to hang out with a stoner, well, Dad and Mom will have the necessary information to protect their daughter. So, labels can be helpful.

So, what happens when sinful man gets a hold of labels? Well it can become confusing quickly, especially when it’s personal. Here are some examples where labels can be misused: An alcoholic guilts his friends and family to enable his destructive habit of drunkenness. Someone diagnosed with bipolar can use this to minimize and justify their inappropriate behavior. A left-winger can refuse to listen to anything a right-winger says and vice versa. Here is another: I read a blog post some time ago by a woman, who was named one of the top 50 most influential women in Christendom today by Christianity Today. She was responding to the Southern Baptist Convention’s passing of a resolution to condemn the leadership of the Boy Scouts for accepting openly gay boys in the organization. Now, she gives some great points in her blog especially challenging some of the church’s obvious hypocrisy in dealing with sexual issues, but nonetheless she buys culture’s use of labels hook, line, and sinker. She continually uses the word, “gay” as a label. Reader, it is the enemy who whispers lies to young boys saying, “You are gay” and in her blog she affirms that lie. She even suggests the Christian Gay Network as help for in her words “gay Christians”.  We MUST take labels through the lens of Scripture, not discounting our struggles or others, but never making those struggles “special” or putting them in little boxes that say “Do not Touch”… Let’s be honest. We forbid no one but Christ. Did you get that?  When we coddle our labels, we choose them over Christ refusing Him and His healing of our deepest wounds.  And we will ALL stand before Him one day and give account. It is Satan that tells us our sin is special, our identity. Our sin is only our identity if we are unsaved, unrepentant; then still Christ calls us to more: to Himself and a new identity in Him.

Look at what Paul says: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.

PAUL”S LABEL: Paul gives himself the label- “worst of sinners’. Now let’s consider why. Look at the verse and consider where the period is placed. I believe that Paul is saying here that the worthy saying starts with the first word after the colon and ends with the period. I don’t believe Paul was giving only himself this special title. I believe he was also giving it as a gift to first Timothy and then to the body from the Lord.

Consider Paul saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst”.

Timothy saying,”Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst”.

You and I saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst”.

Now imagine Christ asking, “Who will be the worst of sinners in this generation?” And Paul standing and raising his hand volunteering and through the corridors of time men, women, boys, and girls, have read those words and said, Yes! Lord, me! I get it. It is a call. A position- to both serve and receive more and more of Christ and His love, His goodness, His purity, long suffering, power, wisdom, joy, peace, and self control. It is all about Jesus and making much of Him!

Let that soak in.

And consider further with me evidence of this. In Bible times, the goal of discipleship was not merely educational learning but personal transformation. “A disciple did not grasp the full significance of his teacher’s learning in all it’s nuances except through prolonged intimacy with his teacher,” states Jewish historian, Shmuel Safrai. “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ,” Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11:1. This was Paul’s goal with Timothy. Do as I do, Say as I say, as I am following Christ follow me. And isn’t it true, we begin to talk and act like those we spend the most time with.. Paul indeed wanted Timothy to take the entire saying as his very own, so He could serve with this attitude, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”. Philippians 3:12 And this: “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8 If you are a parent, you can see this clearly, children are watching you and your words mean little to nothing if they aren’t backed with action. Paul wanted his way of life to be caught, not merely taught.

May the Lord bless you with casting all labels and boxes of bondage at the foot of Jesus, that every weakness would present to you an opportunity for more of Jesus, who is the head of the church. Bless you with trumping every label with the best one of all- worst of sinners- bought with a worthy price and crowned with the righteousness and purity of Christ. Bless you with allowing the Father to re-parent you, letting every cultural assumption run through His fingers and given to you corrected: new, afresh, in truth and in grace- healing you in your deepest wounds. And bless you, with the awareness and peace that the Holy Spirit intercedes for you in your weakness.

In Christ Alone!

Worst of Sinners, Diana