Hope

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.

Christ, the Church, and How Submission is a Blessing to a Man, His Woman, and Their Kids

Ephesians 5:22-24New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Marriage Like Christ and the Church

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. (copied from Bible gateway)

To have ANYONE other than Christ be the head of the Church is downright scary. All glory belongs to King Jesus, the Son, the Lamb, the giver of His blood on behalf of guilty sinner.  He has all wisdom, power, glory, and honor.  He is the only One fit for the job: Head of the church.  So obvious, duh. Yet, we often don’t get the obvious. How many churches truly function with Christ as head? And then marriage? If Christ is head and He is the Word, then we really have to trust this submission thing and let Him grow us in our understanding and practice of submission in marriage.

I was reading some this morning from the book, Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  In the introduction to her book, she talks some on submission.  It got me thinking about how I’ve learned that submission to my husband is a blessing, how just like any other spiritual work- this one can’t be faked.  We can put up an “image” of submission, but if we ain’t submittin’, then we ain’t. Period.

So, in time for the holidays, I’m going to write a series of posts on submission. I’m going to scour the Scriptures, a John Piper book, Nancy Leigh Demoss’s book and website, and any other resource in my path over the next few weeks and I’m going to write on this topic. I looked up Matthew Henry’s commentary (see below) and I think he gives us much to ponder and pray about to begin with.

“Christ’s authority is exercised over the church for the saving of her from evil, and the supplying of her with every thing good for her. In like manner should the husband be employed for the protection and comfort of his spouse; and therefore she should the more cheerfully submit herself unto him.” Matthew Henry’s commentary on Ephesians 5:22-24

Will you join me, Dear Reader?

In Christ Alone,

Diana

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


Something That’s of Worth

A song by Matt Redman:

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless your heart

I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much you deserve
Though I’m weak and poor
All I have is yours
Every single breath

An unkempt man in the wilderness, who ate locusts and honey, who cried out his message, was named John by a man and woman, who had long since buried the dream of having a baby.

Most of Israel had also buried a dream under heavy burdens.

Buried under self, pride, ritual, Rome- the burden of Never Doing Enough, of Never Being Enough,  Never Clean Enough, of being lower class citizens while knowing a seemingly contrary history that told them they were chosen by God. And the politics- steep. Religious elites made backroom deals with Romans and kept the people performing with heavy weighted law upon religious law- or else living as outcasts because they wouldn’t conform. The people grew cynical and tired and defeated. The burden of appearances and pushed down tears of a deadening of the spirit that longs to reach out in dependance and find God faithful.

This- buried deep, unstirred, barely breathing.

So instead of longing for a Savior-

One who would say hard, beautiful, true words,

One who would show them their hearts and confirm that they were not enough,

One who would be enough,

One who would Give Them All Of Himself and awaken their spirits to all He envisioned and crafted in each one of them one- by -one,

One who would use the nation Israel, though weak, historically unfaithful, and small- to speak loudly to the nations- stronger and larger about the One true God,

The only One who could say, “You, made in My image, but bound by sin. I come to free you, but you must agree with me first. From the ancient of days, I have said your heart is desperately wicked. And you must agree with me. No matter how painful.”

So, instead of longing for that One who could make beauty from ashes, their waning spirits withered and they longed for Rome overthrown-

For confirmation that they were good and God was on their side. And what better way than God showing their oppressors Himself with a mighty earthly king, that would deal with their circumstances instead of their hearts.

So instead of longing  for the One who could say,” You are Treasured and although you are dust; I, who am not, will die for you. And here, again, is another tough truth to swallow and admit: You are dust. You must lay your lofty, fantasies about yourselves down and agree with me about your weakness.”

They settled for less- a temporary dream instead of an eternal one.

But this John, was prophesied over before his birth. This baby would grow to be a man and fulfill the prophet Isaiah’s reference to, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make Ready the Way of the Lord, Make His Paths Straight!” (Matthew 3:3) (Isaiah 40:3)

And he, John, would grow, and to the wilderness he would go. And, he, would spend time alone. Because to tell a hard message is to lose a popularity contest, so as to get the servant alone with only one set of eyes on him: the ones that matter most. And the music would fade out in the desert, alone, with a meal of locusts and honey and a coat of camel hair.

And him. And Him. There. And he would bend his knee and he would know that apart from God he could do no good thing.

And then, he would turn to tell the people. To stir them. And stir he did. With the only thing that could stir buried spirits. The Word planted in his heart by the King above all Kings spoken at the appointed time.

This, Dear Readers, is what John did. And he baptized the stirred -those who accepted the hard, precious, holy Word. And when the religious came, he called them a brood of vipers and gave them the same message.

Repent!

Produce Fruit Worthy Of Repentance!

Prepare the Way of the Lord!

And Then He, the Messiah,

Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordon coming to John, to be baptized by him. 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.” Then he permitted Him.

And after being baptized Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

Ponder that. Prophecy fulfilled. Again. And John touching and baptizing the One he said he was unworthy to even untie His sandals. Oh, but the King had spoken. John- content to fulfill the crying out, the preaching, the life of wilderness living… but this… he had not expected. At the end of looong obedience is Jesus in unexpected, holy ways.

And you. Born at this time. For a purpose: To Repent! To produce fruit worthy of repentance! To prepare the way of the Lord!

You have purpose, Dear Reader. I bless you with your spirit being stirred by your Maker and His Word for such times as these. I bless You with agreeing with Him and depending on Him in new ways and on new adventures.

Bless you, Reader, in the special way God crafted you, to prepare the way for His second coming. May you walk in all the fullness of Him and at the end of looong obedience, I pray He knock your socks, sandals, boots, or heels off with Himself in unexpected ways.

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much you deserve
Though I’m weak and poor
All I have is yours
Every single breath