Monday, December 31, 2012

Extravagant Abundance

In the beginning, before all time, 
was the Word—Christ—
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God Himself.
He was present originally with God.

For out of His abundance
we have all received
one grace after another and
spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing
and even favor upon favor and
gift heaped upon gift.
The Law was given through Moses, 
but grace—
undeserved favor and spiritual blessing—
and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 1:1,2,16
In the beginning, before all time,
Christ was with His Father.
There was nothing Father needed
that was outside of Him.
But He chose to create man in Their image
and sent His Son into the world
as light and life,
a representation of Himself.

He sent Him with grace upon grace,
spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing,
favor upon favor,
and gift heaped upon gift.
Extravagant abundance.

Jesus, You are everything I need
and more than I can ask for.
I have to know You at this level.
 All that You have is mine.
And I want it all.
You tabernacle with me that I might
never be needy again.
Out of Your abundance,
I have already received.
May I know You to the level
that Your extravagant abundance
defines my life.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Deeply at Peace

I’ve told you all this so that trusting Me, 
you will be unshakable and assured, 
deeply at peace, perfect peace. 
In this godless world 
you will continue to experience difficulties. 
But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.
I have deprived it of power to harm you 
and have conquered it for you.
John 16:33

It is not about having a perfect life.
It is about having a perfect peace.
It is easy to write about this.
Every day challenges me to live it.
Jesus assures us that we get to 
experience difficulties--
obstacles, trials, distress, frustration.
We encounter them in very practical ways.
And we have a choice whether to define
our days by what we experience externally
or what we experience internally.
I want to get better at commanding 
the internal peace to define my moments.
I am really good at looking at what is going on
and giving my day some definition.
I want to use the words unshakable, assured
and deeply at peace to describe my days,
no matter what is going on around.
I don't mean this in some Pollyanna way--
I know even today, there are challenges
and emotions that are real.
But, though they are present, 
they don't need to define this day.
Jesus, thank You that You gave us peace
as one of Your gifts to us.
It is one of our greatest weapons.
The more time I spend with You,
the more I trust Your voice
telling me that You command the waters.
I take heart because You conquered 
that which was meant to conquer me.
It is well with my soul.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Unforced Rhythm

Waking up this morning, 
I heard Jesus say to me,
Just come to Me.
I am your peace all day long.
Trust that I am with you and 
that my life in you is available 
so that this day is full of grace.

A bit later, I was on Bible Gateway to find
Matthew 11:28 as verse of the day.
I love when that happens.
It is as though He stands with a gift
and can't wait for me to open it.
He has so ministered to my heart.
Come to me. 
Get away with me 
and you’ll recover your life. 
I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 
Walk with me and work with me—
watch how I do it. 
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I have read this so many times before
and love how The Message puts it.
We can labor with the rhythm of grace
or we can fight against it.
Being emptied of our own strength
gets us in a better position
to flow with the unforced rhythms.
We can get used to the push back.
The push back is what we experience as stress.
But He didn't come for the push back.
He came that we might have abundant life.
That we might work with Him
and experience a life of rest.
Thank You, Lord, for speaking 
as I woke today.
I choose to come.
I need to learn how Your grace works.
I want to walk in step with
its unforced rhythms.
One with You. 
At peace and at rest wherever I am 
and whatever I am doing.
It's what Your abundant life is all about.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

He Empties that We Might Be Full

Each time He said, 
“My grace is all you need. 
My power works best in weakness.” 
So now I am glad to boast 
about my weaknesses, 
so that the power of Christ 
can work through me.
I take pleasure in my weaknesses...
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Cor 12:9-10

There is such a difference between
believing the truth of this Scripture
and living its truth.
Before the Lord told Paul that
His power works best in weakness,
Paul begged the Lord to remove 
the "messenger from Satan"
that was causing him weakness.
Taking pleasure in weakness
 isn't a natural response.
Weakness comes in so many forms--
loss, disappointment, sickness, transitions--
that we can feel empty and out of control
before we discern He may be 
helping us to embrace weakness.
We begin to beg the Lord to remove it.
But if we can sit down in the midst 
of our feelings, identify weakness,
and allow Him to empty us of anything 
that is our own self-sufficient strength,
perhaps pleasure can come 
alongside and fill us instead.
I know that the Lord is emptying me
of sources of strength that are not Him.
It is so that the power of Christ can work in me.
And I want that even if I don't like 
how it feels right now.
I have surrendered my life to Him
and He is emptying me 
so that He can fill me with grace.
Because that's how His power works best.
Lord, help me take pleasure in these days.
You are good and You want me
to experience the fullness of Your strength.
In Your Kingdom where things appear backwards,
I get emptied in preparation to be filled.
Help my life reflect Your truth:
"My grace is all you need."

The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.
For He knows how weak we are.
Psalm 103:13-14 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Return of Hope

For unto us a Savior has been born.
The poor become rich,
the weak become strong
and the hopeless now have hope.
Our hope is Him.
I wrote this poem a couple of years ago for our Christmas Eve service.
The incredibly gifted Gillian Hu wrote music to go with it 
and plays on the piano. Kelli Hamann is on the cello.
It is anointed and beautiful--to be played while the poem is read.
May the sound of Hope be released and greatly encourage all who hear.
(The link is at the end of the post.)

The Return of Hope

The intensity of darkness
Had choked Hope and flung her out.
With poles staked and canopy pitched,
Despair roamed freely under cover.

Despondency picked up speed 
And stayed in motion with no resistance,
Saturating those who lived below
Until they remembered Hope no more.

Weary travelers dragged the weight
With stupefied determination
To move in any direction
But the one that would get them home.

Until the One who knew the darkness said,
“You can have your way no more!”
And shot a beam of light 
To cut the cords of intensity.

Light began to rise over the channels.
It flowed above the hills
And its outstretched wings
Filled the breadth of the land.

The weary and saturated travelers
Came out of the stupor as they sensed
The light had come to reverse
The desperation and resuscitate Hope.

The One who sent the light
Broke the yoke of burden and staff of goading
He spoke a new order of government
And placed it on strong shoulders.

He summoned Hope forth
Peace would now rule where despair had reigned
Darkness had no chance to adjust
He established a Kingdom of light to fill the void

Increase was His command
Promising His government would keep coming
Its span would be eternal
A new canopy had been erected

New names would define the reign
Wise Counselor, Strong Son, Prince of Peace
The operating system would be right judgment
Under this canopy, Hope sat down to stay

Hope became a fellow Traveler and dwelt within
His Grace and Truth pointed them
To the narrow path that would lead them home
To the heart of the One Who called them His own.

I don't know how to listen to the music without leaving this page.
You will have to open two windows to read and listen together.
If anyone knows how to do this the right way, please leave a comment:)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Giving as Sacrifice

The Father loves Me 
because I sacrifice My life 
so I may take it back again.
No one can take My life from me. 
I lay it down when I want to 
and also to take it up again. 
This is what My Father has commanded.
John 10:17-18
Jesus was commanded by His Father
while He was here on earth.
And He lived in complete harmony 
with His Father, obeying Him in everything.
The Father's eternal love for His Son 
was contingent only on their relationship
but Jesus said that His Father loved Him
because He sacrificed His life.
Sacrifice was the expression of His love
back to His Father.

I wonder how many times during the day
that I "forget" to lay my life down?
I am pretty good at taking it back again.
If I want to express my love for Him--
rather than my love for myself--
I have to get better at laying it down.
It will not get used up.
I get empty to get full.
It is the paradox of a life
lived for eternal purpose.
During this season, 
giving must take on deeper meaning.
Giving gifts is easy, certainly fun.
Giving my life--
which includes my affections,
sensitivities, opinions, and desires--
is the highest form of loving Him.
When I take my life back up again,
I want it to be because the life is His.
Resurrected and full,
representing Him to a world that 
desperately needs to see accurately.
Jesus, it is why You came.
I want it to be the reason
 why I breathe.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christ in Us

A famous German writer in one of his tales
tells of a certain silver lamp, which, 
when it was placed in a fisherman's hut
changed the hut, and all that was 
inside the hut, to silver.
It is the same with us.
Whenever Christ comes in contact with us,
everything is changed.
F E Marsh, 1908

Our goal is transformation
into the likeness of Christ.
And all of us, with unveiled faces,
because we continued to behold
in the Word of God as in a mirror
the glory of the Lord,
are constantly being transfigured
into His very own image
in ever increasing splendor and
from one degree of glory to another.
2 Corinthians 3:18
I have no hope but that
Christ lives in me.
There are days like today where I wrestle
with thoughts of inadequacy and doubt,
wondering if the emptiness I feel
will rule my day.

And then God reminds me that
my weakness attracts His strength.
It is Christ who dwells in me.
And I can do all things through Christ,
who strengthens me.
This isn’t some form of Scripture memory.
This isn’t reciting a verse of the day.
This is my desperate cry to remember
that it is not about me.
It is about Him.
I am a perfect recipient for grace
because all I have is
the knowledge that He loves me.
And He lives in me.
His cross beckons me
to come and die.
Because of this,
I, too, can live.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Prince of Peace

And He shall be called Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and 
of peace there shall be no end.
Isaiah 9:6-7
The Holy Spirit was announcing 
the coming of a King and a Kingdom.
The government of this Kingdom will continually 
increase and so will the peace that defines it.
The battle today rages over these very issues.
Who governs my will?
What fills my soul?
My will must be in perfect submission 
to the government of God
and my soul must be filled with 
the atmosphere of confident peace.
And both must be continually increasing.
Jesus tells us very clearly that 
in this world we will have trouble.
But His Kingdom is very different
from the world we live in.
We are not to worry or be anxious.
It can never help us; 
it can do a whole lot to hurt us.
It wastes strength and causes exhaustion.
it makes us irritable and negative.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, 
but in every circumstance and in everything, 
through prayer and making definite requests, 
with thanksgiving, make your wants known to God.
And God’s peace shall be yours, 
that peace which transcends all understanding 
shall garrison and mount guard 
over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil 4:6-7
During this season, I want to be mindful
of the reason Christ came.
He came to incarnate the life of God.
If I am to do likewise, 
then His peace must mark my life.
Lord, I commit my cares 
and any anxious thoughts to You.
 May Your divine love wrap me 
around like a covering, 
quieting all fear and filling me with peace.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kept by Grace

"It is told of a saintly man,
that by his own request, 
the only epitaph on his grave 
was the word kept.
We are all kept by the power of God 
through faith unto salvation."
J R Miller
Secrets of a Beautiful Life

That we are being kept by God
is the miraculous, loving gift of grace.
He keeps us every moment of our day--
teaching us when we are at a loss,
giving us strength when we are tempted,
lifting us up when we fall,
going after us when we wander,
and encouraging us when we are weak.
This patient, never failing, watchful love
of Christ is our salvation every day.
It is His perfect knowledge of us
that gives such infinite patience
to His love and grace.
He knows what is in us--
not just what we are now,
but what we are to be
when His work in us is finished.
We shall be like Him;
for we shall see Him as He is.
“The mother of the artist saw in her boy’s
childish attempts glimpses of genius,
and kissed him to encourage him.
That kiss made him an artist.
So the patient, loving Christ sees
in our poor living, in our yearnings,
our human discontents, our strivings,
our hungers, and our longings,
glimpses of what we may become,
and it is to bring out these possibilities
that He deals with us
in such grace and gentleness.”
~J R Miller 
His gentleness, love and infinite grace
gives me the hope to live this day
for His glory.

While I was with them,
I kept and preserved them in Your Name.
John 17:12