Monday, January 27, 2014

Time to Leave Things Behind

Like people running a race,
we must take off every heavy thing.
We must leave behind things
that get in our way and entangle us…
We must keep our eyes on Jesus.
~Hebrews 12:1-2

During this season, God is calling
His sons and daughters together
for the sake of clarifying the course and
adjusting some of our thinking.
He is helping us to think bigger,
which always means thinking more like Him.
First we have to leave behind the
thoughts that get in our way of doing so.

Thinking bigger requires us to think less
about the things that used to define us.
These thoughts involved assessing,
mostly subconsciously,
whether we were valued and significant.
We often determined success by things like
money, friends, position, achievement, power
education, promotion, recognition, status—
even in, maybe especially in, the church.
Our judgments about significance often were
made in light of world system values.

Maybe in strange ways, these values
helped direct us to our callings.
 There was good that came out of those times.
But at some point, we must recognize 
the trappings of living in the world.
When the trappings are embedded so deeply that
we cannot strip off those "things that entangle us,"
God comes in to help us get them off.
Often, God will use something that feels like
a wrecking ball to get our attention.
He doesn’t want to wreck us, however;
He wants to wreck those things that aren’t Him.

The narrow road has been taking on new meaning.
It hasn’t changed any of the old meaning,
but it is meaning more now.
I have been on the narrow road for many years
and yet every day I begin the journey again.
Every day, I am on both sides of the gateway,
on the inside knowing I am His and 
that He is ever with me and
on the outside wanting to begin again
that I might know Him more.
There are days I am afraid that
I won’t find Him in the depths I desire.
My mind wanders, my heart fears,
my emotions hold me back.
This stripped down version of myself
wonders if I can do this.
He whispers once again that He is with me.

Whatever my thoughts of God are today,
He is infinitely more than I can imagine.
So my desire today is to move closer,
to hear more intentionally,
to see more vividly
and know more practically.
Jesus, be the absolute center of my life.
That I may be one with you.

Infinite love made our hearts in such a way
that only an infinite union with infinite love will do
~St John of the Cross

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Take Heart

Hearts rebuilt by divine Love 
allow pain to become peace.

There is no escaping pain in this world.
Jesus told us so Himself.
"In this world you will have trouble and suffering, 
but take heart for I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

He obviously didn't overcome the world
by removing trouble and suffering.
He overcame the world by incarnating 
the love of His Father.
"For God so loved the world that He gave..."
His love for us, in us and over us 
protect us from all trials we have in this life;
His love is our "take heart" reason.

Paul described the trouble and suffering as
life and death, powers and principalities,
things that are threatening and impending,
things to come, heights and depths,
and every sort of thing that can come at us.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. 
I’m absolutely convinced that nothing...
absolutely nothing can get between us 
and God’s love because of the way 
that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
Romans 8:38-39

If we could be persuaded by
revelation, reason and experience
that this one great truth is more real
than the air we breathe,
then "taking heart" would be our default.
Pain doesn't separate us from His love;
pain gets absorbed by His love.

His banner over me was love, 
for love waved as a protecting and
comforting banner over my head
when I was near Him.
Song of Solomon 2:4
His banner of love is ever over us—
His redeeming love, His everlasting love, 
His restoring, sanctifying, and atoning love.
His love sets us free and delivers us from fear.
His love is our life, our hope and our confidence.

We are part of those armies of heaven 
riding behind the One named Faithful and True.
We are carrying the same banner that He carries,
the banner He carried on earth as in heaven.
The banner with the word Love.

His love heals every wound, 
transforming pain into peace.
In a world flooded with trouble and suffering,
we live under the banner of His love
that we may demonstrate our union with Him.
At this season, may we be persuaded that
absolutely nothing can get between us 
and God’s love because of the way 
that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

As His love rebuilds our hearts,
we then go out and help others see that
His divine love has the power to transform
their pain and allow it to become peace.
God is love and 
He is the Prince of Peace.
He is forever the reason 
we can "take heart,"
and is exactly what the world
so desperately needs to know.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Everyday Pilgrimage

How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, 
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage!
~Psalms 84:5
Many of us have been on a long
and beautiful journey with the Lord.
We have traveled down roads largely
marked out by others that we might
get to know the tenets of our faith, 
learn of the faithfulness of our God, 
and practice loving God and loving others.
For the most part, we landed in a good place.

But the Lord has been closing off some of 
the familiar roads and kicking up a little dust.
He has been wanting to get our attention 
that we might be willing to stop and listen.
For many, it has looked like things
just may be falling apart.

Without devaluing what we have gained,
we must recognize that we can no longer
 just continue journeying.
We have to return to the Rock and 
make sure that we have accumulated
nothing which would define us
that is outside of Him.

That includes systems of thought, idols of
image, self, possessions, or pleasure--
all we added to cover up what we fear most--
to know and be known by Him.
And to trust that He is enough for us.
Despite being on a long and
sometimes arduous journey,
we don't know as much about the land
as we might have thought we did.

The Lord is now preparing us for pilgrimage,
a spiritual journey, not for the purpose of
finding new landscape but that, having new eyes,
we might see what is already there.
Paradoxically, pilgrims leave home to travel 
through a territory that is not their true "home."
Only to discover home is their very heart,
the very heart of our Father.

All these great people lived with faith until they died,
confessing that they were pilgrims on the earth.
This earth was not their home.
~Hebrews 11
Surrounded by a community of believers,
we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us
on this holy pilgrimage of everyday life.
To delight in the mystery, learn from 
the paradox, and grow in union with HIm.
Everyday pilgrims whose heart is found in Him,
that the world will have an
accurate representation of His love.
This is our holy calling,
the only life truly worth living.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Eternal Present

Yesterday during worship, we sang
one of my old favorites, "Air of Heaven."
I will not give to You, 
that which cost me nothing.
Set eternity before my eyes.
Lead me far from compromise...
Let me breathe the air of heaven,
I will live this life through Your eyes.
When I come I won't be a stranger,
For You have kept my life
In the way of the Lord.

Such a powerful declaration and reminder
that we are not to give the Lord 
trivial tokens of a dreary life.
Instead, we ask that eternity be set before us
that we might live our lives 
through His eyes of blazing love--
so that we might offer our lives as 
one continual sacrifice of love.
Compromise, don't come near me.
I refuse to look at life with familiar eyes,
as if every moment is not an act of wonder.
Air of heaven, be my breath.
Eternity, fill my heart.
His eternal life is our abundant life.
Outside all temporal structure,
our life in HIm is abundant in this moment
and reforms our view of our world.
It is not a focus on today, 
nor is it a focus on eternity.
There is a view toward an eternal present,
with the seen connected to the unseen
because of our union with Christ.

We fix our eyes on what is unseen. 
What is seen is temporary, 
but what is unseen is eternal.

Lord, today by Your grace, 
I will live this life through Your eyes,
as Your friend.
My union with You through death
provides abundant life--life after death--
as I live here on earth today.

Now to Him who is able to keep me...
Jude 1:24
You will keep my life in Your way.
Air of heaven, fill me with Your breath of life
for this eternal present now moment.

"Air of Heaven" by Jay Hallstrom
from Air of Heaven 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sound of Silence

Sometimes it seems all we can ask is:
"Does anyone know what God is doing?"
Seems that question has been asked before--
and the answer has been provided as well.

"The unspiritual self, by nature, 
can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. 
There’s no capacity for them. 
They seem like so much silliness. 
Spirit can be known only by spirit—
God’s Spirit and ours in open communion. 
Spiritually alive, we have access 
to everything God’s Spirit is doing. 
Isaiah’s question, 'Is there anyone
who knows what God is doing?' 
has been answered: 
Christ knows, and we have His Spirit,
we have the mind of Christ." 
1 Cor 2:14-16, The Message

There are seasons when God pulls up
things that have been familiar 
and comfortable to us.
They can be good things or
not so good things, but we know
how to do life with them.
He comes along and kicks up a little dust.
We look around and find that 
things are not the way they were.
Many of us are in a season where
things which were life to us
have been torn down.
As uncomfortable as it is, 
this is a season in which 
things are being made new.
And we can't "keep on keeping on"
because some of the things 
are no longer there to keep on with.
It is a season where we must 
intentionally step out of routine,
refusing to move on to the next thing.
We must sit down and listen.

The question is no longer:
"Is there anyone around who knows
what God is doing?"
The question is now:
"God, would You tell me 
what You are doing?"
Because Christ knows and
we have the mind of Christ.

The Holy Spirit came that
we would have His Spirit alive in us.
In this tear down season, He is tearing down
false ideas and false images that
keep us unspiritual and immature.
Some of these may have been 
acceptable in one season, but
He is asking us to know Him more.
Some ideas and images were built
on foundations of fear and world systems 
that did not look or sound like the One
who came to reveal our Father.
He wants us to walk in His fullness, 
incarnating His image so that we can
re-present Him to a world that has
for too long heard false ideas 
and seen false images.

In this ever paradoxical Kingdom,
we must go up to go deep.
We have to plunge the depths of silence
that we might hear deep calling to deep.
"Spirit can be known only by spirit—
God’s Spirit and ours in open communion. 
Spiritually alive, we have access 
to everything God’s Spirit is doing."
Inner rivers of grace flow and
only the quiet heart can hear them
and be refreshed in them.
Most times, I would rather God tell me
to run up an obstacle-strewn mountain
than sit quietly and do nothing.
I have to train my ears to listen
for a sound rather than a word.
A word can drive me;
a sound can settle me.
A time for building up will come
with words that give direction and purpose.
At this time, however, I am intent on
listening for the sound of silence.

Image: DavidLarkin/instagram