Love Beyond Words

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I probably should have been scared. He was very noticeable, standing at the Starbucks counter. Not only was he was dressed all in black, with tall black combat boots, he also had this amazing hair. It might have been fake, but it was really long, black, almost woolly, and kind of jagged. As I got closer, I saw the black gauges in his ears, and not one but two rings through the center of his nose. I smiled.

Standing behind him as he ordered, I was close enough to see his chains, tattoos, and black, zippered, leather jacket. My smile got bigger.

We waited for our coffee together, although he never looked up from his phone. From the front, I could see the Satanic goat head on his black ball cap, and catch a glimpse of the death metal t-shirt under his jacket. By this point, I was almost in tears…I could hardly contain the love I felt for this boy-man I’d never even met.

He didn’t acknowledged me. But I do have to wonder if he noticed the overly-happy woman watching him with a stupid grin on her face.

***

I sat in my car for a minute, sipping my coffee, tears trickling down my face, praying for this stranger that I now loved. The Holy Spirit began to whisper.

“I see you just like that, Christy…every bit of hurt and brokenness and mess, and I love you even more than you can imagine. I see you, and I think, ‘How beautiful! What a beautiful, broken mess. I want her.'”

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It’s one thing to read the Bible and believe that God loves us. But, friends, this is how I KNOW that God loves us…adores us. I know, because sometimes He lets me feel a little bit of His heart. God’s love is passionate and ridiculous, intense and crazy. We don’t even have a WORD to describe the power of the love He feels for us. There was no reason for me to love that tall, skinny, potentially satanic, black-clad, young man that I’d never met before. But I did…because the God of the Universe loves him beyond words. And He loves you too!!

Do you believe that? God loves you. And, He likes you! 🙂 SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!

We are all broken. That’s the truth.

I think this is one of the reasons I love “alternative type” people so much…they are brave enough to wear their brokenness openly. The rest of us scramble around, pretending we have it all together. We fake it, hoping to be believable. Trying to fool other people, and ourselves, and God. We find more socially acceptable ways to be screwed up.

There is no shame in being broken…not in the arms of Jesus. No condemnation. He already knows our deepest, darkest secrets, and He doesn’t care. They do nothing to affect His love for us. If anything, maybe our brokenness makes Him love us even more.

Think about it…what takes more love? Loving someone who is good, and wonderful, and perfect, and easy to love? Or loving someone who could care less about you, who is your enemy, who hurts you, and runs away? Yeah…

Being broken is part of being human thanks to our sin nature. Accept it. It’s okay. And then bring those broken pieces to the foot of the cross and be healed. It’s not by our own efforts…that would be like trying reconstruct a broken piece of china with Scotch Tape. We are healed by the blood of Jesus. His grace, His forgiveness, His death and resurrection.

When Jesus fixes us, it’s like Kintsugi.

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Photo: Wikipedia

Not familiar with this word? I found this great definition online at mymodernmet.com

Kintsugi is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece. This repair method celebrates each artifact’s unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing it with new life.”

Jesus wants to gather our broken pieces into His arms and love us just the way we are. Then He wants to put us back together. We tend to think God is looking for perfection and we feel our inadequacy. But, Jesus has already given us His perfection…God sees us as perfect because of Jesus’ death! We are broken, but we are whole.

“We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” 2 Corinthians 4:7.

In the same way that Kintsugi emphasizes the gold lines fixing the cracked pottery, when people look at us, they will see Jesus.

Please hear me. I want you to begin to believe this.

  • Every single one of us is broken. Some of us just hide it better than others.
  • Jesus looks right through our masks, sees our reality, and loves us beyond words.
  • There is no shame in being broken, not at the cross.
  • We cannot begin to be healed until we face our mess and give it to Jesus.
  • Jesus cares more about our broken heart than our outward actions.

Will you let Him love you?

 

 

 

Rediscovering Jesus – On a Mountain

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Slowly the old man trudged up the trail, his feet weighed down more by dread than age. One hand clutched his staff, the other stroked a piece of flint he carried in his pocket. He could feel the knife on his belt bump against him with every step. Behind him strode a boy just stepping into manhood. Lean and agile, he hardly seemed to notice the weight of the wood strapped to his back. With eager eyes and sure feet, the hike up Mount Moriah was more adventure than effort for him. Suddenly, the boy stopped.

“Father! I am carrying the wood for the sacrifice, and you have the knife and flint. But, where is the lamb?”

The old man sighed, and a tear trickled down his leathery face. Little did his boy know what was about to happen. His heart threatened to break within him. Yet, the father held on to hope. It had been a long and sometimes difficult journey becoming a friend of the Most High God. There had been many failures along the way, but Abraham had learned one thing. El Elyon could be trusted; His promises were true. And so, the old man drew a deep breath and spoke from a heart of faith.

“God will provide the lamb for the offering, my son.”

And He did! Just as Abraham was about to sacrifice his beloved only son, God stepped in and provided a substitution.

“So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The LORD will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided'” Genesis 22:14.

I have heard this beautiful story used over and over again in moralistic or formulaic ways, and maybe you have too.

“What are you holding back from God?”

“What is your Isaac that God wants you to sacrifice?”

“When you give things to God, He will give them back.”

Blah! I agree that we can learn things from the life of Abraham and that we can indeed apply this account to our own lives. However, I think we often miss the main point of this story.

The New Testament has this to say about Abraham.

“and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’ – and he was called a friend of God” James 2:23.

“Abraham believed God.” The funny thing is that he didn’t. At least not all the time. Abraham is listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, but if you read his story in Genesis 12-22, you will see more instances of doubt than of faith. Twice Abraham pretended that his wife was his sister and allowed her to be taken into a harem. He fathered a child with his servant because he doubted God’s promise, and then abandoned them both in the desert. Abraham wasn’t some super spiritual giant of the faith. He was just a guy who became friends with God…and that’s the point.

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Years before the Law, before the sacrifices, before the temple, before Jesus died on the cross, there was a man who became friends with God. It wasn’t because of the rules he followed, or disciplines he undertook, or any of his outward actions. Abraham had a relationship with God through faith.

He talked with God, followed God, questioned God, doubted God, and saw God do miracles. Eventually, after a lifetime of this relationship, Abraham was at a place where he knew the Most High so well, and his faith was so strong, that he was willing to do the unthinkable.

But it didn’t happen, because the angel of the LORD stepped in.

“But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven… “Do not lay your hand on the boy…” Genesis 22:11-12.

The angel of the LORD is the one who shows up all throughout Abraham’s life. He is the one Abraham meets, feeds, talks to, argues with, and the one who stops his sacrifice. So, who is this angel of the LORD?

Are you ready for this? Most theologians believe that the angel of the LORD is pre-incarnate Jesus. Jesus!!! I love this! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this!!

It get’s better. 🙂

Roughly two thousand years later, Mount Moriah, the mountain where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac, had been developed into a city. Jerusalem. One spring, on the outskirts of that city, a controversial rabbi was crucified.

“On the Mount of the LORD, it shall be provided.”

And it was.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.

Whoever believe in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe in condemned already, because he has not believed in the same of the only Son of God” John 3:16-18.

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Jesus has always been Jesus. 🙂 The God whose name is I AM does not change. The Jesus that we shake our heads at, and yet adore, in the New Testament, is the same in the Old. If you look closely, you will recognize Him: the God who pursues, forgives, loves, gives grace, and sacrifices Himself for the sins of the world. He is powerful, amazing, crazy, confusing, addicting, and beautiful. Will you seek Him with me? Let’s keep rediscovering!

For more info on the angle of the LORD, check out this link.

 

An Identity Crisis Pt.2 (What Does God Think of Me?)

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What does God think about us? Does He like us better when we behave? Is He disappointed when we screw up? I think the real answer might surprise you.

Contrary to how we may have been raised, or to what we may have been taught in church, God’s love for us is not conditional. It is definitely NOT based on how we perform.

God’s love is passionate and ridiculous, intense and crazy! And it’s ALL about Him!

Do you believe that God loves you because of who you are? And I’m not talking about the good parts. God loves you because of who you are including your messes… What do you think about that?

God knows that we have no goodness on our own. He sees the absolute depths of our sin. And right there is where He loves us with such an intense, passionate, gut-level love that our hearts cannot even handle a portion of it.

I know this because God tells us about His love all through the Bible, but I KNOW it because I’ve tasted it. If you struggle to believe in God’s love for you, ask Him to fill you with His love for someone else. I’ll bet He picks someone you would never image and that won’t make any sense. (Warning: you will probably turn into a blubbering mess unable to handle God’s passion without tears.)

 

He was a wreck. Didn’t even make it through the first day of camp without getting sent home. Into every possible negative thing you can imagine, attitude and mouth the size of Mt. Everest, just trouble. TROUBLE. But we’ve been friends for the past two years, so he liked to hang around my health office and sit on my golf cart. I didn’t mind, but I told him that if we were hanging out then we were talking about Jesus.

We had a lot of interesting conversations in those few hours…chatting about God’s love and what God really wants from him, talking about what Jesus did for him, reminding him that the Holy Spirit was there to give him power beyond imagination. He was sitting on my golf cart when the director came to send him home. They drove off to the office and as I watched them leave, my heart was suddenly filled with  love beyond comprehension. I quickly escaped to a quiet hill where the tears started.

“He’s so beautiful, Jesus! Such a beautiful mess…” I just sat and let myself feel and cry. Then Jesus reminded me again, like He has many times before…

“That’s how I feel about you! I love you SO MUCH!!”

I soaked in Jesus’ crazy, unreasonable, insane, too-big-to-handle love, smiling, laughing, and crying until my eyes were red and puffy and my nose was a runny mess.

 

Does God feel emotion? You’d better believe it! Remember, we were made in HIS image.

Do you believe that God loves you this much? Or do you feel like He just puts up with you or loves you because He has to? He doesn’t put up with you. He doesn’t think you are a failure. You are a prized treasure, adored with a love you cannot fathom…not because of your “goodness” but because of His.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

 

I don’t know about you, but that kind of love changes me. It brings me peace and confidence. It makes me love Jesus back. Suddenly I am willing to let go of control. I find myself wanting to follow Him and be like Him.

I think that is the point.

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Peace that Doesn’t Make Sense

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Peace that doesn’t make any sense.

This is the kind of thing that proves God’s existence to me. There I am in a situation where I feel powerless, emotional, empty, stressed, worried, etc. But as I chose to give it to God, He supernaturally gives me “peace that surpasses understanding”…

It was my second miscarriage. It was also Valentines Day and I had to spend it in the hospital delivering my tiny, dead son. We had no living children at this point and had just experienced two late-term miscarriages all while being newly married and living eighteen hours from family. The nurse came in to ask me what I wanted to name my baby. We had no answers. This wasn’t supposed to happen again. How could God really be in control?

We chose to name our son Trust, (click here for the full story) taking a step of faith that we did not feel. And as I chose to trust God, I instantly felt powerful peace, peace without logic. My circumstances hadn’t changed, but my heart was at rest. It was so strange and so beautiful!

 

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A few years later my husband and I dealt with a tough situation where we felt used, abused, and then cast aside by someone we respected. We were left with hurt, anger, and bitterness. I struggled with that bitterness and anger for over a year. It was impossible for me to let it go, far beyond my own power to accomplish. But Jesus broke through, convincing me that it wasn’t worth holding on to. I didn’t think I could do it, but I gave Him my hurt and anger. He worked a miracle in my heart; even though nothing changed and no one ever apologized, my anger and bitterness dissolved and I was left with peace that made absolutely no sense.

 

I have recently been going through something that feels completely out of my control. For days my stomach was in knots, I had a sick taste in my mouth, and my heart would randomly start pounding. My emotions ranged from anger and frustration, to deep sorrow and despair, to worry and fear. Sleeping was a joke because as soon as I laid down my brain wanted to relive and process everything, AGAIN. I was a mess.

I knew that I needed to give it all to God, confess the parts where I was wrong, let go of my anger, and move on, but it seemed impossible. One night as I was checking Facebook before getting into bed, I found this post from Lysa TerKeurst.

“That battle? The one for which you’ve run out of solutions and answers… the one that makes you weary and worried and worn out?

God’s got it. I don’t know who else needs this truth, but I sure do.

My job is to be obedient to God. God’s job is everything else.” Lysa TerKeurst

That night I slept like a baby for the first time in a long while. And when I woke up?

I was at peace.

There is no way for this to humanly happen. Absolutely nothing in my situation, past or present, changed. But Jesus is real, friends! And He took my burdens and gave me peace that doesn’t make logical sense.

I know that many of you are desperate for this kind of peace, supernatural peace that only God can give, regardless of our circumstances. I’m here to tell you that it’s possible! I have seen Jesus do this in my life over and over again. Will you let Him give you peace? Will you let go and chose to trust Him regardless?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

 

 

Living in the Real World of Gray

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I was raised in a world of black and white, right and wrong, good and bad, us vs. them. Granted, my parents were more tolerant than a lot of families I knew, but the atmosphere was still there. And, it didn’t help that I naturally tend to think this way anyway.

Let me give you some examples. Oy!

Wrong and bad things (in no particular order): dating, college, women wearing pants, public school, blue jeans, bearded men, women with short hair, being friends with the opposite sex, Disney movies, any movie rated more than PG, movie theaters, white bread, pork, music with a “back-beat” aka rock and roll, CCM, country, etc, tattoos, multiple piercings, you get the point.

Good and right things (contrasted to the bad ones): courtship, women in skirts and dresses, homeschooling, khaki slacks (for males), clean shaven faces, women with long, flowing, gently curled hair, sticking with friends of your own gender, movies rated G and PG that weren’t Disney, preferably old fashioned ones, fresh made, whole wheat bread, beef and chicken, classical music or instrumental hymns, one set of small stud earrings for females only, blah, blah, blah.

Okay, that’s extreme you say. What does this have to do with me?

Here is what I have noticed. Christians, even “normal” ones are often terrible at living in the real gray world. We choose sides, and fight to the death about stupid issues that aren’t even that important in the long run. We alienate people with our feisty opinions about politics, abortion, homosexuality, the End Times, Calvinism, debt, divorce, health care, etc. Before you get all mad at me for putting some of those topics in the category of “stupid issues”, let me say that I believe in personal opinions and convictions based on Biblical truths. But, our convictions and opinions should never be stronger than our love for people and our desire to see them meet Jesus.

If we have truly met Jesus in a real and personal way, if we have experienced His amazing grace and forgiveness, if we are overwhelmed by His love for us, then there should be one and only one issue that motivates us. Sharing the real Jesus with the world!

I’m sure as you’ve read this, other “hot topics” have popped into your mind. It’s not that I don’t have opinions about things like breastfeeding, organic foods, school options, political leanings, abortion, and gay marriage. I just realize that my opinions and beliefs don’t make me more or less “godly”. I’m okay with not being “right”. I know that there is only one thing that changes my status before the God of the Universe: what I choose to believe about Jesus.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him (Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:17-18

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Too often Christians forget that God didn’t rescue us so that we would be “perfect”. He made us blameless through Jesus so that we can have a relationship with Him. Why do we get so caught up in changing peoples’ actions and beliefs to make them look “more Christian” instead of teaching them to know Jesus so that He can change them from the inside out as He sees fit. Do we doubt the power of the Holy Spirit? Do we forget that He is real? Why do we put so much value on “outward” goodness while ignoring our own inner struggles and sins? What if all Christians set aside the things that divide us and chose to help each other really get to know Jesus. What if our love for Jesus and our passion to share Him with everyone around us was stronger than our differences? What if we cared more about Jesus than about being right?

ID-100365286Truth is that while there are some “black and white” truths in the Bible and in the Christian life, there is also a lot of gray.We need to welcome the gray even if it scares us and makes us uncomfortable. Because that gray area is where freedom happens and where our relationship with Jesus grows. There is room for gray because there is room for growth and change.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.:-)

What if God is more like TobyMac?

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You know that God you doubt/hate/are mad at/are scared of/etc? What if he doesn’t really exist?

Last week I was talking with an older, wiser friend, and one of the things she said stuck with me. It went something like this, “Too often we make God into our image instead of remembering that we were made in His.” I can’t stop thinking about it! I don’t expect non-Christians to have an accurate view of God, but those of us who call ourselves Christians should have it right…Right?

One Christmas, soon after I married my husband, my father-in-law was trying to figure out how to make a poster on Microsoft Publisher. I ended up helping him. We inserted an elephant and a bunch of ants from Clip-Art. Then he explained to me that God was the elephant and we were the ants getting stepped on. Ouch! But, if we are honest, I think many people share this view of God: a distant God, an uncaring God, a God who punishes us…

I used to think that God was angry a lot of the time. I used to think He liked me better when I was being “good” and following the rules. I used to think He was disappointed in me when I messed up.

My version of God was cut and dry, black and white, understandable. He fit in my box.

I also used to think that rock music was evil, and that anything with a beat was from the devil. Instrumental hymns or classical music with no drums were the only types of music that “godly” people should listen to. Yeah… Confession: Today I was totally rocking out to TobyMac’s “Feel It” in my living room. Freedom is amazing!!

Love came crashin’ in, Never gonna be the same again, Yeah, You came crashing in, You wrecked me, You wrecked me!

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Okay, here’s the deal. What if we are totally off on our view of God? What if we have made Him into our image? What if in our modern Western love of knowledge and intellectualism, we have put the Creator of the Universe into a box that we can understand. What if we think He’s like an instrumental hymn played on the piano (Nothing against hymns! This is for comparison purposes.), but He is really TobyMac? What if the god we have created for ourselves in our own image doesn’t exist? This is good news for people who were burned by Christians or the church and thought that was God!

I believe that God is bigger, and crazier, and more terrifying, and more wonderful, and stronger, and more full of love and grace and passion and emotion and depth, and more radical, and scarier, and wiser, and more incredible and mind blowing, and just MORE than we can ever imagine or comprehend. Even when we are trying to think outside the box, He is going to be MORE!

In our attempts at intellectualism, we pin God down and try to make Him human-like and something we can understand and dissect. We turn Him into big words and concepts. Or we stop trying to understand and just ignore Him, choosing to focus on what we can see and taste and touch. But God says that His foolishness is wiser than our wisdom, and His weakness is stronger than our strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25)

I don’t know about you, but I’m throwing away my calm, understandable, “instrumental” version of god, and reaching out for the radical, wild, incomprehensible, crazy “TobyMac” version that I believe exists! I want the real God to blow apart the box I have built to try and contain Him. Something deep inside of me longs for More, for Someone I was made to know. I was created in His image. You were created in His image! And guess what? He has promised over and over that if we seek for Him, we will find Him.

I’m not throwing away the Bible, because I believe that God wrote it and it’s one of the best ways to discover what He is like. But I am looking for a fresh understanding. I’m going to question and search and stop believing just because someone told me. If a thought or theology or mindset makes God seem smaller or more predictable or more containable, I’m going to doubt it. This isn’t supposed to be a religion! I’m supposed to be the daughter of the King of Kings. I wanna get to know my Dad, my Creator, my Savior, my Friend! For myself!

What about you? Is your god in a box? Do you long for more? Will you join me in looking for the real God?

Islam is Not the Enemy

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Warning: This is a rant. You might get offended.

Refuges, gun control, Muslims, Islam…hot topics in the last few weeks. Facebook is full of it: articles, memes, statuses, etc. Everyone has an opinion. People calling themselves Christians have opinions. And now I am going to get blunt. Some of their posts and the things they share are downright ignorant and offensive. Christians, this post is for you, those of you who claim to believe in Jesus as your Savior, I’m going to remind you of a couple of things and inform you of some others. Here we go! 🙂

Islam is not the enemy. Muslims are not the enemy, not even radical ones who commit acts of terrorism.

  • Did you know that a Muslim can never be certain if they are going to heaven or not? That they just have to hope in the mercy of Allah, hope that in the end their good deeds will outweigh their bad ones?
  • Did you know that most prayers in Islam are simply a repeated ritual and that Allah is not portrayed as a personal god to be known?
  • Did you know that the Quran cannot be read “in context” because the verses don’t always go together with the next verse? It was compiled after Muhammad’s death by men who had listened to him and memorized what he said. The first complete manuscript on record is dated 200 years after Muhammad’s death.
  • Did you know that in order to understand the Quran, Muslims rely on hadith, Muhammad’s words and actions recorded in tradition, kind of like biographies? Different types of Muslims rely on different authors because they don’t always agree.
  • Did you know that while Islam teaches that Jesus was a historical character, even a prophet, he was NOT the Son of God, he did NOT die on the cross, and he was NOT raised to life?

Islam is not the enemy. Just reading over these few points reminds me who the real enemy is – someone who not only hates God but also hates the people He created. Someone who is really good at telling lies and spinning half-truths. Someone whose main goals are to steal, kill, and destroy. The enemy is Satan. Muslims are just lost children of God.

And these precious people are never going to find the truth about Jesus if the only Christians they encounter are so filled with fear and worry that all they can do is hate. They will never find Jesus if the Christians they meet don’t know their Bible, because devout Muslims not only know the Quran and the hadith, they also know the Bible. These lost children will never meet Jesus if they don’t meet Christians who know Him, who have an active relationship with Him.

So, Christians, stop it! Stop being afraid of what you don’t understand. Get educated. Stop expecting this world to be comfortable and satisfying. Stop being shocked and horrified when bad things happen. This is not our home! We were made for more! Stop living for yourself. Use your short vapor of a life to share Jesus because it’s gonna be over really soon. Stop fearing death or the unknown! Be bold, be confident, be fearless because you have the God of the Universe living inside of you, closer than your next breath. Stop believing lies! Start trusting in the truth.

These things that consume our thoughts, and the news, and our Facebook wall…none of them really matter. This world that seems to be falling apart just a little bit more every day…who cares? Let it fall! Because…

Two thousand years ago, a baby quietly slipped into our world. In a tiny town, in a tiny country, looking like an unplanned pregnancy with an unwed mother. Announced not to celebrities, but to a few despised shepherds. Laid not in a cradle, but in a stone feeding trough. Seemingly insignificant, but changing history. A baby, God. Choosing to live humbly among His people. Born to die. The One who spoke the world into existence dependent on His creation for nourishment. The backwards, inside-out, incomprehensible Kingdom had begun. The Promise fulfilled. God with man once again. Restoration. Hope. Peace. Life. Future!

Do you believe this? Do you? Then let’s live it! Let’s go all in! Let’s read God’s Word. Let’s believe it and live it! Let’s love Him and love people! Let’s get to know Him and follow Him. Let’s give Jesus our lives, let Him live through us, let Him change us! Let’s do this! Are you with me?

 

 

IMG_3645If you are interested in getting better informed about Islam, and better understanding Muslims, I just read a fabulous book called “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity” by Nabeel Qureshi. Wow! Such a powerful story! Not only does it help to explain Islam, it also provides strong supports for Christianity. It might be my new favorite book and is available at Christian books stores for $17.99 or on Amazon for $13.99.

 

 

“Lord, I Believe; Help My Unbelief!” – What Is Standing In the Way of Your Relationship with Jesus?

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You would think that being friends with God would be a popular message among Christians. After all, it’s kind of the point of the whole Bible, the book we claim to base our beliefs upon. Jesus himself said, “…but I have called you friends…” (John 15:15). So why aren’t more of us living like God’s friends?

Why are so many of us content to go to church on Sunday but ignore God the rest of the week? Why are so many of us obsessed with rules and formulas, attempting to impress God with our outward “goodness”? If this is how we are living, then we aren’t actually experiencing a relationship with God, THE relationship that Jesus made possible by His death on the cross!

I’ve been a part of both sides at one point or another. Why are we so quick to reject a friendship with the God of the Universe? Here is what I’ve found true of me:

  • I want to be in control. It terrifies me to let go and let God run my life. What if He screws it up?
  • Sin is fun. I don’t want God coming in and telling me to stop it.
  • Rules are easier to maintain than a relationship. They make me feel good about myself.
  • I often believe lies about God, who He is and what He wants from me.

Sure, I like Jesus as my Savior; I’m all about spending eternity in heaven. But Jesus as my friend…that’s a little uncomfortable, a little awkward. So what is really stopping me? What is stopping us? What if it’s as simple as one word?

Unbelief

My husband and I are not adrenalin junkies. In fact, if you know us, that thought probably makes you laugh. However, we took a special date last weekend to a zip-line course! There were 10 zip-lines spreading over a mile in total length. It was a blast!

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First we got harnessed up, put our helmets on, and attached carabiners with some kind of a trolley (can you tell I’m not an expert at this) to our harness. Then, our tour guides loaded us into an awesome off-road vehicle and drove us up to the top of a ski hill. We climbed a short flight of stairs and there it was, the first zip-line spanning a valley and disappearing into the trees on the other side. I’m not gonna lie, my heart missed a couple beats!

One by one I watched my fellow zippers get clipped onto the cable and soar across the valley. Then it was my turn. Our guide clipped me in, got confirmation from the other guide across the chasm, and told me I was free to fly. Ahh!

What if, in that moment, I had doubted the cable’s strength and my harness’s ability? What if I refused to believe my zipping guide? What if I insisted on clinging to my own control and instead chose to climb down the stairs and continue across the valley on foot?

Obviously, that would that have been a waste of money, 🙂 but I would also have missed out on an amazing adventure! Soaring through the trees on a zip-line is incredible! (Hanging upside down, no hands, is even better!)

I miss out on an amazing relationship with God every time I chose doubt and unbelief instead of faith in Him.

  • I doubt God’s love for me, that He really likes me and wants me.
  • I don’t believe that He knows what’s best for me.
  • I doubt my own ability to stop sinning (and forget that He has given me a Helper, the Holy Spirit).
  • I don’t believe what God says about Himself all throughout the Bible.
  • I don’t believe that Jesus can really satisfy me.
  • I doubt that I can actually have a friendship with God; so I don’t try.

Stop! I just need to stop!

There comes a moment on every station of a zip-line course where you have to make a choice to trust the equipment and step off the platform. You can’t zip if you won’t jump. And, you can’t experience a real give-and-take relationship with Jesus if you won’t believe Him.

What do we need to believe?

We believe that Jesus paid for our sins by His death on the cross. (Romans 6:23) We believe that He rose again conquering sin and death once and for all! (1 Corinthians 15:20-26) We believe that Jesus is who He says He is: the bread of life (John 6:35), the living water (John 4:10-14), the way, truth and life (John 14:6). We believe that He will satisfy us, give us good direction and abundant life. We believe that Jesus wants to be friends with us. (John 15:12-17) We believe in His promises that if we seek Him, then we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:11-13; Acts 17:27; Matthew 7:7)

Nothing is better than a real relationship with Jesus! One where I talk with Him and He talks with me! I know this because I’ve experienced it, so why don’t I pursue Him more? Nothing can separate me from the love of God, except for my own choice to doubt, my own unbelief. Is it really that simple?

  • “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Jesus does not change. But our faith, our belief (or lack of it) determines what we experience of Him. He is not pushy. He will not force Himself on us. But, He is there to be found if we will seek and believe.

This should be the most amazing message, the most incredible part of being a Christian! Don’t let your unbelief stop you from experiencing everything you have and are in Christ.

What were my favorite zip-lines from last weekend? The ones where I ran screaming off the platform against all common sense, and the ones where I trusted my equipment and soared through the trees upside down.

“Jesus said to him, ‘All things are possible for one who believes.’ Immediately (he) cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” Mark 9:23-24

Is this your prayer today?

“Help us to believe You, Jesus! And as we seek You, and find You, and fall in love with You, overwhelm us with Yourself, until all we want is You.”

Truth Is, We Are All Broken!

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It was a beautiful spring day, the warm sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze blowing, and the grass was turning green. I was winding my way down the familiar road, feeling each curve, radio playing, singing along. All of the sudden, I knew with a jolt that I was too close to the road’s edge. The cold winter and spring rains had produced wheel-swallowing-potholes in this particular stretch. Breath caught, heart stopped, I realized I couldn’t correct in time. “Whump!” My front wheel fell into a small canyon. “Bam!” My tire blew. And there I was, stuck, with a broken car, on the side of the road. With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I knew I was going to have to call the woman I nannied for and admit that I had broken her car for the second time in a week!

It is not easy to admit when we break something, and even harder to admit that we ourselves are broken.

Truth is, we are all broken, every single one of us. It’s easier to hide, cover up, and pretend. We feel guilty about being broken. We feel alone. Surely no one else is as screwed up as we are. We don’t think anyone would understand.We feel like God is disappointed in us, as though He could be shocked by our true selves. We push Him away too.

And often, people in the church seem to say, “You’re broken, so, get it together! Fix yourself! Look better! Or at least pretend.” We get good at hiding.

That’s not what Jesus says! Jesus says, “You’re broken, but I’ve got this!”

Our mess doesn’t shock God. He already knows. He doesn’t expect us to fix ourselves; He knows we can’t! He wants to fix us, but we have to let Him. We need to admit our brokenness and give all the pieces to Him.

What are you hiding? What are you holding on to? It’s not worth it! Let Jesus heal you. He’s a great Doctor!

  • “Jesus answered them, (the Pharisees who were complaining because he was hanging out with “bad” people) ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32 (ESV)

What if we just stopped pretending? What if we decided to be real and honest, honest with God and with each other?

  • “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man…” 1 Cor. 10:13 (ESV)

We all struggle with the same things! There are no perfect people, just some better actors. Let’s embrace our common brokenness, our common needs, because they point us to the cross where we all find grace, and love, and forgiveness. Let’s run to Jesus together, knowing that He is the answer.

  • “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (my sin nature). For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through JESUS CHRIST our Lord!…” Romans 7:15,18,24-25

Not religion, not good behavior, not a list of do’s and don’ts, not church, not anything, but Jesus. Jesus is always the answer. He died so that we could know Him. Let’s do it! He died to forgive us and set us free. Let’s be free!

Will you come on this journey with me? Will you be honest with God and honest with others about the parts of you that are broken? Will you accept the love and forgiveness and grace that Jesus offers you? Will you throw away the things that are holding you back?

It may seem impossible. That’s okay. It’s a process. That’s why it’s called having a “walk with Jesus”.

Remember, you can’t do it. But Jesus can!

No Condemnation!

 

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I remember the exact moment when I realized that Jesus not only loved me, but He also liked me unconditionally. Somehow in my mind I had confused the two. Love seemed like something He had to do because He was God, but I was pretty sure He only liked me when I was performing correctly.

It makes sense, sort of… Parents and teachers like us better when we follow the rules, and we feel their dislike when we are making poor choices. It’s hard to imagine God being different.

We put God in such a tiny box, a box made out of our own human reasoning and logic. Silly us! He is only more, always more, than we could ever imagine!

I was in my early 20s, about four years out of my “cult”, looking pretty normal to the untrained eye, wearing jeans, having cut my waist length hair, dating my boyfriend (now husband), and going to college. In the past I’d always been the rule follower, the people pleaser, the “good” girl. I did the right things to make people and Jesus happy with me.

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I might have perfected the art of looking good, but on the inside I was a wreck. Worry and stress were consuming me. I was fighting with anger and resentment. Regular panic attacks  were freaking me out. And because I didn’t know what they were, I thought I might be dying (but wouldn’t tell anyone). To top it all off, I felt guilty for being so out of control. I knew that there was no way God could be happy with me.

In desperation, I went for a walk in the woods to talk to Jesus. My goal was to confess my sin, and get right with Him somehow. As I walked, and talked, and cried, I came to an opening in the woods. The trees thinned out, and sunbeams broke through the leaves in long, warm rays. A gentle breeze tickled my hair. I stopped. It was so beautiful and peaceful. As I stood there, it was as though God put His arms around me. I felt His Presence, and I could almost hear Him whisper, “I have never loved you more than I do right now.”

I wanted to believe that it was God speaking to me, but I couldn’t because I had memorized Romans 8:1.

The group I grew up in was a KJV or NKJV only kind of place. These were the words streaming through my mind as I stood there in those quiet woods. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

Maybe I’d heard a sermon on it or maybe it was just my own interpretation, but I had always thought that this verse was telling me that if I was performing correctly, in the spirit, then there was no condemnation. However, if I was walking in sin, in the flesh, then I was definitely under condemnation.

I went home and got out my Bible so that I could prove Jesus wrong, but the second half of the verse was missing! As part of the recovery process, I’d gotten a different Bible version. My English Standard Version only said this, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

What? That couldn’t be right! I went to the Internet and started looking up various Bible versions to find the missing half of the verse. None of the other versions had it. There was just no condemnation to those who were in Christ Jesus, period.

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I was in Christ Jesus! I had trusted Him as my Savior. I was His child. This was something I had never doubted. That meant that God did not condemn me! I sat on the floor of my bedroom and let it sink in. He had never loved me more than He did right now, even though I felt like a complete and total failure.

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I embraced this truth. I basked in it. I reveled. I let Jesus love me, and like me, even though it didn’t make sense. He was so crazy! And amazing! And wonderful! It was my first glimpse of the beauty of grace.

So, friend, are you under condemnation? If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, then it’s not God’s condemnation! Let go, and live loved, and free, and forgiven! Embrace a God and His grace that doesn’t make sense. What would it take for you to believe this?