Tag Archives: Jesus

When Jesus Speaks

It’s no secret that I’ve done a lot of prayer these past few weeks regarding where the Lord is leading me. Specific, bold, expectant prayers for clarity and provision. There’s been a lot of asking, listening, and keeping an awareness of His voice throughout the day. What country. What people group. What city. What timeline. What organization. What are you doing, Jesus?

Sometimes, I slip into a mindset that says the more others-focused my quiet time is, the holier it is.

Intercession has a place and a critical one at that. It deserves more energy and attention than we often give it. I need to spend time everyday praying for specifics and going before the Throne of Grace on behalf of others.

BUT, that is not the point of my intimate time with Jesus. I go to Jesus to just be with Him, not for the sake of getting answers about my life. The idea isn’t to walk away with some revelation about what He’s calling me to or where I’m going (although, that’s often a part of it). It’s not to figure things out for someone else. It is literally to just be with the God of the universe and savior of my soul. To read His Word, to worship Him, and to hear His voice.

I go before the Father to hear what He thinks about me, because my soul needs to be reminded who I am and who He is.

May the magnificence and the humility of that not be lost on us! That we get to approach the Maker and Sustainer of the world with boldness and in our brokenness because He wants to be near us. He chose and chooses still to be near us. Over and over again in Scripture, even with the separation between God and the people in the Old Testament, we see Him drawing near to His people. His judges, kings, and prophets speak words about the compassion of God again and again.

Don’t forget: He cares way more about His will and His glory than you do. He’s not going to withhold specific answers or prayers that will disrupt His glory (as if that was possible). It’s okay for your time with Jesus to be selfish, in the sense that you sit with Him to hear His heart for you. It is from that place, of knowing our belovedness, that we become generous in giving, convicted in sin, abounding in service, overflowing with grace, and aware of His work in the lives of others. It doesn’t replace intercession, it needs to be what it flows from.

We hear our God telling us, not in a trite, cliché sort of way, just how much He love us and is for us. And we are, in turn, able to worship more fully the God who loves us enough to walk among us, to indwell us with His spirit, and to sing His faithfulness over us!

The other night, He was clear, in the classic “gracious but firm” sort of God-way, that my orientation and questions have been a little off in my recent moments alone with Him:

You hear me clearest when you hear me saying I want to be with you. I delight in you! I love you. I love being near you. I love watching you draw near to me. You move my heart. I see you – I redeem you! And I take delight in that. You ask to hear me for clarity and you will; you do. But clarity on the specific things you ask comes in a moment. My love for you is everlasting. Knowing what country I’m sending you to is one thing, but knowing just how deeply I take delight in you is another. That’s what you need to hear. It’s what Israel needed to hear. Over and over and over and over – I’m never going to stop reminding you, never going to stop singing it over you because there will never be a time it won’t be true. There will never be a time where you won’t need to hear it. I want to make you glorious! I want to make deserts into gardens more beautiful than you’ve ever seen. I have compassion, such compassion. I have more mercy, grace, and justice than you could ever even comprehend. My plans are good, my hand is strong, and I do not fail. I am your God, I am here, and you are mine. As a treasure, as my beloved, as my delight! Feel my heart for you, read about my heart for you, hear my heart for you, because it overflows and it will never stop. Know, deeply and daily, that I love you.

Let us not forget – our holy, holy, holy God, the Almighty on the throne, not only allows but delights in our approaching Him. For love, for compassion, for grace. Ask Him what He’s doing, ask Him for specifics, but don’t forget or be afraid to listen to His heart for you. Ask Him what He thinks of you. And sit in His presence, letting Jesus speak words of love and delight over you. Open the Scriptures, notice the Holy Spirit. Let Him love you with His everlasting love.

Because when Jesus speaks, things change. Because when Jesus speaks, people are seen. Because when Jesus speaks, His sheep know it. Because when Jesus speaks, it is good. Because when Jesus speaks . . . there is love.

Don’t be Like Usain Bolt, Be like Jesus.

The realities of how our world, and more specifically our American culture, is structured are such that the demands are never ending. What concerns me in this? The church has structured herself in the same sort of way.

It’s not uncommon to have a pastor who is planting a church, while sitting on the city council board, leading local outreaches, is working on his PhD, and raising half-a-dozen kids. It is not just one missionary who feels the pressures of both her local context and her supporters, trying to meet all the needs around her by working from sunup to sundown, babysitting kids, leading worship, discipling women, running English camps, working at homeless shelters, and doing street evangelism, only to come home and answer emails after dark. It is not just one person, one family who has left ministry, the mission field, or whatever it is they were doing because they found themselves tired, overwhelmed, burned out, and disillusioned.

The needs were great and at some point, the exhaustion becomes greater. I’m worried that the people of God are going to run themselves into the ground if we keep up this Usain-Bolt-type-pace.

We may not be sensitive to the biological and physiological issues caused by overworking (which in and of itself is concerning), but I find myself confused that we don’t seem overly concerned with Jesus’ model for it either. If we’re supposed to be “imitators of God” (John 13:13-16, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1-2, 1 Peter 2:20-22, 1 John 2:6), shouldn’t the primary basis for our action, response, and engagement in ministry be that of our Lord?

Even the Gospel of Matthew, which seems focused on thematically emphasizing the works and preaching of Christ (Matthew 9:35-38), still makes space to note the significance of solitude with the Father. In one chapter alone (14), Matthew mentions twice that Christ went to be alone and even sent people away to go “up into the hills by himself to pray” (14:22). Matthew is also the only Gospel who records Jesus saying the following about life in Him:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light” (11:28-30).

Even the writer who seems predominantly focused on the scope of what Christ is doing finds it necessary to record that He offers rest.

For all of that, Matthew has nothing on Mark and Luke when it comes to recording Jesus’ pace and emphasis on being alone with the Father. Mark’s description about the life and ministry of Jesus includes different details than Matthew, often recording the ways Christ not only pursues rest Himself but often calls out His disciples for neglecting self-care and having an improper orientation. We don’t get a chapter into Mark and we already see the city stirring for the presence of Jesus, the disciples eager to send Him out before the people. Christ’s first response is one of movement away: “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them too. That is why I came” (1:38).

Another example of this sort of pulling away, even from places of considerable stirring, is in Mark 6. The disciples come back to Jesus, excited about the ministry that they’ve just gone out and done (6:7-12). Yet, Jesus’ response is not one of enthusiasm, planning, or eagerness to send them back out. There seems to be little focus on the needs of the villages. Jesus calls out the apostle’s orientation and need for rest. Honestly, he seems more concerned with the fact that they haven’t eaten:

“’Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat” (6:31).

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Are we comfortable with the idea that there are times in Scripture where Jesus moves away from places where we perceive potential fruitful ministry? That there are places where people need Him, need the Holy Spirit, and need healing, and we see Him walking away? This isn’t to say that Jesus ever moves or acts lightly; when He walks away from a city or a crowd, He’s not being neglectful, unloving, or unfaithful. Even in His humanity, He is still God. He knows the will of the Father because He’s making space to hear the Father. We see Christ underscore that in places like John 5:17-23 and John 8:28-29.

A missionary mentor in Asia wrote the following once: “The need is not the call. The call is the call.” A mom to some incredible, adopted children, she has constantly been bombarded with questions of why she closed the doors on taking in more children. After all, if anyone could do it, she could. The Lord could do it. And gosh, look at the need. But that has been exactly her point: We aren’t called to look at the need, we are called to look at Jesus. There’s always need, and until we reach eternity, there is always going to be need.

Our view of maximized efficiency and meeting the most needs aren’t the same as the Lord’s. We don’t see things like He does (Isaiah 55:8-9). The needs of the world orient us towards our calling and the heart of Christ, but if we keep our focus on them then it is no wonder why people don’t last more than two years when serving in ministry. Jesus was acutely aware of every need and we see Him stopping to meet needs when the Spirit, the same Spirit that lives inside of us, compels. He’s not afraid of interruptions. But it is always rooted in rhythms of rest and a nearness to the Father. He’s also not afraid to say “no” and pull away.

If Jesus, as a human, recognized his own needs and limits, where did we get the idea that we’re somehow being holy by ignoring ours?

An orientation towards calling, knowing what God is asking you specifically to do and operating from a place of intimacy with Him, makes it easier to say “no” to everything else, no matter how good or needed it seems. I’m not saying that’s easy or that I’ve figured it all out, but the more I read about the ministry of Christ, the more central it seems to become. Obedience and faithfulness may seem counterintuitive to modern principles of efficiency, but we know that God’s order is very different than ours (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). Knowing that comes from a deep and intimate knowledge of the Father and His voice.

I’m not saying that the needs aren’t important. I’m not saying that Christians should be content with laziness or apathy, or that it’s okay if our hearts don’t break at the places of brokenness in our world. Christians are not allowed to throw their hands up, shrug their shoulders, and live blind to the screams of a dying world. Our hearts should burn, leap, and weep for the world. If anyone modeled that, it’s Jesus. He felt and feels more deeply for the needs of the world and the “lostness” of the people than I ever will. His heart moves with compassion and He often welcomes the interruptions of those who call upon Him (i.e. Matthew 10:36, Matthew 14:14, Matthew 19:2, Mark 3:20, Mark 7:24-25, Luke 8:27,).

Yet, and this is what I’m concerned the church has lost, even in those interruptions, His focus is solely and unashamedly on the Father and what He is being instructed to do. There are an equal number of times where He dismisses the crowd or leaves what seems to be places of potentially fruitful ministry (i.e. Matthew 10:30, Mark 1:36, Mark 3:12, Mark 5:36, Mark 7:17, Mark 8:33, Luke 5:42).

We should pray with a fervency for all the things that are wrong in the world! We should learn to lament places of hurt and pain! We should be giving ourselves passionately and wholeheartedly to the things that God has called us to! But all of that must happen from a rootedness in the Holy Spirit, a dependence on Christ, and an intimacy with the Father. We only cultivate those things by having time and space for them. Give yourself wholeheartedly to what God has called you to do. I’m not you, but based on what I see in the life of Jesus, I find it hard to believe that He’s calling you to a-hundred-and-one-thousand things in this season, especially if it’s at the expense of your primary calling (and the place every other calling flows out of) to love and worship Him.

Christ knew the will of the Father because half of His time was spent listening for it. I see Him operating from a place of refreshment and rhythms of rest, by saying “yes” and “no” based on obedience and faithfulness, rather than the perceived needs around Him. The question for you and I then, is are we?

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Am I Loving Something Else More than Jesus?

We know that Christ’s proximity to us never changes, so if I’m walking through a moment, a week, or a season where He feels distant, there’s a chance there’s something going on in my heart. I question my heart when I’m feeling anxious, apathetic, or overwhelmed. If I’m wondering where Jesus is or having trouble hearing Him, I compel my heart to evaluate: Am I loving something else more than Jesus?

 

That’s not to say that His silence or my emotions are always tied to some prioritization, sin-issue. Sometimes we walk through desert seasons, unprompted by our actions, where He is actively silent. Sometimes our emotions just don’t make logical sense. Yet, in asking these questions, I’m able to better identify if something emotional or spiritual is going on that’s causing whatever disconnect my body and soul are feeling, or if it’s something that I’ve consciously or unconsciously stepped myself into.

 

Over the years, I’ve found a couple of good indicators that help me answer this question honestly. If any one of these things is true of my recent habits or thought patterns, it’s often an indication that something has stolen or is in the process of stealing away my first Love.

 

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1.) If I’m not tithing. . .
This is often the first place I can go when it comes to checking the priorities in my heart. Since I was little, giving generously hasn’t been a strong suit of mine. While the Lord has been gracious, patient, and convicting, it’s still one of the first things to go when I’m keeping a tight grip on my life or am needing some semblance of control. If I’m not tithing or have pulled back on the 2 Corinthians 8:2 and Mark 12:44 kind of generosity I so long for, it’s a good indication that I’m loving something else more than Jesus.

 

2.) If I’m planning my future with lots of pragmatism, worry, and details. . .
There’s a tension here, because on one level, I need to be planning my future. I’m graduating undergrad college in less than three months, and in just over a year I’ll be done with my masters program. I’m actively taking steps towards what the Lord has my future and I’d be remiss and unfaithful if I wasn’t. In and of itself, the planning for my future or moving towards open doors isn’t a bad thing. However, there’s a difference between trusting the Lord, walking into the things He’s doing and living in a place of control, surety, and self-assurance that often leads to worry. Oftentimes, the more details I’m including or searching for, the better the indicator of my own desire for control. When the focus of my planning is myself, my ability to manipulate the details, and my sense of ability, there’s a good chance I’m loving something else more than Jesus.

 

3.) If I’m spending lots of time watching TV (especially in leu of other restful things). . .
Another tension one, because there are times when things like watching Netflix or napping are the most restful, spiritual things that I can be doing. There are times where I’ve tried to spend deep time with Jesus and He told me to watch a movie with Him instead – not because studying Scripture, processing what He’s doing, and interceding in prayer aren’t imperatively important but because sometimes I can get so wrapped up in them that I forget to rest. To just be. I’m convinced that anything can be done as an act of worship in the right moments. However, these things of rest can also be a form of escapism if I’m not careful – things to draw me away from dealing with my life, emotions, or relationships. Ways of shutting down because I’m avoiding myself, others, or the Lord. If I’m actively avoiding other things that are restful, such as walks, drawing, working out, writing, or reading, because they might require more introspection and difficulty, there’s a good chance something has taken the Lord’s place in my heart.

 

4.) If I find myself doubting or questioning things that the Lord has said in the past. . .
There’s a place for questioning and testing the work of the Lord in our lives, especially as ongoing maturity lead us to new levels of illumination of who He is. We should approach everything with a level of humility in how capable we are of getting it wrong (that’s the whole point of the Gospel). Yet, when I find myself wondering if things the Lord has done or spoken in the past are trustworthy, it’s usually an indication that something else has slipped into my soul. Because for as capable as I am of missing it, I also know that He is near and who He is can be trusted. Changing views should be a progression of growth and grace, not a sense that the Lord can’t be trusted, and if that’s what it feels like when I think back to His work in my life, then there’s a good chance something else has snuck it’s way in.

 

5.) If it’s becoming easier to justify things that I know are wrong. . .
 Like number 4, there’s a level of growing into maturity and new understandings of what is and isn’t sin, however there are certain things that I’ve established as either universally or personally wrong. Things that I’ve committed to or things that Scripture has previously called me out on are usually a pretty good baseline for what I should and should not be doing. This is less about my ability to slip up or to make mistakes and more about my conviction in justifying things. If I’ve found myself in a place where I’m rationalizing things that I’ve previously committed to not engage with, there’s a pretty good chance I’m avoiding the Lord and something else is competing for His love.

 

6.) If I’m overly critical or praiseworthy of others, in a way that stems from comparison. . .
This is not a sense of encouragement or noticing the work of the Lord in others – this is noticing beauty in them for the sake of putting myself down. Or conversely, this is not a sense of being aware of other’s shortcomings for the sake of growth and care, but rather a sense of hypercritical frustration with who they are. If I’m being judgmental and altogether hateful in my thoughts, actions, or interactions with others, particularly those who’ve seemed to rub against specific insecurities, it’s a pretty good indication that the issue is with me, not them. If it’s proving harder and harder to love others, there’s a good chance the Lord is not #1 in my heart.

 

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They aren’t end-all-be-all markers of my relationship with the Lord. Sometimes these things come up when I’m walking closely with Jesus. This isn’t to say that all six have to be present for me to acknowledge that I’m avoiding the Lord, nor that if only one is present I’m in a good place spirituality. They manifest with different reasons and different intensities at different times. But in general, they are pretty incongruent when my heart is focused solely on Jesus. Which is what makes them a great, practical, often painful, indicators of my true heart condition.

 

The Old, Old Story

In the beginning, God created . . .

. . . and He created everything.

Every star, every blade of grass, every rock that has eroded into the sea. Night and day, every animal, every insect, every wave, He created. It was all beautiful and very good. Then, He created man and woman. He loved them and He was in relationship with them. God walked with them, talked with them. He loved them so very, very much.

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But, then sin is introduced to the story, as the Enemy of God, this former fallen angel, distracts man and woman away from their First Love. God, in his perfection, can’t tolerate this sin. Yet He loves His people, so thousands of years pass as He constantly draws His people back to Himself. It makes Him sad and angry, but He loves these people so much. Sin keeps getting in the way, but story after story God faithfully and relentlessly draws near to the ones that He created, sustains, and loves.

Then we reach the climax of that love – God the Father, in His mysterious, triune, relational nature, sends His Son, and extension of Himself, to walk among us. To be like us. To serve us. To be tempted in every way. To model the heart of God for us. Ultimately this Son gives up His own life and perfection to die a humiliating, horrific death, as the blameless sacrifice, as we could never atone, to repair the relationship. He brings us into the fullness of God’s infinite love for us. Jesus took the punishment we deserved, because of His great love for us.

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Yet it wasn’t merely His death that is significant, for three days later He rose from the dead, defeating both death and sin, repairing the breech, and drawing us into communion with God. He left His very Spirit, His Holy Spirit, to indwell us, that we might know and remain in fellowship with God, even on earth. The perfection of this fellowship that we will ultimately come into, as we step across eternity and live in eternal relationship with God in Heaven (or when Jesus returns to completely heal the earth).

It is the grandest story of love – of a God who created everything in love, who drew an unfaithful people to Himself in love, who chose to walk as one of us in love, who paid the price for the sin that we deserved, in love.

Love who rose again, defeating death and sin, who sent His Spirit to testify to our souls of that love.

This is our God, who daily, minute by minute, is displaying, speaking, and proclaiming His great love for us.

We confess that we are sinners in need of a Savior. We repent of the ways in which we reject Him and His love. We believe in who He says He is and all that He’s done for us. We go out and continue to tell people of this great love of our great God!

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Meeting Jesus in the Quiet

I’ve become hesitant to talk so frequently about having “quiet time,” “devo time,” or “time with the Lord.” Not because I don’t think it’s one of the most important ways we can spend our time, but because it’s not the most important. In our individualistic, western view of Christianity, it’s easy to adapt a solely… Read more. . .

My Dual Identity

It’s one thing to say that my identity is in the Lord. It’s another to actually walk in that. It’s yet another thing to begin fully grasping at what that exactly means. Jesus has been clear in these past few weeks that there are two pieces to who I am in Him. What’s more, I so easily confuse the two; it’s… Read more. . .

The Sinlessness of Jesus = Grace

The other night, my She Reads Truth Bible reading plan had me in Hebrews, specifically the following verses from chapter 4: Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with… Read more. . .

When God says Wait

Wait. How about now, I mutter. Wait. Now. There’s demand in my voice. I can hear the whine of a two year old In my prayer But sometimes I feel obligated To use a more mature voice when I pray As if I can hide All the vulnerable pulses of my heart. I trust you,… Read more. . .

A Deeper Kind of Trust

I love the book of Daniel. I’m not really sure when it started or how I ended up in a book that is full of end times graphics and mysterious prophecies, but somewhere along the line I came to love the stories and truth in this particular book of the Bible. Also, as you’ve probably… Read more. . .

Beauty Behind Bruises

Do you bruise easily? I do. Physically, my body responds to bumping my hip on an end table or letting a door slam on my calf with a vibrant black and blue mark. You should’ve seen me after I tried skiing for the first time this year. I couldn’t wear a skirt to a job… Read more. . .