Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Meditation of My Heart

Song of Songs 1:2   "Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His Word - for Your love is better than wine."

The vastness of God's love for me is more than I can grasp in this lifetime, but since eternity will eventually become my reality, I will continue learning and experiencing His incredible love for billions of years to come. Today I keep fighting the good fight of faith, continuing to respond to the wooing of my heart with a "Yes, Lord!" - even on the days when the reality of how short of His glory I fall is most evident. 

I win each battle of temptation as I turn toward God and remember the goodness of His love and emotions (His thoughts) toward me. It is in His presence where I find all I need to be victorious in love. It is because of His love that I can trust Him, press delete on my failures, and keep on pursuing Him in wholehearted devotion. I love Him because He first loved me. 1 John 4:19

While God does see the "yes" of my heart, He is truly delighted every time I break agreement with darkness and come into agreement with Him in my thoughts, words, and actions. Every time I respond to my sin this way, I am maturing in my faith and becoming more confident in His love for me.  True repentance is simply looking inwardly with God and coming into agreement with Him over the wretched condition of my heart and making the deliberate choice to allow Him to tune my heart so that I may sing of His grace in my life.

In my position as a genuine and wholehearted lover of God, I am sincere in my pursuit to obey Him with a willing spirit. Does my sincerety measure up? Can it be seen and judged to be genuinely pure, honestly transparent, clear and unsullied? It is only possible with the help of Holy Spirit. I can welcome and trust His examination of my motives and intents without fear of being rejected by what He might find there. I can experience His correction when necessary without despair, guilt and shame. (His discipline is never His rejection of me.) It is in this process that I am renewed and transformed under the loving care of Christ. He always aims for my highest good.

God goes to great lengths to draw me back from compromise and from finding satisfaction in lesser pleasures of this world. He made me to be a wholehearted lover of God. He placed longings within me at creation that can only be filled with Him. The enemy's counterfeits will never satisfy. My victory over the enemy is victory in love as I stand rooted and grounded in the love of Jesus...even to the very end.

So, I ask the Lord to kiss me with the kisses of His Word, that He would
  • allow me to encounter His Word in the deepest and most intimate ways; 
  • reveal His emotions and affections toward me; 
  • intoxicate every one of my senses with His love; 
  • awaken and woo my heart, emotions and affections toward Him in fervant love; and 
  • exhilarate my heart to trust Him each and every day.
The more I experience the love of Jesus for me, the more I am compelled to walk in wholehearted obedience to His voice. It is my desire that the more I delight in Jesus, the more my heart will be completely free from sin's dominion and rule.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What on earth am I saved from?

So many folks think that if they pray "the prayer" they are assured a place in Heaven with little, if any, further attempt to live as a Christ follower.  I have recently been asked by two people about my thoughts on "being saved."  I have never seen "once saved, always saved" in the scriptures, and it is very easy to tell someone they are saved after they pray the prayer of salvation, but I continue to come across scriptures that speak differently to me.

Don't get me wrong.....I love this age of grace that we live in.  Oh, the mercy and grace of a loving, forgiving Savior!!  Where would I be except for the grace of Christ?  Not here, writing this blog.  Nope.  No way.  I was doomed.  Then, in 1992, at a low point in life, Jesus touched me, and I grabbed hold of Him, and I continue to cling to Him for my very life!  But my thoughts consider where might I be if I stopped clinging, if I let go of my hold on Him, if I stopped running the race.  Actually, I shudder at the thought, but I know the Lord wants to drive home an important message to my heart.

(All scriptures are from the New King James Version)
I want to start in Romans because that is the place I start when I talk to people about salvation.  We've all sinned and we all fall short of God's glory (3:23) and the price we must pay for our sin is death (6:23a).  But because God loves us so very much, even though we are sinners, He sent His Son Jesus to us as a gift so that we might receive eternal life (5:8, 6:23b). All we need to do is verbally confess Jesus Christ (God Himself born of a virgin as a baby, crucified, dead and buried) and believe that God raised Him from the dead, then we shall be saved (10:9-10). 

Because God loves Israel so very much, we are asked to pray to God for Israel so that they may be saved. (Romans 10:1)    Salvation is very simple. We must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and we will be saved. (Acts 16:30)  Now, I know someone is going to bring up Luke 10:20 where the 70 who were sent out returned and were amazed and joyful that the demons were subject to them in Jesus' name, and Jesus told them not to rejoice over that, but to rejoice because their names were written in heaven.  I believe that because Jesus said this, through His exclusive relationship with the Father, He was releasing revelation of their lives to be recorded to demonstrate to every reader throughout the ages that the promised reward (their name written in heaven) is greater than operating in the gifts (their authority over demons).  (Remember, in the end, prophesying and casting out demons in Jesus' name is of no benefit if the Bridegroom says He doesn't know me and does not allow me entrance to the wedding.)

As I study the book of Revelation and the letters to the seven churches, I see the common phrase, "to him who overcomes".  God has given eternal promises to him who overcomes:  he will eat from the tree of life; he will not be hurt by the second death; he will receive some of the hidden manna and a white stone with a new name on it; he will receive power over the nations and Jesus will give him the morning star; he will be clothed in white garments, his name will not be blotted from the Book of Life and Jesus will confess this one's name before God and the angels; Jesus will make him a pillar in the temple of God and Jesus will write on him His new name; the overcomer will sit with Jesus on His throne. (Rev. 2 and 3)

So, what am I saved from on this side of eternity?  Heartache, trials, tribulations, troubles, death?  No, of course not. These things are common to all men.  So, if I am saved, what am I saved from?   Maybe it is I shall be saved IF I love Jesus and cling to Him unto death...if I finish running the race toward the Prize...if I am an overcomer. Salvation means I am saved from God's wrath and punishment for sin, from hell, the pit, the second death and the grave because Jesus took my sins and I put my trust and promise in His work on the cross, every day clinging to Him so that when I step into eternity, my debt has been paid and Jesus declares me to be pure and spotless, without sin.  But the "penalty for sin" must be paid by everyone who enters eternity who has not been washed clean by the blood of Jesus; those who choose not to put their faith in Christ's death; those who decide the race is too hard, who quit and decide to run an easier race; those who get mad at the other runners and refuse to run with them, etc.  No matter the reason, they don't finish the race on the road to salvation in Christ and they die and are required to pay the price of their sin.

Again today I came across the following scripture that confirms to me that we must overcome and stay the course to the end if we expect to receive the hope/the promise/our salvation (v. 23).
Colossians 1:19-23
19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven,

Hmmmmmm.   Such food for thought.   Just one more thing to consider:  Is the white stone with the new name on it, our new name and that is the name that is written in the Lamb's Book of Life?  If so, our name is not written in the Book until we overcome and win the Prize.  But then, because God already sees the end, like Jesus knew about the 70, perhaps He has penned my name in the pages of his Book since before the foundation of the world (because He knew I would be an overcomer)?  Oh my!  Such a big picture and such a little brain, I have.  Have fun!! 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sweet Mercy!!

Last Sunday, Pastor Rob shared the most incredible message from the Beattitudes on Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." Then he brings up mercy as it relates to the Good Samaritan.  Even though you may be familiar with this passage, here's the general storyline again:
(The story: this guy [the victim, probably a good guy] gets beat up and robbed and left dying on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite pass by the victim and don't bother to help him, but the good Samaritan (the hero of the story) comes by and bandages the wounds of the poor victim, sets him on his animal and takes him to an inn, where he asks the innkeeper to take care of him; then the Samaritan agrees to pay for all the costs. Mostly I have understood this story as it tells how the Samaritan was despised and how the Jews hated and were hostile toward Samaritans; even the victim would have despised the one who helped him.)

So what is mercy? It is compassion/love in action for people in need. God is mercy and shows mercy continuously. God shows mercy on the just and the unjust; those who deserve it and those who do not. Do I deserve God's mercy today? Did I deserve it the day I gave Him my life? Did I deserve it when I had an abortion? Did I deserve it when I hated my parents for some real or perceived wrong?  It was good to let the Holy Spirit ask me these tough questions, but in the truth of my heart, I felt I could honestly say no, I didn't deserve any of it, and yes, I could acknowledge the beauty and wonder of God's mercy and thank Him for it. And,Yes, I believed I would behave as did the Good Samaritan if put in that situation. 

But I must say I was totally unprepared for the dialogue the Holy Spirit began to have with me.  He asked me about my giving of mercy to others; how I choose to give to some and choose to withhold from others. He spoke to me about how the lack of mercy is something that can be hidden in most Christian circles. We are kind to our brothers and sisters of faith and play the nice little church games with one another, all without ever really coming into much contact with those "less-fortunate victims" in the world.  In fact, it was a lack of mercy (love) that kept the older brother away from welcoming the Prodigal Son when he returned home. I kept trying to rightly evaluate my mercy response and felt a little indignant; I felt I really measured up okay, and was surely better than some "other people" I know.  

It was then that the Holy Spirit began to turn up the heat a bit. He asked me about my choice to show mercy if the person in need was someone I knew in my city, like
     1. a teenager who hated his parents and wished them harm;
     2. an abortionist on his way to work, or a woman on her way to have one;
     3. a man who planned to sell a woman or child into the slave market;
     4. a woman on her way to work at the strip club downtown;
     5. a man or woman on their way to cheat on a spouse, or gamble the 
         family home away, or embezzle funds from their employer.

The list could go on and on.  Would I be so willing to go out of my way, paying my hard-earned money (or lack thereof) for someone like that? Would I be willing to give to meet their need? What if the giving requirement was or time planned for family, friends, or self? Would I willingly go out of my way to show mercy for one like that; for one who might despise my help or never show one ounce of gratitude?  For the one who might receive my mercy and then go on and follow through with what they were planning to do while not accepting the free gift of Jesus' mercy.

Ouch. I know I failed the test. While my mind wanted to say yes, I would show mercy, the Lord knew my heart, and He knew that exposure was the only way I would see it and allow Him to fix it. He told me it didn't really matter to Him how I measured up against another person. What really mattered to Him was how I measured up to Jesus.  God knows my deepest thoughts and intents, and knows me even better than I know myself.  All week, the Lord has continued to speak to me about His mercy and the transforming power of His love - for me and for others.  If I want to be like Jesus, I must allow Him to transform my heart and begin to love life's "victims" like Jesus did, without expectation of one single thing in return or even the hope of something in return even as a thought. 

That day, I sat in that little pew and began to come into agreement with the Lord about the condition of my heart.  I wept, asking Him to reveal His heart to me. Each day this week, He has continued to speak to me about this revelation of grace and mercy, and I find that I am seeking and desiring to be more aware of those who are hurting and in need around me.  While I may never find myself in the same position as the Good Samaritan, it is my desire to allow Jesus to so transform my heart and my life, that I am totally prepared to share His help and hope in compassionate acts of mercy at all times.  

Blessed are the merciful, because they will receive mercy - maybe not today, or tomorrow, or in this life on earth, but I know that when I step into eternity, Jesus, my Bridegroom, King and Judge, will pour out mercy on me because I have willingly poured out mercy to "the least of these".  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Learning to Overcome

There are so many times people remind me that I don't have it all together yet, but it is amazing when God begins to remind me just how far He has brought me!

I was 34 years old when I met and fell in love with Jesus.  Trust me, I carried so much baggage that I would have had to file bankruptcy if God charged for each carry-on!! It has taken these past 19 years of knowing and loving Jesus to get free of some of the most powerful strongholds in my life.... those which were rooted and grounded in some of the most influential moments of my childhood and youth, both real and perceived. It is only the power of the Word and the blood of Jesus Christ that brought victory in overcoming them, but I still battle wrong mindsets and wrong views at times. They rear their ugly heads at the worst times, and it is then I feel I am back at the beginning...learning to walk worthy of the Lord and embracing His desperate love for me even in the midst of my weakness. The more I study and meditate on His Word, the more He reveals His heart and very nature to me, and it is in that place of revelation that the Holy Spirit is able to chip away another bit of the hardness that surrounds my heart in its attempt to hold me captive.

Today, as I seek the Lord's heart for another, I am able to truly appreciate the journey, this pilgrimage I am on. The last time I visited the International House of Prayer (IHOP-KC) a young man prophesied that he saw me with two suitcases; noting that this was a transitional season in my life; that the Lord's desire was for me to lighten the load (drop the suitcases) and choose simplicity, that which is less demanding. I know His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and I wonder if He is slowly weakening my grip on another piece of baggage!