Checking off my list

I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. But if I’m doing the thing that I don’t want to do, I’m agreeing that the Law is right. But now I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it’s sin that lives in me. I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do. But if I do the very thing that I don’t want to do, then I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it is sin that lives in me that is doing it. ~Romans 7:15-20 (CEB)

Jesus doesn’t have a list for me to check off. He is looking to have a relationship with me. To have a relationship with Jesus I have to move beyond practicing the act of religion into a reality of really experiencing him.

I deal with so many expectations of what life should be and I find I do the same with religion. Religion taught me to think about “what would Jesus do”. A relationship requires me to trust Jesus to do what he would do through me. Expectation in any area is dangerous but when I apply expectations to Jesus it keeps me from knowing who he truly is.

Jesus calls to us. He wants to bridge the gap between perceived control to a holy trust, between how things used to be and how they can be. Jesus wants me to know that he accepts me as I am and not just how I should be.

No matter how much I want to do the right thing, I can’t. No matter how hard I try to do good it seems I consistently miss the mark. The desire to do good is inside of me. On my own I am nothing. With Christ working in me I can be more than I am. With Christ I can do more than just try hard.

Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.” The world teaches us to “try hard”. It falsely promises that if we only try hard we will be successful, but only through Christ’s transforming powers can I be more than I am. God’s promise is that I can do anything if He is my strength (Phil. 3:14).

Checking things off the list is “self” reliance, trying harder doesn’t create love. From the beginning of time God’s love existed. I don’t have to earn what is already mine. Jesus didn’t come into the world to create more bondage. He came to remind me of a love that has always been mine. Jesus doesn’t want me to be trapped in the try-hard life, he wants me to experience the freedom of letting him work through me.

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your son into the world to set me free from the try-hard life. Thank You for the reminders that I am not to “do good” on my own but that I am to let Christ work through me to achieve Your will. Continually renew and transform me so that I may discern Your will for my life. Amen.

 

 

 

Psam 139

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand —
    when I awake, I am still with you.

I Thank You this day for knowing me inside out, Lord. I treasure Your knowledge of me. I thank You that when I come to the end of this day, You will still be here with me. Amen

Desired

 

When the time came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles joined him. He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. I tell you, I won’t eat it until it is fulfilled in God’s kingdom.” ~Luke 22:14-16 (CEB)

The good news is that Jesus’ sacrifice of his life replaces the darkness of my life with the purity and light of his own. Jesus calls to us in our darkness because he eagerly desires to be with us. He doesn’t just want our company when we have it all together. He seeks our company even when we aren’t who we should be yet.

Here in Luke 22:14-16, Jesus was confronting the greatest challenge of his life and ministry, and yet he longed for a holy time of sharing and breaking bread. To spend time with those we love is a wonderful gift of healing and strength to all of us. And Jesus also wanted this holy fellowship for comfort and strength for what lay ahead. Even though the disciples do not grasp what is about to happen Jesus still wants to share these moments with them.

I am far from perfect or wise and yet the Savior of the world seeks time with me. This is humbling and awesome. But how can I minister to Christ? What could I offer him? I can offer him my love and adoration. One hard lesson I have learned is that sometimes we are not asked to do but to simply be. How I can minister to the Lord is by simply being at his feet and giving him the time that he wants from me. No wise words needed.

Brennan Manning shares a view of this in his book, Reflections for Ragamuffins:

“Let me share an example of ministering to the Lord in the moment of his adversity. This happened in Chicago’s South Side on Holy Thursday night. I wrote in my journal: ‘The adoration of the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist (communion) began with a heaviness within me. It’s freezing outside; the chapel is cold; my mind is opaque; but foremost is the nagging doubt about my own sincerity’. Earlier in the day I sensed a tug in the direction of non-acceptance, when I read, ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’ Do I really want to be free? Do I honestly desire a Kingdom lifestyle? What are the real tendencies and desires of my heart? Do I long more than anything else to be God’s man? To serve rather than be served? To pray when I could play? Be slow to speak, Brennan, be cautious to answer… I felt confusion and discouragement tiding within me.

Then a beautiful thing happened. I realized that the only reason I was at prayer was because I wanted to be with my friend. The doubt and uncertainty vanished. I knew I wanted to comfort Jesus in his loneliness and fear in the Garden. I wanted to watch not an hour but the whole night with him. The only words that formed on my lips were those of the little boy Willie-Juan in the fairy tale I had written the year past. Over and over I whispered, ‘I Love you, my friend.’”

Could I sit in the Garden with Jesus during his darkest hour? I would like to think I would. Would I follow him after his arrest? Well, I am not so sure. Would I be like the eleven, hiding after his crucifixion? Probably.  But I have the assurance that despite my lack of bravery, Jesus seeks me just as he sought out the eleven in the upper room after he arose from death. He wants and desires us all.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for sending Your Son into the world so that I may have a better understanding of Your Love for me. I thank You for sending Your Son to seek and to find us when we are lost. I thank You that no matter where we are found we are still desirable. Amen.

Sighs too deep for words

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ~Rom 8: 26-27 (NRSV)

Have you ever found yourself in a place where words just seem too insignificant for what you are feeling?

When I know I should pray, but the words won’t come, when I want to cry out to God but all that surfaces is this welling up from inside of me, I am confident that God even knows these prayers. The comfort I receive in my darkest hours is knowing that even though I may not know how to pray, the Spirit- God’s Spirit will pray for me. In my weakness; God himself prays for me.

On the days when fear raises its ugly head, when life doesn’t go the way I planned, when I think I am alone in my struggles, I take a deep *sigh* and I am reminded that God’s Spirit is deep within me sighing too. Saying what I can’t. In my sigh I lift up my eyes and say “You know my heart God. You know when I lie down and when I get up. You know that I don’t have strength for this day.” My hands are not lifted because I give up. My hands are lifted because I surrender to the One who knows all my tomorrows and has my best interest in mind.

Romans 8:24-25 says, “We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.” Because of my hope I looked upward. My hope saves me. I hope for what isn’t right now. I hope for the possibilities of what might be. Against all hope I wait patiently… and when I can’t hope anymore the Spirit prays for me.

When I am weak I am strong because it is God’s strength that works in me (2 Cor. 12:10). When I don’t have the strength or enough hope to lift up a prayer His Spirit prays my prayer.

So I sigh again Lord. Every breath I breathe is from You. Your breath flows through me. You sustain me. You shield me. You love me like no one else can. I know You hold me in Your hands. My hope is in You. Amen. 

Come away withe me

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things… When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.~ Mark 6:30-34,53-56 (NRSV)

Sometimes I forget how important those quiet moments away with Jesus really are. Jesus knows that His disciples are grieving, confused, tired, worried, scared…and His comfort to them is to “Come away with Me….”

Life can be so chaotic. In my busy-ness I begin to worry and fret. I’m tired… sometimes I am so spiritually exhausted – physically, emotionally, and spiritually, so bone-weary. At times I feel pulled in so many directions. The more tired I get the less clear I am able to think which induces more tiredness and soon I am spiraling out of control. What do I need most at this time? Rest and quiet!

A quiet place and rest? Well, where I am in life a quiet place away just seems like a wishful thought. When I do find those quiet, restful moments, they are often laced with guilt of all that I should be doing. If I don’t take the time to rest I quickly find myself back in the place where I begin to rely on my own strength and will power. If I don’t take time with God I forget quickly where my real source of power and strength lie.

What I need most is the presence of God. Before I reach the point of exhaustion I need to carve out space to let God speak directly to my heart. Food and rest revive my body but they are just not enough to revive my spirit. Jesus didn’t just tell his disciples to go away to a quiet place, but he called them to be with him. Getting away wasn’t enough. Resting and being alone wouldn’t rekindle their spirit for service. Only the presence of the Lord can renew, restore, revitalize, reinvigorate and re-establish my spirit.

No matter how much I may long to, I cannot stay in this quiet place. There is work to be done. The disciples and Jesus didn’t stay away. A time of rest and rejuvenation is important but there is still work to be done. Examples of Moses and Elijah getting away to the mountain for time with God show us how beneficial it was to go up to the mountain and spend time with Him but there always came the time to come back down from the mountain and continue on in the work they were called to do. Time with God is meant to give me the strength to go about my work, it is not meant to be a permanent hiding place.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for quiet moments and mountain top experiences that remind me who I am and Whose I am. I thank you for renewal, restoration, revitalization and reestablishing Your spirit within me. Amen.

 

Trying to be

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with its passions and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. ~Gal. 5:22-25 (CEB)

Faith does not always come easy. Sometimes it comes after a long road of holding on to the “I can do it myself”, after a last- ditch effort at “self” control. Often faith doesn’t come until we have tried everything else. Am I trying to be who Jesus wants me to be or do I trust Jesus to be who he is in and through me?

Only Jesus can be Jesus. And he wants me to have faith to let him be himself through me. Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit.” A few years ago there was a catch phrase, WWJD, “what would Jesus do?” Without relying on the Spirit to work through me this quickly becomes about my performance. But if through my faith, his spirit lives in me then I will see fruit of the spirit begin to show through me. We will know we are living by the Spirit when we see “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control.” (Gal 5:22-23)

Receiving faith does not happen automatically in the life of a believer. To live by faith I have to get rid of the “try hard life” and experience the truth of what it means to let his spirit flow through me. I need to let the peace of Christ rule my heart. By opening my hands to let Jesus work through me I am able to watch with hopeful expectation letting peace do peace-like work.

Heavenly Father, I want to do your will. I try so hard yet it seems that I am always falling short of what I think should happen. Help me to let go and let You work through me. Through me let Your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control shine. Amen.

 

Bandages

 

God heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. ~Psalms 147:3 (CEB)

“Do you forgive me?” My son looks at me pleadingly. *sigh* Once again I failed. No, sweet child, it is me that you should forgive.

I ran out of patience and tolerance. He had done nothing wrong but be himself.  I am so glad that I have a Savior that is more than me. When I forget to turn to Him for the source of my strength, I find myself missing the mark.

In our relationships with each other we find ourselves doing that we wish we would not and saying that which we should not. Part of learning and growing is working through our differences and learning tolerance. Part of living is learning to forgive each other. I am always floored by the wise words of Henri J. M. Nouwen. This excerpt from his book Bread for the Journey is so insightful,

“‘Time heals,’ people often say.  This is not true when it means that we will eventually forget the wounds inflicted on us and be able to live on as if nothing happened.  That is not really healing; it is simply ignoring reality.  But when the expression “time heals” means that faithfulness in a difficult relationship can lead us to a deeper understanding of the ways we have hurt each other, then there is much truth in it.  ‘Time heals’ implies not passively waiting but actively working with our pain and trusting in the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

Living in this reality that is mine is not always easy. Sometimes I take things out on the ones I am not angry with. May I always be “big enough” to admit when I am wrong and take responsibility for my part. May I always be willing to actively work through the pain in search of understanding. May I always be willing to trust in the possibility of forgiveness even when it is for me.

Grant me this day Heavenly Father, a strength that takes me outside myself to see and understand the truth in my reality. Only You can equip me with that strength and will make my way perfect (Psalm 18:32). Amen.

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