The Great I AM

“John was found nearby [the cross] when human reasoning implied his faithful Leader’s mission had failed. He could not have comprehended that the plan of the ages was going perfectly. Yet he remained…

Then comes the question: Will we walk away from Jesus when from human understanding He looks weak and defeated?

What do we do when we can’t explain what Jesus is doing? Will we remain nearby when He hasn’t stopped a tragedy? When based on early evidence, human reasoning is left to one or two harrowing conclusions: He is either mean or weak. Think, beloved, about what I am saying. Will we cling when our human reasoning implies evil has defeated Him? Or that evil seems to be found in Him? Will we stand by faith when human logic says to run? That’s what will make us different.” -Beth Moore, The Beloved Disciple


One of my favorite descriptions of God is “I Am.” There is just such power and finality in that. There is no possible counter-argument when God describes Himself that way, is there? It makes me smile with awe. (I’ll just leave it at awe, because for some reason the late hour is having me want to finish that sentence by saying, “…awe and props. Like, y’know, ‘Yo, God. Way to do You!'” and “thug” isn’t really the tone I’m going for here. ;-)). God IS.

Hallelujah that He IS!

Because He is, we are not limited by our own weaknesses. Because He is, it is not us against life. Because He is, we don’t need to be afraid of what may come. Because He is, we can trust that all of our pain will have a purpose. Because He is, we can have peace, knowing we are in His Almighty hands. Because He is, we are never alone. We are never unseen or unloved. We are never forgotten about. Because He is, we can be bold and confident–and not in ourselves, but in the God who goes with us. The God who gave us life. The God who knit us together in our mothers’ womb. We were purposefully and thoughtfully designed by The Creator. And not only can we rest assured in that, but also in the truth that He walks with us.

Lord, help us to know how very powerful we truly are. Help us to never become so blinded by life that we forget there is so much more than what is right in front of our faces. There is so much more than what we are so familiar with. Shatter or false perspectives on life, Lord. Help us see things, and ourselves, the way You see us. Help us to rise up, Lord, a nation of people who are bold with the knowledge that they are YOURS.

Help us to remember, Lord, know that the battle and the victory belong to You.

Lord, help me maintain proper reverence for You. While I pray to grow increasingly more in love with You, I pray that my comfort and familiarity with You will never cloud out the truth that You ARE. Lord, help my reverence for You grow in proportion with my love for You. Help me not forget that You are Lamb, yes, but You are also Lion. Help me to remember that yes, You count my tears, but You also have a voice that can rattle the heavens and take all living things to tremble in awe.

Thank You, Lord, that You are unfathomably big. And thank You that we can rest in the comfort (yes, comfort!) of knowing that there is so more to this life than what we can understand right now and that, from Your perspective, everything is unfolding as it should. From Your heavenly perspective, it all makes sense. All is well.

 

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Seeking Your Face

I seem to be forever discovering how very much I have to work on. And yet, there is no discouragement or shame in that because I am safe in Jesus.

I was thinking last night about false idols, and how seemingly innocuous they can be. How we might not even recognize them as such.

I find a lot of comfort in knowing that God won’t allow us to have false idols—that He will burn them to the ground until He resumes Lordship over our lives. As painful as it might be for God to discipline me, I want that. I want, more than anything, to live right with Him.

Plus, I know that no matter what He takes away, no matter what He is forced to burn to the ground, better things await me. He is a master at rebuilding. Remember, God made a person out of nothing more than dust and His breath. (How beautiful that humanity started with the very breath of the Almighty!). He made the whole world with just His words.

However, I think it’s really easy for me to allow other’s voices, especially my sister’s, to be bigger than God’s. It’s not a matter of “worshipping” my sister, but a matter of convenience. It’s easier to bend to her wishes, to spend evenings with her instead of God. “He will understand if I don’t have time to spend with Him tonight,” I think. It’s easier to apologize to my understanding and forgiving God than to rock the boat with my sister.

But that’s not fair to Him. And that is not how I want to live.

I was talking that over with God last night when I realized I made it to bed too late to have time to spend with Him. Certainly my evening wasn’t so busy that I couldn’t have made time for Him, I chose not to because my sister wanted my attention.

And it occurred to me that the reason I so often allow her to call the shots is because I see her as my primary opportunity for comfort and love, and I don’t want to jeopardize that. And so, I willingly trade in time with God for her love and comfort, even though I know that no person’s love compares to the love of the Lord. I trade in Love for humanity’s version of it.

God promises to meet us when we come to Him! He isn’t just able to provide comfort, He IS comfort! He is more than able to provide love, He IS love!

I think I tend to do whatever is easiest. Not rocking the boat with my sister? Easier than excusing myself to spend time with God.

And shamefully, sometimes spending time with God feels like work. Sitting in front of the TV? Easier than seeking the face of God.

But it isn’t supposed to feel like work! Jesus spent hours with His Father. He wasn’t bored. To Him, it didn’t feel like work. It felt like comfort. It felt like Love.

It felt like rest.

He calls the weary and brokenhearted to Him. He promises to quench the thirst of those who seek Him.

It isn’t supposed to feel like work.

And when I’m with Him, there’s nowhere I’d rather be. I know from experience that He truly is all that He promises to be.

So why do I still live like I don’t believe that?

I think we are born hungry- needing things like love and comfort.

And I think God did that on purpose, I think he WIRED us that way because He didn’t want us to be able to be completely satisfied with what the world has to offer- He wants us to be satisfied in Him alone.

He wanted to give us a reason to seek Him.

I think a lot of people never get to the place of seeking God’s face and discovering that He keeps His promises. I think they grow disillusioned, bitter, cynical, angry. Their efforts at trying to find or create fullness of life haven’t worked out. And so they decide there must not be any more, that they are destined to live dissatisfied and unfulfilled. And they quiet the part of themselves, the part of themselves placed there by their Creator, that whispers, “Don’t give up. There IS more.”

The voice of God never stops calling us to believe there’s more. But the world is always going to disappoint. We have to find our “more” in Him alone.

And He promises that in Him we will find all that we need. This I know to be true; I have experienced it.

Thank you, Abba, that You keep Your promises. Thank You that all that You do is for our ultimate good. And the ultimate good of Your Kingdom.

Lord, I believe You are worth “rocking the boat” for. You are worth leaving the boat for- as Peter demonstrated. Only, unlike Peter, help me to trust You so fully that, when I step from the boat, I don’t sink.

Help me to do life with my eyes on Your face.

Help me to do life running across the surface of the water after You.

Free Indeed

Thank You, Jesus, that I am no one’s prisoner. Thank You that, because You bought me, I am free.

Lord, You bought me with Your life. With Your precious, precious blood. You paid the most unthinkably high price for me- and then You freed me. You didn’t buy me and then handcuff me to You or give me a list of things to do to “earn my keep”. You bought me and freed me. You gave me the choice to follow whomever I wanted to. And, thank God, I chose You.

It’s a heartbreakingly beautiful love story. To give all you have for something you really want, and to know that thing might never even be yours? I cannot imagine.

And those of us who do choose You? That’s enough! Yes, You want us to know You more deeply and grow and figure out how we fit into Your plan, but that isn’t why You paid for us. You didn’t buy us for what we could accomplish- You bought us because You love us. Because You delight in us. And You want us to love You too.

You bought us because You wanted us to know that it is in You alone that there is comfort and peace and hope and joy and life. And freedom. You bought us for what You could do for us, not for what we could do for You.

And yes, wanting to follow God and bring Him glory is the natural progression of one’s growing relationship with God, but it wasn’t Your focus. You wanted us to know You, to know Truth. It’s just so beautiful. So unthinkably selfless.

Thank You that You captured my heart.

And thank You that my love for You is just the beginning. Now, through me and not of my own doing, You can work and move and use me.

Thank You that love is the beginning. It is where You start. Because our hearts matter to You.

And a heart full of You can’t not bring You glory. Because a heart full of You makes us radiant. Not of our own doing, but of our own agreement. We agree to love the God who created us and sent His son to die for us, knowing we may never love Him back. We agree. And You do the rest.

Help me to never forget that I am not a prisoner. I am free because I am Yours. You purchased my soul.

Help me to never minimize exactly what it was that You did for me on the cross.

Help me never to minimize what it means to be Yours.

Authenticity

One of the adjectives most used to describe Jesus during the time He walked this earth is authentic. I’ve been giving that some thought lately.

Authenticity, when done out of our own effort and willpower, is both exhausting and terrifying. However, I don’t think we are called to be authentic.

I think authenticity, and all good things!, are the result of following God. We cannot will them into existence. The more we try to be like Him, the more we open ourselves up to disillusionment and fatigue. Relying on our own strength and abilities will always eventually lead to exhaustion, depression, anxiety, or hopelessness. Willpower isn’t infinite and we are flawed. We cannot do life on our own willpower forever. We will burn out. And God, being the One who created us, knows that.

And so, rather than being called to be authentic (or honest or compassionate or anything else), we are simply called to love Him and seek Him. And then trust Him with the results. He is the one who will produce good in us, good that can last. He alone can make us more like Him.

I think I’ve used this analogy before, but for example, I cannot get more tan by simply trying to BE more tan. Sure, I could buy a self-tanner, but it will be orange and streaky and take so much time to maintain that I’d quickly give up. The only way to be effortlessly tan is to learn to love spending time in the sun. Similarly, the more time we spend with Him, the more like Him we will become.

And so, if all the good that we accomplish and all the qualities in us that are Christ-like are the product of Him working in us and through us, then what do we have to fear? Authenticity isn’t scary when you realize there’s no risk of being “found out”. We don’t have to hide or self-protect or live ashamed because we are human. We are beautiful and flawed and imperfect and so full of potential. We all are. There is no shame in that. The more people see me for who I am, the more they will see Jesus. Because anything I accomplish or any compassion I show or any forgiveness I bestow on someone, they are Him in me.

We are called to trust in God and His ability to accomplish good things. We are not called to accomplish good things on our own. We are not called to power through, relying on whatever strengths and abilities we think we possess. He wants us only to rely on Him. Our trust, our hope, and our faith, they are to be in Him alone. We cannot put trust, hope, or faith in ourselves, other people, our jobs, or money.

And when we really grasp onto that concept, that God can make us strong where we are weak and even use our weakness to accomplish something good, the less we will feel we have to protect and the easier it will be to be authentic. Effortlessly authentic. Because we know who we are in Him.

Anything else isn’t of Him. Hiding, self-protection, shame? They are from Satan. I mean, what does Satan love more than hiding behind a good lie? Very rarely do people, I think, make the conscious decision to follow Satan. Rather, they believe a lie. They decide that walking down a certain path is “harmless”. Satan loves a lie and he loves a disguise. He would love to be seen as harmless; that is how he can work so effectively still, even among those of us who belong to Christ.

Satan would love for us to think we have to hide. But Jesus showed us we don’t.

I was reading yesterday about how Jesus’ disciples had to make a decision when agreeing to follow Him- they had to make the decision to follow Him, even though they knew that not everyone would understand. They knew that it was possible that even their own friends and family would judge them. Maybe even mock them. They had to make the decision to follow Him even though their reputations were on the line.

I think that’s really significant. Since the beginning, following Jesus has been the less “safe” and “comfortable” option. At least when viewed from the world’s perspective. It’s risky. Since the very first people said, “Yes, Jesus, I will follow you,” they had to decide that the Lord’s opinion of them mattered more than the world’s. They had to know and trust that even if following Jesus led them to places that felt unsafe or scary, they were ultimately infinitely safer with Him than they ever could have been had they opted to do life on their own.

We are not called to earn or accomplish. We are not called to worry and panic and try to avoid pain and suffering. We are not called to gain the favor of those around us or make enough money to put food on our tables. All we are called to do is follow Him and trust Him with EVERYTHING. Every single result. Every single area of our lives.

We might think we can provide for ourselves, but we can’t. Not really. After all, all good things are from Him, not from us.

“I have yet to have an ailment that God had no salve to soothe…His Word is far more glorious, powerful, and fully applicable than we have any idea.” –Beth Moore

In Psalm 107:20, it says that God “sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”

That’s where it all begins.

I can’t “live well enough” or will myself to be more godly. I am too flawed, too human. And God doesn’t ask that of us anyway. He simply asks us to love Him and seek Him. And He promises to do the rest.

God sent forth His Word.

That’s where it all began. With a word. With His Word.

Any desire to be more like Him or be more authentic or feel less depressed and exhausted and hopeless and anxious, that’s where it begins. In His Word.

The Love Of A Parent

Whenever I watch America’s Got Talent and I see the way the parents look at their children as they step out onto that stage to perform, I feel my heart harboring two thoughts:

First: No one will ever look at me like that again.
No one’s eyes will ever look at me like that again, with that combination of pride and fierce love and emotion.

And then the second thought arises: GOD looks at me like that.
And this thought isn’t a whisper, like the first one. It’s booming and loud and makes Thought Number One sit back and take notice. And, in response, my eyes unfailingly begin to tear up. Because when Truth speaks loud to your heart, that’s just what happens.

He really is every single thing we need. In Him, all of my hopes and dreams and needs and wants are wrapped up. Whatever I’m lacking, whatever hurt I carry around with me, HE IS THERE. He is bigger than it. He is more than enough.

It blows me away how much He loves us.

It blows me away how very well-taken-care-of we truly are.

Lord, help me to live out my gratitude and love for You. In the things I say and do and what I think and in how I occupy my time, help me to make it all for You. 

We Don’t Have To Be Ashamed

After the angel freed Peter from prison (see Acts 12), they walked a block and then the angel suddenly departed from him.

Had I been Peter, I would’ve been like, “…Seriously? I mean, not to sound ungrateful or anything, but what now!?”

How often in our lives do we feel like God should be there, holding our hand and walking us through it step by step? How often do we feel that He just doesn’t care or see how badly we need Him?

Certainly, however, that is never the case, as evidenced by this story.

If God cared enough to send an angel and help Peter break free from prison, He wasn’t going to suddenly stop caring about him now that He was no longer chained up. Even though Peter could have easily perceived it differently, God wasn’t going to leave him there in the street, completely unaided.

God must’ve known Peter was going to be okay, even if Peter himself wasn’t sure what would happen next. It’s the whole “mother bird/baby bird/kicked out of the nest” thing. God, like any good parent, sometimes has to say to us, “I know this is uncomfortable for you and I know you don’t understand and I know you think I am just being mean or that I don’t care, but I am doing this because it is what’s best for you.”

I wonder if God sometimes feels uninvolved and distant because He is trying to help us walk by faith. Certainly, I would fear nothing if I could feel His hand in mine all the time, but it doesn’t make any difference what I can perceive with my senses- He is always here. I am never alone. Always, He is working things out for good.

How very unafraid we’d be, I think, if we could see what is going on in the spiritual realm. We are never, ever alone.

You know what else about this story makes me smirk? Believers had been praying night and day for Peter’s release from prison, but when he finally showed up at their door, they didn’t believe it was really him!

Their prayers were persistent enough that God responded, but they must not have actually expected Him to answer in that way or else they wouldn’t have been so disbelieving when Peter actually showed up at their door!

And I smile about that because, what a beautiful example of how our humanness doesn’t stop God from intervening? We cannot muster enough faith to “earn” a specific answer to our prayer, because faith like that is a gift from God and not something we can “create”. All we can do is spend as much time with Him as possible and allow Him to work in us and change us. And that’s what those people did. They poured their everything into spending time with the Lord. They weren’t trying to make a plan and think of a way to break Peter out of prison themselves, nor did they despair and think that Peter’s fate was sealed. They just brought it to God.

I am so glad we can never be spiritually good enough. Those people who prayed for Peter’s release and then didn’t believe it when he showed up at their front door? They make me smile. I am so glad that this story brings God all of the glory. I don’t read this story and think, “Oh, if only I could be more like those believers whose prayers caused God to send an angel to free Peter!” I think, “Lord, help me have that kind of dedication to prayer, and thank You that You are good even when we fall short.”

Which leads me to my next thought: WHY do I needlessly hold on to shame?!

“In Mark’s Gospel many of Peter’s faults are clearly stated. It is as if Peter had said to Mark, ‘Make sure you show how badly I behaved.'” -Michael Bentley

Why would Peter want that? Why would he want everyone to know about his flaws and failures? Because he had totally let go of any pride he’d had. He wanted nothing more than to give God glory.

And so, why is it that giving God glory isn’t my top priority also? Why do I try to protect myself and hide myself, when all that should matter to me is living a life that brings God glory?

Lord, help me stop wanting acceptance and approval from people. Help me stop trying to be liked and thought highly of.

Lord, eliminate my pride. Eliminate my fear of people. Let all the ways I’ve failed be a testament to how big You are and how capable You are of rescuing us from even the deepest pits. When I am weak, You are strong.

Of course I don’t wish to boast in my weaknesses and failures, but Lord, I DO wish to boast in You. And so I pray You will help me care more about that than about protecting my reputation.

“We…should be eager to share with other people something of what we know of the Lord.” -Michael Bentley

I don’t need to hide, because I am Yours. I am clothed in You- in Your righteousness, in Your mercy, in Your grace. And the world might not always understand that, but that’s okay.

Help me not sin against You by disbelieving that You in me is enough. I am not powerless, I am not inferior, I am Yours.

Lord, I wish to speak of all that You’ve done for me, even when I’ve been the least deserving. Help me know and believe that I can do so much more for You by being my honest self than I ever could by trying to appear to be someone who’s never needed rescuing.

As Peter prayed in 2 Peter 1:5-7, help us not to forget the Truth, Lord. No matter what we experience in this life, Your Word ranks higher.

Help us to remember that we don’t have to have a plan, Lord, because You do. We don’t have to know what’s coming next; we just have to keep our eyes on You and trust that You’ve got it under control.

 

“Take my life
And let it be
Ever, always, all for Thee.”

You Are My All In All

I had a dream last night. It was mostly bizarre and nonsensical, but after giving it some thought this morning, I realized that it wasn’t just a silly dream- the majority of my dream was about searching for Jesus.

At first, I kept searching for Him in people. Every glimpse of Jesus that I saw in someone made me want more from them. Love, or time, or energy, or understanding, or whatever. Of course, however, having expectations for people often leads to disappointment, because people are people, they are not God.

But then I saw Him.

He was wearing a baseball hat, which cracks me up, but I saw Him and He looked up at me and smiled like He was there for me alone, like He came because He knew I had been searching for Him.

And at the sight of Him, everything in me rose to a place of worship and awe. And I ran. I ran for Him, through the crowd of people I was in. I ran as fast as I could, fearlessly, even though I knew I was likely to trip over someone’s feet, because I knew Jesus was there and He would protect me and keep me from falling. I knew we were both just waiting for the moment when I finally reached Him and was able to wrap my arms around Him.

It was the best hug of my dream self’s life.

Before bed last night, I had written this prayer:

“Lord, with every time a person disappoints me, help me not grow cynical or disillusioned with humanity. Help me to continue to love wildly and passionately and with an open heart, just free from expectations. Help my goal be to love them and not to get love (or anything else) back in return. Help loving them be enough.

And help me, with every disappointment, only come to know You and love You and appreciate You more. Because, Lord, I know that disappointments are inevitable. I know that it’s only in You that I can find what I need. Thank You that in You, all my needs are met.

And thank You, Jesus, for all the times when I’m more patient and loving and understanding than I know I am naturally. I feel You with me in those moments, Lord, and it feels like a hug. I feel like I can hear you saying in a soft, soothing, loving voice, ‘I see. I see what that person did/is doing to you. I see and I’m here. Let’s navigate this conversation/disagreement/pain together. I know you’re hurting and I know you cannot do it on your own, so just rest in Me and I’ll give you the words. I give you the patience and strength you lack.'”

Thank You, Jesus.