Busted Tails and Lame Men

Last week I busted my tail bone. Flat out busted it, purple bruise, couldn’t sit straight for days. Let me tell y’all, it was not fun in the least. Almost a week later and it’s still hard to sit directly on it. I do not recommend busting it, ever.

If you are anything like me, when you are busted up or sick you really don’t want anyone around you or to ask for help. Yo don’t want to be seen as in need. Maybe it is just me, trying to remain independent and not be seen as helpless or in need of anyone but myself.

32926-support-illness-1200.1200w.tnBut what happens when we reach out for help? When we seek healing in the form of others’ assistance? We remind ourselves that we cannot do this alone and we are a dependent being.

In Acts 3 we see Peter coming off the sermon in the temple. The same Peter who weeks before had denied knowing Christ is now the Peter preaching His salvation and our need for Him. I love that…another beautiful picture of redemption. As Peter and John go into prayers at the temple they come across a man at the gate begging for money, unable to walk and dependent upon others to carry him there and others to give money either as they entered the gates or as they left. (The man was smart about where he put himself to ask for money due to his inability to walk)

Peter and John engaged him as they walked by, they wanted him to look them in the eye. Something that he probably thought odd since at that time a disability was a way to not look at someone, to not see them as human-often how many are seen even now. He wasn’t seeking healing but was merely seeking to settle for what had been his lot in life.  But Peter and John recognized the deeper healing that was needed, the healing of his heart, a renewal of his body in the strength of Christ and not money, or men. So not in their own power or authority but fully in Christ’s they tell him to get up, and he does.

I find that in my own times of desperate need I don’t ask for what it truly is I do need because I am blinded by the tangible in front of me. I am praying about this thing when He’s pointing to the deeper root of healing. He’s sending people in His power in my path to point me to the healing I need but I often am so focused on this thing that I miss it. What if this guy had missed it with Peter and John, focusing only on obtaining money from them to exist rather than to receive full restoration for the real hurt to be healed?

What if instead of walking past those hurting we fully see a hurt that we can speak healing into through Christ’s strength and power? Instead of denying others that privilege of helping us heal we allow ourselves the ability to share about our hurts, our wounds, our lame legs and weak hearts? What if we stopped trying to hide our wounds, our hurts and we started living into full healing that comes through Christ and His people?

 

Fig Trees and Flipping Tables Jesus

I have to be honest with y’all….I have never truly understood the cursing of the fig tree by Christ on the Monday of Holy Week. I jump quickly to the story of Christ flipping the tables in the temple-the image I really cannot wait to see in heaven, justice-seeking Christ full of righteous anger. But who doesn’t love that?!

fig-tree

But first that fig tree y’all…As Christ is heading back into Jerusalem from Bethany, where He’s staying with Mary, Martha and Lazarus He is hungry. Yep, we see Jesus get hungry in Scripture, which is His human side coming forth from what I tend to lean towards. He sees a fig tree off there in the distance that is in full leaf, meaning it is showing that it should be bearing fruit, whether small or large. (Fig trees in that part of the world do not fruit until June, this would have been March-April) The tree was giving all intents and purposes that it was something that it, in production, in fruit, was not.

Christ immediately curses the tree, that it may never bear fruit again.

A parable lived right out for the apostles to see and hear.

It was a testament to the state of Israel at that time, and very well the state of our lives too in the church. Israel was showing off one thing, claiming Yahweh as God but yet bore out none of the fruit of that life…instead going after their own gods, making legalism their true aim instead of holiness. They bore no fruit of a life lived in obedience. It is a show with no substance, deceiving what is presented.

“The great majority of persons who have any sort of religion at all bear leaves, but they produce no fruit.”

-Charles Spurgeon, Nothing But Leaves

We believe within our own churches we are one thing, when in fact we are bearing nothing of substance out. Jesus is very well talking to us right here, right now in our churches in America. Egyptian Christians are murdered as they attended Palm Sunday services on Sunday. Yet we sit idly by and allow our comforts to be our concern, whether the a/c is working overtime or not (the very thing I complained about this morning, I kid you not y’all) or whether so-and-so is friendly towards us, or that our service had better numbers than the other church. Instead of our hearts yearning for righteousness, for holiness and complete obedience in all things.

We’ve grown into our own hypocrisy that our Savior cursed this very day….that He pointed to and made clear that deception in bearing fruit was not worthy of life, of His blessing, but rather a curse, a death. We need Him to make us useful and fruitful, to bear it out…just as John 15 points us to, that we abide in Him and we bear much fruit. But we must be in Him, not doing of ourselves or in ourselves. It took being led into John 15 over the last couple of weeks for me to see the real point Christ is making here…if we aren’t in Him, we bear false witness of fruit, we attempt to be the vinedresser, branch and root all in one, only there is nothing of substance to us, to our churches.

When Your Full Name is Used

In our neighborhood, every kid that lived there, all six of us, could tell you what the full name of the only other girl was. This was because she was four years younger than the rest of us, and often getting into trouble with us older kids when she shouldn’t be. Inevitably her mom would yell her full name from the front porch, and we all knew she was in for it. We’d turn to her and say, “Your mom wants you!” Not her brother, not any of us, but her. Still to this day, I can hear her mom clear as a bell yelling her name, and us all laughing out of relief because it wasn’t us getting called back home.

When I look through Isaiah 43-45 I cannot help but think of God calling His people, by their full known name back to Him. Back to Him that loves but disciplines, back to Him because they have turned and gone their own way. He’s calling their name because they alone are known by that name, He has given it to them. They ran from Him though, to be called by something else-servant. They went to be called idol worshiper and rebel. They went after their own things, making their own plans and way, only to realize that the people they’d sought to be a part of were not who they should have believed in, who they should have followed after.

Sound familiar?

Ever hear your name called out by God?

Oh, just me? Okay good. He calls our names, our full known names by Him alone to remind us of whose we are. Who we belong to ultimately and where it is we belong-in Him. Not in idol worship, not as a part of another culture or context. I am His. So clearly in Isaiah we are reminded, just as the Israelites were of this.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.”

He not only tells us at the start of Isaiah 43 that we are His, and He is calling us back by our names, but that we shouldn’t fear Him. We shouldn’t fear in a false and cowering way because He’s redeemed us. He’s gone before us and given Himself for us, but not for the junk we have run after but so that we could be in relationship with Him, living for Him and obediently living out His will.

We are known and we belong to Him. We often forget that until we find Him calling us back home, our full names being used across the heavens. Then we remember Whose we are, what we are made for and how we are to fully live.

Worshiping Today

“I worship at the altar of today’s circumstances, thinking they’re the most important and most pressing of all.”

-Lore Wilbert

I just came upon that quote this week and the magnitude of it struck me pretty deep. You see I think that’s become the norm for our lives, myself included. I cast aside the reminders of faithfulness, obedience and truth for today’s stuff. It may be a home renovation, encounter with a coworker (or your boss) or the lack of evening plans.

Whatever it may be, today’s calendar and the circumstances those don’t often capture become our intent focus. We lay every bit of it at the altar to those, all of ourselves, our emotions, our thoughts and our focus right there in front of today. We have slowly but very easily given up the long-run for the short-sighted of now, right this minute and immediacy.

As believers, we know a different time frame. One that looks at the long run, the marathon, the eternal. Our hearts yearn for it but our culture, our lives rush to be at the feet of today. It leads to doubting God, not taking Him into every circumstance and instead asking Him to rubber stamp our plans, actions and words. We rush to judgement, to pickup lines and to dinner. Instead we are called to be in presence with Him, to fully engage in relationship and conversation, to consultation and discernment, to the holy of each moment.

Y’all, I cannot tell you how I long for the holy of each morning, of time spent breathing in Him, His goodness and truth so that I can then breathe out His love, mercy and grace. The holy of time spent seeking His direction and will rather than my own, time engaging with people rather than ticking them off my to-do/to-meet list, to seeing the heart of the eternal in each and every person I interact with daily, from coworkers to strangers to my roommate.

Just for today. Maybe this weekend or even through the remainder of Lent can we lay down the idol worship of today for the invitation of the eternal into the present? Can we choose to give up the immediacy of our lives for the ever-guiding will of God in each circumstance?

Just for today, y’all.

Bandages and Temptations, Oh My!

Confession time.

00381371046539_a1c1When I was a kid I stole Little Mermaid bandages from a store. I was around 8 or 9 at the time and I asked my mom for them. We already had bandages at home and these were not needed. I kept swirling about that endcap full of them wanting them so badly. Finally I opened a box dumped them in my little purse, closed the box and put it back on the shelf.

I was quite the little thief at a young age. And to my own detriment, sneaky as well.

In doing research on another topic in 1 Corinthians, I couldn’t help but recall my Little Mermaid caper when I came to 10:13:

No temptation has overcome you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (NKJV)

The reason being that I think we put our own twist onto this verse and knowingly engage in temptation to test God. Temptations do overcome us, they are common. He gives us a way of escape so that we can bear out the temptation and not giving in to it. Here’s the rub…we have to choose the way of escape and then lean fully into bearing it out with God. For us though, we keep circling the temptation much like I did those boxes of bandages, dwelling on my desire rather than on the words of my mother, rather than walking away and choosing obedience.

We like to circle the temptation because we allow the desire to give much more voice to us than the obedient and faithful call of God. He is faithful to provide that way of escape if we but take heed to listen, to choose to turn and walk away from it, not engage in lingering or even second-guessing. Honestly, it doesn’t have to be these big huge temptations that we often like to play out when we read this (or maybe it’s just been me). It doesn’t have to get to adultery, pornography, thievery, alcoholism…it can be something that we feel is so insignificant and don’t recognize as tempting us.

One that I have been wrestling with is the temptation of wasted time, of being lured by the “well I need this” rest of television-watching or scrolling through feeds rather than pursuing a God-given dream to write. If I am truly transparent with y’all, I wrestled with it even on this very post today. I was knocked by the topic, sat it aside and then walked back by where I had the Bible and notes open and thought “Well I could catch up on the DVR instead.” It’s not often glamorous or celebrated when we choose obedience over temptation. Doing the obedient thing isn’t sexy or even fun, (it can be, don’t get me wrong) but it’s what our hearts call us to more than our desires…it pushes us to a deeper relationship with Him and in Him, honoring His faithfulness to provide it to us and then faithfulness reflected back to Him in turning from it, choosing that escape route.

Yours may be different, but when we begin to actively choose the escape He provides, when we can see it or hear it, then we begin to build relationship with Him to then hear Him in each and every thing we face, in the face of each temptation that comes (and they do come, in all shapes and sizes, at all times) so that we may choose turning rather than tempting.

Expectations, Fear and Obedience

Last week I shared about some disobedience I had been living in for the last bit. I will admit the struggle is very real in living an obedient life in Christ. To listen diligently for His voice, the Spirit’s prompting and digging daily into God’s Word to guide us. The tensions that therein lie against the world, our desires, and the pull of culture can almost be too much (and sometimes are) for this soul.

Over the course of the last two years I have faced some pulls I wasn’t expecting, coincide that with losing my job unexpectedly and launching into a whole new sphere of work has led to some self-assessment and a whole lot of self-pity. Most of the struggle has been in the realm of pride though if I’m honest. I like to list off (to myself and God mainly) that I have this list of accomplishments, these degrees, and yet here He’s put me, in this situation. I remind Him that’s He’s called me to more, all the while not really confessing my pride and willingness to be obedient in the wait, in the work I now feel led to fully.

I realized so very recently that I have been lining myself up with the world’s pulls of life, the world’s expectations of myself and my list of “to-dones” instead of falling flat on my face in repentance before God. I have pursued after jobs, locations that I felt I should be pursuing rather than what I knew without a shred of doubt He was leading me towards.

In all honesty, I wasn’t being brave in the face of false expectations.

I wasn’t being courageous to live in the wait He wants me in currently.

I am not being obedient to the fullness of life He has for me by filling my time with distraction of expectations and the need for approval.

When I turned the pages of a book in the early morning hours of the day I saw these words call out, God’s way of saying, “I’m talking to you right here, in this moment.What are you going to do with it?”

“There comes a moment for each of us wherein we must decide-will we be brave, or will we remain enslaved to fear? Will we be brave enough to confess? Will we be brave enough to walk into God’s calling?”

The calling terrifies me…because I am thinking it’s about me and my strength (and very present lack thereof). But when I bravely confess that I have relied too much on the world’s expectations and my own willingness I step into the area of obedience. I step out of my own lies and those that I have believed the world is telling me to see that I have to choose this for myself and not for the approval of others, or for anything short of God’s glory in obedience.

I am still walking in this tension of choosing bravery in the face of the world’s expectations of me and obedience to the calling He has given me. It means I have to choose trust in every single moment, in every single step even when I don’t know what that looks like or how long I will have to wait.

Fear will always tell me to not make a decision, it will always remind me of what others would think or say. But bravery in obedience and choice means my faith is bigger than my fears, my God is bigger than the world’s reminders of failure or expectations. Because I am already approved, already loved, and called to obedience in a sovereign God Who doesn’t leave me to figure this out alone but to have seasons of wait, rest, grief and freedom in Him.

Here’s to shirking off the fear of the world’s expectations and living fully in the freedom of bravery in Christ, knowing He went first so we wouldn’t have to be enslaved any more to it all.


The quote above is from Rebekah Lyons’ new book out this Tuesday, You are Free (pg. 198) Pick it up at your local LifeWay Christian Stores. 

The Struggle is Real

Do you have those moments where you just know that it’s God talking through a friend specifically to you about something buried deep that you keep pushing back down?

No? Just me.

Oh well good.

Recently with a friend, who did not know what I had been killing and burying repeatedly within me, they brought up the struggle of the flesh with obedience to God’s prompting. I thought it interesting because I wasn’t prepared for that wallop at the time, since I myself had spent the better part of two weeks avoiding dealing with this rising notion of disobedience because of the flesh whispering the very thing it knew would get me, what others would think.

real

Most of the time I am good at really not minding what is thought of me, but the grooves of my old self, an approval addict to the very core, found some footing in my heart as I sought to be obedient in what I still feel is God prompting me on about discipleship and women’s ministry. Then this verse came up when listening to a sermon first thing today and I knew it. I knew exactly what the flesh was after and the struggle I had not been fighting but just burying to avoid.

For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. -Romans 7:15 (HCSB)

I was right back in my approval mode of life, looking alot like the habits of my old self and wondering what people would think of me if I asked, if I stepped out in obedience. I didn’t realize it in the moment, or over the course of the last few weeks but I knew for certain this morning that I was pursuing the things which I hate-old habits. A life that I had crucified to the cross because I was already approved, loved and adored by the One who went to the cross for me. Who took it all on Himself so that I would not have to worry about such things but live in the abundant approval of the King of the world.

But just because that approval addiction has been nailed to the cross doesn’t mean it still doesn’t wiggle off, limping and broken to come right back to me in the moments when the flesh wants to remind me of what I used to be, habits I left a solid tread mark for in my old self. I didn’t need a CSI team to tell me where those tracks led, but somehow I was willingly off the path that the Spirit had been leading, all too quickly simply out of the worry of approval.

Y’all, let me be the example to tell you that you cannot be living in obedience with God, walking in step with the Spirit and not expect your habits of old self to attempt to distract you. Because they do. They want you off that path, even with the lie as the pastor pointed out this morning, “that you’ll get back in step and on that path later.”

The struggle is truly real, not with our old selves but with those habits that wore deep paths within us from that prior life…ones that are often easier to find than the step in front of us that is with the Spirit. Maybe like me, you needed to hear today that even when we believe we are in step with the Spirit that our habits can distract us, can pull us into an old way that feels comforting and familiar but is blatantly disobedient to where we are supposed to be, where we are called to be by God. But we have the choice to recognize it, to see the old path and know that the outcome leads to death and hurt. So we can then choose repentance, obedience and placing that foot back on the path with the Spirit leading. Back in tune with “the desire to what is good” and knowing “there is no ability to do it” on our own. (Romans 7:18(b) HCSB)

Where is it today that you need to  step out of that habit of your former self to boldly step in the path with the Spirit? To choose obedience and the power of God in you rather than the flesh that reminds you of your old self?

The struggle is hard, but the continual sin of fleshly habits is real. And eternally tethered.