Thursday, October 3, 2013

Letting Go for Greater - Jesus

"...who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." Philippians 2:6-8 (NKJV)

"...but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And, whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life  ransom for many." Mark 10:43-45 (NKJV)

"Oh My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." Matthew 26:39 (NKJV)

Part of this letting go phase of my life is surrendering my plans and understanding as to how I should start and build the ministry God has called me to. I have worked for a small business owner for several years and learned the ropes of sustaining something successful in the marketplace - hustle. I have a great many skills and extensive training under my belt and I am always eager to learn more. I am equipped and qualified with knowledge, experience and ideas as to how this should look and be done. But God has a different plan that is the opposite of my worldly knowledge and understanding.

If we examine God's plan for salvation using Christ as a sacrifice, our common sense and understanding would rally that His great work could have been done without persecution and bloodshed. Jesus could have kept His deity and saved Himself. He was God! But, He surrendered His all, accepted His task, let go of what was expected, refused to resist what was His reality of persecution and a slow, agonizing death for something greater. Obedience to and pleasing the Father, salvation, reconciliation, restoration, freedom, righteousness, and a permanent unity between God and humanity are the greater He lived and died for.

In this transition into new life in Christ, I am learning that like Him, my power is not in myself but in Him. The route for the fulfillment of my call is to be done His way, not necessarily the way of my understanding and need. The complaining, whining and fretting needs to cease. Just as Jesus' mission was God's plan and in His control, my mission is to be carried out the same way. "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master"(Matthew 10:24). Dying to self gets clearer and clearer the greater the letting go.

The challenge in this lesson is how do you know when to let go and when to plow ahead? For me, it has been when I stop creating my noise of frustration and disappointment. Instantly there is zero tension and chaos. When I let go of what I think should be a part of this ministry, especially what I dread doing, there is a peace in my spirit. I accept His invitation given in Matthew 11:28-30 and rest comes. A lighter yoke is seen and there is assurance that what is seen is the answer. There is no excess attached to it. The core is pure and simple. Jesus lived to show us surrender (a death to self) and died to give us new life in Himself. Life for death and death for life.

As you learn to let go of what God is urging or nudging you to surrender, examine what challenges you? What is this letting go costing you in relationships, time, money, service, etc.? I encourage you to be courageous in sharing your journey here as it may give someone else the permission and courage they need to let go. And if I can pray for you along the way, it would be my pleasure!

Be blessed in Him,

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Letting Go for Greater - Abraham

"Now the Lord had said to Abram: 'Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan." Genesis 12:1-3, 5 NKJV

Abram and his family embark on a journey that requires them to let go of all that is familiar and comfortable to them. The Bible does not tell us if Abram questioned God. It just says he did what God commanded. If God commanded you to leave all you have known, your beloved comfort zone would you go? What if He asked you to let go of your dreams, goals and plans for the future? Would you say "yes"?

At the beginning of this year, I felt that my "word" for the year was "new." Never did I expect the power that would come from studying examples of that word in the Bible and how it would change my life. Throughout the year I have asked God to bring new into my life and He has brought me to places where I have had to make the decision to follow Him or remain where I was. Today I am slowly letting go of who and what no longer serves the life God has called me to live.

This new way of living has been difficult as I am accustomed to having an explainable plan in case someone asks, and I don't have one. Not having a plan of action or goals looks like a blank piece of paper to me, but I am discovering that this blank space can represent nothing or the whole world is possible. That space can be perceived as bondage or freedom. But in this season of life I am applying the instruction, "be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2) and viewing that blank space as an adventure.  Where will God lead? Who will come into my life and what relationships will be no more? How will I grow in Him? How much more of Him will I come to know? Normally I would be a wreck and remain stuck, but this time I have decided to pursue the longings in my heart.

Over the next few weeks, I will share what God is teaching me on this journey to a new life in Him, what it means to let go, how to follow Him and practice the art of receiving. So I am stepping into the new with nervous anticipation, wonder and gratitude. I hope you will join me, and if God is urging or leading you into something new please share your lessons and discoveries.

May you be blessed along the way.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Lesson in Unlearning Unworthiness

You never know where God might lead, but you can count on the path always leading to Him. In his book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes about disillusionment and how Jesus did not put His confidence in man. Christ knew the power and ability required to never disappoint a human being could only be handled by God.

Chambers wrote, "many of the things in life that inflict the greatest injury, grief or pain, stem from the fact that we suffer from illusions." Each of us has expectations of others and we see what we want or need to see in each other. I may meet some one's immediate or deep need at some point in their lives and they may have the expectation (intentionally or unintentionally) that I will always meet their need in the same measure or greater. It is impossible for any human being to accomplish this and yet, we do this to ourselves and each other daily.

This morning's lesson uncovered the truth that God led me to where I am living now so that I could heal from my deepest wound - a belief of unworthiness based on the illusion that I could in my own strength measure up to another person's expectations and needs.

For my entire life it seemed that I always missed this person's mark, no matter my intentions or how perfectly my efforts were executed. I have been met with disappointment, a condemning tone of voice, and words sharp enough to cut through bone. I have believed I am unworthy of any good, success or blessing because I missed this person's expectations. Anything bad or wrong that happened to me had to be my fault because of what I had done in the past, whether related or not.

Now, I have also had unrealistic expectations of this person as well. I believed that if I followed through and acted accordingly on their expectations, I would be rewarded with praise and love. I was rewarded and praised, but not always and not always when I needed it. I expected this person to fulfill my needs and validate me as a person.

The lesson I am learning is that disillusionment comes when our expectations are not being met. This is reality at its best. When disillusioned we can see people and ourselves as we really are. The challenge we must face for healing and abundant living comes in releasing ourselves and each other from unrealistic expectations or deep needs. This takes courage - courage to unlearn what we have practiced throughout our lives and learning anew how to live, trusting God to meet our deepest needs.

When God calls you to do or be something for Him, do not be surprised when He takes you down a path that doesn't make sense. When I first moved here, I kept hearing, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Mt 11:28-30). I was exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically when I first moved here, so I believed those words were a perfect fit. Six years later, I realize Christ's invitation has become the solid foundation I need to stand in through my healing, unlearning and new learning process.

His invitation for rest and a lighter yoke has offered and still offers a safe place for laying down everything we carry - shame, humiliation, despair, disappointment, fear, worry, surrender, other people's burdens and fulfillment of expectations. He offers a safe place to be as broken as we are so that He can meet our deepest needs. Only He has the patience, comfort, timing, grace, and love we seek for fulfillment.

Today I gained a greater understanding that when Christ died He took on my soul ache and my deepest need for acceptance and love. He took on every bit of despair and bafflement, every deep cutting wound and bore them upon Himself.

For years I believed the enemy's lies just like Eve, but now I am becoming a new Eve - whole, worthy and more than enough. It is in Christ that we are whole and have a safe place to rest. He took on the sins and soul ache of all those who have come before us as well as our own and those to come after us. His invitation has been extended to all. This is grace.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

To Stand in Him

"I want to know Jesus Christ - yes to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 3:10-14

This month on She Loves Magazine, the theme is "STAND." Today readers were asked to think about what stand means to them. I think this is a good word for us to ponder on a regular basis, if not daily, for it is necessary for moment by moment living.

For me, to stand is to do what you have to do to believe, and:

Never Stop - when your vision or dream gets blurry, dark or completely disappears or when all hell breaks loose in your life. When people try to put you in a box so they can understand or "handle" who you are and what you do. When they tell you you can't because of who they believe you are or your past experiences.

Keep Believing - even if you are the only one and the dream or vision won't go away. When you think you have nothing to make it happen in the ways you know how and understand. When you are alone, because there will be times when you will be.

Know Him - because He will meet you when you least expect Him and in ways that are so small, but just right. Because you will need to hold on to Him for dear life, sanity and when you've reached your wits end. Know this - He wants you, loves you and He's got this!

Embrace Him and all the good He brings. Savor it and give thanks. It is the sweet confirmation you will need on this journey. God is faithful and He is with you.

Be blessed,

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What Are You Praying For, God or Yourself?

I've been going through a tough time emotionally, mentally, spiritually and financially and realized after reading  The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning (for the second time) that my circumstances may have something to do with my prayers. I have been told many times that God always answers prayers. Today I learned more deeply that God does answer our prayers, but not always in the ways we would choose, and that I am not a failure because I suffer and experience tough circumstances.

In his book, Manning shares that we may go through a period of darkness and that we should embrace it because this may be God's way of answering our prayers. We may have prayed for greater trust in Him, humility or greater faith. To answer us, God may lead us through circumstances that are beyond our control so that we may come to realize exactly who we are - saved sinners dependent upon Him for endurance, provision, safe-keeping and rest.

Reflecting on this discovery, I posed Manning's questions - do I want what God can give me when I pray or do I want God Himself? My soul says more of God, but my worldly understanding of my circumstances says I need to survive in this world. I should ask for what He can provide with only a smidgen of Himself which is all I can handle. I can't handle or serve both.

When I choose to follow the longing in my soul and I ask for more of Him, I sometimes experience loneliness or isolation because I forget that more of Him means substitutes have to go. I have to let go to receive. I can't hold on to all that I think I need to fulfill me and grab onto the One who can be everything to me. Room needs to be made or chaos and tension result. When I choose what He can give me, I am never satisfied. Something is always wrong or not enough and the desire remains insatiable. Do I want tension, chaos and anger or do I want the peace that comes from choosing Him? His peace may not make sense in the midst of trials, but in Him I can let go of the tension, chaos and anger. Why carry all that and your circumstances? Why carry any of it at all?

As you lift up prayers to God today, ask yourself, "Am I seeking Him for Him, or am I seeking Him for what He can do for me?"


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Entitlement: Somebody Pays the Price

"...incomparable riches of His grace..." - Ephesians 2:7
"...the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way." - Ephesians 1:23
"...His incomparably great power for us who believe." - Ephesians 1:19
"...the riches of His glorious inheritance..." - Ephesians 1:18

What we have in Christ is beyond description, greater than we could ever ask or imagine, fuller, beyond complete, majestic, powerful, and ours by His grace and sacrifice.

"I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). I love these words because they mean no more entitlement, individuality, working for or earning of the free gift of grace. They give freedom and permission to lay down my constant striving and forcing to make things happen as well as my frustration, despair, envy and need for comparison when they don't happen. There is nothing I can ever do to receive the indescribable.

My parents worked and still work hard to get where they are and have what they have. Most of us do. They were and are faithful, consistent, persistent laborers. Many of us are. But many of us also believe (and act blatantly or subtly) that we are to live a life of entitlement. We expect to have what we want when and how we want it regardless of what it may cost others. God promises us abundance as His children, but we forget about what it cost Him.

I have the opportunity to mentor a group of tween girls and one of them shared how an adult had said something that made her angry. The girl said this adult would now have to earn her respect just like everyone else. I and her teachers explained to her that respect is not to be earned but simply given and that all human beings are to be respected regardless of what they have, don't have, do and don't do. She and her classmates weren't buying it.

I am amazed at how we assume that we are entitled to goodness, respect, abundance and a great life without taking into consideration what it costs to have and maintain it all. We neglect or choose not to respect, acknowledge or give thanks to those who sacrificed and paid the price for us to have freedom and opportunities for good. Studying God's Word this morning reminded me of how I, too take advantage of my parents and others who have worked hard and sacrificed their lives and dreams so that I could have what I have. And not only do I treat others this way, but at times God gets treated this way.

Christ gave up His deity, came as a baby, lived in this world with us, taught the truth despite ridicule and persecution, allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross and die a slow death for the sake of the Father. What He did is the cost of our freedom in Him. Not freedom to do what we want when and how we want, but freedom from situations, relationships, actions that can destroy us or keep us from being the great people He created us to be - people who honor and worship Him. In Him we are entitled, but not to our worldly ideas, plans, purposes, desires or ideas of what we think we deserve. In Him we have the capability to go before the Lord and worship Him.   In Him we can know unspeakable joy, beauty and power. In Him we can receive a love that is so full, no human can match it. In Him we are entitled to abundance, "incomparable riches," "the fullness of Him," "His incomparable great power," " the riches of His glorious inheritance," not for our own purposes, but for fulfilling the abundant and glorious life we can have in Him.

By His grace, His power, His mercy, His cost we are entitled. Why? So that we may taste and receive the hope He has for us and to know what cost Him everything and us nothing. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). This gift of grace entitles us to the fullness and incomparable riches of His glory. It also comes so that we can and choose to worship Him and Him alone versus our own desires, needs and obsessions. He is to be our obsession.

In our own strength and ability, we could never earn what we have been given - access to the Father. And, although we are entitled now by grace, we must not take advantage or assume with arrogance that we got it like that. We are to live in humble confidence knowing that what we have is full, incomparable, costly and more than we can ever imagine or make happen. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good work, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10). This is what we are entitled to.

Be blessed,