A Chance to Sit

“Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38b-42

There is something SO satisfying in coming to the end of a long, full day with a checklist finished. I admit – it is one of my favorite feelings! I love dropping into my bed exhausted, feeling the accomplishment of productivity. In fact, one of my greatest joys is welcoming my husband home from his work and telling him all of my work that I had accomplished in the day!

I also admit that when my days are empty, with little to accomplish and much to wish for… I drive myself crazy! I also drive my husband crazy and probably my daughter too as she doesn’t like to be with an unmotivated mother either. Those days are easily open for complaining, bickering and stress. All because I don’t feel purpose in my day with the lack of something to “do”. I know my weakness and have been pressed and exhorted to see God’s higher purpose for these kinds of longer days. I know others can relate. Especially now as our entire nation has banned us from “doing” anything unnecessarily.

This may affect everyone a little differently. Some have been sent home from their jobs, and some are lacking their social activities. Some are doing school online in their bedroom, and some are not allowed to travel for overseas missions. Some are held from going into public altogether or having that daily gospel interaction with their co-workers. All are restricted from going to church. All are not allowed to pursue missional opportunities that involve the public… how can this be biblical or good as a believer in Jesus?!

Can I encourage and remind you of your PRIMARY goal in life today? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37) Here is the test of our soul. Do we see something to DO for God as more important than knowing Him and loving Him? This commandment is FIRST for a reason. Martha thought that she was doing the “more holy thing” because she was serving her master, but Jesus corrects her. He points her to Mary who chooses to sit, chooses to gaze, and chooses to love. This same Mary later breaks her most precious possession over Jesus’ feet in the deepest act of love for her Lord. I wonder if she hadn’t been sitting and gazing at Him before, would she have had her heart in the right place to spill her whole livelihood over His feet later.

Remember what your life is about in these times of quiet. Knowing our Lord and being SO enthralled with His person is never wasted. It is as if you are pouring out your livelihood at his feet. Your livelihood might not be precious perfume, but it may be your job or your friends or your mission field. And though it might seem backward – these things take second place to your relationship with Jesus. This means that if you come to the end of each day knowing Him and loving Him a little deeper and a little more – YOU HAVE BEEN A FAITHFUL SERVANT. That is our goal.

When we see the face of Jesus one day, He won’t be saying “My good and productive servant” or “My good and missional servant”. No. He says “My good and FAITHFUL servant”. Will we love Him and know Him and give ourselves to Him till the day comes when He arrives to take us to be with Him? Let us use this time to invest our hearts, souls, minds and strength (because it will take all our strength to sit) and dwell on Jesus. Sit my brother or sister. Sit at His feet and listen! Revel in His word, listen to His truth, abide in prayer. Walk in thanksgiving! Rejoice with songs of praise! Invest in your relationship. This could perhaps be the most precious honeymoon with Jesus that you may ever get the chance to have – and by doing so you are walking in obedience.

It is the times like these that prepare us for the second commandment. To love our neighbors as ourselves. From the work inside flows a work outside. May we be prepared with this opportunity to sit to continue to love the world as He has loved us.

The Beatitudes Part 7

The Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

I tend to think of peace as a ceasefire. If you can keep people from firing at each other, you are keeping the peace. I am naturally skilled at this task. I can diffuse tension and diplomatically navigate conversations. But peace from a gospel mindset is different. Peace in the gospel is a harmony, a union between God and men. That peace cannot be achieved by diplomacy. It could not be achieved by tactful conversation. That peace was achieved by blood.

Jesus made peace by the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20). He brought peace where peace could never exist apart from the supernatural intervention of God. He bridged the unbridgeable gap. This is the gospel. He was the first and greatest Peacemaker. He is the Prince of Peace.

As children of God, we should reflect Jesus by being peacemakers. We urge people to be reconciled to God. We point to the great Peacemaker. We’ve been given the power and the privilege to participate in this mission. God has sent out His army of peacemakers to bring the message of reconciliation to a lost and dying world.

But we must remember. We are never bringing peace on our own terms. Jesus is the Peacemaker, and peace can only come on His terms. Many who call themselves Christians are false peacemakers with a false message of peace. Imagine if a rogue ambassador went to a nation and offered terms of peace that were not authorized by the king. No matter how sincere the messenger might be, the terms are invalid. At the end of the day, that nation is not reconciled to the King.

Let us remember, Christians, Jesus has bridged the gap. He has made peace. But the terms are clear. The gospel is clear. Repent and believe. This is the message. It has been and will always be the same. Let us be bold in bringing that message. Let us be peacemakers. And in doing so, we are the children of our faithful and peacemaking God.

The Beatitudes Part 6

The Pure in Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

Have you ever been that person in the middle of the room awkwardly not joining into the crude conversation? How about the person who has chosen to wait to give their physical body to their coming spouse in the midst of a culture of compromise? Have you ever had to be the one who walked out of the movie displaying and promoting darkness? Well, this might be the sort of thing you have run into as a Christian in the twenty first century. Why might these things come with the territory of being marked as Christian? Not because we were legalistically not allowed to watch Disney movies as kids, but because our eyes, ears, mouth and life are owned by another who commands our life to be all about one thing. God Almighty.

Lack of mixture & Wholeness

Both of the things above mean purity, but they take different roles in the way they flow through your life. I think very often the Christian culture is known for all the “don’ts” in the world’s eyes because we see purity as a list of things to not do in order to “be pure”. Yet the word itself also gives outline for how to be proactive (loving God) along with the reactive (avoiding the mixture).

The reality is that you cannot clearly see and know God (purity itself) when your heart is captured by so many other “loves”. How can you see the sun when clouds have masked the sky? How can you look at God (the Holy of Holies) holding onto your habitual sin? You can’t. That’s where purification comes in to play. The act of purification is both by sanctification of a loving Father AND the choice to partake in that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians. 4:8).

Purity is both cutting out impurity AND chasing after the Most Pure. You cannot chase after the Holiest of Holies while holding onto your “otherly desires”. You would NEVER drink some clean-looking water if you knew it had been contaminated by cholera! This is why the FISRT step in following Jesus is to loose our life (Luke 9:24). To count all other passions and desires as null in light of gaining Him! We can’t have both – just like you can’t drink a glass of water that has been contaminated by cholera!

Wholeness is the end result. It’s what happens when we have finished the race of continually throwing off everything that hinders (Hebrews 12:1-2). Wholeness is found when we gaze into the face of Jesus unashamedly. We taste this now only in part as we become more and more like Jesus. As He uses trials and gives us opportunity to resist our temptations, we become more like Him. We rejoice in the chance to choose that which is holy because even though it is a “self inflicted suffering”, it makes us ready to see His face just the same as a trial we would never choose. Do not be ashamed to turn down that compromising opportunity. Every time you choose to give your eyes, heart, ears, body (and every aspect of yourself) to God, you are showing forth that you see Him as more significant than any other fleshy desire. And one day… He will make us WHOLE as we gaze upon His beauty unashamed.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile…” 1 Peter 1:14-17

The Beatitudes Part 5

The Merciful

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7

Jesus gives an incredible statement about the merciful: “They shall receive mercy.” As those who know the gospel and have received mercy from the Lord, we can often gloss over this verse. Yet it truly is remarkable. Think about it: the mercy you show to people has no bearing on the mercy others show to you in a natural sense. I may decide to show mercy to you for how you have wronged me. But that does not oblige someone else to show mercy where I have wronged them.

What Jesus is saying here is not that we earn God’s mercy by being merciful. That would be impossible. The crimes we have committed against the Lord are so much more grievous than all that we could have possibly forgiven. The reality is that the truly merciful are the ones who know God’s mercy. The effect is the other way around. Those who have seen God’s mercy cannot help being merciful to other people.

This is a statement about the effect that God’s mercy has on people. They are so changed and transformed by the work of Christ that they then display His mercy to others. It is an outflow.

This does not, however, take away the concern we should have if we are not marked by mercy. If those who are Christ’s are marked by mercy and we are not, that should be cause for soul-searching. We must remember the parable of the unmerciful servant and repent of lack of mercy where we find it in our hearts.

Praise the Lord for the truth in this passage. We shall receive His mercy. Let us be marked by that which flows freely and graciously from our Lord and Master.

The Beatitudes Part 4

Those Who Hunger and Thirst

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6

You know, eating healthy and living in a wholesome way of life takes an awful lot of effort. It’s not what our natural selves just long for. But we know it’s right and we do it. So when I look at our subject of hungering and thirsting for righteousness – you automatically know that it is a choice.

To keep my body functioning in its optimal capacity – I have to deny things I want (like ice cream) and accept things I don’t want (like vegetables). Very often in life doing the right thing is that which will cost you personally, but you choose to do it because it is right. Spiritually it is the same. Take the Christian discipline of fasting as an example. This is where, out of choice, you restrain yourself from a very normal practice (like eating or a habit of nature like eating) in order to fill that time or activity with a longing for Jesus. Your denying of what you normally practice puts you in a place of need, and fasting cultivates that need into strength as you seek the Lord!

Why think about this short phrase “hunger and thirst for righteousness” so much? Well – because unless you take a deeper look you don’t automatically realize that this is a “need” that is one out of choice. Those who mourn wouldn’t have chosen it, but those who thirst for righteousness make it a discipline.

“Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.Matthew 2:18b-20

We are in that day fellow believer. It is the time when we long, when we choose eternal longing over earthly longing. When our lives are full of denying self so that we can one day be filled with the promised coming of our Bridegroom. But remember that just as fasting is a choice, so is longing for that which is righteous and good. It does not come naturally and the promise of being satisfied comes with the sacrifice of hungering for righteousness over our natural inclination.

But remember the promise, remember the goal. Take a look at Jesus’ disciples. They didn’t fast. There was no need to deny their longing because they were WITH Him! What a glimpse of hope for us! To remind us that when we are with Jesus, we will have the fullest of the full! There will be no more denial of self or lack any more. We WILL be satisfied. So friends – embrace the longing, the need for Him and the trial of sanctification. Because one day… one day we will no longer need to need. One day we will be satisfied. And until that day our hunger and thirst for righteousness will make us ready to look into His face and never look away.

The Beatitudes Part 3

The Meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

The meek will inherit the earth. Yet they are not Napoleon or Alexander the Great. Those great warriors of old who took upon themselves to overcome kingdoms and take over nations by pushing their agendas to the max limit! Wouldn’t that be the definition of inheriting the earth? So why does Jesus say that when we are meek, we shall inherit the earth?

Meek, at first glance, seems rather sheepish. Quiet, shy or describing someone with a weak inability to speak up for themselves. But this is not the definition of meek. It’s actually the same Greek word that is used to describe Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem sitting on a donkey. It was humble. Not flashy, pushy, or gaudy. It is also the same Greek word that 1 Peter exhorts women to be known by. Their “gentle” (meek) and quiet spirit which is of great value to God. These examples in Scripture are anything but sheepish.

How is it that Jesus (God Almighty in human form) could walk into the city of Jerusalem listening to the shouts of “Hosanna!” (God saves) and not just take it all in for Himself? He was expected to deliver the Jews from their bondage from Rome… in the form of meekness? They WANTED an Alexander the Great! How is it that this world tells women that their identity is found in their specific style, creativity, or body in order to have any value? You have to push yourself and your agenda to be known and adored. Yet in God’s sight being humble and not gaudy is of great value? Both scenarios seem a little backwards to the eyes of man.

Our identity, our instruction, and our worth come not from the crowds cheering hosanna’s. Nether does it come from our clothing, the style of life we choose, or the weight on the scale. As C.S. Lewis puts it “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Jesus’ identity was set. He didn’t need to ride in to Jerusalem with horns and a gusto of pomp! He was doing what the Father instructed him to do, by humbly offering Himself to a lost people. We as Christians do not need to be promoting ourselves as if we have something to prove outside of Christ. We don’t. Our identities are SECURE. But that security comes straight from the throne room of grace. Meekness is a beautiful fruit that proves your chosen place of rest in your God.

May we be a people who are not looking to promote ourselves.
May we be a people who do all that we do for Another’s glory!
May we be a people who confidently rest in our citizenship of heaven.

For it is the MEEK who shall inherit the earth. Why? Because we are first and foremost God’s! And all of life comes from, through and to Him.

The Beatitudes Part 2

Those Who Mourn

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Recently our daughter’s revised due date came and went. She would have been born at 34 weeks gestation through induction to give her the optimal chance of survival due to her rare diagnosis. However, instead of entering into a physical labor on her due date… I entered an emotional labor. Also known as mourning. She was born 11 weeks ago which was far too early to even hope for treatment.

Though your situation may consist of different circumstances, if this topic in the Beatitudes applies to you in anyway, you are feeling a deep, empty hole in your life. The preciousness of this section of scripture is that Jesus is speaking to you. You who have a hole. The hole of loss. The hole of formerly possessing and now – not.

What is boggling about His words are the way He describes your situation. “Blessed” means “happy”. Now, if you are like me – I would not consider “happy” to be the greatest way to describe someone who is mourning. In fact, it is the exact opposite. And that was purposeful on Jesus’ part. See, the sermon on the mount is full of concepts and instruction that seem a bit backwards in our minds. But they are there for a reason. To cause you to wonder. To cause you to question what He really means. And what does He really mean?

Why would someone like me or you who have a deep emotional hole be happy? Well the answer is simple. Jesus says this backwards statement to lead you to Himself. He presents a need (mourning) and a result (happy) that only He can answer. He is the key. He wants you who have a need to be filled and since He knows happiness is found no where but Himself, these words are to prod you to Himself. And friends, don’t shrug off His words. He presents you a way, a fulfillment to your need by asking you to look for it. He knows that only those who want it will find it. He knows that the proud of heart will not take the time to seek Him out and find the true key to their longing. But happy are you who are humble (perhaps because of your deep hole) because it is only you who will find answer to your need.

Oh you are happy! Oh you are blessed! For only you who have humbled themselves before God can find the answer. Truly the answer is what our souls long for! Our emotional holes of loss are completely filled by the person of Jesus Christ. Happy are those who mourn. Take advantage of your loss by finding Jesus in the midst of such deep pain. You are blessed.

The Beatitudes Part 1

The Poor in Spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

Poverty is not popular. It never has been and never will be. Nobody wants to be poor. So why would poverty of the spirit be any different? What is it about this quality or state that is aligned with the kingdom of heaven? Jesus is taking our conventional wisdom and turning it on its head.

Charles H. Spurgeon writes that the poor in spirit are “not those who boast themselves of spiritual riches and personal goodness, but the lowly, the meek, the trembling, the humble, the poor in spirit, ‘for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'” The poor in spirit acknowledge their need. They realize that on their own they have nothing.

This is a point that all must reach before coming to Christ. Jesus is clear in other places in the Gospels (Matthew 19:24, Luke 12:20) that those who perceive themselves as having much cannot enter God’s kingdom. Humility is required. The truth is that humility is just viewing ourselves the way we actually are. We have nothing. We can contribute nothing to our own salvation. He brings everything.

When we see ourselves this way, it frees us. We can receive Christ and all that He has done for us. We are set free from our own pride. It is truly a miraculous mindset to have. No one is born poor in spirit. It is a work of the Spirit of God to bring us to the point where we see our own smallness in light of God’s greatness. Yet we as Christians must also continually strive to “have this mind among [us], which is [ours] in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

So let us remember these great words from the Lord Jesus. Vain confidence in our own abilities will not make us great in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is not looking for those who trust in their strengths and know their own greatness. He is seeking those who will readily acknowledge that apart from Christ, they have absolutely nothing to bring to the table. They are the ones who have been changed by Christ and have taken on the true mindset of the kingdom of heaven.

Joy-filled, Grief-filled Community

She’s really close, they think the baby may be born in just a few minutes!

My heart dropped after hearing these words. Tears instantly stung my eyes and started to flow without my ability to control them. Our dear friends we are in community with were having their second baby, a girl, only 6 weeks after Anna was born.

Though you may not be in the same position of having just lost your own children, my guess is that you are able to feel the same sorrow of loss in the light of seeing others gain. This is what naturally happens when you do life with people. It’s what shows that you are in fellowship. And – it’s ok. My hope is that as we learn to do community with those in grief and those who are rejoicing – that you are also pressed to follow the gospel pattern set in Romans 12.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

The day after our friend’s baby girl was born, we got a sweet text from them asking us to come to their home and meet her. My first reaction was “I don’t think I can do that without crying.” but they assured us that it was their joy to remember with us, and it was their hope that their baby would be a blessing to us as well. This gesture of opening their life in the midst of rejoicing, to our life in the midst of grief, deeply moved us.

It’s not an easy thing to hold heavy grief in the middle of a setting where those around you are light-hearted and jovial. But it is also not easy to be in the position of “rejoicing” when those close to you are hurting. If you take a deeper look into Romans 12 and the pattern it is setting for community, it outlines many different ways that we are to live giving of ourselves or in other words dying to ourselves like it says in 2 Corinthians 4. “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh
(2 Corinthians 4:11).

I cried in their living room after holding their sweet baby. And that was ok. They opened their life to us in a way that said “your hurt is just as significant as our joy.” And that is love. When you are able to lay down your own comfort whether that be in your joy or in your grief – by opening yourself to others, you are manifesting Jesus. Because Jesus poured out His life to secure those He loved. This is how we follow His example. By putting our comfort behind so that our brothers and sisters may be shown love. I saw Jesus SO clearly through their openness to us when it was not comfortable to be the one who “has”. But this exemplified Jesus. It WAS a blessing to hold their tiny baby, but mostly because they made such an example of doing the uncomfortable thing.

We are all in one of two positions. Those who “have” or those who “have not.” And both of these as Christians are to press us to live in a way that gives honor to the other. Rejoice with those who rejoice! It shows Jesus. Weep with those who weep. It shows Jesus. A new baby; a lost baby. A close mate; a far mate. A child walking with Jesus; a child walking away from Jesus. Your gifts whether good or bad are to be given and shared with each other. You have been given to give. Your life as a Christian whether in plenty or in want is meant to be poured out for your brothers and sisters first – and then to the world to show Christ’s sufficiency in all things.

And friends, He is enough for both. He is better than our best and He is more than enough in our lack. Give what you have been given for this shows Jesus most.

Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.John 13:35

More Precious Than Silver

“Lord you are more precious than silver,
Lord you are more costly than gold,
Lord you are more beautiful than diamonds,
and nothing I desire compares with you…”

I sang my daughter Corrie to sleep to this tune tonight being reminded of how precious it has been to me this last year of 2019. Each year at some point on January 1st, I sit down with my Bible and journal and ask the Lord to give me His heart for the year approaching. January 1st of 2019, the Lord gave me this verse to focus on:

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7-9

The summary of that verse was the theme “Content in Christ” or “Jesus is Enough”. I hadn’t been looking for or expecting this to be what He directed me to in Scripture, but soon found out how the Lord’s providence had directed me there.

This year we have walked through more intense, acute pain than we have ever been faced with. Losing two children in one year has been the most heart-wrenching sorrow to call our own. But it is ours. How do we trust the Lord with a pregnancy that ended before we could hardly tell anyone about it? And how do we to trust the Lord with a pregnancy with an almost fatal diagnosis that lasted 24 whole weeks? How? This can only be done when you look at your life in context of Christ and not in context of you.

See, as unpopular as it is to say – our life is not for our dreams, not for our family and not for our prosperity. Though my flesh longs to have a happy, pain-free life… when I chose to follow Jesus, I signed up for a cross. Not for a pillow. What my God promises me is not physical healing, but that which will sanctify and heal my sinful, rebellious heart! If our focus after this year was to demand of God physical healing – we would have missed the whole point. God is not after our prosperous lives full of health and wealth. He is after our hearts. Sometimes it takes the lack of those things to even treasure the Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:45-46).

I found myself asking this question after we lost our first baby: “Just as my brothers and sisters in persecuted countries choose to follow Jesus through their pain … Is Jesus worth believing in in the middle of my pain? Will I follow Him there as my persecuted brothers and sisters also follow Him?” The answer is the same for them as it is for us. Yes. Jesus gives LIFE in the midst of this insecure, death-filled world. That life is much deeper than physical life. It’s union with God Himself! Spiritual life then can never be shaken no matter what happens.

The year 2019 has given me a longing for heaven I knew I was missing before. Why long to see the face of Jesus when you have so many other things you dream of here? Friends, life becomes very black and white when suffering is close. Do not settle for this earth. Do not think that Jesus came just to give you a better story here on Earth. His redemption is primarily one meant to make your soul pure before Him so that when you see him you will not shrink back. Be ready! Press into knowing Him and being sanctified by His WORD so that we do not shrink at His coming! He is coming.

Our suffering this year has been the fire of the soul that burns all that doesn’t really matter away. Are we done? By no means. But as we look at eternity with fresh eyes, we see just a bit more clearly that ALL else is rubbish compared to gaining Christ. Remember this, friend, as you enter 2020. Don’t make anything else your goal than to gain the Pearl of Great Price. He’s worth it. He’s worth giving your whole life (and every specific aspect of it) to Christ.

“…For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:8b-11