Of Boxing Rings and Enduring

(Continuing my blog from Hope City. I apologize for the lack of blog the last few weeks- I’ve been battling an illness)
This week at Hope City has been very hard for many different reasons. Hence, all week God has been speaking to me about comfort- how He is the One who holds us up, strengthens us. But, he doesn’t just give us a pat on the back, say a few encouraging words, then tell us to get back in the game. God isn’t a boxing coach that stays on the sidelines. He gets into the ring with us, and stands with us and moves our arms and gives us the strength to fight, to continue.
He comforts and protects us. When everything is chaotic and the bell is about to ring and we’re wanting to give up, and all we can see is our failure to win, He whispers in our ear, “Hey, it’s ok. I’m here. I’ll help you. Trust Me. And, even if you do lose, I’m still here. I still love you.”

I still love you.

No matter what you’ve done in your past. Even if that past is 2 seconds ago. Or right now.

Or now.

He loves you.

And He shows us the truth, if we will take the time to listen, to see. If we will slow down, step back from the distractions and the fight.

Yes, there IS time to step back. To find that peaceful place deep inside where He dwells inside, where He speaks and sings over you what and who you are to Him.

So much boils down to our identity. How we see ourselves shapes the way we live our lives. Always. And the truth is, whether you are a Christian or not, you are loved by God, so much so that He gave up His Son, the only thing he could give, to have a relationship with you and buy you back from the slavery to sin you’d sold yourself into…..
….
Even though He already technically owned us by right-of-creation.

God bought what He already owned.
(oh, God, how You love me. My heart groans under the weight of that knowledge)

So that He could have a relationship with you. So that he could prove to you once and for all that you are endlessly valuable to Him.

So, therefore, we never fight alone. So keep fighting for Him! Keep pressing more into His heart- there is so much He desires for you! He just wants for you to know Him like He knows you- to follow Him because He is the only way to a fulfilled, true life.

He is Lord, and with Him, we are victorious, more than conquerors- we are overcomers!

Advertisements

Of Light and Grace

(I am just completing my first week at a three-month internship at HopeCity, an inner city mission to the homeless in Kansas City, and I am going to attempt to update this blog every week or so to keep all who are interested up to date, as well as share and process the things that God has been laying on my heart.)

“….So that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1Corinthians 2:5

Physically, the shelter is much different than I expected- much cleaner, closer. The neighborhood breaks my heart- the government has pretty much written off the entire area as worthless- there aren’t even any schools, and no one cares if the kids go or not. Poverty and hopelessness keeps perpetuating throughout the generations. . Although it is both a spiritual and physical warzone, we are as safe as we can be, and protected by both others and God. There is much darkness here, but also much light. HopeCity is light, God shines His light here, on us all. We are flooded with people needing food and other things, but many also come to the prayer room, and watching them pray is amazing. There is a ton of grace and forgiveness here, but very well-set boundaries, and a huge culture of honor. Everything centers around Jesus and loving and glorifying Him with everything that we do. The prayer room is easy for me- my comfort zone, and spending 6 hours in there a day is wonderful.

I am learning to not judge by appearances; to see others how God sees. Not that I’m very good at it, but I’m learning. It’s very humbling.

I am learning faith- to have things make the 12 inch journey from my brain to my heart. To differentiate between the truth and the falsehood, then silence the things in me that still doubt the truth.

Lord, thank You for bringing me here, for providing the means for me to advance along this journey that You have called me to, for calling me closer to You. Thank You for laughter, for Your healing. Thank You for Your love for everyone in this neighborhood, and how You love them, even if the majority of the world doesn’t see them. Continue to pour Your Spirit out on us all and bring us through this journey to You and the full life You desire for us. Let my every word bring glory to You.

Focusing on the freight train, or a paradigm shift

Sometimes there are moments in life where your paradigm and thought changes so fast, it feels like a freight train just roared past at 200 mph, 6 inches away, and now your face is sideways, looking at the train and trying to understand it more, unable to understand all the things you thought pre-train, and knowing you will never be the same again.

 

I have just recently had one of those moments.  I was thinking about how much Christ gave in order to show His love, and how much we give and sacrifice in order to show our love to Him.  But then I thought- Wait!  Is it really a sacrifice?  It’s not easy, but, if we keep the mindset of the hugeness of the sacrifice, what’s the point?  I can give myself; someone else can give their selves and a ton of money, Jesus dies and gave everything to be with us, does it really matter? 

 

No, it doesn’t.

 

Now, don’t give up on me yet.  Let me explain.  On a certain plain, yes, of course all of those above things matter very much.  Especially what Jesus did for all of humanity.  It matters more than anything else ever has.

 

But.

 

Those things happened in order to pay the price for something else.  If what you are obtaining in return is worth the cost (or more than it), does the cost matter?  It’s like selling everything you have to obtain your deepest dream and desire.  Once you obtain that, would you bemoan the loss of all that you’d paid?  Would it really matter?

 

I give Christ my all, my entire life and breath and all my steps and existence for eternity.  In return I get ever-increasing, ever closer knowledge and access of His heart.

 

He gave everything for me, and in return, He obtains my willingness to love and desire Him in return.

 

While I cannot speak for Him, I know I’m getting back infinitely more than I am paying….

 

Which makes the cost not matter.

 

And I know, for me, I want to focus solely on Him and all He has for me, weather I perceive it as bad or good, because, if I focus on what I’m giving up, it’s much harder to give up and it’s much harder to receive what He has for me.

 

And that is a sideways-face-train-bypass moment that I never want to get over.

The (in?)sanity of buying a field

I was reading more in Sharing God’s Heart for the Poor, and this chapter really struck me about a passage I’ve read many times but never really understood until now, so here is my comments on it, which will be my last blog about this particular book.

 

Picture this- you are living in a country on the brink of ruin, surrounded by armies that are attacking you.  You have no option to pretend it isn’t happening, as God keeps telling you to tell others that it is happening, and your country will fall, along with a lot of the people.  Everyone’s scared, everyone thinks you’re crazy, no one listens.  You lose heart and hope.

Then God does something really insane.  He tells you to buy land that is now behind enemy lines, land that, for all intents and purposes, is useless to you or anyone who is not the invading army.  Your cousin owns it and wants to dump it off on you- you’re the crazy prophet right? Maybe you’ll actually buy it- to get a little money.  And he asks full price for it, to add insult to injury.  And God tells you to buy it!

So what do you do?  You buy it.  Add to the rumor mill of your need for padded walls….

So, the million dollar question is- just WHY does God want you to buy this worthless land?  What’s the point- he’s already told you that you’re going into captivity, with no promise of you personally coming out alive. Why does He keep making you look so foolish?  And, at the root of it, what does the purchase say about God?

It’s all about redemption.

And worth.

And trust.

The land is seen as worthless, but is sold at a premium because it had value to the buyer- and the real buyer was God, who told Jeremiah to buy it.

The land is seen as a dead end, but it is sold under a long-lasting contract, as a long-term investment in life.

The land is seen as something unobtainable, yet the deed is placed where it will last for a long time- until the time that it is obtainable again.

 

Now change the land into a person.

Who the world sees as worthless, a throwaway, God sees as very very valuable and spends everything to obtain.

Who the world sees as a dead end, beyond repair and too broken, God invests into for their whole life, seeking to heal.

Who the world sees as too closed and hurt to ever be touched, God works on slowly, over time, until they can finally open up and be touched by Him.

I’m ashamed to say that often times ‘the world’ includes Christianity.  But, everything God does really does look foolish.  As a good friend of mine says- God really does have a massive sense of humor.  So having a heart of compassion, to see the real value, often times is the ability to step out and look foolish.  And that’s where the trust part comes in.  Trusting that God will make good on His promises of restoration and love.

Just something to think about.  You can read the story here, or look it up and find the surrounding verses too…  J

 

Jeremiah 32:8-17 NIV Now it happened just as the LORD had said! My cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guardhouse. He said to me, ‘Buy my field which is at Anathoth in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. Buy it for yourself since you are entitled as my closest relative to take possession of it for yourself.’ When this happened, I recognized that the LORD had indeed spoken to me.  9 So I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel. I weighed out seven ounces of silver and gave it to him to pay for it. 10 I signed the deed of purchase, sealed it, and had some men serve as witnesses to the purchase. I weighed out the silver for him on a scale. 11 There were two copies of the deed of purchase. One was sealed and contained the order of transfer and the conditions of purchase. The other was left unsealed.  12 I took both copies of the deed of purchase and gave them to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah. I gave them to him in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, the witnesses who had signed the deed of purchase, and all the Judeans who were housed in the courtyard of the guardhouse.  13 In the presence of all these people I instructed Baruch, 14 ‘The LORD God of Israel who rules over all says, “Take these documents, both the sealed copy of the deed of purchase and the unsealed copy. Put them in a clay jar so that they may be preserved for a long time to come.”’ 15 For the LORD God of Israel who rules over all says, “Houses, fields, and vineyards will again be bought in this land.”’  

 16 “After I had given the copies of the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the LORD, 17 ‘Oh, Lord GOD, you did indeed make heaven and earth by your mighty power and great strength. Nothing is too hard for you!  (Copied from theword.net Bible software)

 

Gracefully Blowing up Ships

Continuing the study of A W Tozer’s “Attributes of God”   Part 6

Grace

There is a difference between grace and mercy- two words we often use interchangeably.  Mercy, which was discussed on the previous chapter and blog, is God’s goodness being used toward our guilt.  Grace is God’s goodness being used toward our indebtedness to Him.  In other words, mercy is God not giving us what we deserve and grace is God giving us what we do not deserve.

Speaking of similar words, according to Tozer, the Hebrew word for grace is often translated as favor in your Bible, so remember that as you read it- it really changes how I think of a few verses!  And, just as I mentioned in the mercy blog about mercy being stated four times more in the Old Testament than in the New, grace is stated about three times more in the New Testament than the Old.

So, enough background bits.  On to the cool stuff.

There is often a dichotomy between the law and grace- Moses was all law, Jesus all grace, right?  Well, how about this- Exodus 33:17, God is speaking to Moses after He gives the Ten Commandments and says “I look at you and see you covered in grace”. (My paraphrase, but please look it up and research for yourself) After the law- before Jesus.  And, even more mind blowing, what about Genesis 6:8 where God looks at Noah- a long time before the law- and says “You are full of My grace”?  That kinda blows the whole ship out of the water.

This really goes back to the same old idea that we seem to throw out of the window so easily.  God does not change.  Ever.  If there’s grace now, there was grace at creation and before.  If there was law in Moses, there’s law now.  But.  It’s important to remember- grace is the only way to be saved- ever.  And that grace only comes through Jesus Christ.  Which- and here’s the brain stretcher- has nothing to do with time as we understand it.  God is infinite- time does not really matter to Him like it does to us.  Both before and after Jesus’ incarnation, humanity was saved by grace from Him and Him alone.

This begs two questions- 1.) So why did God give the impossible to follow law anyway if it did no good? And 2.) So, if grace was already in effect, why did Jesus have to come and die for us?  The short answer for the first one is that the law, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing, and if we follow it, we will have healthy, hopefully long, lives.  If you look at all the parts of Leviticus about staying away from dead animals, and eating only meat from particular animals that they had the ability to cook well enough, and general cleanliness, it makes a ton of sense. It is, in part, a home economics and health class, and in part, a class on focusing your entire life on God.   Can we totally achieve it?  No.  This is the point of the law- to show that we cannot ever get to God by ourselves.  This is why there were sacrifices.

This brings me to the second question.  Why did Jesus have to incarnate, die, resurrect if grace was already active?  For one thing, Jesus came so that we could see God- so that we could relate to Him and see how much He loves us and cares about us and how much we need Him.  He couldn’t do that in the same way without Jesus.  Yes, He sent prophets and angels to the earth to show us all that, but sending a messenger is not the same as going yourself any more than sending a letter is the same as talking to someone in person.  It’s called relationship.  And, Jesus had to die and resurrect because we broke God’s law, so God, because He was in covenant with us, had to curse Himself- which meant that He had to die…  (If you wish more on that subject, you may leave a comment and I’ll write about it at a later date- it’s too lengthy to go into here)

It is important to understand- God gives us His grace as we accept it, but that is not a free ride.  Although this is not covered at all in Tozer’s writings- grace is never an excuse to just do our own thing.  Grace has to be accepted.  And acceptance implies humility, which implies willingness to shape ourselves into what God desires.

Ok, I’m trying to keep this short, because it’s just a blog, not a research paper, and this is not meant to be a putting-you-to-sleep read for whoever reads this, but the subject of grace is vast.  And I really can’t cover it well here.  Suffice it to say- God is grace; a grace that lets Him see us with His amazing love and mercy, instead of the aloneness and punishment we deserve; that that grace is only through Jesus- we cannot earn it through the law or any other effort of our own, and that freely accepting that grace on our own part means that we are acknowledging the above two statements and that we need God just to live- that His plan is better than ours and we will walk by His plan the best we can as He enables us to do so.

Amen.