Thursday, October 5, 2017

For the Joy set before me -- a project

So yesterday, late afternoon, I had an epiphany.  It wasn’t really a vision, though God speaks to me in pictures and this one involved a glimpse of something.  And it wasn’t so much a teaching from the Holy Spirit, like complete sentences or “audible” direction, though it included language.  It was more like a split moment where God causes my thoughts and images and words to all come together and I catch something.
Yesterday I caught JOY.  
No, I didn’t exhibit holy laughter or anything like that. It was more like a theme for October.  “Carrie, choose JOY.” And, “For the JOY set before Him...” both came crashing in.  
Joy is not happiness.  We have, in the West especially, made the “Pursuit of Happiness” a goal of life.  We fill our moments with entertainment and leisure, but happiness is a byproduct of the deeper thing called JOY.  There is a reason why happiness is not a fruit of the Spirit, but JOY is. We can be happy one moment but sad the next.  However, JOY is something deeper, something I can choose even in the midst of grief.  JOY overcomes and sustains us, even in the midst of a “cross” season.  It is the JOY of the Lord that is our strength, that causes us to overcome the spirit of Heaviness so pervasive in our time.
“The JOY set before me”...
Hebrews 12:2 reminds us to “look[ ] unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” NKJV
The original context here is persecution.  The Jewish Christians that the Letter of Hebrews was written to, were suffering persecution and living the beginning of the great diaspora that caused the Gospel to be spread to all nations.  Many were re-counting the cost and not sure if faith in Jesus was worth this much.  So the JOY set before Jesus, namely the redemption of His bride and the ultimate fulfillment of the promise of union with her, is why Jesus endured the cross.  

I am not facing life-and-death persecution (yet) for my faith.  In fact, my faith is really not in question.  But what the Holy Spirit is shaking me up about is my pursuit of happiness.  That fleeting thing of the moment.  And my lack of endurance with the hard things.  If I can reword it, it was like He was saying, “Choose the hard things, for the sake of the JOY that will follow.”  
Yesterday that meant I cooked a simple meal and went outside and cleaned my patio and strung new lights and set a table with cloth and candles to celebrate Booths, something that had been important to me all year and which I found myself challenged to prepare for this last weekend.  I chose JOYful worship while I was sweating in the dust and humidity.  And JOY blossomed somewhere deep inside.  



So for this month at least, and it may grow into a year, who knows, I want to choose the JOY set before me.  What is the Lord setting before you today?

#ChoosingJOYproject

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My own little trinity (Me, Myself, and I)

We are set free!  Jesus paid for our sin, ended the separation from God, made a way for us to be adopted into the family of YHWH.  But He had His Gethsemane moment.  Even Jesus had to come to a place where He faced the cross, and worse, He faced becoming all things vile, He faced separation from all things good, and it was no easy choice.  Jesus could have chosen differently.  He had a real choice.  He had the freedom to say NO to the cross.  He sweat blood over it.  I've had some hard choices to make but I've never sweat blood.

So He went to the cross to set me free.  And I am eternally grateful for that.  I am grateful he accepted and took into Himself darkness and death itself.  I am grateful He became the "Death Eater" and so I now have access to eternal Life in the Light.  But somewhere along the line, especially in the West, we've stopped there.  We've been lulled into thinking that it is all about our own personal salvation, about us.  And yet, as I look at the man Jesus, and as I read in His WORD that I am to be like Him, inherit what He inherits, be perfect like God is perfect, I see a man who laid down his life.  He laid down his life.  He laid down His ministry.  His family.  His future.  And I think it's easy to forget that He was a man and He loved His life, just like I love my life.  I love being alive.  And there is a deep drive within me to remain alive!

As I come to know this man, Jesus, more and as I realize more deeply that He truly is YHWH, the Everlasing, the One and true God, El Elyon - the Most High, the Creator, I find that me, myself and I are only in the way.  Don't get me wrong, He created me and loves me and desires me and I am fully and unbelievably loved, deeply fulfilled and have found endless safety in Him, but when, in the West, did the question of purpose ("what is my purpose for existing?") start being answered with "personal ministry"?  When did we start believing that this is all about us: my ministry, my safety, my prosperity, my healing, my protection...

I see so many in the church both embrace this and struggle deeply with it.  We love the idea of it all being about us, but the fruit for so many is disillusion and depression when we don't see it happen according to our imaginations.  If we are truly called to be like our Bridegroom, then we, the Bride, must get over ourselves.  Jesus says that we are to lose our lives for His sake (Mt.10:39).  This is not just our sinful life!  This is not just about not getting drunk or high, watching porn, sleeping around or stealing and murdering.  He did not say, "He who lets go of his flesh...", He said, "He who loses his life...".  When did you last hear a sermon on that, on dying?  Every time I chose someone else over my own comfort or my own desires, I lay down my life.  Don Francisco puts the gravity of it well:



I'm not saying ministry is a bad thing or that great churches or wonderful programs have no place in the Body of Christ, what I'm realizing is that they are not the goal to be desired.  If we want to discover our purpose we need to come to our Gethsemane and there at His feet, lay down our self, our dreams, our desires, our very lives.

And this is only possible if we have a perspective, truly embraced deep down inside of us, that these 80 or so years here are just an internship, they are not our job, our calling or our destiny.  The closer I get to 40 the faster these years seem to go, and realizing that leaving here is starting my real calling, at His side, ruling and reigning in the Millennium and beyond, makes stepping aside and preferring others a little easier.  Let's get out of this rabbit hole, this wonderland, the enemy has led us into, and press into the Truth.  And as we do, I think we will find that the protection, prosperity, healing and ministry will follow, but then will be an extension of Him and in return will glorify Him and not our own little trinities.






Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bring them to Me!

I was just reading about "The Feeding of the Five Thousand", a story I remember not liking as a kid.  I think I did not know how the appreciate the subtleties in it.  To set the stage, John the Baptist, Jesus's cousin and the only family member of His generation who believed in Him, has just been beheaded by King Herod.  Jesus hears the news and takes a boat to the other side of the Lake, to a "deserted place".  Apparently Jesus wants some alone time.  He is dealing with the emotions of the death of his close friend!  Pause.  The God of the Universe, YHWH, who knows all about eternity, is so much a man of flesh and bone that the death of his close relative grieves Him.  His answer to that grief: solitude, time with His Heavenly Father in prayer.

He must have had some time to be alone, because Matthew 14:13 says that the crowds followed Him on foot. They seem to have gathered around the general area where Jesus was praying and when Jesus is done He "comes out" (maybe a cave, maybe a secluded place on the mountain, maybe just stepping around a corner) and sees the multitude.  And what is written next just grips my heart:  Jesus was moved with compassion for them and healed their sick.  Wow!  In the middle of His grief He has found a way to still minister and give of Himself.  Of course, He's spent time in prayer - and that's the key!  Without that time of solitude and deep fellowship with His Father I doubt ministry on the scale of this multitude would have been possible.  It is important to realize that Jesus ministers out of the overflow of His time with YHWH, not because He's avoiding the pain!  He models this to us: deal with your pain in the Secret Place of the Most High God, only then can you move past your own pain and minister to others.  Don't allow ministry to be the escape from pain!

Jesus heals their sick all day long.  In the evening his disciples come to him.  They are probably hungry and tired and feel it's necessary to tell Jesus that it's dinner time.  Apparently they did not prepare for a long day in a secluded place, for they had not brought any food.  I'm not sure what sending the crowds away would have done for them other than avoiding a riot.  Jesus simply tells them, "You feed them."  What?  Was Jesus so distracted by His ministry that He did not know the disciples had no food, and certainly not enough for such a crowd?  I'm sure that's what went through the disciples' minds.  They were looking at each other in amazement, shrugging and asking, "What did He say?  Did I hear Him right?  He wants us to feed them?  Surely He said something else and I misunderstood him.  What did He say?"
Jesus knew.
Jesus knew what the disciples did not know.
This is how I imagine it might have gone:
"You feed them."
      "I'm sorry Jesus... after you told us to feed them we had a look around.  We didn't bring any food, you know, because you didn't mention anything about staying out past dinner.  We thought we'd be back in town by now and, yeah, so we don't have anything ourselves.  And so we looked around and found this kid who's mom packed him a lunch.  But we can't take a kid's dinner, Jesus.  Bad publicity.  So, we're back to square one.  So, say again, what do you want us to do?"
"You feed them."
      Silence.
      The disciples stare at Jesus, probably trying to process what He just said.
     "You misunderstood me, Jesus.  We have nothing to give them!"
I think this is what Jesus wanted them to get.  We have nothing to give them.  It matters not how talented we are, how often we've read the Bible, how eloquent or funny our sermons or teachings, how passionate our appeal... WE HAVE NOTHING TO GIVE THEM!!!

The answer was so simple:
"Bring them here to Me."


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Does He Know Me?


Speaking of Rocky Terrain... Here are some verses that I think all of us would prefer to ignore rather than wrestle with:  

Matthew 7:15-23
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Wow and Ouch!  These are people IN THE CHURCH!  These are people who think they are serving Christ, but, in fact, they are serving lawlessness.  The Spirit of Lawlessness (see Thessalonians) is a spirit that moves boundary markers.  God takes the moving of boundary stones in the OT very seriously.
  1. Deuteronomy 19:14
    “You must not move your neighbor’s boundary marker, established at the start in the inheritance you will receive in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess.
  2. Deuteronomy 27:17
    ‘The one who moves his neighbor’s boundary marker is cursed.’ And all the people will say, ‘Amen!’
Curses were also not taken lightly.  A person cursed was outside of all the covenant blessings of YHWH.  Going back up to Matthew, the covenant blessing we have through Jesus is everlasting life in the Kingdom of God (among other things).  So, workers of lawlessness are movers of boundary markers and thereby they are cursed.

How are they movers of boundary markers?  Well, it's easy to see how those who preach licentiousness (a disregard for strict rules or moral correctness) would fall under boundary movers; but consider those who, like the Pharisees and the Scribes, made the boundaries tighter, so as never to come close to God's boundary and thereby not overstepping it.  Apart from the fact that that is fear motivated, they are still moving boundaries and teaching those false boundaries to others.  Both types elevate the boundary mover above the boundary maker.  God calls both types "lawlessness". 

Now, back up to Matthew: these are people in the church!  How uncomfortable is that?  To me: very.

A few days later (yesterday actually) I read the following parable in Matthew 13 and the same thing hits me:

24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

You can find Jesus's interpretation of this parable in vv.36-43.  

What strikes me is these tares are in the Kingdom.  They are not outside the Kingdom.  They are not the "Lost", the ones who reject Jesus!  These are ones that are growing up in the church.  And while they are yet young they even look like the good seed.  Not until they mature does their true identity become evident.  

So how can we know them and how can we make sure we are not one of them?

A huge clue Jesus gives us (Mt.7:16) is studying the fruit of those we listen to.  A good tree will bear good fruit, likewise a bad tree will bear bad fruit.  The fruit of the Spirit is what we are looking for.  Is the tree patient and kind toward the people around them or are they demanding and harsh, condescending or rude?  Does the "tree" lay down their life for others or demand the lives of others?  Is it joyful, peaceful, loving, patient, kind, full of faith, goodness, gentleness and self-control?  By the fruit we shall know them.  And by the fruit they shall know us!

How do we make sure we are a tree that bears good fruit, one whom the LORD knows?  By spending time with  Him?  Ever notice how best friends share mannerisms, phrases and sometimes even grow to look more alike?  They spend time with each other!  The more time spent with a person, the more we become like them.  That is why hanging with the bad crowd is such a trap.  We might think we'll be an example to them and make them see Jesus in us, but the more time we spend with them, the more like them we become.  Who are we spending time with?  If I want to be more like Jesus, I must must must spend more time with Him.

Hosea 6:3 puts it this way:

"Let us know; 
Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD."

The word "know" is Strong's #3044 "yaddah" and means to ascertain by seeing. The word "pursue" is Strong's #7290 and means to pursue, chase, persecute, hunt.  So this reads "Let us know the LORD by gazing upon Him.  Let us seek out by hunting down the knowledge of the LORD."  This is what pressing in means.  This is what a God-Chaser does.

Those of us who are only along for the ride but don't seek the Lord may find themselves looking at Him saying, "but we did all these things in your name..." and He won't know them.  I guess saying the prayer of salvation without getting to know Jesus is like the Word falling on stony soil: it withers before it can go deep and change a life. What is it they say, "Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car."  That goes for our Charismatic and non-denominational churches too.

The questions I'm asking myself are: 

1. Am I willing to gaze at Jesus and chase down the knowledge of God?

2. Am I willing to grow the fruit that will mark me as His tree?


Lord, let you grace be sufficient for me today.  Be the strong one in my weakness.  I am willing.


I'd like to add this thought: the reapers are the angels (according to Jesus's own words).  It is NOT OUR JOB to start a witch hunt and find all the tears to get rid of them!  Let us simply be wise in whom we follow, who disciples us, and let us, above all else, press in after Jesus, so that we look more like Him.  

And this thought: Our salvation is solely dependent upon believing with our heart and confessing with our mouth that Jesus is LORD.  However, that must be a daily thing.  We really have one choice every day: His way or our way.  Is He Lord or am i lord?  Do I continually believe and confess that Jesus is Lord or have I essentially turned my back on that a long time ago?  We do not work our way into heaven, but apparently we can say the right things and still not be known.  Jesus says "by the fruit we shall know".  



Monday, February 27, 2012

Rocky terrain

If you're following my journey through Matthew and the gospels to know this Man, Jesus, better, then here's the scoop:  I'm stuck.  My journey has slowed down to a crawl because I keep opening my Bible to the same place.  It's like being on a rocky side of a mountain: you just can't take it fast.  I'm finding questions and realizing these are in passages I've "hated" (read "ignored and skipped over quickly in the past").  Ok, so "hate" is a strong word... but I really don't like them.  I have no answers and I don't like not having answers.  Those of you who know me well, I see you nodding your heads and chuckling in agreement.  I like having answers and I like them to be simple, logical, and fascinating.  Nothing gets a better audience.  (oooh, ouch!)

The first rock slide I'm facing is in Matthew 11:25 - "At that time Jesus answered and said,..."  OK, I've read and reread what came before... answered whom?  Himself from the previous verse?  The last time anyone asked a question was in 11:3, when the imprisoned John the Baptist sends his disciples to Jesus and asks, "Are you the Coming One...?"  and clearly, Mt.11:25 does not refer back to that question.  So who are you answering, Jesus?  And then the answer is a prayer, directed to the "Father, Lord of heaven and earth."  I can only assume Jesus is answering God and that the question is not recorded.  I will keep searching.

The next passage is Matthew 12:1-8.  Jesus and his disciples are walking through a grain field.  It could not have been a long walk, or the Pharisees would have judged the walking over the eating of grain.  As the disciples get hungry, they pluck heads of grain, rub them between their palms and eat the kernels.  This is considered "work" in the Jewish tradition and therefore the Pharisees rebuke the behavior of the disciples.  Jesus then goes to the OT and speaks of David, who ate the Showbread in the tabernacle, that only the priests were allowed to eat, and he was not struck down dead, or how the priests work on the Sabbath and thereby profane it and are blameless yet.  These scriptures (the David one, albeit, a bit more difficult) are basically saying, "hello, don't you see the exceptions to the rule?  So obviously the rule is not as rigid as you, in your additions to the law, have made it."

In verse 6 Jesus then calls himself the "One greater than the temple".  He's basically saying, "I made the law, I therefore understand it best!" (makes sense so far) but then verse 7 has me stumped again.  "If you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless."

The guiltless, I am thinking are the disciples... or possible in a broader sense, anyone they have passed judgement on.  But how does this fit in with the rest?  It is a direct rebuke to the Pharisees who are all about their new show, "Jewish IDOL - who keeps the Law best? vote for your candidate today!"  However, I am hearing a timeless truth here.  Jesus is not just rebuking the Pharisees, He is telling us something profound about God and about us.  Is it, that you, YHWH, desire a heart of mercy over one that just pays its dues?

As you can see... these are not easy scriptures.  One is simply an enigma to me because I am not seeing the context, the other is a smooth-faced cliff I am climbing very slowly, so as not to slip.  I don't want to miss this insight into the heart of God!  Holy Spirit, teach me!  TEACH ME!!!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

preface to the 30 silent years

Hey, I just added an article by Josh Hawkins on "The 30 Silent years" of Jesus's life.  It's a great resource. Read it! It's touching and changing my heart... may it do the same for you!

The 30 silent years of Jesus

The 30 silent years of Jesus