Lose Yourself

Matthew 5:3 tells us that the Kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit.  Have you ever thought about what this means to you? It is easy for us to walk in our own strength, means, ability, and beauty.  But the Lord calls us to lay it all down, give up our own way, our agenda and our ideas of what His will is for our lives, to pick up our cross daily, and follow him.

I am blessed in my poverty. That is the area where I recognize I can offer God nothing. When we can take no credit, where we have no strength of our own, it is through this poverty that we enter the Kingdom. When we recognize that we are indeed poor, and willingly empty ourselves of ourselves, this is where I end and He begins, and accomplishes through our weaknesses the things we nor anyone else could ever do.

Learning through physical dependence how to be spiritually dependent is a hard thing unless we are willing to embrace it. That is the moment the heal marks in the dirt behind us turn into foot prints. Our cross is our burden, but he is more than willing to carry it for us if we yield to him.

I love how The Message bible frames Matthew 16:24-26:

“Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

Lose yourself in the things of this world and you have lost everything, even your soul. To lose yourself in Him, however, is to find yourself.  Will identified, purpose lived, destiny fulfilled.

Advertisements

The Heart of the Matter

How long does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop? This was a question asked to a wise old owl on a commercial when I was young.

I remember in my twenties having a conversation with a friend about ‘what would we possibly do in heaven’? There seemed only so much before boredom would set in. I would hear stories and read how saints in times past would spend hours in prayer, and remember wondering what on earth they would talk about to Jesus for that length of time.

Yep, that was back when the hard crusty shell was still around the soft center.

This morning as I was praying, I thought to myself how marvelous it would be to have a whole day where I could lay aside all thoughts of everything else and just have one on one conversation with my Lord, the whole day, just the two of us! It was in that moment I realized that it took almost 30 years to get to that core! The gentleness and patience of the Holy Spirit is beyond amazing! I am so sad that it took me this long to yield to His work in me, and yet so grateful He will never give up!

 

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NASB

“Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.” 2 Peter 3:8-9 MSG

Before You Were Born I Knew You

The Lord knew us before we were born. He formed us within our mother’s womb, making all the delicate inner parts and weaving us together. Before we were born, He consecrated us and ordained all the number of days we were to walk on this earth (Psalms 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5).

Can the created say to the Creator “You were wrong to create me thus”? Anything you or I do in life to altar who we were created to be, any path that we may choose that would identify us as something else, is a fist in the face of God.

Don’t be deceived by this evil spirit! it is a ploy, a deception of the evil one to lure you away so that he can destroy the image of God created and reflected in you. Why? Because he hates God, and does not want you to fulfill your purpose, your calling, your destiny – who you were created to be! He doesn’t want you to know how the love of God can set you free!

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
Before you were born I set you apart…”  Jeremiah 1:5
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is  marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed”.  Psalms 139:13-16

Yielded Spirit

What does it mean to have a spirit that is yielded?

Anyone who has been in or around church in America over the last couple of decades I’m guessing has probably heard others speak in conversation or in corporate or group prayers, or perhaps even prayed it yourself, meaning you are giving way to the Holy Spirit to work in your life in whatever particular regard you are praying about.

What else do we yield our spirits to besides the Holy Spirit, either knowingly or unknowingly?  Thoughts, ideas, programs, desires, culture, teachings, upbringing, prejudices, preferences?  What keeps us from moving forward in His plans and purpose for our lives?

Teach us Lord, we pray, what it means to yield our spirits to You and You alone.  Reveal to us what other things we are currently yielding ourselves to, so that through the power of Your Spirit those things can be removed, and nothing stands between our spirit and Yours.

Naked, Barefoot, and Buttocks Bared

Naked, barefoot, and buttocks bared.  This was a command the Lord gave to Isaiah (see Isaiah 20).  Isaiah obeyed, going naked for three years as a sign to both Egypt and Cush (Ethiopia) regarding their pending captivity by the king of Assyria.

I’m not saying God is commanding anyone these days to go physically naked.  The question I have is one of obedience to what God is speaking in your life, in this moment, here and now.

Would you do it?  If you clearly heard the Lord Himself speak and demand something that was hard to do, and might bring with it rejection or persecution not just from people in general but possibly from your own family or peers, but you knew it was the Lord giving you a direct order, would you be obedient?

How far in your journey with God are you willing to go?  He will take you no further than the point of your disobedience.  To the degree you hesitate is the exact degree that He is truly Lord of your life.

I Choose You

It is a peculiar thing about walking in relationship with Holy God. Spending time each day sitting still at His feet, fixing your gaze upon Him, hearing His voice and communicating with Him is so incredibly sweet.  Once you get a taste of it, you long for it and miss the times when it cannot happen.

Why is it then a struggle to get there?

If we haven’t yet discovered the tenderness or tapped into the fact that He is our source for all we need, often our thoughts tend to be “there will be plenty of time for that later, I need to do this now”. Funny if we say that about filling our car with gas then we find all too quickly how fast one tank of gas will last (it doesn’t).

I know I am not alone when I admit that I sometimes struggle with spending time daily with Jesus. Even when we have all good intentions of either setting aside the time or not wasting the time we had set aside, we often find ourselves in a place of constant distraction. Anything and everything works against us as we purpose to reach that place of worship, friendship, refreshing, communication, and learning.

Personally I’ve always been stunned by the things my brain is able to conjure and try convincing me is more important in the very moment than worship, prayer, and scripture reading. No one need set obstacles in my way, I am quite capable of doing that all by myself.  Yet those of us who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good find ourselves choosing time and again to walk through mud to get to Him each day rather than running down the clear path.

I recently asked the Lord why. Why, when we know all here in comparison is like a candle to the sun at best, why does it remain a constant struggle?

The answer I heard in my spirit is that it is all about choice. He wants us to continually choose Him, so that the unforced rhythms of grace are by choice, not by force.  We love Him and desire to know Him by our choice. Even though His will and His plan for our lives far out shines anything we could ever conceive for ourselves, and is rich, full of goodness, and beautiful beyond compare, He will never force it upon us.

Salvation is merely an introduction. When you meet someone for the first time, you may have heard a lot of stories about them but you really don’t know who they are until you make the choice again and again to spend time getting to know them for yourself.

Jesus chose me first and wants to be in continuous relationship with me, but I must now choose Him in response. Purpose over preference. It is up to me to make the disciplined choice of setting time aside for this daily.  A friend of mine likes to say “discipline is nothing but a choice”.   I say she is right.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”    – Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

Why is America Different?

It’s hard to believe 2017 is rapidly moving towards the half-way mark, and the July 4th celebration is already just around the corner!  Barbeque and fireworks, that’s what I’m talking about!

Have you ever wondered what makes July 4th so special?  You might say, well it’s Independence Day, the day we celebrate our freedom here in the United States!  Yes, but, where does that freedom come from really, and what exactly is it that sets the United States apart from any other country that has ever existed?  Why is America different?

If I were to ask you what kind of government we have in the United States, what would you say?  If you said democratic, you would be among the majority.  The truth is, however, that our Founders decreed that the United States of America shall be a republic.

I pledge allegiance to the flag
Of the United States of America
And to the REPUBLIC
For which it (the flag) stands…

Why is this a distinction and what makes it important to maintain?

Democracy is government by the masses, requiring full participation of of the people in its legislative or decision-making processes, and so becomes increasingly unwieldy the larger the population grows. Many also do not realize that democracy in its base form is another derivative of socialism, which is becoming increasingly popular because the ideology looks so promising on the surface. But our Founders understood the difference was critical. Socialism and its many derivatives has at its core belief that the needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the one, which negates the rights of the individual.

A republic, on the other hand, governs through elected representatives and can grow with the population.  It is a government by the people and for the people that maintains the rights of the individual, as it recognizes that the needs of the many can only be addressed if the unalienable rights of the individual are recognized and protected.

The second paragraph in the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Anyone who is a student of American history long enough may come to the realization that our Founders believed that the unalienable rights of the individual are endowed by our Creator, the Holy One, defined by scripture as Jesus the Messiah.  What makes a right “unalienable” or inherent is a right that cannot be established nor taken away by human law.

What is likewise important is for us to understand what is an unalienable, God-given right and what a vested right. Healthcare is not, for example, an unalienable right.  Education is not an unalienable right.  Cell phones are not unalienable rights.  Any right that can be granted or taken away by government is a vested right, not an unalienable (or God-given) one.

What is more, many of us also get equal opportunity mixed up with equality itself. Do we think equal rights means that all men were created the same?  Funny thing, we sure don’t look alike!  Not only do I not look like you, my tastes are not the same as yours, and my skill set and knowledge level is not the same as yours.  Would you agree we each develop differently?  It is evident that we are not all equal.

I believe the Founders meant when they said we were created equal is that all were born with equal rights, and we all have the right to be treated equally in the sight of God, in the sight of the law, and in the protection of our rights.  This means the equality of the opportunity, not the equality of outcome.

In the way the US Constitution is framed, I have just as much right to pursue an education or healthcare as you do.  I have the opportunity to own land, business and make a profit, to be a servant of Christ and enrich the lives of others!  In other words,  I can equally pursue anything you can, and vise-verse.

Equality, on the other hand, says if I have healthcare, you should too, or because you have an education, I should too, or because your salary is X, mine should also be.  I would fear any government that was big enough to grant all of that, because anything the government has the ability to grant, it also has the ability to take away.

Hopefully this helps to understand the subtle differences that can be so deceptive and lead down vastly different paths. True rights can never be taken away by a government that never granted them in the first place.  The proper role of government is to protect equal rights, not to provide equal things.  The Founders set what they considered the most important unalienable rights aside in what is now known as “The Bill of Rights”. Those are the ones they considered most crucial.

All of this combined is what I believe sets America apart, and what makes her unique.

One question still unasked: where does freedom come from?

Freedom does not come from WITHOUT.  It is not granted by any government.  Freedom is not something that can ever be taken away from me as an individual. It cannot be taken away by any prison.  Freedom comes from the same place my rights come from, and that is from God Himself.  Freedom comes from WITHIN.  As long as I understand this, no government has the power to spiritually cage me.  Freedom defined by scripture is Christ in me, the hope of glory.

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  2 Corinthians 3:17 NLT

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:31-36 NLT

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”  John 1:1-4

To learn more about the constitution of the United States and the 28 basic principles it was founded upon, read “The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle that Changed the World”, by W. Cleon Skousen.

To learn more about how to have a personal relationship with Christ, ask me!  I am happy to introduce you or help answer any question you may have.