“My desire”

Desires. We all have them. Some healthy, some rational, some well…aren’t. Desire drives us; they move us forward or in some cases backwards. They push us to our goals or they can push us to our destruction. Desires are complicated, in the makeup of our person our desires have the capacity to overtake our wills and our resolve in a matter of seconds.

Desire is inherently for our good. We, being fashioned in the image of God, have a Divinely established portion of our souls where desires are produced. God desires. He desires for all to come to salvation (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus desired to gather Jerusalem under His wings, but they refused. So, from the standpoint of scripture, desires are not bad in themselves. Now understandably, God desires out of sheer delight. While we as fallen humans, desire out of a need we feel. That “need” is the source of the fountain of desires. We all need something. Being the sovereign Creator He is, God knew exactly what would fill that cavernous need deep within, and it is found solely on the person of Christ Jesus. Desire is what God placed in the soul of man to drive us to the foot of the cross.

What’s your desire?

Paul was a man eaten up with desire. A desire so strong and secure that it would even drive him to martyrdom. What was it? He tells us plainly in Philipians 1:23.”…my desire is to depart and be with Christ…”. To be with Christ, to know Him intimately (Philip 3:10), to share fellowship with Him…even if it meant losing his head. Paul wanted to be where Christ was.  Every other desire he had was founded upon this one; to know Christ. The extremities of Paul’s desire aren’t easily duplicated or forged. Simply put: you can’t fake this kind of desire. It’s the kind that overtakes you like a wildfire, it consumes everything it touches. Why would someone seek so hard after Someone they had never seen? Why would they risk comfort and worldy pleasure? It was simple for Paul. God had desired him, by seeking him out and saving him on that dusty road to Damascus. Paul started that journey with one desire in mind, to kill or imprision all who belonged to The Way. (Acts 9) Yet masterfully done Christ showed him what he needed, what he was after. He showed Paul Himself. The unfolding of revelation blinded the Apostle from anything other than Christ.  From that point on Paul was ate up with a new desire-Christ Himself. You see Paul had been desired, sought out and now his heart throb was to seek the One who sought him.

Im not a writer. I’m not eloquent in speech. I’m a terrible speller. I have more insecurities than you can shake a stick at. But deep within is something that pushed me beyond those insecurities to start this blog: a desire. A desire that wouldn’t quit. A desire that would deflate the giant in front of me. A desire that engrafted courage into my weakness. A desire that has taken over my heart. What is it? Christ. I don’t desire to have a lot of followers, or for people to be in awe of my posts. My desire is to finish my race, fulfill my ministry, bring forth a harvest for the Kingdom, and fundamentally “for Christ to be honored through my body.” (Phillipians 1:20). I want my life to be a fragrant offering before my Lord. Im just an average woman, seeking out an extroidanary Savior. Am I there yet? Not hardly. I make myself sick by the lack of  fervor I sometimes display. But “I press on to make it my own because Christ has made me His own.” (Philip 3:12). Christs own relentless desire for me catapults me into a wildfire like desire for Him. He has placed an upward call on each of lives. ( to know Him more intimately, to glorify His name and to advance the gospel) Desire pushes us there. Some will make it, some will not. It’ll depend upon who/what sits on the throne of your desires. Don’t settle for spiraling downward when you were made to soar upward! Take what’s been given to you- Christ Himself, the fulfillment of every desire. His desire is for you beloved.

“I am my beloveds and his desire is for me” SOS 7:10

 

 

Keep Fighting 

“And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek with the sword.” Exodus 17:13

I don’t feel very brave. I feel like a coward. It doesn’t look like I’m winning, it looks as if I’m losing. It seems as though the waves are pulling me under. It seems like everything I touch falls apart. But what if I am winning, what if I’m indeed walking on water and in fact building the kingdom with one choice at a time? What if it’s all falling into place instead of falling apart? What if instead of my calling shrilviling up its actually plumping up? It’s hard to tell the difference between victory and defeat in the midst of the battle. I wonder if Joshua knew he was winning against the Amalek? (Exodus 17)  Or if he just kept pushing forward until the end revealed the outcome.  Everyone keeps saying how strong I am or how brave I am… I know better. I know I’m neither. I wish to be, hope to be…but this battle is getting oh so long and right now…I can’t see. I can’t see how the outcome is going to be. So, I cling to the promises of Jesus. I cling to them as a life preserver. Because I know at this point they are all that’s keeping me a float. My mind is a torrent of questions. Crisis has a way of creating them. So now my mind manufactors one every few minutes and demands an answer. My mind. It’s against me these days. Convincing me it’s all over and I lost. Telling me my time is done. But my soul argues those accusations. My soul begs me to keep my head up and in the battle. My soul is smarter than my mind. For deep within faith lives. Deep within the broken barriers of my heart lies a fortitude that overpowers the ignorance of my mind. Deep within lies something that won’t let me quit. Deep within is the abode of the Spirit. Emmanuel, God with us. Instead of a feed trough in a stable, he now lies in the manger of my heart. He’s there. He’s here….in the midst of brokenness, in the middle of devestation, right here where you are-the place you never thought you would be. The place where the hurt collides with the Healer. It’s here-in the confusion of our callings, in the chaos of our cumute to purpose that the battle is faught. It’s there in the margin of life that victory is found. 

He’s here. Right here. Keep fighting. 

Maybe that was Joshua’s key to victory, he locked his eyes on the Promise Keeper and kept fighting. He didn’t have extraordinary bravery-he had an extraordinary God. It was His presence that fortified the warrior. And it is His hand that fortifies us now. 

“He trains my hand for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.” Psalm 18:34-35

Familiar with Favor

“In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.” Isaiah 6:1
   

Too familiar? Is there such a thing as being too familiar with God? King Uzziah exemplifies for us what happens when man restrains the holy by casualness, becoming too familiar with the hand of God. 
   King Uzziah was a prosperous king. Submitting under the hand of God, all he touched turned into gold. Years into the golden favor of Jehovah, the familiarity with favor caused the king to step across the boundaries God had set for sacrifices, assuming the place of priest, Uzziah lit incense in the temple. He had become too familiar with the holy, he was so accustomed to Gods favor, he took advantage of it. It’s a dangerous thing when Gods Chosen lose their wonder; Holy is mixed with the common and as a result glory is tarnished by mans touch. We bring God down, stuffing Him into our status quo; favor has become familiar. 
We are just as guilty as the prideful king. We make Gods favor about us. We expect it but we don’t marvel at it.

Christians who have had the opportunity to serve in a third world country will tell you the marvel of running water. After seeing an entire civilization who are without the modern  amenity of indoor plumbing, who retrieve their water from pits in the ground; muddy and dangerously contaminated. The people return with a fresh awareness of the favor we experience everyday. We know some live without-we also understand we are priveleged. Yet, the familiarity robs the wonder of it all. We treat the favor of God the same way. Our faith is muddy and dangerously contaminated by casualness. We are grateful, understanding the privilege that has been placed on our heads, yet we are so familiar with it-the wonder is submerged in the common and drowned by our smugness.
 
The death of Uzziah could have meant many different things to Isaiah; a year of loss or  disappointment. Even a year of change. Many speculations have been made over the tie between the leper king and the prophet. But could it be that the death of Uzziah symbolizes the death of casualness? That when he had taken his last breath, all that was familiar was shaken up? 

Nothing was as it once was. 

Many times God will shake up our lives to wake us up. Like a divine alarm clock, the winds of change ring in our souls to awaken us from our slumber. 

Nothing brings us out of familiarity like change. It’s here, in “the year that ______”, where we know nothing will ever be the same, that we are set up to see the Lord. He doesn’t like to be made small. He won’t stand for it. So, He shows us just how big He really is by removing our safety net, drawing us out of our comfort zone-onto the waters, to experience a fresh vision of glory. 
Change ignites awe. When the familiar walls of comfort zones are torn down, we will find that “comfort” has been blocking our view all along.  The ceiling of complacency obstructed the splendor of the throne. Change often tears the roof off our limitations and we are left in slack jawed amazement at this God we serve. 

This glory Isaiah experienced was wasted on Uzziah, because he grew too familiar. The king who had His favor never saw His glory because he allowed the holy to be tainted by the common. He lived a life where favor was expected but glory was never experienced. Isaiah, on the other hand, expected nothing-because he experienced the glory and that satisfied him. One was lifted up in his own eyes, the other saw God high and lifted up; one was never satisfied, the other was.

Is His presence enough for you? 

The mark of Familiarity is the unconscious dissatisfaction with favor. Uzziah wasn’t appeased with the anointing given to him, he had to have more. Gods presence wasn’t enough. The loss of wonder excuses glory as common. May we never grow so familiar with favor that we miss His glory, never so accustomed to His presence that we make Him small. 

Wonder widens our perception of God; it gives us eyes to see His glory. 

This is the people God will use; those who marvel at His glory-those who are satisfied in His presence. 

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying “whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”And I said “Here I am send me!” Isaiah 6:8

Here…in His presence, that’s the launching point for mission. Yet, as our lack of wonder keeps us from the joy of His presence, it will also keep us from the thrill of the mission. 

Without wonder, we lack willingness to go. 

How many of us can honestly raise our hands and say “Here I am, send me.” Casualness robs us of glory; glory that is only seen when heaven touches earth-through the mission given by God to man. The mission of bringing His kingdom come. 

We miss the mission because we miss the marvel. 

Glory Released

 It was a churning down deep, in the place where desires and plans are lodged. Something was displaced. Something hadn’t gone as planed. I had it all figured out, calculated just right…I knew what God should do–but then He didn’t. The feeling of divine disapproval lurched into my throat. 

Why is it when plans fall through we feel as though Gods love has too? Like His steadfast love is as sturdy as an ice covered lake in late March. 

The feeling in my gut-wasn’t Gods disapproval. It was my disapproval of God. I had set a plan and He didn’t follow through-so now I was on the brink of despair. 

Pride isn’t only seen in arrogance it’s seen in the causal ways we try and take control from the King of the earth. 

Many times, our dreams, our callings, our plans, hold so much influence over our lives because they are staked on our pride. We want what we want, not necessarily what Christ wants. We do as we please, and demand God does the same. Pride says we know best. We have the solution for the family’s problem, for our friends marriage, and even for the nation. We know what’s best for our children. After all “mother knows best.” We have a checklist and we demand providence to bow to it. Pride forces our plans on providence and as a result we bear the weight. 

The irony of the kingdom is when we release what we are holding onto, we receive what Christ is holding out for us. We do not remain empty handed. It is only through empty hands that we will find true fulfillment.

 

This doesn’t mean we will hate where God leads, it is just the opposite—if we surrender than all our dreams come true. When we release them to the heavenlies, then God releases His in return. It’s a grand exchange we cannot afford to miss. But pride will and has cost millions of Christ followers to die without releasing any glory on earth—all because they sought their dream instead of the Dream Maker. Pride will tell us our way is better. Our hearts will pull and plunge within our chest at the thought of going a different route. It seems irrational and impossible to go that way. Denying our own plans for our lives, for the lives of our children, is never easy—pride cements our plans into our hearts. Humility releases them.

Glory is never released in the proud. In fact, God stiff-arms those who trust in their own ways. Pride disarms our purpose, for without glory there is no distinguishing quality about us. For example, when Moses was praying for the nation of Israel to go to the promise land in Exodus 33, he told the Lord that without His presence he didn’t even want to go “for what will distinguish us from all the peoples of the earth.”. After that prayer, Moses asked to see God’s glory. He knew that without glory we are nothing; we look the same, act the same, make the same choices…. nothing is different without it, we blend into society and in doing so leave no mark. We will never make a difference without being different. The difference we need is the mark of God’s presence; His glory.

 

Glory takes many forms. In the Old Testament, it was when the manifest presence of God would fell onto someone/thing. It is when God reveals Himself in or to someone. The heaviness of His presence would encase the common, transfusing splendor to the mundane.

 

The same happens to us when we are wrapped in His presence. Glory is proclaimed through our week vessels. Psalm 16: 5-11 displays this perfectly:

5LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. 6The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. 7I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

 

I am not convinced that there is anything that translates the pleasure of God onto one’s life like joy in the midst of suffering. We’ve already talked about the sabbatical joy, the rest that comes from surrender to God’s plan. But let’s look a little closer. Look at verse 5, the Lord was the psalmist portion-nothing else. No dreams. No ambitions. Nothing held a candle to the presence of God. The problem for most of us is we are lacking joy because we are drinking from the wrong cup. When it is saying the Lord is our portion, it is referring to the allotment of inheritance. Our portion in not merely a sliver of land, it is the Lord Himself. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:3, that we have been blessed with every heavenly blessing in Christ. This means that everything that Christ represents has been given to us. Since we are now brought into Christ by His sacrifice, the boundaries of our inheritance now lie within the limitless boarders of Christ Himself! He is our inheritance. If we settle for anything else then we have cheated ourselves. You see many of us dream in order to find significance. We dream because we feel like the lot we have is insignificant, and lacking. We plan to keep things under control. We feel less than so we chase after something that offers us importance. The news of the gospel informs us that we no longer have to chase significance- He has chased us and clothed us in it! We will always lack joy when we are drinking from the wrong “cup”, when we go outside our “portion” to find significance. We do this anytime we set anything before us besides the Lord. David had one direction- to get closer to the Lord, to know Him more. That’s the key to unleashing glory on our lives; setting the Lord always before us. Because then our future, our presence, and our past will be steeped  in the glory of His presence. If He is always before us, then we never outrun His glory. The Hebrew word for “Set before” is shavah and means among others things, “to agree with”. You see when we set the Lord before us, we are agreeing by submission to His will. It is when our dreams agree with His. Sometimes that is the greatest sacrifice we can give; when we look to nothing else, forsaking all other outlets, taking the pleasure of the Lord over the pleasure of the world. This glory of God that clothes the throne room of heaven,where God is ruling, is the same  glory that infuses every heart that becomes His throne.

 

If we do this, set the Lord continually before us, then we will find joy that transcends our circumstances. Joy that cannot be shaken by anything of this world-because it is not anchored in this world. It is laid beyond the veil, in the heavenlies, at the throne. When the throne is our landing place, we will find our lives lodged in glory for “in your presence there is fulness of joy, at your right hand there are pleasures forever more.”. A life filled with glory, is a life filled with joy-because we have taken from the Cup and are not found lacking. We may suffer but we are not sinking. We may be poor but we are indeed rich. We may be hungry, yet full. We may be seemingly insignificant, but we are famous in the eyes of our God. Wherever His presence is, nothing remains empty or lacking. His presence is the stuff dreams are made of.

 

Maybe we lack glory because our plans leave no room for God. But what if we left them blank, leaving a margin? Miracles happen in the margin; where God is given space to write His own story. In the openness of surrender, God uses the white lines to be a witness of glory. Many times when we find ourselves struggling for joy, it is because we have set our plans before us-and when we miss the mark on our check list we spiral into despair. To have the Lord always before us is to live expectantly, not frivolously. To live on purpose for a purpose. Most of our plans are frivolous, we use them as a leverage for control, that’s it. The irony is the gospel teaches that the ones who maintain control never find abundance. For Jesus said “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for my sake you will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

Our need for control is locking out the bounty of the kingdom. We have safe guarded ourselves from the purpose and privilege of the kingdom. Expectancy and surrender go hand in hand. We expect little of God, not because we think He is unable but because we are unwilling to let go. Expectancy isn’t being spontaneous, its being faithful. Its when we are not anchored in our plans but in the throne,not in our plans but in providence. We can rest, laying our checklist aside, because providence promises we will never be abandoned. That the path of life is paved for us in the shawdow of the throne. 
How about we let our calenders be glory releasers instead of suppressors? 

Between the Times

Waiting and looking, not knowing what to expect, yet expecting what we do not know. Questions swirl, realty crashes with dreams, it’s all so uncertain; the next step has yet to be revealed. In the darkness of uncertainty, questioning whether he heard the Lord correctly, or even if the Lord has heard him, Habakkuk is waiting; waiting on a response from the Lord. His questions of confusion swirl through the heavenlies like a whirlwind, landing on the ears of the Almighty. Questions born out of confusion are not necessarily harbored in the darkness of doubt. It is always best to send questions of God back to God. Questions do not always flow from the pride of doubt but some from the humility of a true heart, seeking out the will of God. All Habakkuk wanted was to know his God, to understand His ways. He questioned what God was doing, was the plan He sat in motion actually coming about? What does one do when the will of God, the plan that was laid out, seems to be dissolved? When things have seemingly derailed off course? When things seem to be in reverse, losing ground instead of gaining it?

“I will take my stand at my watch post and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me…” Habakkuk 2:1

 

Habakkuk was stationed for revelation. He didn’t run, he waited. He positioned himself to hear the word from the Lord. How many of us ask questions but then run ahead to find the answer? After all, waiting is hard. Especially when the answer lies beyond the horizon. We do not like sitting still, we feel like nothing is happening. When the Lord answered Habakkuk He said “For still the vision awaits the appointed time, it hastens to the end-it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not delay.” In wisdom the Lord proved that He is not indebted to the calendar of man. He is not one to be rushed or pushed into untimely events; His answer–wait for it.
Waiting confuses us.  In a world of instant gratification, we grow antsy and impatient, the fear of miscalculation and misguidance starts rumbling through our souls, shaking us to our core. The answer from on high deals both with the frustration of waiting and the fears….” it hastens to the end—it will not lie.If it seems slow, wait for it,  it will surely come; it will not delay.”

The word hasten in this verse actually means “to pant”. The image is engraved here of a runner striving to reach the finish line. The word of the Lord will prove true, even though things seem still, its working to cross over to its destination. Isaiah says “ 10As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” The word of the Lord is accomplishing, if it seems as if it has no effect, it is not that it has halted but we have just yet to see the harvest. It’s growing, reaching for maturation. The end result is all we see, we miss the process of providence. The underground work, that takes place out of the range of our peripheral sight. We are in the margin, between the times, where things remain the same, where the anchor of hope is lodged in the sand of time. And that anchor is slowly losing its grip. With each passing moment, time seeks to dissolve hope. That is why we must crawl above the sand dunes, to the watch tower, where clear perspective is gathered. If hope is lodged in the fallibility of our own calendar then it will sink in the uncertainty of time. But if it stands upon higher ground the sinking sand of time will not be able to take it down.

 

We like Habakkuk, often find ourselves living between the times; Sandwiched between prophecy and fulfillment. That can be a heavy place; caught between the future and the present.  How do you live in between the times, when purpose is lodged in a promise and the promise lodged in providence?

 

Watch and wait. While waiting often confuses us, faith unties the knots that complicate the process.

 

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by faith.” Habakkuk 2:4

 

Faith is the paradigm of promise, based on grace, faith prepares us for providence. Faith doesn’t require God to work on our schedule. It rests in the “appointed time”. It stands watching at the finish line as the promise crosses over. It understands that we have no right to hold God prisoner to our time table. Faith unlocks us from the prison of time, where expectations are based on the tick of the clock. It “provides a solution to the doubt we sometimes feel in His all wise providence.”. Doubters, not questioners, are often puffed up with pride. The idea of control and desire for it, injects its toxic venom into our belief system. In all our plotting and calculating we bloat with pride, choosing our ways over His, assuming we know better than the Almighty. On the other hand Faith deflates; as we surrender our calender to Eternal One, the pressure is released.

 

When we are stuck in the middle, between already and not yet, faith is the watch tower. Where we watch, not the things that are seen but that which is unseen. Where we wait not on our plans to unfold, but for the appointed time-even if it tarries. It’s a place of elevated perspective.

 

If you are stuck between the times, don’t lose heart, the promise of the Lord will not be stopped, it speeds ahead—look for it, expect it—watch and wait for it. For nothing has the power to alter its course or derail it from its mission. The word will come without delay you need only to watch in faithfulness.

I’ll leave you with the encouraging words of Barker and Bailey “Habakkuk’s Revelation emphasized the life-giving nature of God. He cares for His people even when He seems distant and uninvolved. Though the revelation may take what appears to be an agonizingly long time to appear, wait for it. God knows and cares for His people.”

Sold Out

” The Kingdom of Heaven is like is like a treasure hidden in the field, which man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

We find joy in release. An open hand offers a sense of rest to our souls as we no longer hold the burden of control. Submission and sacrifice cultivate the greatest joy; the joy of the kingdom. We’ve all been in a season where joy was a mirage. Where we can’t grasp it; it isn’t real to us. Spurgeon told a story of an evangelical preacher who was asked to bring a message on joy to the congregation. As the visitor approached the pulpit he fell to his knees, hands grappling his head and cried “restore to me the joy of your salvation.” He didn’t have it to give, joy evaded him. Spurgeon went on to say “fictitious experience is dangerous to the forger of it.” Is our joy genuine or is it an act? Do we push down disappointment with a pious smile and close the mouth of despair with empty words? In these trials we face, disappointment and dissatisfaction, do we truly have joy? Are we content with Christ? Or has the circumstances we face stifled joy with unfulfillment?

 

The loss of that joy comes from a lack of surrender.

 

Open hands and full heart; that’s the breakdown of surrender. When we lay down what we have at the throne of grace, we may be surprised to find we leave with more than we left.

 

We may can forge joy, by convincing everyone around us we are full. After all we know all the right words to say, we can quote a pocket full of scriptures and we are ready to sling those out to protect our cover at any given moment. We may can play the part of joy, but we will never be able to forge surrender. That’s why Spurgeon said the forger of joy is in a dangerous plight. Because if we are playing the part of joy then when the time comes when surrender asks for a sacrifice – our cover will be blown and everything we have staked on false joy will come crashing down around us. The illusion will lead us to despair. For our joy is only as strong as our faith, and the strength of our faith is displayed by surrender.

 

We do the world no favors by pretending. And by doing so, we destroy ourselves. Let’s be authentic enough to cry out for restoration when we need it and brave enough to surrender the sacrifice.

 

You see we’re scared. We hide behind the mask of  fictitious joy, but under it, is a face of terror. We’re afraid of what may be asked of us and even more what may be taken from us. Sacrifice has gotten an unworthy stigma attached to it. In the Old Testament, a sacrifice was the avenue to God, it paved the path for sinner to come before the Almighty. It gave the people of God access to Him. You see sacrifice has always given more than it has taken. But now, we cringe when we hear the word. We steer clear of “surrender” and “sacrifice” because in our minds it takes instead of gives. No wonder we’re scared to surrender, no wonder we hold onto our sacrifices with white knuckles….we’ve got it all wrong. Surrender prepares the heart for the gift of the kingdom, while sacrifice initiates it. So, when we give our all for the kingdom, when we sell out for its sake, we are given 100 fold of what we have laid down. Why can’t we see this? Why do we underestimate the treasure of the kingdom?

 

It’s a great tragedy, that we cling to trinkets and turn our backs on the treasure. All because we are too afraid of sacrifice.

 

Joy, real joy, is found when we exchange our petty trinkets for this glorious treasure. Not necessarily in the exchange itself but in the realization that there is more. More to life than what we have. This buried treasure offers us what we all want….more. America is in a panicked frenzy, each individual making up a nation that is controlled by the desire for more. Yet, the irony is, when more is offered we freeze. The craving for more, doesn’t inform us that the demand of more often requires sacrifice. Many of us will face a moment in our lives when we stand at the edge of “more”, legs trembling, because no one told us that “more” does just that, it asked more of us. But here in this parable, the man “joyfully” sold out, He sold out because he knew that what he received far outweighed what he was giving up. He knew because he saw it, he got just a glimpse of it and it was worth it. Jesus is always worth it. That’s why we can joyfully sell out for the kingdom; because nothing we give up will ever outweigh what we are receiving. The kingdom is not a treasure, it is THE treasure our souls are panting for. It’s the treasure we are all hunting for. It’s more than we can even imagine.

“Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search for fine pearls, who on finding one pearl of great value, went out and sold all he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46

 

What are you holding on to? Whatever it is, it is standing in your way from receiving “more”. It’s not wrong to want more. I think sometimes, as Christians, we feel guilty about this longing that will not hush. We try to silent the roar with busyness, we account for every second of our days, our schedules are full. But we still feel empty. We struggle between the pull of gratefulness and desperation. We are thankful for what we have but we are desperate for something more. Something more………..it aches within.

Could it be the Kingdom of heaven is the “more” are souls crave?

In Luke 17:21, Christ says “For behold the Kingdom of Heaven is in the midst of you.” Scholars mostly agree that this term in the Greek for “in the midst of you” means in your soul. The Kingdom isn’t an abstract city to visit, but a reality within, where the will of God overtakes the will of man. Where the Spirit reigns and Christ is honored. Could it be that the “more” we long for is the fullness of the Kingdom to come in our souls? The chambers of our inner beings have an empty spot, a cavern, that nothing in this realm can fill. Nothing else will fit; only the kingdom. For that is what we were made for.  

People sell out for things all the time. Daily in fact. We sell out for an education, going thousands of dollars into debt. Spending time and every resource we have. A lot of times, moving from our families and friends. We sell out. Everything that had value to us must bow to our education. Our entire lives revolve around it. The same is true with careers, spouses, our dreams…etc. Not that any of this is wrong, it’s just an example of how we sell out for the things that matter to us. Most of us have been here, sacrificing everything for the treasure that is offered to us. Yet, we leave the Kingdom buried. Content with the glimpse, we tread on. Accumulating more, all the while, loosing the most.

“Seek first the Kingdom of God…” When did we become trinket hunters instead of treasure seekers? I’m not sure. But I’m willing to bet that whenever it was we traded glory for ashes, was the time our joy escaped us. You see maybe it’s not that we are scared of sacrifice, we do it all the time. Maybe the reason we refuse to sacrifice is because the Kingdom doesn’t seem to be worth it. What is the Kingdom worth to you? The alter of your life will testify. 

 Let’s not make the fatal mistake of confusing complacency as contentment. One leaves us starving, while the other, satisfied. Which one are you? Is there a hunger and thirst for the things of God deep within you? Then you will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6).Sacrifice is always satisfying because it uncovers the treasure in the field; the kingdom of God. 

 

 

 

 

 

Sabbatical Joy

 

“Count it all joy brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of you faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

 

Joy. It’s a rare commodity in our fast paced, double booked, overly complicated world. Joy is simple, it is anchored on truth. Not perception or opinion. Real biblical joy springs from the concrete foundation of truth.

Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life…”. The Word made flesh did just that, He fleshed out the Word of God, the truth of God, so we could behold it, so we could comprehend it. The Truth Himself, stepped into flesh and bones to show us what Truth really is. Truth is what God has to say on any given subject. Simple. Yet, we complicate it with our grey lines and hazy views. We see a blur of boundaries and question what truth really is. The truth is, we don’t know what is right. Truth is we are scared to know. Truth is not our perception but God’s. So, in order to have a perception based on truth we must know the truth.

 

The Truth counters the lies of the world. It is the answer to our problems, the key to our addictions and the salve for our brokenness. It will be the truth that sets us free. (John 8:32)

 

The truth is, life is hard. Marriage is hard. Our careers are hard. Being a parent is hard. Being a child is hard. Being single is hard. Being successful is hard. But perhaps more than any of these, being joyful in trials is hard. Like a sink hole that is hidden beneath the surface, suffering causes our worlds to collapse. Out of nowhere the freight train of tribulation comes rolling into our station unannounced and unwanted. Yet, it carries something with it. if we look closely, the cargo it brings is one of great value; steadfastness.

 

The truth is none of us escape the fires of trials. Jesus promised us that. (John 16:33). But a deeper truth is found in the face of suffering; joy. It is in these moments that we are being prepared for providence. As Joseph went from one set of chains to the next, being cast down and rejected by men. It seemed as if the dream was annulled. That somehow God had forgotten, or maybe changed His mind. That’s not the case at all. the trials that seemed to be punishment was in fact preparation for the dream to come true. Every crushing situation was cultivating Joseph into the leader he would need to be in order to fulfill the dream given to him by God.

 

 

Wiersbe says “trials make us bitter not better if we live only for the present value of comfort over character. “ If we treasure comfort than trials will upset us.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

The man went and sold all he had to buy a field. Everything. This new-found treasure caused him to be bankrupt by the worlds standards. Yet, he found joy in release; with open hands he found rest. He traded the present value of comfort for the eternal security of the kingdom. When faced with trials, our faith is being tested, will we make the trade? Will we cling to the temporality of comfort or will we surrender all we have to the Kingdom? Trials are usually hard because something has changed. Something we treasured has been taken be it a family member, a job, financial security, an opportunity, and even a dream. When trials come, they come with purpose. God always has purpose in pain. Always. In the pain of trials, we are being sifted. That’s why it hurts. Because the old, the useless part of us is being sifted out of our character. Just like chaff off of grain, the “fluff” must come off. By fluff I mean the fake. In Luke 22:31-34, Jesus tells Peter that the devil has asked to shift him as wheat. And Jesus allowed it. you see even though Peters name was changed, there was still leftovers of Simon. Each of us will be sifted in order to get the old us out. Christ is after our wholeness, our completeness, and to accomplish that there has to be a purging and a pruning. John 15:2 says “All the branches that are IN me that do not bear fruit my Father takes away, but the branches that does bear fruit HE prunes so they may bear more fruit.”.

 

Truth is we see trials as the end when really its just the beginning. Truth is we see trials as God taking when actually He is pruning, for the sole purpose that more may grow. Truth is its hard to be joyful in trials when our happiness is locked on things of this world (including people) instead of on the Kingdom of Heaven. You see our tunnel vision proves to rob us of an eternal perception. One that is necessary for joy. When our happiness is determined by circumstances than joy evades us.

The cross is the symbol for shame and rejection. Where desperation meets disappointment. It was here, at the pinnacle of shame, that Christ’s endurance brought joy to the world. Christ came to do the Fathers will, to accomplish the purpose, to go to the cross. Yet, it required endurance which came from the surrender in the garden the night before. The garden of Gethsemane represents where one must lay their lives on the alter of God’s will. it is here in the quietness of the garden that we will be tempted to pray “Father, take this cup from me….” And leave it at that. But it will be how we end that prayer that determines wither or not our agony will be turned into joy as we utter the words “yet not my will be dine but yours.” The release of providence.

 

Christ’s surrender at the garden paved the way for the will of the Father to be brought about. In that moment Christ surrendered the present value of comfort for the eternal security of the Kingdom. And we are called to do likewise. “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross…”. For the promise ahead Christ stood up under the weight of His trial, He bore the weight of suffering for the sake of joy. 

 

 All joy, James exclaimed, an Unmixed joy. One  that is not tainted by “what if’s” or “if only’s”. It is a joy that rests in the assurance of truth. The truth that when we endure we experience the enduring love of God (Genesis 39:21). It’s joy in knowing His love endures longer and with more strength than any trial. Circumstances do not define God’s love for us-His covenant does. And that’s the truth.

 

Covenant, it’s a beautiful word. It is pregnant with providence and purpose. It holds the keys to our future and the security of our souls. It confounds the most brilliant minds and bewilders the humblest of souls. The truth of the covenant is what makes joy in the midst of trials possible. Without the solid assurance of commitment, our dreams are like a vapor, with no substance and no merit. Without a proper understanding of this truth we will flail and flop under the weight of suffering. We will let what was meant to define us be our destruction.

 

Even though the word covenant is not mentioned until Genesis 8, the idea of it is found within the first three chapters of the sacred writing. Now, to understand a covenant we must know what it is NOT. It is not merely a promise. It is a legal agreement, when one attaches themselves to another willingly, a binding together of two entities. The purpose of a covenant was always rest. Rest from social injustice, rest from strife, rest from war, rest from the enemy and so on.

 

As God made man in His image out of nothing and set him in the garden of Eden, He placed him within the boundaries of His rest. “On the seventh day God rested from all the works He had done.” God initiated rest as the culmination of His creative work. He had made something out of nothing, He had replaced the chaos with rest. As man tended the garden, basking in the tranquility of God’s rest. The serpent slithered into paradise and persuaded the man to take the forbidden fruit. As Adam and Eve partook of the fruit and sin entered the world, they were cast out of God’s rest. Genesis 3 even tells us that God set two Cherubim’s at the entrance to guard it from intruders. From that moment on God has been working a plan to regather His prize creation into His rest.

In Genesis 12 we see the answer to the plight; Abraham. As God calls Abraham and establishes him as the chosen nation, which Paul says that God in doing so was calling into existence things that did not exist.(Romans 4:17) Here we see a different play on the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2, where God created man out of nothing. Here in the twelfth chapter of Genesis, God is setting the stage for man to enter His rest once more. 

 

What was taken from man by sin was more than just a place on a map, it was the Sabbatical rest of God. When sin came, it stole that rest and man was now subject to the chaos sin brings. And so enters Abraham. In Genesis 15, it is said that God cut covenant with Abraham. That God placed him in a deep sleep, and laid out a sacrifice, animals that were actually torn in half, and then as Abraham slept, God passed through the carcasses of the sacrifice to say that if HE didn’t  hold up to His promise, then HE would be as one of those animals. This is vital to understand; the covenant is not upheld by what man does or does not do (That’s why Abraham was asleep-so he could take no credit) but finds its solidarity in the character and faithfulness of God. God was after His people to come back to His rest.

 

Hundreds of years later, the promise of the covenant was fulfilled. All the nations would be blessed by the babe, descended from Abraham, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a Bethlehem manger. As Christ hung on the cross, the symbol of shame and rejection, the penalty of sin was laid upon His shoulders. As the weight of sin broke the Messiahs body, the blood of that sacrifice now fulfilled what was foreshadowed in the covenant ceremony between God and Abraham. The New Covenant was now inaugurated and as a result: rest.

 “So, therefor there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” Hebrews 4:9

As the curse of sin was removed from the soul of man, so too the Cherubs removed from the entrance of the garden. Now, man was free from the restraints and burdens of folly. Now, man could rest. No longer was the Sabbath a day on a calendar but it was now a condition of the soul. The covenant freed us from the struggle and God has reached His intended goal: rest. He was after is all along, the marvelous plan to get man back into the garden was completed in a garden in Jerusalem, where the tomb proved too weak to hold the Chosen One inside. The coventential love ushered man back into the perfect rest by the redemption of sin.

 

You see the covenant, that Jesus has set over our lives, gives us rest from strife, rest from toil, rest from chasing our own dreams, rest from building our own kingdoms, rest from the demands of our own agendas, and even from our trials.

 Rest from it all.

Because of the truth of the covenant, we have sabbatical joy. A joy that comes from resting in the covenant. A joy that chooses the eternal security of the covenant over temporal comfort. A joy that exults in trials because it founded on the truth; that all trials, all sufferings hold not threat to us. The hardships and the pain will not destroy us because we are bound to Christ. He is ours and we are His. Sabbatical joy frees us from the chains of oppression and lifts us out of the pit of depression. And because of that our joy cannot be shaken. 

The Perplexity of Providence 

Providence can be perplexing. It’s intricate and involved. Like an algebra problem that stretches across the blackboard, providence seems to be the one equation man cannot solve. But that doesn’t keep us from trying. We evaluate every angle, study every line, diagram every dimension, we pull and prod, trying to get the faucet of divinity lined up with the logic of man. Yet, no matter how we try, providence lies beyond the bounds of our minds. And because of that, our eyes usually don’t see it working, that all these circumstances we can’t explain or understand are on a collision course, that turn out for good. Each one is like a piece-but a piece of what? A piece of providence perhaps? The totality of these things expend any figure we could imagine; goodness.

Our lives are not a game of chance. As if some mystic force is playing dice with our lives. No,fate is not the maker of our destinies-the Almighty is.

Yet, it is His hand that often leaves us perplexed. The way is so unclear. The decisions in front of us too monstrous. We weren’t planning on any of this; the rejection, the divorce, the promotion, the break-up, the success. Once upon a time our dreams seemed so clear-the path was marked-but now there’s an unexpected detour. Destiny is a lifetime of a million different detours. It’s in these detours where faith and perseverance are tested. It’s easy to follow the hand of God when He’s guiding where we want to go-but it’s when we are pulled by the force of providence down an alley we weren’t expecting, that we get perplexed. It’s the times when His hand is covering our eyes that we must walk by faith.

Providence brings purpose, it ushers the will of God into our lives. In the word of God when we see the reference to God’s “hand” it is a direct reference to His providence.

Many Christians are scared of the will of God because they misinterpret the hand of God. We see the hand of judgement instead of the nail pierced hand of grace. We see a hand that takes instead of a hand that gives all heaven has to offer. We see a hand that strips and suppresses instead of one that crowns and frees. This misinterpretation has stolen the intended purpose from providence.

In the Psalms alone the hand of God is said to:

Remembers (10:12)

Supports (18:35) 

Saves (20:5)

Upholds (37:25, 63:8)

Teaches (45:4)

Disciplines (32:4)

Yet, it’s not the times that we see His hand that often perplexes us. It’s the times we don’t. When callings are complicated and family is frustrating. When our careers are chaotic and our relationships are risky, when loss languishes and defeat deflates. When should’ve been and might’ve been replay in your mind, when we believed but the mountain remained, when we needed the waters to part but they roared louder. These are the moments when providence can be painful.

 Providence doesn’t always move mountains or part the waters. Sometimes, what providence does do is ask us to climb that mountain and see Christ transfigured. And other times He allows the waters to roar and then calls us to walk on them. Providence doesn’t remove the problem, it removes the threat from the problem. Providence always brings protection.

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me…”( Psalm 138:8)Yet, we try to help Him out. We find ourselves striving after providence when it is in fact providence that is chasing us. We try to figure out Gods plan. We beg and plead for insight and direction when providence says “do the next thing…” but we don’t, that’s not good enough for us. We need to do more….and more…and more. We aren’t content with the moment so we jump ahead, feeling like a mountain of accomplishments will somehow get us to our purpose and so we out run providence. As a result we end up burned out in despair. Because without providence we have no hope. It is the gracious care of a loving God that motivates us and spurs us on. It is the assurance in the protection of His hand that we have joy in suffering. It is the fact that our hope is not tethered to our situations but to the throne that keeps us from despair.

Our view may not be clear but our hope is.

“We may be perplexed but we are not in despair.” 2 Corinthians 4:8