Call to Love

The past few days had been frigidly cold when we found a man sitting near our tables where we serve food to those on the streets. He shared bits and pieces with us of a life I can hardly imagine. And yet, despite his horrible circumstances this man knew something that I’m slow to acknowledge. As we all gathered around, he spoke these words:

“God gave us the Ten Commandments and they’re all about love. I don’t know how we got it so wrong in this country.”

I felt as though his words slammed into my heart and stayed. Because he’s right. And there’s nothing right about it. This man, barely existing, understood what we as Christians should be first in understanding. But we aren’t. Instead we sit in church and think we’ve done our duty. We haven’t even started.

The world is dying because we’ve made the Law a rule to love by instead of the response of a heart captured by love. We’ve become so consumed with making sure we do. everything. exactly. right that we’ve forgotten the spirit of it all. And so the world cries and we do not hear, or if we do we turn away, because the love that touches the broken isn’t in our picture of Christianity.

And we call ourselves His followers?! Him the one who ate with sinners and who waited at the tomb just so Mary’s mourning could be joy, her the one who had been redeemed from defiling sin over and over again. Somehow this doesn’t equate.

When Christ gave the great commission He didn’t mean that His disciples should just preach truth to the world. The gospel is more than that. Yes, it is the truth of redemption and preaching that is a necessity. But unless we live this gospel we are preaching a truth we do not really believe.

If we really love our neighbor as ourselves than we cannot turn away from the pain of the world. By doing that, we permit injustice to continue; lives to be abused; and we tell the world that the God we serve doesn’t care enough to help a life in pain. That’s a problem. And the solution lies, at least partly, with me.

Sir John Powell once said, “Once you say the ‘yes’ of faith to Jesus and accept His blueprint of the fullness of life, the whole world can no longer revolve around you, your needs, your gratifications; you’ll have to revolve around the world, seeking to bandage its wounds, loving dead men into life, finding the lost, wanting the unwanted, and leaving behind all selfish, parasitic concerns which drain our time and energies.”

This is a lesson I’m slow to learn and even slower to live, but I intend to live the gospel that I believe. This doesn’t mean I’ll need to be rescuing those trapped in the worlds worst conditions, but it does mean that I cannot turn away and pretend that they don’t exist. I must let His love flow through me however He asks. And so I’m asking Him to teach me to learn to “love not (only) in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Of course it’s easier to turn away. Love costs. But Love has also transformed my life and I want the world to know Him too.

Undeserved Mercy [to know the Holy]

He is holy. And He is God. And He is forever.
The place where He dwells is rightfully high and holy.

But He’s not alone.

“I dwell…with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit” (Isaiah 57:15)

Umm… This is a sinner. Sin doesn’t belong in high and holy places.

Well, yes. But this is not just a sinner. This is one who realizes his true condition. This is a man who knows how far he has fallen, how grievous his sin is, and how unworthy of grace he is. This is one who is broken and crushed, who knows himself to be the lowest of the low.

He’s used his last strength to crawl to the foot of the cross and cast himself on the mercy of God.

This is his only hope and God does not hesitate. He brings him to His dwelling place, not to destroy, but to restore…. To make him new again.

This is undeserved mercy, pure and simple: to know the Holy and not be consumed.

But this is also who God is for God is love.

And Love never casts away a penitent, repentant child, no matter how long or far he has fallen.

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Of Brokenness and Healing

Sin is a ravaging disease. It batters us, it turns us into bruised and bleeding souls.
But God stands ready to heal. God wants to heal.
And He does. He’s healing me. But I am still broken. And this process of healing isn’t easy.

It hurts to be pressed down to the grinding wheel. It hurts to be purified by fire. The broken shards of my life poke, scrape, and scratch at each other and at me, and they hurt too.

I grow weary of waiting. I question; wonder why this takes so long.
I’ve been here before.

I want to glorify Him. I want to give this world a true picture of my Redeemer.
And this is why the process is long. In the process I can glorify Him.

Of course God could utter one word and I could be whole. But if He did that then I would miss the lessons He seeks to teach me. I would miss the journey that He’s taking me on.

Still I cry. Still this hurts. But tears cleanse, and fire purifies, and God gently goes deeper still.
His purification is complete. His healing is too. He does nothing halfway.

And so I learn in this journey that He is good. That I am loved. That He is faithful. That He is enough. Little by little I trust enough to let go of yet another lie, another insecurity, another shattered piece. When I do, He transforms it. And I can learn to give Him more.

There is no crown before the cross.

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Praise Him Anyway

Around me hovers these clouds that limit my sight. His face is hard to see. His hand is hard to feel. His heart is hard to know. Storms rage. And the sun just doesn’t shine. For days.

I think. I work. I pray. I try to focus. I search for gratitude; hang on to the promise that God is still there, that He is good; struggle to believe.

I fight through thoughts I know are false, seek for Him who is truth. I search for the certainty that He is faithful. I choose to trust.

Even when I don’t understand. Because I don’t understand.

The office floods. I think of to-do lists 200+ lines long, look down at drenched carpet, think that Satan must be desperate to distract us, determine that he won’t win, and decide to give thanks anyway. It’s a good day. We work hard; to-do lists sit stagnant.

Another day dawns. The sun shines briefly, but everything comes with a million challenges, and the sun doesn’t help much. I fight against feeling overwhelmed all morning. Seek to remember that He is good. Climb up seemingly insurmountable smooth walls seeking gratitude.
And this is a fight. Trust me.

Next morning I wake, flip to Psalms. Get two verses into the chapter my Bible opened to.
“I will sing praise unto my God while I have any being.”

Any being?

Even if I’m dying? Even I can barely breathe?
Even when I can’t see His face? Even when all around is dark?

I see it now.
Surrender is sweetest when it’s been fought for.
Praise is truest when it is sacrifice. When it costs me all to give it.

God is glorified when His children praise Him anyway.

The sun shines again, and this time it stays.

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Empty

Christ emptied Himself. He eradicated all selfishness, all sinful desires, until only love was left.

And we see that in His life. How He gave and gave beyond duty; how He always had time to touch one small life; how He sought nothing for Himself.

He was love. Only love.

I want this in my life. I want to be empty.
Empty of selfishness, of self-glory, of all that separates from His face.

Empty until Christ can fill me with His love; fill me with Himself.

God uses broken vessels. He uses empty vessels.
For only in brokenness is healing.
Only in emptiness can we be truly filled.

Empty of self. Full of Him.

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Because they believed

He was just a man, but he believed. He’d gone to ask Jesus to heal his daughter; she died before he could return.
But when Jesus told him to only believe, Jarius did. And his daughter was made whole.

The closest she could get was just the hem of His garment. The crowds pressed, seemed not to notice. Her courage nearly gone, she touched His hem.
And because she believed she was made whole.

The lepers. They asked for healing. They risked all, despised and rejected by their countrymen. Why wouldn’t this person reject them, too? But He didn’t. He told them to go show themselves to the priests. But what good would that do? They’d doubtless been before, hoping vainly that they’d been healed.
But they didn’t question. They went.
And in the obeying, in the believing, they were made whole.

The list goes on. The one who cried, “Lord, if You say only the word my servant will be healed.” The thief on the cross who dared to hope in a dying man.

And, going back several hundred years, we have the serpent lifted high. The multitude, dying from snake bites, bidden to look on the snake lifted high on a cross and be healed.
And so it was. Those who believed looked, and they were healed.
And yet, this was just a type. Type met anti-type that day on Calvary where the true Savior hung on a bloodstained cross.

He, too, bids us look and live. A life given gives life to me. A life, broken, heals all wounds.

Oh Lord, You set each spirit free,
Who dares accept Your love.
Your cross stands tall through every age,

For all to look and live.

And when I look You haste to come,
To mend each broken piece.

For sin has shattered, wounded, torn;
But You have set me free.

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