Monday, July 22, 2013

You Are On Our Side



You sit at the table with the wounded and the poor
You laugh and share stories with the thief and the whore
When You could just be silent and leave us here to die
Still, You sent Your Son for us
You are on our side

These lyrics flood me with joy every time I listen to this song. That last line brings me to tears because it sounds too good to be true. But it is! It is the most truthful statement made in the history of the world. God is on our side!

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
-Romans 5:8

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Intended Existence





I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
-Psalm 139:14

I've mentioned before that I had recently been dealing with borderline suicidal thoughts. I say borderline because I am fairly confident that I would never attempt to take my own life for fear of what awaits me on the other side of that. However, I can empathize with those who have considered it or even succeeded in doing so. Suicide is a desperate effort to escape from the pain one is enduring, pain that stems from the belief that no one cares and that you are a burden to the world. Existence itself becomes unbearable and death begins to look like the only way out. I begged God for death. I recklessly prayed that he would take me Home. It was in the midst of these dark requests that He began to show me the gift of existence and just how much intention is contained within one human life. My appeal for death transformed into an appreciation for life and my thoughts began to heal.

"I'm alive! I'm alive!" Having experienced sudden and utterly surprising rapture at the gift of life, the joy of being invested with existence, the privilege of being rather than not being.
-Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning

This quote gripped my heart. My somber thinking came to a halt and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I don't think I've ever felt so grateful. As I began to consider the joy contained within these words, God spoke to me. What I heard was that my existence was intentional. God did not need me, He wanted me. For what? I'm still figuring out the entire answer behind that question. But I believe the biggest, most important purpose was grace. He created me to display His prodigal love to me and through me. I was captivated.

I rummaged through verses upon verses to find what the Bible might have to offer me on this. Psalm 139 was the answer. This small chapter is incredibly personal. Each verse serves as an expression of God's concern for you. He knows you (v.1). Your life has purpose (v.16). You are unique and God is interested in you (v.14). When God created you, it was with heartfelt interest and respect. He didn't have to make you. But He did! He took time to make everything about you unique and marvelous. Matthew 10:30 tells us that God even knows the exact number of hairs on your head.

It is impossible to overestimate the worth of anyone. My heart breaks for those who don't know how much they are valued. I'm brought to tears at the thought of God's intentional, personal investment in each person's life. It's beautiful. There's simply too much I've been shown to share all of it. My puny words wouldn't do it justice anyway. God can wreck your heart with it though, and if you simply ask Him to, I'm more than confident He will follow through on your request.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or visit twloha.com




Saturday, March 30, 2013

Let Go


You can't keep your true self hidden forever; before long you'll be exposed.
-Luke 12:2 (MSG)

I was looking through one of my journals and I found something I had written toward the end of my freshman year of college. Luke 12:2 was written at the top followed by some thoughts I had. Reading it helped me. Hopefully it helps you too. Here it is:

You can't keep your true self hidden forever; before long you'll be exposed.
-Luke 12:2 (MSG) 
Reading this, processing this, imagining this passage in Luke. It scares me. The last thing I want is for people to actually know me and to see my bare, naked soul. My weaknesses and strongholds; the things I cling to for security. If I am to mature in Christ's word and embrace the mission he has set before me, everything must be shed. Those deep, dark, shameful secrets must be revealed. Jesus tells us that the only way we could ever be saved is to let go of the cliff that we are gripped to. Scary thought, isn't it? To detach would mean a terrible fall, and a painful one at that! Death is inevitable. Once you hit the ground, God takes over. We die; every last bit of our "self" passes away. Our entire being is then captivated by Him, Life itself. We resurrect a new creature, entirely different than that which existed prior. Even though deceased and extinct, we become more ourselves than ever before. In being weak, we gain strength and confidence. By dying, we actually become alive. In losing our person, we discover our true identity. In doing so, we gain the ability to ascend that steep precipice. Mounting the height is hopeless, unless one lets go.
I think it's my time. My time to release the grasp. The time has come for me to plummet to my death. The hardest part is underway. My fingers are lifting, one by one, slowly and gradually surrendering to that horrid fall. It will not be pleasant. I am aware. But I am certain that the outcome will be glorious.

 What are you clinging to?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Choosing Grace




Have you ever felt lonely? Forgotten? Unnoticed? Lately, I’ve been stuck in this kind of pit of isolation. There are times when I feel that had I disappeared, no one would notice. Life would go on as usual. There are times when Satan whispers lies like “Their lives would be so much better without you,” and, “You’re such a burden to them.” The more I listen to them, the louder they become, and eventually I begin to believe the crap that that devil is trying to sell me. Before I continue, let me make something very clear – I am NOT suicidal.

This season of my life has possibly been one of the hardest. The strangest thing is that I think that its an answered prayer. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in walking with the Lord for the past four years is be careful what you pray for. You never know how God is going to answer you.

A while back I had asked the Lord to show me the world through His eyes. The beginning of the answer came with pain. The incident left me with a bundle of emotions. I was hurt. I was angry. I felt unloved and alone. I felt betrayed. Ultimately, I felt unimportant.

I had always heard that God has purpose in everything that happens. Every detail in a believer’s life is meant to teach them and to ultimately prepare them for the Father’s presence. The anger and the pain that had hit me had made me a stranger to grace and blinded me to mercy. It took me a few months before I realized what the Lord was trying to tell me – Jesus experienced the same feelings, however he dealt with them differently.

Jesus came to earth for us. God became human because he loved us. He didn’t have to, He chose to. The ones He came for didn’t welcome Him with open arms, though. We called Him a liar, an imposter. We mocked Him. We denied Him and claimed not to know Him. We ignored Him. We beat Him past recognition, and in an ultimate attempt to rid ourselves of Him, we crucified Him. The very people the Son of God had come for wanted nothing to do with Him. He had done nothing to deserve any of the abuse He endured. The craziest thing about this whole incident is Jesus’s response. He. Came. Back. For us.

I cannot imagine the pain Jesus experienced. No one can. His love for us is so much greater than any love we have ever experienced. I can only infer that the degree to which He experiences sorrow over our denial of His love is greater than the pain we experience when someone turns away the love we extend to them. The greatest difference lies in the responses. While we cling to the pain inflicted, Jesus is quick to forget and let go of it.

There is a story in Matthew 18 referred to as the parable of the unforgiving servant. A king wishes to settle accounts with his servants. One of these servants owed him 10,000 talents. One talent is equal to about 20 years’ wages. Do the math and you’ll see that this dude has no chance in heck of paying the king back! (20 years x 10,000 talents = 200,000 years’ wages) This servant begged the king for patience and promised to repay him (umm… yeah right). The king’s pity for this man led him to do something incredibly insane. He forgave his servant’s debt and released him! The servant walked into the king’s courts expecting prison, or possibly even death, and walked away free, owing the king nothing in return.

This servant was granted a priceless second chance, however something blinded him from the grace he experienced. Right after he was released, this man went and found a coservant that owed him 100 denarii. One denarii is equal to one day’s wages. (So the coservant owed him 100 days’ wages) Filled with anger and wrath, the forgiven servant tried to choke out the money from his coworker demanding that he pay it at once. This fellow servant begged this man for patience and promised to repay him. Sound familiar? The forgiven servant did the same to the king. However, despite the fact that he was forgiven a large debt, the forgiven servant refused to show the same grace to his coworker. He threw him in prison until he was able to pay his debt. Can anyone say shady?

When the king heard of this, he was furious. He said to the forgiven man, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”

Angered by this servant’s behavior, the king threw him in prison until he could pay his debt. This servant blew his second chance when he refused to share the grace he had experienced himself.

Reading this story, I am fascinated by the king’s response and utterly annoyed by the response of the forgiven servant. How could the servant be so unforgiving after being shown so much mercy? The fact of the matter is that I am that servant on a daily basis.

Anger blinds us to the grace we’ve been granted. It’s almost like we forget how much we’ve been forgiven. We seek after the things owed to us and pay no attention to the mercy at hand. In the story of the unforgiving servant, had the king not forgiven his servant his debt, the money owed to the servant would belong to the king.

I so often forget the incredible debt Jesus paid for me, the debt that the Father forgave. I vengefully seek after the debts owed to me - the apologies I never received, explanations left unexplained, healing for the pain. The more I recall what I lost, the more I seek after it. Freedom comes in forgiving those debts and sharing the grace extended to me.

One of the greatest proclamations of the gospel comes in sharing the grace you’ve personally experienced. As C.S. Lewis stated, "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you."

Is there a debt you have yet to forgive?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Brokenness to Beauty


O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.
-Isaiah 54:11

Throughout life, we all come into contact with circumstances that just break us. We don't know what to do with the shattered pieces left behind, so we sweep them up and carry them with us. They're sharp, and they inflict pain as they prick us every so often. Over time, we collect more shards. The longer we carry them, the more pain they cause. They dig deeper and deeper as we hit bumps in the road. They cause stains as you bleed from your injuries. Eventually, they'll kill you, unless you find purpose for them.

You're unable to rid yourself of them on your own. They've become one with you. They're painful and ugly. You're embarrassed, so you try to hide them, to ignore them. You're not fooling anyone. Others are able to see your stains. The more you try to conceal them, the darker your stains become.

I'm here to tell you that there's Someone who wants to help. His name is Jesus. He knows exactly what to do with those cutting fragments. It won't be pleasant. The process is painful. In order to remove them, He'll have to dig deeper, but you'll heal. You will get better. They won't be able to hurt you anymore. Scars will remind you of the circumstances that brought you here, but they will be beautiful. The pieces will be used to create something gorgeous. Almost like a stained glass window. Every ugly little piece you're carrying right now could become part of  His grand masterpiece. All He asks of you is submission to His will. When He finishes putting the pieces together, His light will display His magnificent workmanship to a dark world. Others will come to see it and to hear of how your awful, ugly shards became something so beautiful. You'll be transformed. The scars that you bare will be the only things the others will be able to recognize you by.

The brokenness of stained glass windows allow for the most beautiful light to be shown.

What are you still holding onto?