Mark 3:2 reads:
“Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.”
Some people are just never satisfied.
But, should we be surprised by the actions of the Pharisees? Their eyes, being so trained on the law that they gave up worshipping the law-Giver to worship the law, how could we expect them to recognize the God of grace standing before them performing deeds of true righteousness? He didn’t match the headline they expected in the Jerusalem Times:
“Warrior King Liberates Israel from Roman Oppression”
How often do we get into that match with God – the Comparison Game? Have you been disappointed by how things have turned out? Have you ever found yourself, like me, wrapped around the axel of “God owes me” when He never promised you what you were expecting in the first place?
The two most powerful words in the entire bible are not “Jesus wept.” In my opinion, (as was mentioned last week) they “but ” and “God”, as used in “but… God, who is rich in mercy made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions. (Eph 2:4-5)” When we look at what we have in light of what we deserve [judgment], it is all blessing. The danger for us is taking the gospel for granted and falling back into “but, God didn’t”___. Fill in the blank – “save my grandmother from cancer”, “deliver my dad from addiction”, “give me the job I wanted and was qualified for…”
When did God promise you those things? What does He really owe you?
Every one of us has something coming our way in the form of blessing. For all of us in Christ, it is transformation. For all of us in Christ, it is perfection. For all of us in Christ, it is a glorified body and eternal inheritance. For many of us in Christ, it includes crowns in heaven that we will lay at His feet. The only thing that can truly set us free from the comparison game is knowing that God is not constrained by our profile, our headlines, our expectation.
Thank God for that.
He is so much greater than the box we’ve put Him in. He is the “author and perfecter of our faith” and is capable and caring. Sometimes, He says no. Sometimes, He says “no” for a lonnnng time. But, He’s got His reasons, His plan, His headline which will blow us all away when we see it face to face:
“Glory to God”
This week is anything but “business as usual”. So, instead of trying to articulate during an inarticulate time, I’m letting Tenth Avenue North run the Monday Morning Momentum Minute. They’ve said it much better than I can and if a picture is worth a thousand words, the chalkboard in the background is worth a million bucks. Have a great week – you are loved.
Thanks, for all of your prayers on our behalf.
This past year, the Lord met us in (or directed us into) some dark places. The term “dark night of the soul” became not only a phrase we understood more empirically, but an everyday, household word that brought our own, human weakness into the foreground and had us on our knees regularly in upward reverence. One thing became clear – God was supreme author of this season. A byproduct of this time we spent in the crucible is that His exposition of the pain in our past would clearly be used to minister to others on the other side of the night.
Cristine asked me to look this story over before sharing it on the blog, but I don’t have much to add or subtract. I hope if you have experienced pain, loss, abortion, grief, or other similar tribulation, that His story of how He loves us and the grace He can and does pour out on us meets you, comforts you, and lifts you up to know more than just a shadow of the Almighty who calls us to be His own. – AP
Cristine’s story (or, more of it than you had before):
As some of you know, I had an abortion when I was 22-yrs-old. I was not a believer in Christ, so my decisions were based on my fleshly fear & selfish self will. Years later, I believe the Lord showed me that this baby was a boy. I also felt impressed by the Lord to name him (posthumously) “Jack”. (I also highly recommend seeking the Lord to name your aborted child in order to bring greater completeness to the grieving process).
I often pray to God that He will open the Heavens every now & then to allow Jack to see me so that I can tell him how much I love him. As I write this, I do believe I have received full forgiveness from Jack as well as the Lord from this grave sin against both of them as well as myself and the many others who would have been impacted by Jack’s life here on earth. Now I just want Jack to know that I love him, that I think of him often & that I can’t wait to see him when I get to Heaven.
Over two years ago, I became pregnant with our twins. As only one with multiples can imagine, my mind was blown in the natural about the fact that I was carrying two babies. But, in the
supernatural, it was also blown because I couldn’t imagine that my Heavenly Father would double my blessings in that way after having this abortion back in 2000. And really… it was a triple blessing since He had already gave to me Presleigh 8 yrs after having the abortion!
Coincidence? Probably not.
Aarron and I have always put great thought and prayer into naming our children. It took us going through the 5,000 Baby Names book, the 10,000 Baby Names book, and an even bigger one before we came up with (and agreed on) a name for Presleigh. We had already agreed on a name for our daughter “Jovi”, which means “joy”, but hadn’t come up with a boy name. One day in November, we were driving to our counselor’s office the day after already finding out they would be boy/girl twins, when the Lord downloaded to me the name “Jezreel”. So, I was thinking… “I wonder what the meaning of ‘Jezreel’ means.” Both within 15 minutes and before I could tell Aarron, he turned to me & said “I wonder what the name ‘Jezreel’ means?”
WOW! Say what you want about coincidence, but that’s not a very common name. It’s also not one that either of us had read about recently in our devotional time. Wow. I mean, I hadn’t yet had a chance to tell my husband what name just popped into my head the moment before… & here Aarron got the same confirmation from the Lord at the same time! We were amazed, to say the least- as well as VERY anxious to find out what that name meant.
What’s in a Name?
Now, it just happened to be that our counselor had a Biblical name book at her office. So, once we arrived & told her what happened while on the way to her office, she immediately grabbed that book in order for us to find out! The meaning showed up in Matthew 13 where the Bible says “the Son of Man sows seed”, and “Jezreel” comes from the Hebrew meaning “the Lord sows/plants”. Now, there is another place in Hosea 1:11
“The people of Judah and the people of Israel will be reunited, and they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.”
In that verse it is believed to be that the “scattered seed- known as the people of Israel- would then be gathered by the Lord”, so great is the day of ‘Jezreel’ (or rather ‘the gathering up of what was once the scattered seed.’) And, of course, we know that we Christians are referred to as the ingrafted branch of Israel, so applying that Scripture to me meant “that I was once lost but now I am found (and gathered up by the Lord), as well” -very fitting, wouldn’t you say? I mean, the fact that this son that the Lord now blessed me with was to be THE very representation of what My Heavenly Father has done for me in my life was too awesome!
When Does the Other Shoe Fall?
You also may remember there was a little hiccup during that pregnancy. The perinatal doc was concerned that “Baby A”- aka “Jez” could very likely have a brain problem from some ventricle showing up as congenital abnormality (according to the ultrasound). I thought… “Yep, here it comes… my punishment for my aborted son Jack.” I had so much guilt, worry & concern that I brought about this ailment- that my transgressions were now falling upon my unborn child. So, we prayed, I confessed, repented, wept… we gathered the troops (fellow brothers & sisters in Christ) to pray and PRAY HARD along with us! (Thank you to those of you who were part of that, btw!) And we waited & hoped & trusted in God’s Word. For He says in Psalm 103:12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
Fast forward to months later we see that during the time of delivery, both babies were not only allowed to be born naturally, but were healthy & whole- Praise God! Abba Father has also allowed Jovi to be the physical proof of the joy the Lord returned to me WHILE ALSO showing me how she was meant to come into this world alongside of her brother Jezreel (“Sower of seeds). He brought me evidence of this in Psalm 126:5-6 “those who SOW in tears will reap with songs of JOY. He who goes out weeping, carrying SEED TO SOW, will return with SONGS OF JOY…” !!! Jezreel AND Jovi- united in Christ (who is “the Word made flesh”).
Now, as most of you know, I have the best husband ever. [He’s blushing while he proofreads this…] While were just dating I made him fully aware of the abortion, so now upon my request of wanting to honor Baby Jack in some way, we both agreed that Jezreel’s middle name would be “Jaxton”. This is the name Jack whose Hebrew origin is John meaning “The Lord is gracious”. As Aarron so eloquently puts it: “The name Jack, with an ‘x’ [a cross to symbolize the work of Christ] in the middle and a ‘ton’ [a suffix meaning “town” or “from the town of”] conveys the meaning ‘from the town of John’ or more poetically- “from a place where God’s grace makes His home”.
The Living, Active Word:
Ok, so with ALL of that said… today my Master Creator showed me something else that showered me with even more revelation of His unfailing love, compassion and kindness to me.
Sometimes I like to be refreshed & reminded of Jesus’ love, so I was reading in Hosea 2:6-7 about how God had once upon a time “blocked my path, walled me in, allowed me chase after other lovers (literally) but not find them (not find the love I needed in them) to then call me back unto Himself“; to find my true Love & Husband in My King & My God. So, there I was falling even more in love with the One who loves me & saved me when BAM! My eyes were yet again enlightened by what I was reading!
Hosea 2:22 says when we (in that book referring to the people of Israel) return to the Lord God He will cause the earth to respond with “grain, new wine, new oil and they will respond to ‘Jezreel’.” So, I go to Biblos.com for further understanding on what this may mean. The first part of that passage is referred to as: to nourish and strengthen; like “wine” to comfort, cheer, and revive; and like “oil” to heal and soften, as well as make glad”. (Do you see how “Jovi” for “joy” is in this passage yet again?!?!?) Ok… I am seeing this all come together now. Then the Lord ties it in a beautiful bow for me when I ask? “So, what about ‘will respond to Jezreel’?”
Well, the commentary goes on to say: “And they shall hear Jezreel; or ‘answer’; that is, these trees and fruits shall answer to the requests and desires of Jezreel who shall be abundantly blessed with them.” Jezreel is not used here as the name of a place as it is in other verses of Scripture. No, here it seems to mean “the people of Israel just as I wrote about above from the verse in Hosea 1– unworthy in themselves yet shown such favor through the riches of God’s grace He still chose to bestow upon them.” The commentary also translates it as “The great rejoicing with which they shall receive God’s gracious returns towards them”. The end of this chapter goes on to tell us that “God will show His love… we will be called His people… and there will be no denying the One we call Our God.” (Hosea 2:23 paraphrased by Cristine.)
How Great is Our God?
“Wow” just doesn’t seem to suffice. Even after all I have done to You, Father God, mixed with the hurt I have inflicted upon others as well as myself by committing the sin of murder in aborting Jack along with innumerable others wicked deeds- Your grace still allowed me to live, Christ’s blood still covered my sins AND Jesus still calls me friend! Where can I go from there but forward? I mean, to know that I will someday see the fulness of my family when I see Jack in Heaven is exactly that hope the Bible speaks of in Romans 5: 5 “hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” And by faith I pray that this testimony continues to defeat the enemy in my life as well as help those reading overcome the accuser just as it says in: Revelation 12:11 “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony”.
Tullian Tchividjian (just call him “Tull”) is one of my favorite writers over at The Gospel Coalition and an excellent thought leader and communicator. He’s Billy Graham’s grandson, so no wonder, right?
One of the things that remains front and center in disciplship conversations every week, month, and quarter is “saving the saved”. Often, as followers of Christ, we forget the gospel is what both saves and sanctifies us, falling into the trap of performance. The good news is… the Good News. It’s also good news that getting back on the log of grace is just as easy as falling off. Abiding in Christ – “you’re never more than one prayer away from grace. You’re never more than one prayer away from access to the full resources of Heaven.”
Take a click over to Tullian’s article: http://theresurgence.com/2011/09/29/did-you-forget-youre-saved. Clear thinking, simple application, a lifetime to practice. Abide, gang.
When I’m consistent with “quiet time”, I’m not very consistent with which devotionals I read. I have a couple in hard copy and then a few others that come via email to my “@newsletters” folder in Outlook. Other times, I just skip back and forth between Psalms, Proverbs, Prophets, and the New Testament. When you talk to people for a living, you notice a handful of people who do the same thing every day, consistently. These guys are the low-spiritual-fat-percentage/chiseled character guys with 18-inch spiritual biceps that we all often idolize. Oops, did I say the “i” word? The i word often leads to the “c” word – comparison.
Today, as I’m reading through Neil Anderson’s final devotional for February, his questions jumped off the page. The scripture selection was from Colossians 2.6-7:
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith
I have a tendency to notice the “who” part of passages as I’m reading them and this morning, I thought “How often do I muff up the “so walk in Him” part? How often do I compare my self to Matt or Jeff or Jim when I should be comparing myself to “who I am in Him?” Doesn’t the passage say “so walk in Jim?” Nope. The comparison game can get messy when we’re not playing by God’s rules – when it comes to man, “comparison is the enemy of contentment”.
Anderson goes on this morning to ask the following litmus test questions about our faith (and, as he’s famous for doing, our identity):
I would be more successful if . . .
I would be more significant if . . .
I would be more fulfilled if . . .
I would be more satisfied if . . .
I would be happier if . . .
I would have more fun if . . .
I would be more secure if . . .
I would have more peace if . . .
The completion of these statements give us a great picture of the completion of the work of Christ in our lives. See – Ephesians 4.12-16.The biggest troubles we get ourselves into can be traced back to a lie that we once bought, which can easily be detected by holding it up to the plumb-line of God’s truth: Would you be more successful if circumstances changed or if you stayed out of God’s way and let Him work through and lead you? Would you be more significant if you made your mark on a situation or if you trusted in who God has gifted you to be and ran on the steam of His grace instead of your own effort? Would you be more secure if you had $25K in the bank or if you were breaking even every week, but clinging to Christ for every dime?
The worst form of idolatry is self-worship – my agenda, my plan, my energy, my competence. The greatest gains have been made in my life when I stepped aside and got God out of the co-pilot seat so He could fly the plane. Conversely, the biggest trouble and darkest times I’ve experienced in business, ministry, marriage, etc., have been the places where I “leaned on my own understanding” and trusted in my ability to walk, talk, work, or manipulate my way out of a jam. Grace is God’s way of empowering us to do His work. Misformed and misunderstood identity in Christ is the surest path to lost confidence in God’s sovereignty and diminishing Christ’s finished work on the cross.
If only we all would walk in that. If only we would encourage each other in that (like, discipleship). If only we would reassure each other there is no condemnation, God’s grace is big enough (though not to be abused), and that His mercies are new every morning. If only we would all slow down the hustle, quiet down the noise, and listen to the Holy Spirit’s lead – what would a lost and dying world think of our God if we all grew up into maturity in the faith, attaining to the full measure of Christ?
in it with you,