Posts tagged Jesus
I have a lot of wealthy friends. We live in really different financial spheres and sometimes the money gap is comical. For example, I was thrilled to go to Florida and one friend vacationed at a Mediterranean oasis. I bought a new house (that I love!) and one friend bought a new house that makes my house look like her bonus room. Another friend eloquently remarked, “Jana I live in a land with lots of zeros, so I am not worried about the cost of this.”
I laughed out loud. I can’t even imagine making such a statement.
The odd thing though is my wealthy friends also make heart-wrenching comments. Two of them said recently that they have a hard time with close friendships because people are jealous of them and that people judge them for how they spend their money.
These comments rattled my soul. For several reasons. I love my friends. Deeply. And they love me. Deeply.
I would hope that their love for me would not fluctuate as my income fluctuates. As in, when I have no money, I would have no friendship? So then, why would having a surplus of income mean a sacrifice of friendship?
Do we really believe that more money is the answer to most everything? If we are not careful, we will have our eyes on more money rather than on more of our Maker. Look at these statements from wealthy people in my world:
“I have so much money, I don’t really need Jesus for anything.”
“I had an opportunity to make millions, but I don’t think that is what’s best for my family or my own soul. I don’t think this is God’s plan for me right now.”
“I am thankful for the money we have, but my friends think I don’t have any problems. They think their life is harder than mine. And it gets very lonely.”
Do you hear the temptation? the poverty? the need? Suddenly the ground becomes very level at the Cross. Perhaps money isn’t the answer to everything. Here are real life people who have plenty of money, yet still have plenty of lack.
Theologian Henri Nouwen poignantly calls out that we are all poor in some areas and rich in some areas. Some have material wealth, some have spiritual wealth. Some have wisdom, some mercy. Yet above all things, he asks, where is our trust? The Lord is the source of all, for all.
Extreme security. These are the two words that God gave me in March. It was an invitation actually.
“How would you like to live in “extreme security?” He asked.
“What does this mean?” I said. Instantly I thought of paying opportunities that would give me more stability, more options. But that’s not what He had in mind.
“That you would be so convinced of My Provision that I would become your ‘extreme security’.”
“I would love this Lord, but I don’t know how.”
Trusting the goodness of God is our highest goal. Perhaps, just perhaps, this is why Jesus said you can’t love God and love money. You have to choose.
You can love God and use money. But you can’t love money and use God.
When I love God, I can learn to trust in His abundance for my every need. Enter peace.
When I love money, I am constantly grasping for more to meet my own needs. Enter exhaustion.
My wealthy friends already know this. They have all they need financially and more. (Which is why they give so much away.) They already know that money doesn’t meet ALL their needs. Only God can do that.
So regardless of your financial status, how is your peace? What is your source? Where is your love?
Really let the Lord reveal your mental conversations as you compare yourself to others, or even despise others for their surplus or lack. Are you asking God to meet your needs? Are you accusing God of not taking care of you? How about this— are you thanking God for what you do have?
And, likewise, let the Lord reveal your areas of spiritual wealth. What areas are you so full that you might share with others? You may be rich in ways you have never considered. I love what 1 Timothy 6:6 says: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” Godliness. Contentment. Great Gain. This sounds like a great path for us all, regardless of the number of zeros in our lives.
God is faithful to meet all our needs. May we be rich in trusting Him.
When Charis came home from school, she wanted a snack. I reminded her of the popcorn in the cabinet which produced a squeal of glee from my eleven-year-old. “I didn’t know you had this!” she called from the kitchen.
“Yep, just for you, my sweet,” I called back.
A delicious scent filled the house. She plopped her books and freshly popped snack on the table and began to study and munch. I sat down with her to catch up on her day. I reached over to grab a few kernels and she looked at me with shock and pulled the bag away.
I reached again. She pulled it away again.
I laughed out loud. Then I formally asked, “May I have some of your popcorn?”
Again shock, followed by a little whine, “But mom, this is my popcorn.”
Trying to play along, I said, “and just where did you get that popcorn?”
She crammed more popcorn in her mouth. “The store.”
“Oh I see,” I said, “and who paid for that popcorn?”
“But it’s mi-i-i-ne,” she said half laughing, half serious.
“Girl, give me some of that popcorn. Everything you have you got from me.”
Again she pulled the bag away so I tickled her and tried to grab it out of her hands.
“This must be how God feels.” I said. “He gives us everything we have. He asks us to share some with Him and we holler, ‘but it’s mine.’ ”
And there it was. She and I both heard it. I paused to let it to sink in both our hearts.
Charis handed the bag over, and we both had a laugh and talked with our mouths full of popcorn. But I kept coming back to that thought.
Everything I have comes from the Father. Every. Thing.
Is my posture quick to share when He asks? Is my heart quick to give back to Him ?
Or do I defend, or hoard, or protect, and argue that “this is mine?”
I am talking about every thing in my life. Money, skill, creativity, time, family, comfort, stuff, wisdom, laughter, joy, friendship.
It is all His. Given by Him for our enjoyment, for our good. He has all kinds of surprises for us. Our job?
Say thank you. And share.
Okay that’s all today. Just do a heart check. Are you really grasping that the breath you just took to read this was a gift? We are all so rich is so many ways. So pass the popcorn— without whining.
“Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17
I had this chilling God moment. The kind when you are slicing potatoes one moment and weeping the next.
It started with a conversation a few days before. A friend made the comment that she was disappointed in God. She is hurting after some very tough life circumstances; it is a feeling we can all relate to at one time or another. But the overarching belief for this wounded soul is that God has abandoned her. Forsaken her.
Every time she says this, it causes a spiritual tsunami in my soul. Her words trigger a flood of memories of desperate times in my own life, times of blatant sin, wrenching heartache, unmet dreams, or even waiting in-the-tension prayers. Yet through them all, God’s faithfulness was truly my only hope. Her unbelief grieves me.
I empathize with her hurt and questions — been there and done that. But what separates our path is I took those same questions and hurt right back to Him. Where else would I go? Who else could help me?
How could I run away from the only life and love I have ever known?
So with compassion but with relentless confidence, I continue to declare God’s faithfulness to my friend. I trust He will woo her in time. I pray for my friend, and for us all, to become more steadfast, more determined to believe in the goodness of God.
Then God invaded my kitchen.
I had been listening to a “classic” song called, “Arise, My Love.” This song is so powerful and we sang it often in the church I was saved in.
Fast forward twenty plus years and I hear a line in that familiar song for the first time:
Could it be that His Father had forsaken him?
Suddenly I was overwhelmed by the Spirit. I heard my friend talk about being forsaken, but then I saw Jesus walk over and lay down in the grave. The words “Never Forsaken” were pressed into my heart.
And the thought came to me, did Jesus really believe that God had forsaken him?
“Could it be that His Father had forsaken him?
Turned his back on His Son, despising our sin.
All hell seemed to whisper, “Just forget Him, He’s dead.”
My friend sounded like this. Just forget Him, He’s dead. What about you? When you are broken and beaten beyond recognition, how do you take the next step? Who do you go to?
The Spirit continued our tutorial. What would prompt a man to die for others except for the hope of something greater to be gained? In this holy moment, the Spirit showed me that there is only one reason Jesus was able to lay his body down. For me. For you. For all the world’s sin.
He was to willing to suffer and die and lay down because of one thing—He trusted His Father’s Heart. In my download, I saw Jesus laying in the tomb. WAITING.
Jesus was so confident of the Goodness of God that He was willing to give everything, lose everything, because He knew without a doubt that His Dad, Our Dad, would whisper, “Arise. My Love.”
How then can we ever repeat the enemy’s lie? Forget Him. He’s Dead.
How can we ever say we have been forgotten, or abandoned, or forsaken if we truly see Jesus laying down in the grave, full of faith, confident in the Power of Love.
When Jesus said, “never will I leave you or forsake you,” He meant that with every fiber of His Holy Being. We are Never Forsaken. Hallelujah! The grave could not hold the king.
“The Earth trembled
and the tomb began to shake,
and like lightening
from Heaven the stone was rolled away.
And as dead man
the guards they all stood there in fright
As the power of love
displayed its might
Then suddenly a melody
filled the air
Riding wings of wind,
it was everywhere
The words all creation
had been longing to hear
The sweet sound of victory,
so loud and clear.
Arise, my love.
Arise, my love.
The grave no longer has a hold on you.
No more death’s sting
no more suffering
Sin, where are your shackles?
Death, where is your sting?
Hell has been defeated.
The grave could not hold the king.”
Arise My Love by Newsong
Art Source: unknown
To state the obvious, it is spring. And yet— it is so much more. We are witnessing the natural world sing “Hosanna!” to the Risen King. Every year, no matter when Easter Sunday falls, early in March, or late in April, the trees and flowers come to life to celebrate, to declare, to remember Jesus. They welcome Him as much as we do. It is good for me to remember that He is not just our Savior but all of creation’s hope too.
I am simply star-struck this year. The beauty that will not be denied. The buds that winter cannot hold back. The praise that can not be silenced. Even this morning reading Isaiah, I see it again and again. We dare not we miss this obvious awakening.
Remember these things, O Jacob,
and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
22 I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.
23 Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it;
shout, O depths of the earth;
break forth into singing, O mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it!
For the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
and will be glorified in Israel. Isaiah 44 ESV
And what of us? Do we see it? Do we regard the displays of beauty as a Holy Conversation? Does this grateful Creation song of worship move us to worship as well? I don’t mean, “oh that tree is beautiful.”
I mean. “I see your praise for the Resurrected King and I join you. Thank you Jesus for coming!”
Maybe I have been reading too much Narnia. Or maybe we are lulled to a sleep by selfishness. But if the trees sing, and the rocks cry out, how can we stay silent?
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.
Let us glorify the Lord of Lords.
As you recall, we are talking about living “from” the expression on Jesus’s face. (See Part 1) How you see Him looking at you is paramount to your intimacy. Allow me to tell you two stories to put things in perspective.
I was a bewildered new mom fumbling along the parenting path when an older dad gave me this great piece of advice. “When your toddler falls down they will look at you. Make sure you smile. If you panic, they will panic. If you smile, or clap your hands, and tell them they are okay, they will react the same. They may cry for a minute, but if you don’t make a big deal out of it, neither will they.”
(Thank you, Michael Patrick!)
So sure enough, Salem would fall down and look for me or daddy. She would search our faces and we would smile really big, and say in a happy voice “Hey baby, you are okay. Get back up!” And she would whimper a moment and get back up.
This also worked with getting the girls out of their cribs. In the morning or at after nap times, they searched my face to get a temperature of their world. So I consciously tried to smile and welcome them, regardless of my own inner reality. Spills and messes? Same technique. We wanted them to know mistakes were okay. They didn’t have to be skiddish or fearful but to simply get up and begin to clean up. It really created peace in the middle of momentary chaos. In all these situations, we set the tone for our children. Do you get it? Our expression of love and devotion directed their actions and reactions.
I would love to say I carried that idea into my whole of parenting. I did not —particularly as they got older and were “in trouble.” When they blew it big, so did I.
Often, I lost the whole notion of how my expression impacted these little learning human beings. And of course, they learned to watch my face when they got in trouble at school or church, or with their friends. Only it wasn’t a good thing. It was a fearful thing. They anxiously approached me because, “Mom, I was afraid you’d get mad at me…” In their greatest moment of need, in their sin, they were afraid of me.
Does this sound familiar to you? To the way you approach God?
God did bring a parenting breakthrough but that’s for later. Here is another story of watching someone’s expression. It’s a familiar story but let’s zoom in on a few details.
Jesus predicted that Peter would deny even knowing him three times before the rooster crowed. While Jesus was being tormented and tried, Peter stood outside in the courtyard around a fire. Three times Peter cursed at people who claimed he had been with Jesus and Luke 22 says, “Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.”
In this story we often focus on Peter, his failure, how he “wept bitterly.” We can relate to Peter.
But God. I want to focus on the expression on Jesus’s face…
Was he surprised? Disappointed? Shocked? Clearly not, since Jesus told Peter in advance what Peter would do.
Was he angry? Ready to punish? Clearly not, or he would have betrayed Peter and had him on trial as well.
Was he — merciful? Full of the same love that He was getting ready to pour out on the cross?
Let your mind imagine His holy expression. Jesus was devoted to his mission, Even in this moment, pre-crucifixion. His mission: To close the gap between God and man. To remove once and for all the shame that stained the soul of the whole of creation. To display the overwhelming love of God.
Can we handle the Look of Love in middle of our failure?
God understands, more than we do, that we most need mercy when we fail the most. Some powerful moments of healing happened with God in the middle of my sin. One time the Lord told me, “Jana don’t try to hide your sin from Me anymore. I would rather be with you while you sin, than you running away and pretending like I am not there. Stay with Me.”
In the garden, the man and woman sinned and they hid. For fear of punishment. And they were indeed banished. But all that has changed. “Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied ”
Now in Christ, through the redeemed garden of Gethsemane, we don’t hide when we sin but we run to the Father. We look for the expression on His face. We know that just as Jesus looked on Peter with love and mercy, we find the same loving Eyes looking on us. We are not banished, but our fear is. His perfect love banishes, drives out, the fear in us.
So for today, consider where you go when you blow it? Do you hide? Run? Do you turn away from God and go outside and weep bitterly? Ashamed of yourself so God must be too?
Perhaps, one of the greatest things that ever happened to Peter was his ultimate failure. I think it was an incredible gift to us all. Why? Because after his failure, Peter realized what Jesus knew all along.
Jesus’s love was not based on Peter’s actions, but flowed from His Father’s endless, merciful, gracious Heart. Hallelujah.
“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:5
More to come…
Art by Salem Spicka