The Necessity of Little Deaths

Wonderful insight by a friend of mine. Read, savor, pray.

Awed by Grace

In a recent blog, I wrote about how good things are not always good things; sometimes we have to let go of things/people/places that were once great because God is no longer calling us to those things. I wanted to continue writing about sacrifices with a little help from Elizabeth Elliot:

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Living True

Honesty is the best policy – George Washington (or so they told me in kindergarten)

Truth is more than saying true. It’s more than not telling lies.

It’s living true. It’s a life that is whole, authentic, and genuine. A life whose actions do not contradict its values.

As a Christian, my values are what God defines in His word. God has an objective truth for our purpose. It’s to bring Him glory in every part of our lives. Every part. Even the mundane routine. The waking up and eating breakfast and morning devotion and attending class and meeting people and the coming in and lying down and sleeping. And the study time and the play time and the learning time and the correction time and the times of success and the times of embarrassment and the times of joy and the times of painful sorrow and the times of desire and the times of contentment. Every time and every piece should be a homophonic melody with one theme. May I glorify God in everything life brings. May I trust Him faithfully, love Him passionately, thank Him regularly, and obey Him joyfully by loving and serving those around me. May He be magnified through me.

Jesus lived true. Jesus’s value was complete obedience to His Father’s will. Living untrue would be living for his self-promotion, his own self-glorification.

Ah, how many times does the latter vie for our attention? We begin looking inside ourselves for our purpose. We attempt to seek fulfillment in careers, in relationships, in material possessions and status. We begin using our own ever-changing hearts as a meter stick for morality. Our eyes become unseeing mirrors reflecting self.

Our values don’t match our actions 100%.

To live the lie is to live a life of hypocrisy. Worship with no heart. Outward smoke with no inward flame. Loving some yet withholding forgiveness to others. Living selflessly toward some yet treasuring jealousy and envy to others. Trusting God with the simple, yet worrying about the complex (as if there is a difference). Valuing God’s kingdom yet investing little. Loving others, but not nearly as much as ourselves. No genuine eternal value in good deeds, just the falsity of self-driven righteousness. A look towards God and a fixation on self.

A true life looks the same in every situation. Under pressure, in comfort, in want. There is one source of life and one motivation. There is no taint from the world. When the heart sees, the hands give and the feet are swift to move. A true life has one Love. A true life is authentic in its desire and pursuit of God. It is obedient to the commands of Jesus to love. It is genuine in its feelings and quest for knowledge of Him.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17

Jesus lived this kind of true life. Many times he faced people trying to get him to show off that He was the Messiah. One such time was with his own brothers in John 7:

Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.”  For not even his brothers believed in him.

 Yeah Jesus, show off! Bring glory to yourself! Establish yourself as the Messiah! You know you want to!

But Jesus didn’t go with them. His exaltation as the Messiah wasn’t going to be in personal glory or fame. His time for glory was going to be at Passover. Not now. His glory was going to be at the cross.

But he did go to the festival secretly later. He taught, and people questioned Him, as they always seemed to. His response to the peoples’ questions is insightful to His true life.

If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. John 7:16-17

Jesus didn’t let the opportunity for popularity or fame or riches blind His eyes to His purpose. His purpose wasn’t the pride of life. It wasn’t boasting in His abilities. It wasn’t boasting in His possessions – though He was Creator of the world. His purpose was the will of His father.

Oh, how convicting this thought is! There is sometimes a gap between what I know to be true and what I actually live. What I know to be of ultimate value, worthy of pursuit and the lesser things of the world I desire. I may look toward God, but one look at the world is one too many a time. But, that is why grace is so amazing. Jesus came to redeem, to make whole and to make genuine His bride. I want to seek the glory of Him who redeemed me, and be freed from all falsehood.

Jesus promises to be a teacher to me. A teacher is never needed if students already know everything there is to know. And a teacher is delighted in and thanked when a student masters a difficult objective. Similarly, we can worship our Lord when He graciously teaches us by exposing our untrue living and guides us toward himself. He is our Savior from ourselves.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25: 4,5

Truth is not only knowing rightly but living homogenously. Living with action upon one’s morals and values is not distinctively Christian, but when loving and glorifying God is our ultimate value, it is decisively Christ-exalting. Let’s pursue the knowledge of God to love and worship Him more fully and ask, as the apostle Paul did for the church in Ephesians 1:17, for “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.” Let’s make the psalmist’s petition of the Lord our own cry for purity and authenticity. Let’s close the gap between the truth we know and the truth we live by pursuing our sanctification by the Spirit of truth in the Word. As Jesus prayed for us: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17 Let us earnestly ask our infinitely wise Teacher how to love Him and His purposes better. How to live and walk in His paths. How to abide in Him and  bear fruit because of Him, to the glory of the Father.

Ask, seek, knock.

He promises the door will be opened.

Vessels of Love

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34, 35

This new commandment that Jesus gives his closest friends near the end of His earthly ministry is so beautiful. He has communicated His heart and mind to them daily for three years, walked with each of them through life’s difficult situations. He has seen the dirt and grime of their all-too-human depravity at times. He has rejoiced when they have seen the truth of His glorious nature. He has washed them in His words. (John 15:3) He has called each one by name, loved each one to the end, faithfully keeping each in His hand, shepherding each one in His flock. And now His time has come, and as the torturous crushing of the cross looms in the near future, he leaves His disciples with this new commandment.

Love one another.

 Think about this. It’s a simple statement, but don’t rush past it. Jesus’ commandment isn’t just another rule, but it is an identifier. It is a call to be! Disciples here are called to be vessels of grace to one another. Vessels of mercy, of forgiveness, of healing, of love.

 I have an idea of what love is, and you certainly do too, maybe quite different than me. But, how did Jesus Christ, Word-made-flesh, define love?

One place to find an answer, of course, is in 1 Corinthians 13.

I’d encourage you to slowly, meditatively, prayerfully read this list with a specific relationship in mind. You might even want to read it several times thinking about different people. Even consider those who might be considered enemies, for Jesus has called us to love them as well.

Love is…

  • patient
  • kind
  • not jealous
  • not boastful
  • not proud
  • not rude
  • It does not demand its own way.
  • It is not irritable.
  • It keeps no record of being wronged.
  • It does not rejoice about injustice.
  • Instead, it rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
  • Love never gives up.
  • Love never loses faith.
  • Love is always hopeful.
  • Love endures through every circumstance.

Am I never jealous? Do I never make a decision based out of selfish pride? Am I always hopeful in that person? Have I never been rudely unfeeling or unthoughtful? Do I always cast this person’s offenses off, or do I meticulously bookkeep each hurt? Am I quick to laugh, or do I easily get irritated? Do I grieve when an enemy is dealt an injustice? Am I trusting in God enough that things always don’t have to go “my way”?

Do I press on and endure, being there for them, showing unconditional love to them, no matter the circumstance or consequence?

As I type this, I am overwhelmed with how impossible this command is. This is an infinitely tall order!

In fact, without the Savior, I can’t love to this extent, not on my own. No amount of self-will could create this in consistency, much less the desire to do so.

Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12

2 Timothy 2:20-22 talks about being vessels of God’s spirit.

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Oftentimes our earthly vessels are fractured by our own sin, cracked by others’ injuries, or just broken in pieces by life’s experiences. My own self-promotion, self-preservation, vain conceit, failing at creating true beauty, leave shivers of sin in my vessel.When we try to come close and pour grace into others, our own sharp, painful broken shards end up injuring those we try to love. We are broken jars and unable fix ourselves. Despite our best intentions, without the Master’s skillful, healing hand we remain of little good use.

That’s why Jesus said that love, His risky, inconvenient, self-sacrificing, sin-destroying love, would be an identification for those who have been with Him. We can’t be this in ourselves!

Abide in me, and let me abide in you…If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

 Jesus loved Peter throughout his denial. He was patient with the brothers of Zebedee who tried to exalt themselves. Jesus saw past Matthew the tax collector’s reputation. Even in His dealings with those who didn’t walk by faith, He loved them enough to confront them with truth despite their reaction. Because He Himself “treats us not as our sins deserve” (Psalm 103:10) and was himself about to offer payment in blood for her sin, he did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. Jesus washed the grime off of his betrayer Judas’s feet too. He remained silent before the accusatory false witnesses in the course of events that lead to Calvary. And, in His greatest act of love, he gave himself up to the shame of the cross, allowing his flesh to be ripped from His body, his joints to be snatched out of socket, his blood to be poured out like water upon the dirt at the foot of the cross. While we mocked Him. Disbelieved Him. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another

 This is real. It could be uncomfortable, maybe painful.

But let’s love one another truly, deeply, as Jesus himself loved us. As Jesus washes the dirt and grime from our feet, let us share in His grace by washing one another’s feet. (John 13:14) Let’s find healing for our jagged slivers of brokenness in His presence and fellowship of His Spirit. Let’s ask Jesus, in prayer, that His words remain in us and enable us to bear the fruit of love. He has already promised that He will answer the prayer that comes from this pure heart (John 15:7). Let’s kneel before our Healer who restores our spirits to their original intention. As we love God with all our hearts, minds, and strengths, we will in fact be able to turn to our neighbors in love with the intentionality that we love ourselves .

 by this all people will know that you are mine

As a facet of a diamond dazzles light, the new birth of the redeemed reflects love that is without condition.

Living for His glory.

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:8

Finish The Race

 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”  Acts 20:22-24

Ever feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel?  Like you’re stuck in a never ending season with no way out.  I have, multiple times.  It’s like walking through life blind folded, it’s dark and it’s lonely.  It’s in these times of life that we have to decide if we truly trust God or not.  Is God who he says He is or is He not?

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Grace: The Defining Point

Grace (grās)

1. The exercise of love, kindness, mercy, favor; disposition to benefit or serve another; favor bestowed or privilege conferred.

To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee.

2. (Theol.) The divine favor toward man; the mercy of God, as distinguished from His justice; also, any benefits His mercy imparts; divine love or pardon; a state of acceptance with God; enjoyment of the divine favor.

    I spent my whole life growing up in churches where no matter what I did I was barely hanging onto the Soul Train, destination: Heaven.  I was taught that I was a terrible person who had to earn my way into heaven and if by the mercy of God I reached the end maybe just maybe my donation to the building fund would get me a “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  But if not, I had the fiery chasms of hell…

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Away in a Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,

The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

 The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,

The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.

I’ve sung about the manger year after year, but, for me, this Christmas the manger is a reminder of God’s extravagant grace in how he views His children.

For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV)

Imagine the Trinity in Heaven. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are perfectly happy in their complete communion. The host of angels continually singing praises to God Almighty never cease their worship. The praise is a deafening roar. Pure, blinding light of God’s glory envelops the entirety of heaven.

Who is more glorious and majestic than Almighty God?

Surely He could have placed His eternal Son-made-flesh in any location He deemed fittest. Jesus could have made his entrance in a luxurious palace, complete with attendants and servants anxiously awaiting his next request.

But, that wasn’t best.

 He could have at least been born at the inn in Bethlehem, where it would have been relatively sanitary and comfortable for both Him and Mary.

But that wasn’t best.

 What was God doing in the manger? What was the King of Heaven with thousands upon thousands of angel-worshippers doing in an animal’s trough?

Perhaps God’s purpose in the manger was to show that human labels don’t mean much to Him. Maybe the manger was meant to tear down man’s fabricated ideas of majesty.

That’s what is so beautiful to me about the manger. Jesus shows us from the very beginning that earthly circumstances are trivial when God is working His will. Many Jews were looking for a flashy Messiah-King who would relieve them of their very real painful government situation. But, God knew what they really needed. God knew what the whole world needed. God knew what you and I desperately need – salvation from our sin slavery.

God showed us that man’s labels are meaningless when He has a purpose.

Think about it. What is your reaction thinking of children born into a drug-using environment? What about those with abusive home life? What do their futures look like? What is the first thought that pops into your head when you see that homeless man huddled on the street corner all by himself? When you see that struggling family in Walmart with four sick little babies?

If you knew of a baby that had just been born, whose mom and dad put him in an animal’s trough, what would your knee-jerk response be thinking about the course of this little one’s life? Poverty, obscurity, pain, no-account?

Jesus lived that kind of life. (Isaiah 53) But, look at His kingdom now. Those temporary labels held not even a candlelight to eternity’s purpose.

Maybe you feel labeled by others. Maybe those labels are good! People tell you that you are influential, that you are smart, that your will go far in life. But, maybe those labels aren’t so good. Maybe you’ve been told that you are unwanted, that you are a failure, that you will never amount to anything, that you have it harder than most.

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1Corinthians 1:19-21)

The manger was a Great Leveler. The manger wasn’t just to show that God cares for the lowly, but really that all men are the same, regardless of manmade stickers of identification.

For God shows no partiality [undue favor or unfairness; with Him one man is not different from another].” (Romans 2:11 AMP)

Be encouraged (or be humbled). Only one Person’s approval matters. Only a blood-washed heart in communion with Christ holds weight for eternity. Being His disciple is the only label that holds a true identity.

May we say with Paul…

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

Let manmade labels we embrace be loosened from our clenched fists this Christmas, as we open our hands to the grace and freedom of being in Christ. It’s impossible to wear a robe of righteousness and chains of rejection at the same time.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. – Jesus

There is freedom from manmade labels and sin’s captive chains in Jesus’ name. It is my prayer you experience Christ’s freedom this Christmas.

Small Words, Little Wonders

Ah, the first blog post.

I stand here at the edge of the seashore, feeling very small. The sea of letters, words, phrases, feelings, and ideas of millions of fellow writers spreads before me. Some come crashing in with profound truths, piercing in style and crumbling egos with well-crafted prose. Still others hush the tremor of human frailty with a timely touch of encouragement.

And here am I. Welcome to my little cup that I will pour into the ocean.

Welcome to the sound of a small voice speaking amidst the shouting sea.

Welcome to Abide for Glory.

“Abide? Abide in what, in whom?”

Abiding in Him, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, the Vine. Jesus Christ, the source of life. Remaining in Him, as a tender green branch should. A little green branch whose nourishment is from one source alone – its Vine. A little green branch’s words are meaningless unless instructed from that one source. A little green branch’s good deeds dissipate into the mist without the power from the Source. A little green branch cannot produce fruit on it’s own.

 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. – Jesus

I lift my small cup into the breezy ocean mist. I can feel the pinging of the mid-afternoon rain now. My words will not be seasoned with years of lifetime experience. My words may not resonate with every reader every time. My words will fall short. My words will be stammered at times. But my cup is lifted in submission to my Source. My source, my Savior, is the one who has walked on these very waves spread out before my sight.

In faith, I will follow Him where He leads.

I lift my cup in surrender to the Sustainer. It’s His glory I’m after.

 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. – Jesus