“Come down from the cross!”

Whenever we are insulted and mocked for Christ’s sake it is a provocation to come down from the cross.

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. Matthew 27:39-42 

Come down from the cross! As Christians, we are to be crucified with Christ, and whenever we are insulted and mocked for Christ’s sake it is a provocation to come down from the cross. This is man’s remedy. It is man’s way to show strength. It is like kids in the schoolyard, “You say you’re so tough? Prove it! Come over here and fight!” It reminds me of this verse: 

And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Luke 9:51-55 

This was not the first time that Jesus had been tempted to prove himself, justify himself – glorify himself – with the words “IF you are the Son of God.” Turn these stones to bread! Throw yourself off the pinnacle of the Temple! Come down from the cross! But Jesus always remained fiercely focused on the will of his Father – the salvation of the world. Love kept him focused. Love kept him nailed to the cross.

Man’s remedy is to come down from the cross. To call down fire from heaven. But what did Jesus command? “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-44). I like how the Message translation puts it. 

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best–the sun to warm and the rain to nourish–to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. Matthew 5:43-45  

Jesus said that this loving-your-enemies thing, this giving like God gives is to be daily. And it can only happen if we deny that self that wants to call down fire. It can only happen If we have been crucified with Christ, if we stay there hanging on the cross with him. Daily. 

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily (throughout the day) and follow me.” Luke 9:23 

I am to be daily crucified with Jesus. Hidden in him, I am to be his witness. To be a representative of his love and forgiveness and salvation here on this dying earth. Henri Nouwen said it this way: 

“Whenever, contrary to the world’s vindictiveness, we love our enemy, we exhibit something of the perfect love of God, whose will is to bring all human beings together as children of one Father. Whenever we forgive instead of getting angry at one another, bless instead of cursing one another, tend one another’s wounds instead of rubbing salt into them, hearten instead of discouraging one another, give hope instead of driving one another to despair, hug instead of harassing one another, welcome instead of cold-shouldering one another, thank instead of criticizing one another, praise instead of maligning one another . . . in short, whenever we opt for and not against one another, we make God’s unconditional love visible.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with 

(rendered idle, unemployed, inactivate, inoperative, deprived of force, influence, power, caused to cease, severed, separated, loosed from us, put an end to, annulled, abolished, destroyed, made of no effect, vanish away, made void)

that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:6-7 

I love that! The old me is unemployed. The one who wants to come down from cross and curse and hate and malign is inactivated. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I encourage you – don’t come down from the cross. In this time of insults and mockery and hatred, don’t respond in kind. Stay there on the cross with your Lord. Take it up daily. Jesus said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”(John 12:31). That is our mission. To draw all men to Christ. To make God’s unconditional love visible. To give God’s best. To love and forgive and bless no matter what. To be crucified with Christ. 

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross 

Image, Coventry cathedral father forgive, by David Perry https://flic.kr/p/qfiB6r  

Unum Necessarium

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 

I have written about this verse before (see https://wrestlingwordblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/28/one-thing/ ), but God has been showing me some different facets of this hidden treasure. 

I always looked at this verse as Jesus pointing out something I was supposed to do or not do. Busyness vs. Contemplation. Works vs. Faith. I saw some kind of judgement on Martha and a holding up of Mary as an example. But is that what Jesus is really saying here? 

Service and missions and doing good works are good things, aren’t they? And we are called to these, aren’t we? Prayer and study and meditation on the word are life-giving and good for the building up of the body. But what is fundamentally needed, a necessity, necessary? What can’t I live without? What gives me life and breath and holds me together? If I was paralyzed and couldn’t communicate, if I was in a coma and couldn’t hear or even think. When I die and all that I have done in this life is left behind. What is the “one thing” that is necessary? In Latin it is called the Unum necessarium, and Douglas Taylor wrote of it this way: 

“It was a saying of former ages, Unum necessarium, ‘One thing is needful’, drawn from the Latin rendering of the Lord Jesus’ words to Martha in Luke 10:42, when she had shown herself ‘careful and troubled about many things’. In contrast with her care and agitation, there was actually only one thing truly necessary, and Mary had seen it and chosen it. But what was it, and what is it? Some say that it is ‘the contemplative life’, as opposed to mere activism; some take it to be salvation, some, repentance, some, regeneration, or new life in Christ. Who is right, or is the answer something else altogether?  
                                                                            … 

But what is the one thing needful? What had Mary chosen to do? Surely it was to listen to Christ’s words in a serious and believing way? Surely the implication is that the one thing needful is to receive and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, as he is revealed in Holy Scripture? Those who profess to be Christians disagree on many things. Some are important. Some are not. But one thing is absolutely indispensable, and surely all sincere and genuine Christians can agree on this: Christ himself, as he is revealed in the Scriptures, is the truly indispensable One. We need him absolutely and unconditionally. We hang on him; we depend on him. We are lost without him. He is the Unum Necessarium, the ‘one thing needful’, the Rock of our salvation. If we have him, we have everything. If we do not, we have nothing. Praised be his holy Name forever that he has had mercy on us!“i   

So, again, God is saying: it’s not me. I’m not the Wonderful One. It’s not what I do or say or think or write or even how fervently I believe. It is Jesus Christ my Lord. It is Him. It all – everything – always comes back to Him. In my heart, Christ in me, the hope of glory. It is Him, what he has already done on the Cross and which cannot be outdone or added to. Christ Himself. Could that be what Jesus was saying to Martha – and to Mary? Only one thing is needed and that is Me, and Mary has figured it out? It’s Jesus, the One who will be with us and for us and in us to the end and will dance over us with joyful singing on into eternity. 

You know, I always heard Jesus saying, “Martha, Martha,” shaking his head, as a gentle, but disappointed rebuke. However, recently I have learned that in the culture of Bible times, repeating the name was an expression of intimacy and affection. (See Bible.org https://bible.org/illustration/repeating-names) Think of “Abraham, Abraham” (Genesis 22:11), “Moses, Moses” (Exodus 3:4), “Simon, Simon” (Luke 22:31), “Saul, Saul” (Acts 9:4), and many more. 

 Maybe Jesus was not so much rebuking Martha for stressing out in doing her good service, but lovingly pointing her to the Way to do it. To dwell in him, find rest in him, to let him be strong in her and let his love do the loving through her. Pointing her, and me, and all of us, to the Unum Necessarium. 

Lord, I come, I confess 
Bowing here I find my rest 
Without You I fall apart 
You’re the One that guides my heart 

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You 
Every hour I need You 
My one defense, my righteousness 
Oh God, how I need You 

(Songwriters: Christy Nockels / Daniel Carson / Jesse Reeves / Kristian Stanfill / Matt Maher) 

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4  

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17 

i Posted 13th June 2011 by Douglas Taylor http://worksworthdeclaring.blogspot.com/2011/06/unum-necessarium.html 

Photo by Jack Bair

Inside the Heart

Again, this week, God had a message for me through the blogs and devotionals that I receive. I pray this blesses you too. And thank you to all you wonderful bloggers out there!

Have no motivation other than to know your Father in heaven … Prayer is not simply getting things from God— that is only the most elementary kind of prayer. Prayer is coming into perfect fellowship and oneness with God. If the Son of God has been formed in us through regeneration (see Galatians 4:19), then He will continue to press on beyond our common sense and will change our attitude about the things for which we pray. — Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, updated edition 

Fixing our eyes on Christ is the first step and the entire path of the Christian life. We don’t look to Christ in faith to be saved and then look to ourselves to persevere. We trust Christ alone as our Savior and look to Christ alone and follow Him as our Lord. In order to look to Christ as our Savior and Lord, we need new eyes and a new heart … As we grow in the grace and holiness of our Lord, being enabled by God’s free grace to die more and more unto sin and live unto righteousness, we’re called neither to fix our eyes on ourselves nor to fix our eyes on our own sins that entangle themselves around our ankles. We’re called to run with endurance by looking to Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith. We are united to Christ and are made able and willing to turn our eyes upon Jesus — away from ourselves — so that by looking to Him, we are motivated to joyful, cross-bearing obedience as we “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him . . . for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Col. 1:10–11). — Burk Parsons via Dr. Peter Cockrell, Already Not Yet   https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2020/09/16/fixing-our-eyes-on-jesus/  

The praise of peace 

The peace in praise 

Inside the heart is Jesus raised 

The ransom paid in love the cost 

So that my soul may not be lost 

I praise the peace in Him alone 

Forgiven sins He did atone 

In peace He holds me close to thee 

In praise I pray to constant be 

 — Sisylala  https://sisylala.wordpress.com/2020/09/15/the-praise-of-peace-the-peace-in-praise/  

Foxes have their holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head ~ Matthew 8:20 

Jesus, being all-knowing knew that the teacher of the law meant that he wanted to follow Jesus from place to place physically, yet Jesus wanted a place to abide- in the spiritual sense of the word. Jesus wanted the teacher of the law to ‘realise that I am in the Father, and you are in me and I am in you’ (John 14:20). In other words, Jesus was beckoning for the man to, ‘Remain in me, and I will remain in you’ (15:v4) … Once we accept Jesus and His Holy Spirit lives in us, then we become God-carriers. Paul writes, ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price’ (Galatians 6: 19-20) … we are like an empty shell without God in us. — Mulyale Mutisya   https://carolynemutisya7.wordpress.com/2020/09/16/foxes-have-their-holes/   

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19 

[All added emphasis mine.]

Image, “Empty Shell Close Up” Pixabay2018 

Bread for the Eater

The character of God is to give life, to heal and restore and repair.

“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 talks about the difference between the natural thinking of people and God’s thoughts or wisdom. It ends by asking the “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” This is a quotation from Isaiah 40:13. In Isaiah’s day there was no answer to the question, or the answer was “no one.” But here Paul says, “But we have the mind of Christ.” The Amplified Bible translates it this way: “But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart.” Precious, amazing grace if we will receive it.

In 1 Corinthians 3:19 it says, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” The word translated futile means: empty, profitless, vain, vanity, an idol. This is another quotation from the Old Testament.

The LORD knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile (empty, vain, a breath or vapor).  Psalm 94:11

The Hebrew word for futile also has behind it the meaning of idolatry. About this Hebrew word the TWOT says:

“Of particular interest here are the parallel verses Jer 2:5 and 2Ki 17:15; They went after vanities and “became vain.” (NIV: “They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.”) Two inexorable principles are illustrated here: (1) every man takes on to some degree the character and nature of the God he worships; (2) the characteristic of all false gods is that they destroy their worshippers.” — Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament

As the character of God is to give life, to heal and restore and repair, the character or essence of the idol is to destroy, not just the idolater, but also all those around – even those we are trying to “love.” So, it seems very important for us to have the mind of Christ that we might become like him – to pursue knowing God’s thoughts, what is important to God, what God desires and what pleases Him.

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. 1 Corinthians 3:18-19

And in this world, especially right now, we will seem like fools when we choose God’s thoughts and ways. But, I know that the only thing that God will destroy in us when we surrender to him is our destroying idols. To us he gives life, not just us only, but also life to all those around us, giving “seed for the sower and bread for the eater.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive (idol, pain, sorrow, wicked) way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:8-11

Lord, search me, destroy every idol. Make me like you. Be in me Bread for the eater. Give me the mind of Christ.

Image by Heartlight https://www.heartlight.org/articles/201703/20170304_worthy.html

In the Middle

Maybe we can be meta too, naming each other as our mission – beloved, neighbor, brother, sister.

There [at Golgotha] they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. John 19:18

Jesus in the middle. This verse struck me a different way as I read it today. Jesus was suffering there in the middle of fallen humanity at its worst. In Matthew the two men on either side of Jesus are called thieves. The word is lestes and means robbers, plunderers. According to NetBible Study Notes, Josephus used the term lestes for the Zealots who revolted against Roman rule. Barabbas was a lestes (John 18:40).

In Luke the two men crucified on either side of Jesus are called criminals, evildoers malefactors. Here, in John, they are just “others.” I think John is saying it doesn’t matter what they did. What matters is how they responded to Jesus as they hung there dying with Jesus in the middle.

The word translated middle is mesos = in the middle, in the midst, among. Jesus came and lived and died in the middle. He lived with them, ate with them, walked with them. Loved them. He had compassion on them. He wept with them. “This man welcomes sinners.”

Mesos comes from meta, which means “with, accompanying, amid.” Meta-data is the data or information that accompanies something – the name and ingredient list of a product. The “about the author” blurb on a book jacket. The track list accompanying an audio file.

Jesus is mesos, in our midst. Always there. Suffering with us. Jesus is meta. He is with us. He accompanies us all the way. He names us – Child of God. He tells us what we are made of, what is in us. When we respond as the man on the cross beside Jesus did, in repentance and faith, we are a new creation. We have the mind of Christ. We have a spirit given us not of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. We become part of his body. We have the Holy Spirit indwelling us. The Kingdom of God is within us. His word is in our mouths. His love in our hearts

He lived and died with us, and he wants us to die – be crucified – with him, and with all the thieves and criminals and the others. All the messed up, hopeless, dying ones. And he wants us to be resurrected as a new person and live loving them just as he did – to be mesos alongside Jesus as he is alongside them. Maybe we can be meta too. Naming Him as our testimony – Emmanuel, God With Us, Savior, Redeemer. And naming each other as our mission – beloved, neighbor, brother, sister.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

You know what is very cool? The word translated “crucified” in this verse is a different word from the word translated “crucified” in John 19:18. Jesus was crucified=stauroo. We are crucified=sustauroo. Stauroo means to impale on a cross, to stake, drive down stakes. Sustauroo means to impale in company with, crucify with. In company with Jesus. With Him alongside. Jesus in the middle.

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with [meta] me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

Image from FreeBibleimages.org

My Host

Our prayer becomes a prayer of the heart when we have localized in the center of our inner being the empty space in which our God-filled mind can descend and vanish, and where the distinctions between thinking and feeling, knowing and experience, ideas and emotions are transcended, and where God can become our host. “The Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21), Jesus said. The prayer of the heart takes these words seriously. – Henri Nouwen

One phrase really struck me from this quote: “God can become our host.” In my heart, God the host. I usually think that in the opposite way – that I am hosting God.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

I have thought that if I condescend to open the door and let him in, I can be his gracious host. When all the grace comes from him. And if I have given my heart to him, he is my host. Given as in:

Give: to make a present of; to put into the possession of another for his or her use[i]

Wow, that takes all control away, but also all decision-making and stress. I really stress about hosting anything. I fret about things like, what am I going to serve? How do I cook it? How should I decorate the table? When should the guests arrive? ​ So God being the host really resonated with me. If God is the host, if our hearts are his now, it’s all up to him.

We become the guest in our own hearts. He lays out the banquet – or not. We sit at the table, or maybe, we serve.

 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

 

[i] Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Image by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

Roadkill

Finding your life in the things of this world is like feeding on roadkill at the side of the path to true Life.

Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” “Where, LORD?” they asked. He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” Luke 17:35-37

In Luke chapter 17, verses 20-37, Jesus talks about his second coming. I don’t think the Pharisees or his disciples, who are listening, comprehend that yet. They still think he is going to come with his kingdom then and there and release them from Roman oppression.

I’ve always wondered about this part of Luke, especially Jesus’ enigmatic statement at the end:

“Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” Luke 17:37

The Pharisees ask him “when?” When will the Kingdom of God come? The disciples ask him, “where?” Where is all this going to happen? Jesus doesn’t answer them as they want, because they are focused on the physical world, on time here on earth and things they can see and touch. But Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation,” but rather, “the kingdom of God is within you.” The Kingdom is outside of place and time.

The “when” will happen when your heart is right with God. The “where” will be there in your heart. He warns them that if they keep looking to find the kingdom – relief from the Romans, freedom, prosperity – here on earth they will be fooled by false Christs. It’s not going to happen like you think it should or how you would like. “But first he [the Son of Man] must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation” (Luke 17:25).

He tells (Luke 17:26-28) of how in Noah’s day and in Sodom’s day the people were focused on the kingdom of the earth – eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building – right up until the end, and were caught unawares. I think maybe that is the “dead body” Jesus is talking about – the kingdom of this earth. And the people who feed on that death – whose “life” comes from those things only – are the vultures. In contrast Jesus said that he was the Life.

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. John 6:53

Finding your life in the things of this world is like feeding on roadkill at the side of the path to true Life. The ones who are looking down, focused on feasting on the roadkill will be left to it. The ones who are looking up, focused on Him, his Life, his coming, will be taken. But the “where” and the “when” really don’t matter to them because Jesus and his Kingdom are already there in their hearts. Let’s allow him to pry our love and focus off this earth. Let’s look up.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:2-4

When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Luke 21:28

 

 

Image by Larry Lamsa, Road Kill – Dining on Deer https://flic.kr/p/exeqos

You Shall Love, I Promise

What if I really believed this? How would it change how I live?

The final secret, I think, is this: that the words “You shall love the Lord your God” become in the end less a command than a promise. And the promise is that, yes, on the weary feet of faith and the fragile wings of hope, we will come to love him at last as from the first he has loved us—loved us even in the wilderness, especially in the wilderness, because he has been in the wilderness with us. He has been in the wilderness for us. He has been acquainted with our grief. —Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember

This idea has really captivated my mind – that all of those Old Testament laws, all of those “shalls” and “shall nots” could be looked on as promises, not as commands. As even the longing cry of God: Someday you will love me with all your heart and all your mind and all your strength. Someday you will love your neighbor as yourself. I promise!

Jesus said, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17 NLT). Jesus made it possible for me to do the “shalls” in him and through him. He did this by making me a new creature, by changing my heart, by making it possible for me to come into the Presence of the Father and know him.

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” Hebrews 11:14-17 (NIV)

He has put his law in our hearts. He has given us new hearts, new minds, the mind of Christ. He has given us grace and power to obey his will, to truly know him, to truly love him.

What if I really believed this? How would it change how I live? It would set me free. If I truly believed that God is not a fierce judge, giving me impossible things to accomplish, just waiting for me to trip up, but a loving Father who is by my side, walking through this wilderness with me. A loving Father holding out his arms to this (still) toddler-me, saying, “Come on, you can do it! You shall love!” I would fearlessly go out there and love – not love to be noticed and acclaimed, not love to be accepted and loved back, not love to please people, not love to earn Brownie points, not love to finally “get it right.” But just freely love to please God, to know the joy that it gives Him.

And if I was rejected, taken for granted, ignored, dissed, insulted, criticized, misunderstood, it would not make me stumble as long as my eyes were fixed on his loving face and my ears attuned to his joyful, encouraging voice.

So, you and me, let’s not give up. Don’t despair. Keep going “on the weary feet of faith and the fragile wings of hope” through this wilderness. Trust in him. Keep running into his open arms. You shall learn to love the Lord your God. You shall love.

The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. Deuteronomy 30:6 (NIV)

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20 (MSG)

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. John 3:17 (NASB)

 

Photograph by Jack Bair, copyright 2019, all rights reserved.

Opening Windows

God doesn’t want me to close and hide what’s inside, pretending I have it all together. He’s never been big on “safe” either. He wants the windows open so His light in me can shine out, despite the interior mess it illumines.

I have done nothing but open windows – God has done all the rest … [I resolved] to be as wide open toward people and their need as I am toward God. Windows open outward as well as upward! Windows especially open downward where people need most! – Frank Laubach, Letters by a Modern Mystic

He [the saint] wants himself to be simply a window through which God’s mercy shines on the world. – Thomas Merton, Life and Holiness

This idea of simply “opening the windows” was a hard one for a performance and approval junkie like me to grasp. It has been a revelation and healing to me as I tend to think I have to be wonderful, accomplish wonderful things, be perfect, be the savior somehow.

I chose the above photograph of an open window for this post because the room shown reminds me of the inside of my head, my soul – a big, falling apart, scarred, paint-peeling mess. All that indecipherable graffiti yammering away, images of bad things from my past I don’t want to remember. My instinct is to close the windows and curtain the mess – but make sure the outside looks good. And yet, God seems to want me to keep the windows open, revealing it all to every passer-by.

God’s been teaching me the amazing grace of open windows lately as I visit people at the jail. I go feeling, and confessing to God, emptiness. I have nothing to give or say to them. But as I just ask him to speak through me, pray through me, love them through me and “open the windows” His love fills me and pours out, his words and prayers come to my lips, and his Spirit fills the cell. It doesn’t matter that I am a mess. I have found that my mess ministers to their mess. They rightly see the outward attempt at perfection as hypocrisy.

God doesn’t want me to close and hide what’s inside, pretending I have it all together. He’s never been big on “safe” either. He wants the windows open so His light in me can shine out, despite the interior mess it illumines. That can only happen by his grace and when the light in me is Jesus and his love. Christ in me the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

Mary accepts an unseen, unborn, and unknown love. She proclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord,” as if she herself knew she would be a window of grace letting through the light of God’s hidden love. – Suzanne Guthrie, Grace’s Window

Mary, the first to hold the glorious Light of Christ. The first to dare to open the window. And she proclaimed, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” “Magnifies” means to exalt, extol, laud, celebrate, declare great with my mouth. But it also means to magnify, enlarge, show great. My soul, my weakness, my falling apart mess, is a lens that magnifies God. It enlarges him to others; it shows how great he is by comparison. Like the night sky reveals the glory of the stars. All I have to do is be real, be vulnerable, let him love through me, open the window and let the Light out.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

Amazing! You are the light of the world. He was talking to us! We are the town built to have open-windowed houses. We are the lamp that has been lit by his light, and that was never meant to be hidden. The light is in you child of God. There are so many living in darkness today, living in hopelessness, thinking of (or tragically doing) suicide. They need your light.

Jesus commanded us to love as he had loved. Jesus was totally vulnerable. Jesus came to be the Light, to give hope in the darkness.

Frank Laubach said, “I have done nothing but open windows – God has done all the rest” We who have the light in us, let us open our windows.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

 

 

Image, Open Window by Keith Ellwood https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=open%20window%20keith%20ellwood

 

 

Love is My True Identity

To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.  -Thomas Merton

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16 (NIV)

For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3: 3 (NASB)

And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:5 (NLT)

Yes, Lord, fill my heart with your love. Let your love become my true identity, my name, my character. Let my life be hidden in you Jesus, let me live in love. May the world only see you and how much you love them when they look at me. May the words I say, the prayers I pray, the thoughts I think, the healing touch of my hands be yours – for you are Love.

 

Image copyright Jack Bair 2019