November 26, 2009

times and seasons

Isaiah 43:1-3
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you... he who formed you...
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
When you walk through the fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you"

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i think it's understood that the prerequisite for healing is being wounded or unwell. let's go from there.

since everyone has wounds, we're in this together. it can be that part of you that goes (and will continue to go) unmentioned. there are so many different kinds of venues for hurt. the seas of doubt, untold secrets, all kinds of painful memories, loss or fear or insecurities that can rage inside. other hurt is in the form of calloused, numb and cracked parts that exist like embers of an old fire in a slow burn from a once furious blaze. it's exhausting. it's lonely.

HARK. "You, my brothers, were called to be free!" Galatians 5:13

the beautiful part of the family of God is what happens in it when a member suffers. the norm of suffering, of course, is to attend to the hurting individual, 'make the bleeding stop', and comfort them in their pain. there's a next step that i've seen and am blessed by within the "family" context: Love joins into another's suffering. Furthermore, I believe God gives us examples and heroes of our faith to guide us through our suffering. God uses others to minister to us when we suffer.

Jeremiah 3:15 'I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding'

It's hard to believe that the pain we feel is beneficial. I think most of the time I don't trust that "God has a plan for my life". Our society tells us that 'what goes around comes around' and that we offended someone, and 'making amends' will solve the trouble of suffering. There is no doubt that making amends will aid in the process of healing, however, true heart healing comes from .

In May of this year, I sat on a bed in a small one-room building in the beautiful land of Jamaica, reunited with my dear friend Agnes after 5 years. After singing a few songs with her from her small, well-used black hymn book, she asked that I read Ezekiel 37 to her. Though I don't know that I had never read this passage on "The Valley of Dry Bones" before, after reading it aloud for her, I was blown away by the message that Agnes held so dear in the confines of the infirmary where she lived.

Ezekiel 37
God asks:
"Son of Man, can these bones live?" (v.3)
Textbook answer:
"Oh Lord God, you know" (v.4)
God's promise:
"I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live... you shall know I am the Lord...." (v.5)
Our disbelief:
"Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost; we are clean cut off" (v.11)
God's repeats:
"I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live... then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it" (v.14)

Agnes: "Amen... Praise God... yes... shall live!! Amen..."

My Jamaican sister, sitting on the same bed for the last 5 years and probably many more previously, finds hope in knowing that her dry bones, her present suffering, is not the end for her. Her God has promised restoration and claiming this as her very own, Agnes rejoices in her present suffering.

Isaiah 5:8 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts"

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Healer - by: Kari Jobe

you hold my every moment
you calm my raging seas
you walk with me through fire
and heal all my disease

i trust in You

i believe you're my healer
i believe you are all i need
i believe you're my portion
i believe you're more than enough for me
Jesus, you're all i need

nothing is impossible for You
You hold my world in Your hands

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Isaiah 51:11
"And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorry and sighing shall flee away"

darkness defeated

Zephaniah 3:17 "The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing."

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to be forsaken in weakness has got to be the darkest place. like being kicked when you're already down. "not only do i identify as weak, someone knows that about me, and on the basis of my weakness, i'm rejected and alone".

we live in a quick-paced, cut-throat society that doesn't understand the meaning of grace or mercy. if you're falling behind, you double-time it back on track. if you're Superman or the female equivalent, you pull all that off before anybody notices. otherwise, our power-hungry society has judged, shamed and forgotten about you.

it's good to know that there's a Champion of our cause. a forgiving and wonderful Father that welcomes us into His arms every time we turn to Him. we are granted shelter and awarded grace and mercy through faith in Jesus. it's a never-ending, fierce love that Jesus covers us with.

Hosea 2:19-20a
"I will make you lie down in safety, I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness, and in justice, and in steadfast love and in mercy... in faithfulness".

Romans 5:4+5
"..we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance... endurance produces character... character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

so what of those living in fear, darkness and shame? our brothers and sisters, our friends, parents, acquaintances, and the man we walk past on the street everyday. i think as ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor 5), its on us to be the ones reaching out and extending love to those trapped in the darkness of failure, or addictions to work, power, money, substance, and all kinds of other crafty traps. everyone's got dark corners. everyone. however, identifying the darkness isn't what we're called to. we're called to bring the light to dark places. to shine and love and be gracious to one another.

2 Corinthians 2:15
"For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing."

Ecclesiastes 4:10
"If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But, pity the man who falls and has no one to help him."

The truth is that we are saved from condemnation and are never in the position to administer justice, wrath or shame on others. We are freed slaves of sin. Let us, in our freedom, knowing that Jesus has loved us and "rises to have mercy on us", be agents of that Light we've seen.

Chronicles 7:14 (God talking)
"if my people, who are called by my Name... shall humble themselves... pray, seek, crave and 'require of necessity' my face... and turn from their wicked ways, then, I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and... heal their land."

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You Are for Me - Kari Jobe

so faithful, so constant
so loving and so true
so powerful in all you do

you fill me, you see me
you know my every move
you love for me to sing to you

I know that you are for me
I know that you are for me
I know that you will never forsake me in my weakness
I know that you have come down
Even if to write upon my heart
To remind me of who you are

so patient, so gracious
so merciful and true
so wonderful in all you do

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Ephesians 3:16-18
"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 that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ."

November 11, 2009

face down

PJ: what's the theme?
Me: it's about finding your place flat on your face...

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I Chronicles 16:11, 27-36
King David's (& Rachel's) Song of Thanks
"Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength... the glory due his name;
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth;
yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations,
"The Lord reigns!"
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult and everything in it!
Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord,
for he come to judge the earth.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!"

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Joshua 5:14-15
Commander: "...I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come."
Joshua: (falls on his face 'to the earth') "What does my lord say to his servant?"
Commander: "Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy"

I think there's a beautiful truth that is acted out when people hit the dirt in God's presence. Sometimes all of a sudden we are struck by the contrast of God's greatness and our insignificance, and our efforts are in vain as we can't get low enough. Face down. Silent. Pleading. Surrendered.

There's a thick blank page at the back of my Bible (after the maps) where I write one-liners from songs, Bible verses, authors or speakers that have stood out to me, and there I have a list of people who found themselves face down in God's presence. Good examples of sinners saved by grace like Abraham (Genesis 17:3), Moses (Numbers 20:6), David (1 Chronicles 21:16), Ezekiel (1:28), Daniel (10:15), Peter, James & John (Matthew 17:6), the whole nation of Israel (Leviticus 9:24) and Heaven (Revelations 4:9-11). This list, if nothing else, reminds me that humbling myself before God is a practice of those who have gone before me.
I remember being 17 year old and almost tripping over my dad in a low-traffic area of the sanctuary of the church we had attended for 7 and a 1/2 years, who had found his rightful posture between a couple pews, face down before his King. I don't think I had ever seen someone "prostrated before the Lord" before. I remember feeling like I wanted him to get up. I wanted him to look strong, not hurt, not broken, and as "put together" as possible, thank you. But, instead, seeing my dad seeking God this way, completely undone and humbled, taught me a beautiful lesson of God's presence. Everything bows before Him, our King; people, broken, leaders, pride, prestige, power... all of it in all of us.

"Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!" Psalm 96:9

"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe..." Hebrews 12:28

Jesus' presence among sinners on earth must have been just so confusing to those following him around. It's hard to understand for me too. So, He had to come if we were to have a way to know God, but WHY would he come? How can he love me so much when I'm so broken? ugly? dirty? Does he know that I'm going to mess this up down the road? I'll forget that this gift is so precious, and I'll forget to love Him the way I ought to. I'll come before Him with clanging cymbals and feel pretty confident that I'm loving the way I 'ought to', but I'll be hurting Him.

Praise God for restoration, and one who intercedes for our cryptic messages of confession, adoration and thanksgiving.

"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day... a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11

"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean.." Hebrews 10:22

"... the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." Isaiah 51:11

Jesus asks that we come to him just as we are, with faith, believing that we can be made well in His atonement for us, sacrifice and merciful love.

There is grace abounding in His presence.

"daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace" - Jesus (Luke 8:48)

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Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.
- David (1 Chronicles 29:11-13)

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Here in Your Presence (Desperation Band, New Life Worship)

Found in your hands, fullness of joy
Every fear suddenly wiped away
Here in Your presence
All of my gains now fade away
Every crown no longer on display
Here in Your presence

Heaven is trembling in awe of your wonder
The kings and their kingdoms are standing amazed

Here in Your presence,
We are undone
Here in Your presence
Heaven and earth become one
Here in Your presence
All things are new
Here in Your presence
Everything bows before you

Wonderful, Beautiful,
Glorious, Matchless in every way