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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Life. Truly.

I really want to get it right.
Not wasted.
Not wandering.

The word Life in the New Testament is one of my favorites. It means “life, referring to the principle of life in the spirit and soul.” It’s different from physical life. It’s the inner you, the part that lives and struggles so often in secret. The second part of the definition for inner life is mind-blowing to me. It expresses “all of the highest and best which Christ is and which He gives to the saints… (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study New Testament, page 919).

Inner LIFE matters because it is where we first experience and reflect the Truth of Jesus. It’s where we receive His best gifts. Jesus-looking life on the outside has to first be experienced in the Inner Life – or it’s just wasted religion. This is my theme.

Over the past weekend I gathered at a beautiful cabin with a whole bunch of women. We were studying this idea. What does real life look like? How can we live a life that really matters?

Life can be so ordinarily draining. Do you ever feel like you can handle a crisis better than the monotony of everyday-ness? And while I jokingly teased about things I’m afraid of {a ridiculous conversation that included footie pajamas and clowns and should forever be filed under “you had to be there”}…the truth is that what I’m most afraid of is getting to the end of my life having wasted it. I dread being deceived into just enduring my life, being burdened down to the point that I merely survive it.

Our theme verse taught us to lay the “firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” 1 Timothy 6:19

In verses 12 and 19 we are told to "take hold of life." Which is a great idea until you try to do it and realize that your hands are already full.

Could it be that we can’t take hold of the inner life that we were created for because our hands are so full of junk? That "highest and best which Christ is" kind of life gets dumped in favor of what?….. {bitterness, control, fear, busyness, misunderstanding, bargaining, panic}.

There is a whisper that I often hear over my inner life. 
It has filled my head and hands for too long.
You’re not enough.

For many reasons, both real and imagined, I’ve lost ground to this whisper, which has at times been a shout. So I practice what I preach – and speak Truth over this lie, focus on my blessings, beg God for a new perspective….which usually lands me feeling guilty for complaining when there are so many people who really have reason to struggle. Does anyone hear me here?

But honestly, we all struggle. We do. It’s the life that kills LIFE. As I prepared to teach I was pushing through my insecurities and guilt trying to find a way to articulate what it means to “take hold of life that is truly life,” and was getting nowhere.

Until I saw this cross-reference from Philippians 2:7:

“Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, 
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 
but emptied himself, 
by taking the form of a servant, 
being born in the likeness of men.”

I am to take hold of Life, because Jesus took hold of me….
He took on human-ness, me.

And as I considered how hard I was trying to be enough and take hold of life…I realized something big.

I’m not enough.
I'm not.

I’d been fighting what I thought was a lie, but it’s just flat true. On my own I am not enough, I don’t have it in me to take hold of true eternal life. God knows that. And centuries before I was born He thought enough of me to make a way. Jesus, who already had Life, who WAS Life – took hold of me, so that I could take hold of Him. He gave me all the highest and best that He is. 
How. Why?
It's a miracle.
One that I daily minimize with my own wasted efforts.
  • Efforts to lose weight and manage my schedule,
  • To write more, and reach out to more college students,
  • To train up my children,
  • and be a blessing to our parents,
  • and be the best friend,
  • and the perfect pastor’s wife…never enough.

I was overwhelmed to see anew that there is one place where I am enough just as I am. Broken and worn out and Inside-Out Ugly; full of the insecurity and brokenness of selfish failed efforts and the comparison that feeds them. There is one place I am enough, and it’s in the grip of Jesus, who took hold of me. I am not enough for my husband, children, ministry, family, friends. I am enough for Jesus because though He was already the fullness of Life on His own, complete and whole, needing nothing from me; He simply chose me, and I am enough for Him. When I accept that and tuck into it and walk in it, my efforts are transformed and my life becomes something beautiful and influential and well-spent.

Back to retreat, as we shared and walked through these verses together I challenged the women to write down one or two things keeping them from having open hands to take hold of life that’s truly life.

The windows slowly were filled with sticky notes representing the Not Enough-ness and fear and addictions we were letting go…so that we could freely Take Hold of Life.

As "The Struggle" by Tenth Avenue North played, we resolved to empty our hands. 
So join us. 
Drop the efforts that are draining you and take hold of Life. 

“Hallelujah we are free to struggle,
we’re not struggling to be free.
Your blood bought and makes us children.
Children drop your chains and sing.”

“How? you ask. 
In Christ.
God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong,
so we could be put right with God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 MSG

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A "Timeless" Christmas Lesson

I was reading old journals a few weeks ago and found two whole weeks of old Christmas-time lessons. Four years old and largely forgotten, I dusted one off to share at a Christmas Party. Maybe some of you will find encouragement here.....

Just as a note, ALL the quotes are taken from the Study Notes in my ESV Study Bible. When I first studied this, my Bible was new and I was mildly obsessed with the notes - I'm still quite attached. If you don't have an ESV Study Bible, add it to your Christmas's not too late....there's still one week before Christmas!

Read Isaiah 9:1-7
What I learned as I studied is that God's people are approaching a very VERY dark time. When we read this chapter it's usually in the context of Christmas pageants or family readings and we miss the context. The people are living through or seeing on the horizon a terrifying inescapable darkness. So when Isaiah starts jacking with the time frame, we don't notice because it's ALL history to us, but they would've heard. Think about your most difficult dark place right now. Now imagine sharing that with someone who then says, "Well, way back when you went through that..." Absurd? I guess it depends on what else they say. That's what Isaiah does here: 
“In the former time” – “Isaiah’s vision projects his thoughts out of the tragic present as if it were already past.” (ESV Study Bible) “In the latter time He has made glorious” – “a past-tense verb, because the prophetic eye sees the future…”(ESV Study Bible)

Our present reality is already the past in God's view. And the future we fear is "latter time" to Him. He's bigger and stronger than the clock ticking in our ears. Can you trust God who sees beyond your tragic present?

Here is my journal entry from December 14, 2009. 
“How often do I believe God’s promise when my present is dark? He calls the present a “former time.” All the more reason to rest and TRUST even today!

Moving on in Isaiah 9. "On them the light has shined…” I learned that this is “not subjective wishful thinking but an objective, surprising joy breaking upon sinners through the grace of Christ.” (ESV Study Bible) 
When was the last time that something struck you as both objective and surprising? The best thing about an objective surprise is that you can see and measure and believe it! Here are some more treasures about Light.

Isaiah 42:6
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles.”

Isaiah 49:6
He says: 
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”

After reading all of that, here's my journal entry for December 15, 2009:
“What joy – that you would shine your light across this world to bring the nations to salvation. I love that this is not wishful thinking but an objective, surprising joy breaking out over us! This is Christmas, that the God who graces us with light out of darkness gives us the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus – in Him, Sweet Baby Boy.”

And then we see that there is Overflowing Joy in Three “Fors"
FOR - He breaks human oppression (4).
FOR - He ends war (5) - See Psalm 46:9 and Isaiah 2:4.
FOR - He gives Jesus (6-7).

Remember that amazing way God speaks outside of time? How He calls things that aren't yet as if they already are? In those days through Isaiah He spoke about Jesus Messiah with an already true certainty that ushers in complete and total assurance. As you read the list below, can you stamp these things over your dark places? Can you let the Truth of these names and the character they can barely contain drip down into your "Not Yets"? 

He IS Wonderful Counselor
  • Isaiah 11:2

He IS Everlasting Father (also ideal King who takes care of His people)
  • Isaiah 63:16
  • Isaiah 64:8
  • Psalm 103:13

He IS Prince of Peace
  • Ephesians 2:14
  • Psalm 72:7

And peace means = health, security, tranquility, a satisfied condition, an unconcerned state of peacefulness, completeness, harmony, fulfillment.

Here's my final journal entry for Isaiah 9; December 16, 2009:
“You are a miracle - able to advise and direct. You are mighty God Himself. You are forever and forever faithful and protective. You are our Redeemer and my Father. You are royal yet full of peace; peace that brings health, security, wholeness, and satisfaction. You are all of these things, and you shine them into the darkness of my life and bring me joy - full and amazing." 

For additional study on your own this season:
  • Isaiah 8:11-22, study the context and reason behind the “gloom” of 9:1.
  • Look up and study all the cross-references for the names of Jesus listed above.
  • Study John 1, and learn about Immanuel – God WITH US.

All notes for this handout came from the Study Notes in the ESV Study Bible.