Thursday, October 27, 2011

Look Away or Enter In?

I have about a 30 minute drive to and from work each day. For 15 of those minutes, I drive up and down Maple or Chestnut between Mckinley and Church. Where is Church street you ask? Exactly. Far. Southeast Fresno.

Some of the things I see each day are heartbreaking.

-The child walking to school by himself (on Chestnut/Church).
-The people pushing their shopping carts (with what I assume is all of their earthly possessions).
-The man walking by, exhaling a thick cloud of smoke (the kind that isn’t from cigarettes).
-They stray dogs.
-The dead dogs.
-The children running across the street in between cars.
-The high school aged kids, not in class, “cuddling” each other in front of the apartment building.
-The grown-ups yelling and screaming at each other in the parking lot of the liquor store.
-The woman waiting at the bus stop with her 4 young children.
-The man puking in the gutter.

I drive home aching for the LORD to return and “clean up” this dirty city. I long for Him to come, to rescue, to make right, to free those in bondage, to heal those that are sick, to bless the poor with all the riches in Christ! And as I’m praying for this I realize . . .

Sometimes I look away from things with disgust that I should be seeing with eyes of compassion.

-Isn’t the man pushing his shopping cart the man Jesus would’ve talked to?
-Isn’t the man who was sick in the gutter, the man Jesus would’ve healed?
-Isn’t the woman at the bus stop the woman Jesus would comfort?
-Aren’t the children running in and out of traffic the children Jesus would’ve welcomed in?
-Aren’t these the exact crowds that Jesus would’ve looked on and had compassion, “for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd?”

Jesus didn’t look away in disgust. He looked on with compassion. Jesus entered in.

The sights that I see every day aren’t an accident. I don’t think the LORD intends for me just to look (or really, just to look away). He has shown me block after block that there are people all over this city that need to hear the HOPE of Christ and feel His love.

So why do I look away when I should enter in?

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:35-38)

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' (Matthew 25:35-40)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lessons in Numbers

I hate how much of myself I see in Numbers 14. The Israelites have seen the LORD do amazing things, provided in ways unimaginable, protected in ways unexpectedly. And by the time they get to the wilderness . . . faith subsides and flesh rises up.

Shortly after the miracles . . . comes whining . . . and complaining. Whining and complaining lead to rebellion, rebellion leads to opposition. Opposition of God’s plan, His way, His design . . . leading to God’s judgment.

So Moses and Aaron, a prophet and a priest, intercede for the people, pleading with God not to bestow judgment.

God relents.
Do His people respond with thanksgiving?
Of course not.
They respond with grumbling & complaining, continuing in rebellion.
They escape punishment, only to continue in disobedience.

So much so that God does not allow them to dwell in the Promised Land, the land that flows with milk and honey. Even after punishment for their rebellion, they continue to walk in it.

They continue to trust their own thinking, their own way, their own decisions to be right. God has warned them not to go into the land and fight, to stay in His provision, under His command, and they go anyway. They run from the place that God has intended for them to stay, right into the land of the enemy. Their disobedience leads to defeat. Their own thinking leads them to their own death.

Lessons I learned in Numbers . . .
I grumble. I complain. I rebel. God relents. God disciplines. And I still insist on my own way . . . and that never ends up pretty. Why don’t I trust that the LORD has so much more for my life than I can ever think or imagine?

Lessons I need still need to learn from Numbers . . .

Do not grumble against the LORD. We have no idea that the wilderness He is keeping us IN is keeping us FROM all sorts of danger. (Numbers 14:1-12)

God hears prayer. When His prophets and priests intercede according to His word, He hears. He relents. (Numbers 14:13-19)

God may relent from immediate punishment, but He is just. Sin does not go unpunished. (Numbers 14:20-38)

Do not fight battles the LORD does not intend for you to fight. Disobedience leads to defeat. (Numbers 14:39-45)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Greatest Gift

I am only a few pages into John Piper’s book God is the Gospel and already my mind is twisting and turning. A few years ago, I read His book Desiring God and he mentions that the best part of Heaven is that we get God. He says if you can picture Heaven full of blessings, streets of gold, reuniting with loved ones, etc. without Jesus, then you’ve missed the point. The whole point of Heaven is not where we get to spend eternity, or what we’ll receive, but WHO we spend it with.

The greatest gift of Heaven is the Giver.

We get God. Face to face. Every day. We will worship the One who created us, redeemed us, saved us, rescued us, loves us.

“The gospel of Christ proclaims the news that he has purchased by his death ten-thousand blessings for his bride. But none of these gifts will lead to final joy if they have not first led to God. And not one gospel blessing will be enjoyed by anyone for whom the gospel’s greatest gift was not the Lord himself.” ("God is the Gospel", John Piper)

My engagement to Santino was one of the greatest times of my life. Planning the wedding, picking the place for our ceremony, going to showers, getting gifts, planning the honeymoon, oh so much joy!

But, the best part of all of this was not just that I got new pots & pans, or the idea that I’ll get to see everyone I love and care about at the ceremony, or even the location of the honeymoon . . . Those were indeed great, but not the highlight of it all.

The best part was that I get to spend the rest of my life with my husband. Every day, being with him, talking with him, laughing with him, growing in my love for him. It was HIM that was the greatest part of the wedding. To know that I chose to spend the rest of my life on earth with the man who CHOSE me!!

So it is with God and eternity. He provides us with much here on earth and in Heaven. Blessing upon blessing. Gift after gift. Grace upon grace. But the greatest gift of all His gifts, the most gracious part of His grace, is Him. The Giver.

When planning our wedding, what I delighted in most was WHO I got to marry. The rest was additional blessing, but not the best part. So it is with the Gospel. The best part of God’s love is that we get to be in His presence, forever. We are reunited with our Heavenly Father, His grace is lavished upon us, and we get to spend eternity with the One who died so that we might live.

The greatest gift is to get to be with the Giver of every good and perfect gift. The One who bestows grace. The Father. The Son. The Spirit. The LORD our God.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights . . .” (James 1:17)

“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What’s Hiding in My Heart

{God’s Word Trumps Inadequacy}

Last week I was battling inadequacy. Unfortunately, this is something that comes up often in my life. It would come up as a teacher, trying to tell parents things to do to help their child learn (and behave). I would get the question “Do you have kids?” I’d respond “no, just these 25 I adopt into my heart each year”. Then I’d usually get, “oh well you’ll understand when you have kids.” (Implying, honey you have no idea what you’re talking about.)


I’ve always felt inadequate in ministry. I am nervous before every life group, I feel inadequate to lead, shepherd, teach, guide, facilitate. When I meet with others who are more “seasoned” in life than I am, I feel well . . . inadequate. When I speak truth into someone’s life, inadequate. Trying to offer encouragement, words of wisdom, inadequate.

Last week I was nearly paralyzed by it. Like couldn’t move, felt sick, trapped, ashamed. I kept hearing the whisper in my ear “you’re not a teacher, who are you to tell someone a bible verse, who are you to tell someone what to do, you don’t have children, you don’t know what it’s like, you’re redemption story isn’t even that great, etc.” Satan, the father of lies, was whispering in my ear and not only was I listening to these lies, I was starting to believe them.

Until the Holy Spirit {my Defender} and Jesus {my Advocate} stood in the gap for me. I soon realized these whispers in my ears were lies from the enemy. My Savior would never speak to me this way . . . you’re worthless, you’re inadequate, are you sure you’re even redeemed? Nope. That was NOT from the LORD.

And I became more resolute on refusing to listen to these lies, I started to think “Yes! I am inadequate. I am nobody. But Christ in me makes me somebody and HE is made strong in my weakness!"

By the next morning . . . the LORD so lovingly, so gently, so directly confronted these lies with His truth. Scriptures I had hidden in my heart a couple of years ago . . .

“ . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

It is okay to fear and tremble when I am called to do more than I am capable of or feel worthy of doing because:

#1) It is God who works in me to will and work for His pleasure


#2) These are the works He prepared for me beforehand, so I’ll walk in them!

It's Him. All Him. His works for me. Him working in me.

And just as Jesus fought Satan’s lies and temptation with the Word, I will fight with the sword of the Spirit too.

And I will continue to hide the Truth in my heart, that I might not sin against Him (or at a minimum, become paralyzed with these feelings again.)

“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:16-17)

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)