A Valentine for Jesus

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Since becoming a believer, there have been many occasions that I’ve heard it is not right to go by feelings, or trust your feelings, or your emotions in regards to God and his word. The whole realm of feelings are discounted as unreliable. The key, they say, is God’s word. And since we humans have a mind, will, and emotions, these are no match for Spirit and Word.

I have plenty of experience with emotions, as do we all. However, with a diagnosis of Manic Depression, I may have even more experience with the intensity and unpredictability of emotions and mood. From being super energized and creative and upbeat to the point of madness, to being down in the dumps, weepy, and full of despair and battling suicidal thoughts. I’ve had them all.

But I also have God, and Spirit. And here’s the rub: This business about not relying on emotions with our walk with God is total bunk. It is even gross. If Jesus Christ came to give us forgiveness and access to the Father, and to reveal his love for us that we can have fellowship with him, what on earth would that even look like without engaging our deepest emotions? We are created to love and worship and adore the Creator. We write him love songs, we raise our hands in abandonment and worship, we sing with all of our heart, and we even shout unto God with a voice of triumph! We love him because he first loved us. And he demonstrated his love for us, in that while we were still in our sins, Christ died for us. To find ourselves in his arms after the world has beaten us and tossed us to and fro like a ship out to sea in a great storm, it is only right that we collapse in brokenness and sob our eyes out.  Jesus even said it would happen: whoever falls on this stone will be broken in pieces. (Shattered, crushed, a complete mess!)

And when we receive the Holy Spirit and begin babbling in a heavenly language, caught up in ecstatic praises with rapturous joy, would this be forbidden too? Paul himself claimed to speak in tongues more than anyone, and directed others to “forbid NOT speaking in tongues.”

If your heart and emotions are not in your bible reading, your prayer, your living walk with your living God, you may not have actually met him at all. It is with the heart that man believes unto righteousness, not the mind. You do not educate yourself into a knowledge of God, any more than you can know your mate by reading about him.

So give yourself to your Savior with complete abandonment, with your whole heart, soul, mind, and emotions, and discover what a Lover we truly worship!

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By Him and for Him

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By His grace, I am here again, in a garden outside the temple. I hear calming tones from within. The Master is here. I watch Him as he moves around the tall, circular lavender plant. The flowers brush his chest. He circles the plant with scissors, cutting long bunches. I ask if he needs help. He hands me a large bundle to hold, as he cuts more. I settle down on my knees to watch him. He seems intent, moving deliberately around the entire bush. He moves quickly, as if to spare the plant the agony of a long surgery. The entire plant is five or six feet across, in a perfect circle. He lays bundles of lavender on a large sheet he had spread in the grass. The plant is all trimmed now, its fruit harvested. He looks lovingly at what is left of the plant. I am surprised by the attention he gives it, as if he’s speaking to it, fertilizing it, pleased with it; his attention more on the plant than on the large pile of lavender it has produced. As he collects the corners of the bundle and lifts it to walk away, I follow silently behind. I look back at the neat trimmed circle that remains.

My mind is busy with questions, but I feel He expects me to be quiet. We make our way up a wide stone entry into the temple. He walks down a cobblestone corridor to the left. We stop and he sets the sheet at my feet. He disappears for a moment and returns with a donkey. It takes all my strength not to ask, What are we going to do with the fruit? This is the fruit right? Is it for the temple ceremonies? Are we going to leave it here?

He gathers up the bundle again. A few small pieces fall to the floor. He looks at me as if to say, leave it there. He helps me get on the donkey, and hands me the bundle to hold. He leads me out of the temple, through an opening at the end of the hall. Outside, there is much noise and activity. It’s a busy street, with poor and burdened people. I hear shouts and cries. There is little beauty. The road is dirt, and the scene is colorless and drab. It feels familiar: people in need, the lack of peace, the absence of joy, the poverty. I begin to wonder if we will give the fruit to people here on the streets.

The master walks along, leading the donkey I’m sitting on. I feel guilty. There is value in this pack, and we are walking past so much need. A few small pieces fall from the pack. I remain quiet.

We leave the town and continue on a path going up into the mountains. I feel relieved to be out of there. The scenery is gorgeous. There are no more sounds from the village, only nature. I begin to wonder if I should get off and lead for a while. I feel He may be tired. He turns to look at me, reading my thoughts. I look away.

“Look at me,” he says. I look into his eyes. He’s laughing inside. And with a broad smile he says slowly, for emphasis, “I don’t get tired.”

As we move on, I observe the landscape. The way is steep. Narrow cliffs appear. As we navigate them, the Master asks me if I’m scared. I don’t think so. Where else could I be safer than here with you?  I shake my head in silence. Tiger-Leaping-Gorge-7

I have an awareness that a woman lives up here, and that she is our destination. She is in a cottage on an open plain, amidst fields that could be in a brochure advertising breathtaking faraway lands. As we approach the little house, she rushes out to meet the master. She is expecting Him. I slip off the donkey as they greet one another warmly. She worships him. And as she does, I too kneel and worship Him as well. After a few moments, she welcomes me, and I feel as if I already know her. The three of us approach the cottage. The door is wooden, stained a deep purple that is faded and weathered. As we enter, we are greeted by a waft of lavender and frankincense. The rafters of the entire one-room cottage are covered with hanging lavender. I think to myself, To them that have, more shall be given. There is an old wood-burning cook stove in the kitchen with a steaming kettle on the burner. Jars of herbs fill a huge cupboard with glass doors. The room is cozy and I can tell this is a place where the Master feels at home. He makes his way to the prepared table and lies down atop the thick blankets. The two of us minister to him, with lavender oil, and worship. I know that this place is for him. He is at rest. There is a sweet song playing,

Heaven is my home, and earth is my footstool.

Where is the house you will build for me?

Who of you will hear, the cry of my heart?

Where will my resting place be?

Here O Lord, have I prepared for you a home. 

Long have I desired for you to dwell. 

Here O Lord, have I prepared a resting place. 

Here O Lord, I wait for you alone.

We have some tea and talk, we three. It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes.

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Think it not Strange, Beloved

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The battle is real. But it is not with ourselves. Yes, we are in a fire and being purified. Yes, we are continually given situations to yield or resist. And all the while, we are learning, training, and being disciplined. The Lord disciplines those he loves. We have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. How much more shall we be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?  Our human fathers disciplined us as seemed best to them, but God disciplines us for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.

Now no discipline seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; but afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

The key, the treasure in the fire, is to believe. It is your faith that is being tried.

Satan is strutting around as a roaring lion seeking who he may devour. What does he want? His mission is to get at your faith. Is God good to you? Is God listening to you? Does God care what you’re going through? Is God present? Is God even real?

We are wrestling spiritual wickedness in high places; powers and authorities in the unseen realm. Are we to cower away in despair?  Are we to hide?  Yes! Find the Secret Place of the Almighty and hide beneath his wings and let him nurture you, heal your wounds, and speak comfortably to you. At other times, His Spirit may rise up in you causing you to shout with authority and pray with power and faith and command the powers that surround you to get behind you! (If this has never happened to you, you may want to put on some music and let it rip.) You are shouting to the unseen realm, and breaking out of your puny self-consciousness, similar to the way you have shouted at a sporting event, or a concert. We do not run like someone running aimlessly. We do not fight like a boxer beating the air.

God is busy doing a work in us. Getting us ready for an even greater work. Like David in the field with his sheep, protecting them with his slingshot; killing a bear, a lion, with no idea he was preparing for the job he would be given later. We too are enduring a furnace. And our Lord is allowing the darkness to grow as a thick cloud. But it is for HIS purpose.

For the sake of My name I will delay My wrath; for the sake of My praise I will restrain it, so that you will not be cut off.

See, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, My very own sake, I will act;

for how can I let Myself be defamed?

I will not yield My glory to another.…

Fear not, little flock. Only rest in Him with expectation and hope. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. But you, brothers, are not in the darkness so that this day should overtake you like a thief. For you are all sons of the light and sons of the day; we do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not sleep as the others do, but let us remain awake and sober. Behold, He comes quickly. And his reward is with him!

O death, Where is your sting?

I just got over a nasty flu. Last night, as I lay in bed on my husband’s chest, it seemed he had caught it too. He has asthma, as his mother did before him.  It took her life when she was in her fifties.  My mind raced, wandering and afraid. I prayed aloud for his safe keeping, and against sickness and disease. I quoted promises of God’s word and said them out loud as well. Yet all the while there were nagging doubts. Under the words, my heart said, “But there is no guarantee. There is no making it happen. He could just as easily get sicker and die.”

I laid there aware that God knows my heart, my thoughts, my doubts. I thought of bold and aggressive prayers against a persistent enemy. I thought about being stronger and praying louder and yelling at the devil. Putting my foot down! Not giving an inch.

I went round and round all the while wondering what good it does. And then, a clear whisper in my mind,

the trying of your faith…is more precious than gold refined in a fire

and then…

the trying of your faith worketh patience.

My very faith was on the line. What good does it do to believe?  When time and again, it doesn’t seem to work?

But then I see Jesus and I let go.

Let go. Open your hand. Give it to me. Rest.

He giveth his beloved sleep.

Take your rest now. For this day’s troubles are enough.

I turned over and let my worries float away.  I saw a woman on her knees with a rosary, frantically praying and squeezing the beads in her fingers. I whisper to her, “Let go now. Open your hand. Rest.”

The Faith:

What is our faith all about? Is it answers to prayer? Is it based on outcome? Or is it based on trust? The Savior. The person.  The one who allows trials and troubles and tribulations, and purifying, and churning, and sorrows and suffering. Do we trust Him? Is He trustworthy?

Next, I am standing at the bedside of my mother who is dying of cancer. I am twelve. I have prayed. Yet she dies. I open my hand.

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There was another me who was dressed like a Warrior. She was grown. She stood next to the twelve-year-old me as I looked at my mother in the coffin and worked up the courage to kiss her forehead. She told me, This will all make sense one day. You must trust me.

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The warrior me has much to say about overcoming. About believing regardless of how the cards are dealt. Remembering that our enemy goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. His job is not difficult. There are trials and disappointments abounding all around us. Death has not been destroyed. Death is not our friend, or a nice guide to the other side. Death is the final enemy. And it will be cast into the lake of fire. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

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But the sting of death, the power of death, THAT, Christ removed. Not with a wiping away of it in the here and now. But with the promise that its teeth have been removed. Death is powerless in the face of the Resurrection. And Jesus IS the resurrection. Be of good cheer, he says, I have overcome the world.

 

Jesus Movement

I’m ready for a modern day Jesus movement.  I was picking berries when I began humming to the Lord, “I really wanna see you.  I really wanna know you, Lord,”  and then I got to thIMG_7256e “Hare Krishna” part and I sighed.  John, what’s the deal?  Jesus isn’t cool enough?  I know, I know.  Jesus is not fashionable. What IS fashionable is, “Yeah, yeah, it’s all cool.  Spiritual paths are all leading to the same place.  Isn’t it great to not be tied to any one particular name or religion?  Get out of that small-mindedness and come up higher where we all are one and enjoy the variety of all paths. No one is better than another.  The Way isn’t a person or a name.  The Way isn’t ONE WAY.  No, it’s above it all that….”

The words remind me of something I read in my early twenties in a book on open marriage. “It’s not necessary to commit yourself to one person. Sharing is caring. Grow up, and get over your petty jealousies. We are all just struggling to find our way, and we should love one another freely. Free love is unconditional, and generous, and open. Why would you want to limit your love to ONE person for the REST of your life?” open-marriage1

Here’s the rub. The open marriage idea was kinda gross. And putting Jesus on the same plane as all the other gods is too. The other gods did not carry a massive wooden cross and get brutally nailed to it willingly to take upon themselves what was needed for my redemption. Nor do other gods claim to have created the current universe we inhabit. So, to cheer them all on as equals, and praise them and thank them with a tip of a wine glass, like we are ALL on the same plane, is about as gross as the open marriage idea.

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In the Jesus movement, there is praise and talk of his goodness. There is a celebration of our redemption, our freedom, and our love for our Savior. The awkward embarrassment, and apologetic tones used when discussing God and Jesus are blown away by our enthusiasm.  If you are a Christian, and  behave like a Christian, you can expect to be hated for your Christianity.  And we understand fully, that to love him means we will be hated.  If you are a Christian, but do not behave like a Christian, do not claim that the hatred directed at you is because of your Christianity. jesus2001

I feel a little bad for Jesus. He wasn’t cool, I don’t think. But he had something wonderful that drew people from Roman soldiers, to nervous Pharisees, to the neediest blind, diseased, and lame. Even rich Zacchaeus climbed a tree for a chance to lay eyes on him. So somehow, the participants in the Jesus movement will have to have something current Christianity doesn’t.

 

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Something wonderful, and beautiful like Jesus had.  Love?  Yes. But it can’t be that free love yuckiness that promises freedom only to leave you feeling empty and used. No, it’s got to be the Way.  The Jesus movement that actually follows him, hears him, loves him, and sees him in ourselves and others.  Our Treasure is not cheap.  Our Treasure is costly,  Holy.  And the goal of our love is the prize of His pleasure.

 

 

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Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

When Jesus came by, he looked upat Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

You will be hated by everyone on account of My name, but the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.

Oh that men would praise and glorify his goodness in all the earth!

Without Faith it is impossible to please him.

I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

 

 

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