in prison

Thanks for being on the team and sharing your thoughts and heart about the experience Whitney!!!

but we see Jesus

I went to church this morning. I did a quick sound check on a small, portable system and watched as women began to trickle into the gym, deciding whether they wanted to sit at the top of the bleachers, leaning their backs against the wall, or towards the bottom for easier access. They wore the same thing: a #2 pencil yellow tee under a forest green shirt with orange or green pants (orange if they had restricted privilege). I went to church this morning at the LaVista Correctional Facility.

They came in, many of them with their Bibles—some worn and well used, others with shiny, new paperback, freshly highlighted. Some came in eager to worship, others simply to have something to do for a couple hours.

I didn’t know what to expect when I went to church this morning. I was asked to lead worship, being told that they usually…

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Good Friday

Today, let my heart and spirit be grieved  for the depravity of what You created with Your very word and that which You gave life to with Your very breath.

Today, may I mourn and weep for my own heart that so easily turns from Your ways and my own flesh that so quickly seeks to be satisfied in that which is not You.

Today, may I not look away as You bring to mind the atrocities committed against Your pure, innocent, holy Son sent as the final sacrifice and payment for my sins which brought Your wrath.

Today, let me sit in the reality of the pain and suffering that sin has brought to Your creation and to not run from my part in the hopeless of it all if Jesus had not been crucified all those years ago.

Today I will mourn and weep and in three days I will rejoice!

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Only One Enemy

There is really only one enemy. Jesus once referred to this enemy as the thief. He is the accuser of the brethren and masquerades as an angel of light to woo us from the truth and life.

The thief has many cohorts. Some knowingly join forces with him. Others somewhat blindly and ignorantly fall prey to his schemes and become his accomplices. His schemes are many. Some are flagrantly evil and others are more subtle in nature. Human Trafficking, addictions, pornography, abuse, fraud, cheating, immorality, pride, lying, murder, bearing false witness, disunity among God’s people, impatience, unkindness, harshness, arrogance, bitterness, resentment, bitterness, idolatry … and the list could go on and on.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus (John 10:10 ESV)

Father, search my heart and show me any way in me that does not align with You. You desire for truth to be deep within my being and You make me to know wisdom. I confess that I am easily distracted by things of this world and can quickly fall into the schemes and traps set for me to take my eyes off You and the path you set before me! Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus name, Amen!

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 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, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Ephesians 6:10-20 (ESV)

 

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Disappointed vs. Brokenhearted

DISAPPOINTED

I’ve had several conversations recently in which friends have expressed grief that they have disappointed God.  These conversations have led me to ponder as to whether or not it is even possible for us to disappoint God. Doesn’t disappointment imply that there has been an unmet expectation on the part of the one disappointed?  If the answer to the question is yes, then I don’t think we can ever disappoint God. I’ve heard it said, “no expectations, no disappointments.

” For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:14 (ESV)

Disappointment seems to be self focused. I don’t mean that in the selfish sense of the word, but more in the way of something that affects my emotional state, my well-being and my outlook. Said another way, when I experience disappointment it is usually because my wants, needs (perceived or real), desires and expectations have not been met. The object of disappointment is me. God does not look to us to meet His wants, needs, desires, etc.! Our Father knows exactly what he can expect of us and how we will respond in every circumstance.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. Psalm 139:1-4 (ESV)

In fact rather than disappoint Him, we delight Him!!! For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.Psalms 149:4 (ESV)

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.Proverbs 3:12 (ESV)

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)

BROKENHEARTED

Is God’s heart broken for us? Absolutely! Brokenhearted is another condition altogether. The object of His broken heart is us, not Him. He knows the fullness of His goodness and the life He created us to have. He knows the depth of love, joy, peace, comfort and beauty we miss because of the fallen, broken world and our own sin that keep us from fully experiencing Him. His heart was so broken that He sent His son to redeem us.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3:16-18

He continues to pursue and refine us even after we believe so that we will grow more and more into the likeness of the One whose image we were created to bear!

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Genesis 1:26 (ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28-29 (ESV)

His heart breaks for us when we do not live in complete dependence on Him, complete trust in Him and when we are not fully abiding in Him. He knows what we miss out on and that breaks His heart for us!

Father, the earth is Yours and everything in it! The heavens declare Your glory and the rocks will cry out if Your people do not praise You! I confess that I live in less dependence on You than complete dependence to meet all my needs. I confess that I grasp to control my life circumstances rather than trust fully and completely in You and Your way for my life. I confess that I frequently strive rather than abide. Thank you for loving me in the midst of my sin, failures and shortcomings and for always being ready to lift me up and lead me in the way of righteousness. You are good and great is Your faithfulness. My sin, failures and shortcomings cannot exhaust your goodness or love for me. Father Your kingdom come and Your will be done!!! In the name of the One by whom, through whom and for whom everything was created … JESUS!

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No Other Gods

“And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth.  So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies.  Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.” Judges 2:11-15, ESV

Reading through the Old Testament this year I am frequently moved to tears when I encounter the passages that tell of the God’s people forgetting God and abandoning Him for the lesser gods of this world. Today I am asking the Holy Spirit to identify for me the emotion that is triggered when I read, “And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to Anger.”  (Judges 2:11-12, ESV) What in my heart identifies so much with God’s people that I weep when I read of their failure to remember their God and His goodness towards them?

In another post I was pondering about God’s anger and wondering if it burns against me when I forget Him.  Maybe my tears are an expression of empathy with God’s people.  Is it as personal my identification with God’s chosen to so easily forget His goodness and to quickly abandon the Lord for the lesser gods of this world? Is it as broad as seeing God’s people today pursuing the things of this world, relying on our own wisdom, forgetting the God of our fathers and His son, “… 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.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. ” (Phil 2:6-8, ESV)?

We, Christ’s followers are, “… a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (I Peter 2:9-10, ESV) And, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3-4, ESV)

Oh Father in heaven, awaken me to my own foolishness!  Show me where I am practicing a form of godliness but not really living in the resurrection power.  Truth, Father Your truth! Divide the truth from error in my life. Search my heart and shine your light of life on the other gods I go after.

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Jesus, oh Jesus have mercy on me a sinner!

Amen

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Pondering God’s Wrath

Reading through the Old Testament … pondering God’s wrath. So many times we are told that the LORD’s anger burned against Israel. Jesus did what we are unable to do ourselves, appeased God’s wrath toward us. Here is the pondering part … since God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow does His anger burn when we, His chosen, rebel (overtly, covertly, knowingly or unknowingly) against His reign in our lives?

I know the redemptive work of Christ on the cross is a complete work. He declared, “it is finished”. Complete forgiveness, relationship with the heavenly Father restored and Christ’s nature in me are all mine when I believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Born again I am and living under God’s covenant of grace which I have received through Christ what I did not earn nor deserve. That doesn’t change God’s nature, His Righteousness, His Holiness, His justice. I still have my flesh to contend with and a heart that is prone to wander to the very things that anger God.

A number of times Paul exhorts Jesus’ followers to walk in a manner that is worthy of the calling, don’t behave in the same way the culture does, put off all ungodly behaviors and live out of the nature of Christ in you. This brings me back to my pondering … when I don’t put off the old, when I am conformed to the world rather than transformed by Christ, when the dust of culture creeps into my everyday life until I am not living very differently from those who do not follow Christ, when I strive to meet my own needs rather than seeking first the Father’s kingdom, does God’s anger burn? We know from Paul’s letters to the church in Ephesus that we grieve the Holy Spirit when we live in a sinful manner (Ephesians 4). What about the Father, does His anger burn against me as it burned against Israel?

Jesus,
Thank you for leaving everything that was rightfully yours in heaven and coming to forgive, redeem and restore. Thank you for taking the judgement and punishment for my sin. Thank you for making me a new creation.
Father,
Your kingdom come, Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.
In Jesus name.

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Eyes Up!

I’ve been thinking much about the tactic of distraction in recent weeks. The Spirit is strongly reminding me this morning to be on alert for this tactic in every area of life. Circumstances, feelings, relationships, world situations, serving others, etc. do need our attention, but oh how easily they become our focus! As followers of Jesus our FOCUS is to be JESUS.

Beware of the distraction of focusing on the things of this world! Eyes up brothers and sisters…our lives are hidden in Christ Jesus who is seated at the right hand of the Father interceding according to the will of the Father. All authority (all power of rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Him!!!

JESUS!!!

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Colossians 3:1-2 (MSG)

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!. Hebrews 12:1-2 (MSG)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
I Peter 5:6-11

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