Saturday, March 27, 2010
"Our Saviour kneels down and gazes upon the darkest acts of our lives. But rather than recoil in horror, he reaches out in kindness and says, 'I can clean that if you want.' And from the basin of his grace, he scoops a palm full of mercy and washes our sin."
I grasped the smooth ivory handle, picked up the cup, and placed it to my chapped lips that craved comfort from a cold, damp, windy night. Feeling the not-warm mug press against my mouth, I sipped, then, wanted to spit. It was lukewarm, which didn't meet my great expectations.
Needing to catch the attention of our waitress, Jeff and I looked her way and politely motioned to her. "I'm sorry, but my coffee isn't hot." She sweetly apologized and returned minutes later with another cup and plenty, even more than I could drink, of fresh, steaming decaf. Seeing the waves rise from my mug, I was relieved, and ready to move ahead and share some lovely moments with my love.
Lukewarm coffee would have diminished our date. It was a late rainy Monday night, and my husband and I had just attended a beautiful revival service. We wanted to share our souls and bask in the afterglow of God's blessings. A quiet booth in a warm cafe with cups of coffee seemed the perfect capstone. Lukewarm coffee just wouldn't have got it done.
Lukewarm is perfect for a baby's bath, but not for coffee. It makes it stale and steals it pretty aroma. And, it makes a clear statement of "I am not the best" and "I could be hours old."
For coffee lovers, a cup of hot brew summons the senses. The sight of steam dancing over a cup is alone bliss. The coming warmth is calming. The idea of the approaching flavor prepares the taste buds for unreserved, heartfelt sipping. Which is why you do not see signs advertising "Cool Coffee Served," or "Fresh Roasted Lukewarm Java."
But cool coffee helps me understand, . . . to inhale and drink in, . . .
the God-breathed analogy in Revelation that rivets me to its text and shakes me to my soles.
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16, NKJV).
The Lord cares about our passion for Him. He takes it personally and checks it with His own sovereign thermometer. He tries our savor to taste and see if we're a worthy drink offering. Our temperature reading measures the worth of our worship.
God desires we are red-hot, on-fire, passionate worshipers and disciples. He had even rather find us cold than lukewarm.
Why would God rather we be cold than room temp?
If we are cold, we know it. We shiver in our sin. We see uncovered goosebumps climb our barren arms. And we sense the approaching agony of a frost-bitten heart. We know our desperate need to find a warm place by God's flame. We envy those fellow saints who pass us, doing their Father's business, while bundled in fleecy wools and cozy leathers.
If we are lukewarm, however, we do not feel. We are not concerned. We are not moved. The fire we see in others does nothing to our need. Their godly coverings do not make us jealous. We do not desire to find a fire and warm our flesh.
"Lukewarm" means lacking enthusiasm or conviction; to be indifferent; unconcerned; uninterested; apathetic; Laodicean.*
Laodicea was one of the seven churches Christ addressed in the book of Revelation. They believed they had no spiritual need. They did not see their need for covering. Christ therefore counseled them, "buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see" (Revelation 3:18, NIV).
Jesus wanted to give the Laodiceans a new beginnning and fresh vision. He wanted them to have their own personal revelation of Him. He pleaded and said, "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (3:19-20).
Christ wanted the Laodiceans to be close to Him. To sit down with Him and dine. To have an intimate meal with Him and know Him. To know He loved them.
Jesus wants the same for me and you.
He wants us to see. He wants us to have personal need awareness. He wants to give us His gold in exchange for our perceived wealth. He wants us to experience the pain of spiritual blindness, so we can realize the poverty of self-life.
Jesus wants us to be honest with ourselves and encounter His word, which is Christ Himself. He desires that we know Him, not just serve Him, and not just know of Him.
Do you know Him? Do you dine with Him? Do you sit down with Him? Do you gaze at His beauty as He sits across the table? Do you let His eyes slice your darkness?
My coffee was lukewarm that chilly, Monday night. It was not acceptable to me. It's lackluster presence could have dulled the beauty of a blessed evening.
I had to confess my need. I had to bring the problem to the server, so she could fix it for me. It wouldn't have been right to do it myself. It wasn't my place.
Jesus wants to be your server and fix things for you. Do you taste the bitter water of indifference? Are you struggling to choke down staleness?
Let Jesus fix things for you. Call Him to your table and tell Him your need. Give Him your lukewarm chalice. Jesus' own hands will take your cup, bring you a new, clean, empty vessel, and pour into it warmth, healing, life, and love. You will not be disappointed. You will no longer live alone from worldy wealth. You will not want your old cup back.
Do not be afraid to let it go. Do not be afraid to give up you lukewarm drink. Do not be afraid of His transformational presence at your table. Do not fear His humble hands.
Great expectations wait to warm your soul.
Because He First Loved Us,
*Definitinon is from www.thefreedictionary.com.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Last week was filled with days of dappled clouds; some of them poured rain with profuse drops. The coincidental cool air created perfect moments for curling on the sofa with a fleecy throw, a cup of Earl Grey, a passionate devotional, and ears to hear water drizzle and God's voice whisper.
A lone, misty afternoon in the center of the week gave me that opportunity. I thought I would use the clammy weather and quiet time to read, pray, and ponder.
Before I could make a nest on my sofa, my plans changed. Faint squeals broke through my God thoughts. I peered through the blinds of my backdoor. Four little feet were running up the walk. Four little eyes were fixed on their goal, looking for their mimi to help them over their final hurdle.
When I opened the door, Olivia, my three year old granddaughter was drifting behind her twenty-one month old sister, Ella. Olivia was running. Ella was racing.
I have never seen a baby hyperventilate, but I thought Ella just might provide my first opportunity. I could hear and see her breathing. Her vast brown eyes on her sweet, small face were looking up and straight into me. Her thin, brown pigtails were bouncing. Her tiny baby teeth were shining. Her rosy cheeks showed baby bliss.
Ella's passion bubbled over. Yet, she was running too quickly, and stumbled, and fell. Her tiny, less than two-year old legs could not support her massive zeal.
Before I could move out the door to pick her up, Ella had picked herself up, rushed, and jumped into my arms.
She had no bumps, no scratches, no bruises. Only smiles and hugs and kisses and an innocent, loving look that poured purely into my soul and melted my grandmother heart.
That passion of my brave little granddaughter has now become my personal desire of imitation. Her quick little steps convict me of soul neglect and remind me of the joy of the One Who always waits for me.
God waits. Jehovah-Shammah, The Lord is There, anticipates my running to Him. He longs for my unreserved rush into His always open arms.
And, I should, in kind, anticipate the arms of my Father God and race toward Him, undaunted, with whole attention, gazing upward and inward into His holy countenance. My soul should long for His embrace with uncontainable excitement and leaping faith that does not care about the dangers of the hard ground beneath my feet. The risks of bumps, bruises, scratches, and skins should mean much less to me than missing my Father's arms.
God's open arms must mean more to me than the bruising language of another who had rather I just "work" for Jesus than sit as His feet. His waiting presence must mean more to me than the scratchy experience of being misunderstood by those who see my God-moments as a waste of time. God's courts must mean more to me than the jabbing voices within my own fleshly self that mourn for more television and extra personal pampering, and God's receiving of me must mean more to me than ideas of others who think I overspiritualize life and frown on my desire that God see me as His pure lover.
As Ella ran up the merciless, ashen pavement, I am quite sure she knew she could fall. She is a smart little lamb. Her senses are very keen. Her mocha eyes miss little. Yet, her mimi's arms were worth the risks to her.
My Father's arms of love are worth all possible risks. Risks must lose every persuasion on my soul. I must bow my being, every fiber of me, before the God of the universe, my God, the Lover of my life, and allow His light to permeate my self-consciousness and fill me with God-consciousness.
Let's let go of our risks. . . .
Let go of all risks. Grasp courage. Allow God's glory to diminish any thoughts of painful reaching for His love. Embrace the gritty texture of danger and run boldly and fearlessly on the coarse concrete ground below. Clasp in your heart contented dreams of leaping into your Father's arms.
Grasping, Clasping, Running, Leaping,
"My lover spoke and said to me, "Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me" (Song of Solomon 2:10, NIV).
Monday, March 08, 2010
Your spiritual heart is much the same. When something is wrong, you know. You may feel afraid, angry, betrayed, bruised, confused, desperate, depressed, dissatisfied, empty, helpless, homesick, hurt, lonely, useless, or worried. . . . Emotional "rhythm" seems not quite together. You may not realize the depths of your feelings, but you know something isn't right.
Endless possibilities may have provoked your "heart pain": a best friend betrayed your confidence; you had some bad news about someone you love; you worked and gave up time for yourself and your family for a career that now makes you bored and empty; you were applauded for a unique accomplishment but now feel only useless and unworthy; guilt seems to spoil every chance of happiness; envy for the lives of others eats away what contentment you have; you are tired and just want to be appreciated for what you do; you wonder why certain people who matter to you ignore you or treat you with contempt; you wonder why life is not fair.
Your "heart pain" may even be from casual indifference and neglect. "I'll get around to God when life slows down." "It's soccer season." "I'm working overtime; I just can't think of the Lord right now." "I'm too stressed to read my Bible everyday."
Or, your heart may have "damage" from many mistakes, regrets, or traumas. It's been so much easier to shut down the pain than deal with it. Now, maybe you are numb . . . emotionless . . . passionless. You wonder what it would be like to feel again.
In any case, you want freedom from heart misery. You want a heart that beats with perfect, rhythmic, contented forces of purpose. You want the "something just isn't right" ache to go away.
My friend, you are not alone in your pain. Everyone has personal history of an imperfect heart. And everyone has only One door to deliverance.
Salvation of our souls is found in Jesus. He is the only way to our Father. Likewise, salvation from a wounded heart is also only found in yielding to God.
I can testify of God as the only way to wholeness because He is my healer and deliverer. He is my Creator, Elohim, Who loves me as I am, so much that He will not leave me as He sees me. He understands all of me, and He formed all of me, including my heart, the abyss of my hopes, hurts, and thoughts. God knows me. He gets the mysteries of my soul that blind me. He comprehends me completely. My complex personality and all its baggage and wired connections make sense to Him.
And, my pain does not shock Jesus. He is not one bit intimidated to look at my gross, oozing wounds and place His holy hands in my bloody sores. He sees them all for what they are and empathizes with my weaknesses. And yours.
He sees your hurt through His eyes of personal experience, His own sacrifice and suffering that surpass all other griefs. Jesus knows pain so fully. While on this earth, He was intimate with sorrow, torture, and loneliness. And Jesus' remembrance of His suffering allows Him to embrace your feelings as no one else can. You cannot possibly hurt apart from His empathy.
In tandem with His intimate sense of your hurting heart, Jesus has all the love of Father God. So, when Christ senses your hurt and sees your suffering, He knows you from both the perspective of unfathomable love and unprecedented pain.
Jesus is affected. Compassioned. Moved. He hears your heart beat. He hears your heart speak. He lives to take it in His hands and hold it and heal its brokenness.
Yes, Jesus lives to heal your heart. His healing for you is personally and beautifully designed. It is whole, godly wisdom. It is a balm made just for you. It is His best. It is the incomparable best.
Christ ALWAYS knows best. And, He knows the why of every what in your life - all those deep answers and mysteries of dark glass that you really want to know now. And, rather than giving you answers, He often chooses to give you healing and rest. His rest is your gift to receive. His rest is the joy of laying down the weight that slows you down to molasses' pace or knocks you to a cold, hard ground or kicks you into a pale pit. His rest is the peace of feeling chains break and later looking behind to see them left at the altar you wisely prepared for you and your God. His rest is a fresh, smooth road for running grace.
Running grace! Freedom to keep your eyes on Christ and give Him all you have! And the liberty of running grace comes with a bonus! Don't you love a bonus? I do. I am always excited to open an extra gift box and see what's in it.
Jesus' bonus gifts are the best of all worlds! And His running grace comes with a powerful side item: hope. Why is hope such a big deal? Hope gives life. It lets us breathe. Hope for that special something we can't see with our natural eyes causes us to hang in there when we want to quit. We believe, we know, God is faithful and that His word is true. We therefore believe and know He is in control and that things will get better.
So, we do not give up. We do not give in. We keep running. And waiting.
And while waiting, we allow Jesus to do surgery on our hearts. We yield, and let Him work. We know that any pain from his doctor hands will be worth it, for Christ only has our good in His perfect heart, and with His perfect touch from a perfect heart, our wholeness begins.
When, at last, Christ completes a layer of wholeness in our hearts, we soar. Our yielding, trusting, believing, and enduring give God glory. Healed, we rise above grief, fear, anxiety, and regret. The carnal world with its demanding ways and seducing voices no longer anchor us down to a permenant sinking state because Jesus' scarred hands have handled our hurt.
As we soar, we find raw truth in our stillness. It is a truth only found in surviving the providence of pain. It is a truth only found in running grace: Feelings and circumstances do not determine your destiny. God's divine hand does.
Clinging to God's Healing Truth,