Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Loneliness As A Gift?

Hey Friend,

Ironically, the time in my life when I have felt the most lonely is when I was married.  Living with someone who doesn't love you is probably the worst kind of lonely there is.  I've been completely alone and it is not as bad as living with someone you care about and not having those feelings reciprocated.

Perhaps this is the worst kind of loneliness because it reeks of rejection.  I don't know if there is any more harsh feeling than that of being rejected.  

When Jesus hung on the cross and felt the eyes of His Father turn away and all of His friends had scattered to the hills, what kind of loneliness must that have been...what rejection?

But, it was Christ's experience of being completely alone that birthed the gift of communion with God for us.  

Jesus had to be completely alone so that we could be ushered into the glorious presence of the Father.

Writer, Shannan Martin, beautifully shares this truth about loneliness...

"But there's a big difference in being alone and feeling forgotten or unseen."

She goes on to say,

"In recent years, I've faced this struggle more than ever before.  Though fleeting, it always remembers my name.  It hits in waves and leaves me gulping, flailing. I don't understand why God allows it. Shouldn't my faith be all the protection I need against this peril?

...I finally recognized the power Satan has over me in this area.  I hand him this weapon and he finds it quite effective.  If he can convince me I'm alone in the world, I willingly fork over a portion of my holiness, no questions asked.  He fuels my pain as I lash out or become withdrawn or paranoid.  He greases the wheels of vindictiveness and I ride.  He double-binds me to myself - a guaranteed recipe for disaster."

Shannan's words resonate with me and sometimes I just look up at God and I say, with a sense of yearning in my voice, "God, no one here 'gets me'."  There are some days on this earth, that are populated with billions of people, that I feel all alone.  

I want to be understood.  I want someone to care on a level that is beyond human....

How true that loneliness brings us to the edge of ourselves.  I believe that He calls me to that lonely place so that there is no place else to go but to dive off the cliff and into Him.

Knowing the pain of loneliness is not necessarily a curse...it is a bridge that takes us into the lonely places in others so that we might be the hands and arms of Christ that provide comfort.

It takes pain to know pain...perhaps the pain of loneliness is a gift??

I have found, though, in my life that there have been times that God has had to remove all the comfortable people around me so that, in my loneliness, He can be my enough.

So why all this talk on loneliness right after we've celebrated the gift of Emmanuel - God with us?  Often, after our mountaintop experiences, we must go back down the mountain and live in the valley.  

My prayer is that I...that you...will carry the gift of Emmanuel with you as we go forward into the new year.  He is always there and has promised "never to leave nor forsake you."

I also believe my feelings of loneliness serve to remind me that I am just a tramp at the manger...passing through.  I gaze at the Nativity scene and I realize that baby Jesus is alive.  He sees me.  He knows me like no one else does and He will come back for me one day. 

I know this because He promised me He would come again...

Meanwhile, my loneliness is a reminder that I am not yet home.  It's an ache that won't be entirely filled here on this earth.  I will not be satisfied until that one glorious day when I am in daily, in-person, communion with Him.

How about you?  How are you feeling after the celebration of Emmanuel?  Is there still a part of you that is lonely...that feels like the world just doesn't "get you" sometimes?  If so, you're not alone.  

Dear Heavenly Father,  thank you for reminding me that "alone" doesn't exist within the bounds of your love for me.  Thank you for "getting me".  Help me when I want to turn to others for affirmation of You - let me turn directly to You to fill me up and be my enough.  When I feel alone, let that be my signal that you are waiting in the wings wanting to draw near to me.  Remind me that when I promised to "take up my cross and follow you" that there would be lonely days.  Let me suffer like you have suffered rejection, Lord, so that I can reach out to others who are feeling alone.  Enable me to be your hands and feet.  Let my loneliness be a gift to others.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...

ps.  We are really in need of gifts for Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc. so that we can make a wise decision in January of 2017 if God would have us expand our school to serve more orphaned and destitute children in the Middle East - offering them an education and a life-giving transformation in knowing Christ as their Savior.  
If you can, please donate by midnight Dec. 31st.

Thank you.....

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Am I Really Seeing?

Hey Friend,

My guide "Word" for 2016 has been the word, "See".  I have asked God to challenge me to truly look beyond the surface...to stop glancing and to really see.  He has challenged me to slow down and look into peoples' eyes - to see what's on their heart.  He's challenged me to see Him in all of Creation that He's given me and to not take the slightest inchworm for granted.  He's challenged me to look upon my own heart and see what is really there and if I need transforming, then to submit myself to the cutting knife of the transforming surgeon's love.

As a way to wind up my year of "seeing", I would like to share excerpts of a chapter from Ann Voskamp's book, "The Greatest Gift - Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas."

"People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  (1 Samuel 16:7)

Ann writes:

"Looking comes first," is what C.S. Lewis writes in 'The Great Divorce.'  "Looking comes first if you're ever to find the life you want, if you are ever to 'see you a king.'"

Always, always - first the eyes.  Joy is a function of gratitude, and gratitude is a function of perspective.  You only begin to change your life when you begin to change the way you see....

It's the whole of humanity who live fixated on facades, blinded to the realest real.  The shiny shell of things can bind you and blind you.  It's a veiled God who elevates the veiled things:  the heart, the interior, the soul.  And it's a temporal world that elevates the foil and the plastic, the status and the skills, the physical and the tangible - all this concrete mirage.  Humanity obsesses with vapors, not eternity...

People aren't bodies; they are hearts.  We could train our eyes to turn everything inside out.

"Why should the eye be so lazy? Let us exercise the eye until it learns to see,"  writes G.K. Chesterton.  

Let us exercise the eye until it sees through the fat of things, down to the eternal of things.  Let us exercise the eye by walking with Christ.

There is this call for every Christian to answer His calling to be an ocular surgeon.  

Our seeing must cut through surfaces down to souls.

You could close your eyes and ask it, see it....

Is my life about the heart of things?  Is this my Christmas?

Am I deeply absorbed in Him and the heart of things?  Or is my life a shallow absorption with surfaces?....

The world - it seems different these few weeks of Advent. It sees different. Each day of Advent, we enter deeper into the story of Christ...and enter deeper into Him.  And it's Him who gives us eyes to really see.

To see past surfaces, to the heart of things - all the way down to the love....

The most brilliant, beautiful Person in the universe lost his physical attraction (Isaiah 53) so that we, being spiritually unsightly, could be beautiful in the eyes of God....

"O God and Father, I repent of my sinful preoccupation with the visible things.  The world has been too much with me.  Thou hast been here and I know it not.  I have been blind to Thy presence.  Open my eyes that I may behold Thee in and around me.  For Christ's sake, Amen."  (A.W. Tozer)

Be blessed....

ps.  It's not too late to make a Christmas contribution to Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc.
Send checks to:

RCF, Inc.
103 Silver Lining Lane
Cary, NC  27513
For credit giving visit our website:  http://redeemerchristianfoundation.org/donate/

* Tax receipts will be sent in January.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Love Story In An Unlikely Place

Hey Friend,

To be quite honest with you, this segment of scripture was never my "favorite". Perhaps because I don't like war and warfare.  I detest the battle scenes in movies.  

I really don't like thinking about spiritual warfare because, frankly, it scares me at times.  I don't relish the thought of the enemy of my soul coming after me...who does?

When I've read this segment of scripture before, I'd picture myself standing there in ill-fitting armor that was two sizes too big because it was made for a warrior.  I may be a prayer warrior, but please don't send me into battle.

I invite you to read this segment of scripture and let me share with you what Jesus lovingly shared with me...

Christian Warfare

10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics[a] of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore,
with truth like a belt around your waist,
righteousness like armor on your chest,
15 and your feet sandaled with readiness
for the gospel of peace.[b]
16 In every situation take the shield of faith,
and with it you will be able to extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 Take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is God’s word.

Jesus knows that in our own strength we are toast.  Because He loves us so, He wants to strengthen us by HIS vast strength.  He could choose to give us a sword or a shield, but no, He gives us a custom-fitted FULL armor of God because He doesn't want anything or anyone to touch us because we are His beloved.

Notice how He doesn't suit us up and then say, "Go get 'em tiger" and send us out into battle.  Just the opposite.  He lovingly suits us up so that we can resist in the evil day.  Resisting is not an "offensive" maneuver, it's defensive.  

Jesus is our great defender.  He wants to protect us while HE goes to battle for us.  

"The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still."  (Exodus 14:14)

So what does He tell us to do...He tells us to stand.  After He completely suits us up He commands us to stand while He fights.  

So what is this suit of armor for, then?  It's for protection during the battle. Jesus knows that the enemy is going to shoot his flying, lying, fiery arrows toward us and He wants us to be safe.  

Safe how?

Let's look:

"Stand, with truth like a belt around your waist,"...

The enemy will come at you with lies, deception, discouragement, doubt, condemnation, every un-truth because he seeks to disable and devour.

"You are not worthy of being loved," he says.  

The belt of truth says that you are "fearfully and wonderfully made and that the Lord loves you and delights over you with singing."

"You are not saved.  Because of your sin, God condemns you,"  he says.

The armor of righteousness (the piece of armor right over our heart) says, "Therefore there is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  When we believe in Christ as our Savior, His righteousness is imputed to us.  In God's sight we are pure.  Our hearts are forever SAFE.

"You are a failure.  You are incapable - you'll never measure up,"  he says.

The shield of faith, soaked in the blood of Jesus, extinguishes the enemy's fiery arrows.  Faith says, "I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me."  

"You are not forgiven.  God will never forgive you," he says as he invades your mind with all kinds of negative self talk.

Jesus lovingly places the helmet of salvation on our head - the piece of armor that protects our mind.  He reminds us, that through Him, we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Our sins have been removed from us as far as the east is from the west.  We can take all the enemy's lies captive to Him and He will destroy them.   

"You are going to lose.  You aren't going to make it.  I will destroy you," the enemy sneers.

But Jesus.  But Jesus gives us the sword of the Spirit which is God's word.  At the name of Jesus the enemy must flee and at the Word of God the enemy must bow down.  

Whatever lie the enemy comes at us with, Jesus has given us a formidably more powerful Word of Truth to combat it.  

Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit as our wise counselor to STAND with us and to reassure us of His constant presence. 

He protects our feet so that we will be ready to move forward to spread the gospel of peace.   

The gospel of peace tells me that His grace is sufficient for me and in His grace I can STAND.  

To me, this sounds more like a love story than a war epic.  Jesus covers every square inch of us in the armor of God so that we will be safe.  

But we must take it from His hand and put it on.  His heart, beating with love for you, is stretching out His mighty hand and He's saying, "Beloved, put this on so you will be safe.  Put this on while I fight for you.  Take heart, O one that I love. Though the enemy rages, I have already defeated him.  He cannot have you...you are mine.  Now and forever,  I love you.  The battle for your heart has been won.  Until I come again....stand."

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you that the Bible is your love letter to me.  Thank you for reminding me, time and time again that the battle has been won.  Thank you for sacrificing your Son so that my salvation would be secure.  Thank you Lord Jesus that you fight for me.  You suit me up so that I will be safe and you have defeated the enemy.  When thoughts are being shot at me like arrows, enable me to put on the armor that you have so lovingly made for me.  Let me put on Your truth, righteousness, and salvation.  Enable me to stand in my faith in you armed with the sword of your Word.  Thank you for loving me this 
much.  In the precious name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Be blessed....