From A Rebel To A Kept Woman

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Since publishing When We Open Not Our Mouths yesterday I have felt strongly compelled to elaborate on the story. In an attempt to be faithful to the urge that I cannot deny, here I am.

Last week while perusing a new blog I read this:

“If you want to draw closer to Father God,” writes Gordon Dalby, “get to know Jesus.”

But, he warns, “sooner or later this path leads to the cross, which means death to your natural desires. You’ll have to give up all hope of ever receiving the love you need from another human being. This means sacrificing at last the idols you’ve made of your ‘loved ones,’ and releasing those persons and those relationships to the Father for his cleansing and renewal.”

It grabbed me instantly, for I know it is true. I know that the path leads to the cross. I know that means death to my natural desires. And if I could rightly express the idol I have made of my husband to be to me what my earthly father couldn’t (to demand him be what I thought I needed him to be) and what I never knew my Heavenly Father could or even wanted to be for me, yesterday’s post would become clear as a bell.

His disrespect wasn’t intentional. By no means do I intend to portray my husband as unloving, I have spent my roughest years dragging him through the mud in order to keep my own unacceptable activities murky and invisible. What was on display during this conversation between him and I was empowered by the old creation, and no one can deem that powerless but God in Christ. Not even a wife who has always needed to stand her ground because everyone around her needs to know exactly how she feels so they can do better (she writes as she lets out a long, deep guttural groan).

Truth be told, and this is deeply personal, I have struggled greatly with how to function and maneuver within this marriage since I surrendered to Christ in 2007 after decades of running (I ‘accepted’ Jesus into my heart at a young age).  On a large scale and within the confines of the Christian circles I have been privy to, the most important matter is that I needed to be in church. The battle that has raged within me over this very topic is a long and sordid tale, and one that ultimately only God can know the depths of. I have wrestled with it and been told point blank that’s what I needed above all else: be in church. Somewhere inside of me and often without the proper language I wondered what would happen to my marriage if I went to church, not that I wanted to. Now, please hear this: I am not talking about a walk with Christ and what that would do to my marriage.  Church, to me, and to many I have communicated with, would serve to alienate me from my ‘unsaved’ husband. It’s like a lifestyle unto itself and those on the outside just need to be inside; those on the inside need to work at getting the outsiders in. And I know that I know that I know my husband would have none of it, to the same degree that I wouldn’t. Something else altogether better but not without its challenging death to self needed to take place. I. Had. No. Idea!

Almost one year ago (February 25, 2015) amidst the most horrific of conversations with someone very close to me regarding this very thing: my ‘unsaved’ husband, my lack of church attendance, etc. came a life trajectory changing Voice that has stilled the very choppy and most unstable waters of my soul. I was a rebel without a cause and I was damn proud of it. Brothers and sisters, I write to you today a kept woman; kept by the Maker of the Stars. More truth be told, there is no one more stunned by all of this than I am.

So as I opened not my mouth in what my old creation would view as weak and mousy, because my old creation was large and overbearing and pushy, as the flesh often is, I have come instead to see the power, the miracle, the love of it. Allowing God in Christ to be put on display rather than ME. All things considered, even the random creative idea that turned out to be more expensive than it was worth, lose their luster in light of what is really happening under the surface.  So be it.

When We Open Not Our Mouths

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In his article The Most Difficult Thing in the World, T. Austin-Sparks, with regards to Israel in the wilderness and their not entering into the rest of God writes: The soul is the self-conscious life […] Spirit is just the God-conscious life […] Self-conscious and God-conscious life, and because those two things were not defined, put apart and recognised in their difference, but allowed to overlap and bring about a state of confusion, they did not enter in. They failed because of unbelief. Well, what does that amount to? The self-conscious life predominated, and the God-conscious life did not predominate, was made subject and subservient. In other words, for them, everything was a matter of how self was affected by the situation and by the prospect. You find them again and again full of enthusiasm, full of zeal, full of what looked like real interest in the things of the Lord. Oh yes, they were going on, they were full of apparently real devotion to the Lord. But that was when the situation was pleasing them and when the prospect was presented so that it brought a great sense of possibilities for them, prospects for them, and their gratification […] But it was all soul, self-conscious self-interest, self-gratification. And when there arose some situation, either present or in relation to that prospect which made it a matter of denying, sacrificing self, letting go self-interests, and having to face up to a very difficult situation which was going to be very costly to them, they were not so interested; their zeal went, and unbelief rose up; it was there and it rose up. They were not so concerned about this thing now, it was not now for them. What was it for? It was for the Lord ONLY first, and their interests were entirely eclipsed. […] In the Lord getting what He wants, we see ourselves figuring in some way. It has to be a very sharp instrument that gets in between those two things and defines them because they are so mixed up. […] What is the key to faith then? The key to faith is this dividing of soul and spirit, or, in other words, it is the complete abnegation of self-interests(Abnegation: the act of renouncing or rejecting something; self-denial.)

This world knows nothing of this kind of life. We do not have to go far to find a nation, a group of people, or an individual fighting for their self-interests. If we spend any time listening to the radio, watching TV, reading the internet, or in conversation with others, we are bombarded by this message of self. The most subtle and dangerous is when it’s given under the guise of Christianity. The real piercing of soul and spirit happens inwardly and with no prying eyes of the swine of the world, but with the truth and mercy and grace of God in Christ looking to remove what destroys and is death, mainly our old creation, and replace with a new creation which lives, mainly…His Life in us.

It was a random creative idea I had but one which I was going to need the assistance of an actual artist or one with the specific talent to bring my idea to fruition. I sought help in finding one and we communicated a short while before they gave their estimated cost. When I shared this with my husband he thought the price was too steep, and in a tone I heard as being disrespectful of my likes and desires, he made fun of the entire idea. After a few minutes passed he asked if I was angry. No, I’m not angry. I’m not sure what I am. It’s just that in your response…Oh, I don’t even know how to express myself. With that the conversation ended and has yet to be brought up again. Before the words could escape my lips I knew it was going to be the same as it’s been for so many of our near 30 year marriage: blame and defensiveness and manipulation to get and have my own way. Because I wanted what I wanted, and as has always been the case with me, I want it when I want it. Period. (Ouch!)

For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. Hebrews 4:15, Amplified Classic

Andrew Murray in The Holiest of All writes: The thought of Jesus as a sympathising High Priest, is ordinarily applied to those who are in circumstances of trial and suffering. But the truth has far deeper meaning and application: It has special reference to the temptation which meets the soul in the desire to live wholly for God. Jesus suffered, being tempted: it was the temptation to refuse the Father’s will that caused His deepest suffering. 

Brothers and sisters, please hear my heart, I am not attempting in any way, shape, or form, to belittle any major trial of extreme suffering that anyone around the world may be enduring presently. My intention, or the Lord’s intention through a very personal experience, is to bring this to a practical level that meets the vast majority of us square between the eyes of our everyday living.

In my inability to express my feelings to my husband, which I took as the Holy Spirit muddling my thoughts to jumble my words to keep me quiet (ahem!) I soon was giving consideration to the phrase in Isaiah 53: as a lamb led to the slaughter, He opened not His mouth. I took to reading the chapter in its entirety, and with the Murray’s words echoing in my spirit, it was the temptation to refuse the Father’s will that caused His deepest suffering, verse 7, He was oppressed, [yet when] He was afflicted, He was submissive and opened not His mouth (in another translation it reads, to complain or defend Himself), like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.  Again, please hear my heart, I am in no way, shape, or form attempting to portray that in this same context I was experiencing the very thing Christ was. But in the moment, with the Spirit’s help, I knew that my flesh, my self, my old creation was being oppressed and afflicted (oh, was it ever!), and I opened not my mouth to complain or defend myself. In any situation or circumstance, this ‘open not our mouth’ is powered by the Spirit of Christ in us.

Verse 11, He shall see [the fruit] of the travail of His soul and be satisfied […] Bringing it back to the practicality of this kind of life being put on display in the privacy of our own living rooms and kitchens and even work spaces, we all every one has known this kind of ‘travail of soul’ that no one, not one, save God Himself, sees or is privy to. And the fruit of the travails of our souls may be a long time in bearing forth, requiring of us endurance and perseverance when nothing seems to be changing outwardly in others or in our circumstances. Verse 12 then reads that He poured out His life unto death…The Son of God, Christ our Savior, the King of kings and Lord of lords poured out His life unto death and we are now and forevermore getting to experience the universe shifting consequences of His choosing, His pouring. But, we are to represent Him, and in various ways often differing greatly from each other, we pour out our old life unto death, we suffer as we choose our Father’s will over our own, and there we are promised to find life and peace and rest.

I pray that this was written clearly. May the Spirit bring clarity where it is needed. What has been a lifetime of misconceptions, the Lord continues to shatter my illusions and soften me. He is so good to us, friends. We may feel like we’re flailing some days, or most days, but He is our Keeper in the power of an endless life. It is a miracle any one of us are here, believing, born anew in Him. To Him be the glory.

There is a light that overwhelms the darkness
There is a kingdom that forever reigns
There is freedom from the chains that bind us
Jesus, Jesus

Lyrics: Chris Tomlin, Jesus. Link —> HERE

Focusing on the Faithful & True One

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I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord,
which made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121: 1-2 AKJV

In the movie Fire With Fire (with Josh Duhamel and Bruce Willis), Josh Duhamel plays a fireman who witnessed a convenience store robbery and murder of two people, and is placed in the witness protection program. He falls in love with a female United States Marshall, and there’s a scene where he describes to her what being a fireman is like. He says,

“Most calls are routine. Every once in a while you get that call where all hell’s breaking loose and you got structure goin’ up with people inside. To most people it looks like a blazing monster but I understand how it behaves, how it progresses, the ventilation, the materials, the construction style. I know how to get in, I know how to get out. I know where I can go and I know where I can’t go, things like that. But to the people inside all they see is fire and smoke. Ya know, just heat and blackness. And sometimes it happens where that person gets trapped inside they don’t wanna go, they just freeze because where I need to take them seems a helluva lot worse than the spot they’re still alive.

She responds, ‘So what do you do?’

He answers, ‘I get them to focus on me.'”

As I watched that scene play out I couldn’t help but think of ourselves and Christ. How often in our lives we find ourselves in the fire and smoke of our choices or the circumstances beyond our control; the heat and blackness of the conditions of this fallen world. We’re frozen with fear and the unknown of where we are, what’s swirling around us, and where we’re going or should go. I think back on recent weeks, with the changes the United States is undergoing, the divisiveness and hatefulness of many, and the effort of those wanting to make positive change peacefully but more often than not have a tone of anger and resentment. It’s one side pitted against the other. That is the narrow scope of what I’ve seen. The pull and ease with which to focus on these things has startled me.

Andrew Murray writes: “The spirit of a king imparts itself to his subjects. As he devotes himself to war or peace, to noble pursuits or to luxury and pleasure, his example leads his people. Perfect heavenliness, heavenly perfection, is the mark of our King; it is meant to be the mark of His people. The true knowledge of a heavenly Christ makes a heavenly Christian.”

In his article Faithful and True, T. Austin-Sparks writes:

[…] here you have Christ…He is the Faithful and True, and He is the faithful and true witness.

But we must remember that it was on those very things that the whole ground was given way to Satan, on those very things that Satan gained his first, his initial advantage in this world to capture the kingdoms of this world. Trustworthiness in Adam was destroyed, it was broken down and was surrendered. Faithfulness to God was let go under pressure, under trial, under temptation, under subtle maneuver and subterfuge and deception. Faithfulness, trustworthiness, was surrendered. Truth, the true thing, the real thing, the genuine thing, the genuine kingdom, the real kingdom, the dominion which was for him in relation to God was let go, sacrificed, for a false kingdom. Satan offered him something which looked better than that which God was offering him, something extra and without the limitations that it seemed God was putting on him. He inflated his kingdom and offered him this false thing and the true was sacrificed for the false, for the unreal, for the fictitious, and Satan gained his advantage. That is the explanation of the history of this world.

Now, the Lord Jesus comes onto the scene to take up those two things – faithfulness and truth, but it is not battling for something which is objective to Himself. He came into the conflict for the establishment of those things and the perfecting of them in Himself.

Surrounded then as we are by these serried ranks of witnesses, let us strip off everything that hinders us, as well as the sin which dogs our feet, and let us run the race that we have to run with patience, our eyes fixed on Jesus the source and the goal of our faith. For he himself endured a cross and thought nothing of its shame because of the joy he knew would follow his suffering; and he is now seated at the right hand of God’s throne. Think constantly of him enduring all that sinful men could say against him and you will not lose your purpose or your courage. Hebrews 12: 1-3 PHILLIPS

Dear brothers and sisters, I do not know where the Lord has you today. I cannot know the particular struggle of your heart or life at this present time. I needed to write this as much as I need to remember to, strip off everything that hinders us,  Our eyes fixed on Jesus the source and goal of our faith. If our eyes have been turned to and focused on anything else, any other source or goal – the news, the headlines, the trending stories, the world’s condition, the hope in any one person to change any one thing to the betterment of the United States or the world –  we are in danger of the subtlety of deception. Christ is our source! Christ is the goal! Christ is the only One Faithful and True! Christ is the plumb line for our hearts, our lives! God in Christ fills us with His love, displacing our fear; standing as a witness to what is faithful and true (Himself), He obliterates the lies!

Father, that You would grace us with Your strength to turn away from all that hinders and distracts, to think constantly of You even amidst our daily routines and work, to give us a teachable heart that would be always meditating on Christ Your Son, that we would not lose our purpose or our courage in these days by the energy of Your indwelling Holy Spirit. You alone our worthy of our praise. Amen.

 

An Opened Heaven – Our Spiritual Position

“You have had in your midst and available to you the full Revelation of God’s mind. For that you are now responsible. That Revelation was, and is, intended to bring you into a certain spiritual position and to govern the entire order of your life.” (Written with regard  to the contents of the letter to the Hebrews) T. Austin-Sparks, God Hath Spoken.

Let us leave behind the elementary teaching about Christ and go forward to adult understanding. Let us not lay over and over again the foundation truths—repentance from the deeds which led to death, believing in God, baptism and laying-on of hands, belief in the life to come and the final judgment. No, if God allows, let us go on. Hebrews 6: 1-3, PHILLIPS

After years of running in rebellion, after returning Home the weary prodigal daughter, I would have much to muddle through, surrender over, and come to terms with. The anger within runs startlingly deep, anger that is merely a cover-up for a great sadness. He is faithful and He is true to draw us to Himself and therefore leading us away from all that once entangled and enslaved us. He most assuredly still frees the captives. I found solace in online circles that had similar stories of religious outrage, and I camped there for some time, longing only to bash what I had no real understanding of. But something was surfacing within; a dissatisfaction, an emptiness. It began to reek of an old life only with a new twist. No one was going anywhere, myself included; there was no progress or growth. Oh, sure, we may have been talking about spiritual things, but where was the fruit? Where was the Life?

Yesterday, as I listened to a song I’ve heard hundreds of times, the lyrics struck deeper than ever before. The song is about dying, but it is about hope. It begins: “When I go don’t cry for me, in my Father’s arms I’ll be.” The words that so moved me were:

Gold and silver blind the eye
Temporary riches lie
Come and eat from heaven’s store
Come and drink and thirst no more

So weep not for me my friend
When my time below does end
For my life belongs to him
Who will raise the dead again

(All My Tears, Emmy Lou Harris

Come and eat from heaven’s store. Come and drink and thirst no more. So weep not for me my friend, when my time below does end. These speak to a spiritual reality we can have right here and right now. Let us leave behind the elementary teaching about Christ and go forward to adult understanding. If God allows, let us go on. This is not a journey we conjure up, nor one in which we guilt or pressure others into taking. It is progressive. We must be led by the Spirit or we are in danger. It is indeed a personal shaking of all that we once thought was our source for a spiritual life. Hebrews 9:24 states that, For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Is this written for after our death only? Or was it written, hidden in plain sight, for those being brought out of spiritual infancy and into spiritual maturity? In The Holiest of All (page 320), Andrew Murray writes:

[…] Christ is not entered into the Holiest, made with hands, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us. This is the great consummation to which all the teaching of the heavenly priesthood of Christ, and the true sanctuary, and the blood of the covenant leads up. Heaven itself is now opened to us. Christ has entered, not simply on His own behalf, but entirely to appear before the face of God for us. Yes, for us, His entering in has obtained for us boldness to enter in. His entering in was through the rent veil; there is no veil now between God and us. We are called to draw nigh in the fullness of faith. We are taught, Ye are come to the heavenly Jerusalem, and to God. Before the face of God, in the presence of God, is now the home of the soul. Heaven is not only a locality, with its limitations, but a state of life, that condition of spiritual existence in the full enjoyment of God’s love and fellowship, into which Christ entered. […] the Holiest of All, into which He entered, the presence of God, is now the sphere in which He exercises His heavenly ministry, into which He brings us in as an actual life and experience, in which we alone can truly serve the living God.

Oh, Father, thank You for an opened heaven! It is with this spiritual unveiling, or the inner call to draw nigh in the fullness of faith, that we – spiritually speaking now – leave the things below, and we, even from earth, eat from heaven’s store; we come and drink and find that we thirst no more.

In T. Austin-Sparks’ book, But Ye Are Come Unto Mount Zion (pages 87 and 59 respectively) he writes:

But if you look again at this letter to the Hebrews, you will see that we are come to Zion. We are not come to some thing, some religious thing, some tradition, we are not come to historic Christianity – if I may put it that way – we are come to a spiritual situation which is calculated to startle us.

And,

Zion: a people in the good of the complete and perfect work of Christ […] we are come to the all-inclusive and all-comprehending thought and intention of God when we have come into the Lord Jesus. We may have to grow in our apprehension and understanding of what we have come to, but God has nothing whatever to add to what we have come to. We have got it all! In Christ, we have all!

Father, that You may gift us with ears that hear! That You may bless us with continual growth in the apprehension and understanding of what we have truly come to in Your precious Son. Amen.

Seeing With Christ-Tinted Lenses

I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. Galatians 2:20 TLB.

PHILLIPS puts the last half of that verse this way: my present life is not that of the old “I”, but the living Christ within me.

There is nothing so detrimental to our spiritual learning, growth and progression (onward and upward) as familiarity. We come across a well-known verses and think, Oh, yeah, I know that, and we move on with little to no greater spiritual understanding and/or life testimony to what we read and profess. Familiarity is the breeding ground for lack of seeking and curiosity. Of course we can seek and be curious outside of spiritual things. But to truly come into greater understanding of Christ is entirely the Spirit’s work; it begins and it ends with Him. Often, on our end, it is preceded by a crisis. We are so comfortable with everything until something spins us out, and thank God for those situations. Not that in and of themselves they are good, but He makes them so by using them as a springboard to reveal Himself to us. We were once so satisfied but the crisis reveals to us our hunger. I cannot leave that there. Each one of us holds within a spiritual question that has plagued us for years, decades, possibly our whole life (as far as we recollect). Depending on our personality and personal history we look near and far for the answer in religious or non-religious places; we may even run from its suffocating weight. This journey is intensely personal and He will bring that to a head, as He Himself becomes the answer to that which has eluded us all those years.

To have the Cross applied will also be intensely personal. A literal cross fits our physical bodies in a similar way: body vertical, legs down, arms stretched out. But the spiritual Cross will be applied to our mind and soul in ways that another believer may not experience. The spiritual impression of the Cross has been felt by the writer powerfully and unrelentingly which took on a momentum February 25, 2016 that continues to be out of her hands. It has been the most challenging and yet strangely comforting season thus far.

We have had self (our flesh or ‘old I’ as the translation above puts it) as our center, our core; the hub of our entire lives. We live out of our emotions and opinions; we judge from there, we base our decisions there, we interpret Scripture or have had it interpreted to us from there. The Cross shatters all of it to our very startled watching eyes. These shallow and foolish ways cannot survive in the light of Christ. Suddenly – or painfully slowly- we find our fleshly lips shut up, our self-centered emotions and opinions burning in His all-consuming fire, and Christ finally becomes that through which we view all Scripture. It is here where the axis upon which our life turns is now Christ.

This. Changes. Everything.

The old stuff will attempt to reappear in our thoughts, the ruts run deep. They’ll try to escape through our lips, teasing us with their faux power, control, and ultimately…death. One such experience was with my four year old grandson just last week. We had gone back and forth over something and he was nearing meltdown status and I wasn’t too far behind, when he seemed to turn on a dime and wanted to do a craft. Exasperated I raise my hands and say quite loudly, “Are you kidding me? After the way you’ve acted you want to…” The impression within me is undeniable, one word echoes gently in my spirit: mercy. It is I who has now turned on a dime. My fleshly lips are severely shut up, my self-centered emotions burning, stinging, in His all-consuming fire, and the living Christ within me reaches down to lift up this little man to place him in his booster seat, and we begin the craft, no more words are spoken. I hung my head with the realization that any Life must come from Him, not this old I which had long been so accustomed to ruling her roost. The Lord is practical. He brings the point home right in front of us; with those we live with and have close relation with on a daily basis.

To see with Christ-tinted lenses in a world that besieges us at every turn to do things their way, we take into consideration Paul’s words as recorded in Romans chapter 12 verse 2:

And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you]. AMP

With every opportunity, may we lay ourselves empty and willing at His feet to take us to higher places, where the breadth and width becomes so real we can do nothing but cling to Him and follow wherever He goes.

To Gain the Significance of Christ

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Jesus in Matthew 16 verse 26 (ESV)

But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled]. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ, Paul in Philippians 3 verse 8 (Amplified)

More often than not I am moved to write in the way of testimony rather than teaching. This post will again be along those lines; giving evidence of Him through the sharing of my experiences (which I trust are in His more than capable Hands).

The other day my mother asked me the name of a pastor to a church I once attempted to attend (circa mid-2010). She had come across an article of a church that had merged with another church, one name was familiar to her, and the pastor she thought was that same one with whom I’d had a kind of “run-in” with. I couldn’t quite recall the name, but was grateful beyond measure that I had been brought thus far from that “conversation.” Finally today I had some time to do a little research of my own and, lo and behold, it was the same pastor. I recognized his face, and upon reading the bio given for him on a website, I couldn’t finish…I had to “X” out and go along on my way.

Around this same time an email came in notifying me that a blog I follow had posted a new article. I read it; it then linked the reader to another blog, which I clicked on and read. This particular author wrote out a few paragraphs that stunned me…it was like he’d been livin’ in my head, a witness to my life. What he shared gave language to what I had yet to have words to describe. He writes, and I quote:

And so he bypassed us and gave us a single instruction: Forget about yourself and look at Jesus Christ. Behold him, hear him, trust him. That’s all you need to do. Learn from him. Do so, and you shall find yourself coming face to face with the living God…

If you believe this, I mean truly believe it, then you will soon experience an unintended and inevitable consequence: You will begin to lose the taste for depictions of him.

Mere words will no longer suffice. Screaming men in suits will no longer seem to channel him. Neither will hulky youth leaders with Jesus tattoos and designer specs, or trance-like worship songs sung by beautiful girls with angelic voices, or fog on the stage, or feathers from angels’ wings, or street healings, or football stadiums filled with people…

When compared with the face of Christ, all of it will seem like the dust of death. This disturbing awareness will become progressively stronger, and you will not be able to shake or suppress it.

It will be a natural consequence of another awareness rising up in you, something that you may never have experienced and that you do not have words for. And then, slowly but surely, you will begin to understand: This thing that I am experiencing…this is the love of God…this is love for God.

Forget about yourself and look at Jesus Christ. That truth has been inescapable for me as of late. It has been made more and more clear to me that, starting with my self and my own history, there is so little of Christ and so much of us.

You will begin to lose the taste for depictions of him. Those words jumped off the screen and resolved something in my soul.

When compared with the face of Christ, all of it will seem like the dust of death. Good gracious! The “dust of death” is putting it lightly. Let me stop there for a moment.

On this particular leg of the journey, which for me are these last nine years, I have felt nothing but rebellious and defiant when coming up against something “religious” or “Christian” and having a complete and utter disgust for it. What do you think your reaction would be to the stench of death? It’s as if He was on to something and I was late to the party. It’s as if He was drawing me to a place that I didn’t know even existed. But, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

This disturbing awareness will become progressively stronger, and you will not be able to shake or suppress it. “Disturbing awareness” – yup. “progressively stronger” – yup, yup. “not be able to shake or suppress it” – yup, yup, and…yup.

Around this time my mother responds to a text of mine where she adds, completely unrelated to all that’s been transpiring in my morning that, in Vine’s Word Studies, it shows that ‘to forget’ doesn’t always mean to ‘lose memory,’ (which is what she was relaying it to; her memory) but it can also mean, ‘to lose the significance of.’ Immediately my brain starts grasping for where that sounds so familiar? Didn’t I just read something about ‘to forget’? Oh. That’s. Right! Forget about yourself and look at Jesus Christ.

And, so, to lose the significance of ourselves, we shall gain the significance of Christ. This just about sums up 2016 for me spiritually. I have dredged the bottom of the floor as to the disgust of me, me, me. Oh, so sick and tired of all this me. Yet He doesn’t end there. Our death with Christ on the Cross, or considering ourselves dead to sin (Romans 6:11) isn’t the end. It is but the beginning, for we are considering ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. The Amplified translates it this way: Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin [and your relationship to it broken], but alive to God [in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus. Unbroken fellowship with Him in Christ. Wow!

The distaste for these depictions of Him that are all around us, (I have marinated in and written about) is not due to some old nature of rebellion or defiance in me, far from it. What is needed more than any single thing on this earth is for a heart to know Christ. That, and that alone, has made all the difference in my everyday living this 2016, and for that I am grateful beyond measure.

May the Spirit continue to shed the love of God abroad in our hearts, and every one who seeks Him (even in ways that don’t appear to be seeking, He alone knows the depth of a thirsty heart).

You can read the blog I quoted from HERE.

From Dust to A Diamond

The untangling is painful. To be given eyes to see the truth of what you have been, the you without Christ, no matter how long after “conversion” it may be, is to quite literally feel the Divine knife slicing between what was and is now considered dead, and what is or what is now considered alive to God. The line is drawn in Blood; there is no crossing over one with the other, the two cannot mix.

I once maneuvered in virtual circles of those who believe this is not the way, that there is no knife and division, only grace and love. You don’t have to die, Jesus died in your place. I have witnessed lives rich with Christian information but also of self. This year I have suffered great loss. I write this from a wilderness I didn’t think would be required of me and for the most part have not been able to resolve when comparing with the experience of many. But I can tell you without a doubt what I do know…He is here. With a knife that brings peace and a death that brings life. It is not easily shared in language and words.

The division has been most prevalent this year. At least that’s how it feels for me, maybe it’s always been there and I’m simply on board now. The definitive line was marked out this past February when I clearly heard the Spirit say inwardly, “You are no longer his, you are Mine” with regards to a family relationship I have been entangled with and to toxic and dysfunctional depths unbeknownst to me, known only to Him. The work of the Lord on my heart and in my life has been up close and personal, not a depth or portion left out, every area touched to the quick. Now mid November and looking back I know He has meant business with me from that point in February on.

What is most shocking to see, or be shown, is the default of old in how quick I am to turn back. I only want to give to others to the extent which they have given to me. It’s the way of the world. It’s in the very air that we breathe. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I will only do for you what you’ve done for me. I will go no further. And if I sense you have held back, I, too, will hold back. The whole idea of loving, truly loving, in this place is something my flesh recoils from. He quietly whispers in the midst of it all; the initial and potent feelings of pride and self consideration that rises up: That is not the way. This is the way, walk in it with Me. 

In every single area of life, in every situation I am surrounded by, in every circumstance that seems to be closing in, the main point, one which I first felt and was impressed upon my being quite literally and without a doubt back in February, is love. In His Great Love, Sparks writes: “The very essence of love, of Divine love, is that its one motive and one concern is to give.” That blows our view of God right outta the water and challenges our hearts. Antonyms for give are: deny, disapprove, refuse, reject, refrain. How often I’ve seen Him that way. How much of my life has been lived that way towards others. Love denied. Love refused. He brings it home to me by revealing those aspects of my old nature even now with the solution – death and resurrection in Him.  Sparks goes on, “The Cross, entered deeply in ones heart, delivers us from all considerations of cost to ourselves, of all interests that are personal.” Last week I heard on a television show (and I do not know if this is even something that is real, but they were discussing turning a person’s ashes into gems), “10,000 lbs of pressure that turns it into dust in order to make a diamond.” And I thought, YES! The Cross feels like 10,000 pounds of pressure, turning our old nature to dust and creating in us a diamond…the image of the Son.

The considerations of costs to myself, the interests that have been very personal to me, are being required of me…will you give those to Me? No longer demanding them from others? Oh, sweet Jesus, this is where the rubber meets the road. I do not want death any longer, I want life. You have placed that Life and desire within the confines of a once rebel heart. It is only You who can work out such a thing. I come to You, not empty, but full of everything I’ve ever held onto, demanded, and refused, I give to You, Lord, my old self in death, even death on a Cross in You. A Cross that is offensive to the flesh but powerful in Your Kingdom with meekness and humility. Help me. The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Thank You for your help!

“If you touch anything that is other than love – if you touch hate, animosity, suspicion, prejudice, criticism, jealousy, envy or any other thing that is contrary to love – you touch death.” Sparks

We have been set free from the law of sin and death. This must be worked out in our every day lives, not mere information we have from a book, in order that the power of freedom and life in Christ may be manifest.

So be it.

In His keeping and great love,

B.

The Great Spiritual Reality

It was a Netflix original documentary titled, Extremis, that I watched intently and through tears. A 24 minute look into end of life decisions many are forced to make for themselves and/or their loved ones. One woman was ‘with it’ enough to speak through her oxygen mask and tears, “I’m only 38 years old, I’m not ready to give up my life.” Her words struck deep in my heart. Not because I’ve ever had to make a literal end of life decision for myself (or even a loved one), but because spiritually speaking I know the depth and the wrestling that comes with giving up my own life.

I cannot rightly say if it has been my own ignorance or the picture many of the Christians I have known in real life and virtually, through years of blogging and social media, have painted of what faith is. Maybe it has been a mixture of both, but a struggle it should not be; to wrestle through in order to follow the Spirit’s Voice leading you is rarely spoken of. And, so, to experience it in spades these last few weeks has been somewhat of a shock. The Lord is bringing things front and center, unmistakable that He is in it, and it has been hard. Good but hard. In one such conversation with my husband I stated with sincerity and through tears that I meant what I said and said what I meant. I was giving up in order that he could have. This is not only unnatural to me but not our experience as husband and wife. He spoke candidly that he did not know if he could trust me. I understood. Our history proves the exact opposite to be true; I’d make him pay in one way or another. But I am no longer that woman. All I could say was that I meant it and we would just have to let time show itself, or myself, rather, true or false. In the moment I could feel the old Becky dying and it hurt. I cried. It was not joyful or without the sting of death. And yet! I knew it was Him leading me and for good reason – Life!

Jesus struggled, He wrestled in the Garden to the point of sweating blood. Obviously I was not about to be crucified on a Cross or beaten and mocked, but I am coming to see that reckoning ourselves crucified with Christ in very real and practical ways, is gonna leave a mark.  My self-will has run amok. My history with rebellion is rich with fear and control and doing it all my way. As I have often shared, I ran for the sake of freedom and ended up in chains. But there has been enough spiritual death! Not just in my life but in the lives of those around me. My heart cries out from its depths, Enough!! Something has to change. The same ol’, same ol’ is no longer attractive, though it be familiar.

With all of this on my heart and mind, and living in a time such as the one in which we are living, in this world and especially this country; knowing that it is Christ Who is our only Hope, not a President, even one who ‘reflects Christian values’ that so many vocal Christians desire. What can be shaken must be shaken in order for us to have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that hungers for Truth & Grace, Christ Himself!!

Colossians 3:1-4 speaks to us to-day:

Since you became alive again, so to speak, when Christ arose from the dead, now set your sights on the rich treasures and joys of heaven where he sits beside God in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts; don’t spend your time worrying about things down here. You should have as little desire for this world as a dead person does. Your real life is in heaven with Christ and God. And when Christ who is our real life comes back again, you will shine with him and share in all his glories. (The Living Bible)

T. Austin-Sparks in The Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken writes this:

This One who was appointed heir of all things, through whom the ages were made, who was the very effulgence of the Father’s person, the very expression of the Father’s image – the One that became Priest and His office was shot through and through with what He was Himself. Now, give to the priestly office the values of the very effulgence of God, the express image of the Father’s person, the Maker of the ages, and the Heir of all things, and you endue priesthood with something that is altogether outside of the changes and the course of this world.

That sounds very great, very high, very exalted, but unless you get hold of it you are going to be shaken. This is the point. The Lord’s people need to be established. The Lord has in view here the establishing of His people by way of shakings, and they can only be established as they see what their foundation is, and the foundation is not something which belongs to time, it is something right outside of time. It is not something which is subject to death; it is altogether outside of death. Nothing in the course of this present world’s history can touch it, because it cannot touch Him.

Beloved, our lives are hidden with Christ in God. Whatever plays out in the coming weeks, months, or even years, that is the great spiritual reality, as well as our deepest hope in these troubled times.

In His keeping and great love,

B.

The All-Sufficient Provision of Christ

Even though the Lord has fed you the bitter food of adversity and offered you the water of oppression, your great Teacher will reveal Himself to you; your eyes will see Him. Your ears will hear sweet words behind you: “Go this way. There is your path; this is how you should go” whenever you must decide whether to turn to the right or the left. Then you’ll get rid of all your worthless idols clad in silver and your despicable images plated with gold. You will destroy these idols and discard them as you do filthy rags, saying, “Get out of here.”

And then God will see to it that your efforts are fruitful […] Isaiah 30:22-23a The Voice

This path offered by the Spirit is unlike any we have known before. The sweet words saying, go this way. This is your path; this is how you should go, is the new and living way opened up to us by and in Christ. The “worthless idols clad in silver and the despicable images plated with gold,”as my recent experience has painfully shown, are the idol of self, or of the old nature: The me, myself, and I which is marinated in pride and can only bring spiritual death. When we are rid of, and discard them as filthy rags, saying, get out of here, it is our reckoning that self or that old nature as crucified with Christ and it is then, no longer I that lives but Christ in me (Galatians 2:20). The New & Living Way becomes a life in which we walk after the Spirit, and we will not gratify the lusts of the flesh, which are always in opposition to each other. When we are led by the Spirit, or by “ropes of love” as Hosea 11:4 in The Living Bible states, we are no longer under the law (Galatians 5:16-18).

Oh, this is real freedom from all that has bound us in chains, but it comes at a cost! I have felt the sting of this ‘death to self,’ and I know you have too. In recent weeks it has been potent and unrelenting, in the moment I am made very aware of the life and freedom with which this kind of death brings. But within 24 hours the desire lurches from below the grave, haunting and taunting me to resurrect my old life, the old nature that once held all-power over me, just a little bit of self-protection here, just a touch of self-defending there. But the thing about a corpse is…there is no life left in it. It is dead. The way I once walked is no longer the way I am being led. And none of this is by our attaining or self-effort! For all we have once known of human attainment and human effort, be it in the world or in religion, even Christianity, is now considered crucified with Christ. We are made alive to God through Christ’s death, and He is all-sufficient in providing us the Life and the Power to live it. What a mouthful!

In His Great Love, T. Austin-Sparks writes his own kind of rendition of Galatians 2:20: “It is Christ Who is providing what is necessary for this new life on the other side of the Cross. I live by Him, I live by the provision that He makes.”

Andrew Murray in The Holiest of All writes (in regards to Hebrews 5:8-9): “There is no perfection for man but in union with that will (God’s). And there is no way for attaining and proving that union with that will but by obedience. Obedience to the good and perfect will of God transforms the whole nature, and makes it capable of union with Him in glory. Obedience to God’s will on earth is the way to the glory of God’s will in heaven. The everlasting perfection of heaven is nothing but the obedience of earth transfigured and glorified. Obedience is the seed, the power, the life of Christ’s perfection and ours.”

Wow. Wow. Wow. Such depth and width!

For an ol’ rebel like myself, obey was the worst of all four-lettered words! I longed to live my own way and by any means necessary. It is that ol’ nature I know full well and so recent too. I have known a deep aversion to legalism, to coming to God by way of rules and having our act cleaned up; having all of it a form that must be conformed to. When I say aversion I mean that quite literally. It is a hatred that has confounded and confused me, tempting me with running again. All the while I have been hungry, so hungry, for truth and for grace. But I didn’t know it…not in my conscious mind. But the Father knew. Oh, He knows, beloved. He knows. And He draws us by way of our hunger, our dissatisfaction with that which is opposed to or parading as truth and grace. It has, as I have already alluded to above, been potent and unrelenting lately. And through it all I am coming to know the experience of His grace in our hunger and dissatisfaction, and His desire to bring us to Himself by way of those things. They are not to be resented! Also, in the meantime, every other thing I have tried to put my hand to is brought to nothing. The temptation is to feel the way I’ve always felt, stupid, worthless, incapable. But there is something else altogether happening; it is deep and mostly hidden. He is faithful to be our Bread of Life, and when we feast on Him, we find our hunger satisfied. Not that all has been made clear, for that cannot happen here. When He is our life and our drink, we have found the Living Water, and we no longer thirst. This is His heart for us. Oh!

So, then, when I have found myself slammed up against a rock and a hard place these last two weeks, the ol’ rebel in me wanting to have her way, His gentleness glides in, and it becomes unmistakable. I must obey Him!

I followed the sweet words, I walked that path, I felt the sting of death, and the power of His Life in that choosing. The next day and in regards to that very thing, the anger within grew ever louder. In the house alone I let it seep and seethe outward, four-lettered words and all. I couldn’t believe it. After all this and now what? If you don’t mind me sharing the personal detail of this sacred moment where the matter at hand was one of spiritual life and death taking place as I sat on the toilet – yeah, I was tinkling – He rushes in all gentle like with the reminder of love keeps no record of wrongs and I’m dumbfounded, I am rendered speechless. The very manner in which I was thinking and feeling and speaking, is not His way with us – oh! The anger within died because I knew He was right. He has handled me with love and I have Christ’s life and power within me to now handle others the same way, with love.

And, yes, it does come at a cost, but so does the other.

I leave you with more words from Sparks’ His Great Love:

All He does is in the spirit of the servant. Oh, how the spirit of service and servanthood is despised today (Sparks wrote that in 1951-52)! Everywhere you hear it. No one wants to be a servant today. That word “servant” is hated. The spirit of service has almost gone from the earth. The spirit of Christ is a rare thing, but, when it is found, it is a heaven-blessed thing, a mighty power. Oh, do not despise the servant position! Be not ambitious for place, for recognition, for name, for reputation.  Be not ambitious to have your rights recognized. God dill us with this spirit, that we are not all the time waiting for others to do something for us, but looking to see what we can do for them in Christ’s name.

May the Lord make this to us truth and life!

In His keeping and great love,

B.

Consider Christ

287

“Looking Up”

For a time such as this:

The Spirit is helping me to know the Lord Jesus as my faithful, compassionate, and almighty High Priest in heaven, I find in Him all I need for the life God has for me to lead.

I am a partaker of a heavenly calling, because the Spirit and the life and the power of heaven is within me.

My weakness comes by looking at myself and my own strengths, rather than considering Jesus. My cure will be each day, every hour, considering Jesus, and in Him I will find all the holiness and heavenliness I need. Heaven is not only a place, but a state, a mode of existence, the life in which (in this case it is my life, it is your life) the presence of God is revealed and experienced in its unhindered power. 

Jesus has entered heaven and opened it for me. He has become a minister of the heavenly sanctuary and leads me to dwell in my Father’s presence. Jesus seated in heaven is the power of the heavenly calling and the heavenly life.

(Quotes taken (and personalized) from Andrew Murray’s book The Holiest of All, on Considering Jesus pages 103-106)

Looking back over these last nine years I am able to see it as a personal wilderness where the Lord has led me, humbling me, letting me hunger and then feeding me the Bread of Heaven which I knew not before, testing me to know what was in my heart. Not that He needed to know, but I surely did. Earlier this week after meditating on this testing of our hearts, about midday, my heart was tested. What a practical way the Spirit has of bringing the point home to us. I am caught off guard by two things in particular, my mood shifting immediately. But I sense an impression in my heart with each lament of the situation(s). Am I going to trust God? Or am I going to lean into unbelief based on the facts in front of me? Always one to be forthright and not one to hide or keep things secretive, especially that which I’m struggling with, but the Spirit is calling me into the deep, and within an hour I am given remembrance to consider Jesus rather than all I see and ‘think’ I know. Shifting our focus is not an easy one, it goes against the grain of our human nature, and it most certainly isn’t an example we see much of, especially not in the world, and especially not now in the times such as what we are living in. But we have been created anew! We have an ever-present Father in Whom we are now receiving all life and power and supply.

Some scribbling’s of truth in the invisible rather than lamenting what is visible. For us, for a time such as this:

You, Jesus, are King of all kings. You, Jesus, are seated in heavenly places, next to my Father – our Father – as you are, so am I. I am at peace, at rest, lacking no good thing. You are my Healer. You are my Great Physician. You are my Wonderful Counselor. You are my Prince of Peace; the government of my soul, spirit, and very life rests forever on Your shoulders. You are alive, Jesus, and You live to intercede for me, on my behalf. I trust Your Hand in my life and the ways of Your testing to see what is in my heart. You have refined me; You are refining me, but not like silver, You have chosen to burn off the impurities of my heart through the furnace of affliction. And though I am afflicted, I am not troubled. Though I am affronted, I am not consumed. Though I am pressed on every side, I am not crushed. I am safe in Your everlasting Arms because there is nothing else, nowhere else, where I have found life, life abundant and true. Only in You. And that is my choice:to make my home in You, Jesus, not my mail, or my circumstances, or my feelings, or this clamoring world. You have chosen to make Your home in me and it is the least I can offer in return to yield to You in this testing, waiting, but trusting for You to provide all things by Your Hand.

Oh, come, let us sing to the Lord! Give a joyous shout in honor of the Rock of our salvation!

Come before him with thankful hearts. Let us sing him psalms of praise. For the Lord is a great God, the great King of all gods. He controls the formation of the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains; all are his. He made the sea and formed the land; they too are his. Come, kneel before the Lord our Maker, for he is our God. We are his sheep, and he is our Shepherd. Oh, that you would hear him calling you today and come to him!

Psalm 95:1-7, The Living Bible

“Seek in childlike faith to live in the invisible.” Andrew Murray

In His keeping and great love,

B.