Friday, January 26, 2007

Dark, but Lovely

"There is, for each of us, a point of choice, when we determine just exactly who we will be. Whether we will continue to stay behind the veil of our own darkness, or come close to Him despite it. It is this desperate longing to draw near to Him, even in the midst of our sin, which leads us to the place where His sheep feed and find rest. We remember anew that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). It causes us to see ourselves in a different light. We are no longer the “veiled.” We are the Beloved." – John Crowder

Father I feel your grace this year! I was tempted to bemoan my failures but you said "Forget the former things..." I await the wind of your Spirit. Blow apon these fragile wings. I DO want to soar with YOU!

"We have to understand both dimensions of the redeemed heart to understand the grace of God in a more complete way. There is a greater capacity for sin in our hearts than we comprehend. No one fully grasps the depth of the wickedness in the human heart. We have many unperceived areas of sin which lie undetected below the surface like hidden fault lines. On the other hand, the grace of God has helped us in ways which we do not fully understand. "

"To know that I am dark yet lovely is to understand my weakness, which is comprised of my sinfulness, my immaturity and my natural limitations together with the revelation of my loveliness to Him. “Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me; for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am holy” (Psalm 86:1,2). Without understanding this combined confession, we cannot continually progress in our pursuit of love. We are both far weaker and far lovelier than we realize. This is one of the most difficult tensions for a believer to combine. Typically we can understand one side of this paradox or the other, but we have difficulty grasping both of them together. By knowing our darkness, we fully receive and draw upon His strength. By nature, we so often want to be able to stand in our own resolution and commitments to the Lord. Yet God is committed to revealing the weakness of our flesh to us. He wants us to have a leaning heart at the end of the journey. He desires that we would not find our confidence in our commitment to Him but in His commitment to us. As Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it”? (Jeremiah 17:9)

"By knowing our beauty to Him we are empowered to have confidence before God even when our sin and immaturity is unveiled. When the enemy comes with accusation regarding my weakness or immaturity, I respond with the truth of Jesus’ delight in me even in my weakness. When He comes to deceive me into taking pride in my beauty or strength, I respond with the vivid remembrance of my weakness. Our loveliness protects us from shame and condemnation. Our weakness keeps us from pride and arrogance. Together they enable us to wholeheartedly abandon ourselves in love, confident before Him." - Dana Chandler

"We are God's image - yes, but we are not yet God's likeness; we have a capacity for God - yes, but it is not yet fully actualized. And so it is that to experience our divine capacity is to experience our innate nobility and our innate poverty - both experiences urging us on in our quest for God." - (quote from the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Abbey)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

One story

"I found Betty. She was an older woman whose husband had left to get the mail a memory ago and never came back. Her world went into a downward spiral of poverty that ended there – in the motel – cold, hungry and alone. I knew this wasn’t about starting a ministry, firing up a program in the church or doing a good deed to ease my conscience.This was about the simplicity of worship. As much as I was being awakened in the ethos of music and the arts to intimacy with Christ – I was discovering that here at the fringes of society in whatever I was doing to the “least of these” – I was encountering Him.It began down the pathway of finding friends among the poor and marginalized of the world. Strange thing is though – in finding the poor and oppressed, we found God in a way I would have never thought possible. As we became friends with Betty, she became a friend of God. Some time after our first meeting she would die and I can’t wait to see her again and thank her for introducing me to so much about what life and worship are really all about.
There was a fragrance in this exchange that I’ve found to be unmatched in any other place – and without this as a part of our life – it is lost in the gathered place of liturgy. Not only is it lost to the church and the society to which it is called – but it is lost to God as well, a tragedy indeed, and worship is lost.

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men."You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:13-16

As one who has a sense of calling in serving the church at large by making a way for her to express her worship – I cannot be silent about justice. We cannot be a worshipping people without being a community of justice within and without our walls. I cannot be faithful to my destiny in worship without continually wrestling with the place of justice in my life as a worshipper and the worshipping community that I am a part of." - David Ruis

Monday, January 22, 2007

Digging wells and planting seeds

How much is it worth to dig wells and plant seeds in a barren desert land? What will come of it?

I came to a point of decision and deep cost a few years ago and turned away in fear. I didn't realize it fully until the invitation away from fear and into adventure came again and again.......slowly, consistantly and painfully reminding me of what I lost. I regret it all so deeply. So much so that numbness became an easier place to dwell. But when you are used to being "a heart on a sleeve" and you enter the new world of the cold, you cannot possibly stay long. There is no integrity in this life. The Lord in his grace has invited me to sow again. In his mercy, he beckons me to dig again. I suspect that the conditions will not be as easy and indeed the work will be even harder, having allowed the soil to grow fallow, having neglected to re-dig a well when the enemy came and sabatoged the first one, but:

"Hear this! The days are coming--the LORD's declaration--when the plowman will overtake the reaper and the one who treads grapes, the sower of seed. The mountains will drip with sweet wine, and all the hills will flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel. They will rebuild and occupy ruined cities, plant vineyards and drink their wine, make gardens and eat their produce. I will plant them on their land, and they will never again be uprooted from the land I have given them. Yahweh your God has spoken. "Amos 9:13-15

Friday, January 19, 2007

What God has joined together, let NO man separate.

There are certain truths that are uniquely powerful and glorious by themselves, however, they simply can not stand by themselves. They are a marriage of principals. Together, they ARE the true gospel lived out.

“The greatest commandment is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength and the second is LIKE it, Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love the Lord your God:

It is Faith alone that pleases God. Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God. Faith is our path of connection to God. Faith is the substance in which our relationship with Him has it's beginning, and it's maturation. Faith is the longing to trust and believe the best, the bold reach for the highest ideal - no matter what doubts and discouragement assail us. Despite cinical or fraudulent testement otherwise. Faith is a most beautiful and precious gift. Faith is, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer -the union of God with man, the commitment of man to God.

In the great love chapter (Corinthians 13) there are numerous acts of faith listed.....
but again and again we read that without love these acts of faith are MEANINGLESS.

" I may speak in the languages of humans and of angels. But if I don't have love, I am a loud gong or a clashing cymbal. I may have the gift to speak what God has revealed, and I may understand all mysteries and have all knowledge. I may even have enough faith to move mountains. But if I don't have love, I am nothing. I may even give away all that I have and give up my body to be burned. But if I don't have love, none of these things will help me. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn't jealous. It doesn't sing its own praises. It isn't arrogant. It isn't rude. It doesn't think about itself. It isn't irritable. It doesn't keep track of wrongs. It isn't happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. Love never comes to an end. There is the gift of speaking what God has revealed, but it will no longer be used. There is the gift of speaking in other languages, but it will stop by itself. There is the gift of knowledge, but it will no longer be used. Our knowledge is incomplete and our ability to speak what God has revealed is incomplete. But when what is complete comes, then what is incomplete will no longer be used. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I no longer used childish ways. Now we see a blurred image in a mirror. Then we will see very clearly. Now my knowledge is incomplete. Then I will have complete knowledge as God has complete knowledge of me. So these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the best one of these is love."

A marraige without love gives little meaning to the symbol of faithfulness.
Faith without works is dead.
Faith IS the prized jewel,
but it needs the perfect setting of love to shine.
Love alone will display the beauty and authenticity of faith.

Love your neighbour as yourself:
Jesus said OFTEN, "Go learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice'.” He's teaching us HOW to love Him. In Isaiah 58 the heart of God pours out with His longing.

"The LORD says, "Shout as loud as you can! Tell my people Israel about their sins!
They worship me every day, claiming that they are eager to know my ways and obey my laws. They say they want me to give them just laws and that they take pleasure in worshiping me." The people ask, "Why should we fast if the LORD never notices? Why should we go without food if he pays no attention?" The LORD says to them, "The truth is that at the same time you fast, you pursue your own interests and oppress your workers.
Your fasting makes you violent, and you quarrel and fight. Do you think this kind of fasting will make me listen to your prayers? When you fast, you make yourselves suffer; you bow your heads low like a blade of grass and spread out sackcloth and ashes to lie on. Is that what you call fasting? Do you think I will be pleased with that?
"The kind of fasting I want is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives. "Then my favor will shine on you like the morning sun, and your wounds will be quickly healed. I will always be with you to save you; my presence will protect you on every side. When you pray, I will answer you. When you call to me, I will respond. "If you put an end to oppression, to every gesture of contempt, and to every evil word; if you give food to the hungry and satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon. And I will always guide you and satisfy you with good things. I will keep you strong and well. You will be like a garden that has plenty of water, like a spring of water that never goes dry. Your people will rebuild what has long been in ruins, building again on the old foundations. You will be known as the people who rebuilt the walls, who restored the ruined houses." The LORD says, "If you treat the Sabbath as sacred and do not pursue your own interests on that day; if you value my holy day and honor it by not traveling, working, or talking idly on that day, then you will find the joy that comes from serving me. I will make you honored all over the world, and you will enjoy the land I gave to your ancestor, Jacob. I, the LORD, have spoken."

Scriptures says that if we come to bring an offering to God but remember our brother has something against us, we are to leave our offering and go make things right first.

“How can you say you love God whom you can’t see when you do not love your brother who you can see.”

“If you love me, obey my commandments. This is my commandment, Love one-another”

God takes personal how we relate to others, after all, each individual is made in HIS image and we are created a connected body. Nothing happens on this earth that does not affect or touch us, or Him.

"What you have done to the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.”

Our offering, our sacrifice, our worship is a costly perfum but it needs the sweet aroma of right relationships to be a truly pleasing fragrance. Honor & grace make our sacrifice valuable.

The two commandments are NOT a divided focus. ALL of the law and the prophets hang on these two truths. They flow only in context with one-another. We cannot have one without the other. And it is only when both are in place that He is glorified, and the kingdom of God is manifested in power. This is Heaven kissing Earth.