Tuesday, November 24

FIGHT to the LIFE!

I'm on my own in God's Word right now. Our Bible study has ended, and I'm without a curriculum. My plan was to read through Paul's letters. Studying his letters to the Thessalonians really made me want to read through the others (so many others) to find his purposes in writing to each group of people.

I hope to do that at some point. But, this week, I've felt led to study JESUS. One thing Children of the Day highlighted for me is that NEW TESTAMENT LIVING isn't easy. It just isn't! Living life as a Christ follower in this world means that I'm constantly faced with difficult problems that don't have easy solutions. What makes these situations even harder is that I'm also surrounded by religion wanting to cover every difficulty with easy answers. For the life of me, I can't figure out WHY! I don't think I'll quickly answer that question. So, before I look at Paul's letters to New Testament believers, I decided I should head back to the Gospels and study this Jesus I want to follow. JOHN -- that's where I'm starting.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (1:4)

OK... So, there's nothing crazy and new about that verse. I've read it a million times. There isn't a thing that sounds earth shattering about any one of the individual words. They're all simple words, really. I decided to look them up anyway. The word light (phos) comes from the Greek root meaning to shine or to make manifest/known. In this verse, "light" speaks to the purpose of life that was found in Him (Jesus). Strong's says, "By metonymy, light is spoken of Jesus as the great Teacher and Saviour of the world who brought life and immortality to light in His gospel."

Maybe I'm reading too much into it. But, it struck me that this seemingly small definition DOES bring something crazy and new... something earth shattering... to my understanding of who Jesus is and what His coming accomplished. The Gospel does not begin with Christ's incarnation. It BEGINS in Genesis, chapter 1. I love reading the Old Testament, and the Gospel is VERY PRESENT in its story line. God chose us. From the very beginning, His relationship with mankind was HIS idea. The Old Testament is FULL of testimony demonstrating God's faithfulness to the covenant He made with His people. Humanity consistently chose to separate themselves from the One, TRUE God, but HE continuously pursued. In the Old Testament, though, Gospel relationship required DEATH. Every visit to the Tabernacle to meet with God required the death of an animal. Blood repeatedly poured out so that Gospel relationship between God and man could take place. 

Jesus stepped into the New Testament bringing life and immortality (eternal life) to light in the Gospel. Sin is still a big deal. Death IS required for relationship restoration. But, in Him, THE death occurred, THE blood spilled, and THE life won. This life IS the light of men. This life is what John says will shine, enlighten, and make the Gospel known. Can you even imagine how hard it must have been to break away from the mindset of DEATH to LIFE in Gospel relationship for those whose lives were driven by sacrifice?

John 1:4 expresses Jesus' call to LIVE. He overcame death SO we get to live! I do not think that means life in Him will be easy. I don't think answers are laid out perfectly for every situation. But, I DO believe LIFE should be what we're pursuing since LIFE is what Christ brought to light in His Gospel. But, we seem way too eager to kill....

That marriage that isn't exactly what we thought it would be? Kill it! I'm sure there's a legitimate reason why it's in your best interest to quit.

The job that's requiring too much time and energy investment EVEN THOUGH God opened the door and has shown His purposes in it? Move on... There are other jobs!

The plans to teach children in the mindset of Deuteronomy 6 that continue to fail because of a busy schedule? Those plans can die, because no one is helping to accomplish them anyway.

The controversy in the church over (insert hot topic of choice) that has the entire congregation divided? Death to the group! Two churches are better than one, right?

Maybe I'm being dramatic. But, this seems to be the world we live in. It's so easy to believe THE LIFE Christ gave should be simple or at least have some simple answers. It's tempting to assume any continued difficulty means a wrong choice has been made; therefore, the only solution is change the situation...KILL the problem, so life can be easier.  We may work at fixing the complication, but investing in the LIFE of that situation has a time limit. If it's taking too long or the answers don't become clear; then, it's DEATH! The ONLY answer is to kill it, remove it, and move on to what God's really calling us to. Surely, HIS WILL won't require so much energy!

This morning, though, I've been confronted with Jesus who came into the darkness, the death, the difficult and was LIFE... IN the darkness, IN the death, and IN the difficult. I'm enlightened that John chose to introduce Christ as the One who brought LIFE... not only death and sacrifice.... to His gospel. And, I'm challenged that John went on to say, And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overpower it. The darkness HAD to cause difficulty, but it lacked the power to kill the LIGHT.

So, maybe we're killing the wrong things. Maybe our war is against the wrong enemy; therefore, we speak death over relationships, situations, and opportunities that, through Christ and in His power, were intended to bring HIS LIFE to light.
What if someone in that difficult marriage chose to kill the pride and misconceived expectation and let the relationship LIVE?

Is it possible to stick with the calling IN the difficult work environment to bring death to the part of the flesh always needing something from others that only God can give SO THAT the positive influence in the negative atmosphere LIVES?

I'd love to see more dreams about the way parenting is SUPPOSED TO BE die while the determination to teach and instill true value LIVES on for generations to come.

And, Lord Jesus, can we GET A GRIP  in our churches in such a way that love and unity LIVE while personal preference and division DIE?

We are fast approaching the time of year to celebrate the Word becoming flesh to dwell among us. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is life changing and life giving. He brought LIFE to light in the Gospel, so let's seek THAT life. In the difficult drama (and we ALL have it), seek to KILL what needs to die and LIVE (in and through Him) where He's called for LIFE. 

THAT'S the transforming living of the Gospel. And, I know a world that would LOVE to see a little of THAT LIFE!

Friday, November 6

Grief & Loss to Joy & Fullness

Since my last post, life has taken on a new level of difficult. That's a refreshing way to begin your reading, I know! Truly, I don't have another way to say it.

...we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9
The beginning of the school year is CRAZY busy for us due to the kick off of TOT, homeschool, and all of the normal things required for getting back to a daily schedule. It's also an emotional time for us as we remember Scotty's confession as well as celebrate repentance and healing. Truly, after having done this season 3 times, THAT combination of events is enough to stretch me emotionally, spiritually, and physically beyond what I can handle.

This year, though, we faced EVEN MORE trauma during our already pressure-filled Fall; and, for a solid two months, I COULD NOT get a grip. It felt as if I'd take a couple of steps in a positive direction only to fall headfirst in the opposite direction. Over. And over. And OVER!

I'm going to be very vague in details out of respect for all involved. But, I NEED to write. I need to unload. And, I need to share, ONCE AGAIN, of God's faithfulness in my confusion.

In many ways, if feels like I am living through ANOTHER betrayal. This betrayal has NOTHING to do with my husband. And, this situation is not in any way similar to the betrayal I experienced 4 years ago with people close to me. But, in SO MANY WAYS, this hurts EVEN MORE. Is that even possible?

By definition, betrayal is a disappointment, a loss of hope, an act that disregards relationship. It causes pain; but, in this case, it's caused confusion more than anything else. Judgements and criticisms were made about Scotty and me and how we do life. We didn't understand them or know what to do with them. After begging for clarification as to what it all meant and given no explanation, we have no other choice but to move on. We move on SADLY and with a gaping hole where there was once sweet relationship.

I can move on. I WILL move on. But, you KNOW I have to analyze first. I have to LEARN SOMETHING from the pressure. If God allowed it, there's something to be gained. I believe we will be learning from this for many years to come. I believe God will restore and heal for the sake of unity! For now, I believe God wants me to learn how to receive judgement in relationship well. 

Relationships provide accountability. One of the great things about living in relationship is that all of our "yuck" is exposed. If we stick it out (and don't run away), that "yuck" comes to the surface often and can be scraped off. Sanctification. When people REALLY KNOW US and are given permission to speak into our lives, we can USE THEIR CRITICISMS to produce more holiness. David did that with Nathan in First Samuel. It has just dawned on me that  David could have responded very differently to Nathan's accusation. If he'd REFUSED to see his sin, his heart would have hardened, bitterness and defensiveness would have taken over, and the outcome of David's life would be very different. 

So, when the judgement was first handed to us, Scotty and I wanted to use it for even more sanctification. We've studied. We've prayed. We've asked for input from Godly men and women that know us and know our history. We continue to seek counsel. We DID NOT want to disregard the complaint just because we didn't agree. "Taking stock" and changing perspective is necessary. Part of the struggle of the last two months has been a beautiful thing as we've used what hurt to cooperate with God to bring EVEN MORE healing to our family.

All accountability must be tested. This one is hard for me, but not all criticism is to be received EVEN IF it comes from someone you love and look up to. This is where we are. We've taken the concern to heart, and we haven't found validity. Therefore, we must carry on in the life God has for us. My emotions have been in a tail spin, because (from the beginning) I felt the judgements made of my little family were WRONG, but they came from a person I've always thought was RIGHT. Maybe that's why I dug so hard and long to make sure I wasn't missing something. The truth is, there will always be people who disagree with choices we make. The truth is, we will always come up short in doing this life perfectly. But, at the end of the day, we have to do what God has called us to do. Period

I don't think it's any coincidence that I'm in the middle of Beth Moor's, Children of the Day, during this MAJOR relational fall out. This Bible study is ALL ABOUT relationships. We are called to them, and we are called to do them well. I feel like I could live such a holy life if all I did each day was go to Bible study, read my Bible, and journal my studies. If I never had to actually practice what I learn in long term relationship, I could really be CHRIST-LIKE. No! There's NO running away from relationships if we want to live the Christian life with any impact on this world. Our relationships are the place we get to practice our learning.

So, while I can currently record the last couple of months as the HARDEST MONTHS OF MY FORTY YEAR OLD LIFE. I know that they'll also be a spiritual marker in my personal timeline. Grief and loss have driven me to JOY and the pursuit of MORE WHOLENESS. I will continue toward the next marker with a much larger GRATITUDE for God's people that know me (good and bad) and still choose to actively love me. And, I have a renewed desire to make that kind of commitment to the people God has placed in my life. 

God, your way is hard! So often, I want to lash out. I want to plead my case. I want to run and hide when my case isn't heard. In Christ, YOU didn't do any of that. So, I confess that I'm taking this thing one step at a time. Lead me in YOUR WAY and carry me when that way is too difficult for me. Thank you for giving me the courage to fulfill the commitments I've made in relationship. Thank you for those that make that same commitment to me. We know all of these gifts come straight from you, so help us to steward them WELL.