Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Beautiful Bride

Young men dream of marrying a beautiful bride. Young ladies long to be swept off their feet by the man of their dreams - to know they are beautiful, loved and desired.
Then marraige happens...and childhood fantasies get dunked into the sea of reality. She is not the front-cover model of 'beauty magazine' everyday of her life, and he is certainly not prince charming - who mysteriously knows how to love her well.
Truth is, no matter what fantasy we dreamt up, we are all children of Adam and Eve, the once beautiful, amazing creations called male and female who portook of the original deception. We are fallen creatures who have been tainted by sin. We are not as beautiful and charming as the movies and magazines portray.
So lets stop kidding ourselves. OK, deal?
Yet despite our shortcomings, God calls us to live an extraordinary life. This is what He tells us about married life, recorded in Ephesians 5:21-25 "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord... Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church..."
Say what? How in the world do we do that?
We don't! It is not something the world knows how to do. We need Christ to do this through us.
How does Christ love His Bride?
Ephesians 5:25-27 goes on to say this, "...(He) gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless..."
Jesus loved an unlovely Bride.
Have you ever stopped to think about what Jesus might feel. My mind just happens to work that way :-). Just imagine for a minute how He must feel about His Bride.
Hebrews 12:2 tells us that "He endured the cross for the joy set before Him."
What was the joy set before Him? It was probably several things, like being at the right hand of the Father, ruling over evil, rescueing His people from sin into evelasting name a few. Yet the greatest joy set before Him, I believe, is the beautiful Bride He died and rose again for.
At face value, He got a raw deal. He laid His life down for a beautiful, spotless Bride. Look around - do you see Her anywhere?
Sadly, I see a motley, divided Bride with so many spots and stains She is hard to even identify. I would hardly call Her beautiful!
If I were Him I might file a complaint asking for a rebate. She is certainly not worth the price He paid. 'Where is the "spotless Bride" I was promised up front? Where is this "beautiful Bride" hiding?'
I for one believe She needs to go through a "year of beauty treatments" like Esther and the other virgins were required to go through before being presented to the king. ("...let beauty treatments be given to them." Esther 2:2-4). Truth is, I think we are going through such beauty treatments, and I believe that God is getting Christ's Bride ready.
The Father desires for His son to have the beautiful Bride He promised Him. Yet, I believe He also understands Her current shortcomings quite well.
Look at what God calls the prophet Hosea to portray in his life: Hosea 1:2-3: "When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, 'Go marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.' So he married Gomer..."
Not only does she have a funny name, but she is an unfaithful bride. She cheats on him repeatedly, and God calls Hosea to marry her and to love her.
How do you do that?
The same way Christ does, I guess.
This is a prophetic picture of God with Israel, and I believe with Christ and the Church. How many times did the children of Israel turn from the Lord, like an unfaithful woman? Is Christ's Bride any different today?
Truth is, WE are His Bride and we - yes you and I included - have been part of Her unfaithfulness.
Is this what He died for? Is this the "Joy set before Him"? Are we the "Beautiful Bride" He is coming for?
Some talk about this being the "last days". Well if it is, we have some serious beauty treatments to endure! Christ is coming for a beautiful Bride and we still have curlers in our hair, not to mention arms connected to legs and legs connected to ears... we are a totally disfigured, disunified Bride with great need of beautification before Christ entertains coming back for us. He died for a beautiful Bride! Not a dysfunctional, self-serving, pleasure-seeking promiscuous woman.
This is what Hosea prophesied to the children of Israel, and I can hear the cry for us today: "Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." Hosea 6:1-3
Hosea lived a painful life in a prophetic posture depicting the very marriage between God and Israel. Gomer was an unfaithful bride, yet God told Hosea to marry her and to love her in the midst of her unfaithfulness.
This is a picture of Christ's love for His Bride - The Church!
This is the kind of love God calls us to live out in our marriage and as His Bride.
"...In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body...This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." Eph 5: 28-33
Truth is, we are not the "supermodel" or "knight in shinning armor" we depict one another to be, yet we are the Bride of Christ and in so keeping - regardless of what we see - He sees us as beautiful.
His love is making us into the beautiful spotless Bride He died to restore and be united as One with.
We are the joy set before Him! He is cleansing us in order to draw us into eternal intimacy with Him - our King and Bridegroom!
Enjoy the Journey!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Heavenly Minded

It's funny how we have these phrases to express what it is we really want to say. Some years ago a friend said to me, "We can be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good."
Have you ever heard that phrase before? There is some merit to it. What they were saying is, we don't want to be so "spiritual" that we "live in the clouds" and avoid living in "reality". There can be a tendency to "live in the clouds" so much so that our feet are not on the ground. No one relates to a "flaky" Christian - you know the type: always looking for the next supernatural sensation, yet lacking in character and integrity in day to day life.
That's not who Christ is, and as "Christians" we are called to represent Him as He truly is.
It is true, we don't want to be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. Fair statement. Yet let's look at this from another angle just to bring some balance. What "minded" do we want to be? What mind does Christ want us to have?
Let's be honest, while some tend to be too heavenly minded, there are far too many "Christians" that are too earthly minded. To which I say, "We don't want to be so earthly minded that we are of no Heavenly good?"
We do need to have our feet on the ground, yet we also need to have our eyes fixed on Jesus, and our heart, spirit and mind set on the things above.
How else can we be "in this world but not of it"? (paraphrase of Jn 17:15-18)
"Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world... my kingdom is from another place.” John 18:35-37
There is a greater Kingdom to which we are called to serve, while here on earth.
"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Romans 14:16-18
"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power." 1 Corinthians 4:19-21
We are called to live life here on earth, yet from a heavenly, Kingdom perspective.
"...God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus" Ephesians 2:5-7
We are seated with Christ in Heavenly places! How in the world do you do that, and still live here?
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:1-4
With our feet still "on the ground" we are somehow called to have our hearts, eyes, spirit... "in the clouds" so to speak. We are called to live in heavenly places here on earth... a wild concept if you stop to think of it...
"God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise..." 1 Corinthians 1:26
I'd say He did!
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD." Isaiah 55:7-9
That is quite the understatement. God's ways are much greater, higher, and far reaching then ours could ever be. He is the Creator, we the created!
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-3
Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, and we are seated there with Him! WOW!
"...He raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." Eph 1:19-21
Seated in Heaven with Christ, high above all evil forces... WOW! Sounds "Heavenly minded" to me!
As if that isn't challenging enough, look at what Jesus tells us to be about recorded in John 14:12:
"Very truly I (Jesus) tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." John 14:12
Think about that. WOW! What did Christ do? He Loved people, He did what the Father said to do, He healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons... He did many miracles, signs and wonders... He obeyed the Father (even onto death)...
WOW! How are we doing?
It sounds like Jesus has called us to live higher!
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:1-3
OUCH! Looks like we, as the Body of Christ, have some renewing to do if we truly want to represent Christ?
There is a higher way of living that Christ died and rose again for us to experience here on earth. There is a greater purpose Christ has for our lives than just getting by, being "successful", self-sufficient, and leaning on our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Our Creator has a greater purpose and desire for His creation! He desires for His will to be done and His Kingdom to come here on earth as it is in Heaven, through His people who are seated with Christ in Heavenly places!
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one." Matthew 6:9-13

Here's to being so Heavenly Minded that we do the earth some Kingdom good!
Enjoy The Journey!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


Is waiting hard for you too? For something I have spent a large part of my life doing, you would think I would be good at it by now. Is that even possible? Let's admit it, waiting is tough! Some things, like pregnancy, have a painful waiting period (not that I have experienced that first hand :-), yet there is a timeline for delivery. Other things, like destiny/purpose/calling, may not be as physically painful, but can hurt deeply when there is no known deadline associated with the waiting period. Waiting, no matter how you slice it, is rough!
I find myself weary in the wait. For twenty some years I have been waiting for things promised. While I have tasted some fulfillment of these promises/dreams, I still wait for the fulfillment of the things God spoke years ago.
You may have read my last Blog, "Living In The Now" - That's how I have learned to endure the wait; however, I still have longings yet to be fulfilled, and if you have felt "longings" before you know how painful they can be. Yes, I am learning to live today, while still holding hope for the promise of tomorrow.... Yet, waiting is tough! How you learn to endure the waiting process is important, but the longings remain a painful reminder until the promise is met.
Could you imagine, moms, being pregnant yet having no idea when the baby will be born? Rough! That's about how I feel spiritually at times - pregnant with purpose yet with no known deadline for delivery! Ouch!
Like it or not, there is a waiting period for God's promises as He prepares us for His purpose. As I experience this pain of waiting, I recall words a friend shared with me about 18 years ago: "You can say ouch, but don't ever say stop!"
There are some drastic illustrations of this. I read this article about the US Navy Seals ("BUD/S Training" "Hell week is a test of physical endurance, mental tenacity and true teamwork where 2/3 or more of your class may call it quits or 'ring the bell'. Physical discomfort and pain will cause many to decide it isn't worth it... Sheer fatigue and sleep deprivation will cause every candidate to question his core values, motivations, limits, and everything he’s made of and stands for. Those who grit it out to the finish will hear their Instructors yell the longed-for words, 'Hell Week is secured!'"
Drill instructors constantly yell in their ear offering incentives to quit: "All ya gotta do is ring that bell and you can get a room in that hotel...". At anytime, you can quit. This is to assure that only the best make it to the end.
While it may not be that physically extreme in God's "boot camp", it can feel that way mentally and spiritually at times.
I for one refuse to "ring the Bell!" I may say "Ouch!" but I will not say "stop!" Though painful, I will continue to yield to God's hand of molding and shaping. I say, "Father have your way!"
Imagine what Abraham and Sarai went through: They are perfectly comfy in the land of their relatives when God says "Go to the Land I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). Abram obeys... He and Sarai go from place to place, tent to tent, thing to thing... no land. When they finally see the land of Canaan, there are giants occupying the land. They go to Egypt for years during a famine and Abram almost gives up his wife (God redeems his mess)... At last, after years of waiting, Abram and Sarai enter the promised land! Time too celebrate, right?
Weeeell... God tells him to look at the stars, "So shall your offspring be."(Genesis 15:5). God promises him a son!
Many, many years go by...
If you have ever waited a very long time for a promise from God you understand what happens next: Genesis 16:1-3 "Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, 'The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.' Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived."
OOPS!!! Ishmael was born. As they say in the commercials, "Don't try this at home!"
The Book of Galatians says this: "For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise." (Gal 4:22-23)
In our time of waiting, it is way too easy to "birth an Ishmael". The thinking goes something like this: "God promised... it sure has been taking a long time... maybe I am supposed to do something to bring it to pass..."
Ishmael is that which is born of the flesh. Isaac, the promised son, is what is born of the spirit as a result of waiting on God! I have heard it said, "if you birth an Ishmael, you have to change Ishmael's diapers, but if you wait on Isaac, God takes care of what He births." How many "Ishmael" ministries have we been a part of? Yuck!
God is looking for those who are willing to endure the wait in order to birth that which is of him. Any takers?
An instructor at the Institute of Ministry I went to 20 years ago warned us: "When God has a call on your life He will first give you a taste of what He has, then He will lead you in the desert to "test you, humble you, show you your heart... so that in the end you won't say 'look what my hand has done' but you will give all the Glory and honor to God." (Duet 8) Then, once the wilderness/preparation process is complete (different for each of us), God then brings you into the fullness of what He called you to."
Waiting is painful, but seeing the fulfillment of God's Promise is well worth the wait.
Just ask Joseph, who endured slavery and prison before becoming a leader of the world. Ask Job, who lost everything to end up with twice as much in the end. How about Joshua? The dude saw the Promise land as a youth and was ready to go in, but the turkeys with him talked everyone out of it! So he had to endure 40 years in the desert. Ouch! Yet, in the end, he was the one to lead God's people into the Promise Land (see Joshua 1...)!
You see, when you wait on God, and go through the painful waiting process, you come to realize that the only way the purpose could come to pass is if God Himself does it! How else does a prisoner (Joseph) become a leader of the world? How else does Abraham and Sarai have a child way past childbearing age?
"What is impossible with man is possible with God." Luke 18:27
So what do you do while you wait?
What did Joshua do while he waited? "The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent." Exodus 33:10-12
When the waiting becomes grueling, I remind myself of what this is all about. The key to waiting is sitting in God's presence.
Waiting is tough, but one day it will be well worth the wait!
God is preparing His people for His Glory!
Enjoy The journey!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Living In The Now

Are you a dreamer like I am? I have had dreams and desires tucked away in my heart for many, many years longing to see them fulfilled. I can honestly say that I am now starting to realize some of them. Through trying circumstances, life has led me to live more from my heart. In many ways I am deeply fulfilled, yet like many people in today's economy, it hasn't been without a price. While living out desires is great, I must be honest and admit that sometimes I am left wondering where daily provision will come from. Such lack can lend itself to anxiety and fear at times.
During such times, I find it crucial to gain perspective and examine if I am on the right course. This week has been such a week. Today I took the time to beckon the Father for wisdom and insight. What I received encouraged me, so I thought I would pass it on in hopes of encouraging you as well.
A little background may help: I am coming off about three months of fulfilling ministry and provision opportunities. I was encouraged to see such consistency and fruitfulness. Things seemed to be rolling forward. Then without warning, while driving down the highway of life at a steady speed, someone seemingly slammed on the brakes... Screech! It all came to a sudden stop! I was awakened to the reality of having no visible opportunities on the radar before me... I needed insight and wisdom!
Hoping to get some very clear answers as to what to do about the needs of tomorrow, I instead heard this:
"Focus on today, leave tomorrow to me."
'What? That isn't helping me figure out how to keep the electricity on this month? I need answers!' I wrestled within myself. Yet a strange peace filled my heart as I wrote out the following, as a secretary might do when assigned to take notes from the boss:
"Enjoy Now. Enjoy Your family, friends. Enjoy what is before you today. Today is what belongs to you. Live it! Tomorrow is still unknown. Tomorrow is yet to happen for you. Today is what you have now. Enjoy it! I have tomorrow all taken care of."
Yeah I know: 'That sounds good, but will it pay the bills? If only there was a bank that would exchange encouraging words for cash!' I decided to yield. 'OK, I'll listen!'
"I am wanting to teach you the key to abundant life. It is found in enjoying today, enjoying now. Now is where life is. Now is where My kingdom is. Now is where I AM. Now is where you are. Now is where love is, joy is, fulfillment is."
I take it I am to start learning how to live in the now! Quick learner, huh?
"The world, influenced by the father of lies, wants you to believe that happiness is found tomorrow - by planning for the next event or form of gratification. That is fleeting at best. This type of thinking only leads to anxiety, fear, denial, depression, despair, disillusionment, discouragement, lack of fulfillment... So much time is spent thinking about tomorrow, that today is lost. Now is ignored while longing for someday in the future to come. Someday never comes and all of the today's and nows are gone."
Ouch! How many today's and Nows have I lost? Too many...
"Live today. Live now. Enjoy the life that is before you. Today is where you are. Enjoy today. Live today, love today, laugh today, play today, feel today... Be who you are today and enjoy now with me. I have tomorrow. You live today!"
I Know. I can almost hear it: 'OK, that's great, but don't we have to plan for tomorrow?' Perhaps our idea of planning is in need of some refinement: God's idea of 'planning' is abiding in Him, leaning upon His chest, seeking Him, obeying Him, trusting Him, doing what the Father says to do... He sees the future (we don't). He has the master plan (we don't). He knows the beginning from the end, and He is a faithful Father who will never leave us nor forsake us. Our job, is to trust him!
I know, easier said than done! Agree! That's why I am writing this blog! I'm living in such tension even Now. :-)
Perhaps Jesus' written word can help encourage us all:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:25-34
Following Jesus sure isn't easy! Yet, He is the source of life! I don't know about you, but I still need to learn the art of living in the Now!
Enjoy The Journey!