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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Reflections of a King

I just finished reading probably the greatest books I've ever picked up (sorry Harry Potter, but you've been put to shame). J.R.R. Tolkien, in all his literary genius, has created a masterpiece in 'The Lord of the Rings' and it's been something worth reflecting on. Here are some thoughts, here are some reflections. They're random, center justified, and open for feedback, comments, agreement, or 'I've been there too.' Enjoy.

Isn't it awesome that the third and final part of the Lord of the Rings is called 'The Return of the King?' The book is largely the tale of a ring, the hobbit that is entrusted to deliver it to its doom, and the team that is entrusted to guide him. Yet, the end is not just about the ending of evil. It's about the RETURN of a king. The REIGN of good. The destroying of evil and the infinite replacing it with goodness and beauty. That's what Jesus is coming back to do: not just to rid the world of sin. But to restore Eden and to make the world as he created it to be.

Gandalf, the White Wizard, says repeatedly that there will always be evil, something new and wicked will always come up, but we must do what we can do to destroy it in our time. When the kings and warriors are discussing the next move to Mordor, Gandalf reminds them: that it is not their job to master all the evils of the world, but to alleviate and uproot the evils of the present age they live in. Couldn't we say the same for us? There will always be evil: since the fall, when sin was introduced. We live in a fallen world with fallen bodies and we anxiously await the return when Jesus restores Eden. In the meantime, we live for Jesus NOW by living out Ephesians 6:10-20, putting on that armor, and defeating satan on a small scale. On the only scale we know how. Through confession, dependency, honesty, repentance, diligence, prayer, accountability, faith, a right perspective of Jesus and satan, hope, Scripture memory, humility, confrontation, and truth.

I can't stop thinking about one thing Frodo said to Sam, from one hobbit to another. He said, "You were meant to be solid and whole, and you will be." You were meant to be SOLID and WHOLE, and you will be! I go through phases when the awareness of sin is heightened and the pain I've gone through comes back to rear its ugly head. Shame becomes my most frequent and unwanted thoughts. When that happens, I dwell on heaven. I hope that's the right response. I think about what it will be like and I think on all of us worshipping TOGETHER. I think of no hurt, pain, sin: just love. I think of us being SOLID and WHOLE.
And the only way I get to think on heaven is because of Christ's death,which has given us the chance to be reconciled and solid and whole for eternity.

Thinking on Frodo and Sam reminds me of my neighbor and mother of five who just found out her newborn baby girl has some hearing loss. And you know what she told me after learning that? She said, "These are our fallen bodies. It comes with being sinful and fallen. We're human. And we'll one day be in our resurrected bodies with Christ."
What a perspective! That comes from someone who knows Who's saved her and her children and who knows what's coming. Who knows what's been promised her. Someone who knows the significance of the Gospel. I want a response like that.

After the ring is destroyed and Sam and Frodo are rescued, they are brought to the camp of the king and there they are honored. They are led through a great host of soldiers and brought to the king's throne. And there the king bows before them, offers them the throne, and leads the hosts in praise for their journey and job well done. Reading that reminds me of Luke 12:8 which says that whoever acknowledges Christ before men, He will also acknowledge us before the angels of God. He will present us holy. When this war we've entered in against satan and His powers is eliminated as Jesus returns, we will stand with our King. I can't stop thinking how amazing that will be.

Solid and whole. Acknowledged and presented. Together with worshipping hearts.
Get me there now.

I have this continuous realization over and over again, so bear with me because I never grow tired of understanding it. When I am sad or lonely or uncertain or sinful.. and then begin to feel happier or more assured or complete, the answer CANNOT be because of something that has happened to me or something that I have done. It cannot be because I got into Gordon Conwell or because I serve at Advance or because I hold a record for home runs.
It HAS to be because Christ died on the cross for me. That has to be the answer.
I overheard a conversation today between two people. One was saying that they always felt like they needed to do more and never felt like they were doing enough. And the other responded: "Go on more mission trips."
No people that is NOT the answer!!
Take it from a recovering I-never-do-enough addict.
Missions trips are great and we are called to serve others. That is so biblically clear. But that act itself cannot save you or heal you or make you happy. It is Christ in you that will save you. That act and any other act can represent what Christ has done in you and how He is faithful to work through you. It shows your life change, the ways you've put on the new life. But Christ has to be your only fulfillment and satisfaction and the rest will fall into place. (When I say 'you' here, I really mean me. I need to hear it every chance I get. This truth is so beautiful).

I've been listening to Sara Groves the whole time I've been writing this. 'Less Like Scars' is ah-mazing. She sings of a process, how lessons are hard, healing is sometimes subtle, but how things are redeemed. Over time, things seem
Less like tearing more like building • Less like captive more like willing • Less like breakdown more like surrender • Less like haunting more like remember
And in your hands the pain and hurt • look less like scars • And more like character
I love that!
I feel like I'm getting there. This hurt, pain, and these memories will seem less captive, haunting, tearing with each new day, with each new obedience, and will be the key components of what has pushed me to Christ's work on the cross.

The King is reigning on His throne in heaven and He will reign on Earth.
His Kingdom is coming in all its fullness when Christ returns. You ready?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Cave

My best friend came into town this past weekend. Have you ever spent time in the presence of people you admire, cherish, love, and aspire to become more like? I had four days of that! She's a spiritual force. I can look to her and say she's pointed me to Christ.

During one of our conversations this weekend, the recent revelation I've been having came full circle (that's what happens when you're in community). The past few weeks, I've had this freeing AWESOME epiphany that keeps manifesting itself in new ways.

I am what I think. What I think determines how I act.
I have a constant battle in my mind over fear of judgment: but what if I called that battle conquered and started to believe it?
What if I lived out the second part of 2 Corinthians 10:5 and made every captive thought obedient to Christ?
What if I took Tim Keller's advice and replaced negative thoughts and idols with the Gospel? Replaced them with experiences, conversations, Scriptures, songs, community that remind me of His deliverance and sacrifice?
What if I was proactive in not just stopping bad thoughts, but in STARTING good wholesome thoughts about God's grace, love, sovereignty, redemption, restoration, healing?

I'd be healthier, more spiritually alive, and able to discern the voice of God more clearly. Sign me up for that.

David Chadwick said this morning that if the spiritual realities of life in Christ are true (that we are raised with Christ, we have died to sin, our lives are hidden with Christ in God, we will appear with Him in glory), then we must seek things that are eternal. Our minds are set on things that are above!
We must live and breathe the truths that "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities, all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross"
(Colossians 1:15-20).
We were alienated and hostile but He has reconciled us by his death in order to present us holy, blameless, and above reproach: why don't we think on that?

Lately I haven't been able to stop listening to 'The Cave' by Mumford and Sons and have felt drawn to these lyrics:

"So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker's hand"

My mind paints a lot of mental images when I hear this verse. I see a dark cave and I imagine a desperate, frightening, surrendering journey to find the light. I imagine coming to the end at a crawl. I imagine emerging from the cave and realizing your world was not the same as the one you left. In fact, it's completely different: it's upside down. Dependence becomes real to you when you know there's a Maker: a Maker who shaped your world and radically shifted how you see things. How you think things.

Going through a cave of trials and turning to Jesus and His Gospel in the midst of it will make you come out thinking differently.

I think we all go through some kind of cave. A cave of confusion, darkness, despair. But our cave should turn us to Jesus and remind us of the Gospel. We turn to the light and find our world changed. We have a choice to turn to Christ in dependency and cry out for his help.

You may feel like you're in the midst of your cave, but throw your hands in the air and fall on your knees and worship a God of wholeness, healing, restoration, and redemption. Believe in a God who reigns and believe you're entitled to a thinking re-route.

Because Christ died for you, think eternal.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


It's one of those weeks where I find myself staring at the blank computer screen.
Not for lack of thoughts (there's always a million of them swimming up there), but for lack of knowing which ones to latch on to and entertain.

Where I find my thoughts circling back to is my recent journey through Luke. Saying it's an incredible book would be an understatement. It has taught me about Christ, pointed me to His Cross, showed me His life, dwelt on His promises. It's given me a different lens.

I couldn't really pick out what has spoken to me the most.
I loved the parable of the persistent widow in chapter 18 who kept asking for justice and kept coming back and coming back even when the judge refused. Her persistence was an ASSET to her in seeking justice (asset is one of my most treasured words).
I loved when Jesus describes the coming of the Kingdom in chapter 17 and tells the Pharisees that the Kingdom is in the midst of them. And that the return will be bright and unmistakeable and sudden.. but the Son of Man must suffer first. "The consummation of the kingdom requires that a divine event 'must' take place-- that is, the obligation that Jesus must first die according to God's plan to redeem a people for himself." (amazing!)
I loved Zacchaeus when he receives Jesus joyfully.
I loved the Great Banquet.
I loved when Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
I LOVED the Transfiguration.
I loved chapter 21 verses 27-28: "And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, STRAIGHTEN UP AND RAISE YOUR HEAD, BECAUSE YOUR REDEMPTION IS DRAWING NEAR."

Learning from Luke has been about seeing things with a different lens.

There are people I didn't really like, speakers I hated listening to, places I hated to be. But when you take off the glasses of selfishness, arrogance, and pride, a new perspective changes everything. See that sad little man up in that tree? He must really be passionate about seeing Jesus! See that weird poor lady giving Jesus two small coins? Look at her incredible faithfulness! See the homeless people and the people begging for money? See the people that Jesus cares so much for!
The people and places I originally disliked have become some of the things I hold dearest to my heart.

You determine your attitude. You determine what you think about someone, how you choose to see them, what you want to remember about them. You choose what lens you want to use.
You can choose to hold on to hurt, to withhold forgiveness, to make others feel condemned and accused. Or you can live like you know Jesus saved you and like you know Who holds your bigger picture.

Surrender the people you can't love, daily lift your situations up in prayer, and seek the Scriptures.

I've heard the song "With Everything" a bunch of times before.. but tonight, I heard it differently. I'd always sung it as a surrender of material things and life decisions and a proclamation of trust. But tonight I sang WITH EVERYTHING.
With our unwillingness, BE LIFTED HIGH ABOVE ALL NAMES.

With everything: when circumstances don't seem to be going our way. When forgiveness is just too hard. When you don't want to move on. When you're moving on in the wrong direction. When there are uncertainties. When there is doubt.

We choose to see things through the lens of the Cross of Christ
because that's where the greatest and most selfless act took place.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Compassion Prayers

Meet Daniel!

I started sponsoring a Compassion child a few weeks ago and chose Daniel, a 9 year old from the community of Ntarama, Rwanda. Already I feel captured by his story and all the ways my money is being used.
Seriously. My money helps pay for: Biblical teaching, medical checkups, nutritious food, hygiene and nutrition education, physical exercises, field trips, opportunities for community service, scholastic materials, tutoring, and domestic assistance.

Makes buying a Starbucks white chocolate mocha seem kind of silly, doesn't it?

Lately I've been thinking of specific ways to be daily lifting up Daniel, his family, and his community in prayer and couldn't stop thinking. Here's how I'm praying for him: and would be honored if you joined me!!

Prayers for HEALTH: Daniel lives in an HIV/AIDS affected area (half a million Rwandans have HIV/AIDS) and his community's common health problems are malaria and worms. Pray for healing, for medical supplies, for adequate doctors, for education.

Prayers for FAMILY: Daniel lives with his father and mother and 4 other siblings (offer up prayers of thankfulness at a complete household)! Prayers for work for both parents (as farmers), for PROVISION, safety, and protection.

Prayers for EDUCATION: for school supplies, teachers/mentors/influences, the means to learn, the desire to grow in knowledge. For other students in his classroom: for a common commitment to learn together. Pray for COMMUNITY.
For the Ntarama Student Center as they provide evangelism, training, and discussions.
For Daniel's church as they worship the One true God. Pray for Bibles and for strong church leaders.

Prayers for BASICS: clean water, warmth, a healthy diet, hygiene, toothpaste, toothbrushes, clean clothes, shoes.

Prayers for RWANDA: for peace, joy, and restoration as the country continues to heal from the devastation of the genocide in 1994. For forgiveness and a belief that God works good out of the sinful ways of man. He reigns.
For land for farming, employment opportunities, educational materials.

Prayers for FUN: Daniel loves soccer, running, and playing group games! Pray for friends to play alongside, soccer balls to score with, and strong legs to run far and fast!
Daniel also sings in his church's choir: thankful for the gift of music as a way for Daniel to worship!

Prayers for the INTANGIBLES: for trust, motivation, perseverance, peace, joy, a future, dreams, ambition, faith, hope, love.

Prayers for the GOSPEL: that the love of Jesus Christ will penetrate Daniel's community and his heart. For him to be changed by the same message and beauty of the Cross of Christ that has changed me. For an identity, value, self worth, and confidence to be based on faith in the love and grace of Jesus Christ. For Daniel to feel loved, wanted, and accepted by who he is in Christ. Pray for the Good News to be preached!

Thanks for reading and joining me in a journey of prayer in loving a part of the Kingdom and in carrying out Jesus' mission.
Luke 4:18-19