The Real Deal

{ image source }

Gentle Reader,

There’s nothing like Easter.

After the horrible betrayal. After the mocking trials. After the bruises, the wounds, the spitting, the torture. After the crown of thorns. After the agony of the Cross. After it was finished. After the dreadful silence of the tomb.

Easter.

PAR-TAY!

I say that with all seriousness. If there is ever a day when Christians should celebrate with abandon, Easter is it. Jesus is alive! The Evil One is defeated! Death couldn’t claim Him! The grave couldn’t hold Him! He is wrapped not in moldy, decaying funeral rags, but in a glorified, perfect body. And yet a body that still bears the marks. Our names carved upon His hands.

God became flesh and made His dwelling among us.

I love seeing the little girls in their frilly dresses and the boys in their bright shirts. I love seeing extended family come together for church and a good meal. I love seeing the budding trees and new flowers. The sense of hope and promise hangs thick in the air.

A new season.

A new life.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t understand how people live without Jesus. Looking at the state of the world, from wars to human trafficking to poverty to hunger, makes me cling to Him all the more. I am desperate for what only God can provide. On my own, I say and do stupid, stupid things. Selfish things. Mean things.

I am a sinner.

I need grace.

I need a miracle.

Jesus’ resurrection is that miracle. He takes all that ugliness, all that sin, and washes it in His blood. He sends His Spirit to live in me and make me into the person I was meant to be. No amount of self-help or positive thinking can do what He does. He pokes and prods at all the deep, secret, dark places. He brings things to the surface, things I want to keep buried, and teaches me how to look at them in His light. He teaches me how to walk the right path. He teaches me how to worship Him as the True and Forever Lord.

He teaches me how to be real.

And God? He’s the complete real deal. He is totally honest, totally Himself. He doesn’t have a messed-up side. He doesn’t try to manipulate or guilt-trip anyone. He just lays out the facts. He says, “This is Who I Am and this is how it is.” Then He lets us decide. Empty or whole. Heaven or Hell. New or old. Together or alone.

When Jesus left the tomb that glorious morning, the way was made clear for each of us. The great enemies of sin and death were slain by the only One Who could do it. We don’t have to live in the pit. We can cry out, “Jesus, save me!” And He will. He’ll reach in and pull us out. And we see the Great King with eyes that blaze with the fire of holiness. We are bathed in the beauty of His love and the fantastic mystery of mercy. Draped in the robes of His righteousness, we realize how small and shriveled we are, and how glowing and healthy we can become in Him. Because of Him.

We approach the Throne of the Holy One, welcomed as His beloved children.

Because of Jesus.

Because of Easter.

My journey to faith. (15)

Advertisements

A Theme for Spring

Spring

Gentle Reader,

The level of anxiety with which I live on a day-to-day basis has been bubbling toward the more-than-annoying point lately. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s time to adjust the medication levels. Maybe my diet is off-balance. Maybe there’s something bugging me and I don’t realize it yet. Maybe it’s just me being me.

Anyway, at this juncture I know that it’s not as simple as “just” praying or “just” realizing that I’m safe and that everything is okay. My mom reminded me recently that we all have things to battle, and this ill-defined fear and sense of unease is mine. If I’m not vigilant at guarding what goes into my mind, and therefore my heart, I’m toast. If I don’t take time to process a feeling or a situation, I’m sunk. If I start looking around, hoping to find satisfaction in “stuff,” I’m done.

So, I considered my next verse for this month’s SSMT 2013 carefully, and wound up with this:

To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. – Romans 8:6 (NKJV)

Put another way:

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (NIV)

I’m sure that you know this, but allowing the mind to be governed by the Spirit is no easy task. The other day I was freaking out about something (I can’t remember what) and I found myself actually saying, “But, God! You don’t understand!”

Woah.

He did not strike me dead for such a statement, for He knows how deeply human I am. But that got me to pondering. When I go down the road of believing that God can’t or won’t understand, then I’ve taken a wild step off the cliff. I’ve jumped blindly into that pit of death.

I’d rather that not continue to be the pattern of my life, and so this spring I want to focus on what it means to live under the authority of God, and why choosing to do so (it is indeed a choice) leads to peace. To life. There is no safety, no joy, no breathing space to be found in living outside His loving boundaries.

Stepping outside those boundaries is easy, and it’s not always immediately noticeable. How many of us who claim the name “Christian” go through each day trapped by fear, anger, entitlement, the pursuit of power or wealth? At some point we have to acknowledge whatever it is that’s got a hold on us. Then we have to take another step – turning away from it.

A hard task.

But, after all, what did we celebrate yesterday? The Man who achieved victory over the grave! The Man who rose again! The Man who left His Spirit within us! Surely He will enable me to step out of anxiety’s chains, one day at a time.

Surely He will do the same for you, whatever the chains are.

Signature

What Easter Means to Me

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow,
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.
I trust in you and I’m safe!”
That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps,
shields you from deadly hazards.
His huge outstretched arms protect you—
under them you’re perfectly safe;
his arms fend off all harm.
Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,
not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness,
not disaster that erupts at high noon.
Even though others succumb all around,
drop like flies right and left,
no harm will even graze you.
You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance,
watch the wicked turn into corpses.
Yes, because God’s your refuge,
the High God your very own home,
Evil can’t get close to you,
harm can’t get through the door.
He ordered his angels
to guard you wherever you go.
If you stumble, they’ll catch you;
their job is to keep you from falling.
You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes,
and kick young lions and serpents from the path.

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation! – Psalm 91 (NKJV)

How can we have this peace, this safety, this comfort, this hope? By knowing that we are lost and in need of saving. By getting over our stubborn self-involvement and selfishness. By admitting to the reality of God’s existence and His right to declare the terms. By humbly and reverently living under the shadow of the Cross.

By knowing that JESUS IS ALIVE.

Signature

Shelter Me

Gentle Reader,

Tonight is the evening of Fat Tuesday, better known as Mardi Gras, the day before the Lenten season begins. Traditionally a time to binge and gorge, Fat Tuesday is seen as being the release before the austerity of the days leading up to Easter.

I thought about having that last can of soda, but then I wondered what that said about my heart.

The self-denial of Lent isn’t mean to be a drudgery. It is, instead, to be a worshipful experience. It is a time of setting aside what normally distracts us from God. While this should be the hallmark of Christian life in the daily arena, it is good to have a specific time devoted to “cleansing the temple,” so to speak. To getting rid of things and reassessing. To renewal.

If I had that can of soda, I would, essentially, be saying, “All right, God. I am giving this up for the next 40+ days because I think You want me to be miserable.”

For Pete’s sake, it’s just a soda.

If missing a can of Pepsi is that big a deal to me, then I can quite clearly see that I am distracted, distraught and discouraged. I have not been living a life attuned to the Spirit’s voice. The danger here is that it would be easy to think I’m doing all right. I’m not cheating on my husband, I’m not gambling, I’m not stepping on people to get ahead at work. But deep down inside, where, according to Christ, it still counts?

It’s dark. Overwhelming. Not a pretty sight.

I have been tempest-tossed and ruled by anger for weeks now. It got to me so sneakily. My defenses were down. In the stillness of the night, as my husband slept, I cried out the Spirit of the Living God in anguish, begging Him to bring a fresh outpouring of His presence into my life.

You see, I have been living as a worm when Scripture tells me that I am a butterfly (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). I have not realized that I have the ability to fly and to be free of the things which bind me (Hebrews 12:1). So, I have continued to burrow in the dirt, wondering why it no longer feels comfortable but trying so desperately to make it work.

My wings are tattered, my eyes downcast.

And yet…He holds me.

This Lenten season is going to have a theme for me, beyond that of introspection and renewal. I need a Rock, a Safe Haven, a Shelter. I need Someone Bigger than me, and I need permission to be small and not all that smart. I need to know and believe that He is the God upon whom I can cast all my anxieties (1 Peter 5:7).

I need to be human, and I need God to be God.

Rather than go wild tonight, I sit quietly and sing these words over and over again:

When I cannot close my eyes

And the night goes on

Trouble taunts on every side

And my doubt is strong

Shelter me, shelter me

Let the thought of Your compassion be my strength

Prince of Peace, shelter me

From the tempest of my unbelief

Mighty God, who calmed the sea

Come and shelter me

Do Your promises still stand?

Does Your mercy cease?

By the power of Your hand

Grant me my release

Shelter me, shelter me

Let the thought of Your compassion be my strength

Prince of Peace, shelter me

From the tempest of my unbelief

Mighty God, who calmed the sea

Come and shelter me

Oh, come and shelter me

– Billy Sprague, Bruce Carroll and Joe Beck

Don’t be like me. Don’t wait until things are a muddle and you feel as though you’re a miss of knots. Fall into His gracious arms right now. Snuggle down into His chest and hear the beating of His holy heart. That is the safest place to be.