Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Full Heart Broken

I'm overwhelmed and in awe,
At peace and at rest.
Resolved to keep walking through the storm, 
Toward His arms that hold my every step.

As I write this my heart is hurting on behalf of hurting friends... my eyes are dimmed by passing cares...  And yet I am so encouraged that I am not alone... either in my convictions, joys, hurts or failures.  God so amazingly brings people into my life who are going through the very same things and are learning the very same lessons from His hand.  How marvelous it is to be knit together in the Spirit with people I may never even meet in this life, but who are fellow members in the family of Christ!  I have been so blessed by the Father, and by those through whom He is working.  I am so far from perfect, but I am filled with joy at the work the Lord is doing.  My heart is full!

Every time I stumble in my battle against sin, I am brought to look up to the One who is my victory.  Oh how I thank Him that He is faithful to bring my heart onward to be conformed to His perfect will!  I so want to forsake myself and seek His face fully.  I wish I could be completely rid of the sins of the flesh - to see clearly and perfectly, unhindered by these self-clouded eyes.  What a battle it is, but I know that in Christ it will one day be won - on that day when the race is finished and I see Him face to face.

As C.S. Lewis said, "The precious alabaster box which one must break over the Holy Feet is one's heart... and the contents become perfume only when it is broken."  My heart - my deepest self - must be continually filled, and yet, at the same time, continually poured out.  And for this to take place, it must be broken - on His feet!  I want my heart to be like Mary Magdalene's jar of perfume which was spilled out with joy and without reservation for the Savior.  I want it to be like the widow's oil jar in 1 Kings that was miraculously filled and sustained.  Both women held something of great value, but both offered it in faith.  Of Mary's sacrifice, Jesus said, "She has done a beautiful thing to me... truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. (Mark 14:6,9)  The widow also made a sacrifice that yielded much.  She gave the last of her flour and oil to Elijah, God's prophet, and her reward was the supernatural provision of God.  Her deed is written in scripture as a beautiful thing.  She cast away what anyone else would have clung to as the promise of life, and saw with spiritual eyes the promise of God, for which she forsook all else.  Oh that my heart would be like this!

My prayer in these past weeks has been for the Lord to tear away the outer layers of my heart, that I be open and sensitive to His working.  Even as I pray this, I know that I am blinded with selfishness and insecurity, but there is the even deeper assurance that my prayer will not go without an answer.  When others look at me, I want them to see Jesus alone.  "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus." (Phil 3:12)  I never want to become complacent to the fact that there is a battle against my flesh.  I never want to stop longing to become more transparently filled with the glory of Christ.  Praise God that He will fulfill it fully, though ever so imperfectly in this life. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Letters of C.S. Lewis

My mom gave me a book of C.S. Lewis' "Letters to an American Lady" last month for my birthday, and I've been finding them most interesting.  It's been great getting to know the real Jack Lewis, the person behind the literature I love.

Here are a few quotes that stuck out to me.  Enjoy!

His humility and honesty:
June 16, 1953

"One of the things that make it easier to believe in Providence is the fact that in all trains, hotels, restaurants, and other public places I have only once seen a stranger reading a book of mine, tho' my friends encounter this phenomenon fairly often.  Things are really fairly well arranged."

Spiritual depth of insight:

"Anxiety is not only a pain which we must ask God to assuage
but also a weakness we must ask Him to pardon."

May 30th, 1953

"If I were a parson, I should always try to dwell on the faults of the clergy:
being a layman, I think it more wholesome to concentrate on those of the laity.
I am rather sick of the modern assumption that, for all events,
'WE', the people, are never responsible:
it is always our rulers, or ancestors, or parents, or education, or anybody but precious 'US'.
WE are apparently perfect and blameless.  Don't you believe it."

Nov 1st 54

"The allegorical sense of [Mary Magdalene's] great action dawned on me the other day.
The precious alabaster box which one must break over the Holy Feet is one's heart.
Easier said than done.  And the contents become perfume only when it is broken.  
While they are safe inside they are more like sewage.  
All very alarming."
And jolly good sense of humour:
March 10/54

"Verily 'He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it,
hath already committed breakfast with it in his heart.'"


"We were talking about cats and dogs the other day and decided that both have a conscience
but the dog, being an honest, humble person, always has a bad one, 
but the cat is a Pharisee and always has a good one.
When he sits and stares you out of countenance
he is thanking God that he is not as these dogs,or these humans,
or even as these other cats!"

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Peace; Be Still!

Well, I started writing a post a couple days ago, but as many of you experienced, Blogger was acting up and I wasn't able to post it.  With that, and various exams and commitments, I haven't been a very good blogger.  I sort of feel like offering an apology for my lack of posting, but at the same time, I don't think you deserve it. :P Kidding!  Really, I don't feel like I have a lot of direction for my blog right now, so please bear with me, but I guess I'll keep posting once in a while when God lays something on my heart to share.

This may be less than coherent, due to about 6 half-hours of sleep last night at a friend's house, interrupted by three spazzing cats.  Nice kitties.  Sure...  Anyhow, I'm tired, but thankful to God for so many things - strength, the flowers and warm breezes today, my family, my friends, and the opportunities and conversations He brings my way.
He's been working!  There are so many beautiful and humbling things He does in my heart and life each day, and I know that He is working in so many hearts and lives.  Beyond each thing I see, there are, as John Piper says, a thousand things God is doing that I do not see, and know nothing about.

Last weekend my church had a True Woman conference.  Women of all ages gathered to listen to some challenging DVD sessions by Nancy Leigh Demoss, Kay Arthur, John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, and others.  I know many eighteen-year-olds who would despise sitting in a school gym listening to a call to being a godly woman who embraces the role of being a wife and mother and forsaking the lies of feminism, but young women today desperately NEED to hear this.  My heart aches for the many, many young women in our world, even Christian young women, who are without compass and direction because they are focused on themselves.  Rather than feminism, I believe that Christian young ladies must be embracing femininity as God has so beautifully designed for us.

Our culture and the media bombard us with the message that we deserve to be happy and have attention and be beautiful, but we cannot blame the world for a disease that begins in our own hearts.  That disease is sin, and it feeds on love of self.  I myself have justified sin by comparing myself to the world, or saying, "It's just something fun.  It's not really bad, it's not really going to affect me."  I know for many young women I know, this is manifested most obviously in the movies we watch and the music we listen to.

Throughout the conference this past weekend, my heart has been drawn again and again to the Word of God as the compass and the very center and foundation of our lives.  Without that, we are, as Ephesians 4:14-15 says, "children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming." Do you realize that we are tossed to and fro by our own thoughts and desires, unless they are rooted in the truth of Christ?

I have truly seen this in my own life.  The week before the conference was a difficult one for me spiritually.  I don't really know how to explain it, but it felt like there was a dark cloud separating me from God, like I was incapable of crying out to Him.  I wanted to feel His presence again, and to have assurance, but doubts were filling my mind and hindering my prayers.  I had been praying that God would speak to my heart at the conference and wake me up again to see my own sin and His glory.  He so faithfully answered, and showed me that I need to truly make war against the apathy of my flesh, and again reminded me to make it my aim to seek Him with all of my heart.  I again saw clearly that God is the greatest treasure, and that I don't need to doubt the goodness of His ways and His plans.  There is nothing in this earth, and nothing that I can imagine that compares to the glorious perfection that He is.  I was also reminded that I must not let my emotions carry me so that I am "tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind," but turn to the Word, which is the rock and the anchor in the storm.

When Jesus calmed the storm in Mark 4, He did not comfort His disciples with the reassurance that the storm was gone - instead, He rebuked them for their lack of faith.  As He did so, they were filled with great fear, and said,  "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"  I had to laugh when I read that.  They were no longer afraid of the storm, but of the One who had the power to command the universe!  Well they should be - and so should we!  Nonetheless, how much better it would be for us, if, like Peter, we would look to Christ with faith and walk on water through the storm!  Peter walked away from what any "logical" person would see as his salvation - the boat.  This is a beautiful act - Peter turned his back on earthly safety, and trusted that Jesus would give him the power to follow the Lord.  But do you remember what happened to Peter when he looked away from Jesus?  Matthew 14:30 says, "when he saw the wind, he was afraid" and began to sink.

For me, this is a time of life when often, everything seems to be spinning out of control.  I so often look at the "waves and wind" around me and am filled with fear.  Each step seems perilous, and Jesus seems far away.  Regardless of how old you are, perhaps you are also going through a time like that.  I want to encourage you with this - Christ is the anchor in the storm.  Look to Him; focus on Him; pursue Him, and live for His glory above all.  This is what I am preaching to myself in these days, and this is what brings my soul peace.  Thank you, Lord Jesus!  What a beautiful Savior!

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
   a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
   though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
   though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
   the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
   God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
   he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
   how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
   he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
"Be still, and know that I am God.
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth!"
The LORD of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Peter's Perspective - The Passover Lamb (Sunday)

Jesus' body had been taken down and buried in the grave of a secret disciple, Joseph of Arimathea.  I spent the Sabbath with John, Mary, and several other disciples in a house just outside the city.  It was now Sunday morning, the first day of the week, and John and I sat on the doorstep of the house in the predawn light, quietly discussing the departed Messiah.

John looked up to the distant hills, where the shepherds were already bringing their sheep out to pasture.  "He said He was the Good Shepherd who laid His life down for His sheep."

"How could a shepherd lay his life down as if he was a sheep himself?  Jesus was slaughtered like a passover lamb!"

"He is God, Peter.  Anyone who has heard Him knows it.  Do you remember during the Feast of Dedication, when He said, 'I and the Father are one'?  He said He was giving us eternal life, and that we would never be taken from Him."

"But He has been snatched from us," I said flatly.

John simply looked into the sun and said nothing.  I could tell that he was trying to hold back the emotions of  grief from the way his jaw was working.

He finally looked at me, and said, "When He sent us out, He said, 'not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father.'"  Unshed tears glistened in his eyes and I looked away as the rest of the Jesus' words from that parting speech came to my mind, and pierced my guilty heart.

"Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven... he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me."

As we sat there in silence, a figure were seen running down the road toward the house.  As it drew nearer, I saw that it was Mary of Magdala.  She was weeping and out of breath, but she conveyed her message between sobbing gasps.  "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him!"  John and I immediately stood and rushed to the tomb the way she had come, leaving her to catch her breath.  John reached the place of the opened tomb first, and stood looking in.  I quickly caught up and rushed inside.  I was startled to see the linen wrappings neatly folded, and the face-cloth rolled up beside them.  We did not know what to make of this, but returned to the house to tell the other disciples what we had seen.  Mary had again left to mourn at the tomb, but she was seen not long afterward, racing up the road toward the house.  I stepped out to receive her, but instead of sorrow, her face radiated with joy.  "I have seen the Lord!"

Later that evening, we were still reeling with the news of Jesus' appearance to Mary.  All of the disciples kept asking Mary questions like, "Are you sure it was Him?" and "What did He look like?".  We had locked the doors in fear that the Jewish leaders would arrest us if they heard that we were spreading tales of a resurrection.  Even we did not fully believe it.

The meal was almost finished when a man appeared in our midst.  I almost fell from my chair when I saw that it was Jesus.  We all worshiped Him, and praised God, overcome by joy and amazement.  He reproached us for our lack of belief, showing us His hands and side that were pierced.  "The scriptures have said that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem."  He asked for a piece of fish, and He ate in in front of us, proving that He was indeed alive.

Alive!  Truly alive!  My joy was suddenly stripped from me as I realized that I could never serve Him in the same way again.  I looked down at the table as the others exalted the living Lord.

"Peter."  It was His voice!  So commanding, and yet filled with infinite kindness.  "Peter, do you still not believe?"

He caught the attention of the gathering with a glance, and began to teach us.  "What does the Passover lamb represent?"

John answered, "It was the ransom of the first born in Egypt."

"Yes.  It is a sign of coming redemption of all who are atoned for by its blood.  I am the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.  Peter, do you believe?"

Oh Lord, help me believe!  I was overcome by the sense of my own guilt and shame before Him, and covered my face helplessly with my hands.  "Peter," He whispered, putting His hand on my shoulder.

"Forgive me," I said brokenly.

"By these wounds, you are healed." He again held his wounded hands out to me.  "What the blood of goats and sheep could not take away, My blood has washed clean."  At these words, it was as if my heart was flooded with light.  Something had changed inside of me, and I knew that I would never be the same.  No longer was I bound to my own strength, but filled with the very power of God.  He had wiped away the former things which bound me to sin and unbelief.

"Peter, you will be my witness to proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  Just as you have been forgiven, My death is a ransom for all who will look to Me."

Monday, May 2, 2011

Peter's Perspective - The Passover Lamb (Friday)

Sometimes I just have to laugh at myself... I tend to make big plans that never quite work out as I envisioned.  There's a bit too much on my plate right now.  I had planned to write an Easter series that looks at the story from Peter's perspective, but only Thursday's post actually made it to the blog.  I've decided I'm still going to finish the story.  You don't mind, do you? ;)  Peter reminds me so much of myself, which I will elaborate on in the near future.  To be honest, I think it's far too easy to come down from the intensity and spiritual richness of Easter and forget the fact that the glory of the resurrection and the sacrifice of Christ needs to be real and vital to us every day.  With that in mind, please don't pass this over just because it's past Easter.  It is my prayer that the richness of the gospel of Christ would be portrayed through these words, and that I and all who take the time to read will continue to expand in our knowledge of and love for the gracious and glorious Savior!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After the Passover meal was finished, and our host had been thanked, Jesus led us to the Mount of Olives once again, to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.  As we left the house, I asked Jesus if Judas would be coming with us, but He simply replied, "He will return when the time comes for the Son of Man to be offered up." 

The sun had already passed beyond the horizon as we climbed the dirt path up to the Mount again, but the gray light still lingered to light our steps.  By the time we reached the garden of Gethsemane, the darkness was complete.  We lit a small fire for warmth and light, and sat huddled around it.  Jesus told the others to stay with the fire, but called James, John, and I to go under the olive trees to pray.  The joy and peace that Jesus had displayed as we sang the Passover Hallel was now overshadowed by a deep sorrow that we did not understand.  He looked up at us, and with pain in His voice, but gently, as if to beseech us, He said, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."  He went a little beyond us and fell to the ground, sobbing, "“My Father! Abba! If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  He continued in prayer, affirming His desire to do the will of the Father, but obviously overcome with anguish as He considered the coming darkness.  Two times more, He asked that the hour may pass Him by, and then He fell to silence, still kneeling beneath the olive trees.

Our souls were stricken at His prayer. Could it be that His words long ago to us that He would go to Jerusalem and be killed by the elders and scribes were now to come true?  At the time, I had rebuked Him, saying "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You!"  His response to me was a harsh reproach.  "Get behind Me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but on man's."  This time I would not fail Him.  I would not question His words, and I would never leave Him.

Even with the weight of sorrow and strength of resolve, fatigue began to catch up to John and I, who had been on watch the night before.  When Jesus returned to us, we were beginning to drift into sleep, overcome by exhaustion and anguish.  He said to us, "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation!"  We shook ourselves awake, and as I looked up with sleep-blurred eyes, I was startled to see that the drops of sweat on His forehead glistened red in the light from the fire.

He led us back to the other disciples, who had also dropped into slumber.  Rousing them, He said to us all, calmly now, "Are you still sleeping and resting?  Keep praying.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."  Looking up into the darkness, He said, as much to Himself as to us, "Look!  The hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. The one who betrays Me is at hand."  Startled, I saw that indeed, a crowd was coming near us in the garden.  Judas, who led them, greeted the Master with a kiss, but then went to stand beside the chief priest.

Stunned with the implications of this turn of events, my first reaction was hatred for the betrayer.  "Traitor!" I hissed.

Jesus, filled with quiet courage, ignored me and said to him, "Friend, do what you have come for."


Image Credit
Rage filled me as they seized Jesus, and I drew my sword.  I would never deny Him!  I would die defending Him!  Blindly, and with a cry of desperation, I struck out at the member of the crowd closest to me, the slave of the priest.  My blade sliced through sinew and cartilage, and his severed ear fell to the ground.  The slave screamed with pain as he grasped his bleeding head. Immediately, guards rushed towards me and the garden erupted into chaos.  I was struggling in the grasp of three Roman soldiers, yelling out threats and curses, when a stunned hush fell over the gathering.  Jesus was walking towards the wounded slave, hands outstretched.  As if they were the ones bound, the pharisees and guards stood watching dumbly as Jesus took the bloody hands of the man I had wounded.  Putting His hand over the flow of blood, He healed him so that his ear was perfectly restored.  The slave looked at the ground, where his old ear lay, and felt the new, perfect skin and cartilage with awe.  Turning, Jesus looked at me. "Put your sword back in its place, for those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.  If I were to ask my Father, He would at once put more than twelve legions of angels at my disposal.  But this is now happening to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets."

He then turned to the mob, and asked them, "Whom do you seek?"

"Jesus the Nazarene."

"I AM He."  At these words, the name of God, spoken with the very voice of God, the assailants drew back and fell to the ground.  He said to them, "I told you that I AM He, so if you seek me, let my followers go on their way.  I will drink the cup the Father has given Me."

With that, they were again overcome by hate, and bound Him, taking Him into the court of the high priest.  All of us deserted Him in fear of his accusers, but none of us were taken.  John and I followed the cohort at a distance until they reached the court of the priest.  John knew the owner of the house and entered with Jesus, but I remained outside, overcome by fear.  The coming King had been arrested as a common criminal, and my confidence was shattered.  I stood there, slumped dumbly against the door of the outer court, and the darkness within me became greater than the darkness of the night.  Little time had passed before John came out again, begging me to come in to the fire.  I was fearful of being recognized, but I followed him, attempting to warm myself while staying in the shadows as much as possible.  Despite my efforts of concealment, a young servant-girl started as she caught a glimpse of my face from across the fire, and blurted out, "This man was with Him too!"

"I don't know Him - I don't even know what you're talking about!"  It was said too quickly.  My Galilean accent was made even more pronounced with the terseness of my words.

She gave me a strange look, but left to speak to the other men in the courtyard.  Before long, one of them came over to me.  "Surely you are one of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth."

"Sir, I am not."

Another slave came over who was a relative of the man whose ear I cut off.  Standing over me with his arms folded and a scowl on his face, he asked menacingly, "Didn't I see you in the Garden with Him? Even your accent betrays you!"

At the word "betray", I cringed, but I maintained my assertion.  "I don't know the man!" 

The moment the words left my mouth, a cock crowed from just beyond the wall.  I looked up to where Jesus was being led into the courtyard by guards who were preparing to beat Him.  He turned and looked at me, eyes filled with such gentle sadness and reproach that I felt as if I had been dealt a death blow. Overcome with sorrow and shame, I fled from the courtyard and began to weep uncontrollably.  "Oh, forgive me Lord!  Forgive me!  What have I done?"

How could I even cry out to Him? I was utterly undeserving... nothing but dust.  Nay!  Worse than dust - I was the vilest offense; a stench, a worm, and not a man. 

What unfolded in those hours, I cannot now tell, but from sunrise to well into the day I numbly wandered the streets of Jerusalem as if I were in a dream.  The city of promise had become a city of death to me, and by my denial, I knew that I too had betrayed the Lord, the Son of God.  I, who had been so bold in my assertion of loyalty, was now stripped of all pride and forever separated from the Lord I loved.  At noon, the sun was strangely darkened, though there was not a cloud in the sky, and I knew that this was a sign from God.  The streets were now empty, as if the citizens dreaded some strange omen.  A man was coming towards me from a gate in the city, groping in the peculiar darkness, dressed in the robes of a temple official.  I recognized him as one of the men who had arrested my Lord.  "Where is Jesus?" I croaked through parched lips.

He spat on the ground and squinted at me in derision.  "Nailed to a cross on the Place of the Skull, where He belongs.  And who are you that you should ask?"  Overcome by a wave of nausea, I did not answer him, but brushed past to make my way to Golgotha, the place favored by the Romans to hang criminals sentenced to crucifixion.  When I arrived there, it was nearly three o'clock.  Three men hung on the cross-shaped instruments of torture, and a small gathering of men and women stood or knelt before them in grief.  John was there, kneeling with his arm around Mary, the mother of Jesus, who shook with sobs.  At first I did not recognize the man who hung in the middle, because he was so disfigured by bruises and bleeding wounds.  With a gasping sob, I realized that it was Jesus who was lifted up there to die.  How could it be?  With amazement, I saw Him push Himself up to draw in a ragged breath as He cried, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  He fought for a few more precious breaths with which He said His last words, "It is finished!  Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."  As His limp head fell to His chest, the earth shook, and even the Roman soldiers said that "this man was surely the Son of God."  I had crucified the Son of God.