Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Immanuel – God is with us

This is the season where we anticipate God's coming to live with men through the birth of Jesus.

From the beginning of creation, God has desired intimate relationship with man and woman. He walked with them and talked with them in the cool of the day in Genesis 3.

At the end of time, the events of this present age will culminate in God coming to dwell with us on the earth.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them. Revelation 21:3

I have been thinking about what it means to live as though I believe that God is with me. This seems especially important given events like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and people experiencing terror and the devastation of grief. It feels important as I talk with people in my office about their pain and suffering and how they can connect with God when their feelings are so intense and ugly. I feel more desperate for God to be with me when I experience shock, disappointment, pain, rejection or loss. I think that this is fairly normal.

But, I think that it is just as important to consider how God is with me when things are going well. As I look forward to having time off of work to rest and play with my family, I want to continue to intentionally pursue God as Immanuel, the God who wants to be with me. I want to share with Him my joys and celebrations as much as my hurts and fears. I want to celebrate God as Immanuel in every season, situation and feeling. I want to learn to live my life in deep partnership with God and to let Him tabernacle with me.

I long for the day when Jesus will be on the throne of the earth in Jerusalem and Father God will come to live with us here, on a refashioned planet. I want to start practicing for that kind of closeness today.

Still Counting Gifts:
  • #659: 3 more days of work before I am off for Christmas break
  • #660: A quiet morning at home
  • #661: How God quiets me with His love and makes me still when I think on Him
  • #662: An office nap yesterday afternoon
  • #663: My beautiful and cozy scarf gift
  • #664: How God teaches me and helps me to steward every feeling well
  • #665: The ability to receive today and each day as its own gift without worrying about tomorrow

Monday, December 10, 2012

Messy People

I spend a lot of time with messy people. After all, helping messy people is what I do. But recently, God has been sending me some people who are even messier than usual. And, I haven't responded very well.

I don't like being screamed at in my office. I don't really like when other people scream at each other in my office. I don't like hostile clients who insist that they have no problems and everyone else is to blame. I don't like injustice or when people sin against my clients in a gross and habitual manner and they hurt. Mostly, I don't like when these things are happening and I start to feel powerless and completely unable to do anything that will help bring about change.

I tell God that I feel overwhelmed and I do not think that I am equipped to handle these kinds of clients.

I hear Him respond, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:12-13)

I enjoy working with those people who are aware of their brokenness and partnering with God to become whole. But, they are already on the path to eternal life. It is those who are still walking the road straight to destruction that most need mercy. These are the people that Jesus intentionally ministered to. Why am I so surprised that He is asking me to pursue them with Him?

I don't say it aloud, but I think, "Can't you just send them to someone else? They don't really want to work with me anyways."

I hear Peter speak, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." (John 6: 68-69)

Jesus gently reminds me that I have words of eternal life because His Spirit lives within me. I can offer these especially broken and miserable people life because I have believed and have come to know that Jesus is the Holy One of God. God asks me, "Jody, to whom shall I send them, if not to you?"

I know that I have to respond in obedience because I love the One who asks me. But, my heart is also moved with compassion toward those who are so precious to Him. I choose to lean into God and ask Him to enable me to do this beautiful and painful work that is so important to Him. I commit more time to intercession for my clients and choose to see them as the flock entrusted to my care. I don't want to abandon them to the harsh elements because I grow weary of caring for them and feel inadequate. I remember that my struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities and I put on the full armor of God every day (Ephesians 6:10-18). I rejoice that God has invited me to join Him in this work of healing and I entrust myself and my work to His loving leadership. I ask God to do the impossible and bring eternal life and freedom to the most desperate of people.

Still Counting Gifts:
  • #650: A new work schedule for a new season of work
  • #651: How inadequacy always reminds me of my incredible need for God
  • #652: Our Christmas tree framing the window and adding beauty to the house
  • #653: An unexpected phone call with a dear friend living far away
  • #654: How a long drive can be soothing
  • #655: Taking a long nap in the middle of the day for the sheer pleasure of it
  • #656: Psalm 46:10 and how God always knows how to help me be still and send the anxiety away as I think of the truth that He is God
  • #657: One of my colleagues sponsored yummy Chinese food for lunch
  • #658: Time at the HOP to start my week well

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Holy Days Instead of Holidays

I just listened to an excellent teaching by Mike Bickle from the Zechariah conference at IHOP-KC in September. I strongly encourage you to take an hour and listen to this teaching.

I want to share a few of the words that really impacted me.

5Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: "When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Mefor Me? 6When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves? 7Should you not have obeyed the words which the LORD proclaimed through the former prophets when Jerusalem and the cities around it were inhabited and prosperous?" (Zech. 7:4-7)

Eat and drink: In both their fasts and feasts they focused on themselves without regard for their relationship with the Lord or His larger purposes for their nation. Whether in times of fasting with mourning or in feasting with celebration, the same issue is key:

  • Their national feasts were to be a time to remember God's goodness with gratitude. Their holy days became merely holidays where they enjoyed food and recreation without taking time to rededicate themselves to God.
  • Fasting and feasting are both to be based on the same value of desiring a deeper relationship with God. Fasting was not just about obtaining blessings to make their life easier and feasting was not just getting time off for more recreation. They viewed the feasts as time off from God, instead of it being a day to draw closer to Him.
It is much easier to celebrate holidays than Holy Days in our culture. I love eating, drinking and relaxing and enjoy celebrations where these things are encouraged.

As we fast and pray during the Global Bridegroom Fast this week, I am choosing to go without those tasty foods and drinks that I enjoy so much. I don't want to do this out of obligation. I also don't want to finish this fast with excessive feasting.

I want to celebrate God's goodness with thanksgiving, prayer and worship. I want to draw near to Him and devote extra time and energy to cultivating deep and meaningful relationship with my God and Savior. I also want to spend myself more in seeking the advancement of God's kingdom instead of being so worried about the condition of mine. I want to offer my small sacrifice of tasty foods out of love and with great joy.

I invite you to find ways in your own life to celebrate Holy Days this season and not just the holidays.

Still Counting Gifts:
  • #640: Spring like weather in December
  • #641: Extra time in recent weeks with my squishees, Noah and Kingston
  • #642: Extra time in the HOP this morning
  • #643: Finally feeling inspired to write about something
  • #644: Hope in my heart
  • #645: Remembering that my struggle is not with flesh and blood
  • #646: The full armor of God that protects me
  • #647: Time to connect with friends and celebrate Christmas
  • #648: Opportunities to trust that God will provide for me and my family
  • #649: Space in my life to breathe