Posts Tagged receiving the life of Jesus
Ken and I attended a special meeting yesterday. I would identify it as a worship service—although we were drawn there because we’d been told a respected teacher would provide excellent teaching.
For the familiar reasons, we struggled with attending. 5:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon is a good time to relax at home.
In the end, we went. And I’m don’t think I’ll ever be the same.
I hope not.
What was the life-changing message about? Well, part of it dealt with forgiving others. Part of it dealt with receiving forgiveness from God. Because it was about knowing God and receiving His grace—about knowing He loves, accepts, and forgives those with whom He has a relationship.
Oh, yes. Relationship was a major topic—because knowing God is more than knowing facts about Him or than having correct doctrines about Him. Knowing God involves interaction with Him.
But I could have told you all those things before we heard the message. I could have laid it all out systematically if asked to do so. And the speaker wasn’t systematic at all. He wound around, sharing not only his story but the stories of others as examples. All jumbled together.
He shared several Scripture passages, but I can’t tell you any of them today.
But as he meandered, the message somehow became Life. I not only heard and understood; I received the Holy Spirit in my inner being. Somehow, the Holy Spirit revealed and imparted and the Life of Christ.
To make sense of this—to explain why I needed this impartation—I’ll mention that I’ve struggled for several years, ever since we retired, with indefinable feelings of inadequacy and alienation that affected relationships with family and friends. I wanted to withdraw. At times I did withdraw. I wounded people, people I cared about.
I felt judged. From within because I felt guilty for not being able to respond the way I should have to others. And because I failed to meet reasonable expectations of others. And the more I failed, the deeper the despair. I knew that my failures—my sin, if you will—had caused schisms beyond repair. I felt family and friends could not forgive me. God was surely very disappointed, too.
The only thing left was operating without emotions.
Which only compounded matters.
I believe it was God’s grace that allowed me to begin bringing some of this up before a small group several months ago. (Because I was so desperate, I had begun attending a prayer group a few years ago—difficult because I knew and know so much about the Christian life. I can seemingly operate on a spiritual level while overcome by guilt, making it difficult to be transparent and honest before God and others.)
Meanwhile, in life outside the prayer group, I tried to extend love to a couple of people who are especially important to me on several occasions. Although I struggled during the processes—generally felt miserable, estranged—I believe the efforts were important.
And last night, as you might imagine I was uncomfortable as the speaker began.
He continued to probe deeper—to reveal more and more of human frailty and of God’ grace. I hope you won’t be surprised or disappointed when I tell you I cannot exactly explain what happened. I do know I was emotionally wasted and devastated.
And when it was over I was free.
Free from guilt.
My understanding of God’s grace somehow expanded. I realized that God was not surprised by my sin or my capacity for sin. He is not surprised by my failure to love with His love. He understands emotional weakness, and He accepts me and others just as we are. He receives us and loves us. By the end, I somehow knew God receives me, accepts me, loves me, and forgives me.
I went to sleep easily last night. And after waking up around 4:00, I easily returned to sleep.
Of course, there are thorny issues ahead: I can do nothing to change the past. Right now, at least, I have faith to believe I can live with the problems I’ve created, even with the wounds I inflicted. Because God’s grace will reach out to others. His grace can turn all things to good. And His grace is big enough to sustain me through the process.
I understand this faith will be challenged—and that my part will be limited to prayer, to hearing His voice, and to responding to His leading. There will be difficult times.
But truly, the grace that was big enough for this breakthrough will be big enough to sustain me during difficult times ahead. I cannot undo the damage my diseased soul wrought. But God set me free, and He can and will set others free as well.
If I try to remain in His grace, I’ll fail. But if I look to Him rather than to myself, His grace will continue to work on my behalf. I don’t expect it to actually be easy, but the hard part will not be self effort or working to make changes. It will be continuing to release my guilt, to receiving His forgiveness, and to move in others because He loves them.
I didn’t stand up during the call to ministry. I couldn’t. I was too overcome and remained glued to my seat. Nevertheless, transformation occurred. Something larger than mere understanding occurred. It would seem God’s Spirit penetrated my inner core, my heart. He wrought a new relationship between us.
Lord, I love You. I praise You. I come to You with joy. Because You love me. You welcome me. You desire to bless me even while I’m a sinner.
Praise Your Holy Name.
Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and who ever receives Me does not receive Me but Him who sent Me.” (Mk. 9:36,37)
Do you every visualize Jesus?
I’ve visualized Him since I was a child—perhaps the age of the child Jesus lifted up in this verse—long before I received Him as Savior.
But I always visualized Him outside and, unless the story indicated otherwise, He stood.
In fact, I’d been a Christian a long, long time before I could think of Him as confined by a house. In my mind He always stood on a hill where he breathed air washed by breezes that blew directly from the Sea of Galilee. And when that viewpoint expanded, it didn’t expand enough to place Him within an enclosure.
But a vigorous Jesus who preached from the side of a mountain and who walked for miles to get from one village to another is only part of the story. Sometimes Jesus really did enter into people’s homes.
One day a friend suggested that Jesus had a house of His own in Capernaum. Mk. 9:33 tells us, They came to Capernaum, and when He was in the house…. My friend thought the verse refers to the house He lived in when He was there.
Well, that had never occurred to me. But in light of the text, I had to admit He was in a house at the time. And I supposed He could have had a residence of His own. Really?
The story begins in verse 35 with, Sitting down (in the house), He called the twelve and said…
A discussion with His disciples follows. Then, in the first verse of the next chapter we read, Getting up, He went from there….
The point is so simplistic that many will wonder where my mind had been. Apparently Jesus not only lived as a man who taught outdoors to large and small groups. He also lived with people indoors. He picked up children while sitting in a home.
This when lighting was poor—before electricity.
He visited, He taught, He reasoned, He loved, He laughed. And much of this happened within the confines of a building. The synagogues He visited—as was His custom—were buildings.
This somehow gave Jesus another dimension in my mind.
When we love someone, we want to know all about them. I still enjoy hearing stories of my husband’s childhood. What contributed to his becoming the person he became. I smile and sometimes I hurt when he lets me in on his past.
And that’s the way it is with Jesus. Sometimes I wonder about His days. I wish I knew details that haven’t been recorded. I like to imagine being in the crowd when He taught on the hillside. When He taught from an open boat.
I want to delight in the joy of dreaming about this Savior who loves me. I want to think I could be a child playing while my mother prepared dinner. Then, when I least expected it, my Jesus would reach down, pull me up onto His comfortable lap, embrace me, and use me as an example to illustrate Truth.
Or perhaps, instead of being child, I’d be a mother busy meeting the demands of the moment, wishing I could enjoy visiting with Him while hearing Him says the best part in life is loving Him. Or perhaps I’d be married to a man who would follow Jesus by leaving home for long periods of time. That wouldn’t be so wonderful.
But then I could look ahead to the times when Jesus visited, when He finally came through the door into my daily life.
I believe God uses our imaginations, and it can carry us many places. Good and bad.
Imagining Jesus when He lived on earth is good.
And there is another way to imagine Him. With eyes open or closed I can welcome Him into a building right now. I can imagine Him entering into the building I call home.
Into my kitchen or living room. The den. The office area of our guest bedroom where I’m working on the computer right now.
Lord, You are here.
In the second chapter of Ruth, Boaz saw Ruth working in his field and he wondered who the young woman was. In verses 5-16, when his hired men identified her, he approaches the young stranger and reveals the nature of his character.
First, he spoke to Ruth as an actual human being. The workers referred to her as the Moabite or as an outsider, but he addressed her as “daughter.”
Second, he let her know she could remain under his protection from possible abuse by young men. Not all the men working in the fields shared his concern for others.
And then he offered cool water to drink during the heat if the day. She could refresh herself by receiving from his provision for his workers, even though she worked for herself rather than for him.
Boaz did have a reason to be interested in Ruth: he was one of several possible kinsman-redeemers. Meanwhile, Ruth didn’t know what a kinsman-redeemer was.
This message identifies the purpose, obligations, and qualifications of a kinsman-redeemer. It also links Boaz to Jesus, because Jesus came to earth to become the kinsman-redeemer for all people.
As in, What is man that thou art mindful of him? (Ps. 8:4 KJV)
There’s a poetic ring to the KJV, don’t you think? Perhaps it’s my nostalgia, but I love it. “Man” refers to mankind or people. When I read this verse I don’t feel excluded. I recognize I’m part of a much larger whole.
But the verse asks an important question. Perhaps one that we all struggle with from time to time. I’ve come to believe it’s a sign of spiritual growth. God always does new things in His people. When He does, we have to adjust. We have to figure out what He’s saying. That includes asking important questions.
I didn’t know God personally as a girl or as a young woman, but I often wondered who I was. At times I desperately struggled to find meaning within a larger context. “Who am I?” I would ask. “What am I here for?”
As a Christian I’ve been more apt to ask questions within the context of vision or ministry. I couldn’t count the times I’ve cried out during a time of confusion, “God, what do you want me to do?”
Fact is, I’m experiencing some thorny issues right now. This morning I asked God again if He was really calling me to this venture called blogging.
He reminded me of all the times He’s let me know He’s more interested in my inner responses than in my activities. And I remembered something I heard once: we’re human beings—not human doings.
Yes, He has called me into specific areas of ministry at times. Maybe He’s even calling me to blogging at this time. But if I get caught up in writing or doing whatever it takes to be a blogger–and if I lose sight of being or lose sight of whom I am, any activity becomes meaningless. And any ability to receive a download or His anointing will dissipate.
Because doing doesn’t cut it.
I suspect—no, I know—the question of being somebody in Christ never loses its significance.
But strangely, I’ve also learned I won’t find the answer in myself—although that enters in.
I find the answer when I hear God’s voice and when I turn to Him. And I become myself only through receiving Him.
Galatians 2:20 (NLT) tells me, My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
This isn’t a one-time experience. Receiving Him is an ongoing process.
The old self we read about in Galatians is the part of doing and being that I don’t especially care for. The selfish part, the angry part, the wounded part, the fearful part. The part that cannot be trusted.
When I or anyone releases the yukky stuff to Jesus and let Him take it to the cross, then I’m—then we’re—free to be ourselves. We receive the life of Christ and He releases us to be what He created us to be. We’re even free to exercise dominion within our sphere of influence. (See the rest of Psalm 8)
Furthermore, Jesus never puts us down or overwhelms us. Other people, even other Christians, might try. But not Jesus.
So give yourself freedom to ask God who you are.
You might not hear His answer immediately. It might take time to recognize His voice. But ask God through His son Jesus.
And rest assured, He’s thinking about you and about me and about all mankind.
Because He’s mindful.