Tag Archives: Jesus Continued

White Spaces

You shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know.  Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Have you ever noticed that God isn’t in a hurry?  If I were to create or work out a story of mankind, I don’t think I would include 400 year gaps of time, like where the Israelites stayed in Egypt between Joseph’s death and Moses’ exodus.  Nor would I have another 400 year time of silence where no prophet spoke between Malachi and John the Baptist.  The wilderness wanderings of Moses and the children of Israel might get shortened to maybe five years, and Jesus would have gotten to Bethany before Lazarus before he died, not after.

But I’m not God, and as Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us, our ways are not His ways and they are as white spacefar apart as the Heavens are above the earth.  He works slowly and deliberately for a reason.  Deuteronomy 8 lets us know it is a part of our growth process: to humble us, to let us know what is lacking in our character, to get us to learn to keep God’s commandments, and to cause us to hunger for God and God alone.

In JD Greear’s book Jesus Continued (Zondervan 2014), our women’s Sunday School class is on the chapter of “When You Can’t Feel God.”  He calls the gaps of time that you experience silence from God “white space.”  It’s the space in the Bible between one part of the story to the next.  It’s the space between the call of God and the fulfillment of the dream.  It’s also the white space of singleness; the white space of sickness; the white space of finishing out a prison sentence; the white space of unfulfilled promises and unmet expectations.

A Biblical example would be the time between when David was anointed king and the time he actually took over as king.  There were a few years in-between, and quite a bit of drama.  It’s easy to lose hope in the interim and doubt yourself or doubt God.

This white space time can be terribly confusing and the hardest part of life to endure.  Greear’s encouragement is not to waste the white space.  It reminds me of the story of Gracia Burnham.  Gracia and her husband Martin were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf rebels while on an anniversary trip in the Philippines in 2001.  They were in captivity for over a year.  On an episode of “Locked Up Abroad” Gracia told of this harrowing time.  The interviewer asked if it had changed her in any way.  She stopped and said something to this effect: “It has made me kinder and more forgiving.  I hope it has changed me.  Otherwise I have wasted 375 days in the jungle.”  I don’t want to waste my jungles either.

It was while I was reading Jesus Continued the first time through in the summer of 2015 that God showed me the meaning behind a big white space in my life.  Up to that point it was terribly confusing and just a dangling question mark for me.  I had felt a yearning or a “call” of God for missions when I was in college.  I certainly had a heart for ministry, if not missions.  I went to this big missions convention at the University of Illinois at Urbana twice with 20,000 other students.  Whatever capacity God would lead me to, I knew I needed to finish college, get some experience and Bible training, and then go.

Once I finished my second year of graduate school with a Bible degree I thought, “this is finally it.”  I had pursued different missions boards and landed on one to apply for a three year stint overseas.  I was accepted and went to their candidate school in Wheaton, Illinois.  In the middle of this three week missionary and pre-missionary gathering, the green light shifted to a flashing red light with no advanced notice.

Part of it had to do with the leadership.  They really didn’t communicate with me as they said they would and any time line that they set up where they said they would talk, they didn’t.  I waited patiently at first, less patiently as time went on and as the weeks and then months went on from there, until  I gave up.  My attempts to figure things out weren’t met with solid answers and I went into an emotional spin for at least three months, if not longer.

As I tried to get a word from God, He was putting things on my heart about returning to my home state of Wisconsin, to a small town, working in a church full time, in the denomination I last was a part of in through college.  I was living in South Carolina, on Hilton Head Island, and from there God moved me to the south shore of Lake Superior, in the middle of the winter–a very brutal winter.  But it was with an old friend from college who was a pastor of a smaller church who needed a youth director.

That was over thirty years ago.  I went from working in that church for five years, to feeling led to working in a school setting, which I have been doing full time for 26 years.  The “call to missions” that has continued to ring in my heart has been that white space, with a few other details surrounding it.  In the middle of most of that time, I was single and wondering what God was up to.

While reading the chapter in Jesus Continued, God helped me connect the dots, in an act of grace.  Check out this passage in Ezekiel 3:5-9: For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel–not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand.  Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you.  But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to Me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.  Behold I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads.  Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead.  Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.

It was like He spoke it straight into my heart.  This was the great “ah hah” for me, the answer to my white space.  I was fulfilling my call to missions by being right where I am.  God didn’t send me to a people with a foreign speech and a hard language.  If He did, they would have listened to me.  Instead, He sent me to my own people in my own home state.  And they aren’t willing to listen because they have a stubborn and rebellious heart.  I can vouch for that.  It has been a time of much spiritual warfare and little fruit, many hard hearts and little response.  In response to this, God has given me a face as hard as their faces and a forehead like flint.  I can take what they dish out, and more.

Why the white space and the difficult assignment?  Just as Deuteronomy 8 says: to humble me, and to show me what is in my heart so that I know I need God and I dare not trust in myself.  It is also that I might learn to obey God and to hunger for Him as my true daily bread over and above anything else.

May God fill in the blanks on your white spaces and may you learn the same lessons of humble dependence.  

 

 


A Special Friendship With God

Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O Lord, God of hosts.  I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because Your hand was upon me…you shall stand before Me.  If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as My mouth.  Jeremiah 15:16-17; 19

Our women’s Sunday school class is still going through the book, “Jesus Continued…Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than the Jesus Beside You,” by JD Greear.  We’re on the chapter, “Experiencing the Holy Spirit in the Word of God.”  Greear’s angle is following the Spirit in the Bible to find that ‘special mission’ that God has for each of us.

Maybe back in my college days I encountered people who were prone to using the Bible as a ‘spiritual Magic 8 Ball’ to figure out who to date/marry and take all of the forks in the road, and it seems that  those are the kind of people he was writing this chapter to.  But JD Greear made a good point about being more concerned about who we should be and getting that worked out.  Then the when and where will work itself out.

We need to have someplace where we can grow and get grounded in the who.  If that doesn’t happen, no matter where we end up, we’ll be like King Saul or Samson–always wondering why we got dealt the bad hand.

But thinking about the deeper message of the role of the Bible in my life and what the role of the Bible should and could be in everyone’s life took me on a rabbit trail, so here it is…

Jeremiah spoke of this special friendship he had with God in chapter 15.  God called him to it.  I don’t think Jeremiah went out looking for it and had anything to brag about on the topic.  In Jeremiah 1 he told about how God called him and he said, “I’m only a youth.”  But God told him not to use that as an excuse and that He was going to put words in his mouth to set him over kingdoms to pluck up and to break them down.

It wasn’t an easy call.  Most of the time he’d go to the rebellious king who didn’t want to hear what Jeremiah had to say and he’d have Jeremiah put in a dungeon or a cistern.  And he was emaciated one time they had to pull him out of the well with rags because a rope would have broken his arms.

But he had a special friendship.  There’s a word for that special friendship in Hebrew, “Cowdh” where you recline in God’s presence, like special friends conversing, sharing face to face in a confidential conversation.  It had a cost, like not just telling people things they didn’t want to hear and things they wouldn’t listen to.  Jeremiah 15:17 indicates that it meant sitting alone, not with the revelers.  Jeremiah made a clear choice to go to the secret place to be with God.

In Mark 1:35, we find that Jesus did the same thing: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place (a lonely place, a secret place) and there He prayed.”  To get to that secret place of friendship with God means saying ‘no’ to the revelers, and ‘no’ to our flesh.  It means saying ‘no’ to TV, other hobbies and pursuits, all so we can sit elbow to elbow with Jesus in the Word and in prayer.

That is Cowdh.  It is there where we get precious words and not worthless ones.  It is there we get that special mission spoken to our lives from the Spirit.  It is there that the Word of Christ dwells richly in our heart, as Colossians 3:16 admonishes us to do.  We sit in the early morning hours, the late night hours or the days off, or whenever in that place of special friendship to shut out the world and to sit at Jesus’ feet.

I had a 10′ x 10′ prayer cabin built for the express purpose of having a place to go.  It is IMG_0973.jpgmy Cowdh. My Saturday wish is to be there, in quiet communion, uninterrupted.  My husband simply does not grasp the concept.  His Saturdays are to make noise, sound productive, run around to hunt, fish and to not burn daylight.  He may never get the concept of my prayer cabin, but I don’t care.

In Matthew 22:29 Jesus told the Sadducees that they were wrong because they didn’t know the Scriptures nor the power of God.  It is thru the Scriptures that we get to know power and the character of God.  Contrast that with Daniel 11:32 that simply says, “but the people who know their God shall stand firm (rise up) and take action.”

Your words are the joy and delight of my heart for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of Hosts.


Depth of the Gospel, Fullness of the Spirit

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love if Christ–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:17-19

But when the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us.  Titus 3:4

Fullness of the Spirit and depth in the gospel are inseparable, and one always leads you to the others.  The more you grow in your knowledge of the gospel the more intimate you become with the Spirit.  JD Greear, from Jesus Continued…Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than the Jesus Beside You

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Another thought provoking chapter to chew on.  Greear’s point is that we grow in fullness of the Spirit not by asking for Him, but by believing the gospel.  If we want to grow in the Spirit, we don’t just plead for more of the Spirit, we put more renewed faith in the gospel.  Fullness of the Spirit is a by product of believing the gospel (p. 107).

In Galatians 3:1-5, Paul reminded them that they received the Spirit by hearing with faith, not by any kind of work.  It was by believing the gospel.  But they had slipped back into a works based system.  Isn’t that what we do?  When we first come to Jesus we get that it is by grace we are saved through faith and that He’s thrown our sins away as far as the east is from the west.

But then we think we have to work after that to prove things.  We have to work to prove to God that we really mean it, or to prove to others that we have a better faith than them…or to prove to ourselves that our past is really behind us…or to make up for the sins that we’ve committed since we turned our lives over to Jesus that we really shouldn’t do anymore.  And then we miss the fullness of the Spirit because we’re operating in the flesh trying to strive and control and to just live life on our own.

So how do we really get to know how wide and long and high and deep Christ’s love is so we can experience more fullness in the Spirit?

My thought: In Matthew 22 Sadducees came to Jesus with a question.  They were probably trying to trap Him, because they didn’t believe in a resurrection and were asking about Heaven.  “What would happen if a woman’s husband died and she married his brother and he died and she married the next brother and he died and she married the next one–who would she be married to at the resurrection?”

Jesus’ answer in 22:29, You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.  In other words, you don’t really know the Bible and you don’t know God’s power.  I was sharing about that in a church that I was once in, that Jesus might say the same thing to us if we don’t really know Him through the Word in a real relationship and haven’t gotten to know His power through our faith walk.

The pastor asked a real question, something like this, “How do you answer your kids when you try to tell them Bible stories and they say they’ve heard it all before and they won’t listen?”  My quick answer was, I believe it was from the Spirit because I couldn’t be that profound was this: Go out as a family and find people who have never heard of Jesus and His love and find a way to share the Gospel with them.  Then it will become alive to your kids.  That was over fifteen years ago and I believe it more strongly today.

For me, the way you grow in your knowledge of the gospel, and thus become more intimate with the Spirit, is to share the good news of it with people who have never heard it, or who need to hear it again and again and again.

I was talking to some boys who had carried a grudge for months now.  “Meet me in the bathroom at 2:30,” was one boy’s challenge.  The teacher had caught wind of it, and she was unable to convince them of why they shouldn’t fight out their issue.  In she marched them to my office.  “I need to know when this started.  One at a time, no interruptions.”  They talked of surface conflicts, then it came out.  Months ago the one boy had insulted another boy’s mom, who was dead.  He was new, he didn’t know it.  He had apologized many times, but the boy and his friends wouldn’t listen.  He had crossed a line and had to pay.

This was one of the friends.  It’s a week before Christmas.  I’ve been pondering the line from Titus 3:4, But when the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, throughout most of the month.  I guess it’s become part of me now.    I began to talk about forgiveness, and how it is a gift that the other person doesn’t deserve.  It is based on kindness and goodness.  But one day the shoe will be on the other foot and you’ll need someone to forgive you for a debt that you can’t repay.  I said that there’s no better time than Christmas to extend the gift of forgiveness.  I don’t think the teacher had tried this line of reasoning…

I didn’t talk about Jesus, but I did talk about the Grinch, whose heart was two times too small and how it grew three times.  Unforgiveness makes your heart two times two times smaller and forgiveness is what makes it grow three times in a day.  The offending boy turned and apologized one last time and the other boy then was faced with the choice to forgive or not and chose to forgive rather than to fight him at 2:30 and to pay the consequences.

Maybe one day he will get the Gospel, maybe he won’t.  But I am struck still with the depth of the gospel.  Maybe I grew a little more in the fullness of the Spirit this week because of realizing a bit more of the kindness and goodness of God our Savior who appeared and saved us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Christmas Message from 1 Chronicles

David provided great quantities of iron for nails for the doors of the gates and for camps, as well as bronze in quantities for weighing, and cedar timbers without number, for the Sidonians and Tyrians brought great quantities of cedar to David.  For David said, “Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the Lord must be exceeding magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all lands.  I will therefore make preparation for it.”  So David provided materials in great quantity before his death.  1 Chronicles 22:3-5

With great pains I have provided for the house of the Lord 100,000 talents of good, a million talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond weighing, for is so much of it; timber and stone, too, I have provided.  1 Chronicles 22:14

JD Greear writes in his book, Jesus Continued…Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You, A heart that truly understands the gospel overflows with gratefulness to God.  Extravagant grace produces extravagant givers.  (Pg. 88)  David was so overwhelmed with what God had done for him that his heart overflowed with a desire to give back to God.  God had told David that he couldn’t build His temple, but God did allow him to provide the materials for the temple.

Did you catch that in the 1 Chronicles verses?  He provided so many materials they were beyond weighing.  So why was it such a big deal to David to see the Temple get built?  Maybe it was like what Prince Ea from You Tube said in one of his clips, “Martin Luther Jr. didn’t have a dream, the dream had him.”

I would say maybe David wasn’t so much a man after God’s own heart as He was a man whose heart God was after.  And He got His heart.

Isn’t that what God wants?  Our hearts?  And when He gets it, He takes it and runs with it.   And God overflows it with so much stuff that it can’t be weighed.  It’s like the Grinch’s heart that grows three times bigger after hearing the Who’s sing when he took all their presents.  In Psalm 119:32 David wrote, I will run in the way of Your commandments when You enlarge my heart!  There it is.

Jabez prayed for it in 1 Chronicles 4:10.  Jabez called upon God saying, ‘O God that You would bless me and enlarge my border.’

So what does this have to do with Christmas?  If we truly understand Christmas and the gospel, that God gave us Jesus to save us from our sin, or as my favorite Titus 3:4 simply tells, when the good and kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us.  If we get that, then our hearts should be enlarged three times bigger, and we should be caught with a dream like David that consumes us.

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It might not be a Temple, or an enlarged border, but if our hearts overflow with gratitude then we become extravagant givers because of God’s extravagant grace.  That is what has caught me over this last week.  I have spied the people around me with new eyes thinking, “how can I bless them this Christmas?”  I have prayed that God would speak to me to give me His eyes and then to tell me what to do for those He puts on my heart.

There are at least two families that I am hoping to bless with God’s grace, as well as some individuals.  I would like to say that it will be so much that it can’t be weighed, but it’s a start.  Enlarge my heart O God.  Pour your extravagant grace through me to others so that they can come to know You.

*Image from Bethel Bible Church, Winimac IN


Be Filled With the Spirit

filled-with-the-spirit

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on things of the Spirit.  Romans 8:5

Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.  Ephesians 5:18

Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  Galatians 5:16

In our women’s Sunday school class, we are studying the book by JD Greear, Jesus Continued…Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You (Zondervan 2014).  Greear is writing to people who, like him, come from a background where the Holy Spirit has been more of a doctrine than a person of the Trinity.  One of his quotes is:

“Many Christians might have heard of the Holy Spirit in a doctrinal sense but they have no real interaction with or dependence on Him.  Functionally they live in ways ‘unaware’ that there is a living, moving Holy Spirit.  They have all but excised the Holy Spirit from the Trinity; instead they functionally believe in the Father, Son, and the Holy Bible.”

I lead the Sunday school class, and one woman’s question was kind of challenging his doctrinal position, wondering if Greear believed that we receive the Holy Spirit at new birth from another quote: “So, are you speaking the Word of God to others?  If not, can you really claim to be filled with the Spirit of God?”

My short answer was that from everything else that JD Greear has written in his book, I believe that he is orthodox, most likely believing that we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we become Christians.  However, most people do not walk in the realization of the fullness of the Spirit, and that is what this book is about.

When it says in Acts 6:5 that they picked Stephen to help serve the widows, Luke noted that he was ‘full of the Holy Spirit.’  That must have meant that others weren’t as full of the Spirit.  ‘What makes someone full of the Spirit, or more filled with the Spirit than others?’ was my question to the group.

I’ve been thinking a lot more about this during the week.   Paul spent considerable time writing about walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), setting our minds on things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5), not grieving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), not quenching the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), and praying at all times in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18).  This tells me that this tendency to set our minds on things of the flesh and live as if the Christian life depends on us is not new.

Paul battled this when he wrote the book of Galatians.  He questioned in Gal. 3:3, “Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh?”  Why don’t we talk about the work of the Holy Spirit more?  Why do we rely on the flesh instead?

It’s kind of like a friend of mine.  We were at a meeting together, in the middle of a cold winter.  We both had the same model and year of vehicles.  I pointed my key fob out of the window with my remote starter and started my vehicle to warm it up.  She said, “I wish mine could do that.”  I looked at her and said, “I’m sure you can.  Give me your fob.”  She did and she just about flipped when I started her car too.  She had a remote starter for two years and didn’t know it.

Isn’t that how it is with the Holy Spirit?  He lives within us and is ready to fight the flesh battle for us if we would just call on Him.  He is ready to speak to us, empower us, lead us and do great things through us.  Do you just need to know that you have Him waiting to be called upon?

In some ways, it’s not about whether  we have the Spirit or not, it’s about whether the Spirit has us.  Are we willing to surrender to Him, wait for His voice, draw near and go where He tells us to go?

Check out this song by Casting Crowns, “Spirit Wind,” from You Tube:

Spirit Wind