Tuesday, August 18, 2015

(head nod) we see you, Jesus...!

"The world rings with praise -- lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game -- praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.  [...]  Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.  Nor does it cease to be so when, through lack of skill, the forms of its expression are very uncouth or even ridiculous.  Heaven knows, many poems of praise addressed to an earthly beloved are as bad as our hymns, and an anthology of love poems for public and perpetual use would probably be as sore a trial to literary taste as Hymns Ancient and Modern.  I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join in praising it: 'Isn't she lovely?  Wasn't it glorious?  Don't you think that magnificent?'  The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak what they care about.  My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight today, what we indeed can't help doing, about everything we value.  I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation." -- C.S. Lewis in Reflections from the Psalms

I've said this before, and I think it will be true until the day I die...  Life, though so sweet, is never quite as picturesque as we often envision (or hope to portray with the most epic, yet most unassuming "I'm so chill and naturally only eat perfectly proportionate yogurt and granola or triple berry lemon galettes" insta). There are mornings when even three cups of coffee can't seem to get our brains functioning normally and afternoons when our greatest desire is to make it to 6:00 p.m. or throw our cell phones out to sea to be violently destroyed by sharks or minnows or anything that will ensure we don't receive one more call or text or update or email of any kind. There are nights we cry out to Jesus, begging Him to listen and attempting to cling with all our little faith to the promise that He hears. Sometimes we find ourselves in the pit of despair, questioning God's character, His goodness, and His grace. 

But there are other days, when Jesus is so real to our hearts that they feel as though they might explode! They feel like they could burst at any second with joy and song and thanksgiving because He has made His home in our hearts, and His love is better than anything we've ever known or imagined. And despite any darkness or pain, we know that we know that we know that He is the most valiant of warriors, the mightiest of kings, and the most glorious of saviors. 

Oh to be loved by Jesus...! He alone changes our hearts and sets us free. Thank you, Lord, for moments like these that provide us with the sweetest foretaste of heaven. Thank you that your affections toward us do not waver based upon our feelings, performance, insecurities, sin, or shame. You are steadfast in your character and unrelenting in your love. Thank you that you have not left us as orphans but you came to us. Thank you for graciously adopting us into your family and giving us a seat at your table, which can never be taken away. Jesus, you are the great and glorious treasure, the light in the darkness, and our hope for today and for eternity. 

There are moments in life when we pause, look back, and recognize it was Him all along -- moving, providing, protecting, caring, showing us mercy, love, and grace, filling our hearts with hope and life and joy.  In the moments we thought we'd never feel again, He was there.  In the moments we threw ourselves into our sin and ran headfirst away from Him, He was there.  In the moments we sulked and threw ourselves pity parties and felt as though God had abandoned us or turned the other way, He stood beside us, not looking upon us in disgust or shame but with deep affection and delight.  

He is in perfect control over our lives.  He turns our mourning into dancing, loosens our sackcloth, and clothes us with gladness that we may sing of His praise forever.  He is our healer, and He does not hide His face forever -- though, oh Jesus, how it sometimes feels like that...  He is good!  His plans for us are better than our own.  He knows the plans He has for us -- plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us HOPE and a FUTURE.  He sees beginning to end.  His ways are higher than our ways.  His thoughts are higher than our thoughts!  He reveals our insecurities and all that ought to distance us from Him, yet He simultaneously fills us with His Spirit not because of our goodness or lack thereof but because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

He has given us the capacity to love others.  He fills our lives with others -- people made in the image of God, so we might know and experience what it looks and feels like to enjoy others.  And in our enjoyment of others, we get a taste of what it means to truly enjoy God Himself.  He pours out grace upon grace upon grace on us.  What He provides is FAR better than anything we could ever come up with in our own strength -- though I sure as heck think I'm the smartest and best planner EVER sometimes.   I'm not...  :)

He fulfills His purposes for us.  He is trustworthy.

Because of Christ's atoning sacrifice for our sin, we will never again be separated from God.  And yet there is this reality that when we are dwelling sin, we cannot experience intimacy with Him in the way He intends.  But even still, He continues to pursue us.  He continues to gently convict us of our sin and discipline us for our good, so we might know Him more deeply and be transformed into the image of Jesus.  He speaks to us honestly.  His truth sets us free.  

Even when we don't feel like it, His "no(s)" toward us are full of compassion and love.  In the midst of chaos, He is ever-present.  Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful.  He is inordinately powerful -- even when we seem to have lost almost all faith and confidence in His ability to provide.  He works miracles.  

He doesn't demand we change ourselves before we come to Him, but instead He receives us as we are.  He meets us in our brokenness, in our failures, in our shame, and joyfully invites us into His family.  He changes lives.  He's literally changed my life.  He didn't stop redeeming lives when He died, rose again, and ascended to heaven.  He's continuing to bring LIFE to the lifeless and hope to the hopeless.  He is breaking every chain and setting all the captives free.  Lord, we see you.  but help us believe in your power constantly.  Help us to constantly exalt your name, your goodness, your glory.  

In Christ, the aim of our lives is no longer to be the best at everything we do (though I admittedly still wrestle with that regularly).  The aim of our lives is not to be beautiful and highly revered by all or to hoard up glory for ourselves.  The aim of our lives is not to be liked, adored, or seen by others.  Nor is it our own successes or making our names great or being married with 2-6 kids in the perfect white house with a veranda and a picket fence.  A beautiful house, marriage, children, sweet tea on the front porch -- none of them are bad in themselves.  In fact, they're sweet and precious gifts from our Father that I hope and pray I get to receive one day by His grace!  But in the end, that's not what our lives are about.  They're sweet pieces.  They're foretastes of heaven.  But they barely make up 1/100th of the whole puzzle.

In Christ, the aim of our lives is to know and love Him with all that we are.  The aim of our lives is to see His glory all around us and continually speak of His goodness.  The aim of our lives is to delight in Jesus, to open our hearts to His grace, truth, and love.  The aim of our lives is to treasure Him above all else, to revel in who He is, to find all satisfaction and joy in Him.  The aim of our lives is to offer ourselves before Him each morning, surrendering all hat we are to His ways and His authority.  The aim of our lives is to trust Him implicitly, to go wherever He would send us, to take His name to the nations, to walk with Him faithfully, and to love Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds.  

When we see Him...
When we see you, Jesus, as you truly are...
We cannot help but praise you...!

Lord, by your grace, may we eat, drink, run, and play to the glory of God.  May we know your glory and reflect your glory to the world.  May we desire to be SO CLOSE to you that we live in a constant state of repentance and faith, confessing our sins, our failures, our deep inadequacies and receiving your grace and forgiveness with thanksgiving and joy.  May we not be controlled by our flesh but the Spirit.   May we surrender our ideas that we can fix or change on our own and depend fully on you, participating with the Spirit and following you wherever you would lead.  May we let our roots grow down deep in your word, rejoice in your fullness, and receive all that you give us with thanksgiving, knowing your sovereign will governs all.  May we love those around us with the same love you have loved us, Jesus.  May we move toward others and initiate with others because you initiated with us.  May we speak of your glory in the gospel in the face of Jesus and point others toward you -- as one beggar to another, simply sharing the way in which we found the true bread and river of life that never runs dry!

May we be vulnerable before others, helpless and needy before you.  May we remember we are not above sin.  We choose whether or not we want to live under the lordship of sin, which leads to death, or the lordship of Christ, which leads to LIFE and life abundantly.  Jesus, help us always that we may CHOOSE you.  May we rest in your righteousness, your protection, your provision.  May we receive, by faith, the identity you purchased for us.  May we simply be your children, believing that you delight in us deeply.  May we let go of our innate desire for control and enjoy life as we enjoy you and trust you to provide for every one of our needs.  May you set our hearts on fire with love for you now and forever.  Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning is now and shall be forever.

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