The Don’t-Have-It-All-Togethers

14 01 2013

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3

Jesus opens the Beatitudes with a stunner. He announces that the kingdom of heaven, the very dwelling place of God, belongs to those who are impoverished, destitute, broken, and hopeless. Grace, Jesus proclaims, belongs to those who don’t have it all together.

I don’t know about you, but that is good news for me.

Our world spends a lot of time defining who “belongs.” If you are popular, famous, or beautiful, you are in. If you are smart, wealthy, or powerful, you can stay. If you know the right people, can open the right doors, or produce the right vibe, you belong. The rest of us spend a lot of time with our noses pressed against the glass. We evaluate their clothes, imitate their style, replicate their talk, and copy their actions in an effort to look “in.” We jockey for position, hoping to get a little bit closer to belonging to the circle of people who always seem to be just out of reach.

Jesus stands on a mountain and invites us to belong to Him. The kingdom of heaven can be ours. He offers us the ultimate “in.” The only requirement – we have to know how completely we don’t have it all together. We have to be aware of our limitations, understand our dependence, and be transparent about our inability to do for ourselves.
We are blessed, wide open for the movement of God, if we can grasp how broke and broken we truly are.

I stagger under the wisdom of this first blessing. Am I brave enough to set down all of my self-managing, control-the-spin, make-myself-look-good efforts and admit – live within the truth – that I don’t have it all together?

My Jesus Resolution today is to stop trying to fit in to the world and settle into belonging to God. Here is my reality – I am a mess. My family has flaws, my marriage has its moments, and my faith has cracks and doubts. I struggle with my weight, my money, my time, and my temper. Here is the rest of my reality – God loves me and is blessing (read transforming and working within) every broken, damaged, poverty-stricken piece of my heart that I am willing to give into His hands.





Blessed

11 01 2013

There is one word that echoes through the Beatitudes like a heartbeat. Over and over, it announces the purpose, movement, and intention of God. Blessed.

Blessed is one of those puzzling words. We warm to its rhythm. We crave its expanse. We long to be a blessed people. We count our blessings. We ache to be drenched in the delight of His blessings. Yet, interestingly enough, we struggle to define what it means to be blessed by God. Understanding this word is key to delving into the essence of the kingdom life Jesus offers us.

To be blessed means that we are connected to the heart of God. Our lives are tethered to His. Our souls are anchored in His faithfulness. More than an emotional response, being blessed is a connection that opens a living pathway between God and me. Being blessed means that my life is open to the movement of God. He is actively at work within me. I see His hand, experience His power, and surrender to His grace.

Blessed is a word that captures the beauty of transformation. As God blesses me, He changes me, moving in my life to make me new, whole, clean, and useful. When God bestows a blessing, He does so in order to tie our hearts to His. It underscores our dependence, reinforces His delight, and deepens the connection between us.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be brave enough to notice all the different ways in which I am blessed. Each blessing points me back to God. Every blessing provides me with an opportunity to look more like Jesus. Realizing how expansively God’s blessings touch every piece of who I am changes how I see the little things in my day. God is here. He loves me. He is at work around me and within me for His glory. Standing on holy ground, I begin to realize that everything has the potential to be sacred. A place to meet God and worship.  A place to stand in wonder and whisper, “I am blessed.”





Brave

9 01 2013

Reading through the Sermon on the Mount reveals a stubborn kingdom logic that isn’t easily defined and can’t quickly be dismissed. Immanuel comes to earth to literally be “God With Us.” He walks in our shoes, sleeps in our beds, eats our food, and experiences human life with all of its beauty and pain. As He does so, He extends grace, offers hope, provides healing, and insistently asks us to look with wider eyes, listen with willing hearts, and believe that the impossible is really within reach.

Exploring the eight blessings that launch the Sermon on the Mount are enough to make me step back from the words with my hand over my mouth. These are not typical rules for ethical living or a glorified recipe for success. They encapsulate a mindset, propose a faith, and offer a vision of God that have the power to transform everything about my world.

The promises attached to these blessings are staggering. Seeing God’s face, wearing His name, receiving His mercy, being fully satisfied, experiencing deep comfort, inheriting the breadth of His faithfulness, and possessing the kingdom are beyond imagination kind of promises. “For me?” I wonder. “For anyone willing to live within the transformation I want to work in your life,” Jesus says.

Am I brave enough to believe Jesus?

My Jesus Resolution today is to pray for courage. There is a reason that “Fear Not” is the most oft repeated command in the Bible. It takes bravery and faith to step beyond what I can see into a world redefined by Love and redeemed by Grace. I have to be willing to let go of what I can control, figure out, understand, and handle myself in order to discover the wonder and wisdom of a life far different than I can imagine on my own. I want to spend the next several blogs exploring these blessings. Or perhaps better said, letting them explore, change, and redefine me. Are you brave enough to join me?





Unknown Blessings

7 01 2013

Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. ~ Native American proverb

How is God going to bless you this year? It seems like a silly question. We don’t know what the future is going to hold. We aren’t sure how things are going to unfold, what challenges we will face, or what lies just over the horizon. How can we give thanks for what we can’t yet imagine?

Here is the truth about our God. He has seen tomorrow. He knows what each one of your minutes will hold. He knows the struggles you will face, the troubles that will scare you, the potholes that will jar you, and the exhilarating moments that will make you smile. There is no unknown where God is concerned.

There is great peace in knowing that each one of our days is fully known by God. His promises take on an added richness when we understand that He stands ready to help us face what is ahead. He assures us that His presence will be with us through the thin and thick. He guarantees sufficient grace to meet any need. He posts peace as a sentry around our hearts. His power and His provision are as close as a prayer.

Learning to give thanks in advance reminds my heart to be confident that God is on my side. He is already working on my behalf. He is preparing to move in each one of my moments in order to bring about His purpose and fulfill His glory. Being thankful relieves the worry and tension that often fill my thoughts when I look into the future. It allows me to greet each morning with worship and joy as I praise Him for the way He has already filled the day with blessings.

My Jesus Resolution today is to give thanks in advance. Being grateful encourages me to anticipate His hand on my day. When I give thanks for unknown blessings, it calls me to keep my eyes open and my heart ready. It allows me to face each situation with peace because I know that God has already seen and provided exactly what I need. Being thankful in advance changes my posture and my perspective. I don’t know how God is going to bless me today, but I know with absolute certainty that He will. Discovering those blessings is the gift that makes this day worth living.





Resolution One

4 01 2013

“Resolution One: I will live for God.

Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.”

                                                                    – Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

The resolution of American theologian Jonathan Edwards are words worth pondering. Simple words. Deep words. Words that ring with conviction and challenge me to examine my heart.

Resolution One: I will live for God. Five words that have the power to shape a life. These words, this resolution, contain direction, inspiration, focus, motivation, and conviction. Living for God is more than a nice statement. It defines a purpose, molds a mindset, establishes boundaries, and becomes a filter through which everything must be measured. Living for God means not living for myself. That is harder than it sounds. It requires me to choose worship over whining, sacrifice over selfishness, holiness over hunger, and dedication over desire. Living for God means breathing God in with every breath, listening to Him with each heartbeat, becoming aware of His presence with each blink of an eyelid, and walking in His way with every step.

Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will. We tend to think of these kinds of statements in sweeping terms. If there is no one else on the planet who lives for God, I will be the lone voice of praise. There is truth in that, but narrowing the focus reveals my struggle. Will I live for God if I am the only one at work to do so? At school? In the neighborhood? At the party? Will I live out the integrity and intentionality of Jesus even when I am by myself? It is difficult to walk in the other direction, turn the other cheek, or step away when everyone else is moving forward. This is a resolution of commitment over compromise.

My Jesus Resolution today is to let these resolutions soak deeply into who I am. They are at the heart of The Jesus Resolution. Living for God means to live in Christ. My life finds its best expression in living out the likeness of Jesus where I live. When I live for myself, my life has fewer colors, less flavor, and weaker substance. Living for God allows His brighter, fuller, deeper, and richer blessings to bloom in my heart. “I still will” is an anthem that compels me to live out the image of Jesus among the people who touch my days. It is a determination that every person I meet will be offered a glimpse of Jesus, no matter who they are or where they stand.





The Jesus Resolution

2 01 2013

Are you a resolution person? I am. I like the idea of setting goals, stretching myself, and imagining new opportunities. For me, there is hope in resolutions. It means that I am willing to explore the possibility that who I am today isn’t all I am stuck being tomorrow.

Statistically, resolutions don’t have a good track record. We start out with high hopes and good intentions, but studies show that four out of five people will give up on their resolutions, many before the end of January.

According to the dictionary, a resolution involves coming to a definite and earnest determination to follow a particular course of action or pattern of behavior. Are you smiling? Here is the secret. Resolutions are more than once-a-year opportunities to think about losing ten pounds, saving a few dollars, or starting a new hobby. Resolutions are at the heart of God’s desire for our hearts.

Resolutions open the door to transformation, and transformation is God’s great purpose for you. He wants to take you where you are today – no matter where that is – and create something new, beautiful, healthy, strong, and amazing in you. He is willing to take what is broken, bankrupt, banged up, and beleaguered, and change it. Change you. He resolved before the beginning of time to give you as much of Himself as you were willing to take in. Now He wants you to make a resolution that will give Him full access to your heart.

My Jesus Resolution today is to make The Jesus Resolution. The Jesus Resolution is an earnest determination to follow Jesus. It is a resolution to allow God to remake His image in my life, to open my heart to His heart, and live fully in His presence. It isn’t fueled by will power, but by the Spirit’s power. It isn’t grounded in my strength, but in His grace. It won’t find its completion in my effort, but in His faithfulness. Today, I once again find myself on my knees resolving to “know nothing…except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2). It will be a journey that will take me to new places. He will ask me to trust more, dig deeper, pray harder, smile bigger, worship with more awe, study more diligently, give more sacrificially, experience more joy, and invest myself in Jesus, and Jesus alone. In living that resolution, God promises hope, grace, joy, peace, and more of Him than I can possibly imagine. Will you join me in living The Jesus Resolution this year?