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Out of the Cage

Out of the Cage

Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner.  Max Lucado

God has worked in my heart for years on this. He reminds me of people I have, intentionally, forgotten. People who hurt me or offended me. People I didn’t want to remember. People I didn’t want to forgive. People who made me put my hands on my hips and stamp my foot and say, “they don’t deserve my forgiveness!”

When I gave God permission to create a clean heart in me, when I asked, even sought Him, for a whole heart He came in and started rooting around opening boxes and dirty little bags I didn’t know were there.

I have a great capacity for ignoring ugly and painful things. Whenever I am overwhelmed by them I pretend they aren’t there. I push them into a far corner of my heart and walk away. Once I’ve done my stamping dance of unforgiveness, I never look back. Until God.

Until the day Jesus came knocking on the door of my heart wanting to come in and be closer to me. He asked to come share a meal and to be friends. He asked to be invited to the inside of me. It was years before I trusted Him enough, before I was brave enough, to let Him into the place of my hiddenness. I’ve come to see that while I was ignoring pain and ugly, fear nibbled at the edges and made me ignore God’s call as well.

Jesus stands at the door of the hearts of his followers. He knocks on the door of those of us who’ve said, Yes, at some time in our lives. He patiently waits to be invited inside. Waits for us to choose more. To bravely open the door.

Following Jesus into forgiveness is a big thing. As a model for walking in love, Jesus was pretty much unrivaled.

“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” Jesus

On most days, I am not like Jesus. Oh heavenly Father, forgive my dark heart that does not want forgiveness for my enemies but wants to call down fire upon them instead. That wants to see them pay for their sins against me. My dark heart that desires vengeance for the pain they brought into my life.

And I see Jesus, not raising a sound against those persecuting Him, spitting on Him, wounding Him and bringing Him great mockery and pain.

I hear Him say, “No one takes my life. I freely give it.”

I see His heart, His trust in His Father’s intentions. His trust that the future of His obedience is glorious because He knows His Father’s heart toward Him. And He knows if there had been any other way to forgive the world, Jesus would have been spared the cross.

As Jesus hung on the cross, He forgave all those who had put Him there. He asked the Father to forgive them, too. I believe it was because He saw the Father’s heart for those created in His image. Those He wanted to call sons and daughters. Those He longed to hear cry, “Abba, Father.”

Out of this great love, forgiveness was born and redemption came alive. As He forgave us, as He released our sins from us, as He chose to not hold our sins against us, so we go and do likewise.

Bless those who spitefully use you.

It’s bigger than ‘committing’ them to God because that feels like permission to hold onto a dark little part of me that wants them to get what’s coming to them. Thinking surely God will discipline or punish them for what they’ve done.

When I bless my enemies, I must come to God with an open heart and open hands asking Him to richly pour out His love upon them. Asking Him to pour out His mercy, hope, grace, and goodness upon those who brought the greatest pain into my experience. Only then do I understand the heart of God who wants no one to perish. Who showers goodwill on all.

To share in the sufferings of Christ is, perhaps, to die to my heart of vengeance. To fall in love with the Father and want His love and kindness that leads to repentance to be experienced by those I see as my enemies.

To follow Jesus I must forgive. The Way of Jesus is a path of continual forgiveness of my sins. Of the sins of others. The Way of Jesus leads to life—to freedom from carrying the burden of others’ sins.

God cares deeply about our wounds. We are precious to Him. He gathers our tears in bottles, but He doesn’t see my enemy as an enemy. It is not His goodness in me that cries out for vengeance and judgment on the ones who hurt me. It is anger. It is the voice of pain and injustice crying out to be heard. To be seen. To be vindicated.

Am I not willing to take the hurt and give it to God so another can be set free from the flames of hell? Set free from the torment of the true enemy of God, the devil, and his lies? So another could be led to repentance by the kindness of God in me and through me?

Or must I demand every last coin owed from the one who wounded me?

Am I choosing to not walk into the glory before me but stay in the shadow of the earthly realm where an eye for an eye rules?

The way of Jesus demands purity of heart. At some point, He shows me what I can’t take into the kingdom. Things I carry that don’t fit through the door. Things that bring death not life.

Father, forgive them, please don’t hold their sins against them. They don’t know what they’re doing. Father, forgive me for holding their sins against them. For demanding they pay when Jesus has already paid the price for all our sins.

To fully receive forgiveness, I must walk in forgiveness. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.

I cannot walk in the kingdom without forgiving. I think He let me visit so I would get a glimpse of His glorious intentions. Or maybe when I was too young to know better, He allowed me safe passage for a bit. But as I follow Jesus, He begins to speak more seriously to me. He lets me know I cannot inhabit or inherit my place in the kingdom without forgiving people. I cannot hold their sins against them. I am not allowed to withhold forgiveness. Jesus’ sacrifice brought enough forgiveness into the world to cover us all. If I follow Him. If I love Him, I will see this sacrifice was enough. Enough for me to forgive and bless my enemies because when I was an enemy of God, He forgave me. He said, “Father, forgive her, she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Do not hold her sins against her. Hold them against me. Let my sacrifice be enough to make her whole, free, and alive.”

Forgiving my enemies makes room in their lives for God to come in and destroy the foundations of the devil’s work. It allows me to speak freedom and life and light over people, families, cities, and communities.

Help us to be people of forgiveness, Lord. People of patience, hope, and compassion. A living testimony of God’s love. Show me how to pray for all people, that your compassion and kindness would come to them. Show me how to be a person of reconciliation introducing others to Jesus. To Abba Father.

Give me a heart for all those You love but I don’t. The unloveable ones who frighten me, who hurt me, who criticize and misjudge me. The ones who accuse me, even of things I never did. The ones who throw rocks because they don’t understand me or are jealous. The ones who mock me because it’s easier than getting to know me. Help me, Father, to stay nestled in your heart, feeling the beat of your love for all. Help my heart to beat that way, too.

Walking on Water: Transition

Walking on Water: Transition

When you get out of the boat there’s only one thing you can do, keep looking at Jesus. That’s it. No looking at the waves. No noticing how strong the wind is blowing or contemplating the storm. None of that. We all know how that ends.

So now you’re out of the boat having a miraculous faith experience with Jesus. Don’t look down once your brain realizes you’re walking on water. Don’t look down because Jesus really does not want you to sink. You’re on the water because He likes hanging out with you. He likes you having exhilarating times with Him. He likes your faith in Him that drives you close.

Recently Jesus saw my hunger as I sat in the boat. Although He’s been calling me to follow a path into the unknown with Him for some time now, I just couldn’t see where the road would go so I didn’t really listen very well. I worried the idea like a dog with a bone trying to wrap my logical mind around it but that road just didn’t seem to go anywhere. Then one day Jesus reminded me of Jonah and where his disobedience took him. He reminded me of the rich young ruler who could have been one of the disciples but turned away when asked to give what he held dear. He couldn’t see how he could live without the only things he knew how to trust.

Some years ago God encouraged me to follow Him to a new and frightening place by talking to me about Nebuchadnezzar and reminding me that if I was going to seek to build my own kingdom it would not end well. Fear of God propelled me. I followed Him. I walked through my fear and into a time of intimacy and beauty I never dreamed of. That journey included meeting the man I would marry, a trip to Spain and Germany, a spiritual discovery of the power of beauty, and my gift for storytelling.

God is not logical when He asks for our obedience. That’s what makes this a faith walk. Last week I realized He was asking me if I truly wanted to follow Him. If I really wanted to choose Him no matter what it cost me. It’s quite easy to sit in the boat and think about wanting more of God. To claim I want to do the bible stuff–heal the sick, raise the dead, bind up the brokenhearted, deliver people from bondage…but it’s quite difficult to actually get out of the boat.

I think it takes something of Him in our hearts to lift our heads in faith and hunger and say like Peter, “If that’s you, ask me to come.” I wonder if Jesus would have called to him to come if Peter hadn’t essentially jumped up and said, “Pick me, pick me!” As I pondered this with the Lord, I saw something new. I saw how Jesus’ heart leaped because Peter so wanted to be with Him and his heart truly believed in Jesus. Peter saw something in Jesus that drew him beyond logic into longing and action. That’s what faith looks like.

I thought about my own seeking. Do I look for ways to get out of the boat? Do I cry, “If it’s you, ask me to come. Call me, Jesus, I’m ready to throw off everything to follow where I’ve never been before. Where it is impossible to be without you. I’m ready to come closer. Pick me. Pick me. “

Or do I only look for faith that makes my life more comfortable?

Yes, I got out of the boat this week and all prayers are welcome. I believe Lord, help my unbelief. If you’re on this journey also, hit reply and I’ll pray for you, too! I know it will be glorious because He is glorious! I will end this where I started it. When you get out of the boat there’s only one thing you can do, keep looking at Jesus.

On the Road with Jesus

On the Road with Jesus

Several months ago I woke up from a dream where Jesus walked away. Later, I could laugh, but at the time I remember standing in the middle of a dirt road surrounded by prairie fields as far as I could see and feeling wildly scared. I looked down at something on the ground near my feet and when I looked up all I could see was Jesus’ back as he walked down the road. Away from me.

What? My mind started moving in hyper-mode. But the Bible says He never leaves me. He is my Good Shepherd. He leads and guides me. Where is He going? Why is He going?

And then I saw it. He was leading me. He expected me to be following.

I don’t know why I didn’t see it first thing. Maybe the surge of fear slowed me down or maybe I am just one of His slower children. He leads and guides but do I follow well? Obviously not always.

This morning it felt like He wasn’t here. I went through a list of things I might have done to offend Him. The areas of repentance that needed to be made. I asked what I should be doing that I wasn’t. I didn’t hear a thing.  I remembered my dream and began to ask God where I should be going with Him that I was not.

Follow is another word for obey and although it is easier and carries less religious baggage, it means the same thing. Am I following where He wants to go and doing what He wants to do or am I just standing around in the dirt thinking?

There is a recurring fear of lack in my life and it has come around again. Rearing its voice above the voice of God to speak, loudly, lies that tend to immobilize me. Lies that slow my feet until they stop altogether and I stand in the middle of the road watching Jesus walk away.

My enemy, who hates me because I am so valuable to God because God made me in His image and I am loved deeply, even to the cross– that enemy hates God and all that He loves. That enemy knows how powerful the words and promises of my Heavenly Father are in my mouth. He will do anything he can, create any lie to keep me from following Jesus into the fruitful destiny that God’s dreamed for me.

I see now that it is obedience that keeps me following but wavering in my devotion to Christ slows me down and makes me a target for the smelly lies of the Evil One. His tactics never change. I should be smarter by now but so often I just believe the wrong words. First, my focus moves from Jesus and onto whatever is bothering me. Then my mind starts worrying it as a dog does with a bone. I no longer see the promise in God’s eyes and heart but am primed and ready to listen to the enemy when he comes to speak his prophecy and promise over my life. Promises of lack, emptiness, and failure. And yet in the faithfulness of my God, I hear the Holy Spirit whisper in my heart, “Don’t listen. He’s a liar.”

As I take time to repent from my unbelief, from my unfaithful ways, I see Jesus ahead of me on the road looking over His shoulder, smiling and motioning me to hurry up and come on. So I do.

——

Heavenly Father, forgive me for my sin of unbelief. For not seeing how big and beautiful your plans are for me. For not seeing how awesome you are. How trustworthy. How faithful to keep me in my future and hope. Forgive me for seeing the enemy so large and powerful when you said he’s not. When he was created by you and his power was destroyed at the cross. Come Holy Spirit of Jesus and be strength, hope, and life in me and through me, to a world of people who know torment as I do and even more. Help me to follow you this day. Amen

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