Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Come Forth!

Have you ever felt like you were wrapped up in grave clothes, unable to break free?  You’ve walked a hard, disappointing path.  The life has left your body; your spirit feels crushed.  You get up and do what you need to do, but without energy.  Today Jesus wants to breathe His life into you.  He says, “It’s time to come forth!”  It’s time lay aside the grave clothes of doubt, discouragement and despair, and come alive.  It’s time to be free from the bondage that has held you captive for so long. 

The enemy has wrapped his grave clothes around you.  Negative thoughts swirl around your mind.  You feel suffocated by a demonic cloud of confusion.  You feel stuck inside yourself, banging on the outer wall of your own soul, but unable to break free.  These wounds may be rooted in your childhood, no fault of your own.  You feel trapped, but you can be free!  God has not called you to remain in this tomb.  It is for freedom that He sets you free! (Gal. 5:1)    

In John Chapter 11, Jesus knew that Lazarus, the one he loved, was sick.  He had within His power to go to him and immediately heal him.  But he chose instead to wait.  His reason?  So He would be glorified.  When Jesus finally arrived Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.  “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (vs. 21)    

Sometimes it seems that God waits and delays.  We pray, fast, cry out to Him.  We live in expectation of His deliverance.  We persist, longing for the freedom we know that He offers.  Yet, the enemy seems all the more persistent in keeping us in our grave clothes.  Lord, if you would just do something, I wouldn’t be stuck here.  But Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  (vs. 25)  Jesus weeps over our condition.  He is moved with compassion.  He steps up to our tomb.  He says, “Take away the stone.”  (vs. 39)  Yes, the odor of our condition is bad.  But Jesus says, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  (vs. 40)

“When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’” (vs. 43-44)

I know that the journey towards freedom can be difficult.  The struggle towards freedom can seem unending, but it is not impossible.  Often it is a process of walking with God and trusting Him.  Sometimes freedom is hard-won, but victory is yours!  You can be free.  You can be whole.  You can be delivered.  Reach out to God today and believe that His glory will be revealed in your life.  It’s time to come forth!          

Friday, March 13, 2015

Church of Broken People

What does home mean to you?  When I think of what a home should be, I think of a place of belonging, security, identity, unconditional love, acceptance, and rest.  Isn’t that what we long for?  And isn’t that exactly what the gospel offers?  Adopted as children of God, we belong to the family of Christ.  Safe in our Father’s arms, we find rest for our souls.  Forgiven by God, we are accepted and loved.  Although we are broken people, He has chosen us.  In Him we have identity and purpose.    

Though God created earth as our home, something is wrong with our home.  We know there is a better home.  We know we are not yet really home, but someday we will be home, when the City of God descends from the sky and God dwells with us for eternity. (Revelation 21:1-4)

When I look at the church I see broken people.  All of us have experienced pain in life.  We’ve experienced betrayal, abandonment, sickness, or abuse.  We know the pain of children gone astray.  We have known the shame of moral failures.  We’ve known the heartache of divorce.  We’ve struggled in marriage.  We’ve known depression, anxiety, worry, and stress.  We’ve experienced the death of loved ones.  We’ve endured the long-term illness of a family member.  We’ve fought the persistent pressure of temptation.  We’ve felt “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36)

In a world tumultuous, we long for a safe place to call home.  We long for a place where, despite our brokenness, we are loved.  We long for the holy presence of God.  We long to hear Him say, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

I think that even the most healed person among us carries some pain through life.  God does not promise to free us from all pain.  He does promise to work all things for the good.  (Rom. 8:28)  He promises to be strong in our weakness.  (II Cor. 12:9)  His glory shines through our broken, earthen vessels, in which we possess a treasure of immeasurable value and wonder.  (II Cor. 4:7)  What goes unhealed in this life will be fully healed in heaven.  (Revelation 21:1-4)

I do not think we should be discouraged by our brokenness.  As I’m writing this, to my left is the loose cover of a book by Charles Stanley entitled, “The Blessings of Brokenness.”  Often our brokenness keeps us from God, because we feel rejected.  Yet, when we receive a revelation of God’s unconditional love for us, our brokenness can propel us into His arms.  We are incomplete, but He is whole.  We lack, but He is all sufficient.  We are weak, but He is oh so strong.  We come to Him knowing He can make us whole.

In the Parable of the Great Banquet, as told by Jesus, all of the invited guests made excuses as to why they could not come.  So “the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’” (Luke 14:21)  Sometimes we may feel like this – poor, crippled, blind and lame.  But our brokenness does not define us.  God defines who we are. 

We may be a church of broken people, but we will dine eternally with the King.

We may be wounded, but we are a mighty army.  We may be hurt, but we are victorious.  We may be imperfect, but we are accepted.  Above all, we are loved.  We are not rejected.  We belong.  We are the family of Christ, marching on to victory.  We will not be defeated, because the gates of hell will not prevail against us.  (Matt. 16:18)  We can offer the world a safe place, a healing place.  We are a church of broken people, but we are loved and redeemed.  This church is our home. 

“God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

Prayer Equals Peace

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow...