Tuesday, January 19, 2016

When I Don't Accept His Gift

"And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous..."
1 John 2:1
I was reading 1 John this morning and came across the above gem. Advocate. I wanted to know the full meaning of that word, so I looked up the Greek definition. This is where anyone who's followed my blog for awhile can shake their head and say, "There she goes again." Yes. I love words. And definitions. And particularly words with rich, deep definitions. It's like searching for buried treasure. So, let's go digging! :)

Parakletos - advocate, helper, aid, assistant, comforter, pleader, counsel for defense, intercessor, called to one's aid

Isn't that rich?! And let me tell you a secret. You probably already knew that Greek word. John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, was the only one who used that word in the New Testament, both in John and in 1 John. In John, he uses it to describe the Holy Spirit. What are some of the most common names of the Holy Spirit? The Helper. The Comforter. You've heard that, right? Well then, you already knew the word. Yes, you have my full permission to go do a celebratory dance. We need to celebrate the little things, right? So, go. Dance it up. 

You back? See. That was fun, wasn't it? Now, even though you're super smart and already knew a Greek word, I want you to look at that definition again. But this time, read it like you've never heard it before. Allow the Lord to amaze you by what He's promised to be for us.

Jesus is your Parakletos.
Your advocate.
Your helper.
Your intercessor.
Your comforter.
Your assistance and aid.
Your counselor.

I was struck by what a gift I've been given in Jesus. And how little I expect Him to be what He's promised.

You see, this word "parakletos" is just one title of our God. Think of the hundreds of other names in Scripture. Bread of Life. All-Sufficient One. Beloved. Captain and King. Good Shepherd. Righteousness. Everlasting Father. The list goes on and on. All this in Christ. 

But how often do I run to Him to be my Helper when I'm struggling? Or seek my Counselor when I don't know His will in a decision? Or keep my eyes on the Shepherd when plodding through a day?

Oftentimes, I don't need a Helper, because I've already gushed my problem to my closest friends.
I don't seek the Counselor, because I've sought the latest self-help books and websites. 
I can't keep my eyes on the Shepherd, because I'm too busy running my own life.

It's sad, but true. How has my thinking become so backward?

I want to be a wife someday. (I know it seems like I've jumped ship and abandoned any thought flow I had. Just stick with me and I promise this will make sense in thirty seconds.) I want to be the best wife ever. (Go ahead and roll your eyes. I don't mind.) I want to be my hubby's eager helpmate, passionate lover, best friend, greatest encourager, and closest confidante. 

But what if six months into marriage, he started spending most of his free time with his buddies instead of me? And what if he no longer asked my advice, but depended on his boss? What if - what if he no longer found delight in my body, but turned to the fake reality of pornographic images?

Is my marriage analogy starting to make sense now?

"Sure," my husband could say, "I might not be the perfect guy, but I wake up and kiss my wife every morning, provide for her financially, and spend fifteen minutes or so of quality time with her, explaining the errands I need her to run and the chores that need taken care of. Oh, and I say 'please' and 'thank you', like, all the time. I don't see what her issue is." 

Ugh, this hurts. How do I slip back into that mindset so often, when it's SO ugly? I've been given the greatest Gift this world has ever known - and I'm disinterested

Oh friends, do you see Him? 
  • The One who joyfully agreed to go through one of the cruelest forms of torture and endure the full penalty of His Father's wrath for you, before an atom had ever been created. 
  • The One who single-handedly defeated all the powers of hell and sin and death combined and is right now Lord. Over. All.
  • The One who watched your entrance onto the grand stage of life, seeking you out in love, as you turned your back on Him. 
  • The One who's heart has been beating with this consuming, unconditional love for you, even in your moments of deepest rebellion and darkest shame.
  • The One who found you at the worst, led you to the cross, and showed you His adoption papers. 
  • The One who bids you to run confidently, boldly, excitedly into His throne room, because you're covered in His very righteousness.
  • The One who knows all the lies the Enemy keeps whispering, all the shame he keeps replaying in your head and bellows over it all, "That child is Mine." 
  • The One who provided His very life and power to you, so that you don't have to "stick out" this holiness thing yourself. 
  • The One who is now waiting for you and looks with anticipation for the day He gets to enjoy uninterrupted communion with you forever. 
  • The One whose name is Jesus. 
Let's not seek lesser things, friends. Let's not allow other things to satisfy and tear us away from the Best. Let's not walk around like spiritual paupers, when we're filthy, filthy rich.

Let's accept the Gift.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Expectant Joy

Happy New Year, friends! Anyone else out there still finding themselves writing 2015? It's okay. We'll get it...eventually. Maybe by 2017? ;)

A new year - a fresh canvas with endless possibilities.

Last year's canvas is a bit painful to look at. Yes, there are colorful splashes of exciting adventures, new seasons, and great blessings, but there's also more brush strokes of brokenness, confusion, and disappointment than I've seen in previous years.

At the beginning of 2015, I believed the Lord was leading me to focus on the word "trust" for the upcoming year. It makes me smile to think of it. He brought that up in far more ways than I could ever have imagined - or would have wanted to.

In the past few weeks, as I'd been pondering a new year and what it might hold, there was a sense of apprehension and fear. The Lord had allowed much of my beliefs to be upended in 2015. I thought He was working in a specific way, only to find out He was doing the opposite. A saying that a dear friend framed and gave to me as a gift, sums up what He was teaching me: "And if not, He is still good."

And He is good, friends. So good. Looking back at that dark time, I'm amazed at the patience and love He showed me, as I struggled through doubts and confusion and anger at His will.

He's brought me through, but it wasn't until I began to think about 2016 that I realized there were still some lies rooted in the deep, dark corners of my heart. Where was this fear and apprehension coming from? Why was I seemingly preparing myself for another year of pain and unanswered prayers? Why was I so negative about the future?

Even though I still believed that God is good and He causes all things to work together for my good and His glory, there was a little lie that said, "God might give good gifts to the rest of His children, but not to you. His good for you is pain and suffering." So as a result, I was expecting the worst.

Friends, that's a miserable way to live! It is definitely NOT walking in the hope and life of Christ! And what is hope but the confident expectation and assurance of God? Yes, sometimes His good comes in the form of a "no". It's what I've been calling His devastating grace.

But hope is based, not in what I am or am not getting from God, but in who He is and the unchanging nature of His character. And because of that, I can expect good from God in chaos, I can be confident that He's still working good in the shattered pieces.

Because His name is Faithful and True.

Because He is NOT cruel to His children. Ever.

Because He is a dearer Daddy than my mind can comprehend.

My word/phrase for this year is expectant joy. Purposeful, hope-filled, moment-by-moment joy and delight in Who He is and all that He's doing. Not seeking to rush ahead to when ____ happens, but living in grateful contentment right here, right now. Rejoicing because in His presence is fullness of joy, not a situation or a person or a specific season.

One definition of expectant is watchful, with bated breath. That's how I want to approach 2016. I have so much to learn in this area, so far to grow, but I pray that He would make me like the psalmist who said, "Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for my soul." (Psalm 66:16) That as I go through this year, with all its uncertainties and questions, I would watch for the testimonies of grace and excitedly declare, "Look! There He is again! Look at what He's done! Isn't He good?"

In the pain. In the triumph. When He gives and when He takes away. Through the desert and through the mountains. When I can see the next mile ahead of me and when I can barely make out the next step.

I'm excited for 2016, friends, incredibly excited! I know the One who's promised to lead me by the hand every step of the way. Let's watch for His goodness together!

So, what about you? What has the Lord been laying on your heart for 2016? I would love to hear about it!