I Still Need Jesus

NYC 2014 088Teetering on the edge of falling full-force into the pit of condemnation, I poured my heart’s contents onto the pages of my journal that morning. I had failed . . . again. I thought I learned the lesson last time, expecting myself to handle things differently going forward. But it was the same as before. I was the same as before.

I had made natural adjustments since the last time, ones that should have made the difference. But they didn’t go to the heart of the matter. My bad attitude was still there. Realizing I had focused on the natural to be the difference maker only pushed me farther into the darkness enveloping me.

In the middle of the next guilt-ridden sentence, Holy Spirit broke in. It was like a gentle, but forceful, shaking – one meant to return my attention fully to Him. Without speaking the words, or anything that could be so construed by many, He conveyed His unconditional love for me.

That’s what I sensed so overwhelmingly as I was given a glimpse of the situation as He saw it. I still need Jesus! Hallelujah! I still need Jesus! I haven’t graduated beyond Him. Even though I acted in my own strength . . . again . . . He still wants to remind me of His grace and mercy for me.

Only Jesus Christ can make the permanent and necessary changes in me – ever. Somehow, I subconsciously thought I had learned from my past mistakes and could take it from here. I failed. Again. Miserably. Always will on my own. Only in Christ is any good found in me. How freeing!

What absolutely unconditional love enveloped me again where the darkness had pressed only moments before! Indeed, I still need Jesus – every moment and every day!

Merry Christmas to all who, like me, still need Jesus!

Look at Them

It happened again, as it has more times than I can remember.  I stopped for a red light at a corner where one of those people were.  You know, the ones who are a bit disheveled, maybe gaunt, quite often looking much older than their chronological years, due to a hard life.  There is always a sign made from a broken box that says something like, “Down on luck.”  “Brain tumor.”  “Help my kids.”  “Anything helps.”  Without fail, though, the final words on the sign are, “God bless.”

My reaction this time came straight from the same pool (cesspool) as previously.  *I looked away.  *I felt guilty for having a car and home, with food on the table.  *I felt guilty for not wanting to give them anything.  *I felt manipulated.  *I felt condemned because I didn’t hear Holy Spirit telling me what to do.  *I added this person into the category of those who make a tax-free living from handouts on a street corner rather than getting a real job.  *I distrusted them and their sign completely.  *I felt sorry for them.  *I resented them for making me feel guilty for having what they don’t have.  *I resented them for trying to manipulate me with “God bless.”  *I heard that hated word should hammering at me in various statements.  “I should give them some of the cash I keep for just such possibilities.”  “As a follower of Christ, I should just give every time, no matter what.”  You get the picture.

Frustrated by the conflict recurring in my mind, I asked, “What do You want me to do, Daddy?  Not just with this one person, but from here on.”  I did not ask for a give / don’t give answer to apply every time, because I know He will lead me with each one – when I hear Him.  I was missing something, though, and it turned out to be an across-the-board answer after all, though it wasn’t financial.  It was an issue with my heart revealed as He spoke these words to me, “Look at them.”

“Look at them.”  So simple.  So clear.  “Look at them” through Daddy’s eyes instead of my own natural ones.  When I really look at them, it’s not hard to know what He would have me do for each person I encounter.  Look at them as He looks at them, in their current condition.  Without looking away.  Without looking askance.  Look at them as human beings, regardless of their reason for being on that street corner.   Look past the protective façade of hardness to see the sadness or pain or anger.  Look at them as Daddy does, with absolute love.  Just look at them.

In the short term, it seems much easier to look away, because nothing is required when I don’t look, when I don’t know.  Yet those are the very times I miss Jesus.  To look at their faces as Daddy does means I see them not as the enemy, but as one Jesus died for who is being hammered by the enemy.  When I look at a younger man begging for money as Daddy looks at him, my heart breaks at the shame he feels.  Or when I look with His eyes at the older ones – those who don’t remember much of life other than this – and I see them as babies and young children so full of life and hope.  Is this what their mothers and fathers envisioned for them as adults, a life seemingly without hope?  Again He says, “Look at them.”

“Look at them.” These words have changed my heart, but I still need reminding.  How thankful I am that Daddy keeps looking at me even when I turn away from those unlike me.  How thankful I am that He continues to work those words more deeply into my heart.  The actions that result from looking at people with His eyes vary.  That’s part of the joy of following His Spirit.  But the beginning point is always the same, for it is in my heart.  “Look at them.”

Freedom to Be

I am a spirit being with a soul (mind, will, and emotions) and a body.  If I really know and understand this, why do I continue to allow my mind to compartmentalize what I do as either spiritual or non-spiritual, as either of value to God or as keeping me from things that are of value to Him?

This is not the first time I’ve battled this issue, but it’s time to settle it for good.  When Jesus ministered on this earth in His physical body, having received the same Holy Spirit now living in me, His whole life was spiritual.  Think about it.  When He paid taxes to the government, a spiritual principle was at work – paying taxes to whom taxes were due.  He ate physical food as sustenance for His physical body, taking time away from the “important” things of life.  He walked, physically, from one place to the next, probably spending some of that valuable time simply laughing and living with the disciples, rather than teaching or preaching “spiritual” things. At the same time, He was the most relaxed, worry-free, anxiety-free, stress-free person to have lived, which means He was never separated from His Father in Spirit or action until the cross!  Because He remained in the secret place at all times, regardless of where He was physically, all He did was spiritual – for the glory of God.

Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. AMP

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. NIV

Jesus Christ lives in me by His Spirit.  If Jesus didn’t struggle with this, why do I continue to go back to this old mindset?  It only causes frustration.  When I do those things that are required for basic living – cooking, cleaning, shopping, exercising, washing the car or the dog, etc. – a nagging thought goes on in the back of my mind that I’m being kept from the spiritual.  Then, I feel guilty for not doing those “spiritual” things, and I don’t live fully in the now.  Like Paul said, “Who will rescue me from this body?  Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25) That’s not how Jesus lived then, and it’s not how He lives in me now.

Jesus’ Spirit is alive in me.  That is where I choose to dwell.  In this place, whether I eat, sleep, exercise, shop, pray, read the Bible, teach, or whatever else, there is no condemnation, no imaginary line of separation between spiritual and non-spiritual.  My life is hidden with Christ in God.1 It is all for His purposes and glory.  If I live and move and have my being in Him,2 what part of me is not included?  None!

So, today I’m slamming that door on guilt and condemnation,3 locking it, and throwing away the key.  It was for freedom that Christ set me free, no longer to be subject to any yoke of slavery,4 so that’s what I choose going forward.  I rejoice in His freedom to be the one He’s called me to be, all facets included: child of Abba Daddy, wife, mother, teacher, grandmother, cook, writer, book reader, pray-er, exerciser, praiser, friend, housecleaner, dog owner, student of God’s Word, etc.

Won’t you join me in this glorious freedom to be5 in Christ – all day, every day?

1 Colossians 3:3
2 Acts 17:28
3 Romans 8:1-2
4 Galatians 5:1
5 Romans 8:21

The Choice is Ours

What would you choose?  To yield to the pressure of the crowd to do something that reflects poorly on Jesus in you, only to beat yourself up over it later?   Or, refuse to yield to that pressure, making it very awkward for yourself in those moments, with some discomfort later?

Which did I choose?  This time, I stood firm in my convictions.  Though I realized others were squirming – at least inside – because of my choice, it really wasn’t so hard.  No one chastised me for it, but I struggled for a while with the fleshly discomfort of standing apart from the crowd.

How much better this discomfort than what I have felt repeatedly in the past, in those times I chose to do contrary to the Lord’s will for me.  Those were the times I opened the door wide to guilt and condemnation – such cruel and unrelenting taskmasters!  Because I chose to be acceptable to others, I ended up living under oppression – a much more difficult thing to overcome emotionally.  In those times, I joined ranks with my accuser as he taunted me with such statements as, “You knew better than that!  Why didn’t you stand against the pressure?  You’re never going to make any progress in God if you can’t resist even the little things!”

I’ve had many more experiences with oppression than fleshly discomfort; yet, from this single instance, I found standing apart with Jesus Christ to be so much more rewarding (and easier).  It has helped me decide I’d really rather be alone with Jesus than in a stadium full of people ignoring Him; however, looking with the eyes of His Spirit, I see I’m not alone at all.  Many more are standing apart with Him in all kinds of settings all over the world.

Maybe one of the others who followed the crowd this time, when I stood apart to follow Jesus, will have the courage to choose to stand apart with Him next time.

Matthew 7:24-25 NIV   Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.