Lost and Found

This post would be it. The grand finale, that is, the third part of an online blogging assignment involving the lost and found theme. I knew it would, indeed, be grand the moment the following sentences lit the writer portion of my mind, giving foundation to the first and second installments.

Philippians 3:7-9a (Amp) But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ’s sake. Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One), and that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him . . .

Something happened between the first and third assignments to change this post’s thrust, though I didn’t recognize it at the time. What I had planned from the beginning had lost its luster, though I tried to continue unwavering. The truth it elucidated needed a different delivery vehicle. No grand finale, after all. The Lord wanted, instead, to use the pain of loss I desperately desired to avoid.

The first assignment challenged us to write about loss, instantly reminding me of the recent deaths of an elderly friend and my 14-year-old dog. Besides the lingering sadness and pain associated with those, I faced the imminent death of another elderly friend. Deciding I’d had enough of all this death and sadness, and having written about it once, I decided on a different object of loss. I’ll add my own twist, I thought, and use, “counting all as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ,” as the springboard.

Installments one and two were published, so I had begun jotting down notes in anticipation of the finale. The sense of victory I’d experienced at the beginning of the project was waning, though, not building. Glimmers of understanding touched my heart as I read of a family who left the comfort of England for Uganda to share Jesus’ life and love with those who had no hope – untold poverty found in the slums where sewage ran down every street and into the homes, rampant treatable illness untreated, leaving children and adults dying before their time. Yet this family and others with them continued to serve, continued to love, continued to share life in Christ Jesus.

despairWith every story, the struggle in my heart intensified, as I related it to my world. These elderly became friends because I deliver meals to their homes. A few minutes of weekly interaction led to blossoming friendships – ones that continued even when they moved into assisted living, no longer needing our meals. They shared their lives with me as I did with them, each of us gaining from the other.   One-by-one, they have left me behind, multiplying the pain in each loss.

Self-preservation said I should distance myself emotionally from those who remain, to avoid further pain. It went on to suggest getting involved with children’s groups on some level (totally out of my calling,) because they won’t likely die before me. That way, I could greatly reduce additional pain, I deduced. Those were Kay’s thoughts, not Daddy’s. When I read the challenging words of Nicola Neal, the clarity of His heartbeat took my breath away:

What would you be prepared to give for love’s sake? . . . Would you love knowing that pain will inevitably come? Will you love even when it hurts? 1

Shaken to my core, my mind erupted in a certain, “Yes!” as more rhetorical questions arose.

“Would you rather not have known these precious women, these sisters in Christ, to avoid the pain of losing them?”

“Would you prefer to miss the personal enrichment gained from those you may not have begun to serve, again as self-effort to avoid future pain?”

“Is it possible you are the vessel through whom I share parts of Myself and My love in the latter days of their lives? That you could be helping prepare them for the day when they see Me face-to-face?”

I am undone. The loss remains, but I have ceased the fight against the pain. It is a reality of this life, no less so when living in Christ. My greater loss – temporarily – has been focus on Jesus Christ, the only One Who comforts, encourages, and is my Hope. What I’ve needed all along has been in those quoted words, but I was too focused on my hurt to see. The pain of loss I have felt is as nothing compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. In Christ is the strength and joy of continuing to love even when it hurts.

spring hope

1 Nicola Neal, Journey Into Love: The Unfailing Power that Restores Lives (Shippensburg, PA Destiny Image Publishers, 2014), Ch. 18, location 2304 (e-book)

What Do You Know?

Matthew 27:51  NIV  At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. . .

As I listened to the minister describing this amazing proof that Jesus was Who He said He was, my memory transported me back to a large sanctuary on a Wednesday morning many years ago.  I sat among many women from all walks of life with whom I gathered weekly for Bible Study Fellowship.   Our focus that year was the book of Matthew, and we were nearing the end of the study.  On this particular morning, we had already met in small groups for discussion of our individual lessons, and were now assembled corporately for a summary lesson the overall leader would deliver.

Somewhere in the lecture, the speaker addressed the above verse, noting that the curtain was torn from top to bottom – not bottom to top – indicating it had to have been done by God.  What?!  I never noticed that detail in my Bible reading, nor had I ever heard anyone mention it.  I was amazed, surprised, and excited, all at the same time!  This revelation was probably new and exciting for a few others in the auditorium that day, as well.  At the same time, it was possibly a repeat for the majority.  The leader may have hesitated to mention it, for fear of boring her listeners.

But everyone didn’t know.  I didn’t know, until she pointed it out.  I needed to hear what she knew of our Jesus!  Though it was in black and white on the pages of my Bible, and I had read it many times without really seeing it, I needed it specifically pointed out to me by someone else who already knew it.

As I thought back on that event, I saw it clearly for today – others (even brothers and sisters in Christ) need to hear of the Jesus I know, all of the Jesus I know.  The leader at that Bible study wasn’t sharing her superior knowledge.  She was revealing Jesus.  That’s what we do in Christ.  We simply live and share Jesus Christ revealed to us – me to you and you to me.  Knowing Christ and making Him known – one to another.

So, please tell me what you know . . . of Jesus?

Israel 2012 271

This is What’s Important!

Philippians 3:10-11 (Amp)  ”[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] that if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].

The Lord makes it clear in His Word what our purpose is; yet, how many of us continue to question Him about it? Oh, we read the above passage and give it mental assent, but do we ever really stop to receive the application for our lives?  We ask for more information.  We want to know if we’re to preach, teach, sing, care for children, or the like.  ”What is it, God, that you want me to do?  What is the purpose for which You created me?”  While He may call us to do any of these things or more, there will only be a measure of success in them if we don’t grasp the true purpose He has for every believer – knowing Him more and more, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.

Philippians 3:12-15 ”Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own.  I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.  So let those [of us] who are spiritually mature and full grown have this mind and hold these convictions; and if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also.”

Don’t skim through these passages, dear readers.  Read the verses and meditate on them.  Get your own Bibles and read verses 7-9, as well.  Paul knew that the goal (verse 14) for which he effectively forgot all his failures and successes was simply to know Christ.  It’s not to preach to the masses, or to reach Rome, or to make a name for himself.  His passion, the motivation for everything he did, was to know Christ.  How many times have I read and studied these verses and missed the point?  Paul practically begs all who believe in Christ to lay aside all the other things that get in the way of this one goal for our lives.  When he speaks of having a different attitude of mind, he’s not talking about differences in doctrines or preferences in worship services, etc.  He’s talking about the one goal, the single pursuit, for which we have all been created – knowing Christ!  When we follow after this purpose, we can rest assured that all other differences will lose their places of prominence in our thoughts and attitudes.

How long has God tried to get this across to me, and I’ve just not tuned in, or, not stayed tuned in?  What about you?  Has our desire to pursue the ministry to which He has called us, the vision which He has given, become our goal?  I pray that we will all see ourselves as He sees us, whether our straying from this one goal has been great or small, and will allow His perfect adjustment.  Even as I write this, I sense such a release as we let go of all the things – even the good things – that have kept us from pressing on toward the goal of the greatest thing – knowing Christ.  When we make that our goal, our pursuit, we will make Him known to others, that they, too, will desire to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.