High Winds

Growing up in the panhandle of Texas, this is not an uncommon word to hear.  “The wind is something else today! You can hardly stand up!” or, “I’m so thankful that the wind is not bad today! It’s such a beautiful day!”

Growing up, I remember it cutting through me to the bone in the winter time.  It was merciless.  In the summer, it howled through the cracks in windows and doors.  It roared outside with a fierceness that left a person wanting to escape—into another state, country, or at least a whole other world mentally.  Continue reading “High Winds”

Sponge

sponge

I am a sponge.

If you follow Christ, you are too.

I’m not the soap. I’m not the water. I am only an agent. I am the agent, the vessel, between God and the world. I’m just a sponge. The Holy Spirit that lives within my pores intercedes with others for God. I’m only there to be the vessel through which the Holy Spirit works.

But, there is a daily maintenance that I must do in order to stay fresh and able to do my job well. Just like a sponge has to be cleaned, so do we. Continue reading “Sponge”

Red Rover, Red Rover…

Yesterday, God brought this image into my mind. The image was my childhood self, standing there with a line of kids of all ages, and adults, all linking arms as we played the game “Red Rover” in the back yard of the church I went to as a small child. It was one of those nostalgic moments that I just sat in for a brief moment, soaking in the warmth and comfort from those times of days gone by. Then it hit me: the game Red Rover is so very similar to the Christian life-reflecting the community of believers, the church, the body of Christ.

We hold hands as tight as possible, but yet with enough flexibility to keep the enemy from breaking through and grabbing any of us and taking us to the other side with him, thereby making us ineffective for the Kingdom of God. If we grasp each other firmly, but yet with enough flexibility, we eventually win over the hearts of those that were originally on the other side.

Yet, if we are so rigid and we think we cannot be broken, we will be the first ones to break. And the darkness will consume us when we are drug back to the other side.

Yet, if we are so loose that anything goes, we will quickly lose ground to the enemy’s tactics and we will find ourselves enjoying the company of the enemy and all his delusions, as we are drug back to his side.

But, if we are honest with ourselves–if we have truly been reborn of the Holy Spirit, with Christ Jesus dwelling within us–we know that when this happens, something is amiss. We understand that we are in the company of those that we should be trying to convey Christ’s love to. And yet we know that through us succumbing to temptation, we have given way to the lies of the enemy, the perverseness of evil. And because of this, they are not able to see Christ in all His Righteousness and Glory within us.

If we are honest with ourselves, it eats us up inside that others could have known Him through our actions and words–but yet they do not come to know Him through us because we have been a stumbling block in their path. We have allowed attitudes, thoughts, and ideals of the world to control us, things that we know are sinful and against the holiness of God.

As believers, we are called to live separate from the world–and yet love the people that are trapped in world’s system. But we are to remain separate (holy, set apart) so that they see Him in us, and can easily distinguish Him from themselves.

Holiness, coming from the Greek word hósios, means “what is sanctioned by the Lord”.

But if we blur the lines and there is no more distinction between Christ in us and the world’s system which they are a part of (and we were, too, before we received Christ), then we have fallen prey to the tactics of the enemy to make us ineffective.

Do you realize why the enemy continues to feed us lies that “this is permissible”, “that’s okay”, “God wouldn’t punish you for feeling this way “… Etc etc? The lies the enemy feeds us are only there to make us weak, to bring down the power of Christ within us and subvert all attention to the world’s system, which is at enmity with God.

((And let me pause and clarify that statement “God wouldn’t punish you for feeling this way”. Satan wants us to think of God in a hateful, vengeful light.  And then he tries to twist that lie upside down and backwards and inside out, and tell us in the same token, “God is love, God wouldn’t punish”. Satan is full of lies and half-truths, and they are always changing to keep you and I confused (so long as we listen to them).

God will chasten His children, I’m here to tell you. But it is for our good, so that we can grow into becoming more Christ-like with every step. And yes, God does love us beyond our wildest comprehension.  And because He loves so fully and completely, He wants to fill us to completion with Himself, and through that fullness that comes with being completed by Him, He wants to use us to draw others to Himself.  Yet, when we are full of sin and the world’s system, we have crowded Him out of our hearts, and people cannot see Him in us. Therefore, He says “be Holy, as I am Holy”.  (Lev 11:45).  

So, ‘punish’ isn’t the correct term, but rather, let me rephrase it in the light of the Truth: God will ‘chasten’ us, for our good, so that we come out of the life of sin we have gotten ourselves entangled in, and so that we let go of the empty, hollow things of this world, and are able to be filled completely by Him. In this way, others can see Him in us, be drawn to Him, and be saved. 

I dare say that when we think of it in this light, it’s hard not to say, “I’m Yours, Lord, here I am, use me!”))

We are not be taken captive by empty words, philosophies–by the world’s system. But instead we take everything captive to the Word of God, to the power of Christ within our hearts.

Let us live in grace, receive others with grace, be full of grace in our daily walk. Yet let us hold tightly to the body of Christ, and hold even tighter to the Word of God.

Love our enemies, pray for those that try to attack that line we are joined in–God’s army.

And through love, righteousness, and grace, let us keep ourselves separated from the world. Let us not let go of the core values of Christ within us. Hold each other accountable to God. And do our best to live at peace with the world–and in the process, allow Christ who is living within us to win over the hearts of those that try to attack us and our brethren–the army of God.

Counterfeit Christianity

If I stand on the street selling $50 knock-off Coach bags, claiming they are genuine products, I’m perpetrating the name of Coach.
If I never offer the real thing to the person that is desperately seeking that fashion statement, but instead, the whole time I insist that what they are getting is well worth their money, I am deceiving them.
That person has come to the wrong place if what they are seeking is a genuine product.

Because they were unwilling to pay the higher price of the bags in the store, they chose instead to find something that would fulfill their immediate taste buds elsewhere.

If I don’t correct them and let them know that what they are buying is really just a cheap replica of the real thing, I am responsible for selling them something that cannot ever meet their needs. I am at that point a deceiver and a lier, a cheat, scandalous. In short, a thief.
And they are left short-changed, having spent their hard earned money on something of no value.

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Now, replace the theme of “Coach bag” with “Christ”, and it starts hitting a little harder. There are at least two versions of Grace out there in today’s world. But only one is the True Grace, given to us at the cross of Calvary. So let us be diligent to ensure that we understand what it truly means to be forgiven, set free, and given the gift of Eternal life.

If what we hear in our heart is “you only have to accept Christ, not follow Him”, and we accept this as truth, we are lied to, and left deceived.

If we are unwilling to give up more than just a few things for the sake of Christ (or anything at all), and we choose instead to hang onto our life, we have been short-changed, and we are still blind.

If we settle for just mentally believing that He exists, never humbly submitting our hearts, our pride, our attitudes and actions at the foot of the cross, we have been robbed of the greatest blessing that can ever happen to us—Life Eternal.

If any of this describes us, there is a good chance that there was never a genuine conversion of heart from the beginning, because we did not understand from our heart the cost of eternal life–a gift, freely given, in exchange for us laying our entire life at the foot of the cross, and picking up our cross, dying to ourselves, our old habits and sinful nature.

Not that we cannot go back and find the genuine Christ, but rather, we must hasten to go in search of Jesus before our time on earth is gone. Once we leave this earth, there is no option of turning back the time. One we leave this earth, there are no “do-overs”.

Let us all carefully examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith. Let us be sure we are holding the genuine Cross in our heart.

 Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. Hebrews 4:1-2 NASB
"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.     Matthew 10:37-39 NASB

Cheap Grace vs. Saving Faith

When it comes to the cross, there is a knock-off version.  It looks a lot like a cross, but it really just resembles an “X”

Which stands for:

red x‘you can’t’…..
‘you aren’t allowed to’….
‘this is off-limits’…
‘the law forbids’….

…and it’s usually followed by a saying similar to:

“Oh well, Jesus forgave us anyway.  Let us not worry about the law, but continue in our rebellion so that He can forgive us all the more.”

 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:1-5 NASB 

God had given Adam and Eve tons of good things to choose from, but what did Satan do? At first, Satan made it seem like they were just tormented by God– that they couldn’t eat from ANY of the trees. However, when Eve corrected him, saying it was just the ONE tree, he honed in on that one forbidden fruit.

Never mind the multitudes of trees that were probably in the garden. (Knowing God, He loves to give us good gifts). But Satan doesn’t want Eve to think about all God has done for them. No, he instead makes Eve focus on the ONE thing that God said not to touch. And he was crafty–because he made her be the one to say it. Then, he attacked. He zeroed in and convinced her that it was okay to disobey God, that “you won’t surely die”.

****     ****     ****

But the Father is Love. He told them not to touch it or partake of it because He was protecting them. Not because He hated them and felt like depriving them, mere hours after He had created them. If that is our definition of who God is, let us reexamine and search our hearts once more. No, He was protecting them.

The garden of Eden was not unique in the trial of temptation, other than it was the very first occurrence of sin. We are faced every day with a slew of choices to make. And for each decision, those who have the prompting and leading of the Holy Spirit residing within have Him to guide us into the decisions that honors not only our Father and our Lord, but also who we are as children of God and Christ followers, as vessels of the living God within us.

 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.   Romans 6:1-4 NIV 
This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  
1 John 1:5-7 NASB 

Let us make our decisions carefully.

 If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord , choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord ."   Joshua 24:15 NASB 

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But the Cross?

cross_clipart_3

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.    Luke 9:23-24 NASB

It is the point to which we come, bowing humbly before, in full surrender to Jesus Christ. It is the place where we bring our entire life’s wages—not literally money, and not literally possessions, cars and houses and boats. Yet, if He asks those things of us, we are willing to give those up, in exchange for the Life that He offers us.

But it is where we lay down the life we are so accustomed to living. The practical, the immoral, the day-to-day. The life filled with comfort, with money, with whatever has been our focus, other than Christ.

We feel His tug on our heart, and though we might be timid of what everyone else is going to think, we are ready to take that stand, to take that walk. We haven’t ever fully surrendered our life to Him, and in exchange, received the gift of eternal life. We aren’t sure what it is all about, but we want to know.

Because we realize for the first time that there is nothing good in our self. That we have neither the option to send ourselves to heaven nor pay the penalty for which we could be set free from the eternal flames of destruction and torment.

But we know that the Life that we are offered at the Cross is a Life beyond anything we could ever imagine.  We’ve heard about it, we just have not succumbed, surrendered ourselves. We have held on so tightly to the things we have, afraid that He will take them.  Afraid of what we might have to give up in order to receive Life Eternal.

But we realize that the older we get, the closer death comes.  We are but one day closer to the end of our days on earth, and we realize that we aren’t sure in our hearts if we are truly forgiven and set free from the cords of sin and death.

Even if we’ve said a prayer once, we have to ask ourselves, was our heart really in it? Did we seek Him with our whole heart, our whole mind, with all of our soul?  Or did we just repeat some words given to us, and our heart was really not yet willing to lay everything out on the line for the sake of Christ?  

But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.  Deuteronomy 4:29

Do we have the conviction, the reassurance in our heart that we are genuinely His? Do we look forward to seeing Jesus returning in the clouds, coming to collect His followers in the Rapture of the Church? Do we know without a doubt that we will go with Him? Do our hearts long for that day with eager anticipation?

It is in that moment of true surrender that, for the sake of the cross, I consider all things rubbish.

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ    Philippians 3:8

I come willingly to the cross, to give up what I never really had to begin with, to receive a Life I could never earn on my own. Because I realize that it is all His anyway. Everything that was created has been created by Him, and nothing was created without Him.  I realize that I am but broken shards of glass on my own, but that is all I can offer Him. Myself. In full. And, I know and trust that He has the power to make a beautiful masterpiece of my life that could honor Him, something that I could never do.

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But if I come to the Cross, dragging my possessions, cars, houses, boats, relationships, wrong attitudes and desires—and I refuse to leave them there, I get–well I get what I pay for.

I get the “X”. I think I am walking away with the Cross stuffed in my back pocket, my long laundry list of possessions dragging behind me as I walk away, not really feeling any differently in my heart. In fact, I am weighed down even more so now, with the thought of the “X”.

red x
X = “I cannot. I am forbidden to. That is off limits now. I am not allowed to partake of…”

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cross_clipart_3But the person that comes to the cross, dragging their possessions, cars, houses, boats, relationships, wrong attitudes and desires–and LEAVES them there, in humble submission to the Lord Jesus, in humble submission to the Father, walks away with the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders.

Rest for the Weary
…"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."  
Matthew 11:29-30

We walk away, a beautiful blood-stained cross relished in our heart. We leave the weight of the world behind, and when we get home, we realize that He’s blessed us with all the things He wants us to keep. There sits the house (maybe smaller), the car (maybe two instead of three), the boat (maybe now it’s for sale).

In the driveway we greet our family–our kids run to us with eagerness to experience the light that we have brought back home to the family.

We are now utterly, truly grateful for the things that we have—and we realize the great cost to our families, our relationships, of having more than we need. We truly understand that things will never satisfy, but God always will.

The person that carries the Cross in his or her heart is willing to give up anything for Christ.

It no longer is about the “X”.
It is no longer about the law.

It’s about true Grace. And it’s about the transforming work of the Holy Spirit within that person’s heart.  Because, through the freely-given, unmerited gift of the Holy Spirit, He enables us to overcome the sin in our lives.  We no longer relish things in our heart that are dishonoring to our Lord, but rather, we take up our cross, and we submit to the working of the Holy Spirit within us to overcome the temptations and trials that lay ahead of us.

And each day brings its own slew of attacks against our faith.  But, because we have the Holy Spirit to enable us, we can continue on, one step in front of the other, each step asking the Father for direction and guidance.

After the Cross, the things that have held to tightly for so long are free to be taken—because for the first time we realize that they aren’t ours anyway.  They were either A) gifts from God our Father, or B) lies of the devil.

And those things that have pulled us away from the Father—the sinful desires and passions, wrong attitudes and behaviors—in their place, we find forgiveness, and healing. We find restoration, and a changed heart. We find renewed minds and powerful convictions. We find Truth. We find true love, and a love that covers a multitude of sins. We find an overflowing, true love for our brother and sister in Christ. We find peace, we find purpose. We also find love for our enemies that we never had before. We find peace with God our Father, and a love so Divine that cannot compare to anything in this world.

At the Cross, the “X” turns into:

cross_clipart_3“I was blind, but now I see.”

“My heart has been changed.”
“I have no obligation to anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ.”
“My relationship with Jesus is more important than what others think or do or say of me, when I stand up for righteousness.”
“I don’t want to participate in that any longer, because it dishonors my Father, and grieves the Spirit within me.”
“I no longer feel the desire to do that, because I now recognize it as being shameful, and evil and a trick of the devil, dragging me away from my Father.”
“I will not compromise Truth and bow my knee to Satan.”
“I will not partake in things that I know in my heart are unholy, unrighteous, and utterly sinful—because my heart has been changed by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit within me.”

and my personal favorite–because we are not perfect: “Lord, when I fall, help me back up.  Convict my heart of the wrong path I’m on, and set me back on the narrow road that leads to You.”

The Narrow Gate
…And someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. "Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, 'Lord, open up to us!' then He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know where you are from.'…          
Luke 13:23-25
The Narrow Gate
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  
Matthew 7:13-14

So, let us head the warning and let us all carefully examine our hearts.

Examine Yourselves
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-- unless indeed you fail the test?    
2 Corinthians 13:5
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.   1 John 3:7-10 NIV 

Let us return to the Cross this Easter and come humbly before Him, asking Him to search our hearts, removing any thing, any thought, any desire, that does not honor Him, and ask Him to lead us in the way everlasting.

And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.
Psalm 139:4

Let us come humbly to the throne of Grace and offer up ourselves, our sinful natures, our lustful eyes, our pride, our wrong thinking, wrong relationships, greed, idolatrous hearts, and evil desires.

Let us ask Him to change, and if necessary, remove, the things that we have placed upon the throne of our hearts in His place. Let us ask Him to bring us to a place where we no longer feel the weight of the world, but instead feel the easiness of His yoke, letting Him carry our burdens that we’ve drug around with us for far too long.

Let us drag everything we are, ever have been, or ever hope to be—to the foot of the cross, and lay it all down, asking humbly for Him to transform us into the person that He designed us to be.

I am a jealous God…

    “You shall have no other gods before Me.

      “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORDyour God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

I think somewhere in the back of my mind, it has always made me cringe, thinking about my Father in that light.  I mean, after all, God is kind and compassionate.  He is merciful, and loving.  So for Him to be jealous–that just doesn’t seem to “fit the mold”, in my finite mind.  I also understand that He is the Only One who is 100% Holy, Righteous, Pure, Good.  He has nothingevil in Him.  Yet, when I think of “jealous”–it always brings a negative connotation to my mind and my heart.

IMG_20150224_182336_309Exodus 20: 1-6

Then God spoke all these words, saying,

      “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

     “You shall have no other gods before Me.

      “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

I think somewhere in the back of my mind, it has always made me cringe, thinking about my Father in that light.  I mean, after all, God is kind and compassionate.  He is merciful, and loving.  So for Him to be jealous–that just doesn’t seem to “fit the mold”, in my finite mind.  I also understand that He is the Only One who is 100% Holy, Righteous, Pure, Good.  He has nothing evil in Him.  Yet, when I think of “jealous”–it always brings a negative connotation to my mind and my heart.

I was washing dishes earlier.  One of those dreaded tasks that, try as I might to put off for as long as possible, it had to be done.  Today, I really just didn’t have a choice.  Who else is going to wash them?  So, I invited my Father to talk to me while I’m standing there running the dishrag over each cup, bowl, plate, utensil…. It’s actually kind of soothing once I stop to do it.  Kind of like painting a house…you just drift off into a trance, and before you know it, you are off in another world.  It’s the whole “getting in the mode of doing it” that I have a hard time with.

This seems to really be the time that Him and I can just have those really honest conversations.  You’d think I’d look forward to doing the dishes more!  This time was no exception.  My Father was there, He was present as I just stood there, asking Him “why?”.  Why did this happen?  Why did I let myself go down this road and get hurt?  I know You told me not to—a long time ago.  But rebelliously, like a small kid throwing a temper tantrum, I folded my arms over my chest, pouted, and took off in the opposite direction.  I was going to go do it anyway–regardless of what You said.

He very clearly pressed it upon my heart in that moment.  “I love you, and you are to have no other gods before Me.”  And I knew exactly what He meant.  I realized why He was jealous.  I realized all of a sudden why He had impressed upon me from the beginning–don’t let your heart get too far into this.  I am your God, and you are not to make an idol out of anything or anyone else.

Well, of course, I thought I knew better.  I thought in my almond-sized brain, “well I can worship You at the same time as I go off and try to do this thing right here.  You will just have to see, Daddy.  I’m going to go and do this and You are just going to look at me in amazement after the fact, and say “hey, you did it after all–even without My help! Way to go, I’m proud of you!”.

I know–it’s laughable, really.  But honestly,  looking back at it, that is exactly how my mind and my heart was reacting toward Him telling me “No”.  I thought I was big, bad, and grown enough to do it all on my own.  Without His help.  At 33, I thought I finally knew better than my Father in heaven–I guess?  (I didn’t outright think that, but it sure came out in my actions–and I think on some level of my subconscious, but I was trying to hide it from Him, from myself, and from anyone else who might pick up on it.)

Yeah,  so today I come crawling back into my Daddy’s arms, crying to Him and asking Him how I got so far out of line.  He just wrapped me up in His arms and told me, “I love you too much to let you focus all of your time, energy, attention, or anything else on anyone or anything but Me.  Only I am 100% there for you.  It is I who will always be here, and will never let you down.  It is I who loves you beyond all comprehension.  Who understands your every need, every desire, every hurt–every part of you.  If you focus your time, energy, and attention on anything or anyone other than me–and thereby you make that your idol, you will always be disappointed.  That’s why I’m jealous.  I don’t want My children to get hurt.”

All of a sudden, I realized—Well, you know how you “know” something for a long, long time–mentally?  –but yet it never sinks into your heart?  Well, this was one of those special moments in time where it just SUNK into my heart.

(If you had been standing there with us, you probably would have heard it go “plloo–uup!” as it dropped into my heart.  Okay, make whatever sound effect you want–but seriously, it was that instantaneous.)

And all of a sudden, I smiled as it rippled out across my emotions, making me realize how deep the Father’s love for us is.  For once, I realized the depth of His love—well, to another level than I formerly had.  In that moment, He revealed to me one more part–one more level–of His love for me that I had known mentally, but never comprehended in my heart.

I realized that “jealous” in His case is not at all negative.  He is jealous not because He is an abusive, angry Father who doesn’t want His kids to have good gifts.  (Something, which, by the way, never connected with my heart either, because my father on earth is a great Dad, and no where near abusive or angry.  But still, that word just always leaves a foul taste in our mouths as people, and especially as Christians, I believe.)

No–He does want us to experience all kinds of awesome things, and He longs to give those to us.  He expectantly waits for us to ask, and He provides the gifts that He knows will strengthen us and make us happy and strengthen our relationship with Him–never ones that hinder it.

But first, we have to be purged of any sort of idolatry before those gifts can truly be bestowed upon us, and truly mean something to us.  We have to recognize that the gifts He gives came with a PRICE—His Son Jesus’ shed blood on the cross at Calvary.  So, Who we give thanks to for the gifts, and how we treat those gifts should be equally as honored as the reason behind Him bestowing them upon us.

Yes, He freely bestows upon us all kinds of things that will please us and make us happy and rejoice in Him.  But when these things become bigger than Him, when they become more prominent than Him, when they become something He never intended–He will prune us.  And that leaves us shaking, hurting, crying–sometimes that leaves us gasping, “how could You, Father?” It can leave us reeling in pain.  But, it is for our good.

Because He loves us.

Because He desires for our devotion to be directed toward Him.  Because He’s some kind of ego maniac, and just loves all the attention that we can muster up and throw at His feet?  No.  Very simply again: because He loves us.  And He knows that there is no one or no thing on this earth that will satisfy us, that will complete us, that will enable us to become all that we are designed to be in Christ.  No one outside of Him, our God.  He knows that when we focus our attention, our devotion, toward something other than Him, we are inevitably going to get hurt.

That’s why He says “No” long, long before we ever get started down that path.

Seems pretty simple, right?  Yeah, after the fact.  Maybe I’ll remember that next time He says “No”.  And so maybe, just maybe it won’t hurt as bad when He prunes me again.

Jesus Is the Vine—Followers Are Branches

      1“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.     John 15

Where O Death is Your Victory?
…The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.        1 Corinthians 15:56-58