Tuesday, August 23, 2011

He calls me Beloved

I want to share the story of a woman I met this summer in Deipsloot. Her name is Shame. I met Shame while I was on ministry with our first team. A couple of the team members and myself had just finished talking to a group  of people, and they were not interested in what we had to say. As we left and began to travel down the road, I noticed a woman following closely behind us. One of the first questions you ask is always "what is your name". When she told me, I had to ask a second time. Now I have heard some pretty crazy names, but I couldn't believe that anyone would ever name their child Shame.

As I began to talk to Shame, she told me the story of how she was given her name. When her father found out that her mother was pregnant with another child, he was not too pleased. He even went as far as leaving her mother for the duration of the pregnancy. When it was time for their baby girl to be born, her father was to choose the name. He chose Shame, because he was ashamed to have yet another daughter, especially one he didn't want.

My heart broke for Shame. I was able to share the love of Jesus with her. I explained to her that God did not create us to live in embarrassment and disgrace because of who the world tells us we are. But that He has a plan and purpose for each of us. That God does not want us to be ashamed of ourselves, and that He doesn't regret or hate her, despite her father's disapproval.

Shame gave her life to Christ that day, and I believe that she began to understand the redeeming love of a God who gave His most prized possession, so that she could experience the love of a father who is not angry, and ashamed of her. If I could go back and talk with Shame again, I would share with her the importance of a name. I would tell her that I don't believe that God looks at her and does not see a woman named Shame anymore, but He sees His beloved.

There are so many of us that are living in a place of embarrassment because of our past. Because of the things we've done and the ways we've royally messed up our lives. We're hiding in corners behind cheerful smiles, and a list of activities. We mask our insecurities with accomplishments, awards, and and entourage of acquaintances. We don't get close to others, and we never let others see us frustrated or angry, we never go out in our pajamas. We have taken on the name Shame, we wear it on a name badge and hope that no one at the party will talk to us. We're afraid to speak up because of who we've become. It's a sad and numbing existence. We no longer enjoy life, we just hope to make it through the days without making too much commotion and without drawing too much attention.

Why do we live this way? Why do we allow ourselves to be beaten down by the enemy and believe the lie that we aren't good enough? Jesus gave His life so that we could live in Freedom, not in captivity. He gave His life to give us a new name. He calls us Beloved.

This has become my favorite name. To know that the creator of the universe calls me His Beloved.... Wow that blows my mind! If He looks past my mistakes and mess-ups, then why do I still live in embarrassment from them? If Jesus accepts me for who I am, then why do I keep trying to change to please those around me? My creator calls me His Beloved! God has been showing me the last couple of days what it looks like to be His Beloved. He has been speaking to me about being joyful, and living in peace. But it was while I was reading in Isaiah 54 that He really got my attention. I want to encourage you to read the scripture below and ask God to reveal His heart for you.

"Do not be afraid; You will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth, and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your maker is your husband- the Lord almighty is his name- the Holy one of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth." ~ Isaiah 54:4&5

 Friend, you are His beloved. He does not want you to live in the shame of your past, He wants you to dance in the joy of His love for you. The Lord is your Husband. Dwell on that concept for a moment. God has made a life long commitment to stand by your side no matter what. He loves you despite your bad hair day, your inability to resist sweets, and even your deeper issues. He calls you His Beloved when you fall back into the same old sin, He draws you close when the storms of life have beaten you down. Wow, God almighty Loves you!

You are His Beloved!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Come and rest

I've been home for a week and a half now, and I have been going nonstop! It seems that if there is somewhere to be, I have to be there. If there is someone to talk to, I have to talk to them. This doesn't seem like a problem, until I hit wall. That wall is called exhaustion.

Yesterday, I was so tired and discouraged. All I wanted to do was lay in bed all day. So I did.... I even put off doing my quiet time until later in the day. And in His usual "I'm gonna rock your world" fashion, God showed up! I read in Mark and this is the verse that stuck out to me:

Mark 6:31 ... 'Then Jesus said" Let's go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile."

In another version, it says " Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." We usually miss this verse because it's right before Jesus feeds the five thousand, and we are focused on the BIG miracle Jesus does. But this really stuck out to me. There I was tired and running on almost empty and Jesus is saying "Hey let's spend sometime together! Rest in me. There is this quiet place I want to take you to."

All I had to do was stop for a second and see that He is constantly calling us to go away with Him. To give Him our burdens, cares, and worries. But we resist this. We hold back, because we have "do it ourselves" mentality. We want to be independent, and self sufficient. Our society tells us we need to have it all figured out, the next steps mapped out, and all the answers to the big questions like "What are you plans now?"

That is not how God wants us to live. That is not why He sent his son to this earth.  Isaiah had a lot to say about God's power and his rest for the weary. But this passage really stuck out to me....

' He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall into exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary, They will walk and not faint.' ~ Isaiah 40:29-31

I know we've all heard verse 31.... We've heard it in sermons, commencement ceremonies, funerals, devotionals... The list goes on. And I think I may have already used it in a blog posting.... But when we really dive into it, really look at what the context of the verse is saying, there is a whole new world opened to us.

Basically, God is saying, regardless of your age, your stature in life, and no matter where you live, you will get tired.... You will be weak, you will be so exhausted that you won't want to get out of bed. But Trust me for everything!! Wait upon my timing, allow my grace to be sufficient, allow my words to give you hope. Come away with me to a quiet place and rest. Oh Man!! WOW!! Here it is. God is giving us permission to say "I don't know" to the questions about our plans and future. He's giving us an out.

So friends, I don't know where you're at, I don't know what has you tired and worn out, but rest in Christ. Find that quiet place for the two of you and simply rest. Listen to his gentle voice. The one that calls you His beloved, and be strengthened and renewed by it!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Alabaster Jar

"A woman in that town who had lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them."
Luke 7:37&38

The woman in this story is doomed from the very begining. She is called a sinful woman. Society has deemed her an outcast. But there was something that drew her to the feet of Jesus. There was something in who Christ was that attracted this woman who had been beaten down, and thrown aside. Her self worth was probably nonexistant, her confidence at a 0. But yet she knew she needed something, and found that something in Jesus.

This woman's desperation for answers and completion brought her to the feet of a carpenter. Her tears wet his feet and she used her hair to clean them. This in itself was a huge sacrifice. Jesus feet were probably disgusting! He simply wore sandals all day and walked around in dust, mud, and other gross stuff. But yet She didn't care. She found all that she needed in Jesus. Her response was to simply weep at his feet and then give of herself completely to him. Despite her past, she recognized her need for a savior and was willing to lay down her own comforts to serve Christ.

How often do we take our salvation for granted? Do we overlook what Christ has, and can do for us? I know in my own life, I all too often overlook the gift of grace God has given me through His son's sacrifice. I instead focus on my own sins and shortcomings. I am so distracted by the fact that I have messed up, that I completely miss the fact that Jesus died to forgive my mistakes. I don't believe that I'm alone either.

I met a man named Peter in Kya Sands. He had approached the group I was with, and he had clearly been drinking. Peter began to ask us questions about God. He explained that he used to go to church, but can't go anymore because he needs to drink with his friends. He told us that he can't change, and because of that, he can't go to church. We began to explain to Peter that you don't have to change in order to come to Jesus, but that all he's asking is for us to come to Him and then He'll change us. Peter had a really hard time wrapping his head around this concept. When we left him, he was still questioning. But I see a lot of people in Peter.

People who are being kept from a relationship with Christ because they have a hard time accepting grace. We don't have to have it figured out in order for us to come to Jesus. The sinful woman understood this. She didn't have it figured out, her life was still messy and yet she knew she needed Jesus. She came to Him mess and all, wept at His feet, and poured out her life.

We don't necessarily know what happened to the woman after her display of love for Jesus. But she played a pivotal role in the story of Christ. She shows us that even though we're messy and broken, God still wants us. He wants us so badly that He sent his son to die for us so that we could live in the grace given to us so freely! So come to Jesus, he doesn't care about your past, your failures, your shortcomings. He looks at you and sees his beloved child. He doesn't see what you are, He sees who you will become!

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Bondage: Slavery or involuntary servitude; the state of being bound by or subject to some external power or control.

This word has been passing through my mind a lot. We're all held bondage to something at one point in our lives. If you're a Christ follower, you were held bondage to sin. But when you committed your life to Christ, He freed you from that sin. But the more we grow in Christ the more we discover that we are held bondage to certain sins and issues. God wants to, and will free us from these issues. I know for me, God has been revealing a sin I have been held bondage to for quite a few years now. I have had to go to places that I didn't realize were present in my life, and deal with things that were hidden deep in my mind. These places were uncomfortable and as much as I hated going there, I didn't go alone. Jesus was there every step of the way.

I met so many people in the squatter camps that were being held bondage by sin, greed, hate, and worst of all religion. When our devotion and worship to God turns into a traditional, emotionless routine, we are in big trouble. The Lord intended our relationship with Him to be fully interactive. All too often, people are being told how to worship, where to worship, and who to worship. I would like to think that this is only happening in the African churches, but it's not. I've been noticing this very dangerous pattern in American churches.

It seems that people in the church are going out of tradition. They show up every Sunday wearing the "proper" clothes, park in the same spot, sit in the same seat. They listen to a nice sermon, and sing the same songs. It's all very routine, but they always feel better about themselves at the end of the hour long services. As long as it's only an hour no longer because everyone has something very important to do. There is a program, a schedule, and if you stray from that program, there will be a price to pay. But what if we're already paying the price because of our need to program and schedule. What if our routine is holding us captive to religion?

When we become routine in our worship of Christ, we are allowing Satan to have a foothold in our lives. Jesus didn't come to place us in a routine or a program, He came to bring us life and salvation. He came to bring Freedom! And if we're so tied up into our traditions and programs, we can't even begin to live for Christ. Jesus himself said " 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,  because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners,  and recovery of sight for the blind, 
to set the oppressed free," Luke 4:18

So why do we allow ourselves to stay in this place of bondage? I believe it has to do with comfort. We don't like to step out of what is comfortable and "safe" in our eyes. We don't like to go to places that make us think or really evaluate ourselves. So completely committing our lives to Jesus is a little bit scary. I'm not just talking about saying the salvation prayer, and then going about with normal life, I'm talking about being completely sold out, on fire 100% in love with Jesus. This kind of life requires sacrifice.... Now there's a scary word... Giving up, laying aside, dying to your flesh.... Hmm no wonder we shy away from a true relationship with Christ. No wonder we're ok with the routine of Christianity. Because once we really start diving into the Word of God, and we allow Him to start changing us, it gets personal and it gets tough. But that comes with the territory right?

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come"- 2 Corinthians 5:17 

Oh man... What a deep verse.... The moment we come to Christ, we are a new creation. We are at that moment to begin laying down our old lives. Our old ways, habits, traditions.... We begin a life long journey of change. One that at times will hurt and be very difficult, but the results will be beautiful and undeniable. It all starts with coming before the Lord and laying down our lives completely. Submitting to His will and allowing Him to break the chains of bondage in our lives. Especially the Chains of religious bondage. My challenge? Fall completely in love with Christ. Find out what it means to live freely in Him!