Thursday, October 23, 2014

Climbing Mountains with Open Hands

Our family went on a spontaneous trip to the Great Smokey Mountains last Saturday.  We live in one of the nation's most beautiful and frequently traveled vacation destinations, yet we hardly ever go to the mountains.  However, I think that is changing.

At one point, our family ventured off the trail to the creek below.  Little feet followed carefully as we descended down the rocks. Hands were placed ever so pointedly to gain a steady foothold on the jagged surface. At the bottom, we sat and ate a snack while admiring the majesty of the waterfall overhead.  With our eyes full of God's beauty and our bellies full of trail mix, we headed back up the rocky terrain.

I'm not much of a rock climber, but I know we needed both our feet and hands to climb up the rocks last weekend.  I can't imagine making the ascent without the use of my hands.

So, the first time I heard the song above in church, I found myself scratching my head.

Worship is one of my loves.  Hands lifted.  Heart crying out to the Lord.  Tears flowing while meditating on the greatness of His overwhelming goodness.  However it is hard to raise hands and scratch your head at the same time.

The main chorus in this song is "I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open."  The musical lyric baffled me.

Ironically, the beginning of the song says, "I will lean not on my own understanding."  That entry should have been my mantra.  However, my own understanding could not get passed how you could possibly climb a mountain with your hands open.  What does that even mean?

This past Sunday, a day after our hike on a mountain, the worship team sang this song again.  This time, I asked the Lord the meaning of the lyrics.

The Lord answered by playing an image in my mind.  The image was a picture of me climbing a mountain, only I wasn't using my hands.  Instead, He had a hold of my hands.  He was leading me, showing me where to go and where to place my feet.  His strength held me up and it was effortless.  He was leading me over the mountain.  Finally, I understood.

Often we see a mountain in our life and become overwhelmed with its magnitude.  The Lord can and does remove mountains from our life.  However, there are times when the Lord doesn't remove them immediately, but instead leads us over the mountain.  He leads us hand in hand, showing us directly where to place our feet, steadying us with His strength, presence and love.

Why doesn't he just remove it?  As we climb the mountain with the Lord,  hands open, allowing our hands to align with His, we experience Him, His goodness and His faithfulness.  Our faith builds and our trust strengthens as we witness His protection, provision, and purpose.  

It is a miracle for a mountain to be removed.  It is also a miracle to be able to climb a mountain with open hands, giving everything to the Lord, believing He will lead you safely to the other side.  Letting go of everything and just trusting the Lord in the midst of a mountain is where faith is strengthened. His provision in the middle of the mountain is often the greater miracle.

The Lord wants to lead you into a deeper trust in Him.  Will you let go of the rope of control, open your hands to His loving grip and let Him lead you on an adventure with Him?  He's got you.  He won't let you go.  With Him, we can climb with open hands and there is no doubt the trail will be full of His beauty.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Labels and Elephants

Sarah snuggled with her stuffed Dumbo the elephant. Caressing her big-eared treasure, she asked inquisitively, "Mommy, why did his elephant mom name him 'Dumbo'?  I don't like his name."

I explained how originally his name was Jumbo Junior.  His elephant mom named him Jumbo Junior at birth.  However, when some mean elephants noticed his unusually large ears, they began calling him "Dumbo".  The name stuck and became his identity.

She protested, "Well, I don't like the name Dumbo, I'll call him Jumbo Junior."

I can't help but think the little elephant smiled at the defense of his rightful name.

How many times do we take names or labels on ourselves not ordained in our original design?   Our heavenly Father names us.  Sometimes our earthly parents misname us or miss affirming the name intended for us by God.  Unfortunately, sometimes the very ones who should be defending our names are the ones tearing us down with their words.  The world can be a very cruel place, even by the ones who are suppose to protect and lovingly direct.

Unwittingly we allow the world to bully us into casting aside our given godly heritage in exchange for the detrimental identity it dictates we bear.

With the constant bellowing, the God-ordained identity Christ died to claim for us is squashed to a distant whisper.  Still, He whispers.  His voice clouded by the insistent critical clamor of the world. The mean elephants trumpet:


Their trumpets sound.  The lies ring loudly echoing as if we were an elephant with over-sized ears.  The labels stick.

It is time to reclaim our rightful name.

It is time to hush the trumpeting of false identity and hold up the trunk of truth.

You are a Jumbo, not a Dumbo. You are a Jumbo in the Kingdom of God, made for a great and giant purpose .  No mean elephants can rob you of your rightful place unless you listen to the lies, replay the resounding negative trumpeting, and allow the labels to stay.

The movie of your life doesn't have to be labeled with a lie.  Your title can be one of triumph and truth.

You don't have to wait for flying elephants.  Today you can begin.

Rewrite the title.  Reclaim your name.  Regain your identity.

"We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God and eternal life."  1 John 5:19- 20

Can't you just see those elephants swaying back and forth? We will listen no more to your bullying bellows.  Good riddance elephants.  Good riddance labels. We are holding onto Him who is truth, the One who calls us by our true name--beloved, accepted, approved, redeemed...Jumbo.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Mickey Glasses Kiss {You Really Must Read This!}

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah and I went on a trip to Walmart.  Nothing special.  We were in search of a Red Box movie for movie night.

Outside the store, there was table set up with items for sale to raise money for a local ministry.   I know this is sad to admit, but I usually don't stop at such tables.  Please don't judge me.  The Lord will tell me when I need to stop and this time, He did.

Sarah and I admired the cross necklaces and catchy T-shirts.  The lady running the table was in her late twenties.  She had long black hair.  Her face was kind with somewhat of a weathered look for a girl in her twenties.  It was easy to see that life had not always been kind to her.

As we browsed the merchandise, she noticed my sunglasses and commented on how much she liked them.  It was a simple and courteous compliment.

I liked them too. {smile} They were recently purchased on a trip to Disney.  From the moment I saw the brownish-black glasses bedazzled with Mickey heads on the sides, they called to me.  I loved my new glasses.  

God spoke and you can probably guess what He said...

 "Give her your glasses."

At first I wrestled with if I was hearing from the Lord or if this was just a thought in my head.  I knew it was the Lord.  There was no part of me or my head that would have wanted to give my sparkly new Mickey glasses away.

I didn't obey right away, still trying to figure out if it was the Lord.  Sarah and I made our purchase and began to walk away.

I stopped.

"Sarah, we need to go back to the table.  I think the Lord wants me to give that lady my sunglasses."

Sarah responded with surprise, "Mom, that doesn't make any sense. Why would the Lord want you to give her your new sunglasses.  You just got them."

I explained to Sarah that sometimes the Lord asks us to do things that don't make any sense and we just need to obey.  I also explained that my head would not necessarily have had this thought by itself.  I have never thought to give away a pair of sunglasses before, so I really think the Lord is saying this to me.

With resolve that it was the Lord, I walked up to the young lady.

"I know this may seem weird, but the Lord told me to give you my sunglasses."

Immediately the lady began to cry and hugged me.

A little surprised by her reaction, I waited for her to speak.  As she spoke, her words and reaction gripped by heart.

"I said I liked your glasses because I have a little boy who will be four years old tomorrow and he loves Mickey Mouse. Your glasses reminded me of my little boy.  I haven't seen him in over six months.  I am currently in a rehab program and I am not allowed to see him yet.  I am working on cleaning up my life for him."

I didn't know how to respond.  I asked for her name and told her I would pray for her.  I did.

I left overwhelmed with the Lord's goodness and overcome with tears.

Oh. My. Word.  Really God?

They were just glasses.  It was just Mickey.  No.  It was so much more.  Those glasses spoke to me at Disney not just because they were cute and sparkly.  God new I would buy them.  He knew Sarah and I would go to Walmart for a movie.  He knew we would stop at that table and meet his sweet daughter.  He knew she needed encouragement.  He knew she needed a kiss from heaven.

It is overwhelming when God uses you to be the one to give a kiss of His love.

I pray I would be even more aware of His voice and how He would have me bless others.  I pray I would be quick to respond.  We may think it is only a pair of glasses.  But He knows it is so much more.

Be His Kiss.

Father, I pray that we would be more aware of Your voice and how You would have us bless others.  I pray we would be quick to respond without question.  You know what each person needs, whether it be a kind word, a prayer, or some material item.  Let us be vessels of Your love and encouragement.  Let us be Your kiss.  In Jesus' Name, Amen. 


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What "In Christ" Means

"But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love in which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together and made us sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:4-6

The phrase, "In Christ", has baffled me for years.  It may be imprudent to admit my difficulty understanding such a fundamental to the Christian faith.  However, I have learned typically one question is shared by many curious cohorts.

 Understanding "Christ in me" was easier to understand.  Christ lives in me. That makes sense.  However, me living in Him didn't link with the synapses in my mortal mind. 

Then, the Lord sent me to the apple orchard...

The owner of the orchard explained how apple trees are grafted to produce good fruit.  It was quite educational.  If an apple seed is planted from an apple I eat, it will likely produce bad fruit.  He called this apple a “spitter”, rightly named because if bitten, you will want to spit it out.

To produce good fruit, a branch from a tasty apple tree is grafted onto the root of a bitter “spitter” apple tree.  He visually demonstrated how these two trees are brought together to produce sweet juicy apples.   The stem from the bad tree is cut and a notch is inserted into the cut.  A branch from the good tree is also cut and a notch inserted.  Then, like a puzzle, the two limbs are brought together, the bad tree meshes with the good tree and takes on the nature of the good tree, bearing good fruit. 

This visualizes perfectly what happens when we accept Jesus into our lives.  Our roots are bad and we will produce bad fruit unless we allow Jesus to come into our lives.  Once Jesus lives in us, our old nature becomes new and we are able to bear sweet good fruit.  This is what it means to be “in Christ”. 

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  2 Corinthians 5:21

“Therefore is anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” 2 Cor 5:17

Now, let’s take a look at John 15:1-3.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”

When reading verse three with the two verses above it, it goes perfectly with the apple tree demonstration.  We have been grafted in Christ.  We are a part of Him, His branch.  And because of who we are in Him, we are already clean. 

God doesn't discard us.  Rather, He is in the business of removing our ugly branches.  God is constantly removing our impurities (bad branches) and purifying us because we are in Christ. 

We are constantly in a process of sanctification and pruning so we will bear all the plump juicy fruit the Lord designed us to produce in Him.  No spitting or “spitters” here!  We are one with Christ, we are "in Christ" and we are already clean.