Social media has once again broadened my horizons. It only took one post mentioning the result of a person’s Enneagram number to pique my curiosity. I love taking all the various self-assessments whether it be – personality type, mood type, or color personality. Most of them, I don’t pay much attention to past the first 15 minutes of the initial results reveal. There is one, however, that ranks high on my list of self-assessments. This one, hones in on something a little more. It is the survey of spiritual gifts. I remember taking this survey and quickly tallying up its results. I also remember adding up the different sections knowing which gift I hoped not to be higher than the others.
A Place of Prestige
A moment of sifting took place when I decidedly sought out gifts that were to be seen as most prestigious. My eyes took in those sections labeled “service” or “hospitality” and I ashamedly placed those particular gifts at the bottom. These, I deemed, were the least exciting, the most common, and certainly the least effective forms of ministry. Little did I know that it is often in the unseen moments of serving and in the common acts of hospitality that Christ is most magnified.
Be hospitable to one another without complaining. – 1 Peter 4:9 (CSB)
I will be the first to admit it, I struggle with the whole “without complaining” piece. A certain dismissive attitude occurs when given the opportunity to serve in the messy or droll places of life. I am prone to grumble when given the opportunity to open my home to those who are outside my level of comfort or if they are encroaching on my time. It is not a gift I am inclined to embrace.
Do you find yourself feeling the same way? Is it easier to send a Facebook message telling someone you are thinking of them rather than inviting them to the table, your table?
Friend, if you are like me, the first place we start – is confession. We come before the Lord and confess our pride and selfish ways. If we were to examine every “no”, there we would likely find a root of sin in it deeply buried. The Lord is faithful not to leave us in our sin. In the place of confession, repentance begins in our heart and it is there that forgiveness happens. Sanctifying. A gift that blesses is also being used to work out my salvation. The believer’s life anthem – to live for His glory and to proclaim Christ to the world. This means we need to start living and proclaiming in the places of the world where we are at now with joy and without a grumbling heart.
For His Glory
Where we can live out self-sacrifice for the glory of God is where He will meet us and refine us.
God’s glory happened when there was an open door to the woman who was infringing upon my Netflix time. He was glorified in the making of a meal for a family in need when I could barely find time to throw together dinner in my own home. The glory was all to God when my germ-conscious self desperately tried not to cringe at the snotty nose child running amuck in my home while his mother was being discipled. Christ was meeting me and being shone through me in all these moments. Something bigger and better than my own plans and expectations transpired when I surrendered and embraced this gift. He was working in and through me.
God was brought glory by people in my own life who extended gifts of service to me and my family. His provision was feIt when meals were delivered after coming home with a new baby from the hospital. He showed Himself near when the one who brought a plate of cookies took my hands in hers and together we offer up tear-stained words of praise and petition. None of these things were convenient and nothing with young children around is easy, but people poured into and continue to pour into my life – each time bringing God glory. These moments built and grew my faith.
Leaning into Undeserved Grace
Believers, leaning into hospitality means that we are leaning into the undeserved grace of Christ. An undeserved grace that has met us and continues to meet us. This place of grace becomes the well where our hospitality drinks from and it is the platter from where all we have to offer is served. It is really a reflection of our gift of grace when we serve others and strengthen their faith through something as beautiful as hospitality. In all the God-glorifying gifts we are given – may we be good stewards of such a wondrous gift as that one which seeks to serve.
“For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?
But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?
How often–will it be for always?–how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’? The same leg is cut off time after time.”
The Barren Land of Grief
The presence of grief is felt thick and its roots are deep in the hidden places of our soul. It is a spiraling entity that immobilizes us and causes us to ache for what once was…or for that which never had been. Grief spirals us into a land barren and unknown.
Where it is lodged secretly, no one knows of its depths. Not even the most intimate of relationships are aware of its overwhelming presence. We find comfort in the pain. We draw strength from the agony, but our light flickers dim as the darkness overtakes every nook and cranny of our grieving being. The comfort and strength gained wanes and becomes our undoing. The grief paralyzes.
“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.”
We hold tight to our comfortable uncomfortable, as grief has become part of our essence. But He who is light brings out the darkness. Nothing is hidden from His embodiment of knowledge. He sees our grief buried–our secret made known. He sees the darkness that has crept in, the grief that has taken hold. He knows what is in the darkness…and He offers us light.
For the grief-burdened soul, there is hope in the Gospel message.
When brokenness entered that once-perfect garden, it also birthed grief into a once joyful and peaceful place. We often speak of our rescue from sin, of a Savior who died bearing the weight of our iniquities. But do we not also share that the day sin and shame were hurled onto the beaten body of Perfection hanging on a cross, so also was the enormous weight of all that is broken dumped heavily and fully onto the Sacrificial Lamb. Grief, in its complete form, crushed He who was Hope and Joy.
For the sake of mercy…for the sake of hope and joy complete.
Finding Comfort in Jesus
In knowing that Christ carried our grief fully on the cross, we can now find comfort as He walks through waters dark with us. Knowing that He defeated grief through His death and resurrection, we can now find hope in a rescue from its prison. When our vulnerable bodies can fall onto bruised knee and stretch out shaky hands in surrender, He will meet us in our state of fragility and hold us close. He is the balm that heals our broken heart. His love saturates deep as it fills complete.
“When I survey the occurrences of my life, and call into account the finger of God, I can perceive nothing but an abyss and mass of mercies.”
Sir Thomas Browne
Is that, then, the hope in grief? Are the feelings of emptiness and the bone-deep aches drawing us into His place of mercy? It is then that we find all we lost is recovered that much more in His redemption. Do we dare hope to feel again, laugh again…do we dare hope to live again? Is grace so strong that it restores the soul tattered and torn by grief’s long reign? In the mass of mercies given, there is such an amazing grace.
A New Perspective
The grace received brings on new perspective. Our grief buried can be His peace resurrected. Letting go is scary and hard. When the pain does not drench into our pores, we feel as if we might have betrayed. But to live is not to forget. Our life for His glory, our sadness for His joy, our emptiness for His fullness–this is when and how He walks in the grief with us. He beckons us close and He breathes life into our soul. We can ache for that which we grieve, because in the aching we can surrender. We surrender our grief to the One who knew the ultimate grief on the cross. So then, we do not abandon grief itself. Instead, we allow it to be made full through His mass of mercies–allow it to draw us deeper into the heart of God.
“The deepest things that I have learned in my own life have come from the deepest suffering. And out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires have come the deepest things that I know about God.”
Speak what is true. My heart steadily beats as it cries out these words, the very words my lips bring to life through song. The outside noise may be grating, but it pales in comparison to the inner cacophony produced from the dance where doubt and struggle meet.
The many roles I fill and the various hats I wear all bear the weight and feel the stroke of every drumbeat vying for my failure. Truth is being deafened by the sound waves of lies. Some days, it brings out the fighter and I come out swinging; some days, retreat is my weapon of choice.
The freeing truth I long to hear and feel course through my being is also the same truth that will shake me and bring me to my knees. Because the issues clamoring in my mind begin in the heart. Wouldn’t I know, shouldn’t I know, that there is a gospel issue at hand? The source of truth Himself hears me. He gently draws me out of my unbelief as I surrender my propensity to fall back onto the wreckage that is sin. Because, that’s just it…the source of noise lies in my unbelief; may God forgive me. There is a failure to remember and believe that I am to be renewed. Is that not what Ephesians 4:23 reminds me, “to be renewed in the spirit of your minds” (CSB)?
When He speaks, I am reminded that I am being renewed in knowledge according to the image of my Creator (Col. 3:10). It is in surrender to the One who knows the rhythm of my soul, because He formed the intricacies of every part of me. It is believing that nothing about me–neither my insecurities nor my doubts–are outside His knowledge and renewal. And in surrendering belief, He speaks life, breathing its peace into my roar of clamor.
The renewal is a process. A beautiful state of been renewed, while also living in a state of constantly being renewed until the day all is made new.
When the lies begin...the lies tossed around to the wife and mother in me; to the me who feels failure and inadequacy in her ministry; to the woman who looks in the mirror; and to the daughter of the King…I can surrender and believe that the One who clothes me in His righteousness will speak life and truth to me. His image. It is His image I am being more perfectly made into. In all my “me” ways, it is His image I take on. I put on Christ, it is Christ within. This is how I overcome my unbelief and this is how I silence the noise. It is Christ. It is Christ.
I am desperate for Yahweh to shine his Shekinah glory into my life, an ever-present dwelling where my soul can find melodious rest. I hum the words and they become a heart song of prayer: Speak what is true.
My heart finds hope in the steady beat of truth breathed in, truth lived out.
All for His glory.
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When reading the scriptures detailing the death of Jesus Christ, believers often acknowledge that they sometimes can be difficult to get through. Yes, our souls celebrate the freedom resulting from that moment, but our hearts also mourn the harshness and pain of it, too. Jen Wilkin has said, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” I get that. Many times I have read through the scripture’s account of everything from the Last Supper to when Jesus cried out His last breath. For a long time, I didn’t love reading it. I didn’t love the words my eyes took in, because my mind did not understand what was there to see. Reading through those passages now, with a desire and purpose to understand, brings about a new meaning.
Many things could be written concerning those last moments before the death of Jesus Christ. For this post, I want to focus on the obedience Jesus displayed. Christ’s perfect obedience to His Father is so powerfully and beautifully laid out; I wonder how I never saw it all those years ago.
At the Garden of Gethsemane, we get a glimpse of an intimate moment between Father and Son. We read the words Jesus spoke aloud to His Father:
Going a little farther, He fell face down and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will” Matthew 26:39 (HCSB).
Here we see Him not questioning. Rather, in full perfection, He submits to the rescue plan His good and loving Father had set in place since before the creation of the world. The Son lays down His life to His Father, so that He can then lay it down for ours.
The beauty of the Son’s perfect obedience, as scripture shows, is ours to soak up and savor. We acknowledge Jesus Christ’s beautiful and wonderful perfection as He lived, walked, suffered, and died in perfect submission to His Father. By reading these passages, I am fully aware that my obedience to God is not contingent on my own strength or capabilities. It is only possible because of and through the perfect submission of Jesus Christ to His Father.
Our lives could never be the perfection as that of Christ’s. He lived the life we could never live and died the death we deserve. But, what a glorious gift — that His obedience brings us hope. What a thing it is that His obedience perfected is ours gifted. What a marvel and joy it is that Christ’s perfect obedience resulted in our redemption.
For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. -Romans 5:19 (HCSB)
Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)
I love these words Paul wrote while he was a prisoner. I picture Paul as the Spirit overcomes him and he writes exhaled words of God as a letter to the Ephesian church. The words found in this letter, though written to people from another time and another place, still strike such heavy meaning thousands of years later in a world seemingly gone mad. Isn’t that the beauty of God’s Word? His words are not bound by space or time. The words He breathed out then are still what we are inhaling today.
I read those words and my mind races just as my heart beats quick. I feel Him. His presence is near. It is not a question or a suggestion, it is eyes locking with mine and He says, “Walk worthy.” Maybe I should feel angst at such a command…but I back up a little and I read through the first three chapters of Ephesians.
This scripture reminds me of my righteousness attained through Christ. I remember his gift of grace and of my new identity in Christ. So I can quickly remove the fear that He is calling me to walk a life of self-sanctification. He is, rather, calling me to walk a life that reflects all that I have received in Him. I can revel in the hope and truth that the first three chapters of Ephesians give. Because He is worthy and my life reflects Him living in me, I can walk worthy. Not a perfect life, but a life that is full of grace and one which strives to bring Him glory. But, what is worthy?
Called to Unity
My eyes travel and these words stand out: humility, gentleness, patience, accepting one another in love. Then this: diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. A call to unity. I cringe.
The struggle is there. A unified body is a great idea and can be found…until you mention your political opinion or until you mention who you voted for last election. Then the beautiful rope of unity begins to unravel and tangle, leaving a mess with knots so tight it has become a useless blob on the floor.
Walk worthy. So there it is again. However, I also see something else: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Did you catch that? Who [God] is above all and through all and through all in all. Does that cause anyone else to catch a breath of relief? There is no fine print, no ifs, ands, or buts, no political figure, no political party. There is nothing but God. HE IS ALL.
So where does that leave us?
As the political comments, remarks, jabs, and opinions become more prevalent each year, let us not forget what we know to be true. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and above all, He is where our identity is found. We can rejoice with our friends, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that our hope and joy is in Him. Our desire is to walk worthy as children called by His name. By this, we will show the world that His Spirit unites us as the body of Christ. Our unity is not through political opinion, party, or affiliation. Don’t hang your hopes on anyone other than the One whose purpose was to come to earth and rescue us through His death and resurrection.
This year, let us seek unity as believers no matter which political box we check. I pray that we will embrace a Christ-like humility, radiate His gentleness, and dwell in His patience. My prayer is that we will accept one another through His love and that we will be diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.