Friday, January 22, 2016

Our Good Shepherd

It is a jolt each time to adjust from my current testimony with Jesus all the way back to the beginning, and to be honest with you, sometimes I wish I could pass over the more vulnerable and messy parts of my early walk with Jesus. But I knew from the start that the Holy Spirit wanted me to share this, and to share it with words of comfort for the broken hearted.

Jesus told me that my previous blog post was necessary to prepare for this one, and the ones after this. That is a big preparation! I did not understand this at first, but I understand it now that Jesus has given me the rest of the Scriptures.

In my last blog, I prayed that the Lord Jesus direct and unite our hearts solely to revere His name, and as I sat down to work on this, Jesus reminded me with love that His is our Savior and Redeemer, and by His stripes we are healed.

November 15, 2011

A couple nights ago, I was thinking about the extraordinary relationship between Christ and His Father. I love to think about this. I find it beautiful and beyond understanding. I like to think about these things:

"The Lord possessed Me at the beginning of His work, the first of His acts of old. Ages ago, I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths, I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.

"...then I was beside Him, like a master workman, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing before Him always, rejoicing in His inhabited world, and delighting in the children of man."
Proverbs 8:22-24, 30-31

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that was made." John 1:1-3

"I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your heritage, and the ends of the earth Your possession." Psalm 2:7-8

"For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are My Son, today I have begotten You"?
"Or again, "I will be to Him a father and He shall be to Me a son."

"And to which of the angels has He ever said, "Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for your feet." Hebrews 1:5,13

"Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel."
John 5:19-20

I was just resting in these things, thinking about them, and Jesus said to me, The Father loves you as much as He loves me.

I was appalled! I thought that could not possibly be true at all; nothing could possibly mean as much to God as His own uniquely begotten Son.

He said, Go back and read again My prayer before I was crucified.

So the next day, I did. I read this:

"I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.

“Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory You have given Me because You loved Me before the creation of the world."
-John 17:22-24 TNIV (Bold added)

Then I realized that of course the Father must love us as much as He loves Jesus, because He gave Christ up to death for our sakes. And Christ went willingly, freely giving up the glory and honor He had with His Father, in order to be born human and to die for our sins.

I spent the entire day pretty much just stunned, just in a haze of wonder. It's so much that I can't take it all in for very long. The plans of God are beyond all understanding and we are all caught up in them, at the very heart of them, and all those plans are overflowing and abounding with love.

So then, we have to exclaim, along with Paul:

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:31-39, NIV

November 16, 2011 Reading the Bible

I think rainstorms in autumn are the best kind of rainstorms. Yesterday evening it rained as well and Keith and I stood at the back step to watch it. The rain and the wind were tearing off hundreds and hundreds of copper red leaves. The ragged leaves were drifting down in great gusts through the rain. The sky and the air and the back yard were full of leaves.

I can pretty much read my entire way through the Bible. I see things I never saw before. I know I keep saying this, but it keeps coming home to me more and more. If one reads the Bible in continuous fear or shame, it's very hard to understand.

I was taught that God convicts us of sin, but I had no idea how to determine conviction from condemnation. Any time I felt bad about myself, any time I felt guilty or shameful, I embraced this as if it were from God. No wonder I have so many religious wounds!

It amazes me, when I think back on it. I was a virgin, for goodness sake- well, I thought I was. I hadn't even held hands with a boy. Where on earth was my shame coming from when I read about maintaining sexual purity? The sexual abuse, of course.

But it just amazes me now. There was no reason for me to feel shame-  I was innocent! I wasn't sexually sinning! There was no reason for condemnation. Yet I still felt condemnation and I embraced it whole heartedly. This is a horrible thing.

There is lots in the Bible I don't understand but my teacher is Jesus Himself. I love to read in John when He says, you call Me Teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do, for so I am.

So He is- He really is! He is my Teacher and my Lord. I like to call Him Lord, but I like best to call Him that when Jesus is close to me, and I can know and perceive His loving kindness and tender heart.

If I don't find Jesus close, I seek Him out. I cry out to Jesus, in my spirit, and He answers me by a touch of His presence or by His voice. Sometimes I say His name just because I love to say His name, just because I must, because I can. Because Jesus is there and listening and I can reach out to Him.

In the morning, when I wake, the first thing I do is to reach out to Jesus, to be sure He is there. I want Him always there. Hello, I tell Jesus. Hello, hello, hello!

I can freely read through the Bible, thinking about and considering each thing. And it is full of wondrous things, the Bible. Yesterday, I was reading along and for the first time, I actually saw and took in the verse that reads: "But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." I Corinthians 6:17

Do you know that we are one spirit with Christ? One spirit. Our connection to Him is so real, so profound and so vital, that we don't even need words. We walk around all day long just with this vital and living connection to Jesus Christ.

Could I understand this before? No. All I felt was paralyzing terror. I felt filthy, dirty, and disgusting and that there was a real possibility of God destroying me with holy fire because His Holy Spirit had to dwell in such a wretched container as myself and my physical body.

So I could not think about it! How could I think about it? It was unbearable. Now I can, because I know that my very life is hidden in Jesus.

But lately, I'm bothered all the time with the idea that I must do some good work for Christmas. Last night, I thought I missed the dead line, so I was just in agony over not accomplishing what I thought He wanted me to do.

Then I remembered that Jesus helps us to will and to do those good works that He wishes us to do, so if I didn't do it, it must not have been something He planned for me to do. So much relief just washed over me.

But how do I know what Jesus wants me to do? How do I know it is Him? What if this is just my old condemnation getting in the way of my peaceful faith in Jesus?

I must be getting ahead of Jesus in the good works department. But I know He wants me to be doing good works. How do I know which good works He wishes me to be doing? Opportunities abound.

I'm going to have to stay really, really bound up in Jesus if I'm going to make it through this, I must keep my mind stayed on Him, in perfect peace. Yes, now that I think about it, the pressing anxiety and guilt can't be from Christ.

That kind of internal confusion and condemnation is not from Jesus; He doesn't lead that way. Jesus will lead me quite naturally and gently into the things that I must do for Him. I don't have to go out and to seek them out on my own or in my own strength. But they will naturally flow out of the life I am living in Jesus.

I guess it is not so weird that I get caught up in these things. I deeply desire to please Him and to do everything for Him. But there is nothing I can do for Jesus but to yield into what He is doing in me. I must surrender to Him. Everything flows out from that union in Him.

Sometimes I get scared when I look around me; the pitfalls on either side are pressing and tempting and gently sloping. But I don't have to look anywhere but at Jesus Christ, at the One who choose me for Himself, actually picked me out to be His child and His sister and His spouse- that is, His family, born of His spirit. My faith is His work; Jesus does the making and the saving. And if I get too scared, then He carries me in His arms.

November 17, 2011 Coming to the Father

It's been carried home to me, more and more, how much of a child I am in the eyes of God. And this is not a derogatory thing, at all. It's a profound relief. It's humbling, but relieving.

I've always been deathly frightened of God the Father, the Almighty. I never address my prayers to Him, for fear of offending Him by accident.

It always amazes me when I hear people just fearlessly and casually beginning their prayer with, "Dear Heavenly Father..." I wonder, do they have any idea Who they are talking to? I get all nervous for them. Just saying the Lord's Prayer, even if I'm saying it with Christ, causes me trepidation.

Which is funny, really, when one contrasts my spontaneous and trusting intimacy with Jesus to my terror of His Father. I know that my perception is incorrect, that the Heavenly Father is loving and merciful, and that He loves us to address Him. But even now, I still have remnants of these massive barriers of fear.

Still, one can't spend any time at all with Christ and not see the Father more clearly, and so my perceptions of the Heavenly Father are altering, slowly but surely and sometimes lately I talk to Him.

Last night I was resting close to Christ and just being surrounded by His loving presence, and I thought about the Father, I thought about talking to the Father. I thought about how loving He is and how I belonged to the Father first and how the Father gave me to Jesus and sent Jesus to die so I could be reconciled to Them.

So, I left Jesus and tiptoed over to the Father and sat down at His feet, like the shy child that I am. And I got picked up! He sat me on His lap. It was a little scary at first. But it was also marvelous, because I could feel His love and delight in me. I was welcomed!

Then I ran away. Then I felt guilty for running away. Then I let go of the guilt and let go of trying to understand and I was back with Jesus, and being with Jesus is with the Father too, anyway. And I don't have to explain, because everything that I am is laid out before Them.

November 19, 2011

(I've had to re-write this particular entry far more than usual. This entry is meant for the broken hearted who have lost trust in Jesus because of intense suffering, especially the terrible suffering that comes by teachings or doctrine that hurt people in the name of God.

That's what I have had to heal from, myself. And a key piece of that healing was to know, in a rock solid way, that I could safely pour out my raw emotions to Jesus- anger, doubt, feelings of betrayal, hurt, grief- the whole thing, and know, absolutely know, that Jesus would never, ever turn away from me, deny me or retaliate, but that He would hold me in His arms and encircle me with love, and that is exactly what He did and does.

I must also say something else about emotions before continuing. Because of the marvelous work of Jesus as I have abided in Him over these past years, I am increasingly able to feel intense emotions, to compassionately acknowledge them, and if necessary to gently set them aside in order to act instead out of agape love, following Jesus.

This self control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that Jesus has patiently been growing in me for a long time now- ever since I gave up trying to produce it on my own, which took me a long time to learn! It's a natural, gentle fruit that has grown from an abiding trust in Jesus, in His work and through an increasingly knowledge of His heart.

But this fruit did not come first. What came first was Jesus teaching me to express emotion to Him, to trust Him with my whole heart, and that is what is going to show up in these journal entries for a long time, because it took Jesus a long time to win my trust at that level.

Let me tell you, as a sister in Christ who has been through this, Jesus sees all the way down through, right to your raw and bleeding heart. Jesus sees all the way down, because He carried those things on the cross. He knows from the inside out, and His tender, loving hands will never, ever hurt you, and He will never, ever give up on you and He will never, ever turn away from you. His love will keep pouring out toward you. Jesus already knows everything and He loves you right where you are.

Jesus knows what they said and did and taught, using His name. This is what happened to Jesus: One of His closest companions betrayed Him for a paltry sum of money. He was abandoned, denied, lied about, beaten, stripped down and dressed like a clown in front of violent, mocking soldiers, tied to a post and brutally flogged, stood up in front of a mob shouting for His death, forced to carry the instrument of His death through the streets, stripped and nailed down helpless and lifted up in the air in excruciating, long drawn out agony and He was mocked as He died. They said to Jesus, in essence- "You think God loves you? You think You're His Son? Then why doesn't He come save You? Why does He leave You here on the cross, dying and shamed? You think You can save others? You can't even get down off Your cross!"

He knows what it is like to feel utterly and completely abandoned by God in the hour of greatest need. But because of His faith in Abba, Jesus knew that on the third day, His loving Father would raise Him from the dead and so He said, Into Thy hands I commit My spirit. And when Jesus rose up from the dead, He brought your precious life up with Him, because you are His precious child, and He will never abandon you or leave you behind. He brought your precious life up with Him in His arms as His beloved treasure.

When Jesus begins to bind up your broken heart, the first thing He will do is teaching you, patiently, tenderly, over and over again, that you can trust Him with your pain- even if it's directed at Him. Jesus knows why and it won't deter His love.

If you read my current testimony and wonder how I got where I am in my relationship with Jesus, I can say with certainty that the bedrock of my trust with Jesus was set in the places of deepest pain, when Jesus taught me Himself that He will never turn aside from me and that He will bind up my broken heart and heal me, no matter how long it took.

I thought His patience would run out, but it never ran out, and His love won. His patience won Jesus the reward He was looking for- not only my healed and whole heart, but my abandoned, ardent and ever upwelling worship, adoration and trust. I know I can trust Jesus with all that I am, because I know that He has already seen me at my worst, and never turned away from me and never gave up.

That is the heart of Jesus for you. That is the heart of Jesus. That's the breathtaking beauty of the Lamb of God slain before the foundations of the world and our Good Shepherd, who willingly laid down His life for us.)

I was re-reading M. Scott Peck's A Bed By the Window, and I read this part where one of the characters is starting to have to come to terms with God after a long, hard life:

"I don't trust You," she half screamed. "I've never trusted You. You've never deserved it, and I don't intend to begin trusting You now!"'

And on my goodness, I remembered so clearly reading that book and having that character's shocking and unsettling authenticity with God cause me to remember when I felt like that toward Jesus, when I was diagnosed with infertility after everything else in my life, and feeling the love of Jesus even then- particularly then!

Last night, when I re-read it, I had to put the book down and rest my head against the back of the couch, just thinking about it. I felt Jesus very close to me, as I was thinking about it.

"You loved me even then!" I said to Him, in wonder.

Of course, Jesus replied. I love you as you are.

"But I was full of anger and mistrust!"

I want you as you really are, not as you wish to be, He said.

This is a really hard concept for me to grasp, but it must be true. Because Jesus can't begin to truly heal us until we present ourselves to Him honestly, no matter how raw that is. It has to be the starting point. That's confession. If we present Jesus with only a false front- who we wish we were or want to be or are pretending to be- that's not a real gift and it doesn't require honesty or trust. The false front has to go.

Jesus really did love me, all those years I kept Him at arm's length, out of mistrust and shame and fear. It didn't discourage Him; Jesus was relentless in His love. I'm learning more and more not to hide things from Him. It's pointless anyway; Jesus knows it all. To let it go, to acknowledge its reality, is such a freeing and healing  thing to do, I've found.

So, then I went back to reading my book and I got to this part:

"Well, I do believe in God."


"So I talk to God and He talks to me. I talked to Him a great deal last night. I asked Him what could be done to help Heather. His answer to me was very clear."

I had to pause at that part too. I thought about the strangeness of talking to God and having Him reply. It's unconventional and comes out sounding grandiose no matter how I try and write it, although it’s perfectly obvious that Jesus doesn't talk to me about anything really important- at least, anything that would be important to anyone else. He's not talking to me about the world or His plans or anything like that- He just talks to me about me.

Then I thought about it this way. For the most part, we relate to God through faith, while in this life. Now God can come down and shatter this with His overwhelming reality, but He doesn't usually choose to. It seems to me that Jesus lets us choose the size of the opening by which we experience Him- the window of our faith.

If we open the window wide, we present Him with a wide opportunity to interact with us. If we keep it narrow, for whatever reason, usually He respects our boundaries, unless for some reason of His own, He comes in full of grace and truth and expands us on His own. Which it seems to me He does sometimes, thank God! Otherwise, sometimes we'd be stuck.

Other times, maybe Jesus gives us a deep longing and the longing is so great that we open all the windows to Him, because we can't stand living in the smallness anymore. In that case, we find that we must have more of Jesus.

That's what it's been like for me. My thirst for God is so great that I must throw open all the windows and all the doors to Jesus. Also, the deeper I go with Him, the more rooms inside myself I throw open for Him, because I know He's been inside them anyway. So I might as well be bold, you know?

I can't take the credit for this longing, because He placed it in me. Jesus made me this way; I just yield to it. But I love it and I love Him and I love Him for making me this way.

There's a lot of risks inherent in talking to God, it seems to me, when I think about it. One is that other people may think you are bag lady crazy. But when I can surrender into Jesus and into the risk, and talk anyway, I have opened the window to actually hearing Him.

I trust Jesus' love and sovereignty, and listen. All it is, is being quiet in Jesus with a kind of childlike trust.

I can't help but notice that the closer I draw to Jesus, the younger I feel myself to be. Sometimes I don't like this- I want the dignity of being an adult. Mostly, I find this completely delightful and right, and a profound relief.

Of course I want to be perfect for Jesus! How I wish I could present my self-perfection to Jesus like a lovely gift that He's so grateful for. But that's not how it works- not for me, anyway. For me, it's the other way round. When I try and reverse it, and work on my own perfection for Jesus, all I do is turn my back on Him so I can focus on my imperfections on this desperate, anxious way.

Whenever I do this- get focused on some self-judgment or some imperfection or fear or something else that hurts and bothers me, it's as though I were a child holding something sharp or jagged and stubbornly trying to make it better, even though it's cutting my fingers as I try so hard to fix it.

But Jesus! But Jesus touches my shoulder, to remind me and with relief, I turn to Him like a trusting child and I give it up to Him. Jesus takes it and throws it as far away from us as the east is from the west and remembers it no more and He picks me up in His arms and kisses my hurt fingers and bundles me up and carries me. And I am so, so grateful to Him.


And a highway shall be there, and a way; and it shall be called the Holy Way. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for the redeemed; the wayfaring men, yes, the simple ones and fools, shall not err in it and lose their way.

No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk on it.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Isaiah 35:8-10, AMPC

That soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to its foes.
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake.
-How Firm a Foundation