Take up Your Cross and Follow Me

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance that race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross.” Matthew 27:32

I awoke this morning with these verses repeating through my mind. In my minds eye I could see it.

Jesus carrying His cross, His body already wounded and dripping and slippery with the sweat and blood and the tears pouring out, His legs buckling under the weight of His cross, under the weight of our sin, the weight of our shame, the weight of our brokenness, the weight of our suffering, the weight of our cares. The weight of the whole world from the beginning to the end, past present and future.

He could have carried His cross alone. He really could have, He had it within Him and still has it within Him to carry His cross alone. But He knew we needed Simon of Cyrene’s example. And oh to be Simon.

I can see it, Simon picking up the cross and following Jesus. Jesus’ blood already pouring down the cross and Simon’s grip gets slippery. Simon the first to receive a covering of Jesus’ blood. Simon the first to pick up the cross and follow Him.

Though the weight is enormous, Jesus still says today “cast it on Me, cast it all on Me, cast every weight on Me, I can still bear the weight of it all, it’s not yours to carry, I can handle it, My yoke is easy and My burden is light”.

YOU made ALL the DIFFERENCE!!!!

The world is a better place because you are in it!!

God declared that over you the very moment He breathed life into Adam and Eve.

Genesis chapter 1 brings us the creation story. The story of how our world came to be and how we came to be on it.

At the end of day 1 (Genesis 1:4) He looked at everything He created and He said it was good.

At the end of day 2 (Genesis 1:10)  He looked at everything He created and He said it was good.

At the end of day 3 (Genesis 1:12) He looked at everything He created and He said it was good.

At the end of day 4 (Genesis 1:18) He looked at everything He created and He said it was good.

At the end of day 5 (Genesis 1:21) He looked at everything He created and He said it was good.

At the BEGINNING of day 6 (Genesis 1:25) He looked at everything He created and He said it was good.

At the END of day 6 (Genesis 1:31) He looked at YOU and He said it was VERY GOOD.

In one days time His opinion of His creation went from just good to very good.

And all because He created YOU!!

In Genesis 1:26-28 He decided that this good world He created needed something more; It needed YOU!  So He made you to look like Him.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

He looks at this good world He created and sees His fingerprints but then He looks at you and sees His face.

Just like a newborn baby is a reflection of its parents, we are a reflection of the Father.

When people look at you do they see His face?

Do they see  His love, His joy, His peace, His patience, His gentleness, His goodness, His faith, His gentleness, His temperance?

God see’s it all and He see’s you and He calls it beautiful!

Run like your life depends on it; because it does.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs to it and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10

These words have been a repetitive whisper all week. A constant reminder that the Name above all names is here.

Jesus is the name. Jesus is the strong tower. Jesus is the sanctuary.

Sanctuary: A place of refuge or safety. Shelter. Hiding place. Protection. Security.

In medieval times of battle people ran to the high towers of the castle to seek safety from the advancing enemy. They could see the enemy coming. They could see how much time they had to prepare for the coming battle. They could see how much time they had to sharpen their weaponry and strengthen their armor. They refused to go down without a fight and they refused to go into battle unprepared.

There was a day when one could run into a church building and claim sanctuary. The law and the government couldn’t touch them there because it was thought to be holy ground. A person could hide in the sanctuary.

Jesus is the shelter from the storm. Jesus is the place of refuge. Jesus is the hiding place.

Jesus is my covering, my shield, my hiding place, my sanctuary.

So today I run to Jesus; today I claim sanctuary.

Don’t walk, don’t crawl, run. Run like your life depends on it because it does.

Let Go and Let God

I glance out the patio door between sips of morning coffee and I can’t help but notice it.

The oak tree holds on to what’s gone, holds on to what’s dead.

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The cold winter breeze whispers through the branches like a gentle reminder that its time to let go. Past time to let go. And it stirs deep within my soul.

Fall into wintry death and life springs up new.

Let go of what was and hold on to What is.

Let go because I won’t let you go.

Let go to set free.

Die to live.

Die to self and find life in Me.

We all must go through seasons of the heart. There are things He’s asking us to let go of. Things He’s asking us to die to.

But we’re like the oak tree. We hold on.

We hold on because we’re afraid. We hold on because of uncertainty. We hold on because of all the what ifs satan whispers in our ears. We hold on because letting go feels uncomfortable.

Hold onto anger and bitterness takes root. Let it go and love pours in.

Hold onto doubt and fear takes hold. Let it go and peace floods in.

Paul said:

Philippians 1:21

“For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain. ”

1 Corinthians 15:31

“I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”

Be a Paul today. What is God asking you to lay down and die to?

We must experience the death of winter to experience the life of spring.

Let go and let God.

Take Courage

I’m not one to make new years resolutions. A lot of people do and never follow through. And I’ve never been one to choose a word for the year as some of my friends have, although I have enjoyed reading their posts about the words they have chosen.  On a whim I took Dayspring’s find your word for 2019 quiz. (You can take the quiz here)  .

It gave me the word Courage.

At first I didn’t think anything of it but that word kept coming up. I read Isaiah 41 yesterday and that word echoed off the pages.

Isaiah 41:6 New King James Version (NKJV)

Everyone helped his neighbor,
And said to his brother,
“Be of good courage!”

Be of good courage. Eighteen times God tells us to be strong and of good courage. Just get on biblegateway.com and type in courage and read for yourself.

Good Courage. According to dictionary.com Courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc.., without fear; bravery.

Be strong and without fear. Be strong and brave.

Whatever road you are on in 2018 and whatever road you go down in 2019, be strong and of good courage because:

Isaiah 41:13 New King James Version (NKJV)

For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand,
Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’

So in 2019 I fight for courage. I fight to lay down fear and pick up the pen.

And while you are of good courage, be an encouragement to those around you. En:  to cause to be. Courage: brave. Encouragement is to cause to be brave.

I am thankful for all of my encouragers. I’ve needed it more than you will ever know. And a special thank you to the friend whose simple “gotta start somewhere” gave me the courage I needed. You have no idea the power those simple words held.

A Holy Ventilation

I just celebrated my 32nd birthday a couple weeks ago. I was blessed to have celebrated my life with some pretty amazing people. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

I woke up that morning with these lyrics on my heart.

“It’s His breath in my lungs so I pour out my praise”. These words have weighed heavy since that morning. How often we need the reminder that we are not promised the next breath, we’re not guaranteed the next moment. How often I need that reminder.

In a split second car accidents happen and if you see it coming like I did, you close your eyes and hold your breath. Because in that split second of a moment, you don’t know if you’ll take the next breath, and you don’t want the impact to be the last thing you see.

There are those who have said that your whole life flashes before your eyes in those split second brushes with death, but none of that mattered to me. All that mattered in that split second was will I see Jesus when I open my eyes. So with that last breath that trajectory angles and force of impact say should have been my last, I simply say Jesus save me Jesus forgive me.

January 9th will mark 7 years since my car accident. It’s not a day I choose to remember but traumatic experiences are not easily forgotten. Every year I’m reminded that God chose to add to my life. He chose to continue to breath life into me. That as long as there is breath in my lungs there is purpose for my life.

So this year there were no secret birthday wishes when I blew out my candles, just a holy ventilation and a thank you Father for this breathe and the next breathe and every breathe after that.

Psalm 150 New King James Version (NKJV)
Let All Things Praise the Lord
150
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
2
Praise Him for His mighty acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
3
Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!
4
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
5
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
6
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!

Yoked to Jesus

” Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I’ve heard it quoted this way a thousand times. It makes sense. Give Jesus your burden and your load gets lighter. Give Jesus your burden and you trade weary for rest.

Yes, this makes sense. Because who doesn’t want a lighter load. Who doesn’t want rest. We’ve been living with a make-my-life-easier mentality. But we’ve been missing the mark here. When we quote it this way we’ve taken an all-or-nothing gospel and turned it into a take-what-you-want buffet style gospel. And boy have we messed this one up!

We’ve managed to leave out the most important part of this passage. We’ve skipped a verse.

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Don’t just take what you’ve heard and run with it. Search out the scriptures for yourself. Is what you are hearing lining up with the word of God?

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart (humble), and you will find rest for your souls.”

It’s a whole other ball game when we throw this verse into the mix. This one’s a game changer.

A yoke is a device used to train an animal to carry its load properly and to obey direction and commands. There are a few different kinds of yoke. Two of which are a single yoke and a double yoke. With a single yoke one is trained to work alone. With a double yoke two are trained to work as a team. One is dominant and leads the other but the two animals are working so closely together that one can’t tell that one is dominant.  This article describes the different kinds and functions of a yoke.

When we take His yoke upon us, we’re trading the single yoke for a double yoke. We’re no longer trying to carry the load on our own like the stubborn donkeys we often are. When we take on His yoke we are yoked to Jesus. We learn His ways and learn to work together with Him and allow Him to be the dominant one.

When we try to go it alone, the load just keeps getting heavier and there’s no time for rest because we have too much to do and to far to go. We buckle under the weight of it and we’re tired and wore out and we sometimes lose our way.

He never said He would take away the load. But He makes the load lighter. When we allow ourselves to be yoked to Him, He helps us carry the load. When we learn to do things His way the going gets a lot easier. Learn from Him. Learn His ways.

Psalms 25

4 Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. 5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.

 

 

The Chosen One

” And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask/ jar/ box of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke that flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.” Mark 14:3-5.

“And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.” Luke 7:37-38.

I’ve started reading  Lady In Waiting by Jackie Kendall & Debby Jones. It’s a book that every woman should read weather they are single or married. It’s relevant to both.  In reading this book, I’ve stumble upon something of value.

When the woman broke her jar of oil at His feet the Pharisee’s criticized her for wasting such costly oil. They were only looking at it’s monetary value. They weren’t looking at what that oil meant to her. She wasn’t wasting money. Her sacrifice was much more meaningful than it’s monetary value.

” In the days Jesus was on earth, when a young woman reached the age of availability for marriage, her family would purchase an alabaster box for her and fill it with precious ointment. The size of the box and the value of the ointment would parallel her family’s wealth. This alabaster box would be part of her dowry. When a young man came to ask for her in marriage, she would respond by taking the alabaster box and breaking it at his feet. This gesture of anointing his feet showed him honor.” – Lady in Waiting”

I believe that when she broke her alabaster jar at His feet that what she was really saying, was “I choose Jesus. I choose to honor Jesus. I choose to love and obey Jesus. I choose to put Jesus first before all men. I choose to make Jesus my first love.”

She knew the monetary value of that oil. But she didn’t care about that. I imagine she wept for the sinner she was. She wept for the cost of her sin, not the cost of the oil.

The Pharisees may have criticized her, but Jesus championed her.

“Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman had done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Matthew 26:13

She went down in history as the woman who poured out at Jesus’ feet.

What will you be known for?

 

Come Closer

James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

I’ve been wrestling with these words. Grasping for meaning. Searching for the other piece of the puzzle. Today it’s placed in my hands. It all makes sense now. Why I wasn’t getting very far.

Matthew 15:8 “These people draw near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.”

It all makes sense now. I’ve been one of ‘those’ people. I’ve held out one hand saying pour in while I’ve clutched my heart shut with the other. Not in fear of it but in fear of what it may require. My heart must follow after my words.

I’ve got one foot in the laver trying to get ‘clean’ enough, good enough, worthy enough while the other foot slowly inches toward the brazen alter, the consuming fire. And yet the distance is too far, I have to step out of the laver. I have to stop looking back. It’s all or nothing, one or the other, I can’t stand in two places.

I must be poured in before I can pour out. And He’s standing there ready to pour, waiting for me to take that next step.

Acts 2:18 “On my handmaidens, I will pour out of My Spirit!”

 

 

Un-guard My Heart

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I pick up my copy of The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. My highlighter bleeds on nearly every page. One line echoes off the page and seeps into my soul. And the tears spill. And my heart is rent in two as I remember. Because I

“was the friend who has slapped up cold, guarded walls to protect her heart at the cost of anyone else’s heart, the woman who’s been more interested in self-preservation than anyone else’s situation.”

I remember the moment that wall went up. I was walking down the hallway towards the students that would be my new classmates.  I was terrified. I tried to hide behind my notebook.  A voice without reason whispered they’re going to hurt you to. I didn’t want someone’s words to hurt me again. So my 10 year-old self picked up the bricks that had already been hurled at her in the form of words. Bricks stacked one on top of the other held together by a mortar made of lies formed a wall to protect the shattered remains of her heart.

It was 13 years later that I realized what I had done. That the wall didn’t protect my heart. In building that wall I not only hurt myself but I hurt other people. It literally took a woman kneeling on the floor in front of me, begging me to just say hello to her (you know who you are), for me to realize it. It’s true, hurt people hurt people. And I hurt so many people without realizing it until that day.

That day began the process of trying to find a way past the wall. The prison cell  with no doors. A self-made prison is the worst kind and the hardest to escape from.  It took Jesus to break that wall down, He’s the only One that could, the only One that held the right key.

Some days it’s hard not to rebuild the wall. It’s a daily struggle to live vulnerable. A struggle to keep my heart guarded enough that the lies don’t get back in but un-guarded enough that the love does. It’s a struggle to find the balance between guarded to much and not guarded enough.

Psalms 91

 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.

14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”