I Stand Amazed in the Presence ……

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It was simple. It was clear. It was filled with welcoming, acceptance, warmth and unity: people literally from all over the world meeting together in a park to celebrate the Resurrection and our oneness in the love and family of Christ. So it was no problem for me to invite passers-by to join us. Soon the chairs were  taken, and  folks sat on the stone wall around the meeting area, singing, listening to the singing, and listening to God’s clear invitation into the transformation of new life in Christ. I was  blessed,and I do mean blessed, to be able to talk to some of the people watching and passing by who didn’t know ”us” or why we were there.

One young woman from Asia chatted with me and I shared that we aren’t about religion, about forms anyways and traditions, as much as about the ONE who unites us all, traditional, Charismatic, high liturgy, non-denominational: Jesus, in relationship  with him, receiving God’s boundless love  through Christ. She said she sensed that,sensed a peace and love in me (which is Christ, not me!)  and knew this meeting must be about love. With plenty of food, why shouldn’t I/we invite people just walking by to come sit and eat with us and welcome them into the love we know and feel and walk in: not just  feel-good “limerence” love, but TRANSFORMATIONAL passionate, powerful love strong enough to change us from “world/leaf-eating simply existing caterpillars” into the new creation, significance and God’s purpose filled, Jesus-Holy Spirit-indwelling “butterfly” sons and daughters of God we were created to be?

This is one short post, but I don’t have to expound at length on the truth that Jesus WAS there with us,  yes in and through each ordinary people other, undeniably loving and extending  his hand and hope and value. I do truly pray these people will come again  on Sunday nights where the group  meets in Brian and Jessica’s house, just to sing and fellowship, and feel welcomed. nothing high  falutin’ , just the love of God in Jesus Christ.

10 He (Jesus) was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1: 10-14 N

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 Living Bible

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4: 10-11 NIV

What more do we need?

The women in this music video aren’t religious fanatics: they’re the ransomed, the redeemed,the sinners saved by grace, transformed to significance, purpose, and passion to see others find this same incalculable love, by unconditional  love through the  righteous Blood of Jesus and the unending love of  our Creator Almighty Father God!

Family, friends, please sing this at my “graduation party”!

The only “…BUT…” to pray today is BUT GOD ALMIGHTY AND JESUS LOVE ME, this I know, ENOUGH TO SUFFER, DIE AND RISE TO LIFE FOR ME!

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“I Know How Much It Costs”

There I was at six in the morning, our two dogs Jenga and Katie ahead of me tugging at their leashes, eager to blaze a trail down the neighborhood sidewalks. I used the otherwise mindless time for intercessory prayer for lots of people and nations on my heart list, but I wasn’t expecting God to speak over and into ME.

Two years earlier I’d said a hug-filled, tearful goodbye to my older son, daughter-in-love, and their two-year-old son, my only grandchild, as they left to follow their calling, at the end of eleven years of higher education, literally on the other side of the world. I was proud of them both,  but that didn’t make it any easier in knowing that it would be years before I’d see them again. Would my grandson even know me?

Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, we were  able to video call them, but that wasn’tanywhere nearly the  same as holding my grandson in my arms or giving his mom and dad big hugs and sharing time with them in parks, at  the zoo, camping  together, or  baking  them cakes for their  birthdays. I had so many questions for God over those two years, but still  that morning I stopped in my tracks when in my spirit I heard the Holy Spirit quietly, simply say, “I know how much it costs you.”

The rush of love I felt lifted me and lifted at least a big part of the burden of loss I’d carried. After hearing those seven simple words, it was so much easier for me to live with the ongoing separation. God DID know and God DID care about how much it cost me, cost them,and cost my daughter-in-law’s family,too. Just knowing God valued our community sacrifice placed a  fresh peace in my heart.

Little did I know  that would be the easiest loss I’d have to bear in the next eleven years. Two even more painful,  permanent losses were ahead of me. NOTE:  I’m not writing today to gain anyone’s “sympathy,”  but to consider a question we don’t  generally hear God asking us: “Do you know how much it cost me to send my Son Jesus to die in your place on the cross?”

I think we skillfully skirt the question by thinking, “Well, God is God, after  all, and he doesn’t feel the  things I feel. Besides, he knew Jesus would be back in Heaven with him when it  was all over. And Jesus was God as  well as man, so it  didn’t hurt him like it  would have hurt a real human being ….”

Don’t kid yourself! Where do you think we get our capacity to love, to care, and  to feel emotional pain and loss, if not from the very core and nature and essence of God, placed  by God within us? I suspect our tendency when  life pierces us with grief, pain, disappointments and loss is to put the blame on God. Really? Does God make you choose your choices? If you freely make your  choices, then so does  every other  human being on the planet, including those people who through loss or wounding in their  own lives or, yes, through the influence of evil – which DOES  exist  and has a mindful, intentional source hell-bent on perverting God’s creation.

The two painful losses  I’ve  felt since then came through wounded people who sought some kind of balm for their pain apart from the  healing and deliverance and love God himself wanted and still wants to give them. Their projected pain  destroyed two marriages, one by divorce, and one by death. Neither loss was “easy”  to bear.so the  question to me became where I would  “lay blame” and what I would do with my grief  and pain. I’ve decided, and frankly, this has been an ongoing act of my will (okay, stubbornness, because I WILL choose love) and my hope in God’s transforming goodness, that  I WILL NOT swallow Satan’s baited hook of offense and let bitterness poison my heart toward those who made destructive  choices OR toward God.

Oh yes,  I’ve asked God WHY countless times, and he’s heard my cries of anguish. I go back again to those seven words I heard twelve years  ago, “I know how much it costs you.”I know this, too:  part of my pain from the first loss comes from my own human weakness in not being able to totally surrender the process and outcome to God much,much earlier in the journey.  And on God’s behalf, he has continually  told me what he told me on December 6, 2012,”You’re worth fighting for,” three months later”You are my chosen child,” and after that, “Do not fear what man tries to do to you,” and “I’m trying to bless you. You have to LET me,”  and God showed me through the many  “coincidences” I’ve written about on this blog, that he is  still with me, he still  loves me, and he has, somehow, redemptive transforming plans and redemptive purposes for goodness greater than I can see now. Satan does plan to kill,steal anddestroy, but Jesus more powerfully cameandcomes with abundant life. I remind myself that Satan has absolutely no reason to harrass and hassle people who already belong to/got hooked and deceived by him. He has plenty of reason to try to dislodge God’s  people who live out their God-given purposes  from believing that God truly  does love them and has plans to turn what Satan ploanned for evil for their good. (Romans 8:28) I personalize that – in all things God IS WORKING for my good as his child who loves him, is deeply loved by him and is  called by his purposes.

It often boils down to “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” That and the knowledge that yes, it  cost God more than any of us can begin  to fathom or grasp to send Jesus  here, God in the flesh, to live out the healing, deliverance,  and life-infusing purpose and love  ABBA God wants to give to each person on Earth.

That, and the knowledge that it grieves God, wounds God, pains God when we  reject  his gift of transforming love and eternal life  and  forever  relationship with him through accepting Jesus’ sacrifice  in our place. Grace is free, but don’t ever think that it came cheap. It cost Almighty God more  than we can begin to fathom. And don’t think that you can  receive that gift  without a cost to you: recognizing, through genuine fact-facing surrender of your self-righteousness that yes, you are  sinful by nature,  then through repentance, that you could never be pure or righteous enough or do enough “good deeds” to EARN  relationship with an unimaginably holy, pure, righteous, powerful, just God,andthen receivingthe  gift of  salvation Jesus paid for FOR you. Oh,how that grates on  our American  “I can pull myself up by my bootstraps” self-sufficiency and self-determination. God is love, but/and/while he is all of that, he is likewise perfect, fiery holiness, purity, righteousness, authority, and justice as well. He satisfied all of his nature without compromise when Jesus  took the punishment andpaid the penalty  for our sins, and that means MINE as well as YOURS.

The justice I seek is against my real enemy, Satan, the abuser and wounder and liar of  all liars and  perverter of all that is  good and holy and kind and loving and true. For  that reason I have given up “seeking justice”  on my own. If you’ve seen the recent movie”The Shack,” you  heard this, and I echo the truth that I DON’T WANT TO BE ANYBODY’S JUDGE! I save that for God alone, and I pray for  the true revelation of the price of God’s love and for true repentance that will lead the people who’ve  hurt  me straight into the Cross and arms and transforming love of Jesus.

Yes, it cost me. It  costs the price of living  with injustice even as I try to live out of and live out the love that God has lavishly given me. Expanded hearts  can feel more pain, but they can also receive,contain, and pour out more love.  Jesus did it first,  for YOU and me!

I heard Jason Gray sing this song live seven years ago just two miles from my house, in, yes, FREE concert tickets God gave me. Do you think HE knew I’d need to remember and cling onto this truth? I know I need to fearlessly run into the loving arms of the ONE who knows how much it costs me, and run to him fearlessly because I know how much it costs HIM to love me.

And yeah, absolutely, if you’d like to pray for me today, go for it! I admittedly,honestly need to be able to hear the Holy Spirit more clearly and trust God more fervently than I  do, and joyfully love while I’m waiting on HIS outcomes, knowing his desire for me is  to live in joy and hope in him! He paid for this, and I want to receive it fully!