April 26, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 147: Friend


"But when the Son of Man came, he ate and drank as you do. And you say, 'This fellow is always eating and drinking far too much. He's a friend of tax collectors and 'sinners.''" (Luke 7:34 NIRV)

My daughters spent Easter weekend this year in Florida with their grandparents. It was a quick trip, but it was worth it. They'd both wanted to go down over their spring breaks, but now that my older daughter is in college, those breaks no longer line up. I kept suggesting other lovely friends they could take along, but they both kept saying the same thing: "I just want Sissy." 

There's nothing quite like a friend who is also your sister, because you know that no matter how annoyed you might get with each other or how much "too much togetherness" you might have, your relationship with them is written in blood or, sometimes, in the ink of adoption papers that declare you to be family forever.

Once upon a time, God looked at us and said, "I want them." And so He asked His Son, "Will you go down and get them for me?" And Jesus said, "Yes." He came as Emmanuel and King and Redeemer but also as Friend...a
 Friend whose relationship to us is written in His blood.

"Friendship," wrote C.S. Lewis, "is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'"

Jesus can be and is this kind of Friend because He walked Earth's streets as a man, feeling what men and women feel, hurting the way we hurt, needing what we need, wanting what we want.

And so when we tell this Friend, "I'm lonely," He says to us, "I know. I was, too. I understand."

When we tell this Friend, "I've been betrayed," He says to us, "I know. I was, too. I understand."

When we tell this Friend, "I've been hurt," He says to us, "I know. I was, too. I understand."

Sometimes, friends wear split-heart necklaces to show their connection, each of them with an incomplete half made whole by the other. This is how our hearts are, too: incomplete without Jesus...a Friend who allowed His heart to be split so that ours could be made whole.

"Jesus! What a Friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul!
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Hallelujah! What a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end."

(From "Our Great Savior;" words by J. Wilbur Chapman, music by Rowland H. Prichard, arranged by Robert Harkness; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kiv1FozVY-s.)

April 25, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 146: All in All

All in All

"Christ is all, and is in all." (Colossians 3:11 NIV)

I have a bad habit I need to break. 

Okay, I have several habits I could stand to kick to the curb, but the one I'm thinking of at the moment is my tendency toward an "if I just/then" mindset.

My mental repeat loop goes like this: "if I can *just* get past that thing I'm dreading or don't want to do or am stressed about, *then* I will have peace." Or, "if I can *just* hit that mark/achieve that goal/get to that particular point, *then* I will be satisfied." 

Of course, you see my folly here. I never do get to "then," or if I do, I never stay there very long. I'm settling for part instead of pursuing all.

A pauper instead of the Prince of Peace.
A pebble instead of the Rock.
A maybe instead of the Yes of God.
A bandage instead of the Healer.

Jesus—the All in All—offers us the whole, not just part. He offers us completion, not just a start. 

I need to ask God to overhaul my "just/then" default setting. Instead of thinking, "If I can just get past...then..." I need to pray, "God, help me to do the next thing You're calling me to do today with excellence and gratitude."

And instead of always trying to hit some mark or win some prize I think will bring me contentment, I need to unclench my fists and offer that longing to God as a sacrifice. 

"Here, God, take my desire for this thing I want. I give it to you as an offering. Make me want the whole of You more than I want a sliver of what You can give me. Move my mind and heart to know that You are not just some means to a treasure; You are the treasure. Help me to surrender my some and to find in You my all."

*   *   *   *   *   *
Song suggestion: this absolutely gorgeous version of "You Are My All in All;" Keith Lancaster & The Acappella Company; from "Awesome God: A Capella Worship;" 

April 24, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 145: Life


"I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness." (John 10:10b GNT)

"This is the life."

Maybe you've made this comment while you were on vacation or in some other relaxed setting. (It usually comes with a contented sigh.) I can pretty much count on hearing it from my daughters when we're at a family lake cottage we all love. They'll be out on the water in tubes they've tethered to a raft so they don't drift away, floating lazily without worry and basking in the summer sun with the special kind of freedom that comes from being a student on summer vacation. (Did I just sigh out loud?)

"This is the life." 

Jesus was big on life, having given His so we could gain ours. 

He came and gave so that we could have "life in all its fullness" (John 10:10b). 

Life full of power (2 Timothy 1:7).
Life full of hope (Hebrews 6:19).
Life full of faith (Hebrews 10:22).
Life full of joy (John 15:11).
Life full of purpose (Romans 8:28).

You may have heard the question, "Is your glass half-full or half-empty?" Whichever way you look at it, I know I tend to settle for half where the benefits of life in Christ are concerned: partly-charged power; fingers-crossed hope; fair-weather faith; as-long-as joy; good-enough purpose. All of which the enemy likes, because as long we're settling, he counts us as safe.

But Jesus is not a "half" kind of a Savior. He is bubbling up, spilling over the top, running down the sides. And the full life He's talking about isn't just for someday in the future; it's for this day in the present. This powerful, hopeful, faithful, joyful, purposeful life is the life He holds out to us now while He leads us by the hand to the fullest of full.

"It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life" (Revelation 21:6).