The Narrow Gate

Matthew 7:13-14 describes the way to a life in God’s presence. There are various interpretations of these verses, most having to do with exclusion. I believe they simply mean we must all come into God’s presence individually. That means stepping away from the crowd.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (NASB)

A crowd cannot pass through the entrance described in Matthew. Groups are great, and I love the sense of belonging I get from them; but my relationship with God is personal. I can’t depend upon a church, a denomination, a team, my family, or my friends to replace my relationship with God. Christ came so we could all have an intimate relationship with God, the Father. That humbles and makes us want to disappear into a crowd. Intimacy is intimidating in human relationships, so it’s understandable that many run from intimacy with The Creator. A group date is easier than a candlelight dinner for two, so many miss out on the relationship and the gate.

Families foster love and give the grounding we need when they are healthy, but they can also be our most painful source of disconnection. Corporate worship brings harmony when those present are in one accord, but it creates discord when they aren’t. No group is perfect, and that includes God’s family. We are all broken, and that will not change until we walk through that narrow gate and meet him face-to-face. The gate is not for groups, and groups cannot decide who gets to walk through the gate. It was forged by a love unlike anything we can imagine. A love designed for all, but not accepted by all. The narrowness of the gate is uncomfortable for some, so they choose the wide berth and imagined comfort of a familiar group.

Groups appear to offer protection and safety, but they rarely do. That is especially true when it comes to religion and politics. The need to win, be the best, or be right cause an unhealthy fusion that forces many to stay on the wide path. I hate election years because the divisions seem to get uglier and uglier, but perhaps I’m just paying more attention as I get older. Lines are darker and deeper, and the stakes are higher than ever. So, we choose sides and battle it out or sit on the sidelines and settle into a seething silence. Sadly, the same thing is happening with religion.

Oneness is at the heart of God’s Word, yet the scriptures divide us more than any political campaign can. How it must grieve God to see His children fighting over His Word. The need to be right is at the heart of division. It begins in the family unit, grows in heart, and reaches out into the community. Christ offered a beautiful solution when He took it upon Himself to breach the divide between God and His children. His unconditional, sacrificial love creates a path to a gate that is open and ready when we are willing to step away from the crowd and enter in.

The Face of Jesus

The glory of God can be seen in the face of Jesus, and God makes His Son’s light shines in our hearts so we could know His glory. I love the image Paul paints in his letter to the church at Corinth.

If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:3-6 NLT)

Having the light of Christ’s love in my heart changes the way I view the world, but it doesn’t necessarily change the way the world views me. If I keep His love hidden behind a veil, others will not see His love in my life. The message may be framed by my story, but I cannot be the story. Jesus is the story, and He always will be. My story is meant to point to God’s glory, and Christ’s love allows me to do that.

Christ’s reflects the glory of God. If I get away from that beautiful truth, His story will be hidden as mine takes the stage. The light God places in my heart is not meant to be hidden, but it also is not meant to be a spotlight for my own story. My witness should be about God’s grace and Christ’s love. Like a witness called to the stand, I need to give testimony that brings a greater understanding of God’s glory. Witnesses who focus upon their stories cloud and cover the true issues. The same is true of those who witness to Christ’s love and God’s glory.

The veil comes off when focus is fixed upon Christ’s face. God’s glory is there, and it connects to the light He placed in my heart when I turn to take in the love that allows me to see God’s glory. Like the moon reflecting the sun’s rays, I can’t look away when faced with His glory. When I see someone looking into God’s glory with love, I find myself stopping and staring too. Looking at God’s glory together is what worship is all about. If we do that as we should, others will find themselves unable to look away. When the face of Jesus is the focus, words about me fade into the background.

Photo Credit: dailymail.com
Photo Credit: dailymail.com

Attracted to the Light

Isaiah 60:1-6 foretells the future glory coming to Jerusalem. A light will attract kings and cause caravans of camels to converge on the city.

“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.
    For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.
Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,
    but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.
All nations will come to your light;
    mighty kings will come to see your radiance.

“Look and see, for everyone is coming home!
    Your sons are coming from distant lands;
    your little daughters will be carried home.
Your eyes will shine,
    and your heart will thrill with joy,
for merchants from around the world will come to you.
    They will bring you the wealth of many lands.
Vast caravans of camels will converge on you,
    the camels of Midian and Ephah.
The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense
    and will come worshiping the Lord.” (NLT)

I love the image of coming home in verse four. A bright and beautiful scene unfolds as Isaiah tells of the radiance of the Messiah. Camels and caravans came to see the Christ child, and His light continues to bring God’s children home.

Light is essential for life. It was the first thing God placed in His world. Christ’s precious love leads me home when  I relax and follow His lead. When I think of His love, my heart thrills with joy. In a world determined to distract, the constant and true light of Christ’s love is a beautiful beacon designed to unite. Christ came so we could be one with Him and each other as He is one with His Father.

Christ’s body is broken into sharp fragments, but I suppose it’s human nature to want to control light, even His. It’s comforting to know that God keeps His Light shining brightly to help me find my way home.

This sunrise on Topsail Island reminds me of Christ’s Light. I see a cross in that sunrise, and I think Isaiah might see it too.

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Possessed?

The Nature of LoveThere is a world of difference between love and lust, grace and greed, and peace and power. Lust, greed, and power are shiny objects that take my attention away from God. I know His love is better than anything this world has to offer; but I occasionally fall prey to the bling in my path. God reminded me this morning that bling is temporary and loses its luster as soon as I gain possession of it. His love will not be held or captured, and He will never hold me captive or attempt to possess my heart.

The need to possess is at the heart of lust, greed, and power. We have all been possessed by someone or something at one time or another, and we’ve all had the desire to possess something or someone at some point in our lives. Lust, greed, and power revolve around that desire. Love, grace, and peace exist outside the realm of possession. They flourish in freedom and reside with truth. It’s human nature to want to possess, but Christ taught a new way of living and loving when He came into the world as a man. He possessed nothing and had everything. He didn’t need Satan to remind Him that lust, greed, and power cause great temptation. Christ knows exactly what they do to a heart, soul, spirit, and body. His precious love releases us from captivity and gives us a new heart.

Christ’s grace showed the world a new kind of power, and His love brought a peace unlike anything the world had ever known. Like a child chasing a butterfly, I  end up straying from the path and find myself on a very slippery slope when I take my focus away from God. He is always there when I fall on my face. He and I both know it’s the best position for praying.

It’s easy to get caught up in my agenda or the agendas of others, but it happens a lot less when I keep my eyes on the One who exemplifies love, grace, and peace. Jesus took the lust, greed, and power that put Him on the cross and turned it upside down. The beautiful result is unending love, amazing grace, and unexplainable peace.

The lessons over the past two weeks have been difficult ones that pushed my heart beyond what it could handle alone. God never leaves me, but He will not possess me. I’ve made terrible decisions when it comes to love. I’ve tried to possess and hold on to it. God gently taught me that possession goes against the very nature of love. What I control or possess does not define love in my life, but what I am able to let go of does.

God placed Melanie Gainsley’s quote back into my path today. It sums up the lessons in love God began the year mama died, and it was in my path then. It was so hard to let go of mama. I realized today that love doesn’t have to let go because true love doesn’t hold on in the first place. 

“Sincere love is not born of possessiveness but of necessary space and distance.” Melanie Gainsley

 

Surrendered and Surrounded:)

Before heading to dinner last night, I decided to take some photos since it was a special occasion. I told the girls I wanted to hold them one at a time for a picture with Gigi. Of course, they both wanted up at the same time. Tyler and Gina can handle both at once, but I’m not quite there. I was holding Lillyann, and little Mylah wanted in on the action too. I told Gina to hand her to me quickly and not get very far away as Tyler took the picture. The girls giggled, and I strained; but their sweet hugs gave me strength. Love enables me to do what I don’t believe possible:) God is love, and He makes all things possible. The love I give and receive changes me in powerful ways. Walking in God’s kingdom is walking in love, and I’m finding that allows me to do the impossible.

Philippians 4:13 is a favorite verse of mine, and God placed it in my path this morning as I thought of how I’ve changed over the past two months. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (NASB) I refer to that verse when I fear I won’t be able to what God is asking me to do, but I am beginning to see it as a call to accept the love and help He offers through Christ and the Holy Spirit. God’s love manifests through His Son and His Spirit, and I have access to its power when I accept the love He offers and let Him surround me. Love is the key to walking in God’s kingdom, and His love allows me to walk without having to understand, to trust without having doubts, and to find the sweet joy that comes from surrendering completely to His will.

When I surrender to His will, His love surrounds me in the most beautiful way. I love it when Lilly and Mylah both hug me at the same time. They are a big part of the beautiful love God has placed in my life as I walk in His kingdom and love as He desires. It’s been a tough time of transition for me as I’ve come out of my comfort zone, let go of my desires, and embraced His will; but the joy I’ve found has been worth it. God won’t surround me with His love until I surrender and trust Him completely. God used the girls as a sweet reminder that all things are possible when I allow Christ’s precious love to surround me. It a simply magical feeling, and I love every moment:)

Surrounded

Is There An Easier Way?

It’s been a week of great loss in my community as we mourn the death of two precious young men taken too quickly from the loving arms of their families. I also lost a dear friend who was a big part of my life and very like a sister. My heart has been going through a difficult time lately, and I found myself wondering if love is worth the pain.

The cost of loving is great, and my heart will be broken each time I chose to love.  I know that well, but as I prayed this morning, my heart begged God to help me understand the pain. Isn’t there an easy way to love? Of course, I knew the answer before I asked the question. If there were an easy way to love, Jesus would have shown us how to love without hurting. His way of loving involves great pain, and His heart was, and still is, broken in ways we cannot imagine. Separation from God is hell, and losing loved ones is a taste of the torment of that horrid place, but choosing not to love is condemning my heart to stay there.

The good news is that God is love, and He prepared the way for us to love Him and share His love with others. It broke His heart to watch His Son die, but His resurrection sealed our hearts with the sweet assurance that His love is forever ours. Death does not stop love; it reminds me of the cost Christ paid so I could love. I plan to keep loving with all my heart because it is the only way I know how to love, and I plan to remember Christ when my heart is breaking.

An Easy Way to Love?

Why must the heart be broken

Over and over again?

Isn’t there an easy way

To love without feeling pain?

 

God’s quiet response to me

It’s the only way I know.

It broke My heart to pieces

To watch my beloved Son go.

 

Endure the pain of loving,

And then you will understand.

The joy that comes from loving

Is worth all the the heart demands.”

The Law, The Prophets, and Love

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 makes it clear what happens when love isn’t present.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” NASB

I never thought of these scriptures being connected to the transfiguration even though I know all scriptures are beautifully connected. The Law and the Prophets came together with Christ’s perfect love. Moses, Elijah, and Christ coming together at the transfiguration makes for an amazing scene. No wonder Peter wanted to build three tabernacles. He didn’t see at the time that Christ was bringing a special unity that would allow the law to be fulfilled according to God’s perfect plan. The prophets foretold His coming, and Jesus brought the love necessary for God’s will to be done and His Word to be complete.

Love changes everything, and Christ is God’s love in human form. Without love, we are nothing. Living the praying life means doing all I do with love. Praying is love in its purest form. Jesus sits at God’s side and intercedes unceasingly. If that is how He loves, then isn’t it the way I should also love? I see the call to pray in a new way, and I’m praying in a very different way. It isn’t as if I’ve prayed without love, but I am much more mindful of the love that makes prayer possible. It is all about connecting to His precious love first and then sharing that love as God desires.

I’ve struggled with the sharing at times, but I’m growing and learning to listen and follow His lead in that regard. I’ve had the tendency to overdo, enable, fix, and veer off His path when it comes to loving. The lessons in love over the past few years have helped me see love in a new light. I see now that was a prerequisite for living a praying life. A praying life is a life centered in sharing Christ’s precious love. That’s been the lesson this week, and I have been blessed to hear several messages about just that. Another beautiful lesson has been that God is all around me if I will open my eyes and be willing to step out of my comfort zone.

God finally got me out of the building and into the world this week. I’m not sure what’s next for me, but I do know that loving Him and sharing His precious love is all that matters whatever He has in store for me:) This beautiful message on the transfiguration helped me see a glimpse of His glory, and that helped me hear His call more clearly and have the courage to obey when I didn’t understand. Thanks be to God:)

I pray it blesses you as much as it does me. Thank you John for allowing me to share it:) 130224_Glory