Freedom Friday: The Whole World Could Not Contain

I finished the gospel of John this week.  I didn’t know what to read after that.  I just wanted to sit there as I felt the weight of this final verse:

“Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25 (NLT)

The whole world could not contain…..

Can you imagine?
John wrote his gospel after Matthew, Mark and Luke had written their accounts.  He included several stories the others did not.
And yet still, the whole world could not contain the accounts of all that Jesus had done.
I’m stumped, as my five year-old loves to say.
I’m stuck on that verse.
I want to go back and read the four gospels again, gently processing all the miracles Jesus performed, all the words He spoke, the encouragement He gave to the outcasts, the harsh words for the pharisees and teachers of the law, the commands He shared to take up my cross, the warnings He gave to count the cost and not enter into following Him without careful consideration, the passion He possessed for the lost and for His followers, the perseverance He demonstrated at the temptation and on the cross, all the many things that I can read and imagine and almost touch.
And yet, the whole world could not contain.

I make Him so small.  With my fear, my doubt, my worry.

My striving.

I need to choose to trust.
I need to stop worrying.
I need to follow His call to the lost and the broken.
I need to follow as He beckons me to take His hand and step out on the water.
I need to be more like Him.  
The Earth seen from Apollo 17
from Wikipedia
I invite you to stop for a minute.  Imagine the whole world, the earth, covered in books.  The books are so numerous that they are literally falling off (let’s suspend gravity for a minute).  These books are overflowing with stories of all that Jesus did.
For you. For me.  For people like us.
So that we may know Him and be like Him.
So that we may know how He interacted with broken people like ourselves.
So that we could see His heart, His love, His power, His strength.
So that we could feel the declaration of our worth as He hung from the cross.

“Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25 (NLT)

Imagine, and give Him thanks.

Monday Morning Meditation: Do Not Abandon Me, God (Psalm 71 Series)

Blogger has changed the format for posting & I’m having trouble figuring out how to post what I want! Please forgive anything that appears random & out of place.

We are continuing the series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here.

Verses 17-18:

O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood,
and I have constantly told others about the wonderful things you do.
Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God.
Let me proclaim your power to this new generation,
your mighty miracles to all who come after me.

God, do not abandon me.

This is the 3rd time in this psalm that David has mentioned abandonment, where he has brought up his fear of God failing him in his old age.  David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22): why was he doubting God’s faithfulness now?

God, do not abandon me.

I can relate.

As a young believer, I was sure that God would be faithful.  I felt positive that we would together take the world by storm and accomplish amazing things.  God’s voice was often apparent and tangible.  I sensed His direction in my life almost as clearly as I saw the wind.

Then life happened.

Honestly, I got jaded. Or I reverted back to the hurt child who, from a young age, had a deep fear of rejection and abandonment. I heard abandonment in every request, every song, saw it in every look and every circumstance.

As an adult believer, there were times I was positive I had heard God’s voice, but things did not turn out how I thought they would.

Had I been wrong?   Had I misheard God?

My faith feels weak these days.  I feel as if I’m in a similar place.

I think too much. I reason too much.  I try to figure out too many things.

It’s exhausting.

God, do not abandon me.

Had David just seen too much?  In his old age, had things not turned out how he had hoped?

Will You fail me now, God, after all this time?

How shall we combat this fear of abandonment?

Let me proclaim your power to this new generation,
your mighty miracles to all who come after me.

God, today, instead of fixating on my fears and doubts, I will not treat our relationship as I have treated others.  I will choose not to act as if Your feelings are so fickle that You will abandon me now in my time of need.  Instead, I will trust in Your Word.  I will declare all that You are, all that You have done, and all that You will do.  I will pull out my stones of remembrance and declare them to the next generation.

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

Lord, let me cling to that truth.

Monday Morning Meditation: Called to Praise (Psalm 71 series)

We are continuing the series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here.

It’s certainly worth looking back over the themes of this psalm thus far before considering today’s verses.

Prayer Requests Intertwined with Truth
God’s Protection from the EnemyGod is Our Hope
What Am I Living For?
Never Alone

David, the writer of this psalm, combines the hope he has in God and the truth he knows about God with the reality he is facing. He is getting older, and it feels as if his enemies are surrounding him. Will God continue to come through?

Verses 14-16:

But I will keep on hoping for you to help me;
I will praise you more and more.
I will tell everyone about your righteousness.
All day long I will proclaim your saving power,
for I am overwhelmed by how much you have done for me.
I will praise your mighty deeds, O Sovereign LORD.
I will tell everyone that you alone are just and good.

“I will praise you more and more.”

I don’t know if that’s my natural inclination when trials come. I’m fairly certain my natural inclination is to complain and run around telling everyone how bad off I am. In a post back in February, I shared that when God calls for silence, we can pray, fast, wait, listen, obey and rejoice.

We are called to praise.

Despite the obstacles he was facing, David found multiple reasons to praise God and to declare to others all that God is.

David declared he is overwhelmed by all God has done for him. Usually, when I face challenges, the only thing I’m overwhelmed by is the obstacles I’m staring at.

“Look beyond the tombstone – see the Living God.”

As I was writing this today, this lyric came through my headphones from the song Glorious by Paul Baloche. Even though I know he’s singing of Jesus’s tomb, my mind immediately went to Lazarus, given the opportunity to believe that God has placed before me and my family in this season. We were just reading the story yesterday.

“Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Jesus calls us, as He did Martha, to look beyond the tombstone. He calls us to praise, more and more. Even before the answer comes, even before we see that victory is on its way, we can be overwhelmed by the reality of all that God is and all that He’s done. We can proclaim His saving power and call others to praise with us.

Freedom Friday: Totally Surrendered

I mentioned last week I’ll be starting a series on Jesus, what He said, why He came, and what He asks of us.

When people ask me the key to learning to walk in freedom, I answer without pausing:

It’s total surrender.

“He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39 (NASB)

Yet my heart aches. I see so little surrender in the people around me.

I became a Christian in college. So did many of my friends. We attended campus ministry together.

Mike O, my spiritual mentor, and myself (looking rather zombie-like)

The campus ministry I’ve been part of has a strong emphasis on sharing Jesus with the world. And thus, many of my friends and me left college, ready to take on the world for Christ!

Or so we thought.

A good number of these people are no longer even following Jesus.

Some of those that do follow Jesus live a pretty standard American life. Some attend church regularly, some give financially, some are involved in humanitarian and/or evangelistic efforts.

But not many.

I’ve found myself wondering, Why? What changed?

I need to first look at myself.

While I’d like to believe that I live a totally surrendered life, I am self-aware enough to know I have plenty of blind spots.

Self-reliance is always a challenge for me. So is pride. We want what Jesus has to offer. We also want the Christian life to come easily, without sacrifice on our part. We don’t really want to do what Jesus requires of us in order to live the life He desires us to live.

What does Jesus require of us?

A lot. More than we care to admit.

Did you ever notice that Jesus would often try and talk people out of following Him? He said this, as recorded in the gospel of Luke, chapter 14:

If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.

But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.

Does that sound like the gospel of today? Where is total surrender spoken of today?

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31, 32 NLT)

As I found myself heartbroken over a recent conversation with a friend, I had to stop and pray, Let it begin with me, Lord. Break my self-reliance and my pride. Strip me of the things I cling to that keep me from living a fully surrendered life. All I want is all You have, Jesus.

Let the truth set me free, Jesus, by empowering me to being faithful to Your teachings. Let Your words sink so deeply into my heart that a totally surrendered life naturally flows out of me.

Let it begin with me, Lord.

Monday Morning Meditation: Never Alone (Psalm 71 series)

We are continuing the series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here.

Verses 10-13:

For my enemies are whispering against me.
They are plotting together to kill me.
They say, “God has abandoned him.
Let’s go and get him, for there is no one to help him now.”
O God, don’t stay away. My God, please hurry to help me.
Bring disgrace and destruction on those who accuse me.
May humiliation and shame cover those who want to harm me.

We all have enemies. We all have critics.

We all have people who are waiting for us to fail.

I think about this in my own life and ministry. There are plenty of people who would love to see me fall.

Life, circumstances, Satan – they all provide opportunities for our faith to be tested. Will we deny or abandon God when things get hard?

Will we declare that God has abandoned us, as David’s enemies did?

Though we may at times feel as if God is far off, that He’s forgotten about us, we must continue to declare that God is our hope, just as David does throughout this psalm. We must continue, like the persistent widow, to call on God to rescue and save us.

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

God is close to the brokenhearted.

When the critics come to tempt us to doubt, when Satan comes to speak lies to us, we must hold tight to God’s promises – He will be our strength, our sustainer, our rescuer. We are never alone.

Freedom Friday: Why Jesus Said He Came

I’ll be starting a series on Jesus, what He said, why He came, and what He asks of us.

A few months ago, I began to wonder: why did Jesus say He came? We often say, “Jesus came to….,” but I wanted to research Jesus’s own words about His purpose in coming.

Here’s what He has to say. I believe all references are NIV1984.

“I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:13

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, 
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’” Matthew 10:34-36

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

“Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.” Mark 1:38-39

“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ Mark 2:17

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:32

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 12:49-53

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” John 6:38

Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.'” John 9:39

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” John 12:46-47

’“You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’” John 18:37

This is not your typical Freedom Friday in that I’m not going to tell you about my life and experiences. I’m also not sharing my thoughts on these verses. Rather, I encourage you to really read and dig in to these verses. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead as you learn about Jesus and His purpose for coming to earth.

Monday Morning Meditation: What Am I Living For? (Psalm 71 Series)

We are continuing the series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here.

My life is an example to many,
because you have been my strength and protection.
That is why I can never stop praising you; I declare your glory all day long.
And now, in my old age, don’t set me aside.
Don’t abandon me when my strength is failing.

Imagine yourself a decade from now, or 4 decades.

What will others say about your life?

Oh, Lord, please let my life reflect a deep knowledge of You as strength and protector.

Richard Wurmbrand spent 14 years in Romanian prisons because he told people about Jesus. In 1964, he received amnesty at the price of $10,000 and became the voice for the persecuted church, founding the ministry that is today called Voice of the Martyrs.

I had the privilege of attending college with his grandson and heard firsthand stories of the man’s life.

Richard Wurmbrand passed away in 2001 at the age of 92. His death inspired me to write a song entitled What am I living for? The song questioned how I will be remembered when I’m gone. What kind of legacy will I leave? Will I have lived a life pleasing to God? Will they remember me because I declared God’s glory all day long?

David’s reliance on God was a cause for praise; it inspired him to declare God’s glory.

Lord, may I declare Your glory because You are sustainer. Help me to run the race marked out for me with the end in mind.

I will end with the lyrics to the song I wrote in Richard Wurmbrand’s memory.

What am I living for?
Will they remember me when I’m gone?
What will I leave behind me?
What will I leave behind me?

How far will I go to speak Your name?
Will I do what You ask of me?
Will I do what You ask of me?

Can these sinful lips testify of You?
Can this wretched life glorify You?
What am I living for?
What am I living for?
What am I living for?

Will I give it all to follow You?
What can I do to please You?
What can I do to please You?

Let these sinful lips testify of You
Use this wretched life to glorify You
What am I living for?
What am I living for?
What am I living for?

© 2001 Unveiled Faces Music

Freedom Friday: Faithless

After a long, challenging week, this is all I have to offer tonight.

As I got on my knees tonight to pray, all I could utter is, “You are good. I am not. Filthy rags, God, filthy rags.”

And yet we have this promise.

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13 (NASB)

It’s what I cling to.

I pray it is sustenance and life to you tonight.