Posts Tagged ‘Jesus

03
Mar
14

why Lent?

Growing up in a Baptist church, I don’t even think Lent was on the radar, at least not on my radar. Christmas and Easter were what we celebrated or at least what I remember anyway. We’d come to church on Easter wearing pastels and singing songs about Jesus being risen from the dead. But Lent? I didn’t even know what Lent meant.

I only started hearing about Lent a dozen or so years ago. We attended a church where people talked about what they were giving up for Lent. At first, I didn’t know what in the world they were talking about. After I learned a little more, Lent became a fun and interesting topic for discussion about what to give up. There was the usual giving up of broccoli or Brussel sprouts or something that you didn’t like or wouldn’t eat anyway. But some more serious Lent challenges, for some of us, were to give up chocolate or sugar or coffee. One year, I made my kids give up something. I used Lent as a bad parenting technique; it didn’t work out.  (Lent in My Belly Button)

I think rituals are important, but for a long time, I failed to realize what the real purpose of Lent was. It became about some kind of willpower, rather than any kind of Jesus significance.

But why give up anything for Lent? What actually is the significance? Why deprive myself for one minute when I don’t really have to? For me, it has become about the waiting, the anticipation of Jesus. I’ve noticed when I have fasted in the past, it’s at that moment when I don’t think I can stand it for one minute longer that that’s the moment when Jesus steps in, and He becomes my strength. All my self-reliance and thinking I have it figured out go out the window. And I lean in hard because I feel like my stomach will eat itself, and it’s at this point that I realize I have nothing in myself. I am physically and spiritually weak, and I really need Jesus. So that’s why I participate in Lent. It makes me realize my utter frailty, my utter lack of patience and self-control, and it makes me realize my need, my absolute dependence on God for food, for life, for everything.

About mid-February I start to think about Lent; I start thinking about what my give-up will be, not just to do something because that’s what you do. But how will I fast in anticipation of Jesus? What will help me see Him clearly and reveal my need for Him the most?

Last year, I cannot even remember what I gave up or even if I did in fact give up anything, but a friend challenged Jeff and me  to read the entire Bible during Lent. So that’s what I did. At first it was a challenge, but then it became something much, much more than that. Not to be overly dramatic, but it was life-changing for me. I felt like I ate His Word, and it became life and breath.  I absolutely could not wait to dig in and read each day, and I would go to bed in anticipation of what I would read and “see” the next day. I couldn’t wait to see how the Holy Spirit revealed Himself and how often He surprised me with His truth and love and hope in crazy kind of places (like Leviticus, and I kind of fell in love with Isaiah).

When I read in Psalm 19 how God’s Word renews our lives, makes the inexperienced wise, makes our hearts glad, makes our eyes light up, is more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey, I can say a resounding, “Yes, Yes, YES!” When I read the Bible like I would any other novel, I feel like I absorb it into the interior parts of my soul, my head, my heart. I feel it in my bones, and  it becomes a part of me.

I read somewhere (the internet) that Lent is 40 days long and used for prayer and fasting in the time before Easter, but the period between Ash Wednesday, which happens to be on Jeff’s birthday this year (March 5), and Easter (April 20) is 46 days long. So I’m excited to once again have the opportunity to read the Bible from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  This sounds daunting and overwhelming, and it is at times. But I believe the Holy Spirit teaches us all things, and I’m excited to not just know more but see Him and hear from Him in ways that I haven’t yet heard. So I’m almost a little giddy and ready to start today, but I wait. The waiting, the anticipation is good.

I’m not necessarily giving up anything for Lent, except maybe reading other books and giving up watching more DVDs than I really need to. But no matter what I do or don’t do for Lent or any other time, the focus must be Christ. (Heb. 12)

Because of the year that I tried to make my kids give up stuff, I decided that every one should choose their own Lent give-up. It just really works better that way. The stirrings of my heart or whatever you want to call them don’t seem to apply to others the same way they do to me, and I’ve come to realize that the Holy Spirit’s not usually talking to other people in the same way that He’s talking to me. And so I don’t get caught up with pushing my own stuff on people. Not anymore. I trust God to lead me, as well as the people around me, in the places that He wants each of us to go. And that makes it so much more exciting to hear all the different ways that God wakes each one of us up to Him. 🙂

02
Mar
13

Knock, Knock! Who’s There?

When Moses received the Ten Commandments, the people of Israel were afraid to hear from God directly. They saw the smoking mountain, the thunder and lightning and stood far back even though Moses told them not to be afraid. God wanted to speak to them, but they were too afraid to hear what God had to say to them. “The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20)

In Deuteronomy 5, God said to Moses, ‘I have heard the words that these people have spoken to you.

Everything they have said is right. If only they had such a heart to fear Me and keep all My commands…’

Jesus says the same thing about the Pharisees in Matthew 15.

These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

Something’s up with some of us who call ourselves believers in our culture. Because we don’t really seem to be following the Christ I see in the Bible. And I don’t really think Jesus is talking about following Him by going to church every time the doors are open or even giving money or bringing someone to church every once in a while. These are small, insignificant things that don’t amount to much according to Jesus’ standards.

The Pharisees were doing a whole lot more than this in the New Testament, and Jesus and John called them a bunch of snakes. He knew their hearts; He knew their lives. In Matthew 7, the ones that Jesus says He doesn’t know and are cast out are the ones who prophesied and drove out demons and did  miracles in His name. And Jesus responds to them  ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me…’ I think His ideas for following Him are much, much higher, starting with listening to Him and then obeying.

In our American church culture, lives don’t seem to be changed by the power of God or His Word. Jesus cannot be treated as an add-on, something used to make lives easier, more comfortable, more enjoyable.  He is not here to fix us but to change us into a new creation, which is painful, and I don’t think people really want that Jesus. Following Him requires time and commitment and love, and we don’t seem to be in abundance of any of those things. The Israelites were afraid, but in our culture we’re not afraid; we’re just too busy, distracted, disobedient, self-centered and indifferent to follow Him. He talks about people like us in Mark 4. We’re the people represented by the seed sown among the thorny soil.

...these are the ones who hear the word, but the worries of this age, the seduction of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

And the unfruitful ones? What happens to them at the end of the age? They’re thrown out and destroyed. Even the ones who did all kinds of things in His name didn’t make the cut. Because Jesus said that you will know those who are His by their fruit.

So what do we do with this? How do we know if we are His and are producing good fruit, fruit that Jesus will recognize? In I John, disciples of Jesus are the ones who love Him, and you see the love they have for Him because they are keeping His commands (not man’s laws or standards, but God’s commands). We begin by loving the people around us.

Some say all the right words and do all the right things but  don’t really know Him, and He doesn’t know them. But there is hope; it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. He’s given us Himself and His Word. And as John and Jesus both said, Repent (turn from sin by the power of the Holy Spirit) and believe; become a true follower of His by listening to Him and by following His commands.

Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil (repent), humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you. (believe)

Although the road is narrow, and there are not many who choose to take that road, it is the way of life and truth and real meaning. But His way is also the way of the cross and death: death to self, death to the ways of the world, death to comfortable, safe lives. Jesus says, If you lose your life for my sake, then you will find it. But if you try to hang on to your life, that’s when you lose everything. There’s no middle ground here, no straddling the fence.

You’re either in the process of working out your own salvation with fear and trembling, or you’re not. (Philippians 2:12)  We’re all busy following something, someone. And we intently listen to the people we’re following; we follow them on Twitter, on Facebook, on any other social media we can get our hands on. But are you a true believer and follower of Jesus, or have you deceived yourself and don’t know His power or His Word? Are you following Him by listening to His Spirit, by reading His Word? And not books that people have written about Him. Jesus told the Sadducees, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

He loves us so much, not only in how He sent Jesus and the Holy Spirit to us,  but also in how He reveals Himself to us moment by moment as we open our hearts, hands and lives to receive Him.  We don’t want to be like the children of Israel who when God wanted to speak to them, they refused to come and listen but rather had someone else (Moses) tell them what God had said. We are deceived when we think we need someone to interpret God and the Bible for us, whether it’s a pastor, a Bible study teacher or Christian author.

The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things and is true… (I John 2)

We have the Creator of the world who longs to speak with us through His Word and through the Holy Spirit. We don’t go to the Bible to find more facts or knowledge or because we’re guilted into it. We go to the Bible so that He would reveal Himself to us in all His beauty and majesty and righteousness. We go to the Bible in order to follow Him in obedience and love.

Pray that He would give us wisdom and discernment and that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened. Pray for ears and hearts to listen to and long for what He is saying. Psalm 40:6 says, You open my ears to listen. And pray for the courage to follow Him in obedience to His Word and Spirit. He’s looking for followers. He’s looking for people who will listen and obey. It’s just that simple. The true worshipers worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

According to Hebrews 12, we no longer have to go to the smoking mountain like the children of Israel did. And God is no longer in the darkness. “Instead you have come to the city of the living God…to Jesus. Make sure that you do not reject the One who speaks…”

12
Jan
13

Who’s Willing to Carry You?

In Mark 2, Jesus taught at someone’s house, and the house was so packed with people that no one else could squeeze in to hear what Jesus was saying. Even the doorway was crowded with people. But there were four men that day on a mission. They knew they had to get their paralytic friend to Jesus because their friend needed what Jesus had. And so, these men figured out what they had to do in order to get this dependent, needy person to Jesus for healing, body and soul.

But it struck me, that there had to be four people who were not just willing to carry this man to Jesus, but people who cared enough about him not to be deterred in their mission and who also came up with a plan to get him in when it looked impossible. They could have gotten to the door of the house, realized there wasn’t any more room, especially room enough for a person lying on a stretcher, turned around and made their way back home. But they didn’t. They took the roof off of the house and lowered him down to Jesus. They did what it took. And seeing their faith, Jesus forgave the paralytic man’s sins, and then He healed his body. This man was healed because of their faith, their persistence, their love. They were willing to carry their friend to Jesus.

And the question I ask myself– Are there people willing to carry me? Are there people willing to carry you? I’ m not talking about family here. I’m talking about the people we’re in community with. That means that we have to allow people into our lives so that they can see our needs, and we also have to be willing to let these people help. This means putting away our independent, self-sufficient attitude and pride and allowing ourselves in humility to be loved, to be helped.

The paralytic’s problem was obvious. His friends knew what He needed. But do the people around me know what I need? Do yours know what you need? It’s hard asking for help when pride and fear of rejection get in the way, when we’re so afraid we might inconvenience someone, or that they might not want to really help but feel that they have to out of obligation or duty. It also means we have to reveal ourselves and open ourselves up to the people around us and identify our struggles. We have to admit weakness. And in doing that, we’re admitting that we don’t have it figured out.

The flip question can also be asked. Am I willing to carry others? Once again, this means that I have to be in community with people. I have to be close enough to see people’s needs and be involved in their lives. Not only so that I can know what the needs are, but also so that those people could feel the freedom to ask. I don’t know if the paralytic man asked his friends to take him to Jesus or if these men volunteered, but  Jesus recognized their faith and healed their friend.

In carrying their friend to Jesus, these men demonstrated sacrificial love. They bore his burden. We all need community that can help carry us to Jesus at times…to bear our burdens; we need those people to show up and love us the way Jesus would, not just in word or speech but in truth and action. (I John)

24
Dec
12

She Didn’t Even Hesitate

I don’t think Jesus calls us to live a comfortable life. I think He calls us to live the life He lived, an obedient life, one full of service and sacrifice. And Mary’s life was sacrificial and obedient from the beginning.

In one short meeting, the angel Gabriel told Mary that she, who had kept herself from being with a man before marriage, was going to have a baby. And her only question was, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

Denise Levertov says it best when she writes this about Mary,

                    She did not cry, ‘I cannot, I am not worthy,’

Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’

She did not submit with gritted teeth,

Raging, coerced.

Bravest of all humans,

Consent illumined her.

Mary clearly did not have a victim status. She did not rage and fling things across the room and worry about how everyone would think she’d already had already been unfaithful to Joseph. She did not seem to worry that there would be women whispering behind her back. She also did not seem to worry that Joseph would be angry and would think she’d been fooling around on him. As a young teenage, Jewish peasant girl, the repercussions of being pregnant out-of-wedlock were huge.

But Mary’s  immediate response, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”  And God graced her with Himself, because that’s what He does. And somehow, Mary saw beyond her confusion and her fear and realized how blessed she would be to carry her own Savior…Consent truly illumined her.

Many times, I think we have this unrealistic view of Jesus’ birth, and we sing cute little songs like the “Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy” while dancing around the room. Every Christmas we listen to Andrew Peterson’s CD “Behold the Lamb of God.” On it is a song entitled, “Labor of Love.” The song is a vivid picture of Mary giving birth. It’s not the cleaned up version of Mary having Jesus, but a rather authentic one, where there is pain and blood and neediness…but there is also God.

So, this Christmas season, as we celebrate Jesus’ birth, I’m also thanking Abba for that teenage girl and her brave response to an angel over 2,000 years ago, to give birth to Emmanuel…God with us…the Kingdom of God is truly here.

 

 

 

14
Dec
12

Walking With People Toward Jesus

And He began to send them out two by two… So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. (Mark 6)

This is what Jeff and I are called to do. We are being sent out to walk with people towards Jesus. We are doing discipleship with people, showing them how to repent and believe, urging them to listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling them they need to repent of and what He is telling them to do about it (not in a legalistic kind of way, but rather Holy Spirit-led, growth kind of way).  And this is done only in the context of community.

God has put us in community with other believers who are seeking Him. This happened almost overnight. He called us to take small steps, and we simply had to listen and obey. This was not easy. It felt like there was much opposition; there was fear and doubt and insecurity on my part, but we obeyed and put one foot in front of the other. And God is flinging His kingdom wide open here in Nashville. We are letting our light shine so that people will glorify God and the great things He has done in us and through us.

In the eight weeks since our community started, we have seen God’s Spirit break in, and there is life. Beautiful, abundant life. The people in our community are starting to really love each other, not just in word but also in action. And Jeff and I are committed to walk the journey out with these believers.

And this is just the beginning. God has put in our hearts to start these small communities of 20-50 people all over Nashville. One of the guys Jeff is doing discipleship with already wants to start one on his side of town. We are excited to be a part of God’s kingdom here in Nashville…we are simply blooming where we have been planted.

The word for what can happen in our culture with these small communities, focused on Jesus, loving each other and caring for one another, is virus. If people get a whiff of the life that happens when surrender occurs, following Jesus with other believers in these small communities could go viral here in our cities, states, country. This is the way it’s already happening all over the world. I’m humbled and grateful that He has called me to give my life for this.

He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.  (Mark 6)

Jeff and I are called to put on our walking shoes, take our walking stick and put on our jacket. But how does this translate in our culture? How do we “earn” a living doing this?

Simply put, God’s provision. The expectation is 100 percent on Him to show up to provide for our family’s needs. However, He uses His people to share their resources with those who are ministering, and as Paul urged the Philippians, he said it was to their benefit to share in the work of the ministry. I’m excited to see how God does this. Because this is not done out of duty or obligation but the Holy Spirit working and His people listening.

Our family is called to this. And everything else is a distraction. I feel an urgency to share our journey with others and see others grow up in Him. I am very much in process, but I know this–that Jesus and His kingdom are worth giving my life for.

Please pray that we would continue to stay grounded in God and the things of God, that we would have listening ears and receptive hearts, and that our community and the others that are started would bring glory to Him. And consider being a part of what God is calling us to do. We’d love to hear from you.

For the love of Christ compels us…that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (2 Cor 5)

Jeff and Kim Darnell, 1045 Fontaine Drive, Goodlettsville, TN 37072

lovegracepeace@gmail.com

31
Oct
12

Truth, Lies and Community

Last Friday, I wrote the first part of “Truth and Lies,” not realizing then that all of the lies had not yet been exposed. After I had finished writing, Jeff read my post, hugged me and said, “I had no idea you were struggling today.” And then I realized the other lie I had believed. I had refused to let anyone walk with me in my struggle. I had refused to let anyone pray for me, even my husband.

I was proud. Because I really thought that I was more mature, that I should be beyond all the fear and doubt and insecurity I was feeling. But I’m not, and I didn’t want to ask for help. I wanted to have the appearance of being fine when I really wasn’t.

So the enemy pounded and pounded. And I walked away battered and bruised.

But I have this community around me that I need to share my struggles with and not after the fact. I need to be prayed for right then and there in the midst of my struggle. But I think I heard and believed the lie that if I reached out and asked, then I was being clingy and needy, and so I did run to the Father, which was the right thing to do because “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” But I still needed the people around me to lift me up to Him. Because I also needed to know that I am not in this thing alone.

So I’m learning this interdependence, which can only happen in community, and this is hard because our culture teaches us from a young age to be independent and self-reliant, and that we don’t really need other people. We desperately want to look like we have it all together. But none of us do. So why do we isolate ourselves and allow the enemy this advantage?

For me, I don’t want to wear out my welcome…stay too long, talk too much. I don’t want to run the risk of being open and vulnerable and people turn it down or use it against me. I don’t want my heart to hurt because people don’t accept me for who I am.

But I have to take these risks. I have to be who Abba is creating me to be. And I have to trust that God’s grace will abound, even when the attacks and the wounds come. And they will.

But this is what I want. This is what I think God is calling me to. To live in real community where Jesus is the center, where the focus is not on me,  and the community is not there to make me feel better and affirm me. But we should be there to encourage each other, point each other to Christ (who can and does heal all things). We’re there to spur each other on to love and good works. And to focus on God’s kingdom and His righteousness.

When Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in jail for healing a girl who was demon possessed, they worshiped God together. They prayed and sang praises, and the prisoners listened. In this trial, God gave Paul and Silas each other to praise Him together, and the jailer and his household were saved.

But not only were the jailer’s family set free, the other prisoners listened…people are watching to see how believers are treating each other, how we love each other, how we worship God together in the midst of our difficulties and struggles. In Acts 2, “they ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.”

This kind of stuff happens in community. No doubt about it, we need each other, friends.

Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.

They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.(Ps. 34)

23
Apr
11

anything but good?

I cannot imagine what the Jesus followers felt at this point all those years ago…devastated, hopeless, filled with fear.

Their Teacher, the Savior of the world died and left them alone. He promised them life, and He Himself died, and not just died a normal death but a death that only criminals died, a heinous excruciating death.

This man forgave sins and raised people from the dead and opened blind eyes and fed thousands of people, but He couldn’t save Himself from death. How could they trust what He said?

They wasted three years of their lives following this man all over the countryside, listening to a bunch of crazy things He said.  And for what?  This? He was supposed to be mighty and powerful, and the night before His death, He washed their feet and told them to serve others. It didn’t make any sense.

He abandoned them. And what were they supposed to do? Wait to be arrested and killed because of Him?

This man, who called Himself the Son of God gave glimpses of hope to many, only to have that same hope dashed by His untimely death.

To his disciples, Good Friday was anything but good.

But to us, who now celebrate Jesus’ resurrection in Easter, we know Jesus’ brutal death was necessary to take away sin and death…it was necessary for freedom. And Jesus told His disciples these things, but they weren’t yet given the insight in order to be able to see it.

But don’t we act like those same disciples?

Jesus says over and over do not be afraid, and yet we cling to our fear. He says, don’t worry about the things that might happen to us or our kids or our parents or our money or our stuff, and all we are is a big bucket of worry.  We too, fail to see the bigger picture of what the Kingdom is all about.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.  Matthew 6

For me, Good Friday is a reminder of not only the suffering that took place for me…for all, but a reminder to trust in an Abba who is working out all things for the greater good that I often miss.  Just like the disciples, many times I don’t get what’s going on…not really. But I don’t have to.

Perplexed, but not in despair…not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do.

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace…The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. 2 Cor. 4

I want to be like those birds that Jesus talks about in Matthew 6, the ones that don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, not worried about the future…free and unfettered…careless in the care of God.




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