Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Love Story by Laurie Hills

I met a man who looked at me. No, he looked into me. He knew, and I knew that I had looked all my life for my real self, for fulfillment, and I was lost because I was out of looking places. His eyes were full of the kind of thing that melted my long since frozen soul. I even tentatively ventured to believe that this was actually the kind of thing people looked for when they said they were looking for love. When he finally spoke, I was eager for his words. He said, ‘I know who you were meant to be. Only give your permission and I will make it so.’ His eyes continued to hold mine like a vice. He had such drawing power and his proposal such promise, that every part of me wanted to shout, ‘Yes!’ Every part, that is, except the part of me that said, ‘Don’t kid yourself. It might work for someone else, this magic trick he has up his sleeve. But you know you well enough to know that you’re a jinx!

What was he doing to me with his eyes? He must know my thoughts, for as his gaze penetrated ever deeper into my relaxing soul; I felt the self-hatred trickling away. And I knew he didn’t consider me a jinx. I said with a freedom surprising to me, ‘Yes, yes, as soon as possible, but how can we manage this and how long will it take?’ Nagged by memories of old and not-so-old failures, I was totally unprepared for his answer. ‘It is done. The moment your heart assented, before you spoke a word, it was done. The emptiness of self has been replaced by my Life. I am the Source of Life. This is what you were always meant to be, a container for my Life.’

I was, of course, glad to know this, but I had expected a feeling of elation, or strength, or fulfillment. That’s what I had expected – a feeling of fulfillment. Oh, there would be no escaping this Life, for he was reading my thoughts again. ‘You are disappointed? You want a feeling as a sign that I’m here? My love, believe what I tell you. I have died and carried your empty self with me to that death so I could live my Life in you.’ I believed and thought about what my Beloved had said was truth. When I found that I couldn’t believe, I cried, ‘I do believe, but help thou mine unbelief!’ and that loved Life within gave peace.

Then one day the words He had told me to believe exploded into meaning. Things often happen that way these days, unplanned things. And I shouted, ‘He did save me from myself and He did put his own Life in its place.’ And I felt all the good emotions that I ever dreamed of feeling, and they were so strong that they demanded to be shared with friends who had tried to help me find who I was.

As the intimacy of this Good that had come began to grasp my consciousness, I said to my Beloved, ‘I must try to make myself look and act better because you are living in me. I will try to find ways.’ He was silent, and I was busy striving to improve the image I projected; for, after all, I was a Life carrier. My bearing must demonstrate my importance. I looked, I inquired, I tried, and I tired. I experimented and I failed and wondered why he was so silent. He should be helping me. After all, this was to show him how much I appreciated what He had done for me.

I remember those as joyless days. I was so busy outside trying to create ways to make him proud that He had chosen to live in me and let others see my high estate that I had had no time for enjoying him, as I had in the beginning. Life was becoming almost as it was before. One day I came rushing home with great and high expectations. I went flying to him, waving a paper with ten rules beautifully lettered. These, I had been told by a religious-looking man, if kept, would please any good man. He saw them and said quietly, ‘Will you keep them?’ ‘Yes! Said I, exhilarated at the thought of a good solid task to tackle. I memorized the rules first. They were simple. All that striving and here was the answer. Why hadn’t I run into that man before, and what did my Beloved mean, ‘Would I keep them?’ – just ten simple rules!! I had to skip the first one since it wasn’t as solid as I had thought. I simply didn’t know whether I had any other gods before him. Sometimes I couldn’t be sure I wasn’t my own god. I had similar problems with the others. Why was life becoming so complicated and unfulfilled again?

I went to him. ‘I’m a failure. I promised I’d keep those ten rules; I can’t keep one.’

His answer, ‘No one ever has, except me. My Life being lived in you fulfills them all.’

Hurt and pouting, I said, ‘Is there nothing I can do to please you?

‘Are you through trying, beloved? He asked.

I sank down before him with a weary nod of assent. ‘Then I’m pleased,’ he said. As if he had kept me off balance long enough, he hastened to answer my quizzical look with, ‘When my love for you prompted me to die for you, I took everything of you with me into death. When we resumed life again, the burden was gone. I have made you pleasing to me. You had to do nothing but want me – for me to live in you. Now I have waited for you to want me to live though you. Do you want me to?’

A trapped feeling began to grip me – almost a fear. Fear! Fear! In the face of such great love? What could I fear? Losing control? Maybe. Violation of my personhood? That’s a laugh. I was no person before he came, and I knew He was no violator. Was my fear that this couldn’t be for real? I blurted out, ‘You mean to tell me there is no price-tag attached to anything you do for me? Life’s not like that!!’

‘Death,’ came his cryptic answer.

My reeling thoughts scurried after the meaning. There it was! His was a life I couldn’t understand, because the life I had thought was life, was death. Staggering!! Out of this world!! Could I stand it, this Life? No more striving to be something, because another was already everything in me, through me? My competitive soul already suffered at this prospect.

I thought he must soon become impatient. He had asked that question so long ago and I had not answered. I looked and he seemed to have eternity to wait. But I didn’t ‘One more question. If I choose, could I now or ever escape your fearful love?’

‘You are sealed,’ he said with finality.

‘But if I can’t do anything!’

‘Ah, my love, you are my Life in the world. You may come begging for less action; and do? Have you forgotten the time you first knew I loved you? I did tell you one thing, but you found you needed me even to do that.’

Ruefully I thought, ‘How could I forget that struggle? It was a hard thing to believe when you wanted a feeling.’ Believe – yeah! It figures! A love that has done everything for me so he can be everything through me leaves nothing but to believe this preposterous presumptuous truth.

And then as if to mockingly tease a little, he said, ‘and the most presumptuous thing of all you may not believe for a little while. I’m preparing you to rule the universe with me through all eternity. Are you ready? Can you take the preparation?’ And then I remembered the night I asked Him to finish the sentence; but He had finished the sentence, hadn’t He?!! He is the only Person there is!

‘Ready? Oh, my God, you have made me ready. Take the preparation? You will take it in me. Who or what is there beside Thee?

(I first read this in a little free pamphlet. Since it was not copyrighted, I decided to share it here. I also found it on the web at I hope God uses it to speak to you like He did to me.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Humility, Hard Work, and Hanging On

Humility . . .
I thought that God led me to Advanced Excel to learn speaking, writing, and discipleship. In the five weeks that I was in Dallas, Texas, I found that humility was what God really had planned for me. But, of course, I learned humility in Dallas, so when I got home I could actually learn writing and discipleship. The truth is, I learned something about humility in Dallas, but God brought me home to turn up the heat.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5) YE CAN DO NOTHING.

"Nothing?" I think to myself, "I don't believe it. I do all sorts of things without Him. I will only ask for His help when I really need it; I do okay by myself most of the time."

Why do I think this way? Pride - "An unreasonable conceit of one's own superiority . . . which manifests itself in lofty airs, distance, reserve, and often in contempt of others." (Webster's 1828 Dictionary) Did Mr. Webster know me? When I look at this definition, I originally think that it does not apply to me. I do not put on lofty airs in my relationships with people, distance or reserve myself from them, or stand stand in contempt of them . . . not often anyway.

Then I look at my relationship with God. Every day, possibly every hour, I commit these sins against God. I put on lofty airs toward Him, using Him as a neat little tool to get fulfillment. I distance and reserve myself from Him, sometimes He is most important, sometimes He is not. Does not my neglect of Him show my contempt for Him?

He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to . . . walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8) Humility is: "Having a low opinion of one's self . . . before God." (Webster's 1828 Dictionary) Humility is not thinking that you are worth nothing; God says you were worth the death of His son. Humility is not low self-esteem, as the world sees it. A humble person does not feel sorry for himself. True humility is recognizing that apart from God I can do NOTHING, while I can do all things through Christ.

I always remember the part of the verse that says, "I can do all things" forgetting the qualifier, "through Christ." (Pilippians 4:13) I recently heard someone say, "God does not help those who help themselves; God helps those who humble themselves."

Hard Work . . .
I like to think of myself as an above average teenager, and an as-close-as-you-can-get-to-perfect Christian. (I am being really honest here.) I look around at other people, not usually specific people, just . . . you know . . . them. I come to the conclusion that I am a pretty mature person, and (I wish I were blushing) I cannot remember any real faults that I have.

I obey my parents. I do not put myself into compromising situations. I have pretty good relationships with my siblings. I reach out to other people. I plan on becoming a missionary . . . . I'll stop there before you grab your trash can and empty your upset stomach. I do know my major faults. I just hadn't had to deal with them lately. I wasn't in a situation that brought them to the light.

I procrastinate, and I am lazy. I can force myself to face anything that I fear, but I do not force myself to meet a deadline, or (the originality of the thought) get my work done ahead of time. These habits worked out okay for my first two AE assignments, but on the third, well, it didn't work out so well.

God brought it to a stop about as fast as my little brother stopped in front of me on his bike, right before I crashed into him. We will just say that only half my assignment was ready to be turned in on time, and half of that was only half way done. So much for my "very mature person" image.

Hanging On . . .
So what now? What have I learned? I'm afraid to tell you, lest you start looking for the fruit of it in my life. I am still in the very slow process of learning: that I cannot do anything, Any Thing, ANYTHING, without Jesus. He does not mind me asking for His help, but He really wants me to live in His help.

Jesus deserves everything I have got. I think of the movie Facing the Giants, when the coach tells the team, "At the end of this game, I want you to know that you left everything on the field." I want to come to the end of every day knowing that I left everything I had to give in that day. I want to be satisfied at the end of every hour that I had nothing left. I want to save no reserves for myself, but to spend it all on Jesus. I don't want to pace myself, I want to burn out for Him.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Learning From Jesus

Of the thirty-three years that Jesus lived on earth, He spent only three in public ministry. In those three years He placed His priority on twelve people, talking, teaching, explaining, and living love in front of them. Through these relationships the world has been changed. In the Great Commission Jesus commands us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . .” How then do we obey this command? He made Himself the example of how to make disciples, we must know Him to rightly obey His command.

All these principles flow from the first one; one must abide in God himself before he can disciple anyone else. Jesus’ priority was first, to abide in God. He spent time alone in prayer and fasting, focusing on His relationship with God. The Bible says, “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” (Mark 1:35) He said of Himself that He depended wholly on God, stating, “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me . . .” (John 8:28) If Jesus, the perfect one of God, did nothing of Himself, how much more important for us to do nothing of ourselves?

Although Jesus had many more than twelve disciples, the twelve were set apart, not by anything they did, but because Jesus chose them. The gospel of Mark says, “And when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.” (Mark 4:34) Even though Jesus was God, and He often ministered to the masses, there were only twelve that He was intimate with. He calls us to minister to everyone we come in contact with, but invest in the few that are near us.

Jesus invested Himself by spending time that others would have considered a waste. He spent time with publicans and sinners, eating meals with them. (Mark 2:16-17) As a ruler’s child lay dying, He stopped on His way to heal her, to identify and speak to a woman who was healed by touching His clothing. When others told Bartimaeus to leave Jesus alone, Jesus took time to speak to him and heal him. Mothers brought their children to Him and the disciples rebuked them, but Jesus took time to love them, “And He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them.” (Mar 10:16) He spent his time on people. Can we spend our time in a better way?

Jesus loved each person individually. Not the gushy feel-good emotion of love, but real, practical, deny-yourself-for-others love. He loved the disciples by choosing them, a bunch of nobodies. When the rich young ruler asked Him how to receive eternal life, Mark says, “Then Jesus beholding him loved him . . .” (Mark 10:21). Then Jesus spoke to his need.

Jesus always spoke the truth. Although many rejected it, He offered freedom by it. He spoke the truth to the Pharisees by telling them what hindered them from God, revealing their hypocrisy. He spoke the truth to His disciples, not suggesting He was offering the easy way, He plainly told them, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34) When we do less than speak the truth we hold back freedom from those who might accept it.

Jesus patiently interacted with all kinds of people. He was patient with the father doubting His ability to heal his son. In Mark 8:17-21 Jesus reminds His disciples of the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand and asks them if they do not understand. The truth is, they did not understand, but He did not give up on them. He kept patiently explaining. If Jesus was patient with people, how do we think in our pride, that we will be excused of our impatience? Is not Jesus patient with us?

Jesus taught creatively, drawing deep lessons out of life to explain to His disciples. He used word pictures, stories, and parables. If they did not understand, all they had to do was ask, and He would carefully explain the meaning. He used repetition too. Even when they could not understand in the moment, He assured that when the time came, they would remember what He taught them and they would understand.

Jesus also used discernment about what and how much to teach. He knew so much to give and explain, but they could understand little of what He taught them. He taught with patience and wisdom, just as God gently teaches us, not putting too much on us at once.

Jesus carefully showed us the way, but only those who look for it will find it. He does not command anything of us that He does not give the grace, and the direction to do it. We must first abide in God, just as He did, because He continues to disciple us as we obey and disciple others.