Brokenness

  
There’s a beautiful story in the Bible about a woman who knew of what she had to offer Jesus despite her sinful nature. It reads:  

“While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table” (Matthew 26:6-7)

As you read chapter 26 of Matthew you discover that it becomes clear from this woman’s act that she felt distant from God, unclean, and possibly even worthless. Her act of pouring out expensive perfume, which caused controversy amongst the disciples, was done from a heart full of desperation and brokenness. This woman with the alabaster jar didn’t wait until she was clean or sinless to pour her perfume before Jesus. We can learn from her. When we feel so far, so distant, so astray, we can come and pour ourselves before Jesus. Often times we forget that it’s not about perfection to come to the feet of the Savior. It’s so much more about having a broken and contrite heart. “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalms 51:17).

How much we love and yearn for God in our hearts is far greater than reaching any level of perfection. It’s easy to get caught up in our flaws or imperfections and forget we have so much to offer. We fail to realize those are the areas God wants to use and will use; we fail to realize that even then we have something to offer. Because even when we are broken, we can still offer Him something great…brokenness. Our broken heart before God is the greatest thing we have to offer Him. In fact, He delights in it.

It was this woman’s act of pure love and brokenness, which got her near to Jesus. I can guarantee that it wasn’t until she offered all she had that she was cleansed and forgiven. This woman, though seemingly had nothing to offer, poured out what she did have: an alabaster jar and her heart; shattered and broken. That was her worship before Jesus’ feet, That was her offering. And as a result, that’s what led to her renewal and transformation.

The Better Part

  
I’ve always been a sucker for ice cream cake. Growing up every year, without fail, my family would get me a ‘Baskin Robin’s’ ice cream cake on my birthday. As soon as I blew out the candles, I would look at my mom and ask her to give me the corner piece. The corner pieces are my favorite. I feel like they have the most frosting and flavor. To me, the corner piece of an ice cream cake is the better part. Then there’s my sister, who when she grabs a piece of watermelon always wants, what she calls, the “end pieces.” My sister has some strange complex against seeds (even the small little white ones in watermelon) so she asks for her better part of the watermelon, which has little to no seeds of any kind. She’s a strange one, I know, but I digress. We all want “the better part.” Whether it’s cake or watermelon, certain seating, salary, or the new car, we always look to have the better part because it’s what we deem the appropriate thing for ourselves. But what happens when we don’t know what the better part is?

There’s a story found in Luke 10:38-42. It is about two sisters, named Martha and Mary, who opened up their home to Jesus. Mary decided to sit at the feet of Jesus listening to him speak, while Martha took on the preparations that had to be made for the special guest. At a glance it seems both sisters were each doing something important. Mary was listening to her Messiah and Martha was caught up serving for the special occasion. Martha though, felt that in that moment her contributions were “the better part” and decided to complain to Jesus. “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 

Earlier I asked what would happen if we don’t know what the better part is? You can always count on the Lord to tell you. He did with Martha. Jesus responded, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

The Lord’s response to Martha shows that Mary chose what is better. It seems a little unfair right? I mean who else was going to do the cooking and cleaning? Who was supposed to set the table? Yet the response is so clear, that sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him speak was the better part. How often does this happen in our chaotic lives? We are trying to juggle so much and all of it seems so important, but all along Jesus is like umm Hello I’m the better part, over here, pick me, pick me! You see Martha had every good intention in what she was doing, but even then the Lord was saying I’m the better part. No matter how important an activity may be, or how good it seems, if we use it as an excuse to hold God at a distance, we are not choosing the better part. Sometimes in our eagerness to serve Jesus, we almost miss the opportunity to know Jesus, just like Martha. Mary chose what was better and a promise was made to her as a result. You and I can follow in her footsteps

Unchanging and Never Ending Love 

  

  
We were raised with the belief that hard work pays off, and I guess for the mot part it’s not just a belief, but also a fact. In school the more you study the better grades you receive, at work the harder you work the more likelihood of a promotion you have. Though this belief may seem like a positive one, when we take this mentality and apply it to God it no longer is a fact nor has a positive connotation. You see the kingdom doesn’t work that way. The harder you work for God doesn’t increase His love towards you or even His blessings for you. There are certain qualities about God we cannot afford to forget; one is that God’s love for us is unconditional and two, God us unchangeable. Holding on to these qualities of God will prevent us from falling into the lie that the more we do for God, the more He will love us, or that God loves us less when we sin. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We didn’t do anything to earn God’s love; He just loved us from the start. The fact is if we all had to earn God’s love we would be in trouble. What can we possibly offer the God who spoke the world into existence? Nothing. Hebrews 13:8 say, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” This means if He loved us “while we were still sinners,” He will continue to love us through it all. This means that He has loved us with the same great love from the start of the Earth’s formation and any good deeds we have done since hasn’t made Him love us more, nor any bad things we have done made Him love us less. His love for us remains the same and God’s love for us has been at the max from the start. No one can ever love us more or the way God loves us. 
In this life we will fail constantly and often get tempted to give up because we don’t feel worthy. But though in this present life we will never reach perfection, God sees us flawless through the blood of Jesus Christ. No matter how little we accomplish or how grand, no matter how often or how big we falter, nothing can separate us from God nor make Him love us less. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). Because God’s word, which is truth, says nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, we shouldn’t fall into thinking we can earn God’s love or lose God’s love. Remember God’s love is unconditional and unchanging towards us! “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Beauty in Monday’s

There’s nothing like waking up Monday morning, after having an amazing night of worship to remind you of God’s grace. Mondays have been labeled so negatively for simply being the first day back at work or the first day of a long workweek ahead. Sometimes my life feels like I’ve been labeled as a Monday. I’m looked at in regards to all my flaws, perceived as someone whom nothing good can come of. Like Monday’s, we get so caught up in who we are not, that we fail to see the potential, we fail to see the blessings that come every Monday. I saw a quote once that read, “Mondays are the perfect day to correct last weeks mistakes.” What a beautiful way to think about a day that almost the entire world looks at pessimistically. What would be different in your life, if you looked at each day as God’s given opportunity to correct yesterday?

If you look hard enough there is something beautiful about Mondays. You’re probably the most refreshed you’ll be all week, you’ve been blessed with another week of work or school (this is a privilege believe it or not), and most importantly you get to start again, that is God’s grace at it’s fullest. Grace is God choosing to bless us rather than curse us, as our sin deserves. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” I love that this verse says, “They are new every morning.” This means it doesn’t matter what I did yesterday, today God’s love is fresh and new towards you and I.

Learning to see Mondays in a brighter light is much like learning to see ourselves the way God sees us. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Cor. 5:17 In some ways I think that’s why God created Mondays, to remind us we are always getting a fresh start in His eyes. To remind us that even when others around us see us through the Monday lens of negativity and burden, God sees us through the lens of Grace. Because we are in Christ, God sees Christ’s righteousness covering us. Let’s stop getting caught up in who we are not, in what Monday’s are not and remember we have been redeemed, the lamb has overcome once and for all!

God of Now

Have you ever heard the expression God is a God of now? With so many reasons to love our amazing God, do I dare say one of my favorite reasons is knowing He is the God on Now! This means God is existing in the Eternal Present Tense, He’s not an “I was” or a “will be,” but rather in Hebrew it says, “God is.” When we hold onto this truth, we realize that God’s love for us is NOW, His purpose for us is NOW, and His breakthroughs for us are NOW.

I know my last blog was about this tax collector named Zacchaeus who climbed a tree in order to get a better look of this man Jesus. In this blog I want to talk about the aftermath, when Jesus ordered Zacchaeus to come down. It’s important we look at the words Jesus used, he said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). The key word is “today.” Jesus didn’t want to meet with Zacchaeus the following day or on his next visit through town, he wanted to meet with Zacchaeus in that present moment. Jesus like God, or Jesus the Son of God, or Jesus, God in the flesh; however you want to word it, also was about the NOW. Jesus knew Zacchaeus needed a breakthrough and he wasn’t going to make him wait for it.

The next part of the story is my favorite. It seems kind of abrupt how all of a sudden Zacchaeus stands up and says, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8). But this verse is yet another indicator of how God is the God of Now. You see a lot of times we think it’s going to take months or years for God to change someone or even change ourselves, but our God of Now doesn’t need months or years for transformation. In fact it’s pretty clear that Zacchaeus received a breakthrough that entailed full transformation in the time span of one day! While everyone was still gossiping about Jesus going to the house of a sinner, Zacchaeus was already a new man.

You see what a beautiful thing it is to have a God of Now. We don’t need to wait for tomorrow to receive a breakthrough, transformation, or even love. God is right here, right now, willing to give us what we need. This mentality we have that it’s going to take forever to be forgiven or accepted by God needs to dissolve, because our God is now. Just like it took Zacchaeus one encounter with Jesus, all it takes for us is one encounter to never be the same again.

Get Off the Tree

There are so many stories in the bible and powerful verses, but for some reason I have always felt attachment to the story of Zacchaues the tax collector. Maybe it’s because I can relate to him, being short myself or because as a child I use to love climbing trees. I remember once I was on a family camping trip, at the time I was about 11 years old. I decided to climb a tree that looked as if it had specifically been grown for climbing. There were branches to hold onto and perfect spots for feet placement. Before I knew it, I was high up on the tree looking down at our camp sight. I could imagine how accomplished Zacchaues must have felt once he climbed the tree and was able to look down and see Jesus walking through. As quick as the thrill of having climbed the tree came, it went, when I realized I was going to have to climb down. Even as a fearless child sitting up on a tree, I knew climbing down would be more challenging and panic struck. To make a long story short, my dad ended up moving his truck closer to the tree and climbing it half way to guide me down (embarrassing I know).

What’s my point in this embarrassing anecdote and how does it relate to Zacchaues?

Many times, like this man, we are eager and hungry for God, to know more of Him. So we climb the tree (take the first steps) but then we stay there, at a distance. Zacchaues climbed the tree because he was curious, he had heard so much about this man Jesus, that he took a drastic measure to ensure he would catch a glimpse. I’m sure he never expected Jesus to spot him way up there on the tree, but that’s the thing about Jesus, when he sees we are hungry or maybe even just curious, he goes out of his way to draw near to us. James 4:8 says, “ Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

It doesn’t stop there though. When Jesus spotted Zacchaeus on the tree and told him to come down, it says, “so he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” That right there is the key to advancement in the kingdom. It requires an action and not just any action, but one that’s challenging and maybe a little bit scary…getting down from the tree. Many of us have been sitting, just hanging out on a tree for quite some time, watching Jesus from afar. In our hearts we long for more, but we have either gotten too comfortable on the tree or have grown fearful of coming down. Zacchaeus didn’t know Jesus personally, he didn’t know what to expect when he came down from the tree, but despite the unknown he was A) obedient B) willing. We can’t expect to grow in God or know God on a deeper level if we don’t get down from the tree. We certainly can’t expect to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives if we don’t get off the tree. Watching Jesus from a distance can only satisfy us for so long before something else come and distracts us. The signs, miracles, and wonders Jesus performed can’t only continue to be bible stories and church testimonies, they need to be alive and active inside of us and this can only occur when we decide to draw near to Jesus by climbing down the tree. Your breakthrough beings when you take the first step to get off the tree.

No Shortcuts in the Kingdom

“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” Exodus 13:17

If you’re like me, you like things quick and easy. In fact most of today’s modern inventions are made to quicken up the process of doing or making something. Cars were invented for faster transportation and when that wasn’t fast enough, then came freeways. We are constantly looking for the easy way, the shorter way, but in Exodus 13:17 it says “God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.” We can see that God deliberately choose to take the Israelites the longer way instead of the shorter way. It’s important to know that sometimes the long way is the right way even when our flesh and spirit desires the short way.

Everything God does has a purpose, for the Israelites the reason for the longer way was because God knew if they faced war, they would return back to Egypt. However, God’s purpose in taking them through the desert for 40 years didn’t stop there. During this long, agonizing journey at times, God was able to spiritually strengthen and prepare them for the entrance into the Holy Land. In other words it was a crucial process for the Israelites. The same goes for our lives. Sometimes the easy way won’t cut it for us because it won’t build our character or spiritually strengthen us the way God intends it to. It’s through these longer moments that we learn to trust God more.

Many times we argue with God, demanding to have things right away or questioning why things can’t just happen immediately. In our minds we say, well God since you can everything, why can’t you just make this happen for me now. There are no short cuts in the kingdom. That’s like Jesus asking The Father umm Hey Dad isn’t there an easier less painful way to do this? It sounds silly doesn’t it? Yet, that’s what we do whenever God wants to purposely take us through an extensive process, we get angry and impatient, failing to stop and ask God what He wants to teach us through this process. Romans 5:4 says, “And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” We need to trust that if God wanted the shorter way for us, He would lead us through it.

Letting Go to Hold on

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Think about this; sometimes God, (whose love for us is the greatest love out there) let’s us go. He doesn’t force us to do anything, but rather has given us free will. And no matter how much God wants us all for himself, there are moments when God deliberately lets go of us in sadness. Why would God let go of his children whom he loves so much? Sometimes God lets go to give us what WE want in order for us to realize, that in fact, it isn’t what we really want. It isn’t until God lets us go that we often learn who is the one most dear to us, God. “The Lord corrects the ones he loves” (Hebrews 12:6.) So yes, He lets us go; watches as we slowly dig ourselves into a hole, all the while sending out signals and warnings. But He doesn’t take a hold of us, until we decide and realize on our own that we truly want and need God!

Just as it hurts God to let us go, it hurts us to have to let go of the things and people we love. We’ve always been taught to hold onto the things and people we love most, but we fail to realize that sometimes letting go is the best thing we can do. In letting go of what we hold so dear, we allow God to take that place and take a hold of us. In life I have come to learn that letting go of something good for the sake of God means I get to hold on to something GREAT! When we choose not to let go of those things we hold so dearly, we are telling God He is not the most important in our life.

There’s a story in the bible about a man who tells Jesus he has kept all the commandments. The man asks Jesus,” What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:20-21). It says the young man heard this and went away sad. The moment it hurts us to give something up or it saddens us greatly, is when we can be sure that God is no longer the most important one in our lives. This is why God asks us to let go of certain things, in order to get our full attention back on Him. God doesn’t want to come in second place or have part of our hearts; He wants to be the pinnacle of our life. However, He can’t be our cornerstone when there are other things and people we are holding onto closer then Him. Matthew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” What are the things or people God is asking you to let go of? Remember we are blessed when we let go of what God asks us to, and it’s not until we let go of these things that He can embrace us.

Trust Without Borders

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I was listening to the song Oceans by Hillsong United while worshipping the other night. I have heard this song many times before, but that night the lines “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,” took a hold of me. Trusting God without borders? It’s easy to trust God when we have everything in line, when we have a career and plans for a future, but what happens to that trust when we don’t? We trust God when the money is flowing, and there’s a roof over our head, but where’s the trust when we take those things out of the equation? God confronted me hard that night. I claimed to trust God but in moments of thinking about my future, I was overcome with fear and loneliness. Often times, the trust I have for God is with borders and God grabbed my attention to tell me He wants to show me to trust Him without boarders. Trust like that of Noah when he was asked to build an Ark. Never having heard or seen of rain, he was obedient and trusting. Trust like Abraham, who though probably uncertain, walked to sacrifice his only son trusting God was in control.

Sometimes God will strip everything away so the only thing we have left to do is trust in him with all our hearts. Psalms 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (ESV.) Those chariots and horses are the things we tend to trust in more than God, but God wants us to be safe and secure in Him. Trusting in God is knowing we will never be alone because He is a faithful and loving God. Many times God will show us what real trust looks like by taking away the things or people we come to trust and rely on more than Him. Learning to trust God without borders is the hardest thing we may ever have to do, but when those thoughts of fear and loneliness come we must fix our eyes on Jesus. We fix our eyes on the One who loves us more than anyone in this world will ever love us. We fix our eyes on the One who gave His life for us and trust Him because we know without a doubt He will never let us down. As the scripture says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you,” (Psalms 56:3 ESV.)

So in those moments, when God strips us of our man made borders, and our self made security, our hearts must rejoices in the midst of the pain. We must hold on to His word that says in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (ESV.) If this is what it takes for us to draw closer to God, for us to trust God with all that we are, than we need to embrace it without complaint. Even when our hearts feel broken or fearful and our future is unclear we will trust in our everlasting rock. We will wake up every day declaring Psalms 52:8 “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever” (ESV.) After all, trusting in God’s steadfast love is the only really security we can ever have.

Complaint Leads to Defeat

Hebrews 12:3-4

Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;[a] then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

Growing up I was kind of obsessed with Winnie the Pooh; I loved all the characters except one, Eeyore. Eeyore was always moping around and complaining, even as a child I found him to be annoying. To give you a better idea (in case you never watched Winnie the Pooh) here is one of Eeyores famous lines: “End of the road. Nothing to do, and no hope of things getting better.” Where am I going with this you ask? God confronted me with the realization that so often I act just like this character. I complain and whine on a daily basis over small insignificant things and Jesus who died for me on the cross, not once complained despite all the suffering He endured. The problem with complaining, other then it showing a lack of gratitude for all God does, is that complaining leads to mental defeat. There is nothing we go through in life worth complaining about, when we bring to mind Jesus on the cross. You know the saying a positive attitude brings positive results? When we have a heart of thanksgiving, despite the million reasons we may think we have the right to complain, we aren’t giving the devil a chance. However, when we choose to complain, we open a door for the enemy to start making us want to give up. Even when the Christian walk gets tough I have to remember not once did Jesus complain or even question God, he simply did what the Father asked of Him. This is exactly what we need to do as followers of Jesus! We must continue on with our Christian walk without allowing complaint and defeat to attack our minds. We need to always remember what Jesus went through was far worse and he did it without a single moan, groan, or grumble. Isaiah 53: 7, He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, 
 so he did not open his mouth.” If Jesus had started to whine and complain, he could have ended up talking himself out of doing the Father’s will. The more he complained the more convinced he could have made himself to give up. Complaining makes the mind weary and that’s where defeat over powers our minds. This is why we need to always rejoice and be grateful, to always keep in mind the hostility Jesus endured, because this will keep our minds from defeat.