A crowded Mess

In preparation for Easter, I’ve been reading through the Gospel of Luke. Slowly. Reading a chapter a day. Reading the chapter over and over and over. Out loud and to myself. Certain things pop out, certain stories hit deep. One in particular struck a chord with me. Luke 8:43-48. Just 5 verses but it’s a powerful story.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him… We’ll come back to this in a second, but just put yourself in each person’s shoes, Jesus…the disciples…a person in the crowd. What do you hear? Are your feet getting stepped on? Imagine the heat, with all the bodies and then the hot temperatures. People pushing and shoving, standing up on tip toes trying to catch a glimpse of Jesus.

Let’s continue… And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately the bleeding stopped. 

When someone had a chronic illness like the bleeding, they were outcasts. She spent 12 years alone. Completely alone. Her only human interaction was with doctors who again and again just shook their head and said “sorry, we can’t fix this.” Let’s rewind 12 years of your life, for example,  I was eleven years old.  Now think over the last 12 years and take out every person, every social event, every positive interaction with a human being. This was what the woman’s life was like.  This woman had had zero positive interactions with humans for 12 whole years. Then she catches wind of a guy, people aren’t quite sure who he is, but he’s performing miracles.  And that’s exactly what she needed.  So she decides to go find Jesus, and notices a huge crowd. She was already well adjusted to being ignored in crowds,  accustomed to being pushed and shoved aside, she would surely be able to squeeze through the people unnoticed. She just had to touch him, maybe even just his cloak, and she could be healed.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

Got to love Peter. “Um Jesus, YOU’RE LITERALLY SURROUNDED BY PEOPLE. So of course people are going to touch you.” But no, Jesus knew the difference. He had been in crowds before. There’s a difference between an accidental bump into someone, and someone intentionally reaching out and touching you. Did he hear her thoughts? Did her heart cries of desperation scream louder than the noise of the crowd?  When Jesus said those words, did the crowd get quiet and start looking around? We don’t know why every person in the crowd was there, maybe they were just looking to see what the buzz was about. I’d say a majority of them weren’t suffering from a bleeding that wouldn’t stop, that had left them outcast, alone and without hope. So they just shuffled around Jesus, were content to be near Him. “I bumped into Jesus, but it wasn’t on purpose.” said someone in the crowd. No one owned up to touching Jesus until…

Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at His feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” 

I only tremble when I’m really frightened or really excited. I can imagine this woman was feeling both at the same time. Ecstatic that she had just been healed, but terrified even though she had been healed of her sickness, the emotional scars of being exiled still lingered What would they say? What would Jesus say? Her knees buckle and she falls near His feet. Did she look Him in the eyes or did she stare at the ground? The word “Daughter” soothed her lonely soul like aloe vera on a blistering sunburn. It had been years since she had been called any name, let alone, daughter.  As she stood there without family, Jesus  was sure to claim what was His, She was his daughter, a loved, cherished and precious human being. Her faith in Christ healed her. And she went in peace.

Questions:

  1. Is there a time in your life where you desperately reached out for Christ and He answered your cries?
  2. Is there a time in your life when you felt more like a person in the crowd in regards to your relationship with Christ, just shuffling around and accidentally bumping into HIm every now and then?
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Sunny days

Sonset

This was the sunset from my bathroom window.

John 8:12 popped into my head.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

What a reminder. What a comparison.

God is love. The Sun is a ball of fire.

God loves. The Sun shines.

*My actions do not effect the Sun. I can stay inside all day, I can be outside all the time. The Sun is going to shine nonetheless. The sun’s ability to shine or not shine has nothing to do with me, but without the Sun I would cease to exist.
God does not love us base on what we did. Your actions, your words, your sin is not a measuring stick for how much God loves you. His Love does not waver each day based on your performance. It is constant.  God is love. It’s what He does, It’s what He is.

*At night, I might not be able to see the Sun, but I know it’s still there because I am alive. Without the sun and it’s heat, we die.
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed: by darkness, sin, circumstance, addiction, lust, depression. He is our hope and he is our Comfort through the night.  His comfort is like the warmth of the Sun. You can not see warmth, but you can feel it.

*The sun does not make darkness. Darkness is the absence of the sun.
God does not create evil, or make bad things happen. He cannot make evil anymore than the Sun can make darkness. He is the Author of all life, and all good things. Darkness is the absence of God.

I heard this song recently, True Love by Phil Wickham, and the song starts out with:

“Come close, listen to the story about a love more faithful than the morning.”

I was confused at first, how could God’s love be more faithful than the morning? and then it hit me, one day the sun won’t rise, the morning won’t come, but God’s love will still remain.

thankful for the sun, even more thankful for the Son.

-Marlie

jeremiah 29:11, romans 8:28, philippians 4:13 all walk into a bar….

“the B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book about me, I stand alone on 3 verses:  29:11, 8:28, 4:13” That’s how the song went, right? There’s a few Bible verses that sit together in a popular kids club and sip virgin martini’s together. They are popular, possibly overused, but popular nonetheless. Excluding John 3:16, the top 3 verses have been misinterpreted, misquoted, misused to be all about us. Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:13. God has plan for me, His plan works out well for us in the end, I can do all things through Christ.  Though this is all true, we’re taking God’s word and twisting it to fit our own agenda. Prime example, Psalm 46:10. A verse commonly used to calm the worriers among us. “Be still and know that I am God,” It is important to be still, and to acknowledge God as Ruler over our lives. But did You know the verse doesn’t end there right? The rest of v. 10:  “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Doesn’t fit so well on the card with a butterfly on it. So, You mean, God get’s the praise in the end? You mean, life really isn’t about me? Exactly.

Let’s keep reading.

Jeremiah 29:11:

 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah is writing a letter to people who have been exiled by God to Babylon. Just before verse 11, God says they are going to be exiles for 70 years. 70 YEARS! Skip verse 11. Verse 12 refers to those 70 years in exile. God says to them while in exile “ In those days when you pray, I will listen.” Followed by verse 13: “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”  In those days of exile, I’ll hear you, look for me and you will find me. How fantastic is that promise. The God of the universe is listening, and can be found when we seek him! 

Isn’t that the purpose of our lives? To know Christ intimately? I fear so many miss out on this hope because we are in verse 11 mindset. Waiting for God to make everything work out for own good (more on that verse next week.) We start talking, “Alright God, what are you doing for me? Make my life awesome, alright? You promised remember? Good ole Jeremiah 29:11?” I remember being a young teenager, and hearing this verse and grabbing hold of it. And it’s a great verse to grip on to, but it can lead to some big frustrations.  I spent a long time waiting for this “plan for good” to come but instead, disaster frequently surrounded me. I got bitter at God, doubted Him because life was supposed to be good! The bible said so! But you see, I was using this one verse (out of context, i might add) and using it to promote my own agenda. God is going to give me an awesome future (i.e. a great writing gig, hundreds of followers on my blog, a husband 2.5 kids, 3 cats, a ranch, financial stability forever and ever the end.) Or whatever your dream future is. It might not look like mine, but man, we should NOT hold this verse up to God as a “get out of life trials” card.

In the same way, I fear many of us read this verse and take our 20-60 years of life experience and define the word “good” much differently than the God who has always been good, is good and will always be good. It’s a failed comparison, but it is similar to a child who thinks eating all of his Halloween candy in one night is good. The father would say no, and the child might feel frustrated: “You don’t love me!” He might retort. “If you loved me, you would give me what I want!!” However, the child has no idea that the candy he wants to scarf down in a few hours will lead to stomach aches. However, the father knows that that would not end well at all for his son. Because the father loves the son, he says no to him. We want worldly good things to happen to us all the time, yet God knows that will only lead us to sick stomachs and an empty bag. So He says no to us as well.
So if that part of the verse “future and hope” doesn’t mean God’s going to fulfill our own agenda. What does it mean?  Well let’s look,  how does God give the exiles a future and a hope? Right after verse 11,  He reconciles them with Himself. He gives them Himself. HE is our future, and our hope. He is better than any record deal, any cash amount, any dream job or career. At funerals, when people are speaking about the person who died, what are they saying? “Oh man,  I miss John’s stuff. He always bought me stuff.” No, they are sharing memories, priceless memories.  Likewise,  are we focused more on God’s gifts, rather than the gift giver, Himself?

Is Jeremiah 29:11 bad? No. Is God bad? No. Are we selfish people often in pursuit of personal gain and when we read scripture we sometimes adapt it to our own agenda instead of God’s agenda? Yes. I don’t want you to miss this: read Jeremiah 29:11, but don’t stop there. Read Philippians 4:13, but don’t stop there. Read Romans 8:28 but don’t stop there. As you seek the Lord, you might find that your personal agenda, falls to the back burner as God’s agenda takes a hold of your life. There so much more to a relationship with God than church on Easter, Christmas eve and occasional Sundays. Experience Him. Get to know Him by reading His word. Talk with Him. Seek Him, wholeheartedly, and you will find Him.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:12-13

 

 

But really, why?

It’s a New Year and many Christians will download the “Bible in a year” app on their phone with the thoughts of “Yes, this year I will read through the Bible. I will!” And then, if you’re like me, you do so well for a month and by February you forget a couple days and then decide you’re too far behind and will try again next year. I heard a sermon last Sunday all about the importance of reading your bible. I’ve heard it all before yet why do I still struggle to get in the word every day. It’s like Paul said: I don’t do the things I know I should and I do the things I know I shouldn’t do. (my own words) I know I should be reading the bible but I don’t. Instead, I read the whole Hunger games series in a week, or watch episode after episode of New girl. Or spend hours on youtube. I know I shouldn’t be spending so much time doing those things, but I do. So the question I am asking myself and am going to answer honestly is: Why? Why don’t I read the Bible?

I came up with several reasons why.  And maybe you can relate to a few.

I’m very emotionally-driven and so when I sit down and read the Bible I feel like there’s something wrong with me or my relationship with God if I’m not having this big emotional moment like so many Christians talk about. I’ve heard friends come up to me and say “Ya know Marlie, I was reading this passage yesterday and man God just flooded me with a peace and love.” Well, that’s great. But now I have this expectation that if I read that same passage, I too must be flooded with the same emotions.    It’s similar to the feeling of shame you get when you’re watching a movie and you know you should be crying because it’s sad. And all your friends told you they cried when they watched it. But, You watch it, don’t cry, and your friends ask you later about it and you lie and say “OH YEAH i WAS A WRECK. A BALL OF TEARS MAN.” Cause we didn’t want to be labeled as “cruel” or “heartless” or have someone ask us if we had seen what had happened. 

I’m scared to sit in silence or meditate on God’s word because I’m scared He won’t speak to me or that He will and I’ll miss it. I’m scared I’ll walk away from an experience with way more questions than answers. The world makes thing simple: love your friends, hate your enemies, be happy and be successful. Just basically do you cause you deserve it. You open up the Bible because you’re stuck in a tough situation with a friend and you realize that following Christ means forgiving that person, praying for them, loving them.  Cause let’s face it, following Christ is hard. Love our enemies? Pray for those who persecute us? All the while the Enemy and our sinful nature team up against us and tell us all sorts of lies. No, you deserve to be angry at that person. What they did was crossing the line. 

The world also makes things fast. I went through the drive-thru of a restaurant, it was lunch hour so there were tons of people. I ordered, paid and got my food in less than two minutes. It was almost creepy how fast it was. We’re all obsessed with our own schedules and we hate when something is late. Sometimes I find myself treating God the same way. “Oh hey God, I’m going to give you this 5-10 minutes to speak to me via my time in the Word, prayer or in meditation. So speak now or forever hold your peace.” And it’s wrong, so wrong for me to expect God to work in my time-frame. It leads to so much uneasiness on my part when He doesn’t speak in the timeframe I give him. The enemy has a field day in those moments when God (from my perspective) is not speaking.

And finally, I struggle with the why.     Why do we read the Bible? I know it’s God’s word. I believe that. Do we read it to better know God? To better understand His story? To change ourselves? To make ourselves feel better? I was pretty scarred once at a bible study when someone said something along the lines of only selfish terrible people look for comfort in the bible. it’s not about us.  the bible is only so we can know God better.  Do I believe what he said? Not at all. But does it still haunt me, yes.

These are some of the things that keep me from reading the Bible. Aside, from blatant rebellion, pride and laziness which I think are the more surface level issues. These are more of the issues that are beyond the surface. Hence the blog title. I long to be more honest and vulnerable because when you are, someone can say “Yeah, I feel that way too.” And suddenly, the shame and fear of being alone in a struggle is gone. My mom shared something with me on facebook today and I want to share it with you guys too.

“When we are going through difficulties and start to get discouraged, we often stop reading the Bible…and that is exactly what the enemy wants you to do. He wants you to lose hope and believe his lies that say God has abandoned you, that God doesn’t hear your prayers and that God doesn’t care about you. We are in spiritual battles and the Bible is the Sword of the Spirit…it is the offensive weapon we’ve been given to battle back against the doubts, fears and lies the enemy whispers to us. When you start to doubt God’s character and His promises, read your Bible. God’s word is truth and when you use it to fight back against anything that goes against what God has declared in His word, you will start to see mental and spiritual victories in your life.”–Debbie Kay