Is Jesus really better than anything this life offers?

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For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:25 NASB

My legs felt heavy as I climbed onto the strider. Fifteen minutes into a long block of cardio, I knew this was going to be a trying workout.  Coach Erin encouraged us by explaining how building endurance pays off.  ‘I know, I know. I can’t do this. Help me, Jesus!’  I pushed on.

That morning before my exercise class I had asked the Lord for a blog topic.  ‘What are you showing me today, Jesus, and how do you want me to present it?’

Jesus came through while I pushed myself harder on that cardio machine. Suddenly, the holy spirit reminded me of Jesus’ truth about giving up in order to receive.  

The remaining minutes on the strider passed more quickly as I fleshed out the connection between the spiritual and the physical.

How ironic, that to GAIN energy, you have to SPEND energy.  But it’s true.  Who ever feels like working out?  But we’re always glad when it’s over, right?  I always tend to feel stronger and more resilient after a workout. 

Maybe I can now look at Jesus’ teaching from this angle. If I want what Jesus offers, then I have to let go of what fills my hand.

Yesterday, something I read in John Eldredge’s new book, Resilient pulled me up short.  From page 197, “If you want to become a wholehearted person, you must reach the point where happily, lovingly, you give absolutely everything over to God. You make Jesus your everything, your all-in-all.  Not only is this the fulfillment of your heart’s created destiny, it is the source of all recovery and resilience.  Nothing can be taken from you because you’ve already surrendered everything.”

That last sentence stopped me cold. I knew, right away, that I have yet to surrender everything.  Like the biggies:

  • My and Mike’s health
  • The aging process
  • Our entire family’s well-being
  • Our money saved up for retirement (2 months away!)

This morning, I asked Jesus for help.  I wrote in my journal: “I want to give you everything, Jesus, so I can be empty of me.  I want what you offer to give me, to fill me.  I know in my head that your gifts will satisfy me far more than what I believe I have to hold on to. I give you these gifts of:

  • Writing
  • Language learning
  • Health
  • Fitness
  • A good marriage
  • Our families
  • Time and all our resources

As though to confirm this attitude, the Lord brought across my phone screen this George MacDonald quote:

“Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best. God finds it hard to give because he would give the best and man will not take it.

Father, help me, make me willing to empty my hands and receive your best.  Over and over again. Amen!

Hanging out with Jesus, permanently

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Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. John 15:4

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 1 John 4:13

But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
1 Corinthians 6:17

The New Testament has a lot to say about staying connected to Jesus. Our savior uses many images to communicate union with him.

Mentally, I understand what Jesus teaches. But living as though it is reality challenges me. The promise staggers the mind: ALL of God’s spiritual resources are available to the born-from-above Christian. We are promised protection, energy, wisdom, direction, understanding of heavenly things, love, hope, joy, strength and much else. To his small group of disciples, Jesus taught and re-taught connection with God using simple agricultural analogies, such as vines and branches, and being yoked with him.

To my relief, our Bible also records how often his guys forgot their master’s words and lived out of their own pathetic resources. Just as they did, I need help getting used to this offer of ongoing supernatural help. And I need to practice it. Or to put it in modern language, I need to bushwhack a new neural network in my brain. Over decades I have worn a deep rut that is easy to follow, that of depending on human strength and know-how.

Over the past two and half weeks, I have felt encouraged and emboldened to pick up my machete and forge a different pathway or neural network, one that I trust will become my default before too long.

I’m using a meditative app created by John Eldredge and his team. This is what it looks like.

If you put in the search bar of the app store ‘John Eldredge Pause’, you’ll see it. The app has some individual meditations, but I’ve been following the 30 Days to Resilient program. This morning (Day 16) the team talked much about staying connected and receiving from Jesus.

What has been hard up to now is that when we receive from Jesus, we don’t FEEL anything. To help myself, I jotted down some other ‘receivings’ that we probably don’t physically feel. These examples might not be perfect, but maybe one will spark a connection that helps.

Consider being hooked up to a dialysis machine. I did a little research and most sites said that if you are connected properly, you shouldn’t feel anything during the cleaning of your blood. This quote encouraged me:
“The best sign that you are getting good dialysis is that you feel well, look healthy and can do the things you want to do. With adequate dialysis, you should have a good appetite. When it’s time for your next treatment, you should feel like you don’t need it. This is the goal of dialysis.”

I thought of other illustrations:

  • A feeding tube
  • Blood transfusion
  • Oxygen masks
  • A wireless insulin pump
    I like this last one. A device is planted under your skin and administers insulin when your body needs it. I don’t know whether one FEELS the insulin entering his body, maybe not.

This is what our ongoing union with Jesus is like. We are permanently connected with our savior. Our challenge, especially in view of Satan, whose goal is to make us forget and FEEL alone without hope or help, is to RECALL our gifted and permanent connection with the Son of God. The passage way is always open for us to receive from Jesus, our vine.

It’s okay we don’t FEEL it physically. We have to SEE this pipeline with our new eyes, eyes of faith. Yes, we have new eyes, because we are new creations, grafted into Jesus and he into us.

Mike and I are facing difficult circumstances with his mom living on her own and far away. She is quickly fading physically and mentally, but what is MORE troubling is that she refuses to budge in her understanding of Christianity. She clings to the distortions she learned as a girl growing up catholic.

We need divine wisdom, guidance, financial resources and a host of other provision. All of which the Lord promises to provide. We just have to stay connected to our life-source and receive what he is ready to give.

Could Jesus’ yoke really be light?

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Of Benjamin he said, “The beloved of the LORD dwells in safety. The High God surrounds him all day long, and dwells between his shoulders.”  Deuteronomy 33:12 ESV

Picture a dad carrying his child on his shoulders.  How secure do you suppose that little one feels?

With the protection of his dad’s strong hands holding on to his legs, this child can relax and enjoy the view from up high.

This mental image came to mind as I read Moses’ prophecy over the tribe named Benjamin, those descendants of the patriarch’s youngest son.

Then followed the picture of ME as that child, holding on to her father’s head. Why of course Jesus is carrying me. And my security does not depend on me, Maria, holding tight to his hair or head. No, it is the Lord who grips my legs.

I mused for a while, letting the Spirit flesh out the picture even more. From this high vantage point close to his ears, I tell God my fears and I can hear his comforting reply. I see what he sees.  My little-kid street view is limited.  From the horizontal, I can see no way out of my problems.  But gazing out on the landscape from this height and watching personal and current events unfold, my perspective is worlds’ apart from what I have depended on all my life.

If Jesus is carrying me, then he also is bearing all my burdens. I can off-load them to him as they occur, describing them in detail. He easily hears me since I perch close to his ears.

Two other images of our burden-bearing God came to mind this morning:

  • Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7 NLT
  • Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is comfortable, and My burden is light. Matthew 11:29-30 NASB

A new good gift from God comes from a book I am reading called, Resilient. Daily, I’m being trained to give over all my anxieties to God.  Furthermore, I’m benefitting from an app created by John Eldredge and his team called the One Minute Pause app. Their 30-day program for how to receive resilience from God is changing how I react.

One of the truths that I have internalized is: “Jesus, I give everyONE and everyTHING to you, Lord.”

Doing that throughout my day is freeing up my mind and heart to listen and to receive God’s imparted strength.  Having off-loaded my racing thoughts about Mike’s upcoming retirement, the family members who need healing, friends weighed down by painful and troubling situations, I am sensing a new lightness.  This kind of ‘benevolent detachment’ frees me to be more present during my day.

This is a new practice, so I still catch myself falling back into trying to sort out situations on my own.  But the relapses don’t discourage me.  I FEEL a transformation.

Could it be that Jesus’ light yoke has as its goal simply to meet the day and do what is at hand? That’s my conclusion at this point.

Freed from worries, I open myself up to God, listening to the Spirit. I find myself expecting His resources to arrive on time.

I might be wrong, but I’m more than willing to practice this new release and receive rhythm.  All these verses are straight forward.  May we follow the simple meaning of the text, allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. God means us to be free.

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