The Hard Truth about Faith and Kingdom Living

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The sun came out and just like that, it was spring.

I’d been waiting. So long.

Winter always seems the hardest.

I was eating regularly and sleep was a priority and strength dripped life slowly back into these fragile, anemic bones…yet I still felt just that – fragile.

I usually loved clouds but there was no break in them for the sun and I was breaking deep in my own stormy mind. It kept hitting me fresh – my apathy in the face of Christ’s agony and here I was stuck face down in the mud of my own self-pity. Who was I anyway?

He was breaking me piece by piece and there were hard conversations and tear-smeared pillowcases but there was grace. Always grace.

Monday night bible study and Dawn’s sweet words like hope in my tired days. Giant plates of sushi and teasing laughter and good conversation. Americanos and finished homework. Long bike rides and hot baths.

Grace. Little tastes of Him in the everyday moments.

And it came late morning on a Thursday – after several early mornings of sleepy bible reading and seemingly unfruitful prayer time – like the breaking of clouds, like sunshine on cold pavement:

The spirit-fog lifted.

“You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 MSG)

It came back like an old, familiar friend – this focus, this urgency for the kingdom of God.

What have I been doing??

Comparing myself and my doubts and my failures to His holiness and perfection…and here it was in front of me the whole time:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8 NIV)

I wondered if I’d ever really learn that deep down.

But here He was reminding me again: It’s not about you! Silly you… It’s not about your life or your job or your future…it’s about ME. It’s about eternity and MY kingdom and how are you working towards that?

Um. Well…

It’s not about yesterday and how you’re not all you thought you’d be and how you’ve messed this up again…it’s about who you are in ME and how you let ME work in and shine through you right now in this moment.

Oh yeah…

Okay, God. Help my unbelief.

It’s time to put down the self-pity and self-condemnation. It’s time for purpose once more, for focus, for kingdom living.

Sunshine pored through the blinds, spilling across my desk and into my spirit. Warmth, like life in these bones.

So this is living now.

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The Hard Truth about Faith and Kingdom Living

This Is Salvation

I’ve been fascinated with him, ever since I picked up a book titled The Jesus I Never Knew. Philip Yancy writes frankly of his surprise at the contrast of the mild, almost timid Jesus he grew up being taught about to this suddenly bold, character who waltzed into the middle of comfortable Judaism, so sure of himself, arguably arrogant with his lofty claims, this daring rebel who defied tradition and spoke like he created the universe.

And it’s been argued for centuries who he really is – liar, lunatic, or the Lord he claimed to be.

Yet if he really was this – this person with the fullness of the mighty God all wrapped up in human flesh – what does this mean for us?

For the God of the universe to have visited this little planet…dare we grasp the gravity of its connotations?

Sometimes I forget. I walk blindly through my days, apathetic to the person of Jesus – who sweat agony in a silent garden – Very God humbled to submission. He took on all my guilt and shame and worries along with the rest of the worlds’ and how can I not fall humbled in adoration at the thought? I worry like it’s my right when the God of the universe suffered so deeply that I shouldn’t have to… I insist on carrying my own guilt like a punishment, on earning my way back into favor like His kind of love could possibly falter at a little thing like human weakness. He already knows. He knew in that moment when he felt every failure on his shoulders.

And he loved anyway. He died anyway.

Ann Voskamp once wrote of how we’re left wrung out when we try to climb rungs we weren’t meant to – as if we could reach God by our own efforts – because the task is kind of like dragging camel humps through needles’ eyes and we will never earn our way to goodness or happiness or fulfillment. Yet still we insist on trying. And God watches us with gentle eyes, always waited for us to give up – and give in to the Love that closes the distance between the weary heart and His own.

So I read this Jesus the Messiah: a Survey of the Life of Christ and even the tedious details cannot hide the wonder of a God who gave up splendor for human brokenness to break through our thick-skinned apathy to him.

Because we had grown tough. Humanity swallowed centuries of disappointment and hearts swelled heavy with the burden of religion, of blind repetition to redeem their constant failures. Continuously reminded of their shortcomings, they grew so heavy – jaded. Distant from a God whom they could never reach.

I prayed like that for years – throwing my prayers upward, figuring most times they bounced off the ceiling, but if I was faithful enough, fervent enough, they would be just strong enough to touch the gates of heaven and bounce weakly into the throne room.

And it wasn’t until reading Brother Lawrence that I suddenly knew in my spirit He was here right in front of me and behind me and beside me and inside me and no matter how quietly I whispered to this God of mine, it was as loud as could be because He was here, leaning into every word.

And this God wore His heart on His sleeve for hundreds of years, aching deep at generation after generation of rejection yet ever patient, waiting for that perfect time to send His biggest gift. The one He’d been saving…anticipating since the first breaking off in the first garden. His presence in human form – Immanuel. So we could touch Him and hear Him and know Him. So He could dwell with us and in us. So we could once more be like Him.

This is Salvation.

And this is the truth our souls ache to seek out, to explore the mystery of this God who once limited Himself so there would be no limit to knowing Him.

This Is Salvation