Ask. Day 41 of Lent. Thanks for Asking.

Ask. Day 41 of Lent. Thanks for Asking.

2 blind beggars

As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him. And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.

Matthew 20:29-34 is a layered story.
One that arrests you if you let it.

First of all, it’s about beggars – the pure ragamuffins among us, the poor in spirit and the actually poor of people, who are in need. Spiritually we need to never forget that is the blessed state we should migrate our minds back to as we seek to live humbly.
So we find two blind beggars, they’re sitting by the side of the road, and they find out that Jesus is coming their way, so they began shouting.

This is where it gets uncomfortable for a crowd. Especially a churchy kind of crowd who either are very concerned about not missing a word that Jesus would say or other churchy folks who just don’t like things out of the box and people misbehaving.
Well these two guys are yelling at the top of their lungs, trying to get noticed. This is what desperate people do. People who are at rock bottom and see a way out, they break the rules of society, they go anti-social and anti-politically correct and they don’t even know it and least of all care about it, because, ‘Hello!’ they are desperate.

Most of us self-sufficient strivers would be embarrassed by this display of neediness, and if we had kids with us, we’d pull them close and cover their curious eyes, if we were with friends we’d give each other the look as they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us.”

I was thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if someone in the crowd got it. If instead of shhhh-ing them they said, “Hey, come with me. This Jesus he can heal you and I’ll get you to him. Take me hand.”
But this crowd tried to shut them up and push them out. It’s uncomfortable to have desperate people screaming for help. It’s uncomfortable to have people with such obvious needs, being so obviously needy. And maybe this crowd had seen these guys for years and they’d given and given until they were annoyed. Who knows. But these desperate beggars, they got rowdy and shouted louder. I like these two ragamuffins. They know they have a need, a great need and a once in a life time opportunity.

And then we read two awesome words: Jesus stopped.

Then Jesus stopped and asked them a dangerous question. It was only the second time he’d ask this question. Earlier he’d ask James and John the same thing, when they were scheming and dreaming and fixated on being great and sitting to the left and the right of Him. (Mark 10:36) It shows me there is always an endless amount of layers in the Scripture, overlapping subtexts, from past to present, linking A to B and this person to that person, and one lesson to another. I’m sure this question re-asked, got James and John’s attention because it cuts to the very heart of the matter.

“What do you want Me to do for you?”

Do you ever get that one? The bold request to put your finger on it, exactly, what it is you want Jesus to do for you. To name it specifically. It’s a crazy intense kind of heart probing question. But these two guys knew exactly what they wanted, and it wasn’t all that spiritual. “Lord,” they said, “We want to see.”

Jesus felt compassion for them, touched their eyes, and suddenly they could see. They were delivered, “Made Well” and received their sight. Then they ‘followed him‘.

What exactly do you need from Jesus today?

Sometimes it makes my heart pound when I imagine Jesus asking me, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I think the question cuts through all the motives and the spiritual grandeur. It takes the wide and makes it impossible to fit into the narrowness of the request. It wants us to name it specifically, with honesty and authentically what we need.
And thinking it through I find I’m just as needy as these ragamuffin blind beggars and what I really need isn’t something Jesus wants me to whisper quietly to Him now. He wants me to be blessed and to have His divine favor rest upon me, so this poor in spirit Christian needs to open her hands and beg.

What?
I can hear it. I really just heard you say it or think it. Beg?

Yes.  Beg. It’s the spiritual word for people who realize their spiritual poverty. It’s the mature way the sanctified ‘Ask’. We get in the humble posture, we agree we can’t do this or get this need met on our own. We lift our empty uncapable hands out and up to God. And we beg, out loud, in fact loudly in this case would be from a pounding heart of a body that is suddenly urgent to express a need, a great need, feeling like this is a once in a life time opportunity to get that need met because we heard Jesus ask us the question, “What is it you want me to do?”

We need to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable with the fact that we need help.

Everybody is desperate to know that Jesus still stops for them.
Everybody is desperate and needy, especially the ones who look like they aren’t. Everybody has a need that Jesus wants us to express specifically.

Jesus ASKS “What is it you want me to do?”

Lord, we are the crowd who sometimes get in the way of the needy. We hush people up. Shame on us. Help us to love the ragamuffins, to be more comfortable with the uncomfortable, to lead people to you, not shut people down and keep them out.

We are also the beggar, poor in spirit, and how blessed to know that you stop, Jesus, you see us and Ask us what we need. Lord let us speak out loud our need. Let us shout it once we realize, let us beg you for it. And let us not forget the answer came with your infamous ‘follow me’.

Thanks so much for stopping to ask us, Jesus.

FORGIVENESS. Day 5 of lent. The Gospel of Grace.

#FORGIVENESS. Day 5 of #lent.

forgiveness

A definition for forgiveness could be — giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me. – Releasing your debt to me.

We forgive because we have been forgiven by God (Ephesians 4:32). We forgive in obedience to God (Matthew 6:14-15; Romans 12:18). We forgive so we won’t become bitter and defile those around us (Hebrews 12:14-15).
God is faithful to forgives us. 1 John 1:9
Robert Muller said, “To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love.” Today I connected God’s love to His forgiveness.  I rested in how much God loves me instead of how often I disappoint Him.
To lived loved we must be faithful to forgive our self as God has forgiven us.
This statement from Brennan Manning is one of my favorites

Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last “trick”, whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.

“But how?” we ask.

Then the voice says, “They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

There they are.

There we are – the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to faith.

My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.” ~Brennan Manning from the Ragamuffin Gospel

Fury. How do you imagine fury?

Fury. How do you imagine it?
It’s more than a movie or a book. It’s no myth.
God is furious in his longing for you. This active energy of saving us is His story of love in the story of your life.
Blessed are you sinner so beloved. He is jealous for you.
With great fury.

fury with how do you imagine it

How do you imagine Fury?

To David Ayer it is a Sherman tank that Brad Pitt’s character, Wardaddy, commands in the final push into the European Theatre during World War II in the movie Fury. “Outnumbered and outgunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.” Ayer imagines Fury as a war that never ends quietly.  So is fury that quality of honor and courage that is produced in battle?

In Greek and Roman mythology, the Furies were female spirits of justice and vengeance who punished their victims by driving them mad. These angry ones appeared as storm clouds or swarms of insects when the three foul-smelling sisters weren’t dressed as hags. They pursued people who had murdered family members, their fury besot to banish injustice. Perhaps in another story they preyed on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It’s this character that famously informs us in his guilty unrest that, “Life’s … a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” But Faulkner took that ‘nothing’ line and made it into something. He said in his speech upon being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for “The Sound and the Fury” that people must write about things that come from the heart, “universal truths.” Otherwise they signify nothing. So fury is then, something telling to be penned into story and sang in a ballad.

It was Rich Mullins in his song The Love of God, who first had me meditating on the fact that Fury could be linked to love when he sang of the ‘wideness in God’s mercy.’ And recently David Crowder sang the words, “He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy,” Yes. Oh. How He Loves us. So. Oh…

God is Furious.
That’s how I imagine my Lord. And when I ascribe that attribute to God most people will immediately misunderstand me to be saying God is extremely angry. You link fury to wrath which evokes fear of a coming punishment because deep down we sinners all know we deserve judgment. So a God of fury has made you frown and shake your head. It’s definitely not the attribute you would lift your hands up and rehearse with awed applause in worship. “God you are furious!”

Instead you would choose another attribute from the list He has given to describe Himself. You would humbly whisper, “God is God.” Meditate on, “God is Spirit.” Teach, “God is Light.” Believe, “God is Love.” And then confess, “God is a Consuming Fire, a jealous God.”
And from that very revelation we discover the meaning of Furious morphs. The mere emotion becomes a visual.

We imagine fire.
And you’re back to fear, equating fire to heat, something that could hurt you, and the spiritual are thinking consuming fire-ah, the suffering of the sanctification process when the dross is removed, and others are just hell-bent on imaging fury with punishment.
Read on. I pray.
Begin to imagine energy instead of anger. “The fury of a gathering storm,” is how the Oxford Dictionary of Current English discusses the energy displayed in a natural phenomenon or in someone’s actions.

See this furious God as a gathering storm of energy and action. A marvelous, mysterious, endless energy. A holy pursuing wind. With no beginning and no ending yet intentional in direction. Just step out and face a storm. Feel its strength as it passes over you and moves. Sense its power. Be in awe and humbly understand your human frailty. Realize perhaps that’s why a storm moves in, to give us an occasional object lesson ‘to cease striving and know that I am God.’ A furious active living God who is endlessly pursuing us with a gathering storm of energy. Energy that is enormous in vitality and strength in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus is furious.
And I’m not referring to the two times he turned over tables and drove the self-righteous out of the Temple with whips. Christ is a gathering storm of energy and action. Watch him move to heal the leper. Hear him woo the woman at the well. Taste his wine and eat his bread given to you. Feel him lifting your face up to live forgiven. He engages every sense in His pursuit of us. Isn’t there even a smell of home, and it is named heaven when we come to know Christ.

Rich Mullins sang about
“the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.”
Reckless? You question.
How reckless for the Creator to give us free will.
Raging? You wonder.
What can separate us from the love of God.
Fury? You understand.
Is not what you imagined it to be.

Love? This kind of furious energetic love is foolish.
“L’amour de Dieu est folie!”
Brennan Manning used to cheer, “The love of God is folly.”
Foolish this fury, to love so much you would die for those who hate you. To the world it is foolishness, not to us Paul preached. This kind of love is powerful. This kind of furious love is enormous enough to take on the wrath of God we fear and bear it in his divine human body upon a cross that there might be atonement. Reconciliation. Union.

God is Furious in His longing for union with us. God longs to love. Seeks. Pursues. It was G.K. Chesterton who first described “the furious love of God” in Christ. This love by its nature seeks union. Father. Son. Holy Spirit. A trinity of three in one. United. To love. With a jealous longing. A furious energy and action in direct opposition to all evil.

Oh? You’ve nodded. Agreed, because I’m back in your comfort zone of linking fury to anger, you’re afraid—of punishment and judgment. And it’s safer to stand with the crowd far from the thundering mountain top of Sinai and tell ‘Moses’ to go on up and hear what God would say. Because that gathering storm of energy and action is scary after all. Smart people don’t face a storm for an object lesson, they take shelter and pray. They obey. All the time.

No we don’t.  We sin. It’s a serious problem. And sin makes us hide. We’re in the cover-up business, I can tell by your designer label.    No, not Michael Kors, I’m talking about Pride or Shame. You’re wearing one or the other. Transparent people are criticized a lot by the way. And judged, another thing we never do, to anyone’s face. We just gossip. A lot. Check your iPhone if you don’t believe me. Or your Facebook. Is everyone’s life really that perfect. Opps, I’m judging. Where were we? Gossiping, yes. And God says He hates gossiping. So we’re also hiding. Yes, sinners hide.

And this furious God asks, “Why are you hiding?”

The proud answer behind their religious masks, “I am not hiding.”  Shame answers with a rebellious tone, “You know why I’m hiding.”

And God steps closer. Holding out a nail scared hand with His invitation. “My beloved, I long for you to know me. Come then my beloved, my lovely one, come, to know me.”

But we’re so busy. Believing. What we think we know. That God might love us but he doesn’t like us. In fact, He might hate us, because we’re doing that thing, you know, that he hates. You are a gossip, remember? See, we get distracted so easily.

And deceived by the counterfeits. Disillusioned by our religion and destroyed in the crucible that is meant to show us that failure isn’t final, it’s just a test to show us what we don’t know about ourselves yet. We’re not as strong as we think we are—another Rich Mullins’ quote. And we’re more loved by God than we could ever imagine.

J.I. Packer said it this way, “What matters supremely is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it- the fact that He knows me. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst of me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me.”

God loves the worst of us. And He is jealous over us. With great Fury. He is provoked from his goodness to love His people and hate our sins, pursuing us with astounding means.  Pursuing us with this marvelous, mysterious, endless jealous energy until the great wrath that was against our sin turns ultimately upon its enemy in judgment.

Motivated by love, this energy and action of God’s furious love is in a battle against our enemy. Satan our ancient foe is also furious.  And very jealous of us. His rage is a fevered poison, a cruel venom of destructive lust. A counterfeit. For the jealousy of the devil is evil, to hate people and love their sins. To deceive, divide, destroy. To imprison with addictions and cause indifference with our habits. To make us want what we don’t need and need what we already have. Yes, universally we all want to be loved and we already are. God loves us. So our mind is a battleground.

And God is furious. Consumed with your salvation. He has come. Settled the sin problem just as He said He would. Given you a choice. To believe. You are known. The very worst about you is known by God. And you are still loved. Engraved into the palm of His hands and never out of God’s mind. And Love hates anything that would come against His beloved. He hates your pride. Your cover up. Your rebellious shame that won’t believe you are forgiven. He hates sin, and we should be afraid because God will judge it with the fierceness of His wrath.

Wrath is what Jesus saves us from. He doesn’t coddle the ragamuffins and say, “It’s alright sinner. Grace to you, I know you’re trying.” The ragamuffin knows the cost paid for the prodigal. He knows that fire is hot and God’s wrath is certain. Jesus sanctifying work isn’t weak or wishy washy. God is holy and He hates sin. Like a father hates a rattlesnake that threatens the safety and life of his child, He crushes its head to protect us. Christ loathes any evil that would pull people down to a godless eternity and it is this furious love for us that prompts God to hate sin with such a vengeance. The furious love of God longs for us to understand this truth. Sin separates us from God. And God in His fury sent Jesus to reconcile us back to Him. Atonement. Union. Peace. A battle fought and won. And the wooing of the Spirit says worship now.
God is furious in His love for you.

Oh.
Yes.
God is furious. How do you imagine it now?
Oh.
Yes.
With every sense.
Fury. It’s more than a movie or a book.
It’s no myth. It’s His story of love in the story of your life.
Blessed are you sinner so beloved. He is jealous for you.
With great fury.

fury is coming

The FURY Series by J.L. Kelly.
An Intense Epic Where Two Worlds Collide.
Despite the power of evil, FURY is coming. The great collision of opposing forces is made personal in this gripping story of the battlefield where both faith and courage must take their stand. And hope, the very fragrance that comes from the crucible of suffering, gives strength when God allows the unimaginable to happen or calls us to obey without exception.
The Fury Series is the parable of the counterfeit and the crucible.
Sometimes it takes a fire to remove the dross and sometimes it takes a war to make us understand peace.
Evil has held us all, but God is furious, pursuing us with great FURY in this gripping love story of rescue and redemption.
For those who long to break free.
For those who need to be reminded we weren’t created and saved just to survive.
For those in the battle who need to be encouraged by the Spirit’s victorious power.
For those who wait that long to know God remembers them.
The FURY Series is an intense and original perspective about the furious love of God.

FURY book one Available November 2014