The ugly cookie…

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Seriously, in this season of baked goodness, there is one cookie that stands supreme in flavor, texture, and just plain down-home comfort food. But it earns no points for looks. Attempts to dress it up mess up the magic of its flavor. No sprinkled powdered sugar, no drizzly glaze, nothing works to make it pretty without also changing its very character.

It is plain. It is brown–not golden or khaki or taupe. Just the most basic paper-sack brown. And it is square–or rectangle if your knife tends to cut in uneven rows (all the knife’s fault!). It has a sprinkle of plain sugar, but just a small amount and it doesn’t help in the looks department. They don’t even have a cool name. Molasses bar. That’s it. No “snap” or “crackle” or “magic” in the name. Plain ol’ molasses in the shape of a bar.

But oh the taste. If you can close your eyes and smell it, warmth and holiday and comfort envelope your olfactory senses. And with first taste, addiction takes hold. If you bring them to a potluck (I did), they will not get eaten (they didn’t–even when people knew I baked them and I don’t bring duds to public). I had them at a gathering at my home and had to beg people to even try them. But once the first taste came, someone walked off with the tray into the other room. No more convincing, no more cajoling. Once the taste has been had, no additional words are needed.

And then there’s Jesus.

“…He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.” –Isaiah 53:2b, ESV

Yes, friends, Jesus is the molasses bar of faith. He came to lowly parents, born in a stable, growing up at his carpenter-father’s knee. He did not have the rugged attractiveness of His predecessor David. He had no stately form or comely attire. He was plain. Dusty brown feet, plain ol’ nose on a plain ol’ face in a plain ol’ family. there was nothing that would make Him stand out in a crowd.

And yet once someone gets a taste of the life He has to offer, once someone inhales the scent of forgiveness and joy, there is no stopping them from taking that Jesus with them to the next room, the next county, the next continent. Maybe it has been a while since you have sensed Him like that. Maybe it is time to close your eyes, stop looking for the obvious appeal, and sense His movement, His love, His plan for you without the hinderance of sight.

For He may not be pleasing to look at, but once you truly experience Him, you will never let Him go.

The Jesus Project: He binds…

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“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted…” –Isaiah 61:1

Binding is no small thing. Covenants bound men to men and men to God. Parts of the tabernacle were bound together. And Jesus proclaimed in Matthew 18 the power of binding:

“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (verse 18).

God takes binding seriously. And Jesus recognizes the power of the binding. So what can it mean that Jesus came to bind the broken hearted. His purpose was to take what is broken in us and bind it together. To heal the wounds that we can move forward in His calling on our lives. He knows the heaviness of a broken heart. And He knows the power that comes in binding.

Whatever wound you are harboring, bring it to Him. The gouge that never quite healed is the very thing He can pull back together. He will close the gape, stop the hemorrhage, and layer on the healing salve of peace. His hands probe only to release anything that might infect the healing. And then He binds.

The One Who proclaims the power of binding promises to bring His Savior’s hands to your wounds. Let Him bind. Let Him heal you.

Releasing the old, making way for the new…

blog--2014-09--out with the oldThe household chores get done, one at a time. Frustration over lack of storage in my new abode had me looking at things in a different way. Where I kept things in the past need not be where they remain. But finding the new place often means tracing backwards.

The platters that make sense in the closed cupboards of the china hutch can be equally stored in a closet. But the closet is awkward and sort-of full, but not. The blankets that take up three shelves can easily be stacked on the floor, in that awkwardly tall space before the first shelf starts. Which opens up three shelves. There go the platters and also the table linens, opening up the hutch to serve as a pantry. But the only way to make the blankets fit was to donate one. It was large, unwieldily, and hadn’t been used in years. Out with the old makes way for the new way of life.

It isn’t only the closets getting repurposed. After waking, again, in the middle of the night, waking up to thoughts of a particular source of stress. I refuse to live that way anymore. The hours of uninterrupted sleep slowly dwindle until 3 is the max if I am at home. While away, I can easily sleep 9, but I have allowed stress in rooms where it does not belong. What started as determination that these stress-thoughts would not be allowed in my bedroom, ended with those thoughts only being allowed in one room, in one chair, and only when there is a pen in my hand, my prayer journal in  my lap, and my Bible on the arm of the chair. Out with the old way.

“A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lordmake straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.'” –Isaiah 40:3-5, ESV

The way for Jesus to come, prophesied thousands of years ago, is the same today. Clearing the old ways, making straight the way that He may come. Out with the old so that the new may come and blossom. For only when we let go of that which ties us down can we embrace all that He has planned. Let go of the weight that entangles. Leave behind the things that no longer have a place. And donate those things that are good, just no longer good for you. Let someone else benefit.

Let go your stranglehold on the past. Walk forward in faith, believing He will do all He promises.

The Jesus Project: He Brings Good News…

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“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news…” –Isaiah 61:1a, ESV

He brings good news.

Jesus doesn’t come empty handed. He arrives with the anointing of the Spirit, His purpose from God, and carrying with Him the best of all things: the good news. But what is it, exactly?

You are created

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…The God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them…then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” –Genesis 1:1, 26, 27, 2:7, ESV

But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.'” –Isaiah 43:1, ESV

You are loved

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?…Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  -Romans 8:31, 33-35, 37-39, ESV

You can be forgiven

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” –Luke 24:46-47, ESV

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” –John 3:16, ESV


You can be saved

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believe in Him is not condemned…” –John 3:17-18a, ESV

You can be made new

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” –2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV

“‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” –Revelation 21:5, ESV

You can have peace

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” –Ephesians 2:13-15, ESV

You can have life

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” –1 John 4:9, ESV

and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” –Ephesians 3:19-21, ESV

You can have purpose

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.” –1 Timothy 1:15-16, ESV

What do you feel you lack? If it is forgiveness, He’s already done the work–you need only to ask for release. If it is salvation, He conquered death that you may have life. And if you salvation question is already sealed, that you know you’re His, do you need a reminder that you were created with purpose? Maybe your praise pants are in a bunch and you need a little peace. The good news brings all you need for life and liberty in Christ.

…all because He came bringing the good news.

“Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” –Proverbs 25:25, ESV

And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” –Revelation 21:6, ESV

Drink deeply. Quench the thirst. And keep coming back for more.

The Jesus Project: Jesus brings…

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“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring…” –Isaiah 61:1a

“What are you bringing,” the question of the hour for any potluck sign-up sheet. As the organizer, making sure proteins are covered, not wanting to send people home on a dinner of sides. Are there veggies? Chocolate? Beverages? What’s missing?

And there’s always that one person who hangs back. They get asked by others what’s coming from their kitchen to a response of “Not sure yet.” Later, that person will discreetly sidle up to the host, “I’ll bring whatever is still needed.”

A lifesaver.

When there are holes that the host cannot possibly fill, this last contributor lifts a load the host was just beginning to try and carry alone.

In basketball, he’s called the utility player–playing whatever position is needed at any given time. He plays guard when the coach needs a during-game strategy session with the point guard. He slides down to center when the big man needs a breather, because sometimes elegantly-scrappy play can cover when sizable braun needs a moment. He brings what is needed for the team to succeed. His own stats won’t be remarkable in any one area, because he is used in all areas.

He is MVP. He’s loud in action but quiet in attitude. He’s always there to lend support in whatever way that team needs it. The team is the point.

In the spiritual life, Jesus is our utility player. He fills the seen and unseen voids. He gives us each opportunity to bring what we can to the team–and He fills in what remains unfulfilled and necessary.

Our Jesus brings.

Where you feel lack, look for Him.
Where you feel weak, lean on Him.
Where you feel success, pull Him in. For whether you sensed it or not, the Utility Player worked.

He brings joy in the morning.
He brings peace beyond comprehension.
He brings what is necessary that you may be complete, lacking in nothing.

Go to Him now.
Tell Him what you have.
Tell Him where you lack.
And watch the Great Utility Player do what He does best: everything else.