Open Your Mouth

During a Sunday morning prayer service, the leader shared imagery of a river overflowing with life. We are rivers of life, she said. The implication is that we have great opportunity — perhaps responsibility — to offer abundant life from the depths of Christ’s love within us. That love enables us to influence situations and circumstances. To bring light into darkness. Life from death.

As we began to pray and worship, my ears started to tickle and I found myself metaphorically thumbing through scripture on my iPhone.  I was searching for Isaiah 43:19, where God says

“”Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.”

My focus and ensuing meditation was of God making rivers in the desert, in the dry places. Dry places may refer to the heart, the mind, or the natural and created world. Yet, I kept hearing the words, “open your mouth.” What does that mean? I wondered. My conversation with Father God continued in this fashion: “Open your mouth,” He’d say. I hear you, Father God, but I have know idea how this relates to rivers in the desert! Oh, how God must chuckle with me!

Open your mouth!With a little time, a little patience, a little more worship, and a lot of listening, His Word became clear.

I forget sometimes how God has blessed me to see and experience His presence around the world. Not just in my home, my church, or in my neighborhood, but around the world. In my young 11 years as a disciple of Jesus, I have compiled a chest full of stories and experiences of God’s transforming power. My chest is overflowing and God continues to fill it. I forget sometimes the gift I have in these stories. I didn’t play any significant part in transformation, but I am and have been strategically placed to collect stories. Though I marvel and share my collection with close friends, I forget to open my mouth to wider circles and share the majesty and wonder of God’s transforming work in the world. To share the new things, the new creations; the roadways He makes and the rivers He flows through dry places.

I have met Josephs and Daniels who were persecuted for their faith. Sometimes beaten and imprisoned. By grace, they found themselves in the audience of the king and other high ranking government officials planting seed for Christ.

I have met men and women who broke their bindings to other gods and “religions” after dreaming of Jesus or after a supernatural experience of His love.

I have visited some of the darkest places on earth and found the Light of Jesus present and available. In these places, God is transforming lives. He is breaking the influence of anger, murder, rape, violence (despite what we see in the news). He is raising up outcasts named ‘criminal’ and ‘convict’ as light bearers to influence the darkness. Yes, God still uses the foolish to shame the wise, the weak to shame the strong, the base and despised things so that no one may boast (1 Corinthians 1:27-28).

Open your mouth…and share with the world the new things I am doing. Share the new life I am creating. See and tell of the roadways in the wilderness and the rivers in the desert. I am building a garden of life and light; rivers are flowing. Do you see? Will you share?

What the world needs to know — is desperate to know— is that new things and new life outnumber old things. I believe the word God spoke to me is not for me alone. It is for all who know and taste the goodness of God. We have a voice greater than any government, news outlet, or angry mob. And we have the technology to share it around the world. What if we opened our mouths and saturated social media with praise for our great God instead of hatred for humankind?  What if we shared stories of transformation in Christ instead of our woes? Could we influence the media, the nation, the world? Could we influence our neighbors?

God has “given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to [His] chosen people” ( Isaiah 43:20). Why? So we will declare His praise! (Isaiah 43:21)

Open your mouth. Share of the good news and the new things God is doing.

As He Receives

We are accustom to associating “Christ-likeness” with sacrifice. Christ is the Great Giver. The One who put the needs of many above His own. The One who laid down His life, so that we all might live.

We have a tendency to elevate people who demonstrate such sacrificial lives and so we bestow upon them the title “Christ-like”. I wonder, are we so generous in our elevation of  the self-sacrificing because we regard asking for a service as a lack of humility? Or receiving a gift as selfish? I confess, I find it quite difficult to relate to or even maintain authentic relationship with one who gives and refuses to receive.

As we strive to follow Christ, we must look at all of Christ. Consider this: God asks. God receives.

God, who offered the greatest sacrifice, or Jesus, who was the greatest sacrifice — however you want to look at it — does more than give and bless. He also asks. He asks for and wonderfully receives our love, our gifts, and our service. Our gifts are not a means of earning, but being. Love, gifts, and service are the sweet fruit generated from being in His presence. It is relationship! He desires for us to engage in a beautiful relationship of giving and receiving. This is relationship’s heart, after all. It is reciprocity; albeit, not equality. Our love, gifts, and service will never match that which God so generously pours upon us. However, He still requires the gift of our hearts. Christ-likeness is giving and receiving.

Christ surely welcomes our meager sacrifices/gifts as if they were great works of art. He does not turn them away. He received from humanity when He walked the earth (money, food, service, assistance to carry the cross, etc) and He receives from us in heaven. In fact, I would suggest that He is eager to receive from us! I’m hesitant to say that God demands our love as that sounds too autocratic. Yet, we were made to love Him. Perhaps it is better to say that He patiently waits for us to love Him/serve Him as freely as He loves us. Can you imagine how He must rejoice when we give to Him from a heart of love?? How He must look upon us and say, “My child, thank you.”

Embrace this perspective! When you worship, whether it be through the Word or in music or in any other discipline, God looks upon you and says, “Thank you for loving me. It is your greatest gift to Me. I receive it – no strings attached.” Sometimes, He may even ask, “will you receive My Love for you?

As we strive to emulate Christ, let us not deny others from loving us, especially the Living God. Let us, instead, follow in His example of giving and receiving. Your greatest gift to someone may not be what you do, but what you receive. When you look upon those gifts from the heart, rather than turn them away at pride’s request, simply say, “thank you. I receive it.” Give as He gives; receive as He receives.

Experiment in Meditation

A few years ago, while serving with a missionary family in a Buddhist community, I received an in depth, crash course in the local Buddhist traditions and customs at a well-regarded monastery. It was there that I first encountered the discipline of meditation. Prior to this, I was loosely aware of meditation as a Christ-centered, spiritual discipline, but hadn’t yet fully embraced the depths of stillness. Though I learned to meditate from Buddhists, I assure you my heart and focus is fully committed to Christ. I can’t help but laugh! What lengths and distances God takes us to reveal Himself! Some of my greatest encounters with the Living God, indeed my first, were on the other side of the world, far from home and what is familiar.

In fact, from my first experience with Christ (a story for another day) I learned that God was in pursuit of me long before I began my journey in pursuit of Him. Over the years this truth has solidified within me and Philippians 3:12 has become my close friend.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12 NASB)

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. (Philippians 3:12-14 MSG)

What does this verse have to do with meditation? Mediation is a form of pursuit. I have recently re-engaged in an exhilarating experiment in meditation that I began several months ago. Exhilarating because any endeavor to pursue greater intimacy with God is exciting!!! Can meditation, quiet, and stillness be exciting? Isn’t meditation the antithesis of such energetic emotion? Perhaps I am abnormal. I hold such anticipation when I prepare to enter meditation, which is simply an exercise of stillness with God-ward focus, because I expect the Presence of God. It is a holy exercise whereby I not only set aside time and space for God’s majesty, but I set aside myself. I quiet the world so that I can hear the voice of God. This is my purpose. This is my pursuit. It is a sacrifice that I believe is well honored and my experience confirms it. After all, what is meditation except entrance into what Jesus calls the inner room?

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6 NASB)

Call it whatever you like, but give it a shot. Find a place of stillness both physically and mentally. I sit in the 7-point meditation posture that I learned from the Buddhists. It keeps me alert and allows me to focus my breath. Start with a 5-minute exercise where you quiet your mind and body and focus all of your being on God. When I first started, I would recite scripture to help me focus upward. Don’t be dismayed if you find it difficult to focus on God the entire 5 minutes. It takes practice! Our minds are excellent wanderers! Do what you can and wait for God’s response!

Perspectives, part 4

I truly hope to encourage you with the encouragement I received this morning in my devotional readings with Bro. Lawrence. How can one small chapter seem to  contain a lifetime of wisdom? How does one take it all in?! I wish I could breathe it in in one large breath, but I cannot; my lungs are far too small. Even if I spend the next week or more in the “Fourth Conversation” with Bro. Lawrence, it will not be enough to grasp in its entirety. Truly devotion is a lifetime study!

My spirit is in pursuit of the Divine Love. From the early days of my journey, Psalm 27:4 captured my heart’s endeavor:

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate/inquire in His temple.

I pray to never lose sight of this great endeavor, that is simply to be in continuous communion with God, a magnificent obsession. Yet, how often during the day do I forget and find myself bogged down by things of the world! This morning I read of Bro. Lawrence’s great endeavor:

“his prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of GOD, his soul being at that time insensible to everything but Divine love: and that when the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with GOD. . .”

Prayer and devotion are a lifestyle. I know this in my head, but to exercise it in my heart and life is another matter altogether. But, that is the goal—to never leave the presence of God. He is not some far off reward that we receive in the afterlife. Quite the contrary! Jesus preached the Kingdom of God Among Us. He taught the availability and the accessibility of God now. I say let every breath exhale praise and inhale His presence. Let everything we do, no matter how small, be done in worship. “[T]he end we ought to propose to ourselves is to become, in this life, the most perfect worshippers of GOD we can possibly be, as we hope to be through all eternity.”

 

Prayer:

Consume my heart, soul, and mind. Fill every part of me today and teach me to look ever upward. I want to know Your Presence more than ever before. You are my greatest desire.