Leaning In

Last weekend, we were able to visit our daughter and her family in Louisiana. Theirs is a busy life full of the activities of four children, ages 3 months to 7 years. I love my time with them.

Their 7 year old, Jonathan, is my first grandchild. He is a typical first child and all boy. I’m not sure there is anything he thinks he cannot do. “I’ll do it Nana!” or “I can do it Nana!” filter our every conversation. His tremendously strong will has served him well and, yes, there are so many things he can do – all by himself! However, there really are some things his seven year old self cannot do and there are some things that he could do better with some help and instruction. God has His hand on him and I know He will use every dab of who he is to make Jonathan the man He wants him to be.

When Sunday came, he opted to miss children’s worship and sat by me in “big church.” He sang, completed his handout from Bible study, and, as the hour went by, he continued to scoot closer and closer to me. Soon, he was tucked under my arm and leaning on me with the weight of his entire 7 year old, strong willed, active body. “Oh how I love this boy!” I whispered to God. My heart was full and I could feel the peace in his. That may be my favorite memory of the weekend.

When I came home, back to my Altar’d challenge, that phrase “lean in” continued to jump out to me. Jennifer Kennedy Dean, in Altar’d, said “When I live by faith in Jesus, I live by the faith of Jesus. Jesus expresses His own faith through me when I rest the weight of my personality on Him. Lean in.” (Page 52)

Instead of leaning in, I surely must be pushing in. All me. That is a picture completely different from what I experienced with Jonathan. So much of me is like my oldest grandchild. I might as well be saying “I’ll do it God,” or “I can do it God!” Even my obedience to Him is a task I have given to my flesh. “I am choosing to obey. Now do it flesh!”

Oh, but Philippians 2:13 says “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”

The Message says it this way. “Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God Himself willing and working at what will give Him the most pleasure.”

My flesh has deceived me and made me exhausted as a result! This pocket of flesh is crucified in Him – I’m leaning in!

When did Jesus Suffer?

“Jesus had no unrighteousness because He never let unrighteousness take root…But as a human, He had needs and instincts through which unrighteousness can enter. This is why He could be tempted.” (Altar’d, page 115)

Because He never let unrighteousness take root, He did not sin. In Altar’d, Jennifer Kennedy Dean writes, “Sin has no access to God and He is completely immune to it”,  (Altar’d, page 111). That is true. However, Jesus was fully human and sin DID have access to Him.

Jesus was tempted. The most notable account is in Luke 4 when He was tempted by the devil for forty days. Certainly, that was not the only time He was tempted. Those human needs and instincts were with Him for His entire life on earth. I guess I’ve always thought of Jesus flicking temptation away like a pesky flea. The temptation came because He was fully man but at the same time He was fully God so in my thinking, He did what God does and it was over.

That is not what scripture says!

“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:18

38blogphotoWhen I think of Jesus suffering, I think of Him suffering on the cross, which He did! But He suffered more than that. Scripture says He learned obedience through His suffering (Hebrews 5:8-9). Ultimately, all of the suffering made Him ready to be “obedient to death – even death on the cross” (Philippians 2:2) becoming the author of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10). All that suffering was before the cross, in preparation for the cross!

In my un-altar’d state I try desperately to flick temptation away like I thought Jesus did. After all, I ought to be able to do that since He is in me. And here I am again, trying harder, instead of dying deeper. When I do that, I am still living under the law. The law tells us what we should be doing but does not provide the power needed to do it. “The law came to the flesh from the outside, demanding obedience but not providing the power to obey”, (Altar’d, page 119).

God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that. The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.” Romans 8:3-4 MSG

As believers, we have the power of the Holy Spirit inside us. Jesus suffered in temptation but He overcame it by leaning in to Father God. His human flesh did not do it, so why do we think ours can? “His obedience was in keeping His man soul subjected to the indwelling Spirit,” (Altar’d, page 120). Our obedience is in dying to ourselves and yielding to that same Holy Spirit’s resurrecting power – the same power that raised Jesus from the dead! (Ephesians 1:19-20)

Jesus suffered in temptation. What does that mean to you?

Box of Rocks

“Everyone has their own box of rocks,” my friend said. That stuck with me for the rest of the day and I woke up the next morning with that box of rocks still on my mind. What a great analogy for painful life experiences. Life beats us all up. No matter who you are, if you live very long, the rocks are coming. And they contribute significantly to who we become.

What are we to do with that box of rocks we have collected? marilynjohnsonphoto

Some of those who have been hurt by rocks hold them close to their chest and thrust those same rocks at anyone who comes near.

Some bury their head so far into their rocks they become almost unrecognizable. Their most glaring attribute is the markings of the rocks pressed into their face.

Some hold onto the rocks with a death grip. The rocks become a trophy that cannot be pried from their fist.

Still others don’t appear to have any rocks. Where is their box? What is the difference?

In Jeremiah 17:5-10, God gave us a comparison of two men who had the same rocks thrown at them. Both men faced heat and drought. However, one man is “like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth. He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.” While the other is “like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers—Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.” (The Message)

Same rocks, different results. Why? One man trusted in himself. Because our rocks are so personal, we are sometimes deceived into thinking we have to deal with them ourselves. We let God “help” but ultimately we think it is our responsibility alone. Flesh delivers death.

“…flesh thinks only flesh can straighten flesh out, so flesh had better be vigilant.” (Altar’d, page 17)

The other man? I believe he had altar’d his flesh. Died to control. Died to self pity. Died to personal expectations. What we see in his life is the power of resurrection. Spirit gives life!

“When we read that He [Jesus] is able to help those who are being tempted because He Himself was tempted, I think it is not simply saying that now Jesus knows how it feels to be tempted, so He can cheer us on when we are tempted. I think it is saying that Jesus overcame sin and won the victory over temptation . . . Therefore, when we are facing temptation, we need only yield to His life and His power running through us. . . Don’t fight harder against the temptation; instead yield more fully to his life.” (Altar’d  page 117-118)

Jesus had rocks thrown at Him in every sense of the word. He took every one of those rocks and claimed victory over temptation. He did it for me and you.

Give Him your box of rocks and rest in His victory! Altar’d rocks! Oh what He could do with that!

Marilyn is a wife, mother of two married children, and Nana to six precious little boys and one baby girl. After retiring from teaching Math at Jacksonville State University, she and her husband now live in Birmingham, AL. She holds the Basic and Advanced Women’s Ministry Certificates from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She has a heart for ministering to women and a passion for teaching the Word of God.

Hold it all together

On Monday, I left my house to begin my full scheduled day with what felt like a thousand things running through my mind. I was praying for my grandson who had a high fever, thinking about the direction I would take with my Wednesday morning Bible study, wondering where I was at with my Alzheimer’s mother and trying to solve the puzzle of who in the world I would vote for for president.

I also had my favorite Christian radio station on but, I must admit, I was pretty unaware it until the coverage faltered a little. I clicked the down button on my steering wheel to my next favorite station and the exact same song was playing on that station as well. I clicked back and forth wondering if I had hit the wrong button.

I had not.

“Okay God,” I thought, “I am listening.” And I did.

The bombardment of thoughts and pressure were lifted gently off my shoulders as I listened to Casting Crowns deliver this living word to me from my Abba Father.

“Just Be Held”

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who wont let go

Pretending Not To See

I was teaching at Jacksonville State University in a building with a huge, two story lobby and curved staircases on either side. I had taught my first class of the day and was going downstairs to clear my head. I was within three steps of the ground when something went terribly wrong. I’m still not sure what happened. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor and in a great deal of pain. I found out later that I had broken my leg.

The interesting thing is that I was smack dab in the middle of “young adult world.” I had fallen in a crowded lobby, full of college students at a time when much of their entertainment was derived at the expense of another’s discomfort. They, generally, laughed pretty hard at things like people falling. This time, no one laughed (whew). To cover their own discomfort,  they tried not to let me know that they had seen me. They were embarrassed for me.

Today, I am thinking about a couple of things … how to share Christ with those we come in contact with and our attitude to those who do not yet know Him. As believers, we would never laugh at them or make fun of them.  Sometimes, though, we see them and don’t want them to know we know they don’t share our hope. Maybe we feel really bad for them. Maybe we are embarrassed for them. Whatever the reason, too many times, we pass them with our eyes looking anywhere but directly at them and/or their situation so they won’t feel bad.

When I fell, I was hurt and could not get up until one of my students came to my rescue. SO MANY people in our paths every day that need to be rescued, maybe not from a physical injury, but from the life that holds no hope. Those of us who have already been rescued are the ones that have the eyes to truly see those around us.

Do we really believe they are in danger of dying without Christ or do we just kind of feel bad for them?

Are we willing to be inconvenienced or ridiculed to give them the greatest gift anyone could receive?

What difference could it make if we TRULY acted on what we say we believe?

One man did. Watch this and discover how his obedience made an impression on this self-proclaimed atheist…https://www.youtube.com/embed/6md638smQd8

What about you? Are you willing to see those people that need Jesus clearly?