Just Come

I tend to complicate things, and sometimes the image I present to you may become more important than the content of my heart. I want you to see the good things about me. Especially when I present it on social media. You would know I am having the worst possible day of my life if I posted a status of “having a horrible day, my life really stinks”. I reserve that kind of feeling and show for those closest to me, my inner circle. I want to put on a good show.

I believe that is how a lot of us approach God. We tend to base our relationship with Him on our external display of our piety. “Look at me God, I gave some money.” “Look at me God, I did a good deed. ” “Look at me God, I am sacrificing my time, talents, and abilities in Church programs to prove my devotion to you.”

Our displays of devotion are microcosms of displays that other “devotees” around the world put forward to try to “pay” the price to somehow make themselves right.

Years ago I was struck by images I saw of a group of Filipinos on Good Friday. They tried to show their devotion to God by literal self flagellation and ultimately crucifying each other. I was shocked at how the report said these poor people would crawl on hands and knees for miles to a church to offer their acts of penance to God in hopes of His acceptance of them. “Here I am God. Look how much devotions I have. I have beaten myself, crawled for miles and allowed those around me to drive literal nails in my hands to display my devotion.”

So sad!

This morning I have been reflecting on Matthew 6:5-6 NIV in my time with God.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Jesus spelled out in very plain words the way to approach Him: intimately as a child with their father in a private place, secretly. One on one.

There’s no set of rules, requirements, and expectations to be met. Simply come.

Come as you are afraid, doubting, and heartbroken. Trade these in, in the secret place for faith, boldness, and peace as you pour out your heart to Him. Nothing complicated or impossible. Simple humbleness before the One who desires to mold us and fashion us there in that secret place to be what He always intended for us to be.

I’m always awed by the size of a mustard seed. It is smaller than the font I have chosen to write this blog. Yet that is the size of what Jesus said our Faith could be and still move mountains. We are the ones who tend to complicate. We do so, so much that it sometimes paralyzes us to inaction. “I can never be enough for God so why try?” All the while He is waiting for us to Just come. Come with what little we have to that secret place with Him. Open our hearts to Him so that we find there the intimacy He literally died to give us.

No need to complicate things. No need to present an image to Him. He already knows. “Just come”.

I Am Afraid

Admitting a feeling is a risky business. Especially when you’ve lived your life with a “don’t ever let them see you sweat” mentality. Today I am going to risk appearing weak, faithless, and vulnerable by admitting I am afraid. I have a situation looming in front of me. It could go one of two ways. When I look at it, I have to admit… I am afraid. It’s ironic to me that David in the Psalms also had something he was afraid of and yet he didn’t try to ignore it. He didn’t try to play out the super spiritual person and not speak of it for fear of confessing bad things. He laid it out squarely before God. He told God what he was afraid of and presented every aspect of his fear to God. Then he told God in spite of what he felt, the fear, he was going to trust God. It’s little wonder to me that the Bible refers to David as a “man after God’s own heart.” God doesn’t expect us to try to hide how we feel. It’s much better to just step on out into the light and admit it’s there and let Him do what only He can do. For me to try to put on the brave face and suck it up is like the equivalent of Adam and Eve in the garden trying to sew some leaves together to hide their nakedness. God already knew what they looked like inside and out. There’s no hiding ourselves from Him.

Yes… I am afraid. But I also know that there is a God who is bigger than my fear. I’m pretty sure that He delights in showing me just how big He is. Opening the door and letting Him see my fear gives Him the opportunity to let His love fill the room in my heart where the fear has been. That love fills, floods, and flushes out the fear that is trying to infect the core of me. “Perfect love casts out all fear.” It’s that small movement of trust that opens the door to let Him in. I feel afraid, here it is. This is what I feel. You see it and I will say that it is there, but I chose to trust You in the face of that fear.

“But in the day that I’m afraid, I lay all my fears before you and trust in you with all my heart.” Psalm 56:3 TPT

Come and See

Skepticism can run a mile deep in me. I’ve come to a place in my life that reflects what a true Missouri girl would say. “Show me”. But even when shown I’m still watching intently for some slight of hand, hidden agenda, inconsistency, etc.

I’ve been reflecting this morning on the words of Nathanael in the Bible: “Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.”

John 1:45-46 NIV.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that Nathanael is my kind of guy. When he was approached by Philip telling him he had found the messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, Nathanael’s caution alarms sounded and his skepticism wheels began to turn. I would estimate that it was all motivated by him going around the block one too many times with the people he had seen coming out of Nazareth. During his time, a Roman army garrison was located there. The very army that oppressed his people. He had probably seen the injustices and watched the politics played out as some of the Jews tried to “make the best” of the situation by compromising their morals and betraying their countrymen all in an effort to win the favor of their unwanted residents. So hearing that the Messiah, the one who was supposed to set all this wrong right, came out of that town set off a huge red flag. Thankfully he did find it within himself to check out the claims he heard, and when he encountered Jesus, Jesus told him “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Jesus recognized the truth that Nathanael wanted. He only wanted what was real. Nothing fake for that man, and Jesus assures him that his desire for the authentic would be satisfied with Nathanael seeing greater things than he could have ever imagined.

Jesus gets where we are coming from, and He understands our struggle with vulnerability. Especially in a world where vulnerability can often mean opening ourselves up to hurts that cannot be imagined. But He also calls us out to take the chance to believe and to hope. Knowing that His hope does not disappoint.

Nathanael had a choice that day. He could have declined the invitation to look, to go and see. It would have meant a life of the ordinary for him. If he had stayed where Philip found him and said, “I’m out”, he would have never encountered the one of whom he wondered “How do you know me?” One encounter with Jesus rocked his world of skepticism. It opened his heart to the vulnerability of believing and enabled him to receive things he probably never imagined possible growing up a boy in Cana just doing the daily ins and outs of life.

I find myself this morning sitting at a crossroad. Do I ball up in my corner and shut out the possibility of encountering something incredible? Or do I open myself up once again to feel. Feel not only the hurts that vulnerability can bring, but the joy and love it brings as well, and to experience the joy of being known as well as knowing the life that God intends for me.

I am really grateful that God saw fit to put this interaction between Nathanael, Philip, and Jesus in the first chapter of John. It gives me hope that in my times of questioning what is real and what is not, God doesn’t just mark me off for my struggling to believe. Instead He makes a point to clarify exactly where He has seen me in the past and where He plans to take me in the future when I acknowledge who He is: my God, my King, and the Teacher of how to get where He wants to go. He doesn’t give up on me. He encourages me to get up and move on. He’s got plans for me, and they are good. Whether I see it in the present or not. His invitation to me is the same as Philip gave to Nathanael, “Come and see”.