ALL THE SPACE IN THE ROOM

via ALL THE SPACE IN THE ROOM

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ALL THE SPACE IN THE ROOM

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By: carole l. haines

27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore, this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:27-30 ESV)

I work with infants and toddlers. When they enter the world, they take up all the space in the room.  They cry when they are hungry, or wet, or in pain.  But they also smile and laugh. They bring great joy to all who spend time with them.  My husband said to me once that the purest sound in the world is a baby’s laughter. I most certainly agree.

We are all born taking up all the space in the room, or at least we think we are the center of the Universe. It’s not a conscious thought, but is inherently present within us. Let’s face it, we are born selfish, and so much of our young lives are spent learning how to share, how to be aware of other people’s feelings, needs and longings. We have to be taught how to be more “others-centered,” and less “me-centered.” Selfishness comes naturally, self-less-ness, does not.

John is addressing this issue for us as Spiritual followers of Jesus Christ.  John tells us that Jesus must increase, and we must decrease.  This is so incredibly counter-culture, so contrary to how we are taught in the world.  In the Western World of Individualism, community has somehow been lost, traded or diminished.  But deep inside we long for the days where people were neighborly, communities were tight-knit, supportive and helpful. As long as we allow ourselves to remain sitting on the throne of our own lives, even as Believers in Jesus, the less we will grow to have Jesus increase in us, while we decrease within ourselves. And the less we will have real community within the Body of Christ. We must learn to stop taking up all the space in the room, and leave room for Jesus, and others.

Jesus put it this way, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24 ESV)

Dying to self is no easy task, and we are not capable of doing it on our own.  But Jesus, can teach us how to die, as He died; and rise to life as He rose. Jesus demonstrated how to do this in John 13, preparing for the Last Supper.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Notice what Jesus knew:

Jesus knew that His hour had come

Jesus knew His own who were in the world, and loved them

Jesus knew the Father had already given everything into His hands

Jesus knew He had come from God and was now going back to God

Our most powerful tool in learning to die to self is our spiritual identity. When we know whose we are, who we are, where we’ve come from, why we are here, and where we are going;  we can gird ourselves with a towel and wash each other’s feet.  No task is too lowly, no call is too high. And we learn to decrease as He increases in us.  We learn that it is only Jesus that we truly want to have taken up all the space in the room.

 

 

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Something Greater

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Photo by: Cody J. Haines

by: carole l. Haines
6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. (Matthew 12:6 ESV)

Something greater, bigger, stronger than all I face each day. Someone who sticks closer than a brother. The right hand of God who leads me onward, deeper, closer to Himself. Jesus is that Something Greater. Yet, I was cut down to a nub the other morning by this Lord I love. It was a gentle cutting;  surgical, precise, but it was deep. He always sees us so clearly. I sensed from Jesus that I am sometimes ashamed to speak of Him to strangers.

I walk so much of my time amidst believers, and freely speak to them of Him. I work for a Christian Learning Center, and serve in the Church in several ways. But put me out in the world, and I am like a fish out of water. I cried that morning, asking Jesus to forgive me, and to help me be more willing, able, and adept at sharing Him with strangers. I see people and I pray for them, strangers who I sense need His love and care in their lives; but too often, I do not initiate conversation. It’s like I have visions in my head of praying with them, or talking with them; but then walk away, satisfied with the vision itself.

I am an extremely introverted person, socially awkward; at least on the inside. But God is calling me out, I feel it. Now, here I am, in a strange place on travel, and I am asking God to help me speak of Him to others. I feel a panic even as I write those words, but I truly believe Jesus is God’s answer to the world’s woes. I truly believe that He is the Hinge-pin upon which the door to Heaven opens. He speaks of Himself in this way in John 10:

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:7=11 ESV)

Jesus, I yield this day to you, every moment. Help me not to be satisfied with imaginary prayers and conversations, but to actually share Your love with others today, ion Word and Deed. Give me boldness, as you did the First Disciples, and the zeal and joy over Your truth and love; which I believe in more than anything else. Give me sensitivity and kindness. For it is Your Kindness Lord that leads us to repentance. More than anything else in my life, I pray that I shine forth the Kindness of God today. In the Beautiful Name of Jesus, I pray. Amen

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Becoming a fool, to be wise

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 by: Carole L. Haines

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-20 ESV)

The world lifts up higher education as if it were the greatest investment of our time. But there is a greater education we must receive, and that is the education of becoming a fool.  God’s Word is the Hinge-pin upon which all true wisdom hangs. The more time we invest in knowing and doing the Word of God, the wiser we will become.  But we will appear to be fools in the eyes of men, who exalt human reasoning as the greatest source of wisdom.  But I have come to find that God is, truly is, the source of all wisdom. So then, what is this wisdom? It means to be skilled, to be an expert, learned; supreme intelligence, such as belongs to God. I have read somewhere that wisdom is “knowledge acted out.” Wisdom is an active word, not just an idea, or wonderful thoughts about something.  Wisdom has feet, and must be walked out, lived out.  But God’s wisdom is counter-culture to the world in which we live.

25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:25 ESV)

Written in the first passage quoted above: 18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. Am I willing to appear foolish in the eyes of my friends, my family, or the world?  When we follow Christ, it seems that our worlds are turned upside down.  But in actuality, the world is what is upside down and we are turned right-side up, when we follow the God who made this world and delivered us out of it through Jesus.
God’s wisdom tells us to do the lowest tasks, to pray in secret, to love our enemies, to pray for those who hate us.  God’s wisdom tells us to give to the one who steals from us, to turn the other cheek, to sell all we have and give to the poor.  To the world we will seem foolish, but who cares? We have the consolation of God, the joy of being His. We, of all people, are most wise, who become fools in the eyes of the world, as we follow Jesus Christ. He is the source of all wisdom, the source of all life, the source of deepest peace and joy.  Nothing else will ever be able to satisfy our desire for wisdom, except God, because God is wisdom.  So yes, I am willing to be a fool in the eyes of this world, to become truly wise, in the wisdom of God.

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A life without regrets

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by: Carole L. Haines

24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. 25 “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. 26 Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. (Acts 20:24-27)

Can you even imagine the freedom of such a thing, a life without regrets?  I don’t know of a single person who has lived a life like that.  Is it even possible?  Yes, in Jesus, I do believe it is. It will never be a life without mistakes, but we can trust God to work beyond our mistakes and teach us to live without regret. The Apostle Paul was not a man with a sketchy past, but he made mistakes. Here is how he describes himself: If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;  as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. (Philippians 3:4-6)

That’s quite a list, like all those framed Diplomas hanging on a person’s office wall. But Paul goes on to express how he feels about his past mistakes and achievements:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things; and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him. I love what Oswald Chambers says about a life of faith:

If there is only one strand of faith amongst all the corruption within us, God will take hold of that one strand. (from Not Knowing Whither, 888)

A life without regret requires trusting God to be bigger than my mistakes, bigger than my achievements; just plain bigger than all of it.  We can only be who we are, having gone through what we’ve gone through.  God desires truth in the innermost being (Ps. 51:6), and he desires us to be genuine, honest, and transparent.  I love how Paul puts it: For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain. (1 Corinthians 15 NASB) Amen, by the grace of God, we are what we are, and His grace will not prove vain for any of us either.  God doesn’t waste a single drop of our lives.  Every tear we cry, every pain we bear; all the scrapes, bumps and bruises along the way, will shine out to the world His Glory. Our weakness, our brokenness reflects His strength and wholeness. It is impossible to live a life without mistakes, but quite possible to live a life without regrets. The difference between despair and joy is embracing The Grace of God for our lives. All of it, every single, tiny, little thing in our life is fodder for the fire of God’s Glory. He is not called our Redeemer for nothing.  He redeems it all, so give it all to Him. Don’t try to pretty it up, make it less than it is.  Don’t try to paint it a different color or look at it through rose-colored glasses.  By the Grace of God, you are what you are, and I am what I am.  But Precious Brother and Sister in Christ; His grace will not prove vain, not ever. We will shine His Glory to the world by way of the very things the world tries to make us feel shame over.  What a Mighty God we serve.  Praise His Precious and Holy Grace. Bask in it, let it saturate your every pore.  It is yours. Jesus paid a precious price to give it to you, His own life. Receive, then, what is already yours, a life without regrets.

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Choose life-thoughts

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By: Carole L. Haines

The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else.
from Oswald Chambers, The Highest Good—The Pilgrim’s Song Book, 537 L

It’s amazing how bad news can pile up on you, and down you fall into the pits of fear.  Our lives are so much more out of our control then we ever think about.  But they are never out of God’s control.  Two people we know committed suicide recently, and I was so haunted by some “what-if’s” and “if only,” scenarios. Could I have done something more, to help them, to encourage them.  I generally never saw these people, but I still felt I wanted to have done more, been more somehow, to help them.
I started to become afraid of how it will be for me, at the end of my life.  Will I be that lonely, discouraged, or despairing?  But then I read this quote from Oswald Chambers, The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else.”
I can’t control what happens in life, but I can control what I choose to focus on.
I am choosing God.
I am choosing to stop feeling guilty about what I could not prevent.
I am choosing to trust God with My Own future.
I am choosing to fix my eyes, my thoughts, my heart on Jesus, right now, right here.
He is the author and perfecter of my faith, and he says this, 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB).
To cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labour in order to recover and collect his strength. (Blue Letter Bible)
This is the kind of rest Jesus says He will give us, and it is not just a physical rest, it is a spiritual rest. A rest from anxious thoughts, fears and self-accusations. I couldn’t be there, I wasn’t there, I am not Omni-present, like God is. I must cease to accuse myself, and give myself to Jesus. I have been weary and heavy-laden with grief, false guilt, and fear this past week, and it stops here, in Jesus hands.
Perhaps some of you have been struggling the same as I have.  Choose God, choose Jesus, choose life-thoughts from Him. Let everything else fall to the ground and let Him pick you up. You can’t be everywhere, but you can be His.

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Am I an odd-ball?

by: carole l. haines

Beware of isolation; beware of the idea that you have to develop a holy life alone. It is impossible to develop a holy life alone; you will develop into an oddity and a peculiarism, into something utterly unlike what God wants you to be. The only way to develop spiritually is to go into the society of God’s own children, and you will soon find how God alters your set. God does not contradict our social instincts; He alters them.
(from Biblical Psychology, 189 L Oswald Chambers)

MJ2 001I had to admit to myself that this had become a bit too true of me.  I, in my desire to protect myself from hurt, had become accustomed to isolation, and surely had become a bit of an oddity, and a peculiarism.  God’s word is very clear on how holiness is developed. Oswald Chambers is being completely Biblical here. It is impossible to develop holiness alone. God speaks of it in 1 John 4:

10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

If we love one another,

1)    God abides in us,
2) His love is perfected in us.
3) By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us
because He has given us of His Spirit.

I need you, dear Sister or brother in Christ, in order to grow in love.  You need me, too.  God’s love is perfected in us as we learn to love each other despite failings, faults, and screw-ups.  Forgiveness should be a well-traveled road as a Believer in Jesus.  It is the only road to Calvary we will ever take.  Jesus calls us to the Garden of Gethsemane, as we learn to die to ourselves, but the Road to Calvary was His alone; and having walked it, He calls us to a new commandment: Love one another.  As God abides in us, His love is perfected in us, we have assurance that we are His and we sense the power and presence of His Spirit, all through loving one another. O, the powerful ways of God, so transforming, so freeing, so right.

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