Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mediterranean villa or bomb shelter?

God has been speaking to me about where we live. Not geographically.... not physically.... but spiritually. Where does He want us abiding spiritually and what does it look like? This is what I think.....

Heck yeah. I think this is what our life in Christ is supposed to look like. 

 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.
Ephesians 1:3
Jesus came to give us abundant life, full of freedom, beauty, and provision that can only be found in Him. A place where we live with Him. A beautiful Grecian villa, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Full of beauty and peace and plenty of space.

I believe that at the very moment of our salvation, this beauty becomes reality in our lives. Jesus comes into our spirits, and brings along with Him all the blessings and provision of the cross and of heaven. Sins forgiven. Eternity secured. But also, a life in union with Christ to be realized and explored. This life is a gorgeous mansion built for two, divinely crafted by the Master Carpenter who desires to share that glorious habitation with us.  But, do we live there? Do we share 777 Glory Lane with Him? What keeps us from our villa? 

Not realizing we have it is my first thought. It is on us all to become students of the Word, willing pupils who study and learn and receive knowledge and revelation about what happened at the cross and what it means to us and our life here on earth. 

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ 
to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by 
bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. 
This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.  
So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us 
who belong to his dear Son.  
He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom 
with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 
He has showered his kindness on us, along with 
all wisdom and understanding.
Ephesians 1:4-8

Not knowing about this beautiful inheritance can keep us from ever moving in to our villa to begin with. A life lived unto ourselves can prevent us from discovering the riches of His grace and all the provisions that come with it. Self-focus and self-effort can result in living conditions that look more like this....

Yikes. The beautiful villa is at the top of the cliff but hidden at the bottom is a bomb shelter. This is what I think it looks like spiritually when we live outside the union in Christ that we were meant to enjoy. The reason I see a bomb shelter as an alternate home is because of the safety it represents. You see, for many years I fought against things that weren't of God. I had to be strong, I had to fight, I had to endure. My days were spent resisting evil, fighting against darkness, protecting my family. It was a lengthy season that required much strength but the problem came when I stayed in that strength too long. While a warfare mentality was necessary at the time, being strong and impenetrable became normal and familiar. I found comfort in the walls I'd built to protect myself. Keeping people out helped me make it through but I was keeping God out too. It was like living in the bomb shelter long after the threat of danger had passed. A bomb shelter wasn't designed to be a long-term residence. But self-protection became the new norm for me because it provided security that I wasn't trusting my Defender to provide. That would require me being vulnerable enough to trust, and I didn't have the time or space for vulnerability. 

Tenderness would try to visit, knocking on my armored door, and I'd say..... 
"Don't have time for you now. Trying to survive here."

Can you understand this? Can you relate? Has life thrown stuff at you that made you send off for your own do-it-yourself homemade bomb shelter kit? Even what starts off as good can keep us confined in a small space. Any strength taken to the extreme becomes a weakness. A friend of mine shared that she lived in hope too long, while her deceptive husband steered their marriage into destruction. As wonderful as hope is, truth was waiting its turn to be heard. I understand that. Making the transition from one mindset to another isn't easy. But seasons change and and we are meant to change too. Jesus calls up to pack up and come on, He has new places for us to explore.

Another example is how we cope with death. It's healthy and normal to grieve the loss when someone we love dies, but hanging out in the camp of grief for the rest of our lives limits us from the abundant life God wants us to enjoy in the villa. Perhaps we are angry and God and blame him for our loss. That can cause us to turn away from Him and try to find comfort apart from Him. There is a difference between crying tears and crying tears to Him, to the One who collects our tears in a bottle. Not releasing pain to the only One who truly knows how to comfort us is like keeping the bomb shelter door slammed in His face.

These are just two examples that perhaps you can relate to. But, it could be anything. Fear. Unforgiveness. Rejection. Unbelief. Pain. Illness. Divorce. Trauma. Addiction. Abuse. Anger.

God is willing and able to lead us out of everything that tries to keep us from Him. But because of the generous gift of free will He endowed humanity with, He will not force us into union with Him. It's our decision. The villa. The bomb shelter. We get to choose.

As one who is learning to leave the walls of self-protection behind and make the exciting trek up the cliff to the villa, I hope your heart is stirred to join me. The more I trust God with my life, my heart and my safety, the more I realize that living life in an tiny enclosure built for one is not so great. I can't move, I can't dance. And dang it, all this battle gear I wear is heavy. I want room to breathe, room to grow, space to dance. My life is way too small when I keep myself safely locked away. I don't want to reach the end of my days and have only measly excuses to offer God when he asks me how I spent my life.

What did you do with the villa I gave you?
"I don't know, God, I never really saw it. It was at the top of the cliff and I was busy at the bottom, staying safe in my shelter."

What did you do with My Son?
"Ahh... uh.... er.... well.... He came by all the time and I waved to Him through the little window of my bomb shelter door but I didn't let Him in."

No. I don't want that. There is too much of God's goodness for me to enjoy in the villa up the cliff. I am willing to open the door and follow My King up the hill. I can trust Him. I will still be safe. The walls of protection have become a Shield about me behind which I am safe. Jesus promises to "contend with those that contend with me" (Isaiah 49:25) so I'll let him do the fighting now. Besides, my gun gets in the way when the King pulls me close. I can lay down my weapon. He is my weapon. He fights for me, confronts evil on my behalf. The battle gear that helped me survive served its purpose and I am thankful, but I can take it off because God has other things to teach me now.  And it's easier to move and climb and hike up the cliff in the linen garment He gives me to wear....

What a joy to find that Jesus has already provided what I need! The safety my heart required was there all along, just on the other side of the door. There is so much provision at the cross that we need only to realize. Jesus' sacrifice took care of everything that would keep us in the shelter. It's already been done. He has done it. It is all waiting for us. If you have received Christ as Savior and Lord, your villa has already been built. Can you see it? Does your spirit draw you to it? The journey is in realizing where our souls are in the shelter, being willing to open the door, and then making the climb up the hill to the palace.  Even then we are not alone. The strong hands of our loving Shepherd-King guide us along. And He knows what to do with wolves that attack and sheep that bite.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

It feels so good and light and free to lay down my defensive measures and just let Jesus do it His way. He now calls the shots as I hold His arm and smile at Him and say "okay, Lord, You lead". Now my spirit "lives" in a beautiful villa and my soul is calm and at rest, relaxing on the terrace while He reveals more love and truth to my heart, or playing on the beach because yes, He is there too. It's a sweet familiar feeling actually, like returning to my first love before the pain of life suggested that battle gear and a concrete cave might be the way to go. I'd forgotten how good a tender heart felt. Years and years and layers and layers of self-protection caused me to forget that I really do love to kiss more than fight.

 We know how much God loves us, 
and we have put our trust in his love.  
 God is love, and all who live in love live in God, 
and God lives in them.
1 John 4:16

This learning to trust thing ain't so bad after all! It kinda feels like.....   
I meet with Him here.

I eat what He gives me to eat, here.

I rest in Him, with Him, here.

And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), 
so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.
1 Corinthians 2:12

Please join me, my darlings, in this journey of laying down the old, dead self and all it's craziness for the joy of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). Jesus waits patiently outside the door.  He's not mad at you; He loves you. All you need to do is punch in the code. He will take it from there, and you'll never want to live in the shelter again.

For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 
Romans 6: 4-5

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