And as Christ himself is seen for who he really is…
We humans have a love-hate relationship with the truth; and it changes depending on what truth we’re having to face. Last week my nephew decided to move to Twin Falls. He had gotten it in his head that if he did not leave immediately he would never leave the Treasure Valley. He believed he was stuck. That became in his mind a truth. So, he went to visit some friends in Twin Falls and had a plan to get a job there. A few days later he texted me and tells me he is going to San Francisco by mostly hitchhiking. With the last of his money he made it as far as Salt Lake City. And then he got stuck. He spent several days unable to get out of the city, hungry, alone, cold and in a lot of ways lost. It wasn’t long after that he told me he was coming back. He has a whole new plan now, it’s actually his old plan that he was talking about a year ago that he never did anything about. His perceived truth chased him away from the real truth of his life and dreams here in Idaho.
In my opinion, this entire thing had to do with a health scare. Just a few short weeks after a bad spell he was in Twin Falls. This trip was about running away from the truth about himself, avoiding his doctors, avoiding people around him that we’re going to ask him questions about his health and in general avoiding the truth that was weighing on him. In his case, he ran. I myself have locked myself away, ignored the truth, yelled at the truth and even beat it up a few times. The crazy thing is, it’s not always bad truth I am fighting against. Sometimes even the best truth can scare the crap out of me. It’s mental. I’m mental! But the reality is: we all are. There’s something very raw and vulnerable about the truth. And it doesn’t always have to be our truth either, just hearing truth can wreck us to our core. You would think that we would all want to run after something as important as the truth. Yet, we are terrified of it. When it comes to our relationship with God, when He reveals Himself to us, we are forced to face Truth. And not just any truth, but the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Capital “T” Truth! There is a reason why the world fears and in some respects despises Jesus, in part because of His truth and what it means about us. He is perfection that we can never be and yet we live that struggle every single day. We are told by society what perfect is and that we need to conform to those standards. But it’s all superficial, because we can never ever be perfect. But we can be loved by perfection. We can be saved by perfection. We can be raised up from our muck by perfection. The truth about love, the truth about hope, the truth about peace, the truth about who we really are undermines everything the world is trying to make us believe. Jesus reveals Himself in every moment of every day of your life, and He is just waiting for you to respond. Open your heart, open your mind and let Truth be revealed.
"God created us for a relationship with him and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in God."
I was five years old when I first accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. My parents sent me to Vacation Bible School that particular week and the teachers talked about inviting Jesus into my heart. That night I talked to my mom about it and she explained to five year old me what Jesus was all about. I asked her to pray with me. That was the first time I gave my life to God. I can’t necessarily say that I experienced God or felt like God was revealed to me in some blinding light, but I knew something in my life had changed, a focus, a purpose had arisen in me even at that tender young age. Throughout my childhood it’s very evident that I was seeking a deeper understanding of God. I wanted more of Him. I was the one that dragged my mother to church. I was reading the Bible and memorizing scripture and asking questions. I sincerely wanted to understand who God was. I’ve always believed, even before I accepted Jesus into my heart, that there was a God and I knew that He loved me. Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich explain it like this, “Some people at this stage clearly and completely experience God first through their senses…we simply experience the presence of God.” God revealed himself to me through my faith and by creating a connection. His presence was felt even without the aid of a talking donkey.
There are some amazing stories of those fantastical moments where Jesus appears and shakes everything with His presence (Daniel 3, Matthew 14, Acts 9). Each of these reveals something new about our Savior. But, I think one of the most important things to take from this is how personal and specific each of these incidents are. Jesus reveals Himself to each of us in a personal way. To me, it was simply letting me connect with Him and sense His presence in my life. For Paul it was blinding light. How did Jesus first show Himself to you? How does He continue to do that in your life? How have you encountered Christ in the past 24 hours? What is your story of God’s presence in your life? I truly want to know. How did you meet your Savior? How did you, when did you, and where did you accept Him into your heart? Maybe God has revealed Himself many times, and maybe you’re still on a journey seeking that moment. Open your heart and mind to Him now. Let Him show His heart for you. Whether it’s a big shake up or quiet and steady touch or some where in between, God has something incredible and intimate just for you!
The Bible is full of stories of encountering God, people experiencing and reacting to the ultimate realization.
Sometimes they worship:
Along the way, Jesus suddenly appeared in front of them and said, “Rejoice!” They were so overwhelmed by seeing him that they bowed down and grasped his feet in adoring worship.
Matthew 28:9 (TPT)
At other times they simply obey:
Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.
Mark 1:17-18 (NLT)
There are those who weep:
Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
Luke 7:38 (NLT)
And those who ignore:
Excitedly, Mary told them, “He’s alive and I’ve seen him!” But even after hearing this, they didn’t believe her.
Mark 16:11 (TPT)
And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world...
Have you stopped and thought about what that will be like? Jesus’s return will happen someday. It’s a day that is talked about in churches, but do you ever take the time to think about it. Admittedly, I haven’t done much thinking about it years. Due to an incident in my childhood I avoid thinking about it. When I was a kid I had a nightmare that Jesus came back. As I was swept up to meet Him in the sky, I looked back and noticed certain people, that I very much love, weren’t coming. I could see them standing on the ground and I tried to reach for them to bring them up, but I couldn’t reach them. I was very young when I had that dream and thinking back on it now it still turns my stomach and makes my heart race.
I have allowed fear to rule over this beautiful day for far too long. Fear gripped me as a child and stripped from me all the joy that can be found in reflecting on that day. My Jesus is coming back! I will get to experience something beyond imagining! The son of God is going to call us to Him!What does that look like, I don’t know. But, the truth of it is that this world is not my home and Jesus is going to take me to my home. It’s going to be a beautiful and amazing day when He comes. He loves me so much that He cannot leave me on this earth any longer He’s going to bring me to my real home.
This may all sound cliché, but it is far from it, because it is truth. Jesus loves you and one day He’s going to take you from this earth and you will get to be with Him in a way beyond your current understanding. Your heart, mind, body and soul with Jesus forever. What does your heart feel when you think about it? Are you like me, are you worrying about everybody else? Have you not really put any thought into it at all? Are you afraid of that day? Why? Maybe you have a picture in your head, what does that look like? Jesus has provided everything that we need on this earth so that we can get the tiniest glimpse of heaven. And one day, one amazing day, He’s going to give you the full on experience. “Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7 (NLT)). Close your eyes, shut out the world around you, just let your heart feel and let it imagine the experience of Jesus’ return when all will see the splendor and glory of the Lord. Don’t hold back, lean into it. “My little flock, don’t be afraid. God is your Father, and your Father’s great joy is to give you His kingdom.” Luke 12:32 (VOICE). If you feel fear or trepidation or anxiety, hand it over to God and just let your soul soar with Jesus. Take all your anxiety to Him, so you may be free to relish your time with your Creator, the one who will someday come back and bring you to your real home. How can you reflect on that today? Where can you find joy in these truths?
On that day when the Anointed One—who is our very life...
I wanted to make sure this message repeated, Christ is your life. Actually, let’s do this again, Christ is your life. Let’s take this very slowly:
Can you imagine wrapping your mind around that truth and the significance of what that could do in your life? It’s one thing to say we believe it, it is a complete other to live it, walk it out and fully immerse yourself in the truth that Christ is your life. I look at my mom and I see a woman who has dedicated her entire life to her family. Everything, practically from birth, has been about her family. As much as she loves Jesus, and she truly does love Jesus, she doesn’t walk the truth that He is her life. Her truth is that her family is her life. This is the woman who taught me the love of God. Her generous heart, her gentle nature and her loving demeanor showed me all those wonderful and kindly aspects of God that she shines out to the world. And as much as I have learned from her, and I have learned a great deal, I have not learned from her how to walk out the truth: Christ is my life. I actually can’t think of a single person that walks this truth fully and sincerely. I know several people working on it, but sins and the need to assert our will always interferes.
It’s my goal in life to completely immerse myself in God and trust and believe that He is my life, my all. Jesus walked that every single day, we saw Him do it from birth to death and beyond. He is our great example of how to believe and live as if God is our life. So what did He do differently? He prayed. When I say this I’m talking about how He lived prayer. Every moment of every day His heart was in worship and prayer with His loving father. He obeyed. No matter what the circumstances, He followed the will of God. He knew the will of God because He prayed, and that allowed Him to know God’s heart and mind and will for His life on this earth. And because He knew the heart of God and God’s love for Him, He knew His true self.
It sounds simple, pray, obey, know God and thyself. And yet, because we live in a broken world and we are broken people who live in our sin and allow temptation to rule, it feels like an impossibility. It is important to note that nothing is impossible with God. So if your heart is telling you to live as if God is your life, then let Him help you do that. Pray right now. Pray and ask Him how to live that life out and ask for the guidance and strength to do it right, to do it in His will.
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.
To see things from God’s perspective, is that even possible as humans to see things from a perspective so infinite and awesome and beyond our understanding? I love this particular song by Brandon Heath, it immediately came to mind when I read that scripture from Colossians out of The Message. When I last wrote on Colossians I was focusing on the treasures in heaven, that which God has gifted to us and we get to experience a little heaven on earth. But this version takes the idea of the treasures of heaven and puts a spin on it that I really like. It isn’t necessarily about focusing on what’s above, but to see beyond the surface to what God has created here on earth. He created what we are seeing. He created the people that walk by us everyday. He created the trees that are growing outside. He created the birds that are flying over our heads. He created the stars we get to admire at night. He created you. He created me. We are His creation, we are treasures from heaven.
I find myself often pondering my role in the body of Christ. We each have a role, sometimes we might have more than one and sometimes it may change depending on the moment, the people, the needs for whatever God is asking us to do. I have questioned — often — why He created me. What could I possibly contribute? I am a loner, I am stubborn, I am distant, I am overweight, I am argumentative, I lack much ambition, I have never lived up to my potential, I rarely use my intellect choosing instead to hide myself away from the world. Yes, I’m listing off many of my bad traits and not listing any good. This isn’t some bash on myself, this is putting things into perspective. God has known since the beginning of time that I would turn out this way...and He loves me anyway. He is not deterred by my terrible eating habits. He is not put off by my weird obsessions. He is not angry that I’m still choosing my bad habits over building new ones with Him. He loves me, just as I am. He has a purpose for me, just as I am. I am a treasure, just as I am. I am a daughter of the King, just as I am. I am beloved, just as I am. I am His bride, just as I am.
Why? How? Because God doesn’t see the way we do. God loves in a way we can’t begin to understand, because His love isn’t conditional on what we do, but on who we are. He has eyes that see farther inside of me than I can ever expect too. He sees the woman He created to love and be loved by Him. He sees the woman that He has called to something specific...even if she argues with Him about it. He sees the bride who accepted Christ as her Savior. He sees the joy that I can experience in Him if I choose. He sees the love I can share with others if I listen and follow Him. He sees my pain and my strength to overcome it. He sees all of me. Imagine that....truly imagine that. God sees all of me.
Guess what, He sees all of you too. Every white lie, every lustful thought, every kind gesture, every angry feeling, every needle prick, every song sung, every idea considered, every moment questioning, every doubt that has passed through your mind....EVERYTHING!! There is nothing in your life, even things you don’t know about yourself, that God’s isn’t fully and completely aware of. He loves you. He sees you. Can you see yourself that same way? Not without His help. “See things from His perspective” the scripture says. Ask for His eyes to see yourself...your beauty, your pain, your truths, your potential, your scars...all of you. Ask for His eyes to see those around you, your family and friends and the person in the grocery isle. Ask to see creation as He intended it to be seen...with the eyes of the Creator. Embrace the gift He is offering...”Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ” and around you.
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
This past weekend I got to spend time with a bunch of very cool ladies at a conference. We laughed, cried, learned, and it was all for the purpose of growing deeper in relationship with God and each other. We were designed for community. God intends for us to influence one another. God gave each of us strengths that will allow us to help others who are weak or in need. He’s given us talents that we may inspire one another. He has given us need to connect with others so we may experience a sense of love and community.
It has come to my attention that I relate better to people who are either much older or much younger than me. I don’t really understand the how, but I do understand some of the why. I have found that to those who are younger I can bring a bit of my wisdom and experience and the tiniest bit of maturity that I have into the relationship. Regarding my connection with older folks, I am somebody they can take care of and invest their wisdom in while getting to learn from me as I go deeper with God. They also see potential in me so they want to build me up. I have very few close friends my age. I don’t relate to that age for some reason. But, if I needed too then God would have designed me that way. The point is that I belong to those who God has brought into my life and they to me. We are responsible and accountable to one another. I am not suggesting that in any way, shape or form that people are not responsible for their own actions, but we are responsible for fulfilling our purpose in God’s will which is to connect with His people, His children.
We are all a part of this walk with God, even if not everyone on this big blue rock believes. In order to see real change we have to be able to share ourselves with others. We were designed, it is in our DNA to be connected to other children of God. They are all around you, and they are all struggling with something. Maybe you are supposed to step in to some of those lives, cross your path with them and bring your strengths and even your weaknesses into the relationship. Maybe they will build you up, maybe you will build them up, but I do know that if God brings someone into your life whether they are friends, family, acquaintances or some random person in the grocery line...it is for a purpose, it is for His purpose and His perfect will. How will you respond? How will you love them? How will you be Jesus in their life? And are you willing and able to let them step into your life and be Jesus for you? Talk to God today about everybody that is currently in your life and those who are coming. Pray for them, talk to God about them, imagine your walk with them and embrace what He has for you both in these amazing relationships.
I am not saying this because I am in need. I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances. I know how to survive in tight situations, and I know how to enjoy having plenty. In fact, I have learned how to face any circumstances: fed or hungry, with or without. I can be content in any and every situation through the Anointed One who is my power and strength.
Life sucks. I think I’ve said this before, but it deserves reiterating: life sucks. Heck, just for fun let’s do it one more time: life sucks!
It may seem like I’m complaining, but I’m really not, bear with me I have a point to make. This past year has really, truly, unequivocally sucked. There was a time in May when I spent five days avoiding all people and I didn’t leave my house, I barely left my room. The constant upheaval of everything around me was devastating to me and my joy. I let my circumstances (life suckage) affect my joy. Again this deserves repeating: I, Melody Paris, let my temporary circumstances affect my eternal joy. This was not the first time and probably not the last. I hope that I can learn a truly valuable and lifelong lesson from this experience; that my circumstances are temporary, my relationship with God, the peace that He brings, the joy that I received from Him, the love that I experience in my relationship with Him are all eternal and with me through it all. God is fully aware of my circumstances, He knows more about the shit surrounding me than I will ever know. He is walking with me, He is clothing me in strength, dignity and wisdom to navigate these times. The question then becomes for me, am I going to learn from my past, am I going to respond to His gifts, am I going to walk with Him or am I gonna have to be dragged along? Time will tell. I am a stubborn person and sometimes lessons have to be beat into my brain. But, I hope. I have hope. Yep, let’s do it again: I have hope! You know what, one more time for good, strong emphasis: I HAVE HOPE!! If Paul could sing praises and continue to teach and convert while he was chained in a prison, I can deal with my worldly crap and I can do it by keeping focused on God and making Him my first priority. He is my power, the Almighty, the Anointed, Creator, Guide, Teacher, Father, King, Lover of my soul, He is my strength.
Who is He to you? When life seems to be dumping on you, does it affect your joy? Do you let societal pressures and the thoughts of others invade your expectations of yourself? When it comes to your peace and joy, where does that come from and how do you maintain it? I have a feeling You do not have the answers to all these questions, but hopefully you starting to think about them, ask them and discuss them with God.
The process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others
Tonight I’m going to step away from Colossians 3, we’ll get back to that later.
The quote above is Robert Mulholland’s definition of spiritual formation. When I first read that quote I did not understand the last five words. What did my spiritual health have to do with other people? It took me a long time to figure that out. Tonight I was reminded of the importance of that part of the definition. Someone I care a great deal about came to me in a really bad state. I’ve never been great at dealing with a crisis. As a matter fact, I tend to run as far away from them as I can possibly go or go into panic overdrive mode. God has shown me in the last few years that He actually designed me in a way that I can handle and be there in the tough situations. Surprise, surprise. Tonight this person needed me, they needed calm and steady. If you know me, the Melody you’re used too or the one you probably remember is really dramatic, emotional and fragile. Hallelujah, I’m not that person anymore. That is thanks to an amazing God in my life and He has been revealing the true me a little bit by little bit every day, I was able to be here for this other person and bring a little light when they needed it.
I’ve been talking a lot lately about how God needs to be our focus, and I am not backing down from that truth, but there is more. He designed us for community. He designed us to love Him and each other. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31). There’s a purpose in our spiritual growth, it is for us to grow stronger and learn who we truly are, it is for us to grow in greater relationship with the Lord who loves us and it is also so that we may be strong for others.
Maybe there somebody in your life right now who needs you, someone who needs you to hold their hand or to listen or to speak. Tonight I did a bunch of all of that. Who is it that God has brought into your life for their needs? Reach out to them. If they live with you, go talk to them. If they don’t, call them. Maybe you need to write a letter or an email or paint a picture. Where is your heart leading you? What is God telling you about this person, about that relationship? How can you be there for them tonight, tomorrow and in the future? How can you continue to grow as yourself and also do it for others?
Your crucifixion with Christ has severed the tie to this life, and now your true life is hidden away in God in Christ.
“Examine me and know my heart, probe me and know my thoughts” (Psalm 139: 23) is not, as it appears, a request that God would know me but that God would show that known self to me.
Who are you? I know it’s a really big question and not one easily answered and not one I’m expecting you to answer right now. And yet, I want you to ponder that question. If I were to ask you to describe yourself, what are the first thoughts that come to mind? Most people tend to answer with things like jobs or accomplishments or relationships. We do that as well sometimes when we are describing other people. These are the things that come to mind because these are easy for us to associate with one another and it's also how we measure each other. But you being the daughter/son of John Doe is not who you are. It’s not your true self. You being the daughter of God, that is your true self.
God knows you. He created you. He built everything in you. The true self, the person you are at your core was created by God long before your parents or grandparents or great great, great, great grandparents ever met. You were God’s beloved before you were anything else. Just think about that for a moment. Before you were ever a twinkle in your mom’s eye, God loved you. He still loves you. The true you is a part of God thanks to Jesus. You were always loved by Him, what Jesus did was bring you to a place of true connection living with your Creator. His crucifixion wrapped you in the arms of the Almighty. What you do now when you are delving into this relationship with Jesus is actually learning about yourself. The more time you spend time with God the more He is going to be able to show you you, teach you all about who the true you is, who you are in Him. That’s the whole point in my writing. That’s the whole point in life...it is to get to know ourselves because God is within us and He is a part of us and He wants to meet us in every aspect of our lives. How will you respond to that today? How are you going to get to know yourself better?
Keep your minds thinking about things in heaven. Do not think about things on the earth.
Yep, if you can believe it I am still talking about treasures, our treasures in heaven. Are you familiar with the three T’s? The three T’s are time, treasure, and talent. I’ve been reflecting on how important those are to us in allocating our personal resources in our relationships with God, family, friends, dreams, ideas, jobs and so much more. Whatever we choose to make a priority will utilize all three T's.
Time. Louis E. Boone once joked, "I am definitely going to take a course on time management... just as soon as I can work it into my schedule." In our culture today we are running ourselves ragged. We rush from appointment to appointment and all too rarely get to stop and smell the roses. Our life on this earth is finite. As such, each moment is running down the clock on our time here. Everything we do takes up that limited resource. The hour glass of our lives just keeps going. Recognizing that fact is necessary in understanding how best to make choices. Do you want to spend all your time in an office or on a golf course. Heck, I don't golf and yet that's an easy choice. There are things we have to do, but we don't have to give over all of our time to those things. Find balance, find the time for your passions and live it up!
Treasure. When we look at Colossians 3, we know how important it is to focus on the treasures in heaven. We can also see how in all of our relationships those treasures will play a part. For example, if the treasure is hope, it will infect everyone around us with a sense of hope, it will affect how we view and do our job, it will direct how we respond to problems and it will determine if we pursue our dreams. Any of the treasures that come from heaven, anything that God has gifted to us will affect our lives considerably. It takes the treasures that we’ve been given in order for us have the right mind and heart to accomplish anything. Although the treasures in heaven are infinite, our ability to use them effectively is not. We are finite humans, we only have so much time and energy to be able to deal with everything in this life. We need to respect what we are able to accomplish, we may have big hearts wanting to love and protect every single person, but there are 7 billion people on this planet, that is gonna be really hard to accomplish.
Talent. It will take the talents God has bestowed to truly live the way God wants us to live. Utilizing those talents for the relationships, goals, jobs and whatever else God has brought into our lives is their purpose. I have a knack for words. A friend of mine is always taking notes around me because she thinks gems of thought consistently fall out of my mouth. In reality, I just have the ability to turn a phrase. I chose to apply that talent to writing and sharing my life and thoughts on God with the world. First, figure out your priorities and then see how best your talents can be exercised for those priorities. We do not all have the same talents. Some people are singers, some people are fighters, some people are mechanically inclined, where other people are great thinkers, or teachers or builders or healers and so on and so forth. We each have a myriad of talents, we do not all have the same talents. So when those things come into your life that are great but do not suit your talents, recognize it and don’t put your energy there because that is meant for somebody else. Find the things in your life that God has for you.
Ultimately, what we need to do is to seek God’s will in our life. It is through His will that we will find our true passions and talents and see where the Holy Spirit steps into the gaps. God wants to bless our socks off. One way He plans to do that is to show us His will in our life and to walk out that will.
Set your time, treasures and talents on all the wonder that God has for you and you will experience that “abundant and vital life.” Take a moment to think about one of your talents. Maybe at this moment you need to create something with God. Maybe you need to write a book, paint a picture, call a friend. Maybe you need to dance with Him. Wherever your heart is leading you right now, go do that with God.