My Full Cup

20171003_053253Several years ago I named my blog, My Full Cup, and gave it the tagline, “A brew of fresh grace”. It just seemed to fit my deep love of both grace and coffee. I viewed my life a cup of fresh, steaming hot coffee. My cup though wasn’t empty, I might have felt like I was choking on the coffee grounds that can congregate in the bottom of the cup, but my cup was full.

Sometimes it was very, very full. And I was exhausted. I thought if I could only keep all my plates spinning I would matter, I would be someone, I would be great. So I added more and more to my cup. If someone asked me to do something, I did it because you can’t say no or people won’t like you.

I kept adding and adding more and more thinking if I could only somehow achieve on my own merits the relationship with Jesus I thought I saw others having. They seemed to be doing more, being more than I was. So I joined every Bible study I could. I read Christian non-fiction, self-help books by the boat load.

I was exhausted. And I was wrong.

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Without Jesus I am just and empty cup of no use to anyone, of no value, no worth. I  might be made of fine china, but I have no value. I might be a heavy mug, but I’m still empty of everything good. Without Jesus I am incapable of giving anyone anything that might be of benefit to them. I have no intrinsic value, worth, or use. I am empty of everything good and life-giving.

But Jesus changed all of that! He brings value and worth, goodness to this cup as He fills my soul and entire being with His sweet Holy Spirit.

No one wants an empty cup. No one. We all want one that is full. Sometimes we want one that is full of hot coffee on a cold day. This brings warmth and comfort. Sometimes we want one that is filled with iced-coffee, or cold-brew, on a hot day. This brings a sense of a cool refreshing.

Just like that, Jesus makes us both hot and cold. In Him we bring both comfort to some and refreshing to others. But it is all Him and not at all us. We just simply surrender to Him.

The cup does absolutely nothing to be filled. It just sits there, willing and ready. It doesn’t shy away from the hot coffee that could burn, or the iced coffee that is cold. It is fully yielded to whatever is put into it, because that is what the cup was designed to do.

Jesus designed us to be cups of His Spirit, filled with His Life, being poured out for Him to others. Normally when you pour out of a cup, the coffee level decreases and it must be filled again and again. When Jesus pours His Life in our soul, He completely fills our entire being, and then He pours Himself out of us into the lives others, but we never lack any of Him. We are never empty; we are always full, because He fills all-in-all completely.

Remember this: He is the coffee. You are just the cup. That is your identity. You don’t have to do it all, be it all, have it all.

He is Life and He is my Life. He is the coffee, I am just the cup. He fashioned the cup for His will, purpose, plan, and according to His desire. Circumstances of my life, good and bad, have shaped my cup. As I live yielded, as you live yielded to Him, He reshapes our cups into His image.

Jesus, I am Your little cup, yielded and ready for Your use. You have filled me with Your Spirit-Your Life for Your purpose, plan, and glory. Please be glorified in me as You pour Your Life from me into the lives of others.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

How to Succeed at Failing in One Easy Step

A story is told of a little girl who had a horrible habit of standing up in the car. This was obviously well before seat belts and car seats were the law of the land. It was still unsafe for this little girl to be standing up in the car while her Momma was driving. Her momma was a patient soul and would always say, “Honey, you need to sit down.”

The little girl would remain standing. The mother would repeat her command with a little more fire in her voice, “Honey, sit down now or face a spanking.” Not wanting to receive the promised spanking, the little girl scowled deeply, crossed her arms across her chest and slowly slid down the seat back until she was sitting. Angry with her Momma, she turned to face her and said, “Momma, I might be sitting down on the outside, but I am standing up on the inside!”

A very dear friend of mine has on numerous occasions felt the need to point out my rebelliousness. My flesh balks at rules, regulations, and unfortunately authority.  I often will outwardly obey while inside I’m angrily calling curses down on your head. My heart stands up when I’m forced to sit down. I frequently think I know a better way. I see directions some times as mere guidelines, and suggestions, not actual directions to be carefully followed.

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The thing about a rebel heart is simply we all have one. Not a one of us is exempt. Isaiah 53 very clearly tells us that we have all gone astray, we have all turned to our own way.  I don’t know about you, but I dearly love words, I love to say words, to think words, to look at words, read words. I enjoy studying words, what they mean and where they came from. So I’d like to let you in on a little secret I discovered from this verse.

In the original Hebrew the little word all means… All. Yes, it does. All means all. Every one. Every single one. Completely.

We all bear the blame for the death of Jesus and He alone bore the shame for our sin, our rebel hearts.

There are no Rebels for Jesus. Because to rebel is to refuse to obey and Jesus leads us in obedience. Often that trail leads through suffering-even for Him. He learned obedience through things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8) and so do we.

When we rebel we are (often) looking for the easy way out of learning and our suffering. We see a hard road and simply refuse to march down it; choosing instead our own path that seems pain-free and one where we get to call the shots. One that has us firmly in control.

Control freaks–the lot of us!

We are in control of nothing. Not life. Not death. Not our next breath, or heart beat.

We rebel and fight for control because we don’t want to fail. We don’t want to bomb. But we all bomb and we all fail over and over and over and over. In our own strength this is all we can hope for – the best we will get – a life of failure.

In Jesus, relying on His strength and releasing Him to do it through us brings His success – even if we look like a failure to the world. We will still try things and not succeed. Jesus life does not mean we are automatically incredibly gifted at everything. He is not a one-way ticket to stardom, not a one-way ticket out of failure, but He is the only ticket to life and life abundant.

Life Abundant–Where it is not measured by succeed or fail, but by His life, His love, His joy that infects, permeates, and affects us and all those around us.

When we allow Jesus free reign to will and act in us according to His good pleasure there is no failure. Failure happens when we wrest control of our Harley (life) from the Faithful Father and plant our own bums firmly in the driver’s seat.

Pass/fail is a human thing. Not a Jesus thing. Every time we fail at something it shows us who is in control –  us, self. We rely on our own understanding, our own strength. We go our own way in rebellion.

So how exactly does one succeed at failing? How do we switch from a pass/fail human mindset?

Surrender it all to Jesus. Every last vestige of self must be surrendered to Him. We must deny ourselves, take up our own cross daily and follow Him. His path leads inevitably to the cross and to hardship, suffering, but it is the only path that brings life, super abundant life. Life we can’t conceive or nor could we ever dream it would be possible. But that is the life He offers.

And really apart from His life we’re dead. So why not make the exchange? Exchange our death for His super abundant glorious life!

Toxic and Deadly

A friend of mine tells me when she was a girl in grade school her best friend would only play with her if no other girls were around. If they caught her playing with my friend, they wouldn’t play with her. This was over 40 years ago and she still remembers it.

That was a toxic friendship.

I had a friend who would only talk to me when she thought I was being rude, mean, nasty, or had just in general screwed up and got it all wrong. There was no encouragement, no building each other up, no affirming. This was a few months ago and I still remember it.

That was a toxic friendship.

Those are just a few examples of toxicity in friendships. I am sure you could add your own story or stories of your own toxic relationships. Those friends who took more than you wanted to offer, left you limp and high and dry. Those friends you thought would always be there, suddenly weren’t, and you’re left feeling empty, hurt, and more than a little bewildered.

Toxic.

Deadly.

I’ve talked about friendships here before in the recent past. I’ve shared some truths Jesus whispered to my soul from the book of Ruth.  You can find those posts here and here.

I’ve reviewed books by Mary DeMuth here before, she has a new one coming out Monday, October 1. This book is all about our toxic friendships. Mary adds her own doses of encouragement and understanding as we walk through the minefield of deadly friendships. She offers hope that not all friendships are this way.

She has come up with an online quiz to see if your relationship is toxic. You can find that here.  After you take the quiz, if your relationship is toxic and you want healing from that, you can order her book.

In preparation for her book launch, Mary is sharing one of my blog posts on her blog today. You can find it here.

(I did receive a free pdf of Mary’s book, The 7 Deadly Friendships from Mary for the purpose of review and to help with her book launch.)

Are you follower or a disciple?

20180805_112437For many years I thought I was a disciple of Jesus. I thought because I did all the right things, said all the right things, didn’t do the bad things, at least not very many of them, didn’t say the wrong things, didn’t believe the wrong things, went to church, Bible study, served in ministries that I was a bona fide disciple of Jesus.

I thought if I said I loved Him enough, it would be enough. If I just did enough, it would be enough. If I submitted to leadership enough. If I submitted to and respected my husband enough. If I listened closely enough. If I walked close enough to the truth it would be enough. If I so ordered and controlled my life so it looked really, really good on the outside, it would be enough. I thought if I said I was a disciple, if I did all the things disciples and followers do, it would be enough.

I was wrong. And quite frankly, dear reader, if you believe that you are just as wrong as I was.

A few years ago a friend tried to teach me the difference between being a follower of Jesus and being a disciple of Jesus. I thought they were one and the same. Often my thoughts would be along the lines of,

Semantics, Dude! It’s just semantics!

I was convinced we were simply using different words for the same thing. I knew a disciple to be a “learner-follower”. One who learns of Jesus and follows Him and His teaching.  If you do that you’re a disciple, right?

Again, I was wrong. Yes, the definition of the Greek word translated “disciple” is a learner, and one could (maybe) argue that a disciple also follows. I get that. But no.

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There were multitudes who followed Jesus. Multitudes followed Him everywhere He went. They followed Him, often anticipating His move and meeting Him there. Always a crowd around Him.

But were they all His disciples? No. They followed Him. But didn’t know Him. They followed Him but only from selfishness. They followed because of what He could give them. They wanted healing, they wanted food, and they wanted it now and they wanted it free and easy. If it meant following a man around the countryside, they would do it.

And so do people today.  Multitudes follow Him from selfishness. He’s the good-luck charm. Our ace-in-the-hole. Our proverbial get-out-of-hell-free-card.

There is just one problem. We’re still doing all of life on our own and in our own strength. Still pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We’re living life from self and not from Jesus.

You see, a disciple of Jesus is one who has gone to the cross, accepted Jesus sacrifice for their sin. They have acknowledged that apart from Him and His life they are dead, completely unable to live. Unable to do anything remotely good. They realize their flesh is dead, their heart is dead. They are dead.

And they surrender all the dead to Jesus. They open their death to His life and give Him free reign to live in and through Him. They completely exchange their death for His life, they offer up their meager identity as an enemy of Jesus and accept His identity as a loved child.

It’s called the Exchanged Life for a reason, people. We can’t live the exchanged life if we’re still holding on to our old identity as a dead person.

If we merely say we follow Jesus but live life in our own strength we are the double-minded man that James talks about in James 1:8.

The multitudes followed Jesus because of what He could do for them, what He could give them. We are no different today.

But you know what? Those people died in their sins and received nothing from Jesus. (Unless they came to the cross and exchanged their death for His life.) Dear reader, if you are merely following Jesus, while you live life on your own, you are not His disciple and you cannot expect anything from Him.

I’m sorry. But that is the truth of Scripture. If you are still finding your identity in all the things you do, even the things you do for Jesus, and not in His life lived in you, if you are not fully yielded and submitted to Him, you are not His disciple. You are merely a follower.

If you would like to change your position from follower to disciple, please comment or use the Contact Me! link above. I would love to help you make the switch and exchange your death for His life. Death doesn’t look good on you.

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Because there is God

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All of my life was a desert, a wasteland of broken promises, unfulfilled dreams, and unhealed hurts. It was completely devoid of life. Nothing grew. Nothing flourished because nothing grows in a sandy desert.

As far as the eye could see it was just mounds and mounds of hot, blister-the-bottoms-of-your-feet-hot-sand. No water. No shade. A wasteland.

Even after Jesus came in, it was a desert. I hid there in the wasteland-devoid of life, absent from grace. Sure that God did not and could not see me, convinced He would not and did not want to see me hiding there-afraid and alone.

But He filled my heart with Him. He drew me out by grace. He spoke His truth at the bush.

I’d known about God for a long time, I was intrigued by Him but I did not know Him. Even after coming to the cross for forgiveness and life, I did not know Him. I knew of Him and I could easily parrot what everyone else said about Him, but I did not know Him for myself. He was, to me, a stranger. A very nice stranger, but a stranger all the same.

I hid my face-afraid to look at God. Because mirrored there I was sure I would see my own evilness, His hatred and disappointment, condemnation.

Sometimes even today I want to hide my face from Him. I want to run so far so fast in 5 years time I’ll still be running from Him. But His life. His grace draws my face upward to look at Him and there is no condemnation.

There is no condemnation there to be seen at all. There is no disappointed frown, at times there is a look or word of correction, but I’m learning I don’t have to fear those. I don’t have to be afraid of those looks because they are love-driven and work to drive me deeper into relationship with Him, and to cement Him deeper in my heart and pulls me closer to His.

It is in these times of correction, when He points out my sin, that I get to know Him more and better, in a richer, deeper way. A way I’d not known Him before and in a way I’d never get to know Him had He simply left me to my own devices and left sin uncorrected. And unforgiven.

Without His correcting there would be no growth. No oasis in the desert. No shade. No water. No life.

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The wasteland is beginning to flourish. Plants are growing, the ground is turning green. Saplings are becoming trees, sheltering trees of comforting shade. There is a wild beauty here now, one I would not have recognized a few decades ago, and never thought possible a few years ago.

This wild beauty speaks of His life. There is a rest where fear reigned. There is grace where anger lived. There is peace-tranquility with God-that says “even here in the hard, ugly wasteland desert, there is beauty and goodness.”

Because there is God.

Get Out of the Pit and Into the Refuge

I didn’t want to go. I had absolutely no desire to attend that conference at all. None. Not even the thought of reconnecting with a friend would induce me to want to travel for this conference. This friend would frequently end texts and emails with, “I’m looking forward to seeing you in January.”

My heart wanted to look forward to it as well. I wanted to but I couldn’t. I had a feeling the conference would bring up a lot of old attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs. I did not want to go back to that pit.

My worst fears of that weekend came true, not because they became a self-fulfilling prophecy, but rather because Jesus wanted to teach me a very valuable lesson about my time back in the pit.

Jesus redeemed our lives from the pit. He set our feet on the Rock. He sustains our life, He preserves us complete in Him.

He did not set us free to plunge us back into the pit. He sets us free from the pit and brought life to us outside of the pit.

When we choose, and it is a choice we make, to plunge ourselves back into a pit of our own making, the pit Jesus redeemed us out of, we cheapen grace and make light of His death as a sacrifice and payment. Our redemption cost Jesus dearly.

Pit dwellers don’t come cheap.

His freedom never intended us to be free to return to our pit–that is hypocrisy and exactly what brought judgement on the Israelites. Jesus freed them from the slavery of the Egyptians and they wanted to go back.

There is no life in the pit–only destruction, despair, and death.

“Who redeems your life from the pit…” Psalm 103:4

“He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, our of the miry clay and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. Psalm 40:2

“The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress and my Deliverer, My God, my Rock in Whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my Stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

“For Thou hast delivered my soul from death, indeed my feet from stumbling, so that I may walk before God in the light of the living.” Psalm 56:13

The difference between a pit and a refuge is our focus and our position. Pits are safe–to our flesh but are deadly to our spirit. They provide a false sense of security and only seem to feel comfortable.

In a pit we are wrapped up in self and self-pity.  Despair is the name of our game. Our focus is self. One friend worded his pit dwelling as: Crawling around in that dark cave of despair-somehow thinking there are answers written on the walls of my past.

That is a pretty dang good summation of a pit, at least in the eyes of this former pit dweller. We crawl around in the dark looking for answers, looking for anything that will feed self and make the pain stop. Just make it all stop. But life in a pit is a never-ending cycle of pain and more pain.

Why do you think addictions are so common? We all need something to deaden the pain of dead-end life in the pit. Yes, even believers.

Oh, my precious friend, please hear me, I’ve lived in a pit. I’ve been that selfish, self-serving girl full of self-pity. And there is no life there.

A refuge is safe, it’s a downy pillow on a soft, downy bed. It is rest and relief. It’s a place of release. It’s a sigh at the end of long day. It’s a place where fears don’t last and striving stops.

Pits exude fear and there is a constant striving. We strive to get better, to be better, to get ourselves out of that dang pit one more time. We strive to get back at the idiot that tossed us in the pit because when this is our address it’s never our fault or responsibility.

He has redeemed our life from the pit.
We don’t live there anymore. 

He has set our feet on a rock.
We are secure in Him.

He set our boundaries in pleasant places.
He is trustworthy to keep us out of the pit.

He is our Rock and our Redeemer.
No one loves us, no one gave as much for us as Jesus.

The Road to Emmaus and How we’re on it.

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A friend of mine phoned the other day, it was a hard day. A very hard day, full of pain and well, hard things. She has been walking a difficult path for the past several months and she’s weary.

I don’t blame her. I’d be weary too if I was walking in her shoes. I haven’t walked exactly in her shoes but I’ve walked through some hard, difficult, pain-filled places as my feet trod the dirt and dust of earth.

In the wake of this conversation with my friend, I dug out the notebook journals I’ve been keeping for the past year or so of my own journey with Jesus. I’ve wanted to refresh my memory of the hard paths I’ve taken and the faithfulness of Jesus.

I didn’t have to read very far before I found encouragement for my friend and for anyone else who finds herself on a hard, painful path of life.

I had been pondering the two headed to Emmaus and why they didn’t recognize Jesus at all. Luke 24 records the story for us. It isn’t immediately clear (and you’d have to ask a Bible scholar to find out if my thoughts are correct) but I suppose the two on the road were disciples. The could have been two of the twelve disciples. I’ve always thought they were, but they could also just be 2 men who followed Jesus. Ultimately it doesn’t matter.

It’s possible they didn’t recognize Jesus simply because they didn’t expect to see Him or hear Him. It’s also possible, I suppose, that they weren’t His sheep yet. (“My sheep hear My voice and they know Me.” John 10:27) It’s possible they followed Jesus, but at a distance and without having made a personal decision to follow Him and for Him to be their Shepherd.

But maybe it’s none of those things. Maybe they were just so focused on their own pain that they couldn’t really see anything else. All they could hear was the loud, raucous voice of their pain shouting at them that life isn’t fair.

And Saviors don’t die.

And maybe their pain deceived them into thinking they had trusted and believed a lie, and now they are left feeling duped, dumb, and unable to believe life could ever be good again.

Then Jesus steps in and teaches them. I can only focus on one thing at a time. I can’t focus on Jesus and my pain at the same time. Whichever one I choose to focus on grows, it blinds my eyes and closes my ear to the other. If I choose to focus on my pain and make that more real than my Jesus,  my Jesus and my ability to see Him, to hear His voice fades into nothingness.

But when I choose to–in my pain–focus on Jesus, while the pain remains I can clearly see Him and hear His voice. I can feel His gentle ministrations to my wounded soul in pain.

Both pain and Jesus consume,
And I get to choose what consumes me.
When Jesus consumes me–
pain doesn’t stand a chance.
It cannot stay around long.
Life is still hard.
Life is still painful.
But Jesus breathes His Life,
His Light, His grace, His Presence
Into pain-filled, broken places.

Jesus,

Right here, right now in this very moment, in this very pain-filled and painful moment, consume me for Yourself with Your self.
Be my single focus.
My single devotion.
For Your glory,
And I will not cease to praise
Your Name, because
You are good.
You are good to me.
You are good at being God.
And I, I am not.
So please, I’ll let You be God,
And I’ll submit to You as
Your little lamb.
Please lead me–
Guide me__
Walk beside me,
Teach me,
Laugh with me,
Hold my hand.
Right here, right now I choose
To believe You completely.
I choose to submit myself wholly
To You.