Monday, February 17, 2014

I am not enough and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria!  This group exists to empower women to authentically share their hearts.  Want to learn more?  Click here to find out ways you can be involved here.
Some things to know:
1.  It's important to take some time to visit a new friend.  If you decide to link up, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
2.  We are a safe place to be real.  I deeply cherish your involvement in the community.  Consider answering the question from "Let's get real" at the bottom of the post.
3.  Please be sure to check out our Woven with Love auction item at the end of the post!
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(Note: Today's post is long, but I invite you to stick with it. Not because of my words, but because I think the picture John paints through his words is simply breath-taking.)

John had 70 years to think about how he would arrange the stories in his gospel.  I had 7 days to try to get inside his head to figure out why he had chosen such placement.

I couldn't shake this nagging feeling that somehow he purposefully took the stories of the Wedding at Cana, the Clearing of the Temple*, and Jesus' face-to-face conversation with Nicodemus and wove them together to create a tapestry that we can sear into our brains.

And it's a lesson that needs to be forever imprinted because it's one that is so easily forgotten:

I am not enough.  

(Lest you think I'm being self-deprecating, keep reading.)  

Last week, we uncovered spiritual truths Jesus reveals at the Wedding at Cana.  We learn that failure creates the space in which Jesus can make miracles.  We see Him taking our sins and pouring them back out as abundant grape-colored grace.  It is because of our incessant inability to uphold and live out perfectly the Law, He provides more of this grace than we could ever imagine.

This week, we look at Jesus as He stands in the Temple, turning over tables, driving out animals with a hastily-made whip, and speaking with exclamation (Jesus yelled!).  He's clearly upset.  His Father's house has turned into a place of extortion.  He's angry because the Temple has been defiled, but there's another reason:

All this marketplace business has kept people from heart-filled worship.  And Jesus is all about removing barriers that keep us from His Father.  We see this ultimately played out on the cross, but we get a glimpse of it here, too.  As Ann Voskamp said at the IF: Gathering, "God is not about a business.  He is about a body."

The priests and the Saducees were responsible for all these Temple transactions.  They were in the business of taking people's offerings (the annual tax and sacrifices required by the Jews) and evaluating them to make sure they were good enough to be brought into the Temple as an offering to God.  But instead of changing money (foreign currency was considered unclean) for a nominal fee (a practice allowed by the Talmud), they bilked the often-poor pilgrim out of an amount equal to a full day of wages. Inspectors of sacrificial animals would often reject the pilgrim's offering, and in turn, offer to sell them an acceptable one from the Temple for 18 times more than what they were actually worth.  (It reminds me of how hotels and concert venues can charge $6 for a bottle of water, but I digress.)

And all these transactions are happening in the Court of the Gentiles.  So any non-Jew seeking to pray, seeking to find God, seeking a place for communion with Him, was confronted with God as a business.  His place of worship was taken away.  He was denied access.

I think about the Jews who came to the Temple, those who couldn't afford the "acceptable offerings" and how they must have felt denied, too.  And if they truly believed that their relationship with God was based on animal sacrifices and they had one deemed not worthy, how would they atone? How would they enter into worship again?  And even if they were able to afford it, could they really enter into a relationship with God on a heart level when their religion made it about a business?  I probably would have been consumed with how I would feed my family for the next week, not about connecting with God.

Jesus is consumed by passion and zeal for His Father's house, but it plain to see He is also consumed by His passion and zeal for us.  His Father's house was built for access to worship.  And people were coming to this house and their offerings were rejected.  They were told that what they brought was not enough.  What they had didn't measure up to the worldly standards of perfection.  And God had already said He was done with the sacrifices.  What He wanted was our hearts.  But if we are told that what we have tangibly is not good enough, how much harder is it to believe that what is inside of us is?  Would God really want that?

Jesus tells us, yes, through His passionate actions.  We have no need to measure our offerings against the ideals of the world.  We must only offer ourselves, whatever that may be.  It is here Jesus declares He is the Son of God. It is here He sets in motion the journey that will end in His death.  It is here where He becomes the perfect offering so that our perfection is not longer required for us to have access to God.
Flash to the next scene: We have the man who has it all by the Jewish world's standards. Nicodemus is not only a Pharisee, but he's a member of the Sanhedrin, one of only 70 people.  He spent his whole life following the thousands of incredibly detailed rules the scribes had meted out so to give tangible ways to understand and practice the Law.

Apparently, he was really good at it.  A hot shot.  One that shouldn't need anything else.  He had money.  He had fame.  He had worldly acclamation.

But something must have been missing in his heart because in the dead of night, he goes to find Jesus.  The man who thought he had everything goes to the Man who is everything and I wonder if he has his own measuring experience.  I wonder if in the very presence of Jesus, he realizes that all he has couldn't possibly compare with what He offers.  How could he not?

Nicodemus learns of rebirth, eternal life, and God's love.  John doesn't tell us Nicodemus made any decision that night, but we find him later bringing pounds of perfumed ointment to be poured out on Jesus' body after His death on the cross.  Something must have stuck.  And perhaps something must have come unstuck, too.  The idea of continual judgement and evaluation from the world?  From God?  Perhaps the words of Jesus on that dark night during their cloaked conversation took root:
"God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him." - John 3:17
Perhaps what is measurable ceases to be worthless and that which is immeasurable is priceless.  

Perhaps Jesus is this passageway to God, not the perfect coins, the perfect sacrifice, the perfect law-abiding.  Perhaps because He is immeasurable, there is no need to measure anymore.
I am not enough.  What I bring is not enough.  But that is okay.   If God designed me to be enough, I wouldn't need Him in the first place.

And Jesus is passionate about providing a passageway to Him. 

And that is enough.

I just need to be reminded.

Let's get real: What offerings do you bring (to God, your family, the world) do you find yourself constantly evaluating and measuring?  Whose voices are you listening to?  What does God say?

*There is some debate about whether this story occurs out of historical sequence.  The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) all put the clearing of the Temple towards the end of Jesus' ministry.  Some scholars suggest there possibly could have been two clearings. Other scholars contend there was just one and John cares not so much about creating a historical account, but rather a clear picture of Jesus as the Messiah.
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Time for a bit of fundraising for the 3rd Annual Soli Deo Gloria Retreat!  Last week was such a success!  Thank you, Nancy Piper, for bidding and winning! This week's offering is from MaryLeigh, who writes at Blue Cotten Memory:
This scarf just screams FUN! to me.  All the colors, the whimsical-ness of the knit.  The rainbow makes me remember...God does keep His promises.  Ahhh, I might be in love!  Does it do the same for you?  If so...bid away!

A note about the auction's set-up:  Because I know everyone's budgets are different, I wanted everyone to be able to have a scarf and not lose because she was always outbid, hence the pledging.  Because we all deserve some tangible love around our shoulders, right?

How to participate in this silent auction:
1.  Click on "Place your bid." in the Rafflecopter widget below.
2.  Fill in the blank with the maximum you are willing to pay for this scarf, knowing ALL monies are going directly to the SDG Retreat.
3.  I'd be honored if you'd share this giveaway with your friends.  Not only is it a fundraiser, but I'd love for women to be physically covered by her sister's art!
4.  Next Monday, Rafflecopter will choose a winner and I will announce it at next week's SDG party.  Check or credit card will be accepted (I'm working on the credit card option. Stay tuned!) for payment and the scarf maker will mail the scarf to the winner after I have received the payment.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


14 comments :

  1. "And Jesus is passionate about providing a passageway to Him." I believe that! Jen, I love that we were on the same page, writing about our offerings not being enough, but Jesus is! Great job breaking it down...

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  2. Jen,
    What a relief to know Jesus made a way for us....love how you tied all the different stories together...especially about how in Christ, we don't need to keep measuring our performance..He changes us and He gives us the grace to live the life He calls us to...not in our strength...blessings :)

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  3. Great post, Jen. Well spoken and Spirit-filled. Love this, "Perhaps because He is immeasurable, there is no need to measure anymore." I believe our offerings should be more than just monetary and I know God wants them to be sacrificial. I try to give to God first, in everything. But I fail, especially in the area of time. I need to do better at this, be more intentional about giving God time first.

    Listening to the wrong voices, yeah, in this world it's hard to get away from that! I've found that the more I'm in the Word, the easier it is to listen to the RIGHT voice. Amen?

    I really enjoyed your post. Often we tend to look at what Jesus said, and forget we can learn just as much, or more, by looking at what He DID. Jesus' actions often spoke louder than His words. Have a blessed week!

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  4. Jen, the visuals on this are SO powerful. Good job!

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  5. To have been turned away - because what I brought wasn't good enough - oh that would be devastating - but don't we live like that in the today of living? I was struck by that. It's only when I see my offering for Him, though Him that I can sigh with relief now - because He loves what I bring - and He wants me to come to Him, to worship Him. That he fought to clear artificial blockage that was man-made - that he fought for me, shouted at others to make a way for you and me, Jen - and our husbands and our kids - oh, how I love this - and how you created the visual for it - because I so need visuals sometimes!!!

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  6. "The Law is not enough. I Am."
    I need to be reminded too. Thanks, Jen.

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  7. Love this, Jen. I read the passage about the clearing of the temple this morning as part of IF:Equip, and here is the same passage again. :)

    I was struck by the fact that God is passionate about the church -- He doesn't like it when we use the church to push our own worldly agenda.

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  8. I love the way you take us deeper into these familiar Bible stories. I am drawing brand new knowledge from stories I've read many times. Thank you. (lauraconnell.com)

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  9. I love that the lessons Jesus taught back then still apply to us today! The Word of God is timeless! Thanks for sharing these lessons that connect special occasions in the life of Christ together. Thanks also for hosting Soli Deo Gloria party again this week!
    Blessings, Ann
    Christ in the Clouds

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  10. Thank you for sharing, Jen. Much love.

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  11. Oh, what a great lesson you have taught here! This was my favorite line: "We learn that failure creates the space in which Jesus can make miracles." Very profound. I agree with what you've said here - that we can only find the fullness of Jesus when we realize that nothing we can do or say or be is enough (in the best possible connotation of that!)

    The offering that I have to keep re-evaluating is my writing. I listen to the lies of the enemy who loves to make me doubt that I am accomplishing anything, who continues to make me compare myself to others. Oh, to just let go and let God speak through me, and to realize that HE will take my meager offering and increase its benefit.

    GOD BLESS!

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  12. Praise God that He is Everything! May we let go and let Him do miracles through us. Thanks for the great post & for hosting & God bless!

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  13. "My perfection is no longer required." And for that, I'm thankful!

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  14. So worth sticking with. This thought will be banging around in my head today: We learn that failure creates the space in which Jesus can make miracles.

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