Yearly Archives: 2019
And now, here’s what I want you to do: Tell the truth, when you speak. Do the right thing by one another, both personally and in your courts. Don’t cook up plans to take unfair advantage of others. Don’t do or say what isn’t so. I hate all that stuff. Keep your lives simple and honest.” Decree of God. Zechariah 8:15-17 The Message
How is your most intimate relationship doing? Do you need to have a conversation? Do you need to tell the truth to someone? If so, remember this: The Holy Spirit works through truth. Although speaking the truth can be difficult, truth, spoken in love, will have an impact in God’s Kingdom.
Example of truth by letter followed by conversation:
I am writing this letter because, for me, it is sometimes easier to write then to speak. Let me start by saying I am your biggest fan. I love you more than anyone, except God. Nothing I say here is a criticism. I am only trying to address my struggling and our relationship because I want it to be the best it can be. I don’t want to argue, I want to discuss and brainstorm with you.
I know you need time to process these types of conversations. So, I thought it might be good to think about these things ahead of discussing them in person. When we are both ready (meaning within the next week) can we set a time to speak – preferably when we are not tired, preoccupied or grumpy.
I am struggling and have tried to figure out why. I have prayed and sat with God looking for His wisdom not my own. I think He has provided me with some. So here is what the major issues are:
- I need your companionship. We are in a new place in life – I want to go do stuff with you when you are not tired or preoccupied. Thanksgiving/Christmas was difficult – I missed you being here (or your involvement or your joy or _____________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________.) I need to be with you mentally – I need to know we are in the same “book”, not necessarily in the same chapter but at least in the same book.
- Spiritual Connectedness. So speaking about being in the same book, I feel like we are not spiritually together most of the time. Knowing and loving God is my top priority. You and my family are my second priority. I hope God is also your first priority ahead of me – if He is not then we have a problem. The problem is that we then don’t view life in the same way – what we want to do and where we want to go and what we want to spend money on is not in sync with each other.
- I need your help with our finances. We are blessed – truly blessed but I am under extreme pressure to make it all work. I don’t want to be in charge of all this. Can we talk about _____________ ________________________. All this stuff I need help with. We need to do this together.
- My work and your work. Our work schedules don’t compliment each other. We need to coordinate that together. _____________________ _______________________________ _______________________________. These are important to me. We need us to figure this out together.
In order for me to feel connected to you, we need to have a mature adult on- going loving conversation about these issues. When I am connected to you, I enjoy our relationship. I will never stop loving you. I want you to succeed. I want us to succeed. It is my top priority besides following Jesus.
I love you.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV
We can get carried away with the “warm, fuzzy” story we tell our young children about the birth of Jesus and in the process lose the whole reason for celebration. It is the harsh reality of that birth, life and death that actually saves our children and us.
Nothing is “warm and fuzzy” about His birth in a stable, in the cold, without medical assistance in an occupied territory to a mother pregnant before marriage. Nothing is “warm and fuzzy” about the powerful seeking to kill Jesus and in the process killing hundreds of other children. Nothing is “warm and fuzzy” about fleeing a country because of persecution and living in a foreign land.
Frankly, there is nothing “warm and fuzzy” about God giving us His one and only Son. From a human perspective, only a few of us come close to comprehending that sacrifice but all of us must try. For it is in the trying, that God speaks to our hearts to help us understand His miraculous gift – the “gift” that Saves our Souls – the Gift that forges a pathway to Heaven and eternal life.
That is what our celebration is about . . . God saving us through His Son Jesus Christ.
And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. John 3:17-18 The Message
So . . . what gift are we giving this Christmas to those God has entrusted to us?
Paul’s words to the people of Thessalonica over 1950 years ago could have been written to us! Are we living to please God? In our everyday life, is that thought paramount in our hearts and minds?
One final word, friends. We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance. You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus. God wants you to live a pure life. Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity.
Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God.
Don’t run roughshod over the concerns of your brothers and sisters. Their concerns are God’s concerns, and he will take care of them. We’ve warned you about this before. God hasn’t invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life but into something holy and beautiful—as beautiful on the inside as the outside.
If you disregard this advice, you’re not offending your neighbors; you’re rejecting God, who is making you a gift of his Holy Spirit. 1Thes 4:1-8 The Message
Remember this advice over the next several weeks, when you are distracted by the pressures of Christmas and year-end events – when you are indulging in ways that may be taken to extremes. This is not a time to turn from God but a critical time to turn to him.
Regarding life together and getting along with each other, you don’t need me to tell you what to do. You’re God-taught in these matters. Just love one another! You’re already good at it; your friends all over the province of Macedonia are the evidence. Keep it up; get better and better at it. 1 Thes 4:9-10 The Message
“We are God-taught”. Let that sink in as you contemplate your relationships with your family and friends. Sit with God and ask for His guidance for you in loving them.
Stay calm; mind your own business; do your own job. You’ve heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts. We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends. 1 Thes 4:11-12 The Message
As we schedule our activities during the next several weeks, let us keep in mind that in order to stay calm we need to seek the One who has advise for us. In the seeking, our focus will be on the things of God and will keep our minds from taking us into “business” which is not for us.
Remember . . . let us truly contemplate and celebrate Christ in this day and the days to come. We know how. We have already been “God-taught”.
So when we set aside our own maneuvering, what wisdom do we glean from our walk with the Holy Spirit? Do we open up opportunities for others because we have not maneuvered a situation? Do we allow God to handle a situation that we “knew” we were “right” about and just had to let someone know? Do we actually relieve our own pressure valve by allowing God to take control of our day?
Paul has this to say about it:
We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so.
God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene.
The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That’s why we have this Scripture text:
No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,
Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
What God has arranged for those who love him.
But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you.
The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. Who ever knows what you’re thinking and planning except you yourself?
The same with God—except that he not only knows what he’s thinking, but he lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us. We don’t have to rely on the world’s guesses and opinions. We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way.
The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. There’s no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness.
Spirit can be known only by spirit—God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics. Isaiah’s question, “Is there anyone around who knows God’s Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?” has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ’s Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 The Message
Remember . . . Whenever God’s Will is in complete control, He removes all pressure. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, December 1.
May we have a pressure-free day filled with God’s Spirit, unscripted by unspiritual critics, peace-filled without our maneuvering.
How about a day of no maneuvering – a day that you do not zig this way to get one more thing done or zag that way to avoid some confrontation? A day free from planning what you are going to do in response to something someone else may do.
How about a day that is purely unscripted – that you do not change this appointment to allow you additional time to go somewhere else?
How about a day that does not feel squished – you know a day that just flows from moment to moment not hurried but filled?
You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.
I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 The Message
What about a day, focused on God, in sync with His Spirit, knowing minute by minute that you walk with Christ whose blood poured out for you?
For in our maneuvering, do we miss what God has planned for us – do we miss opportunities to respond to God’s power? Do we miss the movement of the Holy Spirit?
Many of us are gearing up for a time of family and friends, of social gatherings and joyful celebrations.
Some of us, however, are facing a time of conflict . . . loneliness . . . mourning . . . memories of what once was. We are looking at this season of joy as a season of dread.
Whichever season we are in, we need to be prepared for what the day has . . . prepared to be representatives of Christ.
God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.
If we are prepared, we are ready to rely on God and not on our own understanding. We are ready to handle what this world has for us – ready for the challenges – the flaming arrows, the disappointments, the naysayers, the gossip, the criticism, the judgment. We are ready to handle the joys . . . ready to encourage . . . ready to be hospitable . . . ready to love.
Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life.
God’s Word is an indispensable weapon.
In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters.
We get prepared for these days ahead by practicing and applying truth, righteousness, peacefulness, faithfulness and claiming the power of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Remember . . . God’s weapons are for use in this day. Ask Him to show you how to use them. Read His Word. Sit with Him and His Word in a daily way and listen and converse with Him moment by moment. This is a discipline. It takes practice. It is preparation.
Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. Ephesians 6:10-18 The Message
Remember . . . this is not a competition – we want everyone to win . . . to know the love of Christ. We want all our family, friends, and neighbors to be with us in paradise. So pay attention to those who God has placed in your path. Be prepared to encourage each other in love.
After Jesus feed the five thousand and walked across the Sea of Galilee, the people realized that he had left them. So they went seeking him.
When they found him back across the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.
“Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”
To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?”
Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.”
They waffled: “Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on? When we see what’s up, we’ll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world.”
They jumped at that: “Master, give us this bread, now and forever!”
Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go.
I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.
“This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.” John 6:26-40
Did you ever think about the fact that Jesus’ “job” is to “put us on our feet alive and whole at the completion of time”? This process called “life” is the means by which God’s Will is carried out by Jesus. He is even now setting us on our feet and preparing us for the entrance into eternal life.
So as we contemplate Thanksgiving, let us remember God’s Will. Let’s cooperate in it. Let us not jump in front of Jesus but instead be in step with Him, following when we need to follow, waiting when we need to wait, being still when we need to be still.
Let us remember the friends and family that are going to join us and the joys and challenges those interactions will produce. Let us remember to be on guard against falling into the same patterns of behavior that do not honor God. Let us sit in prayer and thanksgiving in advance of Thanksgiving Day so that we are prepared to bring Glory to God.
Prepare. Prepare your mind, your heart and your soul to bring Glory to your God. Let us join in prayer:
Lord Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth,
We give thanks that you called each of us.
We give thanks that once you have us, you will never leave us or forsake us.
We give thanks that you love us . . . unconditionally.
We give thanks that you have entrusted each of us with people who are precious to you and therefore should be precious to us.
We give thanks that who your Son sets free is free indeed.
We give thanks that in your house, there is a place for each of us – yes, we are your children.
We give thanks that you are for us, not against us.
And we Believe, Lord, yes we believe.
Because we believe, we confess and repent of our sin.
We confess and repent of our selfishness, our arrogance, our anger, our jealousies, our unfaithfulness.
We confess and repent of our greed and malice, our sexual misconduct and adulteries.
We confess and repent because we have worshipped idols of all kinds including – money and power and position.
We confess and repent of our failure to take care of our bodies, our minds, and our souls which make up the temple of your Holy Spirit.
We confess and repent of our gossiping and whining and our complaining.
We confess and repent of our failure to turn to you, to listen, to go when you have called.
We confess and repent of our worry which exhibits our distrust in you.
We confess and repent of our failing to pray first, failing to wait upon you for your Will to be done.
We confess and repent for intervening in situations based on our own assessments instead of yours.
We confess and repent because we have judged people and situations that we really have no understanding of.
We confess and repent of our failure to extend grace – your grace that you freely give to us.
We confess and repent for failure to pray for the leaders in your Church, the leaders of this state, this country and your world.
We confess and repent of our dishonor of you and your son Jesus Christ and your Holy Spirit who lives and moves in we who believe.
Reach each of us in our brokenness and weaknesses.
Rid us of our unbelief – rid us of anything that is not of you.
You have promised us protection through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit and so we claim your protection for each of us and ask that you continue your protection of us and our families, of all your saints, and of your Church.
As temples of your Holy Spirit, we ask you to fill us to overflowing with the fruits of your Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Oh Lord, may we give thanks to you as we celebrate Thanksgiving.
May we love you with all our hearts and all our souls and all our minds and all our strength and our neighbors as ourselves.
In Jesus Name we pray. Amen
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.
Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’
Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’
And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Matthew 25:31-40
When we let “right” behavior take over, it leads to more right behavior. “Right” behavior leads us to take care of those who God has placed in our path.
Respect instills more respect.
Self-control produces more self-control.
Kindness brings more kindness.
Encouragement ripples into more encouragement.
Faith spawns more faith.
Peace brings more peace.
Love births more love.
This daily exercise in “right” living produces sheep who listen to their shepherd and . . . sheep who listen to their shepherd will spend eternity in His presence.
Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
And they too will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’
Then the King will answer, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’
And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” ’ Matthew 25:41-46
The converse is also true. Once we let “bad” behavior loose it leads to more “bad” behavior. “Un-right” behavior focuses us on ourselves and leads us away from God.
Gossip encourages more gossip.
Lying leads to more lying.
Gluttony brings on more gluttony.
Self-centeredness brings on more self-centeredness.
Scheming leads to more scheming.
Hate breeds more hate.
This behavioral challenge occurs each day – in every way – in every situation. The more we choose the Godly way, the more Godly we become.
Remember . . . Do the next right thing . . . For the Glory of God.
“Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove. Matthew 10:16 The Message
Take away #5 – Remember, power corrupts. We need to be on guard to strive to be humble; strive to focus on others instead of ourselves. If not, we will be dragged into the fray – office gossip, pot-stirring, planning another’s fall, and conniving to get ahead or to remain at the top.
“Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.
“When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.
“A student doesn’t get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn’t make more money than his boss. Be content—pleased, even—when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get. If they call me, the Master, ‘Dungface,’ what can the workers expect?
“Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now.
“Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands. Matthew 10:17-28 The Message
Take away #6 – We need not be concerned when others speak ill of us. Although it hurts, especially if family or close friends are involved, choose to give those experiences to God and ask for Him to forgive them, and draw them to Him so that you can see them again in paradise. Remember, we are participants in planting, cultivating and harvesting. That is tough work and we can’t expect to be treated better than Jesus. God uses the people in our lives to help us and uses us to help them. Remember also . . . He will never leave us or forsake us – so when there seems like no options are left – don’t give up. A closed door means a window is being opened. Hold on; be still and wait for His miracle.
“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.
“Stand up for me against world opinion and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll cover for you?
“Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.
“If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.
“We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”
When Jesus finished placing this charge before his twelve disciples, he went on to teach and preach in their villages. Matthew 10:29–11:1 The Message
Take away #7 – God loves us. We need to love Him more than anyone else. When we put Him first, we will have His strength to persevere through storms.
He has a job for us to do in the moment we are in. He provides all we need for this day. Don’t worry about family and friends who don’t get it. When you leave them behind to go do His Work, Jesus will come teach and preach to them in ways you could not have imagined.
Be gentle, kind, humble, and honest. Trust that God can work through you and in you to help in the planting, cultivating and harvesting of souls.
Remember to accept the help provided to you by God – sometimes we are so focused on giving that we fail to see what is being provided to us. Be aware. Be thankful.
In this day, mesh your faith, drenched in love, in the place you have been placed with the people you have been placed here with.
Pastors seem to do it better than others. Maybe that is because their profession should be the meshing of their faith with their life’s work. But what about the rest of us? What does it mean to mesh our faith with our everyday life? The answer, as usual, is found in God’s Word.
Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:
“Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously. Matthew 10:5-8 The Message
Take away #1 – We are called in the moment we are in, in the place we are in and with the tools that we have been given. Don’t make it complicated.
“Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light. Matthew 10:9-10 The Message
Take away #2 – As followers of Jesus, we are already equipped with all we need to meet the day we are in. Although some of us are being called to get formal training, most of us are being called to minister to the people who God has placed in our path with the experience and knowledge we have already gained in our lives.
“When you enter a town or village, don’t insist on staying in a luxury inn. Get a modest place with some modest people, and be content there until you leave. Matthew 10:11 The Message
Take away #3 – We are not in competition. This is not a popularity contest. We do not need or should we take on “airs”. Be genuine and honest. Refrain from being pompous and a know-it-all. Be content.
“When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don’t welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. You can be sure that on Judgment Day they’ll be mighty sorry—but it’s no concern of yours now. Matthew 10:12-15 The Message
Take away #4 – In the day we are in, we need to be gentle in our conversations with others. Sometimes, we are called to plant seeds. Sometimes, we are called to cultivate seeds already planted by others. Sometimes, we are called to participate in the harvest that has already been planted and cultivated. We don’t always know what our role is in the process but we can be obedient to God by following His directive – be gentle in conversation and if what you say is not received, let it go and quietly move on. God has it. We don’t have to worry about it.
…. To be continued next week!
“Come follow me and I will show you how to fish for people.” Matthew 4:19 NLT
As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. Mark 2:14 NIV and Luke 5:27
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. Mathew 9:9 NIV
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” John 1:43 NIV
He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Luke 9:59 NIV and Matthew 8:22
Why does Jesus keep repeating, “follow me”? Why is it so important that we be “followers” of Jesus? The call of Jesus always entails the words: “Follow me”. Following is an act of obedience. Following requires an active step on our part to accept that Jesus is our Leader. Following requires a humble heart and a setting aside of one’s self. It requires listening which means taking time to be in God’s presence. Following means Jesus always goes before us – for if we forge ahead, we block Jesus from others – Like Peter.
You remember . . . Peter . . . so like many of us. In the course of 24 hours, Peter went from joyful worshipper to determined protector to complete denier. Jesus reinstated Peter by describing how he should “act” towards others. “Feed my lambs”, “Take care of my sheep” and “Feed my sheep”. His final reinstatement words to Peter were, “You must follow me!” John 21:22 NIV
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27 NIV
“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38 NIV
“Following”, by definition, means that someone else is leading. We cannot call ourselves Disciples of Jesus unless we submit to following Him. Jesus leads us by example and we strive to imitate him.
“Following” is an action. It is not a stationary position. Following means seeking Jesus moment by moment . . . being quiet when we need to be quiet . . . encouraging when we need to encourage . . . standing when we need to stand . . . walking when we need to walk . . . serving when we need to serve . . . veering right when we need to go right . . . running when we need to run and . . . standing firm when we need to stand firm.
“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:26 NIV
Are you a follower of Jesus?
Now listen to God’s Message, you scoffers,
you who rule this people in Jerusalem.
You say, “We’ve taken out good life insurance.
We’ve hedged all our bets, covered all our bases.
No disaster can touch us. We’ve thought of everything.
We’re advised by the experts. We’re set.”
But the Master, God, has something to say to this:
“Watch closely. I’m laying a foundation in Zion,
a solid granite foundation, squared and true.
And this is the meaning of the stone:
a trusting life won’t topple.
I’ll make justice the measuring stick
and righteousness the plumb line for the building.
Isaiah 28:14-17 The Message
Isaiah (name meaning “The Lord Saves”) began his ministry about 2,759 years ago. He has a message for God’s people which transcends time and place. His message from God is for us.
We can plan all we like. We can take out life insurance to protect our loved ones. We can build up our 401(k)’s and choose jobs with pensions and good medical insurance. We can meet with our financial advisors to provide for our children’s education and our comfy retirement. We can “think” we are set.
But the truth is the only way to prevent our life from toppling is to trust in the foundation set by God – Jesus Christ. We must trust in Him and Him alone. This does not mean we do not plan, but we plan knowing that our trust is not in worldly financial products. Our trust is in the living God who measures our plans by justice and righteousness.
A hailstorm will knock down the shantytown of lies,
and a flash flood will wash out the rubble.
“Then you’ll see that your precious life insurance policy
wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
Your careful precautions against death
were a pack of illusions and lies.
When the disaster happens,
you’ll be crushed by it.
Every time disaster comes, you’ll be in on it—
disaster in the morning, disaster at night.”
Every report of disaster
will send you cowering in terror.
There will be no place where you can rest,
nothing to hide under.
Isaiah 28:17-20 The Message
How do we know if we are “trusting in Jesus”. We know by our reaction to the disasters that come upon us and they do come upon us at one time or another. Are we crushed by them? Are we cowering in terror? Is there no place to rest or hide? If so, we need to turn to the one who can give us rest and peace – Jesus. Extreme trials can perfect our trust in Him and Him alone.
God will rise to full stature,
raging as he did long ago on Mount Perazim
And in the valley of Gibeon against the Philistines.
But this time it’s against you.
Hard to believe, but true.
Not what you’d expect, but it’s coming.
Sober up, friends, and don’t scoff.
Scoffing will just make it worse.
I’ve heard the orders issued for destruction, orders from
God-of-the-Angel-Armies—ending up in an international disaster.
Listen to me now.
Give me your closest attention.
Do farmers plow and plow and do nothing but plow?
Or harrow and harrow and do nothing but harrow?
After they’ve prepared the ground, don’t they plant?
Don’t they scatter dill and spread cumin,
Plant wheat and barley in the fields
and raspberries along the borders?
They know exactly what to do and when to do it.
Their God is their teacher.
And at the harvest, the delicate herbs and spices,
the dill and cumin, are treated delicately.
On the other hand, wheat is threshed and milled, but still not endlessly.
The farmer knows how to treat each kind of grain.
He’s learned it all from God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
who knows everything about when and how and where.
Isaiah 28:21-29 The Message
REMEMBER . . . Believe in Jesus. Trust that He has saved you. Your extreme trial can perfect your trust in Him. Today, do the next right thing . . . keeping your eyes focused on justice and righteousness . . . seeking God who knows everything about when and how and where . . . a trusting life won’t topple.
Oswald Chambers shares this description of sin and its relationship to reconciliation: “Sin is a fundamental relationship – it is not wrong doing, but wrong being – It is deliberate and determined independence from God.” My Utmost For His Highest, Oct 7.
Jesus died to overcome the heredity of sin – sin that entered the world at the beginning – the sin of disobeying God and separating ourselves from Him – the collective sin of generation upon generation.
Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.
Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore.
Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. 2 Corinthians 5:14-19
We tend to look at our individual sin. For instance, the gossip we passed on to a friend yesterday about an acquaintance. Gossip is a sin but the “sin” we need to focus on was our choice to separate ourselves from God and follow our own desire to have “power” over the delivery of such information or the selfish glee we experienced from seeing someone else’s failure or whatever else our thought process was stirring up. The sin was our failure to seek God in the moment – asking Him if the information was something that should be shared for His Glory or if it was better to quash it and end the ripple effect of the sin.
What we should be focused on is our relationship with God – are we seeking Him in the moment we are in – are we acting in a way that brings Glory to Him? If we are focused on our relationship with him and not our individual actions, we will not only “do” the right things but more importantly be in the “right” relationship with God. If we are in the right relationship with God we will be in the right relationship with others.
God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21
Remember . . . in this day you have been given a fresh start because of Jesus. Seek Him first. Be His representative. Enter God’s work of reconciliation wherever you are and in whatever you are doing. Why? So we are in the “right” relationship with Him who created us.
Rejection came at the beginning. We all know what it means to be rejected but do we recognize the consequences of deep seeded rejection? Do we understand that rejection thwarts our walk with God by moving us to jump in front of Jesus to save ourselves while rejecting God and others?
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:1-6
The enemy is in the business of sowing rejection among God’s people. Why? Because in accomplishing the sowing, the enemy establishes the beginning of our rejection of God. Once we begin “”doubting” what God has told us, we begin the downward spiral of fearing God’s rejection, rejecting ourselves, and rejecting others. When this happens, we find ourselves in a pit spending all our time trying to escape from the spider web of rejection being spun in our minds and lives.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
When we reject God, we begin to hide from him because we think He is rejecting us. We think because of our behavior, we need to protect ourselves by hiding. Once we start to hide, we begin rejecting ourselves for our perceived unforgivable failures and rejecting others before they can reject us. It’s a nasty web of destruction.
The end result is our feeble attempts to control everything from morning to night, from demanding perfection of ourselves to demanding it in others, from managing our own “problems” to managing other’s situations before they impact us. Our actions spiral out of control, leaving us feeling empty and alone.
That’s what the enemy would like us to think. When we think this, we are ineffective in our walk with the Lord. But the truth is “God will never leave us nor forsake us.” Deut 4:31; Hebrews 13:5.
The solution is Prayer. Sitting with God and letting him know of our failure in believing his Word and His love for us, repenting for hating ourselves and in turn showing our contempt for His creation; repenting of lying and deception, manipulation and control and all that flowed from our acts of fear; repenting of rejecting others and the hurt that rippled from that rejection; asking God to forgive us for rejecting Him and for our pride and rebellion in thinking we could solve our own problems without Him. And while we sit with God in prayer, we need to ask and call forth healing and acceptance of His love for us – and His guidance for our new path in this day – a path of love and peace towards God, ourselves and others.
Remember . . . Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. . . . Psalm 121:1-2
Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him. Job 13:15 NKJV
We do not know why bad things happen. We can surmise that it is because the person did something “wrong” and therefore bear the consequence of their sin. That may sometimes be true. However, the story of Job debunks the theory that someone’s suffering is always linked to their actions.
God allowed Satan to have his way with Job – through the destruction of his family, his possessions, and his health. Satan used “friends” to try to convince Job to focus on his own sin and God’s punishment of him for that sin. But they were wrong.
In the process, Job suffered deeply. God waited. Job reached the conclusion that God expected from him. As he addresses his friends who are offering “their” analysis of his suffering, Job says, “Because, even if he killed me, I’d keep on hoping. I’d defend my innocence to the very end. Just wait, this is going to work out for the best – my salvation!” Job 13:15 The Message.
In the end, God dealt with Satan, deepened Job’s faith in Him and debunked a widespread notion that suffering is always linked to a person’s sin. God knew that Job was His. He knew Job would not lose faith. Through Job’s pain the rest of us have God’s assurance that even when it does not seem like He is with us, He will never leave us or forsake us.
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deut. 31:8 NIV
So let us remember when supporting others in times of trouble that we do not know what we do not know. Sometimes we are called to listen, pray and not offer advice. Sometimes we are called to listen, pray and offer advice. But it is a rare instance when we have a clear directive from God to tell someone else what “to do” in their situation.
As we walk hand in hand with our Savior, let us remember whose hand we hold. Don’t jump in front of Jesus. When we do, we lose hold of His Hand. Our jump to “manage” another person’s situation may just block that person from seeing the Teacher and experiencing the freedom that comes from trusting Him.
When we manage situations and people, we run the risk of complicating already complicated situations. Take a look at Haman’s reaction to a failure to show him respect.
When Haman saw for himself that Mordecai didn’t bow down and kneel before him, he was outraged. Meanwhile, having learned that Mordecai was a Jew, Haman hated to waste his fury on just one Jew; he looked for a way to eliminate not just Mordecai but all Jews throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes. Esther 3:5-6 The Message
Haman allowed anger and hate to control his response – He managed the situation by using his position and power – going to the King to cause the elimination of all the Jewish people in the Kingdom. He was going to get revenge!
As the story continues, the king discovers that Mordecai had exposed a plot to assassinate him and was never thanked. He asks Haman for his advice on how to properly honor a person who has delighted the king. Haman, thinking the king is talking about him, tells the king to robe the person in the king’s robe and parade him around town on horseback.
As Haman soon finds out, the king is talking about Mordecai and Haman is ordered to carry out the honoring process. When he completes leading Mordecai around, Haman flees to his home to tell his wife and friends the grave turn of events.
While they were still talking, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman off to the dinner that Esther had prepared.
So the king and Haman went to dinner with Queen Esther. At this second dinner, while they were drinking wine the king again asked, “Queen Esther, what would you like? Half of my kingdom! Just ask and it’s yours.”
Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your eyes, O King, and if it please the king, give me my life, and give my people their lives.
“We’ve been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed—sold to be massacred, eliminated. If we had just been sold off into slavery, I wouldn’t even have brought it up; our troubles wouldn’t have been worth bothering the king over.”
King Xerxes exploded, “Who? Where is he? This is monstrous!”
“An enemy. An adversary. This evil Haman,” said Esther.
What drives us to react with control to perceived wrongs or actual harm done by another? Why do we plot and plan to seek revenge? Is it fear? Is it our need to control our circumstances – the fear that God can’t handle actual or perceived “wrongs”.
“Control” is not all bad – some people are blessed with vision to see what a situation is and strive to make it better. But for most of us, “control” is a reaction and a sign of fear. It is a sign that we do not trust the situation to be righted except by our intervention. In other words, we rely on our own strength and fail to turn to God or trust that God is in control.
Maybe today, we will be given a situation wherein we are “wronged” or our loved one is “wronged”. Maybe it is a situation we have been in time and time again and have no idea how to handle it. Maybe it is time to get out of our own way and let God have His way. We have choices – we can manage and manipulate the situation or we can allow God to work it out. Which one will we choose? Self–management or God management?
They said to him, “Just who are you anyway?”
Jesus said, “What I’ve said from the start. I have so many things to say that concern you, judgments to make that affect you, but if you don’t accept the trustworthiness of the One who commanded my words and acts, none of it matters. That is who you are questioning—not me but the One who sent me.” John 8:25-26 The Message
Do we accept the trustworthiness of God? In our words and acts, do we actually trust that God will use the “truth” that we speak to move in other people’s lives?
Many of us are struggling with breakdowns in relationships with family, friends and co-workers. We have become frustrated – ready to walk away. But as we look at our situation, have we trusted God to work through the truth? Have we actually explained the problem to the person? Have we offered the truth?
Maybe we don’t think it is our place or our duty. Maybe it is easier to not tell them and just stay away or pretend we are too busy when they call. Confrontation is never easy. Maybe in the past we have complimented them on the behavior which is now out of control. Maybe we have told them “white” lies to get out of telling them the full truth. Maybe in our prayer we have not been led to reveal the truth.
God commands us not to lie about our neighbors. Exodus 20:16. Throughout His Word, from Genesis to Revelations, we are told not to lie and are given warnings concerning liars. Yet, we all lie or have lied in our past.
Remember, Jesus told the truth – even when no one believed him – even when it was hard to explain – even when he knew the consequences might be difficult. Jesus trusted that God would take what had been spoken and use it for His Glory.
They still didn’t get it, didn’t realize that he was referring to the Father. So Jesus tried again. “When you raise up the Son of Man, then you will know who I am—that I’m not making this up, but speaking only what the Father taught me. The One who sent me stays with me. He doesn’t abandon me. He sees how much joy I take in pleasing him.”
When he put it in these terms, many people decided to believe.
Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” John 8:27-32 The Message
So what if we each spoke the truth. How amazed would we be to see God work in our relationships and circumstances? What would God do with the truth we spoke?
He would heal. He would spark new life into our relationships. He would stir up love. The truth is God works mighty wonders through Truth. The big question is can we trust Him with the Truth, knowing He does all things for our good.
Where are you? What are you doing? Are you in a slump – unable to pray, unable to worship, surrounded by people who don’t know God, isolated and alone, wondering why you are where you are?
Remember what others have done who have gone before you.
Even though they were afraid of what their non Israelite neighbors might do, they went ahead anyway and set up the Altar on its foundations . . . Ezra 3:3
These Israelites being spoken of in the Book of Ezra were a people who had been attacked by Nebuchadnezzar, kidnapped, dispersed to other lands, beaten down and enslaved for 70 years. They were bruised and scared but hopeful because God had called them back to their homeland. The first thing they did upon returning to Jerusalem was to build an altar “on its foundation”.
Remember . . . start where your foundation is. Don’t jack hammer out the past – it happened; it scarred; it shaped; it sharpened; it chiseled and . . . it can be used to bring glory to God. It is part of who you are. Those experiences and scars can be transformed by God into something of great significance.
AND REMEMBER . . .
You are not hidden
There’s never been a moment
You were forgotten
You are not hopeless
Though you have been broken
Your innocence stolen
I hear you whisper underneath your breath
I hear your SOS, your SOS
I will send out an army
To find you in the middle of the darkest night
I will rescue you
There is no distance
That can not be covered
Over and over
You’re not defenseless
I’ll be your shelter
I’ll be your armor
I hear you whisper underneath your breath
I hear your SOS, your SOS
I will send out an army
To find you in the middle of the darkest night
I will rescue you
I will never stop marching
To reach you in the middle of the hardest fight
I will rescue you
Rescue. Publishing: © 2018 See You At The Pub & CentricSongs (SESAC) / So Essential Tunes & Fellow Ships Music (SESAC) / Flychild Publishing & So Essential Tunes (SESAC) Writer(s): Lauren Daigle, Jason Ingram and Paul Mabury
You have a friend or friends that you hear something about and it causes you concern. More than that, it causes you to pray for them and to seek God in your response. You were planning a visit but after prayer, you decide to write a letter first – to address the problem in advance.
Why would God ask you to do that? Maybe for your good and for the good of your friend(s). Sometimes, situations take time to resolve. Errors in behavior are not easily corrected because most of the time there is a ripple effect which must be stopped in order to get back on track.
Your letter addresses the news you heard and gives honest, loving advice as to how to correct the situation. If you had delivered it in person, you would have heard the reaction – no one likes to be told they are wrong. No one likes to confront others with the truth when they know it will not be received well.
Sometimes a letter, from the heart after prayer, is the way to address a situation – to prepare both the writer and the receiver for the next encounter. Maybe, a letter prepares the way for the victory that is God’s and God’s alone.
Now consider these Words breathed forth from God:
That’s why I decided not to make another visit that could only be painful to both of us. If by merely showing up I would put you in an embarrassingly painful position, how would you then be free to cheer and refresh me?
3-4 That was my reason for writing a letter instead of coming—so I wouldn’t have to spend a miserable time disappointing the very friends I had looked forward to cheering me up. I was convinced at the time I wrote it that what was best for me was also best for you. As it turned out, there was pain enough just in writing that letter, more tears than ink on the parchment. But I didn’t write it to cause pain; I wrote it so you would know how much I care—oh, more than care—love you!
5-8 Now, regarding the one who started all this—the person in question who caused all this pain—I want you to know that I am not the one injured in this as much as, with a few exceptions, all of you. So I don’t want to come down too hard. What the majority of you agreed to as punishment is punishment enough. Now is the time to forgive this man and help him back on his feet. If all you do is pour on the guilt, you could very well drown him in it. My counsel now is to pour on the love.
9-11 The focus of my letter wasn’t on punishing the offender but on getting you to take responsibility for the health of the church. So if you forgive him, I forgive him. Don’t think I’m carrying around a list of personal grudges. The fact is that I’m joining in with your forgiveness, as Christ is with us, guiding us. After all, we don’t want to unwittingly give Satan an opening for yet more mischief—we’re not oblivious to his sly ways!
12-14 When I arrived in Troas to proclaim the Message of the Messiah, I found the place wide open: God had opened the door; all I had to do was walk through it. But when I didn’t find Titus waiting for me with news of your condition, I couldn’t relax. Worried about you, I left and came on to Macedonia province looking for Titus and a reassuring word on you. And I got it, thank God!
14-16 In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.
16-17 This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No—but at least we don’t take God’s Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can. 2 Corinthians 2 The Message
Remember . . . we are called to seek God and speak His truth in love and in the way we are led by the Holy Spirit – it could be by a letter, a visit, a phone call, email, etc. but whatever way it is, when we are called, we need to ask God for direction and follow it. When we do, “we give off a sweet scent rising to God which is recognized by those on the way of salvation – an aroma redolent (pleasingly fragrant) with life.”
A breakthrough is coming.
Wait for it. Just wait for it.
No – we don’t need to know how or when or why. We only need to know what He has already given us – for the day we are in.
The plan is already in place. It has already been set in motion – He already knows what we need before we need it. And His Plan is good.
Be Still. Don’t worry – for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Focus on this day. Remember . . . God – your God – has given us just the right amount of strength for this day – not for tomorrow because it is not here yet – just for today.
His promises are eternal . . . they do not change. He loves us. He will not forsake us. He sent His one and only son to purify this world of sin through His death and resurrection. His Holy Spirit dwells inside those who believe giving them wisdom, strength, healing, comfort, faith, determination, and words of truth for all situations. In this day, we have all we need. And it is far more than we could ever hope for or imagine.
But that’s not enough for some of us. We want to know. We think we need to know. We want to be in control of it. So we worry about it – sapping our strength from today and diverting our attention from God and His Plan. The result is that we have successfully allowed the joy and light to be sucked out of the task and out of the day we are in – the day we were given.
So . . . what if we knew the details? What if we knew His Plan would take two or five or twenty years? What if we knew what it would entail – the people we would lose – the “things” that would have to go – the heartache we would endure – the hardships we would crawl through – the cost of the journey? What if He gave us the “how” of the plan in advance? What would we do?
Would we embrace it? Would we give thanks for it? Would we believe it?
Would we turn from it? Would we crumble in discouragement? Would we run the other way and say “no, No, LORD, NO!”? Would we try to change it – to make it not happen? Would we blame ourselves – getting stuck instead of keeping our eyes focused on Him?
Would we try to help God make it happen by packing in advance or hording what we think we would need or discarding certain friends/family that are not in our picture of His Plan. Maybe we would get to know someone new who we think could help. Would we announce it to others prematurely thinking they are part of the Plan?
Most of us, if we are honest, would screw it up.
Instead of seeking God in the moment we are in, some of us would be making plans for His Plan. We would be attempting to control the Plan that is not ours to control. Some of us would crawl into a shell hoping the Plan would change. Some of us would get angry, our faith not strong enough to withstand the journey we think we would be embarking upon.
We would forget the basics – Love God and treat our neighbors as ourselves.
We would be distracted – failing to put on the full armor of God – The helmet of Salvation upon our heads, the breastplate of Righteousness upon our chests, buckling the belt of Truth around our waists, and shodding our feet with the Gospel of Peace, handing to us the Sword which is God’s Word and lifting up the Shield of Faith to extinguish the flaming arrows of the enemy and being in constant prayer and supplication for all the saints now and forevermore.
So remember . . . be content with the wisdom God instills in us today for this moment and follow it . . . it may be that God will give us insight for tomorrow in order to get us through today or prepare us for tomorrow . . . but only if He believes we are equipped to handle it. We do not know all the details of the plan, but we know Him and He is good!
The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”
He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. Matthew 13:10-14
Do we get it? If we don’t have the gift of insight, is there any trace of receptivity within us? If not, read on and be nudged . . . it is a matter of life and death.
He told another story. “God’s kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. That night, while his hired men were asleep, his enemy sowed thistles all through the wheat and slipped away before dawn. When the first green shoots appeared and the grain began to form, the thistles showed up, too.
“The farmhands came to the farmer and said, ‘Master, that was clean seed you planted, wasn’t it? Where did these thistles come from?’
“He answered, ‘Some enemy did this.’
“The farmhands asked, ‘Should we weed out the thistles?’
“He said, ‘No, if you weed the thistles, you’ll pull up the wheat, too. Let them grow together until harvest time. Then I’ll instruct the harvesters to pull up the thistles and tie them in bundles for the fire, then gather the wheat and put it in the barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30 The Message
Jesus dismissed the congregation and went into the house. His disciples came in and said, “Explain to us that story of the thistles in the field.”
So he explained. “The farmer who sows the pure seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the pure seeds are subjects of the kingdom, the thistles are subjects of the Devil, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, the curtain of history. The harvest hands are angels.
“The picture of thistles pulled up and burned is a scene from the final act. The Son of Man will send his angels, weed out the thistles from his kingdom, pitch them in the trash, and be done with them. They are going to complain to high heaven, but nobody is going to listen. At the same time, ripe, holy lives will mature and adorn the kingdom of their Father.
“Are you listening to this? Really listening? Matthew 13:36-43 The Message
So which are we going to be – the wheat or the thistle? And how do you know which one you are?
My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?
Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He choses the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?
You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.
Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time. James 2:1-13 The Message
So remember . . . the wheat are those who love God. We show our love for God by loving others as we love ourselves. And remember . . . Jesus did not say, “love only the people we think are stalks of wheat”. No . . . the Royal Rule of Scripture says, “love others as you love yourself”. So don’t be concerned about judging which people are the “wheat” and which people are the “thistles” – that is God’s job.
Our job is to love God, love others and show kindness and mercy to all.
I also received a report of scandalous sex within your church family, a kind that wouldn’t be tolerated even outside the church: One of your men is sleeping with his stepmother. And you’re so above it all that it doesn’t even faze you! Shouldn’t this break your hearts? Shouldn’t it bring you to your knees in tears? Shouldn’t this person and his conduct be confronted and dealt with? 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 The Message
Do you have friends or loved ones who sharpen you? You know, the ones that make you uncomfortable at times because they confront your human spirit with the Holy Spirit – the ones who challenge a behavior or gently point out an alternative way to handle a delicate situation – the ones who ask questions that make you stop and think about what you are about to do.
I’ll tell you what I would do. Even though I’m not there in person, consider me right there with you, because I can fully see what’s going on. I’m telling you that this is wrong. You must not simply look the other way and hope it goes away on its own. Bring it out in the open and deal with it in the authority of Jesus our Master. Assemble the community—I’ll be present in spirit with you and our Master Jesus will be present in power. Hold this man’s conduct up to public scrutiny. Let him defend it if he can! But if he can’t, then out with him! It will be totally devastating to him, of course, and embarrassing to you. But better devastation and embarrassment than damnation. You want him on his feet and forgiven before the Master on the Day of Judgment. 1 Corinthians 5:3-5
What happens if you push away or ignore or dismiss or discard those people that God has placed in your life to sharpen you? What happens to any of us when we do not have Godly counsel? What happens when we are ignoring God and we are left alone to our own devices with no one to hold us accountable? What happens when we are blinded and there is no reliable sharpener in our toolbox? We lose our way . . . and run the risk of devastation and embarrassment . . . or worse.
Your flip and callous arrogance in these things bothers me. You pass it off as a small thing, but it’s anything but that. Yeast, too, is a “small thing,” but it works its way through a whole batch of bread dough pretty fast. So get rid of this “yeast.” Our true identity is flat and plain, not puffed up with the wrong kind of ingredient. The Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has already been sacrificed for the Passover meal, and we are the Unraised Bread part of the Feast. So let’s live out our part in the Feast, not as raised bread swollen with the yeast of evil, but as flat bread—simple, genuine, unpretentious. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
When we ignore the counsel sent to us by God – when we have lost our way and our path is “good” intentioned but ill advised – when we cannot “hear” God, we need a sharpener in our circle of family or friends. One that we can go to and ask directly for a truthful and honest answer. If we don’t have sharpeners, we become dull and eventually unable to see our own writing – we are surrounded by “yes” people who we can count on to agree with us. It is never a good sign if we can’t name a sharpener or two who we count as good friends.
I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn’t make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn’t mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with crooks, whether blue- or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You’d have to leave the world entirely to do that! But I am saying that you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when a friend who claims to be a Christian is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
Remember . . . just because a behavior is wrong, does not mean we should dismiss a person from our lives or judge them as unacceptable in God’s Kingdom. That is God’s job. Our job is to seek God’s direction in all our relationships. In any given situation, we need to ask if we are being called to sharpen or we are to leave that task to someone else. We are not always to be sharpeners. When we are called to sharpen, we must seek God’s wisdom through prayer and then filled with grace, share with the person trusting the Holy Spirit to guide our words and actions.
And remember . . . without sharpening, we are not able to function in the way God intended – we are less than what we could be. Our purpose is dulled and not as effective. Sharpening gives us a point.
As soon as the meal was finished, Jesus insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead across to Bethsaida while he dismissed the congregation. After sending them off, he climbed a mountain to pray. Mark 6:45-46 The Message
Did you ever notice that God starts with a meal – A time of nourishment – A time of preparation – A time of fellowship – A time of joy – A time of miracles – A time of heightened awareness – A time of love experienced.
At the beginning of a new leg of a journey, God prepares us. We don’t always recognize the preparations. We don’t always welcome them either. We are often times caught up in our agenda – our plans – our resolutions and our goals.
But those do not concern God because He is concerned with our journey. He pushes us out – He insists that we go – He provides a sturdy and strong vessel to protect us – He gives us tools for the journey – He knows the journey is not more than we can handle – He also knows we would not go if we were in charge or if we knew what was out there – He knows we are prepared even if we do not.
Late at night, the boat was far out at sea; Jesus was still by himself on land. He could see his men struggling with the oars, the wind having come up against them. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. He intended to go right by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and screamed, scared out of their wits. Mark 6:47-49 The Message
It is not that He leaves us alone. He is watching us. He sees the struggle. He already knew we were going to have it (remember He insisted we go forth having prepared us himself). He allows us to experience the struggle waiting until it is the right time (late enough but not too late) – He comes close. We can see Him if we are paying attention – if we are looking for Him. Or we can go it alone struggling to pull through on our own.
Jesus was quick to comfort them: “Courage! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” As soon as he climbed into the boat, the wind died down. They were stunned, shaking their heads, wondering what was going on. They didn’t understand what he had done at the supper. None of this had yet penetrated their hearts. Mark 6:50-52 The Message
Remember . . . when we turn to Him, He is quick to comfort us. The comfort we receive brings peace within our souls – not necessarily because we know why something is happening or how we are going to journey through it or how the storm will end. What we do know is that God is with us in the journey. He knew it was coming. He is watching and waiting for us to call to Him. He wants us to notice His preparations within us. He wants us to recognize our need for Him and allow Him to calm the storm – calm it in His way based on His knowledge and judgment – not ours.
He will not insist on it. No . . . our God will not insist that we turn to Him. But He will insist that we go out again. What we don’t learn this time, we will hopefully learn next time. What we do learn this time will be woven into the fabric of our soul, strengthening and preparing us to journey again.
The truth is, God is about the journey – not about our plans. His plans for us are always good because His ultimate plan is for us to join Him in eternity. Each moment, He is guiding us towards that Goal – His goal for us.
Remember . . . it is the journey that counts eternally.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:13-15
There are three kinds of friends. Those who pull you into a pit, those who keep you in the same place you have always been and those who elevate you to be the person God intended you to be. Change the first, elevate the second and treasure the third.
The pit-pullers are people who draw your attention away from God and fuel your basic ungodly desires. They complain and gossip enticing you into doing the same. They pit friend against friend – co-worker against co-worker – sister against sister – brother against brother – pulling you into the pit of turmoil. They thrive on intrigue and underhand machinations fueled by jealousy and pride. They are quick to tell people what to do and what not to do – judgmental of all but themselves. They stab you and others in the back drawing you into the same dreadful behavior.
The pit pullers are toxic to spiritual growth and emotional health. They stunt others progress in life. They may very well be religious and think they are in touch with God but they don’t seek Him in prayer before opening their mouths or deciding their course of action.
If you are a pit puller (and we all are at certain times in our lives) make a concerted effort to turn to God, change your thinking and seek out friends who can encourage Godly behavior.
“Status quo” friends keep you where you are. They agree with you on most things. They rarely disagree and rarely encourage you to seek God in your quest to figure out a problem. They will certainly aid you in times of trouble but are not helpful when it comes to figuring out your course of action because they are lost themselves. Although they rarely pull you into a pit, they do not challenge you to turn to God or seek Him in your quest. They do provide companionship, laughter and friendship – very good qualities in a friend. But when your life gets tough, their companionship does not propel you forward – it keeps you where you are.
God-seeking friends are keepers. They are people who you know care deeply for your soul. They do not have to be people you see everyday, but they are people that would lay down their lives for you – in a heartbeat they would pick you up from any place you were stranded; they could be called anytime of the day or night.
God seekers are people who challenge you to be your best – to be who God intended you to be. They do not gossip but instead discourage you from sliding down a slippery slope. They rarely tell you what to do because they know that you must seek answers directly from God – they know they are merely facilitators in your quest. God seekers walk with you – they stand beside you – they encourage you to do what is right and good.
God seekers remind you of who you are in Christ – they remind you that you are beloved by God. They remind you that your faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain. They remind you that the God you serve is good and that by placing your unknown future in God’s hands you have nothing to worry about.
Remember the words of Jesus . . .
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:16-17
Remember also . . .
To different people, we could be a “pit puller”, “status quo” friend or a God seeker. As we grow in our own walk with God, hopefully we eliminate our own behavior that puts us in the “pit puller” or “status quo” friend category.
So . . . when reviewing your list of friends and prior to getting rid of the “pit pullers” – make sure you seek God to determine if that is what He would have you do. Maybe you are the one being called to be the God seeker to your pit-puller!
As I struggled to remove a stain from my husband’s white shirt, I thought about the stains that we each struggle with. Stains of the soul – from hurt and embarrassment – from pride or greed – from our own making and the making of others – from circumstances beyond our control – from childhood and recent stains from yesterday.
In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?
My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.
God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. Hebrews 12:4-11 The Message
Some stains on my husband’s shirts were old – they were not caught until the shirt went through the dryer and become baked in. Some of the stains were recent – caught quickly.
The old stains were much harder to remove. They required soaking, rubbing, washing and bleaching. The newer stains – not so much. They were caught in time – before the drying occurred – before the stain became permanent.
Isn’t that how it is with our souls? The stains of old are much harder to get rid of – they seem to resurface at odd times – never quite resolved – never quite gone. We struggle with the “how” of getting rid of them. It seems they come back time and time again – like a train circling the mountain never quite making it to the top.
When we catch the stain quickly, many times it is an easy fix – an apology, a choice to review the “intent” of the person before jumping to conclusions, or a refusal to allow the stain to stick to us, because it is not of us- it is someone else’s stain for them to deal with.
So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!
Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears. Hebrews 12:12-17
Stains over time without proper treatment become permanent bitter roots of the soul that spew poison throughout. Those bitter roots are deadly.
Thankfully, we have a Savior. Thankfully, we have brothers and sisters in Christ who also know our Savior. Thankfully, there is hope.
Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! Hebrews 12:1-3
Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire! Hebrews 12:28-29
Stain Removal Tip: When we seek God, we are much more able to identify the stain early on and address its removal more quickly by cooperating with the Holy Spirit.
The process of life is complicated.
We are who we are based on many factors – from DNA given to us by God through our biological parents to our past circumstances created by our own acts, those of others and those beyond our control. All of which have given us experiences that have shaped who we are in this day.
We are where we are in life based on a journey we have sometimes cooperated in and sometimes rebelled from – letting God lead us at points but doing it on our own most of the time. We had choices. The decisions we made contributed to where we are in this moment.
In this process, we have either gained faith or lost it.
But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.
What you have is all you’ll ever get.
And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.
Your self will not satisfy you for long.
And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.
There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.
“There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular. Luke 6:24-26 The Message
We need a visual. Something to remember as life happens. I started with an onion but it was too stinky – moved to a lettuce with its crisp, green fresh leaves – but I am back to the onion. We are a stinky and stubborn people. We are born that way and develop layer upon layer of stinkiness.
Those layers are from childhood and teenage experiences – from parenting and parentless experiences – from environmental challenges – from poor parenting sprinkled with extraordinary love – from having too much or too little – from misinterpretation of events to glimpses of truth– from perceived wrongs to actual understanding – from jealousy gone wild to unending grace – from greed gone unchecked to untold generosity – from ignorance to understanding – from selfishness to selflessness – from fear to trust – from deep seeded pride to hard earned humility. The layers keep adding to themselves until we are one big stinkin onion.
To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. Luke 6:27-30
If we do, the layers will start to be transformed –some peeled off, some reworked, some strengthened, some reordered.
Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that. Luke 6:31-34
If we do, the layers will start to be transformed –some peeled off, some reworked, some strengthened, some reordered.
I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. Luke 6:35-36
If we do, the layers will start to be transformed –some peeled off, some reworked, some strengthened, some reordered.
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Luke 6:37-38
He quoted a proverb: “‘Can a blind man guide a blind man?’ Wouldn’t they both end up in the ditch? An apprentice doesn’t lecture the master. The point is to be careful who you follow as your teacher. Luke 6:39-40
It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. Luke 41-42
You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds. Luke 6:43-45
Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.
If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.” Luke 6:46-49
Work these Words into Your Life! Allow God to transform the onion into layer upon layer of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Each day gives us that opportunity.
Remember . . . God has given us the tools. The toolbox is the Holy Spirit who moves in us guiding us to use the tools for the work of the day we are in. So lets get to work cooperating with God – there is a stinkin’ onion to transform.
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” Matthew 5:3 The Message
Examine your mind and heart – In the midst of your storm, are you able to set aside the “stinkin’ thinkin’” that bombards your thoughts by focusing on God through Scripture, worship music, prayer and seeking advise from only “wise” brothers and sisters in Christ? Remember . . . You are blessed because God has opened up this opportunity to deepen your faith by trusting Him more.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” Matthew 5:4
Examine your mind and heart – Are you allowing yourself to love deeply which will at times bring you to mourn deeply? Have you lost something – a person, a job, a friendship, or a thing of great importance to you – and have fallen into a pit of despair? Are you mourning with what appears to be no way out? Remember . . . in your mourning, God promises you will know His comfort given in a unique way designed just for you – your God hug.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” Matthew 5;5
Examine your mind and heart – Are you comparing yourself to others instead of celebrating who you were made to be? Are you content in what you have or are you looking for something to fill a void? Remember . . . God blesses those who are meek with everything they will ever need.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.” Matthew 5:6
Examine your mind and heart – Are you only thinking about God at set times – morning or evening devotions or when you are in a storm or Sundays or only on Christmas and Easter? Is God a crutch or a “Genie in a bottle” who is only consulted for your wants and desires? Are you seeking and focusing your heart, mind and soul on Him, every moment of every day? Remember . . . God promises that when you seek Him you may feast at His Table.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.” Matthew 5:7
Examine your mind and heart – Are you seeing past your own agenda into someone (enemy, adversary or person placed in your path) else’s pain or plight so they know of your favor upon them? Remember, . . . In blessing others with mercy, God’s favor will rest upon you.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” Matthew 5:8
Examine your mind and heart – Are you fully committed to allowing God to peel back the layers to cleanse your heart? Are you aware of a repetitive behavior (sin) that you know is wrong but think is harmless? Are you “blinded” by your desire for something that is not of God? Remember . . . when your mind and heart are in the right place, you can “see” God move.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” Matthew 5:9
Examine your mind and heart – Are you showing others by your own behavior how to be part of a team by shutting down discord and gossip with positive interactions? Are you speaking truth in a peaceful way that sheds light on a situation? Are you being a “doormat” who ignores the truth and allows evil to flourish? Remember . . . peacemakers have an honored place in God’s family?
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.” Matthew 5:10
Examine your mind and heart – Are your actions for God resulting in others gossiping, shunning or persecuting you? Remember . . . give your circumstances to God letting Him untwist what can’t be humanly untwisted, pray for the persecutors and be Blessed by knowing you are in God’s Kingdom now for “eternity meets us in this moment”. C.S. Lewis
“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:11-16
Remember . . . “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 12:30-31. This sums up life’s purpose.
The words of the wise prod us to live well.
They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together.
They are given by God, the one Shepherd. Ecc 12:11 The Message
We know who they are. The ones that bring wisdom and calm to a situation. The ones who seem to bypass the gossip and the snarky comments and go straight for the essence of the problem or conflict. The ones that promote peace and harmony. The ones who speak truth. The Wise ones – that encourage us to live well – because they have been given to us by God – the one Shepherd.
But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this:
Do what he tells you. Ecc 12:12-13
And if they (the wise ones) are giving us a Word from God, do we listen? Do we do what they encourage us to do? Or are we seeking our own answers from self-help books and “face” book and those who agree with our version of the story? Are we just stirring the “pot” by telling all our friends about our situation and how “wronged” we have been and how “terrible” the other person(s) acted?
And that’s it. Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it’s good or evil. Ecc 12:14
So practice grace. Look for the intent in others actions. Was there intent to harm – or was it merely a lack of knowledge or a different view of the solution to a problem? And if the person was intending harm, what is the “intent” of your response? Remember . . . some day, maybe today, God will bring our intent out into the open.
So in this day . . . May we fear God . . . by seeking Him, by discerning His wisdom through the reading of His Word, by prayer and encouragement of others, by keeping our hearts clean and by practicing grace.
God’s Grace is unmerited favor. In other words we don’t deserve the blessing of salvation we receive from God but He gives it anyway. Why? because Jesus took away the consequence of the sin that separated us from God. Sin still exists – we are sinful by nature – everyday we err – everyday God extends grace towards us. Paul describes it this way in Romans 5:18-21:
Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.
All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end. The Message.
Given the extraordinary gift of God’s grace, it is amazing that we routinely fail to extend the gift of grace to others. Maybe that is because we don’t understand what it is – unmerited (undeserved) favor (blessing). Or we haven’t extended it to the mundane corners of our lives enough to know that God’s Grace is meant for those moments too.
So what are we to do if we are God’s children – followers of Jesus Christ – to extend grace? If someone sins, what does it actually mean to extend grace towards him or her?
We probably know what it means “not” to extend grace – holding a grudge and actively seeking retribution against someone or unforgiveness which leads to excluding a friend, family member or colleague.
Grace does not mean “forgetting” about a wrong or excusing “bad behavior”. It is about treating someone with love recognizing that we all make mistakes. It is about honesty addressing a failure and then moving on. It is about the ability to accept the forgiveness sincerely offered from someone else. It is about moving on from a problem. It is about giving someone the benefit of the doubt with eyes open.
Remember Peter’s question to Jesus about forgiveness and Jesus’ response? It is worth the reminder.
At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”
Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.
“The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.
“The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.
“The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’
“The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.
“The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.” Matthew 18:21-35
Grace is an action. We are not born with the ability to extend grace to others. We need to be taught – that knowledge comes to us by and through the Holy Spirit. It is taught to us through God’s Word. It is taught to us through experiences that humble us. It is taught to us through the examples of others – those who extend grace to us.
So in this day, remember to practice grace. As Jesus teaches:
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.
This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5:43-48 The Message
When a leg of our journey ends, a new leg begins. Change can be difficult. Change can be sorrowful. Change can be exciting. If we allow it, change can be a new beginning.
Consider Jesus’ Words to his disciples from John 16 (The Message):
“I’ve told you these things to prepare you for rough times ahead. They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor. They will do these things because they never really understood the Father. I’ve told you these things so that when the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them. Verses1-5
(Remember, prepare yourselves daily by turning to God in devotion and prayer – then you will be prepared for whatever is coming.)
“I didn’t tell you this earlier because I was with you every day. But now I am on my way to the One who sent me. Not one of you has asked, ‘Where are you going?’ Instead, the longer I’ve talked, the sadder you’ve become. So let me say it again, this truth: It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t leave, the Friend won’t come. But if I go, I’ll send him to you. Verses 6-7
(Remember, sometimes change must occur in order for something better to happen – without Jesus leaving we would not have the Holy Spirit)
“When he comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted. Verses 8-11
(Remember, His ways are not our ways)
“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you. In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me.” Verses 12-16
(Remember, the Spirit takes from Jesus and gives to us)
That stirred up a hornet’s nest of questions among the disciples: “What’s he talking about: ‘In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me’? And, ‘Because I’m on my way to the Father’? What is this ‘day or so’? We don’t know what he’s talking about.”
Jesus knew they were dying to ask him what he meant, so he said, “Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me’? Then fix this firmly in your minds: You’re going to be in deep mourning while the godless world throws a party. You’ll be sad, very sad, but your sadness will develop into gladness. Verses 17-20
(Remember, sadness WILL develop into gladness)
“When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there’s no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you’ll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You’ll no longer be so full of questions.
This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks! Verses 21-24
(Remember, the new joy can wipe out the memory of the pain- not the event itself but the pain of the event)
“I’ve used figures of speech in telling you these things. Soon I’ll drop the figures and tell you about the Father in plain language. Then you can make your requests directly to him in relation to this life I’ve revealed to you. I won’t continue making requests of the Father on your behalf. I won’t need to. Because you’ve gone out on a limb, committed yourselves to love and trust in me, believing I came directly from the Father, the Father loves you directly. First, I left the Father and arrived in the world; now I leave the world and travel to the Father.”
His disciples said, “Finally! You’re giving it to us straight, in plain talk—no more figures of speech. Now we know that you know everything—it all comes together in you. You won’t have to put up with our questions anymore. We’re convinced you came from God.”
Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” Verses 25-33
(REMEMBER, in times of difficulties, hold onto your faith, ask the Spirit for wisdom and strength, and trust Jesus – for in that trust is peace)
When we gradually recognize that God allows “bad” things to happen in order for something “good” to occur. When we recognize the “good” we may determine that the original happening although “bad” catapulted us in a way that “good” occurred.
This does not diminish the hurt that goes along with the loss or the heartache that comes from losing someone or something that has been an integral part of our lives. It does not diminish the fact that we hurt when people we love or others are hurting. It does not automatically take away the pain from a tragic event.
In other words, change that brings the end to something – death of a loved one, loss of a friend, change of employment, unexpected move to a new location – graduation– opens the door to something new. The “new” is different and can evolve into “good” when we allow God to be in the lead.
For what is “new” is bringing us closer and closer to the return of Jesus and the establishment of God’s Kingdom here on earth!
Scars . . . We all have them.
Scars are marks left by a healed wound or a lasting aftereffect of trouble or injury.
They are formed in various ways – by traumatic events not of our making – by choices we have made in the past or present that result in consequences – by actions of others that ripple out and cause heartache to us.
They can be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. Scars can affect our appearance, our moods, our reactions, our choices and our faith.
Since we all have them, what do we do with them? They can be very ugly and depending on the type of scaring, they can continue to grow. They can impede our progress in life by preventing us from realizing that God can take anything and use it for His Glory.
In order to move past scaring, we need to identify the event and the scaring that has occurred – we need to place that event and all that came from it including the scaring into God’s hands – and if necessary, repent, lament and forgive.
And then, we need to do something truly extraordinary. We need to accept God’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness – because the fight has already been won. It was won on the Cross and God’s Plan for you was restored in the Resurrection. We are made flawless in God’s sight through the blood shed by Jesus Christ.
So remember . . .those scars we bear can either turn our focus from this miraculous news or propel us forward into victory in God’s Plan.
You choose . . . And if you are having trouble, listen to these words by Mercy Me in their song “Flawless”
No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
Could it possibly be
That we simply can’t believe
That this unconditional
Kind of love would be enough
To take a filthy wretch like this
And wrap him up in righteousness
But that’s exactly what He did
Take a breath smile and say
Right here right now I’m ok because
The cross was enough
Then like a hero who takes the stage when
We’re on the edge of our seats saying it’s too late
Well let me introduce you to grace grace
No matter what they say
Or what you think you are
The day you called His name
He made you flawless
Worry is a failure to focus on God – it is a failure of trust. Worry takes us out of the moment we are in and puts us somewhere else where we are not called to be. Jesus took time to address worry at its source.
Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!
You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.
If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:19-34 The Message
Consider this sage advise from Corrie ten Boom:
“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength –
carrying two days at once is moving into tomorrow ahead of time.
Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow;
it empties today of its strength.”
So remember –
when your mind turns to worry – “what ifs” and “what should I do’s” or “where should I go” or “where am I going to get that” or “what’s going to happen then”
Refocus your thoughts on Today and what God has called you to do in this day. Tomorrow will take care of itself . . .
All of us experience storms.
Most of us will encounter the storms that arise from the death of a loved one, a severe or terminal illness, or conflict with family members or co-workers. Some of us will experience actual common disasters such as fires, tornados or floods.
Preparation for storms especially those that you have no idea are coming involves the daily discipline of seeking God. For each of us that looks different but it is a critical life pattern to establish in preparation for what we know is coming.
Although many of us prepare for eventual storms through our daily walk of faith, many of us forget that storms produce debris. Remember there is always clean up after a storm – some storms have less but there is always clean up. Failure to recognize the need to devote time to the clean up may result in emotional and/or physical exhaustion, depression, illness, phobias and the inability to function in our daily lives.
Contemplate the following in preparation for the clean up which will come after your next storm. Remember storms will come. Being prepared as best we can is in God’s Will.
- Because we fail to acknowledge or see the debris field after a storm, we are not prepared for the temptation to fall back into the same habits that may have contributed to the storm in the first place.
- Many times, the newer the stormy experience, the more intense the storm is. Since we have not experienced the type of storm before, we don’t know what to expect and are in a weakened state. When we are in a weakened state, we are more apt to respond emotionally without asking for God for guidance.
- We tend to forget the lessons we have learned in our daily walks with Jesus – lessons like focus on today – tomorrow has enough trouble of its own. See Matt 6:34
- We forget that storms sometimes mean that we need to re-order our priorities. What may have been a priority before the storm may have to be reevaluated – a new order may need to be instituted.
- We may get trapped in what used to be, wanting it to go back to that familiar, comfortable time but forgetting that we are in a new place with a need to refocus. A shifting has occurred. Sarah Groves says it so well in her song “Painting a Picture of Egypt”:
But the places they used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned
The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy
- Most storms involve the need for us to focus intensely on a specific person, event or crisis and therefore after the passing of this intensity, it is difficult to allow ourselves to decompress, to reorder our thoughts and movements to reset. A reset button is critical – we have one – His name is Jesus. Permit yourself to rest in Him.
- Sometimes we fail to realize that the storm is over – that a doorway has been provided but we have failed to see it – we are still caught up in the swirling dervish and make choices to step back into the storm to our detriment. This usually is a failure to trust that God has delivered us from the storm and we have missed our cue to move on.
- Repetitive storms of the same nature sometimes mean we did not sufficiently clean up from the first one.
- Sometimes it is the nature of our work or the people placed in our lives that result in storms – but remember to be cautious about making someone else’s storms our own. Walking into someone else’s storm unless prompted by the Holy Spirit is always “bad” and sometimes deadly. It can result in the “lesson of the storm” being lost to the person whose storm it is which may be subjecting them to future storms of a similar nature.
- Storms can steer us “away” from God and into “self survival” mode – Part of the cleanup is recognizing our need for Jesus and asking for help.
- Remember to look for God’s help and answer to prayer during the clean up. Many of us “miss” God’s assistance by refusing the help sent to us.
- Above all, in the aftermath of the storm, we cannot lose sight of God’s love for us and His plans for us – plans to prosper us and not to harm us – plans to give us hope and a future. See Jeremiah 29:11
Storms can produce fruit – deeper and greater than was possessed before the storm – deeper love, joy, peace, patience, faith, – greater empathy and kindness, a newly acquired gentleness and more self-control. See Gal. 5:22. These “fruits” in turn, produce seeds which God plants and waters to maturity.
Each storm we weather, is an opportunity to come closer to God, to gain more wisdom and to produce more fruit. If we take the time to deal with the clean up, the next storm of a similar nature hopefully will feel more like a squall than a hurricane.
As believers in Jesus, we know there will be trouble – He told us. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
In Christ, we have peace. Peace in any storm. Our job is to claim it!
Technology is the cause of much good in this world – but too much causes us to substitute the content of information stored in our memories with the “how to” of getting it. If suddenly we had no access to our cell phones or computers what would be stored in our brains that would sustain us?
Would we remember “critical” information that would allow us to live? Would we remember the pitfalls of “history” which would allow us not to repeat behavior? Would we be able to maintain our faith if we had no means to access our bibles (except for those who have hard copies)?
What is in your memory? What do you want in your memory? God’s promises? Jesus? Isn’t that the most critical information we can remember – What our Father has promised us? Who Jesus is and how the Spirit is working?
Make your list and read it routinely so that it sinks deep into the recesses of your soul where it will never be forgotten. Here’s a start:
I am the Way and the Truth and the Life – no one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3
I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Deut 31:8; Heb. 13:5; Josh 1:5; 1 Chron 28:20
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself. Matt 22:37-39; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27
The joy of the Lord is your strength. Neh 8:10
For I know the plans I have for you . . .plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
This is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Eph 3:20 The Message
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 3:2
. . . “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” . . . 2 Cor. 12:9
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. Luke 18:38; Mark 10:47
For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 1 Cor 7:14
Point your kids in the right direction – when they’re old they won’t be lost. Proverbs 22:6
I lift my eyes unto the hills – where does my help come from – my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. Psalm 121:1
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23
Rejoice in the Lord always – again I say rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:4-7
Go forth making disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:18-20
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” John 15:26-27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega – the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty, I will give without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all of this and I will be his God and he will be my son. Rev 21:6-7
. . . Yes, I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Rev 21:20
You have been seeking, praying, pleading and yet, a situation or problem persists. Sometimes it is hard to hang onto hope – hard to set aside the temptation to sink into depression that comes from no answer.
Danny Gokey sums it up in his song “Haven’t seen it yet”:
Have you been praying and you still have no answers?
Have you been pouring out your heart for so many years?
Have you been hoping that things would have changed by now?
Have you cried all the faith you have through so many tears?
Don’t forget the things that He has done before
And remember He can do it all once more
It’s like the brightest sunrise
Waiting on the other side of the darkest night
Don’t ever lose hope, hold on and believe
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
You’re closer than you think you are
Only moments from the break of dawn
All His promises are just up ahead
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
Maybe you just haven’t seen it
He had the solution before you had the problem
He sees the best in you when you feel at your worst
So in the questioning, don’t ever doubt His love for you
‘Cause it’s only in His love that you’ll find a breakthrough, oh
He is moving with a love so deep
Hallelujah for the victory
Good things are coming even when we can’t see
We can’t see it yet, but we believe that
Songwriters: Colby Wedgeworth / Ethan Hulse / Danny Gokey
Each day we are called to keep our eyes on the one who has the “solution before we even had the problem” – the one who will never leave us or forsake us – the one who is for us not against us – the one who loves us far more than we love ourselves.
The alternative would be disastrous. If we knew of the problem before it happened, we would try to change course – try to side-step the issue or change a course that we need to power through. Without the problem, we would not seek to come closer to the One who has the answer!
Remember . . . the victory is already at hand. Let us set our hearts, minds, souls and our strength on God in this day. Live today in the victory of Jesus – and BELIEVE that
He is moving with a love so deep
Hallelujah for the victory
Good things are coming even when we can’t see
We can’t see it yet, but we believe . . .
It is the week after Easter. Are we still thanking God for our Risen Savior?
Praise the Lord.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord
or fully declare his praise?
Blessed are those who act justly,
who always do what is right.
Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people
come to my aid when you save them,
that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may share in the joy of your nation
and join your inheritance in giving praise. Psalm 104:1-5 NIV
Are we still acknowledging our rebellion and our forgetfulness?
We’ve sinned a lot, both we and our parents;
We’ve fallen short, hurt a lot of people.
After our parents left Egypt,
they took your wonders for granted,
forgot your great and wonderful love.
They were barely beyond the Red Sea
when they defied the High God
—the very place he saved them!
—the place he revealed his amazing power!
He rebuked the Red Sea so that it dried up on the spot
—he paraded them right through!
—no one so much as got wet feet!
He saved them from a life of oppression,
pried them loose from the grip of the enemy.
Then the waters flowed back on their oppressors;
there wasn’t a single survivor.
Then they believed his words were true
and broke out in songs of praise.
But it wasn’t long before they forgot the whole thing,
wouldn’t wait to be told what to do.
They only cared about pleasing themselves in that desert,
provoked God with their insistent demands. Psalm 106:6-14 The Message
Was Easter just another “holiday” for us – a time for fun with family and friends – a time to take off work, eat good food and start spring cleaning?
Where are we in this week after Easter? Are we in the desert? Are we giving into our cravings?
Remember . . . Easter is not just once a year. It is everyday! We are blessed to live in the day, week, month and year after the first Easter. Hillsong says it this way ….
Let us not forget . . . lest we succumb to the temptations of the desert that occur when we fail to remember . . . when we fail to turn our thoughts to praise . . . when we fail to walk with our Risen Savior.
We look forward to “holidays” – a time to celebrate our faith, spend time with our families and contemplate the Blessings which have been poured out upon us. However, many times these holidays come and go with no real impact on our souls. Many of us spend too much time preparing for the festivities and not enough time remembering the purpose of the celebration.
Don’t despair. Remembering today – the day after Easter – is in fact extremely important for the soul. Today, we are living in the aftermath of Easter – we are living in the dawn of the Resurrection. We can rest in the peace that comes with knowing in our souls that Jesus is Risen.
So take some time to contemplate these words from Jesus. Words to live by – words to nourish the soul.
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:1-16 The Message
Today, remember the Blessings that were given to us – remember the gift of the Risen Christ – who conquered death and in that process provided a way for those who believe to follow Him to where He is – Eternity.
Remember, we are God’s light in this day – the light that shines eternity into this world.
What do you do to remember the Risen Christ? Isn’t this coming week – referred by some as Holy Week – a week of remembrance?
And who cares anyway? Why is it so important that we remember?
Because, it is a matter of life eternal or death eternal.
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate and remember Christ’s triumphal walk into Jerusalem – crowds acknowledging that He is the Messiah – people celebrating his kingship.
On Thursday, we celebrate and remember Christ’s last supper with his disciples – a meal where Jesus gave us communion to remember Him by – a time to come together as fellow followers and to remember His body broken for us and his blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins.
On Friday, we celebrate and remember his final sacrifice – a day when Christ’s love for humanity ran so deep that He died in our place for our sin – overcoming death once and for all.
On Saturday, we remember the heartache we face when we forget that Easter Sunday has already come – the day after Christ died and before the first disciples knew that Easter Sunday was coming.
And then . . . Easter Sunday . . . the day we celebrate and remember the Risen Christ. This is the day, we celebrate and remember and understand that Jesus IS the Son of God – that He conquered sin and the resultant death – our death – that He went before us to prepare a place for us – that He is already there, waiting for each of us, expecting us. We remember His Words to us before He left:
“I didn’t tell you earlier because I was with you every day. But now I am on my way to the One who sent me. Not one of you has asked, “Where are you going?” Instead, the longer I’ve talked, the sadder you’ve become. So let me say it again, this truth: It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t leave, the Friend won’t come. But if I go, I’ll send him to you.
When he comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin. That righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.
I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.’
John 16:5-15 The Message
RETURN – REFOCUS – REBUILD – RECONCILE – REMEMBER – REJOICE!
FOR CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!!
What is the reason you are opening your Bible? Are you looking for something that will speak to you about a situation you are in? Are you looking for encouragement? Are you looking for comfort? What ARE you looking for?
It seems like some of us approach reading the bible as a “chore” – something we are supposed to do. We memorize scripture because we are told that it is good to memorize scripture. We read a daily devotion because we believe that is the “right” way to start or end our day. Some of us never open the Bible because we have no idea why we should. So . . . What is the “purpose” of the WORD?
We are told that JESUS is the Word – the Word of Life.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood. . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John 1:1-5, 14
That which was from the beginning which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:1-7
God the Father and Jesus the Son were together in the “Beginning”, along with the Holy Spirit (See Genesis 1:2). These three persons have always existed together in relationship. God is described as “Father” throughout the Bible – “father” implies that there is a child* – who is described as the Son of God – Jesus.
Jesus, The Word, tells us this: This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:46-49
God gave us the Spirit. (See Joel 2:26-28; John 20:21-22; See Acts 1-2) God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us. Romans 5:5 The Spirit is the person who brings to life the Word through sharing his loving relationship with God and Jesus with all of us.
So . . . Why do we open our Bible? Is it not to uncover each and every time a new facet of our relationship with the one who created us and who wants to be in relationship with us – to know the Triune God more intimately?
Remember, the Word is alive and moving through us by the Spirit.
So the next time you open your Bible, do so reverently and with excitement, wonder and amazement – realizing that the Spirit of the Living God will be with you as you seek relationship with God – our Father, our Jesus and our Holy Spirit.
For Further Reading about the Trinity see “Delighting in the Trinity” – Michael Reeves
Are you feeling lost and alone? Wait upon the Lord!
Are you plagued by doubts and what ifs? Wait upon the Lord!
Are you bruised and broken within? Wait upon the Lord!
You are not alone.
Psalm 38 – A Psalm of David – The Message
Take a deep breath, God; calm down—
don’t be so hasty with your punishing rod.
Your sharp-pointed arrows of rebuke draw blood;
my backside smarts from your caning.
I’ve lost twenty pounds in two months
because of your accusation.
My bones are brittle as dry sticks
because of my sin.
I’m swamped by my bad behavior,
collapsed under gunnysacks of guilt.
The cuts in my flesh stink and grow maggots
because I’ve lived so badly.
And now I’m flat on my face
feeling sorry for myself morning to night.
All my insides are on fire,
my body is a wreck.
I’m on my last legs; I’ve had it—
my life is a vomit of groans.
Lord, my longings are sitting in plain sight,
my groans an old story to you.
My heart’s about to break;
I’m a burned-out case.
Cataracts blind me to God and good;
old friends avoid me like the plague.
My cousins never visit,
my neighbors stab me in the back.
My competitors blacken my name,
devoutly they pray for my ruin.
But I’m deaf and mute to it all,
ears shut, mouth shut.
I don’t hear a word they say,
don’t speak a word in response.
What I do, God, is wait for you,
wait for my Lord, my God—you will answer!
I wait and pray so they won’t laugh me off,
won’t smugly strut off when I stumble.
I’m on the edge of losing it—
the pain in my gut keeps burning.
I’m ready to tell my story of failure,
I’m no longer smug in my sin.
My enemies are alive and in action,
a lynch mob after my neck.
I give out good and get back evil
from God-haters who can’t stand a God-lover.
Don’t dump me, God;
my God, don’t stand me up.
Hurry and help me;
I want some wide-open space in my life!
Do you want some wide-open space in your life?
Then . . . Remember – Wait upon the Lord.
Turn to God, be still in His presence and ask for help. He will provide what you need – not necessarily what you want – but what you need in this moment. Do not refuse His help. Do not wallow in your issues – as a matter of fact – cease complaining and analyzing. Acknowledge your behavior – share your remorse with God. Remember . . . He already knows – He was there when you did it. Let Him deal with your enemies – the ones that seem to be coming after you in your weakness.
Put your trust in Him – the One who Saves – the One who provides wide-open space in your life – where peace abounds.
He answered again: “No. You may not come through.” And Edom came out and blocked the way with a crowd of people brandishing weapons. Edom refused to let them cross through his land. So Israel had to detour around him. Numbers 20:20-21 The Message
Sometimes, we are presented with detours not of our making. For instance, when a highway is shut down for repairs and the detour comes through your town. You did not cause the detour. You may have been warned about it but there is nothing you can really “do” about it. It is coming whether you complain about it or not. It is a disruption to your “normal” routine. The truth is it can be embraced as a positive or judged as a negative. You can cooperate with God in the detour or dig your heals in and complain.
What are you doing with that life detour of yours – the ones not associated with your disobedience or sin? Are you praying for the people who have suddenly been detoured through your life? Are you caring for the workers who are stationed at your square? Are you focusing on “who“ God has placed in your path? Or . . . are you pulled into the complaining of the “inconvenience” of it all or judging the people who are involved in the detour?
Why do we view all life’s detours as “detours”? Why are we not seeing some of them for what they are – God’s timing for something we might have little or no clue about. Maybe . . . our detour is God’s plan. “Why”, you ask. “I don’t know”, is the reply. If we knew, we would screw it up!
If it is God’s plan, then it is not a detour but a moment to be embraced.
Truth is defined as a “verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principal or the like”. Truth is also defined as “an ideal or fundamental reality apart from and transcending perceived experience”. Truthfulness is found in the list of “good” character traits along with honesty and integrity.
We struggle all the time with “truth”. Many of us are skeptical of what we hear or see in the media or in social media because we can’t verify that what is said is true. We are constantly trying to figure out if what is reported is actually the entire truth or part of the truth. Not having the entire truth can lead us down a path that we would never have taken had we known the entire truth.
So we need to start at the beginning in order to be grounded in the “absolute” truth that will allow us to calmly deal with the process of discerning truth in the dailiness of our everyday lives. Each of us needs to spend time answering the following questions in our own hearts. The answer to these questions form the basis of our understanding of everything else. If we know the answer to these questions then our reliance on this truth will profoundly affect how we perceive situations and people, and the path we will take in our life journeys.
*Does God exist and who is He? **Is Jesus Christ the Son of God and what does that mean? ***Is the Holy Spirit guiding believers in this day?
If we cannot answer these questions with certainty, then we can seek out the answers in many ways – by reading or hearing God’s Word (the Bible), by seeking the Truth in prayer, by contemplating the work of His Hand in Creation and by seeking out his disciples.
If our answers to these questions are “yes”, then our absolute truth starts with these truths: *God exists and created this world and everything in it. He loved us so much that He sent His only son to us to save us. **Christ is the Son of God; sent by God to save us from sin and to provide a way for us to enter eternal life. He lived, was crucified, was raised by the Holy Spirit, appeared to his disciples after death and lives with God. ***The Holy Spirit was sent to us by Jesus to be our guide and counselor; He is moving and working in our lives in this day. (The expanded version of these answers are found in the Bible)
These absolute truths have consequences. We need to remember them each day – preferably before we start into our busyness. Having these truths at the front of our consciousness will result in responses that may be substantially different than the response we may have had if we forget these basic absolute truths.
The Bible is chalk full of examples of what happens when we “forget” the absolute truths – Noah (Genesis 6-9); the Israelites in the wilderness (Numbers 11-14); and Judas’ betrayal (Matthew 26:47-56, Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-50; John 18:3-11) to name a few.
We are contending with the consequence of this forgetfulness in our families, society and the Church – consequences like pride, grumbling, gossip, abuse, greed, gluttony, and sexual misconduct.
Many people label those in the church as “hypocrites” for our failure to put these absolute truths in the forefront of our moment by moment responses. We have forgotten God’s direction to us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.”
But all is not lost. Each of us can choose to live in these Truths in this day. To stand in their strength – to rely on their goodness – to share in the love and grace that results from their power.
Remember . . . these Truths do have consequences.
We have a choice when it comes to living. We can choose the “ways of the world” or the “ways of God”. Some of us walk in and out of these two choices picking what each of us “think” apply to us individually. Of course, that could be considered a third category of living – living according to our own perceptions of what is right and wrong. In essence, living according to our “own” moral standard is merely a “way of the world”.
We are warned by God throughout the Bible to distance ourselves from the world. There are directions and examples set forth from Genesis to Revelations on the need to follow God instead of the world around us. Paul summarizes how we are to live in Romans:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 NIV
or said another way:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 1-2 The Message
We are called to live in the world but not to be a part of it. That means we have to know what behavior God warns us about and turn from it remembering that sin has adverse consequences. When sin is pursued to its final outcome, it proves deadly.
Ignoring God Leads to a Downward Spiral
But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.
So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!
Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.
Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best! Romans 1:18-32 The Message
We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory. The key is to recognize our own sin and where we are each vulnerable to sin. Some of us struggle with pride, some with gluttony, some with gossip, others with greed, still others with sexual sins. When we take the time to set our sin before God and ask for forgiveness, God through His Grace will show us the way to change course.
Remember, the prodigal son (Luke 11;15-32). God’s Grace is far greater than any of our individual sin. He is waiting for us to recognize it and confess it to Him. He will then provide a way from it – for every situation can be used by God to bring Him Glory – even our sin-filled past and our bumpy journey away from it.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
These Words of God penned by Solomon are critical to dealing with the ups and downs of life. Solomon advises us that in each of our lives there is a time for what we consider “good” and “bad” activity. We don’t always know why these events occur – nor do we always know the reason for them. We can surmise the reason and spend precious time speaking to each other about the reasons but we have limited understanding of what God’s plan is and how the “event” is going to impact us or others.
So what is the purpose of these ups and downs in life? How can we weather both the monotony of some activities and the storm of other activities? How do we cope with certain unspeakable horrors? What is the purpose of pleasure and sorrow?
I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh” the things I learned from her,
When sorrow walked with me.
“I walked a Mile with Pleasure” by Robert Browning Hamilton
The answer lies in the way we understand our purpose in this life. We are created by God for His purpose. We may or may not “know” what His purpose is for us in any given moment but the deeper our faith, the more we realize that He is in control and that’s precisely where we should want Him to be.
It is through the trials of life that we gain the most wisdom. It is through deep heartache that we understand the depth of joy. It is through tearing down strongholds that we are able to rebuild with understanding. It is only through pain and heartache that we learn to seek our Savior. It is only through seeking our Savior that we gain the understanding needed to know, accept and trust that God is in control.
So let us reconsider the trials and tribulations of our lives with a new perspective. Remember without them, we would not gain the wisdom needed to deepen our faith in our Creator and our Savior.
The Final Word
Besides being wise himself, the Quester also taught others knowledge. He weighed, examined, and arranged many proverbs. The Quester did his best to find the right words and write the plain truth.
The words of the wise prod us to live well.
They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together.
They are given by God, the one Shepherd.
But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this:
Do what he tells you.
And that’s it. Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it’s good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 The Message
The Old Testament and the New Testament are a documentary on miracles – miracles of healing, miracles showing power over nature and miracles of raising the dead. We recognize that the greatest miracle was that of Christ being sent to us and preparing the way to eternal life by taking on our sins, dying on the cross and being resurrected to eternal life with God.
One of the reasons these miracles were written down was for us to remember what God has done in the past and a reminder that He is still a God of miracles. There are still healing miracles – there are still miracles showing God’s power over nature and I am sure there are miracles raising people from the dead.
But we tend to overlook or ignore what I call the “everyday” miracles designed just for us – for each of us to see as we go through our day. The question is “do we have eyes to see and ears to hear?” Do we expect miracles in our lives and the lives of our loved ones? Do we actually pray for them?
So what is an “everyday” miracle? I define it as something extraordinary that happens that is known by me to be an answer to prayer or a sign that I know was designed just for me in that moment. These types of miracles are difficult to explain to others because they are so very personal. Most of the time no one else knows that the miracle is occurring because it is an “everyday” event to others.
I have come to know these “everyday” miracles after many years of observation. I can’t say that the following example was the “first” one I encountered but it certainly sticks out in my mind as one of the “every day “ miracles that jolted me into the realization that God is listening to every utterance we make and He cares that we communicate with Him. I have learned to expect communication from Him and try to look for it in the ordinariness of my daily activities.
About 21 years ago, my family moved from one town to another. I was pregnant with our third child and it had been a difficult time of packing in the midst of caring for two preschoolers, working, preparing the new house for our arrival and preparing the old house for sale. I was tired, stretched thin, unable to ask for help from friends and family and basically in the “moment by moment” mode of life.
In other words, I was an exhausted, sassy, pregnant woman with a short fuse. I was in deep conversation with the Lord – it was the only thing that was giving me strength to go on. I wondered if this move was at the right time, was the right place and would be a good fit for our family.
We loaded up the final boxes and furniture and I was thankful that the rain had held off. I was also thankful that the day was almost over but anxious about what lay ahead. As we pulled out of our old home, I gasped as I saw it. A rainbow – the most beautiful rainbow I think I had ever seen. It arced across the whole sky and filled the deep recesses of my mind with its beauty. It spoke a deep peace to my soul. It told me that God cared for me – that He had been with them on the journey and was going to continue on that journey with me – it reassured me that we were doing the right thing by moving – it promised me that God loved me and it gave me hope that a new life was ahead – a life filled with love, peace and joy.
To most other people that day in that little town in the world, that rainbow may have been seen as beautiful but it was viewed as an ordinary meteorological event. For me, it was a direct communication from God reassuring me of His presence and giving me hope for the future – He had plans for me – plans to prosper me and not to harm me – plans to give me hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:8
In my life, I have come to know that rainbows appear at times of great transition or fervent prayers. They are a sign to me that God is with me and they remind me of His promise that He will never leave me or forsake me. These “everyday” miracles make me want to be ever vigilant in seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary events of my day.
So, in this ordinary day, seek Him and ask for your eyes and ears to be opened to see and hear what He has for you. When our eyes and ears are opened, we begin to see and hear the “everyday” miracles – then, we begin to expect to see and hear the miracles. When we wake each day, expecting to see God’s miraculous hand, we become “new” each day, excited about what God has in store for us, expecting His mighty hand to save, reinvent, revitalize, refresh and open doors for us to bring Glory to Him.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:46-50 NIV. See also Mark 3:31-35 and Luke 8:19-21
Jesus responds to question concerning his mother and brothers in three of the four gospels. At the time he shares this wisdom with his followers, He is in the midst of explaining the Kingdom of God using parables. In the Gospel of Matthew, He has just warned people about evil spirits and protecting themselves by keeping their eyes on God continually to prevent re-infestation of evil. In Mark, He has just warned people about blaspheming the Holy Spirit. In Luke, He has just warned people to spread God’s wisdom and light and not to keep it hidden.
Jesus is calling us into a “one-on-one” relationship with God. It does not mean we do not care for or receive care from our “earthly” family, but it does mean that we need to seek God first and listen to Him independently of others. And remember, once we “hear” we need to be obedient to what we have heard from God.
He replied, “My mother and brothers are the ones who hear and do God’s Word. Obedience is thicker than blood.” Luke 8:21 The Message
So why do we do what we do in church? Why do some of us kneel to pray while others sit or stand? Why do some of us sing hymns and some of us sing praise songs? Why do some of us light candles on the altar and others do not? Why do some take communion every day and some take communion once a month. Why? Why? Why? Tradition!!!!!
Hear how Jesus reacted to the tradition of the day:
Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.”
Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,
‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce,
for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ Matthew 15:1-9 NLT
Jesus’ observations about the religious teachers man-made rules are critical to our understanding of our own worship. Why do we worship a certain way? Do we understand the tradition? Are we critical of others because they are not worshiping as we are?
Tradition is seeped in scripture. Men and woman have interpreted Scripture to create traditions that remind us of the Scripture from which the tradition sprang. When you are involved in creating a tradition, you understand the purpose of it and when you follow it, you are reminded of that purpose.
For example, carrying light into the sanctuary at the beginning of the Church service and taking it out at the end reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world and we are to take His light out into the world. When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
These man-made traditions remind us of God’s Word, His promises, His covenants and His love for us and the Church. They are designed to help us remember Jesus and His promise of eternal life. But like any tradition, we can close our minds and refuse to “remember” the purpose of the tradition. And of course for many of us, we do not even know “why” it is that we “do” what we do in worship.
The point of “tradition” is to cause you to remember. It is repetitive in order to help you set aside the ”how” of doing it and concentrate on the “why”. So take some time this week to remember your traditions. Celebrate the ones that help you remember God and His Word. Find out why you practice traditions you don’t understand and above all, make sure you are honoring God with not only your lips but also your heart.
We all know the story of Moses and the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. Most of us learned it as children – a story of how God came to the rescue of His enslaved people and sent them a deliverer to bring them out of their enslavement.
We know Moses heard and saw his call of God from a burning bush. We know about the ten plagues that God brought upon the Egyptians. We know about the parting of the red sea.
But have we actually thought about what it would be like to be one of those Israelites. Have we put ourselves in their shoes? When Moses came and requested their release, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Why? Can you imagine what the talk was around the camp fire? Were the Israelites “happy” that God had sent Moses to them? Did they even believe that he was sent? Was there dancing in the streets – celebrations in everyone’s homes? NO.
Then the Israelite overseers went and appealed to Pharaoh: “Why have you treated your servants this way? Your servants are given no straw, yet we are told, ‘Make bricks!’ Your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.”
Pharaoh said, “Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.”
The Israelite overseers realized they were in trouble when they were told, “You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.” When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, “May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” Exodus 5:15-23
What does your deliverance look like? Have you been praying for years for help and nothing has happened? Have you expected something or someone to pluck you out of a terrible situation and you just have not seen any sign of movement? Have things actually gotten worse after you prayed?
Take heart. God hears every prayer. God sees every heartache. He sent a deliverer to you – His Name is Jesus Christ. Instead of focusing on the need for your delivery, focus on the deliverer – Jesus. When your thoughts stray to darkness and your mind pulls you into depression, turn your thoughts to Him – set your eyes on His Word – direct your heart to sing His praises – pray for the song you need to hear to permeate your soul.
As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:10-14
Deliverance is always difficult. God hardens hearts for many reasons, but one is for us to recognize our need for Him – to refocus on Him – to be attentive to his call to us. When things are at their worse, we seek Him because we recognize there is nothing we can do but trust Him to deliver.
Deliverance for the Israelites was definitely a physical act by God to remove them from Egypt and place them in the promised land. But God was also delivering them from themselves – years of slavery and years in the desert finally turned some of their hearts away from themselves and their dire circumstances and to God. The ones that did not turn to God died in the desert.
Don’t be one of them. Turn and be saved.
And if you are one of the ones who has been saved, then remember there are many people that you know that are in need of your prayers and encouragement. If you are delivered then you understand the need to cooperate with God in the deliverance of others.
It is a hard truth for even a devout follower of Jesus Christ to get their head wrapped around the fact that they are suffering and that God has allowed it. Why? We cannot fathom the total answer to this question except God allows things to happen so that His Will can be done. His good, pleasing and perfect Will is for us to come to know Him as the Messiah and join Him in Eternity.
How God accomplishes this is through the Holy Spirit, by love, grace and mercy. He uses followers and their sufferings to bring others into this saving knowledge. He does it in ways and by means we cannot fully understand.
Jesus and his disciples headed out for the villages around Caesarea Philippi. As they walked, he asked, “Who do the people say I am?”
“Some say ‘John the Baptizer,’” they said. “Others say ‘Elijah.’ Still others say ‘one of the prophets.’”
He then asked, “And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?”
Peter gave the answer: “You are the Christ, the Messiah.”
Jesus warned them to keep it quiet, not to breathe a word of it to anyone. He then began explaining things to them: “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.” He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it. Mark 8:27-32
Once we comprehend that Jesus is the Messiah and He is leading us to victory through the help of the Holy Spirit, we can understand what Jesus says next to Peter:
But Peter grabbed him in protest.
Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.”
Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?
“If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.” Mark 8:32-38 The Message
Jesus told Peter to get out of his way. Don’t protest the Way of the Messiah whose role is to lead – allow it. We are to follow. Self-help is no help at all. We are not to do this alone but at the direction of Jesus through the helper He sent to us – The Holy Spirit. Our words should be His Words delivered in faith after prayer.
Sometimes we get discouraged in our prayer lives because we don’t “see” results. This is especially true when it involves a loved one for whom we have been praying for a long time. When this occurs, we need a reminder that prayer is about an interactive relationship with God. It is about sharing with God our heart felt concerns for someone plus our joys and our hopes and our fears.
Prayer is not always about making requests. It is also about giving thanks and praise. Prayer is an act of faith – faith in God – faith in His love for us – faith that His Will is the perfect plan for us and others.
Mark tells us of a time when Jesus showed the disciples about the power of prayer – of being in constant communication with the Father.
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11:12-14
When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly, I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:20-25
Jesus was showing the disciples that prayer is powerful. He used the fig tree as an example that a curse has consequences. Conversely, so does a blessing. So be careful that your heart is in the right place when you are praying – that it is pure and seeks the best and the highest for the person you are praying for. Get rid of resentments and past wrongs (real or perceived). Forgiveness of others, promotes God’s forgiveness of our selves.
AND . . . Remember, after Jesus ascended into Heaven, He sent to us the Holy Spirit – The same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. Within all those who believe, the Holy Spirit lives and dwells with resurrection power. Therefore, believe and trust that your prayers have been heard and answered.
Therefore, believe and trust that your prayers have been heard and answered! You may see instant results and you may not. God hears all our prayers – the communication of our hearts. We need to trust that those communications are being addressed perfectly by the God of the Universe. Thankfully, God’s grace turns our “misguided” prayers into something even better.
God’s perfect Will is more desirable than our plan. So the most awesome prayer to pray for someone else is that God’s Will be done in their lives, trusting that what happens is going to be used for God’s glory.
Remember, those prayers that you have been praying for years have been heard and answered by God. Maybe not in the way you have asked but through the filter of God’s Grace. Trust. Your prayers may be the catalyst that turns a person towards God and away from death.
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
What does it mean to be naïve? Who do we envision when that word is used to describe someone? – A child running through a field chasing a butterfly – A person heading out to look for their first job – An innocent young boy or girl who has never been kissed? Eve in the garden with the serpent?
Well, that last one is an interesting one to ponder. We all know the story of “the fall”. We get it – God told Adam and Eve not to eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they would surely die. The serpent tempted Eve who ate and shared her fruit with Adam. Because of their disobedience and new-found knowledge, God could not allow them to eat from the tree of life and live forever so He placed them outside the garden – away from the ability to live forever.
What does this story have to do with us – except that we are descendants of Adam and Eve who really screwed up when they disobeyed God!! That “screw up” affected the whole human race.
Let’s sit in the story for a few minutes. Read Genesis 3 from your own Bible and then read the Scripture as set forth in the following modern translation “The Message”.
The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal God had made. He spoke to the Woman: “Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?”
The Woman said to the serpent, “Not at all. We can eat from the trees in the garden. It’s only about the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘Don’t eat from it; don’t even touch it or you’ll die.’”
The serpent told the Woman, “You won’t die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you’ll see what’s really going on. You’ll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil.”
When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it—she’d know everything!—she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate.
Immediately the two of them did “see what’s really going on”—saw themselves naked! They sewed fig leaves together as makeshift clothes for themselves.
When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.
God called to the Man: “Where are you?”
He said, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid.”
God said, “Who told you you were naked? Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?
The Man said, “The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it.”
God said to the Woman, “What is this that you’ve done?”
“The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate.” Genesis 3:1-13
Eve had no knowledge of evil when the serpent spoke to her. She did not know what it meant to be lied to. She did not know what it meant to be deceived. She did not know what temptation was. She did not know what disobedience entailed – she had never disobeyed.
She did know that God told her not to eat from one tree. She knew what she was not supposed to do.
Adam had no reason not to trust Eve – they were companions in paradise. He did not know what it meant to be lied to. He did not know what it meant to be deceived. He did not know what temptation was. He did not know what disobedience entailed – He had never disobeyed.
He did know that God told him not to eat from one tree. He knew what he was not supposed to do.
Adam and Eve did not think about how their actions of disobedience would impact them and the rest of civilization. They had never disobeyed! They did not challenge the serpent or each other because they did not know what evil was – they did not know what consequences would occur. They were naïve.
We, on the other hand, should not be naïve. We know the story of Adam and Eve. We have the knowledge of good and evil. We have suffered under that knowledge. We have disobeyed throughout our lives and we know that consequences occur. We know there is a temptor who has been defeated but who roams the earth looking for naïve people to tempt.
AND we know the rest of the story – the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ – that He died to conquer sin, was raised from the dead and lives as our Savior, providing the way for us to live eternally with Him. We know that our belief in Jesus Christ means the HOLY SPIRIT dwells within us giving us power to resist the temptor and his lies.
Therefore, don’t be naï (eve)!
Be prepared – know Scripture – so you know God’s Truth. Sit with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit daily so you know God’s voice. Think and look through God’s lens before you act. Seek the Holy Spirit for guidance before you plunge into temptation. Remember, obedience is a choice.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:7-8(a)
Since we are all on unique spiritual journeys, we reach spiritual understanding in different areas at different times. At any given time on a particular matter, we may be spiritually “ahead” of someone who God has placed in the “lane” next to us on the spiritual highway (road to perfection – to be like Christ in all we do). Sometimes, we are spiritually behind them. It is not for us to compare but to be aware in any given encounter.
Paul gives us an example to chew on. He encourages us to seek the highest good in the people we encounter in our daily lives. Why? – So that they may be saved. He is explaining that although it is fine to eat anything served to us by our host, it is not always the “right” thing to do.
Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.
So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall. 1 Corinthians 8
This same scenario unfolds day in and day out in our own lives. For instance, God does not forbid the drinking of wine, but we should not be drinking wine with a person if it promotes their temptation to over indulge. If we know that a person is struggling with weight (gluttony) then it is not generally “good” for us to bring them a gift of sweets. If we know a person is tempted to gossip, then we should not fuel their temptation by feeding them information we know they will want to gossip about. If we know a person struggles with anger, we should seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we use our words and actions in a difficult situation.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others . . . So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, 31-33
Seeking the highest good in someone else means constant communication with Jesus to say and do what is in the best interests of the person we are encountering so that they can be saved. Remember, temptation lures us away from our relationship with God. Christians are called to resist temptation and help others to resist.
Our words and actions matter. So choose them wisely by turning to God and asking for guidance. A prayerful response to any given situation can mean the difference between “helping” a person sink deeper into a pit or encouraging them to find the ladder God has provided to climb out of the pit.