Monthly Archives: July 2019
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 MSG*
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 MSG*
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 MSG*
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.
*Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
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.