One of my favorite visuals from the Bible is James 1:23 – “Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” Strangely enough I find myself doing that at times. I get up, wash my face and go about my day. At some point I’ll go into a restaurant or store bathroom and look in the mirror as I wash my hands. I almost shock myself when I see what my hair looks like or how old I look.
I also do this with obeying the Word of God. I get up in the morning, read my devotionals and Bible studies then head out into the world. At times it may take all day before I forget the Word, other times it’s my first encounter with another human as I leave my street. I get angry, snarky, unforgiving, worried, maybe even a bit vengeful. I forget God’s admonition – that if I want to receive mercy then I need to be merciful. If I want to be treated kindly then I need to treat people with kindness. I tell people that the actual act of being a faithful follower of God takes work. It takes practice. Some days it takes every single ounce of strength to keep my mind fixed on Jesus. The world wants us to take the easy route. They want us to forget what we look like. The world says “it’s ok” to chip away at what we know to be right. Those “almost right” temptations are what give the devil his footholds.
There’s been great debates over time about grace vs. works. I’m not a world-renowned Bible scholar. I don’t have a degree in theology. But I can read James 2:14 which states,
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”
Throughout the New Testament it’s made clear that faith without deeds is really no faith at all. The Book of James speaks to my Martha-like spirit. But it also is for Martha’s sister, Mary. Because deeds come in all forms. Martha showed love by cooking and cleaning. Mary showed love through adoration and giving.
James is only five short chapters. But they are packed with Jesus follower gems. The foreward in the Bible study book, James, Faith that Works, says “Unlike most books of the New Testament, the letter of James is best known for the people who don’t like it. It’s seen as a scalawag among the obviously Christ-centered letters of Paul, and the love-concerned writings of John.” I personally like being a scalawag.
We feel the sting of James. But without an occasional admonishment, we humans are extremely prone to skipping along dangerous paths. As a parent, I know the two most important roles I played while raising my girls was 1) setting and holding them to rules and 2) loving them even as they broke those rules. Isn’t that what God does for us each and every day – when we turn from the mirror and forget what we look like?
Join me, starting September 7, 2020, as I take a chapter in James each week to spur us on to action – to be doers of the Word, not just readers. Through James we can learn to take practical steps to living out our lives as Christ followers.
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Two summers ago I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Prague in the Czech Republic. It’s only been since 1993 that this country became free from the bonds of communism. It was amazing to see the vibrant growth and renewal throughout the city. And yet the ravages of communism were still evident. You could sit at a street corner and watch the traffic go by and all the city busses. What I realized was there were no busses made after the 1960s. There were 50s era street cars, which were quaint. But no modern busses. It was as though life stopped when the money ran out. Democracy and capitalism take awhile to take hold — people trained to fear innovation and freedom need to adjust to the light.
I had heard about the Museum of Communism in Prague, established in 2001. The description of it is, “an immersive look at life behind the Iron Curtain.” But it was much more than that. I’ve told my friends that every single US student should visit this museum. It’s a stark, educational, hold no punches, recording of the dangers of communism. What has stayed with me were the photos of priests being led away by secret police. Hundreds of priest were killed in order to control religion. At first, churches were allowed to function only under state control. The government decided who were favored priests and who were not. The government decided which liturgies could be celebrated and which could not. And those who did not comply were shot. Priests that were “approved” were paid by the government to acquire their loyalty. In 1950, the government seized all church properties. They plundered over 1,000 church buildings, stealing thousands of works of art and religious artifacts. The approved churches began to lose parishioners as they were associated with the repressive government. The end result? The Czech Republic is considered one of the least religious countries in Europe.
Joseph Bondarenko, a Russian evangelical minister, didn’t give in to the communist regime. He was expelled from university for illegally engaging in religious activities in the Soviet Union. He was undeterred. He was put in prison multiple times. He took to heart the lessons the disciples wrote in the New Testament. When we make serving God our priority we will have eternal blessings. Recently, when speaking with worship leader and founder of Let Us Worship, Sean Feucht, Bondarenko spoke of the signs of communism creeping into our society. He said,
“Don’t they realize what is happening now in America is exactly what happened to us in communist Russia? It started with ‘Don’t gather. Don’t sing. Spread apart. Listen to the government.’ Then it quickly turned into full on persecution and the church did not wake up in time.”
You may be reading this and thinking, “that’s not going to happen in America.” In California we are told we cannot meet in our churches. We cannot sing. Indefinitely. We must listen to the government. And the majority of our pastors are compliant. Some have rebelled. The ones that rebel are vilified in our media — and by “Christians.” My friend who is not Christian doesn’t understand. She tells me if Christians think God is all mighty and who we should solely put our faith in then why aren’t all pastors rebelling?
In my Bible study group the other day we were talking about the loss of being with our church families. Praising God in community and raising our collective voices. I told them my fear is we will become like the Czech Republic. Where, once our churches are “allowed” to open, that no one or few will come. Our churches, our pastors, our faith leaders chose government over God. How can we move forward with them as our guides? They espouse “faith over fear” yet, fear is exactly what they have taught us these last six months.
The prophet Haggai was tasked to admonish the Israelites about rebuilding the temple in the year 520. But the Jews gave excuses. They said the economy wasn’t good enough. They said maybe God didn’t really want them to do it. They said they needed to take care of their own needs first. And yet, they continued to complain about the drought and their oppression. Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Haggai 1:1-4 is,
When we put God first and give Him what’s rightfully His, we open the door to spiritual enrichment and the kind of stewardship that honors God.
May we open our Christian eyes sooner, not later, to obey God’s command to rebuild His temple.
On a warm summer evening my husband and I were enjoying a walk along Prague’s Vltava River. We crossed over one of the beautiful bridges, heading to a park. We stopped in the middle to enjoy the view. I started humming along to a song I could hear off in the distance. As we got closer to the park, the music got louder. I kept thinking how familiar that song sounded. We took the steps down from the bridge into a park where a small concert was being held. And it hit me. Singing in Czech, was a band playing a Christian praise song. And all around — about 100 young people — were people singing, lifting hands in the name of our Lord. In this town that had seemingly lost its faith, faith was being re-born. He never forsakes us. He calls us back into His loving arms.
This letter was written May 2020 after a number of attempts to sit down with my pastor or even an assistant pastor about my concerns over closing up our churches. Instead I was met with silence. Absolute silence. You see, I believe Christians are being put to the test. God’s threshing room is operating at full throttle. The wheat and chaff are being separated.
In conversations with my Christian and non-Christian friends I have made this argument: When a corporation, charity, educational institution, government, mother/father, pilot, pastor, soldier, or whatever job you can think of forgets what their primary, intended purpose is they go astray. Christian churches’ primary purpose is to bring the Word of God to people who need to hear it. It is to have Christians and searching non-Christians be in communion with each other to praise God for our salvation. It is to serve God and God’s people. The primary purpose is NOT to keep people from catching a virus. Now, that doesn’t mean that safety and security are thrown out the window. Just like our schools, whose primary purpose is to teach our children — not keep them from catching a virus — our churches must stay focused on God’s plan. I laud those corporations and small businesses who have not forgotten their primary purpose — to bring goods to customers. Somehow they have figured out how to also keep their customers and employees safe. Christian churches should place themselves at least on the same plane as Costco or Walmart. I, for one, think our churches have a much greater role to play in God’s universe.
After I sent this letter to my church and church leaders I waited for the storm to come. And it did. I found it interesting that the people we all see as “plugged in” at our churches were the most offended. In fact, I was told by one that Satan was working in me. I also got the “who do you think you are?” But it was regular, church-going people who spoke to me with shouts of “hallelujah!” We “regular Christians” are begging for communion. We NEED each other. We need to see each other raising our hands to God in praise. If you are a pastor and reading this, we need you.
“I told my friend today that I’m about to commit a “Jerry Maguire.” For those of you who haven’t seen the movie here’s what I mean. Jerry, a sports agent at a large firm, has a “come to Jesus” moment one night about the nature of his business and how it has become de-personalized. He writes a manifesto and shares it with all his colleagues. And while they all think what he says is great, they turn against him, shunning him.
My manifesto is not about a job, it’s about Faith, or the lack of it from our churches. In these uncertain times we have allowed Satan to use all his dirty tricks against us. And we have willingly followed him like the Pied Piper. We have failed at God’s biggest test since Jesus’ crucifixion. And we’ve failed gloriously. We have been Judas in the garden willingly pointing out the rule breakers. We are Peter denying Christ out of fear of punishment.
Just as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:14, the devil has masqueraded as an angel of light. His deception has been as cunning as with Eve. Our churches have closed and our pastors have hidden away under the guise of “saving people.” We have allowed the realm of worldliness to define the role the church plays in our Christian lives. We have deemed ourselves “non-essential.” All the while our role of bringing people to the one true Savior has diminished. We are no longer in the business of saving souls.
In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul says he will keep on with his ministry in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about – saving people. He goes on to say, “For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. Unlike today’s churches, Paul describes the Macedonian churches as giving everything they had during severe trial just for the joy and privilege of sharing in the service for the Lord’s people. We can count on one or two hands the churches in the news that have shown this same fervent love for the gospel.
But what have been Satan’s works? I’m sure if you’ve read to this point you have already spoken a few of them in rebuttal. Let’s start with the most prevalent. Romans 13 clearly convicts us to obey the government because they rule only under God’s authority. Rebelling against authority is considered rebelling against God. So therefore, when the State tells churches they must close, we must obey. Ah, but the devil loves to cherry pick scripture. What he has done here is take advantage of the Christian desire to do what is right, to follow laws, and to be good citizens. What he doesn’t want you to do is dig deeper. Is the law just in the first place, in the eyes of God? Backing up to Acts 5 we see the apostles being persecuted for performing signs and wonders among the people. The Pharisees were angry and claimed the law prohibited them from teaching. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in his name,” the Sanhedrin says in verse 28. And the apostles’ response? “We must obey God rather than human beings.” (v29). Where were our major denominations at the outset of our shut down standing firm that churches are essential? Where was their conviction that God calls us into service during times of trouble? And where have they been since? It’s one thing for a church to have said on the outset of the shut down, “Let’s close for a couple of weeks and see what this is all about. We will clean our facilities and come up with safe practices. And then open.” But allowing government to tell us that we are not even allowed to do that goes not just against one of the basic rights of this country but of God’s laws.
But what is wrong with keeping people healthy? You now entered into Satan’s second lie. To accept this premise, you have to believe that our churches are irresponsible, unnecessary and incapable of keeping people safe while attending church. Somehow, we have a greater respect for our grocery store management than for our church management. I laud those few pastors who have found creative ways to do church – beyond the impersonal video exchange. Drive through confessionals, drive up church, drive through prayer time, and more. The bold few have even ripped the veil off one of Satan’s other lies – that going to church is somehow not a choice. So, they open their churches to anyone who chooses to attend. Do they still adhere to safe practices, of course, because God doesn’t call Christians to be stupid. He calls us to trust and to obey Him. Why have we expected more from Walmart than from our church? Why have we put ourselves on equal footing with our gyms?
Even our most trusted faith leaders have failed us. While they preach on trusting God, they cower behind their computer screens. Where is the trust? Where is the bold faith? Where is the healing of lepers and of the sick? Where is the knowledge and belief that God is in our midst? Who do you think God is smiling on – the church that closes and locks their doors or the church that is open to the sick, the anxious, the scared, the homeless, the alcoholic, the abused, the weak and the poor? The other lie Satan tells us is that living in our impersonal, technology connected faith, God’s work is full, is enough. We say things like, isn’t great we can connect with missionaries across the world during this time? Isn’t’ amazing how we can still be together through a video screen? If that were true, then why didn’t the apostles just rely on letters to the churches? Why did they feel the need to enter into cities that were sure to persecute them, sure to throw them in jail? Where are the pastors who say as Peter and John, who after laying hands on a lame man cured him, said to the Sanhedrin, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man is healed.” Yes, technology is great for those who can’t be with us. But we’ve preached and preached over the last few years about the dangers of relying on technology and becoming less connected rather than more. And what about the supposed connections we’ve made? Besides videos, have our churches and our denominations reached out regularly to their parishioners via phone calls, letters, etc? Have they been regular guests on news shows teaching about ways to ease our anxieties? Have our pastors personally reached out to people who have reached out to them about their concerns? And what about the non-members that attend our churches? How have those people been personally connected? What about the non-believer who one night, feels called by the Holy Spirit to enter a church and hear the Word?
You see, the devil has used our goodness, our desires to do the right thing against us. It’s time to gird our loins with Truth. God does not want our churches locked. He does not want us hiding in fear. He wants those doors thrown open. He wants us to welcome all who are lost, who are lonely, who are fearful, and who are spiritually sick. We must stop allowing Satan to define God’s mission for us. As my friend once said to me, “This should be a pastor’s ‘jam’.” Meaning this time in the world is when the fight between dark and light should be most obvious. It’s what we have been training for. It’s the time to call for peace in His arms, for faith in His words, for trust in His love. “
Here’s the thing about what happens to Jerry Maguire. He wins in the end. He gathers up the believers. He tears down the old way of doing things. He renews faith. He remembers what his intended purpose is.
So here we are — Day 30 of 30 Days of Praise! And although my daily prayer praise of the Almighty doesn’t end with today, my challenge to find different ways to write about God’s amazing characteristics is complete. When I started this more than 30 days ago I was on a journey to help me learn a new way of praying. I felt comfortable with thanking God, asking God for help, and asking Him for forgiveness. But praising God seemed so strange and uncomfortable to me. True to His character He placed a challenge on my heart and mind to help me grow.
I heard a great comment about God’s character yesterday. “God never allows us to fail a test, he just gives us the test over and over until we pass.” It goes right along with Charles Stanley’s Life Principle #7:
The dark moments of our life will last only so long as necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in us.
Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principles
God Allows Us to Be Reduced to Brokenness
You see, I didn’t start my journey of learning how to praise God 30 days ago. I started the day God spoke to me in my bedroom a few years ago. While I sat enjoying my little pity party God said, “Enough is enough.” He shook me with the simple statement: “What have you really done?” You see I was whining about being such a “good Christian” and yet my life felt like a mess. He spoke those words loudly again, “Yes, what have you really done?” He had been letting me do things my own way for a long time. But He loves us too much to let us continue down destructive paths for too long. That day started my training. And it was intense. He taught me that the secret to a peace-filled life was a lot simpler than what I imagined. I didn’t need to be “doing” so much. I just needed to obey Him — no matter the consequences, no matter how outlandish the request sounded. 1 John 2:25 says:
But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them.
1 John 2:25
Not only was I reduced to brokenness but God was right there to put me back together as a much more simple, faithful Christian with one goal: Obey.
God Re-Uses Lessons To Get Us to Listen
Throughout my continuing journey I have experienced many times when the same lesson pops up over and over. It’s when I give in and say, “ok, ok, I get it!” that He finally moves on. From podcasts, to daily devotionals, and songs on the radio to a Bible study, His Word weaves its way seamlessly throughout our lives. On August 1, I started with my devotional, “New Day, New You” by Joyce Meyer. The day’s lesson? “Simple, Believing Prayer” based on Matthew 6:7. “And when you pray, do not heap phrases as the gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking.” Good start as I then turn to my “30 Life Principles” Bible study lesson for the day: “Listening to God is essential to walking with God.” In it the question was asked, “What does Jesus say about the use of many words?” Based on, guess….. Matthew 6:7. I saw a message forming here. I then decided to read a bit of my “Spurgeon on Prayer & Spiritual Warfare.” I don’t read it everyday but I felt led to that day. And lo and behold, the topic was approaching God with reverence, joy, submission, confidence and sincerity. Not babbling on with useless words intended to make myself sound “christian-like.” Point taken.
God Takes Trash and Makes It Into Something Beautiful
Each Sunday we would see him. A man in about his 40s dressed to the 9s. Not just full suits but “zoot” suits. Big shoulder pads, double breasted suits. But what was most impressive was his hair. I dated a guy back in the 80s who played in a 60s throwback band with that same hair — pumped up, rockabilly pompadour. He stood out among the mostly white, upper class 60-80 year olds. It came to pass we ended up in the same membership class. I told him how I enjoyed seeing what cool and interesting outfits he was going to show up in each week. And, I was definitely impressed with his hair. Both being named Chris/Kris we of course, hit it off. When it came time to tell our testimony I realized what a blessing it was that God put me in the same group as Chris. He told us how his family growing up were Christians. But he rebelled. He wanted long hair, hard rock and a free spirited life. One day when he was 15 his father came to him and said, “We are going to Africa to be missionaries. You have two choices, you can cut your hair and come with us or you stay here in California and find your own way.” He chose to keep his hair. He also decided that Los Angeles was the place to become a rock star. He played bass and guitar. He ended up on the streets, homeless. And he turned to drugs which eventually led to heroin. He told us he should’ve died at least 10 times. But God was not done with him. He pulled him from the fire after yet another devastating drug-fueled, car accident. And led him on the path to recovery. He now goes all over the country speaking on the perils of heroin and his faith in God. He jumped in to help mentor middle school and high school kids at our church. He’s one cool cat. Chris was like the trash that rolls along our city streets, finding its way into doorways. Crumpled up and seemingly useless. God transformed him into a true follower of Christ — a thing of beauty. His transformation story gives me hope for my, much smaller problems.
I praise God today for all the work He has done and will do in our lives. He whispers to us. He shouts at us. He shakes us and he nudges us. He will never force us to follow Him. And He will never fully let us go. Click on the photo below to enjoy the song, “Raise a Hallelujah” by Bethel Music — but here’s a hint, play it loud and raise your hands high!! I look forward to having you join me on my next challenge — “His Works Project”– coming soon!
When I was a kid one of my most favorite shows was, “I Dream of Jeannie.” My friends and I would take turns playing the Barbara Eden character, Jeannie, and the Larry Hagman character, Tony. Major Anthony Nelson (Tony) crash landed his space capsule on a remote beach. He discovered a beautiful bottle and opened it. With a puff of pink smoke out popped a gorgeous, blonde genie. She, of course, offered him three wishes and the opportunity to be her “master.” Being a gentleman, he refused not only the wishes but to be called “Master.” She fell deeply in love with him. Jeannie and her bottle came to live with Tony in Cocoa Beach, Florida. As the tv seasons went on, Tony also fell in love with Jeannie and eventually, they married. The problem along the way was she kept calling him “Master.” He always insisted she call him “Tony.” It was a way of life she lived for 1,000s of years. In that time the rules stood – when someone opened your bottle, they were your master. It took a lot of training to break that habit and eventually call him “husband.”
It takes a lot of work to be called a “master” of something. Journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the 10,000-hour rule in his 2008 bestseller, “Outliers.” The rule is simple: mastery comes after someone practices one skill for 10,000 hours. And new studies show even that may not make you great at something. In some areas you still need talent or clearly defined ways in which you practice. When you break down the 10,000-hour rule it’s overwhelming. It can take more than 20 years to accomplish this feat for one skill.
God has been at work as Master of our world much longer. And who knows how long he has been Master of the Universe! I’m thinking He has gotten pretty good at being in charge, not only of our lives, but the entirety of our world. And yet we still buck under His authority. He doesn’t ask for a “master-slave” relationship from us. In fact, in Hosea, God clarifies His role in our lives. He wants to lead us, speak with us tenderly, shower us with riches. And when we respond in loving obedience He says:
“In that day,” declares the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’”
I think as Christians we struggle in life between seeing God as our “master” as in “the boss” and as our “husband” because we constantly try to pull away and lead our own lives. The sin that is created from this brings feelings of condemnation and pain. Instead we should see God as “The Master of the Universe” – the being who has put in way more than 10,000 hours of practice. He’s who we can lean on, trust, look for guidance, find hope in, and gain strength from. And with that, He wants a personal relationship with us — as a loving “husband.”
A lot of feminists bristle at the Christian ideal of family structure. A husband as the leader of the family brings up hackles. And yet men and women who truly know and understand the Bible realize God created a loving hierarchy in our families based on our God-centered, world hierarchy. There are no slaves with brutal masters. There are masters who had responsibilities to slaves throughout the Bible. There are business people who must treat their workers appropriately, just as God has treated them. And it’s very clear that both a husband and wife have responsibilities for loving and caring about each other.
God, the All Knowing Master, is also our betrothed. I praise Him for being both – a powerful force that I can rely on and love with all my heart.
The other day while out walking with my dog I was listening to a podcast by a well-known Christian speaker. She asked the question: “Do you remember a time when you sinned, I mean really sinned? How did it feel?” I stopped to think on this. I’ve never murdered someone. But I did encourage a friend in my younger days to get an abortion. I’ve never been a thief, although I have, at times, realized I wasn’t charged for something correctly and didn’t go back to the store clerk. I’ve never cheated on my husband. But do those lustful thoughts count? I check in with my mom and dad, through gritted teeth. I put God first. Well, except for the times I put money and my children first. I’m good to my neighbors even though I’ve spoken badly about some. See, I’ve only sinned a wee bit.
I realized that every single time I sinned “just a little” made me feel a “little bit” broken. At times it made me feel a lot broken. The Christian speaker went on to say, “Now imagine Jesus on the cross. He is the only person to walk the Earth who has not sinned. But at that moment His Father placed all your darkness, all your brokenness, all your pain caused by sin on Him. There is no one else who has experienced so much pain. Imagine how He must have felt.” It brought me to tears. It brings me to tears as I write this.
This visual is what I praise God for today. The understanding of Jesus’ pain and sacrifice made for us. I previously hadn’t made an emotional connection to this powerful, earth shaking moment in our time. I had the knowledge but not the emotional response. Baptist teacher Oswald Chambers once said about Jesus on the cross:
The Cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross: He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God.
My father is reading The Saxon series books. In it, a character refers to Jesus as the “Nailed God.” It brought to mind movies I’ve seen showing the crucifixion. With each hammering of a nail through Jesus’ feet and wrists I cried. But it was out of sadness and horror. That day, when I visualized Jesus on the cross pulling, drawing and tearing our sins from us and placing them squarely in His own heart and soul I was overcome with gratefulness and sorrow. I want to apologize to Jesus. His gift to us caused Him so much pain.
It’s a well-accepted fact that when we are forced to work hard for something, say a new car, home, a good job, we tend to take better care of it. I didn’t have to work for the gifts of salvation and redemption. I’ve proven over and over that sin is easy for me to commit. I need to keep Jesus’ pain, his suffering, and His willingness to take mine, closer to mind each and every day. His love for us can only be repaid with obedience and thankfulness.
As I sit here in my comfortable, middle-class, suburban home it’s hard for me to imagine living where rioting and violence have taken over cities in America. Now mind you, my neighborhood is very diverse. On my block alone live people from India, China, Philippines, Samoa, Puerto Rico, and Mexico — and there’s only 18 houses. What connects the tumultuous cities are a number of characteristics but what shocks me the most is the concept of “defunding the police.” There’s a lot of counterintuitive-ness going on in the world the last 10 years. What seems good and right, now is apparently bad and evil and vice versa. Loving your country and standing for its national anthem is evil but wanting to turn to Marxism, which only has ever brought about human suffering is good. A white woman screaming in a black police officer’s face about racism is good but a statue commemorating President Lincoln signing the emancipation proclamation is bad. Thank God I live under God’s plan which is steady and true.
Praise God that he takes the most unlikely people – ones who have created chaos and violence – and changes them. He is the “Super Cop.” He ferrets out those who hide in shadows doing evil. And he has no fear in standing in front of the powerful and saying, “you’re coming with me.”
I have a lot of respect for the police. Even though I once told my two police officer friends, “Sometimes cops are real jerks!” (and they agreed with me) I still value the difficult and varied roles they are asked to play in our society. For many years I was a security substitute in our local high schools. The role of high school security staff is many fold. We would ensure the morning drop off went smoothy in the parking lot as crazed parents cut each other off and cursed at one another. We then closed up the campus making sure the only people on campus were authorized to be there. We patrolled the campus – keeping kids in class and strangers out of the school. But we also counseled students. There’s the “always late” students who typically come from difficult homes. The student who you find weeping in the bathroom because of a romance failure or a parent who has left the family were not unusual circumstances. We were involved in altercations between students and staff which created opportunities to delve deeper into a student’s anger. I imagine a city police officer experiences these and much, much more. There are many difficult and dangerous situations they face and there are some uplifting moments in which it makes it all worthwhile. When I see a college educated, privileged person screaming in the face of a police officer who is doing their duty to protect our cities it makes me want to weep for both.
Saul was a violent and angry man. His terror and violence against followers of Jesus was legendary. He took comfort in the Law of God. He thought of Jesus as being from satan, the false prophet. So, he intended to eliminate this “dangerous sect” before it destroyed the Jewish faith. But God met him on the road to Damascus and arrested him. One of the definitions of “arrest” is “to bring to a stop.” When God’s holy light flashed on him, he fell to the ground. The men with him were speechless. Saul knew immediately it was from the holy realm and asked, “Who are you, Lord?” Jesus replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Wow, the authority in that statement! Instead of handcuffs placed on Saul he was blinded. He had to be led into the city. For three days he sat in the jail of darkness and did not eat or drink anything (Acts 9:9).
But God sent another of his officers to release Saul from jail. The disciple Ananias was told by Jesus to go to Saul and anoint him. He hesitated at first, knowing Saul’s reputation. When he entered the house, he placed his hands on Saul and called on the name of Jesus to fill him with the Holy Spirit. Immediately Saul could see and was freed.
How many times do we need to be “arrested by God” to finally see what life He wants for us? Some of us have seen the inside of life’s jail for far too many years. We justify our actions because it’s what the world wants from us. Or we twist the meanings of God’s Word to suit our actions. Like the city cop who knows the neighborhood junkie by name, God knows our names too. That cop has given so much help and advice to the junkie but he keeps going back to what hurts him or may even kill him. Jesus keeps putting His hand out to you and me. When He shines that light on us as we stumble in the dark alleys let’s grasp Him and let Him pull us free.
I don’t know if you’re like me but when I go into any situation, I’m always asking, “what’s the plan?” There’s that Martha popping up in me again! I’m an action-oriented, goal-centered, outcome-driven creature. That’s not bad. Through numerous human resources training sessions I’ve come to realize the different characters in a well-oiled team. And, as a person comfortable with leading, I’ve needed to see all the beautiful ways people contribute toward accomplishing a goal. You have the worker bees, idea creators, empathizers, suspicious minds, change resistors, change lovers, and number crunchers. But there always needs to be a “man with a plan.” Of course, not necessarily a man. But a person who has a vision – an overarching goal or purpose to why we all have gathered. Apple founder Steve Jobs was one such leader. On leadership he said,
“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”
At the end of Mr. Jobs’ life I don’t know how he felt about God but he was channeling God’s leadership ideas. God is the Man with the Ultimate Plan. Praise God that He is our fearless leader. In Romans 8:28, the disciple Paul writes: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Notice God calls meetings and has a purpose in mind? As believers we are working in concert with God’s purposes. He pulls together teams to accomplish His visions for His world. So, when we are called into the office, we bring our various talents and characteristics.
It’s a dangerous mistake for us to look at other Christians working for God’s purpose and compare ourselves to them. Yes, we can all learn from each other about how to better trust and obey God. But being a believer doesn’t erase our basic tendencies or talents or abilities. At my most recent church I volunteered for the Come Build Hope team. This program facilitated building an average of 10 houses in Mexico each year. In the bulletin was posted the need for a registrar. That was right up my alley. I’m very organized, computer savvy, and communicate well with volunteers. The other two key members of the team were grateful because those aren’t their talents. One was a building specialist. One was the vision and money person. We made a great team. Mostly because we were also God-centered. Our big and many small decisions were based on Jesus’ teachings. He was always on our minds and hearts. It’s not that everything went smoothly, it’s that we were able to work out all problems great and small as a team.
I’ve found when I place God as my team leader and look to Him for guidance, comfort, encouragement and peace my life seems to go in a much clearer direction. It’s when I try to wrestle back control that it jumps the tracks. I also know that when circumstances around me start to go awry I can look to Him to take me through the storm. There are many major companies that have failed to weather financial, political or other storms due to lack of good leadership. Trials and tests will come to everyone. When I put my faith firmly in the capable hands of God I know He will work all things for my good.
I love this new song by King & Country. I was fortunate to hear this song in concert before it was released. The idea of working together, for His purpose, is so important right now. As Christians we need to band together as God’s team to bring light and hope to our world. Click on the photo to watch the video of Together.