God’s Guardrails

For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. Deuteronomy 30:16

I grew up not wanting to have children.  In my isolated world I experienced a parenting style that used harsh, physical, anger-fueled discipline.  I didn’t know there was any other way and knew it wasn’t what I wanted impose on any children.  So often as we become our own people, cleaved from our parents, we take the elements of parenting we don’t like and try to do the exact opposite.  However, I also acknowledged as a new adult that the harsh discipline kept me from a lot of dangerous behavior.  So where was the balance?

If you take a brief walk through the history of parenting you’ll see a modern conflict similar to the one I was having.  The harsh disciplinary view of old was met face on with Dr. Spock and his more “loosey goosey” style.  But as the Spock kids became the radical children of the 60s and 70s parents searched for a middle ground.  One psychologist, Dr. James Dobson took up the challenge.  He brought parents back into the position of authority but done with love.

Discipline isn’t, by definition, a bad thing. Studies have shown that the most effective way to foster healthy relationships with children and give them the ability to learn and utilize self-control is through positive discipline. 

Lauren Steele, Fatherly.com

We humans need fatherly guardrails.  It’s a proven fact since the beginning of time.  We need to remember that when Moses came down the mountain with the 10 commandments they were NEW rules.  New guardrails of how to worship God, how to treat other people, how to be respectful within our families, and how to protect ourselves from well, ourselves.  

The Old Testament has a shadow story woven throughout.  Yes, we follow the woeful Israelites through trials, tribulations and successes.  But put in context God is constantly showing them how to live differently than all the other nations around them.  Nations that He created as well but saw how they overwhelmingly desired to live outside His guardrails – rampant sexual exploits, child sacrifice and more.  He was testing them all, just like today.  Free self-reign or accepting governance by God.

I praise God today for His guardrails.  For the 10 Commandments He gave us to live within.  Because just like our children we prove over and over that without them we can get ourselves into a lot of trouble.  Without His guidance, His narrow path, we wander off into parts unknown, get lost, live in fear and despair, and ruin not just our lives but the ones we love.

When I met my husband and told him why I didn’t want children he assured me we’d figure it out.  He wouldn’t let my past keep me from a full future.  Thankfully as we took the journey, we met God along the way.  I may have pushed up against those guardrails a few times but He always calls me back to the center of the road.  


Bucket Of Joy

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. Psalm 4:7

Have you ever ridden on a carousel where the operator, at some point, drops down a metal arm toward the riders and a brass ring drops toward its end?  The riders on the outside stretch and strive to grasp that brass ring.  The prize?  A free ride to the one person who can attain that ring.  I think that’s how I was looking at joy for many years.  Not only from a grasping and striving point of view but from a scarcity mindset.  There’s only one ring and lots of riders.  You have to be on one of the outside animals to even have a chance.  And once the ring is taken by a rider, your chance is gone.  I searched in earnest many years for joy.  How to attain it and how to hold on to it.  And what I discovered is that joy, freely given in abundance by God, is right in front of me for the taking.  

Praise God that His joy, unlike the joy the world offers, comes freely and is never ending.  It is available to all.  In the carousel world, as we spin around and around, we can choose the outer seat or even one of the animals constantly moving up and down, never finding rest.  But how about instead we pick one of the colorful, stable sleds?  And sitting there on the bench as we take our seat is a replenishing bucket full of shiny joy rings.  Not just one free ride but endless opportunities for laughter and cooling breezes hitting our face as we go round and round.

God’s joy is available to everyone, not just the chosen few.  It’s there for the taking when we sit nestled in the promises and gifts of His Holy Word.  We pick up a ring from the bucket each time and hand it to the operator saying, “let’s ride!”  All the while we watch the outer edge riders stretching for the measly gifts of the world.

The thing about riding a carousel is we carefully pick which animal or sleigh to ride when we jump up to the main stage.  We are drawn to the exciting and the colorful, to the chance to grasp the ring.  Isn’t that like the world?  The bells and whistles of the flesh pull us to stretch for even more?  To search for a bigger and better brass ring?  But God says, “Come and rest and I will fill your bucket overflowing with joy.”  All we need to do is choose Him.


Egg-ceptional Gifts

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:28

My husband and I have four chickens on our little suburban farm.  They are our “Covid Babies.”  I’m not really sure why we decided to get the chickens back in March of 2020.  We knew nothing about taking care of farm animals.  But like starry-eyed parents carrying home their little bundle of joy from the hospital we eagerly packed up our four baby chicks in a box and left the dusty little farm store behind.  We got four, instead of the two we originally planned, because we aren’t allowed to have a rooster in the city.  It was our insurance plan. If one or two grew up to be roosters we’d have to “do away” with them.

And here we are more than a year later with four giant chickens in a fairly small coop.  Henny Penny, Mabel, Grandma and Goldie don’t seem to mind.  They grew up snuggled in close and seem to enjoy each other’s company.  Each day we go out to the nesting box in eager anticipation of fresh eggs and we are rewarded.  But what does that have to do with praising God?

Today, as I look out my “She Shed” window and watch my four egg making creatures peck and sleep I can’t help but be amazed at the plans and gifts of God.  In the beginning He created the animals and plants prior to man.  He prepared a place so perfect for us humans to grow and prosper.  The chicken is pretty much God’s perfect animal gift to us.  It is an egg laying machine.  Left to wander they drop eggs wherever they go – fertilized or not.  It’s a daily gift of food, not just for humans, but other animals should they be so lucky to encounter a free roamer.  

When we got our baby chicks we read all the books about how to care for chickens and how to train them up just right.  Having trained a puppy just a year prior I was ready for the task.  And yet, when the time came to put them out in their “Big Girl Coop” they needed no human intervention.  At night they headed to their protected beds.  By day they hid away in the appointed laying space.  All by instinct.  All by God’s design.  It’s pretty amazing.

When we remove the concept of God the Creator from our lives and look at the world from a random point of view the danger is in placing humans and animals on equal ground.  But since the beginning of recorded time humans were appointed by God as protectors and users of Earth’s resources.  God did not make a chicken to simply lay hundreds if not thousands of eggs in her lifetime just for them to be unused.

If you’ve ever been around a chicken in the midst of the egg laying process you’ll hear something interesting.  When the deed is done, she will often squawk loudly in triumph.  My chickens don’t hang around protecting that egg from me.  In fact, it’s almost like they are saying, “here, have another!”  And each warm egg I pull from the nest is a reminder of our God who has gifted us with all we need.


The Everlasting God

Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8

I don’t know about you but as a “baby Christian” I would go entire days if not weeks without thinking about God.  Without making any decision based on what God wanted of me.  As my journey has progressed that “forgetting about God” can be counted in minutes and hours.  And with that I have seen so many changes in my life.

The verse today takes place as the end times draw near.  Creatures in heaven praising God “day and night” simply because of his everlasting holiness. As I’ve studied the Bible, I’ve seen so often how God wants a close relationship with us.  Here in this verse the creatures never forget about God.  But you’ll notice that God is also a constant.  He was and is and is to come. 

Since the 1970s, one group or another has played “chicken little” screaming from the rooftops about the world ending due to either overpopulation, nuclear war, economic collapse, global warming, etc.  At one point a politician even posted a countdown to Earth’s destruction — which ran out about 8 years ago.  And according to a current politician we have about 10 years left before the Earth implodes apparently.  

But here’s the thing, when you study the Book of Revelation it’s not the Earth or God that is destroyed, it’s sin.  God is the Alpha and Omega.  He created the beginning and will be with us throughout eternity.

Today I praise the everlasting God.  We cannot destroy God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  We can only, through our sin-filled, unrepentant lives destroy ourselves.  My earthly goal is to serve God as best I can with Jesus as my guidebook and the Holy Spirit as my tour guide.  That way I can join with the creatures in heaven continuously praising His name.


He Knows My Name

I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;  Isaiah 49:15-16

The other day my Bible study girls (or BSGs as I like to call them) were once again talking about praise versus thanksgiving.  I had already been pondering over my praise life when we started talking about how we so often thank God in our prayers for things He has fixed or doors He has opened in our lives.  But how often do we simply herald the Creator for being well, the Creator?  For being the Holy King of our lives?

As I’ve prayed these last few weeks for direction after completing the Jesus Mindset series, I kept being drawn to this topic of praise.  God speaks to us when we ask Him for direction.  And throughout the last few weeks He has placed numerous psalms and Bible verses in front of me related to praise.  So, it didn’t come as a surprise yesterday when our church’s guest pastor highlighted the following verses in the book of Luke:

"However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20

And so today I praise God for remembering my name.  I praise Jesus that if you look closely at His battered hands, you can see my name tattooed there.  And if you have confessed that Christ is your Lord and Savior, that God is our Great Creator, you’ll find your name there too.  It cannot be erased.

When we remember someone’s name it also brings to mind the details about their life.

Pastor Joel Fitzpatrick

God knows exactly who we are.  What we have done.  What we will do.  And He still won’t erase our name from His hands.  There’s no other relationship we could ever turn to which offers us so much love and forgiveness.

Knowing our name doesn’t take away trials and tribulations.  Knowing our name doesn’t make our outer life easy street.  Knowing our name brings us inner “settledness.”  The knowledge that when the Book of Life is opened our names are carved there for all eternity.  When this short life is done, we will rejoice in the heavens with the angels.  And that, my friends is something worthy of praise.


She Counsels with Truth + Love

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17

“We are pretty much the only hope that God has for reaching people who need him.”

Joyce Meyer

On a recent visit with my daughter back in St. Louis, Missouri, she invited me to her friend’s 50th birthday gathering.  It was to be just a small group as her larger party had already taken place.  My daughter, who is 23, is blessed to have a number of women in her life who are not only mature in their marriages and in life in general, but in their faith.  As I sat listening to them, I said a silent prayer of thanks to God.  He, once again, put me right where I needed to be.

I listened as these Christian women of varied ages shared memories of shared events and the joy of being disciples to younger women.  You see, their church encourages all ages to seek being discipled by more experienced Christians – something I haven’t experienced in the 20 years I’ve been an active Christian.  

The birthday girl’s good friend suddenly announced we were to all take turns expressing what we loved about the newly christened 50 year old.  She turned to me and said, “You don’t know Renee well so you don’t need to say anything.”  I disagreed.  I definitely had much to love about this woman that I had just met.

As each woman spoke, I felt the love flow throughout the group.  It was sweet and brave and authentic.  And at my turn I’m sure they all wondered what I would have to say.  

“As a mother I miss my daughter terribly.  She’s so far away.  She has no family for hundreds of miles.  And now with a baby on the way it grieves me that she is alone out here.  But I realize she isn’t.  I am so thankful she has Renee as her friend and godly counsel.  A mother couldn’t ask for anything better besides being here herself,” I said.

You see my daughter’s friend, Renee, has taken her under her beautiful wings.  She provides wise counsel about marriage, faith, motherhood and more.  I could be jealous when I hear my daughter talk about her relationship with Renee.  But my faith progression has brought me instead to a place of thankfulness.  My daughter is incredibly blessed to be surrounded by Christian women who are prepared and ready to offer Biblical counsel.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free" Luke 4:18

That’s Jesus in the above verse.  Jesus our wise counselor setting us free from our prisons.  And He trained up His disciples to spread His message of salvation and freedom.  Like the old shampoo commercial goes, “and they told two friends and so on and so on.”  Which brings us thousands of years later to this little group at a café in Missouri. 

Here’s what I noticed about those six women I sat with that night.  1) They didn’t gossip 2) They lifted each other up with genuine compliments 3) They showed love and concern for each other 4) They were confident in expressing their faith and 5) They were eager and willing to take up being disciples.

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

These women are living the Great Commission.  Teaching and guiding and loving Jesus’ flock.  I sat there like a fan-girl marveling at being in the midst of ordinary women who were so extraordinary.  Yes, ordinary women.  They aren’t pastors or scholars although one is in fact a trained Christian counselor.  They are students of Jesus.  It gave me hope of what I could achieve with faith and the blessings of God.

I took the opportunity to ask a few of them a Christian counseling question.  

“If I find myself in a situation with a fellow Christian who is struggling with an issue, what’s your best advice?” I inquired.

Without hesitation three of the women, including my daughter who herself disciples young women, said: “You need to really get to know the person.  There needs to be a sense of trust that you come from a place of love.”   And the birthday girl?  She emphasized my old favorite, truth plus love.  Not being afraid to speak God’s truth into someone from a loving perspective.   Remember that Jesus trait of having a warrior spirit?  Renee takes it to heart.  She knows the end game – saving a soul. 

“As you being the process of bringing correction into someone’s life, put yourself in his shoes.  If you were the one sitting there, would it be easy or difficult for you to hear what is about to be said?  If the person you are correcting acts closed at first it may be that he’s just embarrassed or reacting out of insecurity.  Therefore don’t stop the conversation unless you can see that he’s just being combative.  You need to be patient and slow in judging their reaction to your correction.”  

Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems from the Greek

Isn’t this the reaction we worry about the most when we need to speak truth to our Christian friends or family members?  A fear of making someone angry or embarrassed?  But here lies the reason why “Wise Counselor” sits at the end of our faith progression.  Without love, without a sense of serving God, without courage, without knowledge of the Lord’s will, we will probably fail at being what our friend, child, sibling, co-worker, or sister in Christ truly needs.  

So, when Jesus asks us to “follow” He isn’t just offering Himself up to save us from eternal damnation which by itself is a pretty amazing gift.  He’s saying “join me in a journey.”  He’s saying, “we’ve got work to do together.”  And if we stop partway on the journey and decide we are “fine” where we are at, we miss the opportunities He wants to put in front of us to free more captives.

I don’t know about you but I need wise Christian counselors in my life.  And if I could be like Renee and be a blessing in other’s lives, I know it’d make Jesus smile.  My imperfect progress, as my friend Betsy likes to say, is still progress.  I want to know and live out having the mind of Christ.  I’m not where I was when I started and I still have a ways to go.  Thankfully, I can trust that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are my guides and cheerleaders.

When we started this journey, I invited you to say a prayer of confession I found in Sparkling Gems from the Greek.  And true to God’s ways He put another in front of me to close out this series.  Please join me in this prayer and confession.  I pray that you seek love, humbleness, courage, and wisdom on your journey.

“Lord, I ask you to help be kind and patient when it is essential for me to bring correction.  Help me to not be offended if the person I’m trying to help doesn’t respond at first the way I wished he would have.  Help me put myself in that person’s shoes and to sympathize with how he might feel.  I ask You to give me wisdom to know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it.  I also ask that You give the other person the grace to hear what I am telling him so he might see that I have his best interest at heart and that I am only trying to help him.  I pray this in Jesus’ name!”

“I confess that I have the mind of Jesus Christ!  When it is needful to me to speak correction to someone else I do it with love, kindness and patience.  I refrain from allowing anger to rise up inside me.  I am careful about the words that come out of my mouth, and I refuse to participate in vain arguing.  I remain in control of myself as the Holy Spirit works mightily inside me.  My words bring life to all who hear and receive them! I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!”


Retire From Self Care

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

“I believe Jesus died to deliver ourselves from ourselves.  How many of us are just fed up being ourselves all the time?”

Joyce Meyer

The darkness, fury and despair of the young woman sitting next to me grew with each passing minute.  We were so close I could feel her shoulder touching mine.  Sitting on the airplane we found ourselves in that strange world of invading each other’s personal space while pretending neither existed.  Her billowing cloud seem to want to seep over the dividing line of the armrest to pull me in.

This seemingly quiet, unassuming young woman opened her computer and began pounding on her keyboard like the devil itself was trying to escape her fingertips.  My eyes drifted to her brightly lit screen.  I couldn’t help but notice the many words in all caps.  And I was drawn to know what was causing her so much angst.  It appeared she was writing a complaint letter about a work environment.  As her fingers marched like Roman soldiers across the keyboard, pounding and erasing and pounding some more I couldn’t seem to tear my eyes away from the battle.  She was hurt and outraged.  She felt betrayed and abused.  Her past hurts served as the basis of why her employer should’ve known better.  And then those pounding fingers suddenly slammed the lid of the smoking computer closed.  Her fury still burned.  You could almost see the sparks coming from her.  

Over the course of three and half hours I watched this woman join the battle numerous times, editing, adding and pounding.  And then she started in on an email to her family.  I kept praying that she, once there was internet service, would have a change of heart and not send off the bombs she composed.  But alas, before deplaning, she picked up her phone and started, with the same fervor, sending off salvos via text messages.  I have never seen a person’s finger move with such speed and aggressiveness.  Like driving pass a car accident I couldn’t seem to look away.

I’ve come to realize that God puts me in all types of situations to test and teach me.  I was learning a valuable lesson.  You see, my tendency to get outrage over “unfair” situations is something I’ve battled with forever.  As I watched this young woman blow up at probably everyone in her life, I realized how much I need God to lead me out of my sin.  How much I need God to provide me with a different perspective.  How much I need to rely on God for peace.  What I wanted to do was turn to her and ask if she knew about Jesus.  I wanted to wrap Jesus’ love around her.  To somehow snap her mind off her problems and look up to God.  I could turn and look at this woman and see my own face looking back at me.  And I didn’t want to be “that girl.”

In 2019 there were more than 18 million self-help type books sold in the United States.  The number of unique titles rose nearly three-fold from 30,897 in 2013 to 85,253 in 2019.  That’s a lot of people trying to fix themselves!  Isn’t that, so often, what we turn to our friends, co-workers and professionals for – advice on fixing our problems?  

Aren’t we exhausted yet trying to fix ourselves?  As the world drifts farther from God it shouldn’t be surprising that so many people are working so hard to fix their own problems.  Jesus came to save our souls but I believe He also came to save us from ourselves.

“The only way we are ever ready for a change in our life is when we are tired of “me.”  When we say we cannot continue to do the work of trying to make ourself happy.  We are fed up.”

Joyce Meyer

When we stop striving, stop trying to control what other people think of us, stop trying to please everyone, stop shaming ourselves for our past, stop playing victim, and start putting God as our King, our Creator, our Lord we can release the yoke of our fleshly life.

"Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:35

And follow Him.  Retire from our self-care routines.  Self-care as in trying to fix ourselves.  Certainly we take care of ourselves, our minds and bodies.  But God always calls us to take a new perspective in every aspect of our lives.  When we take time to mediate, what do we mediate on?  When we decide what best to eat or how to stay in shape, who do we do it for?  Why do we word vomit all over our family or friends trying to get them to see “our side?”  For ourselves?  Or for our Heavenly Father?

I’ve heard the evangelist teacher Joyce Meyer make this statement many times: “I was always on my mind.  I was so selfish.”  To change that she created these three steps:

Live to please God, not yourself.  You are making a Kingdom investment.  And you will always get a great return on your investment.

Refuse to have “me” on my mind all the time. I’m not thinking about what’s wrong with me all the time or how I can get people to do things for me.

Always use money and things to bless people.  Don’t use people to get money and things. 

Jesus frequently took the focus off Himself and placed it on God. He prayed for help in times of pain and trouble. He told the disciples to look to the Father. He guided new believers to putting away their shame and accepting forgiveness from God. The times He had to solidify His place as the Savior He seemed almost reluctant. The focus for Jesus the man was always God and how to best please Him.

In my study on Revelation, I was asked the question, “How does the fact that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords affect our everyday choices and decisions?” In other words, getting ourselves, off our own minds and onto the Creator.   I’m finally leaning more on Him as my wise counselor.  He is my exercise coach, my nutritional advisor, my mental wellness guru.  When I see my mind and body as belonging to Him, I realize the responsibility I have to keeping myself focused on what He wants for me.  I fail frequently.  And when I do I come to Him seeking and receiving forgiveness.

I encountered the young, angry, hurt woman at the end of my trip.  Before it had even started however, I failed to grab on to God’s promised peace by my favorite method of failure –outrage.  The TSA officer and I had a bit of a confrontation.  I blustered and was rude.  As I walked away, I realized I was wearing my silver cross around my neck.  I may have flushed in embarrassment.  I failed to show grace and patience and forgiveness.  I took the situation personally.  It was all about “me.”

The difference for me at that moment was instead of adding it to my Vault of Shame I lifted it up to God.  I had a counseling moment with Him.  I felt His disappointment and His love.  It set me on course to be more aware of my behavior choices while in the crowded airport.  

“We are in the middle between hating sin and sinning.  When we aren’t accustomed to making good choices it’s hard.  The devil is working against us.  The more often we make those good choices it becomes easier.”

Joyce Meyer

And so, on my return flight, as I sat next to the woman with fire bursting from her fingertips, and like lava flowing out on her family, friends, co-workers burning bridges left and right I wanted to be like Jesus.  To be able to look her in the eye and know her hurts, her overwhelming pain and say, “follow me.”   

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Cor 5:15

It wasn’t a counseling moment for her.  Although I prayed for her.  It was a reminder message to me.  To live for Jesus.  To place my thoughts on Jesus.  To release my pain and hurts to Him.  To stop trying to defend and take care of myself.  To trust that He wants the best for me and will guide me to whatever that looks like.  To take my mind off me and have the mind of Christ.


Step: 5 Wise Counselor

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

The day I sat on the edge of my bed whining to God about my miserable life – the lack of peace and joy – He spoke quite clearly to me.  “What have you really done (to be close to me?),” He said.  I got down on my knees and wept.  I prayed for Him to show me the steps to take to draw nearer to Him.  The next day He tasked me to go to the bookstore and get a devotional.  So, I stood in front of the hundreds of books and prayed, “Show me.”

The book the Holy Spirit placed in my hands that day was called, “Power Thoughts” by Joyce Meyer.  I try my best not to question God.  He knew exactly where my problem lay – my mind.

“I am content and emotionally stable.”

“I purse peace with God, myself and others.”

“I live in the present and enjoy each moment.”

“I am disciplined and self-controlled.”

“I put God first in my life.”

These are just a few of the “power thoughts” I read over the course of the devotional that year.  My God-centered counseling session began each morning to help me battle the overwhelmingly negative thoughts I had so solidly built.  My stronghold was not fear of man, in fact my propensity was to be ready to fight each day I left my house.  My stronghold was not fear of serving in His name.  I did that willingly and often.  My stronghold, my addiction you might say, was self-hatred and self-doubt.  My husband once called me the “Queen of the Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda.”

I’ve frequently been told I don’t come off that way.  But I’ve come to realize there’s a difference between what a truly confident woman in Christ looks like and one that blusters her way through life.

Allowing Jesus and the Holy Word to become my wise counselor isn’t easy.  It’s painful sitting in “the chair” having someone show you your weaknesses.  And I have many.  But the beauty of our Lord’s Word contains something that no one else can provide – a deep and lasting love behind every nudge, every reveal, every chastisement.

That’s not to say human counselors don’t have a place in our lives.  God uses many ways and messengers to guide us toward righteousness. A poll released in May 2004 found that an estimated 59 million people had received mental health treatment in the two years prior, and that 80 percent of them found it effective. But for the Christian we should seek guidance that has our faith in mind.  What is the point of a, say, marriage counselor who does not view or support marriage from God’s point of view?  When we seek out counseling for our weaknesses, past hurts, we should be reminded of God’s overwhelming love and forgiveness.  

This is why I love the counseling session at the well.

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” John 4:15-18

Jesus speaks to the woman about truth.  Truth without condemnation.  Just the naked truth.  He goes on to share with her the truth about forgiveness of sins and salvation.  She had lived her life in sin and shame.  And kept doing the same thing over and over.  That’s what shame does.  It envelopes us to twist our minds into feelings of worthlessness, self-doubt, self-destruction.

Throughout Jesus’ three-year walk we see Him love and heal the sick, bring people into God’s service, comfort those in fear, teach so many about the ways of God.  And woven amongst the stories of His life are the counseling moments like the one at the well.  Moments where He uses all His God-given knowledge and skills to bring someone to a “truth” reveal.

Isn’t that what we seek when we ask a friend for advice about a problem?  Or go to a professional counselor concerning a life issue?  How can I fix this?  How can I fix me?  Unlike a teaching situation, where a topic outside ourselves is learned, seeking a wise counselor aims to reach into ourselves to find the “why?”

So often when our own friends or family express concerns about their life we know the “why” but are afraid of the damage the truth might do to our relationship so we stay silent.  That’s the challenge of being a wise counselor.  The culmination of all the Jesus traits.  

I believe the stories of Jesus’ counseling moments are included in the Bible not just for us to see ourselves being counseled like the woman at the well.  They are included so we can also learn to help others.  Others who are hurting.  Others who are living in sin.  Others who don’t know about the gift of forgiveness of self.

We need to take an inventory of how our individual lives, our fruit, our behavior are affecting the people we come in contact with.  The world is in such a desperate situation. Get yourself off your mind and see how you can bless someone else today.

Joyce Meyer

Join me this week, as we complete our series on The Jesus Mindset, in a deep dive into the methods of a wise counselor and how we might touch those around us, helping them to take a few bricks down from their strongholds.


From Student to Teacher

After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Luke 2:46

“The teacher encourages
the student morphs – moth to beauteous butterfly soars” 

Mala Naidoo, author

When God directed me to start the Emboldened blog He also led me to a few simple quotes to put on the homepage. I didn’t know at the time one day I’d be using those quotes for this week’s study on Jesus and His teaching nature! Of the few quotes He led me to, I included this one by Joyce Meyer:

“If you leave church and are not convicted, asking questions, or emboldened then either you are at the wrong church or you weren’t paying attention.”

Joyce Meyer

How many times have you left church and within an hour couldn’t remember what the sermon was about?  You couldn’t even pull up the general topic in your memory?  

I recently heard someone say that we don’t go to church to sit and put in our “dues” to God.  It’s where we should 1) be rejuvenated for the mission and 2) get more training for the mission.  And the second we leave the doors of our “God classroom” we should be at the ready to embark on the commission which Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19. When church becomes a place where we leave just feeling like that was a “nice” experience, at best, or an obligation, at worst, we owe it to our personal faith progression to re-evaluate the situation.

When I started going to church my family ended up at a large Presbyterian church nearby.  The pastor was just what I needed at the time.  He was more counselor than teacher.  And when I left each Sunday I felt he had really spoken to the problems I was having and reminded me that God loved me.  The sermons were light on scripture, maybe one or two mentioned, and heavy on personal stories. But I soon found that sole message to be not quite enough.  I wanted to know more.  And the “teaching” sermons were what I gobbled up.   As my husband can attest, I’m very curious.  He constantly reminds me that I like to ask questions that seem to have no answers.  

As a developing Christian, we should all be asking questions about God.  If this “almighty being” is to be the center of our universe, the touchstone for how we live our lives, and the message we herald, shouldn’t we know everything we can know so we are prepared when sin enters our sphere?  So we can be prepared when a seeking, fellow man starts asking us questions?  

From learner to teacher.  That’s exactly the path Jesus took.  Here’s the rest of the scene when Jesus’ parents found him, as a boy, in the temple courts.

"Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers." Luke 2:47

And so, I constantly seek to learn more about this awesome God.  At the beginning of this year my husband and I were directed to a new church.  My son-in-law and his friend host a Christian men’s podcast called “Supplement the Faith.”  They heard on a local St. Louis radio station a show called “Core Christianity.”  The main host is Pastor Adriel Sanchez, who unbeknownst to me at the time, is a pastor in my town.  They raved about his sound, Christian doctrine and told us we had to go check him out. 

And so we went.  The music was not my favorite – very simple and traditional hymns.  The style of service was more formal than I was used to.  But when Pastor Adriel gave his sermon I realized I was listening to a teaching pastor.  That day, my church “program” was scribbled all over with notes!

In a brief period of time, I’ve learned a lot from and about Pastor Adriel.  He and his beautiful wife have four little children with another on the way.  This young pastor, who has led his fairly recently planted church for only about seven years, can be heard on the radio and podcast throughout the world via Core Christianity – which is a question and answer format.  His youthfulness stands in contrast to his calm, confident poise.  I recently asked Pastor Adriel if he’d be willing, in his busy schedule, to talk about his pastoral style.   

And if you are on your faith journey toward learning more about His Word, I encourage you to tune in to either Pastor Adriel’s sermons at North Park Presbyterian (PCA) or the Core Christianity podcast.  The questions asked on the podcast might just be something you get asked one day!

Kris:  You seem to be drawn toward being more of a “teaching” type pastor than say a “counselor” type.  How do you think you developed that style?

Pastor Adriel: I have a firm conviction that from the pulpit my job is to communicate God’s word clearly, and seek to apply it to the folks that God has entrusted to my care. Teaching or explaining the Bible is really important to me because I know that God’s word is the source of life. I do seek to provide biblical wisdom or counsel at times – but often that happens in the context of one on one conversations within the church.

K: Who are your favorite Christian authors/pastors?

PA: I love reading the Christian classics. St. Augustine’s Confessions, Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians, Calvin’s Institutes,  C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I nerd out on church history, so I really enjoy reading the early church fathers. As far as living authors are concerned, I like books by theologians like Michael Horton, and pastors like Tim Keller.

K: What got you involved in doing Core Christianity and the podcast?

PA: One of my seminary professors invited me to be on a podcast he had hosted for decades called the White Horse Inn. Over time, we started thinking about a new project that would reach a broader audience helping them to understand the core doctrines of Christianity. A lot of research has come out recently highlighting how little Christians know about their faith – so this was a huge need. Our goal has been to answer basic listener questions about the Bible and the Christian life, and in the process to point folks to Jesus and his gospel. As we grow in our understanding of God’s word, we’re enabled to love and serve God better. 

K: What do you like most about doing the podcast?

PA: I love the live element. I think it makes the show exciting, because we can’t really anticipate what kind of call we’re going to get. As a pastor, I also love it when I’m able to answer a question for someone and I can tell audibly that they’re encouraged by God’s word. 

K: What are the most frequent topics you get asked?

PA: Questions related to marriage, assurance of salvation, finding a good church, and how to properly apply God’s law are common from our audience. Depending on what’s going on in our broader society, we also will get questions on current events. 

K: What question have you gotten that “stumped” you? And what was the funniest question?

PA: Never been stumped! Just kidding. Actually, sometimes we get very obscure Bible questions, or questions for which there is no clear biblical answer. I find those questions to be the most difficult to handle. As far as the funniest question we’ve received… not long ago someone asked if there were fish on the ark too. That one made me chuckle. 

K:  Which book of the Bible do you enjoy teaching the most and why?

PA: I find that whichever book I am preaching through tends to become my favorite book for that season. Believe it or not, I had a ton of fun preaching through Leviticus a couple of years back. I also really enjoy preaching through the Gospels. I preached through Mark early in my ministry, and like to revisit the Gospels from time to time in-between other books. 

K: Which book seems to be the most misunderstood?

PA: As I field questions about the Bible, I think one book that’s frequently misunderstood is Galatians. Many believers don’t have a proper understanding of the distinction between the law, and the gospel, and they struggle to understand how God’s law (and various OT commandments) are to be applied today. Galatians is helpful because it speaks to this kind of problem. 

K: Do you see value in studying the entire Bible — not just the New Testament — and why?

PA: Absolutely. Jesus said in John 5 that Moses wrote of him, and in Luke 24 that the entire Bible was about him. The entire Bible gives us a glorious picture of redemptive history, and each story in that history is meant to instruct us in one way or another (1 Cor. 10:11). If you don’t study the Old Testament, you’ll miss out on so many of the riches in the New Testament, and you’ll miss out on Jesus as he’s revealed in the types and shadows of the Old Covenant. 

K: What are your overall personal goals as a pastor for say the next 5 years? 10 years?

PA: Honestly, I just want to be a good husband, a good dad, and a faithful pastor. My goal is to grow in that for the next 5-10 years. 

Thank you to Pastor Adriel for his time!  Whether it be through a teaching pastor, Bible study groups/individual, Christian authors, a radio show or Christian podcast, these days we have so many resources at our fingertips to get to know God.   As Christians, we must make it a priority to place this knowledge of His ways firmly at the forefront of our lives.

I wanted to leave you today with this quote about being a learning and then teaching Christian:

He who asks will have; what more did he ask for? But he who seeks will go further; he will find, will enjoy, will grasp, and will know that he has obtained. He who knocks will go further still, for he will understand, and to him will the precious thing be opened. He will not merely have the blessing and enjoy it, but he will comprehend it.  

Charles Spurgeon

Are You Ready?

 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:26-28

One of my friends has found herself in an unexpected teaching opportunity.  She and her husband were active participants in a Bible study held at my house for about 5 years.  My observation was that he wasn’t progressing in his faith journey.  He seemed a bit stuck.  He was definitely a man of faith and attended church regularly.  But he kept listening to the world’s half truths about Jesus.

A year passed after that study group disbanded and my friend came to me asking about doing another study group.  She was particularly concerned about her husband.  They were no longer attending the same church and with the study group having disbanded her husband was without the counsel of other Christians.  We decided to start a new group but it would be just women this time around and it left her concerns about her husband unanswered. 

Over the course of last year my friend has made amazing strides in her faith progression.  Just last week I listened to her as she was able to answer a difficult Bible study question with a great analogy – making it all clear to the rest of us!  Like the glee I had while watching one of my Girl Scouts successfully learn to build a fire I jumped for joy at my friend’s insight!  I loved it!

And God has answered her prayers about her husband.  It wasn’t the answer she was expecting.  You see, the teacher he needed was her.  Her husband has watched her transformation with awe.  She is living out the Word.  And he started asking her questions about Jesus.  After church (their new one) they go for breakfast and sit and discuss the sermon.  He relies on her for further insight and instruction.  

 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:15-16

My friend’s teaching opportunity was close at home.  And at the start of Jesus’ ministry, He too started close to home.  The first recorded teaching by Jesus was to His cousin, John the Baptist.  Jesus asks John to baptize him but John recognizes Him as the Messiah and tries to convince Jesus it should be the other way around. 

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Matthew 3:15

Jesus knew His audience.  As a devoted man of God, John was well practiced in what it meant to achieve holy righteousness.  And so he accepted Jesus’ reasoning.

When you follow along Jesus’ teaching path, you’ll find it to be not only slow and patient but tailored for each person or group of people He encounters.  And that’s the joy in teaching.  No matter what we teach it’s important to know the delivery method.  At first, Jesus reached out to His cousin, then His cousin’s followers and their friends.  And the tipping point, after performing quiet acts of healing and word of them spread, was the Sermon on the Mount.

But even after He preached to large crowds, He would encounter individuals and specifically set aside time to teach them.  To tell them about the glory of God and the forgiveness of sins. 

To the learned He spoke with confident knowledge of Moses and Isaiah.  To the poor and lame, He taught through love and compassion.  To the average man and woman, He used parables containing everyday elements like farming and relationships.  And to the disciples He opened their eyes to the mysteries of the Kingdom.  Each time He sought the “ah ha” moment for which every teacher longs.  The moment when the light comes on inside.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

I once was leading a small Bible study and the topic of “evangelizing” came up.  It usually makes people squirm.  One participant said she just didn’t feel ready to talk to people about God.  And yet she’s been a Christian for about 50 years. What if we erase the word “evangelize” and replace it with sharing or teaching?  What if instead of picturing ourselves standing before the Pharisees or Sanhedrin we picture ourselves sitting with our children or a friend?  And sharing how Jesus has brought us peace and joy in times of trouble.  That should at a minimum be expected of us.

My friend I mentioned at the beginning has come a long way.  About a year ago, her adult son started asking her questions about God and Jesus and she felt unprepared. She had prayed for many years that her son would turn to Jesus.  And now he was asking her questions.  So, what did she do?  She sought instruction, she prayed, and she was bold.  And at her next opportunity to teach a family member, her husband, she was ready.

“Our lives should reflect the love and goodness of Jesus but we should pray that the Lord would give us opportunities to share the gospel with people who come into our lives.”  

Pastor Adriel Sanchez, Core Christianity Podcast

Jesus didn’t want to keep His life offering amongst a small group of people.  So yes, He lived a good and faithful life but He didn’t stop there.  He reached out to people.  He shared through teaching the most important lessons we will ever learn.  He prepared for this task.  And when His time came, He was ready.

The question is, are you ready?  

Your role as teacher may be needed right now.  For your children, your spouse, your neighbor, a struggling believer or searching non-believer.

Have you worked on the other steps so you can teach, like Peter says, with gentleness and respect?  Have you put yourself in positions to be a humble servant and therefore interacting with non-believers in positive ways?  Are you studying His Word so when confronted with half-truths or outright lies about God you can stand firm like a warrior?  God has already tested you in all these areas.  He’s tested me.  What is your report card?  In what areas do you need to ask for God’s help today so you can be ready?