30daysofpraise, Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Uncategorized

Open Communication

“Then Moses said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded you to do, so that that the glory of the Lord may appear to you.” Leviticus 9:6

Holy God, it amazes me that you, in your infinite and powerful ways wants to talk to me.  That the God of the universe wants me to come to you each and every day with my needs and my fears.  Today I come to you with praise and thanksgiving that you love me so much.  Amen

I heard a description of an early  “church service” the other day.  The first half was open to anyone and featured scripture reading and the teaching of the gospel.  Then the pastor would call out, “the doors, the doors” and it was the message to those who were not baptized or confessed believers to leave.  The doors would then be closed and the second half of the service commenced.  This is when the holy gift of communicating with God began.  The church membership would have an “upper room” type meeting with breaking of bread and prayer to the Most Holy One.

What I like about this is that shows reverence to the second greatest blessing God bestowed on us (the first being Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins) – a loving, two-way path communicating with God.  A gift given to believers by Jesus and spurred on by the Holy Spirit that lives in the children of God.  I’m not suggesting only believers should pray, it’s just an acknowledgement of the seriousness of this gift we’ve been given.

In the Bible verse today, we see the seeds of God’s desire to communicate with us in the priestly ministry of the ancients.  God spoke through Moses on how to address Him through sacrifices and other holy activities.  He tells the priests in training that when they take these steps, they will see God’s glory revealed to them.  The same is true with the gift of prayer.  

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1

The disciples, just as in Moses’ day, desired to learn how to communicate with God.  How to open up the heavens so they could see the glory of the One Almighty.  And so Jesus taught them the prayer I mentioned yesterday, what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.”  It starts with reverence, placing God in our hearts and minds rightly where He belongs.  It moves on to acknowledging God as the provider of all our needs and our submission to Him.  We then ask for forgiveness and to forgive others.  And finally for daily guidance.

The gift of prayer is God’s message to us that we are not believers of a god who is unable to do all things, or a god who can’t be trusted, or a god to whom we need to beg to hear us.  Before we pray we need to be fully informed of how we view Him.  If we don’t believe He is merciful then we might believe He will punish us if we bring our sins to Him.  Our prayers should always include a request for wisdom about Him so that when He answers our prayer – which He always does – we will understand the answer and see the glory in His ways.

Today, I want to leave you with this beautiful prayer from King David showing us how to glorify and praise God in all His magnificent ways.

Psalm 63

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
    they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10 They will be given over to the sword
    and become food for jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God;
    all who swear by God will glory in him,
    while the mouths of liars will be silenced.
30daysofpraise, Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Uncategorized

Promise Keeper

“Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40

Faithful Father, you have never lied and you never will.  I believe you.  Amen

I had a Christian woman tell me this once: “I know God has forgiven me.  But it’s hard for me to believe it.  It’s too hard for me to forgive myself.”  That’s why I nodded along when I heard a Christian teacher once say that there’s too many of us out there that have accepted our Lord as Savior but we just aren’t living our lives like we believe His promises.  It’s even hard for me sometimes when I look in the mirror to see what God sees.  To believe He loves me, blemishes and all.  It’s hard to believe He will take care of me without my striving and worrying.  But He will.

“You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

He has never, ever lied my friend.  He never, ever will.  What might happen, however, is that He will fulfill a promise in ways you didn’t expect.  Or in ways you may not agree or understand.  In fact, when I was doing a bit of research about God’s promises I found a blog that refuted God fulfilling promises.  In truth, the person sounded very wounded.  He also sounded poorly educated about God’s character and His ways.  His first example was of Genesis 2:17 when God admonishes Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, “…for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”  The blogger explained that not only had they eaten the fruit but they went on to live for more than 900 years.

What he missed is 1) their immediate death was a loss of the close spiritual relationship with God and their sinlessness and 2) they did, in fact die.  You see, when we look at God’s promises without a knowledge of Him and through our own broken lenses we can miss God at work.  If we, instead, believe that God is the only perfect being to exist and His ways are always right then we ask better questions and submit to Him in trust.  

I recently had a conversation with a godly woman about women as pastors.  Having become more educated about scripture I felt confident in holding my own – as she said the Bible has conflicting lessons about this topic.  My first comment was this: “God’s Word is never in conflict.  If you see conflict you are either misunderstanding context, historical meaning, or having translation issues.  Understanding that parts of God’s will and God’s promises may be difficult to accept also helps us to realize our sinful desires rarely line up with God.

Friend, if you are struggling to accept that God will not back out of a promise to you, turn back to His Word.  He is faithful.  More faithful than anyone will ever be in your life.   And for that we can celebrate with glory to Him!

30daysofpraise, Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Uncategorized

Everyday Glory

“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11

Holy Spirit, whatever decisions and choices I make today help them to be in service and glorification of God. Amen

I read an Instagram post the other day that asked this question: “Are you doing what makes you happy or what glorifies God?”  I would venture to say on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis we probably lean toward what makes us happy.  Sure, when it comes to bigger more difficult decisions, we may seek God’s counsel.  But how often when we are choosing what to eat, what to do with our free time, when we go about our chores and errands, before we open the door to enter work or school do we think, what’s God say about this? What could I do in this very situation that would make God happy?  What could I say to my spouse/friend/adult child that would sound like a word from the Lord?

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

We can take this piece of scripture and use it as a sort of “out” when it comes to our everyday lives being aligned with God.  We can never know all that God is thinking so we just go about our lives as best we can, right?  That may be true if we never study scripture or pray for the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom.  Because when we do those two things, God will constantly be on our minds and lips.  He may even want that mundane day you have planned turned into something that glorifies Him.

We will never be fully satisfied with making our own choices about our lives.  It may appear that some people who have fame and fortune without God “have it all.”  As Christ followers we know true satisfaction, however, comes from the only constant thing in the world – God.  He knows what’s best for us.  He knows what will work in our lives to glorify the kingdom.  

Friend, when we change our daily thinking to God’s plan, not ours, we will also enjoy the fruits of the spirit – peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness. And that sounds a lot better than anything I might’ve planned for my day.

30daysofpraise, Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Uncategorized

A Bigger Kingdom

"Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him.  Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness."  1 Chronicles 16:29

“Holy LORD I am so grateful there is You.  You who are above all, above all kings and leaders.  Above my need to be ruler of my own kingdom.  Your Kingdom is full of the glory of your majesty and nothing, absolutely nothing is better than that!  Amen”

I kept hearing today about the glory of God’s kingdom, His presence being above all with nothing greater than Him.  Through songs, scripture and even the sermon from church.  “No one, no one, no one, no one but You LORD is higher or greater” is the song verse that happens to be playing right now as I write this. 

How often do we forget this?  We have our tiny kingdoms that we work so hard to protect and maybe even rule over.  Our schedules, our bills, our children, our stuff, our opinions – all things so much lowlier than what God’s kingdom has to offer us.  And we too frequently forget to look above our kingdom walls toward His holy skies and fall on our knees in reverence.

"For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him." Colossians 1:16

I just got through reading this verse in my current study about God the Son.  Yet another poke at me to remember who made it all and who is fully in charge.  And even more shocking to some – who it is all for.  

Look around, none of this is for your kingdom or mine.  It’s all for His glory.  Which, because God loves us so much, His kingdom is also ours – for those who believe and obey His commandments.  He wants so much more for us.  Not just our little kingdoms.  Yes, He wants us to take care of all He has gifted us but for the greater kingdom.  That means each time we have the opportunity to teach our kids about Him, we do.  Each time we should show love and forgiveness to our spouse, we do.  Each time we see the chance to use our financial gifts to glorify Him, we do.  Each time we can show hospitality in His name, we do.

Friend, the Kingdom doors are so wide, welcoming and beautiful!  Drop to your knees and give thanks to God He is so much bigger than this small world we have built. And turn yourself into the only offering He has ever wanted – you. 

30daysofpraise, Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Uncategorized

To God Give The Glory

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” Revelation 4:11

Holy Father, Loving Jesus and Ever Present Spirit, today I will exalt you; I will praise your name forever.  Great are you, Lord!   You are worthy to give all glory and praise!  I will speak of your glorious splendor and majesty.  I will tell of the power of your wonderful works and I will celebrate your abundant goodness and proclaim your great deeds. Amen*

A few years ago, I started a prayer project.  I had no problem asking God for things to happen in my life.  I also didn’t struggle with asking for forgiveness.  And I always added others to my petitions.  What I had a difficult time doing was praising God.  Not just thanking Him for what He has done for me, but praising Him for who He is.  It seemed silly and flowery.  

As my faith has progressed, I’ve realized how important it is for us believers to acknowledge God’s magnificence, power and well, just plain awesomeness.  It helps to put our whole lives into perspective.  It reminds US who really is in charge.  So, I started the 30 Days of Praise series.  Eventually I went on to write 30 More Days of Praise and then 30 Days of Thanksgiving.  

Recently, I kept seeing the word “glorify” in the study I’m doing about the Trinity.  I started looking into the differences between praising God and giving God the glory due to Him.    I found this helpful description of praise and glory:

Praise (ἔπαινος; epainos) means the excellence of a person. Glory (δόξα; doxa) means splendor and greatness. Honor (τιμή; time’) means respect and high status or value. 

Dr. Thomas Clothier

And it got me thinking how I need to up my praise game.  God isn’t just excellent in the ways He shows up in my life.  He, without anything to do with me, is full of splendor and awesome in power!  Jesus’ every move was to glorify the Father.  The Father loved and glorified the Son.  The Holy Spirit came to live in us to glorify Jesus’ act of salvation and to continue the work of the Father.  The Trinity uses us to glorify the work of creation – it’s beauty and mystery.

We glorify him when we care more about what he wants than about what we want. Even better, we glorify him when we want the same things he wants. 

Peter KrolKnowable Word: Helping Ordinary People Learn to Study the Bible

I’m not sure I can fully describe the glory of God through words but I’m going to make an attempt to show how our everyday lives can be lived to give Him the glory due.  Please join me on this 30 day prayer journey of glorifying God and watch as His love for us unfolds into a beautiful story.

*This prayer was taken from parts of Psalm 145, “David’s Psalm of Praise.”

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, religion, Uncategorized

Keep Calm & Pray On

Lessons from Cherith

Do not be afraid.  Stand still and watch the Lord rescue you.  Exodus 14:13 NLT

Are you a panicker?  I can raise my hand and say I still haven’t fully removed panicking from my life.  In my “baby Christian” and pre-Christian days panicking in my world looked a bit like this: bad news comes, I immediately pull back (finances, emotion, socializing, etc), and Mrs. Fixit comes to live in my brain.  How was I going to fix this overwhelming problem?  If “fixing” the problem was truly out of my hands that really threw me for a loop.  And, if it was a personal failure, I’d add a hefty dose of self-disdain as in, “why in the world would you do that you stupid, idiot?”  Or this always helped: “Of course this happened because you are a failure and no one even likes you.”  Surefire ways to solve any problem, right?  

I opened up my Strong’s Concordance to see how many times the word “fear” appears in the Bible.  It’s two pages and four tiny columns long of references to the word “fear.”  That doesn’t include “feared,” “fearest,” “feareth,” “fearfully,” and many more!  According to on-line sources the words “fear not” show up about 140 times in the Bible (not 360 which is frequently proposed).  It seems God really wants to get a point across about how to handle our fears.  And yet we still panic.

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Matthew 14:28-30

From beginning to end of the Bible we see people who literally have the hand of God reaching out to them panicking.  Isn’t that what Adam did when God asked, “Where are you?”  They freaked out and hid.  The Israelites, after having God lead them night and day with clouds and fire, provide food from heaven, freaked out and cried, “We want to go home!”  And poor Peter.  Even with Jesus admonishing him just seconds prior to, “Take courage! It is I,” he takes his eyes off the Lord and on to his own feet and the world.

So, take heart my dear friends we are not alone. But God still wants us to grow each day, each disaster toward Him.

I’ve been rewarded by the world for what my own style of panicking looks like.  I go into research and development mode.  My computer keys alit with fire as I search for reasons and solutions.  I start problem-solving how to save more money while imagining a giant victory garden to sustain us.  I organize, make charts, create checklists, watch YouTube videos.  And I forget to pray.  And be still. The world doesn’t reward with peace.

Elijah himself was a study in two sides of this panicking problem.  On one hand he did as directed by God and told the king how his evil behavior would result in a drought.  Then he seemed to calmly go to Cherith Ravine under God’s direction.  See how God provides when we obey and are calm?  But after all this plus the amazing display of God’s power and might on Mount Carmel he suddenly panics.  He runs away and hides in fear for his life.  And God asks him, “What are you doing here?”

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Matthew 16:8-9

It’s been a hard fought lesson between Jesus and me about not panicking.  About staying calm in the face of scarcity, whether that be finances, food, love and even yes, toilet paper.  But time and again God asks us, “What are you doing here?  Don’t you remember what I’ve done for you before?”

And so, while in my own Cherith when another person suddenly showed up for lunch or dinner I forced my thoughts back on Him.  I kept calm and prayed.  “You will show up, Lord.”  When I didn’t know how the 100 mini-birdhouses we had to hand out at Bev’s funeral would get painted (side note: she had planned to give them out at her wedding anniversary party and asked, “is it ok to give out party favors at funerals?) I prayed for help and a small army of women volunteered.  When the angel volunteer, who was planning the funeral reception, called and said all the sunflowers she had ordered were lost somewhere between California and Colorado I prayed that it would all turn out fine.  And on the day of Bev’s funeral the church and reception looked so beautiful thanks to many hands.

God started on me many years ago with the verse from Psalms 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”  It showed up everywhere, even on vacation while attending a church for Mother’s Day.  The gift they handed out? Pens with that very verse.  And when I can’t sleep at night from worry I repeat that verse over and over.  Be still.  Don’t panic.  God’s got this.  It wasn’t until my time in my Cherith that I finally really got it — In times of great strife panicking is never the solution because peace and calmness are waiting for us

Friends, the Lord has so many better solutions for problems that we can’t even imagine.  So why not just give every one of them, no matter how small or large to Him right now?  We need to stop fearing the world and give glory to the only one we should fear with reverence and majesty, the Almighty God.  

What’s your “panic mode?”

What are you worried about right now that you need to give to God?

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, religion, Uncategorized

From Why? to What?

Lessons from Cherith

He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Luke 24:38

During the time in my own land of Cherith, a place where I was separated from my home, my regular way of life and exposed to great sadness, I so needed to rely on the vast promises of God.  Yet each day I battled the “why” of it all.  Why didn’t the cancer doctors see and recognize the increased cancer markers in my beloved mother-in-law’s blood tests?  Why did each visit to the emergency room end without answers?  But more importantly, why would this woman, a shining light for God, an inspiring gift to everyone around her, a woman, as her pastor reflected at her funeral with a beautiful aura surrounding her, be stricken with cancer and taken so soon? Why God, oh why?

How often have we lamented that why question in our lives?  Why are we suffering financially?  Why is my child rebelling?  Why is my marriage on the rocks?  Why did I suffer that abuse?  It seems as Christians we are expected to answer those questions.  I believe many of us avoid speaking the Gospel to our friends, family and neighbors out of fear of being asked those why’s of life.  In fact, as a young college student who was approached one day on my campus by two religious folks, I too asked the big why – why is there suffering?  You see I believed in God but didn’t really know anything about Him.  Unfortunately, neither did these two young proselytizers.

I recently heard the statement: “If we view the world as a Christian, it all makes sense.”  On the surface that’s a real head scratcher since this world seems so upside down especially now.  Broken families, broken lives, so much pain and death abound.  But take a step back, way back to Genesis 3.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. Genesis 3:17-18

And that’s just a taste of what man’s rebellion wrought.  Creation is currently at odds with God.  And just as cells divide and life moves without our intervention, our world around us is no longer under our full dominion.  So yes, there’s floods and fire and famine and cancer.  And it has absolutely nothing to do with whether we are a good person or not.  In addition to this result of The Fall, we became separated from God, always seemingly looking for ways to buck His system.  And we face the consequences for our actions, both individually and collectively.

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”  Exodus 5:1-2

And we know how well that went for Pharoah.  But what was Moses’ first reaction after Pharoah knuckled down and made the Israelites work harder?  “Why?”  He asked God why did He have to make things worse and why did Moses have to be the brunt of everything?  From a Christian point of view, we should say, “There’s consequences in this world when anyone chooses to not submit – whether you choose to believe in God or not.”  This is not “Karma,” it’s simply a cause and effect of acting outside God’s desires for us.  

And while we may cry out, “why?!” in the moment whether in situations of our own making or of those in which we have no power, we need to remember the “what.”  What is God doing in me or even in the world?  What is God expecting of me as a believer? What is the promise I can hold on to?  The early Israelites had a decent excuse.  They didn’t know God as well as we do now.  They didn’t have all the stories of how He has rescued and protected His people.  They didn’t have Jesus’ brother James telling them there will be trials and in them they need to seek the lessons of God.  They didn’t have Jesus come to earth and die for their sins.  They didn’t have the Book of Revelation.  But we do.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So, each day as I sat beside Bev’s bed as her body succumbed not to cancer but to an infection, I battled the “why” demon. I wanted someone punished.  I wanted someone to suffer like I was now suffering.  Then I heard a whisper, “She gets to come home to me.  And you need to see what I am teaching you.”

You see even in her suffering, on her death bed, this Christian called Bev was a conduit for Jesus.  A teacher and a comforter.  I finally realized it didn’t matter the “why.”  For one, there really were no answers that fully satisfied.  At times like that we just need to submit to God’s sovereignty and say, “I don’t know but He does.”  The only real answers that I continued to come back to were the “what.”

What did I truly believe about God?  And what was He trying to teach me?

Christian Friend, if you earnestly believe the Bible, believe that God is the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and all it’s inhabitants, if you believe He is sovereign and He sent His Son to die for our sins, if you believe that there is a place greater than Eden awaiting us then you could understand why Bev wasn’t worried.  Why she could make us all laugh at her darkest hour.  Why, in the middle of a conversation she looked over my shoulder, waved and with a child-like voice exclaimed in joy, “Hi Jesus!”

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? John 14:2

You see I didn’t need to know the answers to my worldly questions and I definitely didn’t need retribution.  I needed to remember that Jesus hates death because it’s a sign of our broken world.  And He is right now preparing a room more beautiful than I can imagine for even me.  When He comes back we will all be raised up to live forever in a beautiful place that has no suffering, no death, no pain, no war, no hate, no fear.  And that is just what I needed to learn.

Are you asking “why” in your difficult time when you should be asking “what?”

What is the Lord teaching or asking you right now?  

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, podcast, Uncategorized

Our Quarrelsome World

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26

There’s certainly been a lot of “quarreling” the last 20 years in the United States and the world in general.  These last few years have seen a steady rise in conflicts.  Conflicts used to be among countries.  The most troublesome trend seems to be that now more than ever they are among neighbors.  

We live in a world where all bets are off when it comes to social niceties.  One article I read reminds us of some of the following “old fashioned etiquette rules”:

  1. Don’t point
  2. Don’t curse
  3. Dress to impress
  4. Stick to tasteful topics
  5. Cover your mouth when you cough
  6. Avoid private conversations in public

All of those, plus the others I haven’t listed, are to allow for a calm and peaceful and respectful social environment.  But a cell phone video I saw the other day is just one example of how we’ve thrown so many of these out the window.  

The video, taken by a woman shopping at Target, shows an older man following her and pointing at her.   He has a mask on and a sticker stating, “I’m vaccinated.”   His issue with her? She isn’t wearing a mask.  Now, this post is not about the pros and cons of mask wearing. And in this instance wearing a mask was not mandated in that store.  It’s about his approach and her response.  This man had many choices prior to harassing this woman.  If he was really worried about getting sick he could 1) stay home and order on line or 2) avoided being near the woman.  Interestingly enough he didn’t seem to be doing any of his own shopping.  It appeared he was there to “catch” people without a mask.  

What does this have to do with being a Christian?  What does it have to do with being resolute in Christ?  Our choices each and every minute of the day define what type of Christian we have chosen to be.

In our verse today we are reminded to be kind to everyone.  To teach gently without resentment.  We are all most likely familiar with the term being a “Karen.”  That’s someone who is a tattle tell, a modern day Pharisee.  This man was being a Karen.  And he certainly wasn’t succeeding in teaching anyone anything positive.  Yet the new social norms say this is ok.  We are to vilify those with whom we disagree.  We may not all be Westboro Baptist Church members standing outside the funerals of homosexuals with messages of hatred but how many of us in the last year have made disparaging remarks about people who 1) don’t wear a mask or do wear a mask, 2) aren’t vaccinated, 3) voted for a different candidate, 4) don’t like shutdowns or do like shutdowns, and on and on. I’m not talking about private conversations with friends or family members.  I’m talking about in public and social media.  I’ve clicked on people’s profiles who have written horrible things and they proudly state they are Christians.

And the woman?  She wasn’t successful either.  She just kept arguing with the man.  She could’ve 1) smiled and moved on since he wasn’t physically threatening her 2) put a mask on to make him feel better 3) left the store and come back later 4) called security 5) invited him over to talk.   So many choices for both.  But they chose the least peaceful route.

I, myself, have gotten wrapped up in issues and have deleted comments I realized were not in keeping with my desire to walk well in my faith.   And so, I reflect back on that cell phone video taken in Target.  I ask myself which person in that video am I?  The Harasser?  The Victim?  The Bystander?  In fact, I’ve been all three.  But as a follower of Christ, I’m learning He wants something completely different of us.  He wants us to be the peacemaker.  He wants us to do things so different that it shocks people.  Our Jesus–directed actions in this quarrelsome world need to be set apart.

When we get annoyed, outraged, hurt, abused, Jesus tells us to respond differently.   He first wants us to be responsible for our own words and actions (James 3:6).  He then wants us to be gentle, not angry and resentful.  Truth doled out without love will never be received how we intended.  

I picture myself the subtle Karen, rolling my eyes at people wearing two masks as they walk outside at a park and I need to stop and have compassion for their fears.  I imagine myself in a store being spoken to harshly by a customer for not wearing a mask and instead of responding in kind, draw on the Holy Spirit asking for peace.  This isn’t just about these current large issues.  It’s how we respond in all life’s situations.  Do we lash out, with uncontrolled emotions, seeking to justify how we feel?  Or do we use wisdom and compassion to guide us?

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.  James 1:19-20

The temptation is so great to join this new quarrelsome social environment.  It’s easy to blast a comment at someone.  The devil loves an angry Believer.  But if we remember that Jesus stands by our side, we can be resolute in living the Christian life He expects of us.

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, podcast, Uncategorized

Our Faith Progression

We, therefore, desire to copy his character and put our feet into his footprints. Be it ours to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. What saith our Lord himself? “Follow me,” and again, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Not Christ’s apostle, but Christ himself, is our guide; we may not take a secondary model, but must imitate Jesus himself. 

Charles Spurgeon
 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

Many years ago, I had the benefit of listening to a sermon series on our progression as a disciple of Christ.  I have heard many pastors say there’s too many of us Christians who seem stuck at the beginning of that progression and aren’t fully living the life Christ wants for us.

It may even come as a surprise to some that there is an expected “progression” in our faith lives.  We assumed that once we accepted Jesus as our Savior we’re done.  We are able to check off that box on the questionnaire asking what our faith is: Christian.  

"But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:16

We all have probably heard the above verse a few times in our Christian lives.  But reading the entire chapter reveals something even more.  The progression.  

"When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power." 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

The apostle Paul himself explains that when he first came to the people of Corinth He came with the first step in the progression – the message of Jesus’ love for us.  That He died for us.  He rose again for us.  Paul goes on to say:

"We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature." 1 Corinthians 2:6

The mature.  Who among your faith group would you deem “mature” in their faith?  Who among them would you deem a “baby Christian?” And where do you count yourself?  This is not asked in judgment.  All who are saved are equally loved by God.  But you can probably tell the difference between people who are further along in their faith progression and those that aren’t.  And it has nothing to do with age.  The sign of a maturing Christian is that they’ve received the gift and have actually opened the box and are using it.

So what is this progression? In the sermon series I mentioned, these steps were defined as: 

  1. Believer – Mark 9:23 
  2. Follower – Luke 9:23
  3. Apprentice – Ephesians 4:14 
  4. Learner – Philippians 4:9

Jesus Himself shows us this progression as He lived out those three world-changing years. 

  • Step 1) The Loving and Faithful Friend 
  • Step 2) The Obedient Servant
  • Step 3) The Courageous Warrior
  • Step 4) The Patient Teacher
  • Step 5) The Wise Counselor

Throughout this series, the Jesus Mindset, we will meet people – some famous and some very ordinary– who exemplify the different steps in the faith journey. And it is only correct to start with the first step.  Lest we think we have step one down pat I should warn you that so many Christians remain in step one because of the difficult truths and expectations presented.  It is the message we hear over and over in our churches.  It is the first and the last message Christ has for us, which makes it the most important of all.  

“As the Father loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.” John 15:9

When I was researching various pastors who make love and friendship a cornerstone of their message I realized I had an old friend already in my midst waiting to talk to me again.  As I perused through my Christian books I stopped on, “How Happiness Happens,” by Max Lucado.

Pastor Lucado probably needs no introduction.  He is an internationally known pastor, author, speaker and more.  He’s written too many books and articles to count.  And the theme throughout is love. How to accept Christ’s love.  And how to show love not just to our friends but to complete strangers.  He reminds us that Jesus is our loving and faithful friend and wants us to model that character trait to everyone we meet.  When you read about Pastor Lucado you see his lifelong mission is to set solidly in our hearts the message of God’s love for us.  He shows us how to translate that great gift to others.

“I’m a pastor. I can sit down with somebody who has a broken heart and love them and encourage them and remind them of how God cares. But I struggle when I look at a budget. Or I struggle when somebody says, ‘Well, what’s the long-term strategy for our church?’ Well, I don’t know. I guess we’ll see. Let’s love God, preach Jesus, and pray.”

Max Lucado on his leadership style

So much of what Pastor Lucado speaks of seems simple.  And yet, I find myself day in and day out forgetting to live out the simple messages. 

“Greet one another for your sake.  Experience the joy of showing people they matter.  Greet each other for their sake. What is small to you may be huge to them.  Most of all greet each other for Jesus’ sake.”

Max Lucado, “How Happiness Happens”

How often do we go through an entire day and find ourselves never having truly connected with another human being?

“Listen intently and praise abundantly.”

Max Lucado, “How Happiness Happens”

Isn’t that what Jesus did throughout His ministry? You can only imagine how the woman at the well in John 4:1-26 felt when Jesus was with her.  He wasn’t looking over her shoulder at a bird or cute dog while she spoke.  He wasn’t thinking about the next town He was to visit or His next meal.  He saw her.  He listened to her.  He loved her even when she pushed Him away.

It’s definitely easier to live out the Jesus Mindset of being a loving and faithful friend with people we choose to be around.  We pick our friends and we even pick who in our family we spend more time with.  We are deliberate with whom we ask to go to lunch at work.  But Jesus loved the unlovable.  He touched the untouchable.  

“You wonder why God doesn’t remove the enemies in your life? Perhaps because he wants you to love like he loves. Anyone can love a friend, but only a few can love an enemy.”

Max Lucado

Isn’t this where so many of us get stuck?  We count ourselves, “good people” or “good Christians” and yet we harbor, at best unforgiveness, and at worst hatred for people.  

I grew up in a household where unforgiveness and hatred ran deep.  I had a parent who judged harshly and never forgave. People and places got etched into stone on “The List.”  That was my touchstone, my guidebook.  So when I started hearing the message of God’s love, faithfulness and forgiveness it was difficult to accept.  The first step was to believe God felt that way toward me.  And to be honest, I find myself frequently falling backward into not returning those gifts to others.  

The lessons and examples from Pastor Lucado are great every day reminders on living out Jesus’ request of us to love one another.

“God is love” (1 John 4:16). One word into the passage reveals the supreme surprise of God’s love—it has nothing to do with you. Some people love you because of you. Not God – He loves you because He is He.  

Max Lucado

Isn’t that amazing? Wouldn’t you agree that most of the people in your life love you because of who you are to them? A daughter or son, a wife or husband, a longtime friend with similar interests, and so on. We may even find ourselves saying we love a person who is related to us but we don’t like them very much. It’s all conditional. But God loves us because He is love. Let’s not just gloss over that. Take a moment to really let it sink in. He is the definition of love. Like a cloud of love envelopes us and snuggles us wherever we go!

I saw a picture the other day of a woman at the store who had created a contraption designed to keep people six feet away from her. It involved a hula hoop, straps, signs, warning reflectors and more. When I saw this I thought, “that’s the exact opposite message of Jesus.” His cloud of love surrounding us is more like a fog bank — it pulls others in and seeps into everything. It quiets the world around us.

Today, when you go out into the world, picture your God cloud swirling around you. It’s beautiful and inviting. Its little tendrils reach out and wrap around others you meet. Invite them in with a smile, a greeting, a shrug of forgiveness. With each act of love we a do a bit of cloud seeding — leaving a piece of Jesus to grow.


Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

His Will Be Done

Lesson #11: God is sovereign over all, even unbelievers

“The day of the LORD is near 
for all nations.” 
Obadiah 1:15

There’s a song one of my previous churches used to sing a lot that goes, “Our God is an awesome God.”  That refrain is sung over and over throughout the song.  I’ve always thought that wording was a bit odd.  If we have “our God” then which “god” does anyone else have?  Once, after a service, I went up to the pastor and asked him that question.  I said, “Shouldn’t that song just say, ‘God is awesome?’”  He replied that he’d never thought about it before.  So again, there I was asking the weird questions.  As someone who not only likes to talk but also write,  I sincerely believe that words matter – even words we sing.

In our verse today from the prophet Obadiah he makes it clear throughout the prophecy that there is no “our God” or “your god” but only one God – the God of the Universe, God the Creator of All.  

“The God who made the world and 
everything in it is the Lord of 
heaven and earth and does not live 
in temples built by human hands. 
And he is not served by human hands, 
as if he needed anything. Rather, he 
himself gives everyone life and 
breath and everything else. From 
one man he made all the nations, that 
they should inhabit the whole earth; 
and he marked out their appointed times 
in history and the boundaries of 
their lands.” 
Acts 17:23-26

As Christians it can be dangerous to fall into the trap of “our God.”  It leads us to forget that God’s judgement comes to all, eventually.  So, we get outraged over the seeming lack of justice in our human concept of time.  We forget that God doesn’t just have expectations of us, as His faithful believers, but also of those who have chosen not to believe.  Non-believers don’t get a “free pass,” in the realm of eternity. 

Were there even one datum of knowledge, however small, un-known to God, His rule would break down at that point. To be Lord over all the creation, He must possess all knowledge. And were God lacking one infinitesimal modicum of power, that lack would end His reign and undo His kingdom; that one stray atom of power would belong to someone else and God would be a limited ruler and hence not sovereign.

A.W. Tozer

Even when I was, as a what can only be called a “Christian-lite,” I had to laugh when people put limits on God’s authority and ability.  If you listen to an atheist, you’ll hear all the limits they wish to place on a being that is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. Their expectation is if they can’t figure it out then it just isn’t true.

“It is only the loyal soul who believes that God engineers circumstances. We take such liberties with our circumstances, we do not believe God engineers them, although we say we do; we treat the things that happen as if they were engineered by men.

Oswald Chambers

The atheist can be forgiven because, for whatever reason, God has yet to open their eyes to Him.  But for the Christian to place limits on God is to deny His sovereignty.  As stated in the above quote by Oswald Chambers, we Christians sometimes opt for the “coincidence” excuse when God answers our prayers.  Or we take complete credit for the win or the loss.  Or worse yet, we just assume God won’t or can’t answer our prayers.

So much of our issue with God’s sovereignty comes back to our limited sense of time.  We live in a blink of God’s eye.  And yet we have the gift of looking back over the history of God’s work in our human existence and see His hand throughout.  I heard a good analogy of how God’s timing works along with the issue of free will:

“Perhaps a homely illustration might help us to understand. An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities (God). Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty.

On board the liner are several scores of passengers (Mankind). These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.

Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict each other. So it is, I believe, with man’s freedom and the sovereignty of God. The mighty liner of God’s sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history. God moves undisturbed and unhindered toward the fulfilment of those eternal purposes which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began. We do not know all that is included in those purposes, but enough has been disclosed to furnish us with a broad outline of things to come and to give us good hope and firm assurance of future well-being.” A.W. Tozer

One of greatest prophesies in the Old Testament is Isaiah 53 and one in which all Christians should be well versed.  He writes of the coming of God’s Son, Jesus.  Isaiah was called into ministry in 739 B.C.  And when you read his prophesy of Jesus you can’t help but be amazed of the details which came true.  That’s because God has a plan.  He has a plan for every single one of us – believer and non-believer.  He uses bad circumstances to bring us closer to Him, if we choose.  He never makes a mistake. He never has a “Plan B.”  

Our human story that started with Adam and Eve was not a mistake.  It is all going according to plan.  It may not seem, in our small timeframe, to be going all that well right now.  But that is the beauty of faith.  Today, during a meeting of my BSGs, we shared how during this pandemic there has been some amazing blessings.  Yes, a lot of not so great things have happened.  But each of us could share how God has used this terrible time as a means for sanctification in our lives.  

His sovereignty means we can hold on to all of the promises He has made.  God is not a covenant breaker.  If anything, it’s us that likes to break covenants.  Our ocean liner is on a steady path to the glorious port He has waiting for us.  It’s up to us to decide to have faith in our captain that He will get us through any squalls.  Some of us will jump ship thinking we know better.  Some might even try to take over the ship and turn it around.  But God’s will never fails.  So, let’s enjoy the ride and know He will bring us home. 

“Good is not always God’s will, but God’s will is always good.” 

Watchman Nee