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“Those” Seasons

Hello friends!  It’s been a while since I’ve added to my blog.  For the last few months I’ve been in one of “those” seasons.  Loss, heartache, questioning, along with so many conversations with God and His Holy Spirit.  As James reminds us,

“Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”  

And ain’t that the truth.  

We have a few roads from which to choose when we go through our difficult seasons.  We can beg the Lord to go back to the familiar and comfortable.  We can rush our minds to the other side of the trial either imagining an outcome far worse or far better than we hope or fear.  Or we can learn a bit from Jesus’ brother and “let this perseverance finish its work so we can be mature and complete.”  In other words, we live in this God-given moment right now, seeking His blessings, seeking His voice, and seeking the lessons to be learned.  

The day I wrote this post my devotional reminded me to not work for food that perishes but for the food which endures eternal life. (Charles Stanley, Every Day in His Presence) I was admonished to change my point of view and not focus on the problems right in front of me but rather what God’s interest is in developing me for His eternal purpose.  And very importantly, asking for help in learning His lessons quickly so that His peace and strength would again be my resting place.

During these last few months I’ve also been deep dive into Priscilla Shirer’s study on Elijah with my BSGs.  As usual, God is using all of my life to teach me about standing firm in my faith and stepping forward in trust.  And as I have prayed to God to reveal to me my next blog series I kept hearing the phrase: “Lessons from Cherith.”  You see, Elijah had to spend a lot of time alone, facing his own trials before he was ready for the “big show.”  In that time, some of which was in the area called Cherith, he had to choose to either trust God’s eternal plan for him or not.  He had to remove so many well-honed cultural and religious thoughts of “the way things are supposed to be” and instead see how God works.  And he had to decide to stand out amongst the crowd.

And although my “Cherith” hasn’t lasted for as long as Elijah’s or even as long as Jesus was in the wilderness, I learned some valuable lessons while communing with the Holy Spirit.  In the next few weeks I’d like to share some of these with you.  To hopefully help us realign our lives to be Christian lives, lived out for all the world to see.  For our friends and neighbors and co-workers to be spurred to ask why we seem different.  

Friends, we can’t keep wandering through the wilderness of this earthly world living up to its standards.  It’s time to take our hard earned lessons from “those seasons” and put them to work for the glory of God.

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After Eden

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

During December of 2020 many people kept announcing that “next year will definitely be better.”  I could understand the longing, the hope and desire.  Let’s face it, 2020 was rife with fear, loss, despair, and worry.  I told people around me to be careful romanticizing the turn of a calendar.  Who knew what 2021 would bring – floods, fires, more plagues, death, political uprisings? And it certainly didn’t disappoint.   A short walk through say, the book of James or Jude, reminds us that trials of many kind befall us each and every year.  It’s our response to those trials that set us apart from the world.

So often when we think of “new beginnings” we can think of them as an adventure, something exciting to embark upon.  Probably something God will guide you through to success.  But what if your new beginning is a result of a terrible trial?  A loss?  Will you still seek God and see Him at work in the midst of it all?

If there’s one man whose new beginning exemplified having to start all over, having lost it all, it was Adam.  He had everything you and I could ever want.  A beautiful home, plenty to eat and drink.  No worries except what to name the next animal.  His yoke was light.  He was to be the way maker for all of us.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  Genesis 2:15

And when Adam failed to honor his end of the covenant he did what so many of us do when we fail God – he tried to hide.   Instead of running to God asking for forgiveness He compounded his sins by acting shamefully. But God.

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9

Millions of Christians and non-believers know the story that took place in the Garden of Eden.  But when we look at God’s actions we see His loving care for humans, His unique creation.  He knew Adam had failed yet notice He didn’t let him go.  He sought Him out with a gentle question.  He could have immediately wiped the slate free of humanity after the betrayal.  Instead, God clothed Adam in new garments and gave him new skills then sent him off on a new beginning.  A chance to be the first step in the long path toward the new Adam – Jesus.

And Adam, by all accounts accepted the results of his sin and moved forward into his new beginning.  A life outside the walls of Eden but one in which God was fully present.  Adam and Eve didn’t step outside the gates, plunk down and give up.  They didn’t choose to live in shame and despair.  No, they knew God.  They knew God still loved them and cared for them. So they took the new direction God gave them and made a new life.  I love the last few lines in Genesis 4 in which Adam and Eve are mentioned:

At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.  Genesis 4:26

Adam and his family never stopped worshipping God and talking with Him even though they had suffered a great loss.  They brought their first fruits to Him and stayed close to God.  And their work, their new beginning, brought others to God as well.  If not for their commitment to God’s new beginning laid out for them there wouldn’t have been their son Seth.  And Seth led to Noah. Without Noah there wouldn’t have been a righteous man left to continue humanity.  God’s plan at work.  God’s plan working even when it comes out of sin or loss.  It’s our job to keep trusting Him and accepting Him at His word.

I’ll be honest, for most of my life I’ve been an avowed pessimist.  It’s taken a lot of work by our triune God to help me see Him in my trials.  To see how He is working a good, new thing in our lives.  When circumstances go wrong around me my new attitude is that God is in my midst.  He does want all things to work for good.  I may never know how my commitment to Him will affect the Grand Plan.  But I do know He never left Adam and He will never leave you.

Have you been tempted to give up on God after a trial or loss? God is still working in your life. He’s asking you to trust Him. Call on Him today for strength to live in your new beginning.

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Tears

But while he was still a long way off his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  Luke 15:20

I know the text doesn’t say it but I can only imagine the tears flowing from the father and mother in the story of the prodigal son.  In fact, the King James version says “he fell on his son’s neck” in a dramatic display of joy and love.  Awhile ago, my family brought me to tears of joy with a surprise visit from my daughter, whom I hadn’t seen in months.  I heard the front door open and thinking it was my older daughter I made my way toward the front of the house to tell her hello.  When I realized it was my younger daughter I was overcome with tears and unable to speak.  I stood there sobbing in her arms.

It may seem strange to be thankful to God for tears but without them our world would be so vanilla.  I’ve laughed until I have cried with friends and family.  I’ve cried out to God, thankful for His grace and salvation.  I’ve wept at the birth of my daughters.  And yes, I’ve cried those tears of sorrow, of loss, of anger, of desperation.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5

So often we must weep, live in hard times before we can experience the full glory and blessing of God.  It’s why James tells us we should consider it joy to experience trials.  Because those trials produce good fruit in us.  And that fruit becomes something for us to share.

I have a friend whose 90 year old mother confesses to not remembering the last time, if ever, that she has cried.  What that means is she hasn’t participated fully in the gifts of life.  With each winter season in our lives we are so often rewarded with the spring, a time to bring  us great joys.  I want to go from this life knowing I have cried many tears from laughter, thankfulness, joyous surprise, beautiful surroundings and more.  I heard a Christian teacher say, “If you want the joy of Sunday’s resurrection you must first have the tears of Friday’s crucifixion.”

I’m so very grateful to God for giving us the outward ability to show our emotions.  To show those we love how much we love them, even after they are gone.  I’m looking forward to the day I can cry tears of joy when I see Jesus’ face watching for me from a long way off.  I know that when I get close enough, I will fall into His arms weeping, filled with joy.

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The Midol Woman

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:5

I love watching the British tv show Midsommer Murders.  I’m a detective fan since my young girl days of hiding my Nancy Drew books inside my school desk and sneaking it out when the teacher wasn’t looking.  I pay extra on my Amazon Prime account to get these shows.  Recently however, they’ve added commercials – dropped in at odd places in the show.  One such commercial keeps popping up, show after show, day after day.   It’s for Midol, the pain reducer typically suggested to relieve cramping and pains due to menstruation.  

The commercials themselves are a testament to where we are at in society.  You see, each of the women are portrayed as victims.  Not necessarily of having a period but of having to deal with the pain and therefore their related behavior.  I call them the Midol Women.   One actress states, “If I don’t stop apologizing for my period behavior (apparently she’s quite a bear during this time) then it’ll never stop for future generations.”  Another states, “I’m not going to keep apologizing for being a ‘mad black woman’ just because I’m on my period.”  Period.

The message conveyed is “whatever I’m feeling today the world had better watch out!” And, “don’t make me apologize for what I’m about to unleash!”

Isn’t that the loud and clear message we hear so much today?  I’m not required to keep my mouth in check because (fill in the blank – my truth, my pain, my socioeconomic status, my race, my sexuality, my whatever) but YOU had better keep your mouth in check.  It all creates a bit of a neck whiplash.  And the result? Pain, hurt feelings, swelling pridefulness, torn relationships, violence and more.

James 3:10-11 says, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 

When it’s a Christian acting in this way we get the giant stamp of “hypocrite” placed on, not only us as individuals, but the faith as a whole.  It’d be better to live by the wisdom of the Proverbs.

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.  Proverbs 29:11

This concept has really hit home for me these past few months as I’ve battled constant pain in my ears and head.   I want to lash out at my husband at the end of the day when he’s being, well, just a man.  Normally I could laugh and tease him.   But it takes all the strength and patience out of me each day to not give in to the pain.  So when someone close to me does something annoying, my strength needs to come from somewhere else.   Because my tank is empty.

I don’t want to ruin a beautiful weekend by constantly gripping about how I feel.  I may always feel this way if my doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong.  So I have to ask myself, do I want to be the Midol Woman and demand that everyone around me accept my emotional bombs?  Or do I draw on the strength of God which the apostle Paul wrote when he spoke of his constant thorn in his side (2 Cor 12:7-10)?

Believe me, I want to be cured.  And I don’t like that women must suffer during their periods.  I hate that people, like my mother in law, have to deal with the effects of chemotherapy. Migraines, back pain, knee pain, the list goes on and on.  When we lose sight of who we belong to and what is expected of us we fall prey to being the Midol Woman.  We lose control of our tongue and its ability to “set great forests on fire by a small spark.” (James 3:5)

Dear Christian, we are held to a higher standard than the Midol Women of this world.  And yes, it is okay to be weak and cry.  It’s okay to lose our cool once in a while and have a bad day.  But to say we shouldn’t apologize for lashing out in those weak times is of the flesh and we are called to be better.  God expects us to be better, and most of all to be humble.  The world says it’s ok to rant, rave, slam doors, curse others – as long as it doesn’t happen to you.  God says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

It’s at our weakest times that our decision to be resolute in our faith is tested.  Not on the good days, not on the days our pain is masked, not on the sun shining days.  No, throughout the Bible we see we are almost sure to be tested on the bad days, the days we want to stay in bed, the days it takes a full tank and we are living on just a quarter.  It’s those days that when people say to me, “God is just a crutch” that I say, “Great, give me two.”

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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.

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Change Maker

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1

Like everyone else on this blue planet I’ve had my share of relationship problems.  From friends to family and love relationships to work ones I’ve had my share of angry words and uncomfortable silences.  In the past, I would rush in to trying to solve whatever problem had arisen.  I couldn’t allow a quiet, cooling down period.  I needed to work out the disagreement right now.  I tried using my own solutions –whether it meant apologizing, arguing my point, denigrating myself, or even pretending nothing happened.

When I finally started taking my most important relationship seriously all that changed.  When I placed God above everything in my life it helped to prioritize all my other relationships.  It also meant I turned to God in seeking solutions to interpersonal interactions. 

I recently have been turning to God about a friendship that has had its ups and downs.  Instead of fretting over it and attacking it with my old gusto, I’ve given it over to the Almighty.  I’m asking Him to let me know when to speak and when to stay silent.  When to apologize and when to stand firm.  And I have found His solutions to be so different than ones I would’ve dreamed up. His solutions have love for others first and foremost.

Today I praise God for being a change maker.  For taking us broken, imperfect beings and turning our lives upside down.  When I started taking Him seriously, He started making some serious changes in me.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  James 4:7-10

Besides the amazing gift of salvation, the promise that we are changed is quite possibly one of the greatest “selling points” of believing in Jesus Christ.  My old way of doing things?  It caused me a lot of heartache, despair, worry, and loneliness.  And when we truly accept that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior we can’t help but be changed. We need to embrace it, ask for more of it, and look in anticipation for it!

Recently, after an interaction with a difficult person, I drove home praising God and giving Him all the glory.  I said, “Thank God you have changed me Lord!  Thank God I’m not the person I used to be!” Instead of angry, unattractive thoughts, I could only think of how good God is and how much He loves me.

I’m still working on my relationship with our amazing Triune God.  But I know that when I get that right I can look forward to getting a lot of other things right.  There’s so much that still needs to be changed in me and I know Jesus is the just the man for the job.


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He Serves Humbly

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” He replied.  “Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what to do.”  Acts 9:5-6

I did not grow up in a strong, male-led home.  My father was a sweet man who worked a lot.  When he got home from work we ate dinner, he showered, and then fixed himself dessert and watched TV.  On the weekends we didn’t do family activities and outings.  He was just, well, there.  Not bad and not great.  He is an atheist who believes he can work through any problem in life in his own head.

So, when I met my father-in-law, I expected the same.  But I couldn’t have been more wrong.  One of my first encounters with John Shetter lives on in infamy.  And yet shows his commitment to humbly serving others.  You see, I was out visiting my then boyfriend and his parents and we took a short drive from their hometown into nearby Boulder, Colorado.  After a nice morning we had lunch, walked around a bit then headed back for the 20 minute drive home.  Suddenly, my lunch decided it wasn’t agreeing with me.  I whispered to my boyfriend that trouble was brewing.  He then turned to John, who was driving, and said I needed a bathroom – pronto.

The car seemed to have entered hyper speed and we may have turned into the driveway on two wheels.  The first out of the car was John.  He ran to the front door with keys ready and flew the door open for me.  I’m not sure if I have ever been more grateful in my life!

A funny tale for sure but John’s desire to make sure my needs were met as quickly as possible is his calling card throughout his life.

Dad is dedicated to Jesus’ teachings – he approaches all people with consideration, thoughtfulness and patience.  He has given himself in service to so many entities:  church, senior center, hospital, YMCA, underprivileged children.  To serve others, therefore serving God is in his DNA. 

Dan Shetter, youngest son

I didn’t grow up around any devoted Christian men in my life.  In fact, most of the men I’d been around, either through work or school, were not the “humble servant” types.  To see a strong, head of household with a job in the corporate world balance those roles with the character of Jesus is truly a great lesson for us all.

And he wasn’t alone.  I found, as I married John’s son and met so many of their family friends, that he was surrounded by men of humble servanthood.  Men who attended church regularly, went to Bible study, volunteered throughout the community, loved on their families, and talked comfortably about praying for others.  They are bankers and realtors, teachers and business owners.

John’s service to the community is something he prefers to “keep behind the scenes.”  His commitment to our church is exceptional as he has served in leadership, providing children’s messages, and many other tasks too numerous to mention!

Longtime friend, Chuck Allen

My younger daughter recently told me that one of her company’s core values was that everyone be willing to make the office coffee.  I love that.  It makes it clear that no task is too small for anyone throughout the organization.  During a particularly busy season they asked the corporate staff to give one hour a week to the production floor because they were behind on orders.  No job is too big or too small for even the CEO.

That’s how John sees his life.  A few years ago, he helped set up a warming shelter at his church.  On particularly cold nights they open their doors for the homeless to spend the night.  But he didn’t just help set it up.  I have been at their home when he headed off to his shift in the dead of night.  No bells or whistles.  In fact, I wasn’t sure where he was going at first.  Just off to serve the Lord’s flock.

“You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.”  James 2:22

He has even turned his favorite pastime into an act of service.  He loves historical stories, especially related to the old West.  He trained to become an official storyteller, a “Spellbinder,” just so he could go into schools and share his tales.  This imposing 6’ man sits in a tiny school chair and regularly spins yarns about Indian folklore and pioneer heroes.  All because he loves to see smiling little faces.

John doesn’t wait for someone else to fix a problem.  He turns to the Lord for direction and takes a step forward.  He may not always get it right but he knows he is always working from the right heart.  

There’s a lot of “Johns” out there in the world.  Men carrying the weight of their family.  Men on their knees praying for God’s guidance.  Men serving their communities and answering the call to, “feed my sheep.”  So many serve quietly and humbly and we might overlook them.  The noise today is that men are evil, men are self-serving, men need to be less like, well, “men.”  But it is on men, like Saul in our first verse, to whom Jesus placed the weight of the world to spread the Good News.

A humble servant.  A man of strength.  Those aren’t mutually exclusive.  They are an opportunity to achieve God’s holy balance.  


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Step 2: Humble Servant

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” John 21:15

Since the resurrection of Jesus, Christians seem to have been in an interesting battle.  The concept of how we are saved has led to many sermons, books, and even paper nailed to church doors.  The prevailing answer in the modern church age is, of course, that we are saved by grace.  The grace of Jesus Christ dying for our sins.  

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Romans 10:9

That passage from Romans couldn’t be clearer and yet the concept of being saved by works and/or financial contributions to the church ran throughout Christendom for a long time.  Unfortunately, much of our Christian thinking seems to have swung so far in the opposite direction that we have forgotten the other lessons in the Bible.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? James 2:14

As my BSGs work our way through a study of Revelation I keep hearing a few of the same messages.  1) We must repent of our sins and accept Christ today and 2) Our deeds will be counted in eternity.  That balance of accepting God’s grace and also working to please Him echoes so many other Christian balancing acts.

  • Expressing God’s Truth while showing God’s Love
  • His Word is both bitter and sweet
  • To live in this world but not of it
  • Accepting chastisement as a method of God’s love for us

I wonder how many of us each Sunday (or whatever day you attend church) receive constant training on how to walk those balance beams?

This week’s Jesus Mindset focuses on being a humble servant.  The character trait requires of us to first be somewhat practiced at being a loving friend.  For when we take action in the name of God without a loving spirit it becomes almost impossible to be humble.  I’m sure each of us can think of a person in our lives who took on responsibilities simply to gain some sort of recognition.  A church body that forgets Jesus’ primary character trait – loving friend – becomes like the church of Ephesus.  They were “doing” a lot and building larger, more grand buildings but doing it without love.

“The church used to be known for its good deeds,” said one wit, “but today it’s better known for its bad mortgages.”

The evolution from love of neighbor to deeds without love creates a hulking body that God eventually is clearly unhappy with.  And so, we find ourselves searching for the balance.  This week I will highlight three people.  Two sisters and a quiet, humble man.  Each has their own way of “feeding” God’s lambs.  Each have different personalities.  They each find a way to reach that balance of knowing they are saved by grace and yet God asks more of us.  

I love this quote from the book, “The Hiding Place,” which tells the story of love and servanthood in the face of extreme adversity.  This moment takes place as a member of the family is about to die.  They remind her of all the amazing things she did in life because “accomplishment” meant so much to her.  But in her final moments Jesus spoke to her heart and reminded her of God’s truths.

“How can we bring anything to God? What does He care for our little tricks and trinkets?” she asked.  And then as we listened in disbelief she lowered her hands and with tears still coursing down her face whispered, “Dear Jesus, I thank You that we must come with empty hands.  I thank you that You have done all on the Cross and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this.”

Tante Jans, The Hiding Place

With empty, well-worn hands.  Hands worn with the work for Jesus.  For when we die we won’t take the certificates of recognition, the medals, the bonuses with us.  But each person we have fed, in His name, will be etched in our hands and hearts.

Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

Jesus has plenty of work for us to do.  The majority of that work could be called “grunt work.” It requires us to get uncomfortable and place our trust solely in the Lord’s hands.  You probably won’t receive any money for it or a headline in the local paper.  What we will receive is a smile from Jesus.

My friend Betsy told me the other day how, while out shopping, she saw a homeless man in an adjoining parking lot.  He was in a wheelchair.  As she got into her car Jesus placed the thought in her head, “Go give him one of your ‘blessings bags.’”  Her church provides these bags to hand out to anyone in need.  She had never just walked up to someone and given them a bag. 

But that day she pulled out of her parking spot and drove over to the man.  He was struggling trying to get his wheelchair closed up so he could lie down on the same spot.  As she approached the man, she could tell he was drunk.  But she kept moving forward.  She inquired, “Do you need some help?”  And he said he did.  She helped him get situated and then offered a blessings bag, which he readily accepted.  As she left she acknowledged to herself that she wouldn’t have taken that action previously – some other force pressed her forward.

You see, Betsy has been a loving Christian for 60 some years.  She has always served her church and family well.  Recently she has been working on the “obeying God” part of her faith progression.  Listening for His voice and taking action to be His humble servant.  God has told her it’s time to move forward.


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

Fight or Flight

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the 
fiery ordeal that has come on you to test 
you, as though something strange were 
happening to you.  
1 Peter 4:12

I’d wanted to get my motorcycle license since I was 16 years old.  For any of you counting that’s about 37 years ago.  Back then, my mind and body were young and better equipped to handle the fast moving issues surrounding the dangers of riding.  So, when I finally made a lifelong dream come true, I decided to take a motorcycle safety class.  In order to pass the class, we were required to learn and practice a few emergency maneuvers.  In one situation we were to swerve, at a fairly fast speed, to the left and to the right in a tight “z.”  In another we had to learn how to safely make a quick stop.  In both, the decision had to be made in a blink of an eye to stay in the fight to be upright or to take flight from the bike.

The key to both safety maneuvers is where our focus lay – straight ahead.  Our tendency, as new riders, is to look down at the front wheel.  This is a sure fire way to crash, as I found out during one quick stop practice.

I’ve now been riding for about four years.  But it is in the back of my mind at all times that I’m not sure how I will react when faced with a real emergency.  I have the knowledge but not the wisdom of experience.  Will I stay in the fight or take flight?

Isn’t our faith journey a lot like that?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, 
whenever you face trials of many kinds, because 
you know that the testing of your faith produces 
perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work 
so that you may be mature and complete, not 
lacking anything. 
James 1: 2-4

We, through our faith teachers and reading the Word, gather up our knowledge of God and how His son, Jesus, loves us so much.  But until we have faced an emergency, a faith testing, we cannot truly know how we will respond.

I think one of great crossroads in the New Testament is when Peter professes to Jesus that he will always stand by his friend.  And when the faith trial came, he fled.  Not once, not twice but, three times.  And we ask ourselves, what would we have done?

Peter had the knowledge of Jesus but not the wisdom of a faith tested.  And even after he realized the truth of the situation and witnessed Christ’s death, he still turned away for a time by going back to his old life of fishing rather than carrying out his friend’s commission.  

I’m so grateful that the one player in the story of humanity never takes flight from us – God.  He is the “long sufferer” in our thousands-year old journey.  At each turn where we have either forgotten or abandoned Him, God has stayed the course and given us grace.

I once was so angry with God that I made the decision to stop believing in Him.  I remember yelling up to the heavens, “I don’t trust you and I don’t believe in you anymore!”

I spent the next few weeks in a tug-o-war of sorts.  At one moment I would find myself arguing with God and then another reminding myself not to talk to someone I didn’t believe in.  And He never left me.

And let us run with perseverance the race 
marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, 
the pioneer and perfecter of faith. 
Hebrews 12:1-2

I’ve had minor emergencies while out on my motorcycle – cars swerving in front of me, lights quickly changing from green to red – where I’ve accessed that knowledge from my safety class.  It’s wisdom building.  And God has given me minor trials along the way.  With each opportunity to decide whether I stay upright, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus or to take flight, I build up my wisdom and faith muscles.

Peter, who although had the blessed opportunity to stand alongside Jesus for three years, had to face his own trials in order to fully mature from knowledge of God to having the wisdom and faith of His character and ways.  When he took his eyes off Jesus, he was given grace. Jesus returned to him over and over.

As Christ followers, we know the entire story from which draw upon.  And at every life emergency my hope is that we continue to stay upright with eyes fixed on Him.

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

Unswerving Faith

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we 
profess, for he who promised is faithful.  
Hebrews 10:23

We sing songs about God being our Rock.  We hear sermons about not living as though on shifting sand.  And yet so often I find myself having days where my faith feels more like something I’ve placed in a box to access at a later date and time.  I rush about “doing life,” not as a Christian but as a citizen of the world.  I let go of my Rock and hold on to my to do list.

But what do we, as Christians, really want to accomplish in our lives?  If it’s simply completing to-do lists every day, we miss out on some of the greatest human qualities God gifted us – the ability to dream and grow and have hope. 

When I was in high school, I wanted to be an astronaut.  I met with Air Force recruiters who were enthusiastic about me joining up.  But when I sat down with my parents, they immediately discouraged me.  They thought I couldn’t handle the rigor and discipline of training.  I had two choices – to ignore them and join anyway or give up my dream.  Had I a strong prayer life, I could’ve lifted up this quandary to God.  And then be guided by Him.  At each roadblock I could’ve held fast to the knowledge that He put me on that path.  But I’m sorry to say, I neither prayed nor kept my dream alive.

This verse today harkens back to Abraham and Sarah’s unswerving faith in God.  They went through terrible trials in which it would’ve been understandable had they given up on God’s promises.  We see throughout the Old Testament when the Israelites did give up hope.  They grumbled to Moses and set off in directions which brought death.  And who can forget Lot’s wife – looking backward rather than forward to God’ promise?

How often do we pray for help from Jesus, knowing that He answers prayers, and then after things get a bit tough or we feel the wait is too long we give up on our hopes and dreams?

Blessed is the one who perseveres under 
trial because, having stood the test, 
that person will receive the crown of 
life that the Lord has promised to those 
who love him. 
James 1:12

God never breaks a promise.  It’s always us.  It’s us that needs to take our faith out of the box and place it at the top of our list each day.  We need to hold fast to the knowledge that God is working for us and not against us.  Whenever we are tempted to give up or get discouraged about our dreams, we need seize the promises that God has shown us.

Here’s a prayer from Sparkling Gems from the Greek that might help you, through faith, “hold unswervingly” to your dreams!

Lord, I am well aware that events will occur in life that will tempt me to release the dream You put in my heart.  So right now, I ask You to fill me with the courage I need to refuse to let go of my dream.  Even though my mind and the circumstances around me may send signals that the dream will never come to pass, I know that You are faithful to what you have promised.  Help me wrap my arms of faith around your promises and never let go until I see them come into manifestation!  I pray this in Jesus’ name!