Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders6 and goes home.Luke 15:3-5
I’ve always been the kind of person that makes sure no one is left behind or left out. This served me well as a Girl Scout leader. I was always counting heads making sure none of my little sheep got lost. I can count two times in my 13 years as a leader of two troops where someone was lost. One was an adult so I wasn’t quite as concerned about that. But the other was a child, who was being supervised by another adult while at an amusement park. When all our groups gathered for a “touching base” the adult mentioned he hadn’t seen her in a bit. The casualness of his report shocked me. I went immediately into “Lost Sheep” mode – sending out the troops to start searching and contacting the park security team. Thankfully the young lady was found within a short period of time. But my trust in the adult was gone.
As a Christian we should take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus will never take our missing status casually. I praise God today that he pursues us even when we don’t realize we are lost.
In past praises I’ve mentioned I love the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. She didn’t realize she was lost. She just knew her life was miserable. He sought her out and changed her life forever. A sheep brought into the fold. This weekend I had the pleasure of learning about another woman at the well that was pursued by God – Hagar.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”Genesis 16: 7-8
Hagar, as a refresher, was Sarai’s slave. Sarai encouraged her husband Abram to sleep with Hagar in order to have offspring. But once Hagar became pregnant, Sarai treated her slave terribly. Hagar fled to escape further persecution. And the “Angel of the Lord” – Jesus – sought her out.
What I learned about this small scene in Genesis made the story all the more comforting. First, this is the first instance in the Bible that the “Angel of the Lord” makes His appearance. Second, this is the only time God addresses a slave and calls her by name. On top of that He makes what can only be called a promise, or a covenant, with someone other than the Israelites. And it’s this slave who names God.
She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seenthe One who sees me.”Genesis 16:13
Just think of it. This lowly slave. Someone not worthy of anything in man’s eyes being sought after and called by God. Being allowed to speak with God and helping us know who He is. If God pursues her, how can He not pursue me?
That little Girl Scout that got separated from her group? She didn’t think she was lost. She was distracted by the bells and whistles of the amusement park. Left on her own long enough she would’ve certainly gotten emotional. Friends, so many of us lose our way or become slaves to something or someone. And sometimes we run away from everything to try and be free. In all these circumstances we’ve moved from His safe folds to the dangerous pitfalls of the world. But He will pursue you. You just need to stop and rest at the well for a minute and listen to His voice beckoning you home.
Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”Luke 17:20-21
My BSGs are embarking on a new study called, “He Speaks to Me,” by Priscilla Shirer. What stood out to me in the first video we watched was her discussion about the Kingdom of God. She shared with the audience about how in the Old Testament the Israelites prayed for the “coming” Kingdom of God. It was something they hoped and yearned for throughout their years as a new and developing nation. And right at the beginning of the New Testament we find John the Baptist proclaiming:
“Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near!”Matthew 3:2
With Jesus’ arrival, the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) became flesh and was brought to the Israelites. And so many of them refused to grasp that their prayers were answered. And when Jesus was resurrected, the Holy Spirit remained to cover us with the Kingdom.
Today I praise God for His continual presence in our world, in my life and yours. The big word is “omnipresent.” But I like to think of it more as though I move through and live in God’s presence. He’s not “with me.” I am more like the tiny seed that is buried in a fluff of freshly picked cotton. I am in God’s kingdom, surrounded by Him.
When I grasped this idea just a year or so ago it changed my perspective dramatically. I don’t need to ask God to come help me or be near me. I just need to slow down my brain and remember I am always in His presence. We are all in His presence, whether we believe in Him or not.
It reminds me of the movie, The Matrix. There are those in the movie whose brains and bodies are hooked up to a virtual reality machine. They move about in a phony world without realizing its fake character. And then there are the people who have disconnected from the computer and live almost in an alternate space – the real, tangible world. When we disconnect from the world of the flesh and recognize that this is God’s world, His created space, and that we are in His midst, we start seeing life and how to live it from a new perspective.
The Kingdom, Jesus reiterated in our first verse is not a specific “thing” to be seen. It’s because it is everything in God’s creation. It is the grace God gifted us through Jesus. It is His Holy workings in our lives via the Holy Spirit. The kingdom is God and God is the kingdom. Gnaw on that a bit!
When I’m struggling with an issue or feel pulled apart by the fleshly world, I now seek that “sweet spot.” That quiet moment where I can feel nestled in His presence, like that little cotton seed. I wrap it around me like a warm, soft blanket and thank God I can call him “home.”
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.
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.”
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!”
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.”
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.
If we are “out of our mind,” as some say,
it is for God; if we are in our right mind,
it is for you. 2 Corinthians 5:13
There’s a lot of criticism of Christians these days. We get called any manner of names from freaks to racists and dumb to science deniers. And we shouldn’t be surprised. No one ever said this would be easy.
I wonder if that’s why so many people, including parents, choose not to share their faith? Yes, I said including parents. A friend of mine grew up with a mother who considers herself a Christian. Yet she never shared her faith with her two daughters. Never encouraged them to come to church. Never explained what her faith meant to her. I’ve heard parents say, “I’ll let my kids decide when they get older as to what they want to believe.”
But think about all the things in life we are either willing or even feel compelled to share and teach others. I, for one, have a lot of advice in me to spread about the world spanning any number of topics! From a parenting point of view do we “wait till they decide” when it comes to teaching our kids about healthy eating habits? Do we wait for them to figure out on their own how to read or write?
How did we get to this point in our faith journey where we are so hesitant to share our faith out of fear from what the world would say about us? Out of fear we will get called crazy and “out of our minds?”
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him
stand on the highest point of the temple.
“If you are the Son of God,” he said,
“throw yourself down from here. Luke 4:9
Right out of the gate, before Jesus can even start gathering up disciples, our friend, the devil, comes along and tries to tear down Jesus’ confidence. He tests Him multiple times to see if Jesus is who He says He is.
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not
put the Lord your God to the test.’”Luke 4:12
I always love Jesus’ responses to those who would say He was “out of his mind.” He never fails to give me a Perspective Change Moment. He doesn’t argue with the devil about the dangers of jumping off a cliff. He doesn’t present genealogy charts and Old Testament verses from Isaiah about His coming. He just says, “Don’t even test me.” He doesn’t sound angry or offended.
Ah, to be like Jesus. When I was contemplating this post, I got convicted of something I had done the night before. My husband and I were flying home from a visit with family. As we sat in our seats on the plane my husband dropped one side of his mask while trying to adjust his hat. A woman was making her way into the seat in front of us and turned and stared at both of us. Then she looked at my husband and said, “Sir, put your mask on.”
And boom, my hackles (whatever those are) started to rise. I laughed at her. I had all manner of comments I wanted to make but some supernatural force shoved me back in my seat and clamped its hand over my mouth. I sat there steaming, irritated. Very un-Jesus like.
I could’ve used the opportunity to be a peacemaker, a practicing Christian. A Christian who shows what Jesus is about rather than what the devil is all about. I could’ve been “out of my mind” with grace and apologies rather than defensiveness. I didn’t act like I would’ve a few years ago but I didn’t act like the person I want to be. Imperfect progress as my friend Betsy likes to say. Yes, my husband had removed his mask for just a minute. But this woman was clearly fearful and needed a bit of Jesus, not the world.
I told my BSGs the other day that if there was one thing I could try to erase from Christians’ minds it is the idea that “sharing our faith” doesn’t mean standing on a street corner screaming about Jesus. It means that when, given the opportunity by God, we behave like Jesus. We speak like Jesus. We seek peace like Jesus. We teach like Jesus. And we stand firm like Jesus. We step out of our own worldly minds and into Jesus’ mind.
But we have the mind of Christ.1 Corinthians 2:16
God will give you opportunities today. It may be with your children. It may be with your neighbor. It may be with a stranger on a plane. And yes, we need to act as though we are out of our minds with the love of God.
Season all your grain offerings
with salt.Leviticus 2:13
About a year ago my husband and I decided to combine our plans of getting fit at the gym with changing what we ate for dinner. We decided to try out a couple meal delivery services. Now, let me first say my husband is an incredible cook – creative and eager to try new dishes. So whatever plan we chose would have to meet his high standards.
As we made the various meals we discovered some of the “tricks of the trade” of how to make meals have that extra “pop” of flavor. And the most basic trick was seasoning with salt and pepper throughout the cooking process. It was amazing how much better our food tasted when we seasoned at the beginning, middle and end. Salt is so simple yet it somehow releases the intricate flavors of whatever dish it’s added to.
Do not leave the salt of the covenant
of your God out of your grain offerings;
add salt to all your offerings.Leviticus 2:13
And throughout the Bible we are encouraged, or as in Leviticus, admonished, to add salt to our offerings to God and to our work for God.
Let your conversation be always full
of grace, seasoned with salt, so that
you may know how to answer everyone.Colossians 4:6
But what does this mean in our daily faith lives? Adding salt to our conversations means making sure our work of sharing the gospel is pure and properly seasoned – with grace and love. In other places in the Bible we see salt as something added to make our lives more pleasing to God.
My BSGs had a conversation once about memorizing scripture and prayers – an admirable activity for sure. But when our faith life becomes a series of memorized verse or monotonous prayers we can lose our saltiness. We lose the passion and uniqueness of our special relationship with God.
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness,
how can it be made salty again?"Luke 14:34
So how do we regain that beautiful flavor in our relationship with Him? Ask. It’s funny how so often when we struggle with faith issues we forget to do the one thing that works the best – ask Him. “Show me, Lord, how to reignite and bring passion to my relationship with you!” He might show you a new way to pray, a new book to read, a new song to sing, a new Christian friend, or a new place in your home to mediate.
The Holy Spirit is waiting to be tapped for answers. It’s like He is jumping up and down with His hand up going, “Oooooo! Ask Me! Ask Me!”
Average is very acceptable in our society but I don’t think the angels are applauding. If you are determined to be excellent, to not back out of it, you will reap a harvest in your life.
Let’s start flavoring our faith life at the beginning, middle and end of our day with salt, with passion, with grace, and with intentionality. Let’s dine with our Savior and feast on the grace He gives us.
Lesson #12: God’s kingdom will be established and we need to be prepared.
“But on Mount Zion will be deliverance;
it will be holy. Jacob will possess
his inheritance.”Obadiah 1:17
My current BSG Bible study focuses solely on Easter and the days leading up to Jesus’ death. The other day we were asked to read Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:19-20. And if you do, you’ll find almost the same words written in each about Jesus’ instructions to the disciples in His final hours. As Christians, we should be very familiar with what took place – the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine. What I love about actually studying the Bible is you see all the ancient links back and forth and the promises for the future, supported by those fulfilled promises.
While they were eating, Jesus took
bread, and when he had given thanks,
he broke it and gave it to his disciples,
saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, and when he had given
thanks, he gave it to them, saying,
“Drink from it, all of you. This is my
blood of the covenant, which is poured
out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
I tell you, I will not drink from this
fruit of the vine from now on until that
day when I drink it new with you in my
Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:26-29
“When I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Jesus is drinking from the traditional third cup of the Passover meal – the one representing the blood of an animal sacrificed for sins to be “passed over.” He establishes not only himself as the sacrifice for all eternity for our sins but then gives us the promise of reuniting with us.
“The kingdom of God has come near.
Repent and believe the good news!”Mark 1:15
You’ll notice throughout the Bible that we humans are warned of how we should behave, what the punishment will be, and in the end those who believe will receive great reward. In the prophesy of Obadiah, the people of Edom received their warning of destruction because of pride, gloating, treachery, thievery, and violence. Yet, they did not listen.
“Just as you drank on my holy hill,
so all nations will drink continually;
they will drink and drink and be as
if they had never been.”Obadiah 1:16
Obadiah warns the people that what they sought for so richly would be turned against them with voracity. Imagine now our current world. And imagine all the sins turned against us two-fold. The killing of millions of unborn children alone must make God so angry. I can only imagine that we would be struck barren and childless in an instant. And therefore, unable to continue creating new generations.
Thank God gives us the warnings. And in heeding them we can then receive the glorious inheritance.
“Before we can pray, “Lord, Thy Kingdom come,” we must be willing to pray, “My Kingdom go.”
Yes, our kingdoms. So many of us have built our own kingdoms on the hill – just like the people of Edom. We look down on our fellow man with a smugness that “we have it all under control.” Our bank accounts are satisfactory, our marriages are holding together, our homes protect us. And yet we are warned all this will be “stubble” (vs 18). How many of us live with the anticipation of “Thy Kingdom Come?”
Because it will come. You may be fortunate to be in a church where that is a focus of the teaching. Where you are tasked to constantly be in a mode of preparation. Where you are admonished to gather up as many people as possible for the kingdom. I have yet to be in such a church. And yet the entire Bible is a warning of the coming kingdom.
If this last year, during the great pandemic, has taught me anything is that our earthly time is limited and we are tasked with no more greater act than preparing our hearts and minds for the coming kingdom. Situations in which I find myself that are not godly become glaring reminders of the coming of Jesus.
Throughout this last year we kept hearing the teaching, “Faith over fear.” And yet fear held most of us captive. And fear of what? Death? If that was the case, as Christians we should have been at the front of the line shouting “hallelujah, our time has come!” The signs on our churches should have asked, “Are you ready?”
And what of that readiness and our own kingdoms?
The underlying foundation of Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possessions; not making decisions for Jesus, but having such a sense of absolute futility that we finally admit, “Lord, I cannot even begin to do it.” Then Jesus says, “Blessed are you…” (Matthew 5:11). This is the doorway to the kingdom, and yet it takes us so long to believe that we are actually poor! The knowledge of our own poverty is what brings us to the proper place where Jesus Christ accomplishes His work. Oswald Chambers
God has issued His warnings. Just like with the people of Edom, He has called us to prepare for the onslaught of His power and might. He has promised us the inheritance of the kingdom. Are you in constant training? Are you ready to be called up in an instant? Which side of the battle lines will you be on?
I have seen their ways,
but I will heal them;
I will guide them and
restore comfort to
Israel’s mourners.Isaiah 57:18
In our lives we all have had instances of brokenness, despair and desolation. Those times when we feel we are on our last leg, at the end of the rope about to lose our grip and fall on our last gasping breath before we give up and begin to drown.
Where we go from that point and what we do next speaks volumes about your current state of faith.
Do we lash out and blame those around us and our circumstances for the state of our woundedness? Or do we reach down into our inner core and summon the power of God’s promise to deliver us to a better place?
What I have learned about myself from facing trials in the workplace is that my faith, when strong, protects me with an armor of perspective. When I am weak and not connected with my faith, I am vulnerable to believe false accusations and claims of harm and wrongdoing. I recognize it, I know the feeling and know the damage it can do if I accept and embrace the crushing doubt.
What my defense mechanism triggers is a quick accounting of the facts: what do I have control of and what do I not have control of? Next, I better get right with God and do it quick. I remind myself — I am not in control, He is. Then and only then can I respond and act. Any other process, for me, is futile and ineffective.
One of my favorite scripture verses I lean on in times of introspection and self-assessment is this one:
And which of you by worrying
can add a single hour to his
life’s span?Luke 12:15
And if I am on my game and thinking clearly my first response is to slow everything down and pray. Asking for discernment, clarity, and focus surprisingly works like a gem. Once we slow our racing mind, cool our sweaty brow and take control of our breathing in an effort to focus on who is in controls then the problems diminish, and the solutions come into clearer perspective.
God is that lens of clarity we all need. We are many times our own problem. But as Jesus promises, we –as in me and Jesus together– are the solution. “Don’t be afraid; just believe”- Luke 8:50
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”Mark 5:34
Time after time in scripture Jesus proved and made examples of the power of healing through faith in the Lord. Jesus was the conduit, but faith was the pathway to the healing and rebirth.
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.Isaiah 58:8
It’s a partnership of pulling together. It is not a miraculous anointment from heaven, a surprise cleansing. It takes suffering, acknowledgement, surrender and faith.
Together, bound by faith and confidence, we are everything and anything we want to be. Alone, divided and broken we are only a sum of the remaining pieces–weakened by trial and doubt.
We all can heal, but only if our belief in the Lord is strong and steadfast.
Listen diligently to me, and eat
what is good, and delight yourselves
in rich food. Incline your ear,
and come to me;hear, that your soul
may live;and I will make with
you an everlasting covenant,
Jesus said to them, “I am the
bread of life; whoever comes to
me shall not hunger, and whoever
believes in me shall never thirst.
As so many of us prepare to enjoy delicious Christmas meals and beautifully wrapped gifts it’s easy to overlook that most of what we call “Christmas” isn’t necessary. Stripped down, Christmas is about one thing – God’s promise to deliver us the greatest gift, His son Jesus.
This year our “Christmas” seems a bit different. We are missing family and friends. But the promise I wanted to share with you is this, he always provides for us. Even in times that seem bare, He provides. In fact, the opportunity to truly appreciate what we do have is when situations seem the most difficult. It’s lessons like that which Jesus passed along to us through His bloodline.
He will provide in the most God-like ways – a stranger lends a hand, a paycheck bonus comes at the right time, an offer of food from a neighbor when you need it most. And the covenant agreement we need to uphold and hold on to is to trust in that promise.
I pray every day that what I write in this blog is what someone, even just one person, needs to hear from God. And the other day I was thinking about which Isaiah verse to use for Christmas. That day, my friend Betsy shared a story written by her sister for her local church. As she read it, all I kept hearing was “He provides.” I asked if I could share her beautiful family story here. Betsy’s family bloodline has passed down some amazing lessons. I hope you enjoy it!
A Privileged Life Growing Up By Rachel Mueller
I’m the oldest daughter of an Episcopal priest. I found growing up totally immersed in the culture of the Episcopal Church something very special.
This photo was taken July 2, 1953 for the Glendale California News Press announcing that my father was to be the new rector of St. Luke’s of the Mountains, La Crescenta, California and it introduced our family to the community. One of five and the oldest, you will see me pictured to the right of my father and holding my favorite Madam Alexander doll. My younger two brothers and two sisters completed our family – yes, five children in six years, something my mother said raised eyebrows at our new church! We lived in the large rectory, which was next door to the church and suited our big family perfectly. Apparently while constructing this new house, there was some opposition on the vestry to its size. And supposedly the previous Rector said, “Well, who knows? The next Rector might have five children.” Perhaps the Search Committee went looking for a priest with five children to justify their new building.
Living next door to the church, we were very much aware of all the church activities on a daily basis. There was always something, be it the regular church services, a wedding, funeral or special events. My father believed his family was an extension of him, so we were taught to answer the telephone properly; in my case “St. Luke’s Rectory, Rachel speaking” and to take messages in detail and often answer questions such as the times of the church services, or dates of meetings. In a way our parents used us as extra employees — we gave out keys, opened doors, passed the cookies at vestry meetings, set up the tables and chairs for parish events, washed the coffee cups after church on Sunday, went with our father to visit people in the hospital, took food to orphanages, helped relocate refugees (first the Dutch Indonesians, then Cubans, and later Vietnamese), and helped load real sheep into our station wagon for the live Nativity outside the front of the church at Christmas. Anything going on at the church was dinner table conversation, including who was sick and in the hospital, or just died, or had a baby. The doorbell rang morning, noon and night with someone wanting something, or wondering “Where’s Fr. Sadler?” It was a constant in our life. The parish got to know us, and we quickly learned the names of all the parishioners.
In contrast to many clergy today, our father always wore a black shirt (not grey, or blue or some other color) and his clerical collar. I don’t remember ever seeing him not wearing this “uniform” until years after he retired. Even on his day off he was dressed in “the collar”. He was very active in our community which made him well known, which in turn brought great benefits to our family. He was usually the clergyman on stage at our school graduations, there to give the invocation or benediction, which made me very proud. Everywhere we went folks would stop him to say hello and show us special kindness. We were often invited to parishioners’ home to swim on hot afternoons. We were treated to Disneyland when it first opened. There were always special gifts of food and goodies at holidays – items that weren’t part of our regular family fare.
The most important lesson I learned from my father was “God will provide.” So many wonderful things happened to us, I thought we were very wealthy. It wasn’t until I went away to college that I learned what salary my father actually made. I couldn’t believe it. On paper we were poor. But our lives were rich and much more interesting than those of my friends. For example, we might suddenly have some homeless folks at the dinner table. My mother would just say “Rachel, please set the table for three more.” We often would never see those people again but the memory and lesson of hospitality remain.
I could fill a book with stories of wonderful things that happened to us as a result of living in a family grounded in love, trusting that “God will provide” and accepting life as it comes; but enough for now.
And he said to his disciples,
“Therefore I tell you, do not
be anxious about your life, what
you will eat, nor about your body,
what you will put on. For life is
more than food, and the body more
than clothing. Consider the ravens:
they neither sow nor reap, they
have neither storehouse nor barn,
and yet God feeds them. Of how much
more value are you than the birds!