Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.Galatians 4:6-7
For a long time, I just didn’t feel like I “belonged.” As a child, I didn’t have a group of friends to hang out with. My one friend, a neighbor around the corner, frequently left me out of activities with her other friends. And when I got into high school I felt more like I was on the edge of my friend group. Fast forward to adulthood and I never quite fit in with the boozy softball coach crowd, the gossipy PTA crowd, or even the Girl Scout leader gang.
And when I married I was an outsider to a large, wonderful family. Yes, they welcomed me but I couldn’t share in all the stories from long past because I never lived in the town they were all from. My own family consists of myself and my parents – who I see and speak with infrequently.
I spent a lot of time in prayer over the years asking God to work His changes in me so that I could feel like I belonged, somewhere, anywhere. As my faith has progressed I’ve come to realize that I first need to accept being a part of the most important family of all – God’s. I praise Him today that He sees us as His sons and daughters. We are His beautiful children whom He loves unconditionally. We belong to Him.
That’s been a hard message for me to soak in and accept. When I stand in the mirror I’ve asked God to help me see what He sees. To love myself as He loves me – no matter where else I may have felt rejected.
And it’s funny how God’s ways work. When I focus on God’s love, gifts and promises the more I feel that sense of belonging. He places me with new people and new situations that He has prepared for me. I slough off the old negative feelings and instead give all glory to Him who loves me and who draws me closer to Him.
I recently heard a lesson about belonging. As Christians we are admonished to “remember our last name.” Like children of our earthly parents we are to go about our lives remembering who we belong to and who we represent. That really hit home. When I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior I became a part of a special family. One where I’m expected to remember my last name and act like I belong to the Lord Most High.
It’s amazing how God gives us the next steps when He sees we are ready — when we start acting like He expects us to. He brings in new people to our lives when He knows we can openly accept His new ways. I find myself so incredibly blessed by, not only the women that have been populated in my sphere, but the men. Strong Christians who love people. Faithful Christians who serve others. Young, old, every race and quirkiness. And I feel like I belong.
Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8
I don’t know about you but as a “baby Christian” I would go entire days if not weeks without thinking about God. Without making any decision based on what God wanted of me. As my journey has progressed that “forgetting about God” can be counted in minutes and hours. And with that I have seen so many changes in my life.
The verse today takes place as the end times draw near. Creatures in heaven praising God “day and night” simply because of his everlasting holiness. As I’ve studied the Bible, I’ve seen so often how God wants a close relationship with us. Here in this verse the creatures never forget about God. But you’ll notice that God is also a constant. He was and is and is to come.
Since the 1970s, one group or another has played “chicken little” screaming from the rooftops about the world ending due to either overpopulation, nuclear war, economic collapse, global warming, etc. At one point a politician even posted a countdown to Earth’s destruction — which ran out about 8 years ago. And according to a current politician we have about 10 years left before the Earth implodes apparently.
But here’s the thing, when you study the Book of Revelation it’s not the Earth or God that is destroyed, it’s sin. God is the Alpha and Omega. He created the beginning and will be with us throughout eternity.
Today I praise the everlasting God. We cannot destroy God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. We can only, through our sin-filled, unrepentant lives destroy ourselves. My earthly goal is to serve God as best I can with Jesus as my guidebook and the Holy Spirit as my tour guide. That way I can join with the creatures in heaven continuously praising His name.
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
The day I sat on the edge of my bed whining to God about my miserable life – the lack of peace and joy – He spoke quite clearly to me. “What have you really done (to be close to me?),” He said. I got down on my knees and wept. I prayed for Him to show me the steps to take to draw nearer to Him. The next day He tasked me to go to the bookstore and get a devotional. So, I stood in front of the hundreds of books and prayed, “Show me.”
The book the Holy Spirit placed in my hands that day was called, “Power Thoughts” by Joyce Meyer. I try my best not to question God. He knew exactly where my problem lay – my mind.
“I am content and emotionally stable.”
“I purse peace with God, myself and others.”
“I live in the present and enjoy each moment.”
“I am disciplined and self-controlled.”
“I put God first in my life.”
These are just a few of the “power thoughts” I read over the course of the devotional that year. My God-centered counseling session began each morning to help me battle the overwhelmingly negative thoughts I had so solidly built. My stronghold was not fear of man, in fact my propensity was to be ready to fight each day I left my house. My stronghold was not fear of serving in His name. I did that willingly and often. My stronghold, my addiction you might say, was self-hatred and self-doubt. My husband once called me the “Queen of the Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda.”
I’ve frequently been told I don’t come off that way. But I’ve come to realize there’s a difference between what a truly confident woman in Christ looks like and one that blusters her way through life.
Allowing Jesus and the Holy Word to become my wise counselor isn’t easy. It’s painful sitting in “the chair” having someone show you your weaknesses. And I have many. But the beauty of our Lord’s Word contains something that no one else can provide – a deep and lasting love behind every nudge, every reveal, every chastisement.
That’s not to say human counselors don’t have a place in our lives. God uses many ways and messengers to guide us toward righteousness. A poll released in May 2004 found that an estimated 59 million people had received mental health treatment in the two years prior, and that 80 percent of them found it effective. But for the Christian we should seek guidance that has our faith in mind. What is the point of a, say, marriage counselor who does not view or support marriage from God’s point of view? When we seek out counseling for our weaknesses, past hurts, we should be reminded of God’s overwhelming love and forgiveness.
This is why I love the counseling session at the well.
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” John 4:15-18
Jesus speaks to the woman about truth. Truth without condemnation. Just the naked truth. He goes on to share with her the truth about forgiveness of sins and salvation. She had lived her life in sin and shame. And kept doing the same thing over and over. That’s what shame does. It envelopes us to twist our minds into feelings of worthlessness, self-doubt, self-destruction.
Throughout Jesus’ three-year walk we see Him love and heal the sick, bring people into God’s service, comfort those in fear, teach so many about the ways of God. And woven amongst the stories of His life are the counseling moments like the one at the well. Moments where He uses all His God-given knowledge and skills to bring someone to a “truth” reveal.
Isn’t that what we seek when we ask a friend for advice about a problem? Or go to a professional counselor concerning a life issue? How can I fix this? How can I fix me? Unlike a teaching situation, where a topic outside ourselves is learned, seeking a wise counselor aims to reach into ourselves to find the “why?”
So often when our own friends or family express concerns about their life we know the “why” but are afraid of the damage the truth might do to our relationship so we stay silent. That’s the challenge of being a wise counselor. The culmination of all the Jesus traits.
I believe the stories of Jesus’ counseling moments are included in the Bible not just for us to see ourselves being counseled like the woman at the well. They are included so we can also learn to help others. Others who are hurting. Others who are living in sin. Others who don’t know about the gift of forgiveness of self.
We need to take an inventory of how our individual lives, our fruit, our behavior are affecting the people we come in contact with. The world is in such a desperate situation. Get yourself off your mind and see how you can bless someone else today.
Join me this week, as we complete our series on The Jesus Mindset, in a deep dive into the methods of a wise counselor and how we might touch those around us, helping them to take a few bricks down from their strongholds.
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.
“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:26-28
One of my friends has found herself in an unexpected teaching opportunity. She and her husband were active participants in a Bible study held at my house for about 5 years. My observation was that he wasn’t progressing in his faith journey. He seemed a bit stuck. He was definitely a man of faith and attended church regularly. But he kept listening to the world’s half truths about Jesus.
A year passed after that study group disbanded and my friend came to me asking about doing another study group. She was particularly concerned about her husband. They were no longer attending the same church and with the study group having disbanded her husband was without the counsel of other Christians. We decided to start a new group but it would be just women this time around and it left her concerns about her husband unanswered.
Over the course of last year my friend has made amazing strides in her faith progression. Just last week I listened to her as she was able to answer a difficult Bible study question with a great analogy – making it all clear to the rest of us! Like the glee I had while watching one of my Girl Scouts successfully learn to build a fire I jumped for joy at my friend’s insight! I loved it!
And God has answered her prayers about her husband. It wasn’t the answer she was expecting. You see, the teacher he needed was her. Her husband has watched her transformation with awe. She is living out the Word. And he started asking her questions about Jesus. After church (their new one) they go for breakfast and sit and discuss the sermon. He relies on her for further insight and instruction.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:15-16
My friend’s teaching opportunity was close at home. And at the start of Jesus’ ministry, He too started close to home. The first recorded teaching by Jesus was to His cousin, John the Baptist. Jesus asks John to baptize him but John recognizes Him as the Messiah and tries to convince Jesus it should be the other way around.
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Matthew 3:15
Jesus knew His audience. As a devoted man of God, John was well practiced in what it meant to achieve holy righteousness. And so he accepted Jesus’ reasoning.
When you follow along Jesus’ teaching path, you’ll find it to be not only slow and patient but tailored for each person or group of people He encounters. And that’s the joy in teaching. No matter what we teach it’s important to know the delivery method. At first, Jesus reached out to His cousin, then His cousin’s followers and their friends. And the tipping point, after performing quiet acts of healing and word of them spread, was the Sermon on the Mount.
But even after He preached to large crowds, He would encounter individuals and specifically set aside time to teach them. To tell them about the glory of God and the forgiveness of sins.
To the learned He spoke with confident knowledge of Moses and Isaiah. To the poor and lame, He taught through love and compassion. To the average man and woman, He used parables containing everyday elements like farming and relationships. And to the disciples He opened their eyes to the mysteries of the Kingdom. Each time He sought the “ah ha” moment for which every teacher longs. The moment when the light comes on inside.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
I once was leading a small Bible study and the topic of “evangelizing” came up. It usually makes people squirm. One participant said she just didn’t feel ready to talk to people about God. And yet she’s been a Christian for about 50 years. What if we erase the word “evangelize” and replace it with sharing or teaching? What if instead of picturing ourselves standing before the Pharisees or Sanhedrin we picture ourselves sitting with our children or a friend? And sharing how Jesus has brought us peace and joy in times of trouble. That should at a minimum be expected of us.
My friend I mentioned at the beginning has come a long way. About a year ago, her adult son started asking her questions about God and Jesus and she felt unprepared. She had prayed for many years that her son would turn to Jesus. And now he was asking her questions. So, what did she do? She sought instruction, she prayed, and she was bold. And at her next opportunity to teach a family member, her husband, she was ready.
“Our lives should reflect the love and goodness of Jesus but we should pray that the Lord would give us opportunities to share the gospel with people who come into our lives.”
Pastor Adriel Sanchez, Core Christianity Podcast
Jesus didn’t want to keep His life offering amongst a small group of people. So yes, He lived a good and faithful life but He didn’t stop there. He reached out to people. He shared through teaching the most important lessons we will ever learn. He prepared for this task. And when His time came, He was ready.
The question is, are you ready?
Your role as teacher may be needed right now. For your children, your spouse, your neighbor, a struggling believer or searching non-believer.
Have you worked on the other steps so you can teach, like Peter says, with gentleness and respect? Have you put yourself in positions to be a humble servant and therefore interacting with non-believers in positive ways? Are you studying His Word so when confronted with half-truths or outright lies about God you can stand firm like a warrior? God has already tested you in all these areas. He’s tested me. What is your report card? In what areas do you need to ask for God’s help today so you can be ready?
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” John 16:12
Having successfully weaved my way through 13 years of public school and 5 years of college I look back and can see so many of my teachers’ faces. Each face that passes through my memory comes with its own set of feelings. The teacher who bored me to death in basic high school science, the chemistry teacher who explained chemical components through ballet moves, the college humanities professor who seemed to feel teaching was beneath him, and the hard-nosed journalism professor who demanded perfection and awarded it handsomely.
We all are the recipients of teaching in some form or another – life skills, religious, formal education, even hobbies. It’s interesting then, that Jesus chose this method, being a teacher, as His style to bring the message of salvation to us all.
“But having considered the whole situation (how to best approach the world), he said, “No, I will not do what others have done, I will choose the slow and toilsome way; I will not cut the knot, I will untie it; I will not push the world, I will draw it; I will not subdue the world by military methods, I will heal it by the sympathy of human hearts.”
Charles Jefferson, The Character of Jesus
On paper, His methodology was sure to fail. By the end of His time on Earth Jesus could count about 120 disciples. You would expect more from the Son of God. This small cadre of devout followers was to spread the message throughout the entire world? And yet, here we sit thousands of years later reading His Words. Soaking up His teachings. Setting our lives out each day on the path He has instructed. No one in the history of the world has had as much influence from so little time teaching.
But Jesus was no ordinary teacher of course. He perfected the art of being a patient teacher. He didn’t start out putting fliers around town calling the masses to a class on How to Avoid Adultery or the 10 Steps to Servanthood. He quietly began calling individuals. And sitting with them in one-on-one mentoring. He took our first three Jesus Mindset traits – loving friend, humble servant, confident warrior – and used them to tailor His words to each person’s needs.
One of my favorite teaching moments comes when the respected Pharisee, Nicodemus, came to Jesus secretly one night to learn more about Jesus’ message.
““How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:1-8
He then goes on to slightly rebuke this great “teacher” of Israel for not understanding the true message of God’s will. And a rebuke is fair, given the man’s standing and role. Yet when Jesus talked to everyday people, He tailored His teaching to their station. And through watching His behavior with others or through the use of everyday circumstances He gave time for the “ah ha” moments to sink in.
All successful and great pastors are, of course, of some teaching variety. If you read or follow on social media or podcasting various pastors you will find, however ones who want you to understand the many almost hidden aspects of the Bible. It is the “teaching” pastor that emphasizes the context of a passage and the connections to other places within the Bible. They craftily lay out the message they wish to get across and slowly bring you through each point, each verse, each Bible story so you see the big picture of God at work. For when we know of the 1,000s of connections from story to book, prophecies that came true, and the culture behind certain actions we get a greater understanding of God’s character. They know their audiences – the novice Christian, the well-versed, the Bible educated and even the seeking.
This is not to say that other pastoral styles are any less in quality or success. There are pastors who have more of a counseling nature. Or, like in our previous Jesus Mindset post on being a loving friend, ones like Max Lucado who remind us through various Bible lessons of God’s love.
And for the “regular” Christian we too will approach the world with slightly different styles when spreading the Good News of the gospel. The underlining Jesus trait however, is the desire to impart the majesty and glory of God and the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ.
This week I’ll highlight a young pastor who is teacher through and through. You’ll notice I said young. A teacher of the Word comes in many forms – not just old wizened ones! And we’ll also delve into Bible studies and groups, leading them and what you should be getting out of them.
We are all teachers in one form or another. Whether we teach through example or through words, there are always people watching and listening. We may not all reach the point where we feel comfortable teaching others the Word but with patience and diligence, we can all get to a place where we can be knowledgeable enough to contribute to others’ learning. It is our responsibility as members of Jesus’ cadre of students – grown from the 120 to millions – to continue His slow and steady work of bringing more people to the wisdom and love of God.
10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” Matthew 13:10-12
“At this they tried to seize Him but no one laid a hand on Him because His hour had not come.” John 7:30
“Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” Exodus 6:22
My church is in the midst of a study of Genesis and a few weeks ago we landed on the story of Noah. Christians and non-Christians alike are very familiar with this famous Bible story. How often do we see cute children’s books, artwork, decorations that take up this story showing all the cute animals piled into a tiny boat riding out the storm with a rainbow overhead?
During the sermon I was struck with the thought that this is not a sweet story at all. It’s a story of total depravity on the part of man versus the faith of one warrior for God. The face-off between a world bathing in the flesh and one, lonely soul swimming against that tide. The ark was a last chance lifeboat built by a soldier, an obedient servant who loved God.
For anyone who has ever seen the movie, “Evan Almighty” – a theatrical depiction of a modern-day Noah – the result of being a warrior for God, even a reluctant one, is shown in all its technicolor truth. Friends, family, neighbors, the media, and even the government may come against us.
“When you give your best to the Lord, it’s not unusual to be criticized by people who ought to encourage you. Moses was criticized by his brother and sister. David by his wife, and Mary of Bethany by an apostle.”
Warren Wiersbe commentary on 1 Samuel
During the extreme lockdowns of 2020 there were many “warriors for God” who found themselves on the receiving end of much criticism from Christians and non-Christians. Pastors and even Catholic bishops who insisted that churches needed to remain open and serve their flocks were impugned by church authority, the media, non-believers, and parishioners. In some states the government brought the full force of the law down with arrests and extravagant fines.
Now, some might still say churches should’ve been closed to protect people from illness. But these flock protectors felt called by God to bring healing to people’s hearts and minds and souls. Church attendance has never been a requirement for anyone. And they believed those who needed church should be allowed to partake in its offerings. Parallel arguments about keeping people from getting sick included the admonishment to obey governments based on Romans 13. And yet the clarification of hierarchy of obedience is spelled out in Acts 5.
"The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” Acts 5:27-29
About a few months into the lockdowns, I started seeing a confident warrior for God pop up in my Instagram feed. This young man had originally run for a state office in Northern California. He ran as a conservative Christian in a heavily liberal area and lost. I had donated a small amount to his campaign about a year before and had apparently “followed” his account. He is a musician by trade, a devout family man, and a fervent follower of Christ.
And when our churches shut down in California, he stepped out onto a stage bigger than he’d ever imagined. Compelled by visions given by God, he would show up at a beach with a local pastor, his family, a few other musicians and put on a revival meeting of sorts. As word grew, each time he held a “Christ concert” more people would find their way to listen. More people asked to be baptized in the cold ocean waters. And more people started harassing them. And fines by local authorities started piling up. And he wouldn’t stop.
You may have heard by now about Sean Feucht and his merry band of “Let Us Worship” team. They’ve since led large worship services all over the United States, including Washington DC. Sean may have lost a politician’s job but he gained so much more. Throughout the pandemic their small pastoral team helped lead thousands to give up fleshly addictions and find Christ. All the while, others would show up at these events screaming demonic words, throwing blood on them and even accosting his pregnant wife.
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Matthew 4:10
I can only imagine how many times Sean and his family have reminded themselves of this statement by Jesus to Satan. I’ve watched the videos of Sean’s meetings in Portland and Seattle. It’s some of the most disturbing things I have seen in terms of demonic possession of people. You may raise an eyebrow at that statement but truly, I have never seen anything like it.
Sean is just a man. A man with a family to protect. A man who is trying to make his way through this world just like you and me. He didn’t start serving the Lord suddenly during the pandemic, he has a quiet history of spreading God’s Word including countries outside the United States. He has led missionary trips to Afghanistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. He is obviously a man used to trusting God. And isn’t it fascinating to know that he went to those dangerous places to share the gospel seemingly as preparation to lead thousands into worship in a “safe” place like the United States?
We won’t all be warriors for God just like Sean but every person who chose to attend one of his meetings during these difficult times was a warrior in their own way. Today, every person who hears God’s urging to step out in faith and stand for Him takes up the armor and can call themselves a warrior. We have a lot of good soldiers who have paved the way for us, to drawn on how they trusted God to protect them until their time was done.
As God always does, He has placed quite a lot of podcasts, sermons, and Bible studies in front of me in the last few weeks on this very character trait of Jesus. I wanted to share with you a prayer from Sparkling Gems from the Greek to help spur our warrior character on.
Lord, help me start seeing myself as a might soldier in the army of God. You have provided every weapon I need to prevail against the enemies that come against my life, my family, my business, my friends and my church. I want to stand tall and firm against the wicked plots the devil tries to exert against people’s lives whom I love and need. Holy Spirit, give me the power and strength I need to successfully resist every attack and to drive all dark forces from my life and from the lives of those close to me! I pray this in Jesus’ name!
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Matthew 3:21
During my senior year of high school, I decided to try and live out my dream of becoming an astronaut. I met with an Air Force recruiter and was excited to take off on this new adventure. And then I told my parents. It was my father that said to me, “You are a lot like your mom and your mom couldn’t handle the military. She dropped out after about a week. You two don’t like to be told what to do. So, it’d be best to drop this idea.”
From the outside I exuded confidence. But on the inside, I was terrified about what people thought about me. I always obeyed my parents out of fear of the repercussions. And so, I gave up my dream. I assumed everything my father said was correct.
Imagine if Jesus had so little courage.
His own family thought him a little wacky. I mean if you announced to your family that you were the Messiah…. But unlike me, He knew where His identity resided – in God.
So often when we think about courage and courageous people we think of military and political warriors. And while we can be eternally grateful for people that go off to war to fight for our freedoms and people like Martin Luther King who make big waves in Washington DC, if we stop there we might be inclined to not step up to the plate when it’s our turn.
Jesus wasn’t a military warrior. He didn’t fight to change laws. He didn’t work hard to get elected to lead a nation. But what He did do, from the first day He declared Himself the Messiah, was choose to lay aside any and all standing with man to serve God. He knew from that day it would be soon to die on the cross.
“His was the courage of the mind, the heroism of the heart. It was a sober and reasoned thing. He deliberately counted the cost and paid it.”
Charles Jefferson, The Character of Jesus
In other words, He knew without a doubt who He served and who had His back. Every single decision He made, the words He spoke were for the glory of God. He knew people would hate him. He knew people would misunderstand Him. And He knew He still needed to speak.
In my BSGs study on Revelation we recently looked at chapter 11 in which two witnesses are assigned by God to give some final admonishment to the people. A final plea to turn to God. Throughout their 3 years on earth the world attempts to destroy these witnesses through any means possible – they are true “warriors for God.” And until God said it was time to go, they were protected. We were asked that week who are powerful witnesses in our present generation? Who would you name?
Although I don’t know him personally, I do believe one such powerful witness is of the famed Duck Dynasty clan, Phil Robertson. This rough looking, old man has been much maligned by our media and culture. But to hear his salvation story can only show God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness.
You see, Mr. Robertson was a child of the 60s. When he went off to college in 1964, he had a wife and child at home. The message proliferated at college was of the “sex, drugs and rock n roll” variety. No rules, no obligations. He took to that message like a duck to water and was frequently drunk, doing drugs, and cheating on his wife. When he graduated and got a job this lifestyle continued. He also felt his family was holding him down. And so, they left him one day. For two weeks he partied until the cows came home. Then he realized he was miserable. He had not only lost his job as a teacher but also a bar he owned.
He begged his wife to take him back. She would, if he cleaned up his act. God softened his heart and Mr. Robertson sought out a Christian mentor. With the strength of God behind him he pulled himself from his old life and began a one reborn.
“And so, I devoted my waking hours to studying the Bible. I pored over the onion-skin pages and began to mark them up. I consumed the Word of God as if it were food and drank deeply from its waters of wisdom.”
Phil Robertson, The Theft of America’s Soul
When I read this, what came to mind were the Navy SEALs that train not far from my house. To be a SEAL, an elite member of the US military, you need to eat, sleep and devote every waking minute to training. Their goal is to be the best soldier possible. But what about us average Christians? What is our goal? Will we be like Phil Robertson and wholly commit ourselves to the cause of God?
Fast forward in Mr. Robinson’s life and we land in the middle of the show Duck Dynasty. It was a reality show following around his family – a family of backwoods hunters and fishermen from Louisiana who own a duck call business. During this show the family became warriors for God. While their producers would almost demand they do or say things outside the morals of their faith, they would stand strong. They were willing to lose all the money offered them. They prayed and spoke of their faith throughout the show. And they garnered millions of fans. And enemies. They were called backward, stupid, far-right crazy, mostly because of their commitment to their faith.
“It’s been 43 years since my encounter with God and I can tell you, I’m not running from anyone or anything; I’m not enslaved to the ‘isms’ of the world.”
Phil Robertson, The Theft of America’s Soul
We can make excuses for why we won’t stand our ground and stand up for God – I might lose my job, I might lose my friends/family, I might be called any manner of names. Doesn’t that all come from a fear of man rather than a trust in God? Phil Robertson wasn’t famous and then got a TV show. He was a man making duck calls who became famous for being funny, principled, a family leader, and God-fearing.
Many of us probably aren’t ready to be a full time warrior for God. We must practice the first two steps so they become a natural part of us. When we can naturally say a prayer for those who would hurt us, when we anticipate and readily step forward to fill a need that Jesus places before us, only then are we certainly more prepared for this step.
I follow a Christian pastor on Instagram. He has a series of YouTube talks where he delves into our culture’s most pressing topics. After reading how he lovingly and with wisdom responds to some of the vitriol he receives I realized, I’m not quite ready yet for the bigger battlefield. I need to chew and gnaw some more on God’s Word. God has been testing me along the way with mini quizzes. Small opportunities to stand for Him. My training to be a Warrior for God continues.
“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.
“But we have the mind of Christ” 1 Corinthians 2:16
We so often hear the phrase, “To be like Jesus” but what does it really mean in our everyday lives? My BSGs were in a deep conversation on Revelation about whether or not we believe in the rapture. And, more importantly how does either position effect our lives. History and our current world are full of scholars who know a lot more about the details of the Bible than probably you or I will ever grasp. But there’s a difference, which is a deep and wide crevasse, between knowing and living out the qualities of Jesus.
“We, therefore, desire to copy his character and put our feet into his footprints. Be it ours to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes. What says 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 you 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.”
Imitation is not knowing of something but molding ourselves into an almost exact copy. I say “almost” because of course, Jesus is God and we are not. We walk the Jesus drawn path toward His perfection but we are always in a human mode my friend Betsy calls, “imperfect progress.”
Our modern view of Jesus seems to be stuck in one quality, however. And truth be told, if we could regularly live out that one quality it’d be a great step forward on our path. That quality? A loving friend.
We hear the word “love” over and over in our churches, in our faith songs, on our Christian social media. But what about Jesus’ other characteristics? How many of us are willing to take on being Jesus the Warrior, Jesus the Servant, or Jesus the Counselor? If we have hesitated is it because we know that once we decide to move along in our sanctification journey, we will encounter more and more resistance from the outside world?
Are we prepared, like the disciple Stephen, to be a martyr for God? Are we prepared to state unequivocally that we must obey God rather than human beings? (Acts 5:29)
And so, we return to the original question, what does believing in the words of the Bible and Jesus mean to our lives? It means we are to be in constant preparation for His coming. It means we love our neighbors, we share the gospel whenever possible, we humble ourselves, we seek reconciliation and not revenge, we encourage and lift up our fellow travelers, we carry the message of Jesus throughout every generation, and we stand up for the truth of His Holy Word. It means we make a perspective shift on every single aspect of our lives because we believe that one day soon our “age of grace” will turn to the “age of judgment.”
Jesus expects us to be working on that preparation. It’s why He came – not to just leave us knowing God loves us – but living like God knows and loves us. He came to be our example for gathering up residents of the future Kingdom come.
Join me in this journey of looking at the different qualities of Jesus as we delve into His mindset so that we can become His imitators. We will be challenged to accept all of His qualities, not just the ones with which we feel most comfortable. Along the way we will meet some people whose lives are examples of those characteristics.
Jesus was a great disrupter – possibly the greatest of all time. Let’s let Him disrupt and reshape us.
As we begin this series take a moment to pray this confession found in Rick Renner’s, Sparkling Gems from the Greek:
“I boldly declare that I am a new creature in Christ. Old things have passed away and all things have become new! I am not who I used to be anymore. I don’t think like that old person; I don’t see like that old person; I don’t talk like that old person; and I don’t behave like that old person anymore. Now I am in Jesus Christ, and I think like Him, see like Him, talk like Him, and behave like Him. I have come alive with vibrant life because of His resurrection power that works in me! I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!”