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Open Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 63

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

"Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to our holy name and glory in your praise."  Psalms 106:47

Holy God, the heavens are your battleground!  You fight against the cosmic forces over darkness.  Your power and majesty are at work all around me through the unseen world of the spirit.  And through my earthly worship I take up your sword each day to withstand any evil, in your Son’s name.  Amen

One of my favorite lines by Jesus in the Bible is, “Get behind me, Satan!” as He rebukes Peter for having the wrong mindset about Jesus’ work. His exact words are repeated in Matthew 16 and Mark 8.  Jesus also uses similar words in speaking directly to Satan in Matthew 4:10 with “Be gone, Satan!”  I jokingly use these phrases when donuts appear in front me.  Recently, however I heard teaching about spiritual warfare and I realized I had the completely wrong approach to it.

"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him." Psalm 28:7

We so often talk about rebuking Satan or fighting our “Goliaths” when in reality we shouldn’t be speaking to the devil at all.  It’s dangerous work that I would venture to say most of us are not prepared to withstand.  Even the archangel Michael used God as his shield rather than his own words.  Instead, we should be relying on the incredible power of the Trinity to fight our spiritual battles.  

Along this same line I once told a friend we shouldn’t be asking, “What would Jesus do?” but rather what would Jesus want me to do? We are not fully man and fully God.  We are just man.  And we need to acknowledge that alone we only have the power given to us through the Spirit.  God, through His great love for us, will take care of the rest.  Isn’t that beautiful and amazing?

So what do we do?  We enact the famous lines from Ephesians 6 and put on our armor of God.  We stand firm in God’s truth.  We fit our feet with Jesus’ gospel of peace.  We arm ourselves with the shield of faith and the sword of God’s Word.  In other words, we allow God to fight His glorious fight with the devil while we do the seemingly mundane acts of worship, studying our Bibles, praying for intercession, baptizing in His name, and spreading His Word of peace and salvation.

Friends, we need to start saying, “Get behind my Lord and Savior Jesus, Satan.”  He is the blinding shield, the kryptonite against evil.  He is the most powerful weapon we could ever imagine to ward off the arrows lobbed at us.  Each time we open our Bibles, go to church, show love to a stranger, speak the Gospel truth into a friend we place that shield firmly in place for God to enter into battle.

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Save The Date

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 1 Corinthians 15:12-13

Among your friends and family there’s probably an atheist, fence-sitter, and a fog dweller.  While you might understand the first of these two, let me explain the “fog dweller.”  Someone who goes about their life not seeking answers to the big questions, not thinking about creation or death, not pondering if there is a heaven. Just getting by day to day.  And if you don’t have some of each of these in your life, you might want to take up Jesus’ admonition to “go and make disciples of all nations.”  Because when you do your own faith will be tested, honed and hewed.

Each of the letters in the Bible by the disciples gives us examples of believers struggling to define their faith and the true meaning of the gospel.  The planted churches all were in places hostile to the message of Jesus – whether by Jews or pagans.  So, developing believers that understood and stood firm in their faith was crucial. 

14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 1 Cor 15:14

Ouch!  That’s a pretty bold statement.  And Paul had the experience to back it up.  He himself saw the risen Jesus!  And while the members of the church in Corinth believed in Jesus’ resurrection, they were surrounded by a culture that almost celebrated death.  The Greeks of that time saw the body as a prison and welcomed death to escape from it.  They laughed at the idea of resurrection. And friends, there’s people around you that believe the same thing today.

While sitting bedside of my quickly waning mother-in-law who was on hospice, I had to ask myself, do I really, I mean really believe in, not only Jesus’ resurrection, but the resurrection of the entire body of the church?  Do I believe that Bev will be resurrected one day?  And therefore, I should only mourn this time “in between” and find joy in the “not yet.”

A friend of mine shared with me once how her son came to her with horrible news about an acquaintance of his.  Their newborn baby had unexpectantly died.  Her son, of course, was distraught for his friend.  And although the death of any loved one can bring so much pain, the death of a child seems doubly so.  My friend contemplated how hard it must be to experience so much pain without a belief in God.  Her son, a non-believer, was apoplectic.  “How could a god do such a thing?”  The great “why?”  He doesn’t believe the promised hope for the future and therefore doesn’t enjoy any of the comfort God can provide.

19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Cor 15:19-20

You see friends, if I don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead then what’s really the point of ever quoting in John 3:16?   True belief in a resurrection redemption is what brings true comfort.  And times of great pain, especially death, are the ultimate opportunities to show the world we live as saved and redeemed people trusting wholly in the stated promises by Jesus.

I realized while in my Cherith I was a fog dweller when it came to the resurrection.  I hadn’t thought a lot about it, mostly because I haven’t had many people around me pass away.  But as God has fed me the solid food of His Holy Word, I’m coming to understand the whole picture.  The beauty of living in the “between” of Jesus has come and is reigning and the “not yet” of the promised resurrection and the new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1). And while Elijah didn’t have the comfort of knowing the risen Christ he surely contemplated his death during those two years in the ravine. Thank God we have more than just the Old Testament prophets to lean on! We have the truth, the proven, historical truth of a risen King!

I recently was listening to an episode of The White Horse Inn podcast — which for those of you interested in getting some solid Christian food I highly recommend it.  They’ve been discussing what “the good life” means to Christians.  They describe us as living in the “here and not yet.”  I love the analogy by one pastor as like the marriage steps.  We once were single, now we are engaged but not yet married.  We shouldn’t act like single people because we have a commitment to Christ.  But the marriage isn’t yet consummated and we need to stay in the preparation stage until the date arrives.  So, we work with our Holy Spirit wedding planner in inviting friends and family to this holy event.  The guest list is expansive but yes, limited to those willing to come. We live for our betrothed, His thoughts and ways becoming our ways. And we dream of the day we are sure will arrive.  When all those friends are gathered up and Jesus is waiting at the altar for us.

As the hours wound down to when I knew my last goodbyes to Bev were near, I found I could look at her with sadness and with joy in knowing not only was she going to a place far more glorious than here, but that one day we would be reunited at a party for all the ages.  A party that is to come.  A party that I want you all to be at – so will you RSVP today and yes, you can bring a friend or two.

Do you truly believe in the resurrection of the dead?

Are you living a life preparing for the New Eden, living a life of a bride in waiting – excitedly planning, preparing, inviting? 

Speaking of heaven — please enjoy this beautiful poem my daughter, Madison Dooley, wrote and spoke at her grandmother’s funeral.

To See What She Sees

For Grandma Bev

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees

To see you face-to-face, shining with glory.
To grab your hand and feel it wrapped around mine. 

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To be clothed in robes of white. To be completely whole, totally fulfilled. To be without sorrow, want, or pain.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To feel roads of gold under my feet and see angels above.
To look ahead and see you seated on the throne, pointing at the open seat next to you, for me. 

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the mountaintops glistening with glory. To hear the angels and the saints singing Your praise, oh what a melodious sound it must be.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the faces of those who have gone before me, shining with glory.
To see the colors in all their vibrancy, the flowers in all their brilliance.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the brokenhearted, the disabled, the outcasted – healed and totally restored. To feel anew again.
To dance freely to the songs of heaven.
To know the true meaning of Paradise.
To look upon life on Earth and finally see the masterpiece you are sewing.
To feel your presence wrapped around me like a tight hug.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the river of life flowing from your throne, glowing like a crystal.
To see the tree of life towering over me, boasting its healing fruits.

To have no need for the sun, or even a lamp, because darkness is no more, there is no night.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the mysteries of heaven unfolded before my eyes.
To look down and see cosmos swirling beneath my feet, looking small compared to You. To experience the love of the Father for all that it was, it is, and is to come.

To be without sin.
To be exactly who You created me to be.

Oh, to see what she sees.

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From Why? to What?

Lessons from Cherith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the Lord teaching or asking you right now?  

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Two Witnesses

Last year my BSGs did a study on Revelation.  It was a challenging deep dive into one of the most mysterious books of the Bible.  Any Hollywood script writer or New York Times bestselling author would probably consider the story told in Revelation to be a pinnacle piece.  It weaves its way through the story of the complacency of the times and the coming storm of evil.  It has heroes and martyrs.  It has all the special effects of world-wide destruction to win an Oscar.  And it has a savior.  And a beautiful new beginning for the world.  

There’s been plenty of apocalyptic movies and stories told in the last 100 years or so that draw upon the themes found in Revelation.  Man and satan lead the world in its own inevitable destruction and a savior rises from the ashes.  But what is unique about the Bible’s Revelation is it’s all true.  

From Genesis to Jude, new beginnings abound.  But in this one final book of God’s Word, we see 1,000s, millions even.  Martyrs rising from the ashes to take their place near the throne. The 1444,000 appointed Jews who are to be God’s instruments in spreading the word of the final judgement.  And of course, the rapture of believers, taken up before the final judgements are passed on this world.  

But there are two people that have a special place in this book.  Two ordinary people to whom God will speak and send out to the world as prophets or truth tellers.  Smack in the middle of the 22 chapters of Revelation you’ll find two people whose new beginnings will send shockwaves around the world.

And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” Revelation 11:3

The two witnesses’ identities have long been up for debate.  Suffice it to say if they were extraordinary people I believe the text would say so.  But they aren’t even given names, just like Naaman’s little slave girl.  And unlike Jonah, they appear to walk boldly into a hostile world without pause.  Maybe God has a pre-game “pow wow” with them where He explains the plan.  More likely, God tells the witnesses, after having been prepared through their own study and trials, to go to Jeruselem at an appointed time and start spreading the Word that judgement time had come.  But also unlike Jonah, they will tell how to avoid a terrible death.

“Now when they have finished their testimony,…” Revelation 11:7

Notice the two witnesses won’t go about town crying out, “The end is near!”  They instead speak of God’s rescue from sin — their testimony.  God will protect them for 1,260 days while they tell the world of the Good News of the Gospel and yes, about the impending judgement.  And when God’s time for them is up, they will be killed by evil forces.  It appears their new beginning would end there.  But their death is just the middle of their story.  For all the world to see after three and a half days lying dead in the street of Jeruselem, God will cause them to rise to their feet, sparking terror in the hearts of those who celebrated their deaths.  Their new beginning, a reunification with the Lord, sets the world on fire.

At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. Revelation 11:13

Thousands, most likely, will give glory to God.  Because of two unnamed people speaking the truth about God’s love, promises, rescue and judgement.  Two people that are like you and me – flesh and blood.  Two people, who like Noah, heard God’s voice and obeyed courageously.  Who like Moses sought out an intimate relationship with God.  Who like Queen Esther will stare into uncertainty and know God will not fail her.  Two regular humans like Onesimus who studied at the feet of a teacher and then asked for forgiveness from both his spiritual and earthly masters.  Like Joseph who stood alone against judgement by his community knowing God was with him.  And like the 3,000 who put discipleship at the forefront of their faith.

In my study of Revelation, Warren Wiersbe points out the Gospel of John shows us how and why to believe.  The epistles give us confirmation of who God is and what He expects of us.  And Revelation is all about being ready.  Ready for what?  Ready for your new beginning.  To be a witness for all of God’s glorious ways.  

Friend, we don’t know when the events outlined in Revelation 11 will happen.  But we need to be ready, they are nearer today than they were yesterday.  You might be one of the witnesses called to be part of this amazing New Beginning for the world.  Your name may never be known by man but God has a plan for you.  A plan for your new beginning.

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The First 3,000

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2:41

My husband and I are back in the process of a church search.  For some of you, your church has been your lifelong home.  For others, you know all too well the difficult path of church searching.  We spent the last seven months trying out a church and realized it just wasn’t the right fit.  Great preaching and friendly people but there were a number of pieces missing that we didn’t see being resolved any time soon.  We left on friendly terms as we began our journey to the right home.

And this search led me to think about the first church.  That fateful day of Pentecost when 3,000 souls turned their hearts and lives over to Jesus when the Holy Spirit was delivered to Earth.  There could’ve been more.  Others stood in the temple that day and heard the sound of the violent wind.  They heard the Jews from every nation speaking to each other in their native tongues.  But they hardened their hearts.

Some however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”  Acts 2:13

The 3,000, selected by God, were urged by Peter to recognize what had just occurred.  He quoted the prophet Joel in explaining how the Holy Spirit would be poured out just as it had happened.  He reminded the Jews of David’s words when he spoke of God’s promise to fill them with the joy of God’s presence.  When Peter had his brief history lesson the 3,000 asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39

He answered with the message of the Gospel.  And he went on to plead with them to abandon their corrupt generation.  Imagine.  3,000 people all at once starting on their new beginning.  It must’ve been glorious!

But their baptism wasn’t the end of their stories.  What came next was an intense learning period.  They “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship.” (v2:42).  They ate together, worshipped together, studied together, prayed without ceasing, worked together to help those in need.  And they multiplied.

You don’t get the impression from reading about the first church in Acts that a bunch of individuals were saved then when to their own homes and began an intensive self-realization study.  Or went about their work day as though nothing spectacular just happened.  No, their common goal was to spread the news of Jesus Christ dying for our sins.  Remember, they spoke in many different languages.  So, they were preparing to go back home to make even more believers.  Preparing to go do difficult work.  That first church was all about discipleship.  I wonder how many of our churches can truly say the same?  I haven’t been a member of one yet.  But it’s what I’m looking for now.

The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions and the nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we must become.

Henry Martyn

The act of baptism, confessing our faith in Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit, is typically a public affair.  It’s the starting point of our new beginning.  But after that one time event we call on the power and strength of the Holy Spirit to fill us continually for one mission – to be in service to God.  Those first 3,000 believers would need the Holy Spirit to continue on their mission.  They would most likely encounter adversity, opposition, violence, and yes, success.  Beautiful success.  

We should all celebrate the day of Pentecost, which comes on the 7th Sunday or 50 days after Easter Sunday (June 5, 2022). For the Old Testament Jews, it represented the giving of the Law to Moses.  But the new covenant, for all the world to partake, saw Jesus enter our lives.  And after Jesus’ foretold crucifixion He gave us the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  On that day 1000s of years ago, yet another promise was fulfilled by God.  His Spirit came to live in all of us, permanently.  And we were commissioned into His service.

As my faith and biblical knowledge has matured, my list of “must haves” for my new church has been honed.  I want a church that is biblically strong, always pointing me to Jesus, a joy-filled body of believers, and one whose primary goal is to create well-versed and confident disciples.  I hope you will pray for us in finding such a place.  

The modern church itself needs a new beginning.  As individuals, may we be spurred to greater expectations of our Christian communities.  And may we seek out ways to draw each other together in unity as our forefathers in Christ did on that day of Pentecost.

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Sojourners & Exiles

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:4

We Christians are sojourners and exiles.  This is not where our ultimate allegiance lies!  

David Van Drunen, Politics After Christendom

We certainly aren’t lacking in opportunities to engage in political discourse these days.  From mask wearing to vaccine mandates and budget crises to abortion laws the world around us is in quite a turmoil.  But when, as Christians, are we to engage?  When are we called to join the fight and stand resolutely in our faith?  These next two posts will look at our life as Christians and the political realm.  First, starting with what role the church, and therefore Christians, play in our common citizenry.

But let’s back up a bit.  For those of us living in the United States we’ve seen a serious deterioration from our Christian-held values over the last 70 years or so.  Not long ago almost all businesses were closed on Sundays and you certainly couldn’t by alcohol on that day.  Now, a business that makes the decision to not be open on Sundays because of their beliefs is vilified.  I’ve heard different arguments about whether or not the United States was a special project by God.  Whatever stance you may take on that we can be certain that every single nation was formed by God.  Every single head of state has been placed in their position by God and therefore is subject to His expectations and final judgment.

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17

That the United States was founded with God and the idea of His sovereignty at the forefront should not, however, be in dispute.  Besides the federal founding documents, all state constitutions, except one, reference God and His oversight of said government in the beginning of those documents.  It was then left to the citizens, as it has throughout the history of the world, to maintain that stance.

When you get deep in to C.S. Lewis’ great Christian apologetic book, Mere Christianity, you’ll find the concept of a Moral Law.  Through every empire, every phase of human existence we turn to this moral law for guidance.  We know what basically is wrong (ie: killing another human for gain or pleasure) and what is right (ie: helping a widow or orphaned child).  And, as Mr. Lewis argues, no matter your faith or lack thereof those concepts have been placed in our hearts and minds by someone.

But as a society drifts further away from a common faith, as in the case of much of Europe, North America and South America, we create new ways of working around what we know to be right and wrong.  We bend the moral law to fit the desires of our flesh and we seek to be accepted by the world.

You cannot make men good by (man-made)law; and without good men you cannot have a good society.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

And so, as Christians we watch as one of the last bastions of religious freedom, the United States, which also built upon that with many other freedoms, begin to crumble.  And we can so easily misplace our fears on our elected officials and the laws they create. 

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. 2 Timothy 1:8-9

At the time Paul wrote this letter to Timothy the Romans ruled with an iron fist.  Anyone that did not submit to their laws was imprisoned, tortured, killed, or pushed out of everyday society.  And Paul reminds not just Timothy but all of us who read this message that we have one commander to whom we must be most concerned – God and His son Jesus Christ.  We are set apart to be holy and live a holy life.

We are reminded that our role in this world is a sort of dual citizenship – to the country we call home and the home that waits for us.  It’s a balancing act that the disciples knew all too well.  We are to obey the laws of our government as good guests yet remembering we have limits based on God’s expectation of our adherence to His moral laws and knowledge of the final judgment.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles,to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:11-12

It may come as a surprise to many Christians in the United States but it isn’t our role to create a “just society.”  It is our role to seek justice for those in need in our communities but we can’t right every wrong.  We need to be comforted that God is in charge and we can, as individuals and corporately do His good works.  But Jesus, time and again, never sought regime change.  He sought heart change. He sought obedience by His followers to God’s expectations.

Being a sojourner did not require isolation from surrounding societies.  Abraham seems to have understood the need to exercise prudential judgment about how, when and with whom to share common activity.  One approach did not fit all cases.

David Van Drunen, Politics After Christendom

So does this mean we shouldn’t try and affect our government’s choices or laws?  No, it’s just remembering who we serve first, resolutely.  It’s remembering the difference between violently protesting a wrong and speaking out within the framework of how God wants us to act.  It’s figuring out where God and the church stands on an issue (ie: abortion) and where something may not be biblical at all (ie: the federal budget).  It’s making sure our heart and mind set firmly with God, not the world.

Believe me, I’ve struggled with these issues a lot.   I’ve stood on street corners waving my country’s flag and promoting a candidate.  I’ve stood up to politicians who have demonstrated a lack of moral character. Neither of which are wrong for a Christian.  I vote in every single election. Which is, in a way, expected as a Christian. But as my faith progresses, I’m taking a new view of my place on this big blue planet.  When I firmly set King Jesus as my authority, as my hope, as the Lord and Savior not just of my world but of every single human that has existed and will exist, my perspectives change.

As Christians we cannot continue to say we trust God, we know God will judge in the final conflict and still scream in outrage at people who disagree with our political opinion.  That message speaks loud and clear to non-believers that we don’t trust God.  That we haven’t set Him as our authority. That we have no concern for eternity. 

It’s time, fellow sojourners, to pull out our passports and remind ourselves of our future travel plans.  To stand resolutely with the one King that will judge everyone for all ungodly acts.  He has not appointed us commissioners of that judgment.  Yet, we are also not called to be passive in our worldly citizenry — sitting back and watching the world fall around us. He has appointed us as soldiers to exhort others to follow Him before it is too late.

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Are You Ready?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Adriel Sanchez, Core Christianity Podcast

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

The question is, are you ready?  

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

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


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Out of Our Minds

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.

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A Teaspoon of Salt

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.

Joyce Meyer

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.