“Let all who are simple come to my house!”
To those who have no sense she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet;
food eaten in secret is delicious!”
18 But little do they know that the dead are there,
that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead. Proverbs 9:16-19
There’s a great debate raging in the United States today about achieving equity through stealing. Where I live, a law was changed so that if you steal less than $950 and are caught you might receive a small fine. As a result of this change, reported (much goes unreported) larceny as has gone up 3% in just one year. Property crime has increased in 24 counties throughout the state. Stores are closing in areas where shoplifting has skyrocketed. As one woman put it in an interview, “If I need diapers or formula who is going to get it for me? They aren’t out there arresting people for shoplifting and everyone knows it.”
Now this post isn’t a spotlight on political missteps or any particular point of view. But there are consequences when we choose to live and make decisions outside God’s plan for us. And one of the oft repeated admonitions in Proverbs is about laziness or taking the easy way out. Some argue that being against allowing people to steal for what they call “basic needs” is racist or discriminatory. But what really is at work in this particular issue is people who are not in need, such as politicians and activists, taking the easy path. “Well, if we just let people steal without punishment that solves the problem, right?”
There are free needle exchange programs, safe drug taking areas, laws removed to allow for sleeping on the streets, money thrown at problems, etc. None of these choices make us step back and take the harder, more intricate path. Some would say they exacerbate the very issues we are trying to resolve. As Christians we should be convicted to be more thoughtful and loving and wise. To have the desire to help God’s fellow sheep be lifted from sin and despair.
My favorite reality contest show was Biggest Loser. Not only was the goal to lose weight but the show counseled participants on the root of their weight issues. Many discovered their pain from abuse or loss triggered their unhealthy eating habits. Without resolution of that pain, they were sure to continue on their destructive, “easier” paths.
Friend, if in your own life you seek bandaids rather than true healing, if you try to avoid doing things the right way because it just seems easier, God is calling you to wisdom. Stolen water is sweet but the dead live in that realm. He is calling you to life and true joy.
Father, at times it seems simpler and less painful to take the easy path. Please guide me to making better choices that effect both my own life and the world around me. Amen
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34
How many of you need to not just hear these words but soak them deep into your heart right now? For the last few years, we humans have been through a lot of turmoil. I won’t say it was the most difficult time ever because I realize the world has been around a lot longer than my 58 years. In the two world wars alone, it’s estimated 120,000,000 people died. That doesn’t include the folks who passed from ordinary daily illness, accidents, and old age.
This year, as so many of us tried to go back to our lives post shutdowns and lockdowns, we found ourselves back in the ordinariness of trials, tragedy, human depravity, illness, lost dreams, violence, and political infighting. And so, we cry out to God for peace, for healing, for freedom from suffering.
I’ve been pretty quiet this year with my writing as I also deal with the world coming at me from all sides. With the sudden loss of my beautiful “other mother” I have felt so alone at times. I scroll back over her last text messages to me and I can hear her voice so clearly. Since that time, we have celebrated graduations, milestone birthdays, anniversaries, and now the holidays. In addition, my husband’s business has yet to recover from the financial destruction the last few years have wrought. We have seen future goals dissolve into mist. And still we find joy. We find peace and we find hope.
I listened as my neighbor recently listed all the tragedies that have befallen his family over the past year and I heard the pain in his voice. What I didn’t hear was how Jesus is helping them cope. They are going it alone. On the flip side I sit with my friend who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. And she is hope-filled. She is finding joy and goodness in the face of something so scary. She sees God working in every corner of her life, bringing the right people to her and watching her diagnosis heal broken relationships. While her earthly doctors will work to heal her body, her faith is also healing her. Healing her soul and heart. Comforting and bringing peace to her mind.
I was recently asked in an Advent study to write what I hope for next year. More importantly it asked how I would react if none of those hopes came to fruition. It then asked this: list the things you can find hope in that you KNOW will come to pass because of Jesus Christ. And here’s my answer. I know that Jesus will never leave me or forsake me. I know that Jesus has a better, more beautiful place waiting for all of those who believe. I know that whatever I go through next year God loves me and he loves you.
So I’m starting next year closely tethered to the hope I know will come to pass. Beginning January 1, I invite you to join me on a 31 day journey through God’s words of wisdom. His playbook for a life lived as best we humans can. He is not a god who keeps secret how to more smoothly navigate through the trials and tribulations of life. No, besides the Book of Proverbs He has given us so much wisdom and insight into the Christian life. A life that may at times look very different to the rest of the world but a life that is intended to bring about goodness, grace, mercy, and love.
Please join me for 31 Days of God’s Wisdom and invite your friends, families and neighbors. Be sure to have them sign up at www.emboldened.net to receive their daily email. In this way you can be a part of spreading His message around the world!
23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.Revelation 21:23
Father in Heaven, you are a God of miracles. You bring light when I am in darkness through your healing powers and in ways I can never fully understand. Help me to see even the tiniest miracles that you perform throughout my day so I can lift up my voice in glory to You. Amen
If you were asked if you believe in miracles, what would you say? Your answer would probably depend upon how you define a miracle. Some might call it a rare event. What if instead, you changed your perspective and recognized that God works miracles in our lives every single day?
A standard definition of a miracle is “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.” And again, how would you define “extraordinary?” As I’ve grown closer to God and understanding His ways, my view of the world has certainly changed. When seen through the lens of creation being the work of God, we can find any number of impossible things made possible.
37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37
I’ve been blessed with being pregnant and giving birth twice. Each time I marvelled at what was occurring in my body. A tiny human being built from microscopic pieces of the universe in a body that itself is the perfect factory for human creation. The parts all fit perfectly, just about every single time for thousands of years, millions upon millions of instances. You don’t need to know statistics to grasp how impossible that should be.
Many say “that’s just science.” Of course it is! Science is the study of God’s amazing work – where the impossible happens all the time. But let’s set human biology aside. I can state for a fact that miracles happen regularly because I have experienced them. Oh, if you had only known me 30, 20 or even just 10 years ago. You wouldn’t have seen Christ in my life. You would have seen a woman desperate for peace. Longing for joy. Fearful of not being loved or appreciated. A couple of years ago, a friend who has known me for some time commented how she could now see the work of Jesus in me. Truly a miracle. I’ve seen the same work in a few friends. Ones I thought would never change. And the change that has occurred is one that only the hand of God could’ve accomplished.
When you think “miracle” do you only think of cancer being healed? A death avoided? A financial windfall? If so, you need to rub the scales from your eyes. Just the fact that the sun rose again today was God’s miracle of creation. His glory is revealed in so many ways. Some include our continuous acts of human creation. While other times through the medicines He has placed here for us to “discover.” His miracle work is revealed each time a sinner recognizes their sin and asks God to change her and He does. And yes, whenever we are blessed financially when we need it most.
Friend, God’s glorious miracles are at work right now in your life. Like our future Eden, He doesn’t need any outside source to cause the light to shine because He makes impossible possible.
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”Matthew 18:21
He’d been a drug addict and alcoholic for at least the 35 years I knew him. In fact, this lost uncle was my husband’s main reason for why he never touched drugs in his college days. My husband saw the path of destruction his uncle created throughout their family. This uncle, my mother-in-law’s youngest sibling, took the road so many addicts follow. They demand help, make others feel guilty for not rescuing them, promise to do better then start the cycle over and over again.
In my visits to my husband’s hometown, we’d have infrequent contact with his uncle. But we would hear of his begging his own mother for money and complaining of how “lucky” and “privileged” everyone else in the family were because they weren’t always so down on their luck. To be fair, this man bore the brunt of being the youngest child of an alcoholic philanderer. As for my in-laws, they gave money, moral support, food, and more for much of his life. But after a number of run-ins with the law and intolerable behavior toward my husband’s grandmother, the uncle found himself eventually with backs turned. Enough was enough.
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”Matthew 18:22
Let’s face it, we are only human. We get our feelings hurt. We often seek to protect ourselves from harmful relationships. We don’t want to be taken advantage of and have our kindness thrown back at us with vitriol. Like many of Jesus’ expectations of us the concept of forgiveness is not so easy for us sinful humans. We get to the end of our rope. We have no more tears to shed.
I remember when my loving, caring mother-in-law said to me one day a few years ago, “I’m done. I’m tired of being blamed for his problems. I’m tired of being taken for granted that we will always help. I’m angry how he treats our mother.” And really, could anyone fault her? But the thing is, I knew deep down she didn’t mean any of it. I knew if her brother came again with hat in hand she would help. Because she knew that Jesus would do the same for her.
25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”Mark 11:28
We can be thankful we haven’t been assigned the task of God’s prophets to administer final judgements like Elijah had to (although one day two of us will be called to do just that). In the Old Testament, we see time after time the people turning their backs on God after so many warnings. And he sent his prophets to speak truth and judgement. His final truth-speaker was His Son, Jesus. But this prophet came to tell us when we seek forgiveness and to forgive we receive eternal forgiveness from God, even when we mess up over and over. You see, Jesus doesn’t just want the one who needs forgiveness healed, he wants us, the forgiver to be healed. Because when we place our own lives under God’s microscope, we each have a heck of a lot that needs forgiving. We each are blessed with the incredible gift of coming with our own hat in hand to the Lord and asking, “One more time, please Lord. Forgive me.” And He does.
I’ve been fortunate to witness the healing power of forgiveness in a few people’s lives. My friend Andrea will forever be changed simply by forgiving a family member for past hurts and asking for forgiveness for how she has hurt others. My own relationship with my parents has required me to forgive them. And although the situation can still be painful, I now have the healing strength which forgiveness affords to help me pray for them each day.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.Ephesians 4:31-32
I started this message about a man so broken from addiction. A man who most would say was without hope, without the peace from God. But God is a miracle worker as we all know. So, after another stint in prison about a year ago, my husband’s uncle finally said, “Enough is enough.” He turned to God for forgiveness and healing. When he got the news that his oldest sister was now riddled with cancer he came immediately to be by her side.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have the same opportunity to watch such a beautiful miracle unfold before my eyes. To see God’s hands work like no other. To experience the full promise of God’s grace and love descend upon a room. We met in the lobby of the hospital, just the uncle and I. His mind and eyes were clear. He looked so healthy! His demeanor was clearly different. I took him up to his sister’s room and we sat and chatted. I felt like I should leave the room and give them some alone time when suddenly he took her by the hand and with tears streaming down his face he asked for forgiveness. He asked to be forgiven for the destruction he caused, the pain, and for all the lost years that could’ve been different.
My mother-in-law thanked him immediately. She said, “I needed to hear this. It hurt so much when you blamed me for your troubles.” And they wept. For the next two weeks I witnessed this man stand guard outside her room, praying and participating in her last days. I listened as he asked the rest of the family for forgiveness. And saw them weep from the healing love of God. I watched as he helped lift his sister’s lifeless body onto the gurney for her final road toward home. He was in pain but was healed. He was washed in sorrow but cleansed from forgiveness. And he knew he was loved.
Who do you need to forgive right now?
Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?
It’s time for healing.
PS: Happy Birthday to my amazing, handsome, loving, forgiving husband 🙂
Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. 117 Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees. Psalm 119:116-117
Next week begins the new series, “Lessons from Cherith.” For those of you unfamiliar with Cherith (also spelled Kerith) here’s a brief look into 1 Kings 17:2-6. The Lord God had called Elijah out of his home and to the throne of Ahab. While there he had the audacity to speak God’s words to the king telling him there would be neither dew nor rain for the next few years because of the kingdom’s fall into paganism. Then the Lord told Elijah to leave the king, head eastward, and hide in Cherith Ravine. And he obeyed.
He obeyed in spite of the fact that the drought meant the brook in the ravine was almost devoid of water. And the desert-like landscape meant no food was available. His trust meant God could continue to work miracles into Elijah’s life.
The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.1 King 17:6
It’s estimated Elijah stayed in this barren, dry place for almost 2 years. And during that time, he learned some valuable lessons before his journey continued. For one, the Jews listed ravens among the despised birds (Leviticus 11:13-16). They were greedy yet tenacious. Of course, God used the most unlikely of sources to bring Elijah food! They were unclean and repulsive. Yet Elijah had to rely on them – foreshadowing his next God-directed move to rely on an unclean and unworthy widow.
Elijah’s lessons learned may not all be ones you or I need to learn. And during my own trip to Cherith this year, when I too was separated from my quiet, comfortable life, I learned lessons you may or may not need to hear. But the one lesson we all can learn from Elijah is unequivocal trust in the Lord. No matter what the Lord is trying to weed out, burn out, destroy from our thoughts and hearts He needs us first to trust in Him. And like Elijah and his ravens He will do more than just sustain us, He will surprise us. He will work to heal our hearts in ways we can’t even imagine.
I hope you will join me starting next week as I go back on a journey of remembrance from my time deep in my dry ravine. And watch to see how God surprises us, heals us, and love us.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 1 Corinthians 12:4-5
A friend of mine and her husband recently participated in a church workshop which helped them identify their various gifts and strengths. While doing her homework for the workshop she reached out and asked me and a few friends to help her identify three values she’s passionate about and three abilities she has. I think it surprised her when all three of us identified the exact same qualities. What was interesting was that she, herself, was struggling to do the same.
For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10
I think so often as Christians we get caught up in this list of gifts from 1 Corinthians and forget what else this chapter says. We are all given the Holy Spirit and we all are given gifts to assist the body of the church. So, when our friends tell us one of our gifts is being trustworthy or loyal or even diligent or empathetic, we might not see those as important as one of the “Big 9” and therefore not as worthy. And yet I will tell you having a person managing the church funds whose gifts are trustworthy and diligent is incredibly important!
I’m so thankful that God gave me the gifts of being organized, able to multitask, a love of writing and teaching. I can’t interpret tongues but thankfully none of the jobs I’ve had, both volunteered and paid, required that! I would love to stand on my church stage and be able to sing you a beautiful hymn but that’s just not going to happen. What I can do, however, is thank God not only for the gifts he has bestowed on me, but the ones He has given others. Together we make up the talented body of Christ.
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:8
I sat in my car after having just left yet another doctor’s appointment and announced out loud, “I hate doctors!” One more doctor who treated me with some level of impatience all the while acknowledging I needed surgery. But then I took a step back from my prideful emotions and realized this person – a man of flesh and blood – was gifted by God the ability to heal me. I didn’t need him as a friend, I need him as a healer. And I gave thanks for his able hands and depth of knowledge concerning my medical issue.
Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” John 5:8
I was reminded of the scene by the healing pool when Jesus encountered the invalid who had been laying by the pool for 38 years. Jesus simply asked, “Do you want to be healed?” And then told him to get moving. And I realized how much I expect my doctors to be the tender, compassionate Jesus. But even Jesus himself was a no nonsense healer.
My own daughter is a doctor of physical therapy. She’s a pretty no nonsense kind of person. She’s also very good at her job. When her patients are done with treatments, or during the holidays, they shower her with loving, thoughtful gifts. It’s because, while she is good at listening to their needs, what they truly want is healing and she delivers.
I’ve had kind doctors, rude doctors, dismissive doctors, attentive ones. I have to admit that just about all of them have done what I needed them for – healing. Doing something for me that I could never do myself. So, while I may not like every doctor’s bedside manner, I can say a prayer while sitting in the “big chair” thanking God for their skill and for the healing that is to come. And I pray for me to have patience and kindness in between.
Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.Genesis 7:2-3
Like millions of other people, I’ve enjoyed watching the amazing fetes of strength and endurance on display during the Tokyo Olympics. The way humans can push themselves mentally and physically to limit – just because they want to – is astounding. No other creature on this planet puts themselves through so much hardship and pain just to reach a self-imposed goal.
But what really fascinates me when watching the Olympics is the beauty of God’s diversity. In just one 200 meter heat you will see people of every color. I saw a picture of two United States track athletes embracing in exhausted joy. One had a creamy caramel color skin and another a jet black skin tone. And just to the side was an athlete with skin as white as snow. It was beautiful. All colors of skin tone from the whitest white to cream and light tan to black as night. And all God’s creation.
Today I praise God for His diverse creation. For not making us all the same yet still having the same desires to be loved, liked, admired. For being so different and yet still afraid of so many of the same things.
I’m fortunate enough to live in a pretty diverse community. In the United States, even though the news might make it seem different, there’s diversity in almost all communities. And for the most part we get along gloriously. The same can’t be said of every country. I believe God made us so diverse because He loves beauty. Yet He made us so much alike so that we could still relate to each other.
The young Indian family that lives to the left of me, the Chinese family that lives to the right, and the Filipino family that’s a few houses up all have the same desires that I do. To have healthy families, good jobs, to enjoy a walk around the block or a backyard BBQ with friends. There’s so much the same in all our differences.
When I was raising my kids just a few years ago that was the message our schools, families, churches and media wanted to get across to them. Multi-culturalism was something to be celebrated. It’s sad to hear that message change. As a Christian we mustn’t fall prey to demonizing one of God’s creations over the other. That’s sliding backwards into old territory.
News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.Matthew 4:24
You’ll notice in the Matthew verse that Jesus healed all. He didn’t select who He thought was the better person based on skin color, country of origin, race or gender. He loved all and called all to Him. Wouldn’t it be a great message for the world to say Christians don’t favor or degrade any person, no matter those outward identities? To remind the people that God made us all – wonderfully? That black or white or brown or any variation can be healed by turning their lives over to Jesus?
The next time you have the chance to watch an international sporting event take a moment and say a praise to God. For His amazingly diverse creations. For being a God who simply loves beauty and welcomes all into His kingdom.
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.
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once, the man was cured. John 5:8
“Lord Jesus, I offer myself for Your people. In any way. Any place. Any time.”
Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
I was reading recently about what it meant that Jesus called Himself a humble servant of God. To some that seems contrary – for someone to call themselves “humble.” And at the time of Jesus the word “humble” was a vile and contemptible thing. According to Christian author Charles Jefferson, there was no virtue in the all the pagan world known as “humility.” It was a defect.
As Christianity spread across the world so did its values. One of its unique additions to the world was the concept of Christ-like humility and servitude. It is possibly one of the most misunderstood of Christian values. To some, it means having a low estimate of ourselves. To others it means we deny ourselves and make ourselves inferior. But if we accept all of Christ’s words as true we then must also accept these:
“I am meek and lowly in heart.” Matthew 11:29
And yet we have never met a person who held their head higher, with more confidence, with such loftiness, as Jesus. So often it seems we create a vision of the various character traits of Jesus and each believer then feels they must change their personalities to fit that ideal. When we picture a meek and humble person (not Jesus) do we imagine a rich person? Do we picture a courageous and bold person? Or do we picture a small, weak person who lets people walk all over her?
As I’ve progressed in my faith this concept of being a humble servant is something I’ve really mulled over. I’ve tried “playing” various roles that seem to fit the ideal. And it’s funny. When I try to be so quiet and meek-like it usually backfires. The recipient can tell I’m being a phony.
About a year ago I heard about the book, “The Hiding Place.” I know many Christians have read this at some point in their lives. As a refresher, the story is a Christian family from Holland living at the start of World War II. As Hitler’s army advances, the local Jewish community starts to disappear. Two of the main characters, sisters Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom, find themselves answering God’s call to not just hide Jews but also play integral roles in the underground system of protecting Jews from all over. What struck me about this book were the opposite personalities of the sisters. Both answering God’s call to be humble servants in their own ways.
Corrie was the bold one. She found herself tasked with much of the dangerous work outside their home. While in prison it was Corrie who dealt with the officials. Lest we think this was easy for her because of a strong faith, Corrie frequently questioned God about what He wanted her to do. And each time she prayed. And each time either a word from God or someone close to her encouraged her to move on His command. Near the beginning of their story, Corrie is tasked with obtaining extra food rations cards. She was led to speak with a local man who recently took a job in the Food Office. But she wasn’t sure it would be safe.
“Lord,” I prayed silently, “if it is not safe to confide in Fred, stop this conversation now before it is too late.”
Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
She found herself asking not for five cards but suddenly 100. And within a week they were in her hands. The danger she faced – being turned into the authorities– was replaced with her trust in God’s urging for her to be a “doing Christian.”
Throughout her ordeal, while at home and eventually in prison, she wanted to be so angry with the Germans and those who supported them. She balked at loving her enemies and showing them mercy. Really, who could blame her? And yet over and over she submitted her heart and hands to God.
“My job was simply to follow His leading one step at a time, holding every decision up to Him in prayer,” she wrote. “I knew I was not clever or subtle or sophisticated; if my home was becoming a meeting place for need and supply, it was through some strategy far higher than mine.”
Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
You can contrast her submission to God with a local pastor she encounters. He, on the other hand, when asked to take in a Jewish mother and child into his home was clearly frightened. He admonished her for the “illegal” activity and warned her that what she was doing wasn’t safe.
The concept of being a humble servant doesn’t require of us to be a person of a certain personality or style of living. A longtime pastor can fail while a wealthy man can succeed at this effort. Throughout “The Hiding Place” one such wealthy man aids the underground effort with both his money and his own hands.
In all of Jesus’ teachings we see Him asking us to do two things: love one another and take action. Like the man at the pool who had been waiting for healing for almost 40 years he asks us to first believe Him then get up and start moving. Along the way he wants us to be teachable and willing to learn. He asks us to put aside our vanity and social aspirations. He tasks us to serve and feed His sheep. He doesn’t ask us to underestimate ourselves, make ourselves small, or feel unworthy. In fact, He wants us to stand firm in the knowledge we are doing His work.
Corrie Ten Boom was bold and faithful and humble at the same time. She was always looking to serve the less fortunate and those in need. And when she forgot about serving her enemies, her sister stepped forward to remind her.
I once took a leadership personality test at a conference. The results weren’t that surprising. I have a bold personality and I’m good at organizing. But what makes any leadership situation successful for me is to be paired with a softer, gentler leader. That person remembers those who aren’t as obvious and reminds me to slow down to see the whole picture.
Betsie Ten Boom was that kind of leader. The book in which they are written of highlights her bold sister, Corrie. But it’s this quieter, gentler servant of God that I saw as a thread throughout. It was Betsie who would send up prayers for the Germans soldiers who were torturing them. It was Betsy who thanked God for fleas in their new barracks. While Corrie was dealing with the big problems, it was her quiet sister drawing people out of the shadows for prayer meetings in the middle of the night.
During one difficult transfer to yet another barracks, the women were made to stand for hours and hours. The two sister’s personalities and approach to being God’s servants was evident in this exchange:
“Betsie!” I wailed, “how long will this take!”
“Perhaps a long, long time. Perhaps many years. But what better way could there be to spend our lives?” Betsie replied.
I turned to stare at her. “Whatever are you talking about?”
“These young women. That young girl back at the bunkers, Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love! We must find a way, you and I, no matter how long it takes…” Betsie said with excitement.
Are we that excited to serve God humbly? To be teachable, free from ambition, and vanity? Have we looked Jesus in the eye and said, “I trust you.” And when He has told you to get up and pick up your mat have you obeyed Him? Or have you decided that you aren’t “good enough,” “strong enough,” or “smart enough?”
Are you laying around by the pool, waiting for someone else to do the work for you? If you keep saying to God, “show me what you want me to do” and have yet to walk out your front door and serve your neighbors you’ve missed the point. He takes all types in His Great Army. Get your mat and get moving.
“All of us are different, but all of us can serve the Lord for His glory.”