Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12
There’s a famous line in the movie Animal House, “Thank you, Sir! May I have another!” which the college students must say as they receive a paddling in order to become members of the fraternity house. This scene always comes to mind when I read about the trials and tribulations we most certainly will face as followers of Jesus.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3
James especially brings this message home – not only will we endure trials but we should enjoy them! Of all the lessons and directives in the Bible I think I find this one of the most difficult. In my more “infant” Christian stage it could take me months or years to see the blessings from a fiery trial. But as I have progressed in my faith journey I’m working to shorten that time span. My goal? To be in the moment of trials asking God to show me the lesson and blessing. And not only that, to try and be a blessing to others while things aren’t going so well for me.
The dark moments of our life will last only so long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in us.
Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principles
I don’t know about you but I’m taking this to heart these days. I want to accept the lesson as quickly as possible. And while I’m not begging for trials, I know for certain they will come. I’m so thankful He has given us opportunities to improve our hearts and minds, our relationships with other people, and with the Creator Himself. I heard Joyce Meyer say the other day, “When we are in the midst of a trial we get thrown at God.” And I’m thankful when we are thrown into the midst of the fire He is right there reaching for us.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
It seems there’s a lot of talk these days about “end times.” Since the world received the words of Christ about eternal salvation and His return, people of all centuries have determined “this is it.” And although I do agree with Christian teacher Joyce Meyer that “we are closer to the return than we were yesterday,” we can never know when that day will actually arrive. We can only prepare.
During the last year I’ve enjoyed digging deeper into what the gift of salvation really means for us and what it doesn’t. It isn’t something we can earn but it is something we must take action on to receive. It isn’t something we can lose but it is something we are expected to behave like we have received. It was given in blood by Jesus yet He gives us forgiveness and grace for having to shed it.
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2
When we recount the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion, we can easily imagine the dirt and grime and blood. The sweat and the tears. The pain and sadness. A perfect man, our God clothed in flesh without blemish torn apart by the sins of those past, present and future. And as God always likes to do, He suddenly flips the script. At Jesus’ last breath the veil between earth and heaven is torn wide open. We who actively seek out the Lord and place Him as king of our lives now have an intercessor to present our dirty souls cleansed. Not just our hands but our hearts will be spit shined for when we meet the King. Sparkling creations meeting the glorious Creator. Thank you, Jesus.
Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”
But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.Mark 14:61
I sat in that meeting surrounded by men. I was the only woman on the coaching staff and that alone put me at a disadvantage. But I never have had an issue with being “the only one.” I frequently have found myself in the position of being the youngest, the woman, the questioning, the sober, the only one to say “no.” So that evening was no exception. What was uncomfortable was the man in front of the room threatening me. He also threatened to have the softball program thrown out of the community center if I remained a coach.
Something inside my head told me to do something I rarely do – keep silent. I typically will speak up and defend myself but it was almost as though tape were placed over my mouth. Partially out of a sense of shock and fear that this man might physically attack me and partially because of that voice I remained quiet as he ranted and raved.
When the ranter was out of steam, the president of the league stood up and with his large physical presence made it clear the man was done and needed to leave. A vote was taken and I stayed part of the coaching staff. When the meeting came to an end I was shocked again when the other men, many who had rarely given me the time of day, approached me and congratulated me on standing strong and being so “tough.” As I walked to my car that night my legs turned to jelly and I collapsed in my car in tears. The ranter’s words were painful but the words of congratulations also overwhelmed me. I had finally done something they could all respect. And it was all because I listened to that small voice to keep quiet.
Even though I experienced success that evening with my silence it can drive me bonkers reading how Jesus took the abuse from the Pharisees. Of course, unlike Him, I couldn’t rain hellfire down on my accuser and work a miracle. But Jesus knew exactly when to speak and when to stay silent.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry...James 1:19
And that’s my topic this week on being resolute in Christ – when to act or speak and when to rest or be silent. Because frequently doing the exact opposite of what the world expects is exactly what we need to do to serve God righteously.
But how do we know? It can be difficult to discern between our wants, needs and fears and the Word of God. I have found over the last few years, however, that God does make things clear when it is important. Plus, knowing the character of God and Jesus and what is expected of us is tantamount in making good decisions. God never speaks to our fleshly desires, encouraging us to indulge. He is prudent, loving, kind, careful with resources, seeks justice and forgiveness, and above all He is holy.
Study the three main traits of Christ (justice, goodness, holiness) for thirty days, begin to practice them in your daily life, and see what God does…you won’t be disappointed.
Joyce Meyer, God’s Character
I’ve found it fascinating that people who want clear answers from God aren’t willing to actually know the character of the “person” from whom they are seeking answers. Yet, I won’t go to a friend who clearly has difficulty with their finances and ask them for financial advice! And I won’t seek fashion advice from someone that looks like they’ve just rolled out of bed every day.
So much of obeying God’s and His Holy Spirit nudgings must start with knowing the road signs to even look for. And then when we have accomplished that we must start paying attention and actually acting on those directives.
I love reading Sparkling Gems from the Greek each morning. It’s a yearly devotional that takes scripture and studies it in the original Greek meaning. Recently, the author wrote of how he was to attend a gathering of fellow pastors whom he hadn’t seen in awhile. He and his wife travelled to the city where the event was to take place. As they were about to the leave the hotel a clear word came to him to not attend. He first told his wife he felt the need to stay in the hotel. But he went anyways not wanting to miss out on the fun. Each step along the way he was told over and over to not go. While at the event the message became almost overwhelming. He left his wife to keep visiting and he returned to his hotel. Upon entering his room, he realized they had been burgled. All their passports, computers, important papers, jewelry and more were gone. And he realized his fleshly desires overtook that warning voice.
How often have we stood in the midst of a situation that calls us to be an outsider, a dissenter, the weird one, the one to step out of line and answer the call of His voice? And how often have we brushed it aside thinking we know better? When we don’t know the character of God that will happen frequently. But when we do know the character of God there’s no excuse. We repent and tell God to give us another chance to serve Him rightly.
God will frequently call us in our everyday lives to do something that may help us or help others. That cashier you want to be rude to because she is talking to another co-worker about her personal life? Ya, God might be telling you to say something incredibly kind to her or just keep silent. That neighbor who yells at you because he doesn’t like where you put your trashcan? God might be telling you to keep your mouth shut. That trip you are about to take? He may be saying, “cancel it.” You won’t know if it’s your own worries or desires unless you know Him and His ways.
“But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned theirbacks and covered their ears.They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.
“‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. Zachariah 7: 11-13
God calls us to action and He calls us to inaction. He calls us to speak and calls us to stay silent. But if we worry too much about the world and what they will think if we obey those words, then we are sure to be judged. We must stand resolutely when we hear that voice and through knowing His mind we will be assured He has our backs.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.2 Peter 3:9
It’s a strange conflict we humans live out – we all know that everything will die but we live as though we will never die. As though the ones we love will never perish. As Christians, when we don’t acknowledge this full truth, we can trick ourselves into thinking we have time to finally obey God or to have that salvation talk with our son or daughter.
Having recently completed a study on Revelation it’s become clearer to me how I am living that half-truth. I have people in my life that I really want to be with in eternity. People that I love and don’t want them to be prey to Babylon’s vices.
I’m praising God today for time and for our continuance of living in the age of Grace. I heard the evangelist Joyce Meyer say on a number of occasions that we don’t know when the events recorded in Revelation will take place but we are certainly one more day closer. And once those events unfold the Age of Grace will become the Age of Judgment.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.Revelation 22:17
The study of Revelation was difficult to hear at times. Until you get to the last couple of chapters. Then you see the overwhelming beauty of the new Eden unfold. And you can’t help but say “I want that. I want that for myself and the ones I love!” You certainly don’t want what takes place in the previous chapters! Even in those chapters, fraught with despair and destruction however, God adds His Holy pauses. He gives us more chances to turn to him. He gives us more time, more grace. More than what any of us deserve.
I’ve read that God will only prolong our trials until we finally “get it.” Until we finally just trust Him and obey. It’s like He really doesn’t want to pull the final trigger. The door is ever so slowly closing while He beckons more of us in. But it is closing to be sure.
Until that door is closed and we are gathered up into the heavens, into the new Eden, I want to use this God-given time wisely. I want to take advantage of this Age of Grace and help squeeze the people I love through that door.
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
“We are pretty much the only hope that God has for reaching people who need him.”
On a recent visit with my daughter back in St. Louis, Missouri, she invited me to her friend’s 50th birthday gathering. It was to be just a small group as her larger party had already taken place. My daughter, who is 23, is blessed to have a number of women in her life who are not only mature in their marriages and in life in general, but in their faith. As I sat listening to them, I said a silent prayer of thanks to God. He, once again, put me right where I needed to be.
I listened as these Christian women of varied ages shared memories of shared events and the joy of being disciples to younger women. You see, their church encourages all ages to seek being discipled by more experienced Christians – something I haven’t experienced in the 20 years I’ve been an active Christian.
The birthday girl’s good friend suddenly announced we were to all take turns expressing what we loved about the newly christened 50 year old. She turned to me and said, “You don’t know Renee well so you don’t need to say anything.” I disagreed. I definitely had much to love about this woman that I had just met.
As each woman spoke, I felt the love flow throughout the group. It was sweet and brave and authentic. And at my turn I’m sure they all wondered what I would have to say.
“As a mother I miss my daughter terribly. She’s so far away. She has no family for hundreds of miles. And now with a baby on the way it grieves me that she is alone out here. But I realize she isn’t. I am so thankful she has Renee as her friend and godly counsel. A mother couldn’t ask for anything better besides being here herself,” I said.
You see my daughter’s friend, Renee, has taken her under her beautiful wings. She provides wise counsel about marriage, faith, motherhood and more. I could be jealous when I hear my daughter talk about her relationship with Renee. But my faith progression has brought me instead to a place of thankfulness. My daughter is incredibly blessed to be surrounded by Christian women who are prepared and ready to offer Biblical counsel.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free" Luke 4:18
That’s Jesus in the above verse. Jesus our wise counselor setting us free from our prisons. And He trained up His disciples to spread His message of salvation and freedom. Like the old shampoo commercial goes, “and they told two friends and so on and so on.” Which brings us thousands of years later to this little group at a café in Missouri.
Here’s what I noticed about those six women I sat with that night. 1) They didn’t gossip 2) They lifted each other up with genuine compliments 3) They showed love and concern for each other 4) They were confident in expressing their faith and 5) They were eager and willing to take up being disciples.
"Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
These women are living the Great Commission. Teaching and guiding and loving Jesus’ flock. I sat there like a fan-girl marveling at being in the midst of ordinary women who were so extraordinary. Yes, ordinary women. They aren’t pastors or scholars although one is in fact a trained Christian counselor. They are students of Jesus. It gave me hope of what I could achieve with faith and the blessings of God.
I took the opportunity to ask a few of them a Christian counseling question.
“If I find myself in a situation with a fellow Christian who is struggling with an issue, what’s your best advice?” I inquired.
Without hesitation three of the women, including my daughter who herself disciples young women, said: “You need to really get to know the person. There needs to be a sense of trust that you come from a place of love.” And the birthday girl? She emphasized my old favorite, truth plus love. Not being afraid to speak God’s truth into someone from a loving perspective. Remember that Jesus trait of having a warrior spirit? Renee takes it to heart. She knows the end game – saving a soul.
“As you being the process of bringing correction into someone’s life, put yourself in his shoes. If you were the one sitting there, would it be easy or difficult for you to hear what is about to be said? If the person you are correcting acts closed at first it may be that he’s just embarrassed or reacting out of insecurity. Therefore don’t stop the conversation unless you can see that he’s just being combative. You need to be patient and slow in judging their reaction to your correction.”
Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems from the Greek
Isn’t this the reaction we worry about the most when we need to speak truth to our Christian friends or family members? A fear of making someone angry or embarrassed? But here lies the reason why “Wise Counselor” sits at the end of our faith progression. Without love, without a sense of serving God, without courage, without knowledge of the Lord’s will, we will probably fail at being what our friend, child, sibling, co-worker, or sister in Christ truly needs.
So, when Jesus asks us to “follow” He isn’t just offering Himself up to save us from eternal damnation which by itself is a pretty amazing gift. He’s saying “join me in a journey.” He’s saying, “we’ve got work to do together.” And if we stop partway on the journey and decide we are “fine” where we are at, we miss the opportunities He wants to put in front of us to free more captives.
I don’t know about you but I need wise Christian counselors in my life. And if I could be like Renee and be a blessing in other’s lives, I know it’d make Jesus smile. My imperfect progress, as my friend Betsy likes to say, is still progress. I want to know and live out having the mind of Christ. I’m not where I was when I started and I still have a ways to go. Thankfully, I can trust that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are my guides and cheerleaders.
When we started this journey, I invited you to say a prayer of confession I found in Sparkling Gems from the Greek. And true to God’s ways He put another in front of me to close out this series. Please join me in this prayer and confession. I pray that you seek love, humbleness, courage, and wisdom on your journey.
“Lord, I ask you to help be kind and patient when it is essential for me to bring correction. Help me to not be offended if the person I’m trying to help doesn’t respond at first the way I wished he would have. Help me put myself in that person’s shoes and to sympathize with how he might feel. I ask You to give me wisdom to know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. I also ask that You give the other person the grace to hear what I am telling him so he might see that I have his best interest at heart and that I am only trying to help him. I pray this in Jesus’ name!”
“I confess that I have the mind of Jesus Christ! When it is needful to me to speak correction to someone else I do it with love, kindness and patience. I refrain from allowing anger to rise up inside me. I am careful about the words that come out of my mouth, and I refuse to participate in vain arguing. I remain in control of myself as the Holy Spirit works mightily inside me. My words bring life to all who hear and receive them! I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!”
"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
“I believe Jesus died to deliver ourselves from ourselves. How many of us are just fed up being ourselves all the time?”
The darkness, fury and despair of the young woman sitting next to me grew with each passing minute. We were so close I could feel her shoulder touching mine. Sitting on the airplane we found ourselves in that strange world of invading each other’s personal space while pretending neither existed. Her billowing cloud seem to want to seep over the dividing line of the armrest to pull me in.
This seemingly quiet, unassuming young woman opened her computer and began pounding on her keyboard like the devil itself was trying to escape her fingertips. My eyes drifted to her brightly lit screen. I couldn’t help but notice the many words in all caps. And I was drawn to know what was causing her so much angst. It appeared she was writing a complaint letter about a work environment. As her fingers marched like Roman soldiers across the keyboard, pounding and erasing and pounding some more I couldn’t seem to tear my eyes away from the battle. She was hurt and outraged. She felt betrayed and abused. Her past hurts served as the basis of why her employer should’ve known better. And then those pounding fingers suddenly slammed the lid of the smoking computer closed. Her fury still burned. You could almost see the sparks coming from her.
Over the course of three and half hours I watched this woman join the battle numerous times, editing, adding and pounding. And then she started in on an email to her family. I kept praying that she, once there was internet service, would have a change of heart and not send off the bombs she composed. But alas, before deplaning, she picked up her phone and started, with the same fervor, sending off salvos via text messages. I have never seen a person’s finger move with such speed and aggressiveness. Like driving pass a car accident I couldn’t seem to look away.
I’ve come to realize that God puts me in all types of situations to test and teach me. I was learning a valuable lesson. You see, my tendency to get outrage over “unfair” situations is something I’ve battled with forever. As I watched this young woman blow up at probably everyone in her life, I realized how much I need God to lead me out of my sin. How much I need God to provide me with a different perspective. How much I need to rely on God for peace. What I wanted to do was turn to her and ask if she knew about Jesus. I wanted to wrap Jesus’ love around her. To somehow snap her mind off her problems and look up to God. I could turn and look at this woman and see my own face looking back at me. And I didn’t want to be “that girl.”
In 2019 there were more than 18 million self-help type books sold in the United States. The number of unique titles rose nearly three-fold from 30,897 in 2013 to 85,253 in 2019. That’s a lot of people trying to fix themselves! Isn’t that, so often, what we turn to our friends, co-workers and professionals for – advice on fixing our problems?
Aren’t we exhausted yet trying to fix ourselves? As the world drifts farther from God it shouldn’t be surprising that so many people are working so hard to fix their own problems. Jesus came to save our souls but I believe He also came to save us from ourselves.
“The only way we are ever ready for a change in our life is when we are tired of “me.” When we say we cannot continue to do the work of trying to make ourself happy. We are fed up.”
When we stop striving, stop trying to control what other people think of us, stop trying to please everyone, stop shaming ourselves for our past, stop playing victim, and start putting God as our King, our Creator, our Lord we can release the yoke of our fleshly life.
"Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:35
And follow Him. Retire from our self-care routines. Self-care as in trying to fix ourselves. Certainly we take care of ourselves, our minds and bodies. But God always calls us to take a new perspective in every aspect of our lives. When we take time to mediate, what do we mediate on? When we decide what best to eat or how to stay in shape, who do we do it for? Why do we word vomit all over our family or friends trying to get them to see “our side?” For ourselves? Or for our Heavenly Father?
I’ve heard the evangelist teacher Joyce Meyer make this statement many times: “I was always on my mind. I was so selfish.” To change that she created these three steps:
Live to please God, not yourself. You are making a Kingdom investment. And you will always get a great return on your investment.
Refuse to have “me” on my mind all the time. I’m not thinking about what’s wrong with me all the time or how I can get people to do things for me.
Always use money and things to bless people. Don’t use people to get money and things.
Jesus frequently took the focus off Himself and placed it on God. He prayed for help in times of pain and trouble. He told the disciples to look to the Father. He guided new believers to putting away their shame and accepting forgiveness from God. The times He had to solidify His place as the Savior He seemed almost reluctant. The focus for Jesus the man was always God and how to best please Him.
In my study on Revelation, I was asked the question, “How does the fact that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords affect our everyday choices and decisions?” In other words, getting ourselves, off our own minds and onto the Creator. I’m finally leaning more on Him as my wise counselor. He is my exercise coach, my nutritional advisor, my mental wellness guru. When I see my mind and body as belonging to Him, I realize the responsibility I have to keeping myself focused on what He wants for me. I fail frequently. And when I do I come to Him seeking and receiving forgiveness.
I encountered the young, angry, hurt woman at the end of my trip. Before it had even started however, I failed to grab on to God’s promised peace by my favorite method of failure –outrage. The TSA officer and I had a bit of a confrontation. I blustered and was rude. As I walked away, I realized I was wearing my silver cross around my neck. I may have flushed in embarrassment. I failed to show grace and patience and forgiveness. I took the situation personally. It was all about “me.”
The difference for me at that moment was instead of adding it to my Vault of Shame I lifted it up to God. I had a counseling moment with Him. I felt His disappointment and His love. It set me on course to be more aware of my behavior choices while in the crowded airport.
“We are in the middle between hating sin and sinning. When we aren’t accustomed to making good choices it’s hard. The devil is working against us. The more often we make those good choices it becomes easier.”
And so, on my return flight, as I sat next to the woman with fire bursting from her fingertips, and like lava flowing out on her family, friends, co-workers burning bridges left and right I wanted to be like Jesus. To be able to look her in the eye and know her hurts, her overwhelming pain and say, “follow me.”
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Cor 5:15
It wasn’t a counseling moment for her. Although I prayed for her. It was a reminder message to me. To live for Jesus. To place my thoughts on Jesus. To release my pain and hurts to Him. To stop trying to defend and take care of myself. To trust that He wants the best for me and will guide me to whatever that looks like. To take my mind off me and have the mind of Christ.
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.
The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. John 7:32
Christianity is not passive. We are to pray, say and do.
The other day my husband and I watched an episode of Phil and Jase Robertson’s Unashamed podcast. We had selected this particular episode because it featured the guest, Dallas Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins, as some of you may know, has fast become a “name” in the Christian community as the director, creator and writer of the series, “The Chosen.” This uniquely told story of Jesus’ three impactful years on Earth is one not to be missed. Jase Robertson asked him about the daunting task of showing both the human Jesus and Jesus the Deity. On the human side, one episode shows Jesus tending to a cut on his wrist while also trying to start a fire using the “hand drill” method – painful to be sure.
“The criticism we get comes from Christians. People come to the show from all types of Christianity including Mormons, Catholics, protestants. And they watch the show and expect it to fit their view of Jesus. They are like the modern day Pharisees,” said Dallas Jenkins. He was then asked what negative feedback he gets from non-Christians. His reply? “None.”
And this got me thinking. In all of Jesus’ moments of conflict there rarely was a non-religious person at the forefront. His battlefield, His warrior-moments, came most frequently against the religious leaders. Those people who decided they knew what God had in mind for a Messiah. And Jesus wasn’t “it.”
When placed faced to face with His opponent Jesus came prepared. He came armed with the belt of truth and sword of the spirit. He had to be prepared because the ultimate prize was not a piece of land. The prize was not a place on an earthly throne. No. The ultimate prize was the heart, mind and soul of the average person.
“Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Matthew 22:29
And that statement, my friends, can only be seen as “shots fired.”
The Bible says, “fear not” or “be not afraid” 103 times in the King James Bible. Jesus, himself, speaks some version of these words about 30 times. And yet so many of us fear taking the step toward being a warrior like Him and for Him.
We say we aren’t ready. That might be true. So, ask God to help you get ready.
We say we won’t know what to say. That’s probably true. So, prepare and ask God to give you the words.
We say our church just doesn’t encourage that way of thinking. Maybe so. But Jesus didn’t come to start a denomination.
We say we might lose something in the battle. You might. But God always provides.
We say we will be seen as crazy, bigoted, unloving. The devil does love to deceive. So, we ask God to give us a loving heart and clear mind and we place our trust squarely on Him.
What does a warrior for God look like these days? We joke about the person on the corner with the “End is Near” sign. But while on vacation in Kauai a few weeks ago I saw a man – he looked pretty normal actually, about in his 60s nicely dressed – standing in the same spot on a busy road a few days in a row holding up a sign for all to see: “Jesus is Near.” Imagine what sort of feedback he must’ve received. We honked each time and gave him a thumbs up. He waved with a big smile. And I thought, “that man was led to stand out on that street day after day waving at people holding that sign. That’s a warrior for God.”
You know who else are warriors like Jesus? Moms and dads who go against the “norm” and tell their kids they must follow in Jesus’ steps. Employees who aren’t afraid to talk about their faith while at work. Friends who aren’t worried about losing friendships because they won’t “go along to get along.” People who are aren’t afraid of being “cancelled” because they stood up for Christian morals and values.
Jesus didn’t come to smooth things over with religious leaders. He didn’t come to make a lot of friends. He didn’t desire to win a popularity contest. He came to save souls. He knows the end of this world’s story. And so do we.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Matthew 24:42-44
Are you keeping watch over your house? Are you dressed in your God-given battle gear, standing ready to step onto the field? As Christians we are tasked with increasing God’s glory on this earth. We are challenged to keep the thief out of our midst. It is the heart and mind of a warrior, like Jesus, that will accomplish both.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”John 15:13
Jesus sees you. The first lesson of this miracle is a welcome one. You and I aren’t invisible. We aren’t overlooked. Jesus spots us on the side of the road, and he makes the first move.
There are three women in my life that I count has having a significant influence on me. Two of the three will probably never know me. That’s the power of having an outlet to reach millions of people either through the radio, books, television, etc. My long commutes as a young working woman were filled with life wisdom dished out with a borderline harshness by Dr. Laura. She made sense to me and helped me to see different perspectives in relationships both personally and professionally. Later, my faith life received a much needed injection of God’s truth from the formidable Joyce Meyer. Her devotional, “Power Thoughts,” was Dr. Laura on faith steroids. But again, these two women and I will probably never cross paths.
The third woman God placed in my path couldn’t be more opposite in personality than the other two. She and Jesus share a beautiful character trait. They love all. They have compassion for all. They know just what someone needs at their darkest hour. When Jesus was asked how the masses would be fed, He stepped up to the plate. And so does my mother-in-law, Bev Shetter.
When I first would visit Bev in her hometown of Longmont, Colorado about 30 years ago, I would find myself frequently annoyed. You see, like people surrounding Jesus on His way to an official’s home, Bev couldn’t get through one aisle at the local grocer without multiple people approaching her. A quick trip for a loaf of bread turned into an hour.
This was so foreign to me. How could one person, not only know so many people, but know so many people so well? She wasn’t some famous tv personality. She didn’t write a book. She didn’t operate the local bakery, or any business for that manner. She wasn’t even head of any organization. She was a housewife who occasionally worked part time at a flower shop here or a dress shop there. And, a faithful member of her church.
She knows everyone’s name, their children’s names, their parent’s names. She knows who is sick and injured. She can share a joke with old and young. She lets people know she’s praying for them regularly. And at the end of a “short” trip for a few groceries I felt a bit like Peter, annoyed that we might be late for our next engagement because Bev needed to say yet another kind “hello” to an elderly woman.
She makes you feel loved, special, remembered.
“It’s funny how God leads us to just the right person to guide us through life. Bev has been that trusted loving spiritual friend to me for some 40 years. She has modeled the commandment of Jesus to love one another putting into action all the teachings of Jesus. We have shared laughter, faith, tears, fears, and all that life gives us and I am so grateful to her for walking beside me and revealing Jesus to me.”
Longtime friend, Jane Nelson
Jesus did that. You knew you were in the presence of someone special because He made you feel special. The disciples knew that when Jesus said, “Follow me” they would be well-loved. They would be remembered. He wasn’t famous when He first called His disciples. He was an unknown. Not a rich businessman or even mildly successful tradesman. Yet He made sure to make people feel known and loved.
“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” John 17:9
Even in His last physical days on Earth He remembered His friends. Not just the disciples. You’ll notice in the verse above He is praying for everyone that the Father sent to Him – that’s you, me, Peter, John, the tax collectors, the adulterers, the gentile and the Jew. Everyone who has turned their lives over to Him.
When I committed myself to my husband, I was given the gift of moving into Bev’s large friendship circle. It wasn’t easy at first. We are also opposite in personality. I was angry, unsettled, untethered to God. I welcomed outrage in my life, judged harshly and forgave reluctantly. But the thing about Jesus is when He steps into a relationship with a Saul He transforms the Saul into a Paul. And when someone like a Bev enters your life, you can’t help but come out changed.
And so I watched and listened. I saw the peace she had in her life that I did not. I watched her minister to the homeless, the shut in, the sick, the needy, the hurt, the lonely. I listened to her words of compassion and quiet, unassuming advice to her friends. She opens her home to visiting missionaries, childhood friends, family and anyone else that needs a pillow to rest their head. And I said, “I want some of that.”
Isn’t that what we do when listen to Jesus talk to a hurting person? “I want to be able to love like that.” Isn’t that what we pray for when we watch Jesus stop and pay attention to one person on the street whom nobody sees? “I should stop and help them.” Isn’t that what we long for when Jesus tells us He will never leave us? “I want to be loved and be remembered.”
“My grandma doesn’t wait around for approval, compliments or appreciation. She has a keen eye for what people need before they may even know it themselves. She is one to show up with a warm meal before your stomach starts to growl or a blanket before you start to shiver.
Granddaughter, Haley Shetter
Jesus and people like Bev show us how to love and be loved. They show us how to be the faithful and loving friend. They aren’t looking for 10,000 “likes” on Facebook. They stop in the grocery aisle and say, “Hello, friend, how is your mom feeling today?” They give their time and prayers one person at a time. And from that, Jesus and Bev have gained a multitude of loving and faithful friends.
“My sister Bev cared for my blessed mother for many years. Her dedication in honoring God through love and service is selfless and enduring. Many times her faith has been tested but never paled.”
Sister, Kathy Pisano
The people like Bev, who live out this Jesus character trait so well, don’t work hard to make friends. They don’t work hard at keeping friends. They work hard at loving people. They look for ways to show compassion. They know that even doing their little part will mean something for somebody. People like Bev are remembered wherever they go, because the people they touch feel something special.
“From her I have learned to watch and listen to her ways. This is not something you develop overnight but attributes you gain over time. She surrounds herself with people who also have these qualities so they can act as a tribe, a community, to build and share their love.”
Granddaughter, Haley Shetter
Bev and her “tribe” are truly special followers of Jesus’ command to love one another and be faithful to others. I’m a living example of someone who can learn to imitate Bev and Jesus. I may never achieve the level of her success but God knows my efforts.
It’s important for us that aren’t more naturally inclined to be like her to know that Jesus still expects us to work at it. I won’t be Bev2.0 but with her example and the guidance of Jesus I can be transformed into someone new.