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His Mercy

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” Proverbs 25:2

Heavenly Father, King above all kings, you know my sinful heart and yet you love me.  You know my sinful ways yet you love me.  You know my idolatries that I struggle to get out from under yet somehow you forgive me and love me.  I reach out to you Lord in all your mystery and glory and thank you for the mercy only you can give.  Amen

I was asked in a study to write down all the reasons why I pray.  I listed thankfulness, requests, intercession, praise and repentance.  I was then asked to circle the reason that comes up most in my prayer life.  I have to admit “repentance” wasn’t one of them.  Thankfulness is probably the most frequent expression I find in my prayer life.  And it’s usually related to blessings – not for keeping me from the fires of my sinful ways.

A few years ago, I finally grasped the concept of God’s mercy with this helpful saying, “Mercy is when you don’t get what you deserve and grace is when you get something you don’t deserve.”  Boy, should I be constantly thanking God for His mercy!  

"Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions." Psalms 51:1

The problem is we sometimes lack of awareness of our destructive swaths we create through sin.  Realizing that, we should find it even more amazing that God gives us believers His mercy.  He doesn’t always save us from earthly consequences but we know that when Jesus returns to judge the earth we won’t be thrown into the fire.  What a glorious and loving God!

God has not asked us to wander bewildered by our transgressions and consequences.  From beginning to end He has set the stage for our success.  Through first giving us the Law, therefore defining sin, then sending Christ to teach us about God, how to live the Christian life and best of all, cleansing us of eternal punishment, He has taught us how to align ourselves with His ways.  The Holy Spirit, which He left to dwell in us, provides us a daily conduit to keep us on track.  

Friend, He thought of everything because He is our Glorious God!  His mercy is our safety net.  He knew we would struggle, and boy do we ever!  Maybe you, like me need to tune in better to the Holy Spirit before we pray today.  Ask Him to search our hearts and minds, like only the King of Kings can do.  Have Him show us those corners of our life that seem blind to us.  Let His glorious light shine to cleanse you.

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Open Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 63

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

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Colossians 1:27

Father God, your riches are boundless, your love endless, and your provisions unending!  While I go throughout my day today help me to take my thoughts off the world’s insufficiencies and turn my eyes to your plentiful ways.  Amen

It was only a short time ago that most of us worried about the scarcity of one product – toilet paper.  It was a man-made problem borne out fear and selfishness.  In fact, one day while at a home improvement store I witnessed a man and woman gleefully overloading their pickup truck with hundreds of rolls of toilet paper.  I’m sure their plan was to sell most of it and their excitement was over the thousands of dollars they would make.  A small part of me hopes they still have a garage full of toilet paper.  My husband’s solution to this dire 21stcentury problem was to install bidets in our bathrooms, therefore eliminating the need for toilet paper. Two points-of-view to the same problem. Scarcity vs. abundance.

We humans have a tendency to always worry about not having enough, whether it be food, water, fuel, trees, love, friends, money, work, or even toilet paper.  But God’s plan for us is so completely different.  He is always wanting us to model our lives, actions and thoughts to His kingdom—which He shows to be the opposite of scarcity thinking.

"Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.
    You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light."  Psalm 36:5-9

You might be thinking, “that all sounds good but what about droughts and food shortages and waning oil reserves?”  To that I say, trust God first for He is always about abundance.  Throughout scripture, especially in the letters to the churches, we are reminded about the basic lesson of childhood – sharing.  (Something the folks in the pickup truck forgot)  You see, God provides.  He may provide more to you than you need so that you can give to another.  He also provides others with knowledge and skills to discover new ways for God to meet our needs.  Abundant thinking is always solution-based rather than fear-based.

I learned a valuable “point of view” lesson once from Dr. Laura Schlessinger about marriage.  If you always have the perspective that divorce is not an option then you will always find new solutions to marital problems (barring issues with violence and other abuses).  It’s the same with God.  If we always have the perspective that God is a god of abundance – overflowing with unending love and grace and mercy for us – then we will seek ways to see Him at work.  We will see our own abundance as His tools to serve others. 

Friend, God’s kingdom is overflowing with milk and honey.  When we see the world in a panic over the latest scarcity-based fear we need to turn our eyes to God.  His kingdom of abundance is open to all who call Him Savior and for that we should give Him all glory and honor!

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His Word

"…encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory."  1 Thessalonians 2:12

“Jesus what would I be without your red letter words? Without the revealing words about our Father God?  Thank you Lord, for each time I open my Bible that your desire is to teach me about your kingdom and glory. Amen”

For many years I sat in a church pew without ever cracking open a Bible.  I didn’t even open it when the pastor told us what page to turn to – because the scripture was up on the screen.  My own Bible sat gathering inches of dust.  It wasn’t until just a couple years ago, when I was unable to attend church, that I realized all the teaching needed was available right at my fingertips.

“..my friends, stand over this volume, and admire its authority. This is no common book. It is not the sayings of the sages of Greece; here are not the utterances of philosophers of past ages. If these words were written by man, we might reject them; but oh, let me think the solemn thought — that this book is God’s handwriting, that these words are God’s.”

Charles Spurgeon on the Bible

How glorious is it that God – that omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being – gave us all we need to know about Him and how to best have a relationship with Him?  Not only did He write down what we need to know He sent Jesus to reveal even more!  If we needed to summarize the purpose of Jesus’ brief physical walk on this earth it might be to say so that we could be pulled even closer in this relationship.  To know the one who created us like we know our own hand.  To want to be so close to Him that we become one with Him.  To know how simple it is to receive His full mercy and grace by just saying, “yes I do and I will.”  Throughout Jesus’ life He pointed us back to the Father and forward to the Holy Spirit.  Reminding us who sent Him and why.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of Godmay be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Yes, my friends, there’s still a lot about God and the Trinity that are a mystery.  His thoughts and ways are greater than ours.  But sometimes we just need to shrug and say, “maybe that’s not for me to know just now.”  Until then we can lift up our voices in praise for the gift of His Word.  It shouldn’t be taken for granted.  For most of our human existence we didn’t have this gift widely available.  The Bible is now translated into about 1,500 languages.  And for that we should give glory!

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Jesus

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. Luke 1:35

Dear God,

I wanted to write to you today and thank you for the amazing gift you gave me and all of humanity.  It was so thoughtful of you to think of us!  I really wasn’t expecting something so wonderful and life giving!  

I am of course, writing to thank you for Jesus.  For that little baby you breathed into Mary thousands of years ago.  For that little child who grew to be a powerful yet quiet man.  God clothed in skin who experienced all the hardships, joys, temptations, love, frustrations and miracles you have blessed this world with.  

I’m so sorry, however, that your Son had to also experience the pain of our sin.  When I think of His last days it brings me so much sadness.  Your gift to us was so beautiful and we destroyed it with a vengeance.  And yet you still love us.  So much so you raised up that gift of Jesus for awhile to teach us a few more lessons before He went home to you.

Heavenly Father, we are entering into a season that should be all about the gift of your Son, Jesus.   Help us, through your Holy Spirit, to remember that little baby, that man, who gave so much in order to cleanse us of our sins.  

Today, oh God, I’m so thankful for the salvation your Son brought to those of us who pronounce Him King of our lives.  Your gracious and mercy-filled gift to us is all we ever need.  I know this small note of thankfulness can never repay you for your kindness.  I look forward to seeing you one day so that I can thank you in person.

Your loving servant,

Kris 

I hope you have enjoyed these 30 Days of Thankfulness! I’m taking some time off from the blog to enjoy this most wonderful time of the year! God bless and Merry Christmas!

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Mercy

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. Lamentations 3:22

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life.  Mistakes that have hurt my husband, my children, others I love, friends, strangers and even myself.  My sins pile up each day, the cessation of which I seem wholly unable to accomplish.  And I’m not alone.  

We are a fallen, sinful lot, us humans.  If we were to take a moment, right now, to think about last week, how many times did we tell a lie, no matter how small?  How many times did we demand to be first, rather than last?  How many times did we put our pride over another’s need?  How many days have gone by that you haven’t forgiven your mother, sister, friend or even that stranger who cut you off on the road?

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Psalms 51:1

There have been a number of attempts over the years to try and convince society that original sin is just a myth.  That man is really a naturally good person.  In the 1800s a man by the name of Robert Owen decided “none are or can be bad by nature.”  So, he set out to create a utopian, socialist society in New Harmony, Indiana.  That experiment lasted just three years before it collapsed.  The reason?  Sin is not the result of some outward set of problems or circumstances that cause us to  “go bad.”  No, it’s because we are by nature sinful.  One only need to look at the answers to my questions at the beginning of this post!

Someone was talking to me about the concept of “being true to our authentic self.”  It was in reference to accepting immoral behavior as good and right.  But I have to tell you, my “authentic self” pops through quite enough already and gets me into plenty of trouble.  I’m just incredibly thankful that at the end of each day as I lay my head down to sleep, I can ask for mercy and forgiveness.  And it is given freely.

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Contend for the Faith

Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  Hebrews 10:33-35

Our country has become a virtual cafeteria of different religions, cults, and non-Christian world views that are all vying for supremacy on America’s religious landscape.  Our country is also currently confronted by many tough domestic and global issues.  We need Christian wisdom and biblical discernment as never before.  

Ron Rhodes, 5 Minute Apologetics for Today

That phone call that dreary night will never be forgotten, at least by me.  And I wasn’t even the person in trouble.  I wasn’t the one who desperately needed to hear the right words to save a life.  But I was in need of knowing the right words to say.  And because I didn’t have the wisdom, the strength of faith I have now, I must take part of the blame for ending a life that night.  

My friend’s voice was filled with desperation.  She was pregnant.  She was also just 19, a college student far from home, a woman who was having an affair with a married man (who had also gotten another woman pregnant).  I had counseled her before, over and over, trying to get her to stop seeing this man.  He was slimy and untrustworthy.  But of course, he was oh so different with her – a genuine prince apparently.  And so, a life of unwanted, unprepared motherhood was staring at her in the face.  What would she tell her parents?  How could she show her face?  My immediate response? “You must get an abortion of course.”  

This young woman who dreamed of being married one day and having many children was looking for a way to erase her mistakes.  To reboot her dream of becoming a nurse first then having a family.  And I helped her take what seemed to be the easy path.  We washed our hands of it all and moved forward with both our lives.  But I have never forgotten what I did.  And I doubt she has either.

I wasn’t a Christian at the time but I was a member of the human race.  A person that valued fairness and justice.  A person who for the most part thought she was a “good person.”  I had no one in my life telling me different, showing me a different way.  It wasn’t until I drew closer to Jesus that I realized how far from the truth I was really living.  

The problem was I then swung too far in the other direction.  I took up the mantle of “truth” and forgot about the Royal Commandment – to love one another.  And I think when we Christians get ourselves mired in political and social issues we can forget about that place of balance that God seeks for us.  We can forget about what we are really needing to accomplish in God’s name.

In the United States, the Republican/conservative/right leaning parties are automatically associated with Christians.  And yes, there are many of the same values involved.  But to assign our faith to one political party’s platform is a mistake in so many ways.  For one, it politicizes the message of Jesus. For another it assumes that all party stances are within the biblical realm.  It also assumes there aren’t people in other parties that profess their Christian faith.  

And so, when we come personally up against a faith/biblical/moral issue we may frequently pull back from our commission of helping others out of a sin-filled life because we don’t want to be labeled a “right winger,” a “bigot,” a “nut job” or any other derogatory statements.

To be fair, too many of our churches have either abdicated their responsibility to teach their flock about so many hot button issues such as homosexuality and abortion and how to respond correctly.  While others have so politicized their churches you can’t tell the difference on a Sunday between a patriot rally and a sermon.

A new friend of mine told me how she was visiting various churches trying to find a new church home.  One visit took place on the 4th of July – the U.S. Day of Independence.  As she stood for the beginning worship, she noticed all the songs were patriotic ones.  And when the US flag was marched in by worshippers, she got up to leave.  At the door the pastor stopped her and asked why she was leaving.  Her response?  “I came to worship God, not the United States.”  She loves her country but her love of God doesn’t have anything to do with her country.

And so, like the women in my Bible study groups we ask questions that our churches fail to address or in the way they need to be addressed.  We feel safe to dig deep into what the Bible truly says about homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, and more.  But we aren’t theologians – that’s why we go to church.   To hear the Word of God taught to us in ways we can turn around and use them out in the world.  It’s sad, to be honest, to hear Christians desperate for knowledge and yet left unfed week after week.

One of the ladies in my study group recently had a profound breakthrough related to this topic.  She is very sweet and prides herself on creating good relationships.  But she realizes her desire to not “rock any boat” has also been an excuse for not speaking the truth + love when it is needed most.  “I’ve realized that in the past I had the excuse of being naïve as to the expectation of what God wants from me.  But I can’t use that excuse anymore.  I know he wants me to contend for the faith.  I know what is truly at stake.  I’m now struggling to see what that looks like for me,” she said.

I’m not going to take each major issue facing our world today because I am not a theologian with lots of important degrees to back up my words.  But I will direct you to the steps you might take to be better prepared when your friend tells you their daughter wants to start hormone treatments to become a man.   Or, when your co-worker tells you that having a nice house in a nice neighborhood is white privilege and you should be ashamed.  We also need to be prepared to step back and know when a political issue maybe doesn’t have any biblical connection at all and just must be looked at from a “good citizen” point of view.  Because yes, not everything we deal with is a faith hill to die on – but how we deal with those issues is.

You’ll remember at the beginning of this post I referenced the book 5 Minute Apologetics for Today.  It was written in 2010.  But you’ll find most of the issues we face currently.  It’s a great, easy read for giving us biblical perspectives.  In addition, here are 4 steps that were recently explained in my current Bible study on Jude.  

As background, Jude (Jesus’ brother) was writing to a church that was infiltrated by false teachers.  Teachers who were leading lives and encouraging believers to give themselves over to sexual immorality and more.  Towards the end of his letter, before he tells the believers how to confront the false teachers, he gives them these four pieces of advice:

  1. Build up your knowledge and confidence in the Word.  Learn about and study the Bible, God’s character, His promises and the judgment to come.  Be immersed by also finding a good biblical teaching church – not one that just tells you some good stories each week.  Join Bible studies and do the work! Jude 20/Eph 2:19
  2. Pray not in the flesh but in the Spirit.  Go to the Holy Spirit and ask for help in what to pray.  By doing so you’ll show God your dependence on Him.  Ask for help in knowing what issues you should be concerned about and which you should just leave alone. Jude 20/Rom 8:26-27
  3. Keep yourself in the love of God.  Fight to resist your own passions and doctrine that keeps you separated from God.  Lean into God for His promises and His direction. Jude 21/John 15:9
  4. Stay in the hope of the mercy that is waiting for you.  As Jackie Hill Perry says about this, “We have been saved from God’s wrath for God.”  The knowledge and hope of what is to come when Jesus returns should feel like a protection.   We have something better in store for us than man’s approval.  We need to keep our sights on this so the persecution we might face doesn’t silence us. Jude 21/Heb 11:25-26

On a final note, I want to encourage you to do a study on Revelation.  It helps to do it with others.  Don’t just read Revelation.  It’s probably too confusing to be honest.  A good study with people you trust will reveal to you what so many of our churches seem to fail to remind us each and every week – that judgment is coming to all.  We have a greater commission than just being “nice Christians.”  We are commissioned to help God save souls.  We might want to start in our own households.

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Laying By The Pool

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.”  

Warren Wiersbe

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Awaken

So then, let us not be like others, 
who are asleep, but let us be awake 
and sober.  
1 Thessalonians 5:6

I just finished a study on the book of Numbers.  It finds Israel wandering about the desert grumbling, complaining and disobeying God at every turn.  And God gives mercy over and over at Moses’ pleading.  Until He doesn’t.  There’s so much death in this book because of the unfaithfulness.  Some because God allows the Israelites to try their own path, leading to deaths during wars.  And some because God rains down His punishment with plagues.

It’s so easy for us to read what happened thousands of years ago and judge the Israelites.  They were asleep to God’s ways and character.  

At the end of one of my commentaries was the statement that from God’s point of view there are only three locations in the Israelite journey and only three locations in our own journey.

  1. Egypt: the land of bondage
  2. The Wilderness: the land of unbelief, doubt and falling short
  3. Canaan: the land of inheritance

The question for us is, which location do we currently find ourselves in?

Throughout the Bible we find an underlying message about growing in our faith.  The sooner we recognize where we are and why we are there, the sooner we can move along on our journey.  

For I know that good itself does not 
dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. 
For I have the desire to do what is good, 
but I cannot carry it out. 
Romans 7:18

This statement by Peter is so self-reflective.  He has one foot in the wilderness while reaching with the other into the land of inheritance.  He actively searches his heart and soul, asking God to reveal the blemishes and the blind spots.

We can spend a lot of time, like the Israelites seeing what God is and does.  We can hear the good work He does in others.  But do we, like Moses, truly understand God’s actions?  Do we still ask “why” and wishing we could go back to Egypt?  Or do we ask God to do even more work in us so that we are constantly changing, stripping away our old selves for His glory?

We want to be awake, vivacious, alive in our faith journey.  We need to not just know “of” God but truly know Him – His character, how He works and how much He loves to see us grow.

You either obey, ignore or resist.  

Warren Wiersbe on the will of God

We humans like to blame the outside world for being stuck.  For not reaching our full potential.  We blame our church for not inspiring us.  We blame our circumstances for not having time for God.  We blame fellow Christians who have hurt us.   But the Holy Spirit resides in us.  It is a personal journey lived out for all to see.  King David, in Psalm 51 does some deep reflection on where he is in his faith journey.

For I know my transgressions, and my 
sin is always before me. Against you, 
you only, have I sinned and done what 
is evil in your sight; 
Psalm 51:3-4

The Israelites blamed Moses and God for not quickly and without hardship reaching the Promised Land.  They lacked David’s self-reflection.  They sat for so many years in the Land of the Wilderness.  It took me almost 20 years of wandering to finally wake up and begin understanding God.  So, I have no place to judge them. 

If you are stuck it’s time to look inward.  It’s time to shake off your sleepiness and do a deep dive with God into your own heart.  Only then can He lead you to the Land of Inheritance.

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Our Brother’s Keeper

Life Lesson #14: Your gift of salvation is not a private affair.  We are to be our brother’s keeper.

Be merciful to those who doubt; save 
others by snatching them from the fire; 
to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating 
even the clothing stained by corrupted 
flesh. 
Jude 1:22-23

When I first started going to church, I had two other friends who were also exploring their faith.  It was a great time when we gathered with our families and openly shared our questions and concerns about religion and our beliefs.  One friend became a devout Catholic – the faith of her husband’s family.  Another followed me into the Presbyterian church – which was my husband’s background.  At one point my fellow traveler baptized her youngest and we were honored to be his God parents.

Shortly after joining the church the horrifying event of 9-11 happened.  It drew many of us to church each week.  But as the months went by, my fellow faith traveler began to drift away.  As a new Christian I wasn’t skilled or knowledgeable enough to help draw her back in.  I felt it was none of my business.

And there lies one of the great debates of the Bible.  Are we our brother’s keeper or not?  Before we got to the message in 1 Thessalonians of caring for our fellow Christian’s state of faith we heard from Cain.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is 
your brother Abel?” 
“I don’t know,” he replied. 
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” 
Genesis 4:9

Setting aside the audacity of Cain speaking so flippantly to God, we see the immediate need to shrink from our duty to care for our fellow man.  Of course, in Cain’s situation, it was to cover for a great sin.  This is the “I have my own problems so why should I be concerned about anyone else’s?” way of looking at the question of are we our brother’s keeper.

God does not ask or require of us to take on all the burdens of our fellow man.  In fact, throughout the Bible it’s made clear that a heart change and therefore a behavior change is a very personal responsibility.  Something that can only be accomplished between an individual and God.  

No man can be his brother’s keeper in the sense of taking upon himself another man’s responsibilities.  

Charles Spurgeon

A friend once told me that after a long, difficult day of being a school counselor, in a particularly troubled area of town, she would go home and eat an entire pint of ice cream.  The stress of responsibility she felt was physically taking its toll.  God does not require us to be this heavily burdened with a person’s faith conversion.  But what if we took it at least as seriously as we do so many other things in our lives?  

Our responsibility is heavy enough without our exaggerating it; we are not men’s sponsors, and if they reject our Saviour whom we faithfully preach their blood must be upon their own heads.

Charles Spurgeon

So what of our verse from Jude today?  What is our responsibility to being our brother’s keeper?  So often, I believe, when we hear this phrase, we imagine ourselves constantly correcting and judging someone.  But a careful study of the Bible’s message about this topic leads to one conclusion – speaking the truth of the Gospel and nothing more.

My brothers and sisters, if one of you 
should wander from the truth and someone 
should bring that person back, remember 
this: Whoever turns a sinner from the 
error of their way will save them from 
death and cover over a multitude of sins. 
James 5:19-20

Wandering from the truth.  Remember my fellow faith traveler?  She is the person mentioned first in the verse today – “one who doubts.”  She wasn’t sure she believed in all that Christians teach.  She was being called back into the world daily.  What she and all new Christians need from their fellow believers and churches is special care and compassion.  

I love how my younger daughter’s church places new members (and even non-members) immediately into a small faith family.  That’s where they can share their questions without judgment.  They are welcomed weekly with open arms and open hearts.  On the opposite end, I’ve been in churches where small groups are barely mentioned and seem to be a place only for mature, involved Christians.

“It is much easier to instruct new Christians and keep them away from the false teachers than it is to snatch them from the fire.”  

Warren Wiersbe

Jude then goes on to admonish us to snatch others from the fire.  According to Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe, these are people who have left our Christian fellowship and are now part of an apostate, or false teaching, group.  What is our responsibility to them?

We might be led to think we have no responsibility at all.  “Who am I to tell them what they think is wrong?”  It’s a refrain I’ve heard from quite a few long-time Christians.  But who are we?  We are the recipients of the greatest sacrifice of all eternity.  A gift that has always been meant to be shared.

I tell you a cold-hearted Christian makes worldlings think that Christianity is a lie.  

Charles Spurgeon

I have friends who consider themselves “spiritual” but not “religious.”  What I’ve come to understand is the word “religious” is actually a substitute for believing that Jesus is the one and only Savior.  Usually in the same conversation I hear “who am I to say there’s only one path to God?” 

If we are not secure enough in our own faith and the Word of God, we won’t have an answer.  We may not be responsible for someone’s heart decision but it is clear that we are responsible for knowing that Jesus is the Way.  And that knowledge is not to be held in a lockbox.  Jesus isn’t for some people.  He is for all people – every race, creed, and nationality.

With truth plus love we can stand for God in the face of our “spiritual” friends.  When the opportunity arises in conversation, we must see it as God’s open door.  And if we refuse to take the step through the door, we must then accept some responsibility for that person’s place in eternity.

If you want to destroy a man you need not teach him to drink or swear: keep back the gospel from him. Be in his company and never say a word for Christ. Be where you ought to speak and be sinfully silent, and who knows how much blood will be laid to your door. 

Charles Spurgeon

Our burden is to do God’s bidding.  Not for God to do ours.  How many times have you had the opportunity to speak God’s truth yet shrunk back in fear of reprisal or embarrassment?  

And so, we come to the last person described by Jude.  The person or people to whom we should show mercy mixed with fear.  Not many of us are equipped to deal with false teachers or with their ardent followers.  These days people have turned from the religion of God to the religions of the environment, of self-love, of wokeness, of the state, and so on.  And their followers are admirably zealous.  To stick a Christian toe into the mind of one of these believers can be quite dangerous.  But that doesn’t mean God wants us to forget about them.

The very fact that there is a Christ at all means that there was one who cared for others, and that our Lord became a man means that he loved his enemies and came here to rescue those who rebelled against his authority. 

Charles Spurgeon

I was praying the other day for something I realized later was wrong thinking.  I prayed that this blog would have a larger audience.  That same day I watched a video by a pastor from Colorado titled, “What does the Bible say about homosexuality.”  It was a great deep dive into related scripture.  And then came the comments.  I will summarize them by saying his responses to the vitriol were very Christ-like.  Notice the title wasn’t, “What I think about homosexuality.”  And yet the personal attacks were disturbing.  In reading his responses I realized that in no way am I prepared to dive into that pool.  

So, what is our responsibility in situations like these?  Again, if God opens the door, He will also have your back.  But if He doesn’t, He always asks us to pray for others.  Knowing who and what we need to pray requires us to be mature in our faith.  We need to pray fervently for the saving of souls.

And, you saved ones, you owe much to God, but do not think that you are saved for your own especial benefit alone. 

Charles Spurgeon

The gathering of souls for God should be every, single Christian’s mission in life.  Starting first in our homes, then amongst our friends, our neighbors and then the world.  We may not always have a one-on-one conversation but we can always pray.  We can give with open hands to mission programs.  Most importantly, we should always be asking God, “who can I help you save today?” And then walk through that door.

The Charles Spurgeon quotes used in this blog come from the sermon titled, “Am I My Brother’s Keeper.” Check it out and be energized for our mission of sharing the gospel!