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The First 3,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henry Martyn

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

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

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

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

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Our Faith Progression

We, therefore, desire to copy his character and put our feet into his footprints. Be it ours to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. What saith our Lord himself? “Follow me,” and again, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Not Christ’s apostle, but Christ himself, is our guide; we may not take a secondary model, but must imitate Jesus himself. 

Charles Spurgeon
 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

Many years ago, I had the benefit of listening to a sermon series on our progression as a disciple of Christ.  I have heard many pastors say there’s too many of us Christians who seem stuck at the beginning of that progression and aren’t fully living the life Christ wants for us.

It may even come as a surprise to some that there is an expected “progression” in our faith lives.  We assumed that once we accepted Jesus as our Savior we’re done.  We are able to check off that box on the questionnaire asking what our faith is: Christian.  

"But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:16

We all have probably heard the above verse a few times in our Christian lives.  But reading the entire chapter reveals something even more.  The progression.  

"When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power." 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

The apostle Paul himself explains that when he first came to the people of Corinth He came with the first step in the progression – the message of Jesus’ love for us.  That He died for us.  He rose again for us.  Paul goes on to say:

"We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature." 1 Corinthians 2:6

The mature.  Who among your faith group would you deem “mature” in their faith?  Who among them would you deem a “baby Christian?” And where do you count yourself?  This is not asked in judgment.  All who are saved are equally loved by God.  But you can probably tell the difference between people who are further along in their faith progression and those that aren’t.  And it has nothing to do with age.  The sign of a maturing Christian is that they’ve received the gift and have actually opened the box and are using it.

So what is this progression? In the sermon series I mentioned, these steps were defined as: 

  1. Believer – Mark 9:23 
  2. Follower – Luke 9:23
  3. Apprentice – Ephesians 4:14 
  4. Learner – Philippians 4:9

Jesus Himself shows us this progression as He lived out those three world-changing years. 

  • Step 1) The Loving and Faithful Friend 
  • Step 2) The Obedient Servant
  • Step 3) The Courageous Warrior
  • Step 4) The Patient Teacher
  • Step 5) The Wise Counselor

Throughout this series, the Jesus Mindset, we will meet people – some famous and some very ordinary– who exemplify the different steps in the faith journey. And it is only correct to start with the first step.  Lest we think we have step one down pat I should warn you that so many Christians remain in step one because of the difficult truths and expectations presented.  It is the message we hear over and over in our churches.  It is the first and the last message Christ has for us, which makes it the most important of all.  

“As the Father loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.” John 15:9

When I was researching various pastors who make love and friendship a cornerstone of their message I realized I had an old friend already in my midst waiting to talk to me again.  As I perused through my Christian books I stopped on, “How Happiness Happens,” by Max Lucado.

Pastor Lucado probably needs no introduction.  He is an internationally known pastor, author, speaker and more.  He’s written too many books and articles to count.  And the theme throughout is love. How to accept Christ’s love.  And how to show love not just to our friends but to complete strangers.  He reminds us that Jesus is our loving and faithful friend and wants us to model that character trait to everyone we meet.  When you read about Pastor Lucado you see his lifelong mission is to set solidly in our hearts the message of God’s love for us.  He shows us how to translate that great gift to others.

“I’m a pastor. I can sit down with somebody who has a broken heart and love them and encourage them and remind them of how God cares. But I struggle when I look at a budget. Or I struggle when somebody says, ‘Well, what’s the long-term strategy for our church?’ Well, I don’t know. I guess we’ll see. Let’s love God, preach Jesus, and pray.”

Max Lucado on his leadership style

So much of what Pastor Lucado speaks of seems simple.  And yet, I find myself day in and day out forgetting to live out the simple messages. 

“Greet one another for your sake.  Experience the joy of showing people they matter.  Greet each other for their sake. What is small to you may be huge to them.  Most of all greet each other for Jesus’ sake.”

Max Lucado, “How Happiness Happens”

How often do we go through an entire day and find ourselves never having truly connected with another human being?

“Listen intently and praise abundantly.”

Max Lucado, “How Happiness Happens”

Isn’t that what Jesus did throughout His ministry? You can only imagine how the woman at the well in John 4:1-26 felt when Jesus was with her.  He wasn’t looking over her shoulder at a bird or cute dog while she spoke.  He wasn’t thinking about the next town He was to visit or His next meal.  He saw her.  He listened to her.  He loved her even when she pushed Him away.

It’s definitely easier to live out the Jesus Mindset of being a loving and faithful friend with people we choose to be around.  We pick our friends and we even pick who in our family we spend more time with.  We are deliberate with whom we ask to go to lunch at work.  But Jesus loved the unlovable.  He touched the untouchable.  

“You wonder why God doesn’t remove the enemies in your life? Perhaps because he wants you to love like he loves. Anyone can love a friend, but only a few can love an enemy.”

Max Lucado

Isn’t this where so many of us get stuck?  We count ourselves, “good people” or “good Christians” and yet we harbor, at best unforgiveness, and at worst hatred for people.  

I grew up in a household where unforgiveness and hatred ran deep.  I had a parent who judged harshly and never forgave. People and places got etched into stone on “The List.”  That was my touchstone, my guidebook.  So when I started hearing the message of God’s love, faithfulness and forgiveness it was difficult to accept.  The first step was to believe God felt that way toward me.  And to be honest, I find myself frequently falling backward into not returning those gifts to others.  

The lessons and examples from Pastor Lucado are great every day reminders on living out Jesus’ request of us to love one another.

“God is love” (1 John 4:16). One word into the passage reveals the supreme surprise of God’s love—it has nothing to do with you. Some people love you because of you. Not God – He loves you because He is He.  

Max Lucado

Isn’t that amazing? Wouldn’t you agree that most of the people in your life love you because of who you are to them? A daughter or son, a wife or husband, a longtime friend with similar interests, and so on. We may even find ourselves saying we love a person who is related to us but we don’t like them very much. It’s all conditional. But God loves us because He is love. Let’s not just gloss over that. Take a moment to really let it sink in. He is the definition of love. Like a cloud of love envelopes us and snuggles us wherever we go!

I saw a picture the other day of a woman at the store who had created a contraption designed to keep people six feet away from her. It involved a hula hoop, straps, signs, warning reflectors and more. When I saw this I thought, “that’s the exact opposite message of Jesus.” His cloud of love surrounding us is more like a fog bank — it pulls others in and seeps into everything. It quiets the world around us.

Today, when you go out into the world, picture your God cloud swirling around you. It’s beautiful and inviting. Its little tendrils reach out and wrap around others you meet. Invite them in with a smile, a greeting, a shrug of forgiveness. With each act of love we a do a bit of cloud seeding — leaving a piece of Jesus to grow.


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A Mustard Seed

Do not repay evil with evil 
or insult with insult. On the 
contrary, repay evil with blessing, 
because to this you were called 
so that you may inherit a 
blessing. 
1 Peter 3:9 

A prayer to be a blessing to those around me and my community

Holy Spirit I get so wrapped up in my everyday problems and to-do lists I forget to pause and look at the world around me.  I rush out in my car and don’t stop to say “hi” to my elderly neighbor.  I see the trash someone has left behind at the nearby lunch table and I assume someone else will pick it up.  I watch the mother with two kids struggling to get her groceries in the car and I think, “thank goodness that isn’t me.”  Oh, how I know you keep whispering to me to stop and do your work.  But I prioritize my list and sometimes you aren’t on it.  LORD, I say I want to be a blessing to others and yet I let so many opportunities pass me by.  Today, I will be that blessing.  Today I will recognize the need to slow down, reach out, and do your work.  I will be your mustard seed and help build your Kingdom into all it’s glory.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.


One of my neighbors is a quiet, older gentlemen.  He lives by himself in the largest house in our development.  He and his old dog, Scooter, are fixtures in our community.  And yet, most people probably don’t know that he supplies all the doggie poop bags for a dispenser in our neighborhood.  For Christmas, he always gives me and my dog, Tucker, a box of our own doggie bags.  You could say he’s in the dog poop ministry!  An unlikely blessing to so many of us.

In the same way, let your 
light shine before others, 
that they may see your good 
deeds and glorify your Father 
in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

No matter how many Bible study groups I’ve been a part of or how many churches I have attended, the one thing about “ministry” people seem to fear is being called to give up all their possessions and move to the outback of Africa.  And yet, Christ calls us to be a blessing starting in our own homes and neighborhoods.  If all of us would just start there, imagine the transformation that would take place!

If you really keep the royal 
law found in Scripture, 
“Love your neighbor as yourself,”
you are doing right.
James 2:8

At the beginning of the Covid pandemic I was called to start what became The Joy Challenge.  I invited my friends, family, Bible study groups, and neighbors to take part in a variation of Max Lucado’s effort to raise the joy level of 100 people over 40 days.  About 20 people said, “yes!”  It was fascinating to hear people struggle with the idea of being that tiny mustard seed who could affect others.  Some said, “How can I do anything if I’m locked away in my house?”   Others said, “But I don’t really know anyone.”  While even others said, “I can’t afford to buy things.”  

But the ideas began rolling in.  Some started writing little notes to friends and neighbors.  One lady painted smiley faces of all sorts on rocks and placed them in her yard.  My walking buddy just started waving and yelling “hello” and “have a great day” to an endless supply of UPS, FedEx and Amazon drivers.  Some had their kids write chalk notes out in front of people’s houses.

And me? I thought I had a great “in” on some toilet paper from China.  When it arrived, the rolls were tiny travel rolls about 3” in diameter.  After a good laugh I decided God wanted me to give these little rolls way so, I tied a note to all of them with a funny quote and randomly dropped them off at people’s doors along my walking route.

Months later one of those neighbors stopped me and said, “Aren’t you the lady that gave us that toilet paper roll?  We saw you on our security camera!  Thank you so much – we thought it was hilarious!”

It shouldn’t take a world-wide pandemic for us Christians to seek out ways to spread joy and be a blessing to our neighbors and our community.  I’m re-committing myself, no matter the busyness of the day, to be on the lookout for ways to be someone’s blessing.  It might mean I take an extra minute to roll my neighbor’s trash can in or I stop and pick up that plastic bag that’s rolling down the sidewalk.  It’s a mustard seed.  And I know each one I plant will help build His Kingdom.

If you want this too, add the prayer to your daily prayer list and watch and see how God works in your life!

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Promised Hope In The Grind

Hope — what is hope really? It’s usually paired with “dreams” as in- — “Hopes and Dreams.” But, that combination phrase lessens and cheapens the real power and impact of hope defined in the Bible and promised by God. A dream is whimsical, theatrical and imaginary. Hope, from a Christian perspective, is rooted in a foundational promise from God. Hope is ambitious, assertive and seeped in God’s hope for his people. Nothing locks in the promise of hope for me better than an Old Testament verse like this one:

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31

Grinder. Amongst my friends, that’s a title earned by time in the pressure cooker of challenges and battles. A badge of honor accomplished and proudly worn from difficult and trying times in life, in business, and under fire. The Bible tells us that those times will come for all of us. We know and have been taught in scripture that extreme heat and pressure are the only things that can shape and sharpen iron.

I’ve got a friend who offers this charge to me when I’m in it deep: “The only way through it, is through it.” Short and sweet — put your head down, grind it out, do what needs to be done for as long as you need to, and you will come out the other side. No shortcuts, no substitutes, no opt outs, no procrastinating. Do what needs to be done, do the best you can, and take care of business. Make the pain and suffering work for your benefit to make a strong you for better days ahead.

That’s hope. If you do the work, grind it out, it will get better. It’s a process and a promise, but you gotta do the hard work. It won’t stay bad or hard forever. That’s God’s promise for all of us. Do the work, put in the time. Stay connected to the Lord and make the commitment to hold the line. Stay the course, stand firm in your convictions and commit. Remembering, most of all, that God works on His timeline not ours. The New Testament is full of hope delivered through Jesus’ teaching and promises lived out amongst his followers.

Who’s a better example of a grinder than the Apostle Paul? He is the New Testament Super Grinder. Once Saul became Paul and the scales fell away from his eyes, his life became a one-man testament to grinding it out for the Lord’s promise of salvation. Shipwrecked, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and tortured. There was no quit in Paul’s mission of spreading God’s promise. Some of the most empowering texts in the Bible come from the hands of Paul and the promises of God’s hope, power, salvation and renewal.

Paul inspires Timothy to stay strong of faith and strong in conviction in the battle for hearts and minds. Paul encourages and challenges Timothy to hold the line for God’s promises for his congregation. Paul is a mission-purposed driven machine. An example for all of us of a grinder for God.

Therefore, since we have been 
justified through faith, we have 
peace with God through our Lord 
Jesus Christ, through whom we have 
gained access by faith into this 
grace in which we now stand. And 
we boast in the hope of the glory 
of God.  Not only so, but we also 
glory in our sufferings, because 
we know that suffering produces 
perseverance; perseverance, 
character; and character, hope.
Romans 5:1-4

With hope comes the everyone’s desired outcome: peace. Isn’t that the goal of our aspirational yearning and grinding? 

A place of deserved rest: peace, comfort and love. And isn’t that end goal, that accomplishment, always much sweeter when we have earned it with hard work, perseverance, suffering and clenching on to the promise of God’s reward for our lives?