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Forever & Ever

“To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” Philippians 4:20

“Jesus, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to live in me.  I can turn to you at any time, day or night, in times of joy and of sorrow and you are with me guiding me, convicting me and loving me.  Forever and ever.  Amen”

When I married my husband 34 years ago, we promised to be there for each other till the day we die.  I plan on keeping that promise, and I’m certain he will too.  However, I also recognize that we are both human.  We will disappoint each other.  At times we’ve felt betrayed by the other.  We’ve been angry and hurt.  We’ve also loved each other deeply.  And although I hope that our promise we made all those years ago stays true, you just never know what strange turns our sinful human nature may take.

In all our relationships there is only one that we can know without a doubt, that we could place a million dollar bet on and know it’s a “sure thing.”  And that’s the one we have, as believers, with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. 

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17

Before the glory of Pentecost the Holy Spirit only came and “visited” man.  He would come and direct various people in the Old Testament to do God’s work.  But Jesus made it clear that He would no longer make us orphans.  When He left He would step aside for the Holy Spirit to come and live IN us believers forever.  How beautiful, loving and glorious is that?  God – this magnificent, mysterious, expansive, all powerful being wants to be a part of me and you, always.  While we are taking a shower, making dinner, at work, running errands He is with us. 

“You have often left God.  Has He ever left you?”  

Charles Spurgeon

I’ve had friends that no longer talk to me.  I’ve turned my back on some myself.  I’ve even gotten pretty mad at God.   With one of my funnier moments telling Him, “I’m not going to believe in you anymore!” (Ponder the irony of that statement for a minute) But God has stayed true.

Friends, look at the very best relationship you have.  The one that brings you laughter, joy, loyalty and more.  And magnify that by a billion.  That’s God living with us and in us through the Holy Spirit.  I don’t know about you but I think that’s certainly something for which we should glorify and give thanks.

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I Will

So her husband, Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. Matthew 1:19

We left off our study of new beginnings with a cliff hanger of sorts.  There sat Jonah on a hill wishing he were dead.  And God reminding Jonah that He cares for all people of the earth, especially the ones “who cannot tell their right hand from their left.”  Thank goodness for that because there are many days I feel and act like one of those foolish people!  If left to being helped out of my fiery pit by unloving, sleepy Christians, I would surely find myself in the depths of hell.  But for God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  And those that submit themselves not only to their will but do so out of love.

So, we leave the Old Testament with many more stories of new beginnings than I have shared.  And with hope that Jonah finally grasped God’s message of works without love is empty and useless.  But here’s the thing about our guidebook for life, the Bible, God’s holy Word, there’s 1000s of connections back and forth between the ancient stories in the Old Testament and the newer history of the New Testament.  Which leads us to the first new beginning we encounter in the book of Matthew.  Another Noah.  Another servant of God who is the way maker for the world’s new beginning.  The connector from the old ways to the new.  A man who, like Noah, was considered “righteous” and faithful to God.  But first, let me share with you a modern story of another righteous man who helped shepherd in a new beginning for one small child.

Epworth’s Children’s Home received this first-hand account from a foster parent in 2017 about his experience in becoming a foster father:

“Our family has been fostering a boy since October 2017. Yesterday our foster child had a court hearing to determine what step to take as far as his custody goes. I haven’t shared a lot about the whole foster experience because I have been afraid, to be completely honest. Afraid because fostering has been a lot harder for me than I thought it would be. Not because the child is difficult – it has been hard because of my heart. Ever since he came into our home, I have been terrified of becoming too attached and having my heart broken when he would eventually leave our home. I have been terrified of giving him all of my love, my energy, my grace and my compassion. I was sitting in the courtroom listening to the different parties discussing and debating the best course of action for the child’s future, when I started shaking. I began to realize this is the moment! The moment I decide to completely expose my heart to the potential of pain, or keep my walls up. It was absolutely terrifying! I started hearing a small voice inside that I could no longer ignore, and it was telling me to fight for this child. I realized I was willing to do anything for him.

“My walls started to crumble around me. Then I heard the judge call my name. He wanted to know if I wanted to adopt this child. I wanted to scream “Yes! He is my son!”, but I think I said something a little less dramatic like, “Yes sir, we are working on becoming licensed for adoption for this child.” I then heard the judge say that he is ordering termination of parental rights and opening this case for adoption. The weight of this decision is not lost on me, but it was one of the most powerful experiences that I have ever had.”

But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20

Joseph was our Lord’s foster father.  As a devout follower of the Mosaic Law, he had every right to not only publicly shame Mary for her “adultery” but also to have her stoned to death!  Before the angel even spoke to him, however, love, kindness, compassion took over and he decided to quietly divorce her.  Think of how Jonah would’ve responded.  Surely God would’ve had to intervene to save Mary’s life from Jonah’s anger.

After Joseph obeyed God’s urging to complete his marriage vows to Mary, his troubles surely were not over. Like Noah, he would’ve faced public humiliation.  The knowledge of Mary’s pregnancy in the small village of Nazareth would have spread like a wildfire.  And yet he stayed the course.  He stayed faithful not only to Mary but to God.  He didn’t, by all accounts do it begrudgingly like Jonah.  He took up the mantle of “foster father” and protected his family, raised his son as his own.  His new beginning was as father to someone else’s son.  An earthly role model.  A shepherd, like Noah, for what was to be all of humanity’s new beginning.

Joseph and the unnamed servant girl who helped Naaman (2 Kings 5:3) also have a lot in common.  They were faithful.  They had a heart for God.  They stepped up to help when they could’ve taken a different path.  Their small steps were a gift to many.  And they both are but a few lines in our history.  Joseph’s last mention of him doesn’t even use his name.  Jesus is 12 years old, immersed in the teachings at the temple and his parents are frantically looking for him.  His mother chastises him and says, “Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you!” (Luke 2:48)  After that, Joseph fades away.  Most likely, he passes before Jesus begins his adult ministry.

And yet we remember him each Christmas for his shepherding, protecting, and faith.  We should all add a bit of thanks to Joseph each day we pray in Jesus’ name.  Because like so many faithful servants of Christ, He obeyed out of love.  He didn’t ask or require that “thanks.”  He didn’t harbor ill will for having to endure hardship.  He put his head down, his hands out and his heart lifted and said to God, “I will.”

I want to share with you the rest of the letter written to Epworth Children’s Home by the foster father:

“I will end with this. This is especially for you guys and fathers. If you feel God tugging at your heart to become a foster parent, listen! There will always be a reason to not become a foster parent, but if your main reason is that you are scared your heart will be broken, then you especially need to do it. Foster children need someone who will be heartbroken over them. They need someone who is going to stick by them when things get hard. They haven’t experienced that. They need someone to love them and be gentle with them when they come over and hit you in the face with a maraca and break your glasses (not that I have ever had that happen, that is completely hypothetical, of course!). They need someone who is going to be faithful to them and strong for them in their weakest moments. I am by no means perfect in any of those, but I am strong in my faith, and it provides me the love, strength and grace that I need. Fostering has made me more dependent on God, in everything, and that is good. Ultimately, I am a foster child who was adopted into His family, and I am fully loved.”

Amen.

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The Bible

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Luke 24:44

As I’ve progressed in the study of the Bible, I’ve learned that the entire Bible teaches us about one subject – Jesus.  From beginning to end Jesus appears.  He is part of the creation team, the angel of the Lord speaking to Hagar, the prophecy of Isaiah, and so much more.  So, when Jesus, after His resurrection, reminds the disciples that His death fulfilled all that the Old Testament taught us we should be spurred to investigate further.

He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Luke 24:46-47

You can buy a Bible that only includes the New Testament.  But that would be like getting dropped into the middle of a battle not knowing why it started and which side you should be on!  And while there are so many great lessons and the message of salvation in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John the full weight of those gifts lies in the cornerstones set in Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah and more.

It’s believed the first book of the Bible written was Job, around 2000 BC. After that the 10 Commandments and then the Book of the Law were placed in the Ark of the Covenant around 1000 BC.  The New Testament books were written about 50 AD.   Emperor Constantine commissioned the Codex Vaticanus, considered the original entire Bible, in 312 AD.  And in 1381, John Wycliffe defied church authority and began translating the Bible into English and distributing handwritten books to laypeople.  With the advent of the printing press in 1455, the Bible began its journey to being one of the most popular books ever printed.

I’m so thankful God took His Word and through man put it in this book we call the Bible.  With it we can learn about His character, His promises and fulfillment of them, His expectations, His plans for us.  My Bible sat for years gathering dust, not respecting its long history and those who died to make it accessible to all.  It seemed unwieldy and confusing.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, teachers and the fellowship of Christians I’ve come to see the beautiful story, the amazing truth of Jesus, Son of God.  The Bible is a living document, one which grows with us as we dig deeper into our faith.

Today on this great day of Thanksgiving in the United States I want to spur you to open your Bible.  To read the history of our broken world.  To read the entire, true story of a God who loves us.  Of a God who never leaves us.  Of a God who promises to deliver us from our sins.  Of a God who sent His son to be sacrificed so that we will be brought home, cleaned and forgiven.

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Resolute In Christ

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Luke 9:51

Hi Friends!  It’s been a while since my last post – which ended the 30 More Days of Praise series.  I’ve been praying for some time for direction about my next series.  And I finally received a push a few weeks ago to write about standing strong in our faith, in the face of adversity.  There’s a lot going on out in our world that pushes back against the message of Jesus.  From twisting God’s view of agape-type love to seeking comfort from our fears through worldly means, we Christians are in a tough battle.  Tough, but not a new one.

When we read the New Testament books, a common thread throughout is adversity.  The saints were constantly up against the threat of death, torture, and imprisonment.  Much of Jesus’ time here on earth was pushing up against, not the political world, but the religious one.  It was the supposed followers of God who called for Jesus’ crucifixion.  And it was his supposed loyal followers that abandoned Him at the time of His greatest need.

And once the twelve received the Holy Spirit and realized their holy callings it only got worse.  As word spread and followers grew so did false teachers and strife amongst congregations.  And each apostle either found themselves facing a murderous mob or a lonely prison.  Yet the Word endured. 

On the face of it all it seems improbable.  How could a tiny group of men (and a few women) from thousands of years ago be the ones who today help us to know and understand our glorious God, His son Jesus and the Holy Spirit?  How could the Word of God have been passed down through the ages with only slight changes in translations?  Because God is God.  And, because God is resolute in His love for us, He has made sure His message continued and will continue to educate, inspire, and comfort us for all time.

And that brings me to where I am today.  In a recent visit to my mother in law, I mentioned how I haven’t been writing lately.  And she said, “Oh how I miss my Emboldened each day.  I just am amazed at how much and what you write.”  It made me realize there are real people out there behind my computer screen reading my messages of God.  And I owe you an apology and explanation. 

You see, as always, God put on my heart just the right message at the right time.  To be Resolute in Christ.  To stand firm in His promises.  To be assured that He loves us.  To know without a doubt that He is with us, through thick and thin.  I need that message right now.  For the last two months I’ve been suffering through a medical condition that perplexes my doctors.  My ears are under extreme pressure and I’ve lost much of my hearing in my left ear.  I am in constant pain and so often can barely focus on the basic work I need to accomplish – much less sit and write.

I have pleaded with God to relieve me.  I have cried to God.  I have argued with God.  I have questioned God – even just today after yet another fruitless doctor appointment.  I’ve been so weak at times I’ve wanted to turn my back on Him.  But He pulls me back each day.  He is resolute and I need to be the same.

So, this is my first step to working through my pain, my brain fog and to be honest my self-pity.  I am a Jesus follower, just like the early disciples, who needs to trust God and obey His Word.  He has given me my marching orders and I choose to engage in the battle for the saints.  I am resolute.  

Join me September 20-October 22 as we explore the many passages in the Bible that show us how to be Resolute in Christ and to live an uncompromising Christian life.

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A Cotton Seed World

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:20-21

My BSGs are embarking on a new study called, “He Speaks to Me,” by Priscilla Shirer.  What stood out to me in the first video we watched was her discussion about the Kingdom of God.  She shared with the audience about how in the Old Testament the Israelites prayed for the “coming” Kingdom of God.  It was something they hoped and yearned for throughout their years as a new and developing nation.  And right at the beginning of the New Testament we find John the Baptist proclaiming:

“Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near!” Matthew 3:2

With Jesus’ arrival, the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) became flesh and was brought to the Israelites.  And so many of them refused to grasp that their prayers were answered.  And when Jesus was resurrected, the Holy Spirit remained to cover us with the Kingdom.  

Today I praise God for His continual presence in our world, in my life and yours.  The big word is “omnipresent.”  But I like to think of it more as though I move through and live in God’s presence.  He’s not “with me.”  I am more like the tiny seed that is buried in a fluff of freshly picked cotton.  I am in God’s kingdom, surrounded by Him.  

When I grasped this idea just a year or so ago it changed my perspective dramatically.  I don’t need to ask God to come help me or be near me.  I just need to slow down my brain and remember I am always in His presence.  We are all in His presence, whether we believe in Him or not.

It reminds me of the movie, The Matrix.  There are those in the movie whose brains and bodies are hooked up to a virtual reality machine.  They move about in a phony world without realizing its fake character.  And then there are the people who have disconnected from the computer and live almost in an alternate space – the real, tangible world.  When we disconnect from the world of the flesh and recognize that this is God’s world, His created space, and that we are in His midst, we start seeing life and how to live it from a new perspective.

The Kingdom, Jesus reiterated in our first verse is not a specific “thing” to be seen.  It’s because it is everything in God’s creation.  It is the grace God gifted us through Jesus.  It is His Holy workings in our lives via the Holy Spirit.  The kingdom is God and God is the kingdom.  Gnaw on that a bit!

When I’m struggling with an issue or feel pulled apart by the fleshly world, I now seek that “sweet spot.”  That quiet moment where I can feel nestled in His presence, like that little cotton seed.  I wrap it around me like a warm, soft blanket and thank God I can call him “home.”


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From Student to Teacher

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.”

Joyce Meyer

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.  

Charles Spurgeon

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Fight or Flight

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

I’d wanted to get my motorcycle license since I was 16 years old.  For any of you counting that’s about 37 years ago.  Back then, my mind and body were young and better equipped to handle the fast moving issues surrounding the dangers of riding.  So, when I finally made a lifelong dream come true, I decided to take a motorcycle safety class.  In order to pass the class, we were required to learn and practice a few emergency maneuvers.  In one situation we were to swerve, at a fairly fast speed, to the left and to the right in a tight “z.”  In another we had to learn how to safely make a quick stop.  In both, the decision had to be made in a blink of an eye to stay in the fight to be upright or to take flight from the bike.

The key to both safety maneuvers is where our focus lay – straight ahead.  Our tendency, as new riders, is to look down at the front wheel.  This is a sure fire way to crash, as I found out during one quick stop practice.

I’ve now been riding for about four years.  But it is in the back of my mind at all times that I’m not sure how I will react when faced with a real emergency.  I have the knowledge but not the wisdom of experience.  Will I stay in the fight or take flight?

Isn’t our faith journey a lot like that?

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. Let perseverance finish its work 
so that you may be mature and complete, not 
lacking anything. 
James 1: 2-4

We, through our faith teachers and reading the Word, gather up our knowledge of God and how His son, Jesus, loves us so much.  But until we have faced an emergency, a faith testing, we cannot truly know how we will respond.

I think one of great crossroads in the New Testament is when Peter professes to Jesus that he will always stand by his friend.  And when the faith trial came, he fled.  Not once, not twice but, three times.  And we ask ourselves, what would we have done?

Peter had the knowledge of Jesus but not the wisdom of a faith tested.  And even after he realized the truth of the situation and witnessed Christ’s death, he still turned away for a time by going back to his old life of fishing rather than carrying out his friend’s commission.  

I’m so grateful that the one player in the story of humanity never takes flight from us – God.  He is the “long sufferer” in our thousands-year old journey.  At each turn where we have either forgotten or abandoned Him, God has stayed the course and given us grace.

I once was so angry with God that I made the decision to stop believing in Him.  I remember yelling up to the heavens, “I don’t trust you and I don’t believe in you anymore!”

I spent the next few weeks in a tug-o-war of sorts.  At one moment I would find myself arguing with God and then another reminding myself not to talk to someone I didn’t believe in.  And He never left me.

And let us run with perseverance the race 
marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, 
the pioneer and perfecter of faith. 
Hebrews 12:1-2

I’ve had minor emergencies while out on my motorcycle – cars swerving in front of me, lights quickly changing from green to red – where I’ve accessed that knowledge from my safety class.  It’s wisdom building.  And God has given me minor trials along the way.  With each opportunity to decide whether I stay upright, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus or to take flight, I build up my wisdom and faith muscles.

Peter, who although had the blessed opportunity to stand alongside Jesus for three years, had to face his own trials in order to fully mature from knowledge of God to having the wisdom and faith of His character and ways.  When he took his eyes off Jesus, he was given grace. Jesus returned to him over and over.

As Christ followers, we know the entire story from which draw upon.  And at every life emergency my hope is that we continue to stay upright with eyes fixed on Him.

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

Truth + Love

Life Lesson # 6: Truth and love must go hand in hand in our lives

If anyone comes to you and does 
not bring this teaching, do not 
take them into your house or welcome 
them. Anyone who welcomes them 
shares in their wicked work. 
2 John 10-11

Throughout the text in these five smallest books in the Bible I keep hearing the lessons about facing sin and specifically facing false teachers.  It’s a topic that makes many of us uncomfortable.  We’ve come to be a Christian world that has accepted the idea of “get alongism.”  If we hear a fellow Christian professing wrong doctrine or openly sinning, we feel so uncomfortable questioning them.  Unless, of course, we take to social media and all kid gloves fall off.  Our inner Pharisee then rears its ugly turban sheltered behind an anonymous computer screen.

So, what’s the solution when a false teacher comes knocking or a Christian friend encourages us to sin alongside them?  John tells the lady of the house to not take them into our homes because doing so spreads their words and ways.  That seems a bit unkind doesn’t?  I mean, Jesus sat with sinners, didn’t he?  Ah, if only we were so strong as Jesus to withstand the wily ways of the devil. 

Bad company corrupts good character.  
1 Corinthians 15:33 

Notice the use of the word, “welcome” in our verse in 2 John today.  That implies a joyful and eager acceptance of someone.  If I invited a person whom I knew to be a false teacher into my Bible study my group would surely think I endorsed what they were teaching.  However, if I approached that same person separately, with God’s urging, and spoke the truth to them that’s a different story.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, 
we will grow to become in every 
respect the mature body of him who 
is the head, that is, Christ.
Ephesians 4:15

Truth in love.  Love with truth.  They are like twins conjoined at all major organs.  One without the other fails.   There’s a great song by For King and Country that uses the teachings from 1 Corinthians 13.

If I give to a needy soul but don’t have love then who is poor? It seems all the poverty is  found in me.  

For King & Country, Proof of Your Love

In other words, if I expose a sin in a friend, fellow Christian, pastor, etc, but do it without Jesus-type love then I am no better than the Bible’s Pharisees.  And if there was one group of people that Jesus admonished the most it was the Pharisees.

When I think of a group of self-professed, non-loving “Christians” who fall into this category I picture the faces of the Westboro Baptist church.  For those unfamiliar with this group, their targets are primarily homosexuals.  On the face of their mission, they want to tell people of the dangers of this sin.  They have been known to attend and protest at the funerals of gay young men who have been brutally murdered.  They harass their families and friends.  I would hope that we can all agree this method of “preaching” will not convert one single soul to Jesus.  There may be some Biblical truth in their message.  But their hate-filled voices are completely void of love.  These are the folks we should not “welcome” into our homes, rather meet them outside the gates and share the message of truth surrounded with love.  They are the “almost rights” which are therefore always wrong.

And what of love without truth?

“Ships are safer in harbors.  But ships are made for the stormy seas.”

Vance Havner

Meaning when we Christians fall into the false teaching of “Jesus wants us to just love everyone no matter what” or we slap the “coexist” sticker on our car, we water down our God-ordained separateness from the world.  We become just another person on the street trying not to upset anyone.  We join the club of “I’m ok you’re ok” and the sword of the spirit becomes as dull as a plastic knife. We allow, even welcome, the darkness to enter our homes because we are afraid to be seen as judgmental, rude or just plain weird.

“When we seek only to love but never proclaim a better way, we short-circuit God’s plan.  As believers in Christ, we need to be known for both truth and love.”  

Matt Brown, Truth Plus Love — the Jesus Way to Influence

We are warned throughout the New Testament of false prophets and false teachers using all manner of evil to lead the faithful astray.

But there were also false prophets 
among the people, just as there will 
be false teachers among you. They 
will secretly introduce destructive 
heresies, even denying the sovereign 
Lord who bought them—bringing swift 
destruction on themselves. Many will 
follow their depraved conduct and 
will bring the way of truth into 
disrepute. In their greed these 
teachers will exploit you with 
fabricated stories.
2 Peter 1-3 

When we fear “rocking the boat” and don’t rely on the Lord to help us speak truth to these situations we have separated those conjoined twins – truth and love.

“To pursue union at the expense of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus.”

Charles Spurgeon

There are few lessons I have taken as much to heart as this concept of conjoined truth and love.  It guides my fervor to be tempered with compassion.  It helps me to stand up for God when I fear recrimination.  It has led me to draw Jesus-centered lines in the sand.  And it has released me from guilt for positions I take because I know I have done so in love.  This lesson has brought me to a good place in my relationship with my parents – something I had failed to do on my own.

Our faith is not intended to be a private matter.  Yes, we work out our sanctification one-on-one with God.  But our obedience in faith is what sets us apart from this world.  And when we step out our doors we need to be armed with truth plus love and love plus truth. 

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

Welcome The Stranger

Lesson #1: Show hospitality to strangers, they may be God’s heaven-sent angels

Dear friend, you are faithful in 
what you are doing for the brothers 
and sisters, even though they are 
strangers to you. 
3 John 5

The saying goes, “A man’s home is his castle.”  And we might add to that, “surrounded by a deep moat, protected by a closed drawbridge.”  At least that’s how it seems so many have come to treat their abodes.  But the concept of hospitality has a long history for us Christians.

The two angels arrived at Sodom in 
the evening, and Lot was sitting in 
the gateway of the city. When he saw 
them, he got up to meet them and 
bowed down with his face to the ground. 
“My lords,” he said, “please turn 
aside to your servant’s house. You 
can wash your feet and spend the 
night and then go on your way early 
in the morning.”

"No," they answered, "we will 
spend the night in the square."

But he insisted so strongly that 
they did go with him and entered 
his house.  He prepared a meal for 
them, baking bread without yeast, 
and they ate.
Genesis 19: 1-3

In Leviticus we are admonished to treat the traveler as one of our own family.  And throughout the New Testament we see the kindness of various townsfolk welcoming Jesus and the disciples along the way.  Without these strangers’ help they would’ve found themselves hungry and without a bed on which to lie their head.

And in our smallest Bible book, 3 John, we see the work of a church elder named Gaius.  The news of his hospitality and kindness toward fellow Christians reached John who noted how it brought him “great joy.”

But why is hospitality a life lesson?  The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenos from the two words philos (friend) and xenos (stranger) and it means to show proper warmth or friendliness to strangers.  It also means to have the readiness to share our home and other treasures.   So often when we think of hospitality in our home it means inviting friends and family for dinners and parties.   But strangers?  Pull up the drawbridge and release the piranhas into the moat!

So what is Christian hospitality?

  1. Answering calls from the church to hosts missionaries and guests
  2. Inviting church elders over for meals
  3. Hosting church activities such as Bible study in our homes
  4. Reaching out to our unfamiliar neighbors and inviting them over for coffee
  5. Being a welcoming face at church – not just a smile but showing a genuine interest in a new face

I wonder how many of us (I raise my hand) have read in the church bulletin about a visiting missionary needing a place to stay for a week or a car to borrow and we thought at best “Yea, I don’t feel comfortable with that” and at worst didn’t think about it at all?  

I have a friend who has always held her Catholic priests in very high honor.  It borders on being afraid of them.  And when a friend of hers invited her to have a private gathering with a local priest she was aghast that it was all so, well, normal.  It reminds me of when my kids were in elementary school and they thought the teacher didn’t have a life outside the classroom.  But church leaders are people in addition to their divinely appointed roles.  They enjoy fellowship just like you and me!

What hospitality is not.

  1. Allowing situations in our home where guests openly sin
  2. Inviting guests out of a sense of obligation, not love
  3. Feeling the need to have our homes be perfect before inviting guests

Let’s look at number 1.  Many years ago, my husband and I invited his brother and his brother’s girlfriend out for a visit.  They couldn’t afford to travel so we let them stay at our home.  Under one condition.  They’d have to sleep in separate rooms.  As a fairly new Christian, this was the first time I really stood my ground as the “new me.”  Initially, my brother-in-law took issue with this.  He commented that my husband and I had lived together before marriage so why should we now place this restriction on him – wasn’t that hypocritical?  Friends, let’s be honest.  Before we were made new in Christ, we did a lot of stupid, dangerous, sinful things.  It’s ok to now say those things were wrong.  And being that our house is our castle, you can make any rule you want.  We didn’t place judgement on what he did outside our home,  we just drew a line as to what was going to happen in our home, around our children.  Our hospitality included the use of our home but not the erasure of our morals.  The result?  They both came and had a great time plus we were able to witness to my brother in law the changes Christ had made in our lives.

Number two seems obvious but when people take action out of a sense of obligation rather than love, the road can get bumpy.  I read the story of a pastor who was invited to speak at a church.  The host family welcomed him in, showed him his room and then preceded to tell him they didn’t feel it was their responsibility to feed him.  They also worked very hard to completely ignore him over the course of five days.  They did their “Christian duty” in their eyes.  But can we really call that true Christian hospitality? I hope not.

The key to good hospitality isn’t found in the externals, like linen tablecloths and exquisitely furnished guest bedrooms, but in qualities like servanthood, a listening ear, and an encouraging word.

Max Lucado

When I was involved in PTA there was a chair position called “hospitality.”  What that entitled was setting up a beautifully appointed table of yummy food at various events.  Shouldn’t a church body’s goal be more of the philoxenos version?  How many times does your church have to beg people to be greeters or to host a home Bible study? Our church volunteer coordinators should be overwhelmed by the requests to be able to say “hello!” and shake hands with new people.  We should have too many homes (large and tiny) from which to choose for Bible study. We may not be the Hospitality Chair but we should all be committee members!

We ought therefore to show hospitality
to such people (the faithful) so that we
may work together for the truth.
3 John 8

A Christian who lives with an active approach to philoxenos brings God a lot of joy, just like Gaius did for John.  We are reminded in the Old Testament that at one point in our lives we were all strangers.  Strangers hoping for someone to reach out and say “hello.”  Strangers hoping someone would show us God’s love.  We need to assume that person is us.

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Transformation Prayer, Uncategorized

Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!

Out of the same mouth come 
praise and cursing. My brothers 
and sisters, this should not be. 
James 3:10

A prayer to avoid using coarse language

Holy Father, it has become so easy for me to use your name in un-holy ways.  There was once a time that when angered or frustrated I would just say some silly old saying.  But as I drew closer to the ways of the world my language followed.  I want to be closer to you instead, LORD.  I want to speak like your son, Jesus.  I know that anger, impatience, laziness, and bitterness are all roots of my use of foul language.  Help me, Holy Spirit, to cut out those roots so that out of my mouth comes praise, prayer, forgiveness and grace.  I will use my mouth, with your guidance, for these rather than obscenity and coarseness.  Amen


We all remember that moment well.  I was driving the middle school carpool that morning.  A car full of young, impressionable minds.  Just before I got to a busy intersection a car swerved over from another lane in front of me, causing me to hit my brakes.  And just as our basic driving skills become automated, my middle finger and mouth began its ugly automatic work.  The car went silent.  I was immediately convicted of my sin by five sets of enlarged eyes on me.

You’d think that instances like that would’ve got me to stop cursing in anger but it hasn’t.  In fact, knowing about three weeks ago that eventually I’d be writing this post I started more aggressively working on this problem.  And yet, just the other day I think I managed to use just about every curse word available when talking to my husband about politics.  

Nor should there be obscenity, 
foolish talk or coarse joking, 
which are out of place, but 
rather thanksgiving.  
Ephesians 5:4

Have you ever watched a movie where it seemed the director purposely had every actor place a curse word in every sentence the actors spoke?  I have.  And I’ve finally had to stop watching.  I understand when our anger rises up that we again allow our mouths to control our world.  But the gratuitous use of cursing is not something I understand.  Everything, to some people, is “f’ing (fill in the blank).”  It’s become just another adjective.  And yet, it isn’t.

According to one researcher, we swear on average from 0.3% to 0.7% of the time — a tiny but significant percentage of our overall speech.  Given the fact that the average woman speaks about 25,000 words a day that adds up to around 1,750 swear words per day.  That’s a lot of sinful speaking.

When I worked in our local high schools, I would see the prevalence of swearing amongst our teenagers.  Each year it seemed to get worse and worse.  When I would admonish a student they would say, “oops, it was just an accident.”  However, we all know that well-practiced behaviors become simply rote acts.  

We are told throughout the Bible and especially the New Testament that we, as believers in God and then Jesus, are to be set apart from this world.  

Let us behave decently, 
as in the daytime, not 
in carousing and drunkenness, 
not in sexual immorality and 
debauchery, not in dissension 
and jealousy. Rather, clothe 
yourselves with the Lord 
Jesus Christ, and do not 
think about how to gratify 
the desires of the flesh. 
Romans 13:13-14

This verse makes it clear, whether in daytime, nighttime, with Christian friends or non, in our work environment, our home, or alone in our car, we are to clothe ourselves with Jesus.  The worst I have ever read come out of Jesus’ mouth was to call the Pharisees “vipers.”  

In the United States, during the 19th century, there was a craze to come up with “mild oaths” or pseudo-swearwords that replaced profane words with inoffensive ones. They tended to be silly and even poetic. “Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat,” “Holy, Moly,” and “gee willikers!” were just a few. It was a sign of our Christian influence in society. Sadly, we seem to have lost not only that influence but our desire to be that influence.

My BSGs’ (Bible Study Girls) favorite saying is “imperfect progress.”  And that’s what I’m in the midst of – really, aren’t we all?  And as I listen to our media, tv shows, music, and more accept that cursing God’s name as the “new normal” I pray for the Holy Spirit to help me be set apart.  I want my “new normal” to be for the glory of God, not for the fulfillment of my flesh.

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