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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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We Say Yes

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

A few years ago, God put my faith listening ears and my trust in Him to the test.  He asked me to step outside my well-built comfort zone based on the pride of working.  For an unknown period of time, He directed me to feed the homeless with 100 lunches once a week.  He told me what to make and where to take the food.  He tested and challenged me week after week to put my complete faith in Him.  To stand resolutely with Him.  For almost a year I experienced a relationship with God like no other.  

As I wrote the other day, sometimes God asks us to stay silent.  Other times, like during His 100 Lunches Project, God asks us to step up and say, “Yes!”  And if we aren’t paying attention, aren’t tuned in to His character, aren’t sure that He is directing us, then we miss out on great gifts of intimacy with Him. 

The actual making of the first few weeks of lunches wasn’t so far out of my comfort zone.  I had enthusiastic helpers and a husband who supported my venture.  But as time passed and God kept calling, I was faced with having to be resolute in following Him.  For one, my husband thought this would be sort of a “one and done” activity.  Not a financial investment and something that would take up room in our already full garage.  He also was concerned for my safety as I ventured into potentially dangerous areas, at times alone.  I could have easily agreed with him on all counts and shut the program down.  But I knew God wanted me to stand firm.  So, as I explained to my husband, God was directing this project, not me, he relented with a few requests.  One being that if I didn’t go with someone that I would regularly check in via text.

And then there was my work schedule.  At the time I was a long term substitute in a school office.  I prided myself on always being on the schedule to work at one school or another.  It was my source of “happiness” that people needed me.  The direction I was getting from God was to give out lunches in the middle of the week.  Doing that would require me to tell the school I currently worked I couldn’t be there that day for an unknown period of time.  My fear was they would let me go.  And so, I prayed to God.  Asking Him to guide me and bolster me.  The day I spoke to the office secretary I told her, “I’m doing this lunch project, directed by God.  And I can’t work Wednesdays anymore.”  A weird thing to say,  for sure.  Especially in the more liberal area that I live.  The response?  “Sounds good.  We will take you any day you can work for us.”

That’s how the year went.  Door after door opened.  And some closed as needed.  I watched and listened for His Word.  And I did His work in His name.  It was glorious!

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

The greatest lesson I learned that year was about trust.  Trusting in that when God speaks to us and gives us a challenge He will provide.  And any obstacle that is put in front of you, you can stand firm in who has your back.  That year I had many people scoff at what I was doing.  Family, friends, policemen, strangers.  But when you know that your mission is God-sent nothing should stop you.  You can be resolute.

So many of us Christians are sitting and waiting for God to call us to something special and yet we haven’t taken up the directions already laid out before us in God’s Holy Word.  We don’t need another whisper to tell us to be kind or forgiving.  We don’t need a tap on the shoulder to know how dangerous our gossiping tongue can be.  It’s all there in the Good Book waiting to be lived out.  We just need to take a stand for God.

The process of sanctification starts with the basics and moves on toward more and more challenges of trust.  When He sees we are obeying the small things He places more of His banquet in front of us.  But like the process of knowing when to stay silent we must be able to discern it is God, not our flesh, directing us.  I knew it was God asking me to embark on this grand project because it asked me to do things so in opposite of my own desires and yet followed perfectly His.

When you act for God you will have detractors.  You will have people that call you crazy.  You might even have people who get angry with you.  You might have to ask God to confirm you are on the right path.  And I’ll tell you, brothers and sisters, when you are on that path, the work you do for Him will be seen by people who need to see it.  You just may never realize it.  

There were so many lessons for me in that year of 100 Lunches (which grew to about 300 per week!).  And one day in December of that year God said to me, “You are done. It’s time for something else.”  He closed that door and told me to stop.  Even then I needed to be resolute.  People chastised me for not continuing.  Someone got quite angry with me.  My response?  “This wasn’t my project to begin with, it was God’s.  He told me to be done so I am done.  But you are free to serve in my place.”

I mentioned in my last post about the story from Sparkling Gems from the Greek and listening to God’s voice.  I’d like to share with you the prayer from that day.

Lord, help me follow the Holy Spirit’s leading whenever He impresses me to do something.  I know there have been moments in my life when the Spirit was leading me to do something.  But because I didn’t understand it, I didn’t obey – and later I was always sorry.   Please help me become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to trust Him when He speaks to my heart.   I want to be obedient and to experience the supernatural life that He wants to give me!  I pray this in Jesus’ name!

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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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The Perfect One

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him Hebrews 5:8-9

My BSGs have decided we can whittle down any Bible study to one word: “Obey.”  We joke now about how if we want any blessing, to hear His Word, to see our lives transformed well, all we need to do is “obey.”  Easy enough, right?  Just ask a few thousand Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years.

In a study we are in right now the question was asked: “What happens between childhood and adulthood that causes children and adults to respond differently to God?”  We all knew, and had experienced, the various reasons.  My friend Caroline shared that a child’s faith is so pure and beautiful but an adult’s return to faith takes on a different and deeper beauty.  We all agreed a child’s faith has yet to be tested.  Yet to be disappointed and hurt.  

I came to my Christian faith as an adult.  I believed in God throughout my childhood.  I don’t know why – some amazing work of God reaching into my child heart and mind telling me He was there.  But I fell away from that quiet, pure relationship as I got older.  I didn’t understand how His ways were so completely different than the world’s.  And now, as an adult I’m learning something that has set my feet more firmly on the path to Him.  He is perfect.

Today I praise God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit for their perfection.  For when we accept that basic truth, we can turn back to it over and over when we consider disobeying Him.  Because we have to examine why we choose to disobey His Word.  Is it because we think we know better?  We don’t trust Him?  Or maybe we just haven’t taken the time to listen to Him?

When things go off kilter in our lives and we also accept that God is perfect we then must also accept that what is happening has a purpose.  Which means we need to lean in closer to listen and obey.  We need to rest in the peace that He’s “got this.”  We don’t need to run ahead of Him and solve every problem on our own.  We don’t need to stay awake night after night brewing and stewing over our children, our job, our relationships.  We take it to Him and say, “You have the perfect solution.  Show me.  Lead me.  And I will obey.”

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

For so many of us this is our hill to conquer.  Our place of greatest need.  To acknowledge His perfection and our imperfections.  To accept that we need to humble ourselves and accept His correction or wisdom.

I may no longer rest my head at night with the same pure, unquestioning faith that there is a god.  But my adult-sized faith has been set in the kiln.  My relationship with God has become a beautiful piece of art.  In His perfection He is transforming my heart into something worthy of His love.   


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The Singing Warrior

“At this they tried to seize Him but no one laid a hand on Him because His hour had not come.”  John 7:30
“Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” Exodus 6:22

My church is in the midst of a study of Genesis and a few weeks ago we landed on the story of Noah. Christians and non-Christians alike are very familiar with this famous Bible story.  How often do we see cute children’s books, artwork, decorations that take up this story showing all the cute animals piled into a tiny boat riding out the storm with a rainbow overhead?  

During the sermon I was struck with the thought that this is not a sweet story at all.  It’s a story of total depravity on the part of man versus the faith of one warrior for God.  The face-off between a world bathing in the flesh and one, lonely soul swimming against that tide.  The ark was a last chance lifeboat built by a soldier, an obedient servant who loved God.

For anyone who has ever seen the movie, “Evan Almighty” – a theatrical depiction of a modern-day Noah – the result of being a warrior for God, even a reluctant one, is shown in all its technicolor truth.  Friends, family, neighbors, the media, and even the government may come against us.

“When you give your best to the Lord, it’s not unusual to be criticized by people who ought to encourage you.  Moses was criticized by his brother and sister.  David by his wife, and Mary of Bethany by an apostle.”  

Warren Wiersbe commentary on 1 Samuel

During the extreme lockdowns of 2020 there were many “warriors for God” who found themselves on the receiving end of much criticism from Christians and non-Christians.  Pastors and even Catholic bishops who insisted that churches needed to remain open and serve their flocks were impugned by church authority, the media, non-believers, and parishioners.  In some states the government brought the full force of the law down with arrests and extravagant fines.  

Now, some might still say churches should’ve been closed to protect people from illness.  But these flock protectors felt called by God to bring healing to people’s hearts and minds and souls.  Church attendance has never been a requirement for anyone.  And they believed those who needed church should be allowed to partake in its offerings.  Parallel arguments about keeping people from getting sick included the admonishment to obey governments based on Romans 13.  And yet the clarification of hierarchy of obedience is spelled out in Acts 5.

"The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” Acts 5:27-29

About a few months into the lockdowns, I started seeing a confident warrior for God pop up in my Instagram feed.  This young man had originally run for a state office in Northern California.  He ran as a conservative Christian in a heavily liberal area and lost.  I had donated a small amount to his campaign about a year before and had apparently “followed” his account.  He is a musician by trade, a devout family man, and a fervent follower of Christ.

And when our churches shut down in California, he stepped out onto a stage bigger than he’d ever imagined.  Compelled by visions given by God, he would show up at a beach with a local pastor, his family, a few other musicians and put on a revival meeting of sorts.  As word grew, each time he held a “Christ concert” more people would find their way to listen.  More people asked to be baptized in the cold ocean waters.  And more people started harassing them.  And fines by local authorities started piling up.  And he wouldn’t stop.

You may have heard by now about Sean Feucht and his merry band of “Let Us Worship” team.  They’ve since led large worship services all over the United States, including Washington DC.  Sean may have lost a politician’s job but he gained so much more. Throughout the pandemic their small pastoral team helped lead thousands to give up fleshly addictions and find Christ.  All the while, others would show up at these events screaming demonic words, throwing blood on them and even accosting his pregnant wife.  

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Matthew 4:10

I can only imagine how many times Sean and his family have reminded themselves of this statement by Jesus to Satan.  I’ve watched the videos of Sean’s meetings in Portland and Seattle.  It’s some of the most disturbing things I have seen in terms of demonic possession of people.  You may raise an eyebrow at that statement but truly, I have never seen anything like it.

Sean is just a man.  A man with a family to protect.  A man who is trying to make his way through this world just like you and me.  He didn’t start serving the Lord suddenly during the pandemic, he has a quiet history of spreading God’s Word including countries outside the United States.  He has led missionary trips to Afghanistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.  He is obviously a man used to trusting God.  And isn’t it fascinating to know that he went to those dangerous places to share the gospel seemingly as preparation to lead thousands into worship in a “safe” place like the United States?

We won’t all be warriors for God just like Sean but every person who chose to attend one of his meetings during these difficult times was a warrior in their own way.  Today, every person who hears God’s urging to step out in faith and stand for Him takes up the armor and can call themselves a warrior.  We have a lot of good soldiers who have paved the way for us, to drawn on how they trusted God to protect them until their time was done.

As God always does, He has placed quite a lot of podcasts, sermons, and Bible studies in front of me in the last few weeks on this very character trait of Jesus.  I wanted to share with you a prayer from Sparkling Gems from the Greek to help spur our warrior character on.

Lord, help me start seeing myself as a might soldier in the army of God.  You have provided every weapon I need to prevail against the enemies that come against my life, my family, my business, my friends and my church.  I want to stand tall and firm against the wicked plots the devil tries to exert against people’s lives whom I love and need.  Holy Spirit,  give me the power and strength I need to successfully resist every attack and to drive all dark forces from my life and from the lives of those close to me!   I pray this in Jesus’ name!

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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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Step 2: Humble Servant

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” John 21:15

Since the resurrection of Jesus, Christians seem to have been in an interesting battle.  The concept of how we are saved has led to many sermons, books, and even paper nailed to church doors.  The prevailing answer in the modern church age is, of course, that we are saved by grace.  The grace of Jesus Christ dying for our sins.  

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Romans 10:9

That passage from Romans couldn’t be clearer and yet the concept of being saved by works and/or financial contributions to the church ran throughout Christendom for a long time.  Unfortunately, much of our Christian thinking seems to have swung so far in the opposite direction that we have forgotten the other lessons in the Bible.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? James 2:14

As my BSGs work our way through a study of Revelation I keep hearing a few of the same messages.  1) We must repent of our sins and accept Christ today and 2) Our deeds will be counted in eternity.  That balance of accepting God’s grace and also working to please Him echoes so many other Christian balancing acts.

  • Expressing God’s Truth while showing God’s Love
  • His Word is both bitter and sweet
  • To live in this world but not of it
  • Accepting chastisement as a method of God’s love for us

I wonder how many of us each Sunday (or whatever day you attend church) receive constant training on how to walk those balance beams?

This week’s Jesus Mindset focuses on being a humble servant.  The character trait requires of us to first be somewhat practiced at being a loving friend.  For when we take action in the name of God without a loving spirit it becomes almost impossible to be humble.  I’m sure each of us can think of a person in our lives who took on responsibilities simply to gain some sort of recognition.  A church body that forgets Jesus’ primary character trait – loving friend – becomes like the church of Ephesus.  They were “doing” a lot and building larger, more grand buildings but doing it without love.

“The church used to be known for its good deeds,” said one wit, “but today it’s better known for its bad mortgages.”

The evolution from love of neighbor to deeds without love creates a hulking body that God eventually is clearly unhappy with.  And so, we find ourselves searching for the balance.  This week I will highlight three people.  Two sisters and a quiet, humble man.  Each has their own way of “feeding” God’s lambs.  Each have different personalities.  They each find a way to reach that balance of knowing they are saved by grace and yet God asks more of us.  

I love this quote from the book, “The Hiding Place,” which tells the story of love and servanthood in the face of extreme adversity.  This moment takes place as a member of the family is about to die.  They remind her of all the amazing things she did in life because “accomplishment” meant so much to her.  But in her final moments Jesus spoke to her heart and reminded her of God’s truths.

“How can we bring anything to God? What does He care for our little tricks and trinkets?” she asked.  And then as we listened in disbelief she lowered her hands and with tears still coursing down her face whispered, “Dear Jesus, I thank You that we must come with empty hands.  I thank you that You have done all on the Cross and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this.”

Tante Jans, The Hiding Place

With empty, well-worn hands.  Hands worn with the work for Jesus.  For when we die we won’t take the certificates of recognition, the medals, the bonuses with us.  But each person we have fed, in His name, will be etched in our hands and hearts.

Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

Jesus has plenty of work for us to do.  The majority of that work could be called “grunt work.” It requires us to get uncomfortable and place our trust solely in the Lord’s hands.  You probably won’t receive any money for it or a headline in the local paper.  What we will receive is a smile from Jesus.

My friend Betsy told me the other day how, while out shopping, she saw a homeless man in an adjoining parking lot.  He was in a wheelchair.  As she got into her car Jesus placed the thought in her head, “Go give him one of your ‘blessings bags.’”  Her church provides these bags to hand out to anyone in need.  She had never just walked up to someone and given them a bag. 

But that day she pulled out of her parking spot and drove over to the man.  He was struggling trying to get his wheelchair closed up so he could lie down on the same spot.  As she approached the man, she could tell he was drunk.  But she kept moving forward.  She inquired, “Do you need some help?”  And he said he did.  She helped him get situated and then offered a blessings bag, which he readily accepted.  As she left she acknowledged to herself that she wouldn’t have taken that action previously – some other force pressed her forward.

You see, Betsy has been a loving Christian for 60 some years.  She has always served her church and family well.  Recently she has been working on the “obeying God” part of her faith progression.  Listening for His voice and taking action to be His humble servant.  God has told her it’s time to move forward.


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Burn Brightly

Then you will shine among them like 
stars in the sky as you hold firmly 
to the Word of life. 
Philippians 2:15-16

I have to admit in the carrot and stick scenario of motivation I tend to be more of a “stick” motivated person.  My fear of punishment or failure outweighs any reward I might be offered.  It’s probably why my favorite book in the Bible is James.  He’s upfront, to the point, and sounds a bit chastising at times.  So, when I read about the glorious promises of faithfulness to God, I can sometimes gloss over them.

But when I read this section in Philippians – where Paul is urging the church to obey God’s word – I was struck with the visual he presents as our reward.  “To shine like stars.”  He reminds us to pray, be obedient and faithful without grumbling or arguing (a bit of chastising).  He also reminds us that as Christians, we are to be constantly viewing ourselves as being “set apart.”  

Do everything without grumbling or 
arguing, so that you may become blameless 
and pure, children of God without fault 
in a warped and crooked generation.
Philippians 2:14-15

And the reward for being set apart through this constant reminder that we are firmly attached to Jesus’ main vine? To be like those beautiful, twinkling stars in the night sky.

My husband and I walk our dog each night after dinner.  We are just far away enough from the city to have a decent darkened sky.  Each night we stop in one place briefly and look at the stars.  From our location we can easily find the Big Dipper and Orion’s Belt.  I’ve always had a fascination with the stars – wondering what is beyond our tiny blue planet.  When we are in a season to see other planets, we bring out our phone’s star apps and marvel at the world beyond.

Although in reality there are billions upon billions of stars in the sky, we can only see a few of the brightest ones.  They wink at us saying “hello old friend!”  And when I look up and see the ones familiar to me, it brings me comfort that they are the same today as they were when I was a child.  They steadily burn bright.

That’s what the apostle Paul wants for us.  To be those shining, steady beacons. Comforting many who see us as ones set apart for the glory of the heavens. This is surely the carrot in our motivation story.  But it is the chastising spirit of the stick – obeying God, immersing ourselves in His Word, praying regularly – that will help us burn brightly.

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A Tiny Message #7

"Tell the priests who carry 
the ark of the covenant: "When 
you reach the edge of the Jordan's 
waters, go and stand in it." 
Joshua 3:8

I was once asked by God to take on a year-long project. It wasn’t my idea. I hadn’t even been thinking about it. I recognized His request immediately as a test of my growth of faithfulness. What I have found is so many of us worry that we will look/sound silly, weird, or even crazy if we obey God’s directives.

Think about Joshua leading millions of Israelites into the promised land. He gets told by God to stand in the Jordan river with the ark of the covenant — which at that time of the year was at flood stage. The ark was their most valuable commodity and here was this “lunatic” telling the priests to go stand in the water with it.

What I have also found is that when, not only myself, but others obey God and set aside our pride, we don’t look foolish. We look victorious. We are victorious.

When I finally set aside my pride when it came to my relationship with my younger daughter, God smiled on us and created something I could have only imagined. We were victorious.

"But on Mount Zion will be 
deliverance; it will be holy, 
and Jacob will possess his 
inheritance." 
Obadiah 1:17

I want that victory for you. God wants to share in victory WITH you. So listen to His Word, hear His voice and step forward ready to win your battles.

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Pilgrim Not Citizen

Lesson 5: Walk in Truth through obedience to God

It has given me great joy to 
find some of your children walking 
in the truth, just as the Father 
commanded us.
2 John 1:4

I was reading a new book recently that said, “Today, America is rich but morally rotten.  Our heads and our hands have outrun our hearts. We have gained the world but have lost our souls.”  The author went on to describe the lawlessness and chaos that fetishism, polytheism and any number of ‘isms’ have wrought on our society.  I looked back to the beginning of this little book to see when it was published – 1969.  

I could take just about any paragraph from this book, “In Times Like These,” and you would surely think the author was writing about yesterday or today.  The frightening results of our demand for “progress” in all parts of lives are prophetically found in this fascinating group of sermons by Vance Havner, a contemporary of Billy Graham.

“The time is short, and the fashion of this world is passing away”

Vance Havner

For the Christian, we are admonished to live as people set apart from the world.  (Romans 12:2). And yet we have homogenized so much of what it means to be a Follower of Jesus.  I heard a pastor once say, “The world doesn’t hate ‘nice’ people.” Think about that for a moment. So many of us want, as our goal, to be seen as ‘nice, Christians’ — certainly not ones that cause waves like Jesus did day in and day out. 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers 
and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, 
to offer your bodies as a living 
sacrifice, holy and pleasing to 
God—this is your true and proper 
worship.
Romans 12:1

My BSGs and I were finishing up a week of Bible study about what the church means to God and to us as Christians.  We got into a discussion about how easy it is to be a Western-world Christian.   And although we’ve seen that challenged over the last year, we still don’t face the threat of death when choosing to worship. Prison, maybe, but not death.  (A little over a year ago I wouldn’t even have thought to write that last sentence).

At a church one of my Bible gals and I attended for many years, there was a pastor of Egyptian origin.  He would tell us of the inherent dangers of even wearing a cross or holding a Bible while travelling in Cairo.  He regaled us with stories of various mission trips back to his homeland fraught with intrigue.  And after an hour listening to his sermon and beautiful music we would go back about our “other” lives – not having risked anything ourselves.

We are promised an everlasting life, through faith and obedience to God. The type of obedience John writes about in 2 John.  “A walk in obedience to His commands.”  Earlier, John tells us of Jesus’ prayer to His father on the eve of His death. 

I have revealed you to those 
whom you gave me out of the world. 
They were yours; you gave them to 
me and they have obeyed your word. 
Now they know that everything you 
have given me comes from you.
John 17:6-7

The “knowing” then requires the “obeying” – a living out of what God expects from us now that His Word has been revealed.  But how many of us offer our entire lives over as a “living sacrifice?”  One of my friends and I have this now running joke that we have our “faith life” but then we have our “real life.”  Knowing that in God’s expectation those are to be one and the same.

“Devotion to Him (Jesus) must be so high and so deep and so intense that all other loyalties must seem in comparison as though they did not exist.”

Vance Havner

That takes obedience to a whole new level.  I fear that modern Christians read this and immediately assume we must be the rich prince of whom Jesus asks to give up all his possessions in order to follow Him.  (Matt 19:21-24)  And in fact, many a breezy, occasional, Sunday-only Christian has misinterpreted that to be the case.  But Jesus only ever asks us to give up what is separating us from Him.  What idols have we placed in front of Him so that it blocks our view of Him or our ability to obey Him?

The world is full of gadgets and facilities that are not wrong unless we make them ends in themselves or turn them to evil uses.

Vance Havner

For some that idol is time.  Or more specifically who or what gets our time.  In the 2 John letter, John calls out the “lady chosen by God” for her love of God.  And he knows of this love because of her obedience to the commandments.  She walks in love of God.  Even Satan knows God.  But the chasm between the lady in John’s letter and Satan is her obedience.  She most likely spent much of her day praying, guiding others to God, teaching her children about God, and working as God’s daughter.

“Christian love is not just some special emotion that makes us accept others.  It’s an act of will – treating people the same way God treats you.”

Warren Wiersbe on 2 John

An act of will.  That’s not some squishy, marshmallowey feeling.  It means 1) knowing the will of God and 2) committing our entire body to obeying His commandments.  It means living a life set apart from this world – and maybe even your current church or group of friends.  It means being in danger of getting called “weird” or “freak.”  It might even mean being labeled a “bigot” or “hatemonger.”  

Some of you may recall seeing the storm that descended upon New Orleans Saints football quarterback Drew Brees when he joined Focus on the Families’ call to “bring your Bible to school day.”   He was called all manner of hateful things and a call went out to shame and silence him.  For promoting bringing a book to school.

The time is nearer now than ever before to awaken in obedience as Christians. I read a comment that the Bible is a disturbing book. It “bids us to stir up the gift of God.” We are admonished to “gird our loins (Luke 12:35),” disrupt our sleepy scheduled lives (Rom 13:11) and grasp the seriousness of our times. We are closer to the coming of Christ than yesterday. And it doesn’t take much to see how anarchy and apathy are playing a role in God’s timetable.

When I started fresh out of college at my new job, I was just barely 22 years old.  I was given a lot of responsibility to set up a brand new marketing and public relations department.  The corporate culture was very resistant to the new ideas I brought to the table.  I was called all manner of terrible things.  But I learned a valuable lesson.  When the “big boss” has your back you can forge a path through any swamp, forest or desert.  As Christians we have the mightiest “boss” of them all – God.  We should walk in obedience to Him knowing that He has our back.  We should walk in the knowledge that we are just passing through this world and will do so as God’s children. We should look forward to making a few waves, in Jesus’ name.

I’m in it (the world) but not of it; I’m a pilgrim and stranger; I’m not a citizen of old Babylon, I’m looking for another city.

Vance Havner