“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11
Holy Spirit, whatever decisions and choices I make today help them to be in service and glorification of God. Amen
I read an Instagram post the other day that asked this question: “Are you doing what makes you happy or what glorifies God?” I would venture to say on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis we probably lean toward what makes us happy. Sure, when it comes to bigger more difficult decisions, we may seek God’s counsel. But how often when we are choosing what to eat, what to do with our free time, when we go about our chores and errands, before we open the door to enter work or school do we think, what’s God say about this? What could I do in this very situation that would make God happy? What could I say to my spouse/friend/adult child that would sound like a word from the Lord?
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
We can take this piece of scripture and use it as a sort of “out” when it comes to our everyday lives being aligned with God. We can never know all that God is thinking so we just go about our lives as best we can, right? That may be true if we never study scripture or pray for the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom. Because when we do those two things, God will constantly be on our minds and lips. He may even want that mundane day you have planned turned into something that glorifies Him.
We will never be fully satisfied with making our own choices about our lives. It may appear that some people who have fame and fortune without God “have it all.” As Christ followers we know true satisfaction, however, comes from the only constant thing in the world – God. He knows what’s best for us. He knows what will work in our lives to glorify the kingdom.
Friend, when we change our daily thinking to God’s plan, not ours, we will also enjoy the fruits of the spirit – peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness. And that sounds a lot better than anything I might’ve planned for my day.
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:8
I sat in my car after having just left yet another doctor’s appointment and announced out loud, “I hate doctors!” One more doctor who treated me with some level of impatience all the while acknowledging I needed surgery. But then I took a step back from my prideful emotions and realized this person – a man of flesh and blood – was gifted by God the ability to heal me. I didn’t need him as a friend, I need him as a healer. And I gave thanks for his able hands and depth of knowledge concerning my medical issue.
Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” John 5:8
I was reminded of the scene by the healing pool when Jesus encountered the invalid who had been laying by the pool for 38 years. Jesus simply asked, “Do you want to be healed?” And then told him to get moving. And I realized how much I expect my doctors to be the tender, compassionate Jesus. But even Jesus himself was a no nonsense healer.
My own daughter is a doctor of physical therapy. She’s a pretty no nonsense kind of person. She’s also very good at her job. When her patients are done with treatments, or during the holidays, they shower her with loving, thoughtful gifts. It’s because, while she is good at listening to their needs, what they truly want is healing and she delivers.
I’ve had kind doctors, rude doctors, dismissive doctors, attentive ones. I have to admit that just about all of them have done what I needed them for – healing. Doing something for me that I could never do myself. So, while I may not like every doctor’s bedside manner, I can say a prayer while sitting in the “big chair” thanking God for their skill and for the healing that is to come. And I pray for me to have patience and kindness in between.
…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.Philippians 2:13
How glorious would it have been to live when Jesus was physically here on Earth? To sit at the Sermon on the Mount and hear His words directly from His mouth? To be in a busy marketplace and bump into Him – turning to see directly into His face? Isn’t it amazing how He spent so little time here with us yet the impact has been so astounding that even our days are marked by when He arrived? And when He ascended, the gift He left behind is something for which we can never be thankful enough.
“If you love me, keep my commands. 16 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: 15-17
When you study the Bible you see how Jesus and the Holy Spirit touched lives even before the time we say God became fully human. Their presence is woven throughout the Old Testament. So it’s not as though they were created suddenly. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all spoke the world into creation and have placed their holy hands on our lives throughout history.
So, today specifically I praise God for the gift of the Holy Spirit and for being our constant intercessor, our inner voice, our God whisperer.
It is the Holy Spirit that helps us to pray when we don’t know what to pray – because the situation has gotten so dire. It is the Holy Spirit who whispers to us to get up and do God’s work. It is the Holy Spirit who partners with us when we need rescue.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.Romans 8:26
I shared with my BSGs in the past that when I’m really stressed or worried I have a difficult time praying. My mind is so jumbled and full of negative thoughts I can’t seem to quiet it down. One of my BSGs responded saying, “I’ve just cried out, “help me!” when I don’t know what to say.” That’s great advice. It says it right there in Romans 8. The Holy Spirit will help us pray. Will give us the words to speak to God.
Friends, God is so beautiful and loving that He didn’t leave us orphans. He didn’t leave us grieving because He left us with a piece of Him inside of each of us. I once heard a Christian teacher say that we don’t need to attain patience, kindness, love, etc. We already have all those imputed through the Holy Spirit that lives in us because we believe. We just need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us release those gifts. To help us pray the words to fight back against the devil. To whisper to us “love this person right now.”
We need to believe that God has given us the access to this awesome power. And once we do that, we should pray to unleash it with all its glorious might.
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
“We are pretty much the only hope that God has for reaching people who need him.”
On a recent visit with my daughter back in St. Louis, Missouri, she invited me to her friend’s 50th birthday gathering. It was to be just a small group as her larger party had already taken place. My daughter, who is 23, is blessed to have a number of women in her life who are not only mature in their marriages and in life in general, but in their faith. As I sat listening to them, I said a silent prayer of thanks to God. He, once again, put me right where I needed to be.
I listened as these Christian women of varied ages shared memories of shared events and the joy of being disciples to younger women. You see, their church encourages all ages to seek being discipled by more experienced Christians – something I haven’t experienced in the 20 years I’ve been an active Christian.
The birthday girl’s good friend suddenly announced we were to all take turns expressing what we loved about the newly christened 50 year old. She turned to me and said, “You don’t know Renee well so you don’t need to say anything.” I disagreed. I definitely had much to love about this woman that I had just met.
As each woman spoke, I felt the love flow throughout the group. It was sweet and brave and authentic. And at my turn I’m sure they all wondered what I would have to say.
“As a mother I miss my daughter terribly. She’s so far away. She has no family for hundreds of miles. And now with a baby on the way it grieves me that she is alone out here. But I realize she isn’t. I am so thankful she has Renee as her friend and godly counsel. A mother couldn’t ask for anything better besides being here herself,” I said.
You see my daughter’s friend, Renee, has taken her under her beautiful wings. She provides wise counsel about marriage, faith, motherhood and more. I could be jealous when I hear my daughter talk about her relationship with Renee. But my faith progression has brought me instead to a place of thankfulness. My daughter is incredibly blessed to be surrounded by Christian women who are prepared and ready to offer Biblical counsel.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free" Luke 4:18
That’s Jesus in the above verse. Jesus our wise counselor setting us free from our prisons. And He trained up His disciples to spread His message of salvation and freedom. Like the old shampoo commercial goes, “and they told two friends and so on and so on.” Which brings us thousands of years later to this little group at a café in Missouri.
Here’s what I noticed about those six women I sat with that night. 1) They didn’t gossip 2) They lifted each other up with genuine compliments 3) They showed love and concern for each other 4) They were confident in expressing their faith and 5) They were eager and willing to take up being disciples.
"Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
These women are living the Great Commission. Teaching and guiding and loving Jesus’ flock. I sat there like a fan-girl marveling at being in the midst of ordinary women who were so extraordinary. Yes, ordinary women. They aren’t pastors or scholars although one is in fact a trained Christian counselor. They are students of Jesus. It gave me hope of what I could achieve with faith and the blessings of God.
I took the opportunity to ask a few of them a Christian counseling question.
“If I find myself in a situation with a fellow Christian who is struggling with an issue, what’s your best advice?” I inquired.
Without hesitation three of the women, including my daughter who herself disciples young women, said: “You need to really get to know the person. There needs to be a sense of trust that you come from a place of love.” And the birthday girl? She emphasized my old favorite, truth plus love. Not being afraid to speak God’s truth into someone from a loving perspective. Remember that Jesus trait of having a warrior spirit? Renee takes it to heart. She knows the end game – saving a soul.
“As you being the process of bringing correction into someone’s life, put yourself in his shoes. If you were the one sitting there, would it be easy or difficult for you to hear what is about to be said? If the person you are correcting acts closed at first it may be that he’s just embarrassed or reacting out of insecurity. Therefore don’t stop the conversation unless you can see that he’s just being combative. You need to be patient and slow in judging their reaction to your correction.”
Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems from the Greek
Isn’t this the reaction we worry about the most when we need to speak truth to our Christian friends or family members? A fear of making someone angry or embarrassed? But here lies the reason why “Wise Counselor” sits at the end of our faith progression. Without love, without a sense of serving God, without courage, without knowledge of the Lord’s will, we will probably fail at being what our friend, child, sibling, co-worker, or sister in Christ truly needs.
So, when Jesus asks us to “follow” He isn’t just offering Himself up to save us from eternal damnation which by itself is a pretty amazing gift. He’s saying “join me in a journey.” He’s saying, “we’ve got work to do together.” And if we stop partway on the journey and decide we are “fine” where we are at, we miss the opportunities He wants to put in front of us to free more captives.
I don’t know about you but I need wise Christian counselors in my life. And if I could be like Renee and be a blessing in other’s lives, I know it’d make Jesus smile. My imperfect progress, as my friend Betsy likes to say, is still progress. I want to know and live out having the mind of Christ. I’m not where I was when I started and I still have a ways to go. Thankfully, I can trust that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are my guides and cheerleaders.
When we started this journey, I invited you to say a prayer of confession I found in Sparkling Gems from the Greek. And true to God’s ways He put another in front of me to close out this series. Please join me in this prayer and confession. I pray that you seek love, humbleness, courage, and wisdom on your journey.
“Lord, I ask you to help be kind and patient when it is essential for me to bring correction. Help me to not be offended if the person I’m trying to help doesn’t respond at first the way I wished he would have. Help me put myself in that person’s shoes and to sympathize with how he might feel. I ask You to give me wisdom to know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. I also ask that You give the other person the grace to hear what I am telling him so he might see that I have his best interest at heart and that I am only trying to help him. I pray this in Jesus’ name!”
“I confess that I have the mind of Jesus Christ! When it is needful to me to speak correction to someone else I do it with love, kindness and patience. I refrain from allowing anger to rise up inside me. I am careful about the words that come out of my mouth, and I refuse to participate in vain arguing. I remain in control of myself as the Holy Spirit works mightily inside me. My words bring life to all who hear and receive them! I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!”
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” John 16:12
Having successfully weaved my way through 13 years of public school and 5 years of college I look back and can see so many of my teachers’ faces. Each face that passes through my memory comes with its own set of feelings. The teacher who bored me to death in basic high school science, the chemistry teacher who explained chemical components through ballet moves, the college humanities professor who seemed to feel teaching was beneath him, and the hard-nosed journalism professor who demanded perfection and awarded it handsomely.
We all are the recipients of teaching in some form or another – life skills, religious, formal education, even hobbies. It’s interesting then, that Jesus chose this method, being a teacher, as His style to bring the message of salvation to us all.
“But having considered the whole situation (how to best approach the world), he said, “No, I will not do what others have done, I will choose the slow and toilsome way; I will not cut the knot, I will untie it; I will not push the world, I will draw it; I will not subdue the world by military methods, I will heal it by the sympathy of human hearts.”
Charles Jefferson, The Character of Jesus
On paper, His methodology was sure to fail. By the end of His time on Earth Jesus could count about 120 disciples. You would expect more from the Son of God. This small cadre of devout followers was to spread the message throughout the entire world? And yet, here we sit thousands of years later reading His Words. Soaking up His teachings. Setting our lives out each day on the path He has instructed. No one in the history of the world has had as much influence from so little time teaching.
But Jesus was no ordinary teacher of course. He perfected the art of being a patient teacher. He didn’t start out putting fliers around town calling the masses to a class on How to Avoid Adultery or the 10 Steps to Servanthood. He quietly began calling individuals. And sitting with them in one-on-one mentoring. He took our first three Jesus Mindset traits – loving friend, humble servant, confident warrior – and used them to tailor His words to each person’s needs.
One of my favorite teaching moments comes when the respected Pharisee, Nicodemus, came to Jesus secretly one night to learn more about Jesus’ message.
““How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:1-8
He then goes on to slightly rebuke this great “teacher” of Israel for not understanding the true message of God’s will. And a rebuke is fair, given the man’s standing and role. Yet when Jesus talked to everyday people, He tailored His teaching to their station. And through watching His behavior with others or through the use of everyday circumstances He gave time for the “ah ha” moments to sink in.
All successful and great pastors are, of course, of some teaching variety. If you read or follow on social media or podcasting various pastors you will find, however ones who want you to understand the many almost hidden aspects of the Bible. It is the “teaching” pastor that emphasizes the context of a passage and the connections to other places within the Bible. They craftily lay out the message they wish to get across and slowly bring you through each point, each verse, each Bible story so you see the big picture of God at work. For when we know of the 1,000s of connections from story to book, prophecies that came true, and the culture behind certain actions we get a greater understanding of God’s character. They know their audiences – the novice Christian, the well-versed, the Bible educated and even the seeking.
This is not to say that other pastoral styles are any less in quality or success. There are pastors who have more of a counseling nature. Or, like in our previous Jesus Mindset post on being a loving friend, ones like Max Lucado who remind us through various Bible lessons of God’s love.
And for the “regular” Christian we too will approach the world with slightly different styles when spreading the Good News of the gospel. The underlining Jesus trait however, is the desire to impart the majesty and glory of God and the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ.
This week I’ll highlight a young pastor who is teacher through and through. You’ll notice I said young. A teacher of the Word comes in many forms – not just old wizened ones! And we’ll also delve into Bible studies and groups, leading them and what you should be getting out of them.
We are all teachers in one form or another. Whether we teach through example or through words, there are always people watching and listening. We may not all reach the point where we feel comfortable teaching others the Word but with patience and diligence, we can all get to a place where we can be knowledgeable enough to contribute to others’ learning. It is our responsibility as members of Jesus’ cadre of students – grown from the 120 to millions – to continue His slow and steady work of bringing more people to the wisdom and love of God.
10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” Matthew 13:10-12
We, therefore, desire to copy his character and put our feet into his footprints. Be it ours to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. What saith our Lord himself? “Follow me,” and again, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Not Christ’s apostle, but Christ himself, is our guide; we may not take a secondary model, but must imitate Jesus himself.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5
Many years ago, I had the benefit of listening to a sermon series on our progression as a disciple of Christ. I have heard many pastors say there’s too many of us Christians who seem stuck at the beginning of that progression and aren’t fully living the life Christ wants for us.
It may even come as a surprise to some that there is an expected “progression” in our faith lives. We assumed that once we accepted Jesus as our Savior we’re done. We are able to check off that box on the questionnaire asking what our faith is: Christian.
"But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:16
We all have probably heard the above verse a few times in our Christian lives. But reading the entire chapter reveals something even more. The progression.
"When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power." 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
The apostle Paul himself explains that when he first came to the people of Corinth He came with the first step in the progression – the message of Jesus’ love for us. That He died for us. He rose again for us. Paul goes on to say:
"We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature." 1 Corinthians 2:6
The mature. Who among your faith group would you deem “mature” in their faith? Who among them would you deem a “baby Christian?” And where do you count yourself? This is not asked in judgment. All who are saved are equally loved by God. But you can probably tell the difference between people who are further along in their faith progression and those that aren’t. And it has nothing to do with age. The sign of a maturing Christian is that they’ve received the gift and have actually opened the box and are using it.
So what is this progression? In the sermon series I mentioned, these steps were defined as:
Believer – Mark 9:23
Follower – Luke 9:23
Apprentice – Ephesians 4:14
Learner – Philippians 4:9
Jesus Himself shows us this progression as He lived out those three world-changing years.
Step 1) The Loving and Faithful Friend
Step 2) The Obedient Servant
Step 3) The Courageous Warrior
Step 4) The Patient Teacher
Step 5) The Wise Counselor
Throughout this series, the Jesus Mindset, we will meet people – some famous and some very ordinary– who exemplify the different steps in the faith journey. And it is only correct to start with the first step. Lest we think we have step one down pat I should warn you that so many Christians remain in step one because of the difficult truths and expectations presented. It is the message we hear over and over in our churches. It is the first and the last message Christ has for us, which makes it the most important of all.
“As the Father loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9
When I was researching various pastors who make love and friendship a cornerstone of their message I realized I had an old friend already in my midst waiting to talk to me again. As I perused through my Christian books I stopped on, “How Happiness Happens,” by Max Lucado.
Pastor Lucado probably needs no introduction. He is an internationally known pastor, author, speaker and more. He’s written too many books and articles to count. And the theme throughout is love. How to accept Christ’s love. And how to show love not just to our friends but to complete strangers. He reminds us that Jesus is our loving and faithful friend and wants us to model that character trait to everyone we meet. When you read about Pastor Lucado you see his lifelong mission is to set solidly in our hearts the message of God’s love for us. He shows us how to translate that great gift to others.
“I’m a pastor. I can sit down with somebody who has a broken heart and love them and encourage them and remind them of how God cares. But I struggle when I look at a budget. Or I struggle when somebody says, ‘Well, what’s the long-term strategy for our church?’ Well, I don’t know. I guess we’ll see. Let’s love God, preach Jesus, and pray.”
Max Lucado on his leadership style
So much of what Pastor Lucado speaks of seems simple. And yet, I find myself day in and day out forgetting to live out the simple messages.
“Greet one another for your sake. Experience the joy of showing people they matter. Greet each other for their sake. What is small to you may be huge to them. Most of all greet each other for Jesus’ sake.”
Max Lucado, “How Happiness Happens”
How often do we go through an entire day and find ourselves never having truly connected with another human being?
“Listen intently and praise abundantly.”
Max Lucado, “How Happiness Happens”
Isn’t that what Jesus did throughout His ministry? You can only imagine how the woman at the well in John 4:1-26 felt when Jesus was with her. He wasn’t looking over her shoulder at a bird or cute dog while she spoke. He wasn’t thinking about the next town He was to visit or His next meal. He saw her. He listened to her. He loved her even when she pushed Him away.
It’s definitely easier to live out the Jesus Mindset of being a loving and faithful friend with people we choose to be around. We pick our friends and we even pick who in our family we spend more time with. We are deliberate with whom we ask to go to lunch at work. But Jesus loved the unlovable. He touched the untouchable.
“You wonder why God doesn’t remove the enemies in your life? Perhaps because he wants you to love like he loves. Anyone can love a friend, but only a few can love an enemy.”
Isn’t this where so many of us get stuck? We count ourselves, “good people” or “good Christians” and yet we harbor, at best unforgiveness, and at worst hatred for people.
I grew up in a household where unforgiveness and hatred ran deep. I had a parent who judged harshly and never forgave. People and places got etched into stone on “The List.” That was my touchstone, my guidebook. So when I started hearing the message of God’s love, faithfulness and forgiveness it was difficult to accept. The first step was to believe God felt that way toward me. And to be honest, I find myself frequently falling backward into not returning those gifts to others.
The lessons and examples from Pastor Lucado are great every day reminders on living out Jesus’ request of us to love one another.
“God is love” (1 John 4:16). One word into the passage reveals the supreme surprise of God’s love—it has nothing to do with you. Some people love you because of you. Not God – He loves you because He is He.
Isn’t that amazing? Wouldn’t you agree that most of the people in your life love you because of who you are to them? A daughter or son, a wife or husband, a longtime friend with similar interests, and so on. We may even find ourselves saying we love a person who is related to us but we don’t like them very much. It’s all conditional. But God loves us because He is love. Let’s not just gloss over that. Take a moment to really let it sink in. He is the definition of love. Like a cloud of love envelopes us and snuggles us wherever we go!
I saw a picture the other day of a woman at the store who had created a contraption designed to keep people six feet away from her. It involved a hula hoop, straps, signs, warning reflectors and more. When I saw this I thought, “that’s the exact opposite message of Jesus.” His cloud of love surrounding us is more like a fog bank — it pulls others in and seeps into everything. It quiets the world around us.
Today, when you go out into the world, picture your God cloud swirling around you. It’s beautiful and inviting. Its little tendrils reach out and wrap around others you meet. Invite them in with a smile, a greeting, a shrug of forgiveness. With each act of love we a do a bit of cloud seeding — leaving a piece of Jesus to grow.
We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Hebrews 6:12
If today’s verse sounds familiar, it should! The King James’ version was our stepping off point for this new series – “That ye be not slothful…” Remembering that the Greek word for slothful, nothros, means slow or sluggish, Paul urges us to grab hold of our inheritance and be diligent to the very end (Heb. 11-12).
What does this look like in our everyday lives?
I had an acquaintance tell me the other day that she would like her church group to start back in studying the Bible. You see, with the chaos from the pandemic their family lives have been turned upside down. Kids are constantly home and constantly needing help with getting the education our schools have neglected to provide. And so studying the Word has fallen by the wayside. They are waiting for a “better time” to reboot their studies.
Hours for the world! Moments for Christ!
But if we are to be honest if it weren’t the pandemic, for many Christian believers there would be something else keeping them from regularly attending church, going (prepared) to Bible Study, sitting quietly studying His Word. For my family it once was youth sports. We abandoned church for softball tournaments. We saw it as a season that would eventually change and God probably didn’t really mind.
Had I truly valued what God wants for me I would have realized that during that season I especially needed His Word. It’s when our lives seem most chaotic that we need to grasp hold of God. He is our center, our Rock, our plumb line. He puts the swirling world and all its stresses into perspective.
The world has the best of our time and our prayer closets the leftover fragments.
So, when Paul reminds us to not be lazy or slothful or sluggish with our obedience to Jesus he especially means during difficult times. To not turn to the flesh for solutions and comfort. He chastises us to finish strong by keeping close to God.
I’ve invited many friends and acquaintances to participate in Bible study. And every time I hear multiple people say they are too busy with “life.” Work, family, hobbies, other obligations take precedence. I get it. I’ve been there many, many times. But when I look back to those times I do so with a measure of regret. Because those times are gone forever. Times when I could’ve really used the Word of God to comfort me and to reignite my faith. There are so many instances where I needed God’s wisdom to make better choices – both for myself and my family.
We do not forget to eat. We do not forget to be diligent in business. We do not forget to go to our beds to rest. But we often forget to wrestle with God in prayer and to spend long periods in consecrated fellowship with our Father and our God.
Our days are numbered here on earth. Christ sacrificed Himself to a horrible death so that we may have a close relationship with God and the gift of salvation. When our ledger is opened at the end will it show that we have made God the primary focus of our time or will He be a footnote?
And hope does not put us to shame,
because God’s love has been poured
out into our hearts through the Holy
Spirit, who has been given to us.Romans 5:5
In February of 2020, my beloved mother in law got some disturbing news. She possibly had uterine cancer. We all started praying and hoping for negative tests. But with each test, each imaging, we were disappointed. Our hopes for it being “just a thing” were dashed.
In my prayers I lifted her up to God as one of His very faithful daughters. And when the bad news came, I cried out to Him. It wasn’t fair. I couldn’t see why He would allow this to happen.
And as quickly as I cried out, He answered me. “I have a plan. You need to trust in me.” So, I rested my hope in patience and faith and the knowledge that God has been there for her in the past.
Such hope as is the fruit of faith, patience, and experience, namely, the full assurance of hope;
Benson Commentary on Romans 5:5
When I read the verse from today, I wondered about the word, “shame.” The clarification I found was that Christian hope will not disappoint or be deceptive. God has proven Himself over and over of His faithfulness. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Jews and Christians in Rome, reminds us that even before we were willing to worship God fully He sent His son to die for us. Think about that. We didn’t have to prove ourselves to Him first.
You see, at just the right time, when
we were still powerless, Christ died
for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone
die for a righteous person, though for a
good person someone might possibly dare
to die. But God demonstrates his own love
for us in this: While we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.Romans 5:6-8
He goes on to say if God would do this for us, how much more can we expect? How much more hope can we put in the fact that God will take care of us?
As a maturing Christian this idea of “hope” has gone through a transition in my thinking. And where I started mirrors what so many non-believers struggle with when looking at Jesus followers. “If I pray and hope that someone is cured and they aren’t, doesn’t that mean God’s not listening (or doesn’t care or maybe the person doesn’t deserve it?).” But friends, God’s plans are so beyond our own!
I truly believe that God allows us to experience trials so that we can change our perspective of what living a “good life” in the world means. We, through our experiences, can offer hope to others that they can come out the other side with renewed faith. And He uses people around us to show His love during difficult times.
Every single apostle, every single lover of God in the Old Testament went through extremely difficult times. It was their hope they placed in Him that sustained them. And it was their experiences that help us to remember He loves us.
As for my mother in law? Praise God that through surgery and chemotherapy her cancer was eradicated. But the message I got from God was that even if she succumbed to cancer, He still had her safely in His arms. Because that is the greatest message of hope that Jesus gave us. We are saved from wrath. We are saved from the sins of this world. And we will find a loving home for us waiting at the end.
Can a mother forget the baby
at her breast and have no compassion
on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will
not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on
the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.Isaiah 49:15-16
I just was having a bad day. Nothing really seemed to fall into place. My husband got some bad news from work which makes me worry about him and our financial situation. And then we decided to go get my car washed. My husband was vacuuming the back of my hatchback. I decided to walk around the back in order to reach the passenger front window. Unbeknownst to me he had pushed the button to close the hatch as he walked away. I walked square into the corner of the door with the top of my head. My husband was completely unaware as he was now on the opposite side of the car. I bent over holding my head trying to 1) not cry like a baby and 2) stay conscious.
I cried out to him like a mewling lamb. My first reaction was to blame him and then I apologized, saying it was just an accident. But that was the last straw for me that day. I wanted to sit down and sob. It has taken so much out of me to stay in tune with God during the trials and tribulations of the Covid pandemic that I just wanted to give up. No more joyful grasping for God. No more peace resting in His Word. I just was done.
Come to me, all you who
are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.Matthew 11:28
And God whispered to me, “I’m still here. And I still love you. And I know you are having a hard time. Come and talk to me.”
I still find it so hard to pray when I’m truly struggling. But God is so compassionate to us. He knows when we are holding on by a thread. He will take even the tiniest snippets of prayer from us to help us hold on. Like the mother in the Isaiah verse today, He longs to hold us in His arms if we would just run to him – or even crawl.
The process of sanctification this year made me realize quickly that I was shrinking away from not only God but my husband at that painful moment. I didn’t want to burden my husband any more than he already was. But after a little while, I shared with him how I was feeling. I know it’s hard for men to see their beloved wives in pain and not be able to fix our ills. But he gave me what I needed — a listening and compassionate ear, and a hug.
That’s what God wants to do for us too. Although we shouldn’t turn our prayer time into a litany of complaints, we should bring him our pain.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people,
holy and dearly loved, clothe
yourselves with compassion,
kindness, humility, gentleness
and patience.Colossians 3:12
I like this visual of clothing ourselves. The fruits of the spirit are God’s way of giving us that spiritual hug and listening ear. He is compassionate, kind, gentle and patient with us. And Jesus was certainly humble. When we encase our minds and hearts in these gifts and then turn those fruit outward toward God’s people, we get them back tenfold.
My husband is a godly man. Because of this, God used him to give me the compassion and gentleness I needed that day. And I was able to pull myself back on track.
I could have easily given in to my despair. I mean my head was killing me and felt like I had a concussion. Nothing I could do would fix any problem around me. But I have learned to grab hold of the promises of God for my rescue.
Be on your guard; stand firm
in the faith; be courageous;
be strong.1 Corinthians 16:13
My head still hurts a few days later but I can almost (almost) laugh about it now. I’m glad I don’t have to keep apologizing to anyone for losing it – since I pulled back my anger almost immediately. My husband felt bad enough as it was. And my compassion toward him helped me to stay in line with God’s Word.
I thank God for His promise to never forget me, always hold me tightly and guide me with the fruits of His spirit.
Join me starting January 11 for my next series! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help create a vision of you! The words we speak and think and pray have a great impact on our life. We will embark on a journey of praying changes into our lives. New Year’s resolutions have nothing on what God can accomplish when we ask for miracles to transform us!
Do you sometimes feel a bit untethered? Wandering off into the wilderness and you’ve forgotten the way back to the trail? Or maybe you are scrambling over the boulders of fear, anxiety and hopelessness. It wouldn’t be surprising given what’s been thrown at us in 2020. But God is the Prince of Peace. That doesn’t mean He’s the “prince of no conflict and no tribulations.” It means when we are in closer communion with Him, we experience the fruits of His spirit – kindness, joy, love, patience, goodness, faithfulness and yes, peace. This is His promise.
Join me starting December 7 as we explore just 25 of the 1,000s of God’s promises found in His Holy Word. Promises to hold on to for hope and for peace.