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Taking Offense

Fools show their annoyance at once,
    but the prudent overlook an insult. Proverbs 12:16

This is the second rendition of today’s post.  When I started this blog over two years ago, I asked the Holy Spirit to speak through me.  If writing a particular post felt like I was pulling teeth I knew it wasn’t coming from the right source.  As a result, the post I wrote earlier went into the “delete” pile.  Each sentence I wrote was interrupted either by texts, my husband, timers going off, etc.  I now realize every time my mind wandered to one of those interruptions it was a tap on my shoulder to re-focus and re-write.

You see what was happening in the background of my original text was this very proverb.  I was getting annoyed and offended by problems surrounding an event I am hosting.  It only took me about a half a day to finally figure it out.  The Holy Spirit giving me a real life example of practicing what I preach!  


Being offended has risen to an artform these days. We are offended by other drivers, cashiers, politicians, neighbors, strangers, businesses, faceless people in our social media threads, our friends, our family, our spouses and on and on.  If “they” don’t conform to our wants and needs, it might ruin our day.  If “they” don’t act how we think they should we are hurt and insulted.  No grace and definitely no mercy.  

We take for granted that God won’t do the same to us.  Thank goodness because we all probably offend Him multiple times a day.  While He may allow our sinful actions to suffer the corresponding consequences, He isn’t sending down bolts of lightning to smote us each time we mess up.  He hasn’t washed His hands of us because He’s had it for the last time.

Friends, it’s time to step back and control our emotions.  We have in Jesus the perfect example for us today.  He was whipped, beaten, stabbed, spit on, forsaken by friends, and hung on a cross yet He still loved.  He still asked God to grant mercy.  Today, can’t we do the same with the brothers and sisters around us who are probably doing their best to make it through this day just like you?  I, for one, got this message loud and clear today.

Gracious God, thank you for your mercy.  Help me to deliver that same mercy and grace to those around me who might insult me or cause offense.  I thank you for teaching me how to seek peace throughout my days.  Amen

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Patience In The Waiting

Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. Proverbs 8:34

Have you ever met one of those people that seem to calmly wait in long lines?  Like they’ve got nothing better to do?  That attitude has always seemed strange and foreign to me.  I mean, I’ve got stuff to accomplish. People to see, errands to run!  Patience has definitely not been one of my well-honed attributes.  But if I learned anything during the Covid years it was to slow down, way down.  In fact, when everything started opening up I could feel my body reacting to getting back in the busy flow of life, speeding up to meet the traffic.  The Holy Spirit whispered to me again to slow down, to wait, to watch and to listen.

While the verse today specifically speaks to waiting for wisdom and insight, I think we can all agree that patience really is a virtue in every aspect of our lives.  Oh, how many times in my baby Christian days did I jump into situations without first asking a few questions or even praying about them!  Those were the days of making decisions first then asking God afterwards to make those decisions work out for the best.

As I’ve worked on developing a more patient frame of mind it’s caused me to evaluate why I am impatient.  I mean think about it.  As you’re tapping your foot in line at the coffee shop what are you really contemplating?  Your time is so much more valuable than anyone else’s?  If you were in charge, things would be running a lot smoother?  The cashier obviously isn’t smart enough or cares enough about his job?  The root of all these is pride, lack of grace and humility.

Or maybe you tend to jump at opportunities like a new job, an investment, a free giveaway or a deal on a purchase.  If you don’t act now you might just miss out!  Is it that you’ve placed money as an idol, either saving it or spending it?  Or status and recognition before wise choices?

Friend, unless you are faced with an immediate life or death decision, wisdom asks us just for a few moments of time.  A chance to gain insight into the choice or attitude you are about to take.  So let’s all take a collective breath say a prayer.

Lord, I get so caught up in the daily comings and goings of my life and need your help to slow down and be patient.  Remind me today to give grace to those who need it and seek insight for my decisions.  Amen

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Guard Your Heart

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

I’ll admit to you right here for the world to read that I have a serious problem with cursing.  Once upon a time I was innocent with my expletives.  I’d say, “Jimminy Crickets!” and “gosh darn.”  And then I started working in a restaurant.  By the time I’d graduated high school my responses to things that went awry or to not nice people weren’t so innocent any more.  Up until recently I figured I just needed to work harder at stopping.  But I was reminded that overcoming sin requires more than just “working harder.”

I read a devotional that convicted me of the root of my sin – the status of my heart.  It shone a light on what was flowing from my heart — anger, pride, unforgiveness, lack of compassion, lack of self-control.  Although James was spot on with his imagery of the tongue being like a fire, I realized that that fire is sparked by my heart.  

My “ah ha” moment that day was how much anger I allow to swirl around in my head and in my heart when someone doesn’t act how I expect or when the world doesn’t stick to My Plan.  Instead of compassion, kindness, love there’s *@%!   A truly ugly use of my God-given heart and tongue.  And a heart change can only take place with the help of the Holy Spirit.  My gal pals know I’ve joined forces with the Holy Spirit to remind me of the fruits of the spirit whenever I leave my house (because I never seem to have a cussing problem in the quiet confines of my She Shed!).  I cannot produce this fruit; I can only bear it because I am closely attached to the vine of Jesus. 

Friend, the world doesn’t think cussing is any big deal these days.  In the past, you’d never hear cuss words on tv or on the radio.  If you’ve ever spent more than a few minutes at an elementary school – yes, elementary school – you’ll find our lax attitudes toward this sin have affected our children.  But we are called as Christians to be different.  To be transformed.  We are to guard our hearts from taking in and spewing darkness.   I, for one, take the pledge.  How about you?

Holy Spirit, guide my choices today in what I take into my mind and heart and help me to return to the world the fruits of your Spirit – kindness, compassion, patience and most of all love.  Amen

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Everyday Glory

“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.

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Healers

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. 

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The Power In Us

…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.


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She Counsels with Truth + Love

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.”

Joyce Meyer

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!”


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Step 4: The Patient Teacher

“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

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Our Faith Progression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Max Lucado on his leadership style

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

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

Max Lucado, “How Happiness Happens”

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

“Listen intently and praise abundantly.”

Max Lucado, “How Happiness Happens”

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

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

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

Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

Max Lucado

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

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

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


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

Time Well Spent

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!  

Charles Spurgeon

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.

Charles Spurgeon

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.

Charles Spurgeon

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?