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M’ Lord

"The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Psalms 23:1

I love a good British murder mystery.  In fact, much of my time during the lockdowns of 2020 were spent doing puzzles while watching the folks across the pond “do each other in” in any number of mysterious ways.   And as I write this, I’m deep in a modern day mystery set in a British lord and lady’s castle.

As an American, I find the hierarchical system of British life fascinating.  There is a definite caste-like system with every day, less educated people almost bowing their heads to those who are “Oxford Educated” or come from some land owning blood.  And while I don’t pretend that fiction is complete reality the theme does run throughout novels and television, whether set in modern times or not.  

At times this deference arises out of fear – fear of losing a livelihood usually – and other times out of thankfulness for generosity.  While other times it just simply stems from an ingrained respect for our “betters.”  

The other day I heard a Christian teacher ask, “How many of us accepted the gift of salvation but have yet to accept Jesus as your Lord?”  

And of course, God kept making this point with me the last few days.  On day 2 of my new Bible study the concept of having a healthy “fear” of the Lord was the topic.  

“The way we relate to the Lord demonstrates the respect we have for Him.”

He Speaks To Me

So today I praise God and His Son Jesus for being my Lord.  For being the type of Lord who provides for our needs.  For being a gracious landowner and allowing us to be its tenants.  For being the type of Lord that is above reproach and deserves our deference.  He is the Lord above all lords.  

At times of peril we can seek His protection behind His castle walls.  At times of abundance He will join in with us in celebration.  And when we grieve He grieves with us.  

We upstarts in the United States tore ourselves away from the concept of bowing before lords and ladies.  To almost a fault we have no respect for “position.”  I wonder if that makes it harder for us to bow our heads to the one who deserves our utmost respect?  When we get told to “obey” it tends to raise our hackles.  

As a Christian I need to put aside any cultural history I may have in my genes and remember that God sits above me, deserving of all glory and honor.


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Are You Ready?

 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:26-28

One of my friends has found herself in an unexpected teaching opportunity.  She and her husband were active participants in a Bible study held at my house for about 5 years.  My observation was that he wasn’t progressing in his faith journey.  He seemed a bit stuck.  He was definitely a man of faith and attended church regularly.  But he kept listening to the world’s half truths about Jesus.

A year passed after that study group disbanded and my friend came to me asking about doing another study group.  She was particularly concerned about her husband.  They were no longer attending the same church and with the study group having disbanded her husband was without the counsel of other Christians.  We decided to start a new group but it would be just women this time around and it left her concerns about her husband unanswered. 

Over the course of last year my friend has made amazing strides in her faith progression.  Just last week I listened to her as she was able to answer a difficult Bible study question with a great analogy – making it all clear to the rest of us!  Like the glee I had while watching one of my Girl Scouts successfully learn to build a fire I jumped for joy at my friend’s insight!  I loved it!

And God has answered her prayers about her husband.  It wasn’t the answer she was expecting.  You see, the teacher he needed was her.  Her husband has watched her transformation with awe.  She is living out the Word.  And he started asking her questions about Jesus.  After church (their new one) they go for breakfast and sit and discuss the sermon.  He relies on her for further insight and instruction.  

 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:15-16

My friend’s teaching opportunity was close at home.  And at the start of Jesus’ ministry, He too started close to home.  The first recorded teaching by Jesus was to His cousin, John the Baptist.  Jesus asks John to baptize him but John recognizes Him as the Messiah and tries to convince Jesus it should be the other way around. 

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Matthew 3:15

Jesus knew His audience.  As a devoted man of God, John was well practiced in what it meant to achieve holy righteousness.  And so he accepted Jesus’ reasoning.

When you follow along Jesus’ teaching path, you’ll find it to be not only slow and patient but tailored for each person or group of people He encounters.  And that’s the joy in teaching.  No matter what we teach it’s important to know the delivery method.  At first, Jesus reached out to His cousin, then His cousin’s followers and their friends.  And the tipping point, after performing quiet acts of healing and word of them spread, was the Sermon on the Mount.

But even after He preached to large crowds, He would encounter individuals and specifically set aside time to teach them.  To tell them about the glory of God and the forgiveness of sins. 

To the learned He spoke with confident knowledge of Moses and Isaiah.  To the poor and lame, He taught through love and compassion.  To the average man and woman, He used parables containing everyday elements like farming and relationships.  And to the disciples He opened their eyes to the mysteries of the Kingdom.  Each time He sought the “ah ha” moment for which every teacher longs.  The moment when the light comes on inside.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

I once was leading a small Bible study and the topic of “evangelizing” came up.  It usually makes people squirm.  One participant said she just didn’t feel ready to talk to people about God.  And yet she’s been a Christian for about 50 years. What if we erase the word “evangelize” and replace it with sharing or teaching?  What if instead of picturing ourselves standing before the Pharisees or Sanhedrin we picture ourselves sitting with our children or a friend?  And sharing how Jesus has brought us peace and joy in times of trouble.  That should at a minimum be expected of us.

My friend I mentioned at the beginning has come a long way.  About a year ago, her adult son started asking her questions about God and Jesus and she felt unprepared. She had prayed for many years that her son would turn to Jesus.  And now he was asking her questions.  So, what did she do?  She sought instruction, she prayed, and she was bold.  And at her next opportunity to teach a family member, her husband, she was ready.

“Our lives should reflect the love and goodness of Jesus but we should pray that the Lord would give us opportunities to share the gospel with people who come into our lives.”  

Pastor Adriel Sanchez, Core Christianity Podcast

Jesus didn’t want to keep His life offering amongst a small group of people.  So yes, He lived a good and faithful life but He didn’t stop there.  He reached out to people.  He shared through teaching the most important lessons we will ever learn.  He prepared for this task.  And when His time came, He was ready.

The question is, are you ready?  

Your role as teacher may be needed right now.  For your children, your spouse, your neighbor, a struggling believer or searching non-believer.

Have you worked on the other steps so you can teach, like Peter says, with gentleness and respect?  Have you put yourself in positions to be a humble servant and therefore interacting with non-believers in positive ways?  Are you studying His Word so when confronted with half-truths or outright lies about God you can stand firm like a warrior?  God has already tested you in all these areas.  He’s tested me.  What is your report card?  In what areas do you need to ask for God’s help today so you can be ready?


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A Mirror for Jesus

Lesson 3: Imitate good, not evil

Dear friend, do not imitate 
what is evil but what is good.  
Anyone who does what is good 
is from God.
3 John 11

Occasionally in our lives we are asked to state who we consider to be our “hero or who we most admire.”  According to the annual United States Gallup poll the incumbent president is usually top of mind when Americans name, without prompting, which man living anywhere in the world they admire most. In the 74 times Gallup has asked the open-ended most admired man question since 1946, the incumbent president has topped the list 60 times.

When you look at the list from 2020, four of the “most admired men alive today” are politicians, one is a government employee, two are businessmen, one is an athlete and two are religious leaders.  Billy Graham is the all-time vote getter while he was still living with 61 appearances in the top 10 of this list.  That fact made me feel slightly better.

Although as a society we seem to easily agree that most politicians are not typically ones to be trusted we, for some reason, continue to view them as someone to admire.  

Growing up I would have done a “hard pass” on who to write down when asked this question.  I lived a fairly sheltered life – not much TV, only one friend, my parents didn’t have many friends.  And I wouldn’t have written my mom or dad on that list.  At various times in my life I’ve thanked God for somehow keeping me on a halfway straight path due to limited guidance.

According to Forbes magazine these are the ten qualities people admire most in others:

  1. Humility
  2. The ability to learn
  3. Integrity
  4. Responsibility
  5. Resilience
  6. Compassion for others
  7. Respect for others
  8. Big visions
  9. Inspire others
  10. The ability to “reinvent themselves”

After reading this list, did anyone come to mind?  I doubt that it was a politician.  When I got married I finally met someone that does a pretty good job meeting the high standards of this list – my mother in law.  I set upon a path of being more like her.  Someone who is kind to everyone, offers a friendly “hello” at all times, thinks of and serves others, and is always looking on the bright side.  While attempting to mirror her I realized I had, in fact, been imitating someone else all along.  Someone who was inwardly focused, pessimistic, frequently angry, and had difficulty showing love.  

At the end of John’s letter to the church elder Gaius, he warns us to be careful who we choose to imitate.  He has made the case that another church leader, Diotrephes, while powerful and surely had a large following, was not up to the standards set by Jesus.  He instead turns Gaius to another Christian brother, Demetrius.

Demetrius is well spoken of by 
everyone—and even by the truth 
itself. We also speak well of him, 
and you know that our testimony 
is true.
3 John 12

You notice it isn’t enough to have others speak well of someone.  John reminds us that the “truth” must also be used as a measuring stick.  There are many famous people on Gallup’s “most admired men alive” list.  And many have well known, serious transgressions.  Carelessness with the truth has been one of those.  But because they are famous we humans tend to set many bad behaviors aside.

When I was coaching girls softball, I watched the habits and techniques of many of the successful coaches.  I gleaned a lot of good coaching skills from them.  But there wasn’t one, at the time, that I could name as most admirable.  Many parents, on the other hand, admired those coaches because they won trophies.  What they didn’t mind was the abusive behavior toward their young daughters.  Unfortunately, throughout my years in youth, high school and collegiate sports I found this to be frequently the case.  And parents expected other coaches to imitate this same behavior, thinking that was a winning formula.

Last year, my BSGs (Bible Study girls) embarked on a new study called “The Proverbs 31 Woman.”  Now there’s a woman to admire!  Here’s an excerpt from this long list of character traits to imitate:

She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
Proverb 31: 15-18

Each week we would take a verse and apply it to our lives.  From our relationship with our husbands to our finances, our work ethic to our own health we were presented with a truly admirable touchstone for our lives.  We cleaned out our closets and our minds.  We took a hard look at our finances and our eating habits.  We used God’s Word rather than the world of the flesh to imitate.

In our world today so many people are trying to imitate the latest Instagram influencer or sports figure.  We see “success” or fame as proof they are worthy of imitation.   We put people like Joanna Gaines or Elon Musk up high on our list. Meanwhile there are Jesus followers, who just do the good work day in and day out that truly deserve our imitation.

Join together in following my 
example, brothers and sisters, 
and just as you have us as a 
model, keep your eyes on those 
who live as we do.
Philippians 3:17

It might seem like it takes a real discerning, wise mind to know who to imitate.  But we all truly know when we’ve met that “someone.”  We just then need to measure that person against God’s truth. And yes, we all sin.  We all have something to which we must repent to God.  But I’d rather imitate a loving, self sacrificing person who doesn’t always use her time wisely than a person who causes chaos and destruction in her wake.

Take a moment today and evaluate the answer to the question, “Who do you most admire?”  Be honest.  It’s easy to throw off platitudes.  No one else but God is listening.  Until we can face the evil we are imitating we cannot fully become the mirrors for Jesus.