Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
A few years ago, God put my faith listening ears and my trust in Him to the test. He asked me to step outside my well-built comfort zone based on the pride of working. For an unknown period of time, He directed me to feed the homeless with 100 lunches once a week. He told me what to make and where to take the food. He tested and challenged me week after week to put my complete faith in Him. To stand resolutely with Him. For almost a year I experienced a relationship with God like no other.
As I wrote the other day, sometimes God asks us to stay silent. Other times, like during His 100 Lunches Project, God asks us to step up and say, “Yes!” And if we aren’t paying attention, aren’t tuned in to His character, aren’t sure that He is directing us, then we miss out on great gifts of intimacy with Him.
The actual making of the first few weeks of lunches wasn’t so far out of my comfort zone. I had enthusiastic helpers and a husband who supported my venture. But as time passed and God kept calling, I was faced with having to be resolute in following Him. For one, my husband thought this would be sort of a “one and done” activity. Not a financial investment and something that would take up room in our already full garage. He also was concerned for my safety as I ventured into potentially dangerous areas, at times alone. I could have easily agreed with him on all counts and shut the program down. But I knew God wanted me to stand firm. So, as I explained to my husband, God was directing this project, not me, he relented with a few requests. One being that if I didn’t go with someone that I would regularly check in via text.
And then there was my work schedule. At the time I was a long term substitute in a school office. I prided myself on always being on the schedule to work at one school or another. It was my source of “happiness” that people needed me. The direction I was getting from God was to give out lunches in the middle of the week. Doing that would require me to tell the school I currently worked I couldn’t be there that day for an unknown period of time. My fear was they would let me go. And so, I prayed to God. Asking Him to guide me and bolster me. The day I spoke to the office secretary I told her, “I’m doing this lunch project, directed by God. And I can’t work Wednesdays anymore.” A weird thing to say, for sure. Especially in the more liberal area that I live. The response? “Sounds good. We will take you any day you can work for us.”
That’s how the year went. Door after door opened. And some closed as needed. I watched and listened for His Word. And I did His work in His name. It was glorious!
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22
The greatest lesson I learned that year was about trust. Trusting in that when God speaks to us and gives us a challenge He will provide. And any obstacle that is put in front of you, you can stand firm in who has your back. That year I had many people scoff at what I was doing. Family, friends, policemen, strangers. But when you know that your mission is God-sent nothing should stop you. You can be resolute.
So many of us Christians are sitting and waiting for God to call us to something special and yet we haven’t taken up the directions already laid out before us in God’s Holy Word. We don’t need another whisper to tell us to be kind or forgiving. We don’t need a tap on the shoulder to know how dangerous our gossiping tongue can be. It’s all there in the Good Book waiting to be lived out. We just need to take a stand for God.
The process of sanctification starts with the basics and moves on toward more and more challenges of trust. When He sees we are obeying the small things He places more of His banquet in front of us. But like the process of knowing when to stay silent we must be able to discern it is God, not our flesh, directing us. I knew it was God asking me to embark on this grand project because it asked me to do things so in opposite of my own desires and yet followed perfectly His.
When you act for God you will have detractors. You will have people that call you crazy. You might even have people who get angry with you. You might have to ask God to confirm you are on the right path. And I’ll tell you, brothers and sisters, when you are on that path, the work you do for Him will be seen by people who need to see it. You just may never realize it.
There were so many lessons for me in that year of 100 Lunches (which grew to about 300 per week!). And one day in December of that year God said to me, “You are done. It’s time for something else.” He closed that door and told me to stop. Even then I needed to be resolute. People chastised me for not continuing. Someone got quite angry with me. My response? “This wasn’t my project to begin with, it was God’s. He told me to be done so I am done. But you are free to serve in my place.”
I mentioned in my last post about the story from Sparkling Gems from the Greek and listening to God’s voice. I’d like to share with you the prayer from that day.
Lord, help me follow the Holy Spirit’s leading whenever He impresses me to do something. I know there have been moments in my life when the Spirit was leading me to do something. But because I didn’t understand it, I didn’t obey – and later I was always sorry. Please help me become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to trust Him when He speaks to my heart. I want to be obedient and to experience the supernatural life that He wants to give me! I pray this in Jesus’ name!
Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”
But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.Mark 14:61
I sat in that meeting surrounded by men. I was the only woman on the coaching staff and that alone put me at a disadvantage. But I never have had an issue with being “the only one.” I frequently have found myself in the position of being the youngest, the woman, the questioning, the sober, the only one to say “no.” So that evening was no exception. What was uncomfortable was the man in front of the room threatening me. He also threatened to have the softball program thrown out of the community center if I remained a coach.
Something inside my head told me to do something I rarely do – keep silent. I typically will speak up and defend myself but it was almost as though tape were placed over my mouth. Partially out of a sense of shock and fear that this man might physically attack me and partially because of that voice I remained quiet as he ranted and raved.
When the ranter was out of steam, the president of the league stood up and with his large physical presence made it clear the man was done and needed to leave. A vote was taken and I stayed part of the coaching staff. When the meeting came to an end I was shocked again when the other men, many who had rarely given me the time of day, approached me and congratulated me on standing strong and being so “tough.” As I walked to my car that night my legs turned to jelly and I collapsed in my car in tears. The ranter’s words were painful but the words of congratulations also overwhelmed me. I had finally done something they could all respect. And it was all because I listened to that small voice to keep quiet.
Even though I experienced success that evening with my silence it can drive me bonkers reading how Jesus took the abuse from the Pharisees. Of course, unlike Him, I couldn’t rain hellfire down on my accuser and work a miracle. But Jesus knew exactly when to speak and when to stay silent.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry...James 1:19
And that’s my topic this week on being resolute in Christ – when to act or speak and when to rest or be silent. Because frequently doing the exact opposite of what the world expects is exactly what we need to do to serve God righteously.
But how do we know? It can be difficult to discern between our wants, needs and fears and the Word of God. I have found over the last few years, however, that God does make things clear when it is important. Plus, knowing the character of God and Jesus and what is expected of us is tantamount in making good decisions. God never speaks to our fleshly desires, encouraging us to indulge. He is prudent, loving, kind, careful with resources, seeks justice and forgiveness, and above all He is holy.
Study the three main traits of Christ (justice, goodness, holiness) for thirty days, begin to practice them in your daily life, and see what God does…you won’t be disappointed.
Joyce Meyer, God’s Character
I’ve found it fascinating that people who want clear answers from God aren’t willing to actually know the character of the “person” from whom they are seeking answers. Yet, I won’t go to a friend who clearly has difficulty with their finances and ask them for financial advice! And I won’t seek fashion advice from someone that looks like they’ve just rolled out of bed every day.
So much of obeying God’s and His Holy Spirit nudgings must start with knowing the road signs to even look for. And then when we have accomplished that we must start paying attention and actually acting on those directives.
I love reading Sparkling Gems from the Greek each morning. It’s a yearly devotional that takes scripture and studies it in the original Greek meaning. Recently, the author wrote of how he was to attend a gathering of fellow pastors whom he hadn’t seen in awhile. He and his wife travelled to the city where the event was to take place. As they were about to the leave the hotel a clear word came to him to not attend. He first told his wife he felt the need to stay in the hotel. But he went anyways not wanting to miss out on the fun. Each step along the way he was told over and over to not go. While at the event the message became almost overwhelming. He left his wife to keep visiting and he returned to his hotel. Upon entering his room, he realized they had been burgled. All their passports, computers, important papers, jewelry and more were gone. And he realized his fleshly desires overtook that warning voice.
How often have we stood in the midst of a situation that calls us to be an outsider, a dissenter, the weird one, the one to step out of line and answer the call of His voice? And how often have we brushed it aside thinking we know better? When we don’t know the character of God that will happen frequently. But when we do know the character of God there’s no excuse. We repent and tell God to give us another chance to serve Him rightly.
God will frequently call us in our everyday lives to do something that may help us or help others. That cashier you want to be rude to because she is talking to another co-worker about her personal life? Ya, God might be telling you to say something incredibly kind to her or just keep silent. That neighbor who yells at you because he doesn’t like where you put your trashcan? God might be telling you to keep your mouth shut. That trip you are about to take? He may be saying, “cancel it.” You won’t know if it’s your own worries or desires unless you know Him and His ways.
“But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned theirbacks and covered their ears.They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.
“‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. Zachariah 7: 11-13
God calls us to action and He calls us to inaction. He calls us to speak and calls us to stay silent. But if we worry too much about the world and what they will think if we obey those words, then we are sure to be judged. We must stand resolutely when we hear that voice and through knowing His mind we will be assured He has our backs.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Philippians 4:8
One of the most amazing gifts God has given us humans is our mind. The brain weighs about 3 pounds and contains around 100 billion neurons— cells that carry information. There’s an old myth that we only use about 10 percent of our brains. That has been debunked. I know that must’ve been false because it seems some people don’t even use that much! But seriously, new studies show how much of our brain we actively use varies from person to person.
I can tell you without a doubt that my mind runs 24/7 – seemingly all by itself. And usually, off into thoughts that seem like they belong in someone else’s body. It’s my destructive thoughts that tell me I’m not good enough. I’m not worthy. I’m not loved. I will never be forgiven. I’m ugly, fat, wrinkly, etc. It’s like my mind gets taken over by my evil twin.
Isn’t that the battleground so many of us find ourselves on day and night? Those anxious thoughts that keep us looking at the clock at 1am, 2am, 3am….?
Praise God that He gave us a shield and sword to fight back the beast who is really behind all those thoughts – the devil himself.
My friend Caroline gave me a great tool last year that helps me in this spiritual battle. It’s a piece of paper with three columns. The first column lists the destructive thought such as, “There’s nothing special about me.” The second column speaks God’s truth against that thought with statements like, “I have been chosen/set apart by God.” And the third column lists the shields and swords of God—related scripture. In this example it lists Ps 139, 1 Cor. 1:30 & 6:11, Eph 1:4, and Hebrews 10:10 & 14.
This handy guide is something I can pull out whenever my evil twin brain decides to ruin my day or disrupt my sleep! The best part? You have the same tool at your fingertips. The Word of God was given to us not just to learn more about Him but to help tear down those thought strongholds that want to rule our lives. His mighty words were what Jesus Himself used when tempted by the devil.
I was recently reading in my Sparkling Gems from The Greek about the difference between using His Word as a “logos” or a “rhema.” Logos is a “sweeping stroke.” When we study the Bible this way we get broad and full direction for our lives. But in Ephesians 6:17 the word “rhema” is used. That means a sharp and fatal blow to the enemy.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (rhema) of God:Ephesians 6:17
What Paul is directing us to do is have at the ready “fighting words.” God’s words that we can call up quickly to mind and tear apart any thoughts the devil wants to use against us. And we can use those words knowing the power and authority that lay behind them.
God in His greatness knows how amazing our mind is – He created it. He knows the power and dangers of our imagination and our thoughts. The devil knows it too. But with the gracious gift of the Holy Bible we can shield ourselves from the devil’s lies.
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!”
“At this they tried to seize Him but no one laid a hand on Him because His hour had not come.” John 7:30
“Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” Exodus 6:22
My church is in the midst of a study of Genesis and a few weeks ago we landed on the story of Noah. Christians and non-Christians alike are very familiar with this famous Bible story. How often do we see cute children’s books, artwork, decorations that take up this story showing all the cute animals piled into a tiny boat riding out the storm with a rainbow overhead?
During the sermon I was struck with the thought that this is not a sweet story at all. It’s a story of total depravity on the part of man versus the faith of one warrior for God. The face-off between a world bathing in the flesh and one, lonely soul swimming against that tide. The ark was a last chance lifeboat built by a soldier, an obedient servant who loved God.
For anyone who has ever seen the movie, “Evan Almighty” – a theatrical depiction of a modern-day Noah – the result of being a warrior for God, even a reluctant one, is shown in all its technicolor truth. Friends, family, neighbors, the media, and even the government may come against us.
“When you give your best to the Lord, it’s not unusual to be criticized by people who ought to encourage you. Moses was criticized by his brother and sister. David by his wife, and Mary of Bethany by an apostle.”
Warren Wiersbe commentary on 1 Samuel
During the extreme lockdowns of 2020 there were many “warriors for God” who found themselves on the receiving end of much criticism from Christians and non-Christians. Pastors and even Catholic bishops who insisted that churches needed to remain open and serve their flocks were impugned by church authority, the media, non-believers, and parishioners. In some states the government brought the full force of the law down with arrests and extravagant fines.
Now, some might still say churches should’ve been closed to protect people from illness. But these flock protectors felt called by God to bring healing to people’s hearts and minds and souls. Church attendance has never been a requirement for anyone. And they believed those who needed church should be allowed to partake in its offerings. Parallel arguments about keeping people from getting sick included the admonishment to obey governments based on Romans 13. And yet the clarification of hierarchy of obedience is spelled out in Acts 5.
"The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” Acts 5:27-29
About a few months into the lockdowns, I started seeing a confident warrior for God pop up in my Instagram feed. This young man had originally run for a state office in Northern California. He ran as a conservative Christian in a heavily liberal area and lost. I had donated a small amount to his campaign about a year before and had apparently “followed” his account. He is a musician by trade, a devout family man, and a fervent follower of Christ.
And when our churches shut down in California, he stepped out onto a stage bigger than he’d ever imagined. Compelled by visions given by God, he would show up at a beach with a local pastor, his family, a few other musicians and put on a revival meeting of sorts. As word grew, each time he held a “Christ concert” more people would find their way to listen. More people asked to be baptized in the cold ocean waters. And more people started harassing them. And fines by local authorities started piling up. And he wouldn’t stop.
You may have heard by now about Sean Feucht and his merry band of “Let Us Worship” team. They’ve since led large worship services all over the United States, including Washington DC. Sean may have lost a politician’s job but he gained so much more. Throughout the pandemic their small pastoral team helped lead thousands to give up fleshly addictions and find Christ. All the while, others would show up at these events screaming demonic words, throwing blood on them and even accosting his pregnant wife.
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Matthew 4:10
I can only imagine how many times Sean and his family have reminded themselves of this statement by Jesus to Satan. I’ve watched the videos of Sean’s meetings in Portland and Seattle. It’s some of the most disturbing things I have seen in terms of demonic possession of people. You may raise an eyebrow at that statement but truly, I have never seen anything like it.
Sean is just a man. A man with a family to protect. A man who is trying to make his way through this world just like you and me. He didn’t start serving the Lord suddenly during the pandemic, he has a quiet history of spreading God’s Word including countries outside the United States. He has led missionary trips to Afghanistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. He is obviously a man used to trusting God. And isn’t it fascinating to know that he went to those dangerous places to share the gospel seemingly as preparation to lead thousands into worship in a “safe” place like the United States?
We won’t all be warriors for God just like Sean but every person who chose to attend one of his meetings during these difficult times was a warrior in their own way. Today, every person who hears God’s urging to step out in faith and stand for Him takes up the armor and can call themselves a warrior. We have a lot of good soldiers who have paved the way for us, to drawn on how they trusted God to protect them until their time was done.
As God always does, He has placed quite a lot of podcasts, sermons, and Bible studies in front of me in the last few weeks on this very character trait of Jesus. I wanted to share with you a prayer from Sparkling Gems from the Greek to help spur our warrior character on.
Lord, help me start seeing myself as a might soldier in the army of God. You have provided every weapon I need to prevail against the enemies that come against my life, my family, my business, my friends and my church. I want to stand tall and firm against the wicked plots the devil tries to exert against people’s lives whom I love and need. Holy Spirit, give me the power and strength I need to successfully resist every attack and to drive all dark forces from my life and from the lives of those close to me! I pray this in Jesus’ name!
“But we have the mind of Christ” 1 Corinthians 2:16
We so often hear the phrase, “To be like Jesus” but what does it really mean in our everyday lives? My BSGs were in a deep conversation on Revelation about whether or not we believe in the rapture. And, more importantly how does either position effect our lives. History and our current world are full of scholars who know a lot more about the details of the Bible than probably you or I will ever grasp. But there’s a difference, which is a deep and wide crevasse, between knowing and living out the qualities of Jesus.
“We, therefore, desire to copy his character and put our feet into his footprints. Be it ours to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes. What says 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 you 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.”
Imitation is not knowing of something but molding ourselves into an almost exact copy. I say “almost” because of course, Jesus is God and we are not. We walk the Jesus drawn path toward His perfection but we are always in a human mode my friend Betsy calls, “imperfect progress.”
Our modern view of Jesus seems to be stuck in one quality, however. And truth be told, if we could regularly live out that one quality it’d be a great step forward on our path. That quality? A loving friend.
We hear the word “love” over and over in our churches, in our faith songs, on our Christian social media. But what about Jesus’ other characteristics? How many of us are willing to take on being Jesus the Warrior, Jesus the Servant, or Jesus the Counselor? If we have hesitated is it because we know that once we decide to move along in our sanctification journey, we will encounter more and more resistance from the outside world?
Are we prepared, like the disciple Stephen, to be a martyr for God? Are we prepared to state unequivocally that we must obey God rather than human beings? (Acts 5:29)
And so, we return to the original question, what does believing in the words of the Bible and Jesus mean to our lives? It means we are to be in constant preparation for His coming. It means we love our neighbors, we share the gospel whenever possible, we humble ourselves, we seek reconciliation and not revenge, we encourage and lift up our fellow travelers, we carry the message of Jesus throughout every generation, and we stand up for the truth of His Holy Word. It means we make a perspective shift on every single aspect of our lives because we believe that one day soon our “age of grace” will turn to the “age of judgment.”
Jesus expects us to be working on that preparation. It’s why He came – not to just leave us knowing God loves us – but living like God knows and loves us. He came to be our example for gathering up residents of the future Kingdom come.
Join me in this journey of looking at the different qualities of Jesus as we delve into His mindset so that we can become His imitators. We will be challenged to accept all of His qualities, not just the ones with which we feel most comfortable. Along the way we will meet some people whose lives are examples of those characteristics.
Jesus was a great disrupter – possibly the greatest of all time. Let’s let Him disrupt and reshape us.
As we begin this series take a moment to pray this confession found in Rick Renner’s, Sparkling Gems from the Greek:
“I boldly declare that I am a new creature in Christ. Old things have passed away and all things have become new! I am not who I used to be anymore. I don’t think like that old person; I don’t see like that old person; I don’t talk like that old person; and I don’t behave like that old person anymore. Now I am in Jesus Christ, and I think like Him, see like Him, talk like Him, and behave like Him. I have come alive with vibrant life because of His resurrection power that works in me! I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!”
You hem me in behind and before, and
you lay your hand upon me.Psalm 139:5
My BSGs were talking the other day about sensing God’s presence. More specifically about the times we felt God was far away from us. So often when we are experiencing difficult trials we think “where is God?” But I’ve come to realize in my faith journey that the real question is the one God asks, “Will you come back to me and rest in my love?”
God surrounds us each and every day. In our verse today it’s expressed as “hemming us in.” For some that might seem restricting. But to me it evokes the concept of wrapping a baby tightly in a swaddling cloth. We do it so the baby feels the warmth and safety once felt while inside the womb. And that’s what God wants for us.
I will not leave you comfortless: I will
come to you.John 14:18
Those are Jesus’ words. He sent us the Holy Spirit to always be in us. We don’t need to go looking for it. We don’t need to beg for it to descend upon us. God indwells. So, what is truly required of us when we experience difficult times is to rest in what is already available to us.
“It may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by you!”
Upper Room, Surrounded (Fight My Battles)
When I think about the times I felt distanced from God I also think back to when the Israelites were out in the desert. They could actually see God’s spirit hovering over their camp day and night. And yet, they asked, “Where is God?” I don’t have the benefit of seeing a cloud follow me around day and night. And, I don’t have the physical Jesus to sit down with at dinner to share my problems. So, I give myself a bit of grace when I forget He is always with me.
When I rest and tap into the strength and love and goodness of the Holy Spirit I find that promised peace. It most likely won’t change the circumstances of the trial I’m experiencing. But knowing He is with me, with His hand laid upon me, gives me the strength to continue.
My friend Betsy is an avid, extreme hiker. Last year, at 70 years old, she set off to tackle the John Muir Trail solo. She came to a particularly difficult portion and her body starting giving her troubles. She has dreamed of this trip for years – and attempted it a few times. She became distraught that she couldn’t go on. With her, in case of emergency, was her Iphone. She made the decision to use it to listen to some Christian music in the midst of this struggle. As she reached the crest of the difficult portion, filled with the music of the Holy Spirit, her mind was transformed. She had plugged back in to her closeness with God.
Betsy wasn’t able to complete her goal. But she gained so much more. A confirmation that God never leaves us. We just need to rest in that “hemmed in” space He provides.
Here’s a prayer from Sparkling Gems from the Greek to pray when we feel separated from God:
Lord, I thank you that I am not a spiritual orphan in this world. You did not abandon me or leave me to figure out everything on my own. You sent the Holy Spirit to me to be my Teacher and Guide. So right now, I open my heart wide to the Holy Spirit, so He can be the Helper You sent Him to be in my life. I give You thanks for sending this divine Helper and I ask You to teach me how to lean upon Him more and more in the course of my life. I pray this in Jesus’ name!
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we
profess, for he who promised is faithful.Hebrews 10:23
We sing songs about God being our Rock. We hear sermons about not living as though on shifting sand. And yet so often I find myself having days where my faith feels more like something I’ve placed in a box to access at a later date and time. I rush about “doing life,” not as a Christian but as a citizen of the world. I let go of my Rock and hold on to my to do list.
But what do we, as Christians, really want to accomplish in our lives? If it’s simply completing to-do lists every day, we miss out on some of the greatest human qualities God gifted us – the ability to dream and grow and have hope.
When I was in high school, I wanted to be an astronaut. I met with Air Force recruiters who were enthusiastic about me joining up. But when I sat down with my parents, they immediately discouraged me. They thought I couldn’t handle the rigor and discipline of training. I had two choices – to ignore them and join anyway or give up my dream. Had I a strong prayer life, I could’ve lifted up this quandary to God. And then be guided by Him. At each roadblock I could’ve held fast to the knowledge that He put me on that path. But I’m sorry to say, I neither prayed nor kept my dream alive.
This verse today harkens back to Abraham and Sarah’s unswerving faith in God. They went through terrible trials in which it would’ve been understandable had they given up on God’s promises. We see throughout the Old Testament when the Israelites did give up hope. They grumbled to Moses and set off in directions which brought death. And who can forget Lot’s wife – looking backward rather than forward to God’ promise?
How often do we pray for help from Jesus, knowing that He answers prayers, and then after things get a bit tough or we feel the wait is too long we give up on our hopes and dreams?
Blessed is the one who perseveres under
trial because, having stood the test,
that person will receive the crown of
life that the Lord has promised to those
who love him.
God never breaks a promise. It’s always us. It’s us that needs to take our faith out of the box and place it at the top of our list each day. We need to hold fast to the knowledge that God is working for us and not against us. Whenever we are tempted to give up or get discouraged about our dreams, we need seize the promises that God has shown us.
Here’s a prayer from Sparkling Gems from the Greek that might help you, through faith, “hold unswervingly” to your dreams!
Lord, I am well aware that events will occur in life that will tempt me to release the dream You put in my heart. So right now, I ask You to fill me with the courage I need to refuse to let go of my dream. Even though my mind and the circumstances around me may send signals that the dream will never come to pass, I know that You are faithful to what you have promised. Help me wrap my arms of faith around your promises and never let go until I see them come into manifestation! I pray this in Jesus’ name!
A prayer to be deeply knowledgeable about God’s Word
Holy God, I confess that I have spent much of my Christian life hearing your Word and yet not absorbing and living out our Word. I’ve sat in your Holy presence at church and listened, then walked out of the doors and turned my thoughts solely on selfish and worldly pursuits. So I often, when I hear a conviction through your Word, I think of someone else who needs to hear the message – all the while it is me that needs to accept the correction. I allow my endless “to do lists” to take time away from learning more about you, from soaking my soul with your loving spirit. I allow my “study” of your Word to just be catchy verses that scroll by on social media. LORD, with your teaching and guidance I will proclaim that I am deeply knowledgeable about your character through your Word. I will be your faithful student. I lift this up in Jesus’ name, Amen.
A prayer to live a joy-filled life.
Gracious God your gifts and blessing to me cannot be counted. And yet so often I turn to the negative parts in my life and place my constant thoughts in them. When I rise I forget to be thankful that I have yet another day in which to serve you and be blessed by you. And as I go about my day when you place joyful moments at my fingertips I take them for granted. When I lay my head down to sleep I can easily recall all that went wrong in the day rather than what went right. But your joy is there for the taking. I want to live basked in your greatness, your beauty and your joy. I can and will, with your help, find joy in every circumstance. You are working for my good at all times and I just need to remember that promise. Thank you for giving us your Son who implanted the Holy Spirit in us – a spirit of joy and of goodness. I pray this in your Son’s Holy name, Jesus. Amen
A prayer to be a patient person
Faithful Father, I get so caught up in the busyness of life that I forget that my needs and desires are not the same as everyone else’s. When I’m running late, I want to yell at the drivers in front of me for not moving quickly enough. The slow grocery store bagger receives my glare when she doesn’t work at the same speed which I expect. Or when a friend doesn’t respond to my text as prompt as I need, I get frustrated. I’ve come to realize, LORD, through your holy Word that my impatience is an outgrowth of my lack of humility. Your admonishment to love one another needs to be on my lips when I feel that frustration and anger well up inside me. LORD, I know there is nothing more important to you than having your children express compassion and love for each other. Rest your loving hand on my shoulder as a reminder for when I forget this. Quell my impatient heart and mind and replace it with grace. In your Son’s name I pray, Amen.
A prayer that I would share the Gospel with others
Merciful God, your Word has healing power for the sick and your Word gives hope to the downtrodden. Your promise of eternity is a promise for all who believe. But I allow my worries and my fears about worldly judgement guide my discipleship. I keep your holy and powerful gifts to myself, not sharing them with those who need them. LORD, our one true purpose here on earth is to serve you and by doing so we are asked, even required, to speak of you to all who will hear. Help me to succumb to your strength and guidance rather than that of the world. I know you will put the right words in my mouth at the right time. I just need to be willing to speak them. Each day place someone who needs to hear from you in front of me. With the strength of the Holy Spirit urging me on I will be faithful in spreading your gospel of Good News. In Jesus name, Amen
I rest my worries in constant prayer
LORD, I confess that I can cite Philippians 4:6 quite easily but it is the actual doing that I struggle with. In fact, when I get very distressed, I forget about you and turn inward to try and solve my problems. Or I call friends and family to lay all my worries upon. Too often it seems you are my last gasp when all else fails. Thank you for giving us your Son to remind us that you are the only source we need to turn to in times of trouble. With His guiding words I will place you front and center of my difficult situations. Through constant prayer and communion with You I will find everlasting peace. I lift this up in Jesus’ name. Amen
A prayer to speak only when needed
LORD, I would like to make this brief but I seem to have an issue with words. They flow freely from my mouth without filters. At times I gasp at myself for the words that exit me. James is so right when he shows me that my mouth is like the rudder for my ship. And I want to be on the right course with you, God. Sometimes I need the entire trinity to help me grab hold of my rudder. But I know with practice, your grace and the urging of the Holy Spirit I can and will be the quiet captain of my ship. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
A prayer to keep my body strong and dedicate it to serve God
Heavenly Father, I regularly make the commitment to keep my spiritual life active and strong. However, when I make choices about exercise or my diet, I rarely see that as part of my devotional life. My spirit, my soul and my body all belong to you. You ask us to be your warriors in the name of Christ. And warriors are strong spiritually, mentally and physically. Starting today, LORD, I recommit my entire body to you. When I am weak and want to forgo exercise or eat food I know just isn’t good for me I ask that your Holy Spirit remind me that I need to be strong to accomplish all that you have planned for me. I lift this up in your Son’s Holy Name, Amen.
A prayer to live without regret
Holy God, it’s been many years since I accepted your gift of salvation, which along with that gift came forgiveness. And yet, so often I am unable to forgive myself. My heart still twinges when I think of the times I lived in sin. And once saved, I look back at the years I realize I wasn’t fully committed to obeying your Word. I’ve wasted enough time, however, not accepting your grace. I am learning how much you love me, LORD. And with that, I’m working to accept that I am a new person because of your son Jesus. The old me can’t take up any more precious time when you are filling up my heart with overwhelming love. I admit I sometimes need stern admonishment from you to keep me on track. But at other times please send me a gentle kiss or unexpected hug to remind to live in today, not the regrets of the past. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
A prayer to act when directed by God
Dear God, I used to think that my faith was solely a personal, spiritual pursuit. But I keep hearing the word “obey.” I admit that obeying isn’t a comfortable word for me. It implies me giving up something for someone else. In your covenant world however, “obey” just means holding up my end of the bargain. You are always faithful, LORD, and I need to be faithful as well. James said it best when he admonished us to be “doers of the Word, not just hearers.” Sometimes I allow the world to drown out your Holy Spirit who speaks your will to me. Or I worry that I’m not worthy or ready to do your work. But I’m tuning in to you and listening, watching, and anticipating for your direction. Give me opportunities to be your hands, your feet and your heart. I will obey. In your Son’s name I pray this. Amen
A prayer to always speak kindly of others
Merciful God, so often when I think of sinful behavior, I rarely attribute my own tendency to gossip and tear down others. And yet throughout Jesus’ time here on earth he reminds us to love one another. Help me to remember to love not just with deeds but with my words. You speak so kindly of me, LORD, and I have many, many flaws. Not only do I need your help in not speaking unkindly, but also in being your servant to exalt your people. I know that a kind word is all that is needed to cure so many of our world’s ills. Guide me in controlling my lips so that they drip with kindness rather than bitterness. In Jesus’ name I lift this up to you. Amen
A prayer to be a blessing to those around me and my community
Holy Spirit I get so wrapped up in my everyday problems and to-do lists I forget to pause and look at the world around me. I rush out in my car and don’t stop to say “hi” to my elderly neighbor. I see the trash someone has left behind at the nearby lunch table and I assume someone else will pick it up. I watch the mother with two kids struggling to get her groceries in the car and I think, “thank goodness that isn’t me.” Oh, how I know you keep whispering to me to stop and do your work. But I prioritize my list and sometimes you aren’t on it. LORD, I say I want to be a blessing to others and yet I let so many opportunities pass me by. Today, I will be that blessing. Today I will recognize the need to slow down, reach out, and do your work. I will be your mustard seed and help build your Kingdom into all it’s glory. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
A prayer to not be judgmental of others
Holy God, we live in a world that judges us on a photo that gets scrolled by in an instant, our decision at the ballot box, the type of car we drive, or even the color of our skin. I am guilty of making snap judgements about the people I encounter throughout my day. But in your world, LORD, we are all equally loved. I have discovered the uniqueness of your message through Jesus – that you are the father, king, counselor, protector of ALL people. You are at work in all of our lives, believer and non-believer. Through the life lessons of Jesus and the prompting of the Holy Spirit I will be the type of person who loves first, rather than judges first. I want to be loved and accepted for who I am uniquely made to be and I will see others in that same light. I pray this in your Son’s name, Amen
A prayer to avoid using coarse language
Holy Father, it has become so easy for me to use your name in un-holy ways. There was once a time that when angered or frustrated I would just say some silly old saying. But as I drew closer to the ways of the world my language followed. I want to be closer to you instead, LORD. I want to speak like your son, Jesus. I know that anger, impatience, laziness, and bitterness are all roots of my use of foul language. Help me, Holy Spirit, to cut out those roots so that out of my mouth comes praise, prayer, forgiveness and grace. I will use my mouth, with your guidance, for these rather than obscenity and coarseness. Amen
A prayer to constantly praise and thank God
Mighty God, I admit that when things go wrong in my life I am quick to ask for help. But when my life is running along smoothly or even when a prayer is answered I’m equally quick to forget to thank you. Each and every morning when I rise, I commit to thanking you for what you will send my way that day – even the “not-so-good.” Because even in those times I know I have the opportunity to grow in my faith. And throughout my day I will remember to thank you even for the little gifts you send my way. LORD, at the end of my day I’m frequently so tired. But you are never tired of hearing my praise for you. I will, before my eyes close, remember the ways you revealed yourself to me that day. Whether you acted as my counselor, comforter, King, creator, or protector, I will praise you. In your son’s name I pray, Amen.
A prayer to love myself
Heavenly Father, so many of my perceived short falls come from my poor sense of self-worth. I look in the mirror sometimes and to be honest I don’t always see what you see – a beautifully, wonderfully made daughter of God. And I confess that my lack of love for your creation can spill over to my inability to openly love others without judgment. But I don’t want to grieve the Holy Spirit any longer. My heart, body, mind and soul were created by and belong to you, LORD. With the reminders found in your Holy Word to love my neighbor as myself I will look into that mirror with newfound love and admiration for your creation. Thank you for my life, thank you for making me uniquely me. I lift this up in Jesus’ name, Amen