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A Time of Rest

“To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”  Romans 16:27

Thank you, Lord for a good night sleep.  As I wake today I recognize the wisdom of the gift you gave us of sleep.  So that I may be re-charged each day to serve you, to spread your message of love and to give you all glory. Amen

When I woke up this morning my first thought was of God’s perfection and wisdom.  His perfect plan for us and all the animals that roam the earth.  It wasn’t an accident that there was night and day.  There first was the darkness and then God created our alarm clock – the light.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light." Genesis 1:2-3

God’s plan for us has always included a time for re-charging.  Haven’t you ever contemplated on the fact that we have a world-wide understanding that at night the majority of the world sleeps?  If there’s anything that we have all mostly agreed to do as part of His plan is to tuck ourselves in and give it a rest. 

The restless nights, worried-filled staring at the ceiling, tossing and turning are not, however, part of His plan.  He tells us over and over in His Holy Word to turn it over to Him so we can be at peace.  So we can rest.  So we can sleep.  

Friend, we can be so thankful to God for giving us the night.  For weaving into His plan a time of rest.  When you lay your head down think on what He has given you as the light turns to dark.  And when His alarm clock rises, give Him glory for another day to serve Him well.

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It Was Good

"They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!” Revelation 7:11-12

God, you’ve done it again.  A beautiful world, a beautiful moment for all the world to see.  Thank you, Lord.  Thank you.” Amen

I had just finished up a few hours work on the golf range and the practice sand trap (ugh).  Sweat was dripping into my eyes but it felt good to be out practicing an activity I never thought I’d ever do.  Admittedly, I am trying to get better so when my husband and I play together he’ll be proud of me.  As I cleaned up my clubs and walked away from the range, I finally looked up to see the rest of the course spread out before me.  And I couldn’t tear my eyes from what God had laid out for the world to see.

I am so fortunate to live in beautiful, almost always 75 degrees and sunny San Diego, California.  High above the cliffs that border the Pacific Ocean in an area called Torrey Pines, lies the internationally famous Torrey Pines Golf Course.  I have yet to challenge my novice skill against this difficult course.  But for all its difficulty what it also offers is stunning views of God’s creation.  And that day was no different.  When you stand at the clubhouse balcony you look over the lush greens of the course which drop off sharply to the beautiful, expansive, blue sea.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:9-10

There’s something about looking out over the seemingly endless ocean that stuns me each time.  It’s the closest description I can think of that describes God’s mystery, authority, expansiveness, and even provision.

Friend, while I was standing in awe of God’s creation people were bustling about.  Rushing to get to tee times, lining up for drinks at the coffee cart, chatting on their cell phones – all normal activities.  Today, when you see God’s creation laid out so beautifully in front of you, be sure to stop for a moment and think on the glory of God.

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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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I’m Fine, It’s Fine

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. Esther 4:13

In a way, I hope you’ve never heard of Annie Lobert.  But, if you or someone dear to you has ever found themselves trapped in the world of sex-trafficking and drug abuse I pray that God would lead you to Annie.  She started out as an ordinary girl from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  She became a prostitute, exotic dancer and drug addict.  To make more money she moved to Las Vegas, Nevada with her then boyfriend who soon took her ID, her cell phone and every penny she earned, in effect turning her into a sex slave.  After five years of physical abuse she escaped her pimp.  In 2003, Ms. Lobert found herself in a hospital, the result of a cocaine overdose.  As she tells her story this was the moment she finally took a true stock of her life and turned to God.

With the support of a former customer who had fallen in love with her, and her new found faith, Ms. Lobert left prostitution behind and started a new life.  The former customer trained her in estimates and service reviews in order to work with him at his auto body and design firm.

A wonderful, true story of God’s intervention into the lives of a non-believer, a sinner for certain.  To some, a “throw-away,” a person so entrenched with the devil that a changed life seemed impossible.  And by all accounts her story, if it ended there, would sound admirable and a great testimony to God’s love for all people.  But that wasn’t His plan.  In fact, if you read all the stories in the Bible, God’s gift of pulling us from the fiery furnace is never the end of the story.  It’s never the end of His expectations of us.  It’s always a new beginning.

“the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” Esther 2:17

The story of Queen Esther has some disturbing parallels to Annie Lobert’s.  After becoming an orphan, Esther (a Jewess originally named Hadassah) was raised, by all accounts, by a good and decent Jewish cousin named Mordecai.  However, when King Xerxes decided he needed a new queen he called for all the most beautiful young women to be brought (kidnapped) into his harem.  Night after night these very young virgins were raped by the King.  They were then placed amongst his concubines.  Stripped of their names, their families, their everything, they became sex slaves.  

And Esther, who was eventually selected as the new queen, could end her story at reaching such a high status.  She had received wisdom and help from the right people – pagans and Jews.  She had attendants, great food, a comfortable life.  In fact, when palace intrigued resulted in a decree to kill the 15 million Jews scattered throughout King Xerxes’ dominion she was insulated from the information.  When word came via a messenger that her cousin, a palace official, was at the gates in torn sackcloth crying in despair her response was simply to send him new clothes.  She didn’t want to know what caused him so much grief.  Her life was good.  I’m fine.  Everything’s fine.

“Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people.” Esther 4:8

It was not known by the king and his people that Esther or even Mordecai were Jews.  But Mordecai’s very public reaction to the decree made their background known.  And therefore, he implored Queen Esther to act on the Jew’s behalf.  She was uniquely positioned to petition the king for relief.  But she initially refused out of fear.  She refused because the king still didn’t know she was a Jew so why not just leave it that way?  Why rock the boat?  I’m fine.  It’s fine.  

She had decided when her God-given new beginning would stop.  For some of us that’s where we stop.  God has rescued us over and over and over.  He has placed us just where He wants us and we stop.  We thank Him for the past with our words and don’t plan on thanking Him with our works.   I’m fine.  It’s fine.  

But you can see by today’s first Bible verse Mordecai reminds Esther that she too will be swept away eventually.  That the decree will come to all of them.  She finds herself at a crossroads of sorts.  To speak to the king without being called by him might mean death.  To not speak up for the Jews will probably also mean death. For some of us we get stuck here.  Fretting about what to do.  And Esther finally decides to show the Lord her commitment to Him — to continue on her new beginning.

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai,“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:15-16

She, in effect, prays.  And she trusts.  God had placed her with Mordecai, who himself had good standing in the government.  He placed her with Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem with whom she found favor.  Hegai imparted wisdom on how to act and speak around the king.  God placed her as Queen.  God put all the players in place for Queen Esther to bring about the removal of an evil man from the court and overturn the death sentence for the Jews.  And the new edict which she helped the king craft elevated the Jews to such a place that “many people of other nationalities became Jews.” (Esther 8:17) And to this day, the Jews celebrate Purim in her honor.

God is preparing His heroes and when the opportunity comes He can fit them in to their places in a moment and the world will wonder where they came from.  

AB Simpson

You and I are being prepared to be ordinary heroes.  You and I have been rescued by God already so many times and placed here, right now for these times.  But too many of us say I’m fine, it’s fine.  We say it by telling ourselves, our Christian friends, our pastors, that we aren’t needed by God or we don’t have enough time.  We’ve retired and now want to coast. We say we are happy where we are and don’t need to send God a “thank you note” by obeying His Great Commission.  We say we feel uncomfortable feeding His sheep.  We say we don’t need a new beginning.

Warren Wiersbe issues this warning in his commentary on Esther: God will accomplish His purposes even if his servants refuse to obey.  Esther could’ve been the loser in this story.  We either miss out in participating in His full glory like Moses did when he told God not to ask so much of him or we get disciplined like Balaam when he refused to do God’s bidding.

If we love God, love the fact that He loved us before we were even out of the womb, we must be compelled to be His servants instituting His plans.  I heard a pastor today say we need to “Get in, Get out, or Get Run Over!”  Complacency in faith, complacency with the gifts God has given us is no faith at all, truly.  And it certainly isn’t God’s plan for our new beginning.

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” John 21:16

As for Annie Lobert?  She came to a crossroads too.  She could’ve been like so many Christians and said, “Thanks for saving me Lord” and gone about her life.  Instead in 2005, she established Hookers for Jesus, a safe house program in Las Vegas with the mission to Hook (outreach), Hope (Jesus), Help (housing) and Heal (restoration). 

Annie Lobert is an ordinary person committed to God’s plan to rescue others from evil.  We may not all be in the position to save as many people as she will but if we can at least commit to not being “fine where we are” and to ask God every morning to place us in positions to share His Word and do His good works we are well on the way to being an ordinary hero. We would be well on our way to our new beginning.

There are such calls in the Bible as “Universal Calls,”  ones which every follower of Jesus is called to.  One of these is 2 Corinthians 5:17-20:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

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Gifts of the Spirit

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 1 Corinthians 12:4-5

A friend of mine and her husband recently participated in a church workshop which helped them identify their various gifts and strengths.  While doing her homework for the workshop she reached out and asked me and a few friends to help her identify three values she’s passionate about and three abilities she has.  I think it surprised her when all three of us identified the exact same qualities.  What was interesting was that she, herself, was struggling to do the same.

For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10

I think so often as Christians we get caught up in this list of gifts from 1 Corinthians and forget what else this chapter says.  We are all given the Holy Spirit and we all are given gifts to assist the body of the church. So, when our friends tell us one of our gifts is being trustworthy or loyal or even diligent or empathetic, we might not see those as important as one of the “Big 9” and therefore not as worthy. And yet I will tell you having a person managing the church funds whose gifts are trustworthy and diligent is incredibly important!

I’m so thankful that God gave me the gifts of being organized, able to multitask, a love of writing and teaching.  I can’t interpret tongues but thankfully none of the jobs I’ve had, both volunteered and paid, required that!  I would love to stand on my church stage and be able to sing you a beautiful hymn but that’s just not going to happen.  What I can do, however, is thank God not only for the gifts he has bestowed on me, but the ones He has given others.  Together we make up the talented body of Christ.

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Brain Power

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26

It’s a sad state we find ourselves in where you can get more sympathy for killing cows than human babies.  According to the American Life League more than 61.8 million children have been aborted since 1973.  The elevation of animals over humans sees countless protests for using animals for food as “good” yet protests in front of an abortion clinic as “bad.”  Any Christian who has submitted themselves to the Word of God can easily read God’s directives in Genesis where He has given man, not only caretaking responsibility but also the use of animals and plants as sustenance.  

To be placed in this position by God required making humans unique.  Not only did He give us the concepts of right and wrong along with various emotions but also higher brain power.  While I dearly love my dog Tucker, he will only ever reach a certain level of intelligence.  He’s pretty smart —  kinda like a two year old child.  Which makes him smart and dopey at the same time!

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. Proverbs 18:15

Even someone who we might consider to be the least intelligent among us or someone  with a mental disability excels in mental capacity from the beasts of the earth.   As humans we can be ever thankful for God giving us brains that create and understand justice, morality, empathy, love, anger, sadness, our mortality and beauty.  Our ability to not just dream of the future but to create a path to that future, be it a new building,  a new method for delivering products, designing a rocket, or figuring out how to explore the  depths of the sea, sets us on top of the list of the living things on this planet.  God created a brain so unique in this world that it even knows how to analyze itself!

What a great gift He has given us humans!  I’m so thankful for the responsibility He has given us because with it comes the tools to be great stewards of His creation.

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A Plan for Us

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18

I’ll be honest, I never thought I’d get married.  Partially because I just wasn’t raised thinking about marriage and partially because I was the product of a marriage based on very little respect for each other.  For many years, God allowed me to live my life in sexual sin.  I went from one man to another, sometimes only passing through in the night.  But God always has a plan for each and every one of us.  For me, that plan included being given the gift of a wonderful husband. 

In our early years, my husband and I weren’t faithful followers of Jesus.  But he, at least, had a Christian background from which to draw.  When I look back over our first 10 years of marriage I can see where I am grateful for that tension of knowing some of what God expected from us as a couple.  I say “tension” because whenever we live outside of God’s narrow path we can either 1) live like we don’t have a clue that what we are doing is ungodly or 2) have some concept of ungodliness which can then pull us into learning more.  We will be judged in the end so I’d rather not be oblivious to my sins and take the opportunity to work on them!

In our marriage we struggled for control.  Control of who would be the head of our household.  Control of our finances.  Control over long term decisions for our family.  Over discipline of our kids.  Over our time management.    Looking back, I was only doing what I had learned in my family home.  A weak father figure gives way to a power vacuum.  On the other hand, my husband came from a strong, godly father-led family.  And so the back and forth went on and on.

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”  Genesis 3:2-3

There’s a lot of talk in feminist circles and the media about the “patriarchy” and how men shouldn’t “keep women down.”  But from the beginning God had a very clear plan for women and men.  Women were to be the “helpers,” assisting their Adams to be the best men they could be.  Like a good golf caddy, this is no job to take lightly.  Yet we arrive at Genesis 3 and Eve immediately forgoes her heavenly role.  Instead of seeking wisdom from her husband she is drawn to the words of the serpent.  The fleshly desires pull her farther and farther away from God’s plan. 

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Genesis 3:12

And the result?  As you can read above the entire plan is turned upside down.  Eve takes the lead and Adam falls into a weak position of blame.  Eve is punished by God for her role in the Great Fall with painful childbirth and the knowledge that men will rule over her.  But when you read the punishment of Adam, he receives a harsh future that effects every area of his life.  

I have to be honest and say that every marriage I have been around that was in serious trouble was a direct result of this upside down relationship.  That’s not to say there aren’t men who disobey God’s command to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25).  But so often in our modern world and as a result of the feminist movement which started in the 70s, women have jostled or demanded control in their relationships. Like all actions that go against God’s holy plan we see the results with weak husbands and overbearing wives.  And wives who underneath it all desire a man to stand up for them, to take charge, to love them to the point of sacrifice.  

Women of God, the idea of submitting to our husbands or future husbands does not mean we are second class citizens.  You’ll notice in Genesis 3:16 Eve’s punishment was to have men rule over her.  Therefore, it wasn’t God’s plan for men to “rule” over her in the first place.  Thankfully Jesus came to give us a new covenant, reminding us that although there is still a hierarchy of responsibility, every person is of equal value. A helper doesn’t mean you are less than the one being helped.  It’s taken me awhile to truly understand this.  What it means is we trust God’s plan.  And if we have chosen wisely, we trust our husbands who also trust God.  We trust them to take care of the family business.  We trust they will have our best interest in mind.  We trust they love us so much they want us to be content. 

If our husbands are not trustworthy in those areas or men of faith, who are we to blame?

He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 1 Kings 11:3

King Solomon was considered one of the wisest men of all time.  Yet it was his wives that managed to turn him away from God, to lead him astray.  Our role as our husband’s life caddy is so important that we can’t let what the world says about feminism and submission sway us from following God’s plan.  A good and godly wife holds so much sway over her husband.  And the world laughs at us thinking a bigger paycheck or fancy job title is what’s most important.  Our work in helping our husbands will take us a lifetime — much of the time simply modeling godly behavior, control over our emotions, showing love, showing faith in the Almighty and our men.

Eve’s veering from God’s plan, leading her husband to a great sin, can make me so angry at times.  But then I think about the times I placed myself above my husband and ask for mercy.  It took a lot of intentional work on my part to step back and encourage and teach my husband how to place himself at the head of our family.  He didn’t think I needed him, ever.  

Friends, whether you are a husband, wife, or not yet married we must stand resolutely against how the world wants to define marriage.  We can’t let the world define what “submission” looks like in God’s world.  His great plan for man and woman, joined together in harmony is just the example for what is the final plan.  The ultimate marriage between Jesus and His bride will be full of love, joy, beauty and compassion.  Let’s start today with making those fruits part of our earthly marriages.

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Our Quarrelsome World

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26

There’s certainly been a lot of “quarreling” the last 20 years in the United States and the world in general.  These last few years have seen a steady rise in conflicts.  Conflicts used to be among countries.  The most troublesome trend seems to be that now more than ever they are among neighbors.  

We live in a world where all bets are off when it comes to social niceties.  One article I read reminds us of some of the following “old fashioned etiquette rules”:

  1. Don’t point
  2. Don’t curse
  3. Dress to impress
  4. Stick to tasteful topics
  5. Cover your mouth when you cough
  6. Avoid private conversations in public

All of those, plus the others I haven’t listed, are to allow for a calm and peaceful and respectful social environment.  But a cell phone video I saw the other day is just one example of how we’ve thrown so many of these out the window.  

The video, taken by a woman shopping at Target, shows an older man following her and pointing at her.   He has a mask on and a sticker stating, “I’m vaccinated.”   His issue with her? She isn’t wearing a mask.  Now, this post is not about the pros and cons of mask wearing. And in this instance wearing a mask was not mandated in that store.  It’s about his approach and her response.  This man had many choices prior to harassing this woman.  If he was really worried about getting sick he could 1) stay home and order on line or 2) avoided being near the woman.  Interestingly enough he didn’t seem to be doing any of his own shopping.  It appeared he was there to “catch” people without a mask.  

What does this have to do with being a Christian?  What does it have to do with being resolute in Christ?  Our choices each and every minute of the day define what type of Christian we have chosen to be.

In our verse today we are reminded to be kind to everyone.  To teach gently without resentment.  We are all most likely familiar with the term being a “Karen.”  That’s someone who is a tattle tell, a modern day Pharisee.  This man was being a Karen.  And he certainly wasn’t succeeding in teaching anyone anything positive.  Yet the new social norms say this is ok.  We are to vilify those with whom we disagree.  We may not all be Westboro Baptist Church members standing outside the funerals of homosexuals with messages of hatred but how many of us in the last year have made disparaging remarks about people who 1) don’t wear a mask or do wear a mask, 2) aren’t vaccinated, 3) voted for a different candidate, 4) don’t like shutdowns or do like shutdowns, and on and on. I’m not talking about private conversations with friends or family members.  I’m talking about in public and social media.  I’ve clicked on people’s profiles who have written horrible things and they proudly state they are Christians.

And the woman?  She wasn’t successful either.  She just kept arguing with the man.  She could’ve 1) smiled and moved on since he wasn’t physically threatening her 2) put a mask on to make him feel better 3) left the store and come back later 4) called security 5) invited him over to talk.   So many choices for both.  But they chose the least peaceful route.

I, myself, have gotten wrapped up in issues and have deleted comments I realized were not in keeping with my desire to walk well in my faith.   And so, I reflect back on that cell phone video taken in Target.  I ask myself which person in that video am I?  The Harasser?  The Victim?  The Bystander?  In fact, I’ve been all three.  But as a follower of Christ, I’m learning He wants something completely different of us.  He wants us to be the peacemaker.  He wants us to do things so different that it shocks people.  Our Jesus–directed actions in this quarrelsome world need to be set apart.

When we get annoyed, outraged, hurt, abused, Jesus tells us to respond differently.   He first wants us to be responsible for our own words and actions (James 3:6).  He then wants us to be gentle, not angry and resentful.  Truth doled out without love will never be received how we intended.  

I picture myself the subtle Karen, rolling my eyes at people wearing two masks as they walk outside at a park and I need to stop and have compassion for their fears.  I imagine myself in a store being spoken to harshly by a customer for not wearing a mask and instead of responding in kind, draw on the Holy Spirit asking for peace.  This isn’t just about these current large issues.  It’s how we respond in all life’s situations.  Do we lash out, with uncontrolled emotions, seeking to justify how we feel?  Or do we use wisdom and compassion to guide us?

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.  James 1:19-20

The temptation is so great to join this new quarrelsome social environment.  It’s easy to blast a comment at someone.  The devil loves an angry Believer.  But if we remember that Jesus stands by our side, we can be resolute in living the Christian life He expects of us.

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The Perfect One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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!”