Perspective Reveals What Lies Beneath

We are in a mad rush to finish our basement. Nana and Bill, my grandmother and grandfather that raised me when mom was young and a single mom, recently agreed to move in with us as they need daily caregiving assistance. Bill just went into the hospital Friday from an unexpected episode, and with winter coming, we don’t want them going back to keeping warm with a wood stove that Bill was having to light in the “not safest of ways”. So the push is really on! Hopefully we can move them in with us in two weeks since the drywall goes in this week!

And since we have a single mom and two kids that joined us here on the farm on Father’s Day of this year, our once tiny family of 3 has quickly expanded to 8. What a blessing! What a challenge! What an exciting time!

We have been trying to do as much as possible ourselves to build everything out. But at times, we need professionals for some of the plumbing, hvac, electrical, drywall finishing, etc. To make sure that the job is done right, will be safe, and will last. So I’m sore and tired from all of the extra work heaped on top of our already active lives, but I’m really looking forward to the time ahead together.

I came to bed after 2AM last night, working as long and hard as my body would allow since there is a need to be filled. And while I look forward to the day when we can sit in the rocking chairs or benches and look out over the field in peaceful rest and appreciation for how much the Lord has blessed us, I’m not going to put off today’s work to enjoy some physical rest while there is a need at our doorstep.

But I can tell you that while my body is sore, while it is still trying to recover its full strength from a long fast, I can tell you that my spirit seems refreshed, anointed, ablaze, and at rest in the peace and grace that flows from the Lord. I’m not anxious, I’m not worried, I’m not overwhelmed, even as the load of responsibilities and expectations is ever increasing. That’s just amazing!

It encourages me that even Jesus dealt with times where His body was weary from the work at hhand. Look at the scripture from when He met the Samaritan woman at the well:

Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.
John 4:6 NLT

But Jesus had a divine appointment. He walked that long walk so that He could serve and share with this woman who was an “outsider”, an “undesirable”, a “disgrace to be seen with”. And He made that same long walk to reach me. He wearily dealt with my decades of disobedience and rebellion as I went off to play the prodigal son, with only concerns for my own selfish desires. And He showed up physically tired, but powerful spiritually to completely change a life forever.

And this is the example He gives us — not that we would seek comfort, health, wealth and ease — that we would do the hard work of a disciple who faces persecution, suffering, and challenge — but do it in an attitude and spirit of awe like Mary at the feet of Jesus. The contrast with Mary and Martha isn’t to convince us to be lazy or complacent instead of busy. But it is a lesson in what the spiritual looks like when it is manifest.

If Jesus had grouched at the Samaritan woman for not seeing that He was tired and weary, it would have revealed a troubled spirit like when Martha complained that Mary was not working. But if Mary had been happily protesting the meal for them, grateful for the opportunity to serve and love her friends and family, but Martha had been sitting in the room with Jesus but was frustrated or disinterested in His interrupting her planned rest time with His incessant teaching — Martha would have been corrected just the same.

Can you see what lies below the surface in each of these?

I wonder how many opportunities we have squandered where we could have either worked well “as if unto the Lord”, or rested well in the blessings of the Lord because we let our sin infected flesh grumble or fall into offense?

I wonder how many times we “got it right” and “patted ourselves on the back” for “our good work” instead of recognizing and giving God the glory for leading us?

I can tell you this -‘ were it not for the power of Almighty God, we wouldn’t be helping blend another family in need into our household, we wouldn’t be helping with snacks and name tags and help with a weekly Good News Club program, we wouldn’t be working to keep the Released Time program for District One funded and running properly, we wouldn’t be helping feed and counsel and serve a group of families that must employ in our home, we wouldn’t be going into the streets, jails, bars, clubs, and “dark places” to serve, encourage, and bring ther Good News, and we wouldn’t be taking our “hard earned money” or “limited time and resources” and spending it on others, on strangers, on family instead of on ourselves.

So today, like David, when he was delivered from his enemies, I can say:

I love you, Lord ; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord , who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies.
Psalms 18:1‭-‬3 NLT

Lord, thank you for giving us the very power of God to see radical change in our hearts, our desires, our character and nature. It is you who can heal a man’s heart, who can breathe life into things that were once dead, who can give us that blood of life giving waters that can send us into the streets sharing our testimony of the very life changing influence of your word and presence, into the field to sow your seed. Lord, we want to remember and remain in your peace and your grace, whether physically busy, whether physically resting, or whether physically worn out and weary. We do not want to be spiritually weary, weak, hindered, or ineffective for your purposes and calling on our lives today, in this moment, in front of this opportunity you have set before us. It is you who have won and are demonstrating your victory. It is your Word that calls us more than conquerors, that calls us Children of God, that calls us your ambassadors and new creations being conformed to your image. Help us. Be our strength. Help us to see the old man dead and you alive in us. Help our children to see you truly alive and isn’t and powerful so that they might no go the way of the prodigal but might live their lives in love with you, grateful for your sacrifice, trusting in your promises, fully surrendered known by you. Help us to love and serve our family, both blood and spirit, and to follow you, to walk with you, to abide with you, even in these last days we have here on earth. Teach us, guide us, and lead us to do your will, and to glorify your holy name. Amen.

Human effort accomplishes nothing

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
John 6:35‭, ‬63 NLT

What an interesting and challenging topic Jesus takes us through in John chapter 6! Last night, I went out into the darkness, deep into a place that many religious folks wouldn’t dare be seen because of “the appearance of sin” that it might give others by their simply being in such a place. Yes, I stepped into a part of the world that used to be a normal part of my life. And I found a table near the back, had a soda, and set my pocket Bible out on the table to flip through and read as I passed the time there.

I didn’t stand up on top of a table and push judgement at the “sinners of the world” sitting around me. I didn’t look down my nose in pity or in disgust at the world and it’s influence. I didn’t get offended by the music playing, the alcohol flowing, the influence of lust driving people’s hungry eyes back and forth. I remembered that it was not so long ago that I was “the woman at the well” in need of living water, in need of the bread of life, in need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ.

And my visit was a refreshing break from the busy religious activity, from the hypocrisy of works, from the fruitless and wearisome straining. Because I knew that I was supposed to be there. And I didn’t care what the religious might say about me “sitting with sinners”. And I didn’t care what people might think if they noticed me sitting alone, reading my Bible in quiet peace — “an oddity in this place”. And I didn’t worry last night that temptation might draw me back into my old ways, because it was a necessary appointment, it was a visit with purpose and a calling — it may have looked foolish and careless on the outside to the judging eyes that can’t see the heart, like putting myself “too close to the opportunity to sin” — but for me, it was being obedient to the Lord, trusting Him as my strength to keep me and not lose me.

Practically speaking, I’m not saying that you need to put yourself in harm’s way foolishly. But if the Lord has called us to take the light out into the darkness, why are so many sitting comfortably in weekly social gatherings with the “healed” instead of taking the cure out to the dying? Why are we feasting together with so many that have the bread of life and are unwilling to take it out to the spirituality hungry. Don’t hear me wrong! Im not saying, “Get up and go under your own power!” But I am wondering how many of us have sought God out and asked Him where He would have us go today that is carrying the light into the darkness. How many of us have been still and quiet with Him long enough to hear that uncomfortable and shocking call of where He would have us go? How many of us have shaken off the shock and awe of realizing just where this journey might take us and stepped out of the boat into the waves to draw close to our amazing, powerful, Almighty God and His calling and prose for our lives — not caring that others might see us sink under the waves, not caring that “practically speaking” we might drown, because it is the name of the Lord and the Word of God that we bare, not only on our lips, but written upon our hearts, and ablaze in our bones!

Why do we insist on so much that is “practical” and “wise” — and so little that is “believing” and “obeying” — even when we have seen the miraculous that occurs when we are willing to be fools again in order to see God proven mighty, powerful, and worthy to be praised?

Lord, remind us that it is you alive in us, and that alone that has kingdom impact and influence — not our “reasonable plans”, not our “effective, repeatable, and measurable strategies”, and not our “busy and wearisome activity”. Teach us to listen for your call, to see you in the storm beckoning us out onto the waves, to trust you to walk with us. Amen.

Sukkot – The Feast of Tabernacles

Sukkot 2018 will begin in the evening of Sunday, September 23

and ends in the evening of Sunday, September 30

The Feast of Tabernacles

https://youtu.be/hq86v1hKS78

Related article:

https://ffoz.org/discover/sukkot/the-feast-of-tabernacles.html

peak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths [Sukkot] to the LORD. (Leviticus 23:34 ESV)

On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths [sukkot] for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths [sukkot], that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths [sukkot] when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 23:39-43 ESV)

Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the Lord afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths.
Zechariah 14:16‭-‬19 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/zec.14.16-19.ESV

10 Things To Do Instead of Just Saying the Words “I’ll Pray For You”

Great article about being the hands and feet of Christ for those around us:

https://www.faithfullycommitted.com/2017/02/02/stop-saying-ill-pray-start-taking-action/

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:14‭-‬17 ESV

Christ

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.


Malachi 3:1-4 (KJV)

Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.


Micah 5:2-3 (CEB)

As for you, Bethlehem of Ephrathah, though you are the least significant of Judah’s forces, one who is to be a ruler in Israel on my behalf will come out from you. His origin is from remote times, from ancient days. Therefore, he will give them up until the time when she who is in labor gives birth. The rest of his kin will return to the people of Israel.


Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 (ESV)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.


Isaiah 40:1-2, 9 (GW)

“Comfort my people! Comfort them!” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and announce to it that its time of hard labor is over and its wrongs have been paid for. It has received from the Lord double for all its sins.” Go up a high mountain, Zion. Tell the good news! Call out with a loud voice, Jerusalem. Tell the good news! Raise your voice without fear. Tell the cities of Judah: “Here is your God!”


Hebrews 1:1-2 (HCSB)

Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him.


Luke 1:26-35 (ICB)

During Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to a virgin who lived in Nazareth, a town in Galilee. She was engaged to marry a man named Joseph from the family of David. Her name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, “Greetings! The Lord has blessed you and is with you.”

But Mary was very confused by what the angel said. Mary wondered, “What does this mean?”

The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, because God is pleased with you. Listen! You will become pregnant. You will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and people will call him the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of King David, his ancestor. He will rule over the people of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen? I am a virgin!”

The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you. The baby will be holy. He will be called the Son of God.


Matthew 1:18-23 (PHILLIPS)

The birth of Jesus Christ happened like this. When Mary was engaged to Joseph, just before their marriage, she was discovered to be pregnant—by the Holy Spirit. Whereupon Joseph, her future husband, who was a good man and did not want to see her disgraced, planned to break off the engagement quietly. But while he was turning the matter over in his mind an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife! What she has conceived is conceived through the Holy Spirit, and she will give birth to a son, whom you will call Jesus (‘the Saviour’) for it is he who will save his people from their sins.”

All this happened to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet—‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’. (“Immanuel” means “God with us.”)


Luke 2:1-7 (CEV)

About that time Emperor Augustus gave orders for the names of all the people to be listed in record books. These first records were made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Everyone had to go to their own hometown to be listed. So Joseph had to leave Nazareth in Galilee and go to Bethlehem in Judea. Long ago Bethlehem had been King David’s hometown, and Joseph went there because he was from David’s family.

Mary was engaged to Joseph and traveled with him to Bethlehem. She was soon going to have a baby, and while they were there, she gave birth to her first-born son. She dressed him in baby clothes[d] and laid him on a bed of hay, because there was no room for them in the inn.


Luke 2:8-20 (NET)

Now there were shepherds nearby living out in the field, keeping guard over their flock at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were absolutely terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people: Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a vast, heavenly army appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, that the Lord has made known to us.” So they hurried off and located Mary and Joseph, and found the baby lying in a manger. When they saw him, they related what they had been told about this child, and all who heard it were astonished at what the shepherds said. But Mary treasured up all these words, pondering in her heart what they might mean. So the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; everything was just as they had been told.


Matthew 2:1-12 (NIrV)

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea. This happened while Herod was king of Judea. After Jesus’ birth, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the child who has been born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose. Now we have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard about it, he was very upset. Everyone in Jerusalem was troubled too. So Herod called together all the chief priests of the people. He also called the teachers of the law. He asked them where the Messiah was going to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied. “This is what the prophet has written. He said,

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are certainly not the least important among the towns of Judah.
A ruler will come out of you.
He will rule my people Israel like a shepherd.’”

Then Herod secretly called for the Wise Men. He found out from them exactly when the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem. He said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report it to me. Then I can go and worship him too.”

After the Wise Men had listened to the king, they went on their way. The star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them. It finally stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. The Wise Men went to the house. There they saw the child with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures. They gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh. But God warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod. So they returned to their country on a different road.


John 1:1-4, 14 (NLT)

In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.


John 3:16-17 (NRSV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

God Works in You

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
Philippians 2:12‭-‬16 ESV

the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Colossians 1:26‭-‬28 ESV

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
John 15:1‭-‬27 ESV

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:13‭-‬26 ESV

True Friends

Last night, Michael Mcleymore, and a couple of guys that live with and work with him came over and helped me build out my basement. And there have been many friends that have come out and helped us, and we are grateful for all of them, fir their time, their efforts, their skills and abilities, etc.

But Michael is a very special friend to me because he and I grew close enough while doing ministry together that we could find each other lovingly without offense coming into the picture (at least most of the time). And if there is anyone that I can say that I have walked “two by two” with, it is Michael.

Last night as we finished up our construction work for the night, he and I walked off into the dark night together, leaving the house, the men, my family behind us at the house — to talk about “real things” and to be “real” with each other about where we are spiritually and in our walk with the Lord.

And the one thing that was clear to us was that in this season, it is different than when we were both actively in ministry “side by side”. And we talked about the difference between still being called and active in ministry, working yourself through a particular “wilderness” with the Lord, versus being on the mountaintop where the anointing of the Lord is so powerfully present that it overwhelms and has your face shining with the glory of the Lord.

Sometimes it can feel like we are just busy Marthas, with very little time “left over for God”. And how painful that is for our ears to hear us say how far we have come from putting God first and chasing him with reckless abandon! I can remember our stepping out in leaps of faith, willing to be made fools for God’s sake, and seeing God move in powerful and wonderful ways. And it is hard not to look back and long for those days, when these days seem so practical, so responsible, so stable, so comfortable in comparison.

I pray that we both as friends, as brothers, as disciples in Christ will continue to spur each other on, even as we do our best not to forsake providing for our families’ needs. And I thank God for brothers like Michael who will not only “talk and debate” the Word of God with speech (hoping to teach), but will actually come into each other’s houses to live, love, help, rebuke, wound and heal each other with our actions of love (actually teaching).

Many are “eager to teach” with their words, and Paul warns that because of this, few should actually be teachers — but popularity, fame, and the hunger for the honor of men dictates that lots of charismatic people will stand up and “teach” that may or may not be operating “anointed by God”. Just like many people will get up and make a show and give “prophetic words” that don’t come true and never actually came from God. So how do the people try and test what they are being taught? How do the people know whether they are being shepherded or being freed upon by a wolf?

I would say first and foremost, do we care enough about the truth to seek out out for ourselves so we can ask the hard questions, be good Bereans, and ask for clarification FROM THE WORD OF GOD on anything that “doesn’t seem right” — or is all our trust put in a piece of bought paper entitling a man from a seminary of religious teachers as a teacher, father, reverend, etc.?

Right along with that, though, I would ask — what does the lifestyle teach? If you clicked mute on what they are saying, and only looked at what they are living and doing, does it bear any resemblance at all to Jesus Christ’s life, the life of his disciples, or the church we heart about in Acts?

Lord, help us to be true friends. Help us to seek out true leaders who are anointed and living the Word of God, not just participating in some religious, surface level, busy activities. Help us to be in your will and willing to get deeper to the things of the heart, to the things of your spirit burning inside us. Revive us, set us ablaze with love for you, all for your glory and honor. Amen.

Value

Where does our value come from?

If it is from other people, our career, our accomplishments, life’s circumstances and imperfect people — that could leave us in a precarious place of self-pity when those things inevitably fail us.

And if we use those types of “measuring sticks” for ourselves, won’t we be unkind and unfair in how we look at, judge, and place value on others?

Our devotional this morning was about John 4 when Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman at the well — which speaks to not the obvious, surface level topic of racial/societal divisions, but the root issue of “where does my/your value come from”?

I also read a wonderful article on LinkedIn this morning concerning “value”, so this is clearly a topic of note and interest for my life right now.

Dear Daughter: Leave When You Are Not Valued.
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dear-daughter-leave-when-you-valued-sara-johnson

I also ws encouraged about this topic by another person’s quote on LinkedIn this morning:

I’m encouraged about my “value” by the Word of God — to me, this is what the Almighty God, creator of everything has to say about me and you and our “worth” or “value”:

You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this. My bones were not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, when I was being skillfully woven in an underground workshop. Your eyes saw me when I was only a fetus. Every day ⌊of my life⌋ was recorded in your book before one of them had taken place. How precious are your thoughts concerning me, O God! How vast in number they are! If I try to count them, there would be more of them than there are grains of sand. When I wake up, I am still with you.
Psalms 139:13‭-‬18 GW

Where do you and I find our identity?

How do we identify our value and the value of those around us?

I find so much encouragement in what the Word of God has to teach me about my TRUE IDENTITY, my TRUE VALUE , and of what is true and valuable in all the others that I will come into contact today.

A great reference of scripture/verses on the topic of IDENTITY: https://www.openbible.info/topics/identity

We can escape so many traps if we would just believe what He says about us and about others.

Wouldn’t we be more respectful, kind, gentle, inclusive, and forgiving if we truly believed that our actions towards others were actions towards uniquely called and purposed children of Almighty God?

Wouldn’t we be less “impacted” by our momentary circumstances if our value and identity and “self worth” weren’t so intrinsically tied up into performance, measurements, and the opinions of others?

What if our character, our source — as a Christian I would say “who we are In Christ” – was the source of our assurance, our confidence, and our faith in that truth was unshakable?

I’m reminded of a discussion that dad and I had about the rampant issues of oppression and abuse of children that is clearly a systemic issue within the “clergy” of the Catholic priesthood, acting as wolves feeding upon the little sheep of the “laity” — and how I explained to dad that the root of the issue is in their mistaken understanding of the IDENTITY and VALUE of themselves and of others. Any system that allows one group to see themselves as more valuable than others, gives way to them justifying in their own minds all kinds of oppression and abuse. Having this wrong understanding of the Kingdom of God, and twisting the Word of God into a justification for building up palaces and titles and opulence while preying on the weak and the vulnerable — it is something we too have to be careful that we aren’t falling into. What if I used my own power and position to hire and sexually harass that cute young secretary? What if I helped that person in need just to get recognition? What if I participated in a good cause or charity event just to build a good reputation in the community, but my business practices behind closed doors were to take advantage unfairly of my business and vendors? Hopefully, we can see that all of this stems from not rightly considering and remembering the true identity and value of every child in the eyes of the Heavenly Father.

Oh, Lord, what a gift faith in knowing and believing that our identity, our value, our prepare and calling comes from YOU. We were not just some random occurrence of chaotic and evolutionary development that has no relative value or purpose in the grand scale of existence — such foolish thinking would have people ending their own lives thinking “it is all meaningless and worthless” just because things “didn’t go our way”. And it would have us justifying ways to exclude, even oppress others, based on their life circumstances, performance, or “what they can do for me” or where I see their value “in comparison to me”. Help us to repent from our foolish ways, to see others as you see them, to not only act fairly with each other, but to truly love each other. Amen.

Dirty Diapers

Most of us wouldn’t want someone to have to change our diaper. And yes, most of us right now don’t have to wear diapers anyways — but you did — and you may again some day.

I use this example to illustrate the point of John 13:1-18 in a more relatable context given today’s culture. In Jesus’ day, their feet were filthy and nasty. They didn’t wear a new pair of freshly scented and fabric softened socks everyday, safely covered by shoes, and they didn’t live and work in environmentally controlled and meticulously cleaned buildings, and they didn’t travel in vehicles. They were outside, in open sandals, walking where the animals walked and defecated, working in the open environment. Feet were nasty, like a dirty diaper would be today.

Years ago, I wrote a post entitled “It’s time to stop pooping our pants” and it came to mind as we discussed our morning devotional about John 13.

Instead of talking as a family about washing feet (which is really not a big deal in our society today because of how relatively clean feet are these days) — we talked about the fact that some adults have to wear diapers — and that changing someone’s dirty diaper would be more in line with what Jesus did when He washed the disciples’ feet.

And we talked about how sin is like a dirty, stinky, filthy diaper spiritually — and

1) how sinfulness in our own lives will influence and stink up the spiritual lives of those around us if not repented, confessed and forgiven

2) how we need to come to Jesus to be washed clean from our sin

3) how we need to be like Peter after he was told the purpose having our stinky mess uncovered and revealed in front of others (public, verbal confession of our sin, struggles, shortcomings)

4) how we need to be imitators of Jesus that we would help meet the physical needs of others as a servant (even as far as lovingly changing their diapers as a caregiver if it comes to that) and more importantly, willing to hear others’ struggles and be willing to forgive them, remind them that they are washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb, and to intercede with prayer for them, encourage them, and serve them spiritually as well

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:1‭-‬20 NLT

As we become caregivers for our elderly , and as we are already spiritual caregivers for those we counsel, shepherd, sharpen, encourage, and equip for the ministry — let’s not forget that our example is to get our hands dirty doing the real work of the ministry that is dealing with things most of us would buy nature rather be left hidden and not dealt with — but if we are only superficially religious, we are walking around with untended, stinky diapers spiritually, that need to be washed clean.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT

Are we ready for the mess?

Are we willing to have our mess, our weakness, be surrendered publicly in front of others so that God can get the glory for washing us clean?

Are we afraid of letting others “know our business” and possibly “gossip about us” if we were to confess to others — can we be honest with ourselves and with them about our lack of trust?

Are we willing and ready to forgive, to wash clean, to do the “work” of an imitator of Christ and get in the mess with someone else?

Lord, it is only by the power of your Holy Spirit, by the power of Christ who lives in the heart of the believer, that we can do these things that will be hard, challenging, and will stretch us beyond our being comfortable. But you bid us step out of the boat and into the water, even in the midst of the waves — you bid us to take up our cross and bear it — you bid us come and die to self and be imitators of you. Reveal yourself to us, through us, and in us. Amen.