The Power of One: Become an Influencer

The Power of One

Media, in various forms, grabs attention and influences masses. God chooses the power of one, one person willing and available to step forward as His voice, His representation, and His reflection upon those around us. Have you experienced the power of one? Are you that one for others?

Moses lost his value and worth somewhere between Pharoah’s palace and the back side of the desert. When God called him to lead Israel out of Egypt, he saw only his inadequacy. But Moses’ brother Aaron came, willing to walk the journey with him. Only with his brother’s assistance did Moses agree to carry out God’s initiative (Exodus 3-4).

In her barrenness, Hannah appears to be the only one praying for a son. The power of one praying mother resulted in one praying son, Samuel, who listened to God’s voice and motivated an entire nation to love and serve God (1 Samuel 1-3).

One young woman, Esther, inspired by her brave uncle Mordecai, risked her life and pleaded for the redemption of her nation. The power of one resulted in many lives being saved (Esther 4-5).

God used a shepherd, a despised housewife, and an orphan girl to move in influence beyond all expectation. None of them realized the potential difference they would make. They aren’t alone. Biblical accounts of the power of one dot the pages from Genesis to Revelation.

Electric Power

One Man Sharpens Another

“Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.”
Proverbs 27:17

This familiar proverb speaks within the context of friendship. The Hebrew word for “another” means, friend, companion, or fellow.” I’ve heard people explain this verse as being like iron put to a whetstone, forcefully and abrasively grinding away at another’s dull edge. But the proverb more accurately speaks of the positive influence we have upon each other through living life in community.

People are being impacted by the way we live our normal everyday lives. How we deal with difficult situations, our attitudes, our values, and our choice of priorities affects others.

The caretaker-custodian of a church we previously attended was an retired elderly gentleman. He sang as he cleaned bathrooms, corridors, and sanctuary. He warmly greeted everyone who came through the doors of the little church. Often, after a few minutes in his presence, people no longer desired to meet with the pastor. His love for Jesus spilled over to everyone. He went from business to business in our small town, encouraging and praying for employers and employees. He travelled weekly to a smaller community holding services and praying for the handful of attendees. This humble man impacted multiple lives for the Kingdom of God. Through him, I, and many others, witnessed the power of one.

One Light

Though Heaven records this man’s influence of faith, few on Earth know his name. In some ways, he resembled Philip:

“Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there . . . so there was great joy in that city.”
Acts 8:4-8

The power of one ripples through towns, cities, and regions.

Looking For One More

Jesus said,

” . . . If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”
Matthew 18:12-14

Wind Prayer

One Lamb Found!

“I grew up in New Age, discipled in meditating, automatic handwriting, and Ouija boards. I saw demons, heard things in our home, and was afraid of the dark.

During a retreat in Grade 12, I sat on my bed doing homework. I noticed my roommate reading a Bible. “Do you really believe that stuff?” I asked. That opened the door for her to share her faith.

We developed a weird friendship, debating spirituality. She was the only Christian open to talking to me. I looked for mistakes, wanting to find flaws in the Bible.

That year, she developed cancer. I regularly visited my “born again” friend, often finding her reading the Bible. “I’ve been praying or you,” she said one day. I didn’t understand how she could be so happy while extremely sick. There became less and less of her as she became more and more ill, but she had light, joy, and peace about her. What I didn’t know was that she and her whole family were praying for me, even during their trials.

She recovered, and we both went on to university. It took four more years for me to come to the Lord. I wrestled with understanding Jesus and what He did on the cross. In my final year of university, when I should have been the happiest, I was suicidal and depressed. Finally, I lay on the floor praying, calling out to God, accepting Him.

I casually told my friend and couldn’t understand why she jumped around beaming with excitement. God answered the prayers that she and her family had been praying for six years.”

This testimony tells how one young person experienced the power of one!

The Unknown Ones

Most people know Billy Graham’s impact on 2.2 billion people with the Gospel. Few know about Edward Kimball.

Edward taught a ruckus Sunday School class of teenage boys. Concerned about their eternal destiny, He visited a shoe store where one of his students worked to lead him to Jesus. That young man, Dwight L. Moody, affected thousands with the Gospel, including Wilbur Chapman. Chapman became an evangelist leading thousands to Christ, one of whom was Billy Sunday. Billy Sunday led Mordecai Ham to faith. Ham held his own street meetings and crusades, where a young man named Billy Frank received Jesus Christ as his Savior. Billy Frank is better known to us as Billy Graham. Every one of these powerful men of God trace their faith and ministry to a single faithful Sunday School teacher, Edward Kimball. Did Edward realize the power of one? Or did Edward simply love well where God planted him?

Lightning Power

Do you know who brought the Apostle Peter to Jesus? We continuously find him introducing someone else to Jesus.

” . . . ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’ When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus . . . and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him . . . Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said, and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell Him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus . . . ”
John 1:35-42

I will never be a “Peter,” but like Edward Kimball and Andrew, I can bring people to meet Jesus. The impact and influence of the power of one unknown, unacclaimed, unacknowledged, everyday you and me cannot be unestimated.

Thankful for the One

My heart overflows with gratitude for the ones who guided me into the Kingdom of God. I look forward to meeting each one in Heaven. The camp counselor who led me through the sinner’s prayer while kneeling beside a steel-framed bunk on the cold concrete floor. Those who didn’t give up but continued to pray as this lost sheep wandered far from the fold. Others who patiently discipled this over-confident, zealous, fire-cracker toward the steadfast path of humble faith. They applauded my stumbling efforts and over-looked my blundering mistakes. Many have gone on to Glory. I wish I could publicly name you, but can’t.

Power

Saul of Tarsus posed the greatest threat to the early church. Saul, the assassinator and persecutor! Heading toward Damascus, Jesus brought his devilish mission to an abrupt end, leaving him blind on the road. One man risked reaching out.

“In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’ “Yes, Lord,’ he answered. The Lord told him,Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying . . . ‘”
Acts 9:10-11

Though afraid, Ananias responded to God’s call. Placing his hands on Saul, he prayed. Through the power of one relatively unknown faithful follower, Jesus healed Saul of blindness and filled him with the Holy Spirit as a bonus.

It was also through the power of one other that Saul gained traction in the Christian community. Do you know his name? The one who stood in the gap while the Jews plotted Saul’s death and Christians cowered in fear?

Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.”
Acts 9:27

The Silent One

Often the power of one goes unnoticed, as they applaud the achievements of others, hide behind the curtain of obscurity, and diligently perform menial tasks. They remain the silent ones, without podiums, credentials, or microphones. Yet this chosen multitude impacts billions! Their influence in eternal destinies receives the highest heavenly accolades seldom, if ever, echoed on Earth. And with that, they are pleased!

The Power of One

I encourage you to think about, and if possible, thank your “one,” remembering who stood with you when you were alone, comforted you when you felt broken, encouraged you when you wanted to give up, and sacrificed to meet your need despite their personal pain. Remember again the one who prayed, who shared their faith, and who walked beside you.

Let’s thank God for the power of one.

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Frame Each Day by the Cross and the Resurrection

What frames your life? What parameters establish your direction and influence your choices? As we choose to frame our lives by the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His death, burial, and life direct our steps, giving us context and foundation. Rather than an annual weekend celebration, the reality of Easter should color our entire lives with hope and assurance.

Who is the first person you desire to talk with every morning? The first One on your mind? Is it God? Or do we, like many others, scroll through social media and check emails before we give Him thought or place. That first conversation, no matter how simple, acknowledges God’s place and active participation in all we are and do.

The daily spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading and meditation, connection with other believers, and even communion, ground us in Christ’s finished work of the cross. For good reason, the first Christians established these basic tenants of faith early in church’s history.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer . . . Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”
Acts 2:42-46

The breaking of bread became a tangible reminder of the New Covenant they now enjoyed. Many of these men and women became amazing giants of faith. If they framed “every day” by the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, should it be any less important for us?

Boast in Him

On the cross, Jesus declared each one of us precious enough to die for. Yet without Him, we have nothing to boast about. ALL honor, glory, power, and praise belong to Him. Only in humility are we rightly positioned before Him. And well it should be! All our boasting points completely toward Jesus.

The Cross

Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; (and) not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ ”
1 Corinthians 1:26-30

Paul closes his letter to the Galatian church in a similar manner.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galatians 6:14

We find an inexplicable paradox in the cross. Jesus Christ is everything; we are nothing. Yet, He became nothing, to give us everything. Such realization grounds and secures us. The cross and resurrection deems humanity of unspeakable value, despite personal frailty and failure.

The Cross and Resurrection

By daily celebrating Easter’s reality, we remember the cross and resurrection, allowing God to remind us both where we came from and where we are going — from the dead root to living hope. May we never forget how Christ’s death and resurrection rescued us from hopelessness and brought us into a confident future. Jesus removed our sins from us, cancelling our great debt and bridging the gap between God and humanity. His resurrection thunder-clapped through Heaven and Earth His indisputable victory over sin, satan, and death.

By framing each day by the cross and resurrection, we remind ourselves that our lives are not our own. Jesus purchased us at a costly price. God uses these defining events to remind us that to follow Jesus means choosing the way of sacrifice.

Good Friday

“And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:27

We are forgetful and need a constant reminder of all God has done. The Israelites suffered from the same condition. The early Christians did too. Just because Christ suffered for us doesn’t mean all suffering has ended. Jesus and the other writers of the epistles spoke otherwise.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

So whether our days turn out supremely joyous or far from it, when we frame each day by the cross and resurrection, everything assumes proper perspective. Christ’s victory over-shadows everything! Today is but a millisecond in the vast time-line of eternity.

Victory

When a sports team wins a championship, a grand celebration often follows. The triumphant team hits the major news feeds. Families celebrate! Communities celebrate! Strangers even celebrate! Why? Everyone loves to see a decisive victory.

Resurrection

By framing each day by the cross and resurrection, we join once again in the celebration of the greatest victory ever.

” When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
Colossians 2:15

Jesus hung naked, publicly degraded, and humiliated. But then . . . through His sinless sacrifice, He disarmed every evil power and authority, exposing them before Heaven and Earth to humiliation and shame. The enemy’s signature move became his greatest defeat.

“The resurrection is not the reversal of a defeat but the manifestation of the victory Jesus won on the cross for you and me.”
Nicky Gumbel

The cross and resurrection declare God’s glory, power, and dominion. Jesus transferred His victory to become our victory. And every victory we experience is His — through Him, for Him, and by Him.

It is Finished!

Perhaps Jesus’ greatest statement from the cross lay in these few words,

“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His Spirit.”
John 19:30

It is Finished

Our limited understanding hinders us from comprehending how completely Jesus accomplished every assignment the Father had given Him. Everything that sin and rebellion stole, Jesus bought back. All Jesus needed to do was die — the Sinless for the guilty, the Prince of Peace for the turbulent, and the Obedient for the disobedient. He went far beyond!

” ‘He himself bore our sins‘ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’ “
1 Peter 2:24

The cross declares again and again, “It is finished! Stain of sin go! Incurable wound be healed! Broken in mind and spirit be restored! Sickness and disease bow! Captives, be free!” Though circumstances may try to convince us otherwise, the cross and resurrection declare the work is finished — for good, for ever.

So Much More

This is no legal requirement! Framing every day by the cross and resurrection celebrates how God empowers us to walk with strength not our own, with faith He freely gives, with courage amidst our battles, and with grace piled upon grace.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ From the dead.”
1 Peter 1:3

The cross and resurrection stand as a framework to all generations and peoples. They bring every aspect of life and faith into focus. Jesus transferred to all who would believe “new birth into a living hope.”

Lily

Does living hope define us? When others look our way, do they see the vibrancy of Christ’s life in and through us — both the death to the old and alive to the new? As we consistently celebrate and frame our lives by the cross and resurrection, I believe they will.

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5 Steps to Navigate the Path of Forgiveness

5 Steps to Navigate Forgiveness

All of us have experienced rejection, betrayal and offense in some manner. Walking through the process of forgiveness occurs step by step. To navigate the path of forgiveness, we intentionally take several difficult but rewarding steps. From time to time, we must revisit these godly principles, ensuring freedom from the lingering residue which otherwise may hinder our Christian progress.

Success, on so many levels, depends on our ability and faithfulness to conquer the treacherous terrain of forgiveness. Forgive, in Hebrew, means to “absolve” or “release fully.” It first appears near the end of the first book in the Bible.

” . . . I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.”
Genesis 50:17

Joseph spent fifteen long years in prison and slavery, being harshly and unjustly treated, because of his brother’s jealousy and anger. Separated from family and alone in a foreign land, Joseph had plenty of time and reason to harbor bitter resentment against them. But he didn’t! Now, at the death of their father, they only vaguely confess, stating their father wanted Joseph to forgive them.

Steps to Forgivenss

The Hebrew word, שָׂ֣א (śā), also means “to lift, bear up, carry, and endure.” Rarely do people openly apologize. Usually, dealing with offenses occurs in seclusion — a yielding to God the wrongs done to us by others.

The Unforgiving Servant

Jesus’ disciple, Peter, asked Jesus,

” . . . Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Matthew 18:21

By the standards of any day, Peter might seem extravagantly generous to forgive someone so many times. We, like Peter, often feel there must be some kind of limit to forgiveness. Jesus clearly explains that grace goes much further.

” . . . I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
Matthew 18:22

In reality, Jesus said, “Seventy times seven times!” In other words, “Don’t count! Just forgive!” He used the opportunity to explain forgiveness more fully through a now familiar story about two men — one willing to forgive and the other unwilling. A servant owed his master the equivalent of twenty years of wages. (Before deducting living expenses!) Of course, he had no way of repaying his debt. The Master mercifully forgave the entire amount.

We encounter five key steps on the road to forgiveness. These godly principles endure through all circumstances, generations, and cultures.

Step #1 Desire

The Master in Jesus’ parable was no ordinary master. This Master, the King of Heaven, the One we have all insulted, betrayed, and violated, approached the indebted servant, wanting to settle the outstanding debt.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.”
Matthew 18:23

The first step in forgiveness requires a searching of our own hearts and intentions. Do we legitimately desire to forgive? Are we willing to “carry or endure” the pain of offense, even if the offender has no desire to resolve the issue.

Climbing

Neil Anderson often reinforces the truth, that forgiveness is a decision, or crisis, of the will. It begins with a decision within us. Forgiveness never implies that the offence doesn’t matter or gives room for continued disregard for another’s wellbeing. In forgiving, we acknowledge fully the depth of the offence and the pain we have endured.

Both the Master and the servant were clear about the extent of the harm, but forgiveness involves mercy.

Step #2 Mercy

In the parable, the deceived servant believed he could somehow reconcile the debt. The King knew the impossibility of his claims. Whether the offenses done against us are small or great, no human effort repairs the damage. In forgiving, we recognize that reconciliation is not always possible, or favorable.

The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.”
Matthew 18:27

Mercy requires NOT giving someone what they deserve.

Instinctively, when someone wrongs us, we choose either to retreat or retaliate. We desire to either withdraw, avoiding further injury, or fight back, giving them a bit of what they’ve handed out to others. Jesus calls us to a different approach; He calls us to compassion.

The Greek word used for “pity” means “compassion in an absolute sense — feeling deeply for another based on emotion rather than on intellect or reason.”

Climbing Mountain

Talk about a massive boulder plopped in the middle of the path to forgiveness. Not only does Jesus call us to forgive, He calls us to a deep level of compassion for our offender.

While serving on guard duty, I have to position my heart free from critical judgments over the incarcerated. I see them at their worst. I watch over them during extreme times of crisis and intervention. Only God fully knows the twisted paths that have brought each one to this place.

Forgiveness doesn’t ignore or deny someone’s cruel behavior. It acknowledges the painful consequences we endure from their actions.

Forgiveness reaches across the chasm of personal pain to empathize with another, facing the blunt force of that pain head on. It looks the offender in the eye and says, “Despite what you have done, I forgive you. I no longer consider you indebted to me.”

Step #3 Revoking

In the same verse, Jesus tells us that the king “canceled the debt.” Can you imagine forgiving someone for twenty years of continued indebtedness, twenty years of insult and injury, twenty years of negligence and abuse? Some who are reading this relate all too well. The offense against you may span much longer — years have flowed into decades.

In this step, the sheer rock face of personal pain impedes our movement. To press through requires nothing less than the grace of God.

We know our offender owes us —
        owes us apology
                owes us restitution
                        owes us recognition of what they’ve done.

I wish every offender, including me, would quickly see their error, apologize, and make restoration. Unfortunately, few seldom do.

Team Work

Only by writing “PAID IN FULL” across the bill of their indebtedness will we overcome and conquer, moving toward full forgiveness, restoration, and personal freedom.

God called Job to forgive his friends, who turned into harsh critics.

” . . . My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly . . . After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before . . . The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.”
Job 42:8,10,12

Praying for our offenders provides the strength and wisdom to take the step of revoking the wrongs done against us. Through prayer, we release our assailants to God. Then, and only then, can God freely restore blessing to us.

Step #4 Let Him Go!

In practical terms, “letting him go” means refusing to dwell on the situation any longer. When I allow myself to regurgitate past offenses, I become stuck on the plateau of self-pity.

The plateau of pity appears quite pleasant — honestly, way too comfortable. No risky routes around boulders. No knuckle-whitening grips up granite cliffs. Parking in the pleasurable place of pity perhaps presents the greatest peril.

The Peril of Parking

The longer I park, the better it feels, the more self-righteous I believe I am, and the more critical I become of others. Pity deceives and lures.

Interesting how the right kind of pity, a compassion for others, sets our grand course. Yet, this misdirected pity and self-seeking gratification keeps us from reaching the destination of forgiveness.

“Letting him go” releases not just him, but us! It sets us free from being held back by the poor behavior of others, releasing us to reach the pinnacle of our destiny and purpose.

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Matthew 6:15

Parking in pity is a luxury none can afford!

There is one more point Jesus makes in the parable.

Step #5 Release Judgment

God judges justly! When we master the narrow path of forgiveness, extending mercy and compassion, considering another’s debts “PAID IN FULL,” and releasing our offenders completely from their wrong, God still holds them accountable.

Forgiveness never belittles or denies the incredible pain of offense. Only through the act of forgiving comes the power to walk free from it. Earthly powers lack ability. Even monetary recompense fails to satisfy. Only through the cross of Jesus Christ does justice reign.

Forgive as You Have Been Forgiven

Jesus paid for every offense on the cross, We measure the weight of sin on faulty human scales. Sin is sin to God. Only He sees the full picture. Only He judges justly.

“The LORD arises to contend
And stands to judge the people.”
Isaiah 3:13

As we listen to the voice of Jesus, leaning into His heart, and choosing the path of forgiveness, we will find He is with us, guarding our steps. With Him, we will overcome every obstacle, reaching the high place of forgiveness, where someday we will view all things from the Kingdom of Heaven perspective.

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Love and Faith — What Little Boys Taught Me About Fear

Love and Faith

God often teaches us powerful life lessons of love and faith at the most inconvenient times and in the most uncomfortable ways. These lessons remain with us for a lifetime, influencing decisions and stabilizing us in uncertain situations.

Faith and fear are mutually incompatible. In reality, however, faith fails to find a firm foundation until love paves the way.

Our children are long grown, but memories of their frightened cries piercing the dark night run fresh through my mind. Lights turned on, to prove nothing hiding in a closet or under the bed, failed to dispel fear. The reassurance that dad and mom were in the next room impacted the angst little. Even prayer and affirmation that the Presence and protection of Jesus covered them only faintly eased their discomfort. Information alone holds little resistance against fear. Yet, when love draws close, confidence and calm prevail!

Fear flees without a fight when love enters.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18

Whether during a global crisis or the not-so-simple daily pressures of life, love makes all the difference. No matter our age, social status, or race, we all need to know love and support. Do you have someone who loves you unconditionally? Someone constant through success and failure, health and illness, prosperity and lack, the strength of youth and the frailty of old age? Who is your someone — the person you could call anytime, day or night, who will listen, support and encourage?

If you can name anyone, you are in the privileged minority.

How Mental Health Is the New Domain of Ministry to the Next Generation - Barna
How Mental Health Is the New Domain of Ministry to the Next Generation - Barna

Mental Health

I’m not sure I have experienced times as full of angst as in this season. The breakdown of the family, the disintegration of faith communities, and often fluctuating political impetus seriously affect us all. Deceptive addictions, in various forms, clench cruel claws and breathe death into the unsuspecting in pandemic proportions. We suffer generationally from dis-ease both within and around us. No one guarantees immunity or promises cure.

Just as my little children needed love with flesh in their fear-filled darkness, our world needs it too. We, as God’s hands and feet, can rise to the occasion, push aside our own insecurities and fatigue, demonstrating love and faith within this present global famine.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
1 John 3:18

Only One-Third of Young Adults Feels Cared for by Others  - Barna

Barna conducted this study pre-pandemic on 18 to 35-year-olds. Only one in three young adults felt loved by those close to them. What I find shocking is that these young adults said they “feel the broad, global trends more than they feel loved and supported by others close to them.” The reality that two-thirds of young adults do not feel unloved and unsupported should shock us all into high alert.

The effects of the last several months of isolation and uncertainty have only exacerbated the problem, not just among the young, but among us all. God created us to thrive in loving faith-filled community. People of all ages are struggling emotionally and relationally. They may not describe themselves as anxious or depressed, yet confess they struggle to maintain concentration and focus, feel elevated concern for themselves and others, and are uncertain about employment, housing and their ability to secure the basics of life.

As Christians, we have the antidote! God planted faith and love within us.

It’s Up to Us All

If this kind of love sounds messy, you’re right. If you think this kind of love is best left to professional pastors and clergy, you’re mistaken. Your family needs you. Your neighbors need you. Even your church needs you. Your workplace needs you.

Only Jesus held a doctorate in love. Only He got it right all the time. Please, don’t underestimate what simple demonstrations of love and faith might do when committed to Him.

Christians Struggled with Relational Health Prior to the Crisis—So What Has Changed? - Barna

Maybe we should start our efforts with those who stand in the centre of the fray — “professional” clergy. The pressure upon pastors to care for their congregations effectively, through a pandemic, has taken a toll. Five years ago, only two percent of pastors rated their emotional health as below average or poor. Today, over twenty percent say they suffer. May I encourage you to love those who lead. Assist and support them however God directs you.

“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work . . . “
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Let’s begin together by practicing love and faith with those who have dedicated themselves to serve God, us and others.

Know the Signs

If we willingly slow our pace, even a little, and look around, for even a moment, the evidence becomes obvious.

Only One-Third of Young Adults Feels Cared for by Others  - Barna

God’s Word never fails! Perfect love always casts out anxiety, fear, uncertainty and insecurity, rendering them powerless — like a lion without fangs or claws. I propose we engage in love and faith like never before. Though we may feel love for others, they may genuinely question that love. Here lies the great disconnect. Only when we learn to demonstrate love and faith in ways people comprehend will we shift the tide of mental anguish.

Peter says,

“Now, because of your obedience to the truth, you have purified your very souls, and this empowers you to be full of love for your fellow believers. So express this sincere love toward one another passionately and with a pure heart. For through the eternal and living Word of God, you have been born again. And this “seed” that he planted within you can never be destroyed but will live and grow inside of you forever.”
1 Peter 1:22-23

Christ planted the seed of His perfect love in each one of us. His seed of love empowers us to love fully. He not only preserves the seed but guarantees it will live and grow inside of us forever. Wow! What a promise! Love planted in each of us, living and growing into a vibrant reality, impacting those desperate for it. He takes the pressure off, providing us with everything we need to love others, especially those within the body of believers.

Love and faith work together.

There Is Proof

Barna also researched how the Christian community functions in crisis. Better than average, apparently! Bravo, people of God, you are doing it! Your love within the ranks is having an impact.

Christians Struggled with Relational Health Prior to the Crisis—So What Has Changed? - Barna

Sadly, those outside the faith are suffering the most. However, that reality presents great opportunity. Though fear has taken up temporary residence in the cultural love vacuum, God appoints us to serve eviction notice to the squatter of fear. I daily witness people stepping through the invisible barriers of uncertainty, reaching across cubicles, hallways, alleys, denominations, cities and nations. With hearts overflowing, they extend to the emotional hurting love and faith in action.

I hear voices of young and old resolutely declare,

” . . . Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah 6:8

How Love Looks

Only thirty percent of the global population feels supported, secure, and hopeful. Hold off on discouragement, though! As hints of spring crease the snow-clad landscape, I’m reminded of little bees, hidden in cloistered hives. Soon they will stretch sleeping wings, moving out to work silently their God-given task. As they fearlessly take flight, extending beyond their secure habitat, they benefit our world in powerful ways, producing incredible fruitfulness.

May I encourage you to reach beyond your secure cloister, “pollinating,” with love and faith, those you come in contact with by supporting them and letting them know you believe in who they are. Yes, validate the work they do and the gifts they possess, but, more importantly, endorse them as uniquely created by God with divine purpose, having irreplaceable worth.

Love and faith create, enrich, and sustain others, fostering hope for the future. Although most of us have learned to dream silently, we can encourage others to dream beyond human possibility. May we become dream keepers and dream builders, encouraging and fostering potential in others. We can faithfully pray they will achieve their full capability.

By creating an atmosphere of love and faith, and building support and hope, we will make progress in dislodging fear and anxiety. One word of encouragement, one act of kindness, one phone call, one moment of your time, may be the turning point for someone.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
John 13:34

It’s Personal

A young woman sat huddled in the center of her bed, cocooned in a fetal position by darkness within and without. Spiritually and emotionally tormented, no cries for help pierced the broken stillness. Hopelessness gripped her heart and suffocated all hope . . . until . . . love walked in.

Her father slowly ascended the staircase and slipped quietly beside her. He knew. He, too, lived the dark night of depression. Slowly, he reached out his large gentle hand, and with not much more than whisper offered, “Honey, I love you.”

Like a mighty wrecking ball, the walled fortress of desperation and despair crumbled. Love made a way! Love broke through! My father responded to his grown daughter’s unuttered cry, slip into my night, and embraced me with love — a love that changed everything.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Ephesians 4:2

What if our simple acts of love deposit seeds of flourishing love in others in the same way that Christ deposited love in us? What if we each possess powerful seeds of love and faith that will ultimately produce more of the same? Maybe, just maybe, we can become like little bees gently spreading the pollen of love and faith (one act at a time) that will bear more fruit than anyone realizes. Maybe together, we can turn the tide, tip the tables and trample the terror that has gripped people for far too long (one person at a time).

References

You might appreciate these Barna references:

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“Come, Follow Me” – How Ready and Willing Am I?

Come, Follow Me

“Come, follow me, Grandma!” My grandson yelled over his shoulder as he grabbed his sled and sped down the steep snow-laden hill. The sun brightened the day, but failed to soften the biting crispness of the winter air. With fingers numbing in the cold and heals dug in, I hesitated, evaluating the outcome and standing in reluctance. For generations, our family enjoyed sledding together down these familiar slopes. The pages of my photo album chronicle many such outings.

Today was different!

As I stood on the crest of the hill, I realized I wasn’t as young as I once was. Broken bones don’t heal quite as quickly as they once did. My aging body doesn’t flex like it did a few decades ago. But alas, fun called! I lassoed my courage in one giant breath, lifted my heals and pushed off. Wind and snow pelted my face, forcing icy crystals around my neck and blurring my vision. Holding frantically to the inner tube beneath me, I creased my eyes tight as I veered off course, slamming into a bluff of shrubs and trees. With limbs intact, I flung my arms wide in the air, signalling triumph to the onlookers (laughing wildly, I might add). Obviously, I lived to tell the tale and smile in the remembrance. 

Waiting and watching

This invitation was risky, but invitations come in many forms. Invitations to weddings, baby showers, dinners with friends, picnics or vacations. Someone thought of us. Someone values our presence. The response to the invitation rests with each one of us. Will we pass up the opportunity, or be counted in?

Sometimes, we consider the cost more carefully. Future outcomes lay hidden. Resulting consequences questionable. “Come, follow me!” should cause us to ask at least a few questions before we jump on board. 

“Come, Follow Me.”

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people. At once they left their nets and followed him.” 
Mark 1:17,18

Simon and Andrew never requested a legal contract validating Jesus’ ability to lead or adequately compensate them for their efforts. “At once” they followed. A little further down the beach, Jesus summoned two more fishermen, the brothers James and John.

Birds on water

Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat
with the hired men and followed him.”
Mark 1:20 

Don’t be confused! Their decision carried serious consequences. When they walked away from their father and the fishing business, they also left security, a predictable income, and peer credibility. They chose Jesus above their families and any earthly benefits. Jesus called these dedicated, mature business owners into futures they could not yet comprehend. 

Jesus recognized qualities in these hardworking men that would be essential for the demanding ministry ahead. Though rough around the edges, Jesus noticed in them the ingredients of greatness. His invitation to “Come, follow me!” held unprecedented risk — ultimately costing them their lives. 

Followers

Eventually, the numbers of people following Jesus aroused the suspicion of many, the jealousy of others, and the anger of still more. The multitudes which followed sought healing, deliverance, and food for their bellies. Others followed out of curiosity. A few followed with evil intent, waiting to catch Jesus in his words. 

Come Follow Me

The outward appearance of this rag-tag group of disciples concealed the mighty world-changers they would become. Jesus chose those who would be passionately committed and deeply involved in the work of ministry. He sought those who would courageously stand in the face of adversity and death. All-in, nothing held back, trusting, independent, and teachability! 

Many God honoring men and women turned and walked away. The cost of following Jesus was greater than they were willing to make. A wealthy young man in Matthew 19 is a prime example.

Since childhood, to the best of his ability, he lived for God. Yet, he knew he lacked something. He asked Jesus what more he could do.

” . . . sell your possession and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Matthew 19:21

Sadly, he walked away, hoping to find an easier path, a cheaper alternative, a less painful option.

Everyone Come

Our response to Jesus’ call to “come, follow me” reveals more about the motivations of our hearts than we realize. Just maybe, His invitation discloses how deeply we hold to the temporary pleasures and comforts of the world.

The open invitation to follow Jesus still stands. Unfortunately, we too often relate to the wealthy young man or those in the parable of a banquet. Jesus says that everything is prepared and waiting for anyone willing to come. Throughout the streets and byways, messengers announced the good news.

Come, for everything is now ready. But they all alike began to make excuses.”
Luke 14:17-18

Though their reasons appeared valid and their response polite, they all missed a once in a lifetime opportunity. At the core, they all made excuses! Funny, how much validity we give to our frail reasoning. The Master in the parable knew both the weakness of their arguments and inevitable consequences of their failure to respond.

Compel Them

The Master became outraged by the feeble responses. The parable foretells a wedding celebration unlike any other. The union of Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. It speaks with urgency.

Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame . . . Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.”
Luke 14:21-23

Ducks Diving

Excuses won’t matter then! The Master will fill the seats — if not with us, with others.

Every invitation requires preparation, setting aside other commitments, our time, and perhaps gifts. “Come, follow me!” carries a price, too. Our dedication to Jesus means more than lounging at banquet tables or sitting idly under shady trees.

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
Matthew 10:38

The cross for some may seem insignificant, but for others weighty. In following we become servants, messengers, and ministers caring for the needs of others above our own. In following, we commit everything we are and have to Him. We are no long our own; “we have been bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:20).

The Reward

The rewards of following Jesus Christ are greater than could be compiled within a blog or list!

  • He lifts our burdens (Matt 11:28)
  • “Come, follow me!” leads us from the familiar into the miracle-moving, water-walking impossible (Matt 14:19, 28-29)
  • It brings us into the place of blessing and inheritance (Matt 25:34)
  • It welcomes us and others into the kingdom of God (Mk 1:17)
  • He provides quietness and rest (Mk 6:31)
Geese Lead and Follow

” . . . Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
John 7:37-38

We’ve all heard those get-it-now, time-limited offers. Though it may not seem like it, Jesus’ invitation fits into a similar category. When He returns, it will be too late. The doors will be closed and further access denied, unless you have already accepted His invitation to “Come, follow me!” Let’s not allow anything to keep us from responding.

” . . . I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
2 Corinthians 6:2

Today, acknowledge the invitation. Jesus welcomes all to RSVP, “Yes, Lord, today I come!”

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Faith and Closure: Avoiding Misconception and Error

Faith And Closure

Both faith and closure depend on sensory input. Unfortunately, senses alone create a fragmented and incomplete concept of our world. What do we do with those random bits and pieces of known and unknown? By nature, we fill in the gaps between what we know and what we don’t know from previous experience.

We define this human phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole as “closure.” Usually our definition of closure falls between the limited boundaries of ending a business or relationship. The full sense of closure reaches much broader than that, however.

As we begin life, our minds largely resemble a blank slate. Of course, our natural senses already became activated in the womb. Once we exploded into the world, sensory overload kicked into high gear. Bright lights and dark shadows, cold air and warm touches, unmuted sound (including our own screams of panic), and smells both pungent and subtle. Neither faith nor closure existed for any of us in those early moments of life.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:11-12

See Like a Child

Paul affirms the ways of childhood give way to adulthood — as do thoughts, speech, and whole waft of other developmental attributes.

Faith

Most of us have played peek-a-boo with a child. The child saw our familiar face. Suddenly, we hid behind a blanket, causing the child brief but great concern. As soon as we showed our face again, the child responded with equal delight. Gradually, he/she learned that even though they could not see our face, we were present — hidden from view but with them.

Innocently, those first simple faith steps of a child began. Drawing from experience, he/she believed you were present and available. The child’s ability to create closure — to finish the picture in his/her mind even though all he/she saw was a blanket — required faith in its simplest form.

Spiritual faith follows a parallel journey as we learn that although we cannot visibly see God, His Presence is tangible and constant. Spiritual senses develop through similar childlike steps.

All too often, however, we take giant leaps in our attempt to “finish the picture,” recreating God in our minds.

In 1 Corinthians, the great love chapter, Paul warns us about this premature propensity toward closure. He reminds us that we don’t fully know the whole story, or see the bigger picture. At best, we see God and our world in fragmented pieces — like a half-painted portrait.

Glass Window

Other Bible translations phrase it this way:

  • “we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections” (NLV)
  • “now we see through a glass in obscurity” (BLB)
  • “we see through a glass, darkly” (KJV)

Yet despite our blurred context, we adopt faith and closure, framing everything and everyone around us by previous limited experience.

Mystery

Even though much of life (let alone God) remains a mystery, we involuntarily close the gaps of time and space between known and unknown with great leaps of faith. For Christians, faith is mandatory to our belief system.

Many people in Jesus’ day attempted to create closure apart from faith. They nullified the mystery of God by leaning toward presumption, misconception, or even error. Examples regarding Jesus are many:

  • Some accused Him of performing miracles through Beelzebul, the prince of demons. (Matt 12:24)
  • Religious leaders tried to stone Him, believing He was a mere man, claiming to be God. (John 10:31-33)
  • His own family thought He had gone completely mad — out of his mind. (Mark 3:20)

That’s only the tip of the iceberg of accusations and misunderstanding. Though people witnessed the miracles and heard His teaching, without both faith and closure they came to faulty conclusions of His person and ministry.

Iceberg

Seen and Known

To a lesser degree, we’ve all fallen victim to similar judgments and misunderstandings of our motives and actions. We’ve probably also been guilty of forming false assumptions about others. Paul offered the Corinthian church this wise advice,

“So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time — before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.”
1 Corinthians 4:5

The Lord Jesus, who knows all things, will reveal every hidden piece, every secret portion. He will unveil the completed canvas. Then, there will be no misunderstandings, misconceptions or errors. Everyone will clearly see and be fully known. Faith and closure blending in perfect unity! No presumptuously filling in the gaps or judgmental conclusions.

Closure

Just as faith develops in a baby through experience over time, so does closure. The more we come to know the heart and ways of God, the longer we walk this journey called the Christian faith, the greater our perception of Him, our world, others, and even ourselves becomes.

Horse Tail

With both human and spiritual sensory inputs functioning to a greater degree, we become increasingly capable of successfully navigating the circumstances of life. Even then, we always remember that we only know and see in part.

Jesus’ disciples tripped and faltered as they continually attempted to bring closure where there wasn’t any. Some assumed they would sit at His right or left hand in His Kingdom (Mark 10:37). Others concluded the disciple John would never die (John 21:23). They often attempted to squish Jesus into their religious or political paradigms. Despite His warnings, they all believed they would never forsake Him (Matt 26:31-35).

We too dangerously combine faith and closure in misdirected ways. How few Christians in North American believe trouble and persecution will intrude upon their comfortable lives? Many believe Christianity equates to entitlement regarding health, wealth and ease. What percentage of the population falsely believe access to heaven comes through good behavior and honorable intentions?

Here we see faith without justified closure.

Jesus Christ

Only One Person capably closes such gaps — Jesus Christ! In Him is the pinnacle of both faith and closure, eradicating every misconception and all error. In Him is absolute fullness and completeness.

In every way, this familiar passage applies.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”
Proverbs 3:5-7

Faith and Closure

When we direct our eyes and hearts exclusively to Him, allowing Him to reveal the full picture, we release the need for premature closure and by faith trust Him with all outcomes — large and small. Then, with childlike enthusiasm, we will rejoice as He reveals the full image both in our lives and in the lives of others.

We will never panic like a little child playing peek-a-boo. We will possess an assurance, fear from all doubt, He is forever present, though unseen, in the twists and turns of life. Only in Jesus Christ comes faith, knowing He will put all the pieces into perfect union and bring closure to the mysteries yet to be revealed.

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Superhero? Stash the Cape and Walk with Humility

Walk in Humility

Do I stash the cape or keep it? It’s fun designing characters for a children’s book. Artists and authors often use attributes they see within themselves or others for character development. Though super heros in flowing capes make great comic heros, they are hard to live with in daily life.

Recently, everything coming my way (videos, sermons, personal studies) focuses on the element of humility — an attribute I possess too little of! As much as I desire less pride and more humility, achieving that goal often requires time and effort.

Paul wrote to the Philippians,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”
Philippians 2:3-4

Zap

These wise words establish godly perspective. In both artistry and life, perspective is everything. How we position ourselves in relationships determines how vibrant those relationships become.

Looking Down

When artists portray a character struggling or defeated, they view the image from a high angle looking down. The reader will automatically perceive the character as being fearful or shy. Even slight variations, like a hand turned upward, give the subject a subordinate position.

For most people, deliberately assuming this lower position creates internal struggle. For most people, only rarely do we willingly desire to appear inferior to others.

Superhero

Jesus noticed this propensity to choose the best seats, highest places, and honored positions. In Luke 14, He tells His followers,

“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor . . . take the lowest place . . . “
Luke 14:8-11

Sooner or later, self-promotion ultimately leads to humiliation! Most of us consider ourselves too cultured and dignified for such brash behavior. But I honestly need to ask myself a few straight questions: How willing am I to seek advice? How readily do I receive correction, especially if it is from someone not in authority? Do I ask others for help or do I find my own way?

For me, these are all difficult. I would far rather be the teacher than the student or the one who provides than the one receiving. Most of us gladly halt what we are doing to help others, but stutter when asking for similar assistance.

Boom

For relationships to grow and mature, they must be reciprocal. Lopsided one-upmanship disappears when we let go of pride and perfection, offering permission to stash the cape. Reciprocal means giving and receiving — a willingness to take the lower position.

Eye to Eye

I hope many genuine relationships fill your life. Paul says,

“Therefore if you have any encouragement for being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
Philippians 2:1-2

The strongest relationships I enjoy are those “united with Christ.” Though natural families form incredible bonds, spiritual ones become even stronger. When our natural family also becomes our spiritual family, we possess the best of both.

Hero

What propels relationships grounded in Christ? The first two attributes Paul mentions are the comfort of Christ’s love and sharing in the Spirit. To know how loved we are, despite our weaknesses and failures, releases us to love others — not as superiors but equals. Eye to eye! The Spirit dwelling within us, leads us into a fuller re-presentation of Christ in the world.

We can stash the cape, leaving any superhero facade behind. Walking on a common level, we experience tenderness and compassion, similar mindsets, and mutual love for each other.

Looking Up

Every picture book or movie presents a hero by looking from what is called the “worm” view. With a few artistic strokes the hero looms large, powerful, and independent within the scope of their surroundings.

A child running through the yard with fabric flowing off their shoulder’s announcing the world will soon be delivered, brings smiles from adult onlookers. Unfortunately, many of us carry our imaginary capes into adulthood, viewing ourselves with superhero status: superior and strong.

Pow! Bang!

We pull invisible capes from who-knows-where and masquerade as someone significant. Oh, don’t worry, we maintain our “Christianese” behind the polished mask of false humility.

Jesus’ words echo in my heart as a warning,

“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Matthew 23:11-23

Scripture gives no room for “might” or “maybe.” They will be! Experience has taught me, the sooner I choose the low position and look up, the better for everyone!

One Hero

When I’m willing to stash my cape, refusing to pretend super Christian status, I clearly see the real Hero — the only Hero, the true Hero worth looking to. What made Him so heroic? He lowered Himself lower than I could imagine, becoming nothing, so we could become everything He designed us to be.

” . . . he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:7-8

Jesus became Superhero #1, for all time, for all people. He didn’t just stash a phony cape; He left Heaven, descended from the highest place of glory and power, to become like us — dust. Talk about a giant step downward!

Kapow!

Only when we see our glorified Lord will we fully understand how low He came. And the result? He snatched a dying world from eternal hell, trampled the head of that slimy serpent, and declared victory over every oppressive dis-ease the enemy once unleashed.

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:9-11

Stash the Cape

Jesus set the ultimate example, showing us how to restore relationship. The One who could have come like most comic strip heros, looking down on the world, didn’t! He could have dominated, intimidated, and controlled, but He wouldn’t.

Jesus came — looked humanity in the eye and walked at our level. He allowed people to pay His way, wash His feet, and serve Him, without feeling demeaned. Jesus also lifted people (demon possessed, adulterous, wicked, sketchy, diseased, contaminated people) from low positions. Each time, He demonstrated honor and value.

Stash the Cape

So why do we struggle to stash the cape, to show our flaws, and be real with each other? Why do we obstinately refuse the low road?

Jesus chose a different way.

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;”
John 13:3

Because Jesus KNEW — understood completely His identity in the Father and His ministry — He was secure. The same possibility is true for us! Insecurity causes us to reach for superficial capes and earthly titles. Insecurity motivates us to look down on some, compare ourselves with ourselves, and desire the accolades of others. Security allows us to stash the cape and relate honestly.

The Frame

Every artist or illustrator considers how to “frame” their characters. Wide angle, or close-up? Left, right, or center? Through reading Daniel, God reminded me of the “frame” I need to walk in humility.

A dream disturbed King Nebuchadnezzar. He called in all his astrologers, magicians, enchanters and sorcerers — his full arsenal of dream interpreters — demanding they both tell him the dream and interpret it. They panicked, “You’re asking the impossible! No one on earth can do what the king asks!” (Daniel 2) True story!

Daniel quickly solicits the prayer support of his friends. As a result, God reveals both the dream and meaning. When he approaches the king with the answer, Daniel clearly says, “God in heaven reveals mysteries. It isn’t about me or my wisdom. I’m no better than anyone else, but God wants you to know and understand.” (Dan 2:28-30)

Daniel showed complete humility. He responded to situations by taking the low road, seeking the help of his comrades, claiming no credit for himself and desiring the good of others.

Supermom

That’s our frame for humility. God exalted — first, last, and middle. Others honored as better than ourselves.

So when you see the evidence of pride (no matter how subtle) in my strut, carried in my continence, or waffled in my words, I give you permission to tell me plainly, “Stash the cape, girl! Be real!” Please help me swap my phony cape for the legitimate cloak of humility.

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What is Truth? Know The Truth: Speak What is True

Know Truth! Speak Truth!

Do you know The Truth? During the tribunal, Pilate asked Jesus a probing question, a question posed untold times since, “What is truth?” Pilate, like so many of us, found it difficult to acknowledge the Truth, even when he came face to face with it.

Jesus had just made a remarkable statement,

” ‘ . . . In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’ “
John 18:37

The Bible not only contains truth, but is the word of truth. Only two types of people inhabit earth, those who choose to listen to the Word and those who don’t, won’t or can’t. We all live and work in a world futile in its attempt to avoid, deny or run from truth. John also wrote,

They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”
1John 4:5-6

Question Mark

John divides people into “we” and “they,” depending on the strongest influence — “the Spirit of truth” or “the spirit of falsehood” and error. I only have to look within myself to recognize these two realms warring against each other. They battle for my thoughts, influence my talk, and determine my actions.

Know The Truth

Far more than a conceptual notion, truth is a Person! John records a series of astonishing statements Jesus made,

” . . . I am the way and the truth and the life . . .”
John 14:6

“I AM!” Jesus said, “I AM truth — the truth, ultimate truth, absolute truth!” The world of the first century matches our own, with political powers forcing domination, religious cultures fighting for their platform of voice, ordinary people wondering who to believe. Daily, we scratch our heads, trying to discern truth for deception.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
John 14:16-17

Thinker

Jesus Christ is the capital “I AM” of truth, and the Holy Spirit the capital “Spirit” of truth. For anyone wondering what truth looks, sounds, and feels like, we need look to only One Person! Just as Jesus told Pilate that He came to “testify to the truth,” the Holy Spirit, within us, bears witness to that truth.

Not only is it possible to know the Truth, the Truth, through the Spirit dwells within us — testifying about and guiding us into real truth. How reassuring! Swirls of uncertainty and confusion never overtake us.

” When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father — the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father — he will testify about me . . . But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth . . .”
John 15:26-27: 16:13

We live free from fear, without doubting our ability to discern wisely. Through the Holy Spirit, truth becomes a living reality.

Grace and Truth

Deception and lies masquerade as truth. The spirit of error twists and disguises lies to make them look appealing and favorable.

Rather than welcome it, we often fear exposure by truth. But truth partners with grace — grace piled upon grace! Fear originates with the law. Grace flows through truth.

Problem

“Out of (Jesus’) fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
John 1:16,17

Jesus came to us “full of grace and truth.” Deception imprisons those who follow its taunts. Truth unlocks the gates!

” . . . If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31,32

To know the Truth, is to know Jesus — the One who speaks and imparts liberating truth, setting us free from every lying accusation of the enemy. Truth always sets us free!

I’ve witnessed this reality time and time again, as one captive after another experienced the freedom from chains of addictions, death prisons of defeat and bars of self-harm. Only God holds the keys of such liberating truth.

No wonder our adversary wants to keep us from knowing Jesus. Oh, the power we gain when we know the Truth.

The Benefits

James declares we are born through “the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (1:18). John says, the Truth sanctifies, purifies, consecrates and separates us unto Him (17:17). Paul tells the Ephesian church that truth multiplies truth, along with an abundance of goodness and righteousness (5:9).

If that was all, it would be enough for me, but it isn’t! The benefits of knowing truth exceed all expectations.

In writing to Timothy, Paul identifies the church as a “buttress of truth!” A buttress forms a supporting defense, strengthening and reinforcing a building. God declares us, His kids, as pillars and buttresses of truth. What a high calling and divine purpose!

Solution

Truth leads us into God’s Presence (Psalm 43:3 ESV), opening the ear of God to our prayers and petitions.

“The LORD is near to all who call on him to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18

Truth becomes a belt, securing and protecting every core aspect of a believer (Ephesians 6:14). A warrior’s belt held weapons readily accessible for battle, freeing one’s hands for combat.

Truth also activates our worship, because

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and truth.”
John 4:24

What blessing is ours when we know the Truth.

Rejoice in Truth

Can you feel it? As you hear these verses again, with the implications of truth becoming increasingly real, do you sense an attitude of rejoicing rising within you? I do! God’s Word doesn’t just recite truth, it is truth (Psalm 119:160) We chorus the voice of the psalmist,

Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth.”
Psalm 86:11

The Cross

Then we will boldly, and with great grace, speak God’s truth in love. In fact, without truth, love becomes impotent (1John3:18). When we know the Truth, it infiltrates our hearts, infusing our words and conduct, penetrating our thoughts (Philippians 4:8).

“Love . . . rejoices with the truth.”
1 Corinthians 13:6

Every perversity and wickedness aims its weapons at truth, suppressing and denying it. The church of Jesus Christ amplifies it by representing the beauty, dignity and power of truth to a confused world.

Let’s get excited!

“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
1John 5:20

What is truth? Truth is our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. May we not be like Pilate, staring intently into His face and yet missing the opportunity to know Him.

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Boldness! Difference Makers Possess a Different Spirit

Difference Makers

Boldness! Think for a moment of difference makers — those who are bold in their faith, willing to stand, or even fight for what’s right. How many difference makers do you know? Is your list long or short? What qualities or attributes secured their place in this elite category?

Even in the most difficult of circumstances, they rise fearless, daring and brave before danger. Others on your list may possess a steady confidence and assurance. Do you know people who stand out from the mediocre crowd as adventurous, free and bold thinkers? Or perhaps audacious, gutsy faith makes them bold difference makers.

I guarantee none of them secured the weighty mantle of boldness by marching in step with crowd-pleasers or glory-seekers. Thirty years ago, my search for fearless risk takers for the Kingdom of God would have appeared scant. Today, I hear a distinct sound rising from off-beat places, setting a new rhythm, as more people respond to God’s call to make a difference.

We all desire to be bold, to become true difference makers. We want our lives to matter both now and for eternity. But how?

A Different Spirit

If we follow the masses, we will become disillusioned. If we cast our gaze to earthly leaders as our example, it may disappoint us.

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”
Numbers 13:1-2

Moses picked the cream of the crop, the best of the best from each tribe, the fathers and leaders to be the forerunners and difference makers, paving the way for all to follow. These recognized leaders were to be the first to step into God’s promise.

Even after rereading this passage dozens of times, the names of these twelve delegates slip from my memory. All proved to be cookie-cutter replicas of would be greatness. Except for two of them, the rest fade into oblivion. Why? Boldness, or lack of it, created the dividing factor.

“Each time you fail, there’s a clue to your future success. You need to fail boldly if you want to succeed extravagantly.”
T.D. Jakes

Ten recognized leaders viewed themselves through the lens of the natural. They focused on fortified cities. Intimidated by giants, they concluding,

” . . . We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size . . . We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’ ”
Numbers 13:31-33

The majority, ten of the twelve, “dibbat” — whispered a defamatory evil report. Just that one word paints vivid imagery of their true nature.

Only two men, whose names have endured and whose prominence increased, stood against the crowd. Joshua and Caleb rose up with boldness,

“Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’ “
Numbers 13:30

Oh, how my heart leaps to see the Calebs of our generation rising with a clear voice, inviting us to join them. “Go! We can!”

Influencers

Recognized within their families and communities, all twelve men occupied platforms of influence. Little did they realize the impending consequences and impact of their unsteady leadership.

Because of small thinking, weak faith and fear-based assessment, they and an entire nation of people wasted forty years in the wilderness until a new generation rose with boldness to do what should have been done decades earlier. What a sobering reality! Too afraid to pursue God’s promise, they died running away from it.

Only Joshua and Caleb marched resolutely into it!

“But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.”
Numbers 14:24

Caleb became a difference maker because he possessed a different spirit — a spirit that flowed directly from following God wholeheartedly.”

Few people reach the height of influence these twelve possessed. Unfortunately, they underestimated the power of their influence for both good and evil. Our impact may never reach beyond the boundaries of family, workplace, community or church, but we dare not repeat their error. With God in the equation, only He knows the ripple effect of our voice of influence.

The power of our influence exceeds our wildest imagination. Ears listen to our voices; eyes watch our steps; hearts follow our ways. Let’s strive to be a Caleb, one who follows God wholehearted and possesses a different spirit. May we develop boldness to use our influence, becoming difference makers.

Mountain Takers

Caleb literally means “whole hearted”, which also encompasses “faithful, devotion, bold and brave.” Even in old age, he refused to excuse himself from battle, while leaning on a cane or resting under an olive tree.

” . . . So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day . . . ” Numbers 14: 10-12

With the wind blowing through his whitened beard, Caleb raised his sword, pointing toward the territory of “his” promise, where the largest of the giants perched themselves resolutely behind their walled fortresses. “Let me loose!” Caleb shouted, “I’m prepared to conquer!” What boldness!

He knew the success of the conquest lay in divine, not human, hands.

“Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb . . . ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.”
Number 14:13-14

Joshua bless Caleb, but he still had to fight to secure that blessing!

Boldness flows from an intimate relationship with God. Caleb’s family participated in, and benefited from, his audacious faith. As a watchful guardian over his own household, he promised to give his daughter in marriage to only the bravest and boldest man, willing to take the city by force. His nephew, Othniel, rose to the challenge, seizing Hebron with his uncle.

“Only those leaders who act boldly in times of crisis and change are willingly followed.”
Andy Stanley

Difference makers become mountain takers, passing the mantle of boldness to subsequent generations.

Difference Makers

The Bible preserves these defining moments of ancient encounters with giants, impossible assignments of combat, and incredible conquests for God’s purposes. Through them, the Holy Spirit warns us:

“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.”
1 Corinthians 10:11

Though the circumstances vary, everyone faces challenges — challenges to overcome through wholehearted devotion to God and unflinching boldness. We must resist the temptation to look for the easy way out or follow the often misdirected crowds.

Second, these accounts create pathways of hope.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
Romans 15:4

Boldness

“Fear no one! Love everyone!”
Rob Reimer, Senior Pastor LSC

As we ponder boldness and influence making, the question that each of us must answer is, “Who is the strongest voice in our lives — God or people?” Have we become more concerned with what God is saying or what people are thinking about us? Only if we develop the attributes of Caleb will we become difference makers in our time.

May our lists of difference makers expand as men and women, boys and girls, the old and young, rise up: daring and brave, fearless before danger, confident and assured, standing out prominently, audacious, adventurous and free. Listen! Look around! Can you see and hear them?

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Expressing Thanks, “Thank You. Well Done!”

Expressings Thanks

I want to take a moment to say, “Thank you. Well done!” A fruitful, productive life requires effort, perseverance, and faithfulness, among a multitude of other qualities. Though our efforts don’t always produce the benefits hoped for, our attempts to follow Christ’s example have not gone unnoticed, either in Heaven or here on Earth.

A distinct vein of musical ability runs in my ancestry. For many of them, music flowed as easily as water running downhill. For me, however, it required much effort and dedication. Years ago, I had the privilege of being the accompanist for a choral group. My mother acknowledged the excellence of the performance with, “Well done! Your father would have been very proud.”

That simple and unexpected expression of gratitude caught my breath away. Something in me inexplicably broke. I loved my father deeply and desired to please him. The thought of him finding pleasure in my accomplishments, even years after his passing, touched a chord indefinably deep within me. It didn’t matter that I was decades old. Again, I felt like a child, known and loved by her father.

Romans 1:8

Today, I’m seizing this opportunity to express appreciation and gratitude for every kind word and gesture you have shown toward me and others.

Thank You

Paul articulated the Father’s heart so well.

“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

I don’t know about you, but I often feel like I fall short of God’s desires for me. We live bombarded by put-downs, critical attitudes, and never-quite-enough expectations which often taint our perception of ourselves, God, and others.

Although I don’t personally know the vast majority of you, like Paul, I thank God “for all of you and continually mentioning you in (my) prayers.” What an honor to have you take time, stopping by to read these little God promptings. With sincere humility and gratitude, I thank God for you.

Philemon 1:4,5

God sees everything you do — “your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” He recognizes your effort and says, “Thank you. Well done!” Your example forms a powerful witness to others as they watch you set your goal, again and again, toward excellence in Christ.

Well Done

People don’t always notice, but God sees. He knows both your faith and faithfulness as you work to overcome an area of struggle, perform silent acts of service, offer gentle care to the vulnerable, or give sacrificially of your time, attention and resources. Well done, my friend. Thank you.

Paul wrote to the church in Colossae,

” . . . I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works in me.”
Colossians 1:29 NLT

Living for Christ often feels like real work and hard struggle, right? In one way or another, we are all working out our faith, struggling with everything in us, while leaning wholly on God to do the impossible through us. Like a mother giving birth, we endure the pains of labor because of our love for Him and each other. Jesus alone gives us all we need to endure.

Ephesians 1:15-16

God sees the weariness of our hearts. He understands how we’ve poured ourselves out without seeing tangible results. He looks upon us, not with disdain, but with deep compassion, and whispers, “Thank you. Well done!”

The Lord’s Delight

God works in you, through you, with you, and for you. He walks beside you each step of the way. He leads and empowers to live fully, bringing Him great pleasure.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what please him.”
Philippians 2:13

May we each take a moment to rest and sense His pleasure, as our Father delighting in us, His children.

1 Timothy 2:1

” . . . the LORD’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
Psalms 147:11 NLT

God doesn’t evaluate us like the world does. Rather, He measures us by our love and devotion to Him — our willingness to wait, hope, and trust in Him. Then, He encourages, “Thank you. Well done!”

Agreement

So today, let’s come into agreement with God’s assessment. Set aside the weariness of labor, the shame of failure, and the heaviness of defeat. God is pleased! What else matters?

Let’s give Him our best, allowing Him to do the rest! Like a little child, sink deep into the love of your Heavenly Father, feel the pleasure of His heart.

“The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

Numberss 6:24-26

That word “rejoice” literally means that God jumps with great joy, twirling and spinning as He triumphantly delights over His “kids.” What an incredible image of His extravagant pleasure in us! As we come into agreement with His great happiness over us, our response aligns with His,

“Sing . . . shout aloud . . . be glad and rejoice with all your heart . . . “
Zephaniah 3:14

For good reason, the Bible commands us to “be glad and rejoice.” When we do, we share in His over-flowing joy. Thank you. Well done!

Expressing Thanks

Finally, I want to be sure to give you my sincerest thanks. Every time you read these posts, share them with your friends, or offer comments, you bring tremendous encouragement to me. Your gracious support means more than simple words express.

In return, I faithfully pray for you and your nation. God knows your name, situation, and the circumstances you face. He loves you and believes in you, as He calls you to Himself. I join my voice with Him, “Thank you! Well done!”

1 Thessalonians 3:12

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