Instruction from the Perfect Teacher

If you could designate anyone as the perfect teacher, who would you choose? We could all probably name a few qualified instructors who have benefited us.

Today, advertisements bombard the internet and social media from people anxious to take our money in return for the latest, greatest training in whatever interests us. They attempt to promote personal success stories as credentials. Who or what qualifies someone to teach or instruct another?

Recently, individuals in our small home group shared their experiences of being taught as children. Some received the iron-hand of instruction — a do it my way or else method. Others felt the freedom of being entrusted to discover their own way through challenging assignments. Still others learned tasks bit-by-bit through loads of encouragement. All felt a certain level of limitation surrounding the processes of learning and growing.

God is not negligent at teaching those who follow Him.

I hear the Lord saying, I will stay close to you, instructing and guiding you along the pathway for your life. I will advise you along the way and lead you forth with my eyes as your guide. So don’t make it difficult; don’t be stubborn when I take you where you’ve not been before. Don’t make me tug you and pull you along. Just come with me!”
Psalm 32:8-9 TPT

Perfect Teacher

Within these verses we find multiple ways a perfect teacher instructs. Let’s break it up a bit.

  • I will stay close to you
  • Instructing and guiding you
  • I will advise you along the way
  • And lead you forth with my eyes as your guide.

The best instruction and training occurs within this type of intimate relationship. To learn lessons well, we need someone who sticks by us through the process, “instructing, guiding, and advising” us. It implies doing life together. The psalm uses the Hebrew word for teaching which means “to flow as water, to lay, to point out, or teach” the correct “course of life, mode of action, or road to walk.”

The psalm points to a walking together with our teacher and learning by word and example.

Jesus Christ

The New Testament uses the Greek word didaskalos for teacher fifty-eight times. Forty-one of those times, translated also as Master or Instructor, refers to Jesus. Throughout the Gospels, we witness Him walking in intimate relationship with His disciples. He did not restrict His teaching to a chosen few, however, but rather taught everyone freely.

“By the time Jesus came ashore, a massive crowd was waiting. At the sight of them, his heart was filled with compassion, because they seemed like wandering sheep who had no shepherd. So he taught them many wonderful things.”
Mark 6:34

Mark illustrates Jesus teaching to the masses out of a heart filled with compassion. The Message Translation of the Bible puts it this way, “At the sight of them, his heart broke … He went right to work teaching them.”

Multitudes of people around us lack the core instruction needed to function in a healthy, production way. Without a solid spiritual foundation, they find it impossible to thrive. I imagine Jesus’ heart again breaks as He looks down the streets of our cities. If He was present, I believe He would do as He once did and get to work teaching them.

The need for Spirit-filled, anointed teaching remains. Who will fill the gap?

Receive to Give

The disciples didn’t instantly become model students. They often made Jesus’ task of teaching more difficult than necessary. I do, too. Psalm 32 adds,

“So don’t make it difficult; don’t be stubborn when I take you where you’ve not been before. Don’t make me tug you and pull you along. Just come with me!”
Psalm 32:9

The disciples often turned intimate teaching opportunities into arguments over who was the greatest among them. Even Jesus, the Perfect Teacher, requires His students to possess a willingness to learn. The same applies to us.

God loves each of us enough not to leave us lacking, struggling, and unable to cope with life’s ups and downs. He patiently comes beside us, inviting us to “just come with me!” But His ways feel strange and uncomfortable. They stand in complete contradiction to our ways. Then we, like they, resist His instruction.

But before we are qualified to teach others, we must first learn from Jesus, the Perfect Teacher. That requires submitting to His mindset and following His ways.

Students Teach

Jesus’ students eventually caught on, coming into alignment with His instruction. They soon proved to be the greatest transformational success story this world has known. The early disciples carried on Jesus’ teaching with the same passion and compassion He displayed.

Jesus instructed them,

“Now you must go into all the nations and preach repentance and forgiveness of sins so that they will turn to me …”
Luke 24:47 TPT

Yet, their teaching was often rejected.

Jesus students continued to teach in spite of opposition. They proved that the message of the gospel, rather than a perfect sales pitch, eloquent storytelling, or charisma, “is the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). And indeed, because they learned well from the Master, they instructed others equally well. Though accused of turning the world “upside down,” their efforts, in reality, turned it more right side up.

May we be encouraged by their example and the unfailing promise of God to continue to teach us. Whether our learning journey has been short or long, difficult or easy, may we draw close to the Father allowing Him to “guide (us) along the pathway for (our lives) … advising (us) along the way and leading (us) … with (His) eyes.”

Then may we, too, become those who teach others through truth-filled words, living examples, and the compassion of Christ. Eternity will bear witness of the impact of following the leading of our Perfect Teacher.

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Choose Joy! 20 Bible Verses About Joy

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As we step into a new season, may we have the wisdom and courage to lay aside the things that weigh us down. Let’s lighten our load and choose joy. Could it be that simple? Yes, and no!

Long before mechanization transformed the industry, my husband owned a seed cleaning plant. At that time, the export market preferred pulse crops bagged in one-hundred-pound grain bags. Often, our children and I joined in the labor. During the frigid cold of winter or the sweltering heat of summer, we toted and stacked those heavy bags. Our bodies ached under the load. My collar bone arched permanently outward from the repetitive pressure and overexertion.

Most often the weights we carry damage our hearts rather than our bodies. Burdens come unannounced. Tragedies strike without warning — a sudden death, financial collapse, marriage breakup, and more. The scenarios seem endless. Hearts easily become bent and scarred under the pressure.

Over 430 times, the Bible encourages us to choose joy. In contrast, the words “happy” or “happiness” only appear ten times. Joy refers to an inner settledness that sustains someone through hardship and trials. It is no wonder that when the Bible speaks of joy there is a direct connection to personal or corporate struggle. Feelings of happiness may quickly come and go, but joy endures.

20 Bible Verses

Let God’s Word inspire you as read and meditate on these verses:

Joy is an offering of praise to God — singing, shouting, and thanking Him. Psalm 95:1-2

Even the most difficult circumstances cause us to rejoice, knowing God will produce perseverance in us through them. James 1:2-3

God’s greatness inspires joyous celebration in people of every nation. Psalm 47:1

Because of who You are, O Most High God, joy will fill us! We will sing praises to You! Psalm 9:2

God loves and protects us. So, we will sing and praise Him with “shouts of joy.” Psalm 27:5-6

When sleep evades us, it presents a perfect opportunity to think about God with joyous praise. Psalm 63:6-7

Joy celebrates God’s goodness and kindness. Psalm 32:11

One day every source of sorrow will disappear. Joy and gladness will be our continuous portion. Isaiah 35:10

God, Himself, sings and shouts joyously over us, bringing breakthrough and victory. Psalm 32:7

“Ecstatic joy, indescribably sublime and immersed in glory” belongs to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:8-9

Joy, prayer, and thanksgiving lead us into God’s perfect plan. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

No matter how dark the time of sorrow may be, it will give way to “shouts of ecstatic joy.” Psalm 30:5

God shows us the path to complete joy in His Word, the Bible. John 15:10-12

Even when everything seems to fall apart, we may still rejoice in who God is! Habakkuk 3:18

The Holy Spirit produces joy in those who believe in God. Galatians 5:22-23

Every new day give us a reason for joy! Psalm 118:24

We find the greatest source of joy in God’s Presence. Psalm 16:11

The joy God gives becomes our strength — like a walled fortress, protecting and supporting us. Nehemiah 8:10

God welcomes us to experience His joy, in every season. Philippians 4:4

Prayer

Singing, shouting, praising, and thanking God through life’s trials and pressures induce a joy-filled life. God intends joy to become our spiritual normal. Is it easy? Not always! Is it possible? Absolutely!

Father, I ask that Your Word would settle deep within us, and that hope would arise. Many people reading this are facing tremendous opposition and enduring severe trials. Restore them and renew them, Lord. Give them fresh faith to choose the joy of Your Presence. May the fruit of joy produce spiritual maturity in each life. Father, even in the watches of the night, may joy and hope begin to spring up again. May everything that has been bent under the pressures of the past be made straight and whole. May Your joy become life and strength to each one. Thank You, Father, for your gift and provision of joy. We choose joy, receiving it today.

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Healing Broken Hearts

We often limit the importance of healing to restoring physical bodies and easing troubled minds, but Jesus also came to heal broken hearts. Without diminishing the need for the first two, may we also not ignore the last one.

Several years ago, a young hockey player, who we knew very well, received a sharp blow to his chest by a fast-moving hockey puck. The impact instantly stopped his heart, depriving his brain of oxygen. At twenty-years of age and in his prime, he died.

We have all faced sudden blows that have caused damage to otherwise healthy hearts. Most of us, have never fully recovered. We all live with broken hearts — wounds of sorrow from the death of a loved one, wounds of rejection or betrayal, wounds of abandonment or separation. Brokenness results mainly from harmful things done to us or unmet needs which others failed to offer us.

There is good news, however. Jesus came to heal the broken hearted.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to be hope for the poor, healing for the brokenhearted, and new eyes for the blind, and to preach to prisoners, ‘You are set free!’ I have come to share the message of Jubilee, for the time of God’s great acceptance has begun.”
Luke 4:18 TPT

Brokenness

Out of brokenness we hide, self-protect, and live artificial lives. We adjust, improvise, and normalize what Jesus desires to heal. Many of us adapt to our fragmented condition, emotionally pushing people away while pacifying our pain through addictions or other artificial means. But God loves us too much to leave us in permanent denial and pain.

Luke records Jesus reading from the scroll of Isaiah, making this declaration about Himself.

” … He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted …”
Isaiah 61:1

The Hebrew words Isaiah used here mean “to wrap firmly the break, or to stop the breaking in pieces.” Jesus intends to do for us what we cannot accomplish through self-effort.. He came to wrap our broken hearts with His healing love and to stop them from breaking.

Using the same words as Isaiah, the psalmist understood this deeply personal ministry of God’s restorative love.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Psalm 147:3

“Praise the Lord,” the psalmist says, “God heals. He has the cure! He mends even the deepest recesses of our being, bringing us to complete wholeness.”

Closer Than You Think

As I flip through the tattered pages of my life, I now see what I missed then — God’s consistent nearness. In my brokenness, feeling distant from Him, He came close. Like a skilled surgeon, He gently and compassionately removed each numbed layer of scar tissue, softening my heart little by little and bit by bit.

Over an extended period of time, I prayed for God to soften my heart. He did. He does. And He continues to do His miraculous healing.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18

We can all identify, at a certain level, with broken hearts and crushed spirits. Jesus Christ, our hope and our help, comes low to where we are. He bends down to our level and breathes life, restoring and renewing.

God Speaks

Through the Bible and by His Spirit, God speaks His message of hope and assurance to each of us.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

Today, let’s welcome the peace He offers. Whatever the “trouble” imposed upon us, today let’s choose to yield it to Jesus and welcome His healing. Perhaps, we will need to seek the help of a pastor or Christian counsellor. Often, the healing of broken hearts requires a process (similar to mine) of allowing God to expose and mend hearts — piece by piece and little by little.

But that process can begin right now through prayer. The sudden impacts we have endured don’t need to rob us of life, love, and hope. Jesus came to heal and restore no matter how deep the blow or how extensive the damage to our broken hearts.

“Lord Jesus, I recognize areas of brokenness in my inability to love as You love. I confess that I find it difficult to live honestly and openly before others because of my broken heart. As I acknowledge my need for healing, I welcome You to come and touch those deep fragmented areas of my heart. I ask You to reverse every level of brokenness and restore wholeness. Please soften the layers where I have become calloused and uncaring. Mend and heal every area where I have been crushed in spirit so that I may live fully and freely. Thank You, Lord Jesus for beginning to heal my broken heart. Amen.”

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The Beautiful and Bountiful Discipline of God

Although painful, the discipline of God brings comfort and reassurance. Often His discipline comes through hardship or suffering. Biblical discipline includes the concepts of training, teaching, instruction, and correction. In the strongest form, it comes with chastening and warning.

Let’s make one thing clear, no one likes discipline in the moment. We all find it difficult, but we need God’s discipline to become all He created us to be.

A key life verse for me comes from Isaiah.

“Indeed, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested and chosen you in the furnace of affliction.”
Isaiah 48:10

The refining of silver occurs at a relatively low temperature. However, God says that our refining requires more extreme measures. He purifies us through the blazing “furnace of affliction”. Silver never resists the process. We, on the other hand, often do! As we recognize the beauty of discipline, we find peace in the process. We may even begin to anticipate the bountiful results of discipline.

God’s Love

True discipline flows from the depth of loving relationship. The discipline of God demonstrates the Father’s deep love for His own.

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”
Proverbs 3:11-12

Because God loves perfectly, He brings correction into our lives perfectly — with perfect timing and in perfect ways. Many people perceive God as harsh, judgmental, and uncaring. Nothing could be further from the truth! “My son,” He whispers, “I delight in you! I want you to be all you can be!”

” . . . My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Hebrews 12:5-6

The discipline of God proves our value and position as His sons or daughters. How wonderfully reassuring!

God’s Word

As a parent, I wanted my children to listen to my instruction and obey. Discipline only became necessary when my words were ignored. God responds in a similar fashion. He desires for us to hear and heed His Word, willingly responding to His direction.

“For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.”
Proverbs 6:23

Those who never experience corrective influence become a hazard to themselves and those around them. We thrive within healthy boundaries, productive routines, and predictable parameters. God’s Word, the Bible, offers all these things to us and more.

Through His commandments and instruction, we discovery to path to a fulfilling life. When we stray from His sure ways, He graciously draws us back. He loves us too much to leave us to our own destruction.

“To learn the truth you must long to be teachable, or you can despise correction and remain ignorant.”
Proverbs 12:1 TPT

The psalmist wrote under divine inspiration,

Blessed is the one you discipline, LORD, the one you teach from your law.”
Psalms 94:12

God’s Purpose

I find a repetitive pattern both in God’s Word and in my own life. During affluent times, it becomes easy to take our eyes off God, to become complacent about our relationship with Him, or even drift away. The greatest spiritual dangers come with wealth, power, and privilege, giving room for pride and presumption.

God uses hardships to refine us, setting us back on course.

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”
Revelation 3:19

In other words, we must take the discipline of God seriously, learn from the struggles we go through, and quickly align ourselves with His heart and His ways.

What if we welcomed difficult seasons as God’s purest blessing toward us and validation of His love? What if we approached hardships with tender responsive hearts, desiring to learn, grow, and mature?

“Now all discipline seems to be painful at the time, yet later it will produce a transformation of character, bringing a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who yield to it.”
Hebrews 12:11

As we yield to God’s instruction, correction, and training, He transforms us to bring righteousness and peace.

Discipline of God

Only God can transform trials into triumphs. Only God then uses them to refine us.

“And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart. And that is what I was hoping for in the first place . . . ”
2 Corinthians 7:11 MSG

Oh, that we would come through discipline, “more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, and more responsible.” With God, we can!

May we determine to not waste a moment of God’s instruction, correction, and discipline. Let’s become better, stronger, and more fruitful.

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Good Roots: Rooted and Grounded

Natural principles hold true for Christians as well; the development of solid foundation is essential to be rooted and grounded. Paul Keith Davis says, “Go deep in order to go high.”

Although trees and shrubs of all shapes and sizes fill the lots and parks within the city, I see only the tallest of trees from my fourth floor window. Those who roots have reached deep and wide obtain the resilience to survive the extreme Canadian prairie seasons. Without extensive root systems the gale force prairie winds would topple them.

After planting hundreds of trees over the years, I’ve learned the first five years are critical for healthy root development. In those five years upward and outward growth remains minimum, but beneath the surface a fibrous web of tenacious roots ensure long term health of the tree.

When the focus on root development takes precedence, all other growth and development will lead to greater health and fruitfulness.

God knows far better than I do about planting seeds and transplanting seedings. He created and designed the whole process.

Through trial and error, I also discovered that the right tree planted in the wrong location may survive for a season, but it will never thrive. Usually such a scenario results in death — sometimes slow, other times rapid.

Believe it or not, some trees prefer wet roots, others insist on theirs being dry; some only grow in rich loam, others prefer sandy soil. The adage “bloom where you are planted” only goes so far.

But what does becoming rooted and grounded mean?

In Love

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:14-19

Paul prays for the Ephesian church to become rooted and grounded (or established) in love.

The original word translated as rooted means “to cause to take root, to fix firmly and establish.” While the word translated as established means “to lay the foundation, or to lay the basis, erect, or consolidate.”

Paul prays that “every family” — not just some or a choice few — would become rooted and grounded in love. He knows we need help! But through the power of the Holy Spirit, as Christ inhabits the core of our being through faith, our roots of love deepen and spread ever wider.

The deeper our roots of love go the more we discover how high and deep God’s love for us reaches, going far beyond our comprehension. In His love, we become like mature trees rooted and grounded, reaching the full potential of all God has for us.

In Faith

“And now there is nothing between you and Father God, for he sees you as holy, flawless, and restored, if indeed you continue to advance in faith, assured of a firm foundation to grow upon. Never be shaken from the hope of the gospel you have believed in . . .”
Colossians 1:22-23 TPT

Paul conveys the same idea to the Colossian believers. He encourages them to lay a foundation of faith that is steadfast, firm, and immovable. Those rooted and grounded in faith grow! Faith advances! Never shaken!

Isn’t that what we all desire? A steadfast foundation ensures that nothing and no one comes between us and God. Our core relationship with Him grows unhindered “if” we continue in faith.

Even the smallest tree will experience a set-back when it is transplanted. Though its root system hasn’t yet spread as deep and wide as a mature tree, it takes time to begin to thrive in new ground. We all resemble transplanted trees.

This passage begins with:

“Even though you were once distant from him, living in the shadows of your evil thoughts and actions, he reconnected you back to himself.”
Colossians 1:21

Evil actions and sin-based thinking plagued us all until God transplanted us and “reconnected” us back to Himself. He transplanted us in the fertile soil of faith and love to spread our roots ever deeper. Once rooted and grounded, we will grow to full stature, casting holy shadows of protection and provision for others.

In Truth

Jesus told a parable illustrating the importance of being rooted and grounded.

“Let me describe the one who truly follows me and does what I say: He is like a man who chooses the right place to build a house and then lays a deep and secure foundation. When the storms and floods rage against that house, it continues to stand strong and unshaken through the tempest, for he built it wisely on the right foundation.”
Luke 6:47-48 TPT

Every builder knows the indispensable value of a “deep and secure foundation.” Storms will come! Floods will rage against us! By hearing and activating the Word of God in our lives, we will stand “strong and unshaken” nonetheless.

A building’s secure foundation in many ways resembles a tree’s roots system. We choose daily where and how to build upon God’s promises. May we build wisely. May each one of our lives become firmly rooted and grounded in His Word of truth.

Remain

In Ezekiel 17, we read an allegory about a great eagle who planted a cedar beside “abundant water.” Its branches turned toward the eagle while its roots settled deep in the rich soil, allowing the tree to flourish and be fruitful. But when another eagle came, the cedar turned its roots toward the new eagle, seeking a new source.

“Will it thrive?” God asks. “Will it not be uprooted and stripped of its fruit so that it withers? All its new growth will wither” (Ezekiel 17).

God in His gentle mercy warns of the consequences of not remaining grounded in Him. He points to the real dangers of turning to other sources. The Holy Spirit does all He can, rooting and grounding us in His love and steadfast faith and nurturing us through the living water of His Word, the Bible.

Rooted and Grounded

Later in another vision, Ezekiel saw an eternal river flowing from the “threshold of the temple” (Ezekiel 47). He describes the resulting overflow of abundance!

“Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fall. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”
Ezekiel 47:12

Everyone rooted and grounded in love, faith, and truth bears fruit that nourishes and heals. Their lives carry the capacity to influence and impact many others. It is my prayer that when the hunger and hurting come close to us they will find food that satisfies the deep longing of their souls and healing for every broken area of their lives.

May our roots of love go deep, the foundation of our faith be solid, and truth of God’s Word guide our decisions. Let’s “go deep in order to go high.”

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3 Reasons to Put Jesus First

Today, I want to explore three great reasons for putting Jesus first in our lives and a few suggestions on how to do just that.

Last year we moved into a small city. Even though I had been a farm girl most of my life, I thoroughly enjoy living in this new community. Just as I once enjoyed following deer trails across the open prairie, I now enjoy exploring the beautiful walking paths of my city.

On a few occasions, I became disoriented by the intersecting and winding pathways. As soon as I encountered a familiar landmark, I could regain my bearings and walk with ease. Feeling even slightly lost is an unsettling experience.

Have you gone through a “lost” experience — not knowing which direction to proceed? Maybe, we all have at sometime. Jesus is the unchanging landmark, our epicenter Who sets a sure course for our lives.

#1 The Epicenter

In fact, Jesus is the epicenter of everything. He is the core, the heart, giving purpose to all things.

“For in him we live and move and have our being . . .”
Acts 17:28

Before I encountered Jesus and experienced life with Him, my life was incredibly lost in addictions and depression. He absolutely transformed my life, broke old destructive patterns of thinking, healed my emotional wounds, and restored hope and purpose.

I’m not alone! Millions of people through the ages testify of the same life-changing dynamics that Jesus makes.

By putting Jesus first, at the core, the center of our being, we may wander on to unknown paths, but we will never be lost or alone.

#2 The Plumb Line

Carpenters use a plumb line to draw true vertical lines so what they are building is perfectly formed to square. A plumb line is a string with a weight attached to the end. As the weight dangles freely, it will settle to a true vertical position. The plumb line remains true despite the whims of the carpenter. Without a plumb line the entire project risks becoming crooked and unstable.

“This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD asked me, ‘What do you see, Amos?’ ‘A plumb line,’ I replied. Then the Lord said, Look I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.'”
Amos 7:7-8

The people of Israel had forsaken God and established their own twisted concept of morality and spirituality. But with Jesus as our plumb line, no attempt to justify our crooked ways will stand the test. He never changes with current whims of culture.

Jesus forms the plumb line of right and wrong, good and evil. The wise of heart will put Jesus first to establish God’s true standards in their lives. With Jesus as the plumb line, social frustrations and current opinions all come into context.

#3 The Pattern

Though Jesus came as a baby in human likeness, He established a perfect pattern of living unlike any human before Him. Jesus became the flawless model of humility, the example of self-sacrifice, and the representation of perfect love and grace.

When we put Jesus first, He becomes our focus as we seek to live in a way that reflects Him.

” . . . listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.”
Acts 2:22

The challenge and encouragement within this verse is endless. “Listen!” the writer says, “Jesus was a man!” Everything Jesus did on earth, He did as a man! He fed the hungry, ministered to the poor, welcomed little children, raised the dead, healed the sick, and set demoniacs free. And He did it all as a man — a man filled with the Holy Spirit and led by God.

Everything Jesus did as a man, He also welcomes us to do. He showed us how. He set the pattern.

As we put Jesus first, we walk in His footsteps, following His example — even into the impossible of miracles, wonders, and signs.

Practical Steps

For far too many of us, Jesus can become an add on to other important or demanding things. Yikes! That, my friends, is a dangerous path. In the busyness of life, we can all too easily relegate Jesus to second, third, or fourth place.

As much as we love our families, Christ must be first. As much as we love and appreciate others in the Christian community, no one and nothing else should take first place. But how do we put Jesus first?

Just like in my walks, I need to be alert to my surroundings and aware of my direction, the same holds true for walking and living for Jesus. God helps us lay a firm foundation for placing Him in the preeminent position.

One of the most effective ways to put Jesus first is through beginning and ending each day with Bible reading and prayer. This helps us to focus on Him and His promises, by giving Him the first word in our hearts and minds.

Next, we can check the plumb line as we make decisions and choices. Will it align with His standards or ours? Am I living in a way that is true to Him?

And finally, which pattern of living can we learn from and grow in today? How can we live with God intention and purpose, re-presenting Him to those around us?

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Matthew 6:33

May Christ be the epicenter, the plumb line, and the pattern we follow everyday. Our lives ignite with purpose as we put Jesus first!

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5 Key Spiritual Strategies to Investing Wisely

We each possess a limited amount of time, energy, or resources. Today, let’s explore key strategies to investing wisely all God has given to us.

When I move from this life to my heavenly home, I don’t want to “leave anything on the table.” In other words, I want to take full advantage of every opportunity ahead.

In a recent dream, a small group of people sat in my kitchen, waiting to be served. Their bodies spilling limply over the chairs they sat upon. Another small group of people, I was supposed to be leading, were in a side room studying the Bible. The largest group of people patiently waited outside my kitchen window — the neglected, rejected, and dejected.

The kitchen group consumed all my time. They smelled the two turkeys roasting in the oven — ready to pounce on the choicest portions. One person even purposely spilled her drink on the floor as she looked out the window, rudely ridiculing those outside. I bent down, cleaning up after her.

Scooting off to the side room, I checked on the ladies who were studying the Word and sharing their discoveries with each other. The atmosphere was joyous and energized.

Returning to the kitchen, I looked in my cupboard for something to feed the crowd outside until the turkey could be served. The cupboard was bare! “Who ate all these?” I asked those lounging like lazy lions in the kitchen. No one responded.

Those outside my door began to drift away, leaving as hungry as they had come.

It was a God-dream packed with meaning.

Strategies

God speaks in many ways. Through the dream, He called me to evaluate carefully where and how I invest my time, energy, resources, and influence. Like in my dream, it is often the things that return the least that demand the most from us.

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”
2 Timothy 2:2

Paul speaks of four generations of investment in this verse. He taught Timothy by word and example. The things he invested in young Timothy and many others, he asks Timothy to now invest in “reliable people.” The word for “entrust” also means “to deliver, deposit, or teach.” Paul is talking investment terms!

He tells Timothy to choose reliable, objective, trustworthy, faithful, believing people to invest in — people prepared and ready to pass the investment on to others.

Paul’s example with Timothy leads us to the first key strategy to investing wisely.

#1 – Set a Goal

Goals establish clarity and purpose. Do we know our God-given purpose? What do we desire to accomplish with the limited and temporary resources we have?

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

An eternity mindset brings even temporary goals into alignment. Our business portfolio, scholastic achievements, awards, and accolades won’t matter when we give an account to God for what we have done with our lives.

Jesus told a parable of three individuals each given different talents “each according to his ability” (Matthew 25:15). When the master returned, each person gave an account of how they invested what they were given. One unfortunate fellow resembled those in my kitchen — taking what he could but failing to pass anything on.

Whatever talent, ability, or resource we have ultimately came from God. When we possess an eternal mindset, we recognize ourselves as stewards given a trust. As we keep eternal perspective, we gain wisdom to handle, multiply, and use temporary things for eternal purposes.

#2 – Measure the Investment

For investing wisely, we need the second strategy, as well. With goals aimed toward eternity, how much are we willing to invest toward individual significant areas?

My bank account and day planner reveal the real story of where my chosen investments lay. These two areas in particular, time and resources, measure my investment in individuals and communities.

In John 6 we find an revealing progression. Jesus supernaturally fed 5,000 men, plus women and children, using only a boy’s small lunch. The next day, Jesus confronts the same people who continued to follow Him.

“Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”
John 6:26

They weren’t following Jesus because they believed in Him. They followed Him for what they could get from Him.

Jesus began to teach such difficult things that all but a few grumbled about Him and quarrelled with Him. The crowd saw Jesus as their free meal ticket. Jesus would have nothing to do such slothful behavior!

Jesus set the example in how to invest wisely. We should prayerfully consider how much to invest in any specific person or people group, without creating similar codependency.

#3 – Choose Where to Invest

Some people will monopolize our time and drain all our resources. Yet others will legitimately need intense short-term investment to successfully launch into a healthy life pathway.

Newborn babies demand undivided attention and care. We don’t “baby” any natural or spiritual children forever though. They must learn to feed themselves, dress themselves, manage their own resources, and care for others. It would be abnormal for any infant to remain an infant.

Yet we find spiritually under-developed Christians everywhere.

“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!”
Hebrews 5:12

Once we set our goal for eternal benefits and God has shown how much to invest, now we seek His wisdom for the specific where, who, and even how on His heart. We ask Him to lead us to those who will grow and take personal responsibility for their development.

“For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Peter 1:8

Increasing measure speaks of normal spiritual growth and development.

#4 – Begin

Strategies begin to work when we implement them. The implementation will be fluid, developing more fully as we go.

In my dream, I needed to lovingly move those inside to the outside to make room for those outside to find a place of acceptance and care. As long as I allowed a few people to consume all my time and resources, I had nothing left for those who needed it the most.

God calls us to love everyone without showing preference. Jesus longs for those outside His family to enjoy His blessings too. We accomplish this through investing wisely where there will be the greatest eternal returns.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35

Where do we begin? We begin with the one in front of us — the one just outside our window, the one we see every day, the one needing encouragement and support, or even the one needing a tougher kind of love.

#5 – Try, Test, Tweak

As we invest, we listen for God’s continued direction. Hopefully, you don’t need such a vivid dream to wake you up to your need to tweak how you invest your time and resources.

As we invest in others, we measure the results. Is there evidence of fruit or signs of transformation in the lives of those around us? Are godly attributes increasing in those we are investing in?

“This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.”
Ephesians 4:13 (NLT)

Sometimes the results will be less obvious than at other times. Each area of trying, testing, and tweaking takes a special courage that God promises to provide. I am so very thankful for those who invested so much into my life. I’m sure they wanted to quit many times over, but they didn’t!

May our investments prove eternally beneficial, reproducing in multiplied measure.

Blessings my friend, as we invest into our homes, churches, and communities.

Let’s begin investing wisely!

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Making Adjustments to Stay on Course

The constant changes and transitions of life require the adjustment and tweaking of priorities and schedules to stay on course. During the last two weeks, I’ve been reminded in various ways about the importance of maintaining godly priorities. Misalignment, especially in the area of work, has been causing me to veer off course.

My daughter-in-law mentioned that during a flight the plane’s internal systems continually make adjustments to keep the plane on course. Wreckages throughout history give us ample evidence of the dangers of veering even slightly off track.

Samson blindly believed he was on course to walk out his destiny.

“Then she called, ‘Samson, the Philistines are upon your!’ He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the LORD had left him.”
Judges 16:20

Too late, he realized his error. His spiritual blindness led to physical blindness when his enemies gouged out his eyes and turned him into a human mule to grind their grain.

Following our own life track might appear to work for a while. But when we take God’s Word and His call on our lives casually, be aware. We are heading for a crash.

Mount Erebus Tragedy

Though the crash of TE901 occurred almost fifty years ago, it remains New Zealand’s worst peacetime disaster. The air cruise over the Antarctic turned fatal because the navigation system was off by two degrees. Yes! Two degrees! In the scheme of life, we may easily dismiss two degrees as inconsequential. But if we don’t remain “on target,” we, too, may be heading for disaster.

Each person on board trusted the pilot to take them on the scenic flight to McMurdo Sound and back. The pilot trusted the navigation system to guide him as he made two familiar loops, descending through the clouds to about 2,000 feet to give his passengers a better view. He saw the ice and snow through the cockpit window; only seconds before impact did he realize it was the side of Mount Erebus.

No one was more blinded by pure zeal for God than Saul of Tarsus. Trained as a Pharisee of Pharisees, he expended immeasurable time and energy to eradicate the radical Christian sect that contradicted his understanding of God’s laws and ways. He headed straight for a crash.

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked . . . My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.”
Acts 22:6-11

Zeal counts for nothing when you are off course!

Blinding Light

Even moments before impact, tourists walked around, drank their chosen beverages, and took pictures inside the cabin and outside the window. Until . . .

Air NZ flight TE901 before it crashed into Mt Erebus. Warning: content may be upsetting.

Every one of us walks around doing life as usual. None of us know the moment of impact — that millisecond between this life and the next. It is a sobering reality waiting us all.

Thanks to previous prompting by the Holy Spirit, encouragement from my pastor, and an extra nudge from my daughter-in-law, I’ve been making adjustments to stay on course to reach the destination God desires for me. Honestly, I’ve been further off than a few degrees.

Usually, it’s the demanding pressures of work which lure me off track. For others, it might be positions of power or the praise of people. Even one of Jesus’ disciples became confused.

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.'”
Matthew 16:23

Jesus warns Peter and us, that whenever human concerns outweigh our concern for God, we have switched allegiance, joining enemy ranks. There is no such thing as neutral ground.

Jesus went on to explain that discipleship costs. Maintaining healthy boundaries around godly priorities will always cost.

Stay on Course

Forfeiting God’s best for a pat on the back or a few more dollars in the bank amounts to nothing in the end.

With Samson, Saul, and Peter, God gracious confronted them, redirecting their course. Their lives impacted multitudes of people. What we do today influences and affects generations as well. May we choose wisely.

The carnage from TE901 that still liters the side of Mount Erebus campares little to the painful aftermath of the crash. After many years and multiple investigations, the blame first placed upon the pilot shifted to the airlines. God won’t need further explanation or investigation. He already knows both the obvious and hidden reasons for our losing sight of what is most important. Excuses and self-justification will disintegrate and fall like ashes before Him.

To stay on course means to continue until something is finished or until we achieve something we planned to do. It means to not vary from a predetermined plan. God has a predetermined plan for every life, in which, as Brother Andrew said,

“The joy gets bigger and life gets better.”

We all plan to finish our life’s journey well. We all plan to please our Heavenly Father and hear Him say,

“. . . ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'”
Matthew 25:23

Take Action

The deceptive blindness of this world too often pulls us from eternal perspectives. The counsel of others will forewarn us when we are shifting off track, whether by two degrees or more. Here are other steps to help us stay on course:

  • Listen to Holy Spirit.
    • Push the “Pause” button on busyness and rest.
    • Ask God to show us when and how we are getting off track.
    • Ask ourselves if we have set a godly destination?
  • Listen to wise counsel.
    • What are those who love us saying? (e.g. spouses, family, pastors, counselors)
  • Soul search.
    • What unmet need am I trying to satisfy through things other than God?
    • Why is it easier for me to trust in my own ability and efforts rather than in God?
    • Why am I willing to sacrifice the most important things for temporary satisfaction?

Ouch! Though difficult, the answers may save our lives and the lives of those around us before we crash against the mountain of our own doing.

When not corrected, small things always become big things.

God may not provide a blinding light to stop us in our deviant tracks. Failure to realign ourselves may cost us our physical and emotionally health, our closest relationships, and, more importantly, ministry effectiveness.

A minor course adjustment and a little rise in altitude would have been enough to save everyone aboard TE901. In the same way, a few simple personal course adjustments and a small rise in our spiritual altitude may be the preventative measures we need to avoid disastrous consequences.

Let’s heed the warnings and move toward a life where “the joy gets bigger and life gets better.” Blessings, my friends.

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Want More?

You might appreciate this message about setting priorities.

Godly Priorities | Pastor Rob Reimer | September 25, 2022

Causes of Forgetfulness — Remember

Whether I forget something by my door or hundreds of miles away, every lapse of memory frustrates me. What are the causes of forgetfulness? Actually, I’m more concerned about discovering the cure than the causes.

This week I forgot my Bible. I can easily replace a Bible. But the personal notes I have scribbled in the margins and the special bookmarks my grandchildren made for me can’t be replaced. After reading from the same Bible for a few years, I grow accustomed not only to the written Word of God printed upon the pages, but also to the feel of the worn pages and twisted edges. Sometimes, I underline a verse that Holy Spirit seems to bring to my attention, dating it so that years later I can reference it again.

Before shopping, I meticulously go through the cupboard and make a list of items I need from the grocery store. Unfortunately, I’ve frequently left the list on the counter. Then shopping becomes a test of memory to remember each item.

God

My uncle reminded my husband and me at our wedding to beware of the good and easy times we would face. With wisdom, he cautioned us about the tendency we may have to forget the most valuable things during affluent times. God reminds us of something similar.

“Make sure you don’t forget God, your God, by not keeping his commandments, his rules and regulations that I command you today. Make sure that when you eat and are satisfied, build pleasant houses and settle in, see your herds and flocks flourish and more and more money come in, watch your standard of living going up and up — make sure you don’t become so full of yourself and your things that you forget God, your God.”
Deuteronomy 8:11-16 MSG

Trouble and hard times often drive us to our knees before God and show us our inadequacy and inability. We can never trust our own ability or genius. Our trust always rests in God. I know that leaving a Bible behind isn’t like forgetting God, but it almost feels like it.

The good things God blesses us with are never meant to replace His Presence or lure us from time spent with Him and in His Word. But it might!

He speaks, directs, encourages, instructs, and even reprimands through His Word. We need Him to do all these things and even more so that we won’t forget Him.

God’s Covenant

God never forgets His covenant love for us. Never! Our inattention and busyness with lesser things often cause us to forget, be He always remembers.

“He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.”
Psalm 111:5

Forgetting God’s goodness and His faithfulness comes all too easily when we are surrounded by evil and uncertainty. God remains “other than” this world, totally above and over it all.

One of the causes of forgetfulness toward His love comes from the painful and recurring wounds we face day after day. After awhile we may begin to falsely believe that God has forgotten or abandoned us.

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.”
Psalm 77:11

Remember my grocery list? Even without my list, I often remember everything on it, because I purposely took stock of what I had, and made special note of what was needed. The psalmist affirmed that he would always consider and choose to remember God’s love and goodness. Will we do the same?

Jesus’ Sacrifice

Because Jesus knew the causes of forgetfulness, He left us with an unforgettable reminder of His life and purpose.

” . . . The same night in which he was handed over, he took bread and gave thanks. Then he distributed it to the disciples and said, ‘Take it and eat your fill. It is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.’ He did the same with the cup of wine after supper and said, ‘This cup seals the new covenant with my blood. Drink it — and whenever you drink this, do it to remember me.'”
1 Corinthians 11:23-25 TPT

Whatever we call this remembering — communion, sacraments, or something else — it stands as a reminder of the price He paid to guarantee our freedom and eternal security. A failure to engage in purposeful acts of remembrance may be one of the causes of forgetfulness. Because Jesus wants us to recall the most important concepts of our faith, He leaves us with more than a grocery list of rituals, but a significant act of remembering.

Biblical Instruction

Have you ever listened intently to a wonderful sermon or biblical teaching? And then a few minutes or hours later asked, “What did they say again?” I have! I have quickly forgotten what I was sure I would remember!

At times like this, how grateful I am for the Holy Spirit!

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
John 14:26 NKJV

And oh, how often He does that for us! God created our minds as incredible retrieval systems. The Holy Spirit comes perfectly equipped to open hidden memory files at the perfect moment and bring back bits of important instruction.

Though the causes of forgetfulness may be many, the Holy Spirit reminds us of important concepts. When I step away from busy activity and take a moment to ask, He consistently answers with exactly what I need.

God also expects us to do our part to absorb the instruction we receive. Taking notes helps me to remember. For others, notes become distracting. Holy Spirit will even assist us to discover the best method of remembering the biblical insights of our spiritual teachers, pastors, and mentors.

Causes of Forgetfulness

I have only scratched the surface of a few important things we try to always remember. Here are some familiar things which contribute to my forgetfulness:

  • Distractions caused by work and possessions. God gives us the ability to work, as well as the blessing of family and possessions. Sometimes our blessings consume our thinking and become distractions, however.
  • Fatigue caused by over-commitment. Some seasons of life, like being a mother of a newborn, allow little opportunity for rest. However, continuous fatigue affects our memory and ability to fully function. Perhaps re-evaluation of time commitments might be necessary to alleviate the problem of forgetfulness.
  • Emotional health also affects our memory capacity. Able Christian counsellors and mentors assist people to begin to recover emotionally from trauma and abuse. I have had to seek help in this area many times. Mental health seriously affects our ability to remember.
  • Poor nutrition also causes forgetfulness. Maintaining a balanced diet and refraining from substance abuse (like drugs, alcohol, and smoking) will also assist our memory to stay sharp and active.
  • Another key area often not talked about is the enemy’s spiritual attack against our minds. He often attempts to cloud our minds with confusion to keep us from remembering God’s goodness and faithfulness.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

I welcome you to take a moment and consider each one of these areas. Do any apply to you? How might you reclaim your memory and ability to remember the things that matter the most? Are there other things that cause forgetfulness for you?

I often place my hand on my head and simply pray, declaring the truth of Scripture, “I have the mind of Christ,” (1 Corinthians 2:16). “My mind is sharp and my thinking clear. The Holy Spirit is with me to recall to my remembrance His Word and His truth. Thank You, Lord!”

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Be A Lightning Rod

This week someone called me a lightning rod! What!!!!

I remember the lightning rod fastened to the corner of our farm home. Most days, we forgot this skinny unassuming piece of metal existed. Other than the skinny part, I hang around largely unnoticed as well.

But a lightning rod has purpose! It is positioned with function. Don’t we all hope to fulfill our purpose while holding our position and function for God?

Instead of going into detail here, I’ve created a little video for you. God calls each of us to a different position in God’s Kingdom. He equips us with various gifts, both natural and spiritual. But while we are doing the things God calls us to do, I pray we will resemble a lightning rod for God.

Have a blessed week!

I am heading off to the Inscribe Christian Writer’s Conference in Edmonton, and truly looking forward to time with fellow authors, poets, publishers, and illustrators.

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