Take Courage! Don’t be Afraid

Take Courage

When Jesus says, “Take courage! Don’t be afraid,” fear dominates and faith is hard to find. Jesus doesn’t suggest; He commands. “Take courage!”

I, like the disciples, often find myself in a “boat” not of my own choosing, tossed by waves stronger and bigger than I. It is in those times, I too must learn to “take courage.”

I find many things about Mark’s biblical account of one stormy night intellectually troubling. Let me name just a few.

Not My Boat!

I’ve experienced firsthand the consequences of running ahead of God. Those times remain burned into my memory bank. Too often, I get a hint of God’s direction, turn up the throttle and embark on the voyage before He gives full instruction. Fortunately, I’m gradually learning to follow rather than race full steam ahead. But . . . 

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples
get into the boat and go on ahead
of him to Bethsaida,
while he dismissed the crowd.
After leaving them,
he went up on a mountainside to pray.”
Mark 6:45-46 

Boat calm water

Do you see that? Jesus made them get into the boat. He made them go on ahead of Him. Everything in me screams, “No! Don’t do it! Wait for Jesus!” But in obedience they step into a boat, not of their own choosing, but by divine instruction. They leave without Jesus, going ahead of Him.

This time, it must be okay, right? After all, they are obeying the Master. 

Every follower of Jesus is in a boat. It’s not our boat, but HIs. He has pointed the way and released us to “Go!” To the best of our ability, we follow. Even though He wasn’t physically with them in the boat, Jesus interceded for them on their journey; He intercedes for us on ours.

“. . . Christ Jesus who died —
more than that,
  who was raised to life —
is at the right hand of God
is also interceding for us.”
Romans 8:34

Not My Wind!

Night came and with it a fierce wind.

“Later that night,
the boat was in the middle of the lake . . .
He saw the disciples straining at the oars,
because the wind was against them.”
Mark 6:47-48

Eventually the winds of adversity press against all desire to follow Christ — to obey His leading. Strain as we might progress becomes slow if not impossible. We usually face it “in the middle” of our calling, “in the middle” of our journey. 

Boat Storm

Ferocious winds have been blowing against the church of Jesus Christ since those earliest disciples stepped into their shaky boat. Perhaps never in the course of the Christian church has she faced such extreme adversity on a global scale. Oppression and dark times surround us. It is spiritually “night.”  The majority of people live with no concept of God.

The other day I sat on the grass with a new young visitor who stopped for a chat while I was in my garden. Though a new acquaintance, around 10 years old, it became obvious as he talked just how disconnected from society and reality his young life was. Raised by video games, formed by cultural influences, hurt by abandonment . . . My heart ached for him. And a generation like him. 

Cold, harsh winds blow ugly and cruel.

Not Alone!

“Shortly before dawn he went out to them,
walking on the lake.
He was about to pass by them . . . ”
Mark 6:48-49

Jesus came! He sees our dilemma and comes to our aid too. He comes to where we are — our places of straining, places of fear, places of hopelessness and futility. 

The next line shocks me, “He was about to pass by them.” How can these two passages sit so close together? He comes, but would also pass by unless we notice — unless we call out to Him, unless we acknowledge His Presence.

They all saw Him coming. They all cried out in terror. Yet, they all missed recognizing Him as their help and hope. Until He spoke. 

Faith

Take Courage!

At the sound of His voice, they knew Him. Through the familiarity of His voice, they recognized Him despite the dark, and above the wail of the wind.

“Immediately he spoke to them
and said, ‘Take courage!
It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Mark 6:50

“Take courage!” He commands. Fear never leaves voluntarily. When we take courage, fear has to go. Whether the winds willingly subside at the Presence of Jesus or not, courage is ours to possess — ours because Jesus offers it to us.

“Take courage!” Jesus says, as He holds out His hands to us and enters our circumstances, climbing into our rickety “boats.” “Take courage!” He says, as He tells our personal storms to be still.

Calm Sunrise

The best place to be in stormy or safe times, is beside Jesus in the boat, any boat. Perhaps now like never before, the spirit of fear has swept upon us from every direction, threatening health, stability and security. 

No Fear!

When we receive the courage Jesus offers, fear immediately dissolves like mist in the sunshine. I can think of no greater time in the history of church to be alive and in His boat — going where He sends us. The opportunities ahead rise wider than the Sea of Galilee. Will storms come? Probably. Will it take everything we have to strain ahead? Most certainly. 

When these men crossed over to the other side of the lake, multitudes, anticipating their arrival, were excited to see them and ready to receive ministry. 

This is such a picture of where the church is heading! We are almost there. We’re with Jesus, crossing over to new territory. The spiritually hungry still flock to receive all that Jesus provides. 

They ran throughout the whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went — into villages, towns or countryside — they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.”
Mark 6:55-56

Jesus

My little visitor on the grass, searching for someone to care and some reason to live, became my personal reminder. He didn’t come running or begging, but he did come hoping. 

Jesus heals, delivers, and supernaturally touches lives right here — in our own villages, towns, countrysides and mega cities. Though much of the journey remains confusing to me, this I know and am certain of — Jesus is with us. We live in a season of miraculous encounters.

Take courage! Don’t be afraid! Get excited! 

 

Harvest Time: Separating the Wheat and Weeds

Harvest Time

It’s harvest time on the prairies — an entire season of hard work and great financial investment threshed and stored for future use. Farmers and laborers feel the pressure during this brief window of opportunity. 

Globally our province sits small in proportion, but giant in production. Vast acres of spring, durum and winter wheat, canola, peas, lentils, mustard and flax gulped into massive equipment, and scurried to storage facilities. It’s an amazing achievement!

The farmer chose his seed well, fertilized and cared for the crop during the ensuing months, protecting against disease and pests. However, you can be sure of one thing — every field will have a mixture of good crop and weeds. What! How?

Weed Seeds

Weeds just are! Whether in my small garden plot, or fields stretching across the horizon, weeds are a perpetual problem. They sap the soil of vital nutrients and moisture.

No one labors for weeds! Yet, they are everywhere — sometimes sitting dormant in the soil for decades. Persistent, invasive, and despised!

Wheat and Tares

“Jesus told them another parable:
‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
But while everyone was sleeping,
his enemy, came and sowed weeds
among the wheat, and went away.
When the wheat sprouted
and formed heads,
then the weeds also appeared.”

Matthew 13:24-26

Every farmer and gardener can relate. The farmer doesn’t refuse to harvest the field because weeds are present. The gardener doesn’t reject the produce because weeds also grew in the garden.

Wheat Field

Every farmer, including this farmer in the parable, fights weeds to protect the valued crop until harvest time.

Choices

The servants came to the landowner prepared to take immediate action,

“The servants asked him,
‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
‘No,’ he answered,
‘because while you are pulling the weeds,
you may uproot the wheat with them.’ “

Matthew 13:28-29

Wisdom knows the right thing to do in the right way. The unknowing servants, though desiring to do good, wanted to do the right thing but in the wrong way — or at least at the wrong time.

Oh, how often I’ve been like these servants, rushing in to do what I can without forethought.

Solomon wrote,

“For there is a proper time and
procedure for everything. . .”

Ecclesiastes 8:6

Don’t Throw it Out

I think of another old expression, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!” In other words, in the haste to discard something undesirable, avoid throwing away something else worth holding on to.

Harvesting

In North America, we too quickly throw away the good. We see evidence of imperfections and cast the whole lot aside. Whether possessions, ministries, or people, whatever no longer serves our purpose or makes us look and feel good, we dispose of.

“Let both grow together until the harvest. . .”
Matthew 13:30

Farmers learn how to harvest their crops in such a way that the least amount of weeds stays with the good grain. By setting the sieves, the chaff, weed seeds, and shrivelled kernels (or dockage) falls to the ground. Yet, try as he might a perfect sample often seems impossible to attain.

Me, Too

God has been speaking to me about the weeds in my life — the dockage He desires to remove. As much as I attempt to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, I’m exasperated by the blatant evidence of pride, selfishness and unbelief that remains in my “life sample.” God pours His grace into me, lovingly caring for every detail, yet I’m blemished, unproductive, and often disappointed with myself.

Why?

“But while everyone was sleeping,
his enemy came and sowed weeds
among the wheat,
and went away.”

Matthew 13:27

This side of heaven we have an enemy, sowing the bad among the good God starts. I want it pulled out NOW, so that only good can flow from my life. Sometimes the tension feels intense!

Frost Damage

At the root of everything ungodly live these three potent weeds: pride, selfishness and unbelief. All present themselves subtlely. I need gutsy people to challenge me when they see them sprouting up and taking root. Faithful mentors question the motivations behind my words and actions.

Harvest Time

Through this parable of the wheat and tares, Jesus offered insight into the end of all things when God Himself will separate the good from the evil. Until then, our world, both external and internal, will contain both.

It’s interesting that the enemy worked while “everyone was sleeping.” That challenges me to alertness.

“. . . For we are not unaware
of (Satan’s) schemes.”

2 Corinthians 2:11

Just as the faithful farmer knows his crops and fields, I cannot afford to be ignorant of my personal weaknesses and tendencies.

God points me to another principle, however. What about those around me? Do I cast them aside, pulling them out by their roots, like the foolish servants wanted to do, while they are still developing in their faith? How do I treat others when evidence of weeds hang in heaps from them?

Truck and Grain Cart

Do I water the “good seed” God is nurturing in them, allowing His sovereign ways and time to deal with the “dockage?” Am I so focused on the messy parts of people’s lives I miss the good God wants me to focus on? Do I see His reflection in everyone I meet?

“At That Time”

The parable reads,

“At that time I will tell the harvesters:
First collect the weeds and
tie them in bundles to be burned;
then gather the wheat and
bring it into my barn.”
Matthew 13:30

This requires patience and trust on my part. God determines the time of the ultimate harvest. He instructs the harvesters in the process. He decides what will be preserved or destroyed.

That time” is coming! The evidence of the natural harvest hangs thick in the autumn air. I pray I will as clearly sense the urgency of the spiritual harvest around me.

It’s harvest time! God’s good seed has produced well.

Sunset

Worship in Heaven — No Introverts Allowed! Honest!

Have you thought about what worship in heaven might sound and look like? I find no introverts among the throng! Being a true introvert myself, I’m not sure what to do with that realization.

As much as I enjoy meeting and mingling with people, they drain me. Even my people!

There are twenty-three of us in our immediate family. Our noisy, oft rowdy, and usually action-packed family gatherings fill this Mama’s heart to overflowing. But, I must admit, silence and solitude keep my internal engine running, rejuvenating me for whatever demands may arise.

All you biblical scholars read my heavenly analysis with furrowed brow and deep skepticism. I understand completely! My brows have been doing the same thing! Let me explain, please.

I’ve just finished reading the Book of Revelation. In twenty-two chapters, I find only a half hour of silence. Honest! What’s more, it isn’t even the pleasant, introvert lovers refilling, energizing kind of silence. Rather, it’s more like, “Oh no! This can’t be!” variety.

” After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heart speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ ”
Revelation 4:1

That was my first clue about heaven. A voice like a trumpet! Nothing about a trumpet blast calms my introverted spirit.

Creatures and Elders

The Apostle John witnessed an open vision of Jesus Christ and things yet to come, including spectacles in heaven which my feeble mind can’t imagine. He tries his best to explain the images to us.

John gives us another clue. Around the throne, four heavenly creatures worship God,

“. . . Day and night they never stop saying,
‘ Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’

who was and is and is to come.”
Revelation 4:8

Trumpet Blast

Their worship provokes twenty-four elders to throw their crowns at the Lord’s feet, breaking into their own chorus of worship. Day and night, continuous active, vocal worship!

Angels

Images of angels singing while softly playing harps may not be entirely biblical. Listen to what John actually hears and sees,

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’ “
Revelation 5:11-12

But wait! Nothing in my introverted self cringes. Rather than run for seclusion, the magnitude of creatures, elders, and angels all with united “loud voice” giving glory to God stirs me to want to join along. Each spurs the other into extravagant exultation.

No one and nothing remains silent. All of creation bursts into exalted praise of the One on the throne. Every living creature raises its voice in perfect unison.

Can you imagine how noisy, even rowdy, and probably action-packed that gathering became?

Great Multitude

John’s vision continues,

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb . . . And they cried out in a loud voice:
‘Salvation belong to our God
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.’
Revelation 7:9-10

Introvert Worship

Some cultures naturally celebrate in robust, exuberant expressions of emotion; others tend to be soft spoken and gentle. Some denominations worship with quiet liturgical style; others worship with drums blasting and guitars blaring.

We introverts may have found crafty ways to escape the bustle of earth, but there’s no escaping the worship of heaven. Can you pick out even one introvert in heaven’s mighty throng? I can’t! Worship in heaven flows with unceasing, uncapped, unanimous rhythm.

No one feels inhibited. No one declares cultural exclusion. Everyone worships in heaven with liberality.

Silence

Then it comes! Silence! An eerie silence that holds heaven in awe-filled suspense. Thirty minutes of spine tingling, nerve-wracking silence. How could it be? Why would worship so suddenly cease?

I find myself asking another question, “If I know beyond a doubt that worship in heaven should continue unstopped, why would I tolerate the silence of worship here on earth?”

I have long considered this present life a temporary blink before eternity — a training ground for the things to come. Perhaps, it’s time for me to toss away my preconceived notion of an introvert’s dream come true — a quaint cabin in forested heaven surrounded by flowers, next to a babbling book, fifty miles from the closest neighbor.

A Lions Roars

If this life is a preparation for heaven, I better shake the dust from my feet and get my shouting voice tuned up.

Let’s face the truth; nothing compares to the worship in heaven. God alone merits glorified praise. Throughout Revelation, group after group falls on their faces, sings, shouts, and declares the greatness and worth-ship of our God.

With silence broken, worship resumes; the sound of high praise resonates through the atmospheres.

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
Revelation 11:15

Worship in Heaven

I’m honestly frustrated by my feeble capacity to give Holy God, anywhere close to to the worship He merits. If I could dance like King David danced, bringing the Ark of God’s Presence into my city, it wouldn’t be enough. If I possessed exceptional musical ability to compose songs of pure adoration, it falls far short. Everything feels insignificant on this side of heaven.

My heart yearns to give Him more.

Someday, unlimited by earth’s tethers, I will exalt the King of all kings and Lord of all lords to full potential. Today, I practice. I pull my introverted self out of the place of comfort and press to co-operate with the anthems of heaven.

Worship in Heaven

One day, I too will cast any crown at His feet and I fall in reverent awe before the Lord of glory. I will with ease join the worship of heaven. On that day, as I behold the One I long to gaze upon, my little voice will join the great multitude with thunderous applause to the One worthy of it all.

This introvert will be introverted no more. I will find refreshing and renewal in the joyously noisy, the exuberantly rowdy, and forever action-packed gatherings of the worship in heaven.

After this I heard what sounded
like the roar of a great multitude
in heaven shouting:
“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power
belong to our God .”
Revelation 19:1

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
‘Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!”
Revelations 19:6-7

Going from Here to There: Take Time for Rest

We are all moving from where we are to where we will someday be — going from here to there. Speed and direction determines the time it will take to reach our destination.

The other day, I watched as children rode their bicycles down the street. A young girl peddled leisurely, enjoying the wind in her hair. She stopped to observe the sights and enjoy the people passing around her while also being aware of other traffic coming and going. With her was a small boy, peddling vigorously, his little feet forming whirling circles of blurred motion. He zig-zagged from one curb to the other, onto the neighbor’s lawn, circling an enormous spruce tree before bouncing recklessly back to the street. Then, racing full speed, he veered off the pavement, hitting another tree head on. Oblivious to the large vehicles sharing the street, he blazed his own irregular path! He, too, was enjoying the ride, though different from his companion’s.

Boy riding bicycle

I’ve thought about these two children many times in the last few days. I must admit, I often go from here to there more like the self-absorbed little chap than his cautious friend.

Alert and Ready

No, I’m usually not on my bicycle. I do it in more sophisticated ways: scurrying from errand to errand without noticing (I mean really noticing) those around me; bustling around my home, here to there, checking off tasks from my “to-do list,” without appreciated those I share space with; or starting a “leisurely” walk that turns into a heart-racing marathon instead.

Why do I hurry? Why do I rush?

“Desire without knowledge is not good —
how much more will hasty feet miss the way!”
Proverbs 19:2

Boy with bike

I can’t count how many times I’ve “missed the way” because of rushing too quickly ahead. By God’s grace, He has given me a husband who is rush-aversive! It has taken many years for us to see what a blessing that is. He slows me up when I’m heading full speed into trouble; I speed him up when hesitation, deliberation, and procrastination would prove detrimental. Between us, we move from here to there with thoughtful, purpose.

We both need the Lord to set the pace in our lives, however.

Be Still

A few years ago, over a period of a few days, three times someone reminded me of one of my least favorite Bible verses — not because the verse is the problem, but because I am.

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10

The problem with hurry is that I often miss those special God moments. Moments to settle into worship, where I’m turned inside-out by His grace and set right-side up by His holiness. Moments of sweet encounter with the wonder of who He is. These are the sacred times of remembering His enormity! How good and magnificently wonderful He is!

It takes faith to slow down, faith to rest in the journey, faith to trust God in the process of moving from here to there — from where I am to where He is leading and from who I am to who I will one day be.

Don’t Miss Out

The children of God, many generations ago, made it from here to there — from Egypt to the promised land. In their haste, however, they followed the LONG, painful, costly way. They didn’t understand resting in God while moving with Him.

Girl with Bicycle

They had been slaves in Egypt, working day and night for cruel masters, never experiencing rest from labor. Egypt isn’t my master, but work can be. Hurrying and doing often is.

“There remains, then a Sabbath-rest
for the people of God;
for anyone who enters God’s rest
also rests from their works,
just as God did from his.
Let us, therefore, make every effort
to enter that rest . . .”
Hebrews 4:9-11

Though this passage refers to an eternal rest, at peace with God, forever, it also has daily implications.

God is our example. He worked for six days, creating all that is, and then, He rested. He welcomes us to do the same. It is for our good that we learn to work while there is work to do, deliberately setting aside time to rest — rest in faith, rest in Him.

If we don’t, we like His other children, Israel, will miss out. So it’s important to “make every effort.”

What’s the Hurry?

The children riding their bicycles past our home were enjoying their day, going from here to there and back again just for the fun of it. What is my motivation? Why do I pedal my proverbial bicycle so hard, trying to go so fast?

Child on bicycle

Is it an awareness of the fleeting nature of time? Is it failure to appreciate the moment I’m in right now? Perhaps it’s an invisible drivenness to accomplish or achieve. Maybe I desire to “earn” the favor of my Heavenly Father — a favor I already possess! Is it all the above?

“Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6,7

It’s interesting how often the writer’s of Scripture connect prayer to the concept of time. When we tire of our peddling, our zig-zagging through life, we finally come — weary and worn — to sit and rest at His feet.

And He welcomes us there.

Rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

No feverish peddling needed! No futile running into obstacles in our path! Rather, taking time along the journey to “come to” God, abandoning our busyness and the accompanying pressures, finding rest.

God isn’t a cruel slave driver, demanding ever increasing productivity. He is “gentle and humble in heart” — trustworthy and safe. “Come to me!”

Woman on bicycle

So if, or when, you see me peddling like my little neighbor, going fast but getting nowhere, please remind me again to rest along the way as I move from here to there.

Take Time for The Brief Moments that Matter Most

I’m musing today about the value of brief moments — taking time for the things that perhaps make the greatest difference in our lives and in the lives of others. Too often, I miss them, scurry past them, minimize their significance, or ignore the prompting in my spirit to slow up, listen and respond.

Rarely does God allow us grand chunks of time to move from where we are to where we need to go, to progress from who we are to who we are becoming. It’s those brief moments, those seemingly insignificant choices, that determine the outcomes, not just of our day, but of our lives.

Moments with God; with others; moments to rest; to work; moments to uproot; to build; moments; miniscule segments, fleeting swiftly away.

Time Piece

Solomon capsulized it in Ecclesiastes,

“There is a time for everything and a season
for every activity under the heavens.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Take Time

Often, shifting times and changing seasons floating in and out of lives imperceptively. Other times, we know, we sense the significance.

Time is the most precious of commodities. If I lose my health, I know a God who restores. If I lose wealth, I trust God who returns. If relationships break and tear, God reunites. Time remains the only asset never regained. How will I use it? What will I do with the gift of today — of this moment?

“Serve God by doing common actions in a heavenly spirit, and then, if your daily calling only leaves you cracks and crevices of time, fill them up with holy service.” – Charles Spurgeon

Wristwatch Keeping Time

I don’t know about you, but it feels like I’m entrusted with minute cracks and tiny crevices of time — brief moments to function and thrive. Yet, we are all given twenty-four hours in a day, seven days a week. Those days, weeks and years that contain brief moments that matter.

Paul encouraged both the Ephesians and Colossians to

Behave wisely . . . making the best of your time,”
Colossians 4:5

And

“Be very careful, then how you live . . .
making the most of every opportunity.”
Ephesians 5:15,16

Okay! I know I should make brief moments count, but how?

Three Seconds

Awhile ago, I read a book by Les Parrott, called 3 Seconds. He wrote an entire book on the difference taking a few seconds to reshape our thinking can make. Brief moments to rethink has the potential to change destiny.

  • “There’s nothing I can do!” can become, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
  • “It’s too difficult!” trusts, “All things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)
  • “Whatever happens, happens!” changes to, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare, not for evil, to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Hourglass

How many harsh words would remain unspoken, if we would only take a few seconds to rethink a response? Or needs met, if only we would slow our pace to help another?

When we look for those brief moments, God will use them to bring a change in surprising ways. The only moment God has given us is this moment — right here, right now.

“Let us not grow weary in doing good,
for in due season we will reap,
if we do not give up.”
Galatians 6:9

A farmer knows the time to seed is brief. So is harvest! How important to use wisely whatever time we’re given.

The Panoramic View

If we spent all our time focusing on the milliseconds, we would miss seeing the panoramic view — the God view — eternal perspective.

“Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12

I read once that wisdom teaches us to live each moment like it’s our last, but plan for the future like we will live forever. Sound advice! Living in such a way that every moment, even the smallest moment, holds value and is deeply appreciated. Yet, at the same time, plan and live like eternity stretches endlessly before us.

It does!

Brief Moments of Time

Going back to Ecclesiastes, I read,

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart;
yet no one can fathom what God has done
from beginning to end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Brief Moments

Here stands the challenge. How do I make brief moments count for eternity? How do I seize minute opportunities for optimum good? Is there a way to live holding both a microscopic view and a macro-image of time?

There lives within me a constant tension between where I’ve come from and where I’m heading — between the decades past and the ever-shortening time ahead. Tension unresolved, tugging between hope and frustration.

Solomon struggled; we all do. Nearing the end of his allotted time on earth, he surmised,

“Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.”
Ecclesiastes 12:13

Fix your eyes ever on God; He will lead us to honor wisely the time He’s given us. Those brief moments of setting our eyes first on Him, reap eternal rewards. Those brief moments of blessing and meeting the needs of others, pay unending dividends in His Kingdom.

Moment of TIme

Choosing to love well the one in front of us and to serve God with whatever gift or ability He has blessed us with, then trusting Him with the results.

Those are the brief moments that count!

Light Shines Brightest in Darkness – Let Light be Seen!

Light shines brightest in darkness. Light, even the smallest flicker of light, draws our attention in the midst of thick darkness. Whatever we focus on, we will ultimately see; will our focus be on evil and darkness or on goodness and light?

My husband and I have almost completed a total house renovation. Yes, it has taken almost ten years, but the end is in sight. The basement presented the last project challenge to check off our list. Divided into many compact rooms and a long hallway, light from three small windows had a negligible effect on the dark, clamminess of the space. Even the grandchildren were afraid to enter without the comforting hand of an adult.

Not any more! With walls reconfigured, windows exposed, bright colors and an abundance of light, we tease, “Sunglasses needed below!”

What a difference light makes! Light shines brightest in darkness.

Light Wins

“The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1:5

I stand in full agreement with the Apostle John. Whenever light and darkness battle, light always wins. As a matter of fact, we need never worry about darkness, just turn on a light.

“Shines” honestly means to “show.” Sometimes in prayer, I ask, “Let Your light show up here, Lord!”

Do you ever feel like that? Like it’s time for light to shine and be seen?

Lantern

It’s always a magnificent time to lighten up a spot, but there are those times when you know it’s time, if ever there was a time, now is it! It’s time for light to shine!

When light comes, darkness immediately disappears. No contest!

I’m no Greek scholar, but even I catch the drift of the power of light in this verse. καταλαμβάνω (katalambanó), translated “overcome,” violently declares, “Not today satan! You’re done!” The word means to seize so completely that the adversary doesn’t even comprehend what happened, to take captive so firmly there is no escape, and to overtake so decisively there is no opportunity for rebound.

Light shines brighter than darkness, always winning.

Light Shines

Not only does light always win, but light glorifies God.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16

Matthew uses simple logic. Who turns on a light and then purposely hides it? I do; we do. I don’t mean to offend, but it’s the truth. How often do I have an opportunity to allow Christ, in me, to be seen, but don’t? Honestly, too often!

Lightbulbs

Matthew points to us and says, “You’re it. You are the light the world desperately seeks. Without you, the light won’t shine.”

We, in false humility, stammer, justify and excuse our lack of light shining. Matthew’s words are anything but critical — only encouraging. “Heh people, remember that God is in you; He is with you; The Light occupies every part of you. Lift the bowl of disguise off your heads and shine. Shine where you are, so that other’s will naturally glorify God.”

In a darkened space, one never focuses on the candle, only the flame. Same for you and I. Others might be pleasantly surprised how much light flickers from these bent, dented, scarred pieces of wax.

Light shines undiminished.

Great Light

Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah,

“the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow
of death a light has dawned.”
Matthew 4:16

Both Isaiah and Matthew point to Jesus. One Great Light shines; His Name is Jesus. Those who live in the deepest darkness, under the oppressive “shadow of death” recognize Him, knowing His light is what they need. This Light came for all; He is Who we all need.

One Light

As I write, I sense that oppressive darkness hanging over many. I hear in the Spirit their heart weeping unseen tears, their voices long-silenced in squelched screams of agony.

“Come, Lord. Shine Your light! Expose the schemes and devises of the enemy. Rescue those bound in prisons of darkness. May You, the Great Light, shine brightly now — here, there, everywhere.”

“When Jesus spoke again to the people,
he said, ‘I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

Light shines in the world around us.

Light of Life

With light comes life.

James calls God, “the Father of heavenly lights” (1:17). Timothy tells us that God lives “in unapproachable light” (1 Tim:6:16).

“This is the message we have heard from him
and declare to you;
God is light;
in him there is no darkness at all.”
1 John 1:5

Lighthouse

One of my mother’s favorite verses was,

The LORD is my light and my salvation —
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life —
of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalms 27:1

Darkness conceives fear and produces death. Not here! Not where the Lord is! All the writers of Scripture knew beyond a doubt and declared through the ages, “The LORD is light! Don’t fear!”

Light shines, bringing life.

Light Comforts

The psalmist wrote,

“Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.”
Psalm 119:105

This “word” was also “The Word” John said “shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome.” In Him resides no darkness!

Today, we contend against darkness. It taunts, lurking in shadows of evil; even disguised as an “angel of light.” Darkness produces confusion, discouragement, fear and death. Only for a season! Our contending will triumph through Christ.

God has prepared a place void of even the slightest shadow. Can you imagine it? I try. A place where light, the Light, lives and rules.

“The city does not need the sun
or the moon to shine on it,
for the glory of God gives it light,
and the Lamb is its lamp.”
Revelation 21:23

Light Match

We look forward to where,

God’s dwelling place is now among the people,
and he will dwell with them.
They will be his people,
and God himself will be with them
and be their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death
or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4

The longing of every heart fulfilled! Light shining with unending comfort and fulfilled hope.

Walk in Light

Do you long for more light to shine? I do. The Light within me, promises light to permeate my world, invade the strongholds of the enemy, and take territory back from darkness. Expect the unexpected when The Light shines.

“More light, Lord! Come Jesus, come!”

One candle affects darkness; a thousand even more; ten thousand light a city; thousands upon thousands our world.

Child with light

I join my prayer with others who have gone before me, “May Your light shine indisputably within us, Lord. Set our feet on the path of light.”

“If we walk in the light,
as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, his Son,
purifies us from all sin.”
I John 1:7

Candles, my insignificant one and your larger one, joining together, purified from every darkened stain, shining “with one another,” making a difference in our communities.

Jesus welcomes us,

Believe in the light while you have the light,
so that you may become children of light.”
John 12:36

Through faith in Jesus Christ, we become “children of light.” Children, not just renovated, but completely remade in His image as His children — children of light.

Light shines

“Yes, Lord! Your light shines brightest in darkness, through your kids, your children of light.”

Walking Together and Learning to Keep in Step

Whether walking together with my husband through life or walking with a friend on a short hike, I’m learning how to keep in step with others.

Recently, one friend said, “Hey! Let’s slow down and enjoy our time together.” Just a couple days, later, on a walk with a different friend, she encouraged, “I only have about an hour, how far can we go?”

Whether in life, business or ministry, we are constantly adjusting our pace to keep in step with others — or allow others to keep in step with us. When walking with a child, the stride changes, the pace slows. When walking with the, athletic and fit I tighten my boot straps and struggle to keep up.

Walking Side-by-Side

“Can two people walk together
without agreeing on the direction?”
Amos 3:3

Which Way?

We constantly make choices and readjust our direction as we walk. The long road or the short path? The difficult climb or the gentle descent? Turn left or swing to the right?

A more important question to ask perhaps is, “Am I walking with God or am I anticipating that He will walk with me?” Quite often, I believe I’m walking with God, but in reality, I’m expecting Him to walk with me — allowing me to set the pace, design the course, and determine the destination.

“In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.”
Proverbs 16:9

Walk Sunset

We all desire God to establish our steps, but if I want my steps established, I must allow God to also change my heart enough to give Him full permission to also set the course.

This has honestly been a struggle for me. By nature or by gifting, I’m not sure which, I’m a leader — a visionary, planner, organizer and sight-setter. Following and keeping in step, even with Omniscient God, goes against the false confidence I have in my own ability to know where I’m heading and exactly how to get there.

In Step

A mature couple walks past my window almost daily. They walk in perfect unity; they lead with the same foot; their strides match precisely; they’re in constant communion as they walk. Like a pre-choreographed dance or military precision, they move with ease. As they turn the corner their unison so flawless, they appear as one.

Walking Together

My heart whispers, “Lord, may I walk with You like that. May my steps so match Yours that people often notice only You.”

Walking together with God means:

  • “we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4
  • our steps are directed by God, ” ‘This is the way walk in it,’ when (we) turn to the right or when (we) turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21
  • walking according to the gifting God has given us. Ephesians 2:10
  • walking by faith. (2 Corinthians 5:7

But most of all walking together with God requires humility.

“He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does God require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”
Micah 6:8

Walking Together

As I’m walking together with others, I need to be sensitive to the unspoken cues within their steps. Are they limping from pain or fatigued from overwork? Are they trail-blazers and go-getters, who perhaps need re-direction for their own protection? Have they walked this course on numerous occasions, knowing both the highlights and the snake-pits? In any particular moment is it best for me to follow or lead?

Two people walking

A excellent leader develops by first learning to follow — to step in pace with other more powerful, mature leaders.

Paul said to the Corinthian church,

” . . . follow my example,
as I follow the example of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 11:1

Do you notice all the number “1’s” in that Bible reference? Our One reference point is Christ. The number one thing to remember is that we follow His lead, stepping in time with the prompts of His Spirit.

Anybody who attempts to lead without first following Jesus will ultimate cause us to get out of sync with the One who knows the best way to take and the perfect time and pace. The same applies for those following my lead. Walking together in true unity requires following Christ first and always.

The Destination

Adam and Eve walked with God before sin and disobedience separated them from Him (Gen 3:8). Noah “was a righteous man” who also “walked with God” (Gen 6:9). God invited Abraham, a man of faith, to “walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1). It’s good for me to notice that to walk with God requires a constant cleansing of our hearts, realigning them with him

God actually wants to walk with us, enjoying our company and adjusting His ginormous steps to match our childlike ones. He wants to hear about our day and share His thoughts with us.

The Bible records little about Enoch, other than he demonstrated what walking together with God looks like.

“Enoch . . . walked in close fellowship with God.
Then one day he disappeared,
because God took him.”
Genesis 5:24

Going the distance

I’m sure this might scare any child, but I love it! I can almost imagine Enoch and God walked along, their steps so in unison and fellowship together so wonderful, that they ended up closer to God’s “house” than Enoch’s. Perhaps God invited, “Hey Enoch, why don’t you just come home with Me? You’re already much closer to My house than to yours. No sense turning back now.”

Enoch agreed!

May our walk together in fellowship with God lead us closer and closer not only to His heart, but to His home, our true destination. May every step we take in obedience to Him, every mile along our destiny’s path, lead nearer to His glorious throne. And may we be sure to invite others to come along with us.

That’s true walking together.

Which Jesus? Release Jesus Barabbas or Jesus the Messiah

People are searching for Jesus. Most don’t know it. Other’s are asking, “Which Jesus should I choose?” Many haven’t come to realize there is a choice.

Only Matthew addresses it like this, but his words sent me to prayer and thinking about the implications,

“So when the crowd had gathered,
Pilate asked them,
Which one do you want me to release to you:
Jesus Barabbas, or
Jesus who is called the Messiah?'”
Matthew 27:17

The first alternative presented was Jesus Barabbas, a murderer charged with insurrection, revolt, rebellion and mutiny. The second, more logical choice, was Jesus the Messiah: the Anointed One, The Savior and prophesied Deliverer of Israel. The wise and obvious choice stood before Pilate and the crowd.

Such choice might seem wise and obvious to some but not to all.

Which Jesus

Which Jesus to choose became polluted by a self-interest vocal minority — the chief priests and elders!

“But the chief priests and the elders
persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas
and to have Jesus executed.”
Matthew 27:20

How can a few zealous power-hungry voices create such influence? Their twisted motivations, not-so-hidden agendas, and power-swaggering movements failed to blind Pilate of their true nature. Yet even he was rendered powerless to stop their influence or curb their plot.

Strong Together

Pilate knew which Jesus to choose. Although convinced of Jesus’ innocence, he compromised his personal beliefs to sway with the populace.

“But the whole crowd shouted,
“Away with this man!
Release Barabbas to us!”
Luke 23:18

Release Jesus Barabbas?

As shocking as it was then, similar voices echo throughout our nation and many others. Though Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world stands before us with arms outstretched, the masses shout, “No! We don’t want the Jesus of truth and righteousness. We don’t want the Jesus that brings life. Give us another Jesus!”

When we ask for another Jesus, another Jesus we get. If we refuse the One and Only God, another god we will find.

I know for a fact that “the whole crowd” wasn’t shouting for His crucifixion.

“From then on,
Pilate tried to set Jesus free . . .”
John 19:12

Mary, the mother of Jesus, and several other women silently witnessed the events of that day. I assure you that they, along with Jesus disciples, were silenced by the masses — their voices muted by the powerful.

Believe in Jesus

When a murdered was released, murder ensued. With the release of the rebellious, rebellion increased. The impact of that day’s decision sifted down through multiple generations.

“All the people answered,
‘His blood is on us and on our children!'”
Matthew 27:25

In the heat of that critical moment, they unwittingly cursed themselves and their offspring.

Which One?

This simple little passage sent me to my knees, because the ground-shaking implications continue with destructive force over the nations.

“‘. . . Which one do you want me to release to you:
Jesus Barabbas, or
Jesus who is called the Messiah?'”
Matthew 27:17

There is only One Jesus who delivers all He promises, providing the way out of darkest crisis, the truth in face of the strongest delusion, and life when the clouds of death hang ominous.

Which Jesus we choose impacts us and the generations to follow. Which Jesus we release among us today predicates future outcomes.

Prayer and Faith in Jesus

Many have lowered Jesus to a prophet, a good teacher, or a little “g” god to which we can all somehow attain. They have attempted to strip Him of His deity, power and authority. Yes, their voices form the minority. Yet, at times again the few mute the truth and deny the fullness of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Redeemer of all mankind.

Release Jesus

God challenges me today, “Release Jesus! Release Jesus the Messiah around you! Don’t be silent or still!”

His challenge isn’t exclusive to me, however. He urges us all, young and old, male and female, known and unknown, to let others see, the real Jesus among us. In our words, in our conduct, in our attitudes, and in our prayers, release Jesus the Messiah.

Conduct yourselves in a manner
worthy of the Gospel of Christ,
so that whether I come and
see you or remain absent,
I will hear of you that you are
standing firm in one spirit,
and with one mind striving together
for the faith of the Gospel.”
Philippians 1:27

Team Prayer

Standing firm in these days creates an obvious separation from the majority. Many public forums pressed the mute button on the Christian voice decades ago. Yet, our voices can not only be heard, but resonate clearly among the crowds of confusion with eternal impact.

But how? With so many people staggering in uncertainty, how can we release Jesus today, setting free in our culture all He represents.

Strategies

God’s eternal strategies remain relevant for all generations at all times.

The first, and foremost, is to personally choose Jesus as your Messiah, Savior and Redeemer. Welcome Him to come into your life, surrendering yourself completely to Him. We can only give to the world what we have already received. The only way to offer Jesus, and the hope only He brings, to others is to experience Him personally.

Then by consistently taking time in the Bible, we discover more about who He is and the awesome plan God has for each one of us. The Bible offers more than concrete wisdom for daily living, God’s Word is powerful, effective and life giving.

Prayer, the third strategy, remains the chief work of every Christian. It prepares the ground for faith to increase, opens previously locked doors, and releases opportunity for voice and impact. Prayer influences heaven and impacts earth. Never underestimate the power and authority we hold on our knees in prayer.

“The effective prayer of a righteous man
can accomplish much.”
James 5:16

With these steps activated, audacious faith permeates our words, actions and conduct refusing to accept any other Jesus presented to us.

A Turning Tide

Even though we have heard the same chant from groups and influencers throughout the ages, the tide is turning. The once silent voice of Christians rises again, calling wrong wrong and right right.

“From the days of John the Baptist until the present,
the kingdom from heaven has been forcefully advancing,
and violent people have been attacking it.”
Matthew 11:12

Team Battle

As Christ followers, we belong to a mighty army taking back territory once surrendered by the release of the “Barabbas”es — the counterfeits. “No more!” the faith-filled shout. “Just give me Jesus — the true Jesus!”

Joshua, whose name can also accurately be translated Jesus, said,

“. . . choose for yourselves this day
whom you will serve . . .
but as for me and my household,
we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:15

How many times has this not-so-subtle question been asked, “Which Jesus do you want released to you?”

In this hour, the pendulum shifts. Boldness fills God’s people again as many raise their voices. “Give us Jesus, the Messiah! Give us Jesus, the One in Whom is life and hope. We will have no other!”

From nations long closed to the Gospel to those cold from revivals all-but-forgotten, the sound rises like a thunderous wave, “Give us Jesus, the Messiah!”

Don’t Settle! Keep Going! Resist Doing Things Halfway and Missing Out

We can all be tempted to quit before reaching an intended goal. Today, I encourage you “Don’t settle for where you’re at! Keep on going until you reach the end.”  (Whatever the end may be!)

How many unfinished projects await completion in your home or life—visions, goals or desires that lay dust-covered or moth-eaten in the back corner of the garage or closet? I have my own lingering projects and faded intentions. Initial excitement rose high but time, money or energy waned.

My grand-daughter shared her experiences on a high diving board. At the lowest level, she fearlessly jumped into the water just a few feet below. Bounding back out, she set her sights on the next highest level. With only a slight bit of trepidation, she ran, lept and plunged into the cool pool. Looking up she assessed the risks of the second-highest diving platform. Determinedly, she ascended the steps, building courage as she went. Upon reaching the platform, fear’s grip froze her. She came this far to jump, but couldn’t. Unwilling to back down, she stood for a long time before cautiously approaching the edge peering at the ripples of blue far below. Pushing herself past fear, she stepped off, plummeting into the deep. She did it! She overcame.

Don’t Settle

Have you been there? The scenarios differ but the feelings remain consistent. Did you keep going, or pull back?

I read,

“Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot . . .
his daughter-in-law Sarai . . .
and together they set out from Ur
of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan.
But when they came to Harran,
they settled there.”
Genesis 11:31

Terah gathered his family and left the prosperous Ur of Chaldeans, leaving advanced culture, fertile land with lush gardens and idol worship. Was God directing His steps? Had God given him a vision of Canaan or a word of promise?

Just as we aren’t told the reason for Terah beginning his journey, we aren’t told his reason for stopping. “But,” (that sticky little word) he did. He already passed the halfway point to his intended destination. He already overcame numerable obstacles to reach this point. Why stop here, or now?

We read something even more devastating,

“Terah lived 205 years,
and he died in Harran.”
Genesis 11:32

Where he settled, he died!

Keep Going

Immediately after Terah’s death, God spurs Abram to finish what his father began.

“The LORD had said to Abram,
Go from your country, your people
and your father’s household
to the land I will show you.”
Genesis 12:1

“The LORD had said. . .” Interesting! The LORD doesn’t give some new directive. Yet, after the death of his father, Abram is reminded of something “the LORD had said.” Something about a promise, a great nation and blessing for him and “all peoples of the earth.”

Was the promise originally given to Terah, but he settled too soon? Did Terah settle for halfway obedience or halfhearted effort? Would Terah have been the one to receive the promise if he would have continued?

No one knows.

Obviously, God reminds Abraham these years later of something previously spoken. A promise only fulfilled through total obedience and all-out energy. “Leave it all!” God said, “Finish the journey!”

Faith or Fear

Both Terah and his son Abram said, “Yes,” to God. Both had faith to start the journey. One settled halfway; one finished.

What stops us halfway? What is our “but?”

My granddaughter almost stopped short with tangible, even palpable,fear. My fears hide more subtly in the shadows of denial.

I have learned, however, that whenever there is a hesitation to move into God’s destiny for me, even containing a promise written long ago, fear birthed my pause. The pit of hesitation bears many names: doubt, indecision, procrastination, reluctance, vacillation, or just plain unwillingness to take one more step. “But . . . “

Jesus reached out His hand to a sinking Peter,

“You of little faith,” he said,
“why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14:31

Faith and fear never co-exist. Hope sinks in the weight of doubt. Perhaps like Peter, Terah started in faith, but halfway to the promise doubt crept in and he settled into death’s hold.

Fear overtook Elijah after the great victory on Mt. Carmel (1 Kgs 18-19). As a result, his ministry died and his mantle was passed to another.

Halfway

Paul refused to take Mark along,

“Barnabas wanted to take John,
also called Mark, with them,
but Paul did not think it wise to take him,
because he had deserted them in Pamphylia
and had not continued with them in the work.”
Acts 15:37-38

A powerful man, co-laboring with Paul for the work of the kingdom, quit. He “deserted them.” Ouch! That stings. At times, I’ve deserted halfway; other times, I’ve quit too soon.

Fortunately, years later another opportunity came for Mark to join Paul. Often where we quit, like Terah, we die. Vision dies; purpose dies; hope dies; promise dies; faith dies. We may live, but inside something is missing and lost forever.

Keep going! Don’t quit yet!

Love is the Answer

After Jesus’ death, he faced Peter in a soul-searching confrontation.

“Simon son of John, do you love
me more than these?”
John 21:15

“Do you love Me enough to leave your father, your family, your friends, your business, and your inheritance?”

“Simon son of John,
do you love me?”
John 21:16

“Peter, there will be no settling or going back to where you came from. Do you love me enough for that?”

Simon son of John,
do you love me?”
John 21:17

When we stand at the crossroads between settling halfway or reaching the finish, that is the question that matters. Where is love focused? Do we, do I, love Jesus enough to keep going, to not quit or settle. Love remains the critical ingredient necessary for faith to sustain and persevere.

“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

To the Finish

We all face walls of doubt and fear. When there seems no way through, around or over, we settle. A graveyard of “What ifs?” spreads out in front of the barrier.

Like Abram, we need to remember again what “the LORD had said,” stirring faith to move again, to restart the journey, and un-pause our vision. Abram went miles beyond his father, seeing what his father failed to see.

“There he built an altar to the LORD
and called on the name of the LORD.”
Genesis 12:8

‘Called’ doesn’t refer to private prayer. Rather, when Abram ‘called on the name of the LORD,’ he was making a public declaration, preaching and proclaiming the faithfulness and greatness of Yahweh, the LORD God.

Abram kept going—unstoppable until God said stop. He lived to see the land that his ancestors would one day possess. He created a platform of declaration to others of the power of God to see us through to the end.

May I encourage us both, “Don’t settle! Keep going!” Let’s resist doing things halfway and missing out on what God has promised.

Benevolence – Serving The Least of These with Compassion

Jesus invites us into action, serving “the least of these.” Ask anyone today about their employment and you’re apt to hear high profile name dropping or executive jargon that will leave your head spinning and your self-worth plummeting. Such chest-puffing exercises dominate human impulses throughout history.

Several years ago at my son’s graduation, a group of a few dozen students proved the benefits of serving the least of these. This class lived out the principle throughout their public education from kindergarten to grade 12. A young boy with terminal illness co-existed with them — always facing limitations, often hospitalized for extended periods. The disease stole his life before he was able to graduate. The impact he had on his classmates and their families continues to be felt.

Unlike other graduation exercises I attended, a golden thread of their prevailing culture firmly translated into serving the least. They loved, cared for, assisted, supported and valued this young man holding him in high esteem.

“. . . ‘Truly I tell you,
whatever you did for one of the least of
these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me.'”
Matthew 25:40

Benevolence

The expectation of Jesus goes far beyond the normal standards and expectations of benevolence. In North America those seeking public assistance supply perks to propel the “haves” of society to share with the “have-nots” — tickets, gift baskets, banquets and more.

Jesus observed similar practices in His day — elegant celebrations given exclusively for friends, brothers and sisters, relatives and rich neighbors. All those invited could return the favor, perhaps with a bonus. He calls His followers further,

“When you give a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled,
the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed . . .”
Luke 14:13,14

Caring for the Poor

Perhaps the repayment would not be returned in kind but rather the status of association or public approval as part of the in-crowd. Who am I anxious to serve? Am I serving those who somehow benefit me or am I serving the least?

I’m asking myself these searching questions. Have I learned these lessons after many decades of living that my son effectively learned through his shared years in a classroom with someone who could never possibly repay or return the favor?

It Was Me!

Jesus makes a profound statement,

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
. . . thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
. . . a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
. . . was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Matthew 25:35-36

The confused crowd asked, “How? When? What!” Such thinking so contravened their entrenched mindset that they were unable to connect the dots between their actions to others and their relationship with Christ. Jesus wasn’t talking to hooligans and renegades; He spoke such clarity to the righteous!” (vs 37)

Soldier Giving

The parable represented people like me, writing this blog, and you, reading it. Normal, good people living their lives in the best way they knew how. Yet, in their living, they were somehow unable to see Jesus among the throngs of people.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you,
whatever you did not do for one of the least of these,
you did not do for me.'”
Matthew 25:45

The Least of These

I don’t know about you, but I need a constant reminder to look for Jesus in the eyes of every person I encounter, knowing they belong to God and are made in His image.

“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.”
Psalm 24:1

Hospital Burundi

Do I see the face of Jesus in the eyes of the oppressed? Or am I looking for hands that will hold me up, voices that increase my value, or credentials that puff my reputation? The subtleties hidden from my own heart lay vibrantly clear and exposed to Christ.

One of the toughest places I choose to work is in the justice system, caring for people at crisis moments, arrested for crimes they’ve committed. Among them are thieves, abusers, addicts. Why? Because I’m especially gracious or caring? Not at all!!! Serving the least continuously stretches me beyond any personal capacity. It’s what Jesus asks of me.

As I write, I weep. Images of humanity, broken and disconnected, flash through my memory; disconnected from God and love. Each person teaches me something about myself that I would rather not see or be reminded of. Serving the least must become so ingrained in me that it flows naturally out of my love for Jesus. I’m not there yet. Honestly, I may never get there.

Sometimes seeing the reflection of Christ in those I would far rather hate, comes with an emotional price tag. I’m constantly reminded that Christ poured Himself out and died for this one — this lost and broken one in front of me. Just as the blood of Jesus covered over all my sins, it covers theirs too. They just don’t know Him yet.

Prison Fence

Serious Business

Jesus ends the parable by speaking to those who refuse to see Him in the face of the needy,

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”
Matthew 25:46

He recognizes those who are His by how they treat the least among them. The righteous cast an eternal focus. Temporary elevations of status from the who’s-who-crowd pale. “What’s in it for me?” never enters their mind.

Like my son’s classmates, loving the least became a daily overflow of living life together. They never viewed it as sacrifice to push a wheelchair through the mud instead of playing on the soccer field. They refused self-centered agendas and self-promoting values. Not one of them measured their actions in eternal rewards. They joyously spent their time serving the one among them.

The Challenge

May I challenge you today as God challenges me? Who is the one? Who is the least of these God desires you to feed, give a glass of water to, invite into your home, clothe, visit or care for?

“For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink
because of your name as followers of Christ,
truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.”
Mark 9:41

 

Brothers serving each other

Many will scamper to provide for a person of high profile; the one who holds power and authority. Jesus confronted the Pharisees for the way they publicized similar actions.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness
in front of others to be seen by them.
If you do, you will have no reward
from your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 6:1

Few people consistently care for the least of these. Be assured, if you do, no one will notice — no one should. No one will commend you for the unseen grace and mercy you offer.

In thirteen years together, I wonder how many unpublicized acts of kindness were demonstrated within my son’s classroom. Countless, I’m sure! They learned well the lessons that I struggle to master, touching the life of the one among them.

“Bravo!” Jesus declares to each of you, now grown and many grey-haired, “Well done! May you always remember the joy of serving the least.”