Imitating Others While Staying True to Yourself and Remaining Authentic!

Imitating others is a biblical principle  for effective discipleship. We must choose wisely who to follow, while staying authentic to ourselves. It’s not an easy task!

One spring day, while sitting at the piano practising drills, I became acutely aware the musical phrases were being echoed just outside my window. Perched among the blossoms of the flowering plumb, a small grey-feathered, non-descript, bird eyed me intently. Over the next five minutes, I tested his reciting ability, only to have this talented little mimic follow my lead precisely.

Mockingbird

For some reason I felt deeply saddened when he took flight and our musical conversation ended. Though excellent at imitating, I never did hear his song or appreciate his individual melody.

Authentic

We must first come to acknowledge our own God-given identity, nature and calling before we will effectively live it out. Without even realizing it, we can begin to imitate those around us and lose the essence of our uniqueness. In so doing, everyone misses out!

“If two people think the same thing
about everything, one of them isn’t necessary.”
Ben Carson

Peer pressure isn’t just something teenagers deal with! We all face it! The catchy clichés, snappy lyrics, and emotion grabbing images of advertising are aimed at capturing our attention and influencing our decisions. Peer pressure of sorts!

David sang,

“I praise you because
I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”
Psalm 139:14

There are no duplicates with God! No carbon copies of you! Why? Because God has a specific purpose in mind!

You alone can connect with others through your specific gifting, talents, perspectives, history, personality. Only you can bring your special combination of joy, compassion, and sensitivity to the people around you. God has given you an individualized ability to create, design, and solve problems. He has planted you specifically where you are to influence, encourage, and make a positive difference.

How  authentic are we willing to be? You totally being you! Me really being me!

Stand Alone

The little mockingbird has the capabilities to even imitate a cat, his fiercest and much larger enemy! This bird’s ability to imitate or “mock” other sounds, beyond its own song, is actually how it got its name.

For people, however, parroting the pattern of others can lead to problems.

Colourful parrot and boy

At one point Paul sharply confronts Peter for doing just that. Fear caused Peter to wronging imitate others!

“… I opposed (Peter) to his face,
because he stood condemned.
For before certain men came from James,
he used to eat with the Gentiles.
But when they arrived,
he began to draw back and separate himself
… because he was afraid
of those who belonged
to the circumcision group.”
Galatians 2:11-12

Fear and the need to belong can potentially draw us away from being true to ourselves and God’s purposes. Peter, by imitating others, caused many people to stumble spiritually!

“…they were not acting in line
with the truth of the gospel…”
Galatians 2:14

It takes strength to stand alone under pressure. This strength comes when we know who we are and to Whom we belong.

Direction

Living fully in the uniqueness of our identity in Christ sometimes calls for a change of direction. Many aspects of the world threaten to draw us into unfruitful conformity.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test
and approve what God’s will is
–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2

The “pattern of this world” is to create clones — in organized mass production — carbon copy reflections of the latest craze. The enemy of our souls delights in incarcerating us in his prison of conformity.

Father and son walking

Rather than align ourselves with the world’s pattern, we often need to disagree, disregard, ignore and even reject it. Powerful action is required to break free from the down-draft that threatens to deny the potential hidden within our unique identity in Christ.

“Don’t let your character change colour
with your environment.
Find who you are
and let it stay in its true colours.”
(Columbine Martyr, Rachel Joy Scott)

Be assured God does have a perfect colour, His “good, pleasing and perfect will”, for each of us! His design will be clearly seen as we turn from the world around us toward Him.

Follow Me

It isn’t surprising that Jesus invited people to follow. He called out to Peter and his brother Andrew,

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said,
“and I will send you out to fish for people.”
Matthew 4:19

That door of opportunity remains open! His words still resonate with anticipation! When He washed the disciples feet, He said,

“I have given you an example.
You should do as I have done for you.”
John 13:15

In following Christ’s example, we become imitators of Him and find our otherwise hidden purpose and meaning. Though there are similarities in us as Christ-followers, how we actually walk out our lives will vary when we stay true to ourselves.

Among other things, “follow me” includes:

  • Accepting Christ as Saviour and Lord (Matthew 16:24)
  • Becoming a servant of all (Matthew 25:28)
  • Forgiving others even as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Loving unconditionally (1 John 4:16)

To truly “be ourselves”, we must first be “like Christ!” Each of us is made in the image of God. Yet, each of us represents that image from a slightly different perspective. It is impossible to be fully you or fully me, without being like Him!

Imitating Others

Watching sons mimic their fathers and daughters reflect their mothers can be humorous, challenging and sobering. Wanting to emulate those we esteem is inherent in us all, Everyone desires to belong within a community.

Sailors - a son imitating a father

Paul boldly tells others,

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

In imitating others, wisdom will guide us to chose those who consistently pattern themselves after Christ!

That word “follow”, “Mimetai”, is the Greek word from which “mime” originates and means to imitate. Paul tells us to closely follow his living example to “the same degree and manner” that he is imitating Christ.

Take an honest look at those in the lead. Are they following Christ? Are they living in the fullness of God’s call in their personal lives?

“Those who say they live in God
should live their lives as Jesus did.”
1 John 2:6

Live Fully

May we find a way to both follow godly examples while faithfully leading those who are stepping into rhythm with our own footsteps.

Let faith move us to live authentically, refusing to settle for “average” or the status quo. May we be propelled to rise to the fullness of our God-given capabilities.

Perhaps, there is an artistic expression
only you can deliver.
Someone is waiting to hear the story
only you can tell.
You alone have the exact match
of audacity and patience,
fortitude and meekness,
gentleness and fierceness
that God needs right now,
right where you are at.

Make a splash! Humpback whale

So live boldly! Live graciously! Live for God’s glory and the benefit of others.

“Whatever you do, work heartily,
as for the Lord and not for men,”
Colossians 3:23

Let’s not be like the mockingbird; may the world be imprinted by the genuine mark of our lives. By following Christ and imitating others who walk closely with Him, let’s each discover our own unique “normal”.

 

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The Love of God! What More Do We Want?

The love of God is more than enough to satisfy the deepest longing and hunger of the human heart! A cry rises unabated within the church today for “more”. But what “more” do we want?

Is the Christian church of North America occupied by “spiritual” consumerism or is this plea for “more” birthed from a completely different source?

Giver or Taker

There is within every believer the competing agendas of giver and taker. Inherent personal needs demand to be satisfied; while godly desire delights to confer on others.

Peter and John came upon a lame beggar. His hand stretched toward them expecting support.

“Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have,
but what I do have I give you.
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
walk.”
Acts 3:6

Children giving

Peter offers him much more than an hand out! Grasping the man firmly, he offers a hand up!

Taking him by the hand,
he helped him up and
instantly the man’s feet and ankles
became strong.”
Acts 3:7

Offering money rather than messy love would have been easier! Tangibly reaching others is far more costly than parting with pocket coins. Love costs! Sometimes deeply!

This was but one cry among a multitude of other voices. Meeting this man’s unspoken need, God gave “more”.

A Different Cry

The cry among North American Christians contradicts the voice surging Godward from many other nations.

“We love You, Lord!” is the anthem heard in the developing world.  Whereas, the prayerful expression  in North America calls, “We want more, Lord!”

Enduring love

One day the unified voice from every nation, tribe and tongue will speak,

“And they sang a new song, saying:
You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood
you purchased for God persons
from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
Revelation 5:9

People from nations far and near lift a song of love and exaltation without contradiction before God’s throne!

I Love You

“Love” in the English language expresses multiple meanings!

  • “I love you, Grandma” might mean “I want another cookie”, or “take me to the park”.
  • “I love you” could be the manipulative voice from someone refusing the commitment of marriage but desiring the benefits.
  •  One might even feel the pressure to say “I love you” out of obligation.

Unfortunately, we use the same word, “love”, for ice cream, animals, and sunsets, as we do for the deepest, most intimate relationships. No wonder confusion exists!

Sacrificial love

Beyond a doubt, the one thing this world needs more of is love — genuine love that comes only from God!

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another,
for love comes from God.
Anyone who loves
is a child of God and knows God.

But anyone who does not love
does not know God, for God is love.
G
od showed how much he loved us
by sending his one and only Son into the world
so that we might have eternal life through him.

This is real love—not that we loved God,
but that he loved us
and sent his Son as a sacrifice
to take away our sins.
Dear friends, since God loved us that much,
we surely ought to love each other.”
1 John 4:7-11

John, “the beloved”, understood! Such knowledge left him crying, “More, Lord, more!”

Much Love

“Vines Expository Dictionary” explains the differences in the biblical Greek words for love.

In my Father's steps

“Agapao” describes the attitude of God toward His Son, humanity, and those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It also includes God’s desire concerning our attitude toward each other.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8

God and others are to be the primary recipients of this love that moves beyond impulse or feelings! This love runs contrary to natural inclinations — never self-seeking. Originating from God, it does not spend itself only upon those who will reciprocate.

“Agapao” love values, esteems and serves!

“Phileo” represents tender affection between Father God, His Son Jesus, and believers. “Phileo” specifically demonstrated a love Christ had for His disciple, John. This love displays friendship and affection.

“No, the Father himself loves you
because you have loved me
and have believed that I came from God.”
John 16:27

“Storge” used as part of a compound word with “phileo” refers mainly to the love between parents and their children.

“Be devoted to one another in love.
Honor one another above yourselves.”
Romans 12:10

River of Love

Neil Bigpond shares about a visit with his sick mother. “I love you,” were the first words she spoke to her son. Immediately, he affirmed his mutual love for her.

Strong to protect

“Nin-zo-de-tow-yoot,” she corrected, explaining the meaning of the Yuchi word for love:

“You are like a river that brings me life.
Without you I cannot exist!”

“Nin-zo-de-tow-yoot” far surpasses, “I love you”! The Yuchi perfectly capture the deep essence both of God’s love for us and also what He desires us to emulate.

God’s love flows like a river from the depth of His very nature — an unfailing spring, rich and deep, filled with mercy and grace! Without it, truly, we cannot exist!

“Anyone who believes in me
may come and drink!
For the Scriptures declare,
Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.'”
John 7:38

God fills us with his love empowering us to be

Spirit-filled,
water-giving,
love-spreading,
life-imparting
channels to others.

We gratefully immerse ourselves in the river of God’s love! Spiritual consumerism, however, has potential to warp such an extravagant flow of love when we want more from God than we are prepared to extend to others!

More Lord, More!

God’s river of love flows in unprecedented proportions in our day! All over the world, God is revealing Himself through supernatural encounters with “the Man in white”, dreams and vision, signs and wonder, healing and miracles!

Too easily we become captivated by the visible and miss the essential!

Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind and with all your strength…
Love your neighbour as yourself…”
Mark 12:30-31

Don’t get me wrong! God’s gracious outpouring upon this generation is humbling to say the least.

The rain is falling

But does the church cry for more displays of God’s power? Are we focusing on the power of God or on the God of power?

Or is there a genuine cry rising, “More Lord, more! May we be vessels of more love for You and others!”

Are we focused on God’s heart, or looking to what His hand will give? Hymn writer Francis Brook says it well,

“My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace,
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God…”

Has the church in the developed world developed an unhealthy craving for more? Or is she struggling to articulate a deep longing for more of the God we love?

No matter where we live, may we be drawn into the pure wonder — the amazing opportunity — to love God and others!

We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:19

“We love You, Lord! We want more!”

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Further Reading

Rivers of Living Water From Within – The Holy Spirit

 

Isaiah 49 – Displaying God’s Splendour

When everything else fades, God’s splendour shines brightest. God demonstrates His ability to clearly reveal Himself in every season of our lives, even the painful ones.

In these times, God’s presence is most evident. Even in the darkest, most lonely and broken times of personal trial and weakness, God’s splendour becomes visible.

His magnificence and grandeur,
patience and love,
wisdom and strength,
richness, glory and beauty
are clearly displayed through frailty.

As Christians, the lives we live are not for ourselves, but rather for Him and for others. 

Before Birth

“Listen to me, you islands;
hear this, you distant nations:
Before I was born the LORD called me;
from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.”
Isaiah 49:1

Before I saw, knew, reverenced or honoured God, long before disobedience, failure and rebellion entered the picture, God knew me and had a plan for my life — a good plan. The same is true for every single one of us. How can we define such watchful care, other than absolutely amazing?

God's plan for our life is always good!

My dual name came from both of my grandmothers: Mary and Ann. To carry their names is a true honour.

Grandma Mary’s stature didn’t reach five feet, but none dare challenge her! Familiar with hard times, she raised her family, managed a farm, wore a wide smile, and always found room at her table for others in spite of her own need.

Grandma Ann passed away from cancer far too young. Her siblings told me about her hard work ethic, devotion to God, perseverance, tenacity, and deep love for others. 

My parents were determined that I carry both names equally, foregoing any need for a middle name. I am thankful! In some ways, my name has been prophetic! “Mary” means “bitter”; “Ann” means “grace”.

Like most other people, I have seen hardship that could have easily turned into bitterness. Yet my life continues to be marked with God’s passionate grace.

In fact, God’s grace is having the final say in multiple ways. I am but one small example.

Be assured! God has spoken your name just as clearly as Isaiah’s. He writes His “grace” over every portion of your life as well.

A Sharpened Sword for His Splendour

“He made my mouth like a sharpened sword…”
Isaiah 49:2

Have you ever watched a blade being sharpened? It takes something abrasive to sharpen a good knife, axe, or sword. A sharp edge makes these tools suitable for their task. Many times I have witnessed a blade edge being placed against the grinding wheel. A blaze of flashing hot sparks fly as rough edges become smooth.

A mouth like a sharpened sword.

The painful seasons, we all wish to avoid, sharpen us for greater purposes. God uses the struggling, “how much longer”, barely enduring times to prepare us. Here hearts change! On the other side of these difficulties, proclamation of His goodness rises. In brokenness and surrender, we look up discovering God is present.

“…in the shadow of His hand He hid me.”

The darkest shadow is always the closest to any object. When it seems God is the farthest away, the opposite is actually true. “In the shadow”, we find unparalleled revelation of His glory. “In the shadow”, God demonstrates how closely His hand covers and protects.

Hidden “in the shadow” of His mighty hand fears dissipate and insecurities melt away. “In the shadow” is safety! God is present “in the shadow” — intimately present!

A Polished Arrow

As children, my older brother and I would fashion our own bows and arrows from fresh cut willow sticks and remnants of used baler twine. Nothing high calibre in our childhood play!

God does things differently!

A polished arrow!

God calls us His arrows. He makes us with precision, taking time to design each one of us from His best stalk! The perfect feathers with the finest point! When He has formed us to perfection, He conceals us!

What? Conceal us?

“…he made me into a polished arrow
and concealed me in his quiver.”
Isaiah 49:2

You would think after all His hard work He would be ready to show us off, put us into action, launch us into ministry, or in some way display His immaculate workmanship. Nope!

Now perfectly ready, He puts us into His quiver. It is God, our Maker, who determines when He will take us out, how He will set us in the bow, what direction He will send us, and the distance He will propel us.

It is our responsibility to rest, waiting patiently for His timing and direction.

A Servant for His Splendour

Quiver waiting isn’t idle! Quiver waiters serve in the midst of waiting.

“A single day in your courts is better
than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper
in the house of my God
than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.”
Psalm 84:10

It is better to be a gatekeeper!

David, the author of this psalm, caught the vision! He lived many places during his lifetime: in the tent of his father, on the countryside among sheep, in caves running from the enemy, on the battlefield, and in a king’s palace. Yet he said, “The best place of all is with God, serving Him and His people.”

Why? So God gets the glory — the splendour!

In our simplest offering of service, whatever that is, others must see the greatness, glory and splendour of our God. If people only see us, we are blocking their view of the Magnificent One!

“He said to me,
“You are my servant, Israel,
in whom I will display my splendour.”
Isaiah 49:3

In our weakness, He shows His strength. Out of our poverty flows His abundance. In our brokenness, His tender compassion rises. God reveals His greatness in our littleness. As we willingly surrender to His call, God displays His splendour and majesty, glory and beauty, magnificence and brilliance.

“I pray you learn to know and trust your God now.
Say “God I am willing that You should make me willing.” 
If there is anything holding you back,
or any sacrifice you are afraid of making,
come to God now, and prove how gracious your God is.”
– Andrew Murray

Surrender doesn’t come naturally! Yielded in the hand of the Author of life, surrendered to His movement, defies stubborn self-will. 

“Lord, I am willing, make me willing!” 

For God’s Splendour

As we recognize God’s watch over our lives from eternity past to eternity future, we can come to no other conclusion than He is good. Each one of our lives truly is marked by His grace.

Grace has the final word!

It is better to be a gatekeeper!

As we focus on God and surrender to His will and ways, we begin to demonstrate His power to use our little for His glory revealing His splendour to those around us.

We each have a story uniquely written. Humbly and willingly share yours at every opportunity. Let us live to display His splendour!

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Further Reading:

Fireflies and Lightning Bugs – Let Your Light Shine!

Give Praise to the Lord, Proclaim His Name

 

 

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Persistence and Tenacity, Qualities Necessary for Excellence

Persistence and tenacity sprout from the soil of adversity. Like mighty trees of strength, they are qualities dominating the landscape of excellence!

There is built into each of us the desire to pursue — to rise! How can we join the ranks of those who refuse to live below full potential?

God often uses natural elements to teach me spiritual truths, like modern day parables. Here is one!

The snow banks stubbornly staking claim in my yard dispute the fact that spring is soon upon us. I, like many other garden enjoying people, anticipate its arrival! Beneath the snow, dormant but waiting, diversity of colour prepares to burst forth transforming the bland landscape.

Winter

With it will be a few surprises!

Surprises!

When we moved into our home, the yard was surrounded by immaculately cut hedges. Unsurprising, immaculate is a contradiction to my nature!

As soon as possible, more natural landscape replaced the pristine conventional look. Flowing substituted fixed, as a variety of shrubs, trees and flowers took root.

Not long after the sod was turned, “it” appeared! One day only well positioned healthy shrubs, flowers and greenery were visible. The next day, “it” was there!

“It” sprung forth in domineering fashion staking claim where it had no claim. “Its” roots descending beyond the depth of sight or shovel, determined and invasive. 

Weeds in the garden

Resistant to my effort, “it” refused to yield or die. “It” is a weed. “It” waits for spring, too! Hopefully, this time I’m ready!

Questions?

Frustrated with “its” reappearance, I sat upon the ground questioning God how to possibly rid my yard of such torment. I sensed within me His voice say, “Persistence and tenacity!”

“I walked by the field of a lazy person,
the vineyard of one with no common sense.
I saw that it was overgrown with nettles.
It was covered with weeds,
and its walls were broken down.
Then, as I looked and thought about it,
I learned this lesson:
A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”
Proverbs 24:30-34

Goats in the garden

I instantly knew that now the conversation had uncomfortably switched from the garden to my heart. “It” breeds in multiples here too — invasive and dominating! God invited, “Look and give thought!”

As soon as I try to take a step forward rising in excellence for God’s kingdom some otherwise hidden “root” will instantly show “its” burly face,

laughing at my intention,
scorning my effort,
tripping any progress,
devaluing my worth.

“Its” roots go deep to Adam’s fatal fall. Though I work and pray to remove “it”, these remnants of fallen nature spring forth, attempting to diminish my progress.

Raising the bar of excellence starts with getting off the ground and doing whatever it takes to achieve what God has called me to. Some days that is harder than others!

Weeds

Jesus told a parable about the sower faithfully sowing seed. Some fell along a path, others on rocky land, still others among the weeds. The only seed that produced in abundance landed in good soil.

“Other seed fell among thorns,
which grew up and choked the plants!”
Matthew 13:7

This Greek word “epnixan” means to “choke or throttle!” It describes the effective cutting off of the air ways, killing by suffocation.

Tangled vine

Sounds a lot like the “it” in my garden and my heart! Those who listened to Jesus knew about weeds! They too had things in their lives that were cutting off and strangling, the breath of life God gives.

There is good news, however! As soon as they present their crippling heads to the light, weeds can be eradicated!

The cross of Christ overcomes every “it” — all sin and failure. With persistence and tenacity, we bring each pernicious thought, attitude and action before Him. Cooperating with Christ, we roll up our sleeves committing ourselves to digging until every root is exposed and disposed of.

Persistence

Many would say that persistence and tenacity are synonymous. Not true!

Persistence is that ability to take a stand, going on resolutely in spite of opposition. Persistence maintains consistency of character and purpose while pushing away every obstacle.

No wonder God nudged me with that little admonition. If I am going to win at uprooting the negative in my life and reaching for excellence, persistence is needed.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us.”
Hebrews 12:1,2

Weed or flower?

Many things can hinder excellence from characterizing our life, disrupting growth, or limit reaching our God given destiny. It takes perseverance to ceaselessly dig up every “it” growing invasively in our lives.

Even small things are capable of producing great damage! Everything that potentially entangles our progress must by God’s grace be dug out!

Tenacity

But how is tenacity different? Tenacity simply means “not easily pulled apart.” It is the glue, the stick to it ability, either to something or someone.

Have you ever walked through a patch of burrs? Then you have experienced tenacity! A little burr knows how to stick, refusing to leave its place of attachment.

After Jesus taught a particularly difficult concept, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” When the going got tough, those who lacked tenacity got going, but in the wrong direction!

“You do not want to leave too, do you?”
Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him,
“Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and to know that you are
the Holy One of God.”
John 6:67-68

Right answer, Peter!

Peter possesses tenacity, sticking like glue to Jesus! Why? He had “come to believe” that Jesus really was “the Holy One of God”. Peter stuck to God and his faith! He wasn’t about to switch allegiance mid stride.

Unlimited possibility and opportunity for excellence awaits those who tenaciously stick like glue to Jesus.

“For I can do everything
through Christ,
who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:13

Winning Team!

Persistence and tenacity! Persistence pushes against opposition! Tenacity holds to what is valuable! We need wisdom to know when each is needed.

Do you possess far-reaching goals? Are you aiming for excellence? Don’t expect a “quick fix” or an easy come scenario!

Tug-O-War

Whether your goal is an enduring marriage a thriving business or a vibrant ministry, persistence and tenacity will assist in achieving that outcome. Whether something grand or simply living each day well, these qualities form the path of success.

On the ground is where I was when God whispered these words into my heart. Getting up is always the first step to excellence!

Together, let’s get off the ground and start digging again?

It is encouraging when people stop and comment on the beauty or productivity of our little garden. Sometimes people even comment on changes they have noticed in my life! Whether outside in my garden or inside in my heart, there is a reward for persistence and tenacity.

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Laughter is Good Like a Medicine! It is Time to Laugh!

Solomon, the wisest man who lived, said laughter is good. Just as good as medicine! Tell that to the 1150 billion dollar pharmaceutical industry! Perhaps with a little more chuckling, those figures might drop!

Let’s face it, the cares of this world easily rob us of joy.

“A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.”
Ecclesiastes 3:4

Laughter is contagious! Few can hold back a smile when deep, belly laughter erupts. I’m not talking about the kind that is serrated with sarcasm, barbed with ridicule, or is a satirical stab. Just that free unrestrained joy in the present.

It is Good!

Let’s look at the “good” hidden in this joyful behaviour.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”
Proverbs 17:22

Laughter is like medicine

“Medicine” means “a healing and cure“. Several studies declare a cheerful attitude can improve the outcome of even the most serious illness.

One commentary says laughter makes good recovery!”  I like that! Even when ailments inflict, a good recovery sounds promising! If a “good recovery” includes healthier hearts, relaxed bodies, and boosted immune systems, then laughter delivers.

Believe it or not, joy is a personal choice — a way of “recovering”. Choosing joy creates a perspective that can make a big difference.

A few years ago, a difficult swirl threatened to engulf me. Every morning God encouraged “Choose joy!” So each day before my feet hit the floor, I agreed with God’s view and aligned my thinking.

That decision prevented the dysfunctional atmosphere from drowning me emotionally.  Joy kept strength from being “sapped”!  To “sap” here means “to be ashamed, confused, disappointed, to dry up, and wither.” 

Was it easy? Certainly not!

Was it possible? By God’s grace, yes!

It is Godly

Do you know that God laughs? Discovering God’s response to situations will change our own view of things.

“The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.”
Psalm 37:12-13

We have an enemy intentionally stealing, killing and destroying everything he can. He specifically targets our joy!

Laugh! I am!

Recently, I was feeling the intensity of an onslaught.  Problems of all sorts were hitting hard: physically, financially, relationally and spiritually. The enemy’s thrusts worked overtime in the lives of those I love and are close to.

During prayer, I felt God prompt, “Why don’t you laugh? I am!”

So I did! First strained and loudly! Then authentic laughter rolled naturally from some deep recess.

First, it was an act of obedience. Then I remembered I have a lot to laugh about. The enemy is still “gnashing his teeth” at us, but he was

crushed at the cross,
defeated on resurrection morning,
rendered powerless by the blood,
and sentenced to destruction.

Laughter is good! It reminds me the enemy’s “day is coming” when God brings justice. It produces alignment with God’s attitude, in some way bringing heaven’s glory to earth.

A time to laugh!

Strength

In Nehemiah’s day, the exiles returned after a long banishment to reestablish their homes. Under Ezra’s instruction,

“They read from the Book of the Law of God,
making it clear and giving the meaning
so that the people understood
what was being read.”
Nehemiah 8:8

The grief stricken people realized that disobedience to God brought about their captivity.

Mourning sounds logical to me! Countless times, I’ve been on my face distressed over the contradiction between my attitudes, words or conduct and God’s holiness. Reading “the book” puts things into perspective!

Joy in the Lord is strength

Nehemiah says something surprising under the circumstances,

“…This day is holy to our Lord.
Do not grieve,
for the joy of the LORD
is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10b

Sometimes we need encouragement to move from grief to joy, sorrow to gladness, or wailing to laughing. When they felt like grieving, Nehemiah reminded them, “Laughter is good!”

This word “strength” means “a place of safety and protection.”  It pictures standing on a solid rock, protected within a fortress, or secure in a strong defense.

A sports motto states, “The strongest offense is a powerful defense.”

God affirms that laughter implements both offensive and defensive action against Satan’s attacks.

Laughter is good! It creates a synergy between heaven and earth. Laughing at the enemy, no matter what his ploy, reminds me that God remains in control.

Laughing at Myself

I don’t purposely do incredibly foolish things! They spontaneously occur naturally and often! Laughter seems only logical in this moments.

A solid sense of self-worth releases me to laugh at my blunders and make light of my forgetfulness. Whether I have a particularly good day or not, my value securely resides with God alone.

Second, I demonstrate grace in even my ungraceful moments. I’m not what I used to be, but I sure haven’t arrived. Allowing myself time to laugh at my shortcomings liberates me to get up and try again.

Third, deliberately create time to laugh. It takes less energy to smile than to frown, I’m told.

Laugh together

Fourth, laugh at life! My father taught me well how to laugh during times of stress and pressure. He possessed an incredible ability to find a pool of joy in an ocean of despair.

Fifth, laugh at the past! I’m “getting long in the tooth”! Or in other words, I have more life behind me than ahead. Many situations threatened to crush me forever. By God’s grace, they served to refine me instead and in many ways make me stronger. Now, I smile in remembrance of those once painful times.

Life’s Journey

Pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem for the Jewish festivals sang the Songs of Ascent, Psalm 120-134. The priests also repeated them as they ascended the steps to the temple. One song declared at each step forward and upward.

Joy resonates throughout these psalms.

“I rejoiced with those who said to me,
Let us go to the house of the Lord.'”
Psalm 122:1

Songs triumphantly raised in praise to a God so faithful!

“We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Psalm 124:7-8

Laugh throughout life

Listen to this declaration of praise and rejoicing!

“When the LORD restored
the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
P
salm 126:1,2

And hear the promise!

I will bless her with abundant provisions;
her poor I will satisfy with food.
I will clothe her priests with salvation,
and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.”
Psalm 132:15-16

If the pilgrims going to the temple praised God with rejoicing, perhaps I should take time to laugh as I journey through life’s course. If the priests sang praise while entering God’s presence, I’m thinking the same is important as I approach our Awesome God.

Laugh often!
https://www.facebook.com/glimpsesofgloryphotos

Have you captured the importance yet? Let’s all make today a time to laugh!

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Making the Impossible Possible – Clarity, Courage, and Committment

The rugged path between impossible and possible is navigated through clarity, courage and commitment. Each quality is essential!

Our hot water heater sprung a serious leak. Four days without hot water is a minor inconvenience. However, when outside temperature dips to -40°, a steaming hot bath before bedtime is a luxury I appreciated.

Representatives from two companies estimated the cost of replacing our near prehistoric heater. The first young man came, looked at the situation, and in less than one minute announced, “It can’t be done!” The second young men came, checked inside, outside, upside, downside, around the side, and over another side, before confirming, “Yea! No problem!” 

What made the difference? Both men were presented the same problem; both were experts in their trade. “Impossible” to one perhaps meant, “too much trouble!” “Possible” from the other displayed a willingness to overcome any obstacles.

Overcome

Challenge

A Chinese Proverb says, 

The person who says it cannot be done,
should not interrupt the person doing.”

Many vivid accounts of men and women who overcame impossible obstacles are written within the bible.

I think of Caleb one of 12 leaders Moses sent to spy out the promised land. “It can’t be done!” ten declared! Forty-five years later while the ten nay-sayers were cold in their desert graves, Caleb continued to believe, “With God’s help, I can“.

“So here I am today, eighty-five years old!
I am still as strong today
as the day Moses sent me out;
I’m just as vigorous to go out
to battle now as I was then.
Now give me this hill country
that the LORD promised me that day.”
Joshua 14:10-11

Caleb remained willing to face the challenge head-on! Ominous giants could not prevent him from possessing God’s promise.

Mountain

We all have “hill country”, an impossibility larger than personal ability. The nature of the obstacle is unimportant!

The way up!

A job promotion or demotion,
a dream delayed or one in the making,
managing financial abundance or
facing bankruptcy.

Problems can be polar opposites! Glass ceilings waiting to be broken, fragile mirages before omnipotent God! 

Sheri Fink reminded me recently clarity, courage and commitment are three essential ingredients necessary to accomplish victory. My past failures consistently resulted from a deficiency in at least one of these areas.

Nay-sayers and critics abound in every generation. “It can’t be done,” the noisy entourage gloats! Jeering relentlessly as the brave press against an impossible situation! Caleb’s resistance came from his own “tribe”. Our greatest detractors may be those who are the nearest to our hearts.  

For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
    then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
    then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
Psalm 55:12-13

Mockers, with potential to stop us, ascend from the ranks of both friend and foe. 

Clarity

Clarity is “being certain or definite“. To an artist clarity means “sharpness to the image or sound”. Clarity for the Christian comes from knowing God’s intention, hearing His voice, and perceiving His direction. 

Impossible to possible

The wise ask, “What is God saying?”

It would be foolish for Caleb to face the military prowess of mighty mountain defenders without God’s direction.  

“I brought him back a report
according to my convictions
I followed the LORD my God
wholeheartedly.”
Joshua 14:7

There is a palpable difference between truth and conviction — between fact and faith! That veritable mountain we face is insurmountable without God!

Every person who stumbled in the bible, from Eve forward, doubted God. Each questioned and reasoned until faith dissolved into fragile unbelief before the very thing God meant them to overcome.

Clarity, genuine unshakeable clarity, is to know the presence, power and word of God for our specific situation.  Without clarity one will effortlessly fall into rhythm behind the fear mongers. Without clarity conquerors become quitters

The enemy’s devious voice still echoes, “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1) 

Caleb set his face like flint!  His resolute conviction slapped the Deceiver up the side of the head! He knew,

“…Humanly speaking, it is impossible.
But with God everything is possible.”
Matthew 19:26

Everything is possible

Courage

Courage separated Caleb and the masses!

“But my fellow Israelites
who went up with me made the hearts
of the people melt in fear.” 
Joshua 14:8

A few fear-filled words turned believers into doubters, the brave into cowards! “Be careful little tongue what you say,” is more than a children’s chorus. Words carry the potential to destroy like wrecking balls or form building blocks!

“We can’t … they are too strongpowerful … cities are fortified and very large … Anakites, Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Canaanites”. Panic raced through the entire camp causing hearts to faint and knees to tremble.

Two brave men courageously stood in the gap,

“We should go up
and take possession of the land,
for we can certainly do it.”
Numbers 13:30

It takes courage to “go up!” Only the brave will “take possession!” Courage affirms, “we can!”

Such courage germinates in the knowledge of God’s abiding presence. It flourishes in the shadow of the One who promises to never leave nor forsake us.

Every overcomer rises above fear to “go up” in faith!

Commitment

I heard a story of a runner who intently prepared, conditioning body and mind, to run a marathon. He trained on a 26 mile course. After passing the 25 mile marker during his first marathon, he increased his pace pushing toward the finish line. The official length of a marathon is actually 26.2 miles. Miscalculating the distance, he started the sprint too soon and collapsed unconscious at the finish line. He was unprepared for the last .2 miles! 

Distance matters! It takes the tenacity of a marathon runner to face the impossible! It requires commitment to finish well!

“So on that day Moses swore to me,
‘the land on which your feet have walked
will be your inheritance
and that of your children forever,
because you have followed the LORD
my God wholeheartedly.'”
Joshua 14:9

Even though Caleb heard the clear word from God through Moses, it still took commitment to claim his promise. His entire generation died in the wilderness. Were there times of doubt in the desert?

Commitment

Caleb endured seemingly endless wandering in the wasteland, survived plagues, judgements and wars.  Yet, the promise echoed in his heart as clearly as the day it was spoken. 

Caleb refused to quit before he conquered! 

“Now then, just as the LORD promised,
he has kept me alive for forty-five years…”
Joshua 14:10

Forty five years of trusting, waiting, training, and persevering. Forty five years of commitment to God who is faithful. Caleb looked to the finish line; he ran the distance.

Take Your Mountain!

With Caleb as our example, let’s remember God is bigger, stronger, and greater than any mountain standing in our way! 

May we choose to fix our eyes on Jesus! Acknowledge that “great crowd of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) cheering us on! Seeking the clarity needed from the Word of God, may we each take courage in His Presence, with commitment to conquer.

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus.
Everything is possible
for one who believes.”
Mark 9:23

Whether the mountain is a difficult obstruction or a dream unfulfilled, let’s go for it! How many new songs will be song, books published, and missions accomplished if we do? God is ready to partner with you in your impossible, creating a place for Him to receive glory?

Don’t quit! Conquer! Turn the impossible into possible!

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Further Reading:

Second is Better Than First! When Second is Best!

Tamar, Contending for Her Inheritance! A Woman Who Would Not be Denied!

Meet a contender wrestling with cultural inequality to secure her inheritance. Tamar would not be denied life, dignity and destiny.

Tamar is the first woman listed in the genealogical record of Jesus the Messiah. What merited Matthew’s inclusion of this incredible woman?

God intends for man to take his place as defender, protector and provider of his household, walking faithfully before Him. What happens when men stumble and lose their way? When deliberate choices to abandon personal identity, home and family invade, then what?

Choices

Judah

Genesis 38 begins with the words, “at that time

What time is “that time”?

“At that time” when Judah was involved in a jealous conspiracy to kill his own brother, eventually selling him into slavery. It was “that time” when lies couldn’t conceal sin or soothe a father’s grief. “At that time” when guilt haunted and self condemnation screamed.

“At that time,
Judah left his brothers
and went down to stay…”
Genesis 38:1

Little words containing enormous ramifications! Judah “left”Running away from his family, he hoped to escape himself. He “went down” the well-travelled road ultimately leading to dead ends.

Boundary crossed

Judah withdrew from more than his family, however. He crossed God’s boundary line of protection by marrying a Canaanite woman.

Together their marriage produced three sons: Er, Onan, and Selah.

Tamar

Tamar enters the picture as the wife chosen for Er.  Er was wicked in the LORD’s sight“, so wicked God put him to death. (38:7). Are there any willing volunteers  to take Tamar’s place? Instead of the fulfillment of a little girl’s dream of happy marriage, Tamar found herself in a painful nightmare.

Judah instructs his second son to fulfill the Levirate marriage requirement to ensure the continuation of his brother’s family line and protection of his widow. Onan also was “wicked” (38:10). He was all too happy to use Tamar for his own sexual pleasure while refusing to fulfill any obligation to her, his family or God.

Stubbornly refusing to face his own sinful heart or the blatant wickedness of his sons, Judah casts all blame toward Tamar.

Sin is never “private”! It’s twisted deception infects and affects everyone! 

Live as a widow
in your father’s household
until my son Shelah grows up.”
Genesis 38:11

Unknown path

An hollow empty promise, to be sure! With a word, Judah cut Tamar from her inheritance pushing her out of his sight — a widow, childless and vulnerable.

Her story unfolds like a soap opera! Tamar waits! Years pass! Still she waits.

Tamar means date palm, the ultimate symbol of life and productivity. Her confinement concealed the true destiny and calling within her name! Would she settle as castaway? Would she bare the burden of another’s sins in powerless obscurity?

Life

How long the wait was, we are uncertain. The bible simply says,

After a long time,
Judah’s wife … died.
When Judah had recovered from his grief,
he went to Timnah…” 
Genesis 38:12

Judah too had experienced great loss; no one dare minimize his anguish and grief. However, he gave himself permission to “recover from his grief.” 

His daughter-in-law was granted no such grace!

Because of Judah’s unwillingness to give his youngest son Shelah to Tamar, he alone could fulfill the Levirate Law.  With courage and boldness, Tamar veils herself and waits by the road, risking all to defend her family rights.

“When Judah saw her,
he thought she was a prostitute,
for she had covered her face.
Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law,
he went over to her by the roadside and said,
come now, let me sleep with you.”
Genesis 38: 15-16

One black sheep

Judah’s journey took him further than he ever thought possible! The cost was incalculable! 

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go,
keep you longer than you want to stay,
and cost you more than you want to pay.”
R. Zaccharias

This account of Judah is nestled within Joseph’s larger story.  A young goat’s blood was given to convince his father of Joseph’s staged death. Now Judah reaches into the flock a second time to mask another dark deception.

The Pledge

Judah promises a goat as payment for her services — a payment woefully lacking! Not searching to satisfy lust or fleshly desire, nor seeking revenge for gross injustice and mistreatment, she asks only for what is due her.

Boldly she claims her inheritance!

“What pledge should I give you?”
“Your seal and its cord,
and the staff in your hand,” she answered.
So he gave them to her…”
Genesis 38:18

The seal was a symbol of a man’s identity marking his personal worth, while the attached cord symbolized the binding of two things together. The staff in Judah’s hand was far more than a walking stick! It was an emblem of his authority, like a royal sceptre. It was probably hand carved; the length carefully etched with the names of his ancestry.

Staff of authority

Yet Judah willingly placed everything into the hands of an “unknown” woman! For one moment of sexual pleasure, he yielded his identity, authority and generational inheritance. Astonishing! 

Judah later sent his friend with the goat to pay the woman and retrieve his pledge. Unable to find her, his friend returns empty-handed.

Let her keep what she has,
or we will become a laughingstock.”
Genesis 38:23

“Let her keep what she has?” Judah flippantly disregards the value of what has been lost. Nonetheless, words prophetically spoken.

Tamar’s Honour

Tamar became pregnant in the encounter. The life growing within her forming the connecting link between Abraham and Jesus. The promise protected in her womb outweighed any treasure in her hand!

“The “widow” is pregnant!”

Years of suppressed resentment and anger burst forth from Judah with hot volcanic force,

Bring her out
and have her burned to death.”
Genesis 38:24

What could satiate a man’s tormented mind and heart? Public disgrace? Cruel aggression? Murder?

The flames of anger

Tamar’s godliness shines through in polar opposite,

“As she was being brought out,
she sent a message to her father-in-law,
“I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said … 
“See if you recognize whose
seal and cord and staff these are.”
Genesis 38:25

Tamar’s strength of character and honour toward a man unworthy of such kindness overcomes. No public accusation of his failure! No shaming the guilty or demanding justice! Tamar privately presents the evidence and leaves the result to God.

Destiny Secured

Judah is humbled by Tamar’s integrity, wisdom, and bravery.

“…She is more righteous than I…”
Genesis 38:26

Within her, Tamar carried a double portion — two sons! One of them, Perez, would carry the DNA of his courageous mother who refused to forfeit her destiny. The DNA of a woman worthy of inclusion in the bloodline of the Messiah!

Tamar spurned the victim’s stool! She disdained the wicked example of those around her. By living above reproach she saw fulfillment of her destiny. Without compromise, she humbly followed the God others openly rejected.

Her reward? Her name forever written in God’s record of great women

Tamar's inheritance

Tamar modelled godliness in ungodly circumstances. Will her example of contending for inheritance be duplicated in our day? Who among us will choose integrity and honour in the face of injustice? Who will lay claim to the spiritual blessing available for this and future generations?  

Is there anyone who will stand against the cultural currents bringing Christ to the world today?  

Tamar presents a challenge worth considering!

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Move Out the Old! Make Room for the New!

This year God is challenging me to move out the old and make room for the new. That means change! Even though I tend to be flexible and open to change, I like to know what change is coming.

My husband is a fully certified “keeper” of all things that may at some point be useful for any unforeseen circumstances. He is a “fixer” — and an excellent one at that! I, on the other hand, am a “thrower”. I resist clutter with a fervency. If something isn’t serving a useful purpose, I am quick to give it away to someone who will make good use of it. We have learned the benefit of “keepers” and “throwers”.

“You will still be eating last year’s harvest
when you will have to move it out
to make room for the new.”
Leviticus 26:10

 

Did you ever try to take food from a toddler? Be prepared! What a child lacks in size they certainly make up for in resistance.

Honestly, I feel the same way when I have to part with something I am enjoying!

Still Eating

It is the “you will still be eating” part that has me a little nervous. The “new” at the end of the verse sounds perfect, but what will I have to give up before actually seeing and holding the new?

“You will still be eating” implies the blessing of God in the preceding harvest was substantial. A harvest that was valued and appreciated!  However, “still eating” also means I’m not yet satisfied, full or content with that proceeding blessing.

Inwardly I groan, “Not yet! Wait until I’m full! Don’t bring change now! All is good!”

But it also bids me to ask,

“What blessings am I hanging on to?
What am I afraid to let go of?
Where is my grip too tight?”

Before every new harvest, storage bins receive a thoroughly cleaning. Any remnant of last years harvest is removed, eliminating any opportunity for the old to contaminate the new.

Jesus gave a similar illustration:

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth
on an old garment,
for the patch will pull away
from the garment,
making the tear worse.

Neither do people pour
new wine into old wineskins.
If they do, the skins will burst;
the wine will run out and
the wineskins will be ruined.
No, they pour new wine into new wineskins,
and both are preserved.”
Matthew 9:16-17

You Have To

“You have to” doesn’t exactly sound favorable either. Give me choice!, Show me the options allowing time to weigh and assess benefits. I can adjust with that! Add the words “you have to” and the dynamic changes!

What makes change so difficult?  Here are my top five reasons for resisting change:

  • Change is awkward! More of my life than I care to admit is lived by learned behaviour! Adjusting to something new takes time and patience.
  • Change costs! Want an example? My old computer stopped working; the new replacement has added features but was expensive. Change often carries an unseen price tag — sometimes financially, maybe relationally, or even emotionally.
  • Change is a process! It is the undetermined span between the now and then, the here and there, that requires effort and time. This unknown discourages movement.

  • Change awakens fear! What if it doesn’t work? Will it be worth it? What will people think?
  • Change requires confidence and trust! When the change isn’t my choice, I need to have a deep trust of the one asking me to change. I need to know my best interest is considered or there is a higher goal or purpose for change.

Some things I will gladly let go of, however. The sooner poor habits, destructive thought patterns, or nagging fear exit my life the more content I’ll be.

Thankfully God attached a promise with the “have to”; it includes “make room for the new.

Make Room

I am an expert at making room! We had five boys in just over eight years in a relatively small three bedroom home. Making room for one more created a welcome challenge.

Now with family grown, we have downsized into a much smaller home. Over the years, I have become proficient at making the best use of even the smallest spaces.

The changes necessary to make room for others includes far more that external space

to broader dimensions of love,
devotion, care, provision,
to sharing and giving,
preferring and protecting.

Just like I am unsure of what I may have to let go of, I am equally unsure of what God is asking me to make room for. These unanswered questions create tension, an uneasiness, that only faith in God can resolve.

The New

Not every harvest is prime quality or quantity on the Canadian prairies. There can be infestations of disease or pests, adverse weather like drought or hail, and any number of other issues that significantly affect the new crop. As a matter of fact, there is no guarantee the new crop will even be realized!

Yet, God promises us new!

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19

It is virtually impossible to forget the “former things” when the flavour is fresh in your mouth. However, there will be no appreciation for the new unless we willingly release the old.

Being a seasoned veteran at “letting go”, Corrie Ten Boom offers us solid advice,

” Hold everything in your hands lightly,
otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”

Perhaps the reason change becomes increasingly difficult is previous experiences with both positive and questionable changes. Such resistance to letting go of something firmly possessed for something not yet visible is understandable.

Faithful

With confidence I step into God’s promise purposefully laying aside fear and comfort. Why? The One who promised is faithful!

If God is asking me to let go of the old,
if He is saying in no uncertain terms,
“you have to”,
I know He has a greater plan
than I can presently see.

I trust Him and His word! Not blindly, but fully!

Faith is never blind! Though I cannot see what the future holds, I see clearly the God who holds my future. He never fails in His promise.

“For all the promises of God
find their Yes in him.
That is why it is through him
that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
2 Corinthians 1:20

Laying aside yesterday’s blessings, yesterday’s provision and yesterday’s anointing is for the sole purpose of taking hold of today’s increased blessing. I will never fully realize God’s best while stubbornly holding on to yesterday’s good.

So I am prepared “to move out” all that is necessary “to make room” for what is ahead!

It sounds like work! But I’ll let you know how God works it out!

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The First and Greatest! Keeping First Things First!


It is easy to lose focus of what deserves first and greatest recognition. The incessant pressures of life demand much of our time and our full attention. Keeping first things first takes effort! No matter what our circumstance, juggling these pressures will remain a constant struggle.

My father often admonished, “Don’t put the cart before the horse!” He was encouraging me to keep first things first. With wisdom, he gently reminded me that priorities matter. Due to the frequency of his comment, I obviously needed a consistent reminder.

 

 

Don't put the cart before the horse!

 

Unfortunately I have often forgotten! Whatever I put first gives movement and power to what follows. In keeping with my father’s analogy, a cart is virtually useless without something pulling it.

The First and Greatest

Ask a dozen people what the first or greatest priority should be and one may very well receive a dozen different opinions. An “expert in the law” approached Jesus with the question,

“Teacher, which is
the greatest commandment in the Law?” 
Matthew 22:36

Every Hebrew listener, including this legal authority, prepared to hear Jesus recite the first commandment in the law, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) Unfortunately, his driving motivation was to test Jesus rather than to seek wisdom! Jesus used the Pharisee’s twisted intentions to teach.

Jesus replied:
“‘Love the Lord your God
with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.”
Matthew 22:37-38

Jesus reminded His listeners “loving God is the greatest!” It is beyond all else, the greatest in size and extent, in weight and importance, and in price or cost. But don’t miss it! It is not only the greatest, it also must first!

Only when the greatest occupies first place will the second commandment of loving others hold any value. Without loving God, loving others becomes impossible.

First

The bible is a love story. It begins in Genesis with a wedding in an immaculate garden, purposely positioned on planet earth, divinely placed in an harmoniously ordered universal. Why? To live, not only in love with each other, but to receive from and reciprocate love with God. God made it all for love! He did it all out of love! All of creation was because of love

 

When mankind sinned allowing separation between themselves and their greatest Lover, God already had a plan. In love He would offer His only Son, Jesus, as a perfect sacrifice for sin to regain relationship with humanity.

The bible also ends with a glorious wedding — the wedding of the bride, the church, and her Bridegroom, Jesus. Relationship eternally restored!

Marriage paints earth’s greatest image of loving intimacy. However, it is only a reflection of the love the Father has for us, his children. The love the Son has for His bride, the church, is insurmountably great! Nothing else supersedes the love of God! Nothing!

The only fitting response is to love Him in return. Not out of obedience to a required law, but because our hearts are etched permanently by His love and we can nothing else.

The Second

Recently, I was feeling emotionally and physically drained. Out of love for others, I was giving myself to family, ministry, and work. However, the once satisfying rhythm of my life seemed no longer fulfilling.

Off course!

I asked God to show me if and where my focus had veered off course. My daily routine of praying and spending time in the bible remained stable and consistent. Even here though the passion grew cold. I could feel it! I could sense it!

In reading this passage of scripture I realized my error.  I was putting “the second” first!

“And the second is like it:
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Matthew 22:39

One version calls loving others “equally important”. I’m not sure!

Jesus clearly says loving God isthe first and greatest! As important as loving others is, it is incomparable to loving God. There is only one first! Only one greatest!

While “first” implies preeminence in place, order and time, “greatest” recognizes no equal!

Loving God is putting the horse rightfully before the cart. It is giving love a place of movement and strength. You could give me a new Lamborghini, but if that shining piece of metal doesn’t have an engine it is powerless. Loving God is like the engine that makes all other relationships function! 

Focusing on building loving community will never create unity in the body of Christ, unless our attention is drawn first to the greatest love. Misplaced priority will leave us impotent and divided! 

In Order

The only way to fulfill the second and vitally important command of loving others is by loving God first. He must come before and take precedent over every other relationship. Our love for others will be artificial and forced unless we are heart to heart in intimate and loving relationship with God. Then, like a river flowing downstream, our love for others will automatically maintain consistent motion.

“This is how we know
that we love the children of God:
by loving God and
carrying out his commands.
In fact, this is love for God:
to keep his commands.
And his commands are not burdensome.”
1 John 5:2-3

We can easily become Pharisaic in our response to others when separated from the Father’s love. Whenever doing becomes more important than being, we will fall into that trap! I am a recent example!

In all my doing, I wasn’t resting and responding from the heart of the Father. What was amiss? My first love! The order is vitally important! To experience the life of Christ tangibly within earthly relationships, God alone must occupy first place!

Like a Bride

My husband and I have been married for over 46 years. Our relationship is exclusive to all others. The love we have for our children and grandchildren is beyond explanation. We love our siblings and extended family. Nothing can adequately quantify the deep and loving relationships we experience with many others.

However, our love for each has a protective boundary defined, “You and you alone!” Within this boundary, love thrives; without it, love pays a heavy price!

Jesus rebuked the church of Ephesus,

“Yet I hold this against you:
You have forsaken
the love you had at first.”
Revelation 2:4

That word “forsaken” in the Greek doesn’t necessarily mean to totally turn your back on, abandon or desert. Rather it carries the thought of “to send forth, yield up or depart” in any measure.

I must continually ask myself, “Do I love God like I did at first? Has another love attracted my attention?”

This call to our first and greatest love is nothing new. God’s word to His people through Jeremiah reads,

“… this is what the LORD says:
I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed Me in the wilderness…”
Jeremiah 2:2

The Bridegroom continues to call His bride back to her first and greatest love. Will she listen? Will I? Only then will we reach new heights, individually and corporately, having the momentum to become a bride worthy of the Bridegroom.

May we focus on keeping first things first!

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Jesus – It is Finished! Bringing Justice Through to Victory

The joyous declaration at Christ’s birth proclaimed love, peace and joy. It was the magnificent prelude to a mighty shout, “Justice has been brought through to victory. It is finished!” Or is it?

Lately instead of echoing It is finished!“, I have been asking “Is it finished?”

“Where is the victory?
Where can justice be found?”

Both triumph and struggle mark my daily reality. The battle within and around me is often intense. I see defeat in lives around me. I hear pain in weighted voices while mock smiles camouflage hurting hearts.

Matthew echoes Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus,

“I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.”
Matthew 12:18

Through His life and death, Jesus completed this and over 300 other prophecies.”…the odds of anyone fulfilling this amount of prophecy are staggering. Mathematicians put it this way: 1 person fulfilling 8 prophecies = 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000; 1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies = 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power; 1 person fulfilling 300+ prophecies = Only Jesus!”

In His own words, Jesus says,

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come.
I did not come to abolish the law of Moses
or the writings of the prophets.
No, I came to accomplish their purpose.”
Matthew 5:17

Justice

The World

The original quote in Isaiah puts it this way,

“A bruised reed he will not break
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice,
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.”
Isaiah 42:3,4

Without question, Jesus has the power and ability to use force to break the bruised or snuff out those whose passion has grown cold. Yet, “he will not”! Three times Isaiah declares this truth, “he will not!” 

If Jesus came as a baby over two thousand years ago to “establish justice on the earth”, I’m sorry, but it is hard to see! The rich become richer and the poor poorer. Horrific levels of injustice and discrimination flourish unchecked in nation after nation. In cultures void of God consciousness or respect for life, justice appears absent.

Mercy

Regardless of what I witness around me, Jesus completely fulfilled the mandate of establishing justice on earth.

Finished

Connie Inglis, an Inscribe writer, reminded me of another three point emphasis. The Greek root word telos is used, not just once, but three times in reference to Jesus’ death on the cross.

“Later, knowing that
all was now completed (teleō),
and so that the Scripture
would be fulfilled (teleioō),
Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty’ …
When he had received the drink,
Jesus said, ‘It is finished (teleō).’
With that, he bowed his head
and gave up his spirit.”
John 19:28, 30
Powerful words! Completed! Fulfilled! Finished! When the writers of scripture stated something three times they were giving it the strongest possible emphasis. Like a holy shout, they were ensuring we wouldn’t miss the point.
It is finished!
“When you were dead in your sins
and in the uncircumcision of your flesh,
God made you alive with Christ.”
Colossians 2:13-15
Alive
Since the fall of Adam, sin holds all mankind in the legal grip of death. Through Christ alone, the dead receive life! It is finished!
“He forgave us all our sins,
having cancelled the charge
of our legal indebtedness,
which stood against us and condemned us’
he has taken it away,
nailing it to the cross.”
Colossians 2:14
All righteousness has been fulfilled! Jesus paid the price for our freedom, not just from sin, but from the resulting guilt and shame. The cross is more than enough. Salvation is complete in Him!
“And having disarmed
the powers and authorities,
he made a public spectacle of them,
triumphing over them by the cross.”
Colossians 2:15
What was the final act of justice? While Satan powerfully bruised Jesus’ heal, Jesus crushed his head inflicting a fatal blow. Through the cross, Jesus executed judgment on our enemy creating a path for complete restoration for each of us.

Follow Through

“It is finished!” Everything Jesus came to do, he accomplished!

Now it is our turn! God desires justice, fully and freely blended with mercy, to influence every person and invade every area of our planet. Today! Here! Now!

“This is what the LORD Almighty said:
Administer true justice, show mercy
and compassion to one another.”
Zechariah 7:9

Poverty

Mercy, (Hebrew – hesed) refers to active care. It is loving kindness and compassion demonstrated. Justice (Hebrew – tsadaq) refers more to fair treatment and equity. Mercy and justice partner together, like the left and right hand working in unison.

Brad Jersak explains it like this:

“Mercy is like the ambulance at the bottom of a cliff,
ready to help those who fall off.
Justice builds a fence at the top of the cliff
to protect them from falling in the first place.
Mercy wipes the tears from the eyes.
Justice asks, “Why are you crying?”
Mercy welcomes the hungry
to gather around God’s banqueting table.
Justice addresses why
some are under the table aching of hunger…
Mercy seeks and saves those lost in darkness.
Justice asks, “Why is it dark? Who is keeping it dark?”

Continuous Completion

In the Greek, the verb choice for “finished” is in perfect tense. It is a past action but the effect of it continues into the present. Whenever the broken are made whole, the lost welcomed home, the sick healed, relationships restored, tormented minds find peace, “it is finished” again, and again, and yet again… The past action of Christ’s finished work continues unending!

For unto us a child is born!

This past year alone I witnessed the continuing triumph through Christ at work as

people discovered personal relationship with Jesus,
many set free from destructive
or addictive behaviours,
traumas erased, lies exposed and minds set at peace,
medically confirmed miracles occurred:
brain lesions from Multiple Sclerosis disappeared;
“frozen shoulder” instantly healed;
unborn baby without a heartbeat born healthy;
those unable to conceive conceiving;
cancer disappearing;
and so much more!

When we welcome Jesus into a situation, He comes in triumph! The answers don’t always look like we hope or expect, but Christ is the answer for every hopeless situation.

Victory Triumphs

Jesus carried “justice through to victory.”  His work is complete, fulfilled and finished! Our work, through the Holy Spirit, as we follow in His footsteps, continues! Finished but ongoing!

“…And this is the secret:
Christ lives in you.
This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.”
Colossians 1:27

In His footsteps!

A call resounds for the church to rise. As she awakens from her slumber embracing the mandate of mercy and justice, we will witness on earth the impact of what legally has been completely in the heavenly realm. Oh that Christ would receive the glory for everything He accomplished at the cross.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8

Celebration of advent, the arrival of the long awaited Messiah, closed the year! Yet, Jesus’ coming announced the dawn of a new era, bringing justice and hope for all. His life and death shakes the earth, even now, with divine authority setting this upside down world right side up.

Is it finished? Yes! It is finished!

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