Look! The Good Side and the Ugly Side

An embroiderer weaves the thread looking at the good side everyone will see, but flipping the beautiful project over reveals an ugly side. On the good side, symmetry and order create an attractive design. On the opposite side, the ugly side, threads criss-cross in weird angles and knots hang limp.

Illustrations of the good-side-ugly-side of things are revealed in innumerable ways around us.

Instinctively, we all try to hide our ugly side, even pretending only the good side exists. Jesus consistently flipped over pretty facades to reveal hidden uglies underneath. He wasn’t, and isn’t, sadistic, taking pleasure in tormenting or humiliated people.

Jesus purposefully flipped and turned, looking for those responsive to His teaching and drawing the humble to maturity and order.

The true masters of needlework produce artful pieces, beautiful on both sides. Although I tried, I never reached that level of excellence.

Good or Ugly?

At times, we may be quick to form opinions and cast judgments. The good side might not be as good as we first think. The ugly side might not be as bad as we think, either.

John the Baptist called people to repent in preparation for Jesus’ coming. Tax collectors and sinners, the ugly side of society, responded to his ministry. The religious elite held fast to a different view.

“(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)”
Luke 7:29-30

Those who fought to maintain a strict apprearance of looking good ended up nullifying everything — even God’s divine purpose for their lives. Strutting in distinguishing robes and high hats to fit their high heads, they failed to realize the cost of their unyielding pride.

When the good-side people rejected John’s call to acknowledge their bad side and turn their lives around, they forfeited all God had waiting for them.

This Generation

Jesus spoke directly to His generation. They dismissed the invitation to turn — to humbly admit their ugly side, so He could bring out the good side. No one could twist His meaning for some future time, although similarities would exist for every generation.

“Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like?”
Luke 7:31

Jesus broadens His focus beyond a limited group of religious leaders to “this generation.” All of us!

What He reveals isn’t pretty! The more we attempt to hide our ugly side, the uglier it becomes. The longer we wait, the greater the mess we create in and around ourselves.

The Ugly Side

How ugly is the ugly side? Down right ugly! Immature, idle, stage-seeking, groupy ugly! Ouch! Truth stings!

“They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
“‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.'”
Luke 7:32

What would Jesus say about me? Forget about brushing this indictment off to others. If Jesus flipped me over publicly, what would He find and others see?

Where are the areas in my life where I childishly resist taking responsibility — where my attitude or behavior exhibits immaturity? Am I idly “sitting” around when there is Kingdom work to do? Do I seek a platform to be heard or a spotlight of attention? Do I expect others to adjust to my command to “dance” or “mourn?”

As I read this passage this morning, I knew God wanted my full attention. Maybe, He desires to speak to you as well, but I’m just sharing about a little flipping Jesus is doing right here with me.

The Good Side

Even as I felt the pain of my ugly side being exposed, I heard God’s sweet voice of grace inviting me to the good side — the beautiful side displaying His creative hand at work. Again, I felt His nudge to harmonize my life with His good, I mean really good, purpose and plan.

May you hear and feel Him too. May you sense Him drawing you from childish ways into maturity, taking you by the hand, lifting you to our feet, and mobilizing you to a place of fulfillment. Why? Because He doesn’t want anyone, including you and me, to miss out!

Jesus gently draws us away from the crowds and distractions of business and busyness — away from conforming to like-minded, going-no-where thinkers. Instead of setting our own pace and demanding others march to the beat of our personal drum, He welcomes us to the good side.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ . . . “
2 Corinthians 5:16-18

Point of View

Honestly, it is okay if Jesus or others point to my ugly side. By His grace, He continues to take that ugly old side, with warped and knotted ends, and recreates it into a beautiful design no one could imagine. Through Him, even my ugly becomes new!

Oh, may we not resist His perfecting touch! May we each look into the mirror of His doing and see the miracle of the “good side” — His new creation worked in us.

May the tune of our song align with His truth:

“The old is gone!
The new is here!
All this is from God!”

Oh, sing it saints! Sing it again and again until it settles in your soul. Sing it mature, active, humble followers of Jesus. Don’t try to hide your ugly side from God or others, but let the world see your truly good side.

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From “Misfit” to Beloved! Chosen and Loved by God

From "Misfit" to Beloved

Going from “misfit” to “beloved” requires more than a simple name change. To realize how loved and chosen by God we are reshapes everything!

“Misfit!” they called me. Whether within my family and outside, belonging seemed distant, often unattainable. I never quite fit in among the predominantly male student population in our one-room country schoolhouse. Nor did I quite measure up to family expectations and standards. The name “misfit” fit me well, eventually becoming an invisible internal compass, determining personal expectations, goals, and desires.

Even in adulthood, echoes of the nickname infiltrated relationships and clouded personal perspectives. Until one day, God spoke, not in audible words, but rather through deep impressions to a wounded heart, “I love you! I have chosen you!”

Have you heard Him whisper your name within your inner recesses? Have you sensed His loving Presence?

“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. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow (and) said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.”
Isaiah 49:1-3

Was Isaiah referring to God’s call over his life. Or was he speaking of the nation of Israel or to the ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ? Perhaps all three and more! All who are “hidden in Christ”, who have a personal relationship with Him, can identify.

God knew each one of us “from our mother’s womb.” He continues to speak our names, wooing us close.

Chosen

I love these verses. Before conception, God has a plan for every life. No one enters the world by mistake or arrives by chance.

Alone

We may legitimately place our names in this passage. I have used The Passion Translation as an example. Insert your name where I have inserted mine, then read and reread it. Allow the truth of God’s sovereign love and care to permeate our hearts.

“Listen to what I have to say, you islands. Pay attention to me, you who live in distant lands. Yahweh called (MaryAnn) as his own before (she) was born and named (her) while (she) was still in (her) mother’s womb. He gives (her) words that pierce and penetrate. He hid (her) and protected (her) in the shadow of his hand . . . prepared (her) like a polished arrow and concealed (her) in his quiver. And he said to (her), “(MaryAnn), you are my special servant; in you I will be glorified.”

If this seems like a stretch, it really isn’t. The Bible says that when we believe in and confess Jesus, we become hidden in Him.

“For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Colossians 3:3

It is a profound truth. God loves the unlovely. He chooses the misfits, renegades, and outcasts. In Him, we all find belonging, family, identity, and purpose. Before, any of us proved ourselves worthy, He loved us. Before conception, He knew us and chose us,

Loved

Nothing we did merited such grace. Nothing we could ever do validates His love. In our worst, He loved. Nothing can stop the reckless, indescribable love God has toward us.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:6-8

Lightbulbs Different

Jesus provided the ultimate demonstration of love to us by giving His life for us on the cross.

We all hold remnants of “misfit” stories — moments or seasons of profound rejection, cast-aways from the comfort or care of others. Isaiah again scribes a clear image for us,

“For your Maker is your husband — the LORD Almighty is his name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit — a wife who married young, only to be rejected.” says your God.”
Isaiah 54:5-6

Our husband calls us His beloved. He comes to us as our Maker, the LORD Almighty, the Holy One, Redeemer, and the “God of all the earth.” We have not been short changed! The One who knows us best — deeply and intimately more — loves us most.

Jesus tasted rejection. He, more than any of us, felt the sting of “misfit” — fully God, yet fully man. Divinity robed in human flesh. He understands. So, he reaches out with endless love to you and me.

Beloved

To be loved by someone is a privilege, but to be loved by holy, righteous, perfect God, is incomprehensible! To declare such things of ourselves would be presumptuous. But when God declares them, the truth becomes life-giving, sustaining, and powerful.

You are His beloved! One who is greatly loved!

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! ...” 1 John 3:1

Different Cubes

Right now, God greatly loves us. Right now, He secures us into His holy family as His chosen children. Not after we clean ourselves up or improve in some way, but right now. Now, He loves! He plays no favorites. Even though He loves everyone, only those who believe in Him and receive Jesus develop the capacity to truly experience it.

Receive

For those bearing the label of “misfit,” receiving love becomes a challenge. Thoughts of unworthiness invade the reality of His divine love, warping and twisting it. Far too many people carry the scars of failed commitments and broken promises, which mask the promise of love’s full potential.

Misfit Locker

When two people devote themselves to love each other in marriage, they often exchange rings as a symbol of enduring love. Though the rings may last, the pledged devotion too often fades — its essence cast away and discarded like an old garments. But not with God. God loves perfectly and permanently.

God speaks through Isaiah again, saying,

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands . . .”
Isaiah 49:16

God publicly demonstrates His lavish love for each of us, wanting everyone to see and know. Your name and mine, your identity and mine, He carves into His being. “Engraving” carries the sense of a commandment or decree. The engraving becomes God’s decree of His undying love and devotion before the entire world and throughout all ages.

A Prayer

You, too, can move from “misfit” to beloved. You, too, may experience God’s deep love. If this is your daily reality, then thank Him again for it! But if HIs love seems foreign, I would like to encourage you by faith to reach out, accept His love.

Dear Lord, thank You for loving me and making room for me in your family even before I was born. Thank You for offering me — the least, the misfit, the outcast — Your great love. Today, I simply receive Your love. May I experience the power and presence of Your love in undeniable ways. I possess nothing of earthly value to offer You in return. As You have loved me, I choose to love You. Thank You.

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Tenant or Landlord? Do You Know? Remember and Appreciate!

Beachfront Home

Do you rent your home or own it? Are you a tenant or landlord? Though there are benefits of both, the difference between the two becomes increasingly obvious.

Searching for great tenants is a skill developed over time. Try as we might, we don’t always acquire tenants that value our property as much as we hope. We’ve repaired fixtures, removed left-behind garbage and paid bills accumulated by others,

Fortunately, many people consider tenancy a privilege. They view it with respect, thoughtfully taking care of everything. These folks are the gems we usually come to view as friends.

Tenant or Landlord

Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth of this important principle. He admonishes them to consider carefully their position as tenants, because a new Landlord had taken possession of their lives.

Family Dwelling

“Have you forgotten that your body is the sacred temple of the Spirit of holiness, who lives in you. You don’t belong to yourself any longer, for the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside your sanctuary? You were God’s expensive purchase, paid for with tears of blood, so by all means, then, use your body to bring glory to God.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Another version asks, “Do you not know?” Good question! Do I fully comprehend this truth? The word “know” includes “to perceive, be aware of, understand, remember and appreciate.”

Reading these verses again, I gained a new appreciation and understanding of their meaning.

Rights of Ownership

People often declare, “It’s my body! I’ll do what I want with it!”

Such statements verify that we’ve forgotten, failing to appreciate and recognize the complete ownership God has over us — not just the spiritual us, but ALL of us?

“Have you forgotten that your body is the sacred temple of the Spirit of holiness, who lives in you.
1 Corinthians 6:19

Country Cottage

Honestly, I’m no different from the Corinthians believers. I quickly forget that every part of who I am belongs to God. Too often, I stubbornly push for rights of ownership even after I have relinquished the deeds.

Attitude and actions reveal whether I live like a tenant or landlord in God’s house.

God has been challenging me over the last several months to value this body, His temple. Only by grace am I allowed to live in it. God desires that I value it as much as I want tenants to appreciate the home we lease to them.

Practical

For me, this boils down to daily struggles, like taking exercise breaks between writing spurts or ensuring I get adequate rest while juggling a busy schedule and shift work. When the temple of our bodies wear out or break down, God doesn’t provide a substitute. This is it, folks!

I don’t battle addictions or major issues, but God has led me to recognize my sweet cravings and to fast from sugars. I’ve gained increasing awareness of healthy eating choices. Though I might forget, He remembers I am spirit, soul, and body — one complete unit.

You don’t belong to yourself any longer, for the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside your sanctuary?
1 Corinthians 6:19

High-Rise Apartment

When the truth of this verse becomes my living reality, what lifestyle changes will I make? Living with eternity in mind influences my perspective, recognizing that even the “little” things matter.

I hope to be here for the long haul. There is so much more I would like to accomplish for God. Every day of this life is a gift from Him — precious and valuable.

Time and Talents

God always invest wisely! He didn’t consider any of us “junk!” He paid the highest price, an unbelievably enormous price, to purchase us for Himself.

You were God’s expensive purchase, paid for with tears of blood, so by all means, then, use your body to bring glory to God.”
1 Corinthians 6:20

We could never pay Him back for all He has done. Yet, when I experientially “know” and remember His ownership of every aspect of my life, I am able, if in a limited way, to “bring glory to” Him.

Our bodies are His! Treating His body with respect becomes a privilege. Remembering He is in charge helps us pursue His glory and praise with excellence.

Beach House

The things I consume, invest in, absorb or spend time on suddenly contain new purpose. When I know, really know, my Landlord, life holds increased potential and greater fulfillment.

Do I treat God like a tenant or Landlord within me? The answer to that question affects everything!

Set Apart for God

Earlier, Paul wrote,

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.”
1 Corinthians 3:16-17

We may falsely believe we get away with mistreating these jars of clay behind the priming and pampering, but God knows us better than we know ourselves. He calls our bodies “sacred” — set apart for Him alone. We are exclusively His.

There is comfort in being “exclusively His.” The landlord, not the tenant, pays the highest price for mortgage, taxes, upkeep, and improvements. The tenant enjoys the benefit of the landlord’s investment, living securely within.

Mountain Home

If my tenants destroy the building they lease, I have to send them a hefty bill to cover the costs. Why would I think God would do any less with what He values highly?

The choice is mine! Will I consider God a tenant or landlord, recognizing the blessing of relinquished ownership?

It is All His

Rather than being harsh, Paul invites us to discover the peace of resting and knowing that everything belongs to God. If I follow Paul’s example and willingly surrender the keys to God, the worry vanishes. Joy replaces struggle.

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Psalm 100 1-5

Take heart! We have a wonderful Landlord.

Tenant or Landlord

Joseph – A Man Favoured by God

I know God’s favour is evident even in my little life, yet I often misunderstand what favour really is. The life of Joseph gives a clear image of a man favoured by God.

Does favour include the logical expectation of rapid promotion, public approval, unlimited opportunity and untroubled living? Perhaps not!

Psalm 5:12

Favoured Young

After years of barrenness, Rachel, Jacob’s second wife but first love, conceived and gave birth to Joseph. I appreciate the way God honestly reveals the dysfunction within this large family. They were genuine people with real struggles! Jacob openly showed favouritism not only between his two wives but also among his children.

“Now Israel loved Joseph more
than any of his other sons,
because he had been born to him in his old age;
and he made an ornate robe for him.”

Genesis 37:4

Joseph received more than his fair share of his father’s attention. While his brothers worked, he stayed close to home in his ostentatious robe. Of course, the animosity increased between him and his older siblings.

Then came the God dreams of seeing his brothers and father bowing before him, thus escalated the problem.

“They hated him all the more
because of his dream and what he had said
His brothers were jealous of him,
but his father kept the matter in mind.
Genesis 37:8,11

Perhaps immaturity contributed to Joseph’s inability to keep quiet about his dreams.

Psalm 30:5

Favour Needs a Place

A mathematician would become extremely discouraged digging ditches. An anointed speaker feels powerless without a platform! A teacher needs students! A musician needs an instrument to produce a melody?

Although Joseph was showered with support,  frustration and disappointment grew when he could not find his rightful place.

“Come, let’s sell him…”
Genesis 37:27

His brothers reject and sell Joseph into slavery at the first opportunity. A slight diversion from their initial murderous plan. I can hardly imagine the level of confusion and discouragement that overwhelmed this young lad on his way to the unknown.  He was dragged away from all that was loved and familiar.

Is this your image of favour? It isn’t mine!

Even in Egypt, however, God’s hand directs Joseph. One of Pharaoh’s officials seeing potential purchases him.

The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered….
the LORD gave him success
in everything he did…
the LORD blessed the household
of the Egyptian because of Joseph.”
Genesis 39:1-5

Joseph rises like cream to the top! The righteous always do! The favour of God upon one man results in blessing for others. For the moment at least, the situation appears to improve.

Psalm 106:4

Often favour attracts adverse attention! It did with his brothers. Now it brings more of the same. Potiphar’s wife seductively pursues this vulnerable young man. Who would see? Who would know? Would anyone even care?

Godly Character

Yet Joseph does everything possible to protect his master’s honour and marriage. What is the reward for such integrity? A prison cell!

North American prisons resemble luxury suites in comparison to what Joseph experienced! This was no peaceful time off work!

“They bruised his feet with fetters
and placed his neck in an iron collar.”
Psalm 105:18

Yet even here, Godly character allowed Joseph to rise above circumstance finding favour with the prison official. Joseph continued to give himself for the benefit of others.

He even found a way to release others in their dreams while his own went unfilled.

“Within three days Pharaoh
will lift up your head and restore you
to your position.”
Genesis 40:13

Favour Takes Time

It is tempting to overlook the seemingly endless cycle of neglect, abuse, and suffering Joseph endured. We want to quickly rush past the process to happy endings. Favour cannot be rushed!

Psalm 90:17

For fifteen years Joseph worked out the true character of favour while living in the tension of unfulfilled desire. He came to understand favour is ultimately a call to serve.

Such commendation upon a life cannot be lived selfishly!

Wherever he was, Joseph served with uncompromising excellence. The favour of God is always and only for the benefit of others.

Did he ever lose hope of seeing his family? Did he doubt his calling? Were the dreams of long ago fading? Had even God forgotten him like people did?

“The chief cupbearer, however,
did not remember Joseph;
he forgot him.”
Genesis 40:23

I have more questions than I find answers for.

The Committment of Favour

For two more years Joseph continued unnoticed within the confines of prison. Then a need arose! Favour flourishes in the soil of someone else’s need.

Pharoah has a disturbing dream. The cupbearer remembers!

“So Pharaoh sent for Joseph,
and he was quickly brought from the dungeon.
When he had shaved and changed his clothes,
he came before Pharaoh.”
Genesis 41:15

I love the “quicklies” of God! I want to ignore the long preparation to reach them, however. God gives Joseph both the interpretation and strategic wisdom on how to save a nation from destruction and multitudes from starvation.

Psalm 84:11

In a single day Joseph goes from

the dungeon to the palace,
darkness of obscurity to public view,
bound in chains to riding a king’s chariot,
loneliness to the comfort of home and family,
disgrace to honour.

Why? Favour was ready, when favour was needed!

The Confirmation of Favour

God did not forget Joseph or his dream. Joseph’s brothers appear on their faces before him. The final test in the confirmation of favour is power.

Power to retaliate! Power to execute justice! Or power to forgive!

Only here do we witness the response of one truly walking in harmony with God!

“He turned away from them
and began to weep.”
Genesis 42:24

It is impossible to continue in the favour of God without tenderness — even to our greatest offenders. Joseph foreshadows another Man, Jesus, who one day would proclaim from a brutal cross,

 “…Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

The test of favour is extending grace, mercy and forgiveness to the undeserving.

Joseph weeps so loudly the entire palace hears the agony of his wails. Abuse by and separation from those he loved, could not quench the genuine love Joseph freely expressed.

Proverbs 3:3,4

Joseph had made peace with the pain of walking in God’s favour. He recognized God’s plan as perfect.

“And now, do not be distressed
and do not be angry with yourselves
for selling me here,
because it was to save lives
that God sent me ahead of you …
to preserve for you a remnant.”
Genesis 45:5-7

Favour Defined

As I consider Joseph, I recognize there is a high price to walking in God’s favour. It is a trust given to only those willing to be refined in the fire of affliction.

Favour often marinades in obscurity for extended seasons. It is the preparation of those God chooses for specific times and needs. God’s favour is never for personal promotion, but rather for God’s glory and the benefit of others.

Seek God’s favour, but carefully. Then be prepared to accept the training and tests that accompany it. Through the painful process, favour will allow the recipient to rise to unparalleled heights.

Joseph’s conclusion was,

“You intended to harm me,
but God intended it for good
to accomplish what is now being done,
the saving of many lives.”
Genesis 50:20

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Further Reading:

The 3 Keys of Effective Ministry! Secrets of Success!

Leadership 101 – Take it from the Eagles

Transition of Seasons – Embrace the Change

September’s dawn hesitates with each new morning, weary perhaps from the busyness of summer’s unceasing activity. The long daylight hours are filled with a multitude of treasured moments to remember throughout winter’s dark freeze. Cooler nights and shortened days herald the transition of seasons and prepare us to embrace the change.

Our summer certainly was filled! A June wedding, God’s gift of a fresh start, in Nevada and our own 46th anniversary of life together. A jam-packed family camping adventure with hiking, fishing, biking, boating, lounging, campfires, games and giggles topped July’s memory making attempt. Mid August brought the completion of internship closing the chapter of Master’s Commission training. We laughed with friends marking birthdays from the north and south. Many moments captured forever in our grateful hearts!

Season of Change

As I consider personal transitions, the most dramatic came with marriage: single to united, independent to interdependent, under my father’s protective wing to another man’s, enjoying the benefits of my childhood home to making our own. Marriage brought a lot of change, that continues to this day.

Transition of Seasons

Seasons predictably come and go! Here in the northern hemisphere, the transitions may come subtly but the changes can be drastic!

The church that began with the apostles over two thousand years ago has seen major transitional changes, as well. Each change acutely different from the one before; each sparked by a fresh dawn of revival, while restoring an element of something lost.

With the Reformation and Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door in Wittenberg in 1517 came an awareness that salvation is by grace, and grace alone. It cannot be bought, earned or waggled into.

Luther - Wittenberg - 95 Theses

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

not by works, so that no one can boast”
Ephesians 2:8-9

The price of redemption paid in full!  Jesus death and resurrection is forever enough! Nothing added and nothing taken away!  This cosmic event bridged the great, dark chasm between God and humanity. Now that’s enough to make one dance, leap and shout with joy!

However, it didn’t take the church long to grow lethargic. Another transition was needed to stir up the greying coals of revival.

The Great Commission

Prayer is always the unseen channel of fresh fire. It would take Edwards, Wesley, Whitefield and others to again stir the church reviving and awakening the desire for evangelism. The church jolted to action! God’s grace is for all!

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name
of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;
and lo I am with you always,
even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20

Go into all the world!

For the first time since the evangelistic wave of the apostles, “go” was back in the “go”-spel! The church took seriously the commission to bring the Good News to all peoples!

But how does one effectively go without the tangible Presence of the Lord?

Preparing for Change

There were many forerunners to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street in 1906: D. L. Moody, Maria Woodworth Etter, Charles Parham, Evan Roberts and more. But Azusa Street became the fault line of the greatest quake of change in the church since the original Pentecost of the Book of Acts.

The outpouring! The Holy Spirit moved to the forefront with restoration of signs, wonder and miracles:

“These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe:
They will cast out demons in my name,
and they will speak in new languages.
They will be able to handle snakes with safety,
and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them.
They will be able to place their hands on the sick,
and they will be healed.”
Mark 16:17-18

Miracles, signs and wonders will follow them who believe!

Every shaking of revival transforms those willing to change. Recoil or embrace? With each restoration of truth, fearless, faith-filled, hungry, even desperate, God seekers step from the familiar and welcome the inexplicable grace of God’s open hand.

The Father’s Heart

The most current transitional change broke forth with fresh awareness of the goodness of God, a revelation of the Father’s heart. With impeccable timing, it broke into an environment plagued by fatherlessness.

The Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century quotes deaths through wars and oppressions alone totalled more that 188,000,000. The twentieth century became marked as the most lethal in mankind’s history. Each death represents families broken. Millions of fathers snuffed out, removed forever!

God’s heart most certainly must have wept over man’s ability to annihilate and destroy! Great grace flooded over chaos with a tsunami wave of His open heart of love through the Toronto Blessing. The impact continues worldwide!

God is good!

“For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Psalm 100:5

While the outpouring of Holy Spirit at Azusa Street created more denominational divides than any other movement, the revelation of the love of The Father has drawn denominations together like no other.

Change is Coming

As distinct as the shift from summer to fall, I feel another change coming. It is an exciting time! The church is rising and growing at unprecedented rates secure in restored revelation:

  • Salvation through grace and grace alone
  • The gospel for all peoples
  • Filled with the Holy Spirit
  • Radically loved by The Father

Wait! Pardon me for mentioning it, but my bible neither starts nor ends here! There is more!

The first act of God in Genesis was to prepare a garden for the union of a special couple, Adam and Eve. It was a place of constant fellowship between God and man, filled with peace, joy and unbridled communion.

The last act of God in Revelation is presenting the bride to The Bridegroom. Can you imagine that wonderful day?

The bride is getting ready for the Bridegroom!

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.”
Revelation 19:7

Every season of change for the church, every transitional wave of blessing and revelation, is for one purpose! The bride prepares for the Bridegroom!

Pulled close by His grace, the global church rises with arms reaching all. She is alive in the Spirit, immersed in the Father’s love. She is being slowly transformed into the likeness of The Bridegroom. Christ is coming back for a bride fully representing His heart, His character, His nature and His glory. He will not be unequally yoked!

“The bride has made herself ready!” There she will stand, a glorious church filled with strength, dignity, purity and honour.

However, to be ready, she must be willing to embrace change.  The same transitions that have occurred corporately are to be approached personally and intentionally as well. Welcome each season with confidence that every change is, in fact, a preparation for the Bridegroom.

Get excited! The wedding day is perhaps closer than we think!

I Am the Vine You are the Branches – Fruit that Lasts

Fruit that lasts - I Chose You

The thrust of winter is sending one final blast across the prairies, but I’m thinking spring. The garden awaits under mounds of snow; the deep rich soil is prepared for another season of bearing fruit and vegetables. Gardening may be one of my joys in life, but I have been called to more than what my hands can produce.

“I chose you and appointed you
so that you might go and bear fruit
fruit that will last.”
John 15:16

There is only one kind of fruit that truly lasts – what we do for God!

The Vine

When we moved into town, I decided to try an espalier experiment with an apple tree. It sounded like a reasonable solution in a small yard and my personal repulsion to ladder climbing.

I bought a young whip, planted it in a secluded corner, and began aggressively pruning. At times, I was concerned whether the little tree would survive the drastic cutting and shaping process.

Blossoms of promise

Any branches that were reaching toward the back were cut; as were the branches pointing forward. Only those reaching outward to the left and right were allowed to remain. Only the stoutest branches, those equally spaced  10″ – 12″ apart up the main trunk, were left. This would allow sufficient air flow between the limbs and provide full support to each branch by the trellis.

Year by year the little whip began to take shape. Not the shape of a “normal” apple tree with bows spreading upward forming a rounded canopy. Rather the shape of the trellis upon which the branches were fastened.

Every blossom was removed those first few years, so the tree would gain strength. My vision were set for the future.

The Gardener

After the last several years of pruning and shaping my little tree, I can understand these verses more clearly:

I am the true vine,
and my Father is the gardener.
John 15:1

Just like with my little tree, my Father is only leaving me with the “branches” of my life that are willing to stretch outward, to the left and right, toward others. Branches that are pointing too far ahead, toward the future, won’t receive the support needed to bear the weight of a heavy harvest. Those branches that are pointing behind, anchored in the past lacking the present light of Christ, will be susceptible to “disease”of grumbling and complaining.

My fruit bearing ability will not be secure in either the past successes and failures or of the future dreaming.  To bear fruit that will last, I need to trust the Gardener to know what needs to go and what should remain. He is shaping me for future increase!

Resistance

My little tree has a natural inclination to grow full and lush, spewing branches at liberty. Though more beautiful perhaps, it is not the way of fruitfulness.

Me too!

I don’t particularly like the pruning process. As a matter of fact, I quite detest it!

“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,
while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes,
so that it will be even more fruitful.”
John 15:2

One of the greatest challenges I face with my little tree is “suckers” that sprout up from the outfacing branches. Their wild quick growing nature saps the branch of precious nutrients. Worse yet, suckers aren’t fruit bearers!

Pruning for fruit

Interestingly though, when these upward shoots are pruned off a few inches from the main branch, the remaining stub will be the source of much fruit in the years ahead.

“No branch can bear fruit by itself;
it must remain in the vine.
Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
John 15:4

Fruit bearing branches must be “connected” to the vine, the main trunk! It isn’t enough to be connected to another branch!

My main connection must always be with God. When I attempt to sprout out from another man’s ministry, rather than from God Himself, the result may appear healthy at first, but it will be unsustainable. Am I thoroughly connected? And where?

I am thankful for the “fruit bearers” in my life:

apostles and prophets,
evangelists, pastors, and teachers,
forefathers and mothers of the faith,
mentors and counselors,
steadfast, faithful, “waymakers”.

Though appreciative of their input, my sustaining strength comes from only One Source, the Vine Jesus Christ. To be a fruit bearer, I MUST be connected directly to Him.

Clusters

The second greatest problem that requires pruning are the “clusters”.

Clusters of blossoms

I’ve never been able to walk by an apple tree in bloom – never! I must stop to breath in the aroma of the fragrant clusters of blossoms, watch the busy activity of pollinating bees, and let my eyes feast on the intricate God design of each blossom.

The Gardener knows that each blossom will not produce fruit. In fact, each blossom should not produce fruit! The branch can neither nurture nor bear the weight of that much fruit. So the Gardener sets to work, pruning even the fruit bearing branches.

This is the most difficult pruning for me to do in my garden. I want to see “abundance”, but wisdom tells me to trim, cut, and prune until only the choice fruit remains.

Clustered fruit will never grow to full potential. To ensure the quality of the remaining fruit, I must prune harder.

Humanly speaking, clusters are comfortable. Clusters are safe. We like to cluster! Denominational clusters, team clusters, recreational clusters, clusters here and clusters there! People naturally like to congregate in groups.

Clusters are good places to begin our faith journey. If staying in tight little clusters matters more than reaching out, we will never mature to be true fruit bearers. To touch the lives of those in our world, there must be a willingness to leave our comfort zones and stretch outward in love and care.

Chosen and Appointed for Fruit

As hard as pruning is, harvest will prove its worth!

As I walk around my little community, I notice apple trees flourishing in abundance. Each fall, large boughs bend earthward laden with enormous amounts of fruit. The appearance of fruitfulness is everywhere.

Harvest time demonstrates the true benefits of pruning. Every apple on my little tree is weighty, plump and full. Every cut I made with the shears was for the purpose of maximum harvest. Now it is payback time!

The reward of pruning - choice fruit!

While others are picking, peeling and processing buckets of undersized produce, only those willing to prune enjoy over-sized rich fruit.

The same will be in my life! The Gardener knows! He has a plan!

“I chose you and appointed you
so that you might go and bear fruit
fruit that will last…”
John 15:16

God has chosen each one of us. He has called us out and appointed us to produce – to produce in abundance and to produce fruit that is eternal. The Gardener isn’t looking for standard garden variety outcomes. He is working in us and through us to prepare supernatural fruitfulness.

Knowing His plan allows us to endure the painful pruning seasons with grace and hope. We may feel naked and exposed during these “harsh” pruning times. Truthfully, God’s loving hand of wisdom and perfection is in every touch.

He is looking to the harvest; it is coming soon!

Hopelessness! Facing the Impossible!

Facing the Impossible

Hopelessness is living beyond optimism, usually when facing something impossible to accomplish, solve or resolve. It fills you with an incapacity to respond positively.

Hopelessness bombards the core of ones faith and undermines purpose.

In these last few weeks a tsunami of seemingly hopeless situations have been slamming the physical bodies, homes, marriages and ministries of people whom I love deeply.

Hopeless, that is, apart from the I AM!

No Ordinary Day

The day started out ordinary enough. Or was it? After an exhausting night of unsuccessful fishing, Simon and his partners were cleaning their nets before grabbing a few hours rest and going out again. No fish! No pay! He knew the financial pressures of operating a business.

As Jesus walked by, he was being pressed by an overly enthusiastic crowd. They were wanting to hear the word of God.

I have never experienced such  hunger for the word of God!

Lake of Gennesaret

Sounds like the makings of true revival to me!

Jesus looked around.

“He saw at the water’s edge two boats,
left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.”
Luke 5: 2

Historians say there would have been 4,000 fishing boats along the shore on that particular day. Jesus took note of two of them!

Jesus has a purpose for everything. He approaches Simon and asks him to push from shore. Here Jesus would have a safe place to teach from in nature’s amphitheater to project his voice. The weary fisherman became a captive audience of one within arm’s reach of “the Master” who made fish and water.

Hopelessness Revealed

“When he had finished speaking,
he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water,
and let down the nets for a catch.”
Luke 5:4

I can imagine the look on Simon’s face as Jesus pulled back the obstructing veil between possible and impossible.

In the Wilderness - the heat of the day

The hopeless know all too well the detailed facts weighing them down! Deep water? Simon had been out in deep water for hour after long fruitless hour. The failure to catch even one single fish had been rehearsed in his mind all morning. His discouragement was amplified through his frayed emotions and a fatigued body. He admits defeat,

“Master, we’ve worked hard all night
and haven’t caught anything..”
Luke 5:5

We’ve worked hard! We’ve worked long!

Moments seem like hours, slowly ticking by as we

fight for marriages, health or a prodigal’s return
believing against hope
unmoved by the well-aimed arrows of the enemy…
and yet, it produced nothing
Here we stand with empty nets and hands…

How long has it been since hope was a consistent reality? What the darkness of night didn’t rob, the heat of the day has drained away.

Nevertheless

The King James Version says, “Nevertheless“. I love it! Nevertheless! My NIV says, “But!”

But because you say so,”
Luke 5:5

This one little word means “by way of opposition and distinction. It is added to statements opposed to a preceding statement.” The previous statement held the facts, “but” the Truth looked beyond Simon’s eyes to his weary soul.

Jesus’ request made no sense at all! If you can’t catch fish after working ALL night, how can one possibly hope to succeed in broad daylight!

Fishing night and day

“But because you say so, I will” 

One definition of insanity is doing what you have always done expecting different results.

Simon surrendered to Jesus in the depth of his hopelessness. A man’s inability to provide for himself and his family leaves him with a sense of inadequacy and failure.

As I examine my life, I have to ask,

Where am I feeling the deepest sense of inadequacy and failure?
A relationship, a challenging position, a difficult task,
a terminal prognosis….
Where is God inviting me to enter into “the deep” and try again?

What Jesus is asking of me at times seems impossible, unreasonable, and beyond my capacity to fulfill!

Will I like Simon say,

Master
But because you say so, I will” 

Obedience? Yes, obedience. The outcome is God’s part; obeying is mine.

“When they had done so,
they caught such a large number of fish
that their nets began to break.
So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them,
and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.”
Luke 5:6-7

Insane maybe! Nevertheless, Simon’s act of obedience in the face of the impossible set him up for a miracle of maximum capacity. The nets could hold no more! Not one more fish!

Fear

Our greatest ally can be fear, as it draws us into a reverent submission and worship. Having his hopelessness uncovered was one thing! The grace of God exposed every sinful point.

“He fell at Jesus’ knees and said,
“Go away from me,
Lord’ I am a sinful man!”
Luke 5:8

I can relate!

Just recently there was far more month than paycheck. I had no tangible way of meeting a mortgage payment. Many times I had prayed for provision. Each day looked bleaker than the day before. In the morning I tearfully vented my frustration and honestly processed the hopeless and helpless position I was in.

The evening of that same day, God’s grace broke through in miraculous fashion. Now I found myself on my face repenting for my lack of faith and trust.  In the awareness of undeserved favour, tears of gratitude flowed unhindered.

[bctt tweet=”Godly fear draws us close to Jesus; paralyzing fear keeps us from Him and all He has for us.” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

Godly fear draws us close to Jesus; paralyzing fear keeps us from Him and all He has for us. Crippling and isolating fears of

failure, bankruptcy or death,
commitment or intimacy,
abandonment or rejection,
wasted life and purpose,
not finishing well or pleasing God.

A dry and lonely place

“Then Jesus said to Simon,
Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.
So they pulled their boats up on shore,
left everything and followed him.”
Luke 5:10-11

Simon left the sea and the life he knew well. It was a life that prepared him for what was to come.

Never Again!

Jesus helped Simon to confront his fears, failures and hopelessness. Simon’s obedience became a life transforming moment.

Never again would Simon fish for a living. From now on he would serve God. Jesus gave Simon what he thought he wanted, so he would discover what he really needed. The Saviour came calling; Simon responded,

“But because you say so, I will” 

“But!” The little word that sits between two opposing realities!

“With man this is impossible,
but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:26

The impossible of man becomes the I Am possible of God!

[bctt tweet=”The impossible of man becomes the I AM possible of God!” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

The path upward

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Further Reading: Meeting God in the Ordinary – From Common to Holy

Do it Again Lord! Renew! Restore! Revive!

Renew! Restore! Revive!

The prefix “re” added to any word means “again” or “again and again”. God has an “again and again” desire and purpose to renew, restore and revive each one of us!

Renew!

As I look in the mirror grey hair, wrinkles and sags declare the reality of more years behind me than ahead.

Measure

As you stretch out the measuring line over your life, where are you? Are you beginning? Are you half-way through? Time on earth is finite. Honestly, no matter where we think we are, our time is uncertain!

Daily pressures and responsibilities have a subtle but pervasive way of distracting and pulling us away from the eternal qualities that really matter: faith, hope and love!

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.”

I Corinthians 13:13

Lord I ask for a renewing of our minds, tenderizing of our hearts and focusing of intentions on what will remain eternally. Unite us with the your highest values, Jesus.

Restore within us a life
grounded in faith,
anchored in hope and
growing in love.

[bctt tweet=”Grounded in faith, anchored in hope and growing in love.” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

Do it again Lord! May our lives be marked with eternity – imprinted with your value system.

Restore!

Before God created heaven and earth, before anything existed that now is, God knew you and saw you complete – perfectly you. You were beautiful, purposeful, fantastic and amazing in every dimension. You were a one-of-a-kind rarity! A special design!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you.

You will seek me and find me
when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:11-13

Often life is cruel, relentlessly eroding us of value and distinction.

Rarity

Every day I encounter people at various levels of brokenness and disengagement, without identity, or personal worth. Look around and you will see them too!

Ask God what His thoughts are toward you. Ask Him what your next step is to begin to walk into the dream and destiny that is planted like a seed in your heart and soul.

Don’t read another word! Ask! You will be surprised by His lavish response! He is listening and ready to water that seed within you with truth!

Lord restore this beautiful one to his/her divine purpose. Speak again the dream and design You have written for him/her. Erase the abuse, effects of monotony, weight of weariness, wall of discouragement, and marks of debasement from this life. Reconnect them to your heart and purpose. Realign them to a position and place of joy and fulfillment. Restore each one to the strength and perfection of their calling and design.

Restore

Revive!

Revive means:

  • restore to life or consciousness
  • to regain life, consciousness and strength
  • give new energy or strength to

What areas of your life might need “reviving”? Ask God if there are places where your conscience has become calloused. Are there areas where you once moved in strength and confidence, but lack vitality today? Are you tired of being tired in a dimension of your life?

There are several that God has been pinpointing in me and my relationships. Some spiritual gifts have been kept strong through constant exercise and risk. Unfortunately, I’ve relaxed in other ways and my spiritual muscles are atrophying.

Atrophy means “gradually decline in effectiveness or vigor due to under use or neglect.” It isn’t pretty, but is a fitting description of spots in my life for God’s gentle, yet powerful, ignition of life to revive to full potential.

Broken Crayon

Broken crayons may need a little sharpening, cutting away of the outer layers, to expose the vibrant core. Nevertheless, once the excess is gone, the true colour appears ready to imprint and create beautiful on everything it touches!

Is that you? You may feel broken beyond usefulness. As you look at your life, you may see only the shavings and feel the pain of being whittled! Don’t despair…

God’s purposes are true!
His promises are faithful!
He wastes nothing in your life or mine!
Get ready! Revival is coming!

Expect and anticipate revival in your heart, your community, your church, and the nations! God is doing again what He has done before! He is breathing life, hope and purpose back into His people. He is drawing those that don’t yet know Him into this beautiful relationship with Him.

Do it Again!

Build in us, Lord, a childlike expectation for you to do it again!

“After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.”
Hosea 6:2

Revive

“Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?”

Psalms 85:6

The answer is “Yes!” Yes, He will! Yes, He is!

A great tidal wave to renew, restore, and revive is approaching. In fact, it is already transforming the global landscape in proportions we cannot yet fully define. God is beginning right here with you and with me!

Lord we agree with your heart!
We align ourselves to your timing and purpose!
Renew us!
Restore us! Revive us!

Further Reading: Is there a Wrong Way to do The Right Thing? Attitude Makes All The Difference

The Unbeatable Team! Power and Authority! It’s Amazing

Amazing

I think it is amazing that anyone could amaze Jesus! Who was this incredible person? What qualified him of such status?

Who?

We read about him in the gospels. He is a captain in the Roman army, an unnamed centurion,  overseeing about one hundred men. His solid reputation among the Jews, sincere concern of his slave and love for the nation qualifies him a notch above the norm. He also helped build the synagogue.

These attributes make it clear he was not the typical army commander of that day. Packing these characteristics into one human is enough to amaze me!

Though the word “love” only appears once, it permeates all he does. Whether behind closed doors where only servants witness or in the public square, a love that went above and beyond marked his life.

Centurion

The word “amazing” is perhaps overused today :

My grandchildren are amazing.
(I challenge anyone to disagree!)
The meal was amazing,
amazing hospitality, sunset, feats of strength…

To amaze means to fill with astonishment, to take someone’s breath away, to stun or leave someone open-mouthed. Somehow, I have a hard time visualizing Jesus in this way. Yet it is true!

Why?

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him,
and turning to the crowd following him, he said,
‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’ ”
Luke 7:9

Why was his faith amazing? The recorded interaction shows he had a firm understanding of authority.

Authority

“… say the word, and my servant will be healed.
For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.
I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one,
‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant,
‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
Luke 7:7-8

Authority combines both legal ability and authorization to exercise power. It also carries the strength for enforcement. Power is the actual exercise and use of the power and influence of authority.

Authority is the permission granted to actually carry out a task. Power is the force exerted to complete it.

[bctt tweet=”Authority it the permission granted to carry out a task. Power is the force exerted to complete it.” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

The Start?

Matthew said Jesus

“… taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
Matthew 7:29

Supreme Court

Everything Jesus did (His power) flowed from this place of authority. In Christ, authority and power presented an unbeatable combination.

“Say the word,” the centurion said “and my servant will be healed.” His confession to Jesus was, “Speak and it will be!”

Whether it was words of healing, calming a storm or blessing a meal, Jesus moved in both power and authority.

Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy,
and he was healed at that moment.”
Matthew 17:18

Others

Jesus gave authority to the twelve disciples:

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him
and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and
to heal every disease and sickness.”
Matthew 10:1

And then to seventy-two others:

“I have given you authority to trample on
snakes and scorpions and
to overcome all the power of the enemy;
nothing will harm you.”
Luke 10:19

Snakes and scorpions were the cause of excruciating pain and even death. Walking in the authority of Christ produces the ability to overcome. That is good news!

But it didn’t stop there! One of the most profound statements in the bible is

“Just as you sent me into the world,
I am sending them into the world.”
John 17:18

Jesus came with power and authority, teaching and doing all the Father instructed. Just as the Father sent Jesus into the world with power and authority, so Jesus is sending each of us. I honestly haven’t grasped the measure of this truth, but I’m working on it.

I once read: “Power is the ability to do something. Authority is the right to do it. Power without authority is abuse. Authority without power is pointless.”

[bctt tweet=”Power is the ability to do something. Authority is the right to do it.” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

Senseless

Amazing?

Do you believe Jesus would send us out on mission ill-equipped or unprepared? Absolutely not! Everything we need to do even greater things is at our disposal.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me
will do the works I have been doing, and
they will do even greater things than these,
because I am going to the Father.”
John 14:12

Through Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have the capacity to walk in both power and authority. It truly is an unbeatable team!

“We must have the devotion and the confidence
to believe that He will not fail and cannot fail.”
Smith Wigglesworth

The centurion, the twelve disciples, Smith Wigglesworth and countless others took hold of the winning combination of authority and power.

For you or I to rank in the mix, we must grasp not only the concept of authority but take the nature of a servant, like the centurion did. I action flowing from a heart of love impact our generation.

Do you believe it is still possible to amaze Jesus? Jaw-dropping astonishment might occur more often as faith is put into action. Yes! That is our hope!

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Normal? What Does It Mean To Be Normal Christian?

 

Answer the Call – Responding Immediately, “Yes, Lord!”

Respond Immediately

Why is the cry from our lips, “More Lord?” If we follow the pattern of the early disciples, our response will more often be a resounding “Yes, Lord!”

Today such a reaction is counter-cultural. I am amazed by how quickly and completely these men and others answered the call to an obedient and sacrificial “Yes!” Were they fully committed? Definitely!

Joseph

We find an honourable young man and woman in the process of planning and preparing for their wedding. Full of love for each, they anticipate and dream about many wonderful years ahead.

Then the unexpected! Mary is pregnant! Joseph wanted to do what was the very best according to the law with the greatest compassion toward Mary.

“Joseph…did not want to expose her to public disgrace,
he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”
Matthew 1: 19

In this midst of the agony of “obvious” betrayal, an angel appears to him in a dream confirming what Mary had tried to explain already. Joseph believes the unbelievable, the child is conceived of the Holy Spirit!

Pregnancy

When Joseph woke up,
he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him…”
Matthew 1: 24

Joseph didn’t wrestle for days or even hours to weigh the implications. Neither did he allow emotion or sound reasoning to dissuade him. He responded immediately!

Joseph’s, “Yes, Lord!” would cost him his reputation and alienation from friends and family. When Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem, Joseph’s home town, to register for taxes no one received them. Aunts and uncles, cousins, and perhaps siblings lived here. No room! There was no room for this family!

Another dream, another angel, another message, another “Yes, Lord!” For the sake of his wife and family he would become a refugee without securities of homeland. In fact, we see Joseph so loved and obeyed God that there would be a pattern of laying himself down in order to do the will of God.

Don’t skim through the lines thinking these were easy choices. Joseph’s sacrificial “Yes!” came at a great price! God chose well who to establish as the step-father for His Son. He could trust Joseph to obey!

Simon Peter

“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew
casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.”
Mark 1:16-18

“At once!”

They didn’t immediately leave the family business, assets and industry because Jesus was a world renowned leader with a huge following and giant reputation. This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Peter and Andrew were the first to follow!

There were no contracts explaining personal benefits! No explanation of the ministry or mission plan! No introduction to a pension plan or benefit package!

Fishermen Galilee

“I will send you out to fish for people,” sounds quite vague to my always questioning mind.

What was so compelling? Why did they leave the “sure thing” of financial security? What drew them instantly to their, “Yes, Lord!”

More “Yes, Lord!”

More would follow!

James and John, the sons of Zebedee,

immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”
Matthew 4:22

Such immediate response is beyond understanding. They were laying everything down for the sake of Christ. Everything!

Can you feel the heart of Zebedee in this encounter? Later, he would perhaps understand, but right now was difficult. He wasn’t as young as he once was. He depended on his boys to carry on the family business and help him in his retirement.

Yes, Lord Anywhere

Life ahead would be radically different from everything they knew.

Others would join them in similar fashion.

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi
sitting in the tax collector’s booth.
Jesus said to him, Follow me!
 
So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.”
Luke 5:27-28

Questions and Doubts

Some of John’s disciples would shift ranks and follow this Jesus. First they weighed the odds, asked many questions and tested Jesus’ ministry.

Other’s like Nathaneal would initial scoff. Some would refuse the call altogether choosing rather to stay in their place of normal. Family, security and reputation are hard to risk!

Wealth

God probably isn’t asking such a great price from you. But then, maybe He is!

Just this past week I met another young couple leaving all with a resolute, “Yes, Lord!” as they venture to another unreached people group. Neither they nor their destination can be disclosed for their own protection. We send our best; it is the best whom Jesus calls.

I wish I could testify that I too have consistently and quickly said “Yes, Lord!” Unfortunately, it has not been so! I am challenged in my level of willingness to yield wholly and immediately to His voice.

The voice of Jesus calling more followers may come through the bible as one reads and studies. Perhaps, it will come through a dream or vision. It may come through an open opportunity under the leading of the Holy Spirit.

May my response be as immediate and complete as other followers of the Messiah. On the backs of their obedience we can trace the expansion of Christianity worldwide. They knew nothing of the impact they would have. Nothing!

Before the crowds and miracles,
without powerful messages, sermons or teaching,
even recklessly and irrationally,
with limited understanding or foreknowledge,
they said, “Yes, Lord!”

Yet, they put in action to their, “Yes, Lord!” and followed him – not perfectly, but completely. It is never too early or too late to do the same. Join the chorus of others. Say, “Yes, Lord” when you sense He is calling you to motion!

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Additional Items

Recent Post:

Procrastination – Putting Off for Tomorrow What Should be Done Today!

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