Which Jesus? Release Jesus Barabbas or Jesus the Messiah

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

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

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

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

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

Which Jesus

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

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

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

Strong Together

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

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

Release Jesus Barabbas?

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

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

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

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

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

Believe in Jesus

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

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

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

Which One?

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

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

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

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

Prayer and Faith in Jesus

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

Release Jesus

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

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

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

Team Prayer

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

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

Strategies

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Turning Tide

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

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

Team Battle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benevolence – Serving The Least of These with Compassion

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

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

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

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

Benevolence

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

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

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

Caring for the Poor

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

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

It Was Me!

Jesus makes a profound statement,

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

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

Soldier Giving

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

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

The Least of These

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

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

Hospital Burundi

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

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

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

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

Prison Fence

Serious Business

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

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

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

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

The Challenge

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

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

 

Brothers serving each other

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

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

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

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

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

Prepare for Triplets – Getting Ready for Prayer Expansion

How do you prepare for triplets? Making room for one new addition requires planning, energy and resources, but triplets demand so much more. Before you think this seasoned grandmother, well beyond the childbearing years, has lost all grip on reality, I can explain. No! Cuddling the recent influx of babies being joyfully deposited among the young and thriving families hasn’t given me the desire to turn back the clock and start over.

Nonetheless, God has conceived in me triplets. When I first became pregnant with anticipation, I consented to one birth; but alas one has become three. Such surprising encounters occur to those who wait and listen for God’s promptings.

Habakkuk said,

“I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.”
Habbakuk 2:1

Pregnant

To “station” oneself “on the ramparts” means to take a stand at a place of siege or distress. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, that is exactly what God was calling me to do. About two years ago, I was standing at my prayer watch — well more specifically on my face, weeping in the prayer room. I felt God’s distinctive nudge to write a book on prayer. Though prayer is an active part of my Christian faith, I certainly neither felt equipped nor authoritative on the subject of prayer.

Three eggs

Yet, God persisted.

Then the LORD replied:
Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come and will not delay.”
Habakkuk 2:2

Writing and making it plain sounds simple enough for a less weighty subject. However, looking at books written on prayer by Dutch Sheets, Anne Graham Lotz, Stormie Omartian, C. Peter Wagner and many others left me feeling intimidated and inadequate to say the least.

Regardless, I was pregnant! There was no turning back. After several months of hesitation and deliberation, I accepted the reality. “Okay, Lord, we’re having a baby, but this definitely has to be more You than me.”

Testimony

And so, the writing began. About thirty thousand words into the process, God nudged me again to interview people, gathering testimonies about the miraculous interventions they have witnessed as a result of prayer.

Three baby kittens

My excitement was building. Since I love hearing other people’s stories, I looked forward to the process without considering the technical details involved. I began to approach people I respected in my small prayer circle, asking for their assistance.

“. . . ‘declare how much God has done for you.’
And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city
how much Jesus had done for him.”
Luke 8:39

The voice of this once demonized man exemplifies the power of testimony. As I began to listen to these prayer testimonies, I knew they would inspire faith and increase prayer momentum. Surprisingly, recounting their prayer journeys ignited something deep and fresh within themselves before their words ever hit a page in my files.

Global Voice

Who but God would have known these multiple hours and dozens of voices would accumulate to over 400,000 words of intensely vulnerable and honestly raw prayer testimony. Their experiences reached from Mongolia to Jamaica, Chile to Great Britain, Nigeria to North America. Their ages spanned from nine to ninety years. Each held a piece — a unique story — of a prayer tapestry.

Together their voices impacted my own prayer life and spiritual perception.

“I will tell my people what you have done;
I will praise you in their assembly.”
Psalm 22:22

Three Teddy Bears Reading

Now came the task of honoring God and honoring their testimonies. As I mapped and charted their stories, I discovered distinct patterns within three main themes: the misconceptions that keep people from believing their prayers could be effective, the strategies necessary to defeat the enemy and praying with authority, and the miraculous interventions of God.

Prepare for Triplets

It was then that I realized, I was birthing not just one but three book babies:

  1. Unmasking the Myths; Is This Prayer?
  2. Unlocking the Legacy; Taking Territory
  3. Unstoppable; Moving in the Miraculous

It’s a good thing God didn’t forewarn me of the magnitude of the project. I would have found the fastest way out of town and hid somewhere in the hills. However, these testimonies produced such a powerful impact on my life, I couldn’t wait to share their stories with others like you.

It’s incredible to me that Jesus would say that we are the light of the world. Of course, in and of ourselves, we are the opposite. Because of His Presence within us, we have become light and He desires that light to shine brightly.

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

Three Candles in the Dark

Dozens of people willingly opened their lives within the pages of these prayer books so that others will clearly see the power of prayer and give God glory. Only a handful are in full-time ministry. The vast majority are farmers, housewives, doctors, teachers, laborers, truckers, students . . . They are normal people we brush shoulders with everyday, people trusting in the grace and goodness of God to hear and answer prayer.

But through them, God is glorified. Prepare for triplets!

Born with Teeth

Even though these soon to be published testimonies remain hidden in files, sifted through by beta readers, polished by editors, and formatted by designers, they already have teeth and speak in full sentences.

Two years ago, I didn’t realize God was setting me on the ramparts of the desperate situation of prayerlessness, not just in our nation, but in our churches and homes. Such a void exists mainly because of the impotence many people feel in the context of prayer. John professes,

“They triumphed . . . by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony . . .”
Revelation 12:11

The blood has already been shed, but the words of testimony still speak. Every testimony vibrates with faith in Jesus Christ. Their testimonies expose the reality that God still saves the lost, heals the sick, casts out demons, and raises the dead. Neither God nor prayer has suddenly become powerless.

Three Flowers Bloom

As I prepare to deliver the triplets, these three books on prayer, I no longer sense trepidation and fear. Rather, I anticipate the impact these shared voices, spoken so simply, yet boldly, will have on those ready to listen. With my part of writing and making it plain almost complete, the time to run ticks closer and closer.

“And for what purpose?” you might ask.

“For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.”
Habakkuk 2:2

******

Coming Soon:

(Not final cover designs!)

Transparent Love – Love Must be Honest

Only through transparent love does it grow and mature. To love fully and freely, love must be honest. Most of us struggle to overcome our tendency to hide.  We hide our thoughts, our emotions, our failures, our differences, our unacceptable-ness. In hiding we deceive ourselves, robbing us from the blessings love offers.

Paul said,

“What a wretched man I am!
Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”
Romans 7:24

That’s honesty! Who among us is so bold as to announce to the world for infinity the poverty of our minds and souls? Few. Very few possess such transparent love.

Love is Blind

An old adage says, “Love is blind.” Saul on his way to Damascus to murder and imprison Christians perhaps literally experienced this quote. As he neared Damascus, “a light from heaven flashed around him.” The light was immediately followed by God’s voice questioning his objectives.

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.”
Acts 9:5

In asking the question, he declared the answer. The Lord he thought he knew was not this Lord. Here was love, he had never experienced before. When he picked himself off the ground and “opened his eyes he could see nothing.” Saul once driven by religious passion became blinded by love — unconditional, indisputable, undefinable love. Love so pure that darkness had no place.

For three days Saul fasted and prayed. Everything in his life changed from that moment of encounter forward. Everything except one thing.

Honest Love

By the time that we meet Paul in the Book of Romans, he has undergone a name change, a vision change, a mission change, a radical life change. Years have passed and the implications within Paul’s life since encountering Jesus Christ on the Damascus road stretched broad and wide. His conversion undeniable. His transformation unquestionable. Yet, he testifies to the Roman church, not in self-abasement, but in raw honesty.

“Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;
but I see another law at work in me,
waging war against the law of my mind
and making me a prisoner of the law
of sin at work within me.
What a wretched man I am!”
Romans 7:21-24

What freed Paul to be so honest? What released him to such transparent love?

Most of us are confronted with our misdemeanors before such confession — our breaches of conduct exposed, our sin and failure made public. Not this man! Paul was different.

Perfect Love

John, the disciple Jesus loved, penned these words,

“There is no fear in love.
But perfect love drives out fear,
because fear has to do with punishment.
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 5:18

Here lies the heart of our issue, our stumbling block to transparent love. We’ve learned early that honesty brings punishment, reprimand, perhaps rejection and shunning, often unforgiveness and broken relationships. So we live among those we are supposed to love, and who are called to love us, with fear. Fear denies love the freedom to thrive and grow.

Yet, Paul’s encounter with Jesus Christ, his relationship with the God who by His very nature is love, so grounded him to boldly and honestly acknowledge his greatest weaknesses even among His enemies.

He laid out his true condition before those who could do him the most harm, the church. Yikes! If ever there is a critical bunch, they can be found sitting in the pews, praying in the prayer rooms, and sharing communion at the altar. Unfortunate, but sadly true. The places where love should most abound at times is lacking. Lacking in me most of all!

Yet, here more than any other place authentic, transparent honesty finds hope, help and healthy relationship.

No Pedestal

Though some would like to climb on the pedestal marked human perfection, there was only One who could hold that rightful place. His sinless life was enough to redeem us all.

For the rest of us, we are in process like Paul — trying our best, longing with all our heart not to sin and let others down, and repenting often.

If there is one verse I take great comfort in, it is this one,

“But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me was not without effect.”
1 Corinthians 15:10

I haven’t reached the fullness of God’s intention for my life and fall far short of it most days, but I’m not the person I used to be — the broken one, the despised and rejected one, the unloved one. By God’s grace alone, He has called me by name and chosen me as His daughter. He loves me even though I’m undeserving.

As a matter of fact,

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

Paul wrote both of these passages. He called himself the least of the apostles, unworthy of that designation. In another place, he identifies himself as the worst of sinners. This is the regenerated Paul — the cleaned up, polished-off apostle who is effectively planting churches everywhere he goes.

Yet, he claimed nothing for himself. He desired no pedestal or promotion. In transparent love, he clearly identified with sinners, redeemed only by the pure love of God.

Love Redeeming Hope

So where is our hope and help in the midst of the internal battle we all wage. Paul sums it up in a single sentence.

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me
through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Romans 7:25

“Who delivers me” is a continuous action! Jesus, our Beloved, continuously draws us into the intimate love and fellowship of the Father, freeing us from the claws of fear, releasing us to transparent love. Risky? Yes. Vulnerable? Beyond question. Worth it? Absolutely.

This morning I awoke weeping and singing, “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son, to make (this) wretch his treasure.” I’ve spent the morning resting in that love. In His perfect love, repentance flows freely. Not just remorse or guilt, but a repentance that sets the captive free.

“Godly sorrow brings repentance
that leads to salvation and leaves no regret,
but worldly sorrow brings death.”
2 Corinthians 7:10

Transparent love honestly draws us into repentance of anything that marks, distorts or hinders love’s fullness. Repentance starts at the cross and flows to everyone around us. The world’s vain replica brings destruction. But the honesty of Christ’s love in us leads to the sorrow of repentance that embraces even the wretchedness of our present struggle.

Transparent love redeems pulling us up to a higher standard, a wider reach, a deeper flow of loves pure intent. So herein is God’s challenge to each of us — to love with transparency and honesty, to refuse to play it safe hiding in fear, to risk vulnerability before God and others. The pursuit of such love lasts a lifetime, but such is redeeming love.

*****

Another Read:

Adonai Jehovah – The Giver – The One Who Pours Out

Do Clothes Make a Man or Woman? Are You Ready?

How important are the clothes we wear? Do clothes really make a man or woman? Is our dress that closely associated with the success of an individual?

My mother always dressed beautifully. She knew exactly what accessories to put with whatever top to go with whichever shoes. Me, on the other hand, missed the gorgeous-garment-gene completely. There was nothing glamorous about most of my life doing farm work. Carhartts and steel-toed boots hardly qualify as a fashion statement. Jewelry? Any deer, rabbit or coyote I encountered would have been non-appreciative of such accessories.

Not that I haven’t tried on rare occasions to “doll myself up.” One failed attempt at dressing-for-success ended up with arriving at church only to realize I had completely forgotten to wear shoes. Horrified I discovered I had left home with incredibly comfortable, fuzzy, blue slippers! An illustration perhaps of God humiliating the proud.

Seriously though, God has a lot to say about the clothes we wear that have little to do with appealing to the human eye, but rather the heart.

So before I worry about dress codes and fashion statements, the latest trends and hot new looks, let’s check out what is far more critical. God points to quite a different wardrobe for clothes appropriate for any man or woman.

The Old for the New

When we moved off the farm, I happily traded in those muddy boots and work clothes for casual office attire. The transition was easy and inexpensive thanks to second-hand stores and bargain hunting.

Paul compared the new life of a Christian as being similar to a wardrobe change, taking off the old and putting on the new.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life,
to put off your old self,
which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;
to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
and to put on the new self,
created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ephesians 4:22-24

Sounds easy, right? Maybe for some, but it certainly hasn’t been for me! I may not even own those old clothes any more, but I still smell the stench of them from time-to-time. Deceitful desires are deceitful because I’m the last the recognize how deceived I am in them. My attitudes can become downright foul before I catch a whiff of my own disdainful aroma.

Unfortunately, I’m not alone.

“We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our unrighteous deeds are like polluted garments.”
Isaiah 64:6

Humility

If you think I might be exaggerating, I’ll be specific. I’ll begin with the truly gritty and tough.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people,
holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion,
kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Colossians 3:12

Taking off the old man, or garments, may appear like an instantaneous magic act for some, but for me, it has been more like peeling layer by layer slowly and painstakingly off my entire being. Oh don’t get me wrong, I would love to be clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. These are the real attributes making any woman or man great.

The selfishness, inconsideration, pride, harshness and impatience of my old man sticks like crazy-glue, showing itself in the most unexpected ways. I fear I grieve the Holy Spirit far too often, in my failure to rid myself of these old offensive garments. As a matter of fact, the more I try to rid myself of them, the more hopeless the process appears to become. If these godly qualities make the man or woman, without divine help, I’m in big trouble!

I, like everyone else who acknowledges the Name of the Lord Jesus, have been robed in His righteousness. But the message has taken longer than I hoped to seep into the essence of my whole being.

Salvation

I love Isaiah’s declaration:

“I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
Isaiah 61:10

“He has clothed me with garments of salvation!” Don’t you love it? Do you hear the past tense? It’s a done deal, an irreversible act, an undeniable fact. These garments truly make us women and men of God.

Unlike my personal wardrobe transition, this garment change cost the highest price, the life of Jesus Christ. But God looked at each of us and said, “That one is worth it! Look at her. See how valuable she is. Look at him all you heavenly host, watch how I clean him up and transform him into someone that turns heads, capturing attention. Everyone will know it is My doing when they see these children of mine in their new clothes.”

Garments of salvation . . . robes of righteousness . . . fit only for the bride of Christ. Yes, Lord, bring it on!

My meager wardrobe change is nothing in comparison with the magnificent exchange that God has orchestrated. God’s clothes do make the man or woman.

Magnificent Exchange

In Matthew 22, Jesus tells a parable about a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out invitations far and wide to the elite and the chosen — the list was long and impressive. Few responded; most vainly excused themselves. Quickly the invitation list was changed.

“Go into the street corners and invite . . . anyone you find.”
Matthew 22:9

The anyones and the everyones gladly came.

“But when the king came in to see the guests,
he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.
He asked, ‘How did you get in here
without wedding clothes, friend?’
The man was speechless.
Matthew 22:11

Don’t miss the compassion and intimacy with which the king called him “friend.” The king knew him and loved him. The king had both extended the invitation and provided the necessary apparel for the occasion. The man was without excuse.

Obviously, when our Heavenly Father throws a wedding for His Son, He fully expects us to come dressed in the righteousness that He has already provided.

Fit for a King

Jesus spoke in parables while John witnessed the grand occasion through a vision.

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder shouting:
Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)”
Revelation 19: 6-8

God has given us everything we need, but it is up to each of us as the bride of Christ to make ourselves ready. I, for one, don’t want to have the King ask how I got into the wedding, still wearing the old garments of my past.

So, here I am kneeling in prayer, peeling away the old, receiving the new, and doing whatever it takes to be ready. Won’t you join me? If you are an anyone, the invitation still stands.

Adonai Jehovah – The Giver – The One Who Pours Out

As we approach the season of giving, I’m reminded of the ultimate Giver who continues to out-give us all. His very name means “The One who pours out.”

During our first years of marriage my husband and I often tried to out-give each other. Our giving started out with loving intentions, but it didn’t take long for our practice to become foolishly insane. Eventually, we realized that it was the simple day to day giving of ourselves that reaped the greatest relational dividends. Over the years, we developed an ever deepening appreciation for each other as we increasingly valued the moments we shared.

These lessons came with much struggle. Yet, the joy of daily serving each other in a thousand little ways out measured the futile task of finding the perfect gift to demonstrate inexpressible gratitude.

The Inspiration

Around $10 billion flows into charitable donations annually in Canada alone. Thirty percent of those donations occur during the Christmas season. Why? It’s recognition of the Giver, the One who poured out His very best to us all through the Gift of Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish
but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

That most precious of gifts, generously given by a loving Father to us, His needy children, continues to inspire giving globally. Of course, no monetary giving compares to God’s ultimate gift of salvation through Jesus. Yet, out of gratitude, humanity imitates God’s example becoming givers and thereby meeting the needs of others. Even in this small way, we reflect His compassionate heart.

Adonai, one of the names for God, means “Giver or “One who pours Himself out.” Giving is who He is, not just what He does. It is an attribute of His nature.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows.”
James 1:17

Out-Giving the Giver

David also captured a bit of God’s heart wanting to give something back to Him. David wondered how he could live content in “a house of cedars” (1 Chronicles 17:1) while God inhabited a tent. He wanted to build a house for God to dwell in, giving God the best he could.

Just like in our marriage, the desire to give backfired for David. As soon as he disclosed his aspiration, God turned the tables out-giving David’s greatest intentions. First though, God reminded David of his humble beginnings.

“…I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock,
and appointed you ruler over my people Israel.
I have been with you wherever you have gone,
and I have cut off all your enemies from before you.”
2 Samuel 7:8-9

David’s desire to give reflected God’s own gracious favor. His capacity and opportunity to give originated from the heart of The Giver. In response to David’s intention, God opened His treasure trove of promises offering even more gifts of grace, to not just David but to all his descendants.

“...I will make your name great,
like the names of the greatest men on earth.
And I will provide a place for my people Israel
and will plant them so that they can have
a home of their own and no longer be disturbed…
I will also give you rest from all your enemies…
the LORD himself will establish a house for you…
I will raise up your offspring to succeed you…
And I will establish his kingdom…
I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever…
But my love will never be taken away from him…”
2 Samuel 7:9-16

Relationship

Can you imagine how David felt in that moment? His intended gift to God held no comparison to what God now presented back to him. Immediately, David sensed an even greater awe and reverence for the God he thought he knew.

“Then King David went in and sat before the LORD…”
2 Samuel 7:18

Something became more intimate about their relationship. Deeper revelation of the Giver above all givers permeated that moment. Seven times in the next ten verses David refers to God as “Sovereign LORD” — Adonai Jehovah, the One who continually pours Himself out to the unworthy and undeserving.

I’ve experienced brief encounters with God, coming into His presence for no purpose other than to offer my little in worship to Him. Consistently, He turns the tables and lavishes upon me such a sense of His favor and grace it has left me in a weeping heap — speechless and helpless.

Though undefinable, something supernatural triggers a divine flow through even our limited imitation of the heart of The Giver. He sweeps in with love that will never be taken away.” He plants us secure in Him “no longer disturbed” as He welcomes us to come and sit close. Over and over again, God gives us the gift of His Presence!

Adonai Jehovah

Adonai Jehovah speaks first of relationship, either as Master and servant, or as Husband and wife. Both a slave and a wife in biblical times were “not their own,” but rather bought with a price. Whether voluntarily or involuntarily they became the property of their lord, fully dependent upon His faithfulness. But the Master made the first move through covenant willingly pledging Himself to sustain, keep and provide.

Paul and the other apostles considered it the highest honor to be known as a servant of the Lord, their beloved. In the Old Testament, Adonai Jehovah, signified a person’s hope in every weakness and encouragement in times of great struggle. God’s covenant presence guaranteed security and favor.

When everything around Isaiah seemed to have reached its darkest most desperate level, he says,

“In the year that King Uzziah died,
I saw the LORD (Adonai),
high and exalted, seated on a throne;
and the train of his robe filled the temple.”
Isaiah 6:1

In times of despair, Adonai comes giving Himself in the most intimate of communion with His people.

“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.”
Isaiah 54:5

The images of God’s loving care to his bride abound throughout the Bible, lavishly providing for her, extending all He is and has for her benefit.

The Giver

Just as the Lord loved us and gave Himself to us, He desires that we now give ourselves to Him. This personal relationship between the Giver and His people flows with intimate and mutual confidence.

“They that know His name will put their trust in HIm.
And they that trust in Him shall never be confounded.”
– Andrew Jukes

Adonai came to humanity over two thousand years ago, pouring Himself out in complete servanthood — through life and death — that we might give ourselves back to Him. The best and greatest Gift has already been given. In receiving Him, we, like David, enter into a new sense of reverence and ever deepening fellowship with Him.

Adonai, the Giver, pours Himself out to a world in need of The Gift that all earth’s riches could never purchase. In both the giving and receiving resides great joy.

The Privilege of Prayer – I Am Praying for You, Pray for Me

Praying for others is an amazing privilege. Though I don’t know each of you personally, I’m praying for you. I humbly ask that you pray for me as well. This kind of praying network, connecting one with another, releases anointing, provision, protection, and power for Christians.

For many years, I thought that praying for myself or asking for prayer was selfish. I’m not even sure how I got such a distorted idea, but I’m glad it finally shook loose. It was when I began to ask people to pray for me that I experienced serious breakthrough. Whether it was for a major project, a decision, or another specific need, I immediately noticed the difference when others were praying.

There is perhaps no higher honor than being able to take the requests of others before God. It amazes me every time! Yet, I continue to struggle to ask for prayer for myself.

Jesus Prayed for Himself

The Bible passage that awakened me to truth came through the Gospel of John. Jesus wasn’t ashamed to ask for His Father’s help, how much more should I be willing to ask!

“…Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
John 17:1-5 

Ultimately Jesus prayed that God would be glorified, that others would receive life, that He would finish well, and would receive His reward in heaven. Sounds like everything we would also like to accomplish.

God has given each one of us a work to complete. He desires that our lives would bring love, life and hope to the people around us. We cannot do that in the fullness that Jesus did, but we certainly can in part. Ultimately, we want our lives to reflect Jesus and bring as much glory to God as possible.

So in many ways, Jesus’ prayer for Himself, is one that we can continue to pray for ourselves as well. Jesus taught by example, “Pray for me!”

Pray for Ourselves

In the darkest moments of Jesus’ life, while in heavy travail in Gethsemane, Jesus commanded his disciples to

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Matthew 26:42

Even His three closest companions couldn’t keep awake to pray, failing the test. Even though Jesus was in great duress, His concern was more for those He loved than Himself. Prayer would give them the support and help they needed to triumph during the next hours and days. Jesus wanted them empowered and enabled to withstand the upcoming events.

It is interesting that this is the last directive Jesus gave to His followers before His death. His words question my heart as He surely as He questioned them,

Couldn’t you… keep watch with me for one hour?”
Matthew 26:40

Prayer cooperates “with” Jesus. What is on His heart? Am I willing to “keep watch with” Him? My willingness to join with Him will help me to overcome the weakness of my own flesh. “Pray for me?” Jesus asked.

Pray for Others

I have partnered with others in prayer and reaped undeserved rewards. Together we have seen miraculous births (naturally and spiritually), supernatural healings, financial breakthroughs, miracles of provision and dire events turn around to become overwhelmingly good. That’s not all but it’s a beginning! Praying together  unleashes God’s power.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions
with all kinds of prayers and requests.
With this in mind, be alert and
always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Ephesians 6:18

Paul instructs the believers to “be alert and always keep on praying.” The word “alert” means to stay awake or sleepless. Sounds like the same thing Jesus asked of His disciples to do, doesn’t it?

Just yesterday, on a quiet Sunday afternoon, my husband and I stretched out for an afternoon nap. Neither of us could sleep, however. Thoughts about one young couple were continually stirring in our hearts. Though we had just seen them a few hours earlier and appeared to be doing well, we sensed God calling us to pray for them. Immediately, we got up, shook off our sleepiness and prayed. It really doesn’t matter if we ever know what the need was. God knows their need. This was one time we were alert; but unfortunately, we’re not always that responsive.

Have you ever been woken up in the middle of the night to pray for someone? Good for you, if you did! I’m so thankful for those who are alert and willing to pray even before I ask.

Pray for Me

Paul goes on to express his personal need to the Ephesian church,

“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak,
words may be given me so that
I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel
for which I am an ambassador in chains.
Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
Ephesians 6:19-20

“Pray for me,” Paul asked. He knew that prayer is the work! There is nothing done for the Lord of any value apart from prayer.

Prayer prepares speakers, writers and artists to declare fully and freely the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It removes fear replacing it with boldness and tenacity to share God’s message succinctly and boldly. Prayer also prepares the hearts of listeners, stirring the seed bed for the word of truth to land and grow.

Let’s all try to be alert, praying for those who carry the weight of sharing the Gospel locally, nationally and internationally. Heaven will reveal the difference that our prayers will made.

“What difference does the prayer of one person make?
You will never know until you pray.
– Anne Graham Lotz

Your prayer might very well be the prayer that tips the scales releasing God’s intention to those around you.

I’m Praying for You

Perhaps the response to my writing that inspires and excites me the most is when someone leaves a request for prayer. I never allow these personal requests to be seen by the public, but I certainly make them known, loud and clear, in the heavenly realm.

What an honor it is to pray for you? That occurs mostly in a general sense. My daily clicks and likes are very small on my website, but I consider it an awesome responsibility to  pray for those individuals and nations that check in.

May it be an encouragement to know that someone is praying for you. What joy when we will one day be eternally united in heaven! Thank you for trusting me to be praying on your behalf. I know that many of you pray for me too. I send a sincere thank you!

 

The Kingdom of God – Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Why would Paul include righteousness, peace and joy as the key ingredients in the kingdom of God? What sets these three qualities above all others? Why are these components indispensable?

“For the kingdom of God
is not a matter of eating and drinking,
but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
because anyone who serves Christ in this way
is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”
Romans 14:17,18

I confess to having more questions than answers. However, one thing appears certain, righteousness, peace and joy create the fertile soil from which they each thrive, co-existing for their mutual benefit.

Righteousness

Recently, I’ve had more than one conversation surrounding the frustration we can feel regarding righteousness. (Or perhaps the lack of it.) Why does it seem to be too easy to do the things we would or should not do, while at the same time difficult to do the things we truly want to do? Oops! That’s another question!

Before the initial sin, humanity could freely choose to obey God and maintain close relationship with Him without feeling pulled and tugged in other directions. Since that time however, our propensity bends continually toward disobedience and rebellion. For every son and daughter since Adam and Eve, we now need to make a deliberate choice for righteousness — to walk in innocence and freedom. Without this focused attention, we automatically default to sin and error.

Just a few verses earlier Paul despaired of the same frustration I experience, “Who can possible help us?” he asks. Then immediately he gives the answer,

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me
through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Romans 7:25

There’s hope! Righteousness means to be faultless, innocent, and guiltless or observing divine laws. Only God fits this description. In light of His holiness, we all end up far short.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21

God solved the problem in Jesus. Through covenant relationship with Him, God counts us as righteous. Because of Jesus, righteousness now becomes the hallmark of all other relationships as well.

Peace

Through the liberty of Jesus Christ, we are no longer forced to continue in negative patterns. He came to deliver us from the stronghold of sin. With righteousness in place, we can start growing upward and onward. Maturity and development in any area isn’t always easy, but possible through Christ.

“The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.”
Isaiah 32:17

The apple tree in my yard doesn’t have to work at producing apples; it simply bears what it is genetically designed to produce. The fruit of righteousness however does take work, or at least active involvement. “Fruit” here is an activity or byproduct of action taken.

Isaiah says with certainty, the byproduct of righteousness “will be” peace. Peace effects us inside and out, giving us a sense of undisturbed quietness, complete safety and absolute security.

When I’ve violated God’s standards, I’m immediately robbed of peace and void of internal quietness and confidence. In Christ, however, I am able to be restored again to right relationship with God, producing “fruit” naturally.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18

Peace works its way outward spreading to others with enough fruit to share!

Joy

It’s hard to believe that someone like me, whose life was marked by depression and anxiety for decades, could experience such complete joy. But it’s true! Perhaps more than any other quality, joy marks my life . Because of what Jesus Christ has done in me, I easily share the overflow of joy with others.

“Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul,
produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ
in the word and in the world.”
– John Piper

When we begin to walk in right relationship with God, living at peace with ourselves and others, we possess an ability to see the world in a new light. God enables us to view His Word and the world around us from kingdom perspective.

In a sense, God gives us spiritual contact lens, that allow us to see those we encounter here on earth from His viewpoint. At the same time, we are able to maintain clear focus on Him. Righteousness, peace and joy retrains our minds to see with His vision.

Paul prayed,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

Righteousness produces more and more. This time in the form of overflowing, bubbling over and abounding hope.

Kingdom of God

Listen to how the Message Bible phrases our original verses:

“God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone; pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.”
Romans 14:17-18

The kingdom of God isn’t so much about what we do, but what God does in us. He “sets it right, puts it together and completes it with joy.” He does it all!  What we need to do is rest in the process, co-operating with the Holy Spirit, while He does the heavy lifting.

 

We have only one part to play — “single-minded” service. By keeping our eyes on God, all the pressure falls off of us. No matter how old we become, how mature in the faith, or how seasoned in the Scriptures, we constantly depend on Him to lead, equip and enable me.

Though we try our best to please God in every way, our own efforts matter little. Through righteousness, peace and joy we automatically become pleasing to God and valuable to others.

Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Righteousness, peace and joy are byproducts of living wholly for Christ. Through my vain efforts to try to do and be, I actually hinder the natural flow of God’s design.

God has planted us firmly. The Holy Spirit washes us continually with the Word, watering us deep to the roots. We rest in His finished work producing the fruit of the heavenly kingdom to which we belong.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23

Don’t ignore the last sentence. “Against such there is no law.” We no longer have to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or the law pointing out right and wrong, like our first ancestors did. Because of God’s grace, we eat freely and fully from the tree of life where righteousness, peace and joy thrive.

No wonder Paul declared these three ingredients as essential in the kingdom of God. This is how God sets our lives right, puts them together, and completes them with joy.

 

Boast in the Lord – You May be Good but You’re Not that Good

Boast in the Lord and Him only. We may think we’re pretty good compared to others, but not compared to God. We’re just not that good. All other boasting is ludicrous and dangerous.

The other day, I laughed as I overheard four siblings constructing a major building block project. They had gotten along quite well, but now were disagreeing on the finishing touches. Finally, Evan announced, “Here let me do it! Boys are better than girls!”

Shayla, the oldest of the group, placed her hands on her hips, and with eyebrows lowered glared at him in disbelief. His remark obviously stuck a uncomfortable chord with her. Karli, the younger sister, backed off obligingly, pondering the weight of her brother’s comment while beginning to question her own ability. Four year old Sara didn’t miss a beat. She gently but firmly shoved the boaster off to the side, “You’re good, Evan, but you’re not that good!”

I laughed until I felt the nudge of Holy Spirit gently, but firmly, speak similarly to me. He was reminding me how easily I too step in with over-confidence, when humility and tact would be more appropriate. Boasting in ourselves usually doesn’t end up well — for kids or adults, male or female.

“Let someone else praise you,
and not your own mouth;
an outsider, and not your own lips.”
Proverbs 27:2

Boasting

Such boasting in ourselves never produces the results we would like. Boasting must have been an issue in the Corinthian church because it was the first problem Paul dealt with.

“Therefore, as it is written:
‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.‘”
I Corinthians 1:31 

I have discovered that often boasting partners with insecurity rather than confidence. Those who accurately measure their talents, abilities or expertise, don’t need to boast; their works speak for themselves. Those who feel a need to be publicly noticed or appreciated tend to boast as a way to elevate and validate themselves before others. Such tactics usually backfire.

Pride goes before destruction
and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Proverbs 16:18

Unless you think, for even a moment, I am pointing my finger at anyone else, rest assured, I’m not! God orchestrated this little incident with these young children to get my attention. Although amusing, it speaks directly to some boastful thoughts incubating in me.

Not That Good

Sara’s small but firm voice, “You’re good, but you’re not that good” has been resonating in my ears. I’m asking God to show me places where I overthink my own worth or accomplishments. I have always struggled to receive compliments well. Insults, I’m able to handle more readily, but accolades can trip me up.

I’m not alone! Perhaps the chief danger zones for most of us are pride, praise, and power. These each have a way of ultimately revealing our true nature.

“Brothers and sister, think of what you were
when you were called.
Not many of you were wise by human standards;
not many were of noble birth.”
1 Corinthians 1:26

Having no claim to either nobility or wisdom, this verse resonates with me. Though my parents gave me a generous start, my beginnings were humble. Any wisdom I possess, came from a gracious God and the school of many mistakes.

Quite frankly, I’m not that good! I hate to break it to you, but in the words of Sara, “You’re good, but you’re not that good” either.

Who Are You?

Just this week, someone confessed that when they heard me teach a class for the first time, they thought, “Who does she think she is?” Believe me, I wasn’t offended! It was obvious to everyone in the room, including me, that I wasn’t anybody special. I hold no distinction, certification, title or degree. Nothing set me apart from anyone else.

But here is the kicker! What does set each of us apart lies entirely in the extra-ordinary mercy of God!

“But God chose the foolish things
of the world to shame the wise;
God chose the weak things
of the world to shame the strong.
God chose the lowly things
of this world and the despised things —
and the things that are not —
to nullify the things that are,
so that no one may boast before him.”
1 Corinthians 1:27-29

Good news! We qualify among the ranks of those God chooses. Honestly! Who else but God would choose us, when we are “good, but not that good?”

This beautiful, intelligent woman felt a little uneasy about her thoughts. I didn’t! God and I both know, I’m just one of the “foolish things…weak things…lowly things…the things that are not.” And boy am I glad! No one can look at me and say I got where I am on my own efforts, intelligence, economic status, or by any other human means.

In Christ Alone

I constantly need to remember what Paul told the Corinthians believers,

“It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus
who has become for us wisdom from God —
that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
1 Corinthians 1:30

 

Everything originates in Christ — everything. Wisdom? From Him! Health or wealth? From Him! Loving relationships, warm home, security, hope, peace, destiny and promise? From Christ alone!

When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he said,

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

The cross puts everything into perspective. So no matter how good we may think we are, we know that we’re not that good.

Boast Please!

Not all boasting is bad, however. Paul wasn’t disqualifying all boasting. A few verses later, He lets us know that most of their boasting was in specific leaders. He warned about this propensity to boast about ourselves or others, whether a favorite leader, music group, sports team, college, or whatever.

“Therefore, as it is written:
‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.'”
1 Corinthians 1:31

Here Paul quotes from a much larger portion found in Jeremiah:

“This is what the LORD says:
“let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9:23-24

God Delights in Boasting

God delights when boasting is directed toward Him. Not because He is in any way self-centered or needs such acclaim, but rather boasting in God is healthy and beneficial.

David said,

“My soul will boast in the LORD;
the humble will hear it and rejoice.”
Psalm 34:2

Boasting in God has a spin off effect on others, positively turning their eyes toward Him. I’m so glad God didn’t have to use a donkey to speak to me, like He did with Balaam. He chose a four-year-old child to make His point in my heart. I hope her words will stick with me for a long, long time, “You’re good, but you’re not that good.”

A little humility goes a long way!

Seeing is Believing – Look up in Faith!

For many people, like me, seeing is believing. First we look up, and then we rest in the enduring fabric of faith we find in God. Faith weaves through the pages of biblical history uniting man and God. It’s a history filled with divine encounters passed down from generation to generation.

My grandchildren delight in passing on the exciting things they are doing and showing me their recent accomplishments.  Their experiences mark milestones of achievement or are just plain fun things they want to tell me about. They are happy to share; I’m equally happy to listen and encourage them.

On the other hand, I have stored more than a few bone-headed blunders in the “open-at-your-own-risk” file! Seeing is believing there too. During those episodes, I hoped no one witnessed my absent-mindedness. Even I can’t believe how or why I stumbled into such predicaments.

I’m not alone! Israel had just about had enough of circling the wilderness. Even though God had faithfully led and cared for them the whole way, instead of gratitude, they were growing impatient.

“They spoke against God and against Moses, and said,
‘Why have you brought  us up out of Egypt
to die in the wilderness?
There is no bread! There is no water!
And we detest this miserable food!'”
Numbers 21:5

Look Around

Actually, I empathize. There are days when I’ve thought, “Enough is enough! God where are you?” Thankfully, my words aren’t recorded for everyone to examine in microscopic detail.

This wasn’t the first time complaining rose among this discontented mob. They had experienced the severe consequences of such mumbling before. You would think they had learned their lesson, but they were human — just like me!

How many times do I know better, but look at my self-made circumstances and grumble? The depraved condition of my own heart expresses itself: dissatisfied, malcontent, self focused, entitled, glum, disheartened… The longer I look at my surroundings the worse it gets.

“Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them;
they bit the people and many Israelites died.”
Numbers 21:6

We reap what we sow! Their sharp poisonous words reaped the consequences of equally sharp venomous bites by deadly serpents. God allowed them to see the snakes and feel the poisonous effects of their actions. Seeing is believing and so is feeling!

Look to Man

Instead of looking up to God, their first response was to point their rigid fingers toward their leader. Their second response was, “Help! Get us away from the problem!”

“The people came to Moses and said,
We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you.
Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’
So Moses prayed for the people.”
Numbers 21:7

It’s a familiar refrain from fallen and broken humanity. Yet, even when it is obvious how wrong we have been, we refuse to look up to God for help. We choose rather to look for another savior, someone else to rescue us from our trials.

God neither removed them from their circumstances, nor did He remove the snakes.

The Serpent

The Israelites witnessed the effects of mankind’s fall in the most tangible of ways. I hear the silent echo of words spoken to the first serpent in the garden of Eden.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Genesis 3:15

Here they were sinning like their original parents, Adam and Eve, feeling the serpent’s poisonous bite. God neither removed the serpent from the garden, nor from the wilderness. He doesn’t always remove our situations that strike with equally deadly force today either.

A Savior

However, God doesn’t leave us helpless or hopeless, but provides a permanent solution to our temporary problems.

“The LORD said to Moses,
“Make a snake and put it up on a pole;
anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
Numbers 21:8

Talk about faith! Look up at a man-made bronze snake hanging from a pole and you will live! What does looking have to do with halting poisonous venom? Only one look brought life — it worked! Seeing is believing when we take time to look up.

“…Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and
looked at the bronze snake, they lived.”
Numbers 21:9b

Jesus, the Savior of the world, compares this very act to Himself.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,
so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
that everyone who believes
may have eternal life in him.”
John 3:14-15

Faith looks up and believes. We are like the people in the wilderness being struck by a deadly serpent. We too desire safety, away from the evil intentions of our enemy. Rather than remove the enemy, God still provides a solution — look up in faith and believe!

Faith Looks Up

“Looking” and “believing” are synonymous. When the Israelites looked at the serpent, they believed in their Deliverer. When we look to Jesus, that same faith rises within us.

“Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”
– A.W. Tozer

Without faith there’s no approaching God, no forgiveness possible, no deliverance available, no spiritual life obtainable, no community of believers accessible.

“Without faith it is impossible to please (God)”
Hebrews 11:6

Jesus represented active faith. He looked up to the Father, doing only what He saw the Father do, speaking only words He heard the Father speak. When faith looks up everything else falls into place.

Unfortunately, we bend our gaze toward each other — mirroring ourselves in smug content. We try the same things other churches try, imitating explicitly, with very little variation. It is all a substitute for looking up to the real Savior Jesus Christ.

If only we would recognize that seeing is believing. Faith actively looks up!

Eyes to See

The serpent’s strike of the heal has inflicted us all with near-sightedness. We are blinded even in our looking.

Faith gazes outside of human perspective. With eyes inside the heart, we look intently upon the all-seeing God. When we look and see, we find One sitting upon the throne.

“At once I was in the Spirit,
and there before me was a throne in heaven
with someone sitting on it.”
Revelation 4:2

If there is one verse that speaks peace to my troubled heart, it is this one. Someone, The Savior, remains on the throne. When I feel the poisonous strike of the enemy upon, my marriage, family, church, community, nation or world, I know there is still One upon the throne. No one and nothing can remove Him from His position of ALL authority and power.

Seeing is believing! So in prayer, I look and see as faith moves within me stirring up peace beyond understanding, joy unquenchable and love irreversible.

Faith is a heart action beholding God from the inside out. We look up to Him, by looking into His Word, the Bible. Our gaze refocuses as we soak in His Presence. Nothing can replace these solitary times of meditation and prayer, seeking His face.

At the root of all faith resides the habitual intention of looking up, gazing upon, and beholding God. While our outward eyes know there are serpents among us, with inward eyes we see the solution, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Look up! Seeing is believing!