Take Courage! Don’t be Afraid

Take Courage

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

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

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

Not My Boat!

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

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

Boat calm water

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

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

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

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

Not My Wind!

Night came and with it a fierce wind.

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

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

Boat Storm

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

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

Cold, harsh winds blow ugly and cruel.

Not Alone!

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

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

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

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

Faith

Take Courage!

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

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

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

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

Calm Sunrise

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

No Fear!

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

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

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

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

Jesus

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

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

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

 

Harvest Time: Separating the Wheat and Weeds

Harvest Time

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

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

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

Weed Seeds

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

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

Wheat and Tares

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

Matthew 13:24-26

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

Wheat Field

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

Choices

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

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

Matthew 13:28-29

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

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

Solomon wrote,

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

Ecclesiastes 8:6

Don’t Throw it Out

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

Harvesting

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

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

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

Me, Too

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

Why?

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

Matthew 13:27

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

Frost Damage

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

Harvest Time

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 2:11

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

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

Truck and Grain Cart

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

“At That Time”

The parable reads,

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

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

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

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

Sunset

Worship in Heaven — No Introverts Allowed! Honest!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creatures and Elders

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

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

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

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

Trumpet Blast

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

Angels

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

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

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

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

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

Great Multitude

John’s vision continues,

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

Introvert Worship

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

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

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

Silence

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

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

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

A Lions Roars

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

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

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

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

Worship in Heaven

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

My heart yearns to give Him more.

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

Worship in Heaven

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

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

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

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

The Pursuit of God: To See and Know God More

The Pursuit of God

Are you in pursuit of God, desiring to know Him in ever-increasing ways? The little I know doesn’t satisfy my desire for more. The more I see and know, the more I realize I don’t really see or know much!

Have you ever tried a “What is it?” quiz? That’s where you look at a close-up image of something and guess what it is. Sometimes pursuing God resembles the opposite. Through an encounter with a distant shadow, we try to figure out what He is fully like.

A.W. Tozer said, “We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to that pursuit.”

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God wants to be found; He desires to be discovered by us. That knowledge offers great comfort and hope.

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

Shadows

The Old Testament gives us bold expressions of God’s identity through His many names: God, LORD, Healer, Creator, Shepherd, Redeemer, and many more. The list is long, the images unique to another facet of who our God is.

The vast God-shaped palette fills with colorful texture as our knowledge of Him fills and finds depth. When we look, seeking with our whole heart, we find His image revealed, yet concealed.

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In the pages of the New Testament, we quickly see that most people, Jewish and otherwise, believed they had Him figured out. The portrait they painted was Scripture perfect. Or so they thought! They believed in the diligent pursuit of God.

John quotes Jesus as saying,

You study the Scriptures diligently
because you think that in them
you have eternal life.
These are the very Scriptures
that testify about me.”
John 5:39

John’s generation, as well as preceding and following generations, studied God’s Word with a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude, rather than a pursuit-of-God intention. As a result, they missed God, even when He stood among them.

Me, Too!

Honestly, that’s me too! John himself probably fit into the same category. As a Jewish boy, he would have studied the Torah, knew the names of God, and memorized key passages about Him.

If someone asked if he knew God, John undoubtedly would have responded in the affirmative. His incomplete perception of God blew apart when Jesus came along.

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Jesus, the God-Man, didn’t look like, sound like or act like the God John thought he knew. Yet Paul would write,

“The Son is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.”
Colossians 1:15

Another disciple, Philip, was in pursuit of God. He felt he needed more. Being with Jesus, hearing his authoritative teaching and witnessing miracles left him lacking.

“Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father
and that will be enough for us.”
John 14:8

In no uncertain terms, Jesus responds,

“. . . Don’t you know me, Philip,
even after I have been among
you such a long time?
Anyone who has seen me
has seen the Father. . .”
John 14:9

This, too, I find strangely reassuring. Even the disciples who lived with Jesus intensely pursued more of God!

Majestic Glory

John’s entire perception of God changed in the face of Jesus. He discovered Him to be more loving, merciful and gracious than John ever imagined. Was it this new understanding that transformed a “Son of Thunder” into “the Beloved?” Talk about a radical life transformation!

As our view of God changes, so will we.

God made Himself visible, reachable, touchable, understood and seen in Jesus. So much more remains to be seen, known and discovered.

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Jesus led Peter, James and John high up a mountain one day. The rest of his close followers stayed below.

“There be was transfigured before them.
His face shone like the sun,
and his clothes became as white as the light.”
Matthew 17:2

Just when they thought they had God figured out He blows their tidy little box apart. Jesus shows Himself in a way they have never seen Him before. They flounder for words, stumble over preconceived notions, stunned by the majesty of God.

In Peter’s last letter to the church, he wrote about the experience.

“. . . we were eyewitnesses of his majesty . . . when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well please.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”
2 Peter 1:16-18

The God they thought they knew proved beyond majesty and perfection — holy and awesome. The pursuit of God led them into deeper and deeper revelations of His glory.

The Pursuit of God

If any one of us would have witnessed such things, would that satisfy? Would that one blinding glimpse of His majestic beauty, the thunderous sound of His voice, the heart-pounding Presence of the divine, be enough?

I hope not!

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Here was King David’s heart’s cry,

“You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.”
Psalm 63:1

I know this desire echoed constantly within John. How can I be so certain? In the last words we receive from him, he remains constant in his pursuit of God. John discovers Him to be more than he ever thought possible.

More to See

Banished to the Island of Patmos for his bold declarations of faith, John waits with the only One who matters.

“On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet . . . I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw . . . someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest . . . ”
Revelation 1:10-16

There is always more of God to see. To turn around? Sometimes to know Him more requires a turning on our part — turning away from something and turning toward Someone. Only then will we see Who we are looking for.

When He speaks, when His voice nudges me, do I turn around to look? Or am I too busy? Or too fixed in the knowledge of Him I already possess?

Two Things

As a Christian, two dangerous attitudes hinder me from knowing God.

The first is believing I know enough. Then, I allow the shadowy figure of past understanding to create a mirage, a distorted outline, of who God is. In so doing, I twist and press the grandness of Scripture into my Pharisaical belief system, denying the majesty and greatness of Him to form before my eyes. In it, I deny the revelation of His unfolding fullness.

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Second, I can read the Word of God intent on discovering what He will do for me. Rather than an earnest desire to know Him more, I search for His promises with me-centered fixation. He walks by, whispering my name, nudging me to intimacy of relationship. I fail to notice until perhaps it is too late!

Like David, Peter, John and generations of others, may we never cease our pursuit of God. Throughout the stages of life, may we be held in awe of His Presence, in wonder of His majesty, and in reverence of His holy divinity. May our pursuit of God captivate us, viewing Him intently close and from afar.

My Fair Share! A Measure of Faith!

We all possess incredible ingenuity for obtaining our fair share. Preconceived paradigms of what constitutes fair varies greatly from person to person.

Whether a pie, chocolate bar or some other precious portion, our children eyed the division process with intense scrutiny. Nobody wanted the smallest piece; each hoped for the largest slice; all at the very least, desired their fair share. Generosity sometimes prevailed, but not always.

To settle any disputes, we established a simple rule: the person creating the divide received the last piece. The extra care and concentrated effort to ensure fairness often bordered on humorous!

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Too Little or Too Much

I’m glad God portions to each of us what we need. No one receives too little or too much. I’m reminded of the children of Israel in the desert gathering manna. God supplied. They gathered. Some gathered little, others gathered much, but all received sufficient quantity (Exodus 16).

Whatever the need, we can trust God to supply. There are no shortages in His Kingdom!

“For by the grace given me I say to everyone of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
Romans 12:3

The King James Version says, “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”

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The Passion Translation says it like this: “God has given me grace to speak a warning about pride. I would ask each of you to be emptied of self-promotion and not create a false image of your importance. Instead, honestly assess your worth by using your God-given faith as the standard of measurement, and then you will see your true value with an appropriate self-esteem.”

Paul hits the target, doesn’t he? Hiding behind the expectation of “more,” whatever the more looks like, pride lingers and demands.

Look Up

As long as we focus on “the piece” we don’t possess, we lose. The Roman church had as much trouble understanding the concept of fair as I sometimes do. Paul encouraged them to look up before they looked around.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever? Amen.”
Romans 11:33-36

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Now with a realigned perspective of God’s majesty, Paul gives a grand, “Therefore . . .” (12:1-2). Because of who He is, therefore, worship Him. Therefore, offer yourselves sacrificially and holy unto Him. Therefore, change your mindset and begin thinking like He does.

A Measure of Faith

Just like with my children or the children of Israel, I sometimes attempt to “gather” more than my fair share, stashing it away for another day. God knows exactly what I need — for today and tomorrow. He also knows faith is one of our greatest needs.

So He “has distributed” to each one a measure of faith — our fair share! This word “measure” or “metron” in Greek means “a portion, measure off or allotted” (1). Thayers Greek-English Lexicon says it this way, “a determined extent, portion measured off, measure or limit” (pg 408).

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God knows more than anyone what is necessary. He assures us that the smallest portion, even mustard-seed-sized, will suffice. We humbly receive and draw from His rich resources

“. . . in accordance with the faith God has distributed . . .”
Romans 12:3

I have it! You have it! We all possess a measure of faith — a grace gift. No one claims credit for a gift received. Because He has predetermined exactly what I, or you, or we, need, no gloating or boasting allowed! All the faith I operate under came from Him, to be used by Him, for His glory, and the furthering of His kingdom.

Fair Share

Paul connects our portion of faith to our portion of service to others in the body.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith, if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
Romans 12:6-8

What God first gives to us, we willingly and liberally give to others.

Where do I struggle, needing faith the most? In the great faith chapter of Hebrews, I’m reminded that “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (11:6). That means I need faith everywhere, all the time, to live life honoring to God.

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What demands the most faith from me? Right now, I’m assisting in a new church plant. Honestly, my humanity didn’t want to go there! I knew it would require far more than my aging body was comfortable to give. I understood all too clearly how much work establishing a new church would require, and definitely needed increased faith to step into the fray!

In everything I do, faith forms the foundation: in prophesying and speaking boldly into my culture; in serving others; by accurately teaching the Word of truth; in sacrificially offering encouragement to those carrying burdens and weighed down by pressures; in generously giving of my time and resources; or through being God’s hands of mercy.

God gives His fair share of faith to accomplish whatever He asks of me. But, whatever the portion, little or great, God intends it for the good of others. It’s in the activation of our faith that God’s purposes are fulfilled.

The Piece in the Middle

It’s significant that God sandwiches this little passage about faith between a beautiful doxology of worshiping Him and serving others. It illustrates the purpose of faith clearly!

I can’t claim credit for the faith I possess. I daily open the gift of faith, drawing from the measure He distributed, pouring it lavishly out to others. As I do, faith never diminishes. Actually, the flow increases, becoming fresher and sweeter through use.

Cooks Confectioner Children's Sweets Cake Baking - Pixabay - OCC Public Domain

We will never exhaust the measure of faith God has already given to us. Though we spend our entire lives tapping into and drawing from the rich resource, it continues to flow.

In humility we lay ourselves low, worshiping Him and serving others, until the beauty and fragrance of faith reaches and touches countless lives. Faith comes from God and operates through Him for His praise.

Let’s take the measure of faith He has given us and use it today for His intended use, combining it with the gifts He graced upon us. Oh, what God will do. Trust me, we have more than our fair share!

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References:
(1) Spiros Zondhiates, Th.D., Ed., The Complete Word Study Dictionary, For a Deeper Understanding of the Word; New Testament, (AMG, Chattanooga, 1992), 975

Leadership: A Mother’s Love and a Father’s Care

The similarities between parenting and leadership abound. Paul talked about leading with a mother’s love and a father’s care. Stopping to read and reread his analogy several times, I examined my model of leadership.

Perhaps, I struggle in leadership for the same reasons I struggled with parenting. With five sons born in just over eight years, I tended to “run” our household like a military general. What regrets! By God’s grace they have all become such wonderful men, husbands and fathers. Parenting isn’t for wimps; neither is spiritual leadership. 

More than once someone has commented, “People assume you to be a gentle grandmother, but you’re fierce and tenacious.” Ouch! Is that a compliment or an insult? A commendation or a warning? Should I laugh or cry?

Leadership

Honestly, as I analyze my leadership patterns, gentle, fierce and tenacious form a consistent path, sometimes leading into deep valleys and at other times upward to the highlands. I press myself and those I lead hard, while loving passionately. We only get one crack at life. Time flies quickly past without hope of retrieval.

A Mother’s Love

Paul understood. He established the church in Thessalonica under significant opposition. When persecution forced Paul to flee for his life, he prematurely left a fledgling group of Christ followers. His concern for their survival was valid.

“. . . we cared for you in the same way a nursing mother cares for her own children. With a mother’s love and affectionate attachment to you, we were very happy to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our lives — because you had become so dear to us.”
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

Hippopotamus family

Perhaps no other love compares to the way “a nursing mother cares for her children.” Ponder for a moment, the reality of producing milk to the detriment of her own bone structure; continuing the daily responsibilities despite stumbling through diaper changes and sleep deprivation; walking and rocking a sick or frightened infant for hours on end; rising before dawn and staying up well past sunset with spew in her hair, fatigue dragging her steps; constantly tending to the pressing needs of the one so dependent.

Her love only intensifies through the years: singing “Baby beluga in the deep blue sea,” while walking, driving, shopping, or cleaning; freezing her backside on metal bleachers to cheer for her progeny; teaching sons to cook and daughters to change the oil in the car; dropping everything in an instant when her now grown son or daughter calls in distress; interceding in prayer  for God’s grace to impact and direct their lives. How does one define such love?

Do I lead, like Paul, with a mother’s love and a father’s care? If I don’t, I shouldn’t be leading. The source of such “attachment” comes supernaturally from time at the feet of the One who by divine nature is love.

A Father’s Care

Fathers handle children much differently. They toss their littles into the air, bounce them robustly on their knees, play fight on the floor and do many other things that drive mothers a scant bit crazy. Fathers provide a different, but equally intense, care — showing strength, confidence and brevity. Yet, we’ve all watched that two hundred pounds of male hulk melt like butter to the request of “his own children.”

“And you know how affectionately we treated each of you, like a loving father cares for his own children.” We comforted and encouraged you and challenged you to adopt a lifestyle worthy of God, who invites you into his kingdom and glory.”
1 Thessalonians 2:11,12

The leadership shown by a father compliments that of a mother, as he comforts, encourages, challenges and invites. These qualities imply intimacy of relationship and closeness of contact.

Love and care

Paul experienced angst due to separation from his spiritual children — especially knowing they were facing such intense opposition.

A father leads by drawing near, “encouraging, comforting and urging” his children to excel at the most essential thing in life — “to adopt a lifestyle worthy of God.”

The “dad” quality of leadership “cuts to the chase,” “grabs the bull by the horns,” and “calls a spade a spade.” He separates the trite from the significant, without being rude or cruel. Rather, the “dad” leader invites, encourages, and invokes — comforting when needed and urging the young to press on despite setbacks.

Leadership which combines both a mother’s love and father’s care creates a synergetic force, propelling the next generation forward.

Remain Teachable

However, before Paul emphasizes his approach to leadership, he points out a critical piece for all leaders to remember.

“We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children among you.”
1 Thessalonians 2:6,7

When I was a child, my dad’s edict ruled our home. (We were many too!) Unfortunately, I used that same tone much too often while parenting. Paul gives a better directive.

A mother's love and a father's care

An apostle held the highest authority in the church; his voice carried the unquestionable weight of authority. Yet, he refused to impose or demand from his platform of lofty position. Instead, he insisted his whole team become “like young children” — teachable, gentle, submissive, and responsive servants.

“S-e-r-v-a-n-t” spells leadership most accurately.

I recognize with aging, the less flexible, teachable and submissive I become. To follow Paul’s leadership example, I must remain vigilant at countering natural tendencies to rely on my understanding and depend on seniority or status.

A mother’s love and a father’s care should naturally draw me into a place of low servanthood and tender teachability.

Selfless

Through Paul, I’m reminded of the goal for such an attitude in leadership solely rests on the good of others and the glory of God.

Listen to Paul,

“. . . We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”
1 Thessalonians 2:4

Selfless

Or again, 

“We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else. . .”
1 Thessalonians 2:6

And one more,

“Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.”
1 Thessalonians 2:9

With a mother’s love and a father’s care leaders give, give and give again. They open their homes to those who eat their food and mess what’s just been cleaned. These leaders sacrifice their “free” time, to encourage the downcast, pray for the sick, and fill in the missing gaps of ministry. They turn off TVs, cell phones and computers to seek God, fasting and praying for the spiritual condition and pressing needs of others.

Leadership costs! It costs financially, demands relationally and drains both physically and emotionally. No wonder Paul so aptly uses the analogy of a mother’s love and a father’s care.

Rare is the leader that rises to such heights by bowing low to the selfless call of God. Yet, I’ve watched those rare gems shine brightly among us.

Protective family

May God continue to challenge me, you and us all to live selflessly for the good of others and His glory. Yes, let’s receive encouragement from the lives of past and present godly leaders, while consistently looking to God — the One who demonstrated ultimate love and care through Jesus Christ.



Prayer in Relationship – Unmasking Myths: Is This Prayer

Unmasking Myths: Is This Prayer?

I hope you enjoy a sneak peek at the first chapter of Unmasking Myths: Is This Prayer? — the first conceived but second born of a group of books on prayer.

In many ways, I feel like a new mother hoping everyone will think her baby as beautiful as she does, yet knowing that none could or would as much as her. So it’s time to pull back the blanket, hold my breath and wait with excitement and anticipation.

Unmasking Myths looks at prayer on the basis of relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Through the testimony of dozens of Christians, Unmasking Myths unanimously declares God’s goodness, mercy and grace in responding to our petitions. It includes many miraculous interventions of God, as a result of people praying.

Even though over half the world’s population acknowledges that they pray, many don’t know who they are praying to, or feel their prayers are effective. Most Christians feel impotent and unsure about their prayers being heard or answered by God.

Unmasking Myths

Unmasking Myths attempts to expose misconceptions about prayer, answering common questions and creating a solid biblical foundation to pray.

Other chapters explore topics like:

  • Childlike Faith
  • Hearing God’s Voice
  • The Discipline of Praying
  • Prayer Journals
  • Praying in the Marketplace
  • Overcoming Hindrances
  • and much more

Is This Prayer?

Unmasking Myths: Is This Prayer? attempts to turn questions into answers, replace hesitancy with confidence, and conquer fear with faith. The real treasure found within the pages comes from the combined wisdom and experience of dozens of people, aged from nine to ninety years old. It is their voices, rather than the author’s, that create a fertile bed from which prayer can take root and rise strong.

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless and because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” 
C.S. Lewis

God bless each of you! May you begin to pray with power as you approach God with confidence and humility.

” . . . tremendous power is released through the passionate,
heartfelt prayer of a godly believer!”
James 5:16 TPT

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Unmasking Myths: Is This Prayer?

Check out reviews here!

Going from Here to There: Take Time for Rest

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

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

Boy riding bicycle

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

Alert and Ready

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

Why do I hurry? Why do I rush?

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

Boy with bike

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

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

Be Still

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

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

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

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

Don’t Miss Out

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

Girl with Bicycle

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the Hurry?

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

Child on bicycle

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

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

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

And He welcomes us there.

Rest

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

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

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

Woman on bicycle

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

Pray with Power – Unlocking Legacy: Taking Your God-Given Territory in Prayer

Do you pray with power? Nicky Gumbel in the Alpha course says over fifty percent of the population prays. “Prayer” is the most searched word in Google today. Yet, few people know “who” they are praying to or understand how effective and powerful prayer can be.

I am excited to announce God not only has the answer — He is the answer!

Call on me and I will answer you and
tell you great and unsearchable things
you do not know.”
Jeremiah 33:3

Pray With Power

Three years ago, I sensed God’s prompt to begin writing “a” book on prayer. Though I tried, I (and God) knew I was incapable of such a task. Through a series of interviews with dozens of people of all ages from around the world, not just a single book but several books have been conceived. They all include a combination of biblical foundation and testimonies.

The first book, Unmasking the Myths: Is This Prayer?, gives an introduction to prayer in relationship with Jesus. The second, Unlocking Legacy: Taking Your God-Given Territory in Prayer, demonstrates further aspects of prayer.

Since the second book goes to the printer before the first, I want to share an opening glimpse of it here. I hope you are encouraged to not just pray, but to pray with power.

Unlocking Legacy – Chapter One

Please enjoy this sneak peek at the entire first chapter of Unlocking Legacy, Humility — Come in Low.  Download the pdf below:

 

Unlocking-Legacy-Chapter-1

 

 

Unlocking Legacy: Taking Your God-Given Territory Through Prayer also covers subjects like: faith, praying God’s Word, prophetic and travailing prayer, fasting and praying with authority, corporate prayer and more.

The last chapter contains multiple miracles experienced by those interviewed.

May you be inspired as you read this first chapter. Unlocking Legacy is available for preorder today.

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Healing by the Pool: What is Crooked Cannot be Straightened

Solomon said, “What is crooked cannot be straightened.” Jesus proved Solomon’s point with the miracle at the Pool of Bethesda. Miracles will always remain mysterious — perhaps none more so than the healing by the pool.

This pool bore no resemblance to pictures in resort promotions. This pool neared the Sheep Gate where sellers brought sheep, washing (probably in this pool), marketing and selling them for sacrifices at the temple. Sheep aren’t clean! Here human and animal smells and sounds mingled, swelling in volume during the Jewish festivals.

This pool, protectively surrounded by five covered colonnades, became a place of hope for many. Why?

Bent Eyelet

“Here a great number of disabled people used to lie
the blind, the lame, the paralyzed —
and they waited for the moving of the waters.
From time to time an angel of the Lord
would come down and stir up the waters.
The first one into the pool after each such disturbance
would be cured of whatever disease they had.”
John 5:3-5

Mercy and Grace

Bethesda means “kindness or mercy.” The number “five” represents “grace.” At the place called mercy and grace, the disabled, blind, lame, and paralyzed came hoping to find mercy and grace, where with mercy and grace God’s angel descended, making mercy and grace visible to all.

How many? How many waited and hoped? I can hardly imagine the sight, the weight of despair pressing against the odds of just maybe being the next one healed. It’s hard to maintain faith when disappointment comes often.

Bent Nail

I, too, am one who is crooked and cannot be straightened, in disabled condition. No, not outwardly, but inwardly. Disabled applies both morally and physically. Like them, I shelter under the colonnade of mercy and kindness, hoping and waiting. I, who am too often spiritually blind, unable to walk the Christian walk with strength, wait — paralyzed by my moral failures, unable to advance further.

They wait — hoping for an angel they can’t see, while missing the Messiah who stands among them.

Jesus Sees

Most people preferred to enter the grand city another way — a cleaner, quieter way. Jesus chooses this way. Here in the midst of the noise, the pain, the struggle, He comes. His eyes focus on one man.

What makes this man special that Jesus notices him above the massive throng? What make this man worthy of receiving?

Nothing!

“When Jesus saw him lying there and
learned that he had been in this condition for a long time,
he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ “
John 5:6

Rusty Bend Metal

Jesus asks questions so we will see and understand; He already knows the answer. The man’s response seems honest enough. But is it?

” ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied,
‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.
While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’
John 5:7

The answer to Jesus’ question should be, “yes,” or “no.” He, like me, choses to blame other people’s negligence for his present circumstance. For thirty-eight years, he suffered. For thirty-eight years, he depended on others., hoping someone would get him out of his predicament.

It’s all too easy to grow comfortable, even in our dysfunction, our disability, blindness, lameness and paralysis. Too easy to excuse or justify our “crooked and cannot be straightened” condition.

Cannot be Straightened

“What is crooked cannot be straightened,
what is lacking cannot be counted.”
Ecclesiastes 1:15

I’m told that when metal becomes bent, it cannot be straightened. It might look straight, and even function like it has been straightened, but bending causes the molecular structure to change, weakening the metal forever. Only one option remains for restoration — the complete remelting and remolding of the metal.

Casting Metal

In spite of the man’s moral and physical inadequacies, Jesus still comes with mercy and grace.

“Then Jesus said to him,
Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ “
John 5:8

Miraculously, the man does! In taking responsibility for himself, he obeys Jesus and walks away almost whole. Almost? Yes, almost!

A Matter of Heart

“Later Jesus found him
at the temple and said to him,
‘See, you are made well again.
Stop sinning or something
worse may happen to you.’ “
John 5:14

Jesus sought this man out again, and “found him.” More critical than a physical healing, Jesus desired a heart change for this man.

What was the sin he committed “at the temple,” in church? We aren’t told details; perhaps, because God wants us to see our own reflection here.

How great has Jesus extended mercy and grace to us, at the Sheep Gate, in our messiest condition? How often has He sought us, challenging our wayward thoughts and actions? Or offered warning or reprimand? How often has He asked for our devotion? How often have we refused?

“The man went away and told the Jewish leaders
that it was Jesus who had made him well.”
John 5:15

With body whole and heart hardened, the healed man turns traitor and reports Jesus to those who wish Him dead. We all either turn toward or away. There’s no in between!

We would hope for a better response — perhaps gratitude, worship or reverence.

The Melting

Without the melting of hearts toward Jesus, we, too, will be forever bent, left in a weakened, volatile state. Without the melting of my heart, I cannot be straightened. No one can!

Oh, how imperative the constant cry of my heart, “Melt me, Lord! Make me new! Remove the “churchy” appearance of looking good, surface healings and half-hearted walking. Lord, I desire the full deal, the real deal, the melting, remaking, painful, messy, recreating. Don’t let me settle for second best, almost complete, when the greatest miracle stands before me — a pure and upright heart.”

Pure Gold

The healing at the pool comes as a tragic reminder of humanities failure to recognize Christ Jesus in the face of His great mercy and grace. He comes to find us, to seek us out, again and again, welcoming all to come to Him wholly and fully.

How many more worthy were among the disabled throng that day? How many little children needed a miracle? Was there none at the pool deserving of mercy? No! No one is worthy; none deserve His blessing.

The essence of mercy reaches to the unworthy and undeserving. Jesus chose the least worthy to display His love and grace, then and now.

Oh, the hope for us all! The hope in knowing God hears our pathetic cry and changes hearts. It’s Who He is! It’s what He does — how He loves.

Only in Him will that which cannot be straightened be made completely new and whole.