5 Steps — Wisdom to Handle Insults and Accusations

5 Steps — Wisdom to Handle Insults and Accusations

We all face insults or accusations — sometimes justified and at other times unjustified. How do we handle such situations?

I recently noticed two young children engaged in verbal combat. I’m not sure how the disagreement began, but these little preschoolers flung harsh words back and forth with stealth accuracy. Feelings were hurt. Tears flowed. Watchful adults intervened to ease the situation and calm the chaos. My heart ached for them to resolve the conflict.

Insults and accusations appear to naturally ooze from human brokenness. As much as I don’t like to admit it, often the afront aimed in my direction has been to some degree justifiable. But not always.

Either way, I struggle for wisdom to deal with these situations. The peacemaker side of me wants to overlook the conduct altogether, placing the higher value on the relationship. While the justice side on me demands righteousness and truth to prevail. One forces an eruption of words (much like the playground confrontation); the other compels me to retreat in silence, feeling victimized.

But what does God say about such matters?

Job

Most of us know Job’s story. After loosing his entire family and every source of security, Job sat in rags among the ashes, scraping the painful, oozing sores which covered his body. His friends sat with him, offering support. All too soon, their words turned into insults and accusations. They believed Job deserved punishment from God. One false claim led to another — each progressively worse. When he needed the comfort of good friends, he received critical judgment instead.

At first Job tried to reason with them.

Teach me, and I will keep quiet. Show me what I have done wrong. Honest words can be painful, but what do your criticisms amount to? Do you think your words are convincing when you disregard my cry of desperation?”
Job 6:24-26

Finally, he lashed back!

I will never concede that you are right; I will defend my integrity until I die. I will maintain my innocence without wavering. My conscience is clear for as long as I live.
Job 27:5-6

Joseph & David

For David and Joseph, the greatest insults and accusations came from their jealous brothers! Perhaps the old saying carries truth, “Hurting people hurt people!”

God had given Joseph dreams of one day ruling over his father and siblings (Genesis 37:5-10). In the same way, David’s brothers watched Samuel anoint him, the youngest son, king of their nation (1 Samuel 16:13). Rather, than applaud their younger brothers’ successes, they fumed with jealousy, desiring the favor and blessing for themselves (Genesis 37:17-20; 1 Samuel 17:28).

“Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?”
1 Samuel 17:29

Both Joseph and David attempted to speak up. Their words, however, landed on deaf ears. They both faced unbelievable insults and accusations from those closest to them. In fact, many years passed before God fulfilled His promise and brought these men to positions of honor. Eventually, Joseph became second only to pharaoh in Egypt and David did become king of Israel.

Jesus

We witness this pattern of insults and accusations toward God’s people throughout history. Jesus faced them both continually. He rebutted such conduct with truth — sometimes gently through a parable, sometimes through open rebuke. But somehow most advice we receive for our situations stems from Jesus’ final hours. As many lies and slander were hurled His way, He remained silent.

“Many testified falsely against him … some stood up and gave this false testimony … But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.”
Mark 14:56-61

Jesus warned His followers that they, too, would be despised and rejected for following Him. He predicted not just insults and accusations but imprisonment and death awaited them.

After Jesus’ resurrection, we see His followers defending both themselves and Jesus at the cost of their lives. Rarely, if ever do we see them stand before their accusers in silence. They took advantage of extremely tense situations to re-present Christ to even their accusers.

A Pattern

Throughout Scripture, many valiant men and women demonstrate wisdom by standing their ground in the face of insults and accusations. A familiar pattern emerges from their examples.

#1 – They all spoke the truth of God’s word to them and over them.
#2 – They used each opportunity to pray for and to seek the good of their accusers.
#3 – Each one forgave their adversaries.
#4 – As a result, they blessed their accusers and received a overflow of blessing themselves.
#5 – In an attitude of surrender to the Father’s will, their trust was completely in God for both present circumstances and future outcomes.

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing. because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
1 Peter 3:9

They never positioned themselves in silence as sulking victims. Rather, they challenged their accusers by their radical trust in the righteousness, justice, and faithfulness of God.

Oh! May this pattern become mine! May it become yours, also! May our Heavenly Father intervene in our disputes just as the parents of these two young children did during their playground conflict. May He show us His way — the way of wisdom — the way of truth, honor, forgiveness, and blessing as we continually trust in Him, our good, good Father.

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The Difference Between Zeal and Passion

The Difference Between Zeal and Passion

The more I experience life, the more I realize the difference between zeal and passion. Zeal will lead you where only passion can keep you.

I love young people! Sometimes, I wish I was still one of them. They live “all in.” Whatever they give themselves to do, they do with contagious zeal.

At first glance, zeal and passion may look remarkably similar. But they produce considerably different results. The Bible gives us multiple examples of people who zealously began a work or entered a calling. Over time, many people lost momentum or even veered off course. Why? Let’s look at a few examples for the answer.

Elijah

Elijah became a famous prophet during the times of the kings of Israel. He performed many supernatural signs and miracles. But something shifted. Immediately after challenging the prophets of Baal to a public showdown, the entire nation appeared to turn their hearts back to God. You can read more about it in 1 Kings 18. Most prophets would consider this to be a career high point.

But the wife of the king threatened Elijah’s life. This was no idle threat, since she held the power to do exactly what she promised.

Instead of standing firm in his faith, Elijah ran in fear. That’s not the reaction we would expect from God’s great man of the hour. Elijah immediately hands in his resignation.

“I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
1 Kings 19:4

We can empathize with Elijah. He had been through a lot. But then, Elijah proceeds to justify himself before God, while issuing a scathing report about the other prophets and his people.

“He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty.”
1 Kings 19:10

God accepts Elijah’s resignation and commissions him to anoint someone else to take his place. Elijah’s ministry immediately begins to dwindle. Zeal had led Elijah to where only passion could keep him. Though he had been very zealous, his passion for God had faded with discouragement, disappointment, and disillusionment. God continued to use him and show him favor, but Elijah’s best years were now behind him.

Zeal will only carry us so far. Eventually, it will fade. Only authentic passion will stay the course.

Peter

Perhaps none of Jesus’ disciples were as zealous as Peter. He quickly rose above the others, becoming one of the top chosen three. Always ready to speak out and move into action, Peter held unquestionable zeal as he followed Jesus.

When Jesus announced He would soon be arrested and crucified, Peter responded,

… ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.‘”
Luke 22:33

And Peter meant it! But zeal took him to where only passion could keep him. Perhaps you know the story. Within hours, Peter denied his Lord — not once, but three times. He wept bitterly over his failure to faithfully stand with Jesus (Matthew 26:75).

Despite Peter’s failure, Jesus valued him immensely and had plans for Peter’s future position in the soon-to-be-formed church. So after Jesus’ resurrection, He confronted Peter, emphasizing the difference between zeal and passion.

“… Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?'”
John 21:15

That’s the question not just for Peter but for all of us. Do you love Me? Do you love Me more than this, or that, or anything?

Three times Jesus posed the same question. “Peter is your love for Me the foundation of your life? If it isn’t, zeal will always fall short. Zeal will lead you where only love can keep you. Love sustains. Love drives us forward. But only your love for Me enables you to carry out any mission. Love equips, empowers, and motivates. But My love will hold you fast. The deep tap root of passion is love — love for Me.”

Paul

One man, more than any other, fiercely stood against the progress of the early church. A man who was extremely zealous. A man who went about imprisoning and murdering every Christian he could get his hands on.

“I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
Galatians 1:14

Though zeal quickly led Saul up the ranks within the religious elite, God knocked him off the high horse of zeal and set him on a more humble course — the course of love and passion. Intimacy with Jesus Christ became Paul’s only pursuit. Everything else flowed from that place of love and intimacy.

‘But whatever were gain to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ.”
Philippians 3:7-8

Paul perhaps became the most passionate and devoted follower of Jesus this world has known. He recognized the difference between zeal and passion. Zeal drove him to kill many. But through passion for Jesus, many millions have found live and faith in Christ.

Zeal and Passion

As much as I appreciate the zeal of youth, passion rises strongest through maturity — not a maturity of age or faith but a maturity of deep devotion. Zeal quickly rises, is often volatile, and eventually evaporates. Passion for Jesus grows, intensifies over time, and lasts for eternity. Passion accomplishes more than zeal ever could.

 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Ephesians 3:16-21

A passion for Jesus develops in the incubator of intimacy. There is no substitute. As we intimately know and remain in His unfailing love, our passion grows and deepens. God is a consuming fire. In the fire of passionate love, we will “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

There is no other way! No short cuts! Intimacy fuels the true passion of infinite love that will lead us beyond anything imaginable.

Do we, or will we, love Him more than “these”?

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Know Your Call! Stay in the Right Lane!

Know Your Call! Stay in the Right Lane!

Perhaps the most difficult thing to discover is the call of God on our lives. Next most difficult is to stay in the right lane of our calling.

Like many vehicles, my car beeps a warning when I veer out of my lane. Why? Because veering off lane creates a dangerous situation for me and everyone else. Of course, if I use the signal indicator before changing lanes, I provide everyone with adequate warning of my intentions.

I’ve lived several decades and made more than a few lane changes in my life. Some changes occurred abruptly — the sudden swerves to avoid danger or navigate a sharp corner. For the most part, however, I perceive these changes a long time in advance, allowing for minor or consistent corrections in choices or shifts in priorities.

As annoying as the warning beeper is in my car, I appreciate the safety feature. I want to know how to stay in the right lane.

The apostle Paul knew his call. He provides an excellent example of how he faithfully stayed in his lane.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.”
Romans 1:1

By God’s Grace

Whatever the call on our lives, we remember that it is all by God’s grace!

“God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:9

By God’s grace, He has called each of us to Himself — not so that we could do more for Him, but so that we could be united with Him in fellowship.

He honestly doesn’t need us to do anything. He purely loves us and wants us to know and enjoy an intimate relationship with Him.

But part of our calling to Him does include a calling to serve Him. Those He calls He also equips.

“Just think — you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all. All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.”
1 Corinthians 1:7-9 MSG

Isn’t that amazing! God makes His call known to us and He helps us to stay in the right lane by keeping us steady and on the right track.

Know Your Call

The Corinthian church experienced more than a few problems. They became known for disputes and disruptions. Paul makes his call clear to them.

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
1 Corinthians 1:17

Ministry, and life in general, carry many responsibilities of things that could be done, should be done, or ought to be done. It’s a constant battle to focus on the essentials. We may not feel our calling is significant, but it is. Every act of kindness and everything done out of love has immeasurable impact on those around you. Then that love will flow from them to others and to still others more.

Never underestimate or minimize your call. Own it! Walk in it! Foster it!

God called Paul to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Obedience to the Call

Obedience resembles not just getting into our car but driving it. You will have no opportunity to stay in the right lane while parked in the garage. We use vehicles to take us from one place to another. Obedience turns on the engine, pulls our lives into motion, and moves us into our lane of ministry and service.

Paul placed concentrated effort into extensive learning. Then he walked in the misguided authority of human wisdom and position. The results proved devastating to those whom he imprisoned and murdered for their faith.

After God called and equipped Paul, everything changed. Paul immediately shifted into the right lane.

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

Paul’s pre-Christian influence came through “wise and persuasive words.” But now in obedience to God’s call and the anointing of the Holy Spirit everything flowed through God’s power.

Stay in the Right Lane

Because Paul obeyed God to stay in the right lane, the impact of his life probably comes second only to Jesus Christ. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote about twenty-eight percent of the New Testament. He is perhaps the most quoted writer of New Testament scripture.

His in-person preaching reached tens or even hundreds of thousands of people. His writings have turned untold millions to confess their faith in Jesus Christ.

How could one man impact so many people through the centuries?

  • First, Paul received and responded to God’s grace confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.
  • Second, Paul committed himself to full obedience to God’s call.
  • Third, Paul continually demonstrated through his life how to stay in the right lane.

“But we preach Christ crucified … Christ the power of God and wisdom of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:23-24

Prayer

Father God, we receive the grace to know You, the One true God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you for welcoming us into fellowship with You and for calling and equipping us to share the gospel with others.
Whether our sharing takes place in our homes, with friends, in the marketplace, or from behind a pulpit doesn’t matter. We desire to walk out our calling in full obedience. Keep us steady, Lord, and on the right track. Help us to stay in the right lane. May the Holy Spirit “beep” a warning whenever we veer from the path You have called us to walk.
I ask for boldness and faithfulness to love as You have called us to love and to serve as You have called us to serve. Fill us with contentment to stay in the right lane.
And Lord, may our lives become a “demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
Amen.

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A Time for Rest and Joy

A Time for Rest and Joy

Recently, God nudged my heart to pursue a greater level of consistent rest and joy and bring a healthier balance to committed service. As a retiree, I have the freedom to pack into my self-imposed schedule whatever I desire. Because I enjoy so many things, I tend to fill my time to the brim. Or perhaps over-pack would be more accurate! But I sense I am on the cusp of change.

Cusp refers to “a point of transition between two different states or a pointed end when two curves meet. With many curves to my life and ministry, I’m uncertain to the exact “cusp” ahead. But I need an opportunity to refresh. So, Lord, whatever Your plan, bring it on!

From the beginning, God created work for humanity and humanity for work.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
Genesis 2:15

I look out my window and laugh as I watch a man walking his dog. Or rather a dog dragging a man through knee-deep snow while chasing a rabbit.

Sometimes my work bares resemblance. I too feel like I’m being dragged into knee-deep pursuits against my will. I wonder if God looks at the pace of my life and laughs. More probably, He shakes His head knowing His plan is better than that.

Rest

I find it interesting that God made Adam at the very end of the sixth day of creation. I’m reminded again that Adam’s first full day was one of rest. Timing perfectly orchestrated!

God planned Adam’s work to be so significant that he needed rest before plunging in. God repeats the pattern again and again for many other people.

  • God removed Moses from the busy affluence of Pharoah’s palace, giving him a forty-year “rest” in the wilderness as a shepherd before his ministry began.
  • The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for forty days before He began His earthly ministry.
  • After his conversion, Paul spent several years in Arabia before embarking on his ministry as apostle, writing the majority of the New Testament.

None of these illustrations would fit snuggly into our definition of “restful.” Even in rest, work was accomplished. But on the cusp of something new, God drew His chosen leaders aside for “rest” — away from the influence of crowds and earthly demands. Rest realigns our souls with God.

“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says, “only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.”
Isaiah 30:15

Return

God designs the prime motivation of rest to turn, or “return,” our hearts and focus back to Him. When we quiet the chatter of “have to, must do, should do,” we find strength.

The word for strength, in Hebrew, also means “force, valor, victory.” In rest, God brings increased power and strength. He also amplifies our “valor,” or “courage in the face of danger or battle.” To ensure victory in the season ahead, He calls us to rest.

But we, like Israel, don’t always accept His loving invitation.

” … But you would have none of it.”
Isaiah 30:15

I’m not sure what Israel used for an excuse. I know mine. “I must finish _____.” “Let me do _____ first.” “Wait until it’s a little less busy.” “Rest might cost me financially.”

On and on my list of excuses roll. I clearly understand the pressures to work, but only vaguely comprehend the significance of rest.

Rest proves God’s Presence goes with us.

“And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Exodus 33:14

God gifts us with rest! Despite the insomnia which plagues our culture, God promises,

In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Psalm 4:8

Another passage resonates with many of us,

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”
Psalm 23:1,2

Perhaps, our restlessness exposes our need for God’s Presence more than we realize. Will we listen?

Joy

If I find rest difficult, what about joy? At first glance, most people who know me would consider me quite joyful. I enjoy every aspect of my life. My faith, family, work, and ministry all bring me joy. And yet God welcomes me into deeper levels of both rest and joy.

I shared God’s prompting with a close friend. She laughed at me! Yes, laughed! Then she pointed to Jesus’ parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-28. The master gave one servant five talents, who quickly went out and earned five more. The master also gave another servant two talents, who faithfully went out and earned two more. Then a wasteful servant, who was given one talent, buried it in the dirt.

My friend asked, “What was the response of the master to the first two servants?”

I quickly responded,

Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Matthew 25:21

“And?” she questioned. Hesitantly, I responded,

“You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”
Matthew 25:21

“And?” she asked again. My blank look invited her to complete the passage.

And

I remembered how the master gave each person talents. He rewarded their good work with more responsibility. But I forgot there was more. He invited them, as He is inviting us all, into the best part.

Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Matthew 25:21

What? How could I miss something so significant?

Other Bibles versions say, “the joy of the Lord!” How much joy does God have? Everything about Him, including His joy, is immeasurably more than we could ever think or imagine.

Do we consider God to be such a cruel task master, that He would deprive us of joy? Is that why it is easier to work “for” Him than “rest” in Him, experiencing His unlimited “joy?”

I don’t comprehend, even in a limited way, the exceedingly great joy God has for us — not just later in Heaven, but for us now.

Strength

Nehemiah refused to allow his people to become stuck in a rut of mourning or weeping. God gifts us with joy!

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

This Hebrew word translated “strength” means “a place or means of safety and protection.”

Both rest and joy come from God, originate with Him, and flow out of Him. Even amidst seasons of grief and loss, God offers us His gift of rest and joy. This combination becomes our strength, protection, power, courage, and victory.

God prepares us today for the unseen tomorrows. Through rest and joy, He builds in us everything we will need beyond the cusp of transitions ahead.

I resolve to not follow the example of yesterday by committing myself to a season of God’s rest and joy. Whether that season is forty years, forty days, or forty hours, I trust Him to do through and for me what He knows I need.

My friend acknowledged that God was speaking to her in a similar way. Would anyone else like to join us for a little more rest and joy?

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Confident and Fully Convinced of God’s Perfect Love

Confident and Fully Convinced of God’s Perfect Love

What, if anything, are you confident and fully convinced of? How long did it take for such conviction to become established? In our ever-changing world such confidence might appear to be a rarity. Yet, we continually place our confidence in a variety of practices, places, and beliefs.

Many years ago, as the snow melted and small ponds dotted the land, my older brother and I would enthusiastically fashion make-shift rafts from dead tree limbs strung together by remnants of old baler twine. We would confidently push off from shore into the icy waters believing our rickety rafts would support us. More often than not, our expeditions failed. Drenched, but undaunted, we would pull our frail craft back to the water’s edge. After adding more logs and twine, we would try again and again. Spurred on by each other, we convinced ourselves that we would eventually sail open waters.

After a series of failed attempts of his own, Paul tells us of something he became fully confident of — the love of God.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:35,37-39

A Pharisee

In Philippians 3, Paul gives us a personal perspective of his former life. I say “former” because the convictions he once held were proved just as frail as the wooden rafts my brother and I made. He says,

” … though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”
Philippians 3:4-6

As a Pharisee, Paul taught and obeyed every law with faultless precision. Or at least, he attempted to. He believed that obedience earned him the love of God. If one did enough, obeyed enough, tried hard enough, then God would love and accept you. Only then would anyone earn God’s favor. Zealous pursuit and faultless obedience ultimately proved less than reliable, even futile.

Most of us might identify on some level with this belief system. We relate to the repetitive cycle of trying harder and harder to earn or merit love.

The Encounter

At the most unexpected moment, radical love, bold and strong, confronted Paul (or Saul as he was still called then).

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.”
Acts 9:1

He sounds like an unlikely candidate to experience God’s love. Yet, in this space, God entered Paul’s life, turning his direction and conviction around.

I, too, can relate to his experience. God blasted into my messed up and broken life with persistent grace. When anyone meets Jesus, nothing remains the same.

God saw something in Paul — something more than another zealous Pharisee.

” … This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”
Acts 9:15

Through His redeeming love, God turned an enemy of the cross into a megaphone for His praise. God’s “chosen instrument” came disguised as a murderous, over-zealous, religious elitist. But God views us through the lens of His perfect love. He recognizes potential no one else sees.

Fully Convinced

The initial encounter with God’s perfect love formed the starting point. What would follow, only God Himself could have orchestrated.

Under God’s instruction a brave Jesus follower by the name of Ananias courageously looked for Paul. He placed his hands on him and healed him. After Paul received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he sealed his faith with water baptism before heading into the desert.

But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.”
Galatians 1:15-17

At what point did Paul’s faith become conviction? Was it upon His dramatic conversion? Or did it take three years of Holy Spirit teaching to erase the bombardment of religious persuasions. Was it in the quiet desert places, alone with God, that an iron-clad confidence in Jesus took form?

For each of us, our eternity security rests by faith on the perfect, unfailing love of God through Jesus Christ.

Whatever the process, Paul spoke with absolute clarity, announcing to all who will grasp the truth that nothing — absolutely nothing — can separate us from God’s love.

God’s Perfect Love

Just as nothing could cause God to love us more, nothing could ever cause Him to love us less. Yes, we can choose to roam outside of His perfect will and plan, but nothing (and no human effort) can in any way elevate or diminish His love for us.

So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!
Romans 8:38-39 TPT

The Amplified Bible says, “I am convinced [and continue to be convinced — beyond any doubt].” Now that’s conviction — fully convinced that no one and no power could ever separate or diminish God’s unlimited love toward us.

Though my brother and I enjoyed brief moments of rafting success, we never became fully confident of our raft making skills. But through decades of my own desert times with the Lord, I know, that I know, that I know, His love is enough. His perfect love never fails. May you experience for yourself His unfailing, unending, unfading, perfect love.

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From Stuck to Unstuck! A Change of Position

From Stuck to Unstuck! A Change of Position

I can’t count how many times I’ve gone from stuck to unstuck—overcoming seasons of immovability from places, positions, or ways of thinking. Can you relate?

Yesterday, while ice fishing, someone’s vehicle became stuck on the ice. Though his new four-wheel-drive truck contained the capacity to move, his inexperience driving in icy conditions held him at a halt.

A little pull from another vehicle was all it took to get him mobile again. First, however, he had to do a few things: admit he needed help, agree to receive help, and co-operate with the help given. Does this sound familiar?

Admit

For me, the first step is the hardest—admitting that I’m stuck. I’m stubborn! Born that way, I think! The last thing I want to acknowledge to myself, or anyone else, is I’m in a bind. The quagmire labeled “STUBBORN” overflows with bull-headed stuck ones like me.

Stuck on Lake Ice Fishing

“So with the wisdom given to me from the Lord I say: You should not live like the unbelievers around you who walk in their empty delusions. Their corrupted logic has been clouded because their hearts are so far from God—their blinded understanding and deep-seated moral darkness keeps them from the true knowledge of God. Because of spiritual apathy, they surrender their lives to lewdness, impurity, and sexual obsession.”
Ephesians 4:17-19

I don’t mind reading Paul’s lists if I can’t find myself within the lines. It bites when I do!

When you read through the Bible, you find us stuck in sin, stuck in the past, stuck in fear, stuck in shame, stuck in bitterness. Perpetually stuck ones blame others for their stuck-ness. It exemplifies the things we struggle to admit about ourselves—empty delusions, corrupted logic, hearts far from God, blinded understanding and deep-seated moral darkness.

No wonder I don’t want to admit how stuck I am—spiritually, relationally, or morally. I honestly desire to move from stuck to unstuck. But I need help. I often feel like the man on the ice, knowing that God has already equipped me with everything I need, but somehow unable to move. I too must develop the expertise, strength and wisdom to apply God’s provision.

Stuck Snow Storm

Agree

Paul sought to use his own traction to inspire others into faith mobility. Throughout the Book of Ephesians, he pulls his readers to the solid ground of their identity in Christ.

” . . . To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 1:1-2

Often, just being reminded who we are in Christ is enough to pull us up and out. Other times, considering how God supernaturally grafted us into an incredible global body of believers inspires us to step into united momentum.

With God, yesterday never dictates tomorrow.

“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

Stuck in Snow

Assuming a new attitude enables us to receive the help God sends. Honestly, my mind contains more slippery patches of faulty logic and selfish motivations than the lake we were fishing on.

Consistent daily disciplines help me become spiritually mobile again. Simple practices like worship, prayer, Bible reading and meditation. Each one helps move me out of stuck to unstuck, gradually bringing me into agreement with God’s ways, thoughts and purposes.

Co-operate

Many years ago, our old yellow Chev station wagon, packed to the roof with children and groceries, stopped several miles from home. No amount of coaxing persuaded the worn-out engine to turn one more time. After a frantic call home, help arrived. (To ensure a speedy rescue, I probably added, “Your ice cream is melting!”)

Rather than a gentle pull, my help gave me a firm push—a push over the side of a steep hill, a push through the valley, and a push up an even steeper grade on the far side. With each jolt, my muscles tensed and finger whitened as I gripped the steering wheel. Although I absolutely needed the push, it felt dangerously uncomfortable.

Helpful push

I’m reminded of other situations, when I’ve needed even more intensely uncomfortable “pushes” out of apathy or self-protection.

Paul pushed too!

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully . . . Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold . . . steal no longer . . . work . . . do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths . . . do not grieve the Holy Spirit . . . get rid of bitterness, rage and anger . . . ”
Ephesians 4:25-31

Paul pushes some serious touch points, refusing to soften his words. Unconcerned whether his listeners become uncomfortable or offended, Paul speaks bluntly, saying what he needs to say, because he loves!

Love risks everything to move us from stuck to unstuck. I’m thankful for those who love enough to speak truth to me.

Reposition

Breaking out of old patterns represents an accomplishment worth celebrating. Paul points to positional change, requiring continued movement in an intentional direction.

Driving in Snow

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Ephesians 4:32-5:2

I desire instant change—microwave moments. God prefers to work through process—slow, crock-pot-style process—moving us from stuck to unstuck.

Paul exhorts, “Get up everyone and walk! Take a step; then another. Put one foot ahead of the next and move, creating a momentum of change.”

No Parking!

On New Year’s Day, I crawled out from under my warm blankets early to walk into the new day, and year, with a friend. Poplar bluffs shielded us from -20C windchills, while relaxed conversation warmed our steps. We admitted areas of stuck-ness, pulled each other up to our position in Christ and sometimes even pushed each other toward godliness. We’ve given each other permission to speak boldly, honestly, even bluntly, into our lives. Though not always comfortable, we know it’s necessary for God’s purposes to be worked through us.

We desire to

” . . . Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”
Ephesians 5:8-9

Winter Walking Trails

At one point along our walk, we stopped, breathed deeply and turned to enjoy the quietness of our surroundings. At that precise moment, the sun rose, bringing in a new day. Although God allows brief moments of refreshing and renewing, He posts “No Parking” signs along our path of progress. He walks beside us, pulling us forward, pushing us higher, extending His strong arm of help whenever we need it.

I pray we all begin this year by celebrating the steps we’ve already taken, trusting God with those still ahead, and then picking up the pace and moving on toward goodness, righteousness, truth, and all that pleases God.

With God, we can do it, moving from stuck to unstuck.

**********

Transparent Love – Love Must be Honest

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 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

Show Me Your Glory – The Desire to Know God

Show Me Your Glory – The Desire to Know God

Moses knew God like no other man. Yet, he still asked God, “Show me Your glory!” The intimate encounters Moses had in God’s presence only increased his desire to know God.

Time spent with those we love, whether family or friends, is sweet and refreshing. We constantly want to know what they are doing, how they are feeling, what is new in their lives, the struggles, and successes they are experiencing. Time passes quickly in their presence. Often before one meeting has ended, we’re anticipating and planning our next get together.

Moses felt this way about God. God’s attributes, nature and character are beyond finding out. Though Moses glimpsed who He was, he wanted to know God fully and completely.

“Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
Exodus 33:18

The desire to know God will always lead to asking, “Show us more of You.”

A Meeting Place

My husband enjoys meeting with other men at a coffee shop, sipping on steaming cups of hot coffee and savoring humongous fresh backed cinnamon buns. I like meeting in homes — ours or someone else’s. Weekly worship services and prayer gatherings connect us to our church family.

The place we meet isn’t as important as being intentional about meeting.

“Now Moses used to take a tent
and pitch it outside the camp some distance away,
calling it the “tent of meeting.””
Exodus 33:7

Moses’ meeting with God wasn’t happenstance. He established a place and time to meet with God. When Moses was purposeful to meet with God, God met him.

“As Moses went into the tent,
the pillar of cloud would come down
and stay at the entrance,
while the LORD spoke with Moses…
The LORD would speak to Moses face to face,
as one speaks to a friend.”
Exodus 33:9,11

Face to face! Friend to friend! What stirs within you as you think about meeting God face to face, Friend with friend? Wonder, curiosity, anticipation, longing, or maybe even fear?

Visitor’s Welcome

Wanting to know originates with God.

“I will give them a heart to know me,
that I am the LORD.
They will be my people,
and I will be their God,
for they will return to me with all their heart.”
Jeremiah 24:7

God gives us a heart “to know” Him. Then He meets us fulfilling that longing, which only causes us to hunger and know Him more. If earthly friendships are sweet, how much more precious our time with God, the Greatest most Faithful Friend?

I envy Moses’ encounters with God. I also envy young Joshua’s position of being able to eavesdrop in on those conversations. As Moses’ assistant, Joshua was able to enter the Tent of Meeting, even lingering long after Moses went to other duties.

If we think God shows Himself only to His mighty men, we are mistaken. God welcomes anyone and everyone who comes humble and hungry. No matter how many times Moses and Joshua entered the tent, no matter how long they stayed, it was never quite long enough. The desire to know God always increased.

Hunger and Thirst

No amount of “knowing” is enough!

“If you are pleased with me,
teach me your ways so I may know you
and continue to find favor with you…”
Exodus 33:13

Moses declares, “Thank you God for your presence, but I want to know you more!” God affirms their friendship — no arm twisting needed! He responds immediately,

“And the LORD said to Moses,
I will do the very thing you have asked
because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Exodus 33:17

There are over 100 names for God in the bible. Each name reveals something about His character and identity. Moses knew God by Yahweh or Jehovah. Pharaoh’s daughter gave Moses his name. In Egyptian, “Moses” comes from the word for “son”, but in Hebrew it has the meaning to “deliver” or “drew out” because the Egyptian princess, “drew” Moses out of the Nile. His name reflected his destiny. God chose Moses to partner with Him to draw the people of Israel out of Egypt.

Names are significant. Calling someone by name shows them respect and value. Moses had a desire to know God even beyond His Name.

Show Me

Moses pushes the relationship to new levels and immediately asks God for more.

“Then Moses said, “now show me your glory.”
Exodus 33:18

If you were confident of asking God for anything He could offer, what one thing would it be? When, like Moses, you already know God’s unlimited power and unending capacity, what would you ask for?

“Show me!” Moses asked, “Show me more of You.”

Moses wasn’t enticed by power or position. He once lived in the house of the richest most powerful man in the world. What one man possesses, another man can take away. But what God has, who He is, and what He gives can never be removed. “More of You,” Moses asks.

Jesus said

“Wherever your treasure is,
there the desires of your heart will be.”
Matthew 6:21

How intentional I am about creating a meeting place with God, will prove how hungry I am for His Presence. It will also reveal where my desire is.

Desire to Know God

Moses wasn’t alone!

To paraphrase David, he said, “There is only one thing I ask God. I want to live where You live. There is no one else I want to be with, look at, or hear from.” (Psalm 27:4) The Sons of Korah echoed David’s desire to know God more.

“My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”
Psalm 84:2

They knew there was no place better! No other place held the indescribable joy of God’s presence praising Him.

Flip a few pages in the bible to the New Testament and we find Anna in the temple day and night worshiping, fasting and praying. (Luke 2:37) Without a husband or family, her time was exclusively devoted to God. Mary sat at Jesus feet intently listening, watching and learning more. (Luke 10:39)

Paul’s desire to know God came in monstrous proportions.

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you
except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
1 Corinthians 2:2

His knowing Jesus went beyond the ooey-gooey, make me feel good kind of knowing someone.

“I want to know Christ — yes,
to know the power of his resurrection
and participation in his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death.”
Philippians 3:10

To Know More Fully

The more these men and women knew God, the more they longed to know Him. The desire to know God out-measured the need for personal comfort, gain, or reputation. In the knowing, an unquenchable hunger for knowing more fully was awakened.

For each of these people, time devoted in His presence (speaking and listening, waiting, and pressing in) nurtured the hunger for more. There were no shortcuts.

“Lord fill us with a hunger for more of You.
May we “pitch our tents,” setting aside a specific place to meet You.
Help us draw away from demands and responsibilities
to wait in Your presence,
even if that means stepping “some distance away.”
May we choose to reach for You,
to seek Your face,
to long more deeply for your presence.”

Leadership Promotion – Man’s Choice Versus God’s Chosen

Leadership Promotion – Man’s Choice Versus God’s Chosen

Leadership promotion comes either through human intervention or the supernatural aid of God. Biblical and recent history proves how often we get it wrong. For churches, parachurch, and non-profit organization, choosing leaders takes prayer, wisdom, and discernment.

At times, I have blamed hindrances to personal promotion on human restrictions, rather than seen them as acts of God’s grace. At other times, God boosted my area of influence or ministry capacity when I felt least prepared or qualified.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

When God gives leadership promotion, the results are obvious! God sees with equal clarity the present and future, our inner reality and outer facade, one’s natural limitations and supernatural faith. He advances ministers and ministries in indisputable ways.

Daniel

King Nebuchadnezzar enrolled Daniel, an exiled captive, into a rigid three-year training program. The candidates for this elite opportunity possessed specific qualities.

“… Israelites from the royal family and the nobility
young men without any physical defect, handsome,
showing aptitude for every kind of learning,
well informed, quick to understand
and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.”
Daniel 1:4

Daniel’s commitment to God, the true King, added to his resume of qualifications. He was “resolved not to defile himself” by eating and drinking things opposed to his religious standards. (1:8) “God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning”, as well as visions and dreams of all kinds.” (1:17)

The king recognized gifting! God decided on anointing!

Psalm 89:17

God multiplied Daniel’s natural gifts! At the end of the training period, the king personally interviewed each candidate.

“The king talked with them,
and he found non equal to Daniel,
Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah…
In every matter of wisdom and understanding
about which the king questioned them,
he found them ten times better than all…”
Daniel 1:18-20

This was Daniel’s first leadership promotion, but not his last. He remained humble, submitted, and dedicated to God despite severe opposition. God unequivocally propelled Daniel to the forefront.

Paul

Judas suicide decreased “The Twelve” to “The Eleven”. Together they were “constantly in prayer,” (Acts 1:14)

“… Peter stood up among the believers
(a group numbering about a hundred and twenty)
… it is necessary to choose one
of the men who have been with us the whole time
the Lord Jesus was living among us,
beginning from John’s baptism to the time
when Jesus was taken up from us.
For one of these must become a witness
with us of his resurrection.”
Acts 1:15 & 21 

Through prayer, Peter caught God’s plan of replacing Judas. Unfortunately, human reasoning took over!  Surely 120 people, constantly in prayer, couldn’t get it wrong. So, they nominated two candidates for leadership promotion: Joseph and Matthias.

Proverbs 19:21

After much prayer, Matthias, whose name means “gift of Yahweh”, was added to The Eleven. Matthias, though a gift, wasn’t God’s chosen! God’s choice was absent from the list of elect candidates. God’s choice was on a personal rampage, killing and imprisoning new believers. Until God held a face-to-face confrontation along the Damascus Road!

“And last of all (Jesus) appeared to me also,
as to one abnormally born.
For I am the least of the apostles
and do not even deserve to be called an apostle,
but by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me was not without effect.”
1 Corinthians 15: 8-10

Matthias fell into obscurity! Paul received undeserved leadership promotion in an organization he hated — writing 14 letters included in the Holy Scriptures. Quite the difference between man’s choice and God’s chosen!

Aaron

 “Korah … Dathan and Abiram …
became insolent and rose up against Moses.
With them were 250 Israelite men,
well-known community leaders
who had been appointed members of the council.”
Number 16:1-2

Picture it! Moses and Aaron on one side. Powerful and influential leaders, on the other — 250 delegated spokesmen! Over a million men, women and children witnessed the mutiny. Accusing Moses and Aaron of exerting too much authority, they forcefully expressed their opposition!

These were not rag-tag back-benchers! These men formed the spiritual and civic leadership of the nation. All were members of the ruling council!

Leadership Promotion - Deitrich Bonhoffer

Several times God pressed against the agitators to bring order out of chaos. Nothing was working! Finally, He gave Moses an indisputable plan,

“Speak to the Israelites and
get twelve staffs from them,
one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes.
Write the name of each man on his staff.
On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name,
for there must be one staff for the head
of each ancestral tribe.
Numbers 17: 1-2

Each tribal leader brought his staff — the symbol of his identity, authority, and ministry. A man’s staff was more than a piece of wood! It bore lasting generational significance.

“Place them in the tent of meeting
in front of the ark of the covenant law,
where I meet with you.”
Numbers 17:4

God’s Chosen

Each man surrendered his ministry, calling and gifting — hope for future generations, laid first in Moses’ hands, then in God’s. With the names of each written on his staff, there would be no disputing the results. All that long night, their staffs lay hidden before God. He alone would decide leadership promotion.

Leadership Quote - Frank Damazio

Similarly, we too lay our hopes and expectations, visions and calling, gifts and abilities before God. In surrendering our rights, we allow God to determine the duration of hiddenness, trusting Him to bring forth His divine purpose.

“The next day Moses entered the tent
and saw that Aaron’s staff,
which represented the tribe of Levi,
had not only sprouted but had budded,
blossomed and produced almonds.
Then Moses brought out all the staffs
from the Lord’s presence to all the Israelites.
They looked at them,
and each of the leaders took his own staff.”
Numbers 17:9

Can you imagine that moment? Take your staff Simeon — dry, bent and worn. Look at yours Reuben — rubbed smooth. Barren! Check yours Dan — fruitless as before! Each leader “took his own staff.”

The Presence of God brought supernatural fruitfulness to one man’s staff, while leaving the others still dead. Each man needed grace to accept God’s decision, whether chosen or left. God publicly revealed His irrefutable choice for leadership promotion.

Lay it Down

All leaders require grace to lay down and pick up the “staff” of either promotion or limitation. Not once, but continually! Setting everything before God’s Presence! Graciously and humbly “owning” our staff — living or dead.

Those who by ungodly promotion, via self or others, press beyond their God-given parameters become disqualified. God invariably exposes all interior motivations. Even publicly if necessary!

1 Peter 5:6

I relate to the eleven tribal leaders as I lay my “staff” before God. Will He return it without substantial change? I have vision for more! Prophetic words over my life declare more! Yet, the timing is God’s. The position and dimensions of my influence remains His.

I’ve been deceived to believe that the right people with the right gifts, accentuated by the right training program, makes great leaders. I’ve slipped into the faulty, half-right, totally-wrong, reasoning of Peter and others in making leadership decisions.

If only God would mark his “Daniel” ministries clearly, propelling them ten times better than all others. Perhaps if there were more Damascus Road conversions, we would recognize God’s choice. Or maybe if every “Aaron” ministry would stand out with miraculous growth and fruitfulness, discerning leadership promotion would be easy.

Or maybe not!

This I know:
the favor that brings promotion and power
doesn’t come from anywhere on earth,
for no one exalts a person but God, the true judge of all.
He alone determines where favor rests.
He anoints one for greatness
and brings another down to his knees.”
Psalm 75:7-9 TPT

There is one thing for certain, God’s choice is often not man’s! One option remains! Continually place everything before His Presence, trusting Him with leadership promotion.

**********

Does Faith Stand Alone or Does Faith Require Action?

Faith Alone

Before the sun showed its face, or birds began their song, even before my eyes fully focused, I read this penetrating verse, “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead!” (James 2:17) Is it faith alone or does faith require action?

Just in case I missed it the first time, verse 26 says it again,

“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead!”

Now that is dead!  Other versions expound by adding “inoperative and ineffective” or “useless“.

Inoperative Useless

I highlighted the concept this way in my journal, mainly because I sometimes just need things spelled out plainly and simply.

FAITH – ACTION = DEAD
OR
FAITH – DEEDS = USELESS

Faith is never intended on being an isolated bubble of our spiritual journey. Rather, faith is designed to be intricately and solidly merged into our conversations and actions. At the same time, the shadow of the cross lands on these truths: I am made righteous in Christ and I can do nothing to merit or earn salvation!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith –
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Ephesians 2:8

However, there is an equation that is becoming an increasing reality in my life:

FAITH + ACTION = LIVING GRACE
And
FAITH + DEEDS = POWER FILLED SYNERGY

Paul as an Example – Faith Alone?

Paul invites all to examine this principle of faith plus action in his own life:

  • a man lame from birth jumps up and begins walking (Acts 14:10)
  • a young girl freed from demonic possession (Acts 16:18)
  • such extraordinary miracles that even items that touched him “were taken to the sick and their illnesses were cured, and evil spirits left them” (Acts 19:12)
  • a dead man raised to life (Acts 20:10)
  • bitten by a viper (rattlesnake relative) without any after effects (Acts 28:5)

Healing

This is not exhaustive list, but it is enough to bring me to attention. “But this is Paul an apostle! Miracles don’t happen like that today,” might be the response from most. Perfectly logical and understandable! Let’s remember Paul was just a Jewish radical defending his belief system before meeting Jesus tangibly.

Logical and Understandable?

Since when is faith logical or understandable? I have often wished it was that easy! Unfortunately, I have been unable to stuff it into either of these two hefty containers.  In fact, faith explodes all boundaries and catapults beyond human reason!

When I read the faith chapter of Hebrews 11, none of the actions of these men and women of faith were either rational or explainable. None! Yet, the volumes that have been written honouring and exemplifying their active faith continues to grow.

So, I wrestle…
against my little thinking…
my compulsion to understand
to completely humble myself
walking the path of faith…
seeking grace for the moment…
to add not faith upon faith,
but rather childlike faith
baptizing every effort
releasing the life of Christ.

Childlike Faith

Reward

“It is impossible to please God without faith.
Anyone who wants to come to him must believe
that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”
Hebrews 11:6

The word “reward” embodies the idea of “restoring and renewing“, but the prime meaning is “to watch“. Furthermore, it is interesting that it also has a governmental or legal aspect of giving to someone what has been promised or is due – to settle an account.

I love it! God is watching and waiting for us to take Him at His word in active faith. As we do, He restores, renews, and watches over us seeking opportunity to fulfill His promises.

Faith Alone

My NKJV study note to James says, “It is one of the most practical books in the New Testament because it offers instructions and exhortations to Christians who are experiencing problems as all of us do.”

The writers of the New Testament were penning their words of encouragement to simple ordinary people like you and me, in an effort to spur them to follow the example of Jesus Christ and the apostles. I cannot find one place where we are told, “Don’t try this at home!”

The opposite is true! James calls out just a clear today, “Activate your faith breathing life into a world gasping for fresh air!”

Faith Plus Action

Lord, because You pressed these words on my heart,
may I take the leadership in
stepping, speaking, loving,
praying, contending, travailing
from a posture of faith plus action…
Forgive me for believing small!
You are watching and waiting to see
to reward simple gestures of
upward faith and outward action.
I thank You, Lord Jesus!

More on faith –

Hebrews 11:1 “Now Faith Is”

Nothing is Impossible – With God Your Problem is God’s Opportunity!