Belonging

We need encouragement in our lives on a daily basis. We need someone to build us up and help us see our value and worth before the Lord. The devil and the world’s systems grind us down and wear us out. We need others in the body of Christ to remind us that we are God’s unique and irreplaceable creations, called to unique and irreplaceable places of ministry. We need to be reminded of God’s love for us and of our importance to the church.

Charles Stanley

When our children were younger and I would drop them off at school before they got out of the car I would say to them, “Remember who you are and Who you belong to.

As a believer in Christ your identity is in Jesus[.]. I know, I know, the world and the enemy clamor for our attention and we begin to look here, we look there, we look anywhere except up. It is vitally important that you and I stay connected to Jesus on a consistent basis practicing all the spiritual disciplines [I recently read there are at least twelve] throughout the day or by Holy Spirit’s leading. He is the only One who can help us keep our focus on Him.

Whatever your today and all your tomorrows hold I bless you with the knowledge and truth that Holy Spirit lives in you as a believer in Jesus and is available to you for whatever you need.

Shalom!

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Katapetasma

The earth shook, rocks were split and miraculously, before their eyes, those that had fallen asleep believing in Jesus were raised FROM the dead! Even more miraculously and after the resurrection of Jesus they left the tombs where their bodies had lain and entered the holy city appearing to many people. Can you EVEN imagine this?! If I were the relative or close friend of someone who had died and rose again and didn’t believe in Jesus that definitely would have sealed the deal for me. Alas, we are called to walk by faith and not by sight. Holy Spirit gives to each of us the faith to believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The decision to receive this gift is always up to us.

Prior to the earthquake and the rocks splitting the single most important thing that happened in this event was the katapetasma [veil] which hung in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This veil separated the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God lived, from the outer part of the temple in Jerusalem.

Prior to Jesus death and resurrection the veil was significant because only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies as an intermediary for Israel and only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The moment Jesus breathed His last breath the katapetasma was torn and some believe this event symbolizes the departure of God’s presence from the temple. This event also ushered in direct access to God by all those who believe in His Son Jesus.

In our verse today Paul is talking about the hardened minds of the Israelites to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But it isn’t only the nation of Israel that had hardened minds against Jesus even today there are many who believe if they do good, if they don’t lie, steal or cheat they are in good standing with God. Sadly, their minds are still covered by a veil that continues to keep them hardened toward God.

My prayer is that God will remove the katapetasma over all Israel so she will see Jesus the Messiah she has been looking for.

That He will remove the veil from all who are yet to believe revealing His beauty.

That He would simply cause the Bride to stop picking up and covering her mind with another veil. Jesus died once[.].

That we would see the beauty of the glory of the Lord reflected in us and grasp ahold of the freedom in and through Jesus in our life that spills onto the lives of others simply because Holy Spirit lives in us.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17.

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Body Image (3): Greatest Body, Wounded Parts

“Helper” carries my crutches for me and needs a rest.

My friend, Russ Lucier, who blogs over @Rejoicing Bones writes about his journey of recovery after a motorcycle accident in 2017. This article first appeared on his site. I encourage you to be encouraged by Russ and visit his site. Lord Bless!

This is the third and final installment of the Body Image series.  I write this for the wounded who find it difficult to push forward.  Not just for them, but for those who know someone who is wounded and finding it difficult to move forward.  We can feel so compelled to serve Christ, which we should, but sometimes limitations fall on us and that becomes a troublesome thing.   

Let’s look at this in relation to the Body, the Body of Christ, the Church.  I will try to keep things simple by getting to a main point made by 18th century theologian and revivalist John Wesley: “we are closely connected together in Christ and consequently ought to be helpful to each other.”  That was his comment on Romans 12:5.   

Paul writes a similar message to the Corinthians and says to each person that their “unique manifestation of the Spirit” is given for the common good.  (1 Corinthians 12:7).  He describes different ways people are gifted and then likens them to body parts in order to diffuse strife that has built up from jealousy over gifts.  Paul makes it clear that each one receives different gifts, each for a particular, unique and important purpose.  For the sake of unity, he writes, “…so that there should be no division among the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”  He goes on to say that if one part suffers, every part suffers with it.   

I remember standing on my legs and trying to walk 2 meters between parallel bars while trying to recover from my motorcycle accident.  My right leg, though broken much more badly than my left, was stronger because it had a “Taylor Spatial Frame” on it.  It held my leg together like a strong exoskeleton.  It was the leg that made full weight-bearing possible and allowed me to stand.  It took up weight for my left leg, which had no intact ligaments to speak of and a dislocated knee cap.  I look around the church and see people who, despite having issues of their own, prop up those who are even weaker.  God, bless those people.   

I have video footage of my first steps.  My arms were recruited to pull the rest of the body into a standing position.  They had to work very hard to do so.  Then, to walk those mere two meters, my arms carried virtually all of my weight, as my legs were wasted away.  Arms are not made for walking.  Their muscle mass is much smaller than the legs’ and designed to do other things.  After a few labored steps, all of my energy was drained and I trembled under the strain.  I look around the church and I see people who have to do work designed for someone else because that someone else is unable to.  God bless those people.   

Over the last two years of using a wheelchair and crutches to propel my body, my shoulder has become weary from overuse.  I try to strengthen my upper back muscles, which helps, but make no mistake: it’s life span will suffer.  The shoulder, the hero, has been sacrificing itself for a lengthy period of time for the benefit of the rest of the body.  How else could the rest of the body be as useful if it could not get around?  I look around the church and see people bearing one another’s burdens at cost to themselves.  God bless those people. 

My legs serve to illustrate what has happened to me in the church.  Because of the injuries to them, the acquired disability, the resulting mental health struggles and other complicated knock-on effects, I feel I have been taken out of commission.  For years I served in the armed forces, supervising as many as 63 people.  The most rewarding aspect of my role was the pastoral care involved.  The second most rewarding role I found myself in was teaching.  After retirement, I eventually found my way to education in a pastoral care role.  But since the accident, I have not successfully returned to work for a substantial period of time so now there seems to be a great void from not exercising the gifts I feel I have.   

To make this more of a concern, I have recently stepped down from a leadership role in a fledgling ministry because further life-changing operations await.  Staying in the role would have caused the mission to suffer because it won’t get my undivided attention or full strength.  I am broken-hearted over this.  The feeling of uselessness and failure comes in waves, even though I know these feelings are not legitimate.  

So what do we make of these seasons when our wounds (be they, physical, mental, emotional or even spiritual) take us out of action?  Any suggestions or principles I propose here can feel like hard-to-swallow medicine.  Here’s what I’m thinking.  I hope they are helpful to you: 

  • God is sovereign.  He doesn’t need our service.  That sounds harsh, but it’s true.  He has everything he needs to live happily forever.  He desires our hearts.  David says something like that in Psalm 51:16-17.  See, our gifts and services (done in joy, by the way) are for the greater good of the church and the church is to glorify God through the Great Commission.  If something that is beyond our control inhibits us, having an understanding of this principle can take the pressure off!

  • God is sovereign.  He does everything for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).  That includes anything that’s going on and whatever our wounds are.  Just remember too, that, according to the next verse, the aim is to be conformed to the image of his Son.  That’s a glorious thing.  Incidentally, that will include having a body, mind and soul that doesn’t get wounded at all!   

  • God is sovereign.  (Have I said that yet)?  He is very economical and orchestrates many things together for the good of many people at the same time.  That includes those who get to support you and do the work you would have done under different circumstances.  Though it may be extra challenging for them, they will also grow and become more conformed to the image of Christ.   

So take heart my friends, my brothers, my sisters.  Do what you can and don’t give up.  Pray.  The rest of the body needs it.   

Seeking Wisdom in the Right Place

May we not miss Wisdom and thereby injure ourselves. Rather let us love Wisdom finding favor with the Lord and living the abundant life Christ has given us as our inheritance here on earth.

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Shalom!

Whatever Happens

Whatever happens. This reminds me of a movie [not one in particular] but one where the characters have been fighting the good fight. All looks lost and the encouraging character says, whatever happens…

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel

Philippians 1:27

Paul is encouraging the Philippians to stay strong amid the provoking, teasing and ill-treatment they were receiving and would continue to receive because of their proclamation of faith in Jesus and their commitment to share Him. Whatever happens.

Where I live and maybe where you live the ill-treatment we receive isn’t the possibility of stoning with large boulders or massive crowds surrounding us, taunting us with slurs and bodily harm [as Paul and the Philippians faced, however, this still happens in many parts of the world because faith in Jesus is against the law]

But, when you are provoked by the driver at the stop sign who doesn’t acknowledge you and simply drives through even though you arrived first. Or, you’re in that store or perhaps someone you thought you were building a friendly relationship with suddenly becomes curt and distant. How will you respond?

As believers in Christ we have the mind of Christ but do our thoughts, actions and how we live our life reflect this?

Are we allowing Holy Spirit to transform our mind to think like Him?

Are we putting on the full armor of God daily?

Specifically, are we putting on the helmet of salvation, which is the protection of our soul and also a picture of protecting our head where our mind and thoughts live?

Are we conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ?

Whatever happens?

Shalom!

For His Glory

Have you had a situation where your heart and mind perceived that Jesus didn’t show up at the right time or at all? Maybe you are walking through a season right now wondering where He is.

Next month will be 13 years since my then 17 year old nephew was killed in a senseless and tragic auto accident. Remarkably drugs and alcohol were not involved but speed and rain were and the driver of the car lost control. The driver, who was expecting to attend college on a basketball scholarship after graduation in a few months, had to be extricated from the car and lost both his legs. Miraculously my niece and her friend, who were thrown from the backseat of the car and suffered broken backs, survived.

Three separate occasions I asked God why. Three times He dropped into my heart, for My glory.

My brother’s marriage couldn’t withstand the strain of the loss of a child and ended in divorce shortly after the accident. Last year my brother went home to Jesus after years of chronic illness and a broken heart.

In my humanness I would say that I have yet to see God’s glory in this particular situation over the last 13 years but the truth is I have seen His glory. The year before my brother passed he was hospitalized with some very serious issues that caused us to think he wouldn’t live through the night. I reached out to many praying friends and the next day we found almost every issue had disappeared overnight. God’s glory. During this same hospital visit God sent me in to pray with my brother. He was ready and we said a simple prayer of salvation. God’s glory.

In our verse above Martha makes a simple statement to the Lord, if He had been there her brother wouldn’t have died. At the same time she knew that God would give Jesus whatever he asked. Jesus brought Lazarus back to life.

There is a poignant sentiment Martha coneys. On the surface the story is about the loss of her brother and how Jesus could have saved him were He there while he was ill. But a few layers down…deeper we see Martha’s complete trust in the sovereignty of God. She knew regardless of how the situation looked on the outside Jesus was in control and His love for her and her family would never waver.

Through the generations Martha seems to have gotten a bad rap. She was the sister more concerned with preparing a meal for 13 men rather than sitting at the feet of Jesus as her sister Mary did. But Martha knew something to her very core.

She knew Jesus was the awaited Messiah and she trusted Him.

Have you put your trust in Jesus? When you do I can’t nor I won’t promise everything will be perfect in your life but I can promise His love for you will never falter. And if you allow Him the space Holy Spirit will fill you with His peace and comfort in the midst of adversity.

Shalom.

What If?

It hit me not like a ‘ton of bricks’ but as a quiet subtly. I sat down and asked Him to highlight something for me. As I was drawing close to the end of my reading I thought perhaps today there wouldn’t be a revelation. As I read the verse it jumped off the page at me. Why hadn’t I noticed this verse before?

For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead!

Romans 11:15

Paul is talking to the Gentiles and basically telling them he hopes his ministry to them causes envy among his own people for the sole purpose of their salvation. That if the Jews rejection of Jesus as Messiah causes people around the world to confess, repent and choose Jesus, their acceptance of Him leads to their salvation.

What if Israel’s acceptance of Jesus, right here, right now ushers in a grand spiritual awakening-a revival of proportions yet to be seen? What if their proclamation of Jesus as Messiah opens the floodgates of heaven and the great outpouring of Holy Spirit is realized (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17)?

Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. Psalm 122:6,7.

God’s word instructs us to pray for peace for Jerusalem. What if we also added prayers for the salvation of Israel? What if our prayers for their salvation is a key that unlocks divine mysteries waiting to be discovered? What if Israel is the remnant chosen for such a time as this?

What if?

Fully Convinced

Locks. Maybe you’ve seen them. They seem to show up on bridges almost everywhere. In fact, on the Brooklyn Bridge it is against the law to secure them to the bridge, but the posted signs, stating as much, do little to deter people. They appear in assorted sizes and colors quietly proclaiming the promise of the ones who locked them to the bridge of their love for one another. To trust each other with their heart.

Over the past several weeks God has reminded me of His promises in His word. Below I share a few that have resonated with me once again.

In that day– “Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the LORD, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it. Isaiah 27:2,3.

I have prayed Isaiah 27:2,3 for my children often throughout the years. It is comforting to picture my children as that fruitful vineyard with God watching over them and watering them continually with His presence and guarding them day and night so no one may harm them.

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. Joel 2:25.

Several years ago I was in the middle of a health crisis that seemed like it would become and remain chronic. Then…then God. He had given me the word restore for that year and shortly after I heard a sermon on Joel 2:25. THEN I went to a writers conference and saw this.

But this is what the LORD says: “Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. Isaiah 49:25.

The following year God gave me Isaiah 49:25. Not only does God promise to set captives free and return the plunder the enemy stole, He contends with those who contend with me and saves my children. Contention in my childrens lives trickles into my life and I love how I can rest in this promise that God contends on our behalf.

Placing a love lock on a bridge won’t guarantee forever love or trust between the ones who locked them there but when we allow the truth of God’s promises to settle in our heart He teaches us of His love and trustworthiness and we can be fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised because of His unconditional and lavish love.

Opulence

Sitting at my desk looking out the second story window of my home office to the tree lined street I am struck by the plethora of color. Bright orange, deep maroon and rusty red. I am praising God for Who He Is and the word opulent comes to mind.

Opulent, such a beautiful word. I imagine light hitting a chandelier and producing fragments of multicolored sparkles on all that it touches.

I’m led to explore the definition of opulent; not satisfied I look up opulence. From one online source the definition is abundance, an opulence of fruit. Still not completely satisfied I search for the Biblical definition which is riches.

In this moment I sense the Spirit’s abundance as He richly shares His fruit with me to be shared with others.

As you journey with Him may He lavish you in His opulence as you touch those around you and your sphere of influence.

Are You Ready?

There isn’t any judgement in these questions as I ponder them for myself. Am I ready for Jesus to return? Will He find my house in order? Will I be engaged in what He anointed and left me to do? Or, will I be chasing after idols that don’t matter now or in eternity?

One of my deepest prayers is for the Church to arise. To desire true discipleship and to disciple. To no longer gloss over the hard truths, teachings and sayings of Jesus. To live sold out for Jesus regardless of life’s challenges and struggles.

I’m working toward this. Will you work with me too?

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.

(NASB 1995).

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