Faith, Deeds, Life

The man standing at the back of the gathering in the square shouted, “That is preposterous!” Another jumped to his feet, robes gently billowing in the late afternoon breeze, and demanded, “What is the meaning of this?” As I watched the crowd was becoming restless and I could sense a small uprising mounting. I could taste the dust in my mouth as the people milling around kicked it up in disbelief wondering, is James telling us faith is the catalyst for good deeds?

They were taught to take care of the widows and orphans, give to the poor and be a good samaritan. That every good deed they produced was of their own accord and had absolutely nothing to do with faith. Faith was something in Yahweh.

Faith is not passive and genuine faith is the reality that we align our life too through Jesus and the power of Holy Spirit.

As your faith grows so will the deeds God wants you to be involved in. Faith and deeds go hand in hand. Our responsibility is to remain open to all acts of deeds He places before us asking Holy Spirit to help us be courageous, bold and obedient.

Further, our responsibility is to move when God instructs us to. To fill the needs He places before us. Whether these needs are financial, emotional, physical or spiritual. Healing, great healing, comes from our faith which leads to deeds that God works through to offer healing to others.

May our good deeds be known by our growing faith in Jesus. May our faith be genuine and always active as we continue to seek Him and His righteousness.

Shalom!

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People Don’t Care What You Know

Until they know you care (President Teddy Roosevelt). I’m on a soapbox this morning! It started with reading an article about the District of Columbia becoming the 51st state. A little history, well, because I love history. The land D.C. sits on was taken from the state of Maryland and the 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia do not vote for a senator but do have a delegate in the House of Representatives who does not have a House floor vote (Yahoo News 360).

There are several reasons for and against the District of Columbia becoming a state. Now, I’m not going to get political here but this comment caught my attention. “Political bribery is what the creation of states has been all about, with some exceptions. Whenever there’s a desire to create a new state, all Congress has to do is vote for it. But like animals on Noah’s ark, states have historically entered the union in pairs, with lawmakers using new states to maintain the balance of partisan power — or at least try to.” — Alan Greenblatt, Vox. Noah’s Ark? Of course that caught my attention! And if CA has its way it would change the histrocity of granting statehood in twos [but that is another political debate].

What really has me on the soapbox is the people reason for not wanting the District to become a state [in my opinion if we hadn’t taken God out of almost every area of life the world would be a much better place but I digress]. I don’t care what color your skin is, I don’t care what color your hair is, I don’t care what lifestyle you live, I don’t even care what political party you participate in.

What I do care is that you know you are loved.

When we choose to love others right where they are we begin to see past race, creed, nationality, addiction, homelessness, sexual orientation or a dozen other stereotypes the enemy uses to keep us fearful of simply loving. As the Church we need to learn to love like Jesus. We need to learn about others, their passions, what drives them, their dislikes, what makes them laugh, what makes them cry and truly listen and genuinely care.

As a believer in Christ you have the mind of Christ. It is your responsibility as a disciple of Jesus and an ambassador of eternity to think like Jesus, act like Jesus, speak like Jesus [in modern vernacular but you get the point] and love like Jesus. To build relationships and share what you are for…JESUS! And what you’re against-the enemy twisting and perverting your ideology and theology that causes you to perhaps operate from fear. To which I heartily rebuke in Jesus Name, Amen!

What does Jesus do? He loves and shares Himself with all people.

Let’s be like Jesus.

Shalom!

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Anxiousness

I stepped on without a care in the world. Grabbed ahold of the black rubber rail and looked up to carry on the conversation I was having with my daughter. Suddenly it hit me. I started to shake, my grip on the rail grew tighter, I couldn’t see the top nor did I want to because that meant looking up while traveling up the 213 vertical feet of one on the tallest escalators in the Western Hemisphere. I looked down and my daughter instantly knew I was struggling and there wasn’t anything we could do about it. So I prayed. That was the longest two minutes and forty seconds of my life!

Daily the average ridership on the DC Metro system is 626,000 [The Washinton Post 1/15/20]. Every time I am in DC I am amazed by the people walking up and down the escalators throughout the metro tunnels. Standing behind those walking down there appears to be a certain sway to their descent like they are walking on a small pillow of air. Likewise watching others walk up on the opposite escalator they appear slightly bent forward like they’re carrying a small burden. I suppose one becomes acclimated to the escalators and there are elevators but I challenge myself whenever I am there to use the escalators. However, anticipating riding them always causes a certain amount of anxiousness and a WHOLE lot of prayer!

In our verse for today Paul encourages us to not be anxious about anything but focus on God bringing our concerns to Him. Many times and for many of us this is easier said than done. There are times anxiety happens in situations like anticipating riding a very tall escalator and other times it can be because of an imbalance in our system. Before we move on my encouragement is to seek God and His wisdom about what you ought to do to feel healthy and live the full life He came to give each of us.

And that’s just it…seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Including God in your every day, every minute, every choice and He will lead you in His direction which is perfect and best for you.

When we choose to live in this fashion Paul goes on to encourage us…

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7.

Practicing more peace for my heart and mind along with you!

Shalom!

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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!

The Disguise of Vanity

My momma, a beautiful woman inside and out, would spend at least an hour everyday doing her hair just right. She had a standing weekly appointment with her hair stylist and was part of the last generation of women who carried over the bouffant hairdo from the sixties into the nineties! Each night after her hair appointment she would pin curl her hair in order to keep the shape. In the morning she would tease and back comb the top, sweep her bangs to the side and all those pin curls she would tease and flip up individually. I’m exhausted just remembering this!

I’ve never considered my momma to be vain. Certainly many of us have a daily routine that includes styling that makes us feel good about ourselves, however, there is always the danger of going to far and falling into the trap of vanity.

In our verse Paul is telling the Corinthians that the apostles proclamation of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and their faith is in vain if they do not believe in the resurrection. He is telling them that their faith is ineffective, foolish and worthless. This is exactly what vanity does to our true identity in Jesus. Vanity attempts to cause us to believe our identity is ineffective, foolish and worthless.

How do we protect ourselves from this sneaky and subtle ploy of the enemy of our soul? Consistency is the key by reading and studying God’s word. Asking the Holy Spirit to highlight what He wants to speak to your heart through His word [I like to take Scripture that speaks to me and turn it into personalized prayer on neon colored 3×5 cards], through prayer, here again, asking the Holy Spirit to lead your prayers and taking time to listen to what God is speaking to your heart. When we commit to practice these disciplines we begin to understand the work God has carved out for us to accomplish. The power of the Holy Spirit [the same power that resurrected Jesus from the dead] causes us to be steadfast, immovable and always excelling in the work of the Lord.

…because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58c.

Stay tethered to Jesus because you my friend are priceless.

Shalom!

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What’s Your Fragrance?

Have you ever walked past someone and caught a whiff of a delicious smelling perfume or cologne and for a split second you were transported back to a special memory or event? When others think of you does your fragrance cause them to sense Jesus?

One of the greatest tragedy’s of todays Church is that we have been so poorly discipled. If we truly knew how to disciple according to God’s word and through the example of Jesus we would all serve without question. We would live in such a way as evidence we love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength and all our mind, we would love our neighbors as ourself. We would choose to think like Jesus, speak like Jesus, act like Jesus and love like Jesus. We would care so much about the welfare of others we would remember to consistently ask Holy Spirit for cleansing, deliverance and healing from sin that causes us to hurt ourselves, hurt others and leave many wounded and divided. We would honestly and graciously hold each other accountable so a hurting, exhausted and fearful world of people would truly see Jesus and want Him too.

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!