“Have you heard about Jesus, they said? He is doing some phenomenal things. Things that only a GOD can do! Miracles!”
This must’ve been the talk around the town in Jesus’ day. He was out there healing others and teaching. He was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. He was sure to be the subject of rumors. He may have been a bit mysterious, but may have also made others uncomfortable….or intrigued.
At one point, Jesus asked His disciples about who people say He is. They replied the “safe” answer…”well, some say John the Baptist, or Jeremiah or Elijah”. Jesus replied to them that He wanted to know who His followers say He is.
Our friend Peter, who I can relate to because he tends to run his mouth quicker than he thinks things through, blurted this answer: “you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
There is a lot to be said for your first instinctual response when asked who Jesus is to you. So, I ask…who is He to you?
Have you considered it?
If you’re not considering it, begin to. You don’t have to have it figured out right away. In fact, the faith that we come to through time and struggle is often the hard-won faith that lasts, but you do need to begin the process of asking who He is to you. If you want to delve further, look at Matthew 16: 13-20 again and see if your views align with those expressed. Let us know if you have any grand revelations.
This past summer, a friend brought me a few plants which I reluctantly took with a “thanks, but”.....you see, in the past I have killed most plants that came into my home. My mother and grandmother had a green thumb when it came to houseplants. I do alright with outdoor plants, but somehow when they are in my home, they die (often a slow death because I ebb and flow between remembering to care for them and forgetting). Let’s just say they have never thrived.
Well, this year, I have had some success. I have even been able to give a few cuttings away to family and friends and have used some cuttings to allow myself to have a few of these pretties. In my efforts to care for them, I have tried to keep up with removing dead leaves and stems.
This past weekend I was doing this and noted that there were a few spots where they didn’t look healthy and in order to preserve the whole, I had to remove some seemingly healthy leaves that were attached to unhealthy stems. I thought about how this is often how life is. We have to remove some things that we may feel are good things in order to make room for the best things. Lysa Terkeurst calls this “The Best Yes” in her book with the same name.
My life has been pruned this past year. Some changes are out of my own decision-making and others out of my control. What I have found is that as my life becomes different (I almost said “simpler”-HA!), I am better able to discern what is my “best yes”.
Have you had to make changes and found that the changes have been a relief? Have changes been made out of your control that have been difficult? What is your plant looking like these days? What can you do about it?
It’s never too late to live your calling.
Some of you know I lost my mom several years ago. Our relationship was complicated and only later in our lives together did I realize that she was a mighty woman of God who wanted to follow Him and lead others there as well. I’d like to share a snippet of her story.
Due to health issues, she ended up in Assisted Living far sooner than one would have necessarily expected or wanted, but for her, it was a new lease on life. Caring for her surroundings and tending to her basic needs took up all of the energy she had so it left her drained for the things that gave her life and happiness. She was unhappy and unfulfilled. This led to worsened health, of course.
Mom was a piano teacher throughout my childhood and played all the time along with playing the organ for the church. She also enjoyed to read, knit and craft as well as other hobbies, but as she aged and became weaker, those things dwindled. She just didn’t have energy for them. When she went to assisted living, after becoming acclimated of course, she developed a few ministries that I believe gave her more years than we expected.
Mom began to play piano on Sunday mornings for the folks at the nursing home who were not able to go to church. She became very involved in a multi-denominational women’s group. She crafted and read like crazy. Mom developed a “prayer walking” ministry with her neighbors. They would all walk the halls in their walkers at the assisted living and would ask others if they needed prayer....then they would pray for them on the spot. See, she finally was able to get the rest she needed so that she could focus on the calling God put on her heart- her neighbors!
This reminds me of a few things:
So, in a way to honor mom, I want to encourage you to remember that you’re not done...no matter your limitations and that you can find fulfillment in any stage in your life. There is work to be done and YOU ARE THE ONE TO DO IT! Don’t limit yourself. Take a lesson from Zetta who I never gave enough credit to (so sorry about that, momma) and know that we all have purpose and a responsibility to find that purpose. Then go with it, even if it means you walk with your walker down the hall to minister. Your action will change lives.
Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!
Do you ever have to fight for your joy? Do you ever have to dig deep to really have the joy that people talk about? What does this joy really mean?
In this verse, Ezra is talking to the people of Israel who came to restore the temple. They spent some time in sadness and tears, discouraged by the time they’d wasted as a people in running from God - Ezra told them to stop crying and leave their sadness behind. What matters is now. You have chosen to serve Him now. Your joy should come from this and knowing you are on the right path. So, when you begin to feel discouraged, know that God wants us to share in His joy. Ask Him to give it to you. Seek the joy in your day. Do not lament over what has happened in the past.
**Originally published October 2020
Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods, and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer. —L. M. MONTGOMERY, Anne of Green Gables
Do you pray? I don’t mean just saying the Lord’s Prayer, or while in church, but this:
Do you pray while driving...or when you want to gossip….or want to tell someone off because they are just being unkind? Do you pray for Him to stop you?
Do you pray when in pain….or worse, when someone you love is in pain?
Do you pray when you’re grateful?
I find myself having a conversation with God pretty frequently. I tell Him how I feel inadequate in a situation...or I wish I’d handled something better. I tell Him when I’m honored to be a part of something that is so much bigger than me. I look at Him as my friend and the one who wants the best for me.
My prayers are not eloquent or formal, but they are real. God wants to hear every detail of our lives. He knows it, but He wants us to want to share it with HIM. No detail is too small for His care.
God has made it so that we can approach His throne every minute of every day. I read this week that our prayers can turn porches into cathedrals. That was so powerful to me. May you meet God in your living room, on the road, or on your porch today. Just say “Hi” and the conversation has started.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
I’m sure if we’re truthful, many of us will admit we do not always exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit. What we may not realize is that some of the fruit that we display can be a product of our previous experiences. Say one grew up in a home that had a lot of chaos and arguing. The fruit that person may bear out in their adult life might be related to the things they grew up with in their childhood. They may thrive on chaos or be argumentative in their daily lives. Old habits die hard, it’s said, and it’s so true. However, the whole point of the teaching of the Fruit of the Spirit is that the Holy Spirit GROWS that fruit in you. It’s a beautiful thing, really, but WE MUST ALLOW THAT TO HAPPEN!
There is some scientific information supporting the fact that we can change our approaches as well:
In "Anatomy of the Soul: Surprising Connections between Neuroscience and Spiritual Practices That Can Transform Your Life and Relationships" by Curt Thompson M.D., he discusses that the brain can adjust how it responds to things. Even if we have fully established patterns of reaction, with some allowance on our part and with the work of the Holy Spirit, we can change. It states: "And we have even more reason to hope. While it’s true that established neural networks are most likely to fire, it’s equally true that recent research demonstrates that our brains were created with beautiful and mysterious plasticity. That means our neurons can be redirected in ways that correlate with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control. Instead of automatically following the wired sequence of our old memory, with reflection, we can choose to create new pathways. “
So, as in most spiritual things, there must be an availability of our desire to change things. We must be, if nothing else, willing to allow the Spirit to work, but also may have to do some work ourselves in changing negative thought patterns or ways of interacting with the world around us.
Do you have a story of how you have changed thought patterns from what you have learned? If so, would you be willing to share?
Earlier, we looked at Gideon who was hiding in a pit threshing wheat. He did this because he was fearful of the Midianites and did not want them finding him. He then gets a Heavenly visitor who calls him a Strong Warrior and tells him to stand up to the Midianites- now Gideon may have thought he was calling him a worrier, because essentially this is what he was doing. This visitor then told Gideon to “Go in the Strength that is yours”, again pointing out something that was not clear in the character of Gideon- especially to himself. Gideon isn’t going for it because his answer asks how can he, an Israelite, do this? He says Israel is weak and his clan is the weakest, then he points out that he is the RUNT of that group. In other words, send someone else. ”I’m not your Guy”. The response? DO IT! Well, really, the response was “have I not sent you?” God often answers a question with another question.
Ultimately, after a lot of questioning and testing God in this message, Gideon did do what he was told and he won! Do NOT let what others say about you or a poor self image limit what God has planned for you. Remember who you are in Christ and trust Him when He says that you are more than enough!
*originally published 11/2020
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. ~Romans 7:21-25
This is one of Paul’s most important writings in all of scripture. Jesus did more than make us nice little boys and girls. He came to defeat the most overwhelming power we face – sin and death. He breaks the power of addictions, abuse, selfishness, pride, and whatever else stands in the way of our life in the Spirit.
What is the one thing that you need God to defeat in your life?
Prayer: God, I’m sorry that I have belittled your work thru Christ but relegating it to a behavior modification effort. You have made me alive and new. Thank you. May it be evident today. Amen.
So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. ~ Romans 7:14-17
A familiar story, but a good one. The master explained to his student that there are two wolves fighting within us, one good and one bad. The student asked the master which one wins? The one you feed the most was his reply. From a Christian perspective, I would add, the one you let Christ feed as well. Many times our growth is allowing Christ’s work be true on our behalf as much as striving to change.
Prayer: God, I place myself in your care. I trust you to feed the Spirit inside me so the sinful part may diminish as I follow you. I will respond to that grace with obedience. Amen.
Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. ~Romans 4:4-5
We are so used to working for what we get. Even when someone gives us something for free, we wonder what their agenda is. Will they expect something in return? Paul explains in these verses that if righteousness was earned, God would be obligated to do something for us, and would relate to us as an employer. But our ‘right-ness’ is a gift. God relates to us like a father, not an employer. Have you ever been tempted to look at God like God doles out paychecks? Have you ever said ‘they’ll get theirs one day?’ When we do this, we make God the cranky old guy sitting behind a calculator keeping score of replaceable people. Our relationship with God is based on God’s faithfulness, not ours.
Prayer: God, forgive me for imagining you as an employer, someone to keep happy so I’ll get what I need. Remind me again of your love for me as family. Amen.