buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Many Rooms

One of my Mom’s favorite scriptures was John 14:1-3 – in my Father’s house are many rooms – He’s going to the Father’s house to prepare the rooms for His people. If He goes to prepare the rooms, He will come back. It was the assurance that Mom held onto until her last breath. I was reading the passage this morning in my quiet time and I recalled the past – my Mom, my Dad and my sisters and me – in our childhood home.

I remembered all the Christmases when we waited in anticipation to see what goodness we would receive because of our “goodness.” We would count down the days. The night before, it was a struggle to go to sleep. I was so hyped up; it took me forever to sleep. My parents waited patiently for sleep to claim me so the magic could begin. I was the youngest so that meant I was the first to bed, but bed didn’t always mean sleep until the lights were completely out.

As I read the Scripture this morning, I saw the words Jesus promised. Go to prepare the room so that He would return to receive us as His bride. It was the Jewish custom. The bridegroom would go prepare the place where he would take his bride to live. He went back to his father’s house and made room for his new bride. When the room was finished, the bridegroom went to get his bride. When the disciples heard the promise, they understood the meaning.

Sometimes when we hear the stories from the Bible, we lose the significance because we don’t know the traditions or the settings involved. They become words on a page instead of the true importance of the passage. I glance over many a story and miss the impact it should have, but this passage I finally get. Maybe because it was so significant for my Mom or maybe I just understand the context now. I do believe what Jesus promised – He’s coming back to get His bride, the church.

The bride always had to be ready to receive the bridegroom. She never knew when the room would be complete and he would make the journey. She eagerly anticipated that day when they would be together. It feels like the anticipation of a child waiting for Christmas to come. I don’t have that same anticipation for Christmas as I once did. The magic is gone. Things change. However, as a future bride, I should have that same anticipation for the coming of my bridegroom. Jesus is coming back one day. We just don’t know when.

As I contemplate this Christmas season, celebrating His first appearance, it reminds me to be like a small child in anticipation for the next appearance. He is preparing many rooms. I told my Mom when she was leaving this earthly home if she had any say so on my future room, please don’t suggest pink. I don’t know if she heard me or not, I guess I will find out when I get there.

My childhood home had three bed rooms. My Mom’s favorite color was pink – two of the bedrooms were pink and mine was green. I don’t remember requesting green, but I shared the room with one of my sisters, maybe it was her choice. I was just glad I didn’t have the pink room. It was truly PINK.

One Christmas morning, I was surprised to find a “banana” bike next to the Christmas tree. I was so excited to see it with the bright lights of the tree sparkling against the frame. To my dismay, when the light of day hit that frame, it was a pink bike. I guess girls’ bikes didn’t come in another color. It still was a bike though and I ignored the bright pink as much as I could. I rode that bike until I out grew it. I had many adventures on that bike, at times to my Mom’s dismay.

Even if my Mom didn’t understand my disdain for pink, Jesus knows how to prepare my room. Maybe I should be more concerned about the treasures I am sending rather than the color of the room. Jesus promised many things throughout His time on earth. The Old Testament foretold many times of Jesus’ first appearance – we celebrate it – but the Old Testament gives many more indications of His second coming.

If the first was fulfilled (and it was), how much more should we be anticipating the second? Like a child at Christmas – expecting, anticipating, eagerly, breathlessly – waiting for that day. The rooms are about complete. The timing is just a blink away. Do you anticipate it like you should? Is your room being prepared?

Believe the promise as a child of your good Father in heaven. Anticipate all He has prepared. Continue doing the good work until that Day. Keep looking up; the time is getting close!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:1-3

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Just a Hair Cut

The other day, I had a haircut. Nothing unusual about having my hair cut; I do it every five weeks. However, I usually tell my stylist to continue doing the same thing every time. It’s been styled this way for a long time. But when I went in the other day, I wanted something different. I wanted some layers. She asked how many layers? “No idea, so do what you think is best” was my reply. She proceeded to cut. As we normally do, we chatted all the while she chopped away. I glanced at the mirror when she was done, thanked her, paid her and left for the gym.

After I got home and showered, I finally took a look at my new haircut. This may sound strange, but I finally looked like myself. I felt like myself. My new haircut was really the old me coming back to life. Strange, I know. A haircut is just a haircut. Right?

There are many things we use to cover ourselves besides clothes. I don’t think I was using my previous haircut to cover anything, but it’s just strange how different I felt with the new do. However, I do realize now that I had let others tell me how they thought I should wear my hair. Have it this length, no bangs, let it fall around my face, etc. I realized now, that’s not me. I need to be authentic to who I am – who God created me to be.

I know, it’s just hair. But it says a lot about my personality. I want to please others more than I want to please myself (or God). I let others tell me how to act, what to wear, how to walk. But that’s not me. It may have been for the best of intentions, but I have to be who God created me to be.

I have not given myself over to doing anything outside of God’s will. That’s really not who God created me to be. But I do want to be authentic to my true self. What’s that look like for me? I don’t know. I need to discover who I am without input from others – only God gets to be the voice defining me. God says quite a bit in His Word about our characters. But He gives us leeway on how that looks for us based on our gifts, talents, abilities, experiences, etc. What really matters is that we love God more than anything else and love others as much as we love ourselves – everything else is gray matter.

Danielle Strickland said recently “love brings us back to ourselves.” It’s a sobering, reclaiming, waking moment when God plants His love on us, like a kiss from heaven. He demonstrated His love for us by His Son Jesus. These are the weeks when we focus on Jesus’ birth. This is the time we can demonstrate more love for others to tell them this mysterious love that changes things.

Danielle mentioned in her talk about how the brain responds when we are in love. There are three areas that “light up” when we’re in love – pleasure (joy), risk and attachment. In Hebrews 12:12 it says it was for Jesus’ joy, He endured the cross for us. He loved us so much that He put everything on the line for us. God risked His Son for us. Jesus endured the shame for us. Our response to Him? We are to love Him like that.

For our greatest pleasure, we are to risk everything for Him. We are to abide in Him as Jesus abides in His Father. We are to be in love with Jesus. This type of love brings us back to ourselves – this love makes us who we are supposed to be. It’s an enveloping, mind-bending, arm-wrapping love that transcends understanding that brings us back to ourselves. It’s who we are meant to be and can change everything. It’s more than a haircut that can make us see ourselves differently. Love is the missing link to who we are to become. It’s the joy of our heart to risk it all for Jesus – is it true for you? How’s your love life?

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:10-12

Feeling Overwhelmed?

For the last few months, I have been struggling with writing. You may have noticed my lack of posting consistently over the last couple of months. I’m not sure what is stopping the words from flowing. God has been good to give me words to write for the last ten years – the newsletters and the blog postings. But for some reason, the words are not there or maybe my lack of desire to sit down and write is not there. Maybe it’s the season I’m in; things are a bit overwhelming – political chaos, disasters, and grief – are a bad combination for creativity.

Typically, I read quite a bit each day. From my quiet time to dinner time, I read – news articles, health articles, and of course God’s Word. It’s all important to stay connected with what’s going on around me. But sometimes (or most of the time), the news can be bad. It’s hard not to get sucked into the negativity. God’s word grounds me for the things I read going on in this world. Every disaster – flooding, fires, and earthquakes – just seems to get worse. But God’s word is constant. God’s word is life-giving. It’s thought provoking. It’s challenging. It’s informative about the world we currently live in.

There are times when I get overwhelmed with the chaos; however, the chaos never diminishes the peace that reigns in my heart. Peace is there no matter what is happening on the outside. Peace is just there filling every fiber of my being. Do you have that peace too – no matter what?

The Bible tells us we don’t fight flesh and blood – there is a spiritual enemy that is working against us. In every regard, he is throwing this world into chaos. It’s what he does – it’s who he is. Deceptive. Manipulative. Destructive. He challenges God’s plan by throwing in chaos. Scripture tells us we shouldn’t be surprised by the events that take place in our world today. God’s word foretold it all.

God’s plan will be successful, but the enemy always tries to stop it. His time is drawing to a close. We know this by God’s word – the birth pains of the end are growing closer together. Disasters are more frequent and intensity is ramping up. Historical flooding, historical fires and crazy times tell us things are coming to a crescendo.

One day, Jesus will return. We’ve heard this since Jesus left the first time. Sometimes it’s hard to comprehend this will all end one day. But it will. Maybe we’ll see it, or maybe we will all die before that Day. But we will all have to stand before Jesus one day. We are told to be ready – regardless. We are never promised another day. Accidents happen. Heart attacks are too common these days.

We never know how long we are given for this life. Scripture tells us to number our days – we need to make the most of what we’re given. We are told though, we have an eternal life. What we have here is very short. We should be striving for the eternal. God’s word tells us to store up the treasures in heaven. We are to make a difference in people’s lives – these things will be stored in heaven for us for our eternal home.

There has been a thought circulating in my mind for the last few months. (Not scriptural – just strange thoughts I have at times.) What if the things we do here for eternity purpose is our resource to live on there? If we do nothing here for eternity purpose, we will be just getting by in heaven (for eternity) – we will be in the poverty section of heaven (for eternity). Our street will be paved in silver instead of gold. I know, at least we’re in heaven, right? But we might miss out on some of the best adventures with God. It could be life-changing for us and for those we could impact. But if we miss it, what are we losing for eternity?

What we do matters. It’s not how we’re saved – we aren’t saved by works. We are saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ, His Son. But because we’re saved, we should want to do more (faith and works are woven together). You might have heard the term – hurt people hurt people. This concept should be true of us: saved people save people. This is what we’re called to do.

These times shouldn’t surprise us and it shouldn’t thwart the work that needs to be done. We might get overwhelmed for a minute, but it shouldn’t throw us into despair. It’s part of the plan. We need to understand: God is still on the throne and He is still our good, good Father. Let’s not get sucked into the chaos, but remember we are His hands and feet for such a time as this. He arranged it just for us. Time to be about the Father’s business – eternity is just around the corner.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 1 Peter 3:12-16

The Fig Tree

As my small group discussed the cursing of the Fig Tree found in Mark 11, I sat there wondering why Jesus would curse a tree and then tell His disciples to have faith when He was asked about it. Jesus hardly ever answered people in a direct way. His conversations never seem to flow as expected.

The Samaritan woman at the well comes to mind (story found in John 4). She asked Jesus about physical needs, but Jesus responded about spiritual needs. That was Jesus’ way – we look for physical fulfillment when Jesus looks for spiritual fulfillment. But the fig tree didn’t seem to be about anything spiritual, or was it?

The story of the fig tree starts with Jesus going to the fig tree to feed his hunger. Because the fig tree had leaves, the fruit was expected to be hanging from underneath, but the tree bore no fruit. Jesus said to the tree, “May no one eat fruit from you again.” Seems a bit harsh since just before Jesus cursed the tree, Mark wrote it was not the season for figs. Shouldn’t Jesus have expected to find no figs since it was not the season? Yet, He looked for figs.

The next day, the disciples passed the fig tree once again. However, this time the tree was withered from the roots. Peter remarked about the tree being withered and Jesus responded “Have faith in God.” Doesn’t His response seem a bit odd? That’s the thing that had me a bit stumped as I listened to the small group discussion. As I sat there, thoughts began to flow concerning this tree and the time this all took place – the last week of Jesus’ life.

Jesus’ ministry was coming to an end. The disciples were getting ready to embark on a new path – they didn’t know it yet, but a new age was about to begin with them. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree may have been the beginning of the end of Israel as they knew it. Israel had been back in the land for a few centuries by that time. They had been looking for their Messiah to come to save them from the physical presence of Rome. Jesus didn’t come as their physical savior, but as their spiritual Savoir. The leadership didn’t get the distinction.

John the Baptist came on the scene to open the way for Jesus – repent for the Kingdom of God is near.  He prepared the path for Jesus to walk. Jesus continued the message of repentance, but the leadership rejected His message and they did not repent. God gave Israel three years to hear the truth. Some responded to the message and recognized Jesus as the Messiah. They were the ones selected for the next season – the harvest season.

Throughout Scripture I am told, fig trees represented Israel. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree was ultimately cursing Israel for their lack of repentance. When Jesus left this earth, Israel was doomed to fall. Forty years later, Rome conquered Israel and dispersed most of the inhabitants to the rest of the world. The unfruitful season for Israel was complete and a new season dawned. The church age began – a season of great harvest.

It would begin with the followers of Jesus who brought forth the Word of Jesus throughout the world over the next two thousand years. The early Christian Jews were not part of the curse because they had faith in God as Jesus told them in Mark 11:22. They believed Jesus was who He said He was. Jesus spoke about having faith in God as they prayed and to do so in His name. Jesus told His followers do not doubt in your heart but believe what you say will happen, it will be done for you (my paraphrase of Mark 11:23 about telling the mountain to move). It was the main instruction for the church age to flourish.

If you read through Mark 13, you will see the signs of the end of the age – the end of the church (harvest) age. Jesus said the lesson of the fig tree was to watch for twigs to become tender and the leaves to come out then we will know when summer is near (Mark 13:28). Jesus said when these times begin, we are to know the end is near, right at the door (Mark 13:29).

Again, the fig tree representing Israel, we can gather from this passage: when Israel is once again established in their land and prospering, which they are today; the church age is almost done. There are more Jews today who are tender toward Jesus than ever before. The leaves of prosperity are abundant and before long, Israel will be the one bearing the fruit – the church will be gone and it will be left to Israel to bring home the final harvest. Jesus will return to Israel to receive the bounty.

As followers of Jesus, it is our responsibility to share what we know and tell others of the Good News. We have a Savior the world needs – they may think they have physical needs, but in reality we all have spiritual needs. If God can bring Israel back from the far corners of the world, then He can and will fulfill the rest of His plan. He will finish what He started – in each one of us and throughout the world. Believe and do not doubt – have faith in God – this is the lesson of the fig tree. He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.

“Be careful that you never allow your hearts to grow cold. Remain passionate and free from anxiety and the worries of this life. Then you will not be caught off guard by what happens. Don’t let me come and find you drunk or careless in living like everyone else. For that day will come as a shocking surprise to all, like a downpour that drenches everyone, catching many unaware and un-prepared. Keep a constant watch over your soul, and pray for the courage and grace to prevail over these things that are destined to occur and that you will stand before the presence of the Son of Man with a clear conscience.” Luke 21:34-36 (TPT)

Two Feet of Jesus

In my small group, we’re going through the Book of Mark. An impression has settled over me concerning these Scriptures. Jesus wanted us to have faith. I know, duh. But really, faith is the key to everything concerning Jesus. David Jeremiah said in one of his teachings about being an Overcomer, “faith is about security in the object of our faith.” He gave the illustration of ice fishing. Is it better to have a little faith with two feet of ice or to have a whole lot of faith with two inches of ice? Of course, it would be a little faith on two feet.

Jesus said we should at least have faith as small as the mustard seed. Even with that smallest of faith, we could say to the mountain move and it would move. That’s a pretty tall order, don’t you think. But it’s the object of our faith that causes the mountain to move.

Jesus could do nothing in the place where there was no faith, especially in His hometown. People grew up with Him. They knew Him or at least, they thought they knew Him. They didn’t understand where He received His education. They couldn’t trust Him because they didn’t know His instruction came from above. They didn’t believe He was the Son of God because they thought He was Mary and Joseph’s son. They didn’t know the back story even when it was given to them in their Scriptures from long ago.

The learned scholars had the back story, they too didn’t believe. They were waiting for the Messiah; yet when He came, they didn’t recognize Him. They had everything before them and they couldn’t see Him. They had no faith in Him. They had more faith in their Scriptures, which were only given so that God’s people would recognize their need for the Savior and recognize Him when He arrived on the scene. But they chose to have more faith in two inches of parchment rather than the two feet of Jesus, the living Word.

Who am I to criticize them? I can be just as bad with my faith walk. Sometimes I put my faith in the wrong things. Money. People. Job. You name it. I have probably trusted it more than I have trusted Jesus. However, I believe my experiences over time have developed more trust in the two feet of Jesus. I still lose sight and have to be reminded. But Jesus continues to give me new insight when I read His Word. Faith – it’s a big deal. We can’t get to heaven without it.

James MacDonald spoke recently about miracles. Jesus performed many miracles (as long as there was faith present) throughout His ministry. Does it still happen? I wrote down from the teaching – “only God can move mountains.” But Jesus said we could do it with faith as small as a mustard seed. The faith is for God to move it on our behalf, not in us. We ask in faith and watch Him move it. He still has the same abilities as He did when Jesus walked the earth. But it still takes faith.

Pastor James said “Miracles are common where God’s glory is revealed. Miracles are uncommon where God’s glory is concealed.” Why do we want a miracle? Will God get the glory for the miracle? Pastor James’ last point was “miracles flow for a deeper faith.” God creates miracles for His glory and for our faith in Him. The more we trust Him the more He’ll do through us. We take greater risks when we truly believe God is who He says He is and He’ll do what He says He’ll do.

Faith. As small as a mustard seed. Two feet of Jesus is more than anything else this world has to offer. Money. People. Jobs. There’s no comparison. God said He would never leave us or forsake us. Do you believe it? We could all use more faith. But if we start with the smallest of faith, He will enlarge it as we lean upon Him as we take the next step and the next. Faith grows more confident the further we walk with Jesus – He might even take us all the way to the center of the ice – but He never leaves us there alone. His two feet are right beside us. Trust Him to get to the other side. Nothing is impossible for those who believe.

I brought him to your followers, but they weren’t able to heal him.”

Jesus replied, “Where is your faith? Can’t you see how wayward and wrong this generation is? How much longer do I stay with you and put up with your doubts? Bring your son to me.”

Then Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of him and the boy was instantly healed!

Later the disciples came to him privately and asked, “Why couldn’t we cast out the demon?”

He told them, “It was because of your lack of faith. I promise you, if you have faith inside of you no bigger than the size of a small mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move away from here and go over there,’ and you will see it move! There is nothing you couldn’t do!

Matthew 17:16-20 (TPT)

The Test

“This is a test of the emergency broadcast signal – this is only a test.” Throughout our lifetimes, how many times have we heard this message come across our radios, televisions and now our cell phones? This is only a test. If it was a real emergency, instructions would follow. I think I would freak out a little if the message came through with a real message of danger.

However, we all receive those messages daily – sometimes they are not heeded and destruction comes when we least expect it. But God does warn us before danger happens through His Holy Spirit and through His Word. However, most of the time, we ignore the warning signs. We think all is well because the message isn’t loud enough to get through all the white noise that bombards us on a daily basis.

In the past, I have written many words about God sending tests to help build our character. It’s a matter if we have learned anything through those tests. In the Scripture from James, we are told to consider those trials (or tests) with pure joy (James 1:2) because it produces perseverance. Once we complete the trial or test, we will be made more mature – our faith will lack nothing (my paraphrase of James 1:2-4).

In one of my quiet times this week, I was taken aback when I read Mark 5:13. The Scripture is found in the story of Jesus confronting the man with many demons. When the man approached Jesus, the demons begged Jesus not to destroy them but let them go into the pigs. Jesus gave them permission to go into the pigs. Jesus gave them permission. Does that jolt you a bit as it did me? It reminded me of the passage where Jesus told Peter, Satan asked to sift him. It also reminded me of the Book of Job. Satan came to God about Job. God allowed Job and Peter to be sifted. God gave Satan permission. And I think He still does so today.

Nothing comes to us unless it goes through God first. Sometimes our trials are a sifting trial. God has allowed them for a purpose. God is all about building our character. These trials come to remove those things that are harmful to our character or His purpose for us. God never promised to remove trials but to walk with us through those valleys. Sometimes His mercy grants us a quick trial. Sometimes a more lasting one is needed to deepen our faith or weed out the impurities in us. God always has a plan. God always loves us. Even in times when the trials feel like punishment, God’s love is there. No matter what, we can trust God has the best in mind for us. Even in the trials. Count it as joy – God is there with us.

The questions come though “Why Lord? or How long?” We may never get our answers to why or how long the trial will last. However, we can know God is good all the time – even if the trial seems to last forever. Even if God doesn’t deliver us, we can still know God is good and has the best in mind for us. He has a plan. Sometimes we won’t know why we have to go through the trial or why we have the set back. We just have to accept the fact, God has allowed it for our benefit and His purpose. The Scripture verse in James 1:5 said we could ask God for understanding. So if we want to learn from our trials, we can ask for understanding – not necessarily why but what can we learn from it.

Hindsight usually gives us a better view of what we’ve been through. Hindsight usually is a good way to see God’s hand in it. God’s ways are different from ours – thank God! I am glad He knows everything and sees everything. Think about it. If He wasn’t sovereign or didn’t know how things would turn out, wouldn’t that be a hopeless feeling?

We can question where God is in the process, but never forget He is in control and His mercy is great. Trust Him in the process and believe the way will be made clear. If God sends warnings, we have to be able to hear them so that we can change course. This is only a test but it could prove to be the most important one we face for our eternal future. Listen to the voice of wisdom and heed what the voice says. This may be only a test, but what we learn is of great importance.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:1, 13-14

Two Words for Today

This past week, my small group started reading the Gospel of Mark. It’s the shortest of the Gospel accounts of Jesus. It is believed to have been written by the author John Mark while he was in Rome for the Roman Christians between the years 55 and 65 AD. John Mark received the narrative from Peter, a disciple of Jesus and one of Jesus’ closest friends – part of His inner circle.

Unlike the other two synoptic Gospels, Mark’s message begins with the ministry of Jesus. The word that jumps out from the beginning is “immediately.” John Mark used that word throughout his writing. The word I got from the beginning is unhindered. Jesus wanted to begin His ministry unhindered to share the Good News about His Father’s Kingdom. However, the more Jesus did – the miracles – the less He was able to move about freely. The people came far and wide to see Jesus – to see His miracles and to hear His message.

In the beginning, Jesus told the demons not to speak about who Jesus was (is). When the demons saw Jesus, they proclaimed Him as the Son of God. I believe Jesus didn’t want them testifying – He didn’t want people to believe the demons message. Jesus’ message was to believe in Him for who He was (is) not because of what a demon said or the miracles Jesus performed. The miracles were signs and wonders to prove His authority to what Jesus proclaimed.

People were amazed at His authority. They had never heard anything like it. However, the schooled members of society – the Pharisees had a problem with Jesus’ authority. They wanted more proof than the signs and wonders Jesus provided. Jesus said even if He died and rose again, they would not believe – and they didn’t. Their hearts were hardened and had no room for Jesus.

Early in the narrative, John Mark wrote about Jesus’ take on old and new wineskins. I believe this remark was directed to the Pharisees. The message Jesus delivered was a new message – new wine. The new wine would be better served in a new wineskin rather than an old wineskin. The message was brought forth through the disciples rather than the religious elite – the Pharisees. There would be a new vessel for the new message.

The Pharisees thought they were covered because of who they were – sons of Abraham – God’s chosen people. They didn’t believe they needed to be saved from their sins. They believed in the rules of Moses’ Law was going to save them. They had no need for Jesus. They relied on tradition and had no relationship with God. It was all about the Law and nothing more.

Jesus told a group of disciples it was more than just following rules. He expounded on the Law and said it was more than keeping the letter of the Law but even the thoughts could be judged against them. So the Law said murder was wrong, but Jesus said even our thoughts about harming someone was breaking the heart of this commandment. It’s impossible to keep the Law. The Law was given to show us our need for a Savior.

In the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus began His ministry in the synagogues. However, the message was rejected in those places. The message was received outside of those walls where Jesus walked among the crowd. He spoke on hillsides, in small villages, and around the Sea of Galilee. The people from far and wide came to hear the message and see all He was doing. But the Pharisees did not see and did not hear. They missed the message of love, hope, peace and joy. Jesus came for them too, but they rejected His message and didn’t believe Him even with all the things He did in their presence. Jesus broke their rules (not God’s) and did things on the Sabbath that their rules forbid.

Eventually, though many decided to turn away from Jesus because the message was too hard to follow. They didn’t understand what Jesus said about His death and how it would change everything. Only after the resurrection do we see thousands committing their lives to the message. The resurrection made the difference in how the message was received. People believed the witnesses of the resurrection. They understood the message after the greatest of the signs and wonders – Jesus’ resurrection. However, the Pharisees still didn’t believe and their fate was determined by their unbelief.

The message is still true today. It’s not about tradition or following rules. It’s about a relationship with Jesus and following Him. It’s more than Jesus saving us from our sins. It’s about turning our lives over to Him as Lord. It’s giving Him everything – all of our hearts. It’s about being outside the building walls and showing others the love of Jesus every day.

Let’s not miss the message Jesus still sends today. It’s still the message that will change everything for someone waiting to hear of a hope that cannot be destroyed by their circumstances. God is bigger. This world is falling apart and time is growing shorter by the day. Let’s be unhindered and immediately share what we know.

But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:16-17 (NLT)

Finished the Race

Please forgive the silence of the last couple of weeks. I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed. My mind just hasn’t been able to settle down on one thing. In the past, I have been able to write through the grief; but in the last couple of weeks, the words were not there. This time something’s different. Lately, I just want to run away or crawl into a hole and wait until the world rights its self again. Do you ever have those times?

The last time I wrote, a storm was approaching. The eastern part of the state was devastated by the storm. I wasn’t affected but friends and family were. Because of the weather, I was a little concerned I wouldn’t be able to see my Dad. He had taken a turn for the worst that week. I thought he would die before I got back to see him. I didn’t want the last time I saw him to be my last. I wanted a little more time to be with him. God granted me the time I needed. It was hard seeing him though.

Dad was so frail. He was once so strong – he could do anything in my sight. He was a guiding force to me and my family. He helped us to navigate the deep waters. Dad and I never had really deep conversations. Our relationship was different. We did things together. His love language was spending time together. So I spent a lot of time with him throughout the years.

When I was younger, I did as much as I could just to be with him. I chopped wood, raked leaves, mowed grass, anything he was doing I wanted to help. We washed the cars every Saturday even changed the oil when needed, played golf when he would let me. There were only a very few times in my life that I ever played golf without him. I was always his little helper whenever he went to fix stuff – he was a good fixer – he could do anything.

As I grew older, my relationship didn’t really change with him. He has been central to my life. The thought of being without his presence has been overwhelming. However, the grief isn’t like what I experienced with my Mom. I have been grieving the loss for the last two or three years because my Dad hasn’t been the same since he had an infection. His mind was not the same after that infection. He no longer called to say hi. If I wanted to speak to him, I had to initiate the conversation.

This is truly when I lost my Dad. It was a drastic change to our relationship. That’s when my grief started. The time I spent with him over the last couple of years is still special. He still told me every time I was with him how much he loved me. He was still there just not in the usual way. I spent as much time as I could with him whenever I had the opportunity. So when the storm came two weeks ago, I was desperate to get to Dad.

I was able to spend three days with him. He wasn’t awake much, but I was able to lie beside him and just hold his hand or touch his arm. When I left that Tuesday afternoon, I had a feeling it would be the last time I saw him and it was. He died early this past Wednesday morning. I was okay with that last goodbye. I didn’t have a last conversation with him like I had with my Mom. But the one thing I wanted to do with my Mom was to lie with her and I did that with Dad. I was okay letting that be the last memory with him.

It has been heartwarming to see the tributes from my nephews concerning my Dad’s passing. Who knew when we were taking those annual family beach vacations Dad was making such an impression with those young men. Apparently, my Dad had some interesting conversations with them up on the crow’s nest – conversations they say they will never forget. Dad also taught those boys a few things about how to love a family well. They saw my Dad’s love for his daughters and his wife.

Everyone who ever met my Dad would say – Jack loves his girls – and he did, really well. Dad’s passing will be deeply felt by all of his friends and family. He loved well, but we loved him well too. He is home with Jesus and with my Mom. When he took his last breath here, he took his first real breath in eternity. What a celebration he had waiting on him. I can’t imagine all he has experienced in the last few days.

I may see his earthly shell for the last time today, but he is more alive today than he has ever been. It’s not a time of sadness but of great joy. My Dad finished his race. He completed the tasks he was assigned. The future will not be the same as it was before his passing. But we have been made richer by his presence and the things we have learned from him. Dad is still the central to who I am by what he taught me. I am forever changed because of him and I want to honor his memory well. I love you, Dad.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 1 Timothy 4:7-8

The Forecast

We have been watching and anxiously waiting for this storm for a week. Weather forecasters said it was going to be catastrophic. As I type these words, the wind has just started to stir the trees. The rain hasn’t started yet, but we know it will come. As the newscasters were commenting on the possibilities of the storm, I grew more anxious. When they started forecasting the storm, the path was coming right for me. Do I stay or do I go? But as I began to prepare, I felt more at peace with my decision to stay. The line is still uncertain. God is the only one who knows the path this storm will take. Rain and wind will come – that much is certain – it’s just a matter of how much. It’s a big storm and nowhere in this state will remain dry.

In the past, I have had leaks in the bathroom vent and in the front bedroom windows. My garage door also has areas the water flows through. The rain has to be at the right angles for these places to leak. I think I have fixed each place, but with the forecasted rain I’ll see how well the fix holds. I have prepared the best I could. I searched out bottled water, batteries and gasoline for the car. I happened to be at the right place at the right time to get those items I needed without too much waiting. Timing is everything, right? And the praying is nonstop. I have wanted to see God’s power again – I asked for it in last week’s blog posting. Do it again – that’s what I wrote. But a hurricane is not what I had in mind.

I asked God to send the storm to the middle of the ocean. God has allowed this storm to move closer. I asked God to calm the winds. This morning the hurricane is now a Category 2; down from a Cat 4. Thank you Lord! I have asked for God’s protection during this storm. He’s done that before. We had a tornado to rip through my neighborhood seven and half years ago. It was like God’s hand was placed over my house. I had very little damage where the rest of the neighborhood homes had some significant damage. Don’t get me wrong, this is not to say my prayers were better than my neighbors. I’m just saying God protected me in the storm. This is His house and if He wants to destroy it, then so be it.

There were other times when hurricanes have blown through my state. Every time, I have been outside of its devastating effects. When Fran blew through my city a little over twenty years ago, I was living elsewhere. Hugo had an impact on Charlotte a year before I moved to that city. Then there was Floyd and Matthew again hitting in places where I was not located. God has watched over me – not because of my goodness, but because of His. It has nothing to do with me. It’s just timing is everything.

I look to Him when I get anxious and wait for His timing. I never move until He tells me to go. Some say I need to just move and God will go with me. But I believe God’s ways are best. If He wants me somewhere specific, then I know He will get me there at just the right time. It’s not because of who I am, but because of whose I am. God has told us in Scripture – He will never leave us or forsake us – and I believe His Word. I believe Jesus can calm the storm – He’s done it before and I believe He can do it again. I don’t doubt that He can calm a storm; but it’s a matter of if He will.

As the tornado blew through the neighborhood, I was crotched in my closet praying on my knees to keep me safe. And He did. When I got up, my knees were shaky. I looked out my windows and saw trees down, but not a one on my house. God is infinitely powerful and deeply personal. I believe it. I have witnessed His hand of protection. And I believe He will do it again. But if He does not, His ways are best and I trust Him with everything. I am at peace.

My knees may shake when the wind drives the rain into my vulnerable places, but God is always with me. I can always lean upon Him – not because of who I am, but because of whose I am. You can lean upon Him too. He is infinitely powerful and deeply personal. Believe it and watch Him at work through your storm too. He is forecasted to be for us and not against us. That’s the path we can count on!

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s get in a boat and go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set sail. Soon Jesus fell asleep. The wind rose, and the fierce wind became a violent squall that threatened to swamp their boat. So the disciples woke Jesus up and said, “Master, Master, we’re sinking! Don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

With great authority Jesus rebuked the howling wind and surging waves, and instantly they stopped and became as smooth as glass. Then Jesus said to them, “Why are you fearful? Have you lost your faith in me?”

Shocked and shaken, they said with amazement to one another, “Who is this man who has authority over winds and waves that they obey him?” Luke 8:23-25 (TPT)

Revelation Needed Today

For the last few weeks, I have just been feeling a bit flat. Have you experienced a time when you felt flat too? I don’t know what contributes to this feeling. Maybe the stress of everything going on in the world – the outer reaches and the inner relational world – can get to the best of us. Maybe it’s a safety precaution to guard the heart from all the emotional turmoil. I don’t know. But personally I feel it deep within my soul. It’s a struggle to remain focused on the tasks in front of me.

You may have noticed I didn’t post a blog last week. The words were just not flowing. The flatness I felt in that moment just wouldn’t allow a word to be formed coherently. It was a jumbled mess so I laid it aside hoping the season would pass quickly. I don’t think the season has ended, but the words are flowing a bit better today (hopefully – it will all make sense in the end).

One thing I read this morning in my quiet time gave me pause to reflect – from Mark 7:37 – people were overwhelmed with amazement. Last Sunday night, I listened to a video from Matt Chandler on the Apostles’ Creed. He spoke of God as infinitely powerful and yet intensely personal. He said we need symmetry between those two characteristics of God. Powerful and personal.

In a group discussion, we were asked if we saw God in both of these characteristics. I must confess – I see God more as personal rather than powerful. Oh, I know God is powerful. But when I think of God – it’s more about Him being my Father rather than the Creator God of the universe who spoke the world and everything in it into existence.

When I thought of the passage in Mark – everyone was amazed at Jesus. I can look back in the Old Testament and see a great fear (awe) of God. The people in the Old Testament had only one view of God – awe – they saw the things He could do – traveled by the cloud in the daytime and by fire at night. They saw the sea open up and they walked through on dry land. They witnessed armies being destroyed before them – walls tumbling down. Water gushed out of rocks. The earth shook at His voice. Who wouldn’t be in awe of God if we witnessed those things too?

The New Testament people witnessed Jesus’ healing abilities. They saw Him cast out demons. Lazarus was called out of the grave by Jesus’ command. Waves and wind were calmed at His word. Again, awe-inspiring. Who wouldn’t be in awe of Jesus too?

In the group discussion, I confessed of my lack of awe today. I believe it’s not only my problem but a problem in our church body today. I think we have missed witnessing God’s power and missed Jesus doing things around us. Jesus said many times throughout His ministry He couldn’t perform the miracles because of the people’s lack of faith. Could that be the problem today? Are we experiencing more unbelief today – I mean in the church body, not unbelievers but the believers? Have we relied on ourselves to bring the miracles instead of Jesus?

Another message I heard this past weekend was concerning worship. My worship leader brought the message missions flow from worship. He referred to the Isaiah 6 passage where Isaiah got a glimpse of God sitting on His throne. Isaiah saw God’s holiness – His infinite power and realized his own sinfulness. Once Isaiah was cleansed of his sinful condition, he was ready to be sent to be God’s chosen one to speak for Him. It was a natural progression – recognizing God’s holiness, our sinful condition, forgiveness for that condition and the mission to tell others the Good News.

Like Isaiah, the apostle Peter saw Jesus’ holiness too. After Jesus asked Peter to use his boat for a speaking engagement, Jesus told Peter to catch some fish. Peter had fished all night with no luck. Peter knew it was the wrong time of day to fish. But because Jesus asked him to throw his net into the water, he did so and caught so many fish he couldn’t haul them into the boat. Peter fell at Jesus’ feet and asked Jesus to leave him because Peter was unworthy to be in His presence. Peter was in awe of Jesus and was overwhelmed by His presence. When Jesus asked Peter to follow Him, Peter dropped his nets and followed.

How ever much we see Jesus and God work around us, we tend to forget what we’ve witnessed in the past. The Old Testament people forgot God and did what was wrong in His sight. Peter too had moments of forgetfulness. We all are prone to forget all God has done. Sometimes we need a reminder or two of who God is and what He can do. We need to be reminded of God’s infinite power. When we see it again, we are much more eager to worship and tell others of this amazing God.

Like the current song by Elevation Worship, we need to see God do it again. It’s time to be reminded about this one true God who can move the mountains, calm the storms and bring healing to the nations. It’s time to fan the flame of our small faith into a roaring fire of righteous belief. It’s the only way we will see Jesus do amazing things again. It’s the only way to worship Him with our whole hearts and be ready to be His messenger. Remind us Infinitely Powerful and Personal Father, do it again! Let us see Your glory! Amen!

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:5-8

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