Friday, February 29, 2008

Snakes and doves

16"Stay alert. This is hazardous work I'm assigning you. You're going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don't call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove...
21-23"When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don't quit. Don't cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you've run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived...
26-27"Don't be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don't hesitate to go public now.
28"Don't be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There's nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.
Matthew 10:16-28, The Message

Yeah, I want to sign up for this. This is not for sissies, not for a bunch of "girlie girls." This is not for those who desire to "make nice," who want people to like them, who are easily intimidated.

It is about truth and light and loving those people, as Christ would. It is about knowing when to pursue relentlessly in the face of huge obstacles, and when to retreat and shrug our shoulders. But never to back down. And certainly never to deny Him.

Easy to write as I sit here at my desk at church. But it is gut-wrenching to be standing in your mom's kitchen, eye to eye with her, and DOING it.

How to be like a snake and a dove? How to embrace the fine qualities of both: cunning wisdom, and also
inoffensive love? And at the same time to reject the bitter sting of the snake and the weakness of the dove?

The Message of Christ is truth, it is good news to save, but not all will recieve it. When we are rejected, it is easy to take it personally!! "I didn't do that right, at the right time, in the right way." Or, we say it is the other person, "I need to reject and give up on them, and never speak of Christ again to them because they are rejecting Him."

Maybe some of that is true. But God can use all our mistakes. He is a BIG God! We cannot mess up so bad that He cannot redeem it. And people may be rejecting His gospel today, but we should not limit the power of the Holy Spirit, Who can continue to repeat our words of truth and love to this person and make him more open to hear it again on another day.

So with the empowering of the Spirit, given to us when we embraced Christ as Lord and Savior, we have the shrewdness, the gentleness and the courage to do His work, always, with our head on His chest, hearing His heartbeat, with our hand in His, allowing Him to direct us.

It will be hard, messy, dirty, dangerous even.

But He is with us. Always. To the End.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

a love song

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Will you lie with me and just forget the world?

You have given me a new love and a new song.
I can lie in his arms and he reminds me to look to You alone.
You have saved me in a new and deeper way by saving him.
I can say like Elizabeth, "The Lord has done this for me. In these days He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."

And I rise up and I find myself released. There is peace, Your peace. I see Your love for me in his eyes, his touch, his encouragement and I know for sure, Beloved, that not only is he pleased with me, but You are too.

As Mary said, so too, I can say...

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is His name.
His mercy extends to those who fear Him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things...

I will praise Your Name, and I will thank You and trust You, the Faithful Forever One, my God Hero, my Provider.

I will sing a love song. I will sing of my love for him, and we together will sing of our love for You.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The limits of a bad example

Samson said to them, "This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them." ... As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.

Judges 15:3, 14-15

Today I was thinking about the limits of a bad example.

I mean, ok, so if we get angry, it is not a good idea to kill a bunch of people with the jawbone of an ass. But what are you supposed to do instead? That is the question!

The options of running away, ignoring the problem, gossiping with your friends, really aren’t the way to deal with it either.

And it is a real problem. We cannot control other people. People will do wrong. They will wound us, anger us, ignore us, etc. What do we do about such things?

Here is where I think the concepts of boundaries and hierarchical relationships help. Boundaries are needed in all areas, for example, You can’t do that in our house, in this office, if you are members of this church, if you attend this school, etc. We need to understand the limits, and then, if they are breached, to know who to go to fix the problem

Even in personal relationships, and even when those in the responsible positions do not solve the problem, then it is up to us to define and impose those boundaries, such as, you cannot say that to me, do that to me, treat me in this way, otherwise, we cannot have a relationship.

And then we need to have the strength to stand our ground, in the face of whining, guilt trips, manipulation and just plain strong-arming
. And still do all in love, always in a spirit that desires forgiveness and reconciliation. All that requires nothing less than a supernatural courage, patience and humility.

I don’t think we are expected to wake up the day after we received Christ as Savior and be ready to do this. It is just too hard, and we get messed up in our own past wounds. I think the best we can hope for is continued improvement and the contrition along the way. I think Christ is well pleased with that.

I still struggle with the pain from time to time, and the other day, I even thought, Does love always have to hurt or is it just me? But then the Lord spoke to my heart. Remember, My child, you live in a fallen world, and humans are fallen people. Their love is not what I intended it to be. You can strive to follow My Son, but you will still have struggles. Let My love alone be sufficient for you, because it will never fail you.

--from Every Heart Restored

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Be on your way

When you enter a town or village, don't insist on staying in a luxury inn. Get a modest place with some modest people, and be content there until you leave.
When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don't welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don't make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. You can be sure that on Judgment Day they'll be mighty sorry—but it's no concern of yours now.
Matthew 10:11-15 MSG

It's not about you. It is not your message. It is the message of God through His Christ that we bring. It is His Message, His Gospel, His peace that we bring.

It's not about you. It is about them. If we are courteous, gentle and respectful, they are held responsible for how they receive Christ's Message, not us. We do not have to argue, challenge, plead, or beat ourselves up and feel guilty if things do not work out as we plan.

Our responsibility is to go and speak. When and how Christ uses our work is not up to us, it is in His divine and perfect plan.

His Message has power! Focus on Christ, worship Christ as Lord of your life. Devote yourself to being a student and a follower of His Will and His ways. Then, if someone asks about your Christian hope, you'll be ready to explain it.

But by all means GO! Go to the houses, and if they will listen, speak. And whether they hear and turn in your presence or if they reject you, Christ peace is yours.

If with heart and soul you're doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you're still better off. Don't give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They'll end up realizing that they're the ones who need a bath.

1 Peter 12-16 MSG

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

You are the equipment

Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.

Matthew 10:9-10

Last night I stuffed letters for Donna. She is going to Cambodia for a missions trip. Funny to come up on this passage this morning after helping her with her fund raising campaign last night.

But Donna needs a fund-raising campaign. She is at the end of a seminary MDiv program and, as part of that, is traveling to Cambodia for a missions trip. She iis required by her school to raise a specific amount of funds. She is also going to training classes for the trip, and will be doing the medical stuff to prepare herself. She has asked us to pray for her. It's a big deal, we are all expecting great things and I am excited for her.

So what's the point?

Last night I got to minister to Donna, to help her minister to others. I sat in my room with my folding tray and folded and stuffed and labeled. I did not have to go anywhere. I did not need special equipment. I did not need to raise funds to do this.

Our ministry can begin where we are with what we have, all it needs is a willing heart and a vision to see God's hand in what you are doing. Jesus is well pleased with Donna's diligent, passionate pursuit of her studies to prepare her for His plans in her life. Jesus wants to encourage her and bless her. Last night, it was an honor to for Christ, the Lord of Glory, to use my hands towards this end.

By all means, raise funds and go oceans away if He is leading you. But if He is not, He still needs you. In your own room. With your own hands, you can be used to be His instrument of blessing if you let Him.

Let Him.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Stay in your neighborhood

Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.

Matthew 10:5-8 MSG

Begin where you are, Jesus tells us.

This weekend we met Korey and Jen. Orginally from Pennsylvania, currently living in Maryland with four children, all under the age of 7, they are considering moving to New Jersey so that Korey can pursue the desire Jesus put in his heart, and that is to pastor youth. That is our image of someone in ministry, totally sold out, willing to travel, go where God calls.

But for some of us, Jesus calls us to stay home. Begin where you are, to those around us, our families, our co-workers, our friends, our neighbors. Those people who believe but purhaps do not really understand that the Kingdom of God is here, not in some far away place, in some far-away time. We do not have to pack up our children, leave our familes or drag them with us to minister. We can do it here. Right in our own back yard.

There are plenty of people here, lost, confused, sick, spiritually and emotionally dead. Christ has given us the power to heal them, to comfort them, to encourage them, yes, in some cases raise the dead. We must not shy away from hopeless cases, hopeless people, because we know the God of all hope.

Tell them, bring them, raise them, touch them, kick them if you have to. Jesus has commanded us and given us His power, and best of all, His presence. We have been given much by Jesus, our life spiritually and eternal. So we should freely give.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Called and Empowered

from Matthew 10 (MSG)

Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields. He gave them power to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives.

In a few weeks, our Called Aside Bible Study will tackle the issue of spiritual gifts. As I consider this, Father, You have led me to where your Son initiated this phenomenon.

Here’s how it worked.

First, He selected His disciples. There were many who followed Jesus, but not all were called. And even among the called, it wasn’t that they were perfect, or even going to be true to Him. We know how the story ends. One betrays Him in the end. But even Judas was called. The point: these were not perfect men. They were called men.

Second, He empowers them. He gives them the power of the Spirit of God, mighty power and authority over the forces of evil, power to heal the physical, emotional and spiritual wounds. This is a power only God has and only God can give. But give it He does to these mere men. God continues to give this power today. We call this power, spiritual gifts.

Third, Jesus gave them this power immediately after He called them. There was no trial or waiting period, to see if this was going to work out. There was no study time for these men. They already had everything they needed. Later, we see that when Saul was called, he went into seclusion for a time to allow the Lord to minister to him and teach him. But that was not what happened here. These men had seen the Lord, and that was enough. However, as we shall see, detailed instructions follow.
Fourth, the power is for others, not for them. It is not for their fame, fortune and glory. It is to minister to others, to comfort, heal, encourage and empower others. The power is not to be used to master others, but to be their servant. It is for God’s glory and for the expansion of His kingdom.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Shattered plans, His perfect plans

"I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

Malachi 2:16
God does not hate us or punish us when we divorce. We are not outcasts, wrong and evil women. Those of us who suffer divorce are wounded and Christ weeps for us. Our pain is why He hates divorce. But He always loves us, and desires to restore us.
One of our sisters is wounded now and we pray for her...

Dear One,

It is so tempting to feel alone in our pain and turmoil. To hear the voices ringing like Job, "My days have passed, my plans are shattered, and so are the desires of my heart." (Job 17:11) And it is easy to think our lives our over when we are in places like you are now.

I remember feeling that way not that long ago, when I sat on my bed watching my beautiful 18 year old daughter brushing her hair, and she said to me "Mommy, do you love me?....I'm pregnant." And I recall the Sunday I brought her to church and she sat in the car and looked at me and said, with her hand on her very swollen tummy, "Mommy, I don't want to go into church pregnant."

But she did go in that day. And although there is no program for pregnant teens at our church, she felt loved and nurtured, never condemned or judged. Her testimony is that we loved her.

All of us, as we sit at the table for Bible study on Wednesday mornings, and even as we separately sit here at our PCs, have a burden. Some are widows. Some are sick. Some have unsaved husbands. Some have rebellious kids. Some have sick kids. Some are lonely, not sure where they fit in. Some have recently lost beloved parents. Some have had extremely painful and damaging childhoods. And some of us have experienced the heartbreak of divorce.

We love each other. Hold each other up in prayer. Allow each other the time and space to be sad, angry, grieve and grow.

Dear one, the Lord has plans for you! Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. YOU!! May you feel His great love as we love and pray for you. May your testimony be as my daughter's, that you feel His love as we love you.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

John 13:34-35