Epiphany? Maybe. Pinnacle of a three year lesson? Yes. Proof that God loves me? Most definitely! You see, three years ago I heard the story of Martha and Mary for the first time. Luke 10:38-42, go on and read it, I will wait...
I have to be honest, I was pretty angry when I heard it. I went home and reread the story to make sure I didn’t miss something. I didn’t and I heard it correctly. From my perspective, I couldn’t believe that Martha was reprimanded by Jesus. After all, Martha was working her tail off trying to make His visit perfect by serving Him. More honesty: I was a little put off that Jesus would suggest to Martha that it was her “lazy” sister Mary who chose the wisest thing to do by sitting at His feet. All while Martha worked! I mean, someone had to do it! Everyone needed food and it wasn’t going to prepare and serve itself, right? It wasn't often a rabbi ("THE" Rabbi) came to your home.
Over the years I can’t tell you how many times I begged God for a deeper understanding of this story. At face value, I get it. However, I never stopped to think about why
Jesus would want Martha at His feet. I thought it was a story to show how important it is to desire and thirst for the Presence of God. There's more to this story, though. It’s a two way type of story. Don’t miss the part about how much He
desires and thirsts for your
This would be a good time to tell you that I am a constantly distracted and busy person. I used to have a lot of demands for my time. Here recently, not so much. I can’t tell you how many times my husband would sit down for the evening and beckon me to sit with him. He wanted me to stop for the day and take some time to rest and relax with him before the day ended. I love my husband very much, but I just couldn't sit still. I would sit for a moment and start fidgeting to the point of feeling as if I would explode if I didn’t do something. I mean, I had so much to do to keep our home comfortable for my boys. Did he think the house took care of itself? Did he think the food cooked itself? Did he think the laundry removed its own stains and then washed, dried, folded, and put itself away? I wasn’t asking him to do it, but I couldn’t understand why he was asking me not
to do it by stopping for the evening. Didn't he think it was important??
A few things happened to me in the last week to lead me to the importance of Mary and Martha. It all came to a head yesterday, May 12th (Mother’s Day 2013). I had come down with the flu a few days before and I was experiencing the worse part on Sunday. The worse part being that I could hardly stand, let alone think clearly enough to get things done around here. I was bummed because I was forced to rest on the couch. My husband and my son, who love me dearly, spent most of their day in the kitchen cooking up breakfast and a mighty fine dinner to honor me. Please don’t get me wrong. I appreciated what they were doing, but all I wanted was for them to sit by me and just be with me. Out of their feelings of wanting me to feel special and not wanting me to be so miserably sick, especially on Mother’s Day, they did what they thought I would like. How can I blame them? I had shown them that the way I serve them is to be busy doing things for them and not with them. They must have thought that was the only way I could feel loved. They were doing it for me. I felt very sad on Mother’s Day. Not a pity party type sadness, but a crushing and life changing sadness as I realized all the time I wasted serving my family instead of just loving on my family.
The feeling was compounded when I thought of my friend whose husband passed away the day before. My heart broke for her a million times in those two days. I started to hyperventilate thinking of what my life would be like without my husband or my son. It would be filled with so many regrets as I would surely remember all the times my son or my husband asked me to just sit with them. Here’s irony for ya: laundry will always be there, cooking would still need to be done, and the house would still need to be cleaned, but who would be here to enjoy it? I get it. These things need to be done, but priorities have to be set. My husband and my son are my top priorities.
I’m not trying to invoke guilt. Lord knows, mothers and wives already tend to give in to guilty thinking. On the contrary, I’m trying to save you from making this mistake, too. I'm trying to lead you to freedom from your prison of distractions masquerading as a “have to be done or the house will blow up" list. I want you to enjoy the fruits of your labor (even He rested and admired His handiwork, remember?) I thank God for showing me this lesson in an “in your face” kind of way. He tried to tell me softly, but I didn't listen until I was too sick to do anything else. Thankfully, it was realized before it was too late and I can change it.
Please don't miss a very important part of this lesson. Don't you see just how much God loves each of us? I don’t have to do anything to earn this love. He loves me, unconditionally and as I am. Not because He has to, but because He adores me. He values my presence with Him more than anything. He feels the same way about you, too. His Word says to seek Him while He may be found (Isaiah 55:6
). There will be a day that it’s too late.
Think about it! How special and loved would you feel to know there’s a Man who loves being with you more than what you could do for Him? What a perfect and unconditional love! There’s no greater love than this to lay down your busyness/life/time/etc/etc to spend time with another-paraphrased by me, but still relevant to the scriptures (John 15:13-15
). After all; He doesn’t call us servants, He calls us His friends. Amen. In loving memory of the kind sales man who sold me my SUV years ago. Every time I get in my SUV, I will always remember I've been placed on this Martha earth to be a Mary. Please keep his wife in your prayers during this time. A week before he passed away, his wife told us how he said his suffering was worth it if it brought someone closer to God. That it did, that it did...
I've never been as strong while feeling so physically weak. I've become less so He can become more. For my God is an all consuming fire. As my flesh burns, the heart remains (radiating brighter and brighter). The energy that I have is from a Source unseen by my physical eyes. I feel the Holy Spirit holding me, comforting me, counseling me, speaking words of love to me, proclaiming that “it is you who is the apple of God’s eye. You are loved by THE Creator and he holds great plans for you.”
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. My family and I are covered in righteousness and grace. The Blood that covers our door is thick! No weapon formed against us will prosper! The mercy crown is ours for it has been given to us from the King. He has knighted us in glory. He has covered us in OUR Father’s Jewels. I go into battle and His banner over me is LOVE. A love that is ever so patient and kind. The most glorious part of all is His Love will never fail me. The Words of my King’s mouth never return void. All of His promises and proclamations of never ending communion are loud in my ear. My foes and my enemies come at me with a single edged sword, but my sword is two edged. It needs not even touch them for they run screaming at the sight of it.
Your rod and Your staff comfort me. It pulls me back when I stray. You make my path straight even when it is winding and I can’t see the next step. I can’t see the next step and darkness is all around. You, oh Lord, are the only Light to my feet.
The enemy screams “the world needs you not”, I tell him to flee. For my God has a purpose and my God has a plan. You, oh foe, are defeated. You hold the key to my chains no more! My Sweet Savior is victorious. This shouldn’t be anything new to my enemies. They’ve come face to face with my Lord before. My Sweet Savior went to hell and back for me. Did you forget what my Savior did when He sunk to your depth? Did you forget what my Savior said when He wallowed in the mud of unfair and unjust death? Please, satan…let me delight in reminiscing of His Word of Authority:
“Adversary, remember Me? You no longer have a stronghold on those who place their trust in Me. You, satan, no longer hold the key. You, satan, no longer hold a position of authority over My beloved. She has been freed by Me. She has been purchased with My Blood and she is not up for grabs. She is Mine. She serves Me. Any and everything that you steal from her, I will repay tenfold. Every tear that passes, I will wipe from her eye. Every lie you speak to her, My Truth echoes even louder through her heart. Every fear you’ve tried to provoke, I will fill her with never-ending courage and strength, you’ll see. Every seed she has planted was a labor of love and sacrifice that has brought praise to Me. Watch as it sprouts to the Heavens with glee. It is with surety I command you to flee.”
I’m the apple of His eye and He loves me. I go into battle and His banner over me is love. Unfailing and perfect love is what He holds over me (Song of Solomon 2:4).
“I want to be like Jesus.” I have proclaimed this statement many times in my life. In fact, if you look to the right of the page, you will see that it is written under my name “Jesus spoke in parables. I want to be like Him”. I have heard many mouths say their goal is to be like Jesus. Jesus is perfect (1 John 3:5
). Jesus is pure and free of sin (2 Corinthians 5:21
). Jesus put others before Himself. Jesus loves sinners (Romans 5:8
). Jesus performed miracles (John 2:1-11
). Jesus healed the sick (Matthew 8:1-17
). Jesus cast out demons (Matthew 8:28-34
). Jesus upheld righteousness because He loves His Father in Heaven. Jesus was tempted, yet refused (Matthew 4:1-11
). Jesus died on the cross (Luke 23:32-49
). Jesus went to the lowest pits of hell to preach to the legions (the worst of the worst) to let them know that the authority of the world was His (1 Peter 3:18-22
). Jesus defeated death (1 Corinthians 15
). Jesus suffered so the world could be free from the bondage of sin (Romans 6:23
What’s this got to do with all my talk about wanting to be like Jesus? Did you notice something? Jesus suffered BEFORE victory had been completed. Before Christ rose from the dead, He had faith in God. He went about His Father’s business and completing the ordained will for His life (Luke 2:41-52
). He suffered. He died. He overcame death. He has the victory. He allows us to share in the rewards of His victory by allowing it to be our own (Romans 6:5
If you’re anything like me, when I suffer even while seeking Righteousness (especially while seeking righteousness), you tend to get overwhelmed (2 Corinthians 12:10
). You may even, if you’re like me, feel like you’re being punished (James 1:2-4
). You may question, if you’re like me, if God really is with you (Deuteronomy 31:8
). This is why we are told to meditate on His Word (Joshua 1:8
Why is it that we want to be like Jesus, but forget He suffered? Why do we tend to back down from wanting to be like Christ when it comes to His sufferings? Jesus suffered BEFORE the finished work of the cross and victory was had. What is it about sufferings that makes us want to shy away and pull the blanket up over our heads when we face trials? James tells us to consider it all joy when we endure sufferings because trials produce perseverance. Perseverance produces PERFECTION (James 1:2-4
). Don’t you see? It’s the same thing Christ went through, only He did it perfectly so we, who are imperfect, may become perfect. He persevered through many trials. The day He defeated death, He completed the equation for perfection. If you want to be like Him, don’t look at your sufferings to be the result of a God who has forsaken you. Instead, see it for what it is-a God who is indeed with you and is perfecting you into His image. Consider it all JOY! It is part of the process of transforming our minds. You know? Like putting new wine into the new wine skins Christ clothed us in (Luke 5:36-39
). If we put old wine in a new wineskin, it will break the skin (look up ancient wine making methods and you will have a greater understanding of this parable). The new skin Christ has clothed us in is just the first part of being made perfect. Our new wine skins need to be stretched and molded by
the new wine as it expands.
I’ve been going through trials for a while. My hope has been strengthened. I really only had two choices: to keep walking on the path of Righteousness or to be like a three year old who refused to move from my spot. I have to admit, some days I chose/choose to be like a three year old. Because of my desire to serve God, I forced Him to have to deal with a kicking and screaming child. As if trials weren’t enough to bear, God added discipline to my trials. It especially hurts to be disciplined as you suffer. Why do we rebel against our Father’s discipline? Well, for one, it’s hard. I’ll give you that, but don’t forget what the Word says about being disciplined (Hebrews 12:1-13
). You may just miss this comforting part; "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.”
You see? God is treating me as His daughter. To be disciplined as I suffer is a double joy! As I go through trials while being disciplined, I’m developing perseverance as God’s daughter! Our children don’t always understand why we, their parents, have to make our voices loud when they go to put a fork into the electric outlet. As a parent, I would be devastated if something happened to my child because I didn’t warn him.
I understand. It’s tough to think of the rewarding outcome when you’re knee deep in despairing muck. How do we not become blinded by circumstances and fight the good fight of faith? You have to first decide who you’re going to believe? Are you going to believe the world or are you going to believe God? Establish the answer firmly in your heart. Assuming you would rather believe truth over lies, you’ve chosen God as your Absolute. God’s Word is His truth. He can’t lie. He can do the impossible. Know with all your heart, He has a purpose and plan for you. Yes, you! God’s time line is different than ours. God’s ways are different than ours. If you want to hold on to hope and “consider it all joy when you face a trial” you’re going to have to believe that His timeline and ways are better than anything we can come up with on our own. You do want to grow wiser, right? You do want to know God more, right? Just like a wineskin must be stretched to conform to the new living wine, we’ve got to be stretched, too. It doesn’t have to be a dreaded situation. It’s to make way to be filled with all the goodness of God. It only leads to completion and perfection in us. To move with joy through trials is to allow God to move freely and complete the work He has started in each of us. To perfect us. Consider it all joy. Christ went through it and ended up with the victory. I want to be like Christ and I’m pretty sure you do, too.
Do you realize just how truly powerful our tongues and the words they produce can be? God has allowed me to learn some very painful lessons on blessings and curses in the last few years. In a stroke of genius, my Father God allowed me to be on both sides of the coin so I could relate from all angles. I say “genius” because I'm a "cause and effect" type person. Sadly, I think it was the only way God could get me
to see the damage or
the joy I could create with my words. I've experienced the painful AND joyful side effects of the tongue by being on both sides of either being the speaker or hearer. It’s an empowering, yet humbling feeling to know we each have the power within us (God) to speak blessings into another life. It also has the ability to provoke fear in us if we don’t know how to control it and instead curse another.
You see, it really is possible to place a curse or a good fortune on someone. Did what I just say conjure up images of voodoo dolls and a witch’s caldron? Good, I want you to have a visual in your head to realize the seriousness of the situation of dealing with our tongues. Often times, we think the only time it really matters what we say is when the person being spoken of is present. Maybe we think gossip “doesn’t count” if we are talking in secret. When you speak a blessing on someone, they’ll be blessed. When you speak a curse on someone, they will be cursed. This is no lie. The only one who can remove the bondage of our words is God. Side note: This is a great reason to put on your armor everyday (Ephesians 6:10-18) and walk in the Truth.
Does it make you feel weird that I’m talking about this? Does it make you feel uncomfortable to know that you or someone else has a tongue full of power? Although I don’t subscribe to many theories early psychology has produced; there is one that I fully believe is the truth. It is the one about self-esteem and how it is established in us whether by self, environment, or life experiences. I’m not giving anyone permission to think because our parents deprived us of a Wetty Betty doll, it is the reason we think we aren’t good enough to receive rewards or gifts. What I am
saying is that as we get older, our thoughts and actions or others thoughts and actions toward us have the capability to shape us or stick with us through the years. Now, don’t go blaming your life on others and think you have no responsibility in it. That’s not what I’m saying, because we are fully capable of establishing a new mindset with God’s Word. What I’m trying to get you to think about is YOU
have the ability to shape another person’s esteem. Assuming and hoping my readers have hearts that want to bless and not curse, I pray you realize the significance of what I just said. By giving God the control of your mouth, you have the ability to change the world from right where you stand (or sit or lay down, etc, etc)! Seriously, you have the ability to help usher in God’s Kingdom on Earth. How? By speaking blessings into another life. Even those (especially those) we may consider our enemies. Believe me; I understand the humbleness it takes to pray for favor for another person who has only caused you harm or anguish. I understand the amount of pride one may need to lay down in order to move past a hurt in order to pray a blessing over the one who has hurt you. I understand the feelings that will drive you to your knees in repentance when you need the same mercy and grace (told you, I’ve been on both sides). Mercy and grace, this is what Jesus offers. He asks His Children to do the same.
Don't just take my word for it. Here's what the Bible says about cursing or blessing with the words that we speak. Oh, the tongue! Not even a venomous snake can deliver the amount of poison as fast and as deadly as the tongue (James 3:8
). James 3:1-12
speaks of our tongue and how we cannot tame it; it drips with evil and has the ability to curse (James 3:8-9
). Even though man alone can’t tame the tongue, the good news is that you believe in the Creator and when you accepted His gift of righteousness, you accepted the only One that could help us to tame our tongue (Philippians 4:13
It’s no joke the amount of damage that gossip can create (James 3:6
). Gossip is idle talk. Some things spoken are truth, some things exaggerate the truth, and some things are complete and downright lies. No matter what type of gossip it is, God doesn’t want us to be a part of it (Leviticus 19:16
). Gossip has the ability to separate good friends (Proverbs 16:28
). “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”; a popular idiom used famously when someone is the target of hurtful words. Gossip not only hurts the one that is being spoken of, but has an even bigger victim and the most unlikely one-the gossiper, all the way down to the innermost parts of his body (Proverbs 18:8
). Just like one tiny spark can create a forest fire, the tongue (a tiny part of the body, indeed) can corrupt the whole person. It has the ability to set the gossiper on a wrong and fiery course (James 3:5-6
Establishing the damage that it does to the gossiper, what do we do when we are the target of such malice? We first must remember that our battle is not with flesh and blood, but with principalities (Ephesians 6:12
). The enemy roams around like a lion seeking whomever he can to destroy (1 Peter 5:8
). He wants to not only devour the aggressor, but the victim by trying to get them to return sin with sin (Romans 12:17
). As much as our flesh tries to tempt us to set things straight, we must remain blameless in the sight of the Lord (Ephesians 1:4
). To live in peace and allow God His vengeance, we heap hot coals on our enemies head (Romans 12:18-20
). You are given the strength to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21
). Although it is human nature and desire to want to sin especially when it’s against an injustice; we must remember that as believers, we don’t live by human nature (1 John 2:16-17
). He has overcome the world so that we may too (1 John 5:4-5
). Let us not forget the promises that God has given to His children and rejoice in our sufferings because of the hope that it produces and hope will never put us to shame (Romans 5:3-5
) even when shame is the very thing that gossipers are trying to create for us. When the pain from gossip hurts too much we must take it to our Father’s feet (1 Peter 5:7
). He is our comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3-7
The Life of Joseph (Genesis 37
; Genesis 39-Genesis 50
; Exodus 1:1-8
), son of Jacob (renamed Israel). I would like to recap Joseph's story for those who do not know or may need a refresher. My intent of this blog post isn’t to recap Joseph’s life, but to highlight a few things about Joseph’s story that relates to you. It may even encourage you to think of how tight God’s hand was holding Joseph's. May it bring you encouragement to know God's holding your hand, too. I beg you to read the scriptures that go with this story. Faith comes through hearing (or reading) the Word of God (Romans 10:17
). If you’re going through hard times, feed your heart with His Word to add moisture to your dry bones. The story of Joseph never fails to encourage me greatly. Let it do the same for you. If you know the story of Joseph well, skip to the bottom of the page to read about some of the not so obvious lessons we can take from the life of Joseph.Summary of Joseph’s Life
God had shown Joseph in his dreams how nations, including his brothers, would bow down to him one day. His brothers didn’t take the idea of their younger brother's dream too kindly and they especially didn't like that Joseph told them about it. In their jealousy, Joseph's brothers sold Joseph into slavery. He goes into Egypt as a slave, but he continuously offers up praises to God. God’s favor rests on Joseph. Joseph gets sold to one of the Pharaoh’s officials, Potiphar, captain of the guard. Joseph quickly moves up the ranks due to his integrity and work ethics. Potiphar saw Joseph have favor in everything he put his hands to. Joseph became head of Potiphar’s household and was given access to all Potiphar owned. Well, everything except Potiphar’s wife. Joseph steered clear of her, knowing she was off limits. However, Potiphar’s wife sets up a day where her and Joseph, a strong and handsome lad (really…the Bible told me so in Genesis 39:6
), could be alone. She was intent on seducing him. He gives her a hardy refusal and tells her "With me in charge, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" It seems a scorned woman is the most dangerous of women (really…the television told me so). Potiphar’s wife, feeling the raging effects of the refusal, decides to set Joseph up as a defiler. I mean, she had his cloak and everything to show that Joseph’s intent was to defile his master's wife (untrue). In Potiphar’s anger, he puts Joseph in prison. How can we blame Potiphar? How was he to know he married a conniving lustful woman? Potiphar had to take his wife at her word.
Now we have Joseph in prison. Again, God’s favor rests on him. He quickly moves up on the hierarchy of prisoners and is placed in charge of all the prisoners. During the morning rounds, Joseph notices two of the Pharaoh’s officials, the Chief Cupbearer and the Chief Baker, who had been placed in prison for offending their Master and King. They looked sad after a restless night full of vivid dreams. Joseph asks the two men “why the long faces?” Long story short, Joseph interprets their dreams for the two and every bit of his interpretation came to pass. Bad news for the Chief Baker, as he was hung for his crimes against the Pharaoh. Good news for the Chief Cupbearer because he was placed back into his position. Joseph asked only one thing from the Cupbearer, “…But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison….”. The Cupbearer quickly forgot about Joseph. After all, he was busy bearing cups! That is, until Pharaoh had a double dream that deeply disturbed him. The Cupbearer remembered how Joseph had accurately interpreted his dream and suggested that the Pharaoh meet with Joseph. When Joseph explained to the Pharaoh that his dream meant that there would be seven years of prosperity for Egypt followed by seven years of famine for the world, the Pharaoh took him seriously (after all, Joseph had the favor of a Mighty God). He placed Joseph in charge of gathering a percentage of the prosperity and storing it all to get ready for the seven years of famine. Joseph became Pharaoh’s number one. Joseph was given the authority of the Pharaoh without the title of "King".
Long story short, Joseph’s dream prophecy came true and all of the nations entered into famine. They all had to rely on Egypt and their “brilliant planner” to feed them. This included the household of Joseph’s father (which included Joseph’s brothers-the ones who sold him into slavery). After testing his brother’s faithfulness, they were well fed and well forgiven. The nation of Israel was allowed residence in Egypt. After all, the Pharaoh didn’t want to lose such a wise and hard working man he had in Joseph.
Lessons We Can Learn From the Story of Joseph
- God revealed to Joseph a dream explaining His purpose for Joseph’s life. Joseph was seventeen years old at the time his dream took place. This is the first mention of Joseph in the Bible. Joseph was given the dream BEFORE he endured hardships. The dream is what set Joseph up for a life of praise to the God that would save Him. Starting out, Joseph had nothing but the dream to drive his praise and faithfulness to God. In return, God rewarded Joseph’s faith with extreme favor, even as he was a slave and even during imprisonment. We have the same promises from God. He says we are heirs to His Kingdom if we place our trust in Him and believe we are His Children (Romans 8:17, Galatians 3:29; Galatians 4:7; Ephesians 3:6; 2 Timothy 2:12; Titus 3:7; 1 Peter 1:4; Revelations 21:7 ).
- You may have missed how damning the evidence was that Potiphar’s wife held Joseph’s cloak in her hands or how evil it was for Joseph’s brothers to fake his death after selling him into slavery. However, God took what the enemy meant for harm and made it good for Joseph, In turn, God's goodness brought Honor and Truth to His Promise for Joseph. God used Potiphar’s wife and Joseph’s jealous brothers to accomplish His Will (Genesis 50:20).
- Did you notice? Joseph had done a great service for the Chief Cupbearer while they were both in prison by interpreting the Cupbearer’s dream. Joseph asked the Cupbearer to remember him and his kindness when he was with the Pharaoh. At first, it appeared that the Cupbearer would forget Joseph ever existed (contrary to the promise he gave to remember Joseph). Only when the Pharaoh had a double horrible dream in need of interpretation did God remind the Cupbearer of Joseph’s wisdom in dream interpretation. What if the Cupbearer immediately remembered Joseph and had the Pharaoh release Joseph? Would Joseph have quickly been forgotten by the Pharaoh? Maybe Joseph would have traveled back to his own land only to starve to death during the famine or been killed by jealous brothers? Do you see how God accomplishes His Will? The Cupbearer remembered Joseph as soon as the Pharaoh was ready to receive Joseph’s wisdom. God had timed every event perfectly in Joseph’s life to accomplish His Will AND it led to exaltation for Joseph as he was placed in a position of authority. All because Joseph was a faithful servant to God. If you don’t believe in Divine Appointments and God’s perfect timing because it feels like God forgot about you, maybe you should look at the example of Divine Appointments Joseph’s story left us with.
- Have you ever felt overwhelmed and zapped of strength during a tough season in your life? Even though it may have been restless sleep, were you not given the chance to lay your head down at night? Did you notice how God placed good AND hard seasons in Joseph’s life? Hs brothers despised him. He was in slavery. He was placed in charge of Potiphar’s household. He was imprisoned. He was placed in charge of the prisons. He became Pharaoh’s right hand man. There was abundance. There was famine. God seasoned Joseph’s life with good seasons mixed in with the tougher times. He always gives us rest (Exodus 34:21; Psalm 46:10; Psalm 94:12-14; Matthew 11:28-30). God knows what we are capable of and will always make a way to escape temptation, even if the temptation is to give up fighting the good fight of faith (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Timothy 6:12).
- If your trust is in God and you remain in faith, every moment of your life is as God’s Will. The boring days, the exciting days, the days it feels like you’re on top, the days you feel lowly, the days you are shown favor, the days that seem like the whole world is against you…you are never out of God’s view. Nothing gets by God’s knowledge of you (Lamentations 3:37; Matthew 10:29-31). He’s right beside you and leading you through (Psalm 23:4). All God asks from you is for you to trust Him.
The Bald Knobbers
Do you know the story of the Bald Knobbers? Have you ever even heard of the Bald Knobbers? I imagine if you’ve ever traveled through Branson, Missouri you’ve at least seen a touristy-type photo that resembles the one I have posted above. It’s a good story, so I’m not going to feel bad that I’m boring you by repeating it. I hope you read to the end to see what the answer is to my title question.
The Bald Knobbers was a vigilante group that was formed shortly after the Civil War ended and takes place deep in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. Missouri is one of the states whose residents were divided on which side of the war they stood on. It had just as many residents fighting for the Confederates as it did the Union. Thankfully, we all know which side won. However, the evil that drove the heart of someone who wanted to oppress others for their own personal gain didn’t “magically” disappear just because the war waged new laws. The Ozark Mountains might has well had been its own country due to the geographical isolation it had from bigger cities. Just because the law was the law, it didn’t really mean too much to the residents of Missouri who lived in isolation and were cut off from the rest of the world. Even in the Ozark Mountains, neighbors turned against neighbors and brothers turned against brothers during the war. The Bald Knobbers (named for their secret meeting spot and hidden away from spies by a grassy bald “speed bump” in the hills) formed together to help enforce the new laws in the Ozarks. Their intent was to weave the Ozark Hills back into a place with morals. What I am saying is, they truly had the best intentions that led them to form a self-patrolling squad to protect their land and their families and they accomplished many good things as a group. Their intent was to enforce the new law of the land. Their opposing group, please forgive them for their lack of creativity, was named the Anti-Bald Knobbers. Side Note: I would have named the Anti-Bald Knobbers something like the Ozark Mountain Devils or something of that sort. Can you imagine the confusion that could have resulted from killing a man you thought said “anti”? Seems they should have distanced the names a bit.
Anyhow, Missouri went and got itself more civilized. In a collaborative effort with an army adjutant general, the Missouri governor, and the Bald Knobbers the group sought to disband. The Bald Knobbers initial intent to secure a moral foundation by use of the vigilante group was no longer needed. They had completed their job of bringing order and were happy to hand the job over to the newly formed law enforcement.
Sadly, neighboring towns continued on in their quest. I say sadly because most of these groups only caused further harm with their intent to rid by force (murder) the lawbreakers. Do you see the irony? They fought lawbreakers by breaking the law. They killed others instead of letting the newly established law enforcement handle the situation. Most of the killings were prompted by family resentments (think: Hatfields/McCoys; Montagues/Capulets-type feuds). Usually, it was led by the younger and immature members of the families who grew up romanticizing the notion of family pride. The older members of the families whose initial goals were to bring order to the town had accomplished their intent and tried to persuade the younger ones not to take the law into their own hands. Because of the younger member’s corrupted thoughts on family pride; it ended up costing the lives of innocent family members.
How does the Mafia fit into my story? Did you know the Mafia was originally created with the same purpose of the Bald Knobbers? No, really. The Mafia formed when the smaller country of Sicily was annexed into Italy (not surprising due to the abundant resources held in this beautiful country). Due to their position on the map, Sicily, like the Ozark Mountains, was an isolated land compared to its owner, Italy. When Sicily was annexed in, it wasn’t given the same law enforcements as Italy had and many Sicilians were the targets of extortion. Sicilians started their own vigilante group (the Mafia) to protect its citizens from swindlers and price gougers. It’s a very long story and this is only the tip of the basics.
Palermo is a small town in Sicily. Palermo was an easy target for distortion because of its large farming community. The farms were Palermo resident’s livelihoods and means for survival. The mafia quickly realized how easy it would be to distort these farmers with threats to destroy their crops if they didn’t comply with the mafia’s high “taxations”. The farmers had no choice but to either continue being oppressed or start their own “family”. In turn, like the Bald Knobbers, the Mafia had several anti-mafia groups as well (only they added to the confusion by sharing the name “Mafia”, this is how mob groups became recognized by family surnames). Members of the mob quickly understood the power they held and began to abuse it to get what they wanted. In turn, Italy’s political leaders realized the Mafia’s power and abused their
power to get what they
wanted. Do you see what we have here? A vigilante group starting out with the best of intentions to protect their families who let power and greed overtake their good intentions. But all it created was a vicious cycle of corruption as each group was started (as a means of protection for their families) and realized the power they held. The root of family pride ran deep and allowed for their members to uphold their family grudges for centuries. I wish I could say this root was gone, but it still runs deep. There you have it; the notorious crime families commercialized in Hollywood films had started with only the intent to protect their families. How did they quickly let corruption, greed, and pride overtake them? What these two vigilante lawless groups have in common is that they had no written law to adhere to, which either led to their corruption or their dissolution. Without a clear constitution, their behavior had no guidance and fell outside of their good intentions. The Pharisees
The Pharisees are a whole other story. Their law was God breathed and transcribed by Moses (The Ten Commandments
). They had a great and perfect Law. When they realized the authority and power in the Law, they started to think they were ABOVE the law. In fact, they held others in oppression WITH
the law. They took the guidelines that God had given to us all so we may have an abundant life and bound those they thought were below the law in chains (spiritually and literally speaking). They crucified Christ in the name of the law. The Messiah never went above the Law. The Pharisees didn’t like that Jesus was preaching grace and love because that meant they couldn’t use the law to their advantage anymore. The thing is-Christ fulfilled the Law. He fulfilled the Old Testament’s prophecy of a Savior without adding anything or leaving anything out. Whether it was because of their pride or greed, the Pharisees gave the deciding vote to crucify Christ as they would a criminal. By accepting only part of the law and not the Completed Law, the Pharisees, by their own denial, lived above the law. A Church With Temporary Comforts
I’ve heard it been said by others that if Jesus walked into our church sanctuaries today, He wouldn’t be accepted and He may not even be recognized. It’s not hard to imagine how a mega church (or any church, really) could get caught up in the power and corruption as the mafia or the Bald Knobbers did. Just like these two vigilante groups, I feel most pastors start out with the best of intentions. As they subject themselves to Christ, the blessings keep flowing…and the church programs and benefits start growing and it would be easy to let it interfere with our purpose to kill our flesh loving tendencies. Please don’t get me wrong. Fellowship is required for the purpose of encouragement, accountability, and discipleship. But I can’t help but somehow feel we have it all wrong. God wants us to live our lives as a ministry to Him. There’s nothing wrong with a church that serves coffee on Sunday mornings or offers a play palace for your kids. However, when the goal becomes making your congregation as comfortable as possible, it’s easy to see how one could compromise or misinterpret the law for the sake of comfort. Did you ever notice how the word “conform” sounds much like “comfort”? It’s a principle that goes two ways. The more we conform to our worldly comforts, the more we lose our identity in Christ. Sadly, worldly comforts are only temporary. As we become conformed by the Gospel, worldly comforts don’t fit our souls so nicely as before, because the comforts the Gospel extends (the Kingdom of God) to us isn’t temporary, but eternal. It’s easy to lose sight of the goal when the situations in front of us are not comforting or comfortable. This only leads to a compromised and corrupt law. Side Note: In my lifetime alone, I've seen several men fall from the Law who had been placed in positions of authority. Some of the men went on living in their corruption and others have been so humble in their failures and repentance that I've seen God do great things with their ministries (as if to say, "Now You're Ready"). We must always remember God's mercies extend infinitely to those who accept it. The Answer
What does this have to do with the law? I tend to notice, at least in myself, when I start to give in to the comforts of this world, the more I start to feel entitled to feeling comfortable. I think entitlement stems from thinking you are above the law or that the “rules” don’t apply to you. We live in a world that caters to entitlement and just like all of the good intentions the above vigilante groups had, we start to pervert the law to fit our own comfortable desires. We may cross every “T” and dot every “I”, but if we forget the two greatest commandments that the law hangs on (Matthew 22:36-40
), we become nothing more than just a person with good intentions with a whole bunch of rules we can’t keep. This is the result of an incomplete law. Just as the vigilante groups lost their good intentions with no law or only partial law to follow, they quickly lost sight of the purpose. It’s impossible to follow an incomplete or nonexistent law. It’s impossible to follow a contradictory law and it’s impossible to be made perfect by a law that isn’t perfect. Thankfully, God completed His law when He sent His Son to pay the price for those who couldn’t do it on their own (us, all of us).
The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is your strength. We are in need of loads of strength right now. It’s time to get back to basics and not complicate the Joy of the Lord. We all want to know how to eradicate evil from the world, our nations, our communities, and maybe even our homes. How can we utilize the light within us to dispel the darkness? If we aren’t careful, we give up on our mission of spreading joy by allowing the mass evil to discourage us into thinking there isn't any hope to be had in this fight. Evil is saying “you can’t overcome me”. That's not what God says. He sent His Son to overcome so we can share in the Victory. The job of overcoming has already been won by the Work of the Cross. Sure, I could talk about all the negative things that brought me to the point of feeling compelled to write this, but I think the enemy has done a fine job of covering the negatives (he may even have a full time job as being an “unnamed source” for the media). It’s time for the enemy to flee. It’s time to fire him from his hateful, joy-sucking, life-taking and hope-thieving ways.
We are all questioning “What do we do now? Where do we go from here? What type of action do we take? Should it be political? Should it be in activism? What can we do? How could we possibly go on without some type of action?” I’ve seen Believers and unbelievers react in emotion (self included). In the process of reaction, some of us have become that which we were trying to eradicate. Don’t you see? The enemy and adversary of all that is Good has accomplished much more than the initial murders he provoked. The enemy has tried to turn followers of Good against each other. The enemy has focused his intent on destroying the remnant’s progress of unifying the Body of Christ. He’s taken divides that were already in our daily lives to a whole new level of division. The enemy knows the return of Christ is near and the enemy wants to do his best to delay the return of our Bridegroom by keeping the Church spotted and wrinkled.
Now, wait. It’s my intention to divert from the negatives. Let me get to the point. I have felt it so strongly on me in prayer this week. Get back to basics. Turn our attentions back to God’s Word. These are intentions that the enemy tried and in some cases managed to divert elsewhere. The adversary of God did it in a gross and sleazy way. Here’s how: he took our GOOD intentions of trying to come up with a solution and made them ugly. With the slyness of a snake, he came in quietly and when our good intentions were met with opposition, we allowed ourselves to take offense, we allowed ourselves to be defensive, we allowed ourselves to preach peace with the weapon of hatred (snootiness, arrogance, etc), we allowed ourselves to sin in our anger, and we allowed ourselves to be distracted from unity by allowing disaccord. The adversary took our good intentions and twisted them until our intentions became part of the problem of division. Who can yell the loudest? Because that’s what we think we have to do to be heard. If we are yelling at each other, how will we hear God? God’s Word says the Lord can be heard as a still small voice in the midst of chaos (1 Kings 19:11-12). What do we do? The answer God has placed on my heart? “Keep the faith, be obedient to faith. Do all you can from where you are and the light of Christ will be seen!”
Imagine, if you will; a very long strand of tiny Christmas-tree lights. The tree represents the world. The lights represent the Body of Christ. If only one of those lights were lit, sure it would cut the darkness. What if they were all lit? They will completely eradicate and annihilate the darkness. They brighten and light up a whole room! I’m almost sure by reactions I’ve seen this week, some of us have felt overwhelmed with isolation, as if we are only one tiny light living on an island alone. It seems some of us allowed ourselves to take on the idea that one little light is not going to cut this massive darkness. In our emotions, we’ve tried to forcefully get others to turn on their lights. Maybe you can all relate to the next part in my story. Have you ever pulled a brand new strand of lights out of the package? You plug the strand in to check if each light is working. You notice there are a few lights doing their best to go against the crowd of lighting up the room. You start fidgeting with the dark lights and twist and turn them a bit. Now look, after fidgeting with and twisting the non-working lights, we’ve managed to extinguish most of the strand. The once working lights focused so much on the lights that were not, the working lights rendered themselves dark. It’s not the final word. We can fix this. Not by yelling at the dark lights and not by being the loudest. Each of us need to do our part and keep our own light bright. How? Remember? By fighting the good fight of faith, being obedient to faith, and doing what we can to shine our tiny light from where we are and what we've been given. Our tiny light will join with the other tiny lights and dispel the darkness. We will become a “city on a hill” whose light can’t be ignored. Ever heard of the quote by Gandhi that says “be the change you want to see in the world”? Regardless of how you feel about Gandhi and his way of life, he’s right on this one. Take the wisdom of this quote and enact it in your own life. If you want to see love, be love. If you want to see evil eradicated, eradicate evil from your own self. If you want the Light of Christ to blind the Earth, you’ve got to let Christ within yourself shine forth first. If you want to see peace, you’re going to have to offer peace. If you want to see unity, you are going to have to unite with others. If you want all of these ideas to be perfectly enforced in your life, you’re going to have to follow the only One Who is perfect (Jesus Christ). If you want to be right, you’re going to have to learn from the Teacher (the only Teacher; John 13:13-17).
Tips on Maximizing the Light within You:
Remember the joy of the Lord is your strength. Remain joyful at all costs (hence the silliest picture I could find of Rick and I) by focusing on the good and not the bad. It isn’t an illusion (or delusion as some may say). Laughter (belly shaking and gut strengthening) is absolutely necessary to provoke joy. If you focus on all things good, good is what you will serve (and it’s contagious-no convincing necessary). It doesn’t mean your head is in the sand. It means your head is in the clouds (where it should be). If you will remember, this isn’t our home. Remain Kingdom oriented and not flesh pleasing.
Fight the Good fight of your faith by immersing your mindset in the promises of God’s Word. Read your Bible. Be obedient to your Bible. Don’t depart from the Word and it will not return void.
Forgive and show mercy to others. Live in active forgiveness and mercy. Pay close attention to the things that usually throw you (not others) off track. If you don’t know, ask for God to show you the areas that are your “triggers”. By the way, people are NOT triggers and we are not to avoid people. Their opinions don't have to create havoc on your peace. We don't have to take offense. Everyone is loved by God. Instead, learn that remaining quiet and not being defensive is a major type of warfare. If your triggers show up in things you read or watch, avoid watching and reading things that will only cause you to be defensive (until you are strong enough to handle being quiet). God tells us our fight is not with flesh and blood, but principalities. Fill your mind with things that work towards peace and not division. It’s completely possible to not compromise the Truth and still get things accomplished in love. Line up your definition of what love is with what God’s definition of love is (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Study the Word to see how God-fearing men handled their triggers. There is learning to be had because God shows us both sides: the consequences of giving in to your triggers with sin and the rewards of overcoming your triggers by being obedient to God.
Pray for wisdom. Read the Proverbs and put wisdom into action. Learn how one of the wisest kings of the Bible (King Solomon) lived his life. Don’t avoid reading about his sinful behavior so you can see the consequences that came about when he didn’t follow his own advice. Read the parables of Christ (the wisest of all the Kings) and think on the analogies He gives us.
Read and study the Beatitudes and put what you’ve read into action in everything you do (Matthew 5:1-12). Study and define the words used, like “meek”, “oppressed”, “inherit” and “poor in spirit”. Break down the words you read until you know exactly what Jesus is saying.
Manage your “territory”. The people around you are your territory. The ones you come into contact with at some point in your day (your community, your acquaintances, friends, family, and yourself). Pray over your territory. Fill any needs you see as they come up within your capabilities. As you manage your territory well, you will see that God will start to expand your scope as His Will ordains. Pray without ceasing. This doesn’t mean you are to run yourself ragged by praying in fear or religious ritual. This means to live your life as a prayer. Prayer is communion with God. Live your life with God and don’t keep God out of any part. By the way, being still or silent is a form of prayer and a powerful prayer, at that!
Remember Mary and Martha. Martha was a busy person, but she allowed service to get in the way of enjoying her Savior. She became angry with Mary for not helping her serve while Mary was spending time at the feet of Christ. Yes, service is a great trait to have, but don’t allow being busy in the physical keep you from visiting the Feet of our Lord. On the same hand, don’t be lazy. Serve where God asks you to. Don’t let any task be below your “expertise”. If you stay focused on your Savior, you’ll hear Him tell you when, where, and how to serve.
Of course, there is much more we could add to this list. We are a people of action and I truly see the good intentions others are trying to accomplish. Look past the sin of others and realize action starts within us. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my good intentions to get lost in translation. Evil is a fight that can’t be fought with man-enforced laws. Jesus came to the Earth so we could be free from the oppression the Law placed on us. He came to set us free with grace. Evil is a fight that will only be won with spiritual weapons (The Armor of God; Ephesians 6:1-18). Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Oh and laughter…don’t forget the laughter.
Throw in the Towel or Not to Throw in the Towel? That is the Question.
Are you ready to give up? Throw in the towel? Do you know where the phrase “to throw in the towel" comes from? It was a phrase used in boxing. It is both, symbolic and practical. When a boxer was being beat to a pulp during a fight and didn’t look he had any logical chance at winning the fight, the referee would indicate to the losing boxer’s corner of trainers to throw him a towel (or throw in the towel). Symbolically, we all understand the meaning; this fighter was done fighting. He had enough and couldn’t go on. Practically, the towel would be used by the losing boxer to wipe the blood and sweat (and maybe tears) from his face. But wait a second; doesn’t picking up a towel and wiping your own blood, sweat and tears off your face require strength? Of course, I realize it doesn’t take much strength to pick up a towel and wipe your face. However, it takes some. What if…stay with me here…what if the boxer used that little tiny bit of strength used to wipe his face and instead put it into the fight? Would it make a difference? Naysayers say “Nope, he was getting creamed! There’s NO way he could keep on fighting without either delaying defeat or getting a complete and unconscious “KO”. Here’s what I say to the naysayer, “how do you know?” How do you know that the last bit of strength wouldn’t catapult this fighter to victory? What if his opponent was only seconds away from defeat and all it would take was one final shove for him to fall to the ground? To be clear, we’re talking about a spiritual fight here. For it is not flesh and blood we are fighting against, but principalities.
Enough Hope for 12 Feet
Proverbs 13:12 states “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” To have hope doesn’t mean the thing/person/idea you have placed your hope in has been completed. However, if you defer that hope (or put off hoping) and live without hope, you will be heart sick. If you LIVE a hope-filled life (even though your desire hasn’t been met yet), you live as if that which you have placed your hope in is happening before it even happens! I know, this sounds confusing. Let me share the first story with you. Maybe it will help us to understand what Proverbs 13:12 is saying a little easier.
The first story came to my attention about two years back. It has been a visual that has stuck heavily with me all of the times I would start to unlace my boxing gloves and give up the fight. I hope you can see the beauty and hope in this story. I also hope this story fills you with compassion for the one who may be tempted to give up too soon. I hope it prompts you to give strength to those you see around you who are ready to give up.
It’s a story about a woman who wanted to break a record by swimming the ocean. She trained heavily before she even placed her body in the cold, salted-ocean waters. Her swim starts out GREAT! She hits several patches of rough sea and hears the voices (well meaning voices, but not so encouraging) from the rowboat following her (for safety reasons) and asking her if she needed to get into the boat. She refused and refused again. She swam through cold waters, she swam through warm waters, she swam through shark-infested waters, she swam through waters where the shore line towered up high, she swam through storms, and she swam through blistering sunshine. Through all of these different scene changes, she had one thing in common with each of the transitions-she had visibility of what was in front of her. Her eyes could see the path she was swimming and could warn her which way to swim. Here’s where the story gets very, very sad. She swam into fog. By her calculations and her compass, she was extremely close to her destination. Sadly, doubt started to fill her head. Were her calculations correct? Was her compass working? Was she even swimming the right way, anymore? She couldn’t see her own hand in front of her. The doubts got so loud, she threw in the towel. She climbed in the rowboat. She gave up. She was done. All the hard work, all the affirmations she gave herself of how she COULD do this and be the first woman to do so…she left it all in the ocean as she climbed in the boat. The kicker and the saddest part of this story? She was TWELVE feet away from shore. TWELVE FEET! She knew it took her more energy to climb in the row boat than it would have for her to swim the TWELVE FEET! But she couldn’t see the shore because of the fog. Sadly, she realized her calculations (her hope) and her compass were absolutely correct. She let the accusations of doubt fill her head and she listened. Years and years of training just to give up TWELVE FEET SHORT! Years and years of being absolute that she COULD do this and she WOULD do this only for her to give up and throw in the towel TWELVE FEET from her victory. Not because she didn’t have the energy to go on, but because she wasted the energy on doubt. She lost her trust in her calculations and in the compass she held in her hand (she had mapped this route over and over again in preparation) simply because HER eyes couldn’t see the shore in front of her. Keep swimming! Don’t throw in the towel. Your calculations, your hope, the affirmations of hope left with you in the Word of God? All correct! Your compass (Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life) is correct. Don’t give up right before you’re about to succeed. Don’t give up right before your hope becomes a reality. If it is you who is at this point, if it is you begging the referee to just “throw you the towel”, if it is you who can’t take another punch, if it is you who can’t see through the fog that surrounds you….well, out of the mouth of this fish I know, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming”.
Coffee is Liquid Gold, No Matter Where it Comes From
The second story I’d like to share with you may seem a little silly, but I can assure you, God spoke to me through this experience (1 Corinthians 1:27). If you know me, you know I love coffee. If you don’t know me, let me tell you, I love my coffee.
TMI Ahead: The problem is I have a history of acid intolerance and I can’t really just drink any coffee I want. I have to buy foreign coffee; specifically, German coffee. I’m not sure why, but it has something to do with the way they roast the beans that major acid production is limited in the bean.
Anyhow, I waited for a sale because German coffee doesn’t really come cheap. I hit the mother-load of sales and ordered enough online to get me through the winter holidays. I delayed my order so I could get more for my money. I placed the order three weeks ago, pumped at the awesome deal I got.
Normally, the coffee shows up at my door about 3-4 days afterwards and is delivered by UPS. When it didn’t show up and as I was developing severe throat soreness from drinking a temporary replacement coffee, I wrote the company to inquire about my order (I wasn’t rude, just a polite inquiry). Boy, did I feel like a jerk when the response I got was an apology, but due to the hurricane hitting the East coast, my shipping was delayed and would be there in two weeks.
Three weeks of bad acid inducing and throat burning coffee, three weeks of hurricane delayed shipping, and three weeks of checking the shipping status online leads this story to yesterday. My shipping status said this was the day! In anticipation (if you’re a coffee lover, you understand the joy I’m speaking of), I scaled my bar code reading,coffee making, fancy pants beverage system. If you’re unfamiliar with what scaling is, let me explain: to scale a coffee pot is a way to deep clean your coffee pot using a chemical agent and it will get rid of the impurities and buildup of water mineral-scum. It takes a while to scale my specialty machine but I knew the result would be a cup of coffee that tastes purely awesome!
It was ten after 6 o’clock pm and still no coffee. I told my son, “I guess I had better just give up hope that my coffee is arriving today”. Did I mention I love coffee?? My son could care less if the coffee was there or not, but he knows me. He knows it was important to me and carried my burden of sadness. He knew a “gee, I’m so sorry mom” was a good response (I wish I could say I’m writing to be dramatic, but I was really sad). Not even two minutes later, our mailman arrives with my box of coffee. I was expecting my liquid gold to come from UPS, not the post office! Because of all the delivery issues from the hurricane, it forced these two rivals to work together to solve the problem of getting the people what they need (okay, I know…the use of the word “need” seems a little excessive when we are talking about coffee). In times of trouble in our nation, two competitors worked together to solve the problems at hand.
I had my coffee, but it was after my 2 o’clock pm cut off for caffeinated beverage consuming rule (I like sleep, too). I was going to have to wait until morning. It was okay though, because it gave me time to really meditate on the lessons God was about to teach me from this seemingly silly experience. This story may seem silly, but the lessons I learned were serious.
8 Lessons Learned From Delayed Coffee
Lesson 1: Competitive people can get the job done if they come together. Put aside your differences to work together on a common goal.
Lesson 2: God sets everything up perfectly for our own benefit. Even though I had to wait to place my order, I got double what I would have gotten if I had hastily ordered without waiting for a sale.
Lesson 3: Keep your coffee pot scaled of impurities for the maximum enjoyment of your coffee. Just because you don’t know when your coffee may be there, be ready.
Lesson 4: Joy comes from anticipation. I was so excited for my morning time with God and my coffee cup.
Lesson 5: It is better to wait for the best of something than to settle for an acid inducing, not nearly as enjoyable, imposter that only caused me pain.
Lesson 6: It’s not always about me. My coffee was delayed as people were suffering greatly. It gave me a chance to see when there is suffering in our world, it affects us all. We all need to work hard and do what we can to eradicate and relieve sufferings.
Lesson 7: Trust the delivery is coming. Your package is coming (read your Bible and trust in it). Don’t give up hope. This lesson was important to me because I tend to get set in my ways of how things will happen. I tend to forget how ALL things are possible to those who trust in the Lord even the impossible things that I can’t do on my own (Matthew 19:26). “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:25-26). It taught me to lose my idea of how things will play out without losing my expectation that things will play out (God’s way is always better than my own).
Lesson 8: The most compelling lesson I learned was how our blessings don’t always come from where we expect them. I was expecting my package of joy to arrive via big brown box truck. Instead, it came from a mailman. You may place your hope and trust into someone delivering the blessings because it was YOUR way when all along God had intended HIS way was for it to come from another.
Don’t curse the mailman! Maybe, just maybe, you’re one of the many American Christians who thought the only way for God to deliver grace and mercy to our broken nation was through one man in charge. Maybe, just maybe that’s not who God intended to be in charge of the delivery. Don’t forget, the UPS man was a part of this delivery by working with his competitor. The package of coffee (blessings, for sure) made its way to me by using both of these drivers working together, even through a hurricane that intended harm. God works all things together for good for those who love and place their trust in Him. He knows what He is doing. He knows what we need. We need a change of heart and we need a change of strategy. He heard all of our prayers for our world and just because it wasn’t how you had planned and just because you can’t possibly see how it will happen (since it wasn’t your expectation or tradition), doesn’t mean that it was not God’s plan. And isn't God's plan what we all want? If not, it should be.
Take a Vow
I hope we can all lose our limits that we place on God, because they don’t compare to what a limitless God can do.
Won’t you join us in repentance for the curses we’ve placed on others through the grumblings of our mouths?
Won’t you join us in crying out to God for redemption and mercy and grace?
Won’t you join us as we seek to be humble and serve the Lord?
Won’t you join Glorified Goodies in our crusade to expect good, speak good as we watch the good come about?
No more operating in fear.
No more operating in pride.
No more operating in wrong traditions.
Let’s operate in Hope! We're not gonna need that towel after all...
Three weekends in a row of rainy weather held my little family (and our little dog, too) captive in an RV. Cabin fever was quickly overcoming us and we knew we needed to act quickly to avoid the fever’s dirty claws. What did we do? We played Monopoly! The first time we played together as a family was the first game of Monopoly for our 12 year old son.
My husband and I have always had differing views on how to treat game playing with our son. My husband wanted to have mercy on him and let him win as our son was growing up to teach him confidence. I, however, never let our son purposely win unless he won by his own accord (and boy did he win some). I wanted him to learn, “you win some, you lose some”. I never told my husband to stop his way and he never told me to stop mine. I don’t think either way of how we played games with our son was wrong. In fact, I’m positive it gave our son a chance to learn there was more than one type of personality to contend with out in the “real” world. It taught him discernment and how to quickly understand how to manage “different strokes for different folks”. It taught him to give mercy without compromising the truth. Sure, there were times where he would know his father was letting him win and he would be insulted because he knew he didn’t deserve the trophy. Then there were the times I wouldn’t let him win even though I clearly had the upper hand of skill and he would lament that it just wasn’t fair because he didn’t have a chance.
I’m positive that my husband and I went into the first game of Monopoly fully prepared to enact our playing strategies. Monopoly is a hard game to understand. It’s easy to play by the rules, but to really wrap your head around understanding the game, it requires a deeper understanding. I’m pretty sure my husband and I were both caught off guard when we realized that our son not only understood the concept, but kicked our tails and left us eating his dust. He truly won fair and square.
This takes us to our second game the very next weekend. Our son, still glowing from his previous win, informed us that he was sitting this game out. He didn’t think it would be fair to beat us up again. He instead played the role of banker. He said it was only appropriate that he had control and ownership of the bank since he already owned everything. I don’t think he wanted to spend his time doing the dirty work of rolling the dice and starting over from scratch when he was already a winner. So, he was the banker and property management for us peons trying to work our way up the corporate ladder.
You’re in need of an explanation and I’m in need of ‘splaining my side. I hate playing games with my husband. He ALWAYS wins! In the game of chance, the odds are always in his favor. In the game of strategy, his strategy is always best. I find it very condescending when he tries to give me a break (like when he gives me some of his poker chips just because he says “I’m cute”). It feels like a taunt and I can’t handle not winning fair and square. I never know if he’s trying to make me a worthy opponent because he gets bored with beating me or if he’s trying to prove the point that I “need him”. Either way, I don’t like it! It’s funny how when I play games with anyone besides my husband, I usually win. I think it may because my husband knows me better than anyone else. He knows everything about me and he knows my strategies and my “poker face”. Others do not so I can catch them off guard.
Here we go into our second game of Monopoly and it starts out civil. Properties are being bought and the competition is fairly even at this point. I go to jail. I roll the dice and go from being down on my low-life luck (I’m in jail) to being thrust onto “Free Parking”. This didn’t happen once or even twice, but THREE times do I get saved from being a jail bird to not only freedom, but being abundantly undeservedly rewarded. It really wasn’t fair that I ended up in jail three times only to be rewarded three times. The first free parking landing was good for there was $200 in the middle, the second time was better with $250 in the middle, but the third time was amazing and contained $1800 (we had to pay quite a few “taxes”). I’m not only in the money; I owned several complete sets of property with hotels on them already (the GOOD ONES). I feel awesome about my good fortune until I looked up and saw my husband graciously congratulating me. To this point, he was holding his own. He owned his own hotel-adorned properties and had enough money in his bankroll to play a competitive game. Then, IT happened. He landed on “Park Place” for a short vacation in my hotel. Did I mention I like to win “fair and square”? He let me call the shots if we were going to end it there or go on. We must fight to the death. He complied and mortgaged all of his properties and gave me all but $5 of his bankroll. $5 kept him in the game. He rolls snake-eyes and it lands him in a vacation villa on my “Board Walk”. He has nothing but his meager $5 and hands it over.
I completely understand how he feels now in wanting to “help me out” when we play games. It’s not because he’s bored and it’s not because he wants to prove himself great. It’s because he loves me and he enjoys just being with me. He wants me to stay in the game. He doesn’t want our play time together to end. He enjoys having my attention focused solely on him and our game. He doesn’t care about winning again, because he knows he’s already a winner (like our son was feeling). Besides, my one victory doesn’t compare to his overall victorious stance. He can afford to give mercy because his mercy is unending. That win was an empty victory for me because it made for “game over”. It was a temporary win in the scheme of things because I was never going to make up for all the times I lost. Before I wanted to win fair and square, but now I just wanted the game to be endless. I realized that my competitiveness ended a fun thing we had going. I was trying to protect my pride by earning my trophy fair and square. He’s won more than I could ever imagine catching up to. When I play board games with my husband, he offers me the chance for us both to be winners even if it means he’s footing the bill. He will never rub it in my face that it’s because of his mercy that I’m still “in the game”. He’ll never turn down a game with me, even if my motives start out being purely selfish (to win). He just wants to be with me, because he loves me.
Do you know the One who holds the “monopoly” on perfect love and eternal victory? In our modern world, holding a monopoly on something can be negative for those it’s against and selectively shuts out. There is only One who holds a monopoly and will not shut ANYONE out-even if you plotted to destroy His enterprise (enterprise/kingdom-same thing). It’s the only place that “if you can’t beat’em, join’em” is perfectly acceptable and won’t kill your integrity (just your pride). It’s the only monopoly you can be a part of that allows for creativity to move freely and makes you as winningly as the Owner (Creator/Owner-same thing). For His good fortune is also yours. Not because you won “fair and square” or you deserved abundant rewarding freedom from your prison, but because He wants you in His game. He wants to give you mercy to enjoy your eternal playing time with Him. You won’t beat Him, but you can join Him and be eternally victorious together. It will require you to let Him foot the bill, but He’ll never hold it against you. He just wants to be with you, because He loves you.
For our second part of the series, we will be looking at the dialogue between God and Moses and what is revealed. We will talk about what it means to serve a Lord Who is Good. We will examine the excuses Moses (or I or you) gave God and why the excuses added up to nothing. We will end Part 2 with what it means to be called and how to know if you've been chosen. If you missed the first part in our Exodus study, click here to read. "I Am" and "Lord"
Moses is trying to convince (via the voice of Smooth Talking Eloquent Aaron, Moses’ brother) the Pharaoh to let the people go. The Israelite slaves are being held in even greater oppression because of Moses’ petition to the Pharaoh. Their work quotas were becoming impossible to meet, because “Hopping Mad Pharaoh” now required the Israelites to gather their own straw to make their bricks. A very interesting thing happens at this point; God insists that Moses refers to God as their Lord (Exodus 6:3
). This is the first time in the scriptures that God calls Himself Lord. God previously revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as “God Almighty”. God further reveals Himself as “I am”. “I am” encompasses all of God as it becomes revealed further in the Scriptures. Let’s not forget the Bible is complete and absolute (Psalm 12:6
; Psalm 119:89-91
; Proverbs 30:5
). The Word of God is Truth (John 14:6
). Point of Remembrance:
Scriptures make it clear that God never changes; He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8
). What this is telling us is that God is further revealing Himself as Lord to the Children of Israel and making way for the people (us) to accept Christ the Messiah. What's a lord, anyhow?
Let’s take a moment to really give details to what the word “lord” means. It’s a word used to describe a master. It’s a word used to describe someone as having the highest rank among his peers. Did you notice that? “Among his peers” infers that one is made of the same as another and the only difference is that a lord is of the highest rank. God tells us that we are made in His image. This implies that God is one of us with the highest ranking. Get it? Jesus came to the Earth as flesh and blood (like us)! God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit are the same in different forms. Although Christ hadn’t come to Earth as of this time, if you remember God says He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This tells us that Jesus was the beginning, too (John 1:1-3
). Just because Jesus wouldn’t be revealed to man until later in history, doesn’t mean he wasn’t in existence from the beginning. To reveal something, it must exist to be revealed. Getting back to the word “lord”, as I said, is another word for a master and both words hold the highest rank. God just revealed to Moses that He is their Lord and the Lord of all of God’s creation. He is still God Almighty, but He added “Lord” to the list of how to describe Him. You Are What You Serve (you are what you eat)
I’d like to make it clear that I realize using the words “master” and “slave” usually dredge up millions of negative connotations. It’s a word and a position that has been grossly perverted. To be a slave to something usually doesn’t conjure up warm and fuzzy feelings. Let’s stop and think for a moment. If you are a slave to One who is good (Psalm 136:1
), would you feel those negative feelings? If there is One who is pure, perfect, and good and He is your Master, wouldn’t you rejoice that your Master is Good? This would make you a slave to Good (or Righteousness; Romans 6:15-23
)? This means your work would be good, too. And if your Master encompasses only good (because nothing bad can come from a purely good thing) and you are Good’s slave; all you are and do is good, too. However, you must be obedient and yield to your Master’s commands. God (and all He encompasses: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the only One that ever is, was, or yet to come who is absolutely pure. All who are under His rank have to be made pure, too! If God is the only One Who is perfectly pure, this makes Him the only One who has the Power to make us pure. God’s grace covers you through the Blood of Jesus. Your goodness has been completed through the work of the Cross and only the work of the Cross. Sorry, but you and I have nothing to do with purifying ourselves. We have a choice of “let Jesus make us pure of our sins” or “live impure with our sin and render the consequences it entails”. But, as far as the actual purifying ourselves, we can’t do it without letting Jesus do it for us.
Can you imagine the joy Moses must have felt when God revealed to Him that the children of Israel were no longer slaves to idols who ruled with oppression, but slaves to a Lord Who is good? What this represents and how we can relate it to each of us in modern times is the same. We are all called to God. His love is available to each of us. We are called to come out of serving flesh and blood (which dies, remember?) into serving the One Who is not only good, but eternal and everlasting and offers us hope through Him. Moses And His Excuses, Us And Our Excuses
Did you happen to notice the amount of convincing it took for Moses to believe he was called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt? He tried every excuse in the book. “I’m a murderer, God? They don’t want me and they hate me (both, Israelites AND the Egyptians). I am not worthy enough. They won’t listen to me. I can’t talk with eloquence. I’m too old for Your forty year plan. I’ve got nothing. Blah, blah, blah.” Do these excuses reflect any excuse YOU may have given God? “My sin is too great for your grace to cover. I have no gifts or talents. No one will believe me because I too am a sinner. I’m too old. I’m too young. I’m too poor. God, you don’t want me. I have too many obstacles to overcome. Blah, blah, blah!”
I’m not trying to make light of your feelings. I understand, I’ve said similar things to God to avoid obedience. God would get me to a point of being convinced of His grace and then I would face trials (some of which I brought on myself…because I’m a sinner) that tried to convince me otherwise. Those are called lies, remember; God’s adversary (which is also yours) roams around like a hungry lion seeking whomever and whatever he can to destroy (1 Peter 5:8
). The adversary (or enemy) has been given several adjectives by God so we know what to look out for; a liar, a thief, and a murderer (note John 8:44
is speaking to all of us born in sin before we accept the adoption of our Father in Heaven). If you are currently saying to yourself, “shoot, girl…I’m all of those things used to describe the adversary of God”, you’re missing the point. God’s grace covers those who fear Him (or recognize Him as Lord, God Almighty) and accept His grace. He sent Jesus to cover your wages because He loves you. Quit arguing with yourself in your head. You are, with the grace and mercy of Jesus, in need of saving and God is worthy to save. Quit trying to convince God, as Moses tried, that you aren’t “His guy”. Many Have Been Called, Few Are Chosen
Many have been called (or invited), but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14
). You may ask yourself, how do you know if you’ve been invited? If you have any knowledge of God, you’ve been invited. I imagine most people reading this have knowledge of God (if not, contact us, we will be happy to “enlighten” you), you may not know all knowledge of Him (none of us know all of His mysteries yet
; 1 Corinthians 2:9
) but you know His name.
Okay, so you recognize you’ve been called and invited; how do you know if you are chosen to partake in the wedding banquet? Read the parable that Matthew 22:14
follows to understand the reference to the wedding (Matthew 22:1-14
; you’ve gotta read it first to understand the next part). If you had ears and eyes to see and hear an invitation from the Lord to come and feast at the wedding banquet, you’ve been called. If you come to partake in the feast, you’ve been chosen. Sounds too easy, huh? All you have to do is show up and feast!
Getting back to the possible excuses; “I have no formal wear for a wedding.” I have great news! This is a wedding invitation for those who recognize they are covered in dirty and ripped rags (all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God). If you plan on attending this wedding already fed and dressed in your finest (which STILL falls short of glory…way, way short), you won’t realize your need to feast or be covered in fine linens because you will be too busy convincing yourself you look great (this is a reference to our pride). Did you know pride goes both ways? If you tell God you have nothing to wear or you’re too hungry and His banquet won’t satiate great hunger, you’re telling Him that His feast and clothes aren’t good enough (yes, it’s prideful to assume you’re hungrier than His feast could satisfy). This requires a humbleness to let go of pride (no matter which side you are on; thinking you’re well fed already or thinking you’re too hungry to be fed enough). Caution:
If you keep reading, you’ve been invited to the feast and it will require you to “RSVP” either “yes or no” because this is an invitation to you.
To summarize the second part in our series:
you’re not too well dressed nor are you too ragged to attend the feast. Moses answered the invitation from God by being obedient and answering yes. Even in his need to be convinced, he had a fear of God that caused him to act accordingly to God’s plan.
I think we should end this second series writing here for now. This may seem elementary to some and to others it may seem complicated, but it really is as simple as saying yes to the invitation to come to the wedding. His burden truly is light for all you have to do is start making your way to the feast. Focus on answering the question of which lord will you serve: the eternal Lord of Goodness or the very temporary lord of the world. Don’t be fooled into thinking there’s another master, because you only have two options. Don’t try to figure out the details because I can assure you if you say (or have said) yes, your Father knows (even if you need some convincing like Moses) and has already made a way for your “exodus” from slavery of sin into His Promised Land (or wedding banquet). There’s a place for everyone at His banquet and no one is exempt from receiving an invitation. Please continue with Glorified Goodies as we move forward in this series. I’m afraid my four week time limit I placed on this study has taken longer than I had planned. I know why. God will not let me share a word with my readers unless I believe it wholeheartedly and confidently. I confidently and wholeheartedly believe God’s grace is sufficient for each of us. Why? Because HE said so and I can testify to its validity (2 Corinthians 12:9).