JANIS IAN, VEGGIETALES & EPHESIANS

I have a teenaged daughter who is becoming an amazing young woman. It seems like she’s constantly changing. She reminds me of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (Except she’s not becoming a man. Just so we’re clear on that! This isn’t “that blog.” 🙂 )

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AT SEVENTEEN – JANIS IAN

Some of the struggles Maggie has are so much like those I had at her age – you know, the Janis Ian kind; other struggles are unique to her generation. For example, I didn’t have to worry about how people from all over the world might judge my words or my looks or my choices on social media. I had enough trouble with the people in my school, in my neighborhood.  Then, again, I had to wait for America’s Top 40 so I could press Play and Record at just the right time in order to tape my favorite song. I had to buy an entire album to get my favorite song, and she has iTunes! (The struggle was real then, too.)

Growing up, Maggie’s favorite video was VeggieTales’ Jonah. She loved the idea that the God she was getting to know for herself was the God of second chances. And she understood that those second chances were not only for her, but for everyone else, too. This taught her mercy for others, as well as grace for herself.

 

It also taught her that second chances were unlimited with God. All He asks is that we repent. Ideally, repentance would be a one-time thing. I say I’m sorry and promise to change my ways – forever. But it seldom works that way, does it? We ask forgiveness again because we originally didn’t do it with the right heart.

Or maybe we didn’t really understand what it was that we needed forgiveness for – for getting caught, for making someone mad, or because we have a deeper matter that keeps pushing the wrong behavior to the surface. Or maybe there are some deeply founded beliefs that keep us returning to the same behavior; thoughts that need to be addressed before change can occur. Or maybe we didn’t really fathom how important the matter was to God. In any event, it seems we could easily exhaust God’s grace. And yet we don’t.

I think that’s the nature of repentance – co9ec67cd3ebeb832c3e7dfdef617888ffnstantly starting over and moving forward but with a new mindset. Again. And again. And yet again.

Now, it would be nice to sit back and enjoy God’s grace for ourselves while we remembered – again and again and yet again – all the grievances we suffered at the hands of others, right? Not so fast!

As Paul wrote: As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-6

This is more than Rodney King’s plea that we “all just get along.” (Google it.) As Christians, we are a part of one body and one Spirit. It’s imperative that we get along, or nothing will get done! And because we’re a part of one body and one Spirit, this isn’t just about us and we’re not in this alone. Essentially, we’re children of God – princes and princesses. We need to straighten our crowns, adjust our attitudes and act like it. (Doesn’t leave a lot of room for being offended, does it?)

Will it be easy? Considering that the third word in the first verse is “prisoner”, I wouldn’t count on it – at  least not until we fully fathom that we are a prisoner to Him who loves and is love, again and again and again.

But wait! There’s more. Paul goes on to say that the ultimate goal of our life in Christ, as one body and one Spirit comes down to this: Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (14-16)

We will not always be that awkward, insecure, shy 17-year-old. We will become wise and strong and loving! Can we be honest with others when they hurt us? Yes. But with love instead of bitterness. Because of Christ, we are better than we are without Him.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (29-32)

Now, there wasn’t an asterisk by this verse, so apparently social media wasn’t a concern then. All I can say is that whatever method they used for communication gave them much more opportunity to carefully consider their words than keyboarding does today. Even those stupid “footballs” that my classmates fashioned their notes into mandated more time for reconsideration than we have now. And we often wrote “Do not show to anyone” on the outside of it.

Paul later tells us that we will be armed with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17), allowing us to divide the righteous from the unrighteous. But a sword isn’t something you let a child play with. It’s a piece of the armor of God that should be wielded with training and responsibility. And I think there will be plenty of times that we’ll be called to put the sword at our side and extend an empty hand in greeting to show there is no threat to another. No threat, because we have forgiven as we’ve been forgiven and shown compassion as we’ve been shown compassion by our Father through the sacrificial death of His Son.

Things have changed a lot since I was Maggie’s age, but we can be assured that God never changes. His word is steadfast. His expectations of us are solid. His love for us is never-ending. We are part of the mighty body of Christ, designed to do amazing things for the kingdom of God. And I am excited to see what our children grow up to do for Him!

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GUESS WHO?

Have you ever played Guess Who? It’s a two-player game where players ask yes or no questions to isolate a hidden character. You might ask if your opponent’s character is male or female, blond or brunette, wears glasses or not. You get the idea. Essentially, the questions help you eliminate which of the characters your opponent’s person is not in order to determine who the person is. The first player to guess the other player’s hidden character wins.

This last year has simply been the most recent in my search for who I really am. I believe this is something most, if not all, of us do throughout our lives. As our roles, interests, and needs change, we evolve and our very identities change as we age. We become physically, mentally and emotionally more capable as we mature from baby to child to adolescent to teen to young adult to mature adult. We adopt and abandon roles as our lives change – friend, sibling, child, partner, parent, employee, coworker, Christian, voter, consumer, neighbor. And yet, all the while we maintain a core image of ourselves.

It’s that core image that I’ve struggled with the most. This year, I’ve been pre-occupied with who I am in Christ,  who I am as a child of God. It’s as a child of God that I want to grow and thrive. As a child of my mother, there are so many ways in which I simply didn’t grow or thrive; although, I had successes in spite of the way I was raised and sometimes because of how I was raised. There’s a lot to reconcile between the two lineages. One tolerated me, the other treasures me. One held me in disdain, the other holds me in the palm of His hand. One denied me affection, the other sacrificed His Son for me. Two very different caregivers; two very different identities for myself.

So I reviewed the lists of verses that declared who I was as a child of God and meditated on them, reminding myself of them when my heart needed reminding, when my mind suggested I was “less than.” But on the heels of each reminder was a quiet but pernicious doubt.3868d1bcf797b5ee2b985299be4794e9

‘Yeah, but….’

I realized that who my mother had told me I was had become a foundational certainty for me. And it wasn’t just what I’d accepted from her. I’d selectively held onto a lot from the kids who picked me last at play, the boys who showed no interest in dating me, the coworkers who didn’t invite me to join the group for lunch, the people on the street who seemed to look right through me. All of them verified my deepest belief about myself. I was unlovable. While there were those who thought I was smart, funny, sweet, dependable, or talented, I was more convinced that I wasn’t really worthy of attention or affection.  I was convinced of a reality that no amount of kindness could crack. And no amount of scriptural affirmation was going to completely convince me otherwise.

296D57B8-6681-406C-82DD-E8A9B00BD724Then I thought, what if I stopped trying to believe the truth of who I am and started disbelieving the lies of who I am not? What if I started with my conception – the point at which God knitted me in my mother’s womb and created a plan for me? I thought about the rows of babies that shared the nursery at the hospital where I was born and considered that each one had been born just the way God had designed them, which was good. Then we each went home to our respective families, where we were raised by ordinary men and women who were just doing the best they could with what they had. Some of us ended up nurtured and some of us ended up challenged. It’s just that simple.

It ultimately becomes our own responsibility to determine how we want to stand in the world, what we want to stand for, what we want to stand up for. And at some point, we become accountable for our own choices, our own identities. That’s when knowing who we are not becomes every bit as important as knowing who we are. Many of us are children of God, but we’re living without conviction of our heritage, without the fullness of our inheritance, falling short of our ordained potential.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tell us, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

We can’t don the new clothes God gives us over the old clothes that have worn thin and have developed a stench. The stench eventually leaks through the fabric. We need to strip ourselves of the old before we can put on the new. We need to be cleansed by the sacrificial blood of Christ in order to be wholly clean. Who are you not, and perhaps have never been, or haven’t been since you chose to change? Are you not selfish, alone, tongue-tied, absent-minded, usc04eb15ce15b1aeb817f35a814166545eless, stupid, unattractive, worthless, boring, clumsy, insensitive, broken, talentless? Are you no longer a liar, an adulterer, a thief, a gossip, a using addict or alcoholic?

Today is a new day. We are a new creations!

God has a good plan for us. Satan has a plan for us, too. The plan we bring to fruition depends upon who we believe, who we let define us, who we choose to follow. We can be victims or victors. We can stay bitter, or we can become better. We can hold onto the lies or move forward into a new life. We can choose to disbelieve the lies the enemy has told us and hold on for dear life to the promises of He who is the Author and Finisher of our story.

So never let someone judge you by the chapter they walked in on. You’ve turned the page and begun a new chapter. Your character is still in development and your story isn’t over yet. But I’ll give you one spoiler alert: As a child of God, you’re on the winning side!

LET IT GO!

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Of all the four seasons, I enjoy Autumn most of all because it’s the season that welcomes everyone back into their home to spend longer evenings with family, friends or a good book.

Hal Borland was an American author, journalist and naturalist. (No, he’s is not the brother of Al Borland from “Tool Time.”) I like to think of him as a “season specialist.” He found a way of finding wonder and wisdom in the different seasons and the constant transformation of nature.

Now that we’re officially in Autumn, trees have been in a glorious survival mode for a few weeks already. But what a amazing show before Autumn is done!

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Did you know that leaves don’t just fall off? Growing up, I assumed they did – I mean, it is FALL after all. Leaves, in fact, are actually pushed off by the tree. It’s the only way the tree will survive the winter. We could learn a lot from trees.

Right now, trees are letting go of anything that would make survival during winter harder. If they were to keep their leaves, the added weight of the snow would break their branches.

We don’t know what Winter will be like here in Minnesota this year – when it will start to snow, how much it will snow, how much snow will melt in between snowfalls, or when it will stop snowing for the season. That’s how seasons often are – we have some idea of what to expect, but we can never be certain, can we? The only two things we can be certain of is that Winter will begin and Winter will end. Although that sounds simplistic to the point of being condescending, we often seem surprised by its arrival and disappointed that it’s not over soon enough.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV

8f0ca2121e047e9f93401eea082fd846We each have seasons in our lives, as well – some easy, some challenging; some pleasant, some painful. I believe there are a few truths of seasons, whether in nature or in our personal lives.

They’re inevitable.

They’re temporary.

They’re transformational.

But most of all, they’re transitional. Just as Autumn is sandwiched in between Summer and Winter, the season you’re going through will pass in time. (True, it might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass!)

The key to surviving your particular season is to let go of anything that doesn’t help you through it. What are you holding onto that you need to let go of in order to survive the challenging season ahead – a season of financial change, a season of poor health, a season of grief, a season of busyness, a season of disappointment?

Let go of habits that are robbing you of your time and energy. Release people from your unforgiveness. Delegate responsibility. Ask for help. Free yourself from unrealistic expectations. Use paper plates! (Not all changes need to be grand and philosophical, you know.)

Take time to find beauty in your season. It’s there somewhere! Even in the midst of death in Autumn, trees look like blazing flames atop a match, the leaves change color and fall to carpet the Earth in gold, red and orange.

Autumn also provides a new view. Hal Borland recognized that “October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen. It is the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations above them once again.” The season in which everything seems to die also allows us to see everything that was obscured by foliage during the summer!

So while seasons are an inevitable part of nature and our lives, they can be survived. Beauty can be found in those changes. And, ultimately, what lies dormant will bring forth life in its time. All we need to do is prepare for it, be patient as we move through it and trust that this season may just be what we need to see God’s faithfulness in the next season.

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“One day you will look back on this season and know that you are truly blessed, and not because things were perfect but because you found perfect grace in the worst of it.”

~Morgan Harper Nichols

 

 

 

ARE YOU CHISELED OR CHUBBY?

I have a friend who is incredibly self-motivated in a way that I’m not sure I could ever be. He’s more persistent, more passionate and more resilient than most of the people I know. He’s an inspiration to a lot of people, and recently, as he was gearing up for a new level of physical fitness, he posted this on his Facebook page:

NINE MONTHS

And I knew that in nine months, there would be a new Chris emerging. Because Chris wants to succeed. He wants his life and his body to be different, better.

Me? Yeah, I want those things, too – just not enough to really work very hard at them. And I accept the consequences of that mentality.

Three years ago, Chris faced a unique challenge. He was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis – flesh-eating bacteria. He was fortunate to have it diagnosed and treated as quickly as it was, but it was still a steep hill for him to climb and it took its toll on him. But he was beautifully resilient!

So I’ve been thinking about the vast difference between his determination to work hard and my determination to keep a low heart-rate and not perspire if I can help it. I began to consider the characters in the Bible who were so desperate for the healing touch of Jesus – the woman with the issue of blood, the man whose friends lowered him from the roof into the room where Jesus was teaching, the blind man at the pool of Siloam, the lepers who begged for pity, the daughter of Jairus, the multitudes He and the disciples fed on the hillsides.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about Him spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and He healed them” (Matthew 4:23-24). 

But I’ve always been curious about the man at the pool of Bethesda in John Chapter 5. This man had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and realized that he had spent a long time in this condition, He asked him, “Do you want to get well?” Now, I’ve admitted before that I am not a Biblical scholar, so I may very well be wrong, but I’ve long believed that this is the only time that Jesus didn’t just “hand out” a healing. I believe this is the only recorded incident where Jesus asks directly if the person wanted to get well. And the recipient didn’t ask to be healed.

That seems like a silly question, right? Who doesn’t want to be well? Who really wants to be sick or infirmed or physically challenged when they can be whole, healthy and capable? But the man doesn’t say he wants to be healed. He gives Jesus an excuse for why he can’t be healed. Maybe he just didn’t know that the man before him could heal him.

Or maybe – just maybe – he wasn’t really committed to a life free of poor health.

Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am on my way, someone else goes in before me.”

That didn’t answer Jesus’ question, did it? Jesus simply let it slide, apparently, and told the man to get up and walk. And the man did just that; he walked. On legs that had atrophied over decades, he miraculously walked.

That meant he was no longer a prisoner to pity or a servant to shame or a miserable recipient of mercy. He was no longer dependent on the kindness of others. He could take care of himself now. He could now get a job, have a home, be worthy of marriage, have a family, be a contributing member of the community. In short, Jesus had just redefined who this man was – to himself and to everyone in his town.

That can be a little scary, can’t it? No doubt, this man had dreamt of what a life would be like if he were healthy and able bodied. But now he had to actually walk. Where would he walk to? What would he do once he got there? Along with health, this man was given purpose, responsibility, independence. And I think that’s what Jesus was asking him: “Do you want to be responsible for yourself?”

So often, we say things like, “I’d give anything to be able to afford what I want.” Really? Are you willing to do without an immediate gratification? “I’d give anything to look like that!” Are you willing to get up an hour earlier every day to exercise? “I want to be a more Godly person?” Are you willing to be loving instead of right?

I’m not judging! Trust me, I am not self-disciplined. I’m with the kids in the Stanford marshmallow experiment who went ahead and ate the marshmallow before the tester returned. I don’t do well with delayed gratification. At all. It’s not fun and, honestly, it’s hard.

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That’s why this summer – in nine months – my friend, Chris, will be an incredibly healthy, fit father of three energetic kids and I will be wondering if I really have to shave my legs if I don’t plan to wear a pair of shorts – because, let’s face it, chubby thighs are only cute on babies!

What about you? In nine months, will you be a new person? Do you want to be healed?

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SEEK YE FIRST

A little over five years ago, I survived an ascending aortic dissection. Dissections are fairly rare at 3 per 100,000 per year. Of those, about half are a dissection of the ascending aorta such as I had. Of that 50%, about 20% of the patients will die before they reach the hospital with that rate increasing by 3% every hour surgery is delayed. I was fortunate to have survived, and I have no doubt that I survived because God wasn’t done with me yet – and because I was in the care of some amazing medical personnel!

Although I still have no idea what His plan is for me, I can say that many good things have come to light in the past five years. Premier among them, I’ve learned to accept and enjoy the love of my family, the compassion of my friends and the overwhelming love of my heavenly Father. However, physically it’s been a challenge for me, and lately I’ve had to examine whether or not I can continue working the same way I did over five years ago. I believe the surgery and recovery took a toll on my mental and physical health that I can’t seem to sustain anymore.

Lately, I’ve given a lot of thought to Peter as he dared to step out of the boat at Jesus’s assurance.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” Matthew 14:28.

Now, at this point the disciples weren’t sure what they were seeing. Perhaps it was a ghost. I have the benefit of retrospect. I know for a fact that it was Jesus. That’s a certain game-changer for me.

In the next verse, Jesus says so simply, “Come.” And Peter did something that was completely counter-intuitive. He stepped out onto water – deep, perilous, frenzied, terrifying water. He was no fool when it came to the dangers of the sea. This was a fisherman who had learned to respect the nature of a storm and the dangers it brought.

But he had also just witnessed the incredible power of the Son of God. Besides the most recent multiplication of bread and fish, he’d already witnessed unbelievable healings. So he had two things to consider: the power of the waves or the power of Christ.

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He chose Christ. For a moment. Then he looked away and saw the ferocity of the sea around him and became afraid. I often think of the cartoon characters of my childhood who would run off a cliff but wouldn’t be in danger of falling until they realized that, oops!, there was no ground beneath them. (Which is not to make light of this scripture, by any means! It just proves that I’m a member of the TV generation.)

So lately, as I said, I’ve been thinking of Peter’s test of Jesus. Did Peter just want to prove to the other guys that he was bad-assed enough to walk on water? That would certainly fit into his profile as a passionate renegade, but I don’t think that was it. I think Peter, like the others, was genuinely afraid for his life. He saw that the winds and waves out there – around Jesus – were still. Regardless of the reason why they were still, Peter wanted to be in the same stillness that surrounded Jesus, and there is no shorter line between point A and point B than a straight line. Wherever Jesus was, was safer than in the boat.

We all know the lesson here: Keep your eyes on Jesus and not your surroundings. For me, that would mean focusing on the face of my Savior and not at the bills that would keep me from working fewer hours to protect my health. That’s not as easy as it sounds, and Peter is the perfect example.

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Here’s my challenge: I know I spend more time seeking God’s hand than I do His face. As long as Peter focused on Christ’s face, he was good. It wasn’t until he began to sink that he had to call out for His hand. When I seek God’s face, His kingdom, I am promised that all things will be added. If I know my Father, who I can see through His Son, intimately enough, how can I doubt that he will provide and sustain me? I wish it were that easy for me, but it’s not.

Here’s my comfort: When Peter cried out for help two things did not happen. First, Jesus didn’t call from afar, “Hold on, Peter! I’ll be right there.” Jesus was there immediately. In fact, Peter was probably nearer to the boat than he was to Jesus; but it wasn’t a disciple who rescued him. Similarly, it will likely not be our friends who will be able to rescue us in the same way Jesus can. Second, although Jesus called Peter “ye of little faith,” Jesus did not chastise him. He honored that faith – as little as it was. I believe it left a seed in Peter from which stronger faith would grow – the kind of faith that could produce a thriving world-wide church. This challenge wasn’t a wasted opportunity or failed exercise by any means. It left Peter, just as such experiences leave me, with the confidence that “next time….” Next time, my faith will be stronger and last longer because it will be built upon this experience.

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I know that if I step out of my boat and focus on His face, if I step out at His command to “Come,” those around me will likely think I’m as crazy as the disciples must have though Peter was to walk into a savage sea at the command of what they thought was a ghost, rather than the One who created those very waters upon which he stood. I will likely be among those numbers. I know I will look at our finances and anxiously wonder how I will handle things, manage things, instead of trusting the Abba who has promised to take care of me and my family with the same compassion and paternal love of one who care for His own creations. And with the same confidence, we can be assured that Christ will advocate on behalf of those He calls friends, brother and sisters – family.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Matthew 6:25-34

In fact, Peter puts it even more simply in 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

How strong is my faith that He will care for me enough for me to abandon my futile efforts to manage things myself? How many steps will I make before I look around in fear? And does it matter how small my faith is as long as the one in whom I have faith is greater than anything surrounding me?

SUSTAINABILITY

I did an internet  search on the word “redeem” and one of the first things I found was a company called Redeem, which is “a leading global provider of recycling and recommerce solutions for mobile phones and other handheld electronic devices.” Which doesn’t matter at all to this post. What I found interesting was it’s tagline: “making sustainability easy”.

I know it sounds weird, but I’ve been sort of meditating on that over the past few days. Redeem: making sustainability easy.

I think about my personal life, my own redemption through my salvation. I’ve been redeemed by God through the sacrificial death of His only Son, Jesus Christ. I have been purchased. The debt for my sins – past, present and future – has been paid. Christ’s death erased my debt.

Now, “sustainability” has become a go-to word for ecologists. In ecology, it’s “how biological systems remain diverse and productive indefinitely.” Less specifically, it’s “the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level”. It’s the capacity to endure.

Does my relationship with God need to be sustainable? Yes! The good news – and the point I’m trying to make – is that my relationship with God is sustainable through my redemption, and not by any other means.

Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” It is only by grace that we are saved. It is only by God’s grace that we are redeemed. And it is only by our status as children of God that our relationship with Him is sustainable. Good works won’t do it, although good works should flow naturally from the redeemed life.

And because of His grace, there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more and nothing we can do to make Him love us less. That’s some pretty decent sustainability.

So if I could, I would adapt the company name and its tagline to read: Redemption: Making Sustainability Easy. What a cool way to think about my relationship with God!

WHO FORGOT THE BREAD?!

I can’t tell you how I got there, but I ended up looking at Matthew 16. Take a look:

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?

11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Now, here’s what I came away with: These disciples had lived with Jesus – at his side, day and night, day after day. They’d listened to His personal, intimate teachings, as well as the parables He’d shared with his audiences. And with each of His lessons, He was training and instructing the men who would carry on his ministry after His death. He wanted them to be prepared.

And they thought Jesus was worried that they hadn’t brought bread along for the trip!

He had to remind him of the miracles he’d just performed by providing enough bread to feed about 9,000 people (and their families), with leftovers. Those miracles displayed His ability to not only meet a need, but to do it in abundance. He wasn’t worried about having enough bread!

I can almost imagine Jesus thinking, “Seriously?!” But that’s all the further the disciples could see.

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These were the men who would carry on his ministry. The time for Him to leave them was growing closer by the hour. No wonder Jesus prayed for them! No wonder he sent the Holy Spirit to help them.

No wonder we have a hard time “getting” the message. Jesus was patient with His disciples, though. Patient and compassionate. And He’s just as patient and compassionate with us as we work to understand what He’s trying to tell us or what He’s trying to do in our lives.

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Jesus knows it can be difficult to understand him sometimes. As he was washing the feet of His disciples, they were taken aback. Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7 NIV) I think it’s safe to say that this is a constant state for most of us – we don’t understand now, but later we will.

Right now, God’s doing some things in my life that I really don’t understand. I want so desperately to trust Him because He says He loves me and has a good plan for me, but it’s really hard to hold onto that sometimes! It can be a little scary to wait on God.

It’s my prayer that those of us who are confused and/or discouraged trust in God to get us through our trials, that we will believe in His goodness and His timing – especially when we don’t know what He’s doing. I pray that while we wait, the Holy Spirit will comfort us and fill us with peace, wisdom and confidence in our Lord. Amen.

FREAK OR FIGHT?

Yesterday was rough. It was one of those days when you begin to feel hopeless; nothing is ever going to be fine, much less good, again. And, as usual, it comes down to our finances. I feel horrible admitting that my faith in God is measured by my checking balance, but that’s the truth of it.

See, when my account balance gets lower, my fear and anxiety increase. When my anxiety and fear increase, my faith in God decreases. And I know that’s when my faith in God needs to increase. I know the verses about fearing not and casting all my cares on Him. But I’m still scared.

This is the crack in my spiritual armour that I mentioned a few posts ago. This is the moment of truth. What will I do? The way I see it, I have two options: Freak or Fight.

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I’ve already freaked. I cried, worried, and what-if’d my way down a few rabbit holes. I’m still broke. And I’m still anxious. This is what I’m comfortable with. I think I probably come from a long line of freakers. My mom certainly was one.

OK, time for a quick side story! When I was about 23, I made the horribly desperate (the decision was both horrible and desperate) decision to move back home. It was a bad neighborhood, and within two days of living there, someone set my car on fire when trying to steal the radio – which was sad because it was the only part of the car that still worked well. At 2:00 am, my step-father, Frank, woke me up to let me know my car was on fire. When I asked him if he’d called the fire department, he answered, “I thought you’d want to do that.” (Now you know Frank.) The car was consumed by flames by the time the fire department got there, and my mom was screaming, “What are we going to do?! What are we going to do?!” (And now you know Mom – the Freaker.) Since the only pressing business for the morning was getting me to class, and since we had a city bus system, I decided I’d get up in time to take the bus and went back to bed. That’s what I was going to do.

So back to the question of whether I should freak or fight over our finances today. Freaking out is sort of satisfying and gives me something to do, I suppose; but it doesn’t really help, does it? And I know that every minute I take my sight off God, it pleases Satan immensely. Satan loves nothing more than to see me be anxious and fearful because that means my trust is not in my heavenly Father. I guess that means that I may as well put on the Armour of God, starting with the shield of peace.

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I know my heavenly Father is loving and gracious and good. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. His burden is light. He has unlimited resources that we can’t even fathom. Our financial situation is no surprise to him. He already has a plan for me and my family because he’s already gone ahead of us and made a way. I have no idea how things will turn out, but I don’t suppose I need to know because I know the One who is making the arrangements for things to turn out well. (I just hope his plans for us don’t require us being penniless up to that moment when he “suddenly” performs a miracle to demonstrate his glory, ya know?)

So, today I take a stand that I will fight and not freak. I will remember Matthew 6:31-34:

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Today I will cast my cares on God. I will put my concerns in his hands. And I will hope I will be smart enough to leave them there! After all, He knows me, He sees me, and He loves me. And he’s a God of  ‘suddenly’ and of Red Sea miracles.

MORE THAN ENOUGH!

I think a lot about what I don’t have enough of. Patience, time, stuff, money. Mostly money.

When Satan needs a crack in my armor, he can be sure to get in through my fear of not having enough money. Usually, he gets a two-for-one when the bills come due. When it doesn’t look like we have enough money to pay all the bills and have anything left over, I sometimes worry that God has turned His back on me and doesn’t care about me, that He’s not going to take care of me the way I think He should. That’s when I hear Satan whisper, “There’s not enough. You’re on your own.”

John 10: 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Yes, Satan is a liar. And the biggest lie he’ll tell you is that God is selfish. That’s essentially what he told Eve when he said in Genesis 3:5: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

He insinuated that God had something – knowledge – that he didn’t want to share with his creation. Until then, Eve had probably never even considered that she and Adam might have been cheated out of anything. Seriously, can you imagine the Garden of Eden being a place where Adam would ever say, “Whew! Thank goodness that cow strolled by or I don’t know what we’d have had for dinner!” No, they undoubtedly lived with the correct belief that God supplied all their needs, and in abundance. God was not and never has been a stingy God. He’s the God of abundance!

If you don’t believe me, just ask the crowd Christ fed with only five loaves of bread and two fish in Matthew 14.

Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Does that sound like a stingy God to you? No! Where everyone else saw lack, Christ saw plenty. Our God loves us and wants us to have good things, and once we put into his hands what little we have, it can multiply.

I Corinthians 2:9 says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”.  And Paul drives that point home when he reminds us that God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” in Ephesians 3:20.

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If you live long enough, you should never be able to look back and point at a single time and say, “Yeah, but there was that one time you left me hanging” without God being able to counterpoint, “Except that it built character and led you to a new level of faith, after which I redeemed all you thought was lost.”

Sometimes his faithfulness is hard to rely on if you were raised in scarcity, either by neglect or hardship. And it’s hard to remember when the checking balance is low, the credit card balance is high and there is no savings plan to fall back on. God is able and willing to meet your needs in full, but there is a condition.

Just as I Corinthians 2:9 tells us the good things God had planned for us are for those who love him, likewise, Isaiah 64:4 says, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”

We have to wait for God and love him. It is in him that we’re to put our faith and confidence – not ourselves, our money or our circumstances. It is his faithfulness that we are called to depend upon. It is in his strength that we can trust, not our own.

The important thing is to know, really know, and believe is that as our Father, God wants good things for his children. So the next time Satan whispers, “There’s not enough. You’re on your own,” remember that he is a liar determined to steal, kill and destroy all that is good in your life. Your Father, on the other hand, wants you to have abundance and live your life to the full. Choose carefully in whom you put your confidence. I challenge you to put what you have in your Father’s hands and let him show you what he can do with it!

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