Christ my energy

To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.  Colossians 1:29

Years ago one of our kindergarten teachers came out of her classroom cracking up with laughter.  It was early in the first month of school and she was trying to practice with the kids how to write their first names legibly.  One of the littlest boys, Jake, kept his head close to the paper and was mumbling and wouldn’t look up. The teacher kept asking what he was saying, and he just kept mumbling.  But she kept asking, “Jakie, what was that?”

Finally, he lifted his head, looked at her and pronounced loudly, “Mrs. Hoel, I suck at this.”  

That’s basically what God wants us to say, sooner rather than later.  He wants us to give up on ourselves so we utilize Jesus’ power and energy, which is limitless–not our own, which is pea sized.  Allow me to elaborate…

Struggling with all His energy.  This is really revolutionary.  Usually it is not until we come to the end of ourself that we discover this truth, if at all.  The quicker you realize that you cannot do something, perhaps the quicker you can fall into Jesus’ arms and say, “You do this–I am spent (or I am a failure, or I NEED YOU).”  Isn’t that what John 15:5 wants us to say? I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from ME you can do nothing.

I have mentioned the book by V. Raymond Edman They Found the Secret (Clarian Classic, 1960) earlier.  One of the testimonies in the book is by a man, Major Ian Thomas.  He had given his life to Christ at the age of 13 and to missionary service at 17 and then for seven years ago set about to a flurry of activity for Jesus.  He travelled and spoke of Jesus wherever he could, “buzzing around every holiday, every spare moment” with any evangelistic activity going on. All of this was out of a sheer desire to win souls.

The only problem was that nobody was converted.  The more he did, the less happened. Finally one night Ian sunk to his knees in a fit of despair, asking God to tell him why he was a hopeless failure.  “This was the moment God had been waiting for; seven weary years He had watched me running round and round in the wilderness! I heard His voice: To me to live is Christ…I am the way, the truth, and the life…When Christ who is our life shall appear, then we shall appear with Him in glory, to me to live is Christ!

What God revealed to Ian Thomas that night is what we all need to learn: “You have been busy trying to do for Me all that only I can do through you.  Now supposing I am your life, and you begin to accept it as a fact, then I am your strength!  

You have been pleading and begging for that for seven years.  I am your victory in every area of your life, if you want it.”  

Ian left his room after that night a changed man.  He left with a “sheer cold-blooded faith, that Jesus was His life, his victory, his strength, his power and his future.”  He began to see people come to the Lord all over the place. The striving had ended and he finally found joy and peace. (pages 165-171)

It might look different applied to your life.  Everybody has different circumstances. But everyone needs to make a choice each day: Am I going to live today in my own strength, using my own wisdom, my own resources, my own choosing?  Or, do I start each day with prayer and Bible study, knowing that apart from God I can really do nothing?

–Knowing that all kinds of things could happen today that are out of my control, but aren’t out of God’s perview.  –Knowing that I only look on the outward appearance of people but God looks at the heart. –Knowing that I could easily get deceived by other people, or taken advantage of, and knowing that people’s hearts are really desperately wicked.  –Knowing that if someone that’s driving in an oncoming car could be texting or swatting a fly and veer into my lane. –Knowing that I could think I’m making a good choice but it’s really not a good one for some reason. –Knowing that I’m exhausted and I just got up and I have twenty things to do today.  –Knowing that my spouse keeps randomly exploding and I don’t know what it is that is going on deep inside…

Jesus, would you be my energy, my wisdom, my strength, my victory, my peace, my rest?  I want to live each day with Your energy, and thus be victorious, fruitful, joyful, resting and abiding in You.  

overcoming.jpg

 


Accepting Christ is just the beginning

If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel…So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  Colossians 1:23; 2:6-7 NIV

This is just my pet peeve, so allow me to get it off my chest.  Then maybe I can move on from it. I can’t tell you how many sermons I have sat through that the application point is, “So, if you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, now would be a great time to do that…”  I am not against pressing for a decision when the gospel is preached, don’t get me wrong. Repentance and faith in Christ are a big deal, not just for those who have never placed their trust in Jesus, but for all of us.

Here is where I struggle:  I want the application points to be brought to the point of growth, not just to stop at accepting Jesus.  Parents don’t just have babies and say, “Well, my job is done. You’re on your own now kid.” No, that would be absurd.  Birthing a child is just beginning. So it is with the Christian faith. Now it is time to continue in our faith, to be established and firm, to be rooted and built up in Jesus.  We need to help each other learn how to be established and firm in the faith, and to put our faith into practice.

The “Great Commission” verses of Matthew 28:18-20 tells us to go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe (obey) all that I have commanded you.  The whole idea of making disciples reaches beyond simply making a decision for Christ.  The application points of sermons then should reflect what it looks like to be established and firm, rooted and built up in Christ, strengthened in the faith, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Grow.png

 

With that in mind, the following are some of my application points of what that would look like:

  1. Established and firm.  Hebrews 12:1-2 urges, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  There are a few things in that passage.  One is that being established and firm means to get rid of any known sins and weight in our life.  No sin habits, no hidden sins, no bad habits, no questionable things–put them aside. This Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint.  It calls for endurance. Just like a die hard runner has a whole different lifestyle (no sweets, early morning runs, geared for the long haul), so must we be.  
  2. Not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus.  That is one way to stay steadfast and strong. Encouragement is another way of staying the course.  Hebrews 10:24-25 states, Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  The root of encourage is courage.  We meet together to give courage to one another.  Sermons are a way of speaking courage into the body of Christ, to say “Stay strong and don’t give up–you are on the right track.”  The more we see evil amping up in our society, the more we need to depend on this because the more outnumbered we will be.
  3. Rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught.  Psalm 1 is a marvelous psalm that gives the contrast between the one who does not stand in the way of sinners and the one that does. His delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law does he meditate day and night.  And he will be like a tree planted by the streams of waters that brings forth its fruit in its season.  Its leaf does not wither and in all that he does he prospers.  The godly feeds on the Word of God, delights in it, and his roots go down deep.  When the storms come, he stands strong. He bears fruit. “As you were taught,” connotes that this grounded person takes advantage of godly teaching, which includes Sunday school, regular church attendance, small groups and personal Bible study.  “And in all he does, he prospers.” That’s a promise of a blessing.
  4. And overflowing with thankfulness.  In Romans 1:21, Paul wrote that when things fell apart being unthankful was to blame: For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  It is the start of the downward spiral.  On the opposite end, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul commands: give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  If you want to know God’s will in your life, start by giving thanks in all of your circumstances.

My application is this:  Take a look at these four areas and pick a couple of things, maybe just one to work on.  If you have been grumbling a lot lately, pick #4 and list out all of the things you have to be thankful for and start giving thanks.  If you have some sin habits you need to shed, get rid of them now. Ask God to search your heart and spotlight what it is that is grievous to Him and hurting you.  

May you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel.  Just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, established and firm, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness!

 


From Alienated to Reconciled

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation–Colossians 1:19-22 NIV

The story of the Bible starting in Genesis is that man was created to be with God.  Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the evening. What fellowship, what perfection.  Then sin entered, disrupting that bliss. And boom! Separation, alienation, sin, finger pointing, blame, toil and pain.  Genesis 3:15 contains a promise that one day someone from Eve’s seed would come and crush Satan’s head. It’s been a long time in waiting…

The best news in all the world is that our alienation from God is ended and we are reconciled to the King and the Judge of all of the universe and of all time. God sent His Son, His only begotten Son Jesus, the One who would contain all of the fullness of Him in bodily form to come and be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  In dying on the cross, shedding His blood, Jesus made peace. The result: God is no longer against us, but for us. His wrath is satisfied. How can it be?

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things.  That is what gave Jesus the authority to reconcile everything to Himself when He died on the cross.  When He shed His blood on the cross, He brought peace to everything and to everyone that was totally alienated from God.

When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, it alienated humanity from God, nature from God, humanity from each other, and humanity from ourselves.  That’s why we need counseling. We can’t even get along with ourselves. Romans 8:19 says that even creation is awaiting its redemption. It was thrown off by sin too.  Jesus came to bring reconciliation to all parties by shedding His blood on the cross.

Once we were alienated from God and were enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior.  That’s why people can’t stand Christians, can’t stand church, and can’t stand the name of Jesus.  It is really because they are enemies of God because of their sin. They don’t know that. John 3:19-20 tells us that men (and women) love the darkness because their deeds are evil.  That causes them to hate the light.

Some people can’t stand the idea of the Biblical God, so they just make up their own God.  They imagine God to be the way they would like Him to be, which is heavy on loving and very light on judging, except for the people that they don’t like.

But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death.  Reconciliation Col 1-19involves a change in the relationship between God and man.  There has been a change from a state of enmity and fragmentation to one of peace and fellowship.  2 Corinthians 5:18 says that God reconciled us to Himself through Christ.  And now the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).  It is all because of the blood of Jesus.  

Now we are found to be holy in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation.  In a jail Bible study, a woman said, “I am nothing but an old junkie.”  I said with a fiery determination, “You are not!” She said, “That’s what I feel like.  That’s how people treat me.” She has called out to Jesus to save her. She is earnestly attempting to leave her life of drugs behind her, but still has relapses.  

I took her and the other women to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor adulterers..nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We were all washed, sanctified and justified by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit of our God.  We are not old junkies, we are not just ‘sinners saved by grace,’ or anything else that would minimize this reconciled, changed and empowered position.  We are washed and clean, friends of God, ready for action!

*Picture from Google Images

 

 

 


First things first

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead that in in everything He might have the supremacy (first place).  Colossians 1:15-18

When I was in college there was this cult, “The Way International,” that was sweeping the campus.  This was in the late 70’s, so it was a while ago. They would prey on vulnerable students with the pick up line, “Do you want abundant life?”  Then they would invite them to a weekend retreat for $250 and brainwash them. Their main book was “Jesus Christ is NOT God.”

Two gals on my dorm floor were getting sucked in.  They hadn’t gone to the weekend retreat because they didn’t have $250, but they went to their so called Bible studies.  I kept saying, “It’s a cult. Get away.” I was like 19, so not a fully developed brain…I went with them to one of their meetings.  Of course, people from “The Way” drove and it was a snaggly route all over the city, in the dark. They went through this programmed Bible study, so to speak, and sang a couple of strange hymns, and one of the people spoke in tongues of some sort.  As soon as the meeting part was over they broke out wine and started downing it, which I thought was strange.

The other two young women and I were the only non-groupies in this apartment.  I was sitting on the floor chatting when one of the leaders asked me what I thought about the study.  I launched into a complete monologue about why Jesus had to be God, not taking a breath because I knew they would break in and this was my only chance.  The person who asked me was standing and I was sitting. He snapped his fingers and within seconds the whole group was standing encircled around me.

I kept talking, going through Colossians 1, John 1 and Hebrews 1.  Then I went through Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8 and Romans 6:23. As soon as I finished, they nodded silently not saying a word.  No one spoke a word in response. We were there for at least another half an hour and no one talked to me, only to the other two students with me.  As I look back, I’m fortunate that we got home that night! The good news is that the two young women that came with me joined my dorm Bible study and quit going there, which was my intent.

Colossians 1 proclaims the glorious truth that Jesus Christ IS God and He is the king and Lord of the universe.  After Jesus rose from the grave, He was alive on the earth for 40 days. He then ascended into Heaven.

He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high and from there He upholds the universe by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3).  Colossians 1:15 tells us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, Hebrews 1:3 words it that He is the exact imprint of His (God’s) nature.  

Moving on in Colossians 1 it says For by Him all things were created.   In other words, Jesus created everything.  John 1:3 tells us the same thing: All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.  So get this “Mother Nature” thing out of your vocabulary.  It is a slap in the face to Jesus every time you say it! He made everything and is behind what takes place in nature.  In Him all things hold together.

All things were created for Him.  Everything, even Satan and demons.  They were created to bring glory to Jesus.  Have you ever thought of it that way? They are under Jesus’ authority, so whether we can wrap our minds around it–they are Jesus’ pawns.  World leaders were created for Jesus, mosquitos were, everything.

Jesus is the head of the church.  If we diss the church, then we are disrespecting the head of the church, which is Jesus.  The church is the agent which God has chosen to carry His great name and to fulfill the great commission.  It is not perfect, but it has a perfect head. Ephesians 1:22-23 tells us, God placed all things under Jesus’ feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.  

foam fingerSo that in everything He might have the supremacy (first place).  You wouldn’t say to your spouse, “You’re in my top five.”  Same with Jesus. Jesus must be our number one. If you put Him first, according to Matthew 6:33, everything else will fall into place.  I’ll never forget when the Arizona Cardinals won the Super Bowl and they stuck the microphone in front of Kurt Warner asking him how he did it.  He said, “First things first. I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He now has a ministry called “First things first.”

That should be all of our taglines.  

 


By Your blood You ransomed people from every tribe

For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to My name, and a pure offering.  For My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of Hosts.  Malachi 1:11

Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  Revelation 5:9

Back story: I live sandwiched between two Native American reservations.  When I  moved here just over 25 years ago, I cried out to God that a Gospel witness would be raised up with the Native community.  It seemed so dark.  The longer I’ve been here, the more I have seen the darkness grip the lives of families in the school system, and more closely in the lives of women I am able to personally interact with about Jesus in the County jail.

thumb_IMG_1683_1024.jpgOver 75% of the women that I have met with over the past 18 years at the jail have been Native.  So many are gripped with addictions, mainly alcohol and meth, but also heroin.  They study the Bible in jail, but once they get out, they fall so quickly back into the old party ways.  And then they are back in jail again, or prison.

Last fall the outreach committee from our church began to dream and plan to bring in a group from Minneapolis, the “Heart of the City” Band.  A woman on the committee heard the leader share their story on the radio about how the group had been going to reservations in South Dakota and God had been using them to reach the Native Americans with the good news of Jesus.

The leader, Dan Adler is a gifted song writer,  just “happens” to be from this area.  He grew up just down the road from the one reservation and learned to play the guitar in the tiny church down the road from the reservation where we have held prayer meetings in years past that God would raise up a Native church.  I called Dan, a cold call, and said: “Dan, come home.”  I explained how we have a heart to see the Natives reached just like he told of how they were reaching the ones in South Dakota.

He has written music with Native flute and drumming music and one of the ladies in the group is a Native American who God has rescued from a life of bondage to drugs and trauma from an early age.  She has a powerful testimony.

2FA6C4F9-AB68-466D-95C6-EE8136550566

Last weekend, our dreams came to fruition.  The multicultural “Heart of the City” band did a two hour concert on the tribal grounds amphitheater, powerfully and beautifully proclaiming the truth of the Gospel to the land that Jesus is Lord and the one true way to God.  They proclaimed healing to this land and to their hearts because of the Jesus way.  Jesus is not a white Jesus or a black Jesus, or a Native Jesus.  On earth He was from the small tribe of Judah, in Israel.  But He is for all people everywhere.

This was to a place where this has never been done!  About 150 people were there.  While not many Natives were in attendance, this was a first fruits, a leading out in worship.

In 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat and all of Judah faced an attack from the Moabites and the Ammonites.  He called out to God, who told him not to be afraid or dismayed, “For the battle is not yours but God’s,” vs. 17.  All of Judah bowed in worship to the Lord and praised God in holy attire.  And when they began to sing and praise the Lord, God set an ambush against the attackers.  The two opposing forces turned on each other and they were routed.

There were so many spoils that it took three days to carry it all off.  On the fourth day they assembled in “The Valley of Berucah” which means the Valley of Blessing, for they blessed the Lord (really, the Lord blessed them).

So Jehoshaphat led the battle simply by worshipping and God did the work.  “The battle is not yours but God’s.”  The battle for the hearts and lives of the Native peoples is not ours, but it is God’s.”

The weapons we fight with are not of the flesh but have divine power to demolish strongholds.  2 Corinthians 10:4  May strongholds be demolished because mighty weapons of mass destruction were dispatched last night!

May this lead the way for a harvest of souls amongst the people of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians.

This is one of their songs:“We Speak Life” Heart of the City”

Check it out!  It’s a powerful song.

 

 


I’m the One in Charge Here: Jesus

But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.  NIV  Philippians 3:20-21 

Jesus worldWe used to sing the song in music class “He’s got the whole wide world in His hands.”  I suppose today that’s not a politically correct song, so it’s on the banned list for music teachers.  Perhaps instead it would be sung, “We’ve got the whole wide world in our hands,” or something along that line.  But the good news for today is that Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand, and He is the One who brings everything under His control by His power.  He still does hold the world in His hands, and He always will.

Colossians 1:17 repeats this truth.  It is talking about Jesus: He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  Jesus holds all things together in the world.  Not Al Gore, not any man, but Jesus. Jesus is the One who keeps the sun from burning us up or from freezing us out.  He is the one to keep the disaster movies from happening. He is the fat lady who sings.

My husband and I just watched a movie, “How it Ends.”  In Acts 1:7 Jesus told the disciples, It is not for you to know times or seasons the Father has fixed by His own authority.  Don’t get sucked in.  It will end how God has fixed how it will end, not in any other way or time.  

Another verse about Jesus being in charge is Hebrews 1:3: Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.  After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.  

There is no need to fear that an EMP will wipe us out, a nuclear disaster, an asteroid, or even global warming.  Jesus holds the universe under control by the word of His power. That same power will one day transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body.  That’s a part of our hope in Heaven. One day we will not have the limitations of death, pain, tiredness, disabilities, and disease.

There was the beer commercial with people sitting in lawn chairs on the beach, drinking beers, with the caption: “It doesn’t get any better than this.”  If you don’t know Jesus, that’s true. But if you do know Jesus, the best is yet to come. It does get WAY better than this!

 


Headed in two completely different directions

Join with others in following my example, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.  For as as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Philippians 3:17-19

When I turn on the news and see those who rant against those who might want to cutopposite directions.jpg back abortion rights or other “freedoms,” I start to wonder if they are ranting because they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.  If someone stepped out of the crowd and asked the question, “What do you think of Jesus and the Bible?” I wonder what their answer would be.

For some, I fear that it would be that they are indeed enemies of the cross and of Christ.   …I remember sitting across the table from an old friend from college. He happened to very involved in a gay lifestyle.  He looked at me and said, “I’m all f—ed up. What can you tell me that could help me?” He seemed desperate for a turn around.  I told him about Jesus and how He rescues sinners and changes lives. Jesus did it in my life, and He could do it in his.

This friend’s response was, “When I asked for your opinion, I wanted your personal opinion, not your religious opinion.”  I explained that they were the same. He said that he didn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus.  

…A co-worker was furious because her pastor had put crosses on the lawn of her church, dozens of them, to represent babies that had been killed from abortions.  He then gave the children’s sermon about why life is precious and said that abortion is taking a life. She just couldn’t understand why he would bring up that topic in church.  I asked what she thought the Bible had to say about abortion and if that had any play in the issue.

She stopped and thought, and basically said that she would have to decide whether the Bible had any authority over her life or not.  She hasn’t been back to that church or any other church since then.

…In another situation, I was in graduate school for counseling and the requirement to finish was to write a position paper.  There were specific questions to answer as guidelines for this paper. The professors said that they couldn’t ask us to change our position, but we had to be consistent in whatever position we stood on.  The questions were ones like “What, in your opinion, is the problem of man?” and, “How are we different than animals?” It went on from there.

I couldn’t answer the questions any other way than from a Biblical point of view.  It was back in the days before cell phones and emails. When I turned my paper in, there was a voicemail from one of the professors on my home phone by the time I got home.   In a mean voice, she said: “In no uncertain terms, get God out of your paper.” I knew I couldn’t take God out of my paper, but I also knew I needed this to finish my Masters program.  I prayed, changed the opening line to the middle of the paragraph and resubmitted it.

The interesting thing was that there was an attempt, it seemed on two professors parts, to then lose my paper.  I had to have a showdown in one of their offices after his night class to retrieve it. He denied having it, although the other professor said he did.  I said I couldn’t leave until I had it. He said, “I said I didn’t have your paper, I don’t have it.” He tried to shut the door, but I put my foot out to stop it.  He had stuff piled everywhere. I looked down, and there was my paper on the top of the pile right in front of me.

“Oh, lookie there,” I said.  “Just what I needed. Thanks a lot, and have a great night.”  

***Colossians 1:21 states, Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  Some people know that they are God’s enemies, others don’t. In John 16:3 told the disciples that people would put them out of the synagogues thinking that they were doing God a favor.  The Pharisees were God’s enemies, but they thought they were His representatives, speaking for Him and helping Him out.

Paul tells us in our power verses what the underlying motives of those who are enemies of the cross of Christ: their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things. It is because they don’t know Jesus. Their eyes are blinded. They are pointed in a completely different direction than Jesus followers are. I think about the people that don’t know Jesus and I want to weep.  I want them to know Jesus and not to perish. They need to hear there is another way.

Our citizenship is in Heaven and we eagerly await a Savior from there.  Paul started by saying, Join with others in following my example, and take note of those who follow the pattern we gave you.  In other words, don’t look at the people who hate Jesus as your role models and examples.  Spend your time around those who pattern their lives after Jesus. Copy them. Keep your eyes on the prize and run with others who have their eyes fixed there.

Fellow Jesus followers will encourage you when the times get tough, they will stand with you when the enemies of the cross close in, and run with you toward Jesus.  What a day that will be when we see Him! Keep that picture in your mind. It is a glorious one.

 

 


Putting Jesus front and center

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8

When I first got out of college and graduate school, I thought I was ready to take on the world.  I had a few years of schooling under my belt and God had done some pretty wild things in and through me.  They were ‘wild’ good and I was wanting to share them with anyone I could.  The funny thing was that no one seemed to care.  They weren’t running up to me asking me how much I knew, wanting to know what God had done in my life, all the places I had been…

I’ve always said that the maturity path is: in your twenties you think you know everything, in your thirties you don’t think you know anything, and then after that you have a pretty good sifting of what you do and don’t know.  BUT, I’ve missed the point.  At least according to Philippians 3:8.  IT’S NOT ABOUT ME.  It never was.  Maybe somebody should have told me that back in my twenties, and maybe they tried and I couldn’t hear it.  It should have been about Jesus all along.

Paul said it in Philippians 3:  I used to brag on myself all of the time.  If anyone could do anything, I could do it better.  But now I count it as rubbish compared to knowing Jesus.    I started to figure this out a few years ago after reading a cool old book called They Found the Secret by V. Raymond Edmonds (1960, Zondervan).  He was the President of Wheaton College and he compiled stories of famous Christians from the early to mid 1900’s.  They were people who knew God and who did things for Him.

There is the story of one guy that really changed my thinking about just waiting to tell people about myself and what God has done in me–and turning that around to just talking about Jesus.  His name is Ian Thomas.  He said that he learned, Only as I related situations to Jesus did I find that He undertook.  As soon as I related a situation to myself, He retired into the background…That is the secret; it is so simple!  Just to relate everything to the Lord Jesus, and take our hands off–to stand back and say, ‘I thank Thee, Lord, this is Thy situation! (page 140)

Picture it:  Jesus is with you and you’re talking about Him.  He stays front and center and He’s free to work, and stuff happens.  People are drawn to Him, lives are changed, and the things you are trying to do actually go ten times smoother than usual.  You don’t draw attention to yourself, just to others and point to Jesus whenever you can.  But then you start talking about yourself and Jesus withdraws into the background.  He isn’t free to work, and the opposite is true.  Things don’t go as smoothly, the cult of “you” is formed, and you’re the only member.

Ian Thomas had said earlier in his testimony, I tried to make up with noise what I lacked in effectiveness and power (page 137).  The less we put our confidence in Christ, and the more we put it in ourselves, the more we need the “noise.”  We may be seeking effectiveness and power, but looking for it through the noise of our personality, skills, technology, loud music, or whatever else we take pride in other than Jesus.

So I’m better than I used to be.  I don’t try to jump in with stories about myself, or ‘one garbage-can-1260832__340.jpgup’ someone else’s story.  In fact, if people ask me about myself, I’m quick to try to bring it around to what Jesus has done or to get out of the limelight.  Maybe I’m in the ‘Paul club’ now, where I count all my stuff as rubbish just so I may gain Christ and be found in Him. At least I hope so.

 


What do you want Me to do for you? I want to be healed

The blind beggar called out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  And the blind man said to him, Rabbi, let me blind man.jpgrecover my sight.”  And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”  And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.  Mark 10:48-52

Have you had weeks and months that just kind of blur together and not much big goes on, and then ‘Boom!’ big stuff happens?  Well, this last week was one of those weeks.  Let me back up.  For about the last four or five months, my left shoulder has been hurting, like bad. It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even open up my car door without extreme pain kicking in.  I suppose it was a pinched nerve or a herniated disc.  For most of the last two or three weeks my arm was numb and cold when I woke up in the morning.

I began going to the chiropractor in June two to three times a week.  I knew I should have attended to it sooner, just too busy.  In early July the chiro said, “I can’t do anything more.  You’ve got to go to the doctor.  You’ve probably got to get an MRI.”  I nodded, but thought: “No way.  I’m not going to get an MRI.  I’m not going through all of that.”

Second strand of the story:  Over the last year, my husband and I have gotten to know a Christian brother better.  He’s the kind of guy that’s full of Holy Spirit energy.  He’s into dreams and interpreting them, so we like to talk about how God speaks to us.  He went on a missions trip to Haiti about a year and a half ago.  While there, whoever was leading the group told Brian to take charge of a line of locals who were there for healing. He was to pray for them to be healed.  Brian was thrown into just doing it, and God met him.  By the end of the day, almost all of the people were healed that he had prayed for.

He came back home thinking, “If God could work through me in Haiti, why can’t he work through me here to pray for people and see them healed?”  So he began to pray for people to be healed and things began to happen.  Brian began a small group Bible study in our area.  He has been inviting us to join us, but it hasn’t been until the last month or so that we have begun to go.

Another guy has been at the small group who also has the gift of healing, Barry.  And I sit there with a shoulder that hurts so much I can’t open my car door…I’ve been reading through the Gospels and ‘faith’ seems to be the thing that just keeps jumping out over and over.  So after the chiropractor said, “Yup, your shoulder is messed up,” I guess I knew it was time to actually apply faith and open my mouth.

So I did.  At the end of the small group, when it was time to pray, Brian asked if anyone needed any prayer.  Someone else said something first.  And then  I finally said, “My shoulder has been really bad lately.  I need prayer for it.”  So Brian said, “Okay, let’s pray for it.”  He prayed for God to heal it, then asked me to move it around.  “Nothing.”  He prayed for it again.  Still nothing.  Then another gal said, “Stand up.”  Then she had me raise my right arm.    She said, “I can feel and see the knot.  It’s huge.”

He prayed again.  Then he said, “Move it around.”  The loudest snap and crack sounded and the gal standing to my right yelled, “The knot is moving!  It’s gone!”  I moved my arm, and the knot and pinching and pain was gone.  That was five days ago.  It’s still gone.

There’s more to the story.  My husband struggles with anxiety a lot.  Like my shoulder pain, it has become more and more distinct and debilitating.  He has resisted going to the small group because he’s anxious about having to go to work the next day.  My reply is that we all have to go to work the next day, but that doesn’t change anything.  He wasn’t going to go this week because of it.

There were guest missionaries there from Albania.  They had become Christians through Barry.  As Brian was praying for me, the missionary wife was singing quietly over the whole while.  I thought it was pretty, but didn’t make much of it.  Wayne left as soon as prayer was over.  We drove separately so he could do that, our compromise.  When I got home, he said:  “I wished everyone would have stopped talking when that lady sang.  It was like a wave of peace washed over me.  I wanted her to sing over me for my anxiety.”

I asked why he didn’t stay then, but his anxiety had gotten the best of him.  But he called Barry’s the next day, in an act of faith, and asked if he could come and have them pray for his anxiety.  This was even bigger than my shoulder!  This anxiety has gripped him all of his life.

So Wayne went, and Barry and his wife and the missionaries prayed over him.  The wife sang.  Another miracle happened this week.  When Wayne left, it was like a load was taken off of him.  Peace that he hasn’t known swept over him.

I am not saying that this is a once and for all deal, because fear keeps knocking.  As we processed that freedom, we talked about how Jesus is the way and the truth–Satan is a liar.  Jesus is all about faith–Satan is all about fear.  James 4:7 says to “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  I say he must flee from us when we take authority in Jesus’ name.  I rebuke you fear and anxiety in Jesus’ name.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!


What in the world is going on?

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.  And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.  There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.  Thus, Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  Acts 4:32-37

binoculars-1209011__340.jpgYou don’t have to watch the current events on the news long to realize that we are on the brink of something.  If you dig deeper, you will see people predicting that our financial bubble is soon to burst.  In fact, this time it won’t be a downturn in just the United States, but a global meltdown.  I have heard the ‘Chicken Littles’ come and go, but now there are so many of them from so many directions that it is getting hard to ignore.  Read Ron Edwards’ blog to get his stats about many current related topics: Living Eternal Now

This is a quote about world-drought from Hackett Financial Advisors,

“Things are happening that haven’t happened in a long time,” said Hackett. “It’s just the beginning.  We have data that goes back to the 1600s and 1800s from ice core samples, tree rings, and from actually written testimony of the kind of problems that they had,” said Hackett.  “We are not doomist and gloomist, that’s not our modus operandi,” he said. “But the world we are heading into is a world of food scarcity and local famines.  “It’s not going to be pleasant. It’s going to be a very difficult time. We’re going to have to come up with new ways of growing food in this more difficult environment.”

And then there is the political climate of hate, coming from both sides.  It is like a pressure cooker that is soon to pop the lid off.  I am old enough to remember pre-Watergate years when things were not divisive and there could be a sense of unity regardless of who had the majority in the House.

All of this is to say what echoes in the back of many peoples’ minds, including my own: “Are we headed into the End Times?”  This is a very real question.  Like, what would you do if there was a global financial collapse and money wasn’t any good anymore?  Further, all of your savings that you banked on for retirement and security suddenly vanished?  Or, what if drought really began to take over and food resources become so scarce that grocery stores didn’t have shelves of food anymore?  And hyper inflation took over, driving prices through the roof?

My husband and I have made some new friends recently that are real life ‘Dooms Day Preppers.’  This other couple are not Christians, so they aren’t operating from the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit.  We have to remind ourselves of the promises of Scripture, like in Matthew 6:31-32 where it says, Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat? or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

We have had many good opportunities to share about Jesus with them.  I believe that they are in our lives for a specific reason.  They are challenging us to get ready for a coming physical crisis by storing up food and supplies.  We are wanting to communicate what it means to store up treasures in Heaven where moth and rust does not corrupt and where thieves do not steal.  My prayer is that one day soon they will join the family.

As my husband and I look at what is going on currently, we can’t blow off our prepper friends.  Their take is that if the economy collapses and our money is no good, then stored up food and dry goods are worth more than a whole bunch of paper bills.  They foresee that the drought will cause issues with the non drought areas because people will migrate here and take over our resources.  They are also convinced that an EMP is a credible threat (electro magnetic pulse that would wipe out all computers and electronic devices).  We know that nothing that will happen that doesn’t come in and out of God’s hands.

However, that doesn’t negate Acts 4 and the kind of community that we may have to become.  My view of the End Times is a PreWrath Framework.  That means that I don’t believe that believers will be raptured up before any specific tribulation will come.  I take Scripture at face value, which means that in Matthew 24 for instance, when Jesus gave a  timeline, He was telling us something.  That timeline includes wars, famines and earthquakes, tribulation and false prophets, lawlessness increasing, and the love of many growing cold.  That’s just the beginning of the birth pangs.

But then there is the specific chronology of events starting in vs. 15: The Abomination of Desolation (in the Temple in Jerusalem), THEN the Great Tribulation (Satan’s wrath cf Rev. 6:12), and then the return of Christ in the clouds, along with the gathering of His elect from the four winds.

I have written a novel that puts a story line to this framework, The Gathering.  The link is there.  It is on Lulu.com, just in case you want a little summer reading.  My conclusion is that we must live in a community of believers much like the Acts believers did.  In order to do that, we must have things to share–hard goods.  My admonishment is this: you might want to ask yourself the same question: What in the world is going on?  And then do something.  Pray and ask God to tell you what you need to prepare.  It might be radical.

What we are doing is kind of radical.  We aren’t spending our money on a summer vacation.  It’s going into canning and other resources that will we will use in the future if the cost of things spiral out of control.  We have an eye on how this can be used to share with others.