Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Witnessing to a devoted leader based on Acts 10

Sometimes when I interact with someone who appears very godly, I think that there is no need to share Jesus with them. They are already good. Have you ever felt like that? A good or moral behavior means a person already knows God. What if that is not so?  What if it is an open door? 

Today's story in Acts 10 has always been the story that God has used to show me that He notices good and moral behavior,  but He still wants us to be in a relationship with His Son!

This passage is about Cornelius. He is a Roman soldier that was devout in prayer, feared God, and gave generously to the poor. But there was something missing. So God sent him an angel to direct him to Peter so he could hear.  This is why we must be listening.

Now, Peter had his own issue. Peter did know God's son, but he was a racist. I know that is a harsh word, but he still had things inside him that did not honor God that needed to be dealt with. For Peter it was that he considered non-Jews unclean. Yet, all people are created in the image of God and Peter needed to understand this truth. So God gave him a vision when he was praying and challenged his thinking. This is why we need to pay attention and listen to hear what God is showing us.

God met both men where they were at. Cornelius in his devotion that needed Jesus and Peter in his devotion to Jesus that needed repentance and acceptance of all people.

I couldn't help but wonder at what Peter shared with Cornelius. What truths were considered so important for Cornelius to grasp?

1. God shows has no favorites. He shows no partiality.
2. Anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God. Regardless of nationality.
3. Jesus is LORD of all.
4. Jesus is good news.
5. Jesus is peace. 
6. You must produce the fruit of repentance.
7. Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit.
8. Jesus was affirmed by God at His baptism.
9. Jesus did good and healed the oppressed.
10. God was with Jesus.
11. Jesus was killed on the cross.
12. God raised Jesus on the third day.
13. Jesus appeared to many but not all after He rose from the grave. 
14.  Jesus appeared to the disciples and ate and drank with them after He rose from the grave. 
15. Jesus gave the command to preach and testify that He was appointed by God to judge the living and the dead.
16. All of the prophets bore witness to Jesus.
17. If you believe in Jesus you will be saved and receive the forgiveness of sins.

In this short discourse, we are provided the most basic truths of what we need to know about Jesus and what we need to share.

While Peter was still talking, the Holy Spirit fell on the people and they were given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Remember, the Holy Spirit is the one who guides us in all truth.

Imagine the peace that covered Cornelius and his whole household that day. Up to this point, he was working at being good, but now Cornelius would serve out of peace and gratitude not trying to win the favor of God, but know he had already received the favor of God. His devotion will now be done out of gratitude and blessing.

At this time in your life which one are you more like? Cornelius or Peter? 

It is important to be in the Word. To be with Jesus. To be transformed.

Shalom y'all.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Aunt Jeannie's Last Bible Story

As I looked down at this photo on my phone, I realized that Ruth was the very last Bible story that Aunt Jeannie (Greg’s Aunt) heard before she passed. Last weekend, Greg and I made a hurried trip to Illinois to say goodbye for now. At one point Greg had the privilege of living with Uncle Stan and Aunt Jeannie. It was a good memory for Greg in a season when life was not good. Uncle Stan and Aunt Jeannie provided Greg and Darren with family and love. So, when we heard about Aunt Jeannie taking a turn for the worse we rushed there because Greg needed to let her know how much he loved her.

Our time was precious. Holy. On our last afternoon with Uncle Stan and Aunt Jeannie, they wanted me to share the Bible story of Ruth because I had given them a bandana from our last trip. She had me hang it up in her room so she could stare at it and everyone coming in could look at it. There is something very beautiful about how family affirms us.

Greg and I helped them nestle in and get comfortable. Hospital rooms are so cold and as we get older our bodies seem to always be cold. They were like two little bugs all snuggled up in their blankets as I stood to tell the story of Ruth. I tried very hard to keep my storyteller voice quieter than normal since I tend to project. As I started telling the story they both smiled at me and started nodding their heads as they remembered the story. I felt inspired and blessed.

By the time I reached the fourth row of the storyboard, I noticed they were both starting to nod off to sleep. I looked over at Greg and he smiled at me the same way he did when the kids were little and we felt the honor of accomplishing someone into the gift of glorious rest. There is something peaceful and magical about these types of moments.

I slowly started lowering my voice more so that it did not startle them awake as I told a little more of the story until I knew for sure they were sound asleep. What an honor.

Later that evening, Uncle Stan told me he remembered exactly where he fell asleep. He knew it was the fourth row! I love that he knew the story so well that he could identify where in the story he rested.

So, today as I looked at this image of the storyboard hanging on the wall, I had this gift of remembrance cover me. I am so thankful that we went. It will forever be a treasure to Greg and me. But, to have been the one to tell Aunt Jeannie her last Bible story just caught me off guard.The morning after I told her the story Aunt Jeannie went home to be with the LORD.  I wonder. Will she tell Ruth that she was just listening to her story the night before?

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the lesson we taught in South Asia about Providence, Providence is when God uses the ordinary to bring about His supernatural plans.

Shalom y’all!

Jesus' Story and Message Revealed

My friend called me yesterday afternoon because she needed to process something. She said I am always concise in my responses. I had to laugh because I don't think I am concise. My posts prove it, but I sure do appreciate it when I receive a concise answer or message is given that packs a punch. 

Yesterday, I was studying John 1:19-51. This passage shares about Jesus' calling of the disciples. It truly hits home on what is important to know. I realized John was concise in sharing what mattered in His message. 

Probably 10 to 15 years ago, God revealed to me something beautiful in this short passage. As each disciple was introduced to Jesus they called Him a different name or spoke of an aspect of His identity. If you read just the titles given in this passage you will hear Jesus' story and message. John knew how to be concise and pack a punch in a story.

This is what God revealed to me so long ago. It still ministers to me powerfully today.

1. Lamb of God: Jesus' sacrifice (spoken by John).
2. Son of God: Jesus' divinty (spoken by John). 
3. Lamb of God: Jesus' sacrifice (spoken again by John). 
4. Rabbi (Teacher) : Jesus' calling (spoken by two disciples one of them was Andrew).
5. The Messiah (Christ): Jesus' title (spoken by Andrew).
6. Written about by Moses and the Prophets: Jesus' Old Testament History (spoken by Philip).
7. Jesus of Nazareth: Jesus' New Testament History (spoken by Philip).
8. Son of Joseph: Jesus' humanity (spoken by Philip).
9. Rabbi: Jesus' calling (spoken by Nathaniel).
10. Son of God: Jesus' divinty (spoken by Nathaniel).
11. King if Israel: Jesus' reign(fulfillment): (spoken by John).
12. The Son of Man: Jesus' Humanity (Spoken by Jesus).

Remember that repetitions are important! Jesus' sacrifice, divinty, humanity, calling, and title are repeated. Repitions shout that this is important!

Also, notice that each person identified with different aspects about Jesus. This is because God will uniquely meet us where we are at and will reveal Himself to us in what will speak to our heart language. It will be different for each person. 

The following two are blessings of what Jesus does for us and not necessarily a name. 

1. Takes away the worlds sins: Jesus' gift (spoken by John).
2. Baptizes with the Holy Spirit: Jesus' blessing (spoken by John).

So why did John write about the disciples calling Jesus certain names when Jesus invited them to follow Him?

Is it to help us seek how we should know Him?

Is it to reveal Jesus' story and message?

Maybe he had no clue what we would discover from his notes. But it sure is obvious God was penning Jesus' story through John.

What character traits of Jesus do you identify with today? 

What character traits did you identify with Jesus when you started to follow Him? 

Right now my word is glory. I am seeking His glory to be revealed to me and basking in His wonder awe!  Which is a revelation of His divinity. I want to know Him more this way!

I would love to hear what yours is! 

Shalom y’all!

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Great is thy faithfulness!

Do you ever awake hearing a song? I do! Even though I do not have the gift of music! Most of the time even if I awake singing a song in my heart I can't name it or sing it a loud, but this morning I awoke singing "Great is thy faithfulness."  

Yesterday, in a meeting with a leader in Europe he prayed faithfulness over me and my ministry. I had shared that I just want to be faithful in what God has given me. So when his training ended, he prayed I would be faithful. He is working hard behind the scenes for a course that ASM is allowing me to create. Many things and people get in the way of me recording and sending him the scripts. These are people and things I am faithful to, but now I am seeking to add in a new habit of creating for a season. I need faithfulness to push through.

It reminded me of a moment when Greg and I first met when he said to me, "I have never met someone as faithful as you."

At that time in my life, I felt like no one would ever call me faithful because of one choice I made. I thought that one choice would define me for life as unfaithful. But God loves to show us His faithfulness. His steadfast love and pursuit of me showed me how to walk faithfully in the small habits that I honestly thought are never seen or heard by anyone, but Him. But here Greg revealed to me that he could see faithfulness in me.

Greg's compliment at that time in my life was probably the most beautiful compliment I had ever received. I realized this morning that even today it is a word that blesses me. That prayer by my trainer was so soul filling. It made me want to be ever so faithful! And Greg's compliment encouraged me in faithfulness, too.

Do you see it? Faithfulness is best done in community or relationships. Even when it is done in secret it can be seen by God for certain! But, whether we realize it or not those around us can see what we are doing faithfully whether good or bad. It is experienced by others through us.

Faithfulness! Pray for it! 

Pray to know the faithfulness in God's character. 

Choose to walk in faithfulness in the tiny habits that will daily show your faithfulness as you go, serve, and live. 

In time, the faithful little habits bear good fruit. 

Truly, Great is His faithfulness!

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Sincere Faith

Greg recently shared with me that he was enjoying the fact that Jesus referenced two stories from the OT when He was giving a sermon. We were discussing the implications of sharing a story with in a story. I got all excited! I asked Greg to learn all three stories so I can post them, but then this sent me on a search to know more about this moment and it's significance. Oh boy, was I ever so richly blessed.

First, this was Jesus' first sermon written about by Luke and it happened when He visited His hometown. 

I love that Jesus stood to read and sat to explain the Scripture.

In this short passage, Jesus quotes three different OT passages and one proverb (not in OT). He quotes a prophecy about Him by Isaiah, and references the ministry of two respected prophets (Elijah and Elisha).

The people at first celebrated His graciousness, but they quickly turned fickle and sought to throw Him off a cliff. They liked Him until He pointed out that they needed to have a sincere faith and that God uses unlikely people. He wasn't going to do miracles for them because their focus wasn't in the right place or rather person. 

There are habits we need to recognize about Jesus that we should also live by.

1. It was His habit to go church on the Sabbath even while traveling. 
2. It was His habit to read, share and explain the Scriptures.
3. It was His habit to quote the OT. He knew it well.
4. It was His habit to preach the truth.
5. It was His habit to seek people of sincere faith. 

Notice how He calmly walked away when they tried to throw Him off the cliff.

Please understand that the people would have known well the story of Naaman and the widow of Zarephath. 

Jesus' one sentence reference would have conjured in their minds quickly the story and how in both cases the prophet of God ministered to the person that showed sincere faith. All of them would known immediately that both Naaman and the widow of Zarephath were NOT JEWS! The prophets were ministering to non-Jews or Gentiles because they were who showed sincere faith.

Jesus was declaring that He was taking the GOOD NEWS to the Gentiles. This is why they were mad! 

Jesus wanted to reach you and me! Now that is GOOD NEWS! 

Oh, there is always so much more in the story than we realize. 

It is so important to be in the Word so we can be with Jesus and be transformed. 

Shalom y'all.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Winsome Courage

What is courage? 

At the heart of it, courage is the willingness to move forward when great risks are involved. For a follower of Jesus, true courage is trusting that God will be your strength as you move forward.

I have been pondering courage, ALOT. I am wondering if I should pray for more courage.
The other word that has captivated me lately is WINSOME.

To be winsome is to be attractive or charming with an open and delightful childlike innocence while demonstrating genuine love. It is socially attractive and inoffensive. 

How do I live a life that is both courageous and winsome?  Or should I say winsome and courageous?

Genuine love has both. It is attractive enough to be in the conversation, but risky enough that it is mindful of the risks and moves forward anyhow. 

Sometimes, I am too courageous, and I speak before I should. Sometimes, I am so worried about being offensive that I back off when I should allow the beauty of pure love to show its glory.

When I see courage I want to follow. When I observe a winsome spirit, my heart is drawn in. 

I want both. Don't you? 

Father, will you please create in me a courageous heart that is winsome for Your glory and for others blessing. In Jesus name amen

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

A more noble way... a Living Sacrifice

Do you ever just long for a nobler way? Do you ever just wish for a list you can follow? Do you ever wonder if you can be so noble? 

I know I do! I long for the more noble in me and in others!  I grieve when I do not see them in my community and Oh how I struggle when I do not live up to them. 

Maybe this is why I love Romans 12 so much. The other day as I read it, again I felt the urge to really know it. So for several days I am just sitting in it. I am listening to it from different translations. I am reading it in different translations. I found the Message fun and the Amplified Bible even more challenging as I ponder the beauty of this chapter. 

I love that God welcomes our living sacrifice and that Paul just says to use your gifts according to your measure of faith. It gives me permission to not worry about what others might say about my gifts and how I use them. They are my grace gifts and I just need to offer them up. What peace this gives. 

Oh but the reminder to not think so highly of oneself. Pride and insecurity are such ugly little beasts. Well, actually, they are huge obnoxious beasts that I absolutely hate when I recognize them in me. Maybe this is why we are called to celebrate the gifts of others and recognize that they have been given a measure of grace to use them. I find when I am celebrating another it leaves little room for the elevating of me. 

As if learning to celebrate a brother or sister's gift is not enough in our living sacrifice Paul then challenges us to genuine love. Genuine love will laugh and cry with another. Genuine love will overcome evil with good. It isn't enough for me to celebrate a brother or sisters gifts and measure of faith, but I am to love and serve the one who harms me. 

I wonder, "Do I really have that kind of love?"  I have friends that know what it is really like to live with evil slaying those you love. I wonder, "LORD, do I have that measure of faith to love persecutors?" 

Maybe, this is why Paul said that we should be in constant prayer. Maybe this is why we should be serving and opening our homes. It sure is hard to be angry at the one you eat and drink with.

God has me sitting in Romans 12. I truly have a heart that wants to do that which is honorable to all and be at peace as much as it depends on me. But, sometimes I confess I still need to be in constant prayer to truly live out genuine love. 

I imagine you struggle with this, too. Beloved, let's be patient in our tribulations. Let's bless and not curse. Let's be fervent in spirit and serve the LORD in genuine love as living sacrifices. AMEN