Okay?

“Maybe it’s okay if I’m not okay….”

‘We Are Messengers’ sing this fantastic song, and it is so relevant! How can we know how good we have it, if we haven’t had it bad? If I haven’t hurt, what do I have to compare to?

Do you remember the story of Lazarus? Beloved friend of Jesus, brother to Mary and Martha, they lived in Bethany, about 2 miles from Jerusalem. I imagine Jesus stopped at their house whenever He was near. We (hopefully) all have a friend like that, a person who is family – even better than blood family. (Mary is the woman who annointed Jesus with a costly perfume while He was at their table, when Judas complained at the waste of such an expensive item.* – JOHN 12:3) She, her sister Martha, and her brother Lazarus made Jesus welcome. It happened that Lazarus became seriously ill, “So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.” – JOHN 11:3‭, ‬5‭-‬6 NASB

What?

He hears that His beloved friend is sick, maybe dying, and He hangs out for two days before He goes to see him? Who does that? I’m sure that Mary and Martha were not okay during this time! Torn up knowing that their brother is dying – who in fact dies after the message is sent – and wondering why their best friend delays coming. Not until the fourth day after Lazarus’ death does Jesus show up. The body is in the grave, beginning to deteriorate and decompose, and the mourning is at it’s peak. Martha met Jesus on the road, and said this:

“Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” – JOHN 11:22 NASB

She knows that Jesus could have prevented his death, and she believes – she knows – that He can bring her brother back! What faith!

“Jesus said to her, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” – JOHN 11:25‭-‬27 NASB

Martha wasn’t “okay” with her brother’s physical death, but she was confident in her Lord’s ability to take care of the situation. How many of us can confidently believe as Martha did? She had no doubt that Jesus would receive whatever He asked of God His Father. Do I believe that Jesus is taking care of my situation? I’m not okay with my financial situation. Frankly, it stinks. (That’s my opinion.) But I know that it’s okay if I’m not okay, because I know that my life – such as it is – is in my GOD’s control, not mine. I have hurt and been hurt; I have reached out and been reached out to in good and in bad. Whatever comes, LORD, may I learn to be content. Amen.

[*This perfume is estimated to be worth 11 months wages. According to CNBC.com, the median U.S, household wage for 11 months would be over $40,000.]

Of Money, Swords, and Stuff

Jesus spoke to His disciples as they celebrated the Passover meal together, instructing them and serving them,

“And [JESUS] said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.” And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘and He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.” “

Later, as He and the disciples were in the Garden, praying, a crowd of people came out to find Him and arrest Him. This is a perfect example of submission to authority. Even though His disciples were armed, the LORD told them to stand down, because He knew this was part of GOD the FATHER’s plan for Him. Verse 53 is telling:

“Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber? While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.” – LUKE 22:35‭-‬37‭, ‬52‭-‬53 NASB

You have probably figured out from past posts, especially if you follow me on FaceBook or Twitter, that I am a stanch supporter of the right to keep and bear arms, whether they be swords or the lastest innovation in firearms. I don’t believe that the LORD intended us to be at the mercy of the evil and the depraved in the world (i.e. the Enemy, Satan). We are, however, subject to the authority of our government …… however wrong we believe it to be.

We – I – am blessed to live in a Republic, where every individual is bestowed with certain rights. We have the right to freely speak out against what we perceive to be bad judgement calls by the authorities with the 1st Amendment. The right to bear arms against a tyrannical government is the 2nd Amendment – which also protects our 1st Amendment rights. I’m not a militant, but I may be considered a radical conservative. In our quest to follow Christ, isn’t it also our duty to protect the innocent and the downtrodden? Not to rebel against our elected leaders (no matter how wrong we believe them to be), and not to bring war and violence onto those who disagree with us, but to aid and protect those who aren’t capable of helping themselves.

Our church is currently studying I Peter 2 and what the reality of Christ-patterned submission looks like today. Oh ugh, there, that dreaded word, maybe the most disliked word in the English language!! Submission. It becomes vital for us claimimg kinship with Jesus to understand when to use the sword and when to stop. Why? Because the Enemy is waiting to use our actions against us whenever we refuse to submit. When we submit to the authority of our elected officials, even when they are wrong, the cause of our LORD is strengthened.

“When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him.” ” – LUKE 22:49‭-‬51 NASB

It can very difficult to determine when to fight and when to submit. All I can tell you is to follow the example of our Lord and spend time in earnest prayer. Follow the leading of GOD. He’s never wrong. (And His Angel Army is armed! Amen!!)

Lead Me

Lead me, for I can’t do this alone.

Sanctus Real sings this in the song, “Lead Me.” It’s something I say to God every day because life is hard, and I can’t do it alone. None of us can. We think we can; we can ‘shoulder through the pain’, we can ‘pull ourselves up by the bootstraps’, we can ‘think positive’ and adopt an ‘I can do it’ mentality, but how successful are we – really – when we are truly alone? Without family or friends, without any spiritual or emotional support, where would you be?

The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd

A Psalm of David

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness, the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil or harm, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – PSALMS 23:1‭-‬6 NASB

There are many ‘successful’ people who are without a Saviour out in the world, but at what cost to themselves? Money and power on earth are only meaningful temporarily. They can’t buy us into eternity, and they can’t bring us any kind of lasting peace or companionship. The wealthiest people I’ve met in my life are also the most miserable people I have ever known. Having millions of dollars (and I am being literal here) didn’t provide them with the thing they truly craved: real love, and real friendships. What I saw was immense paranoia that someone would ‘take advantage of them’, and I saw it taking place with those people the wealthy had surrounded themselves with to ‘protect’ themselves. They were unable to accept that someone might care for them just for themselves, making themselves absolutely reject anyone reaching out to them in real friendship; lonely, isolated and alone, while surrounded by people. Immensely saddening situation, especially knowing that it is their choice to live that way. Immune to the Gospel, because that would require trusting someone outside of themselves. Keeping too busy in the whirlwind of social life to face reality.

Successful, rich, abjectly lonely, and miserable.

I won’t deny that it would feel so good not to wonder how to stretch a too limited income to cover expenses, and to be able to write a check (not a ‘rubber’ one!!) to pay bills as they come in…… but I have someone, my Saviour, Who loves me regardless of my socio-economic standing. He loves me no matter how I look, how I dress, or whether my address is trendy enough. He loves me through my down times and my up times. His Name is JESUS.

I am blessed to have a family and friends who love me, too. It’s something that many people don’t have, and I know what a blessing it is. That’s the thing about Jesus – He loves you and is reaching out for you, even now. He wants you to understand what it’s like to know you are loved and cared for! Do you know? Have you realized yet that what He is offering is total, absolute, and completely without any strings? Free, a gift for the taking, waiting for you to accept it?

“And When You Are Praying …..”

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. “Pray, then, in this way:

‘OUR FATHER Who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come. Your Will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [ For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever. Amen.’ ]

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” – MATTHEW 6:7‭-‬15 NASB

Um, what? I have to forgive those jerks, those disgusting, bigotted, evil, unscrupulous, narrow-minded, stupid ……. (need I go on???) ……

Yep. That’s correct. I have to forgive them. They may be at fault, but the Father insists that I / we forgive them. That stinks. It falls upon us, dear brothers and sisters, to forgive not only those who have hurt us specifically and individually, but also to forgive those who hurt us collectively. It occurs to me that if I sue someone in a court of law, then I become the guilty party because of my unforgiveness. If I am spiteful to someone because they have treated me badly, then I become the guilty party. When I refuse to forgive, I become the sinner.

I am not saying we have to forget the wrong. Whenever I hear someone advise to “forgive and forget,” I have to (respectfully) disagree. In many, if not most, instances of wrong, I think we need to remember what happened in order to prevent the situation from repeating itself. Punishment is different from judgement, just as remembering is separate from forgiving. I don’t have to like the person to forgive them, and it isn’t necessary to become their friend – although it is possible.

When it becomes necessary to forgive, remember that our Father doesn’t expect us to do it on our own or in our own human strength. He has provided us with a Helper, One Who can take the weight of forgiving the unforgivable off our human shoulders and shifting it onto His infinitely stronger, supernatural shoulders. There are times when the only words we can say are “Oh GOD” or “Jesus, help me.” In fact, we are told in Paul’s letter to the Roman church, “….. for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words …..” – ROMANS 8:26 NASB

Thank GOD. Amen!

Living With Expectation

There’s a lot of expectation today. We expect to be financially successful, with a big fancy house and car before we hit 30. We expect to marry Mr. or Mrs. ‘Right’, and we expect that person to be with us for our entire life. We expect to have the perfect child – and we expect to have the right number of children. We expect others to like us as we are, and we expect our friends to never disappoint us or betray us …… and we expect that God will make sure all these things happen.

Those are some massive expectations!

I say this. We have skewed expectations. The only thing we can expect in this world; the only thing that we can be assured of happening is that we will be disappointed, betrayed, and hurt. Look at recorded history. Read the Bible. GOD warns us over and over that we will have trouble in this world. Doesn’t that seem to counter that this same GOD Loves us and wants us to be with Him?

Have you ever had a friend that you would do anything for? Best friends. Bosom buddies. Someone you’d go the extra mile for. One day, you find out they have another ‘best friend’! That hurts ….. and yet, that’s exactly what we do to GOD. We choose of our own free will that we would rather hang out with the world. We choose sin over perfection. (Sounds rather brutal like that …..)

Okay, so this is a little depressing so far. I’ve had plenty of expectations, and I have experienced heartache and heartbreak, disappointment and betrayal by people I care about deeply. What’s the point? Our focus has to be above all of these earthly things; otherwise, we become bitter and angry. Our Great Expectation, our one expectation that is Truth, is this:

“All Praise to GOD, the Father of our LORD JESUS CHRIST. It is by His Great Mercy that we have been born again, because GOD raised JESUS CHRIST from the dead. Now we live with Great Expectation, and we have a priceless Inheritance—an Inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, Pure and Undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And remember that the heavenly FATHER to Whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of Him during your time here as “temporary residents.” ” – 1 Peter 1:3‭-‬4‭, ‬17 NLT

Listen to Shane and Shane’s new song “Is He Worthy?” from the 2019 album Hymns Live. (Authors Ben Shive and Andrew Peterson)

HE is Worthy!

Image from The First Fruits of Zion

Could It Be Any More Simple?

Jesus spoke quite plainly to the Samaritan woman and to the people who followed Him, saying,

“If you only knew the gift God has for you and Who you are speaking to, you would ask Me, and I would give you Living Water.” Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the Water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them Eternal Life.” Then Jesus told her, “ I Am the Messiah!” – John 4:10‭, ‬13‭-‬14‭, ‬26 NLT

“I tell you the Truth, you want to be with Me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the Eternal Life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given Me the Seal of His approval.” They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the One He has sent.” – John 6:26‭-‬29 NLT

The Bread of God. Living Water. What is Jesus talking about? How can I never be hungry or thirsty again? It’s too simple. There has to be a catch. “….. ask Me, and I would give you Living Water. Believe in the One He has sent.”

We are so conditioned to everything having a price. Nothing is freely given in this world. It might be not be much of a price in the overall scheme of life, but still a price – and it could take everything a person has left to pay it. Even the love of our earthly fathers and mothers isn’t unconditional. That’s why it’s so difficult for us to believe that a gift so huge can truly be free! There is nothing to give up in order to receive this gift. All we have to do is open our hands and accept it. Freely given.

“The True Bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives Life to the world.” – John 6:33 NLT

Painting “Christ and the Samaritan Woman” – Henryk Siemiradzki, 1890.

Have Patience – Be Blessed!

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the Crown of Life that God has promised to those who love Him.” – James 1:12 NLT

Do you believe it? Are you living it? A favorite mem of mine (all the way from the 70’s) is of two vultures sitting on a limb, with this caption: “Patience my a**, I want to kill something!” Patience is not a virtue of mine. Never has been. My little brown boy (he’s a dog – don’t go all PC on me) has much more patience than me. I can scoop him up and hug on him, and when I (finally) let him go, he just lets out this big sigh. He’s perfectly content to let me carry him around, and if he can spend his day in my lap – he’s good.

The little black boy (again, don’t judge!) is more like me – I want it now, and I’m willing to growl and climb all over you to get to whatever it is I’m trying to reach. Don’t try to hold him or keep him from doing his thing, because he’ll squirm and wiggle and express his displeasure over being kept from doing his thing over what I want him to do. Oh, he’ll mind me if I’m forceful, but he has a very strong will of his own.

I’m getting better. I can sit and wait for traffic to clear so I can pull into the road or turn, and rude drivers don’t cause me to go all road rage anymore. I do talk to them (like they can hear me – lol!), and ask them if they are setting a good example for their kids or if they are paying attention …… If I am waiting for an appointment or for a waitperson or a cashier or I’m on hold – as long as there isn’t an emergency – it’s not such a big deal anymore, because things often happen that are out of our control. Things don’t always get done in the timeframes I have set in my mind. Sometimes it’s because of my own physical limitations, sometimes because I have to wait on the availability of another person, and sometimes it’s a financial limitation.

God is in control. I’ve been reminded several times over the past week that His timing is not my timing. He doesn’t always say yes. Sometimes He says no, and sometimes He says wait. He allows temptation, and He allows testing. He gives us consequences when we don’t listen and when we disobey Him. Am I patient? No, not at all! Do I strive to be? I do, because I do love the LORD and I want Him to be proud of me, and I hope to show that love for Him in my life.

How patient and perservering are you? Give it to the LORD! He is all the help you need!