Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Cor 4:7-11 (ESV)

My earthen vessel isn’t cracked, it’s smashed.  It’s smashed to dust. And I admit that for a long time I thought there was surely something wrong with me. I felt victimized. I felt wronged.  It wasn’t fair.  It wasn’t right.  I’ve been abused.  I’ve been ravished.   I’ve talked to God about it a lot.  

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 (ESV) 

If He’s the potter and I’m the clay, then why do I feel like dust? 

Did you know how dust becomes clay?  

“Clays form from millions of years of mineral erosion. Mountains break down into boulders, boulders into rocks, rocks into pebbles, sand, silt and eventually, when the silt reaches a certain size of fineness, an amazing transformation occurs. Instead of just being a loose mix, the fine particles manifest an attraction for water and each other at a molecular level. Clay can be thought of less as a material and more of a behavior, the phenomenon of very finely eroded minerals to agglomerate.” (Webb, Patrick “From Dust We Come: A Look at Clay.” Traditional Building. Feb 14, 2017 https://www.traditionalbuilding.com/opinions/a-look-at-clay)

Today as I began to write and lament about my suffering, the Lord reminded me of a vision he’d given me a few years ago. I saw a beaten and battered up old vase sitting on a pedestal.  Light showed through the cracks and broken places and cast an intricate pattern of spider web designs across the walls.  The room was lit up by them.  

The vision could have ended there for me to know that God was working and making beauty from my brokeness, but God had more to show me.  A huge sledgehammer suddenly came down and smashed the vase, but instead of extinguishing the light, an explosion of vibrant colors filled the room. The walls around it could not contain it, and they crumbled into dust as the light and colors filled the world outside with unimaginable beauty as far as the eye could see.  

As I recalled the vision this afternoon, I heard God say, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

There’s my dust. 

I thought back to the Garden of Eden.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust was a consequence of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God had warned Adam and Eve about it, but they didn’t listen.  

Yet I know I’m not suffering the consequences of my sin because I’ve chosen to eat from the tree of life through Jesus instead of the tree of slavery to my own debauchery.  My consequences got paid for on the cross. 

What I’m carrying are the marks of an enemy who hates me.  He hates me because I chose Jesus instead of death.  I chose to eat from the tree of life.  I called BS on the serpent’s lies. 

I think of Jesus, and why He chose to go the cross, and why He called His disciples to do the same.  “And he (Jesus) said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23 ESV) We saw Jesus carry His cross. He couldn’t even do it by himself, he needed help!  It was excruciating, horrifying, and brutal. But necessary.  

Jesus came in the flesh to show us that the pain of this world and the death that it brings doesn’t have to be eternal.  He came to show us that we don’t have to suffer the consequences of Adam and Eve and their bad decision.  We can choose for ourselves to take the fruit of life offered by Him. We can choose life. 

It’s a necessary step, suffering.  It’s the consequence of an evil serpent throwing a tantrum because Jesus has offered us eternal life. Jesus knows that road well. He faced those consequences, too.  He did it for us. He submitted to Satan’s tantrum and said, “Give me your worst!” and Satan obliged Him.  

Jesus’s life wasn’t pretty, and it ended brutally, but resurrection followed!  Jesus gets the last word.  Jesus is the Word made flesh.  And the Word cannot be overcome.  It is life and it is beautiful, and he carries the scars on his own resurrected flesh just to remind us of that.  What a gift.  I’m so thankful for it.  

If I’m to follow him in all things, then I must be willing to accept the crushing with the hope that it will bring resurrection life.  Not because God hates me, but because the world does, and God is not content to let me suffer in vain.  There’s got to be beauty that comes from it, or there’s no point in living at all.  

Jesus showed me that because He experienced it.  He laid down his life willingly so that I could see that all the suffering the enemy could throw at me in this world would not be the end of me.  Because He conquered death, if I follow Him in life, I too shall stand upon the wreckage of death and proclaim eternal life through Him who saved me from it!

Ashes to ashes.  Dust to dust. Dust to clay. Clay to life in the Potter’s capable hands.

The Persistent Widow

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Luke 18:1-8 

I’ve often thought of the parable Jesus taught regarding the widow and the unjust judge.  For years the Lord told me that when I prayed for my husband to be saved that I was like the persistent widow, who refused to take no for an answer.  However, the Lord just now gave me a deeper perspective on that story, and I believe it is for all of us.  

I always assumed that the unjust judge was God in the story, but what if the unjust judge is the lost person and the unfortunate widow is us, and Christ is the ever present “go between”.  

If we consider the story from that perspective I believe we can see how our persistent prayer for the lost person prompts Jesus to act.  After all it is Christ who does the speaking to a man’s heart.  And the more time He spends speaking to that person, the more likely that person will eventually give in, which in turn brings the justice the widow is seeking.  And that justice, of course, is Christ, who carries justice against sin upon his own body for the widow and the unjust judge.  Wow!

I am absolutely blown away by the thought of this.  Our prayers are of paramount importance!  We must indeed be the persistent widow.  Pray pray pray!  Our persistence is powerful in the work of Christ to save the Lost.  We must never give up on seeking justice, even from the unjust judge.  He needs justice so desperately, and only Christ can truly give it.

Our prayers have power, and so do our words.  We must spend our time learning and growing in Christ, through prayer and petition, knowing that our prayers are being answered even if you never see the evidence of it.

I know first hand how hard that is.  But God is so gracious to give us the faith we need to trust Him in these things.  Our secret prayers.  Our audacious requests for the salvation of many, will never go unread or unheard by God.  Instead, our words, spoken in private to Our Daddy, bring about a gathering of angel armies to stand against the forces of evil that keep the Lost from hearing the truth.  We have that power within us by the Spirit of the Living God.  

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21

Desperately Seeking Jesus

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been one of the craziest years in our lifetime!  Political polarization.  Racial injustice.  Riots.  Murders.  Masks.  Earthquakes.  Fires.  Flooding.  Volcanic eruptions. Zoom meetings.  

In times like this, we are all looking to God for answers.  But how do we hear Him?  What do we even ask him?  And what is His response?

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

Sounds about right.

We desperately seek Him.  We want Him.  We know we need Him.  We cry out to him and yet the air is dry and thick around us.  It doesn’t feel like it’s even possible to hear from God in this mess.

But here’s what David did in Psalm 63:

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
    in your name I will lift up my hands.
Psalm 63:2-4

If I can’t feel God now, I will look for Him where I have seen Him.  I will remind myself of who He is.  I will remember that His Love supersedes all fear, all trials, all division.  I will remember and I will give myself to Him again.  Fresh with praise, I will seek the Lord and the promise of His unfailing love.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:5-8

And my praise turns to meditation.  It turns to the recollections of faithfulness that have been the hallmark of my relationship with Christ.  At night my mind stops wondering about the world and rests instead in the peace of God’s unending faithfulness.  

It’s so hard to feel God when we are in the midst of worldly trials.  Pain and conflict or hard to surrender to God because our flesh isn’t going to stop hurting just because we trust God’s faithfulness.  

Yet, in the agony, in the tumult of the storm, God is still with us.  

As David began to reflect on who God was instead of what God could give him, he began to feel a praise-worthy peace in his soul.  God had proven himself faithful to David.  Always faithful.  David could trust that even though his situation was dire and his weary, desperate heart was parched with raw emotion and fear, God would remain ever faithful.

We can trust that, too.  Even with the world falling down around us.

The trials will not stop in this lifetime.  Not until Jesus returns.  So we cling to Him.  We hold onto His promises.  We remember His faithfulness in our own lives.  We look back on our journey and see His provision and salvation.  We see Him.  And we know that in our current struggles he will remain faithful, just as he always has. 

The riots.  The politics.  The fear.  The desolations of this world.  They don’t matter anymore to the one who finds his peace in the shelter of the Almighty.  God’s wings are broad enough to cover all who would seek refuge there.  

But those who seek to destroy my life
    shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
    they shall be a portion for jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
    all who swear by him shall exult,
    for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
Psalm 63:9-11

And so we can rejoice.  God will have his way.  He is speaking.  He is acting.  He is doing all that He has always done.  He is faithful and His steadfast love is better than life.  So reach out your hands to the ones who are drowning, to the ones who are desperately crying out for salvation, and bring them to the Savior.  

Because at the end of the day, most of our questions to God can be paired down to this simple request: “Will you save me?”

And God’s answer is always, “Yes.”

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

I’m the Girl Who Trusted Jesus: a Glimpse into My Missionary Dating Story

Twenty-six years ago I was a Christian but had never had any discipleship.  I had no growth.  I had no spiritual maturity.  I barely knew the Bible.  I was a good person.  I knew Jesus as savior and when I met a man who seemed to love God more than anything else in the world I married him.  And then I learned that the man I married was so zealous for God he was willing to do anything to prove it to him.  I married a zealous jihadist Muslim with a lust for martyrdom.

Two years later he came to Christ.

And that’s always what people remember when they hear our testimony.  See, I got so desperate for my husband to know Jesus as his savior, that all I could do was pray.  I literally had nowhere else to turn.  I had no background in apologetics.  I had no mentorship in my walk with Jesus.  I had nothing but the Holy Spirit of God within me and a passion to see my husband saved from eternal death.  So I prayed.  And I asked everyone who made eye contact with me to pray, too.

That’s what people hold onto.  That’s the part they remember about me.  They call me a mighty prayer warrior.  And a godly saint who prayed her husband to Jesus.

Yes, I did that.  But that’s not what I want people to know about me.  That’s not my story.  It never has been.

My story is about a girl who fell in love with Jesus when she was 5 years old but never learned anything beyond that.  My story is a girl who in desperation sought the Lord and He answered her.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34:4

I had nothing else.  Nowhere to turn.  No argument.  No help.  I had nothing but desperate pleas to the only One who had any power to do anything to help me:  Jesus.

I knew I’d made a mistake when I married my husband.  And no one ever wants to hear that part.  People who hear our testimony see the beauty that came from our ashes, but they don’t want to look at the ashes.  They want to see a hero when they see me.  They don’t want to see the broken girl that had nothing more to offer God than a broken and repentant heart and a desperate cry for help.

Sadly, stories come to me all the time from women who want to date or marry Muslim men in the hope that they can be like me.  This breaks my heart.  It should not be! 

Those two years before my husband’s salvation were the most painful and agonizing years of my life.  Dating a Muslim man or woman (or anyone who doesn’t know Jesus) is not the way to win them to Jesus.  It is arrogant and foolish.  You have no power to save anyone.  And neither did I.  It wasn’t me who saved my husband from Islam.  

Repentance and prayer.  That’s what invited my Lord into my problem.  That’s what got my Lord’s attention:  I came to the end of myself.  I gave up trying to fix the problem on my own.  I had a desperate need for His intervention.  I admitted I was wrong and I asked Him to fix it.  And He did.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In repentance and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
But you were unwilling
Isaiah 30:15

I was willing to admit there was nothing I could do.  But so many people are unwilling.  The Isrealites referenced above were unwilling. Humbling yourself is hard. It means admitting you were wrong.  It means admitting you can’t do it on your own.

 But I beg you to try!  Humble yourself and recognize your helplessness.  If you can’t humble yourself, ask God to help you!  Only the Lord can save you.  Not only does He save us from our sin, He rescues us from our mistakes.  He guides us out of the pits we throw ourselves in and restores us when we put our trust and hope in Him.

That’s what I want people to know about me.  That’s how I want to be remembered.  I’m the girl who was willing.  I’m the girl who realized I could do nothing without Jesus.  I’m the girl who cried out for forgiveness and asked for help.  I’m the girl who trusted Jesus and I’m the girl who trusts Him still.  

Don’t trust me.  Trust Him.

The List

If you knew that tomorrow the whole population of the world would either live or die depending on what list they were on, and that the those who were on the list of the living would be given great gifts and reward, while the list of those who were dying would only have what they had built for themselves before their death, wouldn’t you want to be on the list of the living? What would you pay to be on the right list? What would you do in order to be on that list? What would you do to make sure the people you know and love could be on that list too?

I know of such lists, though I do not know the day on which they will be called into account. I am on the living list and have been instructed to invite everyone that I can to join me on the life list.

But the master of the death list has made it his life’s work to keep as many people off of the life list as he can. He’s convinced people that what they do now is more important than what they do tomorrow, and that the riches and power and knowledge they achieve through their own hard work is a far better gift than a life filled with things of even greater value that they did not earn or deserve.

I’m brokenhearted that so many people believe that their own effort can force them onto the life list, but the master of the life list has said that no one is good enough to get on the life list because the death list master convinced everyone that the only way to really live is to decide for yourself what life should look like. And that sounds so good to everyone that they don’t even want to consider the life list because they think they’re already on it!

But the only way to get on the life list is to admit that the master of the life list has a much better understanding of life than the death list master because he is the ultimate source of life in the first place.

But the life list master can’t bear the thought of anyone willingly staying off the life list because they have been lied to, so he confronted the death list master and beat him at his own game. He allowed the death master to kill him, and then (because he is the master of the life), death could not hold him. He came back to life.

Now anyone who can admit that they have been duped into believing that they can have life apart from the life master, can choose to believe that the life offered by the life master is far better than the lie that the life of the death master has offered, and can receive a place on the list of life and receive all the abundance of life offered by the master of life. Forever.

All anyone has to do is confess that they have been believing in the death list master and following their own desires with the belief that it will give them life. Then turn to the life list master and ask him to give them life. And he shall give it to them.

Choose to stop believing the lie. Choose life with the master of life.

John 10:10

Peace and Security

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers,[a] you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4

We’ve all seen the info-graphics online.  X number of people have died since the outbreak.  X number of people have recovered since the outbreak.  X disease has killed more or less than the virus. X number of unborn babies have died since the outbreak. Cancer takes x number of lives every year.  Influenza kills x number of people every year. There’s a graphic out there to compare a million facts about death lately.  

Death is on our minds and we can’t stop thinking about it. 

But people have always been dying, haven’t they?  Death is the inevitable finish to life. And right now a lot of people are shaken to their core by the contemplation of a pandemic so powerful that it has shut down the world in order to save lives.  

Here in America, there’s been talk that it’s a political ploy to steal our freedom.  We have certainly lost a lot of freedom. And if you’ve invested all your hopes and dreams on the freedom of America, then of course you’re going to be shaken.

In our Western Church we’ve put a lot of emphasis on our freedom to freely worship God.  We are allowed to congregate and propagate and investigate without fear. We have incredible access to resources and teachings.  We can talk to strangers in coffee shops about our faith or share the Good News on the internet. Nothing has stopped us. Until now.

Undaunted, we push forward with our freedom of religion.  We get on Zoom calls. We have live gatherings on YouTube or Facebook.  We call people to repent and to pray and to trust and have faith. We are all about keeping up the freedom in our meetings. And maybe people who would never walk into a church building might actually get to hear what it’s all about for the first time in their lives.

What are we going to do about it?

Our president asked for prayer that the virus would pass over us on Passover.  Wouldn’t that be something? And all the world will see how blessed we are as Christians that God will protect us from this “China Virus”.  We are proud to be Americans where we have God on our side! Dang straight! God will protect us! God will protect our people. God will destroy our enemies and we will walk across safely on dry land, just like the Isrealites.  God will have the virus pass over us just like the Angel of Death passed over them in the final plague of the first born sons.

Except our first born son was slain. Our salvation from our slavery happened on the cross 2000 years ago, when our First Born Son, our One and Only Son, endured death for our sake.  The dry land we walk across it the dry land of Jesus Christ.  

Our faith is not in worldly protection anymore.  Our triumph is no longer freedom as man understands freedom.  Instead we stare with bold defiance at the face of our enemy and proclaim the victory won for us through Christ Jesus.  

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

We can triumphantly say our “Passover” has already happened!  Let’s not cheapen it with miracles meant to make us feel better. 

Our lives are so free that we have lost sight of the freedom we have found in Christ.  No matter what we must endure, no matter what affliction looms over us, we can claim our freedom and trust in our Savior, not our country or our healing or our protection.  

Our King, King Jesus will remain.  Nothing can steal His victory and the freedom He won back for us on the cross.  

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

So, it’s time to stop talking about death as it relates to death.  No more infographics. No more statistics. No more comparisons. No more compromise!  We are all going to die, my friends. Stop trying to beg God to save you from this inevitability of physical death.  Ask for your life in only so much as it would please Our Master. Stop mocking the healing God gave us that day on a cross on Golgotha and that bright and beautiful morning of His resurrection, by demanding something else!    

There is an eternal death, my friends, and Covid-19 can bring it the same way cancer does, the same way war does, the same way starvation does.  And Jesus Christ has already answered that death with life. No new salvation will ever be offered. No cure, no peace, no abortion law, no food for the hungry can replace the salvation of our One True King.  

When you die–and you will die–will you die to yourself, considering your own needs worthless compared to what the Lord has called us to in order to glorify the King?  Or will you cry for peace and security and watch the world fall back into death once again?

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:25

Turn From Your Wicked Ways: 2 Chronicles 7:14

I’m perplexed.  A large group of Christians in this country are rallying around the scripture of 2 Chronicles 7:14.  People I know and love are gathering together to pray and humble themselves and receive healing for this land. They’re asking that God would make the pestilence that is the coronavirus miraculously pass over America on Easter weekend. 

God loves our prayer.  He loves to hear from us and consider our thoughts and desires.  He chose to partner with us and that means He chooses to listen to us.  He loves it when we pray. He loves it when we have faith to make bold and audacious requests to Him.  He can do it and we believe it! Look at this scripture. There are some big promises here.

11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished. 12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’

19 “But if you[c] turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you[d] up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’” 2 Chronicles 11-22

We are promised healing but we have defiled the house of the Lord.  I think repentance, not healing, needs to be our focus.

If we love God then we know He will use this contagian for His purposes.  He will use it! I keep seeing and hearing how He’s using it! Families are coming together. People are reaching out to each other with intentionality and love.  People are helping one another. Social distancing has brought a lot of good attention to our need to connect with people. And people are connecting!

What else will He do?  I can’t help but think of my years of chronic health problems.  For years people have prayed for my healing, but if I had been healed instantly every time, I would have lost so much!  I’ve learned how to draw close to Him in those times. So close. And in those times He has proven His love and care for me.

Now I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t pray for healing.  I want our land to be healed! But I want repentance more! I want to see this virus drive people to God.  I want to see God use it as a shepherd’s crook, pulling people close to Him. I don’t want one sheep to be lost.  

He will be coming soon to reclaim and rebuild His Kingdom, so how can we ask Him to allow the coronavirus to pass over us, when we know that it has stopped the worship of so many idols?  How can we ask Him to spare us, when we’ve taken part in the love of worldly freedom and arrogance? How can we ask Him to stop shaking the Earth, when we know He’s giving people one more chance to turn to Him?

 I would rather die of Covid-19 than see my neighbors spared the opportunity to drop to their knees in desperation and cry out to God for salvation.  Because I think that is what it’s going to take.

If people remain comfortable, if people can claim peace and security and watch the miracle of God’s protection from the coronavirus, will they repent?  Will they really? Will they turn to God and be saved because they were spared? Or will they continue in their wicked ways, oblivious still to the One True King.

Suffering, discomfort, fear:  these things will drive people to seek God.  I know this from personal experience. People will seek him because they have nothing else.  Let’s not ask God to deny them that opportunity.  

 Aren’t they worth it? 

I pray that we as Christians could stop asking for peace and comfort and healing, and start asking for the conviction of God to overcome us that we would repent of our sins and live as Christ: sacrificing our own comfort that those who are lost may be found.

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[g] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Matthew 16:24-27  

 

  

A Case of Stolen Identity

The world has gone nuts over the Covid-19 virus.  Our homes have become quarantine zones: a refuge from a suddenly terrifying hostile environment beyond our walls.  Hand-sanitizer, bleach products and toilet paper have disappeared off grocery store shelves. Everyone can tell you that you need an N95 respirator mask, but good luck finding one.

Everyone has become some sort of apocalypse prepper.

Every conversation is about this virus.  The news is all about how bad it is, or how bad it isn’t.  We’ve heard every statistic about the R naught value, fatality rates, countries infected, citizens at risk, complication rates, and on and on.   Have you seen some of those graphs!?

You have to be a mathematician to even understand it. 

What about social distancing?  It’s really just a fancy term for becoming a hermit.  Are you a loner? No? Well you better lock yourself in a closet, because you are now!  Or at least you better be if you’re listening to the preppers and the mathematicians. Stay away from people!  If you smile at a stranger you might get infected!

Solitary confinement is the new social butterfly in town.

Public gatherings are a thing of the past. Jimmy Falon is doing monologues from his living room.  My daughter’s high school graduation? Cancelled. Disney World? Cancelled. And you can forget about sports. Cancelled, cancelled, cancelled.  

Social media and Netflix here we come.

Then there’s church. Pastors are running around trying to solve this problem of not being able to congregate their congregations!  Live streaming sermons. Small groups? You guessed it! Mostly cancelled. We’ve got Zoom calls for prayer meetings. Praise and worship on Facebook live videos.  Long distance everything. We must have no human contact. What have we become?

We’ve become isolated and frightened mathematicians, with a special emphasis in the pseudo-sciences, desperately mumbling conspiracy theories and hoarding toilet paper like doomsday preppers with no N95 masks and nothing but a box of Cheerios in our cabinet.

Can I get an amen?

We are in a war with the world over our identity right now. We need to stop allowing Covid-19 and the complications there entailed, to define who we are! 

I’ll admit it, I’ve been an anxiety ridden mess.  I’ve been talking to the Lord about it and He’s been gently reminding me of who I really am.  I am a daughter of the King of Kings, yes, and I’ve never lost sight of that, but I’m also so much more.  I’m a warrior woman. A preacher. A worshiper and a prayer. I’m a mother, a grandmother, a wife, a friend.  I’m an encourager and a writer and a speaker of truth. I am alive in Christ and I don’t have to be afraid.

Has your identity been stolen from you?  

The enemy is doing his best to throw you into fear.  But fear doesn’t have to be who you are. Go ahead and let it be a feeling, that’s fine, that’s normal, but don’t let it rule you or define you.  

9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

God is with you, and He’s got this.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

 

 

On Sharing the Gospel

 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery,[b] as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness.
1 Thessalonians 2:1-5

We often put so much pressure on ourselves when we consider sharing the Gospel.  We worry if we’ll say that right things, or get stumped by a question we can’t answer.  In our desire to represent Christ well, we freak out and get silent, shamed by our own sin.

But there’s never any shame in sharing the Gospel of Christ.  It’s not supposed to be hard. It’s not supposed to be scary. Just as we breathe by the grace of God the oxygen He provides, so too, should we share the glorious news of Christ Jesus as Savior.

When Paul and his companions brought the Gospel to Thessalonica, they knew their purpose.  Because they had joyfully received the salvation of Christ, they were driven to share it with boldness!  Not for their own honor, not for praise among men, not by any personal motivation.  

Having undergone incredible adversity and rejection, they continued to move forward with confidence, no matter what they might have been thinking. It wasn’t strategy, logic, or even fear that compelled them.  It was love. Love received by them from God through the forgiveness of sin, and desirous love for the lost bestowed on them by Christ.

 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle[c] among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 2:6-8

They loved like a mother loves her infant child.  They sought to care for, endure, and speak into the people in Thessalonica because they loved them.  They shared deeply of what Christ had done and also shared deeply of themselves! They opened up and got vulnerable. They were real people who likely tripped over hard questions, said stupid things, and feared potential judgement from the people they were sharing with.

It sort of puts things into perspective doesn’t it?  I know I am so guilty at times of looking at the apostles as “super” Christians, infallible Bible scholars with infinite debate and oratory skills.  Especially with Paul and all that talk about learning under Gamaliel and being a Hebrew of Hebrews. They were all so well qualified, right?  

Me? Well, I’m just a pretty girl from Texas who got saved at five and never took a Bible class, and that’s all I need to make me qualified.  I let Jesus become the Lord of my life. At five years old, I knew very little, if anything, about the sinful nature of man, or anything about the Bible.  But what I did know was that Jesus died for me and saved me from my sin, and I wanted everyone else to learn what I had learned! I wanted to run up and down my street, knock on every door, and share with everyone about Jesus and how He had saved me.

Oh, the faith of a child!

You don’t have to be a Bible scholar!  You don’t have to be “called”! The moment you accept Christ you are meant to share it!  You’re meant to be real with the people you come in contact with, give of yourself with love and compassion, and let everyone know that you are who you are because Jesus saved you. 

That’s not supposed to be hard, my friends.  

9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
1 Thessalonians 2:9-12

They followed the example of their savior and leaned on Him.  They portrayed Christ in their own bodies by diligently and faithfully allowing Him to work through them.  Everything they did mirrored their personal recognition of who Jesus was to them, how He had saved them from their sin, and empowered them to serve others as He did.

When Christ is in you, it’s okay (and even encouraged!) to let Him do the talking! I promise you, He will say what needs to be said.  You can’t screw it up. Christ will be glorified.

13 And we also thank God constantly[d] for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men[e] but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews,[f] 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16

When we speak the Gospel of Christ, He will defend it Himself.  No hindering will stop it. And people we find Him. They will find Him and follow Him regardless of the cost because they will see the fruit of His love fulfilled and advanced through you.  

The testimony of your own life with Christ is all you will ever need to share His Gospel.  Just like when you found Him, He will work through you to find others. So, don’t let fear of failure, lack of Bible knowledge, or insecurity of calling deter you from giving your whole testimony of what the Lord has done for you with every person you can.  That will be for His glory and joy as well as your own!

17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.
1 Thessalonians 2:17-20

 

Are You a Child of Promise?

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty;[a] walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.
Genesis 17:1-4

Have you ever thought of yourself as part of a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham?  Not a topic of conversation at the water cooler lately? Maybe it should be. If you have faith in Jesus Christ as your Salvation, you are the living fulfillment of God’s promise.

7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify[c] the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. Galatians 3:7-9

It can get pretty easy sometimes to build a case for or against yourself to God.  You put more money in the offering plate or you don’t; you remember to pray for a missionary or you scroll through social media; you share the Gospel with your neighbor, or you close the garage door as fast you can.  You either begin to pat yourself on the back or condemn yourself to Hell.  Like God is going to judge your eternity based on those things.

That was the problem people were having back when Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians.  They were getting caught up in circumcision (among other things) because God had commanded circumcision of Abraham and his offspring as part of His promise.  

9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.
Genesis 17:9-11

Abraham made an agreement with God and it had been followed faithfully by the children of Abraham.  They set themselves apart through this physical act. And so the law began, and man began to learn the heart of God for humanity.

But the act of circumcision was not God’s promise.  The act of Salvation through God was God’s promise.  All humanity had to do was trust God with that promise.  It was Abraham’s faith that God called righteousness.  His faith.  Not his actions. Though his actions were an outward sign of his faith.  But if he had relied on his own actions, he would never have had any faith, and never been counted as righteous by God.

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Galatians 3:10-11

The only physical act that could count to us as righteousness was something only God could fulfill: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus’s perfect act of obedience was faithful to the Law and fulfilled the Law. In this act He offered all of humanity full reconciliation with God through faith and the “circumcision of the heart” that comes from that faith.

12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit[e] through faith.

Galatians 3:12-14

Christ did what we could not.  Christ gave what we could not earn.  Only faith in Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham gives us the eternal life and inheritance that we long for and were promised.

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Galatians 3:19-22

The law was a type of placeholder for Jesus. The law came to give us a way to show obedience to God through faith in what God had given.  But the law couldn’t give life. It could only give death (through disobedience).  

Faith in Christ, however, brings life.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Galatians 3:23-29

There you go.  If you have faith in Christ as your Savior, you are a living, breathing, heart-circumcised, testimony of God’s faithfulness to His promise. You are a child of promise.