Obedience

Different Lanes Revisited


I’ve updated this post. It was first was published on November 18th, 2018.


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3

Stay in your lane

We that have Jesus in us are all running in the same race. And, just like every athletic racetrack, the track has lanes, one lane for each runner. Each runner is to stay in their lane throughout the race.

You have a gift or perhaps many gifts from God. Do you know which lane is yours? God may use someone whose gift is prophecy to teach. But if you watch their life, you will see that prophecy will consistently be the primary action of that person. A prophet that teaches, if God so directs, is not cutting in on a different lane but, rather, is filling in where someone else should be running. That runner is “standing in the gap. (Ezekiel 22:30)” That person may be stuck at the starting gate!

Sober Judgment

We see this “filling in” all the time in local churches. However, we must be ready to give opportunities to younger people in Christ. We must not take what God has not given. It’s been said of missionaries that they need to be prepared to teach, preach, pray, sing, or die, at a moment’s notice. That’s their lane. If you don’t know where your lane is, ask Jesus, then look for entry-level opportunities to use your gifting. Let Christ promote you as He sees fit. This is what Paul said:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Romans 12:3-8

Good News

Trust God. Be obedient to Jesus, your Lord. Seek to be full of the Holy Spirit. Love everyone. Receive what our Savior places in your hand and do the work as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). All else will take care of itself.

Photo by Amine Rock Hoovr on Unsplash


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crown of thorns on open Bible

Unfinished Business

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. Genesis 2:1

Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished…. Exodus 39:32

So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. Nehemiah 6:15

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

And He told me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give freely from the spring of the water of life. Revelation 21:6


God Finishes What He Starts

So, God’s Word gives us a panoramic view of this history of how God dealings with people. In God, we see that He finishes what He starts. If we are to imitate God Ephesians 5:1, then we must be seen as people that finish what they start. We are to be wise and led by the Spirit so that we finish what we set our hands to do, lest we become a fool Luke 14:28 before humanity.

Are We Imitators of God?

A famous phrase of missionaries is this: “Where God guides, He provides.” I’ve personally experienced this. God taught a phrase to my family and I: “Every delay is a good delay.” So, here’s the point of this post. Do we have things that God anointed us to do but we’ve left undone? Has the God of all Creation laid things on our hearts that without a doubt are from God, but we never can find the time to do? Now here’s the big one: Which people has God placed in our lives to love, to help, to adopt, to mentor, but we have been too busy doing God’s work to complete the job that Jesus gave us to do?

Unfinished Business

If anyone can answer “no” to all these questions, then I join you in celebrating your obedience to Christ. In good conscience, I cannot include myself in this honor roll. I have unfinished business that I must attend to.

With a shameful face, and sadness, I confess that I’ve not finished things that Jesus, my Savior, has placed in my hands to do. I repent. I make a pledge today, with you as witnesses, that I will adjust my priorities, and I will finish the things that can be salvaged which Jesus gave me to do. I pray the same for you if you have unfinished business with God. Amen.


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401K – Corban

What’s Corban

To the Pharisees Jesus said,

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) — then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.

Mark 7:8-13

A Financial Sleight-of Hand

This exchange that Jesus has with the Pharisees is fascinating! Here’s what isn’t obvious: Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees which were the primary offenders of this within Jewish society. Think of it. It was the Pharisees that received the things given to God. They were the ones that received most of the wealth that came in from the sacrifices.

So, being the wise guys that they were, they claimed Corban. This meant that the wealth that poured in became theirs, for they received the sacrifices. And they had no obligation to use their wealth to care for their parents because by declaring Corban, they got to keep all the stuff.

“Now, this the scribes and Pharisees did for their own covetous ends. For most of them were priests, who received offerings made to God as his ministers, and then converted them to their own uses.”

The Pulpit Commentary

This may seem like an interesting backstory, but not relevant to our modern world. Well… Here’s the rub. God never removed our obligation to provide for our parents when they become elderly or infirmed. This tends to put a dent in middle-aged children’s’ retirement plans; old mom and dad’s needs are not a line item.

It’s easy for us to justify not helping Mom and Dad. We have the traditions of modern men. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps and so forth relieve us of any fiscal responsibilities.

It’s M&D’s own fault if they can barely stay afloat. We call “401K-Corban.” Anything we would normally have provided to M&D we will now pay a tithe on to our local church. Our church will praise God for their windfall, so all is good.

However, we must deal with this difficult statement from Jesus, in verse eight: You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” If calling 401K-Corban helps us sleep at night, then there’s no chance that Christians will change.

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fire insurance - house fire

More Than Fire Insurance

The house fire

When my wife and I first started dating, we shared family stories. We found these stories fascinating. Early on, my wife-to-be told me about a fire that burned their home to the ground. We even drove by the empty lot where their house had stood.

My wife and her sisters were young kids at the time of their fire, my wife being 7 or 8. It was a terrifying experience and one that left the family homeless. However, they had a tight-knit extended family, so they had shelter while my father-in-law searched for a place to raise his brood of kids. He found one, and more than half a century later, my in-laws still live there.

The kitchen fire

Shockingly, that was not their only fire. A few years after my wife and I married, and while some of her sisters still lived at home, they had a kitchen fire that gutted the kitchen. Fire insurance paid for the rebuilding of their home – exterior and interior.

Sadly, shortly after the fire, my wife’s grandmother passed away, leaving my mother-in-law an inheritance that paid for new cabinets, countertops, and other pleasant things for her kitchen. Thankfully, my in-laws haven’t experienced a fire for nearly forty years!

Fire changes beautiful things into carbon

Fires do happen, and when they do, it’s shocking how they can completely change beautiful things into carbon, useful for nothing.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that the things we build and the things we treasure will eventually be burned, buried, or broken. My sister and I have had the unpleasant task of dispensing our mom’s stuff after she died and my dad’s things after he passed. Once a person passes, it’s astonishing how much “unwanted” things remains after family and friends get what they want.

What I’ve learned

Here’s the wisdom I’ve gained from family stories and family funerals: Jesus is more than fire insurance.

In imperceptible ways and ginormous events, God takes care of His children. I’ve learned that we are not born God’s children. We are born as rebels against God, and we have His wrath upon us. I’ve learned over the years that very few people understand that God is furious with them.

Have you ever loved someone, but that person did something that made you so angry that you couldn’t stand to be in the same room with them? Well, multiple that by a gazillion, and that’s how God feels.

Why? Because God desires to lavish His love upon humanity, but every single person chooses worldliness over God – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of GodRomans 3:23 And, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” – John 3:36

Jesus is more than fire insurance

Notice the switch up in this passage. To believe implies obedience. And notice that God’s wrath is already upon people; upon us unless we believe and are reborn. Great, you may think, but what does this have to do with today’s topic? Well, Jesus is more than fire insurance.

When we believe and receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are born anew, born as citizens in God’s kingdom, and that’s just the beginning. God has work for us to do in this life and work in our lives to come. In heaven, we don’t float on clouds and play harps throughout eternity. Consider this passage of scripture:

11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.

12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15

We have work to do

First, notice that Jesus is the only salvation available to humanity. Next, see that once we are “born anew,” we have work to do. God planned your work and my work before He began creating the heavens and the earth (Ephesians 2:10). We can only do our chores by using faith in God.

If we are lazy or sloppy, we build God’s kingdom with things that won’t last. When tested by fire, they burn up, leaving you or me with nothing to show Jesus. We literally will come before God empty-handed and suffer a great loss! However, if you and I do the work that God planned for each of us and do it diligently, faithfully, and for the Lord, then we build God’s kingdom with gold, silver, and jewels – things that survive fire! We will receive a reward from God for our obedience!

We can show God that our work has eternal value

So, you see, Jesus is more than fire insurance. Living for Jesus saves us from hell, but God also allows us to show Him that our work has eternal value.

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camp site with a log fire

Where God Guides, He Provides

Now you may know this, but an obedient teacher brings out old and new treasures (Matthew 13:52), so hang with me on this post.

God’s provision

A nugget of truth that I’ve heard and experienced countless times is this: Where God guides, He provides. The history of the Church bears this out. Undoubtedly, the best example of this truth is found in the life of baby Jesus.

Before Jesus was two years old, God sent magi (wise men) from the east to worship Jesus and to shower Him in material blessings.

And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. – Matthew 2:11-12

Why did Christ’s family need all this stuff? Later, during Christ’s ministry, He told a “would-be” disciple, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) Did Jesus squander His wealth? No, of course not. So, what happened to the gold and frankincense and myrrh?

As you remember, king Herod was determined to kill Jesus. So, an angel of the Lord told Joseph to flee to Egypt.And he [Joseph] rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.” (Matthew 2:14)

So, God guided Jesus and His family to flee to Egypt and stay there until Herod died. How did they pay their travel expenses and extended stay in Egypt? Well, God had provided all they needed. They had gold and valuable perfumes. So, God provided for all their needs.

The apostles’ provision

This account in the book of Matthew is a fascinating example of “Where God guides, He provides,” but this certainly isn’t the only example. 

When Jesus sent His apostles on their inaugural mission trip, “He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts.” (Mark 6:8) The apostles were sent, in part, to learn that when you are doing God’s work, God provides for you.

From God, through faith

Certainly, there are times when God’s path leads us into hardships, into harsh conditions, and for some, into martyrdom, but these conditions are laid upon His children to share in Christ’s suffering: But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:13)

For God’s children, as we live for Him in this world, we are learning to walk by faith, eat by faith, be sheltered by faith, and be in community with others by faith. Faith is what Jesus taught His apostles, and it was by faith in Christ Jesus that we were saved.

Be encouraged by this: God promised that He would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). So, have faith that where He guides, He provides!

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folding ruler

An Improver

When I look at this image, I quickly picture Dad’s hands pulling it from a pocket and measuring whatever it was that he was going to improve. Dad was an improver. That was his calling.

Improving soldiers in WWII

While a young man, Dad learned to be an electrician at Coyne Electrical School in Chicago – it’s still in business. Later, he became an instructor there, improving the lives of his students; teaching them a trade that was in high demand.  While in the army, during WWII, Dad taught soldiers how to use the newest technology, the teletype. He improved the military’s ability to communicate critical information and imparted to his students’ skills that they carried into the post-war economic boom.

Still later he became a professor, earned his doctorate, eventually becoming the chairperson of the School of Technology, at Indiana State University. His mission was to improve how to teach technology; and he always taught. Professors and students alike gained technical skills and life skills through his work. Eventually, a scholarship was created in his and my mother’s names.

Improving houses

Being an educator was never enough. Dad always improved whatever he touched. Growing up, as a family, we moved at least fifteen times, and Dad never stopped. Before he passed, he had remodeled more than twenty homes. At age eighty-four, improving the last house he would own, he built an entire bathroom which successfully passed the city’s building inspection.

Anyone that knew Dad, knew Dad. He was the same person, whether participating in the faculty senate, teaching in a classroom, or handing me this folding ruler. I remember who Dad was when I was young. Now that I’m old, I realize that few people are the same, always and in all settings. And in all his roles he found ways to improve the lives of those around him. My wife also has this rare gift.

Improving the people around him

Now Dad loved Jesus with all his heart. So, everyone knew that Dad was completely dedicated to serving Jesus, his Lord and Savior. There were no dirty jokes or crude words used around Dad, not because he forbade them, but people just felt guilty, sullied when they tried these worldly actions in Dad’s presence – I witnessed this first-hand, many times. Dad’s walk with Christ improved those around him

It’s true, this rickety old tool holds no value to anyone but me, and someday it will get tossed in a trash can. But, for now, when I want to see Dad’s hands, I reach for this folding ruler out and let my memories get the best of me.

Jesus the Creator

Though Dad was an improver, our Savior, Jesus, doesn’t improve things, He creates things. There’s an adage that says, “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make the dead alive!” This adage is true. None of us needed Jesus to help us be better. We all needed to be born again, born as a child of God, born with the Holy Spirit within us. (Romans 3:23) Better just isn’t good enough for God’s children.

This old, folding ruler helps me to see the hands of my dad, and someday, I’ll again see his hands because both he and I are true believers in Jesus. But before I seek to see Dad’s hands, I will seek to see Christ’s hands. I long to see His nail-scarred hands, to see the One who decided that better wasn’t good enough. Jesus “bought me” from death to life. He is the One I want to first see, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

I pray that each of us are improvers in whatever role God calls us to. But more than that, I pray that you have given your life to Jesus. Amen.

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British Royal Guard

You’ve Gotta Serve Somebody

Gotta Serve Somebody

Verse
You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, maybe somebody’s heir

Chorus
Still, you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

– Bob Dylan

Serve Somebody

Mr. Dyan had just openly said he’d become a Christian at the time this song came out. The first time I heard Dylan sing “Gotta Serve Somebody” I thought his verses were just throw-aways and his point was that we all must serve somebody. But, over the years, I’ve developed an appreciation for those silly or, at least, eccentric verses. 

In “Gotta Serve Somebody” Dylan is saying that no matter who you are or think you are, from the homeless to dictators of nations you can’t be the “alpha dog”. Since we’re Adam’s seed, we either serve the devil or Jesus. Those are the only two options for the sons and daughters of Adam.

You see, “Gotta Serve Somebody” sits on top of a solid Biblical truth. Though said in diverse ways throughout the Bible, we find this openly declared in 2 Peter 2:19 (NIV), which reads, “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for ‘people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.’

A good and comforting feeling

So, are you a servant of Jesus? You aren’t unless you’ve received Jesus as your Lord and Savior and been regenerated. To say that another way – “…you must be born again.” (John 3:7 NIV) Right up front, the Apostle Paul lets us know whom he serves in Romans 1:1 (NIV), “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – ” He is a servant of Jesus.

As Christians, we are servants of Jesus. Before our rebirth, we were servants of the devil for he is “the god of this world

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV)

It’s a good and comforting feeling to know we belong to the Creator of compassion. The world is full of oppressed people whose master thrills in their suffering. That’s why Jesus gave us “The Great Commission”:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

Prayer

Lord Jesus I ask that nothing would have a higher place in my life than you. Teach me to know my place and to rest in Your righteousness, power, mercy, and grace. You know my fears, you see my tears and you hear my cry for your calling to work its way in me, through me, and out into others. I am your servant, Jesus, and I listen for your call. Amen.

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Freewill Bondage

Authority

I won’t ask for a show of hands, but how many of you have ever committed a moving violation while driving? Yes, me too. Let me quickly say that this post is not about any aspect of driving. The “speed limit” vs “me limit” is too perilous a debate for this blog! And no, I’m not wading into politics. The authority I do want us to consider today is that of the Church, and within that, our local church.

Government institutions

Let’s get this out of the way. Government institutions have no authority over the Church, but they do have authority concerning laws based upon Christ’s command, “love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31)” Jesus, the Word of God (John 1:14), used just five words to cover every permutation of right and wrong between or among people.

In our country and around the world there are millions of laws created by governments to try to enforce those five words that people are unwilling to do. Of course, if civic leaders attempt to exert their authority over our obedience to God, then we must do as the apostles did. “… Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)”

Church membership

When we attend a church service we worship, celebrate our Savior, and experience spiritual growth, but we are visitors. When we join a church, we become part of that community of believers. We not only gain the benefits, but we take on responsibilities, including being obedient to the doctrines of that church and respect and obedience to those who are over us.

In 2 Thessalonians 3:4 we learn: And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command.” The apostle Paul is very direct. Paul expects the Thessalonica church that he established to obey the doctrines and rules he laid down and which the congregation accepted. He is not saying anything surprising, for in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica he wrote, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you (1 Thessalonians 5:12).”

Yes, my fellow Americans, church leaders are commanded to look after our welfare and to chasten us (Romans 16:1-2, Hebrews 13:17) when we act in ways that are contrary to the will of God. Included in the will of God is to be obedient to the doctrines of our church. If the doctrines are contrary to the Word of God, then we shouldn’t join; if they change and become contrary to the Word of God then we should ask Jesus if we should stay and work for change or come out.

The depth of our freewill bondage

What is important is for us to be reminded of the depth of our freewill bondage to our church family, and to the leaders and presbytery. We were not required by civil or legal entities to become members of our local churches. However, when a Christian requests membership and is accepted into their new church home there was a lot happening, spiritually.

Because church membership carries with it solemn obligations, many churches provide a “letter of recommendation” and require a “letter of recommendation” for a person or family that leaves their congregation and joins another congregation.

If there is a civil or spiritual dispute among Christians, then that dispute should be settled within their church. Remember, the words of Jesus concerning civil matters. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.” (Matthew 5:25)

How churches are governed

There are clearly defined leadership roles within the Church, as well as the spiritual gifts of individuals (Ephesians 4:11, 1 Corinthians 12:28), and Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. If we ignore and violate our local church’s authority, we are violating the Bride’s relationship to Jesus Christ. It doesn’t get more serious than that.

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Distorted Gospel

 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7

A time of distorted gospel

We live in a time like the days of the apostle Paul, so much so that this passage in Galatians, from the pen of Paul, resonates in us as we, too, seek to tell the good news that Jesus bought and paid for with His blood and royal position (Revelation 17:14). Yet even while we tell people that Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke19:10), we are confronted by false doctrines from laypeople, religious leaders, and people at all levels of our government that lay claim to the name of our Savior, yet twist His words, attempting to smother the Truth with a gospel mixed with the leaven of this world. (Matthew 16:6)

Our goal is obedience

A Christian’s goal is not to rack up the most days lived, but to rack up the most days lived in obedience to Christ Jesus. It’s not a long life that we seek. It’s a long obedience in the same direction that we seek. Being schooled by public officials on how we should worship and where we should worship is beyond foolish; it’s heretical. 

This world is not our home. We are as Abraham, looking for a city built by God (Hebrews 11:10). We are just passing through this veil of tears (Psalm 84:6-8 NLT), attempting to avoid the Slough of Despond1. We live in this world, but we are not of this world (John 15:19). If we were to receive and ingest the heretical teachings from those who believe they have made wickedness holy by their own power, then I would no longer need the cleansing of my feet, but as Peter said, “wash all of me.” (John 13:9-10)

Purveyors of a perverted gospel

These purveyors of a perverted gospel are received and extolled by business tycoons, heads of state, and all manner of media moguls. The safety net that Christianity has so long enjoyed is gone. We are witnessing a separating between the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30), a kind of foreshadowing of that great day of God’s judgment. (Acts 17:31)

Where sin abounds, grace abounds more

So, what is a Christian to do? Flourish! Where sin abounds, grace abounds more (Romans 5:20). We are in the midst of a great harvest. People are desperate for the true fruit of the vine. (Matthew 26:27-29) True, people deceive easily. And when told the true Gospel, the decision they face is whether they will surrender all to Jesus. (1 Peter 5:6-10) And by all, that means their lives, prejudices, predispositions, and pride – this often costs them their family, friends, and the very structure upon which they’ve built their lives.

Yes, it’s no longer business as usual. We can’t just hide in our houses and wait for this sea-change to fall upon us. God is a Mighty Warrior. His name is El Shaddai – God Almighty, the Overpowerer (Job 40:1–2Matthew 19:26)

God is a Mighty Warrior

I think many of us have forgotten this. It’s time to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11) and join in the spiritual battle that now rages, for we fight not against flesh and blood (people are made in the image of God):

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

God destined us for this time in history

Some Christians may lament the loss of a lifestyle that their grandparents had, a time of distorted gospel, but be of good courage. God had us born into such a time as this, for this is our calling!


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  1. Slough of Despond – The Slough of Despond (/ˈslaʊ … dɪˈspɒnd/ or /ˈsluː/;[1] “swamp of despair”) is a fictional, deep bog in John Bunyan‘s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, into which the protagonist Christian sinks under the weight of his sins and his sense of guilt for them.
dog resting on the floor

Losing Our Alone Time

Have you ever just wanted some “downtime?” Some alone time. A time when you did not have to be “up,” you didn’t have to care, and by care, I mean caring for the needs of others. You just wanted some quiet, maybe flip channels on the TV, listen to an album that always speaks deeply to you, maybe take yourself out for breakfast. I know I can put a checkmark beside each of these. When we’ve planned our “escape” and then life crushes our plans, it’s normal not to be cheerful – “Did you wake up grumpy this morning?” Husband: “No, I let her sleep.”

Alone time

Jesus had sent His twelve apostles on a missionary trip, traveling two by two, and when they returned, He wanted to bless them with some downtime, some rest and relaxation. Jesus said to His apostles, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31) However, that wasn’t going to happen. “And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:32-34)

Grumpy apostles

This account in the book of Mark is when Jesus fed the five thousand men and their families, but a fascinating event occurred before Jesus fed the crowd of people. Jesus taught the people for a long time, and, no doubt, the people had been mesmerized by Him, but now they were in a desolate place; no McD’s or Olive Gardens® were close by. Christ’s apostles told Jesus just to dismiss the people and send them away, not exactly a compassionate response. I think their response was because they were grumpy. They resented the people “stealing” their alone time with Jesus.

Why do I think this? Well, there are only a few times when the apostles told Jesus what to do, like when they were in the storm (Matthew 8:23-27). Each time they told Jesus what to do, they were not in the best of moods. Secondly, notice what Jesus did. He said, “You give them something to eat.” (v37

The cusp of a great opportunity

Yikes! God had miraculously used them during their mission trip, but they weren’t up to feeding thousands of people. Isn’t that a bit sad? Jesus opened an opportunity, but they slammed that door right in Jesus’ face – “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” (v37)

My question is this: When we’re sulking because our plans have gone down the toilet, is it possible that we’re on the cusp of a great opportunity to be used by Jesus? 

Our Savior’s voice

My most vulnerable times are when I feel sorry for myself. We all require downtime. It’s not a sin to get away for a while, but we do need to always keep our hearts open to our Savior’s voice. How wonderful would it have been if the Apostles Peter and John could have encouraged each other? 

Peter: “Do you remember that time when Jesus said, ‘You give them something to eat.’ and the Holy Spirit used us to feed the five thousand men and their families?” 

John: “Yes, I do. My heart nearly exploded by the love of God that flowed through me to those people that day.”

Photo by Johannes W on Unsplash

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