“For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:20 (NKJV)
Have you ever purposefully bought something you knew was defective? I never thought I’d find myself doing that, but that’s what happened a few days ago. And unexpectedly, there was Jesus wonderfully right in the middle of my conversation with the cashier about my improbable purchase.
If you read my last post, “Humilability,” then you already know I’ve had the Japanese art form known as Kintsugi on my mind. So much so that I decided I wanted to try my hand at it. I was in the process of buying something at the last minute for my art-venture when a “refreshing summer rain” moment of understanding in the checkout lane occurred.
Let me refresh your mind about Kintsugi before moving on with this story.
Kintsugi is a Japanese art form that takes shattered pottery and makes it whole by mending the broken pieces together with glue typically containing silver, gold, or platinum. Upon completion, the revitalized object becomes more valuable and desirable than it was initially. Those who follow this style of art delight in the object’s history as revealed by the repaired joints. In other words, the rejuvenated vessel tells a story of hope through its rebirth that is cause for much celebration.
Returning to the story, I had already bought everything I thought I needed for my project but still had one last stop to make for my wife before heading home. She had asked me to buy a clay pot, so I stopped by the local gardening center knowing they would have a good selection. While looking for just the right clay pot for her, I noticed a chipped and cracked one. As soon as I did, a light bulb immediately went off in my head, and I realized it’d be a great addition to my collection of Kintsugi project material. Why smash up something in perfect shape when I could break up something that was already flawed? So, I happily picked up the broken pot along with a good one for my wife and headed to the checkout lane.
After a short wait in line, I placed the two pots I wished to purchase on the counter. As the cashier scanned the items, she paused over the broken one and looked up at me with a questioning expression on her face.
Cashier: “Did you know this pot is broken?”
Cashier: “And you still want it?”
Me: “Yes, I have plans for it.”
No sooner had those words been said when a spiritual sonic boom stirred my soul, recrystallizing the reality of a precious gift I far too often fail to acknowledge and cherish rightly. Indeed, just as I had plans for the broken pot, how much more so does Jesus have plans for broken me?
“For I know theplans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)
There is a huge difference, of course, in the method of payment for these items. Jesus purchased me with His life, while all I did was hand over a few dollars for the flowerpot. He gave all, I gave little.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13 (NKJV)
Before I stepped into the picture, the trash heap was that defective clay pot’s only future where it would join countless other items also considered worthless and of no use. However, the funny thing now is it sits next to me on my bookshelf in plain sight as a treasured reminder of where I’d be right now without Jesus. There now was no way I was going to bust it up as I had initially planned after being gifted with such a beautiful flash of insight. God has such a wholly (holy!) excellent way of turning my thoughts and plans upside down, you know?
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)
How did this broken pot land in a position of honor in my office instead of lost in a landfill? Simply put, I had plans for it where no one else did and was then willing and able to do something about it. That is the sole reason this little clay pot has a new home beside me.
“Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19 (NKJV)
As a believer, the soul (yes, that’s purposeful spelling on my part) reason I now have an eternal future overflowing with hope is that Jesus saw my need and was willing and able to do something about it.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29 (NKJV)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed;’” Luke 4:18 (NKJV)
He put my brokenness, my chips, if you will, on His shoulders at great cost to Himself. And He’s done the same for you.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6 (NKJV)
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV)
What are the Lord’s plans for you, my brother and sister in Christ, and for me? He has prepared a place of honor for us with Him.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3 (NKJV)
“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2 (NKJV)
But there’s more, so much more. It’s beyond astonishing when you think about it!
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29 (NKJV)
Have you sincerely thanked God today for His active presence in your life, for the priceless gift of rebirth out of brokenness He has bestowed upon you through His Son, our Savior, Jesus?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)
Come to the Table by Sidewalk Prophets from the album “Something Different.”
-the ability to employ selfless compassion and empathy for others as a grateful expression of God’s love.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Matthew 12:30-31 (NKJV)
One need look no further than a cat frantically chasing a laser pointer’s wildly zigzagging dot skimming across the floor for visual confirmation that motion attracts attention like little else. After all, movement is typically associated with life, which, as we all know, is the ultimate visual attention-getter.
A few mornings ago, a familiar and friendly sight enticingly beckoned me to come nearer for a closer look. Just as it did a few years earlier, a solitary movement tantalizingly framed within a multitude of stillness captivated my attention. No way could the cat in me walk away, then or now.
As I drew closer, much to my curiosity’s delight, I realized that the movement I was observing was wonderfully unique from what I had previously experienced and written about a few years ago in per sway-dead or per sway-did. Instead of an entire plant moving to the beat of the faint wind as it happened then, this time, however, the motion radiated from a single blade of tall grass that, upon closer examination, revealed an unexpected and intriguing feature.
What was so surprising about this lone blade of dancing grass? In a word: brokenness. The stalk was broken and bent about two-thirds of the way up. This imperfection resulted in a visually compelling motion resembling bowing at the waist whenever the slightest whisper of a breeze stirred the air.
Curiously a nearby similarly broken blade remained fixed and unmoving. Hmmmm. It’s fair to say that, yes, where this motion was concerned, the break was essential, but it was also apparent that the location played a pivotal role, as well. If this were not so, then clearly, both broken blades standing so close to each other would have exhibited motion rather than just the one.
I find the irony so captivating here that the motion catching my eye emanated from something broken and flawed. As we all know, the world is not particularly kind regarding things judged damaged or not measuring up. The truth is it can be downright cold and cruel towards anything it perceives as not rising to its standards of desirability or perfection. But, take heart, friend, because the good news for all of us “less-than” sorts is that the Lord has an entirely different perspective than the world does.
“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;” 1 Corinthians 1:27 (NKJV)
Each of us has experienced brokenness in our lives. Some more, some less, but the bottom line is we are all broken in some way. The worldly method of handling our damages is to try and hide them by pushing them out of sight. Essentially we attempt to avoid attention by immobilizing or disguising those damaged areas of our lives in hopes of blending in with everyone else. “It’s the safe thing to do,” says our ego, which quickly tries to seal the deal on that thought by adding, “Trust me because I know what’s best for you.”
To reveal our brokenness to the world exposes our weaknesses, and who wants to do that knowing we’ll most likely become the object of ridicule at the very least? So, we go into stealth mode, closing and locking the door tightly behind us as best and as fast as possible.
Sadly, when we go into hiding, we subject the world and ourselves to yet another day of being held captive by shame and fear. This thinking is in direct opposition to our calling as God’s children, however. As believers, we’re called to more, so much more than being invisible.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV)
It’s time, brothers and sisters, to step out of the dark and into His light. We need to embrace the life-changing potential that sincere, godly humility offers to the imprisoned and isolated of this world and to ourselves along the way.
“Think not that humility is weakness; it shall supply the marrow of strength to thy bones. Stoop and conquer; bow thyself and become invincible.” Charles Spurgeon
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)
Humility is the ability to generously apply a mending salve of compassion and understanding to the world’s endless sea of walking wounded. It finds its beginning in the refining fires of our healing and restoration. It is not man contrived false humility that focuses on self, mind you. No! Genuine humility gives up the steering wheel to God and climbs cheerfully into the back seat so that someone else can sit in the front seat. Oh, and just in case you’re asking, “Are we there yet?” there’s nothing to worry about; God will tell you every time whenever you’re there. He is, after all, the Driver and the GPS, so sit back and pay close attention to what’s going on around you because it’s likely you’ll come upon another weary soul in need of what the Lord can offer them through you now that you’re not the driver.
“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 (NKJV)
Jesus has shown us the way forward, of course.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (NKJV)
Like the blade of grass bends in the slightest presence of the wind, the humble heart also gratefully bows at the very thought of the healing, mercy, grace, and love it has received from the Lord. In doing so, such a heart rightfully honors the Deliverer and His intentions regarding other’s needs, all the while trumpeting they’re a part of a much larger and grander story.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NKJV)
“Rare are those men or women who have glimpsed God and whose insights transform others ever afterward. They wrestle with their humanity in a way that helps others wrestle with theirs. They give freely of what they know with contagious joy.” Stephen Mansfield
I can’t help but think of that familiar saying attributed to John Bradford back in the 1600s, “There but for the grace of God, go I,” uttered while he was watching a group of prisoners pass by on their way to their executions. When it comes to our own lives, who among us can honestly testify any differently about our rescue by the Lord’s hand? Indeed, humility worn properly is a garment of incalculable worth lovingly stitched together by His nail-scarred hands with the threads of God’s love, mercy, and grace. It rightly honors and glorifies God.
“Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.” Luke 8:39 (NKJV)
“who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,” 2 Timothy 1:9 (NKJV)
Is it not pride driven by what others might think of us that keeps us from sharing with others who are hurting the comfort and provision God has generously bestowed upon us in our times of need? Delivered from our captivity and now safe in His embrace, where is our compassion for distressed and weary people? Or, perhaps our once grateful heart has grown selfishly cold and turned a blind eye? Considering all He has done for us, how can we as believers remain stoically detached and motionless in the face of the suffocating darkness others confront?
“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 John 3:16 (NKJV)
Humilability flows freely from the heart of Jesus to you and then through you to others. It recognizes this isn’t about you; it’s very much about the other person.
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. “ Philippians 2:3 (NKJV)
A humility-led person walks a mile beside a wounded soul trudging up a seemingly impossibly steep hill in their worn, tear-stained shoes and does so silently if that’s what’s needed. Only when the time is right is the silence broken, saying, “Friend, you’re not alone. I know something about what you’re going through because I’ve been there, too.“ Truthfully, who better to offer much-needed compassion and understanding to a person dealing with heartache than one who has experienced not only similar pain but Jesus’s subsequent rescue?
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NIV)
In Japan, there is an art form known as Kintsugi in which shattered pottery is made whole by mending the broken pieces back together with glue typically containing silver, gold, or platinum. Upon completion, the revitalized object becomes more valuable and desirable than it was initially. Those who follow this art form delight in the object’s history as revealed by the repaired joints. In other words, the rejuvenated vessel tells a story that is worthy of celebration.
Like a Kintsugi vase, our mended brokenness, our scars, also tell an extraordinary story of redemption if we will but give them a voice. It’s a remarkable testimony of rebirth that lifts the name of Jesus, our Healer, our Savior, high for all to see.
Consumed by brokenness, do we become lifeless and distant from God like the static, unmoving grass, or do we embrace life by bowing before Him in grateful recognition and trust in honor of what He has done and will do with our brokenness? Our ability to exercise humility steps forward by acknowledging the One who has healed us, for you see, only He can speak life into and through our brokenness. How will you respond to His whisper? Which broken blade of grass will you be?
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” Revelation 21:5 (NKJV)
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12 (NIV)
“Scars” by I Am They from the album “Trial and Triumph.”
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)
“Content.” Now there’s an interesting word. What’s the meaning or significance of this word as it applies to your life?
“Well, that depends on which ‘content’ you’re asking about,” you say. “With the word standing there all alone, I can’t be fully content to tell you the answer to that question until I know the full content of what you have in mind since it could be one of two possibilities. At the very least, you’re going to have to use it in a sentence; otherwise, I’m going to keep bouncing back and forth between the two choices. So, you tell me, which one are you talking about here?”
To that, I enthusiastically jump to my feet and reply, “Both!”
Now that we’re on our feet, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page regarding the distinct meanings of these two identically spelled but differently pronounced words. The Cambridge Dictionary defines “content” as “everything that is contained within something.” It also informs us that the other pronunciation of “content” means “pleased with your situation and not hoping for change or improvement.”
Our level of contentment is determined by how content or satisfied we are with the contents of our lives. Generally speaking, when we perceive our content or the components to be favorable, we’re content. But when the contents of our life take a turn for the worse, we become woeful or even fearful.
In a sense, these two words relate to each other a bit like our feet. In one scenario, they work together in harmony like finely tuned, graceful dance partners, serenely gliding across the floor. Or, conversely, they’re like two left feet noisily and clumsily stepping all over each other on the dance floor, which frequently results in a memorable faceplant of viral social media proportions. By the way, I fall into the latter category of these two as I’m no Fred Astaire.
For many of us, when a significant component of our lives that we’ve come to depend upon falters, so do we. Experiencing the loss of a job, relationship troubles, financial issues, or an impending health crisis, to name a few, are undoubtedly challenging turns of events that threaten our well-being. The Apostle Paul certainly experienced various potentially life-altering and, at times, life-threatening circumstances. No doubt he had more than his fair share of the scars to prove it, too.
“Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” 2 Corinthians 11:25-27 (NIV)
Theologians generally agree that Paul wrote about those trials about six years before he penned the following words in Philippians:
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12 (NIV)
These verses in Philippians stand in stark contrast to the world’s perspective of contentment. Paul’s steadfastness and confidence are even more remarkable, considering he wrote them while being unjustly confined in prison. How was he able to avoid falling into despair regardless of the situation? Why doesn’t he have two left feet? What is the secret he has found?
Paul’s ability to be content in all circumstances did not just magically and suddenly appear one day in his spiritual arsenal. No, far from it. Each of his visible and invisible scars wrought from his experiences became graduation diplomas of trust and understanding in the Lord’s plans for his life beautifully and lovingly engraved on his heart.
Does the relationship between “content” and “content” as they influence our contentment not exist for Paul? At first glance, it might perhaps seem they’re disconnected, but given a bit more thought, the answer is an emphatic “no!” The difference is Paul can confidently say what he does because of the eternal Who that fills his life up, rather than the temporal whats that fills up the majority of most other people’s lives.
“To know something in your head is one thing; to feel it in your heart is another. And I think most Christians are trying to be happy without a sense of the Presence. The Presence is here, but the sense of the Presence is absent. The sense of the Presence is absent and that yearning you see is a desire to be nearer to God.” A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God.
Paul is content because he fully embraces the sovereignty and presence of God in his life. He understands that so long as his life is full of the Lord, Who is good beyond measure, his outward conditions are of little consequence. The when, where, how, and why of his circumstances are no longer uncomfortable mysteries tormenting him. He recognizes his place in God’s hand. And that gives him hope.
“for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13 (NKJV)
Paul is a person completely sold out for God.
“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God” Romans 1:1 (NKJV)
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,” Philippians 2:14-15 (NKJV)
Paul has learned the secret for true contentment.
“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (NIV)
“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.” Isaiah 55:2 (NKJV)
“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ “Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)
“I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:24 (NIV)
In the end, all of the worldly what’s we have come to believe in as necessary to secure our contentment are mere smoke and mirrors. In them, we stack clay bricks made without straw that cannot possibly support our weight when the storms of life come our way.
“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” Matthew 7:26-27 (NKJV)
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV)
Only God, Who is the same today, yesterday, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), is an eternal rock that is utterly dependable.
“Thereforewhoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25 (NKJV)
Where are you searching in your quest to secure your contentment?
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” C. S. Lewis, A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C. S. Lewis
“My home is in heaven. I’m just passing through this world.” Billy Graham
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20 (NKJV)
“Wait a little while, O my soul, wait for the divine promise, and thou shalt have abundance of all good things in heaven.” Thomas a Kempis.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)
“The secret to happiness is to be content no matter the situation. My life isn’t going to make my happiness. My happiness is going to make my life.” Full Count, the movie.
Dear friend, I don’t know where you are or what’s going on in your life, but one thing I do know: He alone is the Source for true and lasting joy that creates and sustains contentment. Content in and through Jesus is where we are meant to be!
He! Is! Worthy!
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NKJV)
Be Still and Know by Christy Nockels from the album Healer
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)
Influence. It’s something we all possess, so that makes every one of us influencers to some degree. Regardless of the amount of sway we hold with others, how seriously do we take that responsibility? More pointedly, to what end is our influence wielded? Is it for ourselves or something more significant?
“In thismanner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Yourname. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10 (NKJV)
“How many of your plans take an unending future into account?” John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire
As believers, how might we conduct ourselves differently if we envisioned ourselves more conscientiously as “end-fluencers” with our eye on the future instead of mere influencers focused on the here and now?A perspective of thinking about tomorrow instead of today emphasizes a heightened big-picture awareness of our potential personal impact on all of those the Lord puts within our reach.
“Teach me the happy art of attending to things temporal with a mind intent on things eternal.” Christlikeness, from the Valley of Vision
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot
Essentially, in this forward-thinking, other-centered mindset, we become investors with genuine “skin in the game” regarding other people. Or to borrow my purposeful misspelling methods one more time, as “end-vestors” in people. In doing so, we are putting aside our needs and wants and taking personal responsibility for helping guide others to be everything God has called them to be.
“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:1-4 (NKJV)
Allow me to share an example of an authentic “end-fluencer” with you. The stirring words of my mentor, 2 Tim, as I like to call him, continually ring out loud and clear in my head like Christmas morning church bells gloriously chiming for all to hear, “I want my life to count for eternity!”
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
“while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NKJV)
2Tim has been passionately and faithfully pursuing a life of eternal significance since becoming a believer as an eleven-year-old boy. These words have been his consistent mission statement for decades, shaping all of his choices along the way. They have been his ever-present rudder steering him in the way he should go. When these are your marching orders to be carried out coram Deo (before the face of God), there is only room for integrity, character, and honor.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
Over the years, hundreds of people have learned to be disciple-makers directly under 2Tim’s hands-on, watchful and purposeful teaching as he pours himself into equipping others to lead in the same manner. The Biblical truth of what he teaches is delightfully contagious, end-fluencing those disciples, who in turn teach others what they have learned. And so it goes like a baton passed from one relay team runner to the next in a never-ending, ever-growing circle of Spirit-connected hearts to encourage people to participate in furthering God’s Family proactively.
“Not that I have already attained or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 (NKJV)
How many have been impacted by 2Tim’s discipleship ministry, directly or indirectly? That’s impossible to say, of course, but it’s likely in the thousands. It’s what inevitably happens when reproducers reproduce, as he loves to say.
“And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2 (NKJV)
So, the question inevitably becomes for each of us as sons and daughters of God, as followers of His beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus, are you an influencer, or are you an end-fluencer?
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV)
“Speak the Name” by Koryn Hawthorne from the album “Unstoppable.”
“But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” Romans 5:20b (NKJV)
“But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” James 4:6 (NKJV)
A broom and a light green pencil lying right beside it are something you don’t see in the middle of the street every morning. “What’s the story here?” I wondered out loud to myself. “How did this unlikely pair land in front of my house?” Answers to these questions and more were nowhere to be found as I stood there contemplating the unusual sight.
There was one thing I did know, however. No way did I want to try and sweep the entire street even though it could use a good cleaning. To compound those circumstances, imagine what it’d be like if I attempted to deep clean the road with someone following behind me, circling all the dirt and such that I had missed with the colored pencil. That’d be an even more enormous “no thank you!” in my book.
As I considered the possibilities of such a hopeless task, a bit of Greek mythology drifted into my mind. Zeus punished and condemned Sisyphus to roll a boulder up a hill, as you may recall. Unfortunately, the boulder would roll back down just before reaching the crest, and then the whole process would unmercifully start all over again. Just as Sisyphus’ task was impossible to complete and was never-ending, so would be my trying to sweep the entire street clean of all the dirt and trash. I wince at the very thought of that hopeless task.
And that’s when a lightning bolt began to dance around in my head. It seems there’s much more to the broom and the pencil than I had initially thought.
How many of us try and sweep ourselves clean so that we’re presentable to God? Both believers and non-believers alike can, and often do, fall victim to this misguided way of thinking that is reliant upon yourself to perform the needed rescue successfully. Sadly, we regard ourselves and our abilities more highly in this way of thinking than we ought, and in doing so, we give God’s grace, Jesus, our only authentic, viable rescuer, the cold shoulder.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (NKJV)
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12:3 (NKJV)
I know all too well how this process works: about the time you finish sweeping _____ Street (put your name in the blank) believing you’ve got yourself all cleaned up, along comes a supposed well-intentioned voice armed with a marker pencil, saying, “Well, yes, that’s an improvement, but you’re still not quite ready to stand before God. Take a look back at where you’ve been sweeping. Do you see all those areas in need of attention that you missed that I’ve conveniently outlined for you? Go back and clean them up, and then you’ll be ready. You can trust me because I have your best interest at heart. Now, hop to it; you’re wasting precious time!”
So, off we go with renewed determination back to square one to try and make ourselves right before a perfectly holy God. The truth is we’ll never be able to clean up ourselves sufficiently in that regard because sinners that we are, there’s no shortage of highlighted problem areas in our lives. They are like the seemingly unending handkerchiefs a magician pulls out of his or her hat. Besides, even if we could get it down to but one sin, we’d still come up short.
“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10 (NKJV)
For those among us who are non-believers, the roaring lion seeks to prevent you from ever experiencing God’s grace and mercy through the forgiveness of your sins offered through His Son, Jesus. If you listen to the voice with the pencil, you’ll be pushing that “Sisyphus” broom for the rest of your life, all to no avail, with only hell to show for it in the end.
Know this, friend, Jesus is the only One capable of cleaning and washing you thoroughly enough to meet God’s standards. You can scrub yourself as often and as hard as you like, but you can never sweep away all of your sins so that you’re spotless before the Lord. Even if you’re a “9” on a “one to ten goodness scale,” you’re still one short of perfection. Let that fact sink in for a minute.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10 (NKJV)
How then shall we be rescued? It’s time to let Jesus take over the sweeping and make you a bonafide “10” in God’s eyes.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)
“that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:15-18 (NKJV)
“For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever callson the name of theLordshall be saved.” Romans 10:10-13 (NKJV)
The broom and the pencil in Jesus’s hands have accomplished what you could not. He is the Good Samaritan that has graciously provided sweet relief to your former unsettled and wounded soul.
“So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” Luke 10:34 (NKJV)
You may ask, “What about the pencil?” Unlike the voice that used it to condemn you constantly, Jesus uses the pencil to commend your faith by writing your name down in His book of life for all eternity.
“Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.” Malachi 3:16 (NKJV)
Let us rejoice!
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NKJV)
And what of believers stuck in the loop of similar off-track thinking? You willingly and eagerly accepted God’s grace at the time of your salvation, rightly recognizing He alone has the power to save you. But post-conversion, more times than you care to admit, you’ve fallen into a works-oriented pit of despair in a vain attempt to earn or justify the Father’s love. Friends, I know of this darkness (“grace-full high five”), and I can tell you it is far from the place of freedom He intends for you to enjoy!
What should we do when we find ourselves in such a place? With a repentant, humble heart, give the broom and the pencil back to Him, for you see they were never meant to be used by your hands in this way.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NKJV)
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3 (NKJV)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;” Luke 4:18 (NKJV)
Let the pencil be a reminder of your need to be firmly grounded in His written word, the Bible, for life through Jesus freely and gloriously abounds within its sacred pages.
“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 (NKJV)
And again, we can proclaim, “How utterly beautiful is a person swept clean by His marvelous grace!”
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7 (NKJV)
“Father, we pray for all of us, that Thou wilt sweep away our self-righteousness, even any little, ragged traces of self-righteousness that may be left. Save us from ourselves. Let grace abound from Calvary, and teach us that it is not by grace and something else, but by grace alone, Thy goodness, Thy kindness in Christ Jesus. This we ask in the name of the Lord who loves us. Amen.” (A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God.)
“Grace Upon Grace” by Matthew West, from the album, “Brand New.”
“Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’” Revelation 21:5 (NKJV)
“I have found little that is ‘good’ about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash, no matter whether they publicly subscribe to this or that ethical doctrine or to none at all. That is something that you cannot say aloud, or perhaps even think.” Sigmund Freud
We’ve all heard it said, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” I was recently blessed to consider this well-worn statement from a spiritual perspective.
Black bears are a pretty standard sight where I live. They routinely show up in all of the various neighborhoods in the area in search of food. Their favorite target? The practically unlimited and readily available buffet of residential trash cans.
As you might guess, bears are sloppy diners. They’re never worried about the mess their uninvited foraging leaves behind, which can be pretty substantial if they happen upon a heavily loaded garbage can.
A few weeks ago, the bears treated themselves to an early breakfast at the front of our subdivision. The aftermath of the bear’s morning celebration stretched from one side of the road to the other, resulting in one resident, a lady, pretty overwhelmed with the clean-up task in front of her.
Upon seeing her predicament, I decided the right thing to do would be to lend her a helping hand. I have to tell you that I did so with some reluctance because I knew this was a recurring problem for this family. After all, they were known by all the neighbors never to secure their garbage cans overnight. In other words, this wasn’t their first post-bear-buffet-clean-up rodeo.
To further add to my less-than-pure motives, as I was picking things up, another neighbor came up to me to point out there were more piles of garbage “over there between those houses and be sure not to miss them.” And yes, you’d be right in guessing I got a bit Clint Eastwood-squint-eyed upon hearing that comment. Fortunately, the sunglasses I was wearing at the time did an excellent job of hiding my displeasure over such a “helpful” suggestion. She quickly added that she had wanted to help pick up, but her husband told her it wasn’t her problem to fix. Again, let me applaud the unsung and often overlooked advantages wearing sunglasses brings to the table in such situations.
All that to say, my heart’s attitude had become increasingly in the wrong place as I worked my way through the piles of garbage randomly strewn about multiple front yards. There was a growing grumbling and mumbling on my part each time I picked up a piece of trash. “This really isn’t my problem, so what am I doing here cleaning up someone else’s trash?”
And that’s when a whisper graciously redirected my attention from me to Jesus, saying, “Aren’t you thankful Jesus saw you as so much more than ‘not His trash, not His problem?’ How blessed you are that He didn’t walk away from your sinful mess but instead chose to give Himself up for you willingly.”
I can’t begin to tell you how wonderfully humbling that clarifying moment was for me. My entire outlook changed from one of oppression to liberation. My efforts were no longer burdensome, but instead, there was a newfound blessing to be experienced in the task that lay stretched out before me. Who knew picking up trash could be so joyful?
“Jesus Christ knows the worst about you. Nonetheless, He is the one who loves you the most.” A. W. Tozer
Friend, let there be no doubt in your mind and heart that when Jesus sees you, He doesn’t see you as the world does, or even perhaps as you see yourself. You are not worthless trash that is better left untouched on the side of the road. You are His creation of immeasurable value that is worth touching. To Jesus, you are not just any treasure; you are His treasure, the reason He came into this world.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begottenSon, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16-17 (NKJV)
Casting Crowns, “Love Moved First” from the album, “Only Jesus.”
“Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens.” Psalm 123:1 (NKJV)
Say what?!?! No, that’s not some new sort of language used for this post’s title. If you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s “my way of thinking” literally turned upside down. After all, when you’re in a relationship with Jesus, the One who has come to set captives like you and me free, our priorities and perspectives, our very way of thinking, are going to be shaken up.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed;” Luke 4:18 (NKJV) (note: see also Isaiah 61:1)
Sam Cooke may not have been singing about Jesus in his old song, “A Change Gonna Come,” but the lyrics are spot-on in this case because change is guaranteed when He is involved in your life. It’s inescapable given the vast differences between a holy, just, loving, and infinite God, our Creator, and ourselves, His created, His children.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)
If you’re at all like me, then more times than I’d like to admit, I need to be reminded I do not always see things as clearly as I think I do. In short, I am wholly unqualified to be a measuring stick, and that most notably so when I’m the one in need of measurement. That True North Measuring Yardstick position thankfully lies solely and rightfully with the Lord, who is holy qualified.
“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits.” Proverbs 16:2 (NKJV)
A case in point about our eyes being fallible is this post’s photo. There’s more going on with this picture than you might first guess. All is not as it initially appears. Why would I say that? Well, that’s because both this post’s title and the photo are upside down.
You may be surprised to learn that this photograph captures a reflection in the water. I flipped the image around so it would look right-side-up for this post. Those of you who took a second look at the snapshot before you started reading might have already figured that out. Suddenly those strange, concentric rings in the sky begin to make a lot more sense once you realize they’re not some freak weather phenomenon but instead are ripples on the water’s surface.
All this to say the obvious: we are prone to make snap, incorrect analyses and judgments. Why? Because we unreasonably trust ourselves to a fault, which often leads us to unknowingly not seeing things as they are. Now that’s a scary thought when you stop and think about it. So, what are we to do? Where is hope to be found for our blurry, and at times all-together blind understanding?
“We must rely on the mercy of the only One who is able to turn all that is upside down right side up.” Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)
When my wayward reasoning sails headlong into the incalculably higher and perfectly pure ways and thoughts of the Rock of Ages, Jesus, a transformative change in my way of thinking occurs.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV)
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10 (NKJV)
Growing up, we quickly learn to avoid collisions with rocks as much as possible. However, colliding with Jesus is the most significant, life-changing impact with a Rock that we will ever experience in our lives. This remarkable journey begins when we first believe and claim Him as our Savior transporting us from being spiritually dead to alive. Having welcomed us into His Kingdom, He then continuously refines us throughout our lifetimes. Knowing and being known by Jesus guarantees we will undergo much-needed changes in our understanding and thus in our actions. We are, after all, as followers of Jesus, His ongoing works in progress in this life. Can I get a joyful hallelujah?
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29 (NKJV)
Let me share a story that turned my thinking on its head and, in doing so, revealed the unobstructed, breathtaking view that exists far above the treeline of my limited understanding.
A couple of years ago, a vacationing family lost their dog not far from where I live. Somehow the dog managed to escape from the house they were renting, and he was gone before they knew what had happened. They and a good number of newly met neighbors spent the remainder of their vacation week desperately searching for him. Despite everyone’s best efforts, the dog remained on the loose, and at the end of the week, the owners reluctantly and tearfully had no choice but to make the long drive back home a few states away without their beloved pet.
About a month after the fact, I spotted one of their “lost dog” flyers at a local store that told their sad story about what had happened. Animal lover that I am, I immediately empathized with their painful circumstances. What did I do about it? Well, I got in my car and searched through the area where the dog had last been spotted, of course. I did that several times over the next week, all to no avail.
It turns out that, like the upside-down photo, there was more to this adventure than I ever first imagined or understood. As a child of God, why would one expect anything else?
“Notice that in the tales told in Scripture, whenever God gets hold of a man he takes that man into an adventure of the first order.” John Eldredge, Fathered By God
Although I didn’t find the lost dog I was searching for, I did discover something else was also missing. Or, rephrased, what was initially lost was not found, but something else of great importance was found to be lost along the way.
During what turned out to be my last drive-around looking for the off-course dog, I was interrupted by a profound thought that welled up seemingly out of nowhere. Like a late September gust of wind, it stripped the leaves of my wayward point of view from their branches, saying, “It’s good that your compassion compelled you to search for this family’s lost pet. If only you were as passionate about sharing Jesus with people.” And in that instant, I knew that, like the lost dog, I was also wandering far from home.
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2 (NKJV)
Indeed, when was the last time I’d been sincerely concerned enough about a person’s spiritual condition that I jumped into action as I did for this lost pet? Sadly, I couldn’t remember such a time. Confronted by such an indisputable truth, how do you respond? My reply then, as it still is today in the midst of sharing this story with you, is one with bowed head in humble silence.
Please understand I’m not saying that my feelings for this lost dog were wrong because they weren’t. That is not the reason I’m telling you all of this. Like I’ve already said, searching for the dog was about so much more than what it appeared to be. Instead, I’m relaying this story to highlight a change that I needed to make. In short, my eyes were opened to truths about myself that I’d been blind to for far too long.
“A person wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” Benjamin Franklin
Throughout the majority of my life, I was reclusive when it came to sharing my faith. My search for the dog aimed a spotlight directly into that dark and all-too silent corner of myself. I searched for the lost dog by myself, involved no one else, and frankly was comfortable keeping it that way. Upon hearing that declaration, my former overly-reserved spiritual self would assuredly observe, “If it’s true that no man is an island, then I am a peninsula.”
But, if keeping Jesus to myself was acceptable, why was I being encouraged to be passionate about sharing Him? The heat from the friction between these two opposite positions demanded an answer to this question. The Bible has something to say about this issue, of course.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do theylight a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men,that they may see your good works andglorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV)
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV)
Matthew 28:19-20 made me feel incredibly uncomfortable for practically as long as I can remember. Why? Well, because instead of enthusiastically pursuing Jesus’s clearly stated mission, I found myself wanting to run away and hide.
The truth is my detached attitude existed because I was afraid. The fear that gripped me found its roots in thoughts and feelings I instinctively knew were wrong, yet it still bound and restrained me in its chains. Yes, you can call them strongholds over me if you like.
I can relate to Peter’s three-time denial of Jesus just before His crucifixion. As undeniably awful as Peter’s failure was, at least his actions occurred because he believed his life was in jeopardy. Sadly, my withdrawal was the product of much lesser reasoning and motivation than that.
Embarrassingly, the first reason I was afraid to share Jesus was for no more cause other than what others might think or say. My upbringing resulted in my thinking that personal faith in Christ was indeed precisely that, private, meaning I’m to keep it to myself, period. Growing up and for a long time afterward, I made it a point to avoid becoming one of “those” people who injected themselves and their faith into situations and onto people without a personal invitation to do so. And if you would please make that a written invitation, so much the better. Silence in this matter was considered a golden virtue.
Secondly, I had bought into the mistaken notion that I should remain silent because I lacked the necessary qualifications to voice my faith. Perhaps a sample of some of my reasoning will sound familiar to you: I have no formal Christian education; I don’t know the Bible as well as I should; I don’t know how to present the Gospel smoothly and clearly; I have no business sharing Jesus with anybody because I’ve made lots of my own mistakes along the way; What if I mess up and get it wrong?
When combined, these misconceptions successfully kept me locked away in the dark.I accepted these lies as truth for years and saw myself as someone who had no business sharing my faith. Thinking like this, I was held captive on an endless merry-go-round of self-fulfilling prophecy going nowhere.
But then an unexpected rescue happened in the middle of my search for the lost dog. Abruptly awakened from the hypnotic trance of the lies, I was finally ready to get off this spinning ride that had kept me dizzy and off-balance for far too long.But, how?
“casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV)
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
The author of AtomicHabits, James Clear, says, “instead of focusing on a goal you want to achieve, focus on the identity you want to have.” Hmmmm. My goal is to share my faith. What if I were to readjust my focus from what I want to accomplish to who I want to be? Better still, let’s take that thought a significant step further: What if I began to see myself as He sees me?
The more you reaffirm who you are in Christ, the more your behavior will begin to reflect your true identity. Neil T. Anderson
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13 (NKJV)
He says I am His child. And so are you, my brother and sister in Christ!
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. “ 2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)
Studying His Word qualifies me as His approved worker. And you as well!
“So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21 (NKJV)
He sees me as a voice, a herald, for Him. And you likewise!
“Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Acts 3:6 (NKJV)
“Christ is mine, and I am His” is the one essential attribute I must have that empowers me to share Him with others. And you are no different!
“that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3b (ESV)
He has firmly planted me in Christ’s righteousness for His glory. And you, too!
“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 2:4-5 (NKJV)
I am to have Christ’s mind that is concerned about others as well as myself. And so are you!
It is Jesus’s remarkable healing touch, strength, and purpose that graciously calls and enables us to travel roads that were previously unfamiliar to us. Gone are the dead-end streets of our choosing, and wide-open are the roads unlike any others with an extraordinary view of life in all directions of His choosing.
“But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Mark 10:27 (NKJV)
As we walk these roads, we are to share His life with others we meet along the way who are lost as we, too, once were lost.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,” Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV)
“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees,and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12:12-13 (NKJV)
“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4 (NKJV)
No doubt all you pet lovers are probably wondering whatever became of the lost dog. Six months after he first went missing, a full-page article in the local newspaper happily reported a most unlikely reunion between the dog and his family thanks to the tireless efforts of concerned neighbors who refused to give up hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)
I’m humbly and gratefully overwhelmed as I reflect on this entire story’s most unlikely unfolding. What began as a seemingly “no-big-deal” decision to search for a lost dog turned into an extraordinary adventure of significance concerning a missing, critical aspect of my walk with Jesus that I never saw coming.
Jesus turned my thinking on its head thanks to a stunning, unanticipated plot twist. Never in a million years did I think when I began looking for the lost dog that Jesus was simultaneously looking for a lost part of me. Like those neighbors who never gave up on finding the missing dog, He never gave up on that missing piece of me, a rescue that was years in the making. And friend, He’s not given up on you either, no matter how far from home you’ve wandered, no matter what part of you is missing. Even now Jesus is calling out to you. Do you hear Him?
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.Even so it is not thewill of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14 (NKJV)
Pray with me, please…
Lord, encourage and lead us to ask You to do the impossible, the unlikely, the unanticipated, the out-of-the-ordinary in the ordinary of our lives, even in areas where we are blind or only dimly see. Turn our world, our thinking, upside down with Your truth so that we rightly see according to Your ways and not ours. May we always know that Your plans and intentions for us are good, and our future is full of hope because of Your loving presence and sovereignty. Let the life-transforming ripples of Your love and kindness cause us to walk in the newness of life that only You can provide and, in turn, lovingly share Your good news with others so that they, too, can experience Your life-giving freedom. We humbly thank You and praise You for Your longsuffering, Your mercy, Your grace, Your unwillingness to leave us as You found us. Oh Lord, we were indeed lost, and we knew it not, but now we are found, safe and secure in Your strong and loving arms. Thank You for calling us to experience and to share all Your higher ground has to offer. We ask all of this in Your Son’s name, our precious Savior, Jesus. Amen.”
“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.’” Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)
Yes indeed, You most certainly have, Lord! And we are grateful!
Todd Agnew, “Grace Like Rain” from the album “Grace Like Rain.”
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
Sometimes enlightenment comes gushing out of the most remarkably unexpected sources. Like a freely flowing artesian water well, the life-giving refreshment offered by such an epiphany awakens and revitalizes our once stagnant consciousness.
Recently I was caught entirely off-guard by a revelation in the form of a prayer adorably delivered by my not quite three-year-old granddaughter. When it came time to say the blessing, she eagerly volunteered and said, as best I recall: “A…B…C…D…H…K…M…T…amen!”
Yes, of course, as you might imagine, all the adults chuckled to themselves with knowing winks in that surprising moment upon hearing her recount the alphabet as best she knew how. How can you not be enchanted by a toddler’s delightfully offbeat prayer efforts?
However, as cute as such a child’s prayer is, we’re often quick to dismiss them as having very little significance given the source. After all, there are no prominent spiritual ingredients or ideas embodied in reciting the “A, B, C’s,” so why give it another minute of thought?
All I can say to that is, “Thank you, Lord, for prompting me to have second thoughts!”
As I later reflected on it, I realized that my granddaughter’s unlikely prayer unveiled a slumbering truth. Simply put, she was excited to share the excellent and acceptable instruction she had been receiving. In doing so, she honored the Lord by demonstrating she was positively improving her mind just as God intends for His children to do.
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)
My granddaughter’s notably unorthodox prayer is a gentle reminder that our waking moments are continuous prayers. As such, throughout the day, we have the ongoing opportunity to honor and glorify Him by doing things His way, as found in the plans and instructions given to us through the Bible. Our very lives are walking prayers.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8-10 (NKJV)
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19: 14 (NKJV)
“I am convinced that, if we protect our minds by dwelling on the right things, it brings God glory. It also protects us from unnecessarily allowing ourselves to be tempted. The Bible is clear on what we ought to think.” Victor Nunez
“But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.” Proverbs 4:18 (NKJV)
When we consistently pursue the acceptable “A, B, C’s” in our Father’s sight, He is pleased, and His heart smiles with joy. When we do this, we choose Him and the extraordinary life He envisions for us.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 (NKJV)
Friend, I’m confident my granddaughter’s lifestyle prayer brought a smile to our Lord’s heart. May each of our “A, B, C prayer” choices we have to make throughout the day equally please Him, and abundantly so!
“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’” Matthew 25:23 (NKJV)
Fernando Ortega, “Let the Words of My Mouth (Psalm 19:14, Philippians 4:8)” from the album, “The Shadow of Your Wings: Hymns and Sacred Songs.”
“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)
“Get into the habit of saying, ‘Speak, Lord,’ and life will become a romance.” Oswald Chambers
The use of the word “romance” here in this context is a spiritual show-stopper the more I think about it. Such a romance is a life of excitement, a shared journey of love that is an adventure filled with mystery, surprise, longing, and beauty between God and ourselves. It’s an extraordinary invitation to embark on a remarkable Coram Deo life alongside Him. It is everything we long for, and so much more.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10b (NKJV)
Hear what John Eldredge has to say about a life of romance lived in God’s presence from his book, “The Sacred Romance:”
“The Sacred Romance calls to us every moment of our lives…invites us through the laughter of good friends, reaches out to us through the touch of someone we love. We’ve heard it in our favorite music, sensed it at the birth of our first child,been drawn to it while watching the shimmer of a sunset on the ocean. Something calls to us through experiences like these and rouses an inconsolable longing deep within our heart, wakening in us a yearning for intimacy, beauty, and adventure. This longing…fuels our search for meaning, for wholeness, for a sense of being truly alive. And the voice that calls to us in this place is none other than the voice of God.”
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NKJV)
That longing for eternity can be satisfied only by God. Only His voice can meet that need purposefully implanted in the depths of our hearts so that we would seek Him. Oh, but when at long last embraced, the sweetness and beauty of His voice are miraculously transformative.
“And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!” (How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss)
Indeed! The Lord’s presence continually delights and surprises me. His love wonderfully turns me upside down, sideways, and gratefully, every which way but loose, as if I’m a stone joyfully borne along by a sparkling, rapidly flowing river. All that matters is that I am within the loving embrace of His arms of living waters. After all, what about the destination can be of concern when He is the River Boat Captain of my soul?
When you’re in His embrace, you see and understand things differently than the world does. I can’t help but think this is what Oswald Chambers was alluding to when he said in his devotional, My Utmost For His Highest, “Do you perceive mere coincidence, or do you discern the hand of God?” When you know yourself to be in His hand, you see anything, and everything with Him in mind, no matter how big or small something is.
Take, for example, my friend, Nicole. She frequently sees heart shapes in clouds, leaves, and even the icing on a cupcake, to name a few. Nicole recently found a heart-shaped piece of meat hiding underneath the holiday ham when she removed it from the cooking pan.
These heart surprises are always a great encouragement because every time she spots one, it’s a glowing reminder of how much God loves her. Finding one never gets old for her. Each discovery delights her more than the previous one.
Not surprisingly, she’s always on the lookout for these spontaneous “God hugs” because you never really know when or where one will show up. To that end, it’s worth noting that one often shows up just when she needs it most. It’s a much-needed, sweet reminder to her of Whose child she is at just the right moment.
If you’ve ever turned the radio on and immediately found yourself listening to the perfect song to meet your needs in that moment, you know this “God hug” feeling. Or perhaps you’ll come across just the right words in a book, article, movie, devotional, or scripture that seems like a custom fit perfectly tailored for your circumstances.
There’s a thought expressed in the movie August Rush that I find notably engaging and pertinent to this discussion. Evan Taylor( August Rush) as played by Freddie Highmore: “Listen. Can you hear it? The music. I can hear it everywhere. In the wind…in the air…in the light. It’s all around us. All you have to do is open yourself up. All you have to do…is listen.”
Try exchanging “God” for the word “music,” which is no great stretch of the imagination since music finds its very beginning in our Lord. Now, before you move on, reread Evan’s observation with God in mind instead of music and let it flow powerfully into your heart.
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23 (NKJV)
When you recognize you are always in His presence, your world will grow decidedly more hopeful and more beautiful.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
Do you hear His voice, a voice like none other? Are you listening? Oh, how I pray you are.
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27 (NKJV)
This post’s original title was “heartbroken” because that was my first impression upon seeing this heart as pictured above, which I spotted across the street directly in front of my house. Heartbreak and pain practically oozed from it when I first saw it.
As hearts go, this is no visual role model, to be sure. It’s so disfigured as to be almost unrecognizable as such. Questions abound. What about those two holes? Why is this heart composed of two different materials? What does it mean that part is on the grass and the remaining portion is on the concrete? One is left only to likely observe this is a divided heart, ripped into pieces.
Undoubtedly, some will say while looking at the photo, “You call that a heart? That’s no heart! Besides, even if it is whoever heard of a heart wearing a mask?” You and I already instinctively know the answers: “The world has a cruel and heartless way of crushing a person’s heart. The mask is for protection.” We know this because, at various times, we have all endured the heartache and heartbreak the cold hands of this world can inflict upon a person. And we have the scars, wounds, and limps to prove it. We all wear masks of one variety or another in an attempt to protect ourselves from being hurt again. To show our true selves makes us vulnerable to attack, so we hide behind the mask.
When it comes to romance, being heartbroken is not where anyone wants to find themselves, of course. Writing about heartache is not a warm and fuzzy experience, either, as I can readily attest. Indeed, I was conflicted in those efforts from the beginning.
Mercifully, the Lord gently redirected my initial thoughts by bringing to mind one verse in particular in the middle of the night as I wrestled with this sadness. In an instant, He rescued me from drowning in the dark, quicksand-like waters of despair I was experiencing. The hopelessness of “heartbroken” joyously gave way to Jesus’s ever hopeful and life-giving perspective of “heart-spoken.”
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” Luke 4:18 (NKJV)
The whispered gift of “heart-spoken” warmly greeted me in those quiet, still, and uncluttered hours of a new day. Joyfully it buoyed my spirit aloft on the wings of hope like an early spring flower emerging from melting winter snow brings. No longer constrained by string, I’m a kite set free to fly where once I could only longingly gaze. Yes, hope forged in the fires of His boundless love is the real message of Christmas that we can rejoice in throughout the entire year.
“For to us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)
What does that hope mean for His children, the captives whose hearts He has come to set free?
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26 (NKJV)
‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)
As we learn to embrace the rhythm of His grace with our new hearts, He is teaching us a dance of freedom we’ve never experienced before according to His good purposes. We are dancing to His music in His arms, each of us in our own special and unique way. Apart from Him, we knew only division; now, a part of Him, our hearts know harmony.
Ever so gently, He tenderly removes the mask we’ve hidden behind. Instinctively we lower our eyes, afraid He will find us ugly and unlovable, just as the world has pronounced us to be. Casting our disguise aside, He reaches out, lifts our chin, and lovingly gazes at our now naked face. Looking deeply into our eyes, He tells us the mask has hidden a wondrous beauty for far too long that He has uniquely created for a time such as this. And, then, the unexpected happens. He begins to sing over you drowning out the world’s curses you once knew all too well. Do you hear Him speaking to your heart? Oh, how I pray you do, my brother and sister, for you are heart-spoken and greatly loved!
“The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)
Alisha.mp4 “Feel My Love” (Bob Dylan)
(note: Nicole’s good friend sings this cover to Bob Dylan’s song. Heartfelt thanks go out to Alisha for allowing me to use her version of this song. Close your eyes, friends, and listen to this song as if God is singing directly to you. What a blessing!)
When it rains, it pours, as the old saying goes. Let’s reword that a bit for spiritual purposes. “When He reigns, He pours!” To be clear, however, please understand it’s not a question of whether or not He is reigning since He is sovereign all of the time and in all circumstances, of course. Instead, this intentional rewording proclaims He is capable of accomplishing more than we can ever begin to imagine all of the time. The limitations imposed are ours and not His.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)
If one exclamation point is instructive, then certainly a second one is even better. Such is the framing of this latest post. The first exclamation point, “His Sound Affection,” is barely a few days old, and now comes this second one hot on the heals of the first and an even older post beyond that, as well.
Yes, the use of “heals” rather than “heels” is very much intentional in this well-known phrase because the Lord is white-hot when it comes to His commitment towards healing (building) His children. Exchanging these identically pronounced words in this particular instance seems very right and thought-provoking to me. Indeed, our Lord, Jesus, endured so much for our healing.
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV)
Let’s take a short detour down one more side street before diving fully into today’s post for just a moment. I can’t help but wonder what remarkable things we miss when we choose to bypass pathways that present themselves to us because they appear to be “out of our way.” Yes, this is but another way of saying, “let’s stop and smell the roses.”
Given that we are discussing exclamation points, it’s fascinating to note the “!” physical location on a computer keyboard relative to another symbol’s location. If you look at your keyboard, you’ll see the “!” and the “1” share the same key. Coincidence? Maybe so. But maybe not.
From my perspective, I find it extremely interesting that there is but the One (1) God, who, if we were to assign a punctuation mark to in an attempt to describe Him, must undoubtedly be an exclamation point (!) to my way of thinking. After all, He is exceptional and worthy of nothing less! Will you ever look at your keyboard in the same way again now that you’re aware of that shared association? I can’t, and it’s my hope you won’t be able to either.
In my previous post, we discussed how we are an “ongoing project that is very much under His construction.” Today’s post is a continuation, an exclamation, if you will, of that thought.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve enjoyed watching the new two-story townhome construction that is ongoing less than a minute’s walk from our house. All of the ebbs and flows of building construction fascinate me. Great strides are made at various times, followed by periods where things seem to stand still. All in all, it’s an intriguing and compelling process to observe.
After what seemed like forever, it finally came time to install the windows into the roughed-in townhomes. However, the workers didn’t install all of the window units leaving a few holes glaringly unfinished. Much to my amazement, those holes stayed that way for a long time following the initial window installation. It was nothing but neglect as far as I was concerned.
I couldn’t figure out why the workers were seemingly ignoring this part of the job for the longest time. The window units themselves were on site, yet the holes for the windows remained dark and unfinished for an uncomfortably long time as far as I was concerned. Over the next few weeks, the roofers, electricians, and the heating and air conditioner workers all came and went.
Every day I’d walk by the building site and wonder, “What in the world were the builders thinking leaving these holes open like this? There those few unplaced window units are stacked up in the garage; go ahead and install them for heaven’s sake!”
My lack of building construction understanding is showing here. How little I truly understand about the entire process. If you’re more familiar with construction than I am, then you’ve probably already figured out why those holes were left unfinished in the first place. And it’s an excellent reason, by the way.
In 20-20 hindsight, I now understand the window openings were left undone so that large, heavy materials, such as sheetrock, in this case, could be delivered through them via a monstrous, telescoping loader to the upstairs portion of the townhomes. Let me now state the obvious: it turns out the builders knew so much more than I ever gave them credit for knowing by leaving the window openings undone. In other words, they knew what they were doing all along.
There’s a simple but essential principle to take away from this lesson, spiritually speaking. Aren’t we all guilty of that same sort of off-base thinking at one time or another when it comes to examining what God is doing in our lives as well? I have to admit there are times when I think the Lord has gotten things out of order in the middle of the construction phase He has underway. And that not just concerning His plans for me, but for other people and their circumstances as well.
When I see unfinished openings, it concerns me. “Put the window in, now. The opening is ready, and the parts are here ready to go.” I say. The Master Builder replies, “Be patient. I have my excellent reasons to leave it incomplete at this moment. I’m still working in this area, and there is much to be accomplished. There is more to this unfinished hole than you realize. The opening needs to remain as it is for now.”
“Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’? Isaiah 45:9 (NKJV)
A few years ago, I discussed pretty much this same issue in my post entitled, “the (s)Parking lot.” I’m a slow learner, it seems. Is that why I’m again revisiting that few-year-old post for that very same reason? Hmmmmm. Or, is there something more to this struggle beyond my being a slow learner, which I’ve thought to be primarily a patience issue? Is it possible there’s more to the unfinished spiritual window opening as I’ve previously understood it this entire time?
And suddenly, I now realize there is so much more to this hole beyond my battle with impatience.” Yes, I see the issue behind the issue more clearly now. My struggle with patience finds its beginning with a still more profound problem. I also struggle with giving up control to Him.
“There is more going on in your life than you can ever see. I see the big picture while you can only focus on only a small portion of the (re)construction project I know as you. You’re going to have to trust me for all of it, both the big and the little picture. When you do that, you’ll find you have a lot more patience along the way.”
Carrie Underwood, “Jesus Take the Wheel,” from the album, “Some Hearts.”
Lord, Help me remember that I am Your building project that is very much a work in progress. I’ve got a considerable number of barnacles attached to me that You’re in the process of removing from me, as well. In their place, You are creating within me beauty as only You can create, and doing that right requires Your perfect timing. Forgive me for my impatience as You work to build me into the person You have called me to be. Help me to let go of my ways so that I can more fully know Your ways, for the work of Your hands is good, Lord. Mold me and shape me after Your will. Your purposes, not mine, Your plans, not mine, Your way, not mine. You are my Creator, and I am Your created. In Jesus’ name, amen 1!1!1!1!1!1!1!1!1!
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29 (NKJV)
“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore.” Psalm 86: 11-12 (NKJV)
Casting Crowns, “In The Hands Of The Potter” from the album, “Only Jesus.”