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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Being least

, but An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great." (Luke 9:46-48 NASB)

The disciples were having an argument. The question was not some deep theological issue. The question was "Who is greatest?" Every one of them thought they were greatest. None of them were. Finally, Jesus (who knew what they were thinking and what they were arguing about) stepped in. 

It would have been easy to lambast and embarrass the disciples, but that's not what He did. (I should learn from Him on this) Jesus called a little boy to His side, and started teaching. The little boy was not rich or famous. He had no power or authority. He could not help advance their careers or their position. According to Thayer's Greek Lexicon, the word translated here as "receive" means "to take in to your home to raise and educate". If you receive (welcome and provide for) this child, you are doing it for Me. When you receive Me, you receive My Father who sent Me. The one who is least among you is the one who is great. 

That word "least" can also mean little, as in little influence. The one who seems the least important, the most humble one among you, is the greatest. Both Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died about the same time. One woman was very wealthy and lived a very public life with a lavish lifestyle. One woman spent her life in poverty, caring for the least of the least. Both woman did many good things. Both woman made an impact on their worlds. Mother Teresa, however, spent her life loving the diseased and the dying, willing sacrificing herself to serve others. In the end, the least was the greatest. 

Do you want to be great? If so, serve the least with great love. Greatness does not come with a big bank balance. It does not come with an important job or a fancy title. Greatness comes when we humble ourselves, roll up our sleeves, and care for the least likely with the greatest need. If you want to be great, you have to start by not only being least, but by loving and serving the least. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Prayers

I was hoping for a sweet, uncomplicated post for the night before Thanksgiving. Maybe even something funny. I considered a Wonder Dog Thanksgiving post. Then, I read the news. This morning, I saw troubling words on the WTVA news app. A soviet official, commenting on recent protests and violence, expressed concern about the "instability" in our nation. That has troubled me all day. Tonight, I find that there are numerous concerns in the international community about the stability and values in our nation, as evidenced by the recent rioting and protests.

Here's just a sample of what I've found (you might check ibtimes.com for more information)
- The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine "expressed solidarity with the protesters".
- The Times of India describes events as an "eruption of black fury"
- An article in Venezuela compared the events in Ferguson to the demonstrations in Mexico and stated that the common link was the "role of the state".
- A Chinese business executive, commenting on social media, said "Americans urgently need universal values." 

In case you missed that, the international community is questioning our values and our stability, and rightly so. I do not presume to say what is right and wrong in a situation about which I do not have all the information. There are some things that are obvious, however. It is wrong to steal and to destroy someone else's property. No matter what else has happened, two wrongs do not make a right. My grandmother taught me that truth, and so did my mama. I have taught my son that, and I certainly hope he remembers it.  

Two wrongs do not make a right.

On the other hand, our first amendment prohibits the government from making laws that limit our right for peaceable assembly. I have reread the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Amendments to the Constitution this evening. It is a masterfully written and assembled document. There is nothing wrong with our Constitution. Just to be sure we all understand the first amendment, I've copied it  here:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The first amendment does not guarantee us the right to violence. It guarantees us the right to peaceable assembly. I, myself, have attended peaceable assemblies. If we are peaceable, then our Constitution guarantees us the right to assemble in that manner. I have sworn to uphold the Constitution on three separate occasions, and I have tried hard to do that very thing. The guarantees we have been afforded are precious and must not be taken lightly. Please understand me. I have nothing at all against peaceful demonstrations with signs, chants, or songs. I am not against a row of people standing quietly in the middle of a busy highway with a banner or a sign. That is inconvenient for the people on the highway, but is peaceable and is protected by the First Amendment to our Constitution. When we see injustice, it is our duty and our right to speak up, but we must do it in a peaceable manner. Shouting obscenities and threats are not peaceful, and are not protected by the Constitution. Throwing frozen water bottles is not peaceable behavior and is not protected by our Constitution, nor is looting, arson, or destruction of public property. Those behaviors are crimes.

You may not see this outbreak of protest and violence the way I see it. You may think I am wrong, and, frankly, I pray that I am. In a nutshell, we have a mess and only God can fix it. This is not going in a good direction. The looting and destruction of minority businesses does not help to heal a wound for which healing is long overdue. The burning of patrol cars makes a statement, but it is costly for the town in which it happens, and, in the end, it hurts the very people who need help the most. 

Lest you think I have overlooked the behavior of law enforcement, I have not.  My dear friends' son was arrested in St. Louis and, frankly, manhandled, while trying to assist protestors who had been maced and were seeking to flee the violence. There is not likely a more kind and gentle man, and I cannot imagine a situation in which he could be construed as a violent offender while sharing the love of Christ.

As disciples of Christ, we cannot expect the non-believers of this world to act like Jesus. Why would they do that when we find it so hard to do ourselves? Acting like Jesus is OUR responsibility as the body of Christ. Acting like Jesus is not optional. I hope you understand those two facts, but they bear repeating. 

Acting like Jesus is OUR responsibility as the body of Christ.
Acting like Jesus is not optional

I really do not want to go here, and to be honest, I would have had a happy, funny blog post up two hours ago, but I was under such conviction that I had to repent and write what was on my heart. Body of Christ, we do not have much more time. We must get with it. We need to do what needs to be done, and we need to do it now. We do not need to wait until after Black Friday and we probably do not need to wait until after Thanksgiving. Our nation is in a mess, and that Great Cloud of Witnesses is poised and watching to see how we will respond. 

I remind you again of what God told Solomon. When the country is in a mess and under the judgment of God, only God's people can help. If they do not do what needs to be done, judgement will proceed. Are we under judgement? I can't say for sure, but we certainly do not appear to be in a peaceful, blessed condition right now. If there is injustice, we need to correct it. If there is prejudice, we need to lead the way in changing that. If there is brutality, we need to speak up and demand change. 

More than all of those actions, however, there is something that is not optional, and only God's people can do it.

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 

It is not enough for  me, alone, to humble myself, pray, seek God's face, repent, and turn from my sin. It is not enough for me alone to repent of our corporate sin. The body of Christ must join together to accomplish healing in our nation. We can do this, and we must. We will be so glad we did. It will be much better than getting a great before-dawn deal on something we do not need. I recognize it is the holiday season. I know we have family gatherings scheduled. I know all that, and I have all those same things planned. 

At the same time, I am deeply concerned about our country and deeply committed to its preservation. Please, my brothers and sisters, look around you. We have a situation that cries out for our help. I hate to say this, especially the evening before Thanksgiving, but the best way to humble ourselves is to fast and pray, begging God for forgiveness.
Oh, dear ones, please understand the urgency here. I hope that I am wrong about what will happen if we fail to act in repentance. I hope I am wrong, but I do not think I am. You will not like where we are headed. You will not like it at all. Time is short, dear ones. Please pray.

The peril of prayerlessness

An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great." (Luke 9:46-48 NASB)

Jesus was training His disciples to carry on once He returned to heaven. The disciples didn't yet realize that they were being groomed for a near impossible task. If they had, perhaps they would have been less concerned about who was greatest and more concerned about how they would accomplish the enormous job Jesus would give them. My mother sometimes said, "Ignorance is bliss." For the disciples, ignorance was a kind of bliss that allowed them to continue with foolishness, such as the argument about who was greatest. None of them were greatest. Those who were privy to the transfiguration had failed to stay awake for the divine event and those who were left to carry on the ministry had failed to heal the sick boy. 

Both groups had failed as a result of the same root cause. Prayerlessness. Peter, James, and John did not persevere in prayer when they joined Jesus for His mountain prayer retreat. As a result, they drifted off to sleep and missed most of the divine events for which they had been included. The other disciples were busy trying to carry on with the work and failed to spend the amount of time in prayer required to be prepared for the work. 

Does that sound familiar? We, too, are often guilty of being so busy that we fail to spend time with our Lord in prayer and Bible study, preparing for the work He has given us. We are equally guilty of thinking that our agenda, our plans, are what matters for the future. God has a plan. His word is clear about it. There is a plan for each of us. It is a plan for good and not evil. It is a plan for a future and a hope. What we need to understand is that God's plan is the one that will be blessed, and we would do well to align our lives and our priorities with His plan. If we could grasp the fact that there is a plan that requires our participation to expand the kingdom of God, perhaps we would be more focused on preparation for that plan, more vigilant, more faithful. If we understood that the tasks ahead cannot be accomplished in our strength alone, perhaps we would be willing to spend the time required to gain the strength we need. 

What do you have on your agenda for today? Is it the same agenda as that of Almighty God? It is the busiest days that require the greatest amount of prayer. As you make your list of tasks to accomplish today, be sure that time with your Heavenly Father is at the top of the list. That time is the source of your power, so be still until you have the power you need. 
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The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, is now available at http://www.leannahollis.com/online-store/ Get your copy today. 
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Trusting and obeying

I am abuzz with books these days. Getting The Waiting in my hands after all the work and waiting was so exciting! When I returned from Nashville, I was so glad to be home that I temporarily forgot they had been delivered. That big stack of boxes was wonderful! 

I didn't write much yesterday because of other responsibilities but today I was able to write almost all day. I am constantly surprised by how much fun it is to write, especially writing fiction. It has turned out that my quest for facts extends to fiction, as well. I have very rarely seen fiction with footnotes, but my new book has them. 

Since terrorists from Uzbekistan have surfaced in my book, I had to read extensively about Uzbek and the terrorists who are active there. You may not be surprised that the terrorists are planning an act of terror, so that prompted a very informative search for the types of dastardly deeds each terror group prefers. Even more surprising, I learned today that those dastardly deed doers who use bombs have multiple bomb choices, and some are very unexpected. I know a good bit more about bombs than I ever expected to know. 

Of course the FBI is helping track these bad guys. That's mostly because I forgot all about Homeland Security. It turns out that no FBI agent can be in two different cities (in two different states) at the same time. Unfortunately, I didn't discover my error for almost two action-packed chapters. Today, I had some re-writing to do. 

The best part of writing fiction is that I can give my characters some of the most wonderful parts of my day. When they least expect it, God shows up. When their mind is in a stew, He speaks. When they have never heard of Jesus, someone introduces them. It is exactly like real life. (Or how real life is supposed to be) In fiction, it is possible for the body of Christ to act like the body of Christ is supposed to act, and the results can be pretty amazing. 

I believe that, if the body of Christ acted like the body of Christ all the time, we would see some pretty fabulous things. God would do more than we can imagine and we would see signs and wonders. If we acted like we are supposed to. That's a pretty big "if", but it is not an impossible if. Do you want to see God move in extraordinary ways? Do what He says. It's just that simple. It may be horridly complicated in fiction but in real life, all we need is obedience and love. 


Who is greatest?

And there arose a reasoning among them, which of them was the greatest. (Luke 9:46 ASV)

The disciples had been busy. Most of them had been left behind to manage the ministry while Jesus took a break for prayer, accompanied by Peter, James, and John. Things had not gone well, and an upset father confronted Jesus upon His return with the news of their failure. His son had a demon causing convulsions and they had not been able to remove it. Jesus intervened, removed the demon, and healed the child. 

Afterwards, He spoke to the disciples about the importance of remembering the things He had taught them. He would be arrested and they would need to carry on. They didn't understand and they didn't ask questions. No one wanted to know what He meant, nor what was to come. 

Some time after this exchange, a disagreement broke out among the disciples. They were discussing which of them was greatest. When you think about it, this was a crazy argument. Who was greatest? Jesus was. There should have been no argument about that. The question then became which of them was second greatest. 

There were two groups. The larger group had just failed miserably in the area of healing and miracles. The second group, made up of Peter, James, and John had just slept through the transfiguration, waking only as Moses and Elijah, Jesus' heavenly visitors, were departing. It is pretty clear that neither group had much cause for celebration. If they had seen themselves as they were, with all their flaws and failures, I'm not sure they would have found much about which to argue. Who was greatest? None of them. 

The disciples had a problem from which we all suffer, and it's called pride. They saw the good in themselves and the negative in the others. Their skewed opinions caused unnecessary friction in the group. A clear understanding of their own heart would have eliminated all cause for argument, but they saw what they wanted to see, much as we do. Those flawed disciples had much good in them, but they also needed to grow and mature. Years later, these same men would evangelize the world with the good news of Jesus, but they had a long way to go before that would happen. 

Most of us have that same pride problem. It may not manifest in the same way, but it's a common affliction. There's a common solution, too. When we see ourselves as we are in comparison to who Christ is, our self-importance begins to fade. We would do well to ask God to show us our own hearts. When we see our sin in comparison to the spotless Lamb of God, there is no doubt. Who is the greatest? Jesus. Only Jesus. 
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The new book, The Waiting: When The Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, is now available at www.leannahollis.com/online-store/. Get yours today!
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Link to last night's post: http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-wonder-dogs-get-bath.html
 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Wonder Dogs Get a Bath

The Wonder Dogs went with me to the barn this afternoon. One of my friends had challenged me to a Work Week Hustle, a friendly competition to get the most steps during the work week. This afternoon, I checked the step counter and I was a little behind. It's not that I'm competitive or anything, but I did have a daily step goal to meet, so I had to get some walking done. 

Once or twice to the barn and back was about all the Wonder Dogs could stand before they found a more interesting distraction. Unfortunately, that interesting distraction was soft, smelly, and still steaming in the cow pasture. They had a grand time! The stench was awful, and their appearance was even worse.  

Both dogs were shocked when I refused to let them in the house. Mamie ran back to the kitchen door and started scratching, desperate to come in. I opened the door, scooped her up, and headed to the sink. She whimpered, twisted, wheezed, and jumped around like I was killing her! I could barely hold her for all the jumping, which was, frankly, a disgusting experience because of the  smell and grossness. I had dressed in my polka-dotted rubber raincoat but even that was not enough. By the time Mamie was clean, I was also soaked. 

Maggie, on the other hand, let me bring her in and bathe her with not a single complaint. She was as good as could be, as you would expect from the original Wonder Dog. 

There's quite a contrast between the two when it comes to bath time clean up. Maggie likes to get dirty but she doesn't like to stay dirty. Mamie is just wide open.  She wants to get dirty, stay dirty, and get dirtier. As long as she doesn't have to have a bath, she's happy. 

We are, unfortunately, also a little casual about getting the dirt of this world and the soil of sin into our lives. We are often as cantankerous as Mamie about getting it out of our lives. There's an old hymn that says "sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow." Sin does leave a stain in our hearts that only Christ can cleanse, and having a clean heart feels wonderful! Why, then, do we so often act like Mamie, throwing a fit about removing the stain that sin has caused and refusing to relinquish its power in our lives? It is better to be cleansed and forgiven, but you can't always tell it from the way we behave. What is it about the stench of sin that is so appealing? Why do we struggle so hard to keep our sin? 

When I look at the grace with which Maggie accepted her bath, I think we, like Maggie, may just need to be a little older in our faith and a bit wiser. If we want to be right with God, however, we must accept His cleansing with grace.  Insisting on keeping the stench and stain of sin will never do, and, truthfully, we can't expect God to tolerate it. Friends, if there is something in your life that is as displeasing to God as the Wonder Dogs' cow pooh roll is to me, why not let God have it? Let Him cleanse you and make your heart as white as snow. 

Maggie has learned an important lesson. No one snuggles with a dog that's covered in cow pooh. A clean, sweet smelling dog is another matter entirely. A bath makes more snuggling possible. If a doggie bath can yield such a sweet benfit, just think what intimacy can follow the cleansing of a soul!
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The new book, The Waiting: When The Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, is now available at www.leannahollis.com/online-store/. Get yours today!

The Persistent Father, part 10

"Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men." But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement. (Luke 9:44-45 NASB)

Today's verses show us the great kindness of God in preparing us for the future. Jesus, with the cross always on His mind, was trying to prepare His disciples for what was to come. They were not yet ready to understand all He would face, but He wanted them to know that a crisis was coming and it would not be easy. "Let My words sink in," He told them. "You are going to need them later." It's not exactly how He said it, but is clearly what He meant. Let these words sink in because I am going to be arrested (delivered into the hands of men). If Jesus was not with them, they needed His words to be such a part of them that they could remember them when they needed them. 

When Jesus said, "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men," He knew what that meant. He knew that there would be an arrest, torture, crucifixion. None of that was a surprise to Him, and He not only came from heaven, knowing what was to come, He stayed all the way to the end. Scripture tells us that He persevered because of what came after the arrest, torture, crucifixion. The resurection, the pardon He purchased for all mankind, was worth what it cost Him. Knowing that, He endured. 

Do not miss this point. Jesus told His disciples to remember His words and make them a part of themselves. He did not tell them why. In fact, He intentionally kept the knowledge from them. Who could continue to follow if they had know what would happen? Likely no one. If they were allowed to go through the entire difficult time from His arrest until His resurection, they would be ready for anything, and they would need to be, but they needed the time of discipleship first. They needed the foundation He was giving them. Looking back, they would remember His words and understand what they meant. For the present, however, hints were all they needed. 

It's interesting to me that the disciples knew they did not understand Jesus' words, but did not ask for an explanation, as they had before. They must have realized there was something ominous in the words, because they were afraid to ask. Apparently, they felt they were better off not knowing, and it must have been true. 

Looking back over my years of following Jesus, I can see many times that He allowed a difficulty that would mold and change me into someone more like Christ. Had He informed me of all I would face, I might have balked and refused to go farther. Might? I almost certainly would have refused to proceed. His kindness allowed me to see only the portion of the path I needed in order to press ahead. Perhaps you, too, have experienced the grace of an incomplete understanding of the future that allowed you to go to a hard time and carried you through. During this week of thanksgiving, let us not fail to give thanks for those hard times that molded us into the disciples He intended and the grace that has carried us through. 
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The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone  is now available online at www.leannahollis.com/online-store/