Saturday, October 4, 2014

Looking Toward Danger

The gravel road that runs from the house to the barn veers off just past half-way. The branch leads to the cattle gap and across that to a state highway and traffic. Maggie the Wonder Dog made a foray or two down that road when she was younger. Thankfully, she has since learned that the road leads only to danger (and will get her in trouble with her mama, too!) and stays away from it.

Every once in a while, though, she pauses at the crossroad and looks longingly down the hill. I'm not sure what makes that road seem so enticing, but sometimes she takes a step or two in that direction.  Usually, she glances back at me after those first tentative steps and turns around when she hears my firm, "No."  

This morning, she paused for the longest time, just looking down the road. I wondered what she was thinking and decided I probably knew. "Maggie," I called, "Don't even look.  Come on back now."  Slowly, she gazed at me for a long moment and headed back to the barn. 

I can't let her go to the highway, but I certainly understand the draw she feels. What is it about dangerous choices, those bad choices that can bring more consequences than we would want to consider, much less experience, that makes them so enticing? Why is it that, years after we have left the land of destruction, the road there still holds just a little attraction? 

That first tentative step, the one that leads away from safety and toward destruction, is the hardest one and the greatest battle. One step, though, easily leads to two, and before you know it, the highway looms just ahead. Your path may not lead to hedonism or substance abuse, but it may lead to bitterness, unforgiveness, or some other sin from which you have struggled to be free. How foolish it is to regain our chains, but how easy it is to do that very thing!

When that crossroad seems to beckon, do what Maggie does. Stop, take a look back, and listen to the Still Small Voice calling you to safety. Don't just listen, friend, listen and obey. 

Your ears will hear a word behind you, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:21 NASB)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Power Problems

"You got the power off?" Sam said from the patio. "What power?" I asked. "Any power. You don't have any power at the barn. I thought you turned it off." A long and very confusing conversation followed as I tried to understand what it was he thought I had done. Finally, I did the only thing that made any sense. I went to see for myself.

At the barn, Sam and I investigated. The fuses were fine but the lights (and the freezer) were all off. For the first time in 25 years, I realized that I had no idea how or where electricity entered the barn. Sam assured me it came under ground from the pump house, so we headed back to see. Fuses were fine there, too. 

There was nothing else to do but call John the Builder. He came right over, investigated thoroughly, and found the problem. It turned out that two wires had done something they shouldn't (that's my interpretation, not John's explanation) and shorted out. When they shorted out, something else was messed up.  If that is about as clear as mud, it's because that's how it looks to me, too. The errant wires and their burned out shenanigans have resulted in a total loss of power in my barn. It turns out that the whole mess needs to replaced with a new breaker box. 

It seems odd to me that two wires so far removed from the barn can result in such a loss of power, but they have, and the only solution is to remove the mess and start fresh. It seems odd, but I don't guess it is. I've had that same problem in my own life a few times. Perhaps you have, too. It all starts with one little error in judgment, one bad decision, and the next thing you know, things have snowballed out of control and there is a total mess. It seems like all the power in your life is gone. When that happens, you can stumble along trying to figure out what went wrong or you can just go to The Expert. The writer of Hebrews knew something about this, and he had clearly found the solution in Christ alone. 

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 NASB)

When we have a mess and a resulting loss of power in our lives, the only sensible thing to do is approach the throne of grace, confess our need and our failure, and receive the mercy and grace God is so willing to give. It's not just the only sensible thing to do, it's the only thing to do. The good news is that we can count on not just mercy, not just grace, but also help in time of need.  With all that, a restoration of power can't be far behind. 

The Journey, part 14: The One in Charge

Herod said, "I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?" And he kept trying to see Him. (Luke 9:9 NASB)

There was a problem with the knowledge Herod sought. He wanted to know the answer to the question "Who is this man?"  There is no indication that he had any interest in submitting to the authority of "this Man".  Herod was a Tetrarch and, as such, had power, fame, and great wealth. He did exactly as he wanted, and everyone else did, too. He gave the orders that those around him instantly obeyed. Herod was in charge. It would not take much investigation into Jesus to find that His words, "Follow Me", could change a man's life forever. Herod didn't want change, and he certainly did not want to put Jesus in charge of his life. All he really wanted was information. 

Therein lies the rub. Do we, like Herod, want information, or do we look to Jesus for transformation?  There is a vast difference between those two, and it has eternal significance. Which is it we want? 

We do well to ask "Who is this Man?" The answer to that question, however, must be followed by one of equal importance. "What will I do with Jesus?" For those of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus already, perhaps a better question is "What have I done with Jesus?" Have I given Him control of my life? Have I modeled my life after His? Do I embrace all the words of Christ or only the ones that best suit my fancy?  

Herod had an extensive network and he undoubtedly gathered quite a bit of information about Jesus. What he learned about Jesus, however, did not determine his eternal destiny. How he responded to Jesus determined that, and it is how we respond to Him that will determine our eternal destiny as well. There was one response for which Jesus asked and it is one that changes everything. "Follow Me." The Savior still asks for that outrageously simple, all-consuming response. "Follow Me."  

What have you done with Jesus thus far?   

What will you do with Jesus today?  

The Journey, part 13: Who is This Man?

Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was happening; and he was greatly perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen again. Herod said, "I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?" And he kept trying to see Him. (Luke 9:7-9 NASB)

Herod Antipas played such a pivotal role in the life and crucifixion of Jesus that he is worth considering in a bit more detail. As we have already seen, the news of Jesus and the ministry of the twelve had spread all the way to Herod's court. The rumors about Jesus had reached Herod. He's Elijah. He's one of the prophets. He's John the Baptizer. Herod didn't know what to think, but that last, John the Baptizer come back to life, chilled his soul, and was the one thing he did not want to believe. 

It was at this point that Herod asked the most important question of his life. "Who is this man?"  It was a valid question. Herod did not call in leaders of the Sanhedrin, nor one of the priests from the temple. He had already heard enough opinions, and he did not want one more. He wanted fact. Herod understood that there was a difference between the speculations of the populace and the truth of the matter. Herod also understood another critical fact. To get to the truth, he would have to see Jesus.  

To get to the truth about Jesus, we, too, must have a personal encounter with Him. The world's libraries are filled with books about Jesus, most containing varying amounts of truth. None of those compare to the power of time spent in His presence or to study in the "red letters" of His Word. If we want to know Jesus, we must stop looking at the people who claim to know Him and start looking to Him. 

To whom do we turn for information about Jesus? What is our source for truth? Do we look to every person except Jesus? Do we read every book except God's Word? Let's make sure that our search for truth actually leads us to TRUTH, and not the opinion of those who, though well-meaning, are not the Christ.  If we are searching for truth, and we are, then let us go the source, which is Jesus alone.

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6 NASB)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Leaves and Pumpkins

Just a few days ago, I swept my front sidewalk. It was still clean as a whistle yesterday. Well, I thought so. This afternoon, I walked out the front door and was surprised to see leaves all over the walk. I probably shouldn't admit this, but my first thought was, "What in the world is making the leaves fall off?" I definitely shouldn't confess this, but it took me a minute to realize that the answer to that question is FALL. Fall is making the leaves fall off!  

The transition from the hot, muggy summer to the crisp cool mornings of autumn is always a wonderful relief. I know many people equate fall with football, but not me. Fall is long walks in the woods with crunching, rustling leaves underfoot. It's the amazing colors of the trees, flannel shirts, boots, and bonfires.  It's stacking the firewood next to the fire pits and staying ready.

Fall also means pumpkins. I don't care much for carving the pumpkins, but I adore eating them. Pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pasta sauce, pumpkin cake, pumpkin coffee, and pumpkin ice cream. The one pumpkin dish I really love is pumpkin pie, made from scratch with fresh pumpkin. It takes entirely too long to do it this way, but it is really good. Really, really good. 

My mama loved that pumpkin pie, made from scratch from a fresh pumpkin I had roasted and scraped. She especially liked it if I had also grown the pumpkin.  If I mentioned making pumpkin pie, she commonly asked if I were using fresh pumpkin. She was not overly fond of pumpkin from a can, but I loved the convenience. I hate to admit this, too, but there were way too many years I made the pumpkin pie from canned pumpkin. I'm saddened by the fact that roasting the pumpkin and taking the extra time wasn't a higher priority for me, and now that my mama is gone, I wish it had been. I wish I had taken the long way round a little more often.  

There were plenty of things my mama liked that I did do for her, but not nearly enough pumpkin pie. Sometimes we look at the inconvenience of service and forget that the opportunity for service is shorter than you expect.  Before you know it, your chance can be gone, so... 
make the effort, 
take the time, 
go the extra mile. 

This year, take the long way round just a little more often.  You'll be so glad you did.

The Journey, part 12: The Opportunity

Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was happening; and he was greatly perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen again. Herod said, "I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?" And he kept trying to see Him. (Luke 9:7-9 NASB)

This little sidelight in the midst of the story of the journey of the twelve might seem oddly placed. Perhaps understanding a little more about Herod will help us see the importance of its inclusion. 

Herod the Great was the ruler of Judea at the time Jesus was born. It was to Herod the Great that the magi went seeking the infant King, and it was this madman, Herod the Great, who slaughtered infants throughout Judea in an effort to eliminate the presumed infant threat to his throne. He was a visionary in construction and building, and the Temple Mount, breathtaking in its expanse, was one of his projects. He, who executed numerous relatives including his own wife, claimed to be a Jew. 

Herod the Great's son, Herod Antipas, was born to Malthace, a Samaritan woman who was one of his five wives. Herod Antipas served as Tetrarch over Galilee and Perea. Like his father, he was also a great builder and Tiberius was one of the projects he completed. Also like his father, he had a lavish (and corrupt) lifestyle. It was this Herod Antipas who married his half-brother's wife Herodias and was condemned by John the Baptizer for the marriage. Herod Antipas, after arresting and imprisoning him, was manipulated into executing John at the behest of Herodias. 

As the twelve journeyed throughout Galilee, they preached and healed, lives were changed, and the news spread. What is remarkable is that the news of Jesus and the twelve traveled all the way to Herod Antipas. Herod heard about this itenerate preacher and his band of traveling apprentices and wondered what it all meant. "What are people saying about them?" He must've asked. His sources told him that some people thought Jesus was really Elijah or one of the other prophets.  

They must have shuddered as they told him the rest of the news. There were some people who thought that Jesus was actually John the Baptizer, risen from the dead. That news gave Herod Antipas a shudder of his own. Scripture says he was "greatly perplexed".  The word here is diaporeĊ, and can also mean "to doubt".  Indeed, he might well doubt the wisdom of his actions. According to Matthew 14:9, Herod was grieved by his decision to behead John. He knew it was wrong, but he did it anyway. When the news reached him about Jesus, he was still struggling with that bad decision. He knew he had John killed himself. If Jesus wasn't John, then who was he?  Herod didn't know, but he wanted to find out. 

That conviction that follows wrong-doing is a great blessing. It can drive us to our knees, cause us to examine our hearts, lead us to repentance and to the transformation of God. Conviction can lead us to repentance, but it doesn't always. Herod had been troubled by the murder of John even before he ordered him executed. He had been troubled, but he had done nothing to deal with his guilt. Suddenly, he heard about Jesus and thought, "I need to see Him."  He thought about seeing Jesus, but he never actually did, until it was too late. 

Even Herod had a chance of redemption. Like Saul, he stood at the beginning of his own Damascus Road. Had he gone just a little further, he might have found the kind of Damascus Road experience that turned the fire-breathing murderer Saul into the Spirit-driven Paul. He might have, but he didn't. Herod "kept trying" to see Jesus but he never quite made it, and he missed the chance of a lifetime. 

Herod's conviction could have driven him to forgiveness, cleansing, and a new life with His Lord, but he never followed through. Oh, how important it is to do more than feel bad about our sin! The purpose of conviction is not to simply make us sorry. The purpose of conviction is to make us repentant so that we can be cleansed. 

Is there something in your life about which you are sorry? Have your decisions caused great harm to others? Have you spent years regretting what cannot be changed?  Perhaps it is time to stop regretting and start repenting. Why not confess your errors and ask for forgiveness? Why not embrace cleansing? 

This is what Paul said, and it's true today as well: "
"So what are you waiting for? Get up and get yourself baptized, scrubbed clean of those sins and personally acquainted with God.’" (Acts 22:14-16 MSG)

Indeed. What are we waiting for? Let's get up and get going! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Watching your step

Maggie (my 11-pound Shih Tzu) and I were heading to the barn in the predawn starlight. The path was so completely shrouded in darkness that we were at the cattle gap before we realized it. Maggie has an easy path to the left of the cattle gap, but this day we were walking on the right, where the space between the bars is wide and the ground is farther below. As she always does, Maggie carefully picked her footing across the cattle gap and managed to navigate the bars without any trouble. 

I, on the other hand, was stumbling along, thinking about my next cup of coffee and paying no attention to footing at all. As you might expect, my foot went between the bars and I stumbled badly. I didn't fall, but it certainly wasn't graceful. 

Maggie continued to walk peacefully along, safe because of her caution. I watched her and wished I were more careful, more attentive to my footing. It's not just my footing that needs more attention, though. I long to have the protection of personal caution that waits to take a step, speak a word, make a decision until I am sure. I need to have that caution, and I wonder how different life would be if I always made my way, my choices as carefully as that little dog picks her steps.

Sometimes, the way is dark. Sometimes there doesn't seem to be quite enough light to see the next step.  When the illumination is too dim to easily find our way, there is no need to stumble along blindly, certain to land in the first treacherous trap along the way. When we walk by starlight instead of the blazing sun of day, when the next step is not certain or clear, slow down.  Move carefully. Wait until you are sure. As you wait, be sure to consult the One who has mapped the path, knows the road, and can help you avoid every danger along the way.  

Be careful, friends, to make right steps and right choices. They are essential parts of a life that is "right" as well.  

The Journey, part 11: Departing

Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. (Luke 9:6 NASB)

"Departing, they began going." It's an odd turn of phrase but it has an important truth hidden in those four words. Leaving Jesus, they immediately started on the journey. They weren't to take anything with them, and they likely had nothing with them for a journey anyway, so they just headed out in obedience. They didn't run by home first, make an announcement about their assignment, or try to fine-tune the plans. Jesus said to go, and they went. It was as simple as that. 

When you look at the entire sentence, it's really remarkable. Jesus had told them that He was sending them out to "proclaim the kingdom of God and perform healing".  The only things they were to carry were the power and authority He had given. When the twelve disciples left Jesus that day, they did exactly what He said in exactly the way He said it. They proclaimed the kingdom of God and they performed healing.  There is no indication in Luke that they had done either of these things independently before, but they did not hesitate. They gave it their best effort and did what Jesus had instructed them to do. 

It's amazing, this total and unwavering obedience that put them on the road doing the most unexpected things. When  Simon Peter was working all night for a big catch of fish, he likely never expected to be leading an evangelistic/healing crusade throughout the country. Those who knew him from his old life must have found it very surprising. 

What Peter had no way of knowing was that this little preaching trip was nothing in comparison to what Jesus had planned for later. On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up in front of everyone and preached with such power and conviction that three thousand people were moved by the Spirit to accept Christ on the spot. This powerful preaching is surprising until we remember that Peter had been in training for months. The journey on which the twelve departed was the "internship" that prepared them for the ministry they would have after Jesus returned to heaven. 

It is easy to look at the events in Acts 2 and understand the wisdom of the journey in Luke 9. From the perspective of the disciples starting out on their trip, none of the events in Acts were even possible. They were expecting an earthly kingdom and for Jesus to live for years. They had no idea of that for which He was preparing them, and yet, they went. 

What we need to understand is that Acts 2 and the incredible day of Pentecost would not have been possible without the simple obedience in the unlikely journey of Luke 9. The twelve did not see the big picture, but they went anyway. In that same way, we may be called to a walk of obedience that makes no sense to us at the time. We need to obey anyway. Somewhere down the road, the obedience of today will make a difference. What a shame it would be to miss the greater thing God had planned because we failed to obey in the lesser. 

Are you called by God to a journey that makes no sense to you? Go anyway. Is the task God has given you unlikely and one for which you feel unprepared? Try anyway. You never know what God will do tomorrow with the obedience of today. There may be a day of Pentecost awaiting the fruits of obedience, so obey. Don't fail to obey. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Persecuted Church in Nigeria

Boko Haram was founded as a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist sect in Nigeria in 2002 with the goal of establishing an Islamic state there that would function under strict sharia law.  Initially, they had a religious center with a school for poor children that served as a recruiting tool for the organization. Over the years, the sect has become increasing militant and, by 2009, there were clear acts of violence against those who did not follow the tenets of Islam.  As the years passed, violence, acts of terror, and outright persecution have increased.  Boko Haram became a household name of terror with the abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok earlier this year, but their reign of terror was in full swing well before the girls were taken.

One village in northern Nigeria was attacked by Boko Haram forces eleven times over a period of twenty-one months, beginning in January 2012.  Villagers were attacked and forced to flee their homes.  Christians were threatened and killed.  That same year, Boko Haram raided and attacked a village where a young man was pastor.  When he refused to recant his faith and accept Islam, he was shot in the face and left for dead while his wife and young son stood helplessly by, watching in horror.  That day, Boko Haram forces went to the homes of more than thirty of his church members. Every person was offered the chance to recant their faith and accept Islam or be killed.  Every one refused to deny Christ and every one was killed for their faith.  Every single one.  

Every single person refused to deny their faith and was killed.
Every single one.

As I read those words, I thought, "I wish I were a part of that church."  Imagine being a part of a church where everyone understood that nothing can separate them from the love of God, including the AK-47 of a terrorist, and that to die, as the apostle Paul said, is gain.  That is a church where God's Spirit can reign and rule!

Today, consider what your response would be to terrorists armed with AK-47's as they burst into your home. Would you stand firm for your faith or would you deny Christ for a chance to survive?  We may, or may not, encounter that situation, but our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world live with that possibility every day of their lives.  We cannot sit idly by and do nothing for our brothers and sisters in such grave peril.  We cannot fail to help while thousands die in Nigeria every year at the hands of Boko Haram.  We can give, we can go, but most of all we can pray, and pray we must!  Pray that those who are persecuted can hold to their faith, that those who grieve will be comforted, and that those who have lost so much will find that our Lord restores the years the locusts have stolen, but do not fail to pray that the God who changed a Saul into a Paul would do the same in the hearts and lives of the Boko Haram militants who have fought against Him so viciously and for so long.

Material about Boko Haram drawn from Wikipedia.  Information about the young pastor from multiple internet sources.  For more information about the persecuted church in Nigeria, see Voice of the Martyrs.  

The Journey, part 10: The Rejection

And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." (Luke 9:5 NASB)

As the twelve assembled for their instructions, they were likely filled with anticipation. Jesus was sending them out with power and authority. They were going to do the things Jesus had done, and everyone knew that what Jesus did was very exciting. Perhaps they felt as if they were on the brink of fame, of becoming first century "superstar" evangelists. People were going to receive them and provide for them, just like they did for Jesus. This journey business was going to be fun!

Everything sounded good until Jesus added a little postscript. "And about those who reject you..." He said. Reject us? What happened to those receiving us? "About those who do not receive you," Jesus went on to explain. It turned out that not everyone would embrace the twelve, nor the truth they hoped to share. Some people would actually reject them. Considering what happened to first century people labeled as heretics, they probably thought, "This might not go so well." 

The response Jesus recommended to rejection was a little surprising. They were not to stay and argue with the rejecters. They were to leave that town and shake the dust off their feet as they left in symbolic testimony against them. Jesus had given them power over demons but not every battle, not even every spiritual battle, was theirs to fight. Sometimes, they were to walk away. 

There is a tendency to feel a sense of relief that the twelve were not required to stay and suffer through the rejection and humiliation it could bring. It gives us hope for avoiding similar situations, doesn't it? If we aren't careful, though, our relief will cause us to overlook a tragic fact. The rejecters were costly to their town. When the twelve encountered those who rejected them, they were to leave. When they left, no one else in the town would hear them preach the truth of Jesus. No one else would experience the healing they had come to give. They might find His truth elsewhere, but it would not be from the messengers Jesus had sent. 

When you consider the implications, the price of their rejection of Jesus is heartbreaking! We see this and are appalled that a few could cost the rest such an important gift, but do we stop to consider what our own rejection of truth costs us? What it costs those around us?  When we embrace the truth of Christ, it changes us and makes us more like Him. When we reject His truth, even portions of it, it changes us, too. Forgiving your enemies is not optional for believers, but it is a principle that is often rejected. When we live a life of unforgiveness, it affects everyone around us. 

A careful Holy-Spirit-powered inspection  of our lives is in order. Let us carefully consider the ways in which we reject truth, the ways in which we fail to live as Christ would live. As we consider our own rejections, let us not lose sight of the price those rejections of truth will exact for the ones most dear to us. May we embrace the truth of our Lord and demonstrate it by the purity of our lives so that all those who know us will be drawn to Him. 

Let us live "the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth, so help me, God."

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Hay-Nibbler Effect

Of the three horses in the barn, Cali is definitely the slowest mover.  That is a great advantage for a Western Pleasure horse in the show ring, so it seems unwise to rush her, but some mornings, a little quicker pace would be nice.  The delay is caused by Cali's attention to the hay that has dropped on the floor of the barn on the way to the paddock.  She wants both the big bundle of hay outside the door and the little scattered hay along the floor.  (You may have read about Cali and her nibbling-ways a few weeks ago.)  

Recently, our lovely Quarter Horse mare has taken note of Cali's delay.  A few days ago, Belle headed out the barn door, just like always.  Half-way through, she looked back, realized Cali was busy with something, and backed up to get a better look.  On reentering the barn, Belle realized that Cali was eating the hay that had dropped off the flake in their rack.  As quietly as could be, Belle stepped alongside Cali and started eating.  

Usually, Belle is content with the "easy pickings" hay just outside the door.  I've never seen her pause to get every morsel.  She wouldn't have, even now, if she had not seen Cali doing it first.  She hasn't paused to nibble every day, but, more days than not, she is joining Cali in getting all she can.  

Cali set the example and Belle has followed right along.  It's a good thing the example was one worth following.  What about the example we set, though?  Is it one worth following? How many people are making a choice or taking an action based on what they have seen us do?  Let's be sure our example is one that can be followed with the confidence that our actions were right actions.  In fact, if we are looking at examples, we need to look at more than actions.  We need to look at our words and attitudes, too.  Are yours worth emulating?
Would life be better for those you love if they acted, spoke, and felt just like you?  Would they be more like Jesus?

Oh dear ones, what a different place this world would be if those of us who know Jesus actually acted as He would act, spoke as He would speak, felt as He felt.  We could make such a difference.  We could, if we would.  Will you be the example someone longs to follow?  


The Journey, part 9: Lodging

 FWhatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city. (Luke 9:4 NASB)

If the twelve were to go forth with no money in their pockets and nothing with which to barter (and they were), then they would either sleep outdoors or depend upon the generosity of strangers for their lodging. In this verse, it becomes apparent that Jesus expected indoor sleeping facilities, and He expected those facilities to be in homes. The way I imagine it, the twelve, traveling two by two, would enter a town, go to the central gathering place, and start chatting  with the people there. Before long, someone might say, "I'd like to hear more about this Jesus. Where are you staying?" The disciples would admit they didn't yet have plans, and their new-found friend might say, "I've got room. You can stay at my house."  When that happened, and it would, they were to go. If it were a palace, they were to stay there. If it were a hovel, they were to stay there. The palace would be wonderfully inviting, and they were welcome to stay there, but only if it were the first place they stayed. They were not to shop the proffered hospitality to find the most comfortable resting place. Sometimes, a hovel just might be the divine appointment God had planned. 

Hovels are not our favorite dwelling, are they? Sometimes, we look at the meagerness of a home and fail to see the beauty of the God who abides within. That hovel may be nothing more than the refining fire of God in the life of His beloved or simply a matter of priority. Regardless, if they were placed in less-than-ideal housing, they were to remain until they moved to another town. There was to be no swapping around. 

You can well imagine what could happen. The two disciples would enter a town, preach the Good News, heal a few people, and become instant celebrities. Suddenly, everyone would want the honor of hosting them. The temptation to go to the biggest house, the nicest accomodations, would be very real. Jesus dealt with that temptation right away. Don't do it. Stay at the first place you go. No swapping around. 

One of the things this allowed was the development of relationships. Moving around might increase exposure to more people, but staying put would allow more intimate times and encourage greater growth in Christ for their host. When the disciples moved to the next town, their host would remain, equipped with the truth they had learned from their guests, able to continue what they had begun. 

The disciples were just passing through. Anywhere they stayed was temporary housing. The truth of the matter is that we are also "just passing through", heading toward our heavenly home. One day, we will live in our eternal home and it will be our ideal place. Until then, it is all simply temporary housing. Along the way, we, like the disciples, need to abide in the place where God places us, sharing the Good News of Jesus until He moves us along. 

For the disciples, the going, the staying, and the moving on were all part of the journey. There was specific obedience for every part, and specific blessings, too. The destination, however, was neither the first place they stayed, nor the last. The destination was the return to Jesus when they would share with Him the joy they had found in the journey He had planned. 

As we go through our day, remember that we are pilgrims heading toward an eternal destination. Be patient with every stop along the way, for our Lord has a plan for each part of the journey.  One day, we will understand it all, see the purpose in it all. For now, we are not called to understanding but to faithfulness. If we obey and trust His provision, what Joy we will find at the end of the road! 

Enjoy the journey!

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Morning stars the same
Forever unchangeable
Fashioned by Your Hand

The Journey, part 8: The Absence of Money

And He said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. (Luke 9:3 NASB)

It is one thing to travel without a bag, bread, or change of clothes. It is another thing all together to travel without money. Traveling without money means that you cannot purchase replacements for the things you have left behind, food along the way, or safe housing for the night. Going without a supply of money means that you are utterly, completely dependent upon God for your daily needs. 

The problem with no money is that God may not see our needs the same way we see them. What if God prefers that I drink water? That cup of Nespresso I enjoy in the morning may seem essential to me. What if your luxury vehicle is not a need in God's eyes? Except for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus walked everywhere He went.  What if the variety and type of food you enjoy is a want instead of a need in God's eyes?  The Israelites ate manna in the wilderness for decades, and God was clearly satisfied with His provision. Sometimes He places us in a palace, but sometimes He does not. 

There is another problem with no money. We not only have to depend upon God for provision, we cannot depend upon ourselves. There is a vast difference between walking the path of abandon with a few hundred dollars tucked back "just in case" and walking the path of abandon with nothing but the favor of God. In the first instance, there is the possibility of "treating" ourselves or rescuing ourselves. In the latter, the only treats or rescues will come by the hand of God. 

As the disciples followed Jesus, they watched Him feed the multitudes with a meager supply of fish and bread. They knew He could feed them because they had seen Him do it. When they headed out on this new adventure, what they had seen before reassured them that He could provide. It was only because of the relationship with Him that knowing He could became knowing He would. 

There are millions of believers around the world who live in this penniless (or nearly penniless) state. It is not because they will not work or because they would not enjoy something "nicer".  Many live in difficult situations because they were born there and they do not have the power or ability to change their situation, because circumstances have changed due to persecution, or because they willingly sacrifice for the cause of Christ. Even in their suffering, they can find joy in the journey and a ready Helper along the way. 

What does this mean for those of us living in affluence? We would do well to take a look at our lives, recognize our indulgences, and offer them to Jesus. Willingly sacrificing those non-essential  things we enjoy, at least for a time, can be a kind of fast, and will help us to see the faithfulness of God. 

When we are blessed with abundance, we are expected to help those without. Look for opportunities to help those in need, and ask God to allow us to see the needs around us through His eyes.  

We may never be called to be penniless, even for a time, but we are all called to the journey of utter abandon to God, depending upon Him not only for our daily bread but also for every need along the way. When we walk this path of abandon, we, too, will find that knowing He can provide soon becomes knowing He will provide.