Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Price of Discipleship

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." (Luke 9:57 NASB)

Jesus and His disciples were walking from here to there, talking as they went. One of them told Jesus, "I will follow you wherever You go." The word translated as "follow" is akoloutheĊ and indicates one who follows closely behind one who leads. The word comes from akolouthos and is a combination of two root words, the "prefix a, here expressing 'union, likeness,' and keleuthos, 'a way;' hence, 'one going in the same way'" (Vines)

This may seem like entirely too much detail, but it is essential that we who say we follow Jesus understand what that means. This word does not mean the "follower" is equal to the leader, nor is the follower giving the directions. This word indicates a clear leader and a close, but definitely behind, follower. The leader (Jesus) decides the direction, route, mode of travel, and speed of travel. He decides the conditions under which travel will occur. He decides when there will be a break and when the destination has been reached. He decides everything. 

This is what the follower decides: Nothing. 

The follower's responsibility is to do what the leader does, go where the leader goes. As a result, it is critical that the follower know the leader, understand His ways, and willingly relinquish his rights to that of the leader. 

When someone does us harm, as a follower, we relinquish our right for revenge to our Lord. Instead, we respond as Jesus would respond. Turn the other cheek. Pray for your enemies. Bless those who curse you. We do what Jesus would do, because we do what He has already done.  

This question of "wherever" is vital. It is easy to follow Jesus when the way is easy and the accommodations are comfortable. FollowIng "wherever" means we will go anywhere. Nowhere off limits. No boundaries. No restrictions. Is there danger to personal safety? If Jesus says go, we go. Is there discomfort? If our Lord directs, we go, regardless of the risk. If the way confronts our personal prejudice, we allow Him to change us and go anyway. 

There is a difference between on onlooker and a follower. The onlooker watches from the sidelines, perhaps with great enthusiasm and encouragement. The onlooker does not, however, follow. They may consider themselves "engaged", but it is impossible to follow from the sidelines. Being a follower is much more than we in this country think. Being a follower costs everything, risks everything, and is the greatest adventure we will ever have. Which are we? The answer to that question is vital, for therein lies our eternal destiny. 

Onlooker or follower? Which are you? 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Dirty Feet

All the rain today has reduced the driveway to a giant mud slide. Maggie and Mamie wanted to go with me to the barn this evening to feed the livestock, so I attached their leashes and we headed out. Maggie very carefully picked her steps in the circle drive and across the cattle gap. She slowed her pace considerably as we proceeded up the road. We were several yards away from the barn when Maggie stopped and refused to take another step. There was no way to avoid the mud and Maggie HATES to get her feet muddy. She looked at me with those big brown eyes and said, "Pick me up, Mom. I don't want to get dirty!" Of course, I picked her up and carried her the rest of the way to the barn. 

Mamie doesn't care a bit if she gets muddy. The more mud, the better she likes it. She didn't want to be picked up. She wanted to plunge on through. Needless to say, she was very muddy when she got to the other side.

The Wonder Dogs have two very different styles when it comes to getting mud and dirt on them. Mamie is all in.  She never falters. Mud? Who cares about mud? Not Mamie! Maggie is cautious and wants to be carried to keep her clean. Maggie's is an attitude from which we could all learn. When there is the danger of soiling our lives with the dirt of this world, how do we respond? Do we, like Mamie, plunge ahead and hope for the best? Are we, like Maggie, cautious and eager to keep our hearts clean and pure? When we encounter the sin and grime of this world, we would do well to stop, call to our Heavenly Father, and wait for Him to carry us through, clean and safe, to the other side. 

"So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." 2 Timothy 2:22 ESV

Pretense of Zeal

When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."] And they went on to another village. (Luke 9:54-56 NASB)

The Samaritan village where Jesus intended to lodge for the night had refused Him accommodations, and James and John had offered to call down fire from heaven to destroy the town. It is commendable that they had such confidence in the power Jesus had given them, but they had misunderstood the example of Elijah. Had they looked to the example of Christ, they would have seen that never once did He ever call down judgement upon those who rejected Him. It is imperative that we not take an example in Scripture and use it to justify wrong-doing.

It was a good thing that the two disciples asked for Jesus' permission first before acting. He rebuked them for their desire for destruction. They did not know what spirit was acting in them in this desire, He said. Mathew Henry said it well when he wrote, "You are not aware what an evil spirit and disposition you are of, how much there is of pride, and passion, and personal revenge, covered under this pretence of zeal for your Master." 

That is so profound that it bears repeating. We don't see how much pride, passion, and personal revenge are covered by a pretence of zeal for the things of God. How often do we speak and act, ostensibly to protect the cause of Christ, in such a way that we end up causing more harm than good? It is so important to be aware of our motives behind the "righteous indignation" from which we want to act. 

Motive. Why we do what we do is critical, for one day, we will be held accountable for our actions. There is a school of thought that says, "Oh, the blood of Jesus will cover that," as if His redemptive gift relieves us of personal responsibility. May it never be that we treat the precious lifeblood of our Savior so casually. 

Dear ones, we must consider our words and actions carefully, choosing only those that are right and good. I speak as one who is entirely too impetuous with my words, and as one who has considerable progress yet to be made in this area. 

The contrast Jesus made between the spirit of the disciples and His Spirit, His desire, was stark. The Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them, He said. If that saving of men is the reason why our Lord came, it should be the motivating force behind our words and actions as well. Let us, then, be careful to think before we speak and pray before we act so that we can glorify our Father who is in Heaven rather than our own pretence of zeal. May our actions and words bring healing and not harm, redemption and not revenge. Let's point the way to Jesus in everything we do. 
The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at Get your copy today. 
Link to last night's post:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Problem with Trees

I love trees. I love the shade they provide and the symbolism of long years of surviving all storms to which the existence of truly big trees attests. It's a good thing I love trees because my land has a marvelously outrageous number of lovely trees. If I told you how many trees with which God has blessed me, you would not believe it. If you did, however, you might resent this great gift because it is so extravagant.  

Since God has blessed me outrageously with all these trees, it seems wrong to complain, but there is one teeny tiny problem with trees. They fall down. This falling down is wonderful when they opt to fall down into nice firewood-sized pieces in the middle of a pasture. Do you know how seldom a tree will do that? Hardly ever. What my trees do when they fall down is land right smack dab on my barbed wire fence. That is bad because my cows can get out. It is also bad because the fence has to be rebuilt. 

There is, however, good news. I love to build fences! I love to string barbed wire and get it really tight. To be honest, (which I don't particularly want to be in this instance but which I better be because I am about to write about God here) I also love it when someone says "Great fence. Who'd you get to do it?" And I can say, "I got myself to do it!" They are always surprised, especially if I am wearing prissy girl clothes, which helps catch them off guard. (Hey, I'm human, too.)

My trees have recently had a falling down contest in the cow pasture and I have had several adventures dealing with it, some of which you may have already read. This latest adventure is not really a good adventure but we can all learn a lesson from it. One of the falling trees was so enormous that it landed on my fence and knocked down a bunch of my neighbor's trees, too. He was very nice about it, since I did not organize the falling down competition and since the trees he lost were crummy trees anyway. A LOT of my fallen down tree was in his woods so we worked out a little deal. I would get the wood cut up for firewood and off his land, clean up the broken mess on his land, and rebuild my fence. All he had to do was be happy, so it worked out great. 

Well, I thought it had worked out great. Some guy had been asking Bill the Magnificent about cutting up fallen trees for firewood and splitting it on the halves. He reportedly has a splitter. He would split the wood and keep half as payment. That seemed like something that might be nice. Neither Sam nor Bill the Magnificent had ever thought I needed my wood split, assuming that I can hoist a tree stump and haul it to the fireplace. That is not really a girl-thing. In case you were wondering. After twenty-five years of hoisting tree stumps, I am ready to have split wood. 

The day came when Mr. Splitter (AKA Mr. Supposed Splitter) was to bring his equipment and split the wood.  He came with a trailer and helped cut the wood. Now, if I had been told about this ahead of time, it would not have happened. I was not born yesterday. Mr. Supposed Splitter loaded all that wood on his trailer (at least two cords) and said his splitter had a flat tire, so he would have to take my wood home, split it there, and bring it back. Yeah, right. I have not seen that wood again! 

Bill the Magnificent has tried unsuccessfully to get my wood back and he has even discussed it with the sheriff, who was not one bit happy about this. It is my opinion that stealing firewood from a woman is not the lowest thing you can do, by any means, but it is not good at all, and I am not happy about it. I thought I was going to give one lesson from this, but writing has gotten me stirred up (which it often does) and I am giving you two for the price of one. 

First of all, Sam Wiley has always told me, "A man is only as good as his word. If his word ain't no good, you can be sure he ain't, neither." Sam is pretty smart about such things, and I believe he is right. Mr. Supposed Splitter has demonstrated by his action that, in Sam's words, "He ain't no good." Because I'm trying to act like Jesus, I have sent word that he can bring my wood back and all will be forgiven. He is not, however, getting a chance with all the other fallen-down trees.

If you get a chance to give your word, please remember this. Do what you say you will do! 

The second little lesson is coming up. For some reason, Bill the Magnificent has not given me the contact information for Mr. Supposed Splitter. That is probably a good thing. It doesn't matter, though, because I have decided to take this matter to the Higher Authority. I have invited God into this situation. There is a great verse in Isaiah that speaks of God rolling up His sleeves and wading in on behalf of His children. I am counting on that very thing. 

"The LORD has bared His holy arm In the sight of all the nations, That all the ends of the earth may see The salvation of our God." (Isaiah 52:10 NASB)

I do not want to even think what it would be like if God rolled up His sleeves and dealt with me about something. He has had to do that a few times, and it was pretty terrible. It did, however get me straightened out. It seems to me that Mr. Supposed Splitter could use some straightening out, and I have asked God to do it. It might not be something Mr. Supposed Splitter will really like, but once he is straightened out, he will be glad. I know that from experience. 

I did not really mean for my fallen tree to be a teachable moment, nor to be an opportunity for getting straightened out for Mr. S. Splitter, but it turns out it is. If that happens, I guess having my wood stolen will be worth it, but I sure had my heart set on split wood.

Fire from Heaven

But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" (Luke 9:53-54 NASB)

As we have seen over the last few days, Jesus was heading to Jerusalem, where crucfixion, death, and resurrection awaited Him. Because of the distance, he planned to break up the walking journey by spending the night in one of the nearby villages. He sent messengers to arrange for accommodations in the Samaritan village, but when they heard that He was heading toward Jerusalem, they refused Him because of their serious dispute with the Jews over the place of worship. 

James and John were not happy about the refusal of accommodations. (Of course, if there were no accommodations for Jesus, there were none for the disciples, either.) These two "Sons of Thunder" wanted to retaliate, and to strike "while the iron was hot". Their suggestion was that they command fire down from heaven to consume the village. When we look at this verse, our first thought is usually, "What?? What in the world are they thinking?" It appears that they were imagining themselves as the prophet Elijah, who commanded fire down from heaven and destroyed two groups of soldiers. 

Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, "If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty." Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty. (2 Kings 1:10 NASB)

There was a difference in the two circumstances, although perhaps the two disciples felt that they were defending God's honor. In Elijah's case, King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, who tried to kill Elijah for years and who were both extremely wicked and had led the nation of Israel into idolatry, had died. Their son, Ahaziah, ascended to the throne. Scripture tells us that Ahaziah was worse that Ahab, Jezebel, and Jeroboam. In a way, he was triple-wickedness and was leading Israel into even more evil than his father. He had severe injuries when he fell through a lattice and wanted to know if he would survive. Although Elijah, well known as a prophet and man of God, was available for consultation, the king sent messengers to inquire of an idol. 

God sent Elijah to meet the messengers and tell them that the king would die. When they returned, he sent a captain with fifty soldiers to Elijah. Ahaziah was not planning to hold a religious pow wow with the prophet. There was killing on his mind. When the first band of soldiers arrived, intent on arresting Elijah, he called down fire from heaven and they were all consumed. A second group of soldiers was sent, and Elijah did the same thing again. Fire from heaven consumed them. When a third group came, the captain begged for mercy and promised to protect Elijah, who accompanied him to the king. 

Although his method was dramatic and drastic, Elijah had defended himself from an attack by a band of soldiers bent on his destruction. He had spent years in hiding when Ahab and Jezebel sought to assassinate him. All the murderous attacks were for no other reason than a dislike of the truth Elijah spoke. He had no illusions about the reason Ahaziah had sent soldiers for him. He knew it was another plot against his life. 

The Samaritans had rejected Jesus and inconvenienced Him, ultimately depriving themselves of their Messiah. They were not trying to assassinate Him. Why, then, did James and John want to call down fire on them? We will not know for certain this side of heaven, but it was an extreme response to a refusal of lodging. 

What is odd is that these two men had been with Jesus throughout His ministry. They had heard Him teaching about turning the other cheek, loving your enemies, praying for those who persecute you. How could they reconcile their impetuous desire for retaliation and destruction with the truth Jesus had taught them? They could not, and they did not try. They, like many of us, spoke first and, if they thought at all, it was later. 

Perhaps you never do this, but sometimes I have a strong reaction to a perceived slight. I haven't asked to rain down fire on someone, but my first reaction has not always been loving and forgiving. What about you? 

If James and John had stopped to consider what rejecting Jesus meant for the Samaritan village, perhaps they would have wept with grief rather than boil with anger. When we look at circumstances, rejection, and slights from others with the perspective of Jesus, they tend to look quite different, don't they? Our response should be in line with His response, as well.  How did Jesus respond? Pray. Forgive. Love. 

I saw a needlework piece recently with these words:
"When others hate, oppose, ignore, 
Help me, dear Lord, to love them more. 

Those are good words for us when responding to the slights and rejections of others. Let's act like Jesus would act. Pray, forgive, love. No matter what. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Scoop That is Always Full

Because Toby, our 28 year old horse, is very grumpy when he wants to be fed, we fill the horses' feed buckets after the evening feeding and leave them in the feed bin for the next morning. Since the horses' feed is prepared ahead of time, we go ahead and prepare the goat's feed scoop, too. As soon as someone (me) gets to the barn in the morning, the goat starts throwing a fit. Everyone wants to be first. The horses get their feed first because Toby kicks the barn door like crazy if he's not. All the goat does is baah over and over. She waits, but the only way to survive the ruckus is get prepared ahead of time.

Today was no exception. I went to the barn, fed the horses, grabbed the goat scoop, and headed to the goat pen. As always, I dumped the scoop into the trough. I'm not sure which of us was more surprised, but Shamrock the Goat was definitely unhappy-surprised. She looked at me and started throwing a baahing fit. The scoop was empty. I had grabbed the wrong scoop. It's the first time I've ever fed the goat air, and she did not like it one little bit. 

Of course, I went back to the barn and got feed, but it made me think about all the times I've turned to God for spiritual nourishment. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." It is Scripture that is absolutely essential for our spiritual life, and it is always nourishing. The good thing is that God never feeds us from an empty scoop. When we turn to Scripture and ask the Lord for spiritual nourishment, we find that His scoop is always full, and He gives us exactly what we need to grow and mature into the faithful disciples He has called us to be. 

Are you feeling a little "lean" spiritually this holiday season? Maybe you need to let His word nourish your spirit and renew your soul. Turn to the Scoop that is always full. 

Refusing Jesus

and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. (Luke 9:52-53 NASB)

Jesus had His face turned toward Jerusalem and His ascension back to heaven, as well as everything in between, including the crucifixion. It was a long walk to the city and He planned to spend the night in a Samaritan village along the route. Messengers were sent ahead to prepare the way and make the arrangements. The Samaritans refused to receive Him, however, because He was headed to Jerusalem. 

This Samaritan village refused to rent rooms to Jesus, not because His entourage was too large and not because there was not available space. They refused to rent rooms to Him because He was heading to Jerusalem. One of the big controversies between the Samaritans and the Jews was the place of worship. The Samaritans worshipped at Gerazim, near Sychar. The Jews disagreed and said worship had to be at Jerusalem. It was so hotly contested that there was, basically, a feud over the matter. Because Jesus was headed to Jerusalem, they were having none of Him. 

It is easy to look at this passage and think that it has little relevance for us, but look again. Do we not also avoid intimacy with Christ because of the direction He would take us? The little village was content for Jesus to pass through, but not abide there. A Savior that is "just passing through" requires much less of us than one that has come into our hearts and intends to stay. 

This Savior who invades our lives and dwells with us will also likely disrupt our prejudice and our error. We can respond to the Divine Disruption in one of two ways. We can respond as the Samaritans did, refusing Jesus the opportunity to affect our prejudice and change our hearts. On the other hand, we can welcome Him, allow Him access to all the prejudice, wrong notions and sin, knowing that, with His coming, things will change. We will change. 

If the Samaritans had understood Who they refused, would they have chosen prejudice over their Savior? Would hatred have won out over freedom? Surely they would not, but how easy it is to forget that this Son of God dressed in dusty robes and sandals now reigns on high in gleaming robes of white with throngs of worshippers at His feet. He is worthy of our welcome, even though His arrival brings change. Let us respond to Him with open invitation. Come, Lord Jesus, and have your way in Me. 
Link to last night's post:
The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at Get your copy today. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Writing Cop Talk

I am so excited about this news that I've decided to share it in a blog. You may be sick to death of my new novel, but the writing of it was such a spiritual experience that I can't get over it. For those who don't know, I wrote more than 50,000 words of a thriller Christian novel in 19 days.

This book is full of terrorists, policemen, FBI agents, gun shots, high speed chases, and (of course) Jesus. I, however, have never been a policeman or an FBI agent, nor have I even once ridden in a police car. I've actually never been inside a police car, although I did vote for my town to buy a police car for $100 once. That's as close as I've gotten to the world of criminals and justice. 

It was an impossible task, so I would sit down at the computer, say, "What do you want me to write, God?" and ideas would flow like a river. Sometimes, I had to take notes because I couldn't type that fast! I was very surprised by the appearance of the first gun, but as a former ER doctor, I've seen my share of gunshot wounds and I've shot a few guns myself in my time. A few. Really, it seemed out of character for God to be telling me about all these guns and this terrorist business, but (in case you've wondered) He is very informed. 

Things quickly went out of my area of expertise into the vast unknown. I could not have imagined this stuff. I don't have the background for it. Terrorists appeared. FBI agents were summoned. More gun shots. High speed chases. Plots and tactics unfolded. I didn't really make it up. I would just get very still at my computer, pray that God would tell me what to write, and I would write it. On my own, there was not a chance I could do this. There's the problem of  the lingo, the "cop speak", the procedures. I didn't know it, and yet I wrote. 

Tonight, I sat down with Officer Anthony Anderson after the Blue Springs board meeting. He demonstrated the patience of a saint as he listened to every single cop, FBI, terrorist, jail, high speed chase, and gun scene. Practically the whole book! I wanted him to correct what was wrong and help me fine tune it. I was constantly saying, "Tell me if this is not right," and he would say, "You're doing fine, keep going. I want to know what happens next." At the end of the book, he gave the writing team (Almighty God and Leanna) some high praise. "I can't wait to read this book. It sounds like you are an ex-cop writing!" How about that? 

God dictated and I typed. That's how it was done, and a novelist was born. It was my dream and, at nearly sixty years old, God gave it to me. Not only did He give it to me, He did it for me. This is not because I am so special. It is because we serve a God who is so nice. I know people don't usually describe God as nice, but that's what I say, because it's true. He cares about us and all our projects. He cares about my book and all the Jesus parts that are in there. He already has a plan for how He's going to use it, and I can't wait to see it unfold. 

You may wonder how I "heard" God. The voice of God is described as a "still, small voice". It's a little like an inaudible whisper in your heart. The words form and you know they are not your own. There's a key word here. STILL. Don't expect to hear God's voice if you aren't still. You can't hear a whisper in the midst of clamor. 

There may be someone who thinks that God would not do such a thing for you. Ah, but He would. He delights in those who love Him. He delights in those who obey Him. He may not help you write a novel, but whatever the task for which you are responsible, he will help you. All you have to do is ask. That's what I did, and look at the results!

Going to Jerusalem

When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; (Luke 9:51 NASB)

This is such a profound verse, but the truth in it is easy to miss. "When the days were accomplished for His ascension" sounds like it was time for an appointment and Jesus was going to town to keep it. In a sense, that was true. It was almost time for Him to return to heaven, and He was going to Jerusalem to be ready. What this verse doesn't say is that the ascension only came after the arrest, beatings, crucufixion, death, burial, and resurrection. There were quite a few highly significant (and extremely difficult) events before the ascension, most of which were not just unpleasant but extremely terrible. 

It's amazing, isn't it, that Jesus looked past all the bad that was to come and focused on the ascension, His return to heaven. He wasn't plodding along, consumed by dread of the beatings, the crucifixion, taking our sin upon Him. He had his eyes fixed on going Home. He knew that there was eternal joy on the other side of what He faced, so He looked toward the good.  

It was an attitude of certainty that He would not be abandoned by His Father in the darkest hour, the time of greatest need, and it would carry Him all the way through. It is a certainty of our Father's care that will carry us through those long, difficult times that seem too hard to bear, the uncertainty of what life will bring overcome by the certainty of eternity. 

Are you in the midst of a difficult and seemingly impossible situation? Take heart! Our Lord set an example for how to make it through, and it is one we, too, can follow. Look to heaven. Take our eyes off our circumstances and what we expect will come and put them, just as Jesus did, on the other side of our circumstances. Let's keep our feet planted where God has placed us but our hearts set on that place our Lord has promised, our eternal destination in Heaven. 

He kept going to Jerusalem "for the joy set before Him", and so should we. No matter the circumstances, keep walking in the direction He has set. There is eternal joy just ahead. 
 The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at Get your copy today. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Little Too Much Help From Your Friend

As you may remember, Maggie the Wonder Dog has an incredible array of abilities. I will not list them all, but just want to remind you that she does have the enviable ability to sneak like a spy, which is not exactly being an FBI agent, but was, nevertheless, an inspiration to me during my recent novel-writing marathon.  Said novel, of course, was filled with FBI agents, who could easily pass for spies. They did a little bit of sneaking, but not with the finesse of Maggie the Wonder Dog. 

As wonderful as she is, Maggie the Wonder Dog has a little history that still plagues her. She is a recovering chicken-shaking, neck-breaking (also known as chicken killing) addict. Every once in a while, she goes to the barn and picks up a stray feather. She will hold it in her mouth at length, just remembering those intoxicating days. To her credit, she has not done any chicken-shaking in nearly two years, mostly because she and the chickens are not loose at the same time, but I still give her some credit for her success.  

Today, the Wonder Dogs both went with me to the barn. As you probably already know, Mamie is Maggie's adopted baby sister, also a Shih Tzu, and will turn one year old later this month. She is an expert at getting in trouble already and does not need any help from her big sister at all! 

I may have started the trouble when I went to the chicken stall to give them food and water. It was so much easier to leave the door open to the chickens and reach back to the food barrel. Back and forth I went, still leaving that door open. Maggie ignored that door for as long as she could. Finally, that wonderful aroma of "chicken house" enticed her past what she could stand and she headed into the chicken's stall. I was, fortunately, still standing there and was able to slide the door shut in an instant, averting catastrophe, and keeping her out. 

Once she had a good look at the chickens, she was overcome with that old blood lust and a desire for chicken shaking. She jumped up on the door and demanded to be let in for one good round. Trying to get back to her old ways was not enough. The next thing I knew, she had invited Mamie into the fray and they were both demanding entrance into the chicken sanctuary. They were barking and scratching on the door. "Let us in! Let us in!" I would not. 

When they calmed down about the chickens, we had a serious discussion about Maggie leading her little sister astray. I am doubtful it made much of an impact, but I felt better for having my say. 

Unfortunately, we are a lot like the Wonder Dogs, aren't we? Even when we walk away from our "big" sins, there's always something that has an overwhelming attraction to us. I'm not talking about things like drunkenness, using illicit drugs, hanging out in rough places, and doing dastardly deeds. All those things are potential areas of downfall, but those of us who have been a part of the faith for a while are usually a little more subtle with our "reverting". Instead of those obvious sins, we tend to get drawn into things like gossip, gluttony, selfishness, arrogance/pride. I'm meddling now, but I'm as guilty as any of us. What about that pleases God, though? That's the question we need to answer. 

When we behave in these ways, those new to the faith must wonder. Is this acceptable? Is it okay if I act this way? Unfortunately, no tragically, these are things that grieve our Lord and can easily disillusion and lead new believers astray. 

Perhaps we need to focus on removing all  the sin from our lives instead of being content with removing the "big things". Let's be sure our lives lead new believers closer to Jesus, not further away. 

Body of Christ, part 4

(This is designated as part 4 because I just recognized today that this is a series on the body of Christ. The first 3 were not labeled as a series but they were )
But Jesus said to him, "Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:50 NASB)

But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. (Mark 9:39 NASB

The account of the disciples' rebuke of the man who was casting out demons in the name of Jesus is also included in the gospel of Mark, where we find additional detail. The disciples had seen a man casting out demons (an area of recent personal failure for them) in the name of Jesus. He was not known to the disciples and not part of their group and they sought to restrain him. 

Jesus, however, had other ideas. If he is not against you, he is for you. He was performing miracles in the name of Jesus and no other. Although he wasn't part of their "group" he was no less on the side of Christ. The decision about who was "for" Jesus did not rest with the disciples, nor does it rest with us. 

Jesus made another point that is very interesting. No one can perform a miracle in the name of Jesus and soon afterward speak evil of Him. That statement is worth pondering. The commentaries I consulted had little to say about this, but it's worth considering. The Blue Letter BibleThe worth translated as "miracle" is dynamis and indicates the power to perform the miracle. The word translated as "be able to" is dynamai and indicates power to perform a task. Both words come from the same root. When we have the power to perform a miracle in the name of Jesus, we will not also have the power to speak evil of Christ afterward. 

If a reported miracle worker can speak evil of Christ after performing said miracle, we should not trust the miracle. What is amazing is that, when the power of God flows through us for the performing of miracles, it has a restraining power over our tongue, so that we cannot speak evil of (or curse) our Lord.

It is always the power of God that brings cleansing, never our own actions. Unworthy though we be to act in the name of Jesus, when the power of God flows through us, it should purify our mouths and make us not only more like Jesus but also make our words more glorifying to Him. Perhaps this concept could be better understood as the fact that a "clean" tongue (speech that glorifies God) should accompany our service to Him, especially if signs and wonders, or miracles, are performed in the name of Jesus. Our words, if injudicious, can completely undermine our service to God. In fact, our words are often the standard by which people judge the body of Christ and our place in it. James spoke of this in powerful terms: 

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. (James 3:8-10 NASB) 

The words we say matter. They matter as they bless or harm our Lord, and they matter as they bless or harm our witness. We would do well to consider what our words say about the source of our power. Do our words demonstrate the power of God at work in our lives or not? Those tongues of ours are like a deadly poison, and only God can purify them. Let's invite our Lord to make those words pure and sweet, speaking only blessings and not curses. Create in us, Lord, not just a clean heart but also a clean mouth. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Body of Christ

John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us." But Jesus said to him, "Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:49-50 NASB

The disciples had seen a man effectively casting out demons in the name of Jesus, causing harm to the kingdom of darkness and great benefit to the kingdom of God. Because this man was not part of their "group" and had not been known by them to be following Jesus, they tried to stop him. Jesus rebuked them and instructed them not to hinder him. 

"He who is not against you is for you," Jesus told John. We will look at this in more detail over the next few days, but this word "against" is an interesting word and we do well to look at it a little closer. The word translated as "against" is kata and is used 328 times in Scripture. It is translated as "against" 58 times and as "according to" or "after" 168 times. Perhaps what Jesus was saying is that there will be believers who see things and do things that are a little different from the way you do it, but that does not mean they are not part of the kingdom of God. It does not mean we have the right to criticize or condemn nor to exclude them from fellowship. 

This does not mean that you can believe anything you want or do anything you want. There are areas, however, that bring great controversy but should not. One example is worship style. In most of the churches I've attended, the worship style is to sit in your seat and be both quiet and still. This is pretty confining for me, but unless God moves me to join another part of the body of Christ, I'm sticking it out. I will have plenty of time to move around and shout in heaven. (Just so you know, we will all be doing that in heaven, according to Scripture) 

I have much loved friends and brothers and sisters in Christ who have a freer style of worship. Clapping and a lot of motion is distracting to me, but they are accustomed to it. Neither of us is "wrong". I have a friend who dances while she worships. She doesn't call it dancing, but it looks like that to me and it is beautiful. She has a graceful, flowing motion before the Lord that is in time with the music and is beautiful to watch. It is a form of prayer for her, and I wish I could have the same freedom of motion. Again, neither my stillness in prayer nor her movement in prayer are "wrong" and Christ would not have us restrain either. 

 It was Jesus who said, "He who is not against you is for you." It was not the world at large to which He was referring. It was to fellow believers. The body of Christ is one body. There is not a Baptist body of Christ, a Methodist body of Christ, a Pentecostal body of Christ. We are ONE body, and as such we should function in unity, regardless of which sign is on the building where we worship.