The Least of These

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This idea has been swirling around in my head for a while.

Reading in Matthew 25:31-46 About the coming judgement.  The King separates the sheep from the goats.  He tells the sheep, “…for when I was hungry and you gave Me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in; naked and you clothed Me;  I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.”  They answer Him asking when did they do these things.  The King’s response was down in verse 40, “Truly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it for one of the least of these My brethren, you did it for Me.”

I have often thought about this and how we (America) send missionaries to foreign lands (before I get blasted with responses…I believe in missions and we support several missionaries)  yet, “our brethren” right her in our city are left to their own devices.  On one hand, because of pride, many of us never ask for help when we need it.  We may ask the government for help…we put a lot of faith in our government for help.  What happened to “look to the hills from whence comes my strength.”?   We have friends who run a ministry for the homeless and they struggle to raise support for their ministry (shameless plug for Lost and Found ministries…click here)  but we have no problem sending money to build houses in South America.  I get it.  As Americans it is very easy to throw money at an unseen problem but the homeless man we see every day on the corner seems able-bodied and should get a job.

That’s not what this is about.

I went to the grocery store yesterday.  I didn’t buy any creamer because we just went on a family trip (spent a lot of $$) and payday is on Friday.  I bought milk for the children.  This morning, while I was making my iced coffee, I ran out of creamer, I used milk.  Moms do it all the time.  We quietly put someone else’s need before our own.

Around Mother’s Day the Hubs told me he wants to give me $200 to spend on myself (clothes,getting my nails done, whatever I want) but he was sure that I would take the cash and buy something the kids need.  I would be tempted…I really would like to get my eyebrows waxed…they are out of control.  As parents that’s what we do….we buy our kids new clothes while we wear the same thing year after year.

I’m not sharing this to toot my own horn.  These are quiet things most moms do every day.

I’m presenting the idea that there are times when the thirsty person we need to give a drink to is our family members.

Our niece is with us once again.  She is three years old, the same age as my daughter.  She needs stability; she needs love and kindness and discipline; she needs to be clothed and fed.  She is a little smaller than our sweet, well-nourished baby so, we could give her hand-me-downs, that’s okay, but I have already purchased a few brand new items for her because she deserves to have some things in her life that are new and especially for her…thus, no creamer, and that is okay.  Because sometimes we need to clothe someone in need.

Talking to my sister about this recently and how we fuss at our children to clean their rooms.  She told me that she made a decision to just go in and help her twelve year old with his room without complaining about it.  It is serving.

Often, we think of serving as it relates to our church or community and overlook opportunities to serve our own families.

We have extra people living in our home…almost always… from foster children to extended family.  I’ve given up on my house being super clean until my kids grow up.  (I don’t really care if it’s super clean if I’m honest…things that matter to me are relationships, books, art…it’s okay).  Because of our situation, we often have dirty dishes in the sink.  I don’t like doing dishes.  Never have, probably will not develop a desire to do dishes.  A few months ago the Hubs volunteered to do dishes…he offered to make sure dishes get done.  I appreciate this very much; it is a small act of service that I appreciate.  Does he do all the dishes?  No.  When someone does something for you, then you don’t mind doing things for them.   When the head of the household serves it creates an atmosphere of serving in the home.

Maybe your elderly parent lives with you…you have taken some in.  Maybe you are providing food for them, you have fed someone who is hungry.  Maybe you are a foster parent, and you are clothing someone who was naked.  Perhaps you have gone to prison or jail to visit someone…all these little things you do every day, even for family, count.

They matter.  They may seem small to you but they are big to someone.

You matter; you make a difference in someone’s life.  YOU!

When you serve your family, begin to treat it as if you are doing these small things for Jesus, Himself.

As you change your attitude at home and see yourself as a serving person, it will not be as difficult to see yourself serving in your church, your child’s school (homeschooling moms do all the volunteer work at their school), or in your community.  Just because you do not serve every single Sunday at your church does mean you aren’t contributing.  Contribute where you can, when you can as much as you can.  It’s not about being the volunteer of the year…it’s about quietly and graciously serving.  And it’s not what is seen that is important.  Of course everyone sees the worship team and pastor…that’s a given.  Your prayers for them matter just as much as what they do.  Rocking the babies in the nursery so a mama can attend service is HUGE!  Believe me…it’s HUGE to that mama.

Sometimes it is as simple as giving a smile and a compliment to the cashier at the grocery store.  Or picking up a piece of trash out of your neighbor’s yard.

Even if no one else sees, God sees.

Be a blessing to everyone, everywhere and start at home.

 

 

Plumb line

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Plumb line

A tool that consists of a small, heavy object attached to a string or rope that is used to see if something (such as a wall) is perfectly vertical.

My brother-in-law has been reading my Bible. He told me this a few weeks ago.  I have many Bibles but my favorite study Bible is my NKJV Thompson Chain-reference Bible.  My friend, Jennifer bought it for me about 12 years ago for a college class I was taking.  The cover has fallen off and been taped back on with clear packing tape.  Should I get a new one?  Maybe, but I have many notes written in the this Bible and I don’t want to start over.  My little notes are sometimes revolutionary…I find myself asking, “Did I write that?”

This morning Bible was open to Zechariah 4.  I assumed  brother had been reading there.  I read part of the chapter and I checked out some of my notes.  I remembered something (veaguely about a plum line from a Beth Moore study I did….must have been the tabernacle study because it was about building….someone remind me!!).  In any case….  The prophet Zechariah says this, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple.  His hands shall also finish. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.  For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see The plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel .  They are the eyes of the Lord, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.” (Verses 9-10).

So the plump line is vertical…straight up and down; Like our relationship with God should be.

I became curious and began to search out who Zerubbabel was.  Zerubbabel  was one of the kings in Jesus’ linage: He was an ancestor of Jesus….on both sides of his parents’ families.  Jesus was an heir to the throne on His mother’s side and on His adoptive father, Joseph’s side.    If Jesus had a human foundation, Zerubbabel was in it.  That is interesting.  Zechariah’s prophecy had multiple meanings (many prophecies do).  He was prophecying about Zerubbabel building the physical temple in those days and he was prophecying the future Messiah.

The plumb line word is very interesting to me.  Plumb lines were used all those centuries ago and are still used today (or should be…I’ve lived in some places where the walls seemed a little “off”).  They help keep things straight.

I have a confession.  I have struggled with my freedom in Christ and holiness.  It can be a confusing topic.  I grew up in a legalistic environment and God was pretty angry and He was looking for reasons to punish me.  At a pretty young age, I had faith for my salvations but struggled with the idea that I was lovable.  Basically…if I didn’t “do the right thing” all the time, I would never find favor with God.  God was pretty stingy with His love and favor. Then freedom began to come and I found that God loves me…not based on who I am but based on who He is.  I cannot earn nor diminish His love.  Okay, so what exactly is holiness?  He makes us holy because we are screwups and without the blood of Jesus, we will never be holy…so what’s the point of every doing the “right” thing?   My answer is doing the “right” things us aligning ourselves with Jesus, The Plumb Line.  When we alight with The Plumb Line we come into alignment with our Father; our relationship with God is strengthened.  

Then we become the plumb line for someone else, pointing them to The Father.  

It’s about us, but it’s not about us.  Our holiness is about others coming to a knowledge of God.  It is about others coming into relationship with God.  We do not behave in the same ways non-believers behave because of who our Father is.

Fear cannot be what drives us.  Love must lead us.   

We often miss our opportunity to love because we want to be “right”; we want to “win”; we want to have or back up our “opinion”.  Is it worth it?  Even our opinions?  Are they worth sacrificing relationship? Do they point to Jesus or demonstrate love? 

We seem to extend a lot of grace to non-believers but withhold it from one another.  Can a believer have a “bad day”?  Or even a stressful season of life?  Growing pains often effect the people around us. These are the times we can be the plumb lines…pointing even the believer back to Jesus.  

This means we have to start asking ourselves… “Is this just? Pure? Noble? Lovely? Of good report?” (Philippians 4:8). Will this matter in a week?  A month? A year?  Ten years?  Does this point to Jesus? 

Your Sword

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Considering Ephesians today and the weapons of our warfare.

 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Ephesians 6:11-13

Our weapons were not designed to wield against each other.

Seriously consider this the next time you fling a scripture in someone’s face…we are suppose to fight our enemy and our enemy are not PEOPLE.

People were designed for love.

Our war isn’t against flesh and blood but against Satan and his minions.

Approach the enemy with ruthless fervor.  Approach people with love.

If you feel someone needs a scripture flung at them, pray for them.  Don’t throw your sword at them.  Pray and allow God to move on them.  God can do more in a nano-second than you can do in a lifetime of quoting scriptures at them. Trust God.  He loves them.

That is all….

Written Epistle

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Epistle:  noun|epis-tle :letter; especially a formal or elegant letter.

I have been defacing a Bible, according to the Hubs.   He calls them “Bible tats”. The Hubs is sure this is some kind of abomination.  He was also taught that he shouldn’t read his Bible in the bathroom….so pray for him.  My brother-in-law says its okay because it’s a NIV bible and that isn’t a “God-endorsed” version.  He is kidding around.  Do not throw away your NIV bible.  What am I talking about?  

Bible journaling.  Type it in on Pinterest…you will find many, many examples.  

I’ve been enjoying it because I have never been a great at drawing but I am finding I am not as bad as I thought.  Plus, I love visuals of scriptures…it helps with memorization. Today I was working on this scripture in 2 Corinthians 3:2.  

  
This is a comination of colored pencils and watercolor.  

As I was putting away my Bible, I had a doodle paper that I slipped between the page.  I forgot it had some white acrylic paint on it.  I wiped the wet paint off quickly but it smeared my ink.  

  
Talk about a visual.

Made me think of how weak our faith is at times.  All the miracles, all the love, all the gifts, everything, smeared; blurred; unreadable. Maybe those are the times we are being re-written.

You may not have noticed but in the first picture I wrote “epistles”.  The scripture actually says “epistle”.  I needed to rewrite it but I thought my ink was permanent.  The spill made it possible to rewrite a mistake.  God gives us that opportunity almost daily.  Reminds me of a message by Pastor John Ragsdale.  He said, “Don’t worry if you fail the test.  God always has a retake test.”.  I’m not sure if that’s comforting or a little scary but it is true.   

There is no shame in your screw up.  You will have another chance to get it right.   

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.   2 Corinthians 3:2-3

Be that elegant letter today.  What a reminder to me today from one of my favorite passages.  God bless you today! 

Reflections

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Have you ever had something physical in your life closely reflect what happening in the spiritual?  Kind of a crazy manifestation of your life?

A year ago, the Hubs bought me a lovely, not-brand-new luxury vehicle.  We were extremely blessed in getting it.  It was sold to us at the “family price” and I doubt we would have purchased it if not for that blessing.  I enjoy this SUV very much.  Every time I drive I feel that God and my husband love me…a lot.  The vehcle has been running great.  Having said that, I am not the best at vehicle maintenance.  To be honest…I am kind of a big picture girl and I like to leave the details to others.  In fact, I have a vision for what my house should look like and I really need someone to come over and take care of all the details (*put all our crap stuff where it is suppose to be).  I thought when I got married, my husband would love taking my vehicle to get the oil changed and put gas in it.  He doesn’t mind, but I have to let him know it’s due.  I admit, I have driven around with the oil light on, on my vehicle. Please, don’t tell my car-man, broth-in-law….he would be disappointed.

Right before Labor day weekend, Blue Bell restocked and the Hubs went out to buy ice cream. (YEAH!!) He took my vehicle and it was low on gas so he stopped to fill up.  After filling up, the vehicle wouldn’t start.  It had to be jump started.  The next day, I used it and it worked fine.  We were leaving on the Thursday before Labor day to go camping.  I mentioned to the Hubs maybe we should check the water in the battery.  (I am no expert on car maintenance or repair but I know that batteries need water).  He forgot to check it.

We left for our trip on Thursday evening, stopping in San Antonio for dinner.  When we came back out to the truck it wouldn’t start.  We had to get a jump.

I asked again about the water.  It was late (dark outside) so he decided to check it in the morning.

We stopped at walmart and bought some jumper cables.

Our trip was 7 hours from home.  We stopped for the night at a hotel.

The next morning, the vehicle wouldn’t start.  The Hubs checked the battery and it had very little water in it. We added water and got a jump start.  We were hoping the problem was solved.

Nope…we made one stop where we turned off the engine at a rest stop about an hour and a 1/2 from our destination.  We had to be jumped again and then our air suspension system went out, not all of it, just the rear suspension. What this means is, the system that keeps everyone in the vehicle from bouncing every time you hit a bump, went out.  We felt every little bump.   The kids loved it.  It was great fun.  We stopped at an Autozone to have them check our battery and starter.  They found nothing wrong.  The electrical system was “good”.

We went on our way. After all, the computer said we were good.

When we got to our camp site, my dad and brother-in-law checked it out and decided we needed a new battery.

My dad bought us a new battery (the plan was to pay him back…when they went into town, the Hubs didn’t have his wallet.  (This detail will be important later).

They men replaced the battery and the vehicle started fine.  But the rear suspension was still out.

On our way back we stopped at Autozone again to have the air suspension system checked.  Their computers could find nothing wrong. We drove 7 long hours home with no suspension in order to take our vehicle to our mechanic.

We noticed every sign that said, “Rough Road Ahead”.

Coinciding with all of this we have had some personal trials.

I am not going to share the details.  I know this…there are certain things that relationships cannot do without, just like vehicles.  If you don’t gas up, you won’t go anywhere.  Likewise, if you don’t put water in the battery, the battery will die.  If you don’t water your heart, your heart will die; your passion will die. If your front suspension works fine but your rear suspension is out, your vehicle is going to shake everyone in the vehicle.  Just like if one spouse is down for the count, the whole family is going to shake.  It is what it is.

Every time I saw that “Rough Road Ahead” sign I wanted to cry because our situation looked like it could be a “rough road head” for a while.  Life can feel overwhelming and look overwhelming in the face of uncertainty.   Let me tell you one thing for certain, “rough roads” with Jesus are better than smooth roads without Him.

Healing is never a “one time” event.  As long as we live, we will need a Healer. 

We made it home. 

After being back for a few days and basically staying home because I didn’t want to drive without the rear suspension, we contacted our mechanic.  He took a look and said he could replace our air suspension with coil suspension…for $360 (about).  We asked each other what we thought.  I had read this kind of repair could cost anywhere from $450 to $1500, so $360 sounded okay.  Neither of us had an answer so we prayed.  A little while later, our mechanic texted the Hubs and said he found a lose hose and he reconnected it and the suspension was working fine.  He charged us $40.  Praise God!

Sometimes when we get disconnected, disconnected from God, our spouse, our family and even our church the isolation leads us to feel every bump in our rough road.  Connection smooths our ride.  Those things that could shake us to our core, become a small bounce in the road.  We need each other.  Check your connections, make sure you are making real connections in your life….Facebook doesn’t really count.  When you are with people, put your phone down and pay attention (listen) to the people you are with….that is real connection. 

Back to the truck, I received an text from my dad on Sunday saying, we do not own him for the battery, someone paid him for it.  Unexpected blessing in the middle of a difficult situation.  A demonstration that God loves us and He is for us.

We all have situations that God allows to manifest in the physical.  He does it to show us things.

Yes, the road has been rough….it’s not forever.  Yes, we let the water evaporate from our battery and that killed it.  We had to replace it…or rather, we have had to allow God to replace it.  God replaces our passion when it goes out.  We have to  pay attention to when our passion is evaporating (our passion for God and our passion for each other).  Yes, the suspension may go out again…and we will get it fixed again.   As I said (rather randomly) , “Healing is not a ‘one time’ event.”  Healing is an ongoing journey.  We are people in need of a Healer.  Get connected.  You do not want to travel down your “rough road” alone. 

“They shall come with weeping, And with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, In a straight way in which they shall not stumble; For I am a Father to Israel…” Jeremiah 31:9

With God, even the rough roads are straight.  No confusion but peace in the storm.

Remember, our rough times reveal those things God wants to heal.  Don’t despise the trail, there is a testimony hidden in it.  We overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.  Look around for the testimony in your situation!

Stop trying to recreate your first Kiss

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This blog probably isn’t about what you think it’s going to be about.

We attended a prayer retreat this weekend and on the way back we were having some deep conversations. I was trying to describe how, as Christians, we often choose certain songs based on how God moved in a season of our life.  Some songs are special to us because that song was playing when we first connected with Him and gave our lives to Jesus….I would have to go way back for that.  

My sister, in the back seat says, “We have to stop trying to recreate our first kiss.”  There was a pause as I processed that, that was exactly what I was trying to say.  Just in case she didn’t come up with it herself, I asked, “Did you just come up with that?  How did you think of that?”  She said, “Well, it’s sort of from the movie, ‘Hitch’.  Hitch tells Kevin James’ character that the first kiss important because it may be her last first kiss.”  

The church does this often…God moves us on a certain song and we add that song to every service for 3 years.  My view of the church is it is organic.  As the body of Christ we should be growing and changing…we’ve had an “ugly” stage and now we need to move on to a “beautiful” stage.  There should be songs that move us in certain seasons but we cannot hold on so tightly to what God did that we miss where He is taking us.

Everyone in the car is a married and we all agreed that there are aspects of our relationship with our husbands that have improved with time.  While the first kiss was sweet and special and earth shattering at the time, we all know our husbands so much more intimately now than we did when they first kissed us.  That saying, “I love you more now than when we got married.”  It may seem trite but it’s true because now I love the real him not the him I thought he was…in other words…now I know him and I love him.  I thought I knew him and loved him, but I didn’t know anything.  It’s true.  If you still love who your spouse is today then you automatically love them more than when you married them because your love is more unconditional.   It’s the same with Jesus.  You think you know Him at that first kiss but you have no idea.  And if you are busy recreating the first kiss you are going to miss all the great things He wants to show you now.  

Isaiah 43:18 says it like this, “

“Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.”

Thinking about this scripture it makes me think of wells.  In Genesis 26, Isaac redug the wells that his father, Abraham, had dug.  The enemy had filled those wells up with earth (dirt).  There may be a time for redigging wells but then in Deuteronomy 6:11, God promised His people wells they didn’t dig.  And then in Isaiah, rivers in the desert.  Why are you redigging when you should be looking for some wells you didn’t dig or some rivers in your desert season?  

We have to stop returning the last place we felt God move…He isn’t there any more.  I recently had a word from God and He told me, “I’ve been with you all the time.  It’s not about going back to where you last heard me.  It’s about making contact here and now.”

It’s not about the first kiss.  With God, it truly gets better and better.  

 

Live like this

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We’ve been listening to Bob Hamp at our Life Group on Wednesday nights.  Check him out here.  The series we have been working on is Freedom.

Two of his stories I wanted to share so I won’t forget them and because they hit me hard…

The first story was one he told about a conference.  There was a speaker who rarely ever “called people out” over the platform but in one of his speaking engagements, He stops, looks over at a guy in the audience and says, “God says, ‘I want to call you Jeffery.'”  Sounds simple and the man was wearing a name tag that said, “Jeff” so stands to reason that’s his name.  The man began to weep.  Later that day, Bob saw the man and asked him about the Word.  Jeff told him that he works in the children’s ministry at his church and the night before, they had a rambunctious group and there was one little boy in particular who kept asking to call him “Jeffery”.  Finally, Jeff took the boy aside and the boy asked again if he could call him “Jeffery”.  Jeff told the boy, “I don’t know you that well and only people who love me call me Jeffery”.  Bob made the statement to the effect of “Isn’t it just like God to think of such a witty way to say, ‘I love you.'”

The second story he told was about him and a friend trying to exercise their spiritual gifts.  They were at his office talking and praying and asking God, “What do you want us to do?”  His friend had a picture in his head of this man and a little girl with pigtails at a burger joint not too far away.  They decided to go to the burger place.  If memory serves his friend’s wife joined them.  So they were there and no one was fitting the description of the man he saw.  Bob ordered his burger and was chatting up the cashier when someone tapped him on the shoulder.  It was a man he knew who fit the description.  He began telling Bob that his daughter was in trouble. There were more details to the story but that isn’t the point.  The talked to the man and prayed with him.  Bob’s friend who had the picture in his head, was so excited and his faith was stirred by what had happened that he called another friend of his and was excitedly telling him what had happened that evening.  He ended the call by telling his friend, “Dude, we have to LIVE like this.”

My thoughts…

As we journey through life it is easy to forget gifts we once worked to stir up and to strengthen.  It is easy to put things on like prayer on the back burner.  It is easy to forget who we really are because life has come along and defined us in so many other roles and through situations.

Today one of our friends from church was sharing his experiences of going on missions trips and how some things always go wrong but his faith is in God.  It was funny to me because my experience with God has been that when He tells me to do something, everything begins to fall into place perfectly.  When God told me to go to Alabama, I began to make the necessary changes in my life to go and everything began to fall into place perfectly.  When God put the Hubs and I together, everything began to fall into place…we moved 300 miles, both got jobs, places to live, everything just worked.  Things work so well in my life when it is “THE GOD thing”  that I barely remember the things that things that come against us  because they kind of faded into the background and weren’t big things in the long run.  When God told us to buy a house, everything worked out smoothly. I’m not saying each one of these things were easy…everyone one of them required risk and a lot of hard work.  Because God told us to do it, there was no stopping or turning back.  That’s my experience.  Everyone experiences God differently.

Saying all of that to say this, yes, I’ve had seasons in my life when I didn’t hear God tell me anything or lead me about anything.  I don’t like it but I still believe in Him.  Yes, I’ve had seasons in my life when God spoke to me strongly about some things and not at all about other things (usually the things I wanted him to tell me about).  I may have experienced some frustration (*this is possibly an understatement) but I still love Him.

I can say this for sure….I would rather “live like this” than live without Him.  I would rather have Him leading me to do things that might not be comfortable for me than to live without Him.

Dudes, we have to live like this.

We have to make listening to Him and following after Him and obeying Him our way of life. It is the great adventure.

We have to live this, we just have to.  I’m desperate to live this.

Lord,

The lyrics to a song run through my head tonight, “Awake my soul, awake my soul and sing.”  God, please awaken my soul to live; to truly live.  To live You.  To listen for Your voice and follow strong after You.  Please help me to live every day.  Help me to listen and tune in to You.  Please help me to be sensitive to your leading and follow even before You verbalize what You want.  God, like the Bible says in Jeremiah, take the stony places of my heart and massage out the hardness until my heart is once again a heart of flesh a soft beating place. Jesus, please awake my soul again.

In Jesus name, Amen.