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How Much Will It Cost Me

When I was a single mom a few years ago, I would often tag a purchase by the value of how much it would cost me, meaning; Is this item truly worth an equivalent of my 8 hours at work.  “HA!  NO!” Having this mindset hugely affected any impulse buying.  So it is in our Christian walk.  Our choice to have, to do, to go, to see, to taste does (DOES) cost us. Really!

Jesus talks about being His disciple in Luke (14:25-35) He clearly states, “But don’t begin until you count the cost.” (v28)  He gives examples of the need for strong allegiance and love for Him, being so great by comparison that our love for Him is greater than our love for others, and even for our own lives.  He tells tiny stories about beginning a building project without first sitting down and calculating out the cost, why get halfway in and not be able to finish. And what about leading an army into battle knowing the opposition is greater, a change of course may be needed.  Counting the cost.

His whole premise in these statements… know the cost!  Knowing the cost, we recognize and agree there are guidelines. Sometimes we may need to set extreme guidelines in advance to help us in our God decision-making process.  I am reminded of Abram, (Genesis 14) after conquering the kings who took his nephew Lot and a whole boatload of others, the King of Sodom came and told him he could keep all the loot.  Abram says, “I have raised my hand to the LORD God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you…”  He didn’t want the king to brag later that he made Abram great. The narrative goes on, “After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (15:1) Yes, Abram could have profited HUGELY from what the King of Sodom was offering, but the cost would have been greater if he HAD taken it.  God says I will reward – I AM the reward. (Predetermined guidelines).

I speak from experience, after a season of very poor decision making, I totally mucked out the stalls of my life with a mindset of these following questions: Does what I am reading, what I am watching as a disciple of Jesus hurt my relationship with Him. Does having this item tell Jesus I love ‘me’ more than Him?   Does going to this place or event compromise my promise to follow Him?  Have I truly thought this out, how much this will cost me, is it worth my discipleship?  Have I calculated and found I need a change of course?

I appreciate “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do.  The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.” (The Message, Matthew 7:13-14)

May we pay attention and do a lil mucking out and hear Jesus’ words as we stand on the threshold of decision-making “Count the cost.”  How much will it cost me?

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

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Get Outta the Boat

Boat Dwelling.  Recently I was looking at the account of Jesus calling the first disciples. In short: Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee, and sees Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew fishing and calls out to them, Come, follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”  These fishermen left their nets and followed Him.  It goes on to say, a short distance away, He also saw James and John (they too were brothers) they were with their father Zebedee and some hired men, in a boat, working on their nets.  Jesus called them.  They crawled out of the boat, left their father and followed Jesus. (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20)

When I read these stories, I began to wonder why, why when Jesus called to James and John; they were the only ones getting out of the boat.  Zebedee and the hired men were also in the boat, yet it says nothing about calling them by name.  Maybe Jesus looked them right in the eyes, or perhaps quite possibly, He pointed, waving only the brothers in (Nothing like a holy pointing).  The region they were in was a well-populated fishing area, so there were many folks around, however, they knew Jesus was talking to …them.  I wonder if the guys said out loud to one another, “Why isn’t anyone else getting out of their boats?”  Even so, without hesitation, they climbed down and out. The story’s emphasis is not about who stayed, it is about who went.

As I thought of this, I sensed the Lord calling us out, that we too have us some boats.  Our boat may represent security, just as it did for the fishermen.  Leaving the boat meant the ‘unknown.’  We too have been called out by the Master to follow HIM – even while others are still in the boat… we are to get out and follow!

May we too become boat leavers and not boat lovers, staying put, secure and comfortable and not budging.   Yes, life outside the boat can be scary, but let’s leave our self-defining safe place, and step out: Start that ministry, join that small group, teach the kids at church, invite that family over for dinner, and actually speak to the clerk at the store about Jesus.   My following Jesus may look different from yours, but that is the beauty, He makes us unique in Him, Come, follow Me and I will make you”   (Teacher, lawyer, clerk, bookkeeper, parking attendant, student, mom, dad)

Like the story above mentioned, Peter left his nets and followed Jesus, we see him later leaving a boat – we often tease others about being fearful like Peter, but stop the scene… where is he?  He is out of the boat.  The only one, who got out, took a chance and headed for Jesus.  Just keep your eyes on HIM! (Matthew 14)

Have a God-loving, getting outta the boat, weekend.

In Him, DeDe  (“Let us consider how we may spur one another one towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Servant, Regardless

I have been studying Paul, the amazing Apostle, and servant of Jesus.  His devoted servant character trait is a strong theme in his life & his writings. Servanthood.  God took me back to his conversion, where it all started.  Acts 9.    Post ‘blinding light’ encounter with Jesus, Paul (Saul) now blind, is taken to Damascus to the house of Judas, he was there for 3 days.   Enter a Godly man, Ananias.  God told him to go and pray for Paul.   (Keep reading this is good)

I am reminded of the story of Jonah, and how in some respects it parallels Ananias.  Both men heard God call, one responds, “Yes, Lord”  the other, “ran away...”   Ananias, reluctant at first, but unlike Jonah, he went (in the right direction).  They both were called to detailed obedience. Both were apprehensive due to what was on the other end of their journey if obeyed.  Jonah had to be told twice, Ananias only once.  Jonah was angry at God’s response, Ananias apprehensive, but regardless was not angry.   They both spoke freely and honestly to God, yet they both, in the end, witnessed God’s “grace and compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Jonah 4:1-3)  However, one was selfish, the other selfless.  Jonah sat outside the city of Nineveh pouting, knowing in the end, God was going to be kind to his enemy.  Ananias went to the man, as far as he knew, this Paul guy “was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.”  (v1)    God told Ananias to pray for Paul, he not only prayed, but he greeted Paul by calling him Brother‘  he didn’t pray from across the room out of insecurity, or fear. No, he laid hands on him as instructed.  Regardless of being hesitant, he trusted God enough to have his obedience full & then some.   Ananias exemplifies a true servant, God trusted him enough, trusted his response to call him to an important task.

What an amazing initiation into this ‘Jesus Way’ for Paul, 3 days in, God sends a whopper of a servant, an example.  I am fully persuaded that Paul took note, a very humbled, “I will learn from this!” note.  Besides Paul’s retelling of the event in Acts 22, we do not hear any more about Ananias, he quietly slips away from the pages of scripture, but what an impact he had. This seemingly insignificant man Ananias impacted the legend of a man by the name of Paul.  Paul received his sight, was baptized, filled with the Spirit, fed and regained his strength and soon headed out preaching that Jesus is the Son of God. (BOOM!)

Ananias and Jonah, both men were marked of God for a specific assignment, yet Jonah’s story paints a wild picture of how our response can throw us into chaos.  Yet, ultimately, regardless of how we perceive a situation, God has the final word. (Read his full story, only 4 chapters) I am humbled by these stories, that my first response may be selfish and Jonah-like, yet I so desire that when He calls, entrusting me with an important assignment, I will respond, “Yes, Lord.” Regardless of what or how I feel, that I too would be quick to obey and follow through completely.   I want my heart to be as accepting as Ananias’ was, rather than when asked, I’d have to tell a wild fish story of my response.

Servanthood.   Surrendering with a selfless, God-honoring response, regardless.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Jonah painting credited: Daniel A. Lewis

SEE Them

Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.”  – Paul, letter to the Philippians 2:4

Yesterday as my Grand and I were coming home from picking her up from school, we were stopped at a stop light.  There on the corner was an older gal, in an old tattered coat holding a sign that read, “Anything helps.”  Reaching for a bottle of water and with the only cash I had, I tucked a dollar bill around it, when passing her; I stopped briefly, smiling and handed it to her.  Our eyes met.  You could see the hard times in her eyes, the weathered facial expression, and the droop of her shoulders.  Her whispered “Thank you” spoke volumes.  Whispered words can impact more than shouted words with large volumes.

Conviction gripped me as I looked into her eyes.  Do I stop every time?  No.  Do I notice?  No.  Do I acknowledge their presence?  No.  Do I judge?  Yes, and who am I to do so.  I asked God to help me see.  In my seeing, make me aware.   Make me CARE!   Remind me, Lord, that person is someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, daughter or son.  Help me see the need and heed, (adding ‘if at all possible’ – I don’t want to be sitting with a patrol car parked behind me, lights flashing as he tickets me for crossing 4 lanes of traffic haphazardly to give a man a bottle of water – I will walk in wisdom).   I do not want to see and ignore and hastily voice my opinion of their status and proceed through my day as I leave them behind in my rearview mirror. Paul precedes the above verse stating: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (v3)

As we cruise through this life, may we be aware, may we look and see them, see others.  Looking for ways we can help, whether that help is large or small.  May we take the time to offer a smile, hold the door while they carry heavy bags of groceries, allow someone to go ahead of us in line, give a word of encouragement, take a meal, hold them, laugh with them, cry and pray.   May we be God-focused… others.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Personal & Transparent Testimony

(Stand in Awe – Part 2) Last month I had the honor of being one of the speakers at our 2018 Women’s Conference, the theme, ‘Stand in Awe’ – I spoke on Stand in Awe of God’s Plan and Timing. (To read Part One, click here: https://inspiredfountain.com/2018/03/12/stand-in-awe-part-1/) I felt God whisper, “It’s alright I have a plan.”

John 9 – Jesus sees a blind man, the disciples ask “Who sinned this man’s parents or this man?” Jesus says, (in short) Neither, this happened so God would be glorified, that this man would have an encounter with ME.  Jesus spits in the dirt, puts the pasty clay on the man’s eyes, and tells him to go wash, he did and he could see.  There was so much news press about this, the religious leaders were called in and even the formerly blind man’s parents.  They asked him multiple questions, and two times, he says, “I DON’T KNOW!’  But then, he says, “One thing I do know, once I was blind, now I see!”  What a lesson for us; Don’t bother arguing about the questions you don’t know the answers to, but reply with what you do know.  “I met Jesus, and now I …” God’s plan is always in motion, His timing perfect, we may not see it, but He’s there.  You can hear the faint whisper of the Father, “It’s alright I have a plan.”

Many, who know me, know my PASSION is God’s word; I study it, write about it and teach it.  But I too have a ‘once I was blind but now I see…”  At my earliest memories, I always struggled with reading, in the second grade it was planned to hold me back, yet my parents and the school decided on a summer tutor.  Going forward, throughout grade school I was in special reading programs.  Once in Junior High, they began testing me, it was determined, I had Comprehension Reading Disorder, (and extremely so) as they explained it, I could read the words, but not understand.  Once the words were in my mind, they were all jumbled up and made no sense. By the time I graduated from High School, I was tested reading at about a 4th-grade reading level. I knew Jane and Dick were playing with Spot after school, but figuring out math word problems, “The train leaves the station at 6:04 am…” NO WAY!

Whenever there is a lack in one area, we tend to compensate in another, like a deaf man will grow to have a keen sense of sight, or a blind man, his hearing.  I too compensated, I learned the skill of listening and watching.  I remember that summer tutor telling me, “Look and listen for the important things.”  At the beginning of class, the teacher would begin with “In last night’s homework, we looked at…”  While the other kids were goofing off, I paid attention. I listened and watched for the important things.  It was this era, nearly 17,  that I gave my heart to Jesus and fell head over heels in love with God.

After graduation, I was enrolled in the Graphic Arts program at our local community college, it was all I had planned for all my life, and it was what I was good at!  At the end of the first week, only five days in, sitting in Art History class, I heard a Voice tell me “You are not supposed to be here.” Hm… I asked, “Where am I supposed to be?” The Voice responded, “Bible College.” I did a Sarah, I laughed. Then I asked the risky question, “Why?”  “You are going to teach My Word.” The Voice said.  I felt the strong need to NOT ask any more questions! So confident God was speaking, after class was over, I walked out, across campus and straight to the Admin building and withdrew from the art program.  I was so impacted, that only, ONLY God, knowing me, knowing my weakness, would call me to a book. The girl who couldn’t read – called to a BOOK!

After a year or so, I was at Portland Bible College, two months in, alone in my dorm room one night, I knelt down, and with all seriousness within me, I told God I wanted it ALL – I want this Spirit-thing, and I was finally surrendering to His call on my life.  The girl who couldn’t read… called to THE Book!  I began to notice a difference within the next couple days, weeks and months. You see, it all began to make sense.  As I read, I could ‘see’ it.  Something I could never do prior, the words no longer were jumbled, they made sense! (Go God!) God was healing my mind.

Looking back now, I hear the Whisperer, “It’s alright I have a plan.” Yes, all those years were extremely painful in my lack – BUT, God’s plan, His timing.  Due to my lack, I compensated (so I thought) it was, however indeed part of God’s plan. In me, He was causing me to learn the skill of ‘Listening and looking for the important things.’ And THAT is Bible study!  Since then, when I read, I always ask God to show me, I take pause and notice the details, I look for the important things – the who, what, where, when and why.

God’s plan at times seems to be knitted up so tight it can be difficult to see, as I taught this to the ladies at the conference, I wore a bright red L-O-N-G scarf that my dear friend Terri knit for me, representing the plan of God.  Long, unraveling as it dragged behind me, was cumbersome to wear and at times got in my way, but if it were pulled out in a straight line, we can see down the ‘timeline’ (if you will) of God’s plan, and each movement of God marked.  As the women entered the conference, they were handed an old fashion wooden clothespin, as I closed my teaching, I shared, each of us has God marking our timeline, His plan and timing perfect. Let the clothespin be a reminder, that YOU are marked and you mark His timeline in affecting others.

It’s alright I have a plan.  This happened so God would be glorified, that this woman would have an encounter with ME!”  The girl, who struggled with the simplest reading, is now understanding and operating in hermeneutical skills to the glory of God!  I write and teach His Word to people all over the world.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

*Stand in Awe image above was created by Chase at East River Fellowship

 

Post Easter, Now What?

Earless chocolate bunnies and leftover deviled eggs in the frig. Post-Easter. Now what?  My all-time favorite holiday!  Do we rummage through the calendar for another holiday or event to look forward to? What excites us about the future or even … daily?   May I be so bold in asking, what causes our insides to burn with excitement, what consumes our mind and emotions?

Post-Easter.

Jesus’ resurrection, AMAZING!  WONDERFUL!  DIVINE! However, let’s not stop there. There is MORE!  Let’s unpack this in brief summary.  Stay with me, this is good! Luke 24, it speaks of the women going to the tomb, once there they find two angels who notify them that Jesus was no longer there, the gals go back to tell the others. Peter, as energetic as he was, runs to go see and confirms. Just following that, (v13) it says “Now that same day…” It proceeds to unfold the story of the two walking to Emmaus, who unknown to them at first, encounter Jesus. They are flabbergasted that this Stranger didn’t seem to know what had just transpired in Jerusalem. They shared their disappointment, “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” Going on they explained how Jesus’ body was not found. Verse 27, “Then He (Jesus) started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to Him.” WOW, I’d love a one on one instant Bible study from the lips of the Master!

It wasn’t until Jesus was seated at their table, in their home and they accepted the bread He offered, that their eyes were opened and they knew WHO He was. I LOVE their response, “They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”  (v32, emphasis mine)

Their hearts burning within them. I want spiritual heartburn! I want my soul, mind, thoughts, passions, desires, and appetites to burn with Him and His word! The word Luke chooses to use for ‘burning’ is very colorful. It doesn’t just mean to strike a match and light the kindling and watch it slowly give off heat. No, it RAVISHES through the wood and consumes it!  Burn Lord!

Yet some would argue that the two didn’t even recognize Jesus when He shared the Word with them. However, Paul writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) To have the very Son of God, His presence and He b-r-e-a-t-h-e these words to them, teaching them, training them, equipping them – THAT would cause their heart to burn.  Notice Jesus didn’t lay hands on them, put mud on their eyes.  He didn’t even send them to the Priest for verification; He simply… walked with them. Walking and talking, and they were transformed.  The narrative says they got up at once and went back to Jerusalem testifying that Jesus has indeed RISEN.

For us? The next time we find our seat at church or open the Bible for devotion time, let’s not daydream off to another place, let’s do some talkin, and walkin.  Jesus told us, “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things…” (John 14:26) We just need to show up for the lesson.

And …burn Lord, BURN within us!  Post-Easter.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

BUT GOD…

 

Have you ever stood on the edge of the pages of your life and just shake your head in complete bewilderment and think one simple word, “HOW!”   Then the rest of the frustration tumbles out, exclaiming, “But God, this … and …” continuing with a list of ‘can’t do’s – won’t work – not happening’ statements.

God can match every statement!  Believe it or not, ‘But God … ‘ (or ‘But the Lord’) is mentioned 325+ times in the Bible, in GOD’S favor.  In this study, spending 4 hours looking at these verses, I was captivated; I saw God’s character being placed in the forefront.  There were loud moments of reassurance, and yet quiet whispers of His love. This is what I found, this is what I learned.  (In short, briefly stating)

I begin with Genesis 3:9, Adam and Eve are in the garden, the presence of God so intimate that He literally takes walks with them.  Adam and Eve have just made some very poor choices (thanks, guys). God is now coming for their daily walk together, and the couple hides. “But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” God calls. He knew very well where they were, the question was intended for them, to consider their location, their position and their condition before Him.  Remember also these two running away, to Haggar, He asked, “Where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8) and to Elijah, “What are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19)  God is still calling. “Where are you, where are you going, and what are you doing here?” (Point to ponder)

Next, a man by the name of Jacob, he worked hard as requested and then was treated unfairly by his father-in-law. Genesis 31:42 “But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands…” God sees.  He sees us where we are, how we are and how we are being treated.  He cares – He will act.

Joseph, the cocky favored son, who was thrown into a pit, and sold as a slave by FAMILY MEMBERS! Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, and the saving of many lives.” God accomplishes.  He redeems the bad and transforms for good to accomplish His plan.

Amazing, just amazing!  The word is full of examples like these and more: “But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever …” (Psalm 73:26) “But God promised…” (Acts 7:5) “But God had mercy on him…” (Philippines 2:27) “But God is the builder of everything…” (Hebrews 3:4)

God is incredible, He is never late and never ignores, and is acutely attentive to details and He is concerned more for our welfare than our comfort and goes to an extreme effort at times to make sure we hear Him.  (May we listen the FIRST time!)

There is yet one more, Peter steps forward and strongly proclaims: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God … This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God, (BUT GOD) raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” (Acts 2:22-24, NIV – emphasis mine)

But God calls, God sees and God accomplishes.   But God –  BUT GOD  is incredible!

Blessed Easter, DeDe & Mark

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24

*You can go to Bible Gateway (see link below)  and read ‘But God…’  for yourself just a few.

https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=%22But+God%22&qs_version=NIV