Recently my friend Deanna and I were visiting a classmate from our growing up years. We toured the blueberry fields with fascination as Beth points out the different varieties. Rows, and rows of lush green and blue. Soon, we drive up to the farmhouse, when out steps Beth’s mom, Esther. Full of a hospitable smile, she waves us into the house.
Once in, as introductions were made, and our conversation comfortable, I asked Esther what church she attended in the small farming community I grew up in. “The church across from the Grade School.” Her response brought back memories I hadn’t thought about in years. Memories of being handed a small red book, and reading the cover ‘New Testament’ and knowing nothing of God, or the Bible, I honestly thought the ‘New’ meant it has just come out and that ‘I’ was privileged to even have a copy. I went on to tell her, that when I was little, we used to have ladies walk over from that church and get a small group of us and walk us back to the church and teach us about Jesus. Her next words have forever changed my life – “THAT was me!”
At that moment, my eyes welled up; I walked across the room, enfolded her in a warm hug and told her “Thank you!” She asked me, “Do you love Jesus?” With heartfelt enthusiasm “Oh yes!” I replied. Beth proceeded to tell her, “Mom, DeDe is an ordained minister now.” I shared that it wasn’t until about eight years later, when I was 16, that I was again shared the gospel and gave my heart to Jesus, I went on to Bible college and now after years of study, a Bible teacher. Esther was so thrilled; she could not wait to share this at ‘testimony night’ at church. I would have loved to have been in the grandstands with the angels when Esther rose to tell her story!
Esther sharing flannel graph stories about Jesus to a group of school kids seems so trivial, but OH NO it isn’t! She planted a seed that laid there until years later when Brenda, another woman of God sat me down and shared the gospel in terms a teenager could understand. That action and those words caused the Esther seed to come alive! The Holy Spirit watered it, it sprouted and gave new born-again birth to a confused and hurting 16-year-old. God is AMAZING!
Never EVER doubt how we impact others! Regardless! Regardless of how small and trivial it may appear. Solomon wrote: “Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person.” (Proverbs 3:27 MSG) Paul says, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4) Thank you, Esther, for being obedient and being God’s hands and looking to the interest of those lil kids, THIS now grown gal is head over heels in love with Jesus and teaches HIM to others. I am so thankful God orchestrated Esther and I meeting after 45+ years, our faith is encouraged, our faith is grown! Be someones Esther!
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Note: I looked up what the colored coded lil Gideon Bibles mean: Red, in-school distribution. Green, for college/university. Orange, street evangelism. White, medical use. Dark blue, any other language other than English. (Thank you Gideon’s!) I am still in awe that I am privileged to own, and now teach the Bible!
I have been studying Romans, verse by verse following Paul’s thread of thought. I studied it in college, but that was a boatload (two trains, and a couple of semis) years ago. I’ve revisited circumcision, atonement, and salvation, and now, now the ‘s’ word … yup … sin. I have learned much more than I ever wanted, I’ve been forced to stop writing, and push away from the table having to bow my head multiple times. (This is not a complete thesis on the subject, just what I am learning).
Sin is biblically known as to fail or miss the mark. The mark is the target God set out there for us, to not only aim for – but HIT. Sin is a verb, an archer’s term, let me paint a picture: The archer takes a stance, the bowstring is drawn, and then released, the arrow flies and misses the target, the arrow has failed to fulfill the goal, due to the contemplated aim of the archer. The archer has sinned. Here’s a good example, in the book of Judges (chapter 20) it talks about a group of left-handed warriors who could sling a rock so accurately, they could not ‘miss’ (they didn’t ‘khata’ / sin) their aim was right-on, their slinging was ‘sinless.’ How is our aim?
We want to make sure we know what we are aiming for, WHAT is the targeted goal of our thoughts, behavior, and choices. We look to Jesus, the ‘sinless’ One, Who did not fail to love and love completely. In His response when asked what the greatest commandment is, His answer (in short) “To love God and love others.” (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28:31) When we sin, we fail to love as commanded; our mindset works out in our actions in disobedience, we either hurt God, ourselves or hurt others, (usually all at the same time). We miss the target, love. If we are loving God with ALL our heart, ALL our soul, and ALL our mind… and loving our neighbor as our self, well our target is hit. BUT, when we don’t and we miss, (and we will) John gives us the solution, “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn. 1:9) Confessing is coming back into alignment with what GOD says! How’s our re-aligning?
Funny thing is, it does not stop there, in the original language, sin is the act of doing wrong(missing the goal) yes, but it is literally also ‘not the best‘ (OUCH!) The goal of the enemy of our soul is to kill, steal and destroy, he does so by getting us distracted, deviating from the truth, get our eyes OFF the target, not doing and being our best. How many of us, if we were REALLY honest would be bold enough to say we are lazy, (my hand goes up!) we don’t always give it our best, we are undisciplined and often times just do a haphazard fling of our bow, not truly taking it serious enough, when our response is wrapped in lame-slang, “My bad!” James understood this: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (4:17) He is describing what is theologically known as ‘sins of omission.’ It is not only what people do that matters; the good that they fail to do (due to the contemplated aim of the archer) is equally important to God. *
Here is an amazing example of how I feel Paul is strongly exhorting us all to do and be the VERY BEST. He KNEW, he knew because Jesus told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) Yes, it is hard work, yes it is painful, yes, we do so by faith, and YES, it helps to have someone crawling alongside us! I love how the mocking crowd changed their tune as they see the determination, can you imagine how the world would view us (and our God) if we responded in life like THIS! Watch … watch until the very end “Alright, who’s next?” May this clip and the words of Jesus ring true as we are taking proper aim and ‘giving it our very BEST!’ God gave His very best, why don’t we.
Paul, the coach… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sUKoKQlEC4 (Click on link)
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
*Sins of omission defined in ESV Study Bible notes, commentary on James 4:17. Please also note, this author chooses to not capitalize the name satan, he is not worthy of proper grammatical rules. Movie clip above is from ‘Facing the Giants’.
This morning I was reminded of a time when prayer became more real and on a relational level for others. A few years ago, while driving to work early at O dark hundred in the morning, I became aware of something, “Where’s Linda?” Linda is a gal I would see riding her bike every morning, she was but a speck of light at first with a headlamp on her forehead and flashing backlight. I had never met Linda, I just gave her that name.
For a couple of months, this Linda and I passed each other every workday. I had begun to pray for her. She not knowing, but it doesn’t matter, our paths intersected for a reason. So I’d pray. I prayed for her safety on the road, for any unknown needs, that while she rides “YOU, God are speaking to her.” One particular morning, I didn’t see her. For never meeting this gal, my heart sank. However, about a ½ mile up the road, there she was. I again began our morning routine, unknown to her!
Prayer, an amazing thing. Some make it more complex than it is, more lengthy than needed and by golly more King James than understood. Paul shared multiple times about our CALL to pray for one another. He bluntly states, “Brethren, pray for us.” (1 Thessalonians 5:25) Again, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) James shares, in a more intimate environment, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16 emphasis mine) Astonishingly, this was said of Job in the Old Testament, “After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10)
Prayer, simply coming to our God, and talking to Him. I would venture to say, most of our prayers may be “O God, help!” and that’s okay, “In Jesus name!” Whether it be a quick bow of the head for a loved one, on our knees on behalf of the nation, face down in a battle for deliverance or heartfelt while driving by a stranger, let us converse. I would add, conversing is two-sided, remember to take pause to allow God to respond … and listen.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
As I sat on the edge of a prickly field in Pendleton, Oregon visiting family, I am again, in awe of God! In my morning devotions, I was directed to Luke 15, specifically verses 11-32, the parable of The Prodigal Son. I have read this numerous times, heard it preached and teached, (ok, it is really ‘taught’ – but it rhymes) it is packed FULL of wonderful principles. We can look at it through the eyes of the wayward son, through the frustrated older brother and the father, oh the father! Today I see it through new eyes, a fresh perspective; this is what Holy Spirit showed me, this is what I am learning. (Stay with me this is good)
The parable begins with “Jesus continues…” What was He continuing? Looking at the prior verses, there are two parables above, First: ‘The Lost Sheep’ Jesus ends the mini story with “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.” (v7) Then, the second Parable of the Lost Coin, He too ends with “there is rejoicing … over one sinner who repents.” (v10) Jesus is teaching on repentance. Even then, I go back further, the first verse of the chapter; it says, (Looking for where they were, who was there) “Tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Him.’ But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (NIV, emphasis mine, can you hear the ‘hissing’ in their muttering!) The principal pulled forward: Do WE position ourselves to listen or so distracted with criticism, perhaps MISS what Jesus is saying. (Ouch!)
The Parable of the Prodigal Son: In brief rundown: A father has two sons; the younger decides to leave, demanding he gets his inheritance NOW! It is given, he takes off and treks far away completely wasting all his money on wild living. When his pockets are empty, a famine hits, he’s hungry – he finds work at a farm, his boss puts him to work feeding the pigs, he sees what he is tossing to the pigs, being so hungry, even THAT looks good! The story comes to a pivotal point when “He finally comes to his senses…” (v17, complete sermon in those few words) He says to himself, ‘even at home, dads hired servants get better than this, I will go home to dad and tell him; “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, I am not worthy to be called your son, please take me on as one of your hired servants.” Here’s the key verse (to me) Verse 20, “So he returned home to his father.” As he nears home, the father sees him, so excited the father takes off running, meets him, embraces and kisses him. The son begins his speech. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son …” Not getting to finish, his dad turns and calls to the servants “Get the robe, the ring, sandals, and kill the calf we’ve been fattening up – let’s celebrate! My son who was lost is found!” (The story goes on; the older brother notices the celebration, he begins throwing a smaller ‘pity’ party version – the dad comes out and tells him to get over it, all I have is yours already!)
I want to reach down and unpack a few things: I noticed as Jesus told this story, there is no reference to the father speaking any words to the younger son; we only hear a one-sided conversation. When the son returns and gives his dad his speech, the father does NOT reply to the son but calls to his servants. The father gives no verbal response – but only ACTION. His dad’s forgiveness is action-filled, he gives him a ring, robe, sandals and a BBQ. (The significance of each for another time).
I also noticed, the son refers to his dad’s servants, and his dad calls to his servants. Each time they both use different words. The son (see verses 17, 19) uses (in the Greek) ‘misthios’ meaning ‘wage earner.’ The father (v22) uses ‘doulos’ – meaning, ‘one whose will is consumed with the will of another.’ The son was going back ‘for the paycheck’ – NOT to be taken over by his fathers’ will. Let that sink in. HOWEVER, (pause) I am fully convinced, that as the son saw his father’s response, no words, just action – regardless of how empty his stomach was, everything changed! Actions speak LOUD! Action can detour any conversation, there were no ‘follow up’ words, ‘BUT DAD…’
I see also that good intentions only profit – IF we act on them, while the son was still in the pig pen, ‘he said’ – he not only ‘said’ but also he got up and went TO his father. He could have continued in the pen and rambled on and on and on, the neighbors could hear him lamenting over at their place! But he truly repented – repentance is not just turning away FROM, but in the same movement – it is turning TO! It has purpose! Repentance took him away from his icky pig pen, and home TO his father. His dad couldn’t do anything about his son’s situation until he came home. (Read THAT again) Yes, Jesus is teaching about repentance.* (See defined below)
The prodigal son, YES, he messed up, but took notice of his situation, was humbled, responsible and sought resolution, (RIGHT AWAY, ‘when he came to his senses’ – there was no delaying, sat on it – wrote ‘Dear Abby’ – consulted his friends) – he put action to his personal repentance. This father put his forgiveness into action as well. What about us, are there circumstances that have us in the pig pen, whether small or fills the back 40. Do we need to quit just talking about it, but get up and DO! A purposed turning from and turning to (God). Or perhaps, we need to offer forgiveness to another, oh we may not need to throw a robe over their shoulders and put sandals on their feet, but we may need to back up our forgiveness with action. Point to ponder – remember, the father gave his son his portion of the inheritance, but upon returning, the father had MORE to give, – our God has and IS more! And sometimes, God allows us to go the full run of our sin, to truly appreciate the MORE of HIM when we come home!
*Repentance means a change of place, or condition, to exercise the mind, to relent, a true change of heart toward God. The OPPOSITE of repentance: To continue. [The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament] Those who, conscious of their sins, are intent on obtaining God’s pardon. [Thayers Greek-English Lexicon] To change one’s purpose [ Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the New Testament] Perceiving one’s prior opinion, feelings, or purpose was wrong, taking on the sense ‘to regret’ – in so doing, a change is made. [Theological Dictionary of the New Testament] Interesting side note: ‘Prodigal’ in the Greek means: Extravagantly wasteful because of “loose living.” [ Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament]
Pictured above, the sunny skies over Pendleton.
God has been challenging me with my worship of Him. When gathered with others, I tend to just get in line, and follow the flow. I stand, sit, and bow my head. I join in the choruses, clap to the beat, and smile at my neighbor. I offer a hardy ‘Amen’ when finished and we take our seats. I love my church family! Isn’t it interesting though it seems of recent years, we sing mostly about ‘our’ journey, we hear it on the radio and bust it out at church. Songs filled with I -me – we – us. We sing of all the great things He has done for us (which He HAS) we sing of the deliverance He brings us (which He DOES) we sing about how we are made new, loved and free, (which we ARE) these are good, these are right – but what about just worshipping Him for WHO-He -is. He is Holy, Holy, Holy! I am learning it is not just, ‘what’ He is – it is WHO He is! Worship is not about us! Where is the reverence, the holy hush, the drop to your knees in awe? (Frankly, I know if I did drop to my knees, I’d get stuck and couldn’t get back up, but I’d enjoy the view, looking up, seeing …HIM!)
God said to Moses, “Do not come any closer, take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5) Reverence. Holy reverence. Do we come to God with such respect, admiration that we take pause, (remove something) or do we come rushing in out of breath excited to join the party, that in doing so, we fail to see HIM! (OUCH, as I pull down my balloon!)
We are told numerous times in the Word to seek His FACE, never are we told to seek His ‘hand.’ We are like a child running up to daddy, forgetting to acknowledge daddy is home, forgetting his presence, and only wanting to know what He has for us, “Do you have a gift for me? Surely you do! What’s behind your back?” We are excited about the gift, rather than acknowledging the Giver! How about we slow it down, – like the psalmists make us take notice with ‘Selah.’ May we take pause.
Yes, Lord, Your love finds me, Your mercy follows me, Your grace covers me, I am SO thankful! But what if, what if I were to stop and turn and just WORSHIP You! Hands raised, not raised to be picked up (tomorrow) but today I raise my hands just acknowledging YOU are worthy! You are King! You are Holy! You are GOD!
NOW, as I hop in my car, turn on the radio, I can bebop to the beat, sing along about the love of God, “Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine, I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away…” (By the way, I love this song, but God’s love is not ‘reckless’ – He is not reckless – He is deliberate, He is relentless, He is consistent).
While hanging my husband’s dress slacks for work the other day, I had the pants upside down by the hem in my hands. I was lining them up to hang properly when I heard (that inner whispered voice) “Look again.” Quickly dismissing it, I placed the hanger on the bar in the closet, then “Look again.” So I did. Although what seemed to be balanced in my hands, further down, the slacks were all catawampus. The sure-fire way to hang them for ‘wrinkle-free results’ was not going to happen. How often do we jet through life with the same mindset, “That’s good enough” dismissing any warnings, then, later on, we find out we were not properly prepared, and a few wrinkles show up?
Multiple times in the Word we are exhorted to listen for God’s instruction, not only listen but DO what He says, “So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you.” (Deut. 5:32-33a) “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48:17) King David writes, “You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah” (Psalm 32:7) As he pauses, (‘Selah’) The Lord responds, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Next verse, v8) Do we take pause?
Jesus said: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26) Holy Spirit will teach us, just like He did the disciples, He speaks, guides and instructs. Are we listening?
Oswald Chambers wrote: “Whenever there is doubt, stop at once. Never try to reason it out, saying, “I wonder why I shouldn’t do this?” God instructs us in what we choose; that is, He actually guides our common sense.” I might add, “If we let Him.” How many of us in hindsight – recognize THAT was God! Wouldn’t it be great to see Him …before. He is wise, He is practical (and wrinkle-free).
I was recently asked, “Is everything a devotion to you?” I hope so. I want my walk with Jesus to be so intimate that everything speaks of Him. May I echo the words of the Psalmist: “I will come and proclaim Your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim Your righteousness, Yours alone. Since my youth, O God, You have taught me, and to this day I declare Your marvelous deeds.” – Psalm 71:16-17
Looking further: 1 John 2:27; Jeremiah 33:2-3; Isaiah 30:21; Isaiah 54:13; John 6:45; 1 Thess. 4:9; Psalm 86:11, Psalm 119.
I have been studying Romans, it can be a tough doctrinal book, lots of talk of righteousness, judgment, propitiation, spiritual sonship, and throw in the paycheck for sin, well, let’s flip over to Psalms and read of green pastures and quiet waters. (Selah)
But I have to say, reading Romans 2:4 caused me to take pause. “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (NLT)
God is patient. There are two major words used in the NT for patience, first hupomone (Greek) – bearing up under, motivated by hope, it is being patient in circumstances and with things. (See Hebrews 12:1) But Paul is emphasizing the other – makrothymia, a most beautiful word, used only 14x in the NT. One is in Galatians 5:22 among the God qualities listed as one of the Fruit of the Spirit. It is most often translated as longsuffering, it is relational, patience with people (sometimes the long and the suffering trip over each other when dealing with others) and yet it is motivated by mercy. What a picture it paints, ‘longsuffering’ – meaning self-restraint before proceeding to action. Mercy. The quality of a person who is able to avenge himself yet refrains from doing so. Mercy!
It is evident in mankind’s cycle that we misunderstand God’s judgment, with the seeming lack of it – thinking we will ‘get ours’ in the end. However, we fail to see and or acknowledge God’s patience! His patience does not overlook. His patience offers opportunity. As mentioned above, patience is before – I believe this is what Paul is talking about: “It simply sees further than man. It has the end in view. It has true insight which knows best.”*
Man misuses God’s patience. Many seem to operate under an invisible banner of GRACE – thinking, God has, is and will extend His grace, with the attitude “After all, I’m a Christian, I have God’s favor!” Oh you do and He will, but carrying that mindset to everything, including our repeated disobedience, as if a warm blanket to cover and excuse our behavior, the behavior we KNOW is not God-honoring. If we were to really take a hard look at it, we treat God as our ‘clean-up boy.’ (Spiritual clean-up on aisle 3). Folks we become grace-abusers. I have been there, done THAT! I ended up face down in the muck and mire. (I’ll take that ‘Selah’ now!) God gave me what I didn’t deserve, (grace) held back what I do (mercy). God’s holy coordination in action!
God is wonderfully kind, tolerant and patient with us! May we NOT take it for granted, abuse it or misuse it! His merciful and gracious qualities are intended to turn us!
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.”– Hebrews 10:24)
*Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience (hupomone) the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 (KJV)