Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Tiger Lily (Evangelism Episodes, part 2)*

Thomas and I were shopping in the city, just taking the cart outside, when we noticed two half pints of raspberries yet in the bottom of the cart.  Examining the receipt, my husband realized we had accidentally forgotten to pay for the berries.  The bus was waiting while Thomas dashed into the store, berries in hand.  As he approached the cash register, our ride pulled away.    

“Well,” I thought, “God must have something in store for us."  

Earlier, Thomas had offered his testimony tract to a 20ish guy sprawled against the building, his crop of curly hair, his baggy pants, and his backpack showing a distinct style.  A sad-faced German shepherd sat beside him as did a mountain bike, his girlfriend, her dog, her bike, and her backpack.   

The girlfriend’s long brown hair fell in front of her, some of it hidden under the knit brown cap on her head.   

“I’m saved,” she had said when we'd given her the pamphlet. 

When Thomas returned from paying for the berries, we lugged our bags of groceries over to the bus stop to wait.  Within minutes, the two backpacking bikers had joined us.  Thomas struck up a conversation with the man. I was still trying to get over the profane language this girl was using in the little bit of small talk we had had.  I knew I should talk with her, tell the gospel to her, but I felt really uncomfortable with her profanity.   "Please help me, Lord," I prayed silently.  "I need Your boldness and love to give this dear girl the Gospel!"

A few moments past, and the girl was in front of me, handing me a yellow lily.  “These smell good!” she said, tucking the flower behind her ear. 

I followed suit.  “Thank you,” I replied.

She called herself Tiger Lily and told me she’d hitchhiked with her dog to all but four states.  She and the boyfriend had been staying in the park in this city; that’s where they were headed now.  

When our bus arrived, she sat behind me as we continued our conversation.  “Is that your real name?” I asked. 

“It’s a nickname,” she said.  “So, like, Dude, what would you call yourself if you could choose a nickname?” she wondered. 

“I’ve always liked my name,” I said; but after thinking a moment replied, “Maybe Autumn.  I like that name.” 

My new friend offered her commentary.  “Dude, I know a lot of [prostitutes] with seasonal names—and colors, too.”  Her comments indicated she had seen a lot.  She told me about demonic influence in the park at night and about a serial killer she had met there.

She didn’t look homeless and when I told her so she replied, “There’s a difference between houseless and homeless, Dude.” 

When Tiger Lily was eighteen, her mom had died, so she’d dropped out of school and had taken to the road.  As an only child with little to no relationship with her father, she didn’t feel her dad really minded what she did.  Back in March, she’d found Gareth, and they’d been together ever since. 

“What about you?” she wondered, pointing to Thomas.

“We’re happily married,” I replied.

“So, like, from your perspective,” she began, “like, what do you think is the secret of a happy marriage?” 

“God,” I replied. 

“Well, like, dude, what about for atheists and agnostics?”

Playing along with her “what if,” I said, “Thinking more of him than you do of yourself.”

Tiger Lily didn’t like that and said she’d just finished reading a book on selfishness and  had done something purely selfish the other day.  “It felt so good,” she explained.

“So you said you were saved,” I reminded her.  “What did you mean by that?” 

“Oh,” she replied, “This like Korean pastor picked me up in while I was hitchhiking Southern California.  He was like so encouraging, Dude.  He said God had like told him to give me $50 but not a ride. Oh, man, it was just what I needed to hear.  He said the world needed people like me, that we were like the type that Jesus would need in His kingdom, that I should like just keep doing what I do.  So I’m satisfied, dude.  I’m ok.”

I had never met a person like Tiger Lily, a modern day hippie.  Nor had I ever heard an explanation for being saved quite like hers. 

“Are you afraid hitchhiking?” I asked. 

She pointed to her dog and told me she trusted her heart for things, so I opened my pocket Bible and showed her Jeremiah 17:9. 

Nonplussed, Tiger Lily responded, "Hey, I love it.  That's beautiful.  Will you copy it down for me?"  All the same, she agreed she'd been tricked by her deceitful heart.  Next, I reviewed with her the Ten Commandments, because she couldn’t remember any of them.  When we got to Commandment 3--about not taking God's name in vain--she immediately changed the subject.  “The thing I don’t like about Christianity is like, dude, you have this fear of God thing.  Dude, I like don’t think that’s cool at all,” she said. 

She was tired.  Between jobs performing with the circus and dispensing marijuana, neither she nor her boyfriend had gotten much sleep.  I glanced over to see how Thomas’s conversation was going with Gareth.  He too was nodding, even though we were engaging them in questions. 

“When I start to mumble, dude, I know I’m sleepy.  Sorry,” she told me.  She called herself an altruist as she dug out a new package of safety pins from her backpack and handed a few of them to me.  But Jamie (she later told me her real name) didn’t like the idea of damnation for a kind-hearted person like herself.  Yet she has a tract and promised to read it. 

“Listen, we can pay for your train ticket if you want to go to church with us Sunday,” Thomas told them, getting Gareth’s number. 

They got out two stops before us. 

I couldn’t get over that I’d actually met Tiger Lily and we’d become friends in this short time but that tonight she’d be sleeping somewhere under a bush outside in the park and I’d be enjoying the comfort of a bed. 


The next day, we were out walking when I saw a hippie girl and her boyfriend admiring fresh flowers at a stand.  I looked twice.  Was it Tiger Lily and Gareth?  No, there were no dogs or bikes and there were different backpacks and faces.  But I felt I understood them, even though I’d never met them. I also got it that they probably thought they were good, too.   

It seems so many we meet--“saved,” “changed by Christ,” or whatever--have the lingo of Christianity but have never met the person of Christ, who radically changes His people from the inside out.  

I still have one of the safety pins given me by Tiger Lily and when I see it, I remember to pray for her--and for the thousands of people like her who live in this sprawling nation of ours--houseless, homeless, or whatever.  

Jesus died to save every one. 

This series is chronicling unique people, events, and situations I have encountered giving out the Gospel, God's Good News of salvation.
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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Suzanne's Story (Evangelism Episodes, part 1)

For this new series, I will be chronicling unique people, events, and situations I have encountered giving out the Gospel, God's Good News of salvation.


I met Suzanne at a donut diner two blocks away from my mother-in-law’s home.  I noticed the elderly woman immediately, for her Bible was spread out before her and she seemed lost in meditative thought.

After we had ordered, I approached her.  “Reading your Bible?” I offered. 

“Yes,” Suzanne replied.  “I will be teaching Sunday School tomorrow.  I’m not very smart, so I find I must keep reading the same passage and studying it--to have the words I need to say.”

After I offered her a Gospel tract, she looked at me confidently: “I know I have eternal life," she said without hesitation.  "May I tell you my testimony?”   

Eager to hear this elderly woman's words, I nodded.

"When I was a young emigrant child from China," she began, "a missionary woman approached me.  Although the woman communicated in rather broken Chinese, she told me as best as she could about Jesus.  I learned that He is God and that He loves me.  But I didn't understand.  How could this Jesus, this God Who made me, love me?" 

Her sense of unworthiness startled me.  In a narcissistic society, bent on catering to the needs of the individual, validating people, and assuring them of their worth, Suzanne stood as a rarity, someone unable to consider that this great God should stoop to love the likes of her.

“I wasn’t pretty," the elderly woman continued, squinting up at me from her corner table, "And I had nothing to offer.  I wasn’t smart—so I just couldn’t understand.  Why would Jesus love me?  Why would He love me enough to die for my sins, giving His life and rising from the grave for me?  At that time, I did not accept Jesus’ love for me, because I saw myself only as unworthy."

Tears filled her eyes as she remembered these moments from decades past. 

"Years later, as a mother of two children, I found myself driving my car down a steep California hillside in the rain.  I was losing control of the vehicle when I asked God to please be merciful to my two children.  I didn’t deserve to be spared; but at least if He would take compassion upon them, I would be glad.  At the top of a precipice sat a bench.  In God's providence, I hit that bench and the car suffered only minor damage to the front.  Two more inches and we would have plummeted to our deaths."

She paused with a faraway look in her eyes. 

"It was then that I remembered the missionary woman’s message to my soul so many years before.  I saw, in this life-threatening instance, that only God could stop my vehicle.  Only He could spare mine and my children's lives.  It was at that time that I believed the message of Jesus' love for me. I immediately trusted Christ and gave my heart to Him.  I am undeserving, but because I embraced Christ that day, I now have eternal life.”

These days, Suzanne passes her time in prayer and Bible study, asking God for daily grace as she ministers to others and seeks to effectively teach His Word to her Sunday School class.  

The message she embraced that day--that Jesus loved her personally and died for her sins--is a radically powerful truth. 

The amazing love of Christ should regularly dominate our thoughts.  With the psalmist, we can say,

I will remember the works of the LORD:
surely I will remember thy wonders of old.
I will meditate also of all thy work,
 and talk of thy doings”—Psalm 76:11-12.

That Jesus, this Lord of Lords and King of Kings, should stoop not only to serve us but to love us, calling us not only servants but friends, welcoming us into His family as adopted siblings through the blood of His cross--beckons us to plummet the riches of His grace.

Thanks in part to my friend Suzanne's testimony, the children's hymn "Jesus Loves Me" now strikes me as one of the most potent love songs on the planet.  Let us never cease to delight in the magnificence of His amazing love!

What God has done—
This be my theme, my ruminating thought!
His joys, His ways, His truth, His path—
The wonders He has wrought!
May this my frequent focus be--
The God of Heaven lovest me!
 Oh, then I'll sing through all my days, 
Rejoicing with eternal praise!

Friday, October 5, 2018

My Cell Phone


A few weeks ago I waited in line at the post office.  One behind another, people stood, all the way to the door.  Behind me, a man remarked, “I didn’t know it was Christmas already.” After checking my phone and responding to a couple salient texts, I watched as my phone battery died.  Closing my eyes, I prayed a few moments—the line wasn’t moving anyway and everyone stood stock still like people do in elevators, not looking anywhere but forward.  Then I reached into my purse and got out my Bible.  What a blessing to meditate on God’s Word while standing in line!

I’m glad my phone battery isn’t the greatest these days, because it helps me to remember my priorities. 

Years ago, when I was a little girl and would call my grandma, I would sit at the kitchen table and talk on the phone, whose cord came from the wall. Now, we take our phones everywhere.  I think sometimes we should let them sit somewhere for a day, or at least for a few hours, so that we make sure they don’t become idols to us.

Is Jesus the first One we “text” on a daily basis?  Is His the first voice we hear, His text the first one we check?

Are our desires satisfied in His Word?

If not, why not?

Within the last several years, I’ve watched as cell phones have progressively occupied a more prominent place in believers’ lives.  So frequently do they intrude into our relationships with people that many don’t seem even to view them as a disturbance any longer. 

More and more, our cell phones have become intrinsically connected to life.  And, while I’m grateful for the way my phone allows me to communicate with people, several weeks ago, I began to consider my phone from a slightly different perspective.

I never want to treat my phone as a first line of defense.  It is only a tool in the hands of the person holding it.


The phone, in the wrong hands, can become a tool for evil.  But more subtly, it can become god-like as it occupies our present tense in a way that only the "I Am" ever should.  Another individual’s input, another person’s perspective--can reach inordinate status as we seek these before we wait patiently at the feet of our Savior.

In our longing for approval, we see how many likes a Facebook post received.  We wonder at a comment offered about a friend’s wedding.  Diversions are endless.  The phone too frequently increases one’s ability to become distracted by any number of things, good or bad.

And we rarely notice this less-than-ideal state where we too frequently live:  going about our lives, phones in hand, practically separated from a God who offers us the best counsel, the greatest fulfillment, the deepest satisfaction.

Too often, we let our phones occupy the place God alone should have.

They interrupt time with family. 

They become a means of escape. 

And all God wants is open, honest, sincere, humble hearts in love with Him, willing to do whatever He asks.

Too often, through all the noise, people stop hearing God as He blends in with the loudest voices in their lives.  He’s mistaken as a text message from someone we view as spiritual instead of actually seeking God, as He commands us.

He is the eternal God. 

Your Refuge. 

Your Rock. 

Your Hiding Place designed just for you, His special treasure, to find a quiet hide-out in. 

He is your Eternal Friend.

Do you treat Him thus?

My friend, a phone can offer assistance, help pay for your coffee, guide you on your route to an unknown destination—and surely can wield itself as a tool of good use in your hands.  And yet, I beg you not to forget the God of the Word.

The last month or so, I’ve been approaching my devotions differently.  Instead of reading my Bible using technology, where I can locate cross references easily and look up words in the original languages, I’ve been sitting down with a physical copy of God’s Book, reading it thoughtfully, meditatively.  I’ve let my devices and even devotional notebook sit idly by as the Word, thus imbibed, has slowly seeped into the soil of my heart.

These mornings, I’m savoring still moments in God’s presence.  In so doing, His Word has progressively found passageways into my heart and begun a more permanent etching of its laws within my soul as I’ve let it slowly, quietly travel there.

And I’m finding the stillness of His quiet voice in the chaos of a busy life, constantly screaming with demands.  I rarely reach for the Bible app on my phone, choosing instead the quiet text that doesn’t move with my finger.  Staying in the chapters I’m reading and letting the quiet, still words of an actual Book sit before my eyes has helped me.  I find myself far less frequently scurrying from a text in search of a cross reference here and there or locating a wise comment by a Biblicist of the past.  My response to His Word, instead of scrambling in a lengthy devotional entry, is offered mainly as a simple prayer, echoing from one verse to the next as the God of the Book confronts my life, comforts my heart, and captures my affections through His Word.  I’m desiring Him more, finding myself more satiated each day.

I don’t know where this busy, technologically-crazed world finds you.  But I beg you to sit still in God’s presence this day, letting His unchanging laws govern your heart as you seek to humbly sit before Him, gazing into the mirror of His Word.  Only that contains the power to change you progressively more into the image of Jesus Christ!

Instead of texting a friend about a problem you face, how about taking it to the Lord as you read His Word and then quietly waiting for His specific answer as you open your heart to His amazing text?  If the phone has become your line of first defense, so easily accessible, easy to connect—yet you haven’t borne your heart to the One Who created it and knows you intimately, perhaps some priorities need rearranging.


The God of heaven and earth longs to give us His finest and best.  Let’s not shortchange Him, as did the children of Israel.  He planned to give them honey, not just water, from the rock. To feed them with the finest of wheat, not provide them only with manna.  To satisfy them so fully that their desires were satiated fully in Him.

His heart cry for our fullest passion is seen in Psalm 81:13-17--
            “Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.  The haters of the LORD should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever. He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied  thee.” 

May God help us to correctly order our steps in His Word and to offer Him first place in every part of our lives!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Pain of Rejection or the Pathway of Constant Love?

Puzzles adorned the room, pieced together to create scenes from nature--robed in colors of autumn, blanketed in the snows of mid-January, or skipping with radiant rays of July sunshine.  Elderly residents at the home, whose free moments stretched endlessly some days, had created the framed masterpieces here.

One moment, residents searched for which individual pieces would fit; a thousand pieces later, their puzzles hung completed, glued together, reminiscent of times spent in one another's company. 

Life's lessons can often be like those puzzles.  Day after day, a particular God-sent challenge bewilders us until we locate how it connects to another lesson learned.  Bit by bit, the picture emerges as we piece together that scene on the appropriate puzzle in life.

One puzzle that's recently arrested my attention is this short Scriptural declaration:  "Love never fails."  A particular puzzle on that theme now decorates a room in my heart.

The puzzle's message?  Though people reject us, through Jesus' strength, we can offer them God's brand of constant, unfailing love.

While many around us choose to follow their own dreams or openly defy biblical truths they seemed once to embrace, God's brand of love doesn't let people's directional decisions impact our constant love toward them.   Even if our love is never appreciated, understood, or reciprocated, God calls us to love; therefore, we can love unconditionally and unequivocally, like Jesus loved us.

During one challenging season of life, I experienced frequent rejection.  In those instances, I questioned myself at the deepest level.  Finally, after many pain-filled months filled with prayer and heartache, I concluded God did not want me to live in that place, where I overflowed with questions about why people did what they did and where rejection hurt so badly.  I was accepted in the Beloved.  That was enough.


I began to realize that, while people can misunderstand, misjudge, and think the worst in any given situation, God understands, perfectly judges, and propels us to be the best we can be.  That constant reassured me.

Finally, a glorious setting emerged, framed in the breathtaking beauty of God's perfecting love.  Jesus longed to fill me with His constant love so I would never again feel satiated by others' approval.  Because of Christ, I could love people, care for them, and pray for them.  I could give myself in consecrated service for them.  But if they did not accept me, that rejection could not define me.  Through the miserable puzzle pieces which looked so similar, a gorgeous scene began to emerge:  while loving others is always the method, anticipating their approval is never the goal.

So often in our moments of affliction, God draws us nearer His heart.  As my Fountainhead of Love, Jesus taught me I could give out the love He offers me unconditionally, even if that love is never appreciated or reciprocated by those in my surroundings.  In fact, His love is powerful enough to overflow from me into the very breathing space of those who reject me!

Amazingly, piece by piece, God began to shape my perspective to see that true love is an ever-present constant, even in the midst of people who rebel against Him and flaunt rejection.  One of the pieces to my puzzle I unearthed in Matthew 15:18-20--

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart;
and they defile the man.
For out of the heart proceed
evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
These are the things which defile a man:
but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man”
—Matthew 15:18-20.

In these verses, Jesus tells us there’s nothing outside us that has the power to corrupt us—it’s only as we yield ourselves to it that it controls us (Romans 6:6).  At his best state, man is altogether vanity (Psalm 39:5b).  Thus, people's cutting words do not compare to the precious, eternal words of my perfect God.  When I allow my heart to be hurt by man's words that are but for a moment, instead of embracing God's Word as my meditation, my own sinful heart is the source of defilement.

Perhaps those about us are engaging in Bible-defying behaviors that grieve God’s Holy Spirit. Openly rebelling.  Or regularly speaking evil.

Nevertheless, it is from within that we are corrupted to choose any pathway but that of constant inner peace from our precious Jesus, Whose presence brings full joy. 

Dozens of passages teach us to surround ourselves with people of wisdom who love Jesus; simultaneously, this passage teaches us we ought never blame challenging people for any corruption of our own hearts—that emanates from within.

Our own hearts are more deceitful than anything else on this planet (See Jer. 17:9). 

So whatever curve balls get thrown our way, whatever rejection emanates from unkind people about us, we can unconditionally love those very people who offer the rejection, speak the hurtful words, and mock us.

Peter warns:
            “Be sober; be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour, whom resist, stedfast in the faith…” (I Peter 5:8).

Incredibly, that word sober contains the idea of “dispassionate.”  In other words, don’t allow your feelings (even to potentially hurtful things like rejection) be a weak spot in the fence that guards your heart, because there's a raging, man-eating beast out there trying to get to your very soul.  Watch out!

You have an adversary.

And your hurt can become his entryway into your heart.

So…. Do.  Not.  Let.  Hurt.  In.

Impossible?

What did Jesus do when kissed in betrayal by the friend who had daily done life with Him for three and a half years?  Not hold on to hurt.  Not become self-justifying.  

Christ did not allow injustice about Him to interfere with His love for the people who spit upon Him and plucked out His beard.  Certainly those who reject Him will never experience His eternal home, all the treasures He offers forever, or His fulfilling presence in their daily lives as they walk deeply in His Word.  And yet, knowing they would trade His riches for their own paltry rags,  He stood His ground—loving those who rejected Him all the way to the cross.  And He continues to offer that completely undeserved love to us.

Constant. 

Love.

Why then do we cling to a right to make hurt a frequent companion when our hearts cry out from others' grievous words or poor life choices?  Let us rather view such feelings as inroads for Satan to get a place in our hearts. Let’s not give him an inch of space in our lives by allowing hurt to live there!

Take a cue from Peter—passionate follower turned sober preacher.  Note the frequency with which his book uses the command, “Be sober.”

Peter’s love for Jesus has been passionate.  Real.  Sincere.  Surrendered. 

But this older, seasoned apostle now commands Christ-followers to “fervent charity.”  Fervent indicates the notion of constant.

If there’s one constant that ought drive us, it’s true, biblical love. 

            “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (I Peter 5:8).

This constant love will dramatically shift your perspective.  With ever increasing clarity, you’ll see your own shabby ability to love the fleeting shadows about you, human souls headed to eternity somewhere.  Instances of rejection will beckon you to partake of Jesus' never-failing strength to love a world that daily defies Him. Your greatest grief will be that your own inability to extend God-shaped answers to hurting hearts should fall so short of God’s perfect ability to do so. For, oftentimes, those who extend the most rejection our direction are feeling an insurmountable depth of hurt and pain in themselves.

No wonder John says,
            “Love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.” 

Indeed, such love is not human-sourced.

In a day when division abounds among people who used to care deeply for one another, let us embrace the kind of love that God commands—constant, unfailing love.

Love constantly. 

That’s what I Peter 4:8 calls us to.

God can replace your pain from man's rejection with His love for the very people who have rejected you.  Ask Him to do it today, tomorrow, and each day into the future.

Because constant love just doesn't hang on to the negative, fleeting stuff of life. 

Instead, it keeps on loving, echoing an eternal love.

Like Jesus.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Trading Out Hurt

 “I’ll trade you this blueberry scratch-and-sniff sticker for your cherry one,” said the little girl with blonde pigtails.

“Ok,” agreed her dark-haired friend, eyeing the perfectly round sticker staring up at her.

Vigorously, the girls exchanged stickers, removing the clear film from each of their albums and placing the newest addition into their collections.


I still have my sticker album from third grade.  Care Bears smile up at me when I open that old book.  Puffy stickers snuggle in between the pages. And some of the scratch-and-sniff stickers still have their scent!  

Although I don’t trade stickers anymore, Jesus taught me something about trading things a few weeks ago: there's something I’d been hanging on to far too long.  Something older than that sticker album in my attic.  I was clinging to a worthless sticker in the album of life.  It’s name? Hurt.


Hurt was part of my collection of feelings that I allowed into my life.  After all, it’s natural to hurt when people around you make poor choices, isn’t it? When words are said that cut to the bone like a knife?  When people you love are misunderstood and misjudged?

Lately I’ve decided to trade it out.  Exchange it for something far better—in fact, the best sticker in the album of human emotions.  The one everybody wants (and everybody can have!)  But its availability does not diminish its value.  This sticker is priceless, for the Owner paid for it immeasurably; yet it comes as a free gift to me.

The thing is, even if I tried exchanging that emotion with another person, I couldn’t; because nobody wants the hurts I carry—and I personally don’t want to discuss them, either. Because that hurts even more.  

So I have this Friend. He’s got every imaginable heart emoji sticker (if you will) in His album.  And none of them has been used!  They are all brand new.  And they’re all really good!

One note about sticker trading:  the value of a sticker includes not only how cool the sticker is but how unused it is. 


Sometimes trading stickers was a tricky business.  You’d see this puffy Smurf sticker you wanted and, after you made the deal, realized it had no “stickiness” left on it.  Jill’s grandma had found it on the sidewalk, stuck it on the fridge, then given it to Jenny, who let her little brother Jimmy tape it to his shirt.  When Jimmy and Jill got in a fight, Jimmy had to give his sticker to Jill—and that’s how this sticker had made its way into her album.  Then, after trading it, you found out the miserable truth that, even though it was called a “sticker,” there was nothing (except a piece of tape) that would stick to it!

I confess:  I made my share of those deals—and got hornswaggled into a couple, too.

The “hurt” sticker is like that.  Totally worthless as far as a sticker in your album is concerned. What it needs is replacement with the best sticker imaginable. That's why I made the trade:  my hurt for God’s love.

You see, sometime today probably, I’ll be misunderstood.  Misjudged.  My motives questioned.  I might even be gossiped or lied about.

But, instead of letting that hurt in, I can trade out that worthless sticker for His incredible love.

After all, that’s what He did for me.


Jesus was mocked. Scorned.  Stripped down to nothing as He hung on the cross.  People He loved beat Him till He was unrecognizable.

I’ve never experienced that kind of rejection, humiliation, torture, or anything close.  The amazing part is this: instead of allowing Himself to be hurt, Christ had compassion enough to cry, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  He asked God to forgive those who wanted to hurt Him.  

Now forgiveness is a powerful antidote to hurt, as is blessing my enemies.  But Jesus didn’t stop with a prayer.  

He.  

Gave.  

His.  

Life.  


Hanging in agony on that cross, He died for the very people who would curse Him and take His name in vain dozens of times each day.  He bled for the same individuals who would despise Him, mock Him, write books defying Him, and commit horrible atrocities in His name.

He died for me.  

And with every bit of precious blood that dripped from His wounds, He offered complete forgiveness, cancelation, and payment for sin.  Every sin—cancelled in His blood!  I only needed, in repentant faith, to come to Him for His deliverance.

That’s love.

And this same Jesus tells me something incredible:

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).

As I have loved you?

In that same way? That same life-giving, compassionate, not-going-to-be-hurt, willing to give and give some more, even though mistreated, misjudged, misunderstood?  In that same way?

Yes.


I am to love others in the same way that Christ loved me.  This is the most powerful commandment.  It’s so radical, so unstoppable, so immensely grand that Jesus calls it “new.”  

It’s a brand new style from the dispensation of Law--the new style that God uses in the day of grace.  

And the command comes with an astounding, earth-shattering promise:  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”(John 13:35).

Love, you see, is the exact message Jesus uses to change the world. The way of love splinters through devastation and saliently displays in neon flashing lights:  “Here walks a true disciple of Jesus.”  Of all the fashionable changes in dress, philosophy, and culture, this is the most incredibly amazing new style of the last two millenia:  the love of Jesus.

And so few of us have caught it.

We are to love.  In the same way He loved us…

That’s profound.  Incredible.

Try wrapping your mind around that for a minute.

We are to follow His example in loving every man, woman, and child with the same kind of self-sacrificing, agape love described in I Corinthians 13 and portrayed in the life of Jesus Christ.

We know it.  

We say we believe it. 

But do we live it?

This love not only forgives every offense done to me (Mark 11:25) and blesses all those who hurt me (Matthew 5:44), but also it reaches back into that situation where people have hurt me and offers to them unquenchable doses of love, kindness, and goodness.  

And none of it’s from me. 

It’s all Jesus.

Because, in my own strength, I can’t love that way.

But Jesus can.  


Dear believer in Christ, it's not too late to start practicing this new command.  It’s always in style.  Whatever hurts have been your portion in life, trade them out for His love.  Let Jesus fill you with the brand of love that comes from Him alone.  

Such a trade off will be tested.  Regularly.  Daily.  Maybe even hourly.

But as we decide to trade out our pain for His love, something redemptive takes place.  Something intensely beautiful.  The same aching deserts of your heart begin to be filled with rivers of overflowing love, where wellsprings of joy flow from God's Spirit in you into the hearts and lives of hurting people the world over, to whom you can offer God's love.  

True love empathizes with hurting souls, but it always finds freedom and filling in looking to Jesus.  Be part of His cycle of love today.  Cast off your own hurts at the foot of His cross and, in the midst of being misunderstood, misjudged, or criticized in your endeavors, seek to be filled with the God of all grace, Who can fill you to overflowing with His amazing love!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Words, Women, and the World Wide Web: A Lesson from Miriam


Stooping low, the young woman adjusted her gaze.  Could it be possible?  Was it truly the king's daughter, approaching the river's edge?  

Her heart skipped a beat as she knew what she must do.  "Jehovah of Hosts, please be my Helper now," she breathed silently.  

Within moments, her baby brother began to cry from his basket as Pharaoh's daughter examined the tiny infant. 

Instinctively, boldly, and trusting God for safety, Miriam brushed away the covering of bulrushes that protected her, then bowed before the stately young princess.  "If you please, Miss, would you like me to fetch a Hebrew woman to feed the child?"  

The princess stood, beautifully sillhoutted against the setting sun, a fitting frame for Pharaoh's daughter, who worshiped the bright orb as a god.  

"I would be delighted!" exclaimed the princess delicately, mesmerized by the helpless infant in the basket before her.  Moses now sobbing, Miriam hastened to their small cottage.

Within minutes, Miriam was back, her mother in tow.  

What providence--that God should allow Miriam to be at the water's edge at the exact time Pharaoh's daughter came to bathe!  

And God was not finished using this woman in His service.

In fact, the same God that provided Miriam strength in those early years became her portion into her elderly days.  


Decades later, and now an elderly woman herself, Miriam led the Israelite women in praising God after He had miraculously spared the entire nation by splitting the Red Sea, causing dry land to appear and walls of water to mark their path on either side.  

Moses had begun the song this time, leading God's people in jubilant praise, but God had allowed her to lead the women in praising Him.  She had status among God's people and was even designated as "prophetess" in Exodus 15:20.  As Miriam constructed a chorus to Moses' song, she helped to heighten the jubilation of the moment. Lovely voices of women joined in harmonious praise to Jehovah.

Miriam seemed to love Jehovah, worship Him, and express His praise. She had been used by God to spare the man He would use later in leading Israel from Egypt.  But days spent amongst complaining Israelites seemed to take their toll upon her spirit.


"When will we have water?"

"Did Moses take us out into the wilderness to die?"

"Why didn't he let us die in Egypt? At least we had good food back there."

Little by little, the man God had chosen took the brunt of complaints. And a faithless, complaining spirit characterized this generation, so that they would later become used as warning markers against unbelief all throughout the New Testament.


God calls Moses "the meekest man," recording his faithfulness throughout the Pentateuch but also including two particular instances when this man, angered by leading such a rebellious people, illustrated his frustration.  

And, while Miriam was also used by the Lord of Hosts, a specific command about her sobers today's believers, especially Christian women.  For when God places the name "Miriam" and "remember" in an imperative sentence in His Word, it is to none of her faith-filled deeds that He refers.  Rather, it is to a blot upon her reputation and God's subsequent judgment:

"Remember what the LORD thy God did unto Miriam 
by the way, after that ye were come forth 
out of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 24:9), 


We are to remember how God judged Miriam.

Numbers 12:1-2 recounts the episode:
"And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses 
because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had
 married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.  
And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken 
only by Moses?  hath he not spoken also by us?  
And the LORD heard it."

Were not Aaron and Miriam both spiritually minded individuals whom God had used?  Yes.  Was their perspective worth sharing?   Actually, maybe not.

At the heart of Miriam's criticism is the sense that God uses other people too--not just one man.  No doubt her perspective seemed spiritual--to her.  But her words question God's leadership by a specific man of His choosing.  While Aaron also spoke these words, it is Miriam who is judged.

What exactly happened?  For seven days, Miriam was shut out of the camp, making it impossible for the children of Israel to go anywhere, for their "prophetess" suffered the debilitating punishment of leprosy, all over her body.  She had criticized God's man and rebelled at a God that uses a specific man of His choosing.


A dreadful disease it was, eating away at the extremities of the body one by one, causing the afflicted to turn white in infected places.  Ugly.  And a fitting picture of God's view of sin.  God judged Miriam by turning her body into a ghost-like figure, plagued by leprosy.

Does that seem a harsh judgment to you, sister in Christ?

Does it seem unfair?

Certainly Moses was not a perfect leader.  

Even so, he was God's chosen man for the job. 

Why does God command us to "remember" what God did to Miriam by the way?  

Having completed a study on the word "remember" recently, I was struck by this command.  Twice on the pages of Scripture we are told to "remember" women--and neither of them is a good example.  One is Lot's wife; the other is God's judgment upon Miriam.

Have you considered why this remembering might be so important?

Aaron spoke against God's man, too--but only Miriam was openly judged.

Does that not seem to indicate that women in particular ought most carefully consider our words before we offer some "spiritual perspective" about God's man?

A cursory overview of Titus, the Timothies and Thessalonians reveals that such behavior ought have no part in the way of the women of God!  Rather, God's women are to have spirits that, far from being busy bodies, serve others, work hard, and discipline their tongues from participating in the evils of talebearing and slander.  The wives of church leaders are commanded not to be double tongued, not slanderers--a word that comes from "diabolos." Rather, the way in which God's women speak of others ought be governed by principles derived from the Bible, not from any perspective they feel to be true at the moment.



In the day of social media, when individuals can vent about dislikes and personal opinions concerning God's churches and God's leaders, let us be ever careful to guard our hearts from the destructive work of the one who seeks to pull down what God is doing and has done in a ministry.  Let us not be guilty of even "liking" a post evidencing a critical, Miriam-like spirit about a preacher of God.  Instead, let us go far from such tale-bearing and criticism.  We can run the way of God's commandments as He enlarges our heart to obey Him.

How easy the Internet makes "venting" about church authority a venue in which women can too easily indulge!  Dear sister in Christ, remember what God did to Miriam by the way before you participate in criticizing the man God has chosen to lead one of His churches.

Let us never use our tongues as tools of Satan to criticize the men God has chosen to be leaders in His work.

God's preachers are worthy of honor, not because our opinion matches theirs, but because God has chosen them for His ministry.

Thus, I beg you, sister in Christ, remember what God did to Miriam before you offer your "spiritually minded" perspective about God's man or before you chime in with your comments against those whom God has chosen to serve Him.

Please avoid the spirit of the wilderness-wandering Israelites, who offered constant complaints and criticisms about God's leadership.  When surrounded by such a spirit, you, like Miriam, may also turn from one who regularly praises God and joys in Him to one who complains about the man He has chosen.  Do not be found among those willing to criticize God's church and His leaders.

God has a way of getting the last word and judging in a profound way.

Remember what He did to Miriam by the way.

He alone is the Righteous Judge.