A Mother’s Heart, and Gold

After Peter and John healed a lame man in the Temple gate one day they took the opportunity to preach the gospel to the gathering crowd.

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” Acts 3

How often do we moan and complain about how weary we are, how helpless and downtrodden we feel. ‘Lord, why don’t I feel the joy of my salvation like I used to? Why do I feel like I have nothing left to give?

Well, is there repentance involved in your walk with the Lord? Or are you just presuming on grace, always presuming and never turning away from the things we need grace for?

The simple truth is, you are not going to be feeling a lot of refreshing in the Lord’s presence if you are always wallowing in the sin he died to rescue you from.

Turn from the lust of the flesh and the distractions that bind and blind, and turn to the one who can set you free, look to Jesus and expect something, expect a miracle.

And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you.” Acts 3:5-6

Jesus can give you whatever you need to overcome whatever it is that keeps you from him, but you need to trust him enough to turn to him in honesty, and to look into his eyes and say “Help me Lord, I’m tired of fighting this alone and I need a touch from you. Silver and gold I do not need, times of refreshing in your presence is what my soul desires.”

Living in a world of plenty we easily forget that, as a church, as people, as parents. We lose focus on what is truly valuable when we focus too much on what the world considers treasure.

A story is told of Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century priest, friar and philosopher, calling on Pope Innocent II one day as the Pope happened to be counting out a large sum of money. “You see Thomas,” said the Pope, “the church can no longer say ‘silver and gold have I none.’” “True Holy Father,” replied Thomas, “neither can she now say, ‘Rise and walk.’”

Was the church richer when it had nothing to offer but Jesus and nothing to gain but forever?

Are our families richer when we have nothing to offer our kids but our hearts, our time, and our outstretched arms?

Mothers, I hate to say it, but you’re the worst. You love your kids and you want to give them everything. You want to be the world’s greatest mom and you judge yourself in that regard by looking at what you perceive other ‘perfect’ moms giving their kids—or maybe by the standard of your own mom who seemed to have it all together and made your childhood special.

Here’s a secret, your  mom had the same struggles, was not perfect, and neither are all those other moms whose kids you deem to be so lucky and well adjusted.

You are the perfect mom for your kids. They would not want any other mother than you, and they see in you things that they love and admire that you are blind to.

But most importantly, more than all the things you could buy them, more than all the programs you could get them to, more then all the crafty things you could invent for them or perfect lessons you could teach them—they just want you.

They want your time and attention, they want you—loud, messy, disorganized and broke—they don’t care. They just want what you have to offer them, the best things they could possibly receive from a mother, the same things you get from your Father in Heaven— unconditional love, mercy, grace, wisdom, correction, stories, tenderness, strength, a smile to wipe away the gloom, or a tear to share a hurt and a kiss to fix the boo-boo.

When they reach out to you in expectation, they don’t want money or stuff, they just want your hand reaching back to them, because like Peter on that day at the Beautiful gate, your hand is far from empty.

Happy Mother’s Day all!

What I Do Have to Give?

In the first days of the new church Peter  and John are walking into the Temple and take notice of a lame beggar whose life and eternity is about to be dramatically changed.

“And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Acts 3:4-6

The beggar was expecting coinage, just hoping for lunch money. He saw an empty hand extended to him that turned out to be far from empty. These radical Christ followers just gave from what they were given, and it turned a hopeless lame beggar into a joy filled child of God who would soon be leaping for Joy in the Temple courts. Simply because a couple of fisherman from Galilee listened when the Holy Spirit said reach out to this broken man.

What do I have? A question we all ask of ourselves. ‘What do I have that is any good to anyone? What do I have that sets me apart, makes me someone? What do I have to give? What can I possibly give to God? What do I have that he can use to advance his Kingdom, to bless his people, to bear fruit for Jesus?’

What do you have? You have a lot of things I’m sure, many of them unique to you, and many of them you are not even aware of. Most of us would be amazed at what others see in us that they wish they had, or are grateful that we share with them. Yet we spend much of our time being envious of others or wishing we were better.

You have gifts, talents and natural abilities that are passed along in your DNA, the miraculous code embedded in every cell of your body that can contain information handed down to you from countless generations of amazing people who came before you, now suddenly coming out in you. Gifts that the creator decided he would release in you as he was forming you in the womb. Gifts you can build on and perfect as you live, pursue, and experience life.

You have passions born of God given inspirations and life experiences. Wisdom born of God, and again, life experiences—hard lessons learned and scars that remind. You have a unique personality that sets you apart from all others and an amazing brain that can learn, shape and even rearrange ideas and concepts. Understand mysteries and create new ones.

You have a unique look and a beauty that is yours and yours alone that can only be truly released from within, allowed to shine forth by a bright countenance and a confidant smile no matter what imperfections of the flesh you believe you have. You have an inner radiance that ink, make up and piercing’s can never replicate and would only distract from.

You can laugh, cry, rage and soothe—at will if you so choose. You have a tongue that no one controls but you, that can encourage, teach, build up and praise. Hands that can either build or tear down, paint, draw, write, play music, defend or heal. Maybe all of those things, depending on what you choose to do or what your gifting allows, again, in ways that are unique to you.

And if you are a believer in Christ; a born again, Spirit filled, scripture loving, child of God; you have a light that shines from your eyes, a hope that is heard in your voice, a love that is felt in your touch, and a power that is yours to command that can make the universe tremble.

What do you have to give? You have the Holy Spirit of the living God dwelling in your heart. You have the name of Jesus to release it into the world and you have the love of the Father who calls you child and gives you the authority of a prince or a princess in his Kingdom.

So do not ever say—I do not have anything to give—what you do have to give is all that He gave you—and that is everything. You have life, love, healing and hope to give. What you do have, is Jesus.

Share you, share Jesus.

Heart Love

This wordless expression of love had to have been a gift that Jesus’ heart desperately needed as he was about to face his final rejection—alone.

We can probably assume that because of the very similar recounting of the story of anointing in the gospel of John that this woman is Mary of Bethany—Lazarus’ and Martha’s sister. The  Mary who had so controversially sat at Jesus’ feet to listen as her sister served, and who would later see her brother raised from the dead. She certainly has reason to be grateful, but more than that, she has allowed herself to be changed, change by love deep in her core.

What we see here is an act of pure unselfish love and devotion as she pours out on Jesus what would have been a very expensive, rare and special jar of ointment called spikenard. Probably brought there all the way from India by camel caravan along the infamous Silk road.

It may have even been an heirloom. But Mary, despite what others may think, or the cost to her, breaks the neck of the costly and beautiful flask, hand carved from alabaster, and pours it on the head— and according to John’s gospel—even the feet of Jesus, and then wipes it in with her hair. Quite unbecoming really, especially for a young woman from a respected household.

But she did not care what others thought, how they would respond. She was not just pouring out scented oil—she was pouring out her heart. She desperately wanted to pour out her heart, to express her barely contained love for this Messiah, and this was the most lavish and sincere way she could think of to do that.

And her heart won the day; her heart was listening to the Spirit and her mind came in line and complied.

And she was derided for it by those who saw with their eyes but not with their hearts. But she was blessed by the one who mattered, the one who saw her heart—Jesus.

It would probably be the only true and pure expression of love and devotion he would receive that entire tumultuous last week of his life. It had to have been a gift that his heart desperately needed as he was about to face his final rejection—alone.

No words

And this love was expressed without a single word spoken. Words are necessary, yes, but they are but a trigger and a reminder of what cannot truly be expressed by mere words.

Love is felt, not heard. Best expressed with the eyes—through which one can see into the soul. It is best received with a look or a touch when the words cannot come because the feeling is too deep. The deepest and truest expressions of love are communicated heart to heart. That’s what Mary was doing here for Jesus.

You all know that look, that feeling, the depth of emotion and conviction that can only pass between a husband and wife, a child and a parent or grandparent, between brothers and sisters in the Lord—those who share a common heart, a like mind and a spiritual bond—when there is something powerful between you that no one else can understand or know but the two who share it.

It’s a love that finds its origins in our God. And it is the love he has for us, the look he has in his eyes when he sees us, if we’ll only take the time to look back at him and respond with our hearts and not just our heads and lips.

26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8

Because if we don’t connect on a heart and soul level with Jesus, we’re missing the whole point and our responses will be way off target.

She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Mark 14

Because Mary followed her heart and did what she could. Because she did not let her head get in the way as some of the men were doing, and convince herself that this would be an extravagant and foolish waste that really accomplished nothing but making Jesus smell good for a while, embarrassing herself in the process—her mind knew it was a big gamble—because of this, she was fulfilling a prophetic and important act that no one could possibly know the significance of but Jesus.

She was anointing him for his burial a day or two later. And giving him what would be the last and only sincere measure of comfort and assurance he would receive at the hands of another human before his brutal arrest and execution.

Because Mary listened to her spirit and allowed herself to know the truth, she was moving in the prophetic without saying a word. Think about that… next time you are moved to act on something the head doesn’t understand.

This seemingly insignificant act of foolish waste was an anathema to the well versed chosen twelve. But Mary was one who knew what was important. She knew when it was time to talk and time to listen. She knew when it was time to work and time to sit. She was the one who was chided by her sister Martha for sitting at Jesus’ feet listening, while Mary fretted about the work to be done.

Mary was the one who unashamedly and passionately threw herself, weeping at Jesus feet, laying it all out there;  “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died!”

In that moment, hers was a broken, passionate and honest heart that moved Jesus to share in her grief and would spur him on to do his greatest miracle yet—raising a man long dead and buried from the grave.

Mary knew when it was time to connect with her Lord. And this day in the house of Simon the leper, was one of those times—not for her, not for her brother, but for her Lord—they both needed this.

We could all learn a valuable lesson here. If our relationship and time spend seeking and being with our Lord is always to see what we can get—then it is not a true heart response to the love we are so freely given. And it is not a response that is influenced or inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Everything Jesus says, is and does points to one thing–He loves you, right now, just as you are..

And when you realize it—when you understand and open the eyes of your heart to see that Jesus is ever standing before you beckoning you come, cheering you on, praying for you, holding your hand and always teaching you things that will make you wiser, stronger and prepared for the challenges to come in the courtyards of the priests, in the quiet moments when the enemy tries to whisper that you need to take things into your own hands because this Jesus and Holy Spirit stuff is just whatever—you fill in the blanks—when you recognize the love in the eyes that are looking at you from within your very heart—then you will respond like Mary did, and you will finally know what it truly means to be loved.

One Word–Divorce

Hard lessons learned

I refused to condemn and stop loving and welcoming anyone.”

I’m going to lay it right out there— two or three years ago we had over 40 people here pretty consistently in our small rural church, and there were times when we were looking for extra chairs to put out. Today 20 seems like a lot.

What happened? One worddivorce.

I hate to admit that because it doesn’t seem to speak well of a ministry. But we cannot hide from the truth and pretending that it was something else does not fix it nor heal it. There are no dark corners here to hide things in.

We had a handful of divorces and a broken engagement or two all within a two year span. In a small tight knit church family, that is devastating and has immediate and long lasting ripple effects on everyone.

And honestly, all things considered, especially that they involved the worship team and my own family, I don’t think many churches could have survived the devastation, period. But God is good and he led us through as best as possible and we are now rebuilding wiser and stronger and I hope more in tuned to, and certainly more dependent on, the Holy Spirit and his presence here than ever.

But the casualty rate was high. I don’t blame anyone but the enemy—and he is a clever and wily one. He just started peeling people off– How?

For starters, in a divorce—everyone takes sides and soon one side has to leave because they cannot be in the presence of the other side.

Then some people feel condemned and judged—so they leave.

Others feel the tension and the pressure—and they leave.

There is a fear that it is contagious and fear for their own marriages—so they leave.

Others do not like the way the pastor handled it—so they leave.

Some of the most challenging ministry and spiritual battles I have ever fought happened in the midst of all that.

If I did everything everyone thought I should do, everything that the flesh demanded I do—the carnage would have been horrendous and our building would be a Hair salon or a Yoga studio right now.

And the flock would all be somewhere else telling everyone what a judgmental bible and head thumper I was.

As a result some people were upset because I refused to condemn and stop loving and welcoming anyone. (You would not believe the backlash that created.) That is a battle that still continues, the dysfunctions caused by divorces are long lasting and far reaching.

Dysfunctions

But I refuse to play those games. If you have read either of my first two books you know why, I’m just done with accommodating other’s issues—done.

I have spent my entire life either being a victim of, or trying to minister to, other victims of those games. And what truly makes me angry is that it’s usually the children who suffer most. So whenever I find myself standing at dysfunction junction again deciding which track to follow—I will go down the road of the heart that functions fully in love.

It is the hard heart that always leads to destruction.

And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. Mark 10:5

God only allowed Moses to write a provision for divorce into the law because of man’s stubborn and self-seeking nature. But the heartache is then only exacerbated by the heart hardening that follows and demands that everyone else follow suit.

That doesn’t mean I condone or turn a blind eye to sin and bad choices, it just means that I love, as Jesus loves, unconditionally.

I will not be an enabler of your dysfunctions.  But neither will I stop trying to love you back into wholeness. And that, my friends, is a very fine and hard line to walk—apart from the Holy Spirit.

And if the trials of the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that nothing is more important than being completely sold out and 100% obedient to God no matter what or who is coming against you.

We must continually recognize that our enemy is not flesh and blood and that we are all susceptible to making mistakes and just outright foolish choices. And all I can do as a pastor is to keep loving you and inviting you to follow Jesus—for real, not just with lip service. This blog will always encourage and challenge you in that.

Love

The Lord gave me a real simple mandate in the heat of these battles, and he reminded me of it repeatedly as I struggled with—’what do I do?I feel like I need to rail on the virtues of marriage, to call people out, to bang some heads together—how do I make everyone happy, how do I appear in charge and make sure everyone knows just how I—I mean God—expects them to behave? “Lord, what am I to do here? How do I make these people see?”

You know what he said to me? “I have called you to love people. You let me take care of the rest—Just love people.”

 I cannot tell you how freeing that was to my weary and tortured soul. ‘Yes Lord, I can do that. Just love people.’ If that makes those who believe I need to come down on some, and vindicate others, angry to the point of leaving—then so be it.

The angry people needed to leave, or just get over them bad selves. Because, honestly— It was the tension and the whispering and the rumors between the various camps that did the worst damage—more so than the actual divorces.

Jesus’ love is unconditional—and so is mine. And anything and anyone that gets in the way of that love being known by his beloved will be dealt with in no uncertain terms.

If you have suffered the violence’s that that divorce does to your heart and soul, or picked up the pieces of the damage done, you know what this means and why God hates divorce. He hates it because of the violence it does to the hearts of those he loves. If you are that bruised soul–HE DOES NOT hate you, he hates what has happened to you, and he only wants to heal and restore you–just trust him. You are loved child.

The Hidden Person Within

You are truly beautiful

Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3 to let the hidden person inside be your adornment. Think about that for a second. For the hidden person to be your adornment, it can no longer be hidden. You have to let you out.

What is adornment? It’s accessorizing, accenting, beautifying, highlighting and drawing attention to the beauty. If you are in Christ, have his Holy Spirit and the fruits thereof, if you are created in the image of God, by God and for God—what you have inside of you is the most beautiful part of you.

And you must let it shine. It cannot remain hidden. It must not be hidden behind, or outshone by, gaudy and excessive external accessories such as gold jewelry, elaborate hairstyles, or expensive clothing. It must not be hidden behind a spiteful or boisterous persona. It cannot be hidden behind, or overcome by, bitterness, anxiety or fear.

All of those things are things of the flesh and must give way to the spirit, a gentle and quiet spirit.

Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted so you must allow him to do so. Jesus died to free us from fear and anxiety so you must claim your freedom. Jesus calls us out of the waters of baptism into a resurrection of the soul, as a new creation in Christ Jesus for whom there is now no condemnation, no shame, and no reason to fear anyone or anything that cannot harm the spirit. Your hidden person of the heart is now safely and securely in the hands of the Father.

It is no longer hidden, in fact it never was from him. He has longed for and sent his Son to die for the rebirth and health of that heart which was created to be loved by him. So let that love, let that light and the beauty that is you shine forth like the glorious daughter of the king that you are.

But don’t get caught up in the I must look and dress like plain Jane because makeup, nice hair and jewelry are forbidden notion. Look at the wording; Do not let your adornment be merely outward. So it’s saying don’t just work to make the outside look beautiful, work on the inside where your true beauty is hidden.

This is not a ban on nice clothes, hairstyles and jewelry, but rather an admonition to make your focus on the inner person. The heart must be your priority; the heart, rather than the flesh or the outward appearance.

And, it again goes back to the need to be respectful and honoring of others Peter is addressing in the context of his letter. If you are going all out to draw attention to yourself, ‘Look at me; I’m hot stuff! Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?’ You are no longer beautiful, you are conceited and a distraction and worse. If you are all about being sexy, you are causing others to sin in their inner beings. Men’s hearts are prone to lust after what their eyes are drawn to. And the scriptures, and Jesus especially, had much to say about both sides of that coin. Do not sin nor cause others to sin.

And, I have often noticed that those who seem to go out of their way to dress ‘sexy’ have sadness and hurt emanating from their eyes. And it makes my spirit hurt for them as I know the Father’s does. So please, stop hiding behind the flesh and let the Spirit of the Living God set your heart free.

You are called to shine–forever.

But Peter is also coming at it from this viewpoint, the viewpoint of a social disparity amongst the believers that was very evident in the dress and attitudes of the haves and the have nots.

There were women in this day, as there is today, who had considerably more wealth than others and they delighted in flaunting their wealth, and their husband’s position and status. So this admonition has as much to do with leveling the playing field among the persons of the church as it does the pridefullness of position. In the Kingdom all are equal, God is no respecter of persons, he is not impressed by money and position.

It has always been very off putting to me–as a simple man who works hard for every dollar I make, knowing that most people do–to see big name evangelists and preachers on TV or elsewhere who wear clothes that cost more than the pickups I have owned, and have rings on every finger, hair and makeup that must have taken hours to perfect and teeth that are so perfect and white that they are blue.

Like, who are you trying to impress? —because you are just making me feel like a bum.

And, think about how we must look to the rest of the world. We—all Americans—are wealthy by the standards of much of the world, especially the church in persecuted or developing nations. They see us all bling’ed out and plastic pretty and they have to wonder—’Why do they have money to blow on baubles and I cannot afford a decent place to live or the medicine my child needs to live– let alone get enough food to eat? Where’s the justice Lord?’

“They had all things in common.” This was what was said of Peter’s home church in Jerusalem in the early days. That is what he is speaking to here. ‘Don’t be walking in here with your diamonds and gold flashing like a neon sign saying look at me, while your brothers and sisters are begging for bread!’

Brothers and sisters, be one in the Lord, having compassion, you were called to this.

You are called and the Father’s eyes are on you, his ears are open to your prayers, you are beautiful, loved and blessed.

Yes, life can be challenging, but you were called to this, let the beauty of the hidden person of the heart outshine all of it.