Distorted Images Lying to Me

The McDonalds in my home town had warped carnival mirrors by the cashiers when I was a kid. I don’t know if it was because I grew up in a small town or it was the more simpler times of the 80’s, but I can remember laughing at the distorted images of me when I would walk by. My head would either be 10 x’s too big or my stomach would be. That is kind of amusing when you know the truth of what you really look like away from the distorted mirror. I’ve often thought about how that mirror at McDonalds is very similar to a couple of “mirrors” that I’ve had inside of me. They aren’t amusing to look at like the carnival mirrors at McDonalds. They are warped images of what I sometimes think is a reflection of God or sometimes the warped images of what I think is the reflection of the inside of me.

I’ve been involved in a Bible study on Discipleship with a few ladies. Studying my lesson this week has brought the distorted images back into view. I’m not sure where I got the image of God in my head that makes Him angry, watching for my sudden slip up with anticipation of the punishment to follow. Sometimes it’s best compared to the God with lightening bolts that is impossible to be good enough for that I think is watching me. These images are not as prevalent in recent years but occasionally they do raise their ugly head. I found myself this week when I saw the title for this weeks study, “The Disciple’s Lord”. My thoughts of how short I fall from being what I should be and how holy He is started to play through my mind. Then as I read the scripture the things that stuck out to me were that Jesus as “Lord” is first above all. Colossians 1:15-20 points out that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, before all things, holds all things together, the head of the church, the fulness of God. The enemy would want us to look at these images of who Jesus is with a type of “spiritual drunk goggles”. You know the type of goggles the Highway Patrol uses in school demonstrations to show the kids how being under the influence makes you not see or feel correctly. Sometimes we look at the word in the Bible with those kinds of distortions instead of the comfort and encouragement it is meant to be. Jesus as the head , the one before everything is a wonderful thing. If we allow God to remove the “distortion” goggles from our eyes we can see that Jesus being Lord is not what we sometimes make it.

Paul writes in Colossians 1 that He prays that the Christians “grow in their knowledge of God”. The reason being is if we really know Jesus, we will gladly follow Him. Look at the Jesus in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), He is the Jesus who took time for the hurting, the lost, the broken, those wore down by life. Colossians 1:15 says this Jesus is the “image of the invisible God…” When we see the heart of love in Jesus, we see the image of the heart of love of God. As we look deeper and deeper into who Jesus is we see more and more of what God really is like. Jesus before all, Lord of all, is God’s heart of Love ruling over every detail of our life with His Goodness towards us. Colossians 1:12-13 Paul talks about exactly how it is that God accomplishes His Lordship in us. We can never be good enough so He is the one who qualifies us. We cannot overcome on our own so He is the one who rescues us. We cannot, but He can. Because He rescued us from the hold the darkness has had on us and brought us in to His kingdom.

When we take off our distortion goggles or step away from the warped mirror of lies the Devil would have us believe, we see that Jesus’s Lordship in our life, the things He asks us to lay down at the foot of the cross, the things He asks us to obey Him in may appear to be the death of us and they are… But they are the Life of Him. And His life is all we really needed all along.

Really, Where are You Going to Go?

1992 The Summer of Love

I’ve been married to my husband for 27 years now. We met in April of 92 and were married in January of 93 after a whirlwind romance we jokingly call our “Summer of Love”. Looking back at it now we were just a couple of kids. I was 21. He was 19. Yes, I am a cougar. lol. Our first year was a time of two independently minded people trying to figure out how to navigate, decisions and live with our oppositeness. My husband is direct. I am not. My husband lets you know exactly what he’s thinking. I do not. My husband has opinions on almost everything. I have trouble expressing mine sometimes. I kind of like to go with the flow. His characteristics aren’t bad, just different than mine. This difference brought out many late night fights/ arguments, and us dragging our tired butts into work the next day. Because we took it literally when we read in the Bible that we should not “let the sun go down on our anger”. Thankfully, we’ve both mellowed quite a bit in our middle aged state. Our fights are significantly fewer. We’ve kind of came to a place that we fit like a comfortable pair of old blue jeans. Our fight/ arguments/ or as we call them in front of our kids “discussions” are a lot more fewer and far between than they used to be back in the 90’s. But every once and awhile one does explode on the scene. Especially when we are H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) Such was the case last Friday.

We had a few choice words for each other. Then a few angry texts to each other. Then I decided I need to go for a drive. So I hopped in my car and drove the mile of gravel to the highway, sat at the stop sign, and thought to myself. “Really, where are you going to go?” The truth of the matter is our occasional blow up cannot outweigh our usual times of loving companionship. I like the sunset drives on our golf cart around our property. I enjoy the runs to town for an ice cream cone. I’m a huge fan of holding hands as we walk into SAMS for our “old people date” of Sushi and shopping. There really isn’t any place I would rather be than with him. So I took a 20 min scenic drive to cool down. Pulled back into our driveway and went back into the house to work out our spat.

This all came to mind as I contemplated my Bible study this morning. It probably pales in comparison, but there may be a slight parallel between my relationship to Rich and God’s relationship with me. ““Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭14:28-33‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Twenty Eight years ago my husband and I began to count the cost of our relationship. Would it be worth it to sacrifice our own desires, our own opinions, our own plans, to be united in marriage? As a couple of starry eyed love sick kids, we agreed it was. We stood in front of friends and family and made a commitment that we would stick together, in sickness and in health, in the good times and the bad times, and our vision for life would no longer be two but one. Jesus is alluding to that kind of cost counting for following Him. “So you want to follow me, you need to think of what this may mean past the glamour of large crowds, miracles, and all the good times. It also means that sometime along the way, you will have to lay aside your desires, take up a cross of death like I do, and follow Me.” Somewhere along the line you may find yourself sitting at the edge of your spiritual gravel road thinking to yourself as you run from where God may take you, “Really, where am I going?” The question is, “is the cost worth what you gain?”

John 6:60-68 is an account of Jesus’ disciples coming to that crossroad as they walked and talked with Jesus 2000 + years ago. Jesus told them in no uncertain terms that being with Him and following Him would mean that they would have to let His life become their own. They would no longer be calling the shots. He would. So “many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching, Who can accept?'”. They decided to turn back and no longer follow him. Jesus then asked the Twelve that were with Him, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”. This was their own time sitting at the edge of the gravel road and open highway hearing the still small voice saying, “Really where are you going to go?” Peter answered this question the way I always hope to have courage to answer Jesus with. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” Where else can I go? Things may not always be easy in the life of following Jesus, but what is the alternative? Do I want to go back to the time before I had Him actively in my life just because I do not want to work the things out in my heart that need adjusted? I love the joy and peace He brings. I love His presence always abiding with me and His power He gives to walk through this life. I appreciate the gifts and blessings He has given me. So for the sake of one or two things that are hard am I really wanting to drive away? What would my life really be like without Him?

Taking advantage of the front bench seat of our truck while listening to our song “Everything I Do” -Bryan Adams

Counting the cost is important. Just like it was for my husband and I twenty eight years ago as we prepared to get married. We promised to never use the “D” word, “divorce”. We would work it out. Jesus wants us to look at our lives of following Him. Obedience and never quitting are not an option. If our commitment is to do just that and Follow Him, He assures us He will give us all that we need to follow through. Because there really isn’t any place we can go. He is the one with the “words of eternal life.”

Considering the Cost- The Spiritual Heart Check Luke 14

Discipleship has been on my heart a lot the past year. What does it mean to be a disciple? What does it mean to make disciples as Jesus commanded us to in the “Great Commission” of the church? Exploration of this topic has brought me to a Bible study workbook called “Discipleship The Growing Christian’s Lifestyle” by James and Martha Reapsom. It’s a pretty straight forward type of study: Look up verses, think about them, answer questions. I enjoy taking time to think about and “chew” on portions of scripture. This study, however, has led me to some of the hardest verses in the Bible for me to wrap my mind around. Luke 14:25-35. They’re all about what it costs to follow Jesus. Modern Christianity, especially American Christianity, seems to focus on all the good stuff we get when we follow Jesus: He wants a relationship with us, He loves us unconditionally, He chases after us and woos us to yield to Him, He heals our hearts, He blesses our lives, etc. All these things are so very true of Jesus and His love for us, but He also says some very hard things in these verses. Things like, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters- yet even their own life- such a person cannot be my disciple.” or “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Those are both bars set very high by Jesus, Himself, and they aren’t exactly what I would call “Feel Good” quotes.

I think looking at these verses in the light of the Apostle Peter’s life has helped me understand them better. Peter was there when Jesus said these words, and It is recorded that Peter had a mother in law, so this meant he was a married man. Jesus wasn’t speaking of Peter hating his wife. He was setting a comparison of our commitment to Him over the other relationships we have. The Greek for the word “hate” in verse 25 means “to esteem less”. Jesus is first. His direction for our lives and His will comes before any other endeavor. Another thing that strikes me about Peter being a disciple is that when the rubber hit the road and Jesus was crucified, he bailed. Jesus had told the crowds the day He taught on the cost for being a disciple that they would need to “Consider the Cost” of following Him. Peter considered and when the threat was there the first time around, he denied Jesus and ran away. But Jesus doesn’t leave Peter there in his mess. He meets him on a beach days after the resurrection, with a fish breakfast for Peter, who had given up the whole disciple thing and decided to go back to what he knew before, fishing. Jesus didn’t meet him with an “I told you you’ve got to hate your family and give up everything quote.” Instead He asks Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus knew Peter’s heart was desiring to follow Him. It was just a case of the “spirit being willing, but the flesh being weak.” Then Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit empowered Peter in his human frailty to be the disciple that Jesus wanted him to be all along.

It seems to me that every time I come across the words of Luke 14 I do a little self examination. Do I love Jesus more? more than my own family, my things, my hobbies, my life… Do I have what it takes to “Consider the cost” and give up everything I have? For someone who struggles with feelings of insufficiency on the regular, these verses rattle something inside of me. I probably feel like Peter did on that beach when Jesus asked him three times, “Peter do you love Me?”. Peter replied, “Lord You know all things, You know that I love You.”

Peter was the fireball preacher on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. He was a major leader in the early church, and he died a martyr’s death. He fulfilled the call that Jesus gave to him despite his internal struggles of his younger years. He literally “took up his cross” to follow Jesus as he was crucified himself, upside down as he requested because he was, “not worthy to be crucified in the same manor of his Lord” But all these things weren’t because Peter was some spectacular guy who could do anything Jesus wanted him to on his own. It was the power of the Holy Spirit inside of him that gave him the power to be Jesus’s “witness/ martyr”.

So back to me and my spiritual heart check. God knows me. He sees inside. My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. I need the power of the Holy Spirit, just like Peter did so I can have the power to be a witness as well, and I too can follow Him wherever He leads because Jesus sees deep inside of my heart as well. I love Him and want to be whatever He wants me to be. The Spirit will help me in my weakness just as He helped Peter. So Be it! Amen

The Banquet Invitation

Way back in the 90’s my oldest brother was an officer in the US Navy. I was a young college student. One of my spring breaks I was able to manage a trip to Jacksonville, Florida where he was stationed. The goal was to get to fulfill a lifelong dream of going to Disney World. I also got a once in a lifetime experience. I toured the ship he was assigned to and got to eat dinner in the officers quarters. I felt like I had arrived. The atmosphere of the officers dining room was quite the experience: Formal wait staff, golden utensils, fancy dining room furniture, etc. It definitely impressed this small town, middle class, midwestern girl. It felt pretty good to have connections with a Naval Officer.

I have been thinking about that trip this afternoon as I have contemplated Luke 14. The setting of this passage is a dinner that Jesus attended at an prominent Pharisee’s(Jewish religious leader) house. I imagine there were several in attendance that felt pretty lucky to have scored a seat at the table with a “miracle man prophet” and a man of high position in the Prominent Religious Party of the day. It was enough to stir thoughts in one of the guests who had to comment to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the Kingdom of God”. He probably got the picture of how neat it was to be there at that meal, and how in comparison sitting in the very presence of God at His Kingly table would be.

Jesus took that opportunity to teach a little lesson. In typical Jesus’s style, He told them a parable.

In His parable a man was preparing a great banquet. He was arranging the venue, planning the menu, and getting a list of his guest. He had put a lot into it and when he expected his guests to reply with the anticipated RSVP’s, he got turned down. Replies like, “I’m too busy. Just got married…”. “Just bought a set of five yoke of oxen for me to try out.” (Today’s equivalent of a new John Deere Tractor with all the accessories.). Or “I’ve just bought a field. Gotta settle down and enjoy it.” It was enough to shock the generous host with such snubs.

What happens next surpasses the out of place dining of a small town, midwestern, college girl’s dining in the Officers Quarters of a US Naval ship. The host told his servants to go out and compel the poor, the blind, the crippled, and the lame to come to the meal. When the banquet hall wasn’t full he told them to go to the country roads and lanes to find more guests for his banquet. The honored guests for the distinguished host would be the very people who during the time of Jesus were the lowest of the social echelon.

So why all the fuss over banquets, dining and rsvp’s in Jesus’s parable? This is a reflection of who it is that Jesus calls to be a part of His Kingdom feast now, the very ones He invites to become His disciples. There are those He invites that let their relationships, their possessions, their season in life to keep them from valuing the opportunity of a life time, sitting at a table as a guest of Jesus’s meal. There are those who never would expect to be invited because of who they are and what they have become. He compels the poor with nothing to offer, those crippled by their anxieties, pain, and past. He compels the blind who strain to see past the darkness that envelopes them, and the lame who are unable to stand on their own. Those far away in the places that would never expect an invite. Those are the ones He invites to come. Simply because He wants His house to be full.

I’ve heard many people talk about how they are not worthy of following God and sitting down with Him at the feast of the Kingdom. No One Is! This is the beauty of the invitation. Just as I sat in the US Navy’s Officer’s Dining hall having never worn a uniform or fulfilled any qualifications of an officer. Simply because my Big Brother was qualified to be there, we are invited to sit at the most important event of eternity God the Father’s banquet because our Big Brother, Jesus is qualified to be there and He has compelled us to come and dine. Ours is simply to respond to the RSVP.

Keep the Main Thing The Main Thing: Response for Uncertain Times

Several years ago my husband and I attended a smaller church that sat on top of a large hill in the middle of a small city. The Church was two story and rectangular(kind of looked like an ark in my mind) and situated right in the middle of a questionable neighborhood. It was the kind of neighborhood that I would get uncomfortable the nights we would be there if I didn’t know the door was locked. One Sunday we drove up the hill and noticed the SWAT team for the city surrounding the house next door to our church. We opted to drive around for awhile until the arrest was made. There were many Sundays that I would sit during service near a window and watch the neighborhood people walking up and down the hill on the way to the stores on the main strip. I would often think about how comfortable I was sitting in my padded chair, dressed nicely, surrounded by my family and friends. Then look out the window to see someone who looked desperate and alone walking down the hill. The image of Noah and his family sitting in the ark would play through my head. “Is this what they might have felt listening to the world fall apart while they were safe in the ark?” Lately, I’ve felt that feeling again. As I’ve watched the evening news drone on and on about riots, unrest, virus totals, statues being demolished, etc. Then I look around me in my nice country house, acreage, and miles from the closest conflicts. “Am I sitting on the ark again?” Even Noah in his time was a preacher of righteousness up until he got on the ark and it started to rain, why would I just sit here… The discussion with friends I’ve met up with lately has centered around “What on earth is going on in our country?” There’s anger and sadness over the changes that we’ve seen, and the biggest question of all is “What are we going to do?” I’ve thought of that a lot too. “What is my response?”

I’ve been contemplating Philippians quite a bit the past couple of months, and this week is no exception. The verse I’ve been chewing on is Philippians 3:20 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” NIV Actually the Passion Translation version has been resounding in my heart, “But we are a colony of heaven on earth as we cling tightly to our life-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “colony” stood out. I figured it was quite a jump from “citizenship” to “colony” so I checked it out in the Greek. (It’s that deep thinker side of me coming out.) And sure enough the word “politeuma” was used which could be a state or a commonwealth, “colony” would work. Why all the fuss? Simple, it is easy to get caught up in thinking there’s nothing we can do. Our citizenship is in heaven. The earth will go to pot, and we will get out of here. We will sit on our ark and watch the world drown. But when I look at my life as a colonist of heaven. My viewpoint of today’s events changes. Colonists of Rome during Paul’s time “were expected to promote the interests of Rome and maintain the dignity of the city.” As a colonist of heaven I am to “Promote Heaven’s interest on earth and lead a life worthy of heavenly citizenship.” (notes from Life Application Study Bible on Philippians 3:20). My home, my brothers and sisters in Jesus are all Colonist of Heaven. We are here to plant heavenly citizenships all around us (make disciples) and influence the world we live in. Not hide our allegiance and wait for the great escape. We must not get our eyes off of the main thing. What is the main thing you may ask? Jesus gave us the main thing, the mission, after His death and resurrection right before He ascended into Heaven. The Main Thing is this: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV.

The American Christian, really the American anything, waits for a program. We want our kids to play in organized sports as opposed to organic sports that occurs in our neighborhoods. We want our relationships to start in organized groups and clubs as opposed to organic relationships that occur when we talk across the fence to our neighbors, smile at the cashier at Walmart, leave a significant tip for our waitress, etc. We don’t have to have a program to do what we are commanded to do! Look at who is around you and get started. “Make disciples!” Look at the tools you have around you, your home, your food, your social media, etc. and do what looks obvious to do. As colonist of heaven and ambassadors for Christ, all we have to do is represent. Represent by listening, praying, giving, and teaching others about how they too can become part of the Everlasting Kingdom that will not fail.

The other thing the American Christian is prone to get hung up on is numbers. “Great I’ll make disciples, how do I make the most?” Start with the one. The one who is in front of you. The one you run into on the regular. The one who listens when you share and when you point the best you know how to the King of your Kingdom, Jesus- who started the Colony of heaven in your heart. Simplify it even more, the one can be the ones who live in your own home, your kids/ grandkids (they are great disciples).

It is easy for me to get caught up in the drama on Social Media and the nightly news. But our current situation has not changed the mission that as a Heavenly Colonist I have embraced. I am not called to get caught up in the name calling, blame games. I am to proclaim the answer, Jesus is King over all and His Kingdom is the only one that will stand in the end.