Category Archives: Purpose in Life

Worship Wednesday – The Cause of Christ Revisited in 2022- Kari Jobe

 

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. – the Apostle Paul, Acts 20:24

Entering year three of COVID, who would have thought?

I wonder how much time each day we spend talking about, reading about, and altering our lives to prevent COVID. So. Much. Time. On a phone call with a friend yesterday, she observed that we seem to all place ourselves somewhere on a continuum of tired or terrified. Which is it for you?

Then I come across a tweet that snaps me into a new consciousness.

Photo Credit: Spence Shelton, Twitter

“Secluded comfort” has lulled us into a false sense of safety from COVID. Also a spiritual dullness which (as Spence Shelton states) downplays “gospel urgency and gospel sacrifice”. Whoa! I certainly have experienced some of this.

My mom was tireless in serving God and others right to the moment she lost consciousness in her last hours on earth. She always amazed me. Never too busy to be interrupted. Never too tired to respond to a need. Just never. She amazed me.

Toward the end of her battle with cancer, I asked her (you’ve heard this story before) if she heard God speak to her. In years past, she struggled with whether God was guiding her or she was on her own. It was something she fretted over at times. In the hard days of cancer, I was hoping maybe that had changed… Again, when I asked if she heard God when she prayed, and she trained those clear blue eyes on me. With a smile that comforts me still, she said, “All the time.”

A different generation? A time before COVID? Did fighting cancer sharpen her sense of the presence and purposes of God? Is it possible COVID is meant to do the same? What can we draw from “such a time as this”…this right now?

On Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang The Cause of Christ by Kari Jobe. In the setting of church gathered, the Holy Spirit moved my heart deeply with the purpose of this life. This song reminded me of God’s will for us, not matter the externals in our lives, to persevere and refuse to keep silent.

My heart’s best desire is to be wholly about God’s purposes and to radiate, in word and deed, the love and person of Jesus Christ. Seasons come (as with COVID) when this desire is dampened by fears, distractions, and cultural cloyings that disguise lies for truth. I have not always lived for the God who saved me…definitely have not been always faithful to speak the glorious truth of who God is and what He has done for us.

Oh…the awful silence of choosing my own comfort over the cause of Christ.

What joy in those occasions when we enter into the cause of Christ and share the truth of God, in word and deed. He takes our feeble attempts and, through His Holy Spirit, gives us the opportunity to point to love and life in Him.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.Ephesians 2:8

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.John 3:16-17

How can we keep silent?

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Before we worship together with the singing and meditating on Kari Jobe’s The Cause of Christ, I’d like to post and pray (with you) pastorJohn Piper‘s prayer, from his book Coronavirus and Christ.

“Father, at our best moments, by Your grace, we are not sleeping in Gethsemane, we are awake and listening to Your Son’s prayer. He knows deep down that He must suffer but in His perfect humanity, He cries out, “If it is possible, let this cup pass.” In the same way, we sense deep down that this pandemic is appointed in Your wisdom for good and necessary purposes. We, too, must suffer. Your Son was innocent. We are not. Yet, with Him, in our less than perfect humanity, we too cry out, “If it is possible, let this cup pass.”

Do quickly, oh Lord, the painful, just, and merciful work You have resolved to do. Do not linger in judgment, do not delay Your compassion. Remember the poor, oh Lord, according to Your mercy. Do not forget the cry of the afflicted. Grant recovery. Grant a cure. Deliver us, Your people, helpless creatures, from these sorrows, we pray. But do not waste our misery and grief, oh Lord. Purify Your people from powerless preoccupation with barren materialism and Christless entertainment. Put our mouths out of taste with the bait of Satan.

Cut from us the roots and remnant of pride and hate and unjust ways. Grant us capacities of outrage at our own belittling of Your glory. Open the eyes of our hearts to see and savor the beauty of Christ. Incline our hearts to Your word, Your Son, Your way. Fill us with compassionate courage and make a name for Yourself in the way Your people serve. Stretch forth Your hand in great awakening.

For the sake of this perishing world, let the terrible words of Revelation not be spoken over this generation, ‘yet still they did not repent’. As You have stricken bodies, strike now the slumbering souls. Forbid that they would remain asleep in the darkness of pride and unbelief. In Your great mercy, say to these bones, live and bring the hearts and lives of millions into alignment with the infinite worth of Jesus. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” – John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ

Worship with me for the cause of Christ (music in the link):

The only thing I want in life
Is to be known for loving Christ
To build His church, to love His bride
And make His name known far and wide

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

He is all my soul will prize
Regardless of the joy or trial
When agonizing questions rise
In Jesus, all my hope abides

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

Jesus, my Jesus
For Your glory, for Your name
Jesus, my Jesus
I will only sing Your praise

For this cause I live
For this cause I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

______________________________________________________________________

*Lyrics to The Cause of Christ – Writers: Kari Jobe, Benjamin Hastings, Bryan Fowler

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe – interview starts at 4:45 [also how to play the song]

What Is the Cause of Christ?

A Cause Worthy of Your Life – Andrew Corbett

What Does It Mean to Be Saved? – Steven J. Cole

For the Cause – Getty Music

YouTube Video – When It’s All Been Said and Done – Robin Mark

Finishing Strong – Mildred McAdams – (our mom) – 1927-2002

Worship Wednesday – The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – Walled In, Dismissed, Frazzled, and Discouraged…Nevertheless

Photo Credit: Heartlight

What’s your situation? How’s your heart? What is your body holding onto? Remember when you were so full of the possibilities of life, so fresh with anticipation of what was ahead, what you could accomplish?

Then life happens, and it doesn’t always work out like you thought it would. Running turned into slogging. Your passion got sucker-punched. The opportunities and advancements kept coming in, but at some point, bewilderment set in. You just got tired…just plain weary.

Some call this burnout, and it may be. What if it is more than that? What if it is a bloody battlefield where, if not our very lives, our joy is under full attack. What if those God-given strengths, those life-honed skills, and serendipitous accomplishments seem not to be at play. Maybe you’re overthinking, or maybe…just maybe…the way through is surprisingly simple.

We all have an important place to occupy in this world. Every single one of us. Fight for it. Walls may seem high, bottlenecks too narrow, and, at times, adversaries hammering around us. Nevertheless…We can find a way to bring the walls down (or just go around them), squeeze through the bottlenecks, and shake off the idea that we can’t win…just. too. tired.

Circumstances in life and work can drain us. Especially over time. Oddly we can still be effective in life but the emotional, mental, and physical toll adds up. The body remembers…and keeps score.

Jesus gives us a beautiful and intimate picture of the “nevertheless”. The night before he would die on a Roman cross, he appealed to the Father, as his painful and humiliating death loomed ahead of him.

Photo Credit: Biblepic

Nevertheless…here was the Messiah, the Christ, in all the sinless perfection of his life, coming to the very end of himself. Exhausted, emotionally overwrought, yet clear-minded, understanding exactly what would be required from him. Nevertheless…he stayed the course. He was not giving up. He knew what was at stake. He trusted the Father, and he persisted in what he was called to finish.

Photo Credit: Leonard Ravenhill, QuoteFancy

For us, we have choices. We can resign ourselves to a life and work not what we anticipated…or we can clear our heads and remember our own callings. No walls are too high nor adversaries too strong.

Photo Credit: Biblepic

We each bring something to the table. If we withdraw from the table or accept a perceived exclusion, we can miss the fullness of life we were meant to have. Others will miss us as well. Believe that. It’s true.

When fatigue and discouragement set in, and our bodies are drained of response, we need to take hold of the “nevertheless”. It’s reminiscent of the many “but God’s” in Scripture and in life. We may be up against a Red Sea like Moses, or a Goliath like young David, or a corrupting culture like Jesus. We lament “but God”…we are too inadequate. Too small. Too aware of risk. Nevertheless, our “but God’s” can change to what is truth. The meaning of the protest changes into the “but God” miracles when He shows up and does what only He can do…in us. Through us.

Photo Credit: Biblepic

Hoping you lean into the “nevertheless” today.

Podcast – Why Everyone’s Freaking Out (& Why We Don’t Need To) – David Marvin, Guest on Relatable Podcast with Allie Beth Stuckey

15 Proven Ways to Suck the Life Out of Your Staff – Scott Cochrane – applies to any workplace. Take note of the “Strategies To-Avoid List”.

6 Things That Can Suck the Life Out of You! – Dale Hudson (and Part 2 on his story and how he dealt with those things that sucked the life out of him – to get you started, they are: People, Problems, Pressure, Pace, Pain, and Personal Sin)

The Humble Rejoice – Rick Bee

Nevertheless – Robert Ferguson

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Worship Wednesday – Shame Faced – O Come to the Altar – Elevation Worship

Photo Credit: Heartlight

We have renounced secret and shameful things, not acting deceitfully or distorting the word of God, but commending ourselves before God to everyone’s conscience by an open display of the truth. – 2 Corinthians 4:2

Instead of shame, My people will have a double portion, and instead of humiliation, they will rejoice in their share; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.
 – Isaiah 61:7

For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame.Romans 10:11

No wait. Don’t scroll by.

No shaming here. In fact, we may have stuffed our shame so deep inside ourselves, we are pretty sure it is ever someone else’s problem and not our own.

Wait though. We can know the beauty and freedom in life that comes from wrestling with shame…until it has no power over us. We may think it has no power over us when we tamp it down so effectively that others don’t see it…but we know it’s there.

Shame faced can be defused…and freedom follows. Beauty and fullness of life and relationships as well. Worth the vulnerability.

Until recently I didn’t think much about shame. I was more a guilt-driven person (rather than shame-driven), or so I thought. Guilt is more about doing bad, rather than “being bad” (which defines shame). However, now I see how we hide our shame and hope no one sees.

Canadian pastor Darryl Dash wrote this incredible piece on shame (linked below), taking us right from the beginning. You remember how Adam and Eve were described originally as being “naked but unashamed”? Can you imagine the beauty and freedom in that?

The Beginning of Shame (Genesis 2:24-3:10, 21) – Darryl Dash

Once sin entered, their eyes were opened…to what is now their reality. Naked and ashamed. Fearful. Wanting to hide. They were never meant to experience this darkness…this isolation from God or one another.

Dash reveals the impact of sin:

  • Shame is a result of sin — either ours, or someone else’s.
  • Shame isolates us. It makes us think that if others knew the truth about us, that they couldn’t possibly love us. It keeps us from being known and loved.
  • Shame damages us. Ultimately it can kill us.

Dash also writes about how our strategies to deal with shame only cause us to hide or avoid or attack (ourselves or others) – see graphic below from another source.

Photo Credit: The Compass of Shame, D. L. Nathanson, IIRP

Lastly, Dash reminds us of God’s glorious response to our shame – He pursues us and He clothes us.

Christian psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompson has written an important, hugely insightful book on shame. The Soul of Shame. The quotes that follow are from this book and help put the pieces of our shame together in ways we can then open ourselves up to healing. Giving those pieces to God.

“When we experience shame, we tend to turn away from others because the prospect of being seen or known by another carries the anticipation of shame being intensified or reactivated. However, the very act of turning away, while temporarily protecting and relieving us from our feeling (and the gaze of the ‘other’), ironically simultaneously reinforces the very shame we are attempting to avoid…Indeed this dance between hiding and feeling shame itself becomes a tightening of the noose.  We feel shame, and then feel shame for feeling shame. It begets itself.”

“The defining relational motif for humankind is not that we need to work as hard as we can, or at least harder than we are. It is not to do our best or to guarantee that our children will have a better life than we had. It is not about being right or the acquisition of power. Each of those (and other versions like them) play into the hand of shame’s anxiety. No – rather, we were created for joy. Not a weak and watery concept of joy that merely dilutes our sadness and pain. Rather it is the hard deck on which all of life finds its legs, a byproduct of deeply connected relationships in which each member is constantly known.

“To relationally confront our shame requires that we risk feeling it on the way to its healing. This is no easy task. This is the common undercurrent of virtually all of our relational brokenness. We sense, image, feel and think all sorts of things that we never say, because we’re far too frightened to be that honest, that vulnerable. But honest vulnerability is the key to both healing shame -and its inevitably anticipated hellish outcome of abandonment -and preventing it from taking further root in our relationships and culture.

“Shame positions itself in such a way so as to keep borders tightly closed and vulnerability at a minimum.”

“In reality, vulnerability is not something we choose or that is true in a given moment, while the rest of time it is not. Rather, it is something we are. That is why we wear clothes, live in houses and have speed limits. So much of what we do in life is designed, among other things, to protect us from the fact that we are vulnerable at all times. To be human is to be vulnerable… Vulnerability is not a question of if but rather to what degree….in seeing the place of vulnerability in the pages of the Bible we cannot but help be amazed at its place and purpose. It begins in the beginning, where we are introduced to a vulnerable God. Vulnerable in the sense that he is open to wounding. Open to pain. Open to rejection. Open to death.

We deeply long for connection, to be seen and known for who we are without rejection. But we are terrified of the vulnerability that is required for that very contact...God does not leave. The loving relationship shared between Father, Son and Spirit is the ground on which all other models of life and creativity rest. In this relationship of constant self-giving, vulnerable and joyful love, shame has no oxygen to breathe.

 We have in Jesus one who was willing to put his naked vulnerability on full display, opening himself to all that we in evil’s employ could throw at him. He was the first to trust us with himself, revealing himself, risking abandonment in the process.” – Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame

We all have shame and can keep ourselves tightly hidden in the comfort of this small group or that…or we can follow Jesus in His naked vulnerability. Recognizing (again) that we all have shame and we all need God and each other. What comes after is the life He means for us to have…not the smaller, hidden life we think is the only one possible. Oh, Dear One…it is meant to be so much more.

Worship with me. [Lyrics in the link]

Are you hurting and broken within
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Oh what a Savior
Isn’t He wonderful
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him
For He is Lord of all
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen

Oh what a Savior
Isn’t He wonderful
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him
For He is Lord of all
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Bear your cross as you wait for the crown
Tell the world of the treasure you’ve found*

[I love the whole of this song in dealing with shame. We hide our shame because we don’t want to confront the pain – either of our own sin or that of another. Following Jesus, receiving all He has for us, includes a cross. However, we never have to carry the cross – whatever it is – alone. He is with us all the way.]

*Lyrics to O Come to the Altar – Elevation Worship – Songwriters: Steven Furtick, Christopher Joel Brown, Mack Donald Iii Brock, Wade Joye

Breaking the Power of Shame – Jon Bloom, Desiring God

What Does It Mean to Be Approved of God? – Ed Elliott

20 Quotes from Curt Thompson’s The Soul of Shame

Monday Morning Moment – How Shame Affects Our Thinking and How We Can Break Free – Deb Mills

Shame is More Common Than You Think with Dr. Curt Thompson – Jennie Allen podcast

Remembering 9/11 – 20 years Later – and the Day Before – a Story about God and a Girl

Genessa (l) and April, Cairo, Egypt

[From the Archives – “Remember 9/11 – and the Day Before – a Story of God and a Girl”]

Today marks the eve of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US. We all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient, walked into the elevator. His face strained (me thinking it related to the patient with me). Then he said, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that had traveled instantly from the States about the 9/11 bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.

It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday of 9/10, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.

Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.

When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.

Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.

Dave, our Egyptian friend, and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Genessa-with-team1.jpg

As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God, in His great goodness, alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.

She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.

Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.

That was 20 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US and to other work.

Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven… and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan. Toward the end of the song you can hear Genessa’s tears in her voice, singing to the Lord. We would sometimes have the opportunity of being in the room when Genessa led worship in those days. She couldn’t hold the tears back. So in a space just God and her.

If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

I long for the day when the Lord comes and takes me away!

Whether by death or if You come for me on a horse so white

And anyway You come will be alright with me

I long to just hear You said, “Now is the time. Won’t you come away?”

And I’ll take Your hand, surrendering completely to You that day!

And no, I can’t contain the joy that day will bring!

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment I’ll be celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

O Lord, while I wait, I will cling to each word that You say.

So speak to my heart; Your voice is life to me, be it night or day.

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

You’re my only love, and I am waiting patiently for Your call.

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

Forever with You! No burden; no more worldly cares.

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

I’ll get to be with them, laugh with them, hold them once more

There’ll be no more separating! [No separating]

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment of celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

Dennis Jernigan, from the album I Belong to Jesus (Volume 2)

Worship Wednesday – I Need Thee Every Hour – Fernando Ortega

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Phil Ware

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…”Genesis 1:26-28

Jesus explained, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.”  – John 4:34

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”Luke 23:34

We are needy people…by design.

Years ago, husband Dave and I led a Singles Sunday School class. These young people were top of the heap – well-educated, gifted, socially astute, emotionally intelligent, independent, and committed Christians. Yet, no matter the Scripture being studied that day, Dave always managed to insert two concepts:

  • We are all worms.
  • Obedience is always where we want to land.

I was like (on the first point) “Dude! What about we are fearfully and wonderfully made“?! [Psalm 139:14] [Years down the road, “dude” and “worm” would remind me of this exclamation as “worm” in Arabic is “dooda”. Sorry for the rabbit trail.]

As for the second point – the “O” word…no right or reasonable objection there. Period. Full stop.

Being Needy Is Not a Fault – It Is a Design – Christine Chappell

Yesterday I came across an Instagram story with Jackie Hill Perry talking about our inadequacy and deep need for God. If you know Instagram stories, they seem to last a minute. I wanted to hear it again, but couldn’t. So I’ve been thinking about it and praying since about it. We all have head knowledge about our dependence on God, our need for Him…it just doesn’t always settle into our hearts.

We (ok…is it just me?) go through too much of life with Paul’s affirmation that we have everything we need for “life and godliness” without remembering the context – dependence on His power and through knowing Him, in His glory and because of His goodness. [See verse below.]

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  2 Peter 1:3

Wow! That right there.

Our days are busy and fraught with care (different depending on each of our situations, but its there…and draws our focus). God does  expect us to show up for work, for our families, for the church, for our communities…That is necessary…but not sufficient.

“Necessary but not sufficient”

“What we do is necessary but not sufficient. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and have substantial creative capacity and we can do a lot of neat things. God expects us to use our abilities, giftings, and capacities, and to work at it as hard as we can. However, all those things fall flat apart from our dependence on God – if He doesn’t breathe His life into our efforts and make them accomplish His purposes. Our work is necessary but not sufficient. He is sufficient.” – Dave Mills

We go to God each day for those things outside our power (cancer, COVID, conflict), but we forge ahead on what we think we can accomplish on our own (including growing our own character and that of our children). What then do we miss, in treating prayer and time in His Word as a sprinkling on our day? A seasoning rather than the meat. [See again John 4:34 above.] We miss God.

We miss God in working out our budgets, in counseling with a friend in crisis, in trips to the grocery store or playground, in studying for an exam. We miss His infusion of His own character, His own wisdom, His own wonder. We wear ourselves out walking in the flesh with just a touch of Him, even though we are indwelt by the very Spirit of God.

Whose image do we take into the public square? His or our own frail self? Preaching to the choir of one here (unless you are singing along with me).

Jesus taught us by His example that He revered the Word of God, and lived in obedience to It, and basked in the Father’s presence, and understood how being human can distract from the greatest reality in our lives – a holy yet approachable God. Even from the Cross, in His greatest need, He prayed for those who participated in the unspeakable. They didn’t know, He said (Luke 23:34).

We know.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses [of my imperfections], so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

“You see, our power as Christians is not in our strength, our own performance, or our own striving towards perfection. Our power comes when we can admit our vulnerability, our weakness, our neediness, and our dependence on the Lord. It was when Paul accepted his weaknesses and his imperfections that he discovered how strong he was in God.  

It’s when we are at our wits end that we discover that His ways are higher than our ways. It’s when we can’t do something that we discover He can. It’s when we realize the power is not in us that we find our strength in Him. Our imperfection is the pathway to the grace of God. It’s in that connection that we find His grace is indeed sufficient, even in spite of our weaknesses. –  Delman Coates

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  –     1 Corinthians 1:27–29

If you feel your neediness on a regular basis, know that you are in good company. All of us are needy, all of the time—we’re just too busy being “independent” to realize it.  We easily forget that neediness is inherent. Take a high-level view of the concept by starting with our neediness in the sight of God. Think back to the garden of Eden and all that Adam required from the Lord to live. Everything Adam had, he was given. Everything he possessed—even his very body and breath—came from God (Genesis 2:7). This truth hasn’t changed since the fall.

Think about it: what do you have at this moment that God did not give to you? …There’s no kidding ourselves: we are utterly dependent upon Someone else for all the things, all the time.

Man’s reliance upon God is a healthy relational construct, not an annoying character flaw. Our neediness is forged out of God’s good design (Genesis 1:31) and is meant to foster fellowship, faithfulness, and fruitfulness. In that sense, dependence upon God and interdependence upon each other is a blessed design meant for our good and God’s glory.Christine M. Chappell

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Be encouraged as I am (after hearing Jackie Hill Perry’s brief story). How different our lives are when we see God as He truly is and see ourselves in proper relationship to Him and each other (my definition of humility, actually). Our lives are small really, no matter how cool, independent or self-sufficient we think we are. How much more beautiful to receive that smallness as a gift in our lives as we walk in the fullness as His increase (in our decrease) (John 3:29-30).

Praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) is cause for rejoicing and gratefulness. I want more of this…more of Him. AND our children and grandchildren need to know they don’t have to grow up so grand and gifted…they can grow up knowing Him in all His power and glory and goodness!

Worship with me to this wonderful old hymn by Annie Hawks. OR if your heart would prefer a newer version then sing with Matt Maher’s Lord, I Need You.

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

Refrain:
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their pow’r when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is vain.

Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

[If you prefer the newer pink and blue background, live version of Lord, I Need You, with lyrics, here it is.]

Worship Wednesday – Deep Disappointment – Lord, I Need You – with Matt Maher & Audrey Assad – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – I Need Thee Every Hour – Anthem Lights

Needy People, Mighty God – Steven J. Cole

I Need You Every Hour – Tom Norville

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship Wednesday – Nathanael, Philip, and Jesus – Time Under the Fig Tree

Photo Credit: Howard Carter

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”John 1:43-51

Philip found Jesus. The One. The Messiah. He followed Him…and he sought out his friend Nathanael to tell him the good news. Even as Nathanael mocked the news, Philip persevered.

“Come and see”.

As they approached, Jesus called out identifying Nathanael. It was shocking for Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew) because they had not met before. Jesus called him “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.  Something about what and how Jesus spoke to him caused Nathanael to wonder aloud how Jesus knew him.

Then Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” What?! Of course, we remember this is God, this Jesus. Still, something in His seeing Nathanael under the fig tree meant everything to Nathanael…it meant that He was the One. The Messiah. Nathanael believed.

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Now, there are a lot of fig trees in Israel. Most probably, Nathanael sat under them from time to time. Something happened specifically under one of those fig trees that made it hugely significant that Jesus recalled it to him…and told him, “I saw you”.

In the TV series, The Chosen, we watch a story about Jesus, His followers, and His public ministry. We are reminded by the director and others that The Chosen is faithful to the truth of Scripture, but it also tells a story. We don’t know from the Word what was going on in Nathanael’s life “under the fig tree”, but that Jesus saw him was crucial.

The writers of the series have Nathanael wrestling with God over a failed hope. Nathanael had wanted to design buildings that would honor God, and he failed. Under the fig tree, he cried out to God in the words of Psalm 102:1-2:

“Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come before You. Do not hide Your face from me in my day of distress. Incline Your ear to me; answer me…”

In reality, we do not know from Scripture what happened under the fig tree, but when Jesus told him that He saw him there…Nathanael believed. In the Son of God. The King of Israel.

[The scene below is 11 minutes in length. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth your time. Beautiful. Remember some is story, BUT the passage in John above is faithfully represented…and the emotion is there. The grand emotion of discovering that we are seen…we are known.]

We have all had those moments under the fig tree. Times we thought we were all alone. Times of anguish or fear. Times of feeling completely undone. To be reminded that Jesus sees us changes everything. It is similar, in a God way, to the pronouncement the Samaritan woman made after encountering Jesus at the well. “He told me everything I ever did!” So different from Nathanael but similar in that she met the Messiah who knew her…and still loved her completely.

Worship with me to Jeremy Camp‘s He Knows:

All the bitter weary ways
endless striving day by day
you barely have the strength to pray
in the valley low

how hard your fight has been
how deep the pain within
wounds that no one else has seen
hurts too much to show

all the doubt you’re standing in between
And all the weight that brings you to your knees

HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
EVERY HURT AND EVERY STING
HE HAS WALKED THE SUFFERING
HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
LET YOUR BURDENS COME UNDONE
LIFT YOUR EYES UP TO THE ONE
WHO KNOWS
HE KNOWS

we may faint and we may sink
feel the pain and near the brink
but the dark begins to shrink
when you find the one who knows

the chains of doubt that held you in between
one by one are starting to break free

every time that you feel forsaken
every time that you feel alone
He is near to the broken hearted
every tear
He knows…*

As you get back to your day, you might want to bookmark the links below. Nathanael is a lesser known apostle, BUT we can learn so much in his conversion story…about Jesus…about the friend Philip who brought Nathanael to Christ…and about Nathanael, this righteous Jew, overcoming his prejudice and coming to Christ.

*Lyrics from He Knows – KLove

YouTube Video – He Knows (Lyric Video)

Worship Wednesday – He Knows – Jeremy Camp – Deb Mills

Jesus and Nathanael – D. Young

Snowballs and Bowling Balls – Jesus and Nathanael – Brian Rosner

Nathanael and the Fig TreeCharles H. Spurgeon

Under the Fig Tree…Jesus Meets Us Where We Are and Calls Us to Follow Him – Howard Carter

Under the Fig-Tree – How to Live a Holy Life – C. E. Orr

Worship Wednesday – Tyler Perry’s “Refuse Hate.” and Revolutionary by Josh Wilson

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.Psalm 4:4-5, 8

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.Ephesians 4:26-27

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”Matthew 5:43-45

The 2021 Oscars (Academy Awards Ceremony) this week delivered the lowest ratings in the award show’s history. It’s been a strange year. The highlight for us was actually the acceptance speech for this year’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The recipient is the filmmaker and benefactor Tyler Perry.

Watch his very different, almost politically incorrect, 3-minute acceptance speech below. [Full transcript here.]

An excerpt follows:

I refuse to hate someone because they’re Mexican or because they are Black or white, or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they’re a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian. I would hope that we would refuse hate.
So anyone who wants to meet me in the middle, to refuse hate, to refuse blanket judgment and to help lift someone’s feet off the ground, this one is for you, too. God bless you and thank you Academy, I appreciate it.”Tyler Perry
As  followers of Christ, we cannot join the throngs of people who hate. We may want to block or cancel the words or actions of others. Yet, we are confronted ourselves by the truth that we were all once the enemies of God…and He forgave us. Do we presume that our indignation is more righteous than His? Do we consider our being wronged as more needful of judgment than His own? God have mercy!
What is the response of the believer toward those we are tempted to feel hate?

Only love. Spoken and acted out in kindness and mercy.

Do we stomp and kick the dust at that calling and command? Do we hold tighter to our stones? Do we give lip service to “forgiving” but everything in our actions and attitudes tells a different story?

How thankful we can be to a God who is all-wise and all-loving! He understands us completely. He walked among us, in the sandals of the incarnate Christ. He experienced hatred and persecution, even to His last breath on this earth. Yet…He forgave, He loved, He administered the greatest kindness possible – His life for ours.

In His loving mercy, He has taught us how to live in this life.

We are to love. We are to forgive. We are to keep our own hearts from sinning against another. We are to remember that we and our neighbor (enemy or friend) are both made in the image of God. We are not to forget our own bent toward sin…the very sin that caused Jesus to take the cross upon Himself…for us. Not just for another.

God calls us to remember whose we are. He is at work in our hearts, in that of our neighbors (and enemies), and in the nations.

We can join Him…through revolutionary acts of kindness.

I’ve just recently discovered the writing of Lois Tverberg. She teaches the Scripture in context, meaning within the culture of the world in which it was written. We might think Jesus’ command to us to love our enemies is hard. Yet, if we recall our own struggle with sin and how neighbors and enemies are not so different from us, we can access the grace of God to love…and show kindness.

Jesus’ Most Radical Teaching – Lois Tverberg

Loving Your Neighbor, Who Is Like You – Lois Tverberg

Instead of striving to be right…what if we strove to be kind – loving, serving, and praying for those our flesh cries out to hate? This is the way of Jesus.

Josh Wilson (with a team of other songwriters) gave us the song “Revolutionary” in October 2019, having no idea what 2020 or 2021 would hold. It was a prophetic call to the church to love…all.

“It seems natural, almost effortless, to focus on our differences with others rather than our similarities. Drawing attention to those differences keeps us glued to the news and social media because of the moral outrage we feel towards the “other.” I think there’s a better way though, and that’s the way of empathy and understanding, the way of kindness….No matter what side of the political spectrum we’re on, deep down I know that we are not as different as we are led to believe. There is peace to be made, there are names to be learned, meals to be had, chasms to be crossed, and it all starts with kindness.Josh Wilson

Worship with me.

Maybe you’re not like me
Maybe we don’t agree
Maybe that doesn’t mean
We gotta be enemies
Maybe we just get brave
Take a big leap of faith
Call a truce so me and you
Can find a better way
Let’s take some time, open our eyes, look and listen, yeah
And we’re gonna find we’re more alike than we are different, yeah
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
I’m turning the TV down
Drowning their voices out
‘Cause I believe that you and me
Can find some common ground
See maybe I’m not like you
But I’ll walk a mile in your shoes
If it means I might see
The world the way you do
Let’s take some time, open our eyes, look and listen
And we’re gonna find we’re more alike than we are different
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
What would Jesus do
He would love first
He would love first, hmm
What would Jesus do
He would love first
Yeah, He would love first
So we should love first
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
God help us get revolutionary*
“‘Revolutionary’ is all about kindness,” shares Josh Wilson. “I believe that kindness matters. It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the negativity we see in the world and on the news, and this song is a reminder that we are called to more than that. We’re called to love as Christ has loved us. I am so encouraged by the acts of kindness I’ve seen recently, even amidst a worldwide pandemic, even in an election year. In many ways, our struggles are actually bringing us together. We’re learning that we all have a lot more in common than we thought, and it’s beautiful to see the ways people are serving each other. The lyrics are a prayer for God, through us, to start a revolution of kindness. Will you join us?”Josh Wilson

Postscript:

Josh Wilson also wrote “Dream Small” which I covered here. He capturing how God has wrapped all commands into two – for our good and to the glory of our magnificent God:
Love God
Love others.
“Keep loving, keep serving
Keep listening, keep learning
Keep praying, keep hoping
Keep seeking, keep searching
Out of these small things and watch them grow bigger
The God who does all things makes oceans
From rivers.”

Worship Wednesday – Dream Small – Josh Wilson – Deb Mills

Story Behind the Song “Revolutionary”

Jesus & Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Holy-Week-Good-Friday.jpgPhoto Credit: GoodFridayQuotes2015.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

It was a day like no other day in history. For years we lived in countries where Christianity was a minority religion. While the few of us passed this week in reflection and wonder, it was, of course, just another week for most of our friends and colleagues. Easter had its name – Eid Al-Qiyama (“Feast of Resurrection”) – but Good Friday where we lived was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus, and all who have experienced life through his teaching, example, and sacrifice, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.

Good Friday – good for us, hard for Jesus. The events of his trial, crucifixion, death, and burial are all recorded with great detail in the four Gospels. They are riveting accounts of this terrible and triumphant day – Matthew 26:57-27:61, Mark 15Luke 22:66-23:56, John 18:28-19:42.

Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary, with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people. In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, who was hiding nearby…in his own painful moment.

The outcome of all the wrangling between the Jewish and Roman officials was an unwarranted, undeserved death sentence. Execution by crucifixion. Pilate even washed his hands of the matter, literally, declaring Jesus innocent but still consenting to the death sentence. He didn’t know then but the “blood” he tried to wash off his hands was truly innocent. Still, it wasn’t Pilate who put Jesus on that cross, nor was it Caiaphas, head of the Sanhedrin. Not a Roman, nor a Jew.

Jesus’ death, that day, was an outworking of a divine plan. We cannot begin to understand the holiness of the Father, the resolve of His Son, or the steadfastness of the Spirit. This three-in-one God orchestrated a path for us, His fallen and broken people, to be restored to Him. That we, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21) is a miracle of grace.

Jesus gave his life for us that day. It was not taken from him. He laid it down. For us. Though completely undeserving, we are ransomed and redeemed. At such a great cost. This Jesus. This life. This cross.

It Was My Sin That Held Him There – Greg Morse

Jesus spoke seven times during the three hours he hung on that cross.  Each time he spoke, as in all the other times his words have been recorded, there was something for all of us. If you don’t know what he said, in those seven brief cries from the cross, read them and discover more about him…and about us.

Just before he died, he cried out, “It. Is. Finished.” What? What was finished? His life…oh no…not at all…that story comes later. His work? Not completely…for he continues interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What was finished? The perfect sacrifice – the lamb without spot or blemish – his life for ours. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hallelujah!

‘Finished’ – What the Son Cried as He Died – Scott Hubbard – Desiring God

There is so much more to say about this day and the people present. Pilate’s wife who warned Pilate about ruling against this innocent man. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, who tried to return the money and killed himself in remorse that same day. Simon of Cyrene, a pilgrim, who was drawn into the dreadful drama of that day to carry Jesus’ cross when he could no longer. Barabbas, a notorious criminal, who gained his freedom, through a strange twist of the day. The nameless thief on the cross who cried out in repentance to Jesus. The Roman centurion who in his witness of Jesus all those hours professed faith in him.  John, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Jesus’ mother to whom Jesus gave each other. The women, lives changed by their faith in Jesus, who stayed at the foot of the cross through all the horror of his crucifixion. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a Christ-follower, who tried to appeal for Jesus with the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea, another believing Pharisee, who went to Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for burial, to place in his own tomb.

So many stories of lives changed. Good Friday. This marked the day of Jesus’ trial, his death, and his burial, but it does not mark the end of the story. It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.*

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Good-Friday-from-popgodblog.jpgPhoto Credit: popgodblog.com

[Postscript: In the links are several beautiful songs of worship. Tributes to the Lord on this day. Don’t miss the articles and the great sermon “It’s Friday But Sunday’s a Coming” by Rev. S. M. Lockridge.]

After a Crash-and-Burn Year, Why Care…About Good Friday? – Ann Voskamp

Holy Week – Day 6: Good Friday’s Trial, Crucifixion, Death, Burial – Mary Fairchild

The Cross – Billy Graham 2020

The Way of Jesus #3: Unless a Seed – James Nored

The Way of Jesus #4: Who Do I Say Jesus Is? – James Nored & Phil Ware

It Wasn’t Nails that Held Him to the Cross – Blog by Michele Perry

Good Friday – Bible Study

Spotify Playlist for Holy Week – Beth Wayland

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video with Lyrics – The Wonderful Cross by Chris Tomlin & Keith Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – The Power of the Cross – Kristyn Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – Lead Me to the Cross – Hillsong

*YouTube Video – It’s Friday but Sunday’s a Coming – S. M. Lockridge

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

YouTube Video – Passion Song – The Story of Holy Week (Lyric Video) by @scartermusic – powerful.

Photo Credit: We Love the Bible, Pinterest

Jesus and Holy Week – Tuesday, Day 3 – A Long Day Teaching & Countering Religious Opposition

Photo Credit – slidesharecdn.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

When He [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”Matthew 21:23

On this long day, Jesus would demonstrate in one situation after another that he spoke and acted with the authority of God Himself. The barren fig tree cursed by Jesus the day before had indeed withered and died. The disciples saw it themselves that morning as they walked again from Bethany to Jerusalem. Jesus spoke to them of faith, which they would need all the more in the days ahead (Matthew 21:21-22).

Again and again…in Jerusalem, in the Temple and on the busy streets during Passover, Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders.

It’s amazing that he even gained entry to the Temple after overturning the market the day before. Again, another sign of his authority. He was untouchable, until he gave himself over to his own death on the cross…for us.

The religious leaders were determined to trap him in some sort of blasphemous teaching or interpretation of the law. It would not happen, yet they were set on his destruction one way or another.

In an attempt to test Jesus’ understanding of the law, a legal advisor to the Pharisees asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment in the law. The Pharisees emphasized strict adherence to the laws of the Torah, all 613 of them! I don’t think they were prepared for Jesus’ response:

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” –   Mark 12:29-31

Two commands: 1) Love God with your whole being; 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. Some might say that a third is presumed in that you must also love yourself in a right and wholesome way in order to truly love others.

Jesus’ love for the Father and his love for all people were in perfect unity. Loving God, with all we are, gives us perspective and capacity to love those around us, whomever they are, as we have experienced love ourselves, from the God we love. The God who loves us perfectly and completely.

The Pharisees, Sadducees, and other Jewish leaders grew more and more angry at Jesus and were vexed as to how to destroy his popularity and influence with the masses of Jews loyal to him. All their trickery failed that day. Jesus was not intimidated by them, and, in fact, spoke some of his strongest words against them while teaching that day. His 8 “woe to you” pronouncements against the Pharisees are listed at the bottom of this page. When I read them, the song from the original Godspell film comes to mind as the Jesus character stands against the religious “machine” of his day – those “hypocrites”, those “blind guides” of the people.

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Blog-Holy-Week-Pharisees.jpgPhoto Credit –www.faithbibleministries.com

Finally, leaving Jerusalem that Tuesday, Jesus stopped on the Mount of Olives (Olivet) to speak about the future. He talked at length, to his disciples and all those who followed, about the end times, cautioning them about false teachers and the evil that would rise up in those last days. What it must have been to listen to Jesus, the Messiah, that day. Filled with a mixture of faith in him and fear of what could lie ahead for them, and the generations to come.

When Jesus and his disciples returned for the evening to Bethany, Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, stole away and met with Jesus’ enemies. [Matthew 26:14-16] He would betray Jesus to them in the dark of night, away from the crowds who would have strongly objected…in just two more days…for 30 pieces of silver…Judas would seemingly take history into his own hands, but the clock was already ticking, and Jesus would finish what he came to earth to do.

Postscript:  8 “Woe’s” Spoken by Jesus Against the Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-30)

1- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of Heaven against men.

2- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you devour widows’ houses, and pray at length as a pretense.

3– Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

4- Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.”

5- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.

6- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.

7- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

8- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.”*

Holy Week – Day 3: Tuesday in Jerusalem, Mount of Olives – Mary Fairchild

YouTube video Alas for You from the original film Godspell

Spotify Playlist – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

The Way of Jesus #2: Unsettling the Religious Status Quo – James Nored & Phil Ware

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

Reasoning Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree – Sam Shamoun

Jesus and the Pharisees

*8 Woes Upon the Pharisees – Curtis Kittrell

Great Texts of the Bible – The Two Commandments – commentary by James Hastings

Jesus’ Olivet Discourse about Two Future Events – Ronald W. Leigh, Ph.D

Monday Morning Moment – Flipping COVID Lethargy into a Larger Life Productivity – Tim Challies

Photo Credit: Tim Challies, How to Get Things Done

How do we get everything done in our day? We can’t. Well, consider that maybe we aren’t supposed to…then we choose a path…driven by external forces (the tyranny of the urgent, the job as defined by the manager, the should’s and ought-to’s)…or internal. What are our internal forces? What kind of life do we hope to live, and the product we hope to leave as foundational for those we care most about?

A favorite old proverb of ours goes like this:Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” (Proverbs 14:4). Canadian writer Tim Challies presents this proverb as a parable on productivity. That “much increase” can be enhanced by having the right tools (oxen, for instance). However, given the right tools, productivity can still be very messy. Hard to perfectly control, thus, cycling back, needing the best tools for the job. Sometimes those tools are people in our lives and workplace, and sometimes they are lists, schedules, apps, or right equipment – even a vacuum cleaner (my highly organized, hard working daughter-in-law had a new vacuum on the top of her Christmas list this year).

Several years ago, Challies wrote an incredibly practical blog series on How to Get Things Done. He has become a master at “learning how to simplify life and how to maximize productivity”. Now in the era of COVID, his counsel on productivity is even more timely as we slog through this pandemic.

[Now for those of you who are essential workers and you lay down exhausted every night, it may seem this isn’t for you. However, with the restrictions of life with COVID, you probably struggle with redeeming time with family and deciding how to maximize your time off the job. Tim Challies has wisdom for you as well. Thanks, also for how you serve us all, out there every day.]

In Challies’ blog intro to his book “Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity”, he offers several work sheets useful for those of us who need to organize our thoughts and time toward greater simplicity and productivity.

Don’t try to do it all. Do more good. Better.

Photo Credit: Tim Challies, Amazon

Too often, we measure the purpose of our lives by “how much” we can get done. What if we flipped that? What if we first sort out what the mission (or purpose) of our lives is? …Given our gifts, our education, our experiences, our opportunities, the people in our circle of influence, and the season in which we live at the moment. COVID informs that as well…informs but doesn’t define.

We do the work of sorting out our purpose, and then we order our days with that as foundation. We can’t do everything, therefore, we set our days on “doing more good…better”. Does that mean my house is always clean or my inbox is always manageable? No…but it is a shift away from shame/guilt and toward intentionality and joyful making of new habits. Sometimes we will have to say no, but the “yes’s” that are then ours to speak can be so freeing.

For me, this kind of restructuring my routines and thinking toward productivity require some prayer and reflection. Then, old-fashioned worksheets help. Challies also suggests other more techy tools, but I prefer starting with pen and paper.

Challies writes: “To be productive, you need a system. You need to build it, use it, perfect it, and rely on it. Your system needs to gain your confidence so that you can trust it to remember what needs to be remembered, to alert you to what is urgent, to direct you to what is important, and to divert you away from what is distracting…When you ought to be working on your computer, you are only ever one or two clicks away from checking out your friends on Facebook or welcoming a few minutes of mindless entertainment on YouTube. Text messages provide a welcome distraction from deep thinking, and binge watching the latest series on Netflix can set you back a week. You are surrounded by temptations to laziness and may succumb far more often than you think.”
COVID has not affected my health, for which I’m very thankful. However, the physical distancing has reeked havoc with daily life, work, routines of a few months ago, and even relationships. We have to work harder…smarter to keep high engagement in life and with our people. Tim Challies’ blog series, productivity tools, and book are a great starting place…for that good night’s sleep. Sweetly exhausted from “doing more good…better”.