How about a rebuke with your morning coffee?

It happened to me again this morning. I read something that I’m very familiar with and yet, a phrase I have never paid attention to before, jumped out at me. Well, it felt more like it leaped off the page and smacked me upside the head. Yep. A good old fashioned smack-down by the Holy Spirit. And honestly, I’m thankful. His holy smack-downs are done with such grace, gentleness and love, that I want to respond in repentance. Why? Because I know that my God is FOR me, not against me. 

Luke 18:35-43 

Jesus was on His way to Jericho and there was a blind man on the side of the road. When he heard the commotion and asked what was going on, he was told that Jesus was passing by. Immediately he began calling out, 

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

This always makes me smile. I try to picture the scene and I imagine an older man who had probably been blind and helpless his entire life. Relying on the kindness of others was his only hope in the world. He must have heard the stories about this Jesus person who had the power to heal. Maybe for the first time in his entire life he felt a quick, sharp pang of actual hope. And with every ounce of strength he could muster up, he yelled, his own voice piercing his darkness: 

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

What a beautiful picture of sheer and absolute desperation. What an authentic display of desperate hope. While I cannot relate to his physical blindness, certainly I know and can relate to a desperate need of the Savior’s mercy.

As I sat on my couch sipping my morning beloved cup of coffee, I’ll admit I was feeling good about this awesome little story in Luke. That is, until I read the next line:

 “Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet…” 

Granted, I have never given much thought to “those who led the way” other than to think, “What the heck is wrong with them? What’s their problem?? Surely they know Jesus loves to heal so why would they tell this poor man to be quiet??” But this morning, the phrase “those who led the way” struck a very personal chord.

For reasons I will never understand, God has placed me in leadership and I am in a position of “leading the way.” I’m ashamed to admit, there have been times I have become so focused on the ministry vision, mission, and hard work that has to be done, that I have dismissed the sideline cries coming from those who are desperate for hope. 

“I don’t have time to answer that email. I’m too busy.”

“I’ll call her back later. She can wait.”

“I don’t have time to sit and talk over coffee. I’ve got way too much work to do!”

And I justify my busyness and hard work and lack of availability all in the name of “ministry.”

Ouch.

No, seriously. Ouch.

I think it comes down to this: 

When ministry becomes more important than the people we are called to minister to,

we have missed the mark. 

I don’t want to miss the mark. What about you?

 

Sweet Jesus, thank you for the loving rebuke this morning. Please give me ears to hear what You hear, and eyes to see others the way You see them. And please Lord, give me Your heart, so I will respond like You would. Amen.

Don't freak out

I love it when I read a passage in Scripture and something I hadn't thought of before pops out at me. This morning I was reading Luke 8:22-25.  It’s a very familiar passage. Jesus tells His disciples to hop in the boat so they can go over to the other side of the lake. During the sail over, He falls asleep. And then…

“A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.”

And then the disciples freaked out.

Freaking out is a natural, human reaction, don’t you think? I mean, it says plainly, “they were in great danger.” I freak out if I’m in danger, don’t you? Seems like a reasonable response. In their freaked out state, they woke up Jesus. You know the story. Jesus rebuked the wind and the water, and of course, the wind and the water immediately obeyed. (I wish I always had an immediate obedience response.) I’m thinking they didn't expect what He said next: 

“Where is your faith?” 

Hmmm. Let’s be honest. They were just reacting to a very real situation. They weren't imagining things. This wasn't a hypothetical situation. Their situation was, in essence, reality. Here’s what popped out to me today:

 Jesus is even greater than our reality.

I’m totally grooving on this truth today! Because no matter what is going on around me, Jesus is greater. He doesn't lessen my reality. He doesn't expect me to deny my reality or downplay my reality.

 He wants me to remember that He is GREATER than my reality.

I need to remember when the storms hit (and whew! They seem to be hitting frequently here lately!) that I need to not freak out! I need to remember that Jesus is greater than the storm that threatens to drown me. Basically, as long as I’m hanging out in the same boat with Jesus, there’s no chance that any storm is taking this girl down. 

Just thinking about friendship...

Will you allow me to share with you what God has been teaching me about friendships recently?

God never intended for us to “go it alone.” We see God instituting the importance of relationship when He made Eve to be Adam’s companion. Don’t worry; I’m not going to give you a commentary on marriage right now. Just simply consider that God didn’t have to make Eve for Adam. He could have left him alone and Adam would have kept himself company with the animals. (Doesn’t sound so bad to those of us who are naturally introverts and love animals, does it?) But even though the garden and everything in it was perfect, and the relationship between Adam and His maker was perfect, God still chose to create another person with whom Adam could enjoy a relationship.

As hard as I try, I can’t do this alone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t have friends. God has richly blessed me by surrounding me with many amazing women who inspire me every day. However, here recently God has allowed me to take a few hits from the enemy that I did not see coming. After practically getting the wind knocked out of me, I realized that the battle is all too real and the enemy is much too ferocious to fight him on my own. My natural tendency is to take my battles straight to Jesus and keep them between the two of us. However, He is teaching me that I need to humble myself before others and confess my struggles so they can go into battle by praying with me and for me.

There are some friends who won’t freak out and leave when I’m honest about my struggles. This one is a doosey, isn’t it? I wonder just how many of us, if we were being honest, will admit that we are terrified that if we allow someone to really see us and know our struggles, that they would cut their ties and run for the hills. There are several issues I want to address with this, several “non-truths” the enemy uses to keep us from being honest and vulnerable in our friendships. First, we believe that we are more deeply flawed than anyone else. We believe that no one struggles to the extent that we do and that there is something innately wrong with us. This is simply not true. Scripture tells us that our struggles are common to all humankind. (1 Cor. 10:13) Secondly, we convince ourselves that if we are honest about our struggles, our friends will think we are too messed up and they will leave us for another friend who isn’t as messed up as we are. Listen, sharing our struggles with our friends requires grace on both sides. As we share our struggles, we need to be ready and willing to offer our friends the same grace and acceptance that we hope to receive from them. This thing goes both ways. You have heard the old saying, “If you want a friend, you have to be a friend.” So true, so true. So when you decide to share your heart with someone, make sure that you are ready to treat your friend with the same measure of acceptance and grace you hope to receive.

It really does lessen the burden when it is shared. Learning this one has truly been a gift. First we are to take our burdens, struggles, sins, and heart’s concerns to Jesus. He beckons us to drop our loads of grief, anxiety, and fears onto Him and in doing so, we find our rest in Him. This I have known and have been practicing for quite some time. But what He is teaching me lately is that once I have given Him all of my worries and struggles, He also beckons me to share them with my friends. Here’s the secret: giving them to Jesus first makes it safe to share them with trusted friends. Don’t make the mistake of putting your friends in the place of Jesus. That’s unfair because just as you can’t be Jesus for your friends, neither can they be Jesus for you. However, once your heart is safely in the hands of your Savior, you can share your heart with others and the burden is lighter. What an amazing feeling to know that your friends are approaching God’s throne of grace to pray for you. It pleases our Father when we carry one another’s burdens. Isn’t that what family is for? 

Consider Paul. He was strong-willed, determined and focused. It seemed that nothing could deter him from serving Jesus; including anything from ridicule to physical beatings and imprisonments. He knew beyond a doubt that he had been rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light and that God had set him apart from birth for His glory. And yet, Paul chose not to go it alone. He chose to invest in a few friendships that would help him in his mission and help carry his load. He chose men who understood his passions and loved Jesus with the same fervor that he did. If Paul needed deep friendships, what makes us think we can go without?

-Adapted from “Rescued: A Journey from Darkness to Light” by Paulette Stamper

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