On The Sea and Me…

God is NOT the author of confusion.
He is the God of Peace – the “peace that passes understanding”.

My confusion comes when I try to figure it all out.
Make it make sense.
When I look ahead – whether that is hours, days, months or years ahead – and try to sort out all the pieces.
When I strain to see the future and how He is going to move, provide, and execute the plans.

Confusion also comes when I expect people to fulfill me.
ANY person
On ANY level
Because people are people.
Sinners like me.
With their own baggage.
Their own perceptions.
And their own struggles.

Yet I am constantly setting my expectations on people and circumstances.
Anticipating how things will turn out.
Working hard to make things go my way.
Looking ahead to how circumstances will be.
How people will respond, react and interact.
Always planning, seeking, wondering, asking, and yes, trying to control.

Happy when they (the people or the circumstances) go my way;
sad when they do not.

Anxious when I don’t see the way through;
at peace when I have perceived answers.

Glad when I feel loved;
mad, sad, disappointed and hurt when I do not.

But both people and circumstances are fickle.
Changeable.
Unsteady.
Unreliable.
They remind me of the Sea of Galilee as it is recorded in Scripture during the time of Jesus.

Calm one moment; windswept, stormy and unsafe the next.

Sometimes providing fulfillment in great catches of fish.
Other times not giving up one single thing that I need.

At times, a mirror of glass, useful as a microphone from the platform of a boat.
And at other times, a raging maelstrom seemingly bent on my destruction.

But there are two things that were (and are) true about the Sea of Galilee:
1. It doesn’t go away. It is there as an obstacle or a road, an object lesson or a source of resources, a tool to be used or challenge to be faced.

2. And it is always under the sovereign hand of Almighty God.

He controls the storms.
Allowing some.
Calming others.
Making the fishing fruitful or sparse.

These things are true about the Sea of Galilee.
They are also true about my life.

And my little vessel – my life – on this sea of circumstances and people?
It is always in His control as well.
Even when I grab the rudder to go my own way, He still is with me.
Still redeems the circumstance.
Still guides me back on course.

Even when the wind and waves are high, He is with me.
Sometimes speaking to them and causing them to still.
Sometimes using them to demonstrate His miraculous power.
Sometimes appearing to do nothing.
But always in complete control.
And always with my best interest at heart.

I cannot change the Sea.
It remains fickle.
Consistently inconsistent.

I cannot control the storms.
Sometimes I see them coming.
And sometimes they spring up out of nowhere.

I cannot even provide my own resources.
Sometimes the way He provides breaks the nets in the abundance.
And sometimes I fish all night and catch nothing.

I cannot control the people in my life.
How they respond.
What they do or do not do.

And I cannot control the circumstances around me.
The good or the bad.

But I can trust the Master of the Wind and Waves.
I can rest in His promises, knowing He will never allow me to drown.
I can relax in the boat, putting all of my expectations on Him.
And NONE on the people or circumstances of my life.

Remembering that if He is for me, who can be against me?
And because He loves me, nothing can separate me from Him. (Romans 8)

And when I do that, cool stuff happens.
Like miraculous catches of fish.
And walking on water.
Like storms suddenly stopping.
And the waters going from boat-swamping waves to a sheet of glass.
Sometimes immediately.
And sometimes after a while.

I can look back through the years of my life and see His hand over and over and over again.
And I can look ahead with my eyes firmly fixed on Him, knowing He has good in store for me.
Will storms come? Of course.
Will He be with me? Of course.
Will He use them for my good and His glory? Of course.

I can’t control the Sea.
But I can trust the One Who does.
And life is so much sweeter when I do.

Not on the outside – the Sea will be the Sea, regardless of me.
But on the inside.
I can have peace.
Not dependent on you.
Or them.
Or the circumstances.
What the future may or may not hold.

But simply because of Him.
The Master of the Wind and Waves.
And the God Who calls me “friend”.

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On Breathing…

I couldn’t breathe.
And it was terrifying.

It was in the recovery room after sinus surgery three, the most extensive one of them all.
You have three sets of sinus cavities in your face – your forehead, the bridge of your nose and your cheeks. This surgery had mucked with all three in an attempt to bring long-term relief.
So the packing in my face was extensive; literally layers of packing tucked from my forehead to my nostrils with a final piece of gauze taped across it all. No air was getting in that way.

And then, just as I was coming to consciousness, the nurse turned off the oxygen that was flowing into my mouth. But she forgot to remove the mask from my face.
I went from a steady flow of air to none.

She quickly realized what she had done as monitors blared.
But it was a terrifying way to wake up.

Thankfully that level of packing was only for the first 24 hours.
But it definitely gave me a deep, deep appreciation for breathing.

So what in the world does this have to do with spiritual things?

It’s about air.
And breathing.
And cutting off oxygen.

If you read last week’s blog, you know I have been reveling in the name of the Holy Spirit in the original languages: Ruach in Hebrew, Pneuma in Greek. Literally wind, breath or breeze.

And as I have been marinating in that Truth it struck me:
When I sin I am quite literally putting myself in the same danger I was in long ago in that recovery room.
I am cutting off the very air I breathe.

Am I saying that the Holy Spirit leaves the follower of Christ when we sin?
Absolutely not.

But when we choose to disobey God, we put a blockage between ourselves and Him.
Sin separates us from God.
Always has.
Always will.

And yes, Jesus died to take the penalty of my sin on the cross.
Someone always pays for sin by dying.
Either the sinner or Jesus.
So, for those of us who have chosen to put our faith in Christ, He has taken the ultimate punishment.
And He has given us the Holy Spirit as the power source for life, the change agent Who is working on us, refining us, making us more and more like Christ.

Scripture is very clear that we are literally saved from ourselves and our sin in stages.
The moment we accept Christ, we are justified before God.
He sees the penalty of our sin – past, present and future – as paid in full by the death of Jesus.
That’s why Paul told the church at Rome that “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

So we have been saved. Saved from the eternal consequences of our sin.
But we are also BEING saved as we walk with God in this Christian life.
The author of Hebrews put it this way: “Having been made perfect, we are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
I love that picture! I stand before God, complete and righteous because of Jesus.
I have been made perfect in His sight.
But I am being made holy as we go on together.
I am learning, growing, changing, transforming, becoming.

And then one day, one glorious day, we WILL BE saved.
For a follower of Jesus, the death of the body means entering an eternity with God.
And the struggle with sin will finally be over.
No more temptation.
No more mistakes.
No more wrestling.
We will finally be done with the struggle. Hallelujah!

So – back to the air we breathe.
In this life, as we are in the process of being saved, we have a choice about how hard that progression will be.
And that choice is all about surrender.
My will or His?
My glory or His?
My desires or His?
Yield to temptation? Or yield to His Spirit?

Paul told the Corinthians that “No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” (I Corinthians 10:13)

And he told the church at Philippi:
“So then, my dear ones, just as you have always obeyed [my instructions with enthusiasm], not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ]. For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

So you CAN resist the irresistible.
You CAN successfully fight temptation.
You CAN live a holy life.

It is all possible – because you have the Breath of God in your lungs.

But when you choose sin, you block His work.
When you choose disobedience, you cut off the very air supply that you desperately need.
He is still there – but you have rendered Him ineffective.
Just like the oxygen I needed was still in the air all around me in that recovery room – but it was blocked from my lungs.

That is why it is SO important to keep short accounts with God.
Because you will fail.
You will still sin.
You will give into temptation.
And He will not leave you when you do.
But His power supply to your life will be blocked.
And you are the only one who can remove the blockage.

That is why Paul told the church at Thessalonica, “Do not quench [subdue, or be unresponsive to the working and guidance of] the [Holy] Spirit.” (I Thessalonians 5:19)
We have the choice, day in and day out.
Breathe Him in, with all of His power and experience all of the fruit He brings – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

Or block His flow, quenching His work, cutting off the very air supply we need in order to live for Him by our own willful disobedience.

Choosing to keep short accounts with God will not make Him love you more.
“But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

But keeping your life free from sin so that the Breath of God can move freely in your life?
That will give you the abundant life Jesus promised in John 10.

You have the quantity of life either way – eternity with God because you are a Christ-follower.
The question is, what is the quality of your life with Him?
That part is entirely up to you.

The Wind of God

We have been friends for a long, long time.
In fact, I have known him most of my life.
I met him when at age four.
But even though I have known him all this time, it was only a couple of weeks ago that I learned his name.

Or, more accurately, the meaning of his real name.
I had always been taught that He is the “Holy Spirit”.
Or, in some translations, the “Holy Ghost”.

He has been a mystery at best.

But He longs for us to know Him.
He reveals Himself to us.
He doesn’t long to be distant – He longs to be close.
For us to really grapple with and grasp His incredible love for us – and the gifts that He gives. The comfort He brings. The ways He fights for us. And the ways He shapes us.

And knowing His real name has brought me a little closer to actually understanding a bit more that intimacy that He desires.

I can’t take credit for figuring out His name.
It was in a sermon by Chris Hodge from Church of the Highlands.
But oh, what a light bulb this has turned on in my life!

See, the first translators of the Bible had a problem.
When they got to the word Hebrew word “Ruach” in the Old Testament and the Greek word “Pneuma” in the New, they figured they couldn’t call Him literal meaning: the “Holy Wind” or “Holy Breath”. So instead, they called Him the “Holy Spirit” or “Holy Ghost”.

But I understand “wind of God” or “breath of God” SO much better than I do “spirit” or “ghost”.

Chris had four points in his sermon about the Holy Spirit or “Holy Wind of God”. He said that the wind is:
Invisible
Powerful
Unpredictable (and)
Refreshing.

So how has knowing this literal meaning of His name changed me?
I am not sure I can put it into words, but I have to try.

The Holy Spirit is literally the air I breathe.
I don’t mean God is in the combo of oxygen and hydrogen that fills my lungs.
But I do mean that He is the very source of the breath of my body.
So since I have learned His true name, it has changed how I deal with a sticky problem or a stuck thought.
I close my eyes and take a deep physical breath, while asking Him to fill me with the spiritual oxygen that I need to face the issue.
And then I exhale, releasing the problem into His almighty hands.
It is a recipe for instant peace.
And I do it every time that problem or thought invades my thinking.
Over and over again if I need to.
But what is amazing is that the more I do it, the less I need to do it. It is easier to let it go – and let it be gone – even for me, the semi-pro worrier!

It is what God told the prophet Zechariah when He said, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)
I cannot solve one tiny thing in my life – let alone the big stuff.
But the Spirit of the Living God, the very Breath of God, most certainly can.
And when I release the problem into His hands, He is able to do “exceedingly, abundantly” in my life. (Ephesians 3:20)
When I choose to do a holy exhale, both literally and figuratively, I am putting into practice what Paul told the Philippians when he said, “Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for what He has done. And the peace of God will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7-8, Kathy’s version)

And that’s just one difference it has made.
I knew those Truths before. But putting them into practice has become easier.  Here’s another:

As Chris pointed out, the wind is powerful.
It can be downright destructive at times.
And I have asked the Wind of God to blow through my heart, knocking down the idols that dwell there and cleaning all the dust and cobwebs out of every corner.
Because it is super easy for me to be a “professional Christian”.
Certain behavior is expected of me because of my job.
Time in the Word of God.
Time in prayer – or at least saying I will pray about something.
Lots of time at the church.
And all the right answers and actions – at least when someone is watching.
Way, way too easy to slip into professional mode and not be real.
In the good or the bad.
And my heart so easily becomes dusty.
Going through the motions.
Saying and doing the right things.
Which is great.
But doing them without my heart in them.
Which is not great.
It is a recipe for ultimate failure if left that way.

So I have been asking the Wind of God to be a powerful leaf blower in my life.
Knocking down what He wants to knock down.
Blowing out the door what needs to go.
Sweeping through like a Holy Tornado when that is what I need.

And He has.
He has shown me an idol I didn’t even realize was sitting on the throne of my heart.
A good desire that had grown out of proportion and was out of submission to the will of the Most High God.
I have asked Him to blow that sucker off the throne every time it tries to slip back on it.
And He has.
He stops me in my tracks when the thought tries to creep back in.
And with a mighty puff it is knocked back down from decision-making influencer to what it is, an unfulfilled desire to place back into His hands.

I don’t know what kind of relationship you have with the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps you have never actually met Him. You know about God and the things of God but you have never surrendered your life, never accepted that you need Jesus to be the only Way for salvation. Knowing about Him – God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is not the same as being in relationship with Him. One simple prayer of surrender can change that for you – but it is up to you.

Perhaps, like me, you were raised in a church that seemed to say “Father! Son! And (in a whisper) Holy Spirit??” Easy for us to understand, at least in theory, what it means to be The Father and The Son. Difficult to grasp the Holy Spirit – and kind of scary, too – so you lock Him in a box labeled “God doesn’t work that way today” and leave Him there. I would challenge you to ask the Breath of God to breathe understanding of Who He really is into your life. Don’t take my word for it – Go to His Word to find out Who He is.

Or perhaps you have swung the other way and live your life fueled by spiritual emotion. Happiness when you “feel the Spirit”; sadness when you do not. Joy when He does the things you want Him to do and disbelief when He shows that He is, indeed, not predictable. He is very, very good – but He is not tame. You, too, have a box but yours is labeled “God = My Feelings About Him”. Again, I would challenge you to ask Him to show you who He really is, outside of your feelings and even outside of your experiences. Take Him at His Word, not yours.

Maybe you have a healthy understanding of Who He is and His role in the life of a Christ-follower.

I don’t know.
But my prayer for both of us today is that we would invite Him to reveal Himself to us more and more.
Not as we want Him to be.
But as He is revealed in the pages of Scripture.
Not viewed through the lens of a certain denomination or theological grid.
But Who God says God is.
And then that we would allow Him to have His way.
To be the air we breathe.
To be the invisible source of all our strength.
To be the powerful change agent in our lives.
To be as unpredictable as He wants to be, working things out for His glory and our good.
And to be a refreshing breeze, the renewed wind in your sails as you journey with Him.

He longs for you to know Him intimately. Will you let that happen?

Hanging Out In the Tomb

It was a hurried job.
It had to be.
The sun was already low in the sky and soon would set.
And when it did, the Sabbath would begin and all work would cease.
Even the heartbreaking work of burying the Messiah.

They were shocked that Pilate had agreed to give them the body.
After all, people who were crucified were never buried.
Instead, their bodies were thrown onto the garbage dump outside the city, a testament to their place in society as convicted criminals and a warning to all to avoid their fate.

But money talks.
Or perhaps it was the shame Pilate felt for crucifying a man he knew was innocent.
Or even the shock that someone as rich as Joseph and as powerful among the Jews as Nicodemus had asked for the body at all.

For whatever reason, Pilate agreed to hand the body over to these men, just as God planned.
The soldiers reversed the order of what they had previously done, lowering the execution stake to the ground, prying out the three nails and pushing his dead weight off the cross and onto the ground.

Nicodemus and Joseph worked as quickly as they could. They hastily wrapped him in long strips of cloth from the neck down, using a paste of oil and spices to bind the strips together, the cloth sticking to his battered flesh. And then they carried him to Joseph’s own tomb, carved out of the rock of the hillside.

When they got to the tomb, they reverently laid his body on the hard shelf of rock and covered his face with a square of linen. Then someone – or many someones — leveraged the stone into place, finishing before the sun went down.

And it was done.
The work of burying the Son of God.

But then Sunday came.
The woman arrived with more spices to redo the hasty job, wanting to honor their Lord.
And they found their work unnecessary.
Because the greater work had already been done.

They didn’t understand what their eyes were seeing until the angel explained it to them.
“He is not here! He is risen! Go and tell his disciples!”

And they ran with joyful hearts to share the news.
Except the disciples did not believe them.
Peter and John dashed to the tomb to see for themselves.

And there they found the grave clothes piled neatly on the stone slab, with the linen square that had covered his face neatly folded and off to the side.

No strips of cloth could hold the Messiah.
And unlike Lazarus, he had not needed human help to unwrap his body.

No door of stone could hold him in the grave.
And while he did not need it rolled away for his sake – after all, he could walk through walls with his newly resurrected body – it was pushed aside for our sake, for the sake of the world, to show that the tomb was empty.
—-
As I meditated on these facts, the accounts from Scripture about the resurrection, I was reminded of the many verses in the New Testament that say that I, as a Christ-follower, have been crucified with him.

But they also say that I have been raised with him as well.

In his letter to the church at Colossae, Paul puts it this way:
“Therefore if you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, sharing in His resurrection from the dead], keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3, AMP)

And it struck me anew.

I have been raised with Christ to a new life.
The old has gone, the new has come. (I Corinthians 5)
The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me. (Ephesians 1)
I have been given everything I need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1)
There is no condemnation for me because I am in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8)

These are facts.
Things I know in my head to be Truth.

So why, oh why, do I tend to hang out in the empty tomb?
Why do you?

Instead of going all in with our new lives in Christ, we try to mix in the old life with the new.

We have been clothed with His righteousness.
But we act like we are still bound by strips of cloth.
We excuse our actions with phrases like, “I can’t help it, that’s just who I am” – when who we are is a completely new creation.
And instead of “taking every thought captive to Christ” we bind ourselves with grave clothes to old thought patterns, old lies that the enemy has long whispered in our ears.
Instead of digging into the Bible to find out His thoughts, we fill our heads with meme theology and musical phraseology – things that may or may not match His Word.

We have been made a glorious fragrance in the nostrils of God (2 Corinthians 2).
But we drape ourselves with stained and stinky grave clothes.
We mix what God has said in His Word with what we wish He had said and try to live in that middle ground. And our fragrance becomes muddled, the decay of the old mixed with hints of the new life, a nauseating, hypocritical stench.

We have been offered the adventure of a lifetime, following God into the great unknown, launching out into the deep with Him.
But we prefer to hang out in the empty tomb, afraid of what might happen if we dare to trust Him.
It feels safer there.
The cost might be too great.
He might ask us to take heartbreaking risks.
He might require us to actually live what we say we believe.
To rest on His promises.
To agree with Him that “in this world we will have trouble” but that He has “overcome the world.” (John 16)

The angel asked the women, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
And I ask myself, “Kathy, why do you respond like the dead when you are really one of the living?”

Why do you doubt God’s promises?
Why do you fear?
Why do you question His love for you?
Why do you not access the power He has given?
Why do you choose to believe the lie that “He is not good and does not know what He is doing”?
Why do you so often try to take the controls from His hands?

The very place where you choose to hang out, the place where you wallow in the old and do not embrace the new, the place where you see the power but refuse to access it – this very place proves the answer to all of those questions.

Because the tomb is empty, it is proof that God keeps His promises.
Because the tomb is empty, it is proof that there is NOTHING to fear.
Because the tomb is empty, it is proof that God loves us more than we can ever comprehend.
Because the tomb is empty, we have the power to go all in for Him.
Because the tomb is empty, we can choose to believe what He says and reject the lies of the enemy.
Because the tomb is empty, we can trust Him to control every single part of life, no holds barred.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hang out in the tomb.

I want the adventure of following God with my whole heart.
Without fear.
Leaving the old behind.
And constantly living in the new.
I want to walk out – and stay out – of the tomb of the old and into the vibrant life of the new.
Clothed in His righteousness.
Walking in His power.
Smelling of His goodness, grace and glory.

It’s a moment by moment decision, by the way.
A constant surrender.
Empowered by His indwelling Spirit.
A heartbeat to heartbeat choice. And the only way to really live!

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

MY kingdom come, my will be done:
I am defined by my statistics. I am a woman. A middle-aged woman. A white, middle-aged woman. A white, middle-aged, single woman. A white middle-aged, single, American woman.

These things are the core of who I am.

So, since I am a woman, I need to be beautiful as defined by my culture. Sexy. Alluring. Dressing provocatively. Constantly managing every part of my appearance.

Since I am a middle-aged woman, I need to keep all the signs of aging away. I must pull out all the stops to keep my body from showing the years it has lived.

Since I am a single woman, I must hunt for Mr. Right, manipulating my circumstances and the people around me so that I can achieve “happily ever after”.

Since I am an American woman, I must pick sides on all issues, preferably in line with those I love or those who look like me or those I socialize with regularly. I must scream and shout and stomp my feet to persuade others who don’t think as I do that they are wrong.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done:
My first and most vital definition of me is not who I am but Whose I am.
I am a follower of Jesus Christ, The Way, The Truth and The Life.
I am forgiven, set free, and empowered to live a holy life.
I am a beautiful creation of The Most High God, designed and crafted by Him for specific purposes and good works that He has prepared in advance.
I am not a citizen of this world but a temporary traveler, simply passing through.

All other labels I wear – woman, white, single, American – are not filters for my life.
They are facts – but they are miniscule, virtually unimportant facts when stacked next to my identity in Christ.

And when I center my life on Whose I am, everything changes.
I still want to be beautiful. But I want to be more consumed with my inner beauty than my outer.
I still want to be married (well, sometimes) but I am more consumed by doing the will of God than finding some definition of happiness.
I still am a white American – things I had no choice over. But while those things inform my experience, they do not define me, my actions or my responses.

MY kingdom come, my will be done:
I am defined by my successes and failures.
A college degree means I am smart.
But the lack of a Master’s Degree means I am not quite smart enough.

The number on the scale or the number in the waist band of my jeans is the greatest measure of my success as a human being.
Followed closely by the number on my paycheck.

How many people know my name defines my success as an author.
And getting people to know my name drives everything I do.

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done:
I want to do my best, I want “success”.
But not for my sake.
I want to do my best so that I can shine for the King.
And “success” is not defined by me. But it is defined by Him.
Not based on my feelings but on His Word.
Not based on your opinion, perceptions or thoughts but on His standard.
And definitely not measured by any degree, certificate, number or title.
I already bear the title of Beloved Princess, Daughter of the King of Kings.
And that is where I find my greatest success – in surrendering to Him.

MY kingdom come, my will be done:
I am impatient and unkind – even if it is only in my head. I’ll put on the fake smile and the fake nice words because it is expected.

I envy what you have, knowing I deserve it more than you. So I boast in what I do have to show that I am better than you.

I don’t seek to honor you, because if I honor you, I have to take a back seat.

I don’t value you so I am overly sensitive, touchy and easily offended. If you don’t see the world my way you are obviously an idiot at best and most likely completely evil.

Therefore, I must keep score. I must remember everything you have done to wrong me and I must make sure it never happens again.

When I see you fall, when I see you sin, I am secretly glad. That means that I am better than you.

And if I share a tidbit about you here or there that doesn’t quite tell the whole tale but makes me look better than you, so be it.

I will always protect me.
I will always trust me.
I will always put my hope in me.
And I will throw away any relationship that doesn’t make me happy.

Because, obviously, I need to look after me.
If I don’t, who will?
I need to manage it all.
My looks, my reputation, even my personality.
Not to mention my money and my stuff.
If I step on you to get ahead, too bad. You should have gotten out of my way.

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done:
“Love endures with patience and serenity,
love is kind and thoughtful,
and is not jealous or envious;
love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant.
It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered];
it does not take into account a wrong endured.
It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail].
Love bears all things [regardless of what comes],
believes all things [looking for the best in each one],
hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times],
endures all things [without weakening]. (I Corinthians 13)”

Whose kingdom shall I live for?
Which one works best?
Which one leads to the best outcomes?
My will?
Or His?
What about you?
Which Kingdom? The choice is yours.

On the Burning of Notre Dame…

Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire yesterday.
Some of it was salvaged.
Some of it was obliterated.

My news feed blew up as it happened.
People posting about when they had visited.
Or how they wished they had visited.
Its history.
Its beauty.
Its grandeur.

And I agree, it is very sad to see a landmark that has been around since the 1200’s destroyed. Or at least badly damaged.

But the thought that reverberates in my mind and heart is this:
It was going to burn one day, no matter what. It was simply a matter of timing.

The Bible is very clear that this world is NOT eternal.
God will destroy it Himself when the time is right.
John saw it happen in the final vision recorded in Scripture in Revelation 21:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away (vanished), and there is no longer any sea.”

ALL of it will be gone – to be replaced by the new heaven and new earth.
All of the structures, both man-made and God-made.
All the things we treasure – houses and cars and clothes and jewelry and jobs and hobbies.
All of it.

But there is one eternal thing: people.
And there are two eternal destinies: heaven or hell.
Heaven for those who have declared their need for God, their inability to save themselves from their sin.
And hell for all those who have made themselves or something else their god, putting their faith in anything other than Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross.

So, while I think it is sad that Notre Dame burned, I am far, far more concerned about these facts, these things that are happening TODAY:

In Guatemala, twenty-one sexual abuse cases are reported each day. (Unicef, quoted in the March CAG newsletter)
And 10,000 rapes reported there annually. (And those are the ones that are reported!) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence_against_women_in_Guatemala

In Nigeria, from February through mid-March of this year, 280 people in Christian communities were killed in attacks by Boko Haram. https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/world/hundreds-of-christians-killed-in-nigeria-attacks

And across the world, in the past year:

4,136: Christians killed for faith-related reasons
2,625: Christians detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned
11: countries scoring in the “extreme” level for their persecution of Christians. Five years ago, North Korea was the only one.
(From Open Doors, opendoorsusa.com)

And right here in Charles County, Maryland, the place where I live, the stats say that there are over 32,000 people age 18 and under who do not know Jesus.

What is a girl (or guy) to do?
I am just one person in the middle of a tremendous need.
Just one.

But I am warrior.
Outfitted by the King of all Kings with armor that will not fail.
Eternal salvation as my helmet.
The breastplate of HIS righteousness guarding my heart.
Held together by HIS Truth around my waist.
My feet covered in preparation to take His message wherever He sends.
And the sword of His Word to battle the enemy of our souls and all his minions
But most of all, privileged to use the glue that holds it all together: prayer.
(Ephesians 6)

And so I fight.
I fight on my knees.
But I also fight with my wallet.
Giving first to my home church.
But then to those around the world who are being His hands and feet where I cannot go.

I fight on my knees.
But I also engage with others who don’t know Him, inviting them to find out more, showing them by my love how life was meant to be lived.
An invitation to church.
A cup of coffee shared.
A listening ear and a warm hug.
Loving them where they are – but speaking the Truth in love, helping them to the next step in their walk towards Him.

I fight on my knees.
I fight my own forgetfulness, striving to remember that only people are eternal.
I fight my selfishness, striving to put others’ interests ahead of my own agenda.
I fight my fear, striving to stand on the promises of God even when my eyes fail and my feet falter.

I am only one.
In a world filled with needs.
Filled with hurt.
Filled with horrors.

But I am not alone.
I stand on the side of the God Who Was and Is and Is To Come.
I fight for the cause of the Lamb of God, who was slain.
And I walk in the power of the fact that He did not stay dead but is the Risen, Living Lord.

What will you do this week, even though you are only one?
Will you invite that unsaved family member or friend to join you for Easter services?
Will you reach out in undeserved kindness to the unlovely person you know?
Will you forgive the unforgivable?
Will you fight on your knees, praying for those who don’t know Him?
Will you temper your words, guard your mouth and speak only the Truth in love?
Will you use your earthly goods for eternal causes, for the things that will not burn?

Because you and I are only one.
But imagine what would happen if each of us did whatever it is God is calling us to do for whoever He puts in our paths.
God used 11 men who fled in fear before the cross to transform the world after the resurrection.

How will He use you to do the same?

1 x Broken = A World Transformed

I bet more than one person out of 5,000 men plus women and kids packed a lunch that day.
Or at least grabbed something to nibble on later as they pursued Jesus.

No, they didn’t expect to have a gathering in the wilderness.
It happened quite spontaneously.
They spotted Jesus and his disciples and followed them to the middle of nowhere.

Poor Jesus was just trying to get some time alone with His Dad.
He had just gotten the news that Herod had killed his friend, cousin and coworker, John the Baptist.
But the crowd spotted his direction, word spread like wildfire and suddenly the gathering was greater than 5,000 people.
So Jesus did what He did best.
He laid aside His need and ministered to the people in front of Him.

And at the end of the day, the people were hungry.
So the disciples said, “Send them away so they can eat.”
But in the midst of that sea of humanity Jesus directed, “You feed them.”
And they found that their only available resource was one lunch.

I am guessing there was more food tucked away in bundles here or there.
A snack at least.
But we know that only one boy was willing to share one meal with one Savior.

One boy.
One lunch.
And one willing heart.

So little in the face of such a great need.
Thousands upon thousands of hungry bodies.
Attached to even hungrier souls.

And I love what Jesus did.
Even more, I love what He did NOT do.
Think about it.
Jesus could have handled the need for food in so many ways.
After all, He spoke the world into existence.
So He could have spoken table upon table of food into being.
He could have said the word and a plate of food could have shown up in each hand.
He could have thought a bundle of bread and fish into existence for each family there.

But that’s not how it went down.

He took the power of one.
One lunch.
And He broke it.
So that He could multiply it.

When I break things, they get smaller.
The whole stays the same but the pieces diminish in size.

But that is not what happens when Jesus does the breaking.
Instead of the whole decreasing, it exponentially increases.

In God’s economy, brokenness equals expansion.

And not just with five barley loaves and two fish.
But over and over again in Scripture the broken pieces – the broken people – become a multiplied return when they yield to the hands of God.

A stuttering murderer named Moses becomes the spokesperson for God before Pharaoh.
A coward in hiding named Gideon becomes the leader of the nation of Israel.
A widow from a despised nation, Ruth, becomes the great-grandma of King David – and the great, great, great (etc.) grandma of Jesus!

And that’s just a few from the Old Testament!

In the New, Saul the persecutor of the Church becomes Paul, the premiere ambassador of the gospel.
Peter, the hotheaded, uneducated fisherman becomes the esteemed leader of the Church.
And it is out of Stephen’s murder that the early Church rapidly spread, fleeing persecution and yet sharing God’s love as they fled.

That’s the power of one broken thing – one broken person – in the hands of a multiplying God.

As Paul wrote, God uses the foolish things to teach the so-called wise. (I Corinthians 1:27)
The weak to shame the strong.
He uses the broken things to let His light shine through the cracks.
He uses the jars of clay – us – to hold eternal glory and the amazing message of grace. (2 Corinthians 4)

I don’t know how many lunches were actually in the crowd the day that Jesus fed the 5,000+.
Maybe there really was only one.

But I do know this – it was the willingness of the young boy to share what he had with Jesus that made the difference.
His lunch wasn’t grand.
And he was just a kid.

But he had the critical piece, the thing that God can use the most.
He was willing.
Willing to be useful.
Willing to be used.
Willing to offer what he had so that it could be broken in the hands of the Master.

That boy had no idea what Jesus would do with his offering.
All he knew was that Jesus was worthy of the gift.

I don’t know about you, but I feel very, very small in light of the issues plaguing our world.
Pick an issue.
Pick a country.
It’s everywhere. In varying degrees.

Poverty.
Trafficking.
Persecution of believers.
Corrupt governments.
Substance abuse.
Injustice.
And 2,500 of the world’s 6,500 people groups with NO knowledge of the gospel at all.

So much need.
It’s so overwhelming.
Makes me want to run away and hide.
Be the two-year old with his hands over his face who thinks you can’t see him because he can’t see you.
Be the ostrich with its head in the sand.
Shutting down.
Shutting out.
And saying, “I’m just one person. One broken, flawed, sinful person with limited resources. There is nothing I can do.”

And without God in the equation, that would be a true statement.
But with God?
I offer Him me.
Solitary, very-much-one-of-billions, insufficient, sinful me.
I bring Him my lack.
My inability to meet the need.
I offer Him my brokenness.
My failures.
My selfish heart.
And my sinful nature.
I offer Him me.

And He does what He does.
As my determination to direct my own steps is broken, He multiplies my territory, bringing me to new adventures with Him.
As my heart is broken over this world, He multiplies my prayer life – and my willingness to do whatever it takes to be useful for Him.
As my selfishness is broken, He multiplies His love in my heart, giving me His eyes to see the needs and His strength to do whatever He is calling me to do.
As my will is broken and comes into conformity to His, He multiplies my impact on the world.

Five loaves and two fish, broken in the hands of the Master, satisfied the hunger of thousands that day.

One life, broken in the hands of the Master, can change the world this day.

And tomorrow.
And the day after that.
If we will give over what we have.
Allow Him to do the breaking.
And then watch as He multiplies the result.