Slave AND Apostle

2 Peter 1

This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ.

I am writing to you who share the same precious faith we have. This faith was given to you because of the justice and fairness of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior.

IMG_5056Simon’s life was radically changed when he responded to Jesus’ command to follow Him. On that day, by the Sea of Galilee, Simon Peter obeyed the Lord immediately. Along with his brother, Andrew, he left his net and went with Jesus to become fishers of men (Mark 1:16-17).

Peter, like every disciple of Jesus was not without sin. In fact, scripture details many of his failures. (Poor guy!)

  • He sank when walking on the water.
  • He refused to believe, when Jesus said He would be crucified and resurrected on the third day.
  • Jesus rebuked Satan in him.
  • He told Jesus he couldn’t wash his feet (then he begged him to clean his hands and head too!)
  • He cut a man’s ear off.
  • He denied knowing Jesus. Three times.

But, Jesus.

Jesus.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, He redeemed Peter’s denials by asking if he loved Him. Three times. And He gave Peter- the apostle- his assignment:

Feed My lambs.

Take care of My sheep.

Feed My sheep.

Then the Savior of the world once again commanded Peter to follow Him (John 2:19). After waiting for the gift Jesus promised, Peter was baptized with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and received power to fulfill his mission. Peter obeyed immediately.

Peter was a follower who became a disciple of Jesus. He ate, drank, walked, talked, and asked questions of the Lord. He received instruction, correction, rebuke, & training. Yes. Peter screwed up. Yes. Peter sinned. Yes. Peter returned to Jesus. And, yes. Peter was forgiven.

During his discipleship journey with the Savior, Peter learned to be a slave. Not a slave who is abused, but one who knows and submits to their Master, regardless of the cost. Peter remained a slave as he began his ministry as an apostle.

Follower.

Disciple.

Slave.

Apostle.

Follower? Today’s church gets excited about following Jesus to find out what He can do for us. Who wouldn’t want to be healed, raised from the dead, or free from demons? As a follower, we may see the miracles that glorify the Father in heaven, but what we really want is for them to benefit us here on earth.

Follower?

Sure.

Disciple? Well…that’s gonna require more than just a Sunday morning experience. Do we really want the Holy Spirit to fill us with His power? Sounds a bit scary. We couldn’t be in control. I mean, common’ – we may look like drunk idiots to people around us if we start speaking in unknown tongues or prophesying! Being a disciple means we’d have to drop our nets that may be full of all kinds of “fish” that we worship (spouse, kids, hobbies, that brand new car, social media, our intellect, our beauty). Disciples eat, drink, walk, talk and ask questions of the Lord. Disciples receive instruction, correction, rebuke, & training.

Disciple?

Too hard.

Slave? Um…..seriously? A slave gives up all their rights to the Master. Their flesh is crucified. They choose to obey- regardless of the cost. They submit willingly to the One who bought them at a high price. A slave serves their Master, until death.

Slave?

Impossible.

Apostle? Well…the bible tells us to “go, make disciples.” We’re supposed to DO the work of the ministry, right? God has given us gifts to accomplish it. Jesus said we’d cast out demons and heal the sick – these things and more! The truth is, many may be called to ministry, but few choose to follow Peter’s example of being a slave and apostle. The many will be dumbfounded when they stand before the Judge and hear “depart from me….I never knew you,” instead of hearing “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Follower.

Disciple.

Slave.

and Apostle.

(in that order)

My friend,

Come, follow me, as I follow Jesus. I will show you how to eat, drink, walk, talk and ask questions of the Lord. I will show you how to receive instruction, correction, rebuke, & training. I will pray with you to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. I will walk beside you as a fellow disciple and slave. And we will become fishers of men, together. Ready to drop your net …and go?!

Deep Grief

James 4:7-10 New Living Translation (NLT)

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

IMG_6986Although I was raised in a Christian home, attended Sunday school, church services, VBS and youth group, I didn’t believe in the Lord until I was 9 months pregnant with our first child. Feeling like a beached whale lying on our bed, waves of tears streamed down my face as the reality of my separation from God began to crash over me. I knew I was completely unworthy of being loved and forgiven. Yet, at the urging of my husband, I poured out my sorrow to the Lord, confessed my sin, and proclaimed His Kingdom come, His will be done in my life.

It was many years later that my soul experienced the deep grief James speaks of. Like a child, I had been sorry for getting in trouble with my heavenly Father. I was even sorrowful for my disobedience…but I never felt grief.

Getting past the obligatory “I’m sorry” takes a depth of humility that only comes through continual submission to the Lord. When we humble ourselves in the light of His glory, we choose to surrender our will so that we can come close to Him. When He comes close to us, the power of His living water begins to pour over our filthy hands and the intense heat of His all-consuming fire purifies our hearts. His truth exposes the lies that are hidden within the dark places of our soul, proving that we are divided between our worship of Him -and the world. When we SEE the object of our worship, we realize our sin nailed Him to that cross. Tears drip down our face, like the blood that dripped from the thorny crown upon His head. Sorrow pierces our soul like the spear that pierced His side.

Then death comes, followed by deep grief.

Confession, which is simply admitting sin, brings tears and sorrow. But, repentance, which is acknowledging that our sin produces death, brings deep grief.

Jesus died for our sin. He overcame death. By believing in Him, trusting Him, loving Him and obeying Him, we can have LIFE- eternally and in abundance.

Are you stuck in a continual cycle of confessing sin?

Have you been doing all the “right” religious things (Sunday school, church services, VBS and youth group) to try and stop?

Have you shed a few tears?

Have you felt sorrow (distress, disappointment) over your actions?

Then do you sin….again?

My fellow disciple,

Tears and sorrow won’t deliver you from evil. JESUS is the deliverer. You must confess and repent of the sin that is lurking deep within your soul. Trust me, God will give you the grace to do so, if you humble yourself (James 4: 6).

YOURSELF.

Humble yourself.

No one else can do it for you. Not your spouse, not your friend, not your pastor.

When you humble yourself, confess and repent, the Holy Spirit will enable you to resist the devil and he WILL flee! You will draw close to God and He WILL draw near to you! There WILL be tears and sorrow and deep grief for your rebellion! There WILL be sadness and gloom. But, God WILL lift you up in honor!

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

Thorns, Cares & Riches

Matthew 13:22 (KJV)

 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Every summer, when I was a little girl, my mother would require my older sister and I to weed “the hill.”

Begrudgingly, we’d wake up in the wee morning hours to avoid the heat of the Southern California sun at midday, put on our garden gloves and start digging & pulling thorns out from the MASSIVE hill. (I may over-exaggerate a bit….but when you’re a kid, everything seems MASSIVE doesn’t it?!)

After several days of digging & pulling, “the hill” would be restored to its original beautiful landscape.

But you know what? By the next summer, we’d be out there digging & pulling MORE stinkin’ thorns!

Ugh.

Such is the case with children of God. We get saved and God gives us a glimpse of the beautiful landscape that He has planned for our lives. We soon discover, however, that as we seek His Kingdom, He begins to reveal hidden thorns that the enemy has planted on our hill! Yet, by His grace, we can believe His promise to deliver us and we can wake up in the wee morning hours, put on our garden gloves, and ask Him to start digging & pulling the cares & riches out!

Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek word for cares as merimna: “to draw in different direction, distract…that which causes a care, especially an anxious care.” Cares of the world can be any thorn the enemy plants in our mind that convinces us to believe a lie, instead of God’s truth. We can be distracted and anxious over our marriage, our children, our friends, our position at work, our position in the church- all of which choke out the Word, as people & position become more important to us than our Lord and Savior. Cares believe the lie that without the relationship or position, we won’t be loved or accepted. In short, we’ll be abandoned and alone.

Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek word for riches as pluotos: “wealth, money, possessions, abundance…used evilly.” Basically, it’s any tangible thing that we own which was obtained with a greedy heart. Riches believe the lie that God will not provide everything we need. It justifies “wants” as “needs.”

Our church just finished a sermon series on The Parables of the Four Soils in Matthew 13. Although it isn’t yet summer here in North Carolina (even though some days it feels like it!), the seed that I received from those teachings encouraged me to wake up in the wee morning hours, put on my garden gloves, and dig into the rich soil of God’s Word. I’ve come to realize that the enemy’s thorns will continue trying to choke out Truth to keep His Spirit from producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in my life. BUT, I don’t need to worry, because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. His Spirit will lead me into all Truth. When I seek Him, I will find Him. When I ask Him, He will reveal any cares of this world & deceitfulness of riches that have taken root in my soul. When I confess my sin to Him, He will forgive me. And if that weren’t enough, He’ll even restore my hill to its intended beauty.

Is your life producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any hidden thorns that are choking out His Word. Confess, repent and forgive for believing the lies associated with cares & riches. Choose to trust God in all things- and watch as He restores the landscape of your life into His intended beauty.

Something New

Isaiah 43:19 

For I am about to do something new.

See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?

I will make a pathway through the wilderness.

I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

cropped-img_2016.jpg

It’s a new year.

As the world makes resolutions to change old habits, I’ve been waiting in the wasteland for God to do something new. I don’t quite see “it” yet, but my spirit knows that He’s making a pathway through the wilderness. As I continue to seek His will for my life, my corrective lenses are beginning to focus on His Kingdom, instead of my own. Perhaps that’s just “it.” Perhaps the key element in seeing what He’s already begun is just a slight shift of focus away from the old things. Perhaps simply looking up changes my sight.

Psalm 121:1-2

I look up to the mountains—

does my help come from there? 

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth!

I didn’t deny or neglect the wasteland, however. Instead, I chose to trust God and go THROUGH it with Him. It was barren. It was hot. I felt isolated. I felt abandoned. I longed for refreshing. I lacked patience. I was angry. I expressed grief. Some judged me. Others accused me. But I discovered a powerful truth that has become a rock on which I stand:

Jesus was with me.

And He is with me still.

When I was thirsty, He gave me a drink.

When I was afraid, He protected me.

When I felt alone, He comforted me.
Without the wilderness, I wouldn’t have known Him in a deeper way.

Without the wasteland, I wouldn’t have known the need for the river.

Without going back to the old things, I wouldn’t be looking forward to something new!

This week, after following the advice of a friend, I decided to change our internet provider. Somewhat begrudgingly I chose to go with something new, which meant I was also going to have to get rid of the old. New email addresses had to be created. Passwords had to be updated. Promotions had to be surveyed. Phone calls had to be made. Appointments had to be scheduled. A technician had to make a house call. Cable jacks had to be installed. Chords had to be unplugged and re-routed. Furniture had to be moved. New Wi-Fi passwords had to be entered. Old passwords had to be deleted. Services had to be installed. Services had to be cancelled. And of course, bills had to be paid.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely.

It wasn’t open-heart surgery. None of it was hard to do. But it did take time, talent and treasure to get it done.

By embracing the new, rivers were created in the wasteland: no more buffering, no more loading, no more re-setting the router, no more lost signals!!!!

Newer. Faster. Cheaper.

Of course it was all worth it.

And so it is in the Kingdom of God. He exchanges death for life. Bondage for freedom. Beauty for ashes. Strength for fear. Gladness for mourning. Peace for despair.

Old for new.

Are you in a wilderness, my friend? Ask the Lord to show you where He is. And chose to stay with Him for as long as it takes to see Him create rivers in the dry wasteland.

It’ll be worth it.

Philippians 1:6

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

On the way

Exodus 4:24-26

24 On the way to Egypt, at a place where Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the Lord confronted him and was about to kill him. 25 But Moses’ wife, Zipporah, took a flint knife and circumcised her son. She touched his feet[a] with the foreskin and said, “Now you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” 26 (When she said “a bridegroom of blood,” she was referring to the circumcision.) After that, the Lord left him alone.

Wait. What? The Lord confronted Moses and was about to kill him?!?

Moses had seen the burning bush.

Moses had heard God’s call to deliver the Israelites from slavery.

Moses had seen evidence of God’s power when his staff turned into a serpent!

And Moses was on his way to Egypt to fulfill his purpose.

But, before he could face Pharaoh and lead his people to freedom, Moses needed to face the failure to lead his family. Even though the terms of the covenant that God made with Israel was hundreds of years old, it still applied to Moses. Before he could deliver the 10 commandments, Moses needed to obey God’s command.

When confronted by the Lord, Moses must have turned to his helpmate in shock and disbelief. But instead of surrendering to fear, Zipporah fulfilled the requirements of the law by submitting to her husband- and his Lord. She literally took the knife into her own hands and circumcised their son!

Then the great I AM fulfilled His first promise: Moses’s brother, Aaron, met him at the mountain of God on the way to Egypt.

IMG_4379From the beginning of creation, God has chosen married men to lead His people to “lands flowing with milk and honey.” But He doesn’t call them to go to Egypt alone. Instead, He makes a helper suitable for their journey. And since He is a loving Father, when His sons fail to lead their family, He confronts them on the way to their purpose, so they can repent and obey.

Has God called you by name?

Has He called you to confront Pharaoh and lead His people to the Promised Land?

Will you trust …and obey Him?

Will you love your wife?

Will you train your children?

Will you take your family with you on the way to Egypt?

If not, God’s promises for your life will be delayed…and you may find yourself wandering around in the desert for 40 years.

Choose this day whom you will serve.

Trust Him.

Obey Him.

Lead your family.

Lead His people.

And you will see the Promised Land.

Drunk & Naked

Genesis 6:9-10, 9:20-25

This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. 10 Noah was the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 

20 After the flood, Noah began to cultivate the ground, and he planted a vineyard. 21 One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and went outside and told his brothers. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a robe, held it over their shoulders, and backed into the tent to cover their father. As they did this, they looked the other way so they would not see him naked.

24 When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done. 25 Then he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham:

“May Canaan be cursed!
 May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives.”

IMG_1850It didn’t take long for blameless Noah to screw up after the flood. Whether he intentionally planned to become intoxicated or failed to realize the potency of his homemade wine is unclear. Nonetheless, he was drunk- and naked.

Had the story stopped there, his sin of gluttony would have stayed between him and God. But he, like many of us, had children that would be affected by his actions. Ham saw his father naked. Instead of dealing with the embarrassing exposure, he ran and tattled to his brothers. How often do we see a family member in embarrassing situations because of their choices, yet we say nothing to them…but choose instead to blab it to other relatives? Sham and Japheth, feeling sorry for their father’s predicament, backed into the tent and covered him with a robe. How often do we cover up our family members shame because we’re afraid to look at the sin and rightly deal with it before God?

Although Sham and Japheth were blessed by Noah for honoring and showing him respect, their actions would impact Noah’s family for generations, as would Ham’s. Because of his judgment and desire to point out his father’s fault to others, his son, Canaan was cursed.

God’s Word is clear about the impact of sin upon families:

Exodus 20:5

….I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.

And the same applies to His favored children today:

My drunkenness will affect our children.

My nakedness (lack of modesty/sexual sin) will affect our children.

My judgment will affect our children.

My pride will affect our children.

My rebellion will affect our children.

My curses will affect our children.

BUT, let us not forget the Good News!!!! The Lord also promises He will

Exodus 20:6

lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.

AND…

1 John 1:9

if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Sure, there can still be consequences for our actions, but our God is also the One who redeems and restores!!! I’ve seen Him take my sins and remember them no more. I’ve heard Him speak blessings in place of curses over our family. I’ve felt His freedom released in my soul. I’ve watched Him protect our children from the traps of the enemy. ALL things are possible in Him. All He asks is that we willingly surrender our drunk & naked sins to Him…and confess them to one another, so that we may be healed.

James 5:16

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.