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)

Prepare the Way

Matthew 3:1-3 (NLT)
In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.[a]” The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said,
“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’”[b]
 
11 “I baptize with[a] water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.[b]

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry. His message was simple: repent. John’s preaching cut through religion and pierced the heart: sin has destroyed your relationship with God. Repent! Be restored to God. John’s ministry tilled the hard soil for the One who would come to sew the seed of salvation.

I am John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed me for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

You are John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed you for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

The church is John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed us for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

John 3:26-30 (NLT)
26 So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”
27 John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.28 You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ 29 It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. 30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

But sometimes sin blocks the way…

In my pride, I can believe that MY ministry is who I am. In a struggle for significance on this earth or a desire to be esteemed by others I can hold on close fisted to the ministry God has appointed and anointed me for. Over a decade ago, I was preparing the way for MY ministry. I had served faithfully in children’s ministry organizing resources, soothing crying toddlers, changing stinky diapers on infants, singing and dancing to kids worship with 6-12 year olds – I did it all. Focusing solely on MY ministry, I neglected my relationship with God, my spouse and our children. My fist was so tightly closed around my role in the church that no one, NO ONE was gonna take it away from me.

But God.

God.

The associate pastor hired a new children’s director who instantly became my superior. She was also one of my best friends. As I struggled to submit to her authority, I simultaneously struggled to hold on closed fisted to MY ministry. Rebellion, chaos and disunity ensued. Eventually I was fired- from my volunteer position.

Angry? Absolutely! And I made sure God and everyone else knew it. I vomited insult after insult about my rights being violated and the evil actions of my fellow ministers in the body of Christ.

But God.

God.

As a loving Father does, when a child finally returns He welcomed me into His everlasting arms and the tension of my closed fists released. He was becoming greater and greater and I was becoming less and less.

DSC_0419During my discipleship journey the Holy Spirit has continually helped me to humbly turn back to God. I’ve learned to be still. I’ve come to know Him. I’ve started obeying His commands. I’ve been washed in His magnificent love for me. I’ve repented. I’ve been forgiven. I’ve forgiven others. I’ve been delivered from evil. I’ve been redeemed from my rebellion. I’ve been restored in my soul. And as I’ve opened my hands to the ministry He’s appointed & anointed me for I have had the privilege of preparing the way for others to meet and know Jesus. He has become greater and greater and I have become less and less!

Dear child of God,

Release the death grip you have on YOUR ministry. Willingly open your closed fists to the Lord. Otherwise, He may need to fire you from your role to save your soul. He loves you. He wants you to know Him. He wants you to worship Him, not your ministry. He wants you to obey His commands so that you may have everlasting and abundant life!

Let go.

Trust God.

He will work all things for your good if you love Him.

Love, Me (& John the Baptist)

You Must Love

Matthew 22:37-39 New Living Translation (NLT)

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

I’ve been told I can be very emotional (if you’re wondering….yes, I AM a woman!). Yet, just like Joseph in Genesis 50:20, I know that those judgments which were meant to harm me, God meant for good.

Emotions should be expressed (to God – and sometimes, others).

That doesn’t mean we should use our feelings as a drama queen to seek attention, allow them to control us, or yield them as a weapon to manipulate others, but God gave us a heart (soul); mind, will and emotions, for a purpose.

IMG_5968During a recent “discussion” with my groom I was expressing my heart to him about our relationship. Let’s be honest, I was telling it the way I saw it: he wasn’t loving me the way I wanted to be loved! Emotionally, I was all over the place- bouncing back and forth between love and anger.

Weird.

I mean, I knew I loved him and I knew his actions sometimes made me angry, but why was I feeling these emotions simultaneously? I decided to ask the Creator of the universe, the Creator of me, and the Creator of my husband: Lord, what in my heart is going on here?!

Be still.

Know that He is God.

Backstory: the previous day the Holy Spirit whispered “pride, self-righteousness….” when I asked, “what do I need to repent for?” Hmmm. I didn’t feel prideful or self-righteous. Trusting that the Creator of the universe and the Creator of me knows better, I confessed, “Father, forgive me for being prideful and self-righteous.”

Back to the story: As I sat in my comfy chair the next morning, listening to the birds sing and feeling the warmth of the light penetrating the sunroom, the Holy Spirit showed me that I had removed my heart and laid it down on the ground as an offering to my husband.

Um. What?

Wait.

“Love your neighbor (husband) as you love yourself,” right?

Yes.

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husband,” right?

Yes.

Then, what?!

Enter: deception, stage right.

Jeremiah 17:9 New Living Translation (NLT)

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
    and desperately wicked.
    Who really knows how bad it is?

What seemed like an action of a loving, submitted wife was actually the result of a desperately wicked heart. I loved my husband- not God- with all my heart. I was worshipping a man, not Jesus. Consequently, when my spouse broke my heart, I felt attacked (resulting in my anger). Failing to recognize the condition of my heart (deception), I assumed he was to blame for everything (hence my self-righteousness). Left unchecked, my heart began to suffer cardiac arrest (yo-yo feelings of love and anger).

Grieved by the revelation, I quickly confessed and repented to the Lord. He retrieved my wounded heart, washed it by the cleansing of His Word and performed a heart transplant (in case you’re wondering, I am recovering well. Thanks for asking).

My fellow wives,

I urge you to “guard your heart above all else” (Proverbs 4:23). If you’re having yo-yo feelings towards your husband, ask the Lord, “am I loving my groom with all my heart, soul and mind?” If the Holy Spirit whispers “yes,” then confess and repent for idolizing him. Receive God’s forgiveness and extend forgiveness to your husband if he’s broken your heart in any way.

Then, give Jesus all your heart. He gave up his life for you! He loves you. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. He promises to (as we say in the south) “bless your heart” – and your marriage.

Love,

Your fellow disciple

God Tested

Genesis 22:1-2, 9-12

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

On the night of our wedding rehearsal, my father-in-law proposed a toast. It was a heartfelt speech, welcoming me into the Bullard tribe. Yes, tribe. A full-blooded Native American of the Lumbee Tribe, my father-in-law came from a very large close-knit family. Growing up in extreme poverty and feeling the sting of prejudice from southern white and black men alike, he left the tribal area to pursue a better life for himself.

But he never forgot his family.

Family was everything.

With raised glasses and our entire wedding party giving close attention, my fiancés father spoke assertively, “Jodie, you are now a part of our family…and we take care of our own.”

(kindof sounded like I was marrying into the mafia!!!)

Doug Sr. and I had a rocky beginning. I was a strong willed young woman. Barely 18 when I met his son, Doug Jr. (who was almost 6 years my senior), I was a rebellious, directionless sinner. He was a strong, disciplined, God fearing man. Needless to say, we didn’t get along very well- especially when I sat in HIS lazy boy recliner one Sunday afternoon to watch HIS naptime entertainment; golf!

Six months later, after Doug and I were engaged, he disapproved of the impending nuptials. IMG_1830Yet over the course of the next year and a half, we began to know- and love one another. And by the time my wedding day dawned, he had accepted me as a daughter, adopting me into his family on a warm spring day in 1996. Fifteen months later he had a massive heart attack. The family patriarch was gone.

After God adopted me into His family, I had a hard time trying to love Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. I was disciplined: I read the bible. I prayed. I served at church. Yet, I was completely unaware that in a dark corner of my soul, I had built an idol. It was named “family.”

Then God tested me.

He asked if I was willing to take each family member, whom I loved so much, and lay them on the altar.

Would I justify my relationships? (“God- you designed family. I’m supposed to love my husband, children, parents….)

Or would I repent?

I confessed the lie: family is everything.

I received His truth: God is everything.

I choose to obey the commandments, in order.

There’s a reason Jesus said we are to love God, then love others. Others may take care of us, train us, love us and welcome us into their family, but others will fail us. Idols will fall.

Yes, we must love our spouse, children, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. But we must not love them more than Jesus.

Matthew 10:37

“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.

Has God tested you?

Have you confessed the lie: family is everything?

Have you received His truth: God is everything?

Have you chosen to love God, then love others?

I’m sorry to disappoint you, my friend: all of your family has sinned.

They’ve all fallen short of the glory of God.

They will never give you eternal or abundant life.

They will forsake you.

They will leave you.

But, Jesus.

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.

Jesus laid down His life on the altar for your sin.

Jesus will never leave you.

Jesus will never forsake you.

(and like the mafia, Jesus always takes care of His own!!!)

Pain, Desire & Struggle

Genesis 3:16-19 (NLT)

16 Then he said to the woman,

“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,

and in pain you will give birth.

And you will desire to control your husband,

but he will rule over you.[a]

17 And to the man he said,

“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree

whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,

the ground is cursed because of you.

All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.

18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you,

though you will eat of its grains.

19 By the sweat of your brow

will you have food to eat

until you return to the ground

from which you were made.

For you were made from dust,

and to dust you will return.”

How well I know the curse of pain as a daughter of Eve. All my pregnancies produced physical and emotional suffering in my body and soul. I delivered one daughter without drugs, but ALL our children caused indescribable pain when I gave birth.

How well I know the desire to control my husband. As a newlywed, I believed I was to share “the pants,” in order to rule and reign together as head of the family. In my rebelliousness and brokenness I used my strong personality to gain control… and when my husband attempted to lead, I viciously attacked him with my words.

Then I met Jesus.

Jesus became the curse for me, a sinful daughter of Eve. He died not only to give me eternal life with my Father in heaven, but He also gives me abundant life in Him on earth! No longer am I enslaved to the curse. I am a daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Yet, sometimes, unfortunately….I still listen to that slithering, sneaky snake.

Jesus said in this world, I will have trouble.

Pain will still occur.

Desire to control will still rise up.

But, Jesus.

Jesus.

When I choose to trust Jesus, instead of the enemy, I receive God’s blessing: abundant life! I am comforted in pain. I know that He is in control. I submit to my husband, as unto the Lord. And even if my husband doesn’t love me as Christ loved the church, I feel how wide, how deep, how high, my Father’s love is for me.

cropped-IMG_2982.jpgFor more than 20 years I’ve watched my husband scratch a living. By the sweat of his brow, he has provided food for our family each day. As a son of Adam, the curse proclaimed over his life is different than mine. It affects his work mentality. Mine affects my relationships with him and our children. Regardless, if either of us chooses to submit to the enemy, the same result occurs: death.

If I am deceived, and my husband listens to me, and we both eat the forbidden fruit, spiritual and emotional death separates us from God- and one another.

Does that mean its all my fault?

No.

I am accountable for my sin- not my husbands, not my children’s. Mine.

My husband is accountable for his.

When a husband listens and obeys God’s commands, he finds his identity in the One who formed him from the dust of the earth. His work is not who he is. He is a son of God.

When a wife listens and obeys God’s commands, she finds her identity in the One who formed her from man for man. Her role of mother and wife are not who she is. She is a daughter of God.

Who are you listening to?

Who are you obeying?

Who are you choosing?

I choose life.

I choose the way.

I choose the truth.

I choose Jesus.