Determined to Do

Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas.

Thus read the words of Acts 11:29-30, emphasis mine.

Good intentions are nice, but their real value rests in their implementation.

How often do you have a nice thought that begins with the words, I should . . . ?

How often do those same words fall by the wayside as we get caught up in any number of day to day happenings of life, and all the good intentions we thought of carrying out fail to be completed?

It’s easy to unintentionally allow our intentions to get swept away in the urgency of the moment or caught up in the mundane tasks set before us.

I’m thankful that did not happen with the disciples who determined to send relief to their countrymen suffering at the hands of a famine, or a whole lot of people would have suffered even more.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who lamented that each year she determines to live with intention, but somehow unintentionally loses it with the passing of days. As I read the message hidden in Acts 11, I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason we seem to fall prey to the same malady as my friend is that perhaps we are thinking too large. Wanting to do something grand, we dream beyond our own abilities and long to make dynamic impact upon the masses instead of intentionally loving the one person before us in the moment.

THIS moment.

I admit to sometimes often yearning to do something other than what is placed right before me. Sometimes my daily maneuvers can seem like duties rather than passionate answers to someone’s prayer. The responsibilities facing me can be so tedious. So monotonous. So unimportant. So small.

But WHAT IF that conversation you took time to have with the elderly gentleman in the fast food restaurant was just the thing God was wanting you to do today?

WHAT IF your daughter really was needing that black shirt you just ran through the laundry?

WHAT IF the missionary to whom you sent what seemed to be a pittance of what you would desire to share was just the exact amount needed to provide for a particular care? (Sometimes a gift of $4.40 can seem even more miraculous than the larger increment of $100 if the exact amount needed was $4.40. True story.)

Don’t allow your intentionality to be distracted by the tyranny of the urgent or the tendency to compare your gift or ministry with that of another. Listen to the voice of God directing you to serve, and to give, and to speak as He has granted you the ability.

Take a lesson from the disciples in Acts and DO what He is calling you to do – send relief and encouragement and care into the lives of the people around you.

Do it as you are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Do it without overthinking it.

Do it with a determination to use what God has given you to be a blessing to others.

No matter how small the blessing may seem.

Follow through on those promptings God places on your heart, and don’t let them get lost in the land of good intentions.

©2018MereWhispers.wordpress.com 

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It’s All About Perspective

It’s disconcerting how one’s perspective can distort the truth of a matter and how quick we are to make premature judgments based on our own narrow view of a situation. This short video is a fun example:

I admit that I began watching this clip with some less-than-pleasant sentiments toward the young man depicted eating cookies with this elderly lady. But by the time this video played out, my impression of this fellow had done a complete about-face and the negative thoughts had turned to ones of admiration and praise.

It’s scary how easily I can believe the worst of someone based on my own narrow vision. Judging by the initial reaction of my friends and family members who watched this video with me, it appears I am not alone in jumping to rash conclusions. Wisdom would tell me my own viewpoint is limited truth, yet time and again, I make premature judgments about a person or situation based solely on my (often skewed) perspective.

While an easy definition for “perspective” would be to simply refer to it as a “point of view,” I was intrigued by a more technical definition of Merriam Webster’s: representation in a drawing or painting of parallel lines as converging in order to give the illusion of depth and distance.

Let’s face it, there is no perfect way to accurately portray a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional surface. As talented as some artists can be, their representation of a figure on a flat surface is still just an illusion drawn from the artist’s point of view.

Likewise, the stance from which we form our frame of reference is key in our portrayal of the reality before us. Be it people, circumstances, or even God.

That is why I am challenging myself (and you, if you’re up for it) to seek out perspective-magnifying opportunities. And I can think of no better place to start than from a position of honor and gratitude.

When I look at the surrounding world and all the cries of outrage over “freedom” and “rights’ and “not rights,” I can’t help but believe we are entirely too wrapped up in our own points of view, ones that definitely do NOT reflect an attitude of honor or thankfulness. Nor ones that are based on truth, but rather rest in the futility of misconstrued speculations.

When people ask my take on how things have gone so awry in this day and age, I generally refer to the following verses from Romans 1:

“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures . . .  And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper . . .” (Romans 1:21-23, 28 NASB, emphasis mine)

The apostle Paul goes on to list a host of sins that are rampant in our world today (as they were in Paul’s time, also) all because the masses failed to honor God and were ungrateful. Instead of viewing life from the reality of God’s truth, people began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. And because of this, their misconceptions soon overtook them.

To the point where chaos reigned in place of wisdom.

To the place where emotionally reacting with outrage to supposed offenses was the norm.

To the degree where innate characteristics of divine nature were swapped out for unnatural desires and all forms of godlessness overtook society.

Wickedness, greed, evil, hatred, murder, slander, gossip, homosexuality, insolence, malice, arrogance. . .  having no mercy, no understanding, untrustworthy covenant breakers . . . haters of God.

Perhaps not one of those above-mentioned things breaks my heart more than that last statement.

Haters of God.

Resenting the very One who breathed life into our beings.

Loathing His presence.

Despising His existence to the point that we have convinced ourselves He no longer exists.

But just because we refuse to believe the truth does not invalidate the truth.

It just shows how warped our perspective has become.

How broken we really are.

When I look at the chaos flooding this world, honestly, I could lose hope.

I could easily despair at the signs of our society acting like a selfish, young man greedily gobbling up an elderly woman’s cookies.

OR I could change my stance . . .

And look at life through a lens of honor and gratitude, anchoring my thoughts and my faith and my heart on one thing:

HOPE.

Instead of being filled with angst, I want to reflect the truth of a timeless God who has promised to fill me with hope. A hope that does not end in disappointment, no matter how futile things may appear.

So today, I choose to seek out the One who sees all things from a perfect point of view.

Today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next . . . I want to approach His throne with honor and thanks, and as Lauren Daigle so confidently sings:
I will stand my ground where hope can be found.

May God’s children continue to find their hope in a Savior who will take all that is wrong with this world and make things right.

In His time.

And while we wait, let’s keep on loving with honor and thankfulness as we partner with Jesus to extend goodness . . . here in the land of the living.

© 2018 MereWhispers.wordpress.com

 

OMG!

I admit that when I hear someone say the word God or Jesus Christ in a manner that is not honoring His name, I automatically cringe. I was taught the commandment Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain was not to be broken, and yet, I often find myself misusing the Lord’s name. Not in speech, but in deed — which seems to be a much worse offense for someone who is called to walk beneath the covering of that very Name she so flippantly disregards.

This commandment from Exodus 20:7 goes beyond using God’s name as a curse word. As Steve Furtick writes in his book (Un)qualified:
. . . We are essentially taking His name in vain. Not because we don’t value Him or honor Him, but because we don’t realize how powerfully His name can permeate our present and transform our existence.”

With this thought in mind, I can’t help but wonder how often I dishonor the name of my Lord simply by neglecting to take it on with a blessing.

The Lord is my God, but do I really embrace the awesome power of that statement? Do I personalize the intimacy of Abba and daughter as a way of life, one which honors my namesake and my heritage as a member of the family of Christ? Do I treat this belonging as the incredible privilege it is, esteeming my adoptive birthright with a life that brings glory to my heavenly Father?

Or do I take His name in vain — nothing changed, nothing gained. Everything remaining essentially the same because I choose to live without applying faith to my new persona.

When I fail to realize and invite the power of His name to permeate my present and transform my existence, I’m taking the Lord’s name in vain. Whether by intent or default, I’m living without result or effect of this gracious mercy poured out on my behalf. In neglecting to honor His name, I’m refusing to live differently than I did when I was called by my old name and nature.

Life in Jesus should not be without effect. This is no wild goose chase I’ve embarked upon, but a life of infinite realness and goodness. With straightforward momentum leading me away from myself and into Calvary’s light — a light that shatters the grip of darkness and sin with amazing grace descending straight from heaven’s throne.

Christianity is not simply an accepted belief that there is a God who created the world and everything in it; it is the birthing of life and power in human soul.

It is not just realizing my need for a Savior named Jesus; it is accepting and implementing the power He extends me to be transformed into His image. An image that puts off my former way of living according to my own wayward desires, abandoning the practice of sinful habits that once ruled me. It is being born again into a new being.

I don’t want to be a Christian who lives to no avail, fruitlessly wandering and lost in worldviews that are not surrendered to Father’s truths. This new life in Jesus is just that: a new life. It is not an abortive mission given up at the first sign of challenge or temptation to continue a sinful lifestyle.

Taking His name means I am no longer orphaned to live this life all alone, but as one called and chosen by God Himself. Conspicuously grafted in with the ability of living as a new creation. Waking each day with a transformation of character, one that morphs more completely into Christ’s likeness with each decision I make to intentionally conform to my calling in the Beloved of the Lord.

May we live our lives as ones claimed by Abba to proclaim His name, no longer denying His identity in us. But rather, honoring His name and its power to enable us to live as ones made new — day by day and for forever.

©MereWhispers.wordpress.com

Acting Cozy with the Riffraff

Later Jesus and His disciples were at home having supper with a collection of disreputable guests. Unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them had become followers.

Such read the sentences from The Message’s paraphrase of Mark 2:15. Here is Jesus — surrounded by disreputable characters. Seemingly having a good time. And even more importantly, having divine relationship with the local riffraff. Over and over, we find the Holy One hanging with the undesirables of His day — prostitutes, tax collectors, common laborers, swindlers — notable sinners and outcasts all. And unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them became His followers.

Funny how often the very ones we think are furthest from knowing God are the ones who end up becoming His friends, as evidenced by His companionship with Levi, and Mary Magdalene, and Saul, and . . .  yours truly. Yes, thankfully the Lord chooses to keep company with the likes of me, too.

Though I recognize my desperate need for a Savior as I flounder in my own sin-sickness, I can’t help but wonder where I would have stood in this scene set in Mark. For while there was a collection of His disciples alongside Levi the tax collector and the folks still hung up in their nasty habits, there was also another crowd on the fringes. When the upstanding religious elite saw the company Jesus was keeping, they couldn’t help but offer their two cents’ worth (which might just be an over-evaluation of their comment’s value to Jesus). I can’t help but smile at Eugene Peterson’s choice of words for the encounter between Jesus’ disciples and the smug traditionalists: The religious scholars and Pharisees saw Him keeping this kind of company and lit into the disciples: “What kind of example is this, acting cozy with the riffraff?”

What kind of example, indeed. Who does Jesus think He is?!? Oh, that’s right. He’s pretty confident He is the Son of God who came to save men from their sins. The kind of Savior who chooses to place Himself among the kind of people who need to be saved. Who will welcome Him for dinner . . . and for a lifetime of relationship beyond that.

While there are many things to be learned from God’s Holy Writ, the one take-away I’m pulled toward today is in wondering what my response might be to this same scenario. It’s easy to want to reduce Christianity to merely a topic of conversation, a worldview, a religion, or a tradition passed down through generations. But true Christianity is much more than flaunting a talisman for others to admire, or for self to possess. Rather, it is a faith that transforms souls and delivers lives from death. It is a message come in the Person of Jesus Christ with the power to change Levi the tax collector into Matthew the disciple, Simon the fisherman into Peter the Rock, and Saul the persecutor of Christians into Paul the apostle of God. Just to name a few.

Woe to the one who places confines upon Jesus. As Mark 6:3 warns: They tripped over what little they knew about Him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further.

Limited knowledge of God confined the religious leaders of the day to place finite limits upon Him, thereby blockading themselves from the entrance of faith. Because they could not envision Jesus operating beyond the boundaries of their own religious venue, they failed to truly see Him at all.

Jesus is Christianity — a living, consuming Savior who invites the riffraff of the world into intimate relationship with the divine.

As I close my Bible upon this portion of Scripture, I can’t help but wonder who would show up to join Jesus for dinner today.

I also wonder who might show up to express their disapproval.

Most of all, I wonder if I would be seated at the table with Him, or find myself standing among the scoffers.

What about you?

©MereWhispers.wordpress.com

 

Undo and Remake Me

The sad truth is, we want a God to save us without changing us.

No expectations of growth, no undue responsibilities tugging us toward maturity. Just salvation that costs us nothing, a free ticket to heaven without the transfer of holiness within.

But acceptance without sacrifice is not the way You work.

Salvation is free, but it is not cheap.

Being Your disciple is the best way of life, but not necessarily the easiest.

Lord, help me to receive what You offer on the terms You set instead of trying to barter my way through Kingdom-living. Make me more aware of You than my own infantile wants. More given to Your desires than constantly giving in to worldly cravings that leave me empty.

To not only live with You, but to live within You, wrapped up in Godhead deity. To press against and toward, leaning more upon Your word of truth than the frailty of my own understanding. Consumed with the servanthood of Jesus, mapped out for me to follow steadfastly.

Let me be fluid enough to turn easily, swayed by Your wisdom which wars against the policies of society’s pull. Keep me dependent on mercy, reminded always that my need for it is great but never beyond Your capacity to give. Let nothing entangle my heart more than this captivity of grace and truth working hand-in-hand to raise redemption high.

May the banner of Your love not just cover but conform me to Your image as You draw me further into Your presence day by day. Rescue me from the arrogance of thinking I am somehow good enough without Your perpetual intervention.

Unravel the lies within me to stitch a miracle of glory to Your name alone.

Undo and remake me.

But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God — truly righteous and holy . . .  And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. (Ephesians 4:20-24,30)

FOR REFLECTION:
Do you ever find yourself making excuses for sinful habits in your life? I’m not talking about mistakes that you may fall into occasionally, but rather, a habitual bent toward an ungodly attribute that lingers even though you know it should not. Something that runs contrary to God’s will even if it might run according to society’s say so.
When we choose to accept the gift of salvation, we should also choose to align our lives according to its policies — the fact that we are given a new life in Christ. A life no longer under the authority of sin, but one given power to overcome the lust and deception to which we previously caved. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation. May you turn to God’s grace to live as such and find help in your time of need, a help to overpower the temptations that once drew you into godless living.
Let this new mind of Christ take over your old way of thinking about things as you surrender your desires to the Spirit’s sway. What habits do you need to turn over to Him today so you can walk in the freedom found in His life alive in you?

© merewhispers.wordpress.com

The Toxicity of Indifference

There’s a meme that’s been popping up on my facebook feed recently, and it is one that breaks my heart. Not only does it sadden me, but the fact that it is being affirmed by fellow-Christians is what I find to be most disturbing. Its content is as follows:

I’m at the point in life where I don’t care about losing friendships or relationships.
I don’t even speak to some of my family, and it doesn’t bother me one bit.
People come and go.
I’m not here to chase anyone or beg for friendship and loyalty.
If you feel me and we vibe, then that’s what’s up.
If not, then it is what it is.
See ya.

Seriously? Am I the only one who sees the selfishness and the totally un-Christlike attitude of this statement?

If you have reached the point where you can walk away from family members and friendships without being bothered by the fact, then I fear for you. I really do. Because to reach a point of such indifference can only make me wonder how deeply you have embraced hurt and are holding on to bitterness in your life.

Now before you begin your rant against me, please hear my heart. I realize some of you reading this post have had terrible things happen to you at the hands of those who should have shown you nothing but love. I’m not making excuses for behaviors of abuse or malicious harm inflicted upon you by people who preyed upon your youth or innocence. But the above statement does not directly address those issues. It is thrown out with what seems to me as a flippant attitude of “whatever.” A “If you’re not good for me, then why should I care about you?” air of selfishness and disdain.

If you allow people to so casually come and go in your life without a thought or care of repairing relationships, then what does that say about your own heart? Does it truly not bother you that family members won’t speak to you? Or that relationships are lost without fighting for them?

I know it can be hard to get along with siblings or parents or friends or really anyone who has walked up close with us for any length of time, but to hold on to those relationships should mean something to us. To pursue people with love and to opt to live peacefully with others should be a main goal of anyone who claims Christ as their Savior. Love is a central core to our make-up in the body of Christ. Indifference toward others should have no grounds on which to stand when we claim to follow Jesus.

Building and maintaining relationships is hard work, but it is also one of the most beautiful gifts we have been given this side of eternity. The gift of family and friendships and God-life breathing through each other, inhaling and exhaling grace and love and acceptance even through the pains of life is just that — a gift. Sometimes difficult to give, sometimes difficult to receive. But always a treasure.

Oh, I know it would be so much simpler if love came in forms that were easy to embrace — in the noble and pure and kind. But in reality, love shows up in the messiness of bruised knees and broken hearts and awkward caresses. Love stretches us to be kind to the loud-mouthed and offensive, to be grasped by dirty, little beggar hands reaching for help. Bankrupt souls clamoring to be noticed, desperate for attention.

Instead of protecting ourselves from the toxicity of relationships, what might happen if we determined to find love there instead? What if we were willing to look beyond the grime of beggar hands greedily grasping, and peer into the eyes of hurting souls? Would it change the way we see that difficult spouse or annoying sibling or unkind parent or caustic coworker if all were viewed as beggars for the love we carry within us?

Sometimes love cannot give back because its own pockets are empty. Sometimes poverty strikes out in anger. Or with indifference.  But I pray we don’t join the masses of beggars. I pray we seek to become prosperous in God’s character traits, instead. Living to become wealthy in love so we can give it generously, even to ones who may never return the favor. Even to the ones who will squander our love with no thought of us or our own needs.

In a world where unconditional love is in short supply, may we link arms with Jesus and scatter it liberally. May we accept the weaknesses of others and overlook offenses more readily each day. May we overcome the irritability which often accompanies love-giving, by looking to the relentlessness of God’s own love to fill the gap. In both ourselves and in others.

Instead of pursuing only those who flow with the same “vibe” as us (What does that even mean?!?), how about we pursue love with all mankind. Let us love through the awkward moments when neither party knows what to say or exactly how to respond. Let’s offer a cup of kindness to dirty hands extended, hoping to grasp a bit of respite. And let’s DO care, more than a bit, as we allow grace to rise within our own hearts and hold back the flow of provocation. Let’s invite peace to override the temptation of removing our presence from the presence of others.

It is a selfish person who walks away from relationships without a backward glance, but those who belong to Father stand alongside Him waiting on the dusty path for prodigal’s return, patiently hoping for love’s remembrance to stir the heart. Steadfastly looking for opportunities to pour grace upon thirsty soul soil, and not being surprised when it is quickly soaked up and needs replenishing again and again.

Let us join the ranks of Christ-followers who stand with staying power to see each relationship through to the end, who continue to scatter love and gather others as we ourselves have been gathered. May we draw near to family and friends with loyal love found in the shadow of Calvary’s cross. I pray we overcome indifference as we move to the rhythms of Savior’s heartbeat prompting each act of kindness, no matter how small. May love move from a novel idea to an expected deed as we bind the wounds of hurting hearts. Standing firm, yet giving sway to the needs pressing upon us.

Step by step, may we discover love through the ongoing process of knowing and being known. Choosing to place ourselves at Savior’s service, even when it means walking into the line of fire. Making ourselves vulnerable and willing to absorb some hurt. Targeted for love’s sake so others may know His name when they encounter us.

Let us remember that though love may be difficult in the moment, its purpose is far-reaching and timeless.

Difficult will not last forever, my friend, but love will.

So with that in mind. here’s to a different meme . . .

13230162_10209099524752636_301366347771920944_nTherefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s trespasses against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

© merewhispers.wordpress.com

The Truth About Speculations

Don’t be lured away from Him by the latest speculations about Him. (emphasis mine)

So read the words from The Message’s referral to Hebrews 13:9 – a reminder that speculations and truth are not the same thing. Yet we are continually tricked into thinking it is so. Especially where Jesus is concerned.

The most obvious difference between the two is that speculations are alterable. Truth is not.

Speculations can morph and change at the whimsy of our feelings as we attempt to mask our desires with a righteous appearance. Seeking a stamp of approval for our wayward actions, we coerce truth to conform into an identity more appealing to our misguided wants. But rewriting the reality of Jesus and His truths is as futile as pushing the proverbial square peg into a round hole. It doesn’t work.

ONE CANNOT TAKE A SKEWED BELIEF SYSTEM AND FORCE IT TO FIT INTO GOD’S PERFECT PLAN.

Jesus is not open to speculation. Who He is never changes. He continues to be Who He always was. And so does His truth.

There’s nothing new under the sun. The same snares are set to catch us as surely as they were hundreds and thousands of years ago. The same temptations tug us to redesign morality, calling evil good and good evil.

But renaming it doesn’t change it. It just changes us, and not for the better.

In a world where all is glitter and glam, it’s tempting to be lured away by shiny packaging. It’s easy to want things to be true when they sound so much more inclusive, when they give way to “rights” and “equality” and “freedom” for all to do as they deem best, no matter the repercussions to society at large or individuals at heart.

Lies adorned with brightly-colored ribbons still hold death inside. Poison still kills the one who consumes it, no matter how decorative the bottle from which it is served.

Be careful of reaching for privileges which are not a part of Truth’s offerings. Flee that tug toward unrighteousness even as you stretch to lay claims to the beauty of promises that are yours for the taking. Revel in this joy found in kingdom living, even when its truths go against everything the world is peddling.

We were made for better things, beloved.

This world, in all its smoked-screen glory, is not our eternal home. So let’s cease living as though it were. There’s no need to conform to its “insider” status when the only “in” we really need was given through the ripping of temple veil.

When it comes to truth, no speculations are necessary.

Jesus loves me, this I know.

This is truth.

And this truth is needed by all.

anchor-661991_960_720FOR REFLECTION
Are you ever tempted to skew truth to make it more palatable? Do you find yourself excusing immoral behavior (of your own or of others) because tagging it “sin” seems somehow offensive? Are there areas in your life where you need to adhere to truth, even when it goes against what others are peddling as tolerance? Ask God to help you see clearly as you navigate the difference between truth and speculation. He has promised to give wisdom to those who seek it. May you determine to do so in every area of your life.

© merewhispers.wordpress.com