Considering the great commission — while you are on your way, about your every day activity, make disciples. Teach them how to follow me! (Bev’s translation) — what makes doing this complicated or difficult?

The most obvious hindrance is a limited social context – everyone in my circles is already a Jesus follower! It seems this would be an easy obstacle to overcome. I just need to make new friends. Right.

The next, not so obvious hindrance, is a lack of concern for someone who doesn’t know Jesus. I am just fine that someone is sinking in the deep mud of despair. As I said in Monday’s post, praying for an outpouring of love for those who don’t know Jesus is the best place to start.

Along with prayer for love is for open eyes. Eyes that see opportunities to show someone the love that is now welling up within your heart.

12Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd.

Acts 3:12

I pause at this simple statement. Peter saw his opportunity and he acted. He took his every day situation and used it as a springboard to tell someone about Jesus.

How many times have I missed the opportunity to speak words of life and love to a thirsty soul because I wasn’t attentive? Probably so many!

Even while I write this, I received a text message from a member of a team I work with at church. He stopped his day, he took the opportunity, to send an encouraging word to the team, not because he had to but because the love of God overflows in this man.

My greatest problem is I make loving someone too difficult. I need to be more attentive to the simple opportunities that comes my way and then respond.

My prayer for myself today is an overpouring of God’s love in my heart, eyes to see opportunities and courage to do the next best thing! Will you join me?

Sunday morning our church had baptism. In two services, there were twelve people who said yes to Jesus and, in front of hundreds of others, took part in Christian baptism. It is a public testimony of an individual’s desire to follow Jesus.

Before the baptisms, the individuals shared a brief testimony of their personal commitment to Jesus and why baptism was important now. My heart overflowed with joy as I listened to the simple and yet profound ways God reached out and touched the lives of these people. No two were exactly alike and none of these people were perfect. They just knew they experienced the power of God in their lives and wanted to make a change.

In recent months, I have been challenged to take seriously Jesus’ final words to the disciples in the gospel of Matthew.

18Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

In this pericope, there is an imperative, something Jesus emphasizes. Often times we emphasize the word “go” and compel one another to leave home and go faraway to be a missionary. In reality, the imperative – the thing we must do – is make disciples, teach others how to follow Jesus. It could actually read, “and while you are on your way, make disciples. Jesus emphasized his desire for us to make disciples right where we are in our current situation.

As often happens when one develops a keen love for something, like following Jesus, the people she surrounds herself with tend to love the same thing. Before long, she finds she doesn’t have many people, if any, in her circles who don’t love Jesus. If that is true, it’s pretty hard to follow Jesus’ command to make disciples.

I freely admit this has been a challenge for me. I like my friends and my cozy circles. I like doing what I do. But if everyone I rub shoulders with already loves Jesus, how am I fulfilling his command to make disciples? What do I do?

The first step in making disciples for me has been to pray for an outpouring of God’s love for people who don’t yet know him. People are not projects or notches in a belt or ribbons on the wall. My deepest desire is to be filled with deep love for anyone who doesn’t know the joy and peace of walking with Jesus. From that place of deep love, I want to do the next right thing. I’m still working on that.

What about you? Is your life filled with people who look, think and act just like you? What would happen if you opened the door to the possibility of being an agent of change in someone’s life? Is it impossibly scary? I know, it is for me too! But we can do it together!

Occasionally I come across something I wish would not end. It might be some food or drink that is absolutely incredible, a great movie or book, a perfect evening under the night sky or a great interaction with a friend.

It seems more often I am eager for something to end. It might be a long, difficult week, an illness, an awkward social event, a mundane task. I am okay with these things coming to an end.

There is something I always look forward to that scripture says will never end.

7His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.

Isaiah 9:7

I long for the day when I live completely under the authority of the government of Jesus. I long to live with the certainty that I am ruled with fairness and justice. I long to know peace that doesn’t end.

Until then, I live knowing he is already ruling my life with fairness and justice and that I experience his peace everyday. In the midst of it all, I look forward to the day when the not yet will be reality.

What do you experience that you wish would not end? How does that help you appreciate the rule and reign of Jesus already, knowing it is not yet as it will be?

Happy Weekend!

Somewhere along the way I learned, as a parent, it was easy for me to over promise and under deliver. I made commitments I couldn’t keep.

Likely, this has as much to do with the way I am put together as anything. I hate to disappoint anyone so I am eager to please. I want to help make your day great even if it costs me more than I can do.

Unfortunately, this also sometimes happens with my grandchildren. During outside spring clean up, we found a baby bunny hiding in the landscaping. Removing the leaves and debris from the winter uncovered the vulnerable, quaking little rabbit. We tried to protect him as much as possible, sheltering him with a box until he could find his mother.

In the meantime, I sent a photo to my granddaughters knowing they would absolutely love it. Sure enough, they did. I talked to my oldest about the bunny and said, “You should have it, Finley!” Immediately, I heard my daughter ask, “Can you follow through on that, Mom?” Hmmm…. was I over promising with a certain outcome of under delivering? Was I going to catch that bunny and give it to her to raise?

If I am honest, it isn’t ever fun to be the recipient of a promise that doesn’t come to fruition. It would be better to not make the commitment than to make it and never come through.

I love what scripture says about God and his promises. Isaiah attributed the coming of the Messiah to the commitment of God to his word.

The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

Isaiah 9:7

Passionate commitment! That is a bold and heady statement to me, filled with love. God doesn’t grudgingly fulfill what he says. He isn’t over promising and under delivering. He does what he says, in exactly the right time with passion.

Do you feel like you are waiting for God to act? What promise are you waiting to be fulfilled in your life? Remember, God is a promise keeper, passionately committed to his word. You can count on it!

Peace. Is peace the absence of conflict? Or is it, perhaps, something more substantive than that?

I am sure I am not the only one who has gone to some sort of event — for many it is a family gathering — under the guise of peace. The goal is to eliminate arguments, fist fights and undercurrents of sarcasm and the gathering is declared a peaceful event. When in reality, all participants have silently agreed to lay aside their differences for a day or two in order to experience a “peaceful” event. The underpinnings of trouble are still there, dormant for the moment but always primed to burst into full view given the chance.

One of the descriptive phrases Isaiah uses to describe Jesus is Prince of Peace.

6For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

The Hebrew word translated peace is shalom, a word many of us have heard at one time or another. The word is a noun and means holistic peace and well-being. Holistic means to emphasize the whole of something rather than its parts. So, the peace that Jesus brings is about your whole being — mind and heart. I really love this word.

Later in Isaiah’s writing, he describes the condition of the people of God. They struggled to live well. He describes them in this way . . .

8They don’t know where to find peace or what it means to be just and good. They have mapped out crooked roads, and no one who follows them knows a moment’s peace.

Isaiah 59:8

It sounds a lot like people today. Where do we find peace? Even in places we might expect to find peace, there is conflict and unrest. Isaiah announced the coming of the Messiah and, in Jesus, his prophecies are fulfilled. The gospel of John records Jesus’ declaration of peace in his final words to the disciples before the crucifixion.

27“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 

John 14:27

33I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

The place to find peace is in Jesus. He gives holistic peace — of both mind and heart — that the world cannot replicate. You see, this world will bring trouble, but Jesus says to TAKE HEART! He has overcome the world.

Are you weighed down under a load of mental anguish? Does your heart cry out for peace? Is your mind exhausted? Perhaps it is time to respond to the invitation of Jesus to take on his yoke and leave your burdens with him. Allow him to ease the pain and fill you with his peace.

One more scripture comes to mind. Read Paul’s words to the believers in Philippi.

6Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

As always, this type of work is best done in the company of a good spiritual advisor or friend. If you find you have no one, feel free to reach out to me through the contact link above.

SHALOM!

In the overnight hours, the scripture from Isaiah 9 promising a Messiah, someone to carry my burdens and set me free, ran through my mind. Isaiah foretells the birth of a child followed by qualifying phrases that describe what the Messiah will accomplish and the kind of person he will be to his people. The first phrase he uses is especially thought provoking.

6For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders.

Isaiah 9:6

Pause a moment and meditate on the phrase. The government will rest on his shoulders. What image does this phrase inspire in you? What does it look like for the Messiah to carry the government on his shoulders? Is it like Atlas holding the earth?

The phrase “rest on his shoulders” is an idiom — a group of words for which the meaning has been developed by usage rather than what the individual words mean. In this instance, the phrase means “to be the sole responsibility of someone.”

Now take a moment to meditate on this idea: the government will be his sole responsibility.

It is no wonder the religious people in Jesus day expected him to overthrow Rome and introduce a new government of which he would be the King. After all, wasn’t that what Isaiah had prophesied. Obviously there was a disconnect because Jesus resisted every effort to be crowned king on earth. He knew his purpose was beyond an earthly reign.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to regain power or to assert his power. Power wasn’t the question. It was authority Jesus came to take back from the enemy. Recall chapter 3 of Genesis when the serpent came to Adam and Eve. At creation, God gave authority to Adam and Eve to rule on earth. He told them to subdue the earth and fill it. (Genesis 1-2) When Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree – knowing good and evil, they surrendered the authority given to them by the Creator. They gave it away just like that.

When the time was right, Jesus humbled himself and came as a man to do what Adam and Eve, and all humans since then, were unable to do — say no to Satan and take back authority over the earth. In this way, the government – authority – rests on the shoulders of Jesus.

18Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.

Matthew 28:18

It isn’t the governments of the world that rest on his shoulders. It is bigger than that. It is the government of the heavenlies — all authority in heaven and on earth. “What difference does that make to me'” you ask? Great question.

I find that when I am not careful, the activity and actions of not only my government, but other governments as well, distract me. It distracts me from keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, the One who carries all of it on his shoulders. I begin to feel responsible to carry the government on my shoulders. It is a heavy weight and before long, I stumble under the load. Then I am reminded it isn’t mine to carry. It is his. Then I recall Isaiah’s words to the nation of Israel. He says this:

11The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, 12“Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. 13Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. 14He will keep you safe.

Isaiah 8:11-14

Who are you looking to for safety and consolation? Have you taken on the care of the government? The world? Is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in our life? Do you hold him in a place of reverent awe and respect? Does he make you tremble?

In my journeying on Friday, I happened upon a young girl carrying a backpack. She was a very slight person, in her teens, with long slender arms that hung at her sides, her finger tips resting on equally slender legs. Her backback was nearly half her size and it hung on her like a burden, sliding down her back and over her backside. The whole scene invoked a feeling of sadness in me. I wanted so desperately to relieve her of the backpack and offer to carry it to her destination.

In life, we often carry burdens. While these cannot be seen with the human eye, they are as heavy and tiresome as if we carried an oversized backpack stuffed to its limits. It might be caring for children or elderly parents; jobs or tasks not well suited to our interests or talents; health or financial difficulties; a season of change like building a house or moving to a new area; an impending change in the future whether it be marriage or retirement. One thing is certain in life, there will be burdens to bear. The question is not, “Will I face a difficult situation?” but rather, “What will I do when I face a difficult situation?”

The prophet Isaiah recorded a promise given to him regarding the coming Messiah. It bears repeating today.

1Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever . . . 4For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. 6For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7. . . The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

Isaiah 9:1-7

The outstanding aspect of this promise is the final statement – the passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen! There is no promise given to us by God that has not already or will not be fulfilled in the future.Here he promises to lift the heavy burdens from our shoulders. This has been fulfilled for us in Jesus.

28Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

What burden is weighing you down today? What keeps you from surrending it to Jesus? He is offering an exchange of burdens — yours for his. While many times the burdens we bear do not come with instructions or training in carrying them, his yoke comes with instructions and the after market service is 24/7/365. Why not take him up on it?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

A few days ago, a friend shared that she didn’t know if she could relate to someone who was dealing with grief. She had never experienced this type of loss, so could she relate?

I encouraged her that, indeed, she could relate! She may not have experienced exactly the same loss in the exactly the same way, but she knows loss.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthian church, reminds the believers that ultimately, comfort is from God. God comforts us in our troubles so we can reach out and comfort others.

3All praises belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he is the Father of tender mercy and the God of endless comfort.  4He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort that God has poured out upon us. 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

There are times when I wonder if I can really relate to someone’s life situation. I wasn’t raised in the city so can I relate to someone who was? I was one of seven children so what do I have to offer an only child? The list goes on and on. How can I relate to someone who is different from me? Maybe we are all the same in different kinds of ways.

It seems to be the season of new song releases and there is one by for King and Country that speaks to this issue. I have enjoyed listening to it and thinking beyond my own limitations and experiences. Maybe it speaks to you as well.

As I prepared to write this post, I took a few minutes to read a friend’s Caring Bridge update. She just received her final immunotherapy treatment for the cancer she discovered last year. I celebrated with her as she shared, “IT IS FINISHED!”

Today, I invite you to celebrate with me as I say, “IT IS FINISHED!” While not even close to a cancer journey, The Cabin is done! The final light is lit, the last log sealed, the flooring laid, the windows set. It is done!

My dream for The Cabin has always been to provide a quiet space for retreat, restoration and renewal; a place to connect with God through nature and solitude. The dream is gaining momentum and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Now that the space is ready, we are working to furnish it to make it livable. A website is underconstruction devoted to The Cabin and what is available for someone seeking solitude and quiet. Individual retreats and guided retreats with or without spiritual direction are all possible.

10For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2:10

These words from Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus mean more to me now than ever. I believe God’s plan for me includes the good work of sharing The Cabin as a respite for weary travelers to meet with him and be renewed.

If you are weary, consider taking time away for some quiet and solitude. Perhaps not at The Cabin, but somewhere you can unhook and listen for his whispers of love and refreshment! I am certain . . .

6And 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.

Philippians 1:6

Here are a few before and afters and a sneak peek to the finished space as we prepare to add the furniture, rugs and amenities to give it the final touches!

If you are interested in information about The Cabin and reserving your personal retreat time, please message me through the Contact page linked above. Until the website is finished, that is the best way to let me know of your interest.

September. What does that mean to you? It seems it slipped in quietly without any word or warning. It was just here.

When I was growing up, it meant school started. We always had one last summer hurrah camping with family in a remote, primitive campground. No running water, electric, showers or indoor plumbing. There was a genuine outhouse every now and then. I’m not sure I would like that with my middle of the night trips to the bathroom. The campground was also called “Spotted Bear” so that makes for a nervous run to the loo.

September also meant apple cider, falling leaves, cold mornings, fire in the stove, preserving garden produce, new shoes and notebooks. As much as it felt like the end of something, it was also the beginning.

I love the changing of seasons, but my favorite is fall. It is a signal to slow down, snuggle up and rest. After a busy spring and summer of growing and tending what grows, I am ready to rest.

Scripture also has something to say about seasons. There is a time for everything. What season are you enjoying right now? Are you just ending one season and entering something new? Perhaps you are just beginning something new, like marriage or parenthood. Whatever it is, remember life is filled with seasons. None last forever and the one you are in now will soon pass. So, take heart and love where you are.

1For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. 2A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. 3A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. 5A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. 6A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. 7A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. 8A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8