Patience’s Perfect Work

 “My brethren, count it all joy when
you fall into various trials, knowing
that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect
work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1: 2-4.

 I read this over the weekend and verse 3 and 4
stood out. “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But
let patience have it’s perfect work…”
The
tests have come. Some days it seems like more than I can handle (seems is the
key word). I’ve held on to faith in what I know is true. But have I been
letting patience have its perfect work? Am I truly being changed? I’m still pondering that one.
What
about you? 
What does this verse mean to you?

*Photo credit: Freedigitalphotos

Why Your Dream Hasn’t Come True…Yet

 

 

Joseph. One of my
favorite people in the Bible. I taught on him last week in class. I can never
make it through without crying.

 
God gave Joseph a
dream. A big dream. Most times, when God gives us a dream it’ll be bigger than
us so we don’t get the glory.
 
But Joseph was only
17. He was immature, bratty, spoiled, and a tattle tale. He wasn’t ready for his
dream.
 
And that’s why God
allowed tough circumstances to enter his life. He was sold by his brothers and
taken to Egypt as a slave. He was purchased by the captain of the guard. Yet,
Joseph was successful in everything because the Lord was with him. Even in tough
times, Joseph clung to his faith. He abided in God. When the master’s wife came
at him day after day, he refused until he had to literally run lest he sinned against God.
 
Doing the right thing landed him
in prison.
 
Joseph let himself get comfortable. Hey, the Captain’s house wasn’t home, but it wasn’t the pit his
brothers had tossed him in and it could be worse. He had freedom to come and go.
He had his master’s household under his authority. No more iron neck collars or
fetters.
 
But God didn’t allow
him to go into captivity to be comfortable as a slave.
He still had a dream to
fulfill. So He took him out of his comfort zone and placed Joseph in another
set of grim circumstances.
 
In prison, Joseph
was a success. God was with him. And he was given all authority over everyone
there. He’d been faithful with little. Now, he was faithful over a little more.
 
He matured. Life
wasn’t about him alone anymore. He’d taken an interest in others. That’s how he
could tell something was wrong with the baker and the butler. He was becoming
more of the man God knew he was to be. He was getting closer to his dream.
 
And then the Pharaoh
had a dream. Joseph interpreted it. And he became ruler over much. Over the
nation of Egypt in fact. He was 30.
 
When his brothers
came and bowed down to him, fulfilling the dream he had. He was at least 37.
 
Dreams take time. Your dreams aren’t even all about you. God was working behind the scenes, not only for Joseph–to bless him, but for His people He’d made covenant with. A famine was coming and God was making plans to take care of them. He was working on uniting a dysfunctional family. His brothers hated him. His father favored him over the rest. And He was working on showing a nation, who considered Pharaoh a god amongst the other 1000 gods they worship, His glory. Giving them a chance to see a true living God. 

Yes, dreams take time.

 
 God needs time to mold us into what we need to be in
order to handle them when they come true.
 
 Joseph understood this when he said, “For
God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Genesis
41:52
 
It’s in the
disastrous times, tough times, frightening times, uncertain times, painful
times, lonely times that God can cut off the things in our lives that don’t
belong and produce a fruit (a beneficial, wonderful product) that will last.
It’s in those times if we abide in Christ, we will become more Christ-like.
 
I’m sure Joseph
questioned his circumstances. But at the end of the day, I think he may have
said exactly what this song says he did. I love this video clip from Joseph,
King of Dreams
. It’s a favorite movie of mine. Take a minute and let the words
seep into your heart.
 
And remember when you wonder and ask, “Why?”
 
You God, know better
than I. 


Have you found that God is near in the tough times?  Why or why not?

 
*The Name that Sailboat contest is still going on! Enter for a chance to win a $10 Starbucks or Amazon card (winner choice). Just head over to my facebook page! 

Come by our facebook page
and chat about abiding in
the tough times!

 

#1 Key to Succeeding at Great Things

 

 

Everyone wants to
succeed and do great things. We’re wired to for it. Remember those commercials
about drugs. “No one said they wanted to grow up to be a junkie.” I
would agree with that.

 
Last week, I taught
on Daniel. A wonderful model for us to live lives of worship, praise, and
prayer. A boy taken captive from his homeland. Full of uncertainty. Possible
doubt about where God was in the circumstances that he found himself in, and
surely some fear and anxiety. That’s a lot of miles to walk to Babylon with
nothing but your mind to keep you company. I know what my mind does when I’m in
uncertain times or feel imprisoned.
 
But Daniel held fast
to his faith, even when others directly targeted it. He didn’t compromise, not
when offered the king’s food that was offered to false gods and not when an
unchangeable decree went out that he couldn’t pray or petition any god or man,
but the king, for thirty days. That’s what sealed him in the lion’s den.
 
Instead he prayed.
He lived a lifestyle of worship. Everything he did was offered to God. And when
we live of worship, we’ll excel. But even that’s not the #1 thing you need to
know.
 
Daniel was faithful
with little things. He was made ruler over much. (Matthew 25:21) God gave him
abilities and gifts, and he used them for God’s glory. But even that isn’t the
#1 thing you need to know. And don’t think Daniel was perfect.
 
Daniel wasn’t a
perfect man.
“While I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sins…” Daniel 9:20 But he honored God with
whatever was put before him. His job. His responsibilities. Even his friends
and his people. “…confessing my sins and the sins of my people, and
presenting my supplications before the LORD my God…”
 
So what is the #1
thing we need to know to be successful and to actually accomplish all of those
wildly big dreams God plants in our heart?
 
How did Daniel start
out? A scholar? Rich beyond our imagination? Was he famous with a huge
platform, an outstanding twitter tribe, and facebook following? Did he have a
few books under his belt that he self-published first? Did he put an amazing
YouTube out that went viral?
 
He started out in
captivity. He started out far away from what he’d ever known. He started out
half-naked (vulnerable). He started out walking…one step after another…in the
heat.
 
Daniel worshipped,
praised God (even in the uncertain times when he could have grown bitter and
cold), he prayed every day–3 times a day looking out toward home,  with the window open, he studied the word (in
scroll form but had he not, he wouldn’t have realized a prophecy was about to
be fulfilled), he interceded for others, he asked God for some things (probably
to get them out of captivity). And he never took for granted the favor God gave
him with those who could have made life difficult–the gatekeepers, if you
will, to his life or death.
 
Daniel, over the
course of his years, learned something that we all need to learn. When the
enemy lies to us, plants seeds of doubt in our mind, taunts us with roars of
fear, brings us face to face with uncertainty, tries to cut our knees out from
under us…all things he did to Daniel…he discovered this:
 
“The
people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.”
Daniel 11:32
 
That’s it. That’s
all.
 
Should we study and
learn? Should we be knowledgeable about the things we want to accomplish? Yes.
Am I telling you not to go to college or get your Master’s Degree, or read
craft books, or to practice at what it is you want to do? No.
 
“Study and be
eager…correctly analyzing and accurately dividing rightly  handling and skillfully teaching) the Word of
Truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 God expects us to learn, grow, mature and be
knowledgeable about many things. We have a partnership. “Carry out”
that lets us know, He’s not going to do it all. “know their God” that
takes effort. We have to actually spend time with Him to know Him!
 
What I am saying is it really is about Who you know. The #1 thing you need to know is Daniel 11:32.
 
How does this verse change 
the way you may feel about
success and doing great things?

Glory Due Your Name

Glorious God, you
are holy, mighty, beautiful. There is no name besides Yours that can save us.
You do wonderful works, so many we cannot count them; we do not even know them
all.

We sing praises to
your name. We lift your name up and stand in awe of who You are. You, our rock,
shelter, strong tower. Our safe place–under the shadow of Your Wings we find
rest. In Your presence, we become changed.
The thoughts you
think about us are so many they can’t be numbered and all are good. There is
not one that is less than stellar. It’s beyond our imagination but we humbly
accept Your gifts of grace and mercy.
When we are
unfaithful, Lord, You are still faithful. Your call is irrevocable. Your
covenant everlasting. Our hope–secured.
“Give unto the
LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”
Psalm 29:2
What
is one thing you can give God glory for today? 

Come by our facebook
community and chat
about giving God glory!

The Best Writing Comes from a Prison Cell

It’s a quiet
morning, I’m sipping my coffee from the mug given to me by my friend, DonnaPyle. And while I’m having my morning brew, I’m working through her  newest study,
The God of All Comfort.

This day’s lesson
was about how losers are better givers.
It’s such a great study as it uses real life stories from various people Donna
interviewed for each section of study.
This verse jumped
out to me: 
“Those things were important to me, but now I
think they are worth nothing because of Christ. Not only those things, but
I think that all things are worth nothing compared with the greatness of
knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him, I have lost all those things, and
now I know they are worthless trash. This allows me to have Christ and to
belong to him. Now I am right with God, not because I followed the law, but
because I believed in Christ. God uses my faith to make me right with
him.” Philippians 3:7-9 (NCV)
Now, I’ve read it
before. But this morning it stopped me in my tracks.
I’m not what you would consider a materialistic
person. I’m not a fan of shopping. I don’t care if I have designer
clothes. I only know some of the names because characters in my manuscripts
wear them. I don’t try to keep up with Jones’. I laugh behind the backs of
those who do. (That’ s probably wrong.)
I do like nice
things. I like my house to feel warm and inviting. But what I do whine about
most, is writing space. “Lord, I can’t wait for us to move because I know
you’ll provide me with a room of my own. A place where I can study, pray, and
write without interruptions from people or the TV.”
Right now, I have a
nice desk and sweet office chair in the corner of my bedroom. I have my dry
erase board and bulletin board tacked up. But I share my bedroom with my
husband and that’s where he likes to watch TV. It’s where he gets ready for
work. I’ve become accustomed to ear buds, but sometimes, it irritates me that
he’s there. Isn’t that selfish? It is. You can agree.
As I read this verse
this morning, it struck me that Paul penned his
best work and spent some of his most intimate time with the Lord in shared
prison cells with little to no lighting. And it’s possible he had crummy
eye sight. He wrote in chains. Seated on hard, cold, rock. No cushiony chair.
No heating pad for a bad back–and most of the time he was bruised, beaten and
bloody. Always interrupted by other prisoners and guards. Nothing to tune them
out. And he wouldn’t have wanted to, as it would have been a missed opportunity
to share Christ Jesus with them.
No
physical comfort.
But he was content. He was doing what he loved. And it didn’t
matter where he did it. As long as he had two hands and something to write with
and on, he had peace.
Paul didn’t have a
laptop, iPad, or iPhone that helped him with his social media efforts. He
didn’t have scrolls at his finger tips to reference what he was talking about.
He knew it from memory.
Having those things
are a blessing. Blessings that should humble our
hearts and be used to glorify Him. Blessings that can go at any minute
through theft, fire, or small children with wandering hands. Or adults with
butter fingers (not the candy).
Jesus stays. He
can’t be stolen away, burned off, cracked, broken, or lost. And truly, He’s the
greatest reward. He offers gifts that last.
I had a wonderful
wake-up call this morning. A refocus. And if God decides to bless me with a
home office all to myself, I won’t say no. But I’ll see it for what it is. A
blessing. Not a necessity.
Come by our women’s
facebook community and chat!
I’m hosting!

What about you? Do you need a nudge every once in
awhile to bring you back into focus on what is a need and what is an added
blessing?

Donna Pyle’s
newest study

**photo credit freedigitalphotos

How to Balance Your Ministry and Spiritual Life Successfully

 

 

“For
he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its
roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be
green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from
yielding fruit. ” Jeremiah 17:8

 
A friend of mine
stopped by the church last week to chat with me. He shared some of his
frustrations about his spiritual life and told me where he wanted to be.
 
What I found while
listening to him talk was he was trying to pour out, but he wasn’t being filled
enough to give anything of substance
away. He was tired due to a hectic schedule, work, lack of rest, and trying to
help in too many areas of the church.
 
“I appreciate
the love and passion you have for your ministry, for the church and the people
in it. But you can’t be effective if you have nothing to give. And if you don’t
take some time for yourself–to soak–you’re going to shrivel up and cough out
dust to the ones you want to saturate with living water.”
 
Sometimes we get so
busy ministering to others, we forget we need to be filled ourselves. You can’t
run a ministry and  never sit in the
service under the shepherd, skip small groups that will minister the Word, or neglect
personal time in the Word for whatever excuses
reasons.
 
And I’m not saying
this person was neglecting his personal time with God. But he needed to sit a
little longer. Soak until his skin puckered.
 
Soaking is fabulous.
We need to soak in God’s word personally, from pastors, teachers, and other
ministries.
 
Now, by telling you
to soak, I’m not giving you license to sit on a pew or in a chair and take and
take and never give. There’s a balance.
 
What
goes in, needs to come out. That’s the point of soaking.
 
Let’s look at trees
for a minute. Hang with me. Fascinating creations, aren’t they? Most every tree
branch raises its limbs to the heavens, except the Willow and I have to wonder
if it’s called Weeping because it’s not praising the Lord. I don’t know. Something
to think about.
 
When trees are
planted, water is taken in at the root and carried up with nutrients through
the trunk and into the leaves.
 
90%
of tree water is eventually dispersed from the leaf stomata through
evaporation, into the atmosphere.
 
That beneficial loss of water from the tree is
called transpiration.
 
Transpiration comes
from the word “transpire” which means, “to come to light or be
known.” Latin trans + spirare = to breathe.
 
The
tree keeps 10%, enough to stay alive and healthy, the rest it breathes out for
others to breathe in.
 
We need the washing
of the water of the Word in our lives. We need to daily soak our roots in it. We need to let it travel from where we’re planted (by
living water), through the trunk of our body–saturating our stomach’s
desires,  filling our lungs with praise,
and protecting our hearts, until it reaches our limbs. Leaves like our
fingers and tongue. Letting Light be known. Breathing out and giving
life-giving air to the atmosphere around us.
 
Keeping enough to
stay healthy and strong.
 
Giving most of it
away.
 
We
weren’t meant to hoard God. We were meant to give Him away.
And
we weren’t meant to give until we have nothing left to keep going.
 
90/10 ratio. If
trees can stay sustained at this rate. I think we can too.
 
“…it
grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so
that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”  Mark 4:32
 
Where
do you fall? Is it time to give some away? Are you giving and skipping on
soaking up water in your roots? And do you have a favorite tree? Why do you
love it?

Trusting That He’s Got This

Not too long ago, Lindsay Harrel and I hung out at the beach. Virtual beach that is! And today she’s back to encourage you spiritually! Thanks, Linds!

 Last
Sunday, I got the awesome privilege of singing for all three of our church services.
I sang a
solo with the choir and orchestra, then I sang a complete solo song during the
offering, and then I helped to lead a few songs in our contemporary service.
I love
singing. There’s something about it that just fills me up inside like nothing
can. When I’m singing, I feel incredibly close to my Lord.
That is,
when I’m focused on the right things.
Because it
can be so easy to focus on me and how I sound. I worry…will I forget the
lyrics? Will I totally bomb this song? Will I get the opening rhythm right?
Will I…will I…will I?
Now,
what’s wrong with that picture?
Well,
considering the fact that I’m supposed to be singing as an act of WORSHIP…to
GOD…I probably should be much more focused on Him than on myself.
I get it,
it’s human nature, we are fallen, we’ll never be perfect. But that doesn’t mean
we shouldn’t constantly remind ourselves of how we SHOULD react…even if it
never becomes our NATURAL reaction.
I was
sitting in first service before I sang, worrying. I almost didn’t even want to
go up there on that stage. Because I was afraid of failure. Thankfully, I
wasn’t just afraid that I’d look like a screw up (although I’m sure that fear
is always part of it).
Instead,
my main concern was whether I’d mess up an opportunity to share Jesus with
someone. That I’d mess up the lyrics that someone desperately needed to hear.
That my voice would crack and people listening would be too distracted by that
to hear the heart of the song.
In short,
I thought I’d inadvertently mess up my ministry…and God’s plan.
Fear
almost kept me from ministering.
But as I
sat fretting, our music pastor sang these words:
Then sings my soul, my Savior, God to Thee
How great Thou art, How great Thou art
And I
nearly cried.
Because He
was speaking right to me, saying, “Lindsay, don’t you see how great I am? So
great that I’m able to get you through each one of these songs in exactly the
manner I want you to get through them. And I will speak to people’s hearts. I
am able. I am great.”
I can’t
even tell you the freedom that came. How the fear dissipated.
Because He
doesn’t ask us to be perfect.
He only
asks that we’re willing. 
That we try our
best and draw near to Him.
Because He
is perfectly and totally capable of handling the rest.
Your Turn: Do you ever worry that you’ll mess up
in ministry? Do you find it hard to remember that He’s got it all under
control?
Since the
age of six, when she wrote the riveting tale “How to Eat Mud Pie,” Lindsay
Harrel has passionately engaged the written word as a reader, writer, and
editor. She holds a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication and an M.A. in
English. In her current day job as a curriculum editor for a local university,
Lindsay helps others improve their work and hones her skills for her night
job—writing inspirational contemporary fiction. Lindsay lives in Phoenix,
Arizona, with her husband of five years and a golden retriever puppy in serious
need of training.
Connect with Lindsay! 
I’m hosting at
Living By Grace
A facebook community
for women of faith!
*Photo credit: freedigitalphotos

I Learned to Hate: Guest post by Jaime Wright

I’m thrilled to have the talented and coffee-crazed (and not ashamed to admit that) Jaime Wright with me today! Mostly you see the silly and sarcastic side of Jaime and it’s a beautiful thing, but Jaime’s deep spiritual insight always messes with my mind and leaves me wanting more. (Is that stalker-ish?) She inspires me and encourages me and today, I hope you’ll feel the same! Take it away, Jaime.
I have learned to hate.
Hate is a driving force that spurs
me to action, opinion, and determination. Weirded out yet? Yeah. I guess that’s
not your typical opening statement for a devotional. .But hate — in the correct
context — can make a lot of sense.

Paul
the Apostle stated it best when he said: “For I do not
understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing
I hate.” (Romans 7:15 ESV)
I do the very thing that I hate. There is
so much of my sinful self that I have come to despise. My impatience is one of
them. When I have projects to complete, I become driven — focused — and my two
year old suffers. The other night she was following me close on my heels, like
a needy little puppy dog. I turned and snapped “go watch Bubbleguppies!”
Like really — what kid doesn’t want their
mother to tell them to watch TV? The look in her big baby blues just about
killed me. Sadness. Mommy didn’t want her help, or her prancing on tiptoes
singing, “I may never march in the infary, toot in the tootery”. Mommy was too
busy. She hung her head and without question returned to her banishment on the
couch and the cheerful cartoons went over her head as she buried her face in
her Blanky.

I have
come to hate the darkness inside of me.

“For I
know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the
desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:18
ESV)
As humanity, we have formed a culture that
fights for the right to act on our fleshly impulses. But as Paul defines, those
impulses are “nothing good”. Strangely enough, in our fight for human rights,
we have also fought for the right to damage, wound, impale, break, and scar
those around us. For sin does not only affect ourselves. It does not only
affect our relationship to God. It touches others in a rippling effect of pain.

“I have
the desire to do what is right…” — I do. I really do. “…but not the ability to
carry it out.”
Failure. Morbid utter
condemnation.

“Wretched
man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ
our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25a ESV)
I stared at my daughter while I was
consumed with hatred for the sin inside of me that caused me to selfishly snap
at my child, wounding her spirit of joy and creating even a smidgeon of doubt
that I wanted her presence in my life.
“Are you mad at Mommy, honey?”
She nodded.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered it. She turned and
her cheeks stretched into a smile. Sitting up, she patted my knee with all the
motherly love she could muster.
“It’s o-tay, Mommy.”
She understood. Why? Because she’s already
been there too. In her own tiny sinful self, she knows what it’s like to wound.
She knows what it’s like to ask forgiveness.
Thanks be to God … to Jesus Christ our Lord
… for in and of myself, I will continue to wound, to scar, to walk in darkness.
But in Jesus, I find life, healing,
strength, and the ability to claim His victory over my sinful self.
I have learned to love. I have learned to
love life — and the righteousness found therein.
What have you learned to hate about your old nature and/or what new character has God recently taught you?

Come by to chat and encourage others today! I’m
hosting at Living By Grace on facebook

Amos: Just a boy from the hood…er pasture

photo credit: freedigitalphotos

Monday, I was
chatting with a couple of friends in the office (I work part time at my church)
and I said, “I was reading in Amos and–“
“Amos!”
Laughter filled the
office (and blessed heat; they freeze me out) “You were reading Amos? You
don’t hear that often…’I was reading in Amos…'”
Maybe it is
A-typical. Like me. Here’s why I love the book of Amos. Here’s why I love
Amos.  So much in this little overlooked
book says so much about our God, His power, His overwhelming love.
Amos shows up in a
time when Israel has much military success and prosperity (thanks to Jeroboam).
Guess what comes with sitting like fat cats?
Pride.
Greed. Immorality.
Amos focused on
putting Israel and Judah (two separate kingdoms at the time) in their place in
the area of worship, mostly.
Meaningless
worship.
Can you hear how
upset God is when He says, “Go to Bethel (center of Baal worship) and sin.
Go to Gilgal (remember this is where they set up the remembrance stones after
they crossed into the Promise Land, to remind them God had delivered and made good
on His promise–not a place of prostitution) and sin yet more.” Amos 4:4
*parenthesis mine
Do you hear the ,
“Go ahead, you’re going to anyway. I’ve done everything I can to dissuade
you” tone?
“Bring your
sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as
a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings–boast about them, you
Israelites, for this is what you love to do.” declares the Sovereign LORD.
Amos 4:4-5
Amos
made sure to let them know WHO was talking to them. THE SOVEREIGN LORD.
Do you hear the,
drips of sarcasm. Is it just me?
God goes on, through
Amos, to tell them every single thing He’s done to grab their attention. He
holds back rain to wither their crop…hey if they’re hungry maybe they’ll call
to Him, turn back…remember. Amos 4: 6-8
But they didn’t.
Then He struck their
gardens and vineyards with plight and mildew. And sent locust to eat away at
their crops. Maybe if a third party enters to gnaw away at their hard work,
they’ll turn back…remember. Amos 4:9
But they didn’t.
Then God allowed
sickness and war to overtake their bodies. The last resort. Surely, if their
bodies were sick, if the enemy came in with the sword they would call out to
God. Maybe then, they’ll turn back…remember. Amos 4:10-11
But they didn’t.
Therefore…God delivers up consequences for their sinful
behaviors.
“…prepare to
meet your God, O, Israel.”
That gives me chill
bumps.
And of course, in
God’s wonderful fashion He also declares restoration. But even so, Amos’s
words fall on deaf and angry ears.
The high priest,
Amaziah (living at Bethel–center of Baal worship) gets all testy. I mean what
corrupt priest wouldn’t, right? And he sends word to the king of Israel,
Jeroboam. “Amos is raising a conspiracy (Amos isn’t doing Jack. God is.)
against you and the very heart of Israel (translation: me. He went after me,
king) The land cannot bear all his words. (again. Me. I can’t bear it) He says,
‘Jeroboam will die by the sword and Israel will surely go into exile, away from
their native land.'”
Then Amaziah gets
testy with Amos. Tells him to get the heck out, go back to Judah and prophesy
there, but keep his mouth shut to Israel because this is where the king finds
sanctuary and he better stop disrupting it. Amos 7: 10-13.
And
here is what I love.
Amos says, “I
was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and I also
took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the LORD took me from tending flock and
said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’…” Amos 7:14-15
Amos wasn’t anyone powerful, nor did he come
from a powerful line of prophets. He was a lowly shepherd. But God called him to something else. And he
took up the mantle and went. His words were harsh at times, no one wants bad
news or to be corrected when they’re happy doing wrong.
God was with Amos.
God loved His people enough to send someone! I
love that he chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
I love that Jesus,
by men’s standards, was nothing but ordinary.
“He
grew up like a small plant before the Lord, like
a root growing in a dry land. He had no special beauty or form to make us
notice him; there was nothing in his appearance to make us desire
him.” Isaiah 53:2 NCV
I love that God sent
Him–not to judge…not yet. But to save.
“The Son of Man came to find lost people
and save them.” Luke 19:10
How
does it make you feel to know that God uses the ordinary to extraordinary
things? Does it give you hope for yourself? 
Do you feel ordinary?
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Blame the Dog!

 

This is my dog
Sarah. She’s
a Schnorkie, Schnauzer/Yorkie mix

 

 
 
I admit, I’ve wished my dog dead.

Animal lovers
everywhere will now slander my blog and ridicule me.

 
And yet, I still
admit it.
 
As a child, one of
my favorite Bible stories was Jonah and the Whale. Now, I’ll say right now it
may not have been a whale. It was a big fish, but a child of course relates a
big fish with a whale so…
 
This story of a man
who didn’t obey the Lord, stuck in a fish belly for 3 days until he said sorry,
and then he preached God’s message and everyone said sorry. Strangely, this
story didn’t scare me to get in the water or go out on boats, and it didn’t make
me afraid of God.
 
I also didn’t
understand the story of Jonah in its entirety until I was an adult. Jonah was
never afraid to go to Nineveh but I always thought that as a kid and was
taught, never be afraid of what God asks you to do. Side note: Nineveh was a
hopping and bopping ancient city built by the father of porn–Nimrod. Yeah, he
was a sick son of a gun. Imagine what a city built by an evil man would be
like.
 
Exactly.
 
Jonah wanted Nineveh to go up in flames. He wanted the people punished and that’s why
Jonah ran the other way.
 
And even when he
realized there was no getting out of it, when he did go and share God’s
message, when the people did repent and change their ways, he was still mad.
 
photo credit: free digital photos

“Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at
God, “God! I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to
happen! That’s why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and
mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn
your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness!” Jonah 4:1-2 MSG

 
Jonah didn’t want
God to give forgiveness. The people of Nineveh didn’t deserve it.
 
Neither did Jonah.
 
Neither do we.
 
God decided to teach
Jonah a lesson (not the kind of lesson He taught with the tuna fish or whale…or
some kind of big fish). Jonah took off and sat under a large tree to see what
would happen to Nineveh and while sitting there, God grew a vine up and it shaded
Jonah. The next day, God sent a worm to eat the vine and caused a raging east
wind to blow. Basically, God took a blow dryer to Jonah’s head.
 
And guess what? That
made Jonah mad. Are we shocked? Not really.
 
“Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the
plant?”
 
And he
said, “It is right for me to be
angry, even to death!” Jonah 4:9
 
Jonah
was such a drama queen wasn’t he? I’ve never been so mad I want to die. Have
you? But I get the point–the intensity of anger.
 
And here
is where I weep. Every. Time. Here is where I see the tenderness and compassion
of our great God.
 
” But the Lord said, “You
have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it
grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 
 
photo credit: free digital photos

 And should I not have concern for
the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and
twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and
also many animals?” Jonah 4:10-11

 
I can
relate to the people of Nineveh. Sometimes I don’t know my right hand from my
left. But God is concerned about me. He’s in a hurry to have compassion and
mercy on me.
 
Last
week, I wrote a small passage from one of my mss. It was about a church’s fall
festival and one of the characters comes dressed as if she were modeling for
Penthouse. Though the scene is somewhat humorous, my point came in the lines
afterwards. The lines you didn’t get to see. And I used something my husband
said to me (though I tweaked it for the ms).
 
And that
brings me back to wanting my dog dead.
 
One
morning I headed to the kitchen for my coffee and across the kitchen and living
room floor was chicken and bones. My dog stood there as if, “What? Who
doesn’t love chicken?”
 
I might
have been mad enough to want to die. Mostly, I wanted my dog to. I went into a
rant, hollering and carrying on like a total buffoon as I cleaned up her nasty
mess. I looked up and my husband was casually leaning against the wall with a
cup of coffee in his hand and a smirk on his face. Normally, this stance makes
me swoon. This morning, I might have hoped he spilled the coffee on his bare
chest.
 
“What?”
I hissed.
 
“I
think this might be the most you’ve ever spoken to the dog. A lovely way to
wake up by the way.” Smirk galore.
 
“Do
you not see this disaster! Wipe the grin off your face.”
 
And here
is where he got me.
 
“Jess,
you can’t blame a dog for being a dog.”
He did put his coffee cup down and helped me, but his amusement made me mad
enough to tell him to “just go drink your coffee. I got this.”
 
You
can’t expect someone who doesn’t know Jesus, to act like Jesus. Doesn’t mean we
let them get away with murder (literally sometimes), it just means we don’t
snub (then whisper to our friends) the chic in the micro-mini and wonder where her morals are.
 
 

Or turn
our nose up at the woman reading an explicit novel at the pool. Maybe we should sit down and instead of telling her
why she’s bound for Hell, ask her what she’s reading, what she likes about the
story (you may discover it’s not about the sex scenes at all) and then share
some books we like (not necessarily screaming, “It’s Christian fiction you
should read it and get saved!) It could become a great chance to minister as light not as a gavel.

 
It
means, when the Biker drops an f-bomb at the table next to us, we don’t gasp for everyone to hear and hope he doesn’t show up at our church. And really, what do you expect when you’re eating hot wings at Hooters?
I can
relate to Jonah as well as Nineveh.
 
It takes
God’s strength to help me step back and see things through His eyes–with mercy
and compassion. Two things I fail at often. Probably my biggest two! Yeah, I
admit it. But I’ve been learning and growing. Especially as I’ve been writing
curriculum for a new and growing believers class.
 
No
matter how I feel whether through Jonah’s eyes or Nineveh’s, it still boils
down to one thing:
 
God is
concerned. God wants people to know how much.
 
What about you? Can you relate to Jonah? Nineveh?…
my dog?