Skin on Jesus

1 John 3:17-18  But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us know love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

A few years ago my husband and I worked with Samaritans Purse in the Douglasville area back when we had a September flood.  During a prayer at the home of a flood victim, a worker said three words I’ve never forgotten “skin on Jesus”. Love and Care brings reality to Jesus, it’s God working thru us that makes that happen and a world that needs Jesus, is watching.  

Love is what causes us to Care. The dictionary gives the definition  for care as “feel concern or interest” or “look after and provide the needs of” and Jesus said our love for one another is an example of Him. Probably the most insightful words on care in all of scripture is the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.  He didn’t ask that question “how are you” and have no real interest behind the question , he didn’t walk on by, he DID something.

What does “care” look like?  What doesn’t it look like?

Based on the definition, care requires us to do something dependent on the situation. Here in the south, the first way we usually show care is to provide meals, we are great at this one.  Maybe care is a card, could be it’s a text or phone call to check in and let that someone know you are interested in caring about them,  maybe it’s an offer to do laundry, maybe it’s flowers, could be a gift card to ease a financial burden, maybe it’s yard work, maybe it’s baby or child sitting,  and so on. You can make your own list and ideas because you have been gifted by God with your own ways to Care. Care has the suggestion of relationship. Being interested in those with needs is hard because so much of our own life can be overwhelming to us and take so much of our time.  We will have to quit thinking of “us” and yes that will take work. And a biggie about care is…. if you find yourself in the situation of needing “care”, you have got to be vulnerable and open to letting people put Care in action. This part is just as important because it shows the world the command of Jesus for loving one another.  It’s on the giver and the receiver to both do their parts. John 14:15-16: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever”. This is the best part of caring… we have a Helper that if we ask, will show us who we need to be caring for and will put the ideas in our heads of how to help.  We must just open up our minds and our eyeballs.

What does Care NOT look like.   It’s probably not real hard to answer this one.  1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”.   Care isn’t walking on by those in need. Care isn’t ignoring the situation that’s right in front of you. Care isn’t using the words, “I’m praying for you” as a way to do nothing.  Yes, please pray but do not use these words or response as a way to make you feel like you are “doing” something, the world is watching and they NEED to see we are actually caring, by our actions.  

Out with the old, in with the new.

We’ve all heard that saying.

New. New smells. New toys. New clothes. New shoes. New car. New.

Maybe it’s just me, but at the beginning of a new year I’m compelled to clean out. Clean out closets, clean out cabinets, clean out clothes, clean out that junk drawer and so on. And in doing that it seems like a good time to replace some things, or just start with new. New feels good. New makes us happy. (That’s probably something that should be examined all on its own.) And, new things cost money.  

In Luke 16, there is a passage where Jesus tells a parable about a rich man and his manager. Basically, the manager was stealing or squandering the bosses money/possessions and the boss called him out on it. So, the manager figures he is about to get fired so he goes about trying to get him a little cash so he can take care of himself. What is really strange about the parable is the manager is dishonest about how he does that, but yet the master praises him for acting shrewdly. Say what??? See, the focus is on the “thinking ahead”. The master is God and the manager is His children. And the parable is trying to get them to see that all that you own belongs to God and what He wants you to do is plan for your time in His kingdom, heaven. How will you use the money and possessions you have now to do that? The words of Jesus in Verse 11 read, “if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon (money) , who will entrust the true riches to you?” True riches are the crowns, jewels and rewards we will receive in heaven for a job well done.  

So, consider before you throw out the old and buy the new, in what way will it be used to further the Kingdom. Think how much we buy into what is in style or the newest fad, but the majority of it does nothing for Kingdom work. Maybe if we really did look at our money as God’s, we would consider better how we use it. Asking myself before I make that purchase, can I really do without? How many poor folks can I feed off what I’m about to buy? How does God see this purchase?

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much”  Luke 16:10

Three Treasures for a King

 

 Matthew 2: 11  “after coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His Mother, and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.  Then, opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Matthew is the only one to write about the treasures that the wise men brought to give to the King , him being the tax collector and money guy it’s not real surprising He would include it.  Isaiah the prophet also writes about it in 60:6 but he leaves out myrrh since he is writing about the second advent of Jesus.   And there is some significance of these gifts, the gold is a symbol of His deity and His glory.  The frankincense represents the purity of Jesus.  And the myrrh represents the suffering He will endure for us.

It would seem from the verse, “then opening their treasures” that they had lots of choices, but chose the best items.  The giving of the gifts, was part of their worship to Jesus.

Then I had to ask….. what are my treasures?   And what treasures am I giving to the King.

In  Matthew 6:19-21, and other places there is a bit more about treasures.  ” Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Jesus teaches there is no security in earthly things, but what really matters is heavenly things.   So if we are storing up treasures in heaven, guess what… that makes us the Treasurer of those treasures.  Some of those treasures are going to be people, relationships with people… specifically those we have helped lead to The King.  I LOVE the idea that we are the treasurer over that.  It’s on us what treasure is there.   And then, what treasurers are we giving to the King.  All questions that each one of us has to answer on our own, no one can answer for us.

In this season of giving gifts, let us remember what the best gift of all is…. JESUS.  Let’s not be sucked into the consumerist part of Christmas that bombards us at every turn, instead look for ways to give away Jesus, and give back our gifts worthy for a King.

Matthew 19:21 “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me”

 

Who is at our table?

Photo Courtesy of Project Studio                

Luke 5: 27-29  “He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them.”

In the fifth chapter of Luke, he tells the story of Levi the tax collector, who will be known as Matthew. Tax collectors during the time of Jesus were hated for several reasons, mostly because they were Jews collecting taxes for Rome since Israel was occupied by them. A tax collector could stop a person on the street, demand to see what they were carrying, and make them pay a tax. The tax laws weren’t really common knowledge, so those taxed always felt as if a tax collector was taking advantage of them, and usually they were. They would collect the tax, but extort a portion for themselves. Tax collectors really had a bad reputation and it was well deserved. In Luke 5, we learn that’s the job Matthew has…

There is this something that shows up in this verse, that maybe we need to be reminded of … look what Matthew does, he throws a party.  He meets Jesus and his reaction is to throw a party to introduce the King.  He puts out a big ole spread (I wonder if there was yummy hummus) and invites all his co-workers and his friends, and his new friends that he’s made that had been following Jesus around.  Most of us have no problem throwing parties. We have birthday parties, anniversary parties, retirement parties, engagement parties, those “sell you something” parties but Matthew throws a “meet Jesus party”.

But a bigger deal than Matthew throwing a party, is look who is invited to sit at his table: “and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them.” Tax collectors and sinners. Luke 5: 30 says “The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners.?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick’.”     

Who are we inviting to sit at our table? Is it only our “Christian” friends, our church friends, our family?  To know THE King, and to want others to know Him, we need to diversify our tables. Plan a party, serve a feast, and invite those not in the Kingdom to celebrate the King. Show them what He is all about.  It’s the example Jesus clearly models for us and it cannot be disputed.  So get out the china or the paper plates, get that menu together, order take out if needed and get busy with those invitations for new friends.

Permission to party friends, and special thanks to Matthew for showing us how it’s done.

Skipping to the Sunrise

Sunrises have this way of making me smile. Yes, I’m a morning person and I get it that for some people they aren’t very happy to see that sunrise, they would rather still be in bed.   But honestly,  I’m kind of in awe how everyday when the sun comes up, the next day will not look the same.  New colors, new clouds will appear and it will have a whole new look. Sometimes when the sun comes up though, it’s just light and not a lot of color.   And then sunrises seen from the beach or the mountains,  now those get their own  special kind of awe or a Yay God moment.

 The Ladies’ Bible study groups are studying Luke together and there is a verse that kinda popped out to me this past week.  It’s Luke 1:78… “because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace”.  The message version reads: 

“Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace.”

Oh my gracious, that beautiful sunrise can remind me of God and His promise I just love that.  He is light to the darkness of this world.  But in that verse is instruction… I hope you didn’t miss it… “to guide our feet in the way of peace”.   The way of peace meaning be harmonious in your relationships, be friendly.  To guide our feet in the way of friendliness.  Friendliness, shining light in a dark place.

 Luke was using a verse from Malachi 4:2 here “but for you who fear My name the Sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall”.

It  just got crazy, we got permission to skip around and celebrate the mercy of God, His healing and His righteousness.  I’m not sure how I feel about being compared to calves, but they are kind of cute.  So I hope the next time you get the privilege of witnessing a Sunrise, you’ll remember the promise of God and His instruction.  Choose the Path of Peace.   And maybe add a li’l skip in your step and celebrate that Sunrise.

 

Rest in Peace

 Doesn’t it seem like our world has gone crazy?  Guess what, since the beginning of the creation of man, this world has been in  turmoil, just go read the New Testament and see all the chaos going on .  Wars and rumors of wars, people not getting along, murder,  disease, man decided what is right and wrong, mans sexuality distorted , floods and so on.   I saw a church sign this week that read, ” Why rest in peace? Let’s  live that way too”.  See, when we know the King we know the outcome, we know our future.

 That brings me to the word “Fear”.  If you are watching the news, reading a newspaper, maybe seeing current events in your news feed… that might be your reaction.  When we operate from fear,  it is impossible to be about Gods mission because fear isn’t who God is, it distorts our view and cause us to make choices that aren’t kingdom minded, they are “me” minded because we are trying to protect ourselves or our families.  Job 41:33 ” Nothing on earth is like Him, One made without fear”. God does not use fear on us, it’s not of Him.  Fear stops us in our tracks.  Fear can paralyze us. But here is the best news…. Gods own words, “fear not”.  In Matthew 10 Jesus warns us that He is sending us out as “sheep in the midst of wolves”.  He knew how scary  this world would be, He knew how hard going about His mission would be. But He has lots of promises like John 14:27 .. “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful”.  Luke 1:74, ” serve Him without fear”.  And Paul gave Timothy these words in 2 Timothy 1:7, ” for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power”.  Luke 12:7 ” the very hairs of your head are numbered, do not fear.”  

 In the words of Jesus in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you”.  Peace, it’ s the opposite of Fear.  It’s what we get when we trust Gods promise that He cares for us, even more than He cares for sparrows.  So when you feel like you opened the door to Fear, and said “welcome, come on in”… stop and remember the promises God gave us and kick fear back out to the curb.   Isaiah 35: 4 … ” take courage and fear not”.  Let us all put on the Peace of God, let it be on display in our life and be a living  example of the Hope found in Jesus.   

Phillippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard our hearts and minds in Jesus.                        

                                                                                   Rest in Peace

Everyone has a Mother, but some just need a Mom.

Mothers, we all have one right?  Mother, Mom, Mama, she birthed us, sacrificed for us, nursed us when we were sick, has gotten us out of jams, fed our bellies, clothed us, our personal taxi driver, comforted us, listened to us, guided us and so on.   Psalms 127:3 says “children are a gift.”   Proverbs 31 has a lot to say about the role of a Mother.  When Jesus came, He changed the perspective on mothering and family teaching us that we are family to the church, those in the Kingdom with us…. and caring for others is part of His commandment.  For some children, Mother is just a name for the woman who birthed you.  She is someone you don’t really have a relationship with because she abandoned you, maybe she was taken from you because of drug abuse or incarceration. Maybe she had no Mama and was never really shown how to take care of her own children, and due to neglect you were removed from her home.  Maybe you weren’t protected by her and were abused.  She made choices, choices you didn’t have any say in and you were taken out of that situation, often traumatically.    Sadly, that is the exact circumstances of 14,000 children in the state of Georgia, 500 of them here in our county.   May is the month for Mother’s day, and also Foster Care Awareness.  It is understood, not everyone can foster, but everyone can do something.  We get to choose the something.

Recently, someone mentioned  to me a portion of the Great Divorce written by C. S. Lewis, written about heaven and hell and he describes a scene in heaven of celebrating mothering.  

“First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old. Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honour all this was being done.

I cannot now remember whether she was naked or clothed. If she were naked, then it must have been the almost visible penumbra of her courtesy and joy which produces in my memory the illusion of a great and shining train that followed her across the happy grass. If she were clothed, then the illusion of nakedness is doubtless due to the clarity with which her inmost spirit shone through the clothes. For clothes in that country are not a disguise: the spiritual body lives along each thread and turns them into living organs. A robe or a crown is there as much one of the wearer’s features as a lip or an eye.

But I have forgotten. And only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face.

“Is it?…is it?” I whispered to my guide.

“Not at all,” said he. “It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.”

“She seems to be…well, a person of particular importance?”

“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.”

“And who are these gigantic people…look! They’re like emeralds…who are dancing and throwing flowers before here?

“Haven’t ye read your Milton? A thousand liveried angels lackey her.”

“And who are all these young men and women on each side?”

“They are her sons and daughters.”

“She must have had a very large family, Sir.”

“Every young man or boy that met her became her son – even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.”

“Aye, she was one of the great ones”.  I LOVE that.  See, living with a Kingdom mindset, living with eternity in mind just might change our perspective on what may seem hard, or undoable but yet you may be just the perfect Mom for a foster child who needs to be shown a bit of love and concern, to let them know they do matter.  Being a Mom, a Mother or a Mama doesn’t have to just be to children that we birthed, that is what is so sweet about the picture C. S. Lewis writes about.  The truth is that being a foster family is hard work.  Maybe the reward will be here on earth or maybe it will be in eternity.   Be brave Mamas.  There are some children that need a Mom.  If you are interested in foster care, or other ways to serve foster children or foster families you can send an email to mkwright4@bellsouth.net for more info.     

 God sets the lonely in families… Psalms 68:6

Spring Has Sprung

“That in the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time, the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he received a high view of the Providence and Power of GOD, which has never since been effaced from his soul. That this view had perfectly set him loose from the world, and kindled in him such a love for GOD.”
Brother  Lawrence 1666, Practicing the Presence of God.

Spring in Georgia usually brings about rough weather, rain, and lots of pollen.  Maybe it gets you “spring cleaning”… I’ve always wondered why don’t we have “winter” cleaning, but maybe it’s the sense of new and fresh that makes us want to spring clean.  But the best part of spring is it gives a glimpse of creator God, and we should take a moment to be in awe of it.  How can a seed, a root, a bulb go thru a season where it “dies”, it’s in the ground, would seem dead but yet really at the core is alive?   Because spring is the perfect picture of a God whose pretty awe-inspiring,  He is Creator God, and we should celebrate Him, when we view His creation.   Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world,  His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature,  have been clearly seen”.  In creation, new life, that new flower, that new leaf on a tree that seems dead, is proof  of God.  Max Lucado says  “if a person has nothing but nature, then nature is enough to reveal something about God.”

Spring time also brings about the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus, Easter…  new, something dead that comes to life. Only God has the power to raise a man from the dead, defeat death, bring back life.  Revelation 21:5, “I am making all things new” is His promise.  More to celebrate.

So, when you see all the new leaves on the winter trees, the new flowers out of the dead ground, the beautiful  new blooms on the bare trees,  maybe stop and consider giving God a bit of a “Yay God Moment”, clap for Him, celebrate His beautiful creation, be inspired by it and in awe of Him.  Then yes, pass around the tissue box for all of us with spring allergies.  Gotta take the good with the bad.  Achoo, and  God bless you!

Fear Is…

Fear is a tool of the devil, he uses it in all kinds of ways. Fear of failure, fear of death, fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of awkwardness just to name a few.

We make choices from fear that keep us from doing kingdom work. Fearful of talking to our neighbor, we guard our families and children from “the world” because of fear, we let fear keep us out of sketch places, we let fear keep us from speaking love to someone, doing love for someone. Words of a wise teacher remind us, “ The world isn’t to be feared, it’s the prize. I think I’ll say that again… the world is the prize! Our high schools are the prize, our middle schools are the prize, our elementary schools are the prize, our colleges are the prize, LGBT is the prize, our co-workers and the prize, our neighbors are the prize, the Poor are the prize, Muslims are the prize, and on and on. Those that we fear, are the prize. If satan can use fear to keep us from doing the work of Jesus, well then he wins. Wouldn’t it better to not let him win?

The word fear appears in the bible about 299 times. There are two definitions of the word listed.

Fear, “awe, dread and reverence”. This is the fear that Zacharias had when he saw the angel, this is the fear that the guards had who saw the stone rolled away from the tomb of Jesus, the fear of those present who saw Ananias struck dead, the same fear that was there in prison with Paul when God opened the jail doors and the fear Moses had when God called to him from a burning bush. It’s the fear, the reverence for God we should have during worship, a respect for our God, not because He will harm us, because He is Powerful and worthy of awe, dread and reverence.

The other fear word means “to be afraid”. This is the one in the devils toolbox. It is the fear that keeps us from doing Kingdom work. In Matthew 10, Jesus talks about it A LOT. In vs. 28, “do not fear those who kill the body for they are unable to kill the soul”. vs. 31, ” do not fear, you are more valuable than sparrows”.

Just recently I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I still find it strange to say those words in my head or out loud because of no family history, it comes as quite a shock. The day we found out and were leaving the doctor’s office, as we walked out thru the waiting room I wondered how many women that day, would get cancer news and be so afraid. I have none of that because of my understanding who God is, I’m His daughter, I belong to Him. Romans 8:15… for you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out, “Abba!” Father!” See, I know the end of the story. Our end is all the same: death… we are all terminal, none of us are getting out of here alive and I know The King and what He promises if I believe and trust in Him. The opposite of fear is PEACE. Peace means we can trust Him, He has our best interest and we can do Kingdom work absent of fear. What we should fear, is not fear of death, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of etc…. I recently heard a quote, “Should we fear failure, or being successful at things that really don’t matter? ” Buddy Hoffman. This is a good reminder.

Let us not let Fear keep us from doing what’s important, what will matter at the end of this life is what we did for The King, that is all! “I fear no evil, for YOU are with me” Ps. 23

Love is……

February brings about Valentine’s day. It’s all about love… love…. love.  Jewelry, Hearts, Flowers, Dinner, Chocolate; the list goes on and on.  These are the things we associate with that day.   All women want to matter, we want to know we are valued… that’s what makes Valentine’s day fun; our Valentine showing us we matter and we are loved. Of course for me, I’ll just take a simple dish put in the dishwasher instead of the sink. It’s the little things y’all!  We know what culture teaches up about love… but what does Jesus tell us?  

The beginning of love goes all the way back to the garden of Eden, in Genesis 1:31, God creates all things and says they are good… and in Genesis 3:21 when Adam and Eve choose to sin, He sacrifices an animal to give them clothes to cover their sin because of His love for them. God takes the death of an animal, (and by the way it would have been the first time Adam and Eve saw an animal die, giving up its blood for them ) which He sees as good, and kills it for them.  Love is… sacrificial.

Jump ahead to God sacrificing His son, to cover our sins, and now Jesus has a TON to say about Love.  The Old testament taught us to love our neighbor, after the death of Jesus God adds love your enemies, love those that persecute you.  Love God, love your neighbor, love others.  It seems so simple, but then “we” get in the way.  Sacrificial love is hard because it means we have to give up what matters to us, ourselves. Because we love Jesus, sometimes we have to put ourselves to the side, be humble and show humility.  The root word of humbleness and humility comes from the word dirt, the picture of being low, you  just can’t get any lower than the ground. We  have to choose whether we are going to be obedient to what He’s told us to do , He didn’t ask us to love,  He commanded it. The best part is He promises He will help us do it!

Love is a noun, that love is compassion and devotion.  And Love is a verb, that love does things, it’s love in action.  It’s how people will know who Jesus is, by how we love. John 13:34-35  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another, by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 15:13 Jesus says, greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

I Corinthians 13 spells out love for us, “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self- seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres and LOVE Never fails.  Love doesn’t mean we always feel lovey dovey about someone, but it does always mean we want the best for that someone.

So whether you have a Valentine or not, we still all have the same mission… to LOVE just like Jesus did. Best part is, He is cheering us on! And don’t be scared to Love, for you are valued. Matthew 10:29-31.

 

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