Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hope: Anchored in Christ

Sometimes it doesn't make sense to have hope.  Sometimes life's circumstances are overwhelming.  Sometimes there's pain, grief, anxiety, relationship difficulties, self loathing, others loathing, fear, bitterness, anger or a wretched combination of any/all of the above.

When I hear the news of another *someone* in the public eye taking their life, sadly, I am not surprised.  Hopelessness is not a respecter of power or position or celebrity or "success" or status. 

I have been in that pit.  I have felt it would be better to die than to inflict my miserable self on my family or others.  I have been there, because it's part of the human condition.  It's not a disease.

Thankfully, in Christ, we are able to have hope in a world where it often times makes more sense to be hopeless.  Because our hope is not anchored in our circumstances, our feelings, our relationships, or our selves (no matter how much we are told we all have the answers inside ourselves if we can just look inside, accept ourselves and love our selves enough.) Our hope is anchored in Christ alone.  He never changes.  His love for us never waivers.  It never fails.  No matter what is in the deepest, darkest corners of our hearts and minds, He loves us.

If we really take the time to receive that let Him meet us in the depths of our hearts, He gives us all the hope we need.  As we lean on Him and not our own understanding (which is so limited) we learn to trust in the One Who is the Author and Finisher of our faith, even when none of our circumstances change.  We can become thankful not only for His unfailing love, but for our trials, our pain, and anything that comes our way because His love is just that powerful.

We must not relinquish our hope in believing the lie - "There is no hope," but look to Jesus, who is our hope.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Following Perfection

I was in a dark forest.  He was walking close to me, just ahead and to my left when he offered, "Follow me." His invitation awakened something inside my soul and I was compelled to go with him though I could only see the shadow of his eyes behind his hood... 

I must digress.  Two things: First, have I mentioned I'm a recovering perfectionist? I've started a couple entries about it, but they weren't good enough. (Ba-dum-dum. I only wish I was kidding.)  For some reason I grew up thinking if I could be good enough, I would be happy and accepted. If I earned the best grades, won my dance competitions, looked good enough and behaved properly, life would somehow be better and people would like me. As you might imagine, because I obviously am not and cannot be perfect, I became angry, frustrated and unhappy. Even though I knew in my head only Christ is perfect, I still thought perfection was expected from me as well. "Be ye perfect," right? (Somehow "perfect" still meant "perfect" instead of "complete in Christ.")   It was a weird dichotomy - trying so desperately to perform something I knew was innately impossible and still being angry at myself for not meeting my own ungodly expectations. Weird, right?  I know.  That's the worst part.  Second, everyone's been hurt. I get that.  Everyone's hurt someone else. I get that, too.  That's why we all must forgive.  The hardest part, for me, was being hurt by people in the body. Feeling abandoned, rejected, ostracized and disqualified has been a tough road.  I'm not meaning to complain because there are times of both discipline and pruning and God ordains those times and I accept them. I don't have a victim complex.  I will say navigating through it all has certainly been an interesting journey, one I wouldn't have chosen for myself, but one God has used to teach me many lessons.  

...back to the forest. A few days before this dream and within a period of about a week, I'd heard not one, but two radio teachings where Jesus simply said "Follow me.

John 21:18-22
Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”  Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”  

 You   Follow   Me

I had heard it many times before, but this time it was different. Tears ran down my hot cheeks (thankful my kids weren't in the car with me) as my heart realized I hadn't been following Him. Yes, I knew Him; I knew many things about Him. I prayed. I read. I pondered. Yet faced with the personal question His Spirit was was asking my mine, I had to admit with grief my heart had been wandering. I had allowed hurt and fear to paralyze me. I'd been wondering, "What about this or that person, or what they'll say about us?" I realized why Proverb 29:5 had been floating around in my mind for so long, "The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe." And I definitely hadn't been trusting Him.   In fact, in the more honest moments of my mind I'd wanted to turn and walk away.  Run, maybe.  Still He was beckoning, "You follow Me." "You." "I want you."   When it was just Him and me in my car, there was no one to blame but myself.  Nothing else mattered but what He was speaking to my heart.  He reminded me of how I was as a child, how I used to love reading His words in red in my bible.  He asked me to do it again, to search for Him through those red words.  As a child, my faith was strong.  I had always wanted to follow Him.

Within the week I'd heard it again, "Follow Me." The next Sunday during music/worship, the worship leader sang love songs proclaiming wholehearted abandon and adoration for Jesus. As I sang along, I wanted so badly for those words to be true for me again. Then came the same question Jesus asked Peter, "Do you agape Me?" 

"Oh, Lord, I phileo You. I want to agape you," I answered, grieved at my confession. 

"Do you agape Me?" "I phileo You. I can't agape. I don't know how." 

"Feed my sheep. As you've done to the least of these my brethren, you've done to Me."

And then what song played?  "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus."  One of my favorites as a child and one new meaning has been ascribed to as an adult. 

"I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus, 
No Turning Back, 
No Turning Back"

"Follow Me," - I heard it again in the teacher's message after worship. Life outside the church box, as he described it. Not getting so caught up in "church life" that we miss the opportunities outside the four walls of a building -  the things I had been feeling for years. He encouraged us to focus on practically serving others outside those walls and sharing Jesus' love with them. 

There's another conversation Jesus had with His disciples including Simon Peter in John 6:67-78. Jesus told them something they didn't understand or like and it caused many disciples to leave and walk away from Him. Then Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  

That's what I come back to.  Whom have I but You, Lord?  There's no one else.

He wants want us to have His heart, and I've been so caught up in the bad things that happened in "church life" I've neglected simply following Him.  

Lord, Life is a dark and deep forest - so dark I can't see where I'm going no matter how badly I want to be good enough/independent/cable of figuring it all out myself...but I'm unprepared and lonely and lost and still drawn to You with an aching in the caverns of my heart and soul. You haven't given up on me or disqualified me from knowing and serving You. You are still drawing my heart and mind back to You with Your invitation and burning presence. It's just You and me as You gently lead me with your invitation,  "You follow Me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Peace, Rest, and Stillness

Peace, rest, and stillness.  These are the things the Lord has been weaving through my heart and soul. These are the things I share here with you.

Psalm 1:1-3
1 Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.
2 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.

Colossians 1
We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.
So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son,  who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

I want to be a woman who is like the tree planted by the water in Psalm 1.  How does that happen?  By meditating on His word to us.  We grow as we learn to know God better and better. This is why the Psalm 1 tree can bear fruit in every season.  It's also how we can be filled with joy and choose to be thankful every single day, because He has saved us from darkness. Do you remember the darkness He rescued you from?

Psalm 1:3 tells us the tree's leaves will never wither and will prosper in all they do. The word “prosper” is fascinating to me. It means “to advance, prosper, make progress, succeed, be profitable.” Strong's Exhaustive Concordance adds “break out, come mightily, go over, be good, be meet, be profitable, cause to, effect.”

How we spiritual prosperity is not the same as the world's definition of prosperity. Spiritual prosperity is growing in the knowledge of His will and having spiritual wisdom and understanding.  It's honoring and pleasing the Lord and producing every kind of good fruit, growing as we learn to know God better and better.  Through this knowledge and His glorious power, we are strengthened, having all the endurance and patience we need supplied by Him.  Through this, we are filled with joy, thanking the Father.
 I am so thankful He supplies our endurance and patience.  Mine runs out.  Sometimes I'm astounded by how quickly.  Other times, I am reminded we are running a a marathon.  Just. Keep. Going.  And when it's hard to keep going, trust Him to carry you.

Colossians 1:13 NKJ

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,

As I started thinking about these two sections of scripture, I noticed the word “planted,” in Psalm 1, which also means “transplanted.”  Then I looked at verse 13 in Colossians which tells us we have been "delivered," which means “to draw to oneself, to rescue,” and we have been conveyed, or “transferred,” into the kingdom of the Son, Jesus. I love that word picture. He has drawn us to Himself and rescued us.  He scooped us up at just the right time, didn't He?  Jesus' work of reconciliation with the Father was the payment for our being transferred into His kingdom. He has transplanted us from darkness into His light. That work has already been done. Yet it's the daily walking out of our faith, our choice to continue to allow ourselves to be drawn to Him, (to think about, rely, and wait on Him,) that is when we will be strengthened and become like the tree in Psalm 1:3, firmly planted along the riverbank – by the water, the Living Water Himself, Jesus!  As we stay by the water (Him,) meditating on His words and ways, resting in His Spirit, we will naturally produce good fruit each season. We will have strong, healthy roots, free of bitterness and anything else that will ultimately bring death in our lives – our leaves will not be withered, and we will prosper in what He's called us to do, because it will be in His strength and timing.

Isaiah 26:3-4 tells us,

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
4 Trust in the Lord forever,
For in YAH, the Lord, is everlasting strength.”

Peace... what the world, and so often, we Christians, lack in our lives. This world is busy and spinning and everything around us calls us and beckons us and seeks to persuade us to keep ourselves busy, too busy for Jesus...too busy to spend time in His word, resting in His presence, sitting at His feet. I am convinced this is the enemy of a fruitful life in Christ. When trials attacks come (and they are PROMISED to come,) the LORD is the only One Who keeps us in perfect peace. “Keeps” means "to guard, watch, watch over, to preserve, to keep from danger, to guard with fidelity, watchman." “Perfect peace” means "completeness, soundness, welfare, health, prosperity, peace, safety, welfare, quiet, tranquillity, contentment." “Stayed” - to lean, lay, rest, support, put, uphold, lean upon, sustain, refresh, revive. As we lean on Him (keep our mind "stayed" on Him,) we rest in Him, let Him support, sustain, refresh, and uphold us, He keeps (guards and watches over) us in perfect peace (complete safety and contentment.) Isn't that amazing?  When we choose to lean on Jesus, we are putting our trust in His ability to handle it. To  “trust” is "to have confidence in, to be bold, be secure, to be safe and carefree." As one Hebrew lexicon explains, “to confide in, to set one's hope and confidence be secure, to fear nothing for oneself.” fear nothing for oneself.  When we're trusting in Him, we are relying on His everlasting, unwavering, unchanging, continuous strength.  We don't need to fear.

Isaiah 26:4 
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in YAH, the
Lord, is everlasting strength.”

Strength – rock, rock wall, block of stone, of course, Jesus is the rock.
...I knew a couple whose baby girl was injured during labor and delivery and she was born only to pass on a few hours after her birth. I remember watching them walk through that trial, leaning on Jesus and trusting in His goodness even when they didn't understand. Later on, the husband shared with us that after going through that trial, he's not afraid of anything anymore. He had been through the worst, and his faith in Christ had been strengthened through the testing of that fiery trial...he is a very dangerous man in the kingdom of God - one who fears Christ alone.

Isaiah 26: 12-13
 Lord, You will establish peace for us,
For You have also done all our works in us.
O Lord our God, masters besides You
Have had dominion over us;
But by You only we make mention of Your name.

"Establish" means "to set, place, put, ordain."  This tells us He will place peace in us. He is the one working in and through us. Isn't that a load off?  Do you realize He never intended for you to do it on your own? He intends for us to come to Him, you who are weary and heavy laden, and He will give you rest.  We were once ruled by our flesh and worshipped other gods, but now, in Christ, we worship Him alone. We don't have to be overwhelmed with life. We don't have to yell rant and rave and complain or let the storm rage in our hearts.  We can choose to have peace and thank and worship Him, no matter what the circumstance may be.

Psalm 46:10
"Be still and know that I am God. I will be honored by every nation.  I will be honored throughout the world.

What does that mean, to be "still?"  It means "to sink, relax, sink down, let drop, withdraw, idle, abandon, refrain, forsake, to let go, let alone, to be quiet, to show oneself slack."  "Know" means "to learn to know, to learn by experience, perceive, be instructed."

Is this what a gentle and quiet spirit looks like?  The stillness in this verse allows us to let go, to be quiet, and relax.  As we do this, we learn by experience Who God is as we sit still, quiet our hearts and minds, and experience Him as we learn from Him.  Thankfully, we can also rest in knowing that He will be exalted. We are blessed to exalt Him now as we look forward to the day when He will be exalted by all, when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is LORD!

Jesus spoke to the storm and said, “Peace, be still,” in Mark 4:26. "Peace," "to be silent, hold one's peace, metaph. of a calm, quiet sea, to close the mouth with a muzzle, to muzzle."

As we cast all our cares on Him, pouring our hearts out to Him, we can let it all go.  Then we are able to sit quietly and listen, allowing His Spirit to work in our hearts and bring the peace, rest, and stillness we so desperately desire.  Go to Him.  Everything you need - your deepest, innermost heart's desires are only met in that deep place of intimacy with your maker.  Pour out your heart.  Let it go.  Let Him carry it.  It's not for you anymore!  He will watch over you.  Trade in your heart's hurts and longings for His gift of perfect peace and overflowing love. Let Him weave a beautiful work of peace and rest into your soul.  He is the one doing all the work in you (Isaiah 26:12.) Let Him. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It's All Grace

A few years ago I really began my gracelessness.  My natural default is to be critical and short; both with myself and others.  I started realizing I really didn't understand grace.  You can't give away something you don't have.  Although head kind of got it, and although I knew grace has been explained as:


aka the "great switcheroo,"  I was still needing...more, a deeper knowledge of grace - grace searching the caverns of my soul and rooting out everything ugly and loveless and lifeless.  I began my investigation by reading a few books and as I picked and gleamed some insight from them, I continued to ask God to show me His grace so I could better understand and live in His grace.  As I searched for the thing (grace,) I discovered, as always, it wasn't the thing I desired, but more of Him, my Jesus.  He is grace.  What I ached and longed for was more intimacy with my creator.  As I drew close to Him and allowed Him to teach me, I began to experience His grace in my inmost being, and realized that was what I had been craving all along.  What's fascinating to me now is that I see grace everywhere.

Grace is God reaching into my life and saving me from myself.

Grace is God condescending to reside in my heart and soul and giving me new life.

Grace is simply waking up.

Grace is coming alongside someone who's fallen down and picking them up, washing their wounds, and tending their broken heart.

Grace is a kind word replied to a cranky one.

Grace is a hug when I'm grumpy.

Grace is receiving forgiveness and forgiving others.

Grace is open arms to the hurting.

Grace is loving even when it's awkward.

Grace is friendship with the "unworthy."

Grace is Jesus calling me "friend" when I've been unfaithful to Him.

Grace is patiently teaching me the same lesson over and over, until I finally understand, even if it means discipline.

Grace is realizing His goodness and mercy do chase after me, and all I need to do is turn to Him to receive it.

Grace is His holding onto me when I can't hold on anymore.

Grace is learning to love after a heart break.

Grace is feeling joy again after loss.

Grace is realizing my own insufficiency and allowing His power and abundance to live through me instead.

Grace is His Spirit living inside me, leading me, whispering to my heart throughout the day.

Grace is the ability to receive and give love.

Grace (and truth) is what Jesus is full of.

Grace is Jesus being enough in all things, every situation, every moment of the day.

Grace is my Savior giving me dreams, speaking to my heart, and revealing Himself to me more and more every day.

I pray as I grow in Him, my days will be marked by His grace.  I pray for His bride, that we will be a people who are so attuned to His lavish grace for us that we can't help but pour it out on everyone around us.  That's the heart of this blog - learning to recognize, receive, pour out, and simply live in His miraculous grace - Grace Dwelling - Him living in and through each one of us.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Big Picture and Sweating the Small Stuff

You've probably heard the phrase "Don't sweat the small stuff," right?

I was thinking... it's all the small things that become our life's sum...the big picture is comprised of all the little moments, isn't it?  There are so many seemingly small things every single day...we wake up.  Brush our teeth. Take a shower. Shave. Take care of children.  Take care of spouses.  There are toilets to clean and dinner to be made, home work to help with and laundry and dishes, driving and our car needs gas (all the time) to take us to voice and karate classes, dentist appointments, church and school meetings, clothes shopping and laundry (oh, the ever piling chore) and then we wake up and begin again...we spin like clay on a potter's wheel - the wheel turns, the world turns, and we, like clay, are shaped and formed in our Master's hands.

Oswald Chambers said this:
A spiritually vigorous saint never believes that his circumstances simply happen at random, nor does he ever think of his life as being divided into the secular and the sacred. He sees every situation in which he finds himself as the means of obtaining a greater knowledge of Jesus Christ, and he has an attitude of unrestrained abandon and total surrender about him. The Holy Spirit is determined that we will have the realization of Jesus Christ in every area of our lives, and He will bring us back to the same point over and over again until we do. Self-realization only leads to the glorification of good works, whereas a saint of God glorifies Jesus Christ through his good works. Whatever we may be doing— even eating, drinking, or washing disciples’ feet— we have to take the initiative of realizing and recognizing Jesus Christ in it. Every phase of our life has its counterpart in the life of Jesus.

I happen to believe he's right...and at the end of the day, it's all the little things that make a life.  For in Him, we live and move and have our being, Acts 17 tells us.  So all those "small" and insignificant things are not so small or insignificant.  Everything was created in Him, for Him and by Him, and He is the One Who holds all things together, including me! (Colossians 1)

Maybe there's nothing small or insignificant - even cleaning toilets and doing dishes or wiping little noses - not when it's done for Him.  When the pieces of my life are shattered - broken relationships, broken dreams or broken hearts, I simply offer them back to the One who holds my heart in His hands and trust that He is using all those smashed up little pieces of my life to fashion them into a beautiful mosaic, a work of art, that reflects His love in and through me. We are His "poeima," His work of art. (Ephesians 2:10)

So I don't sweat the "small" stuff, instead I entrust it all to the Master Artist of my life. Even if I don't see a beautiful mosaic, I trust Him (the Author and Finisher of my faith) to finish the process, as He sees fit.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Insufficient Funds & Special Needs

Have you ever experienced that moment when you're checking out at the cashier's stand with your bags ready to go and the message comes back - Denied - Insufficient Funds?

Red face.  Humiliation.

Do you know that we are all Insufficient Funds?

-without His grace, love, and mercy?  Not just zero, but negative - in the red.

Do you ever feel unworthy?  Less than? Empty? Cast aside? 

Have you ever been told or treated like you are simply not good enough?

 I had a dream. Another one.

In it, I was searching for someone to talk to about my son's youth group (they had spent all their time outside chasing clearly I needed to discuss this with someone in charge (-:) and I walked into a room that had a few older people sitting in chairs, holding clipboards and discussing who would serve where and what the needs were.  I thought I would speak with one of them, but instead I quickly scanned the room and noticed there were a lot of young children (about 5-6 years old) who were joyfully learning and working and playing.  I sat next to one of them and asked her a question about what she was working on.  She enthusiastically responded and as we continued our conversation I thought, "Oh, this is why I'm here.  This is where the need is."

Then the Lord opened my eyes and as I looked around again, I realized each one of the kids had special needs.  My heart swelled and tears filled my eyes as He flooded me with His love for these precious children...who had been ostracized and taunted and cast aside by others...but not by Him.

And I woke up and I knew...we are all special needs.  

We are all special needs and insufficient funds. And I laugh and cry at the same time as I grasp this.  Because no matter what anyone has ever said about you, He is wild about you!  He loves you to the core of your being.  He loves you with your special needs and your weakness and your lack.  

In our weakness, His strength is perfected.  When we understand we are insufficient, we invite His sufficiency and abundance into our lives.  And we humbly give Him what He alone deserves, all the glory and honor and praise! 

1 Corinthians 1
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[c] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[d] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him[e] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Calling Up Grace

There's something I've been thinking about for quite some time now.  In fact, I mostly think about these things and occasionally write about this is something I've been chewing on...mulling over...praying over...

I believe it's time.

I believe it's time to call people up.  Notice I said, "up," not "out."  Because this isn't a confrontation.  It's an invitation.  To what?  To take off the blinders and hold the mirror up to our faces; to let His truth and light be known as we let go of hypocrisy and let His Spirit cleanse us of that which is...I'll say it...


 James 1:22-26

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.  But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

James 2:1-12

My dear brothers and sisters,[a] how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting[b] dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name[c] you bear?
Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[d] But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.  For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.”[e] So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.  So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

Galations 6:1-5
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer[a] is overcome by some sin, you who are godly[b] should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.  Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.  If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
 Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

Mark 9:38-41
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”
“Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me.  Anyone who is not against us is for us.  If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.

Romans 14
Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.[c] 11 For it is written:
As I live, says the Lord,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”[d]

So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.
Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.

Proverbs 17:5
Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 14:17
He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord,
And He will pay back what he has given.

There it is - favoritism.  It seems so...small, doesn't it?  Harmless, even?  Don't we all have our favorites, if we're actually honest?  True, we may feel a certain way - after all, we're still flesh and blood, and it's normal to feel closer to some people than others, however, God's word clearly commands us not to show partiality, or favoritism, in how we treat others.  

It's easy to agree with the example given here in scripture - rich and poor - and I think we can all obviously see how wrong it is.  

So let's dig a little deeper.  

What about the spiritually poor?  Immature?  Dirty, even?  What about those who come to fellowship and are difficult to be around?  What if they're wounded?  Bleeding?  Dressed wrong? What if it's none of that but sadly our pride that calls them less for a made up or ill perceived reason?  What if we just don't like them?  What if they don't have spiritual status?  Can we spiritually justify treating them as less than?  Why would we even try?  When we treat other brothers and sisters as "less than," what have we become?  Well, the word calls us "judges with evil thoughts/motives." (James 2:4)


It's that serious.  It's not harmless.  It's not small.

When we oppress the poor, we are like the blasphemers who dragged the poor to court.  If we really are obeying God's royal law, we will love others as we love ourselves.  We will treat others how we want to be treated.  We won't have an inner circle others must earn their way into in order to be loved or truly to minister to, or minister with.  It's not about "us" and "them," because we are one body and Christ is the Head. If we are truly loving others as He loves us and has command us to, we simply will not show partiality and favoritism.

Let me break it down very clearly:

favoritism/partiality = SIN

When we treat others with partiality, we're guilty of breaking God's law just like an adulterer or murderer has.  I find it fascinating these are the two examples given when addressing favoritism.  Not lying or stealing or some nicer sounding sin. But unfaithfulness and hate.  Guilty. 

Let's all be really honest here.  When we let it be known (through words or actions, whether by gossip barely cloaked in concern or insinuation with raised eyebrows) that "they" are just not as worthy or deserving of our time, energy, effort, prayer and service as someone else is, we have become evil judges. We are not leading people closer to Jesus, but hindering them, hurting them, and stumbling them.  Christ warns us not to cause the young in Him to stumble.  It breaks His heart, and He takes this seriously.  (Mark 9:42.)

We must ask - deep down, in my innermost being, do I pride myself on my service or wisdom or knowledge or position or status?  How do I react when someone corrects me or tells me I am wrong? Proudly?  Angrily?  If so, we must stop. It's hurting us, and it's hurting the bride of Christ.  He is the One who sees our hearts' intentions, and at times He is grieved.  Sadly, there will be naive and immature people who will willingly believe and follow us, especially if we keep telling them they are to submit.  They will have to suppress the truth in unrighteousness to keep going along with what is, in truth, deception. In this we are not doing the Lord's work - we are working against Him.  Jesus said, "As you've done to the least of these my brethren, you've done it to me!" He desires we bring encouraging refreshment in His name.  (Matthew 10:42)  He desires calling up,  helping up, and bearing one another's burdens instead of putting people down under our we can rest our feet on their backs...

The poor - the least of these. 
The immature.
Those who disagree with us.
Those who don't take our advice.
Those we just don't like.
The way we've hurt and ostracized and rejected them, sadly, sickeningly, in the Lord's name even, we must realize we've done it to Him.  Will we hear this?  Will we humble our hearts and repent?

To those who are leading, whether it be family or fellowship, we are not at the top of a power pyramid.  Jesus said being great in His kingdom means being servant of all!  When we mock or belittle others because they have not lived up to our standard we are being judges with evil motives. We are showing contempt for God. For God! Let's sit with that for a minute.

He fashioned each one in His very image, and leaders are no better than anyone else.  God's will is that each one will stand before Him, not that we would tear each other down. Have we forgotten the sweet, simple fact that it's all grace?
That's our remedy!  Grace! Mercy! Peace! Edification! Mercy triumphs over judgement!!  Thank You, Jesus!  Realize that everyone of us needs grace and mercy every day.  When we are real about our own need for mercy and grace, it's so easy to allow it to pour over onto the people around us.  Let's be those who pursue and chase after peace with each other.  Let's let God be God and stop acting like we are God Who sees inside people's hearts.  (1 Samuel 16:7.)  Listen, people disagreeing with us does not equal people disagreeing with Him. Please understand, leaders are not the Holy Spirit and we do not have special access to God.  We must not allow people to treat us like we do!  We must be honest and humble and upfront about this truth.

Body, hold your leaders accountable.  It is so easy to speak the truth so well, yet refuse to humbly recognize our own sin.  There are those who pervert the truth and take advantage of the bride, placing themselves in the driver's seat of other's lives where only our Great Shepherd belongs.  Body, if we treat our "leaders" differently, unquestioningly obeying even when God's very Spirit living inside us is warning us something is wrong, we are showing favoritism/partiality as well.  If we belong to a fellowship where we feel we are not truly supposed to ask and question and talk and are actively encouraged to hold leaders (servants) accountable, run!  Find somewhere else to fellowship.  Because we are not to be following men who say the right things but do another, but Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith!  The Holy Spirit leads us into all understanding.  He shows no favoritism.  He died for all. He loves all - unconditionally, poor or rich, sweet or difficult.  He lavishes grace and mercy on every single one of us.

If you are reading this, I pray you will be one who will allow God to lavish His great love and mercy and grace and peace on you! May you never forget you are destitute without Him!  May you treat those He has allowed in your care with that same grace, mercy, and love He is pouring out on you.  His people are precious!! Love them, and leave the judgement up to God.  Let go of the "us" and "them" mentality.  The question isn't "Can you get behind me on this?" but "Will you follow Jesus with all your heart, mind, and strength?  Will you get behind Him?"  Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ! Edify each other!  Have the mind of Christ, who made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself to the point of death. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil. 2)  

Ask the LORD, "Who do You want me to lift up today?" and then do it!

Lord, take us deeper - we want to know Your heart.