This time it’s not a test

Starting September 1, 2013 our family double-tithed for a month, we gave 20% of our income back to God, that is, to our local church.  God gave me a new job and other nice things happened.  (See, https://i-m-4-u.com/2013/09/29/did-god-pass-the-test/).  But that was 3 and a half years ago.

My wife and I were listening this morning to a pastor talk about the fun of miracles happening in our lives and in the lives of others.    I asked God to give me the desire to be receptive to his miracles again by doing what he says to do.  I remembered what we did back in 2013.  And so, the fire was lit.  We are going to do another double-tithe for a month.  While much happened for us last time, relationally and financially,  I am anticipating much happening for others this time.  Still, one of my goals is that my wife and two sons and myself grow in our trust of our invisible God.  I want God to make himself “real and tangible” in our hearts and minds.

So Jesus, we are ready for whatever you want to do in, through and for us, take it away…

Fear is your friend

“Dare to stand before those you fear and speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.”
Maggie Kuhn

And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
– Paul, Apostle of Jesus,  1 Corinthians 2:3

 

I am guilty of judging content by delivery.  If someone is confident and smooth in their presentation, I sometimes give them much more credit that someone who is halting, trembles and shows their insecurity.

Fortunately God uses people like Paul who boasted of his weaknesses in order that Christ’s power would influence people, not his own power.

Last summer I stood up in front of about 100 people at a satellite campus of our church and presented a new ministry: hope for mental health.  My hands were shaking so badly I could not read my notes, and my voice was shaking as well.  But the comments I received afterwards about the content were positive, and we laughed about the delivery.

Perhaps you can relate less to the polished person than the trembling speaker, and you decline to talk about Jesus to others (friends, family, strangers) because of fear.

Fear is your friend.

If you trust Jesus with your eternity, trust him to fill you and give you words and everything else you need to tell the people he died for that he loves them.  Jesus takes full responsibility for you when you obey him.  And obeying Jesus is fun.  Being filled with Jesus and doing what he wants is the most fun I have ever had.  And I did it with shaking hands and shaking voice.  Fear was my friend because it drove away reliance on “me” and allowed Jesus to guide me, to do his work, his way, with his words.

Whatever your excuse for not doing what Jesus has commanded you to do is not worth holding onto.  Having the courage to obey Jesus does not mean you will not be afraid.  It means you love and trust Jesus more than your fear.

Life verse?

The source of courage for a “reed shaking in the wind.”

Acts 4:13 in the Bible (KJV):

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

I have always been fascinated with life verses: how did people choose them, how could one verse capture their whole life, why didn’t I have one?

Today the above verse struck me.  I present as timid, my hand shakes when I am nervous, my voice shakes as well.  Yet, out of obedience to Jesus, I have risked my job, my family’s income, saying I would not work with ads that promoted pornography, abortion or the occult.  I have been filled with the Holy Spirit explaining to upper management why these things are wrong, how they hurt all the people involved with them.

At another job I pointed out to the Executive Director that the self-care we were teaching our clients, we ourselves were being forced to ignore for ourselves because we were being forced to work 60 hours a week (for 40 hours pay).  Their initial stated reaction to my email was appreciation for what I had “uncovered.”  After a few months they turned on me and  I quit before they could fire me.

In another situation, a group I was a part of were deciding if they should use their influence to encourage a family to stop life-support, and let someone die because if they lived it would dramatically change everyone’s life for the “worse.” (this last part was unstated by our group).  I firmly dissented to stopping life-support because I believed in the long run they would recover.  I was the only one that dissented.  The person died.  The family now regrets their decision and wishes they could choose over again.  The group has never acknowledged their wrong.

I have no courage to do these things; but Jesus does.  He fills me with his courage, courage to do the right thing and let God the Father handle what comes next.  I may appear to others to be a “reed shaking in the wind.”

But some see that I have “been with Jesus.”

Chasing the phantoms of misinterpretation

I was a people-pleaser.

I was always watching how I presented myself to others.  I was careful not to do anything someone might interpret as “weird” or “different,” nothing that would possibly be interpreted as “crazy.”  I would make statements if I did do anything different to make sure everyone knew I was “normal.”  If I had to make a u-turn in a hallway because I forgot something I would say, “Oops, forgot something,” to no-one and anyone that saw me.  I was the only one that cared what I said but it cleared the air that, though I was doing a u-turn I was really “normal.”

If I was in a room by myself, lost in thought about something, and I heard someone walk in the room, I would quickly start “looking like I was doing something” so no one would know I was “staring into space.”

Now, forty years after becoming mentally ill and thirty years after being on the right meds, I (almost) don’t care what other people think of me.  Trying to maintain the facade of “normal” takes tremendous energy and traps you in arbitrary cultural norms.  I care if I project Jesus’ character, but if I do something that others don’t understand and they think less of me because they don’t ask me what I’m up to… it’s their loss.

Every culture has norms because they solve certain problems.  But I am not a slave to them.  I will not go back to fearing what others think of me.

Life is short, Jesus’ call is consuming, and I don’t have the time to chase the phantoms of misinterpretation.

the robins trust Him

Jesus has his reasons

for confounding the seasons

the snow’s on the ground

but you still hear the sound

of the robins singing joy-ful-ly

yes they trust the Father

and don’t even bother

to worry or ask the Master

hey why this disaster

I ask tell me pastor

do you know why God

do what he do

God himself answered

using the standard

of the Word that he’s written for us

the wrongs of your nation

I have carried with patience

more disaster I have held back from you

I seek your sorrow

today not tomorrow

about injustice for the poor

about opportunity’s door

blocked to those of color

about the fathers and mothers

who are killin their children

their bodies being torn

before they’re even born

you poison land sea and air

you don’t even care

what you’ve taken from generations to come

they will be asked to pay

for your sin-debts of today

you know this but you’re still playing dumb

I may relent

if you soon repent

my children I am speaking to you

if you only knew

the good I have for you

that is stored up waiting

if you will only stop hating

Me

 

 

 

 

The Kingdom of God is like…

In Matthew 20:1-16 Jesus describes the Kingdom of God.  It is the famous “The last shall be first and the first shall be last” parable.  Jesus talks about a vineyard owner who hires workers throughout the day and yet he pays them the same for differing hours of service.

My wife and my former Pastor have served Jesus since they were young.  I have served Him since I was 27.  Others serve him literally one hour before they die.  We are all equal in the Kingdom of God.  The only hierarchy is the inverted one.  We can all choose to be the top by choosing to be a servant to all (Just as Jesus does).  God’s character is then complete in us.