How’s your flock?

Pr. 27:28:  “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds.”

What is the state of your flock?  Have you been looking, asking, or taking note?  In the class I’m in right now, it’s reminding us how Jesus always noticed the needs in people’s lives and filled those needs.  We are usually so great about filling the needs in the lives of people outside of our families, but I don’t think we are as good at ministering to the ones closest to us.

When it comes to the ones closest to us we suddenly begin looking inwardly, and shifting things to ask, “What are you going to do for me?”

Why does ministry have to stop at our front doors?  We are still supposed to attend to our herds.

We can’t always give our best to those outside our immediate flock (whoever that is for you) and then have nothing left for the ones we have been told to attend.  They also have needs.  They also have desires.  They also have hurts.

My class talks about how Jesus even broke tradition, in order to help people.  He actually touched the leper when He healed him, even though he could have just spoken the word, because the leper probably needed human contact. They didn’t do that back then.  He also forgave the woman caught in the act of adultery instead of stoning her, like he was supposed to by law, because she needed forgiveness.

I also remember when He healed someone on the Sabbath.  I think that shows that just because we have a plan set for our morning, our evening, our day, our weekend, our class, etc., if someone in our flock has a need, sometimes we need to set aside our personal plan and minister to their need, and then move forward; as some needs are more important than others.

This also tells me that sometimes, we will have to do things in ways that might break the traditions we’ve set up in our own minds, as well.  I had some Aha! moments about those for myself this week.  Ask God what those are for you.  In doing so, it may feel like you are giving something up, but didn’t Jesus also sacrifice for His sheep?  If we are following Him, we must be like Him and trust that God will provide for all that we need.

One of the best things we can remember, when we are with our flocks, is that in order to be more like Jesus, we need to care for people.  Jesus didn’t just say the words in the Bible.  He said them while He was caring for people.  We can’t just walk around saying words.  We have to act them out, and it starts with our own flock.

Trust me, I’m talking to myself, fellow shepherds,

jamie

handle with care

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Don’t start nothing

I was driving behind a van today sporting a bumper sticker that said, “Don’t start nothing, there won’t be nothing.”

This line is from the Men in Black movie, apparently, but struck such a chord with this motorist that they felt the need to add it to their vehicle’s decor.  I realized right away that the driver of this van did not want to be provoked, and if they felt they were, things could get ugly very quickly.

I couldn’t help but think that this is actually the way the world seems to be all around me now days.  People seem ready to strike out at the first hint of provocation.  And then this saying…it seems like a large population lives by this rule.  If others won’t mess with me we’ll be fine, but if they start something, then it’s on.

But can’t we do better?  What happened to turning the other cheek?  What happened to loving our enemies?  What happened to forgiving and looking over trespasses?  Jesus was literally hanging on a cross, being mocked, bleeding from his hands, feet, back, and head, and said, “Father, forgive them.”  But we say, “don’t start nothing, there won’t be nothing.”  Hmmm.  That just doesn’t sound right to me.

I don’t think we have to let people walk all over us or abuse us, but we also don’t have to always be ready to attack.  There are ways to say things that are kinder.  There are ways to say things that are calmer.  Sometimes it’s even ok to say nothing.  How about praying before we speak or react?  That’s still acceptable.  It’s not an old-fashioned concept.  It is Biblical.  God is still there on His throne offering grace and mercy in our times of need.  God is still handing out wisdom.

I really do think we can do better.  As Christians, I believe we should do better.  Not everyone is even trying to start something…we could start by realizing that.  After that, we could take an approach more like, “You start something, I end it.”  I tell my kids all the time that I don’t care who started it; they can be the one that ends it.  It’s all about choices.  I remind them that they, alone, are responsible for the choices they make.  I also remind them that 2 wrongs don’t make a right.

Let us be the ones that stand out from the crowd and don’t react with attacks and harsh answers.  Let us be the ones that end it before it even begins.  We can do better.

I’m ok with you,

jamie

Love your enemies, part 3

Pr. 15:18:  “A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention.”

Ok, if you haven’t read parts onetwo of this series, please go back and start there.  It will be worth it.  I promise.

So, the person (or people) who came to your mind when you first read this verse…do you still feel the same way about them?  I hope not.  However, let’s continue talking about what the Word says about how we, as Christians, are supposed to behave.

Eph. 4:31-32 tells us, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Bitterness=resentment, Wrath=extreme anger, Clamor=loud, insistent protesting, Malice=the intention or desire to do evil

Those things need to be put away from us.  Like away.  Not set to the side for us to pull out when we feel hurt again, but put away as in gone.  Imagine a box where we lock the scary things we don’t want to let out.

Instead, we bring out our kindness, our tenderheartedness (compassionate feelings), and our forgiveness.  Now it goes on to say that we should forgive as Christ forgave us.

How did Christ forgive us?  This way:  Dying on cross; flesh ripped and torn.  Naked and bruised, with blood dripping.  Thirsty and alone; forsaken by His own Father.  Spat upon and mocked.  Yet, He cried out in the midst of all that…in that exact moment of His torment, “Father, forgive them.”

And we hold a grudge when someone steals our parking spot.  We can’t get over the fact that someone raised their voice to us 3 months ago.  Well, you don’t know what they’ve done to me!  “Don’t you remember what he said to me?”  You’ve never been through anything like that!

“Father, forgive them.”

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  Col. 3:12

It’s a choice.  Each day when we get up, we need to put these things on.  If they slide off during the day, we need pull them back up!  We are God’s chosen people…holy and dearly loved.  We need to act like it!         **I’m not talking to the other people around you.  I’m talking to you!  You can only control you!  I can only control me!**

Join me tomorrow for part 4!  Until then…

forgive them,

jamie

Love your enemies, part 2

Pr. 15:18:  “A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention.”

In yesterday’s blog, I asked this question: if someone who has hurt you needs prayer will you pray for them?

When you or someone you love has a serious prayer need in your life don’t you desire compassion and aren’t you seeking for people to pray for you?  Most of us are.

Now, say that the wrathful person you envisioned in this verse has a prayer need.  Are you going to take time to pray for them?  If someone who has previously injured you in some way now needs prayer, will you pray for them?

What was it that Jesus told us in Mt. 5:44-45?  Get ready for it…

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons [and daughters] of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.”

Jesus said we should love our enemies.  Not only that, but we should bless those who curse us and do good to those who hate us.  Also, we should pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us.  Why?  So we may be sons and daughters of our Father in heaven.  He makes us all, loves us all, and according to John 3:16, died for us all.

I have a testimony not meant for a blog, but the Lord once asked me to pray for someone who had seriously injured me.  It seemed like an unreasonable request, considering the pain this person had caused me, and although I initially argued with God (in the pew at church), I eventually gave in.  Once I did, I was lifted of a burden in a way I never could have imagined.

The Lord freed ME of anger…freed ME of unforgiveness…freed ME of pain and bitterness.  I am much more equipped to forgive now than I was before, and I am so thankful for the freedom the Lord gave me when I trusted Him enough to do as He commanded. 

We cannot control what the people around us do.  All we can control is what we choose to do.  We can choose to trust the Lord enough to follow His Word and do as He commanded.

Just like He showed me…there are great rewards in store when we do!

Give it a shot!

jamie

Love your Enemies, part 3

Love your Enemies, part 4

 

 

Uncovering the beauty

Pr. 21:9:  “Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”  Pr. 21:19:  “Better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman.”

The truth is that it’s better to dwell in those places than with anyone that’s angry and contentious (likely to cause an argument).  Relationships are hard enough without having someone always looking for a fight.

 

muddycoupleI was walking in the woods behind our house today and found this little figurine.  I couldn’t believe how applicable it was to real life.  Sometimes our relationships can resemble this…soiled, muddy, polluted, and defiled.  During those times, it can be hard to see through the muck to even imagine something that could possibly look better.

 

couplewipedoff

 

But I chose to wipe off the figurine, and do you see what I saw?  They were still holding hands.  With just a bit of effort, I was able to uncover the fact, that underneath it all, they were still connected.  Do you believe that’s true for our relationships?  I do.  Underneath all the mess, there are 2 people that were once connected, and with just a bit of effort, the fact that there is still a connection becomes visible.

 

 

allcleanedupInspired by what I saw, I took the figurine inside and cleansed it with some soap and water, and a bit of bleach.  The cleansing revealed a couple with a few scars, but look at their faces.  They look happy and content again…renewed and ready for a new life.

 

 

 

Sometimes, deciding to work diligently to wipe off all the offenses and grime to uncover a renewed relationship can be rough and it can definitely sting.  (Just as if being cleansed with bleach)  But it’s so worth it.  Those scars just make us stronger, and more able to testify to the Lord’s mercy and miracles.  Just like this figurine, there can be new life waiting underneath; we just have to be willing to uncover it.

I couldn’t tell you how long this figurine was buried in the mud.  It was pretty deep in there, and even under some other trash.  But that just proves that no matter how long our relationships have been in the mire, with just a bit of interest and care something beautiful can be revealed.

And the most beautiful part for us is that God is faithful to stand with us during the process.

Get out that scrub brush!

jamie

Stop the flow while there’s time

Pr. 17:14:  “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.”

Can anyone attest to the truth of this!?

22 years ago today, my best friend died in a car wreck.  It was one of the most devastating days of my life.  It wasn’t just because she was gone.  Adding to that grief was the fact that at the time that she died, we had been fighting for several weeks.  Now she was gone and I’d never get a chance to change that fact.

The moment I found out she was gone, none of the issues we’d been fighting about mattered.  All I wanted was her.  I wanted to go back and tell her I was sorry, that it wasn’t really important, and hug her tight.  The fact that I couldn’t, the fact that I had been so stubborn and unforgiving, was something I would have to work through for a long time.

My sage advice today is to let it go.  If, in the next moment, the person you’re striving with was gone, would it really matter?  Before it gets worse, choose to put a stop to it.  You never know if you’ll get another moment to show love.

Experienced,

jamie

 

The day after Valentine’s Day…

Pr. 15:25:  “The Lord will destroy the house of the proud, but He will establish the boundary of the widow.”

It’s the day after Valentines Day and love is still important.  1 Peter 4:8-9 tells us, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.”

1 John 4:7 encourages us, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

We are told to have sincere, heartfelt love for one another.  This is the kind of love that forgives, overlooks faults, and finds the good in others.  This is the kind of love God has for us.

So often we want this kind of love from others, but struggle or refuse to show this kind of love in return.  Although, we understand that we are not perfect and in need of forgiveness, and we often expect others to be perfect at all times.

We are told to be hospitable to one another without grumbling.  That is something that happens when our eyes are looking outward and not inward.  When we are truly able to love, forgive, understand, and pardon, hospitality comes much more easily.

Remembering that love is of God, we cannot afford to be too proud to show love.  This proverb says the Lord destroys the house of the proud.  Not only that, but He will establish those who are weak.  In God’s eyes, the weak are more desirable than the proud.

It is not weakness to show love.  It takes strong character to love someone the way we are told to love here.  It takes a lot of faith in God’s plan to truly forgive the sins and mistakes of those we love.  It takes humility to overlook faults and see what is good.  It takes humility and trust to believe that loving others God’s way is best.

So, on this day that is not ‘technically’ about love, we can determine in our hearts to show love the right way; to carry on loving those around us with God’s love, and to continue it day after day after day, until the Lord returns.

We don’t have to do this in our own strength.  We can call upon the God who is love for all the pointers we need.  Talk about a support system.

So, happy day after!  May the Lord who loves you, strengthen you this day as you trust Him enough to truly love His way.

My brothers and sisters, I love you all. 

jamie