Want What You’ve Got

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“Thou shalt not covet.”

For today’s woman, there is plenty to wrestle with when it comes to applying the wisdom of the Tenth Commandment to everyday living. Teacher and retreat leader Brita Hammit invites readers on a 30-day devotional journey toward embracing what we’ve got – which is everything! – in Christ.

Start the adventure – get your copy on Amazon today!

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What TWO Can DO L4L.19

Eggistentialism 1.5 or Three of a Perfect Pair

Image by bitzcelt via Flickr

The WORD

‘The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself! Such testimony is not valid.” Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about me. You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. And if I did, my judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other.”’ John 8:13-18 (New Living Translation)

This challenge from the Pharisees comes on the heels of Jesus’ failure to pass judgment on the woman caught in adultery (“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”). Seems that these leaders of the faith were more apt to buy into a messiah figure who would wield his weapons of war on the battlefield of works and moral judgment  than one whose failure to condemn the clearly guilty left them feeling uncomfortably unjustified.

‘The Pharisees objected, “All we have is your word on this. We need more than this to go on.” Jesus replied, “You’re right that you only have my word. But you can depend on it being true. I know where I’ve come from and where I go next. You don’t know where I’m from or where I’m headed. You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don’t make judgments like that. But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me, the Father. That fulfills the conditions set down in God’s Law: that you can count on the testimony of two witnesses. And that is what you have. You have my word and you have the word of the Father who sent me.”’ (The Message)

As He often did, Jesus demonstrated His knowledge and understanding of Jewish Law by quoting from Deuteronomy (17:6 and 19:15), which had to make the Pharisees more than a little bit hot beneath the collar. In both of these Old Testament verses, the point made is that no man should be found guilty of a crime on the say-so of only one witness; the testimony of two or more is required.

Funny how Jesus managed to turn the Jewish leaders’ demand for proof of Jesus’ claims into His own method of defense. They demanded that Jesus bring a sound witness forward, to prove He was telling the truth. Jesus insinuates that what they’re really trying to do is find Him guilty of a crime, to which He offers the testimony of His Father; the Word of God Himself.

The APP

How many times have you found yourself in a situation where your words and witness fell short of being convincing? I was in this very place years ago, when I found myself working for a leader whose behind-the-scenes manipulation had become a grotesque art form. No matter what this person said or did to exercise control over me or to try to put me in my ‘place’, no one else was ever around when it happened. I was the only one who knew about the fiery darts that routinely pierced my sensitive skin and left me wounded and doubting my abilities, my intentions and my calling.

These circumstances ended up being an eye-opening experience, illustrating the need for the testimony of two; if there had been another witness, I don’t think I would have been the one to leave that workplace. But as it was, it would have been my word against his; not an ideal situation no matter how you frame it.

Jesus’ words acknowledge God’s Law in this confrontation with the Pharisees because Jesus knew that they wouldn’t listen to Him alone. Many times our squabbles in the faith arise from a “he said, she said” exchange, where you tell me what you think and I counter with my own words, to which you add your arguments and consequently pour fuel on my fire…

Jesus didn’t take this approach.

Jesus provided the testimony of two when He chose to let God speak on the subject, by letting God’s Word speak for Himself.

Now, you might argue that Christians do this all the time. Who hasn’t been the victim of scripture quoted for the purpose of proving that someone else is wrong so that I can be right? We can subtly (or blatantly) insert scripture into our conversations in order to throw more weight around than we actually have, and we can do this for our own selfish gain while furthering our own self-serving agendas.

This is not what Jesus did, nor is it what He is teaching us to do. Instead, He was aligning Himself with the powerful witness of One whose Word could validate Jesus’ own words and actions.

Jesus chose the testimony of two – He and His Father’s Word – so that He might be successful in the mission He was on.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 speaks about our very real need for the testimony of two:  

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

Quite literally, Jesus knew what two could do, and He chose to stand unified with the Father when confronted by those who would attack Him with their words, with their anger, and finally with their weapon of death on a cross.

You and I could choose today to walk the narrow road alone, but why would we when we know what two can do?

Two can help one another succeed.

Two can pick each other up when they fall.

Two can huddle together for warmth in this cold world.

Two can stand back-to-back and conquer any enemy that comes their way.

Jesus knew what two can do, and He chose to stand back-to-back with His Father, conquering death and sin so that you and I might be brought into unbroken fellowship with the powerful witness of One whose Word can validate our own words and actions.

You know that Christ comes with His Father’s testimony. Align yourself with Christ!

You know that there are people in your life who are witnesses of God’s work in you. Align yourself with them!

Where two or more are gathered together in the Name of Jesus, THERE HE IS among you!

It’s time to be Literal 4 Lent, my friend.

It’s time to see just what two can do!

Click here to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

 

Affirmation Station L4L.07

Affirmations - Heart - Red

Image by Gurumustuk Singh via Flickr

The WORD

‘Please, sir,’ the woman said, ‘give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.’

‘Go and get your husband,’ Jesus told her.

‘I don’t have a husband,’ the woman replied.

Jesus said, ‘You’re right! You don’t have a husband – for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!’” John 4:15-18 (New Living Translation)

It’ll feel a bit awkward, but read back through this text as a conversation – out loud! Try to feel as Jesus and the woman might have felt…

The Word for us today comes from the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus strikes up a conversation with this woman whose past is probably part of the reason she is filling her bucket at the well alone, in the heat of the day.

Jesus had every opportunity to point out the error of her ways.

The woman had every opportunity to run the other way. Yet neither one did.

Well, you might say that Jesus asked about the woman’s husband in order to reveal her sinful nature, right? After all, He does proceed to describe her history in enough detail to convince her that He was, at the very least, a prophet.

I want to propose another motivation for Jesus’ approach: What if Jesus asked the husband question just so that He could say to her, “You’re RIGHT!

Think about it… Even in today’s culture, a woman who has gone through five husbands and a live-in probably doesn’t receive much affirmation from the people around her. She gets pointed at because of her choices. She is shunned because of her reputation. She is ‘wrong’ at every turn of every failed relationship, and she is probably surrounded by reminders of those failures no matter where she goes.

Today was no exception – she had no friend or family member to gather water with; the ‘right’ people had already been to the well in the cool morning hours, so she had made the dusty trek alone.

It’s not as if Jesus asked the husband question often – this is the only time we hear of such a thing in Jesus’ ministry. He wasn’t trying to sell her something – say, a timeshare – where His spiel could only be presented if both husband and wife were there to sign (or refuse to sign) on the dotted line.

What if Jesus asked the husband question simply to be able to show her the grace she didn’t deserve; ascribing to this broken woman the value she didn’t know she had?

He asked a question that, if answered truthfully, would allow Him to say, “You’re RIGHT!” to someone who only knew how to be wrong.

The APP

I’ve had the privilege of serving as a volunteer for Youth Specialties at the National Youth Workers Convention in the fall. One of my roles in the past has been on the Affirmation Team – a small group of servants whose mission is to affirm, appreciate and encourage youth workers – many of whom arrive at Convention as walking wounded, having been beaten up by the very ones they live to serve.

One of my very favorite A-Team responsibilities was the Affirmation Station – a table set up in the middle of a traffic area, stocked with poster-sized paper and markers. A place where paid and volunteer church staff could create signs to express their love, care and appreciation for the soul-weary co-workers they were attending the event with. The A-Team would routinely stop by the Affirmation Station to hang the posters, and by the end of the week we invariably would have run out of wall space.

Affirmations like these covered the walls, written to build people up and remind them how important they are:

David Jones is the BEST youth pastor in Tennessee!

Mt. Vernon Presbyterian LOVES their Sr. High staff!

What you’re doing MATTERS, Kara! You’re making a difference in Alpharetta!

My life was changed forever because my youth leader CARED!

When Jesus chose to affirm the Samaritan woman that day, He gave back the beauty, intelligence and worth that the living of her life had stripped away.

She was all wrong until Jesus reminded her, “You’re RIGHT!” His affirmation, and the conversation that followed, left her (and many others) changed.

Look around you today.

Look for those who seem all wrong.

Look for those who have been hurt, lied to, beat up and compromised.

Look for those whose past is ever-present, and then follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Set up your own Affirmation Station and make it your Lenten mission to paper the proverbial walls of your home, your workplace and your community with healing words of hope and desperately needed messages of love.

It doesn’t get much more literal than that.

Click here to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

Literal 4 Lent: The Best Teaching Ever Heard

(Click here for the Literal 4 Lent home page)

Several years ago I attended Youth Specialties’ National Youth Workers Convention in the fall. I always LOVE YS events, and this one was no exception, with speakers like Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio on the main stage. I was especially eager to hear Shane Claiborne speak – his message the year before had seriously rocked my world, so I was hungry to hear what he would have to say this time, as thousands of youth workers gathered to be inspired.

Shane took the stage and proceeded to do a couple of carnival tricks, including fire-eating, which was weird but not altogether unexpected (have you ever seen Shane?). Then he took out his Bible and began to read from the Gospel of Matthew – the Sermon on the Mount.

He read chapter 5. And chapter 6. And chapter 7.

Not a short text, yet I was ready for what was coming next – Shane’s unique way of looking at scripture that would certainly lead me into new understandings and applications of the Word.

That’s not exactly what happened. As Shane read the final verses of Matthew ch. 7, he looked out at the crowd of eager listeners and prayed:

“God, give us the courage to live it.”

And he walked off the stage. Talk OVER. Total, stunned silence fell over the room.

From my journal, dated Nov. 16, 2007: “I admit to entertaining the question, ‘is this… IT?’ Yet even as I asked myself the question, I couldn’t believe I was asking myself if Jesus’ greatest sermon – in His own words – was ‘all’ that Shane was going to share… but I did think it.”

Sitting in the silent company of thousands whose mental gymnastics had to be similar to my own, I was MOVED from disappointment to the realization that this man, who clearly had the full attention of everyone in the room, had just leveraged his influence to lift up the words of Jesus as GOSPEL… TRUTH.

I was moved – to tears. “I am at once convicted and motivated; mortified and passionate; confused and crystal clear.”

The way this sermon of Jesus ends is the way I have chosen to begin the season of Lent, as it is ushered in today, on Ash Wednesday. Jesus makes it clear that His words are not just something to add to our collection of wise sayings, to be pulled out and comforted with in times of need. No, what Jesus says is something that I most desperately need to hear, and I suspect that you do, too.

“‘These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.’ When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying – quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.” Matthew 7:24-29 (The Message)

THIS was the BEST TEACHING they had ever heard. Because Jesus wasn’t just telling them what to do – He was showing them.

What if Jesus meant for us to do the same?

What if Jesus was serious when He said that the role of Bible study is to work the Word into the living of our lives?

What if He meant for us to take His teachings literally?

During this Lenten season that begins today and runs through Easter morning, I invite you to join me in asking, “What if?

Pink Shoes Ministries is going to experiment with being Literal 4 Lent.

Each week day during the 40 days of Lent we will be considering the literal application of the teachings of Jesus and their potential impact on our lives, our families, our churches and communities. We’ll take a daily look at the red letters in the Gospels, making the Word our primary text for this season of the church year – this Way of the Cross.

Each week day, here at Pink Shoes Ministries on wordpress.com, we will consider THE WORD (a teaching from Jesus’ ministry) and THE APP (how we might live it – today). On the weekends we will rest and consider the impact of this experiment in Kingdom living, taking note of what the Word has done as we gave it hands and feet and took it into our world.

What if people listened to what we have to say and responded, “It’s apparent that they are living everything they are saying – quite a contrast to the typical religious crowd.”

Let’s DO IT! Let’s pray for the boldness and the courage to LIVE the best teaching ever heard for the next 40 days – and see what happens!

It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. It’ll be counter-cultural, but it will also be counter to the passive Christianity that appears to have its roots somewhere other than in the teachings of Jesus the Christ.

I realize that we are all over the place when it comes to our interpretation of scripture, but won’t it be an unprecedented undertaking to be Literal 4 Lent?!

In November, 2007 as I sat silent in the crowd, this prayer rose in my heart. May it rise in your heart, too, as we follow Jesus into a life LIVED for the glory of God…

“I am eager for what YOU will do NEXT, God! Bring it. I am ready.

I am yours.”

Click to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

What a Word!

I ushered in the season of Lent from a unique vantage point today.

Holding a small dish filled with a mixture of last year’s celebratory palm branches and oil, I finger-painted ashy crosses on the bared foreheads of broken people for whom Jesus came to die.

In church-language, what I did is known as imposition of the ashes.

Imposition. What a word!

To force an unfair or unwelcome demand or burden on another.

To bother, strain, hassle, inflict.

An unreasonable situation that you are expected to accept.

Imposition.

As I imposed the oily mark of the cross on members of my faith family, it registered deeply that the life Jesus calls us into sometimes feels like an imposition. To daily take up my own cross and follow my Savior’s lead can be a bother – when what I feel like doing isn’t cross-related at all.

Bearing the mark of the cross on my life inflicts hardship at times, which if I’m honest, can seem very much like an unreasonable request.

The cross demands my life in ways I’m not always eager to give, which can be a real burden – especially when my own agenda must be set aside in order to hoist it up on my tired shoulders – yet again.

I wrestle with the part of me that prefers to be in charge when it comes to gracefully accepting the discomfort and certain pain connected to this instrument of death. I’d actually prefer to wear a bejeweled version around my neck and smile back at you instead of imposing its shape on your forehead, too.

But then I remember…

These ashes of death on my forehead today have been redeemed by the One who willingly took the mark of my sintalk about an imposition! – and buried it all in the grave. His cross-life gave way to a cross-death so that my dust-&-ash existence might be resurrected in His victory over every lie that says my destiny, like my history, is nothing but dirt.

So, I will shoulder my awkward, bulky cross again tomorrow because God believes in me, Jesus Himself is calling me, and His Presence gives me the strength to take one more step in His direction…

Ashes and all.

Getting it SDRAWKCAB L4L.28

Grain in the field

Grain in the field (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The WORD

“Then Jesus said to [the Pharisees], ‘The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of the people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.’” Mark 2:27 (New Living Translation)

“Then Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘The Sabbath day was made to help people; they were not made to be ruled by the Sabbath day.’” (New Century Version)

God created. Land, sea, stars, moon, trees, flowers, animals, humans. After a survey of the work of His hands, He found it all to be very good. He heaved a holy sigh of contentment and took a day off – to appreciate His workmanship. To enjoy His surroundings. To reinvigorate His creative energy. To rest.

And He calls us to do the same.

The APP

Forever looking to discredit this Rabbi of the rabble, the Pharisees seem to have spent a good deal of time and energy following Jesus around. On this day, they watched as the motley crew of twelve snacked on ripe heads of grain while walking through a field. It was the Sabbath – God’s day of rest. Jesus and His disciples were traveling on foot, presumably outside of any town (hence the fields of grain), and yet here were those overly-zealous Pharisees, in hot pursuit. On the Sabbath. When they should have been at home, resting. (Shame on them.)

Dedicated to keeping the entire Law of God (and ensuring that others did, too), these legalistic purists managed to find fault with Jesus everywhere He went. On this day, they were themselves breaking the Sabbath in order to catch Jesus doing the same.

In their passion for the letter of the Law, these religion fanatics managed to do more damage than good in their time and culture, as evidenced by the great number of times that Jesus is found responding to their veiled threats and vile efforts to entrap Him on a violation of God’s commands. Somehow, what started as a faithful attempt to get it right ended up becoming a frightful adventure in missing the point, and here we find the Pharisees getting it BACKWARDS. Again.

We are each in danger of following suit with the Pharisees when we take God’s commands into our own hands. There really is a fine line between our best efforts to do life God’s way and trying to fit God’s ways into our best efforts at doing life. When the Pharisees set out to ‘keep’ the Sabbath, somehow it became an issue of ‘ownership’. Jesus follows up His words in Mark 2:27 with a comment that must have stung like salt in the open wounds of their injured egos – He said ‘The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.’ (Mark 2:28)

Whether it’s the commands of God regarding Sabbath rest or any other teaching in scripture, the moment I presume to take ownership of it, I’m no different than the Pharisees. God’s words and God’s ways are just that… GOD’S. When I choose to follow and obey His teachings, I no more ‘own’ them than the Pharisees ‘owned’ the Sabbath. They literally chose to ‘keep’ the Sabbath for themselves, failing to realize that the invitation was never one of possession, but of participation with God in celebration of creativity and the work of our collective hands.

I set out to write this blog during the season of Lent, and this is our final week together. On the evening before each Literal 4 Lent post has been ‘due’, I have diligently completed the necessary steps to have L4L ready for you to read the next day. Until last night.

I was halfway into this text when it hit me that I am not so different than the Pharisees. God has given me a gift and an invitation to use it in His world – I love to write! I especially love to write about Him. But when my response to His invitation begins to look like ‘ownership’, I find myself getting it BACKWARDS. And I found myself in that place last night – convicted by Jesus’ Lordship over everything in my life.

So, instead of cranking out today’s blog on time, I yielded to the Lord of the Sabbath. This post, while ‘late’, has literally served to remind me that this work of mine isn’t mine, but His. The day I possess these gifts of God in my life is the day they become mine to manipulate – to withhold or dispense on my own schedule rather than God’s.

Today I choose to participate in the large work of the Lord rather than attempt to possess the small work I am capable of producing on my own.

Instead of getting it SDRAWKCAB – againI resolve not to be ruled by the interpretation of God’s Word, but by the literal Word Himself.

Click here to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

Literal 4 Lent: The Best Teaching Ever Heard

(Click here for the Literal 4 Lent home page)

Several years ago I attended Youth Specialties’ National Youth Workers Convention in the fall. I always LOVE YS events, and this one was no exception, with speakers like Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio on the main stage. I was especially eager to hear Shane Claiborne speak – his message the year before had seriously rocked my world, so I was hungry to hear what he would have to say this time, as thousands of youth workers gathered to be inspired.

Shane took the stage and proceeded to do a couple of carnival tricks, including fire-eating, which was weird but not altogether unexpected (have you ever seen Shane?). Then he took out his Bible and began to read from the Gospel of Matthew – the Sermon on the Mount.

He read chapter 5. And chapter 6. And chapter 7.

Not a short text, yet I was ready for what was coming next – Shane’s unique way of looking at scripture that would certainly lead me into new understandings and applications of the Word.

That’s not exactly what happened. As Shane read the final verses of Matthew ch. 7, he looked out at the crowd of eager listeners and prayed:

“God, give us the courage to live it.”

And he walked off the stage. Talk OVER. Total, stunned silence fell over the room.

From my journal, dated Nov. 16, 2007: “I admit to entertaining the question, ‘is this… IT?’ Yet even as I asked myself the question, I couldn’t believe I was asking myself if Jesus’ greatest sermon – in His own words – was ‘all’ that Shane was going to share… but I did think it.”

Sitting in the silent company of thousands whose mental gymnastics had to be similar to my own, I was MOVED from disappointment to the realization that this man, who clearly had the full attention of everyone in the room, had just leveraged his influence to lift up the words of Jesus as GOSPEL… TRUTH.

I was moved – to tears. “I am at once convicted and motivated; mortified and passionate; confused and crystal clear.”

The way this sermon of Jesus ends is the way I have chosen to begin the season of Lent, as it is ushered in today, on Ash Wednesday. Jesus makes it clear that His words are not just something to add to our collection of wise sayings, to be pulled out and comforted with in times of need. No, what Jesus says is something that I most desperately need to hear, and I suspect that you do, too.

“‘These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.’ When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying – quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.” Matthew 7:24-29 (The Message)

THIS was the BEST TEACHING they had ever heard. Because Jesus wasn’t just telling them what to do – He was showing them.

What if Jesus meant for us to do the same?

What if Jesus was serious when He said that the role of Bible study is to work the Word into the living of our lives?

What if He meant for us to take His teachings literally?

During this Lenten season that begins today and runs through Easter morning, I invite you to join me in asking, “What if?

Pink Shoes Ministries is going to experiment with being Literal 4 Lent.

Each week day during the 40 days of Lent we will be considering the literal application of the teachings of Jesus and their potential impact on our lives, our families, our churches and communities. We’ll take a daily look at the red letters in the Gospels, making the Word our primary text for this season of the church year – this Way of the Cross.

Each week day, here at Pink Shoes Ministries on wordpress.com, we will consider THE WORD (a teaching from Jesus’ ministry) and THE APP (how we might live it – today). On the weekends we will rest and consider the impact of this experiment in Kingdom living, taking note of what the Word has done as we gave it hands and feet and took it into our world.

What if people listened to what we have to say and responded, “It’s apparent that they are living everything they are saying – quite a contrast to the typical religious crowd.”

Let’s DO IT! Let’s pray for the boldness and the courage to LIVE the best teaching ever heard for the next 40 days – and see what happens!

It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. It’ll be counter-cultural, but it will also be counter to the passive Christianity that appears to have its roots somewhere other than in the teachings of Jesus the Christ.

I realize that we are all over the place when it comes to our interpretation of scripture, but won’t it be an unprecedented undertaking to be Literal 4 Lent?!

In November, 2007 as I sat silent in the crowd, this prayer rose in my heart. May it rise in your heart, too, as we follow Jesus into a life LIVED for the glory of God…

“I am eager for what YOU will do NEXT, God! Bring it. I am ready.

I am yours.”

Click to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

A Legacy of ACTION L4L.30

The WORDHealthy_feet

“Jesus Prays For His Disciples: ‘I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.’” John 17:6-10 (New International Version)

There is practically no part of the Gospels more revealing of the heart and mission of Jesus than this prayer for His followers, as found in John chapter 17. As has been our Lenten discipline, let’s hear these words of Jesus again, through the paraphrase of The Message:

“I spelled out your character in detail to the men and women you gave me. They were yours in the first place; then you gave them to me, and they have now done what you said. They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that everything you gave me is firsthand from you, for the message you gave me, I gave them, and they took it and were convinced that I came from you. They believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I’m not praying for the God-rejecting world but for those you gave me, for they are yours by right. Everything mine is yours, and yours mine, and my life is on display in them.”

The APP

The forty days of Lent are nearly over.

Tomorrow we remember the words Jesus spoke over His last supper with friends.

On Friday we will commemorate the sacrificial death of our Savior, Jesus.

And on this day we complete our Literal 4 Lent adventure, looking forward to the resurrection celebration that is about to explode onto the scene, in our churches and in our hearts, come Sunday.

Jesus has provided the perfect words of summary for us in this prayer poured out on behalf of those whose lives had blossomed in concert with His own years of ministry on the earth. As Jesus speaks to His Father on behalf of His students, we can’t help but catch a glimpse of the legacy being left behind. A legacy marked by words like:

Revealed. Obeyed. Now they know. Gave and accepted. Knew with certainty. Believed. Done what you said. Firsthand. Convinced.

All of these are ways the Messiah chose to describe His work with His disciples to His Father. And all of these words indicate Jesus’ pleasure at the responses and activity of those who were closest to Him.

Not only is Jesus saying that His followers finally ‘got it,’ leaving His words as an endorsement of their future ministry in the world, but He is summing up His own work as well. And in the summary we find a legacy worth embracing, continuing, and one day, leaving behind – just as Jesus did.

This legacy of Jesus is not a legacy of opinions, ideas or bullet points.

Jesus didn’t just leave behind for His followers a legacy of good memories and amazing stories, to be told and re-told for generations to come.

Jesus didn’t pass along material items of worth, to be guarded and regarded as treasure throughout the centuries.

No, Jesus’ legacy to us is a legacy of ACTION. A legacy of revelation and obedience, knowing and accepting, giving and believing, convincing and DOING.

This prayer of Jesus reveals that He knew full well He had completed His mission. He did what He was sent to do.

His mission was to prepare us to complete OURS.

Click here to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

Salty Friends L4L.24

Salt shaker, transparent background

The WORD

“Everyone’s going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you’ll be well-preserved, protected from the eternal flames. Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace.” Mark 9:49-50 (The Message)

‘Preservatives’ have the ability to protect from decay or spoilage. Another word for preservative is stabilizer

“Everyone will be purified by fire as a sacrifice is purified by salt. Salt is good; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have the salt of friendship among yourselves, and live in peace with one another.” (Good News Translation)

When we preserve something, we make sure that it lasts. We protect it from anything that might cause its current quality or condition to deteriorate. We maintain it.

Salt is a great preservative, as long as it remains… salty.

Friendship is a great preservative, as long as it remains… salty.

The APP

Jesus’ words here can be boiled down to two simple yet profound directives:

  1. Be salty.
  2. Practice saltiness.

Salt is, by its very nature, generous. It is generous in the sense that its very purpose is to lend its best qualities to make something else, well… better.

But at the same time, salt is… salt. It doesn’t vary much from shaker to shaker. All of it basically looks the same. All of it basically acts in the same ways when used. There just aren’t too many variations on salt.

And the thing about salt is that it just isn’t that special on its own. Salt is meant to complement flavors that already exist! The value of salt is negligible when it sits in isolation – in the shaker, on the counter, by itself. Salt does its best work in combination, and it is only a commodity when it is put to good use.

Salt cannot fulfill its purpose unless it comes into contact with food. There’s nothing to protect, enhance or preserve inside the salt shaker. There’s only salt. And hoarding salt is utterly pointless, since its only merit is the effect it has on something else.

Judicious salting is critical, however. Too much salt can ruin a meal, which is why we salt to taste. We can carefully measure, as if following a recipe in a cookbook, which is actually a good way to get used to knowing how much salt to use. But salting well is also an art form; something to aspire to, like cooking by instinct or using recipes as suggestions rather than rules.

Whichever way we opt to salt, it’s important to remember not to lay it on too thick.

All of this wisdom applies just as readily to those of us who inhabit holy salt shakers in the Kingdom of God!

Salty people are, by their very nature, generous people. They are generous in the sense that their very purpose is to lend their best qualities to make others, well… better.

But at the same time, people are people. We don’t vary all that much from house to house or church to church. Most of us look, in basic ways, the same. Most of us act in basically the same ways. There just aren’t too many variations on people.

And the thing about you and me is that, according to Jesus, we just aren’t that special on our own. Salty people are meant to complement the variety and flavors of humanity that already exist in the world!

The value of salty people is negligible when we sit in isolation – in the church pew, in our Bible study, by ourselves. Salty people do their best work in community, and we are of greatest value when our qualities are put to good use.

Salty people cannot fulfill our purpose unless we come into contact with others. There’s nothing to protect, enhance or preserve inside our own salt shaker’s walls. There’s only more salt. And hoarding salt by only spending time with other salty people is utterly pointless, since our only merit is the effect our salt can have to bring out the flavor in someone else.

Judicious salting is critical, however. Too much salt can ruin a friendship, which is why we salt to taste. And we take lessons from the Chef Himself, whose artistic and instinctual cooking sets the example by which we aspire to live.

And it’s every bit as important with people as with food to remember not to lay it on too thick. A little bit of salt goes a long way toward making a tasty masterpiece, whether our environment is the kitchen or the community!

When people are salty, their presence has a sort of stabilizing effect on those around them.

Salty people make some things last and keep others from deteriorating or falling into a state of decay. Things like attitudes. Perspectives. And friendships.

When my saltiness is showing, everything and everyone I touch stand to benefit from the fact that I am there.

Not because the world is that bad and I am that good.

It’s just that we are better together.

Interested in learning MORE about SALT?!
Click here for information about a SALTY! Retreat for women!

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Consider Yourself WARNED L4L.23

Attention yellow2

The WORD

“All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you.” John 16:1-4a (New International Version)

Excerpted from Jesus’ parting words to His disciples, these words of warning are unavoidably unsettling. A taste of what’s to come. An attempt to prepare His followers for the realities of their commitment to the Kingdom.

“I’ve told you these things to prepare you for rough times ahead. They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor. They will do these things because they never really understood the Father. I’ve told you these things so that when the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them.” (The Message)

Before we can process these distressing words of warning, it’s crucial that we understand exactly who they are…

The APP

The passage that comes before this one in John is subtitled “Hated by the World” in The Message. It’s reasonable to assume that, because our text flows out of this ‘world’ talk, that the they in this warning refers to the godless world outside of our believing circles. Jesus could certainly have been cautioning His followers to watch out for the world that views the Gospel message with attitudes ranging from animosity to skepticism (at best).

We’ve all experienced some of this, haven’t we?

People whose threshold for tolerance has been tampered with by having had a few too many evangelists show up on their doorstep over the years.

People who are so consumed with self that the idea of faith in something bigger than themselves just doesn’t compute.

People who were raised under the oppressive religiosity of works-driven theology, only to slingshot as far away as humanly possible from the church the moment they were emancipated from childhood.

People who have so bought into the wisdom of the systems of man that the mere suggestion of the spiritual elicits scorn and contempt.

Jesus’ reminder in John 15:18 deals specifically with a world filled with hate toward those who will follow in the Messiah’s footsteps:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (NIV)

Just in case you’re thinking that you can handle the haters in the world outside of the faith, there is something even more disconcerting to consider in this Literal 4 Lent text today, and it is found in John 16:2.

“They will put you out of the synagogue.”

“They are going to throw you out of the meeting places.”

The they in this sentence doesn’t seem to be referring to the people outside of the church. Why would that they care whether we attend church or not? No, this they appears to be those people who are inside the church walls with us.

People whose presence in the worshiping community might be deceiving.

People who have never really understood the Father and the way He operates.

People whose spiritual eyes have been blinded, failing to recognize the embodiment of Christ in the imperfect people through whom He lives and moves and works today.

Jesus is warning us that, as we grow into our God-ordained, Spirit-enabled callings, not everyone is going to applaud.

The world that hates the Light is going to spew its loathsome venom in our direction in an attempt to silence the Good News. Be ready.

The institution of church is going to attempt to consume the living Body of Christ, and if you’re one of His holy organs, you’d better be prepared.

Jealousy will rear its ugly head and seek to put you (and the attractive presence of the Spirit in you) out on the street, where you’re less of a threat and distraction to the well-oiled machine that is the church. Consider yourself warned.

There is no rejection like that of your family and friends.

Jesus doesn’t just say this might happen… He says when.

“When the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them.”

As Holy Week approaches and as our experiment in being Literal 4 Lent comes to an end, consider yourself WARNED, my friend.

Warned so that you can get ready for whatever is coming next.

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