13 Inspirational Thoughts for 2013

This is my series on 13 verses from Romans 9-14.  These 13 verses hit it all: what is the Gospel, what is Salvation, how does God feel about us, how does that effect our everyday life, how should we walk it out with the people we live with, the people we meet walking down the street, our fellow believers, what does practical love look like?

The 13 verses are available here: 13 Verses for 2013
Inspiration 1:
Romans 9:25-26
Hosea put it well:
I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.
In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!”
they’re calling you “God’s living children.”

2012 was a year of reorientation for me.  I was in "ministry" on many different fronts but instead of thinking the initiation of ministry "came from me" or that my ministry was somehow me "doing something for God" I asked to see the Father's Heart and with the tiny glimpses that I saw I was blown away.

You see, as I began to see the heart of the Father I saw that He was a God of life, a God of freedom, a God of restoration, a God of salvation.  He is about making things right.  My life here on earth is simply grounded in the goodness of who God is, His character.  The establishment of His Kingdom here on earth is simply letting more and more people taste who He is and experience the depths of His love.  

These thoughts brought a shifting of my "ministry" perspective and it brought a humbleness to my heart.  I used to enter ministry with "a mission."  I could no longer do this.  People weren't "things" to be changed by me nor were they objects that could be used to prove "my devotion to God. " Instead, they became individuals deeply loved by God.  As I heard, story after story of disappointment, brokenness, a tearing apart of the value of people's humanity my heart began to beat a little faster.  Instead of crying, "Why, Lord?" I began to be excited because I saw Him moving in to bring an end to this pain and sorrow, to bring justice, healing and restoration.  I saw His desire to start with them to create a new generation of His people.  The Great Physician was on the move and all I had to do was love.


The Heart of the Father
is to change
nobodies to somebodies
the unloved to Beloved
"You're Nobody" to 
"You are Children of God"

This is God's kingdom advancing on earth.  It is the life-giving truth we His body carry to everyone we meet: whether in our homes, on the street, at work or across the nations.

Isaiah maintained this same emphasis:
If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered
and the sum labeled “chosen of God,”
They’d be numbers still, not names;
salvation comes by personal selection.
God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name.
Arithmetic is not his focus.
(Romans 9:27 MSG)


When I was growing up my mother had a plaque hanging at the landing of our stairs:

I have called you by name
you are Mine.
(Isaiah 43:1b)

I would stop and look at that plaque almost every time I went down the stairs.  The verse called to me, it awakened me, it made me stop and ponder - and it still does.  

What does it mean to be called by God?  What does it mean to belong to Him?  I don't think I'll ever grasp the depth of it all but what I see now is that this truth - He has called me by name, I belong to Him -has been an underlying rhythm in my life.

I love the personal imagery that this verse captures.  We know the promise to Abraham of the blessing being as numerous as the grains of sand and the stars in the sky and yet this Scripture from Romans, shows us that the quantity did not diminish the value.

Psalm 147:4
He counts the stars.  
He calls them all by name.

Remember the one sheep and heaven rejoicing over the one?  That is how God feels about His children - His child - you.  As I said in part 1, the Lord has been reorienting my perspective to seeing the value of one; no longer putting mission and drive over love and people.

When I was a teacher, I used the Isaiah 43:1 verse as my October bulletin board and took each individual student's name, looked up their meaning and wrote it down on a pumpkin, because I knew how foundational Isaiah 43:1b had been in my own life.  Now, in one of my areas of ministry, they do the same thing - take each individuals name and show what it means.  This act has been profound for me as I minister to these individuals.  When I am cranky, mad, frustrated, ready to throw in the towel I'm quickly reminded that it is He who has called them.  He knows their name, He knows what He is up to in their lives, He knows the freedom that He has in store for them.  Looking at it that way, shifts my perspective from seeing with "my physical eyes" to seeing with my "spiritual eyes." 

Names are significant throughout the Bible and we find out that at the end of this age they will remain significant:
Revelation 2:17
I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it,
known only to him who receives it.

Your name is one avenue our personal God uses to relate and connect with you.


Below is a Scribd document you can use to insert your name and its meaning.  You have to go directly to Scribd, and download it as a Docx file in order for you to personalize it.

I would also encourage you to use this if there is someone in your life that is driving you crazy.  Stop and take the time to look up the meaning of their name. Place it before you in a place of prayer. Being reminded of how God feels about somebody - as an individual - and what He is doing in their lives helps you to stay focused.

Your name by Jaime Farkas (Click this link for document)

Romans 10:8-12
It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”

These verses are packed full of truth and you could take them in many directions.  But for this post I will take you one way - and that way is to silence and trust. These verses ended up being a perfect follow-up to the last two sections that we've looked at because living out the reality of what is declared in those verses is much harder in real-life than it looks on a piece of paper: to love those who are unloved, to call out to the nobodies you are somebodies, to treat people with the knowledge that they are loved and chosen by God.

But today's verses bring us back to the truth - it is about Him, trusting Him, embracing Him and believing that He is at work - even if we don't see it in the immediate moment.

Jesus is my Master
You're not doing anything; you're simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. 
That's salvation.

There is beauty in these words, there is life and there is death, there is hope and there is trust.

Below are some quotes to place alongside these verses and the theme that popped out for me was silence and trust:  

Be still and know that I am God -
allow God into the everydayness of your life
and release the need to control the outcomes.
(quote by Todd Hunter from a sermon Be Still and Know)

How does love become unconquerable?
By never asking what the enemy is doing to it, and
only asking what Jesus has done. 
Loving one's enemies leads disciples to the way
of the cross and into communion with the crucified one.
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Just as our love for God begins with listening to God's Word,
the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen
to them... We do God's work for our brothers and
sisters when we learn to listen to them.  So often Christians,
especially preachers, think their only service is always
to have to "offer" something when they are together with
other people.  They forget that listening
can be a greater service than speaking.
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

So today I am thankful.  Thankful that all we have to do is simply trust.  But even in the "simplicity" there is a depth and a tenacity because we are to do it with our whole selves - body and soul, our whole being.  It is a letting go because to place Jesus as my Master means someone else/something else has to come out of that seat.  But in this embrace God does a replacement and we discover that God has already done it - He has set everything right between me and Him.  So from this security and assurance let us learn to also embrace and love our neighbors.
Is there anyone around who can explain God?
Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?
Anyone who has done him such a huge favor
that God has to ask his advice?
Everything comes from him;
Everything happens through him;
Everything ends up in him.
Always glory! Always praise!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
(Romans 11:34-36 MSG)

Everything comes from him; Everything happens through him; everything ends up in him.

This is one of those verses that is probably best read and understood in the context of what is being communicated in this chapter.  The verse before it says: Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.

In this chapter of Romans, Paul is talking about the inclusion of the Gentiles into God's family and he is reminding the Gentiles that there will be a day when the Jewish people are regrafted in, in the end - hence the mystery of it all. So the question these verses pose is, "Where can we land in this extravagant generosity of God, his deep, deep wisdom when it comes to salvation?"  The answer, "It begins in Him, works through Him and ends in Him." 

I've spent years in the church, watching myself and others struggle with the concept of "Have I backslidden? Have I gone far enough, that now I'm 'separated' from God?  How do I get back and stay put?"  Then one day, I was interviewing one of my Catholic friend's about his life story.  I asked him, "So have you ever backslidden?"  He looked at me as if I had just spoken a foreign language.  So I tried again, "Have you ever walked away from God, given up your faith for a season?"  He still couldn't grasp the concept, but politely said, "It just has always been a part of me from since before I could remember."  And at that moment, I was both jealous and in awe.  His words shook me and I began to realize that I had been trying to "play with God."  I thought He was something I could put on the shelf and walk away from.  I could somehow separate myself from Him.  It brought me to a humble realization that my whole being exists in Him and only arrogance and self-trust had blinded me to this truth.  How had I missed it for so many years?  As the Scripture above and the ones below state our very existence is dependent upon Him:
The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him! One of your poets said it well: ‘We’re the God-created.’
(Acts 17:24-29) 

"We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment.
(Colossians 1:15-17)

So what I've woken up to and stand in awe at - is that this depth of God's love surrounds me, it's what holds me together and it is a firm and secure place from which I stand:

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

20-21 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
(Ephesians 3:14-20)

So to be honest, my prayer for this post is specific.  As Paul, so clearly articulated above I pray that you can live full and free lives firmly standing on the foundation of God's love.  If like me, you've spent many years unsure of how God feels about you, being tossed to and fro, walking in fear that somehow you've gone too far for His reach, that you will see that you have not.  Plumb the depths of His love, test its lengths! 

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
(Romans 12:1-2 MSG)

This has recently become one of my favorite practical Bible verses.  I love the simplicity, the beauty, and the truth.

I love that it states, "This is what you do, God helping you," because it is only through God that we can and should do all these things.  Often times as Christians we can get caught up in "high and lofty" goals of what we can "do" for God.  This verse takes "these fantasies" and brings them right back down to real life.  It lets us know our everyday life, our ordinary life - placed before God, walked out with Him and His help is our offering.

But how do we do this?  By fixing our eyes on God.  This is how we get changed from the inside out!  Being obedient in the little things He is asking you everyday will result in maturity.

As I think about "maturity in Christ" I have a couple women that come straight to mind.  When I am in their presence there is an immediate peace and calmness.  They listen to fears and problems and they don't freak out.  They always point you back to Christ.  As I reflect on these verses, I see that they have lived these verses out and that is how they have come to maturity.  They haven't had "any measurements of success" by the world's standards, yet they have done great impact in the kingdom of God, with fruit that will last.

I Thessalonians 4:10b-12
Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

The Lord has a sense of humor and He is so true to His word.  When I selected these 13 inspirational Thoughts for 2013, it was a spur of the moment thing and the verses truly just struck my heart as I was reading through them.  Little did I know that He was actually going to ask me to walk these things out in the reality of life in the days, weeks and months ahead!  So these verses and any thoughts that follow are being written from the trenches of life and are not being shared from any high and lofty seat:

Romans 12:6b-8
If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; 

if you help, just help, don’t take over; 

if you teach, stick to your teaching; 

if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; 

if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate;

if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond;

if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. 

Keep a smile on your face.

As I read through these verses, pretty much every single one of them I have found myself doing the opposite of them.  So as I sit in the reality of my actions and I've asked the Lord for wisdom, clarity and HELP these are some of the places that He has taken me:

Hebrews 12: 1b-7
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

Consider Him
As I work through these struggles in my heart and mind this is the only place where I have been able to land in a place of peace.  I am thankful for this season of Lent, which has kept the reality of the cross forefront in my mind.  The list of Paul's from Romans 12 are all good things, things that we can do with God's help but what becomes evident is that even in doing "good things" over-enthusiasm can soon blind us from the way of love.  So as my sister sweetly reminded me yesterday, "Maybe, I should read my own blog,"  I've settled down to consider Him:

Through our first 6 inspirations He has clearly shown that He is up to something beautiful and life-changing.  He has invited us to walk alongside Him in this venture.  But the foundational ground-work has to be and always remain LOVE.  And in this walk of LOVE we have to allow individuals to remain individuals - to see them with Christ's love and compassion, otherwise we can quickly become blinded.

Inspiration 7:

Today's verses remind me of a G.K. Chesterton quote:

Christianity has not been tried and found wanting;
it has been found difficult and not tried.

Below are some of those verses of Christianity that have been found difficult and perhaps have been left untried.  Before you read them I encourage you to remember the 6 parts that have come before these verses because they provide the foundation for what comes next.  We remembered that we have a God who is on a mission to rescue the nobodies and He knows us and them intimately by name.  As a result of His love & His action in our lives we can daily move forward.  If God asked us to do the following things based on our own ability we would fail.  But the beauty of it is that He hasn't asked us to pull this off on our own.  He is leading us, guiding us, walking beside us, yoked with us, and following behind.  So being buckled into those truths you may proceed:

Romans 12:16-21
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

These verses remind me of why I love Christianity. 

  • First of all because it is impossible to do these things long-term and consistently without God. 
  • Secondly, it is not something that is able to walked out from a high and lofty place.  You cannot sit in a place of judgement or "I'm better than you" and do these things. 
  • Third, it strips us to the core of who we are.  I had to laugh as I read, "Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath." There are no facades in walking this out. 
  • Rather, it requires humility and self-sacrifice and often times the way of Christ makes no earthly sense.  So these verses land us back at the foot of the cross; fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).  Only from that vantage point does any of this make sense.
Inspiration 8:
    You can’t go wrong when you love others.
    When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.
    (Romans 13:10 MSG)

    This verse is the most simple and straight-forward verse of all the verses we've looked at thus far.  As I view this verse in light of all that came before it - I see it as a response to what has come before rather than "a requirement" that we conjure up inside of us.

    We have seen:
    • the heart of the Father for us
    • we are His beloved children 
    • that we exist in Him and Him alone
    • that our daily actions, the simplicity of life is lived in Him
    So from this place we are asked to love.  Christianity has gotten a bad rap that it is people trying to live out a list of rules that they wish to impose on themselves and on others.  In light of the cross, we reflected on last week, we should lift our heads with pride while kneeling in humility before all of our neighbors and ask - how can I show you love today?

    So what is love?
    Love never gives up.
    Love cares more for others than for self.
    Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
    Love doesn’t strut,
    Doesn’t have a swelled head,
    Doesn’t force itself on others,
    Isn’t always “me first,”
    Doesn’t fly off the handle,
    Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
    Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
    Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
    Puts up with anything,
    Trusts God always,
    Always looks for the best,
    Never looks back,
    But keeps going to the end.
    Love never dies.
    (I Corinthians 13:3-8 MSG)

    Living & loving like this comes as a response to the love we first received from Him.

    Inspiration 9:
Romans 13:12-13 
The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!

"Be up and awake to what God is doing!"
After a week like this week in the news media (Boston Marathon, Kermit Gosnell), it is easy to be discouraged thinking that the evilness of man is somehow winning in this world.  That is what I initially think when I look at the news, but then I stop and I'm once again reminded that God moves in the smalls of this world and in His infinite wisdom He remains patient and confident that His ways will continue to turn this world right-side up.

Psalm 11 asks: "When the foundations are being destroyed, what are the righteous supposed to do?" (Psalm 11:3 NIV).  This Psalm used to frustrate me because I felt like it left a direct question unanswered in a direct way.  However, when I look at it again I see that it calls us to fix our eyes on Him and what He is up to:
Psalm 11 (MSG)
I’ve already run for dear life
    straight to the arms of God.
So why would I run away now
    when you say,
“Run to the mountains; the evil
    bows are bent, the wicked arrows
Aimed to shoot under cover of darkness
    at every heart open to God.
The bottom’s dropped out of the country;
    good people don’t have a chance”?
4-6 But God hasn’t moved to the mountains;
    his holy address hasn’t changed.
He’s in charge, as always, his eyes
    taking everything in, his eyelids
Unblinking, examining Adam’s unruly brood
    inside and out, not missing a thing.
He tests the good and the bad alike;
    if anyone cheats, God’s outraged.
Fail the test and you’re out,
    out in a hail of firestones,
Drinking from a canteen
    filled with hot desert wind.
7 God’s business is putting things right;
    he loves getting the lines straight,
Setting us straight. Once we’re standing tall,
    we can look him straight in the eye.

This Psalm solidifies that God is firmly established on His throne and He is well aware of what is happening in the world.  The question when we see the evil in the world is not what is God doing about it but rather the question is do we believe that God knows what He is doing when He asks us to love, to pray for our enemies,and to do good even when evil is what we get in return?  Does His way really work?

If we answer yes to those questions, it leaves us with one more question - How do we walk this out? The answer circles us back to the end of the first verses Romans 13:14: "Dress yourself in Christ!"  Scripture after scripture tell us how to dress in Christ (if you would like a list of 11 of them click on my post called Spiritual Wardrobe).  These small choices we make everyday are those investments that yield great returns in the spiritual realm.

I will leave you with a final thought from Henri Nouwen from Mornings with Henri J.M. Nouwen:
The mystery of life is that the Lord of life cannot be known except in and through the act of living.  Without the concrete and specific involvements of daily life we cannot come to know the loving presence of him who holds us in the palm of his hand.  Our limited acts of love reveal to us his unlimited love.  Our small gestures of care reveal his boundless care.  Our fearful and hesitant words reveal his fearless and guiding Word.  It is indeed through our broken, vulnerable, mortal ways of being that the healing power of the eternal God becomes visible to us.  Therefore, we are called each day to present to our Lord the whole of our lives - our joys as well as our sorrows, our successes as well as failures, our hopes as well as fears.

Inspiration 10:
Romans 14:1
Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

I have lived on both sides of this verse and the end results have been very different.  In my younger years, I thought Christianity was all about being right.  I could argue with people about theological issues for hours and I know that in the process, I hurt people.  In particular, I remember, having a discussion with my younger sister where a group of us were discussing the role psychology and medication played in a Christian's life.  At times, the discussion got heated and for me it was about winning and being right.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, she had been a victim of rape and she was suffering under keeping this a secret from our family.  In hindsight, it is quite obvious to me why she felt she had to carry this burden on her own. My heart has grieved many times over the last 8 years for the ways the spirit of religion  closed the door for her to immediately come to her Christian family and receive love, acceptance and help in her time of need.

Her story has been one of the ways the Lord has slowed my tongue and opened my ears to hear, love and accept other believers.  Unfortunately, it is not the only incidence of missing someone's heart in my passion to be right, but as always, I am thankful that the Lord is a teacher and a Redeemer and as we stop to listen and walk in His ways we are changed by His grace.

As I stop to look back over my past and see what has changed in me, I realize that one of the main things is understanding my security in Christ.  Before, when I'd argue with people, I was arguing from a place of position that was secured in "my truth."  I was sure that I was on God's side about a particular issue and for anyone to rock that boat for me caused panic.  But as God settled my heart in Himself, over and over again, freaking out has become less frequent, though my husband can attest to the fact that I can still get flustered.  But these moments of flustering usually come when I take my eyes of people and I am just trying to be right.  

The understanding that I am secure in Christ because of He first loved me, has opened the door for me to minister to many different women.  As a result, they have taken the time to be vulnerable with me and to tell their story.  With each new story I hear, an increasing ferocity for protection of these precious hearts rises up in me.  They don't need to be brought to the truth through argument rather they need to be treated with love, honor and respect as precious children of God.  I will gladly admit that it is a whole lot harder to love than it is to argue about being right.  But the most "life-change" I've ever seen has come out of the arena of love not the arena of argument.

Once again a quote from Henri Nouwen puts the words I am fighting for in this post into beautiful succinctness:

In solitude we can listen to the voice of Him who spoke to us  before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone.  It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the results of our efforts.  In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared.  It's there we recognize that the healing words we speak are not just our own but are given to us; that the love we can express is part of a greater love; and that the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received. (from Mornings with Henri Nouwen).

So remember:

P.S. If you have been a victim of rape, first of all I am truly sorry.  If you have never spoken out, please find a trusted friend to open up to.  You can read and listen to my sister's story at that link.  While she never received justice from her perpetrators, she has opened and continues to open wide the door in the political realm for victims.

Inspiration 11:

Romans 14:10-14
So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:
“As I live and breathe,” God says,
    “every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
    that I and only I am God.”

So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.
Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.

I think all these words are very powerful and can hit us all differently depending upon where we are at but for this post I want to focus on how it challenges us to look inward.

As always, these verses do not stand alone and they are written in the context of what we've already been looking at in the previous 10 posts: That God is challenging us to wake up and join Him on His mission to spread His love to all - even the nobodies.  In the verses above God clearly establishes and reminds us once again that yes, He is God and He has everything in control; that in the end every knee will bow and acknowledge that truth.  I think sometimes as Christians we forget this and we look at places where we see evil reigning and all we want to do it squelch it. 

But these verses state that our hands are full taking care of our own lives.  As we sit before God's word allowing the author and perfecter of our faith full access to our hearts He will bring that change that is needed a change of a heart that can do what God has invited us to do:

Romans 12:17-21
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ 20 No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Let us take time to sit before His presence looking inward so we can receive the grace we need to love outward. 

Inspiration 12:

Romans 14:17b-18
(God's Kingdom) It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill twobirds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.

I love the beautiful interchange that takes place in these short two verses.  It starts out letting us know what God's Kingdom is:
  • a work in progress
  • intiated and being completed by God
  • a making of things right
  • being done in joy
It seems so simple yet profound and so often we miss it and instead make it harder than it needs to be.  Once again Paul reminds us that God has started this, God is doing the work and we've been invited to ride along in joy.  Our only task: to SINGLE-MINDEDLY serve Christ.

I just finished The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawerence and I was struck when he said he made it his mission to never think an evil thought and to only think thoughts of love.  If I put that into practice, I think 75% of my thought life would be X'd out and I wouldn't have much to talk about!  But it also jarred me to consider what it means to serve Christ, in my thought life and to truly let the beauty of who He is rule and reign even in the places where no one else can see.  The verse above and Brother Lawerence's example will only result in blessing for ourselves and others.  So as we walk away from this, let us be reminded that:

We have this treasure in clay jars,
so that it may be made clear that this
extraordinary power belongs to God
and does not come from us.
from 2 Corinthians 4

Inspiration 13:
Romans 14:19
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

It is hard for me to believe that this series 13 Thoughts for 2013 began way back in January.  Little did I know when I started it that the Lord was taking me on a journey and that these verses would be progressive stepping stones for me.  The journey through these verses included many tears, sleepless nights and wrestling out these truths in His presence.  I hope that I have emerged refined by the process.  

This journey is sealed with a truth that is for the ages: Let us make EVERY effort to lead to peace and the edification of others.

On Friday, I had to do that very thing and so I took the time to reread this entire series.  I realized that the truths that came before - especially regarding the heart of God towards others - was exactly what I needed to allow these truths to manifest in my life.

As I was finalizing this post, I came across thoughts found in Tell it Slant by Eugene Peterson, which seal the process that I have been in over the last 6 months:

Prayer accomplishes with us, within our spirits, deep within our souls, what is later lived out in the circumstances and conditions of our obedience.  A stiff upper lip won't do it.  A fierce resolve won't do it.  An exemplary life won't do it.

Prayer goes beneath the surface and penetrates the heart of the matter... When we pray we willingly participate in what God is doing, without knowing precisely what God is doing, how God is doing it, or when we will know what is going on - if ever (pg.237).

May this prayer by Saint Patrick lead you and guide you as you journey on:

 As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.


In Christ,

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