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Learned Helplessness

I mentioned in my last post that my husband and I were starting a Bible Study with a young lady who is new to our church. We have been able to do a couple of lessons with her and through the Lord, I believe that we are off to a good start. It is a blessing to be able to teach with my husband. In the past when I have taught Bible Studies I have done so on my own so I am keenly aware of some of the subtle differences. We are able to play off each other’s strengths in Bible knowledge to give a more well-rounded approach to the Scriptures. Where I might forget or overlook an important detail, he is able to jump in and offer additional insight. I appreciate his love for the Word and for this opportunity to be able to partner together in ministry.

The young woman we are working with is tormented by fears and anxiety. Her need for constant reassurance is heartbreaking. She wants to call and text at all hours of the day and night. The amount of free time I have in my schedule is very limited so these constant interruptions can be taxing. I have had to set boundaries with her as far as when and how often I can talk to her. She has a deep-seated fear of abandonment so I want her to know that we aren’t going anywhere, but also establish appropriate parameters so that I am not too drained to be a benefit to her spiritual walk.

What we’ve learned about her story is disheartening. The state removed her from her mother’s custody as a toddler due to abuse and drug addiction in the home. She then bounced around in the foster care system for the next six years. These were not always the best environments for a young child. Finally, an aunt took her in. Her aunt did her best to love her and help her, but because of her past she was not always the easiest child to raise. At sixteen years old she got involved with the wrong crowd and ran away from home. She moved from couch to couch living with friends and boyfriends, suffering abusive relationships, and experiencing many things that she harbors deep shame over. After a few years of this, she eventually returned to her aunt’s house.

She has a number of learning disabilities and mental health issues so the aunt was quite overprotective of her at times. Over the years she essentially learned from her aunt that she isn’t capable of doing anything on her own. The aunt constantly reinforced her learning disabilities and did everything for her to the point that she genuinely believes she isn’t capable of living on her own. She now lives with a sister that she only met a few months ago and readily admits that her sister has to take care of her almost as if she is one of her children.

It won’t happen overnight, but I truly believe this girl is capable of living on her own. It’s going to take some work, a little faith, and a lot of Jesus, but this is not beyond her. With God, all things are possible! She will need some help to learn some basic skills such as applying for a job, how to cook, and how to do laundry on her own, but it’s not as if these things are beyond her intellectual capacity. Yes, she may have some learning challenges that will have to be taken into consideration, but there are people with significantly more severe disabilities that live independently. Her main obstacle is not her ability to master these skills, it’s with her ingrained belief that she can’t.

The God we serve is a God of transformation. He is well able to take an anxious insecure girl and turn her into confident and capable woman. As she grows spiritually, I expect to see that she will also grow toward independence in the natural. It is my prayer that her learned helplessness and dependence on others will shift to an unequivocal and faithful dependence on the Lord. I am excited to see where God will bring her on this journey. I am not sure where my husband and I fit into her spiritual walk, but I am humbled to have an opportunity to witness even a tiny part of it.

Dear Readers, if you have read this far, I would like to ask you to take just a moment of your time to say a prayer for this young lady. Pray peace over her life. Pray for spiritual discernment and a deep abiding love of the Almighty. Pray the Lord would send her helpers that don’t hinder her by doing everything for her, but rather help to do it on her own. If you’re feeling particularly generous, say a prayer for my husband and I that when we feel drained that God would supernaturally fill us up. Pray that we generously give of ourselves in love and service to our wonderful Savior, Jesus the Christ.

We serve an amazing God!

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

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Discipleship

“To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God.” – John 1:12

A few weeks ago our pastor contacted my husband and me regarding a young woman who has just moved into the area and is looking for a church. She doesn’t drive so my husband and I were asked if we would be willing to pick her up for the following service. Of course we said yes without hesitating. She has attended nearly every service with us since.

She is only about four years older than our teen so to us she seems a lot like a kid, though legally, she is an adult. From what we’ve gathered, she’s experienced far more in her young life than she should have had to. That said, she knows what she needs is the Lord and she is hungry to get to know Him better. I’ve been praying that she will experience true healing as only the Lord can give.

There is something about this girl that reminds me of a lost neglected puppy. She seems almost desperate for someone to care for her. She doesn’t appear to have learned the basic characteristics of responsibility, communication, or being accountable for one’s own actions.

She comes across as very unsure of herself. In one moment she has the capability of carrying on intelligent conversation; in the next, she struggles to answer even the most basic questions about herself. When asked where in Connecticut she moved from, she could tell us the town, but not anything about the town or even what other cities are located near it for reference. She eventually said that she wasn’t from there; she is originally from Boston. So trying to make conversation, I asked her what part of Boston she is from. Everyone I have ever known from Boston will quickly tell you they are from Beacon Hill, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Southie, Hyde Park etc. and usually with such pride that when you ask where they are from, they may not even say Boston at all, but will jump right to the neighborhood they hail from. When I asked her this question she looked really confused and told me, “Massachusetts”, as if Massachusetts were a part of Boston instead of the other way around.

In another instance, she seemed really unsure of where we are in comparison to other places. She referred to places south of us as being north etc. She also hasn’t given us the slightest idea of how long she has lived at any of the three places she has mentioned or whether she’s lived anywhere else. She only mustered a feeble, “not very long” in reference to her current residence and gave the same response to the residence just prior to this one. I get the feeling she may have moved around a lot.  I am not sure if she really knows so little about where she is and where she comes from or if she is just evading the questions because she doesn’t want us to know too much about her. She is a sweet girl, but something appears to be lacking in her basic comprehension abilities. My husband and I have decided not to push her, but to let her open up to us as she feels able and comfortable.

Her first service at our church she went right to the altar and cried at His feet. She experienced the amazing infilling of His Spirit. Unfortunately, shortly after that, she experienced a panic attack in our fellowship hall. Thankfully, another sister and I were able to pray with her until she regained a sense of calm.

She readily agreed to come again the following service. It was after that service that she began to expound on some of her health issues both physical and mental. She struggles with anxiety and depression as well as a sense of being invisible to the world around her. She also confided that she has had long time stomach and digestive issues that cause her great discomfort and a fear of food.

During her third service at our church, she asked me to pray for her mother and revealed that her mother is a drug addict. The next service she disclosed that she is living with her sister and that she just met her sister for the first time a couple of months ago. She recently disclosed that she also has a brother that she has just met.

We are unsure exactly why she had to move in with a sister she barely knows, but we suspect her mother’s drug addiction may have something to do with that. It might also be the debilitating anxiety she is constantly under. She sometimes texts me dozens of times in a day asking the same questions over and over and practically begging for some reassurance that she’s doing okay, that she hasn’t lost her salvation, and that God won’t leave her.

My husband and I will be starting a Bible Study with her this week in the hopes of discipling her in her walk with the Lord. The Bible Study is a twelve week course that is designed to give a basic overview of the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Please pray for my husband and me as we embark on this journey with her. It is our prayer that the Lord will anoint us for the task, help us to be sensitive to her needs, and give us the spirit of discernment to best be able to serve her. Most importantly, we are praying for her spiritual development and salvation.

Though we don’t yet know all the details of her situation, we know that “all things work together for good to them that love Him” (Romans 8:28) and we believe that God “makes all things new” (Revelation 21:5). She has begun a beautiful journey in the Lord and we feel blessed to be given an opportunity to witness it.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

Becoming a Tree

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. ~ Psalm 1

This Psalm is on my heart this week, thanks largely to a podcast I was listening to by Patricia King (listen here if you so desire), about becoming a tree. If we root ourselves in Him, and drink of the Living Water that is Him, we will always bear fruit. Always. And our leaves will never wither. What an amazing life that looks like!

Sometimes, of course, this seems like a tall order. I don’t know about you but I tend to have a “hindsight is 20/20” viewpoint sometimes. I get caught up in my daily existence in NY. I get bogged down in dodging bikers, double and triple parked vans, errant pedestrians, and don’t even get me started on the taxis. I want to pour out on all of these people. At least, here at home while sitting at my computer, of course I want to pour out on all these people. In the moment though, when you’re speeding past me, my main thought is jumping out of the way of the puddle you’re splashing all over me. Some days I’m more successful at keeping a Christ-like perspective. But not every day, not all the time.

This is why this Psalm ministers to my heart so much. Patricia King touches on it too in that podcast – not every tree is huge and strong with these big rigid trunks.  Some trees are small.  They’re tender. Their trunks are flexible and their leaves flutter.  Some trees bend a bit in the breeze.  Does this mean they can’t be feeding from the living water? Of course not. They are still beautiful, still rooted – and still fruitful. Some days I’m the kind of tree that every kid wants to hang a tire swing from or build a treehouse on.  I’m so full of Jesus that I have no problem praying for that person on the subway. I have no problem stopping to love on a homeless person (and no that does not mean dropping some spare change into their palm and walking off!). Other days….I’m more like a ficus. One stiff breeze and I feel like I’m blowing over. Forget standing with Him for miracles – on these days I barely get prayer time in and dishes cleaned! On these less productive days, I sometimes feel like a waste of Christianity (ok I’m being dramatic. I probably don’t feel THAT badly about myself, but I certainly don’t feel fruitful either). But I can take heart in this fact: if I’m in Him, I am still bearing fruit.   It doesn’t always look the same every day, and it’s nice to know it doesn’t have to. I’m still ‘rooted’. 

Also, being rooted in Him means your leaves never wither. Do you know what that means? It means you can go through a transition period. You can have changes in your life – times of trial don’t affect your God-given destiny or keep you from blossoming. How cool is that?

The flip side, of course, is to be like the chaff. The Psalm basically say that if you’re not a tree, you’re the chaff. Chaff, for you non-farmer types, is basically a husk. It’s a dry scaly casing that goes around grains. It’s largely useless, it’s indigestible to humans (I think they do chop it up in certain animal feed though), and it has to be removed before the grains can be used. This is done by ‘threshing’ (read: milling, or pounding, the grain to loosen the chaff). Once you do this, the loose chaff can be removed by ‘winnowing’ – this means repeatedly tossing grains into a light wind so the loose chaff can blow away. Now you know the exact analogy the Psalm is making when they talk about the chaff blowing away. And here you thought you wouldn’t learn anything today!

Why is this important? Well, because it shows just how stubborn the chaff is – how stubborn wickedness can be. It can encase itself around us pretty quickly. And once it’s there, getting rid of it isn’t always easy. I mean the chaff has to literally get beaten off the nutritious grain. Now, I can think of several things I’d like to do today – going through a spiritual beating isn’t one of them. Best to just find a way to be in Him every day, be it pouring out onto others or taking care of my home. It’s also encouraging though – because we are sometimes called to shed things within us that aren’t of God, and it’s usually done by bringing us through a time of trial (sometimes a spiritual “threshing” is unavoidable!). In the end, when we’ve cried our tears and submitted our burdens and allowed God in to heal, the bad stuff He threshed off of us? It doesn’t cling to us anymore. It’s not part of us. It’s so loose that a light wind can carry it away. If that’s not encouraging I don’t know what is!

I leave you all with an encouragement to be in Him today. Find a way to drink of the Living Water, today and every day. Some days you might be a mighty oak. Some days you might be a shrub. But find a way to be rooted in Him, to drink of Him anyway. Even if it’s just to repent how UN-Christlike you’ve been that day! Allow Him in and He will ensure your endeavors bear fruit.

God bless! And, a BIG thanks to Rebekah L who helped me with a few technical issues regarding the format of this post – if you think it’s a long one now you should’ve seen the original version!

~Rebekah A

Battleground

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” ~ Ephesians 6:12 (KJV)

As Christians, we stand with Jesus to usher in His plan of love for the world. We stand with Him as His very name inspires a bend in our knees and awe in our hearts. We stand with Him as vessels to be used to heal, to love, to spread peace. We stand with Him simply to rejoice in His presence. We do all this and so much more. And sometimes, we stand with Him in battle.

As Christians, we do have a constant enemy. We don’t need to fear him necessarily (though he’d like us to!) because in the end Jesus is stronger. But we do need to fight him. His name is Satan and his sole aim is to kill, steal and destroy God’s plan. As stewards of this plan, we are automatically at odds with him. And he will use deception, distraction, literally any means he can come up with to keep us from fully doing our Father’s work.

Now, there are 7 main principalities that we fight, with a powerful demon at the head of each one (keep in mind though, they are not as powerful as Jesus and you can defeat them). These principalities are:

1) Spirit of Witchcraft

2) Spirit of Antichrist

3) Spirit of Infirmity

4) Spirit of Death

5) Spirit of Lying

6) Spirit of Mammon (wealth, provisions, socio-economic status, etc)

7) Spirit of Perversion

Right. Well, now that we have identified these principalities of the enemy, fighting them can seem like a daunting task. But luckily, God gives us examples throughout the Bible and a blueprint of what we need to do do defeat Satan and his minions.

Once such example, and it’s a fabulous one, is the book of Esther (which you can read here). Esther’s story at first seems nice enough, with a brave Jewish girl defeating the odds to save her people. But the more you delve into the book, the more you realize: Esther was a spiritual warrior, tried and true, who defeated the enemy and walked in victory to save her people. Here’s the thing: of those 7 principalities I mentioned above, Esther had to battle 6 of them. Six! All at once, too! Here’s the breakdown of what she was up against:

1) Spirit of Witchcraft: witchcraft was a common part of Persian culture in Esther’s time – spells, healers, divination, the works. King Xerxes himself is widely thought to have been a zoroastrian, a religion that used fire and water in its worship. To be fair, zoroastrianism forbade demon worship and consequently witchcraft, but given the use of the elements in its practice, it was a pretty short jump to make and a lot of sects practiced witchcraft anyway. One of King Xerxes’ advisers, Ostanes, was a magi and considered powerful in occult practice.

2) Spirit of Antichrist: In the book of Esther, Haman (favored by the king) makes all bow down to him to show respect. We bow as a form of worship, making this requirement full-blown idolatry. This, we can surmise, is why Mordecai refused to do so.

3) Spirit of Death: In retaliation against Mordecai, Haman’s wife and then Haman himself wanted to impale him. This escalated until Haman convinced the king to issue a decree to wipe out the entire Jewish population of Persia.

4) Spirit of Lying: This one is subtle. Still, we see a general attitude of mistrust and deception occurring in Persia: for starters, Esther did have to hide her identity, for her safety. We see false loyalties among the palace guards and a plot to overthrow King Xerxes. We see Xerxes’ notorious and borderline paranoid rage, and we see Haman overreacting to Mordecai’s slight.

5) Spirit of Mammon: Hamon wanted to not just kill the Jews, but plunder them. Take all their wealth so that no Jew anywhere would be able to recover it and recirculate it within their faith. Conversely, when the Jews retaliated they (for various reasons) refused to plunder.

6) Spirit of Perversion: This one was all over the place in the book of Esther. Queen Vashti was initially deposed due to not wanting to parade herself unveiled in front of a bunch of drunk men – 7 days drunk, to be exact. At a time when men and women were dining separately at separate banquets, the king’s request that she do this was nothing short of degrading. I applaud her for refusing, but ultimately it cost her the throne. Esther was chosen to be the new queen because of her beauty and virginity – a sort of ‘virgin pageant’. During her preparation for this she lived in a harem with the other maidens. After a night with the king they would then return but live in a different part of the harem – a part for concubines. Read between the lines here: the king of Persia, Esther’s eventual husband, had a different virgin every night. Once Esther was chosen, the king was unfaithful as a husband and even held a second ‘virgin pageant.’ So yes, I think it’s safe to say the spirit of perversion was alive and well in Persia during Esther’s time.

Knowing what she was up against, with 6 major principalities swirling around her, let’s look at what happened for her to fight them:

-First of all, Esther’s title of queen gave her no true power. Remember how easily Queen Vashti was deposed in the beginning. Esther was only chosen for the position because of her beauty – which is a superficial trait, but it’s also one that’s god-given – she was created for such a time as this, and if that meant she needed to be made pretty, well, that’s how God made her.

-Second, Esther was a non-practicing Jew. Think about that. She was hiding her identity from her husband – hiding in her own home. So she wasn’t partaking in the festivals, prayers, and was probably not following any of the dietary restrictions that the Jewish people normally follow. In short, she was doing nothing special to earn God’s favor – that just shows how merciful and faithful He is to those who petition in and stand for His will!

-What she did do, when she heard about Haman’s plot to wipe out her entire population, was to pray and fast for 3 days. She called for all the Jews in Persia to do the same thing. Now at first glance, she was fasting to prepare herself for the task at hand. And she was doing that. But if it was a matter of getting her heart right, maybe after a time of being distant from Him due to hiding who she really was, if that was all it was her time of prayer would have been between her and God. But it wasn’t. She called every Jew in Persia to fast and pray. We know that she had 6 principalities to fight. We know that the fate of her people was at stake. And we know that in Mark 9, Jesus heals someone possessed by demons. When His disciples ask why they couldn’t heal him in that, Jesus answered “that kind only comes out by prayer and fasting”. One more time: prayer and fasting casts out demons. It’s a big, big weapon we use. What was Esther doing? Praying and fasting. What were all the Jews in Persia doing? Praying and fasting. This wasn’t just a time of getting Esther’s focus together – this was a battleground. She was clearing the way, casting out these demons and making a way for God’s will to be done. She may have been in hiding up to this point, but He created her for such a time as this, and when push came to shove, she stood with Him strongly to bring His plan – the saving of the Jewish people – to fruition.

-Ultimately, God prevailed – He is stronger than these principalities and always will be! And we see His victory in the way that Xerxes extended favor to her both times that she approached him – even though her entrance to the throne room could have easily meant her death. We see His victory in how Xerxes not only agreed to listen to her but to dine with her, twice. Finally, we see His victory in Xerxes’ issuing a second decree which allowed the Jews to defend themselves and ultimately saved them. Everything Esther did after her time of prayer and fasting was met with favor – there was no more hiding, no more enemies in the way of God’s will. What a powerful God we serve!

My apologies for the super-long post. But it’s an important topic. And an important message: we were created for such a time as this. As this. You might be feeling on top of the world today – God has a destiny, a plan, and a task for you. You might be feeling like you’re under attack at this very moment – God has a destiny, a plan and a task for you. Stand with Him and you will prevail – “for if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

I invite you today to be intentional in seeking out Jesus’ plan for you. Join Him in intercession and ushering in His plan. Step onto the battleground with Him. Victory awaits – so claim it!

God bless!

Rebekah A

Forsaking the Past

I came to know the Lord in my mid-twenties. This means that I lived long enough prior to Christ to have made a substantial number of mistakes. Truth be told, I’ve made significant mistakes since coming to the Lord as well. The fact is that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.”

Recently, someone in my life has been going out of their way to remind me of my prior indiscretions. Admittedly, this has taken quite a toll on me. When I first became saved, I felt the weight of those early sins lift off me. I experienced the incredible cleansing that came with repenting of my sins and being baptized in His precious name. I was blessed with an amazing renewal through the infilling of His Spirit and the chains of those transgressions fell as I embraced the freedom of forgiveness. I believed the Bible when it says, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). I truly felt that Scripture become real in my life.

Psalms 103:12 – “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”

Yet after being repeatedly reminded of my past, I found myself ruminating over dead sins, old guilt, and shame. More than just thinking about them I’ve been feeling dirty, worthless, and broken. I’ve been obsessing about the fact that I can’t fix it. No matter what I do, I can’t go back and undo the mistakes I made in the past. I can’t undo the sin, I can’t fix it!

Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…”

Make no mistake; we have an enemy of our souls! Satan would like nothing more than for us to become shackled to our past. The enemy knows we don’t have the power to change the past and he will try to continually condemn us for it because he wants us to feel hopeless. Feeling hopeless is a very dangerous place to be. When we feel hopeless, we can lose our vision and give up. If I can’t change the past, what good is it to try to live holy? I can’t change what happened so I might as continue in them. That kind of thinking is a lie from the pit of hell!

Micah 7:19 – “…He will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

It’s true that I can’t change the past, but as far as God is concerned that past no longer exists. The Word is clear, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more”(Hebrews 8:12). When I was baptized in Jesus’ name I was cleansed of my past sins. The bible says, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). What an incredible gift from God! I couldn’t fix it, so God fixed it for me!

Isaiah 43:25 – “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”

When we dwell on the past, we are limiting our future and essentially making the blood of Jesus of no affect in our lives. I think it probably grieves God to see His children dwelling on sins that He has already forgiven. It indicates that we don’t trust Him enough to truly believe that His Word is true!

Isaiah 43:18 – “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.

What kind of future would the newly converted Paul have had if he had been unable to let go of his past mistakes? Paul, the man who wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else, was a man with a past! He persecuted Christians and was complicit in murder. If he had dwelled on his past mistakes it would have paralyzed him and kept him from operating effectively in God’s will.

Ephesians 1:7 – “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is in the third chapter of Philippians where Paul penned the words, “this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” When the enemy whispers memories of your past into your ear, rebuke him, rebuke the thought, and rebuke the intention behind the thought. Don’t allow those things to get in your spirit. Instead focus on Jesus. Turn your eyes to the One who freed you from all your past mistakes and the bondage of sin. Praise Him for His unending mercy and unfathomable forgiveness.

Philippines 3:13 – “…this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”

I will remind our readers as I remind myself: you are not your past; you are a new creature in Christ! God never intended for us to live in the past. It’s one of the reasons we needed the new birth experience. We serve a mighty God who is not intimidated by our failures, but instead provided a way to remove them from the record. He is worthy of all our praise!

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

Guest Post: Anna Robinson “Is following Jesus just about being nice?”

Editor’s Note: Our weekly guest spot is our effort to help our reading community connect with each other. Thank you Anna for this great post reminding us of what following Jesus is all about! 

Being nice is something I think us Brits are very good at. We form orderly queues, we don’t like to offend, and we say “sorry” a lot. And sometimes we transfer that into what it means to be a Christian, so that our external expression of being a follower of Jesus is just simply that we are “nice”.

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(image source http://goo.gl/l5jkHW)

Strange, really, because anyone who’s ever looked seriously at the Jesus in the bible would not simply describe him as “nice”. And as we’re called to imitate Him I wonder why we’ve ended up with all this nice-ness.

Was Jesus encouraging? Yes.

Was He kind? Yes.

Was He Compassionate? Yes.

But He wasn’t just those things. He spoke with authority. He operated supernaturally. He loved radically. He challenged his disciples, the Pharisees and the crowds. He spoke to the heart of people. His words were divisive.

We often assume that to love someone is simply to be “nice” to them. But Jesus gives us a much bigger picture of what it really means to love. It’s easy to imagine the Pharisees squirming at some of the challenge that He brought to them – I’m guessing it didn’t feel that “nice”. And yet we know He wholeheartedly loved the Pharisees, just as He loves us.

And then there’s the Rich Young Man in Mark 10. The text says that Jesus looked at him “and felt genuine love for him”. This was a sincere conversation of love. But Jesus loved the man too much to leave him unchallenged. The Rich Young Man genuinely wanted to know what he needed to inherit eternal life. And Jesus gave it to him straight. He didn’t skirt around the issue, trying to be “nice”. Jesus challenged the young man to sell all he had and then follow Him.

And I’m guessing Zacchaeus nearly fell out of the tree when Jesus asked if he could visit his house. Nobody “nice” or respectable would want to spend time with a man like Zacchaeus, as the crowds around at the time inferred.  But as Zacchaeus was confronted with the love and holiness of Jesus he saw himself for who he really was, and it led him straight to repentance.

And He doesn’t skirt around the issue with us either. Jesus wants His followers to be more than just “nice”. He wants spirit-filled sons & daughters, friends, servants who will respond to both the challenge and invitation that he brings.  And He wants us to overflow with that kind of double-edged love that He has poured into us. As followers of Jesus we have the same spirit of God living in us that raised Jesus from the dead. (Romans 8:11). It’s more than just nice.

And the extravagant, overwhelming, death-defeating love that Christ demonstrated when, for all of us – “nice” or not – he went to the cross and bled and died is so much more than nice. It’s astonishing, breathtaking, outrageous, life-changing, challenging, full-of-grace-and-power love.

Sometimes we have to unpick how our culture affects our faith, so that we’re able to stand back and see with fresh eyes who our Jesus really is, and how He really calls us to live.

Let’s let this love change us – we’re called to be so much more than “nice”.

The Robinsons are a lovely bunch from Sheffield, UK. They love God and are passionate about showing and sharing Jesus to the community and helping others do the same. They lead 3dm Europe and they’re part of the Order of Mission – a relational network of missional leaders. To learn more about the Robinson Family check out their blog at: The Robinsons today!

Choose this Day

“…choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” –Joshua 24:15

As many of you know, I have a friend that lives in Taiwan. For the last couple of weeks he has been on a business trip to China. The beginning of his trip was fraught with difficulties. He is under incredible pressure to succeed by his company. In addition, he has been battling many personal temptations and sin has been lying at the door just waiting to trip him up.

Recently in prayer, God asked him a question. The question was, “Do you want to be like your father or like your Father? You see, many of the struggles and temptations my friend is facing are the very sins his father has succumbed to. God was asking him whether he would choose to become like his earthly father or like his heavenly Father. Indeed, this is a decision we all must continually make.

When he encountered these temptations in China, rather than fall into secret sin and try to hide them away, he reached out and openly told his pastor, his mentor, and a couple close friends exactly what he was tempted to do. So often we try to face our demons alone. Church, we need to learn to lean on each other during our trials! Had he tried to face this alone, he almost certainly would have failed. But with the love, support, and prayers of those close to him, he found the strength to stand for Christ!

His decision to stand for the Lord has resulted in something amazing! At a business meeting in Shanghai, he told his co-workers that he could not do some of the things they were doing because he is a Christian. After the meeting, one of his co-workers told him that he is actually a Christian also, but he had never told the group because he didn’t want to stand out. While Christianity is rapidly growing in China, it is still a tiny minority of the population, and if you think it’s difficult standing out in the United States, it is much more difficult in a place like China that values the group over the individual.

My friend’s Christian co-worker invited him to attend church with him. It is a government registered church so my friend knew that doctrinally some things would not line up with what he believes, but he decided that getting to worship with other Christians would be good for him. After the church service he and another member of the church were invited back to his co-worker’s house for lunch. During lunch, it was revealed that neither his co-worker nor the other church member had ever been baptized. In fact, they felt that baptism was something done in biblical times, but was not something to be practiced in modern times.

I know even amongst our readers there are differing opinions on this, but my friend went through all the Scriptures in the bible that admonish new believers to be baptized. He pointed out that there aren’t any Scriptures that would indicate that we should stop baptizing people. Before long the two church members were feeling convicted and having an intense discussion about what they should do. Meanwhile my friend contacted his pastor back in Taiwan to get some advice on how to handle the situation. His pastor recommended that my friend suggest they all pray together and then if they indicated they wanted to be baptized they should do it without hesitation. He pointed out that the government church would not baptize them so to help them be obedient to the Word, my friend should just do it himself.

As suggested, my friend had the three of them pray together. After prayer, the two men both agreed that they wanted to be baptized! My friend took them back to the hotel where he is staying and baptized them in the name of Jesus in the hotel pool!

One of the things that strikes me as so amazing about this entire interaction is how it would not have happened if my friend had chosen to be like his father rather than his Father. He was under extreme temptation and had he given into it, he never would have had reason to let his coworkers know that he is can’t do certain things, so therefore he never would have found out this other co-worker was a Christian, and the co-worker would never have invited him to his church and therefore would not have been baptized.

Every decision we make either for Christ or for the satisfaction of our own flesh, has consequences. When we stand for Christ, He can make miracles happen in our midst! When we follow Him and do His will, we can witness the expanding of the Kingdom of God before our very eyes!

Will you be like your earthly father or like your heavenly Father? Choose this day whom ye will serve.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.