Isn’t it funny how stinking thorough God is?
I don’t know about you, but when God is dealing with a thing in me, He never ceases to show up in everything with His friendly little God reminders.
If it is pride He is working on, clearly this is hypothetical then I hear a song about humility, while waiting in the carpool line. Then the next day, the sermon is about pride at church, and then bright and early Monday morning, my devotional points to serving others, and not thinking too highly of oneself.
Ok Lord, I got it. Thankyouverymuch.
He is nothing if not clear in His work in me.
Maybe obviously He knows how pig-headed, daft, and distracted I am. He did make me after all.
With that said, I will read an excerpt from a Beth Moore book (Breaking Free) I am reading right now (I know, I know, I have become quite the book nerd, have I not? My Mom is so proud!) that, is no coincidence, showing me confirmation in what God is doing in me, through me, and mainly to me right now.
“Somehow I think a writer should never appear desperate for the reader to care about her words. It just isn’t seemly. She should just do her best and place the result out there. I believe that, but in this case I just can’t do it. The contents of these pages are so important to me that I desperately want them to be important to you. The message in this volume is so precious to me that I desperately desire for it to be precious to you. I want this process described here to grab your heart. I want it to pull at your life so powerfully that the bondage of mediocre discipleship will never again be acceptable.”
That. exact. sentiment. is. from. me. to. you.
The next chapter we are about to talk about, and in fact, this entire movement God is doing in my heart and mind is so very dear to me, so freshly and beautifully precious to me, that I pray it is to you, too. I am not your little Holy Spirit though. I type that more for me, so that I can re-read it over and over while I edit this very long post.
With that said, let’s begin with Spring 2007.
A frustrating part about God is how He expects us to act on conviction fairly quickly. Pretty much the second He convinces us to move, to change, to shift, we’re supposed to. Despite how much we ponder it or talk about it, until we are obedient in word and deed, we’re just here pretending to be there….He first captured our minds…Then He seized our hearts…thereafter was the call to our hands.” (pg. 76-77)
Until we are obedient in word and deed, we’re just here pretending to be there.
Um, hello 2×4 to my head.
I knew sort of what God wanted me to do. I knew sort of who He wanted me to serve. I knew sort of how He wanted me to do it. I didn’t know complete specifics, which is often his adorableslashannoying Sovereign way, but I had the general idea.
So, in the spirit of serving, I took my two children who were currently well at the time (in one week we had three cases of croup, two strep, and one Scarlet fever…and ain’t no partridge in a no pear tree, neither) and we went with Thing One and her church to serve lunch to the elderly.
It really was awesome.
Sister friend and I were on hug patrol, and precious Benjamin gave his contagious joy and smiles away for free.
A couple weeks later (void of any true service to anyone) I finally got to catch up on the phone with my dear friend who up and followed God’s will and moved thirty-three hours away. Ya. Thanks, Lord. As if meaningful conversations were doable when we lived fifteen minutes from each other, but now this? Between the two of us, we have eight children under the age of eight. We are lucky to get a shower. Long, meaningful conversations about the amazing work God is doing in our lives, gets to happen during our luxurious free time. (aka: between 2:30am – 2:34am)
So, once we talked, she asked how Team Holzberger was doing and I told her.
Insert long, drawn out update here, including, of course, our amazing service day with our kids. See, RebFlo, we love Jesus.
Then, it was her turn. Crappity, crap, crap.
She basically told me that in the last few weeks (not months, not years) since we talked, she had found a mission-minded church. And oh ya, it was geared towards the homeless. They’d attended it twice, and driven one hour (one way!) to do so. Then, they’d made tons of peanut butter sandwiches for the homeless people, delivered them, hung out with them, spent time with them, ministered to them, yes, with her five children along for the ride! (She rocks my world!) They’d discovered the greatest need this group of believers who serve these precious homeless people needed, and they are now working on meeting them. Personally. Like, with their own checkbook. Oh, and by the way, they may even be planting a church for the homeless in their part of Portland very soon as well.
Ya, but did I mention we were at the elderly lunch thing for like two whole hours.
Friend, let me be clear. This is not a works race. Jesus receives no glory when we rush around and try to out-do other believers (or non-believers!), and then try to attach His will and His Name to it at the finish line. Can He still do good through that junk? Yes He can. But, please, I beg you, don’t go there.
But, what I am saying, is that this family gets it.
They have had this stirring in their lives for months and months and months, long before reading books by Hat. But, man, oh man, have they been obedient in word and deed. Props to you Floyds. I love you dearly. But, yes, I reminded God that you verywellcouldbe doing this in Texas too. Just sayin’.
All the stats on pages 78 – 79.
I won’t camp out here too long, because I could spend all day here. Please don’t catch these stats wrong though. Don’t puff up and get defensive about the church. Or your church. (or my church!) Just take this at face value. His bride, the church, is in trouble. Period. What are you (and I!) going to do about it!?! Moving on…
Remarkably, most outsiders are not anti-church (our gospel isn’t provocative enough to incite backlash anymore); they simply dismiss the church as irrelevant to their real lives since it seems mostly irrelevant to the people who go there…If people around me aren’t moved by my Christ or my church, then I must be doing a miserable job of representing them both. (pg. 80)
Jesus was not a joiner.
Jesus did not ‘fit in.’
He was so out there sometimes with His words and His deeds; to say He was compelling doesn’t begin to describe Him. Magnetic doesn’t come close.
We are made in His image and are His image-bearers.
Our love for Him, our deeds done in His Name, our faith in trials, our praise in difficulty, our hearts to serve anyone and everyone – all of it should stand out so stinking much that people cannot help but say “What the heck is up with her?”
Is church irrelevant in your life?
I can say with certainty that I have had seasons where the answer to both of those questions would have been a secretive, yet emphatic, “Yes!”
What about you?
It will matter only if you’re a sheep or a goat. The blessed and the lost will be separated based on one principle: the care of the forsaken. The end. (pg. 86)
So, to be honest, there is a big question mark drawn on that page of my book.
Thing One and I talked about it during FPT.
Absolutes are a dangerous thing. Always and Never are powerful words that are never always true.
Sometimes. But, rarely.
In the Bible however, there are some. We know them. I won’t spend time there today. I have before, though.
But, I will say this – (actually, Jesus said it – just clarifying)
Matthew 7:17-19 “Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Matthew 12:13 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.”
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
I think these verses Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, are a perfect reminder that it is GOD alone who lays the foundation of someone being ‘in Christ’. It cannot simply happen because we recite something correctly as a child or ‘play church’ well as an adult. It is a heart change that brings about a life change.
My pastor often says, “Before you know Christ, you sin all you want to. After you have come to truly know Him as your personal Savior, you sin about all that you want to. God just changes your want to.”
Just so you know, the offerings talked about in these verses are as follows –
Gold, silver and costly stones represent the things we did in this life in His Name, with His glory in mind, not as mere works alone, but as worship and thanks to Him, as evidence of our faith in Him.
Wood, hay, and straw represent the things of this life we did for us. For our dreams. Our goals. Our ambitions. Our priorities. Even the ‘good things’ we did with a selfish motive. It all gets burned up if it wasn’t for Jesus. All of it. Oh, that I am not standing up there in line, waiting for my turn with Jesus, with hay bail, after hay bail, after hail bail next to me.
Now, I do not think it is Biblical that anyone can lose their salvation.
I do know that many people out there think they are saved because of a moment when they were five in Sunday school, or fifteen at church camp. But, only God knows the truth. Was there true repentance of sin? Was there true admittance of His Son’s death and resurrection? Was there an honest and humble plea for God to take my life as His own? And now…is there fruit to show this? I’m not talking about works. (I’ll cover that in a minute) I’m talking about fruit.
Friend, I can say “I’m an apple tree. I’m an apple tree. I’m an apple tree.” All the live long day, but if I have oranges hanging on my stinkin’ braches and falling from my life, then hear me, even if it ain’t fun to admit…I AM NOT AN APPLE TREE!
Truth is truth. Period.
And those who have truly accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation may get in, but only be the skin of their teeth, as this verse describes. Our pastor calls is ‘singed but saved’. I do not want to be that way. I do not want to look my Savior in the face one day and have no offering to give Him because everything I try to offer gets burned up in the Fire – because it was done for me. For my glory. For my fame. For my name.
Oh that we have something to offer the One who gave us everything.
“As for me, I’m going to gamble on the fact that Jesus didn’t have much patience with believers who attempted to limit the scope of “who my neighbor is” to the fewest possible people (PLEASE READ Luke 10:25-37) Jesus always fell left of center here, extending grace and healing to those well outside His party lines. He often healed people first; they believed second…and since that’s not my call to make, I’ll just err on the side of mercy and let Jesus sort it out at the harvest.” (pg. 88)
Amen and amen.
“While my soft side loves that concept, I don’t buy it. Many will stand before Jesus one day clutching good works in their hands, but they will leave His presence because they never loved Him. If we’ve learned anything from the rebellious nation of Israel, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the meager offerings of the poor in Scripture, it is this: God is supremely concerned with our motives, and our works count only when they match our intentions. There is no back door into salvation rerouted around the sacrifice of Christ. Otherwise, the whole earth could gain heaven by good works, and his day on the cross would be pointless.” (pg. 89)
This could not be more true.
I lost a dear one to me this year. Her name was Jordan and she was 22 years old. She was sunshine. She was joy. She was a servant’s heart. All wrapped up into a beautiful, brilliant, amazing young woman. I was her volleyball coach when she was in eighth grade. She killed herself last spring.
Jordan was a devout Jew.
Her family was tight-knit. Her beliefs and their beliefs, strong.
Jordan acted more like Jesus in her 22 short years, than most Christians do in their whole lives. But, as far as I know, she did not believe in Him as God’s resurrected Son. She did not know Him. She did not love Him. And as much as it physically brings my heart deep pain, the truth is this; unless she cried out to Him in her final breaths, like the thief on the cross next to Jesus did, she is not with Him now.
“We cannot think our way into a new kind of living. We must live our way into a new way of thinking.” (quoted from Richard Rohr, pg.91)
Recently, I heard a wonderful speaker named Kat Lee, at a writer’s conference say that there is no ‘try’.
She proved this by telling a story of how she asked someone once to try to pick up a chair. The woman slowly picked up the chair. “No, no, no! I didn’t say to pick up the chair, I said to try and pick up the chair.” Confused, the woman put the chair down and stared at her. “No, no, no. I didn’t say to put down the chair. And I definitely didn’t say to not pick up the chair. I said to try and pick up the chair.”
The woman probably left the room crying or angry.
But it proves the point.
You cannot try to run a marathon. You either run one or you don’t.
You cannot try to lose weight. You either drive through Krispy Kreme or you don’t.
You cannot try to be a doctor. You either actually went to medical school or you printed the degree from your home computer.
You cannot try to act like Jesus.
You cannot try to serve those around you less fortunate than yourself.
You can try to obey His specific call on your life.
You either do it, or you don’t. Either I do it, or I don’t. Period.
We’re all poor; I just have more stuff…A hot meal doesn’t hold a candle to a real friend…So as I was beginning to identify with the least – and Jesus already said He was the least – I was perhaps starting to commune with Christ in earnest for the first time in my life. It was a party at the bottom. Sorry I was so late. I got lost. (pg. 92-93)
Oh how I loved this.
Jesus clearly said it over and over – and my pastor says it often, that we cannot so much as give a cup of cold water in His Name without serving Him personally.
So, I guess we just have to ask ourselves if we are going to hand out any cold water today?
This is how I want My church to look. I want her to rip the shoes off her feet for the least every single chance she gets. I want an altar full of socks and shoes right next to the communion table. I want to see solidarity with the poor. I want true community rallied around My gospel. I want a barefooted church. (pg. 97)
A barefoot church.
How precious and glorious is that?
I love Jesus and how He arranged for them both to be wearing their prized cowboy boots.
I can’t help but wonder what my ‘cowboy boots’ are. What is it, that I need to lay at His feet, to truly put it all out there and be a barefoot-church-kind-of-girl. I feel fairly certain it isn’t my ratty old Reef sandals. Those wouldn’t bless anyone.
It (being on ‘mission’) needed to become an integrated part of our lives, maybe even a discipline like daily Bible study was, not just an event we did once a year. (pg. 99)
I love how her man, Brandon, put it! He wanted to emphasize that serving others is not only what we do once or twice a year (read: Thanksgiving and Christmas) and then go about our daily lives patting ourselves on the back of our Christian t-shirt.
Being on mission – serving the least of these – should be a daily discipline.
We should be seeking God to show us people daily who are broken, in need, hungry, widowed, orphaned, etc. You just watch God show off. He has enough of His beloved children (which is anyone breathing in air) out there to keep us busy with this daily discipline for a hundred years.
Let’s do it!
Never did Jesus charge them with something they did wrong. His entire indictment was on what they didn’t do right. It was a sin of omission. And it went far beyond ignoring poverty. Jesus explained that when we ignore the least, we ignore Him. No amount of spinning or clever justification can neutralize Jesus’ point. If we claim affinity for Christ but turn a blind eye to those He identified Himself with, there is no honor in that. There is no truth in it. (pg.101)
I feel like I’ve been drinking the Kool-aid for the last thirty-three years.
What have I been thinking?!?
I turn off the commercials when poor African orphan pictures come on.
I don’t read/watch the news because it is just too depressing.
I serve the blessed.
I bless the super blessed.
Twenty minutes in one direction are some of the poorest people in North Texas. Five minutes in another direction are some of the wealthiest people in America. Guess which direction I’ve been traveling.
No freaking more.
Miraculously, there will come a day when we stand before God Almighty with nothing but this human life standing up on our behalf, full of failure and omissions. And just when all hope is lost, when we have nothing left to hold out, nothing to show God, no more to demonstrate our worthiness with, the Son will step in, in all His glory and righteousness, and say to the Father, “Whatever you do to the least of these, these brothers and sisters of mine, you do unto me.”
Man, this got me.
I am the least of these.
You are the least of these.
We have nicer clothes. (Ok, we have clothes)
We have nicer housing. (Ok, we have housing)
But, we are the least upon least upon least.
And I couldn’t be more utterly humbled at the thought that Jesus will stand up for me – yes, ME!?! – and offer Himself instead.
The very least I could do for Him now, is do the same.
Now you know why I quoted Beth Moore at the beginning of this post.
I am desperate.
And, yes, those of you who know me well are thinking –
Ya, duh. Way to state the obvious.
But, I am for real. I am desperate, and not in the normal-weirdo-Caroline-way.
I am desperate for this message to hit you so deep in your heart that your life is never the same. Ever.
Ps. Just for the record, wanna know the first verse I am supposed to memorize for the breaking Free book I’m reading?
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…”
Ok, Lord, I got it. Thankyouverymuch.