Courageous Friendship

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2 Samuel 12:1 And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” 7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.

Yesterday standing in front of Costco we ran into some friends. They told us a story about an incident in their church and how it had been handled. Instantly the idea of courageous friendship came to mind because that is what they had been. They had spoken truth in love and it’s painful to do sometimes.

You see, courageous friendship speaks the truth. Maybe you don’t agree when being corrected by a someone who is supposed to be your friend but a friend loves you anyway. In the case of Nathan and David in the bible passage above, verse 15 tells a powerful tale. It says,

15 Then Nathan went to his house.

Nathan went home. He went home to his own food, his own issues, his own bills, his own life, his own wife. He didn’t have to go to David to confront his sin, but love and a word from the Lord can send you places that are awkward and uncomfortable. Sometimes there is nothing in it for you but heartache for a friend.

Courageous friendships are not ones who post on Social Media trying to gather a following. They are not found whispering in dark places. Courageous friendships are knocking on your door and resolving issues. You and them. Them and you.

Nathan and David had shared a rich friendship. Do you have any rich friendships? Ones in which courage is acknowledged and expected? Or do you move on to the next best thing each time the word comes and it doesn’t agree with your agenda?

In Time

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Last October I was given a vision of my next step in ministry. I couldn’t wait to see it fulfilled. I began to research, to ask questions of those I knew, and to make plans. Each time I got ready to launch something got in the way of the plan and it was stalled. I wasn’t frustrated just chomping at the bit to move forward. God’s timing is not like our own and so I waited.

My husband began to see the vision of what I was going to do and began to pray with me. Then he began to change the ideas I had. This is when the test happens because the question becomes,

I had my own ideas, I had my own lists, I had my own plan but what happens when they aren’t where we are going in ministry?

Well, as I always say,

Submission isn’t submission until we disagree. 

So I got on board with the vision of the house, I began to input where I was asked. We launched last night, prayerfully, considerately, and mindfully, a leadership team. You see, my vision was to make a path to ordain women into ministry. My husband challenged me to think broader. Together we forged a plan of ordination for all people. We gathered our combined resources and gathered wisdom and materials for a clear path. There are 15 of us in the beginning stages of this new phase of our ministry. There were 7 women which was still important to me. Now I get to watch it all unfold. I’m excited and glad to have waited for proper timing and direction.

Sometimes things take awhile. Even though we may have a vision and it seems clear, the path isn’t always how we think it should go. I would prayerfully ask you to be mindful of this and to wait for God’s timing.  This isn’t the time to push forward your own agenda over that of the church in which you serve. A pastor friend in Arkansas preached on the Baptism of Commitment. He said,

Are you committed to your own agenda or are you committed to your leadership? 

That’s a great question to leave you with today.

Lost Things

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Last week I went shopping with my Starks, Louisiana cousins. We met up for lunch and some girl time. My husband was spending some one on one time with his dad so this was perfect. Around 6 pm I decided to give my husband a call to see how he was doing. I opened my purse to grab my phone. It wasn’t in its usual spot so I began to dig around for it and quickly discovered I didn’t have it.

I stopped and thought back to if I had put anything down and the only time I set anything down was in the dressing room so I quickly walked back. I mean quickly.

No phone. I retraced my steps throughout the store. No phone. I went to the Customer Service desk and asked if anyone had turned in a phone. “No Ma’am.” I searched my Apple Watch to see if I could find the Find My Phone app. No app. I went to look for my cousins. Still not in full panic mode, but close, I borrowed the car keys to see if I had left it on the seat. No phone on the seat, no phone on the floor, no phone between the seats. I stop and say aloud, “Lord, I need your help.” I look through my shopping bags. Nothing. I go back in the store and my cousin calls my phone. It has a loud ringer. Nothing. I call my husband from her phone and give him instructions. “Please call Verizon, tell them I lost my phone. Then get on your Find My Phone app and log in as me and find out where my phone is.” I’m a little more worried at this point, because a) my husband isn’t great at these things and b) I have lost a $400 phone.

My husband calls me back three or four times because he can’t figure out how to do what I’ve asked and then he finally calls back to give me the address of where my phone is pinging. It’s at a shop we were at earlier, which is now closed and doesn’t have an answering machine. He says calmly, “Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.”

My cousin, gets on Facebook and sends the owner a Private Message but in the meantime, I offer to buy us all a Starbucks, yes you guessed it, app on the phone has the money on it, luckily I have some cash, and we head back home. I’m worried about the phone. I am with family, I am with my husband, it’s not a matter of connection, it’s the cost and the fact that I don’t remember when the last time I backed it up to the computer and how reliable is the cloud anyway?

The next day, we get up but guess what? No cell service because in Starks Louisiana Verizon doesn’t work, only AT&T. Go figure. So my cousin calls the store and they aren’t open yet. It’s a 45 minute drive there but my husband wants to stop by his mom’s house first. Ugh! I get ugly. “Sure, let’s go to your mom’s because your phone isn’t missing.” Yes, not my proudest moment by far.

My cousin calls us on the way to the store, yes he skipped going to his mom’s, and says she has spoken to the owner and the owner is checking for my phone. She tells the owner it is either in the dressing room or on the counter. Sure enough, it’s fallen between a gap in the chair in the dressing room. Big shout out to La-Tee-Da Boutique for their amazing attitude and care. I walk into the shop about an hour later and the owner smiles big and says, “Hello Susan! I have your phone.”

Whew! What a relief. I walk out after my sincere thank you and thank the Lord. “Lord thank you for your help and your kind people.” The Lord says, “I know about lost things.” Ignorant me, I smile and say, “Yes, I know!” Totally oblivious about the lesson.

Then Chris Hodges preaches at Grow16 about lost people and how God must feel frantic about them and how the Lord needs us to do our job. In that moment my eyes filled with tears and my heart begins to pound in my chest, as they are doing as I’m writing this, and the tears begin to stream down my face, as they are doing now in an airport waiting for my flight.

That frantic feeling I had retracing my steps, trying to figure out where I had left them, how it grieved me to lose something expensive, that is nothing compared to what God lost.

Folks this was a phone. This was a phone.

We’re talking about lost people. Chris Hodges said how sad it must make God when we pray sometimes. I repented in that moment. “Lord, I’m sorry. I prayed for your help with such clarity for my phone and although I pray for the lost, I don’t pray with such fervency for lost souls. Please forgive me. I totally missed your cue about lost things. Totally felt relief that you cared about my phone without looking at the big picture of the lesson you were trying to teach me. Thank you for loving me enough to bring a message to me three days later that taught me exactly what you were trying to tell me. You never give up and I am grateful to you.”

Okay, people are staring at me here at the airport terminal as I cry and write so let me leave you with this:

Matthew 15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coinsand loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The Parable of the Lost Son
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”

The Order Of Things

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Joe Quatrone Jr.  

A self-described “Old Guy”, meaning a man I hold in esteem who has retired from ministry spoke this wisdom in a conversation.

“Before there can be mercy, there has to be judgment.”

It was a drop the mic moment. I took it home and mulled it over. I often relate things to my experience as a mother. It’s quite true that when my children misbehaved I corrected first and then made them see what they did wrong. Okay makes sense but…

I then had to reconcile that with

James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

In order to show mercy we have to have judgment. Mercy comes through judgment. It’s a great revelation. It may not sit well with the “don’t judge me Christian” but it isn’t biblical. Mercy triumphs over judgement but judgment is first.

It’s as my husband explains, giving mercy out of order is like giving a cure for a disease you didn’t know you had. There is no recognition of the healing.

 

God is God

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“Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭46:9-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I have to tell you yesterday’s church service second service lingers on my heart. Praise and worship with our pastor singing that last song, a powerful message, and that altar call….

This week I had a powerful conversation with one of my children. One that made me extremely proud and one that I had prayed quietly and fiercely for for years. I openly welled up with tears over the resolution to this dilemma. It brought such incredible hope and such powerful faith. I am grateful for reminders daily and especially with our gathering each Sunday.  I get home, put my pajamas on and realize that no matter what, my Father is still on the throne and He is still surprising me daily with the details he takes care of.

There isn’t a single prayer you pray that The Lord is not working out. I pray peace over your situation and resolution over your worries today. May this message bring you immense hope.

Feeling A Little Restless

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Tuck your feet in because I may step on them. There is this teaching going around that we are to rest and not strive for the things of God. The teaching is solid. We are to rest and not strive but what does it mean to rest? A cease from labor? Not quite.

Resting in the Lord is a state of peace, yet sometimes our lives look nothing like that. In fact, we are some seriously busy stressed out folk. Well……..except when it comes to ministry. At that point we are resting.

Start a small group you say? I say, “I’m waiting on the Lord to direct me.”

Come to a prayer meeting you say? I say, “I can pray at home, God knows the needs of others I don’t need to do that.”

Help disciple you say? “No sir! I did my time in 19…..”

Do you realize the 1900’s were over 16 years ago? By now you should be growing moss under your then weary body. Excuses excuses. And dare I say not biblical?

Perhaps the burden for the lost isn’t all that great. Perhaps the great commission doesn’t really pertain to us. For you see, we and our households are safe. So sorry for anyone else.

Or wait a minute.

Could it be that we want the palace living without the work it took to become a kingdom citizen? For you see, there is a process. Or perhaps wilderness living is just where it’s going to stay because to enter into the promise takes work.

We have yet to shed that old slavery mindset. As slaves our lives are dictated by the whims of our Master, and just who is our Master? Well in this mindset I can say for sure it isn’t the Lord Jesus Christ because he gave an order, but you all know that. It’s that sticky little go make disciples verse. It reveals our heart every time.

 

Multicultural Church

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Acts 2:1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs–we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” NKJV

Acts 4:32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. NKJV

I am crazy enough to believe that multicultural means just that, all cultures in one. However that is not the common process in church. We like segregation. It suits us to have what we want. I was surprised to hear a pastor teach recently that what we have in today’s church is not multicultural but rather multicolored. Each group in its own service talking about doing life together. So that if you take a picture of the church it doesn’t look like a mosaic.

The reason for this is that while we can preach mosaic all day long, we go home primarily to segregation. We prefer to be insulated in our own culture so it makes sense to segregate each in our churches. And this is not just about language. This is about color, socioeconomics, male and female, even raising our hands in church. Oh we can do a wave at a football game but raise your hand in certain segregated churches and you’re an apostate. I actually heard of a pastor who didn’t want his youth group to mingle with other youth groups because they may be exposed to youth who raise their hands. HUH?

I am still crazy enough to continue to believe that one day we will see a multicultural church. Notice I didn’t say churches. Don’t miss that. One day we will hear the sound of nations worshipping together in one mind and one accord. For now, we continue to be happy with multicolored segregation where the lesser meets in an adjoining room, each getting what we want. One day though we’ll catch a glimpse of heaven where everyone is in one place with all things in common. One day Your Kingdom Come will become an actuality and I think some will be shocked.