Category Archives: Red Letter

Clearing Out Self

When the Jewish Passover was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and money changers seated at their tables.  So He made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle. He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those selling doves He said, Get these out of here! How dare you turn My Father’s house into a marketplace!”

His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.(John 2:13-17)

Here’s a model of what Jerusalem looked like in Jesus’s time.  The temple is in the foreground.

temple

I can picture how excited someone would be who was making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  I can see them anticipating being physically close to God, because back then, the Lord resided in the Most Holy Place at the temple.  As they approached, they would see the temple gleaming the sunlight, high up on a hill.  How their hearts would thrill!

Contrast this with what Jesus found.  As he entered the temple, the courts were teaming with vendors and money changers who were clamoring for attention.  There wasn’t a sense of reverence and communion, but instead, of profiteering.  The sacred act of worship had become a transaction.

Jesus saw greed.  He would preach later, “No one can serve two masters. . . you cannot serve both God and money.”  (Matt 6:24)  People were serving the master of money.  Idolatry was thriving in the very temple where people went to be with God!

“Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

Here are some practicals we can take away from this red-letter statement by Jesus.

Make church about God, not about us.   Not long ago, my small group read Francis Chan’s new book, Letters to the Churches.  In it he talked about how churches are now structured around a consumer model. “We are actually ruining people by making them consumers,” Chan said in an interview.  “Because you’re supposed to be turning them into servants.  We don’t come to be served.  We serve and give our lives as a ransom for many. It’s at the core of what we understand it means to follow Jesus Christ.  And we’ve twisted it and it’s evil.”

Do we make church about us, and our needs?  Or do we come with a pure motivation, seeking to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and giving ourselves as a living sacrifice?

Make our private devotionals a time of reverence and communion.  Today, we are the temple where the Holy Spirit resides. (I Cor 6:19)  The question is, are we coming to the temple in the same way the worshippers of old would come to the temple? Are we excited to connect with the seed of God that is within us, which helps us connect with the God who cannot be contained? Do we realize how amazing it is that we can be close to the Holy One who created and sustains the whole universe? Do we make sure our time with him is devoted to him only, and free from distractions?  Or is our temple crowded, and noisy with other things vying for our attention?

This song illustrates what the attitude of worship should be.  I’ve included a video and some of the lyrics.

Who else commands all the hosts of heaven
Who else could make every king bow down
Who else can whisper and darkness trembles
Only a Holy God

What other beauty demands such praises
What other splendour outshines the sun
What other majesty rules with justice
Only a Holy God

Come and behold Him
The One and the Only
Cry out, sing holy
Forever a Holy God
Come and worship the Holy God

We so need to meet with God, and bow down to him, and pour out our hearts as we are overwhelmed with the utter realization of how awesome and holy he is.

Yesterday, I had a one-on-one phone call with my life coaching teacher to evaluate the final for my class.  For the final, I coached someone, and my teacher listened and transcribed the session.  So in our evaluation conversation, we discussed in detail how my coaching was, what I did well, and what I could improve.

I was discouraged that my instructor told me that I’m still trying too hard to be in control of my coaching sessions.  The goal is to let the client steer the sessions.  I keep trying to take the wheel, and direct them.

It was sobering that she told me this, because I know I do this, and I was trying not to.  It’s so hard to change!

But at least it gives me a very clear picture of how I need to be with God.  I need to completely let him steer, instead of trying to grab the wheel.  This morning, while I was praying, I pictured a stage on which God was the only player.  I cleared the stage of everyone else, especially me!  And I thought, “This is what my days have to be.  God has to be the one on stage, not me.”

My youngest daughter got me a new journal for Mother’s Day, and I’m using it to keep a list of what I see God doing.  I’m trying to live out the words of Jesus, “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.”  I’m taking note of what God is doing, and tooling my actions to match his.

God is teaching me in so many ways to clear out self.

“Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

There’s so much we need to clear out so we can worship God.  We need to deal with our materialism, our love of self, the desire to control.

Idols don’t belong in the temple.  They ruin what it was meant to be.  And what it was meant to be is amazing.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (Phil 3:7-8a)

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Filed under Glory Above All, Holiness, Humility, John, Red Letter, Surrender

Seeing the Glory

“Rabbi,” Nathanael answered, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus said to him, “Do you believe just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” Then He declared, “Truly, truly, I tell you, you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  John 1:49-51

It seems like I’ve been praying like never before this week.  So many of my friends are going through really tough challenges — marriage difficulties, the death of a family member, a crisis regarding a loved one, impossible situations at work.

I have a little prayer box, and I keep putting more things in it.

Today’s passage speaks to this.  It describes how Nathanael reacted when Jesus told him that he was a true Israelite.   Nathanael could see the divine power behind this statement, and he declared that he believed that Jesus was the Son of God.

What’s really encouraging about this is Jesus’s response.  He told Nathanael that he would see heaven open and the angels going up and coming down.

Well, before we go on, we have to look at this mystifying image of the angels.  What did Jesus mean?  We don’t know.  We don’t have any record of Nathanael actually seeing this in the future.

But we do know that it’s probably a reference to Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28.

He (Jacob) had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and east and north and south. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.” (Genesis 28:12)

The outcome of this story of Jacob was that God was going to bless everyone on earth through Jacob’s descendants.  This is a continuation of the promise God gave to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham.  I believe that this promise is being fulfilled today as the gospel is being made known throughout the world.  Galatians 3 says, “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” (Galatians 3:7-8)  

Thus, it very well could be that Jesus was telling Nathanael that he would see the miracle of the gospel being spread to all nations.

It could also be a reference to Nathanael’s entrance to heaven when he died.  When Stephen was stoned in Acts 7 and about to perish, he said, “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56)  Jesus could be telling Nathanael that, as one of the first to have faith in the Son of God, he would have a similar vision when he passed away.

We don’t know.  But we do know that Jesus said that Nathanael would see something great and wonderful.  And I think the principle here is that because Nathanael was able to have faith in a small situation, he was going to see the glory of Christ.

And that is something that can encourage us.  If we can just have faith in the small things, we will be able to see glorious things.

It may be that we will see this glory as we see the gospel being spread in miraculous ways.  We will certainly see it when we get to heaven.

But maybe we will see the glory because faith allows us to live a glorious life.  Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  (John 14:12) I John 5:4 says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”  And I love this verse, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”  (II Cor 2:14)

Just being able to have faith in the small things makes such a difference. It helps us learn to have faith in the big things. And then God works in big ways.  And we see the world in a different way, that we’re not perpetually defeated, but, instead, part of something dynamic and thrilling and hopeful.

Earlier this week, a friend called me to unload about a difficult situation.   After we discussed it, we decided, rather than try and figure out a solution to the problem, to surrender it to God in prayer.  I put it in my “prayer box.”

The next day, she texted me and said that the situation had worked out.  It was a small miracle.

A day later, I heard about something that totally discouraged me.  I got a lump in my throat that was like a huge ugly ball, too big to swallow, too big to fit in my prayer box.

And I had to tell myself, “I believe Jesus is the Son of God.  This belief is my very core.  So I must surrender the unsurrenderable to him.”  And I’m trying to do that.

You know, as I reflect on this now, I realize that God works when we give things to him.  But we expect him to work while we’re still holding onto our concerns!  We have to have the faith to hand it over.

Nathanael took a step of faith. And Jesus said that he would see glory.

We need to take that step of faith, and then the next, and the next, even though they seem huge.  When we do, we will live a glorious life.

As I look over my gratitude journal this week, I see how true this is.  God did some wonderful things this week!  One friend had an amazing breakthrough.  I started studying the Bible with another friend, and it went so well!  God taught me truths that I was able to pass on to others to help them.  I could go on and on.

Jesus is the Son of God.  Our belief in that makes such a difference.

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Filed under Books of the Bible, Faith, John, Red Letter, Uncategorized

The One Who Sees Us

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, He said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do You know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus replied, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”  (John 1:47-48)

What moves my heart about this passage is how Jesus truly saw Nathanael.  He didn’t just check out his appearance.  He saw straight through to the inside of who Nathanael really was.

Jesus saw that Nathanael was a man of integrity, someone with a mindset to do the right thing, no matter what.

When Jesus expressed this, it was a goosebumps moment for Nathanael.  The future apostle realized that Jesus knew his core, the thing that motivated him and made him tick.

There are other instances in the Bible where Jesus was the one who saw.  In the story of the woman at the well, Jesus saw that the woman had gone through multiple marriages.  When Jesus went to the town of Nain, he saw how deep the loss of a son was to a widow, and was moved to help her.  When Jesus was at the Pool of Bethesda, he saw a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years and asked the insightful question, “Do you want to get well?”

Isn’t this what our heart longs for today?  One of my life coach instructors teaches that people are always asking, “Do you see me?”  We all so much want someone to “get” us.  I know when I talk to someone and they lean into me with their listening, it feels like an itch is finally being scratched.

Because sometimes I feel with others like we’re not speaking the same language.  I want to make a connection, but I don’t know the words.  I want to matter, but my efforts fall flat.

We probably all feel that way at times.  That’s why we need Jesus.  He’s the one who can understand our language.  He’s the one who sees straight through to the core of who we really are — what drives us, what we need, what makes our heart sing.  It’s a rare and wonderful thing.

We can realize that we’re not alone.  We’re never an island.

And we can know that because Jesus sees, his heart is moved, and he acts on our behalf.

When we go through inner pain and turmoil, he leans into us, and weeps with us.  There’s a communion that takes place.

I really like what Jeanie Shaw wrote about this in her blog today: “I am learning, in my relationship with God, that there is special sacredness in suffering and intimacy in infirmity.”

There can be intimacy, a closeness, in the midst of that thing that makes us feel most isolated.

Because Jesus is the one who sees.

You know, there’s so much in my life now that’s a testament to Jesus being the one who’s seen me, so many times when I’ve been given exactly what I needed.  Marrying my husband is exactly what I needed, as was joining my church, and having the jobs I’ve had.  Our move to Auburn ten years ago was exactly what I needed.  My recent study of life coaching is exactly what I need.

The question is, what is my response to this?

Here’s what Nathanael’s response was to Jesus: “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus sees us.  His heart is moved.  He acts.  This happens innumerably more times that we perceive.

But maybe, sometimes, we will get goosebumps, like Nathanael, and respond with faith, “You are the son of God.  Only the divine could do this.”

 

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Filed under John, Red Letter, Uncategorized

The One Who Finds Us

The next day Jesus decided to set out for Galilee. Finding Philip, He told him, “Follow Me.” (John 1:43)

The cool thing about this passage is that Jesus found Philip.  He didn’t just come across him.  He actively looked for him until he located him.

Isn’t it amazing that we serve a Savior who searches for us?  It’s like we’re living out the story of the shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep on the hill and went after the one who was lost.  (Matt 18:12-14)  I can look back and see how Jesus sought me; how he set up situations so I would encounter him.  One of my favorite verses has been, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”  (John 15:8a)

Does he still look for me?  Does he come to me in my whirlwind of “to-dos” and struggles and side roads, and say to me, “You’re getting off track. Come on. Remember. Follow me.”

I need to stop, and look into his eyes and hear his earnest call again, “I believe in you.  I have a purpose for you.  This is the way.”

Yes!  This is the way.  This is it!  That must be what Philip thought when Jesus called him.  Philip went right away and told his brother, Nathanael, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law, the One the prophets foretold.” (John 1:45)

Philip had the heart to recognize the call, and how momentous it was.  Can we say the same?

This past week the 50 members of our little church gave $14,000 in a special contribution that will enable our ministry to continue.  We were tremendously encouraged.  It is astounding that we were able to give that much.  It says something about the hearts of the members.  They believe in what we’re doing.  It resonates deeply with them.  What they gave was, in a sense, a response to the call of Jesus they heard.

“Follow me.”  When we get it, and do it, it feels glorious!

But many times, we don’t recognize the call.  Many times, we follow imperfectly.

You know, I think the reason Philip responded to the call was because he could see what Jesus was, instead of what Jesus wasn’t.  We know what Nathanael saw at first.  He asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”  All Nathanael could think about was how Nazareth was so sketchy.

And we can be the same way.  We’re supposed to look at who Jesus is, but instead we look at all the things that are sketchy — “My marriage is struggling.  I lost my job.  I don’t have the money to pay my bills.  This didn’t turn out like I expected. That person upset me.”

And we feel muddled.  Sigh.  As I think about it, I know the good news is that Jesus still comes to find us.

I can see the evidence of Jesus’s search for me like a breadcrumb trail through this past week.   My friend, Kenonia, and I got together and prayed, and within a minute, the prayer was answered.  Our friends, the Johnsons, sent an email detailing their plans to come and encourage our church in a couple of weeks.  A young woman I studied the Bible with years ago texted me that she’s now studying the Bible again.  My daughter and her husband successfully navigated together the complicated decision of whether to buy a house.  One friend who has had some challenges told me they are now doing better.  Another friend was on the brink of failing nursing school, and told me she passed.  And, of course, our church raised $14,000!  So many prayers were answered!

It’s not that Jesus at one time went after us to save us, or that he occasionally shows up in our lives.  It’s that Jesus is ALWAYS looking for us and leaving evidence of who he is, and how much he cares.

Then, when he finally gets our attention, he says, “Follow me.” 

Will we hear?  Will we respond?

When we remember who he is, and how momentous is the call, we will.

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Filed under Discipleship, John, Red Letter, Uncategorized

Stepping into Your Greatness

Andrew brought his brother to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated as Peter).  (John 1:42)

I LOVE that Jesus said this to Peter.  He sees the best in Peter.  He sees him according to his potential.

There’s a term we use in life coaching.  We help our clients to, “step into their greatness.”  We help them to see that they can do the hard thing.  We help them to realize that they have strengths and abilities that will enable them to have wins.  We believe in them.  It’s similar to what Jesus did with Peter.

This is good for me to think about today, because I’m struggling with this need to be on top of everything.  And I have so many balls in the air, that it’s impossible.

What would God say to me?  How would he tell me to step into my greatness?

As I prayed about it, here’s what I felt he said.  Stepping into my greatness isn’t staying on top of every single thing.  I step into my greatness any time I pray.  I do it when I work in the yard and feel close to Him.  I do it when I meet someone, actively care for someone, or just listen to them.  I do it when I use the small talents he gave me by writing a blog or singing a song on the guitar.

Stepping into my greatness is being the person I was created to be.

I’m also struggling today because I just took had a big life coaching evaluation.  I had to coach another teacher for my final in my class.   I did my best.  I passed.  But I couldn’t help but feel disappointed, because I didn’t do the job I wanted to do.

Maybe that’s a metaphor for my life.  I do my best, and it’s passable.  But I want to do more.  I want to do better.  I want to be great!  Ugh, I know that can be prideful.  But it’s such a strong desire.

So I prayed, and talked to God about my discouragement, and I heard Him tell me that I did achieve greatness with my test today.  He reminded me of how, a year ago, I stepped out and actually started working towards my dream, and began studying coaching.  I took classes, including this last class, which was sometimes very scary.  I had to coach in front of my classmates and receive criticism.  I had to face my insecurities that I would never be good as a coach, and push past them, and resolve to learn and improve.  I had to try to make my business grow.  I went out and met strangers, and networked.  I developed a workshop and put it on for the women at church, and then made it available to other women.  And finally, I studied and did the assessment today, which made me feel nervous and vulnerable.

All of those things were stepping into my greatness.  It wasn’t that I had to do perfectly on the evaluation.

How will you step into your greatness today?  Will you listen to the voices that tell you that you have to be perfect?  Or will you listen to the loving voice of the one who made you, and be the person you were created to be, and know that the small things are actually big things?

Will you care about someone today?  Will you do something that’s courageous for you?  Will you act for God, and not yourself?  All of these things are stepping into greatness.

Jesus believed in Peter.  He believes in you, and your potential.  What name would he say you will be called?  A name that means compassionate, brave, gentle, faithful, leader, encouraging, resourceful, energetic?

He’s equipped you to be that person.  You might feel like you’re just “passable,” or that you don’t look like you think you “should” look.  But Jesus thinks you’re amazing!  You will light the world with who you are, one step at a time.

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Filed under John, Red Letter, Self Worth, Uncategorized

Come and See

I’m starting a red letter series, studying the words of Jesus in the book of John.

This is the first red letter passage:

Jesus turned and saw them following. “What do you want?” He asked.

They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are You staying?”

“Come and see,” He replied. (John 1:38-39)

I think it’s pretty incredible that Jesus asked the two men following him, “What do you want?”  He could have just said to them, “Hey! You need to be my disciples”

And he does speak these words in other circumstances.

But in this case, he asked them what they were looking for.

This really hits me today, because I have been thinking about the aspect of choice.  I’ve been wrestling because sometimes I can feel pressured to follow Christ in certain ways. And I don’t like it.

Maybe I should be more humble.  But this makes me think about Jesus’s delivery.  How much was he emphatic, and how much did he give people a choice?

“What do you want?”

I love to think of him asking me that right now.  I don’t have to feel these heavy expectations.  I don’t have to feel the burden of all I’m working through.  I just have him care about me enough to look at me and ask, “What do you want?”

It’s one of our key life coaching questions, “What do you need for you?”  So many times people run around doing so many things.  And they forget to ask that question.

Sure, sometimes that could be an excuse for selfishness.  But that’s not the case here.  It’s a question of motivation.  I think Jesus is asking, “What are you looking for?  Why are you coming to me?  What’s the hunger of your soul?”

And if Jesus asked me that right now, it would cut through all of the struggles I’m having.  “I want you,” I would tell Jesus.  “You have something better than anything else I can find.  I don’t understand everything.  But my soul is drawn to you.”

I would ask Jesus, in a sense, what the two disciples asked him, “Where will I be today if I follow you?”  Maybe I would even say, “I’m a little scared.  I have recent wounds. Can you give me some reassurance?”

And here is Jesus’s answer, “Come and see.”  He doesn’t give me specifics.  He doesn’t say it will be safe or tidy.  He just says. “Come. The answer will be revealed.”

So I say, “Ack!!!  Well. Okay.”

 

 

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Filed under John, Red Letter