Sunday School Series: Happiness, Joy and Partners in Ministry, Philippians 1:3-11

22 01 2017

Author’s Note:  Please see the previous post to give you some of the context of this church’s founding and Paul’s relationship with it.  I made a post earlier about this, and I’m so very glad that I did so!  Thanks!

Everyone is trying to find joy and happiness.  We buy things, thinking that they will make us happy and they will fulfill us.  Our government is built upon the premise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  We read that it is an “unalienable right.”  We expect happiness to be lasting, and then, like a whisper, it fades away.  In my life, I can remember times when I have thought “If ________ happens, then I will be really happy.”  The happening happens and then I’m the same person, there’s no great upheaval of personal change or growth.  Eventually that happenning only becomes another page in my book of life.  For example, my college graduation.  When I was in high school, I was so focused on getting into college.  I filled out scholarship applications left and right.  I got into college, and I started focusing on that graduation date.  This dream never seemed more happiness-inducing than the nights where I was holed up in the library for another late night working on a paper.  I would get lost in my dreams of walking across the stage and shaking Chancellor Peacock’s hand.  When the day finally, arrived, my work was done, and I remember that I sat there as a friend made a speech about something, and I remember thinking “this is it.”  And it wasn’t like this great event.  It was just me, sitting in a polyester gown, shaking a hand and walking across a stage.  I was so proud that I did this, but then the next day, I woke up, and I was myself again.  Now, five years later, my graduation day is just another memory.

It doesn’t last, does it?  Happiness?  That’s the difference between happiness and joy.  Happiness is an emotion, and emotions honestly, they’re fleeting.  They change and disappear after awhile.  But joy, I think truly is more permanent, despite the present circumstances.  It’s sort of like the difference between liking someone and loving them.  You can like them all you want to, but that “like” fades at the first sign of annoyance.  Love exists regardless of how annoying the person is, or when they scream “I don’t speak chinese” in your ear as they sleep.  (True story)

Paul’s Partners in Ministry:  Philippians 1:3-6

 I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

If we use happiness to describe Paul’s emotions towards the church in Philippi, then (because we know of his previous experience in prison because of his preaching of the word) it would be odd that Paul would be thanking God for the memory of this church.  If it were me, and I had been arrested, then I would want to do anything possible to push the memory of that horrible experience out of my mind.  But Paul here was “praying with joy” each time he thought of them and was full of thanksgiving about them.  Each time he gave thanks, he remembered them in love.  It’s a wonderful thing to have such a good relationship with those that you serve in ministry with that they give thanks for you, each time that they remember you.  In that way, I identify with Paul.  In my college years, I served at the Appalachian Wesley Foundation, and as I served, I never remembered to take a moment and recognize just how blessed I was to not only be friends with those that I was serving God with, but also, to enjoy the moment with them.  Now, all of us are spread across this great state, and some are across the continent, and I miss them, and pray for them every so often.

Why am Paul and I filled with joy?  It says so here, “because of their partnership in the gospel”, a partnership that has been solid from the founding until now.  A partnership that has led to blessings and growth that has lasted, both in each other and in Christ.  Obviously, Paul and this church have had contact since Paul left, and they possibly exchanged many letters until this letter was penned.  I think that there was a certain amount of peace knowing that he had a group of people that were united, supporting him.  I think that encouraged him greatly, and I think it helped him to endure, even when he was facing a lot of difficulties ahead of him.  I think it helped him feel his load lightened because he knew that there was a group of people praying for him, and they were peacefully there, waiting his return.  The relationships that he had created while there, they were very important to Paul.  Paul’s encouragement from his relationships with Lydia and others in the church sustained him in ministry, and Paul was confident that this growth and maturity would continue until the day that Jesus came back.  I am confident that Paul knew this fact, because Christ began it!  I think it’s important for us to note that our confidence in God and what God is doing is ultimately the source of our joy!  Apart from that movement of God, relationships cannot growth or initiate, our relationships cannot encourage use.  Our interactions cannot produce fruit, without his touch.  And if he begins the partnership, he will build that partnership until the end.  He will continue to give it all blessings and growth.

Paul’s Affections towards Them:  Philippians 1:7-8

 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

I truly think that Paul and the believers of this church felt a special bond between them, and this special bond was strengthened especially when they experienced great hardship at the beginning.  I truly think that they thought it was worth it because it brought them closer together.  The evidence that I draw this from is because Paul is never as personal as he is in these letters.  He never spent much more than a sentence proclaiming his affections towards a church other than this one.  It’s for that reason that Paul is so affectionate towards them.  From verse 7, I don’t really understand why he said “it is right”, but I imagine that he was facing some criticism because of his obvious affection towards this church.  This often happens when you find yourself in a new friendship or relationship.  I’ve experienced it, sometimes, people get jealous because of the companionship that you’ve found.  They’ll sometimes make passive aggressive statements and remarks or something to say that hints towards their disapproval.  I think this is the perspective that Paul is coming from in this particular passage.  I can imagine that he was hearing some remarks from some of his churches about his perceived favoritism.

But Paul isn’t saying that they should stop being so affectionate with each others, in fact, he’s doing the opposite, he’s affirming the value of this church in his heart.  He’s mentioning that their joy towards each other is holy and right because it is rooted in the fact that they are partners in ministry, mutually supporting each other.  More than that, they have supported him regardless of where he is or what is going on.  Whether he is in prison or enjoying ministry, he continually feels their support and their love of him.  I think this is really valuable for Paul because he probably had a few lonely evenings where he wondered if any of this was making a difference, if it was worth it.  I’m sure he felt especially isolated when he was travelling, and their encouragement helped him to continue on further.

Often, when people are partners in ministry together, they don’t get to be in the same place of service together, and they’re not able to see each other as often as they want.  But they have a sense of calling to each other, that no matter the space, we’re serving God together, and we are mutually growing each other.

Paul’s Desire for Maturity:  Philippians 1:9-11

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,  so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Here, we get to the desires of Paul’s heart for this group.

He first prays and desires that their love will grow.  He desires not that their love will only grow for each other and for him, but also that they’ll grow in their love of God.  Through growing in their love for God, they will find knowledge and discernment.  Obviously, we know that the love for each other is already there and it is already thriving.  But now, he wants them to grow more in their knowledge of God and who God is.  By growing in the knowledge of who God is and what God wants for their lives, they will be able to better discern what the will of God is.  Discernment is a process by which a believer or a group of believers figures out how they feel and where they stand on issues.  For example, this last election.  I don’t know which way you voted, but I’ll tell you how I figured out how to vote.  I looked at the candidates, and I looked at what they said they believed.  I looked at what they stood for, and I looked at what God values.  I voted accordingly to my mindset on all of the evidence.

In the early days of the church, they were trying to figure out what they thought and believed.  They didn’t have a moral code to abide by, and they had to figure out what christian values were.  Christian lifestyles were so new, and they did not have the clear definitions that we hold so tightly to today.  So these believers had to figure it out.  Now, remember, they didn’t have written gospels, they just had each other and their relationship with God to depend on.  All of the discernment was for the purpose of appearing blameless before God.

Discernment and growing in character and knowledge of God leads to maturity, and that was what Paul wanted for their faith.  He wanted them to grow in Christ and he wanted them to produce the fruits of righteousness.  No doubt, he was having the story of Jesus teaching about the vine and fruit in his mind as he was writing this.  He no doubt remembered that Jesus told us we can recognize him through the fruit produced.  Believers should have the good fruit being produced that brings others to knowing Christ, and not chasing them away from the things of God.  If we live our lives producing fruit that is pleasing to God and enticing to others to seek God, then at the very last day, we will be declared righteous before God.  On that final day, praises will ring out for God’s faithfulness and for the gifts of love we experience through each other!

For that reason, I am glad that we are partners in ministry together!  For that reason I am glad you are a reader, and I am able to share with you the conclusions of my heart from scripture.  It is my prayer in this life/ministry that we live together, we can grow together and we can produce fruit together.  Fruit of joy and peace and love, not discord.  With God’s help, may I be that for you!

Peace and Love,


Sunday School Series: Context of Philippians

18 01 2017

Author’s Note:  We will be beginning a series in Philippians on Sunday, to prepare for this, I have referenced some scripture in Acts to help give us a context for understanding the church’s history.  I hope this helps in your understanding, because it certainly helped mine!

Paul and Silas are travelling around, preaching and ministering to areas and churches in Acts.  The first time (that I know of) that Paul visited Phillipi, he had a lot of things going on!  I was interested in these events so I started reading.

Meeting Lydia  Acts 16:11-15:

From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

This is the first opportunity that we have to meet Lydia, and it certainly won’t be the last.  Lydia will later be a member of one of the founders of the church here.  She will raise Timothy who will later become a “son-in-ministry” to Paul.  Paul probably had no idea that he would meet someone who would be so influential to his ministry.

  1.  Lydia was successful financially.  She was a seller of cloth, and was actually probably selling in the marketplace when she heard the message of Paul.  She was in a group of women who probably were makers or sellers of cloth like her.  She sold purple cloth, which was the most expensive of the cloths, because the dye was the rarest found.  Reserved for royalty and higher-income families, she had very wealthy clients who probably paid a hefty sum for her cloth.  The fact that they mention her name at all, and what she does, indicates that she is in a prominent position in the society, because everyone would’ve known who Lydia is by her trade.
  2. Paul’s words made a believer of Lydia in Christ Jesus and his resurrection.  It says that Lydia already was a believer in God, so she was probably Jewish in faith already.  But God opened her heart to Paul’s message, it says, and she began to believe.  God used Paul’s words to convict the heart of Lydia.  Just a moment ago, I tried to put myself in Lydia’s shoes.  I tried to imagine that I was a Jewish person, and then Paul was standing there with a message from God.  I was faced with a choice, to continue to believe what I believe, or to change my heart and follow God.  I’ll be honest and readily admit that I wasn’t so sure that it would be an easy choice for me to make.  But I’m glad that she did, because God used her in amazing ways to impact the world for the sake of the Gospel.
  3. Lydia allowed God to use her to minister to other people through hosting them. All because Lydia believed, her household also began to believe.  They all were converted and they all were saved.  Then, she invited Paul into her home.  As wealthy as she was, she was able to use that wealth to give rest and refuge to the ministers of God because she had extra room in her household.  She used her possessions and what she had to not only lead her household but to also, give Paul and Silas a place so that they could be ministered to.  I’ve never been a vagabond minister, a nomadic disciple, but I imagine it would be very draining to give and give of yourself the way that Paul and Silas did, without return.  I imagine she gave them food, a place to sleep, and Christian company that cared about their struggles.  Often, we forget that even though Paul and Silas were moving and grooving great things for God, they also had their own struggles that they dealt with on a daily basis, and they wrestled with.  It must have been very wonderful to ease their personal load by sharing their troubles with another person, by finding a person to pray for them.

Paul and Silas Identified Acts 16:  16-19

 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.

So obviously, there has been quite some time between the first few verses of today’s examination and the verses in this section.  Which is fine, but I think we need to acknowledge this.  So what happened in between verse 15 and 16?  A lot, from what I can understand.  See, if these things happened the next day, scripture would say the next day, it’s usually pretty keen on keeping up with that.  So, it had to be some time after Lydia was converted, so to speak, and in the meantime, Paul and Silas probably set up camp there and was ministering to the people in the area.  No doubt that their connections with Lydia created some really influential connections for Paul.  The church probably had started out of Lydia’s home and was growing in the knowledge of God.

  1.  Even demons recognize that God is at work.  Meanwhile, in their day to day life, Paul and Silas were going to the marketplaces each day, and sharing the gospel.  This lady, we don’t know her name, but she was a fortune teller.  We do know her occupation.  Well, she started walking behind Paul and Silas, telling everyone who they were and what they were doing.  I imagine she wasn’t following from afar, I’d like to imagine that she was almost like a parrot, squawking every time that Paul turned the corner.  She was taken by this spirit who told the future, and she was able to identify these people by what they were doing, whose they are, and what their message was.  I’m sure the evil spirit was motivated by wanting to send people running from Paul.  I’m sure it was meant to deter Paul’s work from being effective.  My point is this, even people who aren’t involved in the things of God can recognize when God is at work.  I’m not saying those people are full of demons and all of those things….not at all.  But what I am saying is that it’s easy to recognize when God is at work through his people.  In fact, it’s hard to hide God working in his people!
  2. God will provide a way out or a way through obstacles  Far too often, though, when we are encountered with an obstacle or something/someone who opposes what we are doing, we shut down.  Or we give up.  We think that if God brings obstacles and hardship, he must not be in it, right?  Oh dear believer, nothing could ever be further from the truth!  When we encounter the obstacles and hardships we face in ministry, that’s just the time for us to buckle up and prepare for something great to happen!  In Paul’s case, he dealt with the figurative parrot for days, until he couldn’t take it anymore, and then, he turned around and cast out the demons that were inside this fortune teller.  At that very moment, they were gone.  She was vacant of the spirits that robbed her of herself at that very moment.  I imagine she just sorta stood there, stunned, and walked away.  I wonder what happened to her?  Anyways, back on track, God provided the way for Paul to leave his obstacle of that parrot, and he will provide the same way out for us.
  3. If God works, expect consequences!  Paul’s consequence is found in the owners of this fortune-teller, who no doubt, were angry that their source of income was done away with, she was good for nothing, in their eyes.  So they grabbed him, and honestly, they probably felt like Paul was stealing from them.  “They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”(vs 20-21) He was stealing their livelihood, their person that they could use and abuse.  He liberated her from their bondage, forever.  Can I just take a moment and say that those same words are the very same that the enemy says about those that we minister to?  He says the very same things about those who find encouragement under the wings of our care and concern.  He says the very same things about those that find hope in the way that God uses us.  So we’d better be ready for consequences.  When we submit to God’s call to ministry, then we’d better be ready for consequences.  Regardless of the consequences.  In the case of Paul and Silas, they were humiliated in the marketplaces, stripped of their clothing and flogged.  Then, they were jailed.  (Vs 22-24)

Paul and Silas and their Ministry in Prison Acts 16:25-40

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.  He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”

But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”

The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

This is a rather intense story.  I’ll try to refrain from summarizing, and insulting your intelligence, but I do want to make some commentary.

  1. Paul’s Response.  I think Paul and Silas’ response to being jailed is very interesting here.  It’s actually very contrary to what our human nature leads us to do.  Paul and Silas went into jail and were given the highest area of security, and not only that, they were chained to the stocks.  I don’t know if you know anything about stocks, but when in a prison in that time period, the stocks were literally bolted/connected to the entire foundation.  So in order to break these locks and chains, it would have to take a super-human hulk person to do it.  So they’re given the tightest of security, and if it were me, I can honestly say that I would truly, truly be woeful and pitching a fit like a four-year old.  Instead, they used the opportunity to minister.  How often am I presented with an opportunity to minister, but because of my own selfishness, I don’t?
  2. Paul’s impact.  Because Paul was faithful to use any opportunity to minister, God opened the chains that bound him, and kept him captive.  Likewise, when we minister, God will open those chains that bind us, because that’s what he does.  When my heart was broken in times past, when I allowed myself to be used, God healed me, in ways that I never thought possible.
  3. God saves!  Well duh!  But look at it!  Look how God used Paul’s situation to bring more people to him!  It is so true, that God can use any and every situation to bring people to knowing him, and God can use any and every situation to change hearts!  There is no heart that is too hopeless that he can’t lift.  Look at that jailer!  After the earthquake, God broke the prison, and the jailer awoke, thinking that all of the prisoners were gone, and he was ready to kill himself.  He was ready to face death instead of hope.  But God pulled him out of that area of despair and he saved him!  How exciting!
  4. The Message spreads.  Prison cannot contain the message of God.  Bad news cannot contain the message of God.  God’s message and his ministers on this earth will not be contained.  They will not be silenced.  Even though Paul’s message, they attempted to silence, it was not.  Knowledge of the works of God spread.


After this, Paul left the area.  The church in Philippi grew and more and more people were adding to the family of God.  No doubt Paul received word of the church’s growth in numbers and no doubt that he was continuously hearing encouraging words from this body of believers.

This is the context of the book of Philippians.  If I have missed anything, understand that I’ve never studied the Bible academically, I’m just sharing what I know.  I hope this helps you understand more of the book of Philippians and their church.

Sunday School Series:Living a Purpose

16 01 2017

Today’s scripture comes from Jeremiah 1:4-10.  This is actually my Sunday school lesson from yesterday, and I wanted to share it with you.  So go ahead, and get comfy.

When we start talking about purpose of life, then we start thinking about the value of life.  The “Sanctity of Life” Sunday in the American Church is the upcoming Sunday.  We cannot look at the value of a human life without seeing what the purpose behind that life.  Yes, every life is valuable.  Absolutely.  I’m not protesting or disagreeing with that fact.  But before we talk about how valuable life is, we must first examine the purpose of life, the why life exists, what that life is for.

Section 1:  Jeremiah 1:4-5:  “The Word of the Lord came to me:  I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born.   I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Now, let’s delve into a little bit of background and context.  Jeremiah was a prophet to the people of God during a 40 year period of great difficulty.  Judah is in peril, and Babylon will eventually overrun them and take the Jews into captivity.  Enter Jeremiah, God spoke to him and he told him several things.

  1.  You have been chosen.  From God to Jeremiah, Jeremiah had been chosen.  He had been chosen before any formation of himself was made in his mother’s womb.  He had been chosen to deliver a message to the people of God, to carry out a purpose of his life.  Thankfully, God is no respecter of persons, and God demonstrates this because he says that he was chosen before the womb.  There was nothing that Jeremiah did or said to earn this, God chose.  In the same way, we are all chosen to live out our purposes.  We have a purpose.  I have a purpose for my life.  You have a purpose for your life.  We all have a purpose.  You were chosen.  If God has moved in you, you have certainly been chosen.  The cool thing is that we all have different purposes in life, different reasons that we are alive and on this earth, but I’m almost certain they all have the same theme:  To serve God.
  2. God has set you apart.  Now to be set apart means to be special or reserved for something specific.  Again, Jeremiah was set apart by of no means of his own, but was set apart only because God chose him and God set him apart.  My grandmother has a special tablecloth that she uses when fancy company is coming, as she calls it.  The other tablecloth is one that we use all the time, but the other one, has a special place and is only used on special occasions.  In that same way, we are all set apart.  We all have been set apart to be different, and to accomplish something in our lives.
  3. God has appointed you.  In Jeremiah’s case, God had appointed Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations.  Always, there is a reminder that our purpose, like Jeremiah’s is not only to the church and the other believers, but to the world at large.  We have a purpose that not only is about serving God and God’s people but impacting the world through our relationships and how we share the story of Jesus.  Have you ever been appointed to do something before?  I have, and it’s an unique experience.  Whomever has appointed you did so because they knew you were the perfect person for the job/task.  Not because you asked for it, and not because you wanted it, but because they knew you’d be the greatest person for that job.

Section 2:  Jeremiah 1:6-8:  “Oh, no Lord, God!  Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth.  Then the Lord said to me:  Do not say I am only a youth, for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you.  Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to deliver you.  This is the Lord’s declaration.”

A lot of people like to pick on Jeremiah because he started to throw these excuses to God.  Honestly, that’s not fair.  If we are honest, and if I am honest, I give God a lot of excuses as to why I don’t obey commandments or share my faith.  But if we look at this without the excuses and look at his heart, we discover a few things about Jeremiah.

  1.  Jeremiah understood the gravity of his call.  He understood that to communicate God’s words was an awesome responsibility.  Perhaps because he was young, or he hadn’t spent as much time as his elders, in studying the scriptures and getting to know God, he didn’t feel prepared.  I honestly don’t think he was running from the responsibility because he didn’t want to do it, I honestly think he was aware of how great the responsibility is.  To be his hands, his arms, his feet, his voice….it’s a very large responsibility.  Please, don’t discount the gravity of this call, but let us be aware of the responsibility that we are given!
  2. God is no respecter of persons, he uses whom he wants to use.  I think it’s very interesting that God doesn’t fuss at or chastise Jeremiah for his inadequate feelings of preparation.  Instead, he disagrees with him, and says that his excuse is invalid.  God will use Jeremiah anyways, regardless of how prepared Jeremiah feels.  And we’ll get to more of that later.
  3. If God instructs us to do something, we have no need to fear.  By telling Jeremiah that he was going to use him anyways, he reaffirms the facts he has spoken to Jeremiah previously, that he is chosen, he is set apart and he is appointed.  And he tells him that he will be there for him.  When we are told to go do something, then we have no reason to fear, because in his own words, when God calls us he will be with us to deliver us from all that we face.  It doesn’t matter what we face, the promise is that God will be there for us.  That’s good enough, and that’s all we need to know.  Yes, there may be consequences that we would rather avoid when we obey God, but God is there, and we have nothing to fear.  When we are in God’s presence, then we are empowered to go out with boldness!

Section 3:  Jeremiah 1:9-10:  “Then the Lord reached out his hand, touched my mouth, and told me:  I have now filled your mouth with My words.  See, I have appointed you today over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and demolish, to build and plant.

This passage is a response to Jeremiah’s response to his command.  Not only will God be there for us, but he will do something special for us, something that equips us.  I honestly deeply believe that we will all experience some sort of special moment where we realize that God is there, and he has called us to do something special through his moving and working.  For Jeremiah, it was a touch.

  1.  God will equip us precisely for what he wants to use us for.  Truly, truly, there could be no better way for God to have quieted Jeremiah’s fears, other than the touch of God.  God  reached out of heaven, I believe, and touched Jeremiah’s lips, and doing so, transferred God’s words to Jeremiah.  I truly believe that God does that same reaching for those whom are presented with the task of God.  I believe that every person God is using, just like Jeremiah, God touches in some form or another.  He, in a sense, “anoints” his beloved ones to fulfill his purpose on this earth.  I remember when I was appointed a task by God, and God did give me that touch of inspiration.  And then, I was equipped.  We are merely the vessel for God to move people, mountains, and God is the one providing the words.
  2. God will give us a specific instruction for us to do.  Jeremiah received specific instructions here.  He was to be a prophet to the nations and kingdoms.  Notice it wasn’t just for the ones who already knew God, but it was to all people.  Again, we are not called just to speak to the church and minister to the church, but to all people that God calls us to work with.  The message Jeremiah had for those outside of Judah would sadly be a message of judgement, but it was a message nonetheless.  Remember in the last section, my #2 said we’d get to something later?  Here it is.  We are called, and we have a specific call, and there is no one who can fulfill God’s call for your life than you!  Jeremiah was called at a specific time and given specific instructions, just as you and I are called in the same specific ways.  My call is different from yours.  Right now, I know that my call is to wait on something, and to write these Sunday School lessons for you.  I don’t know why, but your call will also be specific.
  3. When we follow God’s instructions, then our ministry will have an impact. But let me forwarn you, if you’re looking for visible, automatic signs of impact, you’re setting yourself up for failure, because the work of God sometimes takes a very long time to accomplish.  Jeremiah told him that he would uproot and tear down kingdoms, that he would destroy and demolish.  This probably was a prophecy that told us that the temple would be destroyed.  Jeremiah’s words would be a warning.  Jeremiah was also told that his words would also build and plant.  I like to think that he would build up the faith and the presence of God in the community of the people of God, that he would plant seeds of faith in the lives of those that he encountered.  I don’t know if this was reality, or what was meant in this scripture.  But, likewise, our ministry, if effective, will be the way that God sparks life into someone who doesn’t know God.  And sometimes, that’s a long journey.  More often than not, it’s not an immediate change, but a slow-growing process.  But if we do follow those specific instructions, then we can rest assured that it is not for nothing, and it is not fruitless.  Obedience is never fruitless.


First, I hope that you feel encouraged.  I hope that you feel empowered by the words of scripture to have courage and to not be afraid of whatever it is that God has called you to do!  He will not abandon you!  I hope that you feel encouraged to go forth into your ministry that we call life, and seek to fulfill whatever purpose that you have in life.  Are you still searching for your purpose?  That’s okay.  Sometimes that happens.  Instead of being downtrodden about it, here’s what I want you to do, I want you to go to a quiet space, a space where there is no distractions, and I want you to pray a simple prayer, a request, “What is it you would have me to do, Lord?”  The answer may not come immediately, but sit there for a bit.  If it doesn’t work the first day, then repeat it until you do.  Chances, God will tell you what to do.  So do it.  In the meantime, may I encourage you to do a few things?

  1.  Read the word.  Unless we know the scriptures, we have no idea what they’re about.
  2. Pray for understanding of the scriptures and your purpose.
  3. Find a prayer partner about this purpose, and ask them to pray for your purpose.
  4. Live out your purpose.  Don’t ignore your calling!  You were chosen for this purpose.

Peace and Love to you all


2017-Looking Forwardresp

2 01 2017

This won’t be too long.

As you can probably tell from my recent posts, I’ve been busy writing!  I have a few goals to share with you for 2017!

  1. I am going to read 20 books throughout the year!  I’m about a third of the way through my first book!  Let me know if you have any recommendations as to what I should read!
  2. I am going to write on here more.  Often what happens, is that nice thoughts happen to me, but I either cannot write right away, or I do not record them so that I can write about them later.  So my thoughts get lost in it.  So my plan is to write more, and to keep a notebook or scrap piece of paper so that I can record them all.
  3. I want to become more faithful to take out time daily with God.  I used to be so faithful, but then I got busy, which is an excuse.  So I want to re-add that time back into my life.
  4. I want to be brave.  I have a specific way that I need to especially be brave, and so I want to continue to grow in my courage.  I also am being called away from a comfort zone, and I need the bravery to close the door on that, and the courage to open a new door.  The first is a continual process of bravery.  The second will most likely take place late August, early September.

What are your goals for the new year?

Peace and blessings to you all!

Watch and See

31 12 2016

Author’s Note:  The source for this reflection comes from 2 Chronicles 20:10-30.  Please feel free to peruse this scripture at your leisure, as I think an understanding of the scripture that this comes from is crucial to getting the entire meaning of this entry.  

If you know me, you know that there are a few things that I struggle with in my life.  One of those things is very personal and private.  In the age of the internet world, we often reveal so much behind this anonymous screen, and many people will feel so free to just word-vomit everything that’s going on in their lives.  If you don’t believe me, scroll through your facebook feed, twitter tweets or instagram posts.  You’ll see some pretty honest reflections of how people feel, and sometimes, they’re honest to the point of being too honest!  And if you’re like me, it’s almost eye-opening, to see what that person posts, because you do learn a lot about people.

I mention that, because this is not the case with me and this particular issue.  You’ll never see a facebook post about this content or this particular obstacle that I am facing, and the only way to actually find out about what is going on and through my head, is not to read the hashtags or scroll through my feed, it’s to have a conversation with me, to ask me, and to talk to me about it.  Which in this day and time, can seem like an extremely vulnerable thing for me to do, but I trust you, as a person sitting in front of me, than I do a computer screen.  So let’s talk!

Okay, so what’s the deal?

The deal is that in dealing with this mystery circumstance/difficulty, I have received an answer.  I have specifically received an answer for this situation, and I am so excited about it, that I surely need to tell someone!

That’s where you come in.  So that’s the purpose of this.  I guess you can already see what the answer was by the title, but let’s just humor me for a moment.  Pretend the title isn’t there, and pretend that you don’t know anything, except that I’m going to tell you all about the answer to some unknown circumstance.  Deal?

So let’s look at King Jehoshaphat, shall we?  So he took the throne at the age of 35 and would reign for 25 years.  In general, his reign is praised because the kingdom enjoyed mostly peace and prosperity during his rule.  However, he messed up once.  He pursued an alliance with another king, King Ahab, who is the king of the Northern Kingdom, and the way that he did that was to have his son marry Ahab’s daughter.  One thing we need to know is that King Ahab and his people were idolitors and they worshiped many other things beside God.  So of course, by creating an alliance with this kingdom, and because Jehoshaphat indirectly indicated that he approved of the way that the subjects of the Northern Kingdom lived their lives because he didn’t object to it, God got upset.

Meanwhile, the enemies of King Jehoshaphat assembled together to create  coalition against his kingdom.  They wanted to take over the kingdom.  So King Jehoshaphat assembled the people together, for the purpose of speaking to God and addressing him directly about what was going on.  So what did he say?  Well he first reminded of how God brought them out of Egypt and that he protected his people.  He reminded them of his faithfulness and how he helped them.  Previously, the people had a chance to take over these people and to attack them, but they didn’t, and King Jehoshaphat personally probably felt a little gyped because they had now turned on him.  So he called for God’s judgement, and he expected some sort of response because he had the faith that God would be good and he would give them strength.

So as they were waiting, this guy Jahaziel was used by God.  Now it’s important to note that this dude is never mentioned another time, so we don’t really know anything about him.  We don’t know where he was in the crowd, we don’t know if he was a trusted advisor, or a member of the poor, or an afflicted person.  We don’t know.  But I can tell you what probably did happen, and who Jahaziel was…and that was that he was an insignificant person.  God used an unknown person to speak to the King, and he told the King several things.

He told them that they don’t need to be afraid of the numbers, and that this is God’s battle, not the battle for King Jehoshaphat or his people.  He said that God was going to use this and that they were to march towards their enemies the next day.  But, God told them that the purpose for them to go was not to attack, but to observe.  They were gonna go and watch, and their eyes would see their enemy to be attacked for them.  And they were to just stand still and watch God deliver them from the threat of the enemy.

I can imagine after he was done speaking, the people just stood there, and they made plans for the next day.  They left the mountain that they talked to God and went back into their own houses.  I imagine that they were left with wonder and curiosity, and the thought of God fighting their battle for them.  What was he going to do?

The next morning, they got up and prepared to go. King Jehoshaphat, I’m sure was tempted to worry through the night.  If God didn’t come through, then the people would surely die.  Honest!  So as they were preparing to leave, King Jehoshaphat encouraged the people to be ready to watch God.  So before they left, they appointed a choir of people that would lead the group towards their enemy.  That choir was appointed the task of singing praises to God.  Which was contrary to any battle plan, because if you know the movies, they always shout out this war cry before they attack.

Now, it’s not clear as to what happened, or what went on at the battlefield, but the enemy was ambushed, and they were defeated.  I don’t know if it was angels or if it was some sort of herd of animals or what, but the clearest thing is that the people of God just stood there and watched, praising God.

The news spread throughout the area, of what they had done while their enemy had been vanquished.  The story of God protected King Jehoshaphat’s kingdom and the people of God.  Even though King Jehoshaphat had angered God, and did against him, he still protected them from the enemy, probably because his response had been a cry of help, and not a cry of “Why God?”

That was a long summary there, with a little commentary thrown in.

My point is this, when I began reading this scripture, I had previously prayed about this whole situation and circumstance, I prayed for some sort of resolution and I prayed for some kind of answer as to what I should do.  I prayed that if my heart was wrong, then that God would change me, but if it wasn’t wrong, that he would show me what I needed to do.  And then I found this scripture.  Then a few weeks later, I actually taught this scripture in my Sunday School lesson.

My answer is this, to wait and see, watch and see what will happen.  Watch and see what God will do, but in the meantime, lead in praising and praying.  Live your life in continual dedication and spend that time on God.  Don’t approach God, saying woe is me, but continue to pray for deliverance and continue to live your life just as you had before.  Wait and see.  Watch and see, what God will do.

I don’t know if any of you can relate to this issue, I don’t know if you can learn anything from this response, or if this even makes sense.  Maybe I seem crazy.  Delusional.  Whatever you might think.  That’s okay.  But here’s the thing, I’m told to wait and see.  I’m told to spend my time doing just as I’ve done and wait and see what God will do.

I don’t know what he’s going to do.  For all I know, he may be changing me!  He might leave the opposition the same and change me!  Or he might change them!

But the instruction I got was clear.  Wait and see!

Speak Truth

27 12 2016

Special Note:  The following Lauren Daigle song found here is somewhat of an inspiration for this post.  It has been running in repeat mode in my head for a few days.  Although the subject of this post is not spiritual in nature, the inspiration that it comes from indeed has spiritual roots.  I think it’s important for me to acknowledge that, if I am to share the words of my heart today.

We have makeup to cover blemishes.  Instead of initiating a conversation while we wait at the pharmacy, we hide behind our phones.  We put earbuds in our ears while we walk at the gym.  We’d rather sit alone at a table during the lunch rush and eat our lunch in solitude than to sit with another lonely person.  We attack behind the glimmer of our screens of our laptop, and we automatically have issues that make us put up walls that others have to destroy to get to know us.  We grit our teeth where we should be bold, and we water down our thoughts and feelings, so as to not reveal too much.

Sound familiar?

If you’re anything like me, yeah it does.  Honestly, so much of our culture depends on us not being fully ourselves and who we were made to be.  So much of our society hinges on us being mediocre reflections of who we really are.  So much of our society demands that we be polite where we should be angry, passive where we should be involved.

And so many times, we are shamed for our feelings, regardless of what we feel and how we feel.  I remember as a child, my feelings were hurt, and my grandma said “Hush now, Mary Beth, when you cry, your face swells up and you look ugly.  We don’t want that, do we?”  When something upset me, instead of dealing with the emotions, it is more acceptable for me to retreat and hide, than it is to really understand what I’m feeling.

And unfortunately, it is more socially acceptable to be apathetic than it is to be truly honest with what we feel, how we feel and what we think.  When we do take that risk and be honest, if it is not what the other person wants to hear, they’re mad and more often than not, they write you out of their lives, because doing so is easier than actually trying to take to heart what you say.

Are we so lazy that when truth is given to us, we turn and walk away?  Especially when that truth demands that we do something that is hard?  Are we so selfish that we don’t consider the risk that the truth-tellers have to say to us?  Are we so consumed by our own feelings that we devalue others’ feelings?

Truth is sometimes harsh.  I understand that it is often not what people want to hear, but the way I see it is that truth is something that needs to be said, regardless of response.  And when we speak truth to each other, I think we awaken inside each other the awareness of the pitfalls of humanity.  But when we are truthful and we say “Hey, I care more about your personal growth than how you think of me” through the sharing of our truth, we truly show each other LOVE.  We enlighten them and awaken them to being a better person than they are.  Unfortunately, people often are content to stay where they are, and unfortunately, they are able to more easily discount a friendship that is deep than heeding the truth to change.

The reality is, none of us are perfect.  We are more than willing do admit that.  But rarely, if ever, are we willing to do the hard work that is required to become a better person.  We all want to grow, but we are unwilling to do the painful work of growing.  

Growth requires truth.  It requires ourselves and others to be brutally honest with us.  And it requires that we change our way of thinking.  A simple thing such as changing our way of thinking, that’s a very hard thing to do.  But it is possible, if we are brave.  It is possible if we are transparent.  ANd it is possible if we destroy the walls that society tells us we need to put up.  But, we gotta be willing to work at it.

And if we work at it, and we consistently re-train our minds, we just might find that we are capable of being a more loving person.  We are capable of more love, and more grace than we ever thought.  We are more capable of greater things than we are at this present time.

But it all starts with honesty and embracing that honesty, and desiring the best for all.


And that’s just really hard.

Allegory: The Death of Half-Girl

23 12 2016

They called her half-girl.  Everyone she met, they only saw half, so they just called her half-girl.  Walking through the city, the noises were so loud, and she would pass them all in wonder.  They were on their phones and typing away on their glossy screens as they missed it all.  She boarded the subway, and she would get a few casual, momentary glances, and they would revert back to their gloss.  Those screens that connected them to another time and place.  Everyday, she made the ride into the city and each night, she made the ride out.  When she first got her job, she would board the train, and eagerly look for someone to talk to, to connect to.  Eventually, she realized that she was perceived as a bother, and began to stare out the window.  The ride got familiar and boring, so eventually she brought a book.

Once at work, she was a daycare teacher.  There, the anonymity of her ride in faded, and these students knew her.  She led her kids to the bathroom, to lunch, to naptime, recess, bathroom, and snack time.  The day was relentless, with dragons and knights, princesses and school teachers playing house. She’d clean up after the day was over, their mommies and daddies would retrieve them, they’d go home and she’d go home.  Just to do it all over again the next day.  Going home was a combination of exhaustion and loneliness, fueled by a desire to know the world as she knew her students.  But no one looked up at her, so she made the lonely ride again.

Until one day, their indifference didn’t bother her anymore.  She was numb to the fact that she was only half understood.  Numb to the fact that  no one desired to know her more than halfway.  Numb that no one was a knight, or a princess, or a schoolteacher that played house, numb that everyone was in a romance with the gloss instead of each other.  She was the half-girl, and that was her identity.  Called so, because that was all that they saw, and they called her that, because they knew they only saw half, and they recognized that.  She became content with that.  She became content with them only seeing part and understanding the exterior and what they wanted to think about her as being enough.  She became numb, like they did.  It didn’t bother her anymore.  She watched, as another rosey-eyed innocent dreamer boarded the train, and others shrugged, and she ignored her too.  She had become part of the masses.  She watched as day by day, the life was sucked out of that dreamer, and they, too, were a mass.

No longer were her students masses.  They no longer asked her details about her life, and they no longer wanted to dream.  Her job became numbers and letters instead of character and imagination and knights and dragons.  Her job, she was told,  was to “squish imagination.”  “Make them faceless, masses!”  She was ordered to “suck out individuality and squash it like an insignificant bug and burn it like a pest.”  So of course, she massively complied.  The job became a paycheck, and she conformed.

But they still called her half-girl, because they recognized that she wasn’t supposed to be this way.  Everyone else went by a number, but they never called her that.  It didn’t stick.  Half-girl she was known, and half girl she would stay.  Everyone recognized that she was different, and would always be different, never known as anything else.  But no one wanted to know her as other than half-girl.

One morning, she awoke with a start.  She had a dream.  And in that dream, she was walking through this house.  The name of the house was masses.  On this hallway, there were rows of numbered doors.  Behind door 3204, a boy in her class was standing, staring at a wall, she had squished his dream of being an artist.  She walked through door 7804, and she saw the girl that rode the train with her each day, the dewey-eyed dreamer she had ignored, laying on the floor staring at the ceiling.  She rounded the corner to go through 6423, and saw her boss staring out of a window, into a dark sky.  She saw 3271 cracked, and she saw a girl who lived on her street that liked to play with trucks, she was sitting on the floor, mindlessly staring at the door.  She closed that door and behind door 9843, a man who rode the train each day, holding a blank newspaper, sitting on a couch. Each of these people was faceless, with what looked as strips of linen across where their face should be, robbed of any detail that made them who they were.   Then, she saw 7373, her number.  She stopped at the door, staring at those numbers, how she had previously longed for them to call her that!  She grasped the doorknob and pushed it open, and saw herself.  Her hands were hanging at her side, lifeless and cold.  Her legs were limp and vacant of life.  And where her eyes should have been were cloth strips.  Her body was motionless, next to a tipped-over chair, hung by a noose.

As she was awaking, she pulled her covers off with a start.  She realized that being half-girl or mass was not enough.  It wasn’t who she was.  She was not destined to allow others to only see the parts they wanted to see.  To do anything less that be the whole of herself would be suicide, the murder of the best parts of herself.  She realized, what a gift it would be to be her whole self and to not rob the world of who she was.  So she bounded out of the door, got on the subway train and the car flew into the city.  With each person she passed, she got their attention, distracted them from the gloss for a moment and said “Hi, I’m Miranda Branson, who are you?”

It didn’t matter their response or their acceptance.  She would no longer be half-girl.