~people will be blessed,
~the Kingdom will advance, and
~God will take care of us.
Archives for November 2013
Frost settled heavy along the Western Front. It was Christmas Eve, 1914. Triggered nearly five months before by the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand, the Great War was five months old. Most had thought the war would be a quick and relatively painless affair. But in just a few short months, more than a million were dead. And the end was not in sight.
Near the French village of La Chapelle d’Armentieres, the Second Queens Regiment heard an unusual commotion in the German trenches.
Carefully Private Albert Moren peered across No Man’s Land. What he saw puzzled him. It looked like trees, Christmas trees, lining the edge of the trenches. Candlelight twinkled on the branches. And from behind enemy lines, German voices rose,
Captain Josef Sewald of Germany’s 17th Bavarian Regiment shouted out calling for a Christmas truce. At first there was silence. But then the British shouted, “No shooting.” Two soldiers emerged from their respective side and met in the middle and shook hands.
Goodwill spread down the front. Clusters of German, British, and Scottish soldiers met in small clusters exchanging plum pudding, cigarettes, and kicking around soccer balls.
As the morning dawned, the wonder of this Christmas Day continued. Germans and Brits helped one another bury their dead who had, by necessity, been left frozen in No Man’s Land. Enemy soldiers came together for an impromptu service. Heads were bared and psalms were read in English and in German.
Enemy soldiers declaring a truce for the sake of goodwill. And yet, we, who supposedly are citizens of heaven, daughters and sons of the King, members of a royal priesthood struggle to shake hands.
The believers in Philippi had their differences. Battered by legalists and wearied by arguing women, Lydia and her brothers and sisters had reason to divide. Yet they came together over a gift.
Together they pooled together their finances to support their brother, their friend, their spiritual father. They gave sacrificially and joined hands and hearts. They called a truce for the sake of goodwill, for the sake of a greater cause.
Can we do the same?
Paul understood that
- putting aside differences and choosing humility,
- suffering for the sake of Christ,
- holding fast to the word of life,
- rejecting religious legalism and choosing love,
- counting all things loss to know Jesus,
- forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
- agreeing in the Lord when you hold opposing views
He understood that divisions, and factions, and arguing are part of the sad human condition, even for those in the household of faith. And yet, As Paul closes out his letter, he encourages them and us …
Welcome one another in Christ Jesus.
You and I, we may disagree over some pretty significant things. But, if we are in Christ Jesus, we can welcome one another. We can come together over the silent night, and behold Jesus, and adore him together. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus.
Welcome one another in Christ Jesus.
The ones who are with us, in our very own household. The ones who hold our views, who are easy to be with. The ones who speak our language, worship our way, live our way. The brothers who are with me greet you.
Welcome one another in Christ Jesus.
The ones in enemy camp, Caesar’s household. The ones who have different experiences, different expressions. Whose choices challenge our understanding of the Kingdom. All the saints greet you, especially those in Caesar’s household.
Welcome one another in Christ Jesus.
The Christmas Truce ended at 8:30 on the morning of December 26, 1914. Capt. Charles Stockwell of the Second Royal Welch Fusiliers fired three shots and put up a flag. “Merry Christmas” it said. The German captain lifted a sheet saying, “Thank you” and appeared on the parapet. Both captains bowed and saluted. The German captain descended back into the trench, fired two shots. And the war was on, once again.
For us, we can stop the war. We can recognize that even with our diverse opinions and strong convictions, we can join hands and hearts for a greater cause. We can agree to disagree, and choose love. We can welcome one another in Christ Jesus.
Let’s get a bit personal. Is there someone in your life who you have refused to welcome? Is today the day to pickup the phone can call your own Christmas truce? Is there someone that you need to welcome today?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think it’s possible to agree to disagree and choose love? To welcome one another in Christ Jesus? Or am I just being naive? What do you think?
Tomorrow is the last day of Riverside. We have been gathering here since late August journeying slowly through the book of Philippians. If you’ve been here all the way through, or are just joining us today, I’d love your feedback. Please leave a comment, or email me at email@example.com.
On Sunday, I will begin Promise. I’ll be posting every day with the singular goal of preparing you and me to welcome the promised Christ child. Join me?
“Welcome! I”m so glad you’re here!” Lydia speaks to each person who comes into her home. She’s excited about the evening. She’s looking forward to sharing dinner with friends. But she is even more excited to share with them an idea she has.
A simple meal of bread, figs, and cheese is spread. Several of her friends add wine and olives.
As they sit down together, Lydia can hardly wait to tell them what she is thinking. “You all remember Paul, right?”
“Of course we do, Lydia.” The burly man passes an olive to his wife and she smiles back at him.
Lydia grins and thinks back to the night that this jailer met Paul and Silas. He had been on guard the night that they landed in prison. He pushed them down the stairs into to the inner jail. He fastened their feet in stocks. And he sat guard at the top of the stone steps, listening as Silas and Paul prayed and sang and prayed and sang.
“Who are these men?” he thought as he did the unthinkable … and drifted off to sleep.
Suddenly, the floor began to shake and the foundation began to shift beneath the stone prison. The doors of the cells flew open. And the shackles binding the prisoners clicked open as if keys had been simultaneously inserted in the locks of each and every one.
The jailer jerked awake to the chaos of an earthquake in progress. As the foundation buckled beneath his feet, his eyes landed on the open doors to Paul and Silas’ cell.
His mind flew threw the possibilities and settled on his only option. He thought of the wife and children he would leave, but as he drew his sword from its sheath, he knew he had no choice. Before he could send the blade through his heart, Paul called out, “Don’t kill yourself. We are all here!”
The sword clattered to the ground. In disbelieve the jailer called, “Torch! I need a torch!” And when he peered down into the inner prison he saw that this prisoner, Paul, told the truth.
He had heard their singing. He had heard their praying. And now he saw with his eyes that something was different about these men. Somehow Paul and Silas had been given the opportunity to escape, but they didn’t. They stayed right there. Whatever they had, he wanted.
Of course he remembered Paul.
Lydia smiled at her dear friend. “Well, I was praying last night, and God kept bringing Paul to my mind. You all know he’s in Rome now and in house prison. I believe God wants us to send a gift to him just like we did when he left us to go to Macedonia. Just like we did when he was in Thessalonica.”
Epaphroditus jumped up. “Yes! And I’ll take it to him!”
Over the course of a few days, Epaphroditus prepared himself and a team to travel the long road to Rome.
Throughout the city, people began to talk about the early days of the church in Jerusalem when believers sold their possessions and used the proceeds to care for those in their midst. They prayed, and talked, and sold their possessions, and laughed as they brought the money to Lydia.
With tears and joy, she finally had to say, “Enough, my friends. We have enough.”
The next day, believers met at Lydia’s house. They gathered around Epaphroditus and his team. They laid hands on them and prayed for their safety, and health, and for Paul. They prayed God would use their sacrifice to advance his Kingdom and bless Paul.
But the blessing isn’t only for Paul. The blessing is also for the Philippians.
Your earthly treasures aren’t bad. They just don’t bring the return that they will if you invest them in the causes that are on God’s heart. Lydia and her friends knew this. When you invest in eternity, you are making an investment that truly will last, and will actually increase in value. You get interest.
When you financially support organizations that match your passions, you are partnering with them to advance causes that you believe in. You get to join in their work and become a co-laborer. You get partnership.
Honestly, when we choose to give sacrificially, we won’t be able to buy as much stuff. But God promises that he will make sure that we have what we really need. Not want, but need. And honestly, what we need most of all is the provision of Christ in us and with us all the time. You get provision.
When we open our fists and trust God with our 100% of our money, we can expect that God will bless us. What causes is God inviting you to join him in advancing? What organizations or individuals is he asking you to financially support?
Leave a comment and tell me know an organization or two that you love to financially support. Be sure and leave a link too so that we can check them out.
I’m so glad you’ve joined us Riverside! Welcome! Lydia’s heart was opened to the gospel when Paul met her and her friends by the riverside. He told them about Jesus and Lydia said, “I’m in!” From this little gathering of praying and worshipping women, a church was born. My desire is to see women gather, just like Lydia and her friends to learn about Jesus and declare “I’m in!” If you’d like to tell me a bit about your journey, I’d love to hear from you. Just write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I washed dishes at the sink of our rented home in Crozet, VA, a friend came in through the kitchen door.
“Cindy, it’s good to see you in a house like this.”
As I dried my hands on the dish towel, I smiled a little, because it was the polite thing to do. But I didn’t feel like smiling.
The house like this was a paradise for the kids with its secret spaces and turret tower. But it had problems. And this friend knew it. Asbestos peaked through the linoleum in the kitchen. No air conditioning meant the summer was brutal. Poor plumbing meant sewage backed up in the basement. Lack of insulation meant the crawl space above our daughters’ room was home to yellow jackets.
I asked my friend why she thought a house like this was good.
“Well, you know, being in ministry, it’s good for people to see that you can live like this.”
God used that house
~to teach me about contentment,
~to teach me that provision doesn’t always mean bigger and better,
~to teach me that I really can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
But he also taught me about kindness through the friends who welcomed our family of eight into their home for a week when the heat got to be too much, and the ones who prayed for a different home for our family, and the ones who cheered when God did provide.
Paul was okay, when he faced loss of reputation, financial hardship, and physical deprivation. He was okay because he had learned the secret of contentment in the classroom of suffering. He was okay because he could do all things through Christ.
Paul was okay, and we were too in that house in Crozet. Yet the kindness of friends who shared in our trouble showed me more about the love of Christ than the one who rejoiced in asbestos, and sewage, and yellow jackets.
That person in your life who’s experiencing something hard … she needs your kindness. In the midst of her trouble, she doesn’t need you to tell her how much shes learning, that all things work together, or even that this will pass. She needs your kind words. Show her kindness.
If you can help bear the financial burden, do it. Show your confidence in Christ’s provision for your own needs by helping her out. Bear one another’s burdens. Share her trouble.
Your help may be just what she needs to see the light of Christ. When trouble dims our vision, sometimes it’s hard to lift our eyes. Do what you can to shine the light of Christ into her life.
You’re Riverside! Welcome! Just like Lydia gathered with her girlfriends by the river in Philippi, we’re gathering here. And I’m so thankful for this growing community of women. I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment or email me at email@example.com.
Would you like to learn the secret of contentment?
Paul grew up in the lap of luxury. He had the best schools, the grandest home. He had the promise of power, position, and prestige as he grew into manhood. He was living the dream.
Then on the road to Damascus, he met Jesus. Everything changed. Everything.
For three days Paul sat with scaled eyes in the house of a man named Judas. He didn’t eat. He didn’t drink. For three days, he sat in darkness until, at the hand of a disciple named Ananias, Paul experienced his personal resurrection.
“Brother, the Lord Jesus has sent me to you so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
The stone rolled away, the scales fell from his eyes, and Paul emerged from his personal tomb into new life.
What Ananias knew and what Paul would learn is that he must suffer greatly for the sake of Jesus. (Acts 9:1-19)
And he did suffer.
- Beaten with fists, beaten with whips, beaten with rods.
- Stoned, shipwrecked, adrift at sea.
- In danger from rivers, robbers, Jews, Gentiles.
- Danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers.
- Toil, hardship, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, cold, exposure.
- And not to mention … concern about all the churches he established. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)
But somehow suffering didn’t make Paul bitter. Instead, suffering became his classroom for learning the secret of contentment.
When we face the loss of reputation because we are committed to pleasing God rather than pleasing me, we are learning the secret of contentment.
When we face financial hardship because we are supporting God’s Kingdom rather than building our own, we are learning the secret of contentment.
When we face hunger because we are choosing to identify with our brothers and sisters around the world who have no choice but to be hungry, and thirsty, and homeless, we are learning the secret of contentment.
Will you choose learn the secret of contentment in the classroom of suffering?
And then when our Thanksgiving table is overflowing with bounty … we receive the blessing from the hand of God. All things through Christ.
When the bonus comes through … we turn to Christ and thank him for his provision. All things through Christ.
When the masses are singing our praises … we receive the accolades with grace and point to the one who gives the gifts. All things through Christ.
Will you choose to embrace the secret of contentment even in times of plenty?
In the classroom of suffering, we learn that our contentment doesn’t depend upon our circumstances. Contentment becomes deeper than situational. And we have a secret that enables us to be content regardless of plenty, regardless of want.
The secret learned in the classroom of suffering? You and I … we can do all things through Christ.
We surrender far too easily. The thoughts come, folks, and we just let them come. The Father of Lies whispers, and we listen. We set the rewind button and play that same old destructive tape again and again and again. We wave the white flag and give up without a fight.
But we don’t have to. We don’t have to surrender to the Father of Lies.
What you’re thinking about … Is it true? Jesus and his word are true. The enemy is the father of lies. A deceiver. Consider what you’re thinking about. Consider the self-talk. Is it true?
Who are you thinking about? Not just passing a passing thought, but thinking about it a way that you want to emulate. Is she honorable? Does he carry the presence of God into his world? Who are you thinking about?
What activities do you think about? Do you think about work that advances God’s passion for the oppressed, for the widow, for the orphan? Consider engaging in causes that magnify God’s heart for justice. Does the activity you’re considering reflect God’s passion?
Is your thought life pure? With so much media stimulation, this is so hard. Protect your eyes. Get protection on your computer, and every computer in your household. Look away from the magazines in the checkout line. And teach the boys in your home to look at girls’ faces. Are your thoughts pure?
Are you thoughts winsome? Lovely thoughts are more than just beautiful thoughts. They are thoughts that call forth love in others. When you think about the people in your life, think about the qualities that you find amazing, and wonderful, and dear. Choose to think gracious thoughts, generous thoughts, kind thoughts. Do your thoughts call forth love?
If you speak your thoughts about someone, would it add to their good reputation? Choose to see the positive, think the positive, and consider the positive that you could publicly say about the people in your life. Be specific. Do you think about people in a way that would add to their good reputation?
When you see excellence in this world, do you take time to think about it? Are you able to appreciate excellence, or does seeing excellence in someone else stir up jealousy? Choose to recognize and value virtue, a job done well, a person fulfilling their purpose. Do you pause to appreciate excellence?
Do you celebrate the everyday accomplishments that God says is good? Pause and notice life-giving activities of the people in your life. The cup of water offered. The door held open. The kind word spoken. Notice, think, and express the beauty of these moment. Do you think about the praiseworthy in the everyday?
- if you would stop surrendering to the Father of Lies?
- if you would stop waving the white flag and deliver the lies to the foot of the cross?
- if you would replace the lies with thoughts truth and honor and justice and purity and loveliness
- If you would appreciate excellence and affirm the good?
What would it be like if you kept track of everything that you worried about?
One woman did this and here’s what she found:
- 40% of the things she worried about were things that would never happen.
- 30% of the things she worried about were things that already had happened.
- 12% of the things she worried about were other peoples’ opinions.
- 10% of the things she worried about were baseless health concerns.
- 8% of the things she worried about were legitimate since life does have some real concerns to face.
Life does have some real concerns. That’s what I’m talking about. The 8%. The real concerns. Not what will never happen, what has already happened, what someone else thinks, or the health issues you’re dreaming up.
In our family, we’ve got some 8% right now. Real stuff. Jobs, housing, schooling. Real stuff. I’m sure you do too.
So, what do we do with the 8%?
Replace the worry with prayer. Every time the worry creeps in, use it as a trigger to pray. Prayer is simply talking with God. God knows your needs. But when you talk to him about it, you are opening the way for him to give you his perspective. Talk to God about your 8%.
What 8% worry do you need to replace with prayer? Pray.
Prayer’s not a “one and done.” With the 8% we’re going to need to come back to God again and again and again. The 8% issues are often big deals that don’t get fixed overnight. And, in all honesty, they don’t always get fixed the way we’d like. Every time we start to worry, we need to go to God with it.
Is there an 8% something you have stopped praying about? Petition.
You always have something to be thankful for. Even in the midst of the 8%. I’m not saying to thank him for death, or disease, or disaster. But find the grace in the midst, seek his presence in the midst, and thank him. If the idea of thanking God in the midst of really, really hard stuff is too painful, let me recommend Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.
In the midst of today’s 8%, what can you be thankful for? Thank God.
When you stop worrying about the 8% and start praying about the 8%, several things will probably happen:
- You’ll get God’s peace even when it doesn’t make sense.
- You’ll gain God’s perspective on your needs and your wants.
- You’ll set aside your pride and let other people know about your needs.
- You’ll see the body of Christ rise up and partner with God to help you with your needs.
- You’ll shine a picture of God’s love to the world as you show him as the one who faithfully cares for his children.
What 92% do you need to set aside today? What is the 8% that you need to pray about?
Would you share an 8% concern in the comments? And when you add a prayer request, please pray for the person above you. If it’s something so tender, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll pray for you. I’m going to start us out.
Monday – Friday we gather here at the Riverside. Just like Lydia and her friends met together, we’re meeting together. From that little gathering, a community was formed. My hope is that as we gather Riverside, we’ll go deeper in our faith and begin to live out community in our world. Join us?
God brings the same truth to me again and again. I know it deeply. I feel it deeply. And I need it so deeply.
When roots go down deep into streams of living water,
faith will come, hope will come, love will come, joy will come.
Fruit comes from roots sent deep.
In the Lord. He is the only source of real joy. Real joy, even through tears, is possible in the Lord.
~When women argue and bicker,
~When cancer riddles our bodies and we can only think of the Day when all this will be done,
~When people who seemed so holy get shown for what they truly are,
~When what’s behind threatens to catch up with us and shame us and break our hearts again,
~When people who should know better exchange relationship with Christ for religion…
It is possible to rejoice in the Lord. And writing the same thing to you again, and again, and again is no trouble for me.
In the Lord.
In the quiet place, the quiet space, the quiet time that you may be able to find only behind the locked door of your bathroom … choose to send your roots deep.
When diagnosis, division, disaster, divorce, death hits, there is no rejoicing in these.
But there can be, as impossible as it sounds, rejoicing in the Lord.
“Abide in me,” Jesus said. Make your home in me. Dwell in me. Live in me. Cultivate intimacy with me. Know me. And when you do … authentic, genuine, reasonable fruit will come from your life. Fruit comes from roots sent deep.
Don’t worry so much about rejoicing. Don’t worry so much about producing. You will wear yourself out with that. Choose to send your roots down deep. Joy will come. Authentic faith will come. Fruit comes from roots sent deep.
Fruit comes from roots sent deep.
Thoughts? Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you! And if you’re wondering how to send your roots deep, here’s a good place to start.
This is Riverside. Just like Lydia gathered with women by the river, that’s what we’re doing. I’m so glad you’ve found us. If you put your email address in the little SUBSCRIBE box up-and-to-the-right, these posts will come right to your inbox. Pretty nifty, right? And, if you’d like to get directly in touch with me, feel free to email me at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
Gideon has 300 men with him. The battle ahead looks impossible.
Down in the valley, several hundred thousand Midianites sleep. Gideon and his few sneak around the lip of the gorge with their hands full. In one hand every soldier balances his torch covered by a ja of clay. In the other they each carry a trumpet. It’s dark out and they can barely see. But what they do see is that this is a crazy battle plan.
3:00 am. Time for the guard to change. As the last watch settled into place, Gideon raised his trumpet to his lips and blasted the alarm. Immediately 300 trumpets answered back.
Men bolted upright in the camp. As the trumpet call echoed through the canyon, they heard 300 jars smash, saw 300 torches blaze, and heard the battle cry strong and clear, “A sword for the Lord and a sword for Gideon!”
Knowing the Hebrew battle ways, every Midianite knew that each blazing torch represented 100 soldiers. What they saw with their eyes told them that they were surrounded by 300,000 troops. Only they weren’t.
This assumption sparked panic. And rather than pausing to assess the situation, identify the enemy, and work together in the fight, they screamed, grabbed their swords, and started slashing one another to pieces.
Isn’t this what we do?
Yes, I ask that you also, true companion,
help these women,
Get Jesus at the center. Agree that he is Lord. Agree that you love him. Agree that above all else, you will love him together. Agree in the Lord.
You need Jesus. But you probably need someone else too. Our kids have it right, don’t they? They come to us shouting, “Mom, he took my train.” They know they need help to work out their issues. Get help.
Stop acting like an idiot. Seriously. Most likely what has got you so irritated is not that important. Remember your history together, how you have worked together to advance the gospel in your corner of the world. Remember who you are.
Get perspective. You are going to be with Jesus forever and forever. Your names, both of your names, are written in the book of life. You have an eternal future together. Remember your destiny.