Tag Archive | truth

Among the losses

loss

Yesterday I didn’t cry. I think it’s the first day since the hurricane I haven’t. There was no water in my home and my possessions are not heaped at the curb. I didn’t spend hours or days trying to find my mom or my siblings or my children, I knew where they were and they were safe. I didn’t even lose electricity or cell service or cable. But I endured the storm with some who did and I am heartbroken.

As they entered our doors you could see it in their faces. They were scared and angry and frustrated and in shock. They were wet and cold and hungry and lost. They were transported to a place they had never been, a town they had never even heard of, to stay with strangers they were not sure they could trust. Most came with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a few with small bags, many with children in tow and families with newborns. Yes, newborns. A few were sick, really sick with kidney failure and cancer and heart disease, their bodies rescued from the waters but not their necessary medications.

We offered what we could, a hot meal, dry clothes, pillows and blankets, a safe place to stay, and what felt to me like seriously inadequate emotional support given their circumstances. Ill-equipped as we were, we settled them into every room, nook, and cranny of our buildings, trying to make them as comfortable as possible on the cold, hard floors. We packed them in like sardines and hoped they could rest and prayed they could sleep. Some did. Some did not.

We stayed up with one man who literally paced the hall throughout the entire night, agonizing over the helplessness he felt as he couldn’t find his nine-year old son. I held the newly widowed woman as she sobbed in my arms, her recent loss intensified by the loneliness of a shelter full of strangers and the uncertainty of a future without her husband and the home they’d shared. I watched a beautiful young woman crumple to the floor as she received the news that loved ones were lost. I stood on the sidewalk in the early morning hours with a precious mom, her tears mixing with the rain as she poured out her heart, struggling to find the strength to overcome the loss of everything. Again.

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Among the losses in this storm was also any notion I may have held onto that the heart of the gospel can be neatly organized from my nicely decorated office, that it can be scripted and planned and comfortable and easily implemented on my terms.

I’ve visited shelters (as it fit in my schedule) and I’ve ministered to the poor (when it was convenient) and I’ve taught the classes (from my nice, clean classrooms) and I’ve fed the hungry (when I had the $ with me that I could easily hand to the homeless person on the corner as I went on my way). My desire has been to make an impact on the world around me with the message of God’s love through these efforts, and I will continue to seek these very same opportunities.

But I have never experienced anything like this. It has irreversibly affected me. I will never be the same. I don’t want to be the same. I want to be different. I want to allow these flood waters to wash me beyond my comfortable ideas of ministry into really understanding that the hands and feet of Jesus got dirty. He touched those considered untouchable. He loved those viewed as unworthy. He walked and talked with those who were royally messed up. He changed their lives and He did it outside the walls of the tabernacle.

We are moved by the compassion of a community who showed up in the midst of the storm. Literally. Through the wind and rain they brought food and water and clothes and bedding and personal items and kennels and air mattresses and a shower trailer. And port-a-potties (yay!). They brought trucks, BIG trucks, and boats, LOTS of boats. Our first responders brought the professional medical help needed for the sick and the organization needed to send volunteers out to find those still stranded and bring them to safety. The community together brought hope and help and rescue. They brought Jesus to the hurting and the helpless.

This good news of Jesus Christ is a completely inconvenient gospel. If we truly desire to see people find Jesus, He will take us into the unpredictable where our religious platitudes will be meaningless, where our hands will get dirty, where our hearts will be broken, where we will work to exhaustion and then work some more, where we will be pressed to give grace, grace, and more grace, and where we will experience the depth of His love for humanity in a way that doesn’t feel particularly spiritual in the moment, yet is profound.

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I am still grieving for those who came to us, who experienced losses I cannot imagine. I will never forget their faces. I don’t want to. And I am grieving for those who are afraid to go beyond the security of the church doors to be Jesus to their world. I pray we will dare to be awkward and uncomfortable in the spontaneous opportunities presented to us that beg a response. I pray we’ll trust Him as He leads us into the unknown in the inconvenient and often messy business of living as His hands and His feet and taking Him to a desperate world.

 

Among the losses” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photographs by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

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The Gospel – it’s not about me

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I’ve spent a bit of time lately being reflective. Not in the way I did in the past when scrutiny only brought guilt and shame, but rather just an honest look at where I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going, and what is motivating me. If you’ve read many of my posts, infrequent as they may be lately, you’ve seen that I seem to circle the same wagon, making the same point again and again. Today is not much different because I just can’t get away from the fact that this enormous gift of grace, the gospel, the good news we’ve been offered came with the simplest of instructions on how to live it out. Yet this simple message seems to get lost in our focus on the magnificence of the gift we’ve received.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I need to put my thoughts and feelings into words in order to process the information and keep myself on track. I tend to get tunnel vision. I get focused on something I’m doing, where I’m going, etc., and can easily lose sight of all else. Many years ago I heard a man say that God gave him a word and he made it a sentence and ended up in a different place/or with different plans than God had intended. I can easily take a word from God and make it a 5 or 10 year plan, completely forgetting that my faith walk is to be step-by-step with Him!

This morning as I began the difficult task of waking enough to be functional, I turned the TV to a Christian channel. The program airing was not one I watch regularly but I quickly became interested in where the message from this world renowned preacher was going. Millions will have heard his message by the time I post this and I wonder what they will do with these words that were spoken: “Your number one priority is your happiness.”

Now I’m pulling one line from an entire message which was about not allowing others to manipulate you, being aware when it’s time to stop enabling/rescuing others, etc., which was very good information. However, the words above were in essence wrapping up the message, bringing it to his point. And those words tickled my ears. For a split second everything in my flesh wanted to shout “AMEN!” But I know better.

I went out for my run with those words stuck in my head. I was so focused on my thoughts about them that I looked up after a few minutes and didn’t know where I was. I had intended to go on one of my regular routes through the neighborhood but had inadvertently gone a different way. And being directionally challenged this was cause for concern. (I do possess a phone with gps capabilities, however I choose to run without it because I do not want any distractions…lol) I quickly realized that I was not lost but simply on another familiar path so I returned to my processing of the message I’d heard. Turning my thoughts to my own life, it was easy to see how often I’ve gotten spiritually distracted and tried to make the gospel about me.

The truth is that the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – that delivers and heals and saves and empowers and frees is not about me. It is for me. Jesus came for me, He bore the sins of all for me (and you), He sent the Helper for me. But the good news was never about me – it was about Him. It has always been about Him. He IS the good news. When I try to take this gift of grace and make it about me, I twist His intent. He didn’t set me free to chase my own dreams. He didn’t deliver me so that I could be more self-aware. He didn’t empower me so that I could be anything I want to be. He did it all so that I could be who and what He designed me to be.

The gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – is the gracious gift of God for all who will accept, but Jesus said that to truly receive and experience this magnificent gift one must deny self – completely surrender to His will, His way, His pleasure, His desire. Yet somehow we’ve taken the sacrifice and made the gift about us and our own happiness. We sing His praises and proclaim that we have a good, good Father, but we so often do not trust Him with His plans for our lives. It is only in this denial of self that we will find the true fullness of the good news of Jesus.

“For whoever wishes to save his life in this world will eventually lose it through death, but whoever loses his life in this world for My sake and the gospel’s will save it…”  Mark 8:35

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

It is a challenging balance to maintain – to receive all the wonders of grace and find our identity in Him yet stay focused on Him, not ourselves. To live in the many blessings He pours out over us and yet be willing to hold them loosely, becoming only stewards of what belongs to Him. To exist in our human form and yet live consumed by His mighty presence within.

The gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – when embraced, changes the perspective of our lives. He has taken a story that is full of the everyday stuff, drama, comedy, satire, mystery, and even a little romance (for this not-so-mushy kind of girl) and given it all meaning and purpose. As He’s revealed Himself in my past, shows Himself in the here and now, and gives me vision to see His hand on my future, I grow to know and trust and love Him more and more. The script of my life has humbled and honored and delighted and even scared me at times, yet I am more confident than ever that the chapters still to come will be rich and full because as long as I will allow, this story will be much more about Him rather than me.  And it will be a very good story because He is good.

The Gospel – it’s not about me” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

There are victories to be won

 

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Where do I begin? The events of the last two weeks have rocked our world again. Emotions have driven hasty words, hurtful words, divisive words, all in a desperate attempt to cast blame because surely if we can point a finger at the culprits we will feel better. We will feel as if we have affected change. But is that the kind of change we really want? To step into the battle blindly believing that anger will stop anger, hate will stop hate?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

 We have been called to a maturity that requires we lay down our opinions and surrender our emotions to the One Who has called us to greater love. Loving our enemies wasn’t a suggestion. It was an expectation that if we call ourselves His children this would be how we show it to be true. This would be the only way we turn the hearts of our enemies – overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).

“But I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:43, 48

The emotions are raw and intense and conflicting and disturbing. Anger and frustration and sorrow and grief. And fear. FEAR. All whirling so violently in our souls that it seems they cannot, should not be contained. To feel so passionately about injustice surely must be the indication that we speak, no, SHOUT our views and if we shout loudly enough surely we will feel better. Surely someone will listen. Surely the madness will stop. Surely once released our souls will be quieted.

But this is the moment we must stop and turn the fierceness of those emotions into passionate prayer. We must retreat into the secret place wanting only what HE wants, saying only what HE says, doing ONLY what He says to do for everything else will be wood, hay, and stubble. It will not endure. It will not affect real change. It will not win the lost. And that remains our mission – to be led by His Spirit to be His heart, His hands, and His feet that take His love to EVERYONE.

He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty – Whose power no foe can withstand.  Psalm 91:1

Does it mean we don’t have good conversations in order to find understanding and work toward unity? Absolutely not! But good conversations rarely begin with verbal assaults or fingers pointed in blame. 

Should we protest? Should we post on social media? Should we bare our heartbreak through videos? Should we sit silent? These are questions that can only be answered in each and every Christian’s secret place with God. Will He lead us all to do the same thing? No. We each have a role to play in representing Him to the world and once committed to the pursuit of our individual purposes we can no longer play the comparison game amongst ourselves. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is where we find the peace Jesus died to give us and nothing can take it away. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is the first of the victories to be won.

We must stand for those oppressed. ALL who are oppressed. We do not choose sides. We do not take it upon ourselves to deem one worthy of His love and mercy and another condemned without hope. That is not our call. Our call is to obey. Whatever He says. No matter what anyone else thinks or says.

But the LORD reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for you.  Psalm 9:7-10 

As I pray for the angry and the violent, the grieving and the lost, and for His children to be His shelter for these the oppressed, I pray for you “Peace”. Not as the world gives but as Jesus gives. For we simply cannot give away what we do not have.

There are victories to be won” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photo by Just Wild About Teaching

 

On birthing an Ishmael

Wilderness south of Machtesh Ramon3, tb q010403

It’s a quiet Saturday morning, the raging storms have slowed to heavy clouds and scattered showers. At least for now. I sit here sipping my herbal brew which has replaced my morning coffee and am fully enjoying both the brew and the stillness. I’ve had a full and productive week which brings its own satisfaction, a feeling which has escaped me for quite a few months. I embrace this return of peace to my soul and vow to never let go again. Easier said than done…

I think of Abraham and what it must have been like to pack up everything he had and move his family when he didn’t know where he was going. The changes God brought in my life a few years ago weren’t quite as dramatic, well, at least not geographically. I remain in the same city with family and friends near. I thought I knew where I was headed but my “wandering” has lasted longer than expected. Seeking His direction has become a much deeper experience and I’m realizing just how often I distrust my ability to discern the difference between my own way and His.

I can certainly identify with Abraham’s impatience. He’d heard from God a profound promise for his life. He’d obeyed the instructions that did not make sense and began his journey as a man of faith. He had every intention of doing exactly what God wanted but found himself yielding to the pressure to make something happen. So he did. And Ishmael was born.

There is pressure in the not knowing. Pressure from people…what are you doing? Pressure from the checkbook…how are you going to make ends meet?  Pressure from within…are you sure you heard Him? It’s easy to believe the pressure can be relieved if we would just do something. 

I embarked on a venture last year that had all the potential in the world to be successful. There is an untapped market in this area, I have the talents and abilities to provide the product and services, and the high-end nature of said product could provide a very sizable income as the business could expand even into international arenas.

I had someone to introduce me and guide me through the details of this particular market. I easily found the resources and supplies I would need, and so I began. The logistics and timing of my first productions were challenging to say the least. It was definitely a learning process for me and my guide, and we were both making our notes of how to do it better the next time. And while I was confident that I could do it and could envision the potential of this business, I was striving to make it happen.

Working hard and striving are not always the same thing. To strive can mean to devote serious effort or energy. That’s a good thing and can bring the sense of satisfaction I mentioned above. But striving can also mean to struggle in opposition, and deep in my soul I was striving with this new endeavor. I didn’t have that absolute peace that I was headed in the right direction.

Abraham yielded to the pressure from his wife and he acted on it hoping that it would bring him peace. It did not. Ishmael was an innocent child and Abraham loved his son but he was not the son of promise. I’m sure Abraham tried very hard to make him the son of promise, he could see his potential, but in his soul he knew. Ishmael’s presence brought grief rather than peace. There was nothing wrong with Ishmael but he was an obstacle in the plan and God had Abraham send him away into the wilderness.

I can only imagine the grief in the heart of Abraham at the loss of his son. It surely was an obedience that he wrestled with greatly. Yet he obeyed. And when he did, peace returned to his camp. The promised son would come in the right time and it would be because God did something, not Abraham.

While I still see the potential for this business endeavor, I have sent it to the wilderness. It’s not a part of His plan for me. Once I obeyed in the letting go, peace returned. Direction became clearer of where I am to continue walking. I’m tempted to look back and lament wasted time. But that in itself is wasted time. Rather I will chalk it up to the experience needed to get me to exactly where I am. At peace.

This is not the first time I’ve had to send a desire to the wilderness. I’ve spent much time in my life trying very hard to make things work that just weren’t right for me. Or their season had ended and I just wouldn’t let go. And leaving these things in the wilderness wasn’t easy. But realizing that these things would only bring grief if I held on was the call to obey.

Jesus talked about the kind of peace He provides. Peace that defies pressure. Peace that isn’t logical and that cannot be fully explained. Peace that positions us to hear Him more clearly. Peace from within that cannot be taken away. Peace that has nothing to do with what I can make happen but rather what He has already done. Peace that remains in the midst of hard work. Peace that will cause the world to hunger for what we have.

*There are many families in the greater Houston area that are dealing with the devastation of floods. Please pray that these families find God and His peace during these difficult times. Please consider a donation for disaster relief to help the many who have literally lost everything. Samaritan’s Purse is a favorite organization of mine and I invite you to follow this link in order to help Houstonians:   http://www.samaritanspurse.org

 

“On birthing an Ishmael” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

When you hear my story

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When you hear my story will you love me?  Will you look through eyes of mercy and give of your richest treasure?  Will you offer a kind word and a soft touch?  

When you hear my story will you judge me?  Will you withdraw in disapproval as my sins are laid bare?  Will you weigh and measure my failures and find me unworthy of your love?

When you hear my story will you see me?  Will you look deeper than my choices and experiences and see that I am more than the sum of those?  

When you hear my story will you walk with me?  Will you stay by my side as I continue this journey?  Will you step with me into uncertainty until the certain is found?

When you hear my story will you discover that you know me?  Will you throw off your pretense and find that deep within we are very much alike?

When you hear my story will you tell me yours?  Will you take advantage of my vulnerability – for good – and trust me with your joys and sorrows, victories and defeats?

When you hear my story will you find Him?  Will you hear His words of love and mercy and grace and favor spoken to you just as He spoke them to me when my life was anything but perfect? Will you see Him more than me?

When you hear my story will you love me?

It was the day to give my testimony at the end of a five-week study.  I know how important our individual stories are and I thought I was ready.  Until I began the drive to the church.  God began to speak to me about the things He wanted me to share and the tears began to flow.  My story isn’t tragic or extreme as compared to so many who have suffered greatly.  But it is marked with bad choices, difficult inward struggles, and deeper sorrow than I had ever believed possible.

My heart was so tender that particular morning that my first instinct was to guard it.  From what?  I would be speaking to ladies I’ve known all my life, a few I’ve known for many years, and those I had met only through this study.  What was I afraid of?  What we are all afraid of in the natural – what will they think of me?  If they really get to know me will they still love me?  It is the question that so often prevents our stories from ever being heard.

I knew I couldn’t resist His leading, for what would be the point?  I knew that once I opened my mouth these things would pour forth hindered only by feeble efforts to control the tears.  And so I told my story.

It was frightening and liberating and exhausting all at the same time.  I realized on the drive home that I had told them something I had never spoken to another human being.  And it was in this moment that I found new freedom.  We so often fear the vulnerability that is the pathway to the very peace we seek.  But He is there.  In the raw exposure of our lives He is evermore our Healer and our Comfort.

He may never ask you to share your story in a crowd.  But I daresay the very mission of Christ involves us telling our stories to others, be it one at the time or in groups.  Your story is someone’s answer.  Someone needs to hear how you found Him in your darkest times.  Someone needs to hear that the very Grace that has lifted you is calling to them.  Someone needs the love and mercy you have to give because you have a story that matters in this grand plan of God.

Let’s be sensitive to His leading when He says “Go and tell”.  Will they love you when they hear your story?  Some will, some won’t. But that’s not the basis on which we decide to speak because telling our story isn’t really about us.  It’s about Him.

 

When you hear my story” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

But it FEELS like…

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In the sequence of our morning activities my husband is usually the first out of bed and downstairs to turn on the coffee.  While he waits for it to brew he also turns on the morning news.  Whether I follow in a few minutes or stay snuggled in the bed for another hour, whenever I get downstairs the television is tuned to the news.  This morning as I poured my own cup the weather forecast was being shown.  A cold front has blown through and the presenter of this ever-changing information was as excited about the dropping digits as if it were something never before experienced.  Now, granted, near-30 degree temps in our neck of the woods doesn’t happen that often, but there will be no snow or ice today and her enthusiasm was a little much for those of us struggling to be enthused about anything more than that first cup of coffee.  I listened for only a few minutes before changing the channel in hopes there would be something less irritating that would aid in the process of becoming fully awake.

However, as I went through my own rituals of morning, her overly enthusiastic words “But it FEELS like…” stuck in my mind.  Her stating of the actual temperature was each time exuberantly followed by the Real Feel temperature.   At one point I asked myself “Real Feel?  Says who??” and thus began my little search:

The AccuWeather.com RealFeel® Temperature was created in the 1990s… The RealFeel Temperature is an equation that takes into account many different factors to determine how the temperature actually feels outside. It is the first temperature to take into account multiple factors to determine how hot and cold feels… Some of the components that are used in the equation are humidity, cloud cover, winds, sun intensity and angle of the sun… The equation also takes into consideration how people perceive the weather…this can be debated, since not everyone perceives weather the same way, but the equation uses the average person’s perception of weather and adds that into the RealFeel equation.   http://www.accuweather.com

As God so often does, He tied that little phrase to the thing that I’ve been mulling over for the past couple of weeks:  Christian guilt.  My last post prompted some enlightening responses from a few readers. They were each thankful that I shared my little story and their responses included:  totally resonates with me… really needed to hear this…thank you for the encouragement in freeing me to REST without GUILT…   We just slow down a bit from our ever busy schedules which include church and prayer and giving and service because we love God…and we take a nap or read a book…but it feels like we should be doing something else, it feels like it’s wrong somehow…

What I write of today is not the bold and glaring guilt that shows up when we blatantly sin – I mean, we’re supposed to experience that guilt, right?  (We’ll get to that momentarily…)  No, this is the shadowy guilt that quietly whispers words that are more frightening to us than the loud scream of sin guilt.  This persistent companion is relentless in its finger-pointing, occasionally directed outward but most often toward the mirror.  We chase it away with our offers of worship and our acts of service.  Until we are alone. It is then we discover that it never really left, we had simply drowned its voice with the loudness of our own.  And with the realization that it didn’t leave during our offers of worship and our acts of service we accept its heavier-than-ever existence.  If this guilt had a name it would simply be Not Enough.

Your prayer was not enough.

Your offering was not enough.

Your worship was not enough.

Your service was not enough.

Your study was not enough.

Your faith is not enough.

You are not enough.

When was the last time you prayed or gave or served or studied or simply sat in the presence of the Lord that you did not walk away thinking you should have done more?  This guilt of not enough is at the core of why we can’t truly rest and we don’t allow ourselves to just “be”.  And it grieves the heart of our Father.

…God shows and clearly proves His own love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Therefore, since we are now justified – acquitted, made righteous, and brought into right relationship with God – by Christ’s blood, how much more certain is it that we shall be saved by Him from the indignation and wrath of God.  Romans 5:8-9

Jesus took our guilt.  He took it so that we would not have to.  All of it.  Once and for all.  Never needing to do it again.  It was enough.  We have been acquitted – found not guilty – and to seal the deal He gave us His Spirit to:  teach us all things, help us remember what He said, guide us into truth, empower us to be His witnesses, to be our Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby.

Never once does the scripture say that the Holy Spirit will find us guilty.  He gently exposes our sin and compels us to repent – to change our minds.  This is an act of love not anger!!  So…why do we feel guilty?  Because we have not fully believed that we have been made completely acceptable to God.  Right now.  Just as we are.  With fresh wounds and old scars, with things that we’ve already done and things still to do, with our failures and our successes, our weaknesses and our strengths, our humanity and our new nature.

One of the definitions of guilt is:  feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy

Imagined offenses.  We imagine that God is offended by all our “not enoughs” and that we are guilty.  These imagined offenses are like the RealFeel temperature (you thought I’d totally lost that train of thought, didn’t you?).  The real temperature, the actual comparative measure of hot and cold, is a fact. When I took that screenshot the temperature outside was 42 degrees.  Yet if we go by the RealFeel number, to many – the average people (which evidently does not include the vast population of women of a certain age who are sitting with windows open today) – it would feel like 35 degrees.  But RealFeel is also based in perception and how they felt did not change the fact that it was 42 degrees.

The fact is that God has made us acceptable to Him.  He pre-planned to keep us in His never-ending favor through what Jesus would do!!  His Spirit will lead us and guide us and teach us and this leading and guiding and teaching will always be more about what He has done for us than what we will ever do for Him.  Once we begin to set our minds on the fact of redemption rather than how we feel, we will find rest for our souls and the ease to just “be” and guilt will have no place. Ahhhhh…..     🙂

 

But it FEELS like…” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

 

Do you love Me?

ca. 2004, New Zealand, Pacific --- Flock of sheep, New Zealand, Pacific --- Image by © Mula Eshet/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Feed My sheep.”

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Organize a protest against those Pharisees and Romans because they’ve really upped their game to oppose My sheep.”

“Wow!  Really?  Finally!  I’ve been waiting a long time to stand up to those who’ve been pointing their fingers, mocking us, spitting on us, and give them a piece of my mind.  Just who do they think they are? We have rights, you know, and it’s time that we demand those rights be respected!  And I’m just the one who could get this movement started.  I know a guy who has a stock pile of papyrus – he’ll gladly donate it for a social media blitz.  We can flood the city with posters pointing out our enemies’ grievous errors and mistreatment of your people, we can slander them right back, all in Your name, of course.”

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Call those other two hotheads in the group and begin a battle strategy for My sheep.  It’s time for war!!!”

“I’M ON IT!!  I’ve already got some ideas.  I told you I’d have your back, Jesus, if they ever came for you.  You must have misunderstood what I meant though, because that whole “Get thee behind me, Satan” comment was a little harsh, don’t you think?  I’ve got my sword ready.  I can defend and fight for our cause.  You’ve seen my skills…you know that I can take a man’s ear off in a flash!  And surely that day you turned to the crowd after the snippy Satan remark and told them that to follow You meant that they had to deny themselves and not care if following you led to their deaths…you meant that for them because they’re too weak to fight, right?  And before you go back to heaven I could use a little clarity on that whole love our enemies bit.  But it’ll have to wait until after we destroy those wolves in sheep’s clothing that are right here in our town…   I’ll be safe, right?  I mean, I’m your follower so you’re going to protect my life because I’m fighting for You… aren’t you?…because it kinda sounded like You just said I was going to die…”

Not exactly how the conversation went.  But maybe that’s how it would have gone if Jesus had only an earthly agenda and Peter had been a little more like me…a little more like you…

The early Christians lived in deeply troubled times.  Trouble like most of us have never seen. Governmental oppression.  Excessive taxation.  Public mockery.   Estrangement from family and friends because of their faith.  Imprisonment for spreading the gospel.  Persecution and torture for sharing the Truth.  Even unto death.

He sat with the one so passionate and out-spoken, the one He had called a rock, the one who bore the heavy weight of his own recent betrayal, and mercy and forgiveness asked of him three times…

Do you love Me?

Feed My sheep.*

Each time He asked He was giving Peter His unfailing love and changing Peter’s perspective on how to truly respond to that love.  He knew the disciples would undergo hardships and persecution and how they would die, most of them as martyrs.  The Pharisees and the Romans had not changed their positions. They had not relieved the oppression of the saints.  They did not believe in Jesus even though they still could not explain how His body left the tomb.  But what mission did Jesus lay before Peter?  Lead a rebellion against the Pharisees?  Organize the troops to fight the government?  Lead them into war?  No. He said “Feed My sheep.”

If we follow current events and listen to the reports, both secular and especially religious, the alarm is sounding that the wolf is at our door.  Arguments rage and emotions are on edge.  Opinions abound and frustrations rise.  Complicated issues demand a response.  Maybe we are like those early disciples in our floundering about through the daily activities wondering what God would have us do.  Perhaps it’s time to sit with Him and listen.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to follow Me as My disciple, he must deny himself – set aside selfish interests, and take up his cross – expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come, and follow Me – believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life in this world will eventually lose it through death, but whoever loses his life in this world for My sake will find it; that is, life with Me for all eternity.  Matthew 16:24-25

Will we die for our faith?  I don’t know.  But I do know that if we expect to be bold and courageous under persecution, real persecution, the question must be settled in the secret place with Him long before someone threatens our lives.  He called us to death from the beginning – death to self.  Pursuing Him takes us further and further away from consideration of ourselves and gives us vision beyond the news reports and the fear that tries to settle over us like a thick, black cloud.  There are many who are struggling with this fear because they don’t know Him.  They are hungry for something real to hold on to, something that will give them hope.  Right here, right now, in our cities and our neighborhoods.  And I believe that if we would just turn our attention away from the chaos and onto Him, we would hear mercy and forgiveness speak to us the very same mission:  “Feed My sheep“.  Obedience to this command is the only correct response to the question “Do you love Me?”

According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus.**

Now, I don’t know if this is really how Peter died, but he died doing what Jesus told him to do.  He spent his life feeding His sheep.  No matter the conditions, I strongly suspect as he was gasping for his last breath he was not wishing that he had never gotten out of that boat when Jesus came by, never left Galilee, that he should have just lived out a comfortable life as a fisherman.  No.  I believe as his life ended he was full of grace and completely satisfied that it had been worth it all.  Even unto death.

In our last breaths, no matter what brings us to that point, will we be satisfied that we have done with our lives what He asked of us?  Will we love not our lives unto death (Revelation 12:11), whether literally or spiritually?  Will we have lived out our love for Him by feeding His sheep?

I suppose I should have included a sarcasm warning at the beginning of this post, but really…what can we do in the midst of the trouble that rages upon us?  Pray.  Support.  Give.  Vote.  But most importantly, let’s not lose sight of the mission.  Give action to His command.  Love the unlovely.  Help the helpless.  Stand for the defenseless.  Forgive the unforgivable.  Tell of Him.  Feed His sheep.

 

Do you love Me?” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

*John 21 contains the account of the conversation between Jesus and Peter.  The real one.

**source:  Wikipedia