You Walk With Jesus

Once upon a time, there was a pastor who influenced me in ways I don’t think he was aware of. I considered him a model of one who walked with God as Enoch did. Naturally, this fellow was humble as well, and if he knew I was saying that about him, he’d sternly correct me.

Nevertheless, I saw him as an unofficial mentor.

Is there someone in your life who models a walk with Jesus? If so, what does that look like? Poetry isn’t my strong suit. Nevertheless, this is a small tribute to my friend and pastor.

You Walk With Jesus

I have watched you
walk with the winsomeness
possessed in you that
unknowingly also owns power.

There’s a place deep inside
where you don’t look–
having no need to–
that teaches your body
to follow the Spirit.

God’s Spirit guides your spirit
with a quiet, cherished purpose.
It seems that in each stride
you claim a mile.

 

copyright 2017 Paula Geister

With Graciousness and Kindness Toward All

Slowly, my mind is changing about judgement calls on people based on their looks, their words and actions, or their attitudes. For a long time I’ve believed it was okay to take notice and immediately place someone in a category. The categories were, of course, arbitrary, based on personal preferences, what I’d been taught was ‘correct,’ and a solid belief that I was probably always right.

What Changed? The Lord has shown me more of Himself. I see him interact with a variety of people in Bible stories and He never seems to judge the way I do. His judgements are true. Whether it’s a Samaritan woman sitting alone at a well, a group of Pharisees verbally abusing Him, a man sitting in a booth cheating his fellow Jews on their taxes, or a Centurion asking Jesus to heal his servant––the Lord sees what’s in their hearts.

I can’t see into hearts.

The best I can do, when I watch someone ‘acting out,’ as I usually describe it, is to pray for that person to find a better way of expressing themselves. Perhaps I will pray for them to find the Light of Jesus. Perhaps the person is already someone who claims to have a relationship with Him; yet they ‘act out.’

That could be me on any given day.

God’s word gives instructions for when we discover what we name as their wrongdoing.

“Don’t criticize, and then you won’t be criticized. For others will treat you as you treat them. And why worry about a speck in the eye of a brother when you have a board in your own?  Should you say, ‘Friend, let me help you get that speck out of your eye,’ when you can’t even see because of the board in your own?  Hypocrite! First get rid of the board. Then you can see to help your brother” (Matthew 7:1-5)

The Apostle Paul makes another distinction.

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside” (1 Corinthians 5:12).

In other words, how can we expect anyone who has not seen the Light, to behave as if they have.

Again…That could be me on any given day.

Nevertheless, as disciples of Jesus, we are given warnings and instructions about heeding the teachings and the fruit of those inside the Church.

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33).

Ultimately, I can never know the motives of one’s heart. Only Jesus knows that. Since life experiences, ill health, daily stress, and any number of things can make me ‘act out’ even when I know it’s inappropriate, I long for the grace of Jesus.

And with the help of the Holy Spirit, I could offer that grace to others as well. To extend graciousness and kindness toward all. To pray for them as I would hope they would pray for me.

A Three-Word Prayer for Serenity

The graphic below shows a prayer, commonly referred to as the “Serenity Prayer,”* attributed to Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr and reportedly written in 1926. Niebuhr was a Lutheran pastor and theologian.

After knowing only the first four lines of the prayer, which I learned in 1984, it wasn’t long before I became acquainted with the entire thing. Even though at the time I hadn’t made a decision to follow Christ, the words made sense. Years after that, I was reciting the whole prayer from memory at a weekly small group.

Today, I believe the three most important words of this prayer aren’t, as some people choose to see them, acceptance, courage and wisdom. They are

“God, I surrender”

For me, surrendering to God creates a serenity and peace I can’t otherwise know.

SerenityPrayer with gull

*Usually Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer is quoted using only the first four lines shown here.

The Red Letter Life: A Book Review

Hello, Media Monday, when we talk about books, movies or music. Today’s offering: “The Red Letter Life: 17 Words From Jesus to Inspire Simple, Practical and Purposeful Living” by Bob Hostetler.

The adjectives in the subtitle of this book, The Red Letter Life give us a hint into Bob Hostetler’s message for living as a disciple of Jesus. Hostetler writes with purpose; his message is practical; and his writing is simple so anyone can understand it.the-red-letter-life-872316900

Hostetler has delivered his message in a ‘pure’ way: truth, grace, simplicity and clarity of thought are all in place. Sure, he uses his knowledge of Greek to explain things. But he only does it to enhance the message. I never got the feeling I was being talked down to because these explanations are not overdone.

The seventeen words chosen are excellent choices and indicate the author’s careful study of Jesus’ message and mission. From “Come” to “Go,” every word inspires us to deeper relationship with Christ and a call to carry out His mission as commanded. Often, we get to see Jesus, his disciples and the people He encountered with fresh eyes. Expect some “Aha” moments.

Hostetler has a way of telling stories which not only lend themselves to giving meaning to his message, they often are entertaining and sublime. That’s the way Jesus Himself told parables. Overall, his heart and personality shine through. He makes being a Christian sound challenging and enjoyable at the same time. After reading The Red Letter Life, I would enjoy sitting down with the author, simply talking about our respective spiritual journeys.

While not your typical Bible study text (with questions for participants to explore), the book could certainly be used as such because Bob offers a challenge at the end of each chapter. At any rate, the book begs to be discussed. Lately, I read less Christian non-fiction than I used to, choosing more often to study the Bible. While there is no substitute for God’s Word, there are certainly excellent supplements. This one happens to be one of them.

You can find Bob–a speaker, blogger and pastor, in addition to being an author–in “Stuff I Read.” He’s the One Prayer Daily fellow.

Can’t Turn Back

Years ago in my small group, I was reminded of the scene where Jesus is once again being questioned by his own people–Jews–about who he is and why he does what he does. The scene takes place in John chapter 6. Jesus is explaining in terms that they obviously don’t understand.

He calls himself the “bread of life.” He also says if anyone drinks from him they’ll never be thirsty. After telling them that to eat his flesh and drink his blood means they’ll have a life in him, they’re totally confused.

“When many of the disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (6:60) After this, John records, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (6:66)

At first glance, I think if I were standing there with questions and Jesus said I had to eat him and drink his blood, I might consider making an exit as well.

Recently, I watched the movie “A League of Their Own” again. The film is about a women’s baseball league formed during WWII, but it’s about so much more. Toward the end of the movie, Dottie, who is by everyone’s estimation the best player in the league, decides she’s going home because her husband has returned from the war.

The bus is about to leave for the final series and her team is playing in it. Coach Dugan talks to her about her decision and makes the point that “baseball is inside” her.

“It just got too hard,” Dottie says.

“It’s supposed to be hard,” Coach Jimmy replies. “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The ‘hard’ is what makes it great.” With that, he turns and walks back to the bus and his team.

Sitting in my small group back then, I remember thinking of what Jesus said to his twelve apostles when that confused and probably disgusted group turned and walked away.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?”

Peter, as usual, believes he speaks for them all when he says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Coach Dugan quote

During that meeting it occurred to me that, even if I hadn’t actually put words to it, I knew I’d never want to leave Jesus and go back to what I’d been doing before. I thought about that lifestyle and it sickened me. How could I turn back and not follow? I thought. Jesus had gotten inside me.

But following can be hard. In fact,

“Jesus promised his disciples three things–that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.” F.R. Maltby

Do you find that following Jesus is difficult sometimes? If Jesus says we believers are the light of the world, doesn’t that mean shining brightly in a dark world is part of the package? If we’re the salt of the earth, wouldn’t that mean being a savory addition to the lives we touch?

Some days I’m a measly 40-watt bulb with a heavy layer of dust covering me. Ask me to be salty and I might make some comment about preventing hypertension.

It can be hard.

Fortunately, and by the grace of God, we aren’t expected to be salt and light in our own power. Just like Dottie had a coach, we have the Holy Spirit to direct us and help us when things get hard. She had team mates and we have the members of Christ’s Church to encourage and support us.arrow with leader on top

Coach Jimmy Dugan’s words are true for many things. It’s hard to raise children. Working on our relationships to keep them afloat is hard. We aren’t going to just breeze through college or through a military career. Right now you might be involved in a project that’s overwhelming you.

But if it wasn’t hard, just like being a follower of Jesus can be, everyone would do it. It helps to remember what’s on the other side of this life.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Father in heaven, I thank you today that I have a choice to follow and that you rescued me from the lifestyle I seemed trapped in. When you give me a task to do that I balk at because it’s hard, remind me that you’re always in control. Thank you for making me salt and light to the world. Remind me that when I see your work in the world that the “hard” is what’s making this life as a follower “great.”

 

Know and Grow

For the past year, Dallas Theological Seminary has been kind enough to offer me some of their classes. I get the notifications in my email and I get to decide if I want to take the course by watching a series of videos.

The first course I took, a study of the gospel of John, was with Dr. Mark Bailey. Dr. Bailey is president of the seminary but likes to stay involved in classroom instruction. He’s a fine professor.

This past week I began another study with Dr. Howard Hendricks, “How to Read the Bible Like a Seminary Professor.” Dr. Hendricks passed away in 2013, but his teaching (so far as I’ve seen) is relevant and direly needed.

Dr. Bailey was quotable. His sense of humor and authenticity shined. He’s been around a long time and obviously lives what he teaches. Dr. Hendricks is no different. Here’s something he said, which I need to remember at all times:

“God’s Word was not written to make you a smarter sinner.”

In other words, reading and studying the Bible aren’t meant just for information, but for transformation, according to Dr. Hendricks. “You can’t grow without knowing,” he says, “but it’s possible to know and not grow.” (Read that sentence again if you need to; I did.)

After my decision to follow Christ, I ate the Word like a little kid devouring an ice cream cone. I enjoyed having Bible knowledge. Other people enjoyed it too; they often asked for information because I did know the Word. They weren’t always so quick to ask me about how to live the Word. That’s disturbing to me because it means I wasn’t allowing God to make that transformation a reality.

If you’re interested in getting started with this particular study, lesson 1 is posted on YouTube here. Once you bring that video up, you’ll see subsequent lessons on the right-hand side of the screen. They’re numbered and titled so you know where you are.

You can also find the course on the DTS site (as long as it’s listed there) to sign up and receive the first lesson immediately.

I hope you’ll enjoy studying with Dr. Hendricks. It’s a blessing to know DTS is willing to share the wisdom, experience and caring of its people.

Elisabeth Elliot on Discipleship

“In order to be a disciple we must deny ourselves. This is to exercise authority over our own spirit. We must take up the Cross. This is to submit to Christ’s authority. And we must follow. This is continued obedience.”

E Elliot with childElisabeth Elliot (December 21, 1926 – June 15, 2015) was a Christian author and speaker. Her first husband, Jim Elliot, was killed in 1956 while attempting to make missionary contact with the Auca (now known as  Waodani) of eastern Ecuador. She later spent two years as a missionary to the tribe members who killed her husband. Returning to the United States after many years in South America, she became widely known as the author of over twenty books, including “Through Gates of Splendor” and “Discipline: The Glad Surrender” She was also in constant demand as a speaker. Elliot toured the country, sharing her knowledge and experience, well into her seventies

Why I Go To Church

In a recent post, I talked about Why I Don’t Go To Church. Today is a good day to tell you Why I Do Go To Church.

To Worship God
During the week, I have my private times of meeting with the Lord. But on the day I go to church, it’s a different venue. The atmosphere creates in me a desire to worship God for who he is and to praise his works in a corporate setting.

As An Act of Obedience
Jesus showed us that he meant for us to be a body of believers when he welcomed everyone to come to him. Certainly, he had a few people who were in his inner circle, as I do, but he also ministered to and taught multitudes at one time.GodCallHisChildrenToUnity

To Fellowship With Believers
Besides being able to meet one on one with my best Christian friends, at church I’m able to greet those who don’t live close by. The ones whom I wouldn’t see unless we both made a point of going to church. I don’t know everyone who attends, but I’m meeting more of them all the time. We often discuss things we might not get a chance to talk about if we didn’t see each other weekly. They help me; I help them. I know that in the midst of this congregation, we’re loved, prayed for and supported. Many times, we know each other’s messes and successes.

To Serve
The ways in which I serve are not up-front like some. But what I do is a service to someone. I never know when what I’ve done will help plant a seed for an individual who’s looking to go deeper in his or her relationship with God.

To Hear Spirit-Filled Teaching
I need to hear the full counsel of God taught to me. Aside from my own Bible study and small group study, my pastor can open scripture to me in supernatural ways when he allows God to use him. Then, if I take that home and apply the wisdom to my life, my desire to worship, to obey, to be in community, and to serve have also served a purpose.

Most of the reasons I go to church should be, first of all, outward focused. I do get a lot from going to church. But in the body where I attend, faith, love and acceptance are flourishing. I believe it’s for the benefit of everyone who walks through the doors.

Why would I not want to go to church?

Why I Don’t Go To Church

black cross against skyI don’t go to church because I feel comfortable there. It’s true I’ve found a home with my congregation, often coming away feeling comforted. But God shows me in a variety of ways how complacent I can become. He’s not as concerned with my comfort as with my spiritual growth.

I don’t go to church so I can hang out with good people. Among my associations at church, there are people who’ve been following Christ for years; others who are new believers. I also know a few who are nonbelievers. And even in my large congregation, not one of us is totally good.

I don’t go to church to fulfill my duty. While scripture encourages us to keep in the habit of meeting together, I know there will be times when I can’t be present. On the days when I am able, I come from a God-given desire, not out of guilt.

I don’t go to church to hear the great music. My church, over the years, has offered a variety of musical styles. Whether or not I like the style, my concern isn’t with the music itself, but with the words accompanying it. Within this context, I want to exalt His name.st glass window

I don’t go to church to hear a fabulous speaker. I’m fortunate that the ones in charge of presenting the message at my church are articulate and able to hold my interest. They’re trained to do what they do. But I know God can use anyone to present Truth, regardless of eloquence or religious training.

I don’t go to church because I have nothing better to do. Some days when my mood or energy level is low, sleeping in seems the better thing to do. But I’ve learned that the better thing should never keep me from doing the best thing.

Riding It Out Together

Our group’s annual picnic was at a local state park one year and a couple of the young girls had been riding their bikes along the trails for a good part of the day. They invited me to come along. Having heard how challenging the trails could be, I wasn’t easily convinced.

But I went. They promised they’d watch out for me.

Taking the lead, the two youngsters were true to their word. As we biked our way up and down the hills, I’d hear them call out, “Bump!” “Curve coming up!” “Watch out for the loose sand!” Because they’d been down the trail so many times before, they were familiar with each hazard.

God gives us the gift of Christian friends to play the same role those girls played for me that day. Together, in faith, we can travel the road. But we need people who can help us when we encounter the bumps and curves.

I remember on that day at the park, the first thing those girls did was convince me with a promise to take care of me the best they could. Friends who help in our faith walk do the same. They pray for us, point us to God’s truth, rejoice with us when things go well and mourn with us during tough times.

In addition, we’ll meet people who have experiences and knowledge we don’t have who can warn us of possible hazards we wouldn’t see.

At one point during our trek that day, the girls decided we’d stop and rest. “It’s just a little further to the end,” they told me. It was a call to persevere. The ride was almost over. Likewise, as Christ followers, we’re encouraged to remain confident. We’ll be rewarded if we persevere and do the will of God. We’ll receive what God has promised.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 10: 35,36)

By the end of my trip on the trails, I was tired. But when the girls asked me if I wanted to go again, I said, “Yes.” I had faith in the beginning that they would help me along the paths, and now I was more familiar with the way.

What was true that day at the park is true of sharing a spiritual journey with other disciples. If not for their encouragement, I might never go in the first place. If not for their help, I might fall many times on the way.