The Great Commission
16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. ~ Matthew 28: 16-17, New American Standard Bible [NASB]
These are Scriptures I’ve read many times, over the course of the years I’ve been saved, probably heard it preached from the pulpit or on Christian television shows well over a hundred times.
Last night I attended a Sisterhood Workshop at my church, Celebration Church in Julington Creek, FL. The subject was “Unwavering Resolve: Surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” I even got a sisterhood bracelet, pictured above.
We were given a worksheet. So, this morning I sat down with my spiritual notebook and my Bible and looked up the first Scripture they’d given on that worksheet which was Matthew 28: 18-29.
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, [NASB]
As I usually do, I went up a couple of verses to Matthew 28:16-17 and started reading and something hit me…doubtful. These were the eleven disciples after the resurrection. They’s spent three years with Jesus, knew He had in fact died on the cross, had been prepared for burial, was sealed in a tomb, and as reported by Mary Magdalene, three days later He was risen.
Here they were seeing the risen Lord, Jesus the Christ, and yet some doubted. When preachers I’d heard over the years got to that verse, they often preached it in a scoffing or judgemental tone. That some of these disciples were at this point somehow spiritually less than or deficient.
Then it hit me with such power…the question…What had changed? How did all these men later become on fire for the Lord? And it came to me, on the Day of Pentecost they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
We need the Holy Spirit to live a life surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit to believe. The flesh doubts, the flesh is weak, the flesh is afraid of seeming foolish, the flesh has fear of man, the flesh wants to take control and run the show according to desire or investment in mental ability. There is no use and it makes no sense to castigate ourselves when our flesh doubts. What else would it do???
When that happens, if we want the life of joy and peace and blessing that Jesus offers, we must seek the Holy Spirit and let Him guide us to a better space for ourselves. That place is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The more we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives, the less we will doubt, the less we will fear, the less we will harshly judge and condemn ourselves. The more we will be free, unbound, joyful, and content in our blessings. The more we will live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Are your friends the ones who commiserate with you? The ones who say, “After all you’ve been through, go ahead and do that?” Whatever “that” is.
You don’t yet have a spouse to give you clear insight, balance. It’s very likely you’re not under parental direction. At this point, more than ever, you need emotionally anchored friends. It doesn’t matter if you’re never married, divorced, or a widow/widower. You need stable friends, steady friends….friends who give wise counsel.
There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. ~ Proverbs 18:24 [New Living Translation]
Things a true friend might say that are not easy to hear:
- He/she’s no go for you. In fact, he/she’s plain no good.
- Don’t be alone in a room with that woman/man. Not ever!
- I love you, but you have to look at how much you’re drinking.
- You’re weekends are sneaking into Monday. Better get to work on time.
- Don’t you think you’ve carried that grudge long enough? Your obsessed with it and it’s negatively coloring your life. It seems you’re never happy anymore.
- I know I’m a frugal fiend, but honestly, you tend to overspend. You need to pay your bills, not buy a $500 watch. Think of the credit card interest.
- Don’t promise your child, parent, boss something when you know you can’t deliver.
- Please don’t repeat that about Jane/Joe again. I’m sure it’s not true.
- I respect your beliefs/politics, but they’re not mine. Let’s keep that out of the friendship. We have so many other things in common that we both enjoy.
If two or more friends have said something like this, it’s probably something worth taking a good look at…even if it’s uncomfortable.
Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable? ~ (Proverbs 20:6 [New Living Translation]
I took a step outside my front door this morning with my trusty gal-pal Sophie, and these words sounded loud and clear inside my head: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. I’m facing a particular trial at this time to which these words apply. Let’s see, it’s Thursday, and I’ve got Thursday’s trial. It seems to go that way, doesn’t it.
Anyway, I began to say those words of Scripture from Psalm 23 aloud as Sophie and I walked along, so she could do her business. I must’ve repeated them aloud 35 or so times. You see, I believe the Word of the Lord is powerful and does not return void. These were the “words” He gave me this morning and I wanted to verbally release them into the atmosphere of my life.
When Sophie and I returned to the house, I felt like maybe the Holy Spirit was suggesting I read Psalm 23. Then I did that funny thing Christians do. “What if it wasn’t the Spirit? What if it was just me?” And I had to laugh at how we are. In this case, even if I “missed it,” reading the psalm was a good thing. So, I opened my Bible.
And the next line hit me as something fresh. It was the Spirit prompting me to read it. He makes me lie down in green pastures. I’ve always seen that line as wonderful poetry emanating from the mind of God through David, lyrical in its beauty, bucolic.
This time I saw the strong arm of God. I’d never seen that before in this line. I had to take another look, and another. It actually says, he makes me lie down, makes me do it. I checked several translations and they all say, makes me. Has a parent or a highly respected dear friend ever said in a tone that brokered no argument, “Go lay down and rest!”? That’s the kind of makes me I saw in this line for the first time today. The Lord can spiritually hit believers right between the eyes and say, “Rest!”.
The Lord’s mind is so all encompassing it’s amazing (in the true sense of the word ‘amazing’), and he can be a bit sneaky too in His intimate relationship with his children, marvelously sneaky. Want to know what I’ve been studying this week? Well, I’ll tell you.
Resting in the finished work of Jesus. ~ The battle is the Lord’s, so let Him fight it.
Of course that implies I’ve been doing all the things God’s been leading me to do in the natural world. Having done all that, I’m to give the battle over to Him. He’s got a much longer arm than I’ve got.
It seems the world is more dangerous than it’s ever been. ISIS is beheading and burning people. Boko Haram has been busy kidnapping school girls. In fact, the Middle East seems as if it’s about to explode. We are warned of the threat of nuclear expansion to ominous and to unstable countries. Then there’s Ebola, not always in the news, but still destroying lives.
As far as America’s own national security we keep hearing disturbing things. Internal threats and homegrown terrorists. Protests that turn into riots. Porous borders. Our system of banking on the verge of total collapse.
Even in our own city, village, or neighborhood we face drive-by shootings, muggings, and even something as unthinkable as the sex-slave trade going on in the seedy part of town, or the not so seedy part of town.
What should we do? Some are stocking up on food, firearms, and ammunition, as well as subscribing to survivalist magazines. Those with the means, install high tech security systems. Others simply isolate themselves behind barred windows and multi-locked doors. They have become afraid. Fear is dominating their lives.
What is fear? You might say that it’s an emotion. I’d disagree. Fear itself is not a feeling. It is a spiritual force. And even the most intellectual, scientific, psychological- minded people know that on a visceral level. If you were in an airplane with severe engine trouble and someone in the next seat said, “The fear in here is so thick you can almost touch it,” you’d agree. The same would be true if you happened to be in a bank during an armed robbery. The fear would be palpable.
Though fear is a force, it can and does affect our emotions and in many instances can cripple individual lives. Yet many have absolutely no anxiety about the threats of this world. These are believers who have moved past fear and into the Lord’s promise of peace, protection, and blessing
Hebrews 13: 5a-6 [NASB] ~ for He Himself has said, I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU; NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU.” So that we confidently say, THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?
When I look at this Scripture I see what the Lord has said, but there’s another part. I see that we are supposed to say something. I’m supposed to say: The Lord helps me and I’m not afraid of what man can do on this earth to me. It plainly tells me to say that. Not only to read it, no just think it, but to say it aloud.
What we say, shapes our feelings, especially what we say about ourselves. If I ever catch myself saying about some event, perhaps on the news, “That’s so scary.” I immediately say to myself out loud, “Quit that fear talk.”
In fact, I talk to the news reports. I even point a finger at the TV and shake it. I really do, and as a recovering news junkie, it makes them less powerful in my life. If there’s a report on the news about anxiety on the increase in the nation as well as an increase in pill popping to cope with it, I say, “Not in my house! Not in my life!” But that wasn’t always so. At one point, a few years ago, I had great anxiety. Things were going hay-wire in my life and I found I could not cope with the destructive actions of some people in my life. But I literally talked myself out of that situation. Words have power, after all. I began saying words of power and faith. Of course the words I choose to say come from the Bible. If God said the words first, there’s more power in them than in something I make up on the spur of the moment.
Another very practical thing to combat fear is to realize is that fear is the anticipation of something bad happening. In actual fact, that feared thing rarely comes to pass in the individual’s life. Another practical tactic to combat fear is to laugh a little. Laughter dispels fear. Doctors tell us deep belly-laughs releases marvelous feeling endorphins. So, go to a comedic movie, or play a tape of an old one on your TV. Do something, anything that will make you laugh which will in turn decrease your anxiety and fear. And that’s the key. Don’t be passive and let fear overtake you. Combat it.
Last year, I resolved not to make any New Year’s resolutions. I’d heard about “blessing jars” and I had this old tin I liked a lot and had kept that originally housed Russel Stover caramels. Artistic and crafty types often use a mason jar with a nice, big, pretty ribbon around its neck.
There are several ways to work with a blessing jar, but the way a writer friend told me she did it appealed to me. 1) Write a short, focused list of blessings I’m believing God for and put it into the jar. 2) Write down a few Scriptures that support those blessings and toss them in.
One of the things that did not find its way onto my list last year or this is the notion of “perfectionism.” In fact, this is as good a place as any to make a public confession. Those are quite popular, I hear. So, here is mine. I have never struggled with perfectionism. Just ask my critique partners. They will tell you, I’ve never seen a comma I liked, and I’m the schpelink queen of Brooklyn.
My husband, who’s a bit of a perfectionist (one in the family is enough, thank you) and a psychiatric social worker, tells me perfectionism is often the root-cause of such mental illnesses as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. This makes me feel smug and fully justified in embracing a more laissez faire life-style. A fav motto of mine is: don’t sweat the small stuff (and so much of it is small stuff).
So, I was filled with excitement thinking about creating the things to go into my blessing jar this year. But the best part was reading what I had in there from last year. It was like a one-year spiritual time capsule. Looking at the list of things I believed for last year, I saw what was important to me then and how I had moved on, past many of them…how I had grown.
Several items I had on last year’s list had come to pass, but not all. I pulled out several Scriptures that had presented themselves to me with such force during 2013 that I’d written them down and put them in my tin. I took a moment to ponder them and to consider why they had spoken to me so forcefully last year. One of the sweetest things was looking at the names of people I’d written down who I prayed for during the year. I prayed for many, many people last year, but it was interesting to note which ones had found their way into my blessing jar/tin.
Our family had a lovely Christmas. However, with the extreme cold and the dreary rain we’ve had in Gotham the past week, I haven’t gotten my outside decorations down yet…but I’m not sweating it.