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Letting a Little Child Lead

Woolly Shepherd

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”Isaiah 9:6

One of my favorite sights so far this Christmas season is still bringing a smile to my face when I think of it. At the beginning of this month, my husband and I, with some friends, went to see the Christmas festivities in a small town not far from where we live. Shops were open; some were serving cider and sweets. Christmas lights decked every store front. There was even a horse-drawn carriage for people to ride in up and down the streets. The church near the end of the main boulevard offered a living Nativity complete with donkeys, sheep, and goats. We started our tour there.

We walked slowly to view each scene from the Christmas story: Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem with their little donkey. Shepherds in the fields with their flocks. Angels on pedestals, all serene but for one boy-sterous little one who wanted nothing more than to fly away. (With the head angel’s encouragement, he was making a great effort to stand still, sweet child. I was proud of him—and tickled at the memory he brought to mind of my own boy-sterous angel child of just a few, well, maybe twenty, years ago.)

Finally, we came to find Mary and Joseph with Baby Jesus, all in the stable with shepherds, wise men, and animals galore. As we approached this highlight of the experience, a mother among the witnesses was tending to her child in a stroller. As she did, her slightly older daughter quietly slipped over the ropes separating guests from the living display. She sat down primly on a bale of hay, crossed one hand over the other in her lap, and settled in to watch Baby Jesus. And watch she did. I think she’d settled in for the duration.

Was she supposed to be there? No. Did anyone disturb her? No way. This little child was leading us all. While we were casually enjoying the festivities, she was adoring the baby. And, though I knew that baby wasn’t really The Baby, the memory of that little girl boldly moving closer, so she could see and not be disturbed by the chaos around her, has stuck with me since that evening. That little girl’s actions defined worship and peace.

Father, thank You for using this little girl to remind us what Christmas is all about. Even as we enjoy the celebration of Your Son’s birth with family, friends, church, and community, help us do so with hearts full of worship and adoration for Jesus. After all, He came to reveal You to us. That fact alone deserves our awe-filled contemplation. Thank You, Lord! We love You. Amen.

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The Conversation Begins: Thanksgiving

The Conversation BeginsThis post is the first of our discussions about the many different kinds of prayer. Considering the holiday, Thanksgiving seems like a great place to start.

An obscure childhood memory popped into my mind this week regarding this theme. I was only five- or six-years-old when this happened, so the details may or may not have happened exactly as I recall. If my mom reads this and calls to correct me, I promise to post an update. For now, here’s the story as I remember it:

My mother, little brother, and I were at the check-out stand at the grocery store. While mom was paying for our groceries, the somewhat elderly (from my point of view, at least) gentleman who was bagging the groceries leaned over to offer my brother and me some candy. (This was back in the days when this was still considered a nice thing to do, not something that should get you arrested.)

He asked me if I wanted a piece of candy. I looked at my mom. She nodded, so I said, “Yes, please.”

He started to hand over the treat, then pulled it back and asked, “What else do you say?”

What else was there to say? Confused, I said the only thing I could think of: “Yes, I want the candy, please.”

The man gave my mother one of those looks that all moms of young children hate. You know the one. The one that says, “Haven’t you taught your children any manners, Ma’am? What’s wrong with you?” I looked at my mother, too, just because I had no idea what this strange person wanted and figured I needed a cue.

The man repeated his question, “What else do you say?” I told him I didn’t know. He put his hands on his hips and said, “You say, ‘Please and thank you.’ If you want the candy, you have to say, ‘Thank you.’” He gave my mom a pointed look.

I realized this man was confused and needed to be set straight. Evidently, his mother was the one who forgot to teach manners. I said, “I’m not supposed to say, ‘Thank you,’ until after you give me the candy. I say, ‘Please,’ before and ‘Thank you’ after. That’s the rule.” I may have crossed my arms over my chest in stubborn indignation at this point.

The man looked at my mom then laughed out loud. I didn’t know what was so funny and was feeling kind of mad. My little brother just wanted some candy. Poor kid!

The man leaned over again and said, “I’ll let you get away with it just this once. But next time, say, ‘Please and thank you’ when you want something.” He gave us each a piece of candy, refusing to release mine from his grasp until I spoke those last two words. (And, if I remember correctly, my wise mother took the candy away when we got to the car with a promise of something better when we got home. I guess people didn’t completely trust strangers bearing candy for children even then. She handled an incredibly awkward situation with patience and grace.)

1 Thessalonians 5-18Unlike the man at the grocery store, our God gives good things lavishly. He even gives good things to those who deny His existence! Everything we have . . . every . . . single . . . thing . . . comes from Him. The man at the grocery store wanted his please and thank you up front, demanded good manners—by his definition—before giving the offered treat, and gave my mother a hard time in the name of teaching her children. She had nothing to thank him for, and in the end, neither did we. But our God just gives . . . abundantly . . . because He loves us. For example:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”Romans 5:8

The man at the grocery store held on to the candy until I said, “Thank you.” He wasn’t taking any chances that he wouldn’t receive his due. But God sent Jesus to die for us—so He could offer us salvation—while we were still sinners, and He continues to give good gifts to everyone with or without their gratitude.

Does He want us to thank Him? Of course! He loves us and wants us to return His love. He knows us and wants us to know Him. He wants us to recognize His involvement in our lives and to thank Him for all He does. But He won’t insist on a response. Thanksgiving has to come from a person’s heart.

Let’s not wait until tomorrow! Let’s start right now, this day, and continue for the rest of our lives. Let’s learn to recognize God’s gifts, and thank Him continually.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! I thank God for you.

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What Help Do We Receive to Pray?

The Conversation BeginsThe conversation begins . . . prayer. Have you started this conversation yet?

My hope as I write this series is that it will encourage anyone who stumbles across it to discover how easy it is to talk to God. I want people to become comfortable with prayer because I know that the thought of praying to the One and Only, Almighty Creator of the Universe intimidates some people. But God encourages us to come to Him. Anyone who sincerely wants to can talk to Him about anything on behalf of anyone at anytime, anywhere. As we do this, seeking to share our lives with the God Who loves us more than anyone else ever can while attempting to get to know Him better, we’ll begin to recognize His response.

But that’s getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. First we simply need to begin to pray. So, just in case you are still feeling a little bit intimidated about talking to God, today I want to show you the help He provides. That’s right. God will actually help us to pray; He is that serious about wanting us to come to Him.

  • Let’s look at the Holy Spirit first. Romans 8:26-27 is one of my favorite passages on prayer:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

If ever we want to pray but find ourselves at a loss for words, God’s Spirit is right there with us uttering exactly the right ones. He reads our hearts and serves as a translator, of sorts, communicating just what we would say if we could. He knows what we want even better than we do and intercedes on our behalf. I have found this meaningful in times of deep heartache, when I knew that something needed to happen but had no clue what. The Spirit knows what we don’t and intercedes in accordance with God’s Will. This makes crying your heart out in God’s Presence an extremely powerful prayer with few, if any, words.

Romans 8-26

But if you’ve never prayed before and simply want help as you give it a try, God’s Spirit is there for you, too. God understands the weakness of beginning something new. Therefore, you also can claim this Bible promise as you pray; God’s Spirit will help you.

  • Hebrews tells us that Jesus intercedes for us, too:

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”Hebrews 7:25

If you are a child of God, Jesus is praying for you. He gave His life so you could have an eternal relationship with God. Therefore, no one is more motivated than He is to see you succeed at growing in Him daily. If you’re struggling with temptation, He’s praying you’ll claim the strength He offers to resist. If you’re trying to understand God’s Word, He’s asking God’s Spirit to clarify your thinking. If you’re attempting to communicate with God, He’s part of that too. How could He not be? He Is God—God the Son, full-fledged member of the mysterious Trinity with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, inviting us to pray, helping us as we do, and praying for us, too.

  • Finally, let’s consider those who’ve gone before:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”Hebrews 12:1-2

I know that some people believe that there is a literal cloud of witnesses watching us and cheering us on. Others say this isn’t possible for one reason or another. Rather than get into that debate, let’s look at the verses just before these two and let them take us to the author’s point:

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”Hebrews 11:39-40

Hebrews 11 is often called The Faith Hall of Fame. It tells about people in the Bible who showed great faith in God. The conclusion of this chapter tells us that God’s plan is still in motion. Whether these witnesses are actually watching us or not, they knew when they were living that they were part of something bigger than themselves, part of something that would continue after they died. Their actions, their prayers, their hopes were all on God and what He would be doing in the future—currently our present (to be handed off to future generations until Jesus comes). In a sense, the people who lived before prayed for us—and may still be praying for us.

And God is adding our prayers to their prayers as He continues His work in our world. Our little prayers are part of something bigger than we can imagine and, one way or another, they are boosted and bolstered by those who’ve already lived their lives.

My words seem very insufficient right now, but I hope I’ve given you just enough of the idea that you can think about it and let the concept grow. God invites us to pray, and He helps us. When we pray, we share our lives with Him, we get to know Him better, we help others to come to know Him, and we participate in His Kingdom in ways we can’t even begin to understand. Our prayers matter more than we know. This doesn’t need to intimidate us, though. God couldn’t have made it easier. To pray, we simply talk with Him.

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Thanksgiving and Prayer

Thanksgiving and Prayer“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people.”Colossians 1:3-4

Paul starts his letter to the Colossian church with thanksgiving and prayer. He tells them that he is thankful for them and why. He is thankful for them because he’s heard of their faith in Christ and their love for His people.

  • Who are you thankful for today and why?

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.”Colossians 1:9

Because Paul is thankful for the Colossians, he and his ministry team pray for them.* They pray that:

  • God will fill them with the knowledge of His Will (v. 9).
  • They will live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way (v. 10).
  • They will bear fruit in every good work (v. 10).
  • They will grow in the knowledge of God (v. 10).
  • They will be strengthened with all power according to God’s glorious might (v. 11).
  • They will have great endurance and patience (v. 11).
  • They will be joyfully thankful for the inheritance they share with all of God’s people (v. 12).

What a beautiful way to honor someone you are thankful for!

  • What blessings are you asking God to bestow on the people you are thanking Him for today?

*Click here to read the full passage at BibleGateway.com.

I’m sharing this post with the following sites today: Word of God Speak and Spiritual Sundays. Click on the links to see what others are sharing there too.

 

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When Can We Pray?

The Conversation BeginsTwo more W’s! That’s all I have. Two more questions starting with one of the five W’s and then we’re moving on in this series to explore as many different kinds of prayer as I can think of. (There are 23 on my list so far.) For fun, I invite you to brainstorm your own list, keep it to yourself for now, check off the kinds of prayer I write about each week, then let me know at the end if I missed anything, so I can add it to my list. I may even invite you to write a guest post about it!

Today, however, I want to talk about when. When can we pray? My short answer, of course, is anytime we want to talk to God. He’s always present. He never sleeps. He will hear our prayers whenever we want to talk to Him. One of my favorite Bible verses about prayer shows this: “But Jesus often slipped away to be alone so he could pray” (Luke 5:16, NCV) Whenever Jesus felt the need to talk with His Father, He made Himself scarce so He could. God invites us to do the same.

Though we are welcome and encouraged to talk with God anytime, setting aside a specific time for prayer each day, when possible, is a helpful discipline. What time of day is best for this? Whatever time works best!

I once read a book for women on disciplining every area of life. This book had some helpful tips, but I found myself arguing with the author often as I read. She seemed to believe that whatever worked for her would work for everyone, and so she presented her ideas as rules for all women to follow. When she got to the chapter on prayer, she wrote that everyone must pray first thing in the morning. To make her case, she cited several Bible passages in which people were praying in the morning. Unfortunately, she ignored all the Bible passages about people praying in the middle of the day, in the evening, all night long, and at other random times of day. Using her method, I could have made a case that the Bible says we all have to pray at just about any time of day I preferred.

We Get to Talk to GodBut that would have been a misuse of Scripture. The Bible doesn’t tell us when we have to pray. It simply tells us that we can and that God hears us and that we’re blessed when we do. Remember this: talking to God is something we get to do because He has invited us to. He loves us and He loves it when we want to talk with Him. If my kids or my husband only talked to me because they felt they had to, that they had some kind of duty or obligation to fulfill, my feelings would be hurt. Of course, if that were all I could get I would take it because I adore my family! But I wouldn’t feel we had a healthy relationship. And I would be right. I want the people I love to talk to me because they love me and want to share their lives with me! (And I am so thankful they do!)

God wants us to view prayer the same way. He wants us to love Him, respect Him, tell Him what’s going on in our world, seek His wisdom and help, and enjoy just getting to be in His Presence. King David says it best: One thing I ask from the Lordthis only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). Nothing gave that man more joy than to be in God’s Presence.

That said, I really do like to pray first thing in the morning. I love starting my day with God, and I encourage you to try it if you haven’t already. If you can’t form a complete sentence before noon, though, you might find another time of day more beneficial; that really is okay. I think there’s something to be said for bedtime prayers, ending the day with a conversation with God about all that went right and all that went wrong and all that we’re hoping for come the new day.

Then again, if you have lots of littles in your house, practicing a consistent prayer time may be an exercise in futility. Instead, keep a prayer journal and pen on hand, then watch for those rare moments when everyone is happy and occupied. Grab your journal and pen, sit down quietly, and pray while the moment lasts. Some may think this is just asking for chaos to ensue, but if you’re serious about finding a daily time to pray, ask God to give you these moments on occasion, then learn to make the most of them. Be thankful for however many He provides.

To summarize: we can pray anytime, anywhere, about anything. God is with us. He loves us, and He loves to hear us pray. Whenever we’re ready to talk with Him, God is ready to hear the words we’ll say.

Father, thank You for the privilege of prayer. Call us to it! Help us to choose a regular time for prayer and to develop a consistent routine. Then remind us to talk to You throughout the day. Prayer is how we share our lives with You, the One Who loves us like no one else can. We love You, too. Amen.


I’m sharing this post with the Thought-Provoking Thursday link-up. Click here to read more posts shared there.

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Who Can We Pray For?

The Conversation BeginsIf you’ve been following this series, you already know the answer to this question. We can pray for anyone whose name or face comes to mind. In fact, if their name or face comes to mind, we can get in the habit of considering it a call to prayer. If we’re aware that God’s Spirit is with us always and learn to pay attention to His prompts, He’ll call us to pray for others more often than you may think. I’ve written about this in Parachute Prayer: the Practice of Praying Continually. I invite you read that book to learn more about this discipline.*

Here are a few ideas for now:

  1. We can pray for God. Jesus did! In The Lord’s Prayer, He prayed that God’s kingdom would come and His will be done.  We can ask for this, too. Does God need our prayers in order for His purposes to be accomplished? Ultimately, I don’t think so. I suspect the prayer for God is really for our benefit and for the benefit of those around us. When we ask for God’s kingdom to come and His will be done, we’ll become more aware of ways we can participate. We’ll become more willing and eager to participate. God’s Spirit will work through us to draw others into the action, too.
  2. Who We Can Pray ForWe can pray for our families.
  3. We can pray for our friends.
  4. We can pray for ourselves.
  5. We can pray for our churches.
  6. We can pray for our communities.
  7. We can pray for people who serve our families and communities.
  8. We can pray for our nation.
  9. We can pray for our world.
  10. We can pray for strangers we encounter while out and about.
  11. We can pray about needs we see on the internet, in the paper, or on TV.

We can pray for specifics if we know them, but if we don’t and sense a reason to pray, we can pray generically. God knows what’s going on in other people’s lives even when we don’t. Going one step further, we don’t even have to wait until we sense that someone needs a prayer. If we’re sitting in the airport waiting to board a flight, we can talk to God about the fellow travelers who come into view. If someone treats us with unexpected kindness—or undeserved grumpiness—we can whisper a prayer for that person as we go on our way. One deserves a blessing; the other may need it desperately.

Father, please make us sensitive to Your Spirit’s call to pray—for anyone, anywhere. You know the whole world’s needs. Thank You for inviting us to participate as You work in our world. Thy Kingdom come, Lord. Amen.


*If you’re starting to think about Christmas, Parachute Prayer even has a section on praying through the holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and more. To order a copy from Amazon.com, click here.

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Finding the Meaning in Meaningless

I woke up early this morning. Following my usual routine, only earlier, I got my first cup of coffee, sat down with my Bible, devotional books, and journal, and started my day. I asked God to show me His message for me today. Then I opened my Bible to find this:

Ecclesiastes

Our God has a sense of humor. I laughed right out loud. Thankfully, I know that life isn’t meaningless and that the author of Ecclesiastes knew it, too. At least he’d learned it by the time he finished writing his book. From some of what I read today, though, I think he knew it sooner, too.

In chapter 2, verses 24 and 25, he wrote, “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” Then in chapter 3, verse 14, he wrote, “I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.”

Before these verses, he had written about all of his failed experiments in finding meaning in life. He concluded that wisdom, pleasure, folly, and toil are all meaningless, meaningless, without any meaning at all. Between these two verses, he wrote about there being a time for everything, about God making everything beautiful in its time, about God putting eternity in the human heart. In 3:13, he came to the conclusion that finding satisfaction in life is a gift from God.

And so, if “everything that God does will endure forever” and “nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it” and if satisfaction “is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” then our lives and activities only have meaning and purpose if we are participating in God’s work at His leading. He doesn’t need our help, but He invites us to join in because He loves us. He created us with a desire for Him. He created us with a need for meaningful work, for relevance. We find the second when we seek Him first.

Wait! Haven’t I read that somewhere else? “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”Matthew 6:33. Those are Jesus’ words from His Sermon on the Mount. To find meaning and purpose, we need to seek God and do whatever work He has for us to do. With Him, daily drudgery becomes a relevant contribution to His kingdom. Challenging opportunities become joyful privileges because we know they show our Father’s recognition of our growing maturity. We find our life’s significance in living every day for Him.

Father, thank You for inviting us to participate. Open our eyes to whatever activities You have for us to do. All of life is meaningful when we’re serving next to You. Please find us faithful. Amen.

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Gracefully Removing the Labels That Hurt

Ugly LabelIn my current Bible study class, we’re studying the topic of grace. In this past week’s lesson, we looked at the story of The Woman Caught in Adultery. You can read the story here if you are not familiar with it.

To summarize, this woman was dragged before Jesus by a group of legalistic religious leaders who were using her to trap Jesus. They wanted to know if He would enforce the letter of the law and have her stoned or deny the law and condemn Himself. They thought they’d wrangled Jesus into a no-win situation. But Jesus simply told them to let whoever among them who was without sin throw the first stone. The crowd slowly dispersed. When the woman realized that no one had condemned her, Jesus told her that He wouldn’t condemn her either. He told her to go and sin no more.

At this point in the lesson, our group leader asked us what we thought became of the woman. My imagination grabbed hold of that question, and I found myself thinking about it long after I’d gone home.

The Bible doesn’t answer this question for us. We like to hope that after an encounter like that . . . with Jesus . . . in person, the woman went away changed, happily following Jesus and living according to His Word.

Realistically, though, this woman would have had some issues to work through. The religious leaders exposed her sin to the whole community. The people hadn’t stoned her, but she bore a label anyway. Adulteress. Dead woman walking by Jesus’ mysterious grace. How did her husband and family feel about her sin? Her lover’s wife and friends? Was she welcome at the Temple? In the market? Or was she branded an outcast? Shunned?

When people receive grace from Jesus and try to change their lives as a result, people who liked the way they were often try to pull them back into sin while people who were hurt by their actions are afraid to trust them. Jesus lifts people like this woman up out of the dirt, telling them to go and sin no more, but other people continue to throw dirt at them behind His back. If they throw enough dirt, people who are trying to change are tempted to give up in despair.

Label of GraceI don’t know if this is what happened to the woman or not. I’d like to hope everyone there was changed by that encounter with Jesus that day. I’d also like to hope that, even if the crowd wasn’t changed, the woman knew Jesus forgave her and found His grace to be enough. (It is, you know. This is true.) I hope that, if this woman did find herself a Scarlet Letter outcast, she chose to leave what she no longer had anyway in order to stay close to Christ. If you are in this situation yourself, clinging to Christ is the key. Let Him strengthen, teach, and encourage you as you pray He’ll also work in the lives of those who are causing you pain. “Come near to God, and He will come near to you.”James 4:8

When I consider this Bible story from the what-happened-next point of view, I realize how important it is to follow Jesus’ example of grace. As His impromptu object lesson revealed, we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We find those words in Romans 3:23 followed by these, “and have been justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Justified: Just as if I’d never sinned. I learned that definition so long ago, I don’t even remember where. But it’s a perfect reminder here. When someone receives Jesus’ grace, that grace removes the sin labels. Therefore, our grace has to stop seeing those labels, labels that are no longer there. The shamed and humiliated adulteress has become the beloved daughter of our King. We need to learn to welcome her as our new sister and friend.

Since the afternoon of that Bible study, God has been working hard on me. He’s been bringing names to mind—people from the past, sometimes very long ago, whom I’ve labelled with concrete signs. The labels stick to people who’ve hurt me—or mine. I forgave but left the labels on . . . to protect myself . . . just in case. These labels don’t say things like adulteress. Instead, they say, “Dangerous! Beware.” These labels must come down. I must ask God for the grace to pray them down. I must entrust my heart to His care, and trust His work in their hearts as well.

At the same time, I’m realizing that there may be people out there I’ve hurt. Not intentionally, but maybe through a careless action, a misspoken or misinterpreted word. I’m asking God to give them grace for me—maybe even, if needed, give me the opportunity to make things right. I’m asking God to heal wounds given and received by filling all our hearts with His grace. May all the ugly labels go away.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for the grace You offer. Help us to receive it. Help us to pass it on. We’ve all sinned and fall short of Your glory, but You sent Your Son to make it right. Help us to remember the gift we’ve been given at such great cost. Help us follow Christ’s example toward us. Please make all the ugly labels go away. Help us to see each other as You do, so we can encourage each other along. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Questions to Ask When People Bring Hurt

1 Peter 3-8n9“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”1 Peter 3:8-9

If only everyone would follow Peter’s instructions found in these verses, our world would be a happier place. Just imagine if everyone tried to see the other’s point of view, to be sympathetic, to love, to show compassion, and to act with humility in all situations.

Sadly, not every does. In fact, everyone doesn’t—at least not in every situation all the time. This may be why Peter devoted one sentence to how to conduct ourselves positively and two to what to do when others don’t. In this world, we will encounter evil and insults. We need to know how to respond.

Here are three things to ask when deciding how to repay evil with a blessing:

1. If Jesus were in this situation, how would He handle it? When we don’t know the answer, we can study to gospels and ask God’s Spirit for help. The better we know Jesus and His way, the more naturally we’ll follow in every circumstance.

2. What might God be trying to accomplish in this other person’s life? Depending on how well we know this person, the answer may be obvious or hard to determine. Either way, we can take what we know to God as we talk with Him about the situation and pray for the other person.

3. How might God be able to use our response to this event? Asking this question takes the focus off ourselves and our personal injuries. We can trust God to help us and to heal us regardless of what the other person does or has done. Therefore, we are free to pray for the one who hurt us, to seek that person’s good.

When we repay evil with such a blessing, we enjoy personal peace, we help to bring healing to the situation, we offer good to the one who hurt us, and we send a message to the world. All of these honor God because as Christians, we are being watched every day. Unbelievers want to see, to test, how we handle life. Our reactions to evil and to insults teach them about Jesus Christ.

Father, that’s a sobering thought. When someone hurts me, my response can’t be all about me. But, thanks to Jesus, it doesn’t have to be. I can trust You to take care of me. Help me to offer blessings to others to encourage the world to seek You and to do good. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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We Follow the One We Choose to Trust

We Follow Who We TrustA few years ago I did a series at Wildflower Thinking called The New Spice Rack Recipes. My brother had learned that salt was my seasoning of choice and decided to correct that by buying me a new spice rack for my birthday. I decided to take the hint and determined to find at least one new recipe every month that featured one of the spices from my new spice rack. The series ran until I’d used each spice at least once.

The series came to an end, but my cooking adventures did not. Since then, our family has had to give up soy and gluten, and I’ve had to learn a whole new way to cook. But the spice rack project prepared me for this adventure. I’m not a great chef, but I can no longer say I’m not a good cook. I’ve been practicing and learning to enjoy the process, too. In fact, I suspect my earlier cooking issues came from being impatient, from trying to hurry the science up. (And if you don’t believe that cooking is a science, then you haven’t really learned to cook.)

For Christmas this past year, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a new cookbook called The Gluten-Free Table by Jilly Lagasse and Jessie Lagasse Swanson, aka Emeril’s daughters. I’ll confess, it intimidates me. I’ve only tried one of the recipes so far—but it was so good! Pan-fried Flounder with Lemon Garlic Butter. It totally takes the healthy out of gluten-free! That’s probably why it’s such a hit in our house.

I made this recipe the other day. The sisters excel at step-by-step instructions. (Something I’ll need to remember as I boldly attempt some more of their creations.) But as I was following these instructions, I found myself revising them. I’d see a simpler way to get from one step to another—less mess, fewer dishes. I’d wonder why they included the extra steps. Then I’d figure there probably was a perfectly good reason, but since I couldn’t ask them, I’d do things my way. The recipe came out fine, but I can’t help but wonder if following the recipe exactly would have made a difference—would have made it even better! What do these sisters know that I don’t? (Probably, quite a lot!) I may never know, however, because the fish turned out really good, and I had less mess to clean up. (Remember that theory of my earlier cooking issues? Evidently I’m still a work in progress.)


Mark 8:34 says, “Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Earlier Jesus had called Peter and Andrew to follow Him (Matthew 4:18-20). They did. He called Matthew to follow Him (Matthew 9:9). He did. He told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and follow Him (Matthew 19:21). This man did not. Finally, Jesus called anyone who wants to to follow Him (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23). The choice is ours.

This decision to follow Jesus, however, isn’t just a one-time choice. We choose to follow Jesus, then we choose to keep following Him. Just as I had to choose to follow the Lagasse sisters’ step-by-step instructions or not as I worked my way through their recipe, we have to choose to follow Jesus’ leading moment-by-moment, every day, as we work our way through life. Some people in the Bible followed Jesus, then turned back when the journey got rough (John 6:66). There will be times when our journey gets rough, when our journey gets messy, when we think we see a simpler way. In these times, we’ll choose to follow—or not. And life may become easier for a time if we do not, but, unlike with the flounder recipe, in the end we won’t get the desired result unless we follow Jesus and do everything His way.

Earlier I mentioned that as I was preparing the pan-fried flounder, I often wondered why the Lagasse sisters told me to do some things. I don’t know them personally, so I couldn’t ask. It’s similar with Jesus. I do have a personal relationship with Him, and He doesn’t mind if I ask why. But He doesn’t always choose to answer this question. I think this is because He is teaching us to trust. We show our trust, we practice our trust, when we choose to follow Him no matter what. And in the end, this is healthy for us.

Jesus loves us. He wants what’s best for us. He’s continuing the work He has begun in our lives. Let’s cooperate. Let’s follow. Let’s trust.

Jesus, thank You for being perfectly trustworthy. Please help us to follow You faithfully each day.

Disclosure