“So the LORD said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A rod.'”
— Exodus 4:2
“And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.
But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.'”
— Exodus 14:15-16
I often lose focus looking at what’s happening around me.
As of late, I’ve felt inadequate, out of place and unwelcomed.
The Holy Spirit has given me these questions to recalibrate:
What’s in my hand? (What do I have that I can use?)
And, how can I use it to glorify God? (Exodus 4:2, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17)
To benefit the Body? (Romans 12:5-6, Ephesians 4:11-13, Galatians 6:10)
Or, to reconcile creation? (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)
These questions in this order help me to re-center my focus and to get back to being what God created me to be:
Before the problem existed, God provided everything I would need to move forward…
to His victory.
“as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue”,
— 2 Peter 1:3
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”
— 2 Corinthians 2:14-15
I recently got hit with something so hard that it made me question the nature of reality itself.
It caused me to question everything I believed was real, including God.
I cannot test spiritual things the same way I test physical things (scientifically) because I cannot control (harness, measure, manipulate, evoke, etc.) spiritual things in any way. (I find the true state of reality to be that I am not in control but am subject to powers that are.)
I can only observe where the spiritual current takes us.
“These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”
— 1 Corinthians 2:13
In the same way, my computer code cannot control (harness, measure, manipulate, evoke, etc.) anything I do not give it the ability and parameters for. The only way my code would know anything about my world is what I tell it or to the extent of the ability I give it to interact with my world.
The only way I know of spiritual things is what the Creator tells me.
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
— Deuteronomy 29:29
God has revealed that we were abiding in death and that He sent Jesus to save us,
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
— John 5:24
I claim that Jesus saved me out of the disastrous spiritual current that leads to death and put me on the path that leads to life.
How can I know that’s real? How can I test that?
I can observe where the spiritual current takes me.
Jesus claims to heal as an aspect of this salvation and The Way that leads to Life.
So, for me healing is one of many tests.
Have I been healed? Am I being healed? Or, am I just coping? Are my beliefs merely a coping mechanism?
A key distinction between managing symptoms and true healing is the restoral or establishment of healthy function. Has the ability that existed or would have existed prior to the disease or injury been restored?
I can say unequivocally: yes. I have been healed.
In the past, I had been mortally wounded spiritually, emotionally, psychologically to the extent there was real physiological damage.
My injury rendered me unable to relate to people, especially certain people, in a healthy way that led to our collective growth and improvement.
I was closed up and cut off, with severely diminished capacity to enjoy Life, as a result of the pain and, at times, a conscious decision in an attempt to protect myself.
“God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
— 2 Corinthians 4:6
now, I am wide open.
I do not have the resentment and bitterness that was keeping me secluded, that was killing me and that was keeping me from enjoying Life.
Do I still struggle?
But, the operation is complete.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
— 2 Corinthians 5:17
Notwithstanding, I’m in therapy to lift the dead layers of flesh, to work out the stiffness and atrophy sin causes, and to get full range of motion (sanctification).
This is where I observe the spiritual current of living water in Jesus Christ takes me: I have inextinguishable (eternal) Life that I didn’t have before that allows me to relate to others in a healthier way.
I may struggle with therapy —the sanctification process, but my healing is real.
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”
— 1 John 5:13
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
Every experienced traveler knows the key is to pack as lightly as possible.
It’s best to restrict yourself to the absolute essentials.
Every item beyond what is necessary is a burden. It makes travel that much more difficult.
And the further you have to go, the harder it makes it.
“But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
Every thing I acquire beyond what I need becomes a burden.
At the very least it becomes something I keep up with mentally: “Where is… ?”, “I thought I had…”
That sounds trivial but, at scale, with a house full of such things, it becomes a preoccupation: stuff to store, keep up with and protect.
And, you’ve never seen anyone travel with a house on their back.
“For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Stuff is a burden that keeps us stuck.
“But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
And many of us are enslaved to jobs just to keep stuff as it’s keeping us in the same place, all while being told that “success” is acquiring more stuff that really just results in us being more stuck.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
—1 Timothy 6:10
So, I’m seeking to lay aside this weight and I’m praying, asking God for wisdom, “How should I approach material goods? How can I avoid the peril you warn against in Mark 4:19?”
“and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
What I have so far is to regard everything I have as belonging to Christ and thinking how I can use it for His profit.
“Sell what you have and give to the poor; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
And, to approach any consideration of a new possession with the thought,
“Does Jesus need another…?”,
“Is this useful to Jesus?”,
“Does it help me be more useful to Jesus?”
“Is this something Jesus has given me to enjoy that I can enjoy without attachment?”
Because God does give us things to enjoy,
“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.”
—1 Timothy 6:17
But everything we think is good does not necessarily come from God.
Satan gives gifts too.
The key distinction is everything God gives results in us being closer to Him with greater knowledge of Him. Everything else is stuff that seduces us and lures our heart away from God.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
—1 John 2:15
In short: avoid stuff.
It slows me down and keeps me from the true riches.(Luke 16:11)
“Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.”
In Week 6 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness I give thanks to God for a mentor’s model.
A few days ago we had tacos and pound cake. It was the favorite foods of Josh Liddell, the son of Pearson and Pepper Liddell who they lost tragically.
It’s a sort of communion shared among people from all over the world in loving memory of him.
I remember at his funeral, during the family’s procession, my mentor Pearson Liddell, thrust his hands toward heaven and with a shout that was as much a heart-wrenching grief-stricken cry, yelled, “Hallelujah! I praise Your name Lord!”
That broke something in me.
It broke, if just for a moment, my preoccupation with this world that is passing away and shifted it toward what is and will be forever: eternal life through Christ with God and each other.
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
It shifted my focus to such powerful Life that it subdues even death, reducing it to “just sleeping” so that when we die, we await our rising with all those who have fallen asleep to a New Day that never ends where we’ll never be afraid again.
“These things He said, and after that He said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.'”
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.”
—1 Thessalonians 4:13
But, eternal life, as my mentor demonstrated, is not just something we look forward to for later. It’s something we have right now.
“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”
—1 John 5:12-13
Christ gives us inextinguishable Life now.
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?'”
This Life could not be suppressed or snuffed out even by the unbelievable pressure of an ocean of grief. In the midst of all they were going through, eternal life erupted and burst through to praise.
“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed– always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
—2 Corinthians 4:8-10
My mentors showed me what this means.
They made eternal Life real to me.
I am not saved just because I claim Christ.
The only way to be saved is to be found in Christ.
Christ is King.
To be in Christ means to recognize Him as Master and to gladly submit to His rule.
“Then [the thief on the cross] said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.'”
I will be judged according to which kingdom I’m in, the kingdom my heart has allegiance to.
My salvation is evidenced by which kingdom’s commands I obey, not which kingdom I claim.
“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”
Forgiveness is one of the foremost indications whether the Kingdom of God has jurisdiction in my heart.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.”
—2 Corinthians 13:5
In Week 5 of 52 Weeks Of Gratefulness, I give thanks to God for nickels.
I was around 6 years old when my dad was a student at Gammon Theological Seminary, and on this particular day I am on campus with him at the library.
I mimic my father. As he studied and wrote, I sat quietly and drew.
He then reached in his denim pocket and handed me fifty cents or so in nickels. They were for the copy machine. Copies were 5 cents a copy.
Once my masterpiece was complete, I’d walk intently (with excitement) to the copier, careful not to run. I’d stand in line to copy my work just like the grown-ups.
I don’t remember a single word being spoken but remember the feeling of having everything that I wanted or needed.
In that moment there was no where else I’d rather be.
I was just happy to be with my dad.
I’m so glad I had this moment with my father. It’s a beautiful memory that makes me smile to this day.
This is something every believer needs to know.
The chipper, everybody’s happy, dry tooth Christianity milled by the industrial church does not prepare believers for the reality and horrors of war they WILL face everyday.
In the world we are always in enemy territory and we are always under attack.
“We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.”
—1 John 5:19
The lies of the world hurt.
And those lies come through real hurtful events and real hurtful statements at the hands of real people with an aim to establish real hurtful outcomes that contradict the truth of what God says, how His kingdom operates and His desire for our lives.
So, we fight.
In the world, Satan’s kingdom is the default, and we are in the world, so we fight to establish God’s kingdom -in our hearts, in our homes, in the church, in our spheres and in every interaction that we have with others.
Faith in Christ is an embassy in hostile enemy territory. We can run to it and find shelter in it, BUT IT DOES NOT STOP THE PAIN of the lies or the difficulty of warfare that we must face every day.
Without knowing this, a believer could be tricked into thinking that God is not with them, that He’s displeased with them, that they’ve not done something right or that faith in Christ is not real.
We’re in enemy territory.
We must fight.
Fighting is hard.
It never stops being hard.
But, there is power available to us.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
But above all, we win.
We who are in Christ always win because He has won.
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”
—2 Corinthians 2:14
As we speak, the enemies of the kingdom of God are being subdued where there will be no kingdom besides His and where our King, Christ, is fully established as Lord of all.
“For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.
The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’
But when He says ‘all things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted.
Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”
—1 Corinthians 15:25-28
Then, finally, we can rest and war no more.
Until then, we must fight.
Fighting never stops being hard.
Life can be hard and good.
One thing the Bible clearly demonstrates is that everything that happens in this life and our response to it will be a sermon for someone.
It is written,
“we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”
And in another place,
“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
—1 Corinthians 10:11
The only question is whether my response to what happens in this life will be praiseworthy or a punchline?
Wherever you are or whatever you’re going through consider this:
How will my life be read?
Will I be a vessel of honor or dishonor?
Can God use me, where I am, in this situation, to put His glory on display?
Or, will I be a vessel storing up iniquity, as a chamber pot, collecting excrement to be discarded?
Either way, God is going to use everyone to serve His great house.
“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.
Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.”
—2 Timothy 2:20-21
Which vessel do I want to be?
In week 3 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks to God for a son and an eternal brother.
Marriage by the law gained me someone as dear as a son to me, my nephew, Devin Mabry, the son of my sister-in-law Gloria Harris.
Marriage to Christ by faith through the covenant of His blood has gained me a beloved and eternal brother, because Devin is now the son of God, the Father of our Lord and elder brother Jesus Christ.
He was just baptized.
Another brother, Jimmy Gant, said during a gathering, that the only thing you can take from this life to heaven is your loved ones.
I cannot express the deep gladness I have in knowing I will have someone so dear to me as Devin Mabry in this life and in the one to come.
Such joy is in my heart, pressed down, shaken together and running over.
Welcome, brother Devin.