ARM Blog

Recently we tried a restaurant that re-opened under new management. Going in, we were seated in a section that required ascending tiled steps that were not only slick, but also had no railing. While waiting for our server, we noticed that this room appeared to be a cut-through for numerous restaurant employees.

After taking our order and carefully navigating the steps, our server returned carrying a tray of four full tumblers. As she approached our table, she spotted a puddle on the steps. Simultaneously, an elderly couple entered the room escorted by the hostess. Sensing impending catastrophe, the server, tray-in-hand, pointed her head towards the hazard, and kindly asked a passing cook to wipe up the water using the towel on his shoulder.

Thinking this was a "no-brainer," I fully expected the young man to offer an affirmative team-player response of "whatever it takes." Instead, he boasted: "That is not my job. Get the busboy to do it. I didn't come here to mop floors, I came here to cook."

Reflecting on that incident, the Holy Spirit gently reminded me that I sometimes act the same way: when opportunity to serve is overridden by my pride, and when opportunity for compassion is overridden by my agenda.

The CEB translation of Proverbs 14:4 reads: "When there are no oxen, the stall is clean, but when there is a strong bull, there is abundant produce." The pursuit of a great harvest is not a sanitary process. Oxen need to be fed, and then they digest that food, and then... well, you know. The reality is that the joy of the harvest far outweighs the inconvenience of the process.

Pursuing spiritual harvest is equally unsanitary. Life's circumstances are often messy and complicated. But those who are in the midst of crises need those around them to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Recall, when the High Priest Joshua stood before the angel of the Lord in filthy garments. The angel spoke to those around Joshua, "take off his filthy clothes." It was those around Joshua who dressed him in royal garments (Zechariah 3:3-5). When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and he came out of the tomb with his feet bound, hands tied, and face covered with a cloth, Jesus spoke to those around him: "untie him and let him go" (John 11:38-44). It was those around the paralyzed man who found no other way to lay him before Jesus, except by carrying him "up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus."

Perhaps there is someone around you weighed down by filthy garments of sin, shame, or disgrace. Or maybe there is someone around you who is bound by the grave clothes of their past. Is there someone around you who is emotionally or spiritually paralyzed by life circumstances? Maybe the Holy Spirit has pointed them out to you so that you would be one of those around them who would take the risk, step out, and minister to them. The harvest will be worth it!

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(This is a “first world problem” warning.)

As I was getting ready for church one Sunday, I decided to turn on the TV to get an update on the news. I don’t know if it was because our set is old, or because we don’t have a lot of cable channels, but as I surfed, a black screen with white text saying, “Not available with your subscription" kept coming up.

(If you are still reading this, and are beginning to cringe, remember that I warned you this was a first world problem).

The first couple of times “Not available with your subscription” appeared, I just ignored it and kept pressing the forward button on the remote. But the 5th and 6th blast of “Not available with your subscription” became irritating. It was a petty, capitalistic, first world taunt of insufficiency.

(I told you it was whining).

Reading that distorted “you don’t have enough” statement over and over again, reminded me how the enemy of our soul, the “father of lies,” often suggests the very same thing. Seeking to distort our view of God, satan insinuates that “God is not enough,” “God is punishing you,” or “God is withholding from you.” If we consistently entertain those thoughts, we establish a pattern of thinking that is contrary to our knowledge of God.

How do we resist those implications? The Message paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 reminds us that it is the Truth of God that smashes “warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God.”

So, I stood for a moment, and began to “take my thoughts captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5). While I began to give gratitude to God, “all” Scriptures began to flood my mind. Lies seeking to set themselves up against my knowledge of God were demolished by the Truth: we have all things needed for life and for godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). God forgives all my iniquities and heals all my diseases (Psalm 103:3). God is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).

Perhaps the enemy has been relentlessly whispering the lie that God is “not available,” or “not sufficient” for what you are facing. It is time for you to demolish the lying arguments of the enemy with the Truth of God. Rejoice in the fact that God will supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19). Rest in the assurance that all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26) through Christ, the One in whom all the fullness of God dwells, who has been given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Receive God’s promise today!: “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure and purpose” (Isaiah 46:10).

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Using a gift card I received for Christmas, I made an on-line purchase and had the product shipped via a delivery service. The electronic receipt included a link that allowed you to track the shipping progress. In addition to knowing the anticipated delivery day, I could also follow the "tracking details" of its arrival and departure at each hub on the journey to its final destination.

While the concept of having more information seems like it would have been helpful, I actually found myself distracted by it. How did it get there so fast? Why did it sit for so long at that location? Why is it going to take another three days to get to me when it is practically in my back yard now?

As I reflected on my preoccupation with the timing of this promised arrival, the Lord gently revealed the fact that I had questions echoing in my own heart about His delivery fulfillment. That painful revelation triggered a simple prayer of invitation for God to search my heart. In His love, He exposed residue of discouragement about yet-to-be fulfilled promises I felt He had spoken to me and to Aldersgate Renewal Ministries. He also mercifully identified the fact that I was frustrated with His seeming unwillingness to answer my fleshly demands for "tracking details" with anything more than a gently spoken, "Trust Me."

Was He mad at me? No. Was He irritated with me? Absolutely not. Did He love me enough to reveal things that were cluttering my heart and mind and hindering deeper intimacy with Him? Yes, indeed.

Perhaps today you find yourself carrying disappointment, discouragement, or even frustration with God's delivery fulfillment. Would you confess those things to the One who knows your heart already? Would you invite Him to remove that build-up and to fill you afresh with His Spirit? Much like He extended grace to Habakkuk waiting for vision, I believe He says to you today, "though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come" (Habakkuk 2:3). Rest in the assurance that at the end of this journey of faith, you will echo the words of Joshua, "Know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one thing of them has failed" (Joshua 23:14).

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Recently I watched a TV program called "What Would You Do?" The show explores how people respond when they are thrust into real-life ethical scenarios. As a developing leader, eager to learn how to consistently make wise decisions, I really enjoy watching the conclusion of the show where the people explain why they reacted the way they did. I love discovering what they were thinking, what factors they were weighing in their mind, and particularly, what the tipping point was that led them to make the decision to act or to not act.

As you can imagine, when I came across one of those "What Would You Do?" moments in Scripture, my leadership ears were perked. In the Gospel narrative of the Christmas story, we discover a man named Joseph, thrust into the middle of a supernatural ethical scenario. The Message describes the circumstances this way: "The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn't know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced (Matthew 1:18-19).

On a horizontal level, his motivation in that cultural environment, his passion to preserve the dignity of the one he loved, and his pursuit of what appears to be the "path of least relational carnage" in a very awkward situation all appears noble and logical. But, hear me, wise decision making requires more than horizontal rationale, it requires divine interaction.

The J.B. Phillips New Testament continues the story: "But while he was turning the matter over in his mind an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife! What she has conceived is conceived through the Holy Spirit, and she will give birth to a son, whom you will call Jesus ('the Saviour') for it is he who will save his people from their sins.'"

I am so grateful for the "Divine Insistence" of God. This vertical intervention, so to speak, was the avenue of grace that empowered Joseph to make the wise decision to embrace temporal relational awkwardness for the sake of eternal blessing for everyone.

Perhaps you are facing one of those "What Would You Do" moments as you are reading this. Even now, as you are "turning the matter over in your mind," take time and ask God what He thinks! The Alpha and Omega, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent Abba, Father wants to guide you to make the right and wise decision. Not sure you have the words? Why not pray Psalm 25 as a starting place, then be still and listen for God's answer.

Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.

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While Christmas is celebrated in a holiday song as the “most wonderful time of the year,” a recent poignant Facebook post pointed to the contrary. The simple plea of a tender heart read, “can we just fast forward to January 2nd?” Indeed, the breadth and depth of feelings that are associated with this season can consume like an unavoidable emotional abyss.

In my own faith journey, this season has been associated with both the joy and laughter of the birth of a child and the sorrow and tears of the death of a parent. Desperately wanting to stay focused on Christ, God has often supplied vocabulary to pray through the lyrics of Charles Wesley’s 1744 Advent hymn, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.” This rescuing prayer celebrates Jesus as “Israel’s strength and consolation”, “hope of all the earth,” and “joy of every longing heart.” More recently, God has been using a Spoken Word Poem written by my daughter, Rachel, to shape my prayers. Based on her daddy’s song “You Are the One,” she writes:

You are the One who sees me.

At my best; At my worst
At the crossroads between good intentions and living in Your presence.

You are the One who hears me when I call.
When the only constant in my life is the hollow wind whispering to my loneliness…

Even when I run away from You…
Except that running away is just running in circles.

You still speak my name, calling me back to You.
Eventually, I will have a head-on collision with Your mercy.

Even when my enemies oppress, and my soul is in distress…
When giving up seems easier than giving into Your Spirit.

I will run into the shelter of You.
Where I can rest… Where Your grace gives power to my purpose.

In You I find the grace to stay, and face the trials in my way…
Your gentle hands preparing my fingers to grab hold of the victory You've ordained

You'll sustain and strengthen me as I go through…
You'll strengthen me!
I will reach my hand to interlock my purpose with Your power.

You are the One
Who opens pathways through oceans so everyone will notice Your beauty within me.

You are the One who sees me.
At my best and at my worst.

You see beauty in the midst of ashes.
You are the One who sees me.

Perhaps this Advent and Christmas season isn’t “the most wonderful time of the year” for you, and you’ve found yourself echoing that fast-forward prayer of avoidance. Be encouraged: God’s outpoured rescuing grace in Christ Jesus can bridge the span of emotions we experience during this season. God not only sees and hears you, but will rescue you, set your feet on a rock, and will give you a firm place to stand (Psalm 40:1-3). He will keep you in perfect peace as you receive His gift of grace to fix your thoughts on Him (Isaiah 26:3).

[Not familiar with the song “You are the One”?  Listen and download the song for free!]

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