"...be ye stedfast, unmoveable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know that your labour is
not in vain in the Lord."

17 September 2014

When a colleague fails ~

How are we supposed to act when a colleague sins?
It happens, and I’m not talking about the respectable sins with which we all struggle. I’m talking about the big ones – the ones that result in missionaries sent home from the field or pastors asked to leave their churches…

What are we to do? How are we supposed to act?
I know what sorts of behaviors and attitudes surface most naturally in me.
I criticize. Blame. Ostracize. Shame.
I want to gossip – even though I usually manage to restrain myself. I convince myself I could NEVER sin that sin – at least not the same way nor as sordidly as my colleague did… I sigh as I wonder how the ministry will ever weather the repercussions.
I want to disqualify that person from ever being part of “my team,” again. I might thank God for protecting me from such a wretched mistake, possibly praying, “Thank You, God, that I am not like those those who are unrighteous, who steal, those who commit <that really bad sin>… and Lord, especially that I’m not like____________” filling in the blank with the name of my “fallen” colleague.
Jesus had some pretty strong words for such an attitude...
Please jump on in to the discussion of this topic @
where I'm posting today!

15 September 2014

Encountering Jesus ~ Authority and Authorization

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. (John 10.1-6)
There is no indication that at the beginning of this chapter, there is either a new audience or a new theme. Rather, it is a continuation of the discussion from the previous chapter, where not only did the Pharisees insist that their spiritual vision was 20/20, they also persisted in encouraging other Jews to follow them, confident that shepherding the people was their responsibility and that they were the infallible guides for an ignorant populace. The very ones who should have been the first to recognize the prophesied Messiah, welcomed Him as the Good Shepherd and then led others to follow Him - always decreasing so that He might increase (as John the Baptist said)??? ...they were the very ones seeking most emphatically to discredit Him and discourage others from seeing Him and seeking after God. Perhaps most serious of all, they presumptuously sought to exert control over the people of Israel.

In response, Jesus uses a triad of illustrations, ones with which his audience would be very familiar. Several prophets (Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah) used similar imagery to describe true and godly leaders verses false teachers, prophets and leaders. The prophets anticipated a future time when a good Shepherd would come, fulfilling all  that God expected and desired. Shepherds were common in the Jewish culture - think of all if the biblical accounts that include shepherds as part of the narrative. Think of all of the well-known shepherds in Israelite history - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons, Moses, David, the shepherds to whom the angels announced Jesus' arrival.

First, Jesus says the Good Shepherd will be identified by how He arrives. And that is through the gate. A thief or a robber will have to find some unauthorized way to sneak in. The genuine Good Shepherd will come with confidence - authority and authorization - and will seek entrance... or audience with the people... through only legitimate and straightforward, upfront means. 

I wonder if perhaps John the Baptist was an example of a gatekeeper?

The sheep hear and respond to the voice of their Good Shepherd because of trust, faith and a history of past experience where the One associated with that voice has cared for, provided for, led, protected... in other words, shepherded. I've heard it said that sheep need a leader, not because they are dumb - but rather because they understand that alone, they are weak. Their Shepherd is their benefactor. He also knows each one by name. Each member of the flock is unique and an individual to the Good Shepherd. That speaks to the intimacy with which the Good Shepherd knows each member of His flock.

Perhaps the most striking-for-me words in this particular passage are the words "he goes on ahead of them." While living in Niger, we saw flocks of sheep - every day. As my husband likes to point out, there were typically two kinds of shepherds: those who walked on ahead and the sheep followed willingly... or those who drove their sheep forward in front of them, often beating them with their staff to keep them moving. 

Jesus is a Shepherd to be followed. He goes before us - leading, providing, protecting. He is also our example. We who follow Him should tread in his steps: graciously, humbly, lovingly, patiently, teachably, sacrificially... yet confidently because when we hear His voice, we know it. We recognize Him, His majesty, His authority and His unchangingness.

He is the Good Shepherd. 

If only the Pharisees had understood. 

this week's gratitude list

(#'s 4820 - 4851)
Elsie Mae's is 8

and she's out of her booster seat

which makes her very, very happy

planning a birthday party

praying for a successful driving test for a driver in training this week

hearing about (and celebrating) the engagement of a very special young guy

youth group kick off

an early fall cold snap

goldenrod blooming gold along the side of the road, making me smile. I LOVE wildflowers!

family over for Sunday afternoon dinner

Anna and Elsa dolls

hearing my boy play his flute again, with the orchestra at church



being asked what "born again" means by some guys who really seemed to listen to the answer

challenging, provoking fb conversations

internet that is at least sort of working... even amid the frustrations of the ways it isn't working

a rootbeer float... because I haven't had one in such a long, long time

the end of a long week

meeting friends we've not seen in over 5 years last Monday night

watching my big girlies (the ones that remembered) hug that missionary aunt and uncle

finally figuring out where Elsie Mae's original Nigerien birth certificate is

renewed passports

homemade ice/gel packs (super easy and convenient, by the way!)

great initial meeting with a physical therapists - hopeful that there will soon be a full return to strength and movement without pain

friends who bring us dinner for no reason other than they want to love on us

great carnival weekend at our church

hot air balloons floating over our house

big girls going out with friends

watching others who are willing to learn and change as they invest in the lives of the international students attending Calvary

so many adults who've invested in and impacted my children... and hearing my biggers talk about what that means to them

realizing anew how overwhelming God's simple goodness to us can be

Ten most recent posts in this series: 
Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.

14 September 2014

Longevity in Ministry ~ The essentials? Or merely superfluous? ~

Several weeks ago, I started a series that I'm hoping will be both a challenge and encouragement to you, based off of a sermon by the senior pastor at my sending churchThe first post focused on that oxymoron that the God is sovereign, but that men are also responsible. Imagining those two truths as a horseshoe where, as mere humans, we only see and comprehend the ends. God, on the other hand, looks at the whole and thus can see how two things that appear contradictory do actually work together. The second post considered one of the ends of that horseshoe: trusting God, not only because He is sovereign - but because He is sufficient in that sovereignty. The third post explored the other end of that horseshoe and specifically what God's Word says about obedience and abiding in Christ.

2003 study on missionary retention/attrition observed that the number of missionaries leaving missions for preventable reasons is increasing. One of the interesting details...

To read the rest, please join me over at Missionary Mom's Companion, where yesterday, I continued a series on this topic of longevity in ministry.

12 September 2014

Five Minute Friday ~ Ready ~

"On your mark... 

     Get set... 


Sometimes, some days, (okay - if I'm honest, most days) parenting feels like a race... and I'm always a few steps behind!

Chasing them out of bed in the morning... chasing them to the breakfast table... chasing them out of the little parent bathroom upstairs to the nice, big kid bathroom downstairs... chasing them out of my bedroom so I can use the mirror to fix my hair... chasing them out the door to school and then later out the door to home... chasing them back up the stairs to pick up their backpacks and school paraphernalia...

Always racing, always chasing...

Today, I want to stop, though... freeze this moment in time... for just a moments... 

to soak it in deep before time continues racing along and they all continue growing up. Not that I want them to stop growing up... I really wouldn't want it any other way, actually. Does that make me a strange mama? I love watching them living life, partnering with their daddy as we disciple this gang just thrills and delights - at least most days. Seeing Jesus grow them in grace and in the knowledge of Him? That just bowls my heart right over.

She's eight.


And boy, oh boy! Is she ever ready to...


 Yes, for my Elsie Mae, this eighth birthday is a momentous one.

Just because of that!


She's ready, alright.

I really did allow her to go traipsing around Niagra Falls dressed in a sundress and snowboots.

Happy birthday, sweetest birthday girl!

08 September 2014

Encountering Jesus ~ "I just don't get it? Why didn't they understand?" ~

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. (John 10.1-6)
John 10 appears to continue directly from where John 9 ended. Jesus is still addressing the Pharisees. At the end of chapter 9, He had informed them that they were blind, spiritually. Jesus wanted them to understand that because of their refusal to let Him help them see, their sin remained. As such, they stood guilty before a God they knew beyond any shadow of doubt to be immeasurably holy.

In chapter 10 Jesus continues trying to teach those stubborn Pharisees using one of my favorite images and ways to think of Jesus... as the Good Shepherd. There are so many passages that speak of the Savior as a shepherd. Many are found in the Old Testament:
  • Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. (Eze 34.23)
  • For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2.25)
  • When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. (Mark 6.34)
  • The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. (Eccl 12.11)
  • The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want... (Psalm 23.1)
  • But He led forth His own people like sheep And guided them in the wilderness like a flock. (Psalm 78.52)
  • Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth! (Psalm 80.1)
  • Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. (Is 40.11)
  • "I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest," declares the Lord GOD. (Eze 34.15)
  • Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, And declare in the coastlands afar off, And say, "He who scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock." (Jer 31.10)
  • "Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding. (Jer 3.15)
  • "I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing," declares the LORD. (Jer 23.4)
  • And I will bring Israel back to his pasture and he will graze on Carmel and Bashan, and his desire will be satisfied in the hill country of Ephraim and Gilead. (Jer 50.19)
  • And the LORD their God will save them in that day As the flock of His people; For they are as the stones of a crown, Sparkling in His land. (Zech 9.16)
When I read those verses in John 10, Jesus refers to an example that the prophets, the psalmists, had used before: that of God providing a Good Shepherd to care for the flock of Israel. Does anyone else wonder at that? The list of verses above is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a comprehensive list of all the Old Testament verses that talk about a The Shepherd that God would one day send to His people.

Why didn't they get it? How could they not see it? With all their "book" knowledge, how could they miss this clear reference... this clear picture... that can be found throughout the Law and the Prophets?

Jesus spoke using a figure of speech, a parable, a simile, an imaginative comparison... a saying intending to teach. Matthew Henry says of this fact: 
...the Pharisees, who were confident of their own position, and gloried in their influence over men, and whose moral nature was steeled and armed to resist even a possible reference to themselves as "thieves," or "robbers," or "aliens," and who would not admit any of Christ's claims to their own disparagement, understood not what things they were which he was saying to them. The blind man had heard [the Messiah's] voice, obeyed, found healing, advanced step by step from a bare knowledge of "a man Jesus" to a confession of him as one empowered by God; to a belief that he was a "Prophet," able to relax Mosaic Law; and finally to a ready acknowledgment that he was the Son of God. The Pharisees were conscious of neither need, nor blindness, nor desire of salvation, nor of the Shepherd's care or grace. They will not go to him for life. They can make nothing of his enigmatic words. They take counsel against him. Their misconception contrasts strongly with the susceptibility of the broken-hearted penitents."
This reality sobers me.

Just like with the man born blind's Jesus encounter and the Pharisees' response - it has me asking where I'm blind and my own arrogance and pride prevents me from even recognizing that blindness, where I'm missing out on what God has already clearly explained in His Word.

Maybe the best words with which to close today~

Open my eyes that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.

  Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me,
    Spirit Divine!

Open my ears that I may hear
Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
Everything false will disappear.

Open my mouth and let me bear
Tidings of mercy everywhere;
Open my heart and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.

Open my mind that I may read
More of Thy love in word and deed;
What shall I fear while yet Thou dost lead?
Only for light from Thee I plead.

photo credit: karah24 via photopin cc

this week's gratitude list

(#'s 4791 - 4819)

meeting the cutest little porcupine pup (?) ever

a great group of international students and I'm privileged to be their ESL teacher this year

getting nipped by a red-tailed hawk -- means I was close enough to actually see such a magnificent animal up close and personal

memories of watching shepherds in Niger

a new hymn album

being reminded of a song (Open My Eyes) of which I'd not thought for a long time

really special Saturday with my Tori-girl - she got to go on an animal rescue and be present for the release of a merlin

picnic with the youth group staff

finding some great online tools to use for ESL

listening to my high schoolers chatter about their new Chromebooks and etextbooks... and help each other when they get stuck

the humor in the fact that my 4th and 2nd grader LOVE homework... while my kindergartner says "Stink it!" every single time

growing bobcat kitty

Saturday night sleepover with a friend who has the best belly laugh EVER!

watching my kiddos grow up and slowly become more responsible

Rebekah's started her new job

everyone is enjoying volleyball

hoping that the crawdad that went missing from a tub in our house doesn't start to stink

a few text conversations with friends that just made me smile

one week of school under the belt

reading a couple of really great books and then being able to share them with a really great friend

our support level slowly keeps creeping upwards

a friend and a loved one who've been in the hospital is finally home... the privilege of praying for those we know and love

a pile of books I'm trying to work my way through

listening to Elsie Mae read to Mary Michelle

planning a birthday party

anticipating a graduation from a booster seat to a regular seatbelt....

...and the resulting promotion from car seat to booster! They are growing up!

hoping our internet start being more cooperative... soon!

Ten most recent posts in this series:
Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.


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