Being His Hands and Feet

“The Messiah also suffered for you, 
leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 
 [as it is written in Isaiah 53:7]:  

“Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;” 
and while being reviled, He did not revile in return;  
while suffering He uttered no threats, 
but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”   
1 Peter 2:21-23

I grew up hearing lots of sermons and Bible lessons about “being Jesus’ Hands and Feet” in this world.  Lots of examples of how to serve our families . . . neighbors . . . world, using our energy in Godly, practical ways.  The world can glimpse and taste the heart of Jesus through our lives.

But recently I have been taking a closer look at the stories of Jesus as He faced His own looming physical experiences of His human hands and feet  in going to the cross.  

It’s one thing to consider His hands and feet as He moved about on this earth:  Walking through the land of Israel . . . stony dirt roads that he traveled, visiting fishing villages around the Galilee, hostile towns in Samaria, or the annual trips from Nazareth to Jerusalem for festivals with his friends and family.  Stories of desert travel, navigating through hilly terrain along rocky, dusty paths, Jesus passed through villages, both friendly and not. He moved through the Land of Israel teaching about Life…Love…and His Father’s love and glory.  Seashores, mountains, desert, and unpaved, stony roads are the setting for so many stories of Jesus’ Words and miracles as well.  

Those stories inspire us to step out of our familiar routines and make time to interact with people in practical, caring ways.  Like Jesus did.

But I had never given much attention to the “hands and feet” accounts of what Jesus experienced  in the hours leading up to His death on the cross.   At least, not in the implications of how I may be Called upon to use my own hands and feet in ways that would physically hurt for the sake of others.   That’s a whole different level of “being His Hands and Feet” to my world.

Being inconvenienced to serve others is one thing.  But to go to the point of real physical discomfort or pain for the sake of others is not what is common in our practical experiences of following Jesus.  What He endured through His crucifixion, both before and during the Cross, is far beyond what we can imagine.  What His Hands and Feet went through was excruciating.  And beyond that, there was the lashing of His back, the huge thorns in His head, the psychological torment, and more.  The emotional torment of experiencing God’s “abandonment” throughout the whole physical torture would have been incredibly brutal in itself.  Extreme public humiliation was woven throughout His trauma.

It was all on our behalf.

The next time you sing a worship song about “being His Hands and Feet,” don’t take it lightly.  For the sake of our lost world, it may cost far more than simply “giving” and “going.”  

Are we willing to bear that?

In the Shadow

“Whoever lives under the shelter of the Most High

 will remain in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Psalm 91:1

Do you ever struggle with being “in the shadow” of someone else?  Do you wish that you were in higher demand?   Do you see others getting credit or honor, and wish you could have a little of that?   Do you long to be in the spotlight….just once!?

I’d be surprised if everyone has not had those moments of wishing to be more “seen”…more noticed for the value of your life . . . that pat on the back, that word of appreciation, that moment of someone speaking an encouraging word, gratitude, or thanks for something they noted in your life.  You may not like being in the shadow.

The writer of this Psalm presents a different side to the Shadow-life.  

He sees living “under the shelter”  and remaining  “in the shadow” as something to be desired.  Something to hold onto for a long time . . . “living” in that reality.  

It’s about being near to God . . . ”the Most High. . . . the Almighty” in an on-going way.  It’s not simply a “moment” in life.  It’s “living and remaining”  in that reality every day.

Under the Shelter…”   A safe place.  A place where you feel protected from whatever harmful situation is near.  A shelter is not a “shelter” unless it’s a safe place of protection from a storm, or a bomb, or a violent attacker, or any other dangerous threat that brings fear to the heart and soul of a person.  God – “the Most High” – offers to be that Shelter for each of us.  He offers Himself as our safe place from far more than the physical dangers and fears that threaten our lives.  His “shelter” encompases our very souls . . . our hearts . . . our minds. . . pushing back all of the dangers and evils that lurk with the intent to destroy us.  No human or physical “shelter” can provide that kind of escape and safety,  His is not a physical structure.  He offers Himself as our ultimate Shelter.

“In the Shadow. . . “    To be “in the shadow” of anything involves a choice.  Shadows move, according to the movement of the Light that illuminates the object,  creating the shadow beyond.  The Shadow creates a place of relief from the heat of the sun, or the brightness of the Light.  In the desert camps, finding “shade”, the Shadow breaks the intensity of the heat of the sun.  The Shadow provides immediate relief, and becomes a place where you want to stay for a long time.  The object that stands between you and the intense Light becomes a relief . . . a refuge from the burning sun.

God IS the Shelter Who provides the Shadow for our lives.  And when He moves, I want to move with Him.  

Measuring with the Wrong Stick

“… Until we all come unto the measure

of the stature

of the fullness of Christ.”

Ephesians 4:13

I have a friend who is from a different country, but lives here in the US.   He owns property in his homeland, and still loves to return there for time with family and friends…lots of good memories.  

With his repeated visits to his homeland, he decided to build a house as an investment as well as for his own use when visiting there.  But he did most of the decision-making concerning the new building via telephone with his contractor.  He had his plans drawn out and sent to his builder.   But there was one detail that they both missed, because they were each using the measuring system with which they were each most familiar.  For the builder, it was in metric.  For my friend, it was feet and inches.  Not the same!

Because the systems of measure of each man was such an assumed, usual daily practice, it was never mentioned that one was thinking in metric, while the other was thinking feet and inches.  

When my friend went to see his new house for the first time, he was shocked to find that it was a very large house….far bigger than he had planned and expected!   They had used common numbers, but the values of the measuring system of each was very different.  They’d both made their own plans using their own measuring system, never realizing they were entirely different systems.  Everything had been built according to the plan.  But the end result was NOT!

We all tend to measure the realities of our lives according to the measurements used by our own little world.  We may silently compare our own life details with those of others . . . our looks, our homes, our children, our spouses, our jobs, our income, and even our spirituality.  But we don’t realize that we are “measuring” all of those things with our own system of measurement.  We’ve learned to assess values, sizes, talents, and lives according to our own frames of references . . . our own experiences in life.  We believe that our “measuring system” is true and common to everyone around us.

But we’re not using the correct measuring tool.  We’re just using our own device, or the measuring devices used by the people of our personal world.

The only True Measure is God’s. . . the Creator of All.   If we miss that foundational fact, we’re making constant mistakes concerning what should be.   

God, the Creator of All that exists, laid out tons of measurements for His Creation to follow . . . concerning the realities of this Earth, and the human race and how it was intended to work.  When we turn away from His Measuring Rod – His One Absolute, and begin using a different system, everything goes awry.  All that was Planned comes out way off from the Plan. . . relationships, homes, families . . . the Earth itself.

Our only True Measure is Christ Himself.  

What measures are you using?    

The Final Conclusion

“God’s way is perfect! 

The promise of the Lord has proven to be true. 

He is a shield to all those who take refuge in him.”    

Psalm 18:30

David . . . what a guy!   In the broad stroke, we see him as a boy facing deadly predators to protect his flock of sheep.  Alone.  As an older boy, he faces down a terrorizing giant, and kills him with one stone.  Alone.  As a man, he was pursued by the King of his nation…who was intent on seeing him dead.  And all along the way, he was pursued by enemies, not the least of whom was the Enemy of his soul.

But from those early years of life, he came to know his God, and had learned to follow Him, communicate with Him, and experience Him in every aspect of his life.  Through the good times, but even more so through the bad times….terrifying times….unjust times….lonely times….fallen times….he continued to hold tightly to the God he had come to know very personally.  

Some things in life seem to become much clearer with time.  As our years go by, we can look back and recognize His Hand in our lives much more clearly than when we were walking through those years.  

What has been His Promise to you?  His Word is full of them.  And He quietly reassures us in the midst of the worst times . . . if we have listened.  At times, if we are paying attention, He assures us before and in the midst of “the worst.”  Times when we desperately need to hold to His Promises….stand or crouch tightly behind His Shield . . .and find our Safe Refuge in His Presence in our lives.   Sometimes, it is hindsight that brings us undertanding

In practical realities, David’s life was far from “perfect.”  He encountered devastating tragedies in the midst of becoming and being a King.  But through it all, he was able to look back and say. . . sing . . . these words:   “God’s way is perfect.” 

May our times of looking back help us see how God’s “Way” has been perfect in our lives as well.  Probably not “perfect” in the reality of the experiences, but perfect in how He has used them in our hearts and lives.

May our hearts sing His Song.

Walking on the Mountains

“The Lord Almighty is my strength. 

He makes my feet like those of a deer. 

He makes me walk on the mountains.”

Habakkuk 3:19

There is a place in Israel, out in the arid desert, where the waters from Jerusalem,  having traveled underground through layers of rock, come gushing out into a beautiful oasis.  Watching the sparkling waters spilling out of the rocky cliff and into a pool of refreshing water is breathtaking.  Often, there are deer drinking at its edges, and feeding on the grasses there.  

Along the rocky path through the steep slopes, the deer are often spotted in those high places.  It is amazing to see them at such heights, looking down on the challenged humans gingerly invading their space.  As we reach out to grab a ledge or a tree branch, they gaze at us struggling through the valley, slowly making our way to the pools of living water that flowed underground all the way from Jerusalem, through solid rock.

I wonder if Habakkuk had found refreshment in that place.  I’m quite sure that David wrote of it…  this green, peaceful oasis surrounded by the stark desert.  There are natural caves high on the steep slopes. . . possibly the cave David wrote about when he spared Saul’s life.

Our God . . . our Lord Almighty . . . sometimes leads us through the desert.  It’s harsh. . . it’s hot and seemingly endless.  The desert is not a pleasant place, and even the most basic of human needs – water – is almost impossible to find.  Watching a deer scamper up the rocky slopes as I struggle to find my footing on the narrow path, grabbing for something solid to hold makes me envious, and in awe of their graceful beauty in their ascent.  Being “made to walk on the mountains” is tough . . . exhausting . . . scary.  

Sometimes God “makes me” walk on the mountains . . . which includes the climb to get there.

It requires tricky footing all along the way.  But He is there.  With me.  And when I reach the heights, exhausted and relieved, the View takes my breath away.

Unbroken

“Your King is coming to you.  

He’s gentle, riding on a donkey, on a colt,

a young pack animal.”

Matthew 21:5

Picture this:  Jesus is preparing to make a very public entrance into Jerusalem.  His fame has been mounting . . . crowds have  been growing . . . everyone was talking about Him, both fans and foes.  It seemed He was at the height of public attention and popularity.  Jerusalem was buzzing with the stories of this Prophet’s miracles and words. 

His chosen transportation for this grand entrance?   A donkey.  A young, unbroken donkey.  Everyone knew that trying to ride a young, unbroken donkey was downright dangerous.  Impossible! 

But Jesus was used to pulling the most unlikely into His work.  That donkey hadn’t been trained, or officially licensed, or most likely even considered for providing transportation for any person … much less a Prophet being lauded as a King!  The Messiah, no less!

Yet, at Jesus’ bidding, that’s what took place.  That young, unbroken donkey carried the King of Kings through the crowds of people waving palm branches, shouting “Hosanna!!”, all the way down the mountain slope and up to Jerusalem, where the Temple glistened in the sunshine.

Imagine, for a moment, that unbroken, young donkey’s experience.  It’s natural instinct would have been to go crazy and do whatever it could to escape the whole situation. . . including making it impossible for the rider to hang on.  

Has Jesus pulled you into service for Him in ways that seem to go against everything in you?

Have you experienced being “broken” in order for Him to use you for His Purposes?  Have you found yourself wading into groups of people who you find terrifying to be with?  You’re not “trained” for?  Hadn’t ever considered serving in the ways you’ve been commissioned to serve?

You feel totally out of your element?  You’re unqualified.  You always thought you’d spend your life doing basic, fairly familiar tasks. . . nothing even close to being in the spotlight with the King of all Kings.

Jesus left a trail of unqualified, uncertified, unexpected, and most unlikely humans in His time on earth.  And He continues to use people who have simply accepted His invitation to follow Him.  His closest circle while on earth included men and women, people who had been simply going about their rather ordinary lives.  But at His Invitation … His Choice, He pulls us near to Himself.  

In that closeness to Him, we become broken, and useful for His Purposes.  

Treasures of Darkness

“I will give you the 

Treasures

of darkness.”

Isaiah 45:3

The finest Lace is created in a dark room.  The intricate weaving of the fine threads takes place in a dark room. There is but one small window overhead through which the sun’s light beams onto the threads being delicately woven by hand.  Only the piece of lace emerging from the weaver’s fingers is illuminated.

There is a lot of darkness in life.  In the bigger picture, much of it is only momentary.  But there are those times . . . seasons . . . when the darkness seems to surround us.  We cannot see the path ahead.  We may not even be capable of seeing tomorrow.  We stumble over things on our way that we had not known were there.  We may not be aware of any others with whom we share the darkness.  The next step to take is not clear, and a sense of dread and fear begins to surround us, making its way into our thoughts . . . into our hearts.  

We long for some light.  We long to have a sense of ‘Where am I?”  “Where am I going?”   Fear begins its paralyzing work.

But God is there.  From the Beginning, He has brought His Light into our darkness.  It may seem like only a small flicker of Light, but it is enough to permeate the darkness, even if it seems but a little candle’s flame.  

When we find ourselves unexpectedly in darkness, the minutes seem to last longer.  Whatever we were doing slows or stops.  I stop.  Awareness of anyone else’s presence in the space becomes greater.  Interactions increase.  Focus changes.  

I’ll never forget sharing an elevator in a tall building with a deaf woman.  I barely knew her.  We had only nodded a simple acknowledgement to one another when we entered the elevator from the top floor.  The door closed, the descent began, …and all the power went out!  Elevator stopped.  Lights gone.  Utter blackness surrounded us.  And fear.  What was happening???    Then, her hand found mine, and we began fingerspelling into each other’s palms…Helen Keller style.  By the time the power returned, we’d made a very unexpected connection.  The moments of darkness created a moment of relationship.

The God of Light (“…in Whom there is no darkness…”) steps into our darkness and into our dark world, and “…then there is Light…”   The darkness makes us long for the Light.  

And He is there. . . intricately weaving the Threads that will create something very beautiful.

THAT Neighbor

“The commandments,  Never commit adultery; never murder; never steal; never have wrong desires;”  and every other commandment are summed up in this statement:  

                                 ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’

Love never does anything that is harmful to a neighbor. Therefore, love fulfills Moses’ teachings.”

Romans 13:9-10

She came riding up in a cloud of dust on her bicycle.  I’d never seen her before, and she was smokin’!   (Not a cigarette….it was more like coming out of her ears…)   I was new to the neighborhood, and wasn’t sure if this was a local custom of welcoming or what.  I greeted her with a smile and a friendly “Hello!”   She in turn, began shouting something about our chickens, her bird-feeder, and her sister’s dog.  Trying to push the image of the Wizard of Oz character on the bicycle out of my head, I gathered that our little brood of free-ranging chickens were visiting her birdfeeder each morning, scaring a small dog, and the rooster was announcing himself and his ladies far too early in the day.  

At the conclusion of her welcome-to-the-neighborhood speech, she climbed back onto her bicycle and disappeared into the cloud of dust from which she had come. (Heading to the house to report our ‘visitation’, I did give into the temptation to hum the little theme song from that bicycle scene in the movie.) 

It had been easy to “love the neighbor” directly next to us. So warm, friendly, hospitable.  But the Bike Lady was another thing.  

God doesn’t give exceptions to the Neighbor Rule.  In fact, that Rule sums up all of the Commandments and Moses’ teachings.  He provided a very basic practicum in living out all of those ageless Commandments. . . literally right next door.  

So next time you have a visitation from That Neighbor . . .  😉          

You get the Idea. . .     

Simple Faith

“If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree,

‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; 

And it would obey you.’”

Mark 11:22-23

While Jesus was here in human form, He often stopped to point out very simple realities of daily life.  He liked to challenge His close followers to believe God more than they did.  The miracles He showed them were done in His human form.  He didn’t “transform” into a different being, but remained in the human form in which He came to us.  He used practical things of life, and modeled to His followers what Faith and Trust in God could be and do.  There was a simplicity in His actions.  But Divine reactions took place.

When I was around 3 years old, my mama was laying on the living room couch and holding her ear, in obvious pain.  I remember her calling me over and, in tears, saying, “Honey, would you pray for Mama’s ear?  It hurts SO much!”  I put my hand on her “owie” and simply said, “Dear Jesus, please make my Mama’s ear get better….amen.”  She turned her head, looked at me, and said, “It’s gone!!   The pain is gone!  Jesus made it all better!  Thank You, Jesus!  Thank you, honey!” 

I went back to whatever I was playing with.  But I learned that day that I could ask Jesus for help, and that He would hear me.  He was there.  Pretty significant truths to get into my little heart.

There are so many examples in the Bible of Jesus’ interactions with nature and with people, and miracles that took place as a result.  He used an earthly simplicity that even a child could see and mimic.  It was another way that He stepped into our human reality and made a difference.  He demonstrated the possibilities.

But a Key piece of the picture lies in my (and your) own heart.  Do I believe Him?  Do I trust Him?  Whatever happens or does not happen . . . am I His?   

The Greatest Commandment

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, 

with all your mind, and with all your strength.

“The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. 

There is no other command greater than these.”

Mark 12:30-31

I am curious as to why God’s Word [aka Jesus] lists four specific commandments, and then lumps the other 6 of the 10 into “every other commandment.”   Are those 4 the most common ones we break, or the ones most important to God?   I don’t know, but He sums up all of the rest into a command to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.”   That is the simply stated bottom line.

God knows us SO well….He knows that we tend to analyze, dissect, and complicate everything.

And we look for “loopholes” that will get us out of hot water.  

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself” is as simple and basic as it gets.  We all have a neighbor on a practical level.  There’s always that “somebody” in our lives who is near enough to us that they can be an annoyance, irritation, or worse.  Even if you live miles away from the nearest neighbor, there’s always someone in our lives.

Maybe God chose the “neighbor” to keep these primary Commandments real and practical in our lives.   Not just “some nameless somebody out there” in our excuses.  God makes it clear that He cares about how we practice LOVE in everyday life, someone right next to us.  Up close.  Maybe it’s even in the “neighboring room” at home.  

God makes it as basic as it can get to obey His 10 Commandments…..LOVE the one nearest to us everyday, and measure how well you’re doing it by comparing that to how you love yourself…

Basic.  Practical.  All day long and through the night. Food. Water. Comfort. Rest.  Friendship.  

His Kindness and Mercy keeps it clear and simple in this complicated world we humans have created.

How are you doing?