Captain No Name

  

Luke 7:1-10 NLT

“When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people, he returned to Capernaum. At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.” So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.”

If I could acquire any person’s faith from the New Testament it would be this man’s. The unnamed Roman centurion/captain. “What??”, you might say, “Not the great Apostle Paul’s?” Heck no, God had to knock him off his donkey and blind him just to get his attention. Actually, I don’t really know if Saul/Paul was riding a donkey or anything else. The scripture says he “fell”, I just love the visual of Saul being knocked off his “high horse”. No, give me the faith of “Captain No Name”. Because Jesus was A M A Z E D by this man’s faith!

Who was this man? He didn’t even grow up in a religious home. At least not in a Jewish, “There is one God and His name is Jehovah religious home”. Yet, he took the measure of faith that God gave him (Romans 12:3) and honored Him by acts of generosity and respect specifically towards the people of God. He built a church/synagogue for the local Jewish people. But the event that really captures my admiration is initiated by this man’s compassion. He had a slave that was ill and he heard about Jesus the Healer. So he sent word to Jesus. He reached out on behalf of what was culturally considered “property” and asked for help- healing for a person he valued.
 He reached out with humility. He sent Jewish elders, highly respected people and they petitioned on Captain No Name’s behalf. They didn’t tell Jesus the merits of the slave, his incredible work ethic and efficiency and why He should be healed. They pleaded earnestly with Jesus regarding the centurion and said, “Jesus, help him. He deserves this!” Jesus responds. Our Savior responds to need, it is why He came. He starts walking toward the centurions house and is intercepted by men that the captain sent with a message. Basically translated, “I’m not worthy for you to come to my house. But I am so confident of your authority and power that I believe if you just speak the word for my servant to be healed, he will be healed.”

Jesus was amazed by his faith! He said so. There is only one incident recorded in scripture that elicited the “Jesus was amazed” response. It is in Mark 6 regarding his hometown, the people Jesus grew up with, the ones that knew his family and saw him up close for years. He was amazed at their unbelief! The scriptures say because of this Jesus was only able to heal a few of them. The people who had the closest proximity to Jesus, the most familiarity, the result – unbelief. How sad.

I want to AMAZE Jesus with my faith. I want to approach Him in genuine humility understanding His great authority and power. I want to take Him at His word. I want to believe Him for the impossible in my life and on behalf of the lives of others. I want to be like “Captain No Name”!

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Work or Run?

  

 I have worked outside the home since the age of 15, my first job was as a cashier. I quickly decided I did not like standing in one place for hours on end and started working for a dentist at the age of 16. I worked in the dental field as a receptionist, then became certified in expanded duties as an assistant, then orthodontics, insurance, billing and everything in between for the last 44 years. When I became a mom at age 25 I worked outside (for a dentist of course) and inside my home. When I was 30 and pregnant with our third child, my husband and I sold our house in Tampa and moved to Texas to go to seminary. I became a virtual single parent for almost four years as he worked and went to school full time. I juggled husband, kids, seminary classes, church and homemaking and an occasional side job of house cleaning. I know what it is to work.

Genesis 2:15 -“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” 

When God first assigned Adam work in the garden it was designed to be fulfilling and productive. Without the blight of sin, work was totally satisfying. With Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey God – work became, well… “work“! But as with all things the enemy and sin has corrupted God redeems as we surrender. 

Colossians 3:22-24 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” 

Do you embrace the work that God has put in front of you or try to escape it? Because if you are a follower of Christ it is about YOU being conformed to His image and thereby pointing others to Him. It’s not about having the right job, making the right amount of money ( I’m not telling you to get a crummy low paying job.) It’s not about as a homemaker having all the latest appliances, a bedroom and bathroom for each person in the family, a spiritual husband and children that rise up everyday and call you blessed (Proverbs 31:28) although all those things can be helpful and encouraging. It’s about us recognizing God as sovereign over our circumstances and knowing He can change them at anytime. Understanding that He wants to use our situation to make us more like Jesus. Listen to that first phrase in the Colossians passage- “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything”. Paul didn’t address whether slavery was right or wrong, he didn’t encourage slaves to seek their freedom. He instructed them to do their work with excellence and enthusiasm out of devotion to the Lord, confident that He would reward them in eternity. We are called to work with all of our hearts as if we are working for Jesus. In order to embrace our mission we must first surrender.

Will we surrender? That is the question. And that is also my struggle, because it is dynamic and daily, not merely a one time decision. As I’ve moved through various stages of life God has presented many opportunities for me to surrender my work to Him, to perform tasks, not just for a salary, but to do my work as unto the Lord. To be an example to the people I work with and to look for opportunities to point them to Jesus. I have failed often, occasionally I have succeeded. It is definitely challenging to be Christlike in the workplace. There is always the temptation to get sucked into pettiness, one-upmanship, gossip, and greed. But my greatest challenge was not in the workplace, but in my home.

In 2002 my mom moved in with us. My dad had passed away years earlier and my mom was tired of living alone. Shortly after she moved in she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. All three of my children still lived at home. My eldest would leave for college the next year. To say this was a big adjustment is an understatement. My mom and I had always been close, prior to her moving in we had talked and prayed for years about consolidating our households. My husband and I had even bought property to build a big new house that would accommodate all of us more comfortably. We subsequently sold the lot and decided to take the conservative route and make do with our 2200 square feet -4/2 older home. Still, I looked forward to the additional help around the house, doing Bible studies together, long conversations and girly get togethers with my mom and sisters. Instead, I was “trapped” in my own home with a confused, frightened, startled by loud noises, stuck in the past elderly person that daily became farther from the loving and unselfish mother I had always known.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to do this “work” that God called me to well. I wanted to love and care for my mom, but I also wanted to enjoy life as I had know it. I didn’t want someone following me around the house looking distressed all the time. I wanted to come and go as I pleased without making arrangements and having to deal with the resistance. I didn’t want to surrender or embrace the means God had allowed for me to become more Christlike. I took care of my mom and I also tried to escape. The means of escape were indulgence, distracting myself, and even trying to hide in my own house. The end result, instead of the fruit of the Spirit being birthed in me, the fruit of the flesh was -frustration, anger, self pity, and guilt.

Many would say of that time in my life, “It was a hard job, you did the best you could. You loved your mom and you did take care of her.” But I know what Jesus wanted to accomplish in that season of my life. He wanted me to embrace the mission with all of my heart confident that He was in control and would produce something far better than my immediate comfort.
What job, mission, or work has God called you to in this season of life that you are resisting and failing to embrace? Are you looking for Jesus to change your circumstances or you? 

God is so gracious and merciful that if we fail He often allows a “redo”. Six months ago my son, his wife, his children ages 14, 7, 5 and 3 moved in with us. My space, privacy, order, quiet atmosphere is gone. We have all had to work to accommodate one another. There have been many times I’ve wanted to run and hide and occasions when I have. But I am striving daily to surrender and embrace the work God has called me to. In my heart I don’t want to retreat and escape the means that He has divinely appointed for me to become more like Jesus. I want to remember, “It is the Lord Jesus Christ I am serving!”

(This post was first delivered as a devotional talk at The Well-a women’s  bible study and training ministry.)

   

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Cape Town- S & S

imageOn the heels of my posting about visiting the beautiful country of South Africa and specifically the incredible city of Cape Town, I intended to publish some of my pictures with a little commentary about my experiences. Then I received news from my traveling partner Jen about a tragedy in the township of Masiphumelele where we had visited on Monday prior to our departure. Suddenly my pictures seemed trivial.
A teenager, Amani Pula, who had been a long time member of Living Hope Ministries kids club was brutally raped and murdered in his home before school. Another young woman was raped the same morning. Vigilantes thinking they had found the culprit and fed up with the lack of police response burned to death an innocent man and severely assaulted another. The community is in a state of anger and outrage. The kids are fearful for their safety. Parents are filled with anxiety.
Why? Sin and suffering. I hope you don’t view this as being overly simplistic, because I know the issues are deep and manifold. Poverty, addiction, perversion, dysfunction, these are all symptoms. What happened to Amani, a wonderful, bright, athletic boy was the result of sin. The Bible states it clearly in Romans 6:23- “The wages of sin is death…” When people choose to operate apart from God, and His perfect way, the result is death. Death of opportunity, relationship, peace and well being. Death of children, death of reason, order and justice.
Death brings sorrow. Sorrow for Amani’s mother, sorrow for the friend who discovered his body, for other family members and friends, for those at Living Hope Ministries who enjoyed him for years at Kids Club. Sorrow even for this American who visited the wonderful people and community of Masiphumelele. The contrast between what I experienced on Monday morning and the violence that occurred on Tuesday fills my heart and soul with grief. What sorrow sin brings!
Please pray for S. Africa, pray for Masiphumelele, pray for all who loved and experienced the loss. And pray for your country, community, family and friends. Pray for yourself. Pray that people would know the peace that can be ours in Christ Jesus, because, as the Bible clearly tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes (trusts in, relies on, clings to) Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”(John 3:16-17). Amani believed this and though this world has lost him, he is not lost. He is alive in the presence of God where sin and sorrow are no more.
The header on this post is for Amani. It’s a picture of a beautiful shoreline in Cape Town, because one day I’ll meet him on a different beautiful shore.

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My Non-Mission Mission Trip

IMG_3066I’m in Cape Town, S. Africa with only two days remaining of my seven days here. I came to see first hand the work of Living Hope Ministries which you may check out via an excellent video they produced at https://vimeo.com/124511128 I was encouraged, strongly urged, forced compelled 😉 to come by my friend Jennifer Pence (who “incidentally” has a blog about her many trips & experiences to Cape Town @ http://www.jennifer4africa.weebly.com/ ) and the founders of Living Hope John and Avril Thomas who I had the pleasure of visiting personally with in the states. Jen and I hoped to gain a vision of how First Lutz could meet a specific need of Living Hope Ministry (Hereafter referred to as LHM) that we could present to our mission pastor on our return.

I think that was the idea….I had all my usual fears and doubts prior to leaving that I typically experience. Why am I going? Wouldn’t the money be better spent just sending it directly to LHM? What can I do to help these people whose needs are so great? We have plenty of needy people in N America, I don’t have to go to another country to help people. Our church already has several mission commitments, I’ll never convince them to take on another?

You get it…so I did what any normal believer would do. I prayed and prayed, then I got on the plane and trusted that God in His goodness & grace would lead. Thirty hours later we arrived in Cape Town.

We were “fetched” from the airport, as they say here, by Frans, a totally lovely, patient man and very skilled driver for The Team House where we would be staying.

The following morning we began the whirlwind week of visiting the various branches of LHM inter spliced with sightseeing, coffee drinking, and delicious dining. I confess right now it was the most pleasurable “mission trip” I’ve ever been on and I felt slightly guilty. If you are interested in the specifics of our daily activities and visits to the hospice care, drug rehabilitation, home healthcare visits or kids/teens club, by all means check out Jennifer’s blog site. She posted pics and comments nearly every day.

Cape Town is such a place of contrasts. The natural beauty of mountains, beach and blue water juxtaposed with the ugliness that poverty creates with dirty streets, destruction and disease. Each day as we set out I would ask God to show me what it was He wanted me to learn and why He had brought me here. This is what I think He showed me.

1. The body of Christ worldwide. In my daily experience in Lutz, Florida it is so very easy to forget about the needs and struggles of our sisters and brothers in Christ internationally. I know technology has brought us a long way in broadening our horizons, but there is nothing like seeing, smelling and touching third world conditions and people. Suffice it to say, it quickly puts things into perspective. I have it made and I have a responsibility to be a better steward of my resources materially and my resources spiritually by means of prayer. We are meant to be connected.

2. The Work of Christ– It’s daily, repetitive and mostly menial wherever you are called, but can and should be done with joy and abandonment. I met so many amazing men and women of God serving the people of S. Africa with hearts of love in humble and lowly ways. I can’t even begin to tell you how impressed I am with them. It was an honor just to be in their presence. I am sure they make Jesus smile.

3. The Fellowship of Christ– Traveling across the world and connecting with believers from a different culture was enlightening. They welcomed me and embraced me with joy and sincerity. They weren’t just hospitable, they were holy. They prayed for me, out loud in my presence, hugged me, and blessed me. They honored me. I couldn’t help but think of my responses to people who have visited my country. Did they walk away feeling respected and loved?

All in all, my non- mission mission trip reminded me what God desires the church to be. We are His hands, His feet, His love serving anyone He puts in our path beginning in the body of Christ and extending out to a lost and lonely world.

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Grace Taught Me To Say “No”

I love the Bible. It fascinates me. It never gets old…I mean, it is an old book, but no matter how many times I read it I never get to the place where I think-“Ok, got that-check that book off my list!” It is dynamic, not static. Or as the Bible says, “The word of God is alive and active…” Hebrews 4:12. 

The Bible speaks to my heart. It is not only full of truth, but as I read, it changes me. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” Deep within the recesses of my soul, it makes me want to love God more and works in me to live for Jesus. 
This morning I came across verses in Titus 2:11-13. I’m sure I’ve read those same verses at least one hundred times before, but today they popped up off the page in a new way. 
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,”
‭‭God’s grace is teaching me. Whew! What a relief to know. The same grace that brought salvation to me, initiated by God’s love, is instructing me in how to live and love. “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:4. God doesn’t just grant me relationship with Him and give me a Book of Rules (Some people’s concept of the Bible). His grace is in me providing motivation, desire, and guidance. 

You are probably saying, “Duh, Debi! Are you sure you’ve read the Bible much?” But to borrow a phrase from my husband and son, “Here’s the deal…” I’m fully aware that I am saved and sustained by grace, but I’m also aware that we are to cooperate with God. 1 Timothy 4:7- “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.” (Side note, really wish that phrase was “old men’s tales” teehee, so unflattering.) Oftentimes the truth of the need for me to “work with God” overrides my conscious awareness of the reality that the grace of God is at work in me. I’m not on my own! Blessed be His glorious Name! He makes every provision! 
So be encouraged my friends if you have defaulted lately to the “It’s all up to me and I’m failing.” syndrome. Your Heavenly Father has your back, front and everything in between. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite passages.

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:3-6‬ 
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.”

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Embrace

This gallery contains 1 photo.

I don’t know why and I hope you don’t take this as being casual about the Holy Spirit, but I feel like God “speaks” to me often when I’m in the shower. Perhaps it is the solitude and lack of … Continue reading

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Back to the Basics…Again

IMG_2937Recently I have been privileged to enjoy time off and leave my normal routine behind to go on vacation. This has allowed me to indulge in one of my favorite pass times, reading. The three books that I’ve read are You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan, Relationships; A Mess Worth Making (Great title, don’t you think?) by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp, and The Bait of Satan by John Bevere. I highly recommend all three books. They are biblical, instructional, insightful and encouraging in the practical applications of living the life of the redeemed. 

Although they are diverse in their subjects I’m amazed once again how God in His sovereignty orchestrates books I read to convey a primary message He wants me to hear and quite possibly be reminded of AGAIN. In these books the message clearly is “love”. My love for God lived out in loving others. I know, basic theology 101. Seriously thought I would be further along by now in this                                   s-a-n-c-t-i-f-i-c-a-t-i-o-n       process.   After all scripture does make it clear.

“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”1 John‬ ‭3:23‬

‭‭‭A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. John 13:34   

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 1 John 4:11
And that’s just for starters.

Why is it in the course of everyday life I find it so difficult to keep this main thing “LOVE” the main thing? It’s not a lack of understanding, opportunity, or inability. Jesus spoke constantly about love. The people around me give me ample occasions to love. Acts of love are most often simply serving others according to their need, not according to my desire or convenience. Why then do I feel such resistance??

AND I know I’m not the only Christian who finds herself “mentally ascribing while in practice declining” this love does command. 😤 (One of these days I’ll have to grow up and stop using emoji’s in my posts. Don’t judge.) 😉
Here are a few thoughts on the challenge of LOVE.
We are “saints” who stii often act like sinners. I know that should be obvious to all of us, but we live in denial much of the time. We struggle to love God more than ourselves. Thus we struggle to love others.
Because of the cultural lies regarding love we are resistant to operating apart from our feelings. In other words, we think we should feel love and then act accordingly. In God’s economy when you act in loving ways towards others the joy of being in sync with His desires follows.

We allow a sense of inadequacy prevent us from doing for others, combined with the enemy’s lie, “It’s not going to make any difference in their life.”

The ordinariness of serving those in close proximity doesn’t seem like a spiritual endeavor so we rationalize and resist until the opportunity is passed.

All of these “reasons” could be overcome by one simple verse, Galatians 3:10-“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Now, go out and find someone to love!💜💙💚💛❤️ I promise you won’t have to look hard.

Btw- The caption to the above image of Mother Teresa is as follows from  Time magazine-

“The Good Teresa’s work was accomplished through straightforward action; her ministry did not require a lot of money or extensive plans to carry out its mission. She insisted always that the Missionaries of Charity did not need an organizer and that divine providence would guide her in the sisters’ work and the means to support it.”

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