The Code, Week Four

If we are true disciples of Christ, followers of the ways of God, we cannot ignore forgiveness being at the core of our code of living. Now please don’t misunderstand forgiveness for doormat or someone who is not able to speak truth in love, people pleasing. Real forgiveness is taking account no wrong suffered. Not ignoring the wrong, but recognizing that you are not the judge and jury. You are the soldier fighting in the war of good versus evil and all accounts of attacks from the enemy are subject to the highest authority.

Let’s look at the life of Stephen, a follower of Christ in the time between the Resurrection and the fall of Jerusalem. Acts shares his story as a man who took the assignment of caring for widows when the burden was too great for the apostles to preach and assume that responsibility. There is no account of Stephen rejecting that assignment or building a case for his credentials being too lofty to do a task that the others had been excused from for a new position. Stephen was a soldier. He spoke and did many signs and wonders when he was told and he humbled himself to care for those who could not care for themselves.

Stephen modeled The Code. Today he is our guide.

“Now, Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called) – Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia – who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke” (Acts 6:10, NIV).

Because Stephen’s opposition could not win the argument against the wisdom of God, his opposition decided to falsely accuse him and drag him to court. An argument that was not flesh and blood, an argument of good versus evil. Stephen understood that it wasn’t against him that these men were fighting; they were fighting the full submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, a fight much larger with much more to lose than just the human life on earth.

“All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15, NIV). And he went on to tell the story of God beginning with Abraham and ending with the Messiah. He shared the testimony of opposition from times past to times present and called them out as opposing God. So, those men did what every sinful man wants to do when they can’t win – they silenced him for good.

“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:59, NIV).

As I write this, I am not saying that I’ve mastered this concept, on the contrary, I’m waking up to the understanding that this is what has been modeled for those of us who follow Jesus. Should there be any difference between a soldier in that time and a soldier now? Aren’t we all fighting in the same war?

Discussion Questions:

Are you in a battle that feels bigger than you? It is. Write it down and ask the Lord for your marching orders.

What makes your battles feel so personal? Are they against the Lord or against your own pride?

What do you want to do when you can’t win?

Read the full story of Stephen in the text and then be honest with yourself, did Stephen win or did he lose in your eyes? And, why?

Prayer:

Jesus, you say the real crisis we are in is denial and illusion. I pray that your chosen people, your children, would rise up and fight in the war for you and you alone. Strip us of our own selfish ambition and pride. We’ve been grafted in as your soldiers through pain and anguish. Give us faces of angels, the articulation of the Spirit, and the resolve of our Savior. Amen.

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The Code, Week Three

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven,

Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”

Luke 9:51

Resolve. Every year Craig Groechel, a pastor, asks the big C, the big church, to ask the Lord for their word for the year. My word for the last two years has been the same – resolve. So, of course, when I came upon the verse that speaks to the mind-boggling concept of Jesus “resolutely” walking into his own death and torture, I was overwhelmed with questions.

Where does that kind of resolve come from? Did he know WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and WHY? Was it knowledge or understanding? Or was it audacious trust? Or maybe some of all of the above?

Now I am beginning to believe that if the tape of Jesus was rewound – it all begins and ends with identity. Wasn’t that the attack on him? Remember Satan in the desert asking him to turn stone to bread when the Father gave him the identity of being the bread of life. Then, in Satan’s frustration, didn’t he essentially ask him to commit suicide when he asked him to throw himself down from such a high location? That act alone would have stopped the mission for which he was born – His identity.

Identity. Resolve.

The Lord goes to great lengths throughout the Bible to speak to the identity of man. He calls us heirs, His children, imitators of Him, His hands and feet, bond servants, beloved…His words echo throughout the world and the universe to the identity of His people.

As we seek to gain the resolve of Christ, we must also gain the mission…

“Teach me to do your will,

for you are my God;

may your good Spirit

lead me on level ground.”

Ps. 143:10

Your identity, your resolve for living, is found in every word that comes from the mouth of God. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). The words define us, so that the Creator of the words will control us.

Discussion Questions:

Where do you see resolve in your own life? What drives it?

Who defines you? Why?

Sit with the Lord and ask Him to give you an identity verse specific to you in your life right now.

Years ago the Lord gave me Hebrews 11:6. For over a decade I recited this verse as “my” verse, but it wasn’t until He began to define me that I realized that He spoke a prophecy to me about my own heart. He knew long before me that my identity would be my fatal flaw redeemed into my greatest awareness on this side of heaven.

What has God revealed to you?

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The Code, Week Two

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus, Matthew Chapter 22

Last week we dove into the 10 commandments and dissected the foundation, provided by God, that pleases Him. Paul in Ephesians gives us that recommendation, “find out what pleases the LORD” (Ephesians 5:10). We started there because in the book of John we are told that by keeping His commands we are loving Him.

But what is real love? And why do we all need it so desperately?

Jesus addressed real love as laying down your life for another person. Jesus not only demonstrated that kind of deep love, but He also demonstrated all of the characteristics of love discussed in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13. Jesus modeled for us: patience, kindness, not being jealous, not being arrogant or boastful, choosing to walk in light over darkness, not keeping a record of wrongs, rejoicing in the truth, bearing, believing, and hoping with endurance. He modeled true, real love.

Why? Could it have been because He knew that the attack on the human heart is so great in the world that He didn’t want His children to the dirty work of His opponent?

“What a man (woman) desires is unfailing love.”

Proverbs 19:22

We’ve, ALL OF US, been designed to desire love. We long for it. We crave it. The world’s propaganda of lustful, romantic, relative love has jacked up our understanding of what real love is and looks like now.

Isn’t it easier sometimes to get caught up in romance than to actually be patient and kind? And when is it okay not to be kind or patient? When do we get to take matters in our own hand and be boastful or arrogant? Now, please don’t misunderstand, I’m not propagating that as a Christian you should be a doormat. Absolutely not! Jesus teaches speaking truth in love. So, if you aren’t able to speak your truth in kindness, gentleness, and patience, you most likely need to wait on delivering truth until you are fully in His Spirit of love.

Homework:

Ask the Lord to reveal to you where you’ve looked for love outside of Him. Then ask Him to help you walk in love, real love.

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The Code, Week One

Last Tuesday was a beautiful night for me. It reminded me of Paul’s desire to be with God’s people in Rome. He said, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:11-12, New International Version).

Women of God, warriors of the Way, I was deeply encouraged to keep fighting the good fight and to keep speaking Truth in love. I also learned something of great value from each of you.

This week I would like for us to consider the heartbeat behind The Code. It begins with Jesus’ walk to Emmaus right after his resurrection. He meets up with two guys as they are walking and questions them about what is happening around town. Of course, they are in awe that he is not aware of the craziness considering that the earth shook, the sky went dark, and a possible Messiah had been killed on a cross just a few days prior.

Then, Jesus, says these words (I love this), “‘Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:26-27, NIV).

My prayer is that we would each sit with Jesus and allow Him to teach us about himself beginning with Moses. “Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever” (Psalms 119:152, NIV). Many times throughout human history the commands of God disappeared and then someone found them and studied them and brought them back to the people with vigor and charisma. Every single time in the Word that they were brought out to the public and kept, the people were blessed by God and encouraged to stay faithful. All throughout the Scriptures we see God blessing his kids for knowing what pleases Him.

Paul urges us through Ephesians, to find out what pleased the LORD. Now, I ask you to find out. Let’s start by building a sacred concrete floor through the ten commandments.

Homework:

Look up the ten commandments and write each of the commands down in a journal. After you’ve written them down, go through and ask the LORD to help bring to remembrance the ideas of Jesus that would correspond with any of the commandments. You might even think of stories that illustrate the command.

Discussion Question:

In a world of relativity, with perpetual justification for just about any type of behavior, why is knowing and understanding the ten commandments encouraging to your faith?

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The Code, Introduction

“On your feet, Daughter of Zion!..I’m remaking 

you into a people invincible…”

Micah 4:13, The Message

What if I could convince you that you’ve been born into a raging war? Would it change the way you see the world around you? Would it change the way you think, believe, or behave?

Jesus says, “This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is” (John 3:19-21).

Discussion Questions:

Are you really interested in pleasing God? Sit with the LORD and ask Him to reveal your true heart.

What does denial and illusion look like for you? Do you know truth that you aren’t living by? Are your beliefs and your behaviors at odds?

What are you afraid of when you think of standing before God with your full story playing on the big screen?

If you haven’t started a journal yet, start one, and write these questions down and any new questions that come as you sit with Jesus and learn about this light versus the dark.

If you are able to attend the study, I look forward to seeing you at the OKWU Hart Conference Room on Tuesday, October 6th starting at 8 p.m.

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What if?

What if?  No, really, what if?  What if you could resolve to do anything in 2015 and what if it might happen?

We are fearful.  Fearful to dream.  Fearful of desire.  We are fearful.  But, what if we weren’t?

What would you dream about?  What would you actually hope would happen?  And, what if it actually did happen?

For once, I beg you…no, implore you…dream.  Take a minute today, in light of a new year, and dream without limits. What do you want?  Go for it.

For those of you led by God’s Spirit, ask Him what you were meant to achieve this 2015 – I double dog dare you!

Let me burst your safety bubble.  There is no safety bubble.  Dream.  Live.  If not now, when?  You can’t control tomorrow, but you can dream about it.

The fourth grader in me that is really living knows one thing…dreams aren’t an opportunity for disappointment. No, dreams are the hope of tomorrow.  Believing that you’ve been created to leave a legacy that only you can leave makes the here and now beautiful.  Like all of God’s creation, you are beautiful.  Now, believe it!

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Lies.

Lies are hard to extract from our lives.  They have usually been woven in so subtly throughout the fibers of our lives that their threads are hard to distinguish between those of our real inner being.  Lies typically are not full-blooded.  It is the partial truth in them that make them so believable.

I’m a stubborn woman.  Believing this statement has made me feel really bad about myself.  Sometimes I try to overcompensate for this belief by being a people-pleaser or over accommodating.  Although part of this statement is true, there is an element that is not true. Many times my stubbornness is resolution.  I am a woman who lives with strong convictions.

The importance of identifying lies in your life that have been woven into your thread of understanding of yourself is critical.  “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are” (Anais Nin).  Our view of ourselves and the beliefs spoken to us in our core create the very lens in which we deal and see the people and circumstances around us.

What if you had three flights to take to get to your destination and all three of those flights flew just slightly off a degree or two from the original course, would you end up at your perceived destination?

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