Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Putting the Extra into Ordinary

Simon Estes is singing in my kitchen as I write!  Yesterday Grace turned on the CD player and it about blasted her out of the room.  "Mom!  Were you rockin' out in the kitchen?"
"No, I just cranked up Mr. Estes so he could help me do housework."

Mr. Estes came to our high school last Friday and Saturday.  Our older children had the opportunity to listen to and interact with him at an all-school assembly Friday afternoon.  Saturday night Matthew sang in the choir as Mr. Estes joined us and I had the privilege of accompanying them.  Now, as I listen to his album of spirituals, I continue to be touched by messages of equality, angst, Providence and hope.  We were also blessed by his guest, Chris Johnson, who chose selections that took any focus off himself and emphasized the goodness of God.

God has groomed Simon Estes to be a man of gentleness, deep reverence, humility and uncanny excellence.  All credit and appreciation for his gifts are redirected to God, the Giver of all good things.  I cannot put into words the fullness of participating alongside him, receiving his thanks, and bowing hand-in-hand to the appreciation of the audience.

David Roper, in his book, A Man to Match the Mountain, describes Jesus as a beautiful man full of grace and truth.  "Everything he did was truthful, and yet He was unfailingly gracious."  Simon Estes represented Christ in this same way.  May we remember that, "True goodness is not doing extraordinary things.  It is doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way." (Roper, Seeing God, p. 129). Most of us will never have a platform like Simon Estes, but our daily lives can reflect the grace and truth of God in the integrity of our decisions.  It is not what is seen that makes a man, but what is unseen.

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have not reward from your Father in heaven." (Matthew 6:1)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


After checking in on Tara Barthel's blog, Considerable Grace, I am ashamed of not being more faithful and diligent here.  Thanks, Tara, the the inspiration!

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours writing to an inmate about his desire to be baptized.  The question he had was whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation.  It is a great question that led me to write more than the usual one-page letter.*  As Scripture came to mind, I was reminded of what an amazing God we serve.  There is nothing we, as faulted humans, can do to merit God's favor.

Titus says this, "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:4-7

While reading the Psalms, I became aware of the disparity between what God does and what He calls us to do.  So, even in the passage from Titus, I have started to mark my Bible differentiating what God does and what He has called me to do.  Surprisingly, there is very little for me to contribute.  To rewrite the above passage with that emphasis would look like this:

"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appearedhe saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."

In that passage, there is nothing we contribute.  Our calling, then, is to humble ourselves and push our own agenda aside in light of God's grace.  F.B. Meyer said it this way, "We must remember to maintain within our hearts the spirit of Sabbath calm and peace, not fussy, not anxious, nor fretful nor impetuous; refraining our feet from own paths, our hand from our own devices, refusing to make our own joy and do our own works.  It is only when we are fully resolved to act thus, allowing God to originate His own plans and to work in us for their accomplishment that we enter into rest."

David Roper adds to this, "What keeps us from entering into God's rest?  Unbelief.  Underlying all our worry and compulsive self-effort is the thought that God cannot or will not come through." (Seeing God, p.111)

Even if it's not Sunday, are you enjoying the Sabbath rest God promises His people?  Are you resting in God's work in and through you?  Or are you striving to work for Him, to accomplish self-imposed demands and goals?  May God bless you with complete, full days as He extends Himself through you to your immediate family, to His Body, and those who are lost, watching and waiting.

*If you have a burden for inmates who desire to know God, investigate Crossroads Bible Institute and how to become an instructor. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011


We've been blessed to have the same pastor for almost ten years.  One of the things I appreciate about the way he works with the Body is his attitude toward new ministries.  Shortly after he came, a friend complained that we didn't have a specific ministry for her perceived need.  When I mentioned it to our pastor, he said, "When someone has a vision and burden for that ministry, it is God's provision for the need."  His philosophy of ministry didn't include running around the congregation and tapping individuals because of a complaint or a great idea.

I found the same principle in Leviticus chapters nine and ten this week.

Passage:  Leviticus 9-10:14

Specific Verses:  9:1, 7: Now it came about on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.... Moses then said to Aaron, “Come near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering, that you may make atonement for yourself and for the people; then make the offering for the people, that you may make atonement for them just as the LORD has commanded.”

There was a process, a time period, and set of procedures for Aaron and his sons to follow before they were able and ready to intercede on behalf of the people. It didn’t just happen.  God had a specific set of instructions and an intentional process.  Moses modeled it "just as the LORD commanded."  They weren't given an instruction manual and told to show up first thing in the morning.  They were given instructions that would take them through the very same process as the people they would minister to. They could not provide sanctification for the people until they themselves had been cleansed.  This is the same principle Jesus taught when he instructed us to remove the log from our own eye before attending to the speck of another (Matthew 5).

Interestingly, the two oldest sons were so impressed with God's display of power that they tried to manipulate God.  God's work in our lives can be humbly accepted and acknowledged for what it is, or twisted to fit our prideful perception.  In the hands of God it is awesome to behold, in the hands of man it is fatal.  God struck them dead—He will not be played with.

Perhaps you have had that same experience.  God has prepared and walked you through difficulty and shown Himself mighty.  Don't be surprised then when He asks you to extend that same service as a ministry to others.  God prepares and uses His people in their own circumstances before using them.  He sanctifies them, walks them through, and sets the expectations before allowing them to take positions of leadership that influence others.  If you have outstanding areas of sin or rebellion in your own life, don't expect God to use you to in meeting the needs of others.  He must have access to your heart before He gives you access to the hearts of others.

What's the take-away?  If I look critically at the circumstances in my life and respond with humility and obedience, I will be prepared for God to use my experience at a later time.  With eyes on Him and a heart stayed with fear of His power and confidence in His unwavering love, I can walk through the valley with purpose.  No ministry or outreach is necessary apart from the work of God.  But God is faithful.  He provides for the needs of His people--and always at just the right time.