Counting rubbish

The other day when I was teaching English online to a student in China, our lesson was about taking care of the environment. This 11-year-old boy kept using the word “rubbish,” rather than “trash” or “garbage” like you’d usually hear in the United States of America.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines this word as “useless waste or rejected matter, something that is worthless or nonsensical”

Though the word, “rubbish” sounded odd in my ears during that lesson, it is exactly what the translators chose for Philippians 3:8.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Philippians 3:7-9 ESV

What do we need to count as useless, as worthless, as waste, in order to gain Christ?

Whatever it is, it’s worth it.

The wind blows where it wishes

“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”” (John 3:5-8 ESV)

This week while watching the news coverage on Hurricane Delta, John 3:8 jumped off the page. We don’t know when, where or how powerfully the hurricane will hit. We are thankful for all the modern technology that allows us to track storms and make predictions, but moment by moment those predictions change. Ultimately, we don’t know … we can’t know … the future of a storm.

Likewise, we don’t know how the Spirit will move. We don’t know who He might call, or when.

When Simon Peter and his brother Andrew headed out to fish one morning, little did they know that would be the day they would be called by the Messiah to become fishers of men. (Matthew 4:18-19)

When an unidentified man suffering from leprosy left his house one morning, he couldn’t possibly have known that would be the day of his cleansing. (Matthew 8:2-3)

When Matthew was sitting in his tax booth one morning, he never could have known that was the day Jesus would invite him to follow him. (Matthew 9:9)

Just as I don’t know if today might be the last time I talk to my son or my daughter, my husband, my parent or my best friend, likewise I don’t know if today will be the day of salvation for a loved one I’ve prayed for faithfully for years.

For as much as we don’t know what exactly the future holds, there are some things we DO know.

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” – Psalm 9:10 ESV

Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” – Psalm 100:3 ESV

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:1-6 ESV

These are written that you may believe

I remember when I was about 14 or 15 years old and I was at a summer camp. One day, I had a few minutes by myself and I was sitting out on this big, grassy field looking up at the sunny, blue sky with the trees were waving gently in the breeze and in my heart, I thought,

“God, if you’re real, please show yourself to me.”

You might think that’s a strange thing for a teenager to ask, but unfortunately, I didn’t think that God was real, and I was quite certain that my plea would go unheard.

When I didn’t hear a voice speak from heaven or see a lightning bolt strike the ground in front of me, I left that field that day still believing that God didn’t exist.

And yet, my friends, God WAS showing Himself to me. In fact, I believe that God was who caused me to make such a request in the first place. Like Paul wrote in Romans chapter 1, God was showing Himself to me (and to all mankind) in the things that He had made – the sun, the blue sky, the wind and even the trees.

Again and again for millennia God has sent prophets and witnesses to speak His Words, including John the Baptist as we read about in John 1, telling people that Jesus was the Son of God, the King of Israel, the Messiah, the Lamb of God.

Again and again, God has faithfully manifested (made visible, shown) His glory so that mankind will be without excuse if they don’t believe in Him.

One way that God demonstrates His glory is through miraculous signs.

Right from the beginning of the Bible in Genesis, God has shown Himself through miraculous signs. God has often given man signs in the sky to prove His glory and power! When God created the sun, moon and stars in Genesis 1:14, we read, “God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and nights.”

And again, in Genesis 9, after the worldwide flood, God put a rainbow in the sky to be a sign of His promise to never again destroy the earth by flood.

The Hebrew word for “sign” is “owth.” It can mean a signal, a distinguishing mark, a banner, a remembrance, a miraculous sign, an omen or a warning.

When God sent Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, God gave Moses the ability to perform miraculous signs to prove that God had sent him, SO THAT the Jewish people would believe Moses when he spoke to them. These signs included God causing Moses’s staff to turn into a snake and then back into a staff, as well as God causing his hand to be leprous and then healed, and even turning water into blood. (Exodus 4:6-9)

In today’s lesson, we read about the first of Jesus’s signs while He walked on the earth. This first sign was when Jesus turned water into wine. As John 2:11 says, this sign “manifested – MADE VISIBLE – His glory and His disciples believed in Him.” Again we see that signs are given to us by God that we would BELIEVE in Him, TRUST in Him, have FAITH that what He has promised is real – like Hebrews 11:1, that we would have assurance that the things we hope for, the things that we cannot see, are indeed REAL.

Later in John 2, verse 18, after Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers and drove all the people and animals out of the temple, the Jews asked Jesus for another sign – a sign to prove His authority to do such a thing.

Jesus’s answer was, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”

John 2:19

As you would expect, this answer confused the Jews at the time, but that’s because this sign wouldn’t come about until three years later when Jesus’s physical body had been killed and laid in a tomb to be resurrected three days later as we will read about in John chapters 19 and 20.

In the three years that Jesus conducted his ministry between this first sign at the wedding in Cana and His resurrection, Jesus did so many signs – feedings thousands of men, women and children with only a few fish and loaves of bread, healing blind men and deaf men and lame men and leprous men, walking on water and calming storms – and every one of those signs pointed to the fact that Jesus had all authority in heaven and on earth, that He was the only Begotten Son of God, that mankind should BELIEVE in Him as  the Messiah and King – just as John the Baptist had said.

After Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to many of His disciples in person. These disciples told Thomas (another of Jesus’s disciples) that they had seen Jesus in person. Like John the Baptist, they bore witness to what they had seen and heard.

Yet, Thomas refused to believe their eyewitness testimony. Thomas said to them, in John 20:25 “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

“Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then (Jesus) said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28)

Because Thomas saw these physical signs of the resurrected Jesus, now He believed! Praise God for His faith. But let’s keep reading to see how Jesus answered him, in John 20:29, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

God wants us still today to be His faithful witnesses with eyes and ears and hearts and mouths wide open, wide open to His Word and His ongoing works in the modern world, telling other people the good news that they, too,  can receive eternal life by trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.

God has given us His precious written Word, a record of the countless signs that Jesus did on earth. As John continued in the next two verses,

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

John 20:30-31

And again, in the final words of the book of John, John 21:25, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

I’m praying that each one of you would place your faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have LIFE in His name.

The “I do, We do, You do” Principle

For two and a half years I’ve followed the ‘I do, We do, You do” principle when teaching English as a Second Language classes online.

First, I model what I expect my student to do.

Then, we do it together.

Finally, my student does it on his own.

In teaching my daughter to drive, I am also following this same principle. First, she watches me drive. Then, she drives while I sit alongside her, giving lots of instruction. Next, she drives while I sit quietly, only offering suggestions when it is absolutely necessary. Finally, after months behind the wheel, she’s ready to drive on her own.

A good master craftsman ought to follow this very same principle with their apprentice. My aunt and uncle are expert potters. When I spent the summer at their home many years ago, they encouraged me to watch carefully while they told me what to do. Then, they gave me some clay to work with while instructing me every step of the way. And, at last, I was free to create my own work of art.

In our modern American society, I see so many ways we’re forgetting this wonderful principle, both as parents and as disciple-makers. As parents, we often turn the reins over to our children way too early. We let them pick what they wear, what they eat, and what they do as soon as they can squawk out their wishes. We fail to train and model for them properly. On the other hand, we might spend all our time lecturing our kids, without working alongside them, modeling for them how to make good decisions or accomplish household tasks. Rather than spending time doing household chores with our kids, we’re busy working in the kitchen or the yard, while they’re busy doing homework, playing sports or hanging with their friends.

As disciple-makers, we need to be careful to begin by modeling how we pray, how we study the Bible, and even how we share the gospel. Then, we pray together and study together and share the gospel together. Initially, we share lots of instruction and do most of the talking, gradually decreasing our input and encouraging them to increase their output. This is the best way to train our children to train their children. And, this is the best way to train new believers in how to walk the walk of faith.

Jesus washed His disciples’ feet Himself first, then urged them to do likewise. Paul poured faithfully into Timothy and Titus and many others, modeling for them and training them, and then sent them out to do likewise.

We, too, can go and make disciples! We, too, have been called to be integral leaders in the multiplication of the kingdom – whether at home or in our world.

“You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

John 13:13-17 ESV

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Matthew 28:19-20a ESV

“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.”

1 Corinthians 4:14-17 ESV

“Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

1 Timothy 4:11-16 ESV

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

Titus 2:3-5 ESV

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

1 Timothy 1:15-17 ESV

For more study, search the words: imitate (imitat**) and example. Read through Paul’s letters in the New Testament paying special attention to how Paul encouraged and admonished those who were following him to follow Jesus and to set an example for others. (such as 1 Corinthians 10:1-12, Philippians 3:12-17, 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15)

What a difference a year makes

Oh, what a lot can happen in one year.

One year ago, September 15, 2019, I was watching my kids on the shores of Pensacola Beach. My oldest had a new love interest and we were there visiting him. They’d met online that summer. He’d come up to visit us once and now it was our turn to go down.

Somewhere in the last 365 days, that love interest turned into husband, and that oldest daughter moved south to be with him, and that idyllic seashore turned into a hurricane landing spot.

We never know what the future holds, whether abundant blessings or heartrending tragedy, but we can be sure of this: Our Heavenly Father is good. Our Heavenly Father is all-powerful. Our Heavenly Father is listening and watching and taking care of us every single day of every single year. He is worthy of our trust and adoration.

Come Worship the Lord with me.

-TWIG

Weary

Week after week passes, each week the same.

Dishes to wash.

Classes to teach.

Dinners to cook.

Groceries to buy.

It is so easy to grow weary. It is so easy to think that life is without purpose or meaning. Yet, the light shines in the darkness. The Lord gives strength to the weary. In His mercy, the Lord opens the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf and the hearts of the captives.

I find encouragement in knowing that our Heavenly Father never grows weary. In my weariness and weakness, I am able to recognize the enormity of God’s power.

God alone is almighty. He alone is outside of time and space. He alone is able to do everything and know everything. He intentionally created me to need food and rest, that I would recognize my humble state and praise His almighty glory.

So, today, sisters, let me encourage you. Do not grow weary of well-doing. God is not finished with you. In this world you will have trouble, but you can take heart because Jesus – Son of God and Son of Man – has overcome this world! This world is temporary, but the new heavens and new earth are eternal. Do not work for the food that perishes! Instead, work for the treasures which are everlasting. (John 6:27) God Himself is your peace in the storm, the giver of every good thing.

We are together in this earthly journey. Let’s encourage one another as we see the end drawing near. As my Chinese friends say, “Jiayou!” (Keep going!)

All glory to His Almighty name

TWIG

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9 ESV

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV

Children of God

Every single human being on earth has been created in the image of God, but not everyone is God’s child.

God only has one begotten Son and His name is Jesus. The rest of us must be adopted into His family.

God’s children will demonstrate their intimate relationship with their Heavenly Father by loving and obeying Him, especially in their love for one another.

Are you His child? Welcome, my sister! Welcome, my brother! Let’s be family!

Are you not His child yet? May today be your day of SALVATION! Please come. Please seek His face. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you ought to do today.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

John 1:12 ESV

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Galatians 4:4-7 ESV

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

1 John 5:1-2 ESV

Living God

God’s not dead. He is alive. He dwells in the hearts of His people. He is intimately involved in the affairs of man.

And His Word is not dead. His Word is living and active still today, still piercing to divide soul and spirit, still discerning the thoughts and intentions of your heart.

It is a beautiful thing to willingly surrender your life to the living God of the universe who created all things, including every star in the galaxy and every living creature on earth. (That includes you!)

But the LORD is the true God;
he is the living God and the everlasting King.

Jeremiah 10:10a ESV

We bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.

Acts 14:15b ESV

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.

2 Corinthians 6:16 ESV

(Jesus) said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:15-16 ESV