Red and Yellow, Black and White, They are Precious in His Sight

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“with your blood you purchased for God
    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
    and they will reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10 NIV

I’m a fan of the Enneagram—an ancient personality profile with nine distinct types. While the Enneagram has helped me understand myself, it has also helped me understand others. When I need to approach one of my kids, I review their number so I can see the issue from their point of view. 

How I wish I had a similar tool to help me understand my brothers and sisters of color. I adore you, my sisters, but I cannot comprehend the prejudice you’ve suffered. I wish I had a reference for your experience, but I don’t. 

I love you.

I respect you. Your beauty. Your giftings. Our sisterhood in Christ. 

I deplore how you have been treated. It’s unacceptable in any and every way prejudice and hatred has manifested, whether as an abuse of power or a demeaning comment. 

I hurt with you. 

How can I help?

I acknowledge my ignorance. I know my own story best. I learn yours when you honor me by sharing it. I’m okay with being uncomfortable. You don’t have to carry your pain alone.

I stand with you. 

Father, help Your children to walk in unity.

Relationships, Reconciliation, and “Raca”

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I read an interesting note regarding Cain and Abel: the likelihood that they were twins (only one conception recorded followed by two births). Hmmm. If true, Cain’s murder of his brother takes on even greater significance. 

What went wrong?

Simply, one man obeyed God. One didn’t. The broken relationship with God affected the relationship between brothers.

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it (Genesis 4:3-7 NIV).’”

Scholar Allen Ross stated Eve hoped Cain was the child of promise, the one who would break the curse and strike the head of the serpent. 

We see a different story.

Instead of receiving God’s correction and repenting, thus making that relationship right, Cain turned his fault, his frustration, and his fury from God—to Abel. 

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him (Genesis 4:8).

Note: Abel had nothing to do with Cain’s sin. Nothing.

Jesus gave us insight into the sin of murder in Matthew 5:21-23:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ [empty-headed] is answerable to the court [Sanhedrin, the high Jewish court]. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift [emphasis mine].”

If the consequences seem severe, it’s because God views a bad attitude and broken relationships with much greater seriousness than we do. The Matthew passage reminds us of several things:

1. Make conflicts a matter of prayer. Don’t entertain thoughts that revisit old wounds or keep a fresh one bleeding. Pray for reconciliation rather than vindication. Don’t let feelings spiral into sin.

2. Practice humility. Give the same grace you desire. Abundantly. Instantly.

3. Take sin seriously. God does. Keep short accounts with Him. Confess often and repent quickly.

Jesus said the Law hinged on two commands: Love God and love others. Both the Genesis and Matthew passages have the context of worship and offerings. 

Leave you gift—and go. Be reconciled. Then, come and worship. One broken relationship affects the other. 

Workout for the Week: Relationship, Reconciliation, and “Raca”

Memory Verse: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift [emphasis mine].” Matthew 5:23

Meditation Passage: Matthew 5:21-23

Do It: Leave you gift—and go. Be reconciled.

For that relationship that refuses to budge, Romans 12:18 says, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Pray, persevere, and persist in seeking reconciliation.  Love never fails. 

Relationships: Grand Canyon or Disney World?

Relationships: Grand Canyon or Disney World?

My big toenails were toast.

I was seven miles into a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon. Thirteen to fourteen miles down the North Rim (with side trails). Eight up the South Rim.

The trek started as my personal getaway. I needed some space. I planned to do the hike in one day. However, since I had never hiked the Canyon, I hired a guide, and no guide will hike it under twenty-four hours. So, my one-day trip became a two-day trek with a twenty-pound backpack.

Then, my husband Russell decided to join me.

He was nervous about the unknown guide and wanted to come.

I was not a happy camper. My loving first thought was “As long as you keep up.” This was my trip. My getaway—specifically, my getaway from him.

Day 1: Travel day. Flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Phoenix. Drive to South Rim. Meet guide. Drive to North Rim. Camp.

Day 2: Descend the North Rim.

I had broken in my hiking shoes in California. They were a little snug, but I didn’t think much about it—until we started going down the North Rim.

Emphasis on down.

As my toes slammed into the end of my shoes, I knew I was in trouble. We stopped after seven miles, and I asked our guide to cut my shoes. He told me I would be fine.

I wasn’t.

I hobbled into camp seven miles later in tears. It was all I could do to keep moving. I focused on the back of Russell’s legs and followed him into camp. I took off my shoes, collapsed in my tent, and slept.

Day 3: Ascend the South Rim.

I stared at my shoes. No way were they going back on my aching feet. Huge blood blisters peeked out from under my toenails.

I glared at our guide. “Cut the shoes.”

He did and lived to see another day. The hike immediately improved. However, it was Russell’s turn to struggle. We edged around mules and made frequent stops for trail mix and water. The twenty-pound backpack felt like fifty, and he was ready to heave it over the precipice. The only way out was up, so we persevered. By afternoon, we’d made it to the top.

Sweet victory! And on our wedding anniversary!

The trip I had wanted all-to-myself turned out to be a blessing to our marriage. Muscles screamed. Blisters oozed. And yes, I lost those two toenails.

But we bonded like never before.

The mental challenges and physical suffering of the canyon reconnected us. I rediscovered my best friend, who had somehow gotten lost amidst four kids, soccer games, and piles of laundry.

Hard times add depth to relationships, and that’s true with God as well. Isaiah 43:2 (NIV) says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

God promises His presence through life’s canyons. Though spiritually we long for the ease of a stroll down Main Street Disney, God hides His best perks on the rugged trail where your muscles ache and the blisters sting. Relationships are hammered out in pain and testing. When you finish, you stand a little taller, smile a little bigger, and exchange knowing looks with your Partner. It’s a forever moment—a memory never to be forgotten because it was forged in sweat, pain, and dependence on God.

Disney just can’t compare.

Questions:

When have you taken a hard path?

Who came along beside you?

What did you gain from the journey?

What did you learn about God? About yourself?

Was it worth it?

Tweetables:

God promises His presence through life’s canyons. Click to tweet.

Hard times add depth to relationships, and that’s true with God as well. Click to tweet.

God hides His best perks on the rugged trail. Click to tweet.

Relationships are hammered out in pain and testing. Click to tweet.

It’s a forever moment—never to be forgotten, forged in sweat, pain, and dependence on God. Click to tweet.

Disney just can’t compare. Click to tweet.

Making Impact: Where’s Your Spot?

Making Impact: Where's Your Spot?

Ancient Israel. Located southwest of the Fertile Crescent in the direct north/south, east/west traffic from Egypt to Assyria. Like the small one-light town you drive through on the way to somewhere else.

Yet Israel’s location was strategic.

God planned to impact the world through this tiny nation. We read of Abram’s call in Genesis 12 (NIV), “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you, . . . and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (vv. 2,3) God affirms His plan to Moses too, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5,6)

So, He planted them smack dab in the middle of the busiest international trade route of the day.

Why?

Because, as the world journeyed through Israel on the way to somewhere else, other nations would learn who God was, what He offered, and what He desired in return.

The world learned you couldn’t get a ham and cheese sandwich in Jerusalem, because cleanliness was a big deal to a holy God, and pork didn’t make the cut.

Travellers couldn’t shop at the Hebron Target on the Sabbath, because God’s people rested and spent the day in worship instead of work.

Everyone was welcome. God even provided a place at His Temple for foreigners who wanted to chat with Him. The world had an opportunity to see Israel in real time as they passed through the streets of this tiny nation.

So, where’s your spot? The place God has put you? Because here’s how Peter describes us, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praise of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Don’t get me wrong, the Church will never take the place of Israel, but as believers we also represent God. Who’s passing through your life on their way to another place?

At the office?

At the kids’ school?

At the gym?

You’re not there by accident, you know, any more than Israel was—and is. God has placed you strategically. Are you impacting the world that’s passing through?

Questions:

Who are you poised to impact? Think of family, friends, co-workers.

Are you making impact? Is it a positive or a negative one?

What are your children learning about God from you? Your extended family? Others?

What are they not learning that they need to know?

Tweetables:

Where’s your spot? The place God has put you? Click to tweet.

Who’s passing through your life on their way to another place? Click to tweet.

You’re not there by accident. God has placed you strategically. Click to tweet.

Are you impacting the world that’s passing through? Click to tweet.

Make a Difference: Event or Adventure?

Event or Adventure?

It’s fall, and the calendar is filling.

Football games.

Homecoming.

Weddings.

Events fill the tiny squares that make up life. My stress level rises with each addition.

Until.

Until I remember, it’s not the what that’s so important, it’s the who. Each event presents an opportunity to make a difference.

To encourage.

To pray.

To plant a seed.

To share a struggle—or a victory.

To do life together.

To show those we rub shoulders with for this season that God makes a difference in our lives. Every day. Every week.

The items on your calendar aren’t there by accident. God has placed you and your family in the middle of that sports team, music ensemble, or classroom for a reason: to make a difference. He’s hidden an adventure among the motley crew that is your group.

Are you willing to dig for the hidden treasure? Because you’ll never find the adventure if you stay in your clique or keep to yourself.

Remember how tough it is to break into an established group? Who looks new? Reach out. Make the first move.

Colossians 4:5 (NIV) reads, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; making the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Look at the calendar with fresh eyes. See the people behind the event, and get your adventure on.

Question:

Have you considered how God brings people into our lives for a season? (Sometimes for a literal sports or school season.)

With what groups will you interact this fall?

Are you willing to get out of your comfort zone?

How would you feel if you missed an opportunity to make a difference?

Pray that God will reveal your adventure.

Tweetables:

It’s not the what that’s so important, it’s the who. Click to tweet.

Each event presents an opportunity to make a difference. Click to tweet.

God’s hidden an adventure among the motley crew that is your group. Click to tweet.

You’ll never find the adventure if you stay in your clique or keep to yourself. Click to tweet.

See the people behind the event, and get your adventure on. Click to tweet.