The Second Mile

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Matthew 5:41 ESV

I was asked for a ride the other day.  I was happy to help, and off we went.  I thought I was only taking them home, but they asked if we could stop by the store.  So I sat in the parking lot and waited.  Back on the road, they asked for another stop before we reached the final destination.  I sat in the driveway of an unfamiliar neighborhood and waited.  As I sat there, I grumbled.  I heaved sighs.  Fidgeted and made faces as I sat in the car.  When they finally emerged, I was more than ready to go.  When I left them at their house I had spent over an hour of my time with what I thought would only have been 15 minutes tops.  I fussed all the way home.

You may say, “Well, I don’t blame you for being upset, that person was taking advantage of you.”  However, Jesus has a different point of view.

In the sermon on the mount, (Matthew 5), Jesus outlines how we that claim to be his followers should behave in humility, meekness and kindness, especially to our enemies. In verse 41, “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles,” Jesus is referring to a law that the Jews and any occupied people of the Romans had to comply.  A Roman soldier could force any subject to carry his baggage, or anything else for up to one Roman mile (1,000 paces), and the person could not refuse.  Refusal meant grievous punishment.  It was especially humiliating for the Jew.  They hated Romans and suffered under their thumb.  To willingly summit and then freely give more than what was required would have been hard to swallow, to say the least. 

So why did Jesus say to go that second mile?  

As a Christian just doing what is required or acceptable is not enough.  Anyone can fulfill the requirements making sure not to inconvenience themselves.  However, as  Christians, we should be willing and eager to extend ourselves that second mile.  Whether it is giving a ride, taking on another task at work, letting a car in front of us, or stopping to say good morning, Christian should consistently be not just meeting but exceeding the acceptable bar.  We should be willing to give of ourselves to others as Christ gave His very life for us. 

Never settle for the requirement only, but strive to exceed the expected everywhere, in relationships, at work, in school, and in your daily routine.  You represent the Savior of the world shouldn’t you be going the second mile to show the unsaved His love for them?

Enduring Grace

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 1 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

I ran out to Walmart to get a few things for the week. It was about 7:30 pm, and the sky was heavy with threatening skies.  Dark gray clouds bubbled.  I hurried to get to the store before these boiling clouds released their load.  I passed through the doorway, nodding to an attendant who checked me in her little tablet.  Grocery list in hand, I got a cart and got to business.

Things have changed so much in a short amount of time.  Everyone in masks, including children,  standing six feet apart, plexiglass shields between you and the cashier and police in the stores and standing outside.  I find it to be very oppressive and sad. 

The intercom announced the closing of the store, and every five minutes reminded the shoppers that it was time for our little hamlet to shut the doors.  I finished up and got in line, making sure I was observing the distance rule.

I checked out and left the store.  At the doorway, an employee checked me off as leaving on her tablet as she kept count of people in the store.  As I made my way to my car, I noticed a young woman dressed in black with green hair staring into the sky behind me.  I glanced back and saw the reason for her pause.  A brilliant rainbow shone across the sky. It was perhaps one of the largest rainbows I had seen.  People began to stop in the parking lot, cars stopped, and even an officer walked from the entrance to see what was going on.  Though it had never rained in our area, the rainbow had still appeared.  I stood in the parking lot, staring at the rainbow, reminded that its beauty was much more than just a visual treat; it is a reminder that God’s Grace is enduring.  

Despite everything you are experiencing, God is still very much in control and is extending his grace to all.  God is very much on the throne and is working. It is not his desire to see any perish or suffer, but rather to give every opportunity for people to recognize and accept his forgiveness and grace.  The rainbow is a reminder that God is still extending his grace to all.

Typist for Jesus

Recognizing Truth

Photo by Joseph Redfield on Pexels.com

 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8 ESV

Read: 1 John 4

I dropped by my office the other day, it sounds strange to type that. I have been on work from home status for the past 19 weeks amid the Covid-19 pandemic.  In some ways it is hard to imagine that much time has passed yet in other ways it seems like forever since I pulled into the parking lot.  I was there to pick up some plants.  With no definitive date for our return the plants were suffering.  There was no one to enjoy them and they spent their days in darkened hallways and boardrooms. Many of the plants were struggling and in need of care.

As I walked the hallway gathering them in my cart, a coworker apologized for the plant’s condition. I assured them it was fine, not to worry.  They then boasted that at least one of the plants had done well.  Pointing into the adjacent office, they smiled.  

“The ivy?” I questioned.

“Yeah, that one.”

“Ah”, I stammered.  “It’s not real.  That one is silk. You’ve been watering that one?”

I felt bad as I saw their shoulders droop. “Yeah.” 

If you are like me, that made you giggle.  But, in their defence, they do not know much about plants and they were doing what they could to help.  The same thing could easily happen to us in our spiritual lives. We are easily taken in by fakes and lies.  The only way to protect ourselves is to rely on our discernment and most importantly do what the Bible instructs. 

You are hearing many different things from your friends, co-workers, neighbors and the media.  Much of it will not be true but someone suppositions. Many of us are trying to make sense of the events that we have experienced over the past seven months.  It can be a difficult time trying to figure out what is or isn’t true.  

One thing you can be sure of is that God’s Word has not changed and neither has His love for you.  He provided His Word so that we have a handbook to help us navigate this world.  In addition, Jesus left with us the Holy Spirit to comfort and council us during difficult times.  Whatever you hear, take it to the Lord in prayer.  Look to His Word for answers.  By studying His Word and making time for quiet prayer you will be able to discern the fake from the truth.  If you are familiar with God’s character through  His Word, you will recognize truth.  

Typist for Jesus

Weighed Down

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

I was on my way to meet my friend.  As I topped the hill, I saw something in the road.  I slowed and squinted to take a better look.  It was a little turtle.  He was in the middle of the opposite lane just sitting there with his neck extended looking around.  I stopped the car and backed on to the side of the road.  Just as I got out, a car came over the hill.  I put up my hand and he slowed.  Fortunately, he came to a stop and waited as I ran to pick up the turtle and move him to the safety of the grass.  Just I reached for the turtle he took off.  I had to give a little chase.  They are faster than you think.  I picked him up, all four limbs and head disappeared into the carapace.  I placed him in the soft grass across the road.  By this time there were four cars waiting.  I sheepishly waved and got back in my car and continued on my way. 

 As I drove to my appointment, I thought about that little turtle and how he tucked in when I came to help him.  I thought about how he trusted that shell.  I think that many of us trust our shells. Push our pain, guilt and shame in that shell and carry it around on our backs.  I imagine several of us are lugging around some pretty big shells and those burdens weigh us down.

Jesus wants to free you of the burdens you are carrying.  Romans 8:1 reminds us that because our sins are covered in Christ’s blood we do not suffer condemnation, shame or guilt.  However, in order to have this we must lay down these things and accept the freedom that his blood gives.

Stop carrying weight that is no longer yours to carry.

Go Into the World with Love

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”  Mark 16:15

Empty nest

I heard a bit of commotion on my front porch.  I peered out of the glass storm door.  On the bench, two little red headed house finches hopped about. They stretched their wings and tweeted excitedly.  I looked at the hanging basket where they had made their nest.  Four little heads poked up out of the blooms. They tweeted back uneasy about leaving the comfort and warmth of the nest.  The daddy bird flew up to the basket and as if giving final instructions, he sang to them before landing once again on the bench.  One by one the little fledglings hopped to the basket’s rim and with momma and daddy’s bird encouragement, spread their wings and leapt into the world.  As the last baby left the mom and dad also flew away.  Their mission done, they disappeared into the woods across the street.

Much like those little birds, we too have been released into the world to share the good news of Christ and to show his love to all we encountered.  The world needs to see Jesus right now instead of the constant hate being televised.  God loves all races and people and as his representatives we should be demonstrating this love to all.  

Go into the world and show Christ’s love for all.

“Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?” Malachi 2:10

Typist for Jesus

Pray for America.  Lift up one another in prayer.  Stand united. 

Seriously, Where’s the Beef?

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I was determined to have hamburgers on the grill this weekend.  However, it was looking like that may not happen. This was my fourth grocery to check this morning.  I headed straight for the meat section.  My shoulders dropped, the shelves were cleared out.  Or so I thought.  In the bottom of the cooler were seven packages of hamburger.  Above them a sign read:  “Only two packs per customer.”  I checked them over, choosing the best of what was offered and tucked them under my arm. As I made my way down the aisles I noticed how many of the shelves were empty. Quantity restriction signs hung loosely over empty shelves.

 It is an emotion that I find hard to explain as I look at bare shelves and people in surgical masks.  Nothing but fearful eyes darting about.  Even children sitting in carts with masks seem unnaturally subdued. No smiles, just the undercurrent of fear and uncertainty.  

Life, in a very short few weeks, has been turned upside down.  Though our lives have been altered there is One that will never change.  One that will always have what you need, when you need it.  No waiting, no restrictions or emptiness.   Jesus is listening, comforting, strengthening and loving us all.   

Unfortunately, that is easy to forget when your eyes are filled with these images.  Though we cannot see Jesus with our earthly eyes, we know in our hearts that he is here.  He is with you and me.  You must not allow these images to discourage you from the truth.  No matter what you may see, read or hear, God is ultimately still in control.

Be strong and courageous.

Typist for Jesus

There’s a Cuckoo in the Nest

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

I went to water my hanging basket on the front porch.  It was looking very droopy.  I climbed up on the bench and saw the reason for the droopy and flattened plant.  Tucked under the delicate yellow petals was a nest.  Lined with feathers it was a warm place to hatch and rear the next generation.  However, as I peered deeper into the nest I saw an egg that did not match the pale green eggs.  It was larger and brown speckled.  I snapped a quick picture and climbed down.  As I went inside the momma bird returned, scolded me and resettled in her nest.  As I looked at the snapshot I realized this little momma had a cuckoo in the nest. I immediately felt sad for her; her little family was in danger.  The unsuspecting songbird pair will work tirelessly to feed and nurture the imposter, completely unaware of what it is doing to their family.

Cuckoos hatch earlier than the other chicks and in most cases either push the other eggs out or starve out the chicks by obtaining all the mother and father’s attention. This particular egg belonged to a cowbird, a much larger species of bird.  The cowbird egg was being incubated to destroy all the parents had worked for and end a whole generation. 

I think that we are guilty of nurturing cuckoos in our hearts. A seed of discontent, anger, self-pity, maybe unforgiveness. These cuckoos are not of God but destroyers sent by our enemy.  We feed those cuckoos until they push out our joy, steal our gratitude and fill us with anger and pain.  Unfortunately, for those song birds they could not tell the difference between their eggs and another’s however we are able to distinguish the emotions and seeds that are from God or our enemy. Ultimately we chose what we nurture and what we reject.  

Do you have a cuckoo in your heart?  

Typist for Jesus

My Dog Has a Chipmunk Problem

Big Bryan

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

My dog is obsessed with the chipmunks living under the deck.  He whines and barks at them through the window as they run and play, stopping to munch on a nut or vegetation right in front of the glass door.  Just two or three feet and a glass pane separate him from his nemesis.  Once I let him out for his relief breaks he runs from burrow to burrow, sometimes forgetting why he was let out.  Then he comes inside and realizes he needs to go out.  All day he paces, whines and cries and nothing I do distracts him from those chipmunks.  He is obsessed and cannot focus on anything else.  

I am going to go out on a limb and say that we too can become obsessed with things.  In fact, like those chipmunks in the window, we are also distracted.  Everywhere you turn there are commercials, radio advertising, billboards, emails, news reports and the topic of every conversation you take part in.   The Covid-19 situation is on the forefront of every communication.  Stirring up fear, worry and questions.  We spend a lot of time pacing and trying to figure out what will happen next.

I have begun limiting my exposure to Covid-19 reports, articles and news.  Some would say this is not prudent.  However, I disagree. I am not sticking my head in the sand, instead I am controlling what I expose myself to.  It is true we need to know what is going on in our communities, governments and the world, but there is a limit.  Instead of subsisting on a continual buffet of Covid reports, information and speculation, we should limit how much time we spend reading and submerging ourselves in the ongoing situation. I know that is not easy, you cannot listen to the radio or watch TV without every commercial being about the Covid 19 virus, but you have the power to choose what and how much you digest.  Do not allow yourself to be distracted to the point of neglecting yourself. This constant exposure can intensify fear, loneliness, depression and aggression.  Enjoy time with family, make time for study and prayer, enjoy a good meal or take a walk.  You have the power to limit your exposure and protect yourself.  

I put curtains up on the door and Bryan is much calmer.  He still knows the chipmunks  are there and checks out the burrows every time we go out, but he is not obsessed anymore because the constant stimuli has been curtailed. 

Typist for Jesus

A Faith that Withstands the Threshing Floor

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:12

For the past two weeks I have been trying to write a Seed.  However, only the words, “it is time to separate the wheat from the chaff” has rolled through my mind.  So I began to look for a correlating story as my example, however none came to me. I read about the process of separating wheat from chaff.  (Threshing is done by beating the grain using a flail on a threshing floor or using donkeys or oxen walking  in circles on the grain on a hard surface.) 

This phrase first rolled through my gray matter the night before my city was hit by four tornadoes.  How unfair, I remember thinking that our community was dealing with the Covid 19 virus and now a destructive tornado.. So many people I know were out of work, others worried about the health of loved ones and themselves and then to have our community shredded by an EF3 tornado.  Where is the fairness in that?  As I meditated on these thoughts and shared my questions with Jesus, that phrase continued to roll through. It was then that I realized the correlating story wasn’t something from my life but our lives.  We are living in unusual times.  Dangerous and uncertain times.  

“Now the wheat will be separated from the chaff.”  Whispers.

Faith is nothing without testing.  It is easy to stand and say I believe, God is in control and Jesus is my savior when life is good.  It is easy to declare my faith and trust in God when I am not on state lockdown or huddled in a closet in the darkness.  We are living in unusual times.  Dangerous and uncertain times.  It is now that the wheat will be separated from the chaff. 

Is your declaration of trusting and serving the Savior just words?  Or is your faith one that will withstand what we still have to face? These events have not changed our duties as Christians. We are to witness, lift up those in despair, help the needy and retain our faith and joy, no matter what may come.  Now more than ever in your life, those around you need to witness a faith that withstands the threshing floor. 

Are you  the wheat, or the chaff?

Typist for Jesus

Spring Planting

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7

Spring has sprung and the yard is filled with roses, azaleas, and tulips.  I love this time of year as nature comes alive with color. It is also time to plant vegetables.  Now that we have a house, my daughter and I are excited about having a small garden. This past week she planted seven different items and every day we have checked for the seedlings to emerge.  Of the seven planted four have broken the surface. By Friday my daughter was disappointed that we still had three pots with no development. Rereading the seed packets we discovered that some seeds take longer to germinate than others and this explained the delay. Now we can look forward to them emerging when they should. 

It is the same with the seeds we plant in people’s lives.  I often get frustrated when I do not see a change or growth.  That is because I have forgotten my role. It is my role to plant the seed, but God’s to give the increase.  It is hard to remember that when you care about someone. You only want the best for them. You want them to know the peace and assurance you have in Jesus but that is between them and God.  Plant the seed, water the seed but ultimately know that God gives the increase. 

Seeds emerge in God’s time.

Typist for Jesus