What Jesus Prayed for You and Why it Matters

Final Words

Have you ever had the sacred honor of being with someone as they made the transition to eternity?

The last words a person utters before leaving this earth are generally considered some of the most important ones spoken. If you were to discover that some of the last recorded words of a very influential person contained a prayer for you, would you want to know what he had prayed?  I know I would!

This week at Tuesday morning prayer at my church, our wonderful prayer leader Phyllis encouraged us to pray for unity among the body of Christ. God has put it in her heart to see pastors and prayer groups across denominational lines come together to seek God for our city, and together reach the lost and the hurting. And not just in our city – in your city as well, and in cities everywhere.

What Jesus Prayed for You and Why It MattersHer prayer has been resonating in me all week.  Her vision of seeing cities transformed by the power of God like in the great revivals of the past makes me long to see it with my own eyes, and for my children to see it.

Questions like, “How can it happen?” “How can I do my part?” fill my mind and drove me to Jesus’ prayer in John chapter 17. Just before His arrest, trial and crucifixion, John recorded Jesus praying for Himself, His disciples, and for all those who would believe. This last recorded prayer for His followers carries the double weight of not just being the perfect will of God, but also of being THE message that He wanted to leave us with.

Jesus Final Prayer On Earth for All Believers

Jesus prayed:

“…I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that You gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and You in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

 

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17:20-26, NIV

Look at what Jesus prayed for all believers:

  1. That all of them may be one
  2. That they may be “in us” (Jesus and the Father)
  3. That they would be brought to complete unity

Unity in the Body of Christ

One only has to take the briefest of perusals of church history or look at the many different denominations currently within the Christian church to realize that “unity in the body of Christ” is not as easy as it sounds. Unity in one family with just two children is often not easy – much less entire groups of people with differing backgrounds, perceptions, and assumptions.What Jesus Prayed for You and Why It Matters

Jesus wasn’t praying for unity for no reason. He wasn’t praying it because He couldn’t think of anything better to pray – like that we would be comfortable, and never have trials, or that being His follower would look just like the American Dream.

Instead of many other options, Jesus prayed for unity among His followers, and He prayed that specific prayer for a very good reason: “to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”

Unity in the church authenticates the message. Click To Tweet

It substantiates Christ’s claim to love the lost.

Unity says, “Together, we invite you to know our great God who loves you”. Discord says “Come back later – we’re busy arguing amongst ourselves and can’t help you now.”

Jesus knew that to fulfill the Great Commission, we needed to come together.

A city can’t be transformed by one church alone.

The world can’t be won through discord.

what can we do?

Just our part. We can “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11), we can do our part to promote unity as far as it depends on us.

Does “unity” mean we agree about absolutely everything? I’m not sure that’s even possible!

What, then, does it mean?

May I suggest that instead of focusing on nuances of belief or ways to worship, we allow the end goal that Jesus prayed to be our focus?

If each and every follower of Christ lived and breathed “to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them…”, what message would the world receive?

We may not eliminate disagreements, but perhaps they would be overlooked as inconsequential in light of the glorious task before us.

What Jesus Prayed for You and Why It MattersLater in His prayer, Jesus shares His longing with the Father – His longing for us to be with Him where He is going. His longing to be together forever in a place more wonderful than we can possibly imagine.

His longing isn’t just for you and me though – it’s for all those who will believe.

May His longing become ours today. Oh, that He would give each one of His followers grace to prioritize and pursue unity SO THAT the world will know that there is a God who loves them!  May the world see and accept the offer of hope, healing, and an eternal home in His loving presence.

With faith, hope, and love,

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. – For further reading on unity in the body of Christ, you may enjoy this article by John Piper.

Is Your Joy Being Stolen by Guilt?

How big of a role does guilt play in your life?

I don’t mean the kind of guilt that normal (non-psychopath) people feel after doing something wrong.

I mean the nebulous kind that floats around in the atmosphere and stealthily attacks in unguarded moments, making us feel like we are never doing enough.

The kind that parades across the stage of our minds as we attempt to sleep, accusing us of not reaching out to enough neighbors, not doing something about unfair labor practices in China, not helping the homeless regularly enough or mentoring troubled kids or recycling or making enough hospital visits or sending thank-you notes or buying organic produce or saving the world.

I have noticed that when I give in and dwell on the mountain range of what I “should” be doing, it robs me of the focus and joy to do well what God has set before me.

But does this sort of guilt – this feeling of never doing enough – serve a purpose?

How much IS enough when it comes to doing good things?

Who gets to say how much is enough in MY life and in yours?Is Your Joy Being Stolen by Guilt?

After all, there are enough situations and people who clamor for attention that we will NEVER be able to “do enough” to satisfy them all!

The wonderful ladies in my family and I are reading Sally Clarkson’s excellent book, “Own Your Life” together and discussing it. Although we’re only on chapter 2, I am already benefiting from the wisdom it contains in learning to take ownership of what’s mine, and not taking on responsibility for what isn’t.

My expectations for what I can accomplish in life, while recognizing and expecting the power of God as I obey Him, must be grounded in the reality of my situation and resources – energy and time being two of the resources I must consider.

I am only one person – you are only one person. We can’t do it all. There will ALWAYS be more things we aren’t able to be involved in than the very small (relatively speaking) number of things we can be involved in. That is okay.

When that fact sinks in, we can begin to adjust our expectations of ourselves.

Other people’s expectations of us may be even further from reality, and should not determine the focus of our lives.

If I live my life reacting to everyone’s expectation of me, I will become schizophrenic in my focus and thereby lose my effectiveness (and wear myself out).

Is there another way to live?

Starting from gratitude.

“Gratitude, not guilt, as motivation is always His starting point, thus guilt as a motivation leads nowhere.” ― Geoffrey Wood

 

If my starting point is guilt over all the wonderful things I’m NOT doing, that trajectory will lead me to a frenetic, scattered, ineffective life.

If my starting point is gratitude – for what I have, for how God is already using me, and for His leading for the future – that trajectory will lead me to greater joy and a closer walk with Him, allowing me to better know His voice and sense His leading. Those, in turn, will position me to respond to HIS promptings to act.

Donald Miller, in his article on guilt in the Relevant Magazine blog, says:

“I don’t want to be driven by guilt, I want to be driven by love.”

What a difference!

My job is to do well what God gives me to do. To accomplish this, I must learn to say the “N” word.

You may not have uttered it recently yourself. Your tongue may be out of practice. I encourage you to try it out a few times and remind yourself of this fact:

Saying “no” to things that aren’t God’s plan for me means a better “yes” to those that are. Click To Tweet

A “no” to teaching another class at church, or chairing a committee, or running a large event if it is not something God is prompting you to do, means a better yes to caring for your family, yourself, and your existing commitments.

His sheep know His voice. If we practice listening, daily, we will know when He is asking more of us. We will hear when His still, Is Your Joy Being Stolen by Guilt?small voice directs us to minister to someone or add something to our schedule.

And in that place of submission and obedience, His power can flow through us, making our efforts fruitful and not futile.

So do me a favor. Take out a piece of scrap paper. Draw your best stick figure right in the middle. Make sure it’s smiling – you might need that smile for encouragement as you learn to say “No”. That stick figure is you. Now draw a circle around the stick figure on the paper.

Inside the circle are the things God has given you responsibility for or dominion over. Yourself, of course. Your immediate family, your home, your gifts and talents and the expressions of them He had led you into. Your job, etc.

Everything else in the world goes outside your circle.

That curving line is the protection of your sanity and of all that the circle contains. It is the boundary around your life. See the smile? 🙂

Guard your boundary. Do well, with gratitude, what He has given you to do. I know you’ll be ready when He prompts you to add or change something.

The rest? Leave it where it is, and remind yourself that you do not have to live your life plagued by an ill-defined sense of guilt telling you that you are never doing enough.

If we are doing well what God has given us to do, we are doing enough.

How do I know?

Because at the end of the day, it all boils down to love. Jesus says, in Matthew 25:31-46 that when He returns, He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep will be welcomed into eternity with God, and the goats will be cast out.

What makes one person a sheep and another a goat?

The distilled answer is love which results in obedience – Jesus said if we love Him, we will obey Him.

If we loved well the people God brought into our lives – our circles – He counts it as service done to Himself.

I want to be motivated by love and not by guilt so that my life is fruitful and not futile, and I believe you do too. Let’s pray for each other:

“Gracious Father, thank you for your leading and Your love. We want that love to compel us to do well all that You would have us do. Would you help us to quiet the voices that would scatter our efforts and make them futile, and instead to focus on your gentle voice? Lead us to live the fruitful lives You desire for us, and to replace nagging guilt with joy and gratitude. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

With faith, hope, and love,

Extraordinary People Series – Barbara Collver

Meet Barb Collver

Nothing inspires me as much as a great story. Biographies have been a part of my reading life from way back in my Christian school days. We didn’t get a lot of Shakespeare, but we were fed a steady diet of biographies of great men and women of the faith. I still remember their names with reverence…Jim Elliot, John Bunyan, Brother Andrew, George Mueller, Amy Carmichael – they parade through my mind like an addendum to the Hebrews Faith Hall of Fame.

Lives lived for God’s glory. Brave men and women whose choices took on heroic proportions and whose names are remembered among the greats.

I think what inspires me the most about stories like these are the elements of weakness that we can all relate to. The humble beginning, or the painful childhood, or the fatal flaw finally submitted to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes years of carousing were the unlikely preamble to the lives most sacrificially and wholeheartedly devoted to Christ.

Often the heroes are unsure how to proceed. At times, they struggle with painful situations and debilitating doubts, all of which make us rightly suspect they are just regular folks, after all.

Hard on the heels of that realization comes the eye-opener that we too can make heroic choices amid the humdrum of our daily lives. We too can chooExtraordinary People Series - Barbara Collverse to bravely live lives of faith-filled obedience, to put God’s kingdom above our own comforts, and to love well and sacrificially those God has put in our path.

One person who has made such choices for decades and seen God weave a lovely tapestry of grace from the offered threads of her life in spite of frequent sickness, painful trials, and loss, is Barbara Collver.

 

Barb has crammed so much living and serving God in her 81 years, that it’s truly a challenge to know where to begin her story!  I recently came across her name, along with that of her husband, Howard (Howie to his friends and family) while reading the book, The Cross and the Switchblade, to my kids. In this exciting and true story, Barb was the resident nurse who helped the street boys through the detox process of coming off drugs in the early days of David Wilkerson’s Teen Age Evangelism ministry (now called Teen Challenge).

As we came across their names repeatedly during our nightly read, my excitement began to grow. “Could this be Aunt Barb and Uncle Howie???” I asked my wonderstruck children. I had a faint memory of hearing that my husband’s aunt and uncle used to work with the famous Dave Wilkerson in New York.

Barb and Howie’s last name is misspelled in the book by two letters – “Culver” instead of “Collver”, so I wasn’t entirely sure it wasn’t an odd coincidence, but a quick cross-country Facebook message to Aunt Barb confirmed their misspelled identity. I knew instantly that I needed to share Barb’s story with you, and she graciously consented.

Here’s the ironic part of Barb’s story of decades of ministry: when growing up, she had great plans to avoid just such a life! In spite of the example of both of her sisters, red-headed and strong-willed Barb laughs:

“I always said I would never marry a minister and I would never go to Bible college, but I did both!”

God’s plans for Barb were so much more far-reaching than anything her young mind could conjure.

And Then There Were Two

Howard entered the scene in August of 1956 when Barb was 20 years old, and Barb says “I knew the first day that this was the one.” She was a junior in nursing school and had asked her sister Dee and brother-in-law Bill (then missionaries serving in Japan) to find her a Christian soldier she could write to. Howie, in the Army at the time and stationed in Japan, was the lucky soldier Dee and Bill selected. A short letter-writing campaign began, followed by a visit in Michigan where he and Barb met face-to-face. They were engaged a whopping four days later and married the following June before she graduated froExtraordinary People Series - Barbara Collverm nursing school in September. Barb may not have realized her request for a pen-pal would in effect turn into a mail-order husband, but her matchmaking sister Dee still smiles about it today.

 

Barb and Howie enjoyed a short time together before he had to leave two months later for school at Central Bible Institute in Springfield, MO. Howie moved their things, rented a house, got a job, and settled in for earning his ministry degree. When Barb graduated in September, he drove back to Michigan to collect his bride, and they were happily reunited. She couldn’t have known at the time what a good decision finishing her nursing program would prove to be – Barb’s nursing career would provide needed finances for their family many times over the years and opened the door for her to do mission work around the globe.

The Stork Flew By…More Than Once

The school years flew by and their little family began to grow – first their daughter Bobbi was born (1959), and then little Sherri came(1960) – in spite of their deciding to wait to have children until Howie was out of seminary! In 1961, the then young and unheard-of David Wilkerson came to C.B.I. to interview for summer ministers to help with the growing ministry in New York City. Howie, just graduated, was hired for the job as an Assemblies of God home missionary.  Other students were hired as well to work as summer interns, but Barb says that with Howie, David got a package deal: “at the same time he got an RN for nursing the addicts at the Center (but most of them just got healed and delivered)!”  Barb and Howie received $5 in monthly support from each of their mothers – thankfully, room and board were provided at the Center. With a tiny budget but great faith, they jumped out of their boat in New York City to follow Jesus.

Teen ChalleNGE

For those of you who haven’t read The Cross and the Switchblade, this job was no easy gig doing Vacation Bible Schools and puppet shows for popsicle-eating children. The ministry existed to serve the street kids of New York, many of whom were gang members, drug addicts, murderers, prostitutes, etc.

Extraordinary People Series- Barbara CollverTo complicate matters, not only was this Howie’s first job out of Bible college but by the time he was hired, he and Barb had two toddlers to care for and were pregnant with their third child. Barb remembers this time as difficult and challenging, complicated by pre- (and then post) partum depression and feelings of being completely overwhelmed. Howie was gone for extended periods of time, learning the ins and outs of street preaching, taking care of the building, and working long hours at the Center, and Barb was left alone to care for the children. She also had her own duties at the Center, ministering to the street kids and helping them detox from drugs and sometimes doing the cooking for the Center. The nature of the ministry meant being constantly surrounded by violence and danger…not the most conducive setting to raising small children.

Barb remembers one incident where her little girls were napping and she needed to quickly dash to the main building. In the short amount of time that she was gone, someone entered their home where the girls were sleeping and stole their camera. Thoughts of what could have been horrified her as the reality of ministering in that dangerous environment hit home in a new way. Another time, as the two older girls were playing in the front yard, Barb saw a boy take Sherri out the gate and start down the sidewalk with her. Barb, who was watching from a 2nd-floor window, yelled to the boy “Where are you going with her?” The boy responded that he was taking Sherri home. Barb hollered “This IS her home – put her back in this yard!” Even though he didn’t get far, where the boy planned to take Sherri is unknown, and many prayers of gratitude were offered up for her safe return.

The First Pastorate And Life on a submarine

The stress of this life in the pressure cooker of high-risk and demanding ministry led the Collvers to prayerfully accept a pastorate in Norwich, CT, and a change of pace and scenery but didn’t forever close the door to working with DExtraordinary People Series - Barbara Collveravid and the Teen Challenge program. They would work with Teen Challenge again, years later, in a different location.

Barb and Howie were at their first pastorate for 4 years, growing it from 20 people to about 100. They also accomplished the demolition of the 180-year-old building and construction of a new church building on the existing property, with Howie himself putting in over 3,000 hours on the new building over an exhausting 8-month period. Barb remembers singing a solo at the dedication of the new building, while hugely pregnant and miserable with poison ivy from working the garden. Their third daughter Patti was born in December 1961 and then their son Jim joined the family in 1965, with a miscarriage between them. In addition to helping pastor, teaching Sunday school, and caring for their 4 young children, Barb also worked outside the home as a nurse during this time. One of her more interesting jobs had her using her nursing skills in nuclear submarines! Barb shares:

“From June 1963 – Feb. 1964 I worked in Groton, Ct. at General Dynamics Nuclear Submarine Division as an RN in the ‘yard hospital’. We treated injuries, etc. and sometimes would be called for an emergency to go down in a sub. An ambulance would show up at the door and we would grab a black “doctor’s bag” and be taken to the sub. One time I was called for an emergency – someone had received an electric shock in the lower reactor room (where there was really only room for 2 men). There was the injured man, another man, and me, and they lowered a stretcher down by a crane to be loaded and taken to the hospital. The man lived, but it was scary…but interesting!”

Their time serving in New York City with David Wilkerson and then in Connecticut at their first pastorate was just the beginning of what would become a lifetime of ministry. Howard would (among other things) go on to serve as a senior pastor two more times, as an associate pastor (twice), as a licensed professional counselor, and as a Professor of Counseling and Resident Director (at Zion Bible College in Rhode Island, now Northpoint College). He also set up the counseling program at the Mid America Teen Challenge center in Cape Girardeau, MO. He added two Masters degrees to his education, has been in ministry for over 50 years, and he and Barb celebrate 60 years of marriage (on Barb’s 81st birthday!) the month this post goes live, June 2017!

Happy anniversary, Aunt Barb and Uncle Howie!

Barb says she loved her life as a pastor’s wife and when they were in between ministry assignments, she truly missed it. Pastoring small churches allowed Barb many and varied opportunities to use her gifts for the Lord, which included teaching Sunday School,  teaching a “Catechism” class for children (teaching Christianity’s basic doctrines), leading the women’s ministry, helping to organize and teaching in the pre-school nursery school, caring for babies in the church nursery, and even cleaning the church!

Even now, while BaExtraordinary People Series - Barbara Collverrb and Howie are officially retired, Barb faithfully volunteers at her church, compelled by her love for the Lord and for the Body of Christ.

 

The Missions Trips – Not Your Typical Grandma

 

In addition to her love for the local church, you can’t talk to Barb for long without her passion for missions bubbling to the surface. Incredibly, Barb has been on 43 mission trips to 27 different countries and has taken 6 of her 12 grandchildren on trips with her. When I asked her about scary moments with so many trips to undeveloped countries, Barb responded:

“In Honduras, it was right after the war in 1989, and soldiers with weapons were on all corners. We could hear shooting sometimes at night. In Albania, 1999, they were fighting, and long lines of armed vehicles would pass the place we were staying (above the church) going to fight.  In several countries, the roads were totally UNBELIEVABLE (our worst doesn’t even compare!) and as we traveled to the ‘outback’ it was quite an experience. But I can honestly say I was never afraid.  In Cambodia there was fighting going on in another part of the country. When we came out of the ‘country’ – (we were 6 miles from the Viet border) our line of cars was stopped by the military. Just 2 cars ahead of us there was a missile launcher shooting off missiles against the enemy miles away. We were able to talk to the army guys and they said we didn’t need to be worried because the other side had ‘poor aim’. So we just had to wait while they shot the missiles and then proceeded to Phnom Penh.  The only time I was ‘concerned’ was flying from Athens to Albania (’99) –  we had tremendous turbulence and I wondered if we would crash. The man next to me was really scared! But, I just always felt I was in God’s hands and whatever HE wanted was good enough for me to not be afraid.  That’s about it – no real fears, just potential dangers.”

When asked if she could pick a favorite trip out of the 43 she has made, Barb enthusiastically responds:

“I always say Cambodia (3 times there, once for over one month). The reason I give is that of all my patients that I examined there, NONE had ever heard the NAME OF JESUS! That just astounded me! I had already done 8 trips by my first trip to Cambodia in 1992. Most of them were in Central and South America and everyone knew who Jesus was (even if they didn’t know Him personally). Also, in Cambodia, Pol Pot (Cambodian politician and revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until 1997) had ravaged the country with killing most of the people in Phohm Penh. No one had been untouched by these killings! Most of the old people, the professionals, and college students had been killed. Therefore it was SO important to reach the college kids, especially the medical students, because they would be able to carry the Gospel message all around the country to many who hadn’t heard!”

Barb is currently working on scrapbooking her mission trips. I have a feeling that when she gets to Heaven, there will be a heavenly version of those scrapbooks waiting for her, and they will be complete with the parts she never knew – the stories of lives changed because of her faithfulness, sacrifice, and extraordinary courage.

Sickness – The Silent Companion

Illness has played a major role in Barb’s life, affecting every aspect of her existence. Her medical history contains enough events and surgeries to fill the pages of a book. The emotional strain of frequent and severe sickness was considerable, at times negatively impacting her Extraordinary People Series- Barbara Collverwalk with the Lord. The challenge of a life of ministry combined with financial struggle is enough for the most dauntless among us, but sickness and surgery (along with the resulting emotional issues) were often added to the mix.

The medical issues began in 1976 with abdominal pain, weight loss, and a major surgery to correct a GI disorder. Three weeks post-op Barb returned to work but still wasn’t feeling well. A visit to a Spirit-filled Christian surgeon followed, and he performed exploratory surgery to try to determine the cause of Barb’s pain.

“He told me later that he could not see or feel anything wrong and almost closed my abdomen. BUT GOD!! The Holy Spirit spoke to him and told him to do a needle biopsy of my gallbladder. When he did, he found that it was packed with gravel (which didn’t show on x-ray, nor could he feel it). So he removed the gallbladder. After surgery my peristalsis (what moves the food through the system) stopped working and I knew I was dying. I told him that and he prayed to see what would help me live. The Lord impressed him to give me IV Valium every 15 minutes until I was completely ‘out’. I slept for 12 hours and when I woke up, I was completely healed! I could do nothing but pace in my room and pray in the Spirit, praising HIM for healing. Three weeks later I returned to work – feeling much better. This surgeon said I hadn’t needed the first surgery if they would have found the gallbladder problem. We were praising the Lord for this doctor who obeyed the Holy Spirit!”

The relief lasted 3 years, but then Barb started feeling poorly again. New diagnosis: ulcers in the esophagus and stomach. This resulted in the major Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery (now frequently used for weight loss, which probably explains tall and slender Barb’s ensuing struggle to gain weight).

“I continued to have emotional and physical problems with ear surgery (’92), shoulder surgery (’93), kidney stones and breast biopsies, arthritis (hand) surgery (’94), bowel problems, and abdominal adhesions surgery (’97). In 2003 I was again not well, and was finally diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy in March 2003.  After the breast surgery, I did very well surgically but was feeling terrible – weak, lack of appetite, etc. They decided there was something in my lungs and told me it was probably cancer or TB. I had a wedge resection of my lung and NO CANCER or TB (was found)!”

Barb was, however, diagnosed with Mycobacterium Avium (MAC).

“They had me on 3 very strong antibiotics for the MAC, but that made me very ill and I had kidney insufficiency. Sept. 2004, I had a renal artery stent inserted and that was good for the kidney problem (stenosis). I was well until Jan. 2006, more abdominal pain – surgery again for adhesions. Since this time, I have had some issues (more kidney stones 2 more times, cataracts (2007), a couple falls with hospitalization for UTIs (2011), anemia, pacemaker inserted (2013), and a total hip replacement (2014).
But praise the Lord, we’ve continued to grow in Jesus, stayed faithful, prayed a lot, and I’ve been well since 2014. GOD IS GOOD – ALL THE TIME! HE MUST NOT BE DONE WITH ME YET! All of this and I am still growing in Jesus- He is closer than ever to me and I to Him!”

Barb’s life as has not been an easy one. Five predominant strands would define the tapestry of her life – family, ministry, her work outside the home, missions, and illness. While living in the moment, these strands often appeared tangled, messy, and random, twisting around each other in seeming discord. But looking back from the pinnacle of 60 years of marriage and decades of ministry, the pattern of her life story emerges from the pain and struggles.

God brought Howard into her life, changing its trajectory, and blessed them with their four children.Extraordinary People Series - Barbara Collver

God used Barb in ministry, serving alongside Howie and teaching her to love people.

God used her nursing career to bring provision and open many doors to serve overseas.

God used her heart for missions to take the Gospel around the globe and leave a legacy within her own family and around the world.

God used her sickness and suffering to form her character, teach her perseverance, and bring her depth and compassion.

Through all these adventures, Barb can say emphatically that God IS good – all the time. He has used her life far beyond anything she could have imagined as a young girl who most emphatically did not want to go into ministry. She has touched lives in places most of us will only ever see on the news. Barb has intentionally imparted a legacy of missions-mindedness to the younger generation by bringing some of her grandchildren with her on mission trips. One of those grandchildren, Kimberly, is now serving as a full-time Chi Alpha missionary, and another granddaughter has been called into the ministry as well.

Barb is not one to sugar-coat reality or shy away from admitting the considerable suffering that has been part of her life. But the bottom line for Barb is that her life has been lived for His glory, and while her pastoring and overseas traveling days are over, she looks forward to more opportunities to serve Him at home, right where she is. Her wonderful example of perseverance through difficulty and sacrificial living truly make her an extraordinary person and a beautiful reflection of God’s grace!

 

With faith, hope, and love,Extraordinary People Series - Barbara Collver

The Ultimate Deception and How to Avoid It

Self-Deception is the Ultimate Deception

There is no deception like self-deception. I guess that’s because no one is as happily gullible to my fabrications as I am.

Sometimes I get myself to believe I am doing all I can to impact a situation when in reality I am doing all I WANT to be doing.

Or that I am really a generous and thoughtful person because of one generous and thoughtful act when the majority of my week was spent selfishly.

Or that I don’t really spend THAT much time on social media or other time-wasters.

The Ultimate DeceptionDeceptions like these foster the belief that I’m better off than I think I am.

The problem with deceptions is they don’t facilitate growth. They just comfortably pad our cell, furnishing it with a candle, a blanket, and perhaps some crackers.

I don’t want to remain imprisoned by self-deception. Thinking that I am a better disciple of Christ than I actually am does nothing to transform me into that disciple.

Recognizing reality brings clarity of vision. Clarity of vision brings hope for change.

Beware the Self-Focus Trap

This point in the journey to shake off self-deception is like an ostrich pulling her head out of the sand, only to realize that she is standing on a high, narrow pass with a sharp drop on either side. A fall in either direction will land her in the trap of Too Much Focus on Self: either to float adrift on the endless sea of self-improvement on one side or to crash onto the rocks of self-loathing (”I’m way worse off than I even realized!”) on the other.

Either one sidetracks from the high, narrow road that leads to maturity.

Enter God’s Word.  Amazing how timeless it is – ancient words written in the first century A.D. that still nail it today.

James 1:22-25 (NIV) admonishes us with this:

“Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.”

Once I got a haircut that was significantly different from how I wore my hair previously. When I woke up the next morning and stumbled into the bathroom to brush my teeth, I was shocked to be greeted by my image in the mirror – I had forgotten the new haircut.

That is what James says we do when we have our morning quiet time, gloss over our Scripture reading, put down our Bibles, and go on about our day, unchanged.

We find ourselves reacting out of the flesh when a driver cuts us off on the freeway…wait, what? Me? Prideful?

We hear ourselves snap at our spouse or children…me?? Impatient? Rude? I wouldn’t have said that if HE hadn’t _________!

Surely that wasn’t me! I’m just tired, having a bad day, coming down with a cold, inhaled too much air pollution, or ran out of vitamins!

Mmmm hmmm.The Ultimate Deception

Sucker.

I know, because it takes one to know one.

When I gloss over verses like, “Be completely humble and gentle”, nod my head wisely, think I have that one in the bag, and then walk out of my room and act harshly or pridefully, I am the victim of my own deception.

These deceptions add up to a picture in the mirror of a different kind of disciple than the one I actually am.

The Antidote

The antidote lies in the adverb. Well, and in the verb. 🙂

James says we must “look intently” into the perfect law that gives freedom AND do what it says.

Our house flooded last year. The insurance guy came out and poked around, inside and out, inspecting the degree of damage and making a few drainage suggestions.

When the insurance company emailed the finished claim to us with the settlement amount, you can know that I didn’t just give it a cursory glance, oblivious to small details such as decimal point placement and such. I looked INTENTLY at that document. I read it 5 times. Then I called Bill and read it to him. When he came home from work, I made him read it intently to verify my interpretation. And we didn’t end it there – say, “That was an exciting read!” and toss the papers in the recycle bin and forget about it. No! We (okay, I) checked the mailbox about 6 times per day until that check arrived, and when it came, we applied it to our lives with the help of a pen and our local banking institution!

What if we read God’s Word that way?

James says that if we do – if we read it purposefully, intently, and honestly – AND apply what we read to our lives, we will be blessed in what we do.

That sounds like a way better end result than continuing on in our own deception, to our own demise.

The Ultimate DeceptionThe point of an honest read of God’s Word and an honest view of our own maturity is not to cause us to focus endlessly on ourselves (either negatively or positively).  It is to partner with God in our own transformation and to avoid the pit of hypocrisy. Authentic believers, humbled by the grace they need and receive from God, are attractive to those needing grace.

When we recognize our failure to live up to God’s Word, we can ask Him for the grace to become more like Jesus.

Recognizing my failure is useful, but agonizing over it doesn’t fix me.

We can only safely navigate that high, narrow pass when our gaze is firmly fixed on the Glorious One.  He alone can lead us onward, past the dangers lurking on either side.

Filling our vision with the beauty of our Risen Lord and looking intently into His life-giving Word will transform us into His likeness.

I don’t want to deceive myself and miss being transformed because I think I already have been. If you feel the same way, will you pray with me?

“Gracious, loving Father, open our eyes to the mirror of your Word. Help us obtain clarity of vision and to then fill our vision with your beauty and holiness. We don’t want to stay stuck where we are, believing we are farther along our journey than we actually are. Transform us daily by your Word and cause us to be fully pleasing to You in every way. Help us, by our humble and authentic pursuit of You, to draw others to Your grace and truth. We ask this for Your glory. Amen.”

With faith, hope, and love,

 

P.S. – for another interesting read on the many times Scripture warns us about believing lies, and the perils of self-deception, you might like this article from www.biblestudytools.com.

Anatomy of a Storm

The Anatomy of a Storm

Storms. Unexpected tests we can’t cram for.

They have the uncanny ability to reveal by our reaction what we have solidly attained thus far in our walk with the Lord. Not what we WISH we had, or what our best friend has, but what we truly know and believe, deep inside us.

Beyond the facade.

Anatomy of a Storm I have never been good at math. When I was a kid, my dad would try to help me with my math homework. That was usually not a good situation. Put one brilliant but not very patient person with someone who gets confused and intimidated easily and doesn’t “get” math at all, and you have a prescription for some unhappy homework sessions.

In those times of anxiety, my math IQ was bumped back down to 3rd grade. I would only be SURE of the very basics – the things I had learned years ago and were now a part of me. Basic addition. The multiplication tables. Simple division. Anything beyond that, anything I was working on but didn’t own yet, flew out the window.

The storms of life affect us in much the same way. What we have solidly acquired is what will see us through. The rest flees at the first hint of trouble, like dandelion seeds blown from the stem in a gust of wind. Like nebulous math equations that haven’t yet congealed in our brains.

The disciples were in the same boat. They had no unfair advantage in spite of being in close physical proximity to the Teacher. We’d like to think they did, but their test results show otherwise.

Let’s dissect their storm in Matthew chapter 8. Although theirs was an actual storm of wind and waves, it has many parallels to the ones we so often face.

“Then He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Without warning, a furious squall came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then He got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, and it was completely calm.”

 

Matthew 8:23-26, NIV

Observation 1

Jesus didn’t prioritize His disciples’ comfort over their spiritual maturity. Prioritizing comfort produces weakness. Jesus didn’t say, “You know guys, I think we may want to walk around the lake this time.” No – He led them straight into the path of the storm because only in going through the storm would they receive the value of the storm.

Observation 2

Storms have value. Sometimes Jesus leads us into them so that we can know what we have attained and where we need to grow. If we never NEED our faith but live always in comfortable, unthreatened security, we will never know what is on the inside of us.  It is in the exercising of a muscle that one can ascertain its strength.  I can’t tell how many pounds I could bench press by sitting on the bench sipping a milkshake and reading a magazine.

Observation 3

His presence is enough.

“Jesus was sleeping”. Have you ever felt like Jesus went to sleep on the job in your life? I know I have! But the point is His presence. He was with His disciples, and He is with us, always. Even when He is silent, He is still there, interceding for us that our faith won’t fail, and providing us with what we need to grow into maturity.

Observation 4

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM

When is it time to panic? Apparently, never.

 

Jesus asked His disciples why they were afraid BEFORE he calmed the storm…while they were still having to shout over the wind. He presented His pointed query while the waves were lashing their faces, drenching their hair and clothes and swamping the boat, putting their lives in great danger (or so they believed). In the middle of their terror, Jesus asked them why in the world they were afraid.

Why should they NOT be afraid? Because they had Jesus right there in the boat with them. His presence is the key – not His perceived inaction. We know this math – it’s a simple equation.

 

God’s presence + my problem = the power to prevail over it. Click To Tweet

 

Friend, you and I have the promise of His presence too. Just as real. Just as powerful.

What storm are you facing today? Be encouraged to know that if you belong to Him, He is in the boat with you, and His presence gives you the power you need to prevail over your storm, too.

Not currently caught up in a storm? Think back to the last one you experienced. What did it reveal? Quiet trust in the faithfulness of God, or something else? Ask Him to show you where He wants to grow you and spend time meditating on His Word. Ask a trusted friend to pray for you, and pray for them as well.

Observation 5

After Jesus rebuked the wind and waves, it was “completely calm”. The calm between the storms.  If the purpose of a storm is to reveal the condition of our faith, then perhaps the calm seasons are to be used to grow it. If we use every calm to just bask in the relief and entertain ourselves until the wind picks up again, will we be any better off in the next storm?

If you find yourself feeling battered and shipwrecked by the storms of life, would you allow me to pray for you?

“Gracious Father, I pray for the ones who feel like they are being destroyed by the storms of life. I pray that you would give them eyes to see You alongside them in their boat. I pray that You would shift their focus from the waves around them to Your peaceful, powerful presence. Strengthen their faith, and give them a desire to actively grow it by time spent in Your Word and with Your people. Bring them safely through their current storm and use it to help them attain maturity in You.”

I want my next storm to reveal greater faith and strength than the last one did, so I’m joining those of you who are praying to that end!

Remember  – God’s presence + my problem = the power to prevail!

With faith, hope, and love –