A Work in Progress

Do you sometimes feel hopeless when it comes to getting your "act together" as a Christian?

You think you've failed the Lord miserably, or destroyed your witness thoroughly, or messed up his plans completely.

Well, you're in good company.

Let me remind you of Jesus' disciple, Peter.

He was a young fisherman by trade, and had a "pistol" of a personality.

Peter was the one that spoke BEFORE he thought.

He also was the one who jumped out of the boat to walk on water.

And...he reactively chopped off a Roman soldier's ear.

And then, on one of his worst days, he denied his best Friend three times.

Words to describe him would be spontaneous, impulsive, and immature.

It's safe to say that he didn't have his "act together."


But the good news is this: Jesus chose Peter, as is. While on the earth, Jesus walked with Peter, talked with Peter, corrected Peter, encouraged Peter, and affirmed Peter. What gives me great hope is that the God-man was able to see this young follower not only "as is", but also what he was going to be.

Peter was a work-in-progress.


And goodness, how he did progress! We can find the rest of Peter's faith-walk in the book of Acts, where the Holy Spirit entered in and transformed him. Amazingly, the same man that shouted, "I don't know Him!" and ran for his life the night Jesus was betrayed, later became the man that took his stand (Acts 2:14) and proclaimed Him as the resurrected Lord and Savior. As a result, about three thousand were added to their number that day (Acts 2:41). And that was just the beginning of his ministry! We can observe how he matured into a great leader through reading his God-inspired letters, 1 and 2 Peter.

Peter's growth that spanned over decades of his life should encourage us!

Jesus CHOSE him when he was not much older than an out-of-control teenager. But through the grace of our Savior, and the power of His Spirit, God did great things in and through him.

And He will do the same with any willing heart.

Don't give up. Allow God's word to mature you and his Spirit to mold you, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.

Take hope in the fact that you are His beautiful work-in-progress.



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Wednesday, March 8, 2023
By Chris Baxter

The Good Part--It's a Choice

I'm in the midst of leading a group of ladies through my ABC devotional in which every letter of the alphabet has a Biblical phrase to live by (https://www.respitefortheweary.com/category/awesome-bible-concepts-abc). Today we came to the Letter "L" and I thought I would share it with all of you. It's a familiar story, but as we enter a New Year, let's hear it again for the purpose of choosing "the good part" from the "get go"...

Loving Lord of my Life? Synopsis of Luke 10:38-42.

In the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, Jesus was speaking to a room full of people who were hungry to hear truth. His words were full of life and peace, so the crowd sat a His feet, feasting on every word. Meanwhile, Martha was scurrying back and forth in the kitchen preparing food for the people. When she looked up and saw Mary sitting at Jesus' feet, she became indignant. She asked Jesus, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." Jesus, who loved Martha dearly, said in response, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered by so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one…". At this particular time, Martha was allowing the distractions of the world to keep Jesus from being the Lord of her life.

Loving Lord of my Life! Synopsis of Luke 10:38-42 (same passage).

Jesus continued His conversation with Martha and pointed to her sister saying, "For Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Mary often sat at the feet of Jesus in order to hear His soothing words; they had become life and peace to her soul. She intentionally chose to make room in her life to be still before Him so she could receive His words of grace and guidance; for Jesus, friend of sinners, had become the Lord of her life.

In comparing these two sisters, both friends of Jesus, here are a few questions:

Who do I most resemble, Martha or Mary?

What are my main distractions in my life today?

Do I want to sit still with the Lord Jesus, with His living word?

Ugh, the Martha/Mary story. Oh so convicting at times! Interestingly, my post writing was delayed because I have been scurrying back and forth a lot lately. Whew, I'm tired. Then I hear the words, "(Chris, Chris) you are worried and bothered by so many things…". How quickly I can get off track.Thankfully, Jesus waits for me to be still, both body and soul. I must remember that my morning quiet time with Him is the most productive thing I do all day. There, I make Him the Lord of my life all over again-- listening to His words of healing and hope, obeying Him when He tells me to pick things up or put things down, trusting Him with my Edited agenda. When I am filled up in this way, my heart and mind are different; the scurrying and worrying are changed to peace and prayer, and the things I do become an act of worship rather than a list of frustrations. The day, all day, belongs to my Lord.

Make a intentional decision to be still; choose the one necessary thing…the good part…it will not be taken away from you. Slow down to a complete stop, then really listen at Jesus' feet, so you can be refreshed in truth and rerouted in love. He is waiting especially for you.

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Saturday, January 14, 2023
By Chris Baxter

Four Life Changing Words

These 4 words can save a life.

I attended a fund raiser with my husband Mac the other night in which Pursue Ministries had a guest speaker. This godly man, Mario Zandstra, spoke to us about how to share the gospel using 4 words:

Sin

Guess what? Sin marks ALL of us, from mass murderer to unkind thinker.

Separation

When we realize that our one “small speck” of an unkind thought or stir-the-pot gossip can separate us from holiness, we’re finally understanding our accurate position before God. No human-good-work is good enough to cover our “big or tiny” sin-mark!

Substitute

BUT GOD…in his rich mercy and with his great love sent his Son, Jesus, to forgive your sin and mine! He chose to be the one and only perfect sacrifice for an imperfect people. Our faith in him is our “ticket” to HIS righteousness.

Salvation

Not only did Jesus die on the cross but he also rose from the dead, which means he was victorious over both sin and death. If you believe this truth, not only do you have the opportunity to have his Spirit living inside of you today to help you navigate your life in this still-messy-world, but you also have a perfect inheritance waiting for you in heaven. Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving, forever!

These four words: SIN, SEPARATION, SUBSTITUTE, SALVATION are for you, for me, and for anyone that God lays on your heart. The news is too good (and too critical) to keep to ourselves, so think about who it is that you can share it with. Lay fear down, pick courage up.

Just think, God may use you as the messenger to save this person’s life.

ps A challenge for you...find the four words/points in this passage...then celebrate its truth!

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3: 3-7

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Thursday, October 27, 2022
By Chris Baxter

What is Greatness?

If I asked you to define "greatness," how would you respond?

Would it have to do with your job? Climbing that ladder?

Would it have to do with your influence? Checking those numbers?

Would it be tied to your bank account? Counting your income?

I think in a same-but-different kind of way, we humans equate greatness with anything that feeds our ego: whatever is "higher, bigger, or more" regarding the thing we crave. This sounds silly, but even in my small world of being a 55 year-old Christian writer, I wrestle with wanting to "be great." I want to "change the world for Christ!" This seems honorable, but then, I have learned that sometimes my underlying motives are sorta stinky. Do I want to be great for me? Or do I want to do great work for God? A question for us all to answer.

To put it bluntly, the definitions above are rather skewed when observing what Jesus has to say about greatness. He actually achieved ALL of the above definitions; after all, he is the King of kings! However, he willingly left his lofty throne, shed his royal robes, and entered into our mixed up world in order to show us a thing or two...

A day in the life of Jesus:

One day, Jesus was with his (messy, mixed up) disciples, and two in particular, James and John, were feeling pretty high and mighty. They boldly asked Jesus for the privilege of sitting on his right and left side when he came to power. (They mistakenly thought he would reign as an earthly king in their lifetime.) In a paraphrased nutshell, Jesus responded, "Sorry, brothers, you have no idea what you're talking about."

But then, in the same conversation, in order to make a dramatic point, Jesus went on to say (again paraphrased), "You want to be great? Then...serve."

The brothers most likely said, or maybe they just thought to themselves at this point, "What?! Serve? Are you crazy, Jesus?! We were wanting to sit down; to lord over; to have power; to be applauded, etc."

In this dialogue, listen to what the oh-so-patient Teacher said to the flustered brothers:

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:43-44

Jesus served the sick, the poor, and the lost. Are these kinds of people in your way as you are on your road to self-paved greatness? Can you entertain the opposite; that they are in your way for a purpose? You may have been blessed with a significant title, or a powerful influence, or a lot of money. Wonderful! How can you use these gifts and abilities in regards to Jesus' definition of greatness? Choose to answer this question and then make an impact.

It is true that we are made in the image of God, but I don't believe it's for the purpose of sitting on HIS powerful throne which is reserved for him alone. We are to bear his image in the likeness of a servant. The more we understand and live by this fact, the GREATER impact we will make for his kingdom. Notice, our service to others impacts his kingdom.

In order to be about his kingdom, we must lay down "our kingdom."

So Lord, help us.

Change our thoughts about what it means to be great. When we start to climb that ladder, or to check those numbers, or to count our income, cause us to pause...and then help us to put these temporary and selfish ambitions down. Then make us determined to serve. We are YOUR image bearers! Put one person on our heart each day, and may your greatness be poured out from us into that individual. YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done, one person, one day, at a time. Amen.

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Monday, September 26, 2022
By Chris Baxter

Hats off to those who Labor

Labor Day weekend is upon us.

People are either traveling to their long-weekend destinations, or they've made the conscious decision to put their pj's on and their feet up.

Either way, this extra day of reprieve is welcomed.

I just wanted to pause and say "thank you" to all the hard workers out there. You deserve the day off! And for those of you who are working on this holiday, you deserve a "double thank you!"

We're living in a time that a no-work-ethic is accepted, and even rewarded. In turn, this makes the day even harder for those who are choosing to get up and punch a clock.

Be encouraged; you are not going unnoticed. You are doing the right thing.

Even in a perfect world, work was the "right thing":

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Gen. 2:15). Adam and Eve got up in the morning and maintained the garden that God created. Work is in our DNA from the beginning. (Sadly, through Adam and Eve's disobedience, the curse of "thorns and thistles" entered their world, and we're still enduring it to this day, which makes work...HARD.)

True, work is hard! But it's also good.

I believe "getting your hands dirty" is a blessing.

It's character building.

It's mind stretching.

It's skill refining.

It's purpose finding.

It's social interacting.

It's personally gratifying.

And on a bigger and more impactful scale than status climbing, it can be God-glorifying...

So workers...Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. Ecclesiastes 9:10

From medical people to waitresses to teachers to musicians to ditch diggers to builders to firefighters to bankers, from blue collar to white collar, from stay-at-homers to downtown-office-goers...hats off to each of you!

Thank you for making your mark in this world.

Yes, all you laborers out there, enjoy your day off.

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Friday, September 2, 2022
By Chris Baxter

Stand at the Crossroads

As I'm making my way through the Bible this year, Jeremiah is now "up" on my reading radar.

Hmmm, what a book so far. Once again, the contrast between God's desires for us and our own fleshly-desires are vast.

Here is a verse that caught my attention:

This is what the Lord said, "Stand at the crossroads and look, ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, "We will not walk in it." Jeremiah 6:16

In this verse I see the verbs:

stand

look

ask

walk.

Often, when making moment to moment choices or even longterm decisions, we skip over the first 3 verbs and just walk forward, doing what "feels" right.

Or ... we might take the time to stand, look, and ask, but if we don't get the answer we want, we justify our path-choice, or make up our own rules, and reply to our Loving God in just the same way the people in Jeremiah's day did: "We will not walk in it."

Let me tell you, things did not go well for the people in Jeremiah's day. We can learn from them!

Here are two blatant truths I gathered from this one verse this morning:

1. When we stand, look, ask, and then walk down God's path (which is laid out for us in his divine word), the result is REST for our SOULS. This does not mean we will have a trial free existence; but it does mean that we will have God-given-soul-rest (his peace) within us as we walk through our trials. I love how this truth is restated by Christ himself over 500 years later:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   Matthew 11:28-29

2. By deduction, the opposite is true as well, when we choose to say to our loving God concerning his ancient words, "We will not walk in it" or, "Thank you God, but no thank you," we then forfeit what he longs to give us. In this case, we tend to trade soul-rest for anything that will either numb the pain or fleetingly satisfy.

My friend, which way are you headed?

Before going forward, how about we both take a few extra minutes today to stand, look, and ask God about our next steps? Let's be patient and listen for his answer. What does his timeless word say about your present-day decision?

And then, after he answers, let's walk together with our gentle and humble Savior, Jesus.

We all crave soul-rest, and there's only One who can give it.

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Monday, August 8, 2022
By Chris Baxter

Daily Prayer

How should I shine?

No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.  Luke 8:16

Dear Lord,

You gave us your eternal light for a purpose. Help us to remove the covering of fear or doubt or passivity that hinders your truth from shining out of us. Instead fill us with strong courage and active faith. May your light within us shine out on whomever we encounter today.  Amen.