Testament

I started a new series recently. More accurately, I watched a movie that will hopefully lead to a series down the road.

The movie is a modern retelling of some of Jesus’ parables in the context of the early church. The series will be more focused on the events from the book of Acts and is currently raising funds via the same kind of crowdfunding that has made The Chosen series possible.

So far, so great. The acting has been on point and the movie looked like it had a much bigger budget than it did. The parables are recognizable, even in their contemporary settings (and the parable of the talents has a clever twist that caught me off guard in a good way).

The early Church had it way tougher than the typical American church. They dealt with nonstop persecution from both the Roman government and from the Jewish religious leaders. They were a small minority with a radical message that turned the first century world upside down, and Satan threw everything he could at them to stop them in their efforts.

They were faithful regardless of the costs. Just about all of them made significant sacrifices, some up to the point of laying down their lives for the sake of the gospel. Yet to each and every one of them, anything they had to give up was more than worth it and they were able to rejoice even in the midst of their sufferings to see what God was doing in and through them.

Testament brings those struggles and sacrifices vividly to life in a way that makes me want to be more bold for my own faith. It will certainly challenge and embolden anyone who watches it.

You can watch the movie through the Angel Studios app, as well as catching up on The Chosen if you so desire. Both are more than worth your time.

Spurgeon’s Last Words

From what I understand, these words were part of the last sermon that Charles Spurgeon ever delivered, shortly before God called him home at age 57.

Typically, the person’s last words indicate what was most important to him or her and what the hearers should take away as being that person’s chief priority.

In Spurgeon’s case, his last words were about the glory of Christ and how it was his desire that anyone hearing should come to faith in Jesus before they come to the end of their earthly lives.

I don’t know much about the life of Charles Spurgeon. I imagine he was far from perfect and had more than a few flaws and struggles, but I also imagine that the first words he heard after a lifetime of ministry were “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

May we strive to the same end as that of Spurgeon — so that everyone can know Jesus as we know Him, Companion, Faithful Friend, Brother, Savior, and Lord.

The Chosen in Theaters

I had the opportunity to see episodes 7 and 8 of The Chosen season 3 tonight. More accurately, I was proactive and took advantage of the opportunity to see this amazing series on the big screen. I was not in the least disappointed.

I think this show captures the essence of the gospels better than any other film or TV series about the life of Jesus that I have ever seen. I love how it fleshes out not only the main character of Jesus but also the disciples and other followers. It makes the first century world come to life with a detail and authenticity previously unmatched on screen.

Does it take the place of the actual gospel accounts? By no means. It does supplement the Scriptural accounts and helps me to better visualize when I’m reading through Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. It reinforces what I’m learning from the Biblical eyewitness accounts.

It tackles head on what it looks like when you have unmet expectations and disappointments in matters of faith. It deals with what it feels like when it seems God heals everyone else but you or your loved ones. It looks unflinchingly into matters such as miscarriages and grief through the lens of the gospel accounts in a way that is far from trite or cliched.

I can’t recommend The Chosen highly enough. If you’re caught up, go see it in theaters. If not, start with season 1, episode 1 and watch the 24 episodes on The Chosen app that’s available for all smart phones and devices. I believe these last 2 episodes will be available to stream starting Tuesday.

Above all, dive deep into the gospels. Let the words marinate into your skin, your soul, your very being. Don’t just read the words. Do what they say. Don’t be just a hearer but a doer of the Word, as it says later in the Bible. The best gospel to start with is Mark, the shortest, but you can start with Matthew or any of the rest. Just start somewhere.

Look in the Stars

Just a forewarning before you read any further: you will probably need some tissues handy.

“This here, is my Dad.

My Dad and his very best friend – a dog named Sammy.

And this is a story – maybe my favorite story that I’ll ever have the privilege to tell – about love and friendship.

I, for one, can never say for sure why we were put here on this earth. But of all the guesses I could ever make – Love is the very best reason.

Sammy, the oversized, perfectly goofy 1 part Newfoundland/1 part Lab/1 part Birthday Clown mix, showed us all we ever needed to know about love.
In fact, he spent seventeen long and beautiful years teaching us and each and every tiny thing he thought we really should know about the subject.

Sammy went to work each and every day with my Dad. Dad is in the auto body business and is the hardest, most honest blue collar worker I could ever be lucky enough to have as an example. (It should also be noted that he is my favorite person in the world. A man who single handedly went up into the galaxy, past the stars, and hung the moon – just for me.) Sammy would lay happily on the garage floor, staying close throughout the long working hours – unwavering until the moment Dad could rinse the day’s oil, grease and engine fluid from his hands and turn the lights off to go home. Dad loves with a very, very full heart and he and Sammy were instant friends from the moment Sammy first walked into our home 17 years ago. I couldn’t have asked for a more incredible best friend for my Dad. I was so grateful to Sammy for filling my Dad’s life up with silliness and love and for keeping him company throughout all the years and adventures. Sammy took such good care of Dad for me – especially during times when I was far, far away living out wild dreams thousands of miles from home. I would miss Dad so terribly and then smile knowing how safe he was in Sammy’s care.

Lots of things have whirled and changed throughout the last 2 decades, but one thing always remained constant:

Sammy.

Standing in his well-worn spot at my Dad’s feet.

During health, happiness, joy and eventually sickness – Sammy held fast.

Fast forward to a January evening – just about a week or so ago. Sammy had been fighting hard, battling the cancer that had woven its way into his body early last year. He’d lost his eye and his tail to the terrible beast and was growing weaker with each passing day. I was in Florida on another big adventure and my cell phone began to ring. It was my Dad. When I picked it up, an eerie feeling passed over my shoulders, like something had shifted in the atmosphere. And somehow I knew.

Dad spoke.

He said:

‘Kaylee, tonight you should look for Sammy in the stars.’

And then, in one tiny moment, just like that, a piece of my heart went missing. A big Sammy-shaped hole in my chest formed right in that instant. Tears came fast and easy.

But, in that instant, as I was crying in the middle of this Irish Pub where I was having dinner in Florida – something struck me. This particular kind of sadness was profound. Because while I was intensely sad, I was grateful.
Grateful for all the years, the moments, the smiles. For the Winter mornings and the Autumn afternoons. For the forests, the valleys and the ponds we so proudly conquered. For the happy long rides in the car with our cheeks gloriously flapping in the Summer wind.

And in those last moments of his life, Sammy taught us just a few remaining things about love that he thought we still had to learn:

Love knows no dimension, place or time.

It transcends the physical world, far past the reaches of our earthly capabilities.

Love is a flame of fire and light that will always be your beacon when all else seems to go dark.

And no matter what, love will always find you.

That’s the thing about love. You think it’s gone forever and then it sparkles right back through about a hundred different galaxies to get to you. Sammy’s love came thundering across the sky that night and right into my heart. Even though I couldn’t see him. I could feel him. Even though he was swirling through the stars on a very very big adventure to another time and place – he found me. He found me right there in that Irish Pub. And he made me remember his lessons of love.

Friendships don’t end – they dance on and endlessly on. Sammy was our dance. He was our universe and all the tiny stars within it. And he’ll always be the candle that lights the path on especially dark nights.

Our hearts sting with the pain of missing you. Our hands long to feel the curls of your soft black coat swirling through the spaces between our fingers just one last time. But our heads.. our heads know that we are the luckiest, most privileged people in the world for the impossible opportunity of getting to be loved by a soul so pure as yours.

We loved you Sammy, more than the physical limitations of nature and life would allow us to. And while your body is gone – your spirit lives on in our hearts. Your joy is in our blood, coursing through our veins, hot and electric with life. Your courage and bravery is in our bones – small pieces of you that make big pieces of us truly, completely and wholly better. And so you live on. Through endless generations of time.

When we wake to see your empty bed, or your leash hanging forlornly from the door – stained and frayed from years of of wild and amazing adventures – we remember. We remember the love that you gave us and the legacy that you left behind. To earn the love of an old friend like you is the greatest gift the universe could ever give us. And so you’re gone – and yet you remain. Right here. At Dad’s feet. Just like you always were.

You’ll run just as you did that first day we met you – scampering clumsily towards our feet, making our sides hurt with laughter. Yes, just as you did that first day we met you – when you promised us 17 beautiful years of laughter, kindness and adventure.

And now, you’ve taught us everything you thought we should know, so the lesson comes to a close and we must let you go.

Thank you for teaching us the things no one else ever could. Now,, run free and swift across the sky our sweet Sammy boy.

May Angels lead you in.

**I took this photo just a month or so few back when we found out that Sammy may not have much more time with us on this earth. Each and everyday I am so grateful that I got to the opportunity capture this precious moment between two old friends.”

I found this story on Dog Breath Photography on Facebook.

Success vs. Faithfulness

“In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success. It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds. Success alone justifies wrongs done. . . . With a frankness and off-handedness which no other earthly power could permit itself, history appeals in its own cause to the dictum that the end justifies the means. . . . The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which take success for its standard” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

The world worships at the altar of success. Sadly, so do many within the Church.

We base our value on the number of seats taken on any given Sunday. Our goal is to get converts instead of investing in making disciples who will in turn make other disciples. As a result, according to something I read a long time ago, we are a million miles wide and only an inch deep. We have lots of members who don’t really know what they believe or how to defend it against false teaching.

In terms of our metrics and evaluations, Jesus would be deemed a failure. But we know that in terms of changing the world, no one had more of an impact than Jesus. You could say He was successful, but His goal all along was faithfulness to His Father. That should be our goal as well.

We should be seeking to leave a legacy of faithfulness instead of chasing success as the world defines it.

God Is

I found something from one of the blogs that I follow that I thought would speak to you like it did to me. I will include the original post in this post so you can read the entire thing and so that the original author gets credit:

"I am a fool, but that's OK. 
Jesus is wise. 

I am weak, and that's OK.
Jesus is strong.

I am imperfect, and that's OK.
Jesus is perfect in every way.

I am confused and unsure,
but Jesus is all-knowing. 

I am a work-in-progress,
but Jesus is complete and whole. 

I lack confidence,
but Jesus is mighty and bold. 

I am fearful and afraid, 
but Jesus is fearless. 

I live in spiritual poverty, 
but Jesus paid it all. 

I don't know what the future holds, 
but Jesus knows the beginning from the end. 

I worry about what others think,
but Jesus loves me unconditionally. 

I am not "enough",
but Jesus is more than enough for me. 


Thank you, Jesus. Without you, I am nothing. With you, I have joy, hope and confidence to face any battle or challenge. I love you" (Ali).

https://itsagodthing.blog/2023/01/26/i-am-a-fool-but-thats-ok/

Bellevue Dog-Sitting in 2023

It’s been a while. In fact, it’s been about 2 1/2 years since the last time I got to take care of these lovable pups.

The last time there were three of them, but one sadly crossed the rainbow bridge late last year. Still, it’s one of my favorite gigs to look after them for as long as I can.

They’re both older and much calmer, so it’s no trouble at all looking after them. The one in back took a little while to remember me, but once she did, she was back to her old loving ways.

The only drama is finding out what the weather is going to do between now and tomorrow. Snow? Maybe. Ice? Hopefully not. Cold? Most likely.

In the meantime I get to pet some dogs, so life is good.

Come to Me, All Who Are Weary

“…turn us to toward You, Lord — not to comparing our day to anyone else’s day. Help us to drop all our measuring sticks. Because if we walk through life with a measuring stick – our eyes get so small we never see You, God, at all. Measuring sticks always become weapons of Self-Harm and and scales always lie.

They don’t make a scale that ever told the truth about value, about worth, about significance. And all mine tonight is solely in You, Lord. Everything isn’t a marker to make me feel behind or ahead. Everything is a flame to make us see that You, GOD are here. At the end of this week, we’re breaking all our measuring sticks — so we can rest in Your measurement of us in Christ: perfectly loved.  In Jesus’ Name… Amen” (Ann Voskamp). 
#EndofDayPrayer #SoulRest

I’m listening to a book called The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer. It speaks to the the glorification of busyness and hurry in the present culture. There’s no time for rest.

For most of us that’s true. There’s no time for rest . . . unless you deliberately and intentionally make time for rest. If you take Jesus’ words to heart and come to Him, He gives you shalom — deep soul-rest and wholeness and peace.

He’s not talking about a two-hour nap (although for me sometimes that would do the trick). He’s talking about a reset of heart, mind, body, and soul. He’s talking about relearning rhythms of grace and going from a mindset of hurry to one of balance and purpose.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message).

The Great Exchange

“It is no good giving me a play like Hamlet or King Lear, and telling me to write a play like that. Shakespeare could do it — I can’t. And it is no good showing me a life like the life of Jesus and telling me to live a life like that. Jesus could do it — I can’t. But if the genius of Shakespeare could come and live in me, then I could write plays like this. And if the Spirit of Jesus could come into me, then I could live a life like that. This is the secret of Christian sanctity. It is not that we should strive to live like Jesus, but that he by his Spirit should come and live in us. To have him as our example is not enough; we need him as our Saviour” (John R. W. Stott).

I’m so thankful that Jesus didn’t die as just another martyr or as a great example to follow.If so, I’m just as bad off as I was before. I’m still lost in my sins and as good as dead.

But Jesus was more than a martyr and more than an example. He was Messiah. He is my Savior. He offered the great exchange — taking my sin on Himself and giving me His own perfect sinless righteousness. That’s how I live. That’s how I am no longer dead but alive, no longer lost but found, no longer bound by sin but set free.

A Hard Prayer to Pray

“I wish thy way. And when in me myself should rise, and long for something otherwise, Then Lord, take sword and spear And slay” (Amy Carmichael).

I think the hardest prayer to pray and really mean is also one of the simplest. It’s “Thy will be done.”

The risk with that prayer is that God’s will often looks like the polar opposite of my will. As one writer put it, praying that God’s will be done may mean that my will is undone.

God’s will is that I look like Jesus. The means to that end are often not the means I might have chosen. The way God makes me more like Jesus often involves having my patience tested to (and beyond) its limit. Often, God uses difficult people and difficult circumstances to smooth away my rough edges. None of those sound like my idea of a good time, but all are what God uses to give my life purpose and fulfillment.

“Thy will be done” means that if there’s anything in me that doesn’t look like Jesus, it has to go. All my dreams and desires that run contrary to God’s will must die.

It seems that I learn a lot more on bad days than good ones, though defeats rather than through victories, and in the midst of pain rather than in the midst of joy. And above all, growing and learning involves a lot of inconvenience and discomfort. Growing up is painful.

Yet while “Thy will be done” is a hard prayer to pray honestly, it’s the prayer that never fails. It’s the prayer Jesus taught His disciples when He told them to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

May that be the prayer of my heart every single day.