But God

But God makes us bold

Acts 1:8, 2:14, 3:12, 4:13, 18-20, 29, 31 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses … Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles … Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd … The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John …  [The Jewish council] called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” … When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God. “O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants great boldness in preaching your word.” … After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.

Thanks to you who responded either in the comments or to me by email.

Part of my response to the question of what happens when I spend time with Jesus is this issue of boldness. It’s this blog. It’s about TELLING what I have seen and heard.

A few years ago, I couldn’t have imagined putting myself into a public space like this. I was afraid of people, timid to the point of tangling all my words when I needed to speak to a stranger. When I was fourteen, shortly before I got on a plane to travel to the foreign United States to live among strangers, Mom asked me to inform guests staying in a nearby home that our mealtime would be delayed. I couldn’t do it. I walked around the length of time I thought it might take to fulfill Mom’s directive, then returned home. When our guests showed up at the previously arranged time, I didn’t know how to explain to Mom why I had not obeyed her. I always preferred the back of a room, the corner at a party. I happily let my more extroverted siblings fill any quiet space.

That’s why I wanted someone else to write the Karis book. I wasn’t afraid of the writing as much as what would be required of me afterward, talking about the book. Though here’s a strange thing: somehow, when I can speak in Portuguese, that timidity goes away. I have spoken with confidence and joy to as many as a thousand people at conferences in Brazil. For some reason, it’s in English that I feel my reticence triggered.

Over the months it took me to read Karis’s journals, though, God convicted me. “Remember” and “tell” jumped out at me from the pages of Scripture. I tried Moses’s arguments: “Who am I?” “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me?” “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I get tongue-tied and my words get tangled.” And finally, “Lord, please! Send someone else.” In the end, it came down to, “Will you or will you not obey me?”

As I listened to the Lord and to Karis, I realized God had done so much for us that the story had to be told, with the hope of encouraging others. With my husband’s support, I tackled the huge task of sifting through our experience of God’s incredible faithfulness and confining the story to a couple hundred pages. And followed through with thirty-eight Stones of Remembrance gatherings in the six months after the book was published.

Stones of Remembrance

Still, I must regularly, daily, take my fears back to the Lord. To the extent my published words do encourage people—and each time I learn that has happened, I am encouraged—it’s because the Holy Spirit has given me boldness beyond what is natural to me. It may not seem like much to those of you naturally gifted with confidence. But for me, it is evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in my life, as I spend time with Jesus. I am grateful.

But the Holy Spirit filled Peter

Acts 4:2-13 [After Peter and John took part in healing a blind beggar, Peter preached, and they were arrested and thrown in jail.] But many of the people who heard Peter’s message believed it, so the number of believers now totaled about 5,000 men, not counting women and children. The next day, the religious leaders brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said, “The crippled man was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene” … The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.

Can you think of a more wonderful tribute than this one? Ordinary men, doing extraordinary things by the power of the Spirit. Ordinary men recognized by their critics as having been with Jesus… So lovely!

What happens when we spend time with Jesus? What happens when YOU spend time with Jesus? Take a minute to think about it.

Now, if you’re willing, write a response in the Comments. If you’d rather not go “public,” you can write just to me at debrakornfield@gmail.com.

I’ll share some of my own response to this question next time.

The resilient pansies persist!

But God made Jesus Lord and Messiah, by Ken Seigel

Acts 2:22, 36-38 God publicly endorsed Jesus by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him. … Let everyone know for certain that God has made Jesus to be both Lord and Messiah! … Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Note from Debra: When Ken told me the name of my blog caught his attention because his dad titled his autobiography “But God,” I asked him to tell me more. The story Ken told me (below) matches what’s going on in Acts 2: It’s all about Jesus, Messiah and Lord. Messias and christos have the same meaning: the anointed king who has God’s authority and approval.

When I woke up in the middle of the night, three deer were cuddled together in our front yard. But so far they haven't re-attacked the pansies. Look at what's happening!! And in the photo you can see the pot beside this one, planted with the same type of pansies and decimated by the deer in the same way, hasn't grown back at all. The mystery of resilience...

First, the mystery of resilience

Look at what’s happening to the pansies!!

When I woke up in the middle of the night, three deer were cuddled together in our front yard, but so far they haven’t re-attacked the pansies. And in the photo you can see the pot beside this one, planted with the same type of pansies and decimated by the deer in the same way, hasn’t grown back at all. There’s a parable here…

And now, Ken’s story:

I guess the biggest “But God” event I recognize from Dad’s life is that when my parents got married, it was a mixed marriage. My Mom was raised Catholic, and my Dad was a Lutheran. They married against their parent’s wishes, and decided that to avoid conflict, they would simply never discuss religion or God in their marriage. Dad would go to his church on Sundays and Mom (and the kids) would go to the Catholic church.

In the early 1970’s my Mom got caught up in the Catholic Charismatic movement and was born again. She began reading the Bible and felt led to submit her will to Dad as the spiritual leader of the home. Bible verses that Mom put into practice (and that are not at all popular today) are 1 Peter 3:1-7.

Mom’s life changed dramatically, and Dad noticed. He began asking questions, but as a “good person” he didn’t see his need for Jesus for a few more years. He eventually gave his heart to the Lord though as well, and one by one, their children (including me) met Jesus.

I just marvel how good God is, and how He revealed himself to my parents and myself despite their plans to avoid Him.

Thank you, Ken. It’s all about Jesus.

What’s YOUR But God story?

But God released him

Acts 2:23-24, 33 You nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip … Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us.

Imagine the joy, the song, the excitement! Hope renewed.

I tasted this joy so many times over the course of Karis’s life. The joy of life over death, even in the simplicity of IV fluids restoring warmth and color and consciousness to my daughter passed out from dehydration—how many times? Countless. Or seeing her rally against all odds when the doctors told us to call our family together to say goodbye.

But all that pales beside this joy, Jesus alive again! No wonder Peter was so excited he kept a crowd of thousands enthralled for a very long time, with about three thousand responding to his appeal. If you saw someone who was dead come back to life, wouldn’t you want to tell everyone about it?

Neighborhood deer ate my pansies down to the dirt. But they’re coming back! I was so excited to see this bloom today.

At the same time, we know Peter couldn’t and wouldn’t have preached this sermon had it not been for the filling of the Holy Spirit, the gift Jesus had promised his followers before he died. Right away we see some of the fruit of the Spirit in Peter. I love his quoting from Psalm 16:

I see that the Lord is always with me.

I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises!

My body rests in hope…

You have shown me the way of life,

And you will fill me with the joy of your presence.

How different these words are from the Peter of a few weeks before, defeated by his own betrayal of Jesus, ready to quit, to give up on Jesus’ call and return to fishing fish instead of men.

The Holy Spirit lets us know God is with us; we are not abandoned. And where the Spirit is present, there is joy, worship, hope, life—even in distressing circumstances. A joy and hope we couldn’t possibly manufacture ourselves.

Why didn’t Karis give up? Only because of the life and joy of the Spirit within her. The same Spirit in you and me, whatever circumstances we each face. Turn on praise music and dance! God is with you!

But God saves everyone who calls on his name

Acts 2:17-21 “In the last days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams… And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below… But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[Peter, quoting Joel 2:28-32]

I often hear people say they think we’re entering the “last days,” when eschatological promises will be fulfilled. My husband Dave sometimes looks up at the clouds and says, “Jesus could come back today!”

Yes, he could. Interestingly, Peter himself, two thousand years ago, thought his generation might be the last on Earth as we know it. And that theme has echoed down through the centuries, especially in times of crisis. For my novel, Horse Thief 1898, I’ve read a lot about the 19th century. People were so passionate then in their belief that the world would end any day that entire communities sprang up around that theme, especially in northeastern U.S. along the Erie Canal. Some preachers named the date they thought Jesus would return.

“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen. Only the Father knows,” Jesus told his followers in Matthew 24, after he too quoted the prophet Joel. “If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.” Jesus then told the parable of the three servants entrusted with their master’s goods while he went on a trip. On his return, he honored the two who invested and multiplied what the master had asked them to steward.

But the third servant, consumed by fear and insecurity, had simply buried the master’s money. He hadn’t lost or squandered it, but he hadn’t creatively multiplied it either. The master calls him “wicked and lazy.”

Yikes! This story speaks directly to me today. I love to write, but I find letting people know about what I’ve written very, very hard—so challenging that I’m often tempted to give up, to “bury” this passion which I believe the Lord entrusted to me. “The market is so crowded,” I tell myself. “My voice doesn’t really matter. I’ll do something easier; something with more obvious and immediate impact.”

But that’s not the point, is it. The question is whether I will be faithful to what God has given to me, investing as well as I can in those who do hear my voice. I haven’t heard God telling me to become a bestseller. I have heard him say, “Write what I put in your heart.”

When Jesus returns, will he find you and me actively and creatively engaged in the work he has entrusted to us, in our small corners of the world, energized by the Spirit he pours out on us? Might someone call on the Lord and be saved (the verb sozo means the action of delivering or rescuing another from a dangerous situation, either physical or spiritual) if we trust him enough to do our part? If you think of it, please pray for me to lean into the Spirit, because I don’t find this work easy. And I’ll be delighted to pray for you, too, if you communicate with me specific needs you have in seeking to be faithful to the gifts God has given you, as we both await the return of our Lord.

But God sends the Spirit

Acts 1:3-5 During the forty days after his crucifixion, Jesus appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God. Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost, the day God chose to send the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, initiates what is called “Ordinary Time” in the church calendar. Ordinary Time lasts from now until Advent.

So what is Ordinary Time in the life of the church? As befits its initiation through the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, its focus is the Holy Spirit, active in and through us, in all kinds of ways as we live our ordinary lives. We see this in Scripture through the writings of Luke, Paul, and John. Luke tells the tale of the “Acts of the Holy Spirit” in the years following Pentecost. Paul teaches and exhorts us to live fully into his power and gifts. John, guided by the Spirit, opens a window into what is yet to come. We have time—from now until December—to explore all three of these authors.

Thinking about this has made me both curious about what I can learn about the Holy Spirit, and hungry for stories of the Holy Spirit active now, not just two thousand years ago. What have been the acts of the Holy Spirit in your life? Are you willing to share them, to encourage the rest of us?

I’m also entering Ordinary Time this year feeling restless, wanting to experience more of the Holy Spirit’s Presence and power in my life and to see him at work around me in the challenges we all face. Wanting to hear his voice above all the other voices.

Curious. Hungry. Restless. That’s me. How about you? How are you entering Ordinary Time?

Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds.
Repeat them in our day. In our time make them known.

Habakkuk 3:2

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead!

1 Corinthians 15:17-20 If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead! He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

On this last day of Easter season (Pentecost is tomorrow), we come to “the” chapter about the resurrection of Jesus, 58 verses of some of Paul’s most enthusiastic defense of our faith.

Valerie quoted from verses 42-57 in her blog post Feb. 5, 2014, the day Karis died. So of course that’s the first thing that comes to my mind as I re-read this chapter. The foundation of our confidence in the transformation of Karis’s weak, broken body into a body that will never die is Jesus’ own triumph over death, and his promises that we too will be raised to unending Life—our experience here just a shadow of the real thing. It’s why we can smile as we think of Karis now, in the joy of her victory over death, made possible by Jesus’ resurrection. It’s the joy at the center of the universe, the “deeper magic,” as C.S. Lewis described it.

Paul illustrates the transformation of our bodies with the analogy of what grows from a seed that is buried

But today what is on my mind is the hope we have for the many friends dying from Covid in Latin America and Brazil, more every day. Since our work is with pastors, those are the ones we primarily hear about from the safety of Pittsburgh. Hundreds of pastors across South America, caring for their people without PPE, without vaccines, and without adequate medical care, literally laying down their lives for their sheep (John 10:11).

I want to honor them today, even as we pray for their families and congregations and friends, left behind for now. They did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die (Revelation 12:11).

Because of our confidence in the resurrection, Paul says to us, Be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (verse 58). And borrowing from chapter 16, verse 13: Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.

But God is the author of peace

1 Corinthians 14:12, 26, 33 Since you are so eager to have the special abilities the Spirit gives, seek those that will strengthen the whole church… Everything that is done must strengthen all of you… For God is not a God of disorder [or confusion] but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s people.

When Karis was a child, she asked her dad to study the topic of the Holy Spirit with her. They worked their way through the Old Testament and into the Gospels. One day, Karis said, “We can stop now, Dad. 1 Corinthians 14 explains everything.”

Apparently, what she really wanted was to understand the phenomenon of speaking in tongues. Whether this chapter “explains everything” could be debated. But it does say clearly that God doesn’t like confusion and chaos. He loves peace, and longs to give it to us.

The word translated “peace,” eirene, means harmony. It can also mean an internal sense of well-being. Is that possible for us, in the midst of Covid, grieving of so many losses, political tensions and wars, racial issues, financial challenges, and all the suffering, chaos and confusion in the world?

airdone: Shutterstock

Yikes! Doesn’t this graphic make you feel tired?

The best I can do in response to this question today is to offer you other wonderful eirene Scriptures. I invite you to pray through them with me.

John 14:27 I [Jesus] am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Romans 8:6 Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

Romans 14:17 The Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.

Hebrews 12:14 Work at living in peace with everyone.

But God knows me completely, by Ted and Claudia Limpic

1 Corinthians 13:12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but when the time of perfection comes, we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Casibo begged God for a miracle.

His huge black hand grabbed mine as we formed a prayer circle some 75 feet above the Dakar neighborhood where the bleating of sheep and the rhythms of West African music blended together. I could instantly tell his hands were way stronger than mine.

So was his faith. Casibo begged God for a miracle … something only God could do: turn those five stories of newly poured concrete into a modern school and dorm where Senegalese street kids could receive a dignified education and learn a marketable trade.

Casibo knew the importance of education. Born in Haiti and raised in Venezuela, two of the poorest places on earth, he dreamed that someday he could rescue vulnerable children. Then he met Rosimara, a Brazilian missionary serving in Venezuela. They fell in love, married, and moved to Senegal, West Africa, where street children abound.

Together they pioneered “House of Hope,” rescuing, educating, and training Senegalese street children. They became “Ma and Pa” to some 30 abandoned kids. An unexpected donation allowed them to take a huge step of faith: build a five-story building that could house school classrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, and a dorm. And here we were. Standing atop a concrete skeleton, five stories tall, and begging God for help in finishing it!

House of Hope, founded in faith, hope, and love

And God did!! Today that miracle building has been completed. The classrooms are in full use, along with the kitchen, dining area, and dorms. Just last week, they inaugurated the Prayer Center for the Nations … right on the very spot where we stood with Casibo and prayed! Every day, it is filled with children raising their voices in faith, asking God to bless other children around the world as He has blessed them!

Thank God with us for “the miracle” that now houses the House of Hope School … as well as for the many miracles happening daily inside that building as children’s lives are being rescued, touched by God’s love, and wonderfully transformed. He knows every one of those children completely, as well as he knows and loves you and me.