From moments with Jesus discussing his heart for a hurting world.
Written by Erin Lamb
The world may be quaking & shaking, yet I know a man who speaks peace into storms, raises the dead to life, is still opening deaf ears/blind eyes, still loving the world, still working miracles, still saving the lost, delivering the oppressed. He is Jesus!
It is quite easy to be critical and judge. It is so easy to throw stones at other people and not see the plank in our own eyes. Why? We see in part and know in part. We can think we know and know nothing. God does not simply see the behaviors of humanity; God sees why people do what they do.
How many of you have been harmed greatly by someone who seemed to not get what the problem is? How many of you have been harmed by a professing Christian? Ah, it stings a bit more when they claim to love Jesus and do not love others right? Yet there is a part of the puzzle God sees that we may not. God sees how much of His love they have actually received. We can only give away what we possess.
We tell people to love God and others. “Love God, love others, love yourself last.” This mantra has led to loads of dysfunctional and sometimes codependent relationships. “I will love myself last and God will be so proud.” Well, it sounds noble. The problem is that is it is not biblical.
The Bible says we love because God first loves us (1 John 4:19). The starting point is God. God is love (1 John 4:8).
God is the source of agape (unselfish, sacrificial, unwavering love). This love is the highest of all loves. It trumps eros (romantic/sexual), philia (brotherly love), and storage (family love). Jesus stated His disciples would be known by their agape love (John 13:34-35). This love is the 1 Corinthians 13 type of love.
The next step is receiving God’s love, then giving that love back to God and loving our neighbor AS we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). We will not be able to love God or our neighbor if we do not FIRST RECEIVE agape from God. “God here I am in need of your love, help me to receive the fullness of your love for me,” is a great starting prayer.
It is so vital that we learn how to receive love from God and believe God loves us.
Our thoughts matter! We will not out behave our thought life. Those who think they are the scum of the earth tend to treat others poorly. Those who have not fully accepted they are profoundly loved and accepted by God tend to struggle with loving God, themselves, and others. Your greatest adversary lacks God love. The person who mistreated or abused you lacked God love. The people who dishonored you, they lacked God love.
We cannot give away what we do not possess.
When we move beyond judging behavior to recognizing the root, compassion fills our heart. We move from being critical to praying the other person knows intimately the height, depth, width, and vast expanse of God’s love. We can only reveal to others the God we know. We can only honor others when we have experienced His honor and approval.
When people ask “How could you sit with the homeless, they are so dirty and gross?” I think, “How could I not? I see someone God created with great love. Under all the dirt, is a treasure.” I can honor what society calls, “The least of them,” because I know how much God loves me. If I were dirty and on the streets, I would anticipate God sending someone to love me. I am greatly loved, so are they, and so are you.
Jesus was able to move in high levels of compassion because He was one with the Father. He was not led by His flesh. Jesus knew how greatly He was loved, therefore He could take the lowest place. He could honor the least, last, lost, sinners, and lepers of society because He knew His worth. Those who do not know their own worth or value will not be able to see yours or anyone else’s.
One of the greatest revelations I had from God regarding people was during a season I was being grossly mistreated by Christians. God spoke to my heart, “People will not treat you any better than they treat me. People can not give you what they do not possess.” I recognized in that moment people say they love God, yet if you observe them, some do not honor, cherish, respect, obey, listen to God, etc… For some people, God is their sugar daddy or fire insurance. Loving God to gain something from Him is not loving God.
You can tell quite a bit about how a person feels about themselves by how they treat other people.
You can also gain insight into how people will treat you if you look at how they treat God. If God is only pursued to gain something, that is how they will treat you.
I am learning not to take things personally. How people behave, myself included, is a reflection of the inner condition. Those who know they are loved, love well. Those who try to “fake it til they make it,” tend to hurt tons of people because their love is shallow or deficient.
Before we throw stones, get offended, or hurt by people, pause. Press pause and ask God for His view point of the person, situation, and what is not as visibly seen.
I had a friend chat with me about missing friend gatherings. More than my introversion, there is normally a reason aligned with everything I say no to. Instead of taking on offense, he asked me about it and we talked. His heart grew with compassion.
The evil one will tell you to judge, jump to conclusions, criticize people, be nasty, look for all the things the other person is doing that could be wrong. Love moves us deeper into compassion. Maybe, most likely, there is something more going on than meets the eye.
May you and I sink deeper into compassion. It is a fruit of God’s love.
“…when he (Jesus) saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd,”-Matthew 9:36.
I hope to release book 4, Killing Insecurity, either later this year or 2021! I hope it leads many into freedom. God longs to see us live bold, confident, and FREE!!
P.S You can support our mission to love the homeless, poor, and victims of human trafficking by supporting our new merch store. Go to empoweredandfreemerch.com.
I had the honor of interviewing author James Michel. James has an incredible story of overcoming adversity.
Tell us about yourself and what prompted you to write this book? My name is James Michel. I am a believer of Jesus Christ. I am also a husband and a father. About 3 years ago I lost my first wife unexpectedly to cancer. During my grieving process, I felt compelled to share my story in the form of a book. “Perplexed But Not in Despair: My Spiritual Journey from Faith to Functional” is a testament of her life that has been sown, a legacy for my children, and a testimony of God’s redemptive power.
What has the book writing process been for you? Honestly, painfully rewarding! Painful in the sense that I had to discipline myself to take the thoughts in my head and put them into words on paper. Despite these challenges, it has been a rewarding process, because of the fact that I believe the finish product could be a source for hope and comfort to many. What would be your advice to those who have an untold story to tell? Do it for the one! Your story could very well be the key that unlocks someone else’s destiny. Also, don’t be overly concerned about everything being perfect. There are a lot of resources out there to help you write a book with excellence.
What would you say is the major take away of your book? The ALL-sufficent power of God to redeem every situation. God’s grace carried me through the darkest season of my life, and took my faith to new heights.
What do you want readers to walk away with after reading your book? My prayer and hope is that every reader would encounter the Love and the Faithfulness of God through the pages of my book. I pray that they would be challenged to engage their faith life even harder.
Has writing this book been a part of your healing journey? If so, how? Very much so! It forced me to sort out and process my emotions. It challenged me to ask questions I wouldn’t normally ask, self reflect on a deeper level, and find peace in the answers. What has God done in your heart and life since you started writing this book? Having had the opportunity to journal and as a result write this book, I am now experiencing a deeper peace and intimacy with God. I’ve had my Job moment- “My ears have heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you (Job 42:5).”
Part of your book speaks about “Functional Faith,” what does this mean for your reader? The Bible says, “without Faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6)”. A Functional Faith to me is a faith that works in the middle of hard times. A faith that is fully persuaded of the love and faithfullness of God. A faith that is content in simply knowing who God is. I think Job said it best when he said, “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him (Job 13:15).”
How will this book help those who are going through hard seasons and loss? God is no respector of person. What He’s done for me, He’s more than willing to do it for another. It is my prayer that as others read my book, their sense of hope will be renewed. It doesn’t have to be the end! What advice would you offer readers? Don’t lose hope no matter what! Trust God! Believe that ALL things can work for good and God’s glory.
How can people get a copy of your book? Or reach you? It’s super easy! People interested in reading my book can order a copy from Amazon. All feedback and questions can be sent to James@email@example.com
Thank you James for sharing with our readers about your new book! I believe it will encourage them to cling to God in every season!
You can connect with James in person on March 6th in Columbus, Ohio at his book launch event.
James Michel Book Launch-March 6th, 2020. 6:30pm. Zion Christian Church. 5780 Baltimore Reynoldsburg Road NW, Pickerington, Ohio 43147.
The dying AIDS patient who deepened my awareness of God’s love…
I have this thing with Jesus where if He asks me to do something, my heart melts under the weight of His love. I find Him mostly irresistible. Often He calls me to do things my base personality probably would not run towards. Like the day I met John (not his real name). John was covered in sores (scabbed over), dying, and sad. I stopped for John and tears filled his eyes as he told me there was no hope for him. The way he lived, the diagnosis, no hope. I felt led to pull John into my arms and hug him. Tears flowed freely from his eyes.
Could I be contaminated by John, sores covering his body, tears and saliva flowing? It did not matter in that moment. What mattered was John feeling the deep embrace of God. “John God sees you and loves you. Your life matters greatly to God. John there is always hope with Jesus.”
That day with John wrecked me. Who wanted to touch John? Most people avoided eye contact with Him. God wanted to touch John. There is no fear in love. I have attempted to love many people in my lifetime who could not see God’s love or responded poorly to love. Yet love (God) keeps calling me to love.
So my encouragement is abide in the one who is love, Jesus. When you do, love will FLOW out of you in abounding ways. No striving, abide in Him (cultivate intimacy with God). It won’t matter if you are highly introverted, or not into loving strangers. He will love through YOU! God is simply looking to love the world and it starts with me and you!
My prayer is our hearts receive more of God’s love and we give it away! The world needs love, love, love!!!
I took almost a week off social media and the news. I have one more week of ministry break. I took six weeks off from teaching, leading, free clinic, city outreach, mentoring, seeing deep inner healing clients, etc.
Honestly, it has not felt like a true break. People still have needs, want prayer, want advice or counsel, have crisis situations, etc. I had people messaging me on vacation with their crisis prayer needs. I have pondered quite a bit over this break what is the meaning of life? Yes, dear ones, it got real deep the past 5 weeks.
Why are we here? (I dive into the answer in a bit).
I asked God once if my life’s purpose was to simply be the go to person and support for everyone else. It has seemed that way at times. People forget I am a person not a resource, not their therapist, not a 24/7 crisis manager or their on call 24/7 prayer support, nor am I their on call prophet-“Can I get a word?!!”
I understand why pastors quit, suffer moral failure, or end it all. No I am not considering driving my life into the ditch. I do understand somewhat why it happens. Our lives must be rooted in something and someone GREATER!
We live in such a me centered society that unfortunately can revolve around finding someone to worship or meet their needs that is not God. I promise I am not God nor want His job. I need God desperately to survive and thrive. Our me centered culture also seeks out idols and putting people above God.
Our culture can be rooted in lack of tact (just read some of the online comments), or lack of consideration. “You are on break, well what about me?! You need space, what about me?!” Sometimes my heart crashes under the chorus of “me, me, me.” I run into my cave with God and dare not come out until my head stops spinning. It is not selfish to get away from the crowds.
People forget their source must be God not people. Part of the meaning of life is finding out who God is for ourselves and learning to live out of that relationship/depend on God. God must be our primary source.
Living in a World Filled With Bad News:
I returned to social media today to loads of needs, prayer needs, and tragedies. Our world needs a Savior; He has already come. We need Jesus.
I noticed if the tragedy happened to a celebrity in the world or in Christianity, people seem to care more. They cry over people they have never met simply because they were famous. In the past weeks I have seen people rally behind perfect strangers while ignoring the dying unknown person on their city streets. Am I judging? Just observing.
Our culture places a higher value on some lives over others. Jesus did not. From the thief, to the prostitute, to the tax collector, to the beggar on the street, to the leper…Jesus cared and cares about them all.
Part of life as a Christian is learning to love as God loves. Did we learn to love all people, not just famous people, not just athletes or movie stars, not just platform ministers or their children, not just people who benefit us? Did we learn to love the widow, the orphan, the slave, the poor, the outcast, and even our enemies? Did we learn to love? Love (God love-unselfish, sacrificial love) is why we are here.
We were created by love (God), to be loved, then to love.
While in LA, California a few weeks ago I made it close to Skid Row. Tents of people living on the streets. Some probably dying. I wanted to park my car and go inside their camp. I was supposed to be on ministry break. I was told it is unsafe to go there. Skid Row is full of disease, death, and gross poverty. I wondered if when someone’s child dies on Skid Row if churches would hold week long meetings to try to raise them from the dead. Where are the tributes for the dying there?
I hear people in my own city crying out for revival who will not even give a cup of water to a homeless person. Revival is bringing life to dead things. When I see Skid Row, I see a place prime for revival. It is not pretty, nor shiny. There are no celebrities or VIP people there. Yet I see Jesus walking into the pits of society to pull beauty out of the ashes.
Part of the meaning of life is learning to see as God sees. Heaven has a different vantage point than earth. Every life matters to God.
Earth is a temporary assignment that prepares us for an eternal one. It’s so easy to become fixated on what does not matter at all. Jesus said, “I was hungry and you did not feed me.”
I don’t know how long these feet will touch this earth. I do know, I want to stand before God and hear Him say, “Welcome home! Thank you for completing your assignments.”
We will not be floating on clouds in heaven. There are rewards and assignments. How we steward earth determines how we are rewarded in heaven. We don’t earn entrance into heaven, God does reward us for how we lived and loved on earth. This time on earth is the shortest time we will ever live.
My encouragement is don’t waste your life on what does not matter in the long run. Life is but a whisper. You could be here today and gone tomorrow. Forgive, love, get to know God, and live a presence driven life. Let the chorus of “me, me, me” fade into the background. May the song be, “God reduce me to love. Help me to learn how to love.”
I am still learning to abide in love. It’s a journey. God promises to meet us every step of the way. I don’t have all the answers. I hope to keep abiding in the One who does.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You above Your companions with the oil of joy,~Hebrews 1:9.
God is not stuffy, stoic, nor boring. God knows how to celebrate and have a good time. Pleasure was God’s idea; sin perverted pleasure and a religious/Pharisee spirit tries to dampen any fun with God. God is fun. There is more pleasure and enjoyment in God than anything He created.
I used to examine people who got so excited about God in wonder…until I got to know God for myself. Knowing God elevated my joy quotient significantly. Knowing God has been the greatest joy of my life. Words do not adequately express the beauty, majesty, and mystery of God.
What if I don’t feel joy?
Joy is not a feeling based on what is happening. It is an overflow of abiding in the One who is joy. Jesus stated plainly that abiding in Him brings forth abounding fruit. That is why we can go through a challenging season and still have joy. Paul wrote many celebratory letters from prison. God is good even when life is not going the way we desire. Focusing on who God is, takes the focus off our momentary sorrows.
Paradise is not just a place. It is a person. God is pure JOY. In His presence as the Psalmist proclaimed is the fullness of joy.
You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand,~Psalm 16:11.
Including part of my devotion this morning. My hopes are that joy bubbles up out of your spirit! God loves you and being with God bring joy.
“Go back as far as you can in prerecorded history, back to the dawn of the universe, and there you’ll find joy. The Creation is characterized by celebration (Job 38:6-7; Proverbs 8:22-31). Turning to the time of the New Testament, Christ is characterized by joy (John 8:29; 15:11). In the parable of the lost son, heaven in the present is characterized by joy, feasting, music, and dancing (Luke 15:11-32). Finally, looking forward to the future, John shows us a picture of heaven (Revelation 19:6-9). It will be a feast, where the people shout, “Let us celebrate, let us rejoice, let us give him the glory!” (verse 7).
The story of faith begins and ends in joy. And in between, there is joy. Joy permeated Paul’s life, even in the place you would have least expected it—in prison (see the book of Philippians). For more than twenty centuries, Christians have been exhibiting joy. There have been sad, even morose, Christians, to be sure. But the ones who have inspired us have been marked by joy…
Anyone who gets in touch with God gets in touch with joy. All true joy is derivative. It doesn’t originate from the world. It doesn’t originate from us. It originates from him. And when we get close to him, it rubs off,”~from the Marked by Joy devotion on YouVersion
There was man who prayed and prayed for blessings. He was defeated and poor. He cried out to God to bless him each day.
God heard his cry and began to send people to bless the man. He was suspicious of their kindness and refused help. He did not trust love, especially from someone he did not know.
One day God sent a stranger along the man’s path with a box, and inside was a bag of uncut diamonds. It was worth 77 million dollars.
The stranger approached the man during his lunch time meal. “Is your name John?” The man grumbled, “Yes!” He was frustrated because he could not see all the times/ways God tried to bless him.
The stranger asked to sit with him. John was already irritated and wanted nothing to do with the stranger. He was busy. His lunch break was only a half hour. He had people to see, things to do.
The stranger sensed John’s hesitation. “John, I know you are a busy man. I don’t want to take up much of your time. God sent me here to you to deliver this box.” John replied, “Can you just leave the box and GO! I am busy. I have work to do. I work 3 jobs just to pay my bills.”
The stranger honored the wishes and left the box. He walked away; John dismissed the box. He ate his lunch murmuring and complaining. “Why would God interrupt my lunch for this?! He knows I only have 30 minutes of peace.”
John’s attitude stunk like the garbage in the bin behind him. He never thought of the interruption as a potential blessing. He never saw the stranger as a gift. He saw him as a nuisance.
John opened the box before returning to his shift. “Rocks! God gave me a bag of rocks. Is this a joke?!!!” John was angry. He shoved the bag in his case and went back to work.
Years passed and John continued to pray and murmur against God.
God sent the stranger back to John. “It’s you again,” John exclaimed with roughness. “Yes, I am here for the bag I gave you. If you have no use for them, we have someone else who wants them.” “Sure take these stupid rocks.” John went into his room and pulled the bag out, brushed off the dust, and threw them at the stranger. “Thank you John. This bag of uncut diamonds worth 77 million dollars is going to help someone else.”
John stood there stunned and ashamed. For years he lived in poverty while millions of dollars sat in his bottom drawer collecting dust.
The stranger said to John, “For years God has been sending people to help you and you refused help. You were curt with me and so busy that you missed provision. I was sent to give you instructions on what you had been given and you dismissed me. Therefore, you forfeited your blessing. The lady several streets over has a great need and God told me she would listen and use these diamonds for good. John, God loves you. The lesson is to not dismiss something because you do not understand. Seek God for wisdom. Every interruption or person who wants to help you is not the devil. I hope you are you blessed. These diamonds were a gift to me from my father and I asked God for someone to give them to. I have more than enough. God sent me first to you. He chose you and you relinquished your blessing. Mary, the woman who will receive part of my inheritance will never have to work again. Good day John and God bless you.”
As the stranger walked away, John wept. He was so busy trying to make it by himself that he missed God.
It’s so easy to look with the eyes of the flesh and miss God. God works through people. God does set up divine interruptions. It is possible to miss what God is doing because we are so busy judging by what our natural eyes see. Wisdom pulls us deeper to say, “God give me your eyes and help me to walk in the Spirit of God not my flesh. God show me what you are doing? Is this you God?”
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to search it out-Prov 25:2.
I asked God to be a benefactor and partner with Him to bless the world. I cannot tell you how many people have forfeited what God wanted to give them through me because they did not recognize nor value the packaging. One minister I had thousands to offer them, they behaved so poorly and were so full of pride, “I don’t need any help.” I gave their gift to someone else. Treat people with respect, honor, dignity because it’s the right thing to do. Also understand you may be entertaining a person on assignment from heaven to bless you. Some have entertained angels unaware.
Keep your eyes open in 2020 for the blessings of God. It may not come in the way you expect.