The Squeezings of my Brain Grapes.
How Do I Know Who To Love?

holyhotnessbypvi asked:
Hi, Jed. I’d like to squeeze your brain grapes for a second. :-) How can I avoid ‘favoritism’ about whom I show agape love to? In other words, how do I force myself to love everyone equally? Thanks and God bless!

Jed Brewer replied:

Hey Sis,

LOL!  Nicely done – I’ve been doing this blog a long time, and you’re the first person to ever actually reference that title!

So, the bad news is that you aren’t going to be able to show agape – selfless, unconditional, Godly – love to everyone in the whole world.  That just isn’t possible.  You aren’t Jesus, so, like me, you’re dealing with some significant limitations.

Given that you can’t show that love to everyone, everywhere, at all times, we’re going to have to choose who gets your time, attention, and love.  So, that means that the really important question is, how do we decide who gets it?

The best way to answer that question is to begin asking God for a burden.  That is, a weight of love on your heart that compels you to act, and one that is focused on a given group of people, or situation, or place.

Then, get into the motion of serving.  Try serving in a variety of situations – the local jail, the church nursery, the homeless shelter, the fifth-grade Sunday school class.  When you go to serve in a new situation, pay attention to what’s going on inside of you.  I’ll bet that, sooner or later, in one of these situations, it’ll feel a bit like a bell is ringing in your head.  Like there’s a sense of having come home.

Sink yourself into that situation.  Ask God to break your heart for those people, to fill your heart with the Love he has for them, to help you to see them from His perspective, to see their potential, and not just their problems.

Now, let’s come back to your original question.  The funny thing about favoritism is that it happens everywhere in life, and, 99% of the time, no one cares.  But there are certain situations – families being chief among them – where favoritism really wounds people, and badly.

If that’s a part of your experience, I’m really sorry.  Someday, you may have children of your own, and God does not want you to show favoritism there, and you won’t need to. He’ll make sure you have the energy to love each of your children well and equitably.

But don’t let the fact that some people practice inappropriate favoritism in some areas of their lives keep you from pursuing the calling that God has on your life.  This is, after all, an apples-to-oranges comparison.  

You asked how to force yourself to love everyone equally.  My answer is: Don’t.  Instead, ask God to show you your mission field, and then love those people extravagantly.

I Keep Hitting Closed Doors. What Do I Do?

jhenna asked you:
Hi Jed, I am 27 and have been trying to finish my bachelor’s degree since I finished high school 10 years ago. Life has pulled me in many different directions causing me to have to start and stop more times than I can count. I was saved about a year ago (such an amazing thing!) and am struggling again with a roadblock to finishing school. Is this God’s way of telling me school is not in His plan for me? Or is it a test? How do I know? I feel so lost at times but I just keep praying. – Jenna

Jed Brewer replied:

Hey Jenna,

I can totally relate to what you’re describing.  You’re trying to do something good – I mean, it’s a really positive thing to have a college degree – and everything just sets itself up to oppose you.  And it really does make you wonder: God, are you trying to give me a hint here?

It’s a frustrating, confusing place to be, and I’m sorry that’s where you’re at.

I think one of the things that confuses us in these kind of situations is that people have told us to look for “open doors”.  When everything lines up, that’s a sure sign that God’s directing us in a certain way.  That’s what they told me, anyway.

And that logic makes sense, I guess, but it doesn’t line up with scripture.  Paul was 100% called by God – in the most literal sense – to preach the Gospel.  And here’s a quick overview of the kind of “open doors” that met him in that work:

“Five times I received…the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27, NIV)

Wow.  That is hardcore. 

Now, I don’t mention that to discourage you – I highly doubt that a public flogging is in your future.  But I do mention it to say that, if we’re gonna follow the Lord, the “looking for open doors” approach ain’t gonna work.  We need something else.

The something else is this: we want to get a sense of mission from God, and commit to doing whatever that mission requires.

So, how do we get a sense of mission?  The best way is to get in the motion of serving people.  Right now, today.  Start asking the Lord for a burden, for a heart that breaks for people going through a rough time.  And go find opportunities to serve them.  Then, talk through these experiences with God and your pastor.

It may take a minute, but, out of this, I bet you’ll begin to develop a sense of calling and purpose for your life.  I bet you’ll begin to feel a mission welling up within you.

Well, when that happens, it’s time to figure out what the mission requires.  Maybe we need a college degree; maybe we don’t.  If we need it, we find a way to get one, and we don’t take “no” for an answer.  There are a lot of ways to go to college in the world today.  If you keep pounding on doors, one of them will budge eventually.

But that sense of mission needs to come first.  Otherwise, it’s dang near impossible to keep going in the face of trouble and adversity.  And that makes sense: No one’s willing to suffer for no reason.

I’d start getting in the motion of serving others and seeking that sense of mission in your life.  And as you and the Lord develop that, I think the next steps will become clear.

How Do I Stand Up For My Christian Beliefs?

This question was posed to me recently – how do I stand up for my Christian beliefs?  It’s a great question, and a pertinent question, and an easy one to get wrong.

If you want to stand up for your Christian beliefs, start by sitting down.

If you want to be a great lion of the faith, start by sitting down with a hurting person and asking, “Tell me your story.”

If you want to be a celebrated defender of God’s truth, start by sitting down with a hungry person over a generous meal that you have paid for.

If you want to be a champion for orthodoxy, start with orthopraxy.  Sit down with a woman in a nursing home, a man at a homeless shelter, or a young person at the juvenile lockup.  Sit down with them and love on them.  Make sacrifices to live that love out.

And why should you do that?  Why does standing up for faith start by sitting down?  Because the world is watching.

We have all, I suspect, heard stories about a Christian who’s life was on the line, and their aggressor demanded: “Do you believe in God?”  What few of us contemplate is that the world at large is constantly demanding that same question of you and I. 

Every day when you wake up, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers and classmates are looking at you and asking, “Do you believe in God?”  Your life is the answer that question.  Your words don’t actually get a say.

We live in a world of professional pundits and talking points.  Whether your political persuasion is left, right, or center, when you turn on your news channel of choice, you hear commentators saying things that we all know they don’t mean.  The words they say have ceased to count for anything.

But action matters.  Your actions matter.  This world – our world – is not looking for and does not need another great talking head.  But we do need men and women of action, men and women who will sacrifice and put it all on the line in order to love people the way Jesus did.

A number of years ago now, when President Clinton was still in office here in the U.S., Mother Teresa was invited to give a speech for a religious gathering in Washington D.C.  She used the opportunity to deliver a scathing rebuke about abortion, and a particularly stern reprimand to the policies of Bill Clinton, who was sitting in the audience.

After the program, a reporter asked President Clinton what he had thought of Mother Teresa’s address.

His reply?  “It is very hard to argue with a life so well lived.”

See, before Mother Teresa had tried to stand up for her faith, she’d started by sitting down, for decades, with the lepers and outcasts of Calcutta.  And her sacrifice and service were her credibility.

So it is with us.  We are called to always be prepared to give a defense for the hope that we have – to be able to stand up for our faith (1 Peter 3:15).  And the start of that preparation, the beginning of that standing up, is as simple as sitting down.

September 11th, and You

I’ve been thinking about the 10th anniversary of September 11th, and I feel like that day really shows us one thing: the immense impact a small group of people can have on the world when they are determined to do something evil.

There were 19 hijackers.  Nineteen.  Think about that for a second.  Not even two dozen people.  I bet that’s a smaller number of people than in your youth group or college group.  I’m sure it’s a smaller number of people than in your church.  In fact, if your folks have ever done a Christmas party at your house, I bet you had more than 19 people there that night.

It’s nothing, right?  And, yet, just 19 people, with a plan (a really evil one) and a determination to live it out can strike a wicked blow that the world will never forget.

Now, why do I say all that?

I say it because just as a small group of people can have a terrible impact on the world when they are determined to do something evil, how much more can a small group of people transform the world when they are determined to do something good?

About 2,000 years ago, Jesus took 11 people – eleven!  Barely even half of 19! – and gave them a plan to transform the world.  Here’s what Jesus said:

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Those 11 people took that plan to heart.  They were determined to live it out, and nothing has ever been the same. 

For those of you who are Christians, you have a relationship with the God of the universe, you are saved for all eternity, you have an inheritance in the Kingdom of God, because 11 people had a plan and were determined to follow it, no matter what. 

And it isn’t just you, of course.  There isn’t a corner of the globe that hasn’t been touched by the message of Jesus Christ.  Think of the number of hungry people fed and sick people cared for.  Think of the abolition of slavery.  Think of the overthrow of tyrants.  Think of orphans and widows crying out to God and receiving an answer in the form of a flesh-and-blood Christian.

That all happened because 11 people had a plan, and followed it.

Of course, those 11 people have long since moved onto glory.  But the plan is still here.  And that leads us to you.

You’re called to be a part of the plan, too.  When we see evil in this world, we can cower in the corner, hoping it doesn’t find us.  Or we can stand up, square our shoulders, and make the decision to face it head-on.

What would happen if you said, “I’m gonna follow God’s plan for my life no matter what?”  How would the world be transformed?

Today, we remember what happened when a small group of people decided to do their worst.  And it was and remains terrible.  But what would happen if Christians – one by one, ten by ten, twenty by twenty – decided to do their best?

Make up your mind to show the world exactly that would look like.

Self obsession and self pity do not lead to self discovery. They’re just an endless maze. The lives of the people we impact is the only mirror in which we can truly see ourselves. God set aside a purpose and a destiny, then He created you to fulfill that destiny (Ephesians 2:10). Do that good work, and you’ll know yourself. Your essence, your purpose, the full true meaning of your existence.
Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

My Family Doesn’t Want Me To Serve The Lord – What Do I Do?

Anonymous asked:

Here are snippets from three different questions, each asking about slightly different aspects of the same thing.

This may sound silly, but I want to be in a band, but I have a passion for art and playing music, and my parents want me to go into something that will get a lot of money. They also want me to go to college. I’m not sure how to differentiate between what I want, and my calling, and either way I’m not sure how to tell my parents if it is something that doesn’t involve huge chunks of cash.

—-

How do I tell my atheist parents I want to major in ministry for college and also as a career after high school?

—-

I don’t know what to do in college.  I barely know how to do what I want to do in my life. Trust me, it’s not a specific, set, stable career choice.I just want to live for the Lord. I don’t know how to do that, and my (soon to be ) wife is not supportive of this choice.

Jed Brewer replied:

There are some specifics on each of these questions, and we’ll cover those, but, first, here’s the big picture.

God created you with a plan and a purpose.  (Eph 2:10)  You have a responsibility before God to investigate that and live into it.  (Gal 6:4-5 MSG)  God – having made you – is the one who gets a say in your life, and that comes way, way before what well-meaning family members want. (Mat 10:34-37)  Each of us will be held accountable for the way we have lived our lives, particularly in regards to furthering the Kingdom and serving the least-of-these.  (Mat 25:31-46)  In that moment, Mom and Dad and Girlfriend won’t get a say.  It’s down to just what God thinks.  (Heb 9:27)  But, of course, when we live life God’s way, we have it to the fullest, discovering who we really are, so why would we settle for anything else?  (Luke 9:23-27, MSG)

Now, then, it might be easiest to do some of this as a job-and-calling FAQ.

Q: Don’t I have to honor my parents?  I mean, that’s in the Bible!

A: You are called to honor your parents, yes.  Which means to bring honor to their name.  Living in a Godly fashion and serving others in love is the most honoring thing you could possibly do towards your parents.  You are not called to do what they want instead of what God wants.

Q: Don’t I have a responsibility to financially provide for myself?  Doesn’t the Bible say, “If a man does not work he shall not eat?”

A: You have a responsibility to follow the Lord’s direction in your life.  He will provide what is necessary for you to live that out.  (Mat 6:33)

Q: How do I know if what I’m looking at is a “calling” or if I’m just being young and irresponsible?

A: Discovering your calling is a journey, and it won’t happen overnight.  If you feel a passion in your heart, follow it, and pray for wisdom on how to marry it with serving the down-and-out.  If you can bring those two together, you’ll be hot on the trail.

Q: If I’m going to have a family some day, how will I provide for them?

A: The best thing you can do for your future children is to develop a mature walk with the Lord, and live a meaningful life that revolves around serving others.  Children need a model of how to live, not a piggy bank with legs.

Lastly, how do we actually have these conversations?  Great question.

With the brother that has the unsupportive girlfriend, here’s how that should go.  “Darling, you know I love you.  That said, from this day forward, my life is about serving Jesus Christ.  I don’t know exactly how that’s gonna play out.  I will likely be poor and obscure.  And I don’t care.  Because what I’m telling you right now is: it’s gonna happen.  This is not a debate.  I am serving the Lord.  Period.  If you wanna come with me on that journey, fantastic.  If you don’t, now’s the time to walk away.  But the option of us being together and me not serving the Lord with everything I’ve got isn’t on the table.  If you’re wondering who I’m gonna choose between you and him, believe it, it’s him.”

With the atheist parents, here’s what I would suggest.  “Mom and Dad, I love you.  I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.  You’ve raised me to be the kind of person who wants to make the world a better place, and you have succeeded in that aim.  That’s exactly what I want to do.  Likewise, you’ve raised me to be the kind of person who thinks for themselves, and makes the right decision, even when it’s hard and unpopular.  Again, you’ve gotten all of that.  As I look at the next few years of my life, I know what I want.  I’ve thought it through, I’ve looked at it from all angles, I’ve taken in everything you’ve taught me, and I’ve come to a decision.  I want to serve other people, and I believe Christian Ministry is the most effective way to do that.  I know you aren’t down with all of the God-stuff, and I appreciate that, but, as it turns out, Christians are the ones who know about serving others.  And that’s what I want to do.”

For the brother than wants to be in a band and make art – start doing that.  Today.  You don’t need anybody’s permission to do those things.  Start doing them.  Start looking for ways to serve others through those activities.  I think you’ll find things get a bit clearer as you get into the motion of living out these passions.

Lastly, for all of you, don’t give up.  This is a beautiful but difficult journey.  It’s worth it, but it can be hard.  Be kind to yourself (the world won’t).  Be honest with the Lord about how you’re feeling.  And let me know how I can be praying for you.

P.S. For folks where their parents are involved in footing the bill on rent, food, etc, there can be some situational specifics that would be worth talking through.  Message me non-anonymous, and I’d be happy to talk about that.