At the Table: Where Life and Truth Meet

Most of us have asked the question, “What is my purpose?”

For me, that question has often taken a paralyzing turn.  I think, “What is MY purpose? What is the one thing I’m supposed to be doing with my life to glorify God…and what if I miss it?”

Like most women, I fight feelings of inadequacy and fear.

I can scroll through social media and think, my life isn’t as interesting as hers.

I can look through Pinterest and think, my house isn’t as beautiful as hers.

I can read blogs and think, my thoughts aren’t as profound or funny as hers.

I can even watch a video Bible Study and think, I don’t know as much as she does and I don’t look as good as she does, so no one would ever want to listen to me.

How can I ever find my purpose?

I have to put down my phone and pick up the Word.

In the Word, I read Matthew 22:36-40.

“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

He [Jesus] said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

In the Word, I read Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I’m learning to find my purpose in these three commands:

Love God.
Love people.
Make disciples.

These are the priorities of Jesus.

Jesus loved God by doing everything His Father commanded.
Jesus loved all people, especially the ones others rejected.
Jesus made disciples by sharing the truth while he shared His life.

Jesus spoke the truth to crowds on occasion, but He lived the truth before His disciples daily.  He demonstrated that the best way to learn to live the truth is to watch it lived in others.  At the tables of tax collectors, sinners, and friends, Jesus shared the truth and showed how to live it.

This is the ministry of Jesus.

We all need someone in our everyday lives to teach us the truth and show us the way to live it. Screens won’t do.

I am realizing that much of the truth that I know and live today, I learned first around a table with godly women who were willing to share their lives with me. My life changed, my marriage changed, and my kid’s lives changed because these women made room at their tables and invited me to join them.

I think about the women around the tables during my decade of Tuesday morning Bible Study at GFBC. I think about Mrs. Bobbie, who got up from her table of friends to walk across the room to hug me and tell me she loved me every time she saw me enter. I think about the women who let me sit and listen and ask questions only when I was ready. I think about the women who invited me to lunch, who shared stories of everyday life, of marriage and kids and struggles where truth meets reality. I was changed week by week, not because of the truth I heard from a screen, but by the truth I saw lived out by women across the table and around the room, women I saw in my daily life in the carpool line, at Walmart, and at sports events. I could trust these women with my questions and know they would pray for my deepest needs. I learned to parent by watching these women navigate through daily challenges. I can’t tell you the names of all the Bible studies we did in those years, but I can tell you name after name of the women who loved me, prayed for me, worshipped with me, and lived the truth out before me.

In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands, so that God’s word will not be slandered. Titus 2:3-5 CSB

I think about my friend Ann, who has been making room at her table for me and my family for more than twenty years. At Ann’s table, our kids did their homework together, celebrated the day’s victories, and shared disappointments. We met at Ann’s table to eat her home-cooked meals, play games, and laugh at hilarious moments only Ann could create. With neither of us having parents or other family in town, Ann’s family and mine joined forces to celebrate big occasions and holidays together. When unexpected repairs made our house unlivable, Ann took us in for three weeks and we both cried when our house was habitable again. At Ann’s table, my children gained a second mother and we all learned the healing power of laughter. And because Ann invited us to share the chaos of daily living, I learned that hospitality is not about what is on the table, but who is sitting around it.

A joyful heart is good medicine…Proverbs 17:22 CSB

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13 NIV

Don’t go to your brother’s house in your time of calamity;
better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away. Proverbs 21:10 CSB

I think about my friend Tracy, who always joked that at her table we could solve the problems of the world (and for a while, we did solve the problem of me wanting more blond in my hair). The problems of the world came to Tracy’s table when she opened her heart and home to take in foster children. Through the eyes of these precious children, I watched deprivation become plenty and despair become hope. At Tracy’s table, I watched God’s supernatural love heal physical and emotional pain. When Tracy invited me to join her at fast food tables for visits between her foster kids and their birth parents, I learned more about forgiveness and the painful process of reconciliation. And as Tracy’s table got bigger and bigger, I learned about the beauty of adoption and began to appreciate more and more my own adoption into God’s family and my place at His table.

Learn to do what is good. Pursue justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause. Isaiah 1:17 CSB

You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!”  The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:15-16 CSB

I think about my friend Pam, who is always ready to meet me at the table of our favorite Mexican restaurant. At these tables, we have studied the Bible chronologically over chips and cheese dip. In dark times, we drop everything to meet at the table for companionship and encouragement. We share our lives. Pam’s wise counsel is one of my most precious treasures. At the table with Pam, I have learned that God redeems all things.

Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise later in life. Proverbs 19:20 CSB

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
1 John 3:16 CSB

Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. Psalm 130:7 NIV

I think about the women I met in the Romanian cities of Timisoara, Hunedoara, and Hateg. I think about the tables in their homes where they welcomed me and shared what they had. I think about how we gathered with other women in their churches to worship, singing songs together in our own languages. And I think about the tables at their churches where we gathered afterward for a shared meal and time of fellowship. At tables in Romania, I learned a little bit more about what heaven will be like, where people from every tribe and every people gather before God’s throne to worship, and where one day we will all gather at the table for the wedding supper of the Lamb.

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice:

Salvation belongs to our God,
who is seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb!
Revelation 7:9-10 CSB

What do these incredible women in my life have in common?

They know their purpose.
They love God, love people, and make disciples.

They refuse to be immobilized by insecurity. They stop falling for the trap of comparison that says, “But I’m not _____(fill in the blank with the name of any popular speaker or writer).”

They share their real lives, inviting people like you and me to the table to share life and truth.

As I reflect on the most critical times of my spiritual journey, I realize I didn’t need someone famous, I needed someone real. I needed someone in my daily life whose heart belonged to God and whose life reflected a desire to live the truth. I needed someone whose love for me and desire that I become more like Christ would cause them to drop everything and meet me in my time of need. I needed someone face to face, someone who could see beyond the mess I was to who I could become. I needed someone to listen to the Spirit and catch a vision for how God could be glorified in me.

I needed to come to the table.

At the table, I learned to love God more.
At the table, I learned to love others well.
And at the table, I was discipled and learned to do the same.

At the table, I didn’t just hear truth, I watched it in action.

So, these days, I’m learning to ask myself another question.

I’m learning to ask, “Where are my people?”

If I know the purpose of my life is to love God, love people, and make disciples, then my guiding question becomes, “Where are the people God has given me to love and disciple as I grow in my love for God?”

It’s time I die to the pride that is the root of feelings of inadequacy.
It’s time I stop being afraid I will look foolish or fail.
It’s time I stop sitting on the sidelines playing it safe.

It’s time I realize that God isn’t holding my favorite Bible teacher or blogger responsible for discipling the people who are longing for a seat at my table.

It’s my turn to do the inviting.
It’s my turn to do the discipling.
It’s my turn to find my people.

What about you? What do you need?

Do you need to know your purpose?

Focus on the big three:
Love God.
Love people.
Make disciples.

Do you need to know where to find your people?

You are likely to find them gathered around a table – in your home, at your place of worship, in your workplace, or in your community.

And like me, you will discover this:

The truth you need and the ministry you were made for are waiting at a table near you.

Quotes Table Truth and Ministry

Psalm 141

Everyone is wrong sometime.

But who likes being reminded of it?

David asked for such reminders. In a time when his enemies were trying to trap him into wrongdoing, David prayed that a righteous one would rebuke him if his heart turned toward a sinful path. He viewed such a reprimand as a blessing, an act of faithful love.

LORD, set up a guard for my mouth;
keep watch at the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart turn to any evil thing
or perform wicked acts
with men who commit sin.
Do not let me feast on their delicacies.
Let the righteous one strike me—
it is an act of faithful love;
let him rebuke me—
it is oil for my head;
let me not refuse it.
Even now my prayer is against
the evil acts of the wicked. (v. 3-5 CSB)

Proverbs says it like this:

Better an open reprimand
than concealed love.

The wounds of a friend are trustworthy,
but the kisses of an enemy are excessive.
Proverbs 27:5-6 CSB

Who is a better friend? The one who lovingly confronts us with our wrongdoing, or the one who loves us but stays quiet?

Which wounds are better? The ones we inflict on ourselves by sinful choices or the ones from a friend who lovingly tells us the truth about our actions?

We can trust the wounds of a true friend.

David prayed for friends who would confront him in love if his heart turned toward sin, even if it hurt to hear their words.

Do we pray for friends like that?

I am grateful for a handful of friends who love me enough to tell me the truth, who warn me when my heart turns toward sin. When I’ve been wronged, I am grateful for friends who call me on my sinful responses and refuse to let me blame my choices on others. I am grateful for friends who “play the movie” to show me where my sinful attitude will take me and those who love me. I am grateful for the faithful love of these friends, friends who are willing to cause pain for a moment rather than see me suffer pain for a lifetime.

Am I willing to be that kind of friend? I want to be. I try to be.

I admit, it’s easier to stay quiet.

So I’m thankful for this reminder from the psalms today:
Faithful love sounds the alarm.

Father, set a guard over my lips today. Help me speak the truth in love. Keep my heart from turning to sin. Open the mouths of my friends to be free to warn me when I am on or considering a sinful path. Thank you for my friends who demonstrate Your faithful love by sounding the alarm when I need it. Protect us from the traps of the enemy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 141

The God Who Runs

Rebellion.

Selfish demands.
Surly words.
Shameful choices.

We’ve all played the rebel, rejecting the rules to get what we want, to experience something new.

Regret.

I was so stupid.

We’ve all suffered the consequences of rebellious choices, finding ourselves in a mess we can’t escape on our own.

Rejection.

I’m no longer worthy.

And sometimes, we fall into despair, feeling ashamed and blaming ourselves again and again.

What can we do when we’ve failed, when we feel cut off from the good life we knew before, separated from God and those we love?

Jesus told the Parable of the Lost Son to show rebels like us what to do.

When you’ve chosen your own way, when you’ve suffered the consequences, when you don’t even feel worthy to be called a child of God….

Get up.
Turn around.
Go back to your Father.

I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went to his father.
Luke 15:18-19 CSB

Jesus told the Parable of the Lost Son to show us how love responds.

Love sees.
Love runs.
Love forgives.
Love restores.
Love keeps searching.

But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father told his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15:20-24 CSB

God is not a father who writes us off.

God is the Father who sees.
He is watching for the moment our hearts turn toward home again.

God is the Father who runs.
He closes the gap to embrace us as dearly loved children, not hired workers.

God is the Father who forgives.
He is filled with compassion and shows us mercy when we repent.

God is the Father who restores.
He celebrates our return, welcomes us home, and demonstrates His love, providing more than we could ask or imagine.

God is the Father who shows us that our worth is not earned, but inherited. Our worth comes from our relationship, initiated and sustained by the Father.

We need to remember that when we’re not playing the rebel, we are easily tempted to play the judge. The rebel demands his own way. His judgmental brother demands he pay for it.

The Father loves them both.

So his father came out and pleaded with him…“‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15:28, 31-32 CSB

God is the Father who keeps searching.
He invites the self-righteous to trust His judgment and join the celebration.

God is a good Father.

He sees.
He runs.
He forgives.
He restores.
He keeps searching.

We are God’s children.
We belong to Him.
When we fail or when we have it all together, we can trust His love.
And His love never fails.

See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! 1 John 3:1 CSB

Psalm 130

God hears our cries for help.

Out of the depths I call to you, LORD!
Lord, listen to my voice;
let your ears be attentive
to my cry for help. (v. 1-2 CSB)

God forgives our sins.

If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (v. 3-4 NIV)

God’s Word gives us reason to hope.

I wait for the LORD; I wait
and put my hope in his word. (v. 5 CSB)

God loves us with unfailing, faithful love.

Israel, put your hope in the LORD.
For there is faithful love with the LORD,
and with him is redemption in abundance. (v. 7 CSB)

God gives full redemption to those who belong to Him.

Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins. (v. 7-8 NIV)

Forgiveness.
Hope.
Unfailing love.
Full redemption.

How great is God’s mercy toward us!

Father, thank You for hearing my cries for mercy. Thank You for forgiving my sins, for redeeming every one. I put my hope in Your Word that tells the story of Your unfailing love and redemption plan. I put my hope in You, my Redeemer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 130

Psalm 129

God is the defender of the oppressed.

The psalmist writes of God delivering Israel, His covenant people, from attacks and oppression since her earliest days.

Since my youth they have often attacked me—
let Israel say—
Since my youth they have often attacked me,
but they have not prevailed against me. (v. 1-2 CSB)

God is the giver of freedom.

This psalm celebrates God as the righteous one who cuts the ropes of oppression and sets His people free.

The LORD is righteous;
he has cut the ropes of the wicked. (v. 4 CSB)

The Israelites were slaves for 400 years in Egypt before God miraculously set them free. Later, through the prophet Isaiah, God sent the good news that He would send the Messiah to set all captives free from the power of sin.

The Spirit of the Lord God is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners. . . Isaiah 61:1 CSB

Jesus, the Messiah, broke the chains of sin on the cross when He paid the debt for all sin with His own perfect life. He has set us free!

So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free. John 8:36 CSB

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 CSB

God invites us to use our freedom to serve others.

For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. Galatians 5:13 CSB

Our freedom is not just for us. Having been set free from the chains of sin, we are now free to love with the love of the Father. His love empowers us to serve others.

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

God cut the ropes that evil men used to enslave His people.
He set Israel free from her oppressors.

God sent His Son Jesus to the cross in our place to pay the penalty for sin .
He set us free from the chains of sin.

God set us free to serve others through love.

How will you use His freedom today?

Father, thank You for setting me free. Thank You for sending Jesus to the cross in my place to pay the penalty for my sin, setting me free from sin’s bondage. Help me use my freedom to serve and show Your love to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 129.jpg

Psalm 124

At some point on our journey home, we will find ourselves under attack, by people or by the crushing weight of circumstances we could not foresee. When this happens, we need someone by our side. We need help we can count on.

We need the LORD, Yahweh, our covenant-keeping God.

Psalm 124 gives testimony of God’s help for Israel during times of attack.

When people attacked Israel, the LORD was on their side, providing a way of escape.

If the LORD had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
then they would have swallowed us alive
in their burning anger against us. (v. 2-3 CSB)

When God’s people were pummeled by waves of attack, the LORD kept His people from going under.

If the LORD had not been on our side…
Then the water would have engulfed us;
the torrent would have swept over us;
the raging water would have swept over us. (v. 1a, 4-5 CSB)

God’s people responded by blessing the LORD and recognizing that their help came from the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth. (v. 8 CSB)

The LORD is our help.
When waves of attack hit, call on His name.
The Maker of heaven and earth is on your side.
He will keep you from being overwhelmed.

Bless His name!

Father, You are my help when I am under attack. Without You on my side, I would go under. Thank You that Your name is near. You are the Maker of heaven and earth. Nothing is too difficult for You. Show me the way of escape. Keep me above the waves that surround me. Yahweh, I bless Your name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 124

Psalm 123

As we walk this journey home, we are faced with many distractions. Sometimes we will encounter others who hold our worldview in contempt. What do we do?

We focus our eyes on the LORD, the one enthroned in heaven.

I lift my eyes to you,
the one enthroned in heaven. (v. 1 CSB)

We ask the LORD to show us favor on our journey.

Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand,
like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand,
so our eyes are on the LORD our God
until he shows us favor.
Show us favor, LORD, show us favor,
for we’ve had more than enough contempt. (v. 2-3 CSB)

We keep walking, our eyes on the LORD every step of the way.

Father, I lift my eyes to You. You are enthroned in heaven, sovereign over all.  I will focus on You and not on what others say. Show me Your favor as I walk this journey. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 123