Thursday, January 28, 2010


Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."  Mark 10:42-45

I struggle with being a servant.  It’s not that I don’t like doing for others – I really enjoy it, actually.  But, I don’t easily come up with ways to serve.  If it falls within my natural inclinations or just happens to be obvious in the normal flow of my day, I jump right in.  But, to go out of my way to be a servant…well, let’s just say that much of the time I’m oblivious and it doesn’t even cross my mind unless someone brings it to my attention.

Sometimes I wonder if that’s where the disciples were.  Sometimes I wonder if, even though they were around Jesus daily, they just didn’t see things – they didn’t have the spiritual focus they would have later when the Holy Spirit descended upon them. 

The thing is, I have the Holy Spirit dwelling within me.  But, somehow I still choke out the awareness of needs around me unless they just slap me in the face.  And that is what I am challenged to change.  The open eyes.  The sensitivity.  The awareness of needs around me.  The Lord is reminding me once again that my mind is not focused on Him on a regular basis but is instead distracted by my days.  No wonder I don’t see and meet needs around me unless they just jump in my path! 

So, I am challenged on multiple levels.  First to restore my mental sensitivity, having my mind set on Him, putting Phil 4:7 into practice.  Then to take that sensitivity and put in into practice, being a servant regularly, even when it doesn’t just fall into the normal path of my day.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Persistent Faith

Mark 10:46-52 tells the familiar story of Blind Bartimaeus, the blind beggar on the road to Jericho who will not stop yelling until he is heard – and healed – by Jesus.

I realized something as I reread Bartimaeus’ story this morning – I have nowhere near the faith he had. 

There are times I feel ignored by Jesus as well.  It’s as if He’s just walking right along, ministering to people all around me.  I feel as if I’m the outcast on the side of the road.  The humbling thing about it, though, is that no one is telling me to hush.  Instead they are encouraging me. 

“Keep praying.  Keep crying out.  He is faithful!  He will hear you and He will act in His perfect timing.” 

Bartimaeus was being told to be quite and leave Jesus alone, but he persisted, getting louder and louder.  He didn’t complain.  He didn’t petition anyone else and ask them to seek Jesus for Him.  He pleaded with Jesus alone and let no one distract him from that course.

I, on the other hand, will pray for a while.  Then when nothing happens I’ll start griping.  I’ll share my woes and ask other people to pray for me.  There’s nothing wrong with the prayer support, mind you, but there is something wrong with my attitude.  I spend more time complaining and mulling over my situation than I do crying out to Jesus for His mercy.

I am challenged to have the faith of Bartimaeus.  My Savior will not walk right by me without completing His work.  Will I believe that?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Honor of Honesty

It is an honor to receive an honest reply. Prov 24:26 (NLT)

As I was reading and commenting on Proverbs 24 today, this verse really stood out to me. 

Do I really consider it an honor to receive an honest reply? 

Think about this with me.  If I ask someone how they’re doing, how often do I want to take the time to really hear the answer?  If I ask someone a question about myself, am I really ready to receive the answer?  If I share something I’ve learned, do I really want someone else to come in and show me that I still have much to learn?

If we are completely honest with ourselves, we don’t really want honest replies from other people.  They are frustrating, annoying, and aggravating more often than not.

So, why would it be considered an honor to receive an honest reply?  Because it signifies trust.  If someone feels confident that they can give me an honest reply, then they trust me to handle their reply well.

They trust me to be a listener when they need to share how they’re really doing.

They trust me to accept constructive criticism.

They trust me to be willing to grow and learn and to not live as if I have the only answers.

And so, I am challenged to truly be honored by honest replies. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

No Resistance

Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures.  This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.  Acts 18:24-26

As I’ve read through Acts, I’ve been struck by the number of people who were being obedience to what they know.  Apollos must be added to that list.  He knew there was more that just being a good Jew – he knew there was a Messiah and a need for repentance, and he preached it passionately. 

I fancy myself to be pretty passionate about what I know.  I struggle to obey it, but I truly do long to do so and I want to share it with others.

As I read this passage, though, I noticed something beyond being faithful to what we already know.  I noticed a lack of resistance to learning more. 

When I am secure and passionate in what I know, I can be a little testy when someone tries to come along and tell me I don’t know enough and need to learn more.  It’s not always my response, but the truth is that it should never be my response when the greater learning is of God. 

So, I am challenged to be more faithful in the learning.  To be more faithful in the next step of growth.  To welcome it with excitement and move right along joyfully, willing to be passionate about what I know but always hungering to learn more. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cut it Off!

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, [where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.]  If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, [where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.]  If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell,  Mark 9:43-47

The self-mutilation concepts presented here seem very extreme.  But, as I read this today, I see that I cling to things that cause me to stumble, things that are as difficult to remove from my life as a hand, foot, or eye would be to my body. 

As I progress through the process of becoming more Christ-like, I am challenged to make sure that I am willing to go through the necessary surgery.  Whether it be habits, preferences, or beliefs.  Whether it be relationships, hopes, or dreams.  Whether it be preferences or hobbies, comforts or tendencies.  Even if it is my health or the health of my family – all must be brought under the lordship of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  If I am not willing to submit them to Him to do with as He pleases, then they are things that cause me to stumble and they need to go!

Monday, January 18, 2010

For What Purpose?

My daily schedule/to-do list and I are not on great terms right now.  I would really rather not have to face them, to be honest.  As I look over what must be done today, I wonder how I will ever get it all accomplished.  Then I’ll start tomorrow behind, and it will bleed over into the next day and the next.  Not an exciting thought for the rest of the week, now is it?

And then something clicks in my mind – I am trying to live today to complete my checklist and stick to my schedule.  What an exhausting thing!  If that is what I live each day for, I will definitely be overwhelmed by the anxiety of life.  I will never succeed in accomplishing a fulfilling day, and I will wake up each morning starting the day behind schedule.

A successful day is not based on sticking to a schedule or successfully completing a to-do list.  A successful day is based on seeing that all I do accomplishes the task of glorifying my Savior.  The very fact that I draw breath is meant to honor Him.  There is no other reason I live.  All I do is for that purpose. 

He gave me the schedule as a result of prayer regarding how we could honor Him best with our days.  I trust Him to use it to guide me in the process of honoring Him. 

He has laid certain responsibilities before me.  I will seek Him for the wisdom and direction I need to structure this day so that all He wants me to accomplish is done. 

Suddenly, the day isn’t quite so overwhelming.  Suddenly the schedule is a guide and the to-do list is a promise of the ways I can step in alongside my Savior as He works today.  Suddenly the exact same tasks bring hope instead of a sense of overwhelming despair. 

And now, I look forward to my day.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

More Satisfaction

O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Ps. 90:14

In a recent post, I shared some thoughts on Ps 90:14.  This is a verse I frequently use in prayer over myself and my family, so I revisit it a great deal.  Today was one of those day of revisiting. 

Today the thoughts on this verse were not about rest or stuff – they were about relationships.  I crave satisfaction in relationships, but it’s not something I always find.  I frequently fail, in fact.  In some way, shape, form, or fashion, I fail the people I long to relate to.  Some days it’s family, some days it’s friends.  Whoever it is, I frequently feel (whether justified or not) that I either upset them or fall short of their expectations.  The result is a lack of satisfaction – sometimes both sides not being satisfied, but frequently simply my own dissatisfaction with the relationship.

Perhaps the problem is not my failure in the relationship – or theirs either.  Perhaps the problem is my lack of satisfaction in the right relationship.  Am I satisfied with the lovingkindness of my precious Savior?  Do I find what I long for in His arms rather than seeking it from other people? 

I am challenged to be sure to find lovingkindness in Him first and foremost and let Him guide the rest of my relationships to a place of beautiful satisfaction. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

No Limitations

Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Acts 17:29

It often seems a bit ludicrous to us to think of making God into an idol of gold, silver, or stone.  Paul points out to the Athenians that a being powerful enough to have created us could not possibly be made out of materials we could fashion and shape with our own hands.  A creator has to be bigger, greater than his creation. 

But, there is another concept in this verse that we like to overlook.  It’s at the very end, and it’s so easy to slip past and speed on to the next verse.  Not only is our Creator not formed by gold, silver, or stone or by the art of our hands, but He is also not formed by our thoughts or conceptions.

You see, our imaginations can do much greater things than our hands.  Our imaginations can fathom concepts and ideas that far exceed the limitations placed upon us by this finite universe in which we live. 

For this reason, we often believe that we have God figured out.  If our imaginations are so free, then surely we know enough to capture the concept of our Creator, right?

I can look back through the course of my life and see how I limit God less and less the more I grow.  But, I still form my idea of Him based on my imaginations.  I still think – sometimes unconsciously, but it’s there nonetheless – that God exists and works only in ways that I can conceive.

I am challenged to move beyond that.  I am challenged to trust that my mind and imaginations are miniscule compared to the resources available to my Creator.  He does not have to work within the bounds of what I can imagine.  That is both terrifying and comforting.  And that is where I want my heart and mind to dwell. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Attention Grabber

And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, "What would this idle babbler wish to say?" Others, "He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,"--because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.  And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming?  For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean." (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)   Acts 17:18-21

What struck me this morning was that Paul got the attention of these people.  I wonder how many times I get people’s attention.  Not by standing in front of them and demanding it, but simply by what I say and do through the course of my day.  Paul was saying things that got people to stop and think.

Now, I don’t live in a city of philosophers.  But, the truth is that every city Paul visited was not made up of people who spent all their time sitting around discussing new ideas.  Paul was sensitive to the Lord regarding the nature of each city, and the Holy Spirit laid on Paul’s heart the course of action that would attract attention and bring glory to God. 

Am I willing to let my daily words and actions have that impact?  If I do, my plans and schedules will be interrupted as people stop and take notice – as they want to know answers to their questions about what I say and do.  Am I willing to be disrupted that way?  Am I willing to be noticed?  To stand out?  Not in a prideful way, but in a way that points to the Almighty Creator of the universe!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Good Intentions

And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all."  And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them. Mark 10-13-16

The disciples really weren’t trying to be mean.  They had good intentions in wanting to “protect” their Master.  He was always so pressed in upon all the time.  Give Him a break!

The problem here, though, was that their intentions showed that their hearts were not in tune with their Master’s.  That is what was making Him indignant with them.

Where do my good intentions fall when compared with the heart of God?  Do they delight Him or do they make Him indignant?  What do they show of my own heart?  Do they reveal a heart that is in line with His?  Or, do they show a heart that is more in line with this world – a heart that doesn’t even realize its good intentions don’t please Him?

I am challenged to make sure that my heart is in line with His.  That the actions that result from my good intentions really do please Him. 

Sunday, January 10, 2010

His Interests

And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind Me,Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."  Matt 8:32-33

It is so easy to read this and judge Peter.  I mean, he had just acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ, and then he had to go and get all cocky and think that he had any authority to rebuke Jesus.  No!  What was he thinking?

But, it seems every time I want to judge a Bible character for their hasty and haughty actions, I end up face to face with myself - a spiritual mirror pointed straight at my prideful heart.  And the picture usually isn't very pretty.

I do the same thing.  I fuss at the Lord, rebuke Him, gripe at Him, and generally tell Him how I think it should go - how it must fit in with not only my doctrine and theology, but also with my desires.  I do exactly what Peter did, and I typically do it after some great revelation that has me all excited - and a bit cocky.

God is growing me.  He is revealing more and more of the picture to me as each day passes.  It's awesome, but it should also be humbling.  Rather than being an indication that I have "arrived," it should be a glimpse of how much further I really do have to go.

And then there is the whole setting our minds on the interests of God and not man.  Wanting to do things His way.  

I am challenged to not be cocky.  I am challenged to not be prideful.  And I am challenged to make sure I don't try to dictate to the Lord how it should be.  He is God, and, shockingly enough, I am not.  I must learn to chase after His interests and not my own.  Because that's the only way it will ever be right between us.  

Friday, January 8, 2010

Necessary Learning

And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ."  Acts 17:2-3

Learning is something I like to do.  Sometimes it really scares and intimidates me, and I dread it for a little while.  But, overall I really do like to learn.  It’s energizing and exciting to have worked hard and have new knowledge to show for it.

Reading through Acts and Proverbs together has reminded me how crucial Scriptural learning is.  Paul did not just pull this evidence out of his hat.  He had studied the Scriptures long and hard.  Even Peter and the other disciples who were simple, uneducated fisherman studied Scripture to be able to expound on the Old Testament prophecies and stories that paved the way for the Messiah.  Their understanding was imparted to them with the arrival of the Holy Spirit, but they didn’t stop there.  They studied the Word that was available to them.  They learned it!

There are times when I get lazy – when I don’t want to study.  I think I know it well, and I can wing it.  When I do that, I’m ignoring the wisdom of Scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  I am challenged to make sure that I study, even when I think I know something well.  I am challenged to make sure I am always learning, that I never come to the point where I think I know enough, even on just one subject.

Learning is vital not only to my own growth by to my ability to witness and disciple.  It is vital.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it."

I like to be hard on the Pharisees.  But, the more I learn, the more I realize that I am more like them than I’d like to admit. 

Take this situation, for example.  The Pharisees believed Jesus had power.  They had no doubts He could heal and perform miracles.  In fact, it’s obvious by many of their tests that they expected the miracles.  What they didn’t trust was His authority. Hence the request for a sign.

I believe in and expect a lot of things as a believer in Christ.  But I still seek signs.  I want proof before I follow in obedience in something that I don’t wish to do. I want proof that He’s going to get me out of a tough situation.  I have my own desire for signs.

I am challenged to increasingly not only trust Him but surrender to Him simply because He is God and I am, in the words of Paul, His bondservant – His slave.  I need no sign or proof.  I just need to obey and trust that He has everything under control. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Instruction Worthy of Honor

My son, obey your father’s commands, and don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.  Keep their words always in your heart.  Tie them around your neck.  When you walk, their counsel will lead you.  When you sleep, they will protect you.  When you wake up, they will advise you.  For their command is a lamp and their instruction a light; their corrective discipline is the way to life.  Prov 6:20-23 (NLT)

As I was going through my Proverbs for today, I was greatly challenged by these verses.  They left me wondering if my instructions and words are really worthy of this honor.  In truth, there is only one way they can be, and that is if they are based on the Word of God.

In truth, I desire all of my parenting to be based fully on God’s Word, and to have His Word and wisdom as its source.  The reality is that I don’t always succeed, and oftentimes my words, instruction, and discipline are based more on what I think than on what the Word says.  Naturally, I desire to be continually improving in that area.

But, there is something more that I am challenged to ensure, and that is making sure that my children know the source of my instruction and discipline.  If they are of the opinion that they are following my words and wisdom, then it will simply be that they are following Mommy’s philosophy of life.  As they grow, they will keep or toss ideas based on whether or not they agree with Mommy.

But, if they are aware that my philosophy is from the Word, not just from me, there will be a stronger likelihood that they will cling to what is right.

So, my challenge for today is to continually point them back to the Word, and to show them the source of my instruction and discipline.  As I do, that will not only raise my instruction and words to the level of honor outlined in this passage, but it will also ensure that what I say and do is truly in line with God’s way!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Boldness without Pride

Mark 8:27-30, Matthew 16:13-17, and Luke 9:18-21 all tell a beautiful story.  They tell of Jesus asking His disciples who people say that He is and then asking who the disciples say He is.  They tell of Peter responding that Jesus is the Christ.  Matthew continues the story with Jesus’ exclamation of Peter’s blessedness for having this understanding – understanding that can come only from the Spirit Himself. 

I love new insight.  I love it when the Spirit speaks to my heart and opens my mind to the Word of God.  It is just a beautiful thing that I revel in and relish.  It gives me boldness about the work of God, and for a person who is not naturally bold, that feeling can be exhilarating!

But, like Peter, I frequently let such revelations – and the accompanying boldness – get to my head.  Both Matthew and Mark record Peter moving from this declaration to an act of rebuking Jesus.  Ouch!  Peter’s boldness was accompanied by a bit of pride, pride that definitely led to a pretty nasty fall.

When the Holy Spirit opens my heart and mind to new truths, the boldness I feel is often combined with pride as well.  I get a bit cocky and it leads to a crash that takes the boldness and effectiveness right down with it. 

I must remember that I still have so much to learn.  I must allow the boldness to do its work for the glory of the Lord, not for any recognition of my own.  I must remember to have the boldness without the pride.

But when I do fall because of pride, I can be reminded that there is restoration and continued growth.  After all, shortly after this declaration of Peter’s comes the transfiguration, of which he is a part. 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

No More Complaining

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent,children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, Phil. 2:14-15

Each time my family heads into a new week, one of my prayers for us concerns our public image. People watch us. Not just because we are the pastor's family, although that does have a strong impact. But, there's a lot about us that is watched. We are a home schooling family. We are a family that isn't from this neck of the woods. Outside of the church, we are a Christian family. So many things make people watch us to see how we handle things. It isn't that we are unique – everyone is watched for one reason or another. We are just recognizing the reasons we are watched.

As we are watched, I pay a little more attention to the behavior of my children, and through them I can often see areas where I have subconsciously taught and influenced their behavior – and it's not always very pretty.

This morning I had to think about my attitude. As I look back over the past week, I have come face to face with how much I gripe and complain. It's not so much being in a dispute with someone as it is complaining about this circumstance or that incident. I complain freely in front of my children. And, I guarantee you, they are learning.

I cannot tell you how strongly this has hit my heart this morning. Oh how I must stop griping and complaining! Oh how I must be more joyful and positive! Oh how my vocal interaction about a circumstance, incident, or person must be filled with prayer and rejoicing, not griping and complaining!

I am challenged to see a change this week in my own words. To be very attentive to how much I complain. To make it a point to close my mouth if I am beginning to gripe. And my prayer is that the result of this attentiveness to my words will be a greater rejoicing in all things. After all, it's hard to complain when I'm in the middle of rejoicing!