Sunday, September 11, 2011


David became angry because of the LORD’S outburst against Uzzah, and that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day. So David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” 2 Samuel 6:8-9

Emotional responses are very telling. What I get emotional about – or don’t get emotional about, for that matter – can reveal a great deal about the spiritual condition of my heart. Am I walking in intimacy with my Savior? Am I abiding? Am I seeking His wisdom and guidance? Am I walking in unrepentance? Have I distanced myself from my Lord in some way? Am I acting out of disobedience and sin?

David wanted to do something good by bringing the ark to Jerusalem. But, he was not careful to do it in the right way. He and the Levites both should have known better, but they proceeded to follow the example of the Philistines in transporting the ark rather than following the commands of God. And, as tends to happen when we are walking in disobedience, things went badly and Uzzah suffered the consequences.

David’s anger, fear, and abandoning of the ark are all emotional responses resulting from not walking in the fear of the Lord. He was trying to do a good thing his way instead of God’s. And when God disciplined, David grew angry. Only three months later did David straighten all of this out and decide to do it God’s way instead.

Reading this story again, and observing the tenth anniversary of a horrific event in my own lifetime, I am struck by the realization of just how telling my emotional responses are. God gave them to me to reveal much about my heart. I know that I cannot trust in my emotions, but I can frequently discern much if I truly stop to consider my emotions.

So, my challenge? To listen. My God-given emotions tell a story. They tell me many things about how I stand before God. I am challenged to consider them, evaluate them, and bring them humbly before my Creator. I am challenged to freely allow Him to use them to teach and grow me, making me more into who He created me to be.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

He Sees

Then He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what the elders of the house of Israel are committing in the dark, each man in the room of his carved images? For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us; the LORD has forsaken the land.’” Ezekiel 8:12

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to please people. My biggest stress when doing something wrong as a child was not the wrong I had done, but the fear of being found out. It wasn’t the punishment I dreaded nearly as much as the reality of disappointing someone. What would they think of me? Would they still trust me? Would they still even like me?

That mentality sticks with me today. What if they really knew what I was like and the things I have done and still do?

I do know that God sees. Truly I do. But, one of my biggest struggles is the fight against caring more about what people see.

The priests and leaders of Judah were hiding their sin in hopes that people wouldn’t see. But people weren’t who they needed to be worrying about. God was. And they didn’t care about God.

I do care about God. Immensely. I hunger to please Him. I long to bring delight to His heart. And yet my worry about what people think still plagues me. I still struggle with it, even though I’ve fought against it for years.

My challenge today is to take one more step away from people-pleasing and toward God-pleasing. I must keep in the forefront of my mind that God always sees. I can’t just know this as a fact. I must know it as an experience. I must live it in every moment of every day. He sees! Not only does He see, but He still forgives and He still hungers for intimacy with me! What joy! If the Almighty God, Creator of all things sees me and still desires my presence, then what does it matter what others see or think?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Unseen

The men of David said to him, “Behold, this is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold; I am about to give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.’” Then David arose and cut off the edge of Saul’s robe secretly. 1 Samuel 24:4

The trick to living a godly life is to see the unseen. To remember that we don’t know all of the details. Just because something looks obvious doesn’t always mean it is. This is where David found himself. In his sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s nudges, David realized that not all was as it seemed. It was not within his authority to take Saul’s life into his own hands. That was God’s business. So, instead of taking logical advantage of the moment, he submitted to the wisdom and direction of his God and persuaded his men to let Saul live.

Scripture is replete with stories of people who made logical decisions based on appearances without stopping to seek the Lord first. And typically they suffered negative consequences for their choices. I fall into that same trap so many times. I sacrifice wisdom on the altar of my assumptions. I jump to conclusions based on the obvious without seeking God’s face for direction and wisdom.

I am challenged to remember that, no matter how many logical facts I see before me, I do not have the whole picture! Only God does. If I am continually abiding in His presence, the Spirit will convict me as He did David. But, if I am not, I can so easily miss His plan in favor of my logical conclusions. No matter how obvious the next step is, may I always pause – even if for the briefest moment – to prayerfully seek the Lord’s wisdom.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself.  For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. 1 Corinthians 3:3-4

I realized something as I read these verse this morning. I realized that I frequently examine myself when I am supposed to be coming before the Lord in confession. I evaluate my thoughts and actions based on my conscience. That is a great place to start, because my conscience can come up with quite a few things to confess on a daily basis. But, is that truly fulfilling the depths of confession and a right relationship with God?

Because of the imputed righteousness of Christ, I am clean. Of that there is no doubt. But, I still cling to the flesh and this world in so many ways, some of which I am not yet even aware! Only the deeper revelation of the Holy Spirit can make these things known to me.

I am challenged to go deeper. I am challenged to not come in confession without asking God to truly search me and reveal what I don’t see. That has always been an intimidating concept to me, and many times I have backed away from it because of that intimidation. So, I am now challenged to boldly stand before God regularly and daily rather than in the occasional manner that has been my habit. I can do this in full assurance, knowing that I am covered by the righteous blood of Jesus Christ, and assured that the resulting cleansing – painful though it may be – will only be for my good and will result in a deeper abiding.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Being a Jonathan

Today I was reading 1 Samuel 20, the beautiful and sad story of the friendship between David and Jonathan and all they both sacrificed in and for that friendship.

This morning my thoughts were on Jonathan. As I read, I began to ponder all of the things he surrendered in favor of this friendship. The list might not be long in words, but in the weight of sacrifice, it is enormous.

  • A smooth relationship with his father. Saul was insane, but Jonathan could have kept things as smooth as possible by not siding with David.
  • The throne. God intended that David have the throne. Period. There is nothing Jonathan could have done to stop that. But, he could have clung to it in his own heart and mind. Instead, he willingly surrendered it long before it was widely known that it would belong to David.
  • His life. This, to me, is the most heartbreaking part of the story. Jonathan died young and beside his deranged father. I sometimes wonder why he could not have lived and stood beside David, but God knew why. He knew Israel was to be united behind David, and it would not be had Jonathan lived. Jonathan seemed to know that, too, for he asked David to be kind to his family. He willingly surrendered his life.

Jonathan challenges so much in me. I see how selfish I am when I look at my heart, desires, and willingness (or lack thereof) to surrender and compare it all to Jonathan’s heart and actions. He clung to nothing, but actively surrendered himself to the will of God in what seemed to be a practically impossible situation.

Jonathan’s sacrifice worked for God’s glory in and through David. I am challenged to be a Jonathan. I am challenged to put aside what I see as right, fair, successful, and beneficial and surrender to God’s plan. It is perfect – even if it doesn’t always seem so for me.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Weary and Heavy-Laden

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

This morning I awoke to the realization of four major things I was supposed to have done earlier this week but hadn’t. The weariness just pounded down over me before I even got out of bed. I was tired. Tired of getting up at 5:15 every morning, being diligent to exercise, trying to balance eating well and sticking to our grocery budget, keeping up with household chores, staying on top of reminding kids to do the things that should be second nature to them. Tired of resisting temptation. Tired of heat, humidity, mosquitoes, and the cats. Tired of all of the constant battles that come with being a people pleaser – being reminded that God is the only One I need to please while still struggling with the guilt, frustration, and pain of knowing that I have to trust God with any way people are displeased or hurt because of my obedience to Him. Or because of my failure to do so. Tired of a schedule. Tired of putting aside the things I’d like to do in favor of what I’m supposed to do. Tired of being diligent even when there are no visible results.

You get the picture. Probably a whole lot more than you wanted.

When I am tired, Matthew 11:28 naturally pops into my mind. But, to be honest, I’m still light-years away from learning to receive the rest my Lord offers. It seems so much easier to wallow in my weariness. Herein lies my challenge: to take a step toward improvement today!  Every time one of these things I’m tired of comes to mind today, I am challenged to take it to the Lord. Not to think about it, mull over it, and be further discouraged about it. No, instead I must pray about it. Surrender it to Him. I’m not to the point yet where I can just lay the whole bundle at His feet and move on. I have to do it thought by thought, moment by moment.

Today I need to go to Him. In that and that alone, I will find rest.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Who I am, Where I am

Then one of the young men said, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is a skillful musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech, and a handsome man; and the LORD is with him.” So Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David who is with the flock.” 1 Samuel 16:18-19

These verses just blow my mind. It is recommended to Saul that a skillful musician be found for him to calm him during his times of torment because of the evil spirit (1 Samuel 16:14-16). So, one of his servants recommends David. See how he describes David to Saul: not just as a skillful musician (which fits the bill of what Saul was seeking), but also as a mighty man of valor, a warrior, prudent in speech, and handsome.

Now, the more we learn about David, the more we see all of these character traits revealed in him. But, at this point we’ve barely been introduced to him. And, that’s the real kicker here. David is in the fields! He’s not getting to live out the life of a valiant warrior. He’s not given the chance to wow people with his speaking abilities. He’s not even in a place where his good looks do him much good. He’s out herding sheep.

There are times I chafe against the limitations of where I am. I have dreams. I have desires. I have talents. I feel like I am stuck in a field herding sheep rather than finding fulfillment in what I really think I was made to do. But that doesn’t change who I am. Just because David wasn’t yet on the battlefield or on a throne did not change who he was. He already was all of these things this servant described him to be. And, because he was walking with God, other people saw these things in him, even without the battlefields and throne.

I already am who God intends for me to be. And, if I’m walking in obedience to Him, it shows. I might not be fulfilling every aspect of who I am yet. Some of that might not come for years – decades even. I might be on my deathbed before I fulfill the final detail of who I am here on earth. But, that doesn’t change who I am. My challenge is to stop mourning the fact that I don’t have some of my “battlefields” yet and to live in obedience like David did. Right here. Right now. In these circumstances. God will handle the rest.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

When I read through the Old Testament and see the Israelites’ addiction to idols, I am filled with disgust. It seems so horrible. Appalling. Disgusting. Illogical. Insane. Downright stupid!

And yet, this morning I came face to face with all of my own idols. As I was praying and reading, God brought to my attention how insanely I cling to some of them. Ouch!

As I pondered through each one, I realized that these idols are not inherently bad. They are good things that God has given me to enjoy. Things through which I can easily glorify Him. But, I have taken them beyond that point. I have elevated them. I have given them a place they were not meant to hold. I have insisted that they fill me with pleasure and satisfy my desires. In truth, they have left me empty and longing, but I still try to wring that delight from them.

God desires that these gifts He gives me be the fulfillment of my delight in Him, not the source of my delight.

So, here I am today in a place where I must surrender my idols. I must lay them on His altar. It might mean He takes them away permanently. In my selfishness, I don’t want to surrender! But, in my desperation for fulfillment, I know I must.

Today my challenge is to offer the sacrifice. To know the cleansing that only God can bring to my heart. And to be renewed in His sight, seeking all of my pleasure and fulfillment in Him. I can already feel the tinges of delightful freedom as His cleansing begins to work in me!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Today’s challenge is more of a general thought from reading Romans again. So many individual verses in Romans are very familiar. And that’s a good thing, sometimes. The problem lies in the word “individual.” Oftentimes I pick up on a verse here and there – or am taught a verse here and there – and explore it individually. But, as I read through Romans again, I am reminded of the contextual significance of some of these verses and the fact that their meaning might not be quite what I’ve always claimed looking at them individually.

This challenges me not simply in Romans, but throughout Scripture. It is critical for me to memorize Scripture. And sometimes that means memorizing one verse here and another there. But, it does not limit my ability to study and learn the context around those individual verses.

This is not a new thought – the critical nature of context has been hammered into my head for years. But, somehow I still miss it in the familiar. Whether the familiar be my own interpretation of familiar verses or the way they’ve been taught to me all my life. The challenge before me is to remember to challenge my familiarity. To not just look at a familiar verse or passage and assume there is nothing more I can learn from it. Sometimes it might simply be that I’ve not explored the full depths of the passage. But, other times I might just find I’ve looked at it wrongly the whole time. Truly growing in Scriptural study means challenging my preconceptions. Without that, growth cannot happen.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Delay

Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with the whole message with which the LORD your God will send you to us. Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will listen to the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, so that it may go well with us when we listen to the voice of the LORD our God.” Now at the end of ten days the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah. Jeremiah 42:5-7

The people were scared. Jerusalem had been sacked, and they had been left. Then their newly appointed governor had been assassinated and multiple murders and assassinations followed. Terrified, they wanted to run. But, just to make sure their plan was blessed, they asked Jeremiah to seek the Lord.

And, if they weren’t scared enough, God waited ten days to respond. In those ten days, their hearts were revealed – they were going to Egypt no matter what God said.

Looking back over my own life, I see so very many times when God has delayed. Sometimes he has delayed an answer – a granting of wisdom. Other times His action has been delayed. Whatever the case, when God delays, the true condition of my heart is revealed. I might be gung-ho in my faith and determination to do everything His way on day one. But, then my mind kicks into high gear. I process. I plan. I make determinations. I come to conclusions. And, ultimately, I seem to always end up deciding just how I know God is going to work or answer.

Often what I know is flat wrong.

God’s delays reveal my heart. My preferences. My lack of faith. My determination to maintain control.

I am challenged to be faithful in the delays. I am challenged to be the child who proves as devoted to her Father on day ten as on day one. I hunger to take thoughts captive and let planning, scheming, and processing rest. I hunger to crave His will, even when I don’t know what it is. Oh, may I be found faithful in the delay.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

God is My Witness

For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you Romans 1:9 

For God…is my witness…

As I read this today I had to stop and wonder: Do I really live as if God is my witness? I think the honest answer is no. There is so much that I choose to do based on whether or not people are watching or expecting something of me. Whether it be my family or others, people seem to be my primary motivation.

When God is truly my witness, everything I say, do, think, or feel comes back to how He would receive it. Does it line up with obedience to Him? Does it glorify Him? Does it do these things whether I have a human audience or not?

It is so natural to be motivated by a human audience. In fact, it’s even natural to be conditioned to believe that God cannot be glorified without that human audience. But, God was glorified long before humans were created. He was glorified when Adam was the only human being on the planet. I think He can handle being glorified through me regardless of who is or is not watching.

So, my challenge is to retrain my mind. Starting today, I will begin choosing to make decisions based on God being my witness.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Be Encouraged

And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. Ruth 2:2-3

I love the way Scripture records several things as having just “happened.” Here, Ruth just happens to pick Boaz’s field out of all of the fields around Bethlehem.

Often I am challenged from Scripture to step forward in a new strength, obeying more readily or acting more boldly. But, today I am challenged to simply be encouraged.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to receive encouragement. That seems crazy, but sometimes it is easier to remain in my discouragement or uncertainty than to reach out, receive encouragement, and walk in it confidently.

But then I read passages in Scripture where God’s people just happen into the perfect circumstance. Ruth didn’t happen to do anything. She was guided there by the hand of the amazing God who already knew His Son would directly descend from this woman. Every step was guided by Him, even that of Boaz so strongly noticing this young widow.

Nothing – absolutely nothing – just happens. God is in every detail. And today I will choose not only to remember that, but also to allow myself to be perfectly encouraged by it. His plan is perfect, and its unfolding is as beautiful as a love story between a farmer and a widow.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Blessings of God

Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, seeing I have a Levite as priest.” Judges 17:13

This story in Judges launches one of my least favorite segments of Scripture. It is one tragic example of life in rebellion against God after another. It makes me sick to read it all.

Each time I read this story of Micah and his Levite, I am highly inclined to be critical of both Micah and the young Levite. And, I want to rail against this boast in verse 13. How could he possibly think that God would prosper him simply because a Levite was serving as priest for his idols?

But am I any better?

Sometimes I catch myself thinking that if I pray just right or act just right or volunteer for just the right things, God will surely bless me. He will be unable to keep from drawing near to me.


  1. I belong to God whether I do everything right or not. He has called me, drawn my heart to Him, and granted me the blessing of salvation. Period. Nothing I do, for good or for ill, will change that.
  2. He is already near to me. Having the right prayer formula doesn’t draw me closer to Him. Having a heart that hungers for Him awakens me to the fact that He is right there. Ready. Waiting. Present.
  3. God’s blessings are not for my benefit. They are for His glory. I do benefit from them, but only as my heart is surrendered to Him and hungry for His glory. If I ever do things out of a desire to be blessed because of them, I miss the point…and the blessing.

I am challenged in two ways. First, I am challenged to let go of my pride in ever thinking I’m better than anyone else, living or not. I’m not. I usually battle with the very thing I criticize in others. Second, I am challenged to do all that I do for God’s glory, not for my own blessing. Then and only then will I walk in the beauty of His glory and never lack for anything. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:34-35

It doesn’t take much for me to be reminded just how absolutely self-centered I am. This morning’s reading was no exception.

As I pondered Paul’s words, it occurred to me how little of a giver I am. I give little of my time, energy, and resources. It isn’t that I don’t want to give – I just don’t always think about it. I am so frequently caught up in my own little world.

The thing that struck me so greatly this morning, though, was that the reason I give so little to other people is because I give so little to God. Instead, I ask. I want, want, want. And there are times when the wanting consumers me.

Paul gave every ounce of Himself to God, and it was that surrender that allowed him to give everything to the people to whom he ministered. It was that surrender that kept him from expecting anything in return.

I am challenged to grow more as a giver, and I am challenged to start with giving to God the things that I still tend to hold back. Only then can He give to others through me just as He did through Paul.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Encouraged by His Glory

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

I am discouraged today. Not I woke up discouraged today. Not I was discouraged, but now I feel better.  I am discouraged. I’ve been working hard getting back into a great routine of exercise and drastically improving my eating habits for several weeks now. I lost three pounds. Such great encouragement! But, stepping on the scales today, I discovered I gained all three back. Still eating well. Still exercising. But gaining. Being diligent has been very, very hard this week, and I can tell you without a doubt that gaining back my initial progress is not helping. I want to just give it all up and stop putting the effort into it.

But I can’t.

As the first wave of discouragement hit me this morning, 1 Corinthians 10:31 was the first verse to hit my mind. (Isn’t it awesome how the Holy Spirit fights for us immediately upon every attack? Now that thought encourages me!) As I pondered the very familiar verse, I realized that I was falling into the trap of letting the scale be my idol. Losing those pounds was becoming the goal.

Now it is true, if I don’t lose the pounds, I’m not succeeding in the overall goal. But, seeing specific numbers on the scale is not why I’m supposed to be doing this. No, I’m supposed to be doing this for God’s glory.

  • I bring Him glory in my finances when I keep myself able to wear the clothes in my closet instead of having to spend money for new, bigger clothing.
  • I bring Him glory with my energy when I, well, actually have the energy to give for His glory!
  • I bring Him glory with my future by ensuring that I do everything in my power to keep myself healthy for His work. That does not mean that I am not bringing glory to Him if I have to battle cancer or some other disease in my future. But, if I chip away at my health by not exercising or eating well, then I am not honoring Him.

Those are just the surface ways I glorify Him with this diligence and discipline. So many other things lie not only just below the surface, but also deep down in the depths of obedience.

All of these truths do not make me more encouraged about what I saw on the scales. But, they do keep determined. I will not give up. And they do offer me a challenge. My encouragement should not come from those scales. It should instead come from the knowledge that I am being obedient and disciplining myself that I may bring glory to God.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” Mark 9:17-18 (emphasis mine)

There’s a lot in this whole narrative, but something  specific has bugged me about this story lately, both when I read it in Matthew recently and now here in Mark. The father told the disciples to cast out this demon. I asked Doug to look up the Greek for me this morning, and he said the word means that something was either stated or instructed. Either way, the father didn’t ask that his son be healed. He simply stated that it must happen.

I think that grated on me because it sounded so cocky. Who was this man to think he could just go around and demand that Jesus and his disciples bend to his every wish?

But, as usual, I was pretty quickly convicted as I began to put myself in this man’s shoes. He was desperate. He’d heard that Jesus was the Healer. He was ready for that healing! He was tired of asking. He was tired of trying. His endurance was at its end.

My heart was crushed as I realize how frequently I also make demands of God. And, like this father, my demands are often made from heart that is running very low of real faith.

I am challenged to re-evaluate how I present my requests to God. Do I follow the example of this desperate and demanding father, or do I heed Paul’s instructions in Philippians 4:6? The latter is where I not only want to be but must be. There is no other way to present requests to God.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Pride vs. His Power

The Lord said to Gideon, “ The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, "’My own power has delivered me.’” Judges 7:2

A few days ago a bloggy friend wrote this post that really gave me the spiritual “spanking” I needed. I had also recently worked through a chapter on humility in our book study group, and now today I read this verse in Judges. I think there might be something I need to work on…

As I read this verse today, I had to stop and wonder: How many times does God stay His hand in my deliverance because He knows the pride of my heart? Would I give Him credit were He to work subtly and quickly? Or would I just pass on by without even acknowledging His mighty hand?

If my personal history is any example, I am quick to give Him credit when the solution is completely out of my league. But, when I am just moving through normal life and issues are solved quickly and painlessly, I don’t do a great job of acknowledging that God was still the power behind each and every little success.

As I look at my life, I am realizing more and more that there is truly very little I am capable of doing in my own power. I can’t even maintain my home and keep up with housework. Then add to that being a wife and mother, homeschooling, serving as a pastor’s wife, cooking meals, and so on and so forth. No, I’m not really capable of handling any of it successfully on my own. But, I forget that. And because I forget it, I neglect to give God the glory for each and every little daily success.

I am challenged to change that mentality. I am weak. He is strong. And He wants to flex those muscles through me to a weak world desperately in need of His power. I am challenged to let His power shine, whether the situation is “simple” or dire.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” Acts 9:19b-20

What kind of teaching can you get in “several days.” I know Paul had enthusiasm and passion, and he wanted to get right to work showing his newfound belief. But, could he really have been ready to dig in his heels and start preaching immediately, not only in Damascus but later in Jerusalem, confounding the Jews?

This whole idea just serves to remind me that God really is sovereign. Nothing takes Him by surprise. With Paul, I can imagine that when the scales fell off his physical eyes, they also fell off the eyes of all of his Pharisaic training in the law. Puzzles pieces started coming together in his mind as he fit Jesus into the Scripture he’d studied since childhood. God had prepared Paul in advance. Far in advance. And he was ready.

Often when a task is put before me, I argue that I’m not ready. I need to prepare. I need to learn. I need to get myself together. In all of my protests, I am denying that God knows what He’s doing. I am denying His sovereignty. I am proclaiming that He didn’t know what to expect and therefore wasn’t able to prepare me. I am disregarding basic foundational truths about God.

I am challenged to change that way of thinking. If I say I believe in God’s sovereignty, I must act like it! Jeremiah 18 talks about the potty molding the clay. If I am truly clay in the Potter’s hand, then I can trust Him to mold me for each task He sets me to do. And when He puts the task before me, I can trust that He in His sovereignty has fully equipped me.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Don’t Lose Heart

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. Galatians 6:9

This verse started running through my mind first thing this morning, and for good reason. I started the morning swamped in discouragement. My mind was overly processing the areas where I am working hard but not seeing visible progress. There are even things that seem to be moving backwards instead of forward, no matter what I do. These are the days when the temporal pleasures I give up in favor of eternal reward seem much more alluring than delayed gratification.

The comfort is that God knows my struggle. He spoke the words of Galatians 6:9 to my heart almost before the negative thoughts even began to flow. He was right there, ready to strengthen me.

I can’t say that this verse sent any waves of enthusiasm surging through me. I still don’t feel that. But these words have given me a measure of comfort and a renewed sense of determination. I might not feel like doing good today, but I’m going to do it. I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to lose heart.

Today my challenge is to find delight in the doing of good – the following of Christ – regardless of the presence or absence of physical results. I’m making the choice to claim the promise that one day I will reap. And oh how amazing that harvest will be!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Mark 1:40-41

I am a problem-solver. Unfortunately, that means I so frequently see the problem and miss the person. Miss the heart behind the problem.

This morning I have read in Judges where God’s compassion upon sinful Israel causes Him to give them chance after chance after chance. I have read in Jeremiah where God’s compassion for Israel has found an end, but He still comforts faithful Jeremiah who is bearing the brunt of isolation because of his obedience and service to God. I have read the first chapter of Mark where Jesus’ compassion opened the floodgates of healing. And I have read in Acts where compassion for needy widows led to the kick-start of the brief, but powerful, ministry of deacon and first martyr Stephen. Meanwhile, one of our book study chapters for this week is on compassion. I have seen compassion exemplified in places I never would have seen it before. And I am convicted.

I do not have a heart naturally bent toward compassion. But, I have the Holy Spirit Himself living within me. The same One who worked compassion in all of the above examples still works today – but today He considers me to be one of His vessels! Hard-hearted, uncompassionate me!

I cannot live out compassion on my own because I am incapable. But, I must live out His compassion! I hunger to be a vessel who cannot help but get out of the way and let His compassion flow. That is my desire and my challenge. I am ready to be a usable vessel of His compassion.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


This morning I awoke with a slightly atypical “song” of praise floating through my head. Every morning when I wake up, I desire to start the day praying and praising. But, my foggy brain frequently doesn’t cooperate, and I find my mind running through some pretty strange things. This morning, though, the thoughts were clear and distinct.

The praise was for God’s consistency, constancy, and steadfastness. I remember the thought, “You are not fickle like we are or like our man-made idols are.”

Now, there’s nothing unusual about this line of praise – it’s just that my early morning thoughts don’t typically run in this direction. Maybe later in the more coherent moments of my day, but not in those groggy first thoughts. Because of this, I immediately knew that these were not Ann-conjured thoughts of praise. These were from my Creator, God, Savior, Lord, and Master. These were thoughts given me by the only One who knows what I’m going to experience and face today. He is the One who knows my personality, reactions, needs, and thoughts better that even I know them myself.

As my groggy mind cleared and those realizations sank in, I was both comforted and challenged. Comforted because I knew my Lord was speaking to me even before I was coherent enough to process the conversation. I love that realization. And, I was challenged because I know that even though my God is not fickle, I am! I can go from basking in His constancy to wallowing in the mud of self-centered uncertainty in less than the blink of an eye. Even in the shortness of the day so far, I have already fluctuated, fallen, and failed more than once.

So, my challenge is to hang on to His constancy. He put that beautiful praise in my heart and mind this morning for a reason. May I know that truth intimately today and cling to it, knowing that as I cling to it I am also clinging to Him. For unlike anything else in my life, He alone is perfectly constant.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:23-24

Just last night in our book study, one of the topics was pride. As I read these verses this morning, I had to look at pride even more deeply than we did last night. What do I boast in?

If I were to pinpoint the biggest point of pride for me, it would probably be my family. I love to brag on my brilliant and amazing husband and my three gorgeous, intelligent children. Our family blog is full of their antics, accomplishments, and precious faces.

I do not believe that there is a problem with pride in my family. But, what am I teaching my children by how I boast in them and in their daddy? Am I teaching them to boast in intelligence and accomplishments, or am I teaching the to boast in the Lord who is behind all they know and do?

I am challenged to carefully evaluate what I teach them, what I exemplify before them, and the patterns I am establishing in their hearts. I want to encourage them and build them up. I want to show that I am proud of them and proud of their accomplishments. But, I want it to be based on the foundation of what God does through them, and I want them to learn to boast in the beauty of the fact that they are His vessels. Because in the end, that’s all that really matters.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

God’s Counsel

So the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the LORD. Joshua 9:14

This verse falls in the middle of the story about the infamous treaty with the Gibeonites. Scared out of their wits that the Israelites would come and annihilate them, the Gibeonites pretended to come from a far country to make a peace treaty with Israel.

And Israel bought it.

I want to look at this passage and fuss at the Israelites. How could they have been so foolish? But, intentional deception is intended to pull the wool over people’s eyes. If deception didn’t work, it wouldn’t be a successful tool. But it does work, and it is a very successful tool.

When something seems logical and black and white to me, I often neglect to search deeper. I just take it at face value. But, face value isn’t always true value. It takes wisdom to see truth, and the wisdom that reveals truth only comes from God.

This story challenges me to never take anything at face value. In doing so I admittedly also have to fight against cynicism, which naturally seems to rear its head when I seek to be careful about whom or what I trust.  So, where is the balance? What fine line must I walk on to avoid blind trusting and close-minded cynicism?

The line is God’s truth. I must consult Him in all matters, whether they seem clouded or black and white. As I make a practice to do so, I will find that it’s not such a fine line after all, but rather a solid rock of truth upon which I can firmly stand without being swayed by persuasive arguments or stubbornly rooted against all ideas.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


The thoughts swirling through my mind this morning based on all I’ve read are tremendous. Some of them I’ve shared before and just needed the reminder myself. Things like the reminder in Joshua 7 that our sin does affect other people and the reminder in Jeremiah 1 that God doesn’t ask when He calls – He commands. I was also reminded by the census that sent Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for Jesus’ birth that God does work through secular (and even antagonistic) government. I have to pray for my government! I often get slack in that responsibility.

But, I think everything I’m pondering this morning is wrapped up in a thought that came from Joshua 7:2-5. The Israelites, not knowing that sin was among them, went up to fight battle number two of their promised land conquest, assuming that God would rout their enemies just like He did at Jericho. But He didn’t because of the sin – even the sin they didn’t know about.

Why were they held responsible for something they didn’t know about? The reason is simple: if they had been in communication with Him every step of the way, He would have made them aware of the sin before they headed out into battle.

I cause trouble for myself and others not only because of my sin but because of my lack of abiding. First of all, just because I was right with Him in the morning does not mean that that there isn’t something interfering with our communication in the afternoon. Secondly, just because He worked one way two weeks ago does not mean He’s ready to work the same way today. I won’t know the truth in either situation if I’m not abiding.

He wants me to faithfully, continually, steadily abide in Him. He wants me to be in constant communication with Him. I am in a life-long battle and He is the only One who sees all aspects of the fight. My radio line has to be open all the time if I’m going to see success in this battle.

Abiding is critical, but I confess I am not very good at continual and constant abiding. My challenge is, simply put, to get better at it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Delight, not Checklists

But he who kills an ox is like one who slays a man;
He who sacrifices a lamb is like the one who breaks a dog’s neck; he who offers a grain offering is like one who offers swine’s blood; he who burns incense is like the one who blesses an idol. As they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations, so I will choose their punishments and will bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen.
And they did evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight. Isaiah 66:3-4

I have mentioned before that I like checklists. Tell me what to do, and I’ll try my best to do it. I’ll check each thing off the list until I’m done, and then all will be well.

But, when it comes to honoring God, it’s not about a checklist. It’s about my heart.

Reading verses like these from Isaiah reminds me of that. I truly do desire to please and honor God. I desire to find my deepest, purest delight in abiding in Him. But, there are times when I get distracted by that checklist. I need the reminder that although my actions are critical, the heart behind them is essential.

I am challenged in a couple of ways by the reminder in these verses. First, I am challenged to be restored in my delight of the Lord so that my actions will flow from that delight rather than a sense of checklist obligation. Secondly, I am challenged to take a look at my heart. Often when I fall back on trusting in that checklist, it’s because there is something I don’t want to confess or some new depth I don’t want to dive into. When I wake up and realize I’m back on that checklist, it just might be time to go a little deeper in my time of honest and open confession before the Lord.

May my obedience spring from delight and growth today!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Habit of Rejoicing

Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; then they said among the nations, the LORD has done great things for them. The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. Psalm 126:2-3

Evangelism is a struggle. Fewer and fewer of us are truly effective in sharing the gospel in this ever-darkening world. Meanwhile, more and more of us are getting caught up in a life characterized by stress, depression, and discouragement. I know I do.

But, I have so much rejoicing to do! There is no way I could ever exhaust my rejoicing over the salvation that has been bestowed upon me. And yet, the Lord has given me so much more even than that! He has granted me blessings and miracles galore in this earthly life, and He has allowed me to have a relationship with Him. Let that sink in a minute. I have a relationship with the King of kings. Not just any little ole celebrity or royalty or world leader. But, the One who is above all world leaders. The One who makes every celebrity look like a piece of dust. Yes, that is the One who saved me, blesses me continually, and initiated an intimate relationship with me!

My rejoicing should never end!

Evangelism is a struggle partly because we do not set ourselves apart from the world. If we were to build a foundation of rejoicing, we would stand out so amazingly that others could not help but want what we have. I am challenged to truly begin to live a life of rejoicing. No matter how bad the earthly circumstances, there is always abundant cause to rejoice. May I make that my habit!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Trusting a Creative God

The story of Joshua 2 is fascinating to me. First of all, things did not go well the last time Israelite spies were sent into the land to scope it out. But here Joshua is sending spies out again. Secondly, God’s plan for conquering Jericho had nothing to do with military strategy, so spying out the land was really unnecessary.

And yet, this time spying out the land goes very well. Not for military purposes, but for God’s plan. The immediate result is Joshua’s encouragement. I love how God does want to encourage us if we will listen! Joshua heard that the people of the land had melted in fear of the Israelites. What better encouragement could there be!

But, then there was a more long-term plan that none of the characters in the story would ever know during their lifetime. Spying out the land preserved the family of Rahab. Rahab is found again in Matthew 1’s genealogy of the Messiah as one of His direct ancestors.

God’s instructions often seem to fall into two categories. 1) Instructions that make sense logically but don’t always seem to have logical consequences. 2) Instructions that make absolutely no sense logically but simply require faithful obedience.

Spying out the land seemed logical to Joshua, but the results of the spying were, from an earthly perspective, irrelevant for the immediate task of conquering Jericho. But, God did work through it.

I often think that my actions are pointless if they do not produce the results I expect. I am challenged to change that view point. I am challenged to trust in God’s creativity and to remember that things don’t have to fall into a predictable pattern to be useful. My eyes may never even see exactly what it is that God is doing, but that is irrelevant in the grand scheme of His amazingly detailed and perfect plan.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever. Psalm 121

Typically when the day’s challenge is based on more than just a few verses, I just include the reference here instead of the whole passage. But, I couldn’t help it with this Psalm. I absolutely love this one! Not long ago the kids and I memorized it as part of our school memorization, and it was so exciting to hear my sweet children proclaim these verse together.

Last night in our book study one of our topics of discussion touched on praying blessings over others. Last night I thought, “Yeah, I do that!” But as I read this Psalm this morning and felt the strength the words poured into me, I realized how little I truly do pray blessings over others. Why? Because the most beautiful words of blessing are found in Scripture, and I have declined in my faithfulness to pray Scripture over others.

So, my challenge today is to return to something I used to do faithfully: pray Scripture over others. And Psalm 121 is definitely a beautiful place to start.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Proclaim It!

Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as the droplets on the fresh grass and as the showers on the herb. For I proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! Deut 32:1-3

I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to shout! It makes me want to get up and tell the world that I love Almighty God! I want to tell how great and how wonderful He is!

But do I do it?

As I started reading this song of Moses, I came face to face with the question of my own willingness to proclaim the greatness of God. What keeps me from it?

A couple of things tend to derail me. First, neglect. I simply get so caught up in my own selfish little world that I don’t even think about making sure my every public word and deed proclaims God’s greatness. Second, my failings. It’s that old tendency to complain when the drivers with the Christian fish on their cars tend to be the worst and rudest drivers. I don’t want to be the one whose life does not back up her words. So, I say nothing.

In response to the first derailment, I am challenged to get over myself. If my life is just about me, then it is one pitiful life. But, if it’s about the eternal God, Creator of everything, then there is nothing worthless about it! I have to live and speak for Him!

In response to the second, I am challenged to let God be God. Nothing I do can lessen His greatness. None of my failings can blemish His perfection and purity. On the contrary, my worship of Him out of my inadequacies is the most beautiful worship because it highlights the incredible power of the blood of Jesus Christ.

Today I will proclaim the Name of the Lord and ascribe greatness to Him!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Unselfish Growth

Today as I read Isaiah 58:2-12, I was struck by the realization that the Israelites did observe some semblance of appropriate religious practice. It is easy to assume from the depth of their fall that they totally gave themselves over to paganistic worship without ever thinking again of the one true God. But, in reading the prophets it appears that they did still recognize themselves as God’s chosen people. As such, they still acted as if they called on His Name and worshipped Him, even though their worship of Him was so intermingled with that of idols that they didn’t know where one ended and the other started.

But, the thing that really grabbed me was the contrast between their perception of their own worship and God’s true vision. Look at verse two:

Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness
And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.
They ask Me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God.
Isaiah 58:2

But the following verses show that though they claimed to seek God and delight in His ways, their actions proved otherwise. Even in the midst of their so-called worship, their self-centeredness proved that they were out for personal blessing and benefit, not for intimacy with God.

I had to stop and evaluate my own quest for spiritual growth. What is my motivation? What is the true condition of my heart? Do I really want to grow and become more focused on His glory? Or do I seek my own edification?

Too often it’s the latter. I want to be well considered. I want to receive blessings. I want to overflow with joy and peace and be remembered for my confidence in the Lord. None of those are inherently bad, but my motivation in attaining them is me, me, me. It’s selfishness. True growth comes when my motivation is the glorification of God and the edification of others. It comes when I am more concerned that someone else see the hand of God than that I grow another ounce or inch spiritually.

That’s a hard concept to consider. I know I will always battle selfishness and will always hunger for my own relationship with Christ to grow, as well it should. But, I am also challenged to see an increased hunger to grow beyond myself. To make God’s glory my true motivation.  As a result, the growth I crave will come in ways more amazing than I could ever imagine!

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Portion

The Lord is my portion; I have promised to keep Your words. Psalm 119:57

This verse begins a new segment of the acrostic poem that is Psalm 119, but it fits so beautifully with some of the thoughts expressed in the previous eight verses. Psalm 119:49-56 is such an emotional passage. It discusses the hope and comfort brought from the Word. It also discusses the disgust  over those who reject and neglect the Word. And then this new section begins with the statement, “The Lord is my portion.” Is that not beautiful?

But, is it reality for me? If the Lord is my portion, then wouldn’t He be the source of greatest satisfaction in my life? Wouldn’t I be okay even if everything else were stripped from me? Would I turn to food for stress relief? Would I grow angry over petty things? Would I lack for hope in times of despair?

I want to say that the Lord is my portion. That truly is my desire. And, that is my challenge. May my life grow more and more to the point of the Lord being my portion and may everything else steadily fade in comparison.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Always Before Me

I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me. I cling to Your testimonies; Ps 119:30-31a 

Oh how I love Psalm 119! I can’t read any part of it without feeling the same passion for the Word of God. The whole Psalm is an acrostic poem (in the original Hebrew) devoted to the beauty of God’s Word.

As I read Psalm 119:25-40 today, I noticed something. There are multiple steps to truly falling in love with Scripture. It takes a combination of God’s movement and our own response. First, He provides it to us, obviously. Even the most basic study of how the Bible as we know it came to be reveals a beautifully orchestrated story of the formation and preservation of God’s Word. It excites me to no end to know that He loves us so immensely that He would go to such great lengths to make sure we could hear from Him!

But, the second step is up to us. That’s where Ps 119:30-31a comes in. We have to determine that we are going to keep His Word before us at all times! I was recently discussing Bible reading and retention with some friends, and one friend commented that she has been convicted strongly of the need to not just read but memorize Scripture. And she’s so right! It’s not enough to just daily peruse God’s Word – we have to know it! It has to be in our minds and hearts. It has to be in our faces throughout the house. It has to be on our lips as we speak to our children. It has to be active within us, through us, and around us!

But, keeping the Word in front of us is not the end. The final step is once again God’s – He is the only One who truly brings Scripture to life in us!

That’s where my challenge comes in. I read the Word daily, but I don’t always actively and hungrily pursue its life within me. I am challenged to not be content with simply reading. I am challenged to instead be driven with a passion to pursuit of God through His Word. I am challenged to plead with Him to bring the Bible alive, teaching me how to keep it before me at all times.

I have the deep love for God’s Word. But it’s not enough if it’s not always before me, actively at work in my life.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bold Bragging

Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, “The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him.”  So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty. Ezra 8:21-23

Several times in Scripture there is an interesting order of events. First, someone brags about what God is going to do, then he prays and asks God to do it. Ezra is one of those someones, but the thing that sets Ezra apart from the other examples is his honesty about how he feels after bragging about God. He is afraid and ashamed. But, he is also desperate. Now that he’s bragged about God, there’s only one thing he can do: pray to God.

Now, keep in mind, there is a huge difference between bragging about God in a worldly sense and bragging in a Biblical sense. Ezra’s bragging was based on the truth of God’s nature. If I were to brag that tomorrow God was going to drop a brand new Saturn Outlook in my driveway, that would not be Biblically-based bragging.

But, what it comes down to is this: I don’t brag about God in any sense before His hand moves. I take the cautious route. I wait until He’s done something cool and then I brag about Him.

What does that say about my faith? It’s easy to be critical of Ezra because he’s bragged about God and then he’s turned around and become afraid and ashamed because he now has to put his money where his mouth is. He now has to trust that God is going to be “favorably disposed” to this traveling entourage. But, at least he had the faith to make those statements in advance! His faith only wavered after he was stuck standing on it! I don’t let my faith get that far. I stay “safely” noncommittal, accepting that God can choose whether or not He’s going to work.

I am challenged to stop playing it “safe.” After all, it’s not really safe. It’s weak. Even worse, it’s lacking in faith. I am challenged to boldly brag about my God, in a Biblically sound manner, of course! I am challenged to get myself stuck in situations where no matter how much my faith wavers, I still have to stand on it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Live Like I’m Loved!

This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Ps 118:24

I absolutely love how beloved and well-known verses of encouragement like this come right in the middle of passages that talk about oppression, persecution, illness, and suffering of all kinds. Psalm 118 begins and ends with the goodness and lovingkindness of God surrounding a center of suffering.

So often I begin with my suffering and complaints. Then they take the middle portion as well. At the end, I try to close with praise, but I find it difficult because all I have done is pour out my complaints and sufferings. But my sufferings are not the reality. The reality is the goodness and love of God! The sufferings are just a temporary condition. God’s “lovingkindness is everlasting” (Ps 118:1, 2, 3, and 29)! How can my difficulties even hold a candle to that?

I’m reading the book The Fitting Room by Kelly Minter for a group Bible study I’m participating in. One of this week’s chapters talks about truly believing in and viewing our lives in light of the love of God. Not some ooey-gooey, ushy-gushy temporal perspective of love, but the Ps 118 form of love – eternal, powerful, solid. The kind that makes us stand up and rejoice in the day no matter what it brings, simply because God made it and He loves us!

Even just thinking about the challenge this brings to my heart makes me smile without restraint. God loves me! I am challenged to live like it! To realize that this day was created by a heart of incomprehensible love! To realize that I am the object of that love! How can I help but rejoice in this day?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Too Small

He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”  Isaiah 49:6

My first reaction to this verse was almost giddiness. I love it that my salvation emanates from the fact that God couldn’t do something so “small” as to just bring salvation to His chosen people. He had to bring it to the whole world!

But, then I stopped to think about how the Israelites might have responded to this. Probably the same way I tend to respond when my personal relief seems to be delayed…I don’t care about the “big picture”! I’m miserable now and need Your hand to relieve me!

I am challenged to break free of that self-centered attitude when my misery is not immediately relieved. God doesn’t find my little issues too small to  contemplate. On the contrary, He loves to show Himself even in the smallest of details. But, His glory is too great to limit His work to one little issue. When He works, He works grandly. I might never see the full scope of His grand plan, but He still works grandly nonetheless.

May I have the patience in my little, temporary, minor issues to wait for God’s grand plan. May I be more delighted with the prospect of His glory than with my own relief. After all, my intimate and personal relationship with Him is all the result of His refusal to limit His work to “too small a thing.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Remember the Praise

As I read Psalm 108 this morning, I felt such a joy and delight in the words and the praise that flowed from David’s pen. But then I read D.A. Carson’s commentary on the psalm, and I discovered that it is actually a combination of two others penned by David, Psalm 57 and Psalm 60. The second half of each one was cut out and then they were combined to form Psalm 108.

So, what was cut out? Well, mainly the complaints – the part that told of the pressure David was under in each situation. What was left? The praise. David frequently went from expression of extreme frustration and pain to heights of beautiful praise in his songs. Psalm 108 is the remembrance of the praise.

It was that remembrance that really struck me this morning. When I look back over my life, what do I see? What do I remember? Is it the pain? The frustration? The hurt? The anger? Or is it the praise? The work of God, no matter what the situation?

When I look back at times of past frustration, it can be so easy to feel that pain and anger rise inside me again. It sometimes seems almost inescapable. But, with Christ, it is escapable. David, the man after God’s own heart, discovered the secret. When he was in each situation, his heart inevitably turned to praise. When he looked back on each situation, it was the praise he chose to remember.

I am challenged in two ways: 1) to turn my heart to praise, even in the midst of pressure and 2) to remember the praise above the pain. The work of God’s hand is always, always, always beautiful, no matter how ugly the circumstances. That is what I long to remember. Always.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you. Deut. 20:1

This seems to be a logical verse. God is with us. He fights our battles. Stay in line with Him, and we’re good, right?

But then the next few verses come along. In Deut 20:5-7, the officers are instructed to go through the soldiers and dismiss those who might miss out on enjoying a new house, vineyard, or bride if they die in battle. So, God is with us and we shouldn’t be afraid, but some of us still might die? Is that not the point of being afraid in battle – being afraid of death?

First of all, I love that God wants us to enjoy life on this earth. He wants these men to enjoy at least a little time in their new homes, some of the fruit of their vineyards, and the pleasure of their wives. In fact, a new husband was not supposed to go to war until he had spent a year making his bride happy first.

But secondly, I see here that there are worse things than death. Even in the Old Testament, before Christ, there was the indication that death was not to be feared. Defeat, maybe. But not death. And defeat was only possible when the people were not in line with the will of God.

All of this challenged me in a couple of ways. First of all, it challenged me to remember to enjoy what God has placed before me. It is His gift, and He meant for my joy to be full with the combination of Him and what He’s given me. Secondly, though, I’m challenged to keep my attitudes in line with an eternal perspective. My fears, my joys, my successes, and my failures are not going to look the same from an earthly perspective as from an eternal one. May I see them with God’s eyes and remember that He is always victorious!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Today I am challenged to persevere.

As you can see, there’s no verse starting off today’s challenge. I could probably go hunt one down, but that’s not really the point today. The point today is that I’m dry. I’m tired. I’m reading God’s Word every morning and I’m journaling and praying. But, I’m going through one of those “I’ve read this before” phases. There is no exciting newness right now. l feel a bit stagnant and useless, and I can’t seem to truly connect with the truth of Scripture.

As I prayed about it all this morning, I was reminded to persevere. To take this time to review what I’ve already learned, to be reminded that God hasn’t changed, and to trust His hand in my life. He’s taught me so much. If He were to never teach me another thing in my earthly life, I could still spend a hundred years and more digesting the wealth He has already taught me!

Just typing this out helps me see all that God has done in my life. I am challenged to remember that, to persevere through it, and to continue to learn from it. If I can do that, I will continue to grow and be useful, even in the dry times.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

No More Neglect

Yet you have not called on Me, O Jacob; but you have become weary of Me, O Israel. Isaiah 43:22

I’m not even sure I want to type this challenge, but this verse literally reached out and burned my heart as I read it.

There are times when I just do not call upon the Lord.

Ouch! I don’t think it’s a conscious decision that states, “No, I’m not going to pray about this.” I think it’s more of a neglect. I’m not sure which is worse, to be honest: consciously stating that I’m just not going to pray about something or living in such a way as to allow me to lapse into a habit of spiritual neglect. I think the latter is more harmful to me. Why? Because with the former it is a continual, conscious battle ever before me. And, the battle always leads me back to my knees. I can’t avoid it! But, the gradual growth of neglect is easier to ignore.

I am challenged to put this tendency behind me.
I am challenged to never neglect to call upon the Lord! I want to call on Him for every little thing, even if it means being mocked for being so extreme in my dependency. I want to create such a habit of calling on Him that becoming neglectful takes intentional work – work that is never worth the effort. That’s where I want to be. That’s where I am challenged to be. It won’t happen overnight, I’m sure, but I hunger to begin work today. May I become a child who never neglects to call on my God.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Delight of Sacrifice

You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. Deut 14:26

The money in this verse comes from the sale of the person’s tithe. When someone lived too far from the tabernacle/temple to transport his tithe, he could sell it, carry the money with him, and purchase a suitable replacement once he got there.

What struck me the most was the pure delight that was to surround the offering of the tithe. It wasn’t just the fulfillment of an obligation, it was literally party time! The tithe was taken to the central location of worship, others were invited (a trip to Jerusalem wouldn’t have been done alone), the Levites were included, and everyone celebrated. Yes, the tithe was given for the purpose of providing for the Levites, but the tither was not excluded. He wasn’t just supposed to hand over his sacrifice and be done. He was supposed to delight in it as well. He was supposed to rejoice. He got to be a part of the party!

I have this grand notion of sacrifice for God. But, how much do I truly participate in it? How much do I truly rejoice in my sacrifices with communal celebration? I don’t. I don’t even have a concept of this!

God is not a God of heartless demands. He is a God who wants our hearts to be full of pleasure and delight in our service to Him. I am challenged to set aside the notion of sacrifice as a somber thing. That doesn’t mean if will become natural or easy. Sacrifice is sacrifice, and it takes intentional effort. It is, by nature, hard. But, it can and should also be a thing of great rejoicing. And that is how I want it to be in my life.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Completed Joy

These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete 1 John 1:4

As I read 1 John 1:1-4 this morning, I began to ponder my own pursuit of joy. I do chase after joy. I do hunger for it. But, just as there is a difference between the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of joy, I think there is also a difference between the pursuit of joy and the completion thereof.

I’m trying to wrap my head around what it would me to have my joy be made complete. What does completed joy look like? How does it differ from the level of joy I pursue?

To be honest, many of my pursuits are still very temporal. At the very least, they are a mixture of the eternal and the temporal. But, the bottom line is that they are bound up in the things of this earth – the things that will pass away. If my joy is even partially bound to the perishable, then what will happen to that joy when the perishable perishes? It will be incomplete. In fact, it frequently is incomplete because the perishable is continually in the process of perishing.

Completed joy, at least according to my understanding, is joy that is not affixed even partially to the temporal and perishable things of this world. There is nothing in it that will ever pass away. Therefore, there is nothing that can rob even a morsel of that joy from my heart and soul.

That’s what I am challenged to chase after. I want the things that I do to be done in the pursuit of a completed joy. I honestly don’t understand with clarity what that means or how I need to change my behavior to get to that point. But, I am challenged to seek the Lord intentionally for those answers. The very thought that I could have my joy made complete just delights my very soul!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Straight to God

In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’ ” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord. Isaiah 38:1-2

I realized something as I read this story again today. I wouldn’t have turned straight to the Lord. Instead, I would have argued with Isaiah a little bit. I would have complained and cried and asked him if he was sure about all of this. I would have talked it out a bit and gotten a few things off my chest. Then I would have prayed.

Not Hezekiah. I honestly don’t know what he said to Isaiah at this point, but the Bible indicates that he turned his back on Isaiah and responded directly to God. God didn’t speak directly to Hezekiah – He sent His messages through Isaiah. But, that didn’t stop Hezekiah from speaking directly to God. It didn’t stop him from taking his plea straight to the only One who could really do anything about it. Isaiah was just a messenger, and Hezekiah realized that. So, he went to God.

I have something more than Hezekiah did. Not only can I talk to God directly, but I can listen to Him, too. But I still talk the ears off of my husband or my friends, letting out my frustrations before I take my case before the only One who can truly do anything about it.

I am challenged to learn from Hezekiah and go straight to God. Hezekiah’s right choice gave him fifteen more years of life. My choice to go straight to God will give me the phenomenal blessing of an intimate relationship with Almighty God. I think it’s worth it!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

His Work

Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations great and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard it said, “Who can stand before the sons of Anak?” Deut 9:1-2

Encouraging, right? The Israelites are already nervous, and here Moses is adding to it by reminding them just how impossible it is to defeat the sons of Anak. This would be a horrible motivating speech were it not for the next verse.

Know therefore today that it is the Lord your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the Lord has spoken to you. Deut 9:3

There are a couple of ways to face very challenging situations. 1) Downplay the challenge such that it seems like it’s a piece of cake. 2) Stress and worry to no end, determined that failure is inevitable and hoping that such a truth will somehow get us out of the challenge before we have to truly face it. I’ve done both. Neither one has worked very well for me.

There is only one right way to face a challenge, and that is to stand on the truth of verses like Deut. 9:1-3. The challenges are too great for us. We cannot succeed. But God is powerful, and He will succeed.

Then, of course, there’s the rest of the chapter where Moses reminds the people to also not get the big head after the defeat of their enemies. They have to remember that it was God’s doing, not theirs.

My challenge is to step up to difficult and fearful situations with these truths in mind: 1) I can’t do it. 2) God can do it. 3) He did it for His glory. No downplaying the situation. No fretting because it’s overwhelming. And no taking credit where credit is not due. Just rejoicing in the fact that I’m His child and therefore I’m on the winning side of every battle.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

His Hand

He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Dt. 8:3

Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today, otherwise…your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Dt 8:11 & 14

There seems to be no middle ground. Either things are bad and I am whining or things are great and I grow spiritually lax, succumbing to the idolatry of relying on earthly things instead of God.

My immediate response to Deuteronomy 8 has always been to state that there are two things I need to practice: 1) quick learning so I can speed through each trial and 2) steadfastness in my dependence on God in the good times. But, as I ponder these verses more today, I think there is actually only one thing I need to practice: a hunger to learn and grow through every circumstance, embracing it as the evidence of God’s hand in my life.

The hunger told of in verse three is because of God’s loving hand. The abundance promised in later verses is also because of God’s loving hand. Discipline and provision. Teaching and supply. Whether it’s want or plenty, it is God’s lavish hand granting just what He knows we need.

So, my challenge is to start seeing God’s lavish hand behind every moment of my life, whether easy or hard. In turn, the more I see His hand, the more I must respond not with complaint or laxity, but with rejoicing in the knowledge that He loves me so much that His hand will always be upon me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

He Will

There are days when I read Biblical descriptions of the wicked and feel so very convicted. It isn’t so much that I reject God and His ways in the same way they do, but I can’t help but see some of my behaviors and attitudes mirrored in their blatant rebellion.

Take 2 Peter 3:3-9, for example. This passage talks about mockers who insist that because Christ has not yet returned, and really nothing in the world has changed to show that He will, that it’s all just a fairy tale. Why should they worry about His return when all the signs, at least according to their perspective, say it’s a farce?

Now, I do not doubt the return of Jesus Christ. It will happen, and I hunger to be ready…at least, that’s what I say. But, two thoughts emerge.

  1. If I believe that Jesus Christ will return and that it can be at any moment, do I live out that belief? Does it affect my daily life, or do I in reality live more like the mockers who don’t see evidence and therefore don’t worry about Christ’s return?
  2. If I truly believe the overall promise that the unseen is reliable, no matter how long it is delayed, do I show the same trust in smaller matters? If I can trust that Christ is returning as He said He will, then I can trust that in today’s problem He will be faithful as well.

2 Peter 3:9 sums it all up: God has a reason for every delay. I can trust Him. My challenge is to show that trust in my every thought, action, and response. My challenge is to not see myself reflected in the behavior of the mockers but to instead stand firm as a trusting believer. His promises are true, whether related to my little daily challenges or to the grander difficulty of awaiting His return. Yes, His promises are true.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Living in Grace

Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship

I usually like to base my challenges on what I read in Scripture alone, but this quote has been mulling around in my head since yesterday. As I read Bonhoeffer’s distinction between cheap grace and costly grace, I realized just how much I fall into the habit of embracing cheap grace. Later in the discussion, Bonhoeffer offers his ideas about exactly what ways grace is both costly and free, but never cheap.

I am challenged to adjust my way of thinking. I am challenged to live out the amazing reality of costly grace. The cost to me is my life, wholly and completely. I hold so much back from God, but the more I hold the more I truly lose to death. When I live in His grace, I give my life, but I receive real and eternal life in return. That is how I want to learn to live. That is how I must learn to live. I must live a life in full obedience and abandonment to the costly grace of God. Only then will I truly live life.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Covenant with Me

The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today. Dt. 5:2-3

The fascinating thing about these verses is that Moses is speaking to the generation that will enter the promised land. These are the children of those who were at Horeb forty years before. They were not physically there, yet Moses is stating here that they are actually the recipients of the covenant. In fact, as the chapter continues, Moses talks like they were the ones standing at Horeb! It all seems contradictory, as if Moses is lying or even trying to brainwash the people into believing they were there when God made the covenant at Horeb. But, if we truly contemplate what is being said here, I think Moses’ point is a very relevant one to us – to me.

God’s covenant transcends time and physical presence. It was presented through a mediator: in this case through Moses, and then fulfilled through Jesus Christ. As presented through the mediator, it is mine, whether I was physically standing in a temporally bound moment in time or not. It is made with me.

It’s easy sometimes for me to read the books of Moses and think, “Wow, God did wonderful things back then.” It’s easy to read through the Psalms and envy David’s God-given comfort. I read the prophets and think that we are free from such dire consequences even though our world is eerily similar to the Old Testament world. I look at God’s powerful hand in the New Testament church and relegate such acts to the fact that He was building His church from scratch.

In all of it, I neglect the reality that His Word is alive and it is spoken to me. I hold this book in my hands today because God’s communication and covenant is with me.

I am challenged to receive His Word in light of God’s covenant with me. It is not simply a history of the Israelites and the early church. It is not just a book. It is His interaction with me. It is personal. It is alive. And it is for me.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder… 2 Peter 1:12-13

I have a negative view of having to be reminded of something. If I’ve told my children something, I don’t want to have to repeat it. If I’ve been told something I want to remember it.

Unfortunately, neither I nor my children have great memories. I am forever forgetting the most obvious of information. And, it seems a common question with my children is, “How many times have you been told…?”

We just don’t have great memories.

More often than not, I buck against being reminded of spiritual truths. But, Peter had the opinion that there was no shame in reminders. In fact, he thought pretty highly of them and seemed to indicate that they could never be overdone.

I am challenged in two ways here. First, I am challenged to never be scornful of reminders God sends my way. His reminders, coming from a plethora of sources, are not exasperation on His part because of my forgetfulness. Instead, they are indications of His desire to keep His truth ever before me; fresh, encouraging, and convicting. If I am ever reminded, I am never allowed to grow stale in my obedience.

Secondly, I am challenged to never withhold reminders. Not in a nagging manner, but in an encouraging one. In this way, I am offering grace and mercy to others in the same way God offers it to me. I am being a vessel of His fresh, encouraging, and even convicting reminders to others, just as so many are that vessel to me.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Knowledge vs. Action

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:2-3

When I am struggling and feeling as if I am lacking in grace and peace, I want experience. I want God to swoop down and be active in my life. Do something miraculous. Show His hand fantastically. I just want to see powerful evidence of Him and His presence in my life. And, if I am really honest about it all, I want whatever He does to be beneficial to me. That will bring peace, right?

Wrong. And in His infinite wisdom, He knows it!

That doesn’t mean God never works in my life. He does. All the time. But, He does it in a way that produces growth, not selfishness. He acts for His glory rather than for me to become a spoiled child.

What I need for grace and peace is not miraculous intervention. Instead, I need growth in knowledge and understanding of who He is. He has already proven Himself time and again throughout history. I need to know that. He has already sent His Son to give me everything I could ever need. I need to truly understand that. I need to live it.

The more I grow in an intimate knowledge of God and Jesus Christ my Lord, the more I grow in grace and peace, regardless of the nature of my circumstances. I am challenged to trust more in His nature than in His actions. May I trust in His profound love for me and His promises of eternal perfection. And in the process, may I truly know the peace that comes from such trust.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Passing the Test

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory, you  may rejoice with exultation. 1 Peter 4:12-13

It always grieves my heart when I come across a verse and it leaps out at me, convicting me of something I know I’ve dealt with before. That has been the case with several things I read just this morning, and these two verses were no exception.

The context of these verses hints that the ordeal is persecution, but it does not require it. I have experienced many ordeals in my life that have not been persecution, but I am convinced they were intended for my testing. And, thanks to my whining, I know I have failed many of those tests.

I so incredibly hunger to pass the tests. Does passing the tests mean that no more ordeals will come? No, I don’t think so. Not this side of heaven. But, oh how much more of God’s glory I would see were I to walk through each ordeal rejoicing instead of whining. And oh how much greater would my rejoicing be when I do reach heaven, knowing I had rejoiced in the midst of each trial!

When the next ordeal comes around, whether big or small, I hunger to remember these verses. I hunger to rejoice. I won’t want to remember or rejoice when the time comes, but I suppose that’s why it is called a challenge.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

His Praise Alone

For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation; but God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another. Ps 75:6-7

The verses prior to these admonish the wicked and boastful against their prideful ways. Knowing that the righteousness of Christ is what creates all goodness that is in me, I realize that I have nothing of my own to boast in. But, I still want to be pleasing. I want to behave in such a way as to commend myself. I want recognition and honor for the things I do.

My problem is that I seek the praise from the east and the west rather than from above. I seek it from men rather than from God. When I seek exaltation from man, I might as well be seeking it “from the desert” for all the good it’s going to do me. Exaltation comes only from God, and only when it works together for His glory.

Refusing to seek exaltation and praise from man is a hard challenge for me. I am a people-pleaser. God has been long shaping and molding me away from that tendency, but it is still there in many ways. I am challenged to continually to actively surrender myself to His molding , turning to Him when I desire praise from man. I hunger for the day when His praise is all that matters!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sanctuary Minded

When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. Ps 73:16-17

The “this” that the psalmist is pondering is the success of the wicked. Asaph begins the Psalm by indicating that he can’t help but believe that God is good to the pure in heart (Ps 73:1), but he’s seeing the wicked and also can’t help but feel envious of their success (Ps 73:3). His envy was isso great that it almost causes him to stumble in his own walk of obedience and faith (Ps 73:2). But then something profound happens. Asaph enters the presence of the Lord and sees things from God’s eternal perspective. That alone is the cure for his envy, for that alone shows him the truth.

It is so easy for me to be sick over the news of this world. Natural disasters seem to abound. War is everywhere. Our nation is literally coming apart at the seams. And through it all, those who blatantly display their hatred for God and His people seem to be flourishing even while some of God’s children suffer unspeakable horrors. The view is bleak indeed.

Meanwhile, there’s my own selfish perspective. I don’t feel well today and yet have so much to do. I could easily wallow in all of my own frustrations and face this day overwhelmed.

But, oh, what a change is wrought when I simply step into the presence of God! When I do like Asaph and enter “the sanctuary of God,” everything changes. I begin to see God’s perspective. I don’t grieve less for the suffering around me, but I see it in light of His kingdom. And I definitely don’t complain about my minor, momentary issues when I am filled with the awareness of eternity.

I am challenged to be “sanctuary minded.” I don’t have a physical temple into which I can walk these days. Instead He dwells in me, and His presence is with me continually. I am challenged to remember that every moment of the day, that I may perceive every aspect of this world through the eyes of eternity.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Commands, Not Advice

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. 1 Pet 1:1-2 (emphasis mine)

We put a lot of emphasis on coming into a relationship with Christ and being chosen for salvation. But the obedience thing is a little more uncomfortable for us. We might not admit it openly and publicly, but when we turn our teaching and preaching into relaying of suggestions from Scripture rather than commands, we are diminishing the importance of being called to obedience.

It’s comfortable to interpret what the Bible says as good, solid advice to me for living well. Then, I can simply say that I am willing to suffer the consequences of a slightly diminished quality of life in exchange for enjoying some of the things that the Bible says I should avoid. After all, it’s just advice, right?

But, if I view the Bible correctly – as God’s command to me in following Him – then choosing to act contrary to those commands is disobedience. Sin.

I am not called to have the option to live better if I will follow good advice. I am called to obedience. Period. No negotiation. No compromise. Pure obedience.

Verbally I claim to believe that God’s Word is my command for life. But, my daily actions do not live that out. I live like I’m following advice that some days I heed and other days I do not. I am called to obedience, not to heed advice. I am challenged to evaluate my life daily that I may live up to that calling and truly be a child of obedience. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This Wretched Place

Why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink. Numbers 20:5

I’m running a little late on the challenge post today – I had a hard time deciding what to write about. There were several things that really grabbed me this morning, but I think this one is the easiest to articulate.

This verse is very similar to many others that record the complaints of the Israelites in their journey through the desert. But, this complaint is even more unfounded than previous ones. Why? Because this is after the rebellion that condemned the Israelites to forty years of desert wandering. They were on the outskirts of the Promised Land, but instead of jumping in and grabbing the promise, they ran in fear. Their punishment? Forty years in “this wretched place.”

It wasn’t Moses’ fault they were here. It wasn’t Aaron’s fault. It wasn’t God’s fault. It was their own. Their sin. Their rebellion. They made themselves live in “this wretched place.” But, they aren’t about to take credit for it. Instead they’re just going to keep on blaming Moses, Aaron, and even God.

I complain much more than I’d care to admit. How often do I complain against God, asking Him why He has brought me to such a wretched place when, in reality, my own rebellion and sin actually carried me here?

I am challenged to be much more attentive to my complaints. God doesn’t require me to always silence the cries of my heart. But, complaining is rarely based on an accurate interpretation of my situation. I am challenged to stop, confess, and praise. Those steps just might open my eyes to His hand of forgiveness or guidance in my so-called “wretched place.”

Monday, May 9, 2011

Reckless Abandon

Something new struck me in the call of Isaiah today. In Isaiah 6:8-11 we find Isaiah answering the call that God puts out and then God explaining what would happen: Isaiah would speak, but the people would not listen.

Isaiah might have said, “Whoa, wait a minute! I was caught up in the magnificence of this moment, and I didn’t double-check first to see what you were asking me to do! I think I’ll pass after all.” But he didn’t. Even if he thought it, he didn’t do it. He didn’t go back on his commitment.

I like to know what I’m getting into before I say yes to something. I like to weight the pros and cons and evaluate all the aspects. That’s all well and good when it comes to earthly commitments. I need time to make sure they are what I should involve myself in. But I too often apply that to God’s commands and calls as well.

When God calls, I need to jump in with both feet. I don’t need to know what’s coming. I don’t need to evaluate the commitment. I just need to do. To follow. To obey. I need to be like Isaiah.

I am challenged to have a willing heart, one that jumps immediately in response without having to evaluate all the pros and cons. I want to follow in reckless abandon.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Profitable Prayer

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Hebrews 13:17

Warning: I’m going to take this a little bit out of context in sharing with you the thought that came to me when I read this. I think it is an appropriate thought process for the passage, but it definitely wouldn’t “preach.” Having said that…

There are times when I delight to pray for and pour into people and situations. Those are the times of ministry that fuel me. Excite me. Strengthen me. It happens with my family, people in my church, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers in the body of Christ for whom I get the chance to pray. I love those times.

Then there are times that are struggles in prayer and ministry. Those are the situations where stubbornness and a clinging to sin make my efforts seem like I am pressing against a brick wall that will not give no matter how much I pour into it.

I confess that there are many times with the latter group that my heart says, “Fine. You don’t want my prayers? You don’t want me to pour over you in ministry? Have it your way!” But, oh how wrong I am!!

What I do for others in prayer and action has nothing to do with how they respond. It has everything to do with how I am personally walking in obedience to my God. I am challenged to not give up. I am challenged to persevere. I am challenged to continue regardless of the outcome. Even if their hearts never turn, it will still be profitable for me in the presence of God. The only lack of profit for me is if I abandon the course.