Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sincere Challenge

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Tim 1:5

Oh how full my heart is today! This morning has been good. It has been one of those days when God’s Word has been truly alive, reaching to the innermost parts of my heart. My notes are full, and so is my head.

At first it was hard to pick one thing to write about as a challenge, but then it became clear what set today apart from recent days and therefore what my primary challenge was.

So often I read just waiting for that perfect thing to pop out that I can write about. Yes, I’m looking for a challenge for myself, but I want to write well. Without even thinking about it, writing this challenge becomes my goal rather than true personal growth being my aim.

I am a discipler at heart. But, if all I read and learn is aimed toward what I can write or teach, then nothing of 1 Tim 1:5 is true of me. My teaching is not love from a pure heart, a good conscious, or a sincere faith. All of those things come from making sure I look at me first, growing myself in a pure and honest manner. Then the teaching just flows naturally. When the teaching itself becomes the goal, it is not natural or pure.

So, my challenge is to stop thinking about this challenge – or any other teaching or writing – when I am in my morning time of reading. If when all is said and done I can look back and see something to write, then it is proceeding from a pure heart. If not, then so be it. I want all that proceeds from me to come from a pure heart. Oh, Lord Jesus, may it be so!

Friday, January 28, 2011

This Moment’s Choice

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. Ps 68:19

Sometimes I think of God as being above my burdens. Not that He doesn’t care. Not that He isn’t involved in my life. But, that He knows the solution, knows when it’s coming, and is up there just telling me to trust Him.

Not that those things aren’t true. He does know the answer. He does command that I trust and rest in Him.

But He does not expect that I handle all of it on my own. Instead, He daily bears MY burden.

Oh, how frequently I forget that He is not telling me to trust Him lightly. He is telling me to trust Him as He walks through it all with me. Even when I cannot see His hand. Even when I cannot see His solution. Even when I cannot see Him.

I am challenged once again to remember that I am not called to bear the burdens of this insane life on my own. In fact, I am commanded to not do so. I am commanded to not be anxious, to not fear, to not carry it all myself. I am walking in disobedience when I hang on to my burdens instead of putting them on Him to be borne in His strength. No wonder I walk so heavy-laden. Disobedience will do that to me!

It must be a daily, hourly, moment by moment decision. So, this moment, this hour, and this day, I will choose to remember that He bears my burdens. And, the next moment, hour, and day I will start all over again.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I must confess, I don’t have much today beyond a hunger to write something. It’s been a few days! I’ve had a stomach bug. It’s rare for me to be the only one sick, or the one sick the longest, with something like this. Usually if I get it, it’s pretty mild. Not this time.

Obviously with being sick, my schedule’s been off. Family schedule, school schedule, and my typical morning routine – including time set aside for Bible study and prayer. As I was thinking about it all this morning, it made me stop and wonder how much I’m going through motions with that routine and schedule and how much I’m really seeing growth in my life. In some ways I feel as if I’m growing. In other ways, I see no difference between the days I have my regular study and prayer time and the days when I just do the best I can when I can.

I’m honestly not sure how to determine if I am just going through motions or if I’m truly connecting on every level I should be. So, my challenge is to really seek the Lord’s answer to it all. How does He see me? That’s a scary question to ask, but I hunger to know the answer. I desire to be real not just before other people, but before God Himself.

So, I’m asking. Really asking. And really seeking an answer. And my hope is that the answer will truly result in new growth in my heart, mind, and relationship with Christ.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope  1 Tim 1:1

There is so much here, but the challenge came from the last phrase: “Christ Jesus, who is our hope.”

God does not command us in any way without giving us hope.  The problem is that I often look at hope in a very worldly way.  I see it as something that indicates a strong desire of mine with no assured certainty of fulfillment.

That is not the hope of Jesus Christ. His hope is certainty. His hope is assurance.  Maybe not of exactly what I desire, but of what is for my best, what is for the glory of God the Father, and what will fully accomplish His will.

My problem lies in the fact that I don’t always see how it’s for my best, His glory, and the accomplishment of His will.  But, my vision issues don’t affect reality. Just because someone who is blind cannot see a tree across the field doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  Just because someone who is deaf cannot hear the music playing does not mean it isn’t resounding. 

I don’t yet have eternal eyes and ears.  But, that doesn’t mean that God’s artwork is flawed or that His symphony is non-existent.  It just means I can’t see or hear them properly yet.  I will.  And I must hope in that.  Hope in His perfection in all things.  And hope in what He has promised to be reality.  His commandments are always based on that reality, and they are never given without it. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

For My Children’s Sake

…not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.  2 Thes 3:9

I finished 2 Thessalonians and then flipped over to read selected passages from the early days of King David’s reign.  The concept that stood out in both was the example of the leadership.  Paul put aside certain rights to make sure he led a new church well.  David prayed about nearly every decision so that he led his new kingdom well. 

Three little hearts and minds look to me as one of their two primary examples in life and leadership.  What I do, they want to do.  As my attitude goes, so does theirs.  The truth is, I have certain rights and privileges as the parent.  But, is it prudent for me to exercise all of those rights and privileges?  Does it result in the wisest leadership for my children?

But, even beyond that, how prayerful am I along every step of the way?  David was camped facing the Philistines.  He was in a pretty urgent situation, and I can imagine “wisdom” dictating that the only logical solution he could see was to go up and fight the Philistines.  But, he still stopped to seek the Lord – to ask if it was God’s will for him to go up and fight.  I’m sure he had to wonder what in the world he was supposed to do if God said, “No!”  But, he still was willing to ask.

As I look over my days, many of my actions as parent/leader of my children are based on my rights and on my own personal vision and wisdom.  I hunger to be their model, but so frequently I forget to stop and be intentional about my actions and prayers so as to be the example they need. 

Whether I like it or not, I am an example.  I am challenged to ensure that I am setting a good example by evaluating the impact of exercising my rights and by seeking the Lord’s guidance visibly and consistently. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Encouraging Teacher

This morning I was challenged in a bit of a roundabout way.  I am almost through 2 Thessalonians, and I was trying to step back a bit and move from a verse by verse analysis to a “grand picture” analysis of this particular Pauline letter.  What I saw was very interesting – and convicting – to me.

Paul had two major points to address in this letter.  There were issues of erroneous teachings regarding the second coming of Christ, and there were issues of laziness and undisciplined behavior in the church.  Both issues needed to be addressed and stopped.

But, the thing that stood out to me was how Paul addressed these two issues.  Before launching into either one of them, Paul poured out abundant confirmation and encouragement.  He rejoiced in the fact that they had obeyed the last instruction he had given them in 1 Thes to excel even more in their love for one another (2 Thes 1:3-4).  He also assured them that he had full confidence in their obedience, both past and future (2 Thes 3:4).  Only after affirming and encouraging them did he instruct them. 

The challenge I saw in this is related to the way I teach my children.  Often when I am giving them a new teaching or instruction, I am fully and completely caught up in the teaching.  I pile on them one more “must do” and emphasize the urgency of their learning this new lesson.  But it is rare that I take the time to build them up in light of their accomplishments up until that point.  They have learned so much.  They have grown so greatly.  They have been obedient in so many ways.  Yet I insist upon more without acknowledging what they've already accomplished.

Even knowing how much growth is yet to come, if all we ever focus on is the mountain left to climb, we miss the encouragement of seeing the altitude we’ve already achieved.  We become discouraged and disheartened. 

I am challenged to encourage my children in their continued growth.  I am challenged to be diligent to rejoice over their successes and show confidence in their continued growth based on their past growth.  May my words of teaching never be separated from words of encouragement. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

To Still Grow

I will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving, and it will please the Lord better than an ox or a young bull with horns and hoofs.  Ps 69:30-31

There are several places in the Psalms of David where David refers to there being something God loved even more than sacrifice.  Praise.  Obedience.  Repentance.  In a society where purification and sacrifice were essential, how did David learn this truth?

Through his time in exile. 

David was cut off from the tabernacle and from the typical worship and sacrifices prescribed by law.  And yet through his years of running from Saul, David did not become distant from God.  Instead he grew continually closer to His Lord.  Even without the tabernacle.

Despite the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells within me and I have full confidence to enter the presence of God at all times, there are still things that He has prescribed for my growth.  Intentional interaction with Him in prayer and study.  Communion with my church family.  Encouragement from others.  But what happens if those are taken away from me?  I read stories of those persecuted for their faith who are stripped of everything in an effort to break their faith.  What if that were to happen to me?

Just as God established certain guidelines for worship in the Old Testament, so He reminds us that we need to read the Word and interact with our fellow believers.  But, I am also challenged to have a relationship with Him that allows me to continue to grow even if those things are stripped from me.  To hide His Word in my heart that I may have it for growth.  To grow my communion with Him that I can survive and grow even without other companionship and encouragement.  I pray it never comes to that, but if it does, I don’t want to just barely survive it.  I want to grow and, like David, be closer to Him after than I was before.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cease Faltering

Then David said to himself, “Now I will perish one day by the hand of Saul.  There is nothing better for me than to escape into the land of the Philistines.  Saul then will despair of searching for me anymore in all the territory of Israel, and I will escape from his hand.  1 Sam 27:1

I read this verse and had the immediate judgmental response of, “Um, David, don’t you know God promised you’d be king?  Over Israel, not the Philistines.  Doesn’t that mean you will not die at the hands of Saul?  Doesn’t that mean God will protect you, no matter how bleak it seems?  Doesn’t that mean you need to be in Israel?!”

But the moment the thought was in my mind, I was convicted. 

David had been running for years upon years.  I get antsy, impatient, and discouraged after barely a week of uncertainty, much less months or years.  I begin to despair when promises are not fulfilled immediately.  Not only that, but I try to push the promises along.  To make them work, definitely at a much lesser quality than God’s fulfillments. 

Yes, David faltered and swerved a few times in his life, but who am I to judge?  I’ve never dealt with anything that comes near what he went through, and yet I falter on a regular basis.

I am challenged in multiple ways today.  1) My judgmental attitude has got to go.  I don’t like to admit that I’m judgmental because I hate to be!  But, it still creeps up in my heart.  I need to recognize it and give it the boot each time.  2) My faltering and swerving must decrease.  Even ten times the faltering of David would be an exceedingly phenomenal improvement over where I am now. 

If I really trust God and take Him at His Word, I need to live like it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Not Mrs. Fix-It

I like to fix things.  I really do.  Not in a mechanical sense – I leave that to people who know what they’re doing.  But, in a “life problems” sense.  I want to fix people’s problems, including my own.  When I see a concrete way it can be done, I am inclined to go for it, or at the very least to suggest it.  Relief is on the way!  And, no, it doesn’t seem to matter that I still don’t really know what I’m doing. 

It makes me wonder…what would I have done if I had been David?  In 1 Sam 24 and again in 1 Sam 26, David spares Saul’s life and solve his “on the run” issues.  He has two wide-open, fully available opportunities to either kill Saul or have one of his loyal followers do it for him.  But, both times he refuses.  It’s God’s job, and he trusts God to take care of it in His timing. 

I am challenged to much more readily follow David’s example.  I am not Mrs. Fix-It.  That’s God’s job.  I am to be obedient, no matter what the cost to me.  God can and does orchestrate the fulfillment of His will in His own time and in wonderful perfection.  Sometimes it brings years of struggle, as it did with David, along with the wonderment of why God has forsaken us.  But, He hasn’t forsaken us.  He’s just more patient than we are, and there is more involved in His plan than just our comfort, well-being, or quick restoration. 

There are times when God does use me as a part of the solution, as He did with David many times.  So, I guess the key is submission and obedience, which is where David was.  David was a tool in God’s hands, not the solution.  And I am challenged to be the same. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Recording Praises

Psalm 57 was a part of my reading for today, and the organization stood out to me.  Lengthy praise, a brief lament, a brief praise, one more brief lament, and lengthy praise to close it out. 

So often my prayers feel like just the middle of this Psalm: laments of being overwhelmed with a sudden remembrance that I should be praising.  So, I lift up a quick praise before falling back into the laments and pleas again.  But, that is only a small portion of David’s Psalm.  Out of eleven verses, only two are true lament.  And the praise in the middle splits even those two apart.  The focus of my prayers are often the laments.  The focus of this particular prayer of David is the praise. 

As I look back through my journal, I realize how little I actually write out my praises.  I freely lament and ask.  And, I know I praise in the midst of that, at least a little, but I just don’t record it. 

I am challenged to record praises.  To make myself lift up His Name not just in my heart, but in what I write as well.  I want to keep a record of whether or not I am truly growing in keeping my focus in the right place.   I want to know if I am really praising in the middle of it all or if I just think I am because occasionally I lift up a word or two of praise.  My prayer is that through this I will truly grow to the point that my laments and requests are truly only a small portion of my prayers. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011


…therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.  2 Thes 2:4

This verse obviously comes on the heels of yesterday’s verse – the one where Paul had expressed delight in the fact that the Thessalonians had grown in their love for one another.

As I pondered this whole thought, an awareness began to reveal itself in my heart and mind.  When I am struggling because of some difficulty in my life,I am not truly attentive to the needs and situations of believers around me.

Part of the Thessalonians’ show of perseverance and faith was found in their love for and interactions with one another.  They suffered hardships but did not hole up and become blind to those around them. 

I so often tend to be just the opposite.  I get so caught up in my own struggle that I miss the struggles, joys, pain, and successes of others.  I miss the chance to minister to or celebrate with them.  As my own “issues” ease up, it is often as if I’m awakening from a long slumber, suddenly discovering all I missed.

Even as I type this I realize what the fundamental problem is.  My eyes tend to be on my struggles rather than on my Savior.  As the Thessalonians grew, their faith grew.  A growing faith is a growing focus on God and a lesser focus on the things of this earth, whether joys or sorrows.  When we have an increased focus on Him, then He works through us to meet the needs of those around us.  I’m challenged to grow in that focus on my Father, just as the Thessalonians did.  And I am excited to see how my eyes are open and my life is used by God!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows every greater;  2 Thes 1:3

This verse excited me so greatly this morning.  Why?  Because in 1 Thes 4:9-10, Paul told the church that he was thankful they loved one another, but they needed to excel even more in that love.  2 Thes 1:3 shows that they did just that!

I love seeing lives changed.  It delights me to no end when the godly teach one another, and those who hunger to grow in Christ take heed to that teaching. 

Oh how I hunger to be one who is taught and whose growth is evident!  So often pride gets in the way and I buck against the teaching, but I desire to consciously change that trend. 

Visible growth is a beautiful thing.  And that is my challenge:  To accept the teaching of my spiritual leaders without irritation or pride and then to have those teachers come back and see my growth and rejoice in it. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Always Encouraging

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Therefore comfort one another with these words.  1 Thes 4:18

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. 1 Thes 5:11

These two verses fall within very specific discussions of comforting when a believer has died and encouraging in light of Christ’s second coming.  But, a more general thought occurred to me today.

How often do I intentionally encourage and comfort others?  Not just when they are struggling.  Not just when they are discouraged.  Not just when they are grieving.  But at all times?  According to the instruction of Hebrews 3;13?

Unlike people who cannot seem to open their mouths without uttering some form of encouragement, I am not in the habit of offering encouraging and strengthening words in all seasons.  I tend to limit it to when people are obviously struggling or hurting.  I tend to be a more task-oriented person, focusing on speaking and acting when there is a specific task to be accomplished.   That’s how God created me.  So, my challenge is to to get into my head that one of my tasks is to continually, daily, and regularly encourage and comfort those around me rather than waiting until they are grieving or struggling.  I hunger to become one of those people who is always encouraging.