Friday, April 29, 2011


“How, then, shall members of the new covenant, in their call to be holy, dedicate themselves wholly to God, avoid all that belongs to the realm of death, and be slaves to no one and nothing save Jesus?” D.A. Carson – thoughts on Numbers 6

In Carson’s discussion on the Nazirite vow, he took the three abstinences of the Nazirite and pointed out three reasons for those abstinences.

1) The uncut hair during the period of the vow was a physical symbol of being wholly dedicated to God.

2) The need to avoid all interaction with anyone who had died signified full focus on service to the living God.

3) The abstinence from anything related to grapes, from fruit stage to wine stage, showed a refusal to be controlled in thought or action by anything other than the Spirit of God.

Then Carson closed with the above question, one which really made me stop and think: how do I set myself apart?

I’m not asking how I can be a Christian Nazirite, and I don’t think that’s what Carson was alluding to either. But, I am to be set apart. To be different. How am I living that out right now?

Every now and then this question comes up for me: am I living as one who is set apart from this world? How can I do so even more? I think maybe it accompanies times when I am caught up in restlessness that I try to satisfy in temporal ways. Or, it comes when I’m  settling comfortably into a life of spiritual complacency. Or it might also simply arise when it’s time to take another step in my spiritual growth.

Whatever the season, I’m rechallenged today to contemplate where I am in relation to being set apart. Where have I faltered? Where have I relaxed? And where do I need to take a new step forward to be set apart even more?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Right View of Sin

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin. Hebrews 12:3-4


First of all, my tendency toward discouragement and lack of perseverance takes on much more significance when I read verse three. Why don’t I fully grasp what Jesus’ death on the cross means? It is salvation to the fullest. Salvation from the full significance of sin. I think sometimes I fail to realize just how much effect sin has on me. Growing weary, losing heart, and failing in perseverance are effects of sin. Anything that keeps me from the fullness of perfection is sin. Anything. And Jesus suffered and died so that I could be free from that. So that I could persevere. Oh how I must remember!

Then there’s verse four. Double ouch. When I see this statement I realize just how little I fight against sin. I don’t often even fight to the point of discomfort, much less to the point of shedding blood.

My awareness of sin is so dulled. I rarely truly stop and perceive it from God’s perspective. I say I do. I say I want to. But then I fall right back into a worldly view of my sin.

I am challenged to wake up. I am challenged to truly fight it, no matter what the cost. I am challenged to not mock the beautiful, perfect, and exceedingly costly sacrifice of Christ by losing heart and growing weary. I am challenged to instead walk in the amazing victory He has provided through that gruesome death. Oh, may I not grow weary!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


(Just a note – the tornadic activity from last night’s storm system was much less of an event than was expected. Praise the Lord! We even got a good night’s sleep without only a few brief interruptions – none of which required taking cover. )

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1

Now that I’m at the end of the faith chapter, I read this verse and have to stop to truly ask myself:

What is it that keeps me from being like these people?

What are my encumbrances? What sin do I let get in the way? There is much that I struggle with, but one of the first things that comes to mind is my lack of perseverance. Hebrews 11:32-38 provides a horrifying list of the things some of these heroes endured. We can read their stories and know they had rough times – days when they wanted to give up, quit, and even die to avoid any more of the challenge of their ministry, ranging anywhere from unheeding listeners to physical torture. But, they didn’t give up. They persevered.

I, on the other hand, have a tendency to be strong to a point and then just fall apart. I lack in perseverance. I start off relying on God’s strength. Then I pull back and try to rely on my own. But when mine fails me, I don’t lean on God’s again – I just falter. I don’t persevere.

If I want to be like these heroes, I have to learn to persevere in God’s strength. That is my active challenge. That is the first step to heed the instructions of Hebrews 12:1.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Let Go

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type. Hebrews 11:17-19

Oh how much I need to learn about faith. When I reread passages like Hebrews 11, I am reminded just how much I still have to learn.

As I read these verses about Abraham today, I was confronted with the reminder that I don’t let go of things well. Several years ago I first heard Rebecca St. James sing the song “I Can Trust You.”  The lyrics resonated so deeply in me, reminding me that I fight that exact same battle of trust on a daily basis.

Reading Abraham’s story in Genesis reminds me that Abraham struggled with those same trust issues himself. But, in the end he always came out faithful. And because of that, we find these verses about him in Hebrews.

I am challenged to take a daily analysis of what I am refusing to surrender. And, it has to be daily. In fact, it probably needs to be hourly. I cling to so much. If I cling to the littlest and most insignificant things, how hard would I cling were I to be placed in Abraham’s situation?

Not only do I need to analyze what I cling to, but then I need to take active steps to let go. Daily. To make it a habit that stays with me for the rest of my earthly life.

I can trust Him. Period. Even if it means letting go of that which seems to hold the key to all I’ve been promised. I can trust Him. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Challenge: Eternal Faith

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Oh how many things have been preached, taught, and emphasized about faith, many based on this very verse! I’ve frequently struggled with faith as I’ve encountered people who have approached faith on any level of extreme from “if I believe it, it will happen” to “if I ask outside of God’s will, it’s not faith, so I won’t even ask” and everything in between. Where is truth?

As I have slowly poured through Hebrews 10 and 11, I have realized one of my issues with faith. I try to connect faith to the temporal. I’m not through Hebrews 11 yet, but based on both my memory of previous studying and on what I’ve read so far this time, I think it’s safe to say that the author of Hebrews is connecting each of these examples of faith to eternal things, not temporal.

There are things I’d love to have. But, where are my desires rooted? Are they rooted in what God has promised, or are they rooted in my own temporal desires? Do I desire stuff, events, or orchestrations of life simply because they would make things easier and more pleasurable for me, or because God has placed those desires in my life so as to more greatly fulfill His ultimate plan?

The latter is what I see in Hebrews 11. Now, were the motives of each of these heroes of the faith always pure? No! We can see that clearly with a read through the Old Testament. But, the desires mentioned were from God, and perfect hope in them was available.

It’s so hard sometimes to see how to apply this, but I think I know where I need to start. I think I need to start with a daily evaluation of what I hope for. Is what I hope for based on an eternal home or this temporal one? Is it based on furthering God’s kingdom or making my own more comfortable and pleasurable? I desire to begin hoping for a country of my own (Heb 11:14). I hunger to truly learn what it means to live by this faith.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Already Among Them

But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Heb 10:39

It’s amazing to me how some verses can almost seem to disappear around well-known and popular passages of Scripture. Like Hebrews 10:39. This is the verse that leads into the famous faith chapter, a chapter which I have long known and been familiar with. But somehow I’ve never paid much attention to Heb 10:39.

My perspective on Hebrews 11 has always been one of, “These are the heroes of the faith. Be like them. Imitate them. Learn from them. In doing so, you will learn to be full of faith as they were.” And, I believe that perspective is Scripturally valid. But, this lead-in verse indicates something more.

It indicates that we are already an active part of the heritage of faith. It says that “we are…of those who have faith.” If we are walking with Christ, we are already in this company! The difference is that we already have the promise that they looked forward to in their walks of faith. We have the salvation. We have the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We have the written Word of God.

That challenges my way of thinking. It is one thing to strive to be like these heroes of the faith. It is another to be considered among them. Like the recipients of Hebrews, I am of the community of faith. I simply need to act like it. To walk in confidence and with endurance (Heb 10:35-36). I can’t truly put into words how that mentality changes my perspective, but I know it does.

I am challenged to walk in that perspective. To realize that life is more than just striving to imitate these people, but it is learning to walk alongside them, co-heirs of the inheritance of the promise.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Faithfulness & Contentment

A lot in my reading for this morning pointed to faithfulness. First, I was reading Hebrews 10. The author of this book is reminding his readers of their faithfulness during persecution, admonishing them to continue in that same faithfulness.

Then I flipped back to Isaiah. As I started chapter two, I noticed the references to the wealth of the Israelites. How they put faith in their plentiful provision and ease of life rather than in the God who had given it all to them.

I have a pretty easy life. Sure, we’ve struggled in the past. Sure, there are areas where we continue to struggle. But, all in all, my life is pretty secure and, in truth, has been for pretty much my entire life.

I confess I really like life to be easy. But, as I read Hebrews 10 and Isaiah 2, I see how an easy life can be hazardous to my spiritual health.

When Paul talks of learning the secret to contentment in Phil 4:12, I think it is important to realize that it’s as much of a challenge to be faithfully content in want as in need. In both times, there is much temptation to stray from God’s hand of provision. From doing things His way.

I don’t want to ask for persecution. But, I want to learn the contentment secret. I want to be faithful in both the easy life and in whatever persecution or suffering I may face on this earth. I don’t want any aspect of my life to rely on how comfortable my circumstances are. That is my challenge: faithfulness and contentment, no matter what.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Preparation & Prayer

I love the story of Hezekiah, king of Judah. Today as I read of the seige of Jerusalem by Assyria during Hezekiah’s reign, two things stood out to me.

1. Hezekiah prepared. Years before the siege, he began his rule with a renewed focused on trust in and obedience to God and God alone (2 Kings 18:1-7). He became a trustworthy and reliable king to the people. So, in 2 Kings 18:36, we find that when the king anticipated the verbal attacks from the Assyrian commander and commanded the people to not say a word in response, they trusted and obeyed.

2. Hezekiah prayed. Before the siege ever began, he had tried to appease the Assyrians with silver and gold (2 Kings 18:14-16), and he saw that accomplished nothing. So, he didn’t try to go reason with them more. He also didn’t try to go bolster the people again. He knew that now was the time for prayer (2 Kings 19:1, 14). And God, pleased with the fact that Hezekiah had come to Him, answered.

Two things I am challenged with:

1. I know tough times, challenges, and attacks are coming. But, do I prepare? Do I prepare myself? Do I prepare my children? Do I prepare jointly with my husband? Am I prepared in such a way that, whatever may happen, we are immediately able to fall back on the Lord?

2. What is my first response in a time like this? Usually it is to fret and worry verbally at least a little bit, letting off a little steam before I lay it all before the Lord. What if I were to turn to the Lord first? How much quicker would I find His peace and wisdom to deal with every challenge?

I am challenged to, like Hezekiah, be both prepared and prayerful, no matter what the attack may be.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Futility vs. Fulfillment

As I continue through Hebrews, it’s hard to really formulate much in my journal writing. But, as I process through Hebrews 10, a few things are coming together in my mind.

For several chapters, the author of Hebrews has been discussing things that really are foundational to our faith – things that are almost second nature to me. The priesthood of Christ. No need for blood sacrifice anymore. The abolition of the division between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, therefore creating an open and direct channel between us and God. While these things were new to Jewish believers and went against the grain of all they had believed for generations, they are actually the concepts that our understanding is built upon.

The first thing that came to mind was that these concepts would not be our foundation were it not for teachings such as Hebrews. It’s easy to take the familiar for granted, but I am reminded to be continually thankful for the provision of God’s Word, no matter how familiar it may be. The fact that it is familiar is based upon great sacrifice in and of itself! Many people gave their lives that I may have this Bible.

But then I finally managed to press deeper – something my brain has not been greatly willing to do this week, thanks to a lovely head cold. When I pressed deeper, I saw so many similarities between the Jewish Christians of the early church and our own church. We claim to believe in the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ Jesus, but we live as if we still cling to the old sacrificial system; maybe not in blood sacrifice, but in sacrifice of deeds. We still feel the need to do something for our own salvation, something to compensate for our sin – something more than the sacrifice of Jesus.

I know I do. If I snuggle enough with my kids, I can atone for yelling at them. If I am diligent to get up early every morning this week, I can use that to balance out any time I waste during the day. If I pray diligently for an hour, that will make up for the fact that I didn’t control my thoughts enough yesterday. If I work hard enough at this, I can overcome that shortcoming. If I do enough good in this area, I can make up for the bad I did in that area.

I am reminded through this week’s reading in Hebrews that my obedience is not about making an acceptable sacrifice. My obedience is about pouring out my love to my Savior. He was my sacrifice. There is nothing I can do to enhance that – it was perfect to begin with. My diligence will in no way make up for my failures. But, when done out of a heart of love, my diligence will draw me closer to my Savior in a beautiful relationship – the one for which I was created.

My challenge is “simple”: to change the motivation behind any good thing I do. To act out of love for the pleasure of my Savior, not as an attempt to continue offering sacrifices. The latter is futility. The former is fulfillment.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. 2 Chron 29:3

I absolutely love 2 Chron 29-30. Every time I read these chapters, I am filled with excitement. But, even my great excitement is only a miniscule portion of the excitement that must have been felt by the participants of this fantastic Passover celebration.

And it was all because one man was obedient to go ahead and do what he knew was right without hesitation.

Hezekiah didn’t waste any time when his reign started. He jumped right in and reopened the temple because he knew that was the right path. He didn’t wait for all of the priests and advisors to come on board with his plan. In fact, the priests had to rush to consecrate themselves just to catch up with the plan! Hezekiah knew what he needed to do and did it. He acted. He moved. And the results were phenomenal.

True, he was a king with a lot of influence, but I still have to wonder: what would happen if I would move with such determination? There are a lot of iffy scenarios before me that leave me wondering what path is right. But, there are many more things of which I am certain. And yet, I don’t act on those things.

I am challenged to change that. There are enough things I know I can do – there’s no reason to be stymied by those things I don’t know. I can still act. There were a lot of things Hezekiah still had to figure out, but he started where he knew he had to start. May I be determined enough to do the same.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Set Apart

Reading Isaiah is unsettling. So much of the attitudes and chaos of Isaiah’s world are reflected in our own today. Thanks to passage after passage of interaction between God and Isaiah, we know how God feels about many things that are reflected in today’s society. And we know that judgment will not be withheld forever.

But I love Isaiah 8:9-22. It pulls me in. It calls to my heart. It gives me a hunger to be set apart. In these verses, God tells Isaiah how to handle the chaos of his society. How to handle the fact that everything is falling apart. He tells Isaiah to be different. To fear God, not circumstances. To wait for the Lord, even when He and His hand are not visible. To teach his children and lead his entire household to be set apart. To trust the Word of God above all else.

To be set apart.

So often I get caught up in the fear of what is going on in this day. I struggle with wanting everything to be right and good. But thanks to sin, it isn’t. So, how do I walk through this life without being paralyzed by fear? I do so by not allowing myself to be caught up in the world’s responses, but by instead living according to the truth of God’s Word.

I am challenged to be set apart.

I am challenged to fear God, not circumstances. To wait for the Lord, even when I cannot see Him or the work of His hand. To be different along with my entire household. And to trust God’s Word above all else. Armed with this attitude, I can joyfully walk through the most heartbreaking of circumstances, knowing that my God is in control in perfection and holiness, and His will will be accomplished.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:11-12

I love reading about heroes of the faith. Beyond the heroes in Scripture, there are several more modern heroes about whom I have read and learned. Oh how I’d like to be like them! Oh how I like to follow in their footsteps of passion and servitude to God.

As I pondered these verses in Hebrews this morning, especially in the context of what I’ve been learning as I work through chapter six, I realized that I have long had an incorrect approach in my attempts to imitate these heroes of mine.

You see, I have this misunderstanding that if I can be just like them then the diligence and discipline that they had is sure to follow. According to these two verses, however, that’s backwards. The crazy thing is that my approach was not at all rational, but it’s the way I’ve been trying to do things for years.

I am challenged to turn that around. Remembering the lives of those heroes, their first steps were simple obedience. Nothing fancy. Nothing near perfection of attitude or action. Just knowing what God was telling them to do and doing it. But, the key with them was that they didn’t just obey in one or two aspects of their lives. They put everything they were into that obedience. Everything. Rather than taking a step of obedience and then continuing on with their day, their day became all about that obedience.

May I be obedient in that way. May I take what I have learned and act on it, pressing on toward maturity (Heb 6:1). May I make my life about obedience rather than obedience simply being one aspect of my life. And in doing so, may I become like my heroes – fully surrendered to God in every second of my earthly life.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Perseverance in Prayer

But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. Hebrew 6:9

On March 1, 1997, an F5 tornado ripped through the town of Arkadelphia, AR, where I was a college student. Two days later as I stood in what remained of a family’s house and attempted to help clean up the mess, I felt overwhelmed. Claustrophobic in wide open spaces. Completely lost in the middle of friends and familiar places.Physically sick though I was healthy. The massive weight of uncertainty and problems that had no immediate end pressed down on my shoulders with an almost unbearable impact. I had lost nothing, experienced no damage. Yet, I might as well have lost as much as that family did.

Over the years, I’ve struggled with interceding for others for the same reason. Although I passionately love to be part of prayer that girds others up in a struggle, I frequently struggle just as I did after the tornado when I don’t know how or when the mess is going to be cleared away. I know it will happen, but the mess itself is such a weight on my soul that leaves it hard for me to persevere.

Just this morning the overwhelmed feeling hit me as I looked at my prayer list. Houses that won’t sell. Marriages that are struggling. Unending sickness stealing life away. Sin and selfishness destroying lives and families. The weight can be crushing. And, to be honest, the temptation can be to just lay a blanket prayer across the list so that I don’t have to interact too deeply with the pain. Instead, I cried out to the Lord to give me a persevering heart in prayer.

Then I read Hebrews 6. The first half of the chapter just weighed me down more. Such discouragement! But then comes the pivotal verse 9. We are convinced of better things. The chapter ends with a discussion of the hope that we have for those who belong to Him.

So often my prayers are caught up in the despair of current circumstances. Perseverance in prayer comes when I am caught up instead in the joy of hope. The hope that comes from the peace of God. The hope that comes when I keep my eyes on Him instead of the circumstances. That is my challenge – to remember to focus on His hope rather than the circumstances. Only then can I find perseverance in prayer.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phil 4:8

I’m greatly struggling with my thoughts this week. Not necessarily bad thoughts. Just busy thoughts. Writing stories and blog posts in my head. Imagining conversations. Flitting from this to that. Very little grounding. It’s amazing how we can be sucked in by busyness in our heads as much as in our physical activity.

The thing about Phil 4:8 is that it is not a laundry list of what I should not think about. Never once does it tell me to avoid allowing my thoughts to go where they’ve recently been going. But, it does tell me where my thoughts should go. It’s easy for my thoughts to not be technically bad but still miss the target. To excessively ponder things that distract me from keeping my heart and mind focused on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His glory.

There are too many prayer needs, too many disciplinary needs with my children, too many things that need to be studied, heard, and done to be caught up in my selfish thought world. So, I am challenged to regain the discipline of running my every thought through Phil 4:8. I’ve been here before. I’ll be here again. It’s a constant battle and striving to make sure that my thoughts are controlled. But my prayer is that today’s challenge to regain the discipline will make me that much stronger to resist the next bout of temptation to loosen the grip of control on my thoughts. May I truly grow.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Concerning Him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. Hebrews 5:11

Ouch. No one wants to be told, “I can’t really explain this to you because you just won’t get it!” Over and over we tell our children not to say the “s” word to other people, calling them stupid or dumb. But, that’s essentially what the writers of Hebrews is doing. He’s telling is audience that they’ve let themselves grow too dumb to learn. Too dull to truly hear the truth about Jesus Christ. The verses that follow this one aren’t any more pleasant in their accusations of immaturity.

What is interesting to me is that is seems that the recipients of Hebrews haven’t always been at this place in their learning and growing. They started as babes, but apparently they grew past that point and then fell back. Verse 11 states that they have become dull of hearing.” In verse 12 we see that they “have need againfor basic teaching and “have come to need milk and not solid food.” (all emphasis mine)

While we cannot lose our salvation, we can lose our growth. We can revert and fall from where we have been and should be. In what areas have I slid? Are there things in my life where I show less maturity than I did a year ago? Five years ago?

Read Heb 5:14: But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Maturity doesn’t just come to us. We have to work for it. We have to train in it. I have to work for it.

I am challenged to examine my life and make any changes necessary to be able to fit the description of verse 14, not verse 11. May I be spiritually discerning, not dull of hearing.

Monday, April 4, 2011


For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

I’ve long known the truth of Psalm 84:10 (scroll over the reference to read the verse), but more on the level of knowing for a fact that the presence of God is better than anywhere else. But, there’s a difference between knowing that fact and truly experiencing the reality.

I’m learning more and more that the one day in His courts seems most real to me when reading the Bible seems to stir something in me I cannot explain. I can honestly say that one moment of interaction last night with a single phrase in John was fuller than a thousand other moments combined. There was an amazing combination of conviction, stirring, joy, and peace that I cannot put into words. It was not an emotional response. It was not a physical response. It was a spiritual treasure as I knew the word of God was truly piercing my very soul.

The thing is, those moments can be frightening. When we really interact with God, we cannot help but know the fear of Him – the only fear that Scripture acknowledges as truly legitimate. It is no coincidence or accident that the writer of Hebrews follows up Heb 4:12 with the discussion of our personal High Priest Jesus Christ, His amazing interaction with us, and our ability to draw near to the throne of God with confidence – all thoughts that remind us that the fear of God should not ever separate us from Him.

I’m not sure exactly how to express this challenge. I suppose it comes down to this: I am challenged to more fully interact with the Word of God. To not shy away from the sword as it pierces my very soul. To remember that with the fear and pain of the piercing also comes the perfect peace and joy of that moment, that “one day” in His courts.