Thursday, March 31, 2011

Challenge: Community

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Heb 3:13

This verse comes in the middle of an exegesis of sorts of Ps 95:7-11. The passage from Psalms discusses the rebellion of the Israelites that caused an entire generation to die in the wilderness instead of entering the Promised Land. An entire community destroyed because of the way they rallied together. They agreed with one another. Supported one another. Incited one another to disobedience.

And yet, even in the middle of this discussion, the author of Hebrews insists that community is beyond important – it is essential to the avoidance of sin.

As I read this, I see a couple of challenges. First, I am reminded of the obvious: the most ideal place for me to be is within a community of believers who will encourage and challenge me. There are times when we are called to walk this journey alone, and we must be able to have what we need to rely on Him in those times. But, we were created for communion and fellowship. I am challenged to diligently open myself up to communion and accountability.

Secondly, however, I am reminded of the extreme importance of quality in my community. The Israelites as a whole chose to side with the ten spies rather than with Joshua and Caleb. They chose community that was founded on fear, not on the promises of God. My encouragement must come from and be given to those who are hungry to receive and live in the promises of God. If they are not, I will be sped toward sin’s deceitfulness rather than be deterred from it.

Community is beautiful. Right and godly community is essential. That is what I seek.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pay Attention!

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do no drift away from it. Heb 2:1

I backtracked a little today. I felt like I was just flying through the first couple of chapters of Hebrews and not really taking it in, so I went back and reread the first part of chapter 2. I think maybe those thoughts are part of why Hebrews 2:1 stood out to me so distinctly.

I have a tendency to learn something new, be wowed by it, and then move on with my life, practically forgetting the wonderful new lesson. It’s not enough for me to be initially wowed. I must be changed! It must become a part of who I am. Otherwise, what is the point of the learning?

So, today’s challenge is a simple one: pay attention. Remember. Practice. Make what I learn a part of my life that I may not drift away from the things I have been taught. It’s not enough to think it’s a great lesson, type out a few words about it, and then move on with my life. It’s only sufficient when I truly let it make a difference in my life.

Monday, March 28, 2011

All Things

“You have put all things in subjection under His feet.” For in subjecting all things to Him, He left nothing that is not subject to Him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to Him. Hebrews 2:8

How would I approach life differently if I truly believed that all things were subject to Christ Jesus, even when I can’t see that truth? All things. Every last little incident. Every person. Everything. The effects of that truth are tremendous.

It is hard to even begin to organize the thoughts rolling around in my head right now. There are several things we’ve dealt with lately that have either seemed too frustrating or too trivial to have been subject to His authority. Looking back on them now, I see the absurdity of even thinking that! Yet that is how I handled them - on my own with the influence of my own attitude. How could He have been more greatly glorified in me had I approached those things as being subject to Him?

I can’t go back and fix the attitude I’ve had in the past. I can’t change how I have approached life so far. But, I can change where I go from here. I am challenged to remember on a minute by minute basis that, whether I can see it or not, all things are subject to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There is no exception. I cannot even begin to imagine the change that will be wrought in my life if I remember to live in that understanding.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints. Philemon 1:4-5

The book of Philemon seems to be full of flattery and manipulation as Paul attempts to speak for the slave Onesimus. It makes me want to study the traditions and practices in the first century Roman world to get a little more background on why Paul’s letter was written this way.

But, regardless of Paul’s foundation for such flattery, verses four and five made me wonder how I would respond in Philemon’s situation.

Paul indicates that he has heard of Philemon’s love toward his fellow believers. Onesimus left Philemon as a thieving pagan slave. He is desiring to return as a repentant Christian brother. Will Philemon’s love for fellow believers extend even in this situation? It comes down to a test of character. Is Philemon’s love really genuine? Will he still show it when the situation hits very close to home?

It is easy for me to hold up certain standards and be known for certain qualities. But, there will always come a time when those standards are challenged. When those qualities are questioned. How will I respond? Will I be consistent and true, or will I falter because it hits too close to home?

I am challenged to be the type of person who is not only willing to stand firm in purity of character when it is easy, but also when it requires personal sacrifice and risk. I am challenged to live in such a way that when I am tested like Philemon was, there can be confidence that I will respond with full godliness.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Trust & Confidence

This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for me. Titus 3:8

Yesterday I received a spiritual knock upside the head with this verse. Paul uses the phrase “this is a trustworthy statement” in multiple places in Scripture, typically referring to a segment of what he has said. But, as I read the phrase yesterday I was reminded that all of Scripture is trustworthy.

My typical response to such a reminder would be, “Well, of course all of Scripture is trustworthy.” What I believe is rooted in my acceptance of the infallibility of the Bible as the Word of God. But, as I think a little deeper I am reminded that there is, in fact, a difference between believing that the Bible is 100% true and inerrant and personally living out the trustworthiness of God’s Word in my own life. I can even believe and teach wholeheartedly the trustworthiness of God’s Word for other people without truly living it out for myself.

In the specific context of Titus 3:8, the trustworthiness of this “statement” is what allows God’s children to speak boldly and with confidence. I don’t speak confidently and teach with boldness because I don’t trust the Word of God. Ouch.

Two things challenge me here. First, I can trust God’s Word. It is true for others, and it is true for me. Period. And I have to live out that trust. Secondly, my authority is found is God’s Word. I am often not confident to speak boldly because I get caught up in one thought: Who am I really to tell other people how they should live? I don’t have that kind of authority! True, I don’t. But God does. And if I am speaking the truth of His Word then I am not speaking on my authority. I’m speaking on His. That means I have to be very careful to only speak the truth of His Word, but it also means I can speak with full confidence.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I’m not sure that a distinct verse stands out to me today as much as a thought. I could possibly trace the idea back to Titus 2:9-10 where Paul is giving Titus instructions regarding the teaching of slaves. But, really, my thoughts go beyond that.

Doug and I watched Spartacus last week, spread out over the course of about three days. The character that seemed to have the most depth was Varinia, the fictional wife of Spartacus. Regardless of her personal feelings or desires, regardless of her joy or pain, Varinia served. Diligently. Patiently. Fully. Whether she was slave or free, she served.

It is easy to compartmentalize my life into being slave to sin versus free in Christ. But, when I think of life that way, how often do I throw off any attitude of complete servitude? How often do I determine that, because I am “free” I can do it all my own way?

When I have that attitude toward my daily life, I grow selfish. And, to be honest, everything begins to slide. I can no longer be the wife I am supposed to be. I do not excel as a mother or teacher. My house is not kept and my schedule falls apart. As I look back at Titus 2:9-10, I can clearly see that were I to truly consider myself as a bond-servant to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I would be much more useful to Him both in attitude and deed. And, in all honesty, usefulness to Christ is the only true usefulness in this life.

I am challenged to have the daily attitude of a slave of Christ, to truly be His in every aspect of life.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bold Authority

These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Titus 2:15

It’s hard for me to think of myself as having any authority – any reason why others should listen to me and have any regard for what I say. Although I know my spiritual gifts practically insist that I be in positions of spiritual training and leadership, I struggle with having the boldness that is required to exude authority. I am growing in certain arenas, but I still struggle overall.

There is evidence to support the idea that Titus, like Timothy, was considered young at this time. What authority could he have as the leader of the church?

The same I have: the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and Almighty God.

As long as I teach sound doctrine (Titus 2:1), I am teaching with the authority of Christ and His Word. It is not my own, but it is more than sufficient to be bold and to make a definite claim that what I speak should not be disregarded.

I am challenged to walk in that bold authority. While it is important to make sure that I do not become cocky or proud, trying to claim the authority as my own, it is essential that I stand in the authority of Christ if I am to effectively minister with the gifts He has granted me.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

But as for you…

But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Titus 2:1

But as for you…

When I hear those words, I know the humbling is coming. When I hear those words, I know that I have been comparing myself to other people. I know that I have either looked at other people for my standards or I have become proud. While there is nothing wrong with admiring human heroes, Christ alone is my standard. When I move my eyes from that, I hear the words, “But as for you…”

Set in context, I can almost see the wide range of Paul’s meaning when he tells Titus to “speak the things that are fitting for sound doctrine.” The words are set between discussion of unsound doctrine and practical instruction for the church. The “sound doctrine” isn’t simply a part of preaching the gospel, but a part of living everyday life with Christ as standard. It seems to be about everything we do.

I am hearing “but as for you” this morning and seeing some adjustments I need to make. I am challenged to remember to hold Christ alone as my standard and to make everything I say and do about sound doctrine.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Faith of Others

Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness. Titus 1:1 (emphasis mine)

What would happen if I were to stop traveling this journey called life for my own edification? For my own growth? What would happen if I were to stop seeing everything I face, whether joy or struggle, as a lesson or preparation for me?

As I both memorize Philippians and continue through the Pauline letters, I see very frequently how Paul’s life is poured out for others. His heart is for ministry to them. Their growth. Their edification. And he endured much in the process. On his own, Paul would have preferred to simply be done with this life and be with Christ (Phil 1:21). But, he continued to persevere for the sake of others (Phil 1:24-25).

So often as I walk through life, the question I ask is, “What am I going to learn from this?” Or maybe, “How can I respond to this so that God is glorified through me?” Or even, “What is God preparing me for through this situation?”

I wonder what would happen if I would change my focus? If I were to think about the salvation, growth, and edification of others instead of simply contemplating myself?

I know that my growth is essential. But, I am challenged to make my own growth and edification less prominent and to be reminded that God is using me to grow the faith of others as well. As I consider pouring myself out for the faith of someone else, perseverance begins to take on a whole new meaning.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Responsibility

For a time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelists, fulfill your ministry. 2 Tim 4:3-5

It breaks my heart when I think of the reality of 2 Tim 4:3-4 in our churches today. There are so many people who just don’t want to listen to truth. What a sad testimony!

Two of my strongest spiritual gifts are teaching and exhortation. Helping to instruct and guide others in their faith is what fuels me. The fact that people don’t want to listen or learn absolutely breaks my heart. I cannot fathom it. And, it often deflates me. I don’t want to continue teaching if they don’t want to learn.

Other people’s lack of desire to learn truth, however, does not excuse me from exercising the gifts God has placed upon me. I cannot lay aside my ministry simply because what I say is not what some people want to hear. I can’t help but think of Isaiah. As God calls Isaiah, He explicitly informs him that the people will not listen to him. They will have hard hearts and will reject truth. (Is 6:9-10) That was at the beginning of Isaiah’s call.

Timothy was not instructed to make people listen. He was instructed to fulfill the ministry God had placed on Him. I am challenged in the same way. Whether people listen or not, I am to exercise the gifts God has placed upon me. That is my responsibility. He will take care of the rest.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 2 Tim 4:6

As I read 2 Tim 4:6 and the immediately surrounding verses, I was struck by the comfort Paul must have had in being able to confidently depart and know that the ministry would still be continued.

But then I finished 2 Tim 4 and saw something else. Paul might have felt that his death was imminent, but he also didn’t simply hand over the reigns and be done. 2 Tim 4:9-22 reads like a work memo.

  • Here’s where everyone is and what they are doing. We need to make sure to keep tabs on them so we know what gaps need to be filled.
  • I need these papers, documents, books, etc., to continue in what I’m doing since I’m stuck here.
  • Oh, and Mark “is useful to me for service,” so make sure to bring him.

We know from Phil 1:21-26 that Paul wanted very much to “depart and be with Christ.” Previously he knew he was going to remain, but this time he believes he’s going to die. Yet, he doesn’t stop and say, “Okay, my turn is over! Y’all take over while I spend my last days on earth just hanging out. I’ll see you on the other side!” Instead, he determines to devote himself to work and service to the very end.

I’ve never come to the end of my life, but I’ve come to the end of many other assignments, tasks, responsibilities, and phases of life. I must confess that I tend to quit early. I don’t keep working. I don’t keep striving. I step aside, using the argument that someone else needs to learn how to do the job I’m vacating.

It is true, they need to learn. But, that doesn’t excuse me from service. Even if my service has to change a little bit, I don’t get to stop. God works through me to the very last second, and I must be of service until that same last second. So, I am challenged to learn to continue always, not letting up in my service – even up to the very last moment.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2 Tim 3:14-15

These verses are found within Paul’s discussion with Timothy regarding the difficult times that come with the last days (2 Tim 3:1). When taken all together in context (not a bad thing to do!), verses 14 and 15 are a clear reminder that God gives us what we need to face the difficult times that come our way.

There are times when I walk smack dab into struggles and feel so ill-equipped for the circumstances. But, the problem is not a lack of resources. Instead, it is a lack of proper utilization of those resources.

Paul reminds Timothy that he must continue to walk faithfully in the things he already knows. He must be diligent to remain true to what he learned from both the teaching and the example of Paul. He can’t simply maintain a knowledge bank that he then checks out information from when it’s time to deal with a struggle. He has to daily walk in the truths, keeping them fresh and alive within him.

It is so easy for me to simply hang on to knowledge and wisdom, cataloging it away for a useful day. I take in information, and commit to come back to it when I need it. Unfortunately, with that approach, I can’t seem to find it when I need it. Why? Because it hasn’t become a part of me. I haven’t continued in it daily, assimilating it into my continual walk with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I am challenged to continue in the things I have learned, yes, even from childhood. I am challenged to make them a part of me. In doing so, I truly will have all I need to walk through the difficult days that come my way.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Godliness & Persecution

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Tim 3:12

What a lovely call to godliness. Great recruitment line, isn’t it? If you live a godly life according to the standards of Christ, you will be persecuted. So, come on! It’ll be fun!

If I am truly honest with myself, I am not ready for the persecution. I just plain don’t want it. I read about persecuted believers from history. I read about what persecuted believers are dealing with today. Meanwhile, my imagination can come up with some pretty crazy scenarios some days, knowing what things can possible face my own family in the near future.

Yesterday I was having a conversation with Olivia about being diligent to do even the things that we don’t want to do. The question just popped out of my mouth:

“If you were told that you had to say you didn’t love Jesus or face going to jail, would you want to make the right choice?”

Her eyes grew big and her protests grew silent. We started talking about the beauty of being able to practice with the “easy” things.

I don’t know specifically what my challenge is today. All I know is that I have to acknowledge that if I continue to pursue a life of godliness, the persecution will come. In all honesty, I have no choice – I can’t walk away from the pursuit of godliness. There is no other way to live. But, I can choose to pursue it timidly, trying to stave off persecution as long as possible, or I can pursue it boldly, knowing that even though the persecution will follow, it is still the most perfect and beautiful path I could ever imagine.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Eyes to See

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Ps 27:13

This morning I was reminded of Psalm 27. I love this Psalm. It is such an intimate cry of a hopeful heart. But, what is so beautiful about it is the fact that it is not a cry in a hopeful time. Instead, it is in the middle of a time when hope has to be intentionally sought. (Ps 27:9, 14) David is waiting. David is hoping. He is not seeing physical relief right now. But, he is feeling the spiritual comfort and peace of knowing that God’s hope is perfect.

I am challenged to always remember that the Lord’s goodness exists here and now. I just need the eyes to see it. When I am caught up in my own misery, I don’t have those eyes. But when I have the vision David had in this Psalm, I can often see God’s goodness even in the midst of the worst of circumstances. I can know without a doubt that His hand is upon me and His presence is near. That is the vision I hunger to have.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Challenge: True Godliness

…holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these. 2 Tim 3:5

As I read 2 Tim 3:1-4, I see a glimpse into my own heart. That’s a terrifying and ugly glimpse, to be sure. The beautiful thing is that even while I’m staring into my own disgusting darkness, I see clearly the blood of Christ covering every ounce of it. I know that all of this has been buried with Christ and I have been resurrected to a beautiful, new, pure life.

At the same time, however, there is a reason the New Testament is so full of specific instructions regarding the process of living up to the standards to which we have been saved. We cannot earn our way into God’s favor, but once we have God’s favor we should passionately hunger to put full energy into putting aside the filth that keeps us from purity.

In that process, it’s so easy to fall into the legalism of a checklist. “If I can just do this, this, this, and that, I can keep myself clean.” That is where I see verse five come into play in my own life. My actions, day in and day out, come down to a list-checking form of godliness that has no resemblance to the power of the Holy Spirit in my life to produce godliness in keeping with the salvation of Christ in me.

I am challenged to make sure that I am a living, growing believer in Christ, fully allowing the power of true godliness to flow through me. I hunger to be a true and vibrant example of the amazing presence and love of God in the hearts of mankind. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I read Psalm 37 this morning. I must confess it was with a rather groggy mind. I was up later than usual last night, and then rather loud and continuous thunderstorms hit us around 3:30 this morning and have been going pretty faithfully, with only shot breaks, in the two and a half hours since then. I’m just plain sleepy!

Despite the sleepiness, as I was reading and listening to the storm, a mental picture came to mind.

My little Steven has always been very overwhelmed by loud noises. Thunderstorms are not fun for him. He has matured so much for a four-year-old – he no longer screams out in terror. But, it’s still rough for him. This morning when I went to check on him, he had surrounded himself with a fortress of pillows, stuffies, and blankets and was burrowed beneath them. But, after I snuggled with him for a few minutes, he bravely told me that it was okay for me to leave him. He trusted that what I said was true and that, loud though it may be, it wasn’t going to hurt him. Just disrupt his sleep a little bit.

I can see God reminding us of the same thing in Psalm 37. It’s going to get a little loud. It’s going to seem terrifying. It’s going to feel like that thunder of life will get us, even in our beds. But, we’re safe. We might even trip and fall in the storm and find ourselves with bruises or skinned knees, especially if it knocks out the power and we just can’t see. But, He’s going to keep a tight hold on us the whole time, and no permanent injury will befall us.

I am challenged to see the storms of this life more like a loud, but harmless, thunderstorm.  In the scheme of eternity and the salvation of my soul, even the worst of earthly suffering is just a bruise or skinned knee compared to an eternity of perfection with God. Oh that I may learn to receive His whispered assurances in the middle of each of my thunderstorms!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Remind them of these things and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness… 2 Tim 2:14-16

I love to give my two cents worth. I like for people to know my opinion, and when I think someone else is wrong, I want to correct them. I tend to make up for my lack of boldness by being opinionated.

But, being opinionated so frequently results in my being ashamed. Maybe not ashamed of my opinion, but ashamed of my presentation. I’m more concerned about getting my opinion out there than about “accurately handling the word of truth.”

There is a strong temptation for me to be a wrangler of words. To hash things out with people. On the one hand, it’s not bad for me to try to be persuasive. On the other hand, however, it is crucial that I am very attentive to the subject matter of my persuasive arguments. Am I presenting the Word of God for the edification of others? Or am I presenting Ann’s opinion because I want to make sure everyone knows what I think – and convince them to agree?

I am challenged to be purposeful in all of my words, whether spoken or written. That’s not to say I can only open my mouth or work my keyboard to specifically discuss the Bible. But, I can share life in general and still do it in a way that edifies others and keeps me from being ashamed. Will I still stick my foot in my mouth? Undoubtedly. Will I still have moments of shame over my words? Inevitably. But, I pray those moments will decrease steadily that my glorification of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may increase continually.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


For this reason, I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. 2 Tim 2:10

I honestly did not intend to write a challenge today. I didn’t get it done this morning, I had a ton of other writing I wanted to do this afternoon, and I started the afternoon behind. But, sometimes I am compelled to do what I didn’t intend. Today is just such an occasion.

This verse from 2 Timothy really grabbed me when I read it first thing this morning. What would I really endure for the sake of the chosen? First, I had to contemplate who the chosen are. Some of them are already believers, but there are others who seem to be about as far from chosen as can be imagined. Would I endure everything for them? Then I had to consider what the phrase “all things” means. I had to contemplate what Paul endured. What persecuted believers around the world endure today. My breath catches in my throat as I think about what little I have endured and what more could await me.

Those thoughts alone were not enough to compel me to sit down and write about it, though. Maybe I was trying to just set it all aside – think about it later. But then as I sat down to write other things this afternoon, I made a quick first stop at my friend Julie’s blog. Every day this month, Julie is posting a theme and some Scripture to pray over our children, and I wanted to be sure to read the verses for today.

Check out the second verse on today’s post.

For some reason, this morning I had all different types of people in my mind as I thought of enduring all things for the chosen – but my children didn’t even come to mind. Julie’s post forced me to ask myself what I would endure for my precious babies?

Obviously as their mother, I would give my life for them. But, as I pondered this verse, all that would come to mind was the thought of being in a position to choose Christ over the immediate well-being of my children. Would I endure the pain of their physical and emotional discomfort to remain true to the gospel of Christ?

There is only one possible answer. I would have to. To not stand firm, even at the risk of their pain, would be to sacrifice their salvation. If they could not see me stand firm, what could they hang on to in the midst of their own suffering and anguish?

This thought is so intense, and I pray that I never, ever have to walk with my children through this sort of endurance. But, there are people around the world in this day and age who are faced with this very dilemma. I am challenged today to pray for them, both parents and children. To lift them up to the Father, knowing that what they face is more intense than anything I can even begin to imagine. And, I am challenged to raise my children in the understanding that we must always, always, always choose to stand firm in Christ, no matter what we are called to endure.