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.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Repentance & Sacrifice

Through Him, then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. Heb 13:15

I’ve been mulling over several things over the past few days. I still don’t know if I can tie it all together in a coherent train of thought, but I’m going to try.

As I started into Isaiah a few days ago, Isaiah 1:15-20 stood out to me. God’s interaction with His people almost seems to be in two extremes. First, He tells them that He will not heed them, their prayers, or their sacrifices. Then, He calls them to abide with Him. How can that happen if He won’t hear their prayers in the first place?

Two things:

  1. Repentance is key. The sacrifices were not received and the prayers were not heard because there was no repentance.
  2. The verse from Hebrews comes in – once the repentance has been shown, the second key is making it all about God, not all about me. Thanksgiving and praise are due to Him.

So, how does this fit with me? First of all, I am going to be honest in a way I don’t really want to – I have not been diligent about repentance lately. I’ve caught myself just going through the motions of it and not really allowing my heart to be searched by the all-knowing, perfect God. So, I need to come back to repentance.

Secondly, I have to remember that thanksgiving and praise are not going to come naturally. Naturally I am selfish. Yes, I am made new by the blood of Christ, but I am still working out that salvation. That includes offering the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. A sacrifice is intentional. A sacrifice goes beyond what is easy and natural. A sacrifice takes an act of my will.

I have grown lax in both areas, and my immediate challenge is to shape up. Get those muscles firm again. Oh how sweet is the communion with my God when I come to Him in those ways!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cease Striving

Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Ps 46:10

Just a few months ago I typed out a post about striving that involved this verse. I thought what I saw that day was pretty neat, but then I read the verse again this morning and saw even more.

The whole psalm is about the power that belongs to God to accomplish His will. He is able to be our refuge and help, no matter what happens around us. He is able to build up and destroy. He is able to make our hearts glad and to make the rebellious melt in fear. He is able.

After all of this description come the famous words…Cease striving (or, even more familiarly, Be still) and know that I am God…

It takes a lot of effort, energy, and strength for me to accomplish life. I work, I strive, I struggle. I try to persevere. I try to be diligent. But, at some point I wear out. I’m done. I just can’t keep up the pace. So, I falter. I fail. I lose my discipline.

The problem is that I am the one doing the striving. I’m trying to create my own refuge. I’m trying to find true abiding gladness. I’m trying to fight the mess of this world. And in doing so, I forget that He is God, and He can do it all with a thought or word.

Once again, God has to pull me back to this verse. Once again He has to remind me that He has it all under control. Why do I forget? Why do I doubt?

Today I am challenged to cease striving. Then again tomorrow. Then the next day. One day at a time until it becomes my habit. Until I don’t need to be reminded anymore because I always keep the thought before me.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Listen, O daughter; give attention and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house.  Ps 45:10

Reading this from a human standpoint, it seems a bit sad, especially in light of history. Forget your home? Forget your people? Forget your family? How is that possible? Very few stories are like Ruth’s – a passionate and willful choice to forget one’s home and totally embrace a new one.

But, when taken in context, it is revealed that this verse is, in fact, a beautiful one. Look at the next verse…

Then the King will desire your beauty, because He is your Lord, bow down to Him. Ps 45:11

This psalm is not discussing an earthly bride forgetting her family. It is about a people embracing their God. And, when we forsake what we have known and embrace our God,  what awaits our total surrender is perfection! Beauty! Wonder! No deprivation, only fulfillment. No lack of love, only perfect and complete love. No robbing of a past, but provision of a perfect future. This is what we are called to when we are called to forget and wholeheartedly give.

And yet…

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with forgetting my people. Who are my people? This world. The nature of it. The things of it. The possessions that don’t satisfy. The relationships that are incomplete. Perfection awaits me, but I cling to the imperfect.

When I see it in black and white before me, I am confounded by my own stupidity in clinging to “my people.” I am challenged to incline my ear and give my full attention to my King. To truly be found beautiful in His sight as I surrender the ugliness of my home and embrace the beauty of His Son’s sacrifice for me. Oh, may I truly become His bride.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Heard it from Me

O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us the work that You did in their days, in the days of old. Ps 44:1

I love it when a passage of Scripture both challenges me and thrills my heart. Much of Psalm 44 is a plea to God, begging Him to reveal Himself again and to no longer forsake His people. But, the first eight verses have a different ring – the ring of praise for what God has done and the realization that they, as God people, know what He has done because the stories have been passed down to them from generation to generation.

While my absolute favorite stories to share are the examples of how God has worked in my own life and immediate family, the stories my parents have lived are a close second. I am proud to be a part of the heritage of what God has done in their lives. It is a delight to me to know that I can pass that same heritage down to my own children, thus seeing their faith strengthened as they begin to walk their own journeys of faith.

But, in all of this lies a challenge as well. There are so many times in Scripture when it seems that God works so amazingly in one generation, but then the next generation literally falls apart as if they don’t know God at all. I firmly believe it is because the Israelites failed to talk to their children. They just proceeded on the assumption that their children would know, and they failed to actively teach. So, instead of following the amazing, almighty, wonderful God of their fathers, they turned dramatically and completely away from Him.

I am challenged to be sure that my children hear of the works of God from my lips. That they learn of His wonders from my teaching. That my story becomes their own, one which they can stand proudly on because they know that the same God is active in their lives as well. May my children one day be able to claim the words of Ps 44:1 as their own – that they heard of His wonders from me.