Thursday, July 28, 2011

Encouraged by His Glory

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

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

But I can’t.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Pride vs. His Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 22, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Don’t Lose Heart

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 17, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 7, 2011

God’s Counsel

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

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

And Israel bought it.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 4, 2011

Delight, not Checklists

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

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

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

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

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

May my obedience spring from delight and growth today!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Habit of Rejoicing

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

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

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

My rejoicing should never end!

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