Truthful Tuesday: Carrying the Torch

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We help our children carry the torch of faith by living out our faith honestly and in humility.

Scripture of the Day:

Judges 2:10-12

“That entire generation passed away; a new generation grew up that had not personally experienced the LORD’s presence or seen what he had done for Israel.  11 The Israelites did evil before the LORD by worshiping the Baals. 12 They abandoned the LORD God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They followed other gods–the gods of the nations who lived around them. They worshiped them and made the LORD angry.

Some have said that the upcoming generation is leaving the church.  The foundation laid is purportedly not firm and the future generation left the faith of their predecessors.

Nothing scares me more than the faith of my children fading and being replaced with a worldly counterfeit.

I have a jealousy for their souls and a desire for them to see this walk with Christ is not mere religion, but a vibrant, cherished relationship with the Lover of our souls.

But I cannot make that choice for them.  They have to pick up the torch and choose to carry it.  As the character Sam Wise said in the movie, “Lord of the Rings”, “‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”

Praying for them and daily sharing God’s word and living it out has a much more profound effect than rules aimed at external behavior only.  So it is with us, the predecessors.  We each had to face the poverty of our own souls, grapple with sin and not allow it to master us on the inside.  We still do.

When our children see our need of God, there is no greater demonstration of active living faith.  Confessing our shortcomings yet not yielding to them shows them how to carry the torch.

Ultimately, if the faith of the future generation was dependent upon our perfection, faith would fail.  Thank God that faith is a gift from Him, nurtured with time spent with Jesus in His word and prayer.

Lord, help us to never grow weary of seeking You and discipling the precious next generation for Your glory.  May righteousness sweep across our nation and the hearts of the children return to You.

 

Mundane Monday: Folly’s Wisdom

Foolishness of the cross

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The world might think we are foolish when we go against our flesh and worldly wisdom, but that death produces real life and wisdom in Christ.

Scriptures of the Day:

1 Corinthians 1:18

“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent. 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching.  22 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, 23 but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 24 But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 30 He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

1 Corinthians 2:7-8

“Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

In a moment what seemed to be foolishness, what appeared to be a colossal defeat – the greatest victory was won.  The wisest, most astonishing act of sacrifice was presented on the world stage and it did not make sense.

Being murdered, spat upon, falsely accused and dying in front of everyone the most grueling painful death can hardly be described as a coveted position, yet the King of all chose this suffering which appeared to be a meaningless tragedy at the time.

How could a cross spell victory, when it’s sole purpose is to condemn and defeat?

The victory won that day was over the wisdom of this world that trusts in itself and does not know God.  In all its wisdom the world cannot know God – unless.  Unless God would come down and do a seemingly foolish, risky thing like die for His own people that He made.

His precious life laid down accomplished the forgiveness for every sin for all time.  One act resulting in complete forgiveness and restoration conquered every heart.

If His death were the end of the story, we would indeed be fools, but Christ has risen and will come again – and next time He will come to take His bride.

Lord, thank You for the victory you accomplished by dying for all mankind.  Help us to walk in Your wisdom and never forget Your sacrifice so we walk faithfully before You.

Thoughtful Thursday: Influential Influence

Influence 2

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Our battle is not fleshly, but spiritual.

Scriptures of the Day:

1 Corinthians 15:33

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

Romans 12:12

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

2 Timothy 3:1-6

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires,

Ephesians 2:1-2

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

One verse my children know well as it was a mantra repeated continuously in their childhood was 1 Corinthians 15:33.  It was challenging to strike a balance between warning them about being influenced by ungodly people around them and not judging them, either.

Much like the Israelites had to be reminded to write God’s word down and keep it before them, we need reminders to be aware of the influences all around us.

Most of us do not pause to perceive why we are feeling a certain way about another person or circumstance.  We casually give in to the emotions, unchecked unless we ask God for discernment to see the spiritual influence all around us.

The prince of the spirit of the air is busy.  So are our minds, with over 2100-3000 thoughts per hour going through them.  Keeping track and being accountable for all of those thoughts is overwhelming.

But when we study God’s Word and surround ourselves with godly influences, the sorting of wicked and godly influences becomes easier.  God has made a way out and He will show us what is pleasing to Him and what is not.  The choice is ours.  There is no middle ground. Life or death. Righteousness or wickedness.

Apathy is not the answer, self-righteousness is not the answer.  There are absolute standards that God has set.  We are accountable.

Choosing to abstain from bad influences is not enough, though.  Keeping oneself unsoiled is not the same as becoming a source of godly influences for those around us.  We are a light not because we have anything inherently good in us, but because we have the light of the world within us and He is good and able to use us for righteousness.

Lord, help us to be an influence on those around us that draws people nearer to You.  Help us to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world and to live for Your glory.

Truthful Tuesday: Prevention or Provision of Blessing

Blessings prevented

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The prevention of blessing in our lives is either caused by God’s sovereign grace or our disobedience.

Scriptures:

Genesis 16:2 ESV

“And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.”

Genesis 17:1-2

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”

Walking in the Spirit means sometimes God prevents or leads in a way that does not make sense.  We want the typical blessings of life and do not understand that God’s timing is best.  So it was with Sarah.  God made a promise and she was going to make sure it happened.  Whenever we have to strive to produce God’s promise, we are probably missing the leading of the LORD.

I do not blame Sarah.  I’ve done the same thing myself.  She did not want something wrong, she just went about it the wrong way.  Compromise is like that.  It happens when we follow our own inclinations instead of waiting on the LORD and trusting His timing.

What did God want Abraham and Sarah to do?  To walk before Him blamelessly.  What is intriguing about this requirement is the word “that” which follows God’s command. Waiting on God is all about relationship.  He makes a covenant with us and WE can prevent God’s blessings in our lives when we simply do not walk with Him in obedience.

We can be like a toddler, wanting what we want and all the while God is saying, “come and fellowship with me.  I want to bless you.”  Those who would seek Him would receive the blessings and the greatest of blessings which is Himself.  Those who would seek the blessings miss out entirely on the purpose of the covenant.

If we break His covenant He is still faithful, but we might not see the promise fulfilled or see it massively delayed.

Remember the Israelites in the desert?  That trip should have taken eleven days, but instead it took forty years.  BUMMER.

Even if the journey becomes difficult, walking in the Spirit and trusting in God’s plan and timing is far better than veering off course.  God might prevent us from something, but He is always leading us to another.

Obtaining blessing apart from God’s perfect will feels empty, but the peace of Christ that comes from abiding in God and walking in His ways is unsurpassed to any blessing we were seeking in the first place.

Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness, trustworthiness and promises.  Help us to wait upon You, knowing Your plans and ways are perfect.

Friday: It’s Party Time!

Party Time.png

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

There is no more joy that can be found on this earth than in Jesus.

Scriptures:

Isiah 24:14-16

“They raise their voices, they shout for joy; from the west they acclaim the Lord’s majesty. 15 Therefore in the east give glory to the Lordexalt the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, in the islands of the sea.  16 From the ends of the earth we hear singing: “Glory to the Righteous One.”

Isaiah 25:6-8

“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;  he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.  The Lord has spoken.”

The weekend is here … finally!  So many of us live for the weekend, for a break from the tortuous routine of daily living.  Hoping for an escape from boredom, we pursue relief, even partying as a refuge.

Maybe it’s hobbies or parties – drinking, maybe it’s drugs.  Maybe relationships.  But in all the human pursuits of this earth, eternity knocks on the door of all of our hearts and the longing for something more is not quenched by a momentary celebration or diversion. No, we need something – someOne more.

When I read the verses above, I can’t help but smile.  God is not a spoil sport.  He designed everything for our enjoyment and eternity with Him is going to be filled with joy and delight in His perfect presence.  Parties on this earth pale vastly in comparison to what God has in store for those who love Him!

Those promises the world offers?  Counterfeits.  We can let them go and find real, lasting answers in God alone.  He alone satisfies our soul’s deepest need and desire.

No more death, no  more sorrow.  No tears seen there.  Only perfect peace and joy, enveloped in His love.  Think on that this weekend.  You are loved with an everlasting love.  Right now we can seek Him and know Him and be filled with His Holy Spirit to overflowing.

Lord, thank You that we can know You and enjoy You now.  Thank You for the gifts you lavish on us each moment – Your peace, Your unconditional love, Your Joy and faith in troubled times.  Help us to find our joy in You and to spread it to all the world.

Thoughtful Thursday: The Pity-less Party

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We are more blessed than we deserve.

Scriptures:

Job 9:1-4 (ESV)

“Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God?  If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times.  He is wise in heart and mighty in strength —who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?”

Proverbs 19:3 (NIV)

“A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD.”

Life is an amazing gift from God. Yet many people never really live the abundant life that Christ meant for us to have.  What keeps us from a full life?  Ourselves.

Life can be exhilarating and a bummer sometimes, if we are honest.  The roller coaster ride of flat tires at inconvenient times, an award for a job well done, terminal illnesses, healing, reckless accidents, miraculous protection, unemployment, a new job, unfaithfulness, loyalty, rebelliousness, obedience . . . and the list goes on and on . . . can be no fun at all for us less adventurous types.

To think that life would be great if we never experienced pain is flawed, however; for the pain is a vivid reminder of how blessed we were to have had moments without suffering in the first place.  When we made a mess of things all by ourselves, the consequences for our sin point us to our need for our Savior, which leads ultimately to that perfect, abundant, eternal life.

So how do we wreck abundant life in Christ if we did not cause our own demise?  Our response.  How we accept, deny, respond in anger or blame others or God – sets the course for whether or not we will walk in the joy that Christ has for those Who are His.

I get it, believe me, I do.  When other people’s sins cause immense pain and horrible consequences.  I have been there, done that, and still feel the effects.  There have been moments of horror, anguish, PTSD, shock, disbelief in my life – but at the end of the day the LORD would bring me to a singular truth that I could not argue with – I am doing better than I deserve.

Every time I try to argue with myself about that truth, when I somehow feel I have been unjustly treated (and it might be the case), I finally relent and realize it is folly to even attempt to play the self pity card when the truly Perfect One didn’t.  He did not deserve to suffer for my sin or anyone else’s, but He WANTED to.  This was not because he enjoyed suffering – no, He cried tears of blood in anxiety over His choice, but He chose it nonetheless, because comfort was not His God and the salvation of our souls was His mission which He did not falter from.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are tremendous burdens that seem completely unbearable, that make us lean into God hard.  When we see others hurting, we have an opportunity to be the hands and feet of God – not just to dismiss their suffering.  But in that comfort, it is in vain if we do not point them to the Healer Who is able to help us handle every let down.  But perhaps our expectations, when placed in reality, help us to take notice and be grateful when things go well.  Why is it that I did not get sick?  Why is it that I can see this amazing gift from God at all?  What an amazing grace is ours.  Such understanding this is that we can turn away from our behaviors that hurt the heart of God and thank Him instead.

Lord, forgive us when we get mad or disappointed when things don’t go our way.  Your ways really are the best.  Give us eyes to see and ears to hear.

Funny Friday: Faith Sometimes Looks Silly

Radical faith

Isaiah 20:2

“At that time the LORD announced through Isaiah son of Amoz: “Go, remove the sackcloth from your waist and take your sandals off your feet.” He did as instructed and walked around in undergarments and barefoot. 3 Later the LORD explained, “In the same way that my servant Isaiah has walked around in undergarments and barefoot for the past three years, as an object lesson and omen pertaining to Egypt and Cush, 4 so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, both young and old. They will be in undergarments and barefoot, with the buttocks exposed; the Egyptians will be publicly humiliated.”

I don’t know about you, but walking around barefoot in underwear has not typically been what comes to mind when I think about what it means to be a prophet of the LORD.

But God goes through great lengths

to reach His people

and He often calls His followers to do the same.

But why?

Sometimes God calls us to do strange things or allows us to go through difficult times so we will have a passion and an understanding to live fully for Him and to communicate His heart and message to His people.

Noah had to build a boat amidst mockers in a dry land. Joshua had to march around a city and blow a trumpet.  Abraham was told to sacrifice his one heir, his precious son.  Moses was told to go back and demand from the king of the greatest land that their slaves be let go. Jeremiah bought a linen belt God told him to buy, hid it in a crevice then dug it up when it was ruined.   A prophet named Agabus came down from Judea and took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands to prophesy about what Paul would suffer. 

Sometimes we need object lessons to be warned or to wake us up to walk uprightly before God.  While it might seem futile for Jeremiah to bury a belt, the ruined article of clothing demonstrated how the people of God would be ruined if they did not repent and seek God.

While building a boat with no water or rain in sight was possibly embarrassing, it meant the salvation of Noah’s family and ultimately the continuation of the existence of mankind and all of the creatures God created.

Sometimes man can also come up with crazy radical ideologies that have nothing to do with God, but they claim it does, anyway.  The fruit of our behavior identifies where the calling originated from.  Does it bring life or death?

The words of the famous missionary, Jim Elliot, which were echoed by Twila Paris many years later, have been precious to me since I first came to know the LORD in 1988.  “He is no fool if he should choose to give the thing he cannot keep to gain what he can never lose. To see a treasure in one soul that far outshines the brightest gold; he is no fool.”

If God calls us to do something that is not popular or seems foolish to man, perhaps that makes it all the more reason to do it.  To live for Jesus, really live – is to seek to do His will in everything we do.  Sometimes it just won’t make sense.  But that’s ok.  He who chose to come and be born as a baby; King, Creator over all, humbling Himself to be at our level, conquered every heart with the most radical action of all.

Lord, help us to trust You when things don’t make sense.  Every trial we go through has a purpose – we can comfort others when we come out on the other side and bring You glory. May we be sensitive to Your calling and never doubt Your goodness.  Love You, Lord!

Worshipful Wednesday:Favored Favor

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The favor of God is our greatest reward.

Scripture:

Psalm 4:2-3

“You men, how long will you try to turn my honor into shame? How long will you love what is worthless and search for what is deceptive? (Selah) 3 Realize that the LORD shows the godly special favor; the LORD responds when I cry out to him.”

Psalm 5:12

“Certainly you reward the godly, LORD. Like a shield you protect them in your good favor.”

The thrill of receiving a gift is a surge of elation, a cherished favor; but sadly, it does not last.  Nope, the hard-earned new car or house, the pretty new outfit or exciting new relationship eventually become old.  The pursuit of the next new thing is futile, as the endless cycle of newness wearing off leaves us disillusioned, wanting for more.

The irony is that the things we often desire are not worth our time at all.  No one would choose a lump of coal for their stocking over a priceless, cherished gift, yet we daily are duped into pursuing things of lesser value compared to the riches God has in store for His children.

We might not at first recognize that we are esteeming worthless things, but that is often because we are deceived.  Blinded by the desires of our flesh, we long for things that temporarily satisfy us while God has riches beyond our greatest imagination.

Often we fall short of receiving God’s best because we are impatient or do not trust in what we cannot readily see.  Like the rich man who yearned for the comfort that Lazarus had after the sorrows on this earth, we have a choice right now to put our trust in the future hope that God has for us and not look only for rewards that this world offers.

To love what is worthless when the King of kings offers Himself, instead, is perhaps the saddest deception of all.  He longs to have us look up and worship the only One of worth, Himself, and to bless us, but we choose things that do not last and ultimately our own destruction apart from the grace of God.

What is this favor He longs to give?  We have an audience with the Almighty Creator.  Not just an audience, but One Who hears us and acts on our behalf.  He is our Shield, our Protector, the Lover of our souls.  His favor is eternal salvation for those who recognize and receive the gift.  The highest favor, indeed.

Lord, help us to invest our lives in what matters – pursuing You.  May we not waste the precious gift of life on worthless endeavors, but pursue knowing You above all things.

Thoughtful Thursday: Raising Abel

Train up a child

Photo Credits: kidsministryresources.com

Ecclesiastes 11:9 

“Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes, but know that God will judge your motives and actions.”

Ecclesiastes 12:1

“So remember your Creator in the days of your youth–before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.”

A mantra spoken often in our culture is that teens think they know it all. And while there is surely a grain of truth in this statement, a step back reveals that it is a blossoming seed coming to fruition of the investment of earlier days.

It is sheer delight seeing the wonder in a child learning something new about the world around us.  Watching that wonder grow over time into fascination and a depth of wisdom and knowledge is even more amazing to see.  Such is the privilege of being a parent.

The quest I have held closely to in 21 years of parenting is an earnest desire to nurture a love of wisdom, fear of the LORD and a sincere love of the LORD in each of my children’s hearts.  Words cannot convey how wonderful it is to see them seeking after God and seeking to walk in His ways in a troubled generation.

The world around us insists that teens have to indulge in the flesh, sass their parents, live for self and rebel.  That is not what Scripture says.

Subcultures within Christianity can also have fads and recommendations of what convictions we should hold to in order to have godly children. While there is wise counsel often given by various authors and ministries, it becomes religiosity if we hold to methods and an external approach more than an internal commitment focusing on character.

We did not have television or electronics for most of my children’s childhood.  Then we did.  We learned lessons and how to grapple with this world around us and seek to impact the world rather than just avoid it.  We also utilize social media with age limits, are accountable and seek to use it for the glory of God.

I hesitate to share the parameters we set because everyone’s personal convictions vary widely and each one needs to honor God with the boundaries they have for their household.  Creating a center of wisdom through the provision of devotionals, worship music and a Christian education helped lay a foundation of providing a biblical lens in all that my children face.

Paramount above all is the voice within reminding us that “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD”.  We go through seasons in which we recognize the world creeping in and have to take actions to “clean house”, but such revelations are a gift from God and part of walking in relationship with Him.  More than rules is an understanding why we have such boundaries.

Giving space little by little for children to make their own successes and failures is frightening, but also a tool for them to learn from.  Encouraging them to pray for wisdom themselves will be their key to a faithful walk with God if they dare to ask.

Trying to find a magic bullet or set of rules will not produce the youth God is looking for, but fostering, living it our ourselves and creating an environment which encourages a love for God’s word and provokes living an honest life before our Maker is fundamental.

Instead of buying into the propaganda which makes excuses for folly in youth and wastes the days of youth, we can spur the next generation onto greatness.  There is a joy that comes from being accountable and living life through a biblical lens that no frivolous childhood could ever compare to.

Dispensing away with lies that say being godly is not fun and debunking the fear that says we cannot be in the world yet not of it, we can raise our children to have freedom within boundaries, genuine “wise guys”, guided by wisdom and the fear of the LORD.

Lord, it is a humbling, overwhelming task to raise children for You and for Your glory.  Please enable us to live a radical life for You that is infectious and attractive so the future generation will see the joy of the LORD in our faces, which far surpasses worldly pleasures.

A Season of Thankfulness: Day 13 – Our Comforter

Photo Credits: quotesgram.com

Photo Credits: quotesgram.com

Psalms 31:13a

“For I hear what so many are saying, the terrifying news that comes from every direction.”

Psalm 147:3

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Psalm 30:5

“For his anger lasts only a brief moment, and his good favor restores one’s life. One may experience sorrow during the night, but joy arrives in the morning.”

On days like this when news of terror is filling the airwaves and in moments of fear, uncertainty and heartbreak, we who are in Christ have this hope: our living God is our faithful Comforter.

The rain falls on the good and the bad; all will see troubles on this earth, but it is often at the worst moments when we are closest to God.  The accusations and attack of the enemy encircle us, trying to defeat us, but if we will press in and seek God, we crucify the flesh and find ourselves at a higher place with Jesus.

Like Job, who had counselors who knew all of the religiously correct phrases, we, too, will need to go past the surface of psychology, positive thinking or religiosity offered by the world around us to arrive in Jesus’ arms and the sweetest comfort known.

True comfort does not mean having our own way.  It is a place of rest, trusting in our sovereign Father and peace in His promise to take our greatest sorrows and turn them into a place of healing, instead.  It is weeping in His presence and laying our burden at His feet, knowing that He counts every tear and that everything matters to Him.

Perhaps the greatest comfort is that Jesus chose to walk among us not just so we could understand and know Him, but so He could identify with our suffering and we could have confidence to come to Him who patiently endured the most severe suffering for us.

Lord, please ease the pain of those in shock and horror now and draw them to You – the only sure source of comfort at all times.  You are our refuge, our Healer, our living Hope.  May you be the One we run to above and instead of all else.