Reinforce the Good

“I killed a lion & a bear, so this uncircumcised Philistine will be like them!” These were the words David to answer Saul’s uncertainty about David killing Goliath. While I appreciate that it’s very dangerous to live in a state of denial, it’s also essential to keep our focus on faith & not fear or doubt. We absolutely have challenges & struggles that have varying degrees of intensity & stress.

Let’s be careful, however, that we continue to reinforce the good things so we don’t get overwhelmed by giants, problems & pressure.
Here are some ideas that could help to reinforce the good:

  • Keep some encouraging Bible verses handy to review
  • Pay attention to negative stuff that could be tainting your thoughts (tv, social media, music, etc)
  • Encourage your friends & let them encourage you
  • Pray instead of complain

Feel free to share this with your friends / family!

Love on Valentines Day

This picture is the word “love” in 9 different languages. It took me awhile to practice the one in Mandarin & I think I kind of botched the Arabic one. But the idea remains the same regardless of the script or language.
Valentines Day is often attributed to expressing romantic love, but genuine love is WAY MORE than romance. Genuine love is grounded in the reality that God is love & nothing we do or don’t do will change Who God is, full stop. God will never stop loving you because God will never stop existing.
So let’s not only celebrate that God loves us, but let’s allow that opulent & lavish love God gives us to overflow through us today!

Porcupine Suit

Have you have a few hours, days, weeks, etc when you would like to rent a porcupine suit? These are the times when you feel particularly bristly & not very friendly. As a follower of Jesus, it seems to me that I shouldn’t be like this. But alas, I can be cranky & cantankerous. In these times, I’d like to rent a porcupine suit & I should probably hibernate from social interaction so I don’t stab anyone with my bristly demeanor.

In these times, I need to let the Holy Spirit soothe the needles & console the grumpy. I may have some very good reasons to be cranky, but I must never resist help from the Holy Spirit to be better than my feelings, full stop.

Changing Plans

I changed my plans for today at the last minute. I was going to go snowboarding, but decided that there are more pressing needs at home than my snowboarding interests.
In 1Samuel 13, Saul changed his plans as well. He & Samuel made a plan to make a sacrifice together but he got scared & offered the sacrifice without Samuel. This was a major downfall for Saul & Samuel explained shortly after Saul’s fearful decision, that God had sought out a different leader for Israel, a man after His heart (1San 13:14).
Saul changed the plan he had made with Samuel because he was afraid of his enemy, the Philistines, & saw the Israelite’ support of his leadership rapidly eroding.
While I’m a massive advocate of flexible planning, I’m growing to appreciate the importance of keeping God’s goals as unchanging piers to anchor my soul, regardless of my environs, feelings or selfish preferences.
God’s goals always related to genuine love & connecting humanity to God’s heart in deep intimacy. Let’s be sure that we keep God’s plans more central to our choices rather than our selfish interests, including my snowboarding plans ūüôā

Don’t Speak

I’ve tried a few times today to write this blog & found myself relatively speechless – an unusual experience for sure ,)
Obviously, something happened because I’m writing now. Actually, nothing happened, except that I remembered Job’s friends. Whenever I read this book, I’m not just a little disappointed or pt off with his buddies. Their words seem harsh, condemning & altogether insensitive. Indeed, the last verse of Job 2 seems to be the high point of their contribution to consoling Job. In this verse it says, “Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”
Sometimes the best thing we can do for a friend who is suffering is just to quietly be present with them. Sometimes our words can be unhelpful, particularly when we don’t know what to say. Sometimes, silence is golden ūüôā

Strength or Weakness?

In the past, I’ve taken lots of pride in being a highly independent person. ¬†As any wise person knows, pride goes before a fall, both literally & metaphorically. ¬†So when I’ve thought that being independent was a strength, I’m growing to appreciate that it can also be a weakness. ¬†I’m learning that independence becomes a weakness when I separate myself from people, when I don’t ask for help, when I don’t allow others to contribute in teamwork and improvements. ¬†Unfortunately, I’ve had to fall down, fail and face inadequacy to accept the reality that my independence isn’t a strength as much as it can be a weakness for me.

I’m being vulnerable with this lesson because there’s a good chance that you might have a few things that you consider to be strengths. ¬†It’s possible that these perceived strengths could be weaknesses for you, maybe. ¬†Consider some¬†examples:

  • Is external beauty a strength at the expense of cultivating interior beauty? ¬†Of course these don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but it’s a good question to consider in both ways of interior & exterior beauty.
  • Is dependence a strength when cultivating one’s internal fortitude is dismissed?
  • Is discipline a strength when it accentuates achievement at the expense of intimacy or people connection?
  • Is Bible knowledge or proper theology a strength without God’s love to soften our words, actions and attitudes?

Sometimes we can lean on our strengths so much that they can become weaknesses without realizing it! ¬†Let’s keep Paul’s words about boasting in weakness from 2 Corinthians 11:30 as a central theme in our daily living! ¬†“If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.”

Stay Focused

What you focus on is where you go. I learned this with great intensity when I took a lesson for downhill mountain bike riding. In a particularly harrowing part of the trail, our instructor kept yelling, “LOOK PAST THE CURVE!!!” A few of my classmates didn’t listen to the instructor & they hardcore crashed, flipping over the handlebars. What the instructor was yelling didn’t make sense to me, but I decided to do what he said, nonetheless. When I followed the instructions, my bike followed my focus.
Lots of times, it’s easy to focus on emergencies, crises, worries, etc. When we obsess with struggles & uncertainties, it’s easy to crash in the curve because our focus gets off of Jesus. Let’s be sure that we keep our focus & thoughts on Jesus, the author & perfectos of our faith – Hebrews 12:2!

Can Gory Be Glory?

In many ways, gory seems to be the antonym of glory and I don’t commonly associate these words together besides the rhyming sound they make. ¬†But there’s a¬†stark and¬†startling place where these words converge into one place and that would be Jesus when He was crucified.

If you saw the movie by Mel Gibson, “The Passion of the Christ”, it showed with disturbing clarity the gory nature of Jesus’ death on the cross. ¬†I’ll never forget how deeply moved I was to the core of my soul when I saw this movie the first time. ¬†As I watched, I found myself repeatedly thinking, “please stop, that’s enough!” ¬†And at the end of the movie, I was entirely unraveled because I couldn’t escape the reality that Jesus endured this excrutiating experience entirely on the pure motivation of genuine love, full stop.

Jesus was glorified in the gory mess of human suffering, sin and sacrifice. ¬†And this continues to give me the assurance that Jesus can redeem human gore and transform it into divine glory, a truth that we would be wise to ponder throughout this weekend ūüôā

Hot Topic: Successful Outcomes!!

” . . . . and the Lord brought about a great victory.” 2Samuel 23:12
I read this morning about some dude, Shammah, defending a field of lentils. Initially, a lentil field doesn’t sound like something to get really upset about, let alone turn into a major military engagement. But alas, Shammah picked the lentil field & that was his “line in the sand.” This verse also says that Shammah took his stand in the field, defended it & struck down the Philistines. After Shammah’s three actions, taking his stand, defending the field & striking the Philistines, God gave him a great victory.
It seems like we often want to know that God will give us a great victory before we make the commitment to a lentil field or put out the effort to fight for something.
Sometimes I think that God waits for us to be fully engaged & committed before giving us a great victory.
Might there be a few areas in your life to which you could increase your commitment so that God would provide a great victory? This is something worth considering today!

Same But Different

“You’re not going to North Korea are you?” I was driving my kids to school this morning & made a phone call to another ministry about some cool opportunities in North Korea. My kids immediately asked this question when I hung up & I assured them that I’m not going there this year. But it still sounds like an incredible opportunity to me!

Alas, not everyone thinks like I do & that’s altogether fantastic! Seems to me that God has uniquely created us for distinct purposes & designs. Some people are attracted to stable, predictable & familiar. Some folk have a little wanderlust in their souls. Some of us are pioneers & more than a little maverick-y. But each follower of Jesus has valid contributions to make to His kingdom!
Just because I’m different than you doesn’t make me superior or inferior any more than you are superior or inferior to me! Let’s remember that we are essential parts of one Body & we desperately need each other to fulfill our unique & divine purposes! I’m celebrating you today!!

Do You Have Enough?

Commercials on tv & the web make it seem like we never have enough. From these marketing efforts, it seems like we don’t have enough status, popularity, image, health, time, etc. I think we often believe these distortions, even subconsciously, or such marketers would try different tactics. But their sales efforts don’t really satisfy that “enough” chasm in our souls.

So what makes us full? What satisfies? What truly fulfills us?

I don’t think anyone or anything will ultimately satisfy us because of how we are created by God. Indeed, it’s been my experience that I’m the most fulfilled & richly satisfied when I’m attentive to the Holy Spirit. And being aware that the Holy Spirit is always with me let’s me live in a healthy equanimity that nothing human can provide. The Holy Spirit is enough for me.

Way Better!!

My husband & I use different routes for driving our kids to their various activities. Normally, I think my way is better: faster, less traffic, etc. Today, I see that I’m wrong. The route he uses is far superior to my way & I could’ve learned this much sooner had I not been so obstinate.

This seems to ring true between the Holy Spirit & me as well. How many times have I stayed glued to my methods & plans only to learn the hard way that the Holy Spirit always has better ways than me. Let’s live in the reality of Isaiah 55:8-9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,‚ÄĚ declares the Lord. 9 ‚ÄúFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.
God’s ways are always the upgrade!!

Mix It Up!

What are you planning for your vacation this year? Are you going to do the regular stuff: pools, driving, sunburns, etc? Why not try something new?
Here’s a cool idea: come with me to Cambodia & make a vacation that you’ll never FORGET! I’m taking a small group with Saving Moses to help with our nightcare work in Phnom Penh. The cool stuff you’ll get to do includes:

  • experiencing a new & incredible culture,
  • meet babies & toddlers who will steal you heart,
  • do some cleaning, painting & renovating with our centers,
  • meet Jesus in the faces of desperate people

Let’s make your vacation this year something fresh, unique & possibly life changing!!

Here’s how to get started: LETS GO!!

Space is really limited, so apply fast before we fill up!

When Control Is Good

“Control” is a loaded word. ¬†It can evoke a visceral reaction in various individuals, in negative or positive ways. ¬†And as Americans, we cherish our freedom sometimes to the point of demonizing any form of control. ¬†We don’t want people to infringe on our rights, we want to speak freely without consequences and we want to the freedom to make decisions often without the complementary¬†responsibilities.

If we are followers of Jesus, however, there’s an alarming verse that recently arrested my attention: 2Cor 5:14a, “For the love of Christ¬†controls us, . . . ” ¬†When I read this, I tried to find some wiggle room in the Greek for the word “control”. ¬†But alas, I had no luck. ¬†I’m supposed to be controlled by Jesus’ love.

So if we identify as a follower of Jesus, this means that His love:

  • influences my¬†conversations to make them edifying rather than snarky
  • priorities my resources to be less selfish & to consider others
  • applauds those random acts of kindness that run contrary to my fleshy instincts
  • filters my thoughts & emotions to remove unforgivness, judgment, condescension, etc

Let’s allow Jesus’ love to be the controlling & defining essential in our lives!

Turkish Get-Ups

This is a picture my friend took last week when I was showing her how to do a Turkish get-up in the local coffee shop. The purposes of this exercise is to improve ability, strengthen the shoulder & probably make a person look super silly. I say this because whenever I do them, I feel not just a little goofy.

Sometimes, our spiritual development can feel to our flesh like a Turkish get-up. Growing spiritually doesn’t always make our flesh feel comfortable & svelte. But growing spiritually helps us to go through life’s ups & downs with more agility & this also helps to strengthen our core self, grounding us in prayer & the Bible.

Don’t minimize the importance of doing the daily disciplines of prayer & Bible time that foster spiritual growth!

What Do You Repeat?

Do you have mindless habits? All of us have things that we do without giving much thought to them, such as brushing our teeth, driving home, morning routines, etc. It can be really helpful to have these kind of routines, but sometimes they’re counterproductive.

For example, in Luke 10, Martha & Mary had Jesus come to their house for dinner. Based on Martha’s behavior in other stories in the Gospels, it seems like she fell into the routine of cooking, serving & being busy with getting stuff done. All of these things aren’t inherently wicked, but if we allow our routines to sabotage our fellowship with Jesus, then they become more of a hindrance than a help.
Let’s always remember that Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 to seek His kingdom first & we’ll have what we need! Let’s be sure our routines reinforce our intimacy with Jesus rather than distract us in mindless disconnect ūüôā

Hot Topic: Inauguration Day

Our nation is extremely divided along many lines: ¬†economically, politically, socially, in morals and loads more. ¬†And tomorrow’s Inauguration is a reflection of these divisions. ¬†I’ve been thinking and praying about this for quite some time, asking God for perspective, wisdom and compassion. ¬†In my prayers, I was reminded of the bloody transition in 2 Samuel from the house of Saul to David. ¬†This transition took many years and was not just a little tulmutuous. ¬†Then I also remembered reading Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. ¬†I was¬†deeply moved by his words & would¬†strongly encourage you to read this

very powerful, insightful and sobering speech.

Let’s be sure to pray these points every day:

  • pray that our nation would experience an outpouring of genuine Jesus!
  • pray for our new President, based on 1 Timothy 2:2
  • pray for yourself to know Jesus’ love for you & to let that flow from you without flaws or distortions

Be sure to share this with your friends by email, FB, etc ūüôā

Does the Bible Know You?

I appreciate that this is a weird question & kind of a backwards idea to knowing the Bible. ¬†Nonetheless, I think it’s a really significant thought & definitely worth your consideration. ¬†I say this because I grew up with heaps & heaps of Bible content: ¬†my mom started memorizing Proverbs when I was around 8years old, I went to Sunday School every week, took Bible classes in high school, etc. ¬†I would say that I have a relatively firm grasp on the Bible.

But I don’t think that having a sturdy grasp on the Bible is as important as the Bible having a firm grasp on us. ¬†I say this because we can far too easily quote the Bible instead of live it, or let the Bible live through us.

I think about this in terms of Paul’s words in Colossians 3:16, about the Word of God living richly in us. ¬†If I’m going to let the Bible know me, then I need to give the Bible access to my thoughts, emotions, secrets, dark corners, painful memories, relationships, character, priorities, etc. ¬†When the Bible lives richly in me, when the Bible knows me, then I find that I grow & mature in being Jesus’ follower. ¬†Let’s not only know the Bible, but let’s allow the Bible to fully know us!

Rest On All Sides

Rest On All Sides

At the end of last week, I returned from a whirlwind trip to Bangladesh for Saving Moses. In our short time there, we accomplished loads of stuff because I think that a person should do everything to maximize their time. Upon returning home, I find myself more than a little spent. I feel puny, my sleep is messed up, my emotions are everywhere & I can’t seem to quiet my brain.
Thankfully, I was able to join our entirely glorious Sunday School class yesterday where we took a deep dive into 2Samuel 7 – a chapter about David wanting to build a temple for God. The first verse of the chapter says that David had “rest on every side.” One of the ladies in our class observed how wonderful this would be to have rest everywhere in our lives! In our discussion, we camped on this idea for awhile & it was amazing!! As I thought about this, I felt the Holy Spirit say to me that this rest was available to me not only on the outside, but on the inside as well – rest on every side.
So let’s allow the Holy Spirit to give us rest, maybe more than any place, on the inside with our emotions, thoughts, desires, etc

Fear or Unfamiliar?

Do things that you’re unfamiliar with make you scared? I don’t think this is an uncommon experience for most people. On the other side, I think that we should sometimes be scared of the familiar or at least uncomfortable. I say this for lots of reasons. Being familiar & comfortable can:

  • create an illusion of safety & stability
  • lull us into taking stuff for granted
  • tempt us to rely on our own wisdom rather than trusting God

Let’s be careful that staying familiar keeps us from following God, growing & looking forward!