Who’s Listening—to You?

Who's Listening--To You?

“Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.” 1 Kings 4:34 NIV

Wisdom. When we hear the word, we think of Solomon, even today.

As ruler of Israel, he’d earned a voice in world affairs. God’s gift of wisdom elevated him to a higher platform as ambassadors flocked to see him in action.

Platform. A voice in the public square. Some, like Solomon, have a global platform; others speak to a smaller audience. But a small audience listens just as attentively as a large one and the impact loses nothing for the individual who leaves changed.

God appears to precious few of us asking what gift we desire. So, how do we identify our giftings?

In Plain Sight: People saw wisdom in Solomon. What do people see in you? Computer skills? The best pie on the block? A compassionate heart?

Word of Mouth: People know a good thing when they see it and they love to share. What are you the go-to person for?

Listen Up: We respect those with knowledge or experience we lack. We come expectantly like the ambassadors came to Solomon. Who comes to you ready to listen?

When God gifts someone, others will be drawn to him.

Not that Solomon hit every ambassador with a presentation of the gospel and an altar call, but the king could share his story. And so can we. As you train this week:

  • Identify your gifting(s).
  • Examine the platform God’s given you.
  • Speak to those who have come to listen.
  • Don’t forget the Gift-Giver.

Nail your spiritual workouts this week and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: Who’s Listening—to You?

Memory Verse: “Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.” 1 Kings 4:34 NIV

Meditation Passage: 1 Corinthians 12: 27-31

Just Do It: Practice your giftings.

 

God’s Servant, God’s Splendor

God's Servant, God's Splendor

“ ‘Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,’ declares the LORD God.” (Ezekiel 16:14 NASB)

I believe God calls. Specifically.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

It sounds humble to say, “No, not me. I could never do ________.”

And we’ve heard the clichés. God equips the called. Blah, blah, blah.

Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, speaks to the artist:

If the work comes to the artist and says, “Here I am, serve me,” then the job of the artist, great or small, is to serve. The amount of the artist’s talent is not what it’s about. . . . Over the years I have come to recognize that the work often knows more than I do . . . The great artists . . . collaborate with the work, but for most of us, it is our great privilege to be its servant. When the artist is truly the servant of the work, the work is better than the artist.” (Walking on Water, p. 13-14)

I believe this is true not only for the arts, but also for any work to which we may be called. I think we must consider three things:

Are we willing to serve? When God called me to write professionally, I had no idea what that meant or where God was going with it. (Still don’t know this one.)

But the calling was clear. I am accountable to the One who called and “No” was never an option.

The more mundane callings of helpmate and mother were less clear to me and my inability to see those as callings greatly affected my attitude and the quality of my work.

Are we willing to work? We don’t step into God’s calling like working the concession stand at the middle school football game.

It requires training, commitment, and practice.

It requires work.

But it’s work He has prepared for you to do.

Are we willing to give God credit? In Ezekiel, God declares Israel’s beauty came from His splendor, which God chose to share. As God bestowed His splendor on Israel, He perfected her beauty.

As an artist, I’ve seen God seize a piece and elevate its writing beyond my level of craft. It left me humbled and awestruck. My hands trembled knowing holiness had touched that piece.

It happens outside the fine arts too. In the workplace. In the home. In the classroom. Will we give God credit when He chooses to work through us or will we claim it and rob Him of His glory?

God calls. Sometimes clearly and specifically. Sometimes through circumstance. Yet always He stands ready to lift the work from an ordinary, earthly level to an extraordinary, heavenly one.

Do you recognize the calling?

Can you appreciate the call to the mundane as well as the skill-specific calling?

Are you willing?

Are you ready to work?

When His fingerprints coat the finished product, will you give Him the glory?

Don’t miss out. Answer the call.

Workout of the Week: God’s Servant, God’s Splendor

Memory Verse: Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Meditation Passage: “ ‘Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,’ declares the LORD God.” (Ezekiel 16:14 NASB)

Just Do It: Answer the call.

Worst-Case Scenario

Worst-Case Scenario

Can you trust God with your worst-case scenario?

Job experienced worst-case scenario and then some. The book of Job recorded Job’s cry for God. Though the reader understands the whys and sees Satan behind the tragedy, Job lived in the dark.

He wanted answers.

He wanted to be heard.

He wanted some sense behind his worst-case senselessness.

  1. Why? Why? Why? Chapter 23 presents Job’s questioning like a court case. But Job never received the answer to his why. And we may not either. Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith chapter, says this, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40 NIV) Is your trust in God’s sovereignty enough to carry you through when there are no answers?
  2. Hear me! Hear me! Several times, Job pleads for an advocate, a go-between to represent him before God (Job 9:32-35; 16:19-21; 19:23-27). Job respects God’s sovereignty so much that he knows he cannot stand before God alone (Job 9:32-37). Christ, our mediator, paved the way for New Testament verses like, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:5-6)
  3. Help me wrap my head around it! Most of us can endure a great deal if we see some purpose at hand. While God never answers Job why, He does answer. In Job 38-41, God revealed Himself as Creator. Not LORD of hosts. Not Father. Not the Holy One. Simply Creator. And Job is overwhelmed as the magnitude of that task alone becomes apparent. Job responded:

I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)

Paul encourages us with Romans 8:28, assuring us God has a purpose and He wastes nothing.

So, can we trust God with our worst-case scenario? I have with one child already. Another currently serves an overseas military deployment. God is big enough for our questions, our grief, our anger, whatever we have to throw at Him.

Workout of the Week: Worst-Case Scenario

Memory Verse: Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Meditation Passage: Job 42:1-6

Just Do It: Trust the Who.

 

How to Run Your Best Race

How to Run Your Best Race

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1 NIV

Thanksgiving will be here soon and our family will toe the line at the neighborhood Turkey Trot 5K. I love the race analogy in Hebrews 12. The author of Hebrews must have been a runner, because he nailed several key items for peak performance. Let’s train with him today.

Extras: Sweats prepare cold muscles to run, but you don’t want to wear them for the race. Like training wheels on a bike, they help at first, but to really go, you have to take them off. What has prepared you that needs to go now?

  • Perhaps you’re a devotional fan, but reading Scripture alone seems too intimidating. Choose a short book and dive in. Allow the Holy Spirit to teach you.
  • How about personal worship? Great at church but have you ever tried it at home? Just you and God? Shed your self-consciousness.
  • And what about prayer? Are you an arrow pray-er, shooting prayers heavenward when needed? How about a prayer journal or an app like iPray? Like trading cotton socks for CoolMax, a larger investment gives greater returns.

Loose Ends: When I run, an untied shoestring claims my instant attention. Even double-tied, sometimes they come loose. Likewise, details of our character, left unchecked, can trip us. No one wants to face plant during a race because of an flapping shoestring. What area of your character needs some attention to detail? Worldliness? Flesh issues? Warfare? Identify the problem and eliminate any loose ends.

Run Your Course: Your race. My race. They share similarities, but we’ll run two different courses. Even my husband’s daily course differs from mine. He spends his day surrounded by people, engaged in conversation, and moving from one place to the next. I spend mine in solitude. Butt in chair. Me, the computer, and the dog. And it works—by God’s design. I have more time for intercession. He has the opportunity to speak into lives on a personal level. Two very different courses. Two very different levels of impact. One goal: to be like Jesus.

Aim for peak performance. Shed the warm-up gear. Tie up loose ends. Stick to your course.

Now, run.

Nail your spiritual workouts this week and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: How to Run Your Best Race

Memory Verse: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1 NIV

Meditation Passage: Hebrews 12

Just Do It: Shed, tie up, and stick to your course.

For those interested in preparing for your own Turkey Trot, check out the Couch to 5K program.

Spiritual Growth Spurts

Spiritual Growth Spurts

The people at Chewy must hate me. I keep changing the shipping date for the dog food. Our puppy is growing. Rapidly. He eats more than double what our aging Lab does and has caught up to him in weight.

He’s six months old.

Growth requires fuel, even spiritual growth. Valor gets his fuel from Chewy. Where do you get yours? What should you eat?

God’s Word: Jesus points to spiritual food during His temptation, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 NIV) No shortage of flavor choices here! Milk (Ten Commandments) or meat (Romans)? Savory (the historical books) or sweet (Psalms)? Is your spirit craving wisdom? Try Proverbs. God’s Word will fuel every need your spirit encounters.

God’s Will: In John’s record of the woman at the well, Jesus gives another food source, “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) God states His will plainly for many things. Love one another. Don’t lie. Pray. His specific will requires time and a willingness to wait for direction: Lord, what do I do about _________? Yet Jesus said that the doing of His Father’s will nourished His spirit like food fuels the body.

God Himself: Jesus offers Himself, I am the bread of life.” (John 6:48) The Bread of Life passage is found in John 6, which includes the feeding of the five thousand. Coincidence? Nah. The gist of John 6 is this: Feed on Me. Or: relationship, relationship, relationship.

Are you having a growth spurt or do you feel stunted?

Are you snacking on devotionals, podcasts, and weekly sermons or eating well-balanced meals of relationship, Scripture, and obedience?

Nail your spiritual workouts this week and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week:  Spiritual Growth Spurts

Memory Verse: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 NIV)

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)

Meditation Passage: John 6

Just Do It: Fuel the growth.

Unraveled

Unraveled

What happens when the tie that binds comes untied? While God knit David and Jonathan together in 1 Samuel 18, in that same chapter, Saul unraveled. Perfect stitches pulled by an unseen hand. In 1 Samuel 15, God removed His Spirit due to Saul’s repeated disobedience. If the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the absence of the Spirit in Saul produced:

  • Anger and jealousy: “Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. ‘They have credited David with tens of thousands,’ he thought, ‘but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?’ And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.” (1 Samuel 18:8-9 NIV) Have you been here? The tapes won’t stop playing. Anger, jealousy, and envy ooze from every pore.
  • Murder and madness: “The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying (The NASB says raving.) in his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, ‘I’ll pin David to the wall.’ But David eluded him twice.” (1 Samuel 18:10-11) Have you created your own tape? Crafted the perfect comeback—or worse, revenge?
  • Fear: “Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had left Saul . . . When Saul saw how successful he [David] was, he was afraid of him.” (1 Samuel 18:12, 15) Fear grips relentlessly, choking, paralyzing, numbing you to reason.

Take a look at the threads of Galatians 5:19-21, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Do you see Saul in the tangled mess?

But I believe something besides the flesh was at work. Demonic fingers pulling the yarn? Jesus through Luke gives a hint of what may have occurred, “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26) I don’t believe Saul was oppressed before the kingship, but Scripture speaks clearly of demons and their impact on the rejected king.

God promises never to remove His Spirit (John 14:15-17), yet we often turn from Him. And when we do, we open ourselves to the influence of the enemy, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Stay tight with the Spirit and you won’t unravel.

Workout of the Week: Unraveled

Memory Verse:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22

Meditation Passage: 1 Samuel 18

Just Do It: Stay tight with the Spirit and you won’t unravel.

Knit Together

Knit Together

“Now it came about when he [David] had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.” (1 Samuel 18:1 NASB)

Knit together. I love Samuel’s imagery. One soul knit to another’s in friendship.

Knitting is no easy task, you know. I tried a knitting class one summer. My classmates could have been contemporaries of my grandmother and, at minimum, had experience with crochet.

Me? I could cross stitch.

The gray hairs clicked away, chatting as their length of knitting grew and grew. I counted stitches, cursing under my breath, until I finally eeked out a recognizable row of ribbing. I think I was sweating.

How much more difficult is it for two hearts to be knit together?

Different fibers.

Different colors.

Different textures.

Let’s train in craft class with David and Jonathan. Look at their different skeins.

1. Socio-economic: Prince and pauper. Sovereign and shepherd. Top of the ladder and bottom rung.

2. Family ties: The tribe of Benjamin and the tribe of Judah. Could there be any remaining hostility over the Joseph thing? (Genesis 37:26-28)

3. Callings: Supportive follower and anointed leader.

Knit.

Together.

But don’t think threads never frayed or stitches weren’t dropped. Jonathan took a lot of heat from his father for his friendship with David (1 Samuel 20:30-34). And there were times David thought Jonathan completely clueless about Saul’s intentions (1 Samuel 20:1-3).

Yet, these two made three different covenants pledging themselves to each other and to their families (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 20:13-17; 23:16-18). After Jonathan’s death, David intentionally sought out Jonathan’s son to show him kindness because of their friendship (2 Samuel 9).

So, has God tried to tie you to an unlikely piece of yarn? Have you fought the knitting needles?

You could be missing one of God’s better blessings.

Nail your workouts this week and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: Knit Together

Memory Verse: “Now it came about when he [David] had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.” (1 Samuel 18:1 NASB)

Meditation Passage: 1 Samuel 23:15-18

Just Do It: Don’t tangle God’s work.

Gracious! I Didn’t Realize!

Gracious! I Didn't Realize!

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NIV)

A blind eye? Or grace?

Life would be easier—spiritually speaking—if God disciplined me every time I sinned. My growth curve would be sharper. I would learn more quickly and suffer from far fewer repeated sins.

Instead, my relationship with sin falls into three categories. Sometimes I’m unaware of a blind spot, something God hasn’t chosen to expose just yet. Other times, a sin hovers in the back of my mind, playing hide and seek until I’m ready to deal with it. A third scenario finds me fully aware of the issue and in full battle mode against it.

Let’s train in Romans today. Read Romans 2:4 again.

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NIV)

Contempt: Do I take advantage of God’s grace? Do I use it as a license for my own poor choices? Or those sin areas where I’m still sitting the fence? If so, Paul says I’m treating God with contempt.

Not a place I want to go.

Kindness, Tolerance, and Patience: Do you remember the days of fussy toddlers when they demonstrated anything but acceptable behavior? Frustrated though we might have been, we chose not to discipline but to show grace, especially if we knew hunger or a missed nap was driving that behavior. Likewise, God shows grace to me. Why? To lead me to repentance.

Realize and Repent: God has struck people dead for lesser sins than mine. When I realize the magnitude of His grace, I’m grateful. Gratitude for His grace leads me to repentance.

The NIV cross-references Romans 2:4 with 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Both refer to salvation, though I think Paul’s verse could be applied to our daily walk.

Both sit in passages speaking of God’s final judgment.

God sees all. He chooses to give kindness, tolerance, and patience in hopes of leading me to repentance. From death to life. From lost to found. From darkness to light.

When I get a glimpse of His grace, I’m humbled. The 180 comes more easily when I’m grateful.

What kindness has God demonstrated in the face of your sin?

What has He tolerated?

How long have you kept Him waiting?

Nail your spiritual workouts this week and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: Gracious! I Didn’t Realize!

Memory Verse: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NIV)

Meditation Passage: Romans 2:1-11

Just Do It: Realize and repent.

Extreme Thirst

Extreme Thirst

Camels have extreme thirst. They can drink 30-40 gallons at a time.

I think my puppy is part camel.

When he drinks, he flops down, wraps his paws around the bowl, and plunges his head in the water dish.

Sometimes he goes to the Texas-sized water bowl (the pool) for a drink. He’ll jump in—slurping all the while.

That’s some kind of thirsty.

When’s the last time you were that thirsty?

Thirsty for God?

Plunge-your-head-in-the-water-bowl thirsty for Him?

Three things contribute to my puppy’s thirst:

Food: His puppy chow makes him thirsty. What kind of spiritual chow are you feeding on? Because an absence from spiritual things—be it church attendance, Bible reading, or prayer—does NOT make the heart grow fonder. It creates callouses. We become hardened toward God and are less likely to feel hunger and thirst.

Exercise: We exercise Valor. A lot. He turns into Psycho Dog if we don’t. Exercise creates thirst. As we exercise our faith—in our thoughts, words, and actions—our thirst for God increases. It takes effort to submit all things to His authority in obedience.

Heat: August in Texas scorches. Just walking to the mailbox makes me sweat and sends Valor into the pool. But life burns too. A steady smolder that singes your spirit and shrivels your soul. Stress, challenges, just keeping the many balls we juggle in the air—these can drive our need for God. Substitutes won’t do. Only His peace is beyond understanding.

If not, train with Valor.

If so, Jesus says, “Come.”

The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” Revelation 22:17 (NIV)

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;” Isaiah 55:1

Nail your spiritual workouts and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: Extreme Thirst

Memory Verse: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1

Meditation Passage: Psalm 63

Just Do It: Only God can quench extreme thirst.

Grace, Faith, and Works

Grace, Faith, and Works

Grace, faith, and works.

Incompatible? Or irretrievably interwoven?

While grace and faith pair well, works have been the odd man out when it comes to salvation. Yet your concordance will show extensive lists of verses for all three. Have you considered their relationship? Let’s focus on just a few verses that show the tension created by this trio:

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV): “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Grace, faith, and works. Side by side by side.

God gives us grace. He enables us to respond in faith. He prepares good works in advance for us to do.

Simple, right? Thanks, Paul.

But then James and Jesus Himself chime in.

James 2:14, 17 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” and “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Can dead faith save? Sometimes. (Ex. Thief on the cross)

Matthew 7:21-24: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Works without relationship looks dead too. (Ex. Pharisees)

One more just for fun. (This one helps.)

1 Cor. 3:10-15: “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”

God’s gift of grace enables our faith.

Show the grace you’ve experienced.

Demonstrate your faith response that followed that grace.

Let your living faith lead you to look for the opportunities God has already prepared.

Nail your spiritual workouts this week and change your corner of the gym.

Workout for the Week: Grace, Faith, and Works

Memory Verse: Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Meditation Passage: James 2:14-26

Just Do It: Work out your salvation.