When Idols Multiply

When Idols Multiply

It began with one.

One croak. One ribbit. One slimy green frog.

And then there were too.

Too many.

Way too many.

Frogs in the pantry.

Frogs in the bathroom.

Frogs in the bed.

Pharaoh summoned Moses, ready to compromise with the God of the Hebrews in exchange for a little extermination work.

God exterminated them all right. Check out Exodus 8:13-14, “And the LORD did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them.”

Our idols are that way too. They look innocent enough. Shiny green skin. Great jumping ability. Cool elastic tongues. We turn our affection from God to chase them for a while.

And they’re cute at first.

Until they multiply and touch everything, everywhere.

Like Pharaoh, we have a choice. Live with them, or turn to God.

When God shows up, He removes all competitors.

And the idols reek as they lay in piles, dead and decaying.

So, here’s your training:

  1. What is taking your affection from God? Is it a pet sin? A bad habit? Work?
  2. How is it affecting you? What areas of your life is it invading?
  3. What does God’s Word say about it?
  4. If it multiplied, what would it look like?

Ask God to kill it and to show you the truth of that idol in all its reeking, decaying glory. Then, return to the One who is worthy of your attention, affection, and allegiance.

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

Workout of the Week: When Idols Multiply

Memory Verse: “And the LORD did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them.” Exodus 8:13-14

Meditation Passage: Exodus 8:1-15

Just Do It: Exterminate the frogs.

Tweetables:

It began with one. And then there were too. Too many. Way too many. Click to tweet.

Don’t Go Dark

Don't Go Dark

I was doing some memory work in Romans 1 when the phrase “suppress the truth” grabbed my attention. To suppress means to end, to stop something by force. Do you watch the news? This happens to God’s truth daily.

While some actively suppress the truth—not only the truth of God’s existence, but the existence of God’s truth—are we guilty too?

Because suppress has other shades of meaning: to keep secret, to not allow people to know about or see. Makes me think of my Navy SEAL son. When his team goes dark, they’re there all right, but normal communication is cut.

Do we Christians do the same? Do we suppress the truth by our silence? I know we like to rant and rave among ourselves about how bad the culture’s gotten, but how often have we had an opportunity to speak truth—and kept silent?

Paul tells us that God’s characteristics are so obvious that men are without excuse. You can’t look at the universe, the earth, or the human body, and not think Someone higher is behind it all.

Could it be we just need to point it out?

A gorgeous sunset.

A welcome rain.

The truth that kindness begets kindness.

That sacrificial love bridges gaps.

That God cares more about the person than their political affiliation.

Here are some training tips:

  1. Make sure your own eyes see clearly. Can you see God’s work or is your head buried in your iPhone? “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1)
  2. Point it out. A rainbow. A kind word. A truth. God’s goodness surrounds us. Most people don’t know where it comes from, so show them. Connect the dots. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)
  3. Speak. Lovingly. If the pointing out (#2) leads to further conversation, trust the Holy Spirit to give you the words. “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8)

While it’s okay for the SEALs to go dark, it’s not okay for us. We are to be salt and light. A city on a hill. So, shine. Spotlight God and His work. Point the way for those who have yet to connect Him with His truth, His creation, and His purpose for man.

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

Workout of the Week: Don’t Go Dark

Memory Verse: Esther 4:14 (NIV) “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Meditation Passage: Romans 1

Just Do It: Point it out.

Tweetables:

Do we suppress the truth by our silence? Click to tweet.

Temple Cleansing

Temple Cleansing

Sheep bleated. Doves fluttered. Tables slammed to the ground. People scattered before the man like the coins clinking and rolling across the courtyard.

Within minutes, the crowded market fell silent before the solitary figure.

“My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:13 NIV)

Jesus’ issue?

Holy ground had been taken over by commerce.

Whose commerce?

That of God’s chosen ones. The ones who were to lead the world to God by their faith.

Gulp.

Temple access was limited. Restricted. Only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies. Once. A year.

Priests served in the Holy place where the table of showbread and altar of incense rested.

Priests served at the sacrificial altar and basin. Levites and Israelite men also had access here.

Israelite women could go as far as the court of the women.

The outer court was open to everyone. Here, foreigners could pray to and learn about the God of Israel. Creator. Ruler of all. The great I AM.

Except they couldn’t.

The outer court had turned into a combination of stockyard, superstore, and bank. Any Israelite coming for worship could change his money for temple currency—for a small fee. He could buy supplies for offerings. There were even birds and animals for sacrifice. All conveniently located on the Temple grounds. Other merchants used the outer court as a shortcut from one part of the city to another.

No wonder Jesus was ticked.

Jesus accused the people of making the temple courts a den of thieves.

A hiding place.

A safe refuge for criminals. The context of the verse in Jeremiah is that, though Israel practiced idolatry, they clung to the temple. It was their lucky charm. Their four-leaf clover. Their rabbit’s foot. A safeguard against harm.

Today, our New Testament tells us we are the temple. The Holy of Holies. Where God’s Spirit lives.

And that’s true. (1 Cor. 3:16)

So, how does my temple shape up?

Am I keeping the holy places pure while the outer courts are full of, well, everything that goes with a stockyard?

Am I living any way I please and expecting my daily quiet time to protect me from the fallout of bad choices?

Let’s consult the Trainer:

  1. If I’m a temple of the Holy Spirit, in what condition are my outer courts?
  2. Have worldly things replaced godly ones?
  3. Is there blatant sin where there should be holiness? What’s been corrupted and how?
  4. Will I work with Jesus on the cleanup? I’d rather work with Him than have Him come in and ransack the place because I was too stubborn to yield.

This passage convicts me. I strive for consistency with God in the Holy places, but if I’m honest, what people see in the outer courts isn’t always pretty.

Jesus, let’s flip some tables.

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

Workout of the Week: Temple Cleansing

Memory Verse: ” ‘Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching!’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 7:11 (NIV)

Meditation Passage: Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46

Just Do It: Flip some tables.

Tweetables:

Jesus, let’s flip some tables. Click to tweet.

Fasting From Negativity

Fasting From Negativity

Lent began March 1st.

This year, I’m fasting negativity.

The idea came from Catherine Marshall, author of Christy. Richard Foster, in his book Spiritual Classics, relates this story from Marshall, “The Lord continues to deal with me about my critical spirit . . . One morning last week He gave me an assignment: for one day I was to go on a “fast” from criticism. I was not to criticize anybody about anything.”

Her insights from the day were humorous—and convicting.

So, I’m headed to the gym of self-control. I’m building muscles for positive outlooks, encouraging words, and silence. Here’s my training plan:

Accountability: My husband has been given the task of calling me on it when I stray.

Encouraging Words:

Proverbs 12:18 “the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath”

Proverbs 15:2 “The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge”

Proverbs 15:4 “The soothing tongue is a tree of life”

Proverbs 15:7a “The lips of the wise spread knowledge”

Proverbs 15:23 “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—
and how good is a timely word!”

Proverbs 16:24 “Gracious words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Positive Focus: Psalms 90-100

Living Sacrifice: Romans 12:1-2

Whether I’m fasting caffeine or criticism, I’m always stretched. Pray about what God would have you fast, and give it a try. What would He have you do in place of what you’re fasting?

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

Workout of the Week: Fasting from Negativity

Memory Verse: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesian 4:29

Meditation Passage: James 3:1-12

Just Do It: Speak life.

Richard Foster is one of the go-to guys for teaching on the spiritual disciplines (like fasting). Celebration of Discipline and Spiritual Classics are two of Foster’s best.

Tweetables:

I’m headed to the gym of self-control. Click to tweet.

Callused, Not Calloused

Callused, Not Calloused

Runners’ feet. They’re not pretty. I lost eight toenails after my first marathon.

I go in for the occasional pedicure.

But, I don’t let them touch my calluses.

Those hard spots of toughened skin protect my toes from the constant pounding of running. Without my calluses, I start over. Blood blisters and all.

Calluses form from friction. Some friction comes from good things like guitar playing, hard work, and prayer on your knees.

Callousness comes from the wrong things.

Scripture warns us to keep our hearts from being hardened. Toughened. Calloused.

Matthew 13:15 (NIV) quotes Isaiah when it says, “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”

A hardened heart affects the eyes and ears.

Here are some training tips to get your calluses in the right places while avoiding callousness:

Blood, Sweat, and Tears: The flesh and the emotions must be trained to serve the Spirit through the will. Both will fight with a fury because they want to follow deceptive desires.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:12

Friction: Expect it. Press in to the training. There will be some tenderness at first, but the right calluses will form. You are more than a conqueror.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Sensitivity Training: Cultivate sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Today’s memory verse warns us not to harden our hearts—in response to His voice. Do we tune God out the way we tune out our kids?

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Galatians 5:16

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30

Sensitive spirits. Tough skin.

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

Workout of the Week: Callused, Not Calloused

Memory Verse: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts . . .” Psalm 95:7-8 NIV

Meditation Passage: Hebrews 12: 1-11

Just Do It: Sensitive spirit, tough skin.

Tweetables:

A hardened heart affects the eyes and ears. Click to tweet.

The flesh and the emotions must be trained to serve the Spirit through the will. Click to tweet.

Friction forms calluses. Click to tweet.

Do we tune God out the way we tune out our kids? Click to tweet.

Sensitive spirits. Tough skin. Click to tweet.

Meditate—On A Story

Meditate--On A Story

Quiet thought. Focused reflection.

Are your nerves screaming already?

Be quiet? Sit still? Are you kidding?

Nope. Meditation stars as one of the spiritual disciplines for a reason, but I’m not talking about Eastern meditation where you empty your mind. Christian meditation requires focused concentration.

A filling, not an emptying.

So, how do we get there in our ever-present electronic, schedule-crammed twenty-first century life?

Try meditating on a story.

Take the story of Samson. Sex, violence, betrayal. Nothing boring here.

Read Judges 16, but let’s picture ourselves as Samson’s best buds. Let’s place ourselves in the story and ask God for our takeaway.

Though Samson’s story begins in Judges 13, we discover much about Samson in the first three verses of chapter sixteen.

  • He’s in enemy territory.
  • He’s chasing pagan women.
  • He’s cocky.

The action picks up in verse 4 as Delilah comes onto the scene. With her come intrigue and betrayal.

As Samson’s best friends, we’re going nuts. It’s obvious to everyone what’s going on—except Samson. Which begs the question, what are our blind spots? Are we ignoring warnings from those close to us? What do others see that we’re missing?

Samson crashes and burns in verses 15-22. He’s lost his anointing, and his love has betrayed him. How did he get here? How could we get here?

Verses 21-22 are key, because Samson’s physical condition now reflects the condition of his heart: blind, shackled, grinding grain like an animal.

But God hasn’t finished with Samson.

In verses 23-30, the scene shifts. God’s champion has been reduced to cheap entertainment at God’s expense. The air in Dagon’s temple must have been heavy with demonic oppression. Makes you wonder if Samson had the discernment to sense it.

Though Samson takes out the entire crowd, his thoughts are only for himself. He wants revenge for the loss of his eyes. Yet, truly, his loss of sight came from a lifestyle of independence from God and poor choices.

How’s that for meditation? Meditation doesn’t have to be a time of sitting still watching the clock tick. Nor is it a time of Bible study. Meditation is focused reflection before God. A soaking in the Word, in prayer, or in worship.

Here are your training tips:

Select one: a Bible story, prayer, or song.

Set the timer.

Soak in it. Keep a notebook handy. Ask God to speak. 

Sweat it out. Apply what you learned.

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

Workout for the Week: Meditation

Memory Verse: Pull a verse from the story for your meditation passage.

Meditation Passage: Choose any Bible story.

Just Do It: Meditate on a story.

Tweetables:

Meditation: A filling, not an emptying. Click to tweet.

Christian meditation requires focused concentration. Click to tweet.

Try meditating on a story. Click to tweet.

Place yourself in the story and ask God for the takeaway. Click to tweet.

Samson’s physical condition reflected the condition of his heart. Click to tweet.

Chosen

Chosen

 

Chosen

You are chosen.

Not like kids picking sides for kickball at recess.

Chosen by His good pleasure.

Like it or not, God is selective.

Ephesians 1:4-5 (NIV) tells us about our choosing, “For he [God] chose us in him [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his [God’s] sight. In love he [God] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”

Here are some training notes. Think of it as mental prep for the week:

Timeless: Your choosing was timeless. Before creation itself was called into being, He knew and chose you. If that doesn’t blow your socks off, check your pulse.

Different: You were chosen to be different. Holy. Blameless. All of God’s purity and holiness lives in you. Equipped with the Holy Spirit, you can master sin and live in continual fellowship with God.

Permanent: Your choosing was forever. Eternal on both ends. You’ve been adopted. You’re family. It’s for keeps.

Gracious: God chose you just because. Nothing you could do would make Him choose you or skip you. It’s His pleasure.

Praise His glorious grace.

Now, go nail your spiritual workouts and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: Chosen

Memory Verse: “For he [God] chose us in him [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his [God’s] sight.” Ephesians 1:4 NIV

Meditation Passage: Ephesians 1: 11-14

Just Do It: Before God made one drop of water, He chose you. Now, act like it.

Tweetables:

Like it or not, God is selective. Click to tweet.

Your choosing was timeless. Click to tweet.

You were chosen to be different. Click to tweet.

Your choosing was forever. Click to tweet.

God chose you just because. Click to tweet.

Walking on Water: When You Need to Reach

 

Walking on Water: When you Need to Reach

Workout of the Week: Walking on Water: When You Need to Reach

Memory Verse: “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” Matthew 14:31 NIV

Meditation Passage: Matthew 14:28-33

Just Do It: Reach For Him.

Overwhelmed.

Underwater without scuba gear.

Desperate for firm footing.

Have you been here?

I was changing blog hosts, and six years of blogs had just disappeared. I floundered in the waves of technological ignorance. Helpless as the tiny rainbow wheel spun. Hopeless as the error message appeared and reappeared.

I identified with Peter in Matthew 14:

            “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

            “Come,” he said.

            Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw     the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

            Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

            And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

I had gotten out of the boat.

I had stepped out in faith.

But the storm blew my hair in my eyes, waves soaked me, and the water rose.

While I love The Hand of God painting by Yungsong Kim, I don’t think Jesus waited that long before He grabbed Peter’s hand.

Scripture confirmed He wouldn’t wait that long for me either.

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” Matthew 14:31 NIV

Jesus’ question to Peter? “Why did you doubt?”

It’s my question too.

The same Lord masters calm water and violent waves.

And computers.

Would it have mattered if Peter had walked through fire instead of water? No. Neither does it matter what circumstance we face. He rules them all, and just because He permits the storm doesn’t mean He’s not reigning through every second of it.

Look at verse 33, “Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

Those in the boat.

The disciples who watched the storm and Peter who stepped into it.

Eleven dry.

One wet.

All worshipped.

Have you stepped out? Is the water rising?

The people in the boat are watching.

Will you trust Him? He’s there, and He won’t let you go under.

Oh, and once you’re back in the boat, don’t forget to worship.

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

Tweetables:

Jesus’ question to Peter? “Why did you doubt?” It’s my question too. Click to tweet.

The same Lord masters calm water and violent waves. And computers. Click to tweet.

Just because He permits the storm doesn’t mean He’s not reigning through every second of it. Click to tweet.

Those in the boat. Eleven dry. One wet. All worshipped. Click to tweet.

Have you stepped out? Is the water rising? Click to tweet.

The people in the boat are watching. Click to tweet.

Will you trust Him? He’s there, and He won’t let you go under. Click to tweet.

Once you’re back in the boat, don’t forget to worship. Click to tweet.

Come When He Calls

Come When Called

Workout of the Week: Come When He Calls

Memory Verse: “And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” Romans 1:6 NIV

Meditation Passage: Romans 1:1-7

Key Thought: Come when He calls.

I’m waiting for my new puppy.

Our nest is emptying, and I want something more protective than Mizuno, our twelve year-old Lab.

I’m on the puppy list for a Belgian Malinois. The last time we had a puppy was the ’90s, so I’m reading up on dog training.

The first lesson? Come when called.

Whether it’s kids or puppies, this one’s important. As an adult, coming when called can be a challenge too. When God calls, I can be like the sleepy dog that’s content to stay on the bed or the eye-rolling teen with more important things to do. Check out the opening verses of Romans:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God . . . Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1: 1, 5-7 NIV)

The NIV Complete Concordance offers three pages of references for call, called, and calling. Pages! Call means to summon. When I call my child or my puppy, I want them to stop what they’re doing and come straight to me. I initiate the call. The response I desire? Come. Now.

What will they find when they come? Who knows? A job. A treat. Something funny or information they need. Discipline? Maybe.

With a call comes an expectation. Do we assume the interruption will be negative? Mizuno comes quickly if he hears the leash drawer open. My youngest comes quickly if he hears the word Whataburger. Otherwise, they need some prodding. Here are a few things to remember with our own training:

  1. Remember what you were called from. God brought you to Himself, out of darkness and into light. (1 Peter 2:9; John 6:44) Look around and remember those who aren’t in relationship with Him. That could have been you.
  2. Remember Who’s calling. God’s driving the relationship. Do you really want to ignore Him?
  3. Come expectantly. Think treat, not vet.
  4. You have been called. It’s a privilege. What will you do with the opportunity?

Come when He calls. Nail your spiritual workouts this week, and change your corner of the gym.

Tweetables:

With a call comes an expectation. Click to tweet.

Do we assume the interruption will be negative? Click to tweet.

Remember what you were called from. Click to tweet.

Remember Who’s calling. Click to tweet.

Come expectantly. Think treat, not vet. Click to tweet.

Ask the Trainer

Ask The Trainer

Ask The Trainer

Workout for the Week: Ask the Trainer

Memory Verse: “ Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:8-9 (NIV)

Meditation Passage: Matthew 7: 7-11

Key Thought: You’re guaranteed a ‘Yes” to this prayer.

Gutsy. Ballsy. Traits I see in my husband and in two of my sons.

Why? Because they ask for the moon—and many times they get it.

These guys ask for everything from extra perks at a hotel to an A for missing homework, and I’m amazed how often people respond favorably.

Me? I’m hesitant to ask for anything I perceive as “extra.” However, several years ago, I was challenged to ask—to ask God for a word, a verse, or a picture of what He wanted to focus on for the new year.

2017 marks Year 3 of asking. This is no New Year’s resolution. I’m talking a yearlong training session with God Himself as your personal Trainer!

Here’s some benefits I’ve experienced from time with the Trainer:

  1. Asking for a word tunes my spiritual ears to Him as I wait for God to speak.
  2. Once God has spoken, my spiritual radar goes up regarding anything related to the word He gave.
  3. Awareness births intentionality and obedience. Because I’m aware, I’m primed to obey. During my year of margin (last year), I intentionally spent more time with the family. Saying no became easier. Decisions made themselves. I was focused because of my awareness, and I was compelled to obey.
  4. I was steeped in the subject. In my fear year (two years ago), I learned fear’s different manifestations. God made connections to things rooted in fear that I would have never identified. I dealt with fear on multiple levels in a variety of ways. I finished the year wiser, practiced, and confidant in my ability to recognize and conquer fear.
  5. I’m able to help. When God tutors you in a specific area for a year, He will use you to train and equip others.

When I received my verse for 2017, I groaned. Galatians 5:24 (NIV) reads, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” I can guess what’s coming: taming physical appetites, controlling emotions, releasing good for best. None of it sounds fun, but I know I need it. My awareness is heightened. My radar is up. Little things matter. Like not walking when I’m out for a run. Like practicing a Daniel fast with our church this month.

It’s cross training, as in take up my cross daily.

Jesus says in Matthew 7:8-9 (NIV), “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Ask, seek, knock. Once you hear from Him, keep your radar up. Training sessions can come at any moment.

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

Tweetables:

Ask God what He wants to focus on this year. Click to tweet.

This is no New Year’s resolution. It’s a yearlong training session with God, your personal Trainer! Click to tweet.

Tune your spiritual ears to Him. Click to tweet.

Put your spiritual radar up regarding the word He gave. Click to tweet.

Awareness births intentionality and obedience. Click to tweet.