Bred for Success: God’s Design

Bred for Success: God's Design

I had done my homework in researching breeds (I wanted something more protective than our aging Lab.), so I was only mildly concerned when our vet tech said, “From retrievers to a Belgian Mal? Brave girl!”

That concern grew when my husband’s co-worker sent him pictures of Mals wreaking havoc in a million different ways. My personal favorite is the full-grown Mal sitting proudly among the meteor-shower-hit-the-earth craters he had dug in the backyard.

Yet, for every destructive video—and there are plenty—there are stories of their protective instincts for the family they love.

God designed Belgian Mals. He also designed retrievers. Each serves a specific purpose in God’s creation. I see the same intentional design in His human creatures.

I love retrievers. We’ve had three.  Spiritually, they remind me of Jesus’ mother. Pure. Trusting. Obedient. Though worthy of imitation, Mary’s an alien to me. It took years before I trusted God as Father and truly believed in His love for me.

Peter? Paul? I get those guys. I, too, am strong-willed, opinionated, and given to extremes. I’m also fiercely loyal. To my children. To my husband. To my God. There is more Belgian Mal in me than I like to admit.

As I have learned to trust God, my obedience has improved. My husband teases me that I’m compliant. That compliance has come with training. Too many lessons came the hard way. My design, though, has never changed.

So, what’s your design? How has God bred you for success?

  1. What qualities did God give you? What talents and abilities did He gift you with? Have you ever taken the StrengthsFinder Test? (It runs about $20, but it’s money well spent.)
  2. How about spiritual gifts? (Click for Lifeway’s test.)
  3. What natural likes and dislikes do you have? With whom do you identify in the Bible? What Bible figure captures you?

Now, look where He’s placed you. Does it fit? Why or why not? Don’t train for retriever work if you’re a shepherd. Jeremiah recorded his calling in Jeremiah 1: 4-5 (NIV), “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Pray first, then fill in the blank: “I appointed you as a _____________________.”

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

Just for fun: What breed are you?

Workout of the Week: Bred for Success

Memory Verse: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5)

Meditation Passage: Psalm 139

Just Do It: Embrace your design.

Tweetables:

God designed Belgian Mals for a specific purpose. I see the same intentional design in His human creatures. Click to tweet.

 

Capture the Moment

Capture the MomentMemories. We do our best to capture the moment. Graduations. Weddings. Births.

We collect programs, photos, and party favors.

Momentos of milestones.

Remembering is a good idea. God chose everything from feasts to memorials to help His kids remember.

Remember what?

His goodness. His faithfulness. His provision.

Moses challenges us to remember, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deut. 4:9 NIV) Here are some tips from Moses:

  1. Intentionality: “Be careful and watch yourselves closely.” Or what? Or you will forget. Life rushes through like Class 5 rapids. God calls me to the riverbank to stop and reflect on the journey. Without care and watchfulness, I shoot down the river, only vaguely aware of His presence, offering arrow prayers when the boulders come too close.
  2. History: We have a history with God. Times when He grabbed our attention and changed things. Decisions. Healing. Comfort. Close calls. Provision. What have your eyes seen? Have you captured it in a journal? Perhaps a recording is more your style. How about photos? Whatever media appeals to you—capture the moment. You don’t want it to fade from your heart only to be replaced by something trivial.
  3. Legacy: Pass it on to those who haven’t seen yet. Children. Grandchildren. The older I grow, the more I appreciate those who walked before me. Testimonies have the power to encourage, challenge, and comfort me—all at the same time.

Your story of God’s faithfulness may be the turning point for your own child’s faith. Share His goodness.

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

Workout of the Week: Capture the Moment

Memory Verse: “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deut. 4:9 NIV)

Meditation Passage: Joshua 4:1-7

Just Do It: Record the memory.

Tweetables:

Capture the moment. You don’t want it to fade from your heart to be replaced with something trivial. Click to tweet.

Lavish, Darling

Lavish, Darling

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1 NIV)

Lavish. Extravagant.

Where did we get the idea God is chintzy? Stingy? Withholding? Actually the idea came from the enemy (see Genesis 3), but that’s a different blog post.

If ever a big spender existed, it’s God:

  • The Promised Land flowed with milk and honey. (Exodus 3:8)
  • Jesus turned water into wine—and it was the good stuff. (John 2:1-11)
  • “‘And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.’” (Matthew 6:28-29)
  • In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” (Ephesians 1:7-8)

Why do some of us live as paupers? Today, we train at the spiritual Neiman-Marcus. Look at Ephesians 3:17-19:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that   you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Training Tip 1: Rooted in Love. Are we root bound? Twisted around ourselves like plants left in their pots too long? We’ve been transplanted. Let’s stretch out our roots and anchor ourselves in Him. He is our Source.          

Training Tip 2: Grasp. Grab. Grip. Take hold of the

width,

length,

height, and

depth

of the infinite love of Christ. Think of the visuals He has given to help us: prairies, rivers, mountains, oceans.

Training Tip 3: Know. Know about through study and know personally through experience.

The end result? We will be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Filled to the measure? Fullness? Doesn’t sound stingy to me.

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

Workout of the Week: Lavish, Darling

Memory Verse: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 1:3 NIV)

Meditation Passage: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Just Do It: Receive what He lavishes.

Tweetables:

Don’t live as spiritual paupers. Today, we train at the spiritual Neiman-Marcus. Click to tweet.

MAXimize

MAXimize

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12 NIV)

We visited our son in San Diego recently and met some of the guys on his SEAL team. I was especially excited to meet their dog handler and his dog Max. (The SEALs use Belgian Malinois and we just got one.) Max is pretty chill for a military working dog. He let us pet him, but his eyes returned to his handler.

Constantly.

Like every 5-10 seconds.

He didn’t move without checking with his handler first.

And, believe me, he wanted to. Another SEAL had his two golden retrievers off leash. Both had balls to play with.

Let’s MAXimize our training today:

Keep your eyes on your Handler. “As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God.” (Psalm 123:2) God knows exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it. Whether it’s a load of laundry or a job change, His timing is always right. Fail to pay attention, and you’ll miss His instructions.

Stay focused. “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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) It would have been easy for Max to be distracted by our attention and by the two retrievers cavorting nearby. Yet his attention returned to his handler. His handler determined what was acceptable and what wasn’t. Petting, ok. Taking down the civilian golden retrievers, not so much.

Obey. “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-36) In the world of dog training, obedience brings rewards. Disobedience brings correction. Dogs love rewards and we do too. How much better are the spiritual rewards for obedience?

I love how God uses all of His creation to teach us. Pardon the flux of dog blogs, but with a new puppy, that’s where I’m living right now. What a gift these furry creatures are to us!

Train with Max this week. MAXimize your workout and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: MAXimize

Memory Verse: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” 2 Chronicles 20:12

Meditation Passage: “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Hebrews 10:35-36

Just Do It: Obey your Handler.

Tweetables:

Train with Max this week and MAXimize your spiritual workouts. Click to tweet.

(I apologize for the stock picture, but the SEAL Team guys are active duty and I can’t post photos. Please remember to pray for these brave men as they serve our country.)

Top Dog

Top Dog

Alpha male. Dominator. Top dog.

On social media. In the corporate race. At church.

Being top in your field is admirable. No one argues with dedication to excellence, self-discipline, and a high level of mastery.

Unless.

Unless it comes with a heaping dose of arrogance.

I brought my new puppy home last week. My sixty-pound Lab towered over my fourteen-pound Belgian Malinois. My eight-week-old pup braced his little legs, threw back his head, and barked himself silly in a show of force.

He’s a lightweight trying to be the alpha male. He’s barely cut his teeth and thinks he’s SEAL Team material.

Jesus, our true Alpha (and Omega), took a different approach.

Humility.

Servant-leadership.

Investment in others.

None of these diminished His greatness. They enhanced it.

People flocked to Him. Hung on His every word. Just being in His presence made them want to do better.

Here are some training tips from our Alpha:

Let others praise you. “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2 NIV) “This is My Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 17:5)

Remember where the excellence comes from. “Then Moses said to the Israelites, ‘See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.’” (Exodus 35:30-33)

Invest in others. “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” (Proverbs 11:24) “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)

Follow the Alpha, and you’ll never have to establish yourself as top dog. Your pack will know, and they will follow willingly.

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

Workout of the Week: Follow the Alpha

Memory Verse: “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” John 5:44

Meditation Passage: Exodus 35:30-33

Just Do It: Humility. Service. Investment.

Tweetables:

Follow the Alpha, and you’ll never have to establish yourself as top dog. Click to tweet.

Staying Out of the Rough Starts on the Tee

Staying Out of the Rough Starts on the Tee

A slight change in trajectory brings a major change down range.

I’ve spent some time in Romans 1 lately and the last half of the chapter is sobering. You might know that section as the homosexuality passage, but that’s not its true focus. Romans 1:18-32 tracks what happens when a shift from true center occurs.

Romans 1:18-32 gives a snapshot of our culture. Many things in the rough are par for the course in our society.

But this course is skewed.

Paul describes the rough and sets up a series of causes and effects:

Verses

Off the Tee Hooks and Slices In the Rough
Romans 1:18-20 Clear knowledge of God revealed by creation: God’s eternal power and divine nature Godlessness, wickedness, suppression of the truth God’s wrath; men are without excuse
Romans 1:21-23 Knowledge of God They neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him; they exchanged God’s glory for images of man, birds, animals, and reptiles Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened; they claimed to be wise but became fools
Romans 1:24-25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie; they worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator God gave them over to the sinful desires of their hearts: sexual impurity, the degrading of their bodies
Romans 1:26-27 God gave them over to shameful lusts: homosexuality/lesbianism
Romans 1:28-32 God’s decree that those who do such things deserve death They did not retain the knowledge of God because it wasn’t worthwhile to do so; they continued to do wrong and approved those who did likewise

God gave them over to a depraved mind; they became filled with: wickedness, evil, greed, depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, God-hating, insolence, arrogance, boasting, invention of new evils, disobedience to parents. They lost the ability to understand, to love, to offer mercy, and to give loyalty.

 

These guys are not just in the rough—they’re in the water hazard. The one with the alligators.

But it started by not acknowledging God, His truth, and His glory.

So, where are your shots landing? Is your spiritual thinking muddled? Let’s get back to the fundamentals:

Training Tip 1: See Him. Ask God to help you see clearly—to see His eternal power, His divine nature, His work in the world around you.

Training Tip 2: Worship Him. Sing it. Speak it. Read it from His word. Give Him the glory He deserves.

Training Tip 3: Thank Him. We’re surrounded by terrific things. Hot showers. Air conditioning. Sweet tea. Pick a few of your favorites, stop, and say thanks.

Point to the true flag and show the world how to make the putt.

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

Workout of the Week: Be True Off the Tee

Memory Verse: Romans 1:21 “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Meditation Passage: Romans 1:18-32

Just Do It: Line up your shot.

Tweetables:

Point to the true flag and show the world how to make the putt. Click to tweet.

 

Heroes, Villains, and Overcoming

Heroes, Villains, and Overcoming

Conflict. It’s essential in fiction.

Sherlock needs Moriarty. Batman needs the Joker. Wesley needs Prince Humperdinck.

Without conflict, our hero remains—ordinary.

Gandalf still wears gray. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy remain in England. Harry Potter grows up without that scar.

Many question God regarding evil—why He permits it. Why did He create Satan when He knew the trouble he would cause? Why did God create man when He knew Adam would fall? Why doesn’t He stop the terrible things that happen in our world each and every day?

We know He can.

But Satan is not God’s equal, nor His nemesis. Satan is merely a fallen angel whom God has temporarily given limited elbowroom.

When Satan rebelled, one third of the angels followed him.

Two-thirds remained faithful. Pure. Holy.

The overcomers.

Let’s train with the angels this week:

  • Overcome your unbelief. “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:24 NIV) Where is your faith shaky? Ask God to strengthen your weak spots.
  • Overcome your enemy. “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2:13) The demonic host? Nothing but fallen angels. You are a son or daughter of the King.
  • Overcome the world. “ . . . for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 Jn 5:4-5) Don’t roll over and play dead for the culture. Show the world something better.
  • Overcome evil. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Revelation gives a list of rewards for overcomers:

  • The right to eat from the tree of life (2:7)
  • The crown of life (2:10)
  • Hidden manna and a white stone with a new name (2:17)
  • Authority over the nations and the morning star (2:26-28)
  • White clothes; name in the book of life permanently; acknowledged by the Father (3:5)
  • Pillar in God’s temple; God’s name written on him (3:12)
  • The right to sit with Jesus on His throne (3:21)

Though Adam’s sin brought a death sentence to all mankind, Jesus overcame, and for those who bear His name, He asks the same.

He asked Esther to overcome Haman, David to overcome Goliath, and Elijah to overcome the prophets of Baal.

He also asked Samson to overcome his flesh, Saul to overcome his insecurity, and Solomon to overcome his foolishness.

Shed ordinary and train to be an overcomer. Nail your spiritual workouts and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: Heroes, Villains, and Overcoming

Memory Verse: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

Meditation Passage: Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21

Just Do It: Shed ordinary.

Tweetable:

Shed ordinary and train to be an overcomer. Click to tweet.

In The Weeds

Weeds

Weeds

I hate them.

They’d taken over the backyard to such an extent I was ready to cement it. Patches of weeds sprouted between decorative stone and invasive Bermuda runners held the flowers captive.

I abandoned yard work when I started on my master’s degree. Thankfully, my husband thrives on such projects while I’m holed up writing theology papers. He’s been working since March to clear the weeds. He’s moved wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of rock, set down thick black plastic, and covered it with rock again. The black felt the landscapers used? The weeds shot through it years ago.

The darn things shouldn’t even be here. They’re part of the curse handed out when Adam and Eve sinned. Thanks, guys. So, today, we’re training in the weeds:

  • Pull them: Weeds come with the territory for the unsaved, but if you’re a believer, they need to go. It amazes me how even a weed can be attractive. Many have the tiniest of flowers and who doesn’t love dandelions? But—they’re still weeds. They don’t belong in your heart. They take up space, food, and water that should go to something fruitful. So, pull them—and get the roots.
  • Cultivate fruit: Weeds grow anywhere. Fruit, however, requires cultivation. There’s another reason we work so hard to get rid of the weeds and maintain a perfectly landscaped yard. A well-kept lawn, blooming flowerbeds, and carefully staked gardens not only give edible goodies, but also add a touch of beauty and joy to life. Who doesn’t love to sink their toes into a carpet of St. Augustine, breathe in the sweet smell of honeysuckle, or bite into a homegrown tomato? How much better is spiritual fruit? Weeds make me groan.
  • Choke them: In the parable of the sower, Jesus spoke of weeds, “The one who received the seed that fell among thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” (Matt. 13:22 NIV) But Neil Sperry says the choking works both ways. A healthy lawn will choke out the weeds. Cultivating a godly character, walking closely with Him, and practicing spiritual disciplines will choke out the bad stuff. Much of sin can be killed by starvation. Feed what’s good, and let the weeds die.

Clean up your spiritual landscaping. Address your weed problem. Pull the large ones. Cultivate fruitful plants. Choke out the rest with neglect. Take your workout into the yard this week.

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

Workout of the Week: In the Weeds

Memory Verse: “The one who received the seed that fell among thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22

Meditation Passage: Genesis 3:17-19

Just Do It: Choke out the weeds.

Tweetables:

Clean up your spiritual landscaping. Click to tweet.

Failure: “. . . and Peter”

Failure: " . . . and Peter"

Told you so.

Words Peter never heard.

Jesus had warned him. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31 NIV)

Talk about failure. Peter had blown it. Big time.

Fell asleep while Jesus was praying. Three times.

Sliced off some guy’s ear. Really?

Then, denied Jesus. Three times.

Yet, Peter receives a personal resurrection appearance (1 Cor. 15:5), one of the first that Easter Sunday. Not only is he fully restored, but he is later commissioned.

Let’s train with Peter this week:

  1. Remember Who is praying for you and what He is praying for. “I have prayed that your faith may not fail.” Pride. Self-sufficiency. Independence. Let them fail. Hold on to your faith—in Him.
  2. Pray for yourself. “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Did you notice Peter failed to pray three times before he denied Jesus three times?
  3. Don’t quit. “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Repentance was in order, but so was ministry.

God knows you will blow it. He may even give you a heads-up.

But even if you blow past the guardrails, He is there.

Waiting.

And He calls you by name.

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

Workout of the Week: How to Follow Failure

Memory Verse: “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Mark 16: 6-7 NIV

Meditation Passage: Luke 22: 31-34; 46; 54-62; John 21: 15-23; 1 Cor 15:5

Just Do It: Get up and pray.

Tweetables:

Told you so. Words Peter never heard. Click to tweet.

Get Your Hands Dirty

Get Your Hands Dirty

Nick and Joe.

Wealthy. Respected. Godly.

Sitting together. Outside the city. Like a couple of unwelcome cowboys tossed out of the local saloon. Why? According to Mosaic Law, they were unclean from contact with a dead body. Purification required:

  • Separation “outside the camp” (Numbers 5:2-4)
  • Seven days of uncleanness with purification rites on Days 3 and 7 (Numbers 19:11-22)
  • A wait of one month before celebrating the Passover they missed during their “campout” (Numbers 9:6-11)

Does it count if the dead body you handled resurrects three days later?

So, here sat Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, two members of the Sanhedrin, tapped for undertaker duties. Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost said this:

Christ made preparations for all events associated with His death, so that the Scripture might be fulfilled. This word (secretly in John 19:38) may indicate that Jesus had arranged with Joseph to make arrangements for His burial to fulfill Old Testament prophecy . . . It may well be that Joseph had hidden himself away in the recesses of the garden where he could witness the events transpiring on Golgotha without being observed. At the moment Christ cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and dismissed His spirit from his body, Joseph was ready to proceed with the burial.” (From Dr. Pentecost’s book, The Words and Works of Jesus           Christ)

Makes me wonder how it all went down. Did Jesus tap Nicodemus too? Did Joseph? Or did Nicodemus catch wind of it and volunteer to help? He brought seventy-five pounds of spices. That took some prep.

Did Jesus Himself come to them on Day 3 and perform their purification rites, or was purification a moot point? Did Jesus celebrate Passover with them the next month?

Can you imagine the next Passover for any of these disciples?

What can we learn from these two? Let’s train at the tomb today:

  1. No task is too small when the Master is asking. We all have our Esther moments of “for such a time as this.” We hope for a glamorous, mountain-top event. Yet, for Nick and Joe, two big fish in the Jewish pond of Jerusalem, the task was undertaker.
  2. Public perception means nothing in light of the big picture. Two prominent members of the Jewish council camped out with the lepers for the weekend. “Outside” the in-crowd for once. I don’t think they missed it.
  3. True cleanliness often means getting our hands dirty. Relationships trump ceremonial cleanliness. People died. Uncleanness wasn’t bad. Uncleanness wasn’t sin. Uncleanness simply separated one for a time. True cleanliness of heart means meeting people where they are, whether it’s a bloody cross or outside the camp.

Can you picture the two? Beneath the stars. Safe from arrest by their own uncleanness. Waiting for the Passover Lamb.

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

Workout for the Week: Get Outside the Camp

Memory Verse: “Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone . . . who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body. Numbers 5:2 (NIV)

Meditation Passage: John 19:38-42

Just Do It: Be willing to get your hands dirty.

Tweetable:

True cleanliness means meeting people where they are, whether it’s a bloody cross or outside the camp. Click to tweet.