A Dragon in the Mix

A Dragon in the Mix

Have you included the dragon in your calculations?

He’s near, you know, roaming, searching. (1 Peter 5:8)

Train this dragon? Forget it. He’s not interested in serving. He’s out to get you—in any way he can.

Compromise.

Rationalize.

Desensitize.

He’ll steal your blessings, kill your desire for God, and destroy your family. (John 10:10)

Clever.

Subtle.

Crafty.

He looks for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

He sifts you like wheat. (Luke 22:31)

He masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Cor. 11:14)

He rules the kingdom of the air, twisting words as they travel from one to another. (Eph. 2:2)

He is an, no, the ancient evil.

On your own, you don’t stand a chance against him or his tribe.

But you serve the dragon slayer. Daniel 2:22 (NIV) says, “He [God] reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells in him.”

Hidden things.

Masked ones.

Dark beings.

God knows where Satan lives and exposes the dragon for what he is. A liar and a murderer. (John 8:42-47)

His fate has been determined. (Rev. 20:10)

But until then . . . have you included the dragon in your calculations?

Workout of the Week: A Dragon in the Mix

Memory Verse: Chose one from above.

Meditation Passage: Rev. 20:7-10

Just Do It: Calculate your plans with the dragon in mind.

Faith, Not Immunity

Faith, Not Immunity

The air crackled with shekinah glory. The faint scent of frankincense spun through the whirlwind. A fiery chariot rumbled behind a pair of flaming steeds, burning an image in Elisha’s brain he would never forget as he watched Elijah depart. Depart, because, like Enoch, Elijah didn’t die. One minute, Elijah walked beside his successor. The next, he was gone, leaving Elisha with a bitter grief, an ownerless cloak, and a new calling.

Now, Elisha’s turn had come. Having inherited a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, surely his departure would be even more spectacular.

Except it wasn’t.

He got sick. And died.

 “Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died.” (2 Kings 13:14 NIV)

What?

I have a list in my prayer journal of dear friends struggling with illnesses.

Some life-threatening.

All life-impacting.

And I blink my eyes, throw up my hands, and ask why? Because somewhere the lie has crept in that spiritual brownie points give us immunity from the hell of a fallen world.

Yet I get a check in my spirit every time I chase an “experience” of God.

Habakkuk tells us “the righteous will live by his faith.” (Hab. 2:4) And the righteous still do. Faith that trusts God’s word:

  • “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
  • “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3)
  • I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
  • 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.” (Romans 8:28)
  • “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
  • “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”  (Romans 8:35)

Why does God chart the paths He does? Only He knows, but His word declares He loves us deeply.

In spite of our sin.

In spite of the fallen world.

In spite of sickness and death.

So when Elijah greeted Elisha in heaven with a “What took you so long?”, Elisha just grinned, happy to be there, even without the chariot ride.

Workout of the Week: Faith, Not Immunity

Memory Verse:  “Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died.” 2 Kings 13:14

Meditation Passage: 2 Kings 2:7-15

Just Do It: Believe what He says.

 

Dynasty, Doubt, and Destruction

Dynasty, Doubt, and Destruction

“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” 2 Samuel 7:16 NIV

God made this promise to David.

But did you know God made a very similar promise to Jeroboam?

David’s son, Solomon, followed other gods as his wives turned his heart from Yahweh (1 Kings 11:27-39). Jeroboam served Solomon as one of his officials. God planned to split the kingdom and sent the prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam. Ahijah ripped his cloak into twelve pieces. He offered ten tribes to Jeroboam but reserved Judah for Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.

We’ll pick it up in 1 Kings 11:37-39:

However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. I will humble David’s descendants because of this, but not forever.

Folks, that’s no chicken feed.

But the ten pieces of cloak in Jeroboam’s hand wasn’t enough. Fear lingered in his mouth like a bad aftertaste and Jeroboam wavered. All Israel traveled back to Jerusalem for the feasts: Passover, Trumpets, and others. Jeroboam feared the tribes would follow Rehoboam again and he would be killed. (1 Kings 12:26-27)

Jeroboam had options: figure it out or take his concerns to God.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” 

Jeroboam needed to read it. Instead, he made two golden calves. (Sound familiar? This won’t end well.) The smelting fumes must have been incense to Satan’s nose. Jeroboam placed one in Dan and one in Bethel so the people would no longer travel to Jerusalem.

God sent a prophet, but his warning went unheeded—which brings us to this verse:

“And this event became sin to the house of Jeroboam, even to blot it out and destroy it from off the face of the earth.” 1 Kings 13:34 

Jeroboam’s sin of idolatry rippled through Israel until the exile. Not one king of Israel followed God during the divided kingdom era.

Not one.

Do you have a pet sin? One that began when you relied on your own understanding instead of trusting what God said? God will deal with our doubts, but we must take them to Him.

Workout of the Week: Dynasty, Doubt, and Destruction

Memory Verse: “And this event became sin to the house of Jeroboam, even to blot it out and destroy it from off the face of the earth.” 1 Kings 13:34 NIV

Meditation Passage: 1 Kings 11:29-39

Just Do It: Bring your doubt to God.

Praise Looks Good on You

Praise Looks Good on You

Makeup, manicures, and merchandise. We spend a lot of time and money to look our best.

Praise is becoming to the upright. Psalm 33:1 NIV

The word “becoming” carries several connotations.

  • Attractive: Causing someone to look attractive, having a flattering effect. Praise, gratitude, and contentment attract the same temper. Really, who needs more frown lines? The Holy Spirit offers “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3 NIV) Its sweetness counters the bitterness of hurt, reminding me of the loyal Ruth contrasted with a Naomi consumed by loss (Ruth).
  • Appropriate: Suitable for a particular person in a certain situation. Ephesians 5:19-20 reads, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Music lightens our hearts. An aroma of worship diffuses the sulphurous fumes of the enemy. I’m reminded of Hannah’s prayerful song in 1 Samuel 2 when she dedicates her son for God’s service in the presence of her rival.
  • Assimilate: To begin to acquire a certain characteristic, to have a specified quality. Paul said, “if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.” (Phil. 4:8-9) I think of Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-80). Praise came in spite of challenges and colored much of what each woman did.

You don’t have to be a supermodel to look good in praise. It flatters everyone. Try it on this season.

Workout for the Week: Praise Looks Good on You

Memory Verse: Praise is becoming to the upright. Psalm 33:1 NIV

Meditation Passage: Philippians 4:8-9

Just Do It: Try it on.

Greatness in Gentleness

Gentle Greatness

Blows hammered shields. Clouds hurled hailstones. God’s voice thundered. Eyes watered from the haze of smoke as fire fed on everything in sight. Sweat, blood, and rain wet the lips of warriors as cherubim soared overhead.

Powerful imagery pours forth from Psalm 18 as David recounts the LORD’s rescue, His battle training, and David’s ultimate victory.

Then David tucks in verse 35. I’ll give you several versions for comparison:

  • NIV: “ . . . you stoop down to make me great.”
  • NRSV: “ . . . your help has made me great.”
  • NASB: “And Thy gentleness has made me great.”

Gentleness? This jarred me like the scratching of a needle on an old LP.

David presents a picture of God humbly giving of Himself to help His servant, David.

Chew on that for a minute.

God.

The Rock and Shield of verse 2.

The God with smoke coming from His nostrils and fire from His mouth in verse 8.

The One shooting arrows and scattering the enemy in verse 14.

Stoops to give His creature a moment of greatness.

He could’ve simply sent help. One angel. Maybe two.

God made Himself available. A personal assist from the LORD of hosts.

Gulp. I think we’re supposed to copy this one.

Jesus said, “ . . . for I am gentle and humble in heart.” (Matthew 11:29 NIV) Paul chimed in, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” (Philippians 4:5)

As you train this week, consider three things:

  1. Perhaps that true strength operates best from a position of gentleness and humility?
  2. Note, too, that Psalm 18 has three parts: God’s rescue of David, God’s training of David, and David’s victory. The chapter pivots on God’s training, and specifically verse 35. Apart from God’s help/gentleness, David’s victory doesn’t happen.
  3. 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 5:22-23 NIV) Gentleness, a fruit of the Spirit, reflects God’s character.

Look for opportunities this week to train your gentleness. Who would God have you make great? Your spouse? Your kids? Your boss? What would God have you do? How can you stoop? Help? Exhibit gentleness? What must shift to make way for humility?

Make another great today with your gentleness.

Workout of the Week: Greatness in Gentleness

Memory Verse: Psalm 18:35 (NASB) “And Thy gentleness has made me great.”

Meditation Passage: Psalm 18

Just Do It: Stoop down to make someone great today.

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.