Pass the Mustard (Seed)

Pass the Mustard (Seed)

Mustard.

Sharp. Pungent. Tangy.

I wasn’t a fan until I met my husband. He loves it, and now I do too. For me, a little mustard goes a long way, but God says that’s true of faith as well. In fact, a mustard seed portion of faith is enough to do the job. So, slap some mustard on your hot dog and let’s train with the mustard seed.

Jesus mentions a mustard seed in three different contexts in five different places:

  • Matthew 17:20 (14-21) In this passage, Jesus healed a boy with seizures. Scripture tells us a demon caused the boy’s illness. Jesus rebuked the demon, it left, and the boy was healed. This immediately followed the Transfiguration. The disciples who had been left behind already had authority over evil spirits (Matthew 10:1). Privately, they asked Jesus why they failed to heal the boy. Verse 20 gives His answer—“because you have so little faith.” Is there an area where you once had victory, but now struggle? The issue may be one of faith—mustard seed faith.
  • Luke 17:1-6. Jesus had just spoken on the seriousness of causing another to sin and on the need to offer repeated forgiveness. The disciples’ response? “Increase our faith.” Jesus’ reply? Mustard seed faith.
  • Matthew 13:31; Mark 4:31; Luke 13:19 These passages give a parable about the kingdom of heaven. Three times. Think this one’s important? Here’s Matthew’s version,He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” The takeaway? Small beginning, big finish.

So why the emphasis on small? A tiny mustard seed?

Because something as small as a mustard seed, when linked to God’s power, has no limits to its potential.

When the battle grows fierce . . .

When the task at hand appears impossible . . .

When the whole world looks like it’s going to hell . . .

Remember the mustard seed.

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

Speaking of mustard seeds, check out this link for some inspirational jewelry: www.mustardseedjewelry.com.

Workout of the Week: Pass the Mustard

Memory Verse: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32 NIV

Meditation Passage: Matthew 17:14-21; Luke 17:1-6

Just Do It: Have mustard seed faith.

Deployment: Sent For A Purpose

Deployment: Sent Out For a PurposeDeploy: To be sent out for a specific purpose

Our armed forces consist of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Their duties range from special ops to military bands. Likewise, God equips His forces and, as Commander-in-Chief, deploys them appropriately.

To what duty has He deployed you? Are you aware of the battle? Or are you like the four-year-old soccer player picking daisies at midfield while two teams storm furiously around you?

  1. Examine your armor. Ephesians 6 details our equipment: belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of readiness coming from the gospel of peace, helmet of salvation, shield of faith, sword of the Spirit, and prayer. Do you favor a particular piece? How can this advance the battle and aid other warriors?
  2. Be aware of spiritual gifts. (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11-13) Though I believe God can make each gift available as needed, I’ve been taught He tends to develop one or two in each believer. Does God use you in the mess hall or in training new recruits? Strategizing a battle plan or serving in the spiritual MASH unit?
  3. Deploy. This is for real. There comes a time when the training is over and you head to the battlefield. As a military family, we have a love/hate relationship with deployment. I hate that my son has to leave for six months, but at some point, practice ends and it’s game on. There’s work to be done and no one prepares like our guys (and gals). Can we as spiritual servicemen and women say the same? Are we prepared? Are we gaining ground in battle? Or are we spiritually AWOL?

So, how has God deployed you? For what purpose have you been sent?

To intercede?

To train others?

To face the enemy?

Until God calls us home, we are deployed. Sent out with a purpose. Let’s serve with distinction, honor, and perseverance.

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

Workout of the Week: Deployment

Memory Verse: “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 NIV

Meditation Passage: Ephesians 6:10-20

Just Do It: Get in the fight.

Independence and Intercession

Deployment: Part 1

I love the Fourth of July. I love cooking out, splashing in the pool with friends, and watching fireworks. Patriotic music and the red, white, and blue give me a lump in my throat.

Though we celebrate our independence, we celebrate somewhat in ignorance. Most of us have never been without it. We’ve had  life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness since birth.

But it didn’t happen by accident.

Books like David McCullough’s 1776 and Peter Marshall’s The Light and the Glory point to God’s help in the establishment of our nation and in the winning of her freedom.

There was more than just a physical battle for our nation then. There was a spiritual one. And, make no mistake, a spiritual battle is being fought for her today. The warfare section of Ephesians 6 finishes with “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18 NIV) “All the saints” includes a great many men and women in service.

As we celebrate the Fourth this week, please consider praying for our military. If you don’t have friends or family who serve, I’ll gladly take your prayers for mine who deploys soon.

Here’s a few items to get you started. For the one serving, especially if deployed: a cleaving to God, protection, discernment, wise leadership, a safe return, minimal boredom and homesickness, victory. For those at home: light hearts, busy hands, peaceful minds, and a spirit focused on God.

As you enjoy your Fourth, intercede for your brothers and sisters in uniform. Nail your spiritual workouts and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: Independence and Intercession

Memory Verse: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18 NIV

Meditation Passage: Psalm 51

Just Do It: Pray for our military.

Tweetables:

As you enjoy your 4th, pray for your brothers and sisters in uniform. Click to tweet.

God Still Moves

God Still Moves

God still moves.

Sometimes He’s subtle.

Sometimes He makes a statement.

In Isaiah 36-37, God made a statement. The Assyrian army stood poised to take Jerusalem. Israel had fallen. Judah, under godly King Hezekiah, was next in line.

Sennacherib’s field commander recommended surrender. After all, no one had survived Assyria’s onslaught. No god had withstood the gods of the Assyrians. Shock and awe barely described these ruthless and brutal people.

King Hezekiah sent men to Isaiah, then went to the LORD in prayer. God sent this word against Sennacherib to King Hezekiah (Isaiah 37:22-35). Here’s a portion:

“But I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.”

The results? Read verses 36-37, “Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.”

Let’s train with Hezekiah:

  • Have we forgotten how big our God is? Just as He knows our every move (Psalm 139), He is well aware of every act of evil. We know He is omniscient. But I tend to apply His omniscience to my own sin, not someone else’s. I forget He sees every sin—those against His children, those against the innocent, those against the defenseless.
  • He can and will do something about it. Who hasn’t wrestled with the question of why do bad things happen? Whether you are happy with His present decisions or not, understand, all will be dealt with. In His time. Not ours.
  • The results will be beyond our wildest imagination. When judgment comes, I don’t think we’ll be cheering. I think we will fall on our faces before a powerful and holy God and be thankful for the grace we’ve received.

God takes no sin lightly—and neither should we. He sees each one. Each sin will come under the blood of Jesus or will be judged. Don’t lose sight of sin’s seriousness in the day-to-day grind.

God still moves. In big ways. In small ones. Look for His activity. Expect big things. He is more than able.

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

Workout of the Week: God Still Moves

Memory Verse: “Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.” Isaiah 37:36-37 (NIV)

Meditation Passage: Isaiah 37:22-35

Just Do It: Watch for Him.

Tweetables:

God still moves. Sometimes He’s subtle. Sometimes He makes a statement. Click to tweet.

 

 

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.