Dating God: Meeting Jesus at Starbucks

Date #3: Coffee Date

Meeting Jesus at Starbucks

Coffee dates. A luxury I savor as much as a chai tea latte. Though they require some schedule juggling—deadlines wait for no one—the schedule contortions merit the pain. Time with friends refreshes my spirit. It gets me out of my home office where the walls can close in, my only companions wear fur, and they shed it freely through the house. The writing life often proves a lonely one.

Scripture brims with times Jesus spent in fellowship with others. Wine flowed at the wedding in Cana. Cool water washed the dust from His throat at the well in Samaria. Roasted lamb, dates, perhaps pistachios for those weekday dinners in the homes of Zacchaeus, Matthew, and, of course, Mary and Martha. Food and fellowship pair well.

Your date with God this week involves a trip to your favorite coffee shop:

  • Bring a journal and something to write with.
  • Grab your beverage of choice. (And a snack. Chocolate?)
  • Get comfy.
  • If Jesus were sitting across the table (and He is), what would you talk about? Your marriage? The kids? Career goals? Dreams?
  • What spiritual questions would you pose?
  • Are you frustrated about something? Spill it.
  • Do you need clarity? Direction? Ask.

John 15:15 (NIV) reads, I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

For kicks: What would Jesus get at Starbucks and why?

Leave your response in the comment box. Best response earns a coffee mug!

Workout of the Week: Meeting Jesus at Starbucks

Memory Verse:  “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:15 NIV).”

Meditation Passage: Luke 10:38-42

Just Do It: Schedule your coffee date.

Dating God: Use Your Imagination to Anchor Your Thoughts

Date #2: Come With Me and Escape

Use Your Imagination to Anchor Your Thoughts

In Mark 6:30-32, Jesus called the disciples for a getaway. Remember those? Getaways? You and your sweetheart. Time alone. No interruptions. No responsibilities.

Getting away with God has some challenges.

Even Jesus had to search for a quiet spot, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (Mark 1:35 NIV).”

Just getting quiet is hard. Texts ding and tweets chirp. The kids bang on the door. Once we find a quiet spot, our brain goes AWOL. Our thoughts wander. We remember things we need to do. How are we supposed to focus on God?

Here’s the plan for your date this week:

  • Schedule your date.
  • Choose a quiet place.
  • Take pen and paper. When you think of something you need to do, jot it down then put it aside.
  • Tap your imagination. Visualize your favorite getaway.
  • Put Jesus into the scene. Where will you go? What will you do?

For me, Jesus and I always seem to end up walking a stretch of beach in Galveston. Hand in hand. Toes in the surf. Screeching sea gulls overhead. The wind in my face and the smell of salt and sea deep in my lungs. Here, silence is comfortable and the need to talk doesn’t press. We can just be.

Plan your getaway and go.

Workout of the Week: Use Your Imagination to Anchor Your Thoughts

Memory Verse: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35 NIV

Meditation Passage: Mark 6:30-32

Just Do It: Plan your getaway and go.

Dating God

Take a Walk

Romancing the Rock

February points us toward chocolate, Valentines, and love, so this month, our training centers on dating God. Jesus gave this warning to the church of Ephesus, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first (Rev. 2:4 NIV).” We do well to heed this one, because we live the biggest love triangle of all time.

The two competing lovers? Jesus and Satan.

An easy choice, right? Yet Satan excels in keeping us from our True Love. Our calendars are stacked with commitments, none of them bad, but time with God gets cut short or postponed until it disappears altogether—and Satan savors another win.

But don’t be fooled, he’s really not that into us. It’s all about him. The cry of his heart is me, me, me. Though his valentines look appealing, they reek of death. Like a soda can drained of its sweetness, we’re disposable.

And Satan is all about that.

My training challenge for us this February is to schedule four dates with our True Love.

Date #1: Take a walk.

When my husband and I dated, we often took walks together. Today, that walk requires a lot more effort. I speed walk. He strolls. I think as I walk. He talks. As you plan your walk with God, consider this:

  • Coordinate: Coordinate schedules. Get it on the calendar.
  • Compromise: Adjust your walking speed to His.
  • Contribute: By all means, talk, but listen too. Literally. What do you hear? Look around. Is He trying to show you something?

God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. Both Enoch and Noah were commended for walking with God. Let’s slow down and focus on our first love. Walk, don’t run, and we’ll romance our way through February.

Workout of the Week: Date #1 Walk with God

Memory Verse: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” Rev. 2:4 (NIV)

Meditation Passage: Genesis 5:22-24

Just Do It: Schedule your walk.

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.

Making Impact: Where’s Your Spot?

Making Impact: Where's Your Spot?

Ancient Israel. Located southwest of the Fertile Crescent in the direct north/south, east/west traffic from Egypt to Assyria. Like the small one-light town you drive through on the way to somewhere else.

Yet Israel’s location was strategic.

God planned to impact the world through this tiny nation. We read of Abram’s call in Genesis 12 (NIV), “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you, . . . and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (vv. 2,3) God affirms His plan to Moses too, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5,6)

So, He planted them smack dab in the middle of the busiest international trade route of the day.

Why?

Because, as the world journeyed through Israel on the way to somewhere else, other nations would learn who God was, what He offered, and what He desired in return.

The world learned you couldn’t get a ham and cheese sandwich in Jerusalem, because cleanliness was a big deal to a holy God, and pork didn’t make the cut.

Travellers couldn’t shop at the Hebron Target on the Sabbath, because God’s people rested and spent the day in worship instead of work.

Everyone was welcome. God even provided a place at His Temple for foreigners who wanted to chat with Him. The world had an opportunity to see Israel in real time as they passed through the streets of this tiny nation.

So, where’s your spot? The place God has put you? Because here’s how Peter describes us, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praise of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Don’t get me wrong, the Church will never take the place of Israel, but as believers we also represent God. Who’s passing through your life on their way to another place?

At the office?

At the kids’ school?

At the gym?

You’re not there by accident, you know, any more than Israel was—and is. God has placed you strategically. Are you impacting the world that’s passing through?

Questions:

Who are you poised to impact? Think of family, friends, co-workers.

Are you making impact? Is it a positive or a negative one?

What are your children learning about God from you? Your extended family? Others?

What are they not learning that they need to know?

Tweetables:

Where’s your spot? The place God has put you? Click to tweet.

Who’s passing through your life on their way to another place? Click to tweet.

You’re not there by accident. God has placed you strategically. Click to tweet.

Are you impacting the world that’s passing through? Click to tweet.

Overflow

Overflow

Running water. What a blessing! I turn on the faucet, and out it comes. Sometimes the water is hot. Sometimes it’s cold. But the water is consistently clean and available.

I think Jesus was like that. Consistent and available. When people drew near, He gave clean, clear water. Sometimes a hot rebuke. Sometimes a refreshingly cold wake-up. But always life-giving water.

Scripture tells us our faucets aren’t so consistent.

“If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check . . .With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3: 2,9-10 NIV)

For our water to run clean and clear, to give life and not death, we need to check the plumbing.

What’s coming from your faucet? Worry, anger, fear? Or encouragement, wise counsel, and grace? Is your water murky? Does it smell? Are you clear one day but cloudy the next?

The water we produce comes from the overflow of our hearts. I don’t think about the source of the water for my home. I trust someone else is covering that. However, guarding the heart is my job.

Proverbs 4: 23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

And of my mouth.

How to keep it clean? Here are some lessons from a guy who knows how to keep water clean—the pool guy.

Test the Water: What’s going in it? Check your entertainment/media sources.

Are your filters clogged? Do they need cleaning? Some confession and repentance?

Do you need some shock to kill the bacteria and algae? Stay in God’s Word.

Keep it Moving: Still water is stagnant water. Are you walking in obedience? What was the last thing God told you to do? Are you doing it?

Open the Valve: Meet with God regularly outside of church. Living water must be received from Him first before we pass it to others.

God designed us for overflow. What we say overflows from what we think and feel. Our heart condition affects our mouth’s articulation. Guard the heart. Safeguard the mouth.

Questions:

Which is easier to control—your thoughts or your words?

What affects your words most?

What have you found best redirects your thoughts?

What has proven a good guard for your heart?

Tweetables:

Jesus’ flow of living water was consistent. Scripture tells us our flow isn’t. Click to tweet.

What’s coming from your faucet? Click to tweet.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” And of your mouth. Click to tweet.

God designed us for overflow. Click to tweet.

Guard the heart. Safeguard the mouth. Click to tweet.

 

Relationships: They’re No Accident

Relationships: They're No Accident

All the kids were home this weekend. That gets harder to pull off as the nest empties. Russell and I stood in the kitchen and watched our four, plus one daughter-in-law and one daughter-in-law-to-be. Laughter filled the house. It made my heart glad to know my kids and their relationships are healthy and strong.

Surely this is God’s heart too, and it doesn’t happen by accident. Relationships must be built and nurtured.

They take time.

Effort.

Energy.

The two greatest commands in the Bible focus on loving God and loving each other. Scripture is filled with verses about relationships. Like Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” and Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

We’re nearing the midpoint of 2016. Ask yourself—what relationships need a little tender loving care?

Marriage? Children? Parents? Co-workers?

Choose one relationship.

What would you like to see, and what will it take to get there?

If it’s closeness you’re seeking, grab your calendar and make time. Now.

If it’s conflict resolution, seek to understand before you air your opinion.

Be intentional.

Today.

Right now.

And reap the harvest in the days to come.

Questions:

What’s your favorite memory?

Who did it involve?

Which of your relationships are healthy? Why?

Which need work?

What step will you take?

Tweetables:

The two greatest commands focus on loving God and loving each other. Click to tweet.

What relationship needs a little TLC? Click to tweet.

 

Drift and Spiritual Cataracts

Drift and Spiritual Cataracts

A friend of mine recently had cataract surgery. Although a relatively young candidate for this procedure, she was informed by her doctor that she made his top three worst cataracts list. I’m sure she was thrilled. Today, colors are vivid, and she can pick up fine details—like all of her friends’ wrinkles. Her stories post-surgery revealed how poor her eyesight had become. The difference is stark.

Scripture warns us of spiritual blindness, and it sneaks up on us just as cataracts do.

One culprit? Drift. Letting things slide. Swept along by the calendar and the to-do list.

God challenges us to be intentional:

Deut. 6:6 “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

2 Peter 1:5-7  “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”

Lessons from Bible studies, church services, and Christian conferences without practical application become lost. Good intentions die, and we continue to drift. So, what are some consequences of drift? These verses which pick up where the above verses left off:

Deut. 6:12  “be careful that you do not forget the Lord,”

James 1:23-24 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” (Short answer? No change.)

2 Peter 1:9 “But whoever does not have them [the list in 2 Peter1:5-7] is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.”

Peter warns us in 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith,”

Cats like to play with their prey, and the enemy does it with deception and spiritual blindness. You can’t stand your ground against something you can’t see. Blind prey is easy prey.

Have you noticed a slow decline in your walk with God?

What have you been meaning to do spiritually, but haven’t gotten to yet?

Look for small pockets of time you can reclaim for Him.

Use technology to grab some extra Bible reading, worship, or Scripture memorization.

Be intentional regarding your relationship with God. Keep Him in sight at all times, and He will help you see clearly.

Questions:

Has your spiritual sight ever gotten fuzzy?

Why does more sin cloud your judgment and good choices sharpen it?

What obstacles hinder your intentionality?

Which will you tackle today?

Tweetables:

Spiritual blindness sneaks up on us just as cataracts do. The culprit? Drift. Click to tweet.

Without application learning is lost. Good intentions die, and we continue to drift. Click to tweet.

Blind prey is easy prey. Click to tweet.

Look for small pockets of time you can reclaim for Him. Click to tweet.