Extreme Thirst

Extreme Thirst

Camels have extreme thirst. They can drink 30-40 gallons at a time.

I think my puppy is part camel.

When he drinks, he flops down, wraps his paws around the bowl, and plunges his head in the water dish.

Sometimes he goes to the Texas-sized water bowl (the pool) for a drink. He’ll jump in—slurping all the while.

That’s some kind of thirsty.

When’s the last time you were that thirsty?

Thirsty for God?

Plunge-your-head-in-the-water-bowl thirsty for Him?

Three things contribute to my puppy’s thirst:

Food: His puppy chow makes him thirsty. What kind of spiritual chow are you feeding on? Because an absence from spiritual things—be it church attendance, Bible reading, or prayer—does NOT make the heart grow fonder. It creates callouses. We become hardened toward God and are less likely to feel hunger and thirst.

Exercise: We exercise Valor. A lot. He turns into Psycho Dog if we don’t. Exercise creates thirst. As we exercise our faith—in our thoughts, words, and actions—our thirst for God increases. It takes effort to submit all things to His authority in obedience.

Heat: August in Texas scorches. Just walking to the mailbox makes me sweat and sends Valor into the pool. But life burns too. A steady smolder that singes your spirit and shrivels your soul. Stress, challenges, just keeping the many balls we juggle in the air—these can drive our need for God. Substitutes won’t do. Only His peace is beyond understanding.

If not, train with Valor.

If so, Jesus says, “Come.”

The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” Revelation 22:17 (NIV)

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;” Isaiah 55:1

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

Workout of the Week: Extreme Thirst

Memory Verse: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1

Meditation Passage: Psalm 63

Just Do It: Only God can quench extreme thirst.

Walking on Water: When You Need to Reach

 

Walking on Water: When you Need to Reach

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

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

Meditation Passage: Matthew 14:28-33

Just Do It: Reach For Him.

Overwhelmed.

Underwater without scuba gear.

Desperate for firm footing.

Have you been here?

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

I identified with Peter in Matthew 14:

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

            “Come,” he said.

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

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

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

I had gotten out of the boat.

I had stepped out in faith.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s my question too.

The same Lord masters calm water and violent waves.

And computers.

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

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

Those in the boat.

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

Eleven dry.

One wet.

All worshipped.

Have you stepped out? Is the water rising?

The people in the boat are watching.

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

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

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

Tweetables:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Not To Be A Turkey

How Not to Be a Turkey

“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.” C. S. Lewis

“Incognito,” according to Merriam-Webster, means “with your true identity kept secret; with one’s identity fully concealed.”

I love C.S. Lewis, but I have a bone to pick with the quote above. Romans 1:120 (NIV) reads, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:21 reveals the issue, and in light of the coming holidays, we see this all too often, “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.”

Time for a gut check. Do we know Him? If so, do we glorify Him? Are we giving Him thanks?

What tone are we setting in our homes this holiday season? On what does our holiday planning center?

Is Thanksgiving about giving thanks or is the focus the game of the day? (Nothing wrong with the game, it just shouldn’t be the focus.)

Is Christmas about what Santa is bringing or about Immanuel—God with us?

So, what can we do? Let’s tackle Thanksgiving today.

Acknowledge the Source

First Chronicles 29:12 says, “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.”

Make a list of the things you have which come from God’s hand:

Income

Education

Talents

Skill sets

Guidance

Friends & Family

Say Thank You

After healing ten lepers, Jesus said this, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18)

Let’s not find ourselves in the crowd of nine. Make a Thank You note station. Have each person write one to God. Then, write to someone who impacted you in a positive way this year.

Serve It Up

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8)

Abound in good works. Here are a few ideas:

  • Invite someone to share Thanksgiving dinner with you who would otherwise be alone.
  • Donate blankets to a homeless shelter.
  • Gather gently-used coats, hats, and gloves for donations.
  • Bless those who have to work Thanksgiving with food, gift cards, notes of encouragement and thanks: police officers, hospital staff, firefighters, members of our military, wait staff.

Be intentional this week and celebrate God’s goodness.

Questions:

How do you balance God-centered holidays with the materialism and secularism of the culture?

Are you fighting back or giving in?

What steps will you take right now to shift the momentum?

Family Application:

Search Pinterest for creative ways to give thanks.

Brainstorm as a family. Whom do you wish to reach? Your neighbors? The needy? How is God leading your family?

Tweetables:

Is Thanksgiving about giving thanks or is the focus the game of the day? Click to tweet.

Take a moment to list the things you have which come from God. Click to tweet.

Make a Thank You note station. Click to tweet.

Pulling the Leash

Pulling on the Leash

Lacey. Ten pounds of golden fur—soon to be sixty.

We had an older retriever too, Luke, my constant companion and running partner. Soon Lacey was big enough to join us.

And here the problems began.

I had a wonderful tool that links two dog collars permitting me to have only one leash. At this point, the dogs’ combined weight of 140 plus pounds outweighed me, so choke chains were necessary in the event of a squirrel or rabbit.

As a running buddy, Luke was rock steady. He stayed to my left and maintained a good pace. As long as I saw the rabbit first, we were good.

Lacey had yet to learn these skills. She pulled the leash, hopped back and forth over Luke, crossed in front of me, and had as much luck going in a straight line as a partier on New Year’s Eve.

Luke, however, weighed more. Stronger and the alpha male, he wasn’t moving. Lacey wore herself out going here, there, and everywhere, gasping and pulling until finally she tired out and trotted along beside him.

In step.

Straight line.

Steady pace.

Jesus had this in mind with the yoke verses of Matthew 11: 29-30 (NIV), “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus pairs us with Himself for a reason. He too is strong and steady. He knows where He’s going and what He’s doing. Paul encourages us in Galatians 5:25, “let us keep in step with the Spirit.” This comes from a man about whom Jesus said, “ ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14)

Kicking against the goads refers to an ox that kicks against the prodding of his master. Think of it as pulling the leash. Going your own way. Fighting the choke chain.

Paul learned to get in step with the Holy Spirit too, and the results of his obedience changed the world.

So, are you a leash puller? Or do you run beside Him, neither ahead nor behind? Are you distracted by small furry things or are you sensitive to the Master’s touch on the leash? The leash gains slack and the yoke becomes easy when you stop fighting and match the stride of the Holy Spirit.

Then, you can run.

Questions:

Is there struggle in your relationship with God?

Where is He running?

Where are you going?

What distractions are you chasing?

Does the choke chain (God’s commands) feel tight?

What step of obedience do you need to take?

Family Application:

Take the family dog for a walk. If you don’t have one, offer to walk your neighbor’s.

Discuss how family rules are like a leash. Are you fighting the leash or running in step?

Talk about being on the leash vs. being off. Protection with boundaries vs. complete freedom with no safety.

Tweetables:

Jesus pairs us with Himself for a reason. Click to tweet.

Pulling on the leash means going your own way. Click to tweet.

The leash gains slack when you stop fighting and match His stride. Click to tweet.

So, are you a leash puller? Click to tweet.

When you match His stride, then, you can run. Click to tweet.

Childlike Faith: Receiving

Childlike

Receiving has never been a stretch for our kids. They’ve always been more than willing to eat our food, use our hot water, and spend our money. Content to dump dirty laundry downstairs, they know they’ll find it clean and folded when they return. Filling their gas tank can make their day and if we go to Sonic too, so much the better.

And we’re happy to do it. They’re our kids, and we love giving to them.

But receiving from my heavenly Father?

I’m better at giving.

In Matthew 18:1-4 (NIV), God calls for childlikeness:

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”

One aspect of childlikeness entails seeing God as our Daddy who provides for our every need. This summer, I had a sizeable one, and God clearly provided for it.

I just didn’t like how.

So I did it myself.

And He let me.

I hate that.

I knew I was dealing with pride issues. What I didn’t know was how much it hurt my Father’s heart to refuse His giving. Once He showed me, it was my turn to feel bad. How many times have I given something to my own children, only to have it set aside, ignored, or flat out rejected. Yuck.

Matthew 7:11 says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.”

So, here’s a question or two.

Are you humble enough to ask?

Are you willing to receive even if the means are not to your liking?

We’ve all been the toddler who says, “I want to do it myself.”

And God will let us.

But we lose when we don’t do it together.

With Him.

In humble acceptance and in trusting fellowship.

Questions:

What attitudes do children have toward their parents as providers?

How can you apply those to your relationship with God?

What is your need of the moment?

Is God your first or last resort?

Family Applications:

How is God like a parent?

How do we balance teaching the skills necessary for independence as adults while teaching a dependent attitude toward God?

Kids, do you doubt Mom or Dad’s ability to provide in a particular area?

Why? How about God’s ability to provide?

Tweetables:

Childlikeness means seeing God as our Daddy who provides for every need. Click to tweet.

When we refuse our Father’s gifts, we hurt His heart. Click to tweet.

Are you willing to receive even if the means aren’t to your liking? Click to tweet.

Stuck in My Head: Content Dictates Focus

Stuck in My Head: Content Dictates Focus

The tune in my head was not one I chose. My radio had been hijacked by my teenager. What I was soon to learn was that my mind had been hijacked as well. And it affected my focus.

It began as I chauffeured my teen to strength and conditioning camp this summer. Normally, I listen to talk radio or a worship CD (I know, old school), unless.

Unless my teenager is in the car.

He promptly switches the station to Top 40 or an oldies station (his father’s influence). Normally this is not a problem, but a new school meant a longer drive, three to five times each week.

The Old Normal

A song in my heart reflected my old normal. I easily slipped into worship because I continually fed on God’s praise. Waking up, going to sleep, in between times. Praise and worship framed my day.

And Mom in a good mood is a positive thing for everyone.

But as summer progressed, a new normal took shape.

The New Normal

Not to knock our local rock stations, but the playlist is the same. Every day.

Secular music invaded my thoughts, and the attack was constant.

I no longer fell asleep with praise in my head. Michael Jackson or the Beatles had replaced it. I woke to strains of Jimmy Buffet and the Doobie Brothers.

And it messed with me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love those tunes as much as anyone, but a steady diet was killing the spirit of praise and worship I had cultivated. I was fighting for joy and peace.

Before, there hadn’t been a battle.

Back to Normal

As summer wound down, I restored the balance. While our family enjoys great bands like Chicago, I limit it.

Because what goes in affects what comes out.

In the book of Daniel, Daniel and the three amigos, Shadrach, Mishach, and Abednego, faced a similar situation. Captured and thrust into a indoctrination program, they are confronted with literature, food, and religion contrary to theirs. Daniel brokers a deal in order to maintain obedience to Jewish dietary law. Ten days of fruits and veggies. After ten days of obedience, they looked better than the natives and their countrymen who caved to the new norm.

Ten days. How would you look after ten days?

Ten days of music that pointed you to God.

Ten days in His Word.

Ten days of meditation on one verse.

Ten days of wholesome entertainment.

Ten days of healthy food.

Ten days of exercise.

Ten days of focus on God.

“As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” (Daniel 1:17)

What will He give you?

Questions:

What is going in?

Where do you find your mind going:

First thing in the morning

Free moments in the day

Last thing at night

Would you change this?

To what?

What steps can you take?

Family Application:

Talk about culture and the need not for balance, but for spiritual things to be the driving force in our lives.

How does the culture try to grab your attention?

How do you determine what is ok and what is not?

What happens when your family’s standards differ from your friends’?

Tweetables:

I soon found my mind had been hijacked as well. And it affected my focus. Click to tweet.

How would you look after ten days? Click to tweet.