Unraveled

Unraveled

What happens when the tie that binds comes untied? While God knit David and Jonathan together in 1 Samuel 18, in that same chapter, Saul unraveled. Perfect stitches pulled by an unseen hand. In 1 Samuel 15, God removed His Spirit due to Saul’s repeated disobedience. If the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the absence of the Spirit in Saul produced:

  • Anger and jealousy: “Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. ‘They have credited David with tens of thousands,’ he thought, ‘but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?’ And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.” (1 Samuel 18:8-9 NIV) Have you been here? The tapes won’t stop playing. Anger, jealousy, and envy ooze from every pore.
  • Murder and madness: “The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying (The NASB says raving.) in his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, ‘I’ll pin David to the wall.’ But David eluded him twice.” (1 Samuel 18:10-11) Have you created your own tape? Crafted the perfect comeback—or worse, revenge?
  • Fear: “Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had left Saul . . . When Saul saw how successful he [David] was, he was afraid of him.” (1 Samuel 18:12, 15) Fear grips relentlessly, choking, paralyzing, numbing you to reason.

Take a look at the threads of Galatians 5:19-21, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Do you see Saul in the tangled mess?

But I believe something besides the flesh was at work. Demonic fingers pulling the yarn? Jesus through Luke gives a hint of what may have occurred, “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26) I don’t believe Saul was oppressed before the kingship, but Scripture speaks clearly of demons and their impact on the rejected king.

God promises never to remove His Spirit (John 14:15-17), yet we often turn from Him. And when we do, we open ourselves to the influence of the enemy, “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)

Stay tight with the Spirit and you won’t unravel.

Workout of the Week: Unraveled

Memory Verse:  “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

Meditation Passage: 1 Samuel 18

Just Do It: Stay tight with the Spirit and you won’t unravel.

Knit Together

Knit Together

“Now it came about when he [David] had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.” (1 Samuel 18:1 NASB)

Knit together. I love Samuel’s imagery. One soul knit to another’s in friendship.

Knitting is no easy task, you know. I tried a knitting class one summer. My classmates could have been contemporaries of my grandmother and, at minimum, had experience with crochet.

Me? I could cross stitch.

The gray hairs clicked away, chatting as their length of knitting grew and grew. I counted stitches, cursing under my breath, until I finally eeked out a recognizable row of ribbing. I think I was sweating.

How much more difficult is it for two hearts to be knit together?

Different fibers.

Different colors.

Different textures.

Let’s train in craft class with David and Jonathan. Look at their different skeins.

1. Socio-economic: Prince and pauper. Sovereign and shepherd. Top of the ladder and bottom rung.

2. Family ties: The tribe of Benjamin and the tribe of Judah. Could there be any remaining hostility over the Joseph thing? (Genesis 37:26-28)

3. Callings: Supportive follower and anointed leader.

Knit.

Together.

But don’t think threads never frayed or stitches weren’t dropped. Jonathan took a lot of heat from his father for his friendship with David (1 Samuel 20:30-34). And there were times David thought Jonathan completely clueless about Saul’s intentions (1 Samuel 20:1-3).

Yet, these two made three different covenants pledging themselves to each other and to their families (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 20:13-17; 23:16-18). After Jonathan’s death, David intentionally sought out Jonathan’s son to show him kindness because of their friendship (2 Samuel 9).

So, has God tried to tie you to an unlikely piece of yarn? Have you fought the knitting needles?

You could be missing one of God’s better blessings.

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

Workout of the Week: Knit Together

Memory Verse: “Now it came about when he [David] had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.” (1 Samuel 18:1 NASB)

Meditation Passage: 1 Samuel 23:15-18

Just Do It: Don’t tangle God’s work.

Gracious! I Didn’t Realize!

Gracious! I Didn't Realize!

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NIV)

A blind eye? Or grace?

Life would be easier—spiritually speaking—if God disciplined me every time I sinned. My growth curve would be sharper. I would learn more quickly and suffer from far fewer repeated sins.

Instead, my relationship with sin falls into three categories. Sometimes I’m unaware of a blind spot, something God hasn’t chosen to expose just yet. Other times, a sin hovers in the back of my mind, playing hide and seek until I’m ready to deal with it. A third scenario finds me fully aware of the issue and in full battle mode against it.

Let’s train in Romans today. Read Romans 2:4 again.

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NIV)

Contempt: Do I take advantage of God’s grace? Do I use it as a license for my own poor choices? Or those sin areas where I’m still sitting the fence? If so, Paul says I’m treating God with contempt.

Not a place I want to go.

Kindness, Tolerance, and Patience: Do you remember the days of fussy toddlers when they demonstrated anything but acceptable behavior? Frustrated though we might have been, we chose not to discipline but to show grace, especially if we knew hunger or a missed nap was driving that behavior. Likewise, God shows grace to me. Why? To lead me to repentance.

Realize and Repent: God has struck people dead for lesser sins than mine. When I realize the magnitude of His grace, I’m grateful. Gratitude for His grace leads me to repentance.

The NIV cross-references Romans 2:4 with 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Both refer to salvation, though I think Paul’s verse could be applied to our daily walk.

Both sit in passages speaking of God’s final judgment.

God sees all. He chooses to give kindness, tolerance, and patience in hopes of leading me to repentance. From death to life. From lost to found. From darkness to light.

When I get a glimpse of His grace, I’m humbled. The 180 comes more easily when I’m grateful.

What kindness has God demonstrated in the face of your sin?

What has He tolerated?

How long have you kept Him waiting?

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

Workout of the Week: Gracious! I Didn’t Realize!

Memory Verse: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NIV)

Meditation Passage: Romans 2:1-11

Just Do It: Realize and repent.

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.

Grace, Faith, and Works

Grace, Faith, and Works

Grace, faith, and works.

Incompatible? Or irretrievably interwoven?

While grace and faith pair well, works have been the odd man out when it comes to salvation. Yet your concordance will show extensive lists of verses for all three. Have you considered their relationship? Let’s focus on just a few verses that show the tension created by this trio:

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV): “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Grace, faith, and works. Side by side by side.

God gives us grace. He enables us to respond in faith. He prepares good works in advance for us to do.

Simple, right? Thanks, Paul.

But then James and Jesus Himself chime in.

James 2:14, 17 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” and “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Can dead faith save? Sometimes. (Ex. Thief on the cross)

Matthew 7:21-24: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Works without relationship looks dead too. (Ex. Pharisees)

One more just for fun. (This one helps.)

1 Cor. 3:10-15: “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”

God’s gift of grace enables our faith.

Show the grace you’ve experienced.

Demonstrate your faith response that followed that grace.

Let your living faith lead you to look for the opportunities God has already prepared.

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

Workout for the Week: Grace, Faith, and Works

Memory Verse: Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Meditation Passage: James 2:14-26

Just Do It: Work out your salvation.

Clearing Hurdles

Clearing Hurdles

Hurdles. They bring to mind Olympic runners, not a blind man from the pages of the Gospels. Yet Bartimaeus was driven by far more than a gold medal. Let’s look at his story.

He’s unnamed, known by his father’s, not his own.

He’s alone. No family, no friends guide him through the streets of Jericho.

He has no skills. He’s left to beg.

But he gets it.

 “As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!'” (Mark 10:46-47 NIV)

But something interesting happens. Jesus doesn’t go to him.

Instead, Jesus tells him to come.

Bartimaeus struggles over three hurdles to get to Jesus and to receive healing:

Hurdle #1: The Crowd As Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus, they shush him. Nothing doing. He gets louder. He clears the hurdle of what other people think. Is the opinion of others keeping you from healing? From a deeper relationship with Jesus?

Hurdle #2: The Handicap Jesus has called. A blind man must seek a stranger. Bartimaeus follows the noise, hoping someone will shove him in the right direction. He clears the hurdle of the handicap. What handicap do you need to hurdle?

Hurdle #3: The Baggage When Jesus calls for him, Mark records (Mark 10:46-52) that Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside, jumped to his feet, and came to Jesus. That cloak was probably all he had. We read nothing of friends or family. He’s begging. Notice too, Jesus asks him what he wants. Isn’t it obvious? But Jesus makes him articulate it. There’s baggage present and Jesus makes him confront it. What are you carrying?

Bartimaeus wanted healing and Jesus was the only one who could give it. The blind man was so desperate nothing could hold him back.

Are you there yet?

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

Workout of the Week: Clearing Hurdles

Memory Verse: “Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.” Mark 10:50 (NIV)

Meditation Passage: Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10: 46-52; Luke 18: 35-43

Just Do It: Come.

 

 

The Toes Follow the Nose

The Toes Follow the Nose

Where the head goes, the whole body tends to follow.

I’m leash training my puppy. A neighbor suggested a Gentle Leader, a collar that rests high behind the ears with another strap fitting over the nose. The leash attaches underneath so that when you pull, you pull the head and not the neck, similar to the bit and bridle for horses. It takes those strong shoulder muscles out of the picture. End result? You lead him instead of being dragged behind him.

The Gentle Leader allows me to direct Valor’s attention, because his tummy, toes, and tail follow his eyes, mouth, and nose. Scripture likewise cautions us as to what we set before our eyes, because God knows all too well, our emotions, will, and reason will follow. Let’s train with Valor this week. Here are a few of his favorite—or not so favorite—commands:

Leave it! This covers everything from road kill to the ant-covered lollipop stuck to the sidewalk. Psalm 101:3 reads, “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.” What has snuck into your life that has no place there? Ask the Holy Spirit what you need to leave alone.

Give! Valor’s reach is growing as he does. Most of what he can reach he has no business with: my sandwich, my homework, my favorite socks. Psalm 119:37 says, “Turn my eyes away from worthless things.” These things aren’t bad, but they aren’t best. Often they are time-stealers as well. What eats your time, energy, and brainpower, but is giving little to no return? Ask God what needs to give.

Come! Coming is good. It can mean a walk, dinnertime, or playing fetch. Yes, sometimes, it means a trip to the vet, but that’s a good thing too—Parvo is no picnic. Scripture shows us where to put our focus.

Check out these two passages: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

. . . fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:2-3)

Are you making relationship time for the Master? Are you choosing things that will please Him?

Valor has a choice between his chew toys, my running shoe, or the dead bird in the yard. I often feel like I’m not choosing at all, just deflecting what comes at me through the day. Yet, I choose what I give my time to. I choose what I listen, read, and watch.

What will you choose?

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

Workout of the Week: The Toes Follow the Nose

Memory Verse: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21)

Meditation Passage: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

Just Do It: Allow the Holy Spirit to be your Gentle Leader.

 

Sand: When Faith Gets Shifty

Sand: When Faith Gets Shifty

Abraham. A man of rock solid faith, right?

Sometimes.

Sometimes, he found himself in the sifty, shifty sand.

As we dig our toes into the beach sand this summer, let’s look at the sandy spots that shifted Abraham’s world and avoid them in ours:

The Sand of Helplessness: In two incidents (Gen. 12:10-20; Gen. 20:1-18), Abraham traveled to a foreign region (Egypt, Gerar). Both times he told the reigning monarch that Sarah was his sister, neglecting to mention their marital status. Both kings took her into their harems. God protected Sarah, but the kings rebuked Abraham for lying.

His reason for fibbing? “Abraham replied, ‘I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’” (Genesis 20:11 NIV) He was scared. Pee-in-his-pants afraid, and, in his mind, at the mercy of the monarch. Helpless.

The Sand of Hurry: In Genesis 15, Abraham questioned God about an heir. God answered in vs. 4-6, followed by the famous verses of Abraham’s faith and righteousness. But in the next chapter, a barren Sarai proposed a second wife, the Egyptian Hagar, “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to what Sarai said.” (Genesis 16:1-2)

Not a crazy idea. Pretty normal for the culture back then.

But it wasn’t what God had in mind.

And—Abraham didn’t stop to ask.

Hurry. Wanting our way in our time. It’s trouble.

The Sand of Hesitancy: In Genesis 18:16-33, God revealed to Abraham that Sodom and Gomorrah would be destroyed. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, lived there. Abraham bargained with God for the righteous of the city, hoping to protect Lot.

But he never mentions Lot by name.

Abraham never shared what was truly on his heart. Though God planned to rescue Lot all along, Abraham’s intercession was vague and somewhat sterile. He missed an opportunity for a heart-to-heart with his heavenly Father on behalf of a much-loved family member.

A lack of trust drove each shift, each sandy stumble. God’s protection, God’s provision, and God’s power were available to His beloved child.

Workout of the Week: Sand, When Faith Gets Shifty

Memory Verse: “Abraham replied, ‘I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’” (Genesis 20:11)

Meditation Passage: Genesis 18:16-33

Just Do It: Trust what you know; stay Rock-solid.

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.