Posts Tagged “1 Peter”

7In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
Luke 15:7 (NLT)

Jesus concludes His parable of the lost sheep with these words. He tells us that all of heaven rejoices when a sinner repents. In fact, they rejoice more over the one who returns than the overwhelming majority who simply stay the course – finish well. My life is largely focused on finishing well and helping others to do so. My focus isn’t on the lost. It’s how I’m wired. It’s how I’m gifted. But that doesn’t excuse me from praying and participating in the seeking of the lost.

If my desire is to bring God joy (and it is), can there be a better activity to participate in? It sure doesn’t sound like it from this passage.

But as I said, I’m not wired for evangelism. I’m wired for teaching. Nevertheless, I can add activities to my everyday life that support evangelism without taking away from my spiritual passions and giftings. Here are some ideas:

  • Pray. Yes, this is the most obvious, but praying for the lost isn’t something I do regularly (forgive me, Lord). Discipline yourself to pray at those times when your mind tends to wander – for example, while driving or while doing household chores. There are a number of ways we can pray:
    • Pray specifically for the hearts of those who don’t know Christ to be softened.
    • Pray for specific people, by name.
    • Pray for God to put others in their path who will spark their interest in the spiritual realm.
    • Pray for the circumstances in their lives to bring them to recognize their need for God.
    • Pray for evangelistic activities that are occurring, such as Billy Graham’s broadcast, America My Hope, and local evangelistic outreaches (even if they’re done by other churches).
    • Pray that God would use you to spark an interest in Christ before attending events or functions where non-believers will be present.
    • Pray for courage to speak out for Christ and to have that word aptly spoken” (Proverbs 25:11).
    • Pray to live a loving, joyful, righteous life.
  • Smile. Laugh easily. Confound their stereotype that Christians are serious and boring. I have to work at this. I am a serious person by nature. Yet I know God wants me to smile more. I want the peace and joy I experience in Him to be evident to others. One way that happens is by smiling and laughing.
  • Be friendly as you go about your everyday. It’s easier for God to open a door when you smile and nod to that person in front of you than when you’re staring down at the groceries in your cart or at your cell phone to read your friend’s latest Facebook post
  • Be helpful. When you see someone struggling to reach something in the store and you can get it for them, do so. When they’ve dropped something on the floor, help them pick it up.
  • Don’t be rude, distant or distracted. That feeds the stereotype of the self-righteous Christian. Be present in whatever situation you find yourself.
  • Be a good-finder. That’s a Zig Ziglar-ism. Be a good-finder in those around you. When your internal attitude is to be critical of that person near you – because they’re too unkempt or too fashionably dressed, because they have too many tattoos or look like a person that would never have a tattoo, because they’re too fat or too skinny, because they’re too loud or too timid, because they’ve filled their cart with junk food or the most expensive offerings in the store – when that thing (called sin) rises up in you to begin to be critical of that person, stop. Be a good-finder. Look at the person and ask God to show you the good in them and then pray into that. Perhaps even compliment them on it. Are you in your grunge clothes and the fashionably dressed person walks by and you’re tempted to be critical because she obviously spends too much money on clothes. Stop. Sincerely compliment her on her sweater or shoes or hair. You get the idea. Criticism doesn’t open the door to share Christ. (And it closes a door to God.)
  • Rehearse the Gospel. Be ready to share the Gospel in a number of different ways and in different timeframes.

15Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16But do this in a gentle and respectful way.
1 Peter 3:15-16a (NLT)

  • Follow God’s promptings. If you’ve asked Him to use you, He will. If you are willing to be used. It’s one thing to pray; it’s quite another thing to be obedient when God gives opportunities in response to those prayers. I know that I have ignored the Lord’s promptings to pray with or speak to a stranger. (That’s where praying for courage comes in.) I want to follow God’s promptings. How amazing is it that He even asks me to be involved in eternal things? Pretty amazing I think. And humbling. Let’s be obedient and following His promptings.

What other ideas do you have for incorporating evangelism into your everyday life? Share your ideas on our Facebook page or as a comment to this post. Let’s help one another bring joy to all of heaven!

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

October – the month of beautiful trees, a briskness in the air, bonfires and the annoying start of Christmas items in stores! It’s also the month for reading the books of Jeremiah, James, 1 and 2 Peter and Luke.  Throw in 2 Kings if you’re reading the additional readings. And the encroaching coolness outside makes it a great time to curl up and read.

If you’ve fallen behind and are looking for a good place to jump back into the readings, this month is perfect. Start on September 30th and you’ll join us at the start of Ecclesiastes and James. From here, the readings provide a great build up to Christmas. The New Testament readings will put you in a perfect place to enjoy the holiness of the upcoming season.

The following buttons will open PDFs of the September/October bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the Sept/Oct 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

The October Reading Schedule also appears at the end of this blog.

Enjoy your reading! We’d love to hear what God speaks to your heart.  Email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for October is below.

Resting at the River's Edge October 2013 Recommended Reading Schedule

Here’s how the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules are organized:

  • The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice over a two-year period. You will typically read about three chapters a day if you follow this reading plan.
  • The “Additional Readings” column put you on a plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. You will read between four and five chapters a day if you follow this plan.

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Phil and I have been taking ballroom dancing lessons for about four months. Tonight is our first recital! Yes, I thought only children had dance recitals. Guess I was wrong about that. We’ll be dancing the rhumba and the waltz. Earlier this week I wrote about lessons from the battlefield and how they can be applied to our spiritual life. In honor of our dance recital tonight, I thought I’d share some lessons from the ballroom.

There are a few lessons our instructor, Michael, has been working on with us every single week. We’ve taken about twelve lessons and I don’t think a week’s gone by that he hasn’t mentioned all three of these things. And like our battlefield lessons, I find them applicable to my spiritual life. In fact, since I have someone harping on me about these lessons each week and we practice a couple of other times a week, these lessons are in the front of my mind and are serving as reminders of how I ought to live.

Lesson 1: Stand Tall

When you stand tall you command authority. You think and act differently.

Do you know who you are in Christ? We are many things, but I like the description in 1 Peter:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)

We are chosen by God, he has made us a part of His royal priesthood, and he’s given us a calling. What a privileged position we hold! Cherished by the creator of the universe! Knowing that ought to make us stand tall. There’s no slouching from insecurity in the King’s Kingdom. Yet when we are tempted to be downhearted, we can remember King David’s words:

But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
Psalm 3:3 (NLT)

We may be as Paul described – hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down, but we are not crushed, in despair, abandoned or destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NIV). Why? Because God is the lifter of our head. He is the one who holds our head high. I ought to be living as that royal priesthood, as a person for God’s own possession.

A person who lives like that doesn’t slouch. That person has a regalness about them. Not an arrogance, but a regalness.

And it’s not all about how we walk, there is a spiritual application of this that goes deeper. Spiritually, we ought to be standing up. When we face the enemy, we’re not to be worn down, defeated, expecting to lose, afraid of being seen.

No, we should be standing tall in confidence and command because we are God’s holy nation, we are His ambassador. We’ve been called out of darkness, given the assignment of proclaiming His excellencies, His supremacy, and His great love.

We ought to stand tall. Because God is the lifter of our heads.

Lesson 2: Follow the Leader

Oh, I’m not always good at this one. Phil lifts his arm indicating that I’m supposed to go under it for an underarm turn and I just keep dancing my little box step. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t recognize his lead. I just didn’t feel like doing it. I needed a break from the last step we did.

Except for the fact that sometimes Phil’s leads are a bit indefinite and Gods leads are always perfect, the rest is about the same. Sometimes I miss the lead. I wasn’t ready. I wanted to stay in my routine. I wasn’t paying attention to Him and missed the lead. Or I wanted to take a break from the last battle he put me in.

I did a search in the Bible on the phrase “Follow me.” One of the things that jumped out at me was Jesus’ calling his Disciples. He met Peter and said “Follow me.” He met Matthew and said “Follow me.”

He said this as he called another disciple:

21  Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”    
22  But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Matthew 8:21-22 (NIV)

And His message was the same to the rich young ruler:

21  Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Matthew 19:21 (NKJV)

Follow me. That’s what God says.

If we move this command into the battlefield, there’s a good reason to follow Him. There’s a good reason not to take the lead away from Him – because it is His battle to win, not ours.

David knew this when he fought Goliath. He met Goliath with these words

“Today, all those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
1 Samuel 17:47 (NIV)

When we stop following, we put the battle into our own hands. When we stop following, we take the plan for the day and put it into our own hands. It doesn’t belong in our hands. It belongs in the Lord’s hands and He will give the victory

Lesson 3: It’s Not All About the Footwork

You know, I want it to be all about the footwork. Because I can get the footwork down. Slow, quick, quick. Slow, quick, quick. The footwork is the easy part. Michael is always telling us that the reason we take lessons isn’t to learn the footwork, we could get that from a video. The reason we take lessons is to learn style – to put the polish on the footwork.

What he’s talking about is adding passion to dance. Putting our feet in the right place at the right time is just a small part of dancing. An important one, but still a small one.

When we translate that into our walk with the Lord, we say that it’s not all about the fundamentals. The fundamentals are important – reading our Bibles daily, praying, serving, being thankful, worshipping, tithing, and many other things – they’re the fundamentals – they’re getting our feet in the right place at the right time. They’re very important, but it’s not all about the footwork – it’s not all about the fundamentals. It’s about the passion of the dance – it’s loving the Lord with our whole heart. It’s serving Him whole heartedly.

King David gave this advice to his son Solomon as he was handing over the plans for building the Lord’s temple:

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him.
1 Chronicles 28:9a (NLT)

That’s more than footwork. Learn to know your God intimately.

Lesson 4: It Takes Practice to Get it Right

We’re taking lessons because we want to know how to dance well. I’m shocked that we’ve spent the bulk of our lessons learning one dance. I would have guessed we could learn the rhumba in about three weeks. Yet here we are at week ten and we’re still learning the rhumba. The more we practice, the better we get.

The same is true in our spiritual life. Somehow we have the expectation that we ought to be good at it immediately. After all, we love the Lord – shouldn’t the rest come naturally. Uh – no. It didn’t for the Apostle Paul:

15I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

18And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

21I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22I love God’s law with all my heart. 23But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
Romans 7:15-23 (NLT)

Yes, I don’t really understand it – I want my feet and my body to go one direction, but they repeatedly go the other way. Well, on the dance floor, it’s not that big a deal. But in life, much more so. Yet living the life God wants us to live doesn’t come naturally. Sinning comes naturally. Living in holiness takes practice and requires listening to the Holy Spirit. Don’t be disheartened when you don’t get it right the first time. Keep practicing!

4 Lessons from the Ballroom:

Lesson 1: Stand Tall
Lesson 2: Follow the Leader
Lesson 3: It’s Not All About the Footwork
Lesson 4: It Takes Practice to Get it Right

Let me encourage you, friends, to live out my ballroom lessons in your spiritual life. God is worth it.

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There are many illustrations in the Bible about how we are soldiers for the Lord, a part of His army. And while it’s true that our battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against powers of darkness, there are lessons we can learn from earthly battlefields. A friend recently pointed me toward a Facebook page for the military unit her son is a part of.

The world is a different place these days. I didn’t know that military units have their own Facebook pages! I was quite surprised to learn that, but in today’s world, Facebook is the way the world communicates and it can be a wonderful tool for staying in touch. In a recent post, the captain of the unit included as part of his update information about what’s called an “After Action Report” or AAR. “If done properly,” the Captain wrote, “the After Action Reports are not for the thin-skinned, but it is a big part of how we get better, and why our Army is so strong.” He then shared some of the points from a recent evaluation. As I read the update, I was struck at the value the process and his advice has for us as Christians seeking to serve our King. Hence, our lessons from the battlefield.

Let me say here that I am NOT in any way meaning to devalue what the men and women in our military are doing. Their battlefield is much more stressful and much more dangerous than any I’m in. Rather, it’s my desire to honor them as I take from their lessons and seek to learn from them.

Lesson 1: Evaluate to Improve

Our first lesson comes from the activity itself – we can’t improve what we don’t evaluate. In the Facebook post, the Captain wrote this: “days seem to be endless, yet gone in a flash….It’s been a slow blur.”

Well, I’m not on the battlefield, but I know sometimes – lots of times, actually – my life feels like that. Will this day never end? And then “How can it possibly be Friday again?” Days seem endless, yet they’re gone in a flash.

If we don’t purposefully step back and evaluate our lives, we’ll find that more and more days have gone by without making steps toward improvement, steps toward growth, steps toward becoming the person God wants us to be.

One of the times we do that is during communion. Paul wrote this about communion:

27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
1 Corinthians 11:27-29 (NIV)

God wants us to examine ourselves, to watch our behavior, to not take what Jesus did for us lightly.

King David knew that it’s not only self-examination that’s needed. We too easily deceive ourselves. King David asked the Lord to examine him:

23Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

If we’re to become more like Christ, we must examine ourselves and ask God to examine us.

Lesson 2: Stay Sharp

The Captain wrote this in his After Action Report: “How do we keep Soldiers and Leaders focused? How do we keep them from becoming complacent? Although we haven’t been doing this a long time, Soldiers get tired.  How do we prevent the “Groundhog Day” mentality from setting in, where every day or mission looks like the one before?  Or the dangerous mindset that occurs prior to a mission when Soldiers think that nothing has happened, so therefore nothing will happen.  This is when I worry about Soldiers taking shortcuts and being complacent.  Complacency kills, bottom line.”

It’s not so different in our spiritual life. No matter how long we’ve been a Christian, we can still fall. Scripture warns us:

8Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

We’re to stay alert. Satan prowls around looking for who is most vulnerable, easiest to attack and kill. Even Jesus wasn’t immune to attacks by Satan. In the desert, satan tempted Him three times. Jesus successfully defeated satan each time, and then Scripture says this:

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Luke 4:13 (NIV)

Satan is looking for an opportune time to attack us. Our responsibility is to stay sharp.

Lesson 3: Exceed the Expectations of Your Commander

Our military isn’t focused on just doing their job. They’re focused on exceeding the expectations of their commanding officers.

Do we have the same commitment to our Commanding Officer? Do we have the same commitment to our King?

Paul encouraged the Ephesians:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Ephesians 4:1

And to the Philippians he wrote:

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. 
Philippians 1:27

Is our focus on living a life worthy of the One who gave His life for us? Is our focus on living a life that is worthy of the One who created the universe? Is our focus on living a life that is worthy of the One who lives us so, the One who is jealous for us and whose love is fierce and strong?

Lesson 4: Allocate Resources Properly

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

Numbering our days aright means first remembering each morning that our time belongs to God. To squander it is to squander God’s resources. At breakfast last week my husband said “everything we have is stewardship” Are we using what we have in the way God wants us to use it? Phil was talking about cars and money. It also applies to time. Time, money, cars, talent, our home and food – they’re all included as part of the resources we’re to allocate properly. Lord, help us get better at it!

Four Lessons from the battlefield:

Lesson 1: Evaluate to Improve
Lesson 2: Stay Sharp
Lesson 3: Exceed the Expectations of Your Commander
Lesson 4: Allocate Resources Properly

They’re lessons meant to keep our troops sharp, focused, the best. They’re lessons we would do well to implement in our lives and our walk with the Lord.

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Pair of Dolphins KissingLet me give you some insight into our typical schedule. Three or four days a week my husband works second shift at the job God has graciously provided to pay our health insurance. I work fulltime in our home-based business during the normal work day (and beyond). So I am in the office by 8am, but because he doesn’t get to bed until about 2am several nights a week, Phil doesn’t come in until 9 or 10am.

This morning, I was busy working – in the middle of writing something – having a full thought in my head that I was trying to rapidly get on paper (well, screen actually). I also had a second thought in my mind that I desperately didn’t want to lose – it was firmly planted as the next task, but if I didn’t get to it soon, I was afraid it would wilt before blossoming.

That’s when my husband came into the office. He didn’t follow his normal routine – going to his desk and cheerfully say “Morning, Beeb!” (now you know our favorite term of endearment for one another). Instead, he came to my desk, pulled up a chair and came in for a kiss.

Now I love my husband dearly and I love his kisses…but I REALLY wanted to get these thoughts down…kisses could wait, but could my thoughts? Yet I felt prompted, yes, I believe by the Holy Spirit, to turn away from my keyboard and give my full attention to my husband. Praise God that I was obedient to that prompting. My husband greeted me with a very tender kiss followed by professions of his undying love. It wasn’t a peck, and it wasn’t passionate – it was soft and gentle, letting me know that I am a treasured woman. Wow!

And the Holy Spirit turned it into a teachable moment.

§ Giving and receiving love and affection from my husband is more important than getting the next thought on paper or the next task done.

§ God can use moments to change our lives. How long was my “interruption” this morning? Not long. Yet my day is changed. And I know Phil’s day is changed. In the front of my mind is the tender moment we shared and the knowledge that I am very special to him. Moments that can change days can change our lives.

§ God is my Husband. He has given me an earthly husband not only for my joy, but also as an illustration – an earthly picture/experience – of my relationship with Him. He wants to surprise me with tender moments that can change my day and my life. I could have said to Phil “I’m in the middle of something” when he pulled up a chair this morning. I would have missed out. I can say the same thing to God – “Lord, I need to finish this thought before I pay attention to You.” And it will be my loss – I will miss the opportunity to experience God’s love, His grace, His wisdom – all things He wants to shower upon me. I will miss the moments with God that can change my life.

Lord, thank you for lessons that come out of tender kisses. Thank you for my husband, who loves me and who gives me glimpses of Your love and care for me. Help me to be tender toward You and toward him – even when I’m in the middle of some seemingly urgent task.

Husbands and Wives

1In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2by observing your pure and reverent lives. 3Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God….

7In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

8Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.
1 Peter 3:1-4, 7-9 (NLT)

Gentlemen – Kiss your wives tenderly. Love her.

Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
Proverbs 5:18 (NLT)

Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
Colossians 3:19 (NLT)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Ephesians 5:25 (NIV)

Ladies – Love your husbands passionately. Read Song of Solomon in a modern translation and love your husband as the young woman loves her bridegroom. And resist the urge to nag.

2Kiss me and kiss me again, for your love is sweeter than wine. 3How fragrant your cologne; your name is like its spreading fragrance. No wonder all the young women love you!
Song of Songs 1:2-3 (NLT)

A quarrelsome [or nagging] wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day.
Proverbs 27:15 (NLT)

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In his Monday Morning Memo on April 15th, Alan Weiss of Summit Consulting wrote this:

Every day we write the story of our lives, a continuing autobiography. I suspect that if we took the time to read it regularly, we might choose to change the plot. I suspect that if we took the time to read it regularly, we might choose to change the plot! Some of us are rooted in a poverty mentality, as if we’re trying merely to survive; some are in stability, feeling alive; some have an abundance mentality, feeling it’s good to arrive; and a few are in self-mastery, believing they can thrive. As we ascend, the key is to avoid sliding back, and to create water-tight, closed doors behind us. How interesting is your story? You can still change it.

I don’t know if Alan Weiss is a Christian. His Monday Morning Memos are directed to the business community. I couldn’t help but recognize the spiritual implications of his memo, however. As Christians, we know that God has created us for a purpose and that He works the circumstances in our lives to bring us into those purposes…if we pursue Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

The enemy, however, has one goal – to derail us from the path God has created for us. His first tactic in achieving that goal is to keep us from spending eternity with God. When he fails at that, his tactics change from keeping us from heaven to minimizing the impact we can have while here on earth – to keep us from accomplishing God’s purposes for our lives. He does that by convincing us to believe lies about who we are and who God is.

  • He gives us a poverty mentality, when the truth is that our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10).
  • He makes us comfortable in a stability mentality – we’re alive and enjoying our Christian culture…and we’re happy to settle there. That’s enough. No, it’s not. God calls us to more. In 2 Timothy 4, the Apostle Paul write to Timothy “I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season…for the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine…But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge your duties of our ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5, NIV) Paul wrote this shortly before his death. He wrote just a few verses later that he had fought the good fight, he had finished the race, and because of that, there was a crown of righteous waiting for him – a crown that would be presented to him by the Lord. Wow! You may not be a preacher. You may not be an evangelist. But Paul’s message to Timothy applies to you. Whatever God has called you to do, continue in it. Discharge the duties of the ministry God has given you. Don’t become complacent.
  • He gives us an abundance, and with that comes the temptations of  “pride in our achievements and possessions.” But “this world is fading away… But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2:16-17)
  • He distracts us with pursuing success for the sake of success and the temptations of personal glory. This is what I take from Weiss’ description of “self-mastery.” As we pursue success by the world’s standards, we can easily in our own ability to achieve our destiny. We no longer depend on God for all things, but are confident in our own ability to thrive. We’re to do all things as if unto God (1 Peter 4:10-11), which means we ought to approach all things with excellence, but we’re to rely on Him in the doing. We’re not to rely on our own abilities, our own wisdom, our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Friends, God has gone to tremendous lengths to save us. He works continually in our lives – and that means in our circumstances – to work all things together for good if we continue in our love for him and in pursuing the purposes He has for our lives. Let’s make the story we are writing every day bring glory to Him and echo through eternity long after we’re with Him.

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But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.
Daniel 1:8 (NLT)

In 605 BC King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Judah. Most citizens of Judah were forcibly taken to Babylon. Soon thereafter, Nebuchadnezzar decided to bring some of the Israelites into his service:

3Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives.

4“Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.”

5  The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.
Daniel 1:3-5 (NLT)

Daniel and three others from the family of Judah were taken. (You’ve probably heard of the three others. They were renamed by King Nebuchadnezzar and you mostly likely know them as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. But that’s another story.)

Put yourself in Daniel’s place. You are part of Judah’s royal family. You are conquered. Your enemy captures you and takes you to his country. Things are looking pretty bad for you. Then the king selects you to be part of his elite counsel of advisors. You’re to be fed the same menu cooked by the same chef as the king and you’re to receive the best training. It’s a lot better than living out your life in a dungeon. But it means serving the king who conquered your land and brought you to his.

Would you be angry or thankful? Would you oppose the king who conquered you or serve him? Would you pretend to be a friend of the king while secretly working against him?

Let’s look at how Daniel responded:

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.
Daniel 1:8 (NLT)

Daniel made a firm decision. Various translations make this clear:

“Daniel was determined…” (NLT)
“Daniel made up his mind…” (NASB)
“Daniel purposed in his heart…” (NKJV)
“Daniel resolved…” (NRSV)

Daniel made a firm decision, not a wishy-washy, wishful-thinking decision. He didn’t think “well, maybe it would be best if…” He didn’t think “I’m going to try …” His approach wasn’t “if I can, I’m going to…” He made a take-a-stand, Joshua-like decision – “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Often the first step we need to take is simply to make a firm decision. I have been working toward a healthy weight for more than a year now. I am only successful when I make a firm decision to work toward my goals. When I approach them half-heartedly I fail. Consistently. When I approach them with resolve, with purpose in my heart, with a made-up mind, I am successful.

Daniel decided to honor God by remaining as pure as possible in a pagan culture. Daniel’s first recorded challenge to his decision came when he began receiving meals prepared by the King’s chef. There is little detail here about why Daniel might consider it inappropriate to eat the food, but it’s not unreasonable to conclude from the use of the word “defile” that Daniel had concerns about the type of meat he would be served, how it was prepared, and/or whether it may have been offered to Babylonian idols. Without knowing the details, however, we can identify with Daniel because we live in a culture that is increasingly unfriendly toward Christians. We live in a culture that encourages and celebrates lifestyle choices that are not consistent with serving God.

Every decision we make throughout the day involves a choice between honoring God or living life according to our own rules and wants and wishes. Every decision? Yes, every decision – every piece of food we eat, every television program we watch, every word we say to our coworkers, every assignment we complete for our boss, every look we give our spouses, every traffic law we obey or disobey, and every thought we nurture or kill. Regardless of the situation we face, we can choose to honor God or not honor God. But it’s not just the decisions we make, it’s also how we implement those decisions.

Daniel honored God by living respectfully in a pagan culture. When I read the words of verse 8 – that Daniel was determined and resolved, that he had made up his mind – an image begins to take shape in my mind of a man who is going to stand up boldly to authority and resist it if necessary to accomplish his goals. That image is inconsistent with the second half of the verse: “He [Daniel] asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.”

Daniel didn’t approach the chief of staff with a demand or refusal – he asked for permission. This caught me by surprise. Having made a firm decision to remain pure, Daniel then seemingly puts his ability to keep that commitment in the hands of his captors. There is an expression that I truly hate: “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission.” That statement doesn’t honor God in any way. Daniel didn’t subscribe to that statement. Daniel’s approach showed respect for those in authority. It actually went much further than that.

Daniel trusted God to make a way for him to fulfill his commitment. Choosing to ask permission instead of taking matters into his own hands, defying authority and then asking forgiveness, Daniel demonstrated trust in God. Daniel may have made the commitment to honor God, but he also recognized that it would only be by God’s grace that he could keep the commitment.

I realize that Daniel’s humility takes me by surprise in light of his determination because I view determination as strength and deep down inside I view humility as weakness. That would be because I have a flawed view of humility. In God’s economy humility is king:

God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
Matthew 5:5 (NLT)

But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6 (NRSV)

And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:5b (NRSV)

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
James 4:10 (NKJV)

It certainly proved true in Daniel’s case. What was the result of Daniel’s actions? Read it for yourself:

18When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. 19The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. 20Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.
Daniel 1:18-20 (NLT)

Determination and humility – two great qualities that work great together. Who knew?

Do you need to make a firm decision to honor God in a greater way in some area of your life? How’s your humility quotient?

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9Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.
1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (NKJV)

Perhaps you’ve heard of Jabez. His name literally means “he will cause pain.” That’s what his mama named him, presumably after a difficult birth. I’ve been wondering how that affected him emotionally as he was growing up. Knowing that he’d been named “he will cause pain” – and undoubtedly personalizing it to “I will cause pain” – must have been painful mantel to wear every day of every year of his life. “Of course it must be true,” our Enemy would scream into his mind, “because your mama said so…And you’ve already done so, hurting the one person you say you love more than anyone.” Our enemy can wreak havoc with our minds and emotions and ultimately our life if we listen to him.

We recently read this verse 1 Peter in our Resting at the River’s Edge reading.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

The enemy has been on the prowl lately. Have you heard the news reports lately?

  • “58 deaths in the Caribbean attributed to Sandy”
  • “Sandy wreaks devastation – utter devastation in New Jersey”
  • “More than a dozen deaths in US caused by Sandy”
  • “Raging fire destroys at least 80 homes”
  • “Sandy could potentially affect more than 66 million Americans”
  • “The Wrath of Sandy”

I’m an adult and I understand that I haven’t caused any of this – they’ve simply named a hurricane after me. Yet each time I hear a news report or read a headline it has jolted my brain – feeling to my brain somewhat like a hard slap in the face. So I’ve been feeling a bit of a kinship with Jabez these last few days.

And God has used the experience to experientially teach me some things that I’d already learned from reading Scripture. That’s called reinforcement. It’s not pleasant but it seals the teaching in our spirits.

Words have impact and that impact has the power to change and shape one’s reality. Just as the New Jersey shore has been impacted by the waves and its shape has been significantly changed by the erosion of the beach and the destruction of roads and bridges, one who is the subject of hurtful words is subject to the effects of those words – the erosion of their confidence and destruction of their dreams.

Scripture says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21, NASB). We have the power to both destroy and give life with the words we say. Hearing repeatedly over the past few days that “Sandy” has brought devastation into millions of lives has not had a life-giving affect on me. Similarly telling a child he isn’t good for anything (or at anything) will not have a life-giving effect on him. Just like telling ourselves that we’re not good for anything or we can’t do anything right is not life-giving. Those words have the power of death.

Just as words can cause death, they can also bring life. We can pray and speak words that counter any and all words the enemy is using for destruction. Jabez’s prayer is simple and interesting. He prays “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” (1 Chronicles 4:10, KJV) Jabez very specifically speaks words of life to refute the words of death that he hears every time someone calls him by name. “Lord, bless me. Help me to do well. Keep your hand upon me. Keep me from evil. Keep me from causing any pain.”

“Jabez, would you…” a friend might have said.
“You, the one who causes pain, would you…” is what Jabez might have heard.

So he fought back – in the spiritual realm. “Lord, change my reality – make me one who does not cause pain. Bless me so that I might be a blessing to others.” You might say “Sandy, you’ve added that last phrase. It isn’t in Jabez’s prayer. He didn’t pray anything about being a blessing to others.” No, he didn’t. But the short discussion of Jabez begins with the phrase “Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers” (1 Chronicles 4:9, KJV). An honorable man (or woman) is generous (following God’s laws and His heart). It is totally within the context of the few verses to presume that Jabez’s heart’s desire was to be a blessing to others.

I am blessed – my mama named me “helper of mankind.” That’s what my name means. Yet this week I’ve been hearing about all the horrible things my namesake is doing. So I am beginning to fight back as Jabez did. When I hear or read the headlines, I am turning them around:

“58 deaths in the Caribbean attributed to Sandy”

“Lord, may I bring life to 58 people in the Caribbean. I don’t now how that might happen, but nothing is impossible with God.”

“Sandy wreaks devastation – utter devastation in New Jersey”

“Lord, may I be a blessing in some way to the state of New Jersey? Enlarge my territory so that I may give more. Enlarge my influence so that I may have a greater impact for good.”

“Raging fire destroys at least 80 homes”

“Lord, may I be a builder and not a destroyer. Lord, use me to ignite a fire of passion for You that spreads faster than the raging fire of New Jersey.”

“Sandy could potentially affect more than 66 million Americans”

“Lord, enlarge my influence so that I may affect more than 66 million Americans for good, not for harm. It sounds like foolishness to my ears to even ask such a thing, Lord. But You tell us to ask, so I ask to be an influence for the Kingdom of God in a greater measure than I can imagine. My namesake is affecting these people for evil. Use me, Lord, to affect an even greater number for good.”

“The Wrath of Sandy”

“Lord, keep me from wrath. May my life be marked with the joy of the Lord and a consistent outward display of the love of God.”

Whew! Those are some pretty lofty prayers – prayers that even scare me; prayers that sound impossible and foolish to me. But I believe God answers prayers and I believe He encourages us to pray lofty prayers with lofty ambitions. So I, whose name means helper of mankind, choose to speak words of life to myself, to pray words of life over my life and ministry, and to believe for those words to have an impact – both in this world and in the next.

[Jesus is speaking:] Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.
John 16:24 (NASB)

What words spoken against you do you need to reverse by praying life instead death?

PS: While Storm Sandy has been trying to wreak havoc in my emotions, she is definitely wreaking havoc in the northeast United States. Please pray for the victims. If you are able to help, giving to any of the following organizations is a good thing:

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1The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
2He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3He restores my soul. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Psalm 23:1-3 (a compilation of phrases from the NLT and NASB )

My soul was a little bruised today. A sadness hovered around me, constantly bumping me and causing me to lose my train of thought.

It wasn’t a good day for working. But then it wasn’t a good day for not working either, because work provides a bit of structure and the need for focused concentration which shelters me a bit from the constant bumping.

Throughout the day I had worship music playing in the background. It kept trying to assert itself to the foreground and I kept resisting it. I was supposed to be working. I was supposed to be sad. You can take your pick of reasons. Both pulled me away from the worship music.

Finally near the end of the day my Pandora station played Chris Tomlin’s song Let Your Mercy Rain. I was swept away into worship. And God spoke to me about my own resistance to letting Him restore my soul. Psalm 23:3 is often quoted as “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” I like the New Living Translation above – “He lets me rest in green meadows.” Sure, God sometimes “makes me lie down,” but isn’t it so much more wonderful to know that He “lets” us rest? He gives us permission to step away from the world. And during that resting, He restores our souls.

As I closed my eyes and listened to the words, healing poured over my soul:

God, You have done great things
God, You give grace to the weak
And bless the brokenhearted
With a song of praise to sing
You reached down and lifted us up
You came running, looking for us
And now there’s nothing
And no one beyond Your love

And I lifted my hands in worship and petition as the chorus started:

You’re the overflow
You’re the fountain of my heart
Let Your mercy rain
Let Your mercy rain on us

It lead me to expressively sign the words to the rest of the chorus:

You’re the faithful one
When the world’s falling apart
Let Your mercy rain
Let Your mercy rain on us

Yet as the song continued, I felt this internal pressure to get back to real life. It occurred to me that we often focus on living purposeful lives, accomplishing things for the Lord and “numbering our days aright” (Psalm 90:12) and seldom focus on letting ourselves rest by the green pastures God leads us to and allowing Him to restore our souls.

Sure, we give Him our devotional time in the morning (and/or evening), but often during that time we don’t allow Him to restore our souls. We rush through our reading and our praying. Even when God speaks to us and it is a special time, we don’t allow enough time for His voice and the impact of it to fully restore us. We rush on to what’s next.

I’m thinking that living without our soul being restored on a regular basis is setting ourselves up to be knocked down. Our enemy roams around like roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). When our souls are malnourished, we are easily devoured.

In God’s to do list for our day, allowing Him to restore our soul isn’t number 101. I’m thinking it might be in the top three.

Yet we push it down the list so that we can concentrate on getting our work done – our work. His work is restoring our soul so that we can bring glory to Him. A malnourished soul is a soul screaming for God. If it’s been so long since we’ve fed it properly, we may no longer recognition nutrition when we see it.

How does God nourish your soul? Worship music is a key element of a healthy diet for me. God’s telling me that when my soul is weary or sad I need to take in extra nourishment. His Word often nourishes my soul. Biblical fellowship nourishes my soul. Sleep nourishes my soul. Play nourishes my soul.

What we see as frivolous – a waste of time or something just for our enjoyment, God may well see as feeding our soul.

Have you allowed God to nourish your soul today?

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. Here’s more details about the plan and our schedules.

Track your reading along with us using the table below, the the half-page PDF you can download here or the September/October Bookmark you can download here.

We’d love to have you share what God is teaching you. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Word of God, speak to us this month!
Sandy

Download all 2012 bookmarks here Download only the September/October 2012 bookmark here

Download a half-page PDF of the October Reading Plan here

Here’s the October reading plan:

Oct 2012 RARE Reading Plan JPG

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