Posts Tagged “Colossians”

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 downloadable half-page PDF or the July/August bookmark.

Share with others 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.

Enjoy God as you begin to enjoy summer!
Sandy

Download All 2012 Bookmarks Here

Download only the July/August 2012 Bookmark Here

Download a Half-Page PDF of the August Reading Plan Here

Here’s the August reading plan:

Aug 2012 Resting at the River's Edge Reading Plan JPG

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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 downloadable half-page PDF or the July/August bookmark.

Share with others 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.

Enjoy God as you begin to enjoy summer!
Sandy

Download All 2012 Bookmarks Here

Download only the July/August 2012 Bookmark Here

Download a Half-Page PDF of the July Reading Plan Here

Here’s July’s reading plan:

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Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
Romans 13:14 (NLT)

This verse caught my attention last week during my Resting at the River’s Edge reading. As I meditated on it, several questions came to mind. Come with me as I explore the topic of clothing ourselves in the presence of Jesus.

What does the presence of Jesus feel like?
I’ve quoted this verse many, many times in recent weeks, but I can’t think of a better one to answer this question:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Cor 3:17 (NIV)

The presence of Jesus feels like freedom – no condemnation, but overflowing love – deeper, wider, longer and higher than we can imagine:

18 And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love—how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is. 19 Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:18-19 (NCV)

The presence of Jesus is peace. Christ came to earth, reconciled us with God and brings peace where chaos and fear want to dominate. Paul wrote to the Colossians that they should “let the peace that comes from Christ rule [their] hearts (Colossians 3:15a, NLT).

The presence of Jesus holds freedom, love and peace. When we are conflicted, anxious, bound by anything in this world, or lacking in love, the presence of Jesus is not ruling in our lives.

What does the presence of Jesus look like?
The presence of Jesus has the look of compassion, contentment and joy. It is not stern-faced or angry. It is not hassled or frenzied. The presence of Jesus is also modest. Holiness is embodied in the presence of Jesus leaving no room for many of the fashions of today.

How do I put on the presence of Jesus each morning?
Before we talk about the “how” notice the language in the verse – “clothe yourself.” Some translations say “put on.” These are action words action – they form a command telling us to prepare ourselves to meet the world by wrapping ourselves in the presence of the Christ. Living the verse requires purpose, intent and will. We decide each day what to wear – and those decisions, in part, define the impact we have on the world. People decide whether or not they’ll trust us and how much they’ll tell us about themselves initially by how we present ourselves – and that has a lot to do with what we decided to wear that day. Scripture tells us to “clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s something we must be intentional about; it doesn’t just happen, even if we’ve known the Lord for many years. (Actually, it might be less likely to happen if we’ve known the Lord for many years. It’s easy to become lazy in our faith if we’re not purposeful and intentional about it.)

There’s another thing about the language of the verse. The word translated as “clothe yourself” is a Greek word that carries the “sense of sinking into a garment” (Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary). We’re not to simply put on the presence of God like we might thrown on a sweater, but we’re to sink into it – so that it fully wraps around us. There is so much imagery in this phrase. I get the picture of sinking into something wonderfully comfortable. That carries to an image of being fully wrapped in the protection of Christ – nothing can get through the heavy, yet comfortable weave of His presence. (Remember, Scripture wouldn’t tell us to do it if it wasn’t possible!)

So how do we put on the presence of Jesus each morning? I was at a prayer meeting recently and during prophetic ministry a friend of mine was praying for a woman she didn’t know. She rather hesitantly said “I feel like God is saying that He appreciates the way you include Him in everything you do.” The woman smiled and said “every morning before I leave for work I say, ‘OK, Lord, let’s go to work!’” I loved her attitude. She was intentional about inviting Jesus to join her at work that day. One of the ways we clothe ourselves in His presence is by inviting Him to be a part of what we’re doing.

It’s a little hard to clothe ourselves with the Lord’s presence if we don’t enter His presence each morning. We are each created uniquely, so there is no one way to enter the Lord’s presence. Most people will find the Lord’s presence each morning through some combination of Bible reading, worship and prayer. Find what works best for you and develop the habit of meeting with the Lord each morning. Sure, there will be those mornings when your time with the Lord will be shortchanged, but even on those days, you can develop the habit of talking with the Lord as you get ready to face the day. Don’t arrive at your first destination for the day (even if that destination is your own kitchen to make breakfast for your family) without greeting the Lord and settling into Him.

How does the presence of Jesus impact the world?
I hope all of you have had the experience of knowing that what you had just done wasn’t really done by you at all, but by the Lord. Maybe you responded kindly in the face of cruelty. Maybe you exhibited uncharacteristic patience that blessed someone who needed it. Maybe you spoke Truth into someone’s life at just the right moment. When we clothe ourselves in the presence of Jesus, we take Him into the world with us and His love, His compassion, His wisdom, His power and all His other characteristics impact those around us as we walk through our day.

The alternative, of course, is that we face the world dressed in our own “clothes.” I don’t want to think that the impact I’m having on the world is limited to my own abilities – because however good I might be, even on my very best days I still have inadequacies, insecurities, anxieties and general “ouchiness.” Clothing myself in the presence of Christ smooths those things out – I’ve found over the years that Christ has graciously softened my hard, sharp edges. I’m so glad, because those edges could be pretty cutting at times – intentionally or unintentionally.

When you got dressed this morning, did you take time to clothe yourself with the presence of Jesus? Did you take time to sink into the garment of His presence before facing the world? I hope so, but if not, give it a try tomorrow.

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“God is still in heaven”… God immediately brought that phrase to my mind when I woke up at 4am this morning aware of several significant prayer requests for today. Yes, today is filled with sorrow and anxiety for many today. My uncle may go home to be with the Lord today. My heart grieves for my cousins. My step-mother travels to her hometown for her sister-in-law’s funeral. My heart grieves for the family. Another friend will have a double heart catheterization. She is still young in the Lord and I know she is scared. My heart is with her even though I can’t be there. I have a doctor’s appointment that was moved forward three weeks. My world was rocked a little when I got the phone call saying “the doctor would like to see you tomorrow.”

“Lord, it’s a day of big requests in my world, but I know that you are still in Your heaven and because of that, it is well with my soul.”

The verse comes from Psalm 115 and I’ve sometimes been disquieted by it:

2    Why do the nations say,
     “Where is their God?”

3    Our God is in heaven;
     he does whatever pleases him.
Psalm 115:2-3 (NIV)

When life seems to be falling apart, we are tempted to lay the disasters at the feet of God. Does what has just happened please God? What kind of God is pleased with such things? Can such a God really be good?

I am thankful that I came to the Lord in my early twenties – it gave me the opportunity to become well-grounded in the confidence of God’s goodness before the challenges of my life became overwhelming. You may or may not be in that situation – like my friend having heart surgery, perhaps you have recently come to the Lord and are facing serious situations. Let me reassure you of two things:

God is still in heaven and He does whatever pleases Him.

What pleases God is always for our ultimate good.

Let’s look at a couple of verses that tell us what pleases God.

19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ], 20and through [Christ] God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Col 1:19 (NIV), 1:20 (NRSV)

It pleased God to have all His fullness dwell in Christ – even though Christ would come to earth and live as a human, never sin and yet submit to die a tortured death. How can that please God? Verse 20 answers that question. Scripture doesn’t say that God was pleased that Christ was crucified. It says He was pleased to reconcile all things to Himself through the blood of Christ. There is a big difference.

Crucifying Christ was a sinful act. God takes no pleasure in sin. What pleases God is our reconciliation with Him. Without the fullness of God dwelling in Christ, He could not have lived that perfect, sinless life. His death would not have been the acceptable sacrifice which reconciled us to God. So God was pleased to have His fullness dwell in Christ.

God does whatever pleases Him. What pleases Him is to make a way for us to spend eternity with Him.

A few verses later we learn something else that pleases God.

27For it has pleased God to tell his people that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory.
Col 1:27 (NLT)

It pleases God to share the riches and glory of Christ not only with the Jews, but also with the Gentiles. It pleases God to share the secrets of salvation with the world.

God is in heaven, and He does what pleases Him. It pleases Him to make the gift of salvation available to all people. “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16a) it pleased Him to make salvation available to all.

Let’s read the Apostle Paul’s testimony to learn more about what pleases God:

13You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion—how I violently persecuted the Christians. I did my best to get rid of them. 14I was one of the most religious Jews of my own age, and I tried as hard as possible to follow all the old traditions of my religion.

15But then something happened! For it pleased God in his kindness to choose me and call me, even before I was born! What undeserved mercy! 16Then he revealed his Son to me so that I could proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.
Gal 1:13-16a (NLT)

It pleases God to show mercy to those who don’t deserve mercy. It pleases God to choose each of us and call each of us to know Him and serve Him. It pleases God to reveal His Son to each of us so that we can partner with Him in sharing the Good News.

God is still in His heaven, and He still does what pleases Him. It pleases Him to show mercy. It pleases Him to reveal His Son to us.

I’m so very thankful I serve such a God. And I’m so very thankful He is STILL in His heaven and that He does whatever pleases Him.

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

Dry Bones and the River of Life

Most of our Resting at the River’s Edge readings this month will be in the book of Ezekiel. Tradition has it that Jews were not allowed to read this book until they were thirty years old! It’s some heavy stuff!

But it’s stuff we love. We’ll read about the Valley of Dry Bones. Pray as you read that God will breathe life into areas of your life that might be dry, and that He will show people that you are to prophecy the breath of life into.

4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to
them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5This is what the
Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter
you, and you will come to life. Ezekiel 37:4-5

Then get ready for a hallelujah time in the River of Life:

1The man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar… 3As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. 4He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. 5He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. 6…Then he led me back to the bank of the river… 8He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. 9…so where the river flows everything will live…12Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” Ezekiel 47

Hallelujah!

And So Much More…

Oh, we’ll also be in the New Testament – the books of Colossians, 1 Thessalonians and Ephesians:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him… and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. 1 Thessalonians 5:19

For it is by grace you have been saved… Ephesians 2:8

Ah – you gotta read the great stuff for yourself!
Enjoy the fall blustery days by reading a good book next to a window – I recommend the Bible.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for October is below.

To download a PDF of the October 2011 recommended reading plan, click here.

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On January 1, 2011 I blogged about New Beginnings. Now that we’re a couple of months into the year, perhaps it’s time to revisit the topic. January’s blog was about embracing change because unless we embrace change, we miss much of what God has for us. If you’re like me, you probably did pretty well embracing change…for about a week (maybe two)…and then routines crept back into your life and embracing change began to seem like a lot of work with little reward. Let’s take a slightly different take on the subject today…

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)

Life Lessons from A Friend’s Old Car
I have a friend who got a new car. Prior to getting the car, he was driving a real junker. During the first few days of driving his new car, he realized that actions he had taken to live with his old car had unconsciously developed into habits that he brought to his new car. Habits like rolling down the window (regardless of the weather) and reaching outside to open the car door – because the inside door handle had fallen off; and downshifting early while keeping his hand on the emergency brake when he needed to stop because his brakes were pretty shaky. (We can all be thankful he got a new car!)

As he was telling me about how he had to unlearn what had become automatic behaviors, I couldn’t help but see the life applications. As we grow up we develop behaviors that help us cope with or even thrive in our world. It doesn’t matter whether your childhood was idyllic or not quite so, you developed behaviors that helped you deal with your life. As you grew into adulthood – stepped into your “new” life – you unconsciously carried those behaviors with you. As you met each challenge in adulthood, your first instinct was to apply those behaviors. They either worked or didn’t work and you either adjusted them or didn’t adjust them, depending upon many, many things including how ingrained the behaviors are, your personality and adaptability, and the quality of the mentoring you receive.

The cycle didn’t stop when you became an adult. As you “live” in any specific situation for a time, whether it be a job (or lack thereof), a marriage (or lack thereof), or participation in your church (or lack thereof), you are constantly developing habits and routines that affect how you respond to all of life.

Interestingly, science has found that things we learn or experience in crisis situations – actions associated with high levels of adrenaline in our body – are most easily remembered. I suppose that saves our lives many times. Unfortunately, it also makes it very easy to develop and adopt crisis situation responses. And most of life doesn’t require a crisis situation responses.

I am so thankful that in God, as we allow Him to shape and change us, old things pass away. All things become new. Some of those things that pass away are habits that keep us from moving forward. The habit of driving with our hand on the emergency brake passes away, for example – IF we pursue God and allow Him to changes us. Praise God I don’t have to live my life with these old habits and behaviors!

“But wait!” you say. “You still are living your life out of those old habits!” You’re right. In many was I am. And so are you. Scripture is clear that the old has passed and the new has come – the words are past tense. It has been accomplished in the heavens. So why am I still living life in those old habits?

Key to a Life Made New
Well, I think one of the keys is in that word we have translated as “passed away” or “gone” – figuratively it means “perished” or “neglected.”

One of the most significant keys to experiencing all that God has for us is in that word – the old has perished – it’s a done deal – God did His part. Now it’s our turn to do our part – to neglect the dead thing! Instead of hovering over the dead, perhaps celebrating the life it once had or mourning the life it took from us – let’s turn to the new that has come. The new that is right here beside us – actually inside us – Scripture refers to it as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

Do you spend more time remembering what God has killed than celebrating the new thing He has done? The mourning period is over! Long over! Don’t keep rolling down the window and sticking your hand out in the cold to get your car door open! Yeah, it was fun for a while, but God wants to do a new thing and as long as you keep getting your hand cold and wet, you can’t experience how dry and warm your hands stay when you open the door from the inside! Neglect the thing that God has killed and nurture the new thing God is doing.

Tomorrow’s blog will continue our theme with a look at the verse in its bigger context. I really enjoyed what I found. Check in tomorrow to see what God’s Word says about the direction of our change.

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For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory.
Colossians 1:27b (NLT)

25I have become [the church’s] servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—26the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27To [the saints] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:25-227 (NIV)

Over the past two months there has been a constant theme in my spirit. I’ve tried to write about it again and again, but have yet been unsuccessful. Perhaps today will be different, and if it is, perhaps it is a message that needed to be put off until closer to Christmas.

The message, friends, is this: If you know Christ, “Christ lives in you” and that inner life, that life within, is your “hope of glory.” He who lives in you is with you all the time. Let me reiterate that. He who lives in you is with you ALL the time.

The implications of that statement are stretching me. Christ is in me and because of that, He goes with me…to every meeting, every event, every gathering. At this time of year, that means (dare I say it)…He is there when I attend those family events that sometimes bring out the worst in me. I mean absolutely no disrespect to my family. My family is a blessing to me. They are the people God has put in my life to love me and encourage me and…help me conform to the image of Christ.

At Christmas (and Thanksgiving and Easter and birthdays and other family-centered events), it’s very easy to fall into family roles. Those family roles do not always bring out the best in us. Well, in me anyway. I’m guessing I’m not unique in that. But God….But God…(I love the buts of God)But God can make me different. In fact, He has made me different. In Christ, I am different from that child and young adult that I am so tempted to revert to at family gatherings. I have become a new creation and that creation carries the living God and the hope of eternity with her everywhere she goes.

The message, friends, is this: If you know Christ, “Christ lives in you” and that inner life, that life within, is your “hope of glory”…for you and those around you. Because when you attend those family gatherings (and gatherings of old friends as well), He goes with you. Christ is in the house because you have attended the gathering. He wants to impact each person in the building. And he probably wants to use you to do it!

How? Here are some ideas that challenge me.

  • By reflecting Him in you instead of reverting back to that child and/or young adult.
  • By showing unexpected kindness.
  • By holding your tongue when you want to argue the same old arguments.
  • By speaking gently instead of criticizing or speaking harshly.
  • By remembering the good things instead of bringing up old hurts and disappointments.
  • By embracing instead of walking away.
  • By smiling instead of scowling.
  • By taking an interest in the lives of others instead of remaining separate.
  • By living as the new creation you have become instead of being fearful of what they will think of you.
  • By loving.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13 (NIV)

Friends, Christ lives in you and He wants to impact those around you. Let His love shine through at your family gatherings this month.

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Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

God is changing me! (And for that I am eternally thankful!) I am finally realizing that my “job” as a Christian is to bring the Kingdom of God into every place I go and every situation I face. Further, I’m realizing that the way I do that is not so much with my words, although as a speaker and writer, I place great importance on words. Before the words can have impact, though, the atmosphere must be one in which they can be heard.

Phil and I met my aunt at a restaurant recently to catch up. We’d heard good things about the restaurant and none of us had been to it yet. Boy did we pick the wrong restaurant! There was so much ambient noise in the restaurant that we couldn’t hear one another across the table.

Often, the ambient noise in our lives is like that of the restaurant – our circumstances scream so loudly that we can barely hear what others are saying to us. I suspect that the ambient noise for many who don’t know Christ is several decibels higher than for those of us who have the relief valves of prayer and worship. At least we have the opportunity to open the relief valve and let the noise drain into quietness and peace of God. (The more we abide in Christ, the more that relief valve is constantly open.)

When we bring the Kingdom of God into places and situations, we change the atmosphere from being highly charged with screaming voices to being highly charged with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood
John 1:5

People may not understand the light we’ve brought into the darkness (to mix metaphors), but they can’t help but notice it.

What a wonderful opportunity we have! All we have to do is be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient! Piece of cake, right? OK, maybe not. So let’s start by focusing on kindness.

In preparing for this blog, I did a search in the NIV translation of the Bible. I was surprised to find the word kindness used 56 times, mostly referring to the kindness of God. Author and speaker Graham Cooke often describes God as the kindest person He knows. Clearly, the Bible places great value on kindness. American culture – not so much! Our definition of kindness has deteriorated to the canned “Thank you shopping at WalMart. Have a nice day!” Nice sentiment; meaningless when expressed in a toneless manner and unaccompanied by a smile. If we are to imitate Christ, if we are to be “practicing Christians,” our lives will be different from those around us. One of the ways it should be different is that we ought to become “the kindest people others know.”

I’d sure like to get better at it, and the holiday season is the perfect time to begin.

What leads to un-kindness?
Unkindness says a great deal about the person practicing it (yes, unkindness is a practice just as kindness is). It says things like:

  • I’m more important than you are and don’t have time to treat you with respect.
  • I don’t value you as an individual so you are not worthy of my kindness.
  • I’m selfish and self-absorbed in my own issues – I don’t care enough about you to show you kindness.
  • I’m impatient (which is a whole lot like selfish and self-absorbed) and don’t have time to be kind to you.
  • I’m lazy and don’t make the effort to be kind to you.
  • I’m ignorant, believing anything or anyone who is different from me is just wrong and/or inferior. You happen to be different from me so I will treat you with the contempt you deserve instead of the kindness God commands.
  • I am disobedient to God’s Word which tells me to treat you with kindness, and my actions demonstrate that deep down inside, I’m unappreciative of the kindness God has shown me.

Ouch! The truth is that I am all those things without Christ. Each one of those sinful qualities can be found in my heart. I am thankful that I am forgiven and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There is, however, the constant urging to become the woman of God that He created me to be. There is the constant urging to beome the man or woman of God that He created you to be. So let’s look at the positive and turn our thoughts toward practicing our faith by demonstrating kindness toward others.

How might we show kindness in every day life?
Kindness is a virtue that has largely gone out of fashion. Let’s bring it back! Try these things:

  • Smile! Genuinely smile! I’ve lived most of my life not smiling at people and I’m ready to change that. I’ve found that when I do genuinely smile at people, I love the results! I feel better about myself and about life. And the people I smile at are often encouraged – they respond with surprise and their eyes light up.
  • Say “Thank you!” and mean it. Our response to the WalMart employee can easily be as automated as their thank you. When they say “Have a nice day!” don’t just mumble “thank you” as you pick up your bags and walk away. Pause and say “Thank you! I will. You have a nice day, too!” You’ll be surprised at some of the responses you get. It might even open up an opportunity for you to pray for them.
  • Do helpful things when you see people in need.
    • When you see someone struggling with something – carrying too many bags or wrangling children and groceries or about to drop the many papers in their hands – offer to help.
    • Have a co-worker that is suddenly under a pile of work? Offer to help.
    • How about taking time to help a neighbor rake their leaves or pull weeds?
    • When the snow begins to fly, don’t just shovel your walkway, do your neighbor’s (especially if you have a snow blower and they don’t or if they are elderly or a single mom).
    • Get into the habit of asking “How can I help?” At first, people will usually say that you can’t, but if you keep at it, many of them will become comfortable enough to let you help in some way.
  • Don’t respond with rudeness –no matter how rude they are to you!
  • Share your life. This season, invite others to become involved in your life. Here are some ideas:
    • Put up your Christmas trees together – first at their house, then at yours.
    • Go shopping together.
    • Share a soup & salad dinner during the week. Soup & salad is easy and fast, but gives you an opportunity to share life with someone who just might need a friend.
  • Use your talents to show others kindness. I have a friend who makes special memory cards when a family member dies. Another friend makes personal greeting cards for special occasions. If your strength is in business, mentor someone who is just getting started.
  • Be thankful for the kindness God has shown you.

Well that exhausts my list – at least for now. What suggestions do you have for making kindness a part of your every day life?

Let’s become better at being PC! Challenge yourself this season to show more kindness each day.

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

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Preface 1 – A Word about the Timeline
I apologize that the timing on this blog isn’t quite right. I began to write it on Wednesday, but haven’t found the time to finish it until today. Rewriting the beginning to match the true timeline with today would be awkward. Yet printing the blog with a false timeline bothers me. It seems untruthful. So, please don’t hold me to dates, but the blog reflects how it happened. It just took me a few days to get it all on paper (so to speak).

Preface 2 – A Word to the Men
Guys, I suspect that you would never characterize yourself as “whining.” It’s way too girly, I know. I also know (because I’ve been married to one of you for a very long time) that your equivalent of whining is getting annoyed and venting about it, i.e., grumbling. It’s that pre-anger stage you go through. So when you see the word “whine” in this blog, substitute “grumble” or “complain with annoyance/anger.” The primary difference between a whine and a grumble is the pitch of our voice!

From Celebration to Whine
Two weeks ago today I had surgery. Two days later I learned that I do not have cancer! Hallelujah!

Today I just want to whine!

I was preparing to meet some friends for breakfast – girlfriends who get together monthly to encourage one another to reach higher heights in business and life. When I began to think about the opening conversations we’d have, I realized that in response to the question “how are you” I just wanted to whine. I wanted to tell them about the minor discomfort and disabilities associated with recovering from the surgery.

How very self-centered I am! How ungrateful I am! Less than two weeks after learning that my life will not be significantly impacted by medical issues in the coming months, less than two weeks after not receiving what could have been life-threatening news, I just want to complain because I have a few restrictions and some discomfort! I don’t like the picture this paints of me.

So I am disciplining myself to celebrate.

It doesn’t seem like the words “disciplining myself” should be combined with “to celebrate” but they do. Celebrating usually includes some degree of festivities – special food, exuberance, balloons, laughter, and dancing. It’s happy face time. Discipline doesn’t include festivities – it brings to mind the sober, perhaps even somber face, as we get serious about things and exercise self-control. Yet there is a valid, even vital relationship between them.

The purpose of disciplining ourselves – of exercising self control – is to bring our actions in line with God’s guidelines for living. One of those guidelines is to quit complaining – stop the whining!

Do everything without complaining or arguing
Philippians 2:14 (NIV)

When we live according to God’s plan, our soul prospers and joy, from the depths of our spirit, follows. Is it an immediate consequence? Not necessarily. But it is a promised one. We live with the consequences of the choices we make, so from an earthly perspective our circumstances don’t necessarily change immediately. But in the spiritual realm and in our heart, changes begin to happen.

What kinds of things happen when we choose to celebrate instead of whine? In the spirit realm, we are blessing instead of cursing. We are speaking our “amen” to the good things that God has done – we are making them known, giving Him praise and saying “thank You” all at once. We are cultivating a grateful heart. And we are being obedient – we are disciplining ourselves to live as God instructs us to live.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

When I discipline myself to celebrate, I am embracing the lifestyle and character of Christ. I am becoming more like the One to whom I pledge my allegiance and declare my desire to follow. And in so doing, I apprehend the grace God has for me in that area. He will enable me to do that which I have set my heart to do when it is in accordance with His will.

On the other hand, when I choose to whine and complain instead of celebrate, different things happen in the spiritual realm. In the following verse, Paul is referring to men and women who have rejected God. Paul writes that God has revealed himself to them but they have not responded to Him:

21For 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. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.
Romans 1:21-22 (NIV)

21Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. 22Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead.
Romans 1:21-22 (NLT)

I believe there is a connection between an ungrateful heart and a spiritual darkness that brings confusion and foolish actions. When we discipline ourselves to consistently and regularly rejoice over what God has done in our lives, we reinforce in our minds and spirits truths about who God is and how He interacts with His people. When we allow complaining and whining to take center stage, we reinforce lies that the enemy is whispering in our ears – God doesn’t love you, God doesn’t provide what you need, God isn’t interested in blessing you, God is not good to you. Your thinking becomes “futile” and you begin to think up “foolish ideas” about God, His character and His actions. Ultimately, your heart and mind become “dark and confused.” That sounds a lot to me like the description of depression. I’ve experienced serious depression. Dark and confused does a pretty good job of describing it. I didn’t like it. I prefer the happy face of celebration. That means no whining.

The Ubiquitous Caveats
Please know that I am not talking about sharing legitimate needs with friends and asking them to pray. We should always be quick to do that. And when my need to whine threatens to jeopardize my long-term attitude, that becomes a prayer request – not the things I want to whine about, but the fact that I have lost a grateful heart.

Also, please know that I am not minimizing the recovery from clinical depression to simply celebrating and not whining. Clinical depression is a serious condition that requires more than this simple discipline. I am saying, though, that resisting whining will help the healing process and any step you make toward celebrating will help you apprehending the healing grace God has for you.

A Call to Greater Love
Finally, as I thought about this whole issue, I realized how guilty I am of allowing others to whine in my presence. How many times have you said to a friend, or had a friend say to you “I just want to whine a little.” I would bet that the most common response, “Go ahead, girlfriend. You can vent with me.” It’s well meant – giving an ear to hear and a shoulder to cry on. But isn’t there a time and place to say “Friend, I love you and if you need prayer, I want to pray for you. But I also want you to experience all God has for you. First, let’s spend some time celebrating what God is doing in your life”?  I’d like to encourage all of us to help one another “grow up” in Christ by helping one another be better than we sometimes (in weak moments) want to be.

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So Many Books, So Little Time

Well, it’s many books, but it’s not really much time. We’ll finish six books and start two others in August, but we’ll do it at the same pace as we’ve been travelling throughout the year – three chapters each day, Monday through Friday.

I’ve had a number of conversations about reading through the Bible recently. It seems that many people have the misconception that they just can’t do it. “I’m not much of a reader,” is what I’ve been hearing.

The good news is that:

(1)  You don’t have to be much of a reader to read through the New Testament in a year. All it takes is reading one chapter each day, five days a week. Even if you are a slow reader, you can probably do that in less than ten minutes. Increase that time to thirty or forty minutes each weekday and you can follow our Resting at the River’s Edge schedule. Over a two year period, you’ll read through the entire Old Testament once and the New Testament twice.

(2)  There are many modern language translations available. You can check out different translations online. Read from several different versions. If you find one you like, head on over to ChristianBook.com and pick it up.

(3)  It’s the inspired Word of God. I confess – sometimes it doesn’t feel like it! But when it does, it’s magical! (That would be magical in the sense of “wow!” and “cool” and “how does God do that?”, not magical in the sense of sorcery of course).

Reading through the whole New Testament and/or the whole Bible pulls the story of God’s plan together in a way that isn’t grasped by reading less methodically. So even if you haven’t been reading along with us yet, I invite you to join us in August.

In August we’ll finish 1 & 2 Samuel – the story of David’s life. God called David a man after His own heart – that seems like reason enough to study his life. In the New Testament we’ll read Collossians, Philemon, and Hebrews. In the book of Hebrews we’ll read about how Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all that is taught in the Old Testament – He is our sacrificial lamb; His blood was poured out for the forgiveness of sins; He is our great high priest. Mr. T used to say “I love it when a good plan comes together.” Hebrews pulls God’s plan together and spells it out for those of us who didn’t catch it on our own!

May God whisper in your ear as you read with us this month!

The recommended reading schedule is below.

To download a PDF of August’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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