Category: Devotionals

Deeper reflections that focus on God and preview posts that link to devotional blogs,

Are You Engaging an Active Faith?

Are You Engaging an Active Faith?

I’m writing over at The Glorious Table today. Here’s a Preview:

The disciples spent three years with Jesus watching him preach, heal people, and interact with the Pharisees. They also observed many memorable encounters, like the healing of the blind man.

John 9:1-7 says, “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing” (NIV).

It’s okay to acknowledge that this is weird. Jesus was powerful enough to heal the man with a word, but he smears mud on the blind man’s eyes and tells him to walk to the Pool of Siloam to wash.

We don’t know how far the group was standing from the pool, but archeologists recently uncovered the pool, discovering steep stairs to enter the water.

Photograph ©Bible Places with permission

I admit this image didn’t match the picture in my mind. The steps are steep and narrow. Even someone with clear vision could easily slip on the rocks.

I think there are as few reasons Jesus engaged the man as an active participant in his healing.

First, consider how John 9 begins. The disciples notice the blind man and ask Jesus who had sinned and thereby caused his blindness. This man had likely spent his entire life hearing people debate his sin status. Was he the sinner, his parents, or someone else in their family tree? The belief that an ailment such as blindness was a result of sin was justified through Scriptures such as Exodus 20:5 and Ezekiel 18:20.

But Jesus said the blind man wasn’t a sinner. His life had purpose, and his blindness was present “so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

The second reason I think Jesus had the blind man actively participate in his own healing is because he didn’t know who Jesus was before their encounter.

Read the rest over at The Glorious Table

Holding on for Dear Life

Holding on for Dear Life

I’m writing over at The Glorious Table today. Here’s a preview:

On February 3, 1989, apprentice jockey Nate Hubbard was having the race of his life. That is, until his horse, Sweetwater Oak, launched him from the saddle with only a hundred yards to go. He clung to the neck of his mount and crossed the finish line in second place. After finishing fifth in the race on Lystra, Ron Warren, a fellow jockey, helped to slow down Sweetwater Oak so that Hubbard could let go and land safely.

Much to everyone’s surprise, after examining the results of the race, the stewards declared that the placings were official. During the race, Hubbard’s feet never touched the ground, and Sweetwater Oak remained the second-place winner.

Interestingly, when he was asked about the event later, Nate Hubbard said he wasn’t focused on winning. He explained he looked at the alternatives and holding on was a better choice than getting trampled by the rest of the horses.

Have you ever had a Nate Hubbard moment? Maybe not a literal one, but a moment when you were at the starting line with everyone else, and before you knew it, you were hanging on for dear life? Forget finishing first; have you ever been in a season so challenging you’ve found yourself choosing between holding on and being trampled, forgetting all about moving forward?

Read the rest of today’s post over at The Glorious Table

Go, but Go in Christ

Go, but Go in Christ

One of the hardest parts about learning to recognize God’s voice is discerning when I’m hearing him say yes or no, stay or go or whether it’ s my preferences that are guiding my decisions.  I’ve learned I can’t always depend on whether a choice makes sense or seems logical. If I’m going to try to obey God every step I take I need to figure out how to live by faith, and that includes developing the discipline of discernment.

In Romans 4:13-18  Paul writes from house arrest to the citizens of Rome: “It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.  Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’”

God established a covenant with Abraham because of Abraham’s faith.  But Abraham wasn’t perfect and his faith waivered causing many detours along the path that God directed him to walk.  Regardless, God counted him as an heir and followed through with his promises. 

Abraham’s missteps weren’t insignificant. In  Genesis 12:1-2 God begins to breakdown Abraham’s calling.

  • Go forth from your country
  • And from your relatives
  • And from your father’s house
  • To the land which I will show you
  • And I will make you a great nation
  • And I will bless you
  • And make your name great

Abraham (then Abram) took his wife and cousin Lot and went to Egypt obeying God’s directions. But he doesn’t trust that God will protect him from the Pharoah in Egypt, so he lies and says his wife (Sarah) is his sister. This is a situation Abraham encounters twice and both times he responds out of fear rather than faith. This process of taking a step of faith only to backtrack is one we see Abraham repeat multiple times throughout his life. It’s common for us as well, isn’t it?

We also see Abraham backtrack in faith when he moves forward with producing an heir with Haggar rather than trusting God to open Sarah’s womb. Abraham looks at the situation logically and makes a decision without pausing to inquire whether or not God is guiding him down this path. 

God didn’t say go have babies with whomever you want. He said go have a child with your wife.  God didn’t say go to a king and lie about who your wife is, he said go, I’ll protect you.  God’s grace covered these missteps along with all of Abraham’s other missteps as well.  His grace covers our sin as well.

Similarly to all that surrounded the births of Ishmael and Isaac, our missteps have consequences. God promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations and that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the sky.  Sarah didn’t think she was meant to be part of the promise because it wasn’t logical. Ishmael was not the son God intended to establish the nation of Israel through, that was Isacc. 

Abraham’s choice to do his own thing caused a lot of conflict and disharmony for his family. Even though Sarah originally suggested Abraham have a child with Haggar, it was still his personal decision to take action without inviting God into the decision.

In Genesis 17:18-20 God and Abraham have a conversation. Haggar had already given birth to Ishmael, but Sarah wasn’t pregnant with Isaac.

“And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before You!’ But God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.  As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly.'” 

Abraham was imperfect, just as we are, yet God still called Abraham his heir. We all take missteps in our lives. We have moments of weak faith, but God’s grace is always waiting to cover us with forgiveness. 

Go in Christ

Go, but Go in Christ reminds us that when we partner with God we follow his direction even when we don’t understand the outcome. As we develop a sharper ear for God’s voice we’ll find ourselves confessing our fears rather than acting out of them. 

Sometimes “Go in Christ” will actually mean stay put!  God’s call to “Go” could mean going someplace far from your extended family, to a place they prefer you don’t move.  Go in Christ could mean speaking up on a subject you know others will push back against, or holding your tongue when all you want to do is defend yourself.

As we move forward in our relationship with God and choose to obey him, he will direct our path. It’s possible we’ll find earthly successes won’t satisfy us the same way they once did.  Our joy, confidence, and comfort should come from the knowledge that God delights in our obedience. The more our focus stays on God and we reflect him the more likely we will find contentment in reflecting Christ.  As we have “faith against hope” as Paul describes in Romans, God increases in our lives.  As we move toward God and with God, we take our place as an equal heir in his kingdom.

Moving Forward “in Christ”

So, how do we move forward “in Christ”?  I think it’s important to remember that the journey with Christ isn’t a burden for us or for him. God pursues relationships with us because he loves us and he wants to spend eternity with us.

Like Abraham, we’ll make mistakes throughout our lives and in our relationship with God. We’re human.  We can always trust that God will extend grace to us when we move toward him. But, we also have the benefit of reducing the frequency of our missteps the better we know God because, just like in any relationship, the more time we spend with someone the easier it becomes to know their preferences and intentions.

We will improve our discernment when we are disciplined about taking the time to read, study, and understand the Bible.  Scripture is one of the ways God presents his character to us and God never contradicts Himself.  God also never asks us to live our lives in a way that contradicts scripture.  When I remember this it helps me to focus on the consistency of God’s character and gives me additional courage to go with Christ even when I can’t see how the story ends. 

I’ve also discovered that I’m more likely to discern the ways God pursues me to follow him when I am consistent in my prayer time. Creating space for God to draw my attention to situations in recent days, revealing himself through nature, bringing people to mind to spend time praying for; these things all require life to pause so I can shift my attention from things around me to God. 

Obedience is never easy, but over time the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that God’s path is always more fulfilling because he knows me better than I know myself. As I walk through life WITH God life is filled with a calmness even in the hardest situations. Ultimately, to me, that’s the blessing of a life that encompasses “Go, but God in Christ.”

Being Still

Being Still

Glass Half Full Glass Half Empty on Being Still

As our country, really as a world really, we’ve experienced an unusual opportunity to slow down considerably in the last few weeks. Not surprisingly, when the first announcements about different athletic events, colleges, and conferences closing trickled out Americans didn’t handle things well. The lack of communication as to when things would end was disconcerting. 

Even before events were canceled there was a mad rush on toilet paper and other essentials to the point where grocery shelves were completely emptied multiple times over. In our home, we held our breaths hoping we’d be able to go on our spring break getaway (we didn’t) and that school wouldn’t be canceled (it was) and now we’re wondering if we will send the summer rushing to catch up before fall begins.

What was most surprising to me was the balking and defiance around us came largely from those who claim to value and prioritize the sanctity of life. No matter how many scientists, experts, mathematicians, doctors, nurses, and family members of the deceased spoke out and said the same consistent thing it didn’t matter. “Hoax, lies, overreaction!” came the cries. Most responses were filled with indignation. How dare American lives be inconvenienced even if it means saving thousands of other lives! The prioritizing of self above our brother and sister in Christ or even the action to love our neighbor flew out the window.

We’re weeks past the initial shock of the virus and we’re sheltering in place, shopping for groceries differently and longing for the days when we can sit in a restaurant again.

As I spoke with people individually and listened to their concerns what I’ve learned is that the overbuying, overreacting, and denial were often fear responses to the inability to do anything. People were feeling like their lives were lacking control and they were attempting to take back the illusion of control by telling other people how to live their lives or overbuying unnecessary items. 

When life is interrupted it’s never easy but it’s something that will continue to happen in small and large situations throughout our lives. It’s also something humanity can’t avoid.

We Control our Response

Several summers ago I read Life Interrupted by Priscilla Shirer with a group of coaches wives. We were all in different stages of life, but we learned a lot about responding to life transitions and the importance of our response to God.

One of the key takeaways Priscilla Shirer makes in Life Interrupted is that how we handle interruptions tells us a lot about ourselves. Throughout the book, Shirer tells the story of Jonah and she also tells about different interruptions in her life and different responses. 

Shirer asks, “Is He sending you to Ninevah? Then His presence is going with you -meaning, you have no need for shortcuts, regardless of how daunting a task this is.” 

There is something I know about Jonah’s response, and about my own instincts at times, it’s that they are similar. When the road ahead looks hard, sometimes we turn and run the other way. But that doesn’t help anything, does it? God knows where we’re running and he knows where we’re supposed to go.

As we read different stories in the Bible one thing is clear, God can move mightly without our intervention. He invites us into a relationship with him because he loves us. As we engage with our creator he reveals his character to us through different situations. He teaches us how strong we are, and he shows us how well we work as a team when we rely on him as our guide. Sometimes God asks us to step out further than we’d prefer to stretch us. As we do so, we have the opportunity to deepen our relationship and trust in him. 

God never needs us to defend him but he does ask us to reflect his love to the world so that everyone has the same opportunity for a relationship with him that we have. Sometimes that requires us to step out of our comfort zone and love people selflessly.

 

Have You Felt Like You’re Living in Ninevah?

In our town, we had several days where we couldn’t access schools other than to pick up meals for the kids. The library, restaurants, church, park district, and of course many goods at the grocery stores are sparse or closed.

We are reliant on the internet to continue to run so we can work, complete school, engage with the outside world and have many forms of entertainment. We have expected store trucks to continue to deliver food, and other supplies and they have come through. This sets us apart from living in other decades and from the access other countries have. Yet in true American fashion, many pout and complain. The inconvenience of canceled vacations and limited access to shopping is too much to accept. The entitled feel they should be allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want because they are the exception to the rule. Isn’t there someone they can pay to get their way? It worked for Operation Varsity Blues.

While generally, this perspective rears itself when discussing helicopter parenting and student-athletes, in truth this global pandemic has leveled the playing field on the depth of humanity’s willingness to serve themselves for the greatest good. To quote Bob Goff, “The way we deal with uncertainty lets us know whether Jesus is ahead of us leading, or behind us just carrying our stuff.”

When Jonah obeyed God and headed to Ninevah he fulfilled his job as a prophet and spoke truth to the Assyrians. The Assyrians understood their selfish ways. They turned their backs on their false gods, repented, and turned to worship the one true God. Their thoughts shifted from lies to truth once Jonah told them the ultimate truth. 

 

Why we Need to be Still 

In times of uncertainty, we can look at the situation with a glass half full or glass half empty view.  Because the impulse is occasionally to run or to look at things from a glass half empty point of view it’s important to make sure that we’re doing what we can to remind ourselves that God is bigger than any unknown concern in front of us. 

For some, including me, one way of being still before the Lord includes worship. The posture of worship turns by heart and thoughts away from me and points them where they belong. Toward the one who is able to actually handle whatever I’m facing. 

I also often read Scripture. One of my favorite sections is Exodus 14:13-16. God reminds Moses that he will take care of the Israelites as they are leaving captivity. They don’t need to do anything other than continue to follow him. 

Pursue Being Still

As you process the past month and consider your future responses I encourage you to purse taking time to be still before the Lord rather than impulsively running like Jonah or impulsively hoarding toilet paper as the situation may be, because neither response acknowledges God is in control. 

Rather, take some time to read Exodus 14, and listen to worship music. I love Still by Reuben Morgan. It’s an older song, but as you read the words I think you’ll see why it’s still a favorite. And finally, you can pursue being still by focusing on your thoughts. When your glass half empty thoughts start to fill your mind turn them to glass half full thoughts. 

Lyrics for Still by Ruben Morgan

Hide me now
Under your wings
Cover me
Within Your mighty hands

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You, above the storm
Father, You are king over the flood
I will be still and know You are God

Find rest my soul, in Christ alone
Know His power, in quietness and trust (source)

note: this content was originally published 2/14/15 and has been updated for freshness

Do You Have Blind Faith?

Do You Have Blind Faith?

I’m writing over at The Glorious Table today. Here’s a preview:

Jesus had a special friendship with the siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The Gospels highlight this in a few places, especially Jesus’ interactions with Mary. My favorite story about Jesus and these siblings is in John 11. It’s the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

John 11 begins by stating that Lazarus was sick. We pick up in verse 3, where Mary and Martha do the only thing they know to do: “So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick’” (NIV).

When Jesus receives the message in verse John 11:4, his response gives us insight that things are about to get interesting: “When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’”

Jesus delays going to see Lazarus by two days, and when he is finally ready to go, he tells his disciples,

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:11-14 NIV)

As Jesus and the disciples arrive, they encounter Mary and Martha mourning Lazarus, who was placed in a tomb four days earlier. Traditional Jewish mourning begins with seven days of intentional mourning known as sitting shiva. Read the rest over at The Glorious Table

Adoration Devotions

Adoration Devotions

Adoration Devotions

As I focus on my one word for 2020 pursue and pursuing God more intentionally this year I’m revisiting different Bible study and prayer disciplines I’ve incorporated through the years beginning with adoration.

Growing up in the church you will likely learn a lot of catchy phrases that come to form a language of their own, but don’t make a lot of sense to people outside of the church. Additionally, because the lingo seems familiar to everyone around you, many times it can feel intimidating to ask for clarification if you don’t understand something as clearly as you perceive others around you may grasp. 

One of those phrases is the ACTS prayer:

Adoration: Praise God for who he is/For his character

Confession: Tell God about your personal sin and corporate sin, ask for forgiveness

Thanksgiving: Thank God for how he is present in our lives, what he has done and what he will do 

Supplication: Dialogue with God, ask for clarification and guidance about situations, pray about needs, wants, fears, joys.

The ACTS prayer is a catchy way to make sure that we have an order to our conversations with God, but they aren’t a requirement for prayer. Growing up I found this structure helpful, but I didn’t fully understand the difference between Adoration and Thanksgiving. 

Thankfully Sara Hagerty has taken the time clarify Adoration in detail. She also has a monthly adoration plan you can follow to help put this important prayer discipline into practice.

The Discipline of Adoration

Life is hard and often feels deeply unfair. In recent years documentation of depression is on the rise as well as teen suicide.There is no doubt that people are outrageously more cruel to each other with the ability to hide behind fake identites. Bolstered by the example of poor leadership that is justfied by those who call themselves moral, for many there doesn’t seem to be a safe place to turn for help. 

But God is always available to comfort his children. He loves to reveal his character to us when we ask, and he is unchanging so we can always trust him. Adoration reminds us God is our comforter. Consider Psalms 23.

Psalms 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Adoration Tools

I mentioned Sara Hagerty has a monthly guide. I’ve also found the book Adoration Prayer Book by Bob Hartley very helpful.  Hartley says “Adoration is the pattern we see in heaven! The Lord is surrounded by worship and adoration continually throughout all of eternity.”

If you haven’t included adoration in your journaling or prayer times maybe this is the month to give it a try!

Is It Your Turn?

Is It Your Turn?

Is it Your Turn? A Devotional Post for The Glorious Table

I’m writing over at The Glorious Table today about Leadership. Here’s a preview:

 love January. For me, this is the time when hope bubbles up in every conversation. As the new year begins, we get to not only start a new page in our planners, we get to throw away the battered pages from the past year and open a brand-new calendar. Empty spaces on each day whisper of new opportunities.

Are you training a new business partner? Is it your turn to prepare the next generation for ministry? Is it time to start obeying that nudge and courageously step up and start leading somewhere? What’s holding you back?

There is something about the first page of a new planner that sparks hope for me. I believe strongly in fresh starts and new opportunities. Over the years, I’ve developed a conviction that one of the most generous gifts we can extend to each other is the space to use our spiritual gifts, strengths, talents, and skills in our individual passion areas.

It takes courage to pursue a fresh start with a ministry or step onto a new career path. Having a mentor to look to and learn from is invaluable. A mentor can help build our confidence as well as guide us with years of experience.

As important as it is for the less experienced person to have a mentor, it’s just as valuable for the mentor to invest in someone. Our time on earth will eventually end, but that doesn’t mean our ministry won’t go on. And our ministry will grow when we can train people to work alongside us rather than trying to manage everything ourselves. Read the rest over at The Glorious Table

One Word 2020: Pursue

One Word 2020: Pursue

One Word 2020 Pursue

I’ve participated in choosing One Word for several years now, and I have found that each year has challenged me to consider different aspects of my relationship with God and to take a deeper look at my choices with intentionality. Past words Growth, Still, Ready, and Inquire have created filters for the seasons that have helped to block out the white noise and keep my focus on God.

Each year I’ve used the process outlined by the oneword.org Pick a Word outline. And with prayer and a few weeks of intentional listening, the word would become clear. This year was different. In the planning for the Coaches’ Wives retreat in partnership with the Illini Land FCA we met to decide on programming direction.

Liz texted me and said “I feel like we need to name this retreat Pursue” and I knew in my gut she was right. The group chose Colossians 3:17 NASB which says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” as the theme verse, so Purse fit, but Liz was honing in on this word for more than one reason. Colossians 3:17 is the last verse in a section of with the heading Put On the New Self even though these headings were added much later, they summarize the sections well.

Colossians 3:1-17 is a call to righteous living. It begins this way “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

Psalm 63:8 TPT

Our retreat will focus on encouraging coaches’ wives to courageously step into their full calling and to pursue living out their strengths, gifts, talents, and skills. Additionally, we will encourage wives to look to the Bible and learn from the Lord from other people’s stories.

Pursuing these disciplines isn’t a one-time thing. It’s sometimes daunting when we remember we will never finish learning about God. Our Creator is more complex than we can even begin to put into words. However, as we pursue understanding more of his character and heart we will naturally align ours with his and pursue the things that delights him. These are all good things and they will invite us to flourish in the totality of who God has created us to individually be.

As I reflected on the word Pursue and all the applications for the retreat I knew that this word was just as much for me as for the retreat. 2020 is going to be a busy year, the discipline of pursuing God to keep my soul close to his heart feels like the perfect focus for this season.

What Does This Look Like?

I think that we sometimes step into seasons expecting that since we are committing more intentional time focusing on God that things should somehow be easier. But, that’s not always the case. Not that this means life will be miserable, but I think we can consider stories like the Israelites in Joshua and the lives of the disciples and know that life will not automatically become filled with riches and glory. In fact, if you find yourself in the presence of someone demanding those things you need to walk away as quickly as possible. But that’s a side note.

In Joshua 1 Moses has just buried Moses at the top of Mt. Siani and Joshua is the new leader of the Israelites. They have wandered in the desert for 40 years and are ready to take the land they were promised by God.

God speaks directly to Joshua and says these words which are recorded in Joshua 1:1-11:

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide:  “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.  I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.  Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.  No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (emphasis mine)

Pursuing the Lord Begins with Listening

Joshua spent years in God’s presence watching and listening as he served Moses. He saw every miracle Moses performed at God’s direction. Still, when Joshua took command God began by telling him THREE times to be strong and courageous.

God knew what was ahead for the Israelites. He knew how hard the years ahead would be, but he also knew success was possible with obedience. That obedience would require the Israelites to take courageous steps of faith previous generations weren’t willing to take.

“Be careful to obey the law”, is the other thing God says to Joshua. We now live under the New Testament laws, which doesn’t cancel out all of the Old Testament laws, but Jesus’ death does allow us to live under a new covenant (Luke 22:20).

We aren’t only supposed to be careful to obey the law, we are to meditate on it daily. We should know God’s boundaries so well that when anyone twists God’s words for their benefit we identify it quickly and redirect our focus back to God.

Matthew 6:24 NIV says  “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” While someone may be tempted to take this verse legalistically and say point out that Jesus was only referring to money, the Exodus 20:3 begins lists the first of the ten commandments which is “You shall have no other gods before me.”

It is vital that as we pursue God we seek the truth even when it’s not the popular opinion. Joshua and Caleb were the only two who believed the Israelites could take the Promised Land the first time, had the other then spies listened the nation wouldn’t have wandered in the desert for forty years.

Mary’s Willingness for the Greater Good

Mary’s Willingness for the Greater Good

I’m writing over at The Glorious Table today! Here’s a preview

Every time I read about Mary’s conversation with the angel who was sent to tell her she was chosen to carry the Savior of humanity, I’m amazed. Her simple surrender in Luke 1:38, “I am the Lord’s servant . . . May your word to me be fulfilled,” transformed the world.

We don’t know if Mary understood the weight of the burden she would carry in the months to come, let alone the next three decades. All we know is she said yes, and Jesus entered the world as her son.

How is a strong faith like Mary’s—one wherein she was willing to surrender her body and life and the trajectory of her future to an unknown plan—formed? I imagine she spent hours praying and learning about God, strengthing her personal relationship with him.

From the very beginning, God invited man into relationship with him  (Genesis 1:26-29). It is through relationship that we establish and strengthen trust and faith. This is how God created us.

Our relationships with friends, family members, and our spouses require our time and attention. Friends don’t come to us out of the blue and ask us for advice. They get to know us, learn to trust our heart and our intentions, and when they believe we have their best interests at heart, they come to us and ask for our input in hard situations.

When we are dating someone, we don’t enter into a commitment immediately. We get to know them. We see how they treat their family members and friends. We observe how they respond in hard situations and what they do in their spare time. When we do commit, we trust they will stay faithful to us in marriage because over time their character has revealed that they are loyal and true.

Our children don’t automatically obey us the first time we tell them to do something. They learn to obey when we teach them through repetition. They understand that we love them, that we set boundaries to protect them because we love them. Even so, sometimes they will disobey our rules and injure themselves. Our loving response assures them that the relationship is still intact, regardless of the consequences of their disobedience.

Read the rest over at The Glorious Table

The Choice to Listen

The Choice to Listen

The Choice to Listen

As I’ve already said, human being can reason nearly anything they want to be true. Yet people who oppose my Christian views are rarely willing to discuss their own problematic thinking, including their desires, and how their desires potentially affect their arguments.

Mary Jo Sharp – Why I Still Believe

When I finished typing the quotes I’d compiled from Why I Still Believe into one document it was three pages long, and I left out many of the quotes that I’d highlighted because of a personal story I could apply. I chose to include the quotes I thought would resonate with a broader audience.

The quote posted above is one that has hung in the air for weeks. It’s found its way into Voxer conversations with friends who have confessed deep hurts with co-workers and with friends. Its come up when the word Christian was replaced with ethical or omitted altogether.

Humanity is Breaking into Two Camps:

Every day the world feels a little more polarized. The first group demands that everyone in their vicinity hear and agree with their viewpoint. Disagreement is met with disdain, obnoxious memes, or my favorite – Bible verses plucked randomly without any context around them.

The second group of people responds in frustration to the first. They are bewildered as to why those who so confidently point out the flaws they see in “the other side’s” arguments are unwilling to consider that their own view has some gaps in it as well.

The most frustrating part is that when the second group tries to distance themselves realizing there is no point in continuing to circle around deaf ears they are accused of being unwilling to listen!

This Divisiness is Tearing Apart the Church

Francis Chan faced backlash for sharing a stage with Benny Hinn. His explanation was clear: “Chan stated that he believes he can be most effective in places where he is ‘not in alignment theologically,’ so long as he is permitted to preach freely from Scripture.” The announcement is a recent one, but just last month Benny Hinn stated he is “correcting his theology” on the prosperity gospel. Could it be Chan’s influence?

The pressure to pick a camp and stay there is overt:

  • Sharon Hodde Miller and Annie Downs addressed this pressure in a recent podcast. They have both received requests to speak out publically on situations they don’t feel called to take sides on. Sharon’s latest book addresses this directly and points out that when we are more concerned with growing a platform than being a voice for the voiceless God is calling us to speak for this is a problem. However, we don’t need to have a public voice on every issue.
  • Priscilla Shirer spoke about the pressure to speak out on every subject and the lessons she has had to learn about what her large platform calling is about and what she is drawing a boundary around only speaking about to people in her inner circles.
  • You can read about Jackie Hill Perry losing income and a future speaking engagement due to an Instagram photo.

When Rachel Held Evans passed Ed Stetzer wrote a beautiful reflection of their relationship which he ended with this quote: “I’m thankful for many of the interactions we had, and I am a better person for having engaged with her.”

Why can’t we learn from each other with the understanding that we all love Jesus and we’re all learning different things at different points in our life journey?

I’ve learned different things about God from hundreds of different speakers and authors. It’s still my responsibility to check everything they say against what God says for myself. That doesn’t mean I have to stop listening. And it doesn’t mean that when I do listen I stop loving Jesus.

Listening is a Skill Taught in Preschool

It seems our human instinct is not to listen to each other. Discover Explore Learn says: “Listening skills are important at any life stage, but even more so in the early years.” There are plenty of skills I learned in elementary school and middle school I’ve long forgotten. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t relevant or important.

A quick review of this list of 7 Listening Activities to Get Your Students Attentive and Ready to Learn identifies skills that will translate from the classroom to the boardroom with little adjustment.

I bring up this point to show that we’re all capable of learning HOW to listen to each other better, but it is not our natural instinct. It is a CHOICE to listen.

Jesus Listened

In Mark 5 when the bleeding woman is healed by touching Jesus’s robe he pauses to hear her story. She was already healed, but he listened anyway.

In John 5 Jesus approaches a blind man at the healing pool and has a conversation with him. He learns his story and ensures that the man isn’t left wondering WHY his healing happens.

In Luke 19 Jesus is attentive to body language. He sees Zaccheaus in a tree and knows this man is eager to be in his presence. Jesus doesn’t care that Zaccheaus is a tax collector, he invites himself over to his home for a meal and when he leaves Zaccheaus is a changed man.

Luke 10 and John 11 Jesus has conversations with Mary and Martha. These two sisters who love Jesus are trying their best to serve him and learn from him in their own ways. He pauses to teach them where others might rebuke their questions.

What Does This Have to Do with Athletics?

Coachable athletes are those who put their listening skills to use daily.

Coaches who model how to listen reinforce the important skills athletes will need in the classroom, workforce, and relationships.

Since it seems the areas where healthy listening practices are dwindling rapidly, it’s more important than ever that coaches and athletes practice excellent listening skills, especially when they don’t agree.

Rather than wasting time looking around for someone to agree with everything you agree with (since that is extremely unlikely to exist) both parties are likely to have more success by having healthy conversations. When we learn to listen and accept that it’s okay to have different opinions than other people we will all be better off. Who knows, you may even learn something new that end up agreeing with!