Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Struggle, strength, and discipline...

Week 18:

This week, spend time in meditation over this passage.  Follow the instructions below the passage as your guide.

Hebrews 12:4-13

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,”[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
  1. Hebrews 12:6 Prov. 3:11,12
  2. Hebrews 12:13 Prov. 4:26 

You will be reading this passage three times following the guidelines below:

1.  First reading.  Read the passage through, one time, slowly.  Pause between each clause.  After you finish this first reading, be silent for a minute or two.

2.  Second reading.  Read the text slowly once again, pausing between phrases.  But this time pause even longer and be aware if any of the words or phrases that catch your attention, or seem to stand out in some way.  Make a mental note of those.  After you finish the second reading, write down those special words or phrases.

3.  Third reading.  Reread the passage up to the word or phrase that touched you in some way.  When you reach that word or phrase, stop and repeat it a few times.

4.  Pondering.  Reflect for a while on the phrase that moved you.  Repeat it a few more times.  Let the words interact with your thoughts, your memories or any other Bible passages that come to mind.  Let it touch your heart, desires and fears.  Begin to wonder, “What might God want to say to me specifically”?

5.  Prayer.  Turn that last question into a prayer, asking God, “What is the word you have for me in this passage, God?  Is there anything you want to say to me today?”  Listen.  Write down anything you sense God might be saying to you.

6.  Rest.  Be still and silent for a while.  Enjoy being in the presence of God.  In this step you move from doing to being.  Simply be for a while.

7.  Response.  Ask yourself and God, “What am I being called to do as a result of the word I have been given?”  Perhaps you are feeling challenged to love God more, or to accept some aspect of who you are, or to serve someone you know or to begin changing some aspect of your character.  Whatever it is, write it out.  “Today God is calling me to be a more ______ person.  Be with me God and teach me how.”   Thank God for the word and the calling you have been given.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Which one am I...?

Week 17:

Proverbs 9:12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

Notice the picture above.  This cactus has been growing off our back patio for years.  My father had it in a metal tub that has rotted away and the cactus has grown into the ground beneath where the tub was.  I have taken many pictures of this cactus during the spring when it blooms.  Notice the beauty of the flower yet the potential pain of the thorn.  It is interesting how they are so close together.  At times, those of us who live in righteousness walk that line between the goodness of the flower and the sting of the thorn.

Recently at school, one of our teachers has encouraged his class to stand during the reading of scripture.  No matter the circumstance, whether we have a guest speaker in chapel, or the text is being read in class, the students stand in honor of God’s Word being read.  It is an impressive site…and…it has compelled others to stand with them.  The guest speakers have been taken back and impressed as well.  However, now that it has happened a few times, there has arisen a group of mockers who make fun of these students for their act of reverence. 

This mocking of these students brought up another passage for me.  Matthew 5:10-12: “10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  As I reflected on how I may approach the students who have been mocking this righteous behavior, I needed to do some self-reflection of my own.  Which one am I…the flower or the thorn, the wise or the mocker, the righteous or the insulter? 

I would love to say that I am the flower, the wise, the righteous.  Today, I would say that I am more the positive than the negative.  However, I have not always been so.  I have been the thorns, the mocker, and the insulter.  So, I ask myself three questions:  What is my reason?  What is my intent?  Is this the way I want others to know me? 

I think my reason and intent are intertwined.  One of the reasons I have mocked righteousness in the past has been because I felt conviction and guilt that I am not acting in righteousness.  My intent behind the mocking is to ease my discomfort by making fun of the act or even the person behind the act.  A second reason is that I tend to make fun of what I do not understand.  The intent is to cover what I perceive as stupidity in not understanding.  Finally, and unfortunately, my reason has been simply that I was bent on committing evil.  My intent in this case is usually to gain something for myself, usually some sort of reaction and notoriety. 

Of course, this is not how I would want others to know me.  Some of my deepest regrets have been how I have presented myself in the past.  Many who know me now and most who know me from my past would see me as an imperfect, righteous man.  However, regretfully, there are those who were only around me when I was the thorn, the mocker, and the insulter.  I am thankful for the grace of God through Jesus that helps me to see myself as a forgiven man.  My prayer is that others will know God’s love and grace despite my poor choices and actions.

For those who are living as the flower, the wise, and the righteous; do not lose heart and do not give up on that life.  Take to heart Matthew 5:10-12, not so that you may gain reward, but because it is what God put on your heart to do.  His blessings will follow somewhere.


1.      Describe a time where you have been the thorn, the mocker, and/or the insulter.
2.      What do think where your reasons and intent behind your choices and actions?
3.      As you reflect back on that time, how do you feel about it now?
4.      When you have been the flower, the wise, and the righteous…what came to mind when the thorn, the mocker, and the insulter came around?
5.      What type of person do you want to be known or viewed?
6.      Take inventory on your life this week.  Reflect back on which you have been in some situations in your life.  Let God point out to you what was behind your choices and actions.  Then, let God’s grace and forgiveness cover your heart.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Churchy transparency vs. authentic transparency...

Week 16:

I Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

What is hidden will be revealed.  God will shed light on all things…the good and the bad.  I hear from time to time about transparency among believers.  In Church, there are times where a transparent life is mentioned.  My experience around this has been varied.  In the right context, transparency has been a grace-filled, freeing experience.  However, in most church contexts, it has been “Churchy” and shallow. 

What I am talking about here is not necessarily confession linked to sin…although it applies to that as well.  In fact, confessing sin can really be easier than becoming transparent and opening my heart.  You see, I know just the right amount of sin to confess to get the pat on the back and the golden ticket of forgiveness.  I can use “Church” language, appeal to the sins of similar nature others have committed, and feel a sense of accomplishment.  But to bear my heart’s longings…that is just not safe. 

For me, to admit I am disappointed in God’s decision or timing creates discomfort in others.  So does admitting I am angry, revealing my pain in a loss, admitting a blind spot exists, etc.  Many do not want to hear that I was disappointed and wondered where God was when my Grandparents died while still relatively young; or that my parents divorced; or that I felt like an outcast in Junior High and that the feeling comes up occasionally when I am among peers today.  So, I have learned like so many others to use the “Church” language, pray harder, learn more scripture, do more workshops and seminars, and play “Church” well. 

You see, what I put in the dark is not always sin.  I will push down things like sadness, fear, anger, discomfort and cover them with “Churchy” talk.  But they never really disappear and usually they re-appear in the form of some sort of sin in the future.  God wants all of that in the light.  “He will bring to the light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.”  This transparency can be painful in the beginning, but a whole lot less so than what pain comes out of the darkness.

I think of it this way.  When painting a house, I must first remove any of the peeling paint.  If I try to paint over the peeling paint, then the new paint will not last very long.  Similarly, if I use “Churchy” talk to cover over my heart’s issues, it is a temporary fix.  So, I must remove the old paint.  Now, I could shortcut the process by just brushing off the loose flakes.  This is like confessing sin in such a way to gain sympathy but not really having the contrite heart.  No, I must scrape and sand the surface in order to prepare it for new paint.  Scraping and sanding is messy.  Part of the wood is lost in the process.  Some paint is hard to remove and takes some digging.  Being transparent is messy and painful coming out.  However, the new paint of grace is so much smoother and lasts so much longer when I expose the wood of my heart. 

This is a risky process for me.  I will be judged by others who do not understand this authentic transparency.  There may be consequences for opening up.  I lose my excuses for failures.  I could lose some of my drive that made me who I am today.  However, what I lose is nothing compared to what I gain in God’s grace and knowing that nothing is hidden.  It really takes a lot of time and wasted energy to push things into the darkness.  God will reveal it eventually, why shouldn’t I help Him by opening up now?


1.      What repetitive sin do you hide?
2.      What uncomfortable things, not necessarily sinful things do you hide?
3.      Why do you suppose that this transparency is not practiced in most Churches?
4.      What wound do you need God’s grace to flood?
5.      Notice this week what you hide and repress.  Ask God to help you to bring that into the light. 
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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How long do I put up with you...?

Week 15:

Matthew 17:17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.”

I was being hard on myself recently about my lack of patience with people.  I was in a place where I was trying to help.  I was even asked for help and advice.  Yet after spending time with the people I was helping, they never used what I coached them to use.  For the most part, it is selfish of me to get a charge out of helping someone when he/she uses my advice.  It is especially selfish when I do so in order to gain my own glory.  However, the situation that tries my patience the most is when I feel I was Spirit-led and had no motive beyond help.  It is here where I really have to drill down and look at whether or not I have a right to be impatient. 

Sometimes, I truly feel like Jesus did in the above verse.  The people He was teaching and leading just were not getting why He was here.  All the people were wanting was something for them.  And, His disciples were just not getting this faith thing.  Jesus had been with them for some time.  He had taught them, mentored them, and they still did not get it.  I gain great comfort through reading about Jesus being human and frustrated. 

What this tells me is that there are times where my impatience and frustration are valid and even warranted.  Jesus lived as the perfect man…the second Adam.  Jesus was what God intended for humankind to be like.  Yet, Jesus did and said things that make us church people uncomfortable.  How can Jesus say, “How long shall I put up with you?”  Jesus could because He was human.  But notice that Jesus did not do what I and many others do when frustrated and impatient.  Jesus did not belittle, use sarcasm, resent, throw a tantrum, or disengage.  He still healed the boy.  Afterward, He explained to His disciples why they were unsuccessful in healing the boy.  Jesus expressed His emotion, was clear about it, and continued on. 

So what do I learn from Jesus’ example?  First of all, I must ask myself, “Why am I impatient and frustrated in this moment?”  Is it because I want glory?  If so, then I am serving with the wrong motive and I need to check myself and move in a different direction.  If I am serving due to a nudge from the Spirit to generally help, then I can give myself grace when I become frustrated with the lack of action. 

Again, Jesus was our example of humankind.  I am allowed a certain amount of emotional outburst within the confines of control.  I am allowed to be frustrated that what I advised was not used.  What I have to watch for is how I react beyond the frustration.  Am I sarcastic, belittling, resentful, or checked out?  If I am taking part in this behavior, then I have gone beyond the bounds that Jesus showed me.  In short, can I be good with the Spirit led me here, I spoke, and the rest is up to the one I attempted to help?  The big challenge for me is to not only be good with myself around this but to also avoid the negative follow-up that could arise.  I can be human, but no inhumane.

1.      What tests your patience the most?
2.      When you are asked to help and then the person you’re helping does nothing you suggest, how do you react?
3.      What is your go to reaction beyond impatience and frustration (resentment, sarcasm, belittling, manipulation, and/or disengagement, something else)?
4.      What can you learn from Jesus in this area?
5.      Pay attention this week to why you give advice or help.  Is it Spirit-led, or is it selfish motivation?  Ask God to reveal to you what He wants you to see and hear in this area of your life. 

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