Friday, January 29, 2016

Be Diligent to Seek Him

Over these past few weeks, I have been learning an important lesson. Not a lesson I hadn’t heard about before, but one that I had somehow lost in the business of life.

It’s a lesson on denying my flesh in order to seek the Lord.  You see, recently, I have been super busy with work and school, and somehow my relationship with Jesus seemed to take the back-burner. And then the Lord opened my eyes to how I was gratifying the desires of my flesh instead of denying myself and spending time with Him.  I often found myself sleeping in—because my body needed it, I told myself.  While being well-rested is important, I had allowed my flesh to gratify its desires under the guise of “Oh, I need the sleep.” As a result, I wasn’t getting up early to seek the Lord, and I drew further and further away from Him.

And you know what I found?  In those few weeks, the more I drifted away from Him, the more I didn’t want to seek His counsel or spend time in His presence. The more it became a duty and not a pleasure. I found that the more I allowed my flesh to take a hold over my life, the more it did!

What have I learned from all this?  It is so important to stay close to the Lord, to stay sensitive to His Spirit so that we do not drift away from Him. It can happen so quickly if we let down our guard even for a moment.

We have to be intentional about seeking Him. It doesn’t just happen.  We must be diligent to seek His face if we desire His wisdom and guidance.  We must deny our flesh and take up our cross in order to offer ourselves as living sacrifices.

Hebrews 11:6 says God is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  We must be diligent to seek Him.

Jeremiah 29:12-14 says, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” Let us seek Him with all our heart, and we will find Him.

Be encouraged today, my friend, and may you learn from my example the importance of seeking Him with our whole heart.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Meditate on Him

"I will love You, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies."
~Psalm 18:1-3

As I memorized these verses this morning, I was struck by their beauty and their expressiveness.  They speak such of the wonders of Who He is.

I could have merely read over these verses and continued on.  But I paused to marvel at their fullness.  The Lord is...
  • My Love
  • My Strength
  • My Rock
  • My Fortress
  • My Deliverer
  • My God
  • My Strength
  • My Trust
  • My Shield
  • The Horn of my Salvation
This is our God.  He is so beyond our greatest imaginations--so much more fulfilling than anything we could ever imagine.

It is so easy to get caught up in our day to day lives and forget the wonderful omnipotent God we serve.  We know, in our heads, that He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords--that He is the Lover of our souls--but sometimes the understanding slips from our heart and we fail to live our lives in light of all that He is.

We must set our hearts to seek the face of the Lord--through meditating on His Word.  His Word reveals to us the character of the Lord--for it is His love letter to us!  You see the verses above.  Maybe you recall other passages that speak of the wonder of all that He is.  

When you come across them in your daily Bible reading, do not simply pass them by. When you memorize them, do not simply internalize them and put them aside.  Rather think on all that He is. Mediate on the different aspects of His character.

The psalmist says, "I have set the Lord always before me" (Psalm 16:7).  Have you and I?  Is He the One in Whom my soul has its greatest delight?  Is He the one waking passion of our hearts?  Let us meditate on the wonder of Who He is.  Let us get to know Him better through pondering His Words to us--for it is through knowledge that love is allowed to grow. 

Meditate on His Word today, my friends.  Think on Him.  Abide in His love (John 15:7).  So that you might learn to say with all your heart, "I will love You, O Lord, my strength."

Friday, January 22, 2016

Continuing to Continue in It

"But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does."

~James 1:25

I know for me it is so easy to get caught up in the business of life and forget what's important.  I so quickly lose sight of God's Word and the truth that lies therein.  I know I have written on this verse before, but just this morning it caught my eyes again. And I realized that I haven't really been living it out.

We need to remind ourselves often of the truths that are in God’s Word. And so I remind you of this one today.  How well are you and I doing at continuing in the Word of God?  How well are you and I doing at applying God’s Word to our everyday situations?  

Let this short article be a reminder to you and to me that we need to be in God’s Word.  And more than that, we need to be living it out in our lives each and every day.

May each of us look into the perfect law of liberty and continue in it throughout this week.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sharpen Your Sword

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." ~Ephesians 6:12-13

I'm sure you have heard this quote before.  But pause and think about it for a moment.  Do we really live our day to day lives with the awareness that we have a real and living enemy that seeks to corrupt our minds and destroy our souls?  Do we live complacency, or are we fully clad with a suit of armor, reader at a moment's notice to be called into battle?

And what about your sword?

In the army (back when they actually used swords), how many hours a day did a soldier spend practicing his swordsmanship?  Was he expected to simply run out on the field of battle without ever having practiced?  No! Rather, a swordsman brandished his sword every day, mastering the art, to the point that the sword became almost an extension of his hand. It became very natural to him.  The good soldier was adept at his craft and could fight well no matter the distractions.

You see, it takes practice.  Much practice.

We have been given a sword.  The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Our sword "is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

But do you and I know how to use this sword against the very real enemy of our souls?

Let us learn to sharpen our sword against our enemy and to prepare for battle.

What does this look like on a practical level?

If there is an area of sin or temptation that you are struggling with (ex. fear or worry), make a list of some Bible verses that remind you of the truth in that situation.  Memorize them.  And recite them often whenever you feel tempted in that area.

Remember how Jesus Christ used His Sword against the enemy when He was tempted in the wilderness.  He quoted Scripture at the devil.  Let us learn from His example and do the same in our own life, whenever the devil tries to spit lies into our face, let us turn on him and throw the truth in his.

As you go about this next week, may you sharpen your sword in preparation for battle.  May you clothe yourself in the whole armor of God, that you may take a stand against the devil's schemes.  And because Jesus Christ is on your side, you will win the victory.  Amen!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Encouragement in Memorization

Memorization. It's so wonderful and so rewarding. But it's also a struggle. A real struggle. Other memorizers from around the country experience the same struggles you and I do, and they have some wisdom that I pray will encourage you in your own memorization journey:

"Probably the hardest time I have had while memorizing was when I qualified for the National Bible Bee competition last year (2013). It was the first time I have ever qualified, and I was quite discouraged with the 750 Bible verses, about 60 of those passages from Genesis and Exodus. But over time, with God's help and strength and the encouragement of many friends and family members, I was able to almost get all of them perfect. :) The most important thing I learned from that memorizing journey was to recognize that God is the source of any strength and memorizing energy I have. I must be in prayer and asking Him for His help, checking my motives and seeking to grow closer to Him or my efforts will be in vain. It is very easy to become self-focused, prideful, and derailed from the true reasons for memorizing. I have found that praying before I memorize helps my motives to be better." ~Hannah, 18

"The issue for me is not memorizing, but keeping up what I've memorized. Also, head knowledge without a heart resonance is a big trap that I've fallen into many times. It leads to major pride: "I know all this..." "I can quote the entirety of this chapter or this book..." Ugghh! Instead of just knowing a verse word perfect, I have to say, "What can I learn? What does God mean? What is He trying to teach? I need to know this verse so that I can know God." Praying through prayers that I've memorized is a big help in getting the words in my heart. Whether your memorizing prayers or genealogies, never, never, never forget to pray. That should be the impetus behind your knowledge of the Bible." ~Audrey, 16

"Sometimes I get behind on reviewing verses; they just build up until I have so many to review that it is really discouraging to think about it. Because of this, there have been a couple times I took a really long "break" from memorizing. But God is faithful and when He sees that the time is right He encourages me through other peoples' testimonies, through reading the Bible, through sermons, or other mediums to get back to memorizing. Lately He's been showing me a more practical side of memorization--being able to use promises of the Bible in praying for people--which has kept me motivated so that the review doesn't pile up." ~Rachelle, 23

"Mainly, not getting burned out and tired of memorizing. It can get routine at times. When I get bored, God shows me a passage that I really need to read and memorize. Also, time is a huge issue. In this modern world, people always want to do things and go places. It is difficult to set aside large quantities of time to study God's Word. But when you think about it, it is God's time. Because it belongs to Him, I am actually setting aside time for other things beside Him. This reversal of views encourages me to memorize more." ~Allison (not me :P), 14

"I often get distracted while memorizing — sometimes through outward distractions, like noisy siblings :), or internal ones, like wandering thoughts. God always showed me when I was getting of course, though, and He gave me the strength and desire to get back on track. I also faced laziness — I would keep putting off memorizing — but once again, God gave me the desire. This is why it's so important to ask Him for help and commit the memorization process to Him at the beginning and throughout the journey, because only He can help you through the troubles. It's all and only His power." ~Aberdeen Livingstone, 15

"One thing I continually fight against is pride. It's so easy to fall into thinking you are so much better just because you know a lot of verses. But God keeps reminding me that Scripture memory is not about comparing myself to others - it's about my relationship with Him. The verses I memorize are first and foremost for drawing me closer to Him, and for applying to my life. Another thing I have struggled with is not wanting to memorize verses - I guess you would call it just being burned out. But when that happens, it helps to open the Word of God and read it slowly and carefully, forcing myself to take in each word rather than skimming. And as I have done that, each time the Lord renewed my desire to memorize, and even gave me an excitement and awe of Him as I began again." ~Lisa, 22

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

"I Will Instruct You"

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye."
~Psalm 32:8

The Lord is speaking here.  Think on His words for just a moment.  He is offering to be our Teacher, our Good Shepherd, our Guide.

"Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
The Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
Who teaches you to profit,
Who leads you by the way you should go."
~Isaiah 48:17

He has promised to teach us.  But there is something that we must do first.  We must come to Him and ask Him to teach us.  This verse in Isaiah says it perfectly:

"Many people shall come and say,
'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
[Then] He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.'
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."
~Isaiah 2:3

Although Jerusalem may be far away for most of us, we can approach the holy presence of the Lord through prayer and hear His Words spoken to us through the Scriptures.  It is there that He will teach us.  There that He reveals His wisdom to us.

I love the way Charles Spurgeon puts it: 
"'I will guide thee with mine eye.' As servants take their cue from the master's eye, and a nod or a wink is all that they require, so should we obey the slightest hints of our Master, not needing thunderbolts to startle our incorrigible sluggishness, but being controlled by whispers and love-touches. The Lord is the great overseer, whose eye in providence overlooks everything. It is well for us to be the sheep of his pasture, following the guidance of his wisdom."

We are given God's Word and the Holy Spirit.  Our Lord is faithful to teach us, but are we faithful to listen?

Do we sit at the Master's feet, waiting for but a word of His command so that we might immediately obey His command?  Do we love our Lord so much that even the faintest desire of His heart becomes our life mission?  Are we truly the servants of the Lord Mr. Spurgeon talks about?

Do we seek Him for counsel and wisdom?  Will we be faithful to obey whatever the Lord says?  He has promised to answer us--though His Word or through His Spirit, but we must be faithful to seek Him.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Old Testament Stories

If you're anything like me, every word of the New Testament is just so beautiful.  You often find yourself turning to those words and reading them over and over again.  They simply drip with application!  But what about the Old Testament? I mean, Psalms is good, but what about those OT stories?  They're just a bunch of stories, how am I supposed to learn from them? we often ask ourselves.  Of course, if we actually think about it, we recognize the worth and value of the Old Testament stories, but do we, in practice, live as if these stories had great value and taught us significant lessons?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 is quick to redirect our hearts in this area:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

When we read the stories of Abraham and Isaac, or Moses and the Israelites, do we view them as mere accounts of what happened in history, or do we approach them with the mindset that these accounts have many valuable lessons to teach us if only we will look beyond the surface.

As you read in the Old Testament this week, challenge yourself to 1) approach the Scriptures with this mindset, and 2) actively seek to know what lesson the particular chapter of Scripture you are reading is teaching you.

Here are some helpful tips for your Old Testament studies:

#1  Have the right attitude.  Approach the chapters you are reading with the attitude like the one we have talked about above.  Maybe you could write out 2 Timothy 3:16-17 on a Scripture card and read it out loud to yourself before you begin.  Tell yourself (out loud would be best) that this chapter of Scripture in specific has been written by God for your instruction and teaching, so that you might be equipped for every good work.  Now you are ready.

#2  Pray.  We absolutely cannot learn from the wisdom of the Scripture without the gracious and merciful assistance of the Author Himself.  He alone can open our eyes to what we are learning, so we must ask Him for help before we even open the Scriptures.

#3  Write it down.  Have a notebook ready to record your observations as you read.  Writing things down will help them stick better in your brain so that you can recall them later.  As you read, be on the alert for a verse that is particularly meaningful or an observation that you note.  I like to write these small observations down in the margin of my Bible, but if you're not comfortable doing that (or your Bible doesn't have big enough margins) your journal will work perfectly for these observations.

#4  Take your time.  Don't just read it to read it or to be entertained by what you read.  Read it to learn.  Take your time to actually think about what the words mean.  If you don't understand what something means, look up the Hebrew words, or maybe a few commentaries.  Don't hurry through your reading, but slowly meditate on each word and you will find that you glean so much more of the treasures God's Word holds.

#5  Pause at the end.  When you finish a chapter and before you move on to the next, mark down in your journal some ways you can apply the chapter of Scripture to your life.  This may take some meditating, but don't rush on to your next chapter.  Stop and think about what God was trying to teach you through the passage you read.  And mark your observations in a notebook so that you can better remember the application and so you can return to it later.

Using these tips and with the help of the Holy Spirit, you will be well on your way to learning from the Old Testament stories.  May the Lord give you grace in this journey!

Finally, remember that the veil of the Old Testament is taken away in CHRIST:

"But their [the Israelites'] minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." ~2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Friday, January 8, 2016

Joshua 1:7-9

"Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
~Joshua 1:7-9

Today, as you go about your day to day tasks, meditate on these verses.  Especially think about verse nine in the context of the other two.  What does it mean?  God has promised to be with us and to help us meditate on His words and obey Him.  We do not need to fear, for although the path of obedience and of knowing His Word intimately will not be easy, it is possible through Christ. 

May the Lord bless you today as you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  May He always be front and center in your life.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Praying God's Word

Praying God's words back to Him is a very powerful thing.  I don't know if it has the power to change the mind of God, but as I pray His words back to Him, I have found that it certainly does have the power to change my heart.

When I bring my petitions before my heavenly Father, my mind is often fixed upon my own problems.  My problems seem so huge and the task of facing them seems so impossible.  

But when I take the time to remember God's promises, He reminds me that He is all-powerful.  He reminds me that He is on my side.  He reminds me that I only need to wait upon the Lord.

Praying God's Words back to Him reminds me to have faith.

When I was sharing with a Titus 2 woman at our church about a particular weakness I was battling against in my own flesh, and this wise lady advised me to pray the Scriptures that applied to my situation back to God.

Before, when I had prayed about the situation, I always left sort of defeated.  Not saying this is always the case when we pray without the Scriptures, but for me in this particular area, I ended my prayers feeling as if it was my duty to obey God's commands on my own strength.  Either that, or maybe I just didn't really pray about the whole situation and kind of fell into the mindset that it was my duty to accomplish this certain thing, and although I was (and am) incapable of doing it on my own strength, I somehow had to.  This was definitely not the right perspective, but, for some reason, I simply allowed it to continue in my heart.

However, as I began to compile a list of verses and really prayed those back to the Lord, I found that He was on my side!  He hadn't given me a command only to leave me to strive to accomplish it on my own.  Not in the least!  It was HE Who was giving me the power, He would would live His life through me.

Praying God's Words gave me the right perspective on the situation.

It changed my heart.  And it can change yours as well.

As you face impossible situations or tasks, as you move toward obeying the Lord in every area of your life, seek out His Word.  Take some time to write out verses that apply to whatever thing you are praying about. And allow God's Word to transform your heart as you pray those words back to your heavenly Father. Remember Whose side you fight on.  And trust.  Trust that He will fulfill the promises in His Word.

Monday, January 4, 2016

One Must-Read Book

I have never called any book a “must-read” except one, the Bible. I suppose that’s because I take the word “must” so seriously. I mean, “Must,” or you perish. “Must,” in order to make it to heaven.

Now there you go, turning salvation by grace into salvation by works. Salvation by Bible reading!

Probably anyone who responds like that is not very saturated with the Bible. For the Bible makes plain that there is a practical, ongoing “holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14), and that this holiness is produced by the Holy Spiritthrough the word of God. Hence Jesus prays for us, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

This is how we confirm that we are truly his disciples, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31). And if we are not found to be his holy disciples in the end, we will perish. This is what Paul meant when he said, “I warn you . . . that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).

The truth of God, rising continually through the roots of faith planted in God’s word, is the way God keeps Christians alive and enables them to bear the faith-authenticating fruit of love, so that they will not be castaways in the last day. This is the essence of why I say the Bible is a “must-read” — the only must read.

~John Piper (

Friday, January 1, 2016

Live for Him

"One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple."
~Psalm 27:4

As we launch into a new year, I could give you a 101 suggestions for goals and projects that will change your life.  I could share my personal New Year's resolutions with you in the hopes that it will spark a new determination on your own part to strive for something higher and nobler.

But instead of focusing on what we can do, let's take a moment to focus on HIM.  After all, who are we?  What have we done in our own strength that earns us any merit?

Rather, let us fix our eyes on Jesus Christ.

He is our Lord.  He is our treasure.  He is the Lover of our soul, the One who pursued us and poured out His very life's blood--all to win our heart and our very life.  

Why would we even try to live on our own? Why would we try to aim for anything besides Love itself?  What else is worth pursuing?  He alone is worth every spare moment of our time.

He gave His all for us.  And He--the King of kings and Lord of lords--had something to give.  We...we, have nothing.  Why would we keep our very little from Him? Why would we strive to accomplish our own goals?

This year, let's live for HIM.

May He be our focus in all things, as we remember always what He has done for us.  He is so very worthy of everything we have and everything we are.  Let us fix our eyes on Him this year!

As you strive to run this race with endurance looking to Jesus, it is my prayer that your veil would be lifted as you turn to Christ, so that you might see Him in a new and amazing way!  He has great plans for you this year, as you put Him first in all things!