Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dietary Concerns

Are you getting a balanced diet from your everyday reading*? What I mean is, are you working your way systematically through the entire collection of scripture you know as the Bible, even if you don't read a lot every day? Remember, it took me four years to work my way through the "Bible in a Year" reading calendar the first time I used it, no joke! Even if you don't consume numerous pages at one sitting, do read consistently, with an open mind and willing heart to process, internalize, and heed what it says. It will change you:

Do not merely listen to [or read] the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25, NIV)

Don't feel badly or give up if you fail to stay on a reading plan by calendar date! Some days the reading is just too intense to rush through; it may take several days to digest. Here's an example: James chapters 1-5 were supposed to be one day's reading, according to the chronological calendar, and three days later I was still on James chapter one! It is just that good, and merited plenty of thought. So do take your time to "hear" the perfect law that gives freedom. Hear it in its entirety; hear it with your heart, and have an open mind to allow it change you, fortify you, and cause you to grow!

PLEASE NOTE: if you are reading bits and pieces (Psalms, Proverbs, New Testament passages) rather than working your way systematically through the entire canon of scripture, then you are not doing what I advocate, Dear! If the Book is a believer's food to nourish the soul, and you are browsing for tasty morsels like cheesecake, pecan pie, and other yummy items that appeal to you, how healthy do you expect you'll be next week, next month, or next year? Don't pick and choose! Use one of the many reading plans available to help you get balanced spiritual nutrition. I want you to be strong and healthy, and have all the "nutritional building blocks" you need to face each day's stresses and challenges.
*Everyday Reading: remember, for a daily reading plan just go to and pick one out! There are five calendar plans to choose from under Bible Studies & Devotions at the top of the page. The fourth choice, Reading Guides, will bring up your options. You may have to ignore the date and pick up where you left off day by day, allowing yourself to fall behind. The important thing is to stay on track, reading the calendar passages in consecutive order so that you'll eventually work your way through the entire Bible.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Giving Thanks on a Bad Day

I heard an inspiring message today about offering thanks to God when I don't feel like it, of offering praise to God when things are not going my way, when I'm having a BAD DAY. According to Psalm 50:23, not only can I honor God, but I can also work in my own best interest by consciously clearing the way for him to inervene in my circumstances & rescue me from my distress:

. . . He who sacrifices thank offerings
honors me, and he prepares the way
so that I may show him
the salvation of God.
- Psalm 50:23 NIV

Wow, what a fabulous reminder that the things I think I'm doing "for God" (as if God needs anything I can provide) are actually for my good. Paul writes:

. . . give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God's will for you
in Christ Jesus.

- 1 Thes. 5:18 NIV

Paul doesn't give an explanation; he expects me to give thanks because it is God's will, but going back to what I know of God's character*, I can imagine WHY it is God's will for me to give thanks in all circumstances. I know that God's intentions and all he asks of me are for my own good. I have read in Psalm 50:23 that the "sacrifice" of giving thanks clears the way for God to show me his salvation. If I believe God's word, then even my most selfish motives will cause me to praise and thank God in order to open the way for his rescue in time of trouble.

Truly, God never asks me to do anything beyond my capabilities, nor to give beyond my means. His yoke is easy and his burden is light (per Matt. 11:30). Think about what this might mean in your life. Will you pledge to give God thanks, especially when you are hurting? The willful act of thanking God as you move through a difficult day will be to your benefit, and will clear the way for him to rescue you!
* God's Character - What I know of God's character is based upon my daily pursuit of God in his word. If you are not on a daily reading plan, go to and pick one out! There are five calendar plans to choose from under Bible Studies & Devotions at the top of the page. The fourth choice, Reading Guides, will bring up your options.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Do You Doubt God's Good Intentions?

Yesterday's reading included the famous "wisdom" verse (James 1:5), which I often quote. Re-reading it in context was revealing in light of my feeling that sometimes God does NOT generously grant wisdom when I ask. There is a clue in the context:

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
Ouch, that hurts! Verses 6-8 talk about our mental approach to God as we seek wisdom. We must believe and not doubt that every challenge has a useful purpose in our lives; if we doubt, we show ourselves unstable and unfit.

What, exactly, are we not to doubt? That God has wisdom to give? Not many of us have a problem believing in God's wisdom on a grand, universal scale. No, the challenge is believing that God would focus his attention on me. It is easy to believe God is able to do amazing things, but I often doubt his good intentions toward me.

If you are running up against a brick wall asking for direction, my heart is with you. May God grant you the ability to walk in the conviction that YOU ARE LOVED, personally and individually, by the creator of the universe. His intentions are good. God's heart's desire is to express his love and good intentions toward you in a unique and personal way.

Back up a step and ". . . be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (per Romans 12:2). How can you be transformed? By the power of his word. Speak these truths over your life. Print them, trim them out, look at them a dozen times a day, memorize them. Reprogram and reformat your pattern of thinking by dwelling on these true sayings:

" . . . I know the plans I have for you,"
says the Lord. "They are plans for good
and not for disaster, to give you
a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
God showed
how much he loved us
by having Christ die for us,
even though we were sinful.
Romans 5:8 CEV
. . . he who began
a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus.
Phil. 1:6 NIV

Soak your soul in the warmth of God's eternal and true intentions toward you as an individual. If you claim to believe God's word, you must work it into your brain (by repetition and rote memory, if need be) that his intentions toward YOU are good, because YOU are loved. Believe it, or if you are not there yet acknowlege that you DON'T believe it, and ask the Father in Jesus' name for his power to "get it." Ask again for that needed revelation of wisdom. It will be granted!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Self-Interest vs. Self-Sacrifice: A Choice

With difficulty I read my calendar passages* today, Matthew 27 & Mark 15. It is always hard for me to take in the crucifixion accounts without being deeply moved, and today was no exception. This exchange at the scene of the execution stood out:
So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself." (Mark 15:31)

How true, though spoken in ridicule and with grave disrespect, that "He saved others; he cannot save himself." Truly, in order to save others, he could not save himself. He had to choose; he couldn't have it both ways. He could have saved himself - if only he'd given up the "others," all the lost causes lined up throughout history (including you and me). What a call to make, to deny even his right to life itself - and to give it up for the unworthy creatures before him, who were oblivious at best.

By comparison, what little is asked of me in order to follow in his footsteps and take part in who he is! I'm not asked to make unreasonable sacrifices like what Jesus did. No! "His burden is light." When I am called to choose between self-interest and what's best for another person today, what will I choose? Will I consciously weight the balance in the favor of the other guy, even if the other person is totally oblivious, at best?

Unlike the actions of my Savior, any selfless action you or I might perform is not wasted on the unworthy; it is given as an offering to One who is aware (not oblivious), who sees us for who we are, who loves us unequivocally, and whose very spirit is present to strengthen our resolve.

It is my prayer that the choice Jesus made on the cross will stay fresh in my mind and yours today; that we will be strengthened in the Spirit to walk with a renewed perspective on what is a reasonable level of self-sacrifice, and what is a justifiable level of self-interest. Today may we take joy in living in light of HIS choice.

*Calendar Passage - if you are not on a daily reading plan, go to and pick one out! There are five calendar plans to choose from under the Devotions link in the left-hand column. The bottom choice, Reading Guides, will bring up your options.