Tag Archives: Spiritual Disciplines

My Sparkling Personality

18 Dec

Read: Exodus 34:29-35

“For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Hebrews 3:14-15a

“What is it about Christmas decorations,” I asked, shaking a sugar covered wreath that I had found lying on a shelf, “that requires them to consist of all these little sparkles and things that are destined to fall off all over your carpet every time you touch them?”

“Guess it’s just more festive that way,” my coworker suggested, grinning and shrugging her shoulders.  “It does seem to get everywhere, doesn’t it?”

After a day of merchandising the product, I could easily affirm her statement.  It seemed that the more time I spent with the decorations, the more I had begun to look like one, myself.  The glitter coated my clothes, my face, my hair, and was even inconveniently stuck between my toes.  I attributed my magical glow to “my sparkling personality” and let it go at that, but I couldn’t help feeling that everyone who passed was taking note of my strikingly festive appearance.  Everyone knew where I had been and what I had been doing!

Scripture tells us that, spending time with Christ should have much the same effect as spending time with Christmas decorations – the more we are with Him, the more we will look like Him.  As His Spirit fills us, we will begin to conform more and more to His image and will – leading others to take note of who we are and in whose presence we have been!

Challenge: Are you spending time with God through prayer and the study of His Word?  If not, commit to making time in His presence a regular part of your life.  The more you are with Him, the more like Him you will become!

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

The Senator Said…

28 Aug

Read: 1 John 4:1-6

“Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

Matthew 7:15 NIV

 

One of my tasks with our state’s junior Senator was to serve as a liaison between his constituents and Federal agencies.  After listening carefully to a constituent’s story, I would have them fill out a formal request for our assistance and provide me with copies of any documents pertinent to their case.  I would then send a letter to the agency involved, asking if they had given full consideration to the individual in question.  I was well acquainted with Federal policy and did my job well.  Most of my cases dealt with tax and immigration issues and were easily resolved (usually in the constituent’s favor). 

Some of our constituents, however, were not satisfied to know that I was working on their case.  Instead, they wanted the Senator, himself, to deal with the situation – hoping that he might be able to “pull some strings” and get them off the hook.  It was not uncommon for such an enquirer to alert me to their close family connections (usually with the Senator’s deceased mother or brother).  This failing, I was sometimes informed that they had already spoken to the Senator personally and that he had given them instructions to instruct me to write a letter on their behalf ordering the Federal agency involved to cease persecuting them immediately.

Such letters were not in keeping with Senate policy, but we still took the time to run the names of each “best friend” past the Senator.  On the rare occasion that a constituent had told the truth about their connection, it gave him the opportunity to express sympathy and reassure them that his staff would do everything possible to assist in the resolution of their case.  More often than not, however, the names of these intimate acquaintances failed to even ring a bell.

Regardless of whether the Senator knew each constituent or not, my orders remained the same – and I was smart enough to know that obedience to the law of the land was a better bet than adherence to the directions of someone who simply claimed to be acting on the Senator’s behalf.

Scripture warns us of similar people in our spiritual lives.  Ignoring the clear instructions of God’s Word, these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” do whatever is necessary to further their own interests… even if doing so will harm others.  Followers of Christ must always be on the lookout for such false messengers, alert and ready to defend against their lies!

Challenge:  The best way to defend against falsehood is to know the truth… and there is no better source of truth than God’s Word.  If you don’t already have a Bible reading plan in place, take time to create one.  Just a few minutes a day can make the difference between walking with God or being led astray!

A Brief Introduction to the Aerobic Benefits of Political Rallies

31 Jul

Read: Matthew 6:1-13

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”

Matthew 6:7 NASB

 

I learned early on that political rallies are governed by certain unspoken rules of conduct which, if observed, serve as an adequate substitute for a gym membership.  Among these, are the following:

  1. Applause is to be rendered for every speaker.  This rule must be observed regardless of who he is, what he says (though it is considered good form to find something about which to applaud even if it is merely the grace with which he introduces the man who will be introducing the key-note speaker), or whether you have ever even heard his name.  A ten minute ovation at the end of his introduction is customary.
  2. Regardless of your personal feelings towards a given speaker, any effort on his part to “share the vision” must be greeted with a standing ovation.  The length of this sporadic applause varies based upon the rank or status of the speaker, however the conclusion of any speech is usually met with applause appropriate to the man who may be the next U.S. President (even if he is merely a City Councilman).
  3. It is vital to maintain a reasonable (but not excessive) interval between bouts of applause.  If five minutes pass without the speaker having said anything of note, it is incumbent upon all listeners to find something vaguely worthy of recognition and lead off an ovation.  (Everyone else in the room will usually follow, even if they have lost track of the speaker’s main point, since it is considered worse form to refrain from applause than to applaud for whatever irrelevant point has just been made.)

In practice, observance of these rules (and the accompanying aerobic program) looks something like this:

Climbing onto the stage, a relatively low ranking official (though higher ranking than most of the audience) calls the room to order.  Since he is introducing the speaker who will introduce the key-note speaker, he only speaks for five minutes and shares a few brief remarks concerning the quality of family life observed by the speaker who will follow.  After concluding his introduction, everyone in the room rises from their seats and offers the mandatory ten minutes of applause.

Next, the speaker introducing the key-note speaker ascends the podium and delivers a few “brief remarks”.  These last for at least half an hour (partly due to the applause taking place at five minute intervals) and are concluded with the thunder of another ten minute ovation.

The keynote speaker then rises and speaks for an hour or more, during which the aerobics reach their glorious peak and older and weaker members of the audience sporadically pass out due to overexertion.

As you can see, this makes for a fine workout.  Unfortunately, for most of the attendees these repeated standing ovations are meaningless.  They are repeated simply to make the person offering the applause appear to be more truly “American”, not because individuals actually feel any connection to the points being made.

Sadly, many Christians fall into a similar habit with their prayer lives.  While prayer is meant to connect us with God, all too often, we fall into the rut of simply repeating the same words over and over.  Like those at a political rally, we must take care to pay attention to what is being said because, unlike politicians, God wants more from our conversation than endless repetitions.  He is seeking a relationship… and that can only be developed when we take the time to truly connect with His message through our prayers.

Challenge:  Do your prayers sound like dialogue or are they merely endless chatter?  The next time you sit down to pray, do so intentionally – with plans to develop a relationship.  You’ll gain far more than can ever be acquired through inattentive repetition!

Lobbyists

10 Jul

Read: Luke 16:1-9

“Many try to win the kindness of a generous person, and everyone is a friend to a person who gives gifts.”

Proverbs 19:6 (NASB)

The poet once observed that, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” and in few places does this prove as true as in the halls of government.  It started with the early morning doughnuts and orange juice.  A muffin made it sweeter, as did chocolate milk or a banana.  From there, we moved on to fully catered lunches of roast beef, serve-yourself salad bars, and fresh baked bread.  Tables filled with cookies and cakes followed in the afternoon and our evening munchies were satisfied by the leftovers.  The entirety of this bounty was served up daily by an assortment of political lobbyists who seemed to spend more hours on the fourth floor of the capitol rotunda than they spent at home.

It wasn’t long before the fourth floor was the first place the House pages visited when we came in each morning.  We returned each time we had a break and we (and our more powerful employers) were even willing to lend these friendly lobbyists an ear if they’d kindly pass us one more doughnut or another piece of pie.  It was heaven… and not just for us.

The lobbyists had mastered a good bit of Biblical advice: winning friends with their kindness. Offer a Senator a doughnut and you might just find yourself with a captive audience for the next minute and a half… long enough to pitch an idea for fresh legislation or begin swaying an opinion about the bill presently on the floor.  Tricky?  Maybe.  Brilliant?  Yes!

Unfortunately, many Christians tend to shy away from similar forms of kindness.  Whether it’s because we associate generosity with “wanting something” or because we simply feel that we have nothing to give, it’s guaranteed that we’re missing out!  The Bible dedicates more than a few verses to the idea that our demonstration of friendship (whether by gift-giving or just good-natured friendliness) plays a huge role in both where we go in life and how we’ll experience those places once we get there.  So the next time you feel tempted to be generous, do!  You may be surprised by the results!

Challenge:  While going out of your way to be kind to others doesn’t always “pay off” in a material sense, it does in a spiritual one.  The next time you see an opportunity to do something generous for someone else, take it.  And don’t hesitate to accept generosity from others as well.  It’s likely that their motives for giving aren’t that far removed from yours!

When Was the Last Time You Watered This?

20 Feb

Read: John 4:4-42

“For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns That can hold no water.” – Jeremiah 2:13 NASB

 

I watched as the man strode through the doors that led in from the nursery.  His grumpy mood was evident to us all, but none more so than the staff member struggling to keep up as she tugged upon the green cart bearing his merchandise.

 “That’s twenty percent off,” he informed me, stabbing his finger towards the small Bristlecone Pine, “but it should be fifty.”

“Nope,” our nursery worker informed him, trying her best to suppress her irritation.  “Just twenty.”

“Well, it should be fifty,” he said again.  “When was the last time you watered this?  The Fourth of July?”

“It gets watered every night,” she politely responded, watching as I rang the purchase through the register.

Huffing, the man stuffed his credit card back into his wallet and signaled for the employee to follow him to the door.

She returned a moment later, obviously agitated, but only a little worse for the wear.  “If I hadn’t watered it since July, it would have been dead!” she complained, offering a whiny imitation of the customer’s complaint.

I grinned.  Sometimes customers just don’t see the obvious … and sometimes Christians don’t either.  Just like the tree in my story (which, I might add, was an excellent looking specimen), we as believers need regular watering if we’re to survive the droughts of life.  Only when we draw close to God (the only source of Living Water) can we be assured that we’ll have what we need when the time comes.

The biggest difference between us and a Bristlecone Pine?  While the tree depended upon our hard-working nursery staff for the moisture required, each Christian must take responsibility for himself.

Challenge: Are you taking time to “drink in” God’s Word?  If not, make the commitment to make a change.  Try to find five or ten minutes to read your Bible each day for the next few weeks.  You’ll be well on your way to the kind of “daily watering” program that we as believers need!

An Introduction to Swordplay

10 Aug

In Ephesians 6:17, Apostle Paul compares the Word of God to a sword… and no wonder!  Few tools are as useful to the follower of Christ as the Scriptures through which God reveals Himself to us.  The words of the Bible comfort us in times of distress and govern our behavior during trials.  They echo our joy and our praise and, on some occasions, even our anger and frustration.  No less important is the power that they have to influence the hearts of others as we share the Gospel message.

Sadly, while many of us spent our childhood faithfully committing these words to memory, the habit lapsed long ago.  Caught up in memorizing the periodic table and the parsing of French verbs, we set our Sunday School verses aside, waiting for a less hectic time in which to pick them up again.  I distinctly remember the year in which I did just that.  The materials for the Scripture memory club at which (ironically) I was a leader, had been rewritten and in order to familiarize myself with the new program, I decided that I would work through the new books alongside my girls.  It wasn’t long before I was back in the swing of things and you can imagine my surprise when at the end of the year I discovered that I had memorized nearly 250 new Scripture verses!

What most impressed me during this time, however, was the number of commands I found that dealt not just with reading God’s Word, but with remembering it!  (Psalm 1:2; 86:11; 119: 9, 11, 23, 48, 78, 105… Just to name a few!)  I was particularly struck by Deuteronomy 6, verses 6-9:

 “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Being the type of person who jumps in feet first without looking, I decided to act upon the command by attempting to memorize the entire Bible.  (After all, if a little is good, a lot is better.  Right?)  While several of the people I told about this thought that I had lost my mind (and possibly for good reason), others provided some great encouragement.  One friend even told me of a pastor he knew who had gone blind, but wanted to continue preaching.  Purchasing a copy of the Bible on tape, he worked diligently until he had, indeed, memorized all of it!

I decided to start with the book of Romans since I already knew a good portion of it by heart (best to start off easy) and had previously been able to use those portions to share the Gospel message.  I determined that I would work through the epistle one chapter at a time and that I wouldn’t be satisfied until I could recite each verse word-for-word.

Over the summer I was able to memorize the first three chapters and was greatly surprised by the outcome.  I reported to a friend of mine that I could have dealt with nearly every question I’ve ever been asked about my faith with just that handful of verses!

The truly impressive part, however, was what was happening to me as a result of the memorization.  While I regularly took time to read my Bible, I discovered that I had not actually been meditating upon what it said.  The endless repetition of the same phrases over and over that was required in order to commit the verses to memory forced me to think upon each passage in much greater depth than I would have otherwise.  I was surprised at how much my understanding of God’s Word grew with just the fifteen minutes a day that I spent committing it to memory.

So what is an article on Scripture memory doing on a page about evangelism?  To begin with, God doesn’t limit our opportunities to share the Gospel to just those times when we have a copy of the Bible nearby.  Our ability to quote Scripture (in its appropriate context) can make the difference between effective sharing and ineffective babbling.

Secondly, it is easier to obey the command in 2 Peter 3:15, to always be ready to give an answer for our faith, when we know where to find that answer.  You may not be great with references, but I can guarantee that knowing enough to find that reference in a concordance will really boost your own confidence when it comes to sharing your faith.  And those who are confident, share the message of God’s Saving Grace more frequently than those who are not!

Everyone has the ability to commit at least a little bit of Scripture to memory and that little bit can make a big difference!  Next week, we’ll be taking a look at some great techniques to help you get started.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your own experiences in the comment box below.  We’d love to hear about your own experiences with Scripture memory and about the effect that it has had in your own life or in the lives of those around you!

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