What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Disciplined Life

What does a disciplined life look like? There are several ways of looking at a disciplined life. Some people think a disciplined life involves taking care of their physical body, exercise and a healthy diet. That is only a small part of a disciplined life when we look at what the Scriptures have to say about it.
I like what Proverbs 5:12 – 13 in The Message have to say about a disciplined life:
“Saying, “Oh, why didn’t I do what they told me?
    Why did I reject a disciplined life?
Why didn’t I listen to my mentors,
    or take my teachers seriously?”
According to these verses a disciplined life involves listening to the wise counsel from godly mentors and teachers. It means taking the reproof offered and changing our lives to live in accordance with the counsel of those who know and love God. Another verse in Proverbs talks about accepting reproof as a way of gaining knowledge (Proverbs 12:1 [NASB]):
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, But he who hates reproof is stupid.”
I’d much rather be one that is characterized by loving knowledge than someone who is stupid because I hate reproof. So accepting the instruction and reproof from godly people is one way to live a disciplined life. Proverbs 19:20 [NASB] puts it this way:
“Listen to counsel and accept discipline, That you may be wise the rest of your days.”
Another aspect of a disciplined life is by living according to God’s Word. There are several verses that talked about living according to the Scriptures. It’s a form of godly discipline to be taught from the Word of God and live according to Its guidelines. Psalm 94:12 [NIV] tells us that those who are disciplined by learning from the law are blessed:
Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord, the one you teach from your law;”
Along with being taught the Word of God, personal study of the Word is also a sign of a disciplined life. Although it doesn’t mention the word “discipline,” a verse I really like about the importance of studying God’s Word is found in Ezra 7:10 [NASB]:
For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.”
So two aspects of living a disciplined life are listening to godly counsel and reproof, and being a learner of God’s laws and commandments. When we do these two things, along with several other spiritual disciplines I haven’t talked about (like prayer, giving, and helping others), the apostle Paul might be able to say the following about us (Colossians 2:5 [NASB]):
“For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.”
That’s what I’m hoping for: good discipline and the stability of my faith in Christ.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Lady Wisdom, Madame Insight

I’ve begun reading Proverbs in my daily devotions. In Proverbs 3 it says, “You’re blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom, when you make friends with Madame Insight.” [The Message] So how does one meet Lady Wisdom? And how does one become friends with Madame Insight?
We meet Wisdom and befriend Insight by learning, knowing and applying God’s Word. I think it’s especially important to apply the Word to our lives. As it said in my Bible Study (on Jezebel) this week, we must “take hold of instruction” (Proverbs 4:13). Taking hold of instruction means we have to grasp it and do something with it. That requires meditation and application. “Simply knowing truth does not bring blessing, but applying it surely does” (Life Principles from the Women of the Bible, Book Two, page 129).
Some things Scripture tells us to do are relatively self explanatory and easy to follow. For instance, the Word tells us we are to know His Words and do according to all that He says, (Luke 11:28, “. . . blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”) We are to be studying His Word and spend time trying to do what it says. I try to do that in several ways. I have daily devotions where I read the Word of God and try to find something that I can apply for the day. Sometimes my application is just to pray that I would be more obedient to God’s Word. Sometimes my application is to spend a few extra minutes of my day praising God for Who He is. But I try to have a daily application, something I can do in one day.
I also try to know God’s Word by doing a weekly Bible Study. Right now I’m studying various women of the Bible using the aforementioned study book. For that study, I try to come up with an application I can do for a week or during the week between lessons. The important thing is to be applying what I learn from the passages of Scripture that I read. This week’s application from Bible Study is to give the Word first place in my day each day this week. I usually do that but I discovered by looking in my journals that I haven’t been faithful to having my devotions each morning recently. I need to get back into the habit of doing that . . . because that’s the way I will meet Wisdom and befriend Insight.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Study of Abigail

One of King David’s wives was named Abigail, but how much do you know about her? She was originally married to Nabal (a name which means “fool”) and he was an old drunk who did many foolish things. One foolish thing he did was deny David’s request for sustenance and provisions for David and his men. He basically said, “Who is this David?” although he knew, as the rest of the people did, that David was anointed as the next king of Israel by Samuel, the high priest.
Abigail heard of Nabal’s refusal to help David and without telling Nabal, gathered up provisions and went out to meet David. Scripture says that Abigail was intelligent and beautiful (1 Samuel 25:32). Her intelligence came out in her actions. She knew that her husband had acted foolishly by not providing for David and she sought to remedy the situation. By doing so, she also protected David from acting foolishly (possibly inadvertently). David’s intention was to go and kill all of the men in Nabal’s household, but Abigail’s actions prevented that from happening.
When asked to list my strengths, I often include “my intelligence” as one of them. But is my intelligence the same as Abigail’s? Do I use my intelligence to listen to God and do the next right thing? Sometimes I do and sometimes I fail to take into account what God would have me do in a specific situation. Sometimes, I don’t use my intelligence to protect the fools in my life. Sometimes I don’t have the right attitude in dealing with the fools in my life. True intelligence shows itself when it is used by God to accomplish His purposes.
“Abigail flew into action” (1 Samuel 25:18 in The Message). She got the report from the young shepherds that her husband had refused to help David and she “lost no time” (NIV). Scripture doesn’t say she decided to go and pray about what to do, or that she went and asked someone else what she should do. Scripture says “she said nothing to her husband” (1 Samuel 25:19). Scripture says she flew into action and prepared a feast for David and went out to meet him. Her intelligence allowed her to take decisive action and she did the right thing. I’m not saying she didn’t pray first. It’s just that Scripture doesn’t tell us that she did. Whatever praying she did was done quickly and allowed for her to take swift action. She knew what was the right thing to do and she didn’t waste time in doing the right thing.
I don’t always do the right thing. I often think I know what the right thing is, but I hold back and don’t say or do what I know to be right. If I want to be like Abigail, and use my intelligence as God intended, I need to take swift action when I know what the right thing is to do. I use prayer as an excuse to postpone doing the right thing(s). I go to God asking Him to show me what to do, when I already know what the right thing is. God has given me my intelligence and sometimes I just need to trust God and do the right thing.
I was challenged by Abigail and convicted. If I’m going to say intelligence is one of my strengths, I need to act on that intelligence and not hold back. There are situations in my life when I need to fly into action and not just sit back and be afraid to do the right thing. I don’t always need to check with someone else before I act. I can trust in the intelligence and knowledge I have been given by God.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Thoughts on Denying Jesus

I read Matthew 26:69 – 75 this morning in The Message. This passage of Scripture covers the scene where Peter, one of the disciples of Jesus, denies knowing Jesus three times. I was reminded of how much I am like Peter according to this situation.
First, Peter simply denies knowing Jesus. In verses 69 – 70 it says, “All this time, Peter was sitting out in the courtyard. One servant girl came up to him and said, ‘You were with Jesus the Galilean.’ In front of everybody there, he denied it. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’” How often do I claim to just not know what people are talking about when they are talking spiritual matters? I pretend not to understand the scope of the conversation because I’m afraid of bringing up a perspective that is unpopular.
Second, Peter swears he has never laid eyes on Jesus. Verse 72 gives us Peter’s response to the accusation that Peter was with Jesus: “Again he denied it, salting his denial with an oath: ‘I swear, I never laid eyes on the man.’” At times I’m willing to say that I never really understood who Jesus was or is. I may not put it as an oath, but I do claim that I don’t understand the way God works and that I don’t understand how Jesus may be involved in situations in my life.
Lastly, Peter denies any association with Jesus. Verses 73 – 74 say, “Shortly after that, some bystanders approached Peter. ‘You’ve got to be one of them. Your accent gives you away.’ Then he got really nervous and swore. ‘I don’t know the man!’” Like Peter, sometimes I get really nervous that people will associate me with Jesus and His ways. My accent may be found in the way I say or do certain things instead of by the manner of my speech. It might be in the way I phrase something. I may do things that lead people to believe I’m associated with a Christian perspective. And, like Peter, I get nervous – nervous that I won’t live up to their expectations of what a Christian should be like.
Fortunately, like Peter, I am forgiven. And like Peter went on to be used by God for great and mighty things for the kingdom of God, God can still use me. Peter was repentant. I need to be repentant, too. I need to openly confess when I deny Jesus and change my behavior and attitudes to wholeheartedly be aligned with Jesus. I can do this today just as Peter did back in the first century, and end up being used by God.