Take Up Your Cross

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 16:24-25 

#DailyBibleReading

#BibleReadingPlan

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Four Questions to Ask When Studying the Bible

1. What does this passage mean?

2. What should I be thankful for?

3. Does this passage shine a light on any sin in my life?

4. How is the Holy Spirit leading me to pray after reading these verses?

Based on Martin’s Luther’s “A Simple Way to Pray.

 

Tapping into God’s Power

In today’s #DailyBibleReading, I read in 2 Kings about Elijah and Elisha and the amazing power of God that filled them and fought their battles for them. In 2 Kings 1, the king kept sending out men to confront Elijah and each time they arrived Elijah would say: “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then, poof, fire came down and consumed the king’s men.

Then a while later two pretty amazing things happened through another prophet, Elisha:

  1. The water of the city was contaminated and people were complaining to Elisha about it. He through a little salt in the water and, poof, the water was clean.
  2. Elisha finishes with the water and starts heading out of town, and some boys start heckling him about his bald head. Elisha cursed the boys and out of the woods come a couple of angry mama bears, and they tore the boys apart. Pretty gruesome. It makes me wonder if Elisha fully knew the power he was tapped into. Did he realize just cursing at some mean kids would unleash the fury of nature? I wonder if he was in shock as these bears came barreling down the hill?

Then in my #BibleReadingPlan, I moved into Matthew 10, and Jesus called his 12 disciples and gave them access to God’s power. He gave them the power to cast out demons, raise the dead, and heal diseases. Can you imagine what they felt like? Just think: you’ve been in awe of watching Jesus do these things and then he turns to you, and he says,”OK, now it is your turn. I’m giving you my powers.”

The power also came with a warning – Jesus told the disciples that they needed to be wise because once this power was unleashed, they were also going to have enemies. And these enemies weren’t just 10-year-old boys teasing them about their hair or lack of it, these enemies would be grown men – men in power – who would beat them and drag them to court and try to kill them.

I love what Jesus tells them next – when they were in court, facing an angry crowd and death – they were to be peaceful and still. God would give them the words. The spirit of God would speak through their mouths. It reminds me of a passage from a few days ago in 2 Chronicles 20:15-17 when Judah was going into battle and God said:

  • Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.
  • Tomorrow go down against them.
  • You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.
  • Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.

Can you imagine being a disciple and being told you were going to have access to this kind of power, but that access to that power also came with a whole lot of responsibility? These were just ordinary guys who had been living their ordinary lives and Jesus called them to follow Him. They followed and experienced unbelievable things. It had to be surreal. And then even more surreal when he turned to this group of men and said, OK, now it’s your turn to have access to this amazing power. I think I’d be in shock and probably scared to death.

But the crazy, amazing, hard-to-believe thing is this . . . I do have access to that power.

Maybe God isn’t calling me to raise anyone from the dead, but he is calling me to be loving. To be kind. To be patient. To have self-control. To flee from temptation. To honor my husband. To share the gospel. And while those things might seem minuscule compared to casing out a demon, I can’t do them by myself. I can only do them by tapping into God’s power by daily reading my Bible, praying, and meditating on His word.

Pretty amazing. This God who called Elijah, Elisha, Matthew, Peter, and John also called me. Ordinary me. Just a mom and wife in middle America.

Some days He might be calling me to go into active battle.

Some days He might be calling me to stand calm and trust Him in the middle of a storm.

Every day, He is calling me to follow Him.

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Leadership: A Mom’s Role

In today’s #DailyBibleReading, two things stood out to me:

  1. 1 Kings shows two kinds of leaders – leaders who followed God and did what was right in God’s eyes and leaders who did what was right in their own eyes and rejected God. And the people of Israel and Judah followed. When the king obeyed God, the people followed God. When the king followed other gods, the people followed other gods.
  2. Psalm 78 tells about the importance of teaching children about God.

I realize there is debate as to what a woman’s role is in terms of spiritual leadership in the house – especially if her husband chooses not to be a spiritual leader or if she is a single mom – but regardless of what a man is or isn’t doing in the house, a mom has a crucial role in shaping the next generation.

A Mom’s Role in the Spiritual Leadership of her Children

  • Reading and Teaching the Bible: As a mom, I need to be reading the Bible, meditating on it, studying it, memorizing it. And I need to be talking to my children about what the Bible says and what God is teaching me. 

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,  Deuteronomy 11:18-20

Grandmas: this applies to you as well.

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— Deuteronomy 4:9 

  • Honoring their Father: I love my husband, but this struggle is SO real. I catch myself rolling my eyes behind his back, teasing him a little too much, complaining about him in front of my children. But how can I teach them to honor him, if I am not demonstrating it myself?

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”  Ephesians 6:1-3 

  • Loving your Children: This is a no-brainer right . . . but what is love? Love is patient. Love is not irritable. Again, the struggle is real! I’ve got teen and tween girls with hormones and attitudes, and it is summer, so they are together all day and frequently arguing. And they have an often-irritated mom!

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13

And once again, I’m back to Jesus. The only way for me to be full of love, rather than irritation, is to be spending time with Jesus.

Also, I try daily to do something intentionally loving –  in each of their love languages – to show them love. For my youngest, it usually involves playing with her one-on-one for 20 minutes (“quality time”) and for my oldest it usually consists of an “act of service.” And it usually involves food since she is always hungry.

  • Praying for Them: Again, a no-brainer, but sometimes easier said than done. I’ve found it helpful to keep a prayer journal with a list of things to pray for my children:
    • Their walk with God
    • That they will make good friends and be good friends
    • For their future husbands and in-laws
    • That they will make good choices
    • For God’s protection of their bodies – for their physical, emotional, and mental health, for protection from accidents, and for them to honor God with their bodies

 

Being a mom isn’t easy, and along with everything else in life, I mess up, daily. But the blessing of children comes with a responsibility to teach them about God and set an example of living for Jesus. The only way I can do it is by clinging to Jesus and asking Him to live and love through me.

 

Stay Salty

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. Matthew 5:13 #DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

Warning: this is a long meandering post because I started it six months ago, in the dead of winter (while dreaming of the beach) and then got stumped. The more I studied about Salt the more I was stumped as to what it meant. I kept coming back and adding to the post, but never quite could answer the question: what does it mean for me to be salt? What is Jesus really telling me? I’ve read it means to be a witness, I’ve read it means to add flavor to the world. I’ve read it means to be a preservative. But what does that mean in practical terms? Then today it finally hit me and I finished the post.

I live in landlocked Nebraska. There isn’t an ocean within anything less than a 14-hour drive. If my husband has his way we’ll always live in Nebraska, which isn’t a bad thing, except I love the beach. I love the sand. I love snorkeling with the sun on my back and sea creatures darting below me. I love the aftertaste of salt water on my lips.

In 2002, before marriage and kids, I was walking out of a grocery store and noticed a flyer for Team in Training, a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The basic premise was that if I raised a certain amount of money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society I could be part of a group to train for a marathon and run the Honolulu Marathon. My hotel and registration, and even my flight, was paid for. I just needed to raise money and run the race.

I’m not a runner. Never have been. When we had to run the mile in high school I’d walk whenever the P.E. teacher wasn’t looking at me. But standing there in the parking lot with my cart of groceries and the Team in Training flyer in hand I was hit with the inspiration and  I made a decision – I was going to run the Honolulu Marathon and spend a week in Hawaii afterward, enjoying the ocean.

I did it. I didn’t run the whole thing, but I finished. I made friends, I lost toenails. I spent five days soaking my sore muscles in the ocean, enjoying the sun, saltwater, and sand. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life. I got a tattoo on my back to commemorate – a hibiscus flower and “2002” to mark the occasion.

I haven’t run since. Nor have I gotten another tattoo.

While wasting time looking at Instagram posts with beautiful pictures of the beach on StaySaltyFlorida‘s page (Yes, my stress relief is browsing beach photos on Instagram); I was again hit with inspiration and I told my daughter I was going to get another tattoo. This one: “Stay Salty” and some waves. She looked at me (maybe with a hint of disgust or fear?) and basically explained that tattoos are for younger and cooler people. So maybe I won’t get a tattoo. Or maybe I will. (Did I mention I passed out during my first one?).

Regardless of my tattoo decision, I do need to “Stay Salty”. And not the “I love having my toes in the ocean and wishing I could surf, salty.” I need the be the Jesus kind of salty.

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Matthew 5:13

Paul said,”‘Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 

Some interesting things about salt to consider:

  • God wanted the Israelite’s sacrifices to Him to be sprinkled with salt: “Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.” Leviticus 2:13 and “You are to offer them before the Lord, and the priests are to sprinkle salt on them and sacrifice them as a burnt offering to the Lord.”  Ezekiel 43:24 
  • “Salt Covenant”: As mentioned in Leviticus 2:13, and also “‘But you must not redeem the firstborn of a cow, a sheep or a goat; they are holy. Splash their blood against the altar and burn their fat as a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. Their meat is to be yours, just as the breast of the wave offering and the right thigh are yours. Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the Lord I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.” Numbers 18:17-19 and “Don’t you know that the Lord, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt?” 2 Chronicles 13:5
  • The word “salary” comes from the Latin word “sal”, which means “Salt”.
  • To “eat the salt of the palace” means that one’s loyalty is to the palace, or that is where you get your substance of life from, who you are loyal to, or who you are obligated to. (“Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king,” Ezra 4:14 ESV)
  • Salt is a preservative and keeps food from spoiling.
  • Salt is a flavor enhancer.
  • We become salty through the trials and fires of life: “Everyone will be salted with fire.” Mark 9:49
  • Salt has medicinal purposes.
  • Our bodies need salt; salt is found in every cell in our bodies. It regulates our body functions and maintains our fluid balance.
  • Our body doesn’t produce salt; we need to get it from other sources.

So that does this all mean to me? How do I be salty and “Stay Salty” from my living room in middle America? That is a good question – the more I read about salt in the Bible and the historical use of salt in ancient Israel, the less sure I was about what Jesus was saying.  I’ve been stumped for the past six months.

And then it hit me: Love

If I call myself a Christian, my life should show it. How? By my devotion to God and my love for others. Jesus said Christians should be known by their love and their fruit.

God wanted the Israelites to sprinkle their sacrifices with salt. He calls Christians to offer themselves as a living sacrifice, by living a life of Love for God and others.

And just like our body doesn’t produce salt – though every cell in our body needs it – the love we are to share with others isn’t naturally produced within us. It comes from God. God loves us and fills us with love that we can share with others.

How do we Stay Salty, my friends?

  • By spending daily time with Jesus
  • By praying for opportunities to love others
  • By thanking God for his love for us
  • By submitting to His will – obeying Him, following Him, sharing Him with other
  • By intentionally loving others

We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:19

Stay salty.

And send me tattoo ideas . . . in case I get brave enough for another one!

Stay Salty

Rebellious Children

In today’s #DailyBibleReading I read about the rebellion of Israel and Judah in the Old Testament and the baptism of Jesus in the New Testament, approximately 950 years later.

I find the rebellion of God’s chosen people fascinating because it is so relatable. Israel had been divided into two – Israel and Judah – because of their rebellion. And they still disobeyed God and worshiped other gods. God sent prophets to warn them about the consequences of sin and to tell them to repent, but they didn’t listen.

Fast-forward 950 years and God sent John the Baptist to again tell His people to repent and turn back to God. Nine-hundred and fifty years of telling your children to clean up their act, but having them ignore you. Nine-hundred and fifty years of loving your children and watching them walk away and make bad choices and show you complete contempt.

What does this teach me about the nature of humans: We have a sinful nature. Our inclination is to sin, rebel, and walk away from God. We need a power higher than our own will to keep us from sinning. We need a savior.

What does this teach me about the nature of God: He is patient. (I lose it with my disobedient children after 10 minutes!) He is loving. He wants to see us saved and he wants us to turn to him. After watching his chosen people reject him for 950+ years he didn’t just throw up his hands and walk away. Instead, he sent his son to die for them and for the rest of humankind.

What does this teach me about me: I need God, every day. I need his grace. I need redemption. I need the power of the Holy Spirit – which landed on Jesus like a dove during his baptism – to keep me from rebelling. I need His strengh to keep me moving forward. I need his love, his patience, and his forgiveness.

And I am blessed to have it.

 

 

The Early Church: Living in an Over-Sexualized Society

My #BibleReadingPlan has me starting 2 Corinthians today. A little background on 2 Corinthians can be found here.  To get a better understanding of Paul’s audience I wanted to do some research on Corinth and the church.

Corinth was a town in Greece, located 48 miles west of Athens, on an isthmus between the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea. It was a wealthy trade city and home to a temple for Aphrodite. If you studied Greek gods in 7th grade, you’ll remember Aphrodite as the goddess of sexual love and beauty. The temple was full of slaves – some estimates as many as 1,000 men and women – who worked as temple prostitutes. The trade ports and prostitution made Corinth a very wealthy city.Ακροκόρινθος / Acrocorinth - Corinth

By the time Paul arrived, the city had been devastated by an earthquake and invasion – and rebuilt – and the prostitution had left the crumbling temple and moved into the streets. It was known as a city where sailors would stop to party. Think if Amsterdam and Las Vegas met up and had a baby . . . you’d have Corinth. The Greek word korinthiazethai had two meanings: 1) to live in Corinth and 2) to get drunk and indulge in sexual pleasures.

This was a city that not only had a culture of living for sensual pleasure – but it also made it’s living off of it and got very rich in the process. The goddess many of the people worshipped demanded it.

So Paul arrives in this city and starts telling people about Jesus. He goes to Aphrodite worshipers and tells them about Jesus. He shares the gospel with people who are sleeping around, cheating on their spouses, practicing homosexuality. He tells the drunk on the street. He tells the greedy hustler who is making money of the sex tourist industry. He tells the people who are known for yelling and cussing at everyone.

This was the church of Corinth. People who met Jesus right where they were – whether in the middle of hustle or coming off a hangover from a night of partying. And Jesus washed them clean from their sin. Sanctified them. Gave them a new life. Justified them, regardless of their past.

‘Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ‘ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

This was like a church in the middle of the Vegas strip made up of Christians who had formerly worked on the strip, got rich off the strip, slept around and got drunk on the strip. Corinth was full of people who lived for sensual pleasure and whose religion even called for it. But now these Christians were washing clean and were learning a new way to live through Jesus, which makes Paul’s teaching even more impactful:

‘”All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful.

“All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.

“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?

For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. ‘ 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 

The people of Corinth understood temples – the ruins of a temple stood on a hill overlooking their city. They also understood slavery and what it meant to be bought with a price. They understood prostitution as it was a major industry in their city.

But Jesus was calling them to a different lifestyle. And He was also giving them the power – through the Holy Spirit – to be changed. He had died for them. And He was asking them to live for Him.