Asthma and Jesus

My youngest daughter has allergies and asthma. She takes multiple medications in the morning and before bed – including an asthma maintenance inhaler – and never goes anywhere without a rescue inhaler and epi-pen. This past weekend she had a friend spend the night and in the excitement of a sleepover, she didn’t take her medications before bed. By the next evening, she was wheezing and congested. After only one missed dose and she could feel the effects.

I had a similar experience but in a spiritual sense.

Sunday morning I was worn out from listening to a late night slumber party giggle-fest. I decided to skip my morning time of #DailyBibleReading and sleep in. I figured I’d get my Jesus fix at church. I’d read the Bible and pray later.

We went to church and then in the afternoon I prepared to do my #DailyBibleReading. But I got distracted by Facebook and HGTV and Sukuku (I’ve advanced to the “extreme” level) and a library book that is due soon. I didn’t read the Bible or pray.

By evening I could feel the effects of missing one dose of my personal time with Jesus. Seriously.

I was crabby and irritable. I yelled at my husband. I was letting my mind wander to places it shouldn’t.

I’m not trying to be legalistic about #DailyBibleReading, but here’s the thing: I have a disease called sin. I can’t control it. Only Jesus can. My daily time with Him is like a maintenance inhaler.  If I don’t take those 30 minutes with Him every morning I can feel the effects.

This spiritual race isn’t a sprint. It is a marathon. And the only way my lungs stay strong is through time with Jesus. Every day.

 

 

 

 

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Life Lessons from the Kings of Judah

#BibleReadingPlan #2Chronicles

The Kings of Israel and Judah fascinate me. These kings had every opportunity to follow God and do good. Some chose to follow God . . . some chose to go the opposite direction, with devastating results.

For example: Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. A great-grandfather, grandfather, father, and son who each reigned over Judah. All descendants of King David.

King Uzziah: Became king at age 16 and started off seeking God and God blessed him. He became very powerful and famous. But he also became very proud. His pride led to his downfall and God gave him leprosy as his punishment.

King Jotham: When his dad got leprosy, Jotham was put in charge and became king at age 25. He did what was pleasing to God, just like his father Uzziah, but Jotham didn’t let his pride go to his head. He also became very powerful, but he was careful to live in obedience to God. But even though he was obedient to God, the people under him continued in their corrupt ways.

King Ahaz: I’m not sure what killed Jotham, but if my math is correct, he died at age 41 and his son, Ahaz, became king at age 20. Ahaz went the complete opposite direction of his father and grandfather. He worshiped idols. He sacrificed his own son to Baal. He encouraged the people of Judah to sin. He destroyed items for the Lord’s Temple and shut the temple doors.

King Hezekiah: What would you expect of Hezekiah, having a dad like Ahaz who had even sacrificed his brother to an idol? But Hezekiah didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps. He followed the Lord. He reopened the Temple. He commanded the people of Judah to turn back to God and God gave the people of Judah the heart to obey. He was successful and powerful, but with time he also became proud. But instead of having his pride become his downfall like it had his great-grandfather, he recognized the pride, humbled himself, and repented.

If you keep reading on in 2 Chronicles you’ll see the pattern continue to repeat itself. Unfortunately with all the good Hezekiah did, his son, Manasseh, was an evil king. And the pattern goes on and on.

Life Lessons from Judah’s History

  • Godly Mentors Make an Impact: Uzziah had a mentor – the high priest Zechariah. We don’t know much about Zechariah, but he taught Uzziah to fear God.

Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who taught him to fear God. And as long as the king sought guidance from the LORD, God gave him success.” 2 Chronicles 26:5 

  • Mothers Matter: We also don’t know much about these mothers, but one interesting note is that the evil king Ahaz had a wife name Abijah who was the mother of the godly king, Hezekiah. She was also the daughter of the high priest Zechariah. I wonder if this was a godly woman – married to an evil man – who was determined to do everything in her power to teach her son about God in spite of the evil around them.
  • Destiny Isn’t Determined by Parents: While parents have influence on a child, the child’s relationship with God is his or her choice. Whether your parents love God or hate him . . . your relationship with God is all your own. Christian parents may have atheist children and atheist children may have Christian children.
  • God Forgives and Leads: Whenever the king sought God or humbled himself before God, God led and God forgave. He also gave the kings who sought him victory in battle, wealth, and success.

When I read the list of kings and chronology in the Bible sometimes it is easy for me to skim through the names and forget these were real people. But they were. Humans with baggage and history and choices. Parents. Husbands and wives. Leaders and followers. Lovers of God and haters of God.

Regardless of the circumstances they were born into they had choices to make.

Just like me.

 

 

Benefits of Daily Bible Reading

Prior to the end of 2015, I didn’t read the Bible every day. I’d read other devotional books or Bible studies that usually included reading a few verses. I was rarely reading whole chapters in the Bible. Let alone whole books. Most of my quiet time consisted of reading what other people had discovered in their quiet times.

Then everything changed.

  • I was frustrated with the lack of progress I was making in become more Christ-like. I know Jesus wants me to be loving, patient, kind, etc. But I wasn’t seeing any changes in my life. I was a Christian . . . so why wasn’t I becoming more like Christ?
  • I read “The Divine Mentor: Growing Your Faith as You Sit at the Feet of the Savior”  by Wayne Cordeiro (More here).  Basic premise – spending time reading and studying the Bible everyday is the key to life transformation.
  • My church small group voted to read through the Bible in 2016. I decided to get a head-start and begin in 2015.

Here are the tools I use:

  1. Bible Reading: I use the YouVersion app and read the Bible on my phone.  I like it because I can highlight verses, read a passage in another version (NIV vs. NLT), create pictures from the verses, etc. Lately, I have found myself getting distracted on my phone. It seems like the minute I start ready the Bible an all-important Facebook notification pops up. I may be switching back to my actual physical Bible soon!
  2. Bible Reading Plan: Last year I used Wayne Cordeiro’s “Life Journal Reading Plan”. This year I am using Skövde Pingst’s “The BIBLE in a Year” plan. Both have been great – they include some New Testament, Old Testament and usually either some Psalms or Proverbs. And remember, you don’t have to start a plan on January 1st. I started in November 2015. Start today!
  3. S.O.A.P. Journal. In The Divine Mentor Wayne Cordeiro explains the S.O.A.P. method of journaling while reading the Bible. I’ve adapted it a bit. My journal includes my own personal journal, my prayer journal and my daily SOAP. In this video Wayne explains the method (and it doesn’t hurt it is filmed in Hawaii – I think I could spending hours doing S.O.A.P on the beach!).
    • S: Scripture
    • O: Observation
    • A: Application or Action
    • P: Prayer

Personally, reading the Bible every day has been the most beneficial thing I’ve ever done. I’m finally seeing my life changing – from the inside out. No, it hasn’t happened at the speed I’ve wanted. And sometimes I get in a slump. But I am seeing changes. Slowly and steadily.

Here are a few passages that also explain the importance of reading the Bible.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.Psalms 119:105 

Instruction for the kings of Israel:

When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.   Deuteronomy 17:18-20 

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Joshua 1:8 

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12 

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 

 

 

Resisting the Schemes of Satan

Knowing the schemes of Satan and putting on the Armor of God. #armorofgodstudy #DailyBibleReading @PriscillaShirer

Last night I read an article about a man whose teenage daughter went missing. After an extensive search, involving the police and the FBI, they found her.  The girl had been sold into the sex industry.  Her father explained that several years ago a man had found her online and started to prey on her. The man figured out her strengths and weaknesses. He lied to her about his identify. He groomed her. He was patient and cunning. This complete stranger spent two years building a relationship with her for the sole purpose of getting her to willingly follow him. This was his full-time job – recruiting kids to be sold into the sex industry. Grooming and selling one child into sexual slavery meant  a $150,000 – $300,000 profit for this predator.

This father told his story as a warning for other parents. He implored them to be vigilant in guarding their children’s online activity and to become educated on the schemes of online predators. These predators are smart, manipulative and secretive. And many parents think their children are safe at home when there is actually terrible danger lurking behind their screens.

 

 

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My #DailyBibleReading this morning included 2 Corinthians 2. Paul was writing to a church and one line in his letter really stood out to me – especially in light of the story I had read last night:

so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.
2 Corinthians 2:11 NLT

Satan is like that online predator – patiently manipulating and lying to us. Tempting us. Trying to outsmart us.

Paul said that the church in Corinth was familiar with Satan’s evil schemes.

But am I familiar with Satan’s schemes? No. Usually I am completely unaware.

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How often do I look at a person or a situation as the enemy? I usually blame a human – or even God – as the cause of my hurt or temptation or frustration; without ever considering that my real enemy, Satan, is behind the screen, manipulating the situation.

To another church Paul said:

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 NLT

How can I be fighting against and protecting myself from evil forces if I don’t even know their schemes? 

One thing I love about my #DailyBibleReading through Bible.com or the YouVersion App is the easy ability to study deeper into a topic. In the “Search” bar I looked up “Satan” and started reading through the Bible verses that came up to have a better idea of Satan’s schemes so I can identify them in my own life.  This link will take you to the search if you’d like to read through the list on your own.  Some of my observations are below the picture.

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Bible.com Search Tool

Just like the father whose daughter had been sold into sex slavery explained, intellectually knowing the schemes of predators isn’t enough. I need to act. I need to protect myself and my family.

How can I protect myself from the schemes of the devil?

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:11,13-18  NLT

  1. Truth: Satan is the father of lies. We need to know what is true and what is a lie. And not fall for his lies.
  2. God’s righteousness: To protect my heart, I need to obey God. I need to flee sin. And cling to God’s goodness.
  3. Gospel of Peace
  4. Faith
  5. Salvation
  6. Word of God: #DailyBibleReading, meditation, memorization
  7. Prayer, Prayer, and more Prayer

Priscilla Shirer is one of my favorite Bible Study authors and speakers. Recently I had the opportunity to see her in person during her Fervent Tour (which I highly recommend). She talked quite a bit about the Armor of God during the event, which was very helpful in better understanding the Armor of God and recognizing Satan’s strategies and combating them.

She also has a whole book and study on the topic:

Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer:  

I haven’t done the study, but hope to. Here is a link to a video with the first lesson of Armor of God Bible study. The promo is below:

 

I’ll be keeping my eyes open for this Bible Study taking place locally – I would love to participate with a local of group of women studying how to put on the full armor of God and be ready for battle.

How about you? What has been your experience in putting on the Armor of God and being aware of and combating the schemes of the devil?

Am I Loving?

Using 1 Corinthians 13 as a Barometer of my Love Life

#DailyBibleReading

The love passage.  One of three Bible chapters I have ever memorized (along with Psalm 23 and Matthew 5). It is a beautiful passage about love and about what really matters in life.

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But what does it look like in practical terms?

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1‭-‬3 NLT

I can go to church and spout Bible verses and knowledge; but if I am not loving the people in the church it doesn’t matter.

I can go to Bible studies and spend time reading the Bible and praying, but if it never penetrates my heart and changes me . . . there is a serious problem.

I can write a check to a charity or volunteer at a food pantry, but if I turn around and am mean to my husband and kids and co-workers, my “good deeds” don’t count.

The number one “good deed” that God wants to see – and that should be naturally flowing out of me if I am spending time with Jesus and focusing my attention on Him – is Love. Not perfect love because we aren’t going to be perfect until heaven. But if God is filling us we should gradually be becoming more loving.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7 NLT

I don’t think these verses are a threat or a list of actions for us to attempt, but more of a barometer for us to examine ourselves. Is Jesus’s love in us, flowing out to others?  Over years spent with Jesus, am I becoming more loving? Am I becoming more like the list above?

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
1 Corinthians 13:11‭-‬12 NLT

Like a child growing up, change doesn’t happen right away. And I won’t be perfected until after death, but right now I should be becoming more like Jesus. If I am spending time with him on a daily basis, praying, doing spiritual disciplines like memorizing Bible verses, fasting, and meditating; I should be maturing. And the best way to tell if I am maturing? If I am becoming more loving.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.                                           1 Corinthians 13:8-10

When reflecting on my life, if I see I am becoming a more loving person I know I am on track.

If I don’t see growth in this area – if I am not becoming more loving or if I am going backwards –  I need to make adjustments in my life and make sure I am spending my time, mental focus and energy on what matters most: Jesus. Reading the Bible, praying, praising him and meditating on his words. I can’t change myself to become more loving, but when I am full of Jesus, his love will natural seep out of me.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT

 

 

Telling God the Ugly Stuff

Cry out to God with the good, the bad and the ugly.

My current Bible reading plan includes daily reading in the Old Testament, New Testament and usually either a Psalm or Proverb.  Right now I am reading about the life of King David and it is very interesting (and encouraging) to read about the HORRIBLE things going on in David’s life and in Judah and Israel, juxtaposed with songs David wrote while experiencing these heartbreaking and terrifying experiences.

For example, today I read in 2 Samuel 3-4 about war and murder and gruesome executions.  About husbands and wives being torn apart.  About disloyalty and political strife.  About a nation divided by leadership loyalties.

And then I turned to Psalm 59 and read David’s song. The song was written earlier – when King Saul was still alive and had sent soldiers to watch David’s house in order to kill him – but I still see the heart of David and how he cried out to God. I read the song of a man after God’s own heart.

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In the midst of people trying to kill him, David cries out to God.  He tells God about his fears. He asks God to rescue him. He begs for protection. He told God his situation. The good, the bad and the ugly. This wasn’t some nice prayer or pretty worship song. This was David pouring out his fears, anger, hurts to God. This was a son coming to his Father and begging him for mercy. This was a man who trusted God, but was hurting. This was a tortured man begging for a break from the pain.

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God included this Psalm in the Bible. And many others like it. I assume if God wanted these many Psalms in the Bible – and said that David was a man after His own heart – that God wants us to call out to Him, just like David did.

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God wants to know our whole heart. Not just the nice stuff. Not just the just the praises and thank-yous and lists of requests. He wants us to tell Him our fears and anger and hurts. He wants all of us. The good, the bad and the ugly.

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Lessons from the Olive Tree

Did you know there are olive trees alive today that are estimated to be between 2,000 – 4,000 years old?  There are trees at the Mount of Olives who some believe may have been there when Jesus prayed in the garden.  Pretty incredible.  Makes we want to plan a trip to visit the Holy Land!

I’ve never given olives or olive trees much thought (expect when contemplating going on a Mediterranean diet which sounds completely wonderful . . . except that anything with the word “diet” tends not get past mental contemplation for me).  But as I was doing my morning Bible reading I read a verse that stuck out to me:

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.  Psalm 52:8 NIV

I love this image that David created in this Psalm.  “An olive tree flourishing in the house of God.”  I can just picture it – a beautiful tree in God’s garden.  So I dug a little deeper into this verse as well as other verses about olive trees and branches in both the Old Testament New Testament, as well as from a historical perspective.  The Bible is full of references to olives and olive trees:

  • The olive was a major agriculture product in Israel.  In addition to food, the oil was used for cooking, lighting lamps, sacrifice and anointing.
  • When Noah was on the ark, looking for dry land, he sent out a dove.  The dove returned with an olive leaf in his beak which was a sign to Noah that the flood was receding.  It symbolized that God was done with his judgement and the world was coming back to life.
  • When two battling enemies were ready to make peace they would extend an olive branch between them to show they were done fighting.
  • In Romans 11:17-21, Paul referred to Gentiles as wild olive shoots, being grafted into Israel.  He said:

    “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.”  

  • Not necessarily an olive tree, but I love this picture that Jesus creates in John 15:

    “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

There are so many more verses that reference olives, trees, and branches . . . and so many lessons to be learned.

How to Be a Flourishing Olive Tree

  1.  Be Planted in Good Soil:  Jesus told a parable of a man scattering seeds that landed on different types of ground – a path, rocks, thorns and in good soil. I can relate to each of these  – sometimes I think I’ve been each of them in the span of a week! What does it mean to be good soil? Jesus explains in Mark 4:20: “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”  Read the Bible, believe it, and apply what it says.
  2. Stay in the Vine: How do we bear fruit?  Jesus says it is by staying in the “vine”. Spending time reading the Bible.  Praying.  Meditating.  Fasting.  I even love meditating on John 15 and picturing myself as branch attached to Jesus.  If I am spending time with Jesus and applying what I learn from him I will naturally bear fruit.
  3. Let your Light Shine: The fruit of an olive tree is an olive.  When crushed, olives produce olive oil.  Olive oil had many uses in the Bible, including lighting a lamp. In Matthew 5, Jesus said:  “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
  4. Accept Pruning:  God is my gardener.  And sometimes I need pruned.  I need to get rid of bad influences and bad habits.  I need to cut sin out of my life.  I need disciplined.  And I need to understand that God does it because he loves me and it will help me mature as a Christian.

Let’s follow David’s lead.  Let’s become Olive Trees.  Flourishing.  Trusting God.  And going deep into the vine of Jesus.

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