February 26 – Scooter’s Big Day

 

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Do you remember the last time you tried to give your dog a bath? Our son Nathaniel tackled the job recently, and I was excited to be walking by the dining room window so I could catch some of the drama.

I have never seen a dog with such a stalwart opinion about getting wet, much less, being shampooed and combed with a brush! I can’t say that I would normally have equated a dog getting a bath with “discipline,” but the “not pleasant” and “painful” part of a verse in Hebrews I came across some time ago assures me I’m making a safe analogy!

Obviously, our dog hasn’t reached the point in training that she experienced “peace” while taking a bath. In fact, the comical part of the whole thing was her unwillingness to surrender to her present circumstances. She wiggled and squirmed like a greased pig.

Still, Nathaniel was stronger and determined, and the bath DID happen. Oh, how like that I can be. Wrestling with God like my arms are stronger, when all I have to do is take the plunge….fall into His loving embrace and ride the storm until the dawn.

Those stormy times train me to walk in peace and assurance, knowing that the Captain of my ship is fully aware and fully in charge.

You know, I don’t know who was wetter and soapier…Nathaniel, or Scooter. Make no mistake, God will roll up His sleeves and get dirty and wet right there with you, no matter where you are or what you are doing. And you’ll come out better for it by the end, knowing you weren’t alone!

Jennifer

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

Biblical Meditation: John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

February 24 – Show Me

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Most of the people you know are “show me” kind of people. That simply means they prefer actions over words. In my estimation, it is pretty normal and I don’t think that God is too terribly offended by that sort of initial reaction. Now the desired goal, as we grow up spiritually, is to walk more by faith than we do by sight. But we shouldn’t expect to jump out of a boat and start walking on the water overnight, if you know what I mean.

There is a whole lot more to it than that. When we hang around the Gospel account of Jesus’ time on earth, we will find that most of those who were ministered to and mentored by Him were “show me” kind of people until they grew to trust that His words could back up His ways.

That brings us to Nathanael, one of my favorite Bible guys. I see him as an honest, genuine, hardworking individual who was all about the truth. Depending on where you look, the name “Nathanael/Nathaniel” can mean, “Gift of God” or “No guile, no deceit, no falsehood, no duplicity!” And since I have a Nathaniel for a son, I reckon the Bible Nathanael was a little bit of both of these two traits: gifted and brutally honest.

That’s important to me when I survey his response to Philip. When Philip came to tell him that they had located the One the Law of Moses spoke of, he wasn’t being disrespectful with his question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

It’s possible that he was saying, “I don’t remember the law saying anything about the Messiah coming out of Nazareth, of all places!” But regardless, I don’t see him or those like him as rude and faithless because they require some, “show” before they say that they “know” all is well and good. And the way Philip responds is perfect when dealing with a Nathanael. He didn’t try to debate or further explain; he simply said, “Come and see.”

This is good wisdom for me today. Because there are still times I forget.   With my own son, I can find myself a tad frustrated when he unconsciously challenges me to show him instead of just pointing it out to him. And sadly, there have been more times than I care to mention that he has come to me and asked why my actions failed to line up with what I had previously told him. You and I are surrounded by Nathanael’s. And if we will let them, they will help us always have something to show for what we think we know!

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:45-46 NKJV

 Biblical Meditation: Proverbs 16:13  Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth

February 2 – Every Day Counts

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“Repent, forgive, and believe… quickly.” I heard a man make this statement many years ago, and I still remember it.

It seems that those three commands can be easily bypassed in our day-to-day lives. Noah was a beautiful example of a person who took the directions of God and ran with them. We’re not sure exactly how many years passed from the time he built the ark and the time the flood came.

At the very most, around 100 years passed by. And yet, we see no record of the wickedness on the earth turning around for the better. Many years went by and no one was moved to follow Noah’s example of righteousness.

I believe that our physical, mental, and spiritual health all hinge on these commands. Repent, forgive, and believe, quickly. In the six hundredth year, second month, and seventeenth day of Noah’s life, the curtains of water fell.

And time ran out. God was speaking through Noah and his actions all of those many years. We are again in the “days of Noah.” Regardless of the moment of Jesus’ return to earth, our world is filled with signs that point to His coming.

Just like the days before the floodwaters came, it can be easy to ignore the landmarks all around us. God is gracious and full of mercy as we turn to Him and hand over the reins of our life. Let us follow in the footsteps of Noah, and may we let others know that every day counts.

Jen 🙂

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. Genesis 7:11, 12

Biblical Meditation: Matthew 24:36-39 No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

January 28 – Embarrassed Eyes See Dimly

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Recently, I was going over the account of Israel’s first king with my children and all of a sudden, there it was. God miraculously peeled back the invisible curtain and revealed a truth I had never considered in all the times I have recounted this historical event.

The scene starts with Prophet Samuel giving King Saul some clear-cut instructions from God (I Samuel 15). But instead of obeying, Saul took the liberty to modify the command to fit his own pious plans. Later, when Samuel returned and confronted him, he denied any wrongdoing and justified his actions without even flinching.

And it wasn’t until Samuel told him that God had rejected him as king that he finally said, “Ok, what I did was wrong and I’m sorry, but Samuel, please don’t make me look bad. Come back home with me and acknowledge my victory before all my people (my paraphrase).”

 As I wove into my child-like embellishment all the other times Saul had done a “half-baked” job of obeying God, I saw it. This would-be king was so afraid of falling flat on his face, his vision was impaired. Every order he received was sifted through an internal grid of “no matter what happens, I can’t look bad.”

He cared more about being embarrassed before the masses than he did about being embraced by the Master. Wow! Then I stopped, and reminisced over times in my own life when I was guilty of the same kind of short-sightedness. Ouch!

I admit, I have never relished being the back-end of cruel jokes and jeers. So much so, that as a kid, my parents had to drill into me the absolute necessity of telling the truth. Back then, I would waste no time fabricating or falsifying a few key facts to avoid looking bad.

Even now, it is daily time with God that helps keep my heart delicate and non-deceptive when it comes to obeying His wishes, regardless of how it might make me look before the crowd.

I pray this is not your struggle. I hope when it comes to being embarrassed you are untouchable. But chances are, I am not alone. And if that’s the case, my encouragement is the same as what I offered each of my children (as I took a dose myself).

Acknowledge the tendency before God and ask Him to raid the cupboards of your heart in search of this “vision thief.” Ask Him to set your sight “aright.” That way, you and I don’t wake up one day to find ourselves paranoid and alone, thinking everybody is out to get us (like King Saul). To obey is better than sacrifice!

Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD your God.” I Samuel 15:30 NKJV

Biblical Meditation: Ecclesiastes 5:1 Keep your foot [give your mind to what you are doing] when you go [as Jacob to sacred Bethel] to the house of God. For to draw near to hear and obey is better than to give the sacrifice of fools [carelessly, irreverently] too ignorant to know that they are doing evil.

January 26 – Stay Hungry

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We squint at absolute truth. It is so pure; our minds struggle to contain it.

Truth, real pure truth, does not rely on reason. It doesn’t have to make sense. It is the truth whether it is ever accepted by anyone. Truth need not jockey for a place. Because the truth is the truth, places and people will ultimately be examined under its lens.

When Christ told Nicodemus the truth about the Son of Man (Himself), Nicodemus had no file for it. “The Son of Man must be lifted up; that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” But His statement was the truth, nonetheless.

And this Nicodemus, a great teacher of the Jewish people, pondered and wondered on this truth for many mornings and evenings. Maybe he never truly understood it, but yet he continued to stand under the truth-laden messages of Christ until Christ was “lifted up” on the cross. Perhaps then he caught a glimpse. Who knows?

My prayer for us all is that we may so hunger for truth that we become willing to ignore the abundance of what we do know for a sliver of what we cannot comprehend. Because when this occurs, our pursuit of God will take orbit.

And just as I envision it might have been for Nicodemus, Christ will gently develop room within us to contain what often cannot be explained, in order that it might remain. Oh, that we may hunger!

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15

Biblical Meditation: Psalm 119:160 The sum of Your word is truth [the total of the full meaning of all Your individual precepts]; and every one of Your righteous decrees endures forever.

 

January 24 – The Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

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 I was “truth-challenged” as a kid. My “make-believe muscles” were super-keen. It was fun to take a story and stretch it as far as I could. But, I found out eventually that I didn’t want the results of that kind of living.

I’ll never forget my first major wake-up call. I was in the sixth grade. During recess, several of the boys and I had a healthy game of football going when all of a sudden one of the new “tough girls” decided she wanted to play.

Things went fine until some of the boys starting being inappropriate with their tackling. Next thing I knew, I was in the office with the rest of the boys. The young lady had run to the principal saying she had been attacked. I knew that I hadn’t touched the girl, but who was going to believe me?

I was known for stretching the truth, especially if there were consequences to pay. Thankfully, I had parents who knew me and my mom started digging until she got to the bottom of the matter. But that day, something changed for me. I still had more growing to do in the area of my “yes being yes,” but I realized people will judge you by the standard you set. The you they know comes from the seeds you sow!

 If Christ is the Lord of your life, you have His nature of truthfulness living on the inside of you. But because you live in a world that thrives on lies, you have to cultivate a true heart by attending to true thoughts and actions. Feeding on God’s promises and precepts and His Word will establish a trustworthy foundation on the inside of you. If you are training up your children, this is an especially important area on which to work.

Here are five “I Wills” from the Character First curriculum that put truthfulness in a “doable” perspective: I WILL always tell the truth, I WILL encourage others to tell the truth, I WILL not cheat or steal, I WILL admit it when I am wrong, I WILL not exaggerate to make things seem different than what they are.

Embodying a lifestyle of the whole truth can only come by the help of God. Let our prayer today be one derived from hearts who love to be beacons of true light in the earth. For others to learn to trust God, they must be able to trust us!

 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

Biblical Meditation: Psalm 15:1-3 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman.  

January 22 – Ears to Hear

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Mr. Alexander wouldn’t let me off the hook. I had a habit of making excuses for my irresponsible actions.

I realize now that my behavior stemmed from a reluctance to obey authority. It wasn’t blaringly obvious, but it fueled my occasional tardiness and lack of excellence in the classroom.

When I would walk through the door to Mr. Alexander’s office, ready to give an array of excuses for being late, he would say, “Close the door and read the sign.” The sign on the back of the door read:

EXCUSES

Excuses are tools of incompetence

that build monuments of nothingness

Those who are good at excuses

are seldom good at anything else.  After having to read that sign in my teacher’s office more than a hundred times, I began to see some real change in my habits. I wasn’t “cured” overnight, but I did begin to take responsibility for my actions.

Mr. Alexander would say, “When you make excuses for poor behavior or for lack of obedience of a command, you are seeking to persuade the other party to be okay with your behavior and lack of consideration of their time. “ Wow.

Obedience is crucial in every arena of life.

It is one of the highest forms of responsible living. We all have a higher authority we must submit to, and ultimately, as a believer, God is that authority. But if we can’t obey those who are in natural authority over us, chances are we aren’t following God very well either.

Take time to do a self-examination of your attitude. You might even ask your spouse or a close friend to help you (if you are really brave). Are there areas in your life where you are making excuses for disobedient behavior?

If you find anything, don’t let shame beat you up. Just tell God you apologize and ask for His help. Start practicing by “letting your yes be yes and letting your no be no.” (Matthew 5:37) The following “I WILLS” from Character First help enforce an obedient attitude:

 I WILL obey my authorities immediately

I WILL have a cheerful attitude

I WILL complete all that I am expected to do

I WILL not complain

I WILL go the extra mile

When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. John 10:4 The Message

Biblical Meditation: John 15:14 You are my friends if you do what I command.