Revive Me, Week 6– Forgive Finally

Revive Me, Week 6—A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Forgive Finally

“Let all bitterness….be put away from you” (Eph. 4:31).

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, your heavenly Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matt. 6:14,15).

Is there someone you need to forgive?  Has someone hurt you so badly that you are having a hard time getting past it?  This week’s “Revive Me” challenge is not an easy one but it is a necessary one.  If we want to be closer than ever to our Savior, we must be willing to forgive those who have sinned against us, neglected us, disappointed us, or betrayed us.  If it was a one time grievance, we must forgive them.  If it was something that happened during our entire growing up period, we must still forgive them.

And here’s the hard part…it must be from the heart .

Read Matt. 18:21-35.

We must offer nothing less than sincere forgiveness from the heart.  How was the master able to forgive the slave who couldn’t repay him?  He had compassion and mercy (Matt. 18:27).  What kept that same slave from forgiving someone who owed him?  He lacked compassion and mercy (Matt. 18:33).  If we’re struggling with bitterness toward someone, we can pray for a compassionate and merciful heart.

When someone sins against us, they are guilty.  If we refuse to forgive them, we also become guilty.  Surely a close relationship with God is worth any difficult effort to forgive.

Suggestions for the Week:

1. Pray about any hangups you might have in forgiving someone.  Ask God to help you offer the same compassion and mercy to others that He has shown you.

2. Think of examples of forgiveness you’ve personally received from others.

3.  There are many passages that deal with the topic of forgiveness.  Study them this week and write down as much as you can learn about it.  If you’d like to do a Bible-marking on forgiveness, you can find one here.

4. Remember that God knows what’s best for us.  Write down some benefits of forgiving others.

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Revive Me #5, Sing On!

Revive Me, Week 5–a Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Sing On!

“It thrills my soul to hear the songs of praise…”  The blessings of singing in worship are many.  The words lift our hearts above the troubles of this world.  The songs themselves often recall precious memories of people or events.  Singing with the saints draws us closer together.  And did you know that the very act of singing is a natural mood lifter?

Singing was a special part of my upbringing.  I recall singing with my family in the car and  singing with my sister while washing dishes.  Certain songs remind me of my dad’s tenor or my grandma’s alto.  As Neal and I brought up our three sons, singing was always a part of our evening devotionals.  Now that most of our days and evenings are spent without our sons, I find myself singing less.

Today we had a “5th Sunday Singing.”  Members from surrounding congregations came together this afternoon for the sheer pleasure of praising God in song.  I was struck by the words to one of the songs:

“The greatest joy that I have ever known, is praising Him in song,

I know some day, when I have older grown, my voice will not be strong.”

(“The New Song” by J. R. Baxter, Jr.)

Right then I started listening to Neal’s strong tenor and wondered what it will be like to hear him in another twenty years.  I imagine his shaky voice will still carry conviction and will still move me.  And so, here is this week’s “Revive Me” challenge:  sing on.  Sing more.  Yes, sing out in worship and in your family devotionals, but also in the car, in your kitchen, and while you’re doing laundry.  Sing with your children and with your husband.  Sing by yourself.  Let those around you see (hear) your joy.  Express the song in your heart.  There is gloom in the world but there’s a call for rejoicing for every child of God.  I don’t know how I’ve gotten away from it but I’m determined to sing more for as long as I can, before “my voice will not be strong.”

“Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones;

praise is becoming to the upright” (Psa. 33:1).

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Go through the songbook and sing songs you haven’t sung in a while.
  2.  Enjoy songs that convict or touch your personal spiritual need.
  3.  Choose a psalm or psalms and create your own tune to the words.  This would be fun to do as a family.
  4.  Remember why singing is a good idea:  Psa. 9:11; 96:1,2; 104:33; 147:1; Eph. 5:19,20; Col. 3:16; James 5:13; Acts 16:25.
  5.  Go through the Psalms and highlight the ones that have to do with singing.
  6.  Do the Bible-marking on “Songs from Scripture.”

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Revive Me #4, Know Your Father Better

Revive Me, Week Four–A Year of Drawing Closer to Our Lord

Know Your Father Better

I own a book called “Staying Close–Stopping the Natural Drift Toward Isolation.”  It’s about the fact that couples can drift apart without realizing it.  Because of busy schedules, new interests, etc., couples need to put effort into staying close, or they may wake up one day wondering how they turned into strangers.

When it comes to your relationship with God, there may be times when it feels like He is a stranger.  Perhaps He feels far away or removed from your life.  It may seem hard to feel close to a God you can’t “see.”  Or perhaps your communication with Him has been stagnant.  Your prayers have become a matter of routine.  You no longer crave His Word.

“Staying Close” encourages couples to intentionally renew their acquaintance with each other on a regular basis.  Surely it’s a good idea for Christians to intentionally renew their acquaintance with the Father.  God never changes (Mal. 3:6), but we do.  God never moves away from us, but we can drift away from Him (Psa. 145:18,19; Heb. 2:1).

Spend some time this week getting to know your Father better.  You may have known Him for most of your life, but focusing on Who He is will remind you why you love Him.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you”  (James 4:8).

Suggestions for the week:

  • Read the following passages and write down what you learn about your Father (from a-z!):

a.  Exodus 34:5,6-

b.  Numbers 23:19-

c.  Deut. 3:24-

d.  Deut. 4:24-

e.  Deut. 4:31-

f.  Deut. 10:17-

g.  Deut. 33:27-

h.  Josh. 1:9-

i.  2 Sam. 22:32,33-

j.  2 Chron. 30:9-

k.  Psa. 62:7,8-

l.  Psa. 68:19,20-

m.  Psa. 84:11,12-

n.  Psa. 103-

o.  Psa. 116:5-

p.  Isa. 40:28-

q. Micah 7:18,19-

r.  Matt. 19:26-

s.  Acts 10:34-

t.  1 Cor. 1:9-

u.  1 Cor. 10:13-

v.  1 Cor. 14:33-

w. 1 Pet. 1:15

x.  2 Pet. 3:9-

y.  1 John 1:5-

z.  1 John 4:7-9-

  • Pray to your Father about knowing Him better and allowing that knowledge to shape your relationship with Him.

Pray it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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Revive Me, Week Three

Revive Me–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord, Week Three

Choose Your Verse of the Year

Sometimes companies and bloggers spend time thinking of what will be their “word of the year”–a word they will focus on each day of the new year.  It could be a word that describes a goal they’re trying to reach or an area in which they’d like to improve.  Some bloggers have come up with words like “flexible,” “inspire,” or “freedom.”  I think this is a great idea, and I think it’d be even better to come up with a verse of the year.  Instead of coming up with a word, what could be more motivating than utilizing the Word?

“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

(2 Tim. 3:14-17)

Spend some time thinking about your own personal verse of the year.  Here are some questions to consider as you contemplate which verse would be best for you:

  • Is there an area in which you continue to struggle (like complaining or purity)?
  • Is there a spiritual goal you’re trying to reach (like deeper Bible study or praying 30 minutes a day)?
  • Is there a verse that especially touches you?
  • Is there a command you find difficult to obey (like evangelism or loving your enemy)?
  • Is there a person in the Bible whom you’d like to emulate (like Abraham, Hannah, or Joseph)?
  • Is there a character trait you need to refine (like patience or honesty)?

If you know what you’d like to focus on but are having a hard time coming up with just the right verse, let me know and maybe we can come up with something together (or ask someone who knows you well).  After you decide which Scripture will be your personal verse of the year, look for ways to make it easier to remember.

Suggestions for this week:

  1.  Pray the verse.  Go to God about your desires about the verse you’ll be focusing on this year.
  2. Share the challenge.  Ask your spouse or a dear friend to do this with you.  You can encourage each other, remind each other, and check up on each other.
  3. Create a wordle (word cloud) out of your verse and hang it in a prominent place.  You can generate one here.
  4. Memorize your verse.  Say it several times a day and look for ways to slip it into your conversations.
  5. Study your verse.  Break it down word by word.  Write down as many observations about it as you can.

Pray it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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Revive Me, Week Two

Revive Me–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord, Week Two

Open Your Heart Again

It may be that your heart is already wide open.  You express your love for others daily and look for ways to prove that love with action.  You keep your eyes open for those who are needy or who slip through the cracks.  You are quick to reach out to those who are hurting.

Or maybe you’ve been so overwhelmed with everything going on in your life that the idea of caring for one more person exhausts you.  You’ve been stressed and worried for so long that you find yourself unable to feel.  You’re starting to resent being asked to help someone else.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).  Loving God involves investing in His people.  And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also (1 John 4:21).

It is all too easy to get caught up in our own interests.  When that happens, a heart check is in order.  Some questions to consider:

  • Has your heart become numb?
  • In an effort of self-preservation, have you withdrawn from others or limited your love to mainly those who are in your family?   
  • Have you become indifferent to the prayer requests in the announcements?
  • Does it feel like it takes too much effort to look others in the eye and engage in meaningful conversations?
  • Do you find yourself coming up with more and more reasons to leave right after worship?     

Surely Satan is thrilled when we resist going to effort of loving others.  We serve a God of love (1 John 4:8).  The church is supposed to be made up of loving people (Rom. 12:10-13).  And the world is to recognize us by our love for one another (John 13:35).   Someone said, “Interaction is really where true love is truly expressed.”  Let’s go far in reaching others with God’s love this year.

Suggestions for this week:

  1.  Have a heart study.  Focus on verses that have to do with the heart and what God wants from it.
  2. Jot down names of those who are struggling or hurting.  In addition to praying for them, reach out to them in some tangible way (hug, conversation, card).
  3. Encourage every member of your family (young and old) to make an effort to build up others each time you meet (Heb. 10:25).
  4. When you run errands, be intentional about really “seeing” the people around you.  How can you open your heart to them?
  5. Consider memorizing 1 John 3:18      

Pray it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

Revive Me, Week One

Revive Me–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord, Week One

Rest Your Faith on the Power of God

What is the foundation of your faith?  As you begin a brand new year of living for Christ, this basic question is crucial.  Listen to Paul’s message to Christians:

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with the superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.  For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

The word “rest” here means “exist; be located in.”  Paul warns Christians not to build their faith on the wisdom of men (including himself), but on the message of Christ.  The wisdom of men may be persuasive, but it is powerless.  If your faith feels a little weak or uncertain, perhaps you’ve neglected to spend enough time tapping into the right Source.  Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you spend more time reading the good writings of men/ women than you do the Bible?
  • Are your convictions based on what you’ve always been taught or from your own diligent study of the Word?
  • When you listen to or read the messages of preachers, do you “search the Scriptures daily to see whether those things are so” (Acts 17:11)?

This may be the year your faith is tested like never before.  Make sure you are building YOUR faith on the power of God.

Some suggestions for this week:

  1.  Read 1 Cor. 1-3.
  2.  In that text, note the contrast between the wisdom of men and the word of God.  If you like to mark in your Bible, underline the words that describe the wisdom of men and circle the words that describe the word of God.
  3. Listen to sermons and read articles with discernment.  Follow up by looking up the Scripture references that are used to make sure they aren’t taken out of context.
  4. Pray each day for desire to grow your faith in the Word.
  5. Consider memorizing Heb. 4:12.

Pray it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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Revive Me

I’m going to do something different with this blog for the year of 2016.  Each Monday morning I will post a short devotional that will emphasize one specific way to grow closer to the Lord.  The devotional will include a goal for the week–something to focus on and pray about all week long.  By each Sunday, the challenge will have been on our minds all week so hopefully it will affect our worship and our relationships with fellow Christians as well.  My prayer is that by the end of 2016, we will all feel closer than ever to our Savior.

To prepare for these devotional thoughts, I’ve been reading up on the promises of strength for those who continually turn to God and HIs Word:

  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).
  • He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power (Isa. 40:29).
  • My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to Your Word (Psa. 119:28).
  • Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary (Isa. 40:31).
  • God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psa. 46:1).
  • Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Eph. 6:10).

I will still post occasional articles that have to do with other thoughts and topics, but every Monday will be dedicated to “Revive Me–a Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord.”  If you have any friends or loved ones that you think might enjoy these weekly devotional challenges, you can encourage them to sign up to follow this blog.  The devotionals will go straight to their email inbox each week.  If you participate in a ladies’ Bible class or teach teen girls, feel free to print/ use the posts so you can share the challenges together.  There’s strength in numbers!

Thank you, readers, for the encouragement you’ve given me.  I hope your year is ending in a sweet and peaceful way.  There’s no telling what we may face in the new year…more changes, or trials or loss…but I look forward to what God can do through us as we grow ever closer to Him.

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A Daughter in the Family!

One month from today our oldest son Gary will get married, Lord willing.  From the time he was born, Neal and I have been praying for the woman Gary would choose to marry.  The most important thing to us is that he would marry someone who will help him go to Heaven, but naturally we wondered what she would be like.  Would she really like us?  Would we be able to have a close relationship with her?  Would we click?  Only recently has it truly dawned on me…we’re getting a daughter!  Please indulge me while I tell you a little about her.

She has a great name.  Chelsea is her name and it suits her completely.  She is just as beautiful, sweet, and strong as her name sounds.  Her name means “a port” or “a landing place.”  I’m thrilled to know that she is exactly that for Gary.  She will be a wonderful woman for him to come home to each day.  She will be his “port in the storm.”

She is willing to take on a new name.  Chelsea’s family name is important to her, but she will be taking on Gary’s family name.  That simple change is symbolic of her willingness to love, honor, and submit to him (Eph. 5:22-24).  It means she will be in his care and under his protection (Eph. 5:25-31).  I have no doubt that she will honor her new name.

She already wears the most important name.  Chelsea is a Christian.  She wears the name of Christ faithfully.  She is kind, giving, and loving.  Chelsea truly shines.  All who know her can’t help but see the spirit of Christ.  We love her radiant soul.

We couldn’t be more proud!  Chelsea is so dear to us already.  We are grateful to God for blessing Gary with such a treasure, and we look forward to having her as our very first daughter.

Chelsea & Gary

Chelsea & Gary

 

“Perfected: God’s Best Reserved for You”

Perfected_Book_Cover__76267.1443461480.1280.1280Colorado is lovely today with a blanket of fresh snow.  It’s ideal weather for staying by the fireplace with a good book and a hot drink, and I have the perfect book for the occasion!  I’ve been enjoying “Perfected:  God’s Best Reserved for You” by Erynn Sprouse.

I’ve been looking forward to this book because I love Erynn’s mind.  She’s the brilliant creator and editor of Come Fill Your Cup, and every time I hear her speak I think, “I wish I had her brain.”  She is a real student of the Bible, but even more impressive is her ability to present what she has learned from her studies in a practical and interesting way.  This is exactly what she does in Perfected, which is a study of Hebrews.

Whether you’re ready for growth and challenge in your personal Bible study or you’re looking for a new book for your ladies’ Bible class, I highly recommend Perfected.  For that matter, I think it would be a great study for teen girls, too.  They love to be challenged!  This book is no light-weight.  Erynn goes deep into the Word (both Old and New Testament, which is appropriate for Hebrews) to help us understand one of the most pivotal books of the Bible.  Why is this an important study?  The answer can be found in one of Erynn’s own comments on Hebrews 5:11-14:

“Did you know that if one stops consuming meat for long enough,the stomach will stop producing the acids required for their digestion?  Similarly, when we fail to challenge ourselves in learning God’s word, we begin to find difficulty in understanding.”

Here are some of the things I love about Perfected:

  • Wonderful, engaging writing style
  • Erynn’s delightful sense of humor
  • Thorough teaching on subjects such as the purpose of miracles, the purpose of Jesus’s suffering, and the possibility of falling away
  • Interesting illustrations for easier understanding of the text
  • Suggestions for Bible-marking in every chapter (yay!)
  • “Side Studies” sprinkled throughout
  • Variety of interactive opportunities, like thought-provoking questions, fill-in-the-blanks, charts, and outlines

Each chapter is noteworthy, but I particularly appreciated a couple of them.  Chapter three (“Confidence Required”) is about the hope and assurance we can have as heirs of God’s promise.  It is faith-building, comforting, and oh so needed in a world of doubt and insecurity.  Chapter five (“Beware of Complacency”) is a real eye-opener.  See for yourself:

“Failure to grow doesn’t just lead to falling away; failure to grow is falling away.  Take a moment to absorb that thought and reflect on your own spiritual life.  Are you growing?  Where are you now as compared to a year ago?  Are you stronger?  More able to resist temptation?  Bolder in proclaiming the faith?  Less anxious and more trusting of God? More apt to pray than worry?  If not, then you need to heed this warning!”

Erynn then includes a list to make it easier for personal introspection in areas of spiritual growth.  You will also enjoy the last chapter (“Tips on How to Run”), which includes several  suggestions and assignments for growth in the areas of hospitality, marriage, Christian sacrifice, and a renewed appreciation for the magnificent God we serve.

Thanks to Erynn’s hard work, I now have a greater understanding of the life-changing truths found in the book of Hebrews.  I also have a new Bible and can’t wait to mark up the pristine pages of Hebrews with Erynn’s Bible-marking suggestions!

Perfected:  God’s Best Reserved for You is a brand new book by Kaio Publications, Inc., and can be found here.

 

 

An Exercise for Our Christian Walk

Christians are to “walk in the Light” (1 John 1:7), “walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16), and “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10).   How can we make that real and personal?  Here is an activity that can help accomplish that.  It’s a simple activity to work on with your children, to discuss with a group of teens or in ladies’ Bible class, and to incorporate into your own daily to-do list.  It’s a practical way to help us take our Christianity from the generic to the specific.

Brainstorm:  List some verbs that are a part of Christianity.

LOVE (Col. 3:14)

SERVE (John 12:26)

GIVE (Acts 20:35)

SACRIFICE (Rom. 12:1)

FORGIVE (Matt. 6:14)

GROW (Eph. 4:15)

TEACH (Matt. 28:19, 20; Tit. 2:3)

CONFESS (1 John 1:9)

etc.

Perform:  Next to each word, write down how you (personally) can fulfill that command.  Be specific.  Serve whom?  How?  Sacrifice what?  Forgive whom?  Grow how?  Teach whom?  When?

This would be a great exercise (for personal reflection or for family devotionals) to do every first day of the week.  For extra study, find as many Scriptures as you can that teach about each command.  For instance, some verses talk about loving and serving God while others talk about loving and serving others.  This activity can help us take some of these big, general concepts and make them personal and real.  It’s one way we can intentionally walk in the Light.

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