Revive Me, Week Nine–Be A Do-Gooder

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

Be A Do-Gooder

Did you know that the chances of having a Leap Day birthday are one in 1,461?  I also learned that people who are born on February 29th are called “leaplings” or “leapers.”  I’ve always felt sorry for them since they only get to celebrate their true birthday once every four years.  I never give any thought to Leap Day until it happens, and then I think, “This is kind of a cool day.”

What is your average day like?  What do you spend your time doing?  What is your goal or focus for each and every day?  Paul wrote that we should make the most of every opportunity by doing good.

So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people,

and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Gal. 6:10

Let’s not be leapers in the Lord’s work, doing good occasionally but on most days not giving much thought to it.  Our challenge for this week is to make Galatians 6:10 our focus each morning.  How can we do good to all people today?  Doing good “while we have opportunity” means making the most of each new day, consistently looking for ways to make a difference in the kingdom.  “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.

(John Wesley)

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Post this quote in a visible place:“Now that it’s all over, what did you really do yesterday that’s worth mentioning?”
  2.  Make a list of the “all” in your life and come up with specific ways you can “do good” to them.  Your list might include your husband, children, parents, siblings, next door neighbors, elders, church family, etc.
  3. Counteract the negative connotations surrounding the idea of going about doing good (“do-gooders,” “goodie two shoes”) by studying up on how God feels about it:  Titus 2:7; 3:14,  2 Tim. 3:17, James 1:27, 3 John 1:11, 1 Tim. 6:18, Eph. 2:10, James 2:14-17, 1 Pet. 2:12, 2 Thess. 3:13
  4.  As you go about doing good to others, especially those in your church family and community, invite others to join you (Heb. 10:24).  Your children can help you make something for your neighbors.  Ask a Christian sister or teen girl to join you when you visit a shut-in.  Invite a few ladies over for coffee and spend time in prayer for the wayward.
  5.  Pray for open eyes to see opportunities to do good and an open heart to desire to do them.
  6.  Enjoy the genuine satisfaction that comes from serving others and living a life of meaning (Eph. 2:10).
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Revive Me, Week 8- Love Your Enemies

Revive Me, Week 8– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Love Your Enemies

Our nation has enemies, “Christendom” has enemies, and the Lord’s church has enemies.   Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” and that sounds so very personal.  It’s easier to claim to love my enemies if I can’t really put a face to them.  But what about the folks who seem to go out of their way to be rude to me?  What about the ones who just don’t like me?  What about the ones I would rather avoid?  And what about the ones who have been vicious to someone I love?

One of my sons deals with an “enemy” on an almost daily basis.  Every time he goes to work, there’s a man who antagonizes him for his faith.  He insulting, sarcastic, and gets in my son’s face.  I’ve imagined various scenarios where I get to give that bully a piece of my mind.  Oh yes, it’s harder to love someone with a face, someone who is going after one of my own.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

(Matt. 5:43-48)

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.  Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is thatto you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

(Luke 6:27-36)

I think I’m doing well enough when I just don’t retaliate, and I’m real proud of myself when I muster up a sincere smile for an enemy.  But “even sinners do the same.”  Jesus calls for more than cool kindness.  Starting with my heart, I must practice genuine love.  Jesus not only commands it, He demonstrated it.  He loved me when I was unlovable (Eph. 2:4,5).  Do my enemies know I love them?

Suggestions for the week:

  1.  If you like to mark in your Bible, turn to Matt. 5:43ff and underline “love your enemies” and “pray for those who persecute you.”  In Luke 6:27ff, circle “love your enemies” and then underline all the ways to fulfill that command (“do good,” “bless,” “pray,” etc.).
  2. Focus on one specific “love your enemy” command each day this week:
    1. Monday- Do good to those who hate you
    2. Tuesday- Bless those who curse you
    3. Wednesday- Pray for those who mistreat you
    4. Thursday- Give to everyone who asks of you
    5. Friday- Treat others the same way you want them to treat you
  3. In your personal Bible study, pay attention to how Jesus interacted with His enemies.
  4. Take a few minutes to listen to this excellent message about True Love.

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Revive Me, Week 7– Stop Complaining

Revive Me, Week 7– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Stop Complaining

“Stop”- to not do something that you have been doing before; to not continue doing something

That little reminder of the definition of “stop” is for myself.  I admit this challenge will be tough for me.  I don’t like to think of myself as a whiner or negative person and yet I realize that I have found ways to complain anyway.  I certainly have tried to justify it.

If I only complain to my husband, it doesn’t really count.

If I have a legitimate cause for complaint, surely it’s understandable.

I think I’ve even figured out how to disguise complaints.  I can word them in such a way that makes it sound like I’m only asking a question.  But complaining is complaining.  What’s the big deal?  Well, when I take the time to focus on Scriptures about complaining, I see that God thinks it’s a big deal.

“Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord, and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled…” (Num. 11:1).

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Phil. 2:14).

“Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged” (James 5:9).

“Be hospitable to one another without complaint” (1 Pet. 4:9).

In 1 Cor. 10, we read that God was not “well-pleased” with the Israelites.  “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved” (v. 6).  What “evil things” did they crave?  While they were in the wilderness, they were guilty of idolatry, immorality, and complaining.  “Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction…” (v. 10,11).  Twice in the text Paul writes that the behavior of the Israelites and their consequences are an example for us.  Is complaining really as bad as idolatry and immorality?  Yikes.  

I’m ready to remove complaining from my speech and my mind.  I’m ready to nip it in the bud.  I want need to set a better example for my husband, my sons, and anyone else who is around when I open my mouth.  I don’t want to sound like the world.  Even more than that, I realize that complaining comes from discontentment and ingratitude.  God’s children are the most blessed in this life and have still more to come in the next.  How can I waste my breath grumbling when there’s so much for which to rejoice?

Challenges for the week:

  1.  “Go 24 hours without complaining (not even once).  Then watch how your life starts changing” (Katrina Mayer).  Complaining is a habit.  Take the challenge, one day at a time!
  2.  Tell someone that you’re trying to kick the complaining habit.  Ask them to help catch you when you gripe.
  3.  Keep an index card in your pocket.  Every time you complain, make a tally mark.  See how you do at the end of each day.  Hopefully your marks will get fewer and fewer as you learn to catch yourself.
  4. Replace complaining with blessing counting.  When you think a complaint, voice a blessing instead.
  5. Read this excellent and convicting article by Erynn Sprouse.

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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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