Summer and Escaping the Prowling Lion

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Summer is here and our Bible study group is on vacation!  Now, this is a good thing because everyone, including ministries, needs a “sabbath” in order to stay refreshed, focused and energized. Additionally, we need time to plan and prepare for the new session, which starts in September.

But hear this word from my friend Susie Walther —

The bad thing about summer is that too many women choose to fall off their spiritual wagons during the breaks.. Le me ask you this:

Do you know what happens to the gazelle who separates lion-and-antefrom the pack on the African plain? She gets eaten by the lions! Satan is described in the Bible as a prowling lion. Don’t ever forget that. When we stay linked and connected to each other, we can protect, encourage, and spur each other on, but if we begin separating from the “pack” and isolating from Christians who are running hard after Christ, we become easy pickings for the hungry lions.

I want to encourage you to fight hard for a few things during the break. Fight hard for your time with Jesus – reading His Word, journaling your God-thoughts, memorizing some Scripture, and talking to God in prayer. Fight hard to stay with the “pack” by going to coffee or lunch with other women. Some of us go to the same church, so why not sit and worship together and then invite women to join you for the next session of your Bible study group? Stay connected through your ministry’s Facebook page.  Then look around and see if you see any stragglers. If you do – grab them before they become the Devil’s chow! Don’t slow down and for Jesus’ sake, don’t stop or quit!

Why become a spiritual carcass when you could have been spiritually alive and well instead? 

Christians Do Face Judgment

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Judgment is not a Christmas-season topic… but it has come up in my conversations four times in the last two weeks, so let’s clear up this misunderstanding (or false teaching).

Salvation is by grace, but Christians still face judgment for how they have lived their lives.  Keep reading.

“Christ Jesus who will judge the living and the dead…” 2 Timothy 4:1

“Both believers and unbelievers will be included among the living and the dead. The judgment of unbelievers will involve a determination of eternal destiny. The judgment of believers will not determine eternal destiny, but will concern itself with an evaluation of works for the purpose of recognition or reward.” – The New American Commentary

  • Salvation is by grace alone. The believer’s sins are atoned for by Christ’s death.
  • The works of every believer are judged at the “Great White Throne” judgment in Revelation 20 and result in reward or loss. This does not affect salvation, only reward or loss in eternity.

Revelation 20:11-15. 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

  • Note the “book of life” that records the names of those who are saved and determines their destiny.
  • Note the “other books” that record “what they had done” and determine if there is reward or loss.

2 Corinthians 5:10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

  • Paul, writing to believers, indicating that we will face judgment of our works and will receive something (or not).

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

1 Corinthians 3:10-16. 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because The Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. 16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

  • Paul, writing again to believers, whose works are going to be tested by fire on Judgment Day and he will receive a reward – or suffers loss, but will still be saved. I will say that we still don’t really know what the reward or loss will be, only that it exists.  We do know that there are at least five crowns mentioned in scripture that believers can be rewarded in eternity.  What we do with the crowns – lay them at the feet of Jesus, wear them, who knows?  You can use www.blueletterbible.org and search for “reward” or “crown”… interesting!

So just remember, you’re saved by grace – but then you are RESPONSIBLE for being a good STEWARD of all that God has given you.   Your choices are significant.

Renounce Shameful Ways

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2 Corinthians 4:2 “We have renounced secret and shameful ways…”

Let’s talk about these words.

Secret – done, made, or conducted without the knowledge of others, designed or working to escape notice, knowledge, or observation, something that is or is kept hidden or concealed.

Shameful – disgraceful or scandalous, mortifying, humiliating, dishonorable, shame = the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, disgraceful, regrettable.

Renounce – to give up or put aside voluntarily, to give up by formal declaration, to repudiate, to disown, to abandon.

We, as followers of Christ, are to abandon and give up all things (behaviors, thought patterns, words, etc.) that are shameful, disgraceful, improper… the things we’d rather keep a secret.

We so easily hide issues in our lives.

What do we hide? What would we be embarrassed about if it were known?  (And I’m not talking about events and sins of the past, that’s a different shame issue.  I’m talking about things you are doing or thinking right now.)

Part of the problem is that we think sin is like olive oil that floats in little bubbles on top of the water.  We think that sin can be compartmentalized and that it doesn’t affect the rest of our lives.  This is a LIE.  Sin is really more like food coloring in water.  It permeates everything.  The whole jar of water turns red.  Sin affects our relationship with God, our relationships with others, and is not easily contained.

I often ask this question when interviewing women who wanted to become Bible study teachers, “Is there anything in your life right now that, if revealed, would negatively impact your witness for Christ?”

How would you answer?  What is God bringing to mind?

We must renounce these behaviors as soon as they spring up (or Christ makes us aware of them). Renounce the whole thing until there is no hidden thing of dishonesty or craftiness about you.

If God is speaking to you about something, do not walk away from it.  Be obedient. Confess to God.  Acknowledge that you heard Him.  Ask for help, wisdom, direction, conviction.

Then confess to another person.  Ask for accountability.

We must maintain a continual watchfulness so that we have no secret, shameful things to be concealed.  Let us be women of integrity.

Who Do You Run With?

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Last year, in August, I committed to becoming a runner again.  I used to run, when I was younger.  Then I got busy – and lazy about IMAG1523taking care of myself.  So I started with the Couch to 5km program.  When I got up to 5km, I committed to running at least two days a week.  I ran all year.  This was really good for me.  REALLY good, in so many ways…

Then summer came again.  It rained all summer.  And it’s HOT in Florida.   I went on vacation for several weeks.   I had not run in more than one month.  The time came when I knew I had to run again.  So I opted to run on the treadmill at the gym.  Day One I came back and finished 5km but it was UGLY.  It hurt.  I thought I was going to pass out.  But I was proud of myself for doing it.

I was afraid of Day Two.  Now my legs were sore.

When I arrived at the gym there were several old men walking on treadmills at one end of the row.  On the other end of the row, Mr. Fitness was whipping out 7 minute miles.  I went for the middle, which was empty.  But then the television on my treadmill didn’t work.  I’m way too ADHD to run for 30 minutes on a treadmill without a television, so I moved down one, toward Mr. Fitness.  That television was out too.  Then I found myself next to Mr. Fitness.

It’s kind of embarrassing to run slowly next to someone who is running so fast, so I cranked up the speed to what I thought I could tolerate.  Maybe a little bit faster than normal… because Mr. Fitness was going so fast.  And I ran.  I ran.  And I ran.  I thought about walking, but my pride was stronger.  I kept running.

Mr. Fitness finished his workout about the same time as me.  Guess what?

I ran one of the fastest 5km times I have run all year.  Even after a month of slacking off.  Just because I was next to Mr. Fitness.

We are affected by our environment.

This is true in our physical AND spiritual lives.

He who walks with the wise grows wise. – Proverbs 3:20

John Maxwell writes about A Growing Community, “If your current circumstances do nothing to help you grow, you’re going to have a hard time enlarging yourself to reach your potential.  That’s why it’s crucial that you create an environment of growth around you.  That kind of place should look like this:

1. Others are ahead of you.

2. You are still challenged.

3. Your focus is forward.

4. The atmosphere is affirming.

5. You are out of your comfort zone.

6. Others are growing.

7. There is a willingness to change.

8. Growth is modeled and expected.”*

Surround yourself with others who are growing and will challenge you – in your spiritual walk and in all of life!  You will be surprised at all the good things that will come out of it!

* John Maxwell, A Leader’s Heart Devotional , 8/15.

Daring to Be a Courageous Parent

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“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—  “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:1-4

We’re doing a parenting Bible study that coincides with our Vacation Bible School (VBS).  We picked Dr. Kevin Lehman’s series called “Making Your Children Mind Without Losing Yours” which is Biblically based, but not overwhelming to a non-churched crowd.

Lesson 1 was about developing the courage to do what is best for your kids!  Here are some key thoughts:

AUTHORITY.  God has placed you in authority over your children.  They are to obey you.  This is right.  You must be the parent (which is different from being the friend).  Exercise your authority.

LOVE and DISCIPLINE go hand in hand.  “Just loving” your kids is a recipe for disaster.  You must also discipline them.  True love involves training and discipline.

HAPPINESS IS NOT THE GOAL.  It’s ok for your children to be unhappy sometimes.  That is the reality of life.  Children need to learn from difficult periods.

Reality Discipline is an action-oriented way to make your children ACCOUNTABLE for their actions.  The goal of this is to develop children who are able to deal in practical ways with: (1) Accountability, (2) the Authority of God, and (3) the Realities of life.  … more to come on that topic!

How do we keep from provoking or exasperating our children?  “Get behind their eyes and see the world as they do.”  Have clear rules and clear/fair consequences.  Be consistent.  Train your children to do what is right, not just punish them when they do wrong.  Do not parent in anger.

Cute little baby?  She’s a hedonistic (pleasure-loving), selfish, little sinner!  Like all of us – who either hide it better or have been reformed by the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives.

As Dr. Lehman says, “Children are like wet cement that must be formed early, before it hardens!”

‘Children obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord.  Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Colossians 3:20-21

The Meddling Tongue (#11)

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“Some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and wasting time meddling in other people’s business.” 2 Thess 3:11 NLT

So this is the third day that we’ve gotten in trouble for being in other people’s business… First it was slander – talking about other people with the intention of hurting them.  Then it was gossip – just talking about other people’s business in a rather mindless way.

And today it is meddling – asking too many questions about other people’s personal business.  Meddling is different because usually you are talking to the person directly, not behind their back.  Sometimes meddlers have an agenda, but I’m guessing that most of them are just curious.  They just want to know – about your age, your weight, your diet, your health condition, your finances, your work situation, if you plan to have children, how your marriage is going, and all kinds of other stuff.

Here’s our book’s advice – “If you are prone to natural curiosity, you must make a special effort to keep your inquisitiveness within the bounds of what is socially and spiritually appropriate.”  We could add to that the category of culturally appropriate because taboo subjects and comfort levels vary across cultures as well.

“He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears.” Prov 26:17 You may get bitten!

Of course, even if it’s a close friend, someone with whom you have a more intimate relationship, you still have to be gentle with your questions and words.  Never assume that you have earned the right to stick your nose in someone else’s business.

I think some people just miss the social cues, they don’t know that they’ve wandered into a sensitive area.  Feel free to laugh and say, “I don’t feel like talking about that right now.”

I can only think of two exceptions.  First, children living in your house – their business is your business and occasional meddling from a wiser adult may be in their best interest.  You do still have to parent.

The second exception is in an established accountability relationship, where you have explicitly given a friend permission to meddle, to ask you hard questions about sensitive areas of your life.  Sometimes we’re having a hard time with something and we NEED someone to keep track of us – that’s the unique joy and growth opportunity found in an accountability relationship.

Today – Keep a secret!  Discourage gossip and meddling.

30 Days to Taming Your Tongue