Mike&Sarah

Tag Archive: devotion

Stay in Step with the Spirit

Think back on a recent struggle.  What helped you remain full of faith? How did you know you were walking in the middle of God’s will when circumstances were hard?

Douglass1

Steve Douglass, Cru Global President

Steve Douglass (right), Cru Global President, challenged us while in Ft. Collins, CO, for Cru’s biennial US Staff Conference, to reflect on the previous two years of life and ministry through an Ephesians grid.  His encouragement to us is a classic Christian truth: walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

But how do you do that when life is confusing, challenging, dull, and/or overwhelming? What about when others are promoted or achieve milestones you aren’t able to?  Douglass said Ephesians offers a metric for keeping in step with the Spirit:  Are you still rejoicing, still thanking and still submitting?

Sometimes I (Sarah) think I’m rejoicing, thanking and submitting to God but not  to other people. But if I’m not rejoicing in and celebrating others’ successes, if I withhold my gratitude to others (including to Mike) and if I criticize people, then how am I living out Christ-like character?  Where am I outwardly exhibiting spiritual maturity and transformation? And to that point, if inner transformation isn’t worked outwardly, is it really transformation?

As we kick off another fall in New York, will you pray for me? I want to remain full of joy, thankfulness and submission to the Lord and other people.  I want to joyfully and obediently follow God, even when it means following God down unexpected pathways.

Lessons from 2 Chronicles

This morning my Bible-reading-in-a-year group read 2 Chronicles 28-31. And let me just say, “This reading group is so, so good for my soul!” The Biblical readings are good, and so are the meditations which Staci and Cici post.

This part really resonated with me this morning from Cici’s mediation: reality is that a spirit of prayerful worship is more internal than external. It’s about my heart first, not my actions. My actions and speech only reveal what’s really going on in my heart.

Amen to that! Sometimes others tend to know what’s happening in my heart before I do, for they HEAR what I say. I don’t pay consistent attention to what I say (yes, I’m an extrovert!). I can be like a ticking time bomb, emoting all over everyone, maiming them and leaving collateral damage. And unaware of what I leave in my wake.

Thank you for your mercy Jesus! Thank you for saving me from myself!

Sigh, good stuff.

Frog In The Kettle

He behaved well in the eyes of God, following in the footsteps of his father Amaziah. He was a loyal seeker of God. He was well trained by his pastor and teacher Zechariah to live in reverent obedience before God, and for as long as Zechariah lived, Uzziah lived a godly life. And God prospered him. (2 Chronicles 26:3-5)

I’m still on track (well, I’m NOW back on track!) with my Bible-in-a-year reading group. Yesterday King Uzziah’s example stood out to me. Seems like a pattern with some of these kings that as long as their spiritual mentor was alive, they lived well in the sight of God. That made me think about the importance of having a Godly mentor walk through life with me, encouraging, correcting and holding me accountable to live the life God made me for… The life I want to live!

My big ‘ah-ha’ moment over the weekend was helped by my husband, time in the Bibke and my journal, and time to talk with my life coach Rhonda. She is a mentor to me. I need to be in community with people, talking about what I hear Jesus saying, or if I hear Jesus saying anything.

I also see how important humility and thankfulness are in maintaining a healthy relationship with God. Uzziah became arrogant and proud…Contemptuous of God. Sounds like a hardened heart to me. At some point he lost his values and priorities.

How easy to forget that we are in it not of it. Frog in the kettle, anyone?

Resolutions

Resolution: a formal expression of opinion or intention made

Tis the season for resolutions.  And for the anti-resolutions camp to make some noise.  How many people follow through on resolutions made in January?  And why do we only make resolutions in January, as though one is not permitted to make a clean start on, say, October 26?  I know, new year, new start.  It feels crisp, and clean and new, and in the past I’ve put a lot of pressure on January!

Previous New Year’s resolutions including losing large amounts of weight in short periods of time.  I’m done with those kinds of resolutions, though I still long for some miracle pill/cure that will allow me to live without food boundaries and look like Heidi Klum.  I’m obsessed with the numbers on the scale.  When I awake each morning, I’m determined to work towards decreasing those numbers, but when an opportunity for indulgence arises, I leave my ascetic ways behind.  I long to find a healthy balance when it comes to my body, my weight, and the way that I eat and exercise.  But I’m NOT making a New Year’s resolution about it!

Instead, I’m going to resolve or “express an intention” for other positive steps:

1.  Floss daily.  OK, this is an annual New Year’s resolution for me.  I just can’t seem to get into the habit of daily flossing.  Good oral hygiene has been linked to a number of healthy benefits including reduced incidents of heart disease.  And who doesn’t want good teeth and fresh breath?

2.  Read the Bible in a Year.  Thanks to some friends in Texas, I have a community to read with!  We’re reading The Message version of the Bible, (it is written in common language and reads like a story) starting in Genesis and going through Revelation in 2011.  As a companion and introduction to each new book of the Bible, we’re reading Larry Crabb’s 66 Love Letters.  My friends are blogging about it, and inviting the online community to comment and get to know each other.  Click this if you want to check it out, or you want in.  It’s not too late to join us!

3.   Read daily. This is prompted by my friend Suzy who is championing reading on her blog Case for Books. In an entry on 29 December 2010, Suzy writes:  It is believed that the average person reads less than one book per year.  The average millionaire reads two books per week. Though my aim is not to be a millionaire, I do think reading is good for the head and the heart.  I love to read, and Suzy’s challenge to read for one hour a day is a great goal to shoot for, even if I fall short!

4.  Read blogs. I have great friends who are internet savvy, who blog and twitter and are linked in.  I do the same, but I have so much more to learn!  So this year I hope to read more blogs and learn to how to be internet savvy, using more pics and videos on our site.

These are some of the blogs I hope to follow more closely this year.  If you blog, or have a blog you love to follow, please let me know so I can add it to my personal list!

  • Jocelyn, a mom with three kids, is learning to “Dwell in Possibility” as she conquers her “40 Before I’m 40” list, and keeps me entertained along the way.
  • Kelly is unstoppable with her three kiddos, keeping track of “Our Family Ramblings” and informing me about great household products as well as cleaning and money saving tips.
  • Jenna stopped “Drinking to Distraction” and is writing about what she lost and what she gained.
  • Cathy is the Chief Conversation Starter at No Pressure Networking and helps independent professionals and organizations grow their business through networking and referrals.
  • Simply Rebekah” is all about being “frugal, green, and life in between”.  Stay-at-home Mom of one, Rebekah loves discovering helpful tips and passing them along.
  • I already mentioned Suzy’s blog, Case for Books.
  • I also mentioned Cici and Staci’s Bible reading blog.

I have lots of friends who blog.  Sadly, I can’t remember each one.  I’d like to learn how to manage the blogs I follow with an RSS Reader or whatever (obviously, I have a lot to learn!).

So there.  Those are some of my resolutions. I’m formally expressing my intentions to focus on just a few areas this year.

Alert Expectancy

A few years ago I was stranded in a hotel.  I remember asking God to set up a divine appointment for me that day, since I was stuck in town with nothing to do.  It seemed like a good prayer for a missionary to pray.

Later that day I decided to take the stairs rather than the elevator.  After descending the six floors to the lobby I discovered that I was locked out.  Or rather, locked IN the stairwell.  I raced up several flights of stairs only to discover that the doors were locked tight.  I was in the bowels of an airport hotel.  Alone.

Eventually I found an unlocked door.  At that point I didn’t care if I set off any alarms.  I just wanted to get out.  Pushing on yet another door, sunlight finally streamed in.  Temporarily blinded by sunlight, I breathed the warm, humid, but fresh air.  And I nearly walked into a woman sitting on the curb, weeping.

Afraid to disturb her solitude, I quickly turned and walked away, towards the hotel’s main entrance.

Several minutes later a thought occurred to me:  What if God allowed me to be locked in the bowels of that hotel so that I’d come upon the weeping woman? Perhaps she needed a sympathetic, listening ear.  Maybe she needed to be reminded of a God who rights wrongs.  Or maybe she needed to hear words of love, mercy and forgiveness. If that was the case, then I totally missed the answer to my prayer… God provided an opportunity for a divine appointment.

Alert:  quick to perceive and act.  Expect: anticipate the occurrence or coming of.

As you go about your day, perhaps you can do better than I did.  Perhaps you can keep your eyes open, alert to opportunities which God puts in your way.  That person might not be a student or faculty member.  He or she might take up more than a few minutes in your day.  Living in alert expectancy means keeping our eyes open, even in dark stairwells.  Maybe, just maybe, God choreographed events so that you would stumble into the sunlight at just the right time to help someone else embrace the Light.

Romans 5.3-5 The Message
There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Jonah in October

Are you up for it? Now that it’s October, it’s time to start reading another book of the Bible.  In August I read Romans and September’s book of the month was Galatians.  Now that October is here, I’m diving into Jonah.

The goal is to read the entire book of Jonah everyday for the month of October. That’s ideal.  I don’t always live up to my ideals, so if I miss a day, or don’t make it all the way through Jonah on a certain day, I won’t give up or quit.  I’ll start again the next day.

What’s been really fun over the last two months is to see what “sticks” after reading the same book of the Bible over and over again.  I observed similarities and parallels between Romans and Galatians which I never saw before.  In Romans, I noted the word “expectations” three times, and I saw it in Galatians as well. I wonder if that word will show up in Jonah, too.  Seems like God is highlighting a theme for me.  I read from the Message or the English Standard Version.

So… are you up for it?  Will you join me in reading Jonah during October?

Galatians

Have you ever spent a month reading and re-reading one book of the Bible? Ten years ago one of my girlfriends introduced me to the idea with what she called “the Romans Challenge”.  As she explained it to me, the goal is to read the whole book of Romans everyday for a month.  One of the benefits is a change to your worldview due to the theological arguments in Romans.

In the 10 years since Daniela and I took that challenge while staffing the North Myrtle Beach Summer Project in 2000, I’ve gone back to Romans to change up my devotional reading and study times, to soak into a good book, and to refresh my perspective.  Last month I went back to the Romans Challenge to reinvigorate my love for the Scriptures.  I didn’t read the whole book everyday, but I did spend more time in Romans than I had in the recent past.

This month, after a discussion on facebook, I’m reading Galatians – this is the Galatians Challenge.  One of the former youth pastors at the church I grew up in is also taking it with me.  He’s in Kentucky, I’m in NW Ohio right now.  Another girlfriend said she’d try to do it, too, and another friend is doing her own Challenge with the book of Philemon.

We’re about a third of the way through the month and I really like Galatians.  I smile as I discover more parallels between Galatians and Romans.  Just like last month, I’m reading from The Message, a version of the Scriptures using modern language to capture the ancient Greek rhythm and idioms Paul used when he penned with original letters.  I find The Message refreshing for devotional reading.

Just read how this passage on the classic “fruits of the Spirit” is described:

But what happens when we live God’s way?  He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit happens in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity.  We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.  We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Sticky, part 4

Sigh.. more from Romans (my current “happy place”).  Excerpts from Romans 9 (The Message):

“I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.  In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!” they’re calling you “God’s living children.”…

…”If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled ‘chosen of God,’ They’d be numbers still, not names; salvation comes by personal selection.  God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name.  Arithmetic is not his focus.”

I love this!