Merry Christmas to you from Harpeth Baptist Church!
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light…” Isaiah 9:2
HARPETH BAPTIST CHURCH
1011 Butterworth Road
Kingston Springs, TN 37082
Sometimes I wish the Bible had a movie reel that we could watch or an audio recording just so we could hear how Jesus spoke Martha’s name in that day. Although the Bible doesn’t give any implications, I would like to think that Christ spoke her name in a compassionate, caring way; an ‘everything’s going to be okay’ kind of way. Later when he tells her that Mary has chosen the better part, I think He is implying that spending time with Him will be more effective than being troubled with the things of the world.
Many times I find myself being a Martha in my mind. Some mornings I wake up with a ‘Save the World’ attitude-I could be a source of great enlightenment if people would just ask me! Ever have those days? Don’t raise your hand, especially if you are a female…we all know that we have all the answers, right?! Just this morning I had devised a plan regarding a situation that didn’t have any spiritual or personal implications, but I had it all figured out, nonetheless. And don’t get me wrong-problem solvers and problem solving is an important aspect of human relationships. Many people have been passionate about a cause or circumstance that they could change, and those people have made great contributions to society. But sometimes the problems I want to solve don’t need my solution. Many times the problems I want to solve are small and insignificant, and if I’ll be honest with myself, they are quite simply none of my business. Maybe we are wired that way as women, but I don’t ever want that to become an excuse for becoming idle in my service. I wish I could gather up all of my energy and efforts that I place on mindless things and focus them on the things of God. When I find myself worried about things over which I have no control, I need to stop and refocus my thoughts on spiritual things that have eternal value. Instead of being worried about things, I need to reflect on controlling my actions and behaviors so that I can make a positive impact on those around me as I try to proclaim Christ, whether it be to my children, my husband, my neighbors, my coworkers, or the lady at the register who may need a kind word today. There are things that we can control and there are problems that we can solve. We need to have enough spiritual discernment to know the difference. In the 1940s a man named Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a poem that has been modified and adopted as a slogan for Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step programs, but in its original form goes something like this:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Just for today, I will focus my thoughts and efforts of things that matter-I will seek to have a mind like Mary and worship at Jesus’ feet and leave the things that are out of my hands in God’s hands.
HARPETH BAPTIST CHURCH—www.harpethbaptist.org
Proverbs 1:10-19 v. 10-11″My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:”
Is it me, or is that a perfect Biblical illustration of a childhood bully? The bully rallies his gang of bandits to steal the feeble kid’s lunch money…well, that’s a dated example. I don’t figure seven-year-old bullies know how to cash lunch checks at the local bank. But it’s the “lurking for the innocent” that still applies. Regardless of how one categorizes the innocent- the poor, the overweight, the child wearing glasses or braces, the less than attractive, the teen whose skin is blemished, or the student that has his or her academic challenges-there are those bullies who “lay in wait” for an opportunity to poke fun or tease at the expense of someone else. Bullies. We all know or have encountered one at some point in life-climbing on top of everyone else to plant the proverbial flag of victory at the top of the hill.
Today, there are still those who beg for us to come and go with them to lurk for the innocent, yet we never speak with them, never brush shoulders with them, and honestly, they don’t even know we exist. Oh, brother. Here I go. Bear with me, if you will, as I step on my soapbox. I need to have a word with myself. It’s the dreaded box, the television. This next passage of scripture is so uncannily applicable today that I have to let you read it-notice the emphasis added is mine, but think of the television as you read through this:
1I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing.
2I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.
3I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.
4A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.
5Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.
6Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.
7He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.
8I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the LORD.
Now, don’t tune me out here (ha!-another television reference). I DVR my favorites just like many of you. But as we have been studying James the past few weeks, James 1:8 gets me: “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Now, if I wouldn’t make company with those who promote open sin or those who mock our Savior, why in the world do I befriend those on the television who do so? I see my double minded ways so clearly, but I excuse myself too many times. Anybody else know where I’m coming from? Some of the things we watch on television openly bully our faith. They bully those who stand for Biblical truths. They mock those who do right and laugh with those who promote wrong.
Once again I must examine my own habits. I will also let others be the judge of themselves-it is not my place to set a bar or standard for someone else’s viewing habits, as this becomes a form of legalism. Just for today, I will consider my ways and try to make wise choices in the things I see, the jokes at which I choose to laugh, and the company I keep in my living room…in every sense of the word.
As a lady, I tend to gravitate to hairstyle magazines and blogs-I see so many that are stylish and trendy and wonder if I could really pull it off. Of course, I am not bold enough to go too short and I have not the patience to allow it to grow, hence, I am stuck with a similar hairstyle each visit to the salon. And that is fine with me…at least I am predictable, right?!
Unfortunately, I find myself in that same rut in a spiritual sense. James 1:22 tells us “But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Hearing the Word yet leaving it unfulfilled is like going to the salon with a picture and an idea in mind, yet leaving with only a trim of the same style I walked in with. Too many times we think that our church attendance is our ‘doing’- not so, not so! Our church attendance is nothing more than the ‘hearing’ aspect of that verse. We must ask ourselves, “What are we doing outside of these four walls?”
Take a look at these verses:
Luke 6:46 “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”
John 13:17 “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”
Wow. That can be a tough pill to swallow. It’s easy to get caught up in our ‘ought to’s’ to justify our lack of ‘should do’s’. There comes a time when one must evaluate his or her service to Christ-does it ever leave the walls of our church? If not, then it cannot be counted as service. It’s a great time to think about mission trips, community outreaches, or volunteering our time and resources so that we might be His hands and feet. There are plenty of men and women in our nursing homes that could use a visit and a word of prayer. There are soup kitchens that need an extra hand. Let us remember that while Jesus was here on earth, the majority of His time was spent in the ‘highways and hedges’, if you will, to reach those in need.
Just for today, why not surprise yourself and try on a new spiritual ‘do’?
Focus Verse 24:15
This is one of my favorite passages in Scripture. Joshua is giving his ‘farewell’ address to the tribes of Israel. In his one hundred and ten years on earth, Joshua knew that he had chosen correctly in choosing to follow God. And not only did he follow, but he led well. He led God’s people into the Promised Land. Chapter 24 chronicles the victories that God had given the people, and then he presented a choice to them: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve;…but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Families, there is still an open invitation to do the same today. For the sake of our families, we need to choose the Lord. It is our job to teach this to our children so that they will teach it to their children’s children. If we choose not to serve the Lord, what will happen to our grandchildren? Our great-grandchildren? It is time for Christian homes to stand strong in the faith of God and become families of character and integrity. Do your children and grandchildren know about Jesus? If not, choose today to share the good news! There’s a familiar saying that goes something like this: “The only way for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” If we choose to do nothing with Christ, then Satan will win our families by default. Just for today, and every day, I will be sure that I am sharing Christ with my family. We will choose Christ.
Joshua 16-20 Focus Verse 17:16
Chariots of Iron. That is what kept the tribe of Joseph from inhabiting the valley. The hill that was the portion of their inheritance just wasn’t enough land for them to be effective, and they wanted more land. So there in the valley, the Canaanites intimidated them with their chariots of iron. Does that story sound familiar? Remember the spies that were sent to Canaan? All but Joshua and Caleb saw that “we were grasshoppers in their sight.” What was it about the Canaanites that sparked fear in God’s people? Was it their strength? Their great number? The Israelites let their fear control their actions, and the world and our circumstances will cause us to do the same thing. We will let fear control our service or our commitments to Christ.
Then we see Joshua with the same confidence and positive outlook as he did when he spied out Canaan; he told them that although the chariots of iron were strong, they, as God’s people, were stronger. There are going to be chariots of iron that we must face. Circumstances that seem too big to overcome; obstacles that don’t seem worth the effort. And we become content in our small Christianity. To overcome chariots of iron, it will take focus, it will take hard work, and it will take a certain determination to realize that we CAN overcome. Just for today, I will not fret over my chariots of iron, but I will find the confidence to defeat them.
Joshua 11-15 Focus Verse 11:15
I enjoy watching sports. If the truth be told, though, my favorite moments are the final two or three minutes of the game (except for college football, then I can enjoy the last quarter comfortably). The intensity, the anticipation, and the thrill of a close game are just exciting to me. But there are some games, rather, some players that I could do without watching. Like those who half heartedly play when their team is behind or when they fumble a play and their pride kicks in so they finish the game putting forth little to no effort. Half heartedness is close to lukewarmness-it is quite undesirable. To begin projects that go unfinished or to commit oneself to something and then quit…these are not strong character traits that one wants to possess.
But here in Joshua, we see that it was said of him, “he left nothing undone.” There is a lot to be said of someone who will complete the task at hand, whether big or small. What a great thing to be said of someone-“he left nothing undone.” Nothing was put off until tomorrow. Nothing was passed along for someone else to complete. With diligence and effort Joshua finished the things he was asked to do. Is there something undone in your life today? A kind word left unsaid? A broken relationship that needs to be mended? A sin that needs to be confessed and forsaken? A calling from God that I haven’t yet answered? Just for today, I will reflect on whether it could be said of me, “(s)he left nothing undone.”
Have you ever done something without permission? I don’t mean anything inappropriate (or illegal, for that matter), but something you just did without consulting anyone? Have you ever made a decision without praying about it? I’d have to say that I have been guilty of that myself. Those decisions don’t always become problematic, but it is a problematic habit to support. Here in this passage, we find Joshua and his alliance doing just that, as our focus verse tells us that they “asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.” They made an oath with their enemies (unbeknownst to them at the time) because they made a seemingly harmless decision.
The importance here is the understanding that we should seek God’s counsel in the decisions we make. It is important to make things a matter of prayer and use the bible as our guide. A good verse to follow up here is Proverbs 3:5-6:
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him [emphasis mine], and he shall direct thy paths.”
If we will seek counsel from the Lord in our decisions, He will direct our paths-He will show us what we need to do. And when it seems like He isn’t directing us, then it is best to just stand still. Many a regret has been pinned to hasty decisions. And when we feel we need further advice, we can go to Proverbs 11:14, as it reminds us that “in a multitude of counsellors there is safety.” When you are unsure about a decision you are about to make, seek wise counsel. Surround yourself with those who will advise you not with the answers you want to hear, but with answers that will line up with the Word of God. Many times I think we are guilty of asking for advice from those who will agree with us rather than asking those who will really consider the situation and give us a Scriptural, wise answer. Just for today, I will first seek counsel from the Lord in the decisions I make and surround myself with those who will help me seek biblical answers.
Joshua 6-10 Focus verse 9:14
Well, I guess it’s time to admit to the whole world wide web that I do not love fruit (I’m glad my children do not read the blog). However, because of my children, I have learned to try new things and possibly acquire a taste for some of them. I am a work in progress. If I want them to eat fruit, I will have to set the example.
Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance:”
Lately, I have been studying my prayer life, and I have realized that I pray for myself a lot. A whole lot. At first I felt pretty guilty about it, as I am instructed to pray for the needs of others-how selfish of me! But a few days ago, I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment, and realized that in my prayer life, I need to eat my fruit as well. I need to get ‘me’ right first, and only then will I be able to pray for others in the proper light. Only then will I see things in the proper perspective. To pray for my children, I have to be sure that I have eaten the fruit of longsuffering and gentleness. To pray for those who are hurting, I must first be sure that I am filled with the fruit of joy and peace. Only then can our prayers be effective-we must be sure to take our Spiritual fruit on a daily basis so that we don’t fall into an effortless routine in our prayer life. Asking God to daily mold you into the person you should be is an important thing-it’s like eating your daily dose of fruit. Just for today, I will be sure that I have my daily intake of the proper spiritual fruit so that my prayer life will be healthy enough to pray for others.
Have you heard the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees?” Standing too close can sometimes make us blind to the whole picture. When I was a kid, I would love the back of Highlights magazines when they would have a ‘Guess this Picture.’ They would magnify a small part of an object and you would have to guess what the whole picture was. Some would be pretty simple, but others would stump me. When they would show the entire picture, it would make perfect sense. I think that when we are in the middle of a hard situation, we are blind to God’s working in our lives.
Here in Joshua, God instructed the people to follow about two thousand cubits behind the ark. He told them they weren’t to follow too closely, because they wouldn’t know which way they were to go. Then he followed with these words: “for ye have not passed this way heretofore.” We are going to walk through some dark days. We are going to be faced with situations and circumstances that are puzzling to us. We will be so close to the sorrow or grief that we can’t see God at all. But God knows your situation or trial, and He is reminding you to step back from it so you can see where He is leading. Borrowing from Matthew Henry’s commentary,
While we are here, we must expect and prepare to pass ways that we have not passed before; but in the path of duty we may proceed with boldness and cheerfulness. Whether we are called to suffer poverty, pain, labour, persecution, reproach, or death, we are following the Author and Finisher of our faith; nor can we set our feet in any dangerous or difficult spot, through our whole journey, but faith will there see the prints of the Redeemer’s feet, who trod that very path to glory above, and bids us follow him, that where he is, we may be also. (biblios.com)
Weary heart, He knows that you are about to enter uncharted waters or walk down a path that is unfamiliar. Just know that God is leading the way. He is going before you to make the way known. I find peace in knowing that God is leading the way, even when I cannot find peace in my situation. Just for today, I will step back from my trial and allow God to lead.
Joshua 1-5 Focus verse 3:4
I wanted to play basketball in high school. Really. I did…until I went to that first practice. Of course, it was absolutely nothing like middle school park and rec. ball where you practiced for an hour and played a game on Saturday. High school ball was a different ball game (no pun intended, of course). That first practice after we stretched and dribbled the ball for a few moments, the coach instructed us to run ten laps around the gym holding a basketball over our heads. The first lap (well, maybe the first half lap) wasn’t too bad, but then came the burn. I thought my arms might fall off before I made it around for that final lap. Needless to say, I chose to take the position of the ‘statistician’ of the team.
I said all of that to say that holding my arms up for a long period of time was rather difficult; but in today’s passage, we read about everlasting arms that are holding us. Our focus verse states that “The eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27a). So not only is God a place (or the One) to whom we can run, but he is also upholding us with His everlasting arms. God has provided a double layer of protection for us, and His everlasting arms will never grow weak. They will never burn with pain caused by the loads that He will bear for us. Sometimes we face trials and circumstances that are bigger than we are. But they are never bigger than Christ. He can hide you in the “shadow of His wings” and he will hold you in His everlasting arms. Those arms are holding you, and can lift you above your circumstances. They can lift you and carry you through the deepest waters that alone you cannot cross. Just for today, trust that His everlasting arms are holding you.
Deut. 32-34 Focus Verse: 33:26-27
Matthew 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.
Let me speak now to those who fear tomorrow. I guess my ideas are shaped by my past, as many people’s are. I lost my mother in a car accident when I was nine years old. As I became an adult, my thoughts about the future all seem to end in some horrible tragedy. How my boys might have to grow up without a mother. I worried that somewhere along the line I would receive a phone call that a loved one had been taken in a tragedy. And after a while, I realized that was no way to live. I lived in fear. Fear of everything. It became so overwhelming that I couldn’t function. Then I read Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. When I find myself backpedaling to a life of fear (that is lived out only in my mind), I have to remind myself that His thoughts toward me are of peace, and not evil. I have to trust Him, and trust Him completely. Partial trust is still a lack of faith.
How many times have you fretted yourself or worried over things that might happen? I’ll raise both hands there! It’s so easy in our human reasoning to try and worry the problem away. Maybe if we worry about it now it will somehow dissolve the situation in some mystical, magical way. But we know it doesn’t work that way. Worry is like a disease that destroys our today-the today in which we must live-so that we can feel better about the tomorrow-at which we never arrive. I’ve read a saying, as I’m sure you have, too, that says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow-God is already there.” He is. What a comforting feeling, that no matter what my worries are for today, even if they come true, God is already there and knows how He will handle the situation. The more we trust that God is in control, the more peace we will find; because in all honesty, worry is nothing more than a lack of faith. Ouch.
Just for today, I will live my life in complete faith, knowing that God is in control.
Proverbs 27 “Boast not yourself of to morrow; for you know not what a day may bring forth.”
I am such a procrastinator. Not so much as when I was in high school and college, waiting until the last minute to study or write a paper or complete a project, but still a procrastinator, nonetheless. You can ask the basket of clean laundry that has been sitting on my dryer for two days about my procrastination issues. I’ve actually been putting off this blog post for a few days. Now that I have thoroughly incriminated myself of these procrastination issues, I can get to the heart of the problem. Our daily lives can become disorganized when we procrastinate in doing necessary things.
On an even greater level, our spiritual lives suffer when we procrastinate. Sometimes we tell ourselves that “If God would (you fill in the blank), then I could serve Him better.” Or, “I’m really going to be able to do (this) when (this) happens.” We base our whole being on conditional requirements. Then we come down to the end of our lives, and we look back to see that we left a life unlived because our ‘requirements’ were unmet. Serving Christ shouldn’t be about what God could, might, or should do for us. We are His creation. Can you imagine a piece of clay looking up at the Potter and requesting that he be molded into a vase rather than a pitcher? It sounds absurd, but is that not how we tend to be sometimes in our service? Lord, if you give me a great voice, I will sing. Lord, if you will help me understand children, I will teach. Lord, if you open a door for me, I will go. And the ‘ifs’ go on and on. What if we stepped out on NOW faith and said, Lord, I am doing this, equip me. We must not boast ourselves of tomorrow. We never really get there. We live in today each day of our lives. Just for today, I will live for Christ with no strings attached…and I will go fold that load of laundry that is calling my name!
One of the most bittersweet things about growing up is the ability to make your own choices. When my boys were babies, there weren’t many choices for them to make. Neither seemed to have an opinion about which onesie they would rather spit up on that day (or hour, as the changing of the wardrobe guard was quite frequent in those days). But as they are getting older, we find that they are able to make choices on their own. The three year old can choose to play with his trains or dress up as Spiderman. The six year old can choose to play his game system or head outside and toss a football. These are the less important of the choices they make. But there are other choices that are of greater consequence: “Do I talk back or hold my tongue? Do I help my brother or tease him? Do I pitch a fit or do I obey respectfully?” It is a parent’s responsibility to teach their children the importance of making good choices, and the consequences of making bad ones; we must not shirk at our duties to do so.
Moses did this for the Israelites as well here in our passage today. Moses told them, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed shall live.”
Well, Brother Moses, it seems like an easy choice here-life or death; blessing or cursing. It doesn’t really take a rocket scientist to make the best choice, you know? But when it comes to spiritual life and death, and spiritual blessing and cursing, the choice becomes more difficult. Choosing spiritual obedience over temporal pleasure is much more difficult than it would seem, but these are the choices that hold the greater consequences. Spiritual obedience takes work, and it means making right choices. Maybe you have found yourself making spiritually unwise choices lately. I think we all do more than we would care to acknowledge. Start with those smaller daily choices. The choice to lay aside a few minutes each day for quiet time with God in prayer and Bible reading. The choice to hold your tongue when you have ‘every right’ to lash out. The choice to lead a healthy lifestyle. The choice to edify your spouse rather than belittle them. So many choices, and we have the opportunity to make the right ones. Most of these choices regard obedience over sin. Just for today, choose life. Choose blessing. Then verse 20 will be your reward:
“That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days:”
Daily Read: Deut. 29-31, Focus Verse Deut. 30:19-20
for his mercy endureth for ever. Six words divinely arranged to bring peace and joy to the heart of every believer.
for-seeing that; since
his-belonging to God
endureth-never exhausted; never running out
forever-an endless period of time
Translated to understand that seeing that God’s compassionate forbearance is never exhausted for an endless period of time.
Pause and ponder that thought. When our battles are raging and our physical strength is exhausted. When our minds are questioning and our enemies are gaining ground. When the bills are high and the funds are low. When the pain doesn’t respond to treatment. When the jobs aren’t coming in. When our situation is seemingly hopeless, don’t give up! Don’t lose faith! For his mercy endureth forever! Isaiah 59:1 reminds us that His hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
Just for today, be reminded of God’s mercy as you read Psalm 136. It is encouraging to know that his mercy endureth for ever!
…and this time, it’s in the most literal sense! This is a note to self, but for anyone else out there prone to sometimes make scheduling errors, please be forewarned that scheduling your six-year- old’s dental check up on the first full day of first grade is probably not the best option! He has had a loose tooth for quite some time now, and although some children are excited to lose a tooth, Jack seems to carry a kind affinity toward his teeth. It is always a huge ordeal, no matter how we try to go about it. And this time was no different. The dentist said that the tooth had to go, and Jack gave his word that he would pull it. As we sat there that night on the couch, ready to complete the task at hand, the tears started. And boy, did they come. So when I asked him what the tears were for, he told me how sad he was that the tooth would be gone from his mouth forever. I didn’t realize he had formed such a strong relationship with those pearly whites in his mouth, but evidently, he was bothered. Then he said that he thought it would hurt. Excuse after excuse why the tooth shouldn’t have to go, but Dad made the executive decision that the tooth had to go. Period. So as we sat there, ready to pull this tooth that was barely hanging on, I, in my infinite wisdom (haha), told him that the pain he felt when he tried to eat all week was ten times worse than the split second it would hurt for me to pull it. That seemed to make sense and calm him just long enough to claim my prize! Out came the tooth and there walked a happy boy. At no point did I have intentions to bring hurt or pain to my little boy, but I knew the relief he would feel when it was gone.
Why do I feel the necessity to share this with you? Because I think all of us at some time or another try to hang on to a ‘loose tooth.’ Spiritually speaking, of course. What is hanging around in your life that you know really should go? What are you hanging on to for dear life that should have been taken care of weeks, months, or even years ago? Whatever it is holds no intrinsic value, and in the long run, will prohibit proper growth. The pain that you may feel trying to hold on to it only dims in comparison to the momentary pain you may feel in letting go. And just think, there is a brand new ‘tooth’ that is ready to break the surface if you will only pull the old to prepare for the new.
There were four aspects of the situation that I felt carried spiritual significance.
One thing to keep in mind is that this is only in reference to small things that create problems for us. We should never try to ‘pull’ the things of great importance. Our marriages, our relationships, our closeness to the Lord, those things should be tended to with great care. Those are the permanent teeth in our lives, and we should diligently seek to keep those strong. Just for today, I will tend to that loose tooth that I’ve been afraid to tend to!
Matthew 7:11 “… how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
At this time of year, we are getting back to many different things. The children are going back to school. We are going back to routines and schedules. For those who have enjoyed summer vacation and summer break, it’s time to get back to reality! But in the midst of all of these ‘back to’s’, we have an opportunity to examine our spiritual ‘back to’s’.
As my first grader gets back into his school routine, he has some responsibilities. He will have to remember most of the things he learned in kindergarten. He will have to prepare his mind for the things he will learn this year. He will have to befriend a new group of boys and girls and make new friends. Let’s bring this around to spiritual matters.
Sometimes I think we unknowingly take a spiritual vacation and find ourselves removed from things that keep us focused on Christ. In the world that we live in, it doesn’t always take much to do that-so many things to entice us and pull us away from the things we should do. But to get back to a place where we are living and doing as we should, we have to:
Just for today, I will get back to the basics. I will step into God’s schoolhouse and be an obedient student in word and deed.
In life, I think we have all experienced situations where we were going to have to do something, whether we wanted to or not. For the young child, it might be cleaning his or her room. For the teenager, it might be babysitting a younger sibling, and for an adult, the list can become endless, right?! But for those times in life when we are faced with a task that we don’t necessarily desire to do, we should take on the attitude of Paul as he put it so simply in Philippians: “for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” It’s all about attitude. There are things that we must do-duty demands it. But we choose how we respond. Proverbs teaches us that a “merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Prov. 15:13). Sometimes in our spiritual walk, there are stumbling blocks in our path. We can choose to make those stumbling blocks stepping stones, and rise above our situation. There are Christians that are so joyful in their countenance and attitudes, you have to wonder if they ever have a bad day. On the other hand, there are Christians that find themselves always robbed of God’s goodness, either through attitude or circumstances. There is a victorious Christian life to be lived, even though our paths may not always be what we would choose or what we would want for ourselves. Just for today, I will examine the things in life that aren’t necessarily pleasant and find the positive in them. It could be that they are there to simply make me stronger.
Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 25-28 Deut. 28:47-48
Laws, laws, and more laws. That is the theme of our scripture passage today. There were laws for every situation; everyone and everything was in subjection to the laws. And rightfully so; Chapter 23:14 reminded them that the laws were set up so that the camp of the Israelites would be holy. This was a holy place because the Lord walked in the midst of the camp among them, and we know that God will not have a part of anything that is not holy. These laws were in place in the Old Testament, before they could truly, fully understand grace. There had to be some standard by which to live.
But when Christ became our sacrifice, we were no longer under the law-Christ came so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. I know that it is important to live a holy and separated life as a follower of Christ, but we are no longer bound by these laws-we are under grace, and we can understand it through the forgiveness of Christ. Just for today, I will rejoice that I am under grace and not under the law.
Wow-It’s been over a month since our last ‘Just for Today’! I am very excited to be writing again. Thank you to all of you who read the posts. My prayer is that God will use the words in a way that will encourage you in your daily walk with Him.
We find ourselves in Deuteronomy where we left off…
Deut 17-20 Focus verses: 20:5-9
This passage of scripture deals with men going forth to battle. They were fighting in a physical battle, but today, we as Christians are in a spiritual battle. There were reasons that men were unable to fight in a battle, and they are applicable to our spiritual battle.
First of all, a man who had built a house but had not dedicated it could not go to battle. Before we can stand strong in spiritual battle, we must first dedicate ourselves to the things of Christ. If a soldier only half heartedly believed in what he was fighting for, he wouldn’t be very effective in battle. If we, as soldiers in Christ’s army, are not dedicated to Him and His cause, we will prove to be ineffective.
The second exemption from battle was that if a man had planted a vineyard and hadn’t eaten of it, then he should first go and eat of his vineyard. The bible is our spiritual food. Let us not be spiritual anorexics, but let us find ourselves filled with the word of God.
Finally, if a man was engaged, he was to marry his betrothed before He went to battle. You can’t really put up a good fight at all if you have never been married with Christ-not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense. Have you ever given yourself to Christ? Is He your husbandman? This is the first step to fighting in the Lord’s army, because whether you know it or not, there are only two sides of a battle. Are you on the Lord’s side?
The Christian fight can be victorious, but there are some things you need to do to be prepared. Just for today, I will be sure that I am prepared for battle.
Giving is of great importance in today’s world. It was also important in the days of the Old and New Testaments. Giving has always been an important virtue. There are many people in our world today that give-humanitarians and philanthropists-but many of them are not giving in the name of the Lord. It should burden us as God’s people that the world and its philosophies are the ones giving to those in need. When disaster strikes a nation or country, the United States is always quick to send aid and help; but how much more effective would it be if Christians were to take part in that and help those people and show them God’s love? If one were to ask them why they help, that would be a great opportunity to share the Love of Christ with them. Our focus verses (Deut. 14:29, 15:7-11, 16:11, 14) all taught the Israelites to give to the poor, the stranger, the fatherless, the widows…God wants His people to be a giving people. Is there someone in need that could use a little encouragement? Someone who could use a helping hand? You can give the gift of a kind word. The gift of a smile. Just for today, share God’s love with someone who needs it. “…because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto” (Deut. 15:10b).
Scripture Focus Deut 13-16
Here in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is still addressing the Israelites, and he is reminding them of their victory over the Anakims-a very mighty enemy. Israel was an unlikely champion in the battle against the Anakims, but God gave them the victory. I can look back at times in my life when the battle was more than I could handle. When the pressures and struggles were overwhelming and I felt as though I couldn’t take one more step forward. There were times when the enemy towered above me, and I could feel defeat around the corner. But you see, at the end of our strength is when God steps in to claim the victory! This Christian life isn’t about our strength (or lack thereof), but the Champion standing in our corner. Sometimes we look around us at Christians who appear to be stronger in the faith than we are. I think the key to their strength is that they realize just where their strength comes from. It is not found in ourselves or our abilities. It is all in the power of Christ. Just for today, let us not forget that our enemy is stronger than we are…but he does not have to be the victor in the battle. Claim Romans 8:37 today: “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 9-12
I really hope you’ll take the time to read these four chapters today. It is so full of reminders about God’s deliverance to His people. Four times in today’s reading God told them to beware lest they forget…the Israelites had cities they had not built, houses filled that they didn’t fill, wells that they did not have to dig, and vineyards and olive trees that they didn’t plant. The Lord knew (and still knows) that when we have everything in abundance and when times are good, we tend to forget how much we still need the Lord. Wouldn’t it be pleasing to the Father if we would draw up closer to His side when our blessings ‘tank’ is full?
He also told them four times in these chapters to observe and eight times to keep (His commandments). He wanted them to continue to follow and obey what they knew to be right. Deuteronomy 5:29 combines the thought of remembering and observing into one powerful verse: “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” I think that still holds true for us today. He has done so much for us, how can we not serve Him?
Passage focus: Deut. 5-8
How do you remember the stories about your ancestors? What about childhood stories from your parents or grandparents? You know them because they have told you about them. Sometimes the stories are so vivid and real that you feel as though you were there with them. Looking back through old pictures or finding keepsakes of days gone by will call up memories that were almost forgotten.
Here in the Deuteronomy, we see Moses instructing the children of Israel about their future. It was Moses’ final address to them, and it was a time of reminiscence of what God had done for them as they journeyed all those years. In the middle of all that, Moses stepped back a moment and said, “Listen. You are going to have to diligently keep these things constantly before your eyes. As you go on without me, it is important that you don’t ever forget what you have seen the hand of God do. Don’t forget, and tell your children. Tell your children’s children. As they grow, let them know that the God they serve is able to deliver them out of the hands of the enemy.”
As Christian parents, that’s what we need to do. We need to teach our children the great and mighty things that God has done for us, lest we forget ourselves. Even for those who may not have children, it is still important to share the goodness of God with others. It could be a niece, nephew, or neighbor that needs to know about the provisions of God. We need to constantly remind our children that we serve a great big God that is able to do great and mighty things! Just for today, I will remind my children of the greatness of our God.
Passage Focus: Deuteronomy 1-4
In Luke 9, Jesus was making a call for people to follow Him. Luke 9:24 reads, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” It reminds me of a story that I read several years ago, and it goes like this:
A five-year-old girl bought her very own (imitation) pearl necklace with her very own money. She wanted those pearls so badly that she used some of her birthday money, and she earned the rest by doing chores for her mother and a neighbor.
The little girl loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere–Sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Her mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green. The pearls weren’t real but it didn’t matter to the little girl. She had bought them herself!
The little girl had a very loving father. One day he said, “Sweetheart, do you love me?”
“Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you.”
“Then give me your pearls.”
“Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my toy horse.”
“That’s okay, Honey. Daddy loves you.” And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.
About a week later, the little girl’s father asked again, “Do you love me?”
“Daddy, you know I love you.”
“Then give me your pearls.”
“Oh Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll.”
“That’s okay. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you.” And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.
A few days later the little girl nervously walked up to her father and held out her fake pearl necklace. “Here, Daddy. This is for you.”
The father reached out with one hand to take the imitation pearl necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to his daughter. He had them all the time, but was waiting for her to give up the inexpensive fake so he could give her genuine treasure. He was unwilling to give the real thing to her until she was willing to give up the fake beads.
In a way, this is like our heavenly Father. The most important strand of ‘pearls’ is the gift of eternal life. When we are born, we are given life. But that life is nothing short of an imitation unless we give it to Christ so that He can give us real life in return.
Maybe you are a Child of God and you are holding onto something else: a dream, a goal, a possession, a feeling…think of what it could be if you would place it in the Lord’s hands? In our own strength, we hold nothing more than a cheap imitation. Just for today, give God your ‘fake pearls’ and He will give you a genuine treasure in return.
HARPETH BAPTIST CHURCH
1011 Butterworth Road
Kingston Springs, TN 37082