I Hear You Are Walking In The Truth(2 John, 3 John, Jude)

3rd John 1:4 ESV I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

My son recently needed to solicit support for a project he was working on. He got endorsements/ financial contributions from some folks and wrote several thankyou letters. I was really encouraged when I heard from a friend about my son’s demeaner and earnestness in thanking him for support. It was a good feeling as a dad to hear that my son was conducting himself well and being respectful, thankful, and polite to others.

What an even bigger blessing the Apostle John must have felt when he heard about how well his disciples were doing in the world. They were walking in the truth! They were growing in their relationship with God and demonstrating their faith not just in what they knew, but in how they lived.

As disciple makers, this is what we should long to hear more than anything. That long after our face to face discussions, bible studies, questions, and doing life together that those who we’ve poured into are taking steps in their walk with God and they are growing! We hear plenty of folks share, “Good word today, pastor,” or “I like the story you told, it helped me understand what it means to walk with the Lord,” etc., But what we long to hear more than anything is that those we’ve discipled are living it out in their lives. They are taking steps and growing.

Father, thank you for how you have brought us to faith and continue to work in our lives. We thank you for the grace of placing men and women in our lives to disciple us. We ask for grace for those we are discipling. We rejoice when they are doing well and walking in the truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

2020 Post on 2 John, 3 John, and Jude

Join us in reading though the New Testament in 90 Days! You can find the plan and previous posts here.

There is Mercy! (Hebrews 6-8)

Hebrews 8:12 ESV For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

I don’t know where you are in your relationship with the LORD, but how great to know that He is a God of mercy. How good it is to know that my sins are forgiven and indeed forgotten by God. We don’t deserve this kind of mercy. We could never earn it. The only way to receive it is as a gift from God.

Father, thank you for your overwhelming mercy today. There is so much to consider in your word, but I marvel that you should love me like this to forgive my sins. Thank you for your overwhelming goodness that is so evident in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

Last Year’s Post

Join us in reading though the New Testament in 90 Days! You can find the plan and previous posts here.

Do You Stand on Guard? (Nehemiah 7:4)

Do You Stand on Guard? (Nehemiah 7:4)

You never know when the enemy will attack. That is why fortresses keep soldiers on guard. The moment you send the guards home, the enemy will come in and pillage everything you were supposed to be protecting.  Sometimes the simple presence of a guard is enough to detour those who would want to break in and take something from you. The guard stands as a first line of defense. He often detours trouble before it starts. When trouble walks through the door he cuts it off before it becomes bigger. When the trouble is too much for one guard he sounds the alarm to save the city. Being a guard is an important job.

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And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.” The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.(Nehemiah 7:3-4 ESV)

Can you imagine the state of the city if Nehemiah hadn’t appointed guards? The walls would be relatively useless because ill meaning folks would be devising ways to ruin the city. By posting a guard Nehemiah was allowing the new wall to have its fullest effect as an enemy detourant. Anyone who wanted to breach the city would have to do it with their full force, subterfuge wouldn’t be possible.

We all have things in our lives where we are weak. Places that if we are not careful we will stumble and fall into temptation and sin. It is important that we place a guard in our lives especially around these areas to keep us from the things we know will hurt us the most. If you struggle with giving, then maybe giving should be the first thing you do out of your checkbook instead of the last. This can become a guard for you so that you don’t make decisions based on what’s left, but based on what’s right. If you are tempted to view online pornography, in addition to your repentance an internet filter that you don’t have the pass key too or even the elimination of your internet capable devices would be a good step towards placing a guard in your life. Ideally, you want these behaviors to come truly from the heart, but your heart won’t grow strong in these areas (and others) until you guard it from the sin that it is so prone too. Where are you tempted? How can you place a guard in your life in these areas?

Fasting Brings Feelings into Focus (Nehemiah 1:4)

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4 ESV)

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What do you do when you have deep feelings about injustice in the world? How do you move? What is the next step? Is it just emotion or can that emotion be channeled into something productive? Take a look at Nehemiah. We are only four verses into this book and already we see his strength of character to ask the question about how others were doing, to hear and respond with weeping, but then he does…MORE.

First he does more feeling. He adds fasting to the mix. He wants his body to ache because his heart aches. This is a long forgotten discipline in our culture. Fasting is the intentional with drawl from food so you can focus on what you feel. In your body it serves as a detox or a cleanse, kind of like a reboot for your digestive system.  Spiritually speaking it does something similar.  In Nehemiah’s time a fast would mean taking time away from meal preparation which included everything from the purchase at the market to the actual cooking of the meal. This was a big time saver, but more than that it was a way not to focus on the day to day things that can consume our thinking and allow a pure focus on what God might have for Nehemiah. Too often we drown out God’s voice because of all the other voices we fill our lives with. In a modern context fasting might also include setting aside entertainment, social media, and other voices that have a way of consuming out thoughts so that we might be able to hear clearly from God. Fasting brings feelings into focus.

Our feelings alone can lack focus. We have a crush on a person who just looks cute, but when we get to know them we find out they are a jerk… but until your feelings are brought into focus by reality you move and act as if they are a perfect person. Feelings are a helpful response to where we are and how things have been, but they are unreliable guides to our future. This is why we should never just act on our feelings alone.  Just ask anyone who has said or done something stupid in a moment of anger.

Nehemiah feels a deep sadness for his countrymen and especially for Jerusalem being a city without walls, instead of jumping into action though he brings his feelings into focus by fasting and he brings his thoughts to God in prayer.

Now lots of folks think that prayer is where we move God to action, but they have it backwards. We don’t pray to tell God what he should do; we pray to ask God what we should do. The point of prayer isn’t to conform God’s will to ours, but to conform our will to God’s (Matthew 6:9-10).  Nehemiah goes to God to get God’s perspective, as we will see in the coming days and weeks, God sees the need clearer than Nehemiah ever could.

You may be at a crossroads in your life where you feel like God is calling you to do something but you are unclear about what he wants you to do. Fasting may be a very helpful option to bring things into focus. Consider setting aside some of the distractions in your life so that you can hear his voice more clearly. It is wise to get clarity on what God is doing before you act.

Philippians 4:14-20 (Devotional Thought)

Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:14-20 ESV)

Paul is beginning to wrap up the letter to the Philippians. He is so glad that the gospel has taken root in their lives and that it is transforming them. The church there is not ashamed to be associated with Paul. He gives us a rare picture of what happened after he had to leave Philippi in Acts 16. He travels on to Thessalonica to start another church. Scholars estimate that Paul didn’t stay the Thessalonica long before he had to leave, perhaps a few weeks. Yet, even while he was in Thessalonica a group from Philippi had caught up with Paul and brought him some money to make sure he didn’t have any needs.

This small church had only been in existence for a month, maybe two and they are already Continue reading “Philippians 4:14-20 (Devotional Thought)”

Family Devotional: It’s More About Rhythm than Time.

I’m so thankful for my parents and their commitment to the Lord. So much of what I have to share here is because of their testimony in my life. I had great models of family devotional time to build on and improve. I realize that not everyone grew up in a Christian home or Christ may have not been emphasized at home the same way he was at my house and so I want to give you a glimpse at what we do so you can have a model to build on and improve with your family. You may have some other great helps, practical suggestions, resources and/ or ideas, if so, please share with us in the comment section below.

It’s more about rhythm than time.

Leading your family is more about finding a natural rhythm in your schedule than setting up a specific time or meeting for a specific time. For our family the rhythm looks something like this on a weekday.

6AM – I have my own study time. Through the years I’ve done various things but I keep coming back to The MacArthur Daily Bible: Read through the Bible in one year.

6:20ish – I’ll have breakfast with my 8-year-old and I will do a devotional together before school. Right now we’re working on a devotional that I wrote for our students but mostly we use Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God. I’ll read from the book and she reads the scripture portion each day.

Around 7:30ish – I’ll have coffee and read a story from The Jesus Storybook Bible to my 4-year-old before he heads off to 4k.

Evenings when I’m home before bedtime (Roughly 3 nights a week) we’ll have a prayer time around 7:30ish (our goal is to get them in bed by 8PM). Right now we’re praying for a particular UUPG and we made a cube that has pictures and writing based on Romans 10:13-14. One of the kids will roll the cube and it will help guide us in how to pray for our UUPG that night. We pray from youngest to oldest (with dad always going last). We pray simple, but heartfelt prayers. After everyone has prayed we say the Lord’s prayer together and then we play a game with the ten commandments where a family member will name a commandment and call on someone else to say the next commandment, etc. then we’ll go over a series of verses that the kids have memorized (the Roman’s Road, Proverbs 3:5-6, Matthew 6:33, etc.). The whole things lasts about 15-20 minutes from start to finish.

The real value is that each of these moments provide a great reference point for further conversation. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve talked about forgiveness based on the Lord’s prayer or sin based on the 10 commandments. There are also times were we have great gospel centered conversations based on a story we’ve read or a devotional. Then there are times where I will share about what I’ve read in my own time in the word and how it applies to something that one of the kids mentioned.

If you are looking to lead your family and aren’t doing any yet don’t try and start everything at once. Pick one habit that you think will fit or work in your routine and make it work for you. For example you may have to clock in at 5AM and so their is no way you could possibly read with your kids before school. Maybe you could record a video (using your ipad or phone) and have it ready for them to watch while they are at breakfast. Or maybe you have to be out of state/ country for your job. Challenge your children to memorize a scripture passage with you (Like the 10 commandments or the Lord’s Prayer) and make it part of the phone call when you are able to call home.

What are some other great ways to engage your kids with the scripture on a regular basis?