Inspired by God

2 Timothy 3:16-17

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

 If you’re faithfully serving every week during a worship service or leading a small group and not studying Scripture, you aren’t prepared. In order to do good works, we must follow God’s “order of operations.”

  1. Believe in Jesus

Romans 10:9

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

  1. Love God
  2. Love others (and yourself!)

Matthew 22:37-39

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

  1. Do good works

Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

  1. Make disciples

Matthew 28:19

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

IMG_2963Once we are saved, we can choose to be a follower of Jesus, or become His disciple. We can follow Jesus from a distance and watch what He does in the lives of others, or if we want to truly know Him, we must become a disciple. Becoming a disciple requires discipline. We do this not because religion demands it, but because we want to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ.

When we discipline ourselves to study Scripture we get to know God.

When we get to know God, we begin to know ourselves.

When we get to know ourselves, we begin to realize our rebelliousness against Him.

When we realize our rebelliousness against Him, we become grieved over our sin.

When we are grieved over our sin, we humble ourselves and allow Him to correct what is wrong in our lives- and our relationships, and teach us to do what is right.

Matthew 5:23-24

23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice[a] at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

We cannot, I repeat canNOT go through the “order of operations” out of order. If we skip 1, 2 & 3 and try to start solving our life equation at step 4 or 5 we’ll never discover God’s promise of eternal & abundant life. Furthermore, Jesus warns those with disorderly lives in Matthew 7:21-23 who do work in His name- they must depart from Him, because they don’t know Him.

God is a God of order.

Follow His “order of operations.”

Don’t know the order?

Dust off that old Holy Bible on your bookshelf or download You Version and lets start studying Scripture, together!

God Tested

Genesis 22:1-2, 9-12

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

On the night of our wedding rehearsal, my father-in-law proposed a toast. It was a heartfelt speech, welcoming me into the Bullard tribe. Yes, tribe. A full-blooded Native American of the Lumbee Tribe, my father-in-law came from a very large close-knit family. Growing up in extreme poverty and feeling the sting of prejudice from southern white and black men alike, he left the tribal area to pursue a better life for himself.

But he never forgot his family.

Family was everything.

With raised glasses and our entire wedding party giving close attention, my fiancés father spoke assertively, “Jodie, you are now a part of our family…and we take care of our own.”

(kindof sounded like I was marrying into the mafia!!!)

Doug Sr. and I had a rocky beginning. I was a strong willed young woman. Barely 18 when I met his son, Doug Jr. (who was almost 6 years my senior), I was a rebellious, directionless sinner. He was a strong, disciplined, God fearing man. Needless to say, we didn’t get along very well- especially when I sat in HIS lazy boy recliner one Sunday afternoon to watch HIS naptime entertainment; golf!

Six months later, after Doug and I were engaged, he disapproved of the impending nuptials. IMG_1830Yet over the course of the next year and a half, we began to know- and love one another. And by the time my wedding day dawned, he had accepted me as a daughter, adopting me into his family on a warm spring day in 1996. Fifteen months later he had a massive heart attack. The family patriarch was gone.

After God adopted me into His family, I had a hard time trying to love Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. I was disciplined: I read the bible. I prayed. I served at church. Yet, I was completely unaware that in a dark corner of my soul, I had built an idol. It was named “family.”

Then God tested me.

He asked if I was willing to take each family member, whom I loved so much, and lay them on the altar.

Would I justify my relationships? (“God- you designed family. I’m supposed to love my husband, children, parents….)

Or would I repent?

I confessed the lie: family is everything.

I received His truth: God is everything.

I choose to obey the commandments, in order.

There’s a reason Jesus said we are to love God, then love others. Others may take care of us, train us, love us and welcome us into their family, but others will fail us. Idols will fall.

Yes, we must love our spouse, children, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. But we must not love them more than Jesus.

Matthew 10:37

“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.

Has God tested you?

Have you confessed the lie: family is everything?

Have you received His truth: God is everything?

Have you chosen to love God, then love others?

I’m sorry to disappoint you, my friend: all of your family has sinned.

They’ve all fallen short of the glory of God.

They will never give you eternal or abundant life.

They will forsake you.

They will leave you.

But, Jesus.

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.

Jesus laid down His life on the altar for your sin.

Jesus will never leave you.

Jesus will never forsake you.

(and like the mafia, Jesus always takes care of His own!!!)

It is Stupid

Proverbs 12:1

To learn, you must love discipline;
 it is stupid to hate correction.

During my journey as a disciple of Jesus Christ I haven’t always loved discipline. Alright…let’s be honest: at times, I’ve actually hated correction because I’ve trusted that what I was thinking, feeling, believing and doing was absolutely “right.” To make matters worse, I’ve even cited Gods blessings in my life as tangible evidence that I must be practically perfect in every way- and completely beyond reproach!!!

Enter pride: stage “right.”

IMG_4461Each time the Lord brings correction through His Word, prayer or others, my ego takes a huge slap to the face. If I choose to react to the pain and become angry and blame others (as Adam & Eve did in the garden), shame will consume me like a heavy cloak…. and I will remain a fool. But if I am able to lay down my offense and ask the Lord to penetrate the darkness with His light to reveal the Truth, I will see that I have once again rebelled against Him. And in His mercy, He will once again give me the opportunity to confess, repent, be forgiven & clothed in His righteousness.

It is stupid for me to hate correction, for I know the Father’s discipline is always, ALWAYS motivated by love. Even if a rebuke is delivered through someone who doesn’t articulate it with the most gentle, thoughtful and kind words, I can still receive it in love, because I know it comes from the One whom delights in me!

Proverbs 3:12

For the Lord corrects those he loves,
 just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.

If you want to know God, you must learn about Him.

If you want to learn about Him, you must love discipline.

If you want to love discipline, you must accept correction.

If you want to accept correction, you must be wise.

If you want to be wise, you must be willing to listen to others.

Proverbs 12:15

Fools think their own way is right,
 but the wise listen to others.

Proverbs 12:15

Fools think their own way is right,
 but the wise listen to others.

A New Grip

Hebrews 12:7-13

As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?[a]

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

I STRONGLY dislike exercising. It’s boring and I feel like there’s no purpose in it- AT ALL. As a youngster, I was very physically active playing soccer, softball, basketball and tennis. I had fun. And my purpose was: to WIN! But when I became an adult, those reasons slowly began to fade and over time, my body became increasingly weak.

About a month ago, after running (no pun intended) out of excuses, I began asking God to help me strengthen His house.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

19 Do you not know that your body is a house of God where the Holy Spirit lives? God gave you His Holy Spirit. Now you belong to God. You do not belong to yourselves. 20 God bought you with a great price. So honor God with your body. You belong to Him.

As I waited for a miraculous event to motivate me, I realized that my stubborn child-like will was getting in the way of my progress. As a result, I had to choose to surrender several rooms (unhealthy foods, being comfortable, my time, my desire for a quick fix, etc.) to God and force this mobile home to get MOVING! I also had to lay down my pride and ask others for help during the remodel.

IMG_0134Weeks later, my opinion hasn’t changed much about physical activity. Daily exercise is still not enjoyable for me. As I’ve taken a new grip on my old weights, my muscles continue to throb in pain during -and after my training. But, as I endure this divine discipline, my soul is beginning to understand that it IS good for me. And as His child, I know there WILL be peaceful harvest of right living in my life, IF I continue to honor God with my body.

Run to Win!

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

IMG_0345This past week as I watched our daughter and sons soccer games I became increasingly frustrated with the athletes lack of performance on the field.

As a kid, I was extremely competitive in everything, wanting to win at any cost (my late grandmother had to curtail my emotional outburst on one occasion when I flipped over the board game after realizing I was getting ready to lose!). As a parent, however, I felt it was my duty to be more politically correct when it came to winning and losing. And so, I began buying into the lie that our children should “just have fun.” But this week, a shift in my soul happened. No longer was I willing to settle for a loss. NO. I wanted to win!

IMG_0334Like many of those soccer “players” (and I use the term loosely), I used to be a follower of Jesus who was content to jog along half-heartedly, waiting for someone to pass the ball so I could kick it at random to another player (on mine or the opposing team). But after years of training to be a disciple, The Holy Spirit has developed a passion in my soul to GO make more disciples. When I first stepped onto the field of my calling I did so very tentatively, with little purpose in my running. But now I am beginning to see the eternal prize….

Each day I have the choice to sit in the stands, warm the bench, lollygag around on the field OR play for the prize. So do you. Do you prefer to “just have fun” or do you want to win? I want to WIN!!! So I must remain disciplined in order to keep running, otherwise I might be disqualified from the team.

In Secret

Matthew 6:5-6

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

I began praying in the synagogue (sanctuary) long before I ever started praying in my inner room. Back then, I was plagued with the fear of being exposed or criticized when praying with a small group of people, so I remained silent, content to be a voyeur. Prayer is an intensely intimate conversation with the Creator of the Universe and honestly, I wanted to control how deeply I related to Him- and His children.

After years of being encouraged by church leaders, I finally forced myself to devote some time in my very busy schedule to talk to God and read His Word on my own. I’ll admit, that even though I was submitted to these daily disciplines, I didn’t particularly enjoy them. The desire to want to go away in secret not only to talk to God, but also hear Him speak through His spoken and written Word took years to emerge.

“Jesus did not say- dream about thy Father in secret, but pray to thy Father in secret. Prayer is an effort of will….the great battle in private prayers is the overcoming of mental wool-gathering. We have to discipline our minds and concentrate on willful prayer”

-Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

IMG_4389Almost a decade later, I finally created a space in our master bedroom where I could go away, shut the door, lock it (remember, we have 4 children!!!) and pray to my Father in secret. Since then, that inner room has become a refuge, a safe place for me to pour out my anger, grief, joy, fear, gratitude, frustration, and worship to my Savior. Now, when I get up and get started on my very busy schedule without going there, my soul knows it…. and yearns to retreat back.

Prayer is a lifeline to the heart of the Father. Just as Jake Sully, in the movie Avatar had to learn to “connect” to Eywa (their god), we must learn to be still and connect to the one true God in order to know Him. Otherwise, we’ll never be able to love Him, love others, or go make disciples.

Do you have an inner room? When’s the last time you went there, closed the door and prayed to your Father in secret?