Daily Discipleship, Day 4: Acts 24-28

Who doesn’t love book ends?

Bookends are great, and make awesome decorative accents.

Whether they are bookends designed to look like books, or like the “B” bookends my wife and I had for years because that’s our last initial, bookends always come in pairs.

Literary bookends are the same way. They frame what lies between as a clue to the reader what takeaways are important. Continue reading

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Daily Discipleship, Day 3: Acts 20-23

I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
Matthew 10:14

Today is day 3 of a year (or less) through the Bible. For the previous day, click here, and for all previous posts, click here.

Today, I read Acts 20-23. The prevailing thought I had throughout this passage was about how incredibly wise Paul was, and this could really serve us as an example of how to go about our lives.  Continue reading

Whay My Toddler Taught Me About How People Grow

Today was the best kind of Saturday morning. I woke up first and started reading through the Psalms. Our smiley toddler then greeted me before we turned on some Saturday cartoons, all while Mal (and Clara!) had a much needed sleep in.

A recent favorite in our house is Daniel Tiger, a cartoonized homage to Mr. Rodgers’ “Land of Make Believe,” which follows the children of all our favorite childhood puppets. Every episode features a jingle to teach the lesson of the day. In a 20 minute episode, the jingle may play 30 or so times, reinforcing it in the minds of the children. Fred Rodgers’ uncanny ability to step into the mind of a child and relate to the challenges of growing up has found a voice in a new generation.

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A couple of weeks ago, I noticed the influence of the show when Cade showed new resilience and determination on the playground, singing, “If you keep trying, you’ll get better.” Sure enough, he kept trying and made it all the way up the slide. My toddler who almost always gives up on physical tasks too easily, was heartened by Daniel Tiger’s little jingle.

Fast forward back to today, when Daniel Tiger was on, teaching the importance of saying goodbye to fun things, “That was fun but now it’s done.” As the show came to a close, I found myself singing along, when Cade looked at me from across the room and said, “Sometimes that is really hard for me.”

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“What is?” I had clearly overlooked the fact that this may have sunken in.

“Stopping playing when I’m having fun.”

Wow! The simple nature of a truth conveyed and repeated caused our three-year-old to do genuine, real introspective reflection.

While I was marveling at the simplicity and beauty of the moment, Bible in my lap, I realizecd that the Christian devotional life is the same way. Truth conveyed and repeated brings introspective reflection, and then change.

How People Grow

Romans 12:2 says that our patterns of living should be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Ephesians 4:23 says the same thing, then launches into all the ways our “new life” should look different from our “old life.” This is, in fact, the primary theme of Ephesians 4-6, and the difference between the Old and New finds its roots in our minds being renewed. Paul describes non-believers as being “blind, darkened in understanding,” with “hardened and callous hearts,” and that their ignorance (his words, not mine) is the result of being alienated from God.

This sounds harsh in our culture, but I’m just the messenger. Paul is saying that when people process, interpret and think about the world without adequately taking God into account, they are incapable of seeing the world rightly (because God is part of the picture).

We grow when we allow the Holy Spirit (and the writings he inspired) to change our minds and the very processes by which we think about things.

Just like Cade and the repetitive Jingles by Daniel Tiger, this “renewal of mind” only happens through frequent exposure to the Word. We see themes pop up over and over. Truth conveyed and repeated brings reflection and change. Faced with the same truth over and over again, we are forced into either obedience or obstinance, stubbornness or submission.

If you are depending on your pastor’s weekly sermon to transform your life, you will likely be sorely disappointed; even the most gifted communicator cannot give you the kind of pure exposure to God’s Word that we get when we set aside time every day to read it for ourselves. Likewise, devotional books are okay, but they offer a verse of Scripture and a lot of someone’s ramblings.

Calling “devotional” reading, “Bible Study,” is like calling Capri Sun “fruit juice.” It may contain traces of the genuine, but it doesn’t compare to squeezing your own oranges and relishing in the orchard-fresh real deal.

I leave this reflection about growth, minds transformed by repetitive exposure to the Word, and obedience, with the very text I was reading as this Saturday Morning scene transpired. Here is Psalm 19, starting in v. 7:

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
The Testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8 The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether;
10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his [own] errors?
Declare me innocent from [my own] hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servants also from presumptuous sins,
Let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer

David knew he would not be able to pray for, or even be aware of, every sin he would commit. He prayed for the Lord’s word, and wisdom, and precepts, and commandment, to keep him from “presumptuous sins.” Through this process, his actions changed (“the words of my mouth”), but also his character and his desires (“the meditation of my heart.”)

Truth conveyed and repeated brings reflection and change.

May our attitude be David’s in verses 7-11, and our prayer be verses 12-14.

NickSig

Heaven IS For Real! (but not because a Toddler says so!)

With the release of a movie recently, many, many people are talking about Heaven. That’s a good thing, right?

Maybe.

Heaven Is For Real, a movie produced by mega-church pastor TD Jakes, and a book about a 4-year-old view who allegedly “visited Heaven” when he died on an operating table, has taken the nation by storm. Over and over, I have the same conversation. Someone will know that I’m a pastor and so must LOVE this enterprise, says, “I saw Heaven Is For Real last night. SUCH a good movie! I totally believe it!”

Then my face, which I imagine looks a bit like a boy being pinned down by his older sister and her friends for a “makeover,” launches us into a different discussion. Continue reading

The Creative Creator

We just got back from vacation. While we were in North Carolina, I was up early enough every morning to head out to the beach and have some time in the Word and in prayer and watch the sunrise.

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It was just breathtaking.

One day in particular I started to just really ponder the grandeur of it all.

I watched the sunrise and considered the beautiful sunrise. The light was brilliant — so much so that you can’t watch it for more than a few seconds. The colors it cast across the sky can’t be described, nor can they be duplicated. But the sun’s beauty barely shed a light on its overall greatness; the sheer size of the Sun and how far away we really are from it left me speechless. Zoom out to the size of the galaxy, the size of the universe, and we are really…really…small.

Then I turned my attention to the waves coming in on the surf. Over and over, they just kept coming in. Water is the most powerful force on the planet. It cannot be reckoned with. You cannot compress it. Water wins every time.

It would be really easy to see the vastness of the universe or the brilliance of the sun’s light and walk away thinking about the greatness of the sun. It would be very easy to see the waves and the energy they possess and just be left speechless, driven to only speak of the sea if I can do it justice.

But even as great as the waves and the sea are, they are only created things. Which means there is a creator even bigger, and even greater than these things. And while we create things by toiling and laboring, by making countless revisions and continually perfecting, this Creator, the God of the Bible —

spoke.

And all these things just became. That. Is. Power.

And it is tempting, because of what we can easily see, to marvel at the grandness of the Grand Canyon, or the greatness of the Great Barrier Reef, or the height of the highest mountains. It is easy to praise what we see and neglect worship for the one who is unseen and yet created it all.

Paul writes the following to the Romans:

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. . . 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.Amen.

God has painted his image all through nature. The reason he gave us the spectacle of the sunrise is to see it and worship him for creating it! The reason he gave us the oceans is to observe his omnipotence!

We have to be sure that when we stand before breathtaking scenery, we don’t stop at worshiping created things, but go beyond to worshiping the creator himself.

It’s the difference of “Wow, that sunrise is great!” and “Wow, the God that created that sunrise is great!”

What is the most beautiful thing that you’ve ever seen?