The Two Chapter Test

Whenever my children were assigned a book to read for school, I avoided arguments about whether or not they had to by implementing what I called The Two Chapter Test.

The Two Chapter Test was simple. Whenever I required a book be to read, they could not argue with me about it until they had read two chapters. Then (and only then) would I engage in a discussion about why they should or shouldn’t have to read that particular book. If their reasoning was sound (and I could justify using another resource) we would use something else.

The usual result of The Two Chapter Test was that they read the whole book without complaint. Once they had given it a chance, they were hooked.

You are probably expecting me to tell you to give the Bible The Two Chapter Test so I’ll pause here to suggest you do just that every day–give the Bible The Two Chapter (or Section or Verse) Test. See if it doesn’t leave you wanting more.

As valuable as The Two Chapter (or Section or Verse) Test may be to kick start your Bible study journey, the lesson I have recently learned is how this test applies to all areas of my life–ministry, work, fitness, homemaking, etc.

One of my children recently took a job that requires them to be away from home for the majority of the next five months. After their first day, I received a text at 1:38 am. They were convinced they had made a mistake and wanted to go home. Twenty minutes later, after telling them not to make any decision in the middle of the night and to call in the morning, I headed back to bed. When they called several hours later, Tim and I reminded them of The Two Chapter Test and encouraged them to wait until the end of the week before making any decisions–to give it the equivalent of The Two Chapter Test. Two days later they apologized for their frantic middle-of-the-night texting and said they were enjoying themselves and wanted to stay.

I realize now that I’ve approached most of life that way. Homeschooling is a prime example of how this has worked in my life. I never said I would homeschool four children all the way through (25-30 years is a long commitment). I didn’t want to read that particular “book.” I always said that we would homeschool “this year” and think about “next year”–my Two Chapter Test. Each year I would say the same thing until, before I knew it, I was finished. Once I jumped in and tried it, I just kept going until that part of my journey (the book) was done.

There have been many times when I didn’t want to do something, but once I started, I just kept going. Once I tried it, I even enjoyed the experience as a whole (not that their weren’t challenging parts to get through on occasion).

So on this life journey, I encourage you to take up the challenge currently before you and give it The Two Chapter Test. See what happens!

 

Have you ever given a life project the equivalent of The Two Chapter Test?
What happened?

Are you being led to a Two Chapter Test now?

Do you have a favorite verse that would help someone who needs to jump into a project?

The Mundane

How does God use you in the daily, normal activity of your life?

Teaching Sunday school for three-year-olds or third graders, leading Bible studies at church or home, taking a meal to someone who lost a loved one or who is homebound, caring for a sick child or talking with the kids in your carpool, and sharing Christ with a co-worker or neighbor are all important. Such activities may not be as sensational as being a nationally recognized author or speaker, but they are just as much a part of God’s plan. They show the face of God to those around us. They are important—eternally significant.

What do we learn about the work we do for God in the following passages? (Look up at least 2.)

1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Galatians 6:9-10

Ephesians 5:8b-9

Colossians 3:23-24

God has blessed His children with a variety of gifts, service, and activities. Regardless of what our gifts are, we are empowered to use them by God Himself. When we are tired, frustrated, or burned out, we are to resist the urge to give up. We are to hold on because we know that a reward, an inheritance, awaits us. We are to do whatever is good, right, and true whenever we have an opportunity. We are to do it all whole-heartedly because we are serving the risen Christ.

The mundane becomes holy when it is done for God.

The mundane becomes holy when it is done for God. Even Jesus, the King of Kings, performed the lowly task of washing the disciples’ feet. If washing feet is the work we are expected to do then wash feet we must. Whatever God has for us to do, it is significant.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded that our work matters and that whatever we do we do it empowered by God. Regardless of how you might feel about the work before you, don’t waste time. God has given you a gift, a service to fulfill, and an activity to perform. He will empower you to do what He has called you to do. Resist the urge to give up. There is an inheritance waiting for you.

Whenever the opportunity to do things that are good, right, and true presents itself, seize it! Give yourself wholeheartedly to the task. Any task God asks you to do is significant!

Any task God asks you to do is significant!

 

(This post is adapted from Elijah: Lessons on God and Godly Living from One Flawed Human to Another by Trisha L. Knaul.)

How does God use you in the daily, normal activity of your life?

Do you struggle to believe that the things you do on a daily basis really matter?

Do you have any additional insights from the passages you read?

Easter 2018

Do not be afraid,
for I know that you are looking for Jesus,
who was crucified.

He is not here,
he has risen,
just as he said.
(Matthew 28:5-6)

Don’t be alarmed…
You are looking for Jesus,
the Nazarene, who was crucified.
He has risen!
(Mark 16:6)

Why do you look for the living
among the dead?
He is not here;
he has risen!
(Luke 24:6)

I have seen the Lord!
(John 20:18)

It is true!
The Lord has risen…
(Luke 24:34)

We have seen the Lord!
(John 20:25)

Why are you troubled,
and why do doubts rise in your minds?
Look at my hands and my feet.
It is I myself!
(Luke 24:39)

…blessed are those who have not seen
and yet have believed.
(John 20:29)

 

 

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™ 

Darkness Falls

Last Supper.

Garden Prayer.

Betrayal.

Arrest.

Mocked.

Beaten.

Spit on.

Insulted.

Denial.

Trial.

False accusations.

Questions.

Ridicule.

Not guilty.

Crucify him!

Stripped.

Scarlet robe.

Crown of thorns.

Mocked.

Stripped.

Beaten.

Burden of the cross.

Place of the Skull.

Hands pierced with nails.

Feet pierced with nails.

Slowly dying.

Agony.

King of the Jews.

Cursed.

Defended.

Forgave.

Forsaken.

Broken-hearted.

Breathless.

Dead.

3 hours of darkness.

Earthquake.

Temple curtain torn.

Acknowledged.

Side pierced.

Blood poured out.

Legs broken.

Buried.

Night comes.

Darkness falls.

My House Is a Mess

Is your life mess free? Mine isn’t. Have you ever tried to find joy in the midst of a mess? Difficult, isn’t it?

I’d like to give you a glimpse of a season of actual, physical mess in my life. I wrote  this shortly before biblestudyjourney.com launched. One day in late October 2017:

My house is a mess, and I’m sitting with a cup of tea, staring out the window and trying to convince myself to enjoy the journey.

My house is a mess. There are boxes behind the love seat in my living room, piles of wood flooring and tools against the dining room wall, piles of clothes and bedding in the spare room, larger furniture items in the basement, carpet partially pulled loose from the family room floor, and bare sub-flooring in the upstairs hall.

My house is a mess. The project planned for one room grew to include 5 more. The project that we expected to take a few days has turned into months. In addition to the mess, business trips, vacations, conference, retreat, and publisher appointments have all interfered with writing goals and website development.

My house is a mess. My desk and bookshelves are back in the office (a.k.a. the third bedroom) waiting to receive the contents of those boxes stacked haphazardly behind me. They have to wait. This website launches in a few days. I don’t have time to unpack boxes. My house is a mess; yet, I’m drinking tea and staring out the window.

My house is a mess. I’m sitting here because my head is tired. I need a break from my computer. I’m sitting here because working on the house is frustrating me since there’s so much to do and so much I can’t do yet, and it is lower on my to-do list than this website launch. My house is a mess. Yet, I sit, sip, and stare… And tell myself to enjoy the journey.

When I was in high school, I went backpacking in the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico. It was a difficult journey, but what fun! And what beauty! Majestic mountains and fantastic views. Lush valleys and lazy creeks. Not to mention the things I got to do: rock climbing and repelling, horseback riding, panning for gold, climbing a telephone pole, making friends, meeting challenges, and conquering fears. That journey was difficult, but full of fun and memories and growth.

So I’ll sit, sip, and stare while I look back at the past six months and remember the challenges and the fun. Most of all, I’ll take time to thank God for the things I’ve learned and the help He’s given. Sometimes in the midst of a mess, you just have to sit with your feet up, sip your tea, and stare out the window while you remember to enjoy the journey!

(In case you were wondering, my floors are still not done, but I have hope!)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

∼Philippians 4:4

What’s your current mess?
What can you enjoy (or thank God for) in the midst of that mess?

 

[Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™]

Dear Child

Dear Child

I love you!
Don’t ever forget:
I love you.

Nothing you do
(or don’t do)
Can change that.
I love you.

You will make poor choices.
You will mess up.
And, yes, you will sin.
Through it all,
I will love you.

You will (and have) hurt me,
By accident and on purpose.
Still, I love you.

Every decision you make will have consequences.
Good. Bad.
Relationships will be affected.
For good or bad.
I love you.

Sin. Shame. Denial.
Pride. Hardness.
Walls go up.
From the other side,
I will love you.

You may try to hide it,
But I know you.
The bad will boil inside
Until you either
Harden your heart
Or ask forgiveness.
Ask forgiveness.
Regardless of which you choose,
I love you.

I would give my life to save you.
My greatest wish is to see you walk with God.
Forever.
I love you that much.

But…

God loves you more!

I carried you for 9 months.
I love you.
But…
God created you.
God loves you more.

I raised you.
I love you.
But…
God made you who you are.
God loves you more.

You mess up.
Unintentionally.
Intentionally.
And, yes, you sin.
You hurt God.
You break His heart.
Still, God loves you.

You may try to hide your sin.
From me.
From others.
From God.
Even from yourself.
But He sees it.
In spite of what He sees,
God loves you.

Sin. Shame. Denial.
Pride. Hardness.
Walls go up.

From the other side,
God loves you.

I would give my life for you.
He would sacrifice
His only Son for you.
(I wouldn’t. But He did.)
God loves you.

He waits patiently
When you spit in His face,
And God loves you anyway.

I long for you to love God.
Open your eyes.
See God.
God loves you.

Do not harden your heart.
Confess.
Repent.
Accept.
Renew.
Live.

I love you,
But…

GOD LOVES YOU MORE.

GOD NOD

A God Nod is that moment when we realize God is giving us confirmation for a question, project, or plan we have been considering.

I was recently trying to make a particularly difficult decision. After praying for several days, I wrote a list of pros and cons. Then, I began to ask myself deeper questions about motivation, desire, and self. Deciding to take a short break, I walked to the mailbox and discovered an item that seemed to confirm the project. I received what I call a God Nod.

How do we know when we are receiving a genuine God Nod?

  • First, and most importantly, it does NOT contradict God’s written word. God will NEVER tell us it is okay to do something He has already declared wrong.
  • Second, we have prayed about it. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to know what someone wants if we don’t ask them. Enlist others to pray about it with us.
  • Third, we have analyzed the situation. Do we know the earthly wisdom and the biblical advice on the subject? Seek advice from others.
  • Fourth, we have made a list of the things we think are confirmation AND the things that look like caution or stop signs. When we compare the lists, does it still look like confirmation?
  • Finally, how do we feel about it? While decisions should not be made on an emotional basis alone, emotion can be an indicator of the desires of our heart or the prompting of the Spirit. Analyze those feelings.

After we’ve looked at God’s Word, the facts, the apparent confirmation, any caution or stop signs, and analyzed any emotional reaction, we should be able to see when God is giving His approval. We can accept the God Nod and move forward with confidence!

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

– James 1:5

 

 

[Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™]

Active Patience

Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow–that is patience. ∼Leo Tolstoy

Sometimes our journey with God is hard. Sometimes it seems as though we’ve struggled forever only to look around and discover we’ve barely moved. We need to look up ahead and focus on our future hope, and look beside us at the One who is there to help us. Then, we will be able to take the next step. And the next. And the next. Until we find ourselves at our destination.

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
∼2 Thessalonians 3:5

 

2018 New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions because I don’t keep them. That does not mean I don’t need to make changes. I am not perfect. Although I have not set official New Year’s resolutions for several years, I am always setting goals for myself. Maybe this year I should turn those goals into resolutions and invite you to join me. Our goals (a.k.a. New Year’s Resolutions) for 2017 will look something like this:

  • I resolve to thank God often for making me a new creation through Jesus.
    (2 Corinthians 5:17)
    Christ came so that we could become new and improved.
  • I resolve to put off my old ways and to put on my new self—to act like the new creation I am.
    (Ephesians 4:22-24)
    This is not something that is forced upon us. We must resolve to put off our old selves and to put on a new self created in the likeness of God’s righteousness and holiness—the new and improved self. We must choose—resolve—to become new. This is the most important resolution we will ever make. I might want to lose weight, but until I choose to do it the weight won’t come off. I have to resolve to do it.
  • I resolve to embrace the new heart and new spirit God gave me.
    (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
    Our new God-given heart and spirit will help us to desire, recognize, and follow His Spirit. Just as a personal trainer helps me stay focused on my fitness goals, the Spirit of God within us will help us keep our resolution to put on a new self.
  • I resolve to follow God’s new command to love others.
    (John 13:34-35)
    Under this new covenant the commandments are thrown into a hat and stirred around; then, God puts in his hand and draws out a single word to summarize their essence—LOVE. We are commanded to have a deeper level of love in our lives as new creations. A love that will cause people to recognize the influence of Christ.
  • I resolve to keep my eyes focused on the new heaven and new earth where Righteousness Himself dwells.
    (2 Peter 3:13)
    Whenever we become frustrated or feel hope slipping away, we are to turn our eyes to eternity and refocus on what will be—a new heaven and a new earth where Righteousness lives.
  • I resolve to seek daily renewal in knowledge so that my life may reflect my Creator, in strength so that I may soar even during difficult times, and in mind so that I may discern God’s will.
    (2 Corinthians 4:16)
    Just as silver will tarnish if it is not polished every day, our newness can become dulled by life if we do not renew ourselves daily. This daily renewal can take several forms. First, our knowledge of the Creator is being continually renewed as we study and meditate on His word. (Colossians 3:9-10) And this knowledge reflects to others the image of the Creator. We need to daily grow in our knowledge of God in order to accurately reflect His image. Second, when we are waiting on (serving) the Lord, our strength for each day will also be renewed. (Isaiah 40:28-31) Finally, another area where we experience renewal is our minds. (Romans 12:2) As we put off our old selves and put on the new, we are transformed—our minds are renewed. We can think clearly—looking at God’s will with new eyes.
  • I resolve to testify to what God has done by singing the new song He placed in my heart.
    (Psalm 40:2-3)
    When we leave our old selves behind, we have a lot to sing about! You had better believe that if I reach my fitness goals, I will be singing the praises of my trainer. How much more should we sing the praises of Him who helps us become new creations? When we sing praises to God, others will see what He has done—our new song is a witness or testimony to God. God gives us a reason to sing. We need to sing our new song so others can see Him.

These resolutions are great, but they are only attainable because of Jesus. Something new has a price tag attached. The price of our newness was the blood of Christ. We prefer new over used in every other area of our lives. Why settle for anything less than the newness purchased as a gift by Christ? Why not join me in reaching for these 2017 New Year’s Resolutions?

 

Father,
Thank you for making us new creations through Jesus. Help us, Lord, in our resolve to put on our new selves—to act like the new creations you have made us. Thank you for the new heart and spirit you have placed within us. Father, when life wears us down, help us focus our eyes on the promise of a new heaven and a new earth where Your Righteousness lives. Renew us in knowledge as we daily meditate upon your word so that our lives reflect Your image. During difficult times, renew our strength so that we may soar above our circumstances. Renew our minds each day to recognize You and Your will. And, Lord, as we go through our days, may we each love others deeply, and may we each sing our new songs so that others will see You. Lord, thank You for making us new in Christ Jesus.
Amen.