Monday, May 25, 2015

Stitch by Stitch


[Photo of a counted cross-stitch project]

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God
my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.”
—Psalm 25:4

Having spent fifty-plus years of my life in a school setting, I tend to think like both a teacher and a learner. My natural bent toward learning forces me to think in a sequential way about understanding, processing, and retaining knowledge. And, on top of that, my experience as a musician reinforces the notion that learning is longitudinal—over a period of years.

No one has ever received maximum benefit from learning an instrument if they take a lesson every six months and rarely practice. Or, who takes lessons from one teacher for a brief time and then jumps to another teacher. The budding music student must carefully follow the long, slow process in order for learning to progress from foundational to detailed and to become specifically more complicated as time goes by.

How should we study the Scriptures? In the very same way—in a long, slow, sequential manner over many years. The Psalmist in Psalm 1:2 says that the blessed man…

…delights in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Creative teaching with enjoyable methodology produces eager learners who don’t mind the perseverance they need to complete the process.

I note that during Colonial times in America, when, out of necessity, women taught their daughters to sew, the women would have their daughters practice by doing counted cross-stitch patterns with thread and cloth. These patterns taught not only useful stitching, but also taught letters, numbers, and Scripture verses. Such a lengthy project would allow these young girls to concentrate on God’s Word.

I’m not proposing that we all learn to cross-stitch in order to learn God’s Word. But, I am suggesting that each of us find a pleasant way that we have discovered helps us learn the best and use that method to “meditate day and night” on God’s Word.

Most people learn best on one of three ways: visually, aurally, or physically. Something learned in the style best suited to the individual will help him or her retain what he or she intends to learn.

Some learn best by journaling, or in some other way that uses their hands to learn. Others like to listen to God’s Word as they work or exercise. Others learn best reading aloud or quoting scripture as they drive. I’ve known still others who like to paraphrase portions of the Bible to hide the Word deep inside themselves.

Philippians 1:6 tells us that:

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

God, our ever present heavenly Tutor, wants to partner with us as we learn His Word and put it into practice. Stitch by stitch, day by day, He opens His truths to us. Just as children enjoy the process, may we each make time to find the exquisite delights of learning God’s Word all the days of our lives.



Monday, May 18, 2015

Bless You!


[Photo of a woman sneezing]

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that
is within me, bless His Holy name…”
—Psalm 103:1

Recently you may have heard about, or read about, the story of a Tennessee senior high student:

A young girl, who claims she was standing up for her religious beliefs in the classroom, was suspended after breaking a class rule by saying “bless you” after a classmate sneezed.

When Dyer County High School senior Kendra Turner said bless you to her classmate, she says her teacher told her that was for church.

“She said that we’re not going to have godly speaking in her class and that’s when I said we have a constitutional right,” said Turner.

Turner says when she defended her actions, she was told to see an administrator. She says she finished the class period in in-school suspension. 1

Seems rather silly doesn’t it? To punish someone for showing thoughtfulness to a fellow human?

The Bible tells us, from Genesis to Revelation, that God’s character is one of blessing. When He blesses us, we, in turn, should bless others. Passing on God’s blessing does not come out of obligation, but out of a magnanimous heart filled with God-breathed love. He blesses us with health, comforts, truth, light, material goods, friends, family, His Word, and His presence.

If we want to reflect God, our lives should overflow with blessings for others. More than mere words, when we give our blessings to others, such blessings involve kind deeds, gifts, thoughtful remembrances, and delightful surprises of love.

Consider how you might bless others today. Think of something you can do to express Christ’s love to someone else. Remember that when you do, your life displays the goodness and character of God. What a privilege that is, indeed!


1 “Student Reportedly Suspended after saying ‘Bless You’.” WMC-TV, Memphis, TN, August, 20, 2014



Monday, May 11, 2015

The Exchange


[Graphic of Jack and the beanstalk]

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me to …
provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes, the oil of gladness
instead of mourning, and a garment
of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
—Isaiah 61:1, 3

We all remember the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” which began with Jack going to market for his mother to sell their old cow that no longer gave milk. On the way, Jack met a man who sweet-talked him into trading the cow for five “magic” beans. And. you likely remember how that opened Jack up to a whole lot of trouble, including being chased by a giant.

Now, not all of the exchanges we make in our lives end up quite the way that one did. But, as Christians, we have actually entered into an agreement with God that will forever result in an unequal exchange.

Ephesians 2:4 tells us:

Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.

So, the very first unequal exchange God has made with us involves Him giving us life for death.

If we look truthfully at ourselves, we must say that God has given us everything in exchange for our nothingness. Scripture tells us that we have nothing to offer Him in payment for our sin and in exchange for our new life except the gift of ourselves.

As we grow in grace, we realize that God wants to give us His strength in exchange for our weakness, His infinite knowledge for our confusion, His clear vision for our blindness, His health for our hurts, His answers for our questions, His power for our powerlessness.

In the verse quoted at the top, we see that He wants to give us joy for our mourning and a garment of praise for a heaviness we can’t take off ourselves.

Christ has taken our rags of sinfulness from us in exchange for His robe of righteousness. He has exchanged our life of futility for a new life of usefulness and an eternal future with Him. What a terribly lopsided exchange!

When you pray, allow yourself to picture two columns—the first with all your needs, and the second with everything that God can provide you in exchange. May this exercise cause you to thank Him for all He has to give you and exclaim with the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 103:2:

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.



Monday, May 4, 2015

Dirty Windows


[Photo of a kitchen window]

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart
in full assurance of faith having our hearts
sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience
and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
—Hebrews 10:22

After a gray, cold, lifeless winter, I love looking out on a beautiful sunny day in May at the greening trees, the flowers, blue sky, and the new life all around. However, as I look out on the world, I notice that I am peering at this delightful sight through dirty windows.

In the winter darkness and gloom, I didn’t even notice the spots on the glass, which now blatantly stare back at me. What made the difference? I think the desire to take longer looks at the beauty combined with the extra sunshine and lengthening days added up to a new revelation of this untidy predicament.

Can we see our own lives in a similar way? Until the Light of the glory of Christ shines on us by the work of the Holy Spirit, we don’t even see the darkness of sin in our lives—the things that have gotten out of control from inattention. When Jesus taught His disciples about what would happen once He went back to Heaven, He spoke in John 16:7-8 about the Counselor—the Holy Spirit—who would come in His place. Jesus said:

“When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.”

God gave His Holy Spirit to us in order to keep us aware of sin, to help us feel the conviction of our wayward, spotty lives, and to agree with Him about our need for cleansing. King David had greatly sinned against God, and barely noticed, it seems, until the prophet Nathan came to him under God’s direction. The Holy Spirit turned a holy spotlight on his sin, which David could no longer deny. In Psalm 51:7, David cried:

Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Just as we hate looking through dirty windows on a beautiful world, God want us to hate the sin we have to look through when we’re trying to see Him. He waits with His heavenly squeegee to clean us up and renew our vision for Him.

Bring the light of His presence into your life again with a look at the windows of your soul, and ask for His cleansing from all that darkens your view!