March 18: Big and Small Opportunities

Read Luke 10:1-24

For the past few weeks we’ve been focusing on the truth that small choices can make big impact. As we end our journey, we turn our attention to Luke 10.

It begins with a monumental day in the lives of the disciples and the ministry of Jesus.  This day was one towards which the Lord had been looking from the time He had chosen the disciples. He had chosen them, you see, not only to spend time with them, but also that He might “. . . send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mk. 3:14, 15 NIV). Their commissioning for ministry had always been part of His plan. In many ways, it was for this day that He had prepared them. He had long modeled what they were about to do. And so, with some last minute instruction, He sent them out two by two.

You too have been chosen with a purpose. God has selected you with good works of ministry in mind (Eph. 2:10). And when you choose to respond to even the smallest of those opportunities you can expect two of the same results experienced by those He sent out in Luke 10.

  1. Your small choice to obey and follow Him in ministry can bless others. As the disciples returned, they reported of how demons had departed from people, who had once been plagued by these tormenting spirits (v. 17b). Many people walked in freedom as a result of their obedience. Lives of men and women were transformed because of their efforts. When you become a conduit through which God works others are helped!
  1. Your choice to follow Jesus in ministry can strengthen your joy and faith in Him! The seventy returned with a sense of happy marvel at the idea that they had been used. They had experienced the reality of God working through them and it thrilled them. The pivotal circumstances that enabled them to serve Christ touched a faith nerve in them that could not be fully sensitized by theory or verbal instruction. And the same can happen for you. You will find an obedient response to even the seemingly small opportunities God affords you to be a key catalyst to growing your faith.

What is one small way you can choose to follow Him into an opportunity He’s given you?

sbk

March 17: Small Choices

Read Joshua 24:1-33

Joshua had long been a part of the Israelite story. He had been part of both the Exodus from Egypt as well as the conquest of the land God had promised His people.

In these, his final recorded words, He took God’s people on a verbal tour of God’s faithful provision in the midst of pivotal circumstances. Among those circumstances were God’s selection and leading of Abraham, His faithfulness to Isaac and Jacob, His deliverance from Egypt through plagues, His rescues at the Red Sea, His provision of victory over the “…ites” (Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites, and Jebusites), and His gift of fruitful land and pre-built cities. To be sure, God had been faithful in the big and the little of their lives.

Have you ever reflected on circumstances of your life? What were some of the highest highs? How about the lowest lows? Can you identify God’s faithful provision along the way? Isn’t it a joy to reflect on those times where He has proven Himself?

Chances are, there may still be question marks over other circumstances. There may still be situations where you are unable to understand God’s plan and purpose. It just isn’t easy to trace. Be careful as you respond to those circumstances. They are pivotal. Your response can either catalyze increased faith and deeper loyalty or growing doubt and a wavering commitment. Small choices often yield big consequences.

In many ways, we are faced daily with the decision that Joshua invited in verse 15:

“. . . choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Even though you may have made the decision to faithfully follow and exclusively serve the Lord twenty years ago, or last year, or even yesterday, there is still today and the need to make small choices today. The pivotal, and perhaps inexplicable, circumstances of today will require that conscious decision whereby you join in with Joshua and say, “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!”

sbk

March 16: The Habit of Servanthood

Read Luke 8

I have this thing with shopping carts. Every time I see one outside its corral in a parking, I face a self-imposed dilemma of sorts. Should I help out the future drivers who will enter this parking lot, or should I leave it for someone else to put away? Somehow in my mind it’s become a symbol of servanthood for me. As if that’s where the habit of servanthood is nurtured. In the small, unnoticed choices.

The truth is, the habit of servanthood grows when we choose to serve Jesus even when nobody notices. It’s the tiny choices like moving a shopping cart to its rightful place. Like the choice Jesus made to look a woman, shamed and bloody, straight in the eye and speak peace, bring healing. Like the decision Jesus made to follow Jairus to his daughter. It led to her new life, as well as to that woman’s healing.

Even His decision to cross the lake in the face of a storm furthered Jesus’ ministry of service. That crossing alone brought whole new levels of understanding and peace to the disciples. It also gave a chance for an entirely new life for the man called Legion because of the many demons who tormented him and gave an entire city the opportunity to hear the Good News about Him.

Each choice led to big impact. Each time, Jesus chose to serve because that was what He came to do.

He came to serve the woman whose hurt ran deep, the disciples whose faith would one day spread the Good News of the Gospel from Jerusalem to Samaria and then the whole world, the man they used to call Legion whose wholeness and sanity spoke of Jesus compassion and healing and led to the whole city hearing it.

We have the same kinds of choices to make every day as well. The choice to serve as Jesus did, to love and trust and know He is using us, or the decision to go our own way, ignore His nudges and serve ourselves.

What choices will you make today that will impact tomorrow? Next year? Eternity?

brw

 

March 15: Seeking Jesus as a Habit

Read Luke 10:38-42 and John 12:1-8

Three times we read about her in the Gospels. Mary, the one who’s sister knows how to host a good party and who’s brother died and then came out of the grave when Jesus called.

The first time we find her, she’s ignoring her sister’s scrambling to get dinner on the table and the centerpieces all perfectly centered, probably ready to light the candles. All the while Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet soaking in His awesomeness, enamored, I imagine, with all that He is.

The next time it’s not so joyful. In fact, it’s downright horrible. Mary’s brother has died even though she and her sister had given Jesus plenty of time to come and heal him. They’d sent word and told Him their brother was sick because they knew He could heal him from whatever sickness knocked him down.

She refuses to go and see Him when He finally arrives. But when she hears that Jesus has asked for her, she takes off running, weeping, falling. And she lands at Jesus’ feet before we read the shortest verse in all the Word of God.

“Jesus wept” (Jn. 11:35).

The third time we find this same Mary in Scripture, you might guess where she is. Crashing her brother’s I-was-dead-and-I’m-alive-again-because-of-Jesus party, Mary enters the house with the most expensive thing she owns – perfume that cost what might amount to around $44,000 today – and she pours it all over Jesus. His feet, in particular. Then she takes her long beautiful hair, and she wipes Jesus’ feet.

In fact, every time we read about Mary, she is at Jesus’ feet.

You might call it a habit, this being at Jesus’ feet thing. A habit formed out of pure and utter adoration. You see, Mary knew Jesus, loved Him so deeply that everything in her wanted only to know Him more.

She knew His love, saw His life, experienced His healing. She’d known His friendship and companionship, His acceptance and His sense of humor. Mary knew Jesus so well that she would have spent every waking moment in search of more of Him.

Her love for Jesus was the basis for her habit of seeking God. Have made seeking Him your habit? Do you love Him like Mary did, willing to do whatever it takes to find more of Him?

brw

March 14: Delayed Gratification

Read Psalm 37

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia defines delayed gratification as the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward.

It states, “Generally, delayed gratification is associated with resisting a smaller but more immediate reward in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later.”

I was first introduced to the idea of delayed gratification as a teenager. Particularly in the context of saving sex for marriage. But really, doesn’t it apply to everything about the life Jesus called us to? The holy living He demands of us now and the hope of His amazing and eternal future in heaven with Him.

When we think of the Christian life, it makes sense to consider the truth of delayed gratification. Delighting in the Lord, holding fast to Him as our security. This will bring real life in the end. This is the step. The every next step is right there in front of us. Always.

Delight ourselves in the One who will always be there.

But it’s so easy to lose our focus, especially when it looks like He forgot about us.

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” (v. 7).

Still, He will come through. He promised.

“The steps of good men are directed by the Lord. He delights in each step they take. If they fall, it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with his hand” (vv. 23-24, TLB).

The choice to wait for what is best or settle for what might make us smile for a moment sometimes feels like an insignificant decision. Like when I spend my family’s out-to-eat budget on a few lunches out for myself and have nothing left for a nice dinner with my family.

Maybe it’s the choice to eat a granola bar instead of some strawberries. Or to laze around and watch TV instead of going for a walk. Those choices on their own are fine. But the same small choices over time can lead to big health problems.

The same is true spiritually. When we make the daily choice to seek God and delight in Him, even in small ways, eventually we find deep intimacy with our Father, true life the way He intended.

brw

March 13: Small Steps With God

Read Galatians 5

They are fourteen words that lead to every next small step.

“Since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit” (v25).

A mile is not a mile but for the 5,280 steps (or more if you’re short like me). A marathon is not a marathon but for the 138,435 steps it takes to get to that finish line. A life lived in the Spirit is not that but for the tiny steps of trust. One after the other. One small choice to follow His way followed by another. Then another.

And that is the walking.

But how do we know where He wants us to step? The answer is right there in verse 25. The Greek word translated “keep in step” comes from the same word that means to walk in cadence. As in, keep up with the group by stepping. Can you hear the army soldiers as they step to the beat they are calling out?

Left — Left — Left – Right – Left —

So we keep up with the Spirit as He calls out the cadence for our lives and for our walk. It sounds like small steps in the form of little choices. The choice to read the Bible with your children before turning on the television for the evening. The decision to succumb to the little voice that tells you to mention Jesus to the clerk at Walmart when she wonders at your honesty. The choice to smile at that driver who just sped up to cut right in front of you before the lane ended instead of yelling loudly and gesturing extremely.

Each one is a small choice. Every choice one tiny step. But step after step turns into a walk. That’s the thing about walking. It’s just a bunch of steps. So when the Holy Spirit nudges with that small voice, and we take that step, we learn to hear His cadence.

And we keep in step.

brw

 

 

March 12: Small Choice, Great Harvest

Read Proverbs 20

Friday nights were our undeclared, unofficial family movie night when our kids were little. Every week, my youngest daughter and I would visit the library and find a video all of us could watch, and possibly even enjoy together.

So when my kids’ friend showed up at the back door asking to play, I assumed he would not stay long. As I prepared for the evening, I dreamt of lounging around in my pj’s, eating warmed-up leftovers in front of a new-to-us Disney movie.

As dinnertime drew near, however, the friend remained. And as my desire to send him home grew stronger, his delight in the warmth of our home became increasingly apparent. So I stated it was dinnertime, expecting him to actually hear, “It’s time for you to go home.”

He apparently heard something entirely different. His reply: “Oh good, I’m hungry!”

Looking to my husband as an obvious ally, my eyes spoke clearly of my disdain for the idea. He didn’t hear them. (My eyes, that is.) So he said, “Good idea, why doesn’t he stay for dinner?”

I wish I could say that by the time dinner was ready, I was excited to plant a seed in this boy for who’s family I had prayed for almost two years. One small choice to share dinner might have served one great big purpose in the life of this young boy.

God’s plan had me reading through Proverbs 20 later that evening.

 “If you are too lazy to plow in the right season, you will have no food at the harvest” (v4, NLT).

The hard truth is, when we make small choices to practice habits of hospitality, to plant seeds of love we will reap a harvest.

The small choice to invite a neighbor to dinner led seeds being planted in him and in each one of my daughters that evening. Seeds of Jesus’ love and how He shares it. Seeds of welcoming and warm hospitality that says, you are welcome here anytime. And when you’re here, you will always feel loved.

What seeds do your small choices plant? Do they have the potential of reaping a harvest, or are they more likely to lead to tumbleweed growth that blows away at the first breath of harvest-time?

brw

March 11: One Little Habit

Read Psalm 119:1-32

I recently saw something suggesting that if I were to read one hour a day in any chosen field, it would make me an international expert on that subject. It got me thinking. What if my “chosen field” were the Bible? What if every one of us chose to read the Bible for one hour a day? Would that make us international experts on the Word of God?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Would it change our world? Without a doubt.

In Psalm 119, we find a man who knew the Word of God so well, all he could do was boast of its amazingness. All he could do was claim the power of God’s Word for his life.

“(G)ive me life according to your word! (S)trengthen me according to your word!” (vv. 25, 28).

It’s how he could proclaim, “My hope is in your rules” (v43). And “(Y)our promise gives me life” (v50).

The Word of God changes the reader so he sees the things of life as they really are – God’s sovereign provision and way. It changes reactions. The Word of God brings not just understanding, but wisdom. It doesn’t just clarify our purpose, it transforms it. It not only sharpens discernment, it delivers wisdom.

God’s thoughts divinely, supernaturally revealed, His Word is active and useful for big stuff and little. The daily grind and the life-changing choices. Daily time with God’s Word is essential for real life. Not just because it’s what “good Christians” do, but because it’s how God works, how He leads, how He directs.

Read through Psalm 119 and wonder at the excitement of the Psalmist. His enthusiasm for the Law. (And really that is what he had at the time – the Law! Not even the Psalms or the Gospels or any of Paul’s letters were considered Scripture at that time.) It’s impossible to miss the delight this man had for the Word of God.

His delight wasn’t just because he was awesome or extra-spiritual. In fact, I believe the Psalmist yearned for God’s Word so truly because he knew how much he needed it and how it really served to bring life to his living. I believe he knew how much he needed it because of the time he spent studying it. Because of the every day choices he made to spend time learning and living God’s Word.

Those are the choices we have before us as well. We can spend regular time learning His Word, studying it, knowing Him now so that one day we can say with the Psalmist, “My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times” (v20).

brw

 

March 10: One Little Step

Read Joshua 3

The land was theirs to be had. There was just one thing — they were on the wrong side of the Jordan River. And it stood at flood level.

The Israelites had heard the land belonged to them. The Land of Promise was theirs for the taking. Their lives were about to change forever. God had promised. And when God makes a promise, it’s as good as done. Still, the fact remained that they had yet to set foot on that land. But someone had to take the first step. The choice to step out in trust was really all that stood between the Israelites and the Promised Land.

The Israelites knew exactly what to expect, but when it came time to put feet to their faith, I have to wonder how it felt. Were they afraid?

They didn’t know how long that heaped-up water wall would hold. Did moms and dads regret not enrolling little Levi in swimming lessons last summer? Did the women lay awake that night thinking through the logistics of getting each one of their children safely across the flood-level Jordan in time?

Sure, they knew “the LORD (would) do amazing things among (them)” when they set out to cross the river, but did the lack of details frighten them?

Maybe you can relate. God has called you to follow Him. He’s given you instructions in His Word and support to help you do what He asks. Still, there are so many unknowns. The particulars are not spelled out, and maybe that’s scary for you. That one small step, the choice to nurture the habit of trust, stands between where you are now and the life God has for you.

Here’s the thing about the Israelites: the miracle didn’t happen until they took that small step into the water. They didn’t get to see the miraculous hand of God hold back the water until they actually stepped into the river. Those first few steps were probably among the most courageous those men ever took.

What miracles might you be missing for lack of courage to trust that God will provide what you need to do the things He asks? It takes courage to believe that He will use us to bring honor to His name. But if we don’t take those first few steps, we just might miss the miracle that He’s waiting to unleash.

brw

March 9: A Prayer for Today and Tomorrow and . . .

Read Psalm 19:1-14

Although many question the existence of God, David points to two clear ways through which God has revealed Himself.

  1. God reveals Himself in general ways through creation (vv. 1-6). Although the created world lacks a literal voice with which to speak, David personifies it, pointing out that the message of creation spans all languages. It declares clearly the glory and the power of God to all (cf. Rom. 1:18ff). As a result, all are accountable to Him. No one can use the excuse that God did not reveal Himself to him/her.
  2. God reveals Himself in special ways through the Bible (vv. 7-14). The inspired words of the Scriptures revive, make wise, cause rejoicing, and enlighten the listener. They serve as both a warning and a promise that keeping them will result in reward. No wonder David expresses their value in terms that money cannot buy. With the special revelation of the Word of God comes increased accountability for all who have access to it.

David closes the chapter in prayer . . . a prayer that should be close to the heart of each person who understands the multiplied responsibility that is ours because of His revelation.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (v. 14).

This prayer draws attention to the two themes we have addressed here in the last two weeks: thoughts and words. Though you may argue that no one is aware of your thoughts or that words are insignificant, in reality, both have a huge impact on the person you are and the people with whom you have contact. And both are of great interest to God.

Is it your genuine desire to please Him in those areas? Enough to internalize and apply the principles we have looked at over the last days? Enough to make this prayer your prayer in the days ahead? Pause now to express the words of verse 14 to the Lord, your Rock and your Redeemer.

sbk