Keep On Milking!

When you got up this morning one of the first thoughts on your mind about the day was probably the work that needed to be done. Whether you were heading out to the workforce, or are a homemaker staying home today, you have work to do. No matter how hard you worked yesterday, there is more to do today. Perhaps you can relate to the farmer that said, “The hardest thing about milking cows, is that they never stay milked.” Furniture doesn’t stay dusted, dishes don’t stay clean, floors don’t remain washed, emails don’t stay answered, classrooms don’t stay taught… In other words, there is always work to do.

As I was reading in Genesis 24 this week I read the story of Abraham’s servant going to find a wife for Isaac. We read the servant’s prayer that begins in verse 13, “Behold I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water.” Isn’t it interesting that when seeking a wife for his servant’s son, he didn’t go to the park and look for some sweet soft female leisurely relaxing on a swing? He went to the well where the women came to get the water they needed for their families. This was hard work! He must have realized that the woman that married Isaac would be a crown (Proverbs 12:4) to him partly by being a hard worker.

We are exhorted in Ecclesiastes 9:10, Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do with all thy might. In verse 67 of Genesis 24 we read that “Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah and she became his wife; and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” Do you think she could have been a comfort to him if she grumbled while she swept the tent or fussed over having to grind the wheat again? I believe because of what we’ve already learned of Rebekah, she probably did her work with creativity and a right attitude. She brought joy to her husband.

How are you going after the work you’ve been called to do today? It is your called placed, so even if you’re out there “milking the cows again,” you are doing the will of God as much as any missionary or pastor working in their ministry because God loves hard work! Your work is not insignificant. Be creative and industrious! You are honoring the One who created work when you do it with all your might! Be a blessing to those who benefit from your work. Keep on milking!

Love Letters

I have boxes in my basement full of letters that I received from my husband while we were engaged. We were separated by 150 miles. Phone calls were the long distance calls we made in the 80’s that added up quicker than the dings on a gas pump. Therefore, calls were limited to one night a week. Our relationship had to thrive on the written communication of cards and letters, and oh, how precious those letters were to me!

At this time I was teaching first grade in the Christian school in Sumter, South Carolina and I lived on the church property in a trailer they provided for me. Hence, my mailbox was at the end of the schools’ driveway. The mailman came rather early in the day, so when I took my class outside to the playground I would allow one of my students to get the mail when we went outside (they eagerly awaited “their turn” for this special privilege!). I usually had a letter from Dale each day, and while the children came inside and got a drink at the water fountain, I would open my letter and begin to read. One day one of my students said, “Miss Ray, how come you always smile when you read your mail?” I explained to her it was because the letter was from someone very special. You can believe that when I read that letter there in the hallway, it wasn’t the only time I read it. I’d reread it at lunch, then again when I returned to my home in the late afternoon. It was a special message written to me and I didn’t want to miss a word.

When we read the Bible in our devotions, it’s easy to take a glance at the Scriptures rather than reading slowly and carefully. Many of the passages may be very familiar to us, causing us to scan the chapter instead of studying it. Just because I’d already heard that Dale loved me, do you think I scanned over those words each day? Not on your life! Even more so, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to teach us the precious things God wants us to hear from His Word. It would be better to read only a small portion of Scripture and come away with a single Truth that we can cling to and rejoice in than to read several chapters and only have an intellectual knowledge of the Bible. Take it to heart, because that’s how it came from God – from His heart!

Have you read His love letter to you today? What did He tell you? Smile and share it with someone else!

But these are written that ye might believe; and that believing ye might have life through his name. John 20;31

Avoiding Distractions

I am, in most ways, a morning person. After the normal wake-up routine I generally feel rested and full of energy. I’m ready to tackle household chores, go walking, or even make an early morning trip to Walmart. Because this is my most energized time, it is also the best time for me to have my devotions. I have to be careful about where I situate myself to read my Bible. If I’m sitting in the kitchen I can be reading for a while, then I look up and notice something that is out of place in the room. It becomes a distraction to my study. I may remember that something needs to be taken from the freezer for our supper that night. I may notice that the counter could use a cleaning. Before I know it, my mind has jumped to many topics, most of them having nothing to do with what I’m reading! For this reason, I find it best to tuck myself away in a spot that has few distractions. There will never be no distractions, because Satan surely doesn’t want me to study Scripture and He is tricky in bringing things to my mind.

As I mentioned yesterday, setting up your treadmill in the middle of a donut shop would make it really hard to focus on exercise. In the same way, we need to make it easier on ourselves to stay focused on our time with the Lord. Psalm 119:15 says, I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. Notice the determination – “I will!” Also, the psalmist doesn’t just say he would think about the Word of God, but that he would meditate on it. How can we best meditate? Here’s my routine:

Right now I place myself at my desk in my bedroom. My back is facing the biggest part of the room, my face is toward the wall. This helps keep the distractions to a minimum. I keep my desk tidy so I won’t be cleaning while I sit there. I also like to play quiet instrumental music while I study (if I play music with singing I find I want to sing along!). I have a pad of paper on my desk that helps me with the random thoughts that pop into my head. If I suddenly remember a birthday card I need to send out that day, I simply write it down on the pad, then I can put it out of my mind. I use my computer to journal my thoughts, but I keep the screen on either my commentary page or the document page of my journal. In other words, I don’t put up the screen that shows my email or some page that would be another distraction. Another priority I place on my study is that I don’t read anything else (email, Facebook, or the paper) until I’ve read the Word of God. It’s not a legalistic standard, I just know myself! If I don’t read the Word first, it will get delayed. Perhaps for you, you would need to set that standard not to watch television until you’ve had your devotions. We each know our pitfalls and we must guard against them!

Lanny Bassham, Olympic gold-medalist in small-bore rifle competition, tells what concentration does for his marksmanship: “Our sport is controlled non-movement. We are shooting from 50 meters–over half a football field–at a bull’s eye three- quarters the size of a dime. If the angle of error at the point of the barrel is more than .005 of a millimeter (that is five one-thousandths), you drop into the next circle and lose a point. So we have to learn how to make everything stop. I stop my breathing. I stop my digestion by not eating for 12 hours before the competition. I train by running to keep my pulse around 60, so I have a full second between beats–I have gotten it lower, but found that the stroke-volume increased so much that each beat really jolted me. You do all of this and you have the technical control. But you have to have some years of experience in reading conditions: the wind, the mirage. Then you have the other 80% of the problems–the mind. ** We surely don’t have to go to these kinds of extremes to have personal devotions, but do what you must so you can concentrate and “hit the target.”

I pray we can say with the psalmist in Psalm 119:168b – I love thy testimonies exceedingly! Rearrange your routine if you need to in order to get the most out of God’s Word. It is the most important thing we’ll accomplish all day.

P.S. Are there issues you struggle with that I have not covered in these blogs? If so, please let me know and we’ll address them.

**Sports Illustrated, August 2, 1976, pp. 31-35, quoted in How to Profit from Bible Reading, I. L. Jensen, Moody Press, p. 80.

Helpful Tools

When a person is trying to get in shape they may have a tool to aid them. One might use weights, a treadmill or exercise bike. A video that guides them in their exercise routine might be employed. All of these things are only tools, however, and will not take the inches off by themselves. Adherence to a good diet, plenty of water and then the discipline to stick to the routine must also be applied to their life.

When a Christian is looking for something to help them make their devotions more meaningful, they might find it helpful to use some tools. There must be the understanding that the tools are not to be replacements for the Word of God, just as the weights wouldn’t replace the need for food in a dieter’s life. But the tools can be good aids in helping a person grow spiritually. Let me share with you some of those helps.

  • Commentaries – Our Sunday school classes have been using Warren Wiersbe’s “Be” series as we’ve studied together. The Treasury of David by Spurgeon is a wonderful accompaniment to the book of Psalms. A great link that I use nearly ever day is http://www.preceptaustin.org/tool_commentary.htm Here you can access many great commentaries. Read the passage from the Scriptures first, then go to the commentary and look up particular verses for clarity, deeper understanding and application.
  • Study Guides – These types of books take you to a specific passage and often deal with topics. You use it to study what the Scriptures teach about that topic. For example I’m doing a study on Saturdays on the heart by Claudia Barba entitled, Refresh Your Heart. It takes me all through the Bible teaching what my heart is like, what God says about my heart, and how it can be changed daily. This book hasn’t replaced my Bible, it guides me through it. This book is published by Bju press. Other books could be found at their web site: http://www.bjupress.com/page/ID+Home. Another great author is Elizabeth George. We’ve done several of her studies in our ladies’ groups. http://www.elizabethgeorge.com/george/default.asp?f=404 Betty Henderson’s study books will cause you to really dig into the Word. You can find her new book here: http://www.bjupress.com/product/261255?path=99377

This list could go on and on. If you’ve done a study recently that was a blessing please tell me about it. I’m always on the look-out for new studies and books!

  • Bible dictionary – Another helpful tool to understand words that aren’t familiar. (You’ll also find this on the precept site I mentioned earlier)
  • A journal (notebook) and pen – I mentioned yesterday the need to write down what you’re learning, but let me reiterate the importance of logging what God says to you in His Word. You will not remember it nearly as well if you don’t record it. If God spoke to you, it’s worth remembering, so put it in your journal! You may opt to journal your thoughts on your laptop.

What would it be like if you set up your treadmill in the middle of Dunkin Donuts? Would it be easy to focus and stay disciplined? Tomorrow we’ll talk about the need to create a surrounding that is conducive to listening to God speak.

Spiritual Exercise

I have to laugh at the beginning of the year when all you hear about is weight-loss programs and exercise machines. We’re all guilty, probably, of eating too much during the holidays, then when New Year comes we make a resolution to shed those pounds, plus the ones that have somehow attached themselves to our waistlines during the year. We are determined to discipline our bodies and our appetites. However, have you ever seen how many exercise machines are listed in the want ads by spring? Those good intentions got fogged up by perspiration and fatigue and the desire to discipline ourselves wanes away with the last of the Slim Fast. Our life verse becomes I Timothy 4:8 – “Bodily exercise profiteth little”!

If you’ve been a believer for any amount of time at all, you’ve heard that in order to grow as a Christian you need to read your Bible daily. Maybe you’ve made a New Year’s resolve to do better at that this year. Devotions also require discipline, and most women I’ve talked to have struggled with this at one time or another. How can this commitment stay fresh and help you to grow instead of becoming overwhelming like the weight-loss program? Let me offer a few suggestions:

  1. Begin your Bible reading time with prayer and ask God to give you a desire for and understanding of His Word. Pray some of the verses in Psalm 119 such as verses 9-11. “Oh Lord, help my way to be cleansed by taking heed to your word today. Show me where I’ve gone astray. Help me to seek You with my whole heart and know your Word well enough that I wouldn’t wander from it. May I hide your word in my heart that I won’t sin against You today.”
  2. Follow a pattern in your Bible reading rather than just reading randomly each day. Read through a book of the Bible, follow a schedule to read through the Bible in a year, or use a study guide (more about that later).
  3. Keep notes on what you’re reading. If you’re looking for something it will be more meaningful to you.
  • Look for the attributes of God and keep note on them – what verse tells you that God is all-powerful, omnipresent, or eternal? Keep a notebook of His attributes.
  • Look for SPECS – Sin to avoid, Promise to claim, Example to follow, Command to obey, or the Savior. Keep these things in a notebook as you’re reading through the chapter in the Scriptures.
  • If the Lord gives you a devotional thought about what you’re reading write it down.
  • If you are convicted about something as you read, record it.
  • When you “see something new” make notes of what the Lord showed you

That notebook or document on your computer will be precious to you as you make daily notes. You’ll look back on the year and see your personal growth when you read the Scriptures with intention.

We’ll continue this thought tomorrow…in the meantime why not take a walk around the block? =)

Heading the Right Direction

I evidently have a special grocery cart at Walmart with my name on it because I get it nearly ever time I visit the store. It’s the cart that veers off to the right while I’m pushing it to the left! The crazy thing is way out of whack! It’s probably gotten bumped into by little old ladies, reckless teenagers, and distracted middle-agers! The poor cart needs an adjustment; it’s way out of line. It resists my leading as it stubbornly desires to go the opposite way I’m headed! It’s barely serving its intended purpose. By the time I get home I feel like I’ve had an upper body work-out!

Have you ever asked yourself if you’re headed in the right direction, why you’re here, or what your purpose in living is? A good time to ask yourself those things is at the beginning of a new year. Read the quote below from Nancy Leigh Demoss:

“Once we settle the issue of why we’re living, all of life takes on a different perspective.

  • It’s not about me.
  • It’s not about my convenience.
  • It’s not about my comfort.
  • It’s not about my happiness.
  • It’s not about who likes me, who accepts me.
  • It’s not about, “Am I fulfilled in what I’m doing here in life?”
  • All that matters is that God is glorified and that He is pleased with my life. “

Does that summarize you and the way you’re living your life, or do you need to make some adjustments? Get “your cart” going in the right direction instead of fighting and trying to go the opposite way. Today, at the beginning of a new year would be a good time to do that.

(I’ll trade carts with you if I meet you at Walmart!)

Prepare Yourself

Today we stand in front of a closed door with the address “2009” written across its entryway. This is New Year’s Eve. The word “eve” means – the period preceding or leading up to any event or crisis. We have no idea what events are in front of us. As our definition suggests, we have no idea if a crisis stands behind the door waiting for us in the next year. Should that make us retreat in fear? Not if we belong to the God of this universe. We’re all either coming out of a trial, in the midst of one right now, or getting ready to head into one. I’m no prophet, but that is the truth. Because of that, then, we should all be preparing for those times even now.

What do people do when they know that a physical storm like a blizzard is coming? They stock up. Milk, bread, and water are purchased. Blankets and firewood are made ready. Lanterns are filled in case of a power outage. In much the same way, this is how we can prepare ourselves for 2009 and the trials it may bring. We need to store away Truth. It’s not enough to hear the Word being preached, though that is good. We need to buy it up for ourselves. Study and memorize God’s Word. Learn about the character of God as you read passages of Scripture. God cannot deviate from Who He is. If you know what His character is like you’ll respond in the right way when the trial comes.
Think ahead for a moment and ask yourself this question: How would I want to see myself responding to a difficulty? Would you want to see a video tape of yourself falling apart, lashing out at God, doubting His love for you, or running away from Him in the midst of a trial? I doubt any of us would. It’s essential, then, that we prepare now for the storm. This new year will also be filled with many blessings, I’m sure, but we definitely know how to receive those! Gather up the essential items now: faith, Truth, and an intimate relationship with Christ and you’ll be ready for what comes in 2009.