"Jesus called out to them, 'Come, follow me, and I will show you how...'" Mark 1:17 (NLT)
The accusing words jumped from my computer screen, feeling like a slap in the face. A concerned mother was sharing her thoughts about her child's performance in my class, and she wasn't happy.
I gathered my wits and reached for the rubric I had given my students. Had I mis-communicated something? No, my expectations for the project were carefully outlined.
Rubrics are assessment guidelines used in many classrooms. They communicate the teacher's expectations for a task by listing the subject matter that should be included in the final assignment.
That afternoon, mother, student and I met to discuss the assignment and desired outcome. With the rubric in the center of the table we agreed: it had been ignored. We decided the student would re-attempt the assignment, this time following the guidelines.
It filled my heart with joy to watch a secure young lady walk out of my classroom with her rubric. I had no doubt she understood the expectations. Her next project would shine and her confidence would soar.
Jesus, the greatest teacher who ever lived, also used rubrics. He never gave assignments without clearly laying out expectations. After all, any teacher's goal is the students' success. Success leads to confidence. And confident people become world changers, which is what Jesus called His followers to be.
I'm intrigued by Jesus' teaching methods and style. His classroom moved with Him, as He used daily occurrences as lessons. Jesus challenged His students to soar by using His rubrics.
Mark 1:17 invites us into Jesus' classroom. The Teacher's first words to His students clarify His expectations: "Come follow me." Then He says, "I will show you how ..."
Jesus is the rubric. His life is the subject matter we study. His ways guide our daily performance leading us to spiritual success.
In the midst of the teaching on the Beatitudes Jesus says, "Let your good deeds shine out for all to see ..." (Matthew 5:16 NLT) We know Jesus didn't simply tell what to do. He showed how to perform good deeds. He ate with sinners. He touched the sick. He spoke with outcasts.
We hear Jesus speak for the first time in Luke 2, shortly after His parents took Him to Jerusalem. Along the route on a return trip to their hometown, Mary and Joseph realized Jesus was missing. A search found Him in the temple "sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking questions." (vs. 46b NIV) In response to His mother's scolding, Jesus explained in verse 49b, "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (NIV)
Here is our first rubric. As a student of Jesus, I clearly understand what is expected of me. He has shown me by His actions.
1. Spend time in the Father's house. In other words, attend church.
2. Sit with teachers, listening to them.
3. Ask questions.
God's rubric tells me exactly what to do. Jesus' life as chronicled in the Gospels is a perfect rubric for me, as I seek direction. Won't you join me this year as a student of the Teacher? Let's follow Him and let Him show us how to live.
Dear Jesus, You offer to show me and teach me how to live. Because of Your life I can live confidently, secure that my life has worth. In Your Name, Jesus, Amen.
“I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.This day the Lord will deliveryou into my hands.” 1 Samuel 17:45-46
There is a name that is above every name, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. His name is greater than Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses. His name is larger than life, it overcomes death and reigns for all eternity. The name of the Lord is a strong tower of strength and protection. His name is a nuisance to His enemies and confidence for His children. The name of God is our rear guard and spiritual security. His name is the object of our worship, praise, petition and prayer!
We honor God’s name because He is honorable. We humbly and proudly claim to be followers of God, because He has called us to Himself. Some will make fun of our faith, but we know in our heart and from experience that Jesus is a leader worth following. Our Savior Christ Jesus is creditable for His claims are undeniable. Yes, when we speak His name there is no middle ground response. Jesus is either embraced or dismissed. We are defined by Christ’s name.
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” Exodus 20:7
Therefore speak the name of the Lord your God with reverence and awe. Do not misuse His name by apologizing for His commands or by stepping into His shoes as judge. The name of Jesus Christ is our life example. His name is our brand promise of peace, hope and forgiveness to a lost, dying, confused and hurting world. Proclaim the name of God as your true love, the Lover of your soul. Be ready to respond to those who ask you for the reason of your hope in Christ.
As you face giants of fear, face them in the name of the Lord Almighty. As you face giants of rejection, face them in the name of the Lord Almighty. As you face giants of shame and guilt, face them in the name of the Lord Almighty. As you face giants of anger, face them in the name of the Lord Almighty. God will deliver your enemies into your hands for His name sake.
“For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.” 1 Samuel 12:22
Prayer: Lord Jesus, bless Your name, and all that is within me bless Your holy name.
For many Christians, following Jesus is seen as best done from a distance. We want to be disciples as long as doing so does not intrude on our lifestyles, our preferences, our comforts and even our religion. But what if we really took the time to look Jesus in the eye and see who He truly is? What if we really listened to Jesus' words and heard what He is truly saying? Jesus' invitation to follow Him was - and still is - an invitation into a relationship marked by self-denial, personal intimacy, single-minded ambition and ultimate joy. When people truly engage with Jesus' personal invitation to follow Him, everything changes, for He is worthy of all our trust and all our affections.
In this new book, David Platt, contends that multitudes of people around the world culturally think they are Christians yet biblically are not followers of Christ.
Scores of men, women, and children have been told that becoming a follower of Jesus simply involves believing certain truths or saying certain words. As a result, churches today are filled with people who believe they are Christians . . . but aren’t. We want to be disciples as long as doing so does not intrude on our lifestyles, our preferences, our comforts, and even our religion.
Revealing a biblical picture of what it means to truly be a Christian, Follow Me explores the gravity of what we must forsake in this world, as well as the indescribable joy and deep satisfaction to be found when we live for Christ.
The call to follow Jesus is not simply an invitation to pray a prayer; it’s a summons to lose your life—and to find new life in him. This book will show you what such life actually looks like.
For the next few days, we are going to be offering some video snippets from David regarding his new book. Making Disciples
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 (NIV)
How could this be happening? She had given up so much to be with him and now this?
My friend had left her very successful career and friends in Louisiana, uprooted her three kids and moved to North Carolina to get married and live in her new husband's hometown. And now, six years later, she answered the phone and was shocked by the confession of a woman who called to tell her that she'd been having an affair with my friend's second husband — for the past four years.
I held her as she sobbed. And I listened as she questioned everything about her husband. Every business trip, every late night at the office, everything she thought was true that was now laced with deceit.
Something in my soul cracked that day, and every bit of hope I ever had that I would one day get married ... it was gone. I swore that I would never, ever trust a man.
Has there ever been a time when pain from your yesterdays or disappointments in your todays has stolen your hope? When you have been wounded, the risk of getting hurt again seems more costly, and perhaps even more likely, doesn't it?
The things that hurt us are as varied as the lies we believe because of them:
• Like my friend who was sexually abused by a neighbor when she was eight years old. Shame convinced her she would always be dirty and worthless.
• Like my friend who was raped at knife point by a masked stranger the week of her college graduation. Fear held her for years in a personal prison, telling her she'd never be free.
• Like my friend who was married and divorced multiple times. Condemnation convinced her she'd never be good enough for a man or God.
• Like a woman I know whose mother called her names and criticized everything she did. Humiliation holds her hostage, convincing her she'll always be useless.
• Like my friend who had an abortion when she was a teenager. Paralyzing grief and disgrace convinced her God could never use her in ministry.
• Like my friend whose son is in prison awaiting trial as a sex offender. False blame keeps her up at night, convincing her she must have done something wrong as a mom.
The pain of our past makes it hard to believe God's promise of hope for our future. It's easy to lose confidence in Him, in other people and especially in ourselves.
Yet hope comes when we allow Jesus to search our hearts and bring Truth into our wounded places. Today's key verse reminds us that He wants us to "trust in Him, so that [we will] overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:13). And the only way that can happen is if we let Jesus pour His healing power into our lives, allowing His love to flow into our pain and cleanse the wounds from our past.
I watched my friend's heart break into pieces in the following months, as her future and her marriage were shattered by the lies. But I also watched her come to know God and fully rely on His love for her, over time.
I learned to trust and hope again, too. And I made a new vow — I promised myself and God that I would not allow the pain of my past to determine my future any more.
We don't have to allow our hurts to steal our hope. Instead we can ask Jesus to help us trust Him more through them. Let's ask Him to show us what is true about who we are and what we have been through that caused us to start losing hope. And then we can ask Him to help us redefine our future — not through the filter of our past and our pain, but through the power of His hope-resurrecting promises.
Dear Lord, You are good and have good plans for me. But sometimes, people and circumstances rob me of that truth and cast a shadow on Your goodness. Please restore my trust and hope in You. I'm leaning on all You are. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Need help working through circumstances and relationships that have left you feeling hurt, hesitant and sometimes hopeless? If so, Renee's truth-bearing book, A Confident Heart, may be just what you need.
Reflect and Respond:
Is there an area of your past that is holding you back from trusting God? Sit and listen for His truth and good plans for you today.
Hope comes when we allow Jesus to search our hearts and bring Truth into our wounded places.
Ephesians 1:18-19a, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe." (NIV)
Where there are no oxen, the manager is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest. Proverbs 14:4
How do you feel since your home has emptied of children? Mad, sad, glad, lonely, without purpose, or freed up, may all be legitimate emotions you are processing. You have raised them well, and now they are on their own. You are proud of them, but you miss them. They call from college (especially daughters), but it is not the same. It is not easy to export your babies into adulthood; however, this is their faith walk to really know God.
We raise them the best we know how with love, discipline, and belief in Jesus Christ. Sometimes they frustrate us by not cleaning their crib (room). Like an animal in a barn, they can be messy and smelly. There are days you want a little peace and quiet because they are angry and loud when fighting with their siblings. But the empty nest is void of noise. The kids are nowhere to be found; so enjoy them while you can.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 nkjv).
You send them off to grow up and gain a heart of gratitude. By God’s grace they will visit with a new sense of appreciation and maturity. Distance causes friendship with your adult child to grow, not taken for granted. It is harder to keep up and communicate, but in some ways it is more gratifying. You prepared them to leave so they can cleave to the one the Lord has for them in marriage. Our empty nest is a test of trust in God’s plan.
Lastly, engage with your spouse in your empty nest. Do you feel like you have drifted apart over the years? If so, be intentional to regain the intense intimacy with your best friend. Make these days of marriage your best; believe the Lord has given you your lover to grow old together. Anticipate the gift of grandkids, as they will keep you busy and lively. The empty nest is a season to enjoy the fruit of your family.
“A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children” (Proverbs 13:22).
Prayer: Lord, how can I best use the season of life I am in for Your kingdom purposes?
Related Readings: Genesis 7:1; Proverbs 31:15; Matthew 19:5; Acts 10:2
Post/Tweet today: Our empty nest is a test of trust in God’s plan for us and our children. #emptynest
"LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places..." Psalm 16:5-6a (NIV)
"Mrs. TerKeurst, your dog ran away to our house ... AGAIN."
"Mrs. TerKeurst, I think I might have just seen your dog running down the street."
"Mrs. TerKeurst, this is one of your neighbors. Just letting you know we're about to drop off your dog—we saw him running around our neighborhood."
"Mrs. TerKeurst, this is the animal clinic. I believe we have your dog."
"Mrs. TerKeurst, do you own two dogs?"
I own three dogs. But my two outside dogs, Champ and Chelsea, are sometimes delinquent. I love them. They love me. But they love running away more. Even though we didn't have a fence, we had other systems in place to keep them safely at home!
I can't tell you the number of sleepless nights I've had fretting over my dogs. Several times we've enlisted our friends to pray for Champ and Chelsea. But this sort of backfired on us once.
One of our friends knew Champ had gone missing and miraculously found him in a yard miles from our home. He was amazed Champ had run so far. He pulled into the driveway, coaxed Champ into his car, and called me with breathless excitement to announce he'd found my beloved dog.
But five minutes before my friend got to my house, Champ came home. When my friend pulled into my driveway carrying a Champ lookalike, we both about fell over. My friend had kidnapped someone else's dog—right from their front yard!
Oh my glory be.
It was time to do something.
I used to think invisible fences were cruel. I couldn't stand the thought of my dog getting a shock. So, I looked into getting a regular fence. But we live in the country and installing a regular fence was simply out of the question.
An invisible fence it would have to be. After all, a shock to keep them inside the safe boundary is a lot better than what might happen outside the boundary.
Boundaries aren't cruel barriers meant to keep my dogs from freedom. They are protective restrictions meant to define where safe freedom can be found.
And my dogs aren't the only ones who need to remember this lesson. I need to remember this, and apply it to the protective restrictions God has for me.
Why? Because there's usually some sort of boundary my wild heart tries to push against.
Have you ever found yourself rationalizing some situation in your life where you know you aren't doing what God said we should do?
Does God really want us to love our enemies? Is it really important to not let the sun go down on my anger? Do I really need to pray and read my Bible every day? Oh, grumbling isn't so bad ... I mean everyone finds something to complain about.
I push against the boundaries. Sometimes I even break through them. But what's waiting on the other side isn't freedom.
Oh Lord, let my wild heart always remember ...
Your instructions, Your boundaries, aren't cruel barriers to keep me from freedom. They are protective restrictions meant to define where safe freedom can be found.
And Lord, if You can teach this same lesson to my dogs, my neighbors, friends and I would be ever so grateful.
Dear Lord, thank You for the protective hand that You have placed over me. Cultivate in me an obedient heart that seeks to live in the safe freedom of Your boundaries. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Lysa TerKeurst's New York Times bestselling book, Unglued, gives a fresh perspective on how to be obedient to the Lord with your emotions, reactions, and decisions.
Start the New Year with a dose of daily encouragement. The Unglued Devotional is an amazing resource to use as you strengthen your relationship with the Lord.
Reflect and Respond:
What is one thing that God has been asking you to surrender to Him?
Any need we try to meet outside of God's perfect will is a step into a danger zone. Spend some time today reflecting on the power verses below as you surrender an issue to God that you have been rationalizing.
Psalm 119:66-67, "Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust Your commands. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word." (NIV)
Job 36:11, "If they obey and serve Him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment." (NIV)
“He [Goliath] said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birdsand the wild animals!” 1 Samuel 17:43-44
Bullies abound. They make their shameless appearance on middle school yards, they taunt insecure teenagers and they show up to scare and intimidate coworkers. Bullies think they can strike fear and submission into victims by their sometimes imposing presence. The giant Goliath railed at David, jealous of his youth, good looks and health; he threatened and despised him. Bullies use mind games to melt their enemies. They curse with shameless arrogance and pride.
Are you being bullied to do something, and so lack peace? Do you feel manipulated and shamed by an authority figure? If so, by God’s grace stand up to their idle threats. Call their bluff by saying no and trusting Christ with the consequences. You can expose a bullies blindside by challenging them with truth and killing them with kindness. Let the Lord fight your battle, as your actions will prove themselves right by your integrity. Bullies fall in the face of faith in God.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Moreover, look out for innocent people you know who are recipients of another’s angry intimidation. Stand up for them and stand with them. Yes, pray passionately for their security to be in Christ, but also become an advocate for their cause. Bullies are threatened when their coercion is challenged by caring friends. Your courage needs to choose a side so injustice does not steal your friend’s peace and security. Protect those exposed to the enemy's idle threats.
Lastly, stand up to a bully in the name of the Lord. It is not your clever words that ultimately prevail, but the power of the Holy Spirit in your spirit, speech and deeds that prevails. Christ can change another man or women’s heart in an instant. Therefore, look to the Lord to fight your battles; He has never lost! Lay your finely crafted arguments at the feet of Jesus and ask Him to persuade your foe to do what’s right. Humble courage depends on God to bring down a bully.
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13
Prayer: Heavenly Father give me humble courage to stand up to those who stand against You.
Besides a complete and total belief, which I held in the sixth grade, that I was going to become a world famous whistler who would bring people into a weepy wave of wonder with my haunting melodies- my parents have supported every dream I have ever had.
Even when they have made no logical sense.
I graduated with a bachelors degree from a private university. My career plans weren’t set in stone, but I always assumed I would go straight into graduate work, like both of my parents did. Social work, speech pathology, political science and seminary topped my list. Serving people, seeking justice, fighting for beauty and redemption in another person’s life was my ultimate goal. Making music was not.
But I fell in love. With a man and with music. And the day after my college graduation we packed our bags and moved into a 900 square foot duplex in the heart of ghetto, thug-riddled Dallas, Texas. For the next two years my husband and I lived in that duplex across the street from Joe the Pimp (yes, a real live pimp), with the entire band. It was just how every woman hopes to spend the first two years of marriage! No health insurance, life insurance, 401K plan, personal privacy or financial security blanket. Four college graduates still driving our cars from high school while our peers bought houses, invested in stocks and experimented in keeping small puppies and babies alive.
By the looks of it, my life did not measure up to the kind of success that our culture aspires to.
And yet I can’t remember a single conversation with my dad where he didn’t say, “I’m proud of you Jenny- don’t give up- it won’t always be this hard- it’s worth it- you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Keep doing what you feel like God has made you to do.”
And to the 32 year-old-girl, 10 years later, now turned mother who has lived through a fire that destroyed most of what I owned, a few break-ins, car-wrecks, near bankruptcy, still living in a small apartment, with no 401 K and, yes, still driving my car from high school- all in my pursuit of listening to and following God’s voice in my life...
my dad still says the same thing.
Don’t lose heart.Keep believing in the things that God has called you to.
You see my parents are both deeply spiritual people and have served on church staffs my entire life. Many times my sisters and I have watched as members of different congregations have lied about my parents, hurt them and given them good cause to never ever walk back through the doors of a church again. And yet, my parents have always walked back in the doors.
Dad often quoted Psalm 27:13 as he walked around the house listening to my sisters and I gripe about the injustice of it all. He simply said, “I am still confident of this: we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” And he and mom believed it enough that they didn’t quit, even when quitting was the most obvious answer.
I can’t count how many times I have tried to throw away the gifts and calling that the Lord has given me. I have tried to convince myself that I heard God’s voice wrong. That serving in ministry was too hard on my spirit. That the sacrifice was not worth it. That I was being financially irresponsible to live off of little- when I could make much else-where. That my family deserves better. Or perhaps, someone else is more qualified.
I am the queen of excuses and rationalizing. I’ve written the book on fear, anxiety and distrust in the face of the unknown. I have tried to quit God, quit His call on my life, quit that still, small voice who whispers over and over again to me, “Feed my sheep,” more times than I can count.
And yet I am still here. Still writing music and telling God’s story of redemption. Still driving that same old car. Still allowing God to use me in people’s journeys. Still listening to my daddy tell me that following the call is absolutely worth it- even when it makes no logical sense. Even when it hurts. Even if it leaves you broken sometimes.
The song, Don’t Lose Heart, is the most personal song for me on my new album, The Becoming. It’s not just a pithy sentiment spoken over someone in a tiny battle. It is a monumental cry to those serving in ministry- fighting the most important battle ever: whether to give up or not.
Following the great unknown has cost you everything
But listen to the voice inside who first called out your name...
To those following the Great Unknown, to those chasing a dream that only makes sense in light of the Holy Spirit that has given birth to that dream, to those barely hanging on as they try and survive ministry in a tough church, for those making art, parenting orphans, feeding homeless, teaching immigrants, sheltering battered women, loving pregnant teenagers, heck, loving any teenager through puberty, going to the uttermost corners of the earth to deliver water- and living water- this song is for you.
For anyone in the middle of a “What the heck am I doing here?” moment- the one where you fear you have gone the wrong way or the call was meant for someone else-
this is for you.
Don’t lose heart. Don’t lose faith. Keep believing in the things that He’s called to you. When you’re tired. When you’re faint. Look deep into the eyes of your Savior’s face. And you will find your resting place.
And to mom and dad- who never gave up on Jesus and his calling- you are the most beautiful people I know. Thank you for teaching me that sometimes following Jesus is more important than safety, security or comfort. Thank you for caring more about how Jesus wants to use me, than any thing else. I am here because of you.
"One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart and she accepted what Paul was saying." Acts 16:14 (NLT)
She stood in front of me. "I wanted to go down," she said. "I just couldn't."
Her grandmother stood nearby, silent. Hope etched her features.
I took her hands. "It's scary sometimes to take an unfamiliar step," I said. "But we're here now. Can we pray together?"
This woman grew up in church, but she'd taken some wrong turns in life. After years of living apart from her family, she had arrived on her grandmother's doorstep out of desperation. She came to the women's conference because someone had given her grandmother free tickets.
Admittedly, she came for a free meal and to make her grandmother happy. She was fully prepared to leave with her stomach full and her heart empty.
Except God saw her walk through the door.
The words from Scripture reached past her tough exterior to land right in the tender spot of her desperate heart. While walking to an altar seemed impossible for this vulnerable woman, she hoped someone would pray with her before she left the church. Which is how she ended up in front of me.
In return for my prayers, I received a kiss on my cheek. Wrapping her arms tightly around me, she said "I love you," with joy on her face.
She didn't see the tears running down mine, as she turned away.
Just as that grandmother had stood with hope for her granddaughter, I've been praying for years for a loved one. There are days hope recedes, and I find myself on my knees again, asking for a refill.
In Acts 16, Paul met a woman named Lydia. In many ways she was different from the woman who stood in front of me that day in the church. Lydia was a seller of purple cloth, so she was financially well off. And she was a worshiper of God, likely a devout Jewish woman.
But she was also similar to the woman at the conference, in that she hadn't yet met Jesus Christ. Two thousand years ago the Lord opened Lydia's heart. She was so changed by her new relationship with Jesus that she became one of His most devoted followers.
God still opens hearts.
He opened Lydia's heart to receive the truth.
He opened my new friend's heart to receive relationship and restoration.
He opens my heart to hope.
Maybe, like me, you have been praying for a loved one for a long time. Perhaps there are days when it feels as if the prayers aren't working. But like carefully planted seeds, those prayers are received one by one by our Heavenly Father, until one day they poke through the ground of our loved one's heart to receive the Light.
I will continue to pray that God opens the heart of those I love. As I wait, I will also pray that God opens my heart to receive the hope He so generously offers.
Dear God, open my loved one's heart to receive and accept Your grace, mercy, and transforming love. But also open my heart. Today I stand on Your promises and delight in what only You can do. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Hope: [noun] to cherish a desire with anticipation.
When we pray for a long time without seeing an answer, do we focus on the problem or person, rather than the promise? Let's begin to cherish our desire for our loved ones as we anticipate what God is doing, unseen. How He is planting those prayers like seeds in the heart of our loved ones. Let's cherish the day those seeds will poke through hardened ground to receive nourishment and Light.
Romans 15:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (NIV)
Romans 8:24-25, "We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don't need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don't yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)" (NLT)
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