Have you ever wanted to read through the Bible, or have a focused reading time? There is a website out there, www.thouartexalted.com, that sends out a monthly email with just such a reading calendar. I’ve attached it here if it is something you are interested in doing. Please check out the website for more great freebies, playlists, wallpapers, and more.
By: Amanda Idleman
Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. – James 5:13
Life is filled with highs and lows. Navigating the ups and downs of life can be a challenge. Thankfully the Bible gives us some insight on how to approach our hardships and our joy. God doesn’t leave us on our own in either season. In our lives, there is no struggle that He isn’t present for or celebration He doesn’t know about.
What does God say about the hard times? The enemy of our souls wants to speak the lie of aloneness in our ears when things start to feel like more than we can handle. We become paralyzed in the belief that no one is there to support us, thoughts of guilt may stop us from being open about our struggles, and the idea that no one can understand what we are going through can keep us stuck alone.
Without the support of others or a strong grasp on God’s love for you in those hard moments, hopelessness can begin to set in like an ugly fast spreading disease. The Bible tells us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). This is precisely why the Bible instructs us to turn to God in prayer when we suffer.
When we begin to connect with God through prayer and study of his Word, hope can return to our hearts! We are reminded that we are loved and never alone. God gives us the strength we need to share our stories with others that can support us, further breaking the chains of hopelessness.
When you are in a season of suffering, bring it all to Jesus… bring all the frustration, desperation, loneliness, or anger and lay them at the feet of Jesus. God is not repelled by honesty. He already knows the state of our lives and hearts. You will not offend God with your sin or doubt. He pleads with us saying please come to me first. He loves you so much that He died to take away your sin and pain.
In seasons of joy, sing praises to your God! We can get so caught up in our own pleasures that we take the good for granted and only turn to God in hardship. God invites us back to be in his presence in both our seasons of joy and seasons of suffering. When prayers are answered, when a milestone is achieved, when the sunset takes your breath away, or your kids knock it out of the park, take a moment to give God the glory.
It’s our ability to see God in the joy-filled seasons that helps prepare us for the times of suffering. If we don’t have the ability to notice God’s grace, provision, and kindness when it is right in front of our faces, how will we recognize God at work when life is heavy? We need that ledger available in our minds of all the ways God has already come through for us to lean on when doubt, worry, or when suffering enters our lives.
What season are you in now? Are you barely keeping it together or are you loving every minute of life? Either way, God is there, and He wants you to look to Him in each and every season of life brings your way. Acts 17:28 says it like this “For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.” He is our source of life, but even more than that, God wants to do life with you. Remember to offer prayer and praise in both your joy and suffering.
BIBLE VERSE OF THE DAY: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” – Romans 15:4
3 Fresh Ways to Study Your Bible
by Amy Green
Whenever the Bible talks about spending time with God through reading the Word, it’s never in the context of a burden. I don’t know about you, but I could use more hope in my life. Here are three fresh ways to study your Bible:
1. Praying the Bible
This method is just what it sounds like: Take a passage of Scripture and read it, line by line, pausing in between to pray its truth for specific people and situations in your life. The psalms are great for this, since they’re written as prayers. (Even the ones where David wishes death to his enemies can be turned into prayers about the destruction of sin in your own heart or evil in the world like terrorism, human trafficking, or poverty.)
This method is less about interpreting the passage and more about using its words to bring requests before God and to praise him for who He is. Try pausing between each verse and lifting up specific people and situations that relate to the words there. If you find it hard to focus in your time praying, this might be helpful for you.
Need a place to start? Try praying through Isaiah 35, Psalm 27, or Philippians 2.
2. Walk with Jesus through the Gospels
My friend once gave me this advice: If you’re going through a spiritually dry time, read through the Gospels and write down what you learn about Jesus. That’s it. Nothing fancy. It seems so simple that it can hardly be called a “method,” but at the same time… how often do we page right by the familiar stories of miracles and parables?
How long has it been since we let Jesus surprise us? When we ask what it means to follow Jesus today, do we have a clear picture of what that looks like?
All of that and more can be found when taking this exercise through each of the four Gospels. As Christians, we’re called to be disciples and imitators of Jesus. The best way to know what your faith should look like is to get to know him better.
3. Coordinate with Your Sermon Series
Take a sermon series that your church is starting and dive deeply into a parallel study. If it’s exegetical (preaching straight through a book or part of a book), read the passage before the sermon on Sunday. If it’s topical and you don’t know for sure which passages you’ll be going to, pick a portion of the Bible that has a lot to say about that topic and read through it a little at a time.
This is a great weekend devotional practice to get into, and unlike some of the other methods, it is usually pretty short, since pastors don’t often tackle massive chunks of Scripture at one time. There won’t be any “spoilers” for the sermon, but it’s amazing how much easier it is to engage in church when you’ve spent time focusing your heart on the subject ahead of time.
Editor’s Note: Portions taken from the article, “10 Fresh Ways to Study Your Bible,” written by Amy Green. You can read that piece in full here. All rights reserved.
By Emily Rose Massey
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV).
With the invention of smartphones and these (often anti) social media apps, we can now be distracted and ignore the reality in front of our faces at any given moment of every single day. Many have lost the art of communication because there really is no need to actually talk (aloud) to people anymore. It’s all about these black letters on white background. We text instead of call. We use emojis instead of an emotional face-to-face conversation. We post “insta” updates like engagements or the birth of a new baby instead of waiting to share that news in person, especially to close friends and family members. I strongly dislike finding out important things through Facebook first, don’t you?
We can’t even sit in a twenty-minute car ride without grabbing for that block of distraction. My husband knows how guilty I am of this one! And recently, I discovered that existing behind my phone’s keyboard hadn’t just affected my relationships with other people but with God. Are we so connected to our devices that we are neglecting to connect with the Lord? How much time am I spending on my phone? I must wonder if living a communicative existence of only black letters on a white background is a huge reason my prayer life seems like it is on life support sometimes. You can’t text God. He wants to hear from His children.
Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, He tore the veil that separated sinful man from the Holy and Righteous One; Jesus made a way for me to approach God as my Father. What a beautifully life-changing truth! When the disciples asked Christ to teach them how to pray in Matthew 6, He told them to begin with “Our Father.” Prayer is personal because the Father longs to have a personal relationship with His children. He wants us to come to Him constantly with our concerns, burdens, joys, and requests.
Prayer is personal because the Father longs to have a personal relationship with His children.Tweet
At the end of his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul gives a simple reminder to the Thessalonians (and us) to anchor themselves in joy and thankfulness and never stop praying:
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV).
Just like all our relationships in life are affected by verbal communication, we are forming our relationship with the Lord with every conversation we have with Him, and we should constantly be lifting our gaze and voices to Him. This means that as we go about our day, we should remember to stay connected to the Vine (John 15), abiding in Him, knowing that we must remain dependent upon Him for all things, and to be thankful and content for His new mercies that are available to us every single day. The distractions are endless throughout the day, and it’s so easy for our eyes and minds to become focused on lesser, temporal things. This isn’t to say that we ignore all of our daily earthly responsibilities to sit in our “prayer closet,” but we seek God in the midst of responsibilities, remembering He is the One who gives us the grace to accomplish the tasks before us.
His sovereign hand is always guiding us as His beautiful providence unfolds in our life, and we should be careful not to get caught up in our own plans and goals that we neglect coming to Him first. Constant communication with the Lord will build and strengthen our confidence and trust in the Lord as we learn to lean upon Him in all things. Rejoicing always and remaining thankful for another day to get a chance to get to know Him through His Word and glorify His name in all that we say and do. Let us ask the Lord to help us throw off the distractions that would keep us from that glorious partnership with Him.
There can be such a blessing that comes from technology and being able to connect with other people all over the world in a moment. But this blessing can also become a major distraction from something so much better, staying connected to You. Lord, I repent for neglecting to keep our communication a top priority and allowing an electronic device to become a hindrance to the spiritual discipline of prayer. You call us to never cease from praying, meaning that we should be continually looking to You every moment of the day. I lift my gaze to You, knowing that is where my help comes from. I lift up my voice to You, knowing that You incline Your ear to me as Your child. Thank You, Jesus, for making a way for me to have a relationship with my Heavenly Father. May I never take that relationship for granted? Help me by Your grace and the power of the Spirit to remember to keep prayer a daily, moment-by-moment lifeline to my Heavenly Father.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
Today’s Bible Verse: “As you come to Him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:4-8
Recently, my family and I spent a day at the lake. We pulled our boat up to the shore for our kids to explore, and before long, they started skipping rocks. As I watched them having fun and enjoying nature, my eyes started to wander the shoreline. I was drawn to the beauty and variety of rocks, layered and weathered over time. If only those rocks could talk, oh the stories they could tell.
Later, I decided to learn what the Bible says about stones and found that the Bible refers to them quite often. The majority of the mentions pertain to altars built for the Lord. An altar is a memorial built to symbolize a place where God met a person or a place to offer a sacrifice. As I studied this topic, I discovered three main kinds: an altar of sacrifice, an altar of remembrance, and an altar of faith.
An Altar of Sacrifice
In my opinion, the most notable example of an altar of sacrifice was when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his long-awaited son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham obeyed by making the journey, arranging the wood, and laying his bound son on top. However, at the last second God stopped Abraham and provided a ram in Isaac’s place.
This unfathomable act foreshadows God sacrificing His one and only son Jesus, the lamb of God. In the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus offered Himself on an altar in the shape of a cross. Because of His sacrifice, we no longer have to offer sacrifices as they did in the Old Testament. However, we can offer ourselves to the Lord as living sacrifices and offer the altar of our hearts. In our lives this looks like daily laying aside our own desires to follow Him, putting all our energy and resources at His disposal, and trusting Him to guide us.
An Altar of Remembrance
One of my favorite examples of an altar of remembrance is from Joshua. If you’ll recall his story, he was leading the Israelites into the Promised Land and they needed to cross the Jordan River. But they needed a miracle from the Lord to do it—the river was at flood stage, making the waters turbulent and impossible to navigate. The Lord showed up and helped them cross safely.
But before they crossed all the way over into the Promised Land, God wanted them to go back into the Jordan and gather 12 stones to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. He directed them to build a memorial to commemorate the miracle. The altar was to serve as a reminder for future generations to learn what God had done for them (Joshua 4).
Reading Joshua’s story convicts me when I think about how many times I have prayed for something and God has shown up and answered my prayer and I just moved on to the next prayer. I want to remember, but how often I forget how He has shown up and provided for me.
This prompts me to consider building metaphorical memorials in our hearts to thank Him for being present and answering our pleas. What would it look like to symbolically lay down a memorial for Him to remember His faithfulness? Could we build a figurative altar of remembrance to tell our children and our children’s children what He has done in our lives?
An Altar of Faith
I only found one altar of faith in my research and it was built by King David. Israel was experiencing a plague, so David built an altar to the Lord and prayed on behalf of the land. God answered his plea and the plague stopped (2 Samuel 24). What faith he had to build the altar first in expectation that God would meet their need. As a result of his active belief, God showed up and performed the miracle.
I’m inspired by this kind of faith. There are many areas in my life I need God to show up and act on my behalf. I’m guessing the same is true for you. Could God be asking us to lay down stones in active faith first, as David did, so He will act on our behalf?
Like those rocks along the shoreline of the lake, we are living stones—unique and weathered. Our stories of sacrifice, remembrance, and faith layer generation upon generation showcasing God’s presence and displaying the evidence of His work in our lives.
Peter writes, “As you come to Him, the living Stone, you are like living stones being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5).
With Christ as our Cornerstone, I pray our collective stones tell a beautiful story for His glory along the shorelines of this world. Together the altars we build to Him are also building a holy priesthood for Him, so more stones can be added to the beauty of the shoreline. If only those rocks could talk, oh the stories they could tell—God’s great story that we have the privilege to play a part. What a glorious sight to behold.
Rachael Adams is a writer, speaker, podcaster, and founder of The Love Offering. Her heart’s desire is to encourage women to realize their God-given purpose to live out our faith together by loving God, loving others, and learning to love ourselves. Rachael and her husband live in Kentucky with their two children. Connect with her online at rachaelkadams.com or @rachaeladamsauthor on social media.
By Tiffany Curtis
“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The LORD watches over all who love him” – Psalms 145:18-20
Like many people out there, I live far away from my hometown and blood relatives. I grew up in northeast Ohio and now live in central Virginia, making the distance between myself and my parents, grandparents, cousins, friends, etc. about an 8-hour drive. I have one sibling who also resides in Virginia, but we live just over two hours apart. The distance between us all makes intentional communication extremely important. If we don’t make an effort to reach out to each other, we could potentially go days, weeks, even months without ever speaking to each other.
Thankfully, the technology we have today makes it easy to stay in touch with people, no matter how close or far they are. If I want to talk to my parents, I can easily call or FaceTime them. If I want to check in on a friend, I just send them a text.
The issue then lies in the moments where I don’t just want to call or text loved ones, but to be in their presence. To have that quality time and comforting feeling that we only get when we are physically in the same place. How great would it be if our technology went one step further, and we could not only call our loved ones, but transport them into our home, car, or coffee shop whenever we needed them.
Though we may never have the ability to do this with our friends and family here on earth, we do have a Father who is able to meet us anywhere, anytime. All we have to do is call on Him, and He hears us and is present with us. Even when it doesn’t feel like He is near, He is always watching over us, ready to be right at our side when we call on Him.
But just because He is always near, doesn’t mean we should apathetically sit and wait for Him to show up. Every relationship needs communication in order to thrive, including our relationship with God. Just like with our loved ones, we must put forth the effort to intentionally communicate with the Father. If we stay in constant communication with our friends and family, shouldn’t it be an even bigger priority for us to have this same communication with our Savior?
Make an intentional effort to speak to the Father today and every day. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate, well-thought-out message; talk to Him about your day, your struggles, your triumphs. God desires to draw near to us just as much as we desire to feel the comfort of His presence.
As Psalms 145:18 says, “The Lord is near to all who call on him.” This is His promise to us – that when we call on Him, He is near. No 8-hour drive, no connecting flights, and not just through a cell phone screen. He is right here, right now.
Call on Him today – He is already so much nearer than you think!
Thank you for hearing us when we call on your name! How reassuring it is to know that we serve a God who is all-powerful, yet still hears our faintest cries. Thank you that, even when we don’t realize it, you are near to those who love you. You want a relationship with us, which is an amazing thing!
Help us to be intentional when it comes to communicating with you. It is so easy to become apathetic or negligent with our prayer lives, but prayer is our lifeline to your presence! Let us fully realize the importance of regularly talking with you. You are our greatest source of comfort and strength.
Lord, help us to feel your nearness today. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, you have given us the ability to call on you and to feel your presence. Thank you for not being a distant God, but one who desires for us to draw closer and closer as you pursue our hearts.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Photo credit: ©SalemDesign/BethanyPyle
Tiffany Curtis is the Faith Editor of Crosswalk.com. She has a B.A. in English with a minor in Business from Liberty University. Her goal is to share Christ’s love and help others grow in their faith through her work as a writer and editor.
Thoughts for Today
Has someone you cared about mistreated you? Hurt you deeply? Even though years may have passed, you might still harbor resentment and anger. And that unforgiveness is most likely affecting other relationships—maybe even your whole outlook on life. Try as you might to forget the offense, you find yourself rewinding and reviewing again and again.
You will never be able to overcome the hurt of the past and move on freely with your life until you forgive the offender.
Consider this …
Determine to be active in your pursuit to forgive. Begin to change your thought pattern about the person. Ask God to help you see this individual with eyes of love, looking beyond fault and seeing need. When you speak about the person, speak of needs and strengths—not offenses and weaknesses. Pray for this person and, if possible, take action to do something nice for him or her.
Forgiveness is not easy, especially when the hurt is deep. It helps to remember what Jesus did for us. Even though we certainly didn’t deserve forgiveness, he died on the cross to pay the price for our sin. He offers us forgiveness as a gift. Let us be willing to offer others the gift of our forgiveness.
Father, help me to be active in my pursuit to forgive. Help me to see this person through your eyes. Help me to speak and think good and not bad about him. Help me to offer the gift of my forgiveness. In Jesus’ name …
These thoughts were drawn from … Free to Grow: Overcoming Setbacks and Disappointments by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min. The purpose of this group study is to help people overcome disappointments and setbacks that have arrested or are presently hindering their emotional and spiritual development. The group study will help participants understand how to be set free so that they can grow and become all that God has designed them to be. Note: This curriculum was written especially for small groups and we encourage people to use it that way. However, it can also be used effectively as a personal study for individuals or couples.
Receive. Remain. Respond.
By Meg Bucher
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” – 1 Peter 3:15 NIV
“Did you even stop to notice what I was doing before you barged into my space, here?” I abruptly asked my daughter mid-sentence.
We often share descriptive discussions, but when she bursts into my train of thought unannounced, I struggle to keep up with the conversation. I prefer to be an active participant in these épilogues, but she often launches right in without any warning. When I ask her to start over, confessing I wasn’t listening, hurt and frustration fill her sweet face. She simply does not understand why I can’t instantly drop everything to give her my full attention.
1 Peter 3:15 encourages believers to do the diligent work of developing our faith in Christ. We do this by allowing the Lord to capture our attention, and by leaving room in our lives to listen to Him as He speaks. Our relationship deepens as we pursue Him daily in His Word and through prayer. He will also place other people perfectly in our lives to speak Truth to, love, and challenge us to step up and respond to them with love. The firm foundation of our faith prepares us to react in the way this verse commands. When we follow Christ, it’s important to be approachable, and interruptible! Only He knows what each day will hold, and He faithfully prepares us to respond when we make time to receive, and remain in, His Truth.
Acts 16:14 tells the story of a woman named Lydia: “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” (ESV)
Lydia responded immediately, and was baptized alongside everyone in her house! Why does it sometimes take longer for some to respond than others? Moses doubted he could fulfill what God called him to do. Peter denied Jesus. Thomas doubted. Sometimes, we fall under the mistaken impression that God’s calling to serve, especially in ministry, only looks a certain way or is attached to a specific set of talents. We’re not responsible for the way others respond to God, but for following His unique call on our lives.
The prophet Ezekiel sat for several days after the LORD called him to prophecy. He had experienced the glory of God, and it has physically drained and spiritually challenged him! He needed time to sit and digest what God had revealed to and instructed him to do. Our response to God will reflect the One abiding in us when we open our ears to hear and receive His Word. When we remain with Him, allowing His presence, wisdom, and truth to envelope and adjust our perspective to align with His, we are better able to submit our gut response for one obedient and aligned to His will for our lives.
Jesus didn’t wait until we were sinless to die for us, because it never would have happened. He has never required our perfection in exchange for His perfect sacrifice.
We are all missionaries, purposed workers for the Kingdom of God. It’s important to let our minds marinate with their Creator. He may have a quick response prepared for us today, or a slow mulling over. However He chooses to work in our lives, His timing always trumps our gut response.
By: Lindsay Tedder
“The Lord is good, a stronghold in a day of distress: He cares for those who take refuge in Him.” Nahum 1:7
After a week of pure parenting torture, I hit my limit. It was a solid week of tantrums, defiance, meltdowns, hitting, kicking, screaming, refusing to sit in a time out, teachers telling me that his behavior was poor in school that day. I reached the precipice of Mount Overwhelmed, when I had to carry him out of Christmas play practice because he was sobbing in the front row of the church.
He had hit his limit.
The next day was the worst day of parenting I have ever experienced. Everything above happened in rapid-fire sequence in a matter of minutes. My husband and I tried everything to calm the chaos, literally everything. You name it, we did it and none of it worked. When my husband took our son for a “car ride” that we hoped would turn into a nap, I broke.
I began wandering around my house aimlessly. It was a disaster. I had to step over toys strewn all over the floor in order to clean up the art supplies and activities that were on every single surface. Puzzle pieces peppered the floor in the living room. It felt like the playroom had sneezed and my house was the tissue.
I had to capitalize on my alone time and make some semblance of normalcy in my home. As I meandered from room to room, I began to stare off in the distance. I knew I wasn’t ok. This week had done me in, and I had nothing left to give. I tried to do the housework. I tried to clean up the toys, but I just couldn’t do it. I felt as if I was about to walk out the front door and never return. I knew that was not possible. I knew I could never run away, despite how desperately I didn’t want to exist in that moment.
I grabbed my Bible. I begged God to reveal the truth to me. I pleaded and petitioned. With one hand on my Bible and the other on my tear-soaked face, I flipped open to the place where my finger had naturally gravitated. Nahum. Great, I thought. This should be really good, God. Can’t wait. Despite my sarcasm, I continued to read.
I will admit, Nahum has never been on my must-read list. In fact, I don’t recall ever reading it in the past. But that sorrowful day, Nahum became my sanity, my comfort. As my fingers spread across the words on the page, I felt like my Daddy was giving me a big squeezy hug. “The Lord is good.” Yes, He is. I know that. This is a truth that I can hang on to right now. He is a “stronghold in the day of distress.” Ok, Dad. You’re talking about today, my day of distress. “He cares for those who take refuge in Him.” Ahh…I see what ya did there, God. Today, I am taking refuge in You because it is my day of distress.
The conversation swirled through my mind. After reading and processing the words, my tears began to dry up, my shoulders began to feel lighter, and my mind was able to stop racing. The Lord, who is good, became my stronghold in that day of distress.
Did you know that Nahum in Hebrew means “comfort?” Wow. It is so incredible to me that my Father knew that Nahum’s words would reach me, thousands of years later, during my day of distress. As I reflect on this day and the way my Dad stepped in and showed me such limitless love and comfort, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude, but my heart can’t help but wonder why it took me getting to the place of debilitating desperation to take refuge in Him. What could my week have looked like if on day one, I turned to Him? Why do I wait? Why do I try to figure it out by myself first? The glory of God is that He wants me to seek Him FIRST. Not as a last resort. Not when the thought of abandoning the beautiful life He gave me is at the forefront of my brain. First.
Are you in a day of distress? Seek Him. Petition Him. Beg Him to reveal truth and comfort to you. And after He does, stop taking the weight of the world on your shoulders, girlfriend. Stop feeling the need to do it yourself first. We serve a God who tells us that isn’t necessary and it’s time we believe Him.
********While this devotional is geared towards men, I felt like there were a some good thoughts for everyone, not just men.***********
Today’s verse hangs on a board on the wall of my son. But years ago, long before my son was even an inkling, I came across that verse as I was sending my own father one of many letters I composed over the years to share with him the importance of salvation, and the value of life in Christ. My sister, mother, and I came to know the Lord in 1980, but it took another 17 years, seven months, and 26 days worth of praying, heart softening, and brokenness for Dan McEvoy to surrender.
And it wasn’t this letter or the above verse that pushed him into it. No, this letter I was writing simply to tell him how blessed I was to have begun dating a woman (who eventually became my wife) for whom faith came first, and I was giving God all the glory and credit and all that good stuff, and probably telling him how God delights in blessing those who trust in Him.
With the letter I enclosed a quick-and-dirty page of graphic art involving the aforementioned verse from Corinthians in some fancy font, with a clip-art picture of a sailboat, kind of as a visual aid to my letter, indicating, I suppose, what it was like for the man of God to live in this world under the Captaincy of Christ.
Well, so. After he died in 2001, I found that letter and piece of “art” in my father’s desk, looking as if it had been read and glanced at often. Something in me knew then that if I were ever to have a son, I’d commit to raising him to manhood under these same five principles:
- Be on your guard. Be ready, be alert. Expect God to be involved, expect Satan to attack. Let the wonder of creation still catch your eye.
- Stand firm in faith. Be unmoved because you know intimately that of which you believe in. Become biblically literate.
- Be a man of courage. Fear is not from God (2 Timothy 1:7), so go your way boldly. The worst that can happen – even death – still ends in victory and glory for the Christian.
- Be strong. Physically, yes, let’s take care of ourselves, and present our bodies as holy. But remember that the Lord is the strength of the strong (Ephesians 6:10), and that “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
- Do everything in love. Here’s your motivation, because he that doesn’t love doesn’t know God (1 John 4:8), and the world shall know you by your love (John 13:35).
So when Jordan was born, and we had the dedication service at our church, that’s the verse we selected to have read. When he was about two-and-a-half, he started reciting it by memory and making up arm/hand motions to go with it. We call it our “Man-Creed.”
But here’s the secret: these couple verses from the closing of Paul’s first letter to Corinth aren’t first-and-foremost for Jordan… they’re for me.
When I first realized that, it caught me, ironically enough, “off my guard.” I had been more than happy to tell my own father how to “be a man,” and was perfectly willing to raise my son to be one according to the Word. How, I wonder, did I intend to do so without living out the credo, making it my own?
The Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible comments upon the 1 Corinthians passage thusly: “[Paul] shows that they ought to make their hopes of salvation to depend not on Apollos or any other teacher; that it rests with themselves.” Yes, and on how I am willing to live, or better, whether I am willing to let my life be of greater worth than my words.
I don’t know about the other guys out there, but it definitely helps me to have something to live by, to recite, to write on my heart, ponder the meaning of, and connect to other scriptures as I strive to be a man after God’s own heart. And it doesn’t hurt that this creed I now try to follow is affecting its third generation in my family.