As Iron Sharpens Iron

We have just spent the last three days on retreat with the Board of Directors for Walk Right In Ministries. It’s been such an encouraging and sharpening time of fellowship, worship and listening to God for direction!

As Larry and I prepared for the retreat, we had Christ-centered friendship on our minds. Of course it is a priority for us individually and as a family, but it is critical in the leadership and the very fabric of our ministry. As the weekend went on, we were thankful for the opportunity to wrestle through the mission, vision, challenges and opportunities with like-minded friends who will encourage us in Christ and hold us accountable to His ways. As we all dug into God’s word and our passions together, we were reminded once again of what a privilege it is to live and work alongside others who love Jesus.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:12

Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man…they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man,“Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:3-5

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24
We prayed that you have people in your lives coming alongside you in such an important way. Would you please take a moment to pray on behalf of Walk Right In Ministries? Let’s ask God together that He would connect people in Christ-centered relationships and equip them for growth and abundant living that brings glory to God — even when life is hard. That’s our mission. May God make it so!

Life on the Bumpy Road #1

It always amazes me how full our lives get. We live in a culture frantic to keep up with “The List,” the Joneses, our needs, the kids, the high expectations. After a mission trip to a very laid back culture in 2008, I became even more aware of how my personality and culture repeatedly drives me toward my calendar and steady doses of urgent matters.

I feel justified but frequently frustrated to find myself staying up late into the evenings because there are so many “worthy” and urgent things on my plate. You know what I mean. Your list looks different than mine but we all have one that challenges us. I have a child with severe disabilities, three teenagers and a graduation coming up, a husband prone to life-threatening infection due to a chronic health condition, a vulnerable back that requires me to make a simple work-out regimen a regular part of most days, a non-profit ministry to run, and our family is now into eight months of unemployment. For Larry and I, it’s a crazy pace to keep up.

I stumbled onto this verse the other day and it brought me, once again, a good reminder about where I place my priorities — and TRUST.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. PSALM 127:2

To me, this verse begs the question: “How much do you trust God, Lisa?”

It is good to be continually evaluating priorities and pruning out of my life anything that keeps me from bearing the best possible fruit. John 15 has been a great guide for me. Jesus said (with my emphasis):

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit….the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

First and foremost, I must take time to remain firmly rooted in the relationship that anchors and nourishes me. Then I have to periodically cut some things loose or life just keeps adding more and more. A life without regular pruning is an unreasonable and undoable way to live.

God created the whole universe and life itself and then He RESTED. God provided enough manna for the Israelites in the desert each day for six days of the week but commanded them not to try to save any for the next day. He expected them to trust Him to supply enough, one day at a time. But on the last day of the week, he would give them enough for two days so that they could rest for a day. On every other day of the week, if they tried to save any manna, it would spoil by morning. But at the end of the week, God kept the manna fresh overnight so that they could stop gathering and just enjoy His provision and each other.

I suggest here that we’re all being stretched to consider how much we trust our God who repeatedly urges us to rest in Him and to take breaks from our toil. If we have our priorities straight and are working on them in a focused manner while plugged into a relationship with our Savior, has He not promised to honor our best effort and make that enough?

There will always be more work to be done, more time to be given to a worthy cause, more people to help, more emails to read and more great stuff to plug the kids into. I see marriages and families being ripped apart every day and the slow, subtle deterioration started, at least in part, because folks were so stretched doing good and valuable things like ministry and community service and countless activities for their kids while their marriages were getting the last dregs of their energy and passion. You know what? Satan LOVES that!

Let us receive the gift of rest from a holy God who is always sufficient — and we are not. He doesn’t allow us to be entirely self-sufficient because if we were, we wouldn’t need to trust in Him.

Do you trust Him enough to let some things go?

Who Are Your Walking Partners?

Minnesota winters require creativity if you like to keep fit by walking. Locally, we’re fortunate to have a dome-covered soccer field with a walking track around it where I regularly meet friends to catch up on life. It’s a terrific way to multi-task. I am so thankful for the exercise but even more appreciative of the conversation. These are times of mutual encouragement, reflection, shared insights, and even prayer.

My experience with “walking partners” is both literal and metaphorical. Often these friends help me stay spiritually fit and challenge me to grow. Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate to have friends who were like disciples to me. They persistently helped keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. Whether they sent a timely email, prayed with me on the telephone, chatted on a soccer sideline or listened from a chair on a dock at the cabin, these precious women have carried me to Jesus through good times and bad.

Friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts. Having a trusted and encouraging friend to confide in during a time of crisis is particularly valuable. Yet for some people in the midst of challenges, the sense of loneliness and isolation can feel more overwhelming than the crisis itself. Sometimes we just need to talk with someone who “gets it.”

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Larry and I are strongly in favor of seeking professional Christian counseling, particularly in the face of challenges such as grief or loss, disability, chronic/terminal illness, strained marriage, and addiction. We ourselves have benefited tremendously from Christian temperament counseling and 12 Step-style Bible study groups. Yet we also believe that professional counselors would be needed in far fewer circumstances if more Christians lived out their calling to be disciples — in a lifestyle of walking shoulder-to-shoulder with one another listening, encouraging, exhorting and empowering in relationships where Christ is central to the conversation.

What kind of Walking Partner are you?

Do you need to be more intentional about developing these mutually-discipling kinds of relationships in your life?

When we started Walk Right In Ministries, we were acutely aware of this deep and broad need around the world — an even more critical need when people are facing adversity. We wanted to support people in getting connected with others who had “been in their shoes” but would do more than just empathize. Today our goal remains the same: to ensure you are connected with others who will pray with you and encourage you in your walk with God. We call friends like that “Walking Partners.”

A Walking Partner is someone who will cheer you on while helping you maintain a clear plum line against which to measure your relationships, choices, goals and dreams. You can get “social networking” and good mentoring in lots of places but a biblical, disciple-growing kind of friendship like this is soul-reaching and can change your life for eternity. Walking Partners celebrate the Living God and will respectfully and lovingly share Him.

LORD, please teach me how to be this kind of friend. Help me find and connect with others who will be Walking Partners with me for Your glory. Starting this week, help me to be more aware and intentional about making You a central part of my relationships so that anything I have to offer my friendships is not dependent on ME but flows out of YOUR love, truth, hope, and comfort. AMEN

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:16-17

Watch for upcoming posts about Walking Partners! We’ll explore these questions and more:

  • What are the qualities of a Walking Partner according to the Bible?
  • Who are our Biblical models for being good Walking Partners?
  • How many Walking Partners should a person have?
  • What are the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of being a good Walking Partner?
  • What does a good Walking Partner look like today?

Let’s Wave Our Swords!

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips, meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. JOSHUA 1:8

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. HEBREWS 4:12

I started 2011 on an unexpected reading adventure. Perhaps knowing how this process is blessing me will also inspire you in some way. As I share my own experience, please consider adding your voice to the discussion. Larry and I want this blogging experience to be an interactive discussion for the purposes of spurring one another on while also bringing glory to God our Father.

Somewhere around the first of January I made the spontaneous decision to read the entire Bible in 90 days. Since I’m a bit of a realist, I have never seriously considered attempting this before. My decision was made, in part, out of anger — anger with the enemy. I’ve been desperate for progress with Carly’s challenges lately and am trusting that my “waving of the sword” will incline the Lord to respond powerfully, decisively and mercifully. Since Carly’s nights have been extraordinarily challenging, I have also had ample opportunity to lay beside her for hours on end in the quiet glow of my iPod reading from an “app” that guides and tracks my daily readings. Sometimes we both even listen to lullabies based on scripture from a CD my sister gave her for Christmas. I could practically be an Apple commercial cuddled there multi-tasking like that from my iTouch!

I’m finding this an exciting journey! Right there in the middle of the night — in the middle of a dark room and sometimes very dark circumstances — I can email myself verses that are enlightening, challenging or comforting. During the day, I’ve been compiling these verses into a list that will be like a “pillar of fire” to continue guiding and strengthening me for each twist and turn. This will be something I’m going to remember for years to come.

Do you find yourself grappling to understand God’s leading in some area of your life?

What strategies do you use most often when trying to figure out the way to God’s will and satisfying living? Though we can be tempted to lean on family, friends, a self-help book, a long walk or lakeside sunset for enlightenment, God assures there is great reward in saturating ourselves in His Word.

If you haven’t already considered it, know that from the Bible you will hear God’s voice more clearly and better recognize His promptings. Consider beginning and/or ending every day feasting on His Word. Maybe a 90-Day Reading Plan isn’t something you can tackle right now but how about a Psalm-a-Day plan or reading the book of John?

Tell Us! — In what ways is God watering your life with his Words lately?

ISAIAH 55:10-13

10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”

of Hair and Hearts…

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 SAMUEL 16:7

This has been a week for frequent reflection on 1 Samuel 16:7.

What was to be a one-night stay for my wife at her parents’ house in northern Minnesota has turned into a five-day, four-night “Mister Mom” marathon for me at our home back in the Twin Cities. And while the reason that her visit has been extended is completely legitimate, and the physical, emotional, and spiritual rest she is getting is an immense blessing, the itinerary change has resulted in a daily meditation for me on 1 Samuel 16:7.

But before I get into that, there are a couple of things I need to make clear. First, my two oldest daughters (Alex and Erin) are pretty much self-sufficient and have done a better-than-expected job of helping me out. Second, I am not in any way writing this blog entry as an attempt to get sympathy or praise for my “sacrifice”–I’m an adult and a dad and I should be able to handle it. It’s not brain surgery. So don’t get distracted…remember, 1 Samuel 16:7:

“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

So, “what has caused you to dwell repetitively on 1 Samuel 16:7 this week,” you may ask? What has me so focused on outward appearances? Nothing less than…my youngest daughter’s hair.

Yes, you read that correctly. You see, since everyone else in my family is gone when she wakes up, I’ve been solely responsible for “doing” Carly’s hair. And it hasn’t been pretty. Her hairstyle requires a ponytail on the top. There are apparently reasons for this…but as a dad, I’m not really sure what they are. In any case, each day I have attempted to re-create the beautiful ponytails that my wife and older daughters are so good at fashioning. And each day the result has been a crying girl with a ponytail that holds too much of the “wrong” hair and too little of the “right” hair. And it has looked completely different everyday. I’m quite sure her teachers at school have been thinking, “Dad must be home alone.” And they would be correct.

Which brings me back to 1 Samuel 16:7. You see, each day this week I have been reminded that the Lord looks past Carly’s multiple consecutive bad hair days and looks at the purity of her heart. Every day this week, I have been reminded that the Lord looks past my ineffective efforts and looks at my heart of love and service for my daughter. I’ve also been reminded of the importance the Lord places on the substance of my life…on what is really going on in my mind and my heart, not the external appearances that I try so hard to maintain. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” He can see right through me, to the truth that lies inside.

As we approach this Christmas season, may we all spend some time looking beyond the outward appearances of presents and trees and decorations. The heart of the matter is that God sent His Son to us as a baby in a manger. O COME LET US ADORE HIM, CHRIST THE LORD!