Taking A Spiritual Inventory

Because of some recent bumps and bruises as I do this thing called living, I was prompted to complete a spiritual inventory I always do at the end of the year. I think about these things regularly, but it’s rare that I sit down and deeply ponder each question, even writing out my responses, except at the end of the year.

I’m glad I took this seriously last week. My answers encouraged me and I was appropriately challenged, as well. I’m sharing the questions here because maybe you’ll benefit, too.

I really want my life’s focus to be Jesus, but it’s easy to get sidetracked by life’s busyness. For integrity, I want my life to line up with what I say is important. What about you? Asking and answering these questions helps me get back on track.

These questions come from various inventories and from my awareness of my own tendencies and what to be alert to. Use them if they appear complete for you and your situation. If not, adjust the list so you’re appropriately challenged to grow. And, how about helping children and teens use these, too? Imagine! To God be the glory!

  1. Do I know God better? Do I love Him more? Do I trust Him more?
  2. Is the Word of God refreshing to my soul? Do I know more of it? Do I willingly prioritize reading it, studying it, and meditating on it?
  3. Am I less attracted to the world now than I was before?
  4. Do I have a greater desire to do the will of God? Do I earnestly desire what God wants for me or do I want my own way?
  5. Do I present the Gospel when the Spirit prompts me to?
  6. Am I more disciplined? Do I more quickly recognize sin as sin and turn from it?
  7. When God chastens me, what’s my attitude? Do I choose to see God’s loving care for me?
  8. Am I more focused on pleasing God than people? Do I regularly respond to people as Christ would?
  9. Do I appropriately prioritize fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ?
  10. Are my times of worship rich, regular, personal, and meaningful? Do I generously and sacrificially give back to God?
  11. Do I pray confidently and expectantly? Do I wait for and recognize God’s answers? Am I appropriately grateful for all God is and does?
  12. Do I honor the Sabbath?

These questions were included in an earlier blog.

Favorite Bible Verses About God, My Father

On this day after Father’s Day, I’ve just read many of my favorite Bible verses about God, my Father. I thought you might be encouraged if you read them, too. (They’re all the English Standard Version.)

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” ~Psalm 68:5

“You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.” ~Psalm 89:6

“Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:15-17

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” ~Matthew 6:7-9

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” ~Matthew 6:14

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” ~Matthew 6:25-27

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” ~Matthew 7:11

“Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” ~Matthew 10:31-33

“So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” ~Matthew 18:14

“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” ~Luke 6:36

“I and the Father are one.” ~Jesus, in John 10:30

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ~John 14:6

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” ~John 15:8-10

I am very, very grateful God is my Father. I hope you know Him, too.

Celebrating Flag Day, In A Whole New Light

I joke with people that I bleed red, white, and blue because I love America so much. I was raised in a flag waving, politically active family. My grandfather (my mom’s dad) was an alderman in my city for over 25 years and then elected the first full-time mayor.

I have fabulous childhood memories of not only waving flags, but pushing tiny ones into our front yard to decorate on different holidays, including the oft-ignored Flag Day. That’s today – June 14th.

When we use all 8 of our smarts when thinking and learning, we draw conclusions we wouldn’t have when thinking with just our 1-3 natural strengths. Let me try to prove it.

Think about the flag using all eight smarts. Will you draw conclusions you haven’t in the past? Discover a new curiosity? See a new picture? Remember a long-forgotten memory? Let me know.

  • Body: think with movement and touch
  • Logic: think with questions
  • Music: think with rhythms and melodies
  • Nature: think with patterns
  • People: think with other people
  • Picture: think with your eyes
  • Self: think with personal reflection
  • Word: think with words

“The flag of the United States has not been created by rhetorical sentences in declarations of independence and in bills of rights. It has been created by the experience of a great people, and nothing is written upon it that has not been written by their life. It is the embodiment, not of a sentiment, but of a history.” ~Woodrow Wilson

The Blessing of Flexibility

Today I’m posting a devotional from the book Steve Baker wrote. As a dad, grandfather, and Christian school administrator, he wrote the devotionals in O Taste and See to encourage parents and children to learn from God’s Word together. Each is related to one or more of the core needs I teach about often and that are taught in my book, Finding Authentic Hope and Wholeness. He has seen their importance and wanted devotionals as another way of helping children meet the needs in healthy ways.

I chose to post a devotional about flexibility because those of us who are willing to be flexible will have a better summer than others. Would you agree that parents and children need to be willing to go with the flow? Sharing Steve’s thoughts with your children will provide an excellent avenue to talk about their attitudes this summer. Could it sometimes be the Holy Spirit redirecting us? Also, I love – love! – his “taste test” idea at the end. I think doing that would be a very rich experience.

FLEXIBILITY – the state of being able to easily change or adjust; ability to do different things, adapt to new and different or challenging requirements.

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.

1 Peter 2:19-21

Scripture Text: Acts 16:6-12

When situations in life are a source of irritation, it may be because God is trying to move us in a different direction. God uses our circumstances to guide and direct us. It may be through suffering which He allows us to endure or through trials we face from others that God moves us to a place of constant service and worship in our journey with Him. Being flexible means being attentive and available to the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

This was true in Paul’s life as he went on his missionary journey through Asia Minor. Paul desired to go one way toward Turkey, yet the Holy Spirit wanted Paul to go west and cross over into southern Europe. God gave Paul a vision of a man standing on the shore of Macedonia praying and calling out, “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” This took great flexibility from the mission team to change their plans; and even a greater need for flexibility as they faced opposition.

In light of the vision, Paul made plans to sail to Macedonia. He and his team eventually arrived at Philippi. They had quick success in reaching a well-known and affluent woman named Lydia. She listened intently to their teachings and trusted the Lord Jesus as her Savior.

Their obedience was also met with suffering because they were followed about by a young demon possessed girl who was used by businessmen to tell the fortunes of people for a profit. Paul cast the demon out of the damsel and this ended the business practice of these local men. Outraged, they caught Paul and Silas, took them before the rulers, had them beaten, and thrown into prison.

Where was the blessing of being flexible to follow the Holy Spirit in all of this, one might ask? God always knows what He is doing. That night as Paul and Silas sang in prison, probably to the amazement of the other prisoners and the jailor, God shook the prison with an earthquake. The events that followed led to the jailor and his whole family’s salvation and the church at Philippi was born. None of this would have happened if Paul and Silas had not been flexible to listen to the leading of God’s Spirit, flexible to endure unjust suffering knowing that God was with them, and flexible to praise God in light of the irritations they endured.

Taste Test:

Take an elderly saint in your church out to lunch one day and visit with them about the character of flexibility.

  • Ask them to tell you stories of when God moved them or changed the direction of their life.
  • Was it hard?
  • How did they respond?
  • Was it worth it if they obeyed?
  • Ask them to tell you the blessing of listening to the Spirit of God.

Scraping the Plate:

Discuss the scripture text in Acts 16:6-40.

Read the whole story.

What might have been different in history if Paul and Silas had gone the other way into Bithynia? Would we have ever heard the gospel or would we have ever heard of Paul? Would God have had to raise someone else up to spread the gospel to Europe? We can be extremely grateful for Paul’s obedient flexibility.

Nanny’s Chocolate Pie:

Our identity as God’s children requires that we are growing in character and changing by putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. This requires our flexibility in allowing God to lead us.

Steve Baker has served in ministry for over thirty-five years and is currently finishing his masters in divinity. With his heart for discipleship, he has worked as a senior pastor, associate pastor, teacher, coach, and hospice chaplain. In 2010, God called him and his wife, Joyce, to help launch a University-Model school. He is currently the Principal of Summit Christian Academy in Boerne, Texas. Steve has a passion for families and mentoring believers to walk in this world humbly and boldly as warriors sharing the powerful message of the gospel to all people.

“How to Insure Your Kid Won’t Walk Away From the Faith After Graduation” Guest Post by Sue Bohlin

If you’ve heard me speak lately, you’ve probably heard me mention my concerns about young people leaving their faith and the church behind after graduating from high school. The statistics are discouraging. It’s a reason I was motivated to write Screens and Teens

For many years, I’ve respected the multi-faceted work of Probe Ministries www.probe.org. Perhaps you’ve heard me interviewed on Point of View radio www.pointofview.net with Kerby Anderson, the president of Probe.

Because I want you to know about Mind Games, their summer one-week program for 17-21 year-olds held near Denton, TX, north of Fort Worth, I’ve asked Sue Bohlin to blog for me today. The first four recommendations are for you – no matter the age of your kids. #2 is my favorite. We should all do it. All of us! #5 is send them to Mind Games. I sincerely hope you’ll read through and consider the information if you have a 17-21 year-old.

How to Insure Your Kid Won’t Walk Away From the Faith After Graduation – by Sue Bohlin

That title sounds like clickbait, doesn’t it? What parent doesn’t want to make sure their not-ready-for-prime-time young adult will continue to walk with the Lord, honoring Him with their life, and making wise, biblically-based decisions? Wouldn’t it be great if such a 5-point guaranteed method existed?

Too bad. It’s doesn’t. Life isn’t like that. We can’t control other people like that.

But I can make some suggestions that have made a difference in other families.

  1. PRAY. And never stop. Our children are the targets of spiritual warfare. They are hated by the enemy of our souls who hates God, hates His people, and wants to destroy our children.
  2. From the time they are itty-bitty, play “Spot the Lie.” Pay attention to the lies of the world, the flesh and the devil (1 John 2:16), and talk about them with your children when you’re sitting at home, when you’re walking and driving, when you’re putting them to bed, and when they get up in the morning (Deuteronomy 6:7). For example, one day when my now-grown children were in elementary school, the car radio played Bette Midler’s song “From a Distance,” which says that God is watching us from a distance. I asked, “Is that true?” My sons thought about it and said, “No! He’s right here with us!” Exactly. We spotted the lie. And called it what is was.
  3. Educate yourself about how to answer the Big Questions of Life so you can talk to your kids about them: How do we know there is a God? How do we know we can trust the Bible? How do we know Jesus is God? Why does a good God allow pain and evil and suffering?

What makes kids walk away from the faith is usually having unanswered questions. They might not ask for fear of a lame answer, or they might deduce that they shouldn’t doubt, shouldn’t question the things we teach them, and they should “just have faith.” Well, here’s the thing: we should trust our lives and our eternities to Christ not because of warm fuzzy feelings, but because Christianity is true!  Do you know WHY it’s true?

Let me recommend a couple of new books, written by moms to equip other parents to be confident in their own faith so they can effectively teach it to their kids.

Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith by Natasha Crain is super accessible and understandable. One of the best apologetics books I’ve seen.

Teaching Others to Defend Christianity by Cathryn Buse is written by a former NASA engineer (now a stay-at-home mom of littles) who uses her “mad logic skillz” to walk the reader through the basic Big Questions of Life in an organized way.

One other resource: a few months ago I was asked to speak to a group of moms on “Apologetics for Parents of Littles.” You can download the recording here and get the handout here.

4. Talk to your kids about these big questions of the Christian life: about God, the Bible, Jesus, pain and suffering. Ask them what they think and how they’re working through these very important issues. Talk about these things before they leave your nest after high school!

5. One final suggestion: send your kid(s) to Probe Ministries’ Mind Games camp, a one-week total immersion in worldview and apologetics, both classic apologetics (those Big Questions of Life) and cultural apologetics, such as Grace and Truth About LGBT, Genetic Engineering, The Differences Between Guys and Girls, How to Watch a Movie, Christian Views of Science and Earth History, and more. It’s a faith-builder and question-answerer, with lots of free time for fun and connecting with other campers. For many of the campers, it deeply impacts their hearts and souls, nailing down the glorious fact that Christianity is TRUE! My husband I have been privileged to pour into high school and college students through Mind Games for over 20 years; it is truly our joy! This year it’s June 11-17 at Camp Copass in Denton, Texas. Check out the videos and lots of information at probe.org/mindgames.

Sue Bohlin is a speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries, a Christian organization that helps people to think biblically. She loves teaching women and laughing, and if those two can be combined, all the better. She also loves speaking for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women’s Clubs) on the topic How to Handle the Things You Hate But Can’t Change, based on her lifelong experience as a polio survivor.

She has a freelance calligraphy business in her home studio; hand lettering was her “Proverbs 31 job” while her children were young. Sue also serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered organization that helps people struggling with unwanted homosexuality and the family members of those with same-sex attractions.

Sue never met a cruise ship she didn’t like, especially now that God has provided a travel scooter for getting around any ship! She is happily married to Dr. Ray Bohlin, writer and speaker on faith and science with Probe Ministries, and they have two grown sons. You can follow Sue on Twitter @suebohlin.

Let the little children come to me.

When Jesus lived on earth, children were the forgotten generation. Yet, He interacted with them. Imagine what they felt when He said, “Let the little children come to me.” Is this our attitude toward children most days or do we try to live in a magic box as Kathy has in the past?

Contentment & Happiness by Steve Baker

Today I’m posting a devotional from the book Steve Baker wrote. As a dad, grandfather, and Christian school administrator, he wrote the devotionals in O Taste and See to encourage parents and children to learn from God’s Word together. Each is related to one or more of the core needs I teach about often and that are taught in my book, Finding Authentic Hope and Wholeness. He has seen their importance and wanted devotionals as another way of helping children meet the needs in healthy ways.

I chose to post a devotional about contentment because I’m so concerned with the lack of contentment that I see in children and adults. Steve wrote this about Achan: “He had to have what he wanted now. He could not be content to wait.” Does that remind you of anyone you know.

After you read this, I encourage you to share it with your children.

Contentment & Happiness by Steve Baker

CONTENTMENT – the state of being happy regardless of situations and satisfied; having no need of more.

“But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1 Timothy 6:8

Scripture Text: Joshua 7

Scripture tells us, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him,” Psalm 62:5. We are encouraged to look to God for our expectations and desires to be fulfilled. God made us with needs and wants. We all want to feel loved and appreciated. We need encouragement and help at times. When we look to other things or people to satisfy these needs, we leave God out of our life. This causes a discomfort, confusion, and sometimes disaster. God has a plan for our growth and maturity. If we truly trust Him, we must be content that His plan and the provision that He gives along the way are correct.

Joshua 7 tells the story of a man who doubted God’s provision and took matters into his own hands. He was not content to wait on God’s plan. The man’s name is Achan and his discontentment was costly.

God’s plan was simple: Trust Me and honor Me first and I will provide for you and protect you. Forty years before this story took place God had delivered His people, Israel, from Egypt. Achan and his family followed Moses, and then Joshua through the wilderness until God was ready to bring them into the land He had promised them. God’s people had seen God’s mighty hand of protection and provision many times. God provided food in the desert, water from a rock, and protection from enemies. Now the people entered the land and won the first battle over the great city of Jericho. After having seen all these events, you would think that Achan would have no doubt that God was worth trusting.

God commanded the people that all the spoils (valuables) from the battle of Jericho were to be considered holy. Everything was to be gathered as an offering to give to the Lord from this first battle. The spoils from later battles would be theirs. Trust and honor God first was a commandment that Achan struggled with that time.

After the battle at Jericho, Achan discovered a bar of gold, some beautiful pieces of silver, and a lovely garment. He knew that he should turn them in to the offering, but he could not wait for future spoils. Rather than honor God’s command, he kept those items for himself. Maybe he did not believe that God would give him what he wanted and needed in the battles to come. He decided not to trust God or honor God’s command. He had to have what he wanted now. He could not be content to wait.

Because of his disobedience and discontentment, God withdrew His protection from the people of Israel until they repented. In the next battle, they fought against the small village of Ai. The Israelites were defeated and many men lost their lives. God held Achan responsible for this. God led Joshua to bring judgment upon Achan and his family. Their sin cost the lives of innocent soldiers, so God had Achan and his family put to death.

God has promised to supply our every need. He has a plan for that provision, but He requires us to honor Him first. “Keep your life free from the love of money; and be content with what you have: for He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5.

Taste Test:

How hard is it for you to wait? Are you a child and can hardly wait until you are a teen? Or maybe as a teen, you can’t wait until you are old enough to be considered an adult with its privileges? Discontentment robs us of the moment.

  • Make a list of ‘wants’ that you have for the future when you get to the next ‘stage’ in life. (a car to drive, a girl/boyfriend, a secure job, college, a certain income) Interview an older Christian who has gone through many stages of life.
  • Ask if they experienced any dangers or blessings by waiting or not waiting on God.
  • Ask if they trusted God for their provision in areas where you have listed your wants.
  • How did it work out for them?

Scraping the Plate:

  • Read 1 Timothy 6:7-10. Allow the idea of verses 9- 10 to sink in.
  • Discuss the reason some fell away from the faith and have experienced many sorrows.
  • Compare that with Paul’s encouragement to Timothy in verses 17-19.

Country Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes:

We can trust that God has our best interest in mind and He has a plan to fulfill our needs. Contentment is a benefit of the security we possess as we walk in obedience to His commands.

Steve Baker has served in ministry for over thirty-five years and is currently finishing his masters in divinity. With his heart for discipleship, he has worked as a senior pastor, associate pastor, teacher, coach, and hospice chaplain. In 2010, God called him and his wife, Joyce, to help launch a University-Model school. He is currently the Principal of Summit Christian Academy in Boerne, Texas. Steve has a passion for families and mentoring believers to walk in this world humbly and boldly as warriors sharing the powerful message of the gospel to all people.

Simply, Jesus

Recently a friend of mine lost her job. I’ve called and texted to encourage her. To do something different, I decided to color a picture for her. You may know that I color as a way of relaxing and I typically use what I color like a greeting card.

On Saturday I looked through the books I have to find a picture that I believed would be appropriate for my friend. Several had Bible verses that were relevant, but I kept coming back to the one that simply said, Jesus.

That’s the one I ultimately colored and gave her. I prayed as I colored, that she’d keep her eyes on Jesus during these days and weeks as she has the rest of her life. I prayed He proves Himself faithful as He has on so many other occasions. She didn’t need a reminder of a verse or a character quality of God’s she knows.

Just Jesus. Yesterday I worshiped with hundreds of others, singing about His name being above all of other names. There’s power in His name. Love. Authority. Healing. Deliverance. So much more.

“Lord, Allow Me To Be A Peaceful Soul…”

A prayer from Ukraine

The last month or so, we have been more encouraged to pray than at any time I can remember. Let’s not stop now. There’s always something and someone to pray about.

I’ve been convicted more and more that it’s having ongoing conversations with God that matters. What if every time we post an update or read an update related to the news, we pray? Speak. Listen. Wait. Repeat.

This is a prayer friends from Ukraine shared with me many years ago. I pray it often and thought you might appreciate it today.

Lord, allow me with a peaceful soul,

to meet everything that tomorrow’s day will bring for me.

Help me to completely entrust myself to Your holy will.

Help me to know that in every moment of this day, in everything,

You will instruct and support me.

Whatever news I receive during the next day,

let me accept it with a calm soul and strong assurance

that everything is according to Your holy will.

In all my words and deeds, guide my thoughts and feelings.

In all unexpected situations,

don’t let me forget that everything is sent by You.

Help me to deal with all the people fairly and wisely

so nobody will be confused or upset.

Give me the strength to endure the weariness of the coming day

and all the events during that day.

Guide my will and teach me how to

repent, pray, believe, hope, tolerate, forgive, thank, and love.

Amen!

18 Perspective Anchoring Scriptures

I don’t know what’s on your mind today, but here’s what’s on mine. I’m so grateful for God’s Word. The Truths help me focus. They settle me. I’ve been “camping” here lately.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” Proverbs 3:1-2

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

“My son, do not lose sight of these—keep sound wisdom and discretion.” Proverbs 3:21

“Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.” Proverbs 4:5

“Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.” Proverbs 4:6-8

“Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” Proverbs 4:13

“Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” Proverbs 8:10-11

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Proverbs 9:1

“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” Proverbs 9:9

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15

“A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.” Proverbs 14:6

“In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” Proverbs 14:26-27

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52

“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:4

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1