First Day Procedures — A Call to Persevere: “Into the Word” Week 14

    For 17 years, I worked as a high school language arts teacher.  Every Fall, I bravely stepped up to the podium for the start of the new school year full of hope and fresh promise.  The year before had been wiped away — lessons had been learned (more by me than the students, I think), and now I had an opportunity to do it right… to do it better… to be wiser…. to start over.   The first day is always the hardest — frankly, on my first day of teaching I threw up in the trash can out of sheer anxiety.  Teaching teenagers is not a job for cowards.

   Armed with my sharpened pencils and class rosters, I stepped up to the chalkboard with confidence each year — because I knew the Master Teacher went before me, because I had friends who walked this journey with me, and because I had a script to follow.  Yes, a script!  My first year of teaching during the orientation, the administration had given me a precious handout entitled “First Day Procedures”  — an outline of how my day should go with steps to follow to set up my lesson.   That tattered handout provided direction and kept me on the course for success.

  Easter provides an opportunity to start fresh — with renewed hope and confidence, we can choose to live in light of His resurrection and claim His victory as our own.  As I was digging “Into the Word” this week, I was overjoyed to discover that the writer of Hebrews has outlined for us our “First Day Procedures” — Follow these steps in Chapter 10, my friends, and you will stay on the path to spiritual success:

  • Draw near to God, daily visiting the foot of the cross in your heart and allowing Him to cleanse your sin (v. 22)
  • Hold unswervingly to the hope found in Christ, our faithful Savior (v. 23)
  • Consider how to spur one another on toward love and good deeds (v. 24)
  • Never give up meeting together.  Get plugged in to fellowship and sound Bible teaching (v. 25a)
  • Encourage one another— Because this world hits you hard, we are called to be “Jesus with skin on” to each other (v. 25b)

The writer of Hebrews calls on us to persevere.  The crucified life is not for cowards — disciples arm themselves with courage and walk forward in the power of the Holy Spirit:

…You need to stick it out,

staying with God’s plan

so you’ll be there for the promised completion.

It won’t be long now,

He’s on the way;

      He’ll show up most any minute.

   But anyone who is right with Me

thrives on loyal trust;

      if he cuts and runs,

I won’t be very happy.

But we’re not quitters who lose out.

Oh, no! We’ll stay with it and survive,

trusting all the way.

Hebrews 10:35-39 (MSG)

Well, what are you waiting for?  You have your marching orders — your first day procedures.  Go out and change the world.

Q4U:  What spiritual goals have you set for this post-Easter season of your journey?  Is there a Scripture passage that has provided some direction to your walk?  I would love to hear from you in the comment section below.

Every Monday we will be working our way through Anne Graham Lotz’s 52-week study “Into the Word.”    Hop on over to the 3dLessons4Life Blog Facebook Page to join us as we dig into God’s Word together.

Linking up with a like-minded sisters at Faith Filled Friday, A Holy Experience,Good Morning Girls,  God -Bumps and God-Incidences, Soli Deo Gloria @ Finding Heaven and “Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday!”

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Study Groups

Have you ever “pulled an all-nighter” studying for a big test?  When I was in high school, a big group of friends would always get together to cram at one house for our math exams.  As a teacher, part of the job description required me to hold after-school help classes on the day before a test.  Although the material was already “out there” and provided, there was a huge benefit from interacting with others to re-hash, discuss, and learn how to apply the concepts.  These study sessions really helped.  Other students saw things differently and explained the material in a way that re-framed it and cemented it in the long-term memory.

As a student of the Word of God, I have also participated in “study groups” of a different kind — in these gatherings, we opened up our text, The Holy Word of  God, and revisited the principles that our Master Teacher outlined for us to help us live life effectively.  Interacting with others while discussing God’s Word has been life-changing for me.

God’s Word encourages us to seek out other  like-minded students of the Word.  The early church modeled this idea of engaging with others.  Just check out the wording used to describe the first church at the end of Acts 2 (NLT):

                     “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals  (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer…

And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.

They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.

They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—

all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people…”

Did you catch it?  The early church didn’t do the Jesus thing one day a week and then head their separate ways.  They interacted — they opened up the doors of their homes and broke bread together.  It’s a wonderful thing to sit down at a table and share a meal — pasta for your tummy and then Scripture for your soul.   Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV) challenges, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

So what are you waiting for?  Pick up the phone.  Break out the dip and chips.  Sit down for a spell and share.  Study the Word of Life together.

Homecoming

During my 17 years as a high school teacher, I participated in many Homecoming celebrations.  My students dressed up in crazy outfits (pajama day was my favorite) and waged epic field day battles in tug of war.  Frankly, I found the whole experience to be exhausting, and relief always flooded my soul when it was over.  The hours of preparation and the crazy student behavior wore me out, but my students always talk about that being their favorite part of high school.  Sometimes, what causes me grief is the best choice to honor those I love and serve.

Recently, I experienced a different kind of Homecoming, an eternal welcome home.  My husband and his siblings spent a great amount of time preparing for this event as their dear mom’s health declined ever so slowly.  It was tiring, rewarding, and emotional.  Their selflessness — it’s the legacy she left them.  Each of them wears it so effortlessly.

Our sweet Miss BJ’s 82nd birthday would have been this past week.  Three months after her passing, we gathered to celebrate her life in her absence.  This year has held many secret treasures for my family that were wrapped up in suffering.  I have learned once again that it so essential to be fully present with those that you love.  Each crazy moment of life is a gift, not to be squandered.

Moms are home keepers.  I certainly learned this from my mom in law’s life as she lived out what is recorded in Titus 2:5 (MSG): “By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior.”   I miss her gentle spirit and her smile.

As I move into this new year, may my home and my heart be a welcoming place for those I love.  May laughter fill its rooms and faith be its foundation.   May I be grateful for each moment.

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Taking Note

This teacher always encouraged her students to take notes.   Ok, I didn’t just encourage — I basically cajoled and badgered all my reluctant teenage scribes to put pen to paper.  Why do you ask?  Well, it’s a well-documented fact that we retain more information by manipulating it through writing, rehearsing orally, and interacting manually with ideas.  Plus, if we write important facts down, we can review them later on down the road.   Our mind just can’t hold on to all those concepts with depth and clarity for long.

In the Bible, God repeatedly commanded His people to create a written record of how He worked on their behalf so that they would not forget.  In Exodus 17, the Amalekites were defeated as Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses in prayer.  After the battle, God told Moses — you better write this one down.

 

Journaling allows us to

  • contemplate His glory and goodness
  • count our blessings
  • confess our sins
  • consider the day and reflect on how God works through the ordinary
  • claim a promise from His Word
  • contextualize and plan out a way to put His principles into practice
  • cry out to God in prayer
  • challenge ourselves to grow by setting goals

A couple of days ago, I pulled an old journal out of a box and skimmed through the pages.  What I found surprised me — it was like visiting with a stranger.   I had forgotten how God had quietly moved and spoken and worked in my heart during a very dark season.  Now, years removed from my former self, I relived that season with new understanding through the written record.  I saw how God had moved.  I am thankful that I took note.  God’s sweetness to me is too precious to let slip by.


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Excuses

As a former high school language arts teacher, I heard a plethora of excuses from students over the years:  “Teacher, I did my paper, but then our electricity went out, and I couldn’t print it.  May I e-mail it to you tonight?”  “M’am, we had to take my little sister to the emergency room yesterday, so I’ll have that paper in tomorrow.”  “Doc, my mom took me to the library, but I couldn’t find any books on my approved research paper topic.”  Dealing with students wisely was a daily challenge.  I asked God to give me discernment, but I must admit that I was a terrible failure on many days.  You see, if the same student came in with a new excuse every week, it really got hard to respond graciously.

Lately, the Master Teacher has been dealing with me, His negligent pupil, on the subject of excuses.  I have been such a procrastinator — this post has been spinning around in my head for weeks, but I kept making excuses as to why I didn’t have time to write it.  I realize that I am always giving God excuses.  “Lord, I am too tired to read my Bible this morning.”  “Father, I would give to that missionary, but I just don’t have enough money in my budget.”  “God, I don’t have any time to help that person this week.”   Why is God so patient with me when I am such a sluggard?

A few weeks back, I came across a story in Luke 14 during my devotions.  Later that week, I read a devotional on the same passage.  Don’t you love it when God repeats Himself to get your attention?  I realize that just like the men in the story, God invites me to participate in what He is doing.  One man said He had to inspect a field (v.18) — Am I selfishly letting my possessions and greediness keep me away from doing what God has for me?  The second excuse maker, a farmer, had a field to plow with some new oxen (v.19) — Am I letting my work and other responsibilities take over my life so that I am missing out on God’s plan for me?  The last gentleman indicated he couldn’t accept the invitation because of his wife — What personal relationships are holding me back from God?

Proverbs 13:4 (NIV) states:  “The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Verse 19 in the same chapter reads:  “A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil.”  What am I waiting for?

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