Challenge Day 19

Today’s Inspiration. I’ll be honest. After yesterday’s challenge post, I sat down this morning and had no idea where to go. What was next?

✔️Prayer.
✔️Bible reading.

I prayed. I explored. I thought. I took some new photos to use in the blog posts. I browsed through Hebrews, Colossians, Ephesians, and Romans. I thought about “Christian living” and Googled it. I thought about everything Jesus told his disciples and began to be overwhelmed.

And then I remembered that Jesus simplified things for us. (Well, he reminded me.) Although perhaps “simplified” is not the right word, once we begin to unpack what he said. Jesus told us—told a Pharisee, actually—that what everything boils down to is love.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40, NIV)

Love. Christian living is about loving.

Close-up shot of rumpled red quilt back against a pale background. Photo text: Challenge Day 19, just love. #writinglifeaugustchallenge

Today’s Challenge. Jesus boiled all of the Law and the Prophets—everything taught in the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi, down to two “simple” commandments. Simple, until we ask today’s question: What is love?

Um, yeah. Not so small a question. Google it and you get songs, psychology, dating sites, religious sites, articles from popular magazines, Wikipedia and dictionary definitions—it’s a big question that’s been asked for millennia. But Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God. Your task today is to explore the question What is love? from a Biblical perspective. Look it up in your Bible and see what God’s word has to say about it.

Today’s Participation. Take one thing the Bible has to say about love and use it to spark your creativity. Write a poem or journal entry or depict it in a sketch, painting, or photo. Share what you’ve done on Instagram using #writinglifeaugustchallenge, post something in the comments below, or show it to someone you see today to start a conversation about love from God’s perspective.

Challenge Day 18

Today’s Inspiration. When you’re an endurance runner, it’s likely that somewhere along the way you’ll experience injury. Injuries can occur for any number of reasons, but there were two in particular that took me out of the running the first year I attempted to train for a marathon, mere weeks before the race: misaligned hips and poor form. For me, the problems manifested in severe pain in my left knee. I limped back to my car after completing only 9 miles of the 20-mile training run and my knee protested any further attempts to run for the next several weeks. My hips and my form had defeated me.

But here’s the thing. I love to run. And when I couldn’t run, when my body wouldn’t let me, I hated it. So I sought out ways to keep going. It turns out that what I needed, besides time to heal, was correction. I needed to be corrected.

The Greek root for the word correction used in 2 Timothy 3:16 means “a straightening up again, i.e. rectification” (that’s from Bible Hub).

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (NIV)

I needed to be straightened up again. But I didn’t figure this out on my own.

A few weeks after my injury, I started a months-long process of physical therapy at a place that specialized in working with athletes. It was there that I learned my hips weren’t aligned—something correctable, but I needed others—experts trained in knowing what to do—to help me. These experts, the physical therapists, worked with my muscles, pulling them back into alignment through massage; they taught me how to recognize the misalignment by assessing my posture; and they taught me how to exercise in ways that would minimize and correct the error. My job was to show up—to endure the corrective (often painful) massages, and to practice the exercises they taught me, both in their presence where they could watch and correct me and at home.

And then, another year later, I went back: this time I underwent correction to prevent injury, not to heal from it. I went for a running coach who worked with current and former physical therapy patients. He focused on runners’ form, and this was just what I needed. As a heel striker who tended to roll to the outer edges of my feet when I tired, I had been inflicting injury upon myself. But by working to correct my form with a coach, I learned how to run properly and how to recognize when my muscles tired and my form started slipping. And I was able to train for, run, and complete a marathon.

The author of Hebrews likens the Christian life to training and running a race (Hebrews 12), and just like a runner, there will be times in our lives when we will need correction. Paul says the Bible—all Scripture—is useful for that. For correcting ourselves, for correcting others, for letting others help correct us (this last one has a lot to do with rebuking and teaching, too).

Beige owl salt/pepper shaker sitting next to a red and orange owl mug on a bookshelf. Photo text: Challenge Day 18, Bible-corrected. #writinglifeaugustchallenge

Today’s Challenge. Today your challenge is to pray and ask God to show you if there is anything in your life that needs correcting—and then to listen. Listen to what the Lord has to tell you, and seek out answers—correction—from the Bible in any area he puts on your heart. If you need to, seek out a friend or mentor who can help you in that area, who can work with you to correct the error.

Today’s Participation. Think back to a time you’ve needed to be corrected: Perhaps you always thought the lyrics to a song were different than they actually are, or perhaps you attempted to put together IKEA furniture without following the instructions and ended up with extra pieces. Can you relate this to needing correction in your walk with God? Start a conversation about the concept with a friend using that example, come up with a fun way to depict the need for correction and post it online using #writinglifeaugustchallenge (friend/follow me @rhondalorraineblog if you want me to see it), or simply tell a story about it in the comments below.

Challenge Day 17

Today’s Inspiration. My son is at the age that he loves to please us and hates to disappoint us. He is six (nearly seven), compassionate, sensitive to others’ feelings, affectionate, and tender hearted. When I have to rebuke him, the realization that he has in some way disappointed me, has somehow done something wrong, shows on his little face. His face crumples and there are almost inconsolable tears, and he tries to hide his face behind his hands but longs to be hugged and held.

My son doesn’t yet know the word rebuke, but if he did I’m quite sure he wouldn’t like it. In fact, he dreads the thought of it.

Aren’t so many of us the same?

I don’t hear the word rebuke very often these days, even in Christian circles. I’m guessing it would be accurate to say that it’s not a very popular word, since it has to do with calling someone out when they’re in the wrong, or have done something wrong. The dictionary defines it as “to criticize sharply.” And honestly, who wants that? Or who wants to do that to someone who isn’t your child, but your brother or sister in Christ? (Some people don’t even want to do it to their own children!)

But sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes, we need to be the spoken-out-loud voice that God’s Spirit has been whispering (even shouting) within our brother’s or sister’s spirit. Thankfully, for those times when it is necessary, God has given us some instruction for how to go about doing this—including the entire reason we’re taking about rebuking. It’s in 2 Timothy 3:16:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (NIV)

Today’s Challenge. Your challenge today is to explore the idea Paul presents here—all Scripture is useful for rebuking—from one of two viewpoints: The rebuker, the person having to rebuke another, or the rebukee, the person being rebuked. If you have time, explore the idea from both viewpoints.

Blue ceramic owl salt (or pepper) shaker sitting in front of an antique cream and blue dish set. Photo text: Challenge Day 16, Bible-rebuked. #writinglifeaugustchallenge

Rebukers: When is it appropriate to rebuke another person? How are you to go about it? Remember the context of the passage, described briefly in yesterday’s blog, and search your Bible for other instruction on whether, when, and how to go about doing it.

Rebukees: How are you to react when someone rebukes you? When the Holy Spirit speaks to you and tells you something needs to change? I know my initial reaction is to go on the defense and bite back (admittedly, not the best reaction). Search your Bible for advice on how to react, or for examples of how individuals confronted with their wrongs have reacted in the past.

As always, your explorations should be accompanied by prayer and a bit of soul-searching. Ask God to help you understand and to be able to look at things honestly, with his eyes and heart, and to help you if action is needed when you’re done.

Today’s Participation. I’ll admit that this was a hard challenge for me to write and think about, simply because I’ve wondered if I should approach a friend of mine about something I suspect is going on in her life. Do I know her well enough? Is it even really going on? If it is, how will she know the only reason I bring it up is because I love her? How can I convey God’s love and God’s wisdom in this—or should I?

The participation today is to try to obey God if you’re in a situation where rebuke (or repentance) is called for. After prayer and exploration and God’s prompting, do what you believe God is asking you to do—if anything. Whatever you do, do it with the backing of God’s word—and do it in love.