Sunday, July 23, 2017

When I Realize I Need God

But as for me, I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay.
Psalm 70:5 (NLT)

With palms upturned to receive His grace, I humbled myself before God along with 800+ worshipers who sang “I need you, oh I need you. Every hour I need you.” We surrendered to God, both as a group and individually, professing our inability to do it on our own. As the chorus repeated, God’s healing, strengthening presence was palpable.

We like to be in control, run the show, be in the driver’s seat, and make the rules. Being in control feels secure and not having control feels uncomfortable. Society says accepting assistance is a sign of weakness and attaches a negative connotation to humility.

We think we can handle things on our own. But we can’t.

We can’t shed our regret, experience real joy, or express unconditional love without Him. We drag guilt around and allow shame to shape our identity. We look for happiness on the internet, in the refrigerator, or in a relationship. We stay angry and resentful toward those who have hurt us.

Only God can pour grace over our unworthiness. Only God can fill the longing in our soul. Only God can help us see our tormentors with loving eyes.

We need you, God. Oh, how we need you. (tweet this)

Our inability to admit our need blocks our ability to experience a personal relationship with Him.

We draw close to God when we realize how much we need Him. (tweet this)

In what way do you need God? Is it hard to give up control?

#SeedsofScripture #trustGod #control

Monday, July 17, 2017

When Our Prayers Aren't Answered

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:3-4 (NLT)

Why do our prayers sometimes go unanswered if, as the psalmist proclaims, God gives us the desires of our heart?

Well, have we followed the steps outlined?

Step 1: Trust God. Believe that He loves you and can work good from any situation. Trust displaces worry, but isn’t permission to sit idly waiting for a solution to drop from the sky.

Step 2: Do good. Focus on others. Don’t wallow in the struggle but reach out to others and serve. I have always found that serving someone else lifts my spirits. I recently guest blogged about the health benefits of volunteering.

Step 3: Settle in where you are. Live in the present. Don’t disengage while waiting for something better. Make friends. Get involved. You may be exactly where God wants to use you.

Step 4: Delight in the Lord. Praise God in every circumstance. Establish a habit of gratitude. Find joy in Him alone.

Then.... God will give you the desires of your heart.

There’s a good chance those desires have changed while you’ve trusted God’s plan and started looking for His purpose in this season. Perhaps you’ve rekindled an old dream or discovered a new passion. You’ve invested yourself in the community and may have forged an unexpected relationship. You’ve experienced blessing in the waiting and learned a few lessons.

And in God’s perfect timing, He will fulfill the desires He placed in your heart. (tweet this)

Do you have an unfulfilled dream? What have you learned while waiting?

#SeedsofScripture #trustGod #dogood

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A View From My Empty Nest

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)

Incredibly, my last blog post was two months ago.

It’s been a busy season transitioning to an empty nest. I never before imagined putting the words busy and empty nest together, but busy empty nester describes this season so far.

My youngest child graduated from high school. Two weeks later we drove to the University of Iowa because Division 1 gymnasts train year round. Addison has already started classes and had his first tornado warning. Yes, we drove to Iowa and back, visiting my brother in Indiana and my niece in Rochester.

With my nest empty, I attended a preaching workshop, sold $1100 worth of plants for Amilia’s Light (amiliaslight.org), donated platelets 3 times, and slept over twice with Family Promise (familypromisemetrowest.org). I celebrated with several high school graduates, spent 24 hours with a dear friend visiting from CA, spent 3 days with my aunt at her lake house, and saw Crowder in concert on the Cape.

I have gardened quite a bit these past two months and have eaten lots of garden lettuce and peas. I helped my son Corey, a recent college graduate, launch his job search and helped my daughter, Steph, plan an end-of-July road trip in search of a wedding venue. Yesterday we cancelled the entire trip and started from scratch with a new vision.

And today, I completed my essays and submitted my application to start seminary in the fall, a long held dream. I took my first Bible study when my youngest started preschool and I’ll start seminary as he starts college. I’m very excited.

For everything there is a season. (tweet this)

How has your summer been so far? Are you renewing yourself for the fall?

#SeedsofScripture #emptynest #summer

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Becoming an Engaged Listener

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.
James 1:19 (NLT)

Are you quicker to listen or to speak?
Do you listen to understand or to respond?

Some of you are excellent listeners. You’re attentive and curious, eager to understand the speaker’s meaning. You sense emotion in body language and empathize with their perspective. Well done!

I don’t always listen well.

My mind sometimes drifts. I envision my to-do list and glance at the clock. I glimpse a friend and remember I have something to give her. I formulate a solution rather than simply affirm your feelings. Can you relate?

While mulling over this scripture and evaluating my listening skills, this quote crossed my Twitter feed. It’s a God-incidence, a jarring thought.

Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either. – Deitrich Bonhoeffer

If we won’t listen to each other, we’ll soon stop listening to God. (tweet this)

I’ve never considered applying good listening skills to Bible reading.

When God speaks to me in scripture, do I consider His perspective and His intention behind the words? Do I react too quickly, impulsively, defensively, selfishly? Am I fully involved, understanding context and emotion? Or am I checking my to-do list and watching the clock?

We often hear from God by reading scripture. But sometimes we need to dig deeper in study because we can misinterpret God’s message when we don’t understand the context and intent. Good listening is crucial.

Let’s be engaged listeners of God’s Word. (tweet this)

How can you improve your listening skills? Do you think listening better to your friends will help you listen better to God?

#SeedsofScripture #listening #Bible

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Does Google Hold Knowledge or Wisdom?

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.
Proverbs 9:10 (NLT)

We swipe, type and click our way to knowledge, however, knowledge does not make us wise.

Knowing God makes us wise. (tweet this)

The phrase ‘fear of the Lord’ doesn’t mean we’re frightened by Him. It means we revere Him exceedingly, acknowledge His awesome goodness, and receive His instruction. This fear gives us confidence (Proverbs 14:26), helps us resist sin (Exodus 20:20), act justly (Psalm 23:3-4), and get good sleep (Proverbs 19:23)

The fear of the Lord is the foundation wisdom.

The fundamental first step to becoming wise is recognizing His power and ultimate sovereignty over all. There is no greater source of wisdom than God.

The second step is knowledge of the Holy One – knowing God.

We get to know God through relationship. We talk to Him in prayer and listen to His voice, but sometimes communicating with God feels one way. We want Him to speak clearly, answer our questions, guide our steps, and impart wisdom. We forget that God already has. It’s called the Bible.

The third step is making God’s word part of who we are so it’s readily accessible when needed. We must be consulting scripture every day, not merely reading, but digging beneath the surface, seeking its meaning for our lives, and discovering the God who would speak these words. And know this:

When we ask for wisdom, God generously gives it. (James 1:5) (tweet this)

Which step toward wisdom do you find most difficult: fearing God, knowing God, or finding meaning in Scripture?

Click on the scripture references in this post to read verses that support each statement.

#SeedsofScripture #wisdom #Bible

Friday, May 19, 2017

Does Science Hinder Faith?

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NLT)

Do scientific advancements hinder your faith in a Creator God?

Weather patterns and fetal development were wildly mysterious concepts in ancient times. Now we can predict the weather (with questionable accuracy) and 3D ultrasounds peek at the unborn. Perhaps we need fresh examples of yet-to-be-discovered mysteries.

Since science explains so many natural phenomenon, is our wonder of God diminished?

Are we closer to understanding the activity of God? Is it even possible to understand the God who does all things?

I conjure an image of God whooping and clapping when we solve a scientific puzzle. Yes, my God whoops in delight. He cheers us on as we ask deeper questions and uncover new intricacies in His handiwork. His infinitely complex and precise Creation was meant to be enjoyed, explored and stewarded.

God whoops in delight when we uncover new intricacies in His Creation. (tweet this)

Do scientific advances increase or diminish your awe of God?

#SeedsofScripture #wonderstruck #science

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Messy Details Matter

And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves. John 6:11-13 (NLT)

In my mind’s eye, the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand is a pastoral image: under a blue sky, the disciples surround a young boy who is handing his basket to Jesus while unnamed people sit watching on the grassy hillside.

It’s a Norman Rockwell holiday family meal - loved ones sitting around a beautifully appointed table featuring a roasted turkey about to be carved.

We don’t paint after dinner pictures of full bellies, crumpled napkins, and half empty serving bowls. But every one of our gospel writers detailed the post-miracle scene.

A common detail they all include is that they all ate as much as they wanted. John emphasizes that everyone was full, while Matthew and Mark remind us that 5,000 men were fed, in addition to all the women and children. They probably didn’t overeat, but they were completely satisfied by Jesus’ meal.

Another common detail is that the disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftover bread. Mark mentions leftover fish, but John is the most detailed, describing pieces and scraps to fill the twelve baskets and reminding us that these people ate from five barley loaves – nothing else.

What does the scene after Jesus feeds 5,000 reveal? (tweet this)

Instead of a hungry crowd watching a boy give Jesus one basket, we have a satisfied mass and twelve astonished disciples, each bringing Jesus a full basket of barley scraps and fish.

#SeedsofScripture #Feeds5000 #miracle

This completes the series dissecting this familiar story. Read the first six posts by clicking the following links:
New Eyes on a Familiar Story,
Is this Jesus’ Most Important Miracle,
When What Jesus Asks is Too Hard,
Following a Child’s Example,
When Every Word Holds Meaning, and
Miracles Really Do Happen.
 
Below is my version of Jesus Feeds Five Thousand combining accounts from
Matthew 14:15-21, Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17, John 6:5-15 (NLT)

Late that afternoon or evening the disciples came to him and said “…Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy food and find lodging for themselves.”

Turning to Philip, [Jesus] asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!

But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary – you feed them.”

“With what?” [the disciples] asked.

“How much bread do you have?” Jesus asked. “Go and find out.”

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?

“Bring them here,” [Jesus] said. “Tell [the people] to sit down on the green, grassy slope in groups of about fifty each.” So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.

Then Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven and gave thanks to God. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. (The men alone, not including the women and children, numbered 5,000.)

And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.

When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.