Monday, November 28, 2016

Light an Advent Candle for Hope

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:22-23 (NLT)

On the first Sunday of Advent, my church lights a candle for the hope that Jesus’ birth brings (other churches may light the Advent candles in a different order).

What is the hope Jesus offers?

We use the word casually these days, hoping for a sunny day, hoping there’s no traffic, hoping you understand. At this time of year kids are hoping Santa brings what they want. In today’s language hope is the same as wishful thinking.

Christian hope has nothing to do with wishful thinking. (tweet this)

It is far more certain, actively looking forward to something with great confidence. Hope knows that God will fulfill His promises. Christian hope trusts God.

I find hope in knowing that the world is not as it should be. Especially amid the current divisiveness, I depend on Jesus returning to restore peace and justice to the world. I find snippets of hope when one person loves another as Jesus intended.

I also feel hope knowing I’m not alone. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is with us every moment. He longs to be in relationship with us, comforting, guiding and reassuring our hope.

Hope assures us that God is in control.

Hope is the light that guides us out of the darkness.

Hope allows us to praise God with gratitude in all circumstances.

Hope gives us power to transform daily life.

What brings you hope?

#SeedsOfScripture #Advent #hope

Thursday, November 24, 2016

What Thanks Really Means

Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
Psalm 107:8-9 (NIV)

I’m fascinated by the original meaning of Biblical words. Andy Lee, one of my favorite authors, feeds my curiosity in her Word Wednesday blog. Appropriately, she examined the word ‘thanks’ in Psalm 107 for the week of Thanksgiving.

So much more is implied than we know. In Hebrew, thanks means to extend our hands in praise and confess our need for that which we are thankful.

By thanking God, we admit our precise need for His exact provision. (tweet this)

Andy says “When we say, ‘Thank you,’ we are saying, ‘I needed that!’”

God’s blessings don’t fall randomly into our laps. He gives them intentionally with a purpose. Perhaps we don’t yet know why we need what we’ve received, but it is no coincidence and no mistake. God knows exactly what’s required both physically and spiritually in order to accomplish His work in this world. And He generously provides.

Dare I say God’s blessings come with a responsibility to use them for His purposes?

How are you using your blessings to advance God’s Kingdom?

#SeedsOfScripture #Thanksgiving @wordsbyAndyLee

Sunday, November 20, 2016

When I'm Tired of Being Thankful


Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100:4-5 (NIV)

A few weeks ago I met a woman who was new to the shelter where I sometimes serve lunch. She was a Boston College and law school grad who had lived on the Cape - not so different from you or me. However her niece had drained her bank account to feed an addiction forcing my new friend onto the street. Furthermore, without street smarts her few remaining possessions had been stolen. With tears of shock she noted the irony of having previously volunteered at homeless shelters.

I am often struck by how appreciative the ladies at the shelter are for the meal we serve and our Bingo prizes of socks, gloves and toiletries. There is deep sincerity in their words of thanks.

Every November I feel saturated with reminders to be grateful but dutifully list things I’m thankful for. Only when asked the following question did I realize I’ve failed to let a grateful attitude flood my heart:

What if you wake up tomorrow with only the things you thank God for today? (tweet this)

Am I truly thankful for my home and stocked shelves, for the daily choice of clean outfits and for supportive family? I become truly thankful when I imagine losing every blessing I take for granted.

Hence, I have restarted the flow of thanks and praise to God. We can never be too grateful.

What blessings do you take for granted?

#SeedsOfScripture #Thanksgiving #blessings

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Is the Bible True?

Image courtesy of Lightstock.com
Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.
Psalm 119:18 (NLT)

Is the Bible true?

At some point you’ve probably asked “Was Jonah really swallowed and spit out by a fish? Did Lot’s wife literally become a pillar of salt?”

I don’t know. No one really knows. I’ve read possible explanations, but looking for facts misses the point.

The Bible’s factual accuracy doesn’t impact the Truth it tells. (tweet this)

When you read hard-to-believe stories don’t quibble over facts. Step back and ask what message the writer is sharing. What does the story reveal about God’s character – who He is and what He cares about?

Both stories mentioned involve disobedience. Jonah refused to deliver God’s merciful message to his feared and hated arch enemies (comparable to modern day Isis). Jonah didn’t want God to spare them. Among the many truths in this story is that God’s love isn’t limited to the people we choose and that He will persist until we heed His voice.

As for Lot’s wife, God said “Leave Sodom and never look back.” In other words, cut all ties to that depraved lifestyle and be saved. But her heart was still connected to that world and she died as God had warned. Again, among the many messages we learn that God means what He says and that He wants our whole heart.

Throughout Scripture, God reveals Himself to us and communicates lessons we need to hear. But the bigger story is of God’s love and desire for personal relationship.

The Bible holds wonderful truths for living a fulfilling life in His presence now and for eternity. (tweet this)

Are you asking “Is the Bible true?” or “What is God telling me?”

#SeedsOfScripture #truthinGod #Biblestudy

Sunday, November 13, 2016

When You're Embarrassed to Share Your Faith

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join me in suffering for the gospel….He has called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. [The gospel] is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.
2 Timothy 1:8-9,12 (NIV)

You’re not alone if you’ve been embarrassed to share your faith. Even Timothy was ashamed and he trained under the enthusiastic, passionate, persistent Apostle Paul.

The holy life Paul mentions isn’t boring and perfect but rather an exciting adventure. ‘Called to be holy’ means that God has put us in a special lane that follows a different route. He has set us apart from the mainstream not because we’re good drivers or have nice cars, but because we acknowledge our weaknesses and accept His grace.

Once we realize we’re wandering aimlessly and admit He knows the best way, we’re better off giving Him the steering wheel than controlling it ourselves. Sometimes God veers onto the next exit ramp and other times He screeches the tires with an urgent U-turn.

A holy life is not the fast lane but runs dangerously counter to the main flow of traffic. The unpopular bumpy road requires taking risks, dodging obstacles, enduring discomfort, and ignoring nasty looks. It can be tough, but we can be confident with God in control.

Life as a believer isn’t easy, but it’s an adventure worth taking. (tweet this)

Courageously focus on Him. Don’t be swayed by others or embarrassed about your beliefs.

#SeedsOfScripture #countercultural #strongfaith

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Faith with Explosive Power

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7(NLT)

Have you seen the huge blasting mats used on roadside construction sites? These thick layers of recycled tires are a necessary safety mechanism to control the effects of dynamite explosions. They muffle the noise, contain flying rocks, and suppress dust for minimal outward impact.

It’s like holding your nose when you sneeze (which I admit doing).

We get the word dynamite from the Greek word power in today’s scripture. God gives us a spirit with explosive power. It’s the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11) and allowed the early church to quickly expand throughout the known world. That Spirit with that power lives in every believer. It blows my mind.

So why are we so timid?

We’re afraid to pray aloud. We avoid saying ‘God’ in conversation for fear of offending. We attend weekly ‘book group’ rather than admit to Bible study. We succumb to the world’s secularization of Christmas by wishing each other Happy Holidays. We don’t invite people to church.

A spirit of power and love overflows with passion and compassion. It reaches out to meet physical and spiritual needs and expands beyond its comfort zone. It’s a force that causes change.

Let’s challenge each other to express our faith bravely.

Let’s not suppress the Spirit’s explosive nature with layers of fear and worldly standards. (tweet this)

Let’s not squelch its power under a blanket of cowardice.

Take a baby step today. What words or phrases can you sprinkle in your conversations that express your Christianity?

#SeedsOfScripture #returntoHim #boldfaith

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ready When You Are

When you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where He scattered you.
Deuteronomy 30:2-3 (NIV)

How good are you at waiting when you’re unsure how long you must wait?

What if you knew your child was coming home for the holidays, but you didn’t know which day? How often would you peer out the window expectantly? Would you stay up late at night then dream about awakening to their beautiful face? As the days pass, would you start asking “When?”

In today’s scripture, God is the one waiting and, rest assured, God is very patient. He never gives up.

God knows we’re going to make mistakes, lose faith, follow the world’s ways, and get lost. But even if it takes generations for us to return and give our hearts to Him, He is ready to gather us into an all-is-forgiven hug.

Re-turn means come back. A returned heart follows God’s will and trusts His way. And in His arms we find the peace and joy of His blessing.

Have you drifted away? Is it time to come back?

God is ready and waiting for your return. (tweet this)

#SeedsOfScripture #trustHim #returntoHim