Reminders from God

Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we forget to stop and take a moment, or we’re so focused on one direction that we can’t see the way God is trying to lead us.  Let’s take a look at some of the reminders in the Bible:

There’s a lot we can’t see, and a lot to hope for:
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Use your words wisely:
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”  Proverbs 15:1

Live with joy:
“I will be filled with joy because of you.  I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 9:2

If God can forgive and be merciful, can’t we?:
“But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love.”  Nehemiah 9:7b

God saves us, leads us and teaches us:
“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”  Psalm 25:5

God is generous, gracious, and loving:
“Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.”  1 Timothy 1:14

We belong to God, and are to worship Him:
“For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship…”  Acts 27:23 ESV

Choose patience:
“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.”  Ecclesiastes 7:8

Don’t give up:
“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”  Philippians 3:14

Each of our days include thousands of interactions, experiences and relationships, each with the potential to teach us something, help us heal in some way, make us a better person, put us in a position to help someone else, or reveal another aspect of who God is to us and who we are to Him.  It’s up to us to be open to where life takes us and where God sends us, and to pay attention to what’s going on around us.  What has God shared with you recently?

Advertisements

For Just a Season

This week we officially enter the season of summer, and the temperatures in many parts of the US are supporting that transition.  As I was thinking about the summer season, I was reminded of the Ecclesiastes passage that talks about there being a time for every season and every thing in our lives.  It’s a reminder that everything has it’s time in our lives, that sometimes we have to be patient, and that there’s a right (and wrong) time for everything.

But as I thought about it some more I was reminded that a season is exactly that: a season. It’s not our entire lives or the only thing in our lives, it’s a part of it.  Summer for us lasts 3 or so months and then there’s a new season.  The dictionary even describes a season as “a period or time….especially a short time.”

So what if for this summer season you take it as a season for your life? A season to be proactive about making positive comments on social media, or a season to eat healthy for at least one meal a day, or a season to fight as little as possible with your kids, or a season to learn about yourself, or a season to explore the great country that we share.

That means that from the summer solstice (June 21) to the autumn equinox (September 22) you take the time to focus on doing something good for yourself or the world, doing something you’ve been meaning to do, or consistently doing something that you’ve been inconsistent with.  It’s a chance to try something new, to get to know yourself better, to grow, and to do what needs to be done in your life.

What will this summer season be for you?

Ask, Seek, Knock: Success Steps

In thinking about one of our topics for the month, success, today I want to talk about a passage you’re probably familiar with, Matthew 7:7-8: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” This passage about asking, seeking and knocking establishes a great guideline for us to consider throughout our days and what goes on in our lives.

Ask:
“‘No one has ever seen, no one has ever heard, no one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’ But God has shown us these things through the Spirit.” I Corinthians 2:9-10
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5
“Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” Proverbs 12:15

First, asking is important because it means we’re willing to admit that we don’t know everything and are willing to learn. However we’re not always great at asking questions. Too often we ask the wrong questions, questions that don’t give us the answers we need because they’re not the right questions. We can get too busy asking things like “why me” and “how could you” instead of asking questions that will help us get the necessary answers and find solutions and help for our questions. Second, James 1 makes a point of letting us know it’s good to ask questions. God doesn’t criticize us for asking questions, only for thinking we know more than He does.

Seek
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Romans 8:35
“Your laws please me; they give me wise advice.” Psalm 119:24
“The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.” Psalm 29:11

Asking questions is important because they give us directions to learn and move in. If we don’t ask questions we’ll never be able to figure out what we don’t know and what God wants us to do with our lives. Once we’ve asked the questions we hopefully receive some wisdom and knowledge to use. We start our search with the knowledge that God will not be separated from us by the challenges we face and will give us the strength and peace to learn what we must.

Knock
“May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4
My father taught me, “Take my words to heart. Follow my commands, and you will live” Proverbs 4:4
“It is very sad that people leave the world just as they came. So what does a person gain from ‘trying to catch the wind’? They only get days that are filled with sadness and sorrow. In the end, they are troubled, sick, and angry.” Ecclesiastes 5:16-17

In the very action of knocking we’re going from learning to doing. You can’t knock without taking action. There’s not much good to asking the right questions and getting advice unless you do something with it. Throughout the Bible God encourages us to be wise and live lives that reflect the wisdom we’re given or find. Don’t waste your life, your lessons and your abilities, choose to make something of it all if not for you but because your lessons and your willingness to knock may be the difference between life and death for someone.

What questions will you ask, learning will you do and actions will you take this week?

Spiritual Labor

As we look ahead to this weekend and Labor Day here in the US, I thought we’d take a look at a few verses from the Bible about work and what God says about work.  A few of the results caught me by surprise, so as we head into the new month we may take time to dive deeper into a few of them.

Work:
“He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23

“The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.” Deuteronomy 28:12

“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!” Proverbs 14:23

“I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned.” Ecclesiastes 2:18

“Whatever you do, do well.” Ecclesiastes 9:10a

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:10a

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.” Romans 4:4

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans 12:11

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

God and work:
“But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”” John 5:17

“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.” Genesis 2:2

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” Psalm 127:1a

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

“For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” Isaiah 64:4

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

“God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” 1 Corinthians 12:6

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

What are your thoughts on (spiritual) work?

Where Do We Start?

I’m not the type of person to really watch or listen to the news but I do check in and skim headlines each day so I’m at least somewhat aware of what goes on in the world. There’s been a lot of hate in the news of late, and to an extent you can understand some of it: there are people around the world who suffer greatly and as a result of their suffering they believe that the only way to deal with it is to obliterate anyone in their path to showing the world who they are and making a statement about how hurt they are, even if they won’t admit it that that’s why they’re doing it. Too many people hide their pain behind bitterness, nastiness, brutality, humor and sarcasm, or just plain hide.

I can’t imagine how God felt after the Garden of Eden incident when He knew that there would be so much pain and suffering in the world; knowing that we would suffer so much as a result. The worst part was probably knowing that most of our suffering and pain to the degree that we experience it is because we’re too stubborn to get help, to be vulnerable and admit that we’re not perfect, that we have our failures and weaknesses, and because we can’t accept that it’s OK to fail or be imperfect.

In some ways it’s totally understandable that we don’t want to admit our vulnerabilities to others, that we don’t want to be honest about how we feel deep inside because we’ve been hurt or seen others experience the wrath, laughter, criticism and hate for not measuring up to other people’s expectations, unrealistic or not. It makes us question our relationships, question people’s motives, curb or go overboard in our thoughts, actions and reactions, and not choose to fulfill our potential.

There are lots of reasons to doubt and question other people, and we think that we’ve got some good reasons to question God as well. We think that because God hasn’t responded to our call immediately that He’s busy or doesn’t care, and when it’s been long enough we think that He’s forgotten about us or what we shared with Him about or that He doesn’t want us to have good things in our lives. But I think we’ve forgotten who God is.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 says “But there are some things that you cannot be sure of. You must take a chance. If you wait for perfect weather, you will never plant your seeds. If you are afraid that every cloud will bring rain, you will never harvest your crops.”

The thing about people and God and our lives after Eden is that we have to be willing to take chances if we really want to live. We have to take a chance in trusting God and opening up to other people and asking for help, not just complaining. We have to believe, and even more than that know, that God cares for us and that not only is God interested and cares about us, but He cares about other people too, and He wants us to as well. We need to take the chance that God really does have a plan for our lives and to be open to God’s creative purposes and plans for us, and not box ourselves up before we have a chance to explore the potential He placed inside of us. We need to accept God and the person He has created us to be, and the people He has created and placed around us. We need to be honest with God and with ourselves and with each other. And we need to make sure that we honor each other with the respect and knowledge that God created each of us so each of us deserves to be treated as such.

A Contemplation of Life

This month we’re talking about a topic that we do and don’t think about: enjoying life.  When people think and talk about enjoying life they often feel guilty about it, as if we should be working hard and reaching goals and there’s no time for fun or life because you should be working for the future and the things that are enjoyable aren’t “Christian.”  But I see so many people who are stressed out, miserable, unhappy, depressed and freaked out about life and all that goes on that I think we forget that life isn’t here to torture us, but for us to enjoy and be fulfilled by and live through, not just survive.

As I was thinking about this topic I was reminded of the book of Ecclesiastes.  The book is a contemplation on life really, a debate of what’s good, what’s meaningless, what life is all about, the seasons of things and really is a pretty good representation of the things we go through mentally and emotionally in our lives.  There are times when we’re just thrown for a loop and have to work through some really bad stuff.  Every life works through high and low points and it’s up to us to choose how we’re going to get through the times of struggle in the attitude we have, the people we surround ourselves with and the resources we have to tap into.

But I don’t think it’s healthy to go through life just anticipating the problems that may come our way.  Yes, we should always have an eye out for them and do our best to be prepared for whatever will come our way throughout our lifetime, because it’s much easier and often quicker to get through problems if you’re prepared for things to happen.  But life is full of opportunities for joy, moments for celebration, people to laugh with and experiences to be thrilled by.  I believe that we’ll get along better as a world if we’re looking for the best in others and our experiences rather than the worst.   The good stuff also makes it easier to get through the tough stuff and gives you things to look forward to as well as reasons to keep going.

So this month I challenge you to find something awesome in each and every day.  Find a reason to celebrate every day.  Find something good in the people you interact with each day. And make sure to treat yourself to something special each day.  Maybe it’s a cookie or a walk or a bubble bath or 10 minutes of video games with your kids before bed or a beer on the back porch with your significant other, but be intentional about finding something in each and every day to enjoy about life.

Purpose in Life

In this world of turmoil, change, and challenge, you don’t have to go too far to hear people say things like what is shared in Ecclesiastes 1:2-11:

“”Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”   What do people get for all their hard work under the sun?  Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes.  The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again.  The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles.  Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea.  Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.  History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.  Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new.  We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.”

It makes you want to throw your hands in the air just reading it, right?  I know I do!  11 chapters later this is the conclusion that is reached:  “That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.  God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

I think the bottom line is a little bigger than this though.  I do think that when it all boils down what you get is God.  But God wouldn’t have made us the way He did if Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 was his only intended result.  God created us each with brains, with abilities, with smiles, with qualities that are unmatched in any other.  We may meet people who we click with, but no one is exactly us.  Which is probably why Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

God didn’t make little god-bots, he made humans, each unique in their own way.  Not the least of that uniqueness is the purpose He placed in each life, in each heart, in each soul.  Which brings us to two conclusions that are interconnected.  Through God we have a purpose, a meaning, in life that we do not have without Him.   It’s our choice whether to accept Him and our purpose, or not.

This week I challenge you to look beyond the feelings of meaninglessness that may be in your life.  If you’re so busy sticking your head in a hole and seeing the bad stuff, you’ll never get to the amazing stuff God’s got lined up for you specifically, and you’ll never know the satisfaction of doing a job well done for God.