Believe God Can

Recently the phrase came to mind “believe God can.” I like the phrase because it’s empowering and encouraging at the same time. It is a reminder for us to have faith in God, to believe that God can, to believe in God’s power, and to believe in His engagement in our lives. It’s a hopeful phrase that gets us thinking beyond where we are and whatever we may be stuck in, to a healthier place hopefully with a better attitude which will help us keep going through our challenges. The phrase “believe God can” is a challenge to us, to trust in God and His plan, that He’s got it all under control even if it doesn’t seem that way to us with our mortal and limited ability to see and know.

With Martin Luther King Jr. day yesterday we were reminded of a man who inspired many others to believe, to take action and to hold out hope for a better tomorrow when we all work together. Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of faith, beginning his work in churches and among faith communities. He was able to speak to the lives of many outside the church as well, but his work started with the belief that he believed God could do great things.

Psalm 20:4 says: “May He grant you your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.” While God can and does do many things, including things we never see happen, most often we come to Him with a specific desire in our hearts and minds, hoping that He can (and will) do something for us. If you haven’t lately, I would encourage you to find time this week to check in with your heart and think about what you desire in your life, and if you’re working and praying to get to that point, or if the course you’re on is not going to take you where you truly want to go. God may be able to and plans may come to pass, but if they’re not truly what you desire you’ll be disappointed in the end.

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The Day the Lord Has Made

As I was working on my weekly devotional this week, one of the verses that came to mind was Psalm 118:24 (ESV):

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

I think it’s a great verse to start the year off with, because it reminds us up front and center that this day, with whatever goes on in it, is a day that the Lord has made. I don’t say this to make light of whatever challenge you may be facing today, some days are absolutely brutal with their expectation of you and what they throw at you. Some days all you can do is make it through with as little damage as possible, and some days even that doesn’t go so well. As much as we might like to hope that because it’s a day God made that everything would be great, that’s just not the reality of living here on Earth.

So what can we be glad in when we face one of those days? I’d focus on the fact that there’s a day after today that hasn’t happened yet. As long as you keep living and pushing through, you’ll get to the next day, a day that is a blank slate and you can do almost anything with. You can’t erase the past, but you can build a different (better/bigger/quieter/healthier etc.) future. Today may not be a rockstar day, but it can teach you what you need going into the future. It may give you an experience you can use to help yourself or someone else in the future. It may be the motivation you need to make changes in your life.

What will you do with this day the Lord has made?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks All the Time

One of the psalms I’ve reflected on this month as part of my thanksgiving journey is Psalm 136. You may not know it by number, but it’s the Psalm that includes the line “His faithful love endures forever.” repeated after every line and reason to be thankful. Ultimately it gives 27 reasons to be thankful including that “His faithful love endures forever”, which is a really good reason to be thankful in my book.

The Psalm goes through some historical events that are shared in the Bible like victories over kings and nations, the time in Egypt and crossing of the red sea, and the Creation. It also talks about the fact that He feeds every living thing and is always there to give us strength when we need it. The third topic it talks about as a reason to be thankful is for who God is: the God of Heaven, a good God, and the Lord of Lords.

Some people struggle with the topic of repetition in the Christian community, there have been debates throughout the years over the repetition in songs and here in Psalm 136 we’re facing more repetition. Sometimes repetition means that you’re not getting the point across, that you’re wasting time and words, or that you’re lazy because you didn’t come up with anything else to say. While that is true some of the time, other times the fact is that we need the repetition. It’s been said that if you do something for 3-8 weeks (depending on which study you believe) it becomes a habit. There’s nothing more to doing something for that amount of time that consistently except repetition.

I think that giving thanks fits in really well with being a repetitious activity: the more we do it the better we feel, the happier we are, the more those around us feel affirmed, and the more supportive our communities are. Not to mention that giving thanks to God means you’re recognizing more of the blessings He sends your way, not just the really big and obvious ones. How are you planning to make giving thanks a regular part of your life all year long and not just during the official Thanksgiving season?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: A Psalm of Celebration

Sometimes what you need most to find your thankful attitude, to see the things you can be grateful for, to remember that the whole world isn’t bad, to be the person who stands out in a crowd, is a little encouragement.  One part of the Bible that we can rely on consistently to deliver that encouragement and help us refocus on God and what’s good are the Psalms.  Today I want to share one of the Psalms that talks about being thankful, Psalm 100:

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

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.”

I encourage you to take a moment and celebrate how awesome God is.  Then ask God to show you all that you have to be thankful for, and even to send you some extra blessings that you can be thankful for tonight and tomorrow on Thanksgiving.

An Autumn of Bounty

This week I’ve been meditating on a couple of verses from Psalm 13:

“But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because [the Lord] has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:5-6

The first reason this verse caught my attention was that it didn’t sound like a verse I remembered reading, and I’ve read the book of Psalms several times. This version of Psalm 13 came in one of the many newsletters I’ve signed up for and I can’t find the answer that I’m sure you’re asking: what translation is it? While I wish they would clearly post that information so we would both know, they didn’t, and so we’re left to guess. And with over 100 versions of the Bible in English alone, there are lots of possibilities of the translation it could be.

The second reason these verses caught my attention was a word in the second sentence: “I will sing to the Lord, because [the Lord] has dealt bountifully with me.” Right now we’re in the final push of the harvest season. Summer is winding down and the crops are all being gathered before the frost and winter arrive. In the US we’ve got the holiday of Thanksgiving coming up which began as a celebration of and thanksgiving for bounty for the Pilgrims. But how often do we use the word ‘bounty’ in our lives today? We tend to use words more like abundance, affluence, prosperity, or thriving today. Bounty is a word that isn’t used as often but I feel it paints a better visual picture of what it means than some of the other similar words do.

Lately I feel like all I’m hearing about is loss and fear, not to mention hate and anger, between all the hurricanes, politics and violence that have been happening recently. I’m concerned that we’re not talking about or looking for the bounty in our lives. No, we shouldn’t ignore the bad stuff that goes on, the sooner we learn to deal with and move through it the better. So this week my encouragement to you would be to look for the bounty, accept the abundance and be open to the blessings God can send your way.

In Awe of God

Recently I reread the words of Psalm 8:4–6 which say:

“When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place—What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.”

When was the last time you were in awe of something?  Occasionally we’re amazed by someone or something someone says, but often it’s either fairly expected or cool but not a ‘wow’ moment.

I always find autumn and the tree color changes to be one of the more awe inspiring times.  Spring has lots of visual changes but I typically feel more excitement that we’re moving past piles of snow rather than awe over the new life.  But with autumn there are these pops of color that are so vivid and amazing that you just want to stare at them.

One of the other more awe inspiring experiences is when you go to the places that are away from the city lights and you can really see the true power of all the stars in the skies.  Sometimes in the city you’re able to see some stars or the moon will look spectacular, but you don’t really get a good understanding for how many stars are really out there until you’re able to be away from the lights of the city and they’re able to shine.  It’s a truly incredible experience.

One of the other experiences that people say is awe inspiring is witnessing the birth of your child.  There’s something powerful about seeing this little being appear, after 9 months of growth hidden away with only tiny glimpses, with all 10 fingers and toes and looking like a miniature version of their parents or extended family.

There may not be a lot of awe-inspiring moments in our lives, so it’s so important to celebrate and recognize those moments when they happen.  What was your most recent awe-inspiring moment?

Reasons to Listen

As we finish another month and head into a new one this week, one that’s often thought of as the month of back-to-school, today I want to talk about a topic that’s crucial to learning: listening. Listening is one of the most powerful and crucial skills we can learn. It can make or break our relationships. It can be the deciding factor in whether or not someone accepts an invitation to a spiritual event. Listening can be what helps you get that promotion at work or sets you back several positions. Listening can mean that you continue on the path God has for your life or you have to keep re-learning tough lessons. Listening means people feel valued and important. Let’s take a look at a few things the Bible has to say about listening.

“Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble.” Psalm 119:165
This verse is a pretty straightforward one: if we want a smooth path and peace, we have to follow God’s instruction, and the only way we can know His instruction is if we listen to Him. We’re welcome to try and figure it all out on our own, but why would we when we’ve got God who’s willing to give us hints and sometimes tell us flat out which way to go.

“I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” Psalm 116:1-2
This set of verses is an important reminder that God listens to us. As much as we’re supposed to listen to Him and learn from His wisdom, He’s also not only willing to listen to us, He’s eager for us to talk to Him.

“I praise God for what He has promised….” Psalm 56:4a
Throughout the Bible God promises us some pretty awesome things, but this verse reminds us that the only way we can know what God promised is to listen to and for those promises. It’s also a reminder that God does have good things for us in our future, we just have to listen for them and work towards them.

“You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67
Of course this is one of the best reasons to work on listening: eternal life. If we didn’t listen to the call of God in our hearts, if we didn’t listen to that friend who invited us to Church, if we didn’t listen to the speaker at that rally or summer church camp, or if not for that missionary, we wouldn’t know God or have eternal life.

So how good of a listener are you? How often do you follow through on what you hear? How often do you remember what you hear? Do you make a point of actually listening to what people are saying? This week I encourage you to work on being a better listener. Not only will you get to hear some great stories, you may learn about some of the reasons that God’s got you in the place you are at this time.