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?

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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?

Enjoying Our Differences

This month we’ve been talking about enjoying life, enjoying each other, enjoying our world and enjoying God.  I know that what I enjoy in life may not be what you enjoy in life, and that’s OK.  That’s one of the reasons why the world we live in is so diverse.  If it wasn’t so diverse neither would we be, in fact we’d all look, sound and act a lot the same, and I can’t believe that our world would be anywhere as awesome as it is if we were so similar.

But as different as we are we also have to have similarities or we wouldn’t be able to live in relative harmony and partnership with each other.  Sure, there are wars and disagreements and the like, sometimes because we heard things wrong or don’t know how to communicate effectively using words, sometimes words aren’t effective when it comes to defending yourself, and sometimes people prefer to hate and hurt.  But back to our similarities, we all have feelings, have families (in whatever form they may come in), have dreams and goals and gifts and talents.

This week I read a passage that reminded me about the importance of respecting other people and their preferences.  It reminded me that just because I enjoy simple things and you may enjoy much more complex and complicated things, neither of our enjoyment should be less joyful than the other, nor should we reject or not be willing to try what other people enjoy simply because it’s different from what we enjoy.

I encourage you this week to be open to the joy of others and trying new things.

“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!”  Romans 12:14-16

Creating Together

As we finish out this month’s discussion on creativity I wanted to share one last encouragement with you. One of the best things about creativity is when we get to celebrate what others have created. I know, it can be hard to appreciate some of the things that others call art, because they just aren’t part of your taste profile or preferences, and that’s OK. You don’t have to appreciate everything that everyone does. But that doesn’t mean you have the right to judge them for creating something you just can’t appreciate (they might even go so far as to say you’re the one with the problem, not them!!).

As is pointed out throughout the Bible, God wants us to build each other up, not hurt each other. And while some criticism of art is expected, even necessary so we can improve, and because everyone has an opinion, if it’s not celebrated too there won’t be a point to creating it. After all, most of us are working in hopes of creating greatness, not for endless criticism and judgment.

So when you see art don’t just throw out your judgement of it or laugh it off and be done with it. Take a minute to see if you can see the artist in the creation, see what they may have been trying to express through it, and see what it reminds you of. You never know how God will use what someone else has created to inspire you. And don’t forget to give the artist some encouragement and tell friends who you think might enjoy what they’ve created. After all, there are things that God created like bugs and slugs that not all of us appreciate yet He still loves them and has created them with a purpose in mind.

“We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.” Romans 15:2

A Mind for Creativity

Creativity is part copy part innovation.  When we create stained glass windows or draw pictures often we copy those that we admire or learn from the styles of masters to apply to the designs we create.  It’s not a bad thing to learn from what others have done or respect a particular creative style, it’s only when we try to replicate exactly without considering individual differences and unique possibilities that we can run into trouble.  God may have created some of us that look alike or enjoy a lot of the same things, but there is at least one difference between each and every one of us.

Being creative starts with how you think though.  If you think everything is the same and there’s nothing new, that will most likely be what you end up seeing.  If you think that you’ve heard all the answers and there is no hope you’ll live a hopeless life and not find any possibilities or options you could pursue.  If you believe God has given up on you, that’s the reality that you could find.  However, when you open your mind to the possibilities and are willing to learn and try new things God will be able to open the door or window that you’ve been waiting for.

What do you need to create in your life?  Do you need to create a new relationship? New hearts and solutions in your current relationship?  A new job?  A new relationship with yourself? A new relationship with God?  More freedom? More happiness? What do you need to create?  Start by considering how you think about things, especially those you want to create and see how you’re limiting yourself there.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Romans 12:2

A Purpose of Hope

As we start out this month looking at the topic of purpose, one of our greatest purposes and callings in life as people of faith is to share hope with the world.  So today I’ve got some verses of hope to share with you.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble in dread before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

“I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.”  Psalm 16:7-8

No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:39

“For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6

“Jesus [said] “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die….”  John 11:25-26

“My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.”  Psalm 62:7

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.”  1 John 4:9

What words of hope would you share today?

Hope is Healthy

Health is about more than just what you do or don’t do, it’s about your mind too. If you’ve been in the faith world for a while you know that God’s a God of actions and words, that according to Him the words you use have just as much power as your actions do. So today the healthy living topic I want to talk about is hope.

I am so thankful for all the advances that doctors and medicine has made in the past couple of centuries, it amazes me what “modern medicine” can do for us. I’m not opposed to the simpler answers of herbs, meditation and healthy living, in fact I always prefer a more natural approach. But while medical study has provided some ‘cures’ it’s also provided a lot of answers to us about what goes on in our bodies and some of the causes of different things. It’s also given us a front seat and up close and personal glimpse of the ravaging damage that different illnesses can do to our bodies.

So what’s my point in going through this? Simply that as good as medicines, cures, treatments etc. are, I don’t believe it’s ever sufficient to just slap a label or band-aid on it and call it good. True healing isn’t just a physical thing, it’s mental too, which is one of the reasons that some of the most advanced treatment centers around the world are adopting a more holistic treatment approach to working with patients.

One of the greatest healing tools God gave us was our power of hope, whether we’re talking physical, mental or relational healing. When we’re negative it’s just not as easy to fix things or keep going in the face of big obstacles. But hope, like many other things, is a choice. We can choose to have hope that tomorrow will be a better day and maybe some answers will finally appear, or we can accept our fate and choose the walk of doom. What will your choice be?

“I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace as you trust in him. Then you will have more and more hope, and it will flow out of you by the power of the Holy Spirit….in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 15:13, 8:37