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Why Morning Devotions Matter

Isaiah 40:31 But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)

I confess. I struggle with regular morning devotions. Yup, it’s true.

For a period of time I’ll be faithful, then life gets busy and I push quiet time aside. Oh, I read scripture every morning and often I read a devotion. But reading scripture over my morning tea in the same way I read the newspaper doesn’t impact my soul.

When I quiet my soul, turn my heart to God, listen for His still quiet voice, and let the Word speak to my life, the rest of my day is different. It’s just like Isaiah says. He fills me with His Spirit and renews my strength. I’m energized to take on the day. I feel His presence and power.

If I wait until bedtime to turn to God, review the day, and give thanks, I most likely got through the day under my own strength, in my own way, and followed my own agenda.

Paul prays for the Colossians:
As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. (Col. 1:10-12 MSG)

Could Paul be saying that as we learn how God’s Spirit works through us, we’ll learn to ask for the Spirit’s glory-strength? Or do we prefer gritting our teeth?

How have you established a regular habit of morning devotions?
Do you notice a difference if prayer starts the day versus ending it?

Apparently God points me to this verse often. I contemplated it in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Click to read my previous thoughts.

#SeedsofScripture #dailyprayer #prayertime #Godsstrength #bookofIsaiah #dailydevotions

The Good News and the Bad News

Isaiah 40.3 [John the Baptist] went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins… Produce fruit in keeping with repentance…The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire… And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.”
Luke 3:3,8-9,18 (NIV)

John preached good news?

I selected a handful of verses from this longer passage that describes John the Baptist’s preaching style. I skipped a winnowing fork and unquenchable fire but you get the idea.

John’s preaching sure doesn’t sound like good news!

You may remember that John prepares the way for Jesus the king. In ancient times, the roads were improved, widened, and smoothed prior to a king’s arrival. It’s the same today as cities are adorned with fresh landscaping prior to an official visit. The nation of Israel is in bad shape, far from how God intends for them to treat one another, so John’s message is demanding and urgent. Jesus is coming!

John exhorts with fiery fervor for a thorough and palpable change.

John the Baptist is God’s advance team always pointing to Jesus. His goal is to remove obstacles that block Jesus’ way, to dig out the stubborn roots and cut down the impeding trees in order to open a clear path. In Luke 3 this means ending the misuse of power, personal gain at others’ expense as well as increasing generosity.

For us this might mean examining attitudes, values and practices on an individual basis, as a family, a church, a community, or a nation. What stands in the way of Jesus taking His place as Lord? Self-examination is hard work. Changing long-held habits feels like bad news. But when we clear the way for Jesus to come it always turns out to be good news.

What obstacles hinder Jesus’ entry into our communities?
What attitudes, practices, and values contradict Jesus’ teaching?

#SeedsofScripture #goodnews #badnews #gospel #gospelofLuke

Love is a Four-Letter Word

four-letter wordOne of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hand on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.
Mark 5:22-24 (NIV)

Many Bible stories begin like this one. They heard Jesus was near and brought their paralyzed friend or demon-possessed son. The blind and leprous cried out to Him for healing. Jesus was a busy guy.

But this request for healing was from an important synagogue ruler whose daughter was dying. While Jesus and this ruler headed out on this urgent mission, Jesus felt a tug from an unknown individual in the pushing and shoving crowd that activated His healing powers.

Jesus was busy attending to a life-or-death situation for an important community leader. His disciples brushed aside Jesus’ inquiry about the touch – “How can we possibly know who touched you in this mess?”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. (v32)

Jesus didn’t take a quick glance and decide it was too difficult and his task too urgent. No, Jesus stopped and kept looking. He ‘wasted’ valuable time. And when the woman who had bled for 12 years stepped forward, Jesus listened while she told her whole story. He didn’t check his watch impatiently or look in the direction of the synagogue ruler’s house. He gave her His full attention because telling her story was part of her healing. Then He said “Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Love is a four-letter word spelled T-I-M-E. Busy is also spelled with four letters.

It used to be that visits with a friend lasted the whole morning. Perhaps squeezing chats between one thing and another is partially why we never get below the surface to the real stuff. We’re too efficient. We’ve no time to sit quietly, warm our hands around our cups, and stare into the liquid until what we really want to share bubbles to the surface.

Jesus always took time for people. He sat, listened, taught, touched, and healed.

How have you felt loved because a friend shared their time with you?

Busy has other dangers – like missing out on God’s best for us or neglecting time in His presence.

#SeedsofScripture #maketime #taketime #loveoneanother #biblestory #redletterwords #gospelofMark

Why We Speak the Truth in Love

speaking the truth in loveDo not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

It was the greatest gift.

It would have been easy to leave the gift un-given and even easier to leave it unwrapped, but it was best for all that the gift was given and received. It was a gift of self-sacrificial love that was purely for the benefit of the loved one. It took courage to deliver and humility to receive, but it was a true gift.

It was the gift of truth, delivered with loving kindness.

Sometimes we refrain from speaking hard truths because we know they’ll hurt. But when spoken with a pure desire to help, short-term hurt leads to long-term growth. Our goal is to build one another up.

In this chapter of Ephesians, Paul promotes unity among the community of believers. He encourages them to help each other grow and mature so as one body they will be stronger and more effective for the kingdom.

As members of the same body intended for the same purpose and united by the same love, we should be characterized by honesty. Those who love one another and love God rejoice with the truth (1 Cor 13:6). Speaking the truth in love is not as much about being gentle as it is about the way truth and love go hand-in-hand.

Because we love one another, we speak the truth.

Yes. The truth stung, but I admired the honesty. I welcomed the correction and the opportunity for growth. It was a true gift.

The one who heeds correction gains understanding (Prov 15:32).

When have you grown because a true friend offered correction?

Click on these links to read about my humble admission regarding my perspectives on race
and welcoming correction.

#SeedsofScripture #truthinlove #encourageoneanother #truth #honest #ephesians

God Uses Our Ordinary Days

God Uses Our Ordinary DaysOne day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense.
Luke 1:8-9 (NLT)

I thrive on routine and structure. So September always means leaving the free form summer schedule and settling into the rhythm of fall classes, meetings, and football. Even though many aspects about 2020 differ, much of the Sept-to-June schedule persists. I’m establishing a steady everyday routine.

God uses us in our everyday routines.

Today’s focus verse is an ordinary, everyday verse. Zechariah has been following this routine his whole life, destined for priesthood from birth. Ever since rising to the priesthood Zechariah has left his family twice a year for a week in order to serve at the Temple. This pious old priest faithfully honors the routine with pleasure. And this day seems to be a typical one devoted to serving God and the community.

On this routine day, God chose Zechariah.

This ordinary day became extraordinary when Zechariah was chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to light incense in the sanctuary. Thousands of priests faithfully performed their duties hoping to be the one chosen. God knew Zechariah’s steady faithfulness to his duties and that he’d be at the Temple on this precise day.

God had been waiting to use Zechariah in His plan.

The ordinary-turned-extraordinary day became the highlight of Zechariah’s life. Inside the sanctuary God revealed His plan for Zechariah’s son, the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah. God chose Zechariah to raise and train John the Baptist.

Do your days feel routine and ordinary? Remain steady and serve Him faithfully. God sees. He might actually rely on your everyday routine to use you unexpectedly.

Many ordinary people have been used by God unexpectedly:
Anna was also in the right place at the right time for God to use her.
And God sometimes redefines the everyday, ordinary life.

#SeedsofScripture #chosenbyGod #Godseesyou #dailyroutines #dailyschedule #ordinarydays #serveothers

Take My Life, Lord

christ revealed through spiritYou will be able to understanding my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.
Ephesians 3:4-5 (NIV)

I left the meeting supercharged, floating on air, adrenaline surging. The cartoon light bulb over her head was almost visible as it lit up with the connection. Ah-ha! Everyone participating felt the energy. God had revealed Himself.  

My Bible study friend had discovered the meaning of God’s perfect Lamb, sacrificed so she could live. It was all God’s work but what a privilege to lead the discussion that led to revelation! Right then and there I wanted more, more of those moments, more light bulbs flashing above heads.

God had used me and I loved being used.

My story is probably very similar to Frances Havergal’s in the late 1800’s. She lay sleepless all night after leading a family to Jesus, poetic couplets forming in her mind, each line a prayer to God:

Take my life and let it be consecrated to Thee
Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee

Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee
Take my silver and my gold, not a might would I withhold
Take my intellect and use every power as You choose

Here am I, all of me, take my life, it’s all for Thee

Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine
Take my heart, it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne
Take my love, my Lord I pour at Your feet, it’s treasure store
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee

May this be my prayer: Here am I, all of me, take my life, it’s all for Thee.

#SeedsofScripture #hymn #takemylife #servantofgod #allforGod #jesussaves #revealedbyGod

Is Scripture Inspired or Inspiring?

scripture is inspiredAll Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

How did a committee of men select the religion-making, life-shaping New Testament that guides all Christians? What determined inclusion or omission? Was their ruling final for all time? What about other writings that seem relevant?

Does the Bible comprise all that God intended, nothing more and nothing less?

From one perspective, many voices helped decide which writings became Holy Scripture.  Certainly a council gathered to finalize the table of contents (397 AD) but most of the list had been well known across the Christian world for two centuries. Only books and letters that were circulating widely throughout the entire church, already being used authoritatively in worship, and considered written by apostles or close associates were included. Regionally accepted writings that had not received acceptance by a wide range of believing communities were omitted.

From another perspective, one Voice shaped our Scripture: the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit gave believing communities wisdom and discernment, guiding them to embrace, memorize, copy, teach, and spread certain writings while remaining cool to others. A set of books organically emerged as authoritative, affirmed the foundational Christian truths, and became our New Testament.

The writings contained in the New Testament are exactly as God desired.

Before I learned about this natural divine process, I wondered how a council of humans was inspired to choose from among the oodles of ancient writings. I wanted to know their set of criteria. I wondered about the Gnostic gospels discovered at Nag Hammadi that might have been included but contradict Christian teachings.

It turns out men didn’t select writings to include but rather recognized those with authority given by divine inspiration.

I think we all agree that Scripture is inspiring, but Christianity claims more. The Bible describes itself as God-breathed, containing truths that equip us for life.

Let me ask you: Is the Bible inspired or merely inspiring?

Oh how I love writing about the Bible! I’ve written about the one story it tells that actually occurred and fulfilled prophesies written 700 years earlier.

#SeedsofScripture #Godbreathed #inspiredbyGod #biblefacts

Lord, Give Me Eyes to See

eyes to see ears to hearYou will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.
Matthew 13:14-15 (NIV)

My eyes are opening to the Black American experience. It’s not that I’ve ignored news about injustices. I heard and saw, but didn’t understand or perceive. I still see unclearly, but I’m listening.

The first disciples were in a similar position, just beginning to understand the meaning behind Jesus’ parables. Why did Jesus intentionally tell parables so some would perceive the message and others wouldn’t? Why not talk straight with an easy to grasp application?

Because Jesus’ message upset the status quo and many weren’t ready to hear it.

Those who were comfortable weren’t receptive; their hearts were callous. The religious hierarchy liked their status and ignored, even perpetuated, suffering around them. Injustice was part of life under Roman oppression. The temple leaders had positions of power and didn’t welcome critique or correction. Straight talk from Jesus wouldn’t change anything.

Only those with an open heart receptive to change could understand.

With just a little sincere curiosity or conviction, the parable started to have meaning. And the more someone turned toward Jesus, the clearer the message. But His words remained a confusing puzzle for those who didn’t respond. Jesus explains this increasing understanding:

Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.
Matt 13:12-13

I wonder:

What Bible teachings do I overlook because I’m comfortable with the status quo?
What do I fail to understand by presuming I already understand?
Do I have selective hearing when listening to the Holy Spirit?
Do these same questions apply to my ignorance regarding the lives of Black Americans?

#SeedsofScripture #eyestosee #Jesuswords #wordsofJesus #openmyeyes #blackexperience

Jesus’ Command Is This: Love Each Other

Love One Another as I have loved youIf you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:10-13 (NIV)

These are Jesus’ words, red letter words in my Bible.

Love each other as I have loved you.

They’re not just words. Jesus, God in the flesh, love personified issues this command. Check the scripture again. Jesus commands it.

How did Jesus love?

The scene is the Last Supper after Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. He washed the feet of Judas who held the coins of betrayal in his pouch. He washed the feet of Peter who would swear he’d never known Jesus. He would soon endure crucifixion so that we might have life.

The disciples had already observed how Jesus loved the poor, hurting, and marginalized. He touched Gentiles, Greeks, and Samaritans as well as His own ‘kind’. He looked into the eyes of men, women, and children. He loved those who tortured Him.

With love for every person, Jesus set aside the power and glory of heaven to become a poor, homeless, rejected, despised rabbi.

Jesus loved the Father through obedience and invites us into this loving Father-Son relationship saying “remain in my love”.  Love me and love the Father by obeying the commandments.

And what is the command? Lay down your power, your ego, your agenda, and your comfort for others who are different, who are hurting, and who might even hate you.

Love others as Jesus loves you.

Why does Jesus command it? Joy. Complete joy. Jesus’ joy in you. Imagine that!

When have you discovered joy through difficult or sacrificial love?

#SeedsofScripture #nogreaterlove #imageofGod #lovelikeJesus #redletterwords #obeyGod

It Starts with Me – I Am Racist

reflection of GodOut of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
Psalm 130:1-2 (NIV)

I’ve struggled to comprehend the events of the last 2 weeks. I’ve been disgusted, distraught, and grieving for black people and our country.

I don’t just want to talk about the problem, I want change. But can I do anything that really makes a difference in a centuries old system?

Before Amy Cooper or George Floyd, I read 3 books about race relations. I believe God was opening my eyes to the black experience. As a white mother I taught my children to look for a policeman if they needed help, never imagining a black mother’s rules:

Keep your hands visible at all times.
Don’t speak unless you are spoken to.
Don’t make any sudden moves.
Do everything you’re told to do.  (from The Hate U Give)

Can I do anything that makes a difference?

I can start with me. I can identify my own blindness, my participation in the problem, my racism.

Am I racist? Yes, I am.

Have I seen a black person walking in my neighborhood and thought “What is he doing here?” Yes, I have.

Did I attend private school because the city planned to bus all 6th graders to a building on the edge of what we called ‘Colored Town’? Yes. My white privilege allowed me to avoid a mixed-race school.

Have I discounted the idea that a black person’s life is more difficult than mine? Yes, I have.

Why do I view a black/white interracial marriage differently than my own Asian/white one?

How many black friends do I have with whom I can discuss this? One.

The change starts when I recognize my deeply ingrained subconscious thoughts that surface as quickly as when I hop on a bike and remember how to ride.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
(2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV)

In The Color of Water, a young James McBride observed portraits of a white Jesus in his church and asked his mother “What color is God?” She wisely responded “God is the color of water.” What an insightful answer! God has no color. His color changes depending on the light. But further reflection yielded deeper meaning.

The color of God is the color of the face reflected in the water. Every human being is made in the image of God. Every single one of us reflects the color of God.

I’ve been moved by the daily prayers of my friend Lori Roeleveld:

Reconciliation and unity are beautiful concepts but, as Jesus demonstrated on the cross, they only come through sacrifice. Give us ears to listen to those who rage. Make us willing to work and to sacrifice our privilege, our time, our misconceptions, and our comfort to engage in the ministry of reconciliation to which we are called. We, all of us, have strayed from Your intended purpose for us. – Lori Roeleveld

Will you examine yourself with regard to racial bias?

Jesus  initiates a  different kind of world, one in which every person has value, and He instructs the church to be the change agent.

#SeedsofScripture #BeyondCovid19 #ICantBreathe #IAmRacist #Ihateracism #imageofGod

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Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts.  If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.
Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts. If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.

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