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Pray These 5 Words Daily

Pray These 5 WordsBe still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

My body relaxes even before I think the words. Simply anticipating them, my shoulders fall, my torso tilts forward and my head dips in reverence. All tension falls away as I turn the eyes of my heart toward Jesus and pray these 5 words:

Jesus, I belong to you.

True confession: I fell away from the habit of daily devotions and intentional prayer during seminary. Ironically, they warned us this could happen. Deep Scripture study isn’t the same as spending time with God.

Oh, I was praying constantly, thanking Him for ah-ha learning moments, for loving and guiding me and interceding for friends. I constantly shot quick prayers out to God and sometimes heard His whispers. But, there’s nothing like setting aside a quiet time to stop doing, stop talking, be still and take our place at His feet.

Realizing I’d lost this close personal relationship, I’ve been trying something different. I listen to a daily devotion from The Seedbed. Don’t you love the name? It opens with these 5 words and focuses our hearts and minds on the One who gives us breath, the One who guides our steps, the One we serve. These 5 words are powerful praise.

Jesus, I belong to you.

It’s daily consecration. That’s a big churchy word that means dedicated or set aside for God. I set aside my time for God. I dedicate my life to Him.

Let’s repeat the prayer, emphasizing and reflecting on each word.

JESUS, I belong to you.

Jesus front and center, first and foremost. Jesus, the Almighty God who left glory, experienced our lives firsthand and gave himself sacrificially so we could experience His glory. Jesus…

Jesus, I belong to you.

All that I am, every part of my life is yours, time and talent, words and actions, power and influence. My identity is shaped in Jesus.

Jesus, I BELONG to you.

God created humans for relationship. He knows my innate need to belong and gathers me in. I belong because He is my Lord. I belong to His family as a daughter. I am part of His body, the church.

Jesus, I belong TO you.

TO connects us. I attach myself to Jesus as Lord.

Jesus, I belong to YOU.

It’s all about you, Jesus. I am not my own. I don’t move through this day alone. I am yours. I set myself aside for you.

These 5 words bring me close to Jesus. I remember my place and purpose in this world and my participation in building His Kingdom. I gain perspective, humility, and peace. I know His love deep within me.

How has today’s prayer of consecration impacted you?

Click these links: It seems I’ve always had difficulty being still and even people living in the 3rd century struggled to remain devoted to God.

#SeedsofScripture #setapart #bestillandknowthatiamgod #ibelongtojesus #quiettimewithGod

When the Sunday School Story Comes Alive

Engaging Sunday School storyMay you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Eph 3:18-19 (NLT)

Ignoring my itchy church dress and stiff Mary Janes, I absorbed the Sunday school story with rapt attention. I eagerly completed the take-home crossword puzzle and fill-in-the-blank review. All those stories stacked up in my heart – Noah’s animal pairs filling the ark, Moses parting the Red Sea, Mary giving birth in a stable, a boy’s picnic lunch feeding a crowd, and of course, the cross and Easter.

Which Sunday School stories do you remember?

Each story held the same simple message. Jesus loves you. Believe in Him and you’ll go to heaven. The Golden Rule was also a frequent lesson.

Though I loved those stories, Scripture truly grabbed hold of me in my first adult Bible study. Studying the Bible from beginning to end connected those Sunday school tales to tell one overarching story: God loves humanity and desires a relationship with us. From Genesis to Revelation God has persistently, consistently, and faithfully pursued us. Scripture tells the depth of His love and the lengths He will go to reclaim us.

How can a collection of books, written over thousands of years and by many different authors, tell one story? How can the prophet Isaiah, who lived 700 years before Jesus, describe the circumstances of His birth (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6) and crucifixion (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)? 

I find only one possible answer: it’s True. True with a capital ‘T’.
And if it’s True, it matters.

It’s True but not literal. The Truth is found in the message the author communicated to his original audience. The author’s context is crucial to extracting his meaning. We must try our best to walk in his sandals, to explore his land, language, traditions, livelihood, family dynamics, politics, beliefs, and expectations. Equipped with this background, the stories come alive and we can hear a message that translates to our life and times.

Why do I write this blog? Because I want to help you discover God’s unfathomable love. Think of it as a connect-the-dots activity – a page covered in dots. As we draw connecting lines between the dots, an image takes shape. We can guess the basic picture as soon as an outline emerges, but the image becomes more detailed as connections continue.

You might already feel God’s love for you, but that love will grow deeper as the picture becomes more intricate. And your love for Him will grow as well. I want you to develop a personal relationship with the God who persistently pursues you with deep and wide love.

Click on these links to watch me teach about ancient contract signing or to read why angels first announced Jesus’ birth to Bethlehem’s shepherds.

#SeedsofScripture #Godsloveneverfails #deepandwide #contextmatters #readthebiblebetter

How Spiritual Friends Are Guardrails

Spiritual friends

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

We’re in this together. We celebrated my return to Seeds of Scripture and now we’re partners. Whether you read and comment on every post or stay silent forever, you’re my accountability partner. I committed publicly to post weekly and you’re counting on it.

Thank you! I need accountability. Personal deadlines are squishy. I’m soft on myself and succumb to distracting temptations. No one will know if I put the task off. Right? It’s my little secret.

Spiritual friends are helpful in areas of struggle too.

Temptation is strong, especially when faced alone. The writer of Ecclesiastes advised:

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble… a person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Eccl 4:9-10,12 (NLT)

Spiritual friends are guardrails around my weaknesses. They prevent me from driving into the ditch. A friend can see my blind spots when my vision is impaired. They can signal an alert when I’m at risk of collision. But honestly, a warning is rarely necessary because I would never intentionally disappoint a friend.

Is it possible to live a holy life without spiritual friends? Can we keep our struggles and weaknesses just between us and God? Perhaps, but how often do we try to keep secrets from God? Hiding from God is harder when a spiritual friend delivers His message.

Within intimate and honest spiritual relationships advice is given and received with love in order to build each other up. Yes, sometimes the words are difficult to hear.

Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another – Proverbs 27:17

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. (Life Together, Harper and Row, 1954, p 20)

How do you set up guardrails around your weaknesses? Do you have a spiritual friend and accountability partner? If not, how will you find one?

Click on these links to read about receiving a difficult, honest correction or how to respond when a friend needs you?

#SeedsofScripture #accountabilitypartner #spiritualfriends #prayerpartners

 

Let’s Celebrate!

Big news“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Well, hello again. Seeds of Scripture has lay dormant since 2020, but I’m back and I have big news!

I did it!

I completed my Masters in Theological Studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Yahoo! I loved every minute of this stimulating, enlightening, and intense 5 ½ year journey.

So, you ask, “What’s next?” That’s a fair question. When I asked God the same question, He reminded me why I started journey. I taught and blogged about Scripture for many years. After a few speaking opportunities I felt God calling me to expand my ministry beyond my home church. I needed deeper biblical understanding and a credential.

What’s next God?

“Here I am, Lord… Speak for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:4-10) God slammed the door to pastoring a church but cracked open other doors for me to peek through. One day I’ll guide you through the maze that led me full circle back to teaching, writing, and speaking – only God could have arranged the twists and turns.

So I’ve returned home with a newly minted degree. To get started, I plan to complete the Bible study about the Apostle Paul that I researched and began writing last year. I’ll share tidbits and teasers in a weekly Seeds of Scripture blog post. I will also pursue church connections where I might speak at an event or preach during worship.

Can I be honest? I’m scared to be on my own with only God to follow instead of a professor’s assignment. I’m also excited to share what I learned and what God continues to reveal.

#SeedsofScripture #personalupdate #whatsnew #Godsplan #celebrate #mastersdegree

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

Spend a few minutes to plant a quick Seed. Or stay longer 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.
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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