Wednesday’s Word: Awe

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So the plan for this weekly post is to have an encouraging word for those extra long days and weeks that weigh heavy and are discouraging.

Today’s word is a great word for that purpose. So many days we get tripped up by the mundane, sabotaged by the pain, or overwhelmed by the struggle. We’re taken down by those things because we lose perspective: the ability to see above and beyond.

A scripture that lifts me to a place of awe is found in Isaiah 40:

28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
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.

God can give us the ability to soar above…and that’s pretty awesome. He keeps his promise, gives us everything we need—including the ability run, or  the strength to just keep walking.

That’s awesome and amazing.

 

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Hopefully Devoted: While You Wait

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Waiting is inevitable.

What we do with it is a choice.

Already this morning, I found myself waiting before I could go have “before-surgery-prayer” with someone at the hospital. Then on the way home, I had to stop for a school bus loading a dozen children.

Waiting is not only inevitable, it is inconvenient—we always seem to be waiting when we’d rather be doing something else.

So what can we do while we wait?

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We can read. We can pray. We can sing. We can pace (getting steps is always a good thing). We can talk to the others who are waiting around us.

These are the productive things we can do.

But we can also stew, grouse, complain, belly-ache, whine, and generally make everyone around us as miserable with the inconvenience as we are.

I know these things are options, because I’ve gone there way too many times myself.

Tucked away in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he makes reference to “redeeming the time” (5:16). This echos the Old Testament prayer of the Psalmist: “Teach us to use wisely all the time we have (Psalm 90:12).”

So how will you use your time, especially your waiting time, today?

May we all come to productive and wise usage…we’ll be happier for it…and God will be pleased.

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Sermon Seeds: Persistence in Prayer

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When I was in high school and experiencing all the typical teenage angst of relationship break-ups, peer pressure, and raging hormones, I had one encounter that forever shaped the way I move toward the future.

I felt a closeness to the the mother of one my friends…her whole family actually. This woman of faith died from breast cancer the fall of my senior year in high school—but not before imparting to me the words that became my mantra for life.

One evening, when my angst and stress was overwhelming, I went to her home. I poured out my heart, and at some point spewed my need to just give up.

She got right in my face, and quietly, but firmly told me to never, ever give up.

Here was this woman, my spiritual mentor at the time, dying from the ravages of cancer, on oxygen, barely able to move off the couch, telling me to never give up. Nothing in life comes easy, but it’s always, always, worth fighting for.

I can’t tell you how many times those words have come back to me, sustained me, pushed me, enabled me.

I apply them to work, to child-rearing, to writing, to facing the seemingly impossible.

And I apply them to prayer and my relationship with God.

The words of Jesus about prayer, “ask…seek…knock” are actually: keep on asking, keep on seeking…keep on knocking.”

Are you in a situation that seems overwhelming? Do you need a miracle? Never give up in prayer. God’s answer, his way, his truth, are worth fighting for.

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Hopefully Devoted: How much love?

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The trial of a serial killer has captured the attention of most of the people in my little town. Finding an impartial jury has not been easy. Opinions are expressed in the morning coffee gatherings, in the papers, and on the regional news.

I met recently with a group who were close to one of the victims. Very early into our meetng, one of people spoke up: “I have a question. Do I have to pray for that guy?”

Easy answer: no.

But I’m not into easy answers.

I helped my questioning friend to tease out what she was really wanting to ask. She was somewhat resistant—seeking to hide the truth she was trying to avoid. But we finally got there. “Do I have to forgive him?”

What followed was an honest discussion about forgiveness. No one was comfortable…needing to forgive can do that.

As we were wrapping up our meeting, a new question surfaced: Do I have to like him?

Even easier answer: no!

Scripture says nothing about liking someone. I don’t think we’re wired to like everyone.

But we have to care about them. We have to love them.

Loving someone…caring for them…praying for them doesn’t mean we have to like them—and we certainly don’t have to like or condone what they did.

Perhaps the only thing we can pray for them is that they will find the strength to face the consequences of their actions.

If I did something horribly wrong I would hope someone prayed that much for me.

Wednesday’s Word: Confident

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Truth? I don’t always feel confident. I rarely function with “no uncertainty.”

But I have boatloads of “strong belief.” And never ending trust in the One who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above ALL I could ask or even imagine.

So today, I will live and move in the “full assurance” that not CAN HE, but He will!

That’s the confidence I carry into today. How about you?

Sermon Seeds: Adulterous Generation

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At one point in Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees and Sadducess (recognized religious leaders of the day), demanded that he give them a sign to prove his authority.

“A wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Then He left them and went away (Matthew 16:4, Berean Study Bible).”

Adulterous.

Aldultery we think we understand. But what about adulterous?

Understanding this word better will help us understand why this commandment is so important to God, and why Jesus spoke about it on more than one occasion.

I went to the Thessaurus to find words that might help us. Consider these: illicit, fast and loose, immoral, cheating, two-timing, moon-lighting.

What about antonyms or the opposite: chaste and pure. To those I would add loyal and committed.

Isn’t it interesting that when God begins this section of rules and commands, he starts by demanding a pure and chaste relationship with himself?

Our relationship with him becomes the standard for our relationships with our mates and with others.

But we’re not naturally wired that way. One of my favorite hymns puts it this way: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above (Come Thou Fount).”

We are prone to wander. We have wandering eyes and wavering commitment. We are tempted to move to whatever seems better than what we have—whether it’s a car, house, a job, or a mate.

We flirt with the new until our heart forgets the promises we made. Our reckless and riotous living is similar to the prodigal son described in Luke’s gospel. We don’t appreciate what we have, so we take what’s not ours…and the chasing and wandering lands us starving in a pig sty of our own making.

The solution? Return to the God who knows us best and loves us most. The God who specializes in restoring because he never stops loving.

And if you haven’t wandered yet? Keep your heart pure!

Just in case you think purity is impossible, God has a word—a promise—for you (and me!):

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Sermon Seeds: Harmony

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Last week’s commandment reminded us: It all starts at home. (Honor your parents.)

So this week we begin the journey out the door. And we need to remember: it all starts in the heart.

Our commandment is: don’t murder. The focus in the Old Testament seems narrow and we find Jesus much later attempting to broaden our understanding by telling us no one needs to die, no blood needs to be shed for a murder to take place—it all begins in the heart.

Our judgments of others, our attitudes towards others, matter. These are the seeds of our actions—and Jesus is pretty clear: they can lead us to be guilty of murder.

What’s the answer?

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was he answered by summing up all of them: love God supremely (first four) and love your neighbor as yourself (last six).

How do we accomplish those commandments that focus on loving those around us, including the less than lovely or loveable? First, we have to get the ones about loving God supremely.

Starting with no lying, stealing, or murdering is like started to read a novel in the middle; or building the roof before you lay the foundation.

Not the best plan. Not God’s plan.

And once we’ve got the order down, let’s try to live in harmony. Not all our notes will be the same…but we can work together to make something beautiful.

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