Archive for the ‘Scripture’ Category
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Today I noticed that it was time to refill my bird feeders. As winter seems to be lingering on and as the snow fall keeps arriving on a weekly basis, I think the birds are eating at the bird feeder more frequently because their primary food sources are covered up. This led me to ponder this morning what feeds me.
I am not concerned about the physical feeding of myself; I have more than enough food and more than enough food sources. I am thinking more about what feeds my life. I believe it is important for people to reflect up this on occasion. The reason I find it important to do for myself is because if what I am doing is not feeding me, then I need to consider doing something else. This is true in my professional life, as well as, all aspects of my personal life. I think that each of us have certain activities and interests which give us energy and drive. Just like our physical bodies need the right combination of nutrients and sustenance to have the energy to get through a day, our mental bodies need the right combination of activities and stimulation to get us through the day, week, and month.
Not only do our physical and mental bodies need to be fed, our spirits need feed as well. Some of the feeding of my spirit is connected to the feeding of my mental being but I need more than just that. I need to be feed by a higher Spirit. I need that connection with the Lord. It is the Spirit of the Lord that feeds my spirit. It is through prayer, study of Scripture, worship, and being engaged in a community of faith that the Spirit feeds me.
So my question for you today is: What feeds you?
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I have recently had a few conversations about the role of the Bible. So many people have different thoughts about what the Bible means, how to read the Bible, what role the Bible should have in our faith and in our lives. Some people view it as a rule book. Others want the Bible to be a history book. Still others want the Bible to be a really neat collection of stories. So I decided today to share my understanding of the Bible and its role in our lives.
I think that the primary purpose of the Bible is to communicate this: God wants to be in relationship with us and God wants us to be in relationship with one another. Therefore, I believe that the Bible is intended to helps us understand what it means to be in relationship with God and with one another. The guiding principle behind all aspects of those relationships is love.
If that is what the Bible is intended to do for us, then I believe that it is best to look at the Bible as being a combination of stories, poetry, some historical facts, and many illustrations. They are all used to communicate the primary point mentioned above. This would be like when an educator is trying to help a student understand a point. They will design a lesson(s) and use various methods to communicate the point to the student in the anticipation that through these methods the student will be able to grasp and apply the point in their lives.
Therefore, I find it helpful to read a passage of the Bible and ask, “What is the point that this passage is trying to make?” Then quickly follow that with, “How does that point give more understanding to the primary point of the Bible?”
I’d be interested in how others view this approach and any other approaches others may take in their understanding of the Bible.
Esther and Mordecai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“…. for such a time as this”
These are the words that Mordecai shared with Queen Esther when discussing her intervention to save her Jewish brothers and sisters. For me today, these words took on a personal meaning. I started my day feeling a bit physically and emotionally exhausted. Some days and weeks are like that. I was questioning if I was adding much value to the situations and relationships in which I am engaged. But then all of that changed as I was preparing to head to the office. I received a phone call and was asked to have a conversation with an individual. Through that counseling conversation, God adjusted my perspective and reminded me of a few realities of which I had lost sight.
As a believer, I believer in a sovereign God. Simply put, God is in charge and nothing escapes the sight, knowledge, or power of God. This means as a believer, there is no such thing as chance. Random star alignments, the movement of planets, the sifting of ocean sands, or any part of creation has the power to control or manipulate life. The creation itself is such that it is because the Creator made it so. Now, I am not encouraging a debate between evolution and creationism because I do not believe that there is a debate. For me, I’m alright with the concept that evolution is a tool that God used to create. What I am trying to emphasize is that I believe God has knowledge of events and their outcomes and through that knowledge God works towards the benefit of all of creation, especially humanity. This does not eliminate free will but emphasizes the power of God since the Lord can even use the choices we make to move us towards the benefit that God desires for us.
Since as a believer, I do not believe in randomness or chance, that means that chance did not prompt the phone call that I received today and the ensuing conversation, God saw two sets of needs and brought the individuals with the needs together. I needed to get a better perspective on life and a change in my attitude. The person whom I had conversation with needed to have a listening ear, a reassurance of faith, and access to some options. My hope is that the individual was blessed in the counseling conversation as much as I felt blessed in having the conversation.
All of this brings me back to the passage in Esther. In the Lord’s view, no one is without value or purpose. We are who we are and we are located where we are because there is value in us being there. No matter what type of job we have or where that job is located, we are not there by chance but because we have a purpose in being there. Some days we can lose sight of this reality in God’s world. We may find ourselves in what appears to be mindless jobs and tasks and wonder what benefit any of it could bring. We may feel that we are overlooked and unnoticed. We may feel like a little fish in a large sea or a small cog in a huge machine. But that is not how God sees our situation. We have a purpose where we are and what we are doing, no matter how grandiose or how mundane.
What I was reminded today was that I always need to be open to what the Lord may be doing in and through me. I need to be available for the Lord to do work even if I am unaware of it, or if like today, it is fairly obvious. I need to wake up each morning and offer my prayer that the Lord may work through me this day. I need to offer my day and my life in that day to the Lord each and every day.
Remember, the Lord has put you where you need to be and doing what you need to be doing “for such a time as this.”
Brightcontrast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last night I attended a community meeting that gave me a clearer understanding of the power of the presence of individuals. I have been having concerns about the direction that one of our communities institutions has been choosing to follow. Many individuals in the community have shared with me specific statements and actions that one of the leaders of this institution has taken which has caused them concerned. I have experienced similar concerns myself and so I decided that I needed to be more proactive in trying to gain insights and be more present when the board of this institution met so I was dealing with facts and not hearsay. I also encouraged other individuals to attend and some of them did.
What I found interesting is the impact upon discussions and non-verbal communications that occurred when there were a number of citizens present at the meeting. I believe the presence of citizens communicated to the leaders of the institution that there were individuals who desired positive directions and decisions to be pursued for the benefit of those that the institution is designed to serve. My hope is that this would be seen as a supportive and involved group of citizens instead of an adversarial group. That being said, I do believe that it is important for the citizens to hold the leaders accountable and to ask questions that encourage informed decisions with a variety of input versus the input of one.
The other interesting discovery is that the presence of concerned citizens helped create an atmosphere of light. What I mean by that is that the actions that took place, the statements that were made, and the discussions that occurred all happened in a very public light. Again, I find this to be an important responsibility which is placed upon the citizenry. We must attend these meetings so that we hear directly what those whom we elect are discussing and taking actions upon. This way it is not gossip that drives our thoughts but truth. Some leaders do not operate well when the light is shined upon them. They prefer to operate in the dark because then they are able to retain power and pursue their own agendas.
All of these thoughts have led me back to a quote from Scripture:
New International Version (NIV)
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
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This morning during my devotional time I read the account of Jesus healing the blind man and the Jewish leaders taking issue with the act. The Jewish leadership just could not see that Jesus could be the Messiah. They had become blind to the possibilities. Whether they felt threatened, scared, or just were trying to protect their own power, I am not sure. Whatever the cause of their blindness, it diminished their ministry and their very lives.
How often do we remain blind to the work the Lord is doing around us? How often do we choose to deny who the Lord truly is? How often are we blind to the wonderful gifts that the Lord has given to others? How often are we blind to the truth?
These are all questions that came to my mind this morning. I am as guilty as anyone in having blinders at times. Because of experiences or observations, I become blind to the possibility of change. When I disagree with someone, I can become blind to the gifts and abilities that the Lord has given to them. When I have a viewpoint on a subject, I can become blind to other viewpoints. My blindness can diminish the work that I strive to do in the name of the Lord and my own life. I have frequent need to repent of my blindness and seek healing that only the Lord can provide.
The story in John’s Gospel provides some important truths for me. First, Jesus is the only one who can truly heal my blindness. Second, I need to accept who Jesus truly is and what he is capable of doing. Third, I need to be aware of my blindness and not declare that I see and know all.
What may be your blind spots? Jesus can heal them.
So yesterday I had the honor of scooping the first snow of the season. Alright, so I don’t feel like it was such a great honor. In fact, I would rather it did not occur until the week of December 25th. But since I am not the one placed in charge of weather patterns, what I would prefer really has no bearing on when the first snow arrives. So while I was scooping over 5″ of wet snow at 5:45 in the morning, I was trying to find some positives. Here is the list that I came up with:
- It makes everything appear fresh and new.
- It reflects light well so it gives an illuminating effect to the ground and other objects on which it falls.
- It covers up the grays and browns of fall.
- It presents an image of innocence.
My optimistic list may seem a bit of illusionary magic but at least it helped me grumble a little less. However, I was able to focus on two items on the list throughout the day yesterday. Both of them caused me to focus on what is so wonderful about the Lord’s forgiveness. The two that I focused on was the ability of snow to make everything appear fresh and new, the other was the way it covers up the grays and browns.
When the Lord’s forgiveness comes upon us, it is much like the snow falling. It gracefully and gently comes down from above. It lightly lands on us and makes us fresh and new. I am reminded of that when I read: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV). My old self and my old ways are covered by the grace and forgiveness of the Lord.
Not only am I given the opportunity to be fresh and new, I also no longer have to worry about the gray and brown and ugliness of my sinful actions and thoughts. The forgiveness that the Lord places upon me covers that sin. I am bright and clear and clean once again. The Apostle Paul makes this clear when he says: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” (Romans 4:7, NIV).
So even though I would prefer this to be the only snow of the season; even though I was not thrilled about spending over an hour removing the snow from my sidewalks and porches, I can find some good reminders in the snow.
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“Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” (2 Timothy 2:14; NIV)
This was a verse in my morning devotions today. As I read this verse it made me think about churches and those who are a part of the churches. I thought about how often it is because of quarreling over words that divisions occur in the life of the Church. People often justify these quarrels by stating that they are trying to keep us faithful to the Lord. However, I think that the truth is found in the desire to keep the Church in line with their own thoughts.
Words have a very amazing power. They can be used to build up or to tear down. They can be used to communicate support or dislike. Words can cut through a person’s sense of worth or they can mend many cuts.
In addition to the surface meaning and use of words, there are those underlying meanings and motivations. A word at face value may communicate something different from the intended underlying meaning of the word. Sometimes we can trip over a word and not grasp the meaning of the sentence, paragraph or complete writing.
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, I think that what he is trying to communicate is the importance of not placing so much value on the actual words but instead placing value on the underlying meanings. I tell many people how important it is for us to look at Scripture and seek to grasp the main message and meaning instead of getting caught up in specific words.
Maybe if we spent less time arguing about specific words and more time striving to live out the intended message, we would see less division, regain wasted energy, and do a better job of representing the Lord’s purpose. Let’s stop the word fights.