Archive for August, 2011

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

Resting at the River’s Edge in September – Let’s Pursue Wisdom

The theme for this month seems to be wisdom. We’ll spend a significant amount of time in the book of Proverbs. The book was called Sophia by early Christian writers, a Greek word that means “wisdom.”

Solomon is the writer of most of the Proverbs and he establishes his purpose in the very first verses:

1The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
2for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; 3for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; 4for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—5let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—6for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.

Proverbs 1:1-6

Then, of course, Solomon establishes the place to start:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Proverbs 1:7

God has used the Proverbs to correct or warn me very specifically on a number of occasions. I remember being pressured by a boss to lie to his boss and struggling about how to handle the situation. The morning I was to meet with my boss’s boss I read Proverbs 12:22 during my devotions:

The LORD detests lying lips,
but he delights in men who are truthful.
Proverbs 12:22

The situation became incredibly clear to me – did I want to please my boss and have the Lord detest my actions or bring delight to the Lord and displease my boss? Hands down, I wanted to please the Lord. I did and He honored those actions. Very soon thereafter I quit that position and stepped into a much better job.

We’ll also spend a considerable amount of time in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. They seem an appropriate paring with Proverbs because they provide guidance about caring for and protecting the Church. The three letters focus on leadership qualifications and responsibilities as well as church life. 1 Timothy focuses on sound doctrine while 2 Timothy focuses on encouraging steadfast Christian living despite the circumstances we find ourselves in. The book of Titus carries a little of both topics.

Here’s to being much wiser by the end of the month!

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for September is below.

To download a PDF of the September 2011 recommended reading plan, click here.

Watching the Church Grow & Develop and Reading some Poetry

As we Rest at the River’s Edge in May, we’ll spend most of our time doing two things:

Watching the church grow and develop as we read through the book of Acts

Enjoying poetry as we read some Psalms and the Song of Songs (often called Song of Solomon)

As spring develops, don’t lose focus on what’s important, but feel free to take your Bible and notebook outside and enjoy some spring weather!

Blessings,
Sandy

 

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Reading 1 Peter 1 yesterday was such a joy! While I would like to include the whole chapter here, that seems a bit crazy – after all, you can just go to your Bible and read it. So let me concentrate on the first two verses and then throw in one of the last ones in the chapter.

To God’s elect, strangers in the world…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
1 Peter 1:1-2a

There is so much meat in those verses! Peter makes it clear that he is writing to “God’s elect” – in other words, believers. He goes on to describe them in ways that apply not only to those first century Christians, but to us today. We are:

  • “Strangers in the world” – The word translated “strangers” means “alien resident” or “pilgrim.” The moment we accept Christ, we are no longer citizens of the world in which we live physically, but we become “alien residents” in that world and citizens of God’s Kingdom. As such, we have a higher authority than our earthly government and a higher purpose than what we see with our eyes. Additionally, as we are conformed more and more into the image of Christ, this world will feel more and more alien to us. We will feel like strangers in a foreign land.
  • “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” – As strangers it’s easy to feel separated and alone. It’s at those times that I love to remember that I have been chosen. My choosing wasn’t an accident, it was according to God’s tremendous and glorious plan for my life. I may feel alone here, but God is always with me. Further, Scripture says he places the lonely in families. He does that by planting us in churches where we can develop relationships that help us know our value to God, grow in godliness, find His purpose for our lives and live out that purpose.
  • “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit” – Lest we begin to believe that it is our own doing that brought us to Christ, Peter reminds us that it was through the sanctifying – cleansing, purifying – work of the Holy Spirit that we came to know Christ. It is through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit that we are conformed to His image. When we are struggling with a sin our prayers are often too focused on the Lord helping our efforts to resist sin. Perhaps a better approach is asking the Holy Spirit to do His cleansing work in our hearts. This prayer is an act of submitting our will to God’s will. Knowing that it is the Holy Spirit who enables and that we are relying on Him brings a humility to our prayers and our attitudes. It honors God and brings grace into our lives.
  • “who have been chosen…for obedience to Jesus Christ” – We have been chosen for a purpose! Now I like to think that means God has a plan for me and my life has purpose – some great purpose even. It does mean that, but the purpose is quite different from what I imagine. I have been chosen for the single purpose of being obedient to Christ. This is both humbling and freeing. God has called me. He has called each of you. He has called you to be obedient to His Word – that is living according to God’s sovereign commands in Scripture. He has also called you to specific tasks that are unique to you. The wonderful thing is that He has called you to be obedient in doing those tasks. The results are up to Him. Success in God’s Kingdom is not defined by the outcome of our efforts, it is defined by our degree of obedience. What freedom that brings! It doesn’t give me freedom to work halfheartedly not caring about the results. No, it brings the freedom to follow God full-heartedly regardless of the results. The results may be thousands of souls won into the Kingdom (think the Apostle Peter) or the result may be years of seemingly futile prophecying and imprisonment (think the prophet Jeremiah).
  • “sprinkling by the blood” – We have also been chosen for salvation – that is, having the blood of Christ sprinkled on our hearts (Hebrews 9) so that our sins are forgiven. Scripture is clear – without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin. Christ’s blood was shed for my sin and your sin so that we might live for eternity with Him. Hallelujah! The Jewish Christians who had practiced the sacrificing of lambs and other animals to temporarily cleanse themselves from sin clearly understood from this phrase that Christ’s blood would cleanse them from all sin permanently. The implications are enormous but I today I just want to remind each of us that this means you are forgiven. Don’t hold on to past sins or false guilt for those sins. If you have confessed the sin to God and asked His forgiveness, that false guilt is condemnation from the devil. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1)

Whew! What a treasure the first two verses of 1 Peter are! If you’ve read the rest of the chapter, you’ve found that it just keeps getting better. Let me bring us to a verse near the end of the chapter:

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:13

Because of all this, “prepare your minds for action!” God doesn’t want us to just sit back and enjoy the tremendous benefits of knowing Him. He wants us to prepare our minds for action! He wants us to get in the game! He has called us for obedience to Christ, so set your mind to it and get moving! “Be self-controlled,” and when you need a little more motivation (and don’t we all need it all the time) “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

We have been called to a glorious hope – it’s described in the verses between 2 and 13 of this chapter (and many other places in Scripture, of course). It uses phrases like “inexpressible and glorious joy” and “living hope” and “inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” But I’ll leave it to you to read more.

In the meantime, friends, know that you are chosen by God Himself for obedience to Christ. Wow!

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At 52 chapters, Jeremiah is the third longest book of the Bible. Only Psalms and Isaiah are longer. Over the past week our Resting at the River’s Edge readings have had us reading the middle chapters – 22 through 31. How’s it going? Are you getting bogged down or is it coming alive as you read it? I admit that it’s hard reading sometimes yet I feel a stirring to pause and think about the text periodically. I don’t have any great thoughts or insights, but I thought I’d share some some of my musings. Feel free to add your own comments to mine:

  • I love the way God uses real-life props to bring prophetic words to life – from boiling pots to linen belts to wooden yokes, God makes the prophecies real and memorable by tying them to tangible things. I have found that He often uses tangible things to teach me lessons – but only when I take time to pause when situations or objects catch my attention. When I’m rushing through my life I miss those object lessons. (Lord, slow me down and give me an ear to hear.)
  • So many of the verse have caused me to grieve for our country and culture. We have turned our back against God – immorality is rampant and much of the Church has become complacent toward God. Can judgment be far behind? (Lord, give your Church a repentant heart and a burden for the lost.)
  • I am very aware that I love reading the chapters in which Jeremiah prophecies the return of Israel much more than the chapters in which he prophecies her destruction. It is so easy to gloss over God’s righteous character and believe that God won’t judge sin. (Lord, give us an accurate perception of ourselves – don’t let us be deceived.)
  • Having said that I am so blessed that my God is a god of love and His mercy triumphs over judgment. For every punishment there are verses like Jeremiah 31:6:

There will be a day when watchmen cry out
on the hills of Ephraim,
‘Come, let us go up to Zion,
to the LORD our God.’”

What follows is singing for joy (v7), weeping (v9), shouting for joy (v12), dancing (v13) and mourning will be turned into gladness (v13). And everyone will know the Lord:

No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
Jeremiah 31:34

(Thank You, Lord for your compassion and love!)

Jeremiah is a book of warnings and blessings. I hope your reading of it is stirring you both to take sin seriously and to know that God will forgive when we repent.

Keep reading God’s precious Word!

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And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)

Lately my days have been stolen from me! At least that’s how I would have viewed them in the past. I am learning to view them simply as God having other plans. As my parents age, it’s not unusual for me to get a call that has me drop everything and drive an hour to Cleveland to spend hours at the hospital then drive the hour home. That’s usually followed by phone calls to make, e-mails to write and fallout to deal with the following day or days. That fallout might be more trips to Cleveland, making arrangements of one sort or another, or just dealing with my own emotional condition following the crisis.

I’m not complaining. I am blessed to still have my mom and step-parents around. I’m just saying that God is using this time to teach me in a new way that my time is not my own any more than my money or my possessions are not my own. Learning that my money and possessions were not my own was much easier!

I like my time being my own. I like scheduling out my days and having a plan. I’m even pretty good about things happening that change the plan – because things always happen and plans always change. But the situations I’m facing these days are not changes to plans, these situations are the demolition of plans with little likelihood of being able to develop an alternate plan.

Have you been there? How have you dealt with it?

God is teaching me to let go and trust that He is the author of time and He will and does make it possible to either accomplish what’s necessary or give grace for what isn’t finished as planned. I love that about God.

1) God is teaching me…He doesn’t expect me to just know it. He doesn’t expect me to get it right all the time. He understands that this doesn’t come naturally to me, so He gently pulls and shapes me until I am malleable clay and am formed into the image He has in mind. OK, sometimes it doesn’t feel so gentle, but the end product is pleasing to Him. And if it’s pleasing to Him, I’m good with it.

God has me in training and training is grueling and painful sometimes. Other times it’s repetitive and boring. That’s where perseverance comes in. The Apostle Paul had a few things to say about racing and perseverance:

24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

2) He enables me to accomplish things I can’t believe can be accomplished in the time available. Wow! I preached a sermon once about the power of a time-warping God. That sermon was about how He has worked in the past, even before I was born, He works in my present and He is somehow at work in my future – to set things up and help me become the woman of God He wants me to be. That’s pretty powerful stuff. This is a different kind of time warping. This time warping somehow accomplishes four hours worth of work in one – which doesn’t do much for my income when I bill on an hourly basis, but He takes care of that too and it keeps the clients happy which causes them to be repeat customers.

3) He gives grace for what isn’t accomplished that I thought needed to be accomplished. Sometimes I’ll learn that a client was on vacation when I thought he was expecting a project, or I’ll receive changes that would have made all my work a waste had I had time to do it. And sometimes clients are simply understanding as we humbly admit we won’t be able to deliver when we expected to.

Both this point and the previous one are reflected in our company’s key verse:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)

The sum of those three lessons teaches me one other thing – that I truly can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).

I love that God deals with us where we are but takes us to a greater place. He not only has plans for us – plans to prosper us and to give us a hope – but He turns those hopes into reality by walking through our every day life and especially our every day challenges.

My challenge for each of us is to look for what God is doing in each of those 3 areas:

  • What is He teaching you through your most significant challenges this week?
  • How is He helping you get through those challenges?
  • What extra-ordinary grace is He extending to you or others that makes your life work?

My prayer is that we become partners in our growth – recognizing God’s work in us and allowing Him free reign to conform us into the image of Christ – for His glory in heaven and on earth.

Blessings, friends, as you are molded into something greater than you are!

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by guest blogger Phil Hovatter

Reading an entire book of the Bible in one sitting can give you a better perspective of it than dividing it up over more than one day. This morning I had the opportunity and great pleasure of reading the Old Testament book of Ezra in one big gulp.

Ezra was an Israelite priest held in captivity in Babylon.  In fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy, the Jews were being released to go back to their homeland. Support for their return and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem came from no fewer than three Persian (modern-day Iranian) emperors — Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes. These guys didn’t just support the rebuilding effort with lip service, they also returned temple furnishings stolen by Nebuchadnezzar when he trashed Jerusalem 70 years earlier, and kicked in thousands of pounds of gold and silver, along with herds of animals to be sacrificed at the newly rebuilt temple.

Persian kings supporting the rebuilding of the Jewish temple? When God fulfills a prophecy, He really fulfills a prophecy! Not only did Jeremiah prophesy the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity 70 years before it occurred, Isaiah prophesied the exact name of the emperor who would issue their release — 160 years before it happened. Isaiah 44:28 —[I am the LORD,] who says of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, ‘Let it be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Let its foundations be laid.’”

I get two things from this.

  • First, our help can come from some very unexpected places. Who would expect such lavish support for the Jews to come from Persian emperors?
  • Second, if God says it (even 160 or 2,000 years in advance), it’s a done deal!

So what has God said about you and your situation? Maybe He’s said something specifically about you and future. If so, continue to pray into it and seek the Lord for its fulfillment. Even if He hasn’t said anything specific to you, the Bible is chock full of great promises for those who pursue God  (and some not-so-great ones for those who choose not to pursue God). Search the Scriptures and look for what God is saying to you today. And look for the fulfillment of those promises…even from unlikely sources!

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One of Jesus’ primary teaching tools was asking questions. In Mark chapter 8, he asks the disciples this question:

5“How many loaves of bread do you have?” [Jesus] asked.
Mark 8:5

It’s a simple question, and with that question, Jesus is redirecting the disciples’ attention away from the enormity of the need. He’s saying “don’t look at the need, look at me!”

It’s the story of Jesus feeding the four thousand men, along with unnumbered women and children, with only seven loaves and two fish. Jesus first brings the need to the attention of his disciples by calling them together and saying:

2“I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
Mark 8:2-3 (NIV)

Their response isn’t their finest moment:

“How are we supposed to find enough food for them here in the wilderness?”
Mark 8:5 (NLT)

I hear it as “Are you crazy? How in the world are we…?” And since I know the end of the story, it occurs to me that any time I have that reaction, there ought to be a check in my spirit…because God is setting me up for a miracle! Instead of “I can’t possibly…” or “Are you crazy? How can I…?” I want to be the person that shouts “Yeehaw! A miracle’s about to happen!” OK, not so cowboy, but you get the idea.

I’m not that person yet, but the Holy Spirit & I are working on it. We’re getting closer.

The apostles looked at the crowd and said “we can’t possibly feed these people.” Jesus didn’t look at the crowd, He looked at the resources, knowing that when the resources were fully given to God, God would multiply them to meet the need.

Picture it, 32AD: Four thousand men, in addition to the women and children, were in need of food. The apostles had seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Looks to me like recipe for a personal meltdown!

But God…He gently took the disciples by the hand (metaphorically), turned them from the crowed to look into His face, and redirected their thinking from “How are we supposed to…” to “take a deep breath and look at me. Now tell me, what do you have?” No meltdown. Instead a miracle!

I’m going to go back to that, but first I want to ask my own questions. Update the picture: Think about what you’d like to do for God. Go ahead. Pause here for a minute or two here and answer the question: What would you like to do for God? OK, now answer this question: what are your four thousand people? In other words, what is keeping you from accomplishing it. Is it lack of money? Lack of time? Lack of energy?

Jesus wants to uncomplicated things. He simply asks “what do you have?” Quit looking at all the reasons you can’t do what you’d like to do for God. Start telling God what have and ask what you should do with it. He’ll give instructions, and you’ll be on your way to being part of a miracle.

When we give it to Him, God takes what we have in our hands and He uses it to bless others.

That’s the original covenant of the Old Testament – that Abraham would be a blessing to many nations,
and the awesome privilege and responsibility of the New Testament
“go ye into all the world…”

So God wants to take my resources and your resources and use them not to meet the needs of just our families, but to reach out to others. But if we look at the opportunities, at the enormity of the needs, we become paralyzed because our resources seem so puny. That’s when Jesus asks the simple question “what’s that in your hand?” “What do you have?”

Let’s look at that question a bit more: “What do you have?” We don’t know how Jesus actually asked the question, but one method of studying a verse or phrase in the Bible is to work our way through it by emphasizing each word individually. I found that approach to be instructive in this case:

WHAT do you have? – Tell the Lord. Answer the question. In Resting at the River’s Edge we’ve just started the book of Jeremiah. In this book God is regularly asking Jeremiah “what do you see?” And then a prophetic message comes to him after describing to God what he sees. I’ve found that often God doesn’t begin to give me ideas for serving Him until I’ve started describing the situation to Him.

What DO you have? – This encourages us to look at our resources, not just the need. The apostles were stuck looking at the need and it was so great it paralyzed them. Jesus redirected them by saying, “OK, so you can’t go buy food for everyone, what DO you have.” If we look at the need we become discouraged. If we look at the need, it crushes our faith and we don’t take the first step.

What do YOU have? – Jesus asks us to use our resources. We have to give them before he can multiply them. When we hold on to our resources, there is no miracle of multiplication of those resources.

What do you HAVE? – This is an interesting emphasis. At first glance, I wanted to answer that it’s very much like “DO” – what DO you have? OK, I have this, this and this. Then God asks again “what do you HAVE?” In other words, take another look – what do those things put together make. Perhaps bread and fish make a meal. It’s the synergy part of the sentence. It’s the whole thing being greater than the sum of its individual parts.

It’s also the point where we step back, perhaps acknowledge – Lord, we got nothing…so we stare a little longer (hopefully praying while we stare at what we have) and God’s miracle begins to become apparent. OK, I get it! It’s not just bread and fish, it’s a meal. And perhaps it’s not just bread but it becomes the bread of Life as we give it in Jesus’ name. This could be good… Let’s have the people sit down and start feeding them and see what happens!

And what happens is God’s miracle because we’ve looked away from despair, given our resources to the awesome ministry He’s given us and voila! it’s time for His miracle!

Jesus is a master at asking simple questions. We tend to complicate life by moving to the complex when the simple will suffice. Jesus asks “what do you have?” When life crowds in and your need seems to overshadow your resources, Jesus asks: “what do you have?” We would do well to learn from the Master.

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Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Matthew 6:9

How is your Summer of Praise going? I hope you’re being purposeful in praising God no matter what situations you find yourself facing this summer.

About a week ago I slept later than my husband. When I woke up, I asked what he’d been doing. He said he’d been having a wonderful morning with the Lord praying the Lord’s Prayer. I was jealous! Jealous in a good way, of course.

So a few days later I began to think about how the Lord’s Prayer might be re-framed as a vehicle of praise. What I found was that each phrase provided a great launching pad for vibrant praise.

May I invite you to join me? Don’t just read the rest of this blog. Praise God along with me. I’ve included some of reasons to praise Him after each praise, but I encourage you to expand upon my ideas and praise Him with your own voice.

Our Father
You is my Father! Hallelujah! I have been adopted into Your family. I have been made a co-heir with Christ. You invite me to call You Abba, Daddy. You are a perfect, loving Father.

Who art in heaven
Heaven is Your throne and the earth is Your footstool. You rule and reign in heaven above and I will one day spend eternity with You.

Hallowed be your name
Lord, you are holy. I exalt Your name above all other names. There is none like You.

Your Kingdom come
The Lord has a Kingdom which will never end. It is a Kingdom of righteousness and peace.

Your will be done
Your will is perfect. Your will is always for my good.

On earth as it is in heaven.
You move on the hearts of men to accomplish Your will here on earth as it is in heaven. For those of us who love you, you give us the Kingdom here on earth.

Give us today our daily bread.
You are a God who provides for His children! You always have and you always will provide for me. You are always faithful.

Forgive us our sins,
Lord, You are a forgiving God! Jesus, you died so that I might be forgiven. Thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord.

as we forgiven those who have sinned against us.
Praise You, Lord, that You are a God of love and mercy and compassion who enables me to forgive others. In Your Kingdom mercy triumphs over judgement.

And lead us not into temptation,
It is not You, Lord, who tempts us. Rather, You show us the way to escape temptation and enable us to resist it through Your Holy Spirit living in us.

but deliver us from the evil one.
You are my great Deliverer, Lord. Hallellujah!

For Thine is the kingdom, the Power and the glory forever. Amen.
Hallelujah!

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How do you best hear from God? Does He speak to your heart/mind/spirit most often or most clearly when you:

  • Read Scripture
  • Pray
  • Meditate
  • Write/journal
  • Study
  • Discuss Scriptures with other believers
  • Serve
  • Worship

Of course God can speak to each of us in any way at any point in time, but most people have one or two ways they most often hear from God. Since He created us in our mother’s womb, He knows how we’re wired and He tends to speak to us in ways that are consistent with our personality.

I tend to hear God when I’m writing and when I’m worshipping. Sometimes when I’m meditating on passages.

So, for example, when I read our Resting at the River’s Edge reading for yesterday, a specific verse caught my attention:

“How many loaves of bread do you have?” [Jesus] asked. Mark 8:5 (NIV)

I was tempted to fly past it – I’m familiar with the story, I studied a similar story a couple of weeks ago – but like I said, it caught my attention. So after reading the whole story, I went back and asked God what the big deal with the question was. No answer.

But that verse sure did intrigue me.

So I began to write. I didn’t know where I was going, but I copied the verse into my word processing program and I started writing. Then I deleted what I had written and started again. Then I left what I had written but skipped a few lines and started over. And a message began to form. Several messages, actually, and the passage came to life. Or should I say God brought the passage to life. Yesterday’s blog was just a snippet from the pages I wrote. I’ll be blogging more from the passage next week after I preach two sermons based on it.

In the process I learned an important point: If I had not made time for God – if I had not stopped reading and begun to write – even when I didn’t know what to write – I would not have heard from God.

So my question friends is simple…do you make time for God? If you want to hear from, it’s imperative that you make time to listen.

By the way… one thing I’ve found is that God most often speaks to me when I ask Him to! Yep. When I ask God to speak to me before reading Scripture, I am more likely to hear His message. When I ask Him to speak to me during worship, I am more likely to sense His heart.

And another thing… if you don’t know how you best hear from God why not ask Him? Then spend a few months focusing on different disciplines each month until you hear God speak to you. Ask Him. He’ll respond.

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“How many loaves of bread do you have?” [Jesus] asked.
Mark 8:5 (NIV)

One of Jesus’ primary teaching methods was to ask his disciples questions. In this story, Jesus has pointed out to the disciples that the crowd that has been following Him needs food. The New Living Translation records the disciples’ response like this:

“How are we supposed to find enough food for them here in the wilderness?” his disciples asked.
Mark 8:4 (NLT)

Can you hear their attitude? “What? Are you crazy?” That’s what I hear them thinking. Possibly, though, they’re more defeated than that. “There’s no way we can…” “We could never…” Have you ever heard those voices in your head? I have. Have you ever heard those words come out of your mouth. Uhh…yeah.

Both perspectives provide a wonderful teaching moment for Jesus. He simply looked at the disciples and said “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus didn’t scold them or condemn them in any way. He simply redirected their thinking from “We can’t” to “Give it to God and He can.”

There are many lessons in this Biblical story and I’ll blog more about them next week, but today’s lesson is simple – when you are lacking something important to do what God has asked you to do – whether it’s food to feed your family or food to feed the homeless in your neighborhood – when you feel in need – turn away from “I can’t,” look into the face of Jesus and say “Here are my seven loaves of bread, Lord. I can’t do much with them, but You can. I’ll give them to you. Use them for Your glory!”

Then stand back and watch the miracle!

It’s a simple question that Jesus asks: “What do you have?”

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