Keep In Step

This morning I thought of the expression “keep in step with the Spirit” from Galatians. When you keep in step, you aren’t far behind and you aren’t far ahead. You’re in step. Your right next to God in the very place you’re supposed to be in the moment. You’re in step.

I remember to keep my mind with Jesus now. Not yesterday and not tomorrow, but now, right now.

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But Can God Make Me Happy?

I’ve always been told that “God isn’t interested in making me happy; He’s interested in making me holy.” So I built a theology around God as someone sanctifying me towards holiness in a way that wouldn’t encourage or protect happiness. Instead, I would grow into holiness and misery.

Well, I don’t think that’s true. Not at all.

I read this morning this quote that arrives like laughing wind chimes to my soul. Jacques Philippe writes:

Lacking hope, we don’t really believe God can make us happy, and so we construct our happiness out of covetousness and lust. We don’t wait to find the fullness of our existence in God, and so we shape an artificial identity grounded in pride.

That was me! I didn’t really believe God could make me happy. That wasn’t His job. But what if it was? What if Psalm 68:3 became true in my life where we read, “May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful”?

I’m learning that God creates my desire for happiness to find its fulfillment in knowing Him, so it follows that Christians should be happy people. Why not ask Him to make us happy and to know that He really can?

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I always love it when I reread Isaiah 30 regarding the promise of God to His people. While I understand these words as a promise to the Israelites, I think it also reflects the character of God and His heart towards all believers. Isaiah writes in Isaiah 30:19-23:

People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!” He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful.

I tend to underline the first promise about God answering as we cry for help and providing clear teachers to us. But this week, I focused on the very last verse:

He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground,  and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful.

Broadly applied, I wondered about the New Testament imagery of sowing seed as a metaphor for sowing to please the Spirit and sowing the seeds of the gospel. I thought of all those ways we plant seeds of faith in our lives and how God will send rain to make these seeds grow.

I thought of seeds of books, of speaking about Jesus, about any host of things. I thought of projects started in faith and tiny beginnings that we pray will bear fruit.

And I thanked God for sending rain to now make all these seeds grow and spread.

Amen.

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A Little 80’s Valentines Nostalgia

This morning, I had frilly little Valentines ready for my teen daughters as they arrived downstairs for breakfast. The gift included essentials of chocolate, a fun pen, a new journal, and something I added that I couldn’t resist: Scratch and Sniff stickers (to adorn the journal pages).

When I found these in Michaels, I experiences nostalgia for my 1985 sticker collection. My favorite pages in my album were the Scratch and Sniff stickers. And now they’re back!

So this morning, I presented Scratch and Sniff stickers for fun. And since it was Valentines, I remember all the old 1980’s Valentines: Garfield, The Care Bears, Gem and the Holograms, The Jetsons, Cabbage Patch Kids. . .

What a time gone by. But this morning, it came back in the form of stickers I once collected.

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What They Want You To Ask Them About

Today in class, I asked my new favorite Name Game Question: What question do you like people to ask you?

I learn so much. I learn who wants me to ask about what factors make for a good Hip Hop artist, about her fascination with criminals, about his puppy at home, about her love of lyrical dance, about his family, about alternative music, about US history, about being an interfaith person, about her current book obsession, about anything at all because he loves to talk about himself (who doesn’t?), and about website design, about philosophy, and about basketball.

On and on they go. And now I know what to ask when he or she walks in the room.

I tell them to try this question on their first dates, with their roommates, and with their families. There’s something so great about asking this question and moving forward into meaningful, attentive, loving and rewarding conversations.

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Make It Symbolic. Make It Mean Something.

I’m often motivated to do something I don’t want to do if I can make it meaningful or symbolic. For example, on Tuesdays, I wash the sheets and pillowcases to freshen the beds. It’s tedious to remake these beds.

But what if the act of remaking my daughters’ beds became a meaningful way to pray for a “fresh start” and “remaking” of anything in their lives they want to rebuild or reclaim? What if I prayed as I made the beds that God would refresh their souls that very day?

Suddenly, the chore becomes a symbol. I’m not making a bed; I’m praying for a remade life.

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Ingredients You’ve Never Tried

I’m attempting a Jackfruit Jambalaya. I love trying new things and experiencing something fresh. I’ve never in my life cooked with either Jackfruit or Creole seasoning, so I’m particularly excited.

When you’re in a rut and want to spice things up (literally), try some new recipe with ingredients you’ve never tried or maybe never even heard of.

Who knows what new delicious thing you’ll discover to enjoy?

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“Everything Serves to Make Us Grow in Love.”

Today I read a beautiful and freeing quote from French writer Rev. Jacques Phillipe (someone recommended to me years ago by my wise counselor). He writes this:

“Yes, we know suffering and sorrow, but everything that happens serves to make us grow in love and in the fact of being God’s children. What happens and how others behave can no longer touch us negatively; they can only promote our true good, which is to love.”

What happens and how others behave can no longer touch us negatively; they can only promote our true good, which is to love.

Rev. Jacques Phillipe

I consider the truth that everything happening can promote love in my life. Every situation I’m in serves to grow me and remind me that I am God’s child.

I think, for example, of something that bothers me immensely: a sleepless night. I value sleep so much that it’s an idol. It’s something I have to surrender to the Lord to recognize His sovereignty and His right to wake me, to deprive me of sleep, and to do what He wants with my precious schedule. Traveling as a speaker means I rarely sleep well on weekends. But I carried Phillipe’s words with me and thought about what I’m learning and how I’m growing. This morning, I read in Psalm 54:4 David’s words: “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.”

The Lord is the One who sustains me.

Not sleep, not the rights foods, not my exercise schedule. I surrender everything to God and know that He ultimately sustains me. I am His child in the deep of night. And I can pray for others, loving them and carrying them in my heart’s prayers, as I lie awake in strange beds in strange cities.

Everything happening to you and me promotes growth and love. Everything happening draws us to God.

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“You Won’t Hear Me, But I’m Working.”

I’m apologizing to the United Customer Service Representative as I shake with the phone in my hand. They’ve canceled my flight back home, and after an already exhausting and stressful trip out, I cannot imagine how I’ll make it emotionally if just one more thing goes wrong.

I’m fighting back tears and anger.

“I’m so sorry I sound like this,” I stammer. “I want to be kind, but I’m so stressed out! Why did United cancel this flight?”

I’m whispering prayers. I’m feeling homesick just imagining not making it home. I’m asking God to please help.

Then, the voice on the line assures me that I’ll be rebooked and will arrive home right on time. I learn that, because of my missed connection (the one that sent me renting a car and driving to Baltimore!) the airline canceled the rest of the reservation.

The agent pulls up the original reservation while I wait in silence.

But then, the voice says calmly, It’s going to be quiet on the line. You won’t hear me. But I am working. I am making this right. Stay on the line. You won’t hear anything, but I am here.

I turn to my friend who sits beside me to pray, and my soul feels like singing–not because everything will work out, but because of how it worked out. Something about the agent’s statement brought me the kind of soul-peace I knew was always mine. The words reminded me immediately of the character of God who is right here working. It’s that gentle voice I cannot always hear who says, “I am working. I am making this right. Stay on the line. You won’t hear anything, but I am here.”

Stay on the line. I am here. You won’t hear anything, but I am working. 

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50 Reasons to Read Your Bible

I mention that I once made a list of all the reasons I read my Bible every day. Some students at a Cru event last night asked for my list, so here you go!

50 Reasons to Read God’s Word

  1. Awakens and builds faith (Romans 10:17)
  2. Leads us to Jesus (1 John 5:13) “Thing things are written so that you may believe in the name of the son of God and that you may know you have eternal life.”
  3. Guides us (Psalm 119:105)
  4. Fills us with joy and gladness (Jeremiah 15:16)
  5. Arms us against Satan (Ephesians 6:17; Matthew 4:3-4)
  6. Prospers us (Psalm1:2-3)
  7. Strengthens us and comforts us (Psalm119:28) “Strengthen me according to word.”
  8. Trains and corrects us (2 Timothy 3:16-17) “All scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.”
  9. Dwells in us to produce praise (Colossians 3:16) “Let the word of God dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
  10. Penetrates our deepest thoughts (Hebrews 4:12) to help you understand yourself.
  11. Keeps us from temptation (Psalm 119:11) “I have hidden you word in my heart so I might not sin again you.”
  12.  Blesses us (Psalm 119:1-2)
  13.  Shows us how to praise God (Psalm 119:7)
  14.  Reveals to us the path of purity (Psalm 119:9)
  15.  Causes us to rejoice (Psalm 119:14)
  16.  Contains wonderful things for us to ponder (Psalm 119: 18)
  17.  Is our refuge when others slander us (Psalm 119:23)
  18.  Is part of where we put our hope (Psalm 119: 43)
  19.  Gives us freedom (Psalm 119: 45)
  20.  Won’t bring shame on us as we speak God’s word even to important people (Psalm 119: 46).
  21.  Comforts us in suffering (Psalm 119: 50-52)
  22.  Stays with us no matter where we go (Psalm 119: 54)
  23.  We find friendship with others who delight in God’s word (Psalm 119:63)
  24.  God’s word is more precious than riches (Psalm 119:72)
  25.  Other’s rejoice when they see us as we put our hope in God’s word (Psalm 119: 74)
  26. God’s word is completely trustworthy (Psalm 119: 86).
  27. God’s word is His communication to us (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  28. God’s word is eternal (Psalm 119:89)
  29. God’s word guards our life (Psalm 119: 93)
  30. Makes us wiser than our teachers (Psalm 119: 99)
  31. Stands up to the test of time (Psalm 119: 140)
  32. We meditate on God’s word when we cannot sleep (Psalm 119: 148)
  33. Brings us peace and keeps us steady (Psalm 119: 165)
  34.  Is our nourishment and life (Matthew 4:4 and John 6:63)
  35.  Comes with great power and authority (Jeremiah 23:29)
  36. Reveals God’s character to us (Colossians / Hebrews)
  37. Renews our mind (Romans 12:1-2)
  38. Is our final authority (John 17:17)
  39. Allows us to receive the desires of our hearts (“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
  40. Gives us courage and success (Joshua 1:8)
  41. Helps us discern false teachers / teaching (1 John 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”)
  42. To spend time with the Lord (Proverbs 2:6-7)
  43.  Because it points to Jesus (John 5:38-39)
  44.  To have daily encouragement (Romans 15:4-5)
  45.  Is our daily nourishment (1 Peter 2: 2-3)
  46. Creates better fellowship for us (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  47. Is at work in our hearts (1 Thessalonians 2:13) “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”
  48. To defend the faith (1 Peter 3:14-16).
  49. Aids our sanctification (John 17:17)
  50. Is what we tell the next generation (Psalm 78:3-4)
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