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Posts Tagged ‘faith building’

Start your day with the Bible in One Year, a Bible reading app with commentary by Nicky and Pippa Gumbel. Nicky Gumbel is the Vicar of HTB in London and pioneer of Alpha. ‘My favourite way to start the day.’ – Bear Grylls, Adventurer

Source: Bible In One Year 2017

Hi Friends,

I intend on reading through the bible this year and I am going to use this devotional from You Version to help me stay on track.  I’d love for you to join me.  I am getting a little head start because I know there will be times I miss a day.  This will give me a little cushion for those days.

Be blessed today and be a blessing.

Dan

 

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I am a grandfather.  We have three beautiful grandchildren with a fourth on the way.  Friday night we got to spend time with our daughter-in-law and her three children.  Watching the two older boys play and making baby talk with our 10-month old granddaughter brought joy to my heart.

The next day we traveled to our daughter and son-in-law’s home to participate in a “gender reveal” party.  Since many of their friends have children, the party had a strong child’s birthday party feel.  Running, laughing, and generally just enjoying life in the crisp fall afternoon was the order of the day for the children.

The actual gender reveal part was a big hit too.  Our daughter-in-law was the only one who knew the baby’s gender.  The night prior to the party she filled a large pumpkin with powder and then sealed it up.  At the party the thirty or so guests all selected a gender they thought the baby was.  Our son-in-law was adamant the baby was a boy.  And so did about two-thirds of the guests.  At the appointed time the pumpkin was heaved high in the air and then descended to the ground in a mighty pink clouded crash.  IT’S A GIRL!

I sense the Lord emphasizing a point for me through this fun life event, especially as I watched and played with the children.  The children were carefree. They played with exuberance.  They were not mean or manipulative.  They cared for each other and enjoyed each other’s company.  And they flitted back to a parent or other relative every now and then, but soon they were back cavorting with the other children.

Our Father wants similar for us.  Our relationship with Him can be, is meant to be, one where we live in ever increasing confidence of His love and tender care.  1 Peter 5:7 tells us to “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  He is intimately aware and engaged in our lives.  He is big enough to help us shoulder the tough times.  He is also the Father of the Bride-Groom in the wedding feast we will one day celebrate together.  In the time until we all join in this banquet, He is our loving Father who watches over us, helps us and enjoys it as we draw closer to Him.

The Lord wants us to live fully in each day trusting Him.  There is much about each day we cannot control.  Building elaborate plans and striving to control every outcome is a fool’s game.  In fact it can be more than that, it can easily become sin.  When having our way becomes paramount, we slip off the path of faith.  We take on a role we are not meant to play.

On the other hand, the more we lean into trusting the Father and obediently following His blueprint for life found in the bible, the less we are inclined to try and make things turn out our way.  The more consistently we are able to listen to the Holy Spirit speak truth and guide us, the greater our joy and confidence become.  Proverbs 3:5 & 6 can be relied upon.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

From time to time my mind thinks forward to when we have graduated to larger life on the other side of the grave.  It looks a lot like a sun-splashed afternoon awaiting the revealing of our next grandchild’s gender.  There’s lots of laughter.  There is joyful expectation.  There is activity galore, colors rich and vivid, and heartfelt conversations all around.  And in our midst is the loving Father – adored by His multiplied children all around.

We are those children.

And it makes me smile.

Be blessed today my friend. And be a blessing.

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Our devotional this morning used John 15:5 and I saw a portion of that verse in a whole new way.  Jesus is speaking.  “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  I guess I have tended to zip over the last part of that verse, the part that says “apart from me you can do nothing.”  Today it struck me that from Jesus’ eternal perspective, the things we do for ourselves, the things that create a lot of busyness in our day but are not done from our connection with Him don’t really amount to much.  Actually I guess more accurately they amount to nothing.  That’s a sobering thought.

So how does that square with having a job to support our family, raising our children to be good citizens, or just being a good neighbor to those around us?  Using the rest of this scripture for context, it comes down to our connection with Jesus and our on-going growth in that relationship.  Our purpose is to become more like Jesus.  That is accomplished in and through every aspect of our life.  Our relationship with Jesus is what prepares and then propels us forward into those things that He has purposed for us to walk in.

Two quick stories from the past two weeks illustrate this.  A little over a week ago I was involved in an auto accident.  Actually I was waiting at a cross-roads and the accident was in front of me and one of the vehicles then rammed me.  I was not injured but my little car is badly damaged.  In the moments preceding the accident I had plenty of time to cross in front of the vehicles, but I uncharacteristically waited.  Because I waited, I became involved.  I don’t feel like I did much in the ensuing care-giving, but others seemed to take comfort in my support and prayer.  And I had a tremendous peace both at the time of the accident and in the days that followed that I was where I was supposed to be and I did what I was supposed to do.  Nothing fancy, but the Father’s peace was tangible.  I am still in contact with some of those involved and I believe the Lord will use this event for good in each one of the lives involved.

Second story – earlier this summer friends of mine in the Care Ministry at church mentioned that a choir of orphans from Haiti were in the US touring to raise awareness and funds for the orphanages they represent.  The family that has been instrumental in making this happen – Linda and David, also go to our church.  These stories raised an awareness that became a Holy Spirit nudge to “do something”.  Yesterday they came for a day of swimming and fun at our house.

In my prayer leading up to this I wanted to have a message of ringing clarity for them or some spiritual insight from the Lord to share.  But what I got was a strong sense of just loving on them and sharing from what the Lord has blessed us with.  In my younger years… maybe even just a few years ago, I would have been dissatisfied that the day wasn’t more spiritual. 

Talking with the host family at the end of the evening though, I heard how the Lord had provided so many manifestations of His grace throughout the process of getting the children here.  And then they explained how they so badly needed the break that our day provided.  They have literally been performing 2 and 3 times a day all summer.  They cleared their calendar to just relax and join us.  That statement just confirmed to me that we did what we were supposed to do.

Friends, I encourage you to spend quality time with the Lord.  Allow His love to color your perspective on all things.  Become one who consistently listens to the Lord whispering to your heart.  Learn to recognize when the Lord is speaking to your heart and obey your heart over what your mind tells you in those cases.  As we do so, we are vines that become more and more fruitful.  And that fruit is the sweetest of fruit because it is fruit of eternal significance.

Blessings to you in abundance.  And let the Father bless others through you today.

By the way, the ministry that our friends run to support the Orphans in Haiti is called “Love Him, Love Them”.  You can find it at the website of that name.

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Certain lessons seem to be particularly important for me to “get” because they are being reinforced  almost weekly.  Last week an exclamation point was made on the lesson – “It may not be what you expect, but trust Me, My plan is better!”

We visited our two married daughters over the course of last week.  Rhiannon and Jeff in Chattanooga Thursday – Sunday morning and then Christin and Michael in Elizabethton Sunday – Tuesday.  Everything went pretty much like we planned with Rhiannon and Jeff, but it seemed like every plan we made with Christin had to be scrapped or modified heavily.  No worries, we were just happy to be spending time together.

Monday afternoon one modified plan had us drive to the top of Roan Mountain where we enjoyed some beautiful views from the bald mountain top.  The wonderful 360 degree view had us thinking about sunrise pics over the NC mountains.  Checking the weather in Elizabethton, 20 miles away we saw that the weather report was promising and the plan was hatched.

 

Tuesday morning we arose at 4:45 am and we were headed out of town 15 minutes later.  We were excited to see a star studded sky as we rolled out of Elizabethton heading toward Roan Mountain.  Two miles from the top of the mountain was when I first noticed the moisture on the road.  A mile from the top I noticed the stiff breeze that hadn’t been present on any of our drive thus far.  Shortly thereafter wisps of cloud started sweeping across in front of the car and for the last 200 yards I had to drive at a snail’s pace into the parking lot because of the thick fog.

We were still an hour before sunrise.  I am quite used to fog.  But fog is usually stationary settling into the low areas on windless mornings.  On the mountaintop it was foggy with a 15 – 20 mph breeze driving it.  Undeterred we gathered camera, tri-pod, flashlights and goody bag and headed up the 3/4 mile hike to the top of the mountain in a cold, drizzly, windy fog hoping for the best.

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This is about 15 minutes before sunrise and we were beginning to think the sun may not actually burn through the fog like we were hoping.

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This is when you kinda wished you hadn’t been told about the number of bear sightings up on the mountain.

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Inside the woods the wind was blocked and it was eerily peaceful.

That breeze that we experienced in the Parking Lot was a foretaste and not the real deal.  We broke out of the woods about half way to the top and realized that the exposed mountain bald seemed to increase the wind intensity by at least a factor of two.

We made it to the top of the mountain, thankful that we had also been there the day before so we recognized some rock outcroppings as landmarks.  We hunkered down behind a rock for a bit hoping the clouds would clear and we would get some sunrise shots.  But while the clouds around us brightened as sunrise arrived the wind didn’t let up and the fog never thinned.

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The view right at sunrise… at least according to our watch.

Since we had been to the mountain the day before, we knew that amazing panoramic views existed from right where we were huddled.  Yet the wind, fog, and rain made it difficult to remember just how beautiful it was.  I was struck with how graphic an illustration that is of the impact of trials in our life.  When life is good it’s easy to see God’s hand at work.  But when trials press upon us it often becomes much harder to discern God’s actions on our behalf.  It is in these times that our faith is stretched.  Holding onto the reality that we have previously experienced – God’s faithful provision, is just like remembering the mountain view we had seen the day before.  We may not see it at the moment, but we know it exists.  Our task is to remember and wait for the reality to be revealed again.

We slowly made our way back down to the car and then headed back down the mountain.  A deer  came up beside us on the road and we slowed to let it pass.  A mile down the road we were out of the fog.

As we progressed down the mountain we saw sunshine followed by a brief rain shower.  The thought passed through my mind, “Sun and rain, I wonder if there’s a rainbow somewhere?”  Through a break in the trees just prior to the final overlook I could see a shower in the valley beside the mountain and a slight brightening where the sun was trying to break through.  As we rounded the curve at the final overlook this is the view that we saw.

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We were shocked by how quickly this rainbow appeared.

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The colors were vibrant and yet it was continually shifting from a single to a double and from a full to a partial rainbow.

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For a few seconds it formed a full rainbow… and we just happened to be in the right spot to catch it in all it’s glory.

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We couldn’t quite tell if the pot of gold was in that little barn or the orchard beside it.  What we knew for a certainty was that our Heavenly Father was enjoying our laughter and celebration with us as we alternately uttered words of praise and gasps of wonder while we snapped pics.

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The double rainbow was fleeting, but we saw it come and go two or three times in then 3 – 5 minutes the rainbow was visible.

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Looking toward the sun… and giving praise to the Son.

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The final pic as the shower ceased and the rainbow quickly faded.

The entire rainbow celebration lasted less than 5 minutes, but a number of things stood out to me.

  • We had to make the journey to be able to see the rainbow.  We didn’t know the rainbow was the purpose and penultimate pic of the trip, but our Father did.
  • We tarried in the dark, in the rain, in the wind, in the fog, and ultimately made close to a 2 mile hike seemingly in a lost cause, but God had a better plan.
  • We had to be in exactly the right spot AND at exactly the right time to see and enjoy the rainbow like we did.  If we had rushed at any point in the morning’s journey we would have missed it.
  • Our response to seeing the rainbow was pure wonder, celebration, and thankfulness to our gracious heavenly Father for this simple, but beautiful blessing.  And I believe He enjoyed it as much as we did.

Finally I remember where God first introduced the rainbow to His creation.  It’s in Genesis chapter 9:12-17.  And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.  Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

We didn’t get what we expected, but what we got was so much better.

And that’s just the way God is with His children.

Be blessed today and be a blessing!  If you like this, please share it with a friend.

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I had the privilege of serving as a room leader at Gauntlet 2016.  In my young adult life I was a youth leader at two different churches and I even lead a diocese-wide youth event in Louisiana.  Other life demands took priority as I entered my mid 30’s so my youth leadership became focused upon coaching and a four year stint as a scoutmaster.  Gauntlet is our church’s youth camp, but it is youth camp to the extreme.  There were over 5300 youth at the Gauntlet with another 1700+ room leaders and support staff.  We descended upon Daytona Beach in 129 buses and filled 9 beach-front hotels.  And for the first time we filled the entire Ocean Center auditorium.

I intend on posting several pics and a few highlights from the week in this blog over the next few weeks.  The Gauntlet is an environment where youth and leader alike hear clear teaching on how to become a Christian and what it means to live the life God has created us for.  It provides ample opportunity to speak with caring leaders and fellow sojourners about life’s trials, challenges, failures, and triumphs in a safe place.  Within this context each person is given multiple opportunities to identify and take their next step in the faith journey of life.

This was my second time to serve.  And I almost didn’t go.  My experience the first time was enough of a challenge that I questioned whether the Lord wanted me there.  I left the date open on my calendar and I continued to ask the Lord to make it clear if I was to attend.  About 4 weeks prior the Lord gave me the nudge that I was to go and He provided two very clear instructions.  “Don’t have expectations on how your students are to respond”  and “Trust Me.”  So I signed up.  I am so glad that I did.

That I had chosen the right path was confirmed for me on the bus ride down.  Everyone traveled down in “pods” of three or four buses.  We were the first pod of buses from our campus which also happens to be the furthest from Daytona Beach.  Just outside Jacksonville the bus in front of ours broke down.  The failure on the bus disabled their air conditioning, so our bus leader asked us to make room for the folks from the other bus.  Our boys immediately moved to the back of the bus tripling up in seats or standing in the aisle.  We spent the next 3+ hours waiting on one of the other buses to complete the trip down to Daytona and then return to pick up the passengers from the disabled bus so our pod could continue.

The AC in our bus was stretched to the max with the extra body heat and the lack of air movement over the AC coils, so it was not very comfortable in the back where the boys were all scrunched together.  But during that entire time there was no whining or complaining.  The boys chatted.  I got to know several of the young men like Hawk, CJ, Bernard, Nick, Sean (or maybe Shawn), Drey, Marcelous, Dillon, and others.  For three hours we sweated together, watching bus after bus pass us as we sat on the side of the road with the Florida sun beaming in the windows… and the mood never turned sour with self pity.  I’m chuckling to myself right now because I was, and still am, pumped at how mature the boys handled the situation.

Although I didn’t meet and begin getting to know them until we arrived in Daytona Beach, my two roommates and new friends, Dylan and Greg were among those on the bus who handled the situation so well.  And they proved to be just as mature and good-natured as my initial impression of the other young men on bus 5.  It was truly a blessing to spend the week with these two guys, to get to know them, and to talk about what our next steps in growing closer to Jesus are.

That’s enough of a story for today’s post. So without further ado I share the first of my Gauntlet 2016 pics.

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The Coastal Redwoods found in Pacific Northwest are the largest, and among the oldest, living things in all creation.  Soaring in excess of 300 feet and with circumferences over 60 feet, these giants of the forest grace the steep slopes of the Pacific Coast for approximately 300 miles from south of San Francisco northward to southern Oregon.  I am visiting this area for the first time this week and thoroughly enjoying the beautiful scenery and lessons learned walking among giants.

Looking up in the Redwood Forest.

Looking up in the Redwood Forest.

On our morning in Klamath, California I woke early to visit the Father in the forest.  Redwoods grow in groves of dozens to hundreds of trees grouped together.  Interestingly, these massive trees do not have deep root systems.  The roots of a 300 foot tall tree will only go 8 feet or so into the soil.  However it will also spread some 500 feet around the base of the tree.  Trees in a grove will intertwine their roots as they spread creating a dense lattice work of roots and soaring trees joined together.  During winter storms with 60 mile per hour winds it is not unusual to see the tops of Redwood tress swaying 15 or more feet side to side and the earth at their base heaving 2 or 3 feet.  Yet because their roots are locked together they don’t topple over.  In fact they thrive.

In the same way, the people of God must be connected to one another in loving fellowship.  We are not made to do life alone.  We are made for godly community.

Another interesting fact about Redwoods is the importance of “tragic” events to their thriving.  Redwood lumber is amazing.  It is resistant to rot and insects and it has very good strength to weight characteristics.  For these reasons and more, Redwood harvesting was a major industry in California in the late 1800’s and into the mid 1900’s.  As timber harvesting became more prevalent and the excesses and damage of poor practices began to manifest themselves, conservation efforts began.  Naturalists were at first stumped with how to propagate these trees.  They had the seeds, but they couldn’t get them to germinate.  Then one year a major fire occurred and viola, the next year there were redwood seedlings everywhere.  It seems the seeds need the heat of the fire to cause them to burst open.

Life from the Roots.

Life from the Roots.

Perpetual twilight under these giant trees.

Perpetual twilight under these giant trees.

I see an obvious parallel in many people’s lives.  They live life trying just to survive, often wrapping themselves into various protective cocoons.  For those who achieve wealth and success, this provides a type of shield from the challenges of life.  For those with more modest means that barrier to life’s difficulties might be to immerse themselves in work, alcohol, or some hobby.  But life and true peace – deep, rich, and full, remains out of reach.  It is a hope or a dream.  Yet I have seen tragedy impact persons in the most amazing ways.  The Lord reaches into the depth of tragedy and brings life, growth, and hope.  Just like the redwood seeds, something painful becomes the pathway to life.

Another observation was the regrowth coming out of redwood stumps.  For the few redwoods that are damaged, many are able to start anew because of the life in the roots.  In fact, during the rainy season the roots of the Redwoods are able to store up to 150 gallons of water per day in anticipation of the coming dry season.  Therefore developing a robust root system is essential for the vitality and longevity of the Redwood.  For the believer this root system is reading and incorporating the Word into our life and learning to live in close communion with the Holy Spirit as our counselor.  Applying the Word by obeying what Jesus said is the best way to develop a root system that will sustain us during the droughts of life.

When we think of spiritual giants we will most often think of Moses, King David, Peter, Paul or a similar spiritual giant.  But the impression the Lord laid on my heart was the widow Jesus referred to for His disciples to consider.  Many persons had placed large sums into the temple treasury, but Jesus pointed out this poor, yet faith-filled, widow as their example.  She, out of her poverty, gave all she had to live on.  How could she do that?  Because she trusted the Lord completely.  Her job was not to focus upon providing for her own needs, but to trust and obey the Lord.

When I return home shortly, I will return to tasks to be done, work to be caught up on, and future plans to be made.  But as I do so I will remember my walk among the giant redwoods.  And I will strive to remember that I walk among giants in faith when I allow the Word of God to fill me, when I apply its truths to my thoughts and actions, when I seek to know Jesus better and when I allow Him to live through me.   We walk among giants, my friend.  Keep the faith and, over time, the Lord will make us giants through our simple obedience.

Be blessed today and be a blessing.

 

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Wild flowers from "seeds you planted"

Wild flowers from “seeds you planted”

20160518_193744I enjoy yardening.  That’s 3 parts lawn work, 2 parts gardening, mixed with equal but liberal amounts of dirt, sweat, rain, and sunshine.  The other day my wife was making me proud mowing the grass while I shoveled mulch onto the flower beds.  When she finished she walked over and commented on a group of wispy yellow flowers growing in one of the beds.  I looked and it suddenly struck me, these were flowers that had come back from last year’s wild flower patch.  During the late winter when I made my first weeding round, I had almost pulled them up, but hesitated when I saw how they were bunched in the same place I had planted wildflowers last spring.  This afternoon was the first time I had thoughtfully returned to those plants (9 straight weeks on the road will do that to you).  Obviously I was delighted.

As I pondered the flowers the thought stuck me, “these are from seeds you planted.”    In the wonder of that moment I realized that this was a nudge from the Lord.  I serve on the Care Team at our Church.  Dozens of volunteers meet with and minister to dozens of people every Sunday listening, loving, and caring for persons who need to know someone cares and especially that God cares.  Having been in a number of those conversations, I am intensely aware of how dependent I am on the Lord to provide the wisdom and Godly counsel that people need.  I can comfortably do the ‘listen, empathize, and love on people’ part.  It is how the Father has wired me and trained me.  But I don’t want to speak words that simply parrot clichés or worldly wisdom.  The practice of being quick to listen, quick to love, and slow to speak has proven to be an apt approach in care-giving for me.  For when I listen and love, the Holy Spirit either brings nuggets of wisdom from His Word OR He brings another person into the conversation who has that word.  In some cases the words of guidance I give are few, but the prayer that I am able to confidently offer is 0ften my primary contribution.

As I watched the flowers wave in the afternoon breeze I had a mental picture of the lives that the Lord touches through faithful care-giving.  While our care team has a specific time and place where we join in God’s work each Sunday, the reality is we have these opportunities throughout our week.  On some occasions we get to see the great work God does in a person, marriage, or family.  In other instances our follow up is limited to just a few contacts.  However, when we are faithful we can rest assured God is continuing the work.

The final scene of that mental picture is a truly glorious one.  As we stand there in heaven surrounded by the host of the redeemed, the Lord leans over and says to us, “these are from seeds you planted.”

And our joy knows no bounds.

Be blessed today my friend.  And be a blessing.

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