Archive for April, 2020

Apr
30

For Cave Dwellers Only, Part 1

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“So David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Abdullam.” (1 Samuel 22:1)

For many of us, these past six weeks have created a deep sense of isolation and loneliness. Social distancing is poor phrasing, because we are by nature social creatures. I prefer to call it physical distancing. Even though our physical proximities are limited, we can still have social nearness through technology. Regardless of what we call it, it is an isolation that we neither created or have chosen.

I’ve always enjoyed the story of David in the cave of Abdullam because of the multiple layers of spiritual lessons it provides. David is known for his famous victory over the giant. But thereafter the story takes an unforeseen shift. In quick succession, David lost his job, his wife, his home, his counselor, his best friend and his self respect. 1 Samuel 21 concludes with saliva running down his beard, scratching the gate of the enemy like a madman.It was his lowest moment to this point in his life. During this period he penned Psalm 142, where he laments, “no one cares for my soul.”

Desperate and on the run, David looked for a place of peace, a respite of sorts. A place to regroup and think. But in the very next verse, his family arrived. There are two mentions of his family prior to this point, and neither are positive. The first is when Samuel went to the house of Jesse to anoint one of his sons as king. Jesse did not esteem David enough to call him from the shepherd’s field to be presented. The second was prior to the battle with Goliath, where his brother Eliab criticized his presence and youthful curiosity. Let’s not think that the family’s arrival cues a system of support. By familial association, David’s family became collateral damage. Because he was on the run, they were on the run.

But wait, there’s more. Soon after more began to arrive. There were those in trouble or distress, literally “under pressure or stress.” There were also those who were in debt, followed by those who were discontent, experiencing a deep bitterness of soul due to mistreatment or injustice. That’s quite a collection of people!

I believe that David had a choice. He could have chosen to walk away, saying “who needs it? I have my own problems.” But he didn’t run away like many do instead of facing their problems. He didn’t see the burden, he saw the blessing.

Caves bring the blessing of clarity to our lives. The cave was an opportunity for David to deal with an important question: Do I really want to be king? Is this what it looks like to be a king? Look at these people! Here he learned that if he could lead anyone, he could lead everyone.

It reminds me of Jesus, whose ministry followers were similarly in distress, in debt or discontented.

So here’s today’s question. What is the great thing that God has for you that your confinement is providing clarity? Tomorrow I’ll post the rest of my thoughts and share four lessons we learn in the cave.

Categories : Spiritual Formation
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The COVID-19 pandemic has many thinking about scarcity. I can remember my dad tell stories about rationing during World War II. While we’re not there (yet), there are those I talk to who have concerns about the availability of toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, hand soap, and hand sanitizer. These conversations reminded me of what Michael Hyatt described as scarcity thinking and abundance thinking in his book, Your Best Year Ever.

Scarcity thinkers are entitled and fearful, while abundance thinkers are thankful and confident.

Scarcity thinkers believe there will never be enough, while abundance thinkers believe there’s always more where that came from.

Scarcity thinkers are stingy with their knowledge, contacts and compassion, while abundance thinkers are happy to share their knowledge, contacts and compassion with others.

Scarcity thinkers assume they are the way they are, while abundance thinkers assume they can learn, grow and develop.

Scarcity thinkers default to suspicion and aloofness, while abundance thinkers default to trust and openness.

Scarcity thinkers resent competition, believing that it makes the pie smaller and them weaker. Abundance thinkers welcome competition, believing that it makes the pie bigger and them better.

Scarcity thinkers are pessimistic about the future, believing there are tough times ahead. On the other hand, abundance thinkers are optimistic about the future, believing the best is yet to come.

Scarcity thinkers see and focus on challenges as obstacles, while abundance thinkers see challenges as opportunities.

Finally, scarcity thinkers think small and avoid risk, while abundance thinkers think big and embrace risk.

You may have seen something like this from another source. You may even have something to add to Hyatt’s list. As people of faith and children of an Almighty God who created the universe, I’m not sure we have the option to choose scarcity. Scarcity is motivated by fear. Abundance is motivated by faith in the God who has promised a more abundant and meaninful life right now (John 10:10).

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Apr
13

The Law of the Harvest

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Over the weekend I finished It Takes What it Takes, by Trevor Moawad. If you’re unfamiliar with him, he’s a mental coach who works with professional athletes and NCAA athletic programs. The quote that stood out to me from the book is as follows: “You are what you do, and you’ve become what you’ve done.” Simply put, you have to accept the responsibility for the choices that we have made, and if you don’t like what you see in your life, change your behavior(s).

That bold statement reminded me of a verse I’ve been meditating upon for the past two weeks. “Don’t be misled–you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant” (Galatians 6:7, NLT) You probably are more familiar with older translations which say, “You reap what you sow.”

Paul packed a lot in that simple verse, which is more clearly understood as The Law of the Harvest.

Law #1: You reap what you sow. Simply, if you plant corn, you can expect a harvest of corn, versus beans or wheat. Like begets like.

Law #2: You reap more than you sow. In the world of agriculture, the farmer has faith that the one seed he plants in the ground will yield exponetially more. One seed of corn may produce hundreds of kernels on multiple ears from a single stalk.

Law #3: You reap later than you sow. An experienced farmer knows that it takes many days and weeks for the seed to produce a harvest. The harvest always comes later…sometimes much later than we expect.

The Law of the Harvest reminds me that what I do today will beget something similar, sometimes much greater, somewhere in the future. This principle is neutral. You can plant good seeds of good deeds and habits that reap a greater reward in the future. A person can also plant bad seed which will obey the same principles.

Each day we have the choice before us as to what we will plant. Each seed that is sown is not an isolated act or incidence. It will produce a large return at a later time. So let’s choose wisely each day.

Apr
08

Prayer for the Week

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Father, I abandon myself into your hands.

Do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you, I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me and in all your creatures.

I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul.

I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands without reserve and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.

Amen

–by Charles De Foucauld

Categories : Easter, Prayer
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Apr
06

Disrupting Thinking

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My wife is an elementary reading teacher, specializing in helping kids with reading comprehension, accuracy and fluency. She spends her days in small circles of children helping them improve what would arguably be the most important skill anyone could possess. Because of her dedication as a teacher she is always looking for ways to improve her craft so she can be on top of her game day in and day out. One of the resources she has shared with me is a book titled, Disrupting Thinking, by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst.

Beers and Probst teach a three-fold technique for comprehension that I think is applicable to how we read and understand the Bible. Since many of us have a little more discretionary time on our hands due to COVID-19, I want to share what I think are the most transferrable concepts from this approach to reading.

First, begin with the book, which for my purposes is the Bible. When you read a passage ask these questions: Who is speaking? Who is the passage addressed to? What is this verse or these verses about? In other words, who is saying what to whom?

Next, move to your own thinking about the text. What surprised me about the verse(s)? What does the writer think I already know? What changed, challenged, or confused my thinking? What did I notice? This is your mental interaction with what you’ve read. But don’t stop there!

The final phase is to move the passage from your head to your heart. Here are two important questions: What did I learn about me from reading the text? And, How will this help me as a person of faith grow and mature?

To me, the approach is designed to create the discipline of moving the text on a page of the Bible to a cognitive interaction which results in personal action. Good books of all genres are transformative, and the most transformative book ever composed is sacred Scripture. The Bible is more than a compliation of stories, it is life giving. But it only gives life when it intersects with your faith being lived out on a daily basis. Next time you read a passage from the Bible, take a moment, and a pen and notebook for that matter, and walk through the process I’ve outlined. See if it makes a difference.

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Apr
03

The Key to Our Strength

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One of the recurring themes of the Psalms is the question, “How long, O Lord?” That seems particularly relevant given the times we live in. But it wasn’t just the Psalmist who raised this question while enduring hardship. Its a theme that runs through the Old Testament that also serves as the context for one of the more familiar verses of Isaiah.

The setting of Isaiah 40 is a prophetic word of hope that is offered to a people who are preparing for exile and captivity. Israel’s deportation to Babylon is one of the key events for the people of God who had once been delivered from slavery in Egypt. The prophet voices the questions of the people in chapter 40:27: “O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say that God ignores your rights?” Those seem to been the questions that many people are asking today.

In the context of the setting, Isaiah reminds the people of several important truths about how to endure suffering and displacement, first of which is to remember the strength of God. God has clearly demonstrated his strength in his creation. “Look up to the heavens, Who created the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, not a single one is missing. Because of his great power and incomprehensible strength, not a single one is missing. Have you not heard? Have you not understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding” (Isaiah 40:26, 28). One needs to look no further than outside their window to see evidence of God’s power. Its displayed throughout the universe.

The second word of encouragement that Isaiah offers is that God’s strength is transferrable. “He gives power to the weak; and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion” (Isaiah 40:29-30). This strength that God possesses is available and transferrable to those who seem to be in obvious need as well as those who are presumed to be strong because they are young. Everyone is succeptable to weakness and powerlessness. Everyone is eligible to receive God’s strength which is perfected in our weakness.

So here’s the key. “But those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary, They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). God’s strength is not only transferrable, its a renewable resource. And that strength is renewed through the process of waiting and trusting in the Lord.

Christine Caine once said that “Patience is my capacity to tolerate delay. Its trusting that God is good, that God does good, and that he knows what he’s doing no matter how long it takes; no matter what his purpose is.” Waiting enables us to find renewal and rest, which in turn allows us to reorient ourselves to our situation and realign ourselves with God.

“How long, O Lord?” As long as it takes. But waiting time is not wasted time. During our present challenges, remember that God is at work in our world as well as in our individual lives. You have what it takes to endure!

Categories : Patience
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