Only God

No one person can meet your every need. Not your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, child, BFF, pastor or therapist.

Only God is capable of meeting every one of your needs. Sure, he often works through other people, but never forget that it is he who…

Protects. Listens. Provides.
Directs. Calms. Stays.
Fills. Renews. Hears.

He does all of these perfectly, too. No single need or totality of needs are too big or too much for him. He never gets tired, frustrated, or too busy. In fact, he wants us to seek him and blesses us when we do.

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” (Psalm 84:12)

“Let go and let God”

A well-known saying, “Let go and let God” is not actually in the Bible. I think I get the sentiment behind it. It aims to encourage us to get out of God’s way, do nothing, and let him take over. While that’s not a completely wrong approach, it’s not exactly what we’re called to do as Christians either.

“Let go and let God” does not mean we are to do nothing. In fact, the Bible says we are to fight. It says we’re in a spiritual battle.

“Fight the good fight of the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:12)

 “Put on the full armor of God, so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11)

It also says we are to continue to strive and to be diligent, active and earnest. It encourages us to do God’s work, to edify others, and to glorify God through our spiritual gifts. In fact, it tells us to do everything we can – to put forth our full effort.

“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.” (Luke 13:24)

At the same time, we’re also told to “be still and know” that God is God. Reading just a few different versions/translations of this verse tells us, though, that this really means we are to focus on God. It doesn’t mean we are to sit back and do nothing.

Letting go and letting God is actually one of the hardest things to do because it’s not simply doing nothing. Letting go and letting God instead involves embracing the struggle, letting the peace of God overwhelm you within it, and then letting God direct your path through or around it.

To “let go and let God” means to walk in faith and to place our peace and hope squarely on God regardless of our feelings. Simple, yes. Easy, no.

It’s Nothing Personal

People will hurt you. Sometimes the same person will hurt you repeatedly. What do you do?

Do you get angry? Depressed? Bitter? Resentful? Beaten down?

In my struggle to let any of those reactions happen again, God has reprogrammed my thinking. He’s taught me not to let emotions control me but to instead think and act based on his word.

Specifically, five verses have helped me better understand how to not take hurt personally and to instead allow healing and restoration happen.

Scripture Application

“Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:15)

  • No matter what others say or do (or don’t say or don’t do), I am determined to love. This means, I avoid being rude or selfish, and I ask God for the patience and the ability to forgive.

“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15)

  • God’s grace is abundant and far-reaching. It gives me new life, and it can do the same for anyone else. I must never forget this.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm34:18)

  • No matter what happens, God is with me. He comforts me and keeps me from getting stuck in the muck and mire of the pit of despair.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has appointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to build up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and to release from darkness the prisoners.” (Isaiah 61:1)

  • God takes my hurt and folds them into my testimony. The freedom he has brought me, he promises to everyone who calls on his name. How can I not share this truth?

“Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:26)

  • A thankful heart is a forgiving heart.

Application Through Reflection

I’m a sensitive person. That means that my emotions lead me to care and feel deeply. It also means I can get offended and take things personally all too easily. Add to that my active imagination, and there’s a recipe for discontent and depression.

God is teaching me to not take everything so personally. He’s helping me to instead give my emotions and deep feelings over to him and let him use them for his purposes. As a result, I am experiencing more joy in my relationships.

How might you apply these scriptures practically and personally?

Are you listening?

Listening As a Tool

In my continual study of communication skills, listening continues to reign as an essential one. Experts explain that how – with awareness, time, and practice – anyone can become a better listener. In fact, listening is a tool God has given us to change lives and deepen relationships.

“The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ears to listen like one being taught.” (Isaiah 50:4)

“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” (Proverbs 20:5)

Listening As a Bridge

This holds true not just in our relationships with others but in our relationship with God too. Consider how Dietrich Bonhoeffer actually bridges our ability to listen to others with our ability to listen to God.

“He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too… Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.” (The Ministry of Listening)

When we fail to listen to others, we’re likely failing to listen to God too. And, the less we listen to God, the more struggles we’ll have with our faith.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

Learning to listen to others directly impacts our ability to listen to God. The sustained attention required for listening is not something that is compartmentalized; it flows into every area of our lives because it becomes a part of who we are. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:13)

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in expressing his opinion.” (Proverbs 18:2)

Reflect On Your Listening

Is listening your first response? Do you seek to understand others?

Remember & Reflect

Remember the Past

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana, writer and philosopher)

This sentiment came to my attention once again at a recent visit to the Revolutionary War Museum in Williamsburg, VA. We took a walking tour around the grounds during which the guide focused on remembering our country’s history in terms of what various individuals have in common and on how we can learn from their successes and failures. He went from settlement times through the Revolution and the Civil War before coming to the current day.

What would a study of the Bible look like using this approach?

If you go to BibleGateway and type in “remember,” you get over 200 results (Side note #1: I used the NIV. Another version will be slightly different.) (Side note #2: You probably can come up with other search terms to use, but I stuck with just one for simplicity’s sake.)

Many of the references point to God remembering. Others point to what God wants us to remember. Simply reading through these references makes connections among people and events throughout Biblical history much like the connections the tour guide made.

How might we reflect on this?

For me, reflection on this idea is coming through asking myself questions.

  • What does God remember?
  • What does God want us to remember?
  • What lessons do the individuals in these verses teach me?
  • What has God brought me through?
  • How has God blessed me?

From Adam to Moses to Joshua to David to Elijah to the disciples to Paul, reflection on their (and everyone in between) experiences individually and how they connect to one another’s experiences as well as to mine allows for an interesting way to learn from the past.

  • God is merciful even when we don’t deserve it.
  • God is faithful even when people aren’t.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg for me, and this lens for reading Scripture promises to open up God’s Word in new ways.

What is the tip of your iceberg with this type of reflection?

Surprised by Glory

While on vacation in Williamsburg, VA in December 2019, we went to Bush Gardens’ Christmas Towne. Rides. Food. Shows. Lights. And all at the “World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park.” (Look it up. They’ve gotten the award for 29 years in a row.) A fun, family event at a truly beautiful place.

The first show we saw was a 1940’s story with traditional Christmas carols. The second show was an abbreviated version of “A Christmas Carol,” one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories. Both of these were shows you’d expect to see at a very popular, very public venue.

The third show had great singing like the other two shows. It told a traditional Christmas story like the other two as well. Yet, it was a complete surprise. “Glory” told the Gospel message. It didn’t skirt around declaring Jesus as Savior in any way. The Gospel message was clear and obvious.

Oh, and there was also an atmosphere of praise absent in far too many churches. Afterwords, I felt inspired. I was inspired hearing the Gospel message in such a vibrant and unique way. I was doubly inspired because it was proclaimed in a very public, very popular venue.

I love unexpected surprises like this. Really, though, should I be at all surprised that God made this happen?

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Always A Choice

A common theme in my favorite movies and books is the idea that there’s always a choice. Lord of the Rings. Avengers. Lightbringer (Brent Weeks).

  • For good or for evil, that’s the biggest choice. Even if you’ve always chosen good, the choice for evil is always before you.
  • Where to focus your thoughts. That’s another big one. You can focus them selfishly or for the greater good. You can focus on your own glory, or God’s.

No matter how many wrong choices you’ve made, making the right choice is still always in front of you. Likewise, the option to refocus on God’s will is always before you.

This idea of always having a choice encourages me. I’m encouraged because it tells me no one is ever too far gone. It encourages me because I know I can keep moving forward even after mistakes.

No matter how bleak a situation, and no matter how discouraged you feel, you always have a choice for healing and moving forward. Always.

Reflective Practice

Connections, Culture & Choice

Sometime during a week-long visit to Williamsburg, VA and many of its historical offerings, a pattern emerged that connected not only the places we visited but also propelled my thinking in some interesting ways.

Connections

The area presents colonial, Revolutionary War, and Civil War history. As we moved from one to another, I realized the connections – and there are many, many threads – linking them to one another.

Various threads make up my own life, and understanding their connections helps understand my own perspectives much like understanding these historical connections helps me understand the various perspectives involved in the history of our country’s beginnings.

Culture

Visiting various historical sites and museums also showed the interaction of culture, both in good and bad ways. African Americans, English, and Native Americans were the major groups, though many others were involved too.

My own culture is unclear to me. Only in a very broad sense do I understand personally what culture means. In other words, I am not sure how to define my culture.

Choice

African Americans fighting for their freedom. English settlers choosing to be Loyalists or Rebels or to remain neutral. A country choosing to war with itself.

Considering how my own choices affect not just me but those around me is important. Further, how does this idea of connections and attempts to define culture impact my choices?

Valuing Reflection

The value of understanding history became clearer to me during this visit. So did the value of self-reflection based on the concepts that stood out to me that week.

As a Christian, I want to make connections to God’s truths as explained in his word. I want to understand what being a Christian means for me culturally. I also want to develop cultural sensitivity in a way that shows love toward all people. Threaded through all of this is the idea of filtering my choices through God’s will in each of these areas.

My Point?

I’ve recently been considering how I reflect on the experiences of my life and how they shape who I am as a person. I’ve begun wondering more about my own culture and the history surrounding it. The above is simply a foray into reflection in these specific areas.

Discussion: Have you ever considered implementing reflective practices in this or other ways? Why or why not?

Shift Your Gaze

Understanding Gaze

In critical theory, sociology, and psychoanalysis, the gaze refers to the act of seeing and, in the philosophical and physical sense, how an individual perceives other individuals, groups, or oneself.

Gaze theory describes how viewers engage with visual media. Originating in film theory and criticism in the 1970s, the gaze refers to how we look at visual representation.

In literary theory, gaze is a particular perspective taken to embody certain aspects of the relationship between observer and observed.

(These definitions were borrowed from Wikipedia)

In short, gaze is how we perceive what we see.

Shifting Your Gaze

In a recent visit to the Revolutionary War Museum in Williamsburg, VA, an exhibit focused viewers on the importance of “shifting your gaze” to see the often forgotten and overlooked role of African Americans in the war.

African American slaves had to choose the side – Patriots (colonists) or British – they felt gave them the best chance for freedom after the war. For most, it did not work out the way they hoped. While the slave trade was suspended during the Revolutionary War, it increased again after the war ended. Thus, many African Americans from both sides were thrust back into slavery after the war even though they fought in it with the promised reward of freedom afterward.

In this exhibit, shifting your gaze allowed you to see the war from their perspective. This perspective is one many forget to consider, especially since slavery is such a focus later in the American Civil War.

Christian Gaze

How can we apply this idea of “shifting your gaze” as Christians? Our goal as Christians is to see people as God sees them. We also want to see ourselves as God sees us.

Though there are more, consider the following two Bible verses as you consider how to shift your gaze to be able to see people and yourself the way God does.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28-29)

These verses tell us that God sees us as being in transformation. He also saw us long ago and chose us to become like Jesus.

Reflection Questions

How do these truths change how you see other people? Yourself?

What other verses might help you shift your gaze and see people and circumstances through God’s perspective rather than your own?

2020 Vision

Without glasses or contacts, my vision is not good. I’ve actually had poor vision since the 6th grade. Even with corrective eyewear, I’ll never have 2020 vision with my eyesight nor will my eyesight ever improve to the point of not needing correction.

The same is true for my spiritual vision. It’s not perfect, and it needs help improving. As in previous years, improving my spiritual vision is integrated into my New Year’s resolutions again this year. One Bible verse – Proverbs 29:18 – in particular is directing me in this resolve for 2020.

This verse provides a couple of points of reference for me as I sculpt my resolutions for 2020.

  1. I need revelation/divine guidance/vision in order to have self-control.
  2. I will be blessed/joyful/happy when I obey what God says in his word.

With these in mind, I refuse to rush making my resolutions. I’m praying throughout the process to make sure they line up with God’s word and his will for my life.

If you are making (or have made) New Year’s resolutions for 2020, have you sought divine guidance? Have you made sure your resolutions line up with God’s word? If not, it’s not to late to do so.

Resolutions don’t have to be made before the new year begins, nor are they set in stone after it starts. Feel free to adjust them as the year progresses and the Holy Spirit leads. Put them somewhere you’ll see them often. Then, review them for the purpose of refocusing through prayer. Let the Lord direct your steps.

“A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)