I Need Thee Ev’ry Hour

“Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

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Christmas is all about need.

Every instance of Heavenly intervention on Earth has been in response to human need. For thousands of years, whenever Israel was in an hour of need, God would send a messenger, a prophet or a hero, through whom to rescue them. When the Hebrew people were in captivity in Egypt, God sent Moses to deliver them. When they were beginning to return to sinful ways under King Saul, God sent Samuel to anoint David, who would go on to become Israel’s greatest and most celebrated ruler. When the Israelites in Persia were about to be annihilated by a king’s decree, God sent Esther to plead their case.

God has sent angels, spoken through prophets, stopped the sun, destroyed armies and entire cities, sent fire from Heaven, flooded the Earth, made animals talk, and brought the dead to life, all so that, ultimately, His people would be reminded of their need for Him.

And hundreds of years later, when the People of God were oppressed by Roman rule and desperately longing for a Messiah, God sent His Son to be a Savior.

We have Christmas because we have a need that only God can fill. Our needs for food and water, for shelter and medical care, even for family and human relationships, are dwarfed by our need for God. We need Him to sustain us, to give us breath, to be our joy when we are in pain, to be our Guide when we are lost, to be unconditional Love when we fall back into our lonely, selfish nature. And the need never stops; even on our best days, we will never not need Him.

As the popular 19th Century hymn by Annie Sherwood Hawks and Robert Lowry attests:

I need Thee every hour,
Teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises
In me fulfill.

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior!
I come to Thee.

We even need His help in order to be able to please Him, but there is nothing He loves more than when we recognize that need and call upon Him to fulfill it.

We please Him most, not by frantically trying to make ourselves good, but by throwing ourselves into His arms with all our imperfections and believing that He understands everything-and loves us still! …He expects from us only what He has Himself supplied.

-A. W. Tozer

It is both the easiest and the most difficult thing in the world to please God. It requires only that we surrender our will and admit our need for Him. When we do, we find that we don’t just need Him in the times when we can see our brokenness, because we were broken all along; He is the One who makes us whole.

This Christmas season, as we celebrate the day God stepped into the world, let us be thankful, and even with all the blessings we enjoy this time of year, remember that He is all we need.

Colossians- Pray for One Another

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Do you pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ?  In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he lets them know that they’re in his prayers. (Col. 1:3-14)  By following his example we can encourage one another.  I don’t know about you but just the thought that someone is remembering to pray for me is an encouragement!

Paul prayed that his fellow believers would:  Continue in their faith in the Lord and their love for each other.                                                                                                                                            Be filled with understanding of God’s will and have wisdom to carry it out.                                                                                                                                                                                                      Please and honor the Lord.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Bear good fruit. (have good results from their work for God)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Grow in the knowledge of God.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Be filled with God-given strength.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Have endurance and patience.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Stay full of joy.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Remember to give thanks.

When your friend shares a need or a tough situation they’re going through how do you respond?  Many times people just need to vent, to get something off their chest.  Our first job is to listen.  Secondly we can pray!  Sometimes it is appropriate to pray with them right then and there.  If the situation doesn’t seem right for immediate prayer we can assure them that we will be praying for them.  I like to let the person know how I’m going to be praying.  I may say something like   “I’m going to pray that God shows you clearly what you should do” or “I’m praying that your son passes his final”.  I check back with them to see how they’re doing and let them know I’ve been praying!

At the end of Colossians chapter 1 (v.28) Paul  sums up his prayerful hope for everyone:

We announce the message about Christ, and we use all our wisdom to warn and teach everyone, so that all of Christ’s followers will grow and become mature.” (CEV)

 

Reckless

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Normally when I decide to share a poem with the world, I like to let the work speak for itself, but I felt I wanted to write somewhat of an introduction for this one. If it works out, I’m thinking of making this a series. We’ll see…

When I write poetry, it usually comes out of my journaling, out of the issues and questions and ideas that I’m exploring and that God is speaking to me about and showing me. Recently I’ve been reading the book Romans again. I have always loved chapter five, and especially the first 11 verses. This passage is basically the book of Romans, and really the Gospel itself, in a nutshell. It uses such powerful language throughout, and verse 8 in particular has always struck me:

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

This is so important because it’s saying that even before we knew Him, even before we had any hope of ever being able to return His love, He chose to sacrifice everything for us. That’s how vast His love is. And as I began to explore this idea and let God speak to me about it and write down those thoughts, this poem started to take shape.

 

***

 

You asked for our hearts
and we gave You stones

You saw us, the selves we were
through our pretense and
the selves we would never be
despite our striving

and piercing through our doubt
our accomplishment and fear
our fruitless attempts at glory
our shadow righteousness
our hatred and lust and deceit

and seeing our brokenness
our base and backward temperament
our aimless stumbling through deserts of stone
our filth and nakedness in the face of Your splendour

and knowing that from our birth
our hearts were turned against You
our eyes darkened to Your brilliance
our hands and lips given to violence
our wills bent to our own weaknesses

still

with reckless hope
You opened Your arms to
our resentment

You took our shame
our mocking voices silenced
by Your tears

the stones of our hearts
pressing You into the earth

the bread of Your body
broken by the weight of our sin

You have loved us with an everlasting love
You have drawn us with unfailing kindness

You have placed Your heart in our hands
knowing we could never hold it but for Your hands
beneath us

without thought
for Your own security

You have given us what we
cannot repay
cannot consume
cannot comprehend

out of the prudence of death, Your
reckless love
has brought us to life
without condition
without reserve
without fear

and in the perfect peace
of Your extravagance we find
there is no risk in the return;

only love remains

Jesus is Better Than the Super Bowl

“The Person I look up to ultimately is Jesus Christ. That’s why I am where I am today.” –Russell Wilson

Super Bowl Football

Seahawks DeShawn Shead, Russell Wilson, Russell Okung, Clint Gresham, Clinton McDonald, and several coaching staff gather in prayer after their Super Bowl victory.

Even if you’re not a football fan, if you’ve been anywhere near a computer or TV in the past couple of days, you should know by now that the Seattle Seahawks won their first ever Super Bowl in their nearly 40-year history on Sunday. This victory is huge for the city and for the entire Pacific Northwest, as no Seattle sports team has won a national title since 1979.

It’s so huge, in fact, that many fans, including myself, found it hard to process. After the game was over, the group of friends I watched with and I all sat for a good 20 minutes, completely stunned, wondering if what we had just seen had really happened. We had spent four hours hoping, cheering, yelling, and, when it began to look fairly certain that the Seahawks would win, fearing that there could still be an upset. When the final score was announced officially we could barely believe it. The next morning, after too little sleep, I even went to several major news sites as soon as I woke up to make sure it hadn’t been a dream. It just seemed too good to be true.

But it is.

Winning the Super Bowl is huge. It’s amazing, one of the greatest achievements anyone can accomplish, the greatest achievement in American sports, period. But according to these Seahawks players, seen here in an interview before the NFC Championship game, there is something even greater:

It seems cliche because we hear it so often, but Jesus is amazing. He is greater than anything we can imagine. He achieved what no one else has ever been or will ever be able to achieve.

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” –Colossians 1:13-17

This Man, this God, this Supreme Being is everything we’ve longed for and searched for. He is the one who created us and loves us infinitely and unconditionally. He is the One who sacrificed everything to give us the chance to love Him.

What if the magnitude of Jesus’ love for us and His work on the cross for our salvation caused us to be so stunned that we could do nothing but sit in awe of Him? He seems too good to be true.

But He is.

Quick to Listen

tin can phone

Resolution: Be a better listener & encourager

                      “My dear brothers and sisters take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  James 1:19

I think there’s a good reason God gave us two ears and just one mouth…maybe we should listen twice as much as we talk.  When I’m in a conversation and the other person is talking my mind starts to wander.  I start thinking about what I’m going to say next.  I’m so intent on getting my point across that I miss out on what the other person has to say.  Because I haven’t really listened, I tend to forget what I’ve been told.  Well, this is just human nature…..selfishness!  I want to really listen to others and not worry about what I’m going to say until it’s my turn to talk.

I will be able to be a better encourager if I become a better listener.  I’m going to try to follow these tips:

1.Be a real friend- no judgement

2. Maintain eye contact

3. Remove distractions (cell phone, TV etc.)

4. Don’t interrupt, wait patiently (this is the hardest one for me!)

5. Encourage with body language- nod head, appropriate facial expression, no fidgeting. Touch hand or shoulder when appropriate.

6.  Sound back.  Restate and summarize.  Empathize (“that must have been hard” etc.)

Proverbs 18:13 says “To answer before listening-that is folly and shame.”  I sure don’t want to be foolish and shameful.  I want to be wise and confident!

My prayer today is that the Holy Spirit will remind me when to be quiet….and listen!

Count Your Blessings

 blessingsResolution: Replace Worry with Prayer

Reading: Matthew 6:25-34, Luke 12:22-31

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

   Wow, there’s sure a lot written in the Bible about worry.  I guess God knows how our minds work!  This is a resolution I need to work on continually.  It’s only with God’s help I’m getting better.

   Jesus taught specifically about worry. (see references above)  He uses the example of birds.  They don’t worry about where their next meal is coming from.  God created them so He provides for them.  He created us, He provides for us.  He talks about how beautiful flowers are- they don’t worry about what to wear, we don’t need to worry about that either.

  Studies have shown that worry/stress causes physical harm.  Many believe that worry  shows a lack of faith…we don’t really trust God!  So if we know all this, we should just stop worrying- right?  It is defiantly easier said than done.  When a worrisome thought comes to me I immediately begin to pray.  I’m working on having some Bible verses committed to memory so I can use them as my prayer.   If we put so much time and energy into worrying about what could happen in the future, we could miss out on the blessings we have right now.

“If you’re worried and you can’t sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.”

Turn Off the Idiot Box

New Year’s Resolution: Watch Less TV

old-tv

Everyone would probably say that they watch too much TV. It’s just a condition of our culture. At the end of a long day, it’s easy to just flop down on the sofa and flip on the TV. It doesn’t matter what’s on, as long as it’s at least mildly entertaining and doesn’t require you to think too much. We can spend hours this way, vegging out, knowing that there are more useful ways to spend our time, but still not moving from our TV nest.

We’ll devour sitcoms, prime time soaps, police procedurals, “reality” shows, addicting historical dramas (I’m looking at you, Downton Abbey!), classic westerns, teen dramas, documentaries, even the news, while completely unaware of how many hours have ticked by while we were basically doing nothing.

Now, I’m not saying that TV is a bad thing at all. There are some really well-written and well-acted shows on TV right now that I believe have a lot of cultural value. And there is also nothing wrong with watching a show to unwind at the end of the day. But, as we all know, TV can become a huge time-suck without us even realizing how much time we’re wasting.

So, my resolution is not merely to watch less TV just for the sake of watching less TV. Instead, I am resolving to be a better steward of my time, to keep track of how much TV I’m watching, and be intentional about what and how much I watch. In the hours that I choose not to watch TV, I’m going to focus on exploring career and ministry opportunities, sharpening my mind, studying the Word of God and topics that interest me, pursuing creative projects, and reading more books (especially that nonfiction list I wrote about last time).

If you know that TV is a big time-waster for you, I invite you to join in this resolution to stop spending so much time watching TV, and to also be aware of what you’re watching on TV, and not let it poison your mind.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” –1st Peter 5:8

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” –Ephesians 5:15-17

Do It All for the Glory of God

New Year’s Resolution: Eat Healthier

appleI love to eat!  I love cookies and cheesecake. I love french fries and pizza and bread.  And I give in to the desire to indulge way too often.  So like many others, every January, I plan to eat healthier.

The first thing to ask ourselves when making a vow or resolution is “why?” I have several great answers to this question:  I’ll feel better physically, my clothes will fit better, I’ll live longer, God wants me to.  “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God”  (2 Corinthians 7:1).

The second question to ask ourselves is “how?”  There are many great answers to this question too.  So more specifically, “what is going to work for me?” In our information-overloaded world there are thousands of diets, meal plans and programs.  What seems to work best for me is pretty simple: better choices, portion control and looking forward to planned “treats.”  My  family has several birthdays in January and February so I have to be careful with those treats!

For most of us, writing down our plan helps us stay focused.  Even if you’re following a book or program, it just affirms your resolve to write out your intentions.  For some, keeping a food journal helps them stay accountable.

Having a partner can really make a difference.  It helps so much to have a friend who has similar goals.  You can keep each other on track.  Hebrews 10:25 reminds us to encourage each other and Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 teaches us that two are better than one and friends can pick each other up when they fall.

Jesus came that we might have an abundant life (John 10:10) and every good gift is from our heavenly Father (James 1:17).  God gives us delicious food to enjoy.  He also gives us self-control  (Galatians 5). Romans 8:26 says the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.  If you are a Christ follower you already have self-control.  All you need to do is pray and trust the Lord to help you  “activate” it!

So whether  you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  1 Corinthians 10:31

Words of Knowledge

New Year’s Resolution: Read More Nonfiction

old-books-bernard-jaubert

Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.” –Proverbs 23:12

I read a lot. When I’m on a roll, I can read about two books a week, sometimes three. But despite my intentions (and honest efforts) in the past couple of years, the vast majority of the books I read are novels.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with fiction. I think everyone should read fiction. I love fiction, and I believe it has a lot to teach us. After all, Jesus Himself often taught through stories that, as far as I know, were fictional.

“Fiction, because it is not about somebody who actually lived in the real world, always has the possibility of being about ourselves.” –Orson Scott Card

Fiction is great. I could write about it some more, but this post isn’t about fiction. It’s about nonfiction. Specifically, my resolution to read more nonfiction in 2014.

But why? I would think the answer to that question would be pretty obvious, but just in case, I’ll explain.

Good writing about real people and places and events, about things that actually happened or are happening, has the power to not only make us better informed, but also better equipped to take on challenges that require that information to fully solve. Gaining knowledge is how we learn about the world and learn how we can make a difference in it.

“If I have… all knowledge… but have not love, I am nothing.” –1st Corinthians 13:2

Knowledge is power, but without passion, that power is useless. But some knowledge of the world paired with a love for it and its people, the love of God, make us powerful agents of the Gospel.

Here is my Reading List for the year. In addition to missions, evangelism, ministry and Christian living, it also includes books on literature, history, culture, politics and social justice. There’s even a sort-of science-y book on there. My more specific goal is to read at least one nonfiction book per month. Feel free to use my list as a guide, or make your own.

Happy reading!

New Year’s Resolutions

2014A new year is always a new beginning. As we change our calendars, we also make plans to change our bodies, our minds, our habits, and our lives. This idea of newness, the desire to change, to become something new, is embedded in our DNA. And for those who know Christ, it is something we are to experience continually: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2nd Corinthians 5:17)

We don’t need a new year to become a new creation, but it is a great time to start being intentional about the change we’d like to see in ourselves. For the next four weeks, Radiate will be exploring eight different New Year’s Resolutions that we (Tina and Rhonda) have set for ourselves, through the lens of our desire to be closer with God. We invite you to join in our resolutions if you would like, or to create your own, and see them as we do: not as new rules we have to follow, but new opportunities to become the people God created us to be.

Happy New Year!