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Archive for the ‘Service’ Category

 

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Between the putrid odors and stale air below decks, Francis Asbury chose to spend most of his time on the top deck, often taking his journal and pencils with him. The rolling of the ship caused unsteady handwriting, but recording his thoughts passed the time and focused his heart on what lay ahead.

Twenty-six year old Francis had left home in England, September 4,1771, at the invitation of John Wesley, the great Methodist evangelist. The growing colonies in America needed ministers, and Francis accepted the challenge. Nine years of experience in the pulpit had prepared him for the preaching; what else might be required only God knew.

 

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Francis put pencil to page. “Whither am I going? To the New World. What to do? To gain honor? No, if I know my own heart. To get money? No, I am going to live to God and to bring others to do so.”

Upon his arrival in America, Francis soon discovered colonial life was drastically different from that of England. Centuries of development and culture in Britain had created a civilized society. America was rough and raw by comparison, although the towns exhibited more refinement than outlying settlements.

 

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(Asbury disembarked at Philadelphia, home of Independence Hall.)

 

To make his home in one of these towns must have crossed his mind, but Francis was compelled to take his message of hope and peace to the villages and pioneers. He began twenty miles outside of New York in Westchester, and then visited other small hamlets as well. Soon he developed a “preaching circuit.” Other Methodist ministers followed his example. These circuit riders were so willing to travel in all sorts of weather, a saying became popularized: “Nobody out today but the crows and the Methodists.”

In 1775, several of his colleagues decided to return to England, as war between the colonies and Britain seemed imminent. But Francis chose to stay, impassioned as always to continue preaching about Jesus no matter the dangers.

Other perils included sickness, exposed as he was to inclement weather of all sorts. He preached numerous times with an ulcerated throat and high fever. Sometimes Francis was so weak, men would have to lift him onto his horse and tie him in the saddle. In later years, he resorted to a carriage due to rheumatism. Yet he preached on.

 

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(“Francis Asbury Preaching by Lamplight”

by Richard Douglas)

 

Francis also continued to journal about his experiences:

“Near midnight we stopped at A.’s…Our supper was tea…I lay along the floor on a few deerskins with the fleas. That night our poor horses got no corn, and next morning had to swim across the Monongahela.

“The gnats are almost as troublesome here as the mosquitoes in the lowlands of the seaboard. This country will require much work to make it tolerable” (West Virginia, July 10, 1788).

For 45 years Francis traveled throughout the colonies, from Georgia to Maine, and even into Canada. He covered an estimated 300,000 miles, delivered some 16,500 sermons, ordained nearly 700 preachers, and added well over 200,000 members to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

 

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Francis became so well-known, he received mail addressed simply, “Bishop Asbury, United States of America.”

Yet even as a bishop he earned only $80 per year, and that he mostly gave away. He also gave away the coats and shirts from his own back to anyone more destitute than himself.

On March 24, 1816, Francis Asbury preached his last sermon. He was seventy years old.

A week later, he finally succumbed to yet another bout of illness. The well-known bishop died penniless but “rich in souls” (Dan Graves), a tireless participant in the growth of Christian faith across the colonies that included the building of numerous churches and institutions of learning, impacting future generations to this day.

A little more than a century after his death, a statue of Asbury was erected in Washington, D.C. On October 15, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge gave the dedication address at the unveiling.

 

Monument to Francis Asbury in Washington, DC

Monument to Francis Asbury in Washington, DC

 

His commendations included:

“He never had any of the luxuries of this life. Even its absolute necessities he had a scanty share…yet his great spirit pressed on to the end, always toward the mark of his high calling.”

Though Asbury is not listed among the founding fathers, President Coolidge affirmed during his address: “He is entitled to rank as one of the builders of our nation.”

Truly, Francis Asbury could say with the apostle Paul, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation” (1 Corinthians 3:10 NASB). And Asbury’s example was as powerful as his preaching—his self-sacrifice, passion, and purpose recorded in his ship journal in 1771—a purpose from which he never wavered:

 

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“I am going to live to God and bring others to do so.”

 

*     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Oh, Lord, guide me to fulfill that same purpose! Keep me mindful that nothing else will provide such satisfaction and contentment as a life lived for you.

 

Sources:

  1. http://www.christianity.com, “Francis Asbury” by Dan Graves.
  2. http://www.christianitytoday.com.
  3. Seedbed Sower’s Almanac and Seed Catalog, Seedbed Publishing, 2015-2016.
  4. http://www.wesleycenter.nnu.edu.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.wallpaperbeautiful.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wikimediacommons; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.place.asburyseminary.edu; http://www.fggam.org; http://www.bibleteachingresources.org.)

 

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Yes, the title is a bit of word play, generated by the discovery of this quote:

 

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(“Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books.

Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters.”

–St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

M-m-m. Spiritual lessons in the woods are relatively easy to extrapolate.  The Bible offers several inspiring metaphors/similes from trees (1).

But stones—lifeless, drab stones? What can we learn from them?

 

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So began my query into stones, and a bit of research turned up the following:

There are at least 120 different sub-categories of rocks, within the igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic groupings. Another thirty-one types make up a group of their own, not fitting those three common categories.  One website stated there are over 700 varieties of igneous rocks alone.

Geologists and rock collectors will tell you:

There is delight in diversity.

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(Beach stones washed in the surf of Lake Huron

near Kincardine, Ontario)

 

That goes for people, too, doesn’t it. A planet inhabited by identical beings would be painfully boring.

But even similar, ordinary stones can generate interest. For example, take this little pebble:

 

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Rather dull and ordinary, right?

But what if you put it with numerous, similar stones? What then?

 

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We discover that:

Many ordinary stones together can provide breathtaking beauty.

Within the church that truth applies to people. Regular folks become remarkable as we join together and serve under the power of God. Someone put it this way:

When a river sings, it is thanks to the stones.

 

 

Now some stones appear dull and plain on the outside. The casual observer passes them by. But the trained eye detects a hint of the splendor within.   And when such a rock is split open, a colorful, gleaming wonder is revealed.

 

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(An agate)

You have to open up some stones to discover their treasures.

Agates of a different nature are all around us—in our neighbors, coworkers, church acquaintances, etc. What if we reached out with a friendly question or two and gave them opportunity to open up? Perhaps gleaming treasure awaits.

Beauty in stone can occur in other ways, too.  For example:

A stone in the hand of a master sculptor becomes a new creation.

 The genius of Michelangelo gives us a glimpse of such transformation. Out of nondescript marble he chiseled exquisite, life-like statues.

 

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(Madonna from the Pieta)

 

Praise God that even dull, ordinary people of stone can become works of art when we give ourselves over to him.

God, our Rock, is Lord of stones. 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

I praise you, oh God, for being a Rock of constancy, stability, and protection. You graciously build us into a spiritual house—individually and corporately– where the Holy Spirit can reside.  As “living stones,” we too become everlasting and durable, united together with the One Living Stone, your Son, Jesus (1 Peter 2:5).

 

(1) For metaphors/similes of trees, see Psalm 1:3, 52:8, and 92:12; Jeremiah 17:8; Micah 4:4.

 

Photo Credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.free-pictures-photos.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.freephotosbank.com; http://www.hdwallpapers.com; http://www.bhmpics.com; http://www.d.umn.edu; http://www.italianrenaissance.org.

 

 

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His record sounds like a tall tale.

He traveled 250,000 miles (that’s ten times around the globe at the equator) by horseback or on foot. All told, he preached 40,000 sermons. And by the end of his life, his followers included scores of people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean:

  • 71, 668 British members
  • 294 preachers in Britain
  • 43,265 American members
  • 198 preachers in America
  • 19 missionaries

But that’s not all. This giant of Christianity also wrote dozens of books.

This is no tall tale; it’s the life of John Wesley (1703-1791).

 

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(John Wesley)

Even into old age, John Wesley proclaimed the good news about Jesus and his gift of eternal life.

At age 83, he was still writing books, but very disappointed that after fifteen hours at his desk, his eyes would start to hurt.

At age 86, Wesley could still preach a rousing sermon, but sadly (to him) he only had stamina for two per day, not three as had been his standard for many years.

It also frustrated Wesley that he needed more rest as he aged. No longer did he wake up ready to seize the day at 4:00 a.m. In his latter years he had to sleep until 5:30.

The evidence seems clear: John Wesley lived every day of his life with purpose and passion—even into old age.

And undoubtedly he received great satisfaction and fulfillment from his choice to remain active and useful.

Like some men and women today, Wesley carried on into his golden years what he had been doing for decades. (I recently heard on the news about a one hundred-year old woman who is still teaching school. Like John Wesley though, she’s curtailed her schedule!)

Others of us explore new paths during our retirement years. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t begin her best-selling “Little House on the Prairie” series until age 64. The last book, These Happy Golden Years, she completed at age 76.

 

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(Laura Ingalls Wilder)

 

Wesley’s and Wilder’s examples (and those of countless others) prove:  It is possible to accomplish worthwhile endeavors even as we age.

If you’re young, you can look forward to new possibilities of successful, purposeful living for decades to come.

If you’re older as I am, we still can enjoy successful, purposeful living.

But for all of us, maintaining an attitude of faith and remaining involved with others is most important because:

Our influence on those around us offers opportunity for the most significant contribution.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank You, Father, that each chapter of my life has included purpose and blessing. Keep me mindful that my purpose includes living a legacy of influence. May love, faith, and integrity be the guiding principles for all my remaining days!      

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(A new folk tale)

It was toward sundown when William the Potter shuffled into his humble cottage and shut the door using a little more force than necessary. With several grunts he peeled off his jacket and scarf. And once his outer clothing was hung on the hook beside the door, he heaved a great sigh.

His wife, Katherine, turned briefly from stirring the pot of stew that was simmering over the hearth fire.

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“Welcome home, William,” she remarked with a speck of sarcasm.

William didn’t notice her tone, as he was too wrapped up in his own gloomy thoughts.

“What’s wrong, dear?” she asked, then returned to the task at hand: scraping the sides of the stew pot so no bits would be burnt and wasted.

William wearily sat down at the rough-hewn table and began working off his heavy boots.

“I’m so tired, Katherine—tired of working with dreary, dusty clay all day, tired of making the same plain, serviceable containers—jug after ordinary jug. Pot after ordinary pot. Hour after agonizing hour.”

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One boot landed with a thump on the pine floor.

“So make something fanciful every now and then,” Katherine countered.

“But it’s the everyday pots, jugs and bowls that people buy.”

The second boot clumped beside the first.

“Oh, William, I am sorry. You must remember that your work is important. Without your pottery, how would the village store their water and grain, plant their herbs and flowers, or…serve their supper?” And Katherine placed in front of him one of his clay bowls, filled with savory stew.

“M-m-m,” responded William. “In my mind I know you are right, but my heart is no longer in it.”

The next day toward sundown, William again entered the cottage and shut the door with extra force. But this time, he didn’t even take off his coat and scarf before grabbing Katherine around the waist and swinging her in a tight circle, careful to avoid the table and fire.

“Katherine! Katherine!” he bellowed. “Such good news I have to tell you!”

She pushed against his shoulders. “William! For goodness’ sake, put me down! Whatever has gotten into you?”

“Oh, my dear, you will never guess my good fortune.  Sit down while I tell you!”

Katherine wiped her hands on her apron before smoothing her skirts and taking a chair. Then clasping her hands as if to pray, Katherine sat ready to hear about this turn of events.

William drew a big breath and began.

“This afternoon I received a visitor at the shop—a visitor from the castle. The castle, I tell you! He says the king desires a new border for his gardens, a border of boxwoods in large pots. He’ll need dozens of pots, and he’s asked me to help!  Isn’t that wondrous news?”  And William looked to Katherine expectantly for her enthusiastic response.

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Katherine paused for a moment before speaking. “Pots, you say.”

“Yes!” he replied.

“Like the pots you make for the village?” she inquired.

“The same! The king’s messenger even pointed to the ones lined up on the shelf and said they would do perfectly, except much larger, of course.  Oh, think of the honor this is, Katherine.

“Yes, dear. Quite an honor. It’s just that…well…i-it seems to me…” Katherine stammered. And finally she spoke the obvious. “You’ll still be making ordinary pots, am I correct?  Wasn’t it just yesterday you were bemoaning the very same task?”

“Ah, but starting tomorrow, I am working for the king,” William exclaimed. “These pots will be part of something glorious and enduring. And that changes everything!”

*     *     *     *     *

“Whatever you do,

work at it with all your heart,

as working for the Lord,

not for men…

It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

–Colossians 3:23-24

(Photo credits:  www.goodlifelist.com; http://www.arteast.org; http://www.bloomiq.com.)

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(Steve and I are enjoying time with family this week.  I’ll return soon with  new posts.  Meanwhile, I’ll reblog previous ones.  Hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.  The following post was first published June 13, 2013.)

From stage left, she crosses the platform in confident strides.  One hand waves in sweeping arcs to the large audience. The crowd claps and cheers.

In the other hand, with confident ease, she holds the microphone.  And the smile—big and broad, bright white teeth visible even from the balcony.

Able to sing like a nightingale and articulate truth with conviction. Impacting thousands.

Now there is someone God is using in a powerful way, whispers an accusing voice.  Look at her significant contribution in the Kingdom of God. No doubt she’s highly valuable to him.  So what are you doing that’s important?  Your spot in the scheme of things is nothing compared to that shining star on the stage.  You might as well face the truth:  You are unimportant.  The ship of Significance has passed you by.

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Sound the least bit familiar? You’re not alone. Demons use those same lies on a lot of us. Evil spirits aren’t very creative, are they?

But here’s the truth of the matter:

Each of us is the workmanship of God (Ephesians 2:10). The Greek word, workmanship, sometimes has the connotation of “work of art.” You are a work of art—carefully designed and meticulously executed.

The verse goes on to explain we’ve been created to do good works. It does not say the same work. Diversity of personality, talent, and interest are necessary among the children of God in order that all his plans are accomplished.

He made each of us unique, to fulfill a personalized plan. Every now and then we see such a plan unfold so clearly, we know God engineered the circumstances. Sometimes it’s a unique set of talents or gifts that work together sublimely to meet a need.

Take, for example, the naturally talented writer, who happened to grow up in a bilingual home, and studied Christian Education in college. She was especially prepared by God to write Spanish curriculum for a Christian publishing company.

Other times the plan is much less obvious, and we must trust that the task before us–caring for our families, teaching that Sunday School class, working at the homeless shelter–is indeed accomplishing divine purpose.

What we can know for certain:  each of us is valuable to God (Matthew  10:29-31).

Believe that he has prepared in advance good works for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).  Take joy and satisfaction from completing those good works.

It may not be walking across a stage with a microphone. It might mean walking across the kitchen with a rolling pin—to bake cookies for the neighbors.

That’s just a small, insignificant thing, you say?

Think about this: What if God takes particular pleasure in small things?

Personally, I’m fascinated by small things. Miniatures, doll houses, petit-point, babies!

Happy

Happy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scripture gives us indication that God does indeed love small things as well:

Sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).

Two little mites given by a widow (Mark 12:41-44).

Five small barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:1-13).

Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

Let’s never again allow those little demons of abasement to put us down. God has promised: “I will bless those who fear the Lord—small and great alike” (Psalm 115:13, emphasis added).

You see, in God’s sight, we’re of equal worth.

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The story of Cinderella always was my favorite fairy tale. The rags-to-riches, wrong-to-right, happily-ever-after story never grew old.

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And that ball gown! How the illustrators of the various editions must have enjoyed creating the glory and splendor of that dress!

Rarely, if ever, are we common damsels provided opportunity to wear such grand finery. And I doubt many guys out there in the blogosphere have donned gold-braided jackets spangled with brightly colored medals. Such ostentation is almost exclusively reserved for royalty.

Ah! But whether we’re CEOs of the home front (stay-at-home parents) or CEOs of corporations, plumbers or painters, teachers or taxi drivers, we are priests of the Lord King of the universe.   And that designation makes us a royal priesthood:

 

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(“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood,

a holy nation, a people belonging to God,

that you may declare the praises of him

who called you out of darkness

into his wonderful light.”

–1 Peter 2:9)

Because we are his royal priesthood, God has provided a glorious new wardrobe for each of us, including:

  • Rich garments of salvation, replacing the sin-stained rags of our self-centeredness (1).
  • A robe of righteousness, radiant with the perfections of Jesus (2).
  • A belt of truth, studded with gems from God’s Word that inspire, instruct, encourage, and comfort (3).
  • Garments of praise, because he continually manifests his glorious attributes and showers us with blessings (4).
  • Ornaments of strength and joy (5).
  • A crown of beauty, as we allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds and turn our thoughts to the positive (6).
  • Beautiful shoes of peace, equipping us to tread gently and share the peace of Jesus with others (7).

Note: None of this is earned, like the medals on Prince Charming’s uniform. Every radiant item has been magnanimously bestowed by our King.

Why would that be, we wonder. Is his purpose simply to display his generosity?

Surely that’s part of the answer. But the last half of 1 Peter 2:9 (above) reveals more: Now that we’re dressed in his garments of radiant splendor, we are commissioned to proclaim his excellency everywhere we go.

 

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Sometimes we proclaim with words (Mark 16:15), as simple as “God is so good,” while sharing a story with a coworker.

Sometimes we proclaim with loving action (John 13:34-35), serving as a channel of blessing between God and others. That extra-generous tip to a waitress, for example, may pay eternal dividends  especially if she saw us praying before we ate, and we engaged her in friendly, upbeat conversation (about her).

Sometimes we proclaim with our attitudes—simply reflecting the radiance of Jesus’ peace and joy on our faces (2 Corinthians 3:18)—especially in difficult circumstances. Someone may very well ask, “I don’t know how you do it,” giving you opportunity to proclaim God’s excellencies and the blessings of living in his wonderful light—just as that verse in First Peter suggests.

 

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If our new wardrobe is on full display, people will notice.

 

“Let us put on the vestments of holiness

and minister before the Lord all day long.”

–Charles Spurgeon

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com (2), http://www.icould.com; http://www.kingdomcalling.com.)

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  1. Zechariah 3:4; Isaiah 61:10
  2. Isaiah 61:10
  3. Ephesians 6:14; 2 Timothy 3:16
  4. Isaiah 61:3
  5. Isaiah 49:18
  6. Isaiah 61:3; Romans 8:5; Philippians 4:8
  7. Isaiah 52:7; Ephesians 6:15; John 14:27

 

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Benjamin Franklin was the thirteenth child of a humble soap-and-candle maker. Obviously, no family fortune provided him easy success in life. Neither did a stellar performance in school that would lead to scholarships. His formal education lasted all of two years, from ages eight to ten. Yet Ben became:

  • a respected publisher
  • the country’s first millionaire
  • a world-famous scientist
  • an influential voice as the thirteen colonies fought for independence and established a nation
  • a distinguished diplomat in Europe

No wonder Franklin was proclaimed a self-made man. But there are other factors, outside his control, that contributed to his success, including:

INTELLIGENCE

His varied accomplishments as writer, statesman, and diplomat prove his sharp intellect.

CHARACTER

Ben was  curious and skeptical–useful attributes for a scientist. His astuteness, sense of humor, and ability to communicate served him well as publisher of Poor Richard’s Almanac. And all of these traits came into play when Franklin participated in the forming of our nation.

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TEMPERAMENT

Surely Ben was an energetic and passionate individual. He was always in pursuit of something—things like:

  • Solving problems. Numerous inventions credited to Franklin grew out of need. For example, his desire to create more heat in his home led to his invention of the wood stove.
  • Acquiring new knowledge. Ben attempted his well-known key-and-kite experiment because of his curiosity about lightning.
  • Improving the lives of his fellow colonists. Franklin wrote, met with other delegates, sought the help of France, and more, in America’s struggle to gain independence from England. In 1789, at age 84, he was still writing and working. His cause? The abolition of slavery in America.

OPPORTUNITY

Franklin was often in the right place at the right time. One example: through his connections in the publishing industry of Philadelphia, Ben secured a contract to print the colony’s paper money.

Seems that Ben’s success had much to do with factors outside his control. These elements just mentioned–intelligence, character, temperament, and opportunity–came from God. In fact, for all of us, “Our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

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In reality, the idea of a self-made man/woman is myth. No one is truly self-sufficient.

On the other hand, God has ordained work and effort. From beginning to end, scripture proclaims the value of industry. In Genesis 2:15 we see God placing Adam in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul says, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

So how do we balance working with our God-given abilities and depending on God?

  1. Pray.  Thank God for the gifts he has given us.  Then prayerfully seek to determine what God is doing and cooperate with him. If we are earnest in this desire, he’ll make each step clear. As seminary professor, Howard Hendricks, used to say: God does not play hide-and-seek in the trees with his will.
  1. Nourish.  The effectiveness of our giftedness requires preparation and inspiration. Preparation includes study and practical experience. (Even a talented pianist must take lessons and practice.) Preparation includes nourishing the spirit, too, with study of scripture and practical experience of worship and service. Inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit as he works within us.
  1. Embrace.   Embrace the teaching of wise, godly leaders. Embrace the help of others. Keep in mind that self-sufficiency is not a praiseworthy quality; it’s a form of pride. The person who thinks he knows everything and needs no input, or who is too proud to ask for help, is someone to be pitied, not celebrated.

As dependents upon God, we are meant to work. As workers, we are meant to be dependent upon God.

And…

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(“The God of heaven will give us success”–Nehemiah 2:20)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, Father, for being my all-sufficient God, Someone I can trust completely for guidance, direction, and training. Help me find that balance between working for you and depending on you. May I not neglect preparation, but also look to you for inspiration.  And may I be a humble, grateful recipient of help.  Amen.  

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