When You Clean My Bookcases When I Die

I looked for something on my bookshelf, the one where I keep most of my completed studies and notebooks. It doesn’t seem like too long ago that I started working through them. Yet when I glance over the spines, each one brings back flickers of memories from various moments and seasons of my life.

With some, I remember an “aha” tucked deep in my heart long after I closed the back cover. With others, the most powerful remainder of the study is a relationship rooted in time spent with someone else. I’ve learned a lot, struggled through a lot, left a lot behind, and grown more than I ever imagined possible.

Yet I face shelves of books that, to someone else, are just that–useless books or notebooks someone else has written in, nonsensical scribbles highlighting important lessons and moments along the way.

One day, someone will throw all these books away.

That’s okay with me. They’re more meaningful to me than anyone else.

However, I hope whomever cleans out the bookcases realizes all my completed bible studies are not merely completed tasks and obligations. They are journeys, experiences, and conversations. I don’t want them to pause over them in order to retrace my steps. I hope they pause over them to reflect on their own.

We may take different notes. We might take different approaches. But we are each on a journey. Let’s be willing to be disciplined, determined, pliable, humble, and transformed.

Use Your Filter

We all use filters. Yes, even those people who we’d say don’t have filters…the people who seem to have a direct link from their minds to their mouths. Others, who rarely share their opinions, might say they have the “proper” filter, only speaking when it’s absolutely essential. Perhaps you filter things through your experiences, counseling perspective, education, culture, and the list goes on. It’s important to know your filters, because if your filters are faulty, or even if the priorities of your filters are out of order, what you end up with at the end of the trail of filters won’t be as pure as you trust it to be.

For example, perhaps you’ve learned some great tools through counseling. When a problem arises, you return to those tools and the things you’ve learned and filter the problem through them. If the straining process resolves the issue, that’s all you need. You consider the solution a success.

Or, perhaps an issue comes up, and you can tie it to your education. You can chart the flow of information or organization because of what you’ve been taught, so as you strain the issue through your education, it all pretty much falls into place and makes sense. You can explain it, so from your perspective, the issue is resolved.

Maybe you find yourself in a situation that reminds you of a past experience. You remember what worked and what didn’t, so you determine how to respond based on what makes sense from past experiences, good and bad.

Learning from counseling, education, and experiences is important, even essential, to moving forward in life at times. Yet if they’re your primary filters, you’re missing out on something. Until our primary filters are God’s Word, we’re going to let some things through that aren’t His truth, and we might filter some things out that are. God’s Word has to be the first filter, not the last resort. We can’t run to it as a self-help book when we’ve exhausted all our other resources. It’s the top filter, where we initially pour our problems, issues, relationships, and questions. All other filters are secondary.

Know your filters. Don’t just assume because you are a Christian, you stand firmly on God’s Word in all situations and relationships. You might say you fully trust God, but do you, really? Are you letting Him consume every single moment of your life, every decision you make? Do you run to Him before anything and everyone else, then trust Him to guide you to the right resources and people He’s placed in your life? If you trust Him, really trust Him. And if you don’t, you can start right now, today, by asking Him to begin filtering every aspect of your life. You can depend on Him.

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. (Psalm 66:10, HCSB)

Digging Deeper. Climbing Higher.

©2015 PurePurpose.org

©2015 PurePurpose.org

The first time I visited Israel, it was as if I sliced through a tell and looked at the grandness of the cross-section. As tell (or tel) is a layer of civilization. It’s a mound-like structure created by a long series of human occupation and abandonment. As I experienced the cross-section, I savored as many details as I could, but I mainly tried to see the bigger picture so that I didn’t get confused by disconnected pieces.

I connected more pieces when I returned. I recognized roads and oriented one location to another. I steeped in familiar places and discovered new ones. With nearly every step, something “clicked” as if I could identify something familiar with something new. Not all the connections were between the two trips. Many were between places, stories, people and the Bible. Some involved research and reading I had done in preparation for the trip.

If my first trip was like slicing through a tell, my second trip was sitting at various layers and studying details.

Of course, the more I experience, the more I know there is to experience. The more I know, the more I want to know.

Learning is a lifelong adventure. No matter how much you know, there is more to learn.

Faith is no different.

No matter how strong your faith, it is only a fraction of the faith you can have. We can focus on the faith we have and be content. We can also focus on the faith we don’t have and give up on growing. Neither is productive. Instead, we can claim the faith we have, stand firmly on it, but continue to examine, tear down, build up, and take one more step at a time.

Faith is a journey. It is an adventure.

Life’s Ebb and Flow

I could have listened and watch the water in the grottos at Rosh Hanikra, Israel, for hours. It only took a few seconds for them to teach me something.

The waters slapped against the rock, over and over, ebbing into the rock over many years. As I watched the water, it didn’t seem to move much. It was powerful as it repeatedly crashed against the rocks, but it reminded me of someone beating his head against a wall. Sometimes, we don’t feel as if we’re going anywhere, and we feel battered through the process. We may not feel as if we’re moving, as if we’re repeatedly being slapped against the rocks, yet…

When we abide in Christ, He directs, carries, and changes us. He holds us together with others, just as the particles of water stick to each other and move as a unit. We stick with others…even when we don’t want to at times. God knows who needs to be side by side to experience the ebb and flow of life together.

God moves us to greater depths, even though we don’t like it at times, He knows when we need to repeat the same motion over and over. He knows what changes the repetition makes, even though all we feel is a sea-sickening battering.

As I watched the water ebb and flow, rise and fall, crash and recede, I was filled with gratitude. I was thankful that we can trust God to know just where we are and why. No matter where I am, I can be content…not because I’m thrilled with where I am, but because I’m thrilled that I am with God.


Gathering at the Water Gate

water-pakistan_1601384iAll the people of Israel gathered together in the square by the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the teacher to bring out the Book of the Teachings of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought out the Teachings for the crowd. Men, women, and all who could listen and understand had gathered. At the square by the Water Gate Ezra read the Teachings out loud from early morning until noon to the men, women, and everyone who could listen and understand. All the people listened carefully to the Book of the Teachings. Nehemiah 8:1-3

The Water Gate was where the water supplying the temple flowed into the city. It was a place everyone could gather and learn. While some places were reserved for men, the Water Gate was available for men, women and children. Families could learn together. Mothers could gather and hear. Everyone was welcome.

Learning as a community is a rich experience. It allows us to come face-to-face and listen. We share space, thoughts and lives together. Each of us as individuals experience the same situation differently. We have a different perspective because of where we stand. We have different distractions around and within us. We process what’s heard and seen at different speeds and through different filters.

Yet God’s Word doesn’t change. God doesn’t change. His Spirit works within each of us to coordinate the timing of where we are and what we experience. He can use a distraction to intensify focus. He can use an experience to prime us for sensitivity. He can use a filter to fan the flame of passion.

When have you clearly felt or heard God even if you were among throngs of people?

When have you been distracted among a crowd so you missed what you had gathered to experience?

God speaks to you personally, yet every time you gather with others, it’s not all about you. God can multi-task. He wants to nourish you as an individual, while at the same time he’s nourishing the community of believers around you.

Live It. Identify the distractions throughout your day. Notice how you respond to them. Be prepared at all times to focus on God. Encourage those around you to do the same.

Watered By a Spring

springSo when Joseph came to his brothers, they pulled off his robe with long sleeves and threw him into the well. It was empty, and there was no water in it. Genesis 37:23-24

Joseph is like a grapevine that produces much fruit, a healthy vine watered by a spring, whose branches grow over the wall. Your father’s God helps you. God Almighty blesses you. He blesses you with rain from above, with water from springs below, with many babies born to your wives, and many young ones born to your animals. Genesis 49:22,25

Joseph’s brothers threw him into an empty well. He was in a dry pit with no hope of escape. There was no water. We often don’t have physical water when we still have a spiritual source of water.

Fast forward many years later when Jacob, Joseph’s father, is describing his sons. Because of what has happened in Joseph’s life, it’s obvious God has provided for him and provided a source of nourishment that is much deeper and more reliable than physical water. God showers blessings upon Joseph. He pours into him with an everlasting spring. God honors Joseph’s obedience through times obedience would not have been an easy choice. There were many times in Joseph’s life when it must have seemed as if God’s blessings were far away from him.

When have you felt forgotten or at least not in God’s focus?

What is your typical response of obedience when you feel forgotten by someone on earth? Do you project that same response onto your relationship with God?

Look at some of the words Jacob uses to describe Joseph: produce, healthy, spring, grow, blessed, many.

Search for areas of your own life in which one or more of these words apply right now. Can you find a variety of circumstances to attach the various words?

God’s blessings are not limited to Joseph. God’s blessings are not limited to Scripture. God’s blessings are for you. God is active in you as you yield to him in obedience and trust him through all circumstances.

Live It. All circumstances do not make sense. We don’t see what we think is a blessing in one area because we’ve suffered through a similar circumstance. We often define blessings different than God does. As you experience a trial today, consider the blessing that might be underlying it.

Where’s My Camera When I Need It?

I heard there were sea turtles (honu) along the North Shore of Oahu where we were staying. Tim was headed back to the house, so I decided to walk along the beach and see if I could find any turtles swimming along the shore. I didn’t want to carry much with me, so I only kept my phone and shoes. I didn’t see any turtles and kept getting distracted by waves, people, rocks, and more. There’s something mesmerizing about walking along the shore. I soak up the sounds and scents. I enjoy the feeling of my feet in the damp sand and the water splashing my legs, and time simply seems to pass.

I was so distracted, I nearly tripped over a large sea turtle sunning on the beach!

Where’s the camera when I need it?

I don’t take many photos with my camera, but at least I had it with me. I snapped a few as the turtle pushed his way back into the water.

My photos turned out okay (I wasn’t as close as it appears, since I didn’t want to scare him). I was glad I at least had my camera, but I kept thinking, “Where’s my camera when I need it?!”

I watched the turtle swim away and continued down the beach. I’d had enough excitement for the day and returned to tell Tim of my adventures…and regret of not having the camera with me.

We returned to the beach the next day (with the camera) and saw many turtles…in the water. I enjoyed watching the turtles, but I couldn’t get great photos. Drat.

I returned a bit later, again with the camera. The sun was going down, and I snapped several photos of the gorgeous colors. I walked a short distance down the beach to take photos from a few different perspectives. Since I didn’t see any turtles, I might as well take photos of the available beauty.

As the sun disappeared, I turned around to return. After less than 20 steps, I saw a turtle close to the water not far from me. I quickly grabbed the camera and took several photos, but the lighting was wrong, and there wasn’t time for me to adjust. Before I could think through what I needed to do, the elusive turtle was swimming away. I missed it again!

As I shared my frustration with Tim, I realized I had seen two turtles on the shore and he hadn’t. I was focused on the image I hadn’t captured when I could have been focused on the experiences I’d had.

The next time I went to the beach, I decided to intentionally leave the camera behind.

Consider a time you’ve focused on what you missed. In the process, could you have missed out on something else you could have savored? Have you consequently added to the “missed out” list of an experience?

God blesses us. We often misdefine his blessings.

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. (John 1:16)