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September 11, 2020 1:00 am
Episode 530 | Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier answer caller questions.
1. Adriel: As you know, Nancy, writing a book is a lot of work. What did you see in the church and the lives of believers around you that made you feel that this book needed to be written?
2. I’m getting really burnt out as a parent right now. I already have a full-time job, and now I have to be a homeschool teacher to my 3 kids due to schools not opening. Finding time and space for devotions was hard enough before! Can you give me any advice to navigate this season in life?
3. When things are going well in my life, I feel like it’s clear that God is working in and through me. But sometimes I don’t feel God’s presence at all. My prayer life feels dry and it seems like no one is listening. How do I get back to that place where I feel like I am being used by God?
4. Adriel: I’m curious, Nancy, as you studied the idea of emptiness throughout Scripture, what did you learn about the nature and character of God?Resources
God Does His Best Work with Empty by Nancy Guthrie
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My prayer life feels dry and it seems like no one is listening. How I get back to that place where I feel I'm being used by God. That's just one of the questions will be answering on today's addition of core Christianity hi this is Bill Meyer along with pastor Adm. Sanchez and this is the radio program where we answer your questions about the Bible and the Christian life every day. You can call us right now with your question. At 833, the court, that's 1-833-843-2673 and you can email us with your question at questions at core, Christianity.com today we have a special guest joining us for the program author and speaker Nancy Guthrie. Nancy teaches the Bible at her church in Franklin Tennessee at conferences around the world and through numerous books and video series. She and her husband David are the cohosts of the grief share video series used in more than 12,000 churches nationwide, including my church, and they host the respite retreats for couples who experienced the death of a child. Nancy is also the host of help me teach the Bible a podcast of the Gospel coalition and today she joins us to talk about her new book, God does his best work with empty and Nancy welcome back to core Christianity. Thank you so much for having me so happy to be with you guys and if it is really neat to have you again and we were able to do several episodes a while back and I can't tell you how encouraging those programs were for me and for a lot of the people in our church. I shared them with a ton of people. Now thank you well. It's always fun to talk to people about the things that matter most and that's what we get to do today. A man and bump excited about getting into your book writing a book is obviously a lot of work. Oh, it's easy Adria. I got give me some tips please.
But I'm just curious, you know, what did you see in the church and in the lives of believers around you that made you feel like this is a book that needs to be written will actually it's a book my husband told me needs to be written. I first uttered those words, God does his best work with empty, maybe 11 years ago at our very first respite retreat. The retreats that we hold for couples who have less children and no apples retreats were sitting in a circle with 11 or 12 couples who have all experienced the devastation of losing a child and I said to them, I know there is an empty place. There is an empty bedroom at your house.
There's an empty place at the table and empty place in the family photo and empty place in the plans that you had for your family and I know that you look at this empty place and you see it as your greatest problem, but I don't think that's how God sees. I think when God looks at your life and he sees that empty place that he sees it as his greatest opportunity because God does his best work with empty as he fills it with himself and at that point I said just think about how the Bible begins the battle begins. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and it was formless and void, empty but of course as you continue reading in Genesis 1 becomes obvious that emptiness is not a problem to God because they are in Genesis chapter 1, we see him deal with the formlessness of creation with the darkness of creation and with the emptiness of creation as he says, let there be, and the heavens and the earth that he's created are filled with light and life in beauty and abundance and purpose and meaning. So from the very first page of the Bible, we discover that God does his best work from empty and then from there I just traced through various parts of the story of the Bible and you know jumping to when God begins to create a new people for himself.
Immediately there's a problem because he tells us about Abram and that his wife is Sarah but then at the end of Genesis 11. It tells us about Sarah, but she was barren. She had no children. Her room is empty but is it a problem to God. No, it's not a problem but then of course seeing that in Sarah. It prepares us for another woman whose womb is empty, not because she's too old to have a child but because she's never been with a man, what is it what is the angel say is going to happen is that the Holy Spirit to come and overshadow her and her womb is going to be filled with the very life of God, and I could go on and on because now I see it, so many places throughout the Bible that in fact God over and over again in the lives of his people. He does his best work with empty and I think that such an important reminder, especially at a time like this seminar, I know.
Just as a pastor I look around at the church today and a lot of people feel empty their exhausted their tires and then screw it just seems like this, this book couldn't have come at a better time.
I look also thinking about the fact that you know the things that we often do with our handicaps or weaknesses are emptiness. That's where the strength of Christ is perfected in us. Some you think about over and over that in the New Testament of the apostle Paul talks like that is strength is perfected in my weakness and what it what a beautiful reminder. Yeah, I think we'll we think okay you know God was he to get my act together so I can do a lot for him and I just don't think that is how God intends to work in our lives.
You know he he does his best work in the places where we feel insufficient not up to the task. Why, because then he goes to work in and through our lives in a way that he is glorified that we know in the world can see note this wasn't just something ordinary because a drill or Bill or Nancy got their act together and made something happen know this was God at work. That's what he delights to show the world and honestly what the world longs to see is something supernatural happening in someone's life by the work of God at work in the interior of their lives. Amen. This is core Christianity with our special guest Nancy Guthrie and Nancy we have a question from a listener that really relates to your book. Gabriel emailed us and she says this. I'm getting really burnt out as a parent right now. I already have a full-time job and now I have to be a homeschool teacher to my three kids due to the schools not opening finding time and space for devotions was hard enough before. Can you give me any advice on how to navigate this season of life. Wow. And don't we know that Gabriel represents many many people out there right now and I'm so glad you asked this Gabriel. A couple things for so you say finding time and space for devotions. And you know maybe it's just going to look a little bit different right now then hit has always looked for you. I remember reading a book one time where the author talked about how he he found just in the ordinary parts of his day.
He turned them into prayer prompts, for example. His example was he wanted to remember to be praying for his son-in-law, and so we decided every time I change the liner in the garbage can. I'm going to use that as a prompt to pray for my son and you know just an ordinary thing he did it just became a habit and I just wonder Gabriel is there might be some ordinary times during your day.
Some things you're doing every day as you homeschool your kids and do your work that you could turn into prompts for fellowship with God that you talk to him about the things in your life. Or maybe it's a prompt of a particular passage, you know, maybe right now you're not to be able to tear off huge chunks of Scripture and think through them and write out all your notes and all this but maybe you want to pick a couple of passages that you want to commit to memory so that these ordinary times of the day could prompt you to meditate on that passage to think about that passage to pray through that passage and give you an example of what I mean. Most of us know.
Psalm 23 the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
We know that's right.
And so we got just the first verse and so maybe as you awaken in the morning before you actually crawl out of bed. You call that scripture to mind because you know it, but rather than just like race through it as you lay there, getting awake during the day you begin to think about what is it mean that the Lord is my shepherd isn't good that I've shepherd who really cares for me.
Who knows my needs and because of that Lord. I do have everything I need not necessarily everything I want and then you turn it into a prayer to him, Lord, you are my shepherd I'm defending fully on you. There are so many things that have been taken away from me during this time in covert and yet I know you haven't forgotten me, you are shepherding me your giving me the opportunity to rest you are restoring my soul and so we just turn that into prayer and so maybe it doesn't look like you devotions the rest of the time, but throughout the day you look for opportunities as you are, you know, maybe it's inching the dishwasher. Maybe it's during the shower. You turn your mind to that passage that you implanted deep in your heart and mind and use it as an opportunity for fellowship with God.
I was just thinking there as well. Gabriel when we come before the Lord.
We can just be honest you know that there are times where you get to sit down and have a great time in the word and pray for everyone we know in the things that are going to realize that there other times it's like I got. I feel like I don't have any time, and I don't even feel like crying right now, or doing the right thing help help that's an honest prayer being able to cry out to the Lord in the midst of everything that's going on. Think cod, be merciful to me, and sometimes that is our permit.
I think of the Psalms unit you have those great Psalms of praise and worship and thanksgiving in the Psalms of lament were that the psalmist is just saying help and there are seasons in life.
It sounds like you're in one of those right now where that's our prayer is God just please sustain me I'm overwhelmed I feel empty and that's I think the right prayer to pray in that moment and we go to the God who fills us with his grace with his mercy, who sustains us even when we feel like were empty your listing the core Christianity with pastor Adm. Sanchez and our special guest author Nancy Guthrie. Her latest book is God does his best work with empty you know as well as I do, Nancy.
The world is full of suffering and were singing all around us right now.
What do you say to people who are experiencing emptiness and loss in your new book in the book I traced through the story.
The Bible and we look at the people of God in their experience of emptiness and the way that God works in it. For example, if the children of Israel in the wilderness and their stomachs are empty if you remember it causes them to grumble and complain now. I'm sure you guys would never do that right. It would never turn into grumbling for you but for some of us it does is our natural tendency and what's so interesting when you look at that story is this thing, this like their preferred food choice with the garlic and onions and the fish that they loved. It's not just something they kind of want, they began to crave it so much that they are considering going back to work at the brick factory in Egypt where their children were literally being killed just so they can have that food so this this desire became a craving that consumed them and I think this kind of emptiness that can be the case for us to know this thing is not necessarily a bad thing. Food, not a bad thing, but this thing we kind of want becomes a craving what we learned in their story is that God was at work and later Moses you can speak to the next generation as they get ready to go into the promised land. And he says this about that first generation.
He says God let them hunger so they would know that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. So God was purposeful in allowing them to feel the hunger because he wanted to teach them and he wanted to train them to trust in his provision and I think that's pretty significant for us now like I know in my life and imagine in the lives of so many who are listening, you know there's these things that we've always enjoyed that, aren't bad things that we been cut off from them and it can become a craving that we demand and we can look at so many ways for the world to fill up that empty place rather than trust in God's provision, rather than allowing this wilderness time to be a time when that God actually teaches us and trains us to trust in him in a deeper, more profound way. And so that's the kind of thing that I'm doing the book they look at stories like those children in the wilderness so like Naomi who comes back and she's as I went away full of come back empty or Habakkuk as he's facing a future when there's going to be no fruit on the vine right and no cattle in the stall. A profound emptiness or the writer of Ecclesiastes as he says everything is meaningless and so we look at all of these experiences of emptiness and the way God works to fill it, not with just anything, but with himself with his joy and his peace and his grace we want to answer my pastor once said that your God wants us to have a beautiful steak dinner. We fill up on Doritos like Doritos to I love it that you said that bill because the way I often describe this to people are tendency to fill up with lesser things is like when you're driving on the interstate right and you're looking for the logo of the food place where you want to eat on the exit signs and the one you're looking for it like it doesn't, it doesn't, it doesn't so fine feeling like you're like so hungry.
It is like pull off and you get some kind of substandard fast food fair right and then sure enough you get back in your car into exits down there is that what you are looking for right isn't so true that in the empty places of our lives that empty places in the form of loneliness, boredom, fear about the future we can look to fill that with other things like scrolling to the Internet, working our way through Netflix alcohol food online shopping just so many things that we can look at to fill the emptiness and we get ourselves all filled up with junk food innocence and then we wonder why we have no appetite to read God's word no appetite to talk to him in prayer as we filled it up with so many lesser things once again. Nancy's book is called God does his best work with empty and we have that available on our website. While supplies last. For donation of any amount so head over to core Christianity.com/offers. You can also call us at 833-843-2673 help getting any one of our offers.
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Nancy, here's a question we received from Edward McCall when things are going good in my life. I feel like it's really obvious that God is working in me and working through me being used, but sometimes I just don't feel God's presence whatsoever for life was really still seems like he's not even listening will calling out to him and I just I just hate feeling like so I just want to know what to do to get back to a place to stay in the place rescue like God is actually using all Edward thank you for that.
I think many of us can relate to that feeling that we are praying and we wonder if anyone is listening. I couldn't help but notice so Edward, how many times you use the word feel like or seems like and what that tells me is you have an expectation of a very strong feeling and you depending on your feelings to know whether or not God is working in you whether or not he's working through you. Whether or not he is hearing your prayer. I just want to encourage you Edward to look to another source other than your own senses. The own voice inside your head to know this.
The way that we know God is at work in our lives the way he is working through us is because his word tells us that he will. It requires an exercise of faith, in a sense to say okay God you promise to to hear me when I pray to you because I belong to you. You have promised to work in and through me because I belong to you and so even when I don't see it. I want to believe that you are doing that and that you will do that and I also want to encourage you one other way. Edward in regard to that sense that no one is listening to your prayers. I think so often. My prayer mode has been like I've got this big agenda.
These things that I want and so I totally set the agenda and what I'm praying about and if you think about having a conversation with another person is annoying when one person does all the talking and that is not really a conversation or when you feel like that other person is an even hearing what you're saying. Well, prayer is meant to be a conversation or conversation partner is as we open up God's word, and so I want to encourage you rather than you setting the agenda, just deciding what you pray about open up your Bible to a passage and as you read it every line, every bit of it making a conversation talk back to God about what you're hearing him say through his word is your praying for other people plug their names into those passages asked God to do in their life in your life. What he's promising to do in that passage and I think Edward that you will have a deeper sense that your prayers are becoming richer and more meaningful and that there being heard is you make a conversation you, Edward. One of the I think reasons that we struggle with this is because so often, our feelings are just determined by our circumstances and were experiencing difficult circumstances. Like many people have been because of the coronavirus or the loss of work we don't have that same sense of joy and a feeling of God's absence.
But you look at a guy like apostle Paul in the New Testament and he was shipwrecked, hungry, talk about the empty you know, beaten on numerous occasions were told was what he said in Romans chapter 8 verses 38, 39 for I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The primary sign that God loves you and is at work in your life is his goodness to you in the gospel. I think all of us in SMU. The nail on the head. We have those times in our lives. We do feel or don't feel that the presence of the Lord. But even there, God is working.
I'm curious Nancy is you studied the idea of emptiness throughout Scripture, what did you learn about the nature and character of God. Always when were in God's word.
Our desire is that it would help us to see him more clearly what he's doing in the world through Christ, and I think one thing that really helped me was to go back to actually before the beginning.
Earlier I said it. I looked right there in Genesis 1 how God was able to fill the emptiness but as I kept I realized how is it that he could do it. It's because he is a God of divine fullness.
When we think about all of the attributes of God. All of the things that make him who he is. It's not like you got a minimal amount or an adequate amount of these things what we know about God is love. He is abundant in mercy, and so it helps to think about God is this God who he has so much fullness the fullness of his grace and love and mercy and forgiveness. He super abounds in all of these things in here is this God was full and his inclination is orientation.
His posture is to share with his people out of that fullness love you know God is not stingy when you think about Moses. Moses, the first person that got introduced himself to personally member that Moses is like, you know, show me your glory and who shall I say me when I went to the Pharaoh, and God says to him, I am who I am. I am the God who is slow to anger abundant in mercy. Wow, that's who he is and so as we think of ourselves and we can tend to think of ourselves and focus solely on our need, what we see again and again is that God fill our needs out of his abundance. I think one of the best pictures of this is there on the hillside member. All of those 5000 people are following Jesus and gets to be lunchtime. Every hungry and what is Jesus. Do you know he takes those loaves and fish and he feeds 5000 people, but that we get this extra little detail.
There are 12 baskets of food left over fills us so abundantly out of his divine fullness. Nancy, thank you so much for your time today. Once again Nancy's book is called God does his best work with empty we have that available here at core Christianity while supplies last.
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