Submit, Serve and Worship in the Wind

This will be my last post for a while.  I like to journal some thoughts and prayers.  These are some thoughts that I wrote down recently on a break at work.  I am out on the road a lot, so I get to stop in some great places to eat my lunch and enjoy God’s creation.  I hope and pray that this adds value to your life as it did mine.  I know it may have been my hand holding the pen, but it was God that was doing the writing.  Here it is…

 

I am sitting at Fern Cliff State Park, listening to instrumental worship music, just admiring God’s beautiful creation.  I can literally see His presence in the wind as it moves the water on the pond.  It is winter, and every branch and limb are visible on the trees, save for a few clusters of ever greens.  The leafless trees are like the veins of the earth in which God’s breath of life flow.  They reach in to the sky, toward heaven, swaying back and forth as if they were hands raised and waving in worship to the creator.  These rarely visited areas of Southern Illinois are the forgotten places.  Places where, if visited, can give the individual a grand visual of the natural beauty of God’s glorious creation.  Yet, most of humanity is caught up in the fast-paced hustle and bustle of the concrete jungles, never realizing that God created us to become such incredible creatures that would and continue to build such amazing architectural achievements.

We don’t even take time to realize the true greatness that has been in us from the beginning.  Greatness that has was welded in to our DNA.  Just think of the great names throughout history.  From Moses to Isaiah to Paul and John.  Names like Alexander the Great all the way to the likes of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr.  Names that are legendary.  Yet we see these names, and others like them, and view them as a rarity or anomaly.  We see them as the “rare breed” of human beings.  Most of us don’t believe that we can accomplish such things as those who carry those names.  Yet, all of humanity has the same DNA.  Our physical features may be different but who and what we are meant to be at our core is very much the same.

See, God created us all for greatness.  Why do so many refuse to take the time to know their creator?  To speak with Him and discover the treasure that we were created to be?  To take the time to discover what greatness He has in store for us?  The trees don’t question what they are commanded, and they ALWAYS become what they are meant to be.  They do what they were created to do from the beginning.  They do these things and still they worship in the wind.  What is even crazier is the trees were not created to live in communion with God.  Or, to have dominion over the earth and all that is in it.  To truly enjoy the fruits of creation like humanity was created to do.

Humanity continues to squander and suppress the greatness that it was meant for.  Still, in God’s unending love and unwavering faithfulness for us, He gave us the opportunity and THE WAY for us to achieve these things.  JESUS!  A chance to finally realize the greatness that has been in our DNA all along.  Jesus is the key to unlocking the chest inside of us that holds the treasure of greatness.  It is not complicated.  It is quite simple.  Simple does not mean easy though.  We just have to submit and serve.

Submit how?  Like you would to a thief holding you at gun point?  NO!  Submit like you don’t have all the answers.  It is admitting that you are wrong, and God is right.  If God wasn’t right and didn’t have a better way for you then He wouldn’t be much more than we are, but He is so far beyond us that our finite minds are incapable of fathoming Him.  So just submit that His way is better.

OK, but what do you mean by serve then?  Like a slave to a master?  NO!  I mean like a son to a father.  We serve out father out of love and to fill the desire to be loved.  Our fathers give us love and guidance just because!  They desire only to see us flourish in life and to have happiness and fulfillment.  Our fathers actually serve us when you stop to think about it.  They work to provide the means to give us that which we need and desire.  A father would spare all of his time to give us and help us through the madness of life.  They become our heroes.  They do more for us than we could ever do for them.  Our heavenly Father is no different.  HE will do more for us that we do for Him.  HE will love us more than we could even imagine loving Him.  So, we serve him by making Him our hero.  By desiring that time with Him.  By desiring His guidance through life.  By sharing that love with those who we meet and get to go through life with.

So, to submit and serve is achieving greatness.  We need to be like the trees and worship in the wind.  Let the wind sway you the direction you need to go.  That wind is your Father showing you love and guidance.  The wind is His loving embrace.  The wind is His desire for you to become that which He created you to be.

Stop Talking and Listen!

I always feel like I need to write some grand opening to a post.  Something to spark interest in the reader.  It hit me today that I am not here to generate interest.  I am here to motivate, encourage and even challenge us all to dig deeper in to our spirituality and relationship with God.  That being said, lets get to the point.  WE TALK TOO MUCH!

 

That’s right!  We talk way too much, myself included.  We spend so much time talking to God and never stop to truly listen to Him.  We don’t take that time to have true communion.  There is so much noise around us from life that we neglect that time.  We seem to want to figure out how to fit time with Him in to our lives instead of fitting our lives in to our time with Him.  We will surely take time to talk to Him when we need something though.

 

Even those people who have the most active prayer lives forget to just listen.

 

“God help me with this…”

“Father get me through that…”

“Lord, where should I go from here?”

 

One request after another never stopping to listen to His voice and His direction.  Never stopping to hear the solution He has for us.  They say that prayer is how we talk to God and meditation is how we listen to God.  How many of us will sit down and read scripture just to read it?  Do we really meditate on God’s word?  That is one way He speaks to us.  That scripture is a key component in that communication.  We have to slow our minds down and find a time to get rid of the noise of life.  David lays out a plan that he uses to listen to God in Psalm 143:8:

 

“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust.  Make me know the way I should go for to you I life up my soul.” (ESV)

 

David set aside time in the morning to just listen to God.  To hear God’s direction for his life.  I believe that all of us seek that guidance but most of us fail to truly listen for it.  We just expect a “slap in the face” moment of what to do or where to go.  We ask for the guidance and then go on about our lives because we are just too busy.

 

I hope that no one is offended by this topic.  This is on my heart because I am in a season of life where I needed a “reboot” (reference the post from Wednesday).  I needed to slow down and hear the solutions God has laid before me.  To see the path that He has cleared for me to travel.  I have spent this last week doing my best to just listen to Him.  Every morning on my drive time to work I have turned on a Christian Meditation music video I have found on YouTube.  It is 3 hours of piano music.  It has helped me clear my mind of all of the outside noise.  Starting my day that way has given me a fresh tank of gas.  It is something I am going to commit to doing for the foreseeable future.  I encourage and challenge all of you to do the same thing.  Maybe you already do.  If that is the case, then continue on and maybe share ways that you just slow your mind down and block out those outside distractions.  As my friend Brendan put it, take some time to just listen and let God tell you about you.  Let him share with you what He created you for.  Let Him share with you that incredible plan He has for your life.

Focus to Hear, Focus to See

I like to do my own study of scripture.  At the start of this year though, our church started a journey through scripture together.  We are using an app called Read Scripture.  It is set up to be a front to back read of the Bible over the course of the whole year.  What a great journey it has been in the short time we have been doing it.  Never have I seen the book of Genesis through this lens.  This is important to my story, because if it was not for the wisdom given to me over the last couple of weeks I would not have the story and message I am about to share.

 

I was on the phone with a friend last night.  We could spend hours on the phone just breaking down life and our world view.  We were discussing opportunity and faith.  We were trying to find new ways to keep ourselves motivated and offering suggestions to each other on how to prioritize things in our life.  My friend made a comment that went something like this:

 

“I have made it a point to make sure my focus is on Christ over the last year.  I believe that because of that He has opened up new doors and presented new opportunities in my life.”

 

That is excellent, right?!  When he said that it was like a firework show went off in my mind.  The Holy Spirit filled my heart with passion instantly.  Words just started flowing!  This is a summary of what I said:

 

“If there is one thing I have learned in the last couple of weeks reading in Genesis is that God has an unwavering, unflinching, passionate, and true faithfulness and love to us!  I believe that we humanize God so much that we think that HE decides that HE isn’t going to offer us any opportunity or open doors in our life because our focus is not on him.  That couldn’t be more wrong!  Because of HIS incredible faithfulness and love, that we can not even begin to comprehend, HE is ALWAYS opening doors and presenting opportunities for us.  It is because of our lack of focus on HIM, that we are unable to see and hear those opportunities.  We are too deaf and too blind to realize the work HE is doing because we have taken our focus off HIM!”

 

You got all that from a couple of weeks spent in Genesis?  YUP!  See, God created all things to be good.  He created us to be good.  In all that glorious creation, WE messed it up.  We took God’s magnificent creation and made it bad.  Despite humanity’s constant screw up and rebellion against HIM he continues to be faithful and loving.  HE opens new doors for them to be good.  HE presents new opportunities to be blessed and flourish.  Humanity, repeatedly, takes their focus off HIM and thus misses out on the continued GOOD work that God is doing for them.  HE wasn’t withholding the goodness of creation at all.  HE was trying to get humanity to take advantage of HIS work!  Humanity likes to think that because of their own actions they can enjoy God’s blessings, but it is because God’s work that we are able to enjoy it!

 

In HIS foreknowledge HE knew this would happen and made a promise very early in humanity’s existence.  After the serpent had succeeded in its deception, God promised that from the lineage of the woman would come a mysterious victor that would crush the serpents under foot and the serpent would get a fatal strike at the victor’s heal.  Guess who that is?  You better believe it!  JESUS!!  The entire Bible points to Jesus!  If that is the case, then don’t you think humanity’s focus should be on HIM?  Can we now realize that it is our focus on HIM that allows us to enjoy the continued good work HE is doing in our lives?  The continued opening of doors.  The constant presenting of opportunities.

 

I will be honest.  A fire has been burning in my spirit this last year but, WOO, that flame was the biggest it has ever been last night!  The joy and excitement at the realization that HE has got me and HIS amazingly perfect will in my life is far better than anything I could imagine trying to focus on something other than HIM!

One Tool. One Resource.

As you read the Bible there is a pattern that arises.  God is awesome, we mess up, God saves us, God is still awesome, and then we mess up again and the process starts all over.  This is something that my wife and I were talking about just last night.  Specifically, there was a perspective of God giving us another chance to make it right.  That got me thinking, which is usually scary.

 

Those of us that are parents typically have a desire to do things for our children to make it easier on them.  For instance, our daughter is in gymnastics.  When she is at practices and competitions we are not able to be out on the floor with her.  We can only watch.  When she makes a mistake and I see that disappointment on her face, I want so badly to be out there to life her spirits and give her pointers.  If I could I would just do it for her, so she didn’t have to deal with the mistakes and emotions.  I would turn back time to give her another chance in whatever event she is doing.  I also know that doing it for her or turning back time would not be good parenting.  I must put away my own emotions and allow her to work through these things and simply provide her with the tools and resources to get better and grow.

 

So, why does this apply to the pattern that we see develop as we read the Bible?  I believe that God absolutely does NOT give us a chance to “make it right.”  We can’t “do it right” to begin with.  That is our problem.  No matter how hard we try, we are unable to “do it right.”  We need HIM to be able to do it right.  As our heavenly father what does God do?  He sets us up for success.

 

Throughout history we see humanity screw it all up.  Whether it is the fall, the screwed-up kings, the crazy judges, our inability to keep up with our end of the covenant, or crucifying Jesus, we never get it right.  Despite all that God never just wipes the slate clean and says, “Try that again.”  Even with the flood He doesn’t wipe it all clean.  He keeps a miniscule portion of humanity around.  Even they screwed it up despite being the only ones saved from the flood.  What He does do is give us the tools, resources, and ability to move forward and grow in HIM.  He gave Noah the plans for the Death Star, wait, I mean the ark (thought I was writing a Star Wars review for a moment).  He certainly did not build it for Noah, though He could have.  Instead, he gave Noah the resources, tools, and the ability to get it done.

 

Read the book of Judges, again if you need to.  God didn’t just give the land back to Israel when they messed up over and over again.  He gives them what they need to get it back.  He even goes ahead of them as a lead blocker at times.  In the end, it caused Israel to continue to rely on HIM and cry out to HIM.  He was glorified, even though the Israelites didn’t see it.

 

What about the apostles?  If He was going to just do it for them He wouldn’t have needed them to begin with.  Instead, HIS ability as a perfect father encouraged and facilitated growth.  He taught them.  Which brings us to Jesus.

 

Jesus was the final, and ultimately the only, tool and resource we needed all along.  He was building us up to that point.  He was planning that all along.  No matter what mistakes we make we can come to the Throne of Grace through Jesus.  Through our faith in Jesus we are BEING transformed.  Humanity was always BEING transformed.  We weren’t being given second chances because without HIM we never had a chance to begin with.  Now, we continue to be transformed.  Transformed by the only resource ever needed.  The only one that would give us the ability to “get it right.”  JESUS!  Our SAVIOR!  Our KING!

 

Maybe I am over simplifying all of it.  In my mind though it is too perfect.  Too simple.  I don’t feel like I constantly must be begging for another chance.  I don’t feel like I must pay for a debt of mistakes.  That debt was paid on the cross.  It was paid with the blood of Jesus when He willingly became sin for me.  So, all I must do is trust in HIM?  YUP!  Its not complicated.  One tool.  One resource.  Jesus!

 

 

A side note:

Our church has started reading the Bible together.  We are doing this on our own time using the Read Scripture App.  If you have never checked this app out, then you should.  We have started a facebook group to have discussions about the daily readings.  Multiple people from multiple churches have joined the group already.  If you are looking for a new and fun way to read through the entire Bible this year, then I would encourage you to join us!  If you are interested, you can search the group.  It is called “Read Together.  Grow together.”  Just ask to join and we will approve you.  This is a great opportunity for Christians from all denominations to come together and grow spiritually together!

Been There Before

This will not be long today.  I only have my phone available to me at the moment so that is what I am using for this (gotta love today’s technology filled world). 
I have been doing some reflecting over this last year, as my wife and I talk about our goals for 2018.  It caused me to reflect back even further in my past.  It has been a wild ride.  One thing stood out to me about my past.

If you played sports at all growing up then you have probably heard the saying, “Act like you have been there before.”  It was a way of telling someone to show some class and character when they scored or were victorious.  In my early adult years I got really good at patting myself on the back when I did something right or when I performed a good deed.  I can’t help but think what did that say about me at the time.  In particular, I would do it with my spiritual life.   
Most of us would think that this is about having some humility.  It is not.  See, I used to tell people things like, “I went to church today”, “I helped an old lady cross the street”, or “I read my Bible today.”  The reason was because it wasn’t the norm for me.  I wanted to appear to be doing the right thing.  I wanted someone to give me justification because I didn’t actually have that laser focus on Christ like I should have.
I came to that conclusion because over the last couple of years God has been working hard on me. In doing so, HE has transformed me in to a laser focused, fired up, Spirit filled son.  The norm is now the right thing.  I don’t need to celebrate my “good deeds” anymore because they are not a rare occurrence.  It is just the norm.  
I know people who are in a place where I used to be.  You may as well.  Remember that those people are probably still searching for that burning desire for Christ like I was.  They may very well be believers like I was, yet they still feel inadequate.  So lift them up and give them guidance.  Let them know that Jesus made them adequate and they don’t need to do a touchdown dance for people to notice their growth and their heart.  They just need to let the Spirit take control and guide them.  By the Spirit, through faith, is where the fruits will show.
As you go in to 2018 remember to “Act like you’ve been there before.”  Let the Spirit take control so that 2018 will be a year like no other.  A year of total freedom and constant joy!  God bless each and every one of you who read and contribute to Barnabas Man!  See you next year!!

Be A Neighbor

What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself?  I was doing some reading this morning in Luke.  Part of that was the parable of the good Samaritan.  Here it is:

 

Luke 10:25-37

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

 

Seems simple enough right?  Just help your fellow man.  There is a deeper meaning in this text.  Jesus replies to the lawyer with a parable but at the end of that parable He asks, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to BE A NEIGHBOR to the man who fell among the robbers?”  Jesus didn’t share a parable that helped the lawyer discern who his neighbor is at all.  He replied with a parable on how the lawyer himself should be the neighbor.

It was not until this morning that I ever noticed that.  It sent my mind in to a whirlwind of thoughts.  Yes, we are to show love to all.  Even to those who we would not otherwise have any form of relationship with.  Yet, in order to show that love, we ourselves must BE THE NEIGHBOR.  How can we be the best neighbor?  How can we show the most love to others?  It all starts with working on ourselves.  We all have struggles.  We all have ups and downs.  We also all have the ability to grow continually.  God has given us all of the tools we need to be what HE meant for us to be.  We just need to use these tools.  God feeds the birds but HE doesn’t drop the worms in their nest.  They have to go work for it.

 

So, we dive in to scripture.  We pray.  We surround ourselves with those who will motivate us and lift us up.  We challenge ourselves daily.  We are not afraid of challenging our current understanding of God and HIS word.  That challenge should encourage us to dig deeper so that we have a better understanding.  There are so many books out there that seem to be unused resources.  So many people before us and currently have shared the information we are seeking.  You know the people I am speaking of.  They are the ones we look at and wish we had the understanding or relationship with God that they have.  Who says we can’t?  That is why if we seek to truly BE A NEIGHBOR we must be diligent in the work we do on ourselves.  We have to put the time in to growing ourselves.  We must invest in ourselves to grow the love, peace, kindness and joy with the people we have contact with.

 

The question today is not “Who is my neighbor?”  The answer to that is EVERYONE!  Rather, the question is “How can I BE A NEIGHBOR?”

 

Father, I pray that we all use the tools you have given us to grow.  That we will not seek out who it is that will be our neighbor but rather seek you more so that we ourselves can BE THE NEIGHBOR you have called us to be.  Amen!   

Constantly Working

There has been a swell of excitement for me the last few days.  So many great things going on in life that are moving our family forward to what we are seeking to accomplish.  I truly thought that there was no way for anything to top the excitement that I had last night.  It only took one phone call to change that.  This phone call made all of the other excitement look like the crowd at Westminster Dog Show.

 

Earlier this year an old friendship was rekindled through my wife and I’s business.  It was great to catch up with my friend and hear about what has gone on in life.  We hadn’t talked in a decade!  There was a lot to catch up on.  It turned out that he went through a stretch of life that was very self-destructive.  There were drugs.  There was a lot of alcohol.  There were different women.  There were negative people surrounding him, just preying off him.  It was a bad time.  However, he was different when we reconnected!  He was on fire for Christ!

 

His passion was contagious.  See, at the time I was in a stretch where I was disconnected.  I didn’t have the same passion for Christ that I did in the past.  You think it was a coincidence that we reconnected when we did?  NOPE!  As we continued to hang out over the following weeks, my passion grew again.  God was using my friend to light that fire again!  Since then, that fire has done nothing but grow!

 

So, what happened to my friend?  Back in July he was doing some things that concerned those of us that were closest to him.  I brought it to his attention.  We had agreed that we would hold each other accountable.  I came to him out of love but the honesty I brought was not easy for him to hear.  He cut me out.  We stopped talking for months.  I got reports on him from others.  I wasn’t asking others, but they knew we had grown close and they felt that I may be able to help him.  He still wouldn’t even answer a text message, let alone a phone call.  What do we do in a situation like that?  We pray!

 

My prayer life has not always been the best.  I prayed anyway.  It was because of this situation that my prayer life was kicked back in to gear!  God again used him to do a work in me that grew me even closer to Him.  God was working in my friend’s life as well.  Behind the scenes, where no one could see, God was stirring my friend up and tugging on his heart.  Some tough things started happening to him again.  He wasn’t on the same path he once was with drugs and alcohol, but the choices he was making were causing turmoil in his life and relationships.  The relationship with his family was growing tense.  The relationship with his children was becoming rough.  Most importantly, his relationship with Christ seemed to be on the rocks.  God was working anyway!

 

That phone call I mentioned at the beginning happened last night.  I thought it was strange that my friend was calling me.  I thought he was still frustrated with me.  It turns out that through the turmoil, God was working on his heart.  God was letting him get to a place where the only one left to rely on was Him.  As we talked on the phone my friend began to get emotional.  He just opened up the gates.  He laid out that he had a moment finally where he just cried out, “Jesus, I am broken and I just need you more than I need anything else!”  Boom!  A switch was flipped.  He continued to pray over the last month.  He continued to dive back in to the word like he used to.  He was rambling on joyfully about God like he used to.  Finally, revealed to me that God is calling him to the ministry!  He said he is on a mission now!  A mission that no one will stop him from completing.  A mission that God has put him on and will continue to go ahead of him to accomplish!

 

I have no other reason for sharing this story than just to remind everyone of the work that God is ALWAYS doing!  No matter what the situation, He is working.  No matter where we are at in our faith, He is working.  No matter who it is, He is working.  I ask you all to pray for my friend and also rejoice in the work that God is doing in his life AND in mine AND in yours!  He is ALWAYS working!!!!!!

Spirit + Faith = Freedom

I just want to talk today about something that blows my mind every time I read it.  First, a little backdrop to give some perspective.

 

Growing up my family did not attend church regularly.  My mom would take us on occasion because she really felt that we should go.  It still happened only on rare occasions.  We would go thru spurts of attending for a few weeks and then not for a month or 2.  We were however raised to believe.  My dad was a man who had such a strong faith, but I never once saw him step foot through church doors unless there was a wedding or special event.  He dove in to the word daily though.  Multiple times a day.  I felt like every moment of down time he had was spent in the word.  His actions set a great example for me.  He talked to me regularly about what he was reading.  He encouraged me to dig in to scripture myself.  Never told me I had to do specific things for God to love me.  He facilitated growth by meeting me at the spiritual level I was at instead of expecting me to come up to his level.  It wasn’t until he passed away when I was 13 that I started attending church regularly.

 

I turned 14 about seven months after my dad passed.  We moved from Key West to Southern Illinois.  Southern Illinois is “Bible Belt” territory.  My uncle pastored a church and I started to attend regularly.  It was shortly after that I really came to know Christ myself.  I attended only one church through out my high school years.  That church taught me that there were so many things wrong in the world.  I don’t mean that in a good way either.  It seemed like there was nothing in the world that we, as Christians, were “allowed” to do.  I felt like I was constantly screwing up because I was constantly trying to live by this set of rules that I was told I needed to follow.  I was led to believe that for me to be “right with God” I had to follow these rules, or I wasn’t a true Christian.  I honestly didn’t know any better at the time.  That is all I had knows in my Christian life.  I am not saying that this was a bad church.  I don’t mean to make them sound like they were controlling.  This is not the church from Footloose.  I was just young and new in my faith and most likely heard them wrong.

 

Here I am now, 20 years later.  I am so glad that Christ starts a work in us that lasts a life time.  I have had so many ups and downs.  So many wrestling matches with God.  Should I do this?  Should I say that?  Should I act like this?  Why can’t I seem to do what I am “supposed” to do?  But, this last year has reignited a fire and desire for Christ!  It is a fire that I had thought went out years prior because I had given up trying to “get right” by doing the “right things.”  Here is one of the passages that has reignited that fire:

 

Galatians 5:5-6

For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

 

Galatians 5:22-23

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

 (I encourage everyone to read all of Galatians 5)

Boom!  Mind blown!  That passage is so freeing!!!  The rules I attempted to follow counted for nothing because it is through the Spirit, by faith, that I have the hope to be righteous!  And, there are no laws against the fruits of the Spirit!  You see friends, we have no need to struggle to uphold a set of rules that is laid out.  We only need to trust in our faith and let the Spirit lead us.  It is through the Spirit, by faith, that we can uphold the standards that GOD has for us.  It is only by the work of Christ that we can live in those standards!  How powerful is that?!  I have read that scripture so many times though out my life and it never clicked.  I was just reading it because someone said I had to in the past.  Now, I read it because the Spirit gives me the desire and excitement to get in to the word.

 

Father, may we all through the Spirit, by faith, come to know you more, come to be a walking testament of the fruits of the Spirit, and come to know what true freedom feels like.  Amen!

Holiday Mindset

It is that time of year again.  Thanksgiving is now behind us and Christmas is upon us.  During this time, there is always talk of giving, helping, sharing and blessing.  It is the time of joy and love.  Why everyone waits until 10+ months have passed before becoming joyful and loving is beyond me, but we as Christians are called for so much more.  We are called to do this each and every day.  But, how do we give?  How do we share?  How are we joyful?  How do we love?

 

Deuteronomy 10:12-22

12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear.21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven. 

 

Do we give only because we are attempting to keep the commandments of God?  No.  We give because our hearts have been changed by God.  We don’t do it to earn God’s approval.  We don’t do it to earn God’s acceptance.  We do this because we already have his approval and acceptance.  We do this because we love God.  Through that love that we feel we are able to joyfully give to others.  The Holy Spirit now dwells in us and we have new desires.  Not desires of our old, dead selves.  They are desires of our new, living self!

 

We should take the mindset of this holiday season and apply it to our lives beyond the holiday season.  We are each blessed in different ways.  It is because we are blessed that we should bless others.  I am not saying that we should bless others to earn any favor or to get praise from those around us.  I am saying that because our focus is on God that we are blessed.  Because our focus is on God we desire to bless others.  We desire to help widows, orphans, sojourners, or anyone in need.  Don’t horde your blessings.  Don’t horde your possessions and money and food.  I would remind us that like the Israelites in Egypt, we are still sojourners.  What we have in this life is not the reward.

1 Peter 2:9-12

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

 

We are simply here temporarily.  We are sojourners and exiles in this world, waiting on our inheritance in Christ.  It is because of Christ that we are able to give and share joyfully.  What if that one time you give to someone in need, despite them being an unbeliever, is the time that God reveals Himself to them through you and your “honorable conduct”?  At that moment, we can say that because of God’s work in us, another “homeless” soul has been given an eternal home in Heaven!

 

So, this holiday season I encourage you to do what most of us usually do.  Enjoy our family.  Donate gifts to children in need.  Donate clothing to a single mother or father.  Volunteer your time at a homeless shelter to feed the hungry.  Drop some change in the Salvation Army bucket when you go in to Walmart.  Just don’t stop when the holidays are over.  Continue to share the blessings you have.  Continue to give joyfully to those in need.  Answer the calling that we all have from God, to love others every single day.  Instead of always searching for new ways for ourselves to gain more, let us always be searching for new ways to give to others.  It is through that giving that we will truly gain more than our hearts and minds could fathom in this life.

 

Father, let each and every one of us have our hearts filled with love this holiday season.  Let us enjoy our families and our gatherings.  But I pray that we would use this time as a way to catapult our joy and love in to our daily lives now and always because of the joyful and loving heart that you gave us when you shared your gift of grace with us.  I pray that we always remember that this life is just a temporary dwelling for us and not the reward.  Amen! 

Solution to Struggle

We all struggle with something in our spiritual lives.  Some struggle with consistently getting in to God’s word.  Some struggle with understanding of God’s word.  Some struggle with the doctrine proclaimed in the Gospel.  I personally struggle with prayer.  How to do it, when to do it, why we do it, what to ask for, what to thank for, how often.  But, our journeys are all different.  We all gain wisdom and understanding at a different pace according to God’s will in our life.  Plus, it is all laid out in God’s word!  No matter how many times we may have read certain scripture in the past, we won’t be granted the understanding of it until it is time for us to do so.  All of that being said, let me talk a little about some of my struggles with prayer and the understanding I have been granted at this point in my life.

 

One of the biggest things I struggle with is what to bring to God.  Some of you may be thinking, “It is simple.  Bring everything to God.”  I know that already, but in my finite mind I still struggled with whether certain things were big enough to bring to God.  It has always been easy for me to bring “the big things” to God.  But “the small things” I always felt were not worth God’s time and effort.  My first mistake there was thinking that God had to use effort at all to do or not do something in my life.  My second was assuming God has the same concept of time that I have.  I have to come to terms with the fact that there is nothing to big or too small for God.  Prayer is the way we communicate with God and how we can get to know HIM better.  What better way to bring what I consider to be the smallest of things to HIM.  At a minimum, I will be praying a lot more often because there are small things every moment of every day.  That doesn’t mean that a solution will present itself immediately or even in a year, but it will present itself because God’s time is not my time.  God’s concept of time is far beyond my understanding.  There is a reason why HE provides a solution immediately or even a decade from now.

 

I have been reading in the book of Acts lately but today I was searching for scriptures on prayer.  After all, that is my current struggle.  I was guided to Ephesians 6:18.  When I study any scripture I always at least read an entire chapter, if not more, to make sure I have a better understanding and can unpack what God is saying properly.  I started at the beginning of chapter 6.  I began to be enlightened starting in verse 10.  Here is Ephesians 6:10-20:

 

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

 

Most of us are familiar with this passage, but again I remind you that we don’t always grasp it all after one reading.  Most of us probably walk away with a new understanding each time we read it.  Today was no different for me.  I have come to realize that the weapons that God gives us are spiritual because they are rooted in prayer.  Prayer is our most powerful resource and I used it sparingly and put limits on it.  By doing that I have not been able to wear that full armor of God.  It is through prayer that we are able to wear each and every piece of the armor needed in this life.

 

One of the things I also struggled with was how often I prayed.  But look at what verse 18 says:

18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,  

 

Four times Paul uses the word ALL!  I need to pray at ALL times!  Prayer in the spirit is worship.  The Spirit enables that worship.  That is a powerful thing to know.  It is awe inspiring to know that the Spirit is interceding on our behalf when we pray.  That we are able to have a direct line to God to get to know HIM better and for HIM to work in our lives.

 

So, no matter what your struggles are today, have joy in the fact that the truth and wisdom and understanding will be granted to you as you continue to wear the armor of God.  Pray so you are able to wear that armor.  Use the only offensive weapon in your arsenal, God’s Word!  There is no better weapon!  I doubt you question that but just in case:

 

Hebrews 4:12

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

 

There is one prayer I have for us all today:

Heavenly Father, I pray that I am able to pray.  Amen!