just going to say it…there is nothing more important than our relationship with God and building faith through practice. but there have been days that almost feel like the very life we live has contracted one of those pesky computer viruses and compromised our system. we were walking along minding our own peaceful biz, staying out of other folks way, staying the course of our day, talking with Him in the midst of every situation, thanking Him continuously and then it’s almost as if we drop out of cellular coverage, lose the wi-fi signal. and what is worse, it may be sometime before we realize it! the schedule, the deadline, the “to do” list commandeers our connection with Him. we then find ourselves scrambling in apologies for the loss of focus on the very One that sustains us. praying for a stronger signal to put us back online with what we have know be the information highway that guides our journey. and then..like all prayers are answered in His way, in His time, it happens. a moment of silence, a slowing of the earth’s rotation, we hear Him. we see Him. we feel His presence. we reconnect the signal. we are back “on”. just remember, He provides online support 24/7/365 and it is all of us that need to stay dialed in and connected.
“The Lord replied “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints is when I carried you.” – Mary Stevenson
things these days are a bit unsettled to say the least …the economy, the job market, and the cost of waking up everyday is going up. the wars and upcoming anniversary of september 11th always reminds us of how fragile our world is and how quickly it can all turn to dust. many of us are feeling helpless. in fact, many of us are re-thinking the way we think. if all this “doom and gloom” has done anything it has allowed so many if us to ask ourselves if we are where we want to be and if we are doing all we can do…looking for a sign for His plan for us. and again, it’s so simple. it’s right in front of us. when we are driving out of our neighborhoods we see it on top of buildings, when we check out at the register on the cashier’s jewelry, it’s even on the waiter’s tattoo at the corner restaurants. it’s a cross…it’s a sign…it’s the answer.
“and calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34
when we have been treated unjustly we all have the natural instinct to react, to protect ourselves. God must have given us this built-in feature as a defense mechanism, right? so that we would not fall prey to fools, thieves and criminals. He might even have armed us all with this quality in order to protect each other, to look out for the weak or less fortunate. we may even swing back literally or figuratively in haste, not with malice but with self-preservation. we could issue our judgments to explain away the behavior, not to belittle but to seek understanding and compassion. and we may react with anger, not to settle a score but to insert our passion for what is right and just. in our actions we might seek resolution for the wrongs that have been committed in some circumstance privately with God, in others out in front for all to see. and there in lies the quandary, which is it? are we to forgive and forget, work it out from within and let God take it from here? or should we to act to protect the very goodness He stands for? He says “vengeance in mine” (Roman 12:19) and so do we walk away from the perpetrator and allow Him to do his work? or do we act on His behalf in an effort to “seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless” (Isaiah 1:17). that’s a tough one but here’s a thought…maybe there is more than one answer. maybe “it depends”. but we do know this, we are called to live our lives by the Son’s example and yet we have witnessed his forgiveness as well the selfless actions he took so that there would be justice for others. we also know where He went for all His answers…His Father. He prayed.
“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” John 5:30
building our faith is the ultimate goal but remember “building” is the key word. the concept indicates action is taking place. that there is planning, there are tools and there are hands on. think about the things we have built in varying stages of our lives from sand castles and lego cars, from friendships to reputations, from a house of cards to a happy home, each one of us has building experience. we can all agree that the investment in the time of construction was necessary to accomplish the structure, good or bad. we have been built up and been torn down by ourselves and others throughout our lives but each person along our path has provided the architecture of who we are. we have been told that a strong foundation is where we begin, however we continue our quest for the solid construction of our souls. remember “building’ is an action item so in order to assemble our unshakable faith and the storm proof soul, prepare your foundation with a planned dedicated time, bring the proper equipment for the heavy load and get your hands dirty. do the work necessary to build the greatest design yet, God’s house in yourself.
“but you, dear friends, build yourself up in your most holy faith and pray in the holy spirit.’ – Jude 1:20
when many of us cook we use a recipe. sometimes these recipes call for a ‘dash of salt”. why a dash? because it matters. that small amount of flavor makes a difference. this minuscule amount is missed if not included. if it were to be omitted, one might taste the dish, pull away the fork and say…needs a bit of salt. this small effort and small detail can complete the dish and not leave folks wanting for more or searching for the shaker! so what we may consider an insignificant ingredient, a puny addition, a miniature effort could make the chefs concoction a memorable experience. and so are our lives…these small efforts and simple decisions do make all the difference in whether we are left wanting for more or satisfied with what we have been served. there are a lot of days for a lot of us that we feel in order to be better or give more it is just too overwhelming and so we do not begin. my challenge is to start with just a smidgen. a bit more than nothing and see what you can accomplish in your life or the life of someone who needs you.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32
think of it this way, when you look through a telescope you can see in great detail the craters on the moon. from the cheep seats you can see the sweat on the players with binoculars. with a magnifying glass, the amazing designs of a small insect. over our existence, humans have developed ways to see what we cannot see. through our desire to learn, understand and enjoy our world more fully we have found ways to get a closer look. and as close as we can get to outer space we have only barely scratched the surface of what is there. our relationship with God can be seen or unseen in the same way…although we don’t have physical tools to help us see our faith clearer, we do have the ability to glow closer and see Him more clearly. most of us have had the experience of seeing Him up close in the birth of a child, a death, in tough times and miraculous blessings. and if we focus in on day to day prayers, devotional reading and worship we can allow ourselves to blow of the dust, wipe the foggy glass, and zoom in on a clear vision of our faith and creator. only then can we can see.
for now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. now i know in part; then i shall know fully, even as i am fully known. 1Corinthians 13:12
at times we feel the events of our lives are out of our control. the tide has turned on us and we feel there isn’t anything we can do to affect the rising waters. that may be true and in fact that may well be God working to create a new foundation for us to build upon, changing us drastically for reasons we may not know for many years. however, other times the events of our lives are a series of decisions; choices we have made that will create “the man” we are becoming. these are the times when we have defined ourselves through our actions. these are the moments when we get to take ownership, when the outcomes are good…we may even get an award, a medal and have the approval of others for taking the harder road, for a job well done. and then there are less than favorable time, when our decisions have caught up with us, consequences have set in, relationships strained, doors are shut. and as powerful as our God can be in our lives, His ultimate goal is not to have control over us. He is the puppet maker, not the puppet master. His gift to us is the ultimate “super power of free will” and for each of us to choose our path using the “utility belt” of prayer, scripture, forgiveness, the presence of the holy spirit and so on that He has given. the trick is putting it to good use. and even though we can be ready to fight at a moments notice with our bag of weapons: the sword of truth, the shield of His strength, the cape of redemption and His is ever-present navigation, our battle to stay with Him is always challenged by the evils of our arch-enemy “temptation”. look at the consequences of your life, the good fortunes and the declines, and notice where you were in your faith and commitment in choosing the way of selflessness instead of selfishness, charity instead of greed, the tough path or the easy road, humility instead of pride. notice the times we have fallen and what our focus was at the point of impact. but there is good news….the “super powers” that each one of us have been given to control our continual transformation is innate and renewed each day . the steady hand of God is always extended for the lift we need to rise above our consequences, start again and deliver an impact on the lives around us for His glory. and remember this, powers are only powerful when they are realized. discover the super strength that lies within and discover the God that put it there.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. -Jeremiah 29:11
picture yourself walking up to the sandwich counter…requesting wheat instead of white, cheese or no cheese, mustard, no mayo…etc. then when your multitude of requests are complete, you walk out. or imagine going to a college planning professional or career counselor…asking for guidance and preparation ideas, seeking information on the best way to achieve your goals but when the advisor delivers the tactics customized just for you…you are jamming on your ipod to the latest “one hit wonder”. and so in prayer to God, do we put in our requests, present our trials, beg for a light in our darkness and then walk away? are we waiting for the answers to be delivered via bound document in an overnight fed ex box? do we just go back to what we were doing before and hope our answer arrives like a meteor landing in our backyard? or do we stop ourselves and regularly seek out a holy place, allowing the time and solitude to listen to Him deliver on our requests, opening our eyes, ears and soul to His presence? the unity of the Holy Spirit with God and His Son completes the triad of protection around our challenges, our hopes. the trinity is the full benefit of seeking God. He is a package deal, a three for one…a buy two get one free! but we have to put all three to work in our lives to truly receive solace in the presence of fear and uncertainty. if we use our prayer and faith in God to seek and follow Jesus for His wisdom and example but shut out the voice of the Holy Spirit we may miss the answers to the petitions we ourselves put forth. so first pray, then listen.
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26.
Jesus said “it is hard for the ‘rich’ to come into heaven” (Matthew 19:23) …what does that mean? does our financial success disappoint God? is there a secret monetary value we should stay under to be considered for eternal life? does God really care if you have a lot or a little or just “how much” is in your heart? most of us think whether you have a lot or a little, all he really cares about is where you are in your relationship with Him. what you have done with your gifts to give and care for your brothers and how you have faced the temptations and the redemption presented to you everyday. so why are the “rich” called out as if they will be given a separate application for acceptance… as if their entrance exam will be held to a different scoring standard?
it seems to have less to do with dollars and more to do with contentment, when we don’t want for anything and our needs are met. even when we have “non-monetary riches” like a great family, a good job, true friendships, true love, good health…you know a good life…do we find ourselves as deep in prayer as those who are suffering? stricken by tragedy, loss, emotional or economic pain, the poor among us are on our knees, in our churches. in fear, we are cracking the Bible looking for answers, growing in faith and in desperate cry for His presence in our life. the deepest relationships with God are most often built or at least strengthen at our “poorest” moments. when we are “rich” and comfortable in our lives we tend to lose the intensity to seek, to grow, and to submit everything to our faith. it can be difficult for the very “satisfied” to remember from where it came, we tend to believe we can take credit for our comfort and forget “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). so, could it be that the poorer times in our lives become our greatest opportunity to know Him and forever change our eternal life regardless of financial security? could it be that our most trying times are the catalyst for who God wants us to become and thus really are the answers to our prayers for His riches?
“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” Matthew 19:24
if you are a Christian and an American…this one’s for you. the idea behind the separation of church and state was designed as a policy for government, not citizens. “the wall” separating church and state meant the law would be designed for government to stay out of our religion but the freedom that allows does not call for our Christianity to stay out of our opinions about government policy. said a different way, we should not check our God at the door before we pontificate, debate, or exercise our right to vote or speak out to our political leaders. the first thing Christians are, above all else, are followers of our God ( please see 1st commandment for more information). if our beliefs as Christians do not allow us the political courage to stand with Him…then are we really followers of God or of men? many of us will vote this week and hopefully spend the rest of the year preparing to vote again in November. this time really apply your faith and crusade for your beliefs in the process.
“when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” Proverbs 29:2