Remember your Baptism?

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Hopeless, faithless, weary, aching, tired of mankind;tired_tim-baker
Spirit-lacking, burden-packing, restless state of mind.
Soul-less, defenseless, dreading, mourning every pain of life;
Thirsting, needing, without having answers to each strife.

Guilty conscience, always sorry. How do you start again?
Unforgiven, still reliving each error stenciled in.
Needing, wanting, vainly trying to walk this path alone;
But not knowing, that with each trial, the Shepherd would bring you home.

 

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The Baptism by Christina Ramos www.christinaramosart.com

Knowing Christ, the King of Kings, He gives our life new meaning.
Spirit filled, hope renewed, His love is self-revealing.
Water washing, gently sweeping penetrating skin;
Softly healing, cleansing, cleaning, erasing worldly sin.

 

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Peace abundant, soul refreshed and risen to God’s law;
Free at last the chains of sin can have no bond no more.
Happy, ecstatic, praising God, His promises to claim;
Freed forever, grace eternal, through death He took all shame.

The day will come for all to meet the one who set us free
His arms outstretched, his life sinless on the cross at Calvary.
Then He rose to crush sin’s grip defeating death for all,
And now we’re tasked to spread The Word – there’s Hope beyond The Fall.

Christ huggingNo time to waste, do not delay, no option to be late;
He’s coming soon to welcome us through heaven’s pearly gates.
So now I pray Thy kingdom come where joy and peace abound,
Where life eternal and the love of Christ are ever found.

Resolutions…Never Give Up!

With a New Year just having passed, there are many people who were motivated and determined to pull off a New Year’s resolution to make some life changes.  There were probably plans to lose weight, go to the gym, or to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  Whatever the commitment, it was likely about self-improvement or maybe even to help other people.new year resolutions3

The problem with making resolutions is that the motivation and commitment to keep these changes usually wanes after some time.  Before we even realize it, we have forgotten the plan, given up and reverted back to our default mode. We have relapsed.

The word “relapse” is a term usually associated with addictions.  However, according to Merriam Webster, relapse simply means “the act or an instance of backsliding”.  Backsliding is a term used in the Old Testament by God, in relation to the children of Israel.  The Israelites were considered “backsliders” because they would make a commitment to reverently worship God, but over time they would revert back to worshipping idols again.  They would lapse morally and spiritually in their practice of honoring the one true God, despite their initial resolve to do better.

But this is where the beauty of the gospel message becomes real.  When we fall down, we can simply get back up again.  With relapse, there is recovery.  Proverbs 24:16 says “For a just man falls seven times, and rises up again“.  When we fall down, with Christ by our sides, we have the privilege of getting back up again and continuing with our walk. Not just once, but over and over again.  It’s not about how many times that we fall, relapse or backslide.  It’s about how many times we get back up and keep walking.  Paul says that this is a race of endurance. Moreover, the race has already been won, we just have to finish!

“Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith”. Hebrew 12: 1-2

So, if you’re finding that you are struggling with your New Year’s resolution, whatever it may be, and you have fallen away from the path.  Don’t stay there! Just get back up on the path, start again and keep walking.  You don’t have to wait for another New Year to re-commit.  Every day is a new day of opportunity.  Every morning provides a new day with a new chance to make a new commitment to your resolution.  Don’t give up!  Relapse will happen.  You may fall,  but the promise is that you can recover with Christ and by daily renewal of your spirit.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2

Get up, stand up and continue to take steps however small, in the direction towards your goal.  This link “Never Give Up” shows the determination of one Olympic Sprinter, who despite a fall, rose again and with his father and our Heavenly Father close by, he was able to cross the finish line. Be inspired.  With Christ by your side, you can do it too!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 3: 13 – 14).

 

 

 

 

 

Baltimore and A Country Divided by Race – A Lesson from Jesus

While I am no expert on the race issue, it is clear to me that it is very uncomfortable to have an open, honest and frank discussion about the race issue in America.  Either Black or White America becomes easily offended and/or aggravated, and in essence it becomes easier to sweep it under the carpet, hoping it will go away, but the reality is…it never does.

I recently read about how Ben Affleck went on a journey to discover his ancestry via PBS in a documentary called “Finding Your Roots” .  Affleck found out that one of his ancestors was a slave owner and chose to have that part of the documentary omitted (http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/apr/22/ben-affleck-embarrassment-hide-slave-owning-ancestor). While I understand that it is embarrassing to admit that your family was part of an ugly side of history, denial to me, is much worse. Denial is the foundation of a lie that allows abuse and injustice to continue.

Unless we seek to educate ourselves on the issue and history of racism, it is difficult to have an honest, open conversation.  Unfortunately, the system has already been created to deny the severity of the Black experience of racism in America.  America is a nation that is built on slavery and capitalism at the expense of Black people. During slavery, privileges were built in to favor and empower White people and which oppressed and dehumanized Black people. Sadly, the remnants of this capitalist system are alive and well today despite the abolition of slavery.  Even with the acknowledgement by science that race is a social not biological construct, race is still used as an excuse to discriminate and oppress.

Many people of all ethnicities are not educated in full about the history of slavery.  Much of this history is distorted or glossed over as “not being that bad” or that “Black people should get over it”.  But unless we start to educate everyone,  we cannot truly begin to understand an age old system of persistent inequities and prejudice.

US Marshals escorted Ruby Bridges to an “all-white” elementary school amidst violent outbursts by white people.

This is my simplistic experience of the educational system here in the US. The school curriculum that my children have been exposed to makes mention of the pilgrims and how they came over to the US. There a are wonderful “feel good stories” of Thanksgiving and how Native Americans and pilgrims shared a meal together. Stories of the civil rights movement with regards to Martin Luther King Jr., Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks further add to the feel good factor of how people who experience difficulties can fight for a good cause which eventually leads to some people agreeing that segregation was bad and that equality was a good thing – Hhhhmmm!

Well, let’s examine this.  When you look back at the extent of the inequality / inequity / injustice, while I am grateful that slavery was abolished, it should never have happened in the first place! In the K – 12 educational curriculum, very few history classes, if any at all, explain why there was a racial divide in the first place. Teaching is sketchy regarding how and why Black people were brought to the US.  And it is only when  a student becomes an undergraduate, do they get the opportunity to take African-American Studies, a class generally attended by a majority of African-Americans.

It is almost as if the curriculum treats the civil rights movement as the history of Black America. I do not intend to discount the immeasurable contribution that Martin Luther King Jr., Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks brought to the civil rights movement.  But, I do believe there is a relative comfort for teachers when discussing these aspects of the civil rights movement versus the harsh reality of the slavery that led to the movement.  On this basis, the educational system seems to be selective and bias towards the history of White America, being very careful not to portray the brutality of slavery which also used Christianity as an excuse to justify it.

Interestingly, as a side note, my children have learned much more about Hitler and the atrocities of the Holocaust that occurred during World War 2. While this is also a very important time during history that should be acknowledged, it would go a long way if African-American history was given the same attention.

Regardless, the educational system cannot deny slavery – it happened.  The educational system, as part of a capitalist society seems to be skewed towards ignoring this part of history, because it allows White America to continue to benefit from those built in privileges. Ultimately, everyone (or as many as possible) need to be educated to enable a frank conversation on the topic of slavery, capitalism and the injustice of racism as a consequence.

Many are quick to throw judgement on the people of Baltimore who rioted following the death of Freddie Gray after his arrest. Whatever the story behind the rioting and I do agree that there were many who were in it for selfish motives, I am more struck by a people who are just fed up and have had enough. A repeated cycle of hopelessness, fear, despair, poverty, injustice and abuse breeds people who are willing to fight for their cause, by any means necessary. Perhaps, if we understood Baltimore in the light of centuries of oppression, we would have a better understanding of the violence today.  I remember reading a couple of posts on social media, one said “violence is never the answer”, the other said “violence is almost always the answer”.

Jesus destroying the temple courtyard

When I think about Baltimore, I remember the story of Jesus as he walked through the temple watching the people buying and selling animals to make their sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sins (Matthew 21:12-13). The Pharisees were making a lot of money exploiting people on this basis. Jesus was outraged, quite rightly, that the Pharisees were misusing the house of God for their own benefit. Jesus decided to take action and he overturned the tables, chasing the people out with a whip and destroying the temple area as he went.  Wasn’t Jesus, like the people of Baltimore, destroying a part of his own community? Bottom line, people get frustrated because they are not being heard. No matter how obvious and clear the message seems, the inequities, injustice and exploitation that was dished out by the Pharisees, and likewise by the judicial system of today was difficult to tolerate any more. Jesus, like the people of Baltimore became angry, rightfully so and in doing so, became violent. While I would not condone violence, it is apparent that violence does seem to communicate a message.

Right now, it would go a long, long way if the atrocities of the past were acknowledged as a precipitating factor to the injustice of the present. Those who fail to educate themselves and to stand up in the light of injustice and oppression ultimately choose to support this capitalist system of racial inequity. The reality is, one day those people will ultimately and inevitably reap the same injustice and oppression themselves, regardless of race.

No matter how divided this country is with regards to issues on race, we have to remember that the recent publicized slayings of Black men by White cops is not just an issue of race, but a human and civil rights issue.  I find it interesting to note that the 6 police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray are Black and White. Can we truly say that the treatment of Freddie Gray was purely based on race alone? Where there is injustice – we are all potential victims. So do not be fooled, this is not entirely a White issue, or a Black issue, it’s a human rights as well as a civil rights issue.  As long as we remain divided by race, we will all be affected by the consequences of it… eventually.

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Jesus, though privileged by his position, advocated for the poor and oppressed.

Jesus could have conformed to the values of the society at the time, which believed the Pharisees were spiritually superior and righteous. Jesus could have sucked up to the Pharisees and enjoyed the privileges of religious protocols as they were practiced back then. But Jesus chose to hang out with the poor and oppressed, the used and abused.  Jesus chose to speak up against the Pharisees and advocate for justice and fair treatment of all regardless of race, gender or economic status.

I am aware that there have been many wonderful White people who have  been allies in the fight against racism such as John Jay, Susan B. Anthony and more recently Tim Wise (Click here to visit Tim Wise website).  We need more people like them.  We need to have allies of all colors stand up in their privilege and advocate for those who have been discriminated against in the same way that Jesus did for the oppressed.  Jesus took responsibility for the mess the Pharisees created on His behalf, Jesus owned it.  Jesus in his privileged position as the Son of God, stood up against the capitalist system that the Pharisees used to oppress people for their own selfish gain. In anger against the injustice, Jesus destroyed an area of the Pharisees temple that exploited people.  Those who experience this privileged position need to help destroy the parts of the system today that exploit people too.  Jesus made that difference – You can do the same!

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Solidarity – One People.

To this end, I am encouraged by the outpouring of the increasing numbers of  people of all colors united to protest in Baltimore.  Solidarity is the solution and I urge people of all colors to to educate themselves about the real history of America – not just the civil rights movement.  No one race can resolve the race issue, with one side fighting against the other. Peoples of all nations, tribes and tongues must come together to resolve this issue and advocate for each other. I end with a quote from that great Civil Rights Leader,  Martin Luther King Jr., who said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – he was right then… and he is still right today.

Heaven’s gates are open to illegal immigrants…

Normally, I do not write politically motivated blogs, but I felt led to write this one because it reflected a religious entitlement that did not sit well with me.  Many people who profess Christianity appear to be short-sighted when it comes to earthly political matters.  There seems to be little understanding of sin, hypocrisy and what the blood of Jesus really does in allowing us the blessing of going to Heaven.

I’ve been reading a number of FaceBook posts and news articles about Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration and what that means for “Americans”.  I’m truly disappointed by posts from people who profess to be Christians, but appear to be content with the history of the ‘illegal European immigrants’ (Pilgrims) – who eventually stripped Americans (Native Americans) of their homes, rights and land.  Furthermore, European illegal immigrants also saw fit to travel to other countries and displace entire races of people and bring them to the US as slaves – apparently motivated by their Christian duty to ‘civilize’ people of color.

 I just don’t understand how, given the history of the US, today’s Americans and Christians at that, can be comfortable criticizing so called ‘illegal immigrants’ who, like the first Pilgrims came to the US fleeing persecution and seeking a better life.  Why these Christians cannot see the hypocrisy of this is truly beyond me –  but Jesus struggled with the same problem with the Pharisees (Matt 23: 24, 27). After all, Ecclesiastes tells us there is nothing new under the sun. (Eccl. 1:9). It amazes me how todays Americans are worried about so called illegal immigrants being placed ahead of them.  But back then, no one was too concerned about illegal European immigrants getting ahead of Native Americans, chasing people out of their homes and off their land. What will heaven really be like if there is going to start bickering about how Pedro, Chun-Mao or Muhammad got into heaven before all the worthy Americans who feel entitled to be there?

I believe there is a feeling of entitlement by many people living developed countries, not just the US.  There is a feeling that “we own the resources” and can somehow decide who is worthy enough to get a piece of the pie.  The reality is – not one ounce of the earth’s resources belongs to any of us and neither are we deserving of any of it. The earth and all that is in it belongs to God (Psalm 24:1) – He’s just allowing us to manage it for now and honestly, I think we’re making a bit of a mess.  I truly believe there are more than enough resources to go around.  God created the earth and told us to populate it (Gen 1:28).  There is no way that God would have given an earth that did not have enough resources to sustain a growing population.  The problem isn’t with illegal immigrants using up ‘our’ resources or taking ‘our’ jobs.  The problem is that we do not properly manage the resources that God gave to us.

The amount of food that is squandered while people die of hunger is outrageous. The number of people who push a ball around court, sing a song, or even act the fool on reality television while earning crazy fat salaries is an abomination.  Yet, we don’t seem to question that.  Somehow, our apparently developed society is able to justify ridiculous pay checks for the people who entertain us. But for those people who are hungry and seeking a better life, we heap scorn on them and keep our gates/borders tightly locked fearing they will enter the US and take from a dismal welfare system that they cannot even register with.  It just doesn’t seem to make sense, surely there should be more balance.

In heaven, everyone is going to have enough according to their need. I dare anyone to speak up to God in heaven and challenge Him as to why Pedro has a bigger house than Jack.  I leave you with this thought… there will be illegal immigrants in Heaven… lots of them, including YOU… and I!  Everyone in Heaven will be illegal, simply because not one of us has any right to be in Heaven because of ourselves or anything we have done, but simply because Heaven’s gates are open to every one.  I am truly thankful that God does not turn anyone away, but has offered us grace, mercy and Jesus. Jesus built a bridge for each of us to get legal status to Heaven as we flee persecution here on Earth and seek the hope of eternal life. As we reflect on that, we need to learn to better manage our own resources as well as offer the same grace, mercy and legal status to people who are in the US today who have come in hope of what they perceive to be a “better way of life”. Be warned, if you don’t like illegal immigrants here on Earth, then Heaven is not the place for you. Heaven will be full of illegal immigrants – so you may need to start  planning now, for another eternal home.

The Manipulation of God?

The prosperity message is freely preached today in our churches and many times it comes disguised.  Yesterday, I listened to a sermon that mentioned a ‘formula’ that would ‘make prayer work’ such that God would ‘rain blessings down’.  It’s disappointing to hear this message preached, because in my opinion, it truly diminishes the real love that God has for us.

You see, I believe that when God gives us something  – He gives it to us simply because He loves us. That’s it! Pure. Unconditional. Love.

However, this preaching of ‘prosperity prayers’ suggests that when we pray to God using a formula – it’s because we’re expecting to get something back – Blessings. Needs. Wants!

I have been repeatedly told that if I pay my tithe – God will bless me!  If I pay more offering, God will take care of my bills! If I pray like this – my prayer will be answered! If I meditate more, if I serve more, if I do…more… more…MORE… God will do more… MORE…MORE!

But the bottom line is…God’s blessings have absolutely nothing to do with anything I do, how faithful I think I am or how I have prayed my prayers.  He has already told us that our righteousness is as filthy rags. So, to even suggest that God’s blessings have anything to do with my behavior reduces God to a mere puppet, who responds and is manipulated according to my actions.

While I believe that God wanted to teach us how to pray, I think He was teaching us how Me holding the Bible to the back of Christ and demanding He love me.to honor Him. I do not believe He was teaching us how to pray so that we could use it as a formula to receive blessings. The idea of this sounds extremely manipulative – and in reality – it is.  We end up using the Bible and God’s promises to try to get things from God, that He really does not intend for us to have because they may not be in our best interest.  We can end up using the Bible to tell God what to do… to demand his love, a house, a car, more money and potentially things that really may not be good for us.

How many of you would feel honored if your child only ever helped you around the house based upon what they could get out of you?  Or if your spouse only ever put something into your relationship because it meant he or she could get something in return? While admittedly it seems to be the way things are done these days, with incentives, motivations and bribes being they way to get what you want but wouldn’t you rather  receive help or gifts simply out of love? Pure. Unconditional. Love?

It doesn’t mean that we cannot ask God for things, we should.  He tells us to ask, but our love and worship is not tied up in giving to get.  I think God laid His ground rules stating how He wanted to be treated, loved and respected and therefore when you pray … ‘do it like this’. This is God’s Love Language not his ‘formula’ for manipulation.  I wonder how much God wishes that we could just give Him love, worship and prayers simply to honor Him, without the strings. Pure. Unconditional. Love.

Yes – there are certain things I would expect to have ‘right’ before I approach God in prayer.  Love for Him, a ‘right heart’,  contrite spirit, forgiveness for others, a desire to get to know Him and learn His will for me.  But I’m not doing this to get anything  and furthermore, getting my way, needs or desires met really should be last. Nevertheless, if our prayers are based upon a formula to get our needs met – isn’t God going to see through this anyway? Are we not insulting God? We cannot fool God!

I don’t know about you, but if I listen to the concept of any kind of prosperity message, it is burdensome.  It adds another layer of works to my faith, and I know I cannot be saved by my works. Just as we like to feel loved and blessed, I think God wants to be loved and blessed too. So I just want to learn to sit in God’s presence and be in awe of Him. If God’s going to bless me – He going to do it  anyway- simply because He loves me.  Pure. Unconditional. Love.

 

Could I? Would You?

Would I be welcome in your church if I showed you who I really was?

Could I take off this mask of pride and feel your warmth and tender love?

Would I be welcome in your home if I showed you all my pain?

Could I worship next to you in all my naked shame?

Could I cry, confess my sins, kneel down and have you pray?

Or would I hear your judging words as you turn and walk away?

Would I be welcome in your heart as a fallen child of God?

Would you show me His affection, His mercy and His love?

Would you gently wipe my tears and then hold me in your arms?

Or would you hold up your right hand and point me to the Psalms?

Would you love me at my worst with all my guilty stains?

Or would you sacrifice our friendship to protect your ‘holy’ name?

Would you stand by me when EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. has walked away?

Would you help me on my feet, forgive and love me ANY WAY?

WOULD. YOU. BE. LIKE. JESUS?

WOULD YOU?

F.I.G.H.T. Anxiety and Worry…

Are you a worrier by nature?  Are you catastrophic?  Could you take a job in risk management, because you can and will plan for every possible eventuality based on the skimpiest of details that suggest that there may be a problem?

Sometimes anxiety causes us to worry about future events, or even to ruminate on past ones.   Revisiting this pattern repeatedly often fuels further anxious thoughts.

So, here are some practical tips to help you F.I.G.H.T. anxiety and worry as you go through your day:-

Fear:

Fear is a universal emotion.  There isn’t one person on this planet who has not experienced fear, from the newborn to the elderly.  Anxiety and worry and many other emotions are fuelled by fear.  Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of losing control, fear of facing reality, fear of pain etc.. It is necessary that we acknowledge and accept our fearfulness.  It’s okay and very normal.

Insight:

Try to be insightful about your own emotions.  Ask yourself what is causing you to be fearful?  Identify whether you have felt this fear before, in your past, as a child or adult.  You might find that your feelings are not new and that these feelings and behaviors have been well-rehearsed as part of your response to childhood events that left you feeling afraid and now fuel the need for you to be in control, or to beat yourself up.

Grace:

Give yourself some grace.  Why?  Simply because you offer it to everyone else, except yourself.  You are allowed to make mistakes. In one of my other posts, It’s Okay to be Human, I talk about how we have become a lot less tolerant of our mistakes and those of others.  Perfectionism belongs to God.  We, as human-beings strive for excellence and at the very least, we do our best.  But when we fall short, we have a Savior, whose name is Jesus and He’s already picked up the tab for us.  So, all we have to do, is ask for forgiveness, forgive ourselves, get up and ‘keep it moving’!

Hope

Hope is knowing that there is better to come, or it’s not as bad as it seems. When I am fearful, worrying about the unknown I do one thing. I remember what Jesus has already brought me through. I think over specific events that I had no control over and yet, He either gave me victory or as James Fortune sings God will help you  “Live Through it” and “Grow Through it”.  I am quickly reminded of how insignificant I am, and how BIG God is and I am better able to hand over my worries to God and let him deal with whatever unknown events in the future I cannot control – this gives me much needed HOPE!

Trust

Trusting God is not always easy.  Especially when things have not worked out the way we wanted them to. We are told to pray and meditate, but often I cannot concentrate or focus enough to pray, read or meditate. This adds to my anxiety, because I then berate myself for not being a good Christian. I have failed to ‘focus’ on God as I ‘ought’ to based on the expectations of other Christians.  Furthermore, in the midst of worry and anxiety, I often try to pray and give God the worry, but I am soon taking it back. These behaviors are rehearsed and can be difficult to change.

So… I go back to Grace.  I accept myself where I am and allow myself to give to God whatever I have as a ‘Popcorn Prayer’.  It’s my Prayers on the Go, whether it is  just a few words saying ‘Thank You Jesus’… ‘Help me Lord’… ‘God, I just don’t know what to do, direct my paths’.  The blessing is, I begin to ‘pray without ceasing’ AND while I am weak, God can be strong.

Secondly, I have found my own way to meditate on God’s word and to focus my thoughts. How many times a day do we enter our computer password at work?  Ten, twenty, fifty times?  Well, I found it useful to change my computer password at work to represent a scriptural passage.  With the increased requirements in network security, it is encouraged that we enter more complicated passwords with upper and lowercase letters and number.  So I have begun using the first letter of each word in an abbreviated scriptural passage, along with the Bible location. For example.  ‘For I Know The Plans Jeremiah 29: 11’ may look like this as a computer password  ‘FiKtPJer2911’

Every time I type this in, I am reminded of God’s promise, ‘For I know the plans I have for you, not to harm you, to give you hope and a future’ (Jer 29:11).  I’m not only meditating, but memorizing too, and reminding myself to put my Trust in God.

So by acknowledging our Fear, looking for Insight, giving ourselves Gracefinding Hope in God’s faithfulness and then Trusting in God’s Word, we can begin to F.I.G.H.T. anxiety and worry.  Once we are able to gain some control over these emotions, it creates more to become the healthy and  prosperous individuals that God created us to be.

 

SALT & LIGHT

According to Matthew 5:13, Jesus is telling His followers that they are to be the ‘salt of the earth’. Then in verse 14, they are called to be the ‘light of the world’. So according to Christ Himself, His followers are to be “Salt” and “Light”. In this journey with Christ, I ask myself if my “salt” has a savor that would draw people to the Saviour? Does my “light” shine bright? Or does it dim at the first trial or hurdle that comes in my line of sight? Am I truly being a “light” and “salt”? Or am I just playing games and being “light salt”?

A Disease to Please – A Testimony of Freedom in Christ

There is an incredible freedom to behold when we place ourselves and our decisions in the rightful hands of our Creator. Today, I can truly say that I have experienced that freedom in Christ and it is a joy and peace that I have been seeking for years and which I have finally found.

Over the course of my life, I have allowed my childhood wounds to subconsciously follow me. While our parents are supposed to represent to us the love and acceptance that God has for us, not all child-parent relationships follow this model. We cannot excuse the fact that, unlike God, our parents are flawed and even in their best efforts (which I appreciate), they will ultimately fail in some aspect of their relationship with us.

Throughout the course of my childhood, like most children, I wanted to be loved and accepted by my parents. ‘Doing things’ for them, seemed to make them happy at first, and soon I learned that if I was to be loved by them, I needed to ‘do things’ to please them, even if it made me unhappy. As I became older, my efforts to make them happy continued, but their satisfaction appeared to diminish and I never seemed to be good enough but it did not stop me from pursuing their love. Throughout this experience, I learned that my needs were unimportant and that I should put myself last and everyone else’s needs first, if I was to be loved. I never truly understood what it meant to be loved unconditionally, and was never able to fully understand the love that God has for me.

As I became an adult and left home, I still found myself making immature efforts to seek approval, by replaying the same efforts to ‘people please’ with my spouse, my co-workers and my friends. I would talk to a variety of people about the choices I needed to make, some people would agree, others would disagree, and I would often sit confused, in an ocean of analysis paralysis not knowing which way to turn. In my efforts to be loved and accepted, I outsourced many of my critical life decisions. I allowed people to make choices for me about my life, even when I wasn’t entirely sure or happy about the decisions, I believed that they knew more about (my) life than I did.

Like Jonah, God had to get my attention and He took me on an epic journey of discovery to finally get me to look at what I was doing to myself. Ultimately, the reason I was unhappy, was that I was being disobedient to God’s will for my life as well as being idolatrous. I was not living the life that God had created me to live, I was living a life to please the will of people who I had subconsciously placed on a (parental) pedestal.

Through a variety of painful lessons, God had to teach me who I am. I had to learn that God is my Father and that I do not have to do anything for Him to love me, He loves me unconditionally. I am learning to embrace the fact that I am a Child of the King and that my needs and desires are just as important as anyone else’s. God has given me an amazing personal gift of life with the same ability and right to breath the same fresh air and occupy a physical space on this earth just as everyone else does . I learned that no one else’s opinion or approval matters, except God’s because He is the One who created me. To seek approval or validation from anyone else but God, is to make that person my god, my idol.

So today, I walk with a renewed sense of who I am, knowing that for me I have had a huge victory over an enemy that has been subconsciously destroying my life – ‘people pleasing’ or idolatry. I can confess that this will be an ongoing journey of recovery, a ‘disease to please’ does not disappear overnight. Nevertheless, I am blessed and thankful that God took my hand and walked with me through the pain and hurt of a road less travelled, so that I could learn to accept that He loves me simply for who I am.

‘I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made’  Ps 139:14

‘We have known and believed the love that God has for us.  God is love and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.  We love Him because He first loved us’ 1 John 4: 16 – 19

The Christ & The Cross Convo-What “Wood” Jesus Do……

The Cross- “Lord God, why was I chosen? I mean what did I do to deserve this torture? I had no choice! I wish that I were not the one they used. You did nothing to deserve me. Those people did not know who you are. I wish I were not the method of murder used to destroy you. I wish there was something I could have done to stop it from happening. Even Simon of Cyrene knew you did not deserve to perish on me as he dragged me towards Calvary. Even when they mercilessly hammered those nails in Your hands and put that crown of thorns on Your head, while being in extreme pain and agony, I felt anguish for you. I feel horrified that I am forever regarded as that “Old Rugged Cross”, despised by the world and the emblem of suffering and shame. Lord why me? Why was I chosen?”

The Christ- “You were chosen for a purpose. Wood is an important symbol I want my people to understand. When I first destroyed the world by flood, their only salvation was through the ark, which was made of wood. In Exodus 37:1, the Ark of the Covenant was made of wood. In the entire Old Testament, no sacrificial offering dedicated to me would be complete without the use of wood. In Exodus 26:15, my tabernacles would not be complete without wood. All of My Holy scriptures are written on paper, which comes from wood. Through Moses, I performed ten miracles and parted the Red Sea using the wooden staff I gave him so my people would be free. You see, all of these uses of wood were used for freedom, salvation, and sacrifice. Now you ask me why you were chosen. The cross is now viewed as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace and love. If I had no respect for wood, why of all professions would I come to earth as a carpenter?”

What is amazing about carpenters is that they take ordinary pieces of wood, make it, and construct it into any form they want. Jesus is the Master Carpenter and He can form us into something that we could never even possibly imagine. If we allow Him to be a carpenter in our lives, we can be used for any purpose that He chooses. Sometimes wood has to burn to give warmth. Sometimes trees have to be cut down to make beautiful temples. God sometimes uses the lowest moments of our lives to bless and enrich others. It wasn’t until Jesus was at the lowest moment of His life, that He fulfilled the plan of redemption and allowed mankind to be saved so can bless and enrich others with a Christ-filled life to light up the world. Since Adam and Eve sinned by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, according to 1 Peter 2:24, Jesus had to use a tree of another form (the cross) to redeem and save us from sin. Since Adam had to die from eating from that tree, Jesus had to die on a tree to set us free. Let us always remember that Jesus dying on the cross barely scratches the surface of what He’s willing to do to save each and every one of us. So let us all live what He said in Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; and Luke 9:23 and decide what YOU “wood” do for Jesus?

God Seeks Potential… Not Perfection!

SCRIPTURE

And He said. “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten” Genesis 18: 32

OBSERVATION

Abraham was conversing with God following the departure of the three Holy Men who came to give the good news to Sarah that she would have a child.  The three Men were on their way to Sodom to destroy it.  Abraham knew that his nephew Lot lived in Sodom and he tried to bargain with God against its destruction.  At first God said if there were 50 righteous, He would not destroy Sodom.  Abraham continued this questioning, asking if there were 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, and finally 10 righteous, would He still destroy Sodom?  God said if He found 10 righteous people in Sodom, He would not destroy the entire city. Unfortunately for the city of Sodom, God only found 4 righteous people to save.  If there had been only 6 more, Sodom would not have been destroyed.

APPLICATION

I don’t know how many people lived in Sodom, but I am sure there was way more than 50, maybe 2000 or 3000… or maybe a whole lot more.  But it is amazing that God was willing to spare the entire city for the sake of 10 people. It seems that God was not so much concerned about the presence of ‘evil’ within Sodom, but the absence of ‘good’.

God is aware that we all have evil tendencies, but He is more concerned with our desire Seedlingto do good.  God does not seek to destroy us by looking for errors, He seeks ways to save us by looking for the good in us… no matter how small that is. He really wants to find it, so that He can redeem us.  Just as a tree seedling strives each day to reach the light, in so doing, it becomes a strong magnificent tree with mighty roots.  God is asking us to battle each day to improve ourselves, to be faithful, prayerful and obedient as best as we can so we can be grounded in Him and grow in ‘goodness’ with Him.  Although there will always be a ‘presence of evil’ there will by no means be an ‘absence of good’ and on this basis God is willing to save us, just as He was willing to save Sodom for the sake of 10 righteous people.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father

Thank you for looking within our hearts and trying to find the good in us, even though we know that our righteousness is as filthy rags.  We know that even in a city of Sodom, You were willing to save them, if you could only find 10 people.  It shows us Lord that You are not seeking perfection, but potential.  Help us each to achieve the potential that you desire for us.  I pray that You will place in our hearts a desire to be obedient to You and to be faithful to the best of our ability with the help of the Holy Spirit so we may grow grounded in you.  On that wonderful day when Jesus returns, I pray that you will find us faithful and that our ‘goodness’ will be present, abundant and fitting in Your sight.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Walking with John…

For those of you that have been following me over the past three to four weeks, I was attempting to take a 21 day journey through the Gospel of John. Research says that it takes 21 days to make a habit, and I was trying to instill a good daily devotional habit within myself through some accountability with this blog.

To be honest, I have had an absolute blast!! I have learned so much. I have read John numerous times and I have never found the insight that I have gained through this journey. I feel truly blessed by this opportunity to meditate on God’s Word and to serve.

While it took me longer than 21 days, and some days I did not post, it wasn’t because I didn’t read.  Some days it was difficult to translate the thought into a devotion and on other days I would be praying that God would bless me with a new nugget of truth. I wanted to focus on the not so obvious elements of the Gospel. We are so easily drawn to the popular Bible stores somewhat to the exclusion of other truths which lay hidden within those pages, and it was my hope to uncover some of these.

I encourage you to also take a journey of 21 days through your favorite book of the Bible. I was hoping to get into the habit of prayerfully studying each day before the New Year came.  Just as Delzino said in his blog “The Beginning is in the Middle”(https://spiritualsandwich.com/2013/12/31/the-beginning-is-in-the-middle/), we do not need to wait until the New Year or any other time to start a new relationship with God, we can do that right now.  So what are you waiting for?  Crack open your Bible now and go for it!

THE BEGINNING IS IN THE MIDDLE….

THE BEGINNING IS IN THE MIDDLE
The last day of the year has finally arrived. This is the time of year when people reflect on the biggest news stories of the year and how they have affected society and culture as a whole. There are numerous newsworthy stories of 2013 that will be talked about for ages, however, what happened in 2013 that affected your own life personally? What were the highs and lows, difficulties and defining moments that have shaped you into the person you are now, for better or worse? These are the types of questions we need to ask ourselves. As we are getting closer to the return of Christ, are you even closer to Christ than you were on December 31, 2012? Although this is a question that I struggle to answer, I know that each and every day that Christ allows me to wake up, I have the opportunity to draw closer to Him. Each and every day He allows me to wake up, I have the opportunity to serve Him, praise Him, worship Him, and obey Him. I should not have to wait until January 1st to come around to resolve to be a better person, a better spouse, a better parent, or a better servant of God. January 1st is not guaranteed to anyone. January 1st is not promised to anyone. God wants me to resolve to be a better me RIGHT NOW! Why delay to follow His Way? Why wait before I embark on a journey from mediocrity to being great? I need to live each day as if it’s the last day. I need to live each day as if it’s December 31st.
This year is unique because the beginning of the New Year falls on Wednesday, the middle of the week. I am sure most people would prefer the New Year to start on a Sunday so the New Year could be the start of a new week. However, I take comfort in knowing that even in the middle of my struggle, it is the beginning of a new walk with Christ. Even in the middle of my pain, I know that the beginning of healing is on its way. Even in the middle of my sorrow, I know that the beginning of comfort is on its way. Even in the middle of my storm, I know the beginning of the sun’s rays will shine brightly in my life. So as the sun sets on 2013 and the sun rises in 2014, let us pray to God more, let us serve our fellow man more, let us study our Word more so we can fly high and soar in the 2-0-1-4. God wants us to soar higher than the highest heights we could possibly fathom, yet be humble and “grounded” so we can allow Him to use us in every way possible. So as we embark on Flight 2014, let’s not “carry-on” any “baggage” from 2013 that would keep us from soaring to new heights. Be blessed and Happy New Year one and all.

Stop Comparing and Competing!

SCRIPTURE

 “Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”

Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” John 21: 21 – 22

OBSERVATION

It is noticeable throughout the Gospel of John that there appears to be some jealousy and competition between John and Simon Peter.  I wondered to what extent Peter was jealous of the relationship between John and Jesus.

John 13: 21 – 26 depicts a scene where it is commonly believe that the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ is John and he is leaning on Christ’s breast.  Jesus has just told the disciples that one of them will betray Him.  Peter motions to John to ask Jesus who that person is.  Jesus  answers John in a private conversation to which Peter is excluded from.

John 18: 15 – 18 sets another scene where Jesus has been taken before the High Priest.  Peter follows and it is assumed that the ‘other disciple’ that followed was John.  John went into the courtyard with Jesus but Peter stood outside the door probably because he was afraid.  In his fear, Peter went on to deny Jesus three times compared with John who stood unashamedly with Christ.

In John 19:26 – 27 Jesus gives to John the responsibility to care for His mother in her old age, suggesting that He trusted him enough to do this.  Peter at this point in time was probably somewhere feeling disappointed in the fact that he had denied Christ.

John 20:3  tells us that Peter and John went out to the tomb to find out where Jesus’ body had gone.  They both ran together and John seems to take delight in expressing how he outran Peter. Nevertheless when Peter caught up, Peter went in front of John into the tomb.

In John 21:7  John tells Peter that it is Jesus on the beach,  Peter dresses as quickly as possible and runs ahead of the others to get to Jesus first.

The final liaison is in John 21: 20 – 21 when Peter is walking on the beach with Jesus, Peter turns around and sees John following.  He asks Christ who is going to betray him and suggests that it might be John.  Peter says “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”  Seemingly and for whatever reason, possibly jealousy, Peter was trying to sabotage Jesus’ relationship with John and make John look bad.  Peter’s poor insight into his own sin is clear, he is so worried about John taking Christ away from him, that he attempts to make John look guilty of the sin he actually committed – betrayal of Christ.

Jesus answers in verse 22 “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” In other words Jesus calls Peter out, He says even if He decides to give John eternal life on earth right now, it has nothing to do with him, Peter’s business is to follow Christ.

APPLICATION

Whether we realize it or not, we have all taken part in ‘one-upmanship’.  There is someone who gets under our skin, or we just feel the need to be better than they are, and if we are not better than they are, we need to bring them down to our level.  This is exactly what Peter was trying to do.

It seems there are several occasions where John, through no particular effort on his part appeared to have a steadfast relationship with Christ (let us not forget that John is writing about himself in this gospel.  The other gospels do not record John in such a favorable light). It seems that Peter was competing with him, even though John was just doing ‘his thing’.

I know I have experienced this in my life, where I’m just getting on with my life and people are competing with me or comparing themselves to me and I have no idea why and to be honest I really don’t care. God has given us all different gifts and He may be calling me to do one thing, and someone else to do another.  We’re not supposed to all be the same.  Jesus’ command is clear to us all.  ‘Don’t worry about what he or she is doing, mind your own business and follow Me’.

PRAYER

Dear Father in Heaven

Your Holy Book has a word for us in every avenue of our lives.  We are reminded that the disciples were human, just like us and were eligible to succumb to every sin as we are.  I am thankful that the Bible depicts them as real people who fail, just like I do, but who through repentance and forgiveness can be restored like Peter.

Teach us to be concerned about our lives and not to compare ourselves with anyone else.  Teach us to have a secure relationship and identity in you, such that we do not feel the need to ‘put others down’ in an attempt to elevate ourselves.  Lastly, teach us to pursue the gifts you have given to us, without trying to be like anyone else, recognizing that we are all different.  Help us to pray for those who may try to compare or compete with us and that we are not by distracted by it, but that we remain steadfast in our walk with You.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

The Gospel is Forgiveness…

SCRIPTURE

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20 : 21 – 22

OBSERVATION

I am immediately struck by the image of Jesus breathing on His disciples engulfing them in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Furthermore, it is interesting to compare the four gospels and the individual commissions that were recorded.

The Gospel commission of Matthew 28: 19 – 20 it says “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”. 

Mark also records a similar commission in Mark 16 : 15, 16 – “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned”. 

Luke 24:26 – 47 says “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,  and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem“.

John 20 : 21 – 22 says “So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

APPLICATION

I think in order to understand the Gospel commission and message, we have to look at all four commissions.  These are the commands that Jesus gave pretty much in the order that He said them.

  1. Marks says go into all the world – Luke says to start in Jerusalem and go into all nations.
  2. Marks says preach the gospel – Luke says repentance and remissions of sins should be preached to all nations and John says if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.
  3. Matthew says make disciples – John says He who believes and is baptized will be saved. Matthew also says to baptize in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit’, as demonstrated by John the Baptist did.
  4. Matthew says to teach them the commandments that Jesus taught.

If this is the order in which we are to do make disciples, we should be going out preaching a message of forgiveness.  We should be asking people to repent and to do their best to eliminate or reduce their sins, but knowing that through the blood of Jesus, all of our sins have been erased (remission can be considered in both contexts meaning to eradicate or decrease).  We should then be making disciples of people through baptism, and lastly we should be teaching those disciples in more detail about God’s love. Once those disciples know enough about God’s love, they graduate to become apostles and are given the same commission to go out.

If we look at Jesus’ ministry – that’s exactly what He did. He went to people, forgave them and healed them and told them to sin no more (John 5:14, 8:11). I am sure that many of those that Jesus healed became believers and were baptized.  Therefore, we need to be careful to copy the exact method that Christ gave us in order to reach people.  Going to people with  messages on the wrath of God, fear, everlasting life, how bad they are, what they need to stop doing or even topics on health or a vegetarian lifestyle can never ever be as effective as a message of forgiveness.

Moreover,  it is evident in John that Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples before they went out to forgive people. If we are to be as empathetic, forgiving and loving, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit before we go out into the world to make disciples of God’s children, leaving our judgments and prejudices at home.

PRAYER

Blessed Father

You are indeed worthy to be praised.  Thank You for taking us through another week.  Thank You for teaching us the Gospel of Forgiveness that we should be spreading to all nations. Teach us to accept and commit to Your ways and to not deviate from them towards our own.  There are many people out there who need to hear this Gospel and through forgiveness many people will come to know You.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit so that we can be forgiving as Christ is and draw crowds to You as He did too.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

The Wrong Choice was Right.

SCRIPTURE

“But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”

Then they all cried again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.” John 18: 39 – 40

OBSERVATION

I decided to do some research on Barabbas and was reminded that Barabbas’ first name was likely Jesus too and his last name ‘Bar-abba-s’ actually means ‘son of the father’.  So in effect we had two Jesus’, both son of the F(f)ather who stood before a crowd and both were candidates for crucifixion.  It is argued that One was the Son of God, and the other was the son of the devil. Nevertheless, One was real, the other counterfeit and the Jews chose to save the counterfeit – Barabbas.

With regards to Jesus, the Son of God, it could be argued that the crowd chose the wrong guy for the right reason – or even that they chose the right guy for the wrong reason.  Was the Jewish crowd filled with evil that they chose to crucify Jesus? But what if the crowd had chosen to crucify Barabbas, the apparently right decision – where would the human race be today?  Would we have a Savior?

APPLICATION

I don’t know the reason behind the crowd’s choice, I may never know.  Despite the fact that Jesus could offer life and healing to these people, many of whom watched Jesus perform these miracles, they chose the counterfeit Jesus Barabbas – it just doesn’t make sense.

There will be times in our lives when we have to make a decision.  Sometimes it may seem as though the choice is obvious because it seems spiritually  right, holy and moral.  However, God can use any situation to His or our advantage,  regardless of whether it is right or not. For example, following their adulterous relationship, David and Bathesheba bore the wisest and wealthiest King ever lived, Solomon – who glorified God by building the temple of Jerusalem.

Sometimes, despite our prayers, our decision can be the wrong one, even though we believe we chose the spiritually right option, e.g.  choosing to serve inside the church with other members rather than serving outside with drug addicts and prostitutes.  But who may need the knowledge of God’s love more?  Whatever decision the crowd made that day, whether it was wrong or right, ultimately, God’s will was fulfilled and because of that, today we are saved.

PRAYER

Dear Father

Some times we think things are black and white, right or wrong when they aren’t.  Some times I pray fervently, hoping to make the spiritually right decision and instead I am stuck in analysis paralysis – doing nothing.  I pray that you will help us all to move forward boldly with the decisions that we place before You.  In that way, whether they are right or wrong, we will be investing our talents, trusting that You will bless the outcome and in whatever way You decide, Your will will be fulfilled and Your name will be glorified.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen.

Jesus’ Last Will and Testament

SCRIPTURE

“Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.   While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name.”  John 17: 11-12

OBSERVATION

In John 17, this appears to be the last recorded prayer that Jesus has with His Father and contains all of Jesus’ desires. Jesus recognizes that the hour has come when He must be handed over to die. It’s almost as if this prayer could have appeared in a legal will.  In fact, this prayer was Jesus’ last will and testament, with God being appointed the Executor.

Jesus prays for His disciples. God had given to Jesus the disciples to teach.  Now Jesus was leaving behind the biggest investment He had made on earth, in His disciples.  He had given to them everything He had and knew.  He had spiritually equipped them with all of His wealth of knowledge of His Father, how to heal and love others as per God’s request.  As per the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus had received his share of talents (disciples) and He had invested in them wisely, and He was returning them back to God with added interest (spiritual discernment) and asking God to look after it for Him.

Jesus’ now asks God to provide the disciples with joy, protection and sanctification as they go into the world  to share the gift of eternal life that He also left to us in His will. Jesus also petitions God, asking that the disciples and believers may be one as He is with God and they may love each other as God has loved Him.

APPLICATION

Jesus’ last will and testament is truly beautiful.  It is a selfless expression of concern and love.  Jesus wants protection for the disciples because He knows that His death will fulfill God’s purpose and Satan will be defeated.  He knows that because of this defeat, Satan will seek to stop the disciples spreading the Gospel message and hinder people from accepting Jesus and salvation through Him.

Recognizing this as Jesus’ last will creates in me a desire to honor His requests, especially since He has requested the ultimate protection and love from God while I am doing this.  I want to commit to unity between believers, to love others as He has loved me and to use my talents to share the Gospel message so that others may be saved.

PRAYER

Dear Father in Heaven

Thanking You for Your steadfast love and protection.  Thanking You for taking care of us since the time Jesus left the world.

I pray that you will continue to sanctify us by Your truth and set us apart from the world so that we are different.  May that difference be one that draws people to You, because they sense a love that they have never experienced before radiating through our testimony of You.  For if we truly know You Lord, then we should be able to declare your love to others in the way that You have loved us.

Jesus, we look forward to Your return, so that we can finally meet You and thank You for leaving us this wonderful gift of eternal life in Your last will and testament.  But for now, we will rejoice in serving You and fulfilling Your will.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Is Church a Safe Place?

SCRIPTURE

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.

They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.

But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” John 16: 1 – 4

OBSERVATION

They, the Jews believed that they were doing God’s work, eliminating the sinners and blasphemers from the synagogue.   They believed their doctrine and traditions were truth.  They believed that other people were sinful and they were without error.  They believed Jesus had a demon and they had the Holy Spirit. They believed that they were right and Jesus was wrong, because they had upheld these beliefs and traditions for so long as the elders and priests of the church. They refused to listen to anyone because they believed they were righteous,  defending God’s law and doing this all in God’s name.

And…here comes Jesus, a fresh dynamic young man with new ideas.  A preacher with a creative expression proclaiming God’s love, grace and mercy – and they chased Him out of the synagogue!!

Jesus’ own people, the people He went to the synagogue with, the Jewish people He grew up with, the priests who likely taught Him, rejected Him and eventually killed Him.  Jesus warned us – the synagogue is not a safe place – in fact it may be even more dangerous.

APPLICATION

I was a mature adult with children when I entered the realm of church membership and with this sense of belonging came a huge helping of naivety.  I wasn’t raised in the church and so I expected there would be a difference in the way people treated each other within the church as opposed to in the world.  But, this whole scenario in my observation above is all too familiar and it saddens me.  While some church people are shocked at the behavior of people in the secular world, I am sad to say, that I am even more shocked by the behavior of people in the church who profess God.  It is disappointing to say that the church is not a safe place to be.

I see people busily doing ‘God’s work’ believing they are serving Him; while I cannot judge another person’s heart or desire to serve, I am convicted that I need to be careful of what I do and how I relate to my brothers and sisters in the church.  I don’t want to ‘kill’ any of Jesus’ servants, simply because I am so caught up in protecting God’s law or church. God really does not need me to protect His law or doctrines. Neither do I want to chase someone out of the church because they do not meet the ‘image’ I have in my mind of who a Godly person is.  After all, Jesus did not meet the image of a King or God’s Son that people were anticipating.

Jesus has told us plainly, these same people in the church –  will attempt to kill us, physically (in some countries) and spiritually and in so doing, either stop or slow our ministry, believing they are doing this for God.  But Jesus warns us about this so that we may not stumble or be discouraged.

PRAYER

Dear Father

It has consistently been a blessing to meditate upon your Holy Word.  I feel disappointed by the knowledge that our own church family could some day choose to harm or discourage us.  But I feel empowered that Jesus has told us this to help us to stand firm in our ministry and in our faith despite this.  I am thankful that Jesus went before us and that He has been able to warn us of these dangers in our churches.

I pray that You will help us not to be so over-righteous in our beliefs, doctrines and traditions just because we’ve had them for so long we think they’re right.  We need to be still and listen to You when You talk to us.  I pray that You will help us not to discourage others who do not share our ministry or meet our expectations because it is possible we may not be serving You when we do this. In Luke 9:49 when John told Jesus he forbade someone from casting out demons because they did not follow with their disciples, Jesus told John “Do not forbid him for he who is not against us is on our side”.

I pray that we will not be a stumbling block for anyone, but particularly for those who are fresh, young and dynamic with different ideas who are seeking to develop a ministry in Your name.  Remind us daily Lord that there is only one safe place to be and that is resting in Your arms.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

A Perfect Reflection…

SCRIPTURE

“As the Father love Me, I also have loved you, abide in My love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15: 9 – 10

OBSERVATION

As I continue to read through John, I notice that whenever Jesus speaks, He makes references to His Father – it’s a major theme of an inter-relational connection.  Whatever Jesus is doing, His Father is doing also. Whatever is God’s will, is also Jesus’ will.  Equally, whatever Jesus experiences, for example ‘hate’ then God also is ‘hated’.  It’s almost as if Jesus is looking into the mirror and seeing God looking back and all of their desires, thoughts and actions are the same – it is a perfect reflection.

If we abide in Christ, then we will be mirroring this relationship also, between Christ and ourselves, with our thoughts, desires and actions mirroring His.  In so doing, we also have an inter-relational connection with God.

APPLICATION

Looking into the mirror of our lives and who we really are is not an easy process. When we look at Jesus, we become more acutely aware of our sin and the brokenness that is within us, because in all honesty we really do not reflect His true nature.  There are some days when I do not want to come before Jesus because I am painfully aware of how far removed I am from that reflection of His character.  I am broken, and if it wasn’t for Jesus, my mirror would be broken too, and there would be no way of communing with God.  But Jesus continues to look at me, and as long as I continue to look at Him, He teaches me what I need to do to become more like Him.

The beauty of this relationship is when God looks at me, He knows who I really am. But because I have accepted Jesus and I am trying to abide in Him, the blood of Jesus covers me.  Though I am broken, because of Jesus, my mirror reflects His sacrificial love, His Grace and Mercy. Jesus is our Mediator and He stands between myself and God.  God sees Jesus first – a perfect reflection of His love.

PRAYER

Dear God

I am thankful that You are Perfect in All Your Ways.  I am thankful that you sent Jesus to show us how to abide in You, as He does.  I am also thankful again for the sacrifice Jesus made to cover me with His blood.  Without this blood, I would be broken and my relationship with You would be broken too.

Thank You that Jesus is our Mediator, who stands before us now, and at judgment, talking to You on our behalf and I pray that we can continue to learn Your ways through  the mirror of His reflection.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

I’m Trusting God will do it…for His Glory…

SCRIPTURE

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. John 14: 13 – 14

OBSERVATION

Jesus made a promise to us that He would do anything for us, if only we ask.  Jesus has also told us to ask, seek and knock, because He will give it, find it and open the doors for us (Matthew 7:7). There are many things I have prayed about and asked God for, believing they were good things, things that God would definitely want for me.  Despite knowing that God answer prayers by either saying ‘Yes”, “No” or “Wait”, sometimes it is hard to believe and understand that God would withhold or postpone something good, for example – physical healing, a healthy marriage, a new job, a new home and other blessings.

The key to this promise, is that God answering this prayer has nothing to do with us.  It’s all about Him.  You see, Jesus said “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” – Jesus will answer our prayer, but so that we will know the Mighty Power of the Our Father.

APPLICATION

Personally, I am waiting right now for a prayer to be answered.  I believe it is something that God would want for me and I have been pretty close to receiving it, in fact, I know the blessing is around the corner.  But for some reason it has been delayed and I have been disappointed today.

Nevertheless, as I started reading this chapter, I found this passage comforting.  I realized that God was telling me that though I am disappointed right now, He will answer this prayer.  But it’s not even about me, it’s so that God’s name may be glorified, not mine.

I have to take myself out of this and trust Him – whatever He has in store – it will be best for me and for His glory.

Note:  For a variety of  reasons, I was behind in writing a blog for the last two days.  Maybe that delay was for my benefit so that I could read this passage today and be comforted by its relevance to my situation.  Maybe God knew I would be right here, in a place of frustration and impatience but as I write this, I feel this slipping away as I rest on God’s promise to answer my prayers according to His will and for His glory.

PRAYER

Dear Father

I am thankful that you are an All Powerful and  All-Knowing God.  I am thankful for your timing and for the message of comfort you have given to me today to calm my fears.  Please help us all to turn to you when we need answers to our prayers.  Please teach us to trust in You and Your timing, knowing that whatever you choose is for our benefit.  Sometimes it is hard, especially when things do not go our way at the time when we want it to, but this is all for Your Glory.

Thank you for your gifts of loving us enough to shape our characters by through learning to trust in you.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Love as Jesus Loved…

SCRIPTURE

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13 : 34, 35

OBSERVATION

When Jesus talks to us about something, it’s because He want us to grow and to learn new ways.  When Jesus referred to this commandment to love, was this really a new commandment?  I don’t think it was.  I think the newness Jesus was referring to was the new type of love He desired for us to learn and practice.  He said ‘love one another as I have loved you’.  The way that Jesus loved was extra-ordinary.

We are not talking about Hollywood, ‘fall in love’, but Agape love.

Jesus wants us to have a relationship with God first before we can truly relate to others.  When we have experienced the way in which God loves us, it is only then that we can truly understand how to love and respect ourselves and our bodies.  It is only when we have this relationship with God that we truly understand how to love another person.  We can treat them with dignity and respect, regardless of the way they treat us.  That does not mean that we become door mats, accepting any abusive behavior, for enabling someone is not love. But we should lovingly correct and encourage them to seek Godly insight just as Christ did.

Now… here is the remarkable part!!!  It is through the expression of this love that other people will know that we are His disciples, but only if we have love for one another.

APPLICATION

God’s love is unconditional meaning that His love for us is not performance-based.  God does not expect me to jump over ten hurdles perfectly to earn His love and if I fail, He withholds it. Neither should we expect others to complete tasks in order to earn our love.

God does require respect and so should we.  That same respect that we require, we should offer to others.   This means that our conduct, the way we talk, the tone we use, the things we say and do are tempered by the Holy Spirit.  This includes being able to give and receive loving and gentle correction.  Because of His love for us, God does admonish us from time to time when we need it and it’s only right that, without wrongful judgment, we help keep each other on the right path too.

This love that Jesus shared is not the worldly love that we know all too well.  It is different and because of this love, people were drawn to Christ. Wouldn’t it be awesome if people were drawn to God because of the love we expressed to each other?

PRAYER

Dear Father

Thank You for Your expression of True Love.  Thank You that we have been commanded to love each other as You have loved us.

Cast Your Holy Spirit amongst our families, friends, relationships, churches, spreading Your love and peace.  Help us to talk respectfully to each other, treating others with dignity and love, regardless of the way they treat us.  Help us to be committed to setting the example that Christ gave to us.   Admittedly, we do not always get this right but in our humble efforts, help us to glorify You and to draw others closer to You.

Thank You for hearing and answering our prayers.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Confessing Jesus is more than saying His Name…

SCRIPTURE

Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;  for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. John 12: 42 – 43

OBSERVATION

It’s hard to stand up for Jesus.  He said it wouldn’t be easy. He said that people sought the praise of men rather than the praise of God, and it’s true, they still do today.  Back in the day, people could not confess Jesus in the synagogue, but they could confess Him outside.  Today, it’s the opposite, Jesus is freely confessed in the church, but you cannot mention His name outside.  But confessing Jesus doesn’t always mean calling on His name or saying He is the Son of God.  Sometimes confessing Jesus calls you to act in a way that makes you different and unpopular, especially with people in the church.

There are many people who confess the name of Jesus in the church, but at the same time are back-biting and divisive. In my humble opinion, those that stand by and watch such actions without standing firmly against it because they are ‘afraid’ of that brother or sister, are just as responsible as the ones perpetrating the behavior.

For example, if I am aware that someone appears to be gossiping or acting in a way which appears discriminatory, should I not question them in a non-accusatory way and ask them about the purpose of their conversation or actions?  Based on their response, should I not challenge them as to whether that is the behavior Jesus requires of us?

APPLICATION

I want to be brave enough to stand up for Jesus and for what is right.  There are times when it is difficult for us to accurately judge a situation, but there are other instances where we can protect the integrity of the church and what Jesus stood for.  I want to have the courage to challenge people on these issues in a way that is loving, but also letting them know that – “we just don’t do ‘that’ at this church”.  I will confess the name of Jesus in word and action, even if it means I lose the praise and approval of people within the church or outside.

PRAYER

Dear Father

We Bless Your Holy Name and thank You for another day of life.  I pray and ask you to help each and every one of us to stand up for You and for what is right, even though it may make us unpopular. Help us to seek Your approval, and not the approval of men.  It’s not easy, and it is often uncomfortable, but unless we experience difficulties, we will not grow in character and wisdom.  Teach us Your ways and help us to remember that we are not alone, because You promised You would be with us until the very end of the age.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen.

Jesus Cries With You…

SCRIPTURE

“Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.  And He said, “Where have you laid him?”

They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”

Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:33 – 36)

OBSERVATION

When Jesus received the message that Lazarus was sick, Jesus did not respond immediately, He waited two days knowing that Lazarus would die.  In order to reveal God to us, Jesus had to wait for Lazarus to die, so that He could honor God’s power of raising the dead to life.  Jesus knew that Lazarus was going to live.

It was when Jesus saw Mary and the Jews weeping that Jesus “groaned in spirit and was troubled” and it was then that “Jesus wept”.  Although the Jews suggest that Jesus was crying because he loved Lazarus so, I think the Jews interpretation of what Jesus did and said has been consistently distorted and so I feel inclined to disagree with this view.

Just as a mother or father cries over the pain they see their child in perhaps after an accident or surgery, I think Jesus was feeling that same pain for us.  Jesus was showing empathy with the mourners, feeling their sorrow. He was expressing how deeply He felt about the high price of sin.  But He knew we would have to go through the pain because it was the consequence of our choices.  Just as a parent would want to take away the pain  or more so, take their child’s place, I think Jesus was reminded how much He wanted to take the sting of death away from us and take our place and ultimately that is what He did on the cross.

APPLICATION

It’s hard to accept death as being a part of life.  Death is unnatural, that’s why it hurts so much, and ultimately, that’s why Jesus cried.

I am comforted knowing that when I am in pain, my Savior understands my pain and He cries with me too, for He also has experienced it.  It would be easy for Jesus to take all the pain away, but if I have never experienced pain, how can I ever truly appreciate the absence of pain?  While I hear some of you saying, “sure, I don’t need pain to appreciate having no pain”.  Well, maybe that’s why Adam and Eve became too comfortable.  They had never experienced pain and so were unaware of how it felt and how serious the consequences were.  Once they felt it, they realized that partaking of the fruit to ‘become like God’ really wasn’t worth it.

Sometimes, we have to lose what we have and experience the pain, in order to truly appreciate it. Mary showed her appreciation for the absence of pain and regaining her lost brother.  After all it was Mary, who following the resurrection anointed Jesus with the fragrant oil from her alabaster box.

I pray that through my pain, like Mary I can draw closer to Christ knowing that He understands and He is willing to take that pain away from me.  Because of the sacrifice that Jesus made I know He has put in place a plan to remove that pain eternally.

PRAYER

Dear Father

Thank You for blessing and taking us through another week.  We are also thankful for the break from work and the opportunity to spend some quality time with our families and with You.

We know that You did not intend for death to become a part of our lives, but we understand that because of sin, it is a consequence.  I pray that we will not become complacent about sin and its’ consequences because we know Jesus paid the price.  Jesus loved us enough to sacrifice His Heavenly throne for us, let’s not take that for granted.  None of us want to feel this agony, but I pray that somehow through it we can appreciate the sacrifice that You made for us.  I pray it will help us to think twice about the choices we make, to sin… or not to sin.

I pray that through this pain, we can grow closer to You and more like You. Thank You for showing us You care for us deeply and that You weep with us when we mourn.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen.

FOLLOW JESUS!!! Not your church…or pastor, or friend…

SCRIPTURE

“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10: 9)

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.

The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” (John 10: 11 – 14)

OBSERVATION

The man who was blind had just been healed by Jesus and he had testified to the Pharisees of what Jesus had done for him.  The Pharisees in their stubbornness refused to hear this man’s testimony and decided to throw him out of the synagogue.  Jesus went to look for him because He knew this man had been persecuted because of what He had done and so He went to comfort him.

In so many words Jesus said to the formerly blind man, if you believe in me then although they have thrown you out of the church, you have nothing to fear.   He said I am the True Shepherd and those who follow Me will be protected as I will lay down My life to save those who believe in Me. Jesus said “you will go in and out and find pasture”, so whether you are in this synagogue or outside you will live in peace.  Even if they reject you, you can find acceptance in Me.  As long as you believe in Me, I am the one who will care for all your needs and your salvation.  Follow Me and I will always have food (spiritual) for you to eat, for I am the Bread of Life.

APPLICATION

I cannot and should not place my trust in the church or pastor to care, save or protect me in times of trouble.  Despite the pastor’s role as a ‘shepherd’, there are some who may even sacrifice me for their own benefit as the Pharisees did by throwing this man out of the church.  Just as Jesus said, the ‘hireling’ or hired Pharisee does not own the sheep (as Jesus does) and may leave the sheep to be attacked by the wolves, so that they can save themselves.    For example, sometimes, people’s spiritual needs suffer because pastors fail to act to protect members of the congregation because to do so may affect tithes – this is a very real scenario.

People may leave or be cast out of the church, but it does not mean they no longer believe in Jesus, indeed they may have a very strong faith, just as the formerly blind man did. Jesus does not want us to place our spiritual needs or salvation in the hands of a synagogue, church, pastor or anyone else, for they can neither offer us heaven nor hell.  Jesus is the only door through which our spiritual needs can be met, or through which we can enter into salvation.  If I am truly following Jesus, what else can anyone offer me that Jesus cannot provide?

Quite simply, my faith and trust should be in Jesus.  It was Jesus who laid down His life and paid for my sins. I do not belong to a church, I belong to Jesus and I will follow Him.

PRAYER

Father God

You are a Mighty God and Worthy to be Praised and Adored.  Thank You for reminding us that You love us enough to sacrifice Your only Son that we could be saved.  Thank You Jesus that You were willing to die for us and pay the penalty of our sins.

Thank You for being the True Shepherd who takes care of His sheep. Please remind us daily that our faith and trust should be in You to lead us through life.  Please help us to rely on you to meet our spiritual needs and not on our church or pastor.  One day those people may be there for us, but on another day, they may not be.  But You Lord are the Good Shepherd, ever-present and willing to lead and protect. You promised that wherever we are, in or outside of a church, as long as we  believe in and follow You, we will find peace and sustenance in Your green pastures… forever.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Show God’s Love to Your Children

SCRIPTURE

“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”  John 9: 1 – 3

OBSERVATION

For a long time, dare I say up until very recently, I used to think that God rewarded me for obedience and punished me for my disobedience.  After all, it’s a common model perpetuated by my parents to which I became conditioned.  It was the same model that the Jews believed in too, that if something bad had happened to someone, whether it be an illness or accident, it was because they or their parents had sinned – God had punished them.

Jesus saw the blind man as He walked by.  His disciples wanted to know why this man was blind, was it because of his sin or his parents.  Jesus’ answer was that it was neither, but that this was an opportunity for God to be glorified. Moreover, it was an opportunity for God’s love for man to be truly exposed.

You see, this man was a sinner,  he was not even a believer in God.  He didn’t even ask Jesus to heal Him and in many ways we could define him as undeserving of God’s help.  But Jesus was willing to heal Him not because this man was obedient, but because He wanted to show people what His love is really about.

APPLICATION

God had to send Jesus in order for us to really get to know God.  We had already perpetuated untruths about God in relation to punishing people with sicknesses because of their sins. By Jesus’ example, we were able to really know who God is and dispel some of those myths.

So, how are my children going to know God if I perpetuate the same myths by punishing my child when they make mistakes.  After all, am I not God’s representative on Earth for my child?  Surely they will relate to God in the same way that they relate to me.  If I’m an angry tyrant, who shouts and punishes them for the slightest mistake, surely they will view God the same way.  They will also be afraid to try, fearing that they will fail and may be punished for it.

Even when our children make mistakes, sometimes we just need to give them another chance, even if they are undeserving, after all this is what God does for us, every day.

PRAYER

Dear God

Thank You for showing us Your unconditional love.  Please help us to teach our children about Your love through our own example.  Help us to teach our children that there are consequences that happen to us because this is a sinful world but God does not wait around for us to make mistakes in order to punish us. Please help us to how grace, mercy to our children when they make mistakes.  Help us to clearly explain the guidelines we have set for them so that when they make mistakes we can lovingly steer them back onto the right path and to give them the opportunity to correct their mistakes.  We really want our children to know You and to be able to turn to You when they make mistakes.

Thank You Lord for being a safe place for us to succeed and to fail, please help us to be that safe place for our children too.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen.

Taking a Cheap Shot at Jesus…

SCRIPTURE

“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.”

They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.”

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.” (the devil)

Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.” (John 8: 37 – 41)

OBSERVATION

Once again Jesus was defending Himself, and again it was His birthright as the Son of God.  The Jews told Jesus that they were the descendants of Abraham to which Jesus agreed.  But Jesus said, if you are seeking to kill me then your father is not Abraham, because Abraham would not seek to kill Him.  Jesus told them that He does the works of His Father (God), and they do the works of their father (Satan), though they did not fully understand Jesus’ reference.  Nevertheless, they wanted to totally discredit Jesus and His claim to Heavenly Paternity.  The Jews decided to take a cheap shot at Jesus by saying to Him “we were not born of fornication” or in other words “at least I am not a child of illicit sex” referencing the spiritual conception of Jesus by His mother Mary.  Thankfully, Jesus ignored them and continued to testify of His Father.

APPLICATION

Some things never change. Jesus was trying to educate the Jews about their actions, after all they were the ones asking Him questions.  The Jews did not like Jesus’ answer, and in their bid to discredit and hurt Him, they decided to drag us His apparent ‘unsavory’ past.  How could you be a child of God and the Son of God at that – you are a child of immorality?

It reminds me of some of the churches I have read about that refuse to baptize or bless innocent babies/children, because their parents were not married.  I remember on one occasion, a group of brothers and sisters leading the youth in my church, refused to choose a particular young man to preach, because neither of His parents attended church. I was absolutely horrified that we could even begin to exclude or punish innocent youth on the basis of their parents actions, but if the Jews did it to Jesus, it can happen to anyone.

We need to be mindful that we seek to love people because they are God’s children, regardless of who their parents are or what they have done.  Our respect for people should not include creating a hierarchy of sin such that my parents sins are more respectable than yours, “for we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23).

PRAYER

Dear Father in Heaven

We are thankful that You sent Jesus to teach us about who You are.  We are thankful for Your sacrifice and moreover for the humiliation and suffering that Jesus went through because of Your immense love for us.  I cannot imagine how much Jesus had to fight daily to stay strong and to stay connected to You. Although I know that there are a lot of beautiful people here on this earth, it just seems that as a human race, sometimes we must be incredibly difficult to love, especially when we can be so insensitive and cruel.  Knowing this, it makes me realize that what Jesus went through to save us, He could only have done it because of Love, a love that in my immaturity, I cannot even begin to comprehend.

When we look at others, help us not to see them based on their sins or the apparent sins of their fathers,  help us to see Your face Jesus and love them as You have loved us.

Thank you for your Love.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen.

Judge Yourself Before You Judge Others…

SCRIPTURE

Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?”  John 7: 19

“Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  John 7: 22 – 23

Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”  John 7: 51

OBSERVATION

I could not help but notice that Jesus had to defend Himself against unfair judgments.  He was accused time and time again of breaking the law.  Yet, the same people who judged Him, were the ones who were breaking the law and failed to notice it.  Jesus asks them why are you trying to kill me when you are the ones breaking the law?  He asks them again why are you so mad at me for apparently breaking the Sabbath by healing a man, when you also perform circumcisions on the Sabbath to keep the law of Moses?  If I am breaking the Sabbath, then you are too. Jesus challenges their hypocritical legalistic attitudes towards the law.

Clearly the people have little insight into their own actions and can only see what they perceive Jesus is doing wrong.  On that basis, as Nicodemus points out they have judged Him without even asking Him what He is doing.  It is classic speck versus plank eye syndrome. (Matthew 7: 3-5). They do not realize that they have failed to judge Jesus’ actions in the context of His testimony and their own failings and if they had, they may have judged a little less harshly. “Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:2)

APPLICATION

It’s easy for me to stand back, judge someone and then feel better about myself because I did not break God’s law.  It’s satisfying that I can go away and exalt myself for not doing what they did.  I cannot count how many times I have judged someone from a distance without getting to know or ask them what they were doing or why and trying to put myself in their shoes. Furthermore, how many times have I criticized someone, only to find myself committing the same act a few days later?  It all happens far too often.

It’s important to challenge ourselves daily about the snap judgments we make.  It is equally important to be careful about the accusatory remarks or thoughts we have, without having enquired directly or tried to understand another person.  We should try to listen to people with an understanding of our own failings as humans.   When Jesus pointed out the people’s hypocrisy He said “do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). He was referring to the fact that they had failed to look at the full picture, which included their ‘law breaking actions’ too.  Legalistic hypocritical judgments have no place in God’s law. Just as Jesus said that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2;27), “the Law was made for man, not man for the Law”.

I am realizing that I am continually seeing planks in my own eyes.  The more planks I see and remove from my own eyes, the more spiritual insight I have.  The more spiritual insight I have into my own failings, the more grace and love I can extend towards others.

PRAYER

Almighty God

You are worthy to be praised and we thank You for Your Grace, Love and Mercy.  My prayer today is that we all look deeply into ourselves before we even begin to look at others.  The process of removing planks from our eyes is endless but necessary.   Help us not to judge others by appearance.  We do not know what others are going through and even if we do, help us to be supportive.  Even if we try to step into their shoes, we can never fully experience their pain or understand their decisions, so help us not to judge hypocritically or legalistically.  Help us to judge righteously by seeing others through our own failings and in doing so, to extend love, grace and care towards them.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Do Not Change Your Identity!!!

SCRIPTURE

‘From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” John 6: 66- 67

OBSERVATION

Jesus had just finished feeding the five thousand, and the people were so impressed that they wanted to come and take Him by force and make Him king. But Jesus knew this was not the job God had destined Him for, so He quickly departed to be alone.  When the people found Him again, they wanted Him to perform more miracles to prove who He was, but Jesus did not because He knew He was not a performer.

Instead He talked to them in deeper spiritual terms about who He really was and what He was really here to do, but no one understood.  The Jews quarreled and complained, and now even His disciples began to doubt and turn away from Him.  But Jesus stood firm, He turned and asked His other twelve disciples if they wanted to go also.

APPLICATION

Jesus was not afraid of people abandoning Him physically or spiritually because of His testimony of who He was.  He gave them free will to come and go as they pleased and did not fight for them to return. More importantly, Jesus did not change His identity to make Himself more acceptable to others.  He refused to be king.  He refused to perform.  He refused to change to make other people happy.

Why? Because Jesus had His identity wrapped up in God His Father and His spiritual foundation was based on God.  Jesus was not dependent upon the disciples or the approval of others to help Him feel better about Himself.  He depended upon God and who God had told Him He was.  Even though the people did not accept Jesus as the Bread of Life, Manna from Heaven, the Son of God, it did not phase Him or lead Him to question Who He was.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father

I am thankful for the example that Jesus continues to show us of steadfast faith and a secure identity in You. It is very easy to be a people pleaser and to change to make others happy, especially when they decide to leave. Though it is hard to watch people leave, we know that Jesus had to let people go who did not accept the identity that You gave Him.

I pray that you will help us all to hold onto the characters that you have given to us and to seek approval only from You, and not from man.  Our job, is to make You happy by fulfilling Your will and to testify of it, just as Jesus did.  We need to daily claim our identity in You, knowing that we are indeed Children of the Heavenly King!

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Reject or Rejected…?

SCRIPTURE

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.   But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

“I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.”  John 5:43

OBSERVATION

During 5th chapter from verse 24 – 47, Jesus talks about how life and judgment are through the Son.  Jesus appears to be expressing His human side and is very frustrated with the Jewish people, the people who were supposed to receive Him, His very own people.  He has been as honest, open and loving as He could be.  He has testified to God’s amazing powers by healing numerous sick people and doing miracles.   Yet, the Jews refuse to humble themselves and treat him with scorn and contempt. The attitude of the Jews appears to be over-righteous, argumentative, accusatory and unforgiving with little personal insight into their own misdeeds and ignorance. The very scripture that the Jews claimed to know and were so haughty about, is the very scripture they could not comprehend, even when the scripture was personified before them in the form of Jesus.

I also thought about how Jesus felt when He came in His Father’s name and was rejected, and yet the Jews were willing to accept others when they came in their own name.

APPLICATION

There are times when the very people that we expect to accept us, instead reject us and it hurts even more when it’s people that we thought would care, like family or friends.  For some people there isn’t anything that we can do that can ever be good enough. Though we may show them the love of Jesus, by expressing care, understanding and forgiveness, just like the Jews,  they  may never see it even though they read about it in the Scriptures every day.

Furthermore, I have heard some spouses complain that their husband or wife does not listen to them, and yet when they hear the same information from someone else who in reality should have less influence, their spouse is quick to respond. It’s the same way Jesus felt when people were more willing to listen to less credible folk.

We need to be aware that despite our honorable intentions, rejection will come and it will not be easy.  Moreover, we also need to be aware when we may dismiss someone’s advice or help, because we take them for granted such that we diminish their contribution.  We need to be especially careful that at these times we do not send away the very help that God brought to us, in answer to our own prayers or His promises to us.

PRAYER

Dear God

Thank You for another day of studying and learning about the life of Jesus. Sometimes people challenge our patience, character and faith and this can be frustrating and hurtful, especially when it is friends/family. It is comforting to know that Jesus felt the same pain that we do when we are rejected and our opinions diminished, so that He understands how we feel.  But help us to know that we can also inflict the same pain on others and not to reject them.  While it is easy to point out the fault in others, it is more important that we have insight into our own behavior, so that we can humble ourselves and seek Jesus, the One who came in Your name and in whose Name we pray.

Amen.

Did Jesus Accept Divorce?

SCRIPTURE

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”  The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

OBSERVATION

I have always wondered about the purpose of the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman.  I notice that following Jesus’ request to call the Samaritan’s woman’s husband, she responds by saying that she has no husband.  Jesus agrees and says that she has spoken the truth.  He then goes on to say that she has had five husbands and the one she is with is not hers.

But how can she have married five husbands, yet according to Jesus, have no husband?  Surely, according to traditional views, Jesus would say that she has at least one husband, with the first marriage (where there is no death) being the only spiritually acceptable one?  Furthermore, how could she have gotten to her fifth husband without being stoned for adultery because she remarried four times?

Or did all of her husbands die? It seems unlikely, even so, what Jesus said would then be correct, she has no husband for they are all dead.  But why mention her dead husbands?  All He could have said is, that the man she is with now is not her husband.  Why would it be relevant to raise her past?  After all, Jesus says everything for a reason.

Another explanation is that she ‘had’ – meaning had sexual intercourse with five men who are another woman’s husband.  However, the term generally used in the Bible for sexual intercourse is ‘to lay’ or ‘to know’.

Lastly, could she have had five husbands and was legally and spiritually divorced from them, hence she really had no husband.  As a consequence of her five failed relationships, she decided to live with the last man so that she would not have to go through the humiliation of another divorce? If so, was Jesus accepting the validity of a legal and spiritual divorce by stating she has no husband?

While I believe and fully support the ideal for a marriage partnership to be life-long, we know that Moses allowed divorce due to the hardness of man’s heart.  However, according to some studies, the word divorce has been wrongly translated.  The original Hebrew word used for ‘divorce’ actually refers to an old practice of men who ‘put away’ their wives (separated  or left them with no legal divorce).  For her survival and that of her children, the ‘put away’ wife would remarry rather than prostitute herself. But because she was not legally divorced, she committed adultery and this is why God hates ‘divorce’ that is the practice of ‘putting away’.  Moses requested that a legal document be produced to protect women who were often oppressed, impoverished and unjustly stoned, (Deuteronomy 24:1-3).  A legal document allowed the woman the freedom to remarry without condemnation of adultery.  It has been suggested that the word ‘divorce’ in the Bible should be read using the words ‘to put away’. (For a general read on Divorce and Remarriage –  http://www.bethelministries.com/divorce.htm). Let us not forget that God legally divorced Himself from Israel, also issuing them a certificate of divorce (Jeremiah 3:8).

APPLICATION

What was the purpose of this conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman such that He raised her past and present?  I think that Jesus gently brought her into the awareness of her failed relationships and her current actions living with another man, but I think it was the reason behind her failed relationships that Jesus was asking her to explore.  Before He mentioned her husbands, Jesus told her that He  has living water, and if she drinks His water, she will never thirst again.  I believe Jesus was saying to the Samaritan woman – whatever you are seeking in these men, can be found in Me.  He was stipulating that He (Jesus) is the love that she has been searching for and once she accepts God’s love, she will never search for this love in another man or earthly relationship again.  I know this is a lesson I need to hear and accept.

PRAYER

Father God

Thank You for another day enjoying this miracle called life.  I thank You for the institution of marriage which ideally should be a life-long commitment.  I thank You for the opportunity to look at divorce from a different perspective.  Help us in this day and age to learn to treat people who are divorced with more compassion and care, rather than with judgment and failing.  I know that You understand because You Lord were also divorced from Israel and You bear no shame.  I thank You for the example of love and empathy that You showed to the Samaritan woman while explaining to her that we need to find love in You first.  Without the knowledge of Your love it will be difficult for any of us to truly know what love looks like and this may eventually lead to failed relationships.

Help us all to be grounded in Your wonderful gift of true unconditional love.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Note:  Your comments are welcome, but please note that this a controversial and sensitive topic. I ask that all words are written respectfully and with love.

He Must Increase…

“Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification.  And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”

John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3: 22 – 30

OBSERVATION

This scripture reminds me of the doctrinal differences that separate us as Christians into the various churches and denominations.   Unfortunately, we squabble between and within churches about whose doctrines are right or wrong and seek to win people over to our church on this basis. Jesus and his disciples were baptizing people.  John and his disciples were also baptizing people.  There was a dispute between John’s disciples and a Jew about what one could perceive as a doctrinal matter regarding purification (ceremonial washing).  The Jew then tried to undermine John’s conviction or understanding of purification by saying that all the people were going to Jesus to be baptized.

Rather than argue over the matter and cause division, John pledged allegiance to Christ under one body serving God.  John described himself as the friend of the Bridegroom (Jesus) who is just happy to see the bride (people/church) and the Bridegroom united, and on this basis his joy is fulfilled.  John showed the Jew that being joined to Christ is the most important matter.

APPLICATION

There will be times during my faith where people from different religions or denominations will question my beliefs.  Should I be able to explain what I believe?  Of course I should.  Nevertheless, John’s example suggests that doctrinal differences are not to be dwelt upon as they can become divisive.  Moreover, we must be careful that we do not indulge in our own selfish pride to win a theological battle. It’s not about us, it’s about Jesus.  “He must increase, but I must decrease”.  As long as people have accepted Christ into their lives through baptism – our joy should be full.

It is also interesting to note that at the beginning of chapter 4, Jesus decides to retreat especially after the Pharisees knew Jesus baptized more people than John. “Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John  (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),  He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.” John 4:1.  If Jesus can be humble and selfless enough to retreat for the sake of unity under One God, I can too.

PRAYER

Father God, it is a blessing to read your Holy Word, I marvel at how relevant it is to our lives today.  Thank you Lord for leaving this Book of Wisdom with us so that we can learn to manage our lives according to Your Will.

I pray that you will help us not to draw attention to ourselves or doctrinal matters that are more likely to divide than unite and may have little bearing upon our salvation.  Help us to retreat and humble ourselves as Jesus did.  Teach us to rejoice and glorify You as John did when people find You, even if they do not join our church or denomination. They are not joining us or our church… they are joining You.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Have Faith in Jesus…Not the miracles…

SCRIPTURE

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men. John 2: 23 – 24

OBSERVATION

Jesus was able to read the hearts of people and He made a choice not to place any importance on the ‘faith’ or ‘belief’ that people had in Him because of the miracles He did.  It seems that Jesus thought their faith was superficial, I can only assume because it was faith by sight and people were more impressed with the miracle and not the Son of God.  Before the miracles – I wonder how those people viewed and treated Jesus?

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says that “there is nothing new under the sun”.  I wonder to what extent our faith in Christ has changed.  Do we treat Jesus poorly until He provides us with a miracle and then our attitudes change?  How much do we need charismatic preachers and entertaining Christian music artists to feel that God exists and is available to us?  How much importance do we place on charming preachers and melodious voices to enjoy church and feel connected to God?

APPLICATION

While there is nothing wrong with enjoying a spirit-filled worship and praise session, if we take those things away, what do we have left? Will we still be able to connect with Jesus and be steadfast in our faith?  Or do we need to see or hear something as evidence or a reminder of His existence and power? I’m not saying that we should not use music, or sermons or feel blessed by His gifts of healing. I just want to be careful that my faith is in Jesus and not in His miracles.  As Job 1:21 says – The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  When God takes something away, what will I think of Him. Will I still respect Him?  I certainly hope I will.

PRAYER

Dear God

Thank You for being a Mighty Awesome God. Thank You for this opportunity to read and study and to seek new understanding. Lord, when You look into my heart, I want You to see someone who is desiring a new relationship with You, not based upon what I see or the miracles You perform in my life.  Even if You do no other miracle for me than allow me to breathe each day,  help my faith to be deep and grounded in You.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

“What Do You Seek?”

SCRIPTURE

Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” John 1:38

OBSERVATION

John the Baptist had two of his disciples with him.  As Jesus walked by, John the Baptist declared Jesus as “the Lamb of God!” .  It was at this time that the two disciples left John the Baptist and proceeded to follow Jesus.  Jesus then turned to them and asked “What do you seek?”.

This is a valid question for many of us today.  What are we truly seeking from God? What are our motives for following Him?  Jesus knew that people would come to Him for many different reasons.  Some people would seek healing, forgiveness, peace, eternal life, riches, perhaps even superiority amongst many other things.

Nevertheless, the disciples tell us exactly what they were seeking.

They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” John 1:38

The disciples were simply seeking to be with Jesus and spend time with Him.

APPLICATION

I need to evaluate my motives for seeking Jesus.  What am I truly seeking?  Am I seeking selfish gain?  Has following Jesus become another routine activity because it’s what our family does and has done for years?

I need to spend time with Jesus simply because He is Jesus. I need to get to know who He is.  Personally, I think one of the highest forms of compliment you can bestow on anyone is an active desire to spend time with them without seeking any additional profit other than the blessings you receive from their character, wisdom and spiritual understanding. Following that would be a desire to model their behavior in thoughts and actions. To me it means that you simply love them for WHO they are, not for what they can do for you.

PRAYER

Dear God

Thank you for being an Almighty God.  Thank you for sending Jesus so that we can know You.  My prayer is that you will help each and every one of us to desire to spend time with You simply on the basis of who You are and not for what You can do for us.  The blessing of eternal life is not about living for ever in paradise, but living for ever with You.  Please help us to prioritize our lives so that we can put You first in all the things we do.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Let’s Spend Time in God’s Word…

Apparently it takes approximately three weeks to create a new habit regardless of whether it’s a positive or negative one.  We are nearing that wonderful time each year when we make promises for the New Year about how we are going to do things differently.  Well, I don’t know about you, but I need to re-create some new habits and I want to get in training now.  With busy schedules, it’s easy to put aside God’s Word, so whatever I do needs to be achievable.  So I’m making an accountability plan through this blog to spend time in God’s Word…daily.

On this basis, I’m inviting you to join me as I read one chapter of the Gospel of John each day, starting tomorrow.  This plan is not about the quantity of reading, but the quality of spiritual understanding and application to our lives. John happens to be my favorite Gospel and is an ideal place to learn more about the life of Christ.  Furthermore, it has 21 chapters, that’s exactly 3 weeks of training to create a new habit!

I will seek to update the blog daily with my thoughts by using the acronym S.O.A.P. which some of you may have used before:-

  • S – Scripture;
  • O – Observation about the scripture;
  • A – Application to my life;
  • P – Prayer of consecration.

Trust me, there are areas of my life that need S.O.A.P. and my prayer is that by the Grace of God, those areas will be washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb, for God has promised us all  “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18.

Share this blog with your friends or perhaps you could study together.  However you choose to do it, I welcome your thoughts and comments as we embark upon this journey together.

God Bless.

The Power of Our Words…

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6

A friend of mine told me how their child came home crying because another child had yet again said some cruel, nasty words to them. Their child said “Mommy – I would rather they hit me – I could deal with that better – words really hurt”.

Words do hurt. There have been many news stories about children who have been victims of bullies at school.  There have also been campaigns to educate people about the damaging effects of verbal bullying on children, particularly name-calling, put-downs, threats and insults, however the consequences of these actions continue to be sorely minimized. Angry outbursts of shouting, cursing, name calling, put-downs, threats, insults, a belittling tone, untrue accusations as well as the silent treatment, are in actual fact all different kinds of verbal abuse.  Verbal abuse is a continued attempt by a bully through the use of unkind words to gain and maintain control over a victim by destroying their self-esteem.  It is especially effective when there is no effort or desire by the bully to resolve the issues, but to prolong and manipulate the negative feelings of the victim, which usually gives the bully some sense of power.

Many people fail to recognize verbal abuse, suggesting that victims are just being over-sensitive and they need to toughen up. They underestimate the power of words to damage and undermine one’s sense of well-being.  People also seem to think that bullying ends when you leave school.  However, bullying continues to pervade the adult lives of many, and is usually known as domestic abuse. In fact, I have read that for many battered women the emotional and verbal abuse that they endured was worse than the physical abuse. Though their physical scars healed, the emotional scars continued to haunt them.

Words are important. Words have the ability to give life or death and can destroy children, adults, marriages and families. Verbal abuse over a long period of time cripples lives, and people often feel ashamed, confused and frustrated.  A sustained violent torrent of words causes devastating pain and though one’s physical body may live, the spirit begins to die.  Mental symptoms such as depression does manifest and the physical body is also affected with a variety of psycho-somatic illnesses due to the high conflict and stress.  In some cases these illnesses become terminal, because the continual emotional turmoil leaves the immune system compromised.  Sadly in some cases, children as well as adults choose to end their lives.

Words have power. God takes words seriously too and He does not under-estimate the impact that they can have on His children. Let’s not forget that God used words to create and speak life into His creation in Genesis – how incredible is that? We must also remember that Jesus is The Word who became flesh and dwelt amongst us. (John1:1 – 14).

Words can kill. Proverbs 18:21 says ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue’, and the 6th commandment tells us in Exodus 20:13 ‘You shall not murder’, but somehow we fail to hold ourselves and others accountable for the words that fall out of their mouths.

Does verbal abuse exist in church families, between parents and children, husbands and wives and members? Of course it does. While everyone appears to be respectable and well-mannered at church, no one truly knows what goes on at home behind closed doors. Abuse, whether physical, verbal, emotional, and/or spiritual needs to be brought into the light and dealt with seriously by church leaders simply because hiding it only helps to destroys people and families. Church leaders should aim to hold perpetrators of abuse accountable, without seeking to blame the victim by telling them to submit, pray or meditate harder. Those that are abused need support, understanding, compassion and love.  They need to know that this is not their fault and they should seek whatever help is necessary to restore peace to their lives, which may include therapy as well as any necessary medications to help them cope.

As Christians, we need to be brave enough to speak up and tackle these unsavory issues on behalf of our oppressed children, brothers and sisters.  We should have confidence, knowing that God is with us, even if we receive resistance from our church.  After all, isn’t this the example that Jesus left for us?

It’s Okay to be Human…

Today I’ve been thinking about how unforgiving the world can be when we make mistakes. Some days it is hard to be ‘human’, to be imperfect in a world that expects you to be perfect and get things right… All. The. Time.

I remember my child coming home, feeling they had been unjustly dealt with at school. It was the first time they had forgotten their homework, and they had been ‘disciplined’ as if they were a repeat offender. I felt their pain. Everyone forgets something from time to time – it’s human. I had to remind them that it was okay to forget, it was okay to be imperfect, it is okay to be human.

This world does not always offer you a second chance. One seemingly small mistake or error in judgment can be disastrous to your life or the lives of others, and in some cases you can be judged by that mistake for rest of your life – the label sticks. Sometimes we judge others harshly, until we find ourselves in a similar situation. It is my prayer that I can grow with God in offering forgiveness to my brothers and sisters who make mistakes, as I know I need that same forgiveness.

I am thankful that God knew me well enough to know I would make mistakes despite my efforts. He lovingly set up a plan to forgive and redeem me. With Jesus – there are no worldly labels regardless of what we have done. Jesus gives us new chances every day. We may sin one day, and be washed clean by the blood of the Lamb, through the confession and repentance of our sins, the following day.

With Jesus, I have a Friend, a Brother, and an Advocate. With the Holy Spirit, I have the comfort and strength to walk with God in this unforgiving world with my head held high. With God, I have the unconditional love of my Creator, my Father. Amen.

The Faster Runner Does Not Win This Race

This race is not for the swift nor the strong, but for he that endures to the end.
I am trying my hardest to stay in this race, but my legs are cramped spiritually by sin.
I am trying to concentrate; I am trying to stay focused; but the enemy’s weapons attack me like a swarm of locusts. First, he tries to get me to doubt, when I have every reason to keep the faith, and God gives me every reason to scream and shout praises to His name. Therefore, I tell the enemy to fall back, because I am not falling for his game. I live by the bread of life and I rely on it for nourishment, but that sneaky foe tries to get me to eat a bowl of discouragement. It tastes sweet at first, but turns bitter going down. I notice the smile and joy on my face evaporates into a frown. I really need my Jesus; there has never been any doubt how much I’ve missed Him. I need to purge all of this despair and discouragement right out of my system. I remember He said be of good courage and be of good cheer,
God has not given me the spirit of fear. I am holding on to His promises, and trying to live right.
I keep running this race because the finish line is in sight. However, distractions and diversions veer me off course; I try with all my might to fight off this evil force. I realize that I cannot run this race on my own, so I send my prayers up in hopes that it reaches God’s throne. Jesus came down to carry me at the moment Satan thought he had me defeated, but when he saw Jesus lift me up and cross the finish line as a winner, he was the one that retreated. I asked Jesus how I won the race even though I have constantly sinned. He said I already forgave you; I was more concerned that you endured to the end…..I was more concerned that you endured to the end……..

Reflect on the lyrics to this song……

Save Some Oil…For Yourself!

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“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ 

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour”. Matthew 25: 1-13

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I don’t know where I went,
I disappeared amongst the kids, job, partner and the rent.
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I wander through the mist,
Of work and chores, school and trips and a never-ending list.

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, most days I just appease,
Despite the work to make it right they were rarely pleased.
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, to make a happy house,
I want so much to make it well for my family, friends and spouse.

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, my goals I have made known
I really want to chase God’s dream, the seed that He has sown.
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I gave away my oil,
I’m all burnt out with nothing left from chasing endless toils.

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, a voice that goes unheard
But if I don’t exist why do I feel their every word?
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, but I exist unseen,
It’s clear that I’m invisible, Dear God, where have I been?

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, but I gave me away
And though my well was void and dry, they thought I was okay.
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I’m in a lonely place,
I’m all worn out, too tired to care, I’m resting in His Grace

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I’m drinking at His well.
It’s then my eyes are opened and I see just where I fell.
I’m lost and I have found myself resting in His arms,
Leaning on His lasting love, protected from all harm

I’m lost and I have found myself, replenished and revived,
Remembering the sacrifice, why He was crucified.
I’M FOUND!!! I know just who I am, He taught me I’m His child,
There’s nothing else I need to know, His love has me beguiled.

I’M FOUND!!! I know just who I am I won’t be lost again
As long as He lights up my path and tightly holds the rein.
I’m found and I have realized the things I didn’t see,
I’m found and I have realized the need to care for me.

I’m found and He has promised me I’ll never be alone,
I’m found and He has set me on a path to take me home.
I’m found and I will not let go, in Him I will reside
My Lord, My Savior Jesus Christ!!! Forever by my side!

This poem reflects a perspective of how family life, though desired and prized, can also be stressful and draining.  It’s easy to get caught up in giving constantly to the demands of our, families, marriages, friends, jobs and church life while neglecting yourself.  As long as you are always self-sacrificing and always putting others first, neglecting your own needs – people – no matter who they are –  will take and take and eventually you will become exhausted. At those times when you ask for or need help – you may find some, but you may also find none.

You must not lose yourself, give away your character and eternal salvation because the demands of life or people – even the ones that you love – becomes so overwhelming that you fail to take time for yourself – and then when Christ returns – you are unprepared – you have no oil. Remember – Jesus took time away from the crowds to rest and renew His relationship with His Father – without this self-care, Jesus may have been of little help to anyone else.

Set clear boundaries with people who perpetually burn your oil without replenishing it.   Learn to say “No!” just as the wise virgins did. Take some time to know yourself and who God created you to be and pursue that course no matter what!  Make time to relax and renew your mind through an activity you enjoy,  whether exercising or socializing with friends. Last and most importantly, take consistent time to develop and cement your relationship with and your character in Christ through prayer and reading the Bible. Do yourself a favor while you still have time, save some oil for yourself – you cannot afford to be lost – your salvation depends on it!

Trust in The Source.

Trust is the foundation in any successful relationship. But trusting people always comes with a price – the possibility of being hurt. Once trust has been damaged it’s difficult to repair and without trust, relationships between friends, family, spouses or co-workers can fall apart.

People often let us down with their words and/or behavior – we all have done or said something which has damaged someone’s trust in us whether it is a parent, spouse, sibling, child, or friend – none of us are perfect. However, trust can be rebuilt if we are willing to swallow our pride, accept we are wrong, apologize and demonstrate through our actions a willingness to change and be considerate of others.

On the other hand, consistent displays of behavior which repeatedly breaks or damages trust is difficult to accept.  Perpetual broken trust, without repentance or humility often leads to a breakdown in the relationship. As Christians we are taught to forgive repeatedly and so we should, especially since we need forgiveness too, but there are behaviors which should not be tolerated – after all God did give us common sense and wisdom. To continually accept behavior which breaks our trust and hurts us is damaging, not only to the relationship, but to the spiritual, emotional and physical persons involved and can often lead to depression and despair.

God does not want us to despair. Why?  Because He wants us to trust in Him. When people hurt us God wants us to draw close to Him.  God can renew us. Like Elijah, God can revive, refresh and sustain even when we are at our lowest points. Jesus will feed us, quench our thirst and provide for all our needs for He is the Bread of Life and the Living Water.

When people hurt you, whether intentional or not, God can use that hurt to turn your life around, just as Balaam, in Numbers 24 tried to curse the Israelites, he ended up blessing them three times. In Genesis 50:20 Joseph said “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good”. God can take you on a journey of revelation through your pain and transform it into a blessing of peaceful understanding, spiritual growth, strength and happiness.

Where a broken trust leads us to question ourselves, our identity and judgment, we must remember our identity is in God and He is the source of all things – our breath, self-esteem, gifts, abilities, education, job, income, health – everything in our lives.  Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein”.  God is the source of all things. The earth, people, jobs, wealth, success and all the things in the earth, dare I say, are merely re-sources and we should not put out trust in re-sources.

I am learning to trust in God – The Source and believe what He says about me and accept who He created me to be and to trust Him to provide for my life – He validates my very being – no one else. Trusting in ‘man’ to meet our mental, spiritual, financial needs or otherwise is sinking sand and we need to build our trust in and on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Rock of our Salvation.

landscape
Image courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Maybe that is why the very heart of the Bible says:-

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes”  Psalm 118:8 .

It is a lesson and a scripture that we should hold in our hearts as we seek to heal from the hurts of an imperfect human race.  God is The Source – let us put our trust and confidence in Him.

I Confess…

…I’m an Israelite…through and through.  Despite seeing miracles over and over and experiencing the blessings of God repeatedly – like the Israelites in the desert, I still doubt God’s protection and His ability to do the impossible.  I don’t understand how God can bless me one week, and the following week my faith crumbles when things are not going my way.  I’m putting it out there… bad as it sounds… it seems that I need God to prove Himself over and over again.

In our last blog by Delzino, it was mentioned that people watched Jesus Himself perform miracles, yet it did not cause them to believe… and it’s at times like these when ‘I get it’ and I feel the need to repent and ask God to cure this resistance in me that does not quite fully accept Him or His power at face value.  It must have been really frustrating for Jesus to ‘prove’ Himself, to people that were not open to believe in the first place.  And while I am open to believe, I still doubt. “Lord I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

I am sure that I have fallen victim to the art of projection.  It is likely the case that I do not believe in myself and my ability, and have thus projected my doubt in myself onto God – consequently diminishing Him to the stature of a human.  The reality is, that I should not bring God down to my level, but I should allow Him to raise me up to be the excellent creation that He created me to be – to glorify Him in all that I do.Woman with Arms in the Air

So today, I want to testify of God’s goodness toward me in answering the spoken and unspoken prayers of my heart despite my lack of faith and trust.  I have to praise and thank Him and confess that God has done great things in my life. YES! “…He has done marvelous things!” (Psalm 98:1)

My prayer is that as we continue our walk with God that our trust and faith in Him will grow and we will allow Him to transform and renew our minds, such that we can live a life of peace, knowing that ‘He is the blessed and only Sovereign (controller) of all things, the King of Kings, Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power (1Timothy 6:15 -16).

Miracles: Lessons from the Blessings of the Supernatural ‘Servior’

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”-Mark 10:45

The “Servior” might look like a typo, Jesus makes it clear in this verse what His entire mission on earth would be, and that is to be our Loving Server and our Lord and Savior. One of the many ways that Jesus served the people was through the miracles he performed.

Jesus performed miracles – around three dozen, depending on how you count them-but the Gospels actually downplay them. Though He never denied someone who asked for physical healing, He always turned down requests for a demonstration to amaze the crowds and impress important people such as King Herod & Pontius Pilate even when His life depended on it. Jesus recognized early on that the excitement generated by miracles did not readily convert into life-changing faith. Rarely did people find it easy to believe in miracles; they seemed as peculiar in the first century as they would seem if performed today. Just imagine your own reaction of seeing a televangelist on one of the Christian networks that “heals” members of his audience. Then, as now, miracles aroused suspicion, contempt, and only occasionally faith.

Now even though we cannot perform miracles as He did and still does, we can still learn lessons from Him in how we serve others in our community.

Lesson #1. When you do community service, or any volunteer activity to benefit others, you must expect suspicion and skepticism.

We live in such a cynical world, that even random acts of kindness to strangers will have them thinking there is a catch. Also when we go out to serve the community, like Jesus, we cannot do it just so we can get attention, give ourselves a pat on the back, or just make our church look good. Read Matthew 6:2. Imagine if you will, the mentality of the arrogant modern day apostle, “Look at me; I just gave away a free water bottle and two bags of Cheetos and Skittles! I’m such an awesome volunteer”. Service should be who we are and not just what we do. Christian writer E.G. White says in the book “Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing” that “Those who desire words of praise and flattery and feed on them as sweet morsel, are Christians in name only.”

Jesus’ first miracle in John chapter 2 (turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana) was perhaps the strangest of all. He never repeated anything quite like it, and the miracle seemed to take Jesus by surprise as much as anyone else.

As emergencies go, this one falls well down the list. It caused embarrassment, to be sure, but should a Messiah who had come to heal the sick and liberate the captives concern Himself with a social mishap? “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied when His mother mentioned the problem. “My time has not yet come.”

Can you imagine what crossed Jesus’ mind? If He acted now that would mean His time HAD come and from that moment on, life would change. If word of His powers leaked, He would soon hear pleas from needy people from Galilee to Jerusalem. Crowds would flock: the blind, the lame, the deaf-mutes, and the demon-possessed, not to mention any street beggar who wanted a free glass of wine. So finally He reached a decision, for the first but surely not the last time in His public life, He changed HIS plans to accommodate someone else.

Lesson #2-When we serve others in any capacity, like Jesus, it would require us to change plans to accommodate someone else.

Serving others is not about us. It requires sacrifice of our time, money, our energy, and some of our material possessions. Also serving others requires us to step outside of our comfort zone. Like Jesus, we have to meet people where they are. We actually have to step out of the ivory towers of the church building and go into some of the most undesirable neighborhoods to serve those in need. We can’t expect those in the community to come in here, if they feel we are too good to go meet them out there.
The people back then blamed the victims of blindness, deafness, and paralysis on their sinful conditions. So the sicker you were, the more sinful you were. But Jesus overturned common notions about how God views sick and disabled people. He denied that the men’s blindness came from sin, just as he dismissed the common opinion that tragedies happen to those that deserve them. Job refuted that theory right? Job was the most upright man in the land and still got hit with more tragedy than anyone else. Praise be to God that Jesus, the only perfect Man who ever lived, served the most imperfect of people.

Lesson #3-When we serve others, like Jesus, we must not look down on them or stand in judgment of their circumstances as if we’re superior and they’re inferior to us. We must dismiss the ideology that bad circumstances mean they’re bad people. But if you read the Holier Than Thou version of Romans 3:23, it says “Most have sinned..some have fallen short”, no ALL have sinned and not only have ALL sinned but no matter how high and mighty you think you are, or how big a deal you think you are, you STILL come short of the glory of God. We are all just nobodies telling somebody that anybody can be saved by the Man who died for everybody. So let’s serve with humble hearts of compassion like Christ.

Let us talk about the only miracle in all four Gospels, the feeding of the 5,000. The daunted disciples were vexed and perplexed on how to feed the multitude, but the Savior was the solution. When we focus on the problems, we lose sight of the promises. When we focus on great obstacles, we miss out on golden opportunities. So I can imagine Jesus telling the disciples “I healed the sick, made the blind see, made the lame walk, raised the dead, and calmed a storm with My voice alone … so do you honestly think hunger is something I can’t handle?”

Lesson #4-When we serve others, we need to remember that little becomes much when we place it in the Masters hands. Just like the 2 fish and 5 loaves fed everyone AND created an overflow and spillover, God will take whatever gifts and talents you have to serve others and will multiply it so that it would exceed even YOUR expectations so that it will spillover and overflow to have a huge impact on so many that would greatly benefit from it.

The author Philip Yancey once said, “Jesus never met a disease He could not cure, a birth defect He could not reverse, a demon He could not exorcise. But He did meet skeptics He could not convince and sinners He could not convert. Forgiveness of sins requires an act of will on the receiver’s part, and some who heard Jesus’ strongest words about grace and forgiveness turned away unrepentant.” In the context of service, we can help so many people when we give of our time and energy, and they can still end up being ungrateful and unappreciative, but serve anyhow. And why should we serve others? What’s the point of it all anyway? Let’s look no further than Matthew 25:37-40. It wasn’t the wicked, the unbelievers, or even the Gentiles that asked those questions, it was the righteous that asked these questions. It was His followers, the believers, the Christians. He wants us to serve others we SEE just like we serve Him that we DON’T see. Matthew 20:28- the Son of Man did not come to be served, but TO SERVE, and give His life a ransom for so many.” Besides dying on the cross for our sins, out of His own mouth, serving was His only other purpose on earth. We are saved to serve. God saved us so we can serve others…God saved us, so we can serve others. So let us serve with compassionate hearts and sincerity. Francis of Assisi once said, “It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look”. I believe that God not only loves a cheerful giver, but a cheerful servant.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” -Muhammad Ali
We all need to ask ourselves, are we current with our “rent” payments with our LandLord? Or are we delinquent?

Suggested listening music to reflect on.
Keith Pringle-Saved to Serve

Apostle or Christian?

Nowadays anyone can call themselves a Christian if they profess to believe in God. But are they Apostles for Christ – messengers of the gospel and ambassadors making disciples of others? I overheard the following conversation between two fellow co-workers discussing Christian ministries. “Have you ever thought about serving outside the church?” said one. “You know – I’m not sure about totally going outside of the church, though the idea is appealing” replied the other. They went on to describe how their circle of acquaintances and family were in the church and that was their target area of ministry.

Although I recognize the need for people to minister inside the church and while I do not want to doubt the sincerity of any person who serves God. I did wonder how much of those remarks were based on the ministerial needs of the church or of the individual needs of the person having a familiar group of people around them.

The call to go totally outside of the church is not an idea, it’s a commission. Jesus said “Go into all the world…and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:17) 

How many of us have become comfortable Christians? Professing Christ and serving busily in roles which serve other comfortable Christians. Do we hide behind the comfort and security of the church, hoping that the drug addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, homeless, mentally ill, and any other non-conforming group will stay safely outside of the church? After all, we don’t want anyone coming in lowering the church standards or making us feel uncomfortable, do we?

unwelcome mat
Image courtesy of theguardian.com

Why are we unwilling to sacrifice the creature comforts of the church walls to seek the lost in the community?

“They’re a crazy drug mob…What if they have AIDS?…Maybe they’ll ruin our church! Or take my favorite seat…They’ll bleed our budgets dry!… They’re a bad example for our children!”

Though these comments are not always expressed verbally, it is often clear in the way we treat our visiting brothers and sisters, and it becomes clear to them that they are not welcome at our church to receive the message that God quite clearly told us to preach to all the nations.

Where would we be if Jesus had said:- “You know, I’m not sure about going down there, they’re dangerous, crazy and they just don’t get it…they could even kill me!  Why would I want to bring those sinners up here anyway? They’ll bring our standards down, they may even try to sit on my throne! I’m going to stay here in Heaven and hang with my angels…”

Thankfully He didn’t!

We need to remember that the majority of Jesus’ ministry was outside of the synagogue with the apparent ‘unsavory’ characters of His time. Furthermore, it was Jesus, the Son of God, who gave up His heavenly home, throne, family, angels, and His Father and suffered incredible discomfort – to save us.

Jesus did not call us only to believe in Him as a Christian, but also to follow His example as an Apostle, a messenger and ambassador. Following Christ’s example in sharing the gospel requires some discomfort and potentially a ministry outside of the church with God and the gospel being our only partners. What better lesson could we teach our children about love and overcoming fears, than to serve God in the community sharing the gospel with others? The nervous unease of inexperience and meeting different people as we seek to move outsideimagesCAL2PEE0 of our comfort zone is positive growth.  The confidence in our abilities and acceptance of others as God’s children usually becomes more assured as we allow God to equip us as He promised.

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1: 4 – 6).  Has the time come for you to take the next step from being a comfortable  Christian towards being an Apostle for Christ?

…Happily Ever After!

I love a happy ending! Who doesn’t? Hollywood movies, fairy tales, computer games and other fictional stories usually thrive on the concept of evil working against good.  But, no matter how sinister the plot or determined the bad guy, the good guy conquers evil in the end, and the final scene usually closes with the good guy getting the girl, world order restored and a unanimous victory cheer! What could be better than that?

superman1
Image courtesy of superitch.com

Sometimes it’s impossible not to get caught up in the ‘Hollywood Gospel’.  We are deceived by the instant gratification of a happy ending guiding subconscious beliefs that evil can be terminated by the good guy in about a couple of hours that it takes to watch the movie – and then we wonder why God is taking so long. On top of that, the ‘Prosperity Message’ suggests that if we ‘do the right things’, we can overcome sickness, wayward children, marriage troubles, financial  and world crises and whatever else is thrown our way. Our Bibles contain beautiful inspiring stories of faithful men and women like Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Abigail, the poor widow, and Leah who overcame a few snags and fulfilled incredible achievements. Right? Well… not entirely so…

These faithful few, despite victories in some areas of their lives all experienced difficult, tragic and traumatic moments which are hardly beautiful.  Abraham sent away Hagar, his concubine along with his first-born son Ishmael – the Bible does not tell us if he ever saw them again. Though there is a great story about Moses’ survival in the bulrushes, let’s not forget the thousands of babies who were murdered by Pharaoh. Ironically, Pharaoh’s family rescued and adopted Moses, but later issued a death warrant against him. Moses ran away and eventually journeyed through the desert for 40 years leading a complaining and miserable people, and at the end of it God tells him he can’t enter the Promised Land.  Then we have Elijah, though translated to heaven to be with God, at one point in time he became so depressed he wanted to die.   Prior to Abigail’s marriage to David, her former husband Nabal was a cruel and abusive man whose dealings were described as ‘harsh and evil’. As for the poor widow, she gave everything she had but there is no evidence to suggest that she ever became rich as a result of her sacrificial offering. And despite Leah’s best efforts to produce a tent-full of offspring, Jacob did not love her. These are only a few stories, but if we look around the Biblical miracles, there is murder, rape, incest, suicide, war and unwarranted death – all issues we deal with today.

Being a Christian does not guarantee protection from misfortune or unhappy endings no matter what we do. There are incredibly horrific events occurring across the world on a daily basis to people from all types of backgrounds regardless of their belief in God. While on the other hand, there are some wonderful blessings that happen to people who we might define as undeserving. Why does this happen? God has already explained why. Sin is in the world and ‘His sun rise(s) on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust’ (Matthew 5:45).

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Image courtesy of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Satan is the god of this world and in Job we read that it was Satan who caused the afflictions to Job, not God. God allowed it, because He wanted Job to have free will to choose between Him and Satan (Job 1:9-22). To do otherwise would not be free will or a true expression of love by God or Job, because love does not control or manipulate.  If God was to control  and move everything in this world to take away all the pain and suffering right now, then we would be no more than lifeless pieces in a game of chess with little opportunity to exercise our own thoughts.

Why doesn’t God do something? Well he has. The true Good News is that God created a plan to counter sin and to end suffering. Through Jesus, God guarantees us the opportunity to start all over again and have access to eternal life. The promises that God gives to us, are to provide comfort in this life through trials and tribulations with hope of eternal life in God’s heaven on earth.  It’s not a short-term feel-good fix delivered through a two-hour movie, it’s a long-term plan which like most complicated people issues, is painful and slow to resolve. As depicted in M. Scott Peck’s ‘Road Less Traveled‘, many of us want to forfeit the agonizing journey to get to the ‘happily ever after’ part, but God knew that true human spiritual development and salvation required pain and sacrifice and Christ felt the full effect of that pain and sacrifice on the cross.

Image courtesy of menapolis.com

Truth is, we all need a superhero to restore law and order in our lives and to this world. But if there is ever going to be a knight in shining armor for me, it has to be Christ  even though his entry into this world was hardly dashing. The crucial matter is Christ died for me and because of his sacrificial love,  there is only one ‘happily ever after’ that I’m looking forward to. I’m willing to wait for Christ’s triumphant return to take His faithful followers home to live with Him in God’s Kingdom on Earth, where finally there will be eternal life, love, peace and unity for all. Now – doesn’t THAT deserve a victory cheer!!!!

The Florida Boycott-Right Concern, Wrong Course Of Action.

The weather forecast for Florida the Sunshine State has been cloudy due to the racial injustice and travesty over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the slaying of Trayvon Martin. Many people are understandably shocked, outraged, numb, skeptical, and experiencing an overwhelming sense of disbelief as many in the Black community are saying out loud “Not Again!!” As a result of the verdict, Stevie Wonder among others has promised to boycott Florida until the “Stand Your Ground” Law is repealed. I must preface this by saying, I have the highest level of respect for Stevie Wonder. His humanitarian efforts and musical talent are second to none. I admire his passion, but I think the boycott is the wrong approach for him to make the kind of lasting impact that necessitates change.

Stevie Wonder
Image Courtesy of The Associated Press

Now granted, Florida has seen some rough days. You have the presidential election uproar of 2000 where the nation was introduced to terms like “Dimpled chads” and “Hanging Chads”.  Even when the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections came about, you can sense that the entire nation was giving Florida the side eye saying, “Don’t screw this up THIS time!” And now Florida is threatened to be boycotted. Florida seems to have had an identity crisis (Is it in the South? Or considered East Coast?) Truth be told though, Florida is hurting. Florida has had to deal with this tragedy since February 2012, specifically Sanford. People are angry, tensions are high, and Stevie Wonder is the antidote to this. That’s right, he’s the antidote. Stevie’s music spans at least 30 plus years and he is one of the rare artists that still command huge crowds wherever he performs.  However, Stevie’s music is what Florida needs right now. Stevie’s music is what this nation needs right now. His music is about love, unity, empowerment, uplifting one another, being insightful, yet evoking a mood of having a great time! You are hard pressed to find ANYONE that does not like his music. Florida needs love, Florida needs unity, Florida needs a cathartic experience to release the tension and anger, and Stevie’s music is the antidote. To deprive Florida of this, in my opinion, is a travesty.

Now imagine if you will, in an alternative universe, Stevie decides to do a free benefit concert in Florida to bring awareness to the masses about the importance of repealing the Stand Your Ground laws. Admission would only require your signature and valid email address to sign a petition to abolish this law. Can you imagine if you will, thousands came out to support this effort? Can you imagine Trayvon’s parents among other parents who lost their children to senseless violence as a result of the “Stand your ground law”? Thousands of supporters would have to get lawmakers attention. Can you imagine if each concert goer was only required to send one email per week to each lawmaker asking them to repeal this law? Do you think a boycott would actually be more effective than this??? Between the emails, the signed petition, not to mention the unifying concert experience of the Stevie Wonder, change can happen. This could be a catalyst for artists to do similar “awareness enhancing/grassroots level” concerts in their own communities. Now will this Kum-ba-yah moment end racism, end judicial injustice, end the racial stereotypes we have of each other? No not at all, but it will bring people together who otherwise would not even associate with one another, but who are together in one place for a common cause.  As Marvin Gaye once sang, “Mother, mother…there’s too many of you crying/Brother, brother, brother…there’s far too many of you dying. You know we’ve got to find a way to bring some loving here today.” The opportunity to spread unity and love should NEVER be boycotted.

To many, this acquittal was the straw that broke the camel’s back in Black people seeking some semblance of the promise in the last four words of the Pledge of Allegiance. Let’s not turn our backs on Florida now. The entire state did not shoot Trayvon, the entire state did not delay in pressing charges, and the entire state did not deliberate for hours just to render a “not guilty” verdict. Let’s look at the bigger picture here and see the opportunity that is right in front of us. Let’s not let the actions of a few have damaging consequences on the many. Looking back, MLK, Jr. never called for a statewide boycott of Alabama when Rosa Parks was arrested for not sitting in the back of the bus. MLK knew to hit them where it hurts and it worked. Boycotting an entire state in the hopes of repealing a law that may not have any impact on its economic viability is very shortsighted. Some people say they do not have a problem with the law; it is the selective enforcement of it.  It seems that skin color is a prerequisite in determining how it is to be enforced.  Having Stevie come to Florida would do wonders in bringing healing to a racially wounded state.

Trayvon Martin
Trayvon Martin

In closing, a great man once said, “The truth is that — for those of you who’ve lost in the battle for justice, wherever that fits in any part of the world — we can’t bring them back,” he said. “What we can do is we can let our voices be heard. And we can vote in our various countries throughout the world for change and equality for everybody. That’s what I know we can do.” The man that said this is none other than Stevie Wonder himself. If this man who had the vision to spearhead the movement to have the aforementioned MLK, Jr. be honored to have a federal holiday in his name, how much more powerful would it be for him to spearhead this movement to repeal this law? If anyone can do it, it’s Stevie. I really hope he reconsiders his boycott; it would never have the impact he hopes it would have, because it would only galvanize a nation to be reactive and not proactive. We don’t need any more Trayvon Martins losing their lives so young, and we definitely do NOT need any more George Zimmerman’s taking those lives away AND getting away with it..It MUST STOP NOW!  The Martin family has already been through enough and to boycott their home state is like turning our back on them when they were minding their own business just like Trayvon was minding HIS own business walking home from the store NOT looking for an altercation or confrontation. If you must boycott something, boycott ignorance, boycott racism, you could even boycott hate…but please do NOT boycott a singular state!

Lifter vs Grifter

You oh Lord are my Lifter, the Lifter of my head/Satan is a grifter that just wants me dead.
He’s a counterfeit, like a magician waving a wand/He sees your people as “marks” waiting to be conned.

You Oh Lord are my Lifter, you lift me up when I’m down/You’re my constant friend and companion when no one else is around.
When the grifter constantly overwhelms me with deception, I look to connect with You to have a clear spiritual reception. Lord, Can you hear me now?

Image courtesy of geww at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of geww at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I just want to make sure I’m understood/I live for Your approval and You letting me know everything will work for good.
I have the confidence that the Great Controversy is one-sided/You have all power in Your hands, the ultimate victory has me excited.

He tried to con the world into thinking that Jesus was just a mere man/He’s still bitter because He wasn’t part of the redemption plan. He conned Eve into thinking that she wasn’t perfect/as she rejected the truth of God, and embraced the lie of a serpent.

Yet we still have to make that same choice/whether to heed that smooth talking con man or (whisper) that still small voice.The Lifter will always be victorious as He seeks to save every soul/the grifter will always be notorious hustling people to his hell-bound fold.

But lo and behold, open up your spiritual eyes/John 8:44 says the grifter is the father of deceipt & lies.
Don’t trust him when he tries to deceive/James 4:7 says resist the devil and he will flee from you and the Lifter will save you…only if you believe.

If you can’t recognize the devil unless he’s showing you his horns, you’re in trouble.The choice today is Christ vs. Conman, Lord vs. Lucifer, Alpha & Omega vs Antichrist, Deliverer vs Deceiver, Savior vs. Satan, Lifter of your head vs grifter of your soul. Choose you this day whom ye will serve, but as for me and my house……

From Breakdown to Breakthrough

Baking a cake requires a combination of specific ingredients in a particular way to ensure success. If the cake fails, I usually assume I did something wrong and I will need to make a change next time. When seeking an answer to my prayers, there is also a formula or recipe for success, such as prayer, fasting, Bible study, and faith. If the prayers go unanswered, once again I assume that I did something wrong and will need to do something different next time.

I confess that I have manipulated areas of my life to create a desired outcome, such as baking a simple cake – who hasn’t? Change your actions means you change the outcome – right? But is it possible that I unknowingly did the same with God? Was I trying to manipulate God to provide me with what I wanted, based on what I was doing?

As a Christian it is a message I have heard many times. If you want a breakthrough with the challenges in your life, whether it is good health, a restored marriage, job security, financial blessings, then you should seek to pray, recite scriptures, serve in church,  submit, forgive, sacrifice, wear the right clothes, send our children to Christian school, the list goes on.  The reverse of this message is, if your prayers go unanswered, it is because of something you failed to do, and if you are like me, you will try harder and do more to break through these walls.

Despite trying to complete my endless ‘to do’ list there was no breakthrough, until one day, I broke down. I was burned out. My heart ached, and in tears, I looked to God and said “What now?”God said:-

sunset picnic
Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.

So I sat in God’s presence and rested.  Things fell apart around me. I rested.  My world and everything in it came crashing down. Still, I rested. During this time, I learned more about myself and the people around me. Relationships cracked, some people stayed, others left, some I chose to break, others were restored. Most importantly, God revealed to me that the area of my life I had been working so earnestly to fix, was not mine to fix – it was His. I had been trying to do God’s job.

I had to stop trying to influence Him, albeit subconsciously, and let Him do whatever He had to do in my life, even if it meant failing and losing the very things I valued. As He puts my broken life back together, I now see the breakthrough that I had been praying for. I literally had to ‘break’ – for these walls in my life to come tumbling down. I’m still walking ‘through’ to the other side – but to a different life that God has in store for me.  God had to ‘break me to make me’.

Though I am perplexed by His way, and the unexpected dynamics, I am trusting Him and feeling truly blessed.  I begin this journey with a renewed heart and desire to really know God and accept His Grace and Mercy. I finally believe that He does not bless me or answer my prayers because of what I do, but quite simply because He loves me – unconditionally. This is my testimony of Jesus Christ.

How did God bring you through a difficult time in your life?  Share your experiences or comments below…

Open the Door

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” Revelation 3:20

A recent article described the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries with family, friends and co-workers. It stated the benefits for our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health to create boundaries that allow healthy, positive, and encouraging people into our lives, while limiting or denying the access that negative, critical people have.

It is wonderful news that God’s amazing unconditional love of sinners means that He does not create boundaries to keep any of us out.  Despite our sinful nature, God created a way through His Son, Jesus Christ to enable us to have fellowship with Him such that nothing can separate us from His Love. The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15 : 1-7) tells us about how God looks for us. God is gracious and does not turn his back on us, but He actively seeks out the fallen.

It is even more incredible that Almighty God wishes to respect our human boundaries, such that He knocks at our doors and waits for us to answer! God wants us to remove our barriers, open the door and invite Him in. No  boundaries, no limits!

Even if we place boundaries on others or they do the same to us, we can take comfort in the fact that God’s love is always available to us. He is a healthy wholesome God who is willing and able to heal/comfort those who are emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically unwell – especially when we let Him into our lives.  God invites us all to limitless fellowship with Him through prayer and meditation on the Bible. God’s promise in Revelation 3:20 (NKJV) is:-

Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If  anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

God’s door is always open to us and yet He patiently stands and waits at our doors. Is He knocking at your door? Will you let Him in?

Train Up a Child…

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

 Proverbs 22: 6

When people train, it is usually to improve some aspect of their health or their abilities. Overall there is a goal to be reached that requires work, often times hard work. It is through the process of training we find that strength and endurance often increase; therefore what is required by the trainer will also increase. It often requires repetition over a course of time that ultimately help them reach their goal.  For example, when a trainee first begins to work out 10 sit-ups may have been all they are able to complete, however through training they are prepared to do 50 over a certain time.

The concept of training up a child does not mean that they will do things right the first time you tell them to do it. Just as working out one time will not meet your target weigh.  It is often through consistency and repetition that we see the results of the efforts made. Much like physical trainers your will need to both motivate, encourage and push them to their goals.  As parents you must carefully analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your child to determine what their needs are and how you will guide them.  As their knowledge, skill and abilities grow, so should their requirements. It makes them stronger.  When correcting your child remember, he or she will not always correct negative behavior the first, second or third time you work at it. Therefore be patient yet firm, just as God of father is both patient and firm with you.

More importantly remember, the trainer has to be even more disciplined than the trainee.  As parents the training process must be consistent, fair and above all, loving. Just as your child will not always get things right, neither will you, so be patient. As you too train to be the best parent you can be. Continue to pray for grace, mercy, endurance and wisdom as God trains us all.

I am a Child of God.

Whether a Methodist, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, Baptist, Mormon etc., becoming a part of a church family can become a large part of one’s identity and lifestyle.  Church membership is a place where you can belong and there was a time when I wore my church denomination and local membership with some level of pride. However, there also came a time when I had to truly figure out ‘Who I am’  and to ‘Whom I belong’.

Quite simply, I broke it down and figured out that this is who I am.

I am a Child of God – a Christian.

Nothing more… nothing less.

I belong to God. He is my Father. God created me, formed me in my mother’s womb and claimed me as His own. He loved me first, before anyone or any other church or denomination ever existed. My identity is in Him. My choice to serve God as a Christian is based on my belief that God is my Creator, my Father, and that he has given me the free will to claim salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The denomination that I attend – it’s not as important to me as it once was. The churches in the New Testament were of no denomination, they were just referred to by their location – Corinth(Corinthians), Philippi (Philippians) and so on. People attended these churches regularly depending on where they lived, not according to the doctrines that each church held. People were simply ‘Christians’ or the ‘Saints in Christ Jesus’ (Phil 1:1, Eph 1:1).

Whilst each denomination may claim to hold ‘the truth’ – claims of exclusivity in areas of doctrine, prophecy etc., often yield an unfortunate consequence of dividing the body of Christ based on our limited ability to accurately interpret the Bible.

Therefore church denomination and membership, programs and prophecy interpretations, being theologically ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ are no longer a priority to me. I want to focus on following the example of love, forgiveness, grace and mercy that Jesus gave to us.  My priority is to serve God outside of the church, just as Jesus served and nurtured people outside of the synagogue.

Church denominations and conflicting doctrines are not going away. However, it is important that we do not forsake fellowship with other Christians.  Choosing a church requires individuality, humility, prayer, questioning, direction from the Holy Spirit and Bible study regardless of whether our family has a generational history in a particular denomination. We need to be open minded and aware that every church is fallible and there is no church or doctrine that can save us – therefore it is vital that our relationship with God is well-established as we search.

As I write, I am reminded of the promise that God has given to me:-

‘In my Father’s house are many mansions; If it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you, And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.’ (John 14: 2 -3; NKJV)

I firmly believe that the True Church that I am seeking, the ‘True Church Membership’ that I need – safely rests in Heaven – with My Father.

HEALTH WARNING! – FRUIT IS BAD FOR YOU!

On this special occasion of Spiritual Sandwich’s first creation, there is no better place to start than ‘In the beginning…’ with Genesis.

We remember how God created the heavens and the earth and on the third day He ‘brought forth grass and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind’ (Gen 1: 11). ‘God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good’ (Gen 1:31). Life in God’s Garden was incredible and Adam and Eve’s happiness was immeasurable – however that was not to last. Eve was tempted by a serpent (alias Satan) to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil for which God had commanded them both not to touch and since then, humans have been pre-destined to experience the consequences of this sin – pain, immorality of all kind and death – a piece of FRUIT brought down the entire human race!!! FRUIT – Guilty as charged!!!!

FRUIT IS EVERYWHERE…EARTH IS DOOMED!! FRUIT IS A DANGEROUS TEMPTATION AND THE EATING OF FRUIT IS EVIL!!! REFRAIN FROM EATING FRUIT AT ALL COSTS!!! YOUR SOUL SALVATION IS AT RISK!!!

Most of us, if not all, know that fruit was indeed the innocent party – and it was Eve who was tempted by Satan to commit this most heinous crime against God and humanity. So where am I going with this?

Well – there are many potentially ‘innocent’ and ‘guilty’ parties in and outside of our churches that church-goers accuse of causing them to sin, or out of fear they choose to shun entirely. Other Christians, non-Christians, musical instruments, media equipment, make-up and jewelry (to name a few) are criticized/avoided by some church goers because they may have had unsavory associations and/or a questionable history within the secular world.  Well – surely we should add fruit to this list, after all, it did bring down the human race.

This argument seems nonsensical on the basis of a modest piece of fruit with no thought processes of its’ own putting together a plan to cause this notorious fall of mankind. In my humble opinion, it is not and has never been the object or person (whether we think it’s good or not) that causes us to sin. It is our own heart and sinful thoughts and motives that lead us there.

Let’s call a spade a spade and stop trying to pass the blame onto someone else… or some inanimate object. When we blame something or someone else – we lose power – God’s transforming power! Consequently, we give control to the person or thing, and deny ourselves the opportunity to acknowledge and take full responsibility for our sin, ask for complete forgiveness and make the complete transformation that will give us the power through Christ, to have victory over that particular sin.

Let’s not forget that Adam blamed Eve and God, and Eve blamed the snake, it is clear… some things are difficult to change…as humans inheriting a sinful condition, we love to place blame elsewhere! But do you want to be transformed? I do!!! Then let us then seek to claim the full power that God has given to each of us, by accepting full responsibility for the things we think and do, asking for forgiveness – and in doing so, we can claim the complete spiritual renewal that God has in store us.