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.

 

ImmersionBaptism
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).

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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

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!