Anointed By God

If you’ve read through the Bible or attended church after the celebration of Easter, you’ve probably heard about the event called Pentecost. It’s written about in the book of Acts in the New Testament (along with a bunch of other really culture-shifting events). During Pentecost “all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 2:1b-4a). The whole event was pretty fantastic and hard to believe by those who didn’t witness it, except those who were anointed by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost were, in this specific situation, able to speak in different languages, languages they didn’t previously speak, as evidence of the anointing.

As I mentioned the Book of Acts is filled with stories like this one. From real life interactions with Jesus after He ascended to being brought back to life to shipwrecks and snake bites the book of Acts has lots of crazy stories that line up very well with seeing tongues of fire land on people’s heads. But it’s also got some great insight into what the early church was all about: faith, community, and sharing the Good News. The good news is that there are many churches alive and well today who have taken on those core aspects and continued them today.

Pentecost was an important and amazing event, but what about the rest of us? We aren’t exactly anticipating a Pentecost in 2017, and I haven’t heard of anyone experiencing exactly what the Early Church did back on that first Pentecost since then. First, it’s not necessarily something we should be looking to have happen. Second, as important as the first Pentecost was, there rest of Acts 2 tells us that they (the Early Church) added to their numbers daily. Those people weren’t experiencing tongues of fire, they were just interacting with people who believed in community and the Good News. We don’t need tongues of fire to make us believers or give us any special abilities. The only thing we need is belief in Jesus and the willingness to do His work on Earth and share about Him with others (using words when necessary). You don’t need tongues of fire to know that God has a plan for your life, or to have a calling and mission for Him.  So as you finish up this week I encourage you to look for ways that God is showing up in your life (they may be seemingly ordinary), how He may be leading you to build community and who in your life needs to hear about Him. What will God show you?

Where Do We Start?

I’m not the type of person to really watch or listen to the news but I do check in and skim headlines each day so I’m at least somewhat aware of what goes on in the world. There’s been a lot of hate in the news of late, and to an extent you can understand some of it: there are people around the world who suffer greatly and as a result of their suffering they believe that the only way to deal with it is to obliterate anyone in their path to showing the world who they are and making a statement about how hurt they are, even if they won’t admit it that that’s why they’re doing it. Too many people hide their pain behind bitterness, nastiness, brutality, humor and sarcasm, or just plain hide.

I can’t imagine how God felt after the Garden of Eden incident when He knew that there would be so much pain and suffering in the world; knowing that we would suffer so much as a result. The worst part was probably knowing that most of our suffering and pain to the degree that we experience it is because we’re too stubborn to get help, to be vulnerable and admit that we’re not perfect, that we have our failures and weaknesses, and because we can’t accept that it’s OK to fail or be imperfect.

In some ways it’s totally understandable that we don’t want to admit our vulnerabilities to others, that we don’t want to be honest about how we feel deep inside because we’ve been hurt or seen others experience the wrath, laughter, criticism and hate for not measuring up to other people’s expectations, unrealistic or not. It makes us question our relationships, question people’s motives, curb or go overboard in our thoughts, actions and reactions, and not choose to fulfill our potential.

There are lots of reasons to doubt and question other people, and we think that we’ve got some good reasons to question God as well. We think that because God hasn’t responded to our call immediately that He’s busy or doesn’t care, and when it’s been long enough we think that He’s forgotten about us or what we shared with Him about or that He doesn’t want us to have good things in our lives. But I think we’ve forgotten who God is.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 says “But there are some things that you cannot be sure of. You must take a chance. If you wait for perfect weather, you will never plant your seeds. If you are afraid that every cloud will bring rain, you will never harvest your crops.”

The thing about people and God and our lives after Eden is that we have to be willing to take chances if we really want to live. We have to take a chance in trusting God and opening up to other people and asking for help, not just complaining. We have to believe, and even more than that know, that God cares for us and that not only is God interested and cares about us, but He cares about other people too, and He wants us to as well. We need to take the chance that God really does have a plan for our lives and to be open to God’s creative purposes and plans for us, and not box ourselves up before we have a chance to explore the potential He placed inside of us. We need to accept God and the person He has created us to be, and the people He has created and placed around us. We need to be honest with God and with ourselves and with each other. And we need to make sure that we honor each other with the respect and knowledge that God created each of us so each of us deserves to be treated as such.

Daily Victories

We celebrated the official day of Easter a little over a month ago, but people of the Christian faith are always celebrating Easter because it signifies the hope that we have for life today, tomorrow and forever. Easter gives us the motivation to keep going even when we’re faced with the challenges of life. In some ways just the action of Jesus coming back to life is enough to bring us hope, but He went beyond that and gave us the opportunity for eternal life, because Easter was more than just Jesus rising from the dead, it was Jesus overcoming the grave and the death that could be the end for each of us, if not for His sacrifice.

The two fold challenge is that while we have the ability to live our lives in victory every day we are faced with all the stuff going on in the world. First, it’s hard to always be upbeat and see the victories of life when life is going down the tubes, and second, it’s really not right to be the happy-go-lucky person when there’s a big tragedy going on. God understands the need to take time to cry and mourn, there’s nothing wrong with dealing with those emotions in this world, as long as the sin remains in our world.   While there’s a tragedy in someone’s life somewhere in the world every day, I would hope that the good days far out-count the bad ones in your life.  And even in some of those not-so-great situations you still can choose to have a positive attitude, it may be what helps you retain your sanity through the challenges.

But when you’re not experiencing a tragedy, and the world that you live in isn’t being affected by one at the moment either, there are lots of opportunities for victories.  Victories can be found in big and small opportunities, from finding a bedspread you and your partner both like, to finding the perfect parking spot, to your home cooked meal turning out great, to the kids doing their homework without complaint, to completing the assigned task at work on time.  Those may seem like little things, but they’re the kind of thing that we run into on a daily basis in our lives, victories aren’t just about the big things in our lives like Easter.  Jesus performed many miracles before Easter that were pretty awesome to those people. so why should your ordinary victories be any less victorious than the big ones?

I encourage you to find at least one victory each day to celebrate.  If you can’t find one good thing that happened in your day, one thing to celebrate, one thing that amazed you, or one person you’re thankful for, we need to have a serious talk about your attitude and what’s going on in your life.  What victory will you encounter today?

“Wherever in your life is victory; there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is joy, there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is wonder, there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is resurrection, there is Christ calling you to follow him out of death into his larger and more glorious life.” Br. James Koester

Rivers of Life

I was reading a very interesting article about how rivers can be a representation of our lives.  The other option is to be a stagnant pool of water.  I don’t know about you but I’d rather be a moving river than a mosquito home.  Throughout the Bible the topic of rivers are returned to again and again, including a very painting-worthy passage in Ezekiel 47.  Rivers were often used because the people knew them to be a source of life, and in using them as a teaching example the listeners could more easily understood the concept of the living word and life of God, especially before the birth and death of Jesus (although there are lots of examples in the New Testament, too).

Where are you at in your life right now?  Are you in a stagnant place?  Or are you being swept away by life?  Or are you moving along with life, taking it as it comes?  The funny thing about rivers is that they can do a real good job of hiding the truth. What can look like a peaceful spot can be deadly to dive into or a bottomless pit or have an incredible current that will sweep you under before you know what’s happening.  People too can hide the truth, there are countless people all around the globe that are hiding their real feelings, hurts, frustrations, fears and maybe even their joys.  They hide because they’re afraid that if people knew the real them, they would be judged.  And the unfortunate thing is many would be judged, humiliated, laughed at or not taken seriously, that’s how too much of our world works.

As people of faith we’ve got a responsibility to step up and be better people.  It’s unfortunate that we too have at times fallen into the judgment zone, trying to look all perfect to the world while struggling privately.  No, we’re not supposed to live as sinfully as others in the world do, but Christian or not we’re still human and have our not so great moments.  We have many of the same challenges to face as others do around the world, we just know that we can go into the rushing river with an excellent rescue team on hand for us (the people at our church or Bible Study or other faith-based group, not to mention God).

Is this your week to conquer the river in your life?  I encourage you to be brave and say that enough is enough, and choose to move as your life (and God) directs.

Mother’s Day Blessings

Sunday is Mother’s Day, a day we stop to appreciate and remember those women who have had an impact on our lives.  A word that I think really sums up this celebration is blessing.  It’s a word I’ve been sharing about quite a bit with you lately, because it’s an important word, one that often gets buried in our lives underneath “challenge” and “problem”.  This Mother’s Day think about these different blessings:

Bunches of Blessings:
One of the easiest and most popular gifts for Mother’s Day is flowers.  Personally, I prefer the potted kind instead of the cut kind because they last longer.  Whatever your flower preference is, don’t forget that what you’re giving isn’t as important as remembering to truly celebrate the one you’re giving them to.  Think of not only what you’re gifting, but also the gift of having a mother this Mother’s Day.

Bountiful Blessings:
In this world of abundance, abundant gas prices, abundant unemployment, and abundant opportunities for growth, change and development, one thing we don’t stop to think about is having abundant blessings.  Psalm 23:6 sheds some light on where we get those abundant blessings: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  More so than anyone, mothers should be dwelling with God.  If they’re to be amazing mothers, they need a lot of strength, wisdom and many blessings from God.

Boxes of Blessings:
Sometimes our blessings come in disguise.  I’ve been meditating a lot on a song by Laura Story, Blessings, (on YouTube).  Her song reminded me that sometimes our blessings are like items that we get in boxes in the mail.  We don’t really know what’s in the box, but we hope it’s what we want.  Sometimes, the box doesn’t contain what we want, or what we did want is in the box but it’s not in good condition.  It’s the boxes of blessings that most often bring us to our knees asking for guidance.

Bundles of Blessings:
Mother’s Day is a celebration of the gift of life. Psalm 139 contains David’s thoughts on how God begins our lives with us.  God’s special plan for each of our lives includes our mothers.  If you are blessed with the opportunity to be a mother, remember to thank God for it, because not everyone is blessed with that calling.

This Mother’s Day, in all of the hustle and bustle, don’t forget to say a prayer for all of the mothers around the world, and those who have a desire to be mothers.   Also, consider the bunches, bounty, boxes and bundles in your life.  These aren’t just lessons for Mom, they’re lessons that everyone needs to gather in their life.

Psalm 16:5 says “Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.  You guard all that is mine.”  I hope that blessings overflow in your life (and your mom’s life) this weekend, and I encourage you to take the time to celebrate and recognize all the blessings God sends your way.

Personal Prayer

In just a few days we’ve got the National Day of Prayer in the US (always the first Thursday of May, this year it’s May 4). Each year it’s a chance for people around the US to come together and pray, or at the very least be more intentional about making (extra) time for personal prayers on Thursday.  Prayer is something we should do on a regular basis, and more than just the popcorn prayers that some or most of us do when things happen or we’re made aware of needs throughout our days. Prayer is something we do individually and as a faith community.

Prayer is an interesting thing because in some ways you could say it’s irrelevant, because God doesn’t need us to tell Him anything because He knows everything, and He can choose to perform a miracle even if we don’t pray about it.  However, throughout the Bible, and especially the New Testament, it’s reminded that God wants us to pray anyway because it’s one of our best opportunities to connect and communicate with Him.  God isn’t the type of god to be all about lording over his people, He’s interested in building personal, intimate relationships with each of us.  It’s pretty awesome that God wants a personal relationship with you and me in my book.

This year the theme and verse for the National Day of Prayer are:

“For Your Great Name’s Sake! Hear Us… Forgive Us…Heal Us!”
“O Lord, Listen! O Lord, Forgive! O Lord, Hear and Act! For Your Sake, O My God…” Daniel 9:19

Daniel was known for his prayer times, prayer times that got him sent to and saved in the lion’s den.  It’s a powerful reminder that even something as simple as praying can have a big impact.  If you’re looking for a miracle in your life or the life of someone else, or are ready to really see the world around you change for the better, one of the things you can do is pray more.

If you’re already planning to attend a National Day of Prayer event this Thursday, great!  If not, the National Day of Prayer website has lots of events listed from around the country you can join.

A Little Love for Everyone?

As we think about this month’s topic of love and the celebration of Earth Day later this week I wanted to share a verse that will challenge us on both topics: Psalm 24:1 says:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

First this verse reminds us that if we really care about God and are following Him, we’ll take care of what He has given us.  That means being a little more aware of what you’re buying and doing and how you’re interacting with nature and the impact you have on it.  We all have an impact, but we can make smarter choices to minimize that impact and protect the gift God has given us.

Second this verse reminds us that God created everything in the world, all of the plants, animals, creepy crawlers, and people.  I know it’s hard to imagine the God that created you and me also creating things like scorpions.  It’s also hard to imagine the God that created Billy Graham created Hitler too, but according to this verse, He did.

Which brings us to our challenge.  It can be really easy to be sloppy and lazy and not take care of the earth, after all there’s a really good chance that it will last through our lifetimes regardless of the damage we do.  It can also be really easy to just focus on the nice and good people and ignore those who display their faults and imperfections more than the rest of us do.  But this verse challenges us to remember that God has called us to care for that which is His; all of it.  That means attempting to remove our judgements, preconceived notions, prejudices and opinions and trying to see things from God’s perspective, which can be easier said than done.

But just like with caring for the earth and making earth-friendly decisions, treating all others with respect and courtesy, and maybe even love, is something you can get into the habit of doing.  God didn’t say it would be easy, but He called us to set the example for our fellow man.  So as we move away from Easter and toward Earth Day, I encourage you to consider how you can be more considerate of “everything” that the Lord has created.  What ways will you choose to show love today?