A Faith Journey

When He left, Jesus gave the command to take the Good News into all the world. His time on earth showed that some people needed to rethink their idea of who was welcome into the kingdom, because Jesus did a really good job of turning them on their heads by eating with tax people, caring for those who were ill, and talking with those who had multiple husbands. God made sure the message got reinforced and shared after Jesus went back to heaven with Peter’s vision of the animals in the sheet (Acts 10-11) representing the welcoming of any nation who fears God and does right.

So it’s not a huge leap to get to the idea that anyone could get into heaven, as long as they’ve been forgiven of their sins, have a relationship with God and believe in Him. Which is why we should first and foremost be open and willing to tell whomever God puts in our path about the love that He has shown us, about how He has supported us, and how He cares for us. We should do the very best we can with each and every opportunity that God sends us, give them the care, respect and opportunity that each of us would want.

But there’s two other sides to this, neither are as hopeful. The first is the fact that you individually can’t save everyone. Even someone with the reach of a Billy Graham, Kirk Cameron, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, or Steven Furtick can’t save everyone, it’s why we are all called by the Great Commission. Sometimes we have to choose to save the one or two people that we can. The lesson applies to other areas of our lives; we should do our best and let God handle the rest. God knows the potential of that one person you may bring to God, you can only do your part.

The third side is a story that is seen in 3 of the 4 gospels (Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 9 and 10) and in Acts as well. It’s the recommendation of Jesus to shake the dust off your feet when you’re not welcomed in a home or town that you’re traveling through or bringing God’s message of peace to. Basically it’s suggesting to leave them to whatever fate they may have. Maybe that means years from now something will change, maybe it doesn’t, but according to these stories, it’s not our job to be overly concerned or focused on their future. Of course we can pray for them, but each person is ultimately responsible for their own future.

So this week I encourage you to walk with faith.  Do the best you can, live a life that honors God, share your faith and don’t let the negative take you down with it.

Advertisements

Thoughts on Violence, Peace and Healing

Again in the past days and week we’re struggling with three shootings and people killed and injured. It’s still in early days to know the reasons behind shootings and if there was a specific target (and we rarely get the full story), but regardless of why it’s heartbreaking and hurtful to think about.

When it comes to topics of faith we talk a lot about peace and love, but what I really wanted to talk about today was the fact that there is another side to this. Ephesians 4:25-28a, 31 says: “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing….Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.”

These verses talk about the very real fact that we deal with anger, bitterness, and rage. Few if any people are truly immune to the darker emotions of life. Experiencing them from time to time doesn’t mean that we’re evil, it just means we’re human. The choice we have to make is how we deal with those emotions: do we respond to them by killing others or going to workout at the gym or talking through them with a counselor? Two of those are healthy ways of dealing with those emotions, the other isn’t.

God is the God of healing among many other things. He can heal our world, our hearts, our minds, our relationships and our emotions. But we have to be willing to let that happen and we have to invest in making that healing happening by avoiding our triggers, learning to take breaks before things escalate, doing what we know is good for us, and spending time with people who are good for us. This week I encourage you to pray for healing for our world, for people to continue to step up and admit the struggles they’ve faced and how they’ve gotten help for it or that they need help, and for everyone to be open and sensitive to the fact that what they see is likely only a small part of what’s going on in a person’s life. This is both an individual and a community battle, we can’t get it done alone but we have to start with ourselves.

This is an excerpt of my weekly devotional, learn more and subscribe here

What To Do With Today

Each moment of our lives we’re given both the opportunity and the challenge to accept what’s in our past, live in the moment and work towards the future. Some of us choose to only live in the moments, others of us are stuck in the past, and some of us only see the future. It’s healthiest if we can balance all 3 of those, that we fix our mistakes from the past (whether the past is just 10 minutes ago or 10 years ago), seeing life for what it is in the moment, and take smart actions that would build a good future for us and those we care about. Living in the past, present and future means that you’re not just focused on your life, but the lives of those around you as well.

Since there are only so many hours in a day and so many days in our lives, we have to sometimes make tough decisions about the things we do “today” and what we put off into the future. There are some things that I don’t think we should ever put off until tomorrow, like telling someone you love them and praying. Sometimes asking for forgiveness or apologizing should be done that day, while other times it should be put off until things cool down.

In my weekly devotional this past week I talked about how we have the opportunity with each day to start fresh, to have a clean slate, to get a new lease on life. God is a past-present-future God. He’s been with us through everything that happened in our pasts, and He’ll go with us through whatever our future holds (and Jeremiah 29 reminds us that He promises us a future). But one of the biggest gifts He gives us is His presence in the here and now. He can give us the insights, peace, patience, endurance, and words we need to navigate whatever each day brings, including helping us to know what needs to be taken care of today and what can keep until tomorrow.

One of the notable points of Jesus’ ministry on earth was His willingness to stop and care for someone who needed Him. He put off whatever plans He had to help them, to listen to them and to heal them. A few examples are the woman at the well, Zaccheus, Lazarus and a demon-possessed man, Jesus met them on His way to wherever He was going and stopped to make time for them.

I’m not saying that we should be stopping for everyone or everything we come across in a day, but encouraging us to follow the example that Jesus set and taking care of what’s truly important each day. It’s why we need to know our priorities and make sure they’re taken care of. Are you taking care of what’s truly important in your day or just going with what’s easy, creating regrets and wasted opportunities? I encourage you to remember the gift that we have with each day, and each moment of your life.

Be Who God Made You To Be

You’re probably familiar with David from the Old Testament. He’s really famous because he defeated Goliath, became king and had a special relationship with God. There are over 900 references to his name in the Bible, and there’s only one David, so that makes him a really popular guy. David’s life is one that in many ways mirrors our own because he’s got highs and lows, he tries to follow the path God has him on, he tries to be someone others can respect, he has a family, and he makes mistakes.

The verse I want to take a look at today comes from early in his story, during the time that he defeats Goliath. I Samuel 17:39 says: “David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.” (NIV)

The context of this verse is that David was brought into Saul’s tent because he questioned why no one was defeating Goliath, Saul said that he was more than welcome to go fight Goliath and gave him a bunch of armor and weapons to do so. As our verse says, David passed on the armor and weapons and went back to his tried-and-true method of stones and sling. He went onto the battlefield and swung the sling, struck Goliath in the forehead and Goliath was dead.

This verse caught my attention this week because it was such a powerful reminder of how wise David was and why God chose him to work through in such a big way. Sometimes what we need are the extra resources like the armor and weapons that were offered to David. Sometimes we take them because we think that’s the right thing to do, when in fact we should just be relying on what works for us and what God has gifted us with.

God wants you to be confident in the person that He made you to be. He didn’t create you to be someone else or to try to be someone else. We all should be learning and growing on a daily basis, but that means becoming a better person, a better version of ourselves, not someone we’re not.

This week I encourage you to work on trusting yourself, trusting God and fully using the tools, resources, blessings and gifts that He’s given you. What difference can you make in the world just by being you?

Time for Quiet

One of the things that Jesus didn’t have much of while He was on earth was quiet. Yes, there are some recorded moments of Him trying to find some quiet, but He wasn’t really here for much quiet time, He was here to share a message with others, and the primary way of sharing that message was through words. He did a great job sharing that message and inspiring people to continue spreading that message long after He was gone.

But what about those quiet moments? Jesus did have a couple, one of the more famous ones is the story of Jesus sleeping in a boat during a big storm in Matthew 8. The story goes that Jesus was taking a few moments to Himself to have a nap but when the storm burst upon them, His disciples were afraid so they woke Him, He calmed the storm and they were amazed.

If even Jesus needed naps and quiet moments, don’t we more so? Why have we let our society and lives get so focused on activity levels and productivity? Why don’t we include things like naps and/or quiet time as part of our regular schedules? Why do we have to work through lunch and eat at our desks? Why do we rarely have 2 minutes to ourselves?

Maybe it has to do with the fear of being left behind or not being good enough or missing out on important things. Some countries and businesses are doing research into schedules and numbers of work days in a week and productivity, and you may remember the book that came out several years ago that shared the possibility of having a 4 hour work week. I don’t know that all of us could manage or even want a 4 hour work week or a 4 day work week, but I do know that we need to find a better balance in our lives so that we can experience more peace and feel less rushed and pressured.

If Jesus can take a break, I think we all can as well. How will you begin to incorporate peace and relaxation into your life on a regular basis?

Living and Growing

I believe that God has created us with the ability to grow. It’s fairly evident from the fact that while we may be born fully formed almost none of us are born the size we become, or with the abilities and capabilities we grow into. We should work each day on growing more closely into the person that God has created us to be, physically, mentally and spiritually. Very few of us ever stop growing in one way or another, because if we were to stop growing we would become perfect and probably wouldn’t be here on earth anymore. So yes, life is a journey, with many stops along the way, and one destination that we hope to reach some day: heaven. Until that point we keep growing.

But life is about so much more than just growing, because if we only focus on the growth we’ll miss out on things that go on around us or things we could be part of that may not help with our personal growth, but rather the growth, health or happiness of someone else. Which means that as much as we need to focus on growing, we also have to stay present in what’s going on now.

God is a God of yesterday, today and tomorrow. He knows our beginnings and our ends, our ups and downs, our struggles and victories, our potential and our failings. He knows who He created us to be for what’s going on in our lives and in the world now as well as what’s to come in the future. Working on focusing on and living in the now is not only important to what’s going on now, but also sets us up for what the future holds. The lessons we learn, even if they aren’t seemingly relevant today, may have great impact on us in the future.

If you remember the story of Samuel in the Old Testament, his life started off because God fulfilled a prayer request of his mother, and his life really took off when he accepted and listened to the voice of God one night as a young man.  You may have an equally non-traditional upbringing or it may have been very ordinary, but your beginning doesn’t have to dictate your present or your future, the lessons you learn from the past, how you live today, and what you do with your future are all up to you.  What will you do with the life God has given you both today and in the days to come?

A Word About Wisdom

This week in my devotional time I read a lot of verses that talk about wisdom. Take a look”

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5

“Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it.” Proverbs 8:33

“Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.” Proverbs 19:20

“Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.” Proverbs 9:9

I also looked a bit into the story of Esther. If you remember her story (there’s a whole book of the Bible written about it), as a young Jewish girl she’s drafted into possibly becoming queen of Persia, she actually does become queen, she saves her people (the Jews) from massacre because she pleads with the king and reveals the villain, and ends up living happily ever after. One of the supporting characters in the story is Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, who helps her with knowledge about the impending massacre. But the story reveals that Mordecai sharing knowledge with the King goes back further than the main story of the Book of Esther about the planned massacre, to a time when Mordecai revealed that there was an assassination plan targeting the king (Esther 2:21-23). The king is saved and the story apparently goes on. But some time later (in the middle of the story about the planned massacre) the king had trouble sleeping so he read back through the logs that were kept of the goings on in the kingdom and was reminded of this assassination attempt and he asked an important question about what was done to reward him for his dedicated service (Esther 6). It turned out that nothing had been done, so the king followed up and rewarded Mordecai.

I share all of these verses and this story from Esther for several reasons. First, there’s no reason whatsoever to ever think or assume you know everything. Everyone forgets things and everyone can only remember or know or be exposed to so much. It’s one of the reasons the internet is so powerful and such an important tool for our lives today. Second, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help or a second opinion. Since we’ve already established we don’t know everything, it follows that someone else certainly knows something you don’t and you can tap into their knowledge. Third, keep learning! I keep notes about lots of stuff because I want to make sure I take care of things or to remember things, and as we saw with the story of Mordecai and the king, notes of those kind can make sure that you’re following through on the important things in your life, as well as to keep a record for those who come after you.

One final thought: wisdom only does good if you do something with it. It’s important to keep learning and to connect with others, but only if you’re going to do something with that knowledge because there are people out there in the world who could greatly benefit from what you know. For example imagine learning all you can about cancer and never doing anything with that knowledge, it sounds silly, right? Whether you do more learning or sharing this week doesn’t matter, what does matter is that you’re taking time to both learn and contribute your wisdom to the world.