Monumental Idols

statue

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Isaiah 44: 9-12

All who make idols are nothing,
    and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind;
    they are ignorant, to their own shame.
10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
    which can profit nothing?
11 People who do that will be put to shame;
    such craftsmen are only human beings.
Let them all come together and take their stand;
    they will be brought down to terror and shame.

12 The blacksmith takes a tool
    and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
    he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
    he drinks no water and grows faint.

As we grow-up around others, we stare at their older lives and crave for that future. As we age, we realize the future is confining, so we look around for an idol or two to meet our current circumstances.  An idol could be past or present.  Living or carved of stone.  Or even an ideology.  

We perch ourselves upon the base of this resurrected monument and peer down at the world.  All our thoughts and feelings rest here.  All our judgments and strong opinions are decided here.

When another from a far away idol approaches with a counter thought, our defenses rise, our wall deployed, and sharp words develop as weapons.  Helmet locked and ears closed.

Jeremiah 13:10 These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless!

As the combat is engaged with words of righteous opinions and contempt for opposing views, all of it falls deaf, laying lifeless on the battlefield.  Each person engaged walks breathless and defeated with no win in sight.  Exhaustion becomes enraged by the ignorance of the opponent.  Why can’t they understand and realize the “truth”?

Psalm 135: 15-17 

The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
    the work of human hands.
16 They have mouths, but do not speak;
    they have eyes, but do not see;
17 they have ears, but do not hear,
    nor is there any breath in their mouths.

Slowly each retreats to the safety of their home base.  Now the work begins.  They gather up their evidence and counter arguments.  Taking a stand.  Ready for the fight.  Marching towards their idol.

Blocking the way of each other.  No right in sight.  Arguing, Yelling, Chanting.  Still no movement or adjustment.  Now the temperature rises.  Forceful action must be taken to create the submission of the other side.  Keep forcing until the win.

Ecclesiastes 3: 9- 17

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

15 Whatever is has already been,
    and what will be has been before;
    and God will call the past to account.

16 And I saw something else under the sun:

In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
    in the place of justice—wickedness was there.

17 I said to myself, “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.”

Our ultimate goal is to find justice.  We as humans need to bring to light what is acceptable and the norm for living.  Set standards.  Set expectations.  Set beliefs.

But, what side will you choose?  If you stand long enough on one pedestal, you will only view justice at that vantage point.

The only white flag in this toilsome battle is our Lord and Savior.  We as Christians must wave the flag and retreat in Him.

God knows all, sees all, and has created all.  Why do we think we have the answers to societies challenges?

Isaiah 44: 13-20

13 The carpenter measures with a line
    and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels
    and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in human form,
    human form in all its glory,
    that it may dwell in a shrine.
14 He cut down cedars,
    or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
    or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
15 It is used as fuel for burning;
    some of it he takes and warms himself,
    he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
    he makes an idol and bows down to it.
16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
    over it he prepares his meal,
    he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
    “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
    he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
    “Save me! You are my god!”
18 They know nothing, they understand nothing;
    their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
    and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
19 No one stops to think,
    no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
    I even baked bread over its coals,
    I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
    Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
20 Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
    he cannot save himself, or say,
    “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

We understand nothing and have closed minds to see that God has a plan.  God is our creator and Jesus our savior.  We are to follow Him, seek Him, and praise Him.  He is our answer to everything.  Past, Present, Future.

Step off the pedestal and kneel before Him.  Honor the only idol, symbol or ideology that will save you and I from ourselves.  Our day will come and our Lord will look into our hearts.  He is the judge and will provide the justice. Lift the white flag and rest in Him.

Luke 18:9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God,be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

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Silent Sorry

Im-Sorry

Luke 15:7 NIV

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I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Deep in my heart, I have locked away feelings of unsaid sorry.  They sit waiting for the right moment to remind me they need attention.  A picture, a place, a situation, a name.  Anyone of these could trigger the lock to release and one to spill out.

I have hurt many people and have been hurt by people too.  Each interaction will eventually lead to the need of; “I’m sorry.”  We make mistakes, hold in pride, and justify our actions to avoid looking as if we are wrong.

My past dances like a shadow just out of reach.  The silent movie of a period of time where a wrong was done and never recognized.  It haunts and taunts and lets me know that this should never of happened.  I didn’t deserve the outcome.  In turn, the death of someone close brings up the need to redo all the wrong I may have inflicted.  How could I have treated this person in the manner in which I see was selfish and judgmental.  If only there was, “I’m sorry”.

At times these three little words, can change the course of our’s and other’s lives.  We have a choice.  Often times the person who felt wronged and was wrong, walks away and avoids the reminder.  The relationship that was, no longer exists.

Luke 6:37

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

What can we do to let go of this need for “sorry”?

Judge and you too will be judged in the same manner.  If we let go and forgive the wrong, ours too will be forgiven.  Yet, easier said than done.

Luke 6: 27-36

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Our need for the apology stems from our unmet expectations.  One person’s wrong is another person’s right.  Jesus has shown us that we need to love just as He has loved us unconditionally.  He isn’t picky and just wants all people of all walks to accept Him as their savior.  They will not meet His expectations, but He still loves.

Luke 15: 11-32

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

In this parable, Jesus tells us that sorry isn’t needed.  Our humility, our love, and devotion are what provides the forgiveness.  He celebrates us when we commit our hearts to Him and allow Him to work out our wrongs and hurts side by side.  Only He can do this for us and no person will ever be able to love us in this way.

Our expectations of others should be tempered with salt.  There is only one who was and is sinless.  There is only one who accepted all sin for human kind.  Humans are sinners.  They will always need to be in His corner.  Jesus is love and will show us how to let go and allow Him to do all the heavy lifting.

I unlock my secret place in my heart, and call Him to enter.  Here is where the need for “sorry” is met with “you are loved”.

1 John 4: 10 

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

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Have and Hold

gift

2 Corinthians 9: 6-15 NIV

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Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
    their righteousness endures forever.”

 

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

For one to have is one who possesses, owns, or is blessed.  They have received gifts and in combination, may be uniquely owned.  As we develop our faith in Christ and walk closer to a full Christian life, our blessings multiply.  We give our love of Christ cheerfully to others, we in turn are blessed.

The commitment needed for these blessings is insurmountable.  Each blessing for which we are given responsibility has a value.  Our cup will run over and the overwhelming need to just let some slip away will become our only method of survival.  How could blessings become burdensome?

When we slow down to recognize the wonders in which we possess, our gratefulness and thanks are easy to say in our nightly prayers.  Yet, when the blessing becomes trouble and seen as a burden, our cries for freedom from them take hold.  Our haves of home, family, friends, work, and things seem to be a trap to snare us into worry, anxiety, and stress.

Did our God punish us in His gifts?

11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

To hold is to keep, grasp, care for, cherish, and value.  When given these gifts from above, our first instinct is to hold them tightly as if a thief stalks at night.  We desperately focus on the preservation.  At times to the point of exhaustion and frustration.  How often they don’t cooperate with how we want to put them under lock and key.

Yet, has God given them to us for safe keeping?

Our duty as a Christian is to recognize the service we are expected to perform.  We are given the awesome responsibility of taking the blessing and giving it away.  This giving is to be done freely, without reservation, and with a big smile.  Instead of reflecting and soaking up the beauty of what you hold, we need take it and share it with everyone.

As we let go of what we hold on so tightly to, we will be rewarded with knowing that we have given God our thanks.  He will receive the glory and others with praise Him by praying for us in turn.

My heart is warmed by the thought of this type of giving.  But, what does this look like in our fast paced, greedy, self driven world?

It’s opening your home to others.  Inviting others over who need a friend.  Taking time to share God’s word around your dining room table.

It’s sharing your belief and praying for family and friends.  Using God’s word to direct your interactions and your words so they are softly spoken with love.  Taking time to forgive wrongs and allow each of these dear people many chances of redemption.

It’s taking the skills and talents you where generously given and using them for the purpose of God’s will.  Sharing His love in the workplace.

It’s giving away possessions to those in need.

In all of this, we find our true to have and to hold.  To cherish the blessing and hold on to the grace that you have received by sharing God’s goodness with all people.  We are God’s hands and feet carrying His ways and His wants so that love will conquer the broken world.

James 1: 16-18

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.

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Fearful Peace

fear

Matthew 14: 22-33 NIV

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22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Do you truly believe?  I am sure you will say, “Yes” as I have many times.  But, after some hard analysis, I have come to realize that the answer is, “No”.

I believe God exists.  I believe Jesus died for our sins.  I believe heaven and hell is our ultimate destination.  Yet, other areas of this belief are gray. Gray and cloudy filled with some doubt, fear, confusion, frustration, and sprinkled at times with bitterness.

Mountaintop experiences with Jesus are extraordinary, happen sporadically and without notice.  They can’t be recreated and coming down from the experience can leave one lonely and depressed.  Can I continue to have faith in the valley?

When questions are unanswered and a nagging feeling for knowledge begs for attention, can I patiently wait?

The moment a sudden unprovoked attack comes to steal my peace, will I fight or flee to safety?

23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 

Jesus left his disciples and sent them in a boat.  They traveled far from Him because the boat was “buffeted by the waves” and ” the wind was against it”.

It is inevitable when we step away after time with Jesus , we will be battered by life due to the hate born from the ruler of the world.  Life will come to steal our peace and throw us in the jail of fear.  Running scared we hunker down into our safe house wanting nothing to do with what lies out in the dark.

26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

He never stops trying to reach us even in our weakness.  During our times of fear, he reaches his hand calling us out.  I find these times the hardest to overcome.

We have been given the choice and He can’t make us walk in faith.  It is our decision to follow His words as a guide even if it hurts.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Peter took the leap of faith to follow in the storm.  Yet, he lost his focus.  Oh, that sinking feeling.  I pray, I read God’s word, and I listen.  I move forward and then something sneaks up to bring me back to life’s reality.  Now what?  Why does this happen?

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Our true belief is tested and our faith wavers.  Doubt is seeded in our hearts.  Lies have been softly whispered and choke out the truth God tries to instill.  Our humanness causes us to trip and run the other way.  But, our great Lord of Lords has the power to stop the storm and calm the seas.  We need to continue to step out of the boat as many times as possible, it’s never too late.

Romans 5: 1-5

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

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Wind Earthquake Fire

San_francisco_fire_1906

1 Kings 19: 11-12

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

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Swirling, Begging, Shouting.  Our lives go in and out of situations which verge on chaos.  Our minds led to fight, flight, or just plain hyper focused on what ifs.  This wound needs immediate attention.  Survival is key.  No other options exist or do they?

At times the wind kicks up just to stir some raw emotions.  Other times a rumble and crack occur to throw us off kilter.  On special occasions everything we know goes up in flames.  It all is what the human experience entails.  No escape and only expectation of its arrival. Satan the creator of all things chaotic.

Luke 8:21- 25

22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Our reaction is first to panic, and seek out ways to escape.  As it sinks in, we become scared and anxious.  How can we settle the sea?  What if things intensify and there is no way out? It has happened before and it will happen again.

What if we didn’t give into the raging fire or unstable ground?  What if we turned, breathed, and chose a quiet posture?

When Jesus was on the boat, I can imagine men pacing and others frozen in fear looking at the all encompassing waves.  As Jesus arose from his restful sleep, He looked at not the waves but the men.  Maybe He felt a bit disappointed in their faith and decided this was the perfect time for a lesson.  With His gentle hands he calmed the sea and began to show His followers how God is even found in the chaos.

1 Corinthians 14: 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.

When our time comes to show God what we have, what shall we do?  If we take a moment, quiet our minds, and begin to pray with fervent expectations, then and only then will we hear.  In those moments of shear desperation and confusion, God will hear our pleas.

Matthew 21:22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

Every time I have sought Jesus and truly prayed for comfort, peace, and guidance with an honest heart, He has delivered.  There were times where it seemed as if the difficulty didn’t even exist after I prayed.  Other times, He has directed a solution and also even provided a path for escape.  My trust is with Him.

Yet, even though I know he has my back, I forget.  How often when the next fiery darts are aimed right at me, I panic.  The enemy always has a way of catching us off guard in the moments of complacency and weakness.  Even Jesus has been tempted.

Matthew 4: 1-11 

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

The only way to safeguard ourselves from what will happen, is to prime our minds daily so that we don’t forget what we have learned.

2 Corinthians 10: 3- 6 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

If we remain in the word, pray with assurance and praise on our lips, we will win against the chaos.  Yet, the real answer is that we have already won.  Our victory is complete in Jesus.  So, why fret, worry, or become fearful?  With our eyes forward towards God’s path, we need to walk with conviction through any wind, earthquake, or fire, holding our head high with peace in our hearts.

Ephesians 6: 10- 18

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

John 16: 33  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

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Eyes on the Prize

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Hebrews 12:2 NIV fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Biblegateway.com

Focus.   An action that takes conscious effort.  It can produce successful outcomes or unproductive paralysis.  Our human lives driven to succeed is divided into three parts; mind, body, and soul.

The mind is our most powerful asset and can determine how the other parts function.  Some days it can inspire, others it can deteriorate but always seeking the what, when, why, and how of any given situation.  Constantly analyzing and finding the flaws to sculpt the sought after “perfect” life.

When trouble comes, our mind seeks an escape route. We turn to mindless entertainment and the off switch to let it take a needed break.

If engagement is needed, our body and soul become necessary to the function.  They activate and the three are one.

Philippians 2: 5-8 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Our body was uniquely made and goes through many stages.  It starts off growing and developing.  As quickly as it started its development, it comes to a screeching halt.  Now we are left with a responsibility to maintain this ownership.

How easy it is to keep it moving when our mind is motivated and our soul content.  In contrast, how painfully restless it becomes when we are mindless and dissatisfied.  A desire seeps in to be thinner, stronger, faster.

1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Our souls are parched as we restlessly sit and numbly think.  In turn, when we move and ponder our soul swirls with emotions.  Day to day the mood sways with the wind.  Decisions are made and goals are set, but do we have the stamina to continue the fight to maintain each part in complete harmony?

Philippians 3: 15-21

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things.And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Jesus had the pleasure of having the human experience.  God loved us to want to understand our plight.  A mind of selfish desires, a body easily molded, and a soul that fluctuated by mood.  Through His word we are given instructions so that our complex human lives can be managed to bring forth the fruit of His labor.

Our minds need to become sharp.  Reading His word, contemplating His wisdom, and turning to prayer and praise when questions arise.

Philippians 4: 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

The magnificent body we have each been given, needs to become still.  Still to hear God’s coaching.  Still to seek out foods that nourish the well being to accept His calling.  Yet, active when needed , to tire the soul so that to prime us for His purpose.  The body is the temple to which we worship Him.

Acts 2: 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope,

A moody soul can not rest in hope.  A soul that puts aside childhood dreams and worldly desires and takes up God’s daily bread, will be full of unexplained joy in unfortunate circumstances.   Settling in, while knowing that the true prize lies in basking in the light of complete freedom.  Heaven on earth.  A means to a glorious beginning.  Completeness in our minds, our bodies, and our souls.

Matthew 6: 9-11

“This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread.

Philippians 3: 7-14

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

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Hopefully Doubting

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James 1: 6 NIV But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Biblegateway.com

How often have I’ve been cautiously optimistic?  Often waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Deep inside I know that all things will turn out for good.

Romans 8: 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Yet, I also know that bad things happen to good people.  Our pain is our gain?  Our disappointments are our strength?

Hebrews 12:7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

2 Corinthians 12:10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

As a child, we fall and fail.  Over time we learn not to repeat a behavior that results in an unfortunate outcome.  As we age, our life experiences become a bit more complex.  They are wrought with emotion and scars which at times become open wounds.  Our human solution is protection.

If I prepare and shed light on the situation, then this outcome will not hurt again.  Safely navigating, avoiding, and hopeful that life will produce less tribulation. But, the dark storm lingers keeping me just on edge enough to suppress any sense of hope.

Hope.  A feeling of expectation and trust.  How do we hope for the best when we know that the best isn’t always what happens?  My prayers, unanswered.  My needs, unmet.  My wants, ignored.  My decisions, insulted.

The non-fulfillment of one’s hopes is disappointment. Can I continue to hold on to desire when the sadness of it’s loss becomes all consuming?

Turning into oneself and lessening the probability of pain seems enticing.

Matthew 21: 18- 19

Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

2When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt,not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Our faith must have no doubts.  An unwavering confidence that all things work for good.  But, how do we let go of our hopeful doubt?  To understand this fully we must seek out Abraham.

Romans 4: 17-25

17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Abraham was promised by God that he would be the father of many nations.  His doubt could have been warranted.  A man of this age.  A woman who could not bear a child.  Easily they could have decided to be cautiously optimistic.  Yet, they were faithfully submissive in receiving the gift of what God had in store for them.  They praised the outcome prior to it’s arrival.  They marveled at the amazing power of what God can do when its in His will.

As I sit and think of Abraham’s majestic faith, I realize that God has made many promises through His words and the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus for me.  How can I doubt his greatness?  How could I insult Him by not praising the pit-falls, knowing He will graciously redeem me in all circumstances?

My hope turns in knowing I am His and He is love.

Romans 5: 1-11

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

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Whispers

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Romans 8: 1-2 NIV Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Biblegateway.com

Our struggles are real and a majority of them lurk right where we have complete access.  The mind is powerful and can easily allow us to shape our very existence.  As we rise in the morning, it goes to work speaking words, creating thoughts, and analyzing decisions.  Day puts them into action and the night lies along side unpacking.

The most intense thoughts are the ones that start as gentle whispers.  Lightly tickling the ear, seemingly angelic.  Consciously allowing a sense of realism to the day.  If a mood swings far right or left, the whispers have a way of stabilizing the motion.  Providing necessary caution, options for plan B, and offering up possible pit-falls.

Romans 8: 3- 8

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

As we allow these whispers to help direct our paths, their power becomes necessary. Unbearably dark and confusing if we ignore their call.

In days of spirit led euphoria, a suppression occurs.  Where did the voice go?  God’s voice seems to boom in a way that creates a thunder of emotion surging through our veins.  No question He is in charge.  But, this too passes.  Left back down to the world and human weakness prevails.

Needing this Godly connection, we turn over every boulder and pebble hoping to find this high.  Frustration sets in and the whisper arrives.   Was that really worth all the work?  It’s not worth the bother.  If you can’t sustain this high, will any good really come?  You are just doing this for selfish reasons.  Maybe the hope you felt was just the rose color glasses you fashioned.  Seriously, nothing can be ‘that good’.

Awkwardly comforting since these voices have been around since our creation.  We submit.

Yet, what if these whispers were not the voice that we should be entertaining?  What if we may be the cause of God’s silence?

Romans 8: 6-7 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

We are to permit the spirit to do it’s job.  When our thoughts are sprinkled with condemnation and grounded in worldly views, sure sign they are brought on by our fleshly existence.   A spirit filled life is…

Galatians 5: 22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Imagine a life filled with a sense of compete joy.  No rules or easy ‘How to Books’ to manifest such a life.  Just God.

Our loving Lord wants to wrap us in this state everyday.  He wants to cheer us on to do amazing and miraculous things in His name.  No feat too small, no mountain-top unattainable.

Romans 8:  9-13

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

How do we tap into this spirit and put a tight lid on the whispers? In the passage above we read that the spirit lives in us already, there for the taking.  No batteries required. In a way, the whisper is external and slips through from our earthly world.  It sneaks in undetected and disguised as ‘fruit’.

Through constant prayer, praise, and reading His word we are able to keep the spirit running on all cylinders.  Some days it will purr and soar and other days it will slowly sail.  But in all of this, God holds us tightly.

Romans 8: 14 – 17

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

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No Rest for the Weary

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Galatians 6: 9 NIV  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Biblegateway.com

A new relationship brings to mind excitement, joy, and anticipated fulfillment.  Starry-eyed and blind to the world swirling around as you walk hand and hand down a busy street. This feeling of newness can take your breath away and cause your thoughts to create a falsely surreal existence.

As a new believer in Christ, our relationship with our Lord and savior can mimic our human relationships.  It contains new insight, unexplained experiences with amazing outcomes, and a joy that only He can provide.   Our humanness craves this feeling like a drug and wants this thrill to stick around for the entirety of new found faith.

Isaiah 60: 5 Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come

Staying and lingering on this mountain to see life as God sees us is intoxicating.  But, this is not how He wants us to live.

Just as a relationship begins to develop into a messy and complex combination of two perspectives, our faith follows in its footsteps.  It ebbs and flows from feelings of joy, contentment, to frustration, confusion, anger, and even boredom.  Is this how it should develop?

Psalm 119:28 My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.

Over time all relationships demand work and our hearts become weary.  Is it all worth it?  Do I have the stamina for this race?  Turning away and seeking an alternative seems to be the answer out of desperation.

Yet, our loving and gracious savior has other plans.  His plans are that we seek Him and turn to Him in all that we do and say.  The weariness seeps into our souls when we turn our backs, listen to the whispering lies of how it’s not worth the effort.   Doubting His greatness and allowing our selfishness to deny His righteousness.

How often has my stubbornness and microscopic worldly view tainted this beautiful relationship?  Unfortunately, too many times to count.

Walking away is not an option.  There is a life we have yet to experience on the other side.  Peace and soul quenching rest that we all yearn for is just there for our taking.

Matthew 11: 28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

So, how do we push through and maintain a close relationship that doesn’t part?

The answer to this question is simple but extremely difficult at times to adhere to unless we have a mindset of dedication, loyalty, and determination.  In other words, our hearts have to be in the game.

Just as we cultivate a human relationship by listening with open minds, embracing the monotony of daily routines, and forgiving mistakes and unmet expectations, we apply these to our faith.  Jesus can lead us to the living water, but he can’t make us drink.  We were given our independent minds to decide how we will live out God’s world.

Once we have reset our thinking patterns, we can then begin to read the word of God and listen to what He has to say about our relationship.

Philippians 2: 1-18

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

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I.D.

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Proverbs 23:7 NASB For as he thinks within himself, so he is.

Biblegateway.com

I have been a famous archaeologist that discovered rare priceless artifacts of an ancient civilization; a teacher with a large classroom of eager students ready to learn about the wonders of the world; a fisherman who caught enough fish for the day to feed an entire community; a soldier protecting others from the invading enemies watching carefully hiding behind bunkers.

These lives are created as a child’s imagination pictures an alternative reality. Vividly engulfed in a beautiful movie playing out to entertain an idle mind.

How often do we continue to play this game?

I know over the years I have constantly sought to identify with some new idea, group of people, and emotional state.  At times the simplicity of life has caused each of the mentioned areas to intensify and become the basis for decisions.  I have created new ideas of who I thought I was by listening to others around me, fixating on past events, and just observing others who I envied that walked past my narrow window of the world.

1 John 3: 1-2 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him,for we shall see him as he is.

How often do we seek a group of people to create a gateway to self identify with something larger than ourselves?  So seductive and enticing in the way the group functions as an entity, have their own language, exuding cohesiveness and camaraderie. If your out, then you are not in.  Doesn’t this group provide what we are meant to seek?  Fellowship.

Romans 1:11-12 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

In our day to day worldly walk, don’t we stumble upon moods that trip us to garner our attention?

When a repeating situation or event occurs, an emotional reaction becomes my entry ticket.  If someone questions this entry, I shrug accepting it as my ‘norm’.  I justify and claim it as a delivered package to my door.

Unexpected twists, disappointing encounters, unacceptable behaviors are rocks in our shoes that tumble around annoying and asking for attention.  Mood altering and readjusting who we see in the mirror.

2 Timothy 1: 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

So, how do we become what God has labeled as; ‘beloved’?

Romans 12: 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Our human minds are full of hurts, past regrets, unmet expectations, selfish motives, wanted acceptance, and questions that are under constant speculation.  Each one sets a new label that marks our identification in the world.

God wants us to not conform.  Rise above.  Release the thoughts and feelings.  Accept his love and our birthright of a child of God.

Philippians 4: 4-9  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Our instructions are clear.  Praise him while showing off a calm nature.  Pray with a desperate heart for His sweet answers.  Thank Him for his faithfulness, blessings, and unanswered prayers.  Stay in His word and seek answers to protect our minds from spinning worldly explanations.  Lastly, focus on the beautiful things He reveals so that desperation, confusion, and pining don’t take the place of God’s grace.

When we put this into action night and day, we will have our new identity.  Our hearts sealed and peace will blanket us to the day we meet Him again.

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