Category Archives: Religion

Growing Pains

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Do you ever realize that spiritual growth usually comes along with some sort of trial. It seems to be some necessary process for growth that it is paired up with pain, heartache, hardship or loss. I recently had a such an experience and spent the last couple of days trying to sort it out.

I have written recently about the idea that I like to be liked, in this post. I know I am probably not alone in this, because who doesn’t? I however may take it to a different level because I think I care too much what others think of me. That being said, I recently found out that people whom I have known for many years, and I thought were my friends are talking about me behind my back and  the comments were not complimentary. This hurt me on two different levels, one being that people who I thought were my friends are obviously not. Secondly that there are people out there that I like and called friends who don’t like me back. This causes me a lot of confusion and disappointment

After the initial sting of hearing these comments I spent time contemplating what I said, did, or  didn’t do that caused this, and what I can do to rectify it. As I was thinking on  these things, I thought of something my boss said to me the other day. She said “I don’t trust anyone, or any person that is”. I thought, how sad to go through life thinking this way. However, after this current situation I thought maybe she has a point. I have a habit of letting people into my life too easy and I open up and let down any defenses I may have. I am a person who wears his heart on his sleeve and will tell you how I feel, and it will be evident how I feel by my actions and facial expressions. Maybe I should be more guarded like my boss and not trust anyone, this way I won’t get hurt.

The more I thought about this however I realized there is a lesson to be learned in all of this. I continue to realize that I put my trust in people and my satisfaction is in their approval. The funny thing is, there is no where in scripture that says our hopes and approval should be in others, rather it is to be in Jesus and Jesus alone. Time and time again we are told to love others, not have others love us. We are told to count others more significant than ourselves, but no where does it say make others love you. This is pride speaking, I am making myself more important than I am. I am finding my worth in others, or as Paul puts it, I am putting my confidence in the flesh. He goes on to say in Phil 3:8 “indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

I have failed at this miserably, I continue to count things I do as worth, and my confidence is in my flesh and the approval of others is the measuring stick of my worth. So although I feel as though I have lost friendships and the pain is still fresh. I have learned that is because my trust was in the wrong place, myself. I had made myself and others too big .Where my faith and confidence should be in Jesus. I know I will let others down and others will let me down. As my boss said “I don’t trust  anyone, or any person that is”, but she finished this statement by pointing skyward and saying,”There is only one I trust”. This is words to live by. I wish it just didn’t have to feel this way in order to learn this lesson.

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In The Know

studyI want to be, and enjoy being an answer man. I am inquisitive by nature and like to know how things work and why things are the way they are. I also like to know the answers to questions so I spend time researching things in my area of knowledge. If I don’t know an answer to something, I will go and find out so I will have the answer for next time. My motives for this can go in many different directions and that will be for another time. For this post however I just want to point out the fact that I seek knowledge.

A Cliché that brought me to an epiphany

A friend of mine recently wrote a blog the other day discussing a cliché in the Church. He went on to tell of its uselessness and even its possible falsehood. His post was on the Saying “No God No Peace Know God Know Peace”. At first I agreed with a lot of what he was saying. It wasn’t until the next day that a light bulb went off in my head. Do I know God I asked myself?. A little background on myself. I read the bible approximately 30-60 min a day. I take notes on what I learned. I go to church 2 times a week with pen and notepad in hand. I read extra-biblical books on knowing scripture and on the whys and hows of the Christian faith. I spend time listening to podcasts of those who defend the faith, and I can do a decent job of explaining the evidence of what I believe and why I believe it. My mantra was learned from the verse 1Pet 3:15 “ but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”

Oh, We need to know Him Light bulb

On the surface many, including myself would say I know God. However, the one thing that separates the Christian faith from other religions. is that Christians are not bent (or shouldn’t be bent) on following a set of rules. The Christian faith is based on having a personal relationship with its creator, Jesus Christ. In His own words He says  “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15. Here Jesus is saying that we should know Him the same way He knows the father. Hmmm, maybe I know more about Him than actually know Him.

It Is About Relationship

I realized I have been spending too much time learning about Him and becoming His answer man instead of knowing Him. In the same way we are to know our spouses, our children, our friends we need to know our savior. We don’t read books on what our kids do and want. We don’t reference the internet to inquire what our wives or husbands would like for dinner, no of course not. We spend time with them learning what they like, watching what they do and we build a relationship with them that hopefully lasts a life time. This is how we should be spending time with Jesus. I realized I had my priorities a little confused, I would spend 85%-90% of my morning devotions reading the bible and 10%-15% of my time in prayer. I should probably reverse that. On top of that my reading was usually for information and knowledge rather  bettering my understanding of the one who gave his life for me so that I may have eternal life.

Jesus requires that we know him and not just know about Him. He goes on to say in John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”  and in John 10:27-28 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand”

So let us not lose sight as I have, that we are not to know about Christ, rather to know Him personally, intimately so we will know His voice. Let us abide in Him and Him in us so that we can know His will for us and “Know Peace, because we Know God”

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Just Have Faith

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Today While at Church the Pastor on a few occasions said, we just need to have faith, and we just need to believe. I have heard these remarks many times before, but it struck me differently today. How many times have you heard people say when going through a difficult time “Just have faith”? I would guess probably many times, but what exactly does that mean and is it that easy to obtain such a faith that it can bring you out of the lowest of lows and during moments of seemingly unceasing pain.

I think we throw around these phrases a little to glibly.  I have gone through times when it feels like God isn’t  there at all, and if He is He sure isn’t listening. Times of prayer that go on seemingly unanswered and times when life doesn’t make much sense. I also have friends that have hit rock bottom and don’t know where to turn to next to get relief from the hardships of life. I know I don’t want to  hear, and they probably don’t want to hear “Just have faith” and things will get better.

The word “Just” makes it seem like it is something easy to obtain. It’s like telling someone who wants to climb Mt Everest, Just go climb it. This dismisses the amount of training involved, the expenses to do it, the time off to do it and having a team of experts to help you along the way. I think faith is similar to this. It takes time to understand who and what you are putting your faith in. It takes time to learn that God is faithful to us and that we can trust Him. But this takes time like in any relationship. It takes time to build trust before you put your faith in that person. So too in putting faith and trust in God in order to believe in Him and in His word.

Let us not then loosely say” just have faith”, and “just believe”. Let’s replace it with learn how to trust in God. Spend time in the bible to learn of His character and how others who did put their faith in Him even during the hardest of times that God was faithful to them and he too will be faithful to you. It is hard to have faith in the unseen, So I tell you not to just have faith, rather fight for it, seek it, pray for it.

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Bow Down to Loki or Die

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We are all worshippers, whether you now it or not or even believe it, we are all made to worship. The question is, what do you worship? It may not be a deity you worship, it may be money, comfort, drugs, your self, exercise, food, alcohol, your spouse, or someone you wish were your spouse, and the list could go on and on, but I am sure you get the point. When you close your eyes and think of that thing that you want the most, the thing that takes up most of your thoughts, your time, your resources. This is the thing in which you worship. A lot of times we don’t think about what we worship or take the time to make a conscious effort on what or who we want to worship. This could lead us to worship the wrong God, person or thing.

In the movie “The Avengers” the antagonist, Loki, decides he wants to destroy the earth, but along the way he wants power and there is a scene where he is in the middle of the street and exploiting his power he forces everyone on the street to bow down to him or face a certain demise. So of course this caught everyone off guard and filled with fear they all bowed. That is except one man, he decided at that moment he was not going to bow to any man even though this would certainly lead to his death. As Loki noticed this act of rebellion he lifted up his weapon (a really cool staff) to strike him, but in the nick of time Captain America jumped in between this man and Loki and saved this man’s life.

This reminds me of a story in the Bible of a King who erected a huge golden image of himself measuring some 90 feet tall. He ordered musicians to play, and every time they did, everyone was ordered to bow down to it immediately or be put to death. Now this king didn’t have a cool staff like Loki did, but he did have a huge fiery furnace. He ordered anyone who did not bow to be thrown in. So as the musicians played, plagued with fear all bowed just like in the movie. Except in this story there were three people who did not bow. The twist here is that the making of the gold image took months upon months to build, so  these three men had time to ponder their decision. I would bet they talked it out ahead of time and all decided they would not bow. You see they all believed in the One true God. They would never bow to another even if it meant being thrown into a fire. Do you have that same conviction over what or who you worship? Now these three people did not have a Captain America to save them, but they did have something better. When discovered they would not bow the king turned the temperature up to 7 times the heat and had them thrown in for their disobedience. Let us see how this played out. We will pick up the story in the book of Daniel 3:23-28 “ And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
Dan 3:24  Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”
Dan 3:25  He answered and said, “
But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
Dan 3:26  Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.
Dan 3:27  And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.
Dan 3:28  Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies
rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.” These three had their own version Capt. America but instead of a movie of fictional characters, these were three people in history with a real king and a real fire facing real death.

These three men knew who they worshipped, they took time to weigh the cost of who was worthy of worship. They were not swayed by fear, emotion, or comfort. They didn’t wait until the last minute to decide what it is the believed was worthy of giving up everything for. How about you? will you bow to fear, to money, to easy living, drugs, fitness or your spouse? Will you continue to keep your head buried in the sand and not realize even what it is or who you do worship. I plead to you, put down the remote, put down that drink, put that merchandise back on the shelf,it does not save, and look to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Look to the one who gave up His life so you could live, for He is worthy of your worship.

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Life Is Not Fair

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Life is not fair! Have you ever uttered those words before?  You probably have, because I think everyone has at one point or another. Are you going through a struggle or hardship right now, and wondering why is my life so hard? Why don’t things ever work out for me? I can tell you one thing, you are not alone. In the past week I have encountered my own struggles and heard other peoples hardships that seem there is no easy answer to. So how do we overcome these monumental difficulties in life without giving up, or going into a depression or becoming hardened?

We feel life is not fair when things don’t go the way we want them to go. But how do we know that the way we want them to go is the right way or the fair way? Isn’t this when we become bitter and resentful, when we don’t get our way? Our way can seem very fair, we can pray for a family member with cancer to be healed. Or we can pray for our children to be healthy or a marriage to be reconciled only to have the family member die of cancer, children to be sick and  marriages fall apart. And we say or think, this is not fair. But what are we comparing fair to? Are we all to always be healthy and live to 100, never get into an accident, never have an argument with our spouse, never have parents with health issues? But what are we basing these assumptions on? I think it continues to fall on the fact that we don’t want these things to happen and when they do we say it is not fair based on our expected outcome.  So what do we do when things don’t go our way, how do we overcome it?

“For the Arrows of The Almighty are in Me” Job 6:4

Let’s look at the Bible and some situations people fell into that we would call unfair. Let us first look at Job. He had lost his sons and daughters in a horrific accident, he lost all of his money(livestock) by fires and thieves, and then to top it off he was inflicted with excruciating boils from his feet to his head. What did he do to deserve this you ask? Nothing, he was a very good upstanding citizen who loved God and didn’t seem to have a bad bone in his body. It was during this time when his own wife told to curse God and die, nice wife right? I would say this would fall in the not fair scenario. So how does Job respond to all of this? I am not going to say he was giddy over it by any means, at one point he wished that he had never been born. But he never lost perspective of who he was and who God is. He said in Job 13:15 “Though he slay me I will hope in him” (referring to God).And in Job 19:25-26 “For I know my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth” Even though Job was going through hell on earth he never lost sight of who God is or lost his hope in him.

Another great example of an unfair life is the life of Paul. Paul turned into a very godly man who went on to be a great missionary preaching the good news of the gospel everywhere he went. Therefore God must have blessed him beyond measure for being such a faithful servant right? I will let Paul respond to that question. 2Cor 11:23-28 “…with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from the gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from other things there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches”. Because of this Paul shouted out to God and said “this in not fair, why are you doing this to me. I am a good person doing your work, why are you punishing me like this, why are you not answering my prayers” Actually he never said that, but he probably had every right to. Isn’t that what we would say and do say when afflictions come our way? But what does Paul really say?  Written in the same letter  we find Paul saying this about his hardships, 2 Cor. 4:17 “For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. WHAT!! a light and momentary affliction? I think after the one imprisonment I would have given up and started with the why me’s. How are Job and Paul able to have these responses to such horrible calamity?

Having the Right Perspective.

I believe Job and Paul were able to overcome there difficulties because the had a right perspective on life. Both Job and Paul kept their focus on God and not themselves. Job remembered Who God is and Paul remembered what Jesus had done for him. What is more important to us will determine what rules us. What is bigger to you in your life; your problems or God? What are you focusing on more? When Paul was in prison he wrote the book of Philippians which is known as the book of joy. If I wrote that book it would be called be book of woe is me. Paul goes on to write words like everything is trash compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. We have a choice we can either be self centered or Christ centered. One leads to into a spiral of self pity and despair filled with depression. The other leads to life, joy, peace, and ultimately to our salvation. We need to keep our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith and take them off of ourselves. Life is not fair, but not in the way you are thinking. It is not fair because we deserve death for or sins and turning our back to God, but Jesus gave up his life so that we may have eternal life, Jesus took our place on the cross taking on the full wrath of God so that we never have too. I am sure Jesus easily could have said this is not fair. I never did anything wrong yet I am being punished for everyone else.  It is with this knowledge that we may say like David did in Ps 40:16 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually. “Great is the Lord”.

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Unanswered Prayer

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Do you ever feel like when you are praying that your prayers aren’t getting past the ceiling of the room? That for some reason or other your words are drifting off into a dark void of the unknown never to fall on the ears of God. You start to second guess all sorts of things; does God even care about this, or is he even listening? Should I be doing something different, asking in some other way? Is there even a God who is there to hear me or am I just sitting in a room talking to myself?

Why Doesn’t God Hear Me

I get so frustrated and disappointed by the perception that my prayers are either not being heard or not cared about. I have been praying for years upon years along with so many others for something, only to be responded to with deafening silence. Some days I just say “well it’s in God’s timing” and that will placate my emotions for the day. Other days I just get frustrated and depressed and wonder what use of praying even is. Every once in a while I will feel like God hears me and I begin to gather hope which is usually followed by crushing defeat. Then there are days I feel like I have all of Jobs friends living in my head telling me I must have done something to sever my lines of communication with God. Is there some unrepentant sin? Which leads me to James 5:16b  which says “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”, which logically leads to think maybe I am just not righteous enough? This leads to a plethora of self doubt, maybe I should be praying more, maybe I should be fasting, am I praying by faith, am I sincere enough in my prayer, is it according the the will of God? Because it says in the bible in 1John 5:14b “If we ask anything according to his will he will hear us” and John 14:14  Jesus says “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”. Well nothing is happening so therefore I must be doing something wrong.

There Is Hope

I know I am not alone in this, and the pebble in my shoe may not compare to your boulder. Maybe you too have been praying for something that is very painful for you. Maybe it is a life controlling addiction, maybe over financial woes where there seems to be no end. It could be the loss of a child, cancer, debilitating pain, severe anxiety, or depression, the list could go on.Does God seem silent to you too?  I came across a passage the other day which gave me hope and I hope it does you. It is found in the first chapter of Luke. It reads as follows

Luk 1:5  In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
Luk 1:6  And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.
Luk 1:7  But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Luk 1:8  Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty,
Luk 1:9  according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
Luk 1:10  And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.
Luk 1:11  And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
Luk 1:12  And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.
Luk 1:13  But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
Luk 1:14  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,
If you look closely at this passage it says that Zachariah and Elizabeth were advanced in years. This leads us to believe they must have spent years upon years praying for a child.It may have been as much as 40 years of prayer where God was silent to them. Then one day out of nowhere and Angel appears to Zachariah and says “For your prayer has been heard”. How long must he have been waiting to hear those precious words.

It Actually is in God’s Timing

I am sure they both got frustrated just like you and I get frustrated by the perceived silence of God. But God’s plans are not our plans and he works on his time schedule not ours. While Elizabeth and Zachariah waited and most likely got depressed, got angry and probably wondered if they were praying right. God however was waiting for the right time to bless them in a way that was so far beyond what they could ever imagined. They ended up bearing a son known as John the Baptist, who had the privilege of ushering in the Ministry of Jesus and the great honor of baptizing him in the river Jordan. So when you get frustrated or depressed, just remember God does hear our prayers just like Zachariah and Elizabeth and sometimes he will blow our minds by how he answers them.

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You Are Going to Die

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You may not know when it will happen, where it will happen, or how, but either way, you are going to die. This is one thing that you can be sure of 100% unless you think you will be raptured, but for the sake of the argument let’s say not in your lifetime. If this is the one thing that you can have no doubt about, why do we not discuss it more? We will spend time talking about politics, work, sports, hobbies, vacations ad nauseam, but not what happens to us when we die?

I work at a cancer center so maybe this topic comes up with me more than others, but it is still a topic of taboo. When the topic of death does comes up, it is usually followed by a God forbid, or someone knocking on wood. We will venture to discuss death about other people occasionally, but rarely if ever about ourselves. Well let me be the one to tell you, you are going to die. How does that make you feel? Does the thought scare you? If so, what are you scared of? Is it the fear of the unknown or the fear of what you are leaving behind, such as children, a spouse or loved ones? Is this what keeps us from talking about it, fear?

A more pressing question would be, if you ARE going to die why do we not spend more time trying to find out what happens to us when we die?

I know many people who when asked what happens when we die they respond, I have no idea, or say I don’t like to think about it. When I was in my late teens into my early twenties I was searching every religion to try and make sure I was on the right path. I am not saying I am better, or smarter than anyone, rather it does freak me out therefore I searched, studied, examined, prayed to whoever would listen for the truth to ensure peace about my eternal resting place. So it doesn’t make any sense to me and confounds me that more people don’t also agonize over their death and where there soul goes and what are the requirements to enter into a heaven if there is one.

Are we just turned back into dirt when we die and that’s that?

I have heard it from atheists who say there is nothing more to this life then what we are living, and when we die that’s it. Our bodies will turn into dust, we have no soul, there is no heaven, no hell, just nothingness. I have a hard time believing people actually believe that, because if this were true I think they would be living their lives differently. Why live a moral life? Why not step over everyone and take  what you want and live with a more reckless abandon. Although I guess if I did believe that, I wouldn’t want to think about death either.

If there is a Heaven and Hell are you 100% sure you are going to the right place?

I  will ask people who believe there is a heaven and hell, how do you know you are going to heaven?  Many will respond “hopefully I was good enough”.  I think hopefully? hopefully? Again, why is it that if we know we are going to die we don’t make sure we know where we are going and how to get there. Why is not our every waking hour consumed with making sure you are going to heaven especially if you think hell exists. The results are final and eternal. But instead we just hope we might be right and continue going about our daily routines like it is never going to happen.

Fortunately or not, you can not be good enough to get into heaven, so you don’t have to hope about being good enough or not. It says in the bible in Ephesians 2:8-9  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. But rather we need to follow Jesus, and accept his free gift of salvation that he offers to all who call upon him.

Act 2:21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved…
Act 2:28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence…
Act 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…
For “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 Jn 1:9

How Can I Be Sure I am Going to Heaven?

Well if it is God’s heaven He makes up the rules and He gives us promises in His word. Like in Ephesians 1:13-14  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. And similarly founnd in 1Peter 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

So you can be sure of your final resting place, and not fear death, but rather curiously anticipate it with hope. So you too can say with confidence, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1Cor 15:55-57

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