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    Intimacy

    Saturday, July 12, 2014, 5:22 PM [General]

         Intimacy is to let another fully know you.  That is a very fearful thing.  There are no half measures and there can be no going back once we have committed.  If rejected, we will be crushed.

         1 Corinthians 13:12 says "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

         Jesus knows your every flaw and failure, both the ones you have hidden and the ones you have not yet committed.  He also loves you fully and completely, so much so that He clothed Himself in flesh.  He lived a life like ours, yet not like ours.  He felt the struggle and pain, but remained true to His Father's will.

         And though He remained true, he took all our failures into Himself and took our place.  He took our penalty.  He traded places with us so that we need never be separated again from Him.

         Accept the one who knows you fully and loves you anyway.

         Below is a link to a modern adaptation of "The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson.  You can read more about him at:

    www.patheos.com/Catholic/Hound-of-Heaven...

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXlgz4aBKt8

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    How's Your Speed?

    Sunday, July 6, 2014, 6:51 PM [General]

    How's Your Speed?
         I love to drive, but it can get a bit crazy on the road. Some are real sticklers, driving only the speed limit. Some are overly cautious and drive a fair bit under. I, like many, follow the 5 mph rule. You can always get away with up five over the limit, well, almost always. Careful in school zones though. Others figure if you can get away with five, why not ten. Still others believe themselves to be above the law and drive as fast as they can, zipping in and out of traffic at will.
         All those different drivers do not mix well together. Everyone wants to live by their own rules. The problem is, we all want to follow our own opinion of what the correct limit should be. Fortunately, there is a group that we are accountable to called the police. They enforce the only valid speed limit set by a higher authority, the government.
         A lot like life, isn't it. Some live by the rules. Some avoid doing anything remotely close to breaking a rule. Some bend the rules to the point of breaking. Still others follow no rules but their own passions. We all tend to want to decide for ourselves what the rules of right and wrong are.
         Again, we are fortunate in that we are accountable to a higher authority. He set the rules long ago. They do not bend and sway based on our whims or desires. And in the end, He will enforce them. That may not be good news.
         We have no capacity to perfectly follow them, and if we fail in the least point, we fail in all points. (James 2:10). The penalty for failure is death, separation from God. (Romans 6:23) And that isn't just a here and now thing, that separation from God is forever. (2 Thessalonians 1:9) For a people who like to live by their own set of rules, that can not end well.
         There is good news though (Gospel literally means "good news"). God's love for us is as infinite as his hate for sin. He came as one of us and lived a perfect life. In spite of this, and the many miracles he performed and all those he healed, he was falsely accused of a capital crime, tortured by those in charge, and the full force of all God's hatred for sin (the sin of every single human that will ever have existed) was poured out on him.
         Because he willingly chose to pay our price when he himself was innocent, we now can stand before God. One small catch. We must realize our need for him, and we have to believe that he loved us enough to actually do what he promised he did. This leads to the "Crown Jewel" of all scripture, the most recognized verse in the whole bible.
    "For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16
         So how's your speed? Are you still trying to set your own rules? Or have you realized you can't follow the rules on your own power and need help?

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    How We Respond to the Grieving

    Saturday, July 5, 2014, 10:57 AM [General]

         We see someone grieving a loss. The loss of health. Loss of job. Loss of family. Loss of hope. We want to say something, do something to ease their pain.
         Often, a small aspect of that is selfishness on our part. It can be uncomfortable, even painful to be around them in that state. It is nearly impossible to be happy around them, and deep down (I hope), we realize that it would be wrong to simply try to cheer them up.
         What to do then? We want to fix their pain, but that is not what they really need. Part of their pain, the truly unbearable part, is the feeling of being utterly alone. "No one understands my pain or my circumstances." These words echo in the heart and the mind like a driving, deafening drum beat.
         So how do we help? We sit with them. We listen. And where appropriate, we embrace them. We accept the awkward and unpleasant moment and yield our self.
         The human touch is a powerful thing. It can convey so much meaning and power. One of my favorite miracles is found in Matthew 8, where a leper comes to Jesus for healing. Sometimes Jesus healed by speaking a word, and sometimes that word is not even spoken in the presence of the one being healed. Here, though, Jesus touches the man.
         Imagine being that leper. The law requires that you separate yourself from all people. If you are to enter an area, you must announce in a loud voice that you are coming, giving them time to get away from you. He had not felt a human touch in only God knows how long. And with the loss of sensitivity in his nerve endings, he could not feel the touch anyways.
         Jesus touches him and immediately, he is healed. Not only is he healed, but he now feels the touch of Jesus' hand. Were I him, I would have hugged Jesus with all that was in me. Knowing the compassion of Jesus, I believe he would have hugged right back.
         When we embrace those grieving, we enter into their world. They feel less alone. Their grief is lessened in the sharing.
         That is what Christ did for us. He entered into our world. He left the splendor and glory of being worshiped in heaven behind when he was born. He lived as one of us for over thirty years, experiencing all the joy and suffering of being human. Then, he allowed his own creation to torture and kill him. He came down and entered into our pain. He embraced us as we were so that we could know that he loved us. We were not alone.
         For those who would believe on the sacrifice he made for us, he gives the gift of his Holy Spirit to live in us. He also promises in John 14:23 that "anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."
         He promises to always remain with us till the day that he comes to take us home to himself, to live eternally in heaven. There, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Rev. 21:4)
         ALL grief will finally be swallowed up.

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    A Funnel or a Sieve

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 5:20 PM [General]

         Often we think of ministry as a funnel. God's love is poured into us and is directed out somewhere specific. We are great at creating programs of all kinds to reach people.
         The problem with funnels is that their shape has to be pretty precise to work where we want them. 
         Many think that they are not gifted enough, or their lives are to messed up to minister. 
         Most often, I think, God desires ministry to be a sieve. A sieve is simply a container of any shape with a bunch of holes in the bottom. The water pours in and filters out through a variety of holes in the bottom. That is us. Irregular shaped containers with a lot of holes in life. And the sieve is far less important than what is being poured into it.
         Let God's love pour into your imperfectly shaped life that seems to be full of holes at time. Then let it pour out onto whoever God brings across your path. I bet that He does amazing things. 

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    My Life

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 5:18 PM [General]

    My Life
        A friend of mine is now a grandfather. His daughter is only 20. The father is in his fifties. At first, the father seemed a decent guy (other than the outrageous age difference).  He had a decent job and a good pension from a previous job.  He had never married before and had no children.
         Later, information about his past turned out not so true, and the truth about him was bad.  He had a criminal record that was not relegated to just his past.  It stretched over a thirty year period and contained items that are every parents fears.
         My friend reached a point where he had to share this with his daughter. She replied that "he isn't like that any more."  She told him that if he couldn't accept the father, he should stay out of her life.  She didn't need him.
         Shades of an old Billy Joel song from the eighties, "My Life":
    "I don't need you to worry for me cause I'm alright.
    I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home.
    I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life.
    Go ahead with your own life and leave me alone."
         My friend needs all the prayers he can get right now, but that isn't why I share this. Listening to him kind of hit home for me.  No, I don't have any secret children floating around, or a criminal past.  But I do have a heavenly Father.  He has spoken to me about decisions that I have made that, at the very least, have not been in my best interests.  And at times I have responded by telling Him (by my actions), "leave me alone, this is my life."
         My friend is struggling to walk a fine line between being honest with his daughter and not pushing too hard.  I cannot even fathom his pain, but I am reminded of a verse in Ephesians that we just studied.  "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed."
         When I sin, and worse, when I persist in my sin, I grieve the very heart of God.  Grace upon grace, He never stops reaching out to me to bring me back to Him and forgive me.  There are still consequences, but He never stops loving me.  He never gives up on me.
         Pray that my friend can continue to offer his daughter grace.  Pray that she sees the truth.  Pray that we recognize those times that we grieve God and that we turn back to Him quickly.
    Amen

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    Being in Relationships

    Tuesday, August 6, 2013, 12:08 AM [General]

         Aaaaaagh!! How do I respond to someone? Do I respond based on how things really are? Or on how they should be? Or do I scrap both and go by what their "gut" is telling them?
         Work frustrates me. The sales people come and ask me how much of a product I have. But what are they really asking? 
         Do they want the number I actually have on hand? If I give them that answer, some of the product technically "doesn't exist," as it hasn't been turned in yet on a production sheet. And even the adjusted number probably won't match what the system says we have because the one entering the production sheets into the computer may not be finished. Or they lost a sheet. Or they just plain screwed up the entry.
         Just like relationships. Differing perspectives. What is. What should be. What we think it is. How do we communicate with all those different perspectives.
         The first thing I need to do in any stressful situation is take a deep breath and ask God to calm my spirit. Actions based purely on emotions are are really just reactions, and often do not yield the best results. God knows the truth of what is happening and desires that I honor Him, so I always need to remember to seek His help.
         Next, I have to own my feelings. Someone misunderstands my words or actions. Or they do or say something that I don't like. I get frustrated. Is it really their fault that I am frustrated? No. I can not control anyone else's actions, but I can control how I respond. They can not control me unless I let them.
         Then I need to communicate when I start to feel frustrated, and not wait till I am full blown angry with them. I need to honestly share how I feel and why. I need to ask if I am interpreting them correctly, or if my point of view has skewed my ability to rightly read the situation. 
         Nothing will make a relationship perfect. Choosing to respond differently will make it better though.

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    For my good and for God's glory

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013, 4:45 PM [General]

    For my good and for God's glory

    Isaiah 43:7 " everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made."
    Romans 8:28 " We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose."

         God longs to take all things in my life, the good and the bad, and work them for my good and His glory. Am I willing enough to be vulnerable and let others see the bad, or do I sweep it under the rug and pretend that everything is okay. To expose my pain and weakness for the sake of someone else's healing requires a strength that is beyond me, but it is also a strength that God promises to give me as I step out in faith. Follow me in that journey of vulnerability and trust.

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    A Morning Prayer

    Saturday, June 1, 2013, 9:50 AM [General]

    Father, 
    Fill me with the truth of how much You love and have forgiven me. Let it be the blood coursing through my veins and the air I breathe. Fill me to overflowing with Your love, grace and mercy that it may be like a river of living water flowing out of me and splashing on all who cross my path today. Let those who know You be cleansed, refreshed and encouraged to be a blessing to others. Let those who don't know You be filled with a sense of wonder and connect it with the hunger inside them to know the one who created them, loves them and sacrificed all to restore them to Himself. Use me today as a vessel for Your glory. 
    In Jesus name 
    Amen

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    A Meaningful Life

    Sunday, May 26, 2013, 4:54 PM [General]

         We are all born with a longing deep within us, an emptiness that only one thing can ever truly fill. Some go their whole life and never know it. I am reminded of how Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, sought to find meaning in every avenue known to man. Wealth. Power. Accomplishment. Pleasure. He found them all to be worthless and hollow. Finding meaning in them was as pointless as "chasing after the wind." The only answer he arrived at was this: Fear God and keep His commands, for this is the whole duty of man.

         On the surface, fear and obedience hardly seem capable of filling the void in us. They appear small, cold and comfortless. How can they truly offer us meaning? Let us start by examining the first, fear.
         The primary meaning for the Hebrew word for fear used here is "to stand in awe of, to give reverence, honor and respect." In other words, we are called to understand the greatness and majesty of the one who created us. We are called to worship Him and Him only.  Understand, when I say worship, I do not simply mean what we do for about an hour or two on Sunday and maybe Wednesday.  Romans 12:1 says "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship."  Worship isn't simply something we do a few hours a week.  It is something that permeates every aspect of our life.  It is living a life that brings honor and glory to God from the moment we awake to the moment we lay our head down to sleep.
         Next, we are called to obey God's commands. There are said to be 613 commands in the Old Testament, a staggering number. As difficult as it must be to learn and memorize all those rules, to perfectly obey them all is infinitely harder still. Jesus went on to sum them up in two. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.
         He refined them even further while speaking to his followers on the night he was to be betrayed. He told them "a new commandment I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
         Do not read this too quickly, lest you miss the beauty of what the words are saying. He is asking us to love as he loved us: an unselfish, sacrificial and unconditional love. How do we comprehend the magnitude of the all-powerful creator of EVERYTHING loving us so unconditionally? It is a love that seems like reckless abandon, as we could never deserve it. As it says in Romans 5:10 "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." He chose to love us while we still hated Him. That is a love beyond understanding and measure.
         And it is in believing that He loves us with this all-consuming love and letting it flow through us to all whom we encounter that we find meaning and purpose. Our emptiness is filled. We show to whom we belong, and point all the glory to Him.

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    A FATHER'S BROKEN HEART

    Saturday, March 9, 2013, 1:56 PM [General]

    A FATHER'S BROKEN HEART
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipwEtvWL_3c
         A friend recently told me that they felt more genuine love and concern from their non-Christian friends then from their Christian ones. Those words have haunted me. We are told by Jesus that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as our self and that they (the world) will know we are Christians by our love.
         Why can't we learn to see others as God does? God loves us all. He doesn't condone all our actions, but still longs for us to know how much He loves us. 
    Maybe is it because we can not let down our walls and be real with others. We are flawed just as our Christian and non-Christian friends are. Jesus told a parable called "The Two Debtors"
    Luke 7:36-50
         When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
    When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.’
         Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’
         ‘Tell me, teacher,’ he said.
         ‘Two people owed money to a certain money-lender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’
         Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’
         ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.
         Then he turned towards the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.’
         Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’
         The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’
         Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’
         Perhaps the lack of love for others (especially our brothers and sisters in Christ) is connected to a lack of love for Christ. This sounds offensive, but think. If we REALLY realize just how much God has forgiven us, how can we not be motivated to love God. And if we love God, we MUST obey His command to love others as He has loved us. It is how people will know we are His followers and be drawn to want to follow as well (John 13:34-35)
         I know that I have broken The Father heart with my lack of love at times. Join me in prayer that we will love as He loved us.
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