All or Nothing at all

As I lie in bed for the night after watching the movie What Would Jesus Do I cannot help but to think about how I would respond if I lost everything. I’m not talking about losing stuff, though I’m sure that would be trying, but what if I lost EVERYTHING: my family, friends, possessions. How would I respond? Would I worship God and praise his name as Job did or would I curse God and deny him?

Though my faith and resolve have been greatly deepened I still wonder how I would respond and whether I would feel alone in it or if I would sense God working? Just today I was presented with the opportunity to pray for a Muslim man who had injured his neck just prior to me stopping to give assistance and wouldn’t you know that not once did I think about praying for him in the moment? I didn’t even think of it until now.

I would say that I am not seeking God enough in my life if I failed to see an obvious opportunity. So could I still trust him and worship him even if I lost everything?  Do I have enough faith? 

Would I give him my all or nothing at all?  

What Would Jesus Do?

All about perspective

NoNo is a simple word. It is only two letters, but to those on the receiving end it appears to be so much more. It is the thing that stands in between them and what they desire. When a child hears the word no they have a choice to make. They have a choice to head the advice or not. If they do not head the advice then they must be willing to suffer the consequences. The word no really has no power, the power lies within the consequences. The word no is a warning, a warning that sets a boundary. No is a word that is often times followed up by some sort of a qualifiers. No, you cannot do that right now, maybe later. No, that will hurt you. No, I don’t think it is appropriate right now. These types of no’s are typically easier to accept because they have at least an explanation and at times an understanding that a yes may follow at a later time.

Children when growing up have many things to learn and do not know what is good for them or what will cause them harm. They may see something they want and go after it with no regard to their safety or well-being. If they desire to have something they are not supposed to have, they will likely at some point in time or another go and get what they wanted. Children do not see the bigger picture, all they know is that they want something and do not understand why they cannot have it. Unfortunately adults are the exact same way. We have been conditioned to think that we need what we want rather than to think that what we want is not always what we need. It’s a matter of perspective. When we want something we begin to think that we need it and that we need it now, but just like our parents knew better when they told us no, God also knows better when He tells us no.

FaithPerspective can get us into trouble because it does not allow us to see the bigger picture and sometimes we do not know just how close we are. It keeps us focused on what is right in front of us rather than all of the factors that may come into play. The first picture was taken from a very close perspective, but when the big picture is revealed we see so much more. What started out as “no” was really a much bigger statement, “Faith, without faith nothing is possible; with it, nothing is impossible”– Mary McLeod. Perspective revealed!

When God tells us “no” it is because there is a reason, there is a bigger picture to consider. McLeod’s quote is very similar to Hebrews 11:6 which states, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Likewise Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is a perspective changer because when we have faith in God and know that we have earnestly sought Him we can stand on the promise that He will reward us for it, however, sometimes no still means no and we must learn to accept that. Just like parents try to protect their children by saying no, God does the same thing. And just as children have a choice to make when they are told no, we do as well.

Jeremiah 29:11-13
I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

God, our Father knows what we need and when we need it. When He says “no”, or “no, not yet”, there is a reason. He sees the big picture and knows exactly what is best for us. He is not focused on the immediate like we are because He knows our future. When He says “no”, or even “I need you to wait for a little bit” He is doing what is best for us and giving us a warning. When we don’t listen to Him we pay the consequences, because we did not head His advice. When we don’t listen we get hurt. Sometimes we may not realize that we have caused harm to ourselves, but eventually we will understand why God said no. BUT! When we do listen we can rest assured that He has plans to reward us because we sought Him and put our trust in Him. We can know that He has plans to prosper us because we are His children and He loves us deeply, all we have to do is to seek Him with all of our heart.

Learning to be content right where we are and to be thankful to God for the life that we have takes practice and practice we must. We must seek Him with all of our heart and trust that He will provide and will prosper us when we follow Him. Our perspective must turn away from the immediate desires of self and instead turn toward God who knows all. This is not an easy process. This takes time, practice, and a lot of failure. But when we fail we can know that God is right there to help us back up if we turn toward Him and entrust our lives to Him.

May God bless you today as you seek Him with all of your heart.

If this was helpful or encouraging to you please feel free to share it with others. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to make a comment. We all have a purpose and can be used to help others draw closer to God. God bless you in your journey to knowing Him deeper than before and accepting yourself with all of the qualities that God desires for you to have.

Love and Acceptance in all the Wrong Places

What do you think of when you hear the word love? Maybe you think of the feeling of butterflies in your stomach upon meeting someone who you have feelings for. Maybe you think of devotion and commitment, kind words or actions, thoughtful gestures. Perhaps it’s the kind of brotherly love shared by comrades in arms. There are many different things that can come to mind when thinking about love and for many of us we can remember certain times in our lives when we felt such things and they can bring us back to that moment; whether it is upon meeting your spouse for the first time or the bond shared between soldiers who would give everything, even their very life for one another to protect the other. Love is powerful and it is moving. We all long for love, whether we want to admit it or not. There was a time that I swore off love, at least in the form of getting married, I was certain that I would never find the person that I was to marry and then along came Sara when I least expected to find someone.

Love angelGod works in mysterious ways, but He is always working. There was a time in my life when I said that I didn’t even know if God existed, but looking back I always knew. He was always there speaking to me ever softly in the midst of the battle going on within me. I had believed the lies that I could find happiness and fulfillment without him. I tried to fill a hole deep within me through being the best that I could be at work, by always being the person that other could depend on, through lustful thinking and actions, as well as through buying the vehicle, house, and motorcycle that I thought I needed to fulfill the image that I thought I needed. All these things did was lead to more desperation and separation from God, but amidst all of my brokenness and in my weakest moments God never left me. He rescued me over and over again and quite honestly is still doing it today. We are all broken individuals with an orientation for love and acceptance, the direction that we go for that love and acceptance is up to us.

There is so much in the world that seeks to draw us away from God and I think we have done a pretty good job of allowing these things to be normal. Things that seek to fill a void within us that is looking for love and acceptance. Divorce is on the decline they say, but that is only because people are choosing not to even get married. Out of the roughly 300 million people in the United States roughly 20 million people have a sexually transmitted disease. That is one out of every sixteen people in the United States that have a sexually transmitted disease. Over 1,000,000 babies are killed every year by abortion as the result of an unplanned pregnancy and same sex marriage is rising in acceptance across the country. What is interesting is that roughly 78% of adults in the United States identify themselves as Christians. This is interesting to me because there was a time, both before and after walking away from God that I identified myself as a Christian, but still sought to find love and acceptance in ways other than what was pleasing and acceptable to God.

We all have a deep desire to be loved and accepted and will go great lengths to quench that desire. I don’t think that it was a mistake that after God had created the heavens and the earth and while looking upon His creation He said all things were good except for one thing, “the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him'” (Gen. 2:18). God found everything to be good that He had created except for the fact that Adam was alone so what did God do?

Genesis 2:21-24
So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Recently as I was reading this text it occurred to me the deeper significance of marriage in this text. I always understood that woman (Eve) was created from the rib of man (Adam), but I had never really put together the rest of the passage. You see it goes on to say that because she was taken out of man that a man will leave his father and mother to be united to his wife…and they become one flesh… They became one flesh, because the rib that had been taken from man had been sewn back into place by God upon their union in marriage. Since Eve was literally taken out of Adam’s side Adam was not whole until they were reunited. This absolutely astonished me when I realized what was really being said. God created us to desire community, to desire love, and acceptance. The desire that we have is not of the enemy, but he sure does love to use it to cause us destruction. He loves to wave false versions of God’s good and perfect will in front of our faces to deter us from seeing what God really desires for us.

Angel LightI guess what I am saying is that the more I follow God and seek to submit my life to Him the more I realize just how broken I was and still am. I need God so much that I cannot imagine life without Him. God’s love is greater than I could have ever imagined and rightfully so. I don’t know of anyone else who would actually give up their own son to die on a cross so that they could have a relationship with me, but God did. He gave His one and only Son so that you and I could have life if we believe in Him (John 3:16). He loves us that much. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Our desire to love and be loved is God given, but the only way to truly receive that love and to be accepted is to accept Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior. To be saved we have to do more than say that Jesus is our Savior, He must also be our Lord. He must be the one that we look to, the one that we serve, that we worship, that we trust, that we obey.

There was a time that I used to profess that Jesus was my Savior, but I was not ready to make Him my Lord. I have had to learn that He is my Lord and my Savior, and that I must willingly give up my life to follow Him. If we are to call ourselves Christians we must make an ongoing choice and effort to give up our will for that of God’s will. It is much more than saying that He saved us, we must willing give up our lives to His leading. God is patient and is waiting if you have not yet accepted Him as your Lord and if you have I encourage you to press into Him more everyday. I know that I have a long way to go still, but their is so much freedom in being able to say “yes” to God and “no” to unrighteousness. The bottomless hole that I once felt only rears up once in a while, when those times come I have found that I have quit seeking God and as soon as I turn back to Him and His ways I find that hole being filled with His love and acceptance through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within me. God bless you all and may God richly bless you in your journey of knowing the love and acceptance that only God can give you. In Jesus’ name.

The Good American (Samaritan)

A couple was taking a trip to a nearby city to do some shopping when on their way out of town they came across an older gentleman along the side of the road with a duffle bag and his thumb in the air. The couple drove on past, but the wife asked her husband if he wanted to pick the gentleman up. A moment of decision was at hand, should they turn around and pick up this stranger and take a risk or should they just continue on driving as though there had never been anyone there. They turned around, still with some fear and anxiety about the person that they were about to pick up, but they decided to trust in God for their protection. They turned around again, this time in sight of the man and headed back towards him to pick him up. This time the decision was the man’s. Would he trust total strangers enough to get into the vehicle and accept a ride knowing that he would be at their mercy? He knew that he needed a ride as the hill that he had only made it a quarter of the way up had already been about all that his old bones could bear. He had already spent two nights sleeping under a bridge in the cold to stay out of the rain and desperately needed to make it to his friend’s house who had agreed to take him in and get him off of the street. Could he really chance passing up a ride, how much longer could he continue? He decided to trust in God for his protection and to get into the vehicle.

Photo taken by Pedro Robeiro Simoes.  Some rights reserved.
Photo taken by Pedro Robeiro Simoes. Some rights reserved by owner.

It was time to meet. The gentleman, who was 64 years old, opened the door with a smile and graciously thanked them for the ride as he placed his bag into the vehicle. The couple knew immediately that they had made the right choice. They could sense that the Lord was with them and that the Lord was with the man. As they drove down the road they were blessed by each other in learning about each other’s lives and their walk with the Lord. The homeless gentleman would learn that they were pregnant and would be the first person to know the name of their child. The couple would learn about the difficulties in life that the gentleman had faced and the decisions that he made which landed him in jail where he would come to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and that would ultimately leave him homeless for the last eight years of his life. They continued on and would eventually share a meal together and would end up well past their original destination to take this gentleman as far as he would accept a ride from them, but the impact would be lasting. They would reflect upon what Jesus had done for them to guide them down this path, all the while keeping them safe on their journey. All because they decided to trust and to obey.

This story makes me think about the Good Samaritan and about how many people had passed by the man as he lay their half dead and naked on the road, just like the countless number of people that had passed by this homeless man. Here is the parable of the Good Samaritan as told by Jesus.

Luke 10:25-37

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where this man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

The Good Samaritan by Aimé Morot (1880)
The Good Samaritan by Aimé Morot (1880)
“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “and who is my neighbor?” (10:28). It is difficult to love people, it is difficult to accept that we are to love all people not just the ones that are closest to us or that we care about the most or even just the ones that are easiest to love. I cannot even begin to count how many times I have been like the expert of the law who asked Jesus who was considered to be his neighbor. I know that I fail at this so often, but I want to do better. Just today I failed miserably at this and had to repent and ask God to show me how to love someone whom I have no understanding of how to love. I had to ask God to soften my heart for this person and to show me who they really are, to show me their hurts, their desires, to show me what He sees not just what I see. You see I have a bad habit of judging people and trying to justify myself, just as the teacher of the law was trying to do, but Jesus is clear in His teaching. We are to love, even when it is difficult, even when it costs, even when the other person could never repay us because our reward will be waiting for us in heaven. So where is your love?

Father you are so gracious and mighty. Your ways are above my ways oh Lord. Let your Kingdom come down to this earth just as it is in Heaven. Forgive me for all of the times that I have failed you. Forgive me for my hard heart and the hurt that I have caused others. Forgive me for being judgmental and not loving those whom you have told me to love. Father protect me from the schemes of the enemy who is out to destroy me and to make me ineffective with those around me. Protect those around me and allow them to feel safe in my presence so that I can show them who you really are and what you are able to do. Lord you have restored my life, you are still restoring my life and I want to pass that on to others. I want to show them what it looks like to be made whole by the maker of the Heavens and the Earth, by the creator of man and woman, who desires to see all of us made whole. All we have to do is accept you God, to trust you, and to obey you. Keep me from growing weary in doing your work Lord. Help me to be an effective member of your body. I thank you for your love and kindness and mercy. I thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, and it is in his name I pray. Amen.

Where_is_the_love

Where’s your Faith?

mustard seed

There are things in this world that I just do not understand. Sometimes things happen that I do not know if I will ever understand. Things happen to all of us that shake us, sometimes in a good way, and other times in a bad way. They shake us and if we are honest they can even shake our faith, make us doubt, make us wonder if what we believe in is even true. I know that I have certainly felt this way before, but thankfully we have a God who can use our little faith to do great things. We are told in Matthew 17:20 that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed that we can say to a mountain ‘move from here to there’ and it would move. Let me tell you that this is reassuring to me because there are times that I feel as though I have very little faith, but when I reflect back on all the times that God has come through and taken care of me my faith is quickly restored. You see God has never failed me. Even when I thought I was buried so deep that I could never get out He had already pulled me out, I just hadn’t realized it yet.

God is good and He knows what we need, but He is also wise and He knows when we need it. Have you ever tried to tell God what you needed and when you needed it? I know I sure have…funny thing is though that I am not usually right. There have even been some rare occasions where God has allowed me to have what I wanted at the time I wanted it in my greed, and in those times I quickly found out that I was wrong. God is a good Father and He knows what is best for us, but like a good Father does He allows us to fail once in a while so that we will grow. Grow stronger and wiser, but most of all He allows us to fail so that we learn to trust in Him even more.

Where is your faith today? Do you have enough faith to say to the mountain move and have it move? Do you have enough faith to let go of control and give your life fully to God or are you going to follow the path of destruction because you are too proud to rely on someone else? Jesus said,”I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-and I lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:14-15). When we accept Jesus and trust Him as the Good Shepherd we do not have to worry. He has already proven that He will lay down his life for us. Death has no power over Jesus and it has no power over those under His care, for when we were baptized into Jesus we died to sin. We must learn to trust in Him and follow wherever He leads us. And as sheep do we will wander off from time to time, but Jesus will come after us and He will lead us back to safety (Mt. 18:10-14).

Father we thank you for caring for us and watching over us. We thank you that we know the Good Shepherd and He knows us and watches over us. We get distracted so easily and wander off, but He always come after us so that nothing will bring us harm. Help us to be more aware of our surroundings and our situations so that we realize when we begin to wander away. Show us the path to righteousness, set a lamp unto our feet so that we can see each step that we are about to take. Lord teach us to have enough faith to trust you in the small things so that when the big things come we have a long history to look back on and know that you are always faithful. We love you God, we praise you, we want to live our lives full of faith. Teach us Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.