Saturday, October 21, 2017

When you're just not "feeling it."

Relationships are the most powerful things in our lives that give us fulfillment and meaning. Of course the greatest and most powerful relationship we can know is with our heavenly Father. His love is the most powerful force in our lives, because no one can assign greater value to our existence than He can! 

So often though in pursuing a personal relationship with God I hear from people things like, “I’m just struggling to want to spend time with God.”  Or, “I just feel so distant from God lately, and haven’t prayed in a while.”  Or even, “I just have lost the desire and don't know how to get it back.” 

I think what troubles us most in these moments is the real absence of desire to fix the situation.  I mean if God is so important and so valuable, why don’t I WANT to spend time with Him more?  Why is distance from God in one sense so comfortable and easy?  Is something wrong with me?

A friend recently pointed out to me that in the Kingdom of God (and in many things I would add) that the whole thing is flipped upside down….

In order to grow hungry, I have to first EAT.  In order to grow thirsty, I have to first DRINK.

Totally backwards, isn’t it?  But it is exactly how things work in the Kingdom of God, and frankly with relationships that we value.  Our obedience comes first, because obedience is where our faith is proven.  Once we obey, then grows the emotional desire to continue to obey. 

Our emotions and desires are terrible leaders and will get us into trouble if they are the gauges by which we choose our actions! Listen to Romans 6:12:
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires.”

The natural desires within us are twisted by our fallen nature and will lead us astray every time. 

Choosing to obey God and to pursue a relationship with Him is an act of will, often very much against our desires and emotions.  But this pursuit has such beautiful promises associated with it, as stated by Jesus:
“If you love Me, you will keep My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.” (John 14-15-17)

When we choose to obey and pursue God, we will experience His presence in the form of His Spirit.  His spirit bears the fruit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.”  Those are amazing rewards of pursuing God and a relationship with Him!

As we drink MORE and eat MORE of God, we will grow hungrier and thirstier for more of Him!

Join me today and let’s pursue God and His will in our lives, even if we’re not quite “feeling it”!  

He will make it worth it!

Monday, October 16, 2017

In-and-Out Faith, By Eileen Knowles

My son turned fourteen this weekend. As part of the celebration, he asked if he could have a few friends over to spend the night.  So, on Saturday night, five of his buddies from school spent the night at our house tossing the football around in the yard, eating pizza, playing PlayStation, staring at their phones as a group :-), and hitting pummeling one another with pillows. Did you know a pillow has the ability to make an unbelievably loud noise?  I didn't.  That is, not until I heard them being used as weapons and being fired rapidly out in my living room some time after midnight.

When I rolled out of bed at 5:45am, I discovered that one houseguest still had yet to go to sleep.

It was a long night at our house.

Although sleep was elusive, plenty of laughter and fun memories were made for both my son and his friends.

Early that morning, I left our guests in the care of of my husband and headed off to church to prepare for Sunday services. It would be a busy morning with multiple services, baptisms, and a membership lunch. While coffee is my close friend most every morning, I was certain we would be inseparable on this particular Sunday morning.

As I drove down I-75, my weary mind and heart prayed for extra doses of joy and strength.

It was then I heard some words on the radio that seemed to speak directly to me.

So many people live an up and down life of faith but Jesus invites us to an in and out life of faith.  

Up and down faith is based primarily on how we feel. It can change depending on our current conditions and circumstances.  It's that unpredictable roller coaster of waking up one morning with the excited "Yay...I get to serve!" attitude and then waking up the next morning with the obligatory  "Sigh...I have to serve" attitude.

Up and down faith will fluctuate because it's leaning more on external conditions rather than internal constants.

But Jesus calls us to another kind of faith journey.

"I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture." John 10:9

In and out faith is all about starting each day from inside this gate.  We start each day from this place of knowing whose we are. We start each day securely resting in the truth that in His presence we are equipped with all the strength, joy, and peace we will need out there.  And because of this, we can go out and find pasture.  When I think of pastures, I think of a peaceful, wide open space with lots of breathing room.  With Christ, it's refreshing to know that even if our circumstances aren't currently pasture-like, we can still find pasture because that's what life in Him has the ability to provide for us out there.

Come in. Got out. Find pasture.

"Acknowledge that the Lord is God.
He made us, and we are his—
his people, the sheep of his pasture.
 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and bless his name.
 For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever;
his faithfulness, through all generations." Psalm 100:3-5

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

How do we respond to such Evil?

The tragedy of the Las Vegas shooting cannot be understated.  The horrible and unimaginable evil demonstrated in the act of mass murder is shocking and frightening.  And while this act seems almost a climax to a series of tragedies with hurricanes and terrorist acts and threats of war, etc. etc., how are we as Christ followers supposed to live in such days?  What should be my daily attitude and countenance?  How does Jesus want me to live?

In the famous story of Lazarus' death in the book of John (ch.11) we see Jesus arrive on the seen and "Jesus wept."  Jesus felt anger and pain and sorrow at the sin and tragedy of sickness and death and the pain it caused those He loved.  He allowed Himself to touch and feel the emotion and pain, and He allowed others to see Him touch what they felt.  

As His followers, we must do the same.  We must first show empathy.

Showing empathy and compassion to those around us who are afraid and especially to those who have been victims of tragedy is critical.  We must validate their pain and help them see that we know their circumstances are real and that their sorrow and fears are not trivial.  The quickest way to shut the door between us and those we are trying to comfort and help is to tell them to just "suck it up" and that "it's not that big a deal."  Jesus did not do this!  

Jesus met people in their pain and never condemned them for feeling it, or even trivialized their suffering.  He did what He could to SOLVE it, by healing or providing or giving truth and love.  He rebuked those that were hurting others and attacked the religious leaders oppressing the people.  So we must do what we can to help those around us.

But we must carry a posture of hope!

In the book of John 14 in Jesus' final discourse to His disciples He tells them twice "Do not let your hearts be troubled."  He says it like this:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me." (John 14:1)
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)

I have often looked at this as a suggestion, but I realize for the Christ follower, this is a COMMAND.

Jesus commands us: You must not fall into discouragement.

Do we understand how important this is?  Our world is descending into great darkness and chaos, but we we have the hope of eternity, and we have a King who tells us He has overcome the world!  We have promises that Satan is defeated and that in the end WE WIN.  We must be salt & light, we must be banners of hope to those around us!

Do we live like lights, or do we just carry the despair around us?

We must move past despair and into hope.  We are the missionaries Jesus has sent into the world to carry His light.  Are we doing that?

Yes, the world will get worse, but YOUR WORLD DOESN'T HAVE TO.

In the Lord's prayer, Jesus commanded us to pray to our Father, "Your  Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  Jesus wasn't saying that as an idealistic prayer that we should pray just to get us to focus on God.  He was encouraging us that God's Kingdom CAN COME in our midst!  It can be HERE!  In me, and in you and even in our community and city and area!  

Are we carrying that hope as a reality in our lives, or are we quaking with fear like the world that does not understand the love we have been shown in Jesus?

Today, let's resolve to show empathy and validate the fear and pain around us.  Let's do what we can to help people.  But let's not take up discouragement and despair.  Let's fiercely believe that our Father desires for His Kingdom to come in our midst, and in those around us, and let's be messengers of hope!

Let His Kingdom come in us today!