Friday, March 14, 2014

Feeling down? Feeling empty? Get full...

The Fullness of God in You
Ephesians 3:14-21

Everyone has a bad day. Those are just part of our lives. However, do you feel like your bad days are increasing and your good days are the ones that are few? Do you feel empty? Unsatisfied? Do you try to fill yourself up? People will eat until overfull when they feel empty. People will drink to excess when they feel empty. People will find sources of comfort and love that leave them feeling worse when they feel empty. 

It's our nature to compensate and self-medicate. We are not a people that enjoy pain, and when we feel pain, we need for it to stop. We need to end it. You know how you can be hungry, but not know what for? And how you can graze and still keep going back to your fridge because you have not found what is going to trigger your brain that you are happy and satisfied with what you ate?

But, how is it that some people never seem (publically anyway) to be unsatisfied. They seem to be thin, fit, athletic, bills paid, well-heeled, happy, worshipful, thankful, smart, educated, clear skin, good hair, etc... And we, for some reason, immediately pull our rulers and measurement devices out. Why God? Why them, Lord? Why not me? Why not this or that? Why give them this? They can't even appreciate it the way I would, Lord. They don't even know how lucky they have it, Lord!

Have you ever wondered if you are a "whole person"? Our very emotional make up leaves us "un-whole." We are born with a desire to eat. We are born with a desire to connect with other people. We are born with a desire to mate. We are born with a desire to be in a pack. Yet, we are told our whole lives to be unique, special, and called out. We are taught to be competitive, daring, and ambitious to that we will be separate. Let me just say right here: We all go through it. We all get lonely. We all want love. We all want God. We all want people and friends. We all want our family to be safe and happy and health. Everyone. You are not alone. We all have struggles in life that could make us feel incomplete, but the apostle Paul says we can be "filled up to all the fullness of God" (v. 19).

Don't let your victory, your natural gifts and your essence that God gave you be destroyed because you are never satisfied. A "whole person" is generally satisfied with life. They feel loved and are able to love others in return. Difficulties and hardships don't devastate them because they are able to go through them with confidence in God. They aren't a complainer or someone who is quick to blame others. A positive attitude guards their mind since they know that the Lord will work everything out for good (Rom. 8:28).

But this isn't magic. It's not something that you can fake. And it's not something that you have a "recipe" for... Being a Christian doesn't automatically make us feel complete, and it's not a fix-all solution for the consequences of poor choices in your life. Fullness comes only when we experience God's love for us. [For two decades now, and for many years prior, I knew *theologically* that the Lord loved me. I have sung it, preached about it, written about it, and published it. But I didn't really feel it. It was ONLY after I took a deep look at my life and started dealing with events that had fractured my soul, both in childhood and things I did to myself as an adult, that I began to experience God in a new, and very intimate way. Once I felt the security of His love for me, I discovered great joy in walking in obedience to His will. The reason was that I knew I could trust Him to meet all my needs in His time and in His way. It takes the stress and discomfort of waiting and worrying away.]

Do you feel God's love, or is it just a biblical fact to you? If you only have the "head knowledge" of your faith, you will miss out on so many things... If you long for wholeness, the key is to experience an real relationship with Jesus Christ. This is possible only when you're willing to open up and let the Lord search your heart. It isn't always comfortable, but if you are willing, He'll reveal what's holding you back from accepting His love and His favor.

#JustBeingMichael ツ

Monday, March 10, 2014

Why Does "He" Delay?

"Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord..."

Isaiah 64:1-4

God is a God of action. He is an active God. Active tense. Participatory. Involved. Present. Even when He rested on the seventh day of creation, it wasn't because He was tired and needed to recuperate. Omnipotence requires no rest. And although He deliberately made a choice to stop His creative activity, He never ceased working.

The same is true in our lives. Yes, I really do believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God. I believe that He thought of a concept and flung the stars into being. I am also bright enough to believe that He is a God of order and of respect. And I think that same God might have used things like science, evolution, and progression to accomplished a divine, and designed, purpose. That being said, while the Lord is always controlling the universe, He is, at the same time, intimately involved with individual lives.

God has a plan for each one of us and wants us to know what it is. We can be a stubborn and hard-headed people. Every time we take a step of obedience, He sheds more light on our path. But sometimes He asks us to pause awhile, and we may not know why. We long for direction in a particular matter, but our prayers, seemingly, just aren't being answered, and we wonder, Why does He delay?

God has not forgotten you. God knows exactly where you are...  Check yourself, your circumstances and your part in hindering or ignoring God's will. When you aren't seeing any answers, it doesn't mean that God is not working. He's still actively involved in your life, but He works in ways that are not always visible. He orchestrates circumstances, changes people's hearts, and protects His children from making hasty decisions that will have disastrous consequences. Do you long for a great relationship? Maybe you are not ready because the person you need to be with "isn't your type," or isn't going to put up with your shenanigans. Perhaps the Lord knows you're not yet ready for the next leg of your spiritual journey. I know you want to be a spiritual giant and a great prayer warrior. But to carry the mantle and the title, you also have to perform the office and complete the duty. Waiting times are opportunities for growth in character, obedience, and faith. He may also need time to train you for future responsibilities and ministries. David could have never slayed Goliath if he had never been sent to tend sheep for years prior to that. He had to kill a bear and a lion while he was doing other things before he became a great warrior and King.

Rest in God. When you intentionally choose to be still, God unleashes His mighty power on your behalf. He has planned good things for those who wait, and I believe what He has in store for your life will surpass all expectations. When He knows you're ready to receive His blessings, they'll flow into your lap.

#JustBeingMichael ツ

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday - My Lenten Journey Begins...

Matthew 25:34-40: "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Ash Wednesday can be a hard day for people, literally and figuratively. Some people are feeling the after effects of Fat Tuesday. Some people are beginning a Lenten Discipline. Some don't understand the spiritual implications of their choices. Some just get ashes because it's tradition. There are no "wrong" ways to observe Ash Wednesday, but there are certainly ways to have a deeper understanding of the day, and a spiritual life application of the day, should you want it.

As humans, we have a tendency to focus on our immediate, not our far-reaching. We focus on our most painful, not our longest-lasting. And we want immediate results, not deferred gratification that comes with process, and growth. Case in point: I'm having a hard day: difficult people, malice before speaking, homesickness, health and fitness goals, my attitude, small "obstacles" that just stream towards me with no end in sight... But: Is this really my existence? Is it my life? We don't always look to, or want, a spiritual answer. We don't want to pause, reflect, take a deep breath, and then make grown up choices and decisions. We don't want to hold our rage and pain inside, or hold our viciousness in check. We don't want to ensure that we are in Christ's service, and working in Christ's stead, versus our own desires and ambitions. All of that is not my end though. I have to remember that I do have a spiritual answer. I do have a prayer. I can rely on something bigger and outside of “me.” I have to realize that this is not my life. My life is not really my own any longer. Am I in service of myself? Or am I in Christ's service?

Take for instance, the example of Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. We know extremely little about Joseph. We know he worked in the building trade, including what we call carpentry. We know he could trace his ancestry back to the ancient royal house of David and Solomon. We know that Joseph faced a unique personal and moral challenge, and came through it with integrity and humility. Seriously, think how it was for him. Mary has news for him, news to send a chill down the spine of any prospective husband. How can he possibly believe her strange story? What will people say?

Then, Joseph has “the dream.” In it, it is made plain that Mary's story is true. What's more, she and her child are caught up, not just in a personal challenge, but in a much older, stranger purpose: God's purpose. God's rescue operation, long expected and at last coming true. But what if Joseph hadn’t? What if he wasn’t obedient, or didn’t participate?

Whenever God does something, He involves people — often unlikely people, frequently surprised and alarmed people. He asks them to trust him in a new way, to put aside their natural reactions, to listen humbly for a fresh word and to act on it without knowing exactly how it's going to work out. We, as Christians often stumble over the “how.” We expect the God of All Ages to submit His plan to us for approval and participation. We become petulant and difficult to ourselves, our fellow Christians, and to God when we feel left out of that divine vision. But, there are larger things at work in this world, and there are greater plans than I sometimes remember to focus on… I need to stop and consider the purpose of my life. What am I living for? Am I living to make money? Am I living to merely survive? Am I living, working, and slaving away so I can pursue my own interests or chase success? Am I putting energy into my friends and family? Am I letting ambition (even for good causes) be the focus, rather than the end goal?

All of these are worthy goals. No one wants to fail; no one wants to forsake their friends, family, loved ones... No one wants to give less than one hundred percent! All of these aims—even the last one, which sounds so selfless—are futile. The only goal of lasting value and fulfillment is serving Christ. As His followers, we should model our life after His. And Mark 10:45 tells us that "even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” We honor Him by doing likewise. Do you know of anyone that is hungry? Anyone that is thirsty? Do you know of someone that needs clothing? Do you know of someone in a prison that needs a visitor?

That's what God is asking all of us to do this Lenten season. Remember who you are, and walk in your calling; but always remember who God is, and that He isn’t required to gain your approval to complete His designs. Like Joseph, we may have to put our initial reactions on hold and be prepared to hear new words, to think new thoughts, and to live them out. We all come with our own questions, our own sorrows and frustrations, our own longings. God will deal with them in His own way, but he will do so as part of his own much larger and deeper purposes. Who knows what might happen, this year, if even a few of us were prepared to listen to God's word in scripture in a new way, to share the humility of Joseph, and to find ourselves caught up in God's rescue operation?