Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Heart-Healthy

Read Matthew 15:1-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” (Matthew 12:35)

Heart Healthy logoSince starting the 60 day juice fast a year and almost nine months ago, and since becoming vegan, I have learned a lot about nutrition. At three hundred six pounds with type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, I was certainly heading on a one way ticket to a life cut short by my lifestyle. It was hard for me to see it prior to making the change; however, once that change was made, there could be no doubt that my old lifestyle was literally killing me.

Any doctor, nurse or medical worker will tell you that the number one killer in America is heart disease. More people die from heart attacks, strokes and other heart related diseases than anything else. Why is this? Many people will try and say that their genes are to blame. For some people, that may be the case; however, with the obesity and heart disease rates we have in this country, there can be no doubt that genetics cannot be culprit as much as what we eat is.

With diets high on cholesterol, saturated oils, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats), and other heart-stopping stuff, it’s no wonder people’s hearts are seizing. And who can live without their heart? People are literally eating themselves to death and, even though most people are aware of this, they continue to keep their heart-killing lifestyles.

While I am talking about our physical hearts, the same is true with our spiritual hearts. People know that fear, bitterness, anger, hatred, dissension, gossip, jealousy, and other such things are bad for one’s soul. There can be no question that such things lead people down a dark and destructive path. There can be no doubt that such things eventually seize one’s “heart” and cause a spiritual death to occur.

Yet, despite most people knowing that living a life of hatred, bitterness and anger leads to spiritual disease, many people still choose to not change their spiritual lifestyles. Many choose to harbor grudges, live in anger, spend their days gossiping and become bitter to their core. The more that people continue to sow those seeds of sin, the more their spiritual arteries get clogged and begin to deteriorate.

This is why Jesus warned his disciples to watch what came from one’s “heart.” A healthy heart will not hold onto anger nor will it spew hatred, bitterness, dissension, gossip, jealousy or any other negative thing. A healthy heart will only produce love, kindness, gentleness, compassion, generosity, patience, and self-control. An unhealthy heart will get clogged with evil things to the point of bursting; a healthy heart will remain free and love will flow through it with ease.

The challenge for us today is to change our lifestyle and choose to live in a heart-healthy manner. Don’t let your heart be consumed with spiritual disease; rather, let you heart be a vessel that pumps the warmth of love throughout your soul. If you change your lifestyle and start allowing yourself to be fed by the Holy Spirit, you will find that you will become a new person. You will be healthy, joyful and willing to share you joy with others. Be heart-healthy and shine with God’s love!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” – Denis Waitley

PRAYER

Lord, you have given me the strength and the direction to change from who I am to who you want me to be. I thank you for your continued guidance. Amen.

Mountain Mover

Read Matthew 1:1-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

MountainMoverBoth of my children have always been smart and studious, always striving to do well in their studies at school. They have each done very well in their grades and my oldest has even won the Presidential Award for Academic Achievement.  At the end of this last school year, my oldest daughter was told that her teachers were recommending her for honors classes for the next school year.

 One of the honors classes she is going to be taking this year is Literature. She has always been an avid reader, and reads countless books. One of the requirements for eighth grade honors Literature is for them to read three books during the summer, two of which are classics: “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens and “Call of the Wild” by Jack London. For those who have read those books, they know that is a pretty high bar for an eighth grader.

 Just the other night, my daughter was stressing out. She had read up through chapter 20 in the book, and she felt that she just wasn’t understanding this book.  “I am not sure it is really making sense Dad,” she confided in me. “I have to read this book and be able to answer questions about it, and I just don’t think I am going to be able to.” Clearly, she was distressed about the work that lay before her.

 We’ve all been there, we’ve all had moments that we felt we just weren’t up to the challenge. We’ve all been overwhelmed by the circumstances and challenges that faced us and have felt at a loss for just how we were going to survive. Perhaps even some of us have had negative attitudes toward those challenges. Perhaps we have told ourselves that we couldn’t possibly rise up to them, let alone above them; of course, such an attitude almost always becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 All we need to do is recognize and embrace our faith. Jesus taught his disciples that if we had faith the size of the tiniest of seeds we could move mountains. There is nothing that God cannot get us through. There isn’t any fear, doubt, obstacle, or task that is too large for God to handle. All we need to is to have faith that God would not allow us to be crushed by this world or it’s circumstances. All we need is a little faith in God’s ability to work through our circumstances.

 This is not to say that God CAUSES our circumstances. Life happens as it does, and we are constantly being affected by our own choices as well as the choices of others around us.  That’s the reality of living in a community, of living in a world with other people. Yet, God never ceases to be with us, regardless of the challenges before us. God is constantly working for the good of those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose (Romans 8:28).

 So, have a little faith! Pick your chin up and know that you are not alone in your circumstances. Know that you are God’s and that God would never forsake you or fail you. Have faith in God, but also have faith in the abilities God has given you. God is constantly preparing us and equipping us with the abilities and tools to handle the challenges before us.  Have a little faith and be a mountain mover! Know that you are empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to rise up to any challenge that comes your way, no matter how great or small. Remember, all things are possible through Christ who gives us strength!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” – Helen Keller

PRAYER

Lord, open the eyes of my heart so that I may see that through me, you can move the mountains. Amen.

It’s All About Pacing

Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

NikesHave you ever had the opportunity to run a 5k race? Right now, as I write this, I am in preparation for an upcoming 5k race. All summer long, in fact, I have been preparing for this by jogging as much as I can for as long as I can. As I have come to learn, running is all about the pacing.

When I was about 10-12 years old, my dad would take me running all the time. I wasn’t necessarily the biggest fan of jogging; however, I would go out and run with my dad.  He would always tell me to slow down and to pace myself. “You’re not running a race son, you’re just out here to get in shape,” he would encourage me. “Slow down, take it one step at a time…don’t quit now…you’re almost there.” Before long, we were running for a couple of miles.

I remember, at one point, my dad signed us both up for a 5k run in a neighboring town to ours. I may not have finished in first place, or ran a record speed; however, at 10-12 years old, I was conditioned enough to run a 5k without even feeling the need to stop. It is amazing how much one can endure if one just paces him or herself. It’s not a matter about where one places, but about finishing the race.

This summer I took my twelve year old and my nine year old out running with me, just as my Dad did with me when I was their age. At first they wanted to sprint out ahead, but would quickly tire out and have to walk.  I told them to slow down, just like my dad told me all those years ago. Once they listened to me, once they started to pace themselves, they found that they too could finish the run. In the end, my youngest ran a full mile and my oldest ran two full miles. They found out they could go the distance.

The same is true when we look at our faith journey. We often seek out God in order to better our lives in some measurable way. We look for success, for prosperity, for the world to see eye-to-eye with us, and for the world to change at the sound of “amen!” Yet, when these things do not happen the way we envision, when it seems that nothing is working the way we’d hoped, we give up and turn away from our faith.

What we as people of faith need to do is to learn how to pace ourselves. We need to stop trying to sprint off to the finish line and we need start learning to take this journey one step at a time. God has not called us into instantaneous perfection. God has not promised that the road will be short and easy. God has not promised that we will not pour sweat into the paradise that we strive for.

God simply promised that we would not have to run this race alone. That, for each step we take, God’s Holy Spirit will be there with us each step of the way. If you silence yourself for a moment, you will hear God calling out to you, “It’s not a race, my child…you’re just out here getting in shape. Slow down, take it one step at a time. Don’t quit now, you’re almost there.” Remember, that by the grace of God you can and will stay the course and finish the jog; in the end, you will look back at the course and know that God, in and through you, has accomplished much!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” – Marie Curie

PRAYER

Lord, I thank you for being present with me as continue on the journey from where I am to wear you are calling me to be. I trust you to guide me there and leave the timing up to you. Amen.

 

Unanswered Prayers

Read Matthew 6:7-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” (Romans 8:26)

Garth-Brooks - Unanswered PrayersWhile I am not too much of a country music listener, I have always had a liking for Garth Brooks. His flashy, rock-like performances, his charismatic charm and his wild and crazy persona have always captivated me and millions of others.  But beyond all of that, he also happens to be an incredible song writer and has, as a result, befriended and worked with many other worthy songwriters such as Billy Joel.

One of my favorite songs of Garth’s comes from his album, No Fences. On that album is a song called, “Unanswered Prayers.” The song tells the story of a man who goes to his old high school to watch a football game.  While at the game he runs into a woman whom he had a fling with back when he was a teenager, which triggers a flood of emotions and memories.  I am sure he remembered the good times he had with her, all of the things they used to do together, how she smelled after putting on her perfume, or how she looked on their first date. I am sure he was flooded those memories and more.

He also recollects how he used to pray to God, begging him to keep them together. Perhaps he prayed for the relationship to go further than it had. We can certainly use our imagination for the things he was praying for; yet, there he was, years later at a football game with a different woman…his wife. In looking at his old fling, and looking back at his wife, he realized that the woman he had prayed for all of those years ago, didn’t turn out to be who he had thought she was; whereas, his wife was everything he ever needed and/or wanted in a loving partner.

Brooks sings, “Sometimes I thank God, for unanswered prayers. Remember when your talking to the man upstairs, that just because he may not answer doesn’t mean he don’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” I can relate with these words. There are many times I prayed for things to happen one way or the other; however, looking back on those things that I wanted, I am glad that they never happened. People pray to win the lottery, yet when they do their lives are often ruined by the sudden rush of wealth. People often pray to be come famous only to find themselves more empty than they were before the world knew them. We often strive and pray for what we want; yet, what we want is seldom what we truly need.

And there is one more point to make regarding “unanswered prayers.” God is not some magic genie in the sky that appears to bestow three wishes to us every time we rub the lamp.  God is not some catchall spiritual inbox for every request YOU need to make. God is the source of all of our lives. God is the very breath we breath and the very life we feel coursing through our veins. God is both in us and transcends us and it is this God who calls us to live in LOVE…to live in the very essence of GOD. Thus, if our prayers are self-centered and all about US, then chances are those prayers will remain unanswered.

Rather than pretending that we know what we need and what is best for us, rather than seeking our way, our truth and our life, let us turn to our Creator, our Redeemer and our Sustainer and remember that God will provide exactly what we need. Knowing this we will not need to ramble on and on only to find our prayers go unanswered; rather, our prayer will simply be: “Lord, let your will be done in me and on earth as it is in heaven. Use me in the way that you will.” If that is your prayer, I guarantee you it will NOT go unanswered!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” – Søren Kierkegaard

PRAYER
Lord, let your will be done in me and on earth as it is in heaven. Use me in the way that you will. Amen.

A Time to Zip

Read John 17

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.” (Psalms 52:8)

zip-liningWhile I was not a huge fan of high school while I was in it, there are some things that stand out in my mind that I look back on and cherish as valuable learning experiences. One of the things I remember was that our high school had this outdoors obstacle course that had all sorts of stuff set up in it, including an awesome and adrenaline pumping zip line. This was one of those things that people either loved or hated.

One of the teachers would climb up to the zip line first, and then invite students, one at a time, to climb up to where he was. Before climbing, a teacher at the bottom would place the student in a harness that had a cable attached to it. The one end of the cable was attached to the student, it then traveled up to a pulley and back down to the teacher on the ground who would act as the counter weight. This was to ensure that if the student fell she or he would dangle and slowly be lowered down to safety.

Both teachers would ensure the students that it was perfectly safe so long as they obeyed the safety rules. All the student had to do was trust the teacher, climb the pole. Once he/she got up to the platform, they would be harnessed into the zip line and off he or she could go. All that was required, both to climb up the pole and to zip down the line, was a little trust. one had to trust that the teacher was harnessing them up right and they had to trust that, should one slip and begin to fall, the teacher to whom one is harnessed would be able to counter the weight and lower the student safely back to the ground.

There were some students that didn’t blink an eye before putting their trust in the teachers. They were the ones who climbed up to the top and had the thrill of zipping down that line.  Others, myself included, were a little more cynical about the teacher’s ability to “save” me. Many of us never even made it up the pole at all; rather, we sat there looking up…only imagining who awesome that zip line might be. I, and others like me, simply could not get ourselves to trust.

This is a great metaphor for the church. Christ has called us to place our trust in him. What’s more, Christ has also asked us to place trust in each other. On the surface, that sounds easy enough, right? In reality, this is not an easy thing for most people. Most of us Christians find ourselves way too cynical to place our trust in each other. We can talk all day long about trusting Jesus, but we cannot bring ourselves to trust others in our church and/or fellowship.

In one sense, it is understandable that we have such a hard time in trusting each other. There is great risk associated. We may see our vision of the fading into the shape of someone else’s vision. We may place our trust in the wrong people, only to find out that we’ve been used and taken advantage of. There are lots of things that can go wrong with placing our trust in each other.

Yet, Jesus took that risk in his own life and calls us to do the same. We are to place our trust in God, to place our trust in God’s church (in and through whom the Holy Spirit works), and to be trustworthy to those who are trusting us.  Not one of us is perfect and sometimes our trust will be broken and/or we will break others trust; however, if we are ever to move forward, if we are ever to take the leap of faith and zip down the line, if we are ever to move beyond the paralysis of our cynicism and our fears, we will have to place our trust in God and in each other. Even when people fail us, God never will. So, what do you have to lose?

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Who trusts in God’s unchanging love, builds on the rock that naught can move.” – Georg Neumark

PRAYER

Lord, guide me to be more trusting of you and of your church. You have not just called me but have called others. Help me to work with them and to trust them so that your work may be done here in my community. Amen.

 

Woken Up in a Dream

Read Matthew 1:18-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Woken Up in a DreamI would like to tell you as story of a teenage girl who lived in a very tight-knit community.  She was, like the rest of her peers, expected to attend to the daily chores that were given to her each day. She was expected to carry herself in a way that brought dignity and honor to her family.  Like all families, her family expected that she was always on her best behavior and that she didn’t do anything to hurt her family’s name or image.

Her father was blue-collar, working class man. The girl’s family was pretty impoverished and what little they had came at the cost of much blood, sweat and tears.  The family never knew what tomorrow might bring and they could not afford to take anything for granted.  In fact, an offer had come to the teenage girl’s parents, one that her family could not afford to pass up.  A man had asked the girl’s father for her hand in marriage and, with such an offer, a dowry was sure to follow.  The girl was expected to comply with her parents and to marry the man they had arranged for her to marry.

But then one day, in the midst of their engagement, the girl is seen to be with child.  The groom-to-be is astonished. He swears to the parents that he has never known her the way a husband knows his wife; he swears that the child growing in her belly cannot be his. The parents, horrified, could not believe what their daughter had done; the community she lived in shunned her as a sinner, everyone looked down at her with contempt.

This is the story of Mary, a young teenager from Nazareth, who was suddenly found to be with child even though she had not yet been married.  Can you imagine the panic and terror that must have filled her when she first realized she was pregnant. Though, the author of Matthew tells us that Mary was with child “by the Holy Spirit,” one has to wonder whether she knew it or not. The author of Matthew doesn’t exactly say.  What he does point out is Joseph’s initial reaction to the situation.  He could not believe she was pregnant and he knew the child was not his; one thing was for sure, he was not going to marry her.

When we read this story, we often pass Joseph’s reaction off because we know how the story ends. We know that Jesus is the Son of God and, therefore, Joseph just seems like a guy who has little faith, until God wakes him up in a dream.  Yet, in reality, we all need to be woken up in such a dream.  After all, how many times have we passed judgment on the actions of others without truly seeing what God has in store for them? How many times have we seen a pregnant teen, an unruly child, or some other person who doesn’t fit our understanding of pure and wholesome? How many times have we passed judgment on those people?

Often times, we are much more like Joseph, quick to let our thoughts and our judgments run wild before really pausing to listen to what God is saying to us.  We often need to be woken up in a dream that shows us that the very things we are laying judgment on are filled with God’s potential if we just show love, acceptance and support rather than scorn, contempt and judgment.

Thankfully, Joseph woke up from that dream with a changed heart and chose to embrace Mary and the Christ child she was bearing! Thankfully, Joseph laid his judgments down and, as a result, unto us a hope, healing and wholeness was born into the world. The question is, will we be woken up in a dream like Joseph? This Christmas, may the advent of that awakening be within you; indeed, may it be within us all!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa

PRAYER

Lord, help me to avoid falling into the trap of judgment. Instruct me in your ways of unconditional love, O Lord. Amen.

It’s the End of the World As We Know It

Read Mark 13; Revelation 22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ (Matthew 10:7, NRSV)

It's the End of the World As We Know ItHave you ever heard the song by R.E.M., “The End of the World As We Know It”? I was just listening to that song today and reflecting on the message of it. In the song, Michael Stipe goes through a complete list of cliché things that people say are going to happen when the world comes to an end. Intermingled with that list is also some social commentary of how the world, typically thinks of itself. Stipe sings, “Save yourself, serve yourself. World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed.”

Then when the list has been had, Stipe sings that “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” Come again? You feel fine that the world is coming to an end? Some Christians make it their living to “warn” people of the impending doom that will befall the earth in the last days. Many people spend their lives speculating what the end will be like, when it will happen and the devastation that will be wrought. And now that we are in the year 2012, many people are worried that the Mayans might well have predicted the end.

Yet, Michael Stipe is singing that he feels fine about this? Now, I am not going to put words into Michael’s mouth; however, I was reflecting on the lyrics of this song and what they mean to me. When we watch television, or read the news online, we often see apocalyptic images spreading around the world like wild fire. Tensions are high, people are afraid, and soothsayers are ever active in predicting the end. Yet, as Christians, we ought to know that God does not wish destruction upon the earth.

Yes, an entire book of the Bible is devoted to talking about the end times and yes, Jesus talked about such times too; however the point was not to scare people as much as it was to give people hope. While the language is that of GOd reigning justice down, Revelation and other texts like it are more pointing to the destruction the earth has wrought on itself and the consequences of such destruction. Just look at the war riddled world and you can easily see images of Revelation.

So what is hopeful about this? The hope is that redemption is not only on its way; however, it is here. As we approach Advent, we often reenact the “coming” of Jesus and, in Revelation, we look forward to the “second coming” of Jesus. But, what we fail to realize, is that Jesus has already come again…in us! All four Gospels tell of Jesus talking about the gift of the Holy Spirit, given to those who believe. The Holy Spirit that dwells in us is ever working in changing the world around us. But, in case you didn’t get the memo directly, we are to be ACTIVE players in that.

Rather than pretending to be awaiting for the first coming and rather than anxiously awaiting the second coming, perhaps we Christians should be actively living the coming of Christ in us! If more Christians lived out their Christianity in ways that made a difference to those around them, and less worried about event that are completely out of our control, then perhaps we would usher in the end of the world as we know it. Perhaps, instead of a world of suffering, pain and chaos, we could usher in a world of hope, healing and wholeness. Perhaps instead of a broken world, we could help usher in a world of togetherness, of community, and of LOVE. And if that is what it means to usher in the end, how can we not feel fine about it? This is what it means to be Christian: to usher in the end of the world as we know it. It’s time to get to it!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

To be made in the image of God means that we are made in the image of love.

PRAYER

Lord, I am your servant. Help me to usher in the end of the world as we know it through your love. Amen.