“I just want to make a difference!”

Super Hero Kid

The Dreams of Grandeur 

     As humans, I believe one very common denominator between most all of us is the hope to do something great in our lifetime.  As children, when asked about our future, we will choose something spectacular and amazing; something that others would be in awe of.  When we get older, our dreams change into something a bit more realistic, but we never really let go of the hope that we were meant for more than just the routine things of this life.  More than just the mother who raises her children to be all that THEY can be while putting her own hopes and dreams aside.  Or the father who’s always worried about his paycheck and whether or not it will cover all the household expenses.  How about the young person facing college. She thought she always knew what she wanted to do with her life when she grew up, but now that college is staring her in the face, she’s not so sure anymore.  Life doesn’t seem to be so full of promise as it was just a few short years ago.  It’s at these moments that we stop and take a real look at our lives and we ask ourselves, “Why am I going nowhere!  Can’t life be better then this?”  We reflect on our dreams that tell us we are meant for more than just this, and once more we are disappointed.

The Dream Thief

     Some of us have allowed moments like these to define our existence.  We settle for the thought that “I will never be any better than what I am now, so why even try?”.  While others of us use these moments to get even more determined.  We work more hours to make more money and maybe one day, even become the boss!  We throw ourselves into projects that consume our time in hopes that others will notice our progress and praise us for our efforts.  But in the end, we realize we are still just as empty.  The answer is simple as to why we feel this way; your life is meant for more than just a promotion or a completed project.  It’s bigger than your college education and the degree you finish with.  Your life was and is meant for something special!  The real problem is that feelings of wholeness, completeness, and pure satisfaction are seldom achieved through the means by which we think they are.  Even well meaning Christians find themselves empty and asking “Are you even real God?  If you are, why do I feel so empty inside?”

The Defining Moments

     Your defining moments are not measured by the successes or failures of others; instead, they are measured by your willingness to be selfless.  The Bible has this to say about greatness: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NLT). Our mind tells us the opposite: “When I become great, others would die to be me!”  The soldier returning home from war does not receive a medal based on how many others kept him alive during battle. It was for his acts of courage and bravery.  In the end, this act of valor that he is receiving a medal for was truly just an act of selflessness.  Even the villain in every comic book is selfish and out for his own gain.  The superhero, however, is selfless, putting his life on the line to protect the lives of others while not caring about what he gets in return.  We know what defines greatness, we are just unwilling to put it into practice.  Don’t continue lying to yourself believing that, “If my family were just more thankful for how hard I work”, or, “If others could just see how much potential I have I would finally start to feel more satisfied”.  This is how bitterness sets in.  The Bible, in Hebrews 12:15, tells us this: “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”

“So What Do I Do?”

     For starters, don’t do acts of kindness in hopes to receive praises from others.  This will lead to people not even wanting your help anymore. Stop looking for the “Great Big Things” to do and take time to minister to the little needs all around you.  All the little needs will add up to a great need being met.  Be grateful for what you have now and what’s in your hands will become more beautiful and meaningful.  As an extra bonus, you will look back on your life in a few years from now and smile.  This last point is the most important:  Allow God to direct your steps in the here and now.  You may think you’ve already been doing this, but the real indication of one who is lead by God is summed up in the words of the Apostle Paul.  “I know how to live on almost nothing or everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”.  He tells you its a secret he learned to put into practice by first, no matter what he goes through, to be thankful, next to walk with Christ and last, to find his strength in Him.


Greatness is in the little moments of loving others and walking with Christ.  Learn to lean on Him and not on your own understanding, in doing so, He will direct your steps.

Advertisements

Does God Love Me?

Why does it seem like it’s so difficult to be right with God? This is a question that perplexes most of us. We worry ourselves with Hell and just how easily we may be on our way there. The Devil loves it when we question the love of God in our lives because that fear drives us to make poor decisions. “Why try to live right when God is upset with me? Why show love to my neighbor when God doesn’t show love to me?” In short, the doubt that riddles my mind about God’s love towards me, causes me to forget how to love my neighbor.
Trying to convince myself that God still loves me is a futile place to start. It makes more sense for me to start with what God has commanded me to do. “Love your neighbor as yourself” Mark 12:31. One I’ve put this principle into practice I will begin to clearly see just how much God loves me. ‭ John‬ ‭15:‭11-12‬ lest us know that, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
So does loving my brother alone make me perfect? No, of course not! But try and tell me that I’m a Christian God is pleased with just because I have a successful ministry and I’m used in the gifts of the spirit. All the while I’m overlooking those in need all around me, (unless of course it’s making my ministry look better). Over the course of our Christian walk many of us have developed a warped sense of how to get God’s attention, and how to earn His love. It will never be how I perform for God but rather how I love those around me that will gain His favor and in turn make me feel more secure in my walk with Him.

IMG_3172.JPG

It’s Not That Simple

20140705-130722.jpg

We’ve all seen them; the ones who come to church not looking or acting the way they once did. The smile is no longer there, and the amount of times you see them becomes less and less. And when you ask them where they’ve been lately, their response is typically the same, “I’ve just been busy.” But we really know what’s going on; they’re backsliding. Or so we think.

I need to let you as a reader know that I myself have been a “backslider” at one point in my life. When I was 18 years old I allowed myself to become disillusioned by thinking that somehow what my mother and father (who was also my pastor) had taught me was nothing more than a lie, and they were only trying to keep me from the real fun that life had to offer. So with a heavy dose of rebellion and a fair amount of anger towards God and religion, I left it all behind. Yes, I would completely have considered myself a backslider because of the fact that my attitude was that of, “I’m going to show you Dad! I hate this stupid religion! Don’t try and tell me what to do, you’ll get nowhere!” But how can we automatically assume that the people that we see less of in our church’s feel the same way I did when I backslid?

We only see what is happening on the outside and have no idea of the pain that this person may be dealing with. Could it be perhaps that their actions are only a cry for help? A way to finally be noticed, to understand that they are hurting and need a loving embrace? Or maybe just some time from a friend who can help heal their wounds? We have no idea. Oh but how foolishly we make our assumptions, somehow convincing ourselves that we understand all that is going on in their lives without even taking the time to try and love them.

While writing this I’m reminded of a man in the Bible named Zacchaeus. Everyone around him despised him. They didn’t care what his feelings were, or even what his needs may be. “And why?” you may wonder, because he didn’t care about them, or what their needs or feelings may be; he only stole from them. He oppressed the townspeople by over taxing them. So when the time came that Jesus was coming to town, and as the excitement and anticipation began building, no one even considered whether or not Zacchaeus may want to see Jesus as well. I don’t believe Zacchaeus had any false pretenses about meeting Jesus, he only wanted to see the healer. But what of the crowd? Why when they saw him struggling up a tree, willing to make a spectacle of himself, did they not make room for him? Couldn’t they see his desire? His need for the savior? No. They were blinded by their own anger and disappointment with him, and it was these emotions that kept them blind to the needs that were overwhelming Zacchaeus. But Jesus saw him! Up there in the tree, alone and hurting. The people were so blinded by their own emotions that even when Jesus called out to Zacchaeus they were confused and disappointed with his decision. “Why would you eat with him, a sinner?” they cried out with dismay. But Zacchaeus, already knowing his sin and shame replied, “I will give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody, I will repay back four times the amount.” What did Jesus have to say to such a response? He turned and spoke to the people of the city, the ones who didn’t allow themselves to really see Zacchaeus, and said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10).

The people of this town are no different than us. We look on with awe and admiration at those in the church who are doing well, and hold a good position in the church while taking little notice of those whose faces are seen less and less. And when a special speaker comes to our church, especially one who is used in the gifts of the spirit, we expect him to meet our needs first, and if there is any time left, minister to “the ones who don’t really care for the deep things of God”. We, like the town’s people, wouldn’t be able to understand it if the guest speaker only ministered to the one person who is the least deserving of it. We would murmur to one another, “if the minister only knew!” We would feel as if we had been cheated! “What about my needs, don’t you care God? And why him! He doesn’t care! Just look at him, he doesn’t even try to look or act holy anymore!” Oh how foolish we are. Oh how blind we have become by our own righteous pride. Did not Jesus say, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31, 32 NIV)

Could it be that the ones who first need a change of heart is us? Maybe the beam in our own eye has prevented us from truly seeing the hurt all around us in churches? It has prevented us from seeing them with love and compassion, rendering us unable to minister to their needs. Could it be that God desires to use us but we are just too unwilling to change ourselves first? I leave you with this scripture. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37, 38 NIV)

When Did I Become A Religious Bigot?

Bigot: A person who is or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance.

I’ve recently been thinking about the famous speech given by Rev.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. entitled, “I Have A Dream”. When Martin Luther gave that speech it shook the nation, maybe even the world, because of his boldness and for what the speech stood for. He spoke to a body of people, not just white people on how the blacks wish to be treated, or to black people on what their rights were, he spoke to us all. Common people, black and white, law makers and law enforcers; he spoke to everyone of us. He couldn’t just point a finger at the white people without telling his fellow brother to not allow hatred to be harbored in his heart. Nor could he just ask his fellow brother to forgive the whites for all the injustices; or how would the whites have been pricked in their hearts? With many words and with boldness, he asked us to love each other in spite of our differences.

While we now live in a free nation where we strive to show equal rights regardless of skin color; bigotry is still alive and well. It’s seen at election time when people of all races and ages begin choosing a side. Neighbor against neighbor, coworker against coworker, family member against family member. We began arguing with each other in hopes to change them to our political party. Each side believes that they are the ones who are right, and that everyone else is just ignorant. Each side feels so strongly about this that we can hardly bare to look at our neighbor if they have a sign in their front lawn supporting the “other guy”. Even driving down the road and seeing a bumper sticker supporting the “wrong guy” can set us off. Even worst though is the people on the radio and television showing support for their candidate and telling us why we should shouldn’t be voting for the “other guy”. Worst of all however is the candidates themselves! They try proving how right they are by showing how wrong the other candidate is, no matter if what they are saying is really all true or not.

When I look at religion today, I see much of the same things. While I do believe that we need religion and the structure it offers, I believe, over all, it has become a body of suffering people drunk on the pride of religious bigotry. When did religion become about; “if you don’t believe what I do, exactly as I do, I don’t have to really love you”? When did we start believing that God only really loves, cares, and listens to us when we are a part or our religion? When did we start believing that if people come to our church, and then stop for whatever reason, we don’t really have to show them the same love anymore because they have “walked away from truth”? Are we no different than the Jews of Paul’s time when Paul had to circumcise Timothy because of the religious bigotry all around him? See Acts 16. P

Paul, like Martin Luther, was ground breaking in his day. The peculiar thing is, it was for just about the same reasons. No one wanted to take the gospel to the Gentiles, even though Jesus told them in the great commission, “Go into all the world”! Why wouldn’t they? Religious bigotry! “We are better then them”. It took a man like Paul, a man unafraid of what the normal ways of thinking were to change a nation; to change the world! It took a man like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a black man in a white man’s country unafraid of the normal ways of thinking; to change his nation, to change the world! What will it take today to change this broken world in which we live? Who will it take? While we are not satisfied with how things are, we are comfortable with our situations; and many of those who are not comfortable find it easier not to change. We all want to be loved, but not many of us are looking to love those we can’t tolerate or understand. What then of Jesus while he was being beaten and hung on a cross by those who were guilty? What were his finial words, his final actions? “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. Then he died.

Oh the hurt of this world in which we live! Oh the discomfort and pain of our fellow brothers and sisters all around us! How long will we remain drunk on our religious pride and bigotry? How long will we ignore the faces we see, and the hurt that is etched deep into their eyes? How long will we “stand for truth” when we have never really lived it to begin with? Our battle is not republican against democrat, or one religion against another; our battle is with the enemy of our souls, and he has us blinded by our own pride.

Please make no mistake; this is not a call to leave religion behind. It’s a call for healing and love. The real questions begging for answers can only be answered by you. Who will go? Who will stand alone if needs be? Who will love when others don’t know how?

1 John 4:20-21 If anyone says “I love God,” but keeps on hating his brother, he is a liar; for if he doesn’t love his brother who is right there in front of him, how can he love God whom he has never seen? And God himself has said that one must love not only God but his brother too.

Ephesians 6:12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.

20140115-152832.jpg

The Death of a Dream

ImageWhen I was a child I remember having dreams of greatness. When asked what I would become when I got older I would quickly reply, “Spiderman!” I never thought this to be out of reach or just a childish notion. In my mind, Spiderman was real, and if he could climb walls, swing through the city, and catch all the bad guys, so could I. I had the bed sheets, undies, and matching pajamas to show my enthusiasm and give my support to the current Spiderman. After all, he deserved it! He had caught a lot of bad guys to get to where he was, and let’s face it, he was the coolest guy alive. But like most childhood dreams this one too faded as my understanding of the real world became more clear.

Joseph

I often think of Joseph and his big childhood dreams; dreams that were clearly given by God but skewed by thoughts of grandeur. When he approached his family and told them of the dream he had that one day they all would bow down to him, I don’t see him sharing it with a whole lot of humility. As a matter of fact, I kind of imagine Joseph seeing himself as a man inheriting rock star status. I mean let’s face it, God only gave him the glory part of the dream and none of the hardships it would require to achieve it. It didn’t take long for Joseph’s brothers to become disgusted with him and his perceived arrogance. God used Joseph’s brothers, and their disgust with him, to begin the long needed journey to become the man, that in time, would give God all the glory.

The Breaking of Joseph

If there’s one thing I can say for Joseph, he never gave up. His true journey to greatness began when his brothers’ distaste for him and his dreams finally caught up to him. They conspired together to kill Joseph but thought better of it and decided to sell him into slavery instead. A rich man named Potiphar, who knew nothing of Joseph and his dreams, bought him to be nothing more than a humble servant in his household. During this time, Potiphar’s troubled wife falsely accused him for trying to rape her. If we didn’t know the rest of the story it would be easy to think; “Joseph had done no wrong, he didn’t deserve this! Why would God allow this to happen to him?” The story only seems to get worse for Joseph and his dreams. He finds himself in prison due to the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife. Crazy thing is he doesn’t give up or lose hope. He still serves God and does all that he can do wherever he finds himself. Finally, he seems to get his lucky break. Two of Pharaoh’s men landed themselves in the same prison as Joseph. It truly seemed as if God was going to use this situation to rescue Joseph and get him back on his way to fulfilling the dream. But God had a different plan. Yes, God did use Joseph, He even gave him another dream in order to set things straight between the kings men, but God let Joseph keep on waiting.

Waiting

Many of us, at this point, would be ready to give up, throw in the towel, move on to a different calling or lifestyle. What made Joseph different? Why would he carry on and not lose sight of his dream or his relationship with God? Was he better than you and I? More spiritual perhaps? No, none of these things. He simply loved God more than his dreams, and this made him carry on even when all hope seemed lost.
Most of us dream of greatness with God. I believe most all of us would truly love to do a work that’s meaningful, enduring, and in the end makes a great difference for the kingdom of God. So why aren’t we? Why do we feel stuck, out of spiritual energy, or worse yet, forsaken by God? Has God moved on past us to find someone better and more qualified? Someone who really knows how to pray and read their Bible? Of course not. The Bible tells us in Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” This is a big promise that often time doesn’t seem to be fulfilled. But Moses had this to say about God and his promises; “He is a faithful God, who keeps his promise” (Deut. 7:9). So why then did Joseph have to wait? Why do we have to wait? Why does God allow us to come to the place where we feel abandoned and the dream to be lost? Two reasons…

Why We Wait

Peter has a good reminder for us when we begin to feel forsaken. “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9) The part about not being destroyed is one piece of the waiting process. Pride is always waiting just around the corner in our hearts to take the glory for ourselves, and make us feel as if we’ve become elevated above those around us. Remember; “God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).
The second reason we wait is due to weakness. We all deal with spiritual weakness on some level. God knows if we would have the strength to carry out the calling or not. Often times though, we are weak! This is why God said in Isaiah 40:31; “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Waiting is a process of growth, and if we are to do anything meaningful for God, we all must go through a season of waiting!
In the end, Joseph did rule over the land, and his family did bow down to him and pay their homage. But Joseph wasn’t puffed up. They were there because they were hungry and Joseph had the provisions they needed. They bowed down, not because it was Joseph, but because God had given Joseph a position of power so that their lives could be spared. Look at what Joseph said to his brothers; “Don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me into this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives… So it was God who sent me here, not you! And He is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh” (Gen. 45:5,8).

You Are Not Forsaken, Or Forgotten

The Bible assures us that even while Joseph was waiting, and maybe even feeling forsaken, he was not alone. “And the Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did” (Gen 39:2). I don’t believe for a moment that Joseph felt like he was always succeeding, or that the Lord was always with him, but he was. So what’s the real story of Joseph?…
He never gave up!

Feeling Trapped?

IMG_3173Often times, “feeling trapped” is a term used in place of “I just don’t really want to do what it takes to change the situation I’m in”. Don’t get confused here, I’m not implying that we’re not uncomfortable or may not even despise the situation; I’m simply saying that no matter how much we may be disgusted with the present situation, we just really don’t want to make ourselves even more uncomfortable than what we already are. It’s like the worker that greets you as you enter the front door of Walmart. His or her name tag states, “Hello My Name Is – How May I Help You?” To whom is this statement being made? It’s both for you, and for themselves. It lets both parties know identity, and purpose. When the worker takes the name tag off at the end of their shift not only does their purpose change, but to the rest of us, their identity as we knew it is lost. They just become another face in the crowd.

Why Are You Trapped?

     You and I may despise our situation, but this is what we’ve grown accustomed to living in. It has shaped who we are both to us and to the others around us. It instructs others on how to view us because of what is constantly being portrayed through our actions and our words. Our situation often times dominates our conversations and in turn effects the way we are towards friends and family. It screens out, “Hello, My Name Is – And I’m Depressed, Angry, Full Of Sorrow, Disappointed… etc”. Most of us may not like our situation, but we just don’t even know who we would be without our sorrow. We’ve just lived with it for so long that that’s all we really know of ourselves. Yes, we hate it but let’s face it, we just don’t trust God. “What will He do if I let go of the sorrow? Will He still repay the one that hurt me if I forgive?” What we are really saying is that God is not really good and certainly not a rewarder of them who seek Him as stated in Hebrews 11:6. We have believed a lie and therefore we are trapped!

How To Get Out

     So how do we get out of this trap? Well, for starters, we have to take the Bible at it’s word. Sure, this can be tough when we feel like God Himself has let us down, but we absolutely must give it a try. The Bible tells us in John 8:32 that the Truth will set you free, and remember, freedom is what we are seeking. Did you know that Jesus tells us that when we are weak then He is strong (2 Cor 13:9)? It’s hard to believe, I know. To us, it seems that when we are weak, He has failed us. Why choose weakness? Why not choose to let us be strong, self-satisfied, or self-confident? It’s because these things come from self and self will always lead us down the wrong path. Paul said about himself, “I know that good doesn’t dwell in me” (Romans 7:18). You and I may find some inner-strength for the road ahead and maybe even enough to conquer one or two troubles in our lives; however, in the end, troubles will arise that we just don’t have the strength for. “But I just can’t trust God! He hasn’t been there for me when I needed Him most!” Or, “I have done so many things wrong that He just won’t help me anymore.” Neither of these are true no matter how much it may feel like it. The real fact is that we choose to believe these things even though they are false.

God will help you but first you must learn to trust Him. “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light’ (Matthew 11:28-30)”. You and I are not trapped by our situation; we are trapped by unbelief and fear. Our attitude is a choice we have made for ourselves, we have chosen that name tag. Not God! Not the one who hurt us! We have chosen our misery and to stay lost in it. Yes, even if the one who is hurting us is still in our lives. You CAN trade in that name tag, but are YOU willing to trust in Jesus and His ability to heal you?

Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear

When I look at the church today I’m overwhelmed by the amount of people dealing with the destructive emotions of guilt and condemnation. We are looking to the past, others relationships with God, or the latest self-help book to answer our questions. We’ve tried prayer, fasting, and Bible reading but yet we feel no closer to God than when we first began our journey. We’re exhausted by the fight! At times, we seem to do good for awhile, telling ourselves we’ve made it up a few rungs on the latter or steps on the staircase. Only to find ourselves lying flat on our backs by something that came out of nowhere. How can we ever have something worth being proud of in this relationship with God when all we can see are the steps we’ve accumulated forward are only taken back with just one wrong move? Why fight when the fight gets me nowhere?
It’s all these destructive ways of thinking that have us beaten down and starving. Until we can truly understand the way God views us, it’ll be almost impossible to view Him in a way that will bring us closer to Him. We can no longer wait for the next big thing to deliver us out of our self created darkness. The Bible states, “Today is the day of salvation”. How long will we be cumbered down with these heavy burdens that God never intended for us to carry? Look at the sweet soothing words Jesus said to you and I, the hurting and struggling. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 KJV).
God’s unrelenting, unwavering, and never failing love for you and I is what is going to set us free from all fear and doubt. It will lead and guide us into a discovery of the depths of Christ that we thought were only reserved for those who somehow could please God more perfectly than we ever could. It is His perfect love for you and I that will cast out all of our fears. His perfect love for you I will prove we too can please Him perfectly, and ultimately, His love will revel the beautiful plans He has for our lives.
Let these words that John wrote about God’s love help heal your soul. “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first” (1 John 4:16-19 NLT).
It’s time you and I were healed completely so that we can finally know His perfect love for us, and do His perfect will for our lives.

20130422-110056.jpg