Sunday, November 28, 2010

Connecting Life with Faith: How does God speak to you?

When it comes to our daily lives, most of us rarely have time to stop, drop, and pray. With diligence comes the challenge of balancing our time for spiritual rest and inspiration.

Glorious Anthem by Stephen Barrett

What makes having a personal relationship with God so thrilling is the aspect that God is constantly, and will always be communicating with you. Now that doesn`t mean you will wake up tomorrow and the clouds will part and a voice from heaven will tell you the meaning of your life...but then again it could happen. And if it does please comment on this post and let me know and we can praise Him together.

Most of the time the way we receive encouragement, guidance, wisdom, and blessing is not as grand as some might want it to be. I would say that most of us have a preferred communication style already in place. That being something God has put in us from the very beginning. We all have unique interests and have our own individual personalities. Our communication styles are often determined by those two areas, especially when it comes to the way God communicates with us.

For example some of us are musically inclined, and hearing a certain song from our past, or hearing a new beat on the way home can suddenly turn our attention to God, or even give us a specific message He has for us.

Sometimes it can be art, people, books, movies, exercise, science, gardening, the things we interact with on a regular basis. God can bring things to our rememberance through them, or give us wisdom and understanding, He can even give us knowledge of things to come. Most often God is the instigator, in the realm of prophesy, but when it comes to our personal relationship, I truly believe He is communicating to us through our preferred mediums all the time.

This daily interaction with God is the place where our relationship with God grows. It is similar when friends call each other and "shoot the breeze" or just spend time to catch up with each other.

The snag is that we tend to easily lose connection with Him, and like a cell phone...our signal is gone and we often say, "Oh well, He will just call back if it`s important." And that my friends, that is the snare that keeps us from having a more intimate relationship with Him; our choice to wait until something important happens.

My hope for myself and all of you is to get us thinking. Thinking about our past experiences with God, going back to the place where we felt connected. Asking ourselves, "How does God speak to me?" and to remember relationships are based on strong communication and God is no exception.

Lord, Thank you for the ways you have spoken to us.
Thank you for the big ways and the small ways you speak to us.
Help us to be connected to you, and to let communication with You be as easy and simple as You intend it.

Stayed time I will discuss "How we talk to God."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Facing our Struggles: Finding our Sanctuary

So many times we are caught in our routines, both good and bad. Life is a cycle of events requiring our attention and our resources. Yet we neglect the time to replenish ourselves. The longer we live, the more we realize the importance of rest. From rest we find peace, direction, and new hope. The Sabbath is a place for us to receive inspiration for the road ahead. More often than not, that road is very unsure and filled with troubles of all kinds. Jesus said, "Every day has its own troubles" and isn`t that the truth?

We experience troubles from not being able to find the remote, to a loss of a loved one, from a toothache to a car accident, each day arising to the world full of faith or sometimes full of fear.

No matter what awaits you today, remembering to look for a spot, a sanctuary, has gotten me through the hardest of times. Sanctuary is not a place that just shows up, it is a place you have to go to. Sometimes it is a quiet place, others times it is a place of fond memories, or sometimes it is a place that is inside you. (like closing your eyes in the middle of an arguement)

I can`t say that I do this enough...but every time I go and seek that place, I never regret it. I always look back saying to myself, "I am so glad, I took the time to go there." Somedays I find God in that place, somedays I find myself when I feel lost, other times I even find the answers I am looking for, but most importantly I can find rest.

So I encourage the weary of heart to look for a sanctuary and go there and take hold of that rest, and may the Spirit of God meet you there.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Connecting Life with Faith: God and our expectations

Great Sand Dunes National Park photos

When I think of Bibilical examples of trials and difficulties, the first one that jumps into my mind is the exodus from Egypt depicted in the Old Testament. Certainly this account has been pounded from the pulpit for years, centuries, even millennia. There are literally hundreds of lessons to be learned through reading this account, but what is so fascinating to me is that despite the many miracles that occurred along the way, the Israelites remained stubborn and even rebellious towards God.

I first ask myself, "How would I react to such clear, amazing displays of God`s might, mercy, and provision?" "How am I different from those Israelites in the accounts given?" "What historical and cultural differences are there?

Good questions to ponder, but I think the universal place where we can relate with these struggling rag-tag refugees is "expectations."

Witnessing what they saw, they could clearly see that God had a reason for doing such great things in their midst. We, like them, can so easily get caught up in miracles and amazing events and become deceived. We can begin to expect certain things of God. Asking questions such as,

"Didn`t he make us for a reason?
Don`t we have a purpose to our existence?
Didn`t he promise us the land of milk and honey?" (the SWEET life)
Can anybody relate to this pattern of thinking?

These are valid questions to ask of God. But rather than be bitter and complain over our broken dreams and half-baked visions, we should be digging deep into our situations and ask God for His wisdom and continual help.

Refer to Exodus 15 & 16 as I continue

The major problem with the Israelites is that when they began to complain based upon their expectations of God, they grumbled to man (Moses and Aaron).  Yet God was patient and assembles them together. "Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’ Exodus 16:9.  What came next was an outpouring of the presence of God and miracle after miracle of provision for the Israelites.  However, throughout the rest of the book we see the pattern of behaviour of the Israelites get worse and soon we find them more "demanding" of God rather than "revering."

So let`s go back to the 21st century, we see miracles happen all the time in a myriad of ways.  There are seasons of miracles in our lives when we see everything come together perfectly orchestrated showing us that no doubt God was behind it all.  We can get so used to miracles, sometimes we forget what God has shown us in His Word.  Much like modern day convenience, without it, we start to become frustrated and even begin to grumble aloud, like you know who.  And in the end, we often find ourselves questioning the entire purpose of our own personal EXODUS.

And you know what...I think it`s a way.  We need to bring our grumbling hearts before God.  They won`t get better on their own, without Him.  We just need to be careful not to default to our leaders as a stand in for our relationship with God, almost like a lawyer for our spirituality.   Man`s answers can never satisfy us completely, but the Word of God directly spoken to us satisfies our downcast hearts, our hungry minds, and our broken bodies.

I encourage you click the Bible search link on the right, the look up the word satisfy and see the verse that show up.  Jesus said that those, "who seek, will find."  I think the real journey of life starts with God choosing us and then thereafter consists of continual refining and testing of our quality. 

He saves us from certain peril, only to deliver us into "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," to borrow a phrase. Think of all the troubles the Israelites faced in the desert:  blistering heat, dehydration, starvation, battles, plagues, and the like.  It is easy to chastize them, but think how many times you have gone days without food or water in a desert.  Not many of us can claim a right to complain here.  Those who went through the Exodus experience, though their testing was severe, it stands as a testament to remind us.

We need God to survive through our trials and we must trust Him even as we face almost certain death.  Those words aren`t easy to swallow, and they require us to look realistically and closely at our relationship with God and our own expectations.

Abba, God in heaven, Giver of life, God by my side, and God who delivers.  So many of us are in desperate need and feel abandoned in our trials.  May we hear Your call today.  May we receive our needs and have peace in knowing You are with us.  May You help us have the right expectations of You, taking nothing foregranted, pleasing You with our faith.  I ask these things for myself and my brethren in every part of the world, for every person who would call on Your name, that they would be rescued in the midst of their struggles while there still is time.  That they might have a place with You in Your house forever. Amen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Facing our Struggles: Oh the Pain!

We are all have felt pain in one way or another. We all can empathize, when we see somebody stub their toe, or take a dive face first. Pain invokes very strong emotions in us. When we see people enduring physical pain, our hearts feel for that person in a variety of ways.

But what is it about pain that frightens us and fascinates us? What happens to the mind as we experience pain: a traumatic episode that scars us for life, or the day to day pain of just living life? I think pain is one of the biggest role players in a person`s life.

Pain can shape our minds into somethings good when used as a discipline, but it can also warp them into something twisted and evil if taken to the extreme. The more pain we experience, the more we change. We see stories of evil villains who start out as average citizens all the time, in real life and the cinema. Meaning well they live normal lives, but when painful experiences happen to them, their responses turn them into something we dare not imagine of ourselves.

Whether it be emotional, physical, relational, or psychological, pain leaves us with holes in our hearts, and we soon try to fill those holes with other things. How many bad habits are born from coping from pain in our lives?

Yet there are many good things to learn from pain. We learn from our mistakes....most often the painful ones. We are disciplined by pain in its many forms. Without pain, how would we know something is wrong? Without pain, how would we know we are alive? People who have achieved amazing feats in their lives often have gone through extremely painful periods in their lives as well. So what are we to do with pain?

I leave the subject open to your thoughts, and I will leave it on this thought of my own. Pain can be our teacher, or our destroyer.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Future and Technology: Losing our minds...

Being in Japan, I can only speak in reference to the students I teach, but I have noticed major problems with young childrens` ability to create and imagine. This may be an issue that is local to Japan, but my suspicions are that this is a worldwide phenomenon. The Japanese culture has problems with not wanting to make mistakes in front of others, but in the environment of my classroom this is not really a problem.

The truth is that more and more children are becoming dependent on machines and devices to provide stimulation they need for enjoyement and study. I see it in my own home. Is TV, internet, smartphone society really starting to rot our brains, or more importantly our children`s? That is an important question to contemplate.

With the internet culture growing more rapidly every year, we are seeing the beginning of a worldwide change in the way we imagine and create. Curiosity is soon satisfied with browsing the web and our quests for information are as easy as typing a word on GOOGLE.

In my classes, I ask students to imagine and draw simple objects in order to check their listening skills. They need to hear the English word and draw a picture of it. The problem is that about 90% of the kids cannot draw without an example. They tell me that they understand but cannot think of how to draw it.

Another example I experience in my classroom is when I ask students, " What do you want to be?" They understand the question, but cannot seem to be able to dream up an honest response.

Imagination gives birth to dreams, and dreamers are the inventors and revolutionary thinkers of society. Look at the annals of history and you will see dreamers and inventors who changed society and achieved greatness and profited many by their efforts.

My fear is that if we adults are not careful, we may see our future generations lose their minds unable to think of a way out, and not even curious enough to care. That would be a dark future indeed.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Connecting Life with Faith: Making others rich

Money is on our minds.  I don`t like to think about it, but, the amount in my wallet, the amount in the bank account, those numbers, those values are on my mind constantly as I live and breathe.

I feel the need to cling to my wallet as I ride my bike just to make sure my wallet is there, so that I can buy the groceries.  Anybody know what I am talking about ?

Make no mistake, money is on our minds.  And I notice how much money and finances are showing their face in our churches and on the internet and television: "Ways to Financial freedom" and many other catchy titles.  I`m not against these because they help us with the issues we face daily, issues of money.

I just want to take a different approach today on the subject.  I want the Holy Spirit to enlighten me, as I write these thoughts to you.  I thought of the words of Paul, " sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. "

These were words written by Paul as he poured out his heart in a letter to the Corinthians.  You can feel his emotion as he tells of his hardships and the ultimate purpose of his life.  That being the sharing of the most valuable message of all time, the Gospel of Christ Jesus. 

Looking further at his words, it seems to say that Paul cared very little about his finances and more about rejoicing in making others rich.  What an incredible message for those with money!  If companies and businesses and even countries thought to themselves, "how could we make other people rich?" Do you think that might stimulate the economy? 

Back to Paul`s words, he continues by saying he has "nothing and yet possessing everything."  Sounds a bit contradictory doesn`t it?  But it is a beautiful description of the Christian way of life.  If Jesus is your lord, then everything you have is`s all on loan: your family, your stuff, even your own body.  Yet, since we are heirs of God`s kingdom we all share in the inheritance.  That being all things that God has made. 

Psalm 24:1  The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
   the world, and all who live in it;

This is our inheritance, so why do we fret over the things we cannot have or the things we want so badly.  I say this knowing that I fight with feelings of discouragement over financial limitations all the time. But I am reminded by God`s word so promptly, that we are to live making others rich by the way we live and the message we share.  What does it profit us to lose who we are, for the fading riches of tomorrow? 

So my charge is that we think as Paul did, "sorrowful" as we may be (laughing).  Let us think how can  we ENRICH the lives of others.  Let us give to God what is God`s: honor and glory, for He needs not our money or possessions, but requires our allegiance, our pledge to love Him and others.  May we continue to follow in His ways.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Facing our Struggles: The Voice of Protest

There is such much turmoil in our world today. Many of us watch the world on television shocked by the images that we see. Some of us feel the call to take to the streets for a cause or to speak out against an injustice. There are many reasons to go fight those who have evil intentions. Yet I propose that very often these protests fall short of achieving their purpose. That being something beyond merely communicating dissatisfaction.

For a Christian, prayer is our voice of protest. Prayer is our appeal to a higher authority, the highest authority.  While there is nothing wrong with demonstrating through protest, it is very easy to neglect the exercise of protesting through prayer and petition to God.  Look at the example of Esther, who asked that people pray and fast for her before confronting evil the plot to wipe out her people.  Look at the prophets of the Old Testament, each one an example of suffering protest through prayer and in some case, like Ezekiel, public demonstrations. (Non-violent of course).

If we are bearing frustrations over injustice or the evil in our world, let us go before our God as soon as possible.  Let us not think that we can bring justice through our efforts alone.  For God changes the minds of rulers and leaders, fair or unfair, benevolent or evil. This is a hard fact to face.  If we are to cry out in public, let us first cry out to God in prayer.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Connecting Life with Faith: Looking for hard spots

What does a hard heart look like?  We tend to imagine a very angry face, like the face of the Pharaoh of Egypt in a children`s book.  Or maybe the Pharisees being angry with Jesus before taking him to Pontius Pilate.

Yes, those are some classic examples of hard-heartedness, that are used every Sunday at the pulpit by thousands of pastors.  But let`s think a little deeper on the subject.

Christians are not immune to being hard-hearted.  As people we naturally tend to harden our hearts as a defense mechanism.  Pride is the poison that hardens the human heart.  Here is a statement from the book of Daniel referring to King Belshazzar to prove my point. "But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride." Daniel 5:20

When we begin to think too highly of ourselves or we lose humility before God. That is the time when pride sneaks in and begins to harden our hearts.  I have heard some pastors refer to them as blindspots...because you cannot see these areas where your heart has become hardened.  The conscience is seared and there is no feeling of guilt or remorse about the wrongness of your actions.  So what can we do?

Spending quiet time to look for the hard spots might save us a lot of trouble.

"Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble."
Proverbs 28:14

But here is the thing.  I know my heart is hard in areas.  In fact, I am even now asking God to soften my heart more and more, to restore the innocence of a soft and humble heart.  The heart of a child.

And let`s not forget what the usual circumstances are for hard-heartedness.  It is not the good times but the bitter times of trials that so easily expose and harden our hearts. 

Look at Hebrews 3:8!

"do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness,"

We are all going to have to face testing of the heart and resist the hardening of our hearts in the walk of life.  God`s own children, he disciplines and loves. And through it all, He desires that we keep our hearts humble and soft towards Him so that we may reap a reward in the end.

Please Abba, Father.  Help us find the hard spots on our hearts, the places you know that need to become soft and humble again.  Help us remember your love and remove the poison of pride within us.  Keep us strong and faithful in all that we do. Through the grace of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Connecting Life with Faith: Loving your neighbor today

The commandment to " Love your neighbor as yourself", is familar to every Christian at some level.  At the time it was written it was very clear.  People knew who their neighbors were.   People who were physically present in the same general area or location that they were. 

So let`s look at the world today with the fast developing social media networks and expansion of the digital world. We can connect to so many people in so many different locations.  Now the challenge of determining to "love your neighbor" becomes different from before.

To love somebody we need to understand them, we need time to know them.  Certainly we can demonstrate love through sacrifice when given the opportunity to any person but most of the time we are loving people as we get to know them, as we listen to them and understand who they are.

So think about the potential neighbors you have at the end of your fingertips on FACEBOOK or TWITTER, we are talking about millions of potetial connections, millions of "neighbors"one could argue.

It`s quite overwhelming to think about.  So what`s the alternative???  Focus on those whom you physically can interact with?

I ask these questions not because I know the answers but I want people to think about the subject. 

We are about to enter a new decade.  A decade with possibilities that we couldn`t have imagined.  So as Christians we must be able to wisely apply the Word of God to the world we live in, the world that we wake up to each day.

This is the world God has made and it is growing and developing in this way for a reason.  How do you envision loving your neighbor today?  And in the days to come? 

We all love in different styles and different ways.  We are unique in our expressions and actions of love. In this coming generation we have an advantage.  Our social territories and influence will continue to expand and with it the potential to extend that love to neighbors all around the world.

Just a thought....and a prayer....God help me to love my "neighbors" in whatever way in whatever place they may be.
blog ping