Friday, May 25, 2018

May 24 - God is My Portion

I never really gave this phrase much thought.   I don't remember how it bubbled up recently in my thinking - either a youtube video I watched or a sermon I heard at church.  Its been sticking in my mind for the past 10 days or so now.

Lamentations 3:24 "The Lord is my portion," says my soul.  "Therefore I will have hope in Him."

Somehow this took on a new meaning for me -

  • Anytime I feel like someone else got encouraged and I didn't - will I listen for God's encouragement?  Is He my portion?
  • When I feel like I'm missing a nice vacation or sabbatical - is God's rest enough for me?  Is He my portion?
  • When I see others promoted or get a fortunate break - will I trust in God's provision?  Is He my portion?
  • When I feel like I'm lacking in motivation and purposeful work - will I believe that God made me for His pleasure?  Is He my portion?
Psalm 73:26 says "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever"

Its been a good lesson and exercise for me this last few weeks.  I'm keeping a 'mental eye' on my thoughts, and when they start to get negative, I draw myself back to these verses and the idea that God is my all in all, my portion.  

God help me realize the aspect of Your character that I need to fill my life at that moment when I feel lack.

My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is the strength of my life and my portion forever

Friday, May 11, 2018

April 22, 2018 - God, Change and Me

God's character doesn't change.   He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Something I realize though, is that our actions dictate - to some degree - how God acts toward us.  Examples?

  • Abraham interceding with God over Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • God's covenant to David (his house will reign forever)
  • Jeremiah at the potter's house and the nation of Israel
In all of these situations, there was an agreement involved.  People needed to act thusly and a certainly response was warranted.  If they didn't, God said he would respond a different way.  Its not that God 'changes His mind.'  

In the past couple of days I felt like God was speaking to me about the last two examples above.  I didn't (and I'm not sure I still) understand the context behind why God is highlighting these examples for me right now.  Originally I was thinking 'maybe, now that I'm more on a right track with my relationship with Him, things will change for me for the better.'  I'm not yet convinced of that, and consequently I remain hesitant and uncertain about why God is pointing these verses out to me.

Why am I not yet convinced?  Why am I uncertain?  Simply - stuff happens that makes me wonder or doubt that 'the good option' might be the case.  Case in point?  I read about David and Solomon and the covenant that God put in place for them this morning, and I wondered why this idea of 'God seemingly changing His mind' was coming up again.  While I was pondering this and getting ready, the thought came 'perhaps its meant in a good way?  Things will change for the better?'  I thought 'Cool!  I'll take that!'

I was on for playing acoustic guitar and church today and I played and worshipped my heart out.  I felt like my monitor was low, and asked for it to be turned up.  In the end, I was told that I had been accidentally muted.  Groan.  I wasn't originally scheduled to play this week.  I had been asked to rescheduled so that we could have a full band for the first day our new worship pastor was in church.  But then, why play if I'm muted?  lol   I get it - mistakes happen.  But man, sometimes it can be frustrating, and it DOES make me wonder what God is up to...

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

My Testimony Based on Chapter 37 of PDL

"Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect."

I want to be a 'natural enthusiast' for God.

In Chapter 37 of The Purpose Drive Life, Rick challenges the reader to write out the answers to the questions below so that they are ready to be a witness for God.  Here's the questions with my answers:

What My Life was Like Before I Met Jesus?

For a long time I thought that I had to act a certain way and do certain things to be a good Christian.  I believed that if I was good, and tried to do good things, God would be pleased and reward me.  I grew up in a church, but I didn't really understand who Jesus was.  I could say and do all the right things, but inside I was completely out of touch with Jesus.  As a result, I was probably one of the 'church people' that could turn you off.

I was unloving, self-centred, and unfulfilled.
Thinking about my life - deep in thought

Back then, and sometimes even now, there are days/times even now when, if I don't include God in my day, my life can feel like its missing meaning or purpose.  'Meaning' and 'purpose' can be overused, rather generic terms.  Hopefully this will clarify:  I get bored quickly.  I can discover something on my own and it can be novel, interesting, and fill me with purpose and meaning for a while, but if I can't share it with someone - if there isn't meaning and purpose in it beyond myself - I lose interest, and I end up asking myself why I'm doing it...  what's the point?

How I Realized I Needed Jesus

This was more difficult because I had to realize that I didn't really understand Jesus, who He was, and what He was about.  How do you convince someone (me) who thinks he has something that he doesn't really have it?

Slowly, over many years and through a number of experiences, I've come to see (and frankly, I continue to realize) that I was spiritually bankrupt:
  • I'd compare my life with others and think 'There's love and joy oozing out of them... why do I feel like I have to conjure it up?'  I'd look in the Bible and compare my life to how it said I should live and I felt like I came up short.  I'd try to do what I felt God wanted me to and it felt unnatural - like it wasn't really me.
  • I'd reach a goal or pinnacle in my life and realize that its empty, and there's always something 'more' to strive for.  That was disheartening.
  • I'd do things for me, and it felt empty.  Sure, there were sometimes cool stories to tell, but looking at the broad scope of things, it was temporal fluff.  The Bible says 'God has placed eternity in the heart of man'  What would my legacy be?  I'd feel legacy-less.  If that feeling was true, then what was the point of life and living?
Growing up, I memorized a lot of verses from the Bible, but never really understood their implication - what they should really mean to me.  It was like learning a lot of vocabulary from another language, but not really being able to speak the language at all because you don't know the grammar or how to put the words together in a sentence.  

Keith Green said something that has always impacted me: 
'Saying a prayer doesn't mean you're a Christian, people in every religion pray.  Praying to Jesus doesn't make you a Christian.  Jesus said many shall come in my name saying "Lord, Lord, didn't we heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and all kinds of stuff", but Jesus will respond and say "Depart from me, I never knew you."  You want to know what a Christian is?  I've got a really good definition  -- Someone who's bananas for Jesus!  Someone who loves the Lord with all his heart, all his mind, all his soul, and all his strength.  And don't forget the second part!  He loves everyone else as much as he loves himself.'

Was I loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength?  Did I believe that Jesus was The Way, The Truth, and The Life?  Did I believe that Jesus paid it all on the cross for me - that there is nothing I can DO to put myself in right standing with God?  

How I Committed My Life to Jesus

A pole with a sign on it saying 'good news is coming'
I had to realize that my new life in Jesus happens only by believing and trusting in Him to save me from my dead life.  There was nothing else I could DO to be saved.  There are some days even now when I need to re-realize this.

Daily, I offer God my life.  I try and trust and believe in Jesus' work on the cross for me, and I try to follow and trust him.  For me it doesn't feel like a one-time thing - its something I need to do every day.  Some days I do it better than others as I learn to be consistent in trusting in what He's done and what He continues to do in me.  I do this by asking God to forgive me as I forgive those who've sinned against me, and offering God my life everyday praying 'Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven in my life today.'   And then I try and be obedient to His guidance in my life, remembering what He has done for me, and how much He loves me - I really need to work on that.  I feel that if I understood the magnitude of His love better in my life, a lot of things would be even more different (isn't that great english?) than they are now.

The Difference Jesus Has Made in My Life

Its like there's a whole new dimension to living when I try and live with Jesus at the centre of my life.  Not only am I making a difference for eternity, but I know that I am unconditionally loved by the One who matters most.  My life has more meaning and purpose.  There are moments when I know I'm exactly where God wants me to be, doing what God wants me to do, and the feeling of purpose and fulfillment I get from that is unparalleled. 

I'm more empathetic, forgiving, graceful, and understanding of others as I learn to receive God's love, forgiveness, and grace in my own life.

Monday, May 7, 2018

April 20th, Being A Witness Part II

Two Opportunities

Interesting that my last post was about learning how to naturally talk about God with people who don't know Him...  Out of the blue, twice in one day I had an opportunity to be a witness for God and felt like I missed both opportunities.

First, one of the Quality Assurance team leads at work started a conversation with me by my desk.  We talked about our plans for the next year or so and what our kids were doing since they are around the same ages.  It turned out that her oldest daughter goes to school where our church meets on Sundays (our church meets in their school gym).  We talked about the church for a bit and it was a pristine opportunity for me to invite her out to church, but I didn't.  Arg.

My second opportunity came when my recruiter took me out to lunch.  It was the first time I had an opportunity to really chat with her one on one.  For a millennial, she was much more forthright and honest about where she was at in life than I thought she'd be.  I was surprised.

At one point in the conversation we talked about how life is a bit of a rat race.  How it would be nice to find a work/life balance so that one could travel if and when they wanted to and not have to worry about bills or finding a job when they get back.  This made me think of the book The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris - so I recommended it to her.

Later though, given the different directions the conversation took, I found myself thinking that I'm a pretty good evangelist for certain ideas (and books), but I'm a pretty big chicken when it comes to sharing what I believe.  Sigh.

This is all frustrating in a way, and certainly leaves me with questions.  I want to be sensitive and not be 'fanatical' about my faith, and yet I also want to be naturally enthusiastic about it.  Something tells me that I still haven't yet experienced God's love in a way that makes me want to be that kind of 'natural enthusiast' about God.  There's something to hope for, shoot for, look forward to.

I've been going over that second opportunity in my mind for the last 24 hours.  In a situation like that, I need to share what my experience was when I didn't have purpose and meaning in my life, and how God changed that.  I shouldn't be saying 'you need to try this!'  Rather, 'here's what I found!'  And then think 'How can I share with this person's open heart so that if I never got an opportunity to talk to this person again I'd feel good about how things were left?

Would you agree?

Friday, May 4, 2018

April 15, 2018 Being a Witness

For some reason in the last week, off and on, the word I keep getting from God is about 'being a witness'.  Chapter 37 in Purpose Driven Life talks about this about, and I like what Rick W. says.  Being a witness is simply, naturally, saying what happened to me.  Sharing my experience with God.  That shouldn't be so difficult.

My wife and I started watching an interesting detective show in PBS - Unforgotten.  I'm amazed at how they can take one crime story and turn the investigation into a 6 part, 12 hour mini-series.  After watching the second episode this evening, I rather enjoying it and was curious if anyone at work is watching it as well.  More to the point - I had a natural desire to about what I enjoyed and experienced with others about this show....  Why isn't it quite the same with God and church?  Why is it so easy for me to 'be a witness' about a well written TV show than it is to be a witness for God?

Being a witness naturally - two fellows relaxed, talking outside on a winter day
I think my faith and perspective factor into these questions.  Do I really believe, all the time, everyday, in what I say that God is doing for me?  Am I letting/allowing God make a positive impact on my life, daily?  If I'm not mixing faith and a heavenly perspective with events that happen in my life on a daily basis, I'm losing out on seeing and believe God work in my life, and consequently on opportunities to naturally be a witness.

What a struggle.  Independence and self-sufficiency is so ingrained in me.  'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.'  The verse seems appropriate to this train of thought I'm on.  I've really got to do every bit of that verse better, more often.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

April 7, 2018 Heart Attack!

Heart attack!  Image of heart made out of string in knots (like arteries)
A week ago today, my Dad had a significant heart attack.  He went out to shovel snow early in the morning (yes we still have snow here at this time, this year), but he didn't even finish as he wasn't feeling well and having a hard time breathing. He went inside and tried to relax, but the breathing and the pain issues wouldn't go away so he had my Mom call 911.  EMS took him to the hospital where they discovered that he had a 100% blockage to the right main heart artery.  They immediately put a stent in, and - the real miracle - he walked out of the hospital at noon the next day!

My Dad has been in pretty good shape all his life.  We were talking about how he hasn't had a full physical since.. well.. he can't remember when.  The navy,  50 years ago?  It was a long time.  After he retired, his diet got progressively worse, and he exercised less.  Still, this was a BIG surprise for him.

Heart Problems

I've been thinking off and on lately about the message in Revelation to the Church in Ephesus - 'You've lost your first love.'  Or, in another translation, 'You lost the love you had at first.'  They had a heart issue, and God was calling them out.  The Ephesians were doing everything right: persevering, doing good deeds, working hard, not tolerating wicked people, and enduring hardships for Jesus.  Yet He had this one concern - they had lost the love they had for Him at first. 

Weeds & Neglect

Are there weeds in my life?  Image of dandelions in a field in seedWhere do most heart problems come from?  I'm no expert, but after reading Rick W's Daily Hope entry for today, neglect is probably one huge factor in developing heart problems - either physical or spiritual.  For my Dad, neglecting a consistent physical checkup, his diet, and the amount of exercise he was getting probably contributed to what happened last week.  Spiritually, Rick compared this to letting weeds grow around you.  Rick says 'You don’t have to cultivate weeds. They grow automatically, don’t they? In fact, weeds are a sign of neglect. If you see weeds in your yard or garden, it means you’re not tending it. The weeds in your spiritual life reveal that you’re neglecting time with God.' 

It makes me stop and think:  What is consuming my thoughts?  Am I constantly thinking about finances, or worried and anxious about things that don't really matter?  Is my life just too busy with 'things'?  Perhaps they are even good things, but are they what God wants for me today?  Did I take time to stop and listen to Him today?

Time for a Check Up?

That scripture in Revelation about the Church in Ephesus has always bugged me a bit.  How do I know if I've left my 'first love'?

Giving this some thought, three questions come to mind that help me do a 'check up' and see the state of my heart... or how my garden looks:

  • What am I thinking?   Someone, somewhere recently made a reference to this passage and laid it out this way for me...  What are you constantly conscious of in your mind?  Or, what does you mind always return to?  This cleared things up for me, somewhat.  At least now I don't feel condemned every time I read this passage.
  • Am I taking time to rest & listen?  Kind of the opposite of exercise, I know.  I guess I could consider this exercising my relationship with God, and what better discipline could I be doing?  If I'm stressed and uptight about things, my mind and my attitude isn't going to be in a good spot for listening & resting.  I need to 'Be anxious for nothing, but in everything through prayer and supplication make my requests known to God, so that He can guard my heart in mind.'  A bit of a paraphrase, but makes total sense to me.
  • What kind of fruit is my life exhibiting?  Am I stressed?  How am I dealing with people around me?  Am I laughing a lot, or am I short tempered - leaving disharmony, distress, and hurt people in my wake?

A Real Escape - Journal Early 2020's

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