The Flood

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For most of my life I have been comfortable with being comfortable. I am very much a man of routine; I am at ease when I have even a vague outline of where I am going or what the day will look like. As humans we all have our niches, habitats, tendencies, methods and specificities that help to create and establish levels of comfort and measures of manageable tranquility in our lives. Whether you recognize, acknowledge or feed it, this hunger for control and comfort is ingrained in all of us. Ultimately, our control of comfort can become a corruption that can destroy every fiber of our world.

God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them…”
Genesis 6:12-13 (NIV) 

After reflecting on these Scriptures in Genesis, I realized something simple yet profound: We will all experience the flood. 

At one point or another in life we will go through one if not many great floods and storms that will destroy all that was once established, teeming and comfortable in our lives and wash it away without any ascertainable reason. In these situations do you find yourself building an ark and preparing life for the future or rather, settling in the land of sheltered yesterdays? In these fragile moments, faithful obedience surpasses circumstantial evidence.

I have seen that if you remain tied to a dock of comfort, God will inevitably send a storm to sever those ties and send you out to sea. For some of us it happens suddenly, for others it is more of a process. As creatures of comfort, we often find it difficult to depart from our dock because it represents the measurable outcomes and controllable circumstances that we so desire in our lives.

Then there is that confronting, obstructive Scripture in Matthew 16:25 (NIV) “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” 

Does God really want us to lose our life, our comfort and our ease? Yes, because what He has is more, is greater, is better than anything we can perceive. God wants to redefine what it means to be comforted until all we need is Him. Jesus asks us to put everything afloat upon God, and go out to sea on the great swelling tide of His purpose. It is out at sea where eyes are truly opened, faith is fully formed and character is eternally shaped. If our faith, security and hope are on board with Jesus we are not to spend all our time in calm waters just inside the harbor, full of joy but always tied to the dock. We must echo the obedience of Noah and build an ark to weather our own storms and embark upon the sea of God’s promises.

In verses 6:22 and 7:5 of Genesis (NIV) it reiterates the same vital point and difference between Noah and a lot of us, “And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.”
Noah did all. It is a dangerous, sometimes fatal mistake to refuse direction, to refuse to follow and fully obey on this voyage. The counterfeit of obedience is a state of mind where you create your own opportunities to sacrifice yourself, and your zeal and enthusiasm are mistaken for discernment.

“But Samuel replied:
‘Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.'”
1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV)

It is easier to sacrifice yourself than to fulfill your spiritual destiny. Fulfilling your destiny means doing the hard work. It means getting up every morning to gather the wood to build that ark, and preparing to live for the future rather than the past. Beware of paying attention or going back to where you once were on the shore of yesterday’s comforts when God wants to take you somewhere that you have never been before.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 
Romans 12:2 (NIV)

The Next Step

After reading and carefully reflecting on the Book of James, I find myself circling around the same question: “Will I take the next step?”

I think a common and widely held misconception of Christians is that people think once we put our faith in Jesus Christ all our problems are suddenly solved, we are immediately better people, and are signed, sealed and delivered. In reality, one moment of faith is just the beginning of a process. That measure of faith we exhibit when we declare, “Jesus is my Lord and Savior,” seems so significant at the time and it is in its own right, but it is merely the first step on a path to true and lasting change.

In Luke 9:61 (NIV) it reads, “Lord, I will follow you, but…” 
…And there it is. That word that always gets in our way. It hinders, binds and prevents us from taking the call that is beckoning us forward–“but.”

Even if you are not a Christian, I think everyone can agree that actions (in most cases) speak louder than words. Regardless of our status, duration, or devotion as followers of Christ, if we always hold onto our “but’s” (pardon the pun) we will never experience the wondrous abandonment of truly following Christ.

This simple truth applies to so much in life; it is a glaring reality staring us in the face regardless of our beliefs or religion. It is the truth that even the brightest ideas, the most noble motives, the most significant moments of our faith, without action mean nothing… There are examples of this all around us as well as nowhere at all. It reminds us that if a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he or she has to risk everything and leap headfirst into the dark. This “darkness” is a sea of unknown outcomes, sacrifices, and sometimes painful losses. We are so scared of experiencing these possibilities that we can’t see through the fog of present day trials; we fail to grasp that we may enter into a land of opportunity, reward and blessing on the other side. You may find that soon, the “dark” you thought you plunged into will transform into a brighter light than you have ever seen or experienced.

What if Martin Luther King, Jr. never picked up his pen, John Lennon never learned to play guitar or Benjamin Franklin never flew a kite? Our future is often shaped by the smallest sparks, the smallest decisions and the smallest of accomplishments. The decisions you make in the present will determine the choices you have in the future.

“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” 
James 2:26 (NIV) 

How significant is this verse in James to you? The comparison he makes with our body and spirit really stresses and warns us how vital–no–how much of a life or death sentence it is to put action to our faith.

For Christians, Jesus demands this unrestrained, adventurous spirit in placing our trust in Him. In the spiritual realm, Jesus demands that you risk everything you hold on to or believe through common sense, and leap based on faith in Him alone. This is scary for beings that are so consumed, mesmerized and enslaved by the common sense of this world. The notion that we must leap without knowing where we will land according to our own experiences and 5 senses cripples us with fear. Let me tell you, from experiences past and those to come, once you obey you will immediately find that what He says is as solidly consistent as common sense.

On the basis of our senses, what Jesus requires of you might seem mad. Again and again you will come right up to what Jesus wants, but every time you will turn back at the true point of testing, until you are determined to abandon yourself in total surrender. Whenever that time comes, take the leap. What you will find on the other side will fill your spirit with the amazing truth that you acted on the words of God.

Trust in Him, trust in His timing or simply make the determination to trust. Take that step you know you should take but are perhaps too afraid to based on what YOU think might happen. God meets us in those moments of doubt and lifts us up on eagle’s wings and carries us into His invincible future… a future that is brighter than any of us could ever imagine.
Two Boys Diving off Dock into Lake

Embrace rejection

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There is a problem that comes with perfection on earth in the inability of everyone here to accept things that are in fact good. And you might say, “well what is good for one person may not be good for another person.” While this hypothetical may be valid due to it’s ambiguity, there are in fact things that are unequivocally good for all people. The bible talks about fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

What is important to note is the inability (especially among the teachers of the law) that people had in accepting Jesus’ teachings when he was here on earth. In fact, He had a lot of resistance, even though there could be no one person and no plan more perfect. The reality is that even the most perfect plans meet resistance and ultimately rejection.

And this is with a perfect plan! How about plans that are not so perfect?  We need to carry over the same principle and be prepared for that. If there is one quality that the most effectual people on earth have had, it is their indifference to rejection. These people realized that failure was not real, but in everything here on earth, there is an effect. In every result that one person may consider to be a failure, the most successful people would consider it a victory as a lesson learned. I, myself, need to learn that my plans can not be perfect, but even if they were, they would face rejection all the same.

I’m a perfectionist and I like for everything that I do to yield the most results. The problem with that is the fear that doing something will yield minimal results. But I’m coming to realize that results of any kind are beneficial; in fact, monumental success stories are made up of smaller milestones. I’ve come to realize that even the best plans face rejection, as there are certain people who can comprehend your plan and others who will resist with all their effort.

I plan to embrace rejection. Many people already know me as someone who isn’t affected by rejection in my ability to continue pressing forward without a change in attitude. The problem is that unless I feel compelled to do so, I will avoid a circumstance in which I feel I am likely to face rejection. I need to alter this behavior dramatically so that this fear does not limit the plan God has for my life. I have decided to make a new goal for myself that will have a new focus on doing more things in which I expect rejection, without compromising. I  will tackle these things with an open heart and open mind as if I expect them to happen, and allow God to surprise me when the odds were against me. Overall, I plan to plan less, and do more. I will embrace the rejection of my plans and appreciate the results of my labor, so that when I execute plans that God puts on my heart, that execution is not hindered by the fear of rejection.

Prepare for blessings- 40 day Challenge

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There is a new season ahead of us- a season of preparation for increased blessings.

Many of us Christians are at different places in our spiritual walk. Some of us may still have many questions and, yes, even moments of doubt. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t normal. How can we not find ourselves in these moments when the world is constantly trying to set limits and tell people what should and shouldn’t be possible? No matter where we are in our walk, let’s be encouraged to stretch further into our faith, and into prayer to ask God to demonstrate to us again, as He has before, that worldly limitations are broken easily with Christ.

We hold God to his promises. Matthew 9:16 and 17 talks about how a person does not pour new wine into old wine-skins because the skins will break based on their inability to stretch.  The old wine-skins are our old bodies, and the wine is Jesus’ spirit. In accepting Jesus into our lives, Jesus forgave us of our sins, and gave us new lives. As a result, our new bodies are stretching with His spirit inside of us. On the flip side, we can be comforted as we hold this as a promise that Jesus said himself! In giving up our lives for Christ, He is going to give us His spirit, and if He’s going to do that, He will also give us new lives, He will heal us of our past, and He will give us new bodies. Jesus’ spirit will stretch our new bodies. We just have to let it happen.

I recently found myself in a place in my spiritual walk where I began to become complacent. I stretched significantly in my initial growth past points of obvious fear that was like shackles to my spiritual growth, and found myself in an area of more open space. And, to reiterate one of my past posts, I had no idea what to do next. I was becoming too comfortable and it led to some incredibly difficult spiritual attacks.

Our discomfort is like the trick cooks use to boil a frog in water. The technique is so subtle, the frog never even realized it was cooked to death. One discomfort may be waking up early, and so this slight bother may direct a person’s life in one direction. The next may be an array of things that one would rather put off for later. And so these slight discomforts end up directing our lives from one direction into the next. Instead, we should befriend our discomforts and break them down so that we direct our own lives and enable ourselves to go in whatever direction God is calling us.

God wants us to be blessed, especially so that we can bless others; but how is he going to bless us if we can’t even handle what is already on our plates?  We need to demonstrate that our discomforts are trivial by embracing those activities, and getting to the point that we glorify God in all we do. Once we clear our plates, God will definitely give us more to handle. He will bless us and enable us to pour blessings on those who need it most.

The Challenge- Do all the things you know you need to do but don’t want to for at least 40 days. Repeat, once completed. 

When to Start: Start at your most inconvenient moment. Start now if doing so would be a burden to you, and prepare for increased blessings.

Initiation: Wake up early- 5 AM if possible. Get some friends to join you. Prepare together or on your own, and then get together to officially start your 40 days of preparation by waking up to watch the sunrise at the best spot you can find, ending with a bible study and breakfast.

Continuation: Work out in the morning. We are the body of Christ and we need to be healthy. Working out first thing in the morning will break your sleep schedule, and enable you to wake up earlier without feeling so tired. You’ll also feel tired earlier.

Planigation (I like to make up words): Make a strict plan. Come on, Jesus fasted for 40 days. We can at least take care of all our responsibilities for that same time period!

Emmediation: Do all the things you know you need to do immediately. If it’s not reasonable to do it then, write all these things down and make sure you get to all of them, especially the most uncomfortable on the list.

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only to whom it has been given…. The one who can accept this should accept it” (Mat 19:11,12). Jesus was referring specifically to a marital relationship depending on your calling from God, but it also refers to sacrifices in general.

Imagine that you are Simon and you see Jesus walking by, carrying His cross. What would you do?  Would you watch Him walk by, and chalk it up to blessings in that you didn’t have to carry Jesus’ cross?  We see Jesus carrying his cross daily, and what do we do for him?

34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Carry your cross; handle what is before you; and receive God’s blessings.

Attack your discomforts- Next steps

Even subtle discomforts are like walls in a canyon.  We may find ourselves confined to their direction unless we realize that we can learn to climb over them and get a better vantage point.

Antelope_Canyon

This article details one technique to take charge of our spiritual walk and helps to prepare ourselves for the blessings God wants us to receive.

Months after first rededicating my life, I find myself continuing to learn what God truly wants for my life. I started by giving it all up.  All my weakness as well as all of my strengths- I gave it all to God.  And I found new strengths to overcome things that used to have complete control over my life. In fact, there is no doubt that God has made me stronger than I’ve ever been over my past weaknesses. And yet, I didn’t and couldn’t possibly earn my righteousness, but right standing was given to me by His grace, and His grace alone. Jesus said, “…go and learn what this means, I desire mercy, not sacrifice (Mat 9:13).The first step is to get up, and GO! Seek after him! “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

Initially, God’s spirit was obvious to me.  I was able to discern what He wanted by overwhelming discomfort, and doing just what my discomfort was trying to hinder me from doing. For instance, I wanted to say something spiritual in a crowd and the devil tried hindering my growth through fear. After realizing that and breaking free, God’s spirit in me was able to grow past that point in my life and into new territory- a territory that is free and not so obviously bound by fear. And now, as I’ve settled into this new territory, the next step was not so immediately clear.

The next step forward is counter-intuitive- deceptive in other words, as the devil takes any opportunity to hinder our spiritual growth. As followers of Christ, we believe that God wants to bless us, and He does. The question is what sort of blessings are we after? Do we want more spiritual responsibility or is our idea of blessings the ability to lounge around and play Smash Brothers all day? In other words, are we consoling ourselves through comfort or are we breaking free areas of our discomfort? In fact, the bible is very clear on this issue in regards to taking up our cross as well as throughout the book of 1 Peter.  A good question to ask is always, “How am I not bringing glory to God?” If by being lazy, we are chastised at work or at home, we allow the devil to provoke us as well as forego the blessings that would follow from otherwise being self-disciplined. The next question is “I know what I want to do, but what do I need to do?”

God blesses us based on our ability to handle those blessings. “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Matthew 13:12). This is because of our ability or inability to handle what is before us.

So what is generally on our plates? We have both things that bring us comfort as well as things that are just not fun at all and are in fact uncomfortable. Do we think that by sitting around and watching movies all day that God will bless us?  How would we be able to handle further blessings if we can’t even handle what we have? Become a person who takes care of the many things that you would rather not do, and God will give you much more.

This is not just about blessings but about spiritual growth. Grow!!! Seek after your discomforts and annihilate them. Discomforts can be walls in a canyon. They can dictate where you go if you’re not willing to stand up and climb over them; however, when you do, you’ll have a much better vantage point to determine the best possible course of action. Do not let your discomforts dictate the decisions and direction that you take in your life. Break free from the bonds of significant and even subtle discomfort, and grow to see God’s plan for your life more clearly.

grand-canyon-np

 

Pride and my error

The following article explains how I almost lost my job by sticking my neck out for a person who in hindsight, wasn’t ready for that sort of sacrifice.  Jesus said to give to those who ask, but the key component there is someone who is willing to humble themselves enough to ask and receive. Not everyone is ready to receive God’s blessings.

guillotine

Jose worked at my parents dealership for about a year when one day he just didn’t show up. Since then, we’ve hired a few replacements who have ended up not performing well. We needed a good car washer and I felt we should give Jose a second chance.

So my dad called Jose to come, and he did. He worked one night on a specific car, and spoke to my mom that night, apparently then realizing that she would not forgive him for disappearing so easily. And again, he just didn’t show up the next day.

I’ve always got along with Jose, in fact, I never understood when people talked about his insubordination because he always did the things that I asked of him. We had a better relationship than the rest. So when he didn’t come back the next day, I wanted to encourage him to stick around. I figured he was going through some stuff.

Jose doesn’t have a car or a phone, but a few people here at the dealership decided that I should go pick him up. His dad was furious that he didn’t show up to work, but I got his address and went to his house to encourage him to come back. When I arrived, Jose was both defeated and yet prideful. It was a weird combination. He spoke of having work at a carwash that was unstable at best. I told him not to get in his own way, that if he got fired one day, to let that happen but not to cut himself short because of worries for the future. Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” It took a lot of encouragement, but he finally decided to put his pride aside, saying that the only reason he would come back was for me. This gave me a sense of responsibility where his job with us was concerned. Before we left his house, I told my dad that I was going to pick up Jose and bring him to work, to which he consented.

I felt that we needed to be there for him as an organization. In our discussions, he had mentioned that he was a believer, and I felt that it was our job as fellow believers to look after one another, if anyone at all.  If a sheep herder loses a sheep, Matthew 18:13 “And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.”

So we arrived and Jose got to work. I then entered the office and spoke to my mom saying that I think we should give Jose a chance. She sternly disagreed, saying that she prayed to God specifically in regards to Jose and basically to give her a sign. The fact that he didn’t show up that day was a significant sign to her; but, I held on to my understanding of the love that Jesus shows to people and the fact that Jesus came for people who need him most of all. According to Luke 5:32  “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” I wanted to be there for him,  and I felt that God put this so much on my heart that I was ready to tell my mom, “If you fire him, you’re firing me.” The problem to this tactic was that I was putting myself on the line for someone who wasn’t willing to do the same. The critical part to that verse is “those who know they… need.

Just before I put my job on the line for Jose, I came to find out that in knowing of my mother’s uncertainty towards him, he asked my father to pay him for the day and left. I realized something significant in that moment.

Jesus forgave people of their sins and cleansed their bodies of diseases, but he did not do so for everyone. Jesus showed everyone love, but forgave and cleansed people who expressed their belief in him, and who put their pride aside to ask for cleansing. These people demonstrated their faith by submitting themselves to him.

Not everyone is ready for that. Some people suffer because of their own pride. Their own ego gets in the way of the blessings that God has in store for them.

1 Peter 5:5-7 “…All of you, clothe your-selves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Do not take matters into your own hands, but leave them up to God so that he “may lift you up in due time.”

Luke 14:10 “But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place….’ “

Not everyone is ready to receive God’s blessings. In Jose’s case, if he was ready to let go of his pride, I would have stuck my neck out for him; but, he just wasn’t ready.

Lust and submitting to sin

This is an analysis of the second devotion I had after rededicating my life, repurposed for this blog. It includes the reflection and prayer that I wrote out on paper to provide insight into the prayer of a christian for any non-believers out there who are interested.  This devotion’s prayer was simple as I was young in the spirit. My prayers have grown stronger and more intimate even over these last few months.  My spiritual growth has been sustained by the word of God, a men’s bible study that I began to attend, as well as some phenomenal worship at Cottonwood Church’s Young Adult Minities- Incite

1 John 1:5-6 God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by truth.

1 John 2:3  We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not obey his commands is a liar and the truth is not in him. Buy if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. 

Written sometime in late January-

Reflection

1 John 1:5 I need to wake up in the morning- no more late nights- as soon as the sun comes out or even as the sun is beginning to come out. This marks the time God wants me to be awake. And it’s true; as the light begins to fade, sin begins to rise. Drinking increases, as well as all sorts of other fleshly activity that potentially would weaken my walk with God through shame, and other effects. This obviously is talking about more than just focussing on activities during certain times of day, but time of day is applicable as well. Furthermore, “There is no darkness in him at all” means that as I sin, I am separated from God. I can not be in fellowship with God if I continue to sin. But how can this be true if we all sin?  There is a clear distinction between submitting to sin and submitting to God.

When a person submits to sin, they believe that their actions are a natural part of their life and they should do nothing to change their own behavior, and especially not their thoughts. In contrast, Jesus’ word was, in fact, aiming to change us at the very thought level of our behavior, far before the actions themselves.

Jesus’ words: Mathew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Those who submit to God will not only seek to control their behavior, but their thoughts as well. As opposed to just treading along technical terminology, “well, technically I didn’t have an affair, or the more secretive (guy code) but now common” I had an affair with my wife.. high-five” Jesus wanted us not to even look at other women in such a way- to control the thought before it is developed, to look the other way, and to master that behavior, and mentality.

“But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.  This is how we know we are in him.”

A person who submits to sin would say, “What!? This is only natural. I can’t help it.” and would continue to do so behind his wife’s back and often even in front of her. Christians mess up with this as well, but the difference is that a person who is truly alive in the spirit will control his own thoughts, and is willing to change his behavior to stop lust before it even starts, or to keep it from taking over.

Still don’t agree? Let’s work this out together. Should we allow every impulse we have to dictate the actions we take throughout our lives? Should a man who is married be allowed to and encouraged to lust after other women with the justification that, well, it’s only natural? After all, he can’t help having those feelings for other women, even though he’s married. It’s his chemistry. Well, Jesus said it clearly, and with such a high divorce rate, our society is riddled with countless examples of why impulsive desires should not govern our lives.

Prayer

“Dear Lord, I pray that you may allow me to live in your light, both physically and in regards to behavior. I pray that I may continue this pursue after a relationship with you, by removing sin from my life so that I may fully and truly experience your love the way I was meant to experience it. I know that I have at one point, when I was a child, but it’s been a long time and I seek that from you now Lord. “