Separating Out

Mark 10:9 “Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.”

This is a verse that can get taken out of context, if it is used incorrectly. Remember, yesterday, Jesus was answering the question from the Pharisees about whether or nor it is legal for a man to divorce his wife. Jesus answered it was because of the people’s hardness of heart that Moses allowed divorces to happen.

This verse begins with a “Therefore.” Whenever we see a “therefore,” we have to ask what is that “therefore” there for? It is here because Jesus is continuing his answer to the Pharisee’s question.

We all have been through situations that make us want to separate ourselves and leave. In this context, Jesus is stating that God is the One who joins a man and a woman together, therefore what God has put together, man should not try to separate.

Why would this be a big deal? Let’s think about it. When God brings two people (or materials) together, He is stating there is a purpose behind the union. When God creates, He only makes good things. Therefore, when we separate what God has joined, or created, we end up saying we can do it better.

What are somethings (besides marriage) that God has joined together that would be bad to separate? How about our gifts and our vocations. Our personality and our character. Our faith from our thinking. It is when we combine these (and many other joinings) that we can experience and see fruit and positive growth when we use everything together. If we begin to separate (i.e. our mind from our faith), we begin to not see the big picture; and, become very one-sided.

Therefore, do not separate what God has joined together. God has great plans for you.

It Takes Time

Galatians 2:1 “Then after fourteen years I went up to Jerusalem again with Barnabas, and I took Titus along also.”

IMG_0050

Today I feel we should pause at this verse. There is something about this verse I believe speaks to our lives today and how we want things to happen quickly.

Here’s the basic timeline Paul has laid out from the end of chapter 1 to this verse today beginning chapter 2:

After Jesus revealed himself to Paul on the road to Damascus (and after the scales had been removed from his eyes), Paul went to Damascus and stayed there for three years. After this he went to Jerusalem for instruction with Peter for 15 days. Then he traveled to the churches of Syria and Cilicia, though they did not know him personally except by his former reputation. Now we get to today’s verse, “Then after fourteen years I went up to Jerusalem again with Barnabas, and I took Titus along also.”

Do you notice it? There is a span of at least 17 years described here of Paul’s life where he is learning, praying, discerning, teaching before he was really known and accepted as an apostle. It is easy for us to read this, and his story in the book of Acts, and not pay much attention to the amount of time and transformation took place in Paul’s life.

Remember Paul had all the education and credentials from his training in Judaism, but God wanted another form of training. God did not want Paul just to jump and, he gave Paul the gift of time in order to learn more about grace and about Jesus Christ.

In our instant gratification culture we live in today, how many of us like to wait for our goals? I don’t. I would rather my goals would be completed right away so I can move on to the next one. My guess is that you are like that too. But, what if we viewed the time it takes for the goals and dreams to be accomplished as a “gift?” Something else to think about, what if we looked at the time it took for us to realize our dream would not be accomplished as a “gift?”

Each day we have is a gift from God. When it takes awhile for a dream, goal, vision, etc. to be accomplished in our lives, God is giving us the chance to be different. God is allowing us time to be transformed into the creation he created us to be. God is working in our hearts so that we are stronger and have better character in the end. God is allowing us the time to appreciate what we have and what we are able to do. To focus on this goal so we can see the value in it.

Instead of multitasking or seeking immediate gratification, I invite you to see what you are doing and the time it is taking as a gift from God. Who knows what you’ll be able to do when it is all said and done; but you’ll have embraced the time to get it done right.

Paul would probably not have been so grace-filled, he may not have trusted the Lord like he did, he may not have been able to handle the prison time and the beatings he took if he did not take the time for God to change him and teach him.

Will you take this time this year?

#LiveFreeInChrist

Journaling In Our Prayer Life

IMG_2564
This prayer exercise is a great tool to use to remember to see how God is working in our lives, answering prayer, or guiding us through situations. This is not like a diary; but how God has been communicating to us.
INTENTION: To keep a record of communication with God.
THE EXERCISE:
  • Decide how you want to keep this journal. You may purchase a blank book or use loose-leaf paper held in a ringed notebook.
  • Decide how often you will make notations in your journal. You may want to record insights from other prayer practices or write your prayers in the journal or both. Some people even keep notes from their dreams in their journal. It’s a book that belongs to you and God. Do with it what feels best.
  • Begin by asking God to be present and alive in this journal-keeping experience.
  • To explore spiritual growth based on events in your life, write about a significant event or happening in your daily life.
    • How do you feel about that event?
    • Where was God at work in the event?
    • Where is God leading me now as a result of this event?
    • How do my feelings change as I view the event in the light of God’s love?
  • To notice how God is active in your life, review your journal at regular intervals.
    • What patterns or common themes do you notice?
    • How does God get your attention?
    • How has God answered your prayers?
    • Assess how your relationship with God is emerging.
  • Make notations about any common themes or patterns.
  • Close each journal session with a prayer of gratitude.

TIP: Even if you feel you are not a writer, give this exercise a try. This is a prayer exercise, not a writing exercise. No one but you has to see what you’ve written. Even if you share journal findings with a group, it matters little how you wrote what you discovered. Share it in your own words instead of reading it from the page.

~Taken from the book 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times by Teresa A. Blythe

Real Strength

One of the traits I have observed people attempting to show is being a “strong man” or “strong woman.” I believe it is important to be a strong person; however, it also seems that people may have somewhat of a wrong idea about what it means to be strong. These are some qualities that may provide some idea that show true strength (emotional, mental, social, etc). I invite you to study this list and see if something should be taken off or added.

A “strong man” or “strong woman” should:

  • be compassionate toward others
  • be able to listen
  • realize there are things we can learn from anyone
  • be able to learn from other people
  • not think anyone is beneath them
  • be the most loving person (without allowing others to “run over them”)

These are just some of the qualities and traits of strong people. What else would you add?

Many Blessings

So often in this life, we tend to focus solely on our own circumstances and situations. When we think others are getting things we want, or we feel we deserve, we can place ourselves into a dangerous mindset.

There is a reason the last commandment is “Do not desire your neighbor’s house. Do not desire and try to take your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox, donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17).

Always looking at what other people have and what we don’t have makes us lose focus of the many ways we are blessed. We have many more blessings than we realize, all we need to do is open our eyes and our hearts.

The first commandment is “You must have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2). Keeping this commandment means that we are trusting in the guidance of God and the ways God works through us. We can have so many “gods” in our life (TV, video games, computer, phone, friends, food, etc…), but none of these “gods” can ever be as personal and as life giving as Jesus Christ.

The truth is that Jesus Christ (God in human flesh) came to earth to live a life we couldn’t live and he died a gruesome death. Jesus knows how we are tempted, how other “gods” try to take control of our lives, but he still died for you and for me. 3 days later, he proved death and the world could not keep him down, so he rose from the dead (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 23, John 20). He rose to show the power he gives us through the Holy Spirit is enough to strengthen us and to show us we truly have everything we need in Christ and do not need to worry we do not have enough. You have been gifted with so much more than you may know. Seek to live a live of gratitude and you will find abundant peace and joy from the Creator of the Universe who perfectly created you.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
1) What are some things I am thankful for?
2) What will I do to not allow the other “gods” to control me?
3) Who can I help to remind them they are loved and adored by God?

20140604-162836-59316450.jpg

Worship…Take Time to Worship this Weekend

Psalm 122:1 says “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let’s go to the Lord’s house.'”

How is it to you to go to a place of worship? The only thing that matters is that when we go to worship, we pause what we’re doing and allow the Holy Spirit of God to fill us once again. We all have busy schedules and an almost never ending to-do list, but we can also be excited to be around with other imperfect people so together we can worship the One who created each of us.

The joy of worshipping as a community comes from support and realizing we all have struggles in life but we can still be there for each other. Sharing the love of Jesus Christ with those around us in a worship service helps us to visibly see God moving in and through us to work with God and fill other hearts with peace and joy.

Where ever you might be this weekend, I hope and pray you find a place to worship and praise God (whatever that looks like for you), so that we can be filled together and go out together to bring the Kingdom of God closer to those who need it most (the outside world….and us!).

If you do not have a place of worship, you are invited to get a group of friends together and worship with us online Saturday night from 6:00pm-6:30pm central standard time. The message is “Seeking & Knowing God’s Presence” and we’ll look at and explore Exodus chapter 33.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZnpdwYGbVY (may have to copy and paste link)

We do not worship for ourselves, but to give honor and glory to God, our Creator.
Psalm 115:1 “Not to us, Lord, not to us–no, but to your own name give glory because of your loyal love and faithfulness!”

May the peace and love of God fill your heart and strengthen you today and forever more. Amen.

104469662

Life Is Beautiful

All around me the birds were singing, the trees were dancing, people were having fun and worshipping; but me, I was feeling low for some reason.

I’m not sure why I felt like I was in a funk for almost 24 hours, but I was. We all have felt like nothing around us is good or we can’t really see the beauty around us. Now, if we stay in this state for a long period of time (ie weeks), then something may be unbalanced.

I began noticing that I couldn’t see the beauty and joy around me, so I called out to God. No answer. Even in worship, I did not feel like
worshipping. But I kept praying.

The Apostle Paul said to “pray always,” and not to worry or be anxious about anything. Jesus even taught about not worrying and relying on God.

Something happened later in the day. When I look back on it now, I can see that God placed the right people in my path and I in theirs. The gray on the world faded and colors appeared. Laughter and smiles were noticed and joy came back in my heart.

I have seen God continually show up and remind He is always here. If we’re not careful, we’ll miss Him in the people and nature around us. He loves it when His children pray and talk with Him and will surprise us in the way prayers are answered.

Now, the trees dancing bring a smile to my face again, listening to people is more heartfelt, and the joy of life is incredible. Praise be to God!

20140518-204212-74532118.jpg