Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pure Joy

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3, NIV)

The bible says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2-3, NIV)

What is pure joy?

Webster's Dictionary defines joy as: "a feeling of great happiness".

The Greek word for joy is, chara (khar-ah'), from chairo (khar'ee-ro); meaning cheerfulness, i.e., calm delight: ----gladness, joy (-ful).

The bible also says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy...” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV)

Joy is not something we manufacture, it not a feeling; it is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit which enables the believer to face the disappointments, adversities, and failures of life without becoming discouraged.

Although pure joy can be revealed when all is good in one’s life, more often than not, the demonstration of pure joy occurs when the believer faces trials. A person may smile in church on Sunday, but the minute they exit the door, there is despair. But the believer who experiences the fruitful joy of the Spirit, does not despair, they have hope, encouragement and the awareness that what they face is simply an opportunity for our Heavenly Father to demonstrate that He alone is God.

What’s the secret to experiencing pure joy?

Trusting in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and being filled with the Spirit of God.

Think back to a memorable event in your life (like a surprise birthday party). Moments like that filled me with a sense of gladness; I was delighted because I felt special. I believe this is what happens in the spirit realm; we are honored to receive the privilege of God’s intervening grace in our life. Realizing that truth delights me with gladness; I have a joy which is unspeakable. I am calm because I have nothing to fear or worry about. God has taken ownership of my life, and for that I can be glad.

I remember reading about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and when he came to Peter, he (Peter)told Jesus not to wash his feet. When Jesus told him that if He didn’t do it, Peter would have no place with Him, Peter replied to give him a bath!

I believe when we face the trials of life, we must bath our feet in the joy of the Lord. We don’t need a bath. The realization of God’s Spirit living in us, the truth of His love and grace for us, showers our life with joy. If you’re going through a trial right now, and feeling discouraged, take a moment to be bathed in the pure joy of the Lord.

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, June 13, 2014

Tell Jesus (reprinted from August 1, 2010)


The woman with an issue of blood, Luke 8:43-48, NIV

This blog post is a reprint from August 1, 2010 which has some revisions
I must tell Jesus
All of my trials
I cannot bear these burdens alone
In my distress
He kindly will help me
He ever cares and loves His own

We live in an age of ever-evolving technology. Twenty years ago a portable computer was cumbersome; today you can hold one in the palm of your hand. There was a commercial many years ago which said, “You’ve come a long way baby, to get where you’ve got to today.” Still, there are some things which have not advanced in a way that makes us a little more comfortable.

Try calling a business (any business), and see if you get to talk with a human. In most cases, you'll get an automated voice response indicating someone will speak with you shortly. You may actually be given a wait time. The problem with this approach is that for me, when I call someone, I prefer to talk with someone. There are also those instances when I call and talk with a human voice that provides me with absolutely no assistance. "I'm sorry, I can't help you with that, is there anything else I can do for you?" Ever have one of those experiences when just at the moment you're ready to speak with someone, your cellphone battery dies or the call signal mysteriously drops?Businessman frustrated with waiting on phone

There are those times in life when wanting to talk with someone isn’t something I'd like to do...talking specifically with someone is imperative!

Call Center, Image courtesy of exodon.com
All of our lines are busy. Please wait, someone will speak with you shortly.

We’ve achieved so many advances in technology, medicine and science; yet we still struggle in the art of communication.

It’s reassuring to know that with Jesus, we have no intermediary, answering machine, call forwarding, call waiting, no queue or wait time to speak with someone working the heavenly call center help desk. There are no layers of protocol with Jesus, no buffers, no executive assistant who runs interference for Him; it’s just Jesus and you.

Before there were cellphones, text messaging, autos, hybrids, airplanes and even mail, when a person needed to communicate with someone, they usually had to go see them!

The bible tells us of a woman with a medical condition which Luke referred to as an incurable hemorrhage. This woman was afflicted with this condition for twelve years. Time and again she sought medical help but found none. I’m certain that after twelve years she not only sought alternative remedies but no doubt tried anything that was suggested. You must understand that people were not as enlightened as we are today; there were no psychic hot lines or infomercials promising a quick and speedy remedy.

And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse.1

This woman was at the end of her rope. I've never experienced hemorrhaging, but I know what if feels like to be at the end of my rope. It's a feeling of utter confusion, despair, hopelessness and loneliness.

Perhaps, thoughts of dying with dignity may have crossed this woman's mind but she wasn’t ready to give up hope.

You have to be persistent when everywhere you turn folks are shaking their head in pity, sorrow and sadness because of you. You know things are really bad when people begin avoiding you. You begin feeling like one of those discarded sponge mops in favor of a high-tech Swiffer.

…after hearing about Jesus…2

This woman who understood how hopeless her situation was, heard about Jesus and the miracles of healing he performed for the sick, tormented and dead. She didn’t know Jesus, she couldn’t be certain that He would even see her with so many others crying for His help and attention. Everywhere He went, there were throngs of people crowded around Him.

How would she ever get an opportunity to stand before Him and ask for His help?

But she desperately needed His help and then she got a thought that excited her,

“For she thought, ‘If I just touch His garments, I shall get well.’”3

It was this thought, birthing in her mind that inspired her to make her way through the crowd of people and receive her healing.

Have you ever seen someone talking to themself? Perhaps you’ve even done it!

I know I’ve done it before. Asking myself, Where did I leave my keys?

I wasn't there, but I imagine that what started as a thought in this woman’s mind became an expression of words as she made her way closer and closer to Jesus. If I can just touch….I only want to touch His garment….If He is who they say He is, then He has the power to save me, heal me without me saying a word…If I can just touch.

That's what desperation can do...move us from the place of logical thinking to the realm of spiritual awakening and hope.

Woman touches Jesus, Courtesy of christianodyssey.com

“…for she was saying to herself, ‘If I only touch His garment, I shall get well.’”4

We all know when we don’t look or feel our best; it affects our self-esteem. Maybe this woman was ashamed of her appearance, I don’t know. After twelve long years of searching for a cure, she had no money; she had gone "all in" searching for a cure and lost. Perhaps her appearance made others feel uncomfortable. Perhaps she covered her face in shame. Perhaps to be less noticeable, she crawled on her hands and knees as she neared closer and closer toward Jesus.

It's a blessing to come to Jesus and feel the absence of shame!

The bible says she came up behind Jesus, extended her hand forward and touched His garment:

…came up behind Him, and touched the fringe of His cloak; and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.5

I believe that in order to touch the fringe of His cloak, she had to be parallel with the ground. This woman humbled herself to the point of believing that she could be healed just by touching the fringe of the cloak Jesus wore. It was then that Jesus called out for the person of faith who touched Him.

But Jesus said,Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.’”6

Some of us think that when we receive a blessing, we can go back and quietly live our lives being unnoticed. I believe that’s what this woman thought. That she wouldn’t need to tell Jesus that she believed and was healed. Somehow, she must have understood that if she could be healed by just touching the fringe of the cloak Jesus wore; then He was more than just a man.

I believe she understood that if Jesus recognized that power had gone out from Him, then He also must know where that power went and who benefited from it.

Now, I believe God is The Great Divine Healer, but I also believe that God is sovereign. The fact that this woman was healed solely rest in God's divine plan. God used the hem of the garment Jesus was wearing to heal this woman, but in other instances there was another point of contact. The point I'm trying to make isn't that I will be healed, but that my life rest solely in the hands of Almighty God. I must trust in Christ, no matter the outcome. He must be the Son of God!

And when the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed.7

We go through the daily routines of life and somehow we miss out on the opportunity God gives us. We won’t humbly extend ourselves and touch Jesus. For whatever reason we feel unworthy, useless and unwanted but still, we crave to be healed, saved and changed.

We want it, need it but is the desire urgent enough for you to go receive it? Have you ever experienced the power of Jesus Christ? What happened when His power went out from Him and into you? I don't know about you but I had to confess that He saved me from a life of drugs and violence; I couldn't keep it to myself. When people remark, There's something different about you...I have to tell them about Jesus and His miraculous power to resurrect my dead life; giving me eternal hope.

Will you declare the reason why you’ve come to Jesus? You've tried so many other ways, with no answer or resolution. It may seem as if it's time to give up but you cling to that same desperate hope for relief from your burden and trials. Jesus isn’t standing in a crowd today. No matter where you are right now, He’s there with you; waiting to hear what you have to say.

Tell Jesus…about the burden in your life

Tell Jesus…about your family

Tell Jesus…about your children

Tell Jesus…about your spouse

Tell Jesus…about your father

Tell Jesus…about your mother

Tell Jesus…about your sister

Tell Jesus…about your brother

Tell Jesus…about your neighbor

Tell Jesus…about your job

Tell Jesus…about your health

Tell Jesus…about you

Tell Jesus and be like this woman; have the faith to believe that Jesus will resurrect life into whatever it is in your life that appears hopelessly dead. Be assured that no matter what, you live in Christ and Christ lives in you!

MTJ

Lord Jesus, I humbly bow myself before you. I recognize that you are God, Lord and Savior of my life. I need you Lord and I cry out with every part of me and ask you to take my life and clean up the tattered remains of a wounded spirit. I will not remain silent Lord Jesus. I will declare that you are Lord and Savior. Thank you Lord Jesus. I exalt and praise your name.

Footnotes:
  1. Mark 5:25-26, NASB
  2. Mark 5:27, NASB
  3. Mark 5:28, NASB
  4. Matthew 9:21, NASB
  5. Luke 8:44, NASB
  6. Luke 8:46, NASB
  7. Luke 8:47, NASB
References:
  1. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  2. I Must Tell Jesus, Lyrics from the song sung by Crystal Lewis
  3. Image of frustrated businessman waiting on telephone, Courtesy of shutterstock.com
  4. Image of Call Center, Courtesy of exodon.com
  5. Image of Woman touching Jesus from christianodyssey.com


A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Friday, May 30, 2014

Hostage No More (Part 2)


Unforgiveness makes me a spiritual hostage

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.1

As he hung there on the cross, Jesus revealed his ability to understand, that human thought is incapable of knowing how to do what is right without guidance from God. Only God has that ability to comprehend that our failure to know what is right also means that we often don’t know what we’re doing. I realize that although I’m not God, I tend to act like a little god when it comes to forgiving others. I hold on to those past hurts, offenses and grudges.

Why?

In my former way of thinking, I believed a person (or persons) needed to be punished for what they said or did to me. I took things personally, very personally! I wanted vengeance, I wanted to return the hurt and I wanted to know you were being punished severely. Although I’m incapable of elevating myself to the level of deity, I am quite skilled in devaluing others so that they received (what I thought was their just) punishment. The only way that happened was by making myself a spiritual hostage to unforgiveness. I’ve blindly witnessed (the consistency of) how this unforgiveness scenario played out in my life:
  1. I charged someone with an offense
  2. I prosecuted the offender
  3. I sentenced the offender
  4. I punished the offender
Whether you’re passive aggressive or openly hostile, I believe unforgiveness follows this road which leads to becoming a spiritual hostage. Going down this road has taught me that I will encounter the same (predictable) results. If I don’t want to be a spiritual hostage, then I had to stop following these steps. I needed a new understanding of biblical forgiveness.

The way of forgiveness (Hostage No More):

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.2

God then, doesn’t ask me to forgive, He commands me to forgive! I am compelled to obey God if my desire is to please Him in my life because:

…to obey is better than sacrifice…3

I believe in order to be a spiritual hostage no more; I must choose to say the words: I forgive you, when someone offends me. I may not believe this at first, I may even want to repeat that judicial process I’ve gone through in the past and revert to being a spiritual hostage. But by speaking the words of forgiveness, I discovered the truth of forgiving:

I no longer place more value on the offense than the person who offended me.

I choose to forgive by losing (letting go and forgetting) the memory of the offense; I can no longer recall it.

How do I let go and forget?

Stop replaying the experience over and over again in my mind by forgetting it.

Speak the words of forgiveness and be a hostage no more.

If you are harboring hurts, memories and pain from others, you need to free yourself and those who hurt you. I remember a comedy skit by The Three Stooges called, Niagara Falls. In this skit, every time the phrase Niagara Falls was mentioned, the character would become enraged; beating poor Curly until he regained his composure. It’s the same for the spiritual hostage of unforgiveness. The memory of the experience is a continuous loop, replaying in our mind again and again; keeping us a spiritual hostage. People say, “I can forgive, but I will never forget”, and think that they have done everything God requires. I do not believe this to be complete because:
  1. I was unwilling to devalue what happened and therefore unwilling to forget.
  2. I was unwilling to forget what happened and therefore I refused to honestly forgive.
  3. I was unwilling to forgive what happened so I condemned a person to my own personal form of punishment.
But when I look at biblical forgiveness, how God forgives me, I see just the opposite of what I choose to do as an unforgiving spiritual hostage:

God the Father looks at the cross where Jesus hung and died for my sin. This memory of His Son, is a reminder against any accusation of my redemption. The reality is that Christ saved me, washed away my sins. My sin isn’t a memory, it’s gone and forgotten! We tend to forget about things that we no longer value. I’m a creature of habit because I need to repeat the same things in order to remember it. When I come home, my keys are always put in the same place. What about my clothes, shoes, coat, gloves, important documents, wallet, tablet, or cellphone? A place for everything, and everything in its place. When I change my routine, and put something in a different place, what happens? I can’t find it!

Biblical forgetting, is no longer having a memory of something. When I eliminate a value to an offense, I will forget it happened.

As a condemned sinner, I had no hope of forgiveness without Jesus Christ. The bible says,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.4

There are particles in the air that cannot be seen without magnification. My life as a condemned sinner cannot be magnified to a visibility where it overshadows the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. At one time, I carried my sin and condemnation with me wherever I went. At Calvary, it was nailed on the cross with Jesus; swallowed up by his atonement. As the bible says,

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting…The sting of death is sin…But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.5

Paul writes in Hebrews:

This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.6

This scripture taken from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 31:33-34, illustrates the beauty of the grace of God. Where grace is given, sin is forgotten. The grace we receive from God must be extended to others by us.

Do you want to forgive?

Begin by giving grace and forgetting; then say, “I forgive you”.

It’s time to be a hostage no more!

MTJ

Footnotes:
  1. Luke 23:34, NIV
  2. Matthew 6:14, NIV
  3. 1 Samuel 15:22, NASB
  4. John 3:16, NIV
  5. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, NIV
  6. Hebrews 10:16-17, NIV
A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hostage No More (Part 1)


Are you being held hostage by unforgiveness?

During the past twelve months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from Croatia and Bosnia; people who shared their stories of what life was like in their country. What do you say to a person who lost a husband when neighbors stormed their home in the dark of night and shot him dead? I’ve never lived in a war-torn region, so I don’t know what it’s like to huddle in a bomb shelter. I don’t have a sister who was raped by soldiers. I’m reminded of the mass murders which occurred in Rwanda. Routine shootings that have become commonplace in urban cities like Chicago and Los Angeles.

Some face the sting of racism, bigotry, or hatred. Political philosophies differ causing people to say or do hurtful things. Religious behavior can dictate actions which bring shame upon the core values we claim to believe. Sometimes a hurt can't be caused in such a subtle way that it doesn't heal. We who cause hurts, move on past the rubble (while we are oblivious to the damage) much like a driver navigating around an accident they caused.

Experiencing pain caused by others leaves some of us with an emptiness and sadness. Some are left with feelings of resentment, bitterness, and anger. We face experiences in our lives that genuinely cause pain, sadness, and sorrow (to our self and others). What I’ve learned is that it’s not what I experience in my life that matters most. What matters most is how I respond, how I react, how I deal with my painful, uncomfortable, and troubling experiences.

Many years ago, I heard a speaker talk about forgiveness using Matthew 18:18 as his text:

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.1

The point of emphasis in his message is that when we fail to forgive, regardless of the offense, we bind that sin to our life as well. He shared some statistics about alcoholics being the children of alcoholics, and abusers having themselves been abused. It was very compelling to hear. The problem with hearing something compelling is that far too often, we identify it with someone else; not me, myself and I.

I believe that because of my unwillingness to forgive, I was held hostage by my own emotions of anger, ego, resentment, and my personal need for vengeance. Something which I’ve written about before on the subject of forgiveness is that I refuse to forgive because it doesn’t allow me to act as prosecutor, judge, and jury against someone who hurt me. The funny thing is that when I’ve hurt someone else, I have always determined that the evidence against me is inadmissible.

The scriptures which speak to my heart with resonance are:
  • For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.2
  • And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.3
This tells me that if I don’t forgive others who sin against me, or others I perceive to have sinned against me, I will not receive forgiveness from God; in essence, becoming a hostage to my own unwillingness to forgive. The thing about being a hostage is that the captors never allow the hostage to determine the terms of their release or time of being released.

Imagine being kidnapped and telling your abductor, “OK, I’ve had enough of this, I’m leaving!Well, that’s exactly what Jesus is saying we get to do in the area of forgiveness; we have a choice! I can choose to hold on to unforgiveness, or I can choose to forgive.

The way of unforgiveness (Being a Hostage):

I was abandoned by my father, that why I am this way. It’s all his fault.

I lived a terrible childhood, growing up on the streets. It’s society’s fault I’m this way.

I can’t stand to look at you! Every time I see your face, I see your father.

You’re just like your mother!

People may justify the reasons why they won’t forgive, but how does one find forgiveness from God when they refuse to forgive? Sometimes a hostage has no idea where they’re being held. Hands and feet are bound. Eyes are covered so they can’t see, and their mouth is gagged so they can’t cry out for help. In instances like that, a hostage experiences fear, panic and hopelessness. But the spiritual hostage is simply ignorant of the spiritual power they have within to set themselves free. The spiritual hostage of unforgiveness binds their own hands and feet. They refuse to see the need for forgiveness by covering their eyes with the blindness of their own sins. They remain silent to the words of Jesus who said:

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.4

They don’t hear the words of true freedom that sets them free from the bondage of unforgiveness. The words remain imprisoned inside their own attitude unforgiveness; they remain a hostage.

Next week, I hope to continue this topic on forgiveness. In the mean time, try to speak the words of forgiveness and be a hostage no more.

MTJ

Father God,

I've been hurt by others but my words and behavior caused injury as well. I've sought out those I've injured and when possible, I've acknowledged my sin and asked for forgiveness. I may not have been forgiven by everyone I've hurt but I am truly sorry for the trouble, sadness and pain I've caused. I ask you to hear my prayer of forgiveness. I no longer want to bind the pain of unforgiveness in my life, I no longer want to be a hostage, I no longer want to prosecute and punish anyone, I forgive them Father. I don't need them to say anything to appease me; they may never feel the need. In my heart, mind and spirit, I acknowledge that they don't know what they did. I'm not just praying for myself Father God, I plead for the release of those who've been hurt by others, hurt in the church, hurt by churchgoers, and hurt by those who do not recognize you, hurt by racism, bigotry, and hatred. Those hurt by religious persecution, political affiliation, class or gender, I speak the word of freedom in their life that they may emerge from the spiritual bondage which has held them hostage. Thank you Father for the power to heal our lives, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


Footnotes:
  1. Matthew 18:18, NIV
  2. Matthew 6:14-15, NIV
  3. Mark 11:26, NIV
  4. Luke 23:34, NIV
A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ending The Relationship


Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

It came quite unexpectedly to me. After all these years together, how could it be so easy to say it was over? She had been by my side through every frustrating moment, yet never offering one encouraging word of support. Not once did she console me with the words, “Don’t worry, the Lord will give you the grace needed to go on.

No, with her it was quite the opposite:
  1. What are you going to do?
  2. How did you allow this to happen?
  3. Why did this have to happen now?
  4. Didn't I tell you this would happen?
At least she was consistent!

Unfortunately, I could no longer accept her companionship. The conflict she created was overwhelming. I lost sleep, focus, and time just listening to her constant questions, second guessing, and complaining. Every time I hoped for a moment of silence and rest, she would squash those thoughts with the swift skill of a lion attacking a gazelle. She could get into my head the way no one else could. I remember lying in bed, afraid to face my tomorrow, wanting to have a moment of solitude. I prayed to God for help, knowing I was powerless on my own. As soon as my prayer ended, she chimed in with her questions. What? How? Why?...Didn't I?

I said nothing in response. I closed my eyes and I could still her voice as my mind drifted off into sleep. When I awoke the next morning, she was still talking. What was I going to do about her? Is this really a healthy relationship?

I turned to my bible and began reading 1 Peter 5:6-7, “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.

I read those verses again.

I was amazed when it suddenly dawned on me that she was silent!

All these years, I allowed her to permeate my thoughts. She literally sat on my shoulders like a huge weight, never allowing me any rest or peace. She questioned everything and caused me to doubt in the only one capable of helping me.

It was time to get rid of this burden, and I finally understood what to do about her.

As I sat there, I closed my eyes and said, “Thank You Lord!

Decision time finally arrived and I had to be honest with her and myself. It was time to tell her what I decided to do.

I can’t live like this anymore. I refuse to live like this! You’re not any good for me and I see now that I’ve clung to you as desperately as you’ve clung to me, but no more!

She said nothing as I continued to speak.

We started out together when I was so young, but I didn’t know just how wrong you were for me. You don’t really care about me, you never did! All you’ve ever wanted was for my life to be miserable. You took great pleasure in knowing which buttons to push, how to frustrate me, aggravate me, discourage me; but I’ve had enough!

She offered no argument, her voice remained silent.

The word of God says,Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you, so that’s just what I’m going to do. You and I are no longer a couple…Anxiety, I’m casting you on the Lord.

In that moment, I felt such peace and hope for my life. I would no longer allow myself to be consumed by anxiety. I would humble myself before God as I had never done before, trusting Him to exalt me in due time. I would no longer concern myself with the why, how or what questions which anxiety always quizzed me with. I would genuinely trust God with the outcome of any circumstance I face in life. I didn’t have the answers to how, what, or when, but it no longer mattered; my life is in God’s hands. That’s what He wanted for me, and I was finally committed to giving Him my life.

The look on her face said, “Are you sure this is what you really want to do?

I didn’t hesitate and wait for her to ask the question. My voice resonated with conviction as I spoke from the depths of my heart…

Anxiety, I’m ending the relationship, you and I are through!

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mother’s Day Reflections


Happy Mother's Day!

I don’t ask myself why she did it, I know the answer; the question has always been, how? It wasn’t easily recognizable back when I was a child, but looking back I always wonder how she did it! Every morning, she would get up early to take the bus to work, and then after logging eight hours, a part-time job at a local clothing store awaited her presence.

We males tend to take it for granted that things just occur by random chance, but women/mothers know that random chance occurrences are nothing more than wishful thinking. Women/mothers know in order for it to happen, someone has to do it; and mothers do it. They have that sense of sight that some call intuition, but what it boils down to is genuine love; a mother’s love.

I watched my mother. I was privileged to witness the mother of my children. I see my daughter’s, and the wives of my sons; all of them, women and mothers. Growing up, I never knew my father, but there was never a day I didn’t see my mother. Women take being a mother seriously. Unlike some men who do not honor the role of father, a woman who gives birth to a child without accepting the mantle of motherhood is an aberration.

I never heard my mother complain about me or my brothers; she just did the job. Whatever that job was, she was more than qualified. She never looked for time off, or took a sabbatical; she was a model of consistency. She embraced motherhood. When you’re a child, you want to be loved, encouraged and supported. As a child, life can get twisted, but at some point you get a glimpse of what it took to get you where you are in this present moment. It took some sacrifice, and that sacrifice didn’t begin with you. For men like me, it began with a mother.

God bless you if you have two parents who love you! I’ve never known that privilege, but it is something which I continue to believe is important. I love my sons and my daughters, but I know that I could never have understood that without their mother. She enabled me to look back and see my mother, and my grandmother; how much they loved me and my brothers. They enabled me to look ahead to my sons and daughters, along with my grandchildren; how much I love each of them.

How do they do it?
  1. They do it by choosing to be a mother because they want their life to have meaning in the lives of their children.
  2. They do it from a desire to love; loving someone other than themselves.
  3. They do it because they don’t live with the belief that it’s someone else’s responsibility.
They do it because they understand what it means to be A Mother!

Sending a Happy Mother’s Day blessing to all mothers (especially those mothers I know and love)!!!

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Friday, May 2, 2014

Needing to Pray


Needing to Pray

I've been asking the Lord, "Give me words to say that encourage". I have several topics I could probably write about, but instead, I will offer this prayer. It is both personal and intercessory. If you are inclined, please join with me and pray as well. Leave a prayer in the comments, or leave a prayer request. Please know that our faith is in The I Am, The Eternal Almighty God. There was a time when I was ignorant and blind to him, but through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, my eyes see clearly now. He is Deliverer, Healer, Comforter, Forgiver, and words which can only describe the smallest aspect of His invisible attributes.

Lord God,

You who are high above the heavens, live within our hearts by the grace of your Holy Spirit. You see us, our lives, our struggles, our pain, and our sorrows; you are not ignorant to any aspect of of our life. You know everything about me, and yet you grace me with your eternal love. I want to ask you to hear this prayer, but Father, I already know you have. I am not wavering in my prayer, I am confident that in my spirit I may come boldly before the throne of grace and find mercy in the time of need; that time is now Lord God. You see what no other eyes can see. You hear what no other ears would listen to. You speak what no other mouth can say.

Look now on those who are sick and need a comforting word of healing. You are able to touch with a thought, word, your Spirit, your loving grace. I don't question Why Lord because I trust in your wisdom. I believe that you are perfecting the lives of your children in ways which are too far beyond comprehension for our limited understanding. You prepare us, strengthen our resolve, give us courage to hold on. When others turn and run, you say, "Stand". Not because we are towers of strength, but because you want to be mighty through us. You choose us for the tasks we face, not by accident, but by your divine purpose. You designed us to reflect you. So we pray Lord God asking you to stretch forth your hand, touch and heal this body overcome with disease, confirm to your child that your grace is sufficient for the task at hand. We will not be fearful, trembling that you are not I AM. We know you are able, but even if we must go through this trial, that burns with a consuming, intense fire, we will not yield our faith in your risen Son, Jesus Christ.

So many suffer from unemployment, yet somehow, your grace continues to flow. We awake by your grace to see another day. We don't know how to make it through, but somehow, you provide grace in our time of need. We need you Lord! Help us Lord to launch creative ideas that capture our passionate treasured thoughts. Inspire us to see doors which we never imagined would open. Some have talents beyond our current status, we are capable of doing so much more. Help us channel our energy and efforts in ways that bless and encourage others. We humble ourselves before you and declare that we are able to do what you say we can do. Do I fear success Lord? Is victory beyond my reach? Are the obstacles too difficult to overcome? No Lord! You have made us conquerors!! No Lord, you have made us more than conquerors through the blood of your Son, Jesus Christ!

Look on our families, our husband, wife, children, children's children, mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, and friend. Watch over their life with your loving hand of grace. Lead and guide them in ways I never could. Use me to love them as I ought, as I desire, as you would love them. Help me to be an example of Christ on earth, someone who overcomes evil with good, someone ready, willing and able to pick up my cross daily and carry it with an appreciation and joy that can only come from you. I know I cannot do this on my own, but by your grace, I can persevere. I may be worn and tattered, my life may not glimmer as gold, but there is a light which illuminates my life that is incomparable! It is the light of salvation, the light of hope, the light of Christ.

Watch over and protect the borders of our land from dangers and conflicts. There may be efforts to undermine and create fear and chaos, but I ask you to allow your peace to rule and abide. Guide our political leaders to serve as leaders, to govern not on the basis of political affiliation or favored status, but guide them to be courageous leaders that inspire each of us to be citizens honored to be filled with patriotism. Watch over the lives of those who serve in our military, law enforcement and judiciary. Help them serve not simply with pride, but with honor. Confound the actions and plans of criminals, who would do harm within our borders. Protect the lives of the innocent.

How can I pray with being thankful Lord? What is my prayer without thanksgiving? I'm not talking about a solitary day in November. You know that the appreciation in my heart for who you are, what you mean extends so far beyond the memory of one day. No Lord, I woke up today grateful for your love and grace, thankful for the truth of your word. So I will say, "Bless the name of the Lord, because he is holy, good, right, loving, truthful and gracious!" Thank you Lord God for hearing our prayer, in the name of your most holy Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Friend (Part 3)


Just like Jesus, a friend loves unconditionally!

In Part 1, I wrote about the trait of unselfishness; in order to be a friend I must be willing to give myself to others. In Part 2, I wrote about the trait of honesty; in order to be a friend I must be honest with others about myself. In this third and final part, I want to share what I believe is the third trait one must have to be a friend; I must be willing to love.

The word love can be and is interpreted to mean so many things to every one of us, but if we look in scripture we find one supreme example of love:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.1

In order to understand the depth of God’s love, we must acknowledge that He gave what no ordinary person would do; He gave His one and only Son.

God gave…period!

Love is really about my willingness to give. The mistake we humans make is in our effort to get something from others. We confuse getting with love in the belief that it will bring satisfaction, but getting only leads to an emptiness which must be further fueled by additional getting. Sadly, so many relationships have become stranded (much like a beached whale in the hot sun) because one or both people never truly understood the value of genuinely loving someone other than themselves. A friend never seeks to have the advantage in a relationship. A friend never has an attitude of getting something from a friend. That’s not what I would call friendship; words like self-serving, manipulator and deceptive readily come to my mind.

A friend loves in such a way that they are willing to give to another; it’s a conscious choice they’ve made.

Love really is about giving!

When you learn to give love, you realize it’s not about someone else living up to your expectations, because the truth is they cannot. In this life, every one of us have said things, done things that we regret (I know I have), but I’ve come to appreciate God’s love for me in spite of my personal failures. Discovering this truth has helped me to see the need to love others not on the basis of what they do, but on the basis of who they are. This change has freed me to love in a way I didn’t know was possible.

I remember having a discussion with a single mom about love and she contrasted the love for her child to the love for her ex-husband. I understood her to say that her husband failed in some way that prevented her from continuing with the marriage. I asked if her child ever disappointed her in some way that was unforgivable and she could not fathom an instance when no matter what the child did, there would ever come a time she could not love her child. Her answer made me wonder how the mother of a murderer, thief, or liar would respond. Some might say that it’s a maternal thing with women that enables them to love someone they’ve birthed into the world, but then, not all women exhibit that trait. Some mothers abuse their children, some even kill them. A mother must choose to love her child, she must choose to give love, no matter how much disappointment a child may cause in her life.

Can it be any different to choose to love someone I didn’t give birth to?

Adoptive parents are capable of loving a child which is not biologically related.

How?

They choose to love. They choose to give their life to another.

How does a husband love an unfaithful wife? How does a wife love an abusive husband? How do I love a friend who betrays me?

These are not questions which can be answered with a fortune cookie. There are hard questions which challenge the longevity of relationships and friendships. If I am going to be a friend, I must understand and accept that the durability of my love for others will face adversity, disappointment, and possibly regret. In the end, it will come down to what I choose.

Is this person worthy of my love? Am I willing to continue this friendship?

Please understand that I am not advocating anyone be a doormat. On the contrary, we all understand the need for boundaries. There are parameters which each of us accepts as part of any friendship; if they are not explicit, they should be implicitly understood. Friendship requires an open channel of honest communication between two people. Friendship requires a level of trust that demonstrates dependability and loyalty. Others may desert you, but not your friend.

A friend loves. They’ve made the choice to love you, just as God made the choice to love us; He gave….

Love gives!

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Footnote:
  1. John 3:16, NIV
References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He's Alive (Part 2)

He's Alive
Mary Magdalene sees the Lord, Jesus Christ

Introduction: This story is a fictional account of Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-11 and John 20:1-18. It is told through the eyes of Mary Magdalene, who along with three other women go to anoint the body of Jesus. For these women, this was an act of devotion and love. As a Christian, I realize that while Palm Sunday leads me to Calvary and the suffering, crucifixion and death of Jesus, Easter is the revelation of His glorious resurrection and the reality that He's Alive! This story now concludes with Part 2.

Part 2:
Slowly, Joanna and Mary awoke and dressed. Usually, they were quite talkative but this morning, none of us said anything worthy of discussion. Joanna always had something to say about Chusa and his work for Herod. Mary is a proud mother of both James and Mark, as is Salome, mother of two disciples of Jesus. Sometimes, we would laugh and joke as most women did, other times we would talk about family, but more often we would discuss what Jesus said and meant to each of us. This morning, we are all silent. We watched Jesus hanging for hours on that cross; finally, he uttered words I shall never forget:

It is finished.

The words haunt me, echoing in my mind, again and again. Why did he have to die? Perhaps, I didn’t understand His purpose. I remember him saying on the way to Jerusalem,

We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!

Salome interrupted my thoughts with a question:

Do we have enough sweet spices?

I think so,” answered Joanna.

Having gathered all the spice we could carry, we left the house and silently walked toward the tomb.

As we walked, Salome asked a question none of us previously considered,

What about the stone in front of the tomb? How will we move it?

Perhaps we can ask the soldiers or some of the disciples if they are there.

Why would any of the disciples be there Joanna when they all fled once they arrested Jesus?

I didn’t want to think about obstacles, moving stones, fearful disciples, acts of cowardice or anything else, I just wanted to anoint his body this one last time.

We will find someone to help,” I said.

Finally, we arrived, but to my surprise, the stone was rolled away from the tomb. I stood outside as Salome, Joanna and the other Mary walked inside the tomb.

Mary spoke first, “His body isn’t here!

I could hear Salome scream, “They’ve taken his body!

I ran from the tomb to tell the disciples.

Inside the tomb, the others saw two men, whose appearance illuminated with a brilliant light. The three of them bowed low to the ground as the two men spoke,

Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!

Salome wondered how it is possible to rise from the dead.

The three of them became so frightened that they fled to their homes.

I arrived to find Peter and John.

They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!

Immediately, Peter and John ran to the tomb; John arrived first to see the body was gone just as I said. John looked inside but would not go in. When Peter arrived, he walked inside the tomb, examining the strips of linen and the burial cloth which was used to cover the head of Jesus. John then entered the tomb but both he and Peter had a perplexed expression on their faces. Neither they nor I fully understood what took place. The two of them decided to go back home and left me at the entrance of the tomb crying.

I heard something inside the tomb and decided to take a look. There were two men sitting where I last saw the body of Jesus.

One of the men asked me, “Why are you crying?

They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.

Suddenly, I could feel the presence of someone behind me and as I turned, there was Jesus standing; but for some reason, I did not recognize him. He seemed familiar in a way that I cannot explain; hearing his voice brought comfort to me.

Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?

For some reason, it occurred to me that perhaps he was the gardener; if he was, I thought he would surely know.

Sir, if you have carried away the body of Jesus, please tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.

It occurred to me that I could not possibly retrieve the body of Jesus by myself. Who would I ask to help me return him to the tomb? As questions poured over my mind, the man spoke one simple word to me,

Mary.

Immediately, I knew whose voice it was that spoke. I turned and cried out,

Teacher!

I wanted to hold him and never let go. In that moment, I realized Jesus is alive, he is standing in front of me! As I extended my arms toward him, he spoke.

Do not hold on to me, I have not yet returned to my Father. Go to my brothers, tell them, I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.

The emotions I felt were overwhelming. Earlier, I felt great sadness and now, I experienced such tremendous joy. I ran with purpose to tell each of the disciples the good news; that I have seen the Lord, He’s Alive!

MTJ


A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, April 18, 2014

He's Alive (Part 1)

All week long I've been thinking about Jesus Christ. How triumphantly he rode into Jerusalem to the praise and applause of so many, and less than one week later he was hanging on a cross. I am reminded that every aspect of the events that unfolded were for my benefit. He was accused, for me, he was lied against for me, he was beaten for me, he carried the cross for me, he hung on the cross for me, he died on the cross for me, he rose from the dead for me, and he sits at the right hand of the Father for me. Thus is the meaning of Easter for me. This is a repost from a two-part series; Part 2 will be reposted on Easter Sunday. I do pray you are blessed on this Easter weekend.

Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene's encounter with Jesus Christ

Introduction: This story is a fictional account of Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-11 and John 20:1-18. It is told through the eyes of Mary Magdalene, who along with three other women go to anoint the body of Jesus. For these women, this was an act of devotion and love. As a Christian, I realize that while Palm Sunday leads me to Calvary and the suffering, crucifixion and death of Jesus, Easter is the revelation of His glorious resurrection and the reality that He Lives! This story will conclude next week with Part 2.

Part 1:
It was still early morning, the sun, yet to rise and signal a new day. I looked out the window and saw only darkness. I turned to see the women still asleep. There was Mary, the mother of James and Mark, Salome, the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John, and Joanna, the wife of Chusa, Herod’s steward.

We were all tired and exhausted from our sorrows as we watched Christ hang for hours on the cross. Our cries for a merciful end to his suffering went unanswered.

Why did one innocent man have to endure so much?

I felt a sense of relief when Joseph came and took his body from the cross. I watched as he wrapped Jesus in cloth and used all 75 pounds of spices he bought. The tomb where they laid his body was unused and would be a safe, secure place of rest for his body.

I thought back to the first time I met Jesus. People said that I was possessed with seven demons but thinking back, it seems such a distant memory now. I was so confused, my mind unable to focus on anything. I remember often hearing laughter as I passed by the faceless people on the street; the constant sound of voices in my head shouting for attention. I have no memory of my childhood, my mother or father; there was no one who valued my life. I now see how even in my misery, God was watching over my life. Though I did not know it at the time, God really has a purpose for me.

Jesus revealed my purpose to me!

Although I was tormented daily by these voices, I somehow managed to follow the crowd to hear Him speak that day. It was as if something was compelling me, so I moved closer and closer until I was standing before Jesus. I listened to Him speak, watched Him heal many, but the voices inside my mind sought to cry out against Him.

I felt this need to flee from His presence, but I couldn’t move. I was afraid, confused and awed as He looked upon me. It was as though He could see inside me; knowing my complete life and struggles, down to the smallest detail.

His voice spoke with authority as He called the demons out from me and finally, I was free; I vowed never to leave His presence. I joined the other women who accompanied Him, aiding to support Him and The Twelve from our own means.

I see you are awakened, Mary.

It was Salome’s voice speaking as she stood up stretching her arms upward. She gently moved to wake Joanna and the other Mary.

Come now, we must hurry to the tomb before the sun rises and prepare the Lord’s body…

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Friend (Part 2)


What A Friend We Have In Jesus - Aretha Franklin

Last week, I wrote about unselfishness being a characteristic trait of one who is a friend. We see this trait in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, and in our Heavenly Father. If we are to imitate Christ as Paul wrote:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…1

When I have the mind of Christ, it means that I can be unselfish. It also means that I can be honest. If I am to be honest, I must be transparent about myself. I must be willing to allow others to see and know who I really am. Sometimes, the challenge we face as Christians is conforming to perceptions of who others think we should be.

Being diagnosed with a serious medical condition can lead me down a path where I’m uncomfortable talking openly about my personal struggles. Many men and women have to face the reality of being let go by their employer after years of hard work. Some come to learn that getting that next job can be a difficult river to navigate. Parents may struggle with a son or daughter who is caught up in a lifestyle which includes the self-destructive use of drugs and or alcohol. Some are faced with the suicide, murder or death (from another cause) of a loved one. There may be the tendency to put on a happy face despite the underlying conflict within.

What will my friends and family think of me if they know I am struggling?

The truth is that even the ones we look up to as towers of faith and strength face doubts and reservations about life. Saying so doesn’t make me less faithful. Acknowledging that I need God’s grace is an honest expression of my faith. Affirming that God’s grace is sufficient for me is the assurance I need to face whatever struggles I experience in this life.

Being a friend means that I’m comfortable listening to the perspectives of others (about me), and knowing the difference between wisdom and criticism. It also means that I’m willing and comfortable with being accountable to my friends. When I’m not willing to be accountable, I’m really not being honest.

We can see the example of Christ being both honest and accountable to the Father:

The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.2

Being honest and accountable begins with my relationship with God, and extends in my relationships with those I know here on earth. I don’t question God’s love for me; I have many examples which demonstrate His love. But I know there have been instances when I questioned the love others claim to have for me. I realize now that what I was really questioning was my own ability to love; really love by freely being honest with them about my life.

I’m not inferring here that having the mind of Christ means that I’m a people pleaser. On the contrary, having the mind of Christ enables me to focus on pleasing God with the life I’ve been entrusted to live. That for me is the ideal way of being a friend to others. I want to be compassionate, caring and honest, so that others know they can count on me being the kind of friend who isn’t afraid to be honest. I also means that I'm sensitive and caring enough to know that sometimes, it’s better to listen rather than speak.

I’ve been guilty enough times to know than anyone can spout off a bunch of words which may be true, but lack compassion, and honesty so that they just ring out as hollow sounding piety. Those kinds of words never help, they cut wounds; deep, raw, and painful wounds which on some occasions, never quite heal properly.

If I am to be a friend, I must support my unselfish mind with the backbone of honesty.

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Footnotes:
  1. Philippians 2:5, NIV
  2. John 8:29, NIV
Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Friend


A Friend -- The Winans

A friend, a friend, a friend, a friend
Friend of mine and yours
Out of all the love in the world
No one could love you more

"I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts."1

"A friend loves at all times..."2

"...but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."3

"And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend."4


As I sit here today, listening to the chirping of birds, the sky is blue and the sun is shining, my thoughts looks to the one friend I know I can always count on…Jesus Christ.

Don’t get me wrong, I could not have lived this life of mine without friends, but time and distance often make friendship less of a priority; things get in the way of friendships with others. In spite of this obstacle, I’m trying to be a friend to those who know me. I’m learning from Christ what it means to be a friend.

I’m reminded of what Luke wrote in his gospel5 about an expert in the Judaic Law. The man came up to Jesus, asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Their conversation wasn’t so much about learning to do what is important, but an example of self-justification we humans so often are guilty of. Jesus asked the man,

What is written in the Law?...How do you read it?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.

The man’s response revealed that although he knew the letter of the law of God, the spirit of the law had not touched his heart. Jesus told the man,

You have answered correctly...Do this and you will live.

The man then asked, “And who is my neighbor?

We have neighbors of varying types, some good, others not so good. The good neighbors, we consider friends, others fall into another category. Jesus continued talking to this man by revealing the example of the Good Samaritan. In His conclusion, Jesus asked:

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?

The expert in the Law finally answered truthfully from his heart by saying,

The one who had mercy on him.

Jesus didn’t give a long legal explanation of the Law. He simply spoke to the man’s heart and revealed that for all of us, we have an example before us that enables us to follow a pattern which never fails. The beauty in the response of Jesus is revealed in four simple words:

Go and do likewise.

I realize that God would never ask me to be a friend to someone, if He never demonstrated His friendship to me. I don’t have to wonder, Who is my friend? I don’t need to discriminate, pick and choose, or compartmentalize people. It’s not up to others, it’s up to me to be a friend.

What does it mean to be a friend?

A Friend is Unselfish:
Jesus reveals the true example of friendship in the gospel of John:

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.6

Ask yourself these questions:
  1. Does God make time for me or is He always too busy?
  2. Is God honest with me even when I don’t want to hear the truth?
  3. Does God love me when I am my most unloving?
These questions cut right to the heart of being a friend because it forces me to look at how selfish I have been toward others. I could offer some plausible explanation as to the circumstances which precipitated my behavior, but the truth is I was a selfish person. I cared more about myself.

Being a friend means giving myself to others, and I don’t simply mean those who are kind to me; that part is very easy. The friendship I speak of is not an easy road to navigate. I’ve encountered some people who have said some of the cruelest, vile, hurtful words to me; some I even considered to be closer than mere friends. What I realize though is that my example of friendship did not instill in others what I truly desired from them; friendship.

Being a friend means being unselfish to others, making time for them; even when it is an inconvenience to me. Being a friend is being honest with others, not just being honest about them, but more importantly, being honest about myself. Being a friend means loving others when they do not share love towards me.

In the coming weeks, I hope to share more on this topic of friendship. I hope you will join me, by sharing your thoughts and experiences. Until then, be blessed.

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Footnotes:
  1. Psalm 119:63, NIV
  2. Proverbs 17:17, NIV
  3. Proverbs 18:24, NIV
  4. James 2:23, NIV
  5. Luke 10:25-37, NIV
  6. John 15:12-14, NIV
Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Friday, March 28, 2014

No Doubt


The risen Christ and Doubting Thomas

Last week, I was reading an article written by an American astrophysicist who spoke about the origin of the universe. “…you don't talk about the spherical earth with NASA and then say let's give equal time to the flat-earthers. Plus, science is not there for you to cherry pick. You know, I said this once and it's gotten a lot of Internet play, I said the good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it. I guess you can decide whether or not to believe in it, but that doesn't change the reality of an emergent scientific truth.

This has gotten a lot of attention in the scientific and Christian community because it reinforces the belief that God was not the creator Christians claim Him to be. As I read this interview, I realized that many people walk around thinking they know the truth, while calling into question the belief and faith of Christians. Some Christians feel the need to defend the scriptures, to exhibit outrage at those who speak out against the bible, but the truth is that no matter what anyone says, no matter what evidence people claim to have, it comes down to what you (or I) choose to believe. People can say that because I believe in the infallibility of the scriptures, that I’m as na├»ve and primitive as those who once thought the earth was flat, but that's cool with me because I have no doubt.

Faith in Christ is not (and never has been) rooted in what one sees. Faith is an affirmation that God is right, true, and just. It is an acknowledgement that I cannot rely upon myself for discerning truth, I must trust in God. You see, the Christian understands the difference between coincidence and grace. Grace isn’t simply having good fortune occur again and again in my life; it is the realization that in the toughest of times, God is with me.

It means I have no doubt!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

God’s grace is sufficient for whatever comes my way, even those who challenge my belief in the salvation of Christ. We humans all have egos, we all have some level of insecurity, and we exhibit selfishness, greed, lust, envy, hatred, malice; traits which reveal our true character. This is especially true when our views are opposed. We want to silence those who say, “I don’t agree”.

But God is not threatened by the opposition of humans. How could He be? What kind of God would He be if He exhibited the same flaws which are revealed in society?

We Christians believe that all creation is clouded by sin, that God sent Jesus Christ into this world to bear the punishment for all. God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ bore our sins on the cross, died, and subsequently rose from the dead. This gospel is the crux of our faith in Jesus Christ. It is an unshakeable faith because for the Christian, it is indisputable. It is also why we believe in the second coming of Christ and in our resurrection; to live eternally in God’s new creation.

Now I understand that to someone without faith, this sounds totally stupid. Paul understood this when he wrote about the resurrection:

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

That’s it in a nutshell! If there is no resurrection, then Christ Himself could not have rose from the dead. Meaning all scripture is of no value; it and our faith is useless. More than that, those who claim to be witnesses are liars.

My faith is of no value to me, leaving me in a state of sin. Some may argue, that if there is no resurrection and the witnesses are liars, how can I be in my sins?

Because of one irrefutable fact: all die!

Nothing claimed, argued, challenged or denied will alter that fact.

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,

I realize that during times when I faced doubts, when I was afraid, or I experienced anxiety, it was not the truth about Christ that I struggled with but my willingness to trust God’s grace. I didn’t understand that God’s grace is sufficient for me. I didn’t need some demonstration of His great power; I needed to trust in His grace.

But I didn’t believe it was enough, I had doubts!

It has taken me years to appreciate God’s patience with me to finally get it. I understand now that I never needed Him to prove who He is; I only needed to believe in His immeasurable grace being enough for my life. I will continue to face trials in my life just as I have in the past, health, career, home, marriage. I know what it means to suffer loss. I may yet find another trial which brings me pain, but I know that God’s grace is enough; more than enough. I am convinced that even if what I face brings death to my door, God’s grace is all I need.

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.

In this life, things are temporary. People make promises that they later break, countries go to war because someone fails to hold up their word. But God has promised to never leave you. Who else can say that?

When the going gets tough, it seems easier to just give up and quit. When have things ever been too tough for God?

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were willing to die rather than surrender their faith in God. There are things which will challenge your faith, but when you know what is indisputable, you understand that your life has always been in God’s hands; nothing can change that.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There is no doubt in my mind because,

He gives more grace.

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays