Thursday, May 11, 2017

Walking With Isaiah

                
I wrote this about a week ago...

It’s midnight, and I can’t sleep.  Racing thoughts and shifting dreams of what will come invade my mind.  I know by now to expect this ebb and flow until 3 AM and still past that.  They say 3 AM is the ghosting hour where shadows show their form, but I know it’s just my overactive imagination on high alert again. It’s annoying how night after night I have the same thoughts tumbling around in my head.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out how to sleep.  I’ve taken sleeping pills, drank hot tea and have read boring books in an attempt to calm my mind, but nothing helps during these kinds of nights.

I counted sheep for the first time in my life tonight. I got to 33 little fluff balls jumping over an imaginary wooden fence before I found it too ridiculous to carry on. Because of my bipolar disorder, this is how my nights pass by half the time. I wonder if I should get out of bed, but I rarely do. Instead, I try to tire my mind by watching re-runs on Adult Swim. I know most of the episodes of Family Guy and American Dad, among others, by heart now. The channel shows the same episodes of each about 3 times a night. Last night’s episode of Family Guy was pretty disturbing, but the story itself was good. Stewie and Brian bonded in a bank vault through truth and poop. Gross.

Typically, I try to surround myself with positive things, though I admit I have a weakness for crime shows.  I have Biblical verses written on little note cards hanging in my view on the wall next to me. My favorite is Isaiah 43:2 (NIV). “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

Something about that verse really resonates with me. With mood swings flipping back and forth, it’s comforting to know the Lord is with me, and it’s even more comforting to know He doesn’t judge me for my perceived insanity. There have been plenty of times when I’ve gone through a depressed episode where He’s been the only One who I’ve held on to. He’s been the only One who understands me at all.

I trust that God is with me every step of the way though. Whether it’s night or day, He’s with me. When I’m confused or scared, He’s there. The best times are when I discover something new about Him or myself.  It’s during those times that life makes a bit more sense. It’s like a treasure that He reveals right when I need it the most. That’s God’s character though.  He always gives me the strength I need in different ways in all circumstances.

I think of the mood swings I go through, and I compare them to turbulent waters and fires in my path. Then, I think of God’s promise to always be there to lead me to the other side safely. I may get soaked in the rivers or smell like soot once I cross through the fire, but I still make it. I know above all I can count on God more than I do myself, and sometimes that’s all I got, but He’s more than enough. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Epiphany

For if you cry for discernment,
Lift your voice for understanding;
If you seek her as silver
And search for her as hidden treasures;
Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:3-6).
                                                                                               
Lately, I’ve been asking God to “wake me up inside” and let me know my purpose in life. I’ve been feeling like I’ve been going through the motions of life day after day wondering if anything I’ve done so far really matters. I understand why King Solomon said “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14, NIV).  I’ve seen people doing the same old things and making the same mistakes time and time again, and I’ve wondered if there really is a point to it all.

I was staring into my bathroom mirror earlier when all of a sudden I had an epiphany, and I know it was God answering my prayer. It came to me that we all live out our purpose automatically every day without even realizing it. Even when we get off the right path we should be on, we still make the choices that allow us to keep living out our purpose even when it’s not in the best way.

I used to think God kind of coerces us back to the right path by taking over certain areas until we get to where He wants us to be. I felt like, even though He’s given us free will, He still directs us in ways that only makes us think we’re making our own choices, but in reality we’re limited by the either/or standard, either we go down the path of righteousness or we don’t.

Today, I discovered that we have free will in more ways than I could have ever thought possible. God gives us the freedom to make choices, whether good or bad, but those choices will always lead us back to our purpose. We can’t mess up who we truly are. We can delay our progress, but He made us for reasons we can’t comprehend, and His will is done no matter what we ultimately think or do. This is a good thing because it takes the weight off our shoulders of trying to find out the meaning for our existence. Even when we get confused or can’t find the words to explain what it is, it’s still there.

Before we’re born, God decides what gifts and abilities we’ll have. There is absolutely nothing that can change that. I think of it like a computer. It is built with a certain set of programs that makes it run the most efficiently for its model. If you were to mess with that programming, you’d damage the computer. Have you ever tried to delete essential files that come on it? There’s a reason it warns you not to if you try. It won’t work the way it’s supposed to without its factory settings.

God creates all of us with unique abilities that nobody else has in the same way we do. He doesn’t want us to compare ourselves to others or feel inferior to each other. We can deny who we are or step into a place we don’t belong, but each of us has the ability to be exactly who God created us to be because He hardwired it into our very DNA. We just have to stop struggling and let God show us who He made us to be. In John 8:32, Jesus told his disciples “the truth will set you free.” He was explaining to them the truth about God’s kingdom, not the world’s truth. His truth will always set us free.

The world will never be able to tell you what your purpose is. How could it? Since God made you, He is the only One that can open your eyes to your personal reason for being here. If you want answers about yourself, ask Him. I read a quote once that said “The problem with listening to other people is that it’s like the blind leading the blind.” No matter who a person is, whether it’s family, friends and especially complete strangers who know nothing about you, they’ll never be able to tell you who you are. God is the potter, and we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8).

People search for happiness and success in places that can't give it to them in a lasting way. We can have all the money in the world and every nice thing it can buy and still lack happiness. We can gain fame or recognition from others for our various accomplishments, but it means nothing if we don’t have God backing us. Ultimately, we are aimless without Him. So many are driven by what really doesn’t matter in the end. They have a hole inside that can’t be filled by the world's version of success. I used to have the same problem. It wasn’t until the Lord woke me up to who He is and the love He has for me that I realized He was what I was looking for all along.

The enemy and the world will try to distract you with many things that don’t matter. Satan doesn’t want you to know about God’s love or to discover the unique person you are. He wants to make you wander after things that he knows will never satisfy you. Don’t let him fool you, and don’t let anyone else have control over your life. It’s yours. How you live it and the choices you make are yours. Ask yourself what you can offer the world that nobody else can. What gives your life meaning to you? 

You are special because God made you to be. For any who were like me searching for their purpose, know you don’t need to look outside yourself because it’s already inside where it's always been. We hear this message in various ways, but I believe it isn’t until it hits us in the right way that we really grasp it. God woke me up today, and I thank Him for answering my prayer! He will answer yours too if you ask Him to.


See biblehub.com if you’d like help finding specific Bible verses.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Nothing but Net

 “Just as a body, though one has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”       1 Corinthians 12:12-14


Today, like most days, I got out of bed early, made some coffee and sat down to read my Bible and other studies. I discovered Rick Warren’s A Purpose Driven Life years ago, but because I tend to lose focus at times of the “oh look, there’s a bunny” variety, I’ve never finished the book. The point of it is to take a forty day journey into self-discovery and develop a closer relationship with God. I'm really liking the book because it puts things in my life into perspective.

I’m on day four so far (fingers crossed), titled “Made to Last Forever.” I read about how we aren’t made for just the here and now but are made to serve God’s purpose into eternity. This earth is only the starting point in our journey of what’s to come. Rick Warren describes what we should be focused on in terms of eternity instead of what we typically focus on in our short lives here.

So I started thinking about my own purpose and talked to God for about an hour before I believe He gave me an epiphany about what I was saying. I thought of an iceberg and the typical analogy about the surface being only a small part of the whole. Then, I pictured a basketball net situated directly above the top of the iceberg. Strange I suppose, but it made sense the more I thought about it.

As we know, there is only a small sheet of ice sticking out of the water in comparison to the rest on the top of an iceberg. I think of people as a unit as the surface layer and God as the remainder bringing us all together into one piece of ice joined with Him. Though people make up only a fraction of the bulk, our purpose in being here is nonetheless very important. We are One, and every flake of snow sticks together in a snowball of purpose; every shot we make in the net above adds to the score board.

The game of basketball is made up of teams. Each member is important, no matter what their position, to the overall success of winning the game. Each point adds to the ultimate victory in the end, and as long as the team focuses on this goal they’ll play successfully. In sync, the team is unstoppable, and the work the coach puts into ensuring each player develops the strength and skill to play their position shows.

When people serve their God-given purpose in life, they make continuous perfect shots into the net above the iceberg. Their efforts are added to the surface steadily growing its mass over time. Every single shot matters because we are brought together as individuals serving one singular purpose of advancing God’s kingdom bringing each of us a sense of fulfillment in what we do. We are truly one body, and when the group succeeds, it benefits all. Shot after shot, our snowballs help solidify the surface of the iceberg as we offer our unique gifts to it.

I firmly believe that all people want to be loved and accepted for what they bring to the world. They want to know that who they are matters. Nobody wants to feel or be seen as a nobody. We weren’t designed by our awesome Creator to be losers, but unfortunately many don’t see the value in themselves. They believe the lies they’ve heard about who they are, or they’ve been pushed down too many times by life’s circumstances and heartbreak to feel worthy of more.

What many don’t understand is that they personally have something unique to offer this world, something only they are capable of giving it. Their position on the team matters. Even when someone chooses not to play the game, their decision pertaining to the whole of humanity makes a difference. Getting side-tracked and choosing to follow the important things of this world instead of their true purpose for eternity matters. Every choice we make either adds to the top of the iceberg or it doesn’t, and playing half-heartedly will not help the team. Half-hearted attempts to participate take away from the whole point of the game. 

You might say that the contribution you make in the game doesn’t really make a difference. Think of it this way though; if everyone else felt the same way, what would happen? Nothing, that’s what. We’d all be sitting on the benches or in the audience wondering where the players are. There’d be no game. We'd automatically forfeit by not showing up.

God gave us the gift of free will to be used as we choose. Granted, there are times when we must take a break and sit on the side-lines because we are too tired or to give someone else a chance to shine, but we aren’t supposed to stay there indefinitely. We have to make an effort to get back in the game when we’re ready. We have to add to the mound of solidarity on the iceberg that purposeful work brings. 

The enemy in this world doesn’t want us to know about any of this. He is the star player of the opposing team trying to score on us in any way that he and his teammates can. He plays dirty, not caring about being fair or playing by the rules. He’s the bully who knocks you to the ground when you play.

But, there’s good news! The leader of humanity’s team is Jesus Christ, and by playing honestly and by the rules, He has already claimed the victory of our team. By choosing to follow His lead, we discover the good gifts God's given us. Only He shows us our unique purpose in being here. The only other option is to keep maneuvering around the court hoping to get the chance to shine. The choice is yours. Do you want the sure thing, or do you want to play aimlessly wondering whether you’ll make a difference in the score?

The iceberg is our court. God is our coach. He watches from the side cheering us on, knowing that if we work together in unity we can accomplish all that He created us for. The word ‘loser’ isn’t part of His team’s vocabulary. With His sure guidance, the result is nothing but net. As one body, we have the ability to bury the enemy under the snow pile of our success, and with the help of our team captain, Jesus Christ, the enemy and his teammates will be pushed to the edge of the iceberg forced into the water of the frigid sea. I don’t know about you, but defeating the enemy never looked so good.

Source

"BibleGateway." 1 Corinthians 12 NIV - - Bible Gateway. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2017.


Warren, Richard. The purpose-driven life: what on earth am I here for? Lake Forest, CA: PurposeDriven, 2002. Print.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Being Born Again: The Relationship with Christ

1/17/2017

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36, NIV). To be born again is about a relationship with Christ. The term "Christian" is a label that lets people know Who you serve, but it's up to God's children to seek a genuine relationship with Him. The word "religion" is a word that gets thrown around way too often, and I believe it confuses people because some will automatically judge a person based on the label put on their particular religion. In this case I'm referring to Christians, but it pertains to all other beliefs as well. People's lives are based on living and learning through experiences, making mistakes, being in relationships, by making good or bad choices and through being close to their Creator and following their individual belief systems. There is a personal reason they've chosen to follow God or demonstrate their views in a certain way. Those who use derogatory names or descriptions to describe a group of people (like Christians) are probably basing their opinions of the group off a few instances or experiences with people who sadly made all Christians look bad, such as false prophets or hypocrites claiming to teach the truth but who actually follow their own way. But, that doesn't mean all Christians behave in the same manner. I see some who claim they follow Christ, but their "fruits" don't show it (Galations 5:22-23). God knows the heart though, and He knows who's genuine and who's not (Jeremiah 17:10). Nobody is perfect, but it's the very act of letting Christ help us to live the new life He's given us that proves who the ones are who at least try to do and be better human beings. True repentance is not based off pretty words with no real feeling or meaning behind them. To truly repent it must come straight from the heart. It has to matter to you whether you want real change in your life. It should come from the leap of faith you take when you tell Jesus you believe in Him and what He's done for you. Though the heart may sometimes deceive us, it doesn't mean God can't take up residence in there and gradually teach us the way to go in every circumstance we find ourselves in. It's the willingness to listen and act in accordance with the Word of God that He cares about.

Source

New International Version. Biblehub.com. http://referencebible.org/topmenubiblehub3.php

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Political Correctness and Speaking Out

1/15/2017

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (ESV, Matthew 10:28).


I was scrolling through the Home page on Google+ tonight, and I discovered a post that one of my friends shared about a woman named Brigitte Gabriel (a spokesperson against radical Islam) titled "Muslim Student Challenged A Christian Speaker.  Her Response Made America Stand Up and Cheer," by Elvin Bartley (Yes I'm Right, (n.d.)).  The link can be found at http://www.yesimright.com/muslim-student-challenged-a-christian-speaker-her-response-made-america/  

My thoughts on it:

I watched the video, and I have to agree with her statement pertaining to the question the student asked concerning some Islamic people. I especially liked how Brigitte defended her own position with actual facts about the deaths in some countries caused by radical groups. She didn't just give broad generalizations. Please watch the video to fully understand what I'm talking about here. Thank you.

The main thing I wanted to comment on is spokesperson Brigitte's statement at the end of the video where she said we need to "throw political correctness in the garbage" (not sure if that is her exact quote, but it is for the most part). So many people are worried about offending different groups of people that they don't stop to think about whether what they represent is even moral in the eyes of God. Deep down, whether people want to face it or not, we all have that little voice that knows whether something is right or wrong. This is not a judgment on any one person or group. It is a general statement about the conscience (or the Holy Spirit depending on how one views it).

I'm not saying each group shouldn't have a say. That's what freedom of speech is all about. Yet, so many people (or groups) don't like it when others don't agree with what they have to say or what they represent. They accuse those who have a different opinion of being racist or being hateful towards them (or their group) just because they are being opposed. It's hypocritcal when one person tries to express their views and expects to be respected for them, yet they criticize someone else for expressing a difference of opinion or belief. That makes no sense.

Last I checked, it isn't against the law (at least in America) to have and express your own opinion. And just because some don't believe in the same things as others do in the world doesn't mean they should be called names or beaten up because of thier God given right to express those beliefs. People should be allowed to have their own views without receiving backlash because of them (unless they are obviously spewing hatred; I get why that shouldn't be tolerated of course).

The only way to convince people to see your side of things is to put what you believe out there and let them make their own decision about it. You will never make your point about something stick if the one you are trying to convince doesn't choose it for them-self. Trying to force someone to agree with something they don't believe in will not only make those who don't agree with you fight against it, but it will also never make them open their mind to your point of veiw.

Think about it. Do you like to be told what you 'must' believe? I've never heard of anyone who does. It doesn't make someone who doesn't agree with your point of view horrible. It makes them use the free will that God gave them to decide how they want to live their life and what choices they'll make for them-self or their family. Forced change is never going to equal genuine change. Forced change is what causes wars and other conflicts among people.

Finally, I see so many who aren't worried about offending the One person Who matters more than all of us combined, and that's God. He's the One Who will judge all of us in the end. We should be most worried about offending Him. To not be concerned about His view of you and your choices will only hurt yourself. You can't blame others for how you have ultimately chosen to live your life.

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Mat.10:28).

References Cited

Bartley, Elvin. "Muslim Student Challenged a Christian Speaker.  Her Response Made America Stand Up and Cheer." Yes I'm Righthttp://www.yesimright.com/muslim-student-challenged-a-christian-speaker-her-response-made-america/. Accessed on 15 January 2017.

English Standard Version. Bible Hub. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.


Friday, April 8, 2016

What's Your Story?

4/8/16

This morning I was listening to a song by Superchick called “Hero”, and in it the singer paints a vivid picture of different stories of people who are heroes.  Not one of them was named Thor or Captain America.  Don’t get me wrong, Thor and Captain America are awesome, but I’m talking about your average everyday people, the ones seen as ordinary or the ones people really don’t pay attention to at all.  They are the teachers fighting to keep troubled kids in school because they see them as more than pain in the ass kids who will probably dropout anyway, they’re the people who befriend the shy new kid in school, or it’s the person who chooses to go on even though they suffer from depression or loneliness and can barely get out of bed each day, let alone face the world.  Superchick gave some great examples of who heroes really are.  They are rarely in the spotlight, but they’re remembered by those whose lives they touch.

So, what’s your story? Are you one of the people I described above? Are you someone’s Thor or Captain America in regular clothes, whose superpower is paying attention to those around you and caring enough to make a difference in this crazy world? Are you a hero, or are you one of the villains who make it a goal to bring people down, adding to the faceless, nameless crowd that faces negativity every day?

We all matter.  We’re put here for a reason.  Sometimes, we wonder what that reason is, and at times we get lost and wander around in a kind of daze, all the while thinking this world is just too big for us. But, you could be the one who makes the world a little bit smaller and manageable for those who are lost.  You could be the one who brings someone back down to earth, “a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (see Proverbs 18:24).

We all have a story, and it’s a beautiful, horrible, crazy, hopeful mess caught up in the colorful garden that is our life. In terms of eternity, we have such a short time here.  I don’t know about you, but I want my life to count for something.  I want to make a contribution that hopefully helps and encourages people.  I believe it’s what I was born for.  I feel it, like I feel rain pouring down during a storm.  We aren’t designed to wander aimlessly.  We have treasure inside of us, begging to be found. 

Every experience in our lives can be used to help or relate to someone else, whether the offered experience is good or bad.  We’re born to different backgrounds and economic circumstances for a reason.  Our stories are written by the years we live, and we are brought into the lives of people for a purpose. In some way, we can mutually benefit from each other. Granted, I am well aware some experiences are things we want to tuck away to places we won’t dare reach into for fear of the consequences of doing so. I’m not saying we should bare all to the world.  I’m only saying we should share what we are able to. 

You can be someone’s hero. Imagine what one act of kindness, encouragement, or your strength and wisdom might do for someone who needs it?  You could lift someone up and help them see who they really are.  It’s the best feeling to witness that moment when a person finally wakes up and realizes they matter. Even the smallest gesture can touch somebody’s life.  Plus, you never know who else may be paying attention to you.  The things we do matter, and the words we speak over someone’s life make a difference.  It may not seem like it, but they do. When all is said and done, we will be remembered for how we affected people’s lives, the way we left our part of the world a little better (or worse). It’s how we’ve treated each other and what we believe in that matters.  YOU matter.


Thanks to Gotquestions.org for Biblical verse help.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Condemnation, Take a Hike!

4/6/16

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”
                                                                                                           -Romans 8:1 (NIV)

Human beings have such a great capacity to see the unique gifts and goodness in others.  We have the ability to celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and we encourage each other to dream of things that could be and to push past our fears in order to realize those dreams.  On the flip side, we can also be extremely critical of one another, hurting each other with harsh words and with even the slightest of offenses.  We are a mixture of good and bad, but we are beautiful in what I like to refer to as our flawed perfection.  I admit it took me a long time to come to this conclusion about humanity.  I have witnessed the most magnificent selflessness in people, and I’ve seen and been through things that created the worst of scars.  We all have.  The thing is, though, that some of the worst scars I’ve dealt with are the ones I have inflicted upon myself.  As the saying goes, “We are our own worst critic.”

One of the biggest issues I have always dealt with is guilt.  I used to place myself on a pedestal (as did others, in my opinion), and if I messed up, even in the smallest way, I felt so guilty for it. I hate pedestals. They are for statues that are fake versions of those who couldn’t stand on them for long without falling anyway.  Pedestals should be left to chiseled, unfeeling rock, not living beings.

I’m not quite sure where my guilt always stemmed from.  Maybe, it’s because I used to feel inferior if I didn’t do things perfectly.  I say ‘used to’ because I finally came to a point in my life where I became too exhausted and irritated to attempt perfection anymore.  Perfection is for God alone.  We slowly chip away at ourselves when we try to be everything to everyone all at once.  I have cried to God plenty of times because I wanted to be the best version of myself that I could be, a version that was way too hyped up in my own head. There have been too many times when I’ve felt broken down by my own expectations of what I thought I should be.  Plastered on smiles can only last so long.  Eventually, they fall away revealing the pain of false perfection underneath.

I know I’m not alone.  There are so many people who feel like I do, ones who try to live up to the unrealistic standards of others, or worse, the crazy expectations they’ve placed on their own shoulders.  That kind of weight slowly presses down though.  It’s backbreaking, and it’s dangerous.  I say it’s dangerous because if one misinterprets the weight as something they can handle completely on their own, then they very likely could become a victim of pride.  I used to be this way.  I thought I could do things on my own without relying on anyone else.  I sure didn’t want to bother God with my problems.  I figured He had enough to do already without having to deal with my issues too. 

I never doubted God could do what He wanted to.  I just didn’t know Him well enough to understand what His love meant when it pertained to me personally.  I couldn’t understand all of what Jesus’s sacrifice and victory meant for humanity. His love surpassed anything I ever knew, and to this day I am still constantly amazed by it. Romans 8:1 tells us, “…there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…,” but, though I’ve been a Christian for years, I never truly understood the meaning of this verse until more recently.

About a month ago, I was sitting in bed at around 3 a.m. surfing through channels on t.v. trying to find anything to watch besides another infomercial about dancing my way to weight loss or how to get rid of joint pain, and I stopped on Joyce Meyer’s show.  She was talking about God’s love and what it means concerning mankind.  She said, “A lot of people try to get God to love them by trying to behave perfectly.  But, God IS love, and all He wants us to do is act as a receptacle of His love, and to simply take in what’s being freely offered” (1 John 4:16). Wow!

Jesus commands us to love God and to love each other (Mark 12:29-31).  I believe that part of loving God is to allow Him to love us as well.  We can never truly trust Him unless we understand how much He loves us.  Trust in His Word doesn’t come from nodding our heads in church at verses we know we should agree with.  It comes from having faith that God is Who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do.  I’ve heard different teachers of God’s Word relay this message in various ways numerous times. Though it may be difficult for us to grasp that there is no condemnation for us when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, it doesn’t make it any less true, because even when we don’t understand right away what “no condemnation” means, it doesn’t mean we never will understand what it means.  Each person learns different lessons in their own time and in diverse ways.  To take away from God’s perfect timing for those lessons is to take away a part of what we are supposed to learn in the first place.

It will take this lifetime and beyond to learn all of what God wants us to know, and I know we will never stop learning, but the sooner we are able to develop even a small amount of faith in Him to keep His promises, the sooner we will experience a greater freedom in our lives.  There is no need to keep reliving mistakes we make.  Just confess them and move on. I admit that, though I know this truth, I still struggle with guilt occasionally.  People don’t change overnight after all.  But, I will keep reminding myself over and over until it fully sinks in that I should accept my own flawed perfection, and that’s all I need to do.  God will take care of the rest. And though I don’t have absolutely perfect trust in God yet, that doesn’t mean I can’t take a step forward in faith each day and take God’s extended hand.


Thank you to BibleHub.com for help with the Biblical verses. J