Monday, May 27, 2013

Destination...

Week 22:

James 4:13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”

Why is it that we look at our life as destination that is to be reached? “If I just get this job…” “If I just accomplish this task…” “If I make this amount of money…” “If I can just reach this place in my life spiritually…” There are so many other statements that we make (both vocally and internally), these are just some examples. I tend to catch myself working to reach a destination in my life thinking that once I have…problems will cease, life will get easier, and God will be pleased. But life does not work that way, does it?



One thing I have to keep reminding myself is…life is a journey. As long as I am living on this earth, I am not going to “arrive”. I am on a continued path toward a stronger faith, a transformed life, and drawing closer to God. Just because I have hit a high point spiritually, does not mean I have it all figured out. Around the corner is another challenge, another goal to reach, and/or an even deeper relationship with God.  

At times, living out my faith becomes tiresome. The spiritual battles with the evil one and his deceptions are continual. The battles with my own flesh and its sinful desires continue. Maintaining relationships with those around me take continual work. The improvement of my personal transformation work is on-going.

I believe that my society has deceived me to some degree. I have mentioned before that our “instant” culture has me wanting everything now. Yet, God does not work on an instant answer transformation process. I also notice that at times I live parts of my life like a movie. The problem with that is, a movie ends in an hour or two, and usually ends positive. Life is not a movie. Life is on-going and is not always positive. If I live life instantly, and like a movie, I live in a fantasy world…not in reality. Furthermore, when I live life this way, I live with a lot of disappointment.

This does not mean I live life without hope. I just have to realize that life is a journey; an on-going process. God is not finished with what His plans are for me yet. I am reminded of Moses and how long God spent preparing him to lead Israel out of Egypt. Until the day Moses died, he was on a journey with God. I have already seen the fruits of God’s work in me and I am not as old as Moses was. I know God still has plans for my life.

I realized that maybe the destination I seek is the one promised me when my life ends or when Jesus returns. I just tend to keep looking at the wrong destination. My home is not here. While I am here, I am to walk this journey with God. I am to see where He takes me and whom I encounter. I am to look at where He is working and join Him. But written in to my being is this longing for a final destination, the one after my physical body is done. However that is supposed to look, I know I will reach it eventually. Until then, my journey continues.

Questions/challenges:
1. In what ways have you lived your life as if to reach a destination?
2. What disappointments have you faced?
3. Looking back, what has God been teaching you?
4. What is keeping you from seeing life as a journey?
5. This week, reflect and write down some of your destinations you have reached. Note what God has done. How are these destinations a part of your bigger journey?

--------------------------------------
Don't forget to visit my Amazon links. General purchases: Click on the Banner at the top of the blog. For a list of my favorites go to: http://astore.amazon.com/weekldevottho-20

Monday, May 20, 2013

Jesus did...

Week 21:

Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

In this last article of this series we will look at how Jesus embodied all four of these areas. Jesus loved God fully from all four of these parts of Himself. He is the perfect example for us to follow.


Jesus loved God with all His heart. For some time now, I think we have ignored the emotion of Jesus. As I read through Jesus life in the Gospels, I see where Jesus felt and expressed His heart through emotion. Jesus expressed happiness when he was around the little children. Jesus expressed sadness when His friend Lazarus had died and he felt the sadness of those who were in mourning (“Jesus wept.” John 11:35). Jesus expressed anger with the Pharisees on several occasions and even expressed anger physically when he overturned the tables in the Temple courts. Jesus showed tenderness and compassion on those who needed His healing touch. I believe Jesus was excited when His disciples came back and gave their report after he had sent them out to preach and heal. Jesus even expressed fear when he knew he had to face his death. I know Jesus did not fear what was after his death, but he feared the physical pain he would face (not to mention the separation from his Father). Jesus loved God by showing us what it meant to be fully human and keep God in the fore-front.  

Jesus loved God with all His soul. Jesus understood the Spirit part of God. Jesus was tied to God through His Spirit. Often, Jesus withdrew to solitary places to pray and spend time with the Father. In fact, when I read closely, I find there were times when Jesus went to spend time with the Father when it appears he was needed elsewhere. Jesus knew it was important to strengthen His soul in order to love the father and do His work perfectly.  

Jesus loved God with all His mind. Jesus knew the Word of God. When Satan was tempting Jesus, He had an answer for every temptation that Satan put in front of Jesus. In discussions with the Pharisees, Jesus pointed out the truth about God’s Word and law. Jesus knew that to understand and love God fully, He was to know God’s Holy Word. All throughout His ministry, Jesus would reference the Old Testament. Jesus pointed to the prophets as proof of who He was. Jesus used His mind to God’s glory. He loved God fully with His thoughts and mind.

Jesus loved God with all His strength. Jesus was a man of action. He healed the sick. He served by turning water to wine. He washed His disciples’ feet. He served to the point of becoming the atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sinfulness of the human race. Jesus served. He loved God with His strength by His actions and service. I cannot imagine the great strength it took to not just take over situations as God’s son. I especially cannot imagine the great physical strength it took to endure the beatings and crucifixion on the cross.  

Jesus was emotionally healthy, spiritually connected to God, knowledgeable to God’s Word, and was a great man of action. Who better to follow when it comes to loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Questions/challenges:

1. In what other ways did Jesus love God with all His heart?
2. In what other ways did Jesus love God with all His soul?
3. In what other ways did Jesus love God with all His mind?
4. In what other ways did Jesus love God with all His strength?
5. What have you learned from these five weeks around this passage? How has it affected the way you Love God?
6. This week, choose a Gospel book and read through it. Make note of how Jesus loved God perfectly from each of these four places.

I would love to hear from you comment-wise about any of the last five articles. What do you agree with? How has this affected you? What do you disagree with? Be the first one to start a discussion.

---------------------------------------
Don't forget to visit my Amazon links. General purchases: Click on the Banner at the top of the blog. For a list of my favorites go to: http://astore.amazon.com/weekldevottho-20





Monday, May 13, 2013

All your heart...

 Week 20:

Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
This week we look at the fourth part of ourselves that we are to love God fully. I believe that in our current Christian culture that we love God the weakest from this area of our lives. To love with our heart would be to touch on our emotion. I believe that we are weak in the area of feeling and showing emotion in healthy ways.  


As western Christians we have put effort into knowing God’s Word and serving Him (mind and strength). As I touched on last week, we have not spent as much time understanding and connecting with the Spirit. Along with not connecting with the Spirit, we have also lost connection with emotion to some degree. This is not to say that we do not feel emotion at all. I believe there is a powerful emotional response when we come to God. I believe that this is prompted by the Spirit and our heart is moved to come to God.  

However, we have seen examples of those who have come to God purely on emotional response and then when hard times and faith trials hit, these people fall away. I also couple this with the passage of the parable of the sower; particularly the seed that falls on rocky soil. It grows quickly but has not root and dies in harsh conditions. Both of these examples, in my opinion, have an influence on Christians to repress emotion to some degree. I am worried about the image I might portray as a Christian if I show too much emotion. Peter Scazzero says it well in his book The Emotionally Healthy Church, “Most Christians, I am afraid, are self-conscious but not self-aware. We are more worried about what other people think of us than about wrestling with our feelings and motivations.”

Another area where I believe we struggle emotionally is being emotionally present. In our world of distraction, I find myself either worrying about my future or dwelling on my past. By doing this, I tend to detach from my emotions. When asked about how I feel about something, many times I cannot identify with any emotion. What I have done is taken myself out of the present and thus losing touch with my emotion. As friend of mine said once, “We are not angelic beings. We do not live in that world. We are human beings, and we live in the present.”

A final area of detachment from emotion occurs as a result of some sort of wound. I find with myself (I find this true as I am working with others as well) that my wounds keep me from feeling emotion at times. My wound reminds me of pain I do not want to feel. Since I do not want to feel that pain, I numb that emotion that brings up that pain. Now, what I have done is selective numbing of emotion. The problem is; we can’t selectively numb emotion. When we numb a perceived negative emotion, we actually affect them all. Why do I feel little joy in my life? I have numbed sadness and have not felt it to completion. Sadly, as I deny, repress, or numb emotions long enough, they leak out in other ways in my life; usually in the form of unhealthy anger.  

How then do I love God with all my heart? First of all, I need to live in the present. What has happened, I can learn from and deal with the consequences. I need to own my decisions yet not let the results of them weigh me down. God forgives my past, I must do the same. I also must not worry about the future. One of my Bible professors in college said, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” That has stuck with me for over 25 years. Yes, I must plan for tomorrow, but I need to live in today. I must be present in the here and now. Then, I am able to touch on where I am emotionally.  

Secondly, I must own my emotion. If I am sad, scared, angry, then I need to admit such. Conversely, if I am happy, excited, tender, then I need to proclaim that as well. This not necessarily something I have to say out loud to everyone all the time. However, I do need to be authentic when someone asks, “How are you doing?” If I am scared, I need to make a point to admit that in some way. By owning my emotion, it does not own me and drive me to do things I will question later. I must keep my emotion in front of me. On a side note, I need also to allow others to have their emotions as well. When I become uncomfortable because someone is sad, I tend to try and over-comfort them not because he is sad, but because I am uncomfortable with his sadness. All I have done is to try to fix my discomfort and not help him feel his emotion to completion.  

Third, I must take my wounded heart to Jesus. Those deep wounds that come up by the triggers in life situations must be carried to Jesus for healing. I first have to acknowledge what those wounds are and where they came from. Second, I have to be willing to look at them and grant forgiveness where it is needed. Third, have to begin to let the transforming power of the Spirit to give me a new mindset. The danger in all of this is that I have to feel those emotions once again. I don’t like it! But, I have found that when I do, He is faithful to pour healing power into my wound.  

To love God with all my heart, I must get uncomfortable. I must touch, acknowledge, and deal with emotions. Once I have done this, I find my heart much more open to the Spirit and I find that my mind has been renewed. Then, I begin to serve God with joy and not obligation.

Questions/challenges:

1. What stands out for you as you have read this article?
2. What emotion do you struggle with the most? Why?
3. How do you react to this statement? "God created emotions, they are all good."
4. What is holding you back from feeling your emotions to completion?
5. This week ask these questions of God about your emotions. Pay attention to what you see and hear:
   a. What does this represent?
   b. What might you, God, be saying to me?
   c. What do I learn about myself in this?
   d. What do I learn about life in this?
   e. What do I learn about other people in this?
   f. What do I learn about your Kingdom in this?

---------------------------------------
Don't forget to visit my Amazon links. General purchases: Click on the Banner at the top of the blog. For a list of my favorites go to: http://astore.amazon.com/weekldevottho-20

Monday, May 6, 2013

All your soul...

Week 19:

Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

This week we move into what I believe is a more difficult and lesser practiced part of us when it comes to loving God. As westerners, I believe that we hold tight to the notion that if we cannot see something, touch something, measure something, and at times feel something, then something is not real. The soul is not a physical part of us; at least that we can see.

The soul is very difficult to understand and grasp. Human definitions do not do justice to defining the soul. The soul is what makes us unique versus the animal world. In my opinion, the soul is that place where the Spirit resides and connects us to God. How does one know that the Spirit exists? We see the work of the Spirit sometimes through what we feel, sometimes through physical occurrences, and sometimes through guided situations.

We have some understanding that the soul is what lives on for eternity after we die. However, I believe that as westerners, we understand little about the soul and the Spirit. In fact, in some ways, the western church has avoided teachings and acknowledgement of the Spirit for fear of being associated with New Age philosophies that steer away from the one true God. Because of that avoidance, we have missed out on the Spirit’s leading and a closer communion with God.

Throughout the New Testament, we read about “Spirit and truth” and the “Spirit of truth”. In those passages, the two are not separate. It is as if those two must be together in order to be complete. As we have pulled away from understanding the Spirit in a search for truth, we quite possibly have moved ourselves into unbalanced faith walk. At times I have become so focused on truth that I have lost touch with what the Spirit might be telling me about that truth.  

To love God with all my soul, I must pay attention to the Spirit and it’s leading. But what does that look like? A call to make a move in the Kingdom would be a nudge from the Spirit. That call from the Spirit is touching me at my soul. My soul is then connecting with both my heart and my mind. Afterward, my strength moves into action to carry out what the Spirit nudged me to do. If I do not love God with all my soul, I miss that opportunity.

Another part of the soul is its connection with the spirit world. Here I am reminded of Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” There is so much of the spiritual battle going on that we do not see yet our soul is connected to it. Yet, at times, we get a glimpse into that spiritual world. When we do witness that glimpse, and when we see God’s hand work in what we see, the Holy Spirit has led us in that moment.  

So, how do I love God with all my soul? First, I must pay attention to what the Spirit is doing. I need to acknowledge that much of the unexplained is the Spirit’s leading. Second, I need to strike a balance between the Spirit within me and my physical, emotional, and mental practice. Third, I need to recognize the work of the Spirit in other people. When I listen to others, I am training myself to see the Spirit’s work in their lives. At times, I will even point it out as I am witnessing the work. Finally, I must pray and get out of the way. I pray that God will reveal to me how His Spirit is working in my life. I pray that the Holy Spirit will nudge my heart and mind to act. Then, I must just “be” instead of trying to make things happen.    

I am sure there are many other ways to love God with all my soul. At this point in my journey, this is my starting point. I pray that your soul be filled with the Holy Spirit and that you may love God fully from this place.

Questions/challenges:

1. What does it look like for you to love God with all your soul?
2. Explain a recent situation where you know the Spirit had worked for you in your life.
3. What part of this article’s definition of the soul do you agree with?
4. What part of this article’s definition of the soul do you disagree with?
5. How did Jesus love God with all his soul?
6. This week, pay attention to the Spirit and its leading. Write down what happens and how the Spirit showed up for you.

---------------------------------------
Don't forget to visit my Amazon links. General purchases: Click on the Banner at the top of the blog. For a list of my favorites go to: http://astore.amazon.com/weekldevottho-20