Dear Salvation Army, Is It Just ‘Busy’ Work?

It is a question I have often asked myself.
Something I’ve pondered.
Waged war with.
Chewed on until my jaws ache.

Have I (personally speaking) focused too much on the ‘busy’ work instead of the priorities of salvation? Am I spending so much time doing the mundane, the time consuming, soul-sucking tasks that offer no vital substance to life?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not viewing certain tasks as beneath me. I am, instead, uncovering something that I feel has been convicting to me…and perhaps it has been revealed to you as well by the Holy Spirit.

We, as an Army, have grown far beyond a movement birthed out of the ashes and smoke the industrial era. This movement has grown arms and legs in order to meet human needs in Jesus’ name. But with that growth, it becomes inevitable that we develop not so good traits as well. Over working ourselves. Demanding more and more income to support bloating projects. Straining for every ounce of local and federal funding sources. Funds are, of course vital to our cause, but there is a danger here: We might become tempted, in our busyness to trust less in the provision of God and trust more in our own efforts, our own donors, our own coffers.

Have we allowed busy work to shape our faith?
Have we entered into simply trusting in the next financial campaign instead of diligently seeking out what God would have us do? I pray this is never the case!

I am certainly not negating hard work, I am simply pondering whether in the midst of our hard work we have stopped looking to the Author of all things in exchange for the things He has created? Instead of commanding time, time is commanding us. In a very real sense have we lost our first love and replaced it with busy work?

I understand that we mustn’t grow tired of doing Good (Galatians 6:9)
But there should be moments of reflect that we do in order to be brought back to our first love and first priority – Loving God. THEN we are able to reach out and offer our soup, soap and salvation.

So how do we avoid making what we do just ‘Busy Work’?

3 Ways to Avoid The Trap of Busy Work:

1) Practicing the Presence of God Daily (Even moment by moment)
Brother Lawrence was right – we need to get into the practice of communing with the presence of God moment by moment. We need to fellowship with our Creator during the most trying of tasks to the most mundane of them. When we open up our lives and everything in them to God, we begin to share our experiences with Him. We are inviting Him to participate in them with us. Just because we have to do required mundane tasks doesn’t mean that it is busy work. ‘Busy work’ is done when we have no purpose, no mission or no aim. Busy work leads no one to Christ, consumes all our time and offers nothing in spiritual nourishment. When we enter into God’s presence throughout our day, we begin to eliminate the busy work. When we ask Him to commune with us, we begin to see what truly matters and life (and tasks) are given purpose once again. Why? We because we are not living for ourselves, our own hard work, our own ambitions, our own understanding…we are now dying to self, dying to corporate ladder climbing, dying to the search for approval and acceptance of others. Instead, we are living a new created life born out of holiness and the desire to be selfless.

2) Asking the question “Why”?
When we find ourselves caught in the busyness trap, we need to begin to asked questions. Like, “why am I doing what I am currently doing”. “Is this task or habit really what I should be doing?” “What is this contributing to the Kingdom building process?” Why do I catch myself falling into this ‘busyness’ trap again and again?

Habits are hard to break, and I believe busy work can be one of these bad habits that needs to be broken. We all are given time to do the necessary reports, chores, tasks…yet how often do we catch ourselves staring blankly at a computer screen? How often do we labor away at things that don’t really matter? I’m not saying we don’t do them, I am saying that perhaps we place too much emphasis on them. We give them too much importance and so our time gets eaten up in the non-Kingdom building habits.

There comes a point where we must look up.
Where we see where God desires us to go. Perhaps it is to talk to that person in the Social Services waiting room. Maybe it is to go and visit corps members, sit with a person that needs a friend, or spend a few solitary moments in the chapel praying. Are we looking up? Or do we go about our day with our heads down and buried in our computers, meanwhile making all of our tasks and duties “busy work”?
Why?

3) Connect with others.
I have mentioned this already in the second point…but it begs saying again: we MUST connect with other people (and not just on social media). Look people in the eyes. Really listen to their needs. Hear the hurt. See the longing for fellowship. Be a light to someone in need. Winning the world of Jesus begins with one or two people. If we aren’t reaching people for Christ what is the point of calling our selves an army of salvation?

When we realign ourselves with our first love and, in turn, pour that love out on others, we will have eliminated all ‘busy work’? How?
By turning each moment and each task into an opportunity to serve God. When we change our perspective and our priorities, we reorient our mission and purpose to the place it should have been all along.

Dear Salvation Army…is there ‘busy work’ taking place in your ministry right now?
Do you find yourself missing the mark and feeling unfulfilled in your calling?
Perhaps you must look up.
Perhaps a reprioritizing of life needs to take place.
Perhaps a rededication, a recommitment, a reigniting of the heart is in order.

Busy work happens to all of us…but we mustn’t remain there, we need to get up and move.

Something more for our Army to ponder today.

Fear the Walking Faith…It’s a journey!

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

Oh how our faith can waver sometimes.
It seems that the gusting of a slight breeze of discord or worry can shake our quivering feet of faith.

Have you ever come to a moment of realization that your faith is not as deep as you once thought it was? We all encounter times, while on this journey, where the feel as though we have entered into the desert and we are found lacking in our resolve and fortitude. This journey will take us into places that require us to dig a little deeper and to endure the dry and thirsty places – where we find ourselves questioning everything and reaching further for God…who seems to have gone silent.

Have you been to this place?

I remember when I first learned to swim.
My parents would take me into the deeper part of the waters where my feet couldn’t touch and then let go of me, and as they let go of me they step back out of my reach. I remember there was a momentary panic. The saving hands were no longer on me and I found myself struggling to keep my head above the waters. I remember having to reach out my arms while kicking my feet so that I could reach the safety again. As I did this, without realizing, I began to swim by myself for the first time.

My intentions were not to swim. My intention was to reach the safe arms of my parents who were just out of reach.

There is growth within the tension and fear.
Growth that can only take place when we are left to our own devices.
Growth that can only transpire within the turmoil and desert places of our faith journey.

It is as if God steps back from us, and we are faced with the seemingly terrifying notion that we must step into the deep alone. The truth is that we are most certainly not alone, but rather there is growth that is only found in desert. And so we step out, unsure of ourselves…unsure if we can reach those safe arms of Christ again.

Remember Peter on the waters before Jesus?
He is asked to step out into a turbulent, uncertain space.
Peter takes a couple of steps, loses sight of the arms of Christ and begins to sink.
He takes his eyes off of Jesus.
He considers the impossibilities of such a journey.
He must have recalled his inability to do this feat, and as the doubt sinks in so does Peter.

We often chastise Peter for his lack of faith.
We often sermonize this passage to implicate the lack of resolve that ‘the Rock’ had…
But where were the other disciples?
Do we read about their steps of faith on the waters? No.
They were still in the boat watching it all go down.

We have to get out of our boats.
We will encounter dry and thirsty times in our faith journey.
It will feel as if we are all alone out in the wilderness, but we are not alone.
God steps back and watches us within the tension of deeper waters.
And it is within those deeper spaces that we grow.
It is through perseverance that our character and the very image of Christ becomes clearer in us.

Some have turned back and returned to the safe places.
Some have given up because they have felt abandoned.
Others have persevered and they have grown.
The Lord desires all of us to deepen our faith, and so these times of dryness should be seen as opportunities to grow up into this amazing faith.

Being like Jesus isn’t easy.
It takes determination and desire on our part.
Are you prepared to allow God to deepen your faith?
Is it your desire to get off of spiritual baby formula and begin to feast on more sustainable spiritual nourishment?

Take that next step…don’t be afraid, He’s got you, and He isn’t far from you right now!

Something more to ponder today.

Silence is a Killer…A Devotional Pondering.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Let’s face it, we all encounter difficult days…some more difficult than others.
There are days that we can manage on our own, and then there are days when we are completely floored by the problems that come our way.  The pressures may seem impossible to overcome, and sometimes that may be true…

I know what you’re thinking, “that doesn’t sound very encouraging to me”…let me finish:
The pressures may seem impossible to overcome, and sometimes that may be true…but we were never meant to handle it all on our own.

In the Apostle Paul’s day, the new believers in Thessalonica were encountering all kinds of trouble.  Thessalonica was the largest city in Macedonia which boasted over 200,000 people.  This city was known for being a military and commercial port city.  So within this large city in Macedonia, these young Christians were encountering all sorts of trouble – even persecution and death because of their new-found declarations of faith.  In the midst of their living testimonies, they longed for the day of Christ’s return.  What does that mean?  They lived in fear every single day, and couldn’t wait for Christ to come back.   And so these young Christians lived expectant lives while encouraging each other onward.

The persecution in Thessalonica must have been fierce for the Apostle Paul to remind them that they needed one another and they ought to continue (“just as you are doing”) to encourage one another.

Let’s put this into perspective:
We might not be facing certain death for our faith, instead we might be struggling to pay rent, finding funds to feed our families, enduring a tough problem at work or at home…all of these situations are arduous and, at times they keep us up at night.
The killer is silence. 
What do I mean?
We think no other Christian is struggling, and if they are it must mean that their faith isn’t strong enough.  This could not be further from the truth.
We have this idea that we shouldn’t let other Christians know how discouraged we really are, because we don’t want them to think less of us.  Because we don’t want others to talk.  Because we fear judgment of others.  Because we believe in the perfect Christian life that really doesn’t exist…because we’ve bought the lie that to be a Christian means we don’t struggle with these things anymore.

And so, silence is a killer.
No one knows.
We don’t share.
And our hurts go unchecked, unnoticed, and unaddressed.

Dear Christian,
How can we encourage one another if we aren’t being honest with each other?
How can we carry each other’s burdens if we allow silence to slowly kill our souls?
We cannot continue to buy the lie that everything is fine when we face times of trial and we keep it private.  (Some will laugh at this and say, but church is full of hypocrites and gossipers…then find REAL believers in whom you can confide!)

Healing can begin with out this kind of encouragement, but long is the process and deep the scars.  When we have others who will journey beside us, and encourage us, we will find added strength, hope, abundance and encouragement.

Don’t let silence kill you.

Putting Jesus Back

Monday after Easter, and the Easter dress is on the floor in the laundry room, as are the Easter suits and carelessly tossed ties and shoes.  Easter is over.  The Celebration party had its curtain call.  Everyone went home.  So…what now?

What impact does the Resurrection have on us the day after?  The week after?  The month after?   Understandably we can say “Well there’s always next year…”  or “I go to church every Sunday anyway.”  These are all valid points, but what kind of impact does Christ’s resurrection have on you and me in our daily lives?

All too often we want to put Jesus back.
We put Him back into those boxes for next year.
We put Him back on the hanger as we hang up that Easter dress or suit.  dress
We close our Bibles to that story until next year rolls back around.
We put Jesus back into our preconceived, compartmentalized places.

But should we put it all back like that?
Is there a trace of Him in our work places, social events, friendships, relationships, families?  Or does He get put away just like the seasonal stuff in our closets?
I have to wonder what the answer is even for me sometimes.
I can accept a risen Savior, but what does it mean in my habits, and in my faith walk and my desire to become more and more like Him?  How does this Resurrected Christ fit into my overly complicated life?  Am I secretly compartmentalizing Jesus?  Am I packing Him away for another year?  Am I checking that season off on my calendar  and moving on without Him there?

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What a tragedy it would be for any of us to progress past the cross and the empty tomb without it affecting the entirety of who we are as His creation!  Essentially when we put Him back on the shelf, in the box, on a hanger – we are selectively accepting who He is and who He can be in our lives.   We are, subconsciously putting limits on the Almighty…we are also putting limits on our own spiritual growth.

 

A New Creation: 
A friend of mine on Facebook posted this comment that sparked my heart and ignited some intrinsic truth deep within me.  Have you ever had one of those “A-ha” moments?  Where the light bulb flickers on, and it’s bright and it shines on truth.  Perhaps this will spark something within you too in terms of re-framing  who Jesus is, which will undoubtedly make us second guess putting Jesus back…here it is:

One could suggest that the ‘tetelestai’ (it is finished) saying refers not to atonement but to creation; it is the creation that is completed on the cross. On the cross, the true human is created, creation is now complete.” (Cameron Horsburgh/Michael Hardin)

                                                      -Mind. Blown. –

How can you ever go back to putting Jesus on the shelf?
How can you not have a life changing event take place in your heart when you consider ALL of creation is now complete in this Messiah atonement?  That we can’t put God in a box and only bring Him out once a year in light of creation becoming complete in Him.  There’s nowhere else to move besides forward in our relationship to the One who has made EVERYTHING complete!

It’s like buying a new suit, wearing it only one time just to put it on a hanger and stare at it while wearing the same old dingy ripped up, dirty outfit you’ve always worn.  It just doesn’t make any sense.  So…why do we do this sometimes with Jesus?

Unwrapping It.
Take Jesus off the shelf.   box3
Throw the old outfit away – you have a new suit to wear!
Throw away the old title for yourself – “Sinner”
Because you’ve been saved by this amazing grace found only in Jesus, and you’ve been given a new title – “Child of God.”
You can’t compartmentalize Jesus.
You can’t “seasonalize” Him either.
He can’t be contained.
He wants to transform you!
He has already completed creation – which can include YOU!

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20

May you find an ever present Christ with you today!
May our hearts be compelled to live for Him and reside with Him every moment of every day!  May we experience this new creation every time we utter His name on our breath.
May this transformation of the new, complete creation be in us EVERY day.

Something more to Ponder today.
To God be the glory!

(Another fitting article for today from Steve Simms entitled: “Why Put Jesus In A Box?” check it out too!)

Should Christians Share Their Political Views?

godI’ve been pondering long and hard on this topic of politics and what it means to be a Christian during a presidential election year.  One thing I will say before starting in on this pondering is that it’s going to get worse – the slander, the malicious attacks, the hateful dialogue and mud-slinging.

The amazing ability of social media is that you can share almost anything and within minutes, even hours thousands of people will view it.  This opens the doors to all sorts of possibilities: e.g. – evangelism, supporting a cause, raising awareness for something important, getting started on your craft business, book writing, radio/podcast…etc.  The sky is the limit to this platform.

boxThere are negatives though to social media.
Trolls actually exist…(not the green ugly type, just ugly to other humans)
Bully pulpits.
Slander.
Inconsistencies in faith – words / action…

We literally are putting our lives under the microscope and in full view of the world around us – both friend…and not friend.

Putting this aside, let me tackle the elephant…er donkey…er large object neither politically aligned that is in the room right now….(at least in mine, maybe not yours).
politics
I am not sure how we can be Christians who are to show love for others around us and yet descend into brutal knock-down, drag out fights with other so called “Christians” and even non-Christians over which candidate they may or may not be supporting for the upcoming presidential election.  It is truly disparaging to see people of proclaimed faith engaging in such low displays – whether it’s slamming or smearing a candidate they can’t stand or disagree with or slamming and calling people studid or fools if they don’t agree. AND I DON’T CARE WHICH SIDE OF THE ISLE YOU ALIGN YOURSELF WITH!!!
post
I might upset a few of you today, I’m sorry – that is not my purpose.
I am NOT saying don’t have a political opinion or view, I’m just saying either temper it with forethought or don’t share with others that you know will incite a fight…and I sit back and quickly click past your post because it just exploded into another prime example of Christians engaging in some very questionable disagreements.

My personal opinion – 
God is on the throne and He is Lord and holds ultimate authority over this earth.
I choose to keep my political opinions and views to exactly that – MY personal and private opinion.   Someone might argue “well, if you don’t stand for something…” or “well, you have to take a side...”   I would answer, just because I don’t publicly share my views doesn’t mean I don’t have them…but for the sake of my sanity and harmony of my friendships, I will keep them private.  After all, I don’t bring my friends into the voting booth…that might seem a little odd if I did (and probably illegal).

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I look at the political posts sometimes out there on Facebook and Twitter, and it’s sarcastic, it’s mean a meme or opinion, and I wonder (no matter if they are posted with humor in mind or not) how God-honoring these social activities and posts truly are ?   Because I wonder what non-Christians, who are looking at these kinds of posts – posted by “Christians” think about it.  I would just like to peer into the window of that exchange for a moment.  Because I don’t see acceptance – I see rejection.  I don’t see compassion – I see divisiveness, bitterness, rage, envy, malice, harmful dialogue…I see spite and hatred…and I just cringe when I think of the damage it might be doing to our reputation and that of Christ, who we’ve aligned ourselves with by name.

I’m really not in a place to judge – I am certainly not any better than anyone else, and I still make mistakes.  I just wonder if we as Christians are still so invested in our political parties that we have lost sight of the bigger picture?  Because no matter who is elected president this year, I recognize that all authority comes from God (good or bad) – He has the power to appoint and He alone has the power to take away.

So dear Christian, be mindful & be careful how and what you post…perhaps this will fall on deaf ears today…then again, perhaps not.

Something more to ponder today.

 

A Paris Terror Attack Pondering – How We Should Respond

When someone intentionally kills another person we call it “murder”.
When someone intentionally kills multiple people we call it “mass-murder”
When a group claims responsibility for killing over 100 people we call it what it is – “Terrorism”.

attackI mourn, as many do, for the senseless killings that took place in Paris on Friday.
Innocent people were gunned down while they socialized at the end of the work week.
For 30 minutes in the streets of Paris, order was turned into anarchy by a handful of radical terrorists with high powered weapons and explosives.

I have read numerous posts and blogs that have somewhat reflected my anger and outrage, and the truth is MOST people are outraged when senseless violence takes place upon the innocent.  I have also read numerous profanity laced comments and hate filled posts – this behavior is somewhat understandable in fits of rage, but it never helps.
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What is the Christian Thing To Do?  
As Christians, we are called to a higher standard…and it IS a very difficult place for many of us to remain in the midst of injustice, violence and hatred.  As a Salvationist (A member of The Salvation Army) I read the response of General Andre’ Cox today.  In his response he correctly stated this, which I wholeheartedly agree  with:

coxI want to say that my purpose here is not to make political statements. Others are better placed and carry a particular responsibility to do just that…please pray for political and national leaders. All of them, not just President Hollande and his team in France, but leaders in your country and mine.

National leadership is never easy. History shows that. These men and women need the faithful and continual prayers of the Church, regardless of our personal political persuasions. Whenever I meet with political leaders in any country I assure them of my personal prayers, and those of Salvationists in that country. It is important that they know of this.

…I exhort you today to pray, deeply, for the grace of God and the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit, to be felt and experienced, in some manner, by the hundreds of family members personally devastated by the senseless loss of life in these hours. Death comes to all, but how it comes and in what circumstances, can add layers of added grief and pain……I urge you to pray for the Church, the Body of Christ, of which our Salvation Army is a vital partThere will possibly be strong voices within the public sphere calling for vengeful retribution against those who had nothing to do with these atrocities. In some small way the voice of the Church, of you and I, can call for added grace and care in these days. We can bring light into the gloom.”


The Christian response isn’t to call for revenge or violence.  My old self would greatly desire to see revenge take place, but this new creation that all of us share requires more grace, more forgiveness and especially more prayer.  I also recognize that God will be the final judge, not us.  All of creation is His and His alone and from this perspective we are to understand justice and redemption.

Be vigilant in prayer.  prayer
Be aware of hatred and sin in our world, but do not participate in its evil.
We are set apart, and in so doing, we must shine the light of Christ during such dark places and moments such as these!  Cast aside, at all costs, these worthless prejudices which blind us to redemption of all people from all walks of life.

Rest assured that sin cannot remain in the presence of God no matter what  those sins are.
Pray for our world, pray for its leaders, and for the areas of evil and terror that are present within it.
Pray that God will change the hearts of men.
Pray that we seek Him out and live for Him, so that our response to all of humanity is holy and Godly.

Please Pray With Me:
I mourn for the victims in Paris.
I pray for those who have to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
I pray for President Hollande of France, for President Obama of the United States, for other leaders in our world who will undoubtedly take action in rooting out wicked people bent on destruction and hiding behind the guise of religion.
I pray against the persecution of all kinds.
I pray for the Body of Christ to be evident through love, grace and hope in a world sometimes devoid of these life-giving qualities.
Please uphold our countries in your prayers.
Please pray for justice and for healing.
Pray that through such dark times – God’s glory will be evident.

This world is greatly complicated with politics, greed, ulterior motives and hatred, I pray that the Church seeks to reduce this instead of adding to it.  May we be His ambassadors, full of His holiness and love.

Something more of the Church to ponder today.
To God be the glory, honor and power, forever and ever – Amen.

4 Wrong Ways To Read The Bible (And you may not know you’re doing it)

Let’s first admit that the Bible is an important source of help and guidance in our lives.  We need the kind of Bible-readinghope and helps that the Bible can offer to us…but there are ways in which people can misinterpret and mistreat the bible.  Today I would like to outline just four ways that this can happen, and I know you will relate in some way…so here goes:

4 Wrong Ways To Read The Bible (And you may not know you’re doing it).

  1.  8The Magic 8 Ball Bible Reader…
    Dear Magic 8 Ball, if He or She is the right one for me please let me know…”  Can I be honest, I have used the Bible from time to time in this manner.  We use many of these narratives, poetry, wise sayings to help us decide what to do in this life.  First of all, I don’t miscount that the Holy Spirit can use certain passages to help us, but if all that we do is put our fingers on random passages and BELIEVE that it’s my fortune or some sort of Divine answer, I think we’re way off base.  The Bible isn’t some sort of magic 8 ball that helps us find our soul mate or win the lottery or find the right car…so perhaps we ought to stop treating it like that.
  2. The “I’m right, you’re wrong and I’m going to prove it” Bible Reader…debate
    Have you ever gotten into religious debates with people?  It could have happened at a coffee shop, in school, or on a social media site.  The next thing you know you’re both sparring over who is right and who is wrong.  So you reach for your Bible so you can shoot them down and prove that you’re right and get the final word in…(and score a major victory on your religious debaters score card in heaven).  If the reason we use the Bible is to prove others wrong all of the time, I fear we are mistreating the bible once again.  Don’t mistake “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope…” (1 Peter 3:15) passage for being the same thing as using the Bible to club someone over the head and proving how right you are.  Stop using the Bible as your weapon to prove others wrong, it’s just not helping to reach people for Jesus.
  3. abbyThe “Dear Abby” Bible Reader…
    Sorry Dear Abby and Ann Landers fans.  Even though the Bible contains many life lessons from other people in history as well as books of wisdom, the Bible is not an advice column.  It will not always have an answer for every life problem you will encounter.  That isn’t to say that the Holy Spirit can’t guide and direct you, it just means that the Bible may not have a specific answer that you’re looking on a given subject.    Similarly to the “Magic 8 Ball” reader, the scriptures of these various books put together over a thousand year or two may not always contain some magical advice for someone living in our era.  In a broader aspect of course there are many, many teachable moral principles that we can draw from reading the Bible, but make sure it is read in context with the surrounding history and verses.
  4. The “Out Of Obligation” Bible Reader…forced-marriage
    The last wrong way we can sometimes read the bible is out of some sort of forced obligation.  We grudgingly reach for our bibles and we paw through the “required” reading for the day and then get on with life.  Although we read the obligatory passages we haven’t REALLY read them nor applied them to our every day living.  The “Out of Obligation” Bible reader tends to read the Bible like a homework assignment…from a class they don’t like and have little to no passion for it.  If we read the bible simply because we feel obligated to, the passion and love of the bible will not be present.  This “wrong way” of bible reading will not help us grow (most of the time) it will only make us feel like we are forced to do it, and we might end up feeling as if none of this was ours in the first place.

Read the Bible.
bible1I’m not saying don’t read it, just make sure that you’re reading it for the right reasons.
Be careful not to treat it as something that it’s not, nor ever intended to be.
Pray.
Ask God to help you in this.
Connect. 
Get connected with a Bible study group (with the same mindset as you) who can challenge you, help you and hold you accountable.

Something more to ponder today…here’s to reading the Bible appropriately and with the right motives and intentions!

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN:
What do YOU think?  Comment below and leave me some feedback on this subject.
Join the conversation!

The Beauty of Faith And Fear Living Together.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?Psalm 27:1 

fear1The truth is, we DO face fear in this life.
The truth is, we DO suffer from paralysis from time to time because of fear.
If we allow fear to take up a permanent place within our hearts, we rob ourselves of experiencing the joys of life that God offers to us.  Fear can only have power if we allow it to have power in us.

That is easier said than done when all of a sudden a moment of crisis takes place and our hearts plummet over that jagged cliff of trepidation and dread.  It is easier said than done when we come to the end of our ropes and we have nothing else to cling to.  It is easier said than done when we exhaust all hope and resource and still we can’t afford to make ends meet.

Fear is real.
But so is faith.

Questions to ponder today: 
Is fear ALWAYS bad?
Is there ever a place for fear?
Does fear ever coexist with faith?

I once heard a phrase that I still struggle with.fear
The phrase was spoken to a group of us in a church meeting once.
It goes like this:  “Faith and fear can’t exist in the same space”
I’m not sure I agree.
Sure, it sounds good on paper and all.
It’s a good mantra to utter in the face of adversity.
But is this saying really true?
I just don’t think it is.
It could be an awesome “battle cry” to rally the troops and help encourage the discouraged…but I think faith and fear sometimes go hand in hand.

I suppose the word fear has to be defined in this conversation.
I think there are varying degrees of fear to think about when we talk about “faith AND fear”.
We don’t want to generalize fear to mean something all encompassing when it comes to “what we are afraid of”, rather I believe the kind of fear that is present within faith is a trepidation rather than a full blown paralyzing fear.  I like one of the definitions of the word “trepidation” because it sort of crystallizes to me how faith and fear can coexist together in us.
The definition I think that fits is this:

‘Trepidation’ – a trembling motion.

To me this means that although we do not know what the future has in store for us, there IS STILL MOTION in us.
It sort of sums up that coined phrase “stepping out in faith” for me.
Although we have said “yes” to Christ and we have made that proclamation to the world around us, there is still the motion that is needed…and within that motion is a trembling.

Perhaps some of us dig deep and that trembling isn’t ever noticeable.
While in the rest of us that trembling aspect of faith is extremely evident.
It is more than mere nervousness of the unknown, it is a moving fear that propels faith to action.
It is more than reverence for God “fear and trembling”, it is an action verb that puts fuel on the fire of our faith.
faith
Do you have fear today? 
If you do have fear, I want to tell you that it is okay.
Don’t ever think that just because you’re fearful that there is something wrong with your faith walk.
Fear CAN exist within faith, and if understood and utilized correctly, it can help us to put feet and movement to our faith!

Something more to ponder today!

Ponderings on Je Suis Charlie Masacre…

Words that come into my mind amidst this recent tragedy –
Sad.
Freedom.
Terrorism.
Murder.
Criminal.
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I keep thinking of Charlie Hebdo’s final words: “I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees!
Talk about bold.
Talk about defiance in the face of certain death.
Talk about bravery in the midst of a cowardly attack on unarmed innocent people.

afraidMuch discussion has taken place this week as to who is to blame.
Was it the artist’s works of satire?
Was it the media’s fault?
Was it extremists?

Much like the US, there is the freedom of the press in France.
The United States is even partially modeled after the French model of government.
Some have asked if there are consequences to be paid for freedom of expression?
Should there be consequences?
While others have said, that the works of extremists and terrorists will not repress such expressions and the liberty to do so freely.

I keep coming back to Charlie Hebdo’s final words;
I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees!
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My point: 
I abhor violence of any kind.
Violence upon unarmed innocent people equally abhorrent.
Violence for the sake of any religion – intolerable and wrong.
Repression of anyone’s freedom of expression – wrong as well.

On the subject of faith:
My mind is drawn to many places in the world where Christians are executed based solely upon their freedom (or lack there of) to express their faith.
Places where public murder is allowed.
Places where any expression besides the prescribed expressions by the majority are forbidden and punishable by death.
If religion = violence.
If religion = repression.
If religion = death
If religion = the strong prevailing over the weak…
then I don’t want anything to do with religion.
I don’t want to live in a world like that.
I don’t want others to die in a world like that.

              I would rather die standing, than live on my knees.
And yet, I hear the words of Jesus in the back of my mind –
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”(Luke 9:23)
In other words – in my defiance to these things, I will live on my knees in utter humility.
I will pray for both victim and foe.
I will long for the day when violence ceases in all corners of the world.
I will kneel in this life and not attempt to become greater than others by stepping on them and silencing them.
How far will this take me?
To the foot of the cross.

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