Finding What We Seek…

“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” -Psalm 27:4

There is the old testament story about a woman named Hannah.
Hannah did not have any children of her own and she desperately wanted a child. So after one of the Jewish celebrations, Hannah goes to the temple and fervently prays to God to give her a child. She prays and weeps and is in deep anguish over this heartfelt need to be a mother. As she is praying and weeping, the priest Eli sees Hannah there, and he thinks she is drunk because her lips are moving but no words are coming out. So Eli goes and confronts her and even tells her to throw away her wine.

Imagine that for a second, this woman is crying out to God in one of her lowest moments and she can’t even catch a break without having Eli confront her in judgement. Hannah doesn’t lash out though, she just tells the priest why she is there and that she is not drunk. Hannah outlines her heartache and even says “I am very discouraged and I am pouring out my heart to the Lord.” (NLT translation).
The priest responds by saying, “May the God of Israel grant you the request that you asked of Him.”

Scriptures then tell us that Hannah goes home and is at peace and starts eating AGAIN. Let’s stop for a minute and recognize that in Hannah’s distress she had stopped eating and was so discouraged in her heart.

Have you ever been there?
Have you ever been so heavily burdened that you lose all appetite and thoughts of self-care?

One such moment comes to my mind in my life. My Wife had just tragically lost her mother in a horrible accident and for the next couple of days in the midst of our mourning we couldn’t eat and we barely slept. It was gut wrenching sadness and heartbreaking pain. Scripture tells us that there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3)…and in our lives, most of us have experienced those times of mourning. I believe Hannah felt a certain kind of mourning in her life as well and that is why we are made to understand in 1 Samuel 1:9-28 that Hannah was not eating…or probably sleeping. Her heart was so heavy and burdened with this deep longing and sadness for a child.

In the Seeking – We Find.
Hannah sought out God in this dark moment of her life.
She knelt before God and didn’t care if anyone else was watching, and as she poured out her heart to God, and He was there listening.

Praying for Women to Hunger for God · TWR Women Of Hope


It had nothing to do with a priest answering Hannah’s pleas…although Eli certainly did that. There wasn’t some sort of mystical words that Eli spoke that eased her heart. Rather, it was Hannah’s faith in the God that she prayed to that allowed her to find peace again. There was a certainty that filled that place where her mourning had been. Faith blossomed while her mourning decayed and faded away.

There is a truth of us in this.
David certainly found it when he wrote this:
One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” -Psalm 27:4

When we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, ALL these things will be given to us (Matthew 6:33). But it starts with our seeking.
Are we willing to search God and know Him? To truly know Him?! Not know of Him. Or about Him. But to truly KNOW Him?

What does it look like in our modern day to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life”? Let me give you a hint: it’s not just about going to church, but that’s a great start. It is about allowing God to dwell in your life every moment of every day. To literally breathe Him in and out in your actions, thoughts and words. So much so that your old self-induced life fades away to be replaced with a self-less holy one that reflects Christ completely.

Then, when we are heavy burdened, when we face daunting days of uncertainty (that can seem be insurmountable at times) we can seek God. We can know Him, and we can get up from our places of prayer and be rejuvenated in life by His spiritual nourishment, provision and love.

Questions to Ponder today:
What is currently weighing on your heart?
Have you prayed about these things to God?
These prayers can be spoken out loud or silently. They can be written down or thought in your mind as you go about your day. But one thing that truly helps is that you verbalize your burdens to the Lord. Even though He already knows them, speak them to Him.
Lastly do you trust that God is not only listening to your prayers, but that He is in your life and is a participant in it?

May we find what we seek today…and may we be seeking God as well purposely strive to dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

-Amen.

Something more for us to ponder today.
To God be the glory.

Perspectives Day 1 – Featuring Shanais Strissel (Captain) “On the Other Side of the Veil”

“On the Other Side of the Veil”

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Have you ever had a dream that was so vivid that when you woke up it took you a few moments to realize that it actually was a dream and not reality? It takes a moment for the mist to clear, the world to turn right side up and reality to realign itself once more.

I had a dream like that last night, vivid, stingingly emotional, deep and filled with rich, longing emotions.

I had a dream in which my mother showed up, she wasn’t what the dream was about or even a large portion of it, she just showed up for a moment…

I was sitting in a small room, with a small stage and when I glanced up I saw my mother walk out on the stage and begin to speak (which if you knew my mother she would NEVER intentionally get up in front of anyone)

            It wasn’t what she said, it was how she looked that struck me like an arrow through the heart…she was wearing blue jeans, an old t-shirt, her hair kind of wild and a huge cup of coffee in clutched her hands, with a nervous smirk on her face.

             The feelings that overtook me were so intense in my dream that I couldn’t even bare to look upon her face, in my dream I got up and walked out to the hall and cried, I cried a deep longing, emotion filled, slightly angry filled moaning cry.

            Why…because even in my dreams I know that my mother is gone and I can only glimpse her through the veil of death…it was her essence in my dream that connected my heart directly to hers because this WAS who my mother was, her look, her mannerism, her spirit...

            My dream was my subconscious creating an illusionary moment of a reality that I desire- a desire that I cannot fulfill….yet.

 

For now I wait patiently on this side of the veil.

 

Death is not a fixed point and heaven isn’t some misty, foggy place “out” there in the sky somewhere…it is just across the veil and closer than we think, or at least closer than I used to think.

            When death visits close to home and comes to take someone we love, whether violently or silently, it never comes gently- it cannot- it is not its nature, because it almost always leaves behind a gaping hole of loss or uneasy questions.

            But the good news for us is that even though we must, for now, stand on one side of the veil or the other it will not always be so.  Death may separate one life from another for now but someday that veil will be torn and we will not mingle with each other in death but in a real and tangible incorruptible life…

            When Jesus hung on that cross he didn’t just save us from our sin, he saved all humanity from desolate separation…We could not face God in a corruptible state but when Jesus tore the temple veil on his death, WE can now walk through that VEIL of death and arrive before God…and just as the temple veil was torn, so will this veil that separates the corruptible flesh, what we are now, to what we will someday become.

Someday, I will see my mother, my grandmother and those who are now on the other side of the veil and someday I will see that veil fall…

For those we celebrate on this day of honor and sacrifice, for the loss of loved ones, let the pain and sorrow of that loss gently flow into healing and hope…

            Healing because we know life does not end at death

And hope because we, for now, may get glimpses through the veil of death from time to time but someday it will be gone and we will be free to live and love the way we were meant to…without the fear of separation.

So on this day, let us not celebrate loss, but let us celebrate our future hope…

Because someday I will be able to go across the room and embrace my mother because nothing will separate us anymore, and you will be able to do the same…

 

Shanais Strissel’s Blog Site: http://shanaisstrissel.wordpress.com/

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Heaven is for real…and so is pain and suffering.

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Yesterday I blogged a bit about not living completely in the Christian-ecosystem that sometimes is known as the “Bubble”.  

Today…

I would like to explore what people are saying about Heaven as well as pain (even if the pain isn’t even spoken about).  

What are people saying about life after death?  

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As a Christian living in this world I recognize that to me this life is a gift…but that doesn’t always mean there isn’t pain and difficulties along the way.  Life is not just about the destination but also about the journey.  

QUESTIONS ABOUT SUFFERING 

Sometimes the journey is painful.

Why do some people endure more pain than others?  
Why is there suffering in this world? 

I understand that suffering and pain is a part of our fallen world but to me that answer sometimes just isn’t good enough…I want more.  I yearn to get to the bottom of this whole pain thing.  Isn’t that why some doctors feel called to their practice in the first place?  They want to help ease the pain in this life?  Isn’t there relief in sight?  Sometimes I look around me and am staggered by friends who have lost parents and other loved ones through the blight of cancer and other terminal diseases.  

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It hurts my heart to see servants of God, who deeply love God and serve Him and yet they are afflicted with these cancers that eat away and ravage the body.  I often ask “Why God?”  

When I think of the verse that Jesus said (even within the context of loving your enemies) – “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” I recognize that God is fair and just in this world.  I also recognize that the fallen nature of this world is the ultimate cancer that ravages our world.  The rains can, and some times do, include times of emotional and physical drought for the sinner and the saint.  The rains can include times of healing and times of sickness…and even death.  

Although I know this to be true, can I be honest with you?  It doesn’t do much to ease my hurt when I see friends hurting.  I hurt right along with them as they suffer…but as a Christian I do know that there is ultimate healing and that death is not the end.  

What other people are saying…

 

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Last night I asked friends of mine a question.  The question was -” who else do you long to see in heaven besides Jesus?
Their answers ranged from grand parents, spouses, relatives and friends and even children that some had lost.
Even though we have this hope and assurance of Eternity with Christ we still endure hardships and sufferings.  Life is not easy and we still carry these wounds of those loved ones we have lost along with us.  Sometimes their memories comfort us while other times they help us to endure through rough patches we ourselves are going through.  

BUT HEAVEN IS FOR REAL…RIGHT NOW!:

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Here’s a revelation, perhaps you already know this – We don’t have to wait for heaven to get here to experience God’s Kingdom now! 
 Luke 17:20b-21 (NIV) Jesus said, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God  is in your midst [or,within you].”

Jesus experienced suffering in His very human life.  He was hurt by betrayal, but abandonment and He even suffered the worst of deaths.  I think it is safe to say that Jesus knows a little bit about human suffering and what we go through still today.  Despite the fact that suffering exists here’s a source of hope for you and for me:  The Kingdom of God is here and now!  Jesus may have been implying the He was the Kingdom in physical form and though He isn’t physically here His Presence in the form the Holy Spirit is.  We are not alone in this world…we never were.  God’s Kingdom is among us still.  Eternity is around us…we just haven’t recognized it yet. 

It is true that when we die we will see Eternity in all of its glory, but we do not need to wait for that day to experience God’s presence every day!  His presence is the essence of eternity and despite the sufferings of these human forms and the fallen world we live in, He can provide us the victory through it all!  This may be difficult to swallow for some of us…I still struggle with it myself, but I do believe despite pain and suffering God is very present with us right here and right now!  

Heaven is for real, so is pain and suffering, BUT the Almighty is also very, very real as well!  

-Just a thought.  

 

Heaven is for real…and so are we! (Don’t be a blind label follower)

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I wouldn’t attempt to criticize “Christian” movies coming out onto the silver screen.  I think perhaps they have a message that might reach certain people.  Take the most recent movie, for example – “Heaven is for real” based on the book and real life account of Colton Burpo: 

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I am certainly not in a place to judge the authenticity of his story, this isn’t my purpose for this blog entry.  I recognize too that Heaven is for real.  That when Jesus said that He was going there to prepare a place for us (starting with His original disciples) that He meant it.  Life does not end at the final exhalation of breath, but continues…How or where that will be is still a mystery to us all.  But here is where faith comes in.  

Still…

I don’t draw my criticism of the content of this story nor the content of other such movies recently released that also have faith-based themes.  Where my criticisms lie is in the cheap budgets and production content.  

I understand the need to be relevant in the world…and I don’t necessarily go to see a movie just because it is labeled “Christian” just as I don’t necessarily patronize certain businesses because they also happen to be “Christian(s)”.  Does that label make the product better in some way?  Will their services far exceed the services of others who don’t label themselves as “Christians”?  

Another thought that comes to mind within this realm of “Christian” labeling is: Do I solely live within a “Christian” bubble then?  

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Every where I go, everyone I see, the things I choose to buy are they all “Christian”?  Is my worldview solely engaged in other Christians out there so much so that I have no contact…with “those“. “Other“.  “People“.  ????

 

Don’t get me wrong, I need to hear encouraging and challenging teachings about Christ and about faith too, but what happens next?  What will I then do with those teachings if my entire ecosystem is “Christian”?  How does that impact the lost?  How can I reach out a compassionate hand of understanding…if I don’t understand?  

 

I’m not knocking the movie “Heaven is for Real”…I think there is some serious merit in exploring Eternity and our destination there one day…but what I am knocking (for lack of a better word) are Blind Label Followers.  

Ephesians 6:12 says – “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.” 

This is sandwiched right in between the verses about putting on the whole armor of God.  
In one hand we put on our armor and gird ourselves against sin, temptation and the dark forces of evil.  In the other hand we recognize that people around us who are lost (as we once were) are not the enemy!  Sin is the enemy and we wage a spiritual war within this world.  

If we only exist within the “Christian” label ecosystem how can we reach out to those who are completely blind to sin and its trappings? 

Here’s what I am not saying: 
I am not saying stop watching strictly “Christian” movies…there’s a time and place for them and at times an active evangelistic tool.
I am not saying don’t buy anything “Christian” either…that’s just plain dumb and we need edification and challenge through authentic Christ-following authors and teachers.  

What I am saying:
Break the Christian bubble if you’re living in one.  
Reach out into the world (don’t be conformed to it mind you) and love as Christ did to the whosoever.
Be wise and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in discerning how you should act and be instead of living through “group think”.  
Live out-loud your faith but take the time to listen to the needs of the unsaved around you!

-Just a thought.

ATTENTION: Join me tomorrow as I explore what others have said about seeing Jesus face to face.

Just something else to ponder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rising of the sea (a poem)

Give way to the rising of the sea
Grasping and hoping to finally break free
Throw a stone in the ocean
And sink beneath its tides
You’re so close to home
Where all the shadows hide.
Don’t close your eyes
Or turn away from this
Your heaven breaks the surface
and longing for first kiss
Give way, dear soul to the sea
And breathe free, breathe free.

‘The Way’ or the ‘LOST’ way

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They gathered there in the stained glass chapel, the final meeting of a group of people from all walks of life.  The stain glass depicted various cultural and religious forms, from Jesus to Buddha, to the prophet Muhammad…they gathered there and reflected, realizing they were dead and they would enter eternity together as the lost members of Oceanic flight 815.  

I absolutely love the show ‘LOST’, I enjoyed the plots, the characters and the notion of being stranded on this amazing deserted island in the middle of the Pacific ocean.  It kept me coming back for more until…This series finale of the show ‘LOST’ which left me with a bitter taste and heavy heart.  Still to this day I look back at this finale and shake my head, ask myself “did I understand that right?”…I tell myself they ended the show poorly…an amazing journey only to end in some cosmic universalistic afterlife experience which pleases everyone from every religiosity yet offers no consequence or judgement upon evil and wrongs…I recognize redemption and acknowledge the plight of man, but this finale truly bothered me.  It bothers me still to this very day because there’s a lie involved within the premise of the final show and I don’t buy the lie!

The lie is “All roads lead to heaven”…this lie is so immersed in our culture today that many blindly accept it without looking deeper.  It’s an attempt to be all inclusive and yet muddies the waters of morality, ethics and theology.  I don’t buy the lie because I’ve read the words of Jesus when He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  Jesus said I am THE WAY, not one of the ways, or just another path to the Father.  

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Do I believe that Jesus is THE WAY?  You bet I do!  I believe that there is only one path to God and Hindu, Islam, Buddhism or any other ‘ism’ aren’t paths leading to God.  Our Creator and loving Father wants us to accept Him and that of His one and only Son Jesus who is the only way to the Father.  

One day we will see Him and all will know the truth of Christ’s words.  Don’t buy the lie and get ‘Lost’.  Just a thought for today. 

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Ashamed? Hell No!

2 Timothy 1:5-8 (NIV)
5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,
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I hope I didn’t offend you…not my purpose.  My purpose in my title is to ask which do we prefer Eternity in Heaven or Eternity in Hell.  My choice?  Hell?  NO!  Heaven?  Yes!  From this perspective I will not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ!  I know in whom I have placed my trust and I will not back down from that!  

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy to remind him to carry on the mission of Christ…to fan it into flame to ignite others and to never be ashamed of the Lord.  I can imagine the early Christians facing all kinds of ridicule, mockery, imprisonment and death…Paul’s words go beyond basic embarrassment or  shame it picks at the very heart of being a Christian.  We are to be in essence gate keepers of heaven…guides if you will to the one who holds the keys of heaven and eternal life – Christ himself.  

When we shy away from this role, when we passively allow injustices to occur and we look the other way because we’re afraid to get involved or how it will look we may as well be gate keepers of hell.  I know that sounds pretty harsh but we have to stand for something or else we’ll fall for anything or allow anything to go in this life.  And if we’re wise in our understanding of scripture we ought to acknowledge that scripture certainly doesn’t endorse an ‘anything goes’ notion in this life.  

Timothy took up the gauntlet from the Apostle Paul.  He did continue in spreading the word of Christ to all the world.  He was a pivotal early church leader.  

In our lives are we ashamed of Christ?  Are we afraid to share our faith of Him to those we meet?  I’m not talking about handing out “Get Saved Or Else” pamphlets here.  I’m talking about developing trusting relationships with people so that when you present the gospel you are making a lasting impact on them.  Being unashamed is a part of the role of a Christian.  We can’t do this in our own strength however.  We need the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to get it right and to be effective.  

Ashamed?  If we allow hell to prevail…I say Hell no!  Stand up, be bold, be unashamed..and heaven Yes!   

“What Do I Stand For?” F2 = −F1 Action = Reaction…Choice=Consequence

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“…and that in consequence of their fall (Adam and Eve) all men have become sinners, totally depraved, and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.” (The Doctrines of The Salvation Army, Doctrine #5)

“We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked.”  (The Doctrines of The Salvation Army, Doctrine #11)

What do I stand for?  This is the question I’ve been asking and trying to answer all week…

Thus far we’ve explored: Selflessness over selfishness; God’s Justice & Social Justice.  These are fundamental areas of a Christian life.  So let me throw some fuel on the fire, so to speak…when we recognize what it is we are standing for, where our ideologies lay and are guided by specific principles in our lives we must begin to recognize that Isaac Newton’s third law of action-reaction applies to our spiritual lives as well.

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Isaac Newton’s 3rd Law – Action/Reaction:

When a first body exerts a force F1 on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force F2 = −F1 on the first body. This means that F1 and F2 are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.

Did you catch that?  Just kidding, unless you’re really into physical laws and laws of mechanics you might not understand this definition…here’s the definition that I understand:  “To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.” 

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In our world, morally speaking, this reaction is called consequences.  Everyone who makes choices both consciously and sub-consciously will find that there are consequences to each and every choice we make.   All too often, however, in our world today many people have chosen to ignore these consequences by blaming other people for their mistakes, or simply running away from the consequences.  Adam and Eve, as I’ve mentioned before faced God’s justice in the garden because of the choice they both consciously made:  Action (Choice)  = Reaction (Consequence).

Similarly, if we continue by this line of reasoning we come to a junction in the road that brings us to ultimate consequence.  Everyone whole heartedly embraces and understands that all humanity will one day face death…as it’s been said, it’s inevitable like taxes.  We will one day die.  It is quite sad to consider those who are Atheists who believe that there is no further existence after death…that this is all there is to this existence.  In the Christian perspective, we believe that our souls do have an afterlife and that within this afterlife there is heaven and there is hell.

As I’ve stated before some people have a difficult time facing this reality and that God would eternally punish those who reject Him.  But as I’ve mentioned before if our action is to purposefully and willfully turn our backs on God, then the eternal consequence of such an action is the reaction which leads the soul to eternal separation from God.  Hell is a real place!  Hell will be inevitable for some people…and I am not the judge, never will be and I’ve never claimed to be.  But if we are to embrace such a reasoning as an afterlife and the notion of heaven, then ought to understand that there is such a place as hell.

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Here’s are some closing thoughts on this for today:

1) Own up to your actions!

You and you alone are responsible for the choices that YOU make…I am responsible for the choices that I make!

2) Consequences are real!

If you make a poor choice the consequences are yours.  If I make a poor choice the consequence is mine.  Not someone else’s.  Stop blaming others when consequences come that we don’t like that are based on our poor choices.

3) There is always a right and better choice!

God doesn’t simply want a relationship with us, He want to transform us to become like His Son Christ on our spiritual journey!  He doesn’t want us to remain the way He has found us.  He wants us to choose Him every time in our daily lives.  This means consider the consequences of our actions, consider the path that we wish to take and also consider God knows what He is doing!  Choose Him, and His path…it won’t be easy but His path is right!

4) Believe in Eternity and live for God’s kingdom in the here and now! 

If we choose His path, His direction in our lives, we not only fall in step with His will but we recognize that life is so much more than just this human experience.  Eternity is so much longer and lives are at stake.  We must be Christ’s ambassadors in our world!  We are called to this higher calling to not only look forward to heaven, but to introduce Christ to those who have yet to believe and add to this heavenly family on this journey.

What do I stand for?  What do you stand for?  I will own up to my choices…I will face the consequence of my poor choices and strive, with His Holy Spirit’s help, to live a Holy life in word and in deed!

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