Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why Water


It begins as a simple whimper and builds in volume. At its peak, it’s a heartbreaking mixture of longing, discomfort and anger mingled with uncertainty, fear and frustration. This is the cry of a child; it is the cry of my newborn child. It’s a cry that every parent learns to recognize and satisfy. That is the beauty of my child’s cry, not the cry itself but that I have been given the knowledge and provision to sooth my child’s cry. In a small village, halfway around the world, there is another child crying and another parent who recognizes the hunger and need for sustenance within that cry. My child’s cry begins to quiet and her eyes begin to close, there are a few remaining little sniffles but even these soon are gone. She snuggles herself into my arms and against my chest and soon I recognize the sound of her breathing as she falls asleep, comforted and safe, her hunger satisfied. Half way around the world another child’s cry begins to diminish, this sound is not as pleasant to the ear as the peace that my child experiences. This cry is fading due to weakness, disease and unfulfilled hunger that little lungs are no longer strong enough to express. This child’s eyes close not because they are satisfied, comforted or safe, but these eyes close because the end is near. My child sleeps quietly, safe and secure, her belly full and her emotional needs met. Half way around the world, the end has come but there is a different cry to be heard. It is a cry, filled with pain and anguish as a mother or father morn the loss of their child.

Is this child now with Jesus? My faith and hope says that this is the case but I find nothing solid in the scriptures to support this theory. My faith tells me that a loving God, a God that loved so much he sent his only son to die for all, could never take such a small and innocent life without the offer of an eternal Heaven. At the same time my flesh screams that a loving God would never take such a life in the first place. While these two sides, flesh and spirit, are locked in battle, I know that eventually, the spirit will win and Faith will prevail. My faith will dictate that I cannot possibly begin to understand God completely and that if I could then he’s not worthy of being God. My prayers tonight will ask for wisdom and understanding and forgiveness for my weakness and praise for my faith, of which he is the faithful provider.

At the same time I struggle, I wonder about the heart of the father or mother left behind. Do they know the Jesus that I have come to lean so heavily on in my times of struggle and despair or have their hearts been hardened a little further to a Jesus who called for love and sacrifice for the sake of others but whose so called followers sacrifice little and love even less. Have they heard or read about the Christ who gave his own life so that they may have victory or have they only seen and read about the Christ who lives in huge brick or multi-colored Glass houses filled with gold representations of that which was really ugly, broken and bloody. Maybe the only Jesus they’ve heard about or experienced is the one that rides on bumpers or as fish symbols on trunks of cars and goes everywhere yet does nothing that resembles the true Savior.
God has created something beautiful and disturbing. While knowing Jesus brings comfort and peace his love will not allow us to be comfortable with the suffering of others. He has given me a beautiful gift and blessing of having a gorgeous little girl and I would be a selfish fool to not want to share that feeling with the rest of the world. To think that I could make a difference so that halfway around the world that child closes it eyes in the same peaceful sleep as my child instead of the alternative gives me no choice but to take action.
Even if you don’t believe in God or know Jesus Christ, there has to be something deep within your moral humanity that would cry out that there is something wrong with the way things are!

Why water... because 1.1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water. 42,000 people die each week, 4,500 children will die today because they lack clean drinking water. $20 dollars can give a person water for 20 years.
Why water... because I will make a difference.
Why water... because you can make a difference.
Why water...... because somewhere halfway around the world a child has begun to whimper…


to make a difference, go to www.mycharitywater.org/Living_water

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The unexpected



This is a short clip from one of my all time favorite movies called Dangerous Minds. It's a movie about hope and inspiration and the soundtrack is pretty good too. In this clip you see a teacher/parent visit after Raul (the student) has just gotten into a fight and been suspended from school. You can tell from the parents actions that this is not the first time that Raul has been in trouble. Then Miss Johnson (the teacher) does something that is totally unexpected and shocking to them. She praises Raul for being a good student and tells his parents that he is "one of my favorites".

While watching this clip for about the twentieth time this morning, it struck me as to gracious and loving this is. It showed genuine care and concern for this troubled youth. Too many times we look at pieces of peoples lives and make harsh judgements and criticisms which harden our heart toward them, when we should be showing them the love, grace and mercy that is available through Jesus Christ. You may never know what affect that moment of grace, love and mercy may have on someones life.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Witness

I just witnessed a man being bound by handcuffs and placed into a police car. I can’t recall, as I sit here, ever having seen this in my sheltered life before. It wasn’t really a shock to me other than knowing the life I’ve lived, it is a little surprising that I haven’t seen or experienced this before. I write this today as a witness to this thing which for some reason wasn’t that shock but instead… it seemed to do something to my heart. It appears that it has stirred something deep inside of me that weeps for this man. Now before you start thinking I’m being all bleeding heart liberal, I confess that I do not know this man’s story. I cannot tell you where he came from or where he was headed. I know nothing about his guilt or innocence. I did see little snippets which led me to believe that he was a traveler with no home. That he was probably coming off the highway and stopped in to “grab” some supplies before continuing on his journey. I think that it was probably the “grabbing” part that led him to the moment that I witnessed as I was loading my supplies (groceries, which still sit in backs, waiting to be put up) into my very nice pickup truck. Still, something about the scene I witness sets heavily in my heart. It could be that I was in one of the nicer sections of town. I was in an area that recently got a facelift, due to the building of a very nice winery, shops and hotel. It could be the crowd of people gathered around, some smiling with curiosity as this man was being taken away. I hope those aren’t really the reasons that something in me feels broken about what I witnessed, because I hope that I will not be judged in that manner when my time comes, as just an onlooker who just sees part of the story.
I can’t help but be disturbed over the fact that I have some much and was filling my truck with even more, while watching someone who just needed a little more was being led away by police. I sit here in the middle of my plenty, wondering what else was in that back pack other than what he had taken. As I was leaving, the policemen (God bless our servicemen, all of them) was getting ready to go through this guys back pack. I almost stayed an extra couple minutes to see what would be pulled out. In that moment, it occurred to me that the bag could contain everything this guy owned. What was in there… a bag of chips, some nabs, a fresh pair of socks, an additional t-shirt, a bottle of water… I’m not saying that stealing is right or that this man is justified in his actions but rather, I cannot help but wonder what the world would look like if I was more willing to let loose of all that I have and be more generous to those who don’t have. Even now, when I say world, I don’t mean “The World” but rather that inner part of me that wonders if I could have made a difference in this man’s life. Maybe not a difference at the exact moment I was a witness too but maybe in some point leading up to that moment. I don’t know… and I don’t know that I have the answers but I do know that something about this story isn’t right. That if Jesus were here, that the outcome would have been different.

Isaiah 58:6-10 (New Living Translation)
6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
7 Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.
9 Then when you call, the LORD will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10 Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Years Prayer

I know I haven't written in a while so if anyone is still reading this then I apologize. If not, my pastor once told me to use my gifts even if no one was around to hear them so...

I stopped making New Years Resolutions a couple years ago. It just seemed like it always ended up being a good way to track my failures from year to year. I'm not much of a planner anyway so it was something that was easy for me to give up. I realized pretty quickly, however, that just because I stopped making these resolutions and telling others that it didn't really stop me from thinking about them. So... I've been thinking about this years "changes" and I've been able to narrow this very cumbersome list down to just one item. I cannot take credit for this item because it's something that I got from a Craig Groeschel podcast series called "30 days to Live". It comes from week 2 of this series about the life of a man named Larry Damerval. Larry was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and shared his thoughts and emotions during this very moving series about what life would be like if you only had 30 days to live.



So... instead of making a resolution, I think I'm going to take Larry's advice and adopt it into a prayer. In the video above he makes the following statement.

Look at life as “How can I take one step today to be closer to God than I was yesterday.”

That is my prayer for this year. I want to draw closer to God every single day.

you can find more about larry and other messages at www.lifechurch.tv

Friday, October 24, 2008

Crazy Prayer

I like softball. Ok, I confess, I love softball. I love softball so much that sometimes I get in trouble for playing softball. A couple weeks ago I was at home preparing my wife’s favorite meal (steak) in anticipation of her arrival home after a long stressful day at work. I knew it was a stressful day for her because it was a Monday and everybody has stressful Mondays and in her business Mondays are the worst. Anyway, I’ve got the grill going with a nice juicy steak on it, just the right seasonings, anticipating her gratefulness at my being such a wonderful and thoughtful husband and then my phone rings. I answer my phone and on the other end of the line is an opportunity. Not a ministry opportunity but an opportunity to go and play two games of softball! This was an easy no-brainer for me to make the right decision… so I jerk my wife’s medium rare steak (she likes medium well) off the grill, grab my stuff and kiss my beautiful wife goodbye. I’m headed down the road to the ball field and suddenly I’m overwhelmed with the knowledge that I’ve made the wrong decision. (Some of you are saying “Duh” right now and I have to warn you that it’s not very nice to call people an idiot.) At this point I’m overcommitted and if I don’t show up, then nine other people pay the penalty for my bad decision not to mention the one person at home who is already paying the price. I’m still not sure how to correctly handle this situation other than to not allow myself to get into a situation like this in the first place. Right or wrong, I went and played my two games and came home asking for forgiveness. The problem is that this wasn’t the first time I’ve let softball (or my desire to “play”) override my relationship with my wife. I’ve spent a lot of time since then thinking about what drives me to love softball so much that I would drop everything for an opportunity to play. I just cannot get enough of that feeling of competition, the thrill of victory, the physical exertion, the drive to be better each time, the relationships and sometimes it just consumes me... but that is a lesson for another day.

I was playing in a softball tournament this past weekend when something interesting happened. God has blessed me with the gift of prayer and these tournaments are often filled with opportunities to use this gift to glorify him (I hope and pray). Before the first game, I was getting loosened up with the team and thinking about the day and the opportunities that lay ahead. I did not feel the stirring in my spirit with the desire to gather the team for prayer before the game. In the past, I probably would have forced myself into gathering the team and praying but I decided to let this one go and no one else brought it up. We won the first game but it was a bit of a struggle and we had to come from behind in the late innings to squeak by with a victory. As we were getting ready for our second contest of the day one of the guys on our team requested that we get together and pray. As I was preparing myself mentally to lead the team in prayer, another player on the team stepped up and began to pray. We proceeded to go out and get our second victory. As the day went on, the victories continued to come and I think we may have had another prayer or two but eventually we found ourselves preparing to play for the championship trophy. Once again, this player calls us all together to give praise and thanks to the Lord before our final game. His prayer began similar to the others that day but as he neared the end of the prayer he spoke these words “God, help us to annihilate the other team. I don’t like them very much. I know this isn’t right but I love you.” I have to be honest and say that this drew quite a few chuckles along with some raised eyebrows (mine) about the validity of this prayer and perhaps (shame on me) the quality of his relationship with Christ. As we took the field, there was some question as to whether God had heard or would respond to this prayer. I’ve learned through experience to be very careful with how I pray so I fully expected it would be us that got annihilated. Forty-five minutes later our team exits the softball field after what could only be described as a brutal beating or in the words of the prayer an annihilation of a pretty decent softball team. The guy who had prayed for us is overjoyed with our victory and proceeds to give out hugs and high fives like they were Halloween candy. In the end, some of us are gathered in the parking lot after the game, stowing our stuff and having a conversation about the day when this guys drives up and wants to take a picture of us with the trophy. After some urging, he allows his father to snap a picture of a few of us gathered around him as he held the trophy. He is simply ecstatic about the victory of the day and the talent of our ball team. He continues to thank us until his words are diminished to just tears and he slowly drives away. It’s only after he leaves the ball field that I discover the entire story behind his high emotions and his tears. It appears that the team that we beat in the final game was one that he had played with on a regular basis during the year. They had abandoned him and found a replacement to enter this tournament. It was he that paid the entry fee for our team to get into the tournament and he had initiated the gathering of our team to play together. He had even received a phone call just days before the tournament from a former teammate taunting him and saying that we wouldn’t show up and that we would never stoop to play with someone of his talent. Since that moment, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the words of this guy’s final prayer and the spirit behind it. It seems to me to contain some very basic elements that I normally use in my prayers. He started with thanks and praise, then he asked for an overwhelming victory over his enemies, followed by confession of his sin and acknowledgement that he was under the law of God’s love and grace for failing to love them as he should. Here is the crazy thing… I don’t know if his prayer was heard by God or not, answered by God or not but I know that this guy had a troubled spirit and that God knew before the beginning of time that he would come to that exact moment in time chained in the torment of his soul. I truly believe that God lead us into the path of this guys life so that when his soul was crying out for peace and reconciliation that he was able to experience the grace and mercy that is the love of Jesus Christ. Whether he recognizes that the love of Christ was what he was experiencing as those tears ran down his cheeks or not, God sent his Son to the Cross so that at that moment, His radical love would be laid before this man’s feet. He had only to reach out and grasp it to gain a victory that completely overwhelms the small victory gained on that softball field. I don’t know that God really cared about the outcome of that ball game or not but I do know from scripture that he is concerned about the state of our soul and his spirit will intercede on our behalf when we can’t find the right words.
I have ran a little long today and my time is growing short so let me wrap up by leaving you with a last word and some scripture. I don’t know if this guys prayer was appropriate or not, heard or not, answered or not, but I do know that his soul was in anguish and crying out for peace. I know from his tears God responded to his cry by giving him the opportunity to experience the everlasting love of Christ. He did this by placing people around him that were witnesses to the transforming power contained in the blood of Christ. I don’t know if he fully grasped where these tears along with a peace and stirring of his spirit was from but I know that the next time someone prayers for their enemies to be overcome and confesses that they should love them instead of how they truly feel; I’ll be more merciful in my judgment of their prayer. If I am judged by my words and actions alone and not through His Spirit, then I have much to be held accountable for.

Here are some scriptures that I came across during my time in study on this.

1 Kings 8:38-40 (New International Version)
38 and when a prayer or plea is made by any of your people Israel—each one aware of the afflictions of his own heart, and spreading out his hands toward this temple- 39 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of all men), 40 so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our fathers.

Psalm 86:11-17 (The Message) (A David Psalm)
11-17 Train me, GOD, to walk straight;
then I'll follow your true path.
Put me together, one heart and mind;
then, undivided, I'll worship in joyful fear.
From the bottom of my heart I thank you, dear Lord;
I've never kept secret what you're up to.
You've always been great toward me—what love!
You snatched me from the brink of disaster!
God, these bullies have reared their heads!
A gang of thugs is after me—
and they don't care a thing about you.
But you, O God, are both tender and kind,
not easily angered, immense in love,
and you never, never quit.
So look me in the eye and show kindness,
give your servant the strength to go on,
save your dear, dear child!
Make a show of how much you love me
so the bullies who hate me will stand there slack-jawed,
As you, GOD, gently and powerfully
put me back on my feet.

Luke 1:68-75
(New International Version)
68"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come and has redeemed his people.
69He has raised up a horn[a] of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Footnotes:
a. Luke 1:69 Horn here symbolizes strength.


Romans 8:26 (The Message)
26-28Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
Finally… I would ask that you not do as I did and hold me in judgment for the words written above. I could very well be way off base on this one and I’m willing to accept that in order to write what I feel in my spirit. I’ve also decided to leave the question of this prayer in the hands of God as only He knows the true spirit in a man’s heart and the reality of right and wrong in a man’s prayer. I am simply going to defer this one to scripture.

Isaiah 55:8
(NIV)
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (English Standard Version)
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The American Dream

I don’t mean to sound so un-American all the time but it just seems like the closer I draw to Christ, the more difficult it is for me to accept some of the ideals that I’ve been taught. One of these ideals is what we call the American dream. While on the surface this dream looks like the greatest opportunity for a successful life that we have, I’ve found that the pursuit of this dream sometimes interferes with my pursuit of the Kingdom of God.



In my opinion, the American Dream has become an excuse to pursue "more" without conscience of how our pursuit affects those around us. It affects our family, friends, neighbors, the Church, our relationships, and much much more. I've never read anything about this "American Dream" in scripture. I have only to look at the lives of Christ, Paul and the other in the Bible to realize that what I've been promised by our "Government" was never guaranteed by my Savior.

I think that we sometimes twist scripture so that we can justify our pursuit of more. We take verses like John 10:10 and qualify our compulsion to gather more stuff when in reality the abundant life that Christ promised has nothing to do with worldly wealth. I like the way the message paraphrases this verse.

John 10:10 (The Message)
6-10Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. "I'll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn't listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

Compare this to what comedian George Carlin said about abundance:

“Actually this is just a place for my stuff, ya know? That's all, a little place for my stuff. That's all I want, that's all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know? I can see it on your table; everybody's got a little place for their stuff. This is my stuff, that's your stuff, that'll be his stuff over there. That's all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time.”

The American dream has fostered the idea that we all need more stuff!

One thing I’ve discovered and over the last year is the fact that I am rich. I might not fit into “Americas” definition of rich because I don’t have enough stuff, but I am rich nonetheless. I am talking strictly about my monetary means. I’m not talking about an abundance of peace, joy, happiness, etc… I’m not making light of these things that Christ has given me but I also have great wealth compared to many others in this world. The American dream says that I should save, store and invest this wealth so that I can rise above the poverty that I see around me and by my rise to the top, I create opportunities for those around me to rise to the top also or at the very least, they can feed themselves with the crumbs that I have left over. The bible tells me the opposite. That I should go out and be among these people and “share my wealth” because my life is short and these things that I hang onto along with my own life will be gone in the twinkling of an eye. Jesus never rose above anything other than the grave; instead he lowered himself so that everyone may have the same opportunity that he does. That is, he sacrificed all that he had so that whosoever would believe in him would not perish but have life everlasting. Through his sacrifice and his death we have an opportunity to experience life in a real and eternal way. This opportunity, this “dream” calls for us to sacrifice because at the core of this dream is Jesus and Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice that is incredibly and simply… love. Not money, things, family, friends, joy, happiness, wealth and prosperity but Love. The American dream says that if you want these things in your life, then you need to pursue wealth, prosperity and success. Jesus’ dream says the if you pursue a relationship with him and his kingdom, then you will not want for these things.



The american dreams states that I should get an education and earn infinite amounts of money so that I may gain great happiness and never want for anything. God's dream says that I go to college and out of my 20 dollar a week meal allowance, I use half to sponsor a child less fortunate than I am that I've never meet but have a burden in my heart for. (www.compassion.com)

The american dream says to use my talent and passion for basketball to pursue a multi-million dollar contract in the NBA. God’s dream says to use that talent and passion for basketball to start a ministry, at age 9, that would generate enough money to build a school and medical testing lab in Africa for children who have lost their parents to AIDS. (www.hoopsofhope.org)

The american dreams states that to rise above our servitude that we are to pursue the riches available to kings. God’s dream says that in order to be heirs in the kingdom we must first fall to our knees and wash the feet of those we love, even those who would later betray us. (The Bible - John 13)



The american dream is about personal success. God's dream is about personal sacrifice.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Patterns




There are times when I struggle to feel the presence of God…
Before I get too much further let me clarify some things. My faith is intact, my salvation is assured, I love God more now than ever before and I am more certain of His love for me now more than ever. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, there are no other gods and there is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus. I think my desire to know God in my life is greater than it has ever been. Still… there are times when I struggle to feel God’s presence. What is even more astounding is that I can see God’s fingerprint on so many things in my life, my marriage, my finances, my un-employment, my family, my conversations, my friends, my church, etc… So with the fingerprint of God all over my life why do I sometimes struggle to feel his presence? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because many times you will hear about “Christians” losing their fire. The last thing I want to do is “lose my fire” for God because this is essentially saying that I don’t love or desire God as much as I once did. That is just not true, I still love God, even more now than ever, still… sometimes I struggle to feel his presence. I thought that maybe it’s because I’m not in “His Word” as much as I used to be. Well, I’ve examined my study time and while it is lacking and could definitely use some improvement, I actually think it’s better than it’s ever been. I’m in constant meditation on the scriptures, even walking around at times giving sermons or writing about God in my mind. Still… sometimes I struggle to feel his presence.
I think about Moses coming down from the mountain after basking in the presence of God, having to place a veil over his face. Then there is the transfiguration where Peter, James and John were in the unveiled presence of Christ in all His glory. I reflect on Paul and Silas sitting in a jail cell, praying and singing hymns until the jailer comes in and begs to be saved and then takes them to his home to be baptized with his family. What a great moment that must have been, how they must have been filled with the presence of God! I wonder what it was like for them the next day, the next week, the next month. I realize that life or more accurately that this world is filled with many ups and downs. We make visits to the mountain top and journeys through the valleys. Thus is the pattern of the world. Is it the same with being in the presence of my Savior? I don’t think so…
Romans 12:2 says to no longer conform to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come. There are too many scriptures that speak about what happens when we become followers of Christ to make a single moment outside of the presence of God acceptable to me. If I am to believe that Galations 2:20 is true, that I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, then I have to believe that I am only alive in the presence of Christ. So… why do I still struggle to feel the presence of God in my life? I believe it has to do with patterns of the world and the fact that sometimes I just don’t get it.
Romans 12:2 talks about these patterns that we can sometimes fall into. Let’s look at this scripture a little differently for a moment “if we conform to the patterns of this world, then we will not be transformed and therefore we will not be able to determine the will of God in our lives. We read this scripture and determine not to fall into this worldly pattern so we begin to emulate what we think a Christian life should look like. The problem is that the example that we look to emulate is other Christians. We see those who we judge to be more spiritually mature than ourselves and began to act like them. We see those we judge to be less spiritually mature than us and make sure we don’t act like them. Then we get to the point where we think/look like those who are more spiritually mature than we once were and we begin to expect those that are less spiritually mature than us to act more like us! We see others stand and raise their hands during praise and worship and we think how godly they must be so we stand and raise our hands. Once we are standing and raising our hands, we look around and down at those who aren’t standing and feel sorry that their personal relationship with Christ isn’t what ours (those who are collectively standing with arms raised) is. We fall into a pattern of how we seat ourselves during the service. We like to sit near those who are more spiritually mature. If we sit towards the front then we must be more spiritually mature than those sitting in the rear. We like to do things the way they’ve always been done. We expect a certain order to our worship. We continue to usher because it’s what we’ve always done. We serve because it’s what others expect of us. We bow our heads in prayer because it’s what everyone else does. We go to church every Sunday, Wednesday and any other day the church is open because if we don’t, then we may be thought less spiritually mature than we think we are. Our prayer life becomes stale when we fall into a pattern of continually asking for God to bless us as we go through these repetitive motions. Our emotions take on the appearance of what others expect them to be as Christians. We meet tragedy in people’s lives with a fake smile and a word about God’s plan or God’s will. We’ve forgotten that to love means to be broken when others are broken, to hurt when they hurt, to laugh when they laugh. We think that living a Christ like life means to be blessed financially and to never struggle with sin, persecution or the darkness that sometimes exist in this world. We think that struggling with money or being tempted by sin means something must be wrong with our relationship with Christ. We fall into patterns because of the way that we think others judge us or the way that we judge those around us. I believe these patterns separate us from the presence of God because we act based on expectations rather than being led by the Holy Spirit. We raise our hands in worship because of how it makes us look instead of how it makes us feel. We don’t realize that by sitting somewhere else, we might meet someone whom is seeking a friend or better yet, that God is sending someone to be our friend. We forget that a simple prayer for life change opened the door to a relationship that allows us to have a conversation which includes listening as well as speaking. We don’t realize that rather than quoting Christian clich├ęs for life, maybe someone who is hurting, just needs to hear the words “I love you”. Our lives begin to look like the lives of the other Christians that we surround ourselves with. We long to fit in and be accepted and praised for who we show others we are. Somewhere in all of this seeking to be like those we revere, we lose ourselves and forget to be who God created us to be. We become creatures of habit instead of children of discovery. We forget that a relationship with Christ is a journey of discovery and growth towards who God created us to be. We are children of God and it is his praise that we should seek and sometimes we are going to look different, not only from the world but from each other.
Shortly after warning us about the patterns of the world (Rom 12:2), scripture tells us about the uniqueness with which each one of us were created. If we are all so unique, why do we try so hard to look like one another or worse yet, expect others to look like us? I struggle sometimes feeling the presence of God… but I am never more alive in His presence than when I am being who God created me to be.