Sunday, February 19, 2017

How do You Know God? - February 19, 2017

In meditation, while preparing for this table talk, I researched both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln since the Presidents Day holiday that many of us will observe tomorrow is usually dedicated to these two men. While I learned several things about the holiday itself, including the fact that is observed and identified in many different ways througout the country, but what I mostly took from this process was a question, "What were the religious beliefs of our first and sixteenth presidents?"

Washington was associated with the Episcopalian Church and was a freemason. Both of these affiliations were influential in his life, but he was never a regular church member and it is said that he rarely took communion. He is known to have respected all religions of the many soldiers and statesmen he was involved with.

Lincoln was raised in a Calvinist/Baptist family and questioned these teachings as a young man. It was not until his life was impacted by his son's death and the unfolding of the Civil War that he grew strong in faith and prayer. He was never recorded as being baptized and never joined a church, although he regularly attended a Presbyterian Church while in Washington D.C.

I think the most interesting point is that both of these men led a life that made them revered and respected throughout history. Many people believe they demonstrated tremendous faith in God as they led our nation. But both seemed to struggle in their own understanding and acceptance of God and their education in God took their entire lifetime. The personal struggles and trials are what seemed to build each of their faiths and led them to better understand God. This is something that many of us can relate to today. How do we know God? 

Most of us try to understand God through human eyes and a human perspective. This cannot work, God is not human. God understands us because He made us and He sent Jesus Christ to Earth to live and die as a man. We must spend our time working to grow closer to Him and reach a better understanding of Him with every day and every prayer. Accepting Jesus as our savior is the first step in our understanding, knowing God more completely takes a lifetime.

We read the bible and try to understand it with a human mind and with interpretation of human languages. The bible is God's word, but would it be a simple story that He has given us to merely finish reading and accept with faith? Or is it something much greater that we should read over and over again, discuss with others, pray in conversation to God about, and eventually reach an introspective and personal understanding of?

We are not unlike Washington and Lincoln. We are all struggling to better understand God, that is why we are here today. We will likely never stand the test of history like any of the presidents, but most men never do. We are in our own personal walk with God like all men and women throughout time have been. We will all experience our own trials that are as big to us, as a war and presidency were to Washington and Lincoln.

Jesus allows us the ability to overcome the "language" barrier between us and God. He makes us righteous in God's eyes because He accepted our sin when He was sacrificed on the cross. Yes, we were created in God's image. But to truly understand God we need to look for Him with more than simple human language and human eyes. We need to use prayer and faith as our interpreter and follow His most simple rule, to love and accept each other. 

I Corinthians 13:4-13
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

Remember that everyone is trying to understand our Father in heaven better, even the George Washingtons and Abraham Lincolns of the world!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 5, 2017 - Brokenness

I attended a family event last month and got a chance to "catch-up" with a few cousins and other family members I hadn't seen for awhile. Everyone, of course, looked older and had changed a bit but as I talked with each one personally, I found that they each had experienced some life challenges since I had seen them last. Isn't that really the case for us all?

Each day offers a new series of challenges and rewards. And...At least in my life...Some days are a bit more challenging than others! Trials are a part of living and growing in Christ. Life in faith is not a promise of no trial or no pain. As Jesus told the disciples at the last supper in John 16:33 when He was preparing them for the challenges they were to soon face, "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on Earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."

My cousin Chuck had organized this get-together that I attended in January as a celebration of his Mom, my Aunt's 80th birthday. He has always been a positive and cheerful person as long as I can remember and, being 7 years older than me, was often a mentor as we grew up. I saw Chuck enter the party in a motorized wheelchair and I began to wonder what his issues were. His wife was the one who revealed to me that he was suffereing from a degenerative bone condition in his feet. Chuck was outwardly cheerful and talking to everyone in his normal way, hiding his brokenness.

This experience has kept me thinking about this idea that we are all "broken" in some way. Most of us, most of the time keep our broken pieces hidden under our cover that we share with others. The well-known expression, "You can't judge a book by its cover" accurately describes us all. We are all like a book that has unique and personal story hidden beneath our cover. Our facade often hides the pain and trial we are facing. Even those who seem to have a bright, cheerful cover may be hiding something that needs healing. 

How are you broken? Is it physical, emotional, spiritual, something else? Or is it a collection of things? God wants us to be whole. He wants us to come to Him for healing and He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. As Moses told the Isrealites before they were led into the promised land from Deuteronomy 31:6, "So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you or abandon you."

Surrendering our spirit brings us to God, growing our faith allows God to heal our body and our souls. Faith in Him will heal us and make us whole. As the Psalmist in Psalms 51:17 writes, "The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God."

We all need to open our book and let God heal whatever is broken within us. We need to pray for others who may have a cover that we find objectionable, but which hides something broken within them that we cannot see. We need to understand that what we "see" in others may not be what their soul is. We all hide our brokenness to some degree.

God has given us these reminders each Sunday of the sacrifice of Jesus' broken Earthly body that was made for us, to heal us, to fix what is broken within us. All we have to do is faithfully accept His healing grace. As we take these elements let us remember He is always there, waiting to help mend whatever hidden brokenness we might have.

December 18, 2016 - Positivity in a Negative World

With all of the negativity in the world, how do we stay positive?

Negativity is what we see but positive is what we want to be.

Well, in the physical world opposites attract. Where there is one thing, it's opposite is surely nearby! Opposite charges are found together because positive is attracted to negative.

War ends with peace, fatigue ends with rest, and pain ends with relief. Even though these may happen more slowly than we might like or in a different form than we might expect, these opposite things are always found together.

We don't always see one because of the other. What we want is hidden by what we don't want. Sometimes what we desire is right in front of us but we are blinded by what we are trying to avoid.

The birth of Jesus and the hope and salvation He brings to all who accept him is the good news. But even many of His own people, who were waiting for the Savior, did not at first recognize Him.

From Luke 2:10-14 KJV

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

We still search for salvation from our troubles today without instead depending on our faith in Jesus Christ to guide us. Covered in our worry, pain, sin, or whatever blinds us we forget these "good tidings of great joy" for all of the people.

Jesus' life and death for us is that positive in our world filled with negative.

Jesus was born, a light, into a dark world.
He was a celebration brought into a world of woe.

The life Jesus offers us is opposite a life of sin. He offers a peaceful heart and mind instead of worry and fear. All we have to do is accept Him and let Him guide our lives. A positive that can cancel all of the negativity, if we just see Him!

Have a joyful Christmas season and...God bless us, everyone!