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Thursday, September 29, 2016

In Need of a Faith Jump

Faith may grow during a lifetime, but it is not always a steady culmination. Even the most devout follower of Christ may lose interest in pursuing God.

We can blame the world’s temptations, hard times, illness, or plain distraction on this lapse or slowdown of faith-building. They are all valid reasons for a person stalling out on Jesus. It happened to Jesus’ disciples, and they were so devoted that they toured with him (John 6:60-66).

If this happened to people who saw Jesus and heard him speak every day, what hope do modern followers of Jesus have, we who don’t have the benefit of sharing his company? I don’t have lunch dates with Jesus, where we chat about what I need to accomplish the building of my faith. I don’t think I’m the only one who doesn’t know what God’s voice sounds like. Where is that voice that we hear above all others while life’s distractions fill our minds and seep into our hearts?

He is there, of course. He is always there. We feel his presence from the first day we believe. We are taught how to reconnect with him: read your Bible and serve others and pray and get with other Christians and go to church and listen to praise music and talk to a pastor. The Bible tells us to do all of these things and more on a daily basis to remain in The Father The Son and The Holy Spirit.

We each are given the same chance of the gift of salvation. It is offered to all and fits every one of us the same. We are not all given the same environmental conditions in which to pursue him – some people live in places where believing in Jesus can result in death – but the ultimate gift of eternal life is the same for all.

No matter where we are in our faith, we each have a difficult job to keep it up. The world makes sure that our lives are filled with obstacles and distractions. No one person has it easier or harder than another to keep the flames of conviction going; God equips us with custom-made tools to continue building our faith.

Easy for me to say, one who lives in a place with freedom of religion, where my parents practiced a Christian lifestyle and were comfortable inside the walls of a church. Further, my upbringing and subsequent life were peaceful, without regular fear or hardship. Save for a couple of bumps in the road, my path to Jesus was paved pretty smoothly. I had only my own convictions to overcome to see the light.

Sometimes the crosses we carry are invisible, only in our minds. Mental illness, pride, lack of confidence, self-aggrandizing beliefs, even laziness can steer us away from God.

We can all stall out on Jesus. We lag behind and wave our comrades in faith on ahead. Go on without me. Leave me here. I can’t go on any further. It’s taking too long to get there. I’ll catch up later.

Thing is, we can’t afford to catch up later. It doesn’t take any time to derail a person from pursuing faith. It’s too easy to give up – Jesus isn’t physically standing over us with his hand extended, ready to help us up, and when we give up, the world is ready to catch us in its wave and sweep us away.

But Jesus is here. God is here. The Spirit – here. All are here to get us back up and on our way. It might take a faith jump – serving others, a retreat, a new Bible study, making regular lunch dates with a good Christian friend – to get us going, but our Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will always be here to give us what they promise.

Forever.


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Friday, September 9, 2016

Rules for Love

The world has many rules for love. They trickle into our relationships, settle into our ways of thinking, influence our behavior, and can even twist and warp pure love into something interpersonally dysfunctional and personally harmful. We have all fallen into this trap of what the world tells us about love, and sometimes we spend our lives grasping at and clinging to an idea of love that isn’t love at all. We run in circles to conform to an ever-changing version of love that we are told matters the most today, and exhaust our emotions and our time and mental capacity trying to achieve what everyone else says is true love. #relationshipgoals

True love isn’t finding a soul mate or still holding hands after fifty years of marriage. It isn’t celebrating every milestone or giving gifts. It isn’t meeting expectations or accepting every behavior. These are just actions.

When love becomes a series of actions or rules or goals, we are chasing a dream instead of the real thing. We are dissatisfied when real love comes our way, and we miss it. Sometimes we’ve been convinced that there’s something about us that makes us unworthy of love, which is an even more sinister lie.

We have lost sight of what love is at its core.

God is love. And all love is from God.

Love is without fear, punishment, or condition. It is kind and strong. It is free and pure and can grow and blossom even in unlikely situations or relationships. It is found between friends and relatives and spouses and strangers. It is the peace that comes from knowing that you love and are loved. It is neither a checklist nor a set of goals to be met. Love can wait. If it is from God, it is on his timeline. No personal goals or demands from others set its pace or timeframe. It can’t be imposed, and it can’t be rushed.

Each of us has to figure this out on our own; the world ensnares all of us in its weird versions of love early and often, and tells us that we make our own rules about love. Eventually we emerge from the trap and can finally learn what love really is.

Love is the example of Jesus – his sacrifice, but also his life.

We can receive it and pass it on. And we can live in it, if we choose.


Dear God, everything in this world is so difficult. I am grateful that you have provided love to show us the goodness you intend and have made for us to receive. Thank you, Amen.

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Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:7