This is the day that the Lord has made...

This is the day that the Lord has made...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Inspired Living

A significant part of being "spiritually inclined" is studying and understanding God's word for your life.  In my study this morning, the Spirit led me on path exploring and learning about living a Godly life.  I've heard it in sermons, read about it books but I have never really explored it in scripture to wrap my head and heart around a concept so central to my faith.

The first understanding I have is that in order to live according to God's will, I must learn to put my "self" aside.  Ego, identifying and searching for who I am by physical and material traits, is huge block to living a Godly life.  The more my ego drives me, the further away from God I move, which is why Jesus taught us this in Luke 9:23, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

So to live a Godly life I must deny my self, my ego, so that I may open my mind and heart to the Holy Spirit. The more that I fill my mind with earthly desires and passions, the less room there is for God and the less opportunity there is for me to live a Godly life.

Along with collapsing the ego, I must also move away from all of the earthly, sinful desires that accompany living in this world.  Look at what Paul teaches in Galatians 5:19, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious; sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage; selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkeness, orgies and the like.  I warn you, as I have before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Wow! What a list.  I know I see myself in that list at times in my life.  How many times am I caught up in envy or jealousy?  How many peoples' lives are controlled by jealousy and hatred?  Selfish ambition is also easily drawn to in our daily, earthly, ego-driven lives.  So this is what Un-Godly looks like?  What does Godly look like?

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  Galations 5:16

If I am getting this, our natural state, the state of our mind and heart, is that of the sinful desire.  Without knowing Christ, we will naturally follow the path of ugliness described above.  But, when we are saved, reborn in Christ Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, our path changes as does the quality of our life and our life experience. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Galatians 5:22

It is about living in the Spirit.  That is the key to a Godly life.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  Luke 9:24  Give it up, man!  Conquer the sinful, natural desires of the ego by committing your life to Christ.  Turn in this earthly, sinful life for a new, inspired life!

To be inspired means to "be in-spirit".  The Holy Spirit is knocking at your door.  Will you get on your knees today and let him in?  Will you open your heart and mind to a new way of inspired living?  In the words of Eminem, lose yourself.  Then you can find God.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Be Thankful

As we pass by the Thanksgiving holiday, I'm sure everyone took the opportunity to give thanks for the many blessings in their life.  I know that I did.  And each time that I do count my blessings, it seems as though the list gets longer.  Longer, not because I am being blessed more than ever, but because I see the miracle of the Holy Spirit in action in so many areas of my life.

It's easy to be thankful for all the stuff of life; your home, your job, your family, etc.  That's a start, and a good one at that.  Yet, there can be so much more to be thankful for when you live spiritually inclined.  To give you a look inside my head and heart, here is a list of a few of the things you may overlook in your life that I happen to be thankful for:
     - a loving God that forgives me of my sins
     - having a God that knows that I am not perfect and does not expect me to be so
     - having people in my life that inspire me to be and live the best that I can
     - being able to come to my God during desperate, scary times and seek His refuge
     - being exposed to God's miracles everyday in my life
     - the many gifts and talents that God has given me to fulfill His purpose for my life
     - knowing my Lord gave His life for me so that I may have life more abundantly
     - the trials and challenges in my life that continue to build and grow my faith
     - the peace and understanding the Holy Spirit brings to my life
     - the opportunity to serve Him everyday by serving people

It is of utmost importance that we recognize that God has created all that there is and will be created.  If we can live our daily life with this greater perspective, then we have the ability to open our hearts and be thankful for all things in our lives.

For everything God created is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.   1 Tim 4:4

Be thankful.  Not just one day each year, every moment of every day for God is good and true and loves you and I beyond human comprehension.  He sent His son to die for us.  He left the Holy Spirit here to guide and comfort us.  Be thankful.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Trust in Him

Over my lifetime, there have been many people that I have admired, for many different reasons. One of my childhood heroes was Joe Montana, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.  I admired Joe for, at the time, what appeared to be the ability to be cool under pressure and score when his team needed it. I, as a quarterback too, also admired his skills, work ethic and ability to find ways to win football games.  Now, I would call that leadership.  Joe had amazing leadership skills in that he could stir his offensive teammates to play at very high levels when he needed them to. 

As a quarterback, Joe relied on his offensive linemen to protect him so that he could execute the plays as designed which would lead to touchdowns.  Joe needed to trust his linemen to keep those hostile defensive players off his back.  Joe knew that when stuff hit the fan, he could count on his linemen to have his back.  And with that confidence, trust, and faith, if you will, he became one of the most prolific NFL quarterbacks of all time.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  Psalm 20:7

Trust is hard thing to develop and foster in anyone because it generally requires being vulnerable and exposing your weakest points.  Those whom we do trust, earn that trust through their integrity, character and strength.  Consistency is also another quality necessary to build trust in someone.  Knowing what you'll get from someone each and every time opens the door to building to trust.

To me, one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, aspects of growing my faith has been learning to trust in the Lord.  As it reflects upon in Psalms, it is much easier to trust things than people.  Why? Because you generally know what you're going to get.  The reason for this is your experience with that "thing" leads you to an understanding that certain things will happen every time I use this.  For instance, you might have a lot of trust in the deadbolt lock on your front door.  You know, because every time you engage the lock, the door becomes impenetrable.  Over time you develop trust in that lock to protect you because you have used it so many times.

My challenge to you and me is to develop that same level of trust in the name of the Lord.
 Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  John 14:1

Of all people or things in this world, His character, integrity and strength are the purest and highest.  He was sent for us to trust and by doing so he relinquishes access to His Father and all the power that comes with that.

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.  John 14:13-14

And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.  John 16:23-24

The name of Jesus is a mighty force in the universe that we are to trust, have faith in and use to do His good works.  He was sent here to teach us how to love one another, serve one another and lead successful lives.  His great sacrifice was for you and me, so that we might live more full, joy-filled lives.  When we trust in the name of the Lord, we truly can let go of life and know that everything is going to be not just all right, but perfect.

My man, Joe Montana once said, "Some guys practice like All-Americans but they can't play!"  Meaning that they can go through the motions and act out what needs to happen, but when it really counts, they fall short.  How true is this in our faith life?  It's easy to look the part, go through motions and appear to be something we are not.  But, when it comes down to it, in crunch time, our faith is weak because we do not trust in the Lord.

Jesus gave each of us a mighty gift in the power of His name.  It is up to us to develop the trust in the strength and power He told us it would yield.  I pray today, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, that the Holy Spirit may come upon you and move you to trust in he who has made every thing, conquered every evil and prepared a place in Heaven for you.  That your faith and trust in Jesus may be resolute.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Power of Prayer

I said I would continue my Southern Adventure story with some deeper insight, so lets get into that on this day before Thanksgiving. 

After recovering from the shock of having my once-lost-but-not-known-it-was-lost wallet returned, we got  back into our vehicles and continued on with just over 80 miles to go.  Once we got back on the highway, my oldest son says to me, "Boy are you lucky, Dad!"  I nodded but didn't reply. His comment caught me off guard as I was thinking about how grateful I was for Bill and his character.

In that moment, I said to my boys, "guys, what we just experienced was a miracle, not luck. Before we left last night I prayed to Jesus that he would protect us on our trip and keep the peace in our lives while traveling.  This was God at work in our life not luck."  In what seemed like a shining, clouds-breaking moment to me, my youngest says, "whatever Dad."  At that point I knew I was done talking about it with the kids!

Realizing that all my credit and debit cards were useless, I panicked realizing I had only $180 or so for our trip.  I called my bank and spoke to a nice woman in the help department who promptly told me, "I'm sorry Dr. Powell but we can't wire transfer money to a bank that's not an affiliate.  Banks just don't do that anymore."  I ended the call frustrated.  I decided to call back again and speak to the bank president as he is a friend of mine, thinking, maybe he can do something or has an idea.  When I called the main I spoke with a different gal about my situation and, this time, she thought there might be something they could do but he was not in at the moment so she would leave him a message.

Just a few miles down the road and my phone rings, it's the bank president.  "Hi David, thanks for getting back to me so quickly", I said.  "You're not in jail, are you?" he said chuckling.  "No, but I do feel helpless in this situation and am hoping you can help" I pleaded.  Needless to say, David, pulled some strings and made it happen.  He was able to wire transfer some money to a bank in downtown Branson. He said I would need a password, my photo ID, my check book and another form of identification to prove who I was. Pheww!  I felt like I could breathe again.  I thanked him endlessly and ended the call.

When we got to Branson, finally, we made our way to our condo and settled.  Once unpacked we decided to go check out Bass Pro Shops which looked close to the bank I needed to visit.  I pulled up to the bank and went in asked for Cindy as I was instructed to do.  Out from a back office comes this elderly woman with a big smile, "Well hello, you must be Dr. Powell" with a strong southern drawl.  "Why, yes, yes I am" I stuttered.  All of a sudden it felt like I was maybe the Governor or President with the royal treatment I seemed to be getting. "I'm the bank president and I spoke with your bank president and I am so glad that we could help you out.  Come with me.  So tell me, how did you lose your billfold?" she said.  I proceeded to tell her the story as we walked across the bank. By the time I had finished all the of tellers were listening to my story.  At the end, one of them said "Praise God for his goodness and mercy" and they all began to clap. 

It caught me off guard because I hadn't mentioned a word about my faith, my prayer of protection or any of the God-thing thoughts I had been having. D.D., the asst. manager of the bank said, "Well I'm just tickled that we could be a part of your miracle." I agreed and signed my check.  By the way, I did have to show my ID, but no one ever asked for the other information or the secret password.  As I left, I was hugged by the 2 gals and I said "I'm pretty sure there will always be a place in my heart for Branson after all of this."  Cindy replied, "Well we hope so cuz we think it's a pretty special place, too."

That night, laying in my bed thinking about the events of the day, I began to worship the Lord as it was so clear to me that this was all his work.  I lose my wallet and don't know it.  The man who finds it is a God-fearing Christian.  He calls the YMCA (Young Mens Christian Association) to reach me. ( And a side note, as I was looking through my returned wallet I found one of my business cards with all of my contacts on it.)  I get the wallet returned with EVERYTHING in it.  And the bank gives all the glory to God for the events. 

Some might look at this and say coincidence, but not me. I see the hand of God, the Holy Spirit, at work in one of his children.  I see the miracle of it all.  I see the blessing of the Holy Spirit in my life and I see the power of prayer.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Set Free

Making a commitment to do a particular thing or follow through on a set task has an incredible amount of power.  In fact, many times the commitment is the lynch pin to success.  Whether you are trying to lose weight, quit smoking, do better in school or turn your life around, it all starts with a commitment.

From the temple courts, Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. John 8:32-32

In essence He is teaching this very same concept here.  If you hold to, or make a commitment to, what it is that He has brought to the world, then you can be considered a part of His world as a student or follower.  When we follow what Jesus has taught, it opens a new door to a level of living that prior to that commitment we could never comprehend or experience. 

The truth of Jesus' teachings frees us from the bondage of our sins and our family's sins.  The ability to confess our sins, to leave the past in the past, and move forward with our life is true freedom.  How many times has your earthly mind held on to a hurt or wrongful act or a mistake (sin) that you have encountered in life and haunts you and tears you apart?  For me that has been often in my life. 

This is the true freedom that becoming a disciple to Jesus will bring.  Being able to live a life free from the fear of death; free from the punishment of your sins; free from the condemnation for faults is what becoming a disciple of Christ brings to your life.  I thank the Lord everyday for accepting me into His family of followers and forgiving me of my sins.  I know that I have been set free and praise God for that!

Monday, November 22, 2010

30 Minute Miracle

When I was packing the truck on Wednesday night, I had a gut feeling that I was in for an adventure.  A dad, two pre-teen sons and an 800 mile ride to Branson, MO was feeling like a combustible mixture.  I wasn't sure what to expect, I just knew that 11 hours in the truck was going to be a challenge.

Although I had prayed for protection and guidance before we left, I had no idea just how much I would need it.  On the first leg of our trip we made it to Des Moines, IA and decided to grab a hotel room as my eyes were heavy and my mind was tired.  I met a sweet, dear lady named Mavis at the Quality Inn.  She could tell I was tired and made my unexpected check in go smoothly.  She asked if I preferred pancakes or biscuits and gravy for breakfast, so of course I said biscuits and gravy. "I'll take that to mind in the morning.  Have a good rest."

After 5 of the best hours of rest ever, the boys and I were up and gone by 6 AM, on the road again.  We had a beautiful morning for traveling and made very good time into Missouri.  We stopped about 150 miles shy of our destination for a stretch and bathroom break.  We also gave Grandpa and Grandma some extra time to catch up to us!  We got back on the road for the last leg of our trip and the boys were pumped!  The end of the trip was near.  As we were cruising along I saw the folks pull up behind us on the highway.  Grandma was driving now with the pedal to the metal.  We traveled together for a while before they needed a pit stop, so we joined them.  We got out of the truck, said our hellos and exchanged hugs and went into the convenience store to hang out until they were done with their break.  Here's where the story gets good.

So, we load up one more time for the final leg into Branson.  Since Mom has been there dozens of times, she takes the lead and we are off.  The boys and I are jamming out with stereo cranked, laughing and singing.  Thank goodness for XM radio on road trips!  We're down the road about 25 minutes and I see my phone light up with an incoming call.  I look at the caller ID and don't recognize the number, but do realize it is an Alexandria number so I answer it, "Hello this is Dr. Powell."  "Hi Mike, this is Beth from the Alexandria YMCA" the voice on the other end says.  "Well, hi Beth, how are you?" I spout back in my finest southern drawl.  "Say, Mike, I just received a phone call that someone has found your wallet" she says.  "Well, that's impossible Beth because I'm in Southern Missouri right now", I continue with my local dialect.  Laughing, she says, "Well, I just got off the phone with a guy named Bill from Missouri and he has your wallet.  He found it laying in the middle of the highway."  "WHAT!" I yell and hit the brakes and pull to the shoulder.  (Good thing no one was behind me or we would have been in big trouble!)  "I have his cell number here, he wants you to call him," she replies.  "Oh my God, Beth, thank you, thank you, thank you!"  She reads me the number as I write it on my palm with a Sharpie.  First sign from God, the YMCA.

Meanwhile, my folks have pulled over and wonder what the heck is going on in our vehicle!  I get 3 missed calls and a text from them during that brief phone call all wondering whats up.  I call them and take 30 seconds to fill them in then hang up on them before they can start in with questions.  I dial Bill and he answers with a deep, drawn out "Heeellloooo, this is Bill."  "Hi Bill, my name is Mike and I understand you have my wallet", I said. "Well, ha ha ha, I sure do Mike.  Found it plumb in the middle of Route 44 bout 3 miles back.  Where are you now?" he asks.  I had no idea where I was so I said, "I'm in Missouri."  He laughed, "I know that but where ya' headin'?"  Embarrassed I said, "We are on our way to Branson."  "Good," he replied, "you must be just a head of us.  What town are you near?"  I had no clue so I expanded the screen and saw the next town was Bolivar, about 3 miles ahead.  I said, "Well it looks like I am 3 miles North of Bolivar."  "Okay," he says,"when you get to Bolivar take the first exit to the right.  At the top of the ramp there's a filling station.  I'll meet you there.  I'm drivin' a white Pontiac and there's a red 1/2 ton pickup with me. I believe we are about 5 miles back from ya'll." "Great," I sparked out, "I'm in a white Chevy Avalanche.  I'll be waiting."  I hung up and took a deep breath.

Now my mind kicks in.  What if this guy is psycho?  I have my kids with me, oh God, please help me.  A hundred different scenarios run through my mind and I finally come to the conclusion that we'll be alright.  So next I get on the phone with my bank and start putting a hold on all my cards.  I had every credit card and $200 cash in my wallet, ready for a great vacation and this happens!  How am I going to get more cash without my ATM card?  And no credit cards?  Seriously, what am I going to do?  I remember saying a quick prayer as I saw the exit approaching, "Lord, all things are possible with you.  May your hand be in this situation and may it have a peaceful, happy ending that might glorify you.  Amen." 

So we get to the station, and wait.  The longest 15 minutes ever!  With every white car or red truck, Gramma hollers out, "There he is.  Here he comes."  But, no, none of them were the right vehicle.  After pacing and developing a strong urge to vomit, a white car and red truck combo come pulling off the highway.  It was them.  As they pull in to the lot, I take a deep breath.  "Mom, give me $20 bucks to give him for helping us out."  She did and I thought it was the least I could do and that it might be needed to get the wallet back.  So out steps Bill, all 70 years of himself, trucker ball cap, cowboy shirt, blue jeans and boots and with his slow drawl, "Well, you must be Michael."  "I am sir.  And you are Bill?" I replied.  "I am and here's your billfold.  It's a mess but I think I got everything up off the road fer ya.  There was pieces everywhere.  If it ain't in there then I guess the good Lord don't thinks ya need it" he says.  I take the torn up wallet from him and open it.  Every last dollar was there.  Some were torn and tattered, but it was all there.  My bank debit and credit card were in pieces, but there, as it looked like they were run over.  My American express card was missing the magnetic stripe.  My ID was there.  And the poem about being a Dad that my Father always carried was even there.  Not a thing was missing.  I extended my hand and said, "God bless you Bill.  This is an amazing thing you did here, thank you."  "Well, I figured someone was gonna miss it so I stopped.  I had to beat another lady to it, but I did.  She asked if it was mine and I said 'It is now'" he said chuckling.  "This is a miracle Bill, thank you" I said.  "Well Michael, we all believe in miracles down here" he said with a cheeky grin, "I hope you enjoy our Missouri hospitality and can relax now."  "I will" as shook his hand and gave him the twenty.  Of course, he didn't want it, but I made him take it. 

It was an amazing experience that confirmed my belief in the protection of the Holy Spirit and the power of prayer.  As I reflected on the events of the day later that night, I found what I believe to be the hidden gem in all of it.  I'll share that with ya'll tomorra!

God is good.  He loves me and He loves you.  Thank you Jesus for your miracle in my life.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Family Time

As I pack my bags for a long weekend with my family, I am reminded of the larger family that we are all a part of: the body of Christ.  It's important for me to know that I am not alone in this world.  Every where I look there are hidden connections between believers.

Over this past weekend I was able to watch, for the first time ever, the movie, Avatar.  While the graphics and sound and techno stuff were really, really cool, I found myself thinking about the connectedness of the Nabi (sp?) people of Pandora.  I thought it was unique that they could use their hair to tap into a greater consciousness and be connected with Ewya, their deity. I spent a lot of time after the movie contemplating our connectedness.

I think many people forget, or maybe never have understood, just how much we are all connected by the Holy Spirit.  We are fortunate that we don't have to "plug in" our hair to communicate with our God because He is always right here.  Because I have that ability and it is so close at hand, it is easy for me to take that for granted, which is exactly what Satan wants. 

Prayer is my direct connection to Jesus and through the Holy Spirit I have access 24/7/365.  Forget about the internet and its connectivity of the world!  The Holy Spirit has been connecting us for centuries and as we each wake up to the idea of unity and connectedness within the body of Christ, life takes on new meaning.

It was he who gave some to be apsotles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.    Eph 4:11-13

There is but one God of this universe and He made me just like He made everyone else, in His image, with His spirit.  As we realize our Heavenly connections, our service to and love for one another brings about new peace and joy in our lives.  I pray that the Holy Spirit may awaken connections in those who may be lost and bring them back to the family, the body of Christ, for their own good and for ours as a whole.

I will be spending the next four days connecting with my family and look forward to getting back to my writings next Monday.  I pray for safe travels and ask the Holy Spirit to be with my family as we travel and enjoy our time together.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Right Way and The Wrong Way

One of my mentors once said "We are who we are because of our mothers, fathers, teachers and preachers", meaning that we develop our attitudes, opinions and beliefs from the people of influence in our lives.  It took me a long time to appreciate the wisdom in this statement, however, I now certainly do see and understand this simple truth.  And I understand, too, why surrounding yourself with people of good character is so important.

Anyway, other people of influence in my life have been coaches that I have had through the years.  After my time reading scripture today, I was reminded of my high school football days and Coach Cooper.  He once told me, "There's a right way and wrong way to do things.  We do things the right way."  As a 16 year old, I didn't really get what we was saying, but I did listen because it stuck.

Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Matt 7:13-14

As a believer, a man that has been saved by my Lord, Jesus Christ, I know there is a path that has been set before me.  Everyday that I study the Bible, the more this path is revealed to me and the more understanding I have of my role as a Christian.  But, if I don't take the time to study the Word and pray, how would I ever know if I was "doing things the right way?"

I get frustrated on a daily basis, as do many people I'm sure, with the silliness of being politically correct.  I find it hard to believe that we have created a world around us that no longer believes in teaching right and wrong and good from bad.  How in the world are the young people of today going to be successful leaders of tomorrow if we don't teach them well?  Again, there is a right way and a wrong way to do things here, and I believe we are doing many of the wrong things.

I also believe that we must allow our people to experience the consequences of doing things "the wrong way."  Nothing provides a better education than the experience of failing or falling short.  As much as failing sucks, it is a necessity in life.  I have failed in my short life many more times than I have succeeded.  I can also say that those failures have shaped me, molded me and have taught me to become dependent on God.  In a world that teaches us to be independent, to rely on ourselves, the Holy Spirit provides lessons that develop our dependency on God. 

Our God is a jealous God.  He wants to be number one in our life, as he deserves.  He has also made the path to Him narrow and the gate to life small so that only those who truly commit to Him may find Him.  Take a moment today to look at the path you are following.  I pray that it is narrow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Taking Inventory

As I prepare for my upcoming family get away to celebrate Thanksgiving, I am reminded about all that I have to be thankful for in my life.  Far too often I find myself thinking and focusing on what's missing in my life and working to achieve and fill those perceived voids.  I wonder if that is just me or if that is part of the human condition?  I don't know the answer there, but I do know that everyone of us has many reasons to give thanks. 

I know there has been research done on the effects of  gratitude on the human being.  One such study showed changes in brain chemistry and body chemistry such that the make-up of tears of gratitude are completely different from tears of sorrow or pain.  Having an attitude of gratitude and being thankful turns out to be a fundamental character train in those people that define themselves as happy.

As for God, his way is perfect, the word of the Lord is flawless.  Psalm 18:30

Many times and many places in scripture are we given instruction on how to live which is why some refer to the Bible as a "Handbook for Life".  Living with gratitude and being thankful is a prime component to living spiritually inclined.  Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5 verse 18, Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is Gods' will for you in Christ Jesus.

If God's way is perfect and his word is flawless, then we must be thankful for everything in our life.  Maybe today would be a good day to take inventory on all the things that you have to be thankful for.  Find out for yourself how perfect His way is and open your eyes to just how often the Holy Spirit has answered a prayer, filled a need or simply blessed you with a desire of your heart.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Who Owns You

Stress is a fact of life.  It's an immeasurable force that will impact us in a negative way, even if it may appear to have a positive benefit, all the time.  Stress causes chemical changes in the brain, physiological changes in the body, both of which degrade the quality and quantity of life.  Most of the stress that we deal with is self-induced.  When I step back and look at the stress I see and feel in my life, every last bit of it is a result of the choices and decisions that I've made. And those choices and decisions were based on where my focus in life was at the time.  In no way can I point the finger or put the blame on someone else for the stress in my life.

For most, including myself, stress commonly shows up in our life as anxiety.  I believe that our society has become one ruled by fear and worry. And I also believe that is the result of the world turning away from dependence on God, and relying more on us.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Matt 6:25-26

Living spiritually inclined means having dependence on God and the Holy Spirit to meet my needs.  Remember, God is the source of all things, therefore, I can rely on Him to provide for me. So the stress and anxiety related to the pursuit of "things" we need is unnecessary if we have complete dependence on the Lord.  I would hasten to say that the majority of our self induced stress, worry, fear and anxiety is a direct result of our relentless pursuit of the material world and money.  As we get caught up in "the world" and all of it's material things, it is very easy to lose focus on what is and should be primary in our life.

No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.  Matt 6:24

God wants us to serve Him and seek Him so that in doing so He might reveal to us all of His glory and power!

But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given unto you as well.  Matt 6:33

What things?  ALL things!  Jesus tells us the way to get rid of our stress, anxiety, fear and worry in that verse.  Seek Him and His righteousness!  He is the truth, the light and the way.  When we move our focus from this world and the pursuit of the things of this world to Jesus and the treasures we have in Heaven, our life changes.  The world changes.  But you cannot serve two masters.  So I ask you, who owns you?

Living with the Holy Spirit will provide the leadership necessary to change your focus, to "sell" yourself to a new master, to the one who cares about your eternal life and wants to provide for your current life.  The challenge is having enough faith to believe that this is true.  Nothing is more powerful than a made up mind.  Make up your mind about serving God, seeing His purpose for your life being fulfilled and watch the stress in your life be reduced.  Not until we go to be with Jesus will our stress be gone for good, but in the mean time, we should make sure that He is the one we serve everyday.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Source

Living "in" the world today takes many life skills and many spiritual tools.  I have come to realize that in my day to day living, I absolutely cannot function without faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

Faith is having a knowingness that "this" is the way it's going to be in life, even though there is no physical or material evidence to support that belief.  For some, faith is a spiritual confidence and for others it appears as a mental quality that functions in your mind and heart.  Either way, faith is at the epicenter of being spiritually inclined.

Faith can also be a difficult thing to wrestle with because of our distorted human time lines.  I have known people that have had faith in and believed that something was going to happen, but when no signs of confirmation were revealed, guess what?  They lost the faith!  Why?  Because they didn't truly have faith in what they believed was going to happen, it was merely a wish.  A wish, to me, is a feeble hearted attempt to talk yourself into thinking a specific way even though you don't have a deep seated belief in what you are wishing for.  An example would be something like this:
            If you are in a relationship that is struggling due to a lack of communication, you might say to yourself, "I have faith that God can make this right."  A person offering a wish would then leave it be and wait and hope for a change to come.  Conversely, a person truly having faith that it can be righted, would take action in the direction of their faith and beliefs.  This person, knowing in their heart and mind that the relationship ills will be mended, does what is necessary to bring about the evidence of their faith. 

Faith without works is dead in as much as you have to be willing to "act as if" that which you are having faith in or for has already happened and be giving thanks for such results.  To have faith that the Lord can heal your child of a disease does not result from continuous petitioning of the Lord to do so through prayer.  The healing and intervention of the Holy Spirit arises out of: 1) the belief that it can happen and 2) giving thanks for it happening before we see confirmation.  Faith requires action in the direction of our beliefs for it to strengthen and grow.  Much like I can wish that I had big strong muscles and a shapely physique and hope that the Holy Spirit can accomplish such a task, if I am not taking action in the direction of my hopes, or faith, then it is just a wish and it won't happen.  Faith requires having a confidence in knowing the source of all things in my life.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  John 1:3
...yet for us there is but one God , the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all thing came and through whom we live. 1Cor8:6

God is the fountain head, the source of all things in my life. Without having that knowledge, without that consideration, then faith is empty because it relies on me, and I am nothing.  God is the source in my life.  Here is an example that I learned many years ago that may help:
      I can plant an apple tree in my yard.  I can care for it, water it, prune it and do all that is necessary for it to grow.  With all that I have done to make that tree grow, am I the source of the fruit showing up on the tree?  By all means no.  But where do the apples come from?  Some might say that the source of the apples is the tree itself.  Nope.  The SUPPLY of apples comes from WITHIN the tree.  The genetic qualities and characteristics of that tree are what produce the type, size and shape of the apples on the tree.  But what is the source of the apples?  Who MADE the tree?  God.  God is the source of the apples, or the fruit, as he is the maker of all things.  The tree is where the supply of the apples comes from because God created it that way.

Putting that to use in my life, the supply of joy, love, happiness, abundance and whatever else it is you may desire in your life, is inside of me.  The source of all those wonderful fruits, is God.  And, back to the apple tree, if I don't take actions in the directions of my desires of wanting fruit from the tree (water, prune, trim, etc), it won't produce as much fruit or maybe no fruit at all.  My actions are necessary even though I may hope or wish for the tree to produce fruit. The same is true with my life.  If I have faith in God being the source of all things, and I have faith that He placed all that I need, want and desire within me (as Jesus said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within.") then I must take action, based on my faith to see the fruits of my faith, confidence and belief in God.  There is only one source for all of your needs, wants and desires in this life and He so desperately wants to know you and loves more than you can comprehend.  Open your mind and your heart to the one source.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Free Will

I woke up this morning, as usual, four minutes before my alarm was set to go off.  That seems to be the trend for the Holy Spirit lately, except yesterday when He rolled me out of bed at 3:50 am.  A while back I committed to getting up either when my alarm went off or when I was stirred by the Spirit.  Since then, I honestly can't remember a day when I wasn't awake before my alarm went off.

I use those extra moments to pray and give thanks.  When my mind is heavy or my heart aches, I find that I have more time for that special prayer opportunity.  I find it amazing that when I commit to the Lord, there become so many more opportunities to worship Him and have fellowship with Him each day. 

One difference between being spiritually inclined and materialistically focused is the appreciation you have for the subtle occurrences of the Holy Spirit working and acting in your life.  In the past, a good deal of the time I spent away from work I was still at work, mentally.  It seemed that I could never shut that "work brain" off.  That is what I mean by being materialistic.  Being focused on the material world isn't about wanting a big house, fancy shoes, nice clothes or the newest cars.  Instead, being materialistic means the physical world, the things of this earthly life, dominates your thoughts and your life; you literally live for "this world."  I would argue that you can be spiritually inclined and still have the finer "things" in life.  The difference is the "things" don't run your life and don't drive your actions and behaviors.

When I made the decision to return to the Lord, and truly live a spiritually-centered life, something astonishing happened.  I began to enjoy life more.  I had more time each day.  I no longer felt like I was on a treadmill.  It is hard for many people to believe that, especially busy people.  But it's true.  The Holy Spirit doesn't function in the same time zone or clock system that we do.  When we focus on the Spirit, and live in the Spirit, we gain access to that time table which opens up our daily life for more opportunities.  More chances to serve Him and the purpose that He has for you life.  Doing so also leads you back to the path of life that He has chosen for you.

It is up to me to decide which world I want to live in, the spiritual world or the material world.  The choice I make determines the actions that I take and the life that I have.  The question that I have to ask to understand my choice is this: Am I living for the Lord, or am I living for me?  No one can make that decision for me, or for anyone else for that matter.  That is truly free will.

I pray today that the Spirit of the Lord will be heavy in my life and those all around me.  I pray that He would touch the lives of those in need of His touch, and that His glory would shine upon them.  I thank God for the wonderful time He has spent with me and the many blessings I receive, daily.  Thank you Jesus, for your divine leadership and saving grace.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The WHO not the DO

In our local hockey arena, there is a memorial to a young athlete who lost her life at a young age.  It is a sad and tragic story with the memorial there to remind us how fragile life really is.  Within her memorial there is a copy of the following poem, "The Dash". 
by Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end
He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years
For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?
©1996 Linda Ellis

 I will bet you I've read that poem at least a hundred times in the last 4 years and every time it chokes me up and gets me thinking about the futility of life and how I spend so much time on so many of the wrong things.

As I was studying in Psalms this morning, I was reminded of this memorial and the poem with this verse:
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.   Psalm 16:11

Is life, the dash, meant to be focused and spent on the "do" or is it more about the "who"?- the who I become during the time I have been given.

Every day that I read and study it becomes more and more obvious the things of the world are out to capture my heart, my mind and my focus.  It is for this reason that I must work that much harder at being spiritually inclined in my day to day, hour to hour life.  Jesus said it: The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  John 6:63

How many times do I catch myself in pursuit of some "thing" because I feel that it is going to bring me some temporary pleasure?  Conversely, how little do I find myself in pursuit of the some "one" that will bring pleasure for eternity? 

Oh, Lord, how difficult it is to maintain an eternal perspective while being here on earth.  For this reason it is much more important, Lord, that your Holy Spirit fill me, and guide me.  The closer I get to you, the more I see, feel and know the path of life that you have laid before me.  The more of you I have in my life, Lord, the more certainty I have about the gifts you have given me and the precious time I have to use those gifts for your good.

I pray today, Lord, that those who are following my lead will bask in the glory of your Holy Spirit today.  That they might feel the joy of your presence in thier life today, and that you might reveal more of the path that you have chosen for them.  Help us all to spend time today focusing on the "Who" instead of the "do".

The Dash Poem

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dependency on Christ

A big part of living life spiritually inclined is learning to become dependant on the Spirit of God.  God wants us to worship Him in spirit, not just with our hands and our mouths.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit an truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.   John 4:23

To live in the spirit is to live apart from the physical world that we recognize daily.  Living in the spirit and becoming dependant on the spirit is juxtaposed to what we are taught from a young age.  In the physical world, dependency is frowned upon, considered an unhealthy behavior that will negatively influence your life.  When most of us think about being dependant on something we think about an unhealthy relationship, or drug and alcohol abuse, or gambling addiction.  These are earthly situations in which becoming dependant on something will destroy a life, rather than restore it.  We can all think of multiple examples of how dependency is damaging to one's life.  Yet, spiritually speaking, Jesus tells us that we must depend on Him for our salvation and eternal life:  Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. John 6:57

The challenge for me is to understand that physical existence and spiritual existence are opposite in expression.  For instance, in the physical world that we live in, opposites attract.  If you take a + end of a magnet and place it near the - end of a magnet, the two poles will attract one another and connect.  If you place a + next to another +, they will repel, hence like repels like and/or opposites attract.  In the spiritual world, like attracts like.  This is why Paul sets out how it is we are to think, because it is these things we want to attract into our lives:  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is praiseworthy or excellent- think about such things.   Phi 4:8   A mentor of mine once told me that what you think about and thank about you can bring about. 

The world in which the Holy Spirit has taken residence is the world within- in our hearts and in our minds.  This is the battlefield for eternal life.  It is this internal spirit world that Satan fights so hard to gain control and it is this world within that must be dependant on the Holy Spirit.  Hundreds of passages from the scriptures reflect on this as well as hundreds of books have been written about this.  Why?  Because as a human, as a sinner, this is our weakness. The mind is the pathway to our heart and therefore we must protect it at all times.  Those thoughts and ideas that dominate, or control, your daily thought life are the attractors for what is to come in your present life experience. 

Jesus wants us to be dependant on Him.  He wants our minds to think about and stay focused on Him.  He is the truth, the light and the way.  Hallelujah!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Stunt Double

I can remember, as a young kid, wishing I had a twin brother.  Not because I wanted a brother to play with or hang out with, but because I wanted someone who could take the heat for me when I screwed up.  "It wasn't me Dad, it was him!"  When I got a little older I dropped the idea of the twin brother and decided I would like to have a stunt double.  That would be so much better.  With a stunt double, when an imposing situation came up or a job I didn't want to do, I could just substitute him for me.  That made a lot more sense to me.  There were many, many times in my life where I wished I had a stand-in.

I call on you, O God, for you will answer me, give ear to me and hear my prayer.  Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.  Psalm 17:6-7

As I was studying this Psalm, I was caught up in being saved "by your right hand."  I have read about the right hand of God many times in scripture but it struck me in a different way today.  I did a little quick net research on "the right hand of God" and there is a lot of theological consternation on the topic, information that I had heard before that seemed very "churchy" and inapplicable to a spiritually inclined life.  Then I ran across an audio clip of  pastor talking about the rule of law in the Old Testament and that when someone was being judged, they had their representative, lawyer if you will, standing on their right hand side.  The clip was short and factual and I found myself wanting a further, deeper discussion to this regards of the right hand of God but it wasn't there.  I will keep looking.

For now though, to me, this concept makes a whole lot of sense.  When I am being challenged by my foes, enemies, Satan or the like, I want to have that person of influence, power, authority representing me.  In a way, it reminds me of wanting to have a stunt double, someone to stand in for me who is stronger and better than me. Hmmm.

When a man or woman is accused of something and goes to to trial, their defender or attorney, is on their right side and the accused is on the right hand side of the Judge.  It is his or her job to stand in and stand up for the one they are defending, to represent them in their time of need.   I know that I am a sinner,I am guilty of failing miserably and that I make mistakes and that I am going to be judged on those things at the end of my mortal life.  How wonderful it is to know that, standing on my right side on that day of judgement will be Jesus, representing me, sharing with God that I am one of His.  Here is my Lord and Savior, who died on a cross, for me, standing before God, saying "He's with me."  Praise God!

Jesus died on that cross so that you and I could be free from the law and have eternal life with Him in Heaven.  Thank you, Jesus, for your saving grace, mercy and unconditional love... and for standing in as my sin-double.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Follow me

My current readings have taken me through the first few chapters of John.  How amazing it must have been to be in the presence of Jesus.  I mean, can you imagine yourself, at work today doing your thing and a complete stranger walks by and says, "Follow me." 

Wouldn't it make sense to respond to that command with a few questions, such as "Where are we going?", or better yet, "Who are you?"  Would any rational human being just drop everything that he/she is doing and follow a complete stranger?  I would say probably not.  So that means that these average Joe disciples were influenced in some way to not question, but to just "know" that they are to follow.  Hmmm.

What would it take in a person for me to simply exit my current life to follow him?  I can't think of too many things. It certainly wouldn't be his clothing.  Nor would it be the fancy watch he might be wearing.  I don't even think the fancy sports car he might be driving would be enough to lure me away from my life. 

Have you ever been around someone that has a lot of personal power, a strong presence?  I believe that what these uneducated men saw in Jesus was certainty.  The certainty that he was the son of God, filled with the Holy Spirit.  The certainty that he presented because he knew he had a purpose to serve that was bigger than himself.  The certainty that one would have when they know that they know that they know they have the answer.  The certainty that can only come from the Holy Spirit.

As you grow in your personal relationship with Jesus, there will come a time when the Holy Spirit will whisper to you, "Follow me."  Then what?  Will you be ready?  Will you be willing?  Will you have the faith to step forward and follow?

Follow me.  Two powerful words that in a blink of an eye can and will turn your world inside out.  To follow him means to give up this world for the one he has promised.  To follow him is to walk in the light.

But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.  John 3:21

Jesus is the truth and the light and the way.  When he comes knocking at your door and says, "Follow me", I pray that you don't question, but follow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In The Morning

I find great joy in some of the simplest things in life, which is why I continuously look for opportunities to challenge myself and to grow.  One of my new joys in life is my new alarm.  I know it sounds silly, but honestly, I go to bed at night with great anticipation of the early morning salutation. 

You see, I, like most everyone else I know, have this really cool phone. It has an alarm function that I have been using to get me up in the morning.  When I first got my phone, I downloaded an alarm tone that I thought was really peaceful and neat.  It had some kind of harp with chimes and birds as its main sound, and I have to tell you, it could quite possibly wake the dead.  When that thing would go off and the birds would do their thing, wow!, I was up.   And so was my heart rate!  Some mornings it would feel like I had all kinds of crap going on!  So I have been using this alarm for months and waking up everyday, startled

The other day I was sharing a new song (on my phone of course) with a friend.  The song is "Give me Jesus" and I was telling them that this is the song I listen to in the morning just before I start my Bible study and sit down to write.  The lyrics of the first verse are quite simple, yet profound: "in the morning, when I rise; in the morning when I rise; in the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.  You can have all of this world, just give me Jesus."  The song is awesome and has a catchy acoustic guitar riff to open with.   After sharing the song and a short conversation, we decided that it would make a great "wake-up" song instead of the "damn birds"!

This whole week now I have been using my song as my alarm tone and I have to tell you, what a difference.  As I am lying in bed, I generally awake about 1 minute before the alarm goes off.  Then, quietly the guitar starts and before I know it I am lying in bed, singing.  The song is then stuck in my head for the rest of the day.  At any given time throughout my day, the lyrics will be running through my head and I find myself praising and worshipping Jesus all day. 

I know this seems a bit silly, and maybe it is. I do know that it has had a wonderful effect on my morning disposition as well as has helped me stay focused on what is important during the day.  This, to me, is just a part of being spiritually inclined.  You can choose to have the buzzer or the "damn birds" wake you up in the morning.  Or, you can choose something different.  It is your choice.

This is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it because "they" can have all this world, just give ME Jesus. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Bug's Life

One of my favorite aphorisms is "Sometimes you're the bug, and sometimes you're the windshield." I smile every time I think of that saying because of the harsh reality it defines.  At any one moment in time, you're position in life can change from being the bug to the windshield.  It would seem that when you are the windshield, life would be pretty easy.  Things would tend to go your way as you are zipping through life enjoying the view and the scenery while all of the nuisances in life just bounce off of you. 

Likewise, life can be cruel and painful, like that of the bug's life.  From this perspective, you can be cruising along enjoying your life, the beauty of God's creation and the magnificence and splendor of...SPLAT! Yes, life can be very unfair.  So, how am I supposed to get by?  How am I to exist in a world that can seem so cruel and unfair in one moment, and amazing and glorious in the next?

From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.   John 1:16

I believe that the answer to my 'thought question' lies in the word perception and in my understanding of grace.  If I can maintain the attitude and perception that,even in what appears to be the worst of times, there is a blessing for me and that the Lord always has my back, then I can maintain the "windshield" perspective in life.  And I know how difficult that is, but I also know how important it is.

And then there is grace.  In my feeble attempt to understand the scriptures, I know there are a few definitions, or levels, of grace.  The grace I am referring to is the spiritual power that is given to us when we accept Christ as our redeemer, as the one who defeated sin and death.  This  perfect and complete grace gives us the inspiration to follow in Jesus' footsteps as a servant to fellow man and opens the door to the many gifts He revealed to us when He said "you, too, can do this and more in my name."  This grace offers me the awareness that I am living life with God, and how amazing that life can truly be.

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at our right hand.   Psalm 16:11

With God's perfect grace and the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, what once was lost, is now found.  What once appeared cruel, is now a blessing.  What once seemed insurmountable, is now conquered.  Thank you Lord for your loving kindness, the fullness of your grace and the breathtakingly awesome life that you have given me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Hard Heart

Part of living life from the Spiritually Inclined perspective requires a softening of the heart.  So many people today are living with a hardened heart.  I was one of those people for a period of time, I know how it happens.  It starts by feeling wronged by someone close to you whom you have shared your inner most fears and deepest feelings with.  This heart injury leads to the building of a wall around the heart.  When those deep seated feelings of heartache linger, it turns to other feelings of sadness or anger.  As one continues to go through life with these feelings of hurt, pain and anger, the "filters of perspective" begin to warp the view of life.  At this point, life appears to be more difficult.  Nothing may seem to go my way and, shortly thereafter, feelings of angst and sorrow build a fortress around the heart, protecting it from any further injury.  This is a hardened heart and it results from pain, injury and self-protection.  A hardened heart has no room for the principles of truth and light that Jesus brings to us.

I don't have the insight on how to totally soften a heart.  I do know that the book of Psalms is a great place to start as it is a book of praise for the Lord. 

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.  Psalm 16:1

Developing a softened heart, this I know for sure, requires the ability to trust in God.  To trust that God knows what is best for me, and that He will never leave me or forsake me, is a great place to begin healing.  It also requires walking a new path in life.  A path that is not always illuminated, easy to navigate or necessarily safe.  To walk this new path is to walk by faith, not by sight, knowing that the Lord is my shepherd and will lead me and take care of me and my needs.  In Psalm 15 David asks, "Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?"  and answers with what I feel to be a key passage to living a Godly life, with a softened heart::  He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow man...He who does these things will never be shaken.

Our Lord, Jesus, wants to build a fortress of Love in your heart.  To do so means that we are open and willing to let him in. We must open our heart to Him.  He is standing there, waiting.  Unlike anyone else you may know or love, He is not going anywhere.  You can trust in Him. Turn your heart over to the great comforter and healer.  That is my desire for today.