Tag Archives: Lord

When the Hungry Cry Out

Last Friday while preparing my lunch I saw that I had way more fruit than I could possibly eat, so I packed it into a bag with some other unwanted snacks and set off for work. I thought about giving it to my coworkers, but then I remembered the group of homeless people that sleep outside the work parking lot. Perhaps they would want some fruit and crackers.

When I arrived to work I was surprised to see that the group I normally see was gone. That’s unusual, I thought. After work I gathered my purse and the bag of food and wondered if the group would be back that evening. I wandered out another entrance and immediately came to a couple of disheveled men chatting. Not sure of whether they would be offended by my offering, I started unpacking my bag a few feet away. They looked up with hopeful eyes, as if wondering if I would share with them. When I saw their glances I explained that I had bought in bulk and had too much food to eat myself. In their gratitude they offered me a newspaper, the kind that the city provides for the homeless to earn money for meals.

As they handed me the paper, they began explaining to me why things are the way they are for the homeless, basically covering the topic of the paper. To my surprise, the older man revealed that he was recently diagnosed with cancer and that he is afraid of what will happen if he needs chemo or radiation. How will he care for himself as someone without a home. His resources are so limited. I listened quietly until he said, “But I believe my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can heal me!” I think my eyes widened. I didn’t expect to hear that through the cloud of pot smoke that was forming around us. You see, the other man had been smoking the whole time. Then he, the guy who was smoking, started telling us about a prayer ministry he was a part of in L.A.

It goes to show God’s children come in all shapes and sizes. After they were done sharing I offered to pray and the older man grabbed my hands and said, “You pray first.” I prayed a short and simple prayer asking God to be with them and keep them safe and for the older man to be healed. By this time we were on a first name basis. When I finished praying the older man looked up, eyes wide and said, “Wow! That was a powerful prayer.” Then the other man started praying, and boy did I feel the Holy Spirit…or maybe it was a contact high (just kidding). At the end we all said Amen, and the older man exclaimed, “I am healed! I believe I am.” The other man kept proclaiming, “You are healed in Jesus’ name.”

A few minutes later the younger man asked the older man, “Are you sick?” Through a frown the older man said, “Yes…” to which the younger man responded, “But you just said you were healed?” The older man laughed, “Well, I forgot. I smoked two bowls before we prayed!” We all burst into laughter, and I truly believe the joy they felt was not just the influence of marijuana but the joy of the Lord upon them.

God is good, and He does not discriminate. He blesses those He wants to bless whether they are stoned or sober. I praise God for putting those two in my path that day. Who knew that on the streets of Berkeley in a cloud of smoke I would meet two of my Brothers?

The things that have grown my faith more than anything else are those instance just stumbled upon, interactions with strangers on the street. God uses all kinds to teach our busy minds and hearts to love.

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Faith and Realistic Expectations

At one time or another every Christian and non-Christian is told something to the effect of, “My life was horrible until I found God.” That is like music to the struggling non-believer’s ears, and it results in many turning to God for a way out of a horrible life. Let’s face it! Being a believer is a beautiful thing, but life is not all roses when you give your life to the Lord. God challenges our thoughts, our actions, our will, and in turn it can lead to confusion, resentment, and power struggle.

Perhaps what people are trying to say when they say their life was horrible until they found God, is that their purpose and destiny have changed. Let’s look at the life of Jesus for example. Jesus was born in a barn, out of wedlock to a young, traveling couple. Later in life he was teased, ridiculed, beaten, forced to carry the cross (the equivalent of an electric chair), hung on that cross, alone and left to die by his own Father. Do you still think life is all rosy after you give your life to God? If you do, you are in for a big surprise.

I believe those that turn away from their faith, usually do so because their faith is challenged by a major trial in life. What if, while standing in that baptismal pool, your pastor said, “Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and accept any suffering and persecution that is guaranteed to come with that decision?” Would you still be baptized?

Consider this. Imagine you have no honest married friends or family. They’ve all told you only positive things about marriage, claiming they’ve never wished they weren’t married. When you walked down the aisle you would be completely clueless as to what you were getting yourself into. In the same way the church could be much more realistic in their approach to evangelism and conversion. Instead of counting only the good feelings that come from being a Christ-follower, perhaps we should warn against all the human disappointment there can be even in the midst of divine appointment.

When we surrender to God often something totally unexpected happens, and as it was discussed at my Bible Study last night, unexpected is usually not fun for the power-struggle of the human will.  We all think we are in control until we surrender.

One thing is guaranteed. When we surrender to God, His will is done.                                            “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9

I can speak from my own experience that the good outweighs the bad, because looking at my life in reverse, I see how God used the “bad”, the trials, the mistakes, the hardships for a positive purpose.

Bees and Butterflies

Have you ever watched a butterfly flying around on a beautiful spring day? They don’t seem determined, zooming toward their destination like bees. Their path is anything but straight, and they seem to rely on the wind to guide them.

Many people are like butterflies. They are beautiful wanderers, going wherever they like on a whim, as if directed by the changing winds, but God set you and I apart for something more.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

The Lord sets us apart when we submit to him, and he makes our paths straight. There’s nothing more frustrating than driving around in circles, lost, sometimes afraid or flat-out angry. I believe when the scripture says he makes our paths straight, it means he makes us to live our lives the way he planned them, in his perfect design.

The scripture makes it clear. It is up to us whether our path is straight or we take the long way home. It is up to us to submit. We can be a bee, who has a clear destination to the source of life and purpose, or the butterfly flapping and flailing in the breeze. The butterfly looks beautiful on the outside, but look at all the effort it took to become that beautiful. When we submit to God he takes us, beautiful or not, stripes and all, and transforms us beyond our own effort. We don’t have to spin an elaborate cocoon to protect us from the elements of life because he is our cocoon.

Life is so much sweeter as a bee, following our purpose and our source of life, our Heavenly Father. Drink in the sweet nectar of the perfect and wise Author of life.

P.S. This blog post was inspired by the scripture-inspired prayer my dear friend Winnie prayed over me tonight. It is always inspiring to receive prayer.

Repentance: A Real Heart-Shifter

I’ll admit it. Even though I know God will make all things right, I still struggle with resentment and anger toward people that sin against God even though they know better. I realize that this is a character flaw, a sin, to point out the speck in another’s eye while I have a full grown sequoia log in mine, but I really take it personally when I see someone sinning with such determination. As you might imagine, bearing such a heavy load of disappointment and frustration can seem unbearable at times and can turn me into a person I really don’t like. To cope with all this pent up anger, I have discovered a solution.

Back in September of last year a member of my church created a 40 Days of Prayer and Fasting prayer plan for repentance and breakthrough for America. Included in this 40-day plan was repentance for various sins we ourselves have committed as well as those of our families, churches, state, and country. Through this repentance on behalf of others I found my perspective was changed. I struggled less with resentment and disgust for the sinner and felt more compassion and motivation to help.

I’m convinced that the enemy will use sin however he can to harm us. If you start feeling hate or disgust toward an individual that offended you and God, guess what. Satan will use that to produce more and more hate. Even if someone has offended God, He still calls us to love them. He even tells us He blesses the poor in spirit. He gives them the kingdom of heaven. How much more should we bless them? We are called to hate the sin, not the sinner. Oh, how hard that is to do, especially while watching the nightly news.

Perfect Father, we need your help. We are not perfect, and we live in a world that is not perfect. Lord, we know that this is not our home, but regardless of that You have put us here with a purpose. We are called to judge, but that judgment is directed at the sin, not the sinner. Lord, help us to love the least of these, the poor in spirit. Help us to bow our heads and thank You that You love us all. Change our perspectives as we say, ‘Heavenly Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, and even if they do know what they do, Lord, forgive them and change their hearts.’ Cause a heart-shifting in us, that we may no longer resent, no longer hold grudges, but love the way that You love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Deeper Issues

It is easy to judge a book by its cover. If we are honest, we all do it. When is the last time you passed a beggar on the street and completely fabricated their life story in your head before handing them a few coins? Or how about passing a screaming kid in the grocery store and glaring at the parent as if they aren’t already doing everything they can? Sometimes this judgement even happens when we are praying; maybe not in this exact way, but it does. For instance, say I am preparing to pray for a woman who is in a wheelchair and would like to someday walk again. From appearances I may only pray for her legs to be restored, but what if there is something else going on in the emotional or even spiritual realm, and I failed to pray for it because I didn’t wait on the Lord to reveal it or for some other reason.

Recently I have been frustrated with my lack of control over my Sunday School classroom. I almost always pray for the kids the week before, but inevitably I at least partially lose control. I feel very supported by my fellow teachers and Children’s Ministry leader, however I’m at my wits end. After teaching today I attended another class my church is doing on healing. Today’s topic and discussion spoke right to my heart,, but it wasn’t instantaneous. It took some time for me to realize that these two things were God speaking to me personally in this very specific moment. The first thing He said was, “You are a great teacher.” Well, that made me feel better. The second thing was, “Here is the way I want you to pray for these students and their families.” See, I was only praying for the surface problems, not the root of the issues. I was convicted that I hadn’t prayed for the parents who are the covering over the children in my class. I hadn’t waited on the Lord to reveal the deeper issues and their root causes. Lord, forgive me.

God is so gracious to give us the authority to pray over others. He is so gracious to pour out the Holy Spirit and to describe our prayers as sweet smelling incense. He is so gracious to know our heart’s desire and respond with generous blessings. Today, although the morning had its challenges, I am honored that God gave me the opportunity to pray for the families of my students and to be a part of his refining process in young people. Great is our God.

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Similarities and Differences

10273723_10203055034391835_2567822666850805537_nGod blessed humans with the gift of empathy, to identify with others’ situations, feelings, or motives. Because of this we have the capacity to pull from an encyclopedia-sized life of experiences and circumstances to find the one moment, the one time that mirrors what another person is going through. This is a precious gift that births compassion, kindness, generosity, and on and on. All too often we lose sight of compassion, kindness, generosity when met with people who are nothing like us. They have had totally different childhoods and lifestyles. They are from a different country, generation, or religion.

Perhaps Jesus was so empathetic because, as God, He had experienced our lives already. Of course an all-knowing God can empathize with His children, show them limitless compassion, kindness, and generosity. When we are asked to do this it’s sometimes a different story. If we can’t draw on our life experiences to relate to those different from us, then where do we start.

First, I’ll admit that I did a personal study on myself regarding my bias toward certain pedestrians. Anyone who has driven in Berkeley knows that pedestrians definitely have the right of way. In some areas there they will walk right out in front of you no matter if you are going 10 mph or 60 mph. My morning drive to work is where I do a lot of my “outside work” thinking. I wondered if I subconsciously decide to stop for some people and race by others. I observed myself, and found that I am much more likely to stop for someone that is more like me; someone who looks like they are on their way to a similar job, maybe they are a similar age, usually the same gender. I started thinking that maybe I’m a bigot of sorts. I felt so ashamed until I reminded myself that my behavior was done subconsciously.

So, again, I ask, where do we start if we can’t relate to someone through our personal experiences? Well, one place to start is on our knees. “Dear Lord, I do not know how to relate to Jane. She is so different from me. Some of the things she does just get on my nerves. How can I possibly love her the way you ask me to? Please help me. Amen.” God will change your heart. Secondly, you can relate through your differences. Recently I was speaking to a new acquaintance about his religious and cultural customs. In many ways they are the polar opposite of my experience and practice, so I related to him by talking about the differences. As we talked we found similarities in our thinking that we didn’t know existed.

God told us to hate sin. Sin is the act, not the person. If you can’t relate to a person because they are living a sinful lifestyle do not run in fear. God calls us to be light in the darkness, and in everything God calls us to do, he calls us to love. So instead of running from those that are different, we need to run toward them with our lights lit, which is not to say we should tell them all they are doing wrong, but all the ways God sees them as right.

Open your Mouth

But I will sing of your might; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been a fortress for me and a refuge in the day of my distress. – Psalm 59:16

This weekend I had the pleasure of hearing Christina Reynolds of International House of Prayer, Kansas City sing at my church. I have always wished I had a better singing voice, and often feel inadequate when praising God in song. Hearing Christina’s beautifully written and vocalized songs of praise made me wish even more that I could be proud of my singing voice before the Lord. But a worship song is more than a beautiful voice. It is the meaning of the words, the attitude of the heart, and the openness to receive and freely give. While I am sure God is beaming when he hears Christina sing because he gave her that spiritual gift, He also beams when He hears me sing in my untrained pitch-y voice.

The Bible says our prayers are like a sweet incense. A worship song is a prayer put to music. How much more does God see even a poorly sung worship song as a sweet smelling incense? He enjoys, savors, and begs us not to stop even when everyone else in the room is plugging their ears.

2 Samuel 6 tells us David danced before the Lord wearing only a linen ephod (like an apron). You would wonder how pleased the Lord was when He was likely staring at David’s bare behind, but the Bible says God punished David’s wife, making her barren, because she made fun of her husband’s praise. So we see that God is pleased with all kinds of wild and seemingly inappropriate worship.

Do not fear what God or anyone else thinks when you are praising Him. You may praise quietly, loudly, expressively, prayerfully. Whatever you do, do it for Him and He will delight in the sweet smelling incense that is your praise.

Dance and sing along even if you don’t know the words…