Tag Archives: Religion Spirituality

Listening to Your Moral Meter

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.                                                                               – Philippians 4:8

The world can be full of juicy gossip. Sometimes our everyday lives can become so routine that our mouth almost waters at the sound of a scandalous story.

For lent I have given up all but one hour of television a weeknight, a task I thought I would find difficult, but have found rest and relaxation as well as purpose in other things. Most nights I don’t even turn on the TV. The one show I do watch is Nashville. I know it is not the most wholesome show to watch, but I just love the juiciness of it after a day in my seemingly mundane life. As the clock approaches 10 p.m. I start thinking, ‘Who will break up with who this week? Will Scarlet finally go too far with her prescription drug addiction?’ I become almost in a trance while watching. In considering whether I should give up this show I tried to justify keeping it as my one guilty pleasure. ‘I deserve it. After all, I’ve given up so much already.’ In fact, just last night I turned on the TV to realize it was a rerun. I tell you, I almost went into the shaky withdrawals. I started texting my boyfriend, “How can this be? Nashville is a rerun! What will I do with my time?!?”

What seemed like a harmless TV show has turned me into a monster on the hunt for juicy gossip. My ears perk up each time I see that there might be some coming my way. Recently I was tempted to encourage some gossip, and I did. Later I was caught in the act of encouraging gossip. It did not feel good! My mind was consumed with guilt and fear of what that person might have thought about me now. Was it that person’s judgment that was causing me to fret? No, it was my own guilty conscious. I not only had to go to God in repentance with my tail figuratively between my legs, but I had to go back to the person who caught me and apologize to them and let them know I knew what I did was wrong and would correct my actions. Fortunately the person was very gracious and forgiving, but perhaps that won’t be the case next time. I must also go back to the person who I gossiped with and let them know it was wrong and apologize for playing a part in it.

When we have to justify our actions we should recognize the prompting of the Holy Spirit that we are trying to talk our way out of repentance. If you are feeling uncomfortable with something you have done you might want to examine whether it is in alignment with God’s Word. If not, turn from that sin, admit it was wrong to God and those effected by your sin. Once you have done this you shouldn’t feel guilt or continue to fret because Jesus’ blood has already washed you clean.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

                                   -Matthew 6:9-13

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Overcome the World

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. -John 16:33B

When met with adversity we meet Him. This may sound like I am suggesting to look on the bright side. While I think looking on the bright side can be good to gain a different perspective, Jesus had emotions just like you and I. He felt broken, torn, hurt, offended. It’s not unchristian to feel. We are made to feel emotion. It’s what sets us apart. What I mean is that when we are met with adversity it is an opportunity to give Jesus the driver’s seat. I’m trying not to quote Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel”, but that’s exactly what we should do in trials and suffering. Who knows us and our situation better than the one who knit us in our mother’s womb.

In Genesis 39 Joseph has just been sold to the Ishmaelites by his jealous brothers. They had planned to kill him, but decided they’d make some cash by selling him. The Ishmaelites sold him into slavery to Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard. Joseph must have been feeling hurt and betrayed by his brothers, fear of what would come next, sad that he had been forced to leave his father behind. This was truly a time of adversity for him, but the Bible says , “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man…” Did I read that right?!? Joseph who was almost murdered by his jealous brothers, sold into slavery, and now he has become successful? But this is not where the struggle ends. Just as in our own lives, because we fight through one storm does not mean there isn’t another on the horizon.

Joseph had become quite successful working under Potiphar until his wife tried to seduce him. When he realized her proposition he quickly fled, but she snatched his cloak from his back. Seeing this as evidence and an opportunity for revenge on Joseph she went to her husband to accuse his servant of assault, “See, here is his cloak he left behind.” Believing his wife’s accusation Potiphar quickly had Joseph detained. Once again, betrayed and let down, Joseph finds God’s favor. His good behavior and God’s spirit upon him earn him the position of watching over all the other prisoners, an assistant to the chief jailer. Over two years later through a series of unlikely events Joseph is asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. The dream’s interpretation indicated a famine was coming. Impressed with Joseph’s discernment Pharaoh promotes Joseph from prisoner to his personal assistant and head of all his servants and business of his house.

Later Joseph gained even more respect from Pharaoh and God continued to show him favor, even reconciling his relationship with his family and at last reuniting them. No mountain is too big or too small for God to overcome. The number of scriptures on overcoming adversity is overwhelming. If you don’t believe me reflect on your past. Think of all the times you have overcome. Did you really overcome with your own strength or was there something, someone supernatural carrying you through it.

If you are feeling stuck in struggle, suffering, sorrow take a moment to meditate on this, my favorite Psalm:

Psalm 91 (NRSV)

You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday.A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot. Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When  they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.

Resolve to Resolve

This past Sunday my church continued it’s tradition of having a giving thanks service on the last Sunday of the year. Pastor Joseph sent out an email a day or two before prompting us to come prepared with what we wanted to share with the congregation. As I reflected I realized the thing I am most thankful for in 2013 is the breakthrough I had forgiving my dad. From the outside it might have appeared that my dad and I had a great relationship. My dad always hugs me, we go father-daughter dates, we tell inside jokes, but inside I held on to the times my dad hurt me. To be close to my dad meant the risk of reopening past wounds. In Spring 2013 I was home for a visit with my parents. What started out as a lovely day of kayaking ended in the reopening of my festering wound. Even though my dad had been calm and collected most of the day one little bout of frustration brought back thoughts of unforgiven arguments.

I’ve heard people say, and probably uttered the very words myself, “Why should I forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it?” The very definition of forgiveness implies that the pardon is undeserved. Through the gentle guidance and counsel of my pastor’s wife Marlin I was able to recognize that much of my physical and emotional pain stemmed from the grudges I held against my dad. Not only was I holding him in bondage but myself. To break the chains of unforgiveness would grant us both freedom, but I could not gain freedom without also granting him freedom. It is like a prison guard shackled to a prisoner. In order for him to be free he must also set the prisoner free. What a predicament!

In my pain and struggle to forgive, in my moment of desperation on that spring day, I went in my parents’ guest room, opened my Bible, and prayed. I don’t remember exactly what I prayed, but when I came out I slowly ate my dinner in silence and let the Holy Spirit stir within me. Afterward I knocked on my dad’s bedroom door, “Can I come in?” I sat next to him on the bed and tried pouring out my heart in my own heartfelt words, but it didn’t seem to sink in to him how hard this conversation was for me. Finally I looked him in the eyes, I had no words to speak and yet my lips spoke, “Dad, you know the Bible front to back. You know the men of the Bible are remembered not for being perfect, but for being changed. I don’t want you to be remembered as a man who wouldn’t change.” I’ve never seen a tear come to my dad’s eye before that day except maybe one other occasion, but I like to think I saw a tear that evening. After our conversation I had to leave to make the trek back to the Bay Area. It hurt to leave it like that, but as I drove home I heard the song “Changed” by Rascal Flatts. I knew God had already begun His work in my dad’s heart, but just as importantly He had begun His work in my heart. Not only has my dad been changed, but we have both been set free.

Due to privacy I didn’t want to reveal what exactly I forgave my dad for, but I do want to clarify it was typical father-daughter stuff, nothing major. However I do want to stress that God wants us to forgive even the harshest of hurts.

My Aunt Wanda told me to watch the video clip below. She was very moved and inspired by this man’s ability to forgive. I hope you are too.

Is there someone deserving or, more importantly, undeserving who you need to forgive? Take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to help you start. It’s the best New Year’s resolution. I guarantee it.

Cultivation of a Memory

I’ve been going through the book Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden for the past five weeks with a small group at my church. Lesson 5 is on prayer. Frankly it was a difficult lesson for me. Many questions arose regarding supplication, however what I want to discuss tonight is the T in the ACTS format of prayer. ACTS is an acronym for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. In short, adoration is thanking God for who He is. Confession is, of course, admitting to God the sins we have committed, asking for forgiveness, and repenting (turning away from that sin). Thanksgiving, I’ll get into in a minute. Supplication is interceding for ourselves and others to ask for God’s will to be done.

In his book Ogden describes the reasoning behind why we should give thanks to God for not only WHO He is but for WHAT He has DONE. He says that by recalling those things God has given us or done for us we cultivate a memory. The definition of cultivation is to try to acquire or develop. Like putting together a photo album we are repeating, sometimes aloud, all the good things God has done. And like a photo the memory sticks a little better when you reflect on it. Several years ago my family, primarily my mom, interviewed my grandparents so that we could put their story down on paper. As they recalled fond memories you could see the expressions of joy, hear the laughter, and get a true sense of the emotion behind the story. When we reflect on the good God gives us we not only cultivate a memory, but we prolong the joy and the gratitude.

There is a reason why we thank God before we intercede for ourselves and others. As one of my small group members said today the ACT in ACTS helps us shift our focus to God’s perspective. By the time we get to Supplication our perspective is changed and our prayer is more in line with God’s will. So I will end by asking, what are you thankful for today? Tell God and see what memories you can cultivate.