Friday, October 30, 2015

EMPATHY

There are some situations and circumstances in my life that I would not wish on anybody. However, there are some cases where nothing satisfies like an empathizing friend or brother/sister in Christ. Finding out that one of your friends, Christian or not, has had a similar, if not exact, challenge in their life takes away the loneliness - the why is this happening to me feeling - of the situation.

Empathy gets even better when a friend shares his/her experience and then comes alongside you to help anyway possible. It is one thing for a friend or acquaintance to share they have been in the same spot you are now. It is another thing for empathizers to display their love and care. I realize that some situations are sensitive and may require the asking of permission to get involved, but at least do that - step forward and show that you are willing to put actions behind your good wishes and been-there-done-that speech.

I have got Good News for all of us - "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin." - Hebrews 4:15

But wait there's more!  

God does not leave empathizing just at Jesus, Father God sends us The Holy Spirit, also known as our Advocate, our Consoler and Counselor, our Comforter. In the original Greek, His name is rendered Parakletos (par - ak - lay - tos). John 14:25-26 tells us how the Holy Spirit continues to love on us - 
  • "the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." 
God's Spirit, residing within us, now becomes the teacher and He will always be in agreement with Jesus - The Word of God (reminding us of everything Jesus has said to us). God also promises to never walk away or abandon you (Hebrews 13:5). In those moments when you feel God is far away, rebuke that feeling because it is Not the truth. His hand of favor may come off of your life for an act of disobedience, but His presence is promised throughout your life and mine (Matthew 28:20).

Of all the people to have empathy toward us, I am beyond happy and thankful that God sent His only Son as our High Priest to empathize with our weaknesses and be tempted in every way that we are - yet did not sin. This means I can come to Him for comfort and advice because He has the victory. It also means I can empathize with others and be Christ's words, hands and feet extended.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

THE POWER OF COMMON GROUND

It is from our challenges, encouragements and rough edges that - if we allow the change - improvements are realized. Sure noticing the good points of anybody, anything or any situation will traverse you down the road a spell. However, knowing we can never attain perfection means there is always room for improvement, maturity, or betterment in some fashion.

Pastor Eddie Cortes said, "God uses broken people like you and me to rescue broken people like you and me."  I agree, just take a look at the lives of The Disciples. When Christ called them to follow Him, He was not calling individuals who "had it together" in every way, especially spiritually. No. Far from the notion of perfection were the lives Jesus called unto Himself.

Why is this? Those that feel and think they are complete or complete enough have closed the door on learning and improvement.  Those on-the-other-hand with a humble spirit, open mind and creative thinking tend to leave the door of opportunity open for learning and improvement. We all have our moments when we behave more like the Pharisees than the Disciples, but I would like us all to lean toward the Disciple's camp.

I especially notice God using us to help one another after the Ecclesia (Church) began. Three stories immediately come to mind - God's usage of Philip for the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40), Ananias for Paul (Acts 9:1-19), and Cornelius for Peter (Acts 10). Although Christ could use His angels in any given circumstance and could Himself minister unto the need at hand He chose to have these lives develop like so - using each other and God's Spirit within.

It takes a recognition of a gift/talent from God, a willing heart to serve and capitalizing on opportunities when God presents them - to operate from one "broken" vessel to another. Common ground is powerful when establishing a relationship of help. The cracks, the abrasions, the imperfections in the vessels are that common ground which we then try and develop/improve for a better container of God's love. Let us be ever observant to where we can minister God's love and utilize The Power of Common Ground.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

DAD'S HOME


When I was much younger, my family (the home/house) consisted of Mom, Dad, Josh and Grandma. Usually, when I was home weekdays so was everybody else except Dad. My Father worked two careers and wherever I was in my split-level house when he came home - I knew it was him coming through the door. 

Some telltale signs of his arrival were the rattling of his keys as he unlocked the door and entered. Another sign he was home was Mom's verbal greeting and loving greeting of a kiss. However, what seems to stand out to me the most as the sign Dad was home was the sound of his hard sole shoes on our hard wooden floor.

Knowing Dad was safely home would always elicit a smile and comfortable sigh from me. It was then that I felt and knew our family was complete, a unit again. This is an atmosphere that God has been communicating to me repeatedly lately. An atmosphere of God's Omni-Presence in my life. 

Recently, I went through another situation where I wanted to understand God but didn't. What was left? His Faithfulness and Trust in His Faithfulness. Just like throughout my life I did not understand some ways of my earthly father - the ways that I do know prove his faithfulness to me and my family and so can be trusted. 

With my father's entrance into the house comes his track-record of provision, his offering for the future and his fatherly presence. So it is with God in the believer's life. God promises never to leave us or forsake us. Many do not have the blessing of seeing and loving their earthly father right now. However, Christians have a Father, a Heavenly Father who has made this Temple, we call our body, Dad's Home. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

THE ULTIMATE CAMPFIRE


Each one of us has many needs.  The burdens of life seem to increase as we grow older. Now-a-days that seems to happen quicker and more intensely than I remember when I was growing up. Back in my more youthful days there was something sacred and worthy of a vacation. Even moreso was if there was a Campfire involved in that vacation.

Ah, vacations. This usually meant a change of scenery (i.e. the beach, the mountains, a campground, etc...). To "Get-Out-of-Dodge" was a refreshing start to a time of momentarily forgetting our troubles, setting aside our needs and re-energizing our "batteries". However, at least for me, when we had them, the campfire was the time that really sealed the deal.

The campfire - even as I would approach it on a clear, stary night - would melt all my remaining concerns away. The campfire seemed to unify everybody. We were all around it receiving warmth and light from it and enjoying each others company all at the same time. No burdens, no worries, and no cares. Sometimes stories would be told around the fire. Other times songs would be sung around the fire. Still at other times words were not needed at all around the campfire.

I have this same kind of Campfire experience every time I spend quality time with the Holy Spirit. He is Light, warmth and great company to my soul. The wonderful promise I hold onto and have experienced many times from the Lord is found in John 14:26 - 
  • But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
I encourage you to establish these personal Campfire Meetings with The Lord if you don't already have them activated in your Christian walk. If you do have these campfires in your life, I would submit maybe you and I need to return to these refreshings, these get-aways with The Lord more often.

Something to look forward to is when the whole Christian family is called away to the eternal vacation with Christ in Heaven. There in Heaven gathered around The Throne together we will have The Ultimate Campfire forever. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Battling The Ostrich Fever


Now-a-days I feel like playing the part of an ostrich and keeping my head stuck in the sand. Not that I am coping-out of life, but I find that every time I do retreat for a while and return to life – things and people have not changed. Christ Jesus even says in Luke 18:8 – “when the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?”

I take the pessimistic view in answering that question. Sure, there will be faith when Christ returns, but not like The Lord desires. I believe we are in the Laodicean church age – the luke-warm church age spoken of in Revelation 3:14-22. I have heard it said that Christ is coming back for a spotless bride. Those that call Him Lord and Savior and live accordingly are already made spotlessin regard to their salvation. However, this side of Heaven there is no way Christians can attain a spotless condition – in regard to their works or deeds. We are battling with nature, nurture, Satan and self. The only times The Bride is made spotless are many years ago at Calvary and The Bema Seat or Judgment Seat of Christ after The Rapture. Will Christ find faith when He returns? What would be even better is for Him to find a marriage of the Christian’s faith and his/hers works or deeds (James 2:14-26).

Battling The Ostrich Fever/View, I find myself being encouraged by all the “watch” Scriptures the Bible mentions for Christ’s return. However, the one that immediately comes to mind is The Lord’s words in Luke 21:28 – “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” In the face of awful events in history – “these things” - this is a verse filled with hope – “your redemption is drawing near”. Some events have happened, others are happening and the rest are bound to happen. There is one passage that resembles the headlines of newspapers and news programs everyday – 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”


So, even though our problems are identifiable and I may feel like burying my head in the sand - the fact that they are happening more frequent and more intense, as in labor pains, has me excited and sad about these times as I stand, lift up my head and watch for my soon coming Redeemer.