Your Christian Walk: a habit a hobby or a lifestyle

My boss has Celiac disease, which causes a serious allergic reaction to gluten. The body reacts in such a way that it rejects the ingestion of this protein with an angry vengeance. The thing is gluten is such an intricate part of the American diet he often struggles when eating out, which, is more often than not because he travels a lot as part of his job. His dietary lifestyle is so drastically different from the rest of the team we center our team lunches and outings around where he can get a decent gluten-free meal. I often think of what a pain this must be. I mean, he can’t have too many spontaneous food outings or even enjoy a good old fashioned potluck.

I think about how set apart his lifestyle is. I’m reminded that as Christians we are called to be set apart as well. (I Pet. 2:9) We are chosen by God, set aside for his purpose. Yes, we are called to be different. Our lives do not represent the status quo. But too often they do. Too often our Christians walk is not a reflection of what we say we believe. We ascribe to Christian ideals—goodness and kindness and such but our lifestyle plays out in a manner that is flexible and changeable depending on what is going on around us.

 

Is your Christian Walk more of a hobby?

My husband and I like to bike ride. We hit the trails with our mountain bikes when we can but not nearly often enough. In fact although we’ve had the bikes for a couple of years they still have a beautiful glossy finish which gleams as we ride. But we don’t sweat it too much. We’ll ride when we get to it. Those bikes have a cozy spot in the garage.

When our Christian walk is more of a hobby we practice it when we get to it. If we are plunged into a midst of a crisis he suddenly hears our fervent and desperate prayers. Or, there we are at church walking with heads up clutching our bibles while averting the stares of parishioners that give us that “what are you doing here?” stare. And our Bibles are certainly accessible if we need to reference them. But we hardly ever do. After all, they are the same old stories we heard as a kid. Besides, the good Word we hear on the Sundays we visit church is usually enough. No one would mistaken us for anything but a Christian—that’s pretty darn certain. Right?

Is your Christian Walk more of a habit?

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Good habits provide structure and expectation. They make us more predictable and create a definable cadence to our lives. We love to say that we have good habits. Habits may be based on some strong belief system or simply the way we’ve always done things. Going to church may be a habit. It’s a good idea to hear a good, inspiring message to get us through the week. When our Christian walk is a habit we “do” Christian things more often than not and no one would mistake us for anything more than a Christian—and that’s almost a solid fact.

Is your Christian Walk a Lifestyle?

The Bible says that if you are a part of Christ you are a new creature. The old you is gone and there’s a new you. A lifestyle change is broad and far-reaching. You take great means to protect it and nurture it because it is your life.

When your walk is your lifestyle your relationship with Christ becomes more intimate. It is one that is personal and necessary as you seek to please and honor the one that has given life to you. You sacrifice and give up things that were once dear to you but are no longer, because they are an offence to the one with whom you share this relationship.

You shy away from relationships that dishonor Christ. Your lifestyle is changing not in one area but in all.

My boss’s kitchen is quite different from mine—filled with rice and oat flours, Xanthan gum and such. He makes no apologies for the great pangs he takes in selecting restaurants. He never complains. It is his way of life. He protects his health. He doesn’t risk it to appease our group or anyone else because in the end he is the one that would suffer.

A Christian lifestyle is not always convenient for the ones around us. Some may be offended by the way we live. They may find it tediously annoying to witness the careful way we choose to always honor something or someone we cannot see but claim to know.

Are our lives perfectly coiffed? Absolutely not. But as we walk daily he guides us.

With this lifestyle we are more prepared for the obstacles that will surely come our way. Prayer is not awkward monologue as we reach out to a strange, distant bigger than life force. It is dialogue between us and our Creator—it is private, personal and comforting because we know that he hears us. When tempest threaten our peace of mind we may not know what to do but we certainly have access to the One who does. When it is a lifestyle our mental breakdowns lessen. This is not to say that fear won’t creep in but our path is straight and our steps are assured.

Why you don’t receive your heart’s desires

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4, ESV).

 The cliché declares the heart wants what it wants. It enforces the belief that we have these heart-felt desires of which we cannot control. We roll with this as if our heart is apart from the rest of our being—a separate vessel that we must submit to regardless of whether we want to or not. The heart wants what it wants. We are often told to follow our heart as if the truth of every issue of life flows from it. We can depend on it to guide us everlasting peace. These beliefs are both true and untrue. Allow me to explain.

The unregenerate heart

We are born with an unregenerate heart which simply means that it has not been changed by the power of God. It is the heart connected to our sinful nature. It is the heart of which Jeremiah spoke of when he said, “The heart is desperately wicked.” The unregenerate heart does not and cannot submit to God. If you don’t know God as savior it is possible to diligently follow your heart and be completely, perfectly and utterly wrong. If we don’t have the spirit of God ruling our hearts—which is given to us when we are born again—we will not be obedient to God. And even with all of our good intentions we will follow our fleshly, natural desires, never coming close to pleasing God.

“…the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:7-8)

Our hearts are submissive to the world view. We react to what is going on around us, pressed on every side to fit in with what is normal or seemingly necessary. Our desires and wants for our children and families become a reflection of what the world deems right and necessary—the way spend our money and time, our view of political and social issues, the way we love and seek to be loved. We become the walking billboard of the self-absorbed and progressive view of the world in which we live, rolling with the order just to keep up.

When we seek God with this heart it is not a reflection of his will but our own. God allows us to choose, of course, but it doesn’t mean he will be a participant or an approver in our wrong choices, even when our hearts are hungry for it.

Shining the Light on our Desires

But you say, what about us who are born again? What about those who desperately want to please God? God speaks to our spirit and in our innermost man we know what God knows. But even as born again believers our soul is often bent towards the world’s belief. If our desires don’t fall in line with the Word of God, they can be just as undesirable as that of someone who is not walking with God. Even as Christians we often absorb what we see, feel, and experience, and live out of this fleshly nature. We become prone to the same desires as the world, seeking to satisfy a longing that can only satisfied by a true and intimate relationship with God.

How do we change our heart’s desire?

We change by renewing our mind with the word of God. We find out God’s take on things and line our thinking up with his way—even if we feel something differently. We remember that he knows best.

It’s funny, but looking back at my life only five years ago it’s amazing how my desires changed as I sought a closer relationship with God. For so long, I was bent on a plan that I thought suited me. When I reexamined many of my desires they sought to look the part of someone I thought I needed to be. Many of them were prideful and self-serving based on deep-rooted insecurities and fears.

“And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

When we seek intimacy with God and truly set out to know and do his will not only will our desires change but we will begin to receive what we ask for because we are in alignment with His purpose and plan for our lives. His desires become our desires and his plan becomes plain.

 

 

 

Why Ignorance isn’t Bliss

Why Ignorance isn’t Bliss

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Is. 54:10, NIV)

I like a story that is so intriguing that it keeps you in the moment. It’s that story that can’t be easily broken by way of predictable plot twists and tired story lines. But it enraptures you and the writer leads you down the unknown path. It is those times that you trust the story, trust wherever it is headed. You are willing to follow.

We can’t live in those moments in real life which is why we look forward to them when we are allowed to escape reality.

mountain3

In the real world we are expected to face the truth about tragedy and disaster, dishonesty and impending doom, responsibilities and change. We are expected to talk election, figure out the best candidate and make the right choice. We count on each other to make the proper decisions based on what we know. And many times it is too much. The burden weighs on us, sapping our energy and spirit, leaving us jaded, confused and looking for a way out. We turn to ways to open the preverbal door of altered reality—and it comes in many forms.

It sometimes escapes us that there is a God who cares and who has purposely not equipped us to carry such weight. The doom we fear is to be averted. It is through prayer and relationship that we find peace and direction on what to do when we don’t know what to do. When we forget the source of our hope we forsake our solid foundation, our guiding light, our eternal beacon. We can live blissfully, not because we live in ignorance, but because of what we do know.

What do we do while we’re waiting for Change?

What do we do while we’re waiting for Change?

Waiting sometimes feels like wandering in darkness—seeking the light. We’ve prayed about change we feel it on the horizon and then…and then…nothing. It’s like God put up the preverbal finger and said, “Wait here, I’ll be with you in a moment.” What do we do while we are waiting on change?

 

don't grow weary

Be diligent and faithful in your present situation. Sometimes we become frustrated during those periods of quietness. In our restlessness we complain, withdraw our integrity, become weary and convince ourselves we will do better when something better comes along.

 

Walking in the darkness

We forget that God says”… Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, (HCSB-Col. 3:23). And that doesn’t just mean working like a boss at that dream job, but it means bringing that same enthusiasm to that ‘dead-end’ job, to that place of work where you feel undervalued, underappreciated; it is bringing it 100 percent to that job that you absolutely detest. When God has us in a holding place it is the perfect place—for now—withdrawing our diligence can delay our progress. When we become unfaithful, it dishonors God and makes waiting difficult, if not impossible.

Remember the last thing God instructed you to do and do it

We are always looking for something new—a fresh idea, a new venture—it gives off the sensation that life is moving, and progressing. But often new is not what we need. We need to pick up where we left off.

Do you remember when you got bored and uncomfortable with the path He’d placed you on and you decided you’d try something else? You were sick of hearing about the success and progress of others—new positions, promotions and acquisitions; there were the constant invites to friends’ and family members’  grand openings, baby showers and weddings and then of course there were the Facebook posts and Instagram pics. You thought I’ve got to be doing something wrong.  I must have missed it.

You walked away from it–quietly step away and into something more intense, interesting, easier, faster, and less humiliating–something that promised quick success only…it didn’t bring much of anything except a different spin on your ongoing frustration.

It is during times like these that God is testing a couple of things:

  • Obedience to Him
  • Trusting Him in what He has assigned you to do

Remember it was about 15 years between the time Samuel anointed young David as king and the time he finally begin to reign over the tribe of Judah. Preparation takes time and if your heart isn’t ready you aren’t ready.

Remember the last thing God told you to do. Are you doing it? Are you doing it with integrity? Well, keep doing it. He knows exactly where you are.

Stop Complaining

Complaining sabotages everything for which we work. Again, we read in the Word, “Do all things without murmuring and disputing.” (KJV 2000 Phil. 2:14) Complaining produces energy that is counterproductive to the results we want. It’s like putting bad gasoline in your car. It’s not going to perform as it should no matter how hard you press on the gas pedal.

Believe it or not complaining gives off negative energy and draws to us the exact opposite of what we want. Contrary to what we have heard expecting the worse in hopes we’ll get the opposite doesn’t work. The Word also tells us whatever we sow we reap. It we are constantly speaking negativity guess what we’ll get in return? Speak what you want and what He has promised you. Fill the atmosphere with positive words. Declare what God’s Word says about what you’re going through—and his Word always affirms His goodness.

Don’t give up. Don’t stop believing. The only one that can keep you from getting to there is you. Pressures may come but God has provided everything you need to make it. Take hold of the tools and resources. Renew your inner man daily. But whatever the cost, don’t give up.

Trust God. We trust that he has heard our prayers and that he cannot and will not forget or forsake us. It is His word. It does not change. When the world around us seems uncertain, His help and His presence are certain. You can count on it.

The Power of Silence

The Power of Silence

A friend said to me one day that she couldn’t image her commute to work without music, that talk radio show she loves so much or something to fill the quiet. She went on to say that she knew someone who actually rode with nothing on. Can you imagine that? !

Yes, actually I can. I find it interesting that we are a culture that attempts to fill every white space, almost every moment of every day. The Daily News reports that  more than 80% of the world confesses that they can’t do without their mobile devices.

This leaves us with little to no precious time to clear our heads, our thoughts, evaluate what we’ve learned without forces sucking    us in to respond to some type of stimuli– begging us, beseeching us to buy or sell or react emotionally to some news, gossip or current event. Overloaded with information, we are often no better for it. We subconsciously take in stuff which produces no benefit in exchange for something, anything to fill our heads. It’s kind of like eating when you are clearly not hungry.

We seldom give ourselves time to evaluate, ponder or consider whether information is useful before we are back at it taking in more—stuff. And even when we are conversing with others in real time, we often do more talking than listening always ready to pour out from our head what we know. It just seems the natural thing to do considering we know so much. Sigh.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting with a curmudgeon old lady who rarely smiles and is never up for small talk. She is not the one to chat about the weather –mentioning how unseasonably warm it is for the month of May. Her talk is purposeful and to the point. When she is done, she stops talking.

There was an incident which occurred with my son and her niece and she came to talk to me about it out of concern for her niece. My first reaction was one of defense. I wanted immediately to remind her that I have successfully raised three children and I’ve got this thank you. I wanted to tell her all I knew on child rearing. Did I mention I have three children? But something inside willed me to hush. Be silent. Listen. And so I did. I took in everything, immediately mentally applying it where it was necessary. No I didn’t listen as we often do; we barely hear what the person is saying because we are awaiting our turn to share, to tell what we know, add meaning and depth when often none is needed. No, I emptied myself of preconceived opinions and drank in her words.

 

silence

What I noticed is that truly listening is well…humbling. It is like sitting at the feet of a sage for the beauty of their knowledge. Assured that they have a perspective, you haven’t considered or experience in an area where you lack.

I saw that day behind that droopy, leathery face and glassy eyes a women who’d truly lived. Her life hadn’t been particularly exciting but she’d lived. It was the same kind of living I was doing. But the difference was she’d already been there. She wasn’t condescending or mean. She was calm, with a slow, measured rhythm to her words. She wouldn’t allow me to rush her But took her time to ensure I didn’t miss anything.

As writers silence is powerful because it allows us to process knowledge in a way that makes it useful, instead of busy chatter clogging our minds. We began to know how an experience feels, what it tastes like, what it smells like and the way it leaves you in the aftermath. It allows us to compartmentalize what we know and apply it when and where it’s needed and discard what is not needed or at least place it aside until the next time.

Silence is powerful because it shows control and discipline on our part. It forces us to think about what we are thinking about. It helps us to hear our inner voice. It is that voice—the spirit of a man, which guides us into truth, helps us to make sound decisions, not just based on how we feel, but what our spirit is revealing to us. It is the God part of us, because it is he who is feeding our spirit-man; yes. It is spirit to spirit.

The next time your emotions are screaming, or you are tempted to make a decision bred from some emotional high or low or you’re incited to write some crazy, impulsive comment on Twitter or another form of social media, based on what some political blowhard has feed you, I ask you to be still. Be silent. Consider. Think about it. Listen. Simply listen.