Thursday, May 29, 2008

Spiritual Warfare

Have you ever wondered why people attack you? Do you feel like you have extra trials? Are you having trouble in your relationships? Do you feel depressed? These issues can all be related together by the issue of spiritual warfare. As the apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12- "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. "
Often times we are attacked because people are attacking God. They do this without knowing the deeper issue. This can especially happen when we seek to step out for God, and in our serving God, or doing the work of God, attack will come our way. And in these times, we can let ourselves feel beaten down and frustrated, or we can walk in the light of God (John 1:9- "The true light, which enlightens everyone...").
We need to understand that Satan is real and trying to disrupt our lives; Satan is trying to keep us from the joy of the Lord. In his book "The Screwtape Letters," C. S. Lewis talks about this attempt to derail our lives from God. It is a wonderful rendering of the deceitful ways in which Satan tries to blind us to the reality of how beneficial it is to live in the love and presence of God, instead of following the ways of the world. As Satan attacked Eve so deceitfully, he seeks to confuse and disorient us into letting the temptations of the world and trials of life overwhelm us.
When we walk in the light, we put ourselves in a place to have the armor of God available to us: "13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."
We are called to stand firm in what God gives to us. When we live in this way, we can live in the joy of the Lord as we know that we are strengthened by our faith, our righteousness (which comes to us by Christ), the Bible, our salvation, and prayer. We can indeed overcome the struggles of life, and learn to enjoy life in the midst of life's difficulties.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Marriage is Sacred

Marriage is an interesting concept in today's society. I believe that people are losing the understanding of what marriage is to be. It has become too easy for people just to live together, or sleep together without any thought of love or commitment. By doing it this way, you don't have to make a commitment; you can just end the relationship when things don't seem to be going right. How have we gotten to this place where people don't want to make a commitment to another person?
If you were to look at the concept of marriage, it began at creation when God saw that "it was not good for the man to be alone." So in seeing Adam in this state, God created Eve. By giving Adam, Eve, and giving Eve, Adam, God created a partnership. But this partnership was to be deep and bonding; the two becoming one.
Marriage is more than just having someone around to keep you company. Marriage is more than having someone around to fulfill your needs. Marriage is a sacred act of commitment and binding together that God has instituted and given to us. If and when we go into a marriage relationship, we should do it with the understanding that we are pledging our love and faithfulness to this other person for life. When we commit to each other in this way, there is actually more freedom, because we don't have to worry about jealousy or mistrust; we have given our binding word to our partner.
Think about the beauty of the picture of 2 becoming one. Together we forge with another person a world, a life, that is bound together. If you have ever seen a couple that has been married for many years, they often finish each other's sentences, and often times begin to look life each other. This is the two becoming one. There is a depth and intimacy to the relationship that is unique and beautiful.
As a minister, when I do wedding counseling, I try to help the couple understand that this is to be a lifelong, sacred commitment that is made. It shouldn't be made just on feelings or in hurriedness. It is a commitment that they make to each other, but also to God. What a joy it is for me to do a wedding for 2 people who get this concept of sacred bond.
What do you think?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Experiencing God's Love

We hear people talk of God's love all the time, but probably don't think about it too much. Then the other day I was at a seminar, where the speaker talked about a class that Bishop Desmond Tutu was going to teach; the class was to be on God's love. As the class gathered, Tutu had no syllabus for the class. This concerned the students; how would they know what was required of them? Tutu preceded to tell them that there were no tests, quizzes or assignments. In the end, the class was to be about them sharing stories of where they had experienced God's love. Tutu's reasoning was that we can't share God's love until we understand how God has loved us.
As I thought about this question (Where have I experienced God's love?), I found it difficult at first to come up with an answer. I knew that I had experienced God's love, but couldn't come up with specifics. So I started to think more about how God has expressed His love to me. As I thought about this, I realized that I needed to define how God's love comes into the world, and into my life.
Here are a couple examples:
The first is how I met my wife. When I was in my early twenties, all of my friends were getting married. I very much wanted to be married and have kids, but couldn't seem to find the person God had for me. When I was 28 and very committed to my ministry, I told God that if I never got married, then I would dedicate myself to ministry. At this point, I stopped worrying about being married. Soon after, I met a woman named Tami, who is now my wife. God has blessed me with a wonderful woman, who is the right person for me.
The second is about having our first child. As Tami and I were trying to have children, we were frustrated because Tami couldn't seem to get pregnant. We even saw a doctor, but nothing worked. After I got a pastoral job in Colorado, we had stopped worrying about getting pregnant, and sure enough Tami got pregnant after the first month of having moved.
Now I'm not trying to say that just because we want something God will give it to us. But in my life, these are two examples where I have given something over to God, stopped worrying, and in time God has blessed me with a wife and 2 children. As I reflect on these events, I realize that God's love is shown in His wanting what is good and best for me, but in the time that it is good and best.
How about you, where have you experienced God's love? I would love to hear your stories!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

It's Not Fair


How many times have you said "Life's not fair?" It is something we have all said at one time or another. It is something my kids say all the time. We say this, but what do we mean by it? We say it when we feel like we have been mistreated; we get in trouble in a way others don't (for example, you get a ticket for speeding, but others around you don't). Or, we might say it when someone gets to do something that we want to do. Or maybe when someone gets something we want (i.e. a new car).
When we say "it's not fair," we have the expectation that life is supposed to be fair; meaning that everyone is supposed to have the same opportunities and experiences. Why do we have this expectation? What is there in us that makes us think that life is supposed to be fair? The truth is, it doesn't take long to learn that life isn't fair, in that, we will have opportunities others don't have, and others will have opportunities we don't get to have.
Think about this for a moment, what have you gotten to do in your life, that others around you haven't gotten to do? When we say "it's not fair," we are too self-centered, and forget that we have had many wonderful blessings ourselves. The truth is, most of the time when we feel like life isn't fair, is when we aren't getting something that we want; something we think we need.
For me, being that I believe in God, and believe that God loves me and wants the best for me, understand that if I focus on what I do have, and not on what I don't have, then I will be able to experience the blessings of my life. Instead of trying to compare my life to others (which leads us to say "It's not fair"), I need to try and enjoy and take advantage of the opportunities that God does put into my life.
What would happen if we stopped complaining about injustice, and tried to turn this energy into making the world more fair for those who don't have much? What would happen if we stopped being upset with what we don't have, and focused on what we do have? (Someone else may have a new car, but maybe you have a wonderful marriage and job). What would happen if we accepted that life isn't fair, and that is okay? What if we understand that God is a God of justice, and justice will be rendered by God in due time?
Life isn't designed to revolve around us. Life happens regardless of us. So maybe if we stop focusing on life being unfair, and try and make a difference with our lives, we will experience more than we could have ever thought possible. Let's give it a try!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Unanswered Prayer

Sometimes I think we think that prayer is something we throw in the air, and then catch what God throws back. Only sometimes, it seems as if God doesn't throw anything back. Of course we know this as "unanswered prayer." Have you ever felt this way? That you are praying to God, but it doesn't seem that God is listening? If God loves me, and cares for me, and wants the best for me, why is there times when He doesn't listen?
These are valid and important questions, because they lead us to seek the answer of what prayer is really for. The truth is, while we are told in the Bible that we are to make our requests known to God, we are also told that God answers our prayers according to His will, not ours. The reason why we feel that God is not answering our prayers, is because we are looking for a certain answer, and when that particular answer does not come, we do not see the answer God gave to us.
From the book "Prayer Power Unlimited," J. Oswald Sanders challenges us with some questions we might ask (p. 107): Am I sure my request was in harmony with God's will?
Did I really pray making use of Jesus' name?
Did I pray the prayer of faith and really expect the answer?
Was I praying from selfish motives?
Did I depend on the Holy Spirit in my praying?
While prayer is as simple as talking with God (as we might talk to someone we love and trust), the answer to our prayers always aren't so simple. And even more, more than a tool to get things from God, prayer is supposed to be a means to draw close to God and be in relationship with God and surrender to God.
When will God answer me? How come God isn't helping me? Where has God gone? If you are struggling with any of these questions, I encourage you to flip through the book of Psalms, and see how the writers of these Psalms struggled with much of these same questions. And then see how they gave themselves over to God, and how God came and was present to them!