Like a Child

“Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” -Mark 10:15

Do you know why Jesus compares the faithful with children? It’s because children are completely dependent on their parents for everything. They TRUST in their parents to provide for them and to take care of them. This is what we must do in order to enter the Kingdom of God! We have to become completely dependent on Our Father and accept the reality that He is in control, not us. Let us be like children in our relationship with God and rest in the unfailing care of Our Father. +

I Asked God

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve. I was made weak, that I might learn to obey. I asked for health, that I might do great things. I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy. I was given poverty, that I might be wise. I asked for power, that I might have men’s praise. I was given weakness, that I might feel the need for God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life. I was given life, that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for, but everything that I hoped for. I am, among all men, most richly blessed!

-Prayer of the Confederate Soldier

It is a harsh and humbling reality that you and I rarely know what is truly best for us–what will bring us the most purpose and fulfillment in life. We have all these deep desires that inspire our hopes, dreams, and pursuits of happiness, but sometimes the paths we think these all lead to are not the ones we are truly meant to follow.

What we have to realize is that we did not create our own innate desires. We are not the masters of our deepest motivations. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to have the desire for close personal relationships, or the desire to make a meaningful impact in the world, or even the desire for personal success. These (and many more) desires were carefully crafted within me from the moment of my conception by God, my Creator.

Out of my desire to love and be loved, I may seek out relationships that are not ultimately part of God’s plan. The hunger in my heart to do something meaningful with my life may lead me to chase after accomplishments, fame, and worldly successes. These are not bad things in and of themselves, but they may be a bigger part of my will than God’s.

What is your idea of happiness, fulfillment, and success in life? Are you still waiting for that “perfect” job, searching for your soul-mate, or wondering when the stress in your life will finally be relieved? These things may come, in God’s time, but have you surrendered them to Him? Have you offered Him the longings of your heart, knowing that His will is always best? Do you really trust the Author of your desires?

You and I have to begin to examine our desires through the lenses of God’s imagination, not our own. Remember, He gave us all these desires we have and He always has a plan for them. The desires that you and I see in ourselves are like individual dots scattered around the large canvas of our lives. We struggle to make sense of these scattered dots and wonder how they can all fit together, but the Artist doesn’t wonder. He has a purpose, and a plan, and He is going to connect all these dots for us into a masterpiece work of art throughout our lives. The picture you and I would paint on our own from these “dots” of desires would fall so short of the masterpiece God has planned.

Talk with God about what the desires of your heart are. Tell Him about the struggles you’re going through. Ask Him to help you along this path and to lead you to fulfillment. Then surrender, trust, and rejoice in thanksgiving that He is in control. Will it be hard? Definitely. Will you get everything you ever ask for? Nope. But if you seek after Him your whole life long, the blessings you’ll get in both this life and the next will be so much better than what you would have planned, just not in the ways you expect.

Lord Jesus Christ, take all my freedom, my memory, my understanding, and my will. All that I have and cherish, You have given me. I surrender it all to be guided by Your will. Your grace and Your love are wealth enough for me. Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more. Amen. +

Do You Believe that I Can Do This?

“As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out, ‘Son of David, have pity on us!’  When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I can do this?’  ‘Yes, Lord,’ they said to him.  Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘Let it be done for you according to your faith.’  And their eyes were opened.” -Matthew 9:27-30

What is it that is weighing on your heart right now? Is it a big question about what to do next? A difficult situation that you just can’t navigate? A cross that is heavy to carry? Close your eyes for a moment and imagine Jesus–the King of the Universe and only perfect lover of your soul–looking straight at you, with all love, compassion, peace, and joy… Hear Him ask you now, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Allow God the freedom to answer you, guide you, and give you clarity in His own time and in His own way. In the meantime, in your waiting and working, embrace His peace in moments of quiet. Let Him still your anxious soul. He wants this for you. Peace… Peace… Peace be with you. +

Our Tainted Wills; Our Need for a Savior

“Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags… Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.” –Isaiah 64:4-5, 7

I think the most fundamental truth that every human being must come to realize is this: we need a Savior. We are human, and as such, are imperfect in nature and will. We are all mired by the effects of sin; stuck in the quicksand of our faults and weaknesses. Although we may desire and actively strive to be free from this quicksand, it is impossible to do on our own.

Our situation is very much like the alcohol or drug addict, in that we are out of control of our own salvation. For the addict, there is nothing he or she can do to lift him or herself out of the problem. He/she tends to make the situation worse when they do try. In the twelve-step recovery program, a person having hit rock bottom must turn his or her life over to a higher power; must surrender to a force beyond his or her own will. Why? Because his or her will is the problem. We balk when we hear someone say, “I am going to solve my drug problem,” because their will is so tainted by it. An exertion of their tainted will is not going to solve the problem.

This is my situation, and your situation, in our spiritual lives. Just as the addict needs an intervention and a higher power to break in and lift the person out of the problem, so do we need a Savior to come in and heal us. We cannot achieve it on our own by an act of our own will.

The concluding verse here from Isaiah gives us a comforting image: “Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.”

What we need is the intervention of a loving God who will shape us anew. Because He does indeed reshape us into His beautiful instruments when we recognize these truths and surrender to Him! Do you believe this? Do you feel it in the depths of your heart that you need a Savior? This is square one for all of us who desire salvation.

As we enter into this season of Advent—this season of waiting and anticipation—let us reflect on our need of Jesus, the reason for His incarnation. If we can open ourselves to this need that we have, then we will be able to receive all that He has to offer. +

The content of this post was inspired by Father Robert Barron’s homily for the First Sunday of Advent. Listen to his moving homily here!

The Kingship of Christ

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’” -Matthew 25:41-43

Jesus is our savior, redeemer, shepherd, comforter, lover of our souls–yes! But far too many of us forget that He is also our Lord and King. God is our loving Father, but He is not a genie for us to keep inside a lamp and only let out when we need comfort and consolation. We must subject every part of our lives to His Lordship–our work, our play, our finances, our time, our talents, our sexuality, etc. None of these things are from us; they are all gifts given by our King to be used according to His will. Jesus tells us in Mt. 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.'” Are we subjecting our lives to the “will of the Father” every day? Are we doing all that our King tells us, which includes seeing Him in the least among us and caring for them? Your faithful practice of seeking and serving Christ in church is meaningless if every day you pass by the hungry, thirsty, unloved, naked, ill, and imprisoned and you fail to see Christ in them; to use the blessings God has given you to show them His love. Take a moment of silent prayer today and offer all that you are, all that you have, to the Kingship of Christ. Let us do as He instructs and allow Him to truly live in and through each of us. +

Consuming Fire

“Therefore, we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire.” -Hebrews 12:28

How much do you value your faith, your relationship with God, and the promise of eternal life with Christ that has been made to the faithful? In my view, there are two extremes–on one end is the person who uses his or her faith simply as a piece of demographic information about themselves, and on the other end is the person much like the Pharisee we read about in Luke 18, full of self-righteousness and thanking God that he is not like the lowly sinners. We know that both of these are wrong. We must value our faith with humility and gratitude, but it must be more than just a label that we claim in social circles, because “our God is a consuming fire.” While not making our faith about how “holy” and righteous we are, our relationship with God should affect EVERY part of our lives. Instead of maintaining our faith as a small, petite candlelight within us that we only bring out on Sundays, our faith should set our whole being ablaze with gratitude, reverence, awe, and worship. If we cultivate our faith to do this and give God permission to enter every aspect of our lives, it will change the way we think, talk, act, and interact with others. Reflect on this today and ask God to set your heart ablaze for Him. Your renewed spirit of love, hope, and joy just might spark a flame in the hearts around you as well. +

Good Things!

“For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good things? This also is vanity and a worthless task. Two are better than one… If the one falls, the other will lift up his companion. Woe to the solitary man! For if he should fall, he has no one to lift him up.” -Ecclesiastes 4:8-10

Sometimes we find it easier to just keep to ourselves rather than making the effort to reach out to others to form new relationships or to build upon existing ones. Vulnerability is really hard for most of us and we usually play it safe by staying in our private comfort zones, even when we’re struggling. Deep down, we all long for fulfilling relationships; for Christlike brothers and sisters to walk with on our journey. These wholesome relationships and all the times of fellowship that come with them are GOOD things and great blessings. They bring joy, renewal, comfort, encouragement, and growth. But many of us “toil and deprive” ourselves of these kinds of relationships by not stepping out of our comfort zones, whether it’s due to our pride, fear of rejection, past hurts, or lack of courage. Who has God been tugging at your heart with to reach out to? To open up with? To encourage? Be bold! Humble yourself and take a leap of faith. Just as you hunger, so do they. Don’t deprive yourself of these good things. You are being called into all kinds of relationships every day. Start taking steps to foster these relationships and see what you’ve been missing. +

Take Off Your Mask

“Therefore, putting away all falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” -Ephesians 4:25

We are all so very good at wearing our masks. We hide behind false faces, routine responses, and surface-level interactions. We’re so used to doing this with both people and God, but it is a serious barrier between us all. What are your “masks”? What are some concrete ways that you can start “putting away all falsehood” and being more real with yourself, with God, and with everyone around you? It may be uncomfortable and unnatural at first, but it will be like a weight lifted off your heart every time you let go a little more of the control you exert over how others view you. When we reduce our focus on our own image and facade of perfection, we are able to better connect with our true selves, with God, and with everyone we encounter. Let’s work at this reckless abandon to who GOD has created us to be–with all our quirks and oddities–instead of who WE want to project ourselves as. Share that authentic YOU in truth and sincerity. You are hungry for authenticity, and so is everyone around you. +