Category Archives: Character

That Feeling of Being a Failure

It’s hard, at times, not to feel a bit like a failure, isn’t it? Sometimes we know exactly where these feelings coming from, we tried something and it didn’t work or something in our lives just isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. It’s a lot easier in those moments because we know what the problem is, and, even if we don’t necessarily know how to fix it, we can pinpoint it, we can put our finger on it and we can try to figure out how to make that change, even if we know it’s going to be slow going.

The real challenge is when we feel like that failure and we don’t necessarily know where it comes from. It’s when this darkness seems to just twist and turn around us, and we can’t quite manage to put our finger on what it is or why it’s there. It could be a combination any number of things and yet nothing at the same time, just this lingering feeling that something isn’t right, and you’re the one to blame.

Have you ever felt that way? Looking around, kind of questioning what’s wrong with your life as you know it’s something but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Slowly you start to feel overwhelmed and overshadowed until finally it becomes this inescapable feeling that dominates so many of your thoughts as you wonder what you’re even doing, trying to define your life, trying to figure it all out, but not entirely sure where to go or where to start.

In a sense there is no simple answer to this question, except life itself.

You see, by its very nature, life and living is an act of faith. It is an understanding that it is going to be wrought with challenges and adversity, with struggles and things that we just don’t seem to understand. Yet it is also a question of living for the moments of joy and peace, knowing that whatever darkness may surround us, they do come and they wrap around us in ways that bring to us a hope that we can feel devoid of in our lives at times. Perhaps we don’t even realize we are living in that faith, but, by living and breathing, by taking those steps forward we are seeking out the answers that we need to find our place.

The beauty of it though is that it is nothing that we have to go through alone. To live in faith is never to walk a solitary or lonely path. It is to have a constant companion with you, a confidant who doesn’t only know every unspoken place within you, but who doesn’t need for you to say it to see it. As our blessed Savior, Christ Jesus, reminds us, even when we feel the most alone, we never are because God, our Heavenly Father, is there to carry us through the most difficult of chapters and the most trying of times. (John 16:32-33) In this love, and commitment to us, He never fails us or forsakes us. (Joshua 1:5)

Yes, there are perhaps going to be times in our lives when it feels like the world, when it feels like our world, is just nothing that we quite understand, and we feel like a failure in it, unable to necessarily do anything right. Yet that’s never just the end of the story for us. There is a plan for our lives, one that has been set out from the day in which we were conceive, appointed by the Great Architect and the Grand Designer of the Universe (Jeremiah 1:5), the Creator who has made all things small and large, who takes not only an active interest in your life, but whose hand guides it.

For whatever other struggles we may know, for whatever failures we may think have taken hold of our lives, that is nothing more than the beginning of the story, a story of self-discover and self-awareness that shows us our true worth and value beyond anything we ever quite knew. It just has to come with the understanding that though God answers all questions for us, giving to us freely of His knowledge, (James 1:5) not all answers we feel we need are the ones that we need right at that moment. It’s a matter of relying on His understanding, His timing, more than our own, knowing that it will come. (Habakkuk 2:3) Revealing itself in its own time, in His time, it comes when we need it most.

Failure, for however it might feel, for whatever challenges it may bring, or wherever it may come from, is nothing more than a path towards a greater end if we let it be. Yes, perhaps we don’t necessarily even know why we feel like a failure, but then, whatever those feelings are, or wherever they come from, they need not weaken you if you understand they are not meant to drag you down, but rather push you forward. The struggles that it brings, it is meant to teach us more about ourselves, about who we are and what we want, about the intrinsic value of success that could and would otherwise be lost on us.

We are defined by what we let define us. We can define ourselves by what truly matters if we look at each day of our lives as a deeper journey into our faith, and understand that these feelings, they are not defining feelings, but tools to help us build the path, to lay the brick work that will lead us down the road of our greatest possible success, a success that our Heavenly Father wants for us to have in our lives.

A Revolutionary Spirit

America should have never been.

In Russia the Cossacks of Yemelyan Pugachev had already been crushed even as they attempted to rise against Catherine the Great’s rule, while, in Greece, the attempt to revolt against Ottoman rule was quickly put down with a lack of support from their allies. If, by the examples of the turmoil that was laid to rest by the rulers and the empires around them, the thirteen colonies were to learn anything, it was that you do not rise against your King, especially if he ruled the most powerful of the Empires.

Yet, coming face to face with what they knew of the world around them, and seeing the challenge of what they had to do, there was no other course for them, no other path they could have taken. The cries of Revolution, though reluctant at first, rose from their lips in the courage and the faith that though they may rise and fall with the next steps taken, they were giving themselves for something greater than themselves in the dreams of liberty and the hope of freedom that it carried.

As disciples of Christ there are times in our lives when we see the world around us for all that it is, and the truth is, we should, by the examples that have been placed before us, think twice of standing by our face. Perhaps we live in the blessings of the freedom to express our faith, a blessing that is not, even in this day and age, known by all. Yet, the challenges we face, though a spiritual challenge, offer to us a warning as we see the struggles of those who speak out and speak up for what they believe in all around us. We seek to change the world, offering ourselves in hope and love to others, still, even as we do little seems to change.

During these times we need to remember there is no other course for us except to stand and to dwell in the freedom granted to us by faith. After all, to live by the Spirit that has taken hold of us, that has created a new creation in us, is to live in liberty (2 Corinthians 3:7), a blessed gift offered through the love and sacrifice of Christ. To ignore that is to wear upon us the yoke of slavery, (Galatians 5:1) forged by apathy, hatred, in the understanding that we are all bound together and that while one lives in darkness and pain, destitution and hurt, we all find ourselves in such meager estates, even if we close our eyes and ignore that dark truth.

It is to be burdened by even greater challenges as we accept the world as it is, rather than how it could be in courage and the strength, as we fail to realize even the smallest of voices can be heard around the world by how it touches the lives of those around them. After all, our freedom is an opportunity to, in love, affect change in the lives of others if we let it, (Galatians 5:13) and we put behind us the corruption of our flesh that so weakens us. (Romans 8:21)

The truest revolutions, given to the hope that freedom brings, it does not come through the roaring thunder of cannons, or through the marches of those who take up arms, it comes in the hearts and the minds of those who believe in something bigger than themselves. It comes through a spirit of charity that looks at the weak and the forgotten and asks what can be done for them. It comes through those who love for the sake of loving, and nothing more, using what they have to help the poor and the downtrodden, seeking them out to offer them hope. It comes from feeding the hungry, listening to the depressed, helping the elderly, and being a force for healing to the sick. It comes from being there for those who need you on their terms, showing them the hope and the wonder, the miracles that surround them in the miracle that you can be in their lives.

The faithful disciple meets the world as it is, and asks of themselves, regardless of the challenge that it may bring, how can I rise above the struggles it may bring, above the difficulties I know may arise, to do more and to be more in the lives of others? They do so in a revolutionary spirit that is based firmly in reality, but that can’t stop asking how they can make it better, and what they can do to bring that about in the courage and the strength to take action.

Today is a new day, given as a gift from your Heavenly Father, and, as days go, it is your chance to put anything and everything that may hinder you behind you to give yourself in hope, love and faith, guided by the blessed wonders of Christ. How will you spend it?

Learning from Lou

17 seasons, 2,130 consecutive games, 6 World Series Championships, 23 grand slams, he played in every All-Star Game until the day he was forced to retire, saying his farewell at age 36 in 1939, and to this day I’m convinced that the records he broke, ones that took between 50 to 70 years to even tie or break, would remain untouched if his time hadn’t been cut so short before he was called home.

Ever since I was a child there were few who invoked my imagination amidst my love of baseball like The Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig. Even as I marked his birthday yesterday with a quiet, solemn remembrance of the man, I found myself thinking about his legacy. What an amazing legacy it is even today when you sit down and consider it, a man whose name, even now, stirs a degree of reverence and invokes thoughts of greatness even  109 years after he was born, 71 years after his death.

What though does any of this have to do with discipleship? What does it have to do with living an effective life as a disciple of Christ?

The truth is, for all the incredible, amazing things Gehrig did, it’s the courage summed up in a few sentences from his final farewell, “… For the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth…. I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.” It was that strength, knowing the impossible odds that he faced, the impossible odds that would tear from him any hopes he had for a future, that allowed for him to stand there, in front of God and those fans and say that, despite it all, there was so much he was grateful for and so much left to live for that he couldn’t find it in him to be angry or bitter about any of it, that gives to us an understanding in a lesson taught.

You see we can lose a bit of ourselves amidst the challenges and the difficulties that life has, finding the struggles overwhelm us. At times we can lose sight of ourselves and the fact that there are no temptations except those that are common to man, (1 Corinthians 10:13) as we let ourselves lose sight of the blessings that are in our lives. Yet it’s never the challenges that define us, nor the struggles that have the power over us, that is unless we let them touch us in a way that stirs that dissent and hardship within our spirits and our souls.

Yet, despite any of it, what we need to remember is that despite the adversity, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) to be more than conquerors in Christ, who loves us. (Romans 8:37) That sometimes means looking past the here and now, and the present hardship, even the things that seek to tear us down and cast a veil over us, to remind ourselves that despite the bad breaks, we’ve “… got an awful lot to live for” through the blessed reminder that “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21) telling us that nothing built of trial and turmoil has any power over us if we run the race with perseverance and hope. (Hebrews 12:1)

We might not have the world watching as we stand in front it for the answer we give to the deeper challenges we face in our lives, and if our blessed gift of time is cut short, we may not have memorials erected in our honor as people remember our names, speaking it with reverence long after we gone. Yet that just makes it all the more important for us to use our time and our days wisely while we live this temporal existence, it makes it all the more important for us to meet our challenges head on, and to live each day letting only that blessing and the hope of the strength given to us as what defines us in the faith and the love that guides us.

We are as strong as we let ourselves be, so let your strength be forged by courage in the fires of adversity, and know that each day is a gift, a chance to be more and do more, to meet the struggles head on, knowing that even at its hardest, it is nothing more than a testimony to the unbreakable spirit and will that abides in you through faith by the love of a Heavenly Father and the care of a blessed Savior, the works of a divine Spirit, that is with you all the days of your life.

A Question of Beauty


Looking in the mirror it’s hard sometimes not to see our flaws and imperfections as they stare back at us. Maybe it’s a little bit of the world around us with its ever changing standards, not so subtly pushing us towards its own perceptions of beauty. It imposes itself on us, flooding us with images and ideas of what it means to be pretty or handsome. It tries to take and mold those who do not fit those standards, trying to make and re-make them in its own image until finally, in a sense of deeper conformity, it pushes people to meet with that image.

Yet the truth is, for as much as that may be the case, it has more to do with us than it does anything else. After all, we are the ones looking and seeing, wanting to somehow be different than we are, using whatever these standards are as a measure of ourselves to try and change, to want to change, somehow thinking there’s something wrong with us.

You see, what we need to remember is that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) in the image of our Heavenly Father. (Genesis 1:26) Still, even amidst that, each of us are as unique and as special as the love that God has for us, formed by the wonders of His touch and with the gifts that He intended for us. That’s what makes us truly special, it’s what makes the truest beauty, and the most wondrous of elegance.

It is the image that we see when we look in our hearts, when we look at our deeds, not necessarily the one that we see when we look in the mirror. After all, that can be deceiving and can be trapped in vanity. It can be fleeting, soon to disappear as it washes away with the tides of time. (Proverbs 30:21) It can hide a heart that is cold and hurtful.

That isn’t to say that all who are by the standards around us considered beautiful, are that way. There is no question that they can, and do have a radiance that shines from within their hearts. That though is their most real and sincere beauty and they realize it too, knowing that when everything else in the world starts to fade that’s what they have to count on.

It’s that it’s important to remember that the truest standard of beauty that we can have, the most stunning of grace that can take hold of us is judged by the love in our hearts, the hope in our spirits, and the wonders we make use of in our souls. It lies in how we look at the world, at those who are in need around us and strive to help them, how we edify and uplift our fellow man making their lives just a little bit better. It’s the sense of charity and faith that guides us to imitate our Blessed Savior in the healing power of His touch, seeking to be more to those around us.

Sometimes this is hard for us to remember when we are bombarded with images of the perfect smile, the perfect body, the perfect hair, or whatever else it may be. We think life will just be that much easier, we will be able to get whatever it is that we want or feel that we need if we are a little thinner or a little better looking, if we have a little more hair on our head or whatever else it may be. Yet, in the end, when these things fade, we either end up struggling with the fact that they are slipping away from us, or we have the love and the hope in our hearts that guided us to be better people, to be stronger and more courageous of people.

Rather than trying to obtain beauty, be beautiful with a light that shines forth from your heart. Rather than seeing flaws or imperfections, see a person who has a chance to do more and be more with themselves today, knowing the gifts your Heavenly Father gave you, and using them to change the world around you rather than trying to change yourself for the world. You’re only as beautiful as you let yourself be, the question becomes how beautiful do you want to be?

God judges not by the physical appearance but by the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7) What will He see when He looks in yours? Will it be the beauty of your love blooming? Or will it be a preoccupation with being exactly as you perceive you need to look?

Find your beauty within, and bring it out through love, hope, faith and charity. When you do, everything else will make sense in the wonders that it hold.

God is Always There, Are You?

I have to admit that I find it hard some days but then I really have nobody to blame but myself. I just, well, I let it slip away and honestly I don’t know why. It’s not like I have a terrifically good reason as to why or what for.

It’s no excuse but sometimes, despite our best intentions, it’s just hard, isn’t it? I mean we want to take the time out of every day to dedicate ourselves and re-dedicate ourselves to God, to study our Bible, to pray a little more fervently and to just commit ourselves to the love and the hope that our blessed Savior has to offer. The thing is though that sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work out that way and before we know it the time is short before it just disappears.

I guess, perhaps, a part of me finds it too easy. Maybe, in the back of my mind, a part of me knows that God, He’s always going to be there, waiting for me. It makes it easy to neglect Him, to put Him aside when I have other things I want to do or need to do, figuring I can always come back to him later when I have more time.

As disciples, given to Christ, we’re all a little guilty of that now and then. We step away, knowing we can always step back when we need to, like the Prodigal Son, who goes on his own way, only to return home in his hour of deepest need to find his loving father waiting there for him. (Luke 11:15-32) Even if our story or what calls us back isn’t nearly as dramatic as his, it’s still a little bit funny how often we can find it so simple to be like him, doing as we will just because we can.

Yet, the simple truth is that though God will always be waiting for us, though He will always come searching for us as a Shepherd searches for his lost sheep, (Matthew 18:12-14) the longer we let it go, the longer we let ourselves slip or the further we let ourselves wander, the harder we find it to come back to Him. After all, one of the analogies often used in the Word of God to describe our life of faith relates to trees and to crops. The problem is that, if it is not nurtured, it does not grow, if it is not cared for, it withers, eventually dying that slow death that comes from going too long without being tended to.

Our faith, our hope in Christ, it needs to grows daily, it needs to grow with the careful love and the tender affections of hearts that are given to the Lord in the wonders that it brings, remembering that it offers to us all that we need to grow and to live and to find peace. (James 1:5, 2 Timothy 3:16) It is, after all, a blessed hope to all those who trust in it, and look to the Lord as their strength in a world where our endurance is tried day by day, by and by, giving freely and wondrously to us in all God’s love. It teaches us how to love our fellow man, how to live during those deeper crisis’ to our spirit, how to abide with courage in our times of deepest need and longing.

Challenge yourself today to spend a little more time with God, even if you think you have a good relationship with Him, even if you spend some time growing with Him and in Him each day. Spend a little more time learning at the feet of Christ and meditating on the lessons of that He offers to grow in the blessings of the Spirit. Even if you take a little time out of each of your days to do that already, take a even a few minutes more, reminding yourself there is always something else to learn.

Challenge yourself today to imitate Christ a little stronger, a little more. Show a little extra love to those in need, to those who struggle and search, and be a bit more in the lives of those around you. Change the world one life at a time, one day at a time by offering that healing power of the Spirit that mends the wounded spirit and the broken heart. Draw nearer to God by drawing nearer to those around you, by being more in their lives. You’ll be amazed the good that it can and will do.

Don’t stray or wait too long, and never think to yourself you are doing enough, figuring God will always be there. He may but you may not. Take the time, and never let it slip away from you, because, unto you, rich blessings and wondrous hope waits, for every step you make in faith, for every step you make nearer to your Lord.

Crops and Weeds


Sometimes the decisions that lay before the disciple, they aren’t easy or simple when it comes right down to it. Searching for answers, searching for some greater enlightenment, for a path that is free of temptations, that is free of challenges or outside influences that can adversely affect us, we find that there are these pearls of truth that we find, but they are mixed together with things that are corrupt, things that are impure and that pose a threat to us.

Honestly, it’s not really that hard to find, even if you’re not really looking for it. After all, stumbling blocks, they can be anywhere and everywhere, even in the places we once thought that we were the safest as we try to live in this world and yet not of it. (Romans 12:2)

Even as we contemplate that we can get riled up about it, can’t we? We find that the more we look the more we see things that just shouldn’t be there. The more that we see things that don’t belong, the more we tend to find ourselves angry about it, the more we tend to get worked up about it, thinking to ourselves that something needs to be changed. It’s here that we tend then not to define ourselves by our adherence to what is right, what is a good and moral way for us to live, or the love that we are meant to show to others. Rather we express ourselves in terms of what we oppose because, let’s face it, it is easier that way.

The problem is, for as right as the opposition might be, or for as just as we may believe our cause is, an important question is never really asked even as we make our stand. It is the fundamental and core question that is centered around the Christian life that we are to live as the disciples of our blessed Savior given as in the form of that Great Commission. (Matthew 28:16-20) How does this win souls for Christ? How does this fulfill the mandate of His grand command for us?

There is a parable told by Christ in the Gospel of Matthew. (Matthew 13:24-30) It’s a story of these workers in the field who, when they awaken one day, find that, as they slept, the enemy of their master went into the crops and planted weeds amidst it. Seeing this they go to their master and they ask him if they should pull them up, if they should uproot them. The master’s reply is simple, “While you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”

Invariably there was a threat either way. Weeds, when they take hold, have the threat of strangling the life from a crop. They’re weeds because they move in and they take over, pushing and killing if they have the chance to. The master of the fields, as would any who had crops to care for, had to know this. Yet these were not just the weeds that pulled up easily, they sank in deep, they took hold deep. To uproot them meant to threaten at least a part of the crops, much more than would be at risk if they just let the weeds grow. So, for whatever the risk may be, he let them grow.

There are times when, despite everything that might be happening around us, this is a lesson we have to take to heart. Yes there are perhaps weeds growing around us, and they, without a doubt, pose a certain risk. Yet, in trying to stop them, from trying to rid the fields of them, we end up making it impossible for the crops to grow, or we end up uprooting before they have the chance to sprout. We make the harvest of souls that much weaker because we just cannot bear to see something that we view as wrong and we don’t think of the consequences of those actions, losing souls rather than winning them for Christ.

Look at your life, examine your faith and take a moment to find what it is that defines it even in a world that you feel is filled with weeds. How do you respond? How do you react? Take a moment to consider how you live and the way you react to those who believe something different than you or who have a differing point of view. Do you express yourself by what you are opposed to or by what you are meant to be in Christ? Do you seek to uproot the weeds at whatever cost their might be or do you worry about the crops and about what it might be that you will uproot with them?

Christ came in love, and it is love that He demands from His disciples, a precious love given in hope. (John 13:34-35) Show that even when it isn’t easy or simple, when the world as you see it is black and white but everything around you seems to be shades of grey. You can do more through the Spirit in patience and love than you could ever hope to by trying to remold it in what you perceive to be a perfect image, giving it time for God Himself, the author and the finisher of all things, to make it right in His time.

In Opposition

It’s hard at times, isn’t it? For as hard as one may try to live that good life, that example that is given in love and honesty, strengthened by the teachings of Christ, the truth is that it almost always seems as if someone somewhere is going to take exception to you. It’s one of those frustrating truths that sort of always seems to come out.

But then, can one really be that terribly surprised? If the perfect Son of God found Himself amidst the challenges of those who opposed Him (Matthew 22:15-22) despite all that He was and that He meant for humanity, suffering even unto His death, (Mark 14:53-65, Mark 15:21-41) then, in our own imperfect nature, what chance does any one of us have? If Christ Himself couldn’t please all of the people all of the time despite the fact that He had come to save all humanity, than how can we expect ourselves, in trying to live our lives, to find that we have any more of a chance?

No, the real challenge of Christian living, of being a disciple of Christ is not a question of if we meet opposition in our lives, it is not a question of whether or not we are challenged by those around us, if we are liked by those around us. The real question is a matter of how we meet them. It is a matter of how  we respond when it seems as if we are overwhelmed by the burdens of dealing with those who do not like us, who, for one reason or another, have taken exception to us.

The truth is that sometimes it is harder than others, sometimes it hits us harder than others. Sometimes it seems to pile up on us until finally we wonder exactly what is going on as we feel the pressure and the weight of it all. We don’t want it to affect us but, in a way, we just can’t seem to help it. After all, we are made to be social creatures, to exist with  companionship, whether it is marriage or relationships, friendships or acquaintanceships, with others. (Genesis 2:18)

God knows that we are going to have confrontations. Then again, it doesn’t take the Almighty, Omnipotent and Omnipresent sight of God to understand and to see that. Yet He also knows that, for as much as they may affect us, they aren’t what defines us. What defines us, what defines the love, the hope and the beauty of our souls is the way that we react to it. It is why, each and every step of the way, He seeks to show us the path towards righteousness, telling us that, though the race may be long, we need to run it with endurance, living with patience and love even towards those who have shown nothing but malice and hatred towards us. (Matthew 5:43-48)

You see, life is hardly going to be fair and there are times when it isn’t going to be right. It is during these moments when the only thing that can be done is that we live according to the people that God intended us to be, realizing that even though we are in this world we are not of it. (Romans 12:2) In other words, as the great Reformer Martin Luther once put it, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from making a nest in your hair.” For as negative as it may become, only you can let it have any power over you. Only you and you alone can let it wear you down or affect your mindset.

That doesn’t mean that you should not respond when you are attacked, or when the opposition you face comes to meet you head on. What it does mean is that the Disciple need to remember that whatever worries or stress it may cause, God is the one looking out for you, He is protecting you from trouble that it may be bring and, as such, it makes no sense in giving yourself grief over it. (Matthew 6:25-34) In the end it is going to be as it needs to be, for better or for worse, even as the Disciple comes to understand that the worst will always end up giving way to the better if they trust in the wondrous and divine nature of God’s grander design.

What opposition do you face in your daily walk? What challenges from others burden you? Lay them at Christ’s feet, go to God’s throne and kneel, praying that the hearts of those who may dislike you are changed, but also praying that your own heart is changed so that you are able to look past to the brighter future God has in store for you, realizing that sometimes life is just full of opposition but that is life and other people’s problem, not yours, even when they try to make it yours.

It is then that the peace that you seek will not be far behind as you focus yourself on the things you can change and trouble yourself not with those that you cannot.

May This Cup

Knowing His inevitable end, the pain, the suffering, and the pain that would come in the form of His sacrifice;  stricken, smitten and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4), Christ waited patiently for the appointed hour in which the prophesies would be fulfilled.

The truth is, it had to be hard for Him, and we are given a brief look into the mindset of the Blessed Savior as He prayed to His Heavenly Father, pleading “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) He knew it wasn’t. After all,  His entire purpose would be fulfilled in the stations of the cross. Had God found a way for “this cup” to be taken from Him then there would have been no reason for Him to have been made man, no real point to His ministry. Anything and everything He was could have easily be fulfilled through the Prophets who came and went before Him.

Yet perfect God and perfect man, there was a nature to Christ that was much like our nature. How could there not when, to be our substitute, He had to be as we are?

Still, as disciples of Christ, given to His teachings, do we have those moments when we pray for whatever it is that we are facing to be lifted from us, to be taken from us? And when we do, how often do we put that last statement in, “Not as I will, but as you will”? When God does not take “this cup” from us, do we then associate it with Him not hearing us or being carefully absent from us? Or do we see it as something different altogether?

You see, though no suffering, no pain comes from God, from our loving Heavenly Father, it does not exclude the possibility and the fact that, in a sinful world so far from the nature that God has intended for us, suffering does exist. In promising to hear our prayers (Psalm 34:15) God does not promise to end every trial that we face. What He promises is that it will never be more than we can take or that we can handle. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Through His blessings He gives us the strength to endure (Philippians 4:13) as He makes us more than conquerors. (Romans 8:37)

The truth is, God is never absent from our lives, whatever it may be that we are forced to face, whatever struggles we may find that we have to endure. Yes, we can pray that they are removed from us, that the burden of them, the pain that they may bring, is something that we no longer have to shoulder. But God does not guarantee to remove it from us because it is perhaps something that we are meant to go through in order to get where we are going, to become the person that God intended for us to be.

This is, at times, hard for us to understand but the struggles that we have to face are not won by being removed from us. They are won through perseverance and hope in the knowledge that everything serves a purpose according to God’s love for His children and the strength we are given through the power of the Spirit. (Romans 5:3-5)

Consider for a moment whatever struggles you may face, whatever challenges that are there in front of you, consider how you pray and have faith in God during these times. Now consider the struggles of Christ and the prayer He offered to His Heavenly Father, the trust He had that even during the greatest of trials and the most enduring of tribulations there was a divine purpose in it all. Yes, pray according to hope, but more importantly pray according to God’s will and God’s plan for your life, understanding that it is greater than anything you could have known or thought, even when the times are tough and the struggles are before you.

Patience, strength and courage through the most difficult of times, the understanding that sacrifices must be made in our lives, even when they are hard to understand — these are the lessons of our blessed Savior during this Easter Season. The question then is, how will your faith guide you when it seems as if it is just too much to endure? Will you pray for God’s will for you or will you demand for your will to be done by God?

Faith as Love

If, as James tells us, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17) then it must be remembered by the disciple of Christ that faith, in its purest form, is an act of love. After all, “saved by faith, through grace, and not of our works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9), what is our redemption and the sacrifices that give it its power but an act of love strengthening and preserving us even unto life everlasting?

Considered rightly, in accordance with the teachings of our blessed Savior that admonishes us to love one another to show our life given to Him (John 13:34-35), the two are intrinsically bound together. In this what it offers to us is an understanding that teaches us that without love there can be no faith.

In this relationship love is more than a feeling. It is act, a commitment, a sense of duty that only really and truly exists through actions, through thought and deed that strive towards the individual call to do more with the gifts that have been given to us by the blessings of our Creator. It is the hope that we offer in the lives of others, hearing the words of Christ, living by His example, each and every step of the way seeking to uplift and edify others according to their needs as we hear the call to service.

You see every one of us, we have something to offer. The God who fearfully and wonderfully created us did so that our lives could and would be in service, offering to us strengths, talents and abilities that are meant to be used. (Luke 12:48) The question then for the disciple, living amidst a world where there is so much need, is what will I do to meet it? If our faith lives within us then, in love, we must ask ourselves what will I do to ensure the betterment of others?

Perhaps, in a busy and hectic life, we think to ourselves that we just don’t have the time. After all there is so much that could be done that to worry about it, to try and take it on, would be overwhelming. Yet the truth is that hope and love, it begins one life at a time. We don’t need to take on the world. If each disciple took it upon themselves to take up one cause, to effect change in one life that is in need, working to truly help one person before moving on to the next, true and lasting change could be made to significantly help others. All it takes is a little sacrifice on our part.

Consider, for a moment, the life of Christ, the one whose example we, in our faith, are to live by. (1 Corinthians 11:1) There was never a time He took on more than He could handle. Most of time He healed one or two at a time, He worked on the individual spirits and souls, body and minds before that great, encompassing sacrifice that saved us all. For us it serves as a lesson that teaches us that no person is expected to do more than they can, but they are expected to live according to a love that heals, that strengthens, and that calls others through the love that they have.

Look around, consider the lives of those who surround you and the need that is there. Give of your time and yourself to those who are struggling and find themselves in desperation. Be the disciple that God knows you can be, the disciple that He calls you to be. Take the time each day to consider the world around you, to think of those in your life who are struggling and how you can help them. Look for causes, worthy causes, that you can donate to, volunteer with, and help those who live in a constant battle find some sort of sense in their life.

In faith, our lives can be given to love that the blessings we have been endowed with can bring happiness, joy and strength to others. This can be our testimony that shines forth from hearts and souls if we are so inclined to hear the calling of Christ. The only question then left to ask is what sort of disciple will you be and how will your life offer of the love that saved you?

The Nature of True Beauty

With love and hope in our hearts how do we, as Disciples of Christ, measure beauty? How do we see it, not only in the world around us, but in the people who surround us?

When this question runs through my mind there’s a verse I often like to consider. It’s from the story of David, when the prophet Samuel sought to anoint a new king over Israel to replace Saul, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

You see, the shepherd boy, when placed side by side with the other sons of Jesse, standing beside his brothers, was not much to look at. In fact, when considered with them, it could hardly be thought that he would have the capacity to lead, to offer the strong guidance that the nation itself needed. Yet, in the eyes of the Lord, it wasn’t the strength, or the height or any of the outward appearances. After all, He had Saul, a mighty man of renown, strong and charismatic, as the chosen King and it had met with such disappointment as He had watched him waver to the point where his fall would become inevitable. Now the Lord sought a different sort of man to lead His people.

Still, it wasn’t hard for Samuel to fall into a trap that each of us can so easily find ourselves amidst, looking at the strongest, the best looking, the mightiest as the one who catches our eyes somehow believing that they have more to offer because of their appearance. We so often see beauty as an outward appearance, as only being significant and worthy of our attention if it somehow can merit a second look from our eyes. We see it as it is, by the standards of our present age, and by the focus that is given to it by society as a whole. It is there that we mark worth and assign value by what captivates our eyes and captures our attention.

Yet the truth is true beauty is marked by what is in our hearts, by the love, the hope and the inspiration that we offer in the courage and the perseverance of our spirits. It is in the wisdom that we show, it is in the way that we offer our hand to one another to be a force for good, edifying and uplifting them, by the charity that spurs on optimism despite whatever despair it may offer. Each of us, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) have, by the power of God, an enormous capacity to offer of ourselves through the gifts that we have. This is the true mark of beauty, the true mark of our strength.

Perhaps, at times, we don’t see ourselves as we should. We look in the mirror and we see our every physical imperfection, whether it is real or perceived. We hate our glasses, we’re not model thin, our hair is falling out, our body doesn’t look like we think it should. Perhaps, at times, we look at others, and we don’t necessarily see them for who they are. We see them for what we can only see with our eye. By this sight we don’t even always necessarily know what it is about their appearance, maybe it’s a little bit of everything, but we just find them to be unattractive.

As imitators of God, given to His love, captured by His grace, we need to strive to see more in ourselves and in others, to see beauty for what it really is. It is not in waist sizes or in hairlines or in any other physical standard that we can mark it by. It is in what is given, and the guiding presence of a spirit and a soul, a heart and a mind given to the greatest capacity we have to live in the image of God that we are created in. It comes through a God who is, in and of Himself, love. It is to take the lessons of Christ and to use it to create a spiritual makeover, one that focuses on the elegance and the strength of our inward appearances.

It is only in this way that we see true beauty for what it is as we let it encompass our being. It is being moved not by the vain eyes but by the pure heart in the wonders of all of God’s creation. In this we become more than we ever hoped to be as the character of our splendor is marked by the blessed exquisiteness of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who offered us the greatest example of what it truly means to be attractive.