seedlings in pots

How to Grow Your Faith / Spiritual Meditations

We read that ‘faith can move mountains, yet many of us find we are unable to move anything at all.  How do we increase our faith to the point where we can confidently call on God for the good of others, as well as ourselves, and see results?  How do we develop enough faith to trust and follow God’s direction in our lives?

I wanted to find the Greek meaning of the word we translate as ‘faith’, so I turned to Greek scholar,  W. E. Vine.  He writes that:

The main elements in ‘faith’ in its relation to the invisible God, as distinct from faith in man, are especially brought out in the use of this Greek noun. The elements are (1) a firm conviction providing a full acknowledgement of God’s revelation or truth (2) a personal surrender to him (3) the conduct inspired by such surrender. Emphasis is given to one or other of these elements according to the Biblical context. All this stands in contrast to ‘belief’ in its purely natural exercise, which consists of an opinion held in good faith without necessarily reference to its proof.

In the Old Testament the word ‘faith’ occurs only twice.  It is never just acceptance of a set of doctrines or outward acceptance of the law but is utter confidence in the faithfulness of God and a loving obedience to his will.

The New Testament tells us that the promised Messiah had come, and that Jesus of Nazareth was that Messiah. To believe him meant to become a Christian and was pivotal in the experience of the individual.  Jesus offered himself as the object of faith and made plain that faith in him was necessary for eternal life. He promised to send faith as a “fruit of the Holy Spirit” after he went to the Father. This may be seen in the reborn person’s spirit even at difficult times, not just on their best days.

‘Faith’ may also refer to the body of truth which constitutes the whole of the Christian message, such as in Jude 3:3.

Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed

Like us, the disciples wanted more faith to be able to forgive as they should. Jesus responded by saying that the faith the size of a mustard seed was enough to move a tree into the sea. His response made it clear that only a small increase in faith was required to forgive as He commanded. (Luke 17:1-4)

The same is often true in our own desire to grow in faith. We think we need a giant increase in faith to obey God, but He indicates that simply obeying Him with small steps of increasing faith is more than sufficient.

How Do We Increase Our Faith?

Read the Word

We receive a measure of faith from God, through receiving the Word of God — by studying the Bible.

So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Rom 10:17)

Reading or hearing God’s Word is like planting a garden. God’s Word is the seed that grows our garden of faith. Knowing His promises, what God says about you, about life, and about Jesus’ plan for eternal life are the Biblical basis for your faith.  Meditating on its contents will give you the groundwork for growing your faith.

Practice the Word

If we fail to implement our Bible teachings and ignore what God is telling us, then our faith grows stagnant. It took faith for us to become children of God in the first place. Therefore, to grow and increase our faith, we need to use that “measure” of faith, the Bible, which God gives to everyone, and apply it.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)
What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food,and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2:14-17 NIV)

We increase our faith by how we serve God. In Hebrews 11 we read of many great biblical leaders who were known for their faith. In each case, they faithfully served God. Abraham was willing to leave his homeland for a place he did not know. Moses returned to Egypt to free the Israelite slaves. To increase our faith, we are called to serve God in both large and small acts.

Look for practical ways in which you can increase your faith by applying what you know is true.

Associate with Other Christians

Being surrounded by others who are also seeking to grow in faith and recalling examples such as the people mentioned in Hebrews 11, can be of great help to increasing our own faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 says,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Earlier, the writer of Hebrews exhorted, 

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Pray to Increase Your Faith

Prayer is a great way to increase our faith as it helps us maintain an active relationship with God. In prayer we can also ask God to increase our faith. God knows our heart and longs to answer according to His will. Our growth in faith is certainly His will for our lives and a prayer He will grant.

Martin Luther shared some very useful insights on how prayer is more effective when supported by faith and how prayer increases faith:

Prayer is a special exercise of faith. Faith makes the prayer acceptable because it believes that either the prayer will be answered, or that something better will be given instead. This is why James said, “let him who asks of God not waver in faith, for if he wavers, let him not think that he shall receive anything from the Lord.” This is a clear statement which says directly; He who does not trust will receive nothing, neither that for which he asks nor anything better. 

Jesus himself has said, “therefore I say unto you. What things so ever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.” (Mark 11 )

James said ”you ask and you do not receive because you ask amiss“ (James 4: 3). For when this faith and confidence is not in the prayer, the prayer is dead.

Refer to post on unanswered prayer & waiting on God.

No one can believe how powerful prayer is and what it can affect, except those who have learned it by experience. It is important that we have a need to go to God in prayer. I know, whenever I have prayed earnestly, that I have been heard and have obtained more than I prayed for. God sometimes delays, but he always comes. 

There is no Christian who does not have time to pray without ceasing. But I mean the spiritual praying, that is no one is so heavily burdened with his labor, but that if he will, he can, while working, speak with God in the heart, lay before him his need and that of other men, ask for help, make petition, and in all this exercise and strengthen his faith.

Praying to God with humble, sincere and heartfelt words and thoughts;  Praying throughout your day as you have reasons for praise, guidance or help.  This is when you will see your prayers answered and thus experience a great boost to your faith. The following 2 posts will be help you deepen your connection with God.

Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers

3 Steps to Successful Prayer.

I like to keep a journal of the times God has directed me or answered prayer.  If you do the same, you can look back and see the tracks of God’s faithfulness. He truly keeps His Word.  Trusting Him with smaller problems builds our faith and gives us confidence in Him for the harder issues.

Conclusion

As believers, our desire to grow in faith should be accompanied by actions that match this desire. We can grow through applying what we do know, growing in God’s Word, serving God, surrounding ourselves with others who are growing in faith, and prayer. Even a small increase in faith is significant and worth the effort in our walk with God.

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Relevant Scripture

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. (Luke 17 5-6)

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matt 15:28)

Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, (2 Cor 10:15)

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. (Heb 4:14)

References

Three Ways to Increase Your Faith (crosswalk.com) by Rebecca Barlow Jordan

What should I do to increase my faith? (compellingtruth.org)

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

young man and baby girl

Your Joy in Loving A Little Girl! /Spiritual Meditations

You love our children, but what was your first thought when you heard you were going to have one…or another?  It may not fit into your life as you planned it; adjustments need be made; it may not be convenient.  My friend, Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich describes this struggle with God in his book The Long Road to Eternity, now available on Amazon.  Here is that excerpt:


Anna waited to break the news until halftime of the Superbowl when the Giants, my favorite team, were winning. She hoped I would be in a good mood for what she knew I didn’t want to hear. “Tim,” she said, “I have something to tell you.” I took one look at her and somehow, I knew. I said, “You’re pregnant!” She said, “Yes, how did you know?” I didn’t know how I knew, but I did know that hearing that news made me angry; the football game was forgotten.

I was angry for several reasons: this was the third time Anna had gotten pregnant faster than I wanted. I had wanted to wait two full years after we were married to make our first child, but Anna got pregnant 5 months ahead of schedule; then I wanted to wait a full two years before she got pregnant a second time, but she got pregnant 9 months ahead of schedule. This time I had not wanted another child for a long time, if at all.

These were some reasons, but the main reason was that I was convinced we would have another boy. I dearly loved our boys, but it is a vast understatement to say that they were ‘very active’. They never stopped moving, and they were strong willed, which is a polite way of saying they were frequently a giant pain in the posterior.

So, I was really angry. I was angry at Anna, and at myself, because I had something to do with it; but mostly I was angry with God. I felt very strongly that this was His doing because we were using two kinds of birth control and this pregnancy had defeated them both. So, I got up, left the Super Bowl in the living room, and went into the spare bedroom of the house to pray.

I gave God an earful. I said, “God I am really upset, why did you do this to me? I only wanted to have two kids, and now I won’t be able to sleep past 6:30 for the next five years. Now I have to worry about college for three kids! I am so angry; I know you were behind this. It had to be you. Why did you do this to me?”

I continued to complain to God about the same things but in different order. Finally, after at least half an hour of pouring out the reasons for my anger and concern, I stopped. Knowing I should not be angry with God and remembering to accept whatever He had in store for me,  I apologized to God, but was still hurt and upset. However, with acceptance my tone changed; instead of asking God, “Why did you do this?!” I reverted to trusting God and asked with genuine curiosity, “Why did you do this?”   

As soon as my question was asked not with anger but with humility, I heard His clear deep voice speak clearly to answer me. He said, sounding slightly angry or impatient with me, “Because I wanted you know the joy of loving a little girl.” Instantly I went from hurt and upset to thankful and overjoyed. I said, “Wow, I’m going to have a daughter!” As funny as it sounds, it had not occurred to me that the baby could be a girl.

As soon as I heard that we were having a little girl my mood underwent the kind of miraculously rapid and thorough transformation that only a direct intervention from God can do for you. In an instant I went from angry to joy filled, and from unhappy to thrilled. I was caught up in the great good news that I was going to have a daughter, and in the amazing miracle of being spoken to by God again. The passing of time has not decreased my appreciation for the experience of being spoken to by God, and for the good news that he had chosen to bless my life by giving me a daughter. My daughter Hansie has been and continues to be a huge blessing in my life; and I thank God daily both for speaking to me and for the gift that Hansie has been and continues to be for me.

I did not realize it at the time, but God speaking to me was also equipping me to face a huge challenge in my life. As Anna’s pregnancy progressed, she developed preeclampsia, but her doctor somehow didn’t catch it. Anna delivered Hansie by caesarean and while we were still in the delivery room, as soon as the baby was born and before they stitched her up, Anna’s blood pressure began to shoot up until it hit 240. I was watching the monitor; the doctor was not. I said to the anesthetist – “Look her blood pressure is spiking!” He said, “The machine is broken.” I said, “No its not, I have been watching the monitor, it has gone up and up and up!” He gave Anna a shot of something and her blood pressure came down quickly.

A little over two hours later we were in her room, they brought in the baby for her to nurse, and Anna said, “I don’t feel good.” She started nursing anyway; it seemed to be going well. This was the third time we had been through this and a baby breastfeeding was not new to me, so I started reading the newspaper. Just two or three minutes later I heard something hitting the metal side railings of the bed; I looked up and saw that the noise was made by our baby. Anna had dropped the baby because she was having a grand mal seizure.  Scooped up the baby, I quickly pressed the nurse call button about 10 times, and then put my finger in the back of Anna’s jaw to keep her from swallowing her tongue.

Putting my finger back there turned out not to be the right thing to do, both because there was a newer procedure, and because I had a nasty bite mark on my finger for about 2 weeks. Anyway, they called a code on her and the room filled with doctors and nurses. They took the baby from my arms and issued me out the door. Within a few minutes Anna stopped convulsing, but she was unconscious and she remained in a coma for three days. During that time, her kidneys and liver shut down.

At one point I asked the doctor if she would recover and he told me he didn’t know if she would pull through or not, but he said, “she is young and was very healthy before this so her chances of recovery are very good.” I guess if there is anything worse than hearing the doctor say your wife might die, it might be hearing this just after she has given birth. So, I was potentially a widower with three children under 5. But I was completely calm and at peace. The experience of having heard God speak to me so clearly just a few months before and knowing that God had sent me this daughter because he wanted to bless me made me trust in him completely. Whatever he had in store I was going to trust him. I prayed  that God would heal Anna, and said that I was trusting in Him and putting Anna and everything going on with her in His hands.

Fortunately, after three days Anna’s kidneys and liver started working again. First the catheter that had not produced anything for three days suddenly came to life, and soon Anna came out of her coma and became oriented again. Anna quickly recovered from that point. I was so grateful that God blessed me with the wonderful experience of speaking to me which helped me so much in that terrible time. Our baby Hansie is living a wonderful life and we are so proud of her. 

Conclusion

The theological lessons from this experience were:

  • God desires to bless even his most imperfect servants if they are fully committed to giving their life to Him.
  • Trust God especially when we don’t understand what He is doing.

How ironic that not only did I not trust where I did not understand, my first response was anger in the face of this huge blessing that God was giving to me. As I sat in the hospital room with my unconscious wife, whose prognosis was uncertain, I was completely at peace because God had spoken to me, and what a great gift it was.


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Relevant Scripture

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sar′ai your wife, you shall not call her name Sar′ai, but Sarah shall be her name.  I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her; I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “O that Ish′mael might live in thy sight!”  God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. As for Ish′mael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year.” (Gen 17: 15-21)

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechari′ah,[b] of the division of Abi′jah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechari′ah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechari′ah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John….

And Zechari′ah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” (Luke 1:5-20)

You Can Be God’s Called Chosen Elected Faithful Saint /Spiritual Meditations

Have you been called to be a Christian?  Are you one of the Chosen, Elected, Saints or one of the Faithful?  If you don’t know, this post is for you.

One of the largest groups to which many of us belong is that of Christian.  There are more than 2.5 billion Christians in the world.  Yet when we look through the Bible, we find mention of the Called, the Chosen, the Elected, the Saints and the Faithful.  Who exactly are these people and how do they fit into overall Christianity?  Some groups duplicate each other, while others line up in a spiritual progression.

Who are the Called?

In the Greek language of the New Testament, the word for “called” is kletos. It is related to the noun klesis, which means “a calling” and is used “especially to God’s invitation to people to accept the benefits of salvation” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, “Call, Called, Calling”).

It is important to understand that one’s calling is an act of God. Only He calls (invites) someone. That is quite evident in John 6:44 when Jesus told the crowds, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” So, the Called are those who are invited by God to understand His plan, to repent of their sins and to receive His Holy Spirit.

There are several scriptures that speak of a Christian’s calling.

When the apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans, he referred to his audience as “the called of Jesus Christ,” and the “beloved of God, called to be saints” (Romans 1:6-7).
Later, when writing to the Corinthian brethren, Paul wrote: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9).

How were the Disciples Taught about Their Calling?

As you know, Jesus often taught in parables.  Jesus taught about God’s calling in the parable of the sower.

Behold, a sower [a farmer] went out to sow [plant seed]. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear [who can understand] let him hear! (Matthew 13:3-9).

How to Interpret the Parable of the Sower

Like the disciples, not everyone who heard this parable understood what Jesus was talking about. Although the entire multitude heard the same words, different reactions were taking place in those who heard the message.

In the parable, a farmer planting seed is likened to the work done by Jesus Christ and His Church. The seed is the gospel of the Kingdom.

Notice how Jesus explained it:

When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path. (Matt 13:19)

Some people hear the gospel message  and receive it joyfully but without conviction, only to let go of it as soon as it creates a conflict in their lives. Others hear it but neglect to give it the time and attention it needs to thrive.

In other words, not everyone hears the gospel of the Kingdom. And of those who hear it, not everyone understands it. And of those who understand it, not everyone accepts it.

You Can Know if God is Calling You

If you understand what you are learning from the Bible and you see the need to change your life, God is beginning to work with you. If you see a need to obey His Commandments while you see how hard it is for you to do so, God is working with you.

If you do not respond, God will eventually stop working with you. If you respond, God will open your mind even more, and you will begin to build a stronger and stronger connection with Him.  Choosing to respond to God’s calling means embarking on a life of personal spiritual growth. 

The seed only grows in those God is calling and who choose to follow His way of life. 

Who are the Chosen / Elected and how did They Make the Cut?

The word for “chosen” in the Greek language is eklektos, meaning “chosen out, select.” It can also be translated as “elect” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, “Choice, Choose, Chosen”).  This tells us that the Chosen and the Elected are the same people.

Election refers to the concept of how people are chosen for salvation.  Election is based on God’s foreknowledge of those who would believe in Him through faith. In other words, God elected those who would choose Him of their own free will. Conditional election is based on a person’s response to God’s offer of salvation.  You become the Chosen by choosing God; it is a reciprocal relationship.

This is what Christ was telling us when He said,

Many are called, but few are chosen. (Matt 22:2-3).

This may be understood as ‘many are called, but few choose to follow the teachings of Jesus’.  God will not force anyone to respond to His calling against his or her will. It is up to you whether you will respond to His invitation.

This is further explained in Ephesians 1:13:

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.

Of all the people who hear God’s calling, only those who respond with belief, repentance, baptism and receive the Holy Spirit become His Chosen people—His Elect. Then they embark on the Christian life in which they are changed to become more and more like Jesus—being converted.

Responding to God’s Calling is a Lifelong Commitment for the Faithful

Being faithful comes from the Greek word pistos. There are two senses in which this word can be understood. It means “to be trusted, reliable” and, secondly, “active, signifying believing, trusting, relying” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 402).

The chosen must be faithful. They must continue to actively believe, obey and rely on God.  The spiritual life is truly a process that requires time, prayer, study, effort, change—and more.   The chosen will need to faithfully endure, both in good and in bad times. But every step taken is greatly rewarding!

Once chosen of God, you may still receive a calling for a particular ministry.  I have friends who have made huge commitments to which God called them.  One lives in Kenya, building a dormitory and school for disabled children.  Another will be going to Sierra Leon to improve the living conditions, including clean water access, for a community.  Another is fostering children.  And another became a minister. Not everyone is urged in such life-changing directions, but everyone has a part in God’s overall plan and their response may play a greater part than they can imagine or will ever know.

As Peter implied, one’s calling must not be neglected. Since the called and chosen have “exceedingly great and precious promises”, it is “for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, … knowledge, … self-control, … perseverance, … godliness, … brotherly kindness, … love” Peter continued, “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:4-8).

The hope of the chosen and faithful is to receive eternal life. It is a belief and trust that is deep within each one of us. Paul reminded Timothy to

lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called (1 Timothy 6:12).

All Christian Believers are Saints.

Saint originates from the Greek word meaning “holy” or “set apart.”  Christians are referred to as saints because, as believers,  they are set apart from the corruption of the world and they are called to be holy.

The New Testament uses the word saint or saints 67 times. In every instance, the reference is to all believers. Never is the word used for a special group of believers who serve God better than others.

And I did so in Jerusalem; I not only shut up many of the saints in prison, by authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. (Acts 26:10)
To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom !:7)
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: (I Cor 1:2)

Conclusion

If you are not sure if you have been called, pray to God continually for clarification until you know.  If you are not sure if you have received the Holy Spirit, pray to God to send the Comforter to you. “Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened” and continue to knock until you know the Counselor has arrived. Once you have received the Holy Spirit you can be assured that you are Chosen/Elected. Then your connection with God begins and will be for you to nurture.  By continuing Bible study, prayer, meditation and listening for God in your daily life, you will gradually have peace, joy and the experience of being one of God’s beloved. You are a saint.

Relevant Scripture

But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions you were taught, whether by word or our epistle (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15).

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful (Colossians 3:12-15).

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you (1 Peter 5:10).

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11).

He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

 but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”(1 Peter 1:15-16)

References

Many Are Called, but Few are Chosen by Harold Rhodes

Called and Chosen by John Foster 

 What does the Bible say about Christian saints? What are saints? by Compelling Truth

Hands holding bubbled tree

10 Ways to Save God’s Priceless Creation / Spiritual Meditations

Whether you take the Creation Story literally, believe God created the Big Bang or have another theory, Genesis tells us that God created all that is. And one does not have to look far to realize the amazing intricacies and magnificence of nature as a confirmation of this.

The earth is full of the glory of God. It is given to us to see, to hear, to taste, to touch, to smell and to enjoy. Thus, when you see the glorious sunsets, it is not just a thing of beauty, it is the Lords way of seducing us or calling us to himself. Likewise, the cool breeze stirring the trees, the birds that we see coasting on the air and the music they bring to us. The color and taste of food is all about seduction; it is the Lord calling to us and is part of what it means for God to be one with us, Emmanuel.  The more we recognizes the presence of the Lord via our senses, the greater is the context of the gospel understood.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Gen 1:24)
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food…. everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. (Gen 1:29-30)

All of it is ours, not only for our enjoyment but for our sustenance which means we need to maintain it to survive.  This is something that we have increasingly neglected to do, either through ignorance or greed, until we are on the brink of world-wide food deprivation as you will see later in this article.  And renewable energy alone isn’t going to solve the problem; in fact, it may create new problems as will be explained shortly.


What Have We Done to God’s Garden?

According to David Attenburrough  in his film “A Life on Our Planet”, our impact is global. Our assault on the planet has come to alter the fundamentals of the living world.

  • We are experiencing the fastest warming of the earth in the last 10,000 years. The oceans can’t absorb the excess heat caused by our activities. Sea ice in the Arctic has reduced by 40% in 40 years. Carbon that we’ve already put into the atmosphere will take decades to centuries to reduce. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in 1750 we have put 1000 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Reducing emissions alone will do little to remove it.
  • We’ve overfished 30% of fish stocks to critical levels.
  • We cut down 15 billion trees each year. 
  • By damming, polluting, and over extracting rivers and lakes we’ve reduced the size of freshwater populations by over 80%. 
  • 1/2 of fertile land on earth is farmland, which typically eliminates biodiversity.
  • 70% of birds on the planet our domestic birds – mostly chickens.
  • 60% of the animals on earth we raise to eat.
  • Since the 1950s our wild animal population has been more than cut in half. We replace the wild with the tame.

The planet is run by humans for humans – there is little left for the rest of the living world. We have nearly destroyed the nonhuman world. If we continue our current trajectory:

  • The Amazon rainforest will become a dry savanna, resulting in a loss of species and the water that is contributed to the global water cycle.  60% of our rain come from the oceans, 40% from smaller inland water cycles.  We are losing these microclimates.
  • The Arctic will become ice free in the summer, therefore less of the sun’s energy will be reflected out to space. Without the reflection from the polar caps global warming will increase. In the North, frozen soils will thaw releasing methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide, exacerbating climate change dramatically.
  • As oceans heat and become more acidic, coral reefs will die and fish populations will crash.
  • Global food production will enter a crisis as soils are overused. Pesticides are causing pollinating insects to disappear.  According to the UN the world’s remaining topsoil will be gone within 60 years. So, in other words, we have 60 harvests left. As fertile farmland turns to dirt, the disappearing water evaporation produced by plants will cause weather to become more and more unpredictable. 
  • The earth will become 4C degrees (39F) warmer resulting in regions becoming uninhabitable. 2/3 of the earth is turning to dessert with 40,000,000 people every year being pushed off their land as a result. Poor land leads to poor people, increased flooding and droughts, mass migration across borders and into cities and ideal conditions for recruitment. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be 1 billion refugees due to soil desertification. This is the beginning of a 6th mass extinction.

The Important Role of Soil

Erosion is caused by plowing and tilling the soil. Historically, civilizations have died because they’ve overworked the land around them. In the 1930s the United States experienced the worst environmental disaster in history (the Dust Bowl), as 200 million acres of cropland was permanently damaged. President Franklin D Roosevelt started the soil conservation service, now part of the Department of Agriculture. The division is called the National Resources Conservation Services (NRCS).

As the NRCS teaches farmers, carbon is pulled out of the atmosphere by plants. 40% of that carbon goes to the roots which feed the microorganisms and goes into the soil where a universe of life exists. In every handful of soil there are more organisms than the number of people who were ever lived on earth.  And this healthier soil holds and uses the  greenhouse gases creating healthy plants without chemicals. With healthier plants you have healthier animals and humans.  The plants also increase the rainfall cycles which creates a more consistent climate.

Our health and the health of our planet are connected. We humans are made up of 99% organisms. Taking care of organisms in soil, the source of our nourishment, is connected to human health. Toxic chemicals put on soil causes them to be almost devoid of microorganisms. Makes you wonder what our food is putting into our bodies.  Since chemical agriculture ramped up in the 1970s there has been a worldwide loss of 1/3 of the earth’s topsoil. As soil is turned into dirt, carbon dioxide goes back to the atmosphere, especially in the spring when fields are tilled  as evidenced by NASA photographs from space.  Desertification is the result – when fertile land is turned into desert.

Some say we will never be able to remove the CO2 that we have already caused.  But through drawdown agriculture, it is possible.  Project Drawdown estimates that regenerative agricultural practices such as the NRCS teaches, could be practiced on up to 332 million hectares by 2050 (from 11.84 million hectares today), which would result in a reduction of up to 22.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide, with an enormous return of financial investments.

If we can achieve drawdown (pulling  CO2 back into the soil through regeneration) by planting farms and trees without pesticides and nitrates we can grow more food per acre and expect the beginning of climate cooling in 20 years. And farmers can make more money without government subsidies.

What Else Can We Do to Restore God’s Garden?

We can restore biodiversity everywhere.

The world cannot function without a healthy ocean. it’s a critical ally in reducing carbon in the atmosphere and the more diversity the better it does that job. The ocean is important as a source of food. If we do fishing right, it will continue to be. Coral reefs are important for fish populations so they must be protected. No fishing zones over 1/3 of the world’s coasts will allow fish to increase and spillover to fishing zones thereby providing all the fish we will need.

As nations develop, people choose to have fewer children as can be seen in Japan during the second half of the 20th century.  By raising people out of poverty, giving everyone access to health care and keeping girls in school longer, we can make the world-wide population peak sooner and at a lower level. This improves the global standard of living without increasing human impact on the earth.

We can reduce areas needed for farming by changing our diet. When we choose meat, we are demanding a huge expanse of space to raise the animals. If we had a plant-based diet, we would only need half of the land  used today and we could increase the yield through education. The Netherlands have multiplied food production by 10 while using less water, fertilizer, and pesticides. They are now the world’s second largest exporter of food while using less land.

We can reverse the land grab. Forests are necessary for locking carbon and are centers for biodiversity.  100 years ago, Costa Rica consisted of 3/4 forest. In the 1980s logging reduce that to ¼.  The government offered grants to plant native trees and it only took 25 years for forests to cover 1/2 of Costa Rica. Imagine if this were done on a  global scale. Some say that the planet would absorb 2/3 of the CO2 that we have created by our activities to date.

We can phase out fossil fuels and move to solar, wind, geothermal and waterpower. Morocco now generates 40% of their power from renewable power plants – in the 1900s the country solely used oil and gas energy. They now have the world’s largest solar farm. With renewable energy we will never run out and cities will be quieter and cleaner. But there are some concerns.

Are Renewable Energy Sources the Best We Can Do?

Problems with renewable wind and solar energy include environmental issues related to the transmission lines running from the solar & turbine fields to the cities and the amount of land needed for the fields. Renewables have been resisted by conservation biologists concerned about the large birds, bats, and other animals. To build a solar farm you must clear whole areas of any animals. It is estimated that 6000 birds are killed every year over solar fields because their catch on fire.

Wind and solar energy can only provide electricity for 20- 30% of the year.  The variability of solar and wind production will require a supplement of natural gas, which increases carbon emissions, or hydroelectric.

Solar and wind electricity is more expensive than nuclear as noted by the 4x increase in cost to California residents as compared to the rest of the US and Germany. France, on the other hand, uses 75% nuclear power, which is more reliable.

But are nuclear plants safe and what do we do with the waste? You may remember the nuclear power plant fiascos at Chernobyl and Japan. However, with technological improvements  scientific studies that have been conducted over the past 40 years now say that nuclear energy is the safest. According to the WHO, 7 million people die each year from air pollution. Nuclear plants do not emit any pollution. Uranium fuel is energy dense and therefore more efficient and takes up less space. You don’t need much land for a nuclear plant. Solar energy fields require 17 times the space and 17 times the materials to generate the same power as a  nuclear plant.   According to Michael Shellenberger in his Ted Talk, the waste from nuclear power only fills a room the size of an auditorium. 

Another concern is that when solar panels reach the end of their life it is expected that they will end up being shipped to poor countries as are expired electronics. There are toxic elements in the solar panels that will be difficult to get rid of.

What Can You Do?

  1. Compost to enrich the soil
  2. Plant trees
  3. Recycle
  4. Don’t overfish
  5. If you are a farmer, stop tilling / plowing the soil but use regenerative techniques instead 
  6. Conserve biodiversity
  7. Don’t pollute water
  8. Reduce poverty and provide health care to reduce the population stress on the planet
  9. Convert to a plant-based diet
  10. Buy organically grown wherever possible (for the health of your body & planet)

Just choose 1 or 2 that you feel you can work toward and share this post with your friends so they can do the same. Together we can make a difference.

Conclusion

Nature is our biggest ally in the fight against global warming and food deprivation. If we take care of nature, it will take care of us. We need to live not apart from nature but to be a part of nature. This is about saving ourselves. God gave us all that we need to do so.  It is up to us to be good stewards of those gifts.

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Relevant Scripture

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was chaos and waste, darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the Ruach Elohim was hovering upon the surface of the water.

Then God said, “Let there be light!” and there was light. God saw that the light was good. So God distinguished the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness He called “night.” So there was evening and there was morning—one day.

Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the water! Let it be for separating water from water.” So God made the expanse and it separated the water that was below the expanse from the water that was over the expanse. And it happened so. God called the expanse “sky.” So there was evening and there was morning—a second day. Then God said, “Let the water below the sky be gathered to one place. Let the dry ground appear.” And it happened so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the collection of the water He called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 Then God said, “Let lights in the expanse of the sky be for separating the day from the night. They will be for signs and for seasons and for days and years. 15 They will be for lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the land.” And it happened so. 16 Then God made the two great lights—the greater light for dominion over the day, and the lesser light as well as the stars for dominion over the night. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to shine on the land 18 and to have dominion over the day and over the night and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 So there was evening and there was morning—a fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. (Gen 1)

References

Honest, revealing, and urgent, DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: A LIFE ON OUR PLANET (2020) is a powerful first-hand account of humanity’s impact on nature and a message of hope for future generations. Created by award-winning natural history filmmakers Silverback Films and global conservation organization WWF.   As of Dec 2020, this movie was available on Netflix.  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11989890

Narrated and featuring Woody Harrelson, Kiss the Ground is an inspiring and groundbreaking film that reveals the first viable solution to our climate crisis. Kiss the Ground reveals that, by regenerating the world’s soils, we can completely and rapidly stabilize Earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems and create abundant food supplies. As of Dec 2020, this movie was available on Netflix.  https://kissthegroundmovie.com

Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet – (Ted Talk) by Michael Shellenberger https://youtu.be/N-yALPEpV4w

man sees himself in mirror as king

Pride-the Good, the Bad & the Ugly/Spiritual Meditations

What do you take pride in? Is it your home, car or job? Or maybe your children or the organization you are a member of. Whatever it is, it is heavily influenced by society’s norms and values. Pride is the satisfaction, pleasure, or vindication that arises from having our self-image confirmed. And it is interesting that we have little control over it; if we perceive an insult to our self-image we automatically lift our chin and look down our nose.

As scholars have noted, we humans have had a somewhat tricky relationship with pride for hundreds of years.  It has been perceived both as vice and virtue.  And if pride is acceptable, how much is all right?

A relatively recent body of psychological research has been able to provide more clarity on this curious emotion. Researchers have published a study in which they analyzed both published and unpublished studies on pride, and they found compelling support in the scientific literature for two separate notions: authentic pride and hubristic pride (excessive pride or self-confidence). 

One study suggested that “authentic” pride is linked to beneficial approaches to leadership, while “hubristic” pride is connected to harmful leadership styles.

Bad Pride

Many religious traditions look upon pride, hubris, and vanity as self-idolatry. In the Christian tradition, pride is one of the seven deadly sins and is only referred to in the Bible as an undesirable trait..

Seven Deadly Sins are:

  • Pride
  • Greed
  • Wrath
  • Envy
  • Lust
  • Gluttony
  • Sloth

Pride is a sin hated by God because, along with greed, it supports all the other sins, blinds us to truth and reason, and severs our soul from God’s grace. Think about it. When you are proud of yourself you are feeling pretty good about your abilities….do you really need God?

Hubris has come to denote an inflated sense of one’s status, abilities, or accomplishments, especially when accompanied by self-righteousness, haughtiness, or arrogance. Because it is out of touch with the truth, hubris promotes injustice, conflict, enmity, and a belief in social inequality.

Hubristic pride is also related to hostility, withdrawal, nervousness, and mild depression.  People who are prone to false pride lack self-esteem, and their arrogance is their way of convincing themselves and others that they too are worthy of respect and admiration. Even if their posturing is hollow, it can do the trick—at least temporarily.  

In addiction work, pride makes itself known when one proclaims, “I can do this on my own,” “I don’t need help,” or “I don’t need God.” 

Good Pride and Dignity

To understand what is good about pride, I think we need to tone down the arrogant and conceit aspects of it and focus on the word ‘dignity’.

Researchers found the good side of pride is linked with qualities such as being friendly, responsible, broad-minded, understanding, forward-looking, and personable. It’s also connected to being inspired by reaching goals and advantageous results, feeling upbeat emotions, believing in our ability to take on challenges, and viewing accomplishments as a reflection of our exertion and capacity.  A feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by others.

This seems like a healthy aspect of pride.  But if value is tied to our accomplishments or self-image, it’s built on shaky ground.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling satisfaction when we achieve some goal. But if we allow these things to define who we are, we set ourselves up for future disappointment. Achievements are ephemeral and can become a trap. If too much of our attention goes toward accomplishing bigger and better things to feel good, then we become addicted to external sources of gratification.

In contrast, dignity can live inside us regardless of our successes and failures. We don’t have to prove anything to anybody, or even to ourselves. If an enterprise fails, this doesn’t mean that we’re a failure. If an attempt to communicate our feelings to our partner falls flat, we might feel sad, but we can feel good knowing we did our best. We can experience the dignity of having reached out to connect or to repair an injury to the relationship. We can experience the dignity of living with integrity, regardless of the outcome.

As the light of our dignity shines more brightly, we realize that we don’t have to be perfect. Showing vulnerability and humility invites people toward us. We become approachable rather than intimidating. We don’t see ourselves as better or worse than anyone else. We recognize that we’re all a part of the human condition; we all have strengths and weaknesses.

It is freeing to hold ourselves with the dignity that comes from simply being human. We don’t need to achieve “greatness” to have worth and value. We’re great just as we are. We might be inclined to pursue excellence because it feels meaningful, enlivening, and expansive, but not because it defines who we are as a person.

When pride is substituted for our human dignity, it disconnects us from God. Affirming our dignity and allowing others their dignity, we become more available to honor ourselves and connect with others as equals. Pride is a burden we don’t need. Living with dignity allows us to move more freely through life

Conclusion

On the one hand, pride is the most blinding and unforgiveable of sins, but, when redefined as dignity, it is a vector of virtue.

A more genuine and stable self-worth is based upon validating, affirming, and valuing ourselves as we are. Self-worth is a function of living with dignity, which exists apart from any accomplishments.

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Relevant Scripture

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel! (2 Kings 19:22)

In his pride the wicked man does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. (Psalm 10:4)

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. (Proverbs 13:10)

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor. (Proverbs 29:23)

Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by Him deeds are weighed. (1 Samuel 2:3)

The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5)

References

Why Pride Is Nothing to Be Proud Of | Psychology Today by John Amodeo Ph.D., MFT

The Value of Authentic Pride | Psychology Today  by Holly Parker, PH.D

Pride: Vice or Virtue? | Psychology Today  by Neel Burton MD

security direction sign

Why Did God Make Me _______? / Spiritual Meditations

“Why did God make me ugly/ gay/ black/ short/ stupid/ fat?”

These are some of the most asked questions on the internet. I can add to this list: “Why did God make me handicapped/ sickly?” What comes to your mind? They sound more like complaints than a question of God’s purpose.

I don’t know whether God tweaks our genetics to make us who we are or if He created the genetic code and waits for the  developments.  But either way He loves who you are and has a mission for your life, should you choose to accept it.

Our Insecurities Bring Us Closer to God

Everyone has self-doubt about who they are physically, emotionally or mentally.  Insecurities can come and go or be something we live with all our lives.  They could develop out of a traumatic experience or imagined threat. They are often a response to ridicule from peers or strangers.  Or we could just be wired to worry about our lack of perfection as impossible as it is to achieve.  The moment when we are at the end of our rope, that’s when God finds us. That’s when that relationship is revealed. You can link to an account of a young man who made a bargain with God to save his sister.

God Cares for His People

God draws us, He calls to us. He longs for us to come to Him so He can heal us. Yes, physical miracles are possible (as can be seen in this account), but more often God heals our spirit.  Often, we are unable to hear His call because we’re so busy with other things – our lives, our families, our work, our own problems and unhappiness. Sometimes we must be broken before we realize that our deepest need is to be reconciled to God.  When we surrender to Christ we can be restored and transformed.

When we recognize our need for God, we’re able to take our eyes off ourselves and focus them on God and Jesus Christ. When we stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about what Jesus did for us, our insecurities begin to melt away. Only when we admit our need and ask God into our life, can God begin to make us whole. When we confess that we are broken God can make us into what He wants us to be. Once we let go of self and place God at the center of our lives, everything else falls into place (Matthew 6:33).

God Wants You to Use Your Experience

Survivors of horrific or heart-breaking events are usually quite resilient. We’ve experienced the worst and came out the other side as a stronger person. We can face things that scare others.

The broken and cracked are the ones that people can relate to.  We are the ones who see our need for God.  We are the ones who see no reason to boast but rely on God’s grace.  We are uniquely positioned to channel God’s love to those we best understand because of the common bond of our particular and unfortunate experience.

I believe the experiences you face in life are not just for you. They happen so that you in turn can help someone else. How can you help another overcome something you never had to deal with? This is what Jesus did for us.  If you have been broken or cracked, God wants to use that. Remember what it felt like and remember how God brought you through it. Take that and go help someone else who needs your insight.  You empathize with their pain and don’t want to see it continue.  You can see through their defensive behaviors and love the soul beneath.  You can help them interrupt their self-destructive patterns.

So instead of being defensive about the special attributes that we believe are deficiencies, let’s accept their benefits and use them.  We all have a niche and are someone that God can use for His glory. God uses flawed people to show us that He can equip anyone to do His work. And He does.

The Brokenness that May Not Heal

There is another group of broken people, although they don’t think of themselves that way; Those who are arrogant, lack empathy, are self-absorbed and self-righteous. It is often necessary for a traumatic experience to bring them to their knees before God so that He can speak to their soul.  Healing, according to Jesus, is for those who are broken and admit it.

Conclusion

At some point in our lives, most of us have been hurt, broken, troubled, crushed, bruised and in need of help and the comfort of God.  Trauma, heartache, and pain can hold us back if we let them, but they can also make us stronger. The experiences that create damaged people can also create kind and appreciative people. With God’s help we can look beyond ourselves.  Our brokenness enhances our empathy and we have a great capacity to share love and kindest.

So why did God make me _____?  He may not have tweaked your genetics to make you who you are, but if you seek Him (how to seek Him), He will certainly heal your spirit and use you for the betterment of those in need.  Broken people become trophies of God’s grace and the best conduits for His love.

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Relevant Scripture

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33).

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Save me, O God,
    for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
    where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
    the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help;
    my throat is parched.

My eyes fail,
    looking for my God.
Those who hate me without reason
    outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
    those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
    what I did not steal.

You, God, know my folly;
    my guilt is not hidden from you

13 But I pray to you, Lord,
    in the time of your favor;
in your great love, O God,
    answer me with your sure salvation.
14 Rescue me from the mire,
    do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me,
    from the deep waters.
15 Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
    or the depths swallow me up
    or the pit close its mouth over me.

16 Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
    in your great mercy turn to me.
17 Do not hide your face from your servant;
    answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
18 Come near and rescue me;
    deliver me because of my foes.

19 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
    all my enemies are before you.
20 Scorn has broken my heart
    and has left me helpless;

I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
    for comforters, but I found none.
21 They put gall in my food
    and gave me vinegar for my thirst   (Psalm 69)

I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit (Isaiah 57:15).

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
And as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account. (Isa. 53:3 referring to Jesus)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt 6:33)

References

God Uses The Weak – 4 Reasons God Uses Broken People by Diane Shirlaw-Ferreira

3 Ways God Uses Broken People for His Glory  by Diane Shirlaw-Ferreira

Why the Most Broken People Are Usually the Kindest by Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

What does the Bible Say About Brokenness? | GotQuestions.org

man holding crutches over head

Miracle Recipient Reveals God’s Memos /Spiritual Meditations

How many times have you watched the rising or setting sun over a beautiful landscape and appreciated the magnificence of God’s creation?  How many times has the Bible addressed  your need?  There are many ways in which God speaks to us, but I know one person to whom God has spoken loudly and he is going to tell us what he’s learned.

How God Speaks to Us

The pyramid below not only represents the ways in which God speaks to us, but also how frequently He does so. (Relevant Bible verses can be found at the end of this post for each level of the pyramid with links to example accounts)

ways God speaks to us pyramid

The top level of the pyramid falls into the realm of miracles; when God speaks to us directly through word or action.  This is what I want to explore today.

What are Miracles?

In its most basic sense, a miracle is an unusual, unexpected, observable event brought about by direct divine intervention. Because they are rare, I want to share with you the insights of my friend Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich who has experienced 46 divine interventions. 

But let’s start with a Biblical example; notice that the lame man did not request a miracle.

One day Peter and John went to the Temple at three o’clock in the afternoon, the hour for prayer.  There at the Beautiful Gate, as it was called, was a man who had been lame all his life. Every day he was carried to the gate to beg for money from the people who were going into the Temple.  When he saw Peter and John going in, he begged them to give him something.  They looked straight at him, and Peter said, “Look at us!”  So he looked at them, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said to him, “I have no money at all, but I give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I order you to get up and walk!”  Then he took him by his right hand and helped him up. At once the man’s feet and ankles became strong; he jumped up, stood on his feet, and started walking around. Then he went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.  People there saw him walking and praising God, and when they recognized him as the beggar who had sat at the Beautiful Gate, they were all surprised and amazed at what had happened to him.(Acts 3:1-10 TEV)

Pastor Ehrlich sees a pattern in when and how God acts in our world.  The following are conclusions he has reached and outlined in his book The Long Road to Eternity available on Amazon.

Miracles range in intensity from low intensity things which could be considered fortuitous coincidences or God-incidences, to high intensity things or events which are undeniable manifestations of God’s power and/or presence, such as the healing described in the passage above.

The good news is that the miraculous power of God, that was clearly present in the miracles and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is still available to God’s people today. 

God’s Three General Rules for Miracles

God’s first rule is that God always uses the smallest amount of miraculous power, and on the fewest possible number of occasions, to accomplish His goals.

God limits the use of His power because He wants to preserve our free will and our ability to choose God freely. As we go through life, we unintentionally provide God many opportunities to save us or help us, or to comfort or encourage us. God responds to our needs in varied ways, but in general God’s response is always as limited and small scale as possible in order to bring about the needed result. This hiddenness or unprovability of God was a part of God’s plan because if we could prove God, it would take away our need to have faith, and it is important to God that we have faith.

Why does God want us to have faith? Faith is the overcoming of doubt, hopefully substantiated by reason. Faith, the Bible tells us, is the activating agent of worshipping in the Spirit (James 5:15). God is all around us all the time (Acts 17:28) in the form of the spiritual energy that holds us and all things together (Colossians 1:17), and faith is what opens the door to the Spirit to come into and intervene in the physical world. (Matthew 21:21-22). Because frequent, large, splashy displays of God’s power would take away our need for faith, God uses the least amount of His power and the smallest level of intervention to accomplish His purposes.

God’s second general rule of miracles is that miracles are always for the benefit of God’s people.

God reaches into the lives of those who trust in Him, those who earnestly seek Him, and those who love Him wholeheartedly, and generally, but not always, in response to our prayers.

Sometimes God uses a non-believer to bring about a miracle to save a believer; and God sometimes gives a miracle to a non-believer to reach that person or to reach others who witness the miracle to help them become believers or to comfort or encourage them in their faith.

God’s knowledge of each person is complete and entire, and His wisdom, power, knowledge, and abilities are without limit. God knows what is going on in each of our lives, minute by minute, and God really cares about what we are going through.

God’s third rule of miracles is that His miracles are a gift of his grace: we cannot earn them with good deeds or buy them with a donation to a ministry or other good cause.

Unfortunately, some preachers I have heard twist Paul’s statement that “a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.” They say giving money to their ministry is just like planting a seed, that it will always produce an abundant plant of blessing – expect up to a one-hundred-fold return for every dollar you give.

Others who claim to be Christians try to convince people that X number of prayers for X number of days will get a guaranteed result. These beliefs trivialize God and would have you believe He behaves like a cosmic vending machine: put in the dollar and out pops your hundred. All we can do is ask God for a miracle or make ourselves available to be used by God.

What Inspires a Miracle?

Miracles come in two varieties;

  • the first type of miracle are those that occur as we reach up to God in prayer making a request and God responds.
  • The second type of miracle are those that occurs because God intervened without our asking; that is why I said miracles happen generally but not always in response to our prayers. [There are times, as you can see in the scripture regarding the lame man in Acts 3, where God knows what is needed and provides.  Though the man may have hopelessly wished for health he did not ask for or expect it.  In this case Peter and John were the conveyors of the miracle.]

Barriers to Miracles

Anyone can ask God for a miracle at any time, and God may grant one; but for a number of reasons that you and I may never understand, what we ask for may not be granted by God. Among the reasons we don’t receive the answers we are looking for are lack of faith, and improper motives. James writes: “You do not have what you want because you do not ask God for it. And when you ask, you do not receive it, because your motives are bad; you ask for things to use for your own pleasures” (James 4:2-3 TEV). Miracles are rare and hard to come by, that is why they are so special.

Miracles are More than Just the Miracle Itself

Miracles are just one of the ways that God speaks to us.  His love for the recipient of the miracle and those witnessing the miracle is introduced into our everyday life.  And these manifestations make a big impact on us internally, externally or both.

Miracles are a bit like fishing with dynamite – they blow you out of the water. They change lives, not just by physically rescuing a person, but by opening people’s eyes to the reality of God and to the nature of God, thus inspiring us to learn more about God and to obey God.

I spent many hours speaking with an atheist who was genuinely curious about what I believe and why. At the end of our talk I convinced him to at least keep an open mind to the reality of God. A few weeks later he told me that he had really been praying intently and God baptized him in the Holy Spirit. He said, “This changes everything!” He wanted to become a pastor and tell everyone what he had discovered.  When we are confronted with the reality of God that knowledge has the effect of causing us to reevaluate our priorities and behavior, and even, for some, to reevaluate our understanding of the universe.

Conclusion

To experience the miraculous, we cannot elicit it from God by using some magical incantation, neither is a life of study required. All that is required to move into miraculous levels of interaction with God is to have enough faith to seek God with all of your heart, and to have a willingness to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength until you find that God is real and knows and cares about you.

You will find several accounts of miracles experienced by Pastor Ehrlich, myself and others in the ‘Spiritual Experiences’ category on the Navigation Menu.

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Relevant Scripture

God speaks to us:
Through Nature  


(Romans 1:20)  For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.  

(Psalms 19:1 – 4)  The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.  Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.  They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.  Yet their message has gone throughout the earth and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.

Through Scripture
What to Know About the Bible

(2 Peter 1:20 – 21)  Above all, you must realize that “no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.”   

(Hebrews 4:12 NLT)  For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.   

(2 Timothy 3:16-17)  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.   

Through Signs

(Matthew 16:1 – 4 NLT)  One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority. He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times!  

Through Dreams and Visions
What No One Tells You About Your Dreams
Stunning Vision Reveals Heaven’s Lobby

(Job 33:14 – 16)   For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds. He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings.

Through Angels
Angels in Our Lives…Literally  

(Luke 1:26 – 27 NRSV)  In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 

Directly and through Jesus
God’s Faithfulness Changed My Life
An Astonishing & Undeniable Spiritual Healing 

(Hebrews 1:1 – 2 NLT) Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.  

(Exodus 3:4-6) When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied. “Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.   

young girl leans head on hand staring into space, flowers window table

How Long Must I Wait, God?/Spiritual Meditations

Do you have a prayer that has been met with no response?  You may decide that this is a ‘no’ from God, but perhaps it’s a ‘not yet’.

Our perception of time differs from one moment to the next.  If we are bored or anxiously anticipating something pleasant, time drags.  If we are overwhelmed with things to do or enjoying a pleasant experience, time flies by.

Waiting for the Best Time

When we have a need, the resolution cannot come quickly enough.  When we have a need great enough to bring to God, we really are hoping He will resolve it now.  Or better yet, why didn’t He handle it before it even became an issue!

But God’s time is not the same as our time.  In fact, I’m thinking that cultural changes, events, acts, realizations, and our emotional, spiritual and mental developments are some of the things that God tracks (and sometimes orchestrates) instead of minutes and years.  Peter left us this logical conundrum – “…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8) which expresses this irrelevance of time.

But because God sees all the events of our lives and the thoughts of our minds, His timing is always perfect. His perfect time may be immediate as for the disciples when they healed people around Jerusalem (Acts 5:16). Or it may be a few years: God gave Joseph a dream that did not come to fruition for 13 years (Gen 37, 39-41): the Egyptian exiles wandered for 40 years before entering God’s promised land.  And the Messiah’s perfectly timed arrival was 4 centuries in the making as can be seen in Dr. Leed’s post entitled Eye-Opening Events Between the Testaments.

These huge events make our problems seem kind of small in comparison, yet God knows every hair on our heads.  He loves us,  knows what is best for us and knows when it I best for us.  I once waited for God’s response to my desperate prayers for several months.  But then WHAM His resolution came in one day. You can read about it here.

Waiting on God Changes Us in Important Ways.

It takes practice, but as we let God help us in each situation, we develop patience which is one of the most important Christian virtues. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22). It’s developed only under trial, so we must not run from difficult situations. But “let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4).

Trusting God often requires not knowing how He is going to accomplish what needs to be done and not knowing when He will do it. But as we see God’s faithfulness over and over, we rely less on ourselves, and gradually place our trust in Him.

When God directs our paths, He sometimes leads us in ways that don’t make sense to us.  But if we try to reason it out, rationalize His leading and don’t follow His path, we will only prolong our struggle.  Most of us have spent our lives trying to take care of ourselves, but when we accept Christ as our Savior, we must have faith that He will care for us.

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 )

What to Do While Waiting on God

1) Prayer / Meditation

The priority for your wait time is prayer and meditation. Let it be your rock. 

  • Pour out your heart to God with all your concerns and doubts.
  • Pray for guidance, patience and strength through the waiting season.
  • Pray for God to reveal the next step in His path for you.
  • Pray for your heart to be open to the work God’s doing during the wait.
  • Pray for transformation and renewal.
  • Pray for peace of heart and trust.
  • Clear your mind and listen for God’s messages.

It’s not easy to go to prayer when you’re frustrated in the wait, but as you develop this habit of (and utter dependence on) prayer, you’ll find the waiting becomes easier.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

2) Read Your Bible

Stay in scripture, especially in periods of waiting. Often what feels like waiting is really a time of preparation. It may be that our heart needs some work, or it may be that God is moving in other areas to prepare the way.

Study God’s Word, especially His promises. “He will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6b). He will be with you through the entire waiting process. Stay focused on Him and His Word and the reasons for your time of waiting will eventually be made clear.

Staying in scripture keeps you grounded in God’s plans and promises. When you’re in that period of waiting, daily reminders of God’s faithfulness will sustain you. Reading about God’s power and plans will fill your heart with hope. Studying biblical people who endured seasons of waiting reminds you that you’re not alone in this struggle.  The Bible may also be helpful in determining if your prayer request is being met with a ‘no’ or a ‘not yet’.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 NIV)

3) Surrender to the Process

Change is a process and can take time. When God is working a change in your life or carrying you through a challenge, it may take time to fully work through the process.

Surrender to God’s work in your heart. Submit to His timeline and process. Let go of your attempts to control and plan your way out and allow God to lead.

Entrust your ways to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will act on your behalf.
He will make your righteousness shine like a light,
your just cause like the noonday sun.

Surrender yourself to the Lord and wait patiently for him.
Do not be preoccupied with an evildoer who succeeds in his way
when he carries out his schemes.

Let go of anger and leave rage behind.
Do not be preoccupied.
It only leads to evil.
(Psalm 37:5-8 GOD’S WORD Translation)

4) Who is Waiting for Who?

Could it be that God is waiting on us?  To arrive at the perfect time for Him to act, perhaps we must first realize, develop or become involved in something.  If God answered right away, many of us would be ill-prepared to handle His solution. Our personal, national or international circumstances may need to change to make the most of His intervention.

Ask yourself: Is there a purpose in your waiting? Do you have some work to do to prepare for the next season? Is God working on your heart?  Is the motive for your prayer acceptable to God.

Consider the lessons and submit to God’s work in your life. If you need to deal with a sin, confess and turn away from old ways. If you need to forgive, do the hard work to let go and forgive. If you need to rid your heart of some stubborn habits or beliefs, dig deep and allow God to do his work.

Exodus 13:17-18 tells us that God led the Israelites the longer, harder way on their journey to the Promised Land because He knew they were not yet ready to go in. There had to be time for their training, and they had to go through some very trying situations.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

5) Focus on the Blessings

Instead of focusing on where you’re going, look around you and find the blessings that already surround you. Even if your situation is dark and stormy, be especially vigilant about looking for blessings.

You could even create a blessing list by writing down everything good that God has blessed you with. Keep the list handy and read it whenever you are feeling low.

There’s nothing like helping others to get a better perspective on your own issues.  Where can you be a blessing to others at this time? Who has God placed you near that you can bless? Who can you pray for and encourage?

6) Worship

In all things, be full of praise and thanksgivings – even while waiting, even through the storm, even when you’re frustrated.  You may find that affirmation and song will lifts your spirits.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)

Conclusion

Wait as long as it takes. He may not answer right away or even give us what we think we need, but God will provide what is best for us when it is best for us.

As much as we want to move forward NOW – sometimes we’re just not ready. We have more to learn, more to change, more to grow.  Sometimes the wait is for God to align other pieces of the plan. Sometimes the wait is for God to align the pieces of our own heart.

Always have an expectancy that He will provide.  There are times when we might give up if we knew how long it was going to take, but when we accept God’s timing, we can learn to live in hope and enjoy our lives while God is working on our problems.

Then be alert for His answer.

God is never accidental. Everything he does has a purpose. He is the expert…let Him handle it

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Relevant Scripture

 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3)

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:13-14)

My times are in Your hand;
    deliver me from the hand of my enemies,
    and from those who persecute me.” (Psalm 31:15)

We wait in hope for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
    even as we put our hope in you. (Psalm 33:20-23)

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning, (Psalm 130:5-6)

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40: 31)

He has made everything beautiful in its time … God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, for there shall be a time there for every purpose and for every work.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11,17)

And He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” (Acts 1:7)

But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing (James 1:4).

References

“What to Do When You’re Waiting on God” by Joyce Meyer

“Waiting on God: Why It is Important to Wait on God” by Amy Blossom

When God’s Timing Is Taking Too Long” by Joyce Meyer

stick figures

Reversing the Little Known Causes of Prejudice/Spiritual Meditations

“If he’s fat, he’s a glutton.” “Anyone with that accent is uneducated.” “As a woman, she’s a push over.” Prejudice can target anyone different than us and includes stereotypes of women, men, the rich, the poor, the LGBTQ community, ethnicity, bikers, conservatives, liberals and anyone that comes to mind when asked “who do you consider lesser, avoid or fear?” 

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Why a tax collector? Because they were despised by the Jewish population, which was who Jesus was talking to.  Yet this man humbly recognized himself as a sinner and sought God’s mercy and Jesus declared him exalted and justified.

We don’t have to look far to find our “tax collectors” of today: people who are part of a group despised by someone, people who don’t get the credit they deserve.  We make assumptions about individuals without knowing their heart or mind or their situation.  Whereas Jesus may declare them justified before God.  How do we develop such strong feelings about people we don’t know?

The Development of Social Categories

All people have a need to make sense of the world and we do that from infancy and across our lifetimes by creating categories to help interpret our environment. We create constructs like “fruit” and “vegetable” to categorize types of food. We create constructs about gender, age and other attributes of people.

Most of our constructs are based upon our socialization and the concepts we learn from the people around us, as well as our exposure to books and media. No one is born prejudiced, but as we are exposed to others’ biases, inaccuracies, and stereotypes, we develop beliefs that are discriminatory. Let’s admit it – It is nearly impossible to grow up without some.

Confirmation of Our Biases

Once constructs have been formed, we have a natural tendency to selectively attend to information that agrees with or confirms our existing categorizations. So, biases such as Asian men are good at math and science, black men are good at basketball, or white men are entitled and insensitive to others are reinforced as we selectively attend to any information that reinforces our existing biases. We then have well-entrenched stereotypes that can guide our actions.

Implicit Bias

Once a stereotype is entrenched, it can become unconscious and automatic. We find ourselves just reacting without stopping to think. We may believe that we are truly not prejudiced or racist, while not consciously aware of our automatic thoughts and attitudes. There are generally two parts to this:

  • Conscious, deeply held thoughts and
  • Unconscious thoughts and beliefs that sometimes guide our behavior.

The Escalation of Prejudice

Initially, if a person feels insecure or lacking in identity, they may have a desire to affiliate themselves with a group in order to strengthen their sense of self and find a feeling of belonging.  Being part of something bigger than themselves and sharing a common cause with the other members of their group makes them feel more complete and significant.

There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself.  However, this group identity may lead to a second stage. In order to further strengthen their sense of significance, members of a group may develop hostile feelings toward other groups.  Here we begin to judge others whom we don’t even know.

The third aspect is when members of a group take the step of withdrawing empathy from members of other groups, limiting their concern and compassion to their fellows.  For example, as political tensions polarize us, we become unquestioningly zealous about our party affiliation and feel momentarily justified not empathizing with members of the opposing party – we dismiss them as other.

This is closely related to a fourth aspect, in which individuals belonging to other groups are no longer perceived in terms of their individual personalities or behavior, but in terms of generalized prejudices and assumptions about the group as a whole. 

And finally — moving into the most dangerous and destructive extreme of prejudice — people may project their own psychological flaws and their own personal failings onto another group, as a strategy of avoiding responsibility and blame. Other groups become scapegoats, and consequently can justifiably be attacked or murdered, in revenge for their alleged crimes. Individuals with strong narcissistic and paranoid personality traits are especially prone to this strategy, since they are unable to admit to any personal faults, and are especially likely to demonize others.

Changing Our Minds

Changing our individual unjust social concepts takes conscious effort and practice. Dr Sherry Benton has 3 suggestions on how to do this:

  1. We all have prejudicial beliefs and we need to begin by acknowledging them if we are going to grow.  If we tell ourselves, “I’m not prejudice,” we are likely burying and ignoring the truth.
  2. We need to actively seek out objective facts that do not support our beliefs. Easy enough to do with the internet.  Find those objective sources.
  3. We need to focus on making our stereotypical, deeply ingrained beliefs conscious and reflect on their impact on others. At this point we generally know the right thing to do and we can act without prejudice while recognizing that we do have prejudice.

The Good Samaritan parable is an excellent reminder of how we should act toward others. I you’re wondering who merits such compassion from us, you may find an answer in this article entitled “Who are Your Neighbors?

Conclusion

As social animals we require a healthy balance between a sense of individuality (our own and that of others) and a sense of belonging; prejudice is the loss of that healthy balance.

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Relevant Scripture

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)

Therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (1 Cor 4:5)

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. (Act 10:34-35)

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. (James 2:1)

References

The Psychology of Racism; Racism is a sign of a lack of psychological maturity and integration.” by Steve Taylor Ph.D.

A Surprising Cause of Prejudice; The real problem might be how we relate to people like us”  by Ron B. Aviram, Ph.D.

“Understanding Prejudice, Stereotypes, and Racism; Why we develop social constructs—and how we identify and change them. by Sherry Benton Ph.D.

fingers crossed anchor tatoo sun in background

The Key to Hope in a Hopeless World / Spiritual Meditations

Being a curious person with a strong desire for clarity, I was that classmate that always had a question.  With maturity, I still have lots of questions. Here’s another.

The phrase “faith, hope and love” is such a theme of our social fabric that we see it on jewelry and home décor. From a spiritual perspective: I understand faith,  I understand love.  But hope?  What exactly are we hoping for?

We don’t have to look far to find disturbing and frightening events happening on this earth.  Corruption, violence, disaster and disease exist everywhere and always have. Yet we, as a species, appear to find enough in life to make it worth living.  What in the world, or in our psyches, keeps us going?  Modern day psychologists and ancient Biblical writers tell us it’s hope.

Where Hope Springs Forth

Hope is an emotion that springs from the heart, not the brain. It lays dormant until it’s amazing strength is beckoned, supplying the sheer belief that you will overcome, you will persevere, and you will endure anything and everything that comes your way.

Hope is also a perception. Unlike most perceptions, however, it has the possibility of creating reality. It’s a perception of something that does not yet exist. It is not a passive exercise in wishing or pretending but a perception of what is possible.

Research shows that when people have hope, their goals are more likely to become reality; they’re more likely to develop a plan and take steps to make it happen. Hope involves taking an objective look at the way things are but being daring enough to believe that a better future is possible.  Some might call it foolhardy but many goals that some believed were impossible turned out to be possible.

Nehemiah wanted to rebuild Jerusalem from rubble and did it with the help of Jews who returned from exile in Babylon. In addition to their hope for protection from enemies, success in overpowering them and a redeemer; the great hope of the Israelites was for a homeland as is repeatedly expressed in the Old Testament.  Rebuilding Jerusalem was another step toward their hope.

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. (Jeremiah 29:10-12) 

Are You a Hopeful Person?

The Israelites persisted for centuries, with fluctuation in success and borders, and again fulfilling their hope on May 14, 1948 when Israel became a nation.  This persistence is a supreme example of hope and is supported by research by psychologist C. R. Snyder, who found that hope is at the heart of our goal pursuits. Through interviewing large numbers of hopeful people, he discovered that most had three things in common: goals, strategies, and a belief in their capabilities. They were under no illusions that all (or even most) of their strategies would work, so they tended to try multiple pathways. They recognized that working toward their goals would be difficult yet believed that they might be capable of doing it if they kept trying. 

Benefits of Hope

Research indicates that hope can help us manage stress and anxiety and cope with adversity. It contributes to our well-being, happiness and resilience. Hope allow us to take a wider view and become more creative in our approach to problem solving. Hopeful people believe their efforts can have a positive impact.

Is there any better example of this than Paul when he was in prison? His letter to the Philippians begins with thanksgiving and joy, a remarkable response considering his lengthy imprisonment. His hopeful and eternal perspective were essential to Paul’s peace and joy.

Other positive emotions such as courage and confidence emerge from hope as was the case for two of the Egyptian exiles led by Moses.  Joshua and Caleb were two Israelite spies who brought back a good report and believed that God would help them obtain the land of milk and honey.

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”

Caleb said ”Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

As a result of their hope for a land of their own and faith in God’s promises, these two were the only men from their generation permitted to go into the Promised Land after their time of wandering

How to Attain Hope

Despite the Biblical and cultural emphasis on hope, we sometimes become overwhelmed with the pace of our life and the constant bad news we listen to.  Nonetheless, the situation is not hopeless.  Here are some tips on how to strengthen this virtue:

Faith is important. A belief that there is something bigger and more important than you, whether it’s God, a higher power, a child, a loved one, a mission or a cause, it is a reason to go on, and it has nothing to do with just you.

Gratitude is an easy virtue to practice.  Focus on what you have to be thankful for, not on what you don’t have or what you have lost or what you want. Remind yourself of this every day.  You will find that gratitude also goes a long way in building personal relationships as can be seen in this article.

Love is powerful. Think about the people in your life that you love and those that love you — family and friends. Make it a point to connect often with each one. This is best accomplished in person, but as we know that is not always possible. A phone call, text or a quick email will do.  This article tells us that there is more love in our lives than we may think.

Seek inspiration and awe. Research by psychologist Dacher Keltner, PhD., shows that when we are so moved by something that we can hardly find the words to talk about it we are experiencing awe and that creates meaning, and positive feeling which contributes to a sense of hopefulness that can keep us moving forward. Awe reminds us of something bigger and vast. Causes us to slow down, think about what’s important to us, and connect in a deeper way.

Re-identify your goals. Maintaining a clear vision about what’s important and what we want to contribute and achieve also contributes to hope. When you are reminded of your big goals, the things that drive you to get up in the morning, you reconnect with your deeper values. Then, you’re more likely to persist because the process—the lifestyle that comes from living close to your values—helps you prevail despite obstacles. If you’re feeling hopeless, ask yourself what goals in your own life are worth persistent action.

Appreciate the setbacks and move through them. Hope is strengthened exponentially when you hit a setback and you persist despite it.  Next time you run up against one, pay attention to what it offers you—a growth opportunity, a chance to learn something you need to know to accomplish your goals—then move through that challenge.

Now that we understand what hope is and how to attain it, I want to get back to my initial question; What is being hoped for, when the Bible speaks of it?  You may notice, as I did, that although some Biblical objects of hope can be obtained through our actions (as described above), there are others that rely on faith alone; we merely trust in the Trinity and wait for the gifts bestowed on Christians.  See if you can identify the ones below that can be advanced through activity: physical, mental or spiritual.

The Bible contains 180 (NIV) verses about hope.  The object of hope is sometimes repetitive, so I am only selecting one of each.

Old Testament Statements about Hope

Note the emphasis on physical needs.

But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. (Psalm 9:18) 

If we refer back to Psalm 10:17 we find that what the needy are hoping for is  You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, (Psalm 33:18)
We wait in hope for the Lord;  he is our help and our shield. (Psalm 33:20)
Remember your word to your servant,
    for you have given me hope.
My comfort in my suffering is this:
    Your promise preserves my life. (Psalm 119:49-50)

It is God’s word (the law) which gives guidance and instruction that preserves life for the Psalmist.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. (Psalm 130:7)
Then you will know that I am the Lord;
    those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 49:23)

Isaiah refers to a land of Israel and its God being accepted by their overlords.

Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, Lord our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this.  (Jeremiah 14:22)

New Testament Statements about Hope

The Jews were oppressed by Rome and unaware of when their dreams of a sovereign land or messiah would be fulfilled.  At this point, Jesus revealed more about the nature of God, his own role and further explained OT laws. By the time the New Testament writers sharpened their pens, Christianity had grown from a small sect around the Sea of Galilee to churches around the Mediterranean and beyond.

Note the greater variety in what is hoped for as the NT writers convey the Gospel and hope for the fulfillment of Christ’s words.  Although some verses may appear alike, there is a nuance of difference.

Therefore, my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    you will not let your holy one see decay. (Acts 2:26-27)
Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. (Acts 8:22)
Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” (Acts 23:6)
and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. (Acts 24:15)
“For this reason, I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” (Acts 28:20) 

Here Paul is referring to Israel’s hope for the messiah

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. (Rom 5:1-2)

This next one is one of my favorites as it emphasizes our close relationship with God:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba,  Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (Rom 8:14-17, 22-25)

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor 13:6-7)
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, (Eph 1: 17-20)

Wow! That one is worth extra thought and meditation.  The ‘power’ referred to is the actual transformation of the whole person, accomplished as one is opened to receive the grace of God bestowed in Christ.

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)
For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess 5:7-9)
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, (Titus 1:1-3)
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. (1 Peter 1:13)

18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:

“The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind:
    ‘You are a priest forever.’”

22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests, men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. (Heb 7:18-28)

A statement of Christ’s amazing role in our present and future lives.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

Conclusion

The object of Christian hope sometimes lacks clarity. But considering the verses in which the object of hope is clearly stated, along with my concordance’s explanations, I’ve found a better understanding of what NT writers were encouraging the churches to hope for, or indeed expect, as believers.

As psychologist Meg Van Deusen, author of Stressed in the U.S., wrote of hope, “When we have it we move and when we move we change things.” If you’re feeling hopeless, ask yourself what pathways you can walk right now—even with small steps—to help move toward greater faith, awe, love and goals you value.

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References

“The Power of Hope” by Dale Archer M.D

Why Hope Matters” by Polly Campbell

Is It Still Possible to Hope?” by David B. Feldman PH.D.