Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Precious Time

It’s Thursday and I’m thankful for the gift of time because it is precious. 

I learned earlier this week that a classmate of mine from my college years died. David was barely 30. He lived a full life, working as a press secretary in Washington, D.C. and brand architect who helped many people in influential circles improve their look and life. In his short time here on Earth, God blessed David with many “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities and he took it, not only did he take it, he SOARED! When people talk about taking an organization to “the next level” that was David. He was a true businessman. But at such a young age, during his travels in Ghana, Africa he died. The exact details and cause of David’s death I have not heard but the loss of his life has impacted not only his family but his friends, colleagues and former classmates (such as me). 

After hearing this sad news, I realized I do not want to live a life full of regrets or spend time wondering “What if”? I am resolved from this moment forward to enjoy all God blesses me with in this life, praise Jesus Christ through the trials and all circumstances and to be honest about how I feel because life is short and you never know when it’s your time to die. 

Maybe you’re reading today’s post and are mourning the loss of a loved one. Or maybe you’re facing real GIANTS in your life—obstacles that are so intimidating that you are overwhelmed and at a loss for words. Or maybe you’re at a point where you’re not only questioning God’s sovereignty and His promise to provide for your every need but you’re wondering if there even is a Lord Jesus Christ because surely a loving God would not allow you to go through such pain and suffering, right? I know what you’re thinking because I’ve been there, in fact I believe most of us are at that place at least once in our lifetime. So I want to encourage you today with words from a devotional which focuses on the Bible story of a man named Job who suffered unspeakable loss and calamity of what he owned and who he loved all at once. His friends discouraged him, his wife told him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9), his skin broke out in terrible sores (Job 2:7)... but at the end of his pain, God came through with His promise and restored Job’s life with “twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). 

According to the Feb. 19 lesson writer for the Adult Bible Study Guide, "Job did not understand, and neither do we when we face such catastrophic losses. Although God spoke to Job, He did not provide the answer to Job’s questions, nor did He explain the cause of what happened. He simply reminded Job that there were things beyond his knowledge and that he would have to trust God, which Job did. Our experience is often similar; we may not receive an answer to our questions. But the story of Job does give us important insight into the nature of evil, and it shows us that God is not unaware of the struggles that we face." 

So dearest of hearts, today I challenge you to press on, have the faith in God and even when you do not understand and cannot trace the hand of God in your situation, persevere like Job. Trust God will work a miracle in your life when you need it most. And as for those “giants” in your life? Here’s a word with a picture to remember: 

My personal choice from this moment forward is to focus on GOD and trust HIM to make my “giants” TUMBLE! 

And I encourage you to Have FAITH in GOD because HE will NEVER fail! 

God bless you! 



Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thankful Thursday: The Blessing of Friends Who Pray

It’s Thursday and I am thankful for the blessing of friends who pray. 

Life is beautiful but it can also be so hard, especially when you don’t know what’s around the bend. But if you have faith in God and continue praying to Him, you will be at peace in the midst of any storm. The Bible says in Isaiah 26:3, God will keep in "perfect peace" all who trust in Him, all whose thoughts are fixed on Him. GOD is willing and able to be your Provider, Protector and Navigator throughout your journey on Earth. God will even send people into your life who will pray for you, sometimes without you asking.

Such was the case when one of my friends who is a chaplain, we’ll call her GD, called me yesterday to pray. The conversation started with an update on how my first, 7-day fast from Facebook went and I told her that I completed the fast (and to my surprise, stuck to it for the entire 7 days) but I had not yet heard anything “spectacular” from God. Prior to my fast, I had shared with GD how I was expecting answers, like doubtless direction from God at the end of this fast—After all I was giving up my time on FACEBOOK! That’s serious stuff as Lord knows thousands if not millions of people in the entire world are addicted to that social networking site! 

I did tell GD how, after the initial 24 hours of my fast from Facebook, it was surprisingly easy to live without Facebook (yes, it IS possible) and I believe that while I did not hear something spectacular from God, my mental health improved (Lord knows the comparison game Facebook that can suck you in, full force, is something crazy) and I felt more at peace. During this time, I realized that I need to fast from Facebook more often which is a commitment I’m planning to make. I also shared with GD that while I did not hear “something spectacular” from God, I did receive reaffirmation through people and events that occurred during that week to reassure me that I am on the right path and that God does want me to do what He’s given me talents for (writing and photography) but I may need to make tents in the meantime. 

Allow me to explain what I mean by needing to “make tents”…When my job in Journalism did not work out, I spoke with one of my Christian mentors (we’ll call her JK) and expressed my disappointment in a shattered dream, frustration in not knowing when or where I'd work again, anxiety (because I have bills to pay) and doubt in what exactly God’s plan for my life would be (wondering whether or not my professional writing/publishing/photography dreams would become true) and to all of this, JK told me, “I am sorry about this shattered dream…Do not apologize for needing a job to pay your bills…the greatest Christian Writer made ends meet regularly through “tent-making” (Paul the Apostle). With every shattered dream—there is a better dream coming.” 

So I shared that advice from JK and GD agreed. She told me that even though I did not hear “something spectacular” from God after the conclusion of my fast from Facebook, God did reveal His will to me through the conversations and incidents that happened throughout the week to reaffirm this simple truth—I am exactly where God wants me to be right now in this life. And that made me happy because that is exactly where I want to be—in the center of God’s will for me. 

And then GD offered to pray for me. The exact words from the prayer, I do not remember but after the prayer, I recall feeling so much better and thankful for the blessing of friends like GD who pray for me—with or without me asking—because sometimes you cannot pray for yourself which is why the Bible tells us to pray for each other, in church we call this “intercessory prayer”. 

If you are at a point in your life when you do not have any family or friends to pray for you, there is HOPE because the Bible says that Jesus Christ is constantly interceding for us before the Father (God) which means He is praying for you! What a blessing I believe it is to have the SAVIOR of the WORLD (Jesus Christ) praying on behalf of His creation (you and me, humanity). What better person to have on your side than the One who has lived on this Earth and been through every human experience so that He has ultimate empathy and compassion for each of our unique situations? 

The New Living Translation of the Holy Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7 for us to, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” Yes, you read that right, there is a GOD who CARES about YOU! And He wants you to be saved and have the hope of eternal life, that’s why He sent you’re His Son Jesus Christ, who is now your Intercessor, to this Earth to live, die and be resurrected into eternal life so that we can have the hope that there is something better beyond this world...So that we could know that our story does NOT end with death because if we followed Jesus Christ when we were alive, we do have hope of eternal life. But that’s another post for another day! 

All I want to say at this point is to re-emphasize how grateful I am for the friends (and family) whom God has placed in my life to pray for me. I encourage you to invest in Bible-believing, Christ-following, praying friends because the benefits are eternal and while life can be hard, it will make your walk easier. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

A different view on Valentine's Day

Because He First Loved Me (and You) 
A Guest Post written by Daniel Alexander Granderson

When it comes to the subject of love, I sometimes wonder which holds more influence over our societal beliefs and behaviors: church, state, or Saint Valentine’s Day. Based on the seemingly ubiquitous decorative presence of red, white, and pink that has become the uniform of store shelves since December 26, you’ll have to forgive me for believing that for at least a few weeks during the first months of the year the marketing geniuses that annually endeavor to convince the masses that February 14 is the most romantic day of the year are our society’s most formidable puppet masters. 

Don’t get me wrong, I neither dislike Valentine’s Day nor do I believe that it is exclusively a so-called “Hallmark holiday.” I am, after all, a self-admitted hopeless—and hopeful—romantic. Thus I’ve dutifully drunk the Valentine’s Day Kool-Aid a time or twenty over the years. 

In general, I’m opposed to any and all forms of groupthink or mob mentality. Yet there’s just something about a collective, nationwide display of affection that really makes one want to be part of the in-crowd. The fatal flaw that dooms Valentine’s Day, however, is the reality that no matter how widespread the message of romance is, there are always those of us who are seemingly excluded from the festivities on an annual basis. We all desire to be desired. We all long to be loved. And disappointment is often born at the nexus where longings and the reality of one’s forlorn circumstances collide. Finding peace rather than disappointment is an art.

Love is perhaps the most complex and profound attribute ever imparted by our Creator to His creations. English poet Alexander Pope famously wrote the words, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” I dare counter Pope by contending that to love is both human and divine—much like Jesus who came to earth to die for our sins out of love. 

When we think about it, the Bible is the greatest love letter ever written. It is the most heartfelt poetry ever conceived. It is the sweetest song ever to spring forth from adoring lips. So profound is the Bible’s message of love that it’s revelations are commonly divided into four categories: storge, philia, eros, and agape. 

In John 13:34-35, Jesus commands that His disciples love each other as Christ loved each of them. And throughout the rest of the Bible we see examples of every definition of love: parents for their children (storge), brothers and sisters for their siblings (storge), friends for friends (philia), strangers for their fellow strangers (philia). But the love that we most commonly celebrate on Valentine’s Day (eros) is that which lead Jacob to toil for 14 years merely for the chance to marry a woman (Rachel) he spotted at a well. It’s the nigh mythic “love at first sight” phenomenon we all have likely dreamed of a time or two during our lives. 

As great as Jacob’s eros love was for Rachel, it is nothing compared to the unwavering, unshakable, undying, and sacrificial agape love that flows from the heart of God. Better understanding the profound nature of God’s love for us through a relationship with Him is the first step in conquering feelings of inadequacy and loneliness that can consume the unbetrothed on Valentine’s Day and during their daily day-to-day existence. 

One of the biggest mistakes we as human often make is that we seek validation for our existence based on how other human beings perceive us. If we are loved by a man or woman that we desire, than we declare ourselves to be worthy. In reality, this is an attempt to place a human being in a position that only God should occupy. Our happiness is contingent on our relationship with God not on each other. The people in our lives can only enhance the happiness that must inevitably already exist within ourselves least we fall victim to frequent disappointment at the hands of flesh and blood “saviors” who are as fallible and sinful as we ourselves are. The healthiest relationships are between two complete and confident people whose happiness is rooted in God, not in each other. 

It’s difficult to holdfast to the mindset of being “unworthy” or the “unwanted” knowing that we are so loved by God that He sent His son to die for us. One does not sacrifice one’s physical or spiritual self for a person who is not deemed worthy of such sacrifice. Thus how ungodly it is of us to not love ourselves knowing that God first loved us and showed us the depth of our significance to Him through the suffering at Calvary? How can we dare to devalue that which God has declared priceless? 

The key to remember is that people come and go in our lives, but God is forever. Recently a friend of mine announced that her seven year relationship ended under a cloud of turmoil. After a brief period of obligatory mourning, she announced that she had decided to start dating herself. Rather than continue to wallow in the loss of the relationship, she opted to find ways to celebrate how special and remarkable a person she knew herself to be. In the process, she says that she discovered some things about herself and expressed great optimism for both her present situation and for the day when she feels she is ready to embark on a traditional dating relationship again. 

While my friend’s decision “date herself” may not work for everyone, I believe her primary agenda is universally applicable. It’s essential to know and appreciate ourselves as the people God made us to be so that when romance does find us—be it on Valentine’s Day or one of the other 360 plus days of the year—we will have a stronger foundation to build a budding relationship upon. 

Author bio: A native of Rockville, Maryland, Daniel Alexander Granderson turned his longtime love of reading into a passion for writing during his freshman year at Takoma Academy after joining the high school’s newspaper and yearbook staff. This passion only grew as Daniel went on to pursue a degree in journalism and writing at Washington Adventist University (WAU). In the years since his graduation from WAU in 2008, Daniel has worked as a market research analyst, blogger, and social media/communication specialist with market research publishing company Packaged Facts.