January 14, 2014

What Are You Thirsty For?

Don't you hate it when you have a craving for something in particular and nothing else can fill it? Sometimes I have a specific craving for salty meals like salmon, olives, aged cheese and heavily seasoned asparagus. It's the strangest combination. When I know I want that meal, a regular salad or sandwich just won't do. To take it a step further; Have you ever had a craving for something you knew you didn't have and you tried to replace it with something that was available in the fridge? You may try to eat more of that other substitute, but in the end, you're still not satisfied. For example, you may want Deer Park water but Aquafina is the only one available. It's just not the same! 

In the innermost part of our souls, we know, innately, that we need more than what we see in front of us. We are all searching for some entity to quench that thirst/longing that we all have to be heard, understood and loved unconditionally. Jesus says in John 4:14 that "whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst again." 

A couple months ago, I heard an elder bring up different ways that we use to get our thirst quenched. We try to quench our thirst by using some of these tools: 

1. Power - Having power is not a bad thing. Being in a leadership position is an awesome responsibility that, when used wisely, can foster positive growth and impact for the greater good. However, when a person seeks power only to control and manipulate others, they are coming from a place of deep hurt. There is a thirst to fix the hurt that others committed against them by propelling the hurt on others. With Christ as the center, He can heal past hurts and quench the longing so that power doesn't become an abusive tool for those in its' path. 

2. Praise- It's such an incredibly beautiful sight to see when people support and encourage one another. We are relational beings and need to be uplifted and encouraged by one another. Even though it is beautiful, it shouldn't be all you rely on. If you rely on the admiration and praise of others, you'll be sorely disappointed when they criticize you. Don't place your value in how many friends you have, how many people like you, your social media stats or the accolades you receive. People's opinion may change about you so you need to know that Christ is sufficient for all your questions about your worth. 

3. Possessions- Isaiah 55:2 says "why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?" There is always a new smartphone, tablet or gadget that is supposed to make life a teeny bit easier. There is usually a pretty hefty price tag attached to those supposed "lifesavers". Or there is another sale at the mall with an outfit that you have to buy because the other 70 outfits in your closet don't quite encompass your style the way that this one does (yeah right).  The text is not saying don't enjoy nice things but at the same time, you have to understand that those things won't satisfy you. You must seek the kingdom of God. God is the only one who can satisfy. 

4. Pleasure - When used in the right context, pleasure is a necessary part of our everyday living. When it's abused, the habits can have damaging effects. Sex within the context of marriage is a beautiful and necessary part of life. Eating is a necessary part of life. Enjoying leisure time with friends is a necessary part of life. However, when used outside of marriage, premarital sex can result in STDs, emotional damage and unwanted pregnancy. Eating whenever it feels pleasurable can lead to overrating and the health issues that come along with being overweight. Leisurely spending time with friends but neglecting the study of the Word of God, work or personal responsibilities can lead to an eventual overload of work that has only been fostered by procrastination and escapism. 1st John 2:15 commands us to not love the world. "Everything in the world -the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does -comes not from the Father but from the world." 

At the root of all we search for, there is a deep crying out for Christ. Matthew 5:6 reminds us that you can be filled with Christ. Let Him take full control. 

So... what are YOU thirsty for? 

January 7, 2014

A Good Name.

If you are reading this on a computer, tablet, or mobile device, you have access to the Internet. If you have access to the Internet, you automatically have access to a Bible. There are so many websites that share the Word of God in numerous translations. Because we get so used to having the Bible at our fingertips, it can be easy to take its' content for granted.  As believers, we must be committed to reading the Word on a daily basis. It's the only way we'll be able to successfully handle the challenges and joys that Christ allows to come into our lives.

Proverbs 22:1 says that, "a good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." One of the challenges I fight is the feeling that a good name really doesn't mean much anymore. In my opinion, a good name is earned. A good name doesn't happen overnight. A good name doesn't necessarily mean perfect. However, a good name works to bear the fruit of the spirit and grow in Christ daily. When I read Proverbs 22:1, the first question I instinctively ask God is, "Are you sure?" The reason I ask that is because right now in 2014, our culture declares that it is better to have silver, gold and riches than a good name. It doesn't matter who you step on to get to the top, just as long as you get there. What's at the top? A penthouse suite filled with silver, gold and riches. Let's face it. Money is oftentimes the bottom line. 
The fact that money is the bottom line is probably why it is so refreshing for me to see people who are motivated by purpose and passion to get up in the morning and do what they do. For some, it's not about the money but the higher calling and responsibility God placed on their lives. For those people, life is sweeter and greater because of the emotional and spiritual investments they are able to make in others. 

I recently heard a CEO answer a question about how it felt to reach success in her career and achieve financial freedom. It was interesting because the moderator seemingly expected a fairy tale answer of financial freedom being "more than she'd ever dreamed of." Instead, the CEO shared that financial freedom, the car and the beautiful home only made her more miserable. She believed that obtaining those special things would make her feel like she had "arrived" and they would finally fulfill her. However, money just buys stuff. Money can't fulfill you. The way she was able to get out of that place of discontentment was to connect with God and realize how to focus on joy and her purpose. Her purpose helped to bring a sense of contentment because she knew it was God-given and would fulfill her in ways that money could never do. 

If you're reading this blog and you're not financially free, don't wait until you get there to be happy and content in Christ. Don't chase after those things. Work hard and pursue Christ. As a result, you will obtain a good name. A good name magnifies the beautiful attributes of a Christ who loves us so deeply. You can encourage others to live a life that honors Him simply by your actions. Money is a great tool but it's not something to chase. It can't fulfill you and it certainly won't impress God. Pursue a good name. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and He will add all those others things! 

God bless you!
Happy New Year!