Get Out of the Zone

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There are so many self-help articles and books telling people to “get in the zone” and discuss random steps and tricks to get there.  I want to share how to get in the zone by getting out of it.  What good is being in the zone if you are alone either at the end of the day or all the time?

It’s amazing on how easy it is to fall into complacency to just live in the “comfort zone” and realize that you are not living at all but existing. The comfort zone is just a curse in disguise and the real blessings can only be found outside and you can only grasp them when you reach out.

Although a comfort zone may seem right for a moment, one moment can last a lifetime of living with a void inside of us.  There is an emptiness that can only be filled when we keep moving, stop existing and start living.  Living a life that focuses on people rather than just on ourselves.  At the end of the day, when all is said and done, we need to ask ourselves, did we truly say everything that needed to get said and did we truly do everything that needed to get done?

It is important to have a mission, a purpose, a passion that lives within us that must be released and shared with others.  There are so many new challenges that show up every day on social media.  A lot of those challenges get viewed and responded to.  What about a challenge of a lifetime that lasts a lifetime?  Here is the challenge: Keep the chain of love flowing each and every day.  Invest in others every chance you get.  Your time is more important than your finances.  Money can always be earned and spent, but time is the most valuable gift that can be given because time is proof that there is care, there is support, there is love to give peace and hope to the person who is desperately seeking answers in all the wrong places.  When you live for others, you will find fulfillment within yourself.  Don’t wait for the perfect moment or the perfect person to help, make the moment perfect and make a stranger feel important.

Strength of a Soldier

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Strength seems to be a popular subject these days.  As I have conversations with friends and family, the issue of strength has come up in one form or another.  As I scroll down my Facebook newsfeed, I see so many posts and quotes regarding strength.  With Memorial Day coming up, I believe that the topic of strength seems to be a suitable blog entry.

Memorial Day is a time where America remembers the brave people who provided the ultimate sacrifice so that the citizens may live freely.  I have the utmost respect for everyone who has served and is currently serving in all branches of the United States Military.  If you are reading this and you are a veteran or in active duty, thank you for your service.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWrMeBR8W-c  (Toby Keith – American Soldier)

This particular entry widens the boundaries to the extent where every person is considered to be a soldier.  I was never in the military, and you may not have served in the military, but the fact is we are all soldiers of life.  We all have our own battles to fight.  They may not consist of fighting with guns or the latest weapon technologies against those who wish harm against our families and country, but our greatest battles are fought in our minds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xo1VInw-SKc  (Rachel Platten – Fight Song)

Soldiers in the military are trained to be strong mentally and physically.  The purpose is to make sure every person will be fit for battle and for the enemy not to find any weakness.  From the perspective of a regular individual, what are your enemies?  Addiction?  Anxiety?  Anger?  Depression?  Hopelessness?  Insecurity?  Loneliness?  Oppression?  From the perspective of a Christian, I guarantee you that the enemy knows every weakness you have and will use it in every opportunity that you provide.  That is why the Bible gives clear instructions:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,  praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.  To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

There are times when we have to act strong in front of others so that there is a sense of security and stability.  There are times when we need to just drop the act and just be honest with ourselves, with others, and with God.  Being able to discern on when and where these times take place is critical to keeping up with reality and being able to stay reasonable.  My suggestion is to be honest first with your relationship with God because if there is a problem with that relationship, then all the other issues will seem much more significant than they really are.  In our weakness, God is our strength; that requires us to have a close and personal relationship with Him so that we are better able to handle the challenges in this world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLLy4oSLGN4  (Mark Schultz – He Will Carry Me)

In 1 Kings 19:11-13, we read the following passage:  And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.  And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

What can we learn from this?  There will be storms in our lives that will try to break us in any possible way and those storms will succeed if we allow them to.  1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” After the fire, we will hear the voice.  The voice of hope.  The voice of joy.  The voice of love.  The voice of everlasting life.  Just as Elijah went out and stood at the entrance of the cave, we must go out and stand once more for another day of battle until Jesus returns to us or He calls us home.  At least once a day, find a quiet place and let your heart open up for Jesus to take up all the hurts and fill it in with His Spirit that consists of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3Wf2ptiAbk  (Jeremy Camp – Christ in Me)

For those of you who have doubts or straight out do not believe in the Christian faith.  Let me tell you about my experience.  It was not my strength that had me function after I was informed that my mother had passed away.  It was not my strength that allowed me to sleep at night and get up every morning and return to my daily grind with my mother no longer around.  It was not my strength that allowed me to go to work just hours after receiving the news that my grandmother had passed away.  Unfortunately, not even a year went by before I lost two close family members that played significant roles in raising me to the man I am today.  It certainly is not my strength that is keeping me writing to this very day.  I may not be posting as many blog entries as I have before, but I continue to observe and note the everyday experiences that I have and witness to those around me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QD1QMSYKL6Q (Jeremy Camp – Same Power)

 

Year of Firsts

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There is an adage expression that says “there is a first time for everything.” Normally when people say that, it is usually expressed with some excitement or the last words as someone jumps off from the top of a ski lift for the first time with help from their friends of course.

(With A Little Help From My Friends by Joe Cocker) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCrlyX6XbTU

On the other end of that expression is grief centered with a first time for everything after losing a loved one. A first event, first holiday, first birthday, first anniversary…This blog entry is about my experience over the last 5 months.

(Say Amen by Finding Favour) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfWaMVh4dZM

The first mother’s day was not as hard since it was not that long after my mom’s passing. The full acceptance did not fully sink in. The first fourth of July was a little more difficult. Watching fireworks on the roof by myself, remembering the good times of the past when my mom and I watched fireworks and even shot off our own on some of the years. I just recently had my 30th birthday and unfortunately, it was my first birthday without my mom. The closer the day got, the more discouraged I became. I was not getting too much sleep, I had been eating more and exercising less, I have had a lack of motivation to do anything. I just recently came to the realization that it has been with my self-centered attitude that I have dug myself right into a pit, burning those metaphorical bridges rather than expanding them to anyone and everyone who would most likely would have helped me through these stages in life if only I would have spoken up about the situations and asked directly for help. This life is a journey and people in your life were strategically placed there only for a specific amount of time.

(O’Lord by Lauren Daigle) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHp585tdIjQ

We are here by grace and until we fully comprehend that concept, we will never be as productive as we were created to be. Every day is a gift, what are you doing with it? That is a question that I confess have not been asking myself much. What are people saying about you now when you are alive? What will they say about you when you are gone? What do you need to change in order to leave a more positive legacy for those who knew you to carry on with them as they continue living?

(How Can It Be by Lauren Daigle) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wt5X91ciE6Y

I came across a note that was in between some old school work and disciplinary papers from my middle school. My mom had written it and placed it there and the contents of that note expressed how proud she was of me to watch me grow up and she apologized for not being too open with me about her life, the things she had gone through and how those had developed the hopes and dreams she had for the future. At the end she said that if she were to die she just wanted to let me know that I was loved. That got me thinking of how great and strong love can be. In the midst of imperfections, love pulls rank and strengthens the bond. I came across a few statements over the internet that fit right in, “Grief never ends but it changes. It’s a passage not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness nor a lack of faith…It is the price of love. Grief changes us, the pain sculpts us into someone who understands more deeply, hurts more often, appreciates more quickly, cries more easily, hopes more desperately, loves more openly. Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place. Hold on to the love, not the loss.”

(Just Be Held by Casting Crowns) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIZitK6_IMQ

If you meddle with your wounds, not only will it prolong the healing process, it will make the wound in worse shape. If you focus on the problem, you will get lost in darkness, but if you focus on the answer, you will be walking in the light. If you focus on the truth, no lie can take you down. John 14:1-7 says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

(Trust In You by Lauren Daigle) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_aVFVveJNs

Trapped in Hell

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Many people hear the word, “hell” and picture fire everywhere with little red devils with horns running around poking everyone with pitchforks.  There is a much more frightening concept about hell that needs to be known.  The truth of the matter is hell is more than just fire and demons, it is a separation from God.  There are many circumstances in life that will make one FEEL like he/she is in hell right now.  We live in a fallen world that is filled up with sickness, pain, sorrow, and death.  The worst thing Satan can do is throw in a combination of attacks where you have one family member who is in pain and ill, you have a close friend that had recently passed away, you bury yourself in your work to try not to think about the events that are happening all around you resulting in having no free time to spend with your family and friends.  A few days of being a busy-body turns into a few weeks which in turn becomes a few months to a few years.  In that process, you get the feeling that you have been abandoned by those you love, that they have forgotten about you and have moved on with their lives which completely excludes you.  Loneliness and depression sink deep into your soul creating a huge empty space inside of you and regrets of the past and uncertainty of the future flood your thoughts.  Eventually you have gotten to the point where there seems to be no hope at all and you just want to give up.

If you are at that point in your life right now or you feel like you are reaching that point, I urge you to give up right now.  Give up your worries, your regrets, your sorrows, your anger, anything that is bringing you down and holding you down.  Seize on to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life.  Let him fill you up with his Love, Grace, Mercy, and Truth.  In other words, empty all of yourself and ask God to fill you up with Himself and allow him to live through you and guide you on this journey of this life to life everlasting.

http://youtu.be/-pD2zIuiC2g  (Break Every Chain by Tasha Cobbs)

Romans 5:3-8, “There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!  Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” (MSG)

When Satan makes you feel like you are trapped in hell with lies and various negative circumstances, pray to your Father in Heaven to free your mind with Truth and Blessings that He has given in the past and assurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel in the future.

http://youtu.be/7IUMTJoH-PQ (Blessed Assurance by Third Day)

Revelation 21:1-7, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.  And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (KJV)

http://youtu.be/ezd2PkwXlEU  (All My Fountains by Passion Band)

Life Analogy

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Life is to death as death is to Life.  Billy Graham once said, “From the moment we are born, we begin to die.”  Life is a reflection and it is important to understand what, who, and how we are reflecting.  This comes by what we read, listen to, and watch, who we hang out with, and how we handle our priorities and situations.  What do our lives revolve around?  It is natural for us to seek with our minds and hearts for temporary pleasures that last for a brief amount of time.  It is supernatural for us to seek with our minds and hearts for spiritual matters that will last for eternity.  We cannot make it through life on our own.  Robert W. Youngs pointed out that “Sir Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Prize-winning poet, once said, “I have on my table a violin string.  It is free.  But it is not free to do what a violin string is supposed to do—to produce music.  So I take it, fix it in my violin and tighten it until it is taut.  Only then is it free to be a violin string.”  By the same token we are free when our lives are committed, but not to be what we were intended to be.  Real freedom is not freedom from, but freedom for.”  In this life, we have freedom to grow.  Carl Jung has stated that “Growth at all levels must include spiritual development as its most subtle and valuable aspect.  The life of the spirit, manifest in the consciousness, must evolve in accordance with certain principles and forms, which, in turn, must be related to all the other levels of human existence.  If they were unequal or detached, life could not continue.” 

I highly encourage the reader to click the following link and watch this 11 minute skit:

http://skitguys.com/videos/item/gods-chisel

I love this video.  When we accept Jesus Christ in our lives and have complete trust in Him, God takes all of the junk in our lives and begins making us the way we were intended to be, just like Jesus.  Unfortunately for us, it does not happen overnight.  While we are living on this earth, we will continue to be a work in progress.  God gave us mountains so that we can learn how to climb.  Every mountain has a valley to go through.  We are never alone when we go through valleys or when we are at the lowest point of the mountain because God is there through it all.  He is with us and for us through our entire lives and the question is will we trust Him enough to let Him work THROUGH us in addition to working ON us?

It is all too easy to live in the lie that we have to earn love.  Maybe we do this because that is the impression we got growing up at home or maybe from past experiences with relationships.  It is time to examine our minds, our hearts, and our ways and return to the LORD.  Grace is needed to save, it is needed to grow, and it is needed for love.  Grace realized is glory defined.  Grace realized is glory shown.  Now is the time to repent to connect. Repent from “stinking thinking.”  Connect to God’s love.  Let us stop trying to earn and start to receive.  Let us immerse ourselves in the love God has for us and so desperately wants to show us. 

1 John 4:7-16 declares, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  This is how we know that we live in him and he in us:  He has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”

Galatians 2:19-21 declares, “For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me.  So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God.  My old self has been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless.  For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.”

2 Corinthians 4:14-18 says, “We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you.  All of this is for your benefit.  And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.  That is why we never give up.  Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.   For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!   So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

Matthew 6:25-34 says, “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the sky:  They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Aren’t you worth more than they?  Can any of you add a single cubit to his heightby worrying?  And why do you worry about clothes?  Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these!  If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith?  So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first the kingdom of Godand His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.  Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

A.W. Tozer once said that “things do not just happen in the kingdom of God, they come to pass.”  The Message version of Matthew 6:25-34 says:  “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?  What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving.  People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works.  Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions.  Don’t worry about missing out.  You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.  Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

This 11 minute video of Jars of Clay singing “Worlds Apart” seems to be an appropriate ending for this entry.  I encourage the reader to play the video with your eyes closed and listen to and meditate to the words of the song:

Passionate Living

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A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a youtube video of Keith Urban singing “But For The Grace of God” please watch and more importantly listen to the video here:

I have been contemplating over the lyrics of that song and it has been difficult not to go down to my knees in awe and gratitude for me being here on this earth right here and right now. The lives we live can either be a step towards heaven or a step towards hell, the choice is ours to make based on what we are passionate about. Unfortunately it is all too easy to get caught up in going through the motions day in and day out that we do not even realize how we are living and who it is affecting.

Adam Lanza made headlines recently and has been talked about as being a “Psychopath” and a “Monster” Everyone is passing judgment anywhere and everywhere, some are putting blame on him, others on his family, others on the government, and others on guns and the manufacturers of weapons. I agree that his actions were horrible, however, we should not be too quick to judge him as an individual. He was still a human being, therefore, any one of us could do the same thing he did and even worse because we are human beings as well. This is called living in free will. Jesus Christ knew this and yet He still loved us so much that he came down to live in this world and be among us and set an example of how life should be lived. His love continued while his innocent tortured body was on the Cross because of all the sins, we as human beings have done and will do and he prayed this simple prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The fate of Adam Lanza in this world was death, as for the fate of his eternal soul; that is solely up to God to decide and not us.

What is happening is that our intellect has achieved the most tremendous things, but in the meantime our spiritual dwelling has fallen into turmoil. Proverbs 1:24 and 28-31 says: “Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded…Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.”

I am not suggesting that we simply forget everything we have learned, on the contrary, I am recommending that we follow the instruction manual of life, which is the Holy Bible, and to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is not only the great and first commandment, it is also the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Every day we walk within the very hands of God because it is only by His grace that we continue to move forward in our lives just by breathing. All too often we keep on looking for more blessings in our finances, relationships, careers, etc…We need to stop looking around for His hands and start looking for His face. If you do not hear God speaking, you need to trust in His teaching and the teaching is simple: I am worth dying for so He is worth living for. Because of who He is, it makes me want to give Him more and more so I surrender all that I have and all that I am so that I may live for the glory of God alone! It is only in this matter where I may obtain further understanding to have and give a life worth living and be at peace. The worldly peace offers momentary ease, but constant peace as defined by a pastor at the Edge Church is: “wholly and securely resting on the person, power, and promises of God in everything.” In Colossians 3:15, we are instructed to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

The Journey of the Journey

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This past weekend, I went to a men’s retreat for the first time and learned a lot about who I am, where I am, and where I need to be.  I thought I would take some time to reflect and share my experiences because there was just so much symbolism that took place over the weekend.  The original start time for the retreat was 9:30 pm Friday.  According to GPS systems, the drive was calculated anywhere from 2 ½ to 3 hours.  I joined a carpool with two other guys and that is where the fun began.  There were times of immense traffic as well as bridges being out and road construction galore.  All three of us had our GPS systems on and it still took a few stops asking for directions (Yes, men do sometimes ask for directions) and a few calls to find out how to get to where we need to be.  When we finally got to the destination that only took a little over 4 hours, we discovered that we were not alone.  People were still on their way, going around similar if not the same detours we had to go.  Once the majority of the group arrived, we officially began the retreat around 11:30 pm.  The irony of all this was that the main topic of the retreat was “how to be a wise man.”  The truth of the matter is that life rarely goes the way we plan it, hence the reason for my title of this blog.  Everyone’s life is a journey and there is a journey within that journey.  One of the many quotes mentioned at the retreat was, “When I am alone, I am dead.”  This comes from:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.  Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm?  And if somebody overpowers one person, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”  AND 1 John 3:14-18:  “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death.   Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.  This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers.   If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him?  Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.”

The problem is that I am so accustomed to being independent taking heart to the adage phrase, “If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself.”  It is my desire to live a life that is completely devoted to God and to only think, speak, and act in ways that are pleasing to Him alone.  My major struggle is the application of this.  HOW DO I LIVE A LIFE THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD????  Regular evangelism or missionary work?  More involvement in Church?  More time in prayer and Bible reading?  All of the above are great in and of themselves, but what specifically do I need to do?  The answer is surprisingly simple.  Keep focused on Jesus Christ and walk by faith.  Everything else will follow as long as we do not force ourselves to do things we were not meant to do at a certain time.  Two quotes I got from the retreat are worth mentioning here, first, “It is easy for our heart to lead us, however, we need to lead our heart.”  Second, “Self-control consists of behavior habits that build intimacy with God.”  Whether we like it or not, we are on God’s time and He will get His way and will put us on detours in life when we start going on our own and will continue to work on us, in us, and through us.  Philippians 1:6-7 says, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in youwill carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.   It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart,and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel.”  We read in 1 John 4:4, “You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

Faith does not mean staying positive, it means holding on to your trust in God.  Our lives reflect on our trusts, what and/or who we depend on a daily basis.  A belief without trust is just a wish.  One of the activities we did on the retreat was split up in small groups and hiked through a 7 mile path that consisted of various levels of terrain, taking turns carrying a 30 pound rock in a backpack.  The group I was in decided that we will trade off the rock every 20 minutes.  At the halfway point of the walk, that was reduced to 10 minute intervals because that is where the exhaustion was kicking in.  Personally, at the halfway point, not only was I tired and sore, but also felt nauseous and faint.  Because I was part of a team, I still took my share of carrying the rock indicating to the group that I was fine because I knew that the experience was well worth it.  Every time our turn ended and we placed the backpack with the rock down on the ground for our team mate to pick up, there was a great feeling of freedom.  What was the message from this?  Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.   For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  We find in James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” Galatians 6:1-5, “Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted.  Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.   But each person should examine his own work, and then he will have a reason for boasting in himself alone, and not in respect to someone else.  For each person will have to carry his own load.”

God created us and knows our hearts, but we still need to be real in our prayer lives and be completely honest and open towards Him, we also need to be real with ourselves and know who we are and finally we need to be real with each other.  Who are we?  Children of God living in a world full of sin that requires constant war of our minds, hearts, and spirits.  As long as we are still living in this world, we will make some mistakes, fall down and lose some battles.  As believers in Christ, we can have assurance that the war has already been won.

1 Timothy 6:11-12 declares, “But you, man of God, run from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.  Fight the good fight for the faith; take hold of eternal life that you were called to and have made a good confession about in the presence of many witnesses.”  We cannot survive this world on our own, which is why God established the Church for people to come together and share their lives with one another as Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another.”  We find in 2 Corinthians 5:7-21, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.  Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.”   He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

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