Mark 8:34 happens to be one of my favorite Bible verses. This verse popped up at me before I was even a Christian while working on my adventure blog ‘The Adventurist”. A few years ago I wrote an article about a man who decided to take this verse literally. He built a large wooden cross and decided to carry it around the world. He would walk with this life-sized cross and preach to those that would listen. I am not sure that this was completely what was in mind when this verse was written, but God has still used this man to spread his word through the use of a single verse from the Bible.
This past week I put up an update on Facebook that simply said:
What does this mean?? “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34
This has lead to an in-depth study and discussion on this very intriguing verse. We were all in agreement that “he must deny himself” means that we have to walk away from our own selfishness in order to follow Christ. What does it mean to “take up his cross”?
Someone very close to me once said that meditation was anti-Christian. Their thoughts on this was that meditation is generally associated with far eastern cultures, namely Buddhism. We all know that Buddhist monks can spend years meditating, trying to gain their eternal enlightenment. I can see why people generally associate meditating with anti-Christian thoughts. Did you know that the Bible also speaks of meditating?
My curiosity got the best of me today and I decided to do some research on Christians and meditation. This all started out on a blog post about something called “The Daily Examen” that I read on the Healthy Spirituality blog. (This blog has been added to my blogroll.)
The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience. (from Ignatian Spirituality)
Basically, this is a concept used to meditate on God about your daily life. This religious activity was developed by St. Ignatius Loyola as a means to get very close with God, while sharing all of your highs and lows pertaining to a 24 hour period. After reading about “The Daily Examen”, I began to wonder if meditating was actually against Christian beliefs. I know that there are Catholic monks in the world, but I do not have a clue as to what their spiritual walk is like and if they meditate or not.
This is the beginning to a very simple prayer that I learned as a child. It went something like this: “God is good. God is great. Thank-you Lord for this plate. Amen.” We use to start every meal with this simple prayer. I bring up this old memory because it was brought up to me just the other day. Cassie and I were sitting around the dinner table. We were getting ready to chow down. Elizabeth, the middle child, spoke up and said that we needed to pray before we eat. She is five. Her prayer was a little different, but not much. She said: “God is good. God is great. Thank-you lord for this dinner. Amen.”
It is funny how something so simple can be a huge SIGN for what we need to do. With those simple words, she refreshed my memory of things that I remembered doing as a child. I mentioned that my family is ‘new’ to the Christian faith in a previous post. Elizabeth busted out this simple little message and totally took my breathe away. She is 5. She took the initiative to stop everyone from what they were doing, straightened her back, and said those words. She didn’t care who was listening. She just wanted to thank God for what lay before us. I think many of us could learn a lesson here. Sometimes the simplest of things can provide the most reward.
Elizabeth was thankful for her food. We are thankful that now our family will be praying before each and every meal. She planted a seed that will be growing for years to come. Tonight she made all of us proud. Thank-you Lizabee for letting God work wonders through you and opening up the eyes of all of us! Praise God!
I have been contemplating the start of a weekly Bible study for about a month now. I have really felt led by God to do this. I grew up in a christian family (my father is a preacher) and have recently renewed my own faith. Cassie is absolutely new to all of this and feels a bit intimidated or inadequate. She is a new believer and probably feels the way most new believers do. “Where do I begin?”
I thought a good way to introduce her to some of the concepts and beliefs of Christianity would be to start a Bible study with her. The question then became “Will she do this with me?” and “What kind of Bible study do we need?”
While walking through our local Salvation Army last week. I felt some books just jumping out at me. One of these books was “A Handbook for Christian Maturity” by Bill Bright. I thought that this would be a simple read-through book on how to expand my personal faith. When I got the book home and finally flipped through it, I discovered that this book was exactly the type of thing I was looking for.
It was absolutely fantastic to see the Chilean mine workers being rescued this past week. Thirty-three of them had spent a total of 70 days trapped inside the Chilean coal mine 2,000 feet below the surface. Many people were asking how they all survived in those conditions for so long. One thing that quickly became evident during this past week’s rescue was how much faith, hope, and love played a role in their survival. These men were physically rescued by an army of individuals working 24 hours a day. Spiritually, they were rescued by One.
The CNN Belief blog, a blog reporting on faith roles happening in today’s news, has posted a great article about the absolute faith these miner’s shared. The trapped Chilean coal miners would hold two prayer services a day. They also had access to audio versions of the JESUS film and The New Testament. The T-shirts the rescued Chilean coal miner’s came out wearing featured emblems for The Jesus Film Project, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International. The shirts featured a front logo stating “Gracias Senor” or “Thank-You, Lord” and on the back was printed Psalms 95:4. The shirts were a gift from Campus Crusade for Christ, Chile.
One of my favorite passages from The Bible revolves around Mathew 7:7-8:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
We are told to ask, seek, and knock, for those things that we need. When we accepted Christ in our hearts as Lord and Savior–we had to SEEK a different way of life, KNOCK on Heaven’s door hoping that Christ would answer, and then ASK him for total forgiveness of our sins and for a new way of life. These aren’t merely words to inspire. These are words that hold certain truths not only in Christ, but in everyday life.
OurAmazingPlanet has posted an article today about a study that suggests that the Red Sea could have been parted by natural phenomenon in the Bible. This goes back to the story of Moses, being led by God, taking the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 13) by the parting of the seas. The article goes in to some detail explaining that a continuous 65 MPH wind could have forced the sea back, just as the Bible describes, allowing Moses and the Israelites to pass, then as the wind stops-the waters would come rushing back in upon the soldiers making chase.
Here is my problem. This is a HUGE moment in the Bible. The Bible, to the believer, is 100% correct. Did we really need a study to take place that would suggest that this could actually happen?? I didn’t. Their theories are interesting, yet, they are basing all of this on a scientific formula without suggesting that maybe God had a hand in this. Does God not control the land and the seas? Yes. It could of happened, because it DID happen!
Life List. Cassie has been working towards getting her Professional Photography business off the ground. We have both been praying for this. She has wanted to be a photographer for a very long time. I told her to just get out there and do it. I designed her a website as a present, helped her pick out a professional photo lab, purchased her some business cards and got her going on one of her life’s dreams. We have all the tools in place to give her a go at this dream. Now she just needs some prayers and opportunity to open up to her. We concentrated on those. Two things happened this week. She booked her first PAID photo shoot and also volunteered to be the ‘Go-To’ photographer at church. The church had put a small piece in their weekly bulletin about how they needed a photographer. It took me a total of 5 minutes to hunt down the preacher and offer our services. To my knowledge, this is not a paid job, but it is a job of Christ. Something she can give back to the church that has come to mean so much to us. She is volunteering. My first sentence was ‘Life List’. This refers to my list of things that I would like to do or accomplish during my lifetime. We hear a lot about how church members should be giving back to their churches. How God says that everyone has a gift and it should be used for God’s Will. Cassie is doing that starting within the next couple of weeks. Likewise, I would like to be able to volunteer my own services for a church function. That is going on my lifelist, as well as volunteering at an outside source (United Way or some other organization). This past Sunday, Cassie made me proud. Not only did she stand up and take on this special duty with the church, but she is also excited about the opportunity to be able to do something that she loves. She is definitely some inspiration to me and continues to push me to be the better person I envision.
Orange Juice. How do you know that God has been working in you? I know those first two sentences probably have you totally lost. Let me explain. Sunday morning at church, before Sunday School begins, the church provides donuts (or bagels) and milk (or orange juice). This Sunday, like every Sunday, we got there early so that we can share in the fellowship that comes during this Sunday ritual. The girls were sitting around eating their donuts. One of them reached over and slid my cup of orange juice to move it out of the way. The cup tipped over and the juice landed all over the table and right in to my lap. That is not a good way to start Church. The crotch of my pants was soaked. I jumped out of my seat and just started laughing. To me, it was funny. Where else would it have went, but in my lap?? Before I know it, church members were scrounging for napkins to help me clean up the mess. Why does this story matter to me?
Just a few short months ago I would have been angered to the point of stomping off and possibly yelling at the kids. God has been working on my anger. He throws little obstacles at me–like this juice, to see how I will react. Subconsciously I don’t see the test. It is after the fact that I can rejoice and know that my God is changing me from the inside out. My reaction was so unlike me that when I looked up at Cassie and the girls, they were quite. Just quiet and staring. The girls were scared. I understand that it was a complete accident and that the juice, once dumped, had a 99% chance of hitting the crotch of my pants. That is just the way things work. Luckily this time God had my back and revealed himself to me in a new and profound way. Thank-you Lord!!
I finished the book of Genesis today. The one book of the Bible that I always get stuck and quit reading. I finally finished and never got bored! It was actually a great read. The stories of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph were truly amazing. It was interesting to learn and see how God worked to prove to each of them that he was the one true God. Each of these guys proved that they had an incredible Faith and commitment to God. Noah worked for 125 years building the Ark. That is commitment.
Noah and his family committed themselves to building the ark for 125 years. People would come by and laugh at him and his family. He was ridiculed for being crazy. Every waking hour of every day, for 125 years, Noah built the ark. God granted Noah and his family life through faith. They believed what the Lord said was true. They also feared the Lord and knew that he could do what he said to Noah. Those living in the area had no Faith.
Faith and Commitment.
I think sometimes we need to step back and question our own Faith and Commitment. Have we committed ourselves enough to allow God the freedom to work in us? Do we actually believe that God will use us for his will? Immediate results may not come, but if we stay strong in Faith, Committed to the overall plan, then great things will be born. Through Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph-these great things took more than a lifetime. Enough came true during their days to keep them faithful and committed to the overall plan. Each of them planted their own seeds and each of their seeds became fruitful and multiplied in the ways that God desired. I think we need to keep planting these seeds and see where they grow…