Living in the Shadows

Let’s face it…all of us struggle with something similar to what Leah dealt with in Genesis 29…we all struggle with living in the shadow of someone else.  Whether we work with them, go to church with them, maybe they live in our home…whatever the case might be, we find ourselves struggling to get by in life because we see others who seem to have success that we think should be ours.

In Genesis 29 we see the story of Rachel and Leah, where Jacob is lobbying for a wife, and the scripture there even tells us that Rachel was more attractive than Leah in some ways. “Leah had nice eyes, but Rachel was astonishingly beautiful. (v. 17)”

Leah had to learn a lesson we all tend to need to learn, that is how to deal with being in someone else’s shadow…unfortunately in the world today, no one seems to deal with that well.  We all think we should be the star…with YouTube, Facebook, and the like, we see folks more worried about destroying the other stars with their political jargon, with rants and raves, tearing others down to the point that they are made out to be the worst of the worst around us, when in reality they are simply trying to deal with some of the same struggles we all face.

Leah appears to have been gracious in her struggle, because God saw her where she was and blessed her. Look at Genesis 29:31-35: ”31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. 32 So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, “The Lord has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.” 33 Then she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. 34 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi.35 And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah.  Then she stopped bearing.”

God saw her where she was…dealing with her struggles, and he met her there and blessed her.  When we shine as we can, whether we are the brightest start or not, we will be seen by God because we are bringing glory to HIS name, not our own.  Are you striving to simply shine the way God intended? Or, are you trying to become the next star? How are you dealing with the shadows?

Look at the words of Jesus to Nathaniel in John 1:

“47Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” 48Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.””

He sees us….He knows us…He always has and always will.  Strive to shine for Him today…you were created to be you…no one else…just you.

Have Mercy

Mercy is something that has long been a key element to living the Christian life. From the scripture we see that mercy, along with grace, were afforded us on the cross when Jesus gave His life for our sins.

We, however, have lost sight of what Christ did for us today. Too many times we neglect to offer the same to others when it comes to our own lives. Many of us are quick to judge others based on circumstances and situations, but are also quick to justify our own actions if facing the same judgement from others.

Why is it that we want to be offered mercy from others but have such a hard time granting the same? Truth is, if we look at the cross, we should all be willing to have mercy on each other. Christ cleared our debt mercifully on the cross, taking our place in so we could have eternal life.

John 3:16-17 tell us of this mercy in that Christ didn’t come to condemn but to save the world. Paul tells us of mercy and grace, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” (Ephesians 2:4, 5 KJV).

Another verse that tells us how we should be freely giving with our mercy is found in Luke:

“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36 KJV)

So we see how God showed us mercy, and we also see that we are asked by Christ to also show mercy to others.

Today, I encourage you to exercise mercy to one another. Take the opportunity to look at controversy as a chance to exhibit the love and mercy that was shown to us on the cross. Let’s not be quick to judge, but quick to mercy, we may find that our merciful attitude is contagious.

Cover Songs

In the Music Business I have noticed lately that there are a number of songs out there that have been redone recently by different groups.  Some have a good quality to them, but we all know that it is hard to replace the original.

What I have realized in thinking about this is that there are many different versions of  the same song, but the original always seems to be the best copy because it has the artist’s original intentions for the song.  The original is the purest form of the song, it always seems to be the best and most preferred version for the listener…especially the listener that loves music.

That being said, there are often good cover songs out there, songs that remain pure to the artist intentions, and sometimes you will find a version that compares very closely to the original, but again, there is just something to be said about the original.

In thinking about this, however, I also realized that there is a preference for some to the first version of the song that they heard.  If a younger generation hears a song by a new artist that is a cover, but have never heard the original, sometimes they tend to prefer the version that they heard first.  Many times it tends to be the first version that is heard that becomes the one that is hard to overcome when hearing other versions….this leads me into a discussion that takes place within the church.

There are many versions of the scripture that have taken hold within the church today, and honestly, I understand the debate…but let me ask this question: Is the Word leading them to the One, True God?  This is not a debate about which scripture to use…in fact, what I want to discuss is that we are to be examples of Christ to the world…in essence, we are his cover song.

Is your life echoing the original, or have you messed with the tune and tried to make what was perfect better? Are you living a life that resembles Christ or are you trying to become a different version of Christ? There was only one version of Christ, and that version came to this earth and lived a perfect life, put it all behind him and endured a cross that was intended for you and I…and we are simply asked to live a life that resembles Him to the world.

Since we are the cover of the original, we may look and sound similar, but we are not the original…rather than trying to improve on the original, I would challenge you to try to look and sound as close to the original as you can, so that others can see the truth about who He is. The fact remains that the original was the purest form of what we are to be in this life we have on earth, and there is not a single one of us that can do it better than Him…so stop trying to form your own version of the Gospel, and live out the life that resembles the original artist. The Original was Jesus Christ Himself…do others see Christ at work in you? Or do they see you working to try and improve on Christ?

Just a thought.

Death at the Door

Death is one thing that I’ve been faced with a lot lately…in reality, we have all faced it in one way or another.  In fact, we have heard the statement that, “Life is tough, no one gets out alive.”

This has been a thought that I have considered over the past few days and have begun to really think through some parts of it…and I honestly do not agree with the statement like I used to.  What I have realized is that we have been promised something that we have forgotten, that is that we have been promised is that life will not end for us when we are centered in Christ.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we find a promise that we can rest assured in…this is where I have found my comfort recently in these difficult times we face…that is that when someone close to us passes away, we are forced to deal with the reality of death….we are forced to face our own mortality at times…we are forced to take inventory of our own lives and realize what might happen should we also pass on…are we ready to take that final step to LIFE?

The scripture reads: “13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout , with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (NASB)”

We have a promise of a life to come…so that leads me to know, through faith in Christ, that death is not the end of life, but the beginning…death is simply our entering the door to the eternal promise that Christ has prepared us a place and we go there to be with Him…we enter into LIFE.  This tells me that if you are in Christ, not only do you get out Alive, but better than ever….you achieve what you live your life to achieve.  You reach your final goal…a LIFE with Christ Himself for eternity.

I believe it is high time for us to stop thinking that death is the end all, be all for those who are in Christ…but we must also realize that if we are not in Christ then we will find that death is the end of our opportunity to know Christ as He desires to be known…

Do you know Christ? Do you have a personal relationship? If the answer to either of these questions is no…I urge you today to find a relationship with the one who died for you on a cross…a death to defeat death and offer life…a death that offered salvation…a death that leaves us with this statement about our lives…

“For me to live is Christ…and to die is gain!” Galatians 2:20

The Savior wants to know you today…do you want to know Him?

“I Just Don’t Get it…Why Lord?”

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“Why did this person have to die?”

There are many questions that we sometimes ask; especially in times when we thought things should have been different.  We just don’t understand why things happen the way that they do in this life…that being said, we must look to the scripture for answers.

One of the best examples that we can find is the story of Job.  Job was a man who served God…he was a man that caught the devil’s attention and one that Satan wanted to cause to fall away.  Let me start by reminding you, if Satan is challenging your faith, you need to stay strong, you wouldn’t be on his radar if you were already living a life for him.

So why do bad things happen to God’s people?  Because Satan wants to try and make anything happen that will cause us to question our faith.  He took away Job’s family, his home, and all his belongings, but Job stayed strong through the testing and fire.  Are you staying strong in your trials today?  Scripture tells us in James 1:2-4:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

The testing that comes from Satan will produce a sturdy faith that will stand firm no matter what storm we face if we will keep our focus on God.  Job stood firm, chose to continue following God, and when he became weak and questioned God, we see that God answered him, reminding him of who He (God) is and when all was said and done, Job was doubly blessed by the trial he faced.

Remember:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:26-28

God will help you through, don’t let these trials tear you down, but let them become a blessing; both for you and for someone else.

Life…Filtered

Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Instagram…

All of these apps for our smartphones have become a way for folks to put aside the reality of life and almost put on an alternate reality in many cases…

Before you get mad, let me explain. It all has to do with filters.

Each of these has a way to alter reality and make it more appealing to our audience…we can change the lighting of a landscape, we can remove blemishes from our faces and add a dog face if we so desire.

What it comes down to is that we can take what we feel is ugly and turn it into something that we think people will be drawn to…something that they will talk about…but are we being real? Or simply just trying to mask the ugliness of life?

We tend to try and do this with sin as well…we see the ugliness in our lives and we try to cover it up by “filtering” it.  We try to cover it with a story of how it’s ok for us to do this or that because “God wants us to be happy,” or “God didn’t design us to be boring.” But the truth is, he does want us to be happy, but not by covering up the world and hiding who we really are.  In fact, the best filter that we can put on is Christ.

Jesus is like a permanent Snapchat beauty filter. He removes the blemishes from our lives, takes away the dark and the sin and leaves us beautiful before God.  He has smoothed out our wrinkles and made us look brand new because of his sacrifice.  Stop trying to find things to cover your sin and allow the blood of Christ to wash them away.

Live life unfiltered by the world so that the savior can work with the beauty that is the real you…allow him to be your filter….there is nothing more beautiful than when others can see Christ in you.

What is your Goal?

Goals…we all have them, we set them daily. We strive to make things better by setting goals that we think we can attain.  Whether it is a goal to be married by a certain age, to have a certain number of kids, or even a career goal that we set out to achieve, many of us have a goal for where we would like to finish up in an area of our lives.

I’ve noticed recently, however, that when it comes to our Christian walk we have set goals that seem to get us off point when trying to move forward. Bear with me for a moment and I will explain, but I feel we need to be quite careful when setting ourselves goals in this area.

Let’s take a look at some goals that we may have:

“My goal is to get to heaven.”

“I have a goal to keep myself out of hell.”

“I want to be the best person I can be in this life.” Or maybe, “I want to be known as a good person.”

And while all of those are well and good, they miss the point of what our Christian life should look like.  Heaven is not a goal we should strive to attain…Heaven is a reward for living the life that we have been called to live.  Living just to stay out of Hell will certainly send you there if your focus is solely on that.  Being a good person doesn’t accomplish the goals that God has for us in life.

If these are your goals, you’re missing the point.  Our lone goal should be to establish a relationship with our Creator…to establish a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who thought that we were worth dying for…even when we weren’t worth dying for.

Romans 5:8 says, “God showed His love for us in this way, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

While we were yet sinners…he didn’t wait until we got it right to die for us, and he doesn’t want us to wait until we accomplish our goals of getting it right before we accept his gift. Set a goal today to accept his sacrifice in your life….if your journey is based on getting to heaven you’re missing the road to get there.  Jesus said there is only one way to God and that is through him.  He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and the only way to get to heaven, stay out of hell, and become a good person in this world is to die to ourselves and develop a personal relationship with him by allowing the Holy Spirit to take hold of our hearts.

So…what is your goal today?