In the Beginning.

 

It is always interesting to me the things that people rally around. The simplest of task, the smallest event, and suddenly our population is united like never before. Even amidst a civil struggle, something as ordinary as the moon and sun causes everyone to stop what they are doing, lay down their dissents, put aside their differences, and join together for a remarkable event.

I’ll be honest, the eclipse hasn’t really been on my mind. It’s been in my news feed and in my everyday conversation with the people around me, but it’s just not something that has struck me like it seems to have the rest of the world. But what has been on my mind is how people can be so infatuated with an event such as the eclipse, and be so struck by its remarkableness that they are willing to drive great lengths, pay astronomical prices for a “good seat,” and even make a vacation out of the event and yet still, there are folks who don’t believe God exists. That, to me, is the most astounding part of all.

“He counts the stars and calls them each by name,” Psalm 147:4

If you google the definition of an eclipse, NASA gives the following example:

An eclipse takes place when one heavenly body such as a moon or planet moves into the shadow of another heavenly body. There are two types of eclipses on Earth: an eclipse of the moon and an eclipse of the sun.

A heavenly body. I loved that this is how they described the moon, Earth and the sun. In fact, that term is commonly used to describe any planet, star, or celestial body. It may seem like I am splitting hairs, but I’ve always found it interesting how so many things that we come across have reference to the Bible. God’s word is used to define, or determine all kinds of things in our everyday life, yet there are those who still need to be convinced that God exists, that our world was created by our Heavenly Father.

Psalm 147:4 is only one of the many verses in the Bible that tells of God’s awesome power. Every chapter contains evidence of his creation, his masterpiece which is everything in existence, including you and me. It all begins in Genesis, the first account of how God created everything we know as our world in six days. Let that sink in a moment. Our Lord and Savior spoke everything (the seas, the land, the animals, the sun, the moon, the planets) into existence. His power is so great that he gathered up dust from the Earth and formed the likes of mankind. There is no superhero, no Greek God, nothing that can compare to his awesome power.

“In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land,” Psalm 95:4-5

For me, there are two things that today we are reminded of. One is that the mighty God we serve created this event that is so remarkable. As you are watching the eclipse today, I pray that He is on your mind. I pray that as you stand there, watching this event take place for what may be the last time in our lifetime, that you remember that story in Genesis, how he spoke this world into existence. And in that matter of speech, he not only created the Earth, the moon and the sun, but he created this event we will experience. He created a world so profound that it mechanical works together with these two other heavenly bodies to hold our world into place and to keep it thriving every second of every day. But what strikes me even more is that the same God that is responsible for the eclipse, and every other remarkable event we will ever experience in our life, that same Savior created you. And me. And not just that, but he created us in His image. We are created in the image of the Alpha and Omega, the one who spoke our world into existence. I pray that you remember that every time you look in the mirror and think you may not look the way you think you should. I pray that you remember that every time you get discouraged and think you may not be good enough.

But most importantly, I pray that you remember that every time you look into the eyes of another human being who may not share the same belief as you, or who may not practice the things you believe in. God created us all in his image. He created the Earth, and everything we know and see. And it was good.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10

 

 

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Praying for an Understanding Heart.

As a society, it seems that we have become desensitized to cruel acts and hurtful words. We are faced with a live stream of unbearable acts taking place every day, through social media, technology, and personal encounters, to the point that our souls become calloused and accept the hatefulness as a norm. But yet we wake up every morning in a world that screams for acceptance, even louder than the day before, amidst a generation that demands respect.

A few days ago I found myself corralled to the back of an elevator, playing that miserable dance of balancing personal space and just balancing. As we dropped 25+ floors, I gazed around at the individuals who joined me for the ride. There were folks of all ages and genders, their style varying from business casual to “I just traveled a few thousand miles in the clouds and I am ready for a nap.” But we all had one thing in common, we had a place to be. But in those few minutes that we were all forced to stop, and stand side by side in an elevator, there was a whisper of chit chat that took place among the passengers.

We chuckled about general comments regarding the safeness of the elevator from the guy who found himself nose to nose with the door. A male and female in the corner struck up a conversation about what she did for a living, as the group worked together to help shuffle people on and off the elevator. And even in the early morning fog that surrounded my mind, it was astounding to me that for those brief moments, there was nothing but kindness that filled the hearts and minds of those people. They didn’t judge one another, they didn’t discount common courtesy and compassion for their own desires. They simply coexisted with their fellow man, making the most of the situation they were in.

It stirred my heart to experience a moment of just simple kindness. Sure, there was no earth shattering event that took place. And no, it wasn’t a feel-good moment you would hear about on the news. It was the saving grace of being human displayed in its most pure form. So why, if it’s so easy to just be kind to one another, are we living in a world where kindness is treated as a useless human emotion that only exhausts your efforts and gives you nothing in return?

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” Luke 6:35

As servants, God calls us to be kind to one another. He calls us throughout the Bible to put others before ourselves, and even to turn the other cheek to those that strike you. He praises the man who lays down his life for a friend, and pronounces distaste for those soaked in greed and concern only for themselves.

So how does a world that our most High created fall so far from such a simple emotion?

Sometimes it feels like everyone around me is in survival mode. Like they are the way they are because they think that is what it takes to make it in a cynical world. It hurts my heart to see the hatred, the greed, and the total disregard for something so miniscule as kindness that is exhibited by my generation. A hardness that has filtered down from one generation to the next. It seems that with each turn the world makes, we fall farther and farther from God’s example.

There are countless examples of kindness in the Bible, words and parables about how we should act as Christians. But what is sometimes harder to find is how to deal with the hatefulness of our fellow men with grateful and understanding hearts. After all, one can only turn the other cheek so many times before they are covered in bruises and battered beyond recognition.

For me, I look no further than King Solomon to find the inspiration I crave to continue to wade through the darkness and weight of the world we know. While at first glance, there may seem to be no connection to Solomon and the desire to be kind, it is in Solomon’s request that we find what we are searching for. King Solomon came to the Lord in search of something. He didn’t ask for riches, he didn’t crave gold. He sought wisdom, and the desire to do God’s will in his work. When the Lord appeared to Solomon after his sacrifices to his name, he said “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” It was then that Solomon, in all the humility he could muster, placed himself at his Lord’s feet and ask for an understanding heart.

How often do we go to the Lord in prayer, asking for him to help those we love who are sick, praying for peace with a decision we are trying to make. We ask for the promotion at work, or the relationship we crave to come to fruition. But how many times do we sit down, place ourselves at the Lord’s feet and ask him for understanding?

This is a heavy question, and can be a personal journey That is why I invite you to read about Solomon in 1 Kings, Chapter 3, look to his example to find hope and strength in the Lord. For because his request was for that of wisdom and understanding, the Lord blessed him tenfold with riches and the desires of his heart. For he gave him what he did not request, because of what he requested.

“Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” 1 Kings 3:9

But what I really pray that you do today is think. Examine your heart and your mind for understanding. How do you treat others? How do you fight back when the world takes a swing? Do you throw a punch yourself, or do you lay down your desire to smite and instead seek to be the a light in a dark world.

It is easy to find a way to show kindness to a stranger. Sometimes we can even figure out how to forgive transgressions of our friends and foes. But often what proves to be the hardest part of showing kindness as Christians is having an understanding heart. We are so quick to expect the worst of people, to judge those who surround us in protection of our heart, that we often show hatred without even realizing it. Instead, we should be pleading with our Heavenly Father, that in times such as these, that we can see each and every person put in front of us as he sees them, a person he molded from the very dust beneath our feet. An individual that he chose a path and a journey for as he breathed life into their lungs.

It is easy to jump to the conclusion that our waiter or waitress is terrible at their job when they forget our drinks, or mess up our order. But next time, make the effort to ask them how their day has been. You may find that they wrestle with demons comparable to your own, and just happen to have to come to work and put on a smile amidst them.

It is easy to assume the person who cut you off was only thinking of themselves or is a selfish driver. But perhaps you should pray for them, they may be struggling to see the road through tears in their eyes. Their world could be shattering as you both drive down the interstate.

It is easy to yell at the person on the phone for not giving you what you think you deserve, or to berate them and tell them they don’t know how to do their job. But who knows if they are sitting on the other end of the phone, second guessing themselves for the hundredth time today because you aren’t the first person to put them down. They may be watching their self-confidence dwindle to a pile of soot every day, soot that stains their every move.

You see, this world tries to show us that there is no beauty in it. It attempts to prove that kindness is gone from this Earth. It will beat us down until we give in, and grapple for hatred and hurt to guard our vulnerable heart. But the Lord calls us to be his children, to fight for kindness, and beauty, and joy. He asks us to be the light in the world. He asks us to forgive, to not judge, just as he doesn’t judge you for a lifetime of sin…but instead gave the most precious thing to him to die so that we could be saved.

Choose kindness; today, tomorrow, and always.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,” Colossians 3:12