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

When Darkness Comes…

The world can be a dark place.

You know that moment when you wake up in the middle of the night and it’s pitch black in your bedroom, and for a split second, you panic? Whether you’re scared you overslept, or you remember something you had forgotten the day before, that heart wrenching panic exists, if only for a brief moment. These days, with the shape that our world is in, I feel like with every new day that I walk through, that darkness follows me. I feel like with every new story I read, or every new video I come across on Facebook that speaks to the sheer evil that exists, is a weight added to my feet, dragging me down into this darkness, to the point that I feel as though I am suffocating.

What darkness have you experienced today? What tragedies and crippling heartbreaks have you experienced?

It’s funny that for my first post for a blog entitled “Shining Son” I would write about darkness. As a Christian you are naturally drawn to the light, and when the light isn’t there, you panic. You want to replace evil with kindness, you want to replace disappointment and distress with faith and grace. You want to tidy everything up until it is a pretty picture of salvation, just the one we think the Bible paints for us. But the truth is, the world can be a dark place. And every day, I find myself asking, can there be any more evil on this Earth? And now with the multitude of communication channels that exist, we are faced with the horrid events that just makes you question the humanity of people around every corner. If you stop and think about it, it can swallow you. You can almost feel a weight bearing down on you, threatening to consume you in the all too familiar darkness. And I’m human, sometimes I let it bear me down. Sometimes I want to walk outside and scream at the top of my lungs, hoping maybe someone, anyone will hear me and wake up to the reality that is our world. But every time I feel that weight, I also feel a tug in my heart. I feel a warm glow radiating from my heart that lets me know that everything is going to be ok. People laugh because I sometimes live by the philosophy that ignorance is bliss, but when it comes to the evilness of this world sometimes it is the best policy. It helps to push away the fear, the anger and the disappointment and pretend it doesn’t exist. Pick up your Bible and drown yourself in His word.

Psalm 27:1 says “The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?”

God knew that our days here on Earth would turn darker. He knew that mankind would struggle with sin, he knew that from day one. Take comfort in the fact that he not only anticipated it, he sent his Son, his one and only Son, to die on a cross so that we may have the chance to escape that sin. But he also knew that even that would not be enough for some. He knew that some of our brothers and sisters would succumb to evil. He knew that the threats that exists today to the goodness and kindness of people would grow stronger every day. And he knows that one day, that evil will prevail. But that, my friends, is when he will deliver us from this Earth. Verses like Psalm 27:1 were put in the Holy Word for days when you feel the burden of sin and evil raining down on you. It is for the days that it just doesn’t seem like there is any good left on this Earth.

Sometimes I like to imagine God sitting in his rocking chair on a front porch somewhere, staring out over his beautiful creation and writing in a journal all of the things he wants to tell us when we finally meet him. I imagine him whispering to himself, “Things will be hard child, there is no doubt about that. But I will always be here for you,” as he drafts verses like Psalm 27:1. Much as a parent or guardian yearns to protect their child, God will always protect us. And no matter what circumstances we find this world in, the one ever-present joy will be in that our Holy Father, Lord of all is the King and Ruler of this world. And no matter how bad, or how dark our days may seem, he is there.

Every day when I am faced with how truly corrupt and sinful our world is, I keep this verse close to my heart. I keep it where at a moment’s notice, I can pull it out and recite it over and over again until that shadow of darkness that I feel creeping over my shoulder subsides…or at least hangs back a few feet until tomorrow.

Let’s break down the verse.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation…”

This is where you ask yourself, is the Lord my light and my salvation? It utterly pains me to think about the people on this Earth that are going through these dark days without the Lord Jesus in their hearts. Every time I attend a funeral, I stop and ask myself, if I did not have hope and faith in Jesus Christ, how would I ever deal with such a tragedy? It is heartbreaking to me that there are people who carry the weight of this darkness on their shoulders, going through every day of their life believing that there is nothing that can change it. The truth is, if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, there will always be a way to change it. You simply turn your face to his blinding light and let it wash away the fears and the pain. If you’re reading this and you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, please hear me when I say that there is a way to change the darkness. There is a way to stamp it out. All you have to do is acknowledge that he is Lord of your life, pray to him to save your life and come into your heart and live for Him and Him alone.

Romans 10:9 says “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I invite you to reach out to someone close to you that can mentor you and show you what this verse truly means. Ask them to help you find the light.

For those of you who have given your life to Christ, take a moment and pray to him and thank him for his glory and his grace.

God, I give you this moment of my day to say thank you. Thank you for speaking to my heart and guiding me to your light. I am forever grateful for the day I gave my heart to you and I pray that you will help me to continue to grow and develop as a Christian each and every day. I want to strengthen my relationship with you and live your will each and every day of my life. Amen.

“…whom shall I fear?”

Our world has consistently praised those resilient athletes and leaders that grace the cover of Sport Illustrated and Time Magazine, those that in the face of devastation, or adversity, rose above it to conquer their goals and dreams. We often wonder how someone could ever find the strength to do such a thing. And yet right in front of you, you have a personal love letter from your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that is telling you, who should you fear? There is not a person, not a thing, not an obstacle or a tragedy or ANYTHING in this life that you should fear. There is someone who can literally take every scary, frightening thing in this life and flick it away with a wave of his hand. How awesome, how immense does that feel to read that? Let that soak in.

What are the things you fear most in your life? What are the things that wake you up in the middle of the night, stricken with panic? Write them down.

Now I want you to take the piece of paper you wrote those things down on, and I want you to wad it up like you would something you are going to toss in the trash can. Now throw it away. Literally walk to your trash can, and toss that ball of paper in. That is what our Lord God does with our fears. He takes those fears from the weight of our shoulders, and he tosses them behind him into the dust. He is the Creator of this world, and because of that, he is greater than ANYTHING we face. He is more than any fear we have. If you like superheroes, think of God as the greatest superhero of all time, walking beside you each and every day, holding your hand or lifting you up to carry you when you need him to. There is NOTHING that can touch you, because you are His.

“The LORD is the stronghold of my life…”

In the Bible we read about the times of war and how armies would surround their towns and their bases with large, strong walls to keep the enemy out. We read fairytales about castles surrounded by moats to protect the royalty from danger. We equip our own homes with security systems, each one better than the next, to protect ourselves from whatever may try to harm us. God is all these things and more. He is the stronghold of your life. That means that he is that safe place that we read about, dream about and hope for. He is where we go to find comfort and peace, to relax and know that we are cared for and we are watched over.

The easiest thing I can equate this to is a newborn child. We all know, whether we have been parents or not, that a newborn baby will often cry when it is placed in a crib or laid down. But the moment its caregiver picks him or her up, they are comforted and the crying subsides. That person is a safe place for that baby. Their arms, coddling their small frame and wrapping it up tight, gives them security and peace. If a small child can understand this, why can we not? God has his arms wrapped around us daily. He has gathered us up to himself and he holds us there every day of our life. We often look for ways to protect ourselves or guard our belongings. God has surrounded you and I with the biggest force field you have ever seen and He alone is our protection and our stronghold.

“…of whom shall I be afraid?”

When you look to the definition of being afraid, you see the phrase “feeling fear or anxiety; frightened.” But it also says being “worried that something undesirable will occur or be done.” Not only does God take away our fears, he takes away our worry. He gives us the opportunity to walk through each day with our eyes focused on him and the confidence that we are forever in his care. I told you I’m human, I worry everyday about what this world will be like when I have a son or daughter, what evil they will encounter in their lives. But God calls us to leave that worry and anxiety behind when we come to Him. And we do this through faith. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is literally God’s definition of faith.

Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

This verse tells us that by having faith we are putting our confidence and assurance in the fact that God’s willing and able to take care of us.  We all hope to be safe and protected, to feel secure and content. God can give us that. And although we can’t see him, and we can’t see the shield he has placed around us and our hearts, it is there and it is stronger than you could ever imagine it is.

The truth is, thought the Bible often paints a beautiful picture of what a relationship with Jesus Christ is like, the Bible spoke of dark days. But it also promised us eternal light for those who believe. So today, I pray that when you feel that darkness, when you witness that darkness, that you will remember this Psalm. Hold it dear in your heart and let it guide you. Because alone, the darkness is deafening, but through God, the darkness is behind us and we hold tight to a light that will never be put out.