The Intersection for Resurrection :)

GUESS WHAT?!?!?

Sunday is Palm Sunday, a time of great celebration!  I totally love celebrating this holiday and for this year, even moreso, given the global challenges we’re all going through in this season.  So I’d like to direct your attention away from the news, COVID-19 updates, economic concerns, regional lockdowns, etc.

Let’s take a pause on all that stuff and consider Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday around 2,000 years ago.  It’s interesting that all the Gospels document this important day, but John gives a unique account.  The other Gospels seem to focus on the donkey Jesus rode on, as well as the coats and branches everyone spread along the road for Jesus’ entry.

John, however, makes a different focal point that I think can be helpful for us today.  When you read the account of Jesus’ triumphant entry in John 12, he postured this noteworthy event immediately following Jesus having dinner at Martha, Mary and Lazarus’ house.  Furthermore, John makes special effort to mention several times that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and this resurrection was the culminating event from John 11.  Lazarus’ resurrection was a really big deal, so much that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Lazarus because his resurrection was becoming a massive rallying point for people to follow Jesus.

I’m bringing this to your attention because Palm Sunday is the intersection point between Lazarus’ previous resurrection and Jesus’ future resurrection.  So let’s consider some points that we can apply for our own resurrection intersection:

  • Past: Lazarus was living proof that Jesus could reverse death and bring life again.  In our lives, it could be very helpful to take an inventory of Jesus’ work, looking over our past.  What places in your life were broken, dysfunctional, sick, unhealthy and even dead where Jesus came along and brought healing, life, health, functionality and vitality?
  • Personal: It’s important to remember that Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead came from the personal connection and relationship that Jesus had with this family.  In fact, Jesus’ relationship with this family started the first time when Martha was busy preparing dinner and her sister, Mary, was sitting at Jesus’ feet as He taught (Luke 10:38-42).  Additionally, when Lazarus got sick in John 11, Martha and Mary sent to Jesus and asked Him to come and heal, “the one You love.”  And as you read the narrative in John 11 when Jesus talks with Martha about Him being resurrection and as Jesus weeps with Mary in her grief and loss, it’s obvious that Jesus had a very personal relationship with this family.  Let’s remember to keep our relationship with Jesus personal, inviting Him to join us at meals, in our daily living and during some private prayer and fellowship with Jesus, since we might have some extra time on our hands.
  • Present: There was a present moment for Martha and Mary when they were very disappointed in Jesus because He didn’t heal Lazarus and He let Lazarus die.  In that present and grief-filled moment, Martha had an incredible conversation with Jesus about Him being the resurrection.  And Mary had an emotional connection with Jesus, in that grief-filled moment, as they wept together.  Let’s take our cues from Martha and Mary in this season, to call on Jesus, talk with Him and let Him join our emotions and concerns, in this present moment.
  • Future: Let’s anticipate Jesus’ resurrection, because Easter is around the corner, as we celebrate Jesus in this season!  There might seem to be a lot of death and  discouragement happening at the present, but resurrection is in the future!  Let’s keep our faith and confidence in Jesus today, praising, celebrating and welcoming Him into our lives!

Hosanna to Jesus!

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest!

Posted by sarahbowling in busy, choices, concern, coronavirus, COVID-19, decisions, enemies to intimacy, family, fellowship, flu, Genuine love, grow, health, health crisis, healthy, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, ill, illness, listen, living, mental health, pandemic, relationships, seeing Jesus, shelter in place, sickness, spiritual, stay at home, strategies, thought life, uncertainty, values, virus, watch, worry, 0 comments

Health and Sanity Check

Well, the COVID-19 pandemic thing has come to the US and lots of us are required to stay at home for at least a few weeks. Yesterday, we had a family meeting with my three teenage kids to discuss what the stay at home requirement means to us.  As you would expect, the extroverts were a little jittery and the introverts were reflective.

As I type this, I’m concerned for each reader of this blog because you are forced to navigate this abrupt change and I suspect it could be difficult for you for various reasons, such as financial struggles, health challenges, social dynamics, future uncertainty and probably more reasons than I could list.  I also think that we might generally be ok with this stay at home requirement on some days and on other days, it might not be so good.  In order to stay healthy in these weeks, here are some key areas to consider:

  • Mental Hygiene – In Proverbs 23:7, it says, “As a man thinks, so is he.”  To this end, we would be very wise to consider not only what we think about (taking an inventory of our thoughts), but to also be careful about what we watch and listen to, since the stuff we give our minds and emotions is what they will absorb and digest.  To upgrade your mental hygiene in this season, consider memorizing Philippians 4:4-8 for some life-giving nutrition.
  • Rental Hygiene – This is a little similar to mental hygiene, but still important because this is a proactive step we can take, to help us come out of this temporary situation with some good results.  What I mean by rental hygiene, is what we allow to rent space in our soul.  It can be tempting to do some Netflix binging, Star Wars or Lord of the Rings Marathons.  But maybe we could make some constructive decisions for this season, like learning a new skill.  What have you always wanted to learn or explore?  Maybe this is the time to drill down into some YouTube lessons for that skill, hobby, or side interest that you’ve wanted to explore.  Let’s also stay physically active with some situps, pushups or some kind of exercise regime because our bodies of the temple of God, so let’s take care of God’s rental property    Additionally, since we’re in Spring, rental hygiene could also include Spring Cleaning (windows, clutter clearing, refrigerator cleaning, culling through the closet, etc).
  • Dental Hygiene – Let’s remember to floss daily, along with brushing our teeth.  In addition, let’s pay attention to our words, what we say and talk about with neighbors, co-workers, friends and family in this season.  What we say is a good indicator of what’s going on in our heart, emotions and thoughts.  Jesus says this in Luke 6:45c, “’. . . . , for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.’”  To this end, let’s fill our hearts with life, genuine love, hope, truth and more than anything, the Lordship of Jesus.

With the unique opportunity that COVID-19 is giving us, let’s make active choices with our daily routines to grow and come out of this with stronger faith and greater confidence in God’s power and love!

Posted by sarahbowling in busy, COVID-19, dental hygiene, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, YouTube, 6 comments

What Are You Doing???

“What are you doing here?”  This was the question asked by the angel of God to Elijah, as he hid in a cave, gripped with fear, anxiety and uncertainty.  Seems to me that maybe some of us might relate to Elijah, given the recent collection of corona virus (COVID-19) events: shut downs, alarming news, hoarding, toilet paper shortages, contagion and empty shelves at grocery stores.  When we add on the government telling us to keep social distance from anyone, stay home as much as possible and pay attention to your temperature, life can feel a bit apocalyptic.  So maybe we want to hunker down in our home caves and do the Elijah technique, escaping the panic that pervades our society.

To be fair, Elijah’s life was being threatened by the Queen of Israel and she was definitely a formidable and scary person.  So I recognize that I’m not comparing the same stimulating factors for the run and hide behaviors.  Nevertheless, I’m sincerely convinced that we can apply some fantastic and profound takeaways from Elijah’s experience, in 1Kings 19.

In this chapter, while Elijah hid in a cave, he observed lots of tumultuous events outside of his cave: a wind so strong that it broke apart rocks, an earthquake and a fire.  In verses 11-12, it says that God wasn’t in the wind, God wasn’t in the earthquake and God wasn’t in the fire.  But when Elijah heard a small whisper, a gentle blowing, he came to the entrance of the cave to listen to God, Whose first question was, “What are you doing here?”.

Maybe God would ask us the same question in this season, when the world around us seems to be upended and foundations unraveled.

What are we doing?

I’m absolutely a proponent for prudent and wise choices in this turbulent season.  However, I’m not a proponent of panic, fear, anxiety, worry nor apprehension.  Maybe you don’t like the panic or anxiety normal response to this COVID-19 crisis either.  So what can we do, in this unusual time?

First, let’s recognize that we have a unique opportunity given to us, that has never happened to this magnitude in human history.  We get to choose our actions, what we focus on, our attitudes and perceptions.  If we allow the media and gossip around us to be our focal point, then we could be letting our lives overflow with panic, fear, stress and worry.

Second, if we find ourselves “stuck at home” because of a quarantine or government edict to shelter in place, we will likely have some extra time on our hands.  If you’re like me, in the not so distant past, I was bemoaning my lack of time and the hectic pace of my life.  So now that we have more time, what will we do with it?  Let’s be purposeful about this gift of extra time and use it constructively rather than letting the media amplify whatever fears or anxieties we might lean into by not regulating our focus. Here are a few suggestions:

  • do some Spring cleaning, house / apartment projects,
  • read a book that you’ve been wanting to read,
  • do some family games / interactions to take advantage of the extra time together
  • go through your clothes and donate what you don’t wear / what doesn’t fit
  • text your friends and elderly people you know to stay in touch
  • be creative:  write, paint, cook, organize, dance to some fun music 🙂

Finally and most importantly, this crisis affords us an opportunity to snuggle into God, to deepen our intimacy, connection, awareness and strength.  When Elijah heard a gentle whisper, not being distracted by the noisy earthquake, wind or fire (alarming news or corona crisis), he grew in his awareness and recognition of God’s presence, voice and the future that God had for him.  Let’s allow this season to be a richly intimate time and deepen our connection with God!

Posted by sarahbowling in busy, enemies to intimacy, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

Virus Alert!!

It seems to me that much of the world has been taken by storm with the Corona virus.  I say this because of the mass quarantines in several countries, travel restrictions, stock market impact, event cancellations, grocery store raids and the general chit chat on the street with total strangers.  We are wearing masks, buying unfathomable quantities of toilet paper (even though it’s not a digestion virus), scouring our hands and maybe adjusting our work location, as I think about the personal impact this virus is making on our daily living.

To be fair, Corona is highly contagious and way more concerning for older people with health issues than younger people who are healthy with strong immune systems.  So there’s definitely some wisdom in paying attention to our health and being prudent about our interactions.

At the same time, I would suggest that there’s a more lethal virus than Corona spreading throughout the world at lightning speed.  This virus is even more contagious and changes our actions, conversations, attitudes and outlooks.  Furthermore, every human is susceptible to this virus no matter the precautions we take by drinking extra water, avoiding human contact, beefing up our vitamin C intake and regardless of where we live or the access to modern medicine.

This is the fear virus and left unchecked, without observation or awareness, fear can leave us debilitated, lifeless and constrict our lives to hermit existence.  Fear can also distort our perceptions and warp our decisions such that we don’t live out our divine blueprint.

One of the best biblical examples of the mutating and minimizing power of fear can be seen in the life of Saul, the king of Israel that preceded David.  After Saul was anointed by Samuel to be king in 1 Samuel 9, Saul had some initial successes as Israel’s king.  However, in a short time Saul let fear constrict his leadership in ways that prevented him from leading Israel to defeat the Philistines on several occasions, caused him to lie to Samuel and Saul attempted to kill David many times.  When I look at the entirety of Saul’s life and his tragic conclusion, I see a man increasingly controlled by fear which grew to infect every part of his life including his family, leadership and his relationship with God.  Saul died in battle against the Philistines in contrast to Samuel’s initial anointing on Saul to be king and defeat the Philistines.

I would suggest that fear can work in our lives in very insidious ways. When we let insecurity be a deciding factor with decisions, be certain that the fear virus is active in your life.  When we over-achieve to make up for weaknesses or shortfalls, maybe fear has infected our perceptions.  When we refrain from engaging with people (and not just from being more introverted or being super busy), it’s possible that fear is influencing our social interactions.

There are lots of ways that the fear virus infects our decisions, interactions and outlooks.  We can be afraid of failing, getting hurt, making a mistake or poor decision, being rejected and heaps more.  So it’s important to pause, from time to time, and ask Holy Spirit to help us take a fear inventory in our lives, looking at possible decisions that are fear based as well as perceptions that could be fear infected.  Let’s never forget that perfect love casts out fear!  So wherever we sense fear in our lives, let’s nestle into God, Who is perfect love and let God’s love immunize us yet again from the fear virus.

Posted by sarahbowling in busy, enemies to intimacy, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

Changing Lanes

I’ve come to appreciate the mechanics for safely changing lanes all the more now that we’ve been helping our teenage children learn to drive.  It can be really unnerving when they look over their shoulder to check their blindspot and the car follows the turning of their head.  Or it’s nerve rattling to hear tires screeching next to me because maybe someone forgot to use their blinker for the lane change.  It’s also “exhilarating” to experience those impulsive lane changes, when someone doesn’t think through the sequence of safe transitions from one lane to the next.  Sometimes, it’s more than a little tempting to tell my teenager to stay in their lane.

Maybe God has some similar thoughts toward us when we try to drive or live in someone else’s lane.  I say this from my own experience of growing up in the ministry and watching dozens of other kids whose parents are ministry leaders.  Lots of us kids really love Jesus and have a deep and sincere passion to serve Jesus as we walk with Him in a vibrant relationship.

The tricky part can happen when we try to drive in our parent’s lane, employ our parent’s talents and neglect our divine design.  When I think about this challenge, it reminds me of the contrasts between David and Solomon, his son.  Both men were obviously called by God to be the king in Israel.  But the kingship of David looked drastically different from the kingship of Solomon, not only because they were two entirely different people, but also because God gave each of them their own lane for leading.

David’s leadership lane was about consolidating Israel’s political position with it’s neighboring countries.  David also firmly established the worship of Jehovah in Israel and set up the country to be a strong leader and very devoted in it’s worship.

In relation to Solomon’s leadership lane, he facilitated massive economic growth for Israel with some great trade routes for commerce with neighboring countries.  Solomon also built the temple to worship Jehovah, a dream that had been in David’s heart for a long time.

Both men lived in their lanes and flourished in their divine destiny.  From reading about David and Solomon, we can take the lane lesson to heart no matter who are parents are or are not.  Driving in the lane that God has designed for us, living according to God’s unique blueprint for us, is necessary as one of the ways that we honor God.

When we try to be someone else or drive in a lane that’s not congruent with our design, ultimately things don’t go well for us.  Of course we have people that we look up to and of course we’d like to learn lessons from other people’s experiences / driving lanes.  At the same time, let’s be careful to live from the blueprint of God’s design in our lives and drive in the lane that God has designed for us!  Then prepare to live an adventurous and fulfilling life!

Posted by sarahbowling in busy, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

Window Washing

I’ve been thinking about some Spring cleaning around our house and this includes some hefty window washing, which isn’t my favorite cleaning activity.  Nevertheless, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me, as I look out the picture window by my morning quiet time chair, our windows desperately need some cleaning attention.

From my point of view, window washing is double work.  When I look at my smudged and dirty picture window, I see the smudges on the inside as well as the dirt and dust accumulated on the outside from the Winter weather.  This also reminds me about some windshield cleaning that I should work on in my car with the same principle.  I’m frequently using windshield washing fluid to clean the outside of my windshield.  But when I take a towel to wipe down the inside of my windshield, I’m often appalled at how dirty the inside can get, although I’m often unaware of the dirt.

This window cleaning necessity can be a parallel with my soul and how my interior can affect my perspective or point of view.  Jesus gives a perfect illustration of this challenge in John 8:1-12, when the Jewish leaders brought Him a woman caught in adultery.  They interrupted Jesus’ teaching in the temple by throwing this woman at Him, shaming and accusing her, demanding that Jesus answer the Mosaic Law, which required that she be stoned for her sinful behavior.  These Jewish leaders were publicly exposing the dirt on this woman (but not the man who had participated in her adultery).

Jesus’ quiet reply to these leaders was a loud depth charge, requiring them to assess their own souls. “He who is without sin can throw the first stone.”  With these few words, Jesus confronted the interior dirt in the souls of these leaders.  In essence, Jesus was requiring the accusing men to take an inventory of their souls before they could externally throw rocks at this “dirty” woman.  In Jesus’ reply to the woman, after the leaders had walked away from recognizing the dirt in their souls, He said that He didn’t accuse her and that she could go free and stop sinning.

This exchange between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery, along with her accusers, has caused me to think about my soul and how I see people around me.  For example, I was playing pickleball at a public rec center and found myself thinking critical and judgmental thoughts about some of the players.  I was thinking about how some of them are mean, snooty, aggressive and even hostile.  Suddenly, I felt Holy Spirit confront me with the question:  Is your point of view distorted or dirty because of what’s in your soul, or are these players really as bad or evil as you think?  This question has been echoing in my soul and helping me question the clarity of my perspective.

It seems to me that Jesus is the only “human” who has lived with clear and truthful perspective and He sees us through the lens of genuine love, because Jesus is love.  So if I want my perspective to be clear, clean from the dirt of accusation, deception, condemnation and fear, I need Holy Spirit to help me walk together in truth (because Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth) and I can ask Holy Spirit to pour into my soul genuine love (Romans 5:5), so I can see people around me accurately through the lens of love.

Window cleaning is reminding me that my soul need love cleaning, to wash off the dirt that my humanity can accumulate, unknowingly from listening to the enemy whisper lies and accusations.  Here’s to window and soul washing!

Posted by sarahbowling in busy, enemies to intimacy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, seeing Jesus, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 1 comment

Walking and Talking

I revel in the experiences with God that have lots supernatural experience, demonstration and high octane impact!  It’s phenomenal when God does supernatural things like healing someone, giving a precise word of encouragement or insight, providing a supernatural funding or a colossal coincidence that could only be orchestrated by God.  I love these kinds of supernatural engagements and experiencing God’s fingerprints in our human existence!

At the same time, there’s much to be said for what could seem mundane in the simple walking with God.  I’m thinking about this in relation to my day yesterday that had some interesting walking in it.  When I think back over the walking I did yesterday, it had some very helpful experiences:

  • Destination – I walked a lot to get to various places like showing up for interviews, meeting with people, getting lunch, catching airplanes to get home and walking to my car in the snow. Let’s appreciate that walking with God is the incremental progress we experience with God, as we walk out God’s purposes and blueprint in our lives, one step and one day at a time.  Walking with God can lead us through all kinds of environments and encounters
  • Supernatural – in the midst of walking yesterday, I bumped into a guy whom I’ve never met and he proceeded to speak to me from God, telling me things that I’d only talked about in my solo quiet time with God. It was a really powerful experience for me, in the midst of walking to my next appointment.  I’m very grateful that God does supernatural stuff in the midst of what can seem mundane.
  • Communication – there’s much to be said for walking and talking, which I’ve found to be one of the best contexts for dialoguing with God. Indeed, when I was growing up, we used to sing a hymn with these words, “And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own, . . .”  As I age, I find these words to resonate in my soul as a counter-point to the cacophony of noise and activities that try to overflow the divine limits in 24 hour increments.  There is much value for walking and talking with God throughout each day!
  • Heat – it was snowing and cold yesterday when I was waiting to catch the bus from the airport back to my car. The longer I stood in line, immobile, the colder I became.  So I decided to pace up and down the sidewalk as I waited for the bus, keeping warmer than standing still and turning into an icicle.  In a similar way, I think walking with God can keep us warm, active, compassionate and agile.  When we aren’t moving with God, maybe we can get cold, rigid and dull.

When we think about walking, it can seem to be something dull and easy to overlook.  However, let’s remember that walking and talking with God in our day to day living is a really powerful way to grow in knowing God better and more deeply!  Let’s keep walking and talking  🙂

Posted by sarahbowling in busy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, values, watch, 0 comments

What Is Love?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Do you remember the Valentine’s Day parties in Elementary school?  I’m not sure why, but these parties stand out in my memory, not only for the candy or sugar hearts or oversweet punch, but for the cards and feelings that ranged from warm fuzzies to disappointment or indifference.  I also enjoyed getting the themed variety mini-valentine cards that I’d carefully select to be friendly and lite, but not too sappy.  I figured if I wanted to add any emotional content I could sign, “Love Sarah” and not just “Sarah.”   Of course I had classmates who were very emotional and they always signed, “Love _________.”

I always wondered what these classmates meant when they signed Love with their name.  Did they mean that they loved me?  Did they mean that they loved everyone?  Did they mean that they had warm and fuzzy feelings?  Did they sign love with their name because that’s what they thought they were supposed to do on Valentine’s Day?  And why sign your name with “Love” if you don’t mean it?  Clearly, I had a lot of thoughts about the “love” stuff and felt that this word had an immense amount of weight and importance to it.  Consequently, I was very careful about using the “love” word.

I still feel strongly about this word, regardless of it’s popular usage on Valentine’s Day or how it can be casually used for stuff like chocolate, Chuck Taylor shoes, coffee / tea, reading, Chris Pratt, flowers, NCAA basketball, fireplaces, beaches, Chik Filet, fast cars, etc.  I’m also not overly enamored with the general celebration of Valentine’s Day constricted to merely a romantic perspective of love.  Indeed, this holiday is named after a Christian priest in the 3rd century who was martyred for his devotion to Jesus.

So if Valentine’s Day is when we celebrate love, it seems appropriate to ask, “What is Love?”  I’d propose that Genuine Love is Who God is, based on 1 John 4:8 and Genuine Love is the core motive in God’s choices, priorities, actions and outlook.  To that end, God’s essential mindset toward you is grounded in love, full stop.  This says to us that the original and most accurate love story is experienced in God loving you.

So here are some interesting questions for you to consider for Valentine’s Day:  Do you let God love you?  Do you hide from Genuine Love or see yourself as disqualified or unworthy?  Do you believe that you deserve for God to love you because you’re good or because of your successes and achievements or because you haven’t screwed up too much?

Maybe Valentine’s Day is when we allow God to fully be Genuine Love to us, not allowing ourselves to receive calibrated love by our actions or “goodness.”  This reminds me of what Paul says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

So let’s choose to celebrate Genuine Love on Valentine’s Day!  You are deeply loved and treasured!!

Posted by sarahbowling in fellowship, Genuine love, grow, listen, living, relationships, seeing Jesus, spiritual, thought life, values, watch, 0 comments

Unconditional Conditions

Happy Superbowl Victory to the Chiefs!  I wanted to add my congratulations for a great game!

On another subject that’s not quite as celebratory, I have some friends who have pre-existing physical maladies, that make it difficult and even impossible for them to get health insurance.  It’s extremely challenging and discouraging to them for lots of reasons, like managing the day to day health struggles, getting healthcare that’s helpful and say nothing of figuring out possible remedies or cures, along with proper diagnosis, etc.  The health insurance system in America is fraught with dysfunction, loopholes, service gaps, frustrating policies, endless bureaucracy and enough paperwork to choke a horse (since horses eat so much paperwork).

Ultimately, I’m a very simple-minded person when It comes to health care.  If I’m sick and I need medical attention, I want informed care so I can get better.  And it’s true that I have lots of pre-existing conditions that could include mental deficiencies, forgetting to take my vitamins, some residue from previous injuries and bad eating decisions during international travel that can make my digestion and adventure from time to time.

I think the same is true for each of us in relation to God’s unconditional love for us.  We each have pre-existing conditions that could disqualify us from receiving horizontal love in human expression and confines.  But God’s love for each of us is unconditional and we don’t have pre-existing conditions that disqualify us from God loving us.  There can be physical conditions that a health insurance company or doctor won’t treat.  But there’s no human condition that God won’t love, for the simple and profound truth that God is love.  You can’t have a pre-exisiting condition that will exempt nor exclude you from God loving you.  While it’s possible that we might agree with knowing that God loves us, but living in this reality might be a totally different life.

When I think about this for myself, if I was convinced of God’s love for me, infused into my very essence with God’s love, perhaps some things would be different.  Maybe I would have a different outlook on life, maybe my words and attitudes would have more grace, forgiveness and patience, maybe I would be more generous and maybe compassion would be more instinctual rather than purposeful and conscientious.  Possibly the most soothing reality of living in total certainty of God loving me is being still with and receptive to God’s presence, without condition, qualification, calibration, breathless activity or wearisome striving.

For me to live out genuine love in my daily horizontal existence, it’s very helpful, even essential, to continually come back to God loving me for my default existence.  Neither you nor I have pre-existing conditions that will ever exclude us from God’s love, based on Romans 8:35 which says that nothing separates us from God’s love!  When I think in this way, it helps me lavishly live love, unlimited and unconstrained!  Let’s not let our pre-existing conditions be hindrances for unconditional love since this is Who God is – Genuine Love!!  We can see examples of this in Jesus’ interactions with the Samaritan Woman at the well in John 4, the woman caught in adultery in John 8, Zaccheaus the tax collector in Luke 19 and lots more!

 

 

 

Posted by sarahbowling in busy, enemies to intimacy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, listen, living, prayer, relationships, thought life, uncertainty, values, 1 comment

Next Level Spirituality

I hear lots of talk about going to the next level in a variety of contexts, such as: exercise, cooking techniques, snowboarding proficiency, work commitments, teenage adventures, etc.  It seems to me that when people use this terminology, it’s to emphasize an improvement,  increase intensity or make something more extreme.

So what could going to the next level look like with spirituality?  Maybe “next level spirituality” first requires an honest assessment of our current level.  Who am I now?  What are my present comfort zones?  What do I naturally gravitate to?  It’s hard to go to the next level if we don’t even know what our current level is.

This makes me think about the first time Jesus met Peter, in Luke 5, when Peter was mending his net after a discouraging night of fruitless fishing.  While Peter was net mending, Jesus borrowed Peter’s boat & preached to a big crowd.  When Jesus finished, He told Peter to put his boat out to catch fish, which Peter did & caught a boatload of fish!!  I think Peter recognized a stark contrast between Jesus’ teaching & his own spirituality because of how he replied to Jesus after the miracle catch of fish.  Peter said to Jesus, “Away from me, for I’m a sinful man.”  And I love that Jesus invited Peter to the next level of spirituality, by answering, “Follow Me & I’ll make you a fisher of men!”

Peter responded to Jesus’ invitation by dropping his net, leaving his boat & following Jesus for almost three years.  I’d venture to say that Peter’s spirituality went into hyper-drive, getting to spend 24/7 with Jesus for these years.  In Peter’s next level spirituality, he had some incredible experiences like walking on water, distributing miracle provision bread & fish, seeing innumerable healings, along with some resurrections and heaps more.  At the same time, Peter’s next level spirituality also included some defeats, such as arguing with Jesus about denying Him, sinking into the water when he was distracted by the winds & waves, falling asleep in Gethsemane when Jesus most needed him, along with cutting of a servants ear when Jesus was arrested.

But I would suggest that the best way we can evaluate our spirituality and go to the next level is seen in Jesus’ conversation with Peter, in John 21, after His resurrection.  This conversation happened within a few days of Peter vehemently denying Jesus, Peter failing to keep watch with Jesus in Gethsemane because of being sleepy & after he cut off somebody’s ear.  Shortly after these failures, Jesus shows up on the shore of Galiee.  When Peter knows it’s Jesus, he  throws himself into this sea, so he can swim to Jesus, who is waiting on the shore with a toasty fire, fresh cooked fish and bread, a ready breakfast for hungry fishermen.  The subsequent  conversation that occurred between Jesus & Peter was all about genuine love.  And in my thinking, the highest level of spirituality is rooted in living genuine love.  I say this because of Jesus’ words in John 13:35, “People will know that you follow Me by your love for one another.”

Let’s be careful to appreciate that miracles are cool, character is vital, but genuine love is essential for next level spirituality.

Posted by sarahbowling in fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, seeing Jesus, spiritual, thought life, travel, values, watch, 0 comments
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