This is not the post I had planned for today.
I find myself at the keyboard much later than usual, as just after 9:30 pm last night-Wednesday 23 February, my time – already the next day, 5:30 am Thursday in Kyiv, as we saw the first disturbing reporting of an apparent attack possibly leading to a full scale invasion in the Ukrainian capital.
For weeks we have been hearing of and preparing for an imminent invasion by Russian forces. While I have spent most of my professional life in Journalism, especially “hard” news reporting and investigations, it’s not my purpose here to delve into the politics or history.
My only thought is for the people. The impacts on those, not only in the Ukraine but truly world wide. With NATO and the US potentially becoming involved plus who knows at this point what this could be a precursor for, we will all be touched by these developing situations.
The important thing to remember is we are not powerless.
We can have an impact, a positive effect because what the world needs now is truly prayer.
This is my call to each and everyone of you to pray. Pray for those in the region. Pray for those being sent to battle and most of all pray for peace.
So as I encourage you all to pray, on this edition of “Becoming Today” I want to share my personal approach to prayer.
In the Bible we are taught that prayer is an evolving, ever changing, developing, growing means of interacting with God. Most often it is done through a spontaneous, individual, unorganized form of petitioning and/or giving thanks.
For many they hope that it is always simply ask and you shall receive. I’m sure you’ve had those moments. I know I have. You pray and instantly a voice gives you the answer you’re looking for!
Entirely possible at times, however I find prayer to be a more involved process and I need all the help I can get on how to pray more effectively.
Psalm 86 gives us an insightful lesson on prayer. It is the sincere, honest, truthful cry of a man of God in a desperate situation reaching out to the God whom he knew well, having grown in his personal relationship with the Lord.
Over the course of the 17 verses, David makes 15 requests and highlights them with a strong sense of urgency.
The prayer can be analyzed in four sections. Beginning with verse one,
“Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy”.
And continuing through verse seven, David is crying out, expressing his need for God to hear and act on his behalf.
Then in verses 8-10, he intentionally proclaims a statement of praise,
“Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;no deeds can compare with yours.
All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.
For you are great and do marvelous deeds; You alone are God”.
Then in verses 11-13 David returns to petitioning, asking God to teach him His ways.In return for which, in verse 12, David makes a covenant, “I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever”.
Then in the final verses, while facing great danger, “ruthless people are trying to kill me,” David states his firmly held belief that the Lord will protect and deliver him,
“Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant;
save me, because I serve you just as my mother did.
Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me”. Psalm 86:16-17
I hope this outline of how David prayed can be useful to you. Now that we have a shared understanding of how prayer can be effective, let’s explore six points of gratitude that I use in my daily prayers.
I should also mention I pray in many different forms. Silently, aloud, sometimes very loud and in writing. My diary is full of petitions, intercessions and notes of thanksgiving to the Lord.
While what we pray for and /or should pray for changes continually; both verbally as well as through pen and ink I find it important and rewarding to thank God continually for his assistance and gifts. I often focus on the following six key aspects.
Let’s examine each of these areas a bit.
More than likely not only a bold word, Love is the strongest of all positive emotions.It is even more empowered when the love is given to us from the One who created it all.
The word “love” is mentioned on almost every page of the English Bible. Depending upon the translation you can find the topic addressed multiple times for good reason. When something is important it bears repeating.
So let’s examine and ponder these numbers for a moment:
In the King James Version, love is mentioned 310 times.
In the New American Standard Version, love is discussed 348 times.
In the New Revised Standard Version, there are 538 instances of the word
And “love” In the New International Version, is discussed 551 times.
As we can read in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5(NIV),
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
Love is indeed patient and kind. In the Scriptures, love is what unites people. Brings groups together against hate and dishonesty.It is what enables forgiveness and restores confidence.
The love of God is ours, unconditionally. Meaning we don’t have to earn it. There is no price for accepting it and there are great rewards in choosing to receive it.
I ask you to choose to accept this understanding that I have developed:
“Becoming compassionate is accepting the conscious process of showing kindness and sharing empathy with others, so that we may then decide to assist all those we can.”
In sharing compassion we do show kindness and empathy towards others (and hopefully ourselves) though empathy is used to describe a whole range of emotions. The primary difference is empathy is when you can accept the emotions of another in a given situation, while compassion also includes the desire to take action to aid the individual.
A widely stated adage expresses,
“A single act of compassion can change a person’s life forever.” Making it a very Becoming quality. When that compassion is shared with us by our Heavenly Father the results are almost indescribable.
I know this was a movie title, and if you reflect upon it, in that film, Robert Duvall’s character of Mac Sledge was given more than a second chance, he was granted new life from the Tender Mercies bestowed upon him by God. After he was willing to see and accept them.
As I defined in our talks about the 8 Points of Light, “Mercy is a blessing. A gift of compassion in unfortunate circumstances or troubling times.”
It is something we’d each like to have for ourselves and just as with our other points we can only be granted this blessing if we are willing to and actively giving it to others..
In the Scriptures, Jesus instructs His Disciples: “ I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
A foundation for the belief that mercy comes in the personal relationship Jesus promises to all of us. That is a relationship based upon forgiveness, love, reconciliation and truth. That’s why some theologians share that Jesus Christ can be considered the face of God’s mercy, as it’s very essence is personified in His works of healing, forgiving and welcoming all.
Mercy matters because we all need forgiveness. Mercy can be readily available as long as we are willing to accept it.
Time and time again, I have given testimony to things working out at the very moment I needed it the most. More often than not, circumstances have improved, beyond what I had previously limited myself to expecting, or at times even hoping for.
After a while I could no longer be in denial of it. Despite a battle of impatience, if I continue in faith and trust, at the very least my needs, hopes and dreams are delivered – often exceeding beyond what I had prayed for.
When becoming the recipient of mercy, it is freeing. Allowing us to continue advancing along our shared path of “Becoming Today”.
Mercy and compassion are often braided together.. Mercy is a gift given to one who is suffering by someone whose actions are motivated by compassion.
Many times acts of mercy are not huge moments. They are not flamboyant gestures, rather, they are simple acts of kindness intended to treat another or yourself gently, from a loving place.
There are probably as many different examples of mercy as there are humans.
We are all unique, no two exactly identical. Mercifully accept this and you are developing, learning, growing and most of all “Becoming”.
As the hymn reminds us, “Amazing grace, How sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found,Was blind, but now I see”.
A simple definition is that Grace is a gift from God.
Building from there we need to add that it is a gift in the purest sense. One we do not deserve and is not earned. We simply are eligible to receive it because of God’s unconditional love for us.
Grace involves love and mercy given to others even when it is undeserved. This applies to both the Grace we receive from our Heavenly Father and the grace we need to have and share with one another.
Grace is quite easily understood and yet wonderfully perfect in its complexity; defined in our purposes as “the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it”.
The simplest definition I have ever embraced on this topic is “God’s unmerited favor”.
Sounds wonderful, and when you have received God’s gift of Grace in your life, believe me as I testify, it feels even better.
Pastor Rick Warren also notes, “The Bible gives an easy, three-word answer for how you receive the grace of God: “by trusting Christ”.
Easy right? Powerful? Abundantly and amazingly so.
So how do you receive the grace of God? Accept it. Acknowledge it. Live it.
Freedom through Forgiveness
Forgiveness is something that for many people is easier said than done. For me it was especially hard to learn how to forgive myself.
To fully forgive involves allowing ourselves to let go, To actively and consciously release the need to hold on to past baggage, old quarrels, unfinished business or the need to get even.
You can not create a state of “Becoming”, if you aren’t willing to let the former or current realities go.This is a vital part of “Becoming”. Not only forgiving others for perceived wrongs, and asking for forgiveness from those you may have hurt but also forgiving yourself.
It is then, and only then, that you can let go of anger, guilt, shame, or any other feeling limiting your growth. Let it go. Face forward, look upward and then you can get busy moving on.
To let go of past hurts, you need to make the conscious decision to take control of the situation. However, this can take time and practice. Be kind to yourself as you practice self care and love.
Then you can say good-bye to anger, guilt, shame, or any other feeling limiting your growth. Let it go. Face forward, look upward and you get busy moving on.
That is where you find your Freedom through Forgiveness. From God. For He has forgiven us at the moment we needed it. Whether we realized it or not. It’s up to us to accept that truth. God has forgiven us, freeing us to forgive ourselves and others.
In terms of self-forgiveness we must not get stuck in the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” mentality.
Hanging onto what should have happened, what could have happened, or what you wished would have happened, give yourself motivation to get over it. Release it and heal. Or keep a grip on it and be paralyzed; immobilized by feelings of pain and bad memories.
Eternal salvation is an undeniable cornerstone of the Christian faith.
To be free to be forgiven, absolved of our sins ( with true repentance) and granted everlasting life ( in Heaven), is something that while none of us are truly worthy we are blessed to receive by accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Ever since Adam and Eve chose to eat that forbidden apple, this world has been filled with disobedience and temptation, attempting to move us further away from God.
Fortunately though as taught in Romans 8:1 we have the freewill to overcome it all, “ Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.
Because of His unconditional love for us, God sent His only begotten Son to die in our place. HIs suffering and pain freed mankind from the wrath that we had earned. The only thing we must do is repent putting our faith and trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Salvation in Christianity is also discussed as deliverance or redemption, is the saving of human beings from death and separation from God by Christ’s death and resurrection.
It not only concerns the atonement itself, but also answers the questions as to how one can choose to actively participate in this salvation. That is by faith, baptism, or obedience. Depending upon which denomination may be involved there can be differing definitions of sin, justification, and atonement.
Those are lessons we must undertake individually and make our own choices concerning, even along our shared journey.
While salvation is granted as a gift from God, it is not received by everyone. Only those who choose to accept it. Many times people will mistakenly believe that being a “good person” is enough to secure their place in heaven. However, by the standards of God, no one is “good”, by the definition. We must learn to reject our prideful nature and confess our righteousness.
I do often, well try to do all the time, end my even most informal prayers with, “in Jesus’s name-Amen!” To me it is soothing, giving gratitude and praise where it belongs and I believe it to be empowering. Not only for myself, but also of the ability to have my prayers heard.
An interesting quote I recall about this comes from the Tyler Perry character of Madea. In one of his movies, the character is talking to a teenage girl about how to pray. While a comedy even the misstatements can be enlightening.
As Madea talks about Noah coming along on the St. Louis Arch to rescue Peter who took his eyes off Christ while walking on the water because he was distracted by Jonah floating by in the belly of the whale, she does tell the girl,
Hmm.. it’s like a postage stamp. You slap it on there to make sure it gets delivered.
Sounds like good practice to me, so I always affix my forever stamp in the upper right corner and send it priority in Jesus’ name, Amen!