Archives for posts with tag: faith

Garth Brooks is the  best selling solo albums artist in the United States, ahead of Elvis Presley, and is second only to the Beatles in total album sales overall. He is also one of the world’s best selling artists of all time, having sold more than 170 million records.

In one of Brooks’ songs, The Dance, he reflects on a failed romantic relationship. One moment “all the world was right” and then it was over. Dancing underneath the stars he remembers feeling that “Holding you I held everything.” He felt like a king but then the king would fall.

In spite of this negative experience he does not bemoan the fact of failure. Instead he suggests that although it was painful, he was glad he “didn’t know the way it all would end, the way it all would go” because if he had missed the pain he would have also missed the dance.

I have heard it said that there is no gain without some pain. Most often this comment is related to physical fitness. The premise is that the harder you work your muscles the greater the reward will be. The principle also points to a spiritual lesson. In the 2nd Century Rabbi Ben Hei Hei said “According to the pain is the gain.” The suggestion is that spiritual growth (gain) is accomplished by enduring the “pain” of doing God’s will rather than following one’s own desires.

The message is simple but not easily achieved. In Psychology Today, Romeo Vitelli says that there are three primary factors to what he calls psychological resilience- the ability to survive and grow from difficult circumstances. The first of these is self-regulation (control), or the ability to control impulses, manage difficult emotions, and being able to carry on despite setbacks.

Vitelli goes on to say that it is very helpful in dealing with traumatic life events or emotional distress if a person also has supportive relationships of family and friends.

The third component to overcoming traumatic experiences, Vitelli calls “meaning-making.” By this he is referring to the ability to understand and to explain what someone is experiencing.

I agree with Dr. Vitelli that all three of these components are essential for healthy response and survival of difficult and traumatic experiences. But I would add that he has missed an important element, especially in what he calls “mean-making”- faith in God.

While humans are incredible creatures endowed with remarkable abilities, we are all fallible beings. It has been said that into every life some rain must fall but how we respond to circumstances determines whether we gain or lose from that experience. Heredity, environment and many other factors impact every person. Our ability to cope is impacted by a multitude of things but there is one promise that is equally accessible.

Jesus said, “trust in me and you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world” (John 16:33, The Message).

Jamie Jenkins

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When a friend of mine is driving he will ask his passengers, “If you were going to (wherever they are going), which way would you go?” This is a wise decision since he has a poor sense of direction.

It’s alright to ask for assistance when driving. After all, isn’t that what we are doing when we enter a destination into our GPS? It’s another thing when the advice is unsolicited.  Like “You should be in the lane to the right.” Or, “The light is about to change.” Or, “Better slow down, you’re going to get a ticket.” You know the kind. Nobody likes backseat drivers.

I wonder if God feels the same about people who offer advice and instruction to the Almighty. The Creator offers direction but it is questioned. An alternative is offered but a “better” way is suggested.

Humans are created with the ability to make choices- to think for themselves- but we are finite beings who cannot always see clearly. Our vision is limited but God sees all things from beginning to end. Nevertheless we often offer God advice on what is best for us. In effect, we are backseat drivers on the road of life. We want God to be in the driver’s seat but we feel out of control and so we second guess God’s ability to guide us in the right direction.

I am willing to allow God to be in the driver’s seat but I seem to assume the right to be a backseat driver. To question God’s knowledge and wisdom. To doubt that God knows what is best for me. Joyce Meyer says, “Trusting God is simply believing that He loves you and knowing He’s good, He has the power to help you, and He wants to help you.”

I want to do what God wants me to do, how God wants me to do it, and when God wants me to do it. I believe that God knows and cares about all of the circumstances of my life. I don’t really want to be a contrarian- but often I am. I seek to live like a Child of God and to conduct myself in a manner that honors God but I find it difficult not to be a backseat driver.

The psalmist said, “(God), You will show me the path that leads to life; your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure forever” (Psalm 16:11, GNT).

I agree with the psalmist. I know it is true! But I guess I am like the man who said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). With that confession, my prayer and hope is reflected in the hymn by Joseph Gilmore.

Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful foll’wer I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.

Jamie Jenkins

Why is my life filled with so much pain and struggle? What have I done wrong to deserve this? If I just had enough faith, this would not have happened! These and other comments reflect a misunderstanding of faith and life.

There are people who believe that faith in God will prevent tragedy and adversity. They espouse the understanding that God watches over God’s people and will shield them from all harm. They have scripture on their side and they quote verses like 2 Samuel 22:3 “My God is my rock—I take refuge in him!— he’s my shield and my salvation’s strength, my place of safety and my shelter.” Or “God is a shield for all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30).

There are many more similar expressions of confidence that God looks out for God’s own- and I believe them too. But we have to consider the whole of the Bible and not just select verses.

The Bible contains many strong assertions that God will protect and prevent people of faith from suffering disaster. There are many examples where that is dramatically demonstrated and the faith of God’s followers is affirmed. Stories in the Bible and history contain details of people who trusted God and were spared. The Hebrew Children is an excellent example. King Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into a fiery furnace but they were rescued without even the hair on their head being burned.

Trust God and everything will be alright! But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood the possibility that they would not be spared. With that awareness they said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us… But even if he does not…we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

The story of Job is an interesting one. In spite of the fact that he had lost many of the things that were important, he refused to stop trusting God. He said, “Even if God killed me, I’d keep on hoping.” What about the Apostle Paul. It has been said that he is second only to Jesus as the most important person in the origins of Christianity and he certainly did not have an easy life.

Ok, so faith does not always prevent adversity but God will deliver those who put their trust in Him. Right? Yes but perhaps not exactly as we would wish.

Chapter 11 of The Book of Hebrews chronicles the exploits of many “heroes of faith.” Their mighty and miraculous deeds are listed and the writer suggests there are too many such people and stories to mention them all. But the record shows that there were others who were tortured, imprisoned, stoned, and persecuted in ways too horrible to mention. “Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised” (Heb. 11:39-40 MSG).

“When disaster strikes, or calamity becomes the norm, there is no human logic that can explain all of the questions, ‘Why?’  There are things that, quite frankly, seem to make no sense at all.  Much of our human suffering appears arbitrary and senseless…One day every person faces eternity through death; better to believe in God through His son Jesus, and at least have the assurance of eternal life.  The trials of this life are temporary, even though they may seem to drag on forever.  Faith becomes the reality and evidence of what eternity will one day make vivid and real.”**

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “ For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, NRSV).

It is important to maintain faith in a loving and powerful God Almighty. To believe that all things are possible if you believe. At the same time one must realize that faith does not guarantee a victorious outcome in this earthly life. The words to a song by Mercy Me captures what I am trying to say.

I know You’re able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand. But even if You don’t my hope is You alone.

They say it only takes a little faith to move a mountain. Good thing. A little faith is all I have right now. But God, when You choose To leave mountains unmovable give me the strength to be able to sing it is well with my soul.”

Regardless of circumstances the important thing is to come to the end of this earthly journey and be able to say, “I have finished my course. I have fought a good fight. I have kept the faith.” Then you can be assured that you will receive God’s approval and the prize will be worth the journey (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Jamie Jenkins
*”Even If” by MercyMe- writers: Bart Millard, Ben Glover, Crystal Lewis, David Garcia, Tim Timmons

**Why Should I Believe In A God Who Doesn’t Seem To Help? by Craig Blumel

 

 

 

I drive the streets and highways around Atlanta with hardly a thought about being feet- sometime inches- away from several thousand pound vehicles traveling at a very high speed. Even when I walk on the sidewalks near my home I am virtually oblivious to the fact that automobiles are flying past without notice. The slightest turn of the steering wheel or a momentary distraction could be deadly. Without even thinking about it I am trusting my life to unknown people. Is this faith or insanity?

Hundreds of years ago men and women, along with their families, braved the dangerous open seas making their way to the New World. Many of them were seeking freedom from oppression or poverty. They believed America would offer them the opportunity for a better life. Many modern day migrants follow a similar path. What motivated them to pursue such a remote possibility? Was it faith or insanity?

Westward Expansion in “the 19th Century offered people (of the United States) the opportunity to find new homes and work, to experience adventure, to explore possibilities, to become rich, to find gold or silver, to escape from the constraints of civilization and to make a new start. Americans were motivated to move west for a whole variety of practical reasons (and) they were inspired by the belief that the Manifest Destiny of the United States was God’s will (*).”

Was it faith or insanity?

In ancient times Moses accepted the task of leading millions of Israelites from the captivity in Egypt. They had minimal resources and the journey presented monumental challenges. The early followers of Jesus were persecuted beyond our understanding but they remained true to the beliefs and bravely spread the Good News. Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley and countless other were passionate in their efforts for religious renewal. What motivated these people? Was it faith or insanity?

Faith or insanity? Sometimes they seem so similar. One writer said that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV). One translation puts it this way: “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (NIV). Some would say that faith is just a synonym for blind optimism, naivete, or wishful thinking. 

One definition of insanity is “something utterly foolish or unreasonable.” Another dictionary defines insanity as “extreme foolishness; folly; senselessness; foolhardiness.” For some people those terms also describe faith.

An individual once told me that I was a “realistic optimist.” I am not sure what that means but if it suggests that I acknowledge what is but believe that it can be better, then I agree. That is an appropriate description of who I am. And that is a good definition of faith. I believe that faith requires you to see things as they are. Sometimes you have to recognize that “it is what it is.” Denial of reality is really insanity. Faith faces unpleasant and difficult circumstances and situations as they are but believes and works to make them better.

If people act boldly because of their faith, they will often be called crazy. But there are a lot of behaviors and thought patterns that can legitimately earn you that label. So, why not live by faith and not by sight?

Jamie jenkins

* http://www.american-historama.org/1841-1850-westward-expansion/westward-expansion.htm

 

 

 

 

Sam and Susan are folks you might never have known if it was not for two of their children. They lived in a small town and although they both were well educated neither of them were in high profile positions of leadership.

Sam’s career path was certainly not one that many would count successful. He spent over 40 years in a rather non-descript place. Many of the folks he worked with and for did not like him. Some of them even burned his house down- not once but twice. One of his associates had him thrown into jail because he could not immediately pay a debt. This was one of two times he spent in jail due to his poor financial status. Lack of money was a perpetual problem.

It could be easily argued that Susan was more gifted than her husband but there was no attempt to upstage or overshadow him. She gave birth to nineteen children but nine of them died as infants. Her primary role was to focus her attention on her children. She was the primary source of her children’s education and ultimately the prominent force in shaping their lives.

Sam was also a poet but never achieved any real fame or success as a writer. One account suggests that Sam “spent his whole life and all of the family’s finances” on one literary work that “was not remembered and had little impact on his family other than as a hardship.” In contrast, Susan’s writings were foundational to her children’s education.

Susan devoted several hours every day to her children’s education. She was a commanding presence and a profound influence in their lives. Sam failed to provide financial security for his family but his life was a demonstration of perseverance- holding on when suffering, tragedy and opposition came.

In different ways Sam and Susan profoundly impacted their children. Their influence can be seen especially in two of their boys, John and Charles, the founders of the Methodist Movement that changed the course of history in 18th century England and is a continuing spiritual force in the world today.

Stained glass windows depicting John and Charles Wesley.

Because of the impact of the Wesley brothers, the world knows Samuel and Susanna Wesley. In his book, Revival: Faith as Wesley Lived It, Adam Hamilton says that the boys learned a lesson from their father that would be essential to their future work by his example that “when suffering, tragedy, and opposition come, don’t turn away; turn to God. And don’t give up.” As for their mother, Hamilton says: “Susanna Wesley changed the world by shaping the heart and faith of her children and by her wise counsel and persistent prayers and encouragement.”

I suspect that Samuel and Susanna had no idea of the impact they were having on their children. There was no way they could have seen the effect of their teaching and example on their lives. They were just doing what good parents are supposed to do- live before their kids a life of faith and integrity and leave the results to God. The role of parents has never been easy but has always been important- and never more so than today.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

 

 

ADVENTURE 1

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Life is full of starts and stops. Ups and downs. Cycles. But I believe that people of faith ought to always see life as an adventure.

Long ago God called Abram to pick up and leave everything that was familiar and journey to a place that he did not know (Genesis 12). Although Abram did not know the destination, God assured him of guidance to the “land that I will show you.”

It was not necessary for Abram to know the end from the beginning. God knew the way.

Along the way Abram and his entourage encountered some difficult circumstances but the promise of God was that blessings would be the reward for faithful obedience. As they traveled on their divinely directed journey we are told that “the Canaanites were in the land” (Gen. 12:6) and they lived in “great cities walled up to the sky.” The Canaan Convention and Visitors Bureau was not very hospitable. But Abram continued to follow God’s direction.

It is irrational to believe that all of life will be smooth sailing- even for people who follow God’s leading. We mistakenly think that the absence of struggle and challenge is a good thing. In fact the opposite is true. Adversity is not our enemy; it is often our good friend strengthening us for the journey.

 

In 1962, Victor and Mildred Goertzel published a revealing study of 413 “famous and exceptionally gifted people” called Cradles of Eminence. They spent years attempting to understand what produced such greatness, what common thread might run through all of these outstanding people’s lives. Surprisingly, the most outstanding fact was that virtually all of them, 392, had to overcome very difficult obstacles in order to become who they were.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Malcolm Muggeridge said, “Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.”

It seems to me that the key is to be on the path that God has planned for us. If we are, we will be equal to every test and able to overcome any obstacle. As we journey with God we will learn, as Abram did, that God will bless us and make us a blessing to others.

Jamie Jenkins

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On this first day of the New Year the words of the following hymn, written by Brian Wren, gives good guidance.

This Is A Day Of New Beginnings

 This is a day of new beginnings,
time to remember and move on,
time to believe what love is bringing,
laying to rest the pain that’s gone.

For by the life and death of Jesus,
love’s mighty Spirit, now as then,
can make for us a world of difference,
as faith and hope are born again.

Then let us, with the Spirit’s daring,
step from the past and leave behind
our disappointment, guilt, and grieving,
seeking new paths, and sure to find.

Christ is alive, and goes before us
to show and share what love can do.
This is a day of new beginnings;
our God is making all things new.

-Brian Wren, 1978

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I pray that God will bless and guide you throughout the coming year.

Jamie Jenkins

 

The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person” but the word is often used in ways that has caused the real meaning to be lost. Rather than an expression of affection, the word is commonly used to indicate taste or enjoyment or as a synonym for lust and passion.

I love ice cream. I love my new car. I love the Atlanta Braves- even when they lose. I love spring time. I love to travel. These and other uses of the word love has diminished its significance.

Jesus said that love was the one undeniable characteristic of persons who would follow him. He said, “This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:35, The Message)

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OK, so we are to love one another but what does that mean? What is “love?” An extensive definition is given in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth (I Corinthians 13). He presents a long list of the qualities and characteristics of love. He sets an extremely high bar when he says that love is more powerful than faith or hope.

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Among other things, I have come to understand that one significant characteristic of love is understanding acceptance. Understand and acceptance. A woman who had been caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus. Her accusers reminded him that their law called for her to be killed by stoning and they asked his opinion of what they should do with her.

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Jesus stooped down and began writing in the sand. When the accusers continued to press him for an answer, he said, “Let the one among you who has never sinned throw the first stone at her.” When they heard this, one by one they drifted away. When they had all gone, Jesus asked the woman, “Where are they all—did no one condemn you?” Then he said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go home and do not sin again.”

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Jesus understood the woman and accepted her as she was. That does not mean that he agreed with her actions or approved of her conduct. He loved her as she was even though he encouraged her to change her ways.

 

It is important to note that love and “like” are not the same. I had a college roommate who irritated me with his music and his insensitivity to others. His attitudes and actions made it difficult to like him. However, as I learned about the difficult circumstances of his life I understood him, accepted him as he was, and learned to love him.

Anais Nin, in A Literature Passion: Letters of Anais Nin and Henry Miller, said “What is love but acceptance of the other, whatever he is.”

 

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I am grateful that God does not wait for me to be “acceptable” before He loves me. I am glad that God loves me not because of what I do or think but in spite of my thoughts, words, and deeds.

I pray that I will be able to love others like God loves me.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

Everyone has faith- in someone or something.

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We have faith in our parents. When we are young we trust them and believe they are the wisest people around and can work miracles. During our teenage years that perspective changes but then as we reach adulthood we realize they might really know what they are talking about.

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We have faith in our spouse. Although there might be things about which we disagree, we know that he/she can be trusted to have our back. You can depend on her/him to be honest with you and tell you the truth. They will be there when the going gets tough and there is no one better than him/her with whom to share your joys and sorrow.

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If we have a healthy self-image, we have faith in ourselves. It is possible to be overly confident and become an egomaniac, but a healthy individual has a realistic assessment of their abilities.. If we are intentional about learning and growing,  we will know our capabilities and our limitations.

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We have faith in wise and intelligent people who invest themselves in their academic or professional disciplines. Their conclusions are well thought out and substantiated with reliable factual data. We invest our money, our health, our security, and much more because we trust their economic, philosophical, and scientific theories.

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We are skeptical of the folks who predict the weather but we apparently have faith in them. Otherwise why would we take an umbrella with us when they say it is going to rain. Even if it does not rain as predicted, we still trust them and the umbrella we carry the next time rain is in the forecast is ample evidence.

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I saw a wonderful example of faith the other day as I drove down Peachtree Road in Atlanta. Hundreds of people were walking down the sidewalks in front of Lenox Square Mall. When the traffic light turned red I stopped and dozens of people streamed across those eight lanes of traffic without even looking to the right or the left. Obviously they had faith that I and the other motorists were going to stop when we were supposed to.

Evidence of faith is everywhere and everyone has a measure of it. So why is it so hard for some to accept faith in God? Some of us are cynical, at best, when it comes to putting  our faith in something/someone that we cannot see or touch. Yet, we risk our lives on so many different levels to people or principles that we cannot see and do not encounter face to face.13251-trustgodlife-1200w-tn_

To deny that faith in God is a valid disposition would make sense only if we did not trust anything or anyone. To fail to recognize that faith in God is a solid principle on which to base our lives, is as ridiculous as if we did not believe that water is wet or that the sun is hot. Without faith one could not function in life. “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” (Hebrews 11:1-2, The Message)

Jamie Jenkins

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The pursuit of happiness is one of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration of Independence says has been given to all human beings by their Creator. However, happiness is often considered elusive and fleeting. Nathaniel Hawthorne said that “happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

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Recent research suggests that happiness can be attributed to three major sources: genes, events and values. Data suggests that if we understand them we can improve our lives and the lives of others.

According to the researchers, data on happiness remain fairly consistent. Arthur C. Brooks reports in the New York Times that every other year for four decades, roughly a third of Americans have said they’re “very happy,” and about half report being “pretty happy.” Only about 10 to 15 percent typically say they’re “not too happy.”

Although there are demographic differences that can affect the statistics, about 48 percent of our happiness is inherited from our parents. Studies further suggest that isolated events control up to 40 percent of our happiness at any given time. Social scientists say that we can control the remaining 12 percent if we pursue four basic values: faith, family, community and work.

The website www.lifehack.org offers another formula for happiness: Letting Go + Acceptance + Gratitude. This suggests that the best things you can do with your life is to “let go of what was and what will be and be okay with it, thankful for it, and appreciate it.”

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In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at University College of London have provided another formula for happiness. They created an equation that accurately predicted the happiness of over 18,000 people. Participants in the study completed certain decision making tasks. Then researchers used MRI imaging to measure their brain activity and asked them repeatedly, “How happy are you now?” This testing resulted in the following equation:

FORMULA FOR HAPPINESS

You will have to do your own research to figure out what all that means.

The suggestions based on studies that are offered above are worth considering, but I commend the following to you as a formula for happiness that I think will work.

Rev. Bill Britt, Senior Minister at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta, offered another formula for happiness in his sermon last Sunday.* He based it on Philippians 4:4-7 in the Bible.

  • Be gentle
  • Don’t worry about anything
  • Pray about everything
  • Be thankful for all things

Actually Rev. Britt gave only three steps. I have added one: Be gentle. The Message translates those two words in verse 5: “Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.”

This formula sandwiched between “The Lord is near” and “the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds” offers a simple but effective process for pursuing happiness.

Jamie Jenkins

*Rev. Britt’s sermon can be viewed at http://www.prumc.org