3 WAYS TO KNOW IF YOUR FAITH IS AUTHENTIC AND MEANINGFUL

Written by Les Dahl on July 14th, 2015. Posted in Health, Peace, Prosperity, Sage's Scroll

ID-100119330

 

How do you define your Christian faith? 

Is it by religious performances such as going to church, putting some money in the offering plate, reading your Bible occasionally (or every day), saying your prayers before going to bed? 

Is it by things you don’t do, such as wearing certain fashions and make-up, drinking beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages, attending parties and concerts, engaging in activities deemed “worldly”? 

 

Rules can be helpful and doctrine is important,

but they do not necessarily define

authentic, meaningful faith.

 

My personal faith has come under intense scrutiny. 

With age and experience comes a refined perspective of what really matters in life. KEEP IT SIMPLE…KEEP IT REAL has become a mantra to daily guide me through circumstances and relationships. 

My role model is Abraham, the “friend of God” whose unwavering faith is legendary. So I ask myself, what is the acid test of authentic, meaningful faith?

 

THE ACID TEST OF AUTHENTIC, MEANINGFUL FAITH

 
  1. Am I experiencing a quality of life that is characterized by overflowing joy and abundance?

Jesus said, “I came to give you life to the full, till it overflows with joy and abundance.”

I learned an important lesson from the “old-time country folk” we were privileged to meet in our early years in Jamaica. These were simple rural farmers who had few earthly possessions, but were rich in faith, generous without measure, ever satisfied and grateful, enjoying full and meaningful lives!

 

Abundance is not measured by the amount

of our material possessions,

but by our stewardship of what we have,

whether little or much.

 
  1. Am I experiencing an ever-increasing freedom to be who I was created to be and do what I was created to do?

Jesus also said, “If you live by My Word, you are truly my disciples; you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.”

Freedom comes when we are clear about our identity and purpose. But freedom depends on two conditions. 

First, like Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, we must stop the busy-ness of our life to listen intently to Jesus’ instruction. 

Second, like the disciples, we must follow closely as Jesus guides us through the day, listening intently to how He applies eternal truth to the situations we encounter. 

We too readily follow what others say we should be and do. Our ear must be attuned to His voice and our live mentored by Him—He is our liberator!

 

Freedom comes when we are true to ourselves

and engaged in our life’s purpose.

 
  1. Am I experiencing transformation from within?

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, “Present all your members and faculties to God. Don’t allow yourself to be pressed into the world’s superficial mold, but be transformed from the inside out by a complete make-over of your mind—new ideals, new attitudes and new paradigms.”

The journey of authentic faith is a process. 

A new-born baby with all the seeds of identity and purpose inherent at birth must pass through the various stages of growth. Through patient nurturing the seeds blossom and in time bear fruit.

So too, as we surrender ourselves to God, we are birthed into new life of authentic faith. Our identity and purpose, like tiny mustard seeds, must be nurtured. 

Holy Spirit activates the eternal Word in us. As we embrace it, the Word challenges our thinking. Our perspective changes, as do our values and our objectives. 

Gradually, we become who we were created to be, engaged in the assignment we were born to fulfill.

 

Under Jesus’ watchful mentorship,

the seeds of greatness within

blossom and bear good fruit.

 

Is overflowing joy and abundance a hallmark of your Christian faith? 

Do you enjoy ever-increasing freedom on your journey of faith? 

Are you noticing transformation of heart and mind as Holy Spirit nurtures identity and purpose in you? 

If so, yours is an authentic and meaningful faith. Not perfect, but nurtured by the Word, mentored by Jesus Himself.

 

If not… 

find a quiet place to sit, like Mary, at Jesus’ feet. Ask Him to speak His words of life. 

Listen intently and then follow His instructions diligently. Trust Him with the details of your life. 

Find a trusted fellow sojourner of faith to walk with you.

 

More than anything else,

Jesus wants you to enjoy

authentic, meaningful faith.

 

Shalom!

 

Image courtesy imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

THE TRAGEDY OF THE RICH YOUNG RULER

Written by Les Dahl on July 6th, 2015. Posted in Peace, Prosperity, Sage's Scroll

image_136

 

His question was sincere and to the point, “How do I access the eternal realities of life?” Jesus’ answer shook him to the core. “Sell everything. Give the money to the poor. Come follow Me.” The young man counted the cost, turned and walked away sorrowful. Therein lies the tragedy of the rich young ruler.

 

The rich young ruler who encountered Jesus is amazingly similar to Abraham. Both were financially secure, young, and influential leaders of their communities. Both were very religious, Abraham in paganism and the rich young ruler in Judaism. And both had a deep hunger for a spiritual encounter with God beyond the rituals that defined their spiritual experience.

 

After acknowledging Jesus’ reputation and authority as a rabbi, the young man got straight to the point. “I have everything in this life, but there’s still something missing. How do I inherit eternal life?”

 

Testing his motives, Jesus cited the Commandments, the very foundation of the young ruler’s faith. Interestingly, Jesus quoted only the commandments concerning relationship with other people. God looks for faith demonstrated by action.

 

There was no arrogance in the man’s reply. “All these I have kept from my youth. My doctrine, my religion, my morals are intact, but that doesn’t satisfy me.”

 

Then Jesus looking at him, loved him.” Jesus saw no reason to doubt his integrity. Kneeling before Him was a young man on the verge of greatness and destiny. Jesus was immediately attracted to him, ready to mentor him. His answer cut right to the root of the issue. “To find the missing piece in your quest for eternal life, give up your wealth, your position and your influence, which have become your security. In total surrender to God, let His eternal Word be your security. Begin a journey of faith and friendship with Me.”

 

As God called Abraham to leave all and follow, Jesus called the rich young ruler to leave all and follow Him. It was a call to shift from relying on temporal earthly security to depending on the eternal promises of a faithful God—a huge risk and a bold step of faith. But wasn’t that what he asked for: How do I inherit eternal life?

 

Feelings of sorrow and regret similar to those the young ruler well up in us as we think of all we supposedly have to give up when we totally surrender to Jesus. That mentality is purely religious. It reflects a poverty mindset, not the culture of blessing God desires for us.

 

The rich young ruler was secure in his wealth, influence and religion. Jesus challenged him to let go of this earthly security and embrace the eternal security described in His sermon on the mount—“Set the Kingdom of God as priority and you will be well taken care of by your Father in Heaven.”

 

Abraham left all to begin his journey of faith and friendship with God. We are told Abraham never once regretted his decision. Besides unimaginable favor and blessing, he enjoyed immeasurable freedom in his relationship with the Eternal God. The rich young ruler, on the other hand, turned away sorrowful. He never broke free of the chains by which his earthly possessions possessed him!

 

The greatest tragedy of this story is found in Jesus’ words, “Come, follow me.” Jesus only extended that personal invitation to twelve others. They became the disciples he mentored for 3 1/2 years. After being endued with the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, the influence of these “Apostles” spread across the then-known world, changing history forever! The rich young ruler was invited to be one of them! In the light of what Jesus offered him, was the price too high?

 

And us? Do we count the cost too high to surrender our earthly security for His eternal security? Do we still hesitate to take the journey of faith and friendship with God, trusting Him to take good care of us along the way to the greatness and destiny Father has in mind for us?

 

Shalom!

(The story of the rich young ruler is found in Matthew 19:16-22. Mark 10:17-22, Luke 18:18-23)

Illustration of Rich Young Ruler by John Lear, “The King Nobody Wanted”, <www.gutenberg.org>

 

THE CULTURE OF BLESSING

Written by Les Dahl on June 29th, 2015. Posted in Peace, Prosperity, Sage's Scroll

Abraham-1

 

Among Christians, Abraham is known for his unwavering faith. In Jewish tradition, however, Abraham is known for his culture of blessing. What is a culture of blessing and is it related to faith?

God called Abraham to leave country, home and family to follow where He would lead on a “need-to-know-basis”. Abraham took God at His word, trusted Him explicitly and did what God asked no matter what the cost. His was a faith of action, rooted in personal relationship.

Wherever Abraham went, he graciously welcomed strangers as if entertaining angels. He knew what it was to be a pilgrim and stranger in a foreign land. He also knew friendship with El Shaddai—the God who blesses me and makes me fruitful and multiplies my descendants after me. Out of Abraham’s faith and friendship with God emerged a culture of blessing.

God entrenched blessing, friendship and faith in an eternal covenant with Abraham. On His part, God committed to “bless and multiply” Abraham; in return, Abraham embraced the mandate to be a blessing. Everywhere he went, Abraham received unprecedented favor, not because he was perfect—he blundered more than once—but because of God’s commitment to the their covenant. Empowered by the covenant, Abraham bestowed hospitality, generosity and respect to all he encountered.

Through Jesus, we are adopted into Abraham’s family of faith and become eligible heirs of the same covenant. As with Abraham, God commits to bless us and our family. Thus empowered, we are mandated to cultivate a culture of blessing. Sadly, many are stuck in a WIIFM mentality—“What’s In It For Me!” We mistakenly think the covenant is a “Membership Certificate” to the “Bless Me Club”. This was not Abraham’s mindset.

To bless is to pronounce words or initiate actions that invoke divine favor upon someone or something. With words and deeds of blessing, God mentored Abraham to bless. It became second nature to him, a characteristic habit.

How can the culture of blessing be instilled in us?

  1. Like Abraham, we surrender to a journey of faith and friendship with God.

Total surrender released Abraham to discover who he was created to be. It involved risk, the greatest being “What if…?” But it also allowed Abraham to discover happiness and greatness. Abraham called Him El Shaddai—the God who blesses and prospers me and my family.

Our journey into a culture of blessing also involves total surrender and risk, but if we are no longer behind bars, life can be an adventure. In the company of Abraham’s Friend, we too discover happiness, significance and destiny.

  1. Like Abraham, we intentionally hone our senses to be aware of God’s favor.

Abraham found El Shaddai true to His promise. Abraham’s moments of weakness never altered God’s blessing. Such faithfulness transformed Abraham. He became aware of divine favor everywhere and in everything. Gratitude, blessing and worship flowed spontaneously from Abraham’s heart.

As we intentionally set our radar to scan the horizon for divine favor, our eyes suddenly open to the goodness of God. We are amazed by the meteor rain of blessing penetrating the negative atmosphere surrounding us. It’s as if the whole universe is programmed to work in our favor. We find, like Abraham, a spontaneous response of gratitude, blessing and worship well up in our heart.

  1. Like Abraham, look for and create opportunity to the bless others with words of empowerment and acts of generosity.

In Jamaica, cashiers and sales clerks wear name badges, I make a point of addressing, thanking and complimenting by name each person who serves me. I do so deliberately with intention of blessing them.

Another interesting phenomenon of Jamaica are windshield washers. At busy intersections in Kingston and Montego Bay, young men stand armed with squeegee and pepsi bootle full of soapy water, ready to wash your windshield as the light turns red. Often these young men are “street kids” and despised by motorists. Few allow these “urchins” to touch their vehicles. If I must pass through one of these intersections, I make sure I have an appropriate “tip” to leave the fellow who cleans my window. Interestingly, every young man responds with “Respect, Dads!” or “Manners!” which is street lingo for “Thanks!”

A teller who served me in the bank looked very athletic. As I mentioned this to him, his face lit up. “Actually, I was on the track team at my high school. My dream was to represent Jamaica at the Olympics, but I had to hang up my spikes and get a job to help support my family.” A passion, a dream unfulfilled.

Have you thought of becoming a high school track coach, training young athletes like yourself to fulfill their dream?” I asked. Those few empowering words brought a dying passion to life with possibility.

Like Abraham, I am on a journey of faith and friendship with El Shaddai. Empowered by His covenant with Abraham, I am determined to envelop myself in a culture of blessing.

Shalom!