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

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document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">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

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document.write(" sans-serif;">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

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document.write(" sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">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!

 

My son, My daughter, (5)

Written by Les Dahl on December 15th, 2014. Posted in Peace, Sage's Scroll

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OUT OF CHAOS

 

My son, My daughter,

In the beginning, I looked and all I could see was a vast empty space of nothingness. The earth was without form and void—an utterly shapeless, barren mass—and a pall of darkness hung like a death-shroud over the primordial waters.

I am a creator, The Creator; it is not within My nature to endure the absence of Light and Life. So I resolved to change the depressive gloom confronting Me.

I did not struggle to overpower the darkness with the power of My will, nor did I curse the gloom to negate it. I simply released the sound of My Voice and spoke, “Let there be light!” The power of My Word shook the circumstances before Me causing a shift to the very foundations.

And there was light...

No shape...no form...no sun, moon or stars...no land, seas, plants or animals...only light...nothing more. A simple, small step forward toward the dream in My heart, but a profound beginning of the creative process!

I took no notice of what wasn't there. I reveled in the Light which appeared as I uttered the Word into the dismal atmosphere. “It is good!” I declared as I watched Light roll back the darkness that smothered the glory of the still to be created Universe.

Step by step and day by day, the sound of My Voice gathered strength and momentum. The creative power of the Word spoken from My mouth sent ever-expanding horizons rippling across the Universe, filling Outer Space and Earth Space with Sound and Form and Life. My heart swelled as I watched the Movement and heard the Music and felt the Love. “It is good!” I declared as I basked in the beauty and joy of My unfolding dream.

Never once did I say the result was perfect—it didn't have to be perfect to be good. But I never stopped at good when better lay just ahead and the best was yet to come. Each phase of the creative process became a stepping stone for the greater glory of the next. And the process never ends, nor the exhilarating joy.

The crowning glory of My work was to create YOU, My son, My daughter, in My image and My likeness. Like Me, YOU are a creator. YOU thrive on looking chaos in the face, releasing the sound of YOUR voice into the gloom of your circumstances, and watching the power of YOUR word roll back the darkness to make room for Life and Love and Music and Movement.

Shift your attention from the hopelessness of your circumstances; seed the Word. Keep declaring good as you creatively pursue the better that lies inherent in your next step, your next day, knowing your best is just ahead. I AM with you.

 

Your loving Father,

Yahweh

(Genesis 1 paraphrased)

Image courtesy of prozac1 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My son, My daughter, (4)

Written by Les Dahl on December 8th, 2014. Posted in Peace, Sage's Scroll

document.write(" geneva; font-size: 16px;">Red Barn In The Morning by CNaene

 

My son, My daughter,

There is but one moment between your past and your future—the PRESENT! It is a moment of decision; your choice shapes your future.

Let go of your past, it does not define your destiny. Get up, press into the amazing future I have prepared for you. The 'good old days' will pale in the light of 'the best that is ahead'.

Every promise in My Word on which you firmly plant your feet unlocks a part of your future. Stand ready to fight for its fulfillment come hell or high water.

Every new idea, new skill, new venture, new relationship you pursue as you explore your future, is yours for the taking. These may fail despite your best effort, but YOU will not fail. Each blow makes you stronger, even though it does not seem so at the time. Don't be obsessed with the need to understand everything that happens to you—trust Me. Some things are known by My Spirit alone.

You will need to be strong and very courageous. There are many rivers to cross—natural obstacles that stand in your way to test your mettle. You will have to fight for every inch of territory you wish to occupy. Walled strongholds, fortified and seemingly impenetrable, threaten your forward progress. And yes, there are giants in the Land bent on turning you back by intimidation and scorn. Keep your focus on Me. I will guide you through every river, I will give you the strategy that crumbles every impregnable wall, and I will put in your hand the smooth stone that fells every son of Goliath who dares defy you. The fight is yours but the battle is mine. Together we are invincible!

The Promised Land lies before you, but before you can posses it, you will need to conquer the land WITHIN you—your mind, emotions, desires, limiting beliefs, and will. That battle boils down to two questions: (1) who am I? and (2) who are you? It is a matter of perception and identity: (1) how big is your God? (2) who do you see yourself to be?

Victory in your internal conquest is derived from the Book. Be intentional as My Spirit instructs you. Allow My Word to transform your thoughts, liberate your emotions, refine your desires, and up-root your limiting beliefs. Ruminate on it. Let My Word become absorbed into every fiber of your being—spirit, soul and body—and you will most surely enjoy success as you lay hold of your future and prosper in your Land of Promise.

Be valiant! Yours is the heart of a lion! I am with you! We are in this together!

Your loving Father,

Yahweh

(Joshua 1:1-9 paraphrased)

 

 

My Son, My Daughter (3)

Written by Les Dahl on December 1st, 2014. Posted in Peace, Sage's Scroll

document.write(" geneva; font-size: 16px;">Sunset:Sunrise by Arvind Balaraman

 

My son, my daughter,

Before I spoke the Universe into existence, I chose YOU. I imagined what the world would be like because YOU are alive. I scanned the vast expanse of time, saw how history would unfold, and then determined the exact time, place and circumstances into which you should be born, in which YOU would shine your brightest. YOU are not a mistake, nor do you exist by chance. YOU are my bearer of light, hope, love and grace.

I chose to adopt YOU, my son, my daughter, as my own. You are engrafted into the same root from which my only begotten Son, Jesus, was born. Shake off that orphan spirit, those feelings of alienation and loneliness that encroach upon your soul in your moments of darkness and despair. YOU are family, MY family; I love YOU!

I chose YOU to be “holy and blameless”, set apart to perfectly demonstrate My love in your sphere of influence. Your success in this assignment is not in any way limited by your character flaws, quirks of personality, nor human foibles. The Blood of the Lamb, Jesus, covers all your weaknesses. Nor is it defined by your ability or your strength. The task is accomplished by My Spirit. In fact, My strength is demonstrated most perfectly when yours is exhausted.

You don't need to be perfect; I chose YOU to show those who know you the power of My transforming love and grace. You are redeemed from the deadly clutches of sin. The Blood of the Lamb paid your ransom in full! You are free now to be all I have planned for you to be. Day by day you are transformed as My Word comes alive in you, as My love dispels the hidden fears in your heart, and as My grace empowers you to walk into your future one step at a time.

Just rest in the awesome Presence of My Holy Spirit which I bestowed on you the moment you surrendered to My Love. He is My guarantee that the salvation you embraced by faith is real. He will see to it that every promise documented in My Covenant is fully activated and accomplished completely in YOU. All you need to do is surrender to My Love and trust Me as I guide you on your journey.

As we walk together, you will be amazed how you resemble your Father more and more with each passing day.

Your loving Father,

Yahweh

(Ephesians 1:3-14 paraphrased)

 

Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net