Imitating Love

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Imitating Love

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.” Ephesians 5:1

When I was younger, I used to love building model cars. I would open the box of individual pieces and put all the different model parts in categorized piles, and then I would hold up a picture of the model car and attempt to put the pieces together so that it mirrored the picture. 

In our faith walks, Jesus is the picture that we can hold up as we attempt to put the pieces of our lives together to mirror the picture. Delving into the life of Christ helps us to build lives for ourselves that emulate love. Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God, for we are his dear and beloved children. We are made in God’s image. We are created for God’s purposes. We belong to Him. 

But often times we must first hold up the picture to remind ourselves what to build. It’s easy to get lost in this world—in the pursuit of a job that we want or money that we don’t have or a relationship that we think we need. Holding up the picture re-centers us when we get lost. It reminds us of what we are meant to do—meant to build—and of who we are, as God’s dear and beloved children. 

Meditating upon the picture of Christ always leads to action, as we read in Ephesians 5:2: “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” To walk in love, we must understand where love comes from and what it means. Love is offering. Love is sacrifice. Love is commitment. Love is service. 

As we go about our days today, may we be reminded to hold up a picture of Jesus from time to time so that we can build something with our lives that is worthwhile and live in a way that reflects the love that changed us and can change this world. 

For Introspection:

  • Hold up the proverbial picture of Jesus, whether that’s through meditating upon a Scripture or a story about his life that has always moved you. What does this picture inspire you to build today? How does it challenge you to live?
  • How are you most prone to get lost in your ego or ambition? What can you do throughout the day today to remember what you are meant to do and who you are in Christ?
 

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Finding Peace in the Problems of Life

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Finding Peace in the Problems of Life

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

I have never met anyone who did not want peace. No one wakes up and says to themselves, “I hope today is awful and stressful. I hope that today gives me anxiety and the whole day starts unraveling.” Nobody thinks like that. 

The problem, rather, is that people look for peace in the wrong places. We think that being in the right relationship will bring us peace. We think that advancing in our careers will bring us peace. We think that making more money will bring us peace. We think that drowning our problems with booze will bring us peace. We think that sex will bring us peace. Generally speaking, most people are grappling for peace in the pursuit of pleasure or power. A lot of times, people try to attain pleasure through escaping life; and people try to attain power by controlling life. 

The only true, lasting peace, however, comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. As Isaiah 9:6 says, the coming savior (Jesus) will be the “Prince of Peace.” Jesus came to this earth so that we could have peace. He wants us to be in harmony with God. To know who God is. And to know who we are in Him. In a relationship with Jesus, we are encouraged to surrender to God our problems and commit our lives to loving and serving others, where true fulfillment is found. 

In 2 Thessalonians 3:16, Paul writes: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.” What this is saying is that, through Christ, we have peace in all times. Not just the great times. Not just the times that are filled with happiness. Not just the times when you are doing well financially. In all times. The hardships. The challenges. The times of unknowing. The times when you feel like you’re wandering through the desert. Peace is always in your midst because Jesus says that he will never leave you, nor forsake you. In John 14, Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

When we lean into the peace of Christ, it has the power to free us from the exhausting pursuit of pleasure and of power. It allows us to rest and to be present. 

For Introspection:

  • What pleasure do you tend to chase? What power do you tend to chase? 
  • In the past, when you have attained what you were chasing, did it bring you long-lasting peace? Why or why not?
  • How can you receive the peace of Christ today? What are the things in your life that you are trying to control that you can surrender? Where can you “let go and let God”?
 

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Peace Through Prayer 

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Peace Through Prayer 

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

The American Psychological Association recently published data showing that 77 percent of people in the United States regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress and that 73 percent regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress. According to the same study, job pressure is the number one cause of stress, money is second, health is third, and relationships are fourth. 

Stress is rampant in America. Hardly anyone is free from it. Each of us seems to be fighting some sort of war within. Myself included. 

Whenever I feel stress and anxiety creeping up upon me, I try to pray Philippians 4:6-7 (featured above) and claim it as truth. I love these verses. They begin by first taking the sting out of anxiety and naming it as pointless and unhelpful. And then the verses move toward surrender and the comfort of being able to present our requests to God by prayer and petition. Finally, these verses move us toward a conclusion—that “God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” will guard our hearts and minds. This unexplainable peace comes from the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

After clinging to these verses when I am feeling stressed, I might then offer a prayer that goes like this: God, I give you my stress. I give you my anxiety. I give you my fear. Your Word says that you can give me peace that surpasses all understanding, that even in the midst of my worry, my grief and my valleys, that I can still have peace—a supernatural, unexplainable peace. God, let your peace transcend my understanding. Let it envelope me. Let it indwell within me and fill me, so that I can have peace in the middle of this storm.

Colossians 3:15 says: “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

For Introspection:

  • What are the wars that are being waged within you right now? Name those stresses, anxieties, and fears. Try to discern where they might be coming from. 
  • Does allowing these anxieties to consume you benefit you in any way? Has worrying ever fixed anything? What would it look like for you to surrender them to God and allow Him to take care of them?
  • How does it practically look for a peace that transcends all understanding to guard your heart and mind? 
 

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Living a Life Marked by Vision and Faith

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Living a Life Marked by Vision and Faith

“It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.” Hebrews 11:23

I have a coaster that sits on my nightstand by my bedside.  It’s a special coaster because of what it says on it. On the coaster is a photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. with the words: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” I read it every night before I go to bed, and it helps me to re-center my mind, surrender the day, and bring my faith to the forefront before I go to sleep. 

This quote, to me, epitomizes two things that are essential to a meaningful life: vision and faith. If I were to stand on the edge of a cliff and say, “God help me,” and then jump off, that might demonstrate faith but would lack vision because of the sheer desperation and stupidity of my actions. On the flip side, if I really wanted to approach the precipice to look out over the edge of the cliff to see the beauty of the valley but was crippled by the unrealistic fear of the cliff tumbling beneath my feet and bringing me with it, then that would lack faith. I love Martin Luther King’s quote because it integrates both vision and faith. You might not be able to see the top of the staircase, but you can take one step after another and trust your direction. To use another metaphor, faith is the engine and vision is the car. You can’t see the engine, but it’s moving the car. 

In Hebrews 11:23, we read about how Moses’s parents hid him for three months after he was born. They had vision in seeing that he was no ordinary child and had faith to quench any fear that they might have had about the king’s edict declaring that all male infants be killed. Disobeying pharaoh, if discovered, could have resulted in death, but their faith in God birthed a loving vision for their son. Vision is daring to see what you can’t see. Faith is believing in that vision and surrendering it to God. Similarly, James writes in 2:18: “Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.’”

May we be inspired to integrate both faith and vision in how we live. To take the first step even when we don’t see the whole staircase. To trust that the staircase is leading us somewhere good and mysterious and loving. 

For Introspection:

  • Does your vision tend to lack faith or your faith tend to lack vision? Give an example. 

  • How can you live more out of love instead of fear? How can you live more out of place of surrender instead of control? 

  • How can you incorporate both vision and faith in a staircase you’re climbing? Is the “staircase” you’re envisioning taking you somewhere toward love, justice, selflessness, or grace—or is it to a selfish place?

 

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Dreaming is the Beginning of Purpose

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Dreaming is the Beginning of Purpose

“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.” Hebrews 11:1-2

Most of us can remember what it was like to be a kid and dream about all kinds of things — things that we might look back upon and deem as unrealistic or foolish or imaginative. For example, I used to play basketball for hour upon hour every day, believing wholeheartedly that one day I’d play in the NBA. I hoped that one day I could be just like my hero, Georgetown Hoyas legend Alonzo Mourning; and each day I played pick-up basketball at the park, I would wear my Alonzo Mourning jersey and Georgetown hat. Regulars at the park even started to call me “Zo” because of my obsession with Alonzo. This obsession perhaps got out of hand when I started ordering things (for example, a Sports Illustrated subscription) under the name “Alonzo Hearn,” to which my mother responded, “I named you Travis!”

When I was a kid, I was bursting with dreams. But it seems that the longer people live, the less they dream. The world wears them down and makes them calloused. Our dreams, even the realistic ones, get shelved, as the light of our passions are dimmed. We trade what God has put on our hearts for security and mediocrity.

In Hebrews 11, we read about some of the Old Testament heroes in the Hall of Faith—men and women who placed their faith, confidence, and hope in what they could not see. Pursuing our dreams—that which God puts on our hearts to bring love and justice into the world and glory to His name—often times involves placing our faith in what we cannot see.

God wants you to keep dreaming. It doesn’t matter how young you are or how old you are. The God who created the world wants you to create something meaningful with your life. As long as you’re breathing, God wants you to keep dreaming.

Romans 8:11 says, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

Within you is the power that raised Jesus from the dead, and with that comes a thousand beautiful dreams. When the world tries to knock you down, don’t forget the creative power that you possess through the mystery of the Holy Spirit—the dreams that you have to share.

For Introspection:

• Do you believe that you are worthy enough to dream? Why or why not?

• If God created you and dared to dwell within you, what does that say about your worth and the

• nature of your dreams?

• What are some of your dreams? Are there some that you have set aside that are time to awaken and unleash?

• How can your dreams be used for God’s purposes?  

 

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