Sunday, January 26, 2014

God....Is This my Best?!?!

This weekend my personal devotion took me to the story of Cain and Abel. If you are not familiar with it, I will give you the quick version of the story. If you want to read the whole thing you can find the full story in Genesis 4:1-16. (Disclaimer: This REALLY is the short version, so if you are interested or have time read the full thing!)

Cain and Abel are brothers. Cain and Abel both bring offerings to God. God does not accept Cain’s offering but accepts Abel’s offering. Cain gets really mad and jealous and kills his brother. God confronts him about it.  Cain utters the famous line “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God punishes Cain for killing his brother.

I have heard this story many times; it is frequently used in sermons and I even had one those Bible story tapes that depicted the story of Cain and Abel with music, color, and animation. Although I was familiar with the story, this weekend it touched and blessed me in a way that I wanted to share with you all. 

Now, the Bible does not say specifically why God did not accept Cain’s sacrifice, but we can infer from what they brought to God (Cain brought some of the plants he had planted, and Abel brought the firstborn of his flock) that Cain did not bring God his best. Maybe he just put together his offering at the last minute, maybe it did not come from the heart, maybe be brought something he would not miss,  or maybe he put absolutely no thought into it. Whatever, it was God did not accept it, God was not pleased, and he let Cain know! 

Cain’s sacrifice got me thinking about the offerings I bring to God( not just the offering I place into offering plate at church). It got me thinking about the offerings I bring to him on a daily basis, my worship, my devotion, my time, my service, etc. Overall, they story just got me thinking about my  discipline when it comes to my relationship with God,  and the effort I put into things that  are a direct service to God. 

Are my sacrifices/offerings always acceptable to God?
Do I put forth enough effort?
Am I giving my best?

Truth be told, I don’t always give God my best. I don’t always give him my best effort, energy, or time. God not accepting Cain’s sacrifice reminds me that God simply just, EXPECTS and DESERVES the best. We all bring God offerings on a daily basis and it is our duty to ensure that what we bring God and what we do for God is our best. I urge you my friends to think and pray about what it is you bring to God.  Strive to make it your best!

My FAVORITE part of the story is what happens at the end!!

After God dishes out his punishment to Cain, Cain gets all upset and starts to complain. He tells God that the punishment is too hard, not fair, etc, etc, etc (really Cain?!?!). God being the compassionate God he is puts a special protection over Cain  (EVEN though he brought a bad offering AND on top of that killed his brother). God alleviates some of Cain’s anxiety about being a "wanderer on the earth" by telling Cain that no one would kill him and if someone did kill him they would be punished “sevenfold” (that’s mercy in a nutshell, if you ask me!).

I am happy I serve a God that even when I don’t bring my best, even when my actions are not acceptable in his sight, and even when I blatantly do wrong he STILL WILL  protect, love,  bless, forgive,  and comfort me. I don’t know about you, but that makes me what to bring him my best and get to know him  EVEN more! 

Have a GREAT week my Friends!  
 “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” Psalms 19:14

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Who holds YOU Accountable??!

            Most nights when I come home from what is typically a 10-12hr day, the LAST thing I want to do is sit on my computer and continue working. However, after I stuff my face, I usually have to get back to work for at least another 2 hours. To be completely honest, sometimes I choose the wake up early option (once I’m out of steam for the night, there is noooo turning back). If I have decided to stay up and get some work done, several things usually happen before I get to work. 

          Before, I sit down to get started I usually call and/or text my friend, if she has not already called and/or sent me a text.  Our texts and/or phone calls are very similar each day.  Text messages usually go a little something like this “we working tonight?!” or “what time you gonna be on?!”. Then depending on my mood, I try to talk her into joining me for some work on Skype, or I try to convince her that we should both wake up at a very disrespectful time to do work (  Sometimes she is the one doing the convincing).  Once we make a decision we get on Skype, and after 20 -30 mins of catching up on the happenings of our day, talking about something in the news, complaining about life as a grad student, laughing at something that only we would find funny, or “checking emails” (the most productive procrastination tool); we GET TO WORK! Most nights we are pretty productive. However,  when we choose the morning option I’m usually the productive one!

           Now I know this sounds like a lot, but this all happens because my friend has become my accountability partner, and I would like to think (actually I know) that I am hers.  

            I also have accountability partners in other aspects of my life as. I have found that having people to hold me accountable in not only my academic life, but in my spiritual growth, and attempt at living a healthy lifestyle has proved itself to be very beneficial.

           Now, don’t get me wrong I am not dependent nor should I every become dependent on these people for my growth. I simply just believe and recognize that as humans it is natural and extremely beneficial for us to seek support and guidance from others. It makes us stronger people when we recognize that sometimes we can’t accomplish things on our own. We are also naturally social creatures and should take advantage of our daily interactions with other.

        I encourage you all to go out and find someone to hold you accountable. Maybe you have a goal you want to accomplish, maybe you need an extra push to work out, eat healthy, change jobs, apply to school, get closer to God, or make some other major life change. Maybe you simply just  need someone to encourage you when you are not feeling your best. Whatever your reason for seeking out an accountability partner choose: 

1. Someone who is honest.
2. Someone who will and knows how to  put you in check.
3. Someone who knows how to deal with your crappy moods.
4. Someone you know will stay on your back (even if they get annoying).
5. Someone you trust. (Most important)

           Your accountability partner will be there to motivate you, check in on you, encourage you, and help you see your goals to the end. If you already have one, tell them you appreciate them!!

In end it is most important to be accountable to God and yourself!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

“Dear Heavenly Father, Please make me Content"

It’s short and to some it may be simple, however the prayer “Dear Heavenly Father, please make me content” has been the most sincere, desperate, and powerful prayer that I have ever prayed.  For weeks it was a prayer that I prayed daily; and at the time it was a cry for growth, clarity, and peace. Over the past year and a half it is a prayer that I have seen change my outlook and approach to this thing called life. 

My idea of contentment was always what I would call simple. I have spent a lot of time praying, reflecting, and talking about the concept of contentment and I have come to realize that it is not that simple at all. It is complex and requires work, the type of personal work that takes time and vulnerability.

 Contentment for me was always situational; dependent on my perception of whatever it is that was going on. It was based solely on my emotions and required nothing from me. My contentment was simply just …a reaction; a reaction to a good day, a major milestone, a good conversation, good weather,  or a nice time. Content was the word that I used to describe my happiness and/or satisfaction.  Naturally, this type of contentment felt good, and I would be totally thrown off the moment that whatever it was that was making me “content” ended or disappeared. 

I have come to realize that contentment is not and should not be situational, it requires a constant understanding that God is in control, and everything that happens in life is a part of a greater plan that we might not always see or understand. Contentment requires that we fully embrace the not so nice moments in life; the moments we feel lost, afraid, hopelessness, lonely, and/or overwhelmed. Oddly, I think it requires that we find some comfort in situations that are not at all that comfortable. It also requires that we also continue to recognize and embrace moments of immense joy and comfort.

You see, contentment is the perfect peace that God promises us, a peace that is not dependent on life circumstances. In this new year, I challenge you to pray for contentment, as you continue to work towards  fulfilling your goals and dreams. I'm sure like the years that have come before it 2014 will be filled with some highs and some lows (hopefully more highs than lows!); I urge to to own, embrace, and find contentment in every moment. 

It is my prayer that God not only continues to develop and deepen my understanding of contentment, but that he continues to develop and deepen yours!

Happy New Year my Friends!!!

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