The World is Not a Better Place

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I’ve been around a long time and learned a lot of things. Here is one thing I have learned recently: The world is not a better place.

I remember when I was a kid that grownups were telling us that each generation of humans were evolving to get better and better. They would say, “Look how much better the world is than back in the pioneer days!”

That generation of adults looked to my generation (the Boomers) with misty eyes, just knowing in their hearts that the wars they had fought and the economic despair of the Depression they had endured would be a thing of the past for our generation, or at least, our kids’ generation.

The adults back then would talk glowingly about how our democracy gets better and better with each generation. They knew that we would live in peace and prosperity. They sacrificed so much to bring the hope of a better world to my generation.

My generation is now nearing the hand-off to the present and future generations. And guess what?

The world is NOT a better place.

The world still is devolved into:

  • Wars and rumors of wars. (My adult kids don’t really remember a time when our nation hasn’t been actively engaged in military conflict.)
  • Hatred and distrust of other races and places. (Think about what it’s like being African-American and not knowing what will happen if you get pulled over for a traffic stop. Or what it’s like to be a Native American who wants clean drinking water and finds corporately funded, militarized *police* standing against their stand. Or to be an immigrant in our unfriendly environment.)
  • Greed, corruption, self-serving-ness in those with power and money. (I don’t have room for the examples…)
  • Egocentrism and lack of courtesy in everyday life.
  • (And lots of other rotten stuff)

The world is not a better place…

…unless you look at the things that may be more true than the evil and the not-better.

It is true there is bad, but it is more true that there are people who take prayer, like I Timothy seriously. They pray.

I Timothy 2:1-2

I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercession, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. KJV

I imagine that in God’s eyes, these prayers are more important than the greed and corruption that perpetuate poverty and hopelessness, the wars and hatred. Maybe in God’s economy, there’s a different *currency* than money?

Maybe what is richness in God’s economy is:

  • Graciousness
  • Courtesy
  • Fruit of the spirit
  • Justice

Maybe *the world being a better place* is not the present goal for God, but us being the better people is most valuable.

Maybe in God’s economy, a few humble, praying people are more valuable than a group of greedy politicians and businessmen who profit from being in power.

The world is not a better place…

…unless you look at behavior that may be more true than the evil and the not-better.

Maybe what is most true is that there are a few people who show grace and courtesy, who live life according to Micah.

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O Man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

For instance, maybe the gracious act of the young man who courteously gave up his seat for me at an overbooked concert weighs more in God’s kingdom than the 3 young athletes and store employees that pushed in front of me during in my latest grocery store trip. I imagine that in God’s economy, 1 gracious young man is more valuable that 3 rude young people.

God’s economy is SO upside down from ours.

If we become better people, maybe we will seek God’s face before voting for any other greedy, bigoted, self-serving official to any level of government… Maybe God will give us wisdom to vote in wise and good men lead our local communities, states and nation.

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land. KJV

Maybe if we seek God’s face, we will find His grace to live our personal lives justly, mercifully, humbly…more of the world will know grace and courtesy.

I’ve learned a lot of things over the years. One is that the world is not a better place.

But I’ve also learned that God has values and plans that are different than mine and He holds me (and all people) to a high level of accountability. He gives us mandates and we are required to live and act on them. Here are 3 mandates:

I Timothy 2:1-2, Micah 6-8, II Chronicles 7:14 (all quoted above)

I hope I will live closer and closer to that humble, God-seeking person He created me to become. I hope the same for my nation.

I want to choose to live gratefully in this present world because I know the more true world of God’s kingdom. (Even though, I admit it, I wish He’d just go ahead make the world a better place in the way I want…)

Want to pray together for our nation? I started an informal, non-political prayer group on Facebook. Join me? https://www.facebook.com/groups/553733668413863/

 

 

 

5 Christian Responsibilities to the Nation in Light of Scripture

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Praying together for the nationWhat a drab title!

However, that’s what I need to talk about: Christian responsibility to the nation in light of Scripture.

This is not about guilt: we can’t be perfect followers of Christ. (Few of us have time to move to a monastery and spend our days totally devoted to prayer and fasting.) However, we live in a day, where we Christians could seriously up our game. We have responsibilities.

There are mid-term elections coming up. We should definitely use our voices in casting our votes. Even more important, we need to is to get our priorities straight. If we do so, when we vote, we’ll hopefully have not only voted our conscience but also God’s will (rather than voting our political party’s conscience or social media’s pressure).

So, here are 5 Christian responsibilities in light of Scripture that we need to use to recalibrate ourselves:

Responsibility #1: Pray

I Timothy 2:1-2

I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercession, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. KJV

Seriously. Pray for our nation daily. No matter what we think about the people in charge of the nation, we need to pray for them to follow God’s directives, not their own greed, lust, confusion, or political pressures. We also need to pray for all people (not just *me and mine*).

What would happen if Christians truly prayed for all people, for leaders, for authority figures: that they follow God’s wisdom, guidance and goodness? What if we prayed for them to live in truth, to fulfill God’s mission (rather than their own)? Can you imagine a nation where the people, leaders and authority figures lived like that?

Responsibility #2: Live the Big 3: Justice, Mercy, Humility

There are 3 things God has shown us to do in order to live like He’s shown us to live:

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O Man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (KJV with Vicki’s updated verbs and pronouns)

Live the Big 3: Justice (Do justly)

This means to do what is right and just toward people and God’s creation. The word *justly* here is *mishpat*, which can be translated as *good deeds*.

Responsibility #3: Live the Big 3: Mercy

Love mercy 

This means to place high value in mercy. The Hebrew word for *mercy* is *chesed*, which connotes having loving-kindness toward people; and reverence and respect towards God.

Responsibility #4: Live the Big 3: Humility

Walk humbly with your God

Remember, we have the warning that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18) We need to live with the consciousness that God is with us and attentive towards us. What would humility look like if we really believed that the God of the universe was watching us?

Responsibility #5: Seek God’s face, turning from our own wicked ways

Look at 2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land. KJV

Before we vote, before we post on social media, what if we do 2 things:

  • Seek God’s face
  • Turn from our *wicked ways* (biased presuppositions, selfishness, gullible-ness, stubbornness, greed, hopelessness)

What if we genuinely walk 2 Chronicles 7:14 with clear mind and conscience? What could God do through us and in our nation if we got the party pressures, social media pressures, peer pressures out of our hearts and concentrated on what God wants to do?

I’m praying daily for my nation. Want to join me? I’m going to work on justice, mercy, humility, seeking God’s face and turning from my own wicked ways. Want to give it a try? Let’s see what God wants to do!

I am starting a Facebook group for praying for our nation. I am endeavoring on Monday mornings to FB live a prayer for the nation for others to watch or join, plus a daily prayer for the nation. I will do this until the midterm elections, and if God leads, longer. Would you like to join me there?

5 Christian Responsibilities to the Nation in Light of Scripture

God’s Economy

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Ever feel like God doesn’t give a flip about what you are experiencing?

Of course, we all go through times where we pray and do our best to walk the walk of faith but it seems that our needs and desires are ignored by God.

I’m not going to do a Bible study here on the book of Job, the trials and tribulations of the apostle Paul or the prophet Jeremiah. I just wanted to take a minute and talk about God’s economy.

Economy is based on value. Human beings tend to value tangible things or things that we interact with :

  • Money
  • Time
  • Health
  • Fun
  • Family

We know by reading Scripture that God’s economy is based on some other things such as:

Love 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves is born of God, and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 ESV

Justice, Kindness, Humility

He has told you, O Man, what is good;

What does the LORD require of you

But to do justice, love kindness,

And walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 ESV

We need stuff, we need health, we need time. But sometimes, in God’s economy, what He appears to be valuing is something different than what we value.

Take for instance: The Story of Lots of Stress vs the Crickets.

There are lots of stressors in my life. Everyone has lots of stressors. What I’d like is for God to intervene and change the stressors. It seems logical to me that if God loved me, He would fix the tough circumstances, right? Easing the difficult things is an important value, in my opinion.

What I know from years of experience is that God is working in HIS economy and giving me gifts from HIS economy. His economy is different from mine. In His opinion, the things that have value are:

  • His grace
  • Some tangible things (not all the things I feel I need or want)
  • AND the beauty of the world around me. For instance: Right now it is August. In August where I live the crickets and cicadas sing ALL day long- loudly! In the early morning, the sun comes up all golden through a mist over the farm fields with the cricket and cicada songs at an almost deafening din.

In God’s economy, the crickets’ songs are more valuable than what I feel I genuinely need. God is abundantly giving me the more valuable things.

I wonder what it would look like if I could see God’s version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? (Maslow’s hierarchy defines needs going up a scale from physiological needs, to safety needs, to love and belonging needs, to esteem needs, and capping at self-actualization needs. We can’t truly proceed well to the next need if our lower need isn’t met.)

I wonder if God’s hierarchy of needs for us looks more like:

God’s love for us needs, to grace for daily living needs, to gifts of beauty needs, to giving/sacrifice/justice needs, to fruit of the spirit needs, and capping at worship needs.

I know God cares about the more tangible things, too, but in a different way than I do.

My job is to change my values. I can recognize my needs and wants. They have value, but in God’s economy, not as much value as the crickets’ songs.

In God’s economy the cicadas and the crickets are what are important. Those are his gifts to me.

God gives a flip and He gives gifts…gifts that He values from His economy. If I can tweak my values a little to notice His, then maybe it will strengthen me for the trails of the present.

A Little Twist on Faith

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A Little Twist on Faith

A Small Twist on Faith VickiTalksPrayer.com

Faith is a multi-faceted thing, don’t you think? In my many years of religious experience, I’ve had lots of opportunities to be educated about what *faith* is. Can you relate to any of these?

When I was a child, I was in a denomination that only used the word *faith* in the phrase *saving faith*.

Once I had confessed that I was a sinner and believed that God raised Christ from the dead (accepted Christ’s sacrifice), I had a saving faith. That was cool, but eventually I needed *faith* to be more than insurance against hell.

Saving Faith is one kind of faith VickiTalksPrayer.com

I had some learning time in a fundamentalist denomination where not only do you receive a saving faith but you learn that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17 KJV).

So learning the word of God (Scripture) was the way you helped your faith to come (or grow). That makes sense to me: How can I truly have a relationship with someone if I don’t know what they:

  • have done
  • do now
  • how they talk?

I learn about God from Scripture. In that fundamentalist denomination we focused on the Scripture:

2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for instruction, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (KJV)

Respect for Scripture and eagerness to learn about God through His word was strengthening to my faith, but it seems to me that faith is more than that.

Then I had some fun but name-it-and-claim-it… or *Word* churches. They took a totally different view about God. This *faith* was about God looking out for US.

In a harsh and uncaring world, I found it a great relief to know that God loves me and cares about the minutiae of my life. This kind of faith taught that Scripture knowledge was the door to growing faith so that I could know God better and be rewarded by receiving what we will.

It was sort of on the *God is a cosmic vending machine: I do my part and He’s required to do His part*. One of the big Scriptures we were taught was John 15: 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you. (KJV)

Faith Comes Through Knowledge of God VickiTalksPrayer.com

After a while, I got tired of it. However, I do believe that faith is a thing that grows. It is fed by knowing who God is, by loving Him, and by time with Him. My faith tells me God cares about all the parts of my life. But I wanted more.

Recently, I was reading in Luke 17 during morning devotions. It is the story of faith and gratitude. Here is the story (thanks to BibleGateway.com)

11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.

17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. (KJV)

It seemed to me that Jesus was appreciating the leper’s gratitude. Jesus was connecting faith and gratitude and healing for the leper.

What this story said to me is that gratitude is a KIND of FAITH.

Luke 17 affirmed to me what I’ve already been experiencing. As a prayer discipline, I’ve been keeping a daily written gratitude list for about a year now. As I’ve noted the big and small things that I have to be grateful for, it has helped me calibrate my soul with the way that God does things. This has, I believe, given me a deeper and quieter faith.

I had never thought of faith and gratitude as being interconnected. It was a *twist on faith* for me.

Gratitude is offering my faith back to God VickiTalksPrayer.com

Understanding faith is a journey for me. So far I’ve learned that there’s:

  • Saving faith
  • Faith that grows as we learn about God through Scripture
  • Faith in a God who looks out for us
  • Faith given back to God in the form of gratitude

What have you discovered about faith? What helps your faith grow?

A Little Twist on Faith

 

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

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This post is running concurrently at VickiTillmanCoaching.com.You shall love your neighbor as yourself VickiTillmanCoaching.com

In case you ever wonder what you should do, Scripture has some wise advice:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love works no ill against his neighbor.

That’s pretty clear.

And if that’s not clear enough. God made sure this sage advice was repeated in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the Gospels and the Epistles (parentheses mine):

  • Romans 13:9-10 You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love works no ill against his neighbor.
  • Leviticus 19:18 You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord (giving you this command)
  • Matthew 22:39 The second (commandment from Christ) is like the first: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
  • James 2:18 Show me your faith without works (of love), I will show you my faith by my works (of love).

If you’ve read much Scripture, you’ve probably noticed that:

  • If God says something ONCE, he means it.
  • If he says it TWICE, you better not ignore it.
  • If he says it 3 TIMES, you’re going to start getting “woe unto thee”.

So if it is in Scripture more than 3 times? I’d say that was high priority in God’s eyes.

How to Create Your Own Rule of Life

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How to Create Your Own Rule of Life

How to Create Your Own Rule of Life

How to Create Your Own Rule of Life

What’s a *Rule of Life*?

Sometimes in my work as a life coach I have the blessing of discussing *Rule of Life* with my clients. I tell them that a Rule of Life is simply a way to organize their lives- especially their spiritual lives.

The trending ways people organize themselves are with planners, bullet journals or online calendars. But the Rule of Life was there first…by centuries.

The Rule of Life is an old term dating back to the early monastic times. I have a copy of the Rule of Life of St. Benedict that he created for his monks in the 6th century! The Rule of Life from a monastery organized the spiritual and practical activities of the people there.

These days a Rule of Life is a believer’s way to organize spiritual (and practical, if they wish) activities of the day. It is a commitment to practice spiritual disciplines.

When I first heard the word *Rule*, it got may Protestant dander up! We don’t have rules anymore, that’s legalism! I was able to settle down when I found out that the word *Rule* in Rule of Life, simply means *organization*.

The Rule of Life in the real world change with phase of life and levels of spiritual growth. My Rule changes year to year. That is a good thing. Here is my present Rule of Life:

  • Short meditation on the Lord’s Prayer before getting out of bed
  • Morning Scripture reading
  • Morning gratitude journaling
  • Morning 3 minutes silent prayer
  • Midday intercessory prayer or prayer in tongues
  • Midday prayer for the nation
  • Rosary at nighttime
  • Bedtime Ignatian Examen. Here is a link to a how I  pray an Ignatian Examen.

At my current phase of life, this works for me. Here’s what makes it work:

  • I don’t get stressed if something interrupts and I miss part (or all) of the Rule. Prayer is about willful, respectful presence with God and recognizing His presence with me. I could toss the entire Rule of Life and do nothing prayerful without endangering God’s love for me and my comfort in that knowledge.
  • I don’t fall into the trap of believing there’s a *right way* to do a Rule of Life.
  • I don’t take myself or the Rule too seriously.

This leaves me free to enjoy the process.

My Rule of Life has been constructed over decades of walking with the Lord. A younger person in a different phase of life will have a much different Rule.

Here’s how to create your own Rule of Life:

Prayerfully ask yourself and ask God to reveal to you:

*Who are you? We often are so busy with the mundane or stressful parts of life that we forget that God intentionally created us. How? Why? It is good to remember…or discover. Here’s a good place to start if you aren’t sure who you are (from my coaching website).

*What do you love? That is, what kinds of spiritual disciplines or devotions do you naturally enjoy? This should be the anchor of your prayer life/Rule of Life. Here’s a nice post from Renovare on spiritual disciplines to give you some ideas.

*What do you need to work on? Where are your weaknesses in self-discipline or character. Ask God for a way to pray about that. Often I will add prayerful journaling when I feel that God is working on a fear or character issue; or I will ask for Him for Scriptures to pray. Sometimes I work with a counselor, coach and or spiritual director. All of these fit into my Rule of Life for that phase of life.

For some people, their Rule of Life also includes daily activities such as chores, mindfulness or relaxation activities.

There are many ways to create a Rule of Life. Your Rule of Life will change over time and need to be flexible day by day, but when you have that Rule as a life structure, it will help you feel grounded and connect to God.

Here’s a white paper on the Rule of Life from C.S. Lewis Institute on Rule of Life.

How to Create Your Own Rule of Life

How to Start a Revolution or Revival

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How to Start a Revolution or Revival

There are lots of revolutions in this world. A revival is a spiritual revolution. There are fashion revolutions. Musical revolutions. Cultural revolutions. Political revolutions.

I propose that our nation is ripe for a revolution. Mostly it needs a spiritual revolution. We need the type of revolution that would look prayer and culture-changing-type lifestyles of the loving-kindness that Christ would be proud of.

We also need other types of revolutions. No matter what side of the political fence you sit on, you can see need revolutionary change in culture and politics.

How do revolutions start? There’s a great discussion at Top 40 Philosophy’s podcast #30 episode.

My paraphrase of  that podcast episode: Micah talks about revolutions being something that people find themselves doing when there is enough flow. Like emotions (or yawns), revolutions are contagious events that spread. Change for good or ill happens as the revolution spreads.

One of my favorite revolutions is the 1904 worldwide revival. It started in Wales. A young youth group pastor, Evan Roberts, was teaching his teens the necessity and power of prayer. He led them in prayer for repentance and personal revival, in prayer for their nation, in prayer for the world.

Evan Roberts Photo: wikicommons

Evan Roberts Photo: wikicommons

The Holy Spirit moved on those teens as they used their words in prayer. The move spread to the adults, then across Wales. By the end of 1906, the revival had hopped around the globe and landed in Azuza Street Mission in Los Angeles, CA. There was a revolution of prayer and Christ-like living for a time. It was a cross-cultural, multi-racial, multi-denominational move of God.

It started with prayer. AND words.

Evan Roberts used his words to describe for his teens a world-changing life of prayer.

I think it is this way with all revolutions: Words.

We humans are largely afflicted with a lack of words to describe what we feel and want to think. We simply muddle through our days knowing there are things that are wrong. Something’s wrong. But we can never fully describe the wrong, much less do something about it.

Then along comes someone who has words. That person uses his/her words to describe the wrong and propose a change. That person becomes a word-giver.

When people who don’t have words hear the word-giver’s words, they have a way to think about what is wrong or give names to the feelings they feel. When people accept the word-giver’s words, something in them ignites and they are ready to follow the word-giver. The follower-ship of the word-giver grows into a revolution. Things change.

When the word-giver is wise and good, the world is changed for the better.

We see this in little ways, like kids standing up for a bullied kid. It took one courageous kid to use his words to his friends, “Hey, let’s stand up for little Billy.” Others follow. Billy’s world is changed.

When the word-giver is greedy or cruel, ESPECIALLY if he is also loud and angry, the words fill the broken, angry parts of people’s souls and they follow him with zeal. These loud and angry words create a loud and angry revolution. It is quickly contagious. (I won’t give any illustrations from current culture where one can see a leader mock disabled people or greedily write orders that take advantage of, or harm, minority or disadvantaged populations because you might have already noticed this happening anyway.)

What’s the point? We can start a revolution.

  • How about WE become word-givers?
  • How about WE become the word-givers for a godly revolution to help create a world of loving kindness, looking out for the weak, aiding those in need of comfort, defending the strangers and the widows and the orphans.

How do we do it?

Use words.

use-your-words

First, use words in prayer. (II Chronicles 7:14: If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and heal their land.)

Second, use words describing a better world.  Talk about a world of loving kindness. In order to do that, you need to imagine what that world would be like. (The Old Testament word for that kind of world is held in the word, Shalom. Do a word study on Shalom. It will give you hope.)

Third, increase your vocabulary so that you can better describe a better world. Read:

  • Thinkers, philosophers
  • Poetry
  • Scripture

Fourth, write your words. Write the words about a better world (Habakkuk 2:2 talks about writing the vision and make it clear so that those who read it can run with it.) Social media, blogs, journals, and books need written words of a better world.

The more that there are word-givers who speak prayerful loving kindness, the more chance we have to stand up to those word-givers of greet and hatred.

Will you join me in the good kind of revolution and revival?