Friday, May 9, 2008

An Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters

Mike shared this with us during last Sunday's message, and it really stuck with me.


by Portia Nelson


I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place
but, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.


I walk down another street.

Life is all about choices.

When we learn from our mistakes, we can choose a different path.

Being a Christian doesn't mean being a perfect person. A Christian is someone who has decided to entrust his or her life to Jesus Christ. A Christian trusts Christ for forgiveness of sin, a right standing before God, and guidance in life. As a rule, as human beings, we cannot be perfect. We were born as flesh, and in order to live with God we need to die of the flesh and be reborn to the Holy Spirit that lives within us. This is what it means to be baptized, and I'm very excited to say that I am being baptized this Sunday. I haven't been this excited about something in a long time, and I can't wait to publicly celebrate my new life for and with the Lord.

John 3:3-7 Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" 5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 "Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'

We are all born as humans, but only when our hearts and spirits are with the Lord can we be born as the Spirit. The only perfect person was Jesus, who was both human and the Lord here on earth. While we can never expect to be as perfect and holy as God, we can live by His example and make our decisions based on honoring Him, not fulfilling our worldly desires. To live by Christ's word is to be selfless, not selfish. He taught us to be kind, loving, honest, generous, and forgiving.

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" - (Matthew 5:38-47)

Every single day, we are confronted with choices. Of course it's tempting to choose the one that is selfish, simple, easy, and immediately fulfilling. As humans, we are prone to picking the easy route; the one that will benefit us. The other choice is almost always more trying, more difficult, and more Godly. God shows us unfaltering love, devotion, and forgiveness. Why shouldn't we honor Him by doing the same for each other? We learned from Jesus to put others before ourselves, but our culture dictates that we should live "every man for himself." Though the easy choice might be instantly satisfying to ourselves, it rarely honors God or satiates us for long. When we live for ourselves, we never experience true joy. Real joy comes from living for God, and doing his work.

During the baptism class I went to on Wednesday, the teacher was talking about how living for God doesn't necessarily mean "doing good." Many times, we can go through the motions of doing good deeds, but if we do them to fulfill our desire to feel good about ourselves, these actions aren't honoring God; only ourselves. He was telling us how he was volunteering with an organization to build houses, and was feeling good until his co-workers showed up, and it turned out that day was the day where they had developmentally handicapped people working on the house. His good feeling quickly turned to frustration and irritation, because now the hard work became hard work and trying to teach/help out someone else, who was having a hard time, in their own job as well. He was trying to help a man with cerebral palsy use a table saw. God spoke to him, and hit him with a "two by four," as he put it. He asked him how he could possibly look down on these people, who although disabled, would spend their day trying to help someone else. Not only were they working through their adversity to help another, but they were getting immense joy from it. He told him that maybe, just maybe, he may get to be one of those people one day - one who, no matter how big of a struggle it is, puts others before themselves and gains more joy from that than anything else. He told him those were "his people."

Every day, we are given the opportunity to either live for ourselves, or live for others and most importantly God. Jesus demonstrated a servant's heart, and the way to be truly enlightened and fulfilled is to find joy in living by His example. This isn't to say we make the choice and we are finished. Living with the Lord is a journey, not a destination. It is a lifelong effort of the spirit to be as close to Him as possible.

Lord, it is so easy sometimes to feel like I should be putting myself first, because that is what I see around me and it seems like the only way to save myself from being hurt. But I know that is not how you lived or what you want from me, and I am so thankful for the kind and generous heart you blessed me with. Lord, Strengthen my heart so I may continue to give to him who asks of me, to go two miles when forced to go one, and to love and pray for those who may not love and pray for me, because I know that is your way. I am devoting my heart to you, and surrendering myself. Please continue to guide me, I'm listening. Let your love rain down on he who is lacking love for himself, shine your light on his darkness. Thank you Lord for selflessly sacrificing your own to absolve us of our own selfish acts. Forgive me for the things I am lacking and help me to see where I can do better for you. Amen.

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