The Way Up and the Way Out  

As we begin the new year, we need to think about how we will shape 2017. That’s a big statement that recognizes we are the main actor in our lives. That we have the awe-inspiring power to give creatively. Each life is full of unknown possibility, and we are the ones to determine our future.

Many people affirm that we are created in the image of God. Have you ever met a child who is the splitting image of their parent? One of my colleagues, Jon, has a son, and there is no doubt whatsoever about whose son he is. I joke with my colleague; your son is your “mini-me!”

We are all God’s “mini-mes”. Nevertheless, it’s not sufficient to be created in God’s image. We need to live and function in the image of God. That is the more challenging part. Our birthright is our privilege to be born as God’s sons and daughters but that’s where the “rights” stop!

We live in an entitlement minded society. We think, I am an American, therefore I have a right to say and do what I want. We are accustomed to demanding our rights and freedoms. But the greatest gift God gave us has nothing to do with entitlement. It’s the gift of being the co-creators of our lives. That’s a gift with a huge price tag attached to it! It involves risk for God and us. But God decided the risk was worth it because there was no other way to achieve his desire for a relationship of true love.  I challenge you to figure out another way to achieve that goal!

This is why Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, the head of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, established the motto for 2020 “Let us become owners of the Kingdom of Heaven (ideal world) who practice true love in resemblance of our Creator, our Heavenly Parent.”

This inspires and reminds me that it’s up to us to build the ideal world, starting with our lives and in our homes and building out from there in our communities. We must function or live our lives in the image of God.

What is God like?

What is the nature of God? Without understanding this, we can’t hope to resemble Him. How can we function like God when we are ignorant of His attributes? If there is one thing I want you to challenge this year, it is to come to know God more deeply. That is going to take more listening than speaking! Are you up for the challenge?

The very nature of a creator is to give and if one attribute could best describe God, I would have to say that God is the ultimate giver.

Perhaps the most well known verse in the Bible is John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

It’s memorable and true and fits our need to have everything expressed in Twitterese or less than 140 characters. This verse comes in at 131. But if you stretch the character boundaries into the next verse you will encounter a lesser known sentence of equal wisdom:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

God had hope because Jesus lived in resemblance to Him. He functioned like God. Note that God didn’t send Jesus to condemn the world! Too many people, when they put on their religious hat, they assume they have the right to judge others. But Jesus was not like this. He reflected the heart of God, which is not to condemn.

God is a giver. One of the core tenants of the Unificationism is the ethic of “living for the sake of others”. The way out and the way up is to give, not centered on yourself but upon the needs of others.

Living your truest you

Rev. Moon taught “God is not an egocentric dictator. Rather, God invests Himself for humankind’s sake. For this reason, for tens of thousands of years our original minds have sought to follow God. (This explains why we have an innate desire to find God. He loved us first!)

Rev. Sun Myung Moon - DCAll beings must exist for the sake of other beings in order to maintain their place in this universe, as governed by the laws of Heaven. The principle of living for the sake of others has been valid throughout all ages and in all nations. An egocentric and self-centered way of life will bring about evil, while a life of living for the greater good will bring prosperity. All things can be brought into harmony by living for greater goodness. This opens all doors to individuals, families, tribes, races, nations, the world and heaven. The self-evident truth of the benefit of living for the sake of others must be put into practice on the path of a true life.

This principle is valid no matter where you may be. It is unchanging and eternal. If God were to appear before such sages as Buddha, Confucius, Jesus, or Muhammad, and ask them what they thought about this principle, they would surely reply that this principle is true. Do you feel the same way? Please keep in mind that this is the law of the universe, which is needed for men and women to live in their truest form.”

This notion of living for the sake others so that we can grow in likeness to God is important. Working in development I am around a lot of generous people. Many people don’t want recognition. They are silent givers who want to change the lives of those in their communities. Others want recognition or are giving as a means to gain value. Their giving is a way to feel good, it’s not really for the sake of others. This is why I like the way Rev. Moon’s expands the definition of generosity as “living for the sake of others”.

Even a small act can turn a dark moment

Regardless, of your circumstances, give what you can. Giving has the power of resurrection because in giving we resemble the heart of God. That is why, in my darkest and most difficult moments, I realized I would die spiritually if I didn’t get out there and give. If you are facing difficulty in your life right now, I would like to give you a life hack: find a way to give, no matter how small.

I received a beautiful text from a young woman the other day. On the outside, she is your typical millennial; juggling school, work and life, but then she did something that revealed her value as a daughter of God.

The text read:

I bought a homeless man a sandwich today. I’m glad I did. It rained really heard all night.

Nice act of love to help someone.

It was! I feel it’s important to step outside of yourself every day and take a moment to think of others.

I think we get caught up in the feeling that to give means to do something big or hard to accomplish or it doesn’t count. We mistakenly think, to share God’s love entails converting someone to something. But God is present in our smallest acts and encourages us to build the Kingdom where we live, work and play. That’s what it means to be an owner. The simple standard is that you use your gifts and talents to share God’s love with others. You are not expected to do something that isn’t you. And the worst thing we can do is not develop our innate talents. Our talent is the gift God gave us to resemble Him – we were created to live and love in His image.

Be who you are – God will never answer your prayers to be someone else!

Never be afraid to be yourself. If someone is asking you to be someone else, don’t do it! Be you. Our quest in life is to figure out what matters. Martin Luther King, whose life we will be celebrating tomorrow, asked people to reflect on what really matters. He said:

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?”

We think that life is about what we have but in reality it’s about what we give.

I love this video about two little girls who were determined to do something for others.

We all have something to give. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is. They hold he same essential value. It’s the heart that counts. Figuring what it is that you have to give is your life’s work. Don’t ever think that because of things that you have done or things that have been done to you, to harm or shame you, that you cannot be an actor in building God’s dream. God wants to liberate your heart so that you can be a giver! If you are not giving, you are not realizing your potential. The value and health of your life is measured not by your wealth or intellect but by your ability to give. Ultimate maturation comes when we develop the ability to live for the sake of others as a way of unconscious being. We do it without thinking, it is WHO we are.

Let me finish by telling you the story of John Newton. He was born in London in 1725. Life was cruel. His mother died two weeks before his seventh birthday and at age eleven he was sent to sea to serve as a cabin boy. Bearing in mind he was a child, you can only imagine his suffering. Life was rough and he didn’t live under the best influence. He was exposed to a life of drunkenness and immorality and he embraced it. Soon John surpassed his peers in outrageous behavior. He amused his fellow crew members by inventing new swear words. He was cynical and sarcastic. How does such a man hear the still, small voice of God?

Amazing GraceHe worked in the slave trade and was even briefly enslaved himself  in West Africa but escaped to join the British Navy. It took a storm at sea to humble him. He first embraced God in a “get me out of here and I’ll follow you” moment. But it took years for him to truly develop faith.

The amazing thing is that he came to know God’s grace. He wasn’t trapped in his past and the sin of slavery. He found grace and forgiveness. He discovered God’s mercy and that is why he wrote the famous hymn, Amazing Grace.

Knowing and feeling that God didn’t condemn him, he could begin life anew. He was filled with energy. He gave from a heart of gratitude. Although for most of his life he had been a sailor, he became known for his kindness and pastoral care. He simply loved people because he felt their value as sons and daughters of God.

Outrageous Grace

John Newton’s life had many ups and downs but through it all he discovered the importance of God’s Grace. Because of that he could receive forgiveness and move on to give to and love others. This week drink in God’s love and grace for you.

 

 

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