Religion

Living on purpose with William Holland

The idea of faith within any community usually leads to thoughts about various types of church and that can definitely be a part of it. However, if we step back and observe the larger picture, we notice that faith is more of an overall spiritual presence than just the local assemblies themselves.
We realize there is a huge difference between being religious and spiritual and this has everything to do with how we connect with God and society. The Christian evangelical emphasis is based on the great commission, which involves allowing the light of Christ to shine as we associate with those who are watching.
Although many people have yet to embrace their spiritual mission, the needs are great and there is no shortage of opportunities to become involved. Followers of Christ are given the responsibility to develop a genuine lifestyle of sensitivity and there is no greater environment to become a walking, breathing lighthouse of love and concern than in our local community.
One definition of community, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, is “a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals”. This allows us to develop lifelong connections with neighbors, co-workers, friends, church members and businesses that can evolve into lasting relationships.
Especially within smaller communities, this concept can be preserved by caring parents and concerned individuals who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and become actively involved so that future generations can continue to enjoy a sense of belonging.
In the 1830s, young French nobleman Alexis de Tocqueville traveled throughout the United States carefully observing the nation’s people and institutions. When later explaining the success of America’s democratic republic to his countrymen, he commented at length about the critical role played by Americans’ religious devotion. He observed that spirituality was essential to forming this nation’s political convictions and I can see why.
Those who genuinely walk with God are called to be a spiritual witness and testimony everywhere they go, as well as being a practical asset providing stability, trust and integrity. With the stress of social correctness, we now need more than ever the sincerity of sound spiritual wisdom along with moral demonstrations of God’s character.
In 2006 and 2007, Robert Putham of Harvard and David Campbell of Notre Dame also surveyed a large and representative sample of Americans about the role of faith in their lives. One of the unique contributions of their research discovered that the behaviors, attitudes and beliefs of those who are considered people of faith show they are more likely to give their time and financial support to both religious and non-religious causes.
The two academics also concluded with what George Washington declared in his farewell address, that “of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports”. When discussing how Christians should participate in socially responsible ways, active faith is clearly just as vital for maintaining community today as it was when the pilgrims and puritans arrived.
Because the foundation of love begins with God and family, we can agree that the vision of community is to allow the character and compassion of Jesus to overflow into good works unto all people. This type of faith is not about denominations or a particular religious dogma; it’s more centered on an innocent enthusiasm to cooperate with others in order to live in peace.
When people are committed to following God’s directives, they cannot ignore the needs of those around them; thus, when followers of Christ reach out to embrace community, everyone benefits.
Community faith is about individuals who feel an accountability to step out beyond the walls of the organized church and interact with the world that surrounds the church. Christians were never called to be spectators – they are equipped and empowered to be participators!
Social religion talks about the cross while the true disciple of Jesus is identified with what it means. In fact, all people within God’s kingdom should be excited for the challenge to openly live what they believe and to be included within society as an optimistic ingredient of faith, love and hope.
Kentucky resident William Holland is an outreach minister, chaplain and author who has his own Christian website, billyhollandministries.com, and sets out each week to find thought-provoking messages of inspiration, hope and encouragement for our readers.

Living on purpose with William Holland

Hope is one of those dynamic words that deserves the title of catalyst when it comes to change. It is a spiritual attribute that God’s people should have on hand at any given moment because it is filled with life, enthusiasm and energy. Your first reaction to the idea of hope might be one of skepticism if you are thinking it’s easy for someone else to talk about hope when they do not understand what a terrible condition your life is in.
Well, I might not have walked in your shoes but I also know that being negative and giving up will not make the situation better. It’s true that health, finances, sorrow, family and marital disagreements are very serious problems but remember that God cares and desires to help you today. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31.
Many times, we think we know what is happening but the Lord wants to remind us that hope is believing in what we cannot see. In other words, we already understand what our difficulties are but we need hope in order to receive the solution. Listen to Romans 8:25: “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience”.
Trusting that God is not only able to help us but actually desires to take care of our circumstances gives us confidence that He will intervene. When we know that He is faithful to respond to our prayers, we cannot be held in bondage by our doubts and sadness.
Hebrews 6:18 reminds us “that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us”.
When we look up the definition of hope, we find it described as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen” and that it is also associated with other concepts such as desires and dreams.
Many folks associate hope with wishing, but wishing and fantasizing is a half-hearted whim that changes from day to day. However, spiritual hope is associated with the reality of divine truth!
This God kind of hope is much more than waiting to see who wins the ballgame
or if Mom’s casserole will taste good. This is a hope based on who God is and what He has promised! This biblical hope is a sure anchor of the soul based on solid evidence of his character and nature.
Hope and faith work together, as we see in Hebrews Chapter 11 and verse 1 – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. Now we are realizing the key ingredient in believing is a confident expectation and anticipation that literally moves the heart of God.
Listen to these words from Norman Vincent Peale: “Hope is a dynamic force, a reality filled with power. It can bring the weak back to strength. It can bring the sick back to health. It can turn failure into success. No wonder St Paul included it as one of the three great principles of Christianity – faith, hope and love.
“What’s the condition of hope in your life at this very moment? Does it get up with you every morning? Does it carry you confidently through the day? Is it still there, soothing and sustaining you, as you fall asleep? That’s what God intended when he created this shining quality and poured
it into us at birth.
“If cares, worries, fears and discouragement have gained a stronghold in your mind, then you need to open the windows of your soul and allow
a strong, fresh current of hope to come surging through.”
Yes, sometimes our journey takes us through the dark nights of the soul, where we battle against fear, anxiety and discouragement, but having a sincere hope in God can allow Him the opportunity to fill our mind and conscience with contentment and happiness.
“Now may God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace in believing that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope” – Romans 15:13.
Kentucky resident William Holland is an outreach minister, chaplain and author who has his own Christian website, billyhollandministries.com, and sets out each week to find thought-provoking messages of inspiration, hope and encouragement for our readers.

                     William Holland

Living on purpose with William Holland

If you have visited a nursing home or a medical-care facility, you doubtless know what I mean when I refer to such places as difficult and uncomfortable. The sights and sounds are difficult for our emotions to process and this explains why many folks would rather avoid them altogether.
I have heard people say they do not like hospitals, nursing homes or funerals and this is usually because they provoke us to think more deeply. When we look around and witness how other people are coping with aging and health problems, it is a normal response to live in denial as the old saying “out of sight – out of mind” reminds us.
However, there is really no need to dread or live in fear about our future because, whatever we might go through, God reminds us in Psalm 27 that He will always be with us and take care of us.
A good friend who is a highly intelligent and humorous newspaper editor in Texas shared a story with me recently about his experiences with nursing homes. He told me that, many years ago, when he was still living in England, he was the chairman of his home town’s carnival association. This was a nonprofit committee that organized an annual festival that included an elaborate parade featuring the annual carnival queen and her court of two princesses. These beautiful young women had been the winners of a beauty pageant during a gala the previous fall and were now ready to go on tour.
As a part of the carnival promotion, the association would take the girls to surrounding cities and have them participate in other parades and public appearances, thereby optimizing its fund-raising potential for local charities and other worthy causes.
My friend tells how it was easy to enthuse the royal court to attend these festivities
as they would quickly make friends with other local celebrities, along with meeting swarms of potential suitors along the way.
On each official outing, the carnival queen wore a white wedding-style ball gown and crystal crown and the two princesses wore colored ball gowns and crystal tiaras. To all the children they met, they were, indeed, touched with the magic of fairytale royalty.
However, with all of the attention and star status, there was one stop on the tour that was not considered glamorous. The girls were required to visit a facility for physically and mentally disabled patients
on Christmas Day.
Each year, my friend found himself trying to persuade these “rock stars” to devote part of that day to spending time with patients whose severe handicaps would break your heart. Every Christmas Day morning, it was a part of his duty to collect the girls and chauffeur them to the hospital and, with absolutely no hint
of his own inner apprehension, convince them that what they were about to do would forever change their perspective of life.
Each year, a new group
of celebrities would enter the hospital with trepidation, obviously intent on getting the ordeal over and done with. However, surprisingly, these young ladies would stay at individual bedsides far longer than anyone would have expected, hugging and chatting with children who could hardly speak. The mask of pride and pomp quickly melted into a sobering realization that many innocent people live each day with misery and suffering.
As they embraced the elderly, my friend could sense the power of compassion that was creating waves of gratitude and humility in everyone present. He said that, at the end of their year of office, the girls always thanked everyone for giving them the opportunity not just to spread some fairytale magic to the chronically unfortunate but also to realize just how blessed they were themselves.
Members of the clergy are more likely to be seen in prisons and healthcare facilities but we do not need to be an ordained minister to brighten someone’s day. It is precious to develop friendships with these individuals and I know there are many lonely people who would simply love to have someone visit and talk with them.
I understand that it’s a sacrifice to pull away from our busy schedule but, according to Matthew chapter 26, this is an act of compassion that reveals the heart of God.
Kentucky resident William Holland is an outreach minister, chaplain and author who has his own Christian website, billyhollandministries.com, and sets out each week to find thought-provoking messages of inspiration, hope and encouragement for our readers.

Living on purpose with William Holland

It’s amazing to think that, without light, there is complete darkness. Thank God, every morning He directs the sun to rise, which allows most of us to see without stumbling and having to feel our way around like a blind person.
Spiritually speaking, we were all born into spiritual darkness and are only given our vision when we invite Christ to transform us into a new creation. Another exciting reality is that no amount of darkness can extinguish even the tiniest light, which confirms that, as creator, God’s authority is greater than that of any other power: “And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness cannot overcome it!” – John 1:5.
When we are children, it’s common to be afraid of the dark because our natural instinct does not trust the unknown. We imagine creatures that can see us and are waiting in the shadows to grab us. As adults, we laugh at how silly this sounds, but fear is associated with our fallen human nature and, even as adults, we are still faced with the temptation to be anxious and worried about what we cannot understand.
It is only when our mind has been renewed by the word and spirit of the Lord that by faith we can trust Him and know there is nothing to fear as long as we are holding his hand: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” – Psalm 27:1.
I remember as a child, probably no older than six or seven, my parents planning an exciting adventure to Mammoth Cave. I recall that we followed a large group of people into the cave as a tour guide explained about the aragonites and stalagmites and so on.
There was decent lighting as we moved deeper through the damp tunnels but it was still a little scary for a wide-eyed kid. Anyway, we finally came to a place that opened up into a huge room – technically called a “chamber” – that included a steep drop-off that in my mind was nothing less than terrifying.
People were saying it seemed to have no bottom and I was definitely not going to the edge to confirm their statements. Yes, there was a flimsy railing to prevent someone from falling into a delightful Chinese restaurant but, nonetheless, I was not taking any chances.
Suddenly, the guides intentionally turned out the lights and – I am not exaggerating – you could not see your hand in front of your face. Of course, they were trying to make a point about total darkness and, believe me, I was completely convinced.
It did not help that I had somehow drifted away from my parents just before the black-out and I remember during those few moments feeling a huge sense of relief as I had both arms wrapped around what I thought was my dad’s leg.
When the lights came back on, I was calmly trying to adjust my vision when I looked up into the face of a complete stranger. Yes, in the chaos, I had attached myself to some poor man and was embarrassed to say the least. After my frantic parents found me, for the rest of the tour my mom was either holding my hand or had a firm grip on my jacket.
You know, thinking about how dark it is in this world without light gives us a hint that eternity will be the same way. God’s word proclaims that Heaven will be forever filled with the brilliant light of his presence.
Revelation chapter 21, verse 23, says: “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof”. Then, in verse 25, we are promised there will never be darkness or night.
John chapter eight, verse 12, says: “Then spoke Jesus unto them, saying, I am the light of the world; he that follows me shall never walk in darkness but shall have the light of life”.
Kentucky resident William Holland is an outreach minister, chaplain and author who has his own Christian website, billyhollandministries.com, and sets out each week to find thought-provoking messages of inspiration, hope and encouragement for our readers.

Living on purpose with William Holland

Life has its ups and downs and no one is exempt from struggling every now and then. We’ve heard that how we react to situations is a key to how much peace we can maintain and I certainly believe this is a nugget of wisdom.
For example, when someone disrespects us, it is common to allow the insult to develop an infection. However, these are times within our journey of learning to pray and ask God to help us look past our pain and direct our focus and trust on Him.
I admit that this is very hard to do because, when we are wounded and trying to deal with damaged emotions, it seems we cannot think of anything else other than how we feel.
Nonetheless, it’s possible to take these times of discouragement and not only use them as a ladder to help us climb out of our pit of sadness but to actually rise to a higher level of peace and contentment.
In Song Of Solomon chapter two, a Shulamite woman and her king are in love and their dialogue is a beautiful expression of romance. In verse 15, she mentions how little foxes damage the grape vines by chewing on them and eventually hinder their ability to make wine.
To make a long story short, the foxes represent our frustrations and aggravations while the vines are symbolic of our relationships, especially with God. The Shulamite woman is trying to warn her future husband of the importance of keeping their emotions in check by being aware of the negative forces that will attempt to impede their marriage.
This is not only true within the home but in all relationships. Importantly, the story reminds us that the foxes might be small but many times it is the little things that cause huge consequences. When others take advantage of us and fail to appreciate what we do, instead of wasting our emotional energy pouting and developing a negative attitude, we can be much more effective by taking these burdens to the Lord in prayer.
We have become used to living in an age of instant gratification and, unfortunately, this can bleed over into our spiritual thinking. We have a tendency when we say a prayer to expect immediate results and, when we do not have an answer by the end of the day, we move on to something else.
Let us consider that this is not always how the spiritual realm works. Have you ever experienced a stressful trial and, as you were searching for answers, it seemed that God was silent? Maybe He was quiet for his own reasons and then it could be that we were not listening. In order to hear his still small voice, we need to be very close to Him.
As believers, we are not to approach God and demand that He respond or else. Heaven is not a vending machine into which we put in our quarters and our problems are fixed.
God is our heavenly Father who is completely aware of our situation and, within his plan to help us, it is for us to have patience and submit to his will. Knowing Him is all about trusting Him even when it seems that no one else cares or understands.
In the book of Ephesians, we are given the explanation about our spiritual armor and, if we notice, the helmet and breastplate are given to protect our mind and heart from the dangerous arrows of words. Satan, the enemy of our soul, loves to use words against us because he knows how much damage they can inflict.
When we are confronted with negative circumstances, we are tempted to absorb this agony within our soul, which in turn triggers our response mechanism to unleash a flood of pessimistic reactions. Unfortunately, anger, sadness and low self-esteem have literally ruined many people’s lives.
Whatever emotional pain you are going through today, realize that God wants the best for you. Guard and protect your conscience from the irritating distractions of hurtful words and embrace the absolute truth of his promises. He loves and respects you and will never fail to take care of you.
Kentucky resident William Holland is an outreach minister, chaplain and author who has his own Christian website, billyhollandministries.com, and sets out each week to find thought-provoking messages of inspiration, hope and encouragement for our readers.