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Reflecting on Christian Living

28 Jun

Beginnings.

I asked God to forgive my sins and I told Jesus I was glad he died for me when I was 6 years old.  I trusted in Jesus for my eternity with the total commitment of a young child.  A lot happened prior that event to prepare my heart.  A lot has happened since then.

Susan school pic #1

If you believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, when did you make that decision? What lead you up to that point?   Are glad or sad that you made that decision?   Do you still believe in Jesus?

Please leave your comments – I want to know about you.

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgiveness, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 3

27 Mar

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgiveness, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 3

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Decades ago, there was a movie  where one of the characters said:  “Love means never having to say you are sorry.”   True love is the exact opposite.  Over the years of our marriage, I have learned it is much more important for me to acknowledge I’ve screwed up (again) and quickly say I’m sorry, than to spend time in silence trying to come up with the “right reason”, excusing my behavior, or trying to lay the blame at someone else’s feet.  When I try – as I occasionally still do –  my husband – as a Godly man – won’t buy it.  He just asks – was what you did kind, loving, necessary, righteous (morally), gentle, caring or not?  He just lays it all out there.  Why?  Because he loves me.  Because he usually has already forgiven me – before I even ask – and because he loves me and wants to have me experience personal growth.  Now knowing he has already forgiven me, I ask you, would it be kind and loving of me to not ask for forgiveness?  Instead to just take it for granted and not communicate my remorse?

With my husband this is often – but not always true.  But with God this is purely true – 100% of the time.  God loving me always means that there is nothing I can do which will make God un-love me.  But does this give me the right to continue to live in a manner unworthy of a daughter of the Lord?  Romans tells us NO, May it never be so.  Loving God means when He says I screwed up – I agree.  Now understand, God is a gentleman.  He doesn’t stand with a big hammer, waiting to beat us over the head when we come to Him.  He will never turn us away.  Instead He stands as the Prodigal’s Father, reaching out, going out of His way to be there and wait for us to come to Him with our issues and problems.  He desires only honesty on our part.  He wraps loving arms around us, and says WELCOME HOME.

When I’ve blown it, I try to quickly turn around; leaving behind the failing pattern and seeking instead to do the positive actions that make life better.  I ask what God wants me to do.   Not just partially, not only intellectually, or with a little effort, but with my whole heart.  I pursue what I believe God tells me with my whole being, my mind, my heart, my soul.   I know that the promptings of God never contradict the written word of God.  I know they never contradict His moral code.  I know they can be confirmed with scripture, and I can consult as well, with Godly others, when necessary.

The truth is that it is not my “feelings” about God that count.  Feelings are important and need to be acknowledged.  Expressing our emotions can be key to our worship as we acknowledge who He is and who we are.   Feeling however, can lie.  They can make us believe things that are simply not true.

Some people may describe what has been happening to me this Lent as a dessert.  Referencing perhaps Jesus’ experience in the dessert. There are many examples in the Bible where people felt separated from God.  David was certainly no stranger to feeling alone and forsaken – but that feeling didn’t make it true.   (Read Psalm 46 or Psalm 70.  David pours out honest feelings to God, and God responds.)

For the entire month of February I felt  like my inner-being was in a frozen wilderness.  Nothing moving.  Nothing alive. My heart cocooned, carefully wrapped in the insecurities of doubt.  I’m out in the cold alone, I’m not “feeling” the warmth of God’s presence with me.  My soul very well knows it is me that chose to walk my own way for a short period of time.  It was me that brought the chill into the relationship through isolation.  The Bible clearly states that there is NOTHING we can do to escape God’s love.  (Romans 8:28)  It is that simple.

No one can keep any relationship warm with love at a distance.  I don’t know about you, but we all want to think that when we chose to follow God, ,that our path will be smooth and we will never struggle or have doubts, or times of passivity that lead to a cool relationship.   Efforts made to spend private time together, were displaced with other seeming priorities.  What a wasteful choice on my part.  How can anyone maintain closeness if we don’t seek out, listen to, spend time with, and want to hear from the other person.

How can I maintain closeness when I place myself away from God’s Word?  His very bread and body given for me?  After a while, like a piece of wood pulled away from a bright warm fire, my zeal cools and my heart grows cold.  As a lighthouse, I fail to burn brightly and become just a small spark, an ember barely on fire.   I ask myself, “Who moved?”   I am reminded of the truth gently by a loving God  He is still there.  He is waiting for me tell me WELCOME HOME.

During rebellious times, during trying times and circumstances, we are wise to make even greater effort to hear and study to learn from God’s word and to stay in touch with fellow believers.  Instead of isolating and trying to go it alone, and “negotiate” with God, I need to immerse myself fully in His love.  I need and want to spend time with Him, in His word, in prayer, in listening and learning.  Get more involved in being and doing.  Be accountable to keep faith alive.  Let others help me understand and deal in a more constructive way with difficult circumstances.

What counts is TRUTH.  During reflection, I realize again that the very words of God are truth.  Jesus said of himself that He is “the way, the truth, the light”.  (John 14:6)   This is a time when I must firmly plant my feelings into my faith in God.  I must confirm truth with scripture.  I need to take every thought captive to Christ (2 Cor 10:5) and get my mind and my heart back into alignment with what God would ask me to be and do.  We each are commanded to renew our minds and not to conform to the patterns of this world.  (Rom 12:2)  Romans 12 is an entire chapter on how to live a God honoring life.  The precursor is recognition of God’s gift to us in His death on the cross, as well as our possible choices in response to His sacrifice.

For me WELCOME HOME means knowing that God is faithful, even when I am not.  God is always with me; whether I feel it or not.  I know God wants only what is best for  me, yet sometimes I fear that circumstances will make that impossible.  God says – I do the impossible.  To be honest though, speaking or acting in my human weakness,  in a manner that is *not* like Jesus would have do, or would have me do, is  always possible —- until I am with Jesus Christ is heaven.  For now, we work out our salvation moving toward, not away, from God.  Becoming increasingly like Christ.

Is it an easy straight line at a nice 45 degree growth angle?  Not at all.  We walk, run, climb, fail, slip, stumble, enter into circumstances or encounter difficult life events that act as  deep water and slow us down.  Sometimes we pause for a bit. Hopefully, we then pray for forgiveness and healing when needed.  As we come back to God, we return to alignment and clear relationship with God.  I know I am not all I should be or want to be, but I also know by God’s love and grace, I am not what I once was.  The human instinct to act against God or to withhold portions of my life from God is lessening over time as I seek Him in closer and closer relationship.

As an introvert, I know just how hard it is to walk into a new church or any church “cold turkey”.  Not knowing anyone.  I also know that if I’m not willing to make healthy choices for my mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health, then I’m not willing to take chances.  Without chances there can be no changes. Without change, there is no growth.  Above all I want to grow.  I want to become MORE like Christ, and less like the old me.

I encourage everyone this Lenten and Easter seasons to make a choice to take a chance, to make a change.  What is there to lose?  Nothing but our past.  Our wilderness.  If life is going great for you?  What have you to gain?  Love.  Eternity.  Relationship.  Deep abiding faith that is unexplainable – for FAITH is the evidence of things not yet seen.  What can we lose?  The wilderness of wandering.

Please leave a comment if you want more information or have questions.  Thank you for reading.

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgivenss, Relationship, Love – Part 2

26 Mar

1Timothy2_3-4

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgivenss, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 2

Sin – not a popular word these days.  I know I would much rather acknowledge only the attributes of God being loving, kind, gentle.  I think others are similar.  It is easier on our ego and self-esteem to make God a God who is not righteous, not holy.  An easier God is just a slightly higher version of us – holy, without sin Himself, but not judgmental or righteous enough to hold people accountable and require a payment for the penalty of sin.   Somehow in our human reasoning to have a God that requires payment for sin, is to make Him petty.  That is NOT WHO GOD IS.  God is OTHR.  He is beyond anything.   In the books of Isaiah as well as Job, God Himself points out the vast differences between man and God.  He asks “Where you there when I hung the stars?”   God says “Your thoughts are not my thoughts, nor your ways my ways.”

Instead of a petty God, as some would have Him to be – quite the opposite is true.  A God that does not require a penalty for sin is not holy, is not righteous.  In fact, to make Him so, is to put ourselves above God.  Here is one reason why:  even as humans, our justice system and our sense of justice, both require people to fulfill a sentence for wrongdoing, for harming others, or even for attempting self-harm.  Suicide is illegal in most states, so even harming ourselves, according to man’s law, requires retribution.  Requires actions to save.  EMT’s called to the sight of an attempted suicide must make an effort to save the person and return them to a functioning human state.  Even humans recognize the delusion that man is in control of our own soul.  We are only in control of our choices.  And we do not often choose wisely; even when we do, it is like a reach of inches, when God demands a standard of holiness that is the length of thousands of feet.  We can never reach far enough – without God’s intervention on our behalf.  God determined that our short fallings, our sin, deserve death.  It is holy and right that He has done so.

YET IN His goodness, kindness, mercy and grace – instead of insisting we pay the penalty — before the beginning of time – GOD in His majesty and love – also determined a way for His son, Jesus, to take our penalty, to  pay the ransom price for us.   Read I Timothy 2, verses 4-6.  Or if you desire, read the entire chapter.

God does not just want us to confess our sin to Him, He doesn’t want the “box checked” and for us to then walk away and live as we choose.   God has reached out since day one to have relationship, reconciliation, and fellowship with mankind.  God seeks us, He desires us to seek Him.  He promises in Jeremiah 29: 11-14 that when we seek Him with a sincere heart, we will find Him.

In many Psalms, but especially in Psalm 51, David rightly acknowledges that at the root of all failings,  all sin is truly sin  against a Holy God.   Do we harm each other?  Most definitely.  Do we harm ourselves?  Yes.  We have only to see the example put forth in first and second Samuel to see lots of evidence.  And it continues throughout time including today.  Watch the news to see how many times people’s choices are not beneficial to themselves or others.  The reality is that sin breaks our fellowship, puts a space in our relationship with a Holy God.  He cannot meet with us when we harbor sin in our hearts.  Sin also breaks our relationships with each other.

Through Nathan the prophet, God offered David forgiveness if he would repent.  God is always reaching out to us to offer reconciliation.  It is we who are to respond.  Psalm 51 says “Against you, and you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight”.  NOTE:  It is hugely important to read hrough the entire Psalm and to read the the context t background of what happened in David’s life leading up to this confession.  ((2 Samuel, chapters 11 & 12).   David was a lier, cheater, adulterer, murderer, and possible rapist.  Yet, when he confessed his sin, as we learned yesterday – God forgave him his sin.  (I John 1:9)   Was there an earthly consequence?  Yes, the child died.  Clearly many others were hurt.  Was there reconciliation to a Holy God after admitting wrong doing? Most definitely – Yes.

For me,  loving is forgiveness.   Being loving – toward both others and myself –  means owning and admitting my failures.   Not to live there, but to say I did it or thought it or said it, to tell God and the person(s) that I’m sorry and I want to move on in forgiveness and reconciliation.   A few weeks ago, I read something that really resonated with me.   I do not know who said it first, or to whom to attribute the quote.

Here is what it said:  “I would rather be an honest sinner, than a holy hypocrite.”   It makes a valid point – though the saying is clearly an oxymoron – for there is certainly no such person as a holy hypocrite.   To be a hypocrite is to pose. To be out of alignment between our private self, our heart, and our public self.  Most importantly, to be a hypocrite is to be out of alignment with God.  To say one thing and do another.  To say one thing and think another.  The list goes on……

We can sometimes fool people, but never God.  God looks on our heart.  He knows our every thought and motives.  Some people say that they do not attend church because it is filled with hypocrites.   Again, in reality, it is the opposite.  Church is filled with people who openly admit we are sinners, people who acknowledge we blow it.  Often. For you see, every week I attend church, every time I open my Bible to read and learn and listen to God, I am living and declaring the fact I am NOT a hypocrite.  I am acknowledging I cannot live a holy life apart from God.  I cannot live without confession.  I cannot live without asking forgiveness in all my relationships.  I cannot live without knowing that a loving God paid the ultimate price to reconcile and have a relationship with me. (Cross reference John 3:16)

I need that unending, unconditional Love.  I need that perspective.  I need that HOPE.  Knowing God is always there with me and on my side is my daily dose of reality.  Reality check – as in real eternity – not our temporary world now.   Most of the folks I know that want a close relationship with God feel the same way.  We need God.  Not the other way around.

If you want more information or have questions, leave a comment.   I look forward to your comments.  Thank you for reading.

Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Artist

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