Tag Archives: 2015

Reflections on Christian Living – Special Practices – Gratitude

11 Nov

Reflections on Christian Living – Gratitude – Special Practices

There are several special practices or seasonal disciplines which I undertake to spur on and encourage Christian growth, to become more Christ-like and to change-up my walk a bit in order to keep me from becoming complacent in a daily journey with Jesus.

One of these practices is currently underway. I know some friends who either call it a 30 day gratitude challenge.  Some start on November 1st.  Some start 30 days before Thanksgiving.

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I don’t have a name for what I do, but most of my seasonal practices are actually 40 days long.  I try not to miss a day, but I am not legalistic about it, as is not about that.  These practices are an act of worship.  They are done not instead of my daily practices, but alongside them.

For 40 days before Thanksgiving I begin a gratitude journal.  Often,  I publish a summary on Facebook of what I am most grateful for on any given day during this season of reflection.  We are so blessed in so many ways and simply take most things for granted.  (I’m as guilty of this as the next person).

I would encourage anyone to do this.  I recently read that you can re-program your mind toward positivity by simply thinking of 3 things a day you are grateful for, and do that practice for 21 days.  I’m a slower learner, I need the shock therapy to my heart –  40 days gives me that gift.

What I have learned over the several years of doing this seasonal practice 40 days before Thanksgiving is that my entire daily attitude shifts over the course of those days.  Yes, I am usually grateful year around, but I’m the first to admit, there are simply times I fall far short in that category, and slip into what my mom would call “pity parties”.  I say that not as an excuse, but a confession.  I need more gratitude in my life.  I need more AWARENESS in my life.  I need to praise God more often for wonderful blessings – most particularly for His mercy and grace.  Since November has some challenging anniversary dates – and at least one blessed anniversary date in it, this practice helps me to gain perspective.

In the early days, I am not alert to specific items for which I am grateful.  Those first few days are often the “discipline” part.  I do it because I know it is the right thing for me to do.  I watch, i observe life – not just my life – but life in general.  I observe the life of others, of loved ones, of those going through hard times, and those who appear to have all their blessings like ducks in a row.

As the 40 days continue, I find myself increasingly aware of the blessings in my life – even when some of those blessings are trials.  I find myself so aware some days, that there is a list of multiple items in my journal which could be listed as today’s gratitude.  If I post on FB, I pick just one to share with others.   And I happily enjoy the blessings gained of my friends posting what they are grateful to have or experience in their life.

As I near the end of the 40 days and come to Thanksgiving as the day after the seasonal practice ends, I find that the day is wonderful.  Not in the sense of the traditional holiday, big meal, and all the “stuff” or a house overflowing with extended family or friends.  Those things are rare for us.  It is a wonderful day because I realize how different my attitude and heart have become as I look back over this year’s 40 day gratitude journal.

If you have never done this, or haven’t started yet this year, it is not too late.  Start to practice the presence of gratitude and as my mother used to sing “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done”.

Reflections | Thoughts on Christian life

29 Oct

via Reflections | Thoughts on Christian life.    LIVING IT OUT – ROMANS CHAPTER 12 – Getting started

I’m in a small group Bible study and we’re going through Romans 12.   I’m enjoying the Bible study and the companionship on the journey toward living out my Christian walk in a fuller way.  I’m also being challenged by the study, it is causing me to reconsider compartmentalization as the “normal” way with Sacred on one side and Secular on the other.  This section of scripture is really calling out for us to live all of life as a sacred form of worship and service.  Pretty radical in that day, and I think, still radically challenging today.

In case you are not familiar with Romans 12, it follows 11 Chapters laying out the reasons that believing on Jesus Christ is the logical thing to do.  It presents a systematic doctrinal perspective for Faith and Grace as well as a number of other basic Christian beliefs.  He gives the: what when who where how why – in this book.  It was written to the Gentiles and Jewish people living in Rome around 58 AD.  Approximately 25 years after the death of Jesus.  He is writing to a church he never started, but he wants to encourage them and prepare them both for his visit and for growing in Jesus Christ.   It is a wonderful book of the Bible to study, but I recommend getting some guidance or a study guide from a reliable source.

Chapter 12 starts with the idea that is essentially saying “Now then after hearing/reading all I’ve just finished teaching you in Chapters 1-11, here is what to do”.   The transition from theoretical to practical application starts in verses one and two….  It goes like this in the ESV:  “I appeal to you brothers (and sisters) by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be confirmed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your ind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”   Quite a tall order.  But notice he is not commanding, but pleading.   If you want to get all the good stuff that God longs to give you – live this way.

To even begin to dwell on this and consider everything we do and think as an act of worship – of love for Jesus – reveals the need for change in many areas for almost all of us.  But Paul does not leave us hanging, in vs 2 he gives a clue as to how we can possibly do this.  RENEW our minds.  Said another way: STOP being conformed by the worldview of those who are not believers in Christ and consider what God has to say as the preeminent way to live.

So he takes us forward in the rest of the chapter to discuss our relationships.  Vs 1 – In relationship to GOD – put it ALL IN.  Don’t hold back.  Vs 2 – In relationship to ourselves – changing our thinking is mandatory.   Vs 3-8  In relationship to the Church – the body of Christ – how are we to function now in community?   Vs 9-21 In relationship to society – our sphere of influence.   The entire chapter is a practical living advice.  He continues in Chapter 13 with a broadening circle of relationships, but that is for another day.

Please leave a comment if you want more information or have questions. Feedback and comments are welcome.  Thank you for stopping by and visiting.  Thank you for reading.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to leave a comment. (I’m trying to get those feedback areas working again, but just in case it’s not, you can also comment on my PIN).

Have a great day.

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Reflections of Faith – What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

12 May

Sometimes, I don’t know what to do.

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Reason one,  there is so many tasks to be done that I can’t decide what to start first.  Which is a great excuse to procrastinate, but does not help the situation at all. If this is the case, I usually spend 10 minutes making a list, and literally flip a coin to decide where to start.  Usually it is just a penny from the Christmas fund, dropped randomly on the page – with my eyes closed.  Once I’m started, the tough part is done.

I do not make the list in any particular order, just write tasks as things pop into my mind.  I don’t prioritize the list because for me that is just another way to avoid taking any action at all.  And then, I realize, that not deciding is also draining my energy,  so if even the list making is overwhelming, I fall back upon an old disciplinary favorite.

About 2 years ago when inertia and depression were both the words of the day, I used a cheap white board with 30 squares.  We had used it in prior years as the caregiver day-chart when we had multiple bodies floating into and out of our home over a series of weeks and months.  Now, it lay unused.  One day, for whatever reason, I was poked into picking it up, erasing it, and listing 1 chore a day.  Just one.  And then I committed to get up every day, get dressed every day, load the dishwasher everyday, and do THE ONE chore.   Sometimes it took all 15 spoons just to do the first task – get up and get dressed.  But this board has continued to serve me well during times when chronic illness challenges me with the feeling of being over-whelmed and wanting to shut down.

The other reason why sometimes it is hard for me to do is that there is no motivation.  I know there are things to be done, but they aren’t “fun”, or “rewarding”, or “creative”.  They just need to be done.  These are the times when I wonder:  “Am I lazy?”  “Am I undisciplined”?  My older siblings are likely to say both as that is the curse of being the baby of the family.  But there is more to it.  Sometimes, in my heart of hearts, it is pure-selfishness.  I don’t want to do anything for anyone, I want to only do something fun for me.  Immature.  Effective in doing nothing or doing the “good – but not “best” things.

While some may think reason #2 is part and parcel of #1 and vice versa, I don’t.  For me, reason #1 involves health management and physical/mental being issues.  Reason #2 is a failure of character, the heart and/or involves spiritual issues.  At least for me.  So to deal with #2 – lack of motivation, I turn to the promises of scripture, the remembrances of all that God has done for me.  I sing a song or two and I count my blessings.  Then I ask God to help me do something for someone else, for a minimum of 20 minutes.  Amazingly, God answers that prayer.  Always.  And after the reflections of God’s blessings in my life, and the activity for others, motivation is restored, balance returns and selfishness fades.  Amazing how that works.

How about you?  Do you ever have days where it is difficult to just get going?

Reflections on Christian Life – Mountain Tops and Valleys?

17 Apr

Reflections on Christian Life

Mountain Tops or Valleys

I hear many Christians speaking of mountain top experiences.  Those spiritual moments when it seems you are closer to heaven and can easily feel the presence of God.  I’ve had those.  The beauty is astounding.  The rush is real.  The fact that it took work to climb that mountain, take the risk and reach out toward the heavens is no accident either.  The path can be steep and narrow.  It can challenge us in ways we would never discover if we did not adventure out on God’s grace to the upper reaches.

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And yet, if you look at mountain tops another way, they are often barren, at the very top, if they are extremely tall, they are treeless, often dry or harsh and hard places.  Some are snow-covered and frigid all year around, and many of the highest peaks on earth are simply deadly to those who chose to take the challenge and tread upon their landscapes.

Now think of the valleys in your life.  I often live in the valley.  Where it once was a dark and lonely place, seemingly filled with predators and greater danger than the mountain top –  it is no more.  It is no longer the barren desert spot.  Instead, through God’s incredible grace, I have come, over time, to realize that it is in the valleys we find still waters.  It is in the valleys where we sometimes pause in our “climbing” work, and swim in deep waters.  Reaching out daily to touch the hand of God, to say “I can’t do this alone”.

It is in the valleys where the cultivation work is done so that new growth is possible.  It is also in the valleys where abundant growth can come from irrigation for our soul.  Tilling up old habits and thoughts is no easier than climbing mountains.  It is just as difficult to trust the hand of God to protect us in the early darkness found in deep valleys and canyons as it is to trust him on the narrow climb

What has been your thinking about mountains and valleys in your spiritual journey?  How do you feel about each?  Have you ever looked or thought about these extremes in a different way than you do now?  Perhaps the opposite way?  Option 1:  Mountain top good, Valley bad, or Option 2:  Mountain top, great place to visit, but we live and grow in the valleys of life.  Option 3:  I prefer neither?

I’m curious, what have your experiences on the Christian journey been?  High, Low, Steady?  Both?  All three?

I would love your feedback, either via blog comment, Facebook comment or Pinterest comment.

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgiveness, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 5

29 Mar

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgiveness, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 5

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This is the last in the series of 2015 Lenten reflections.  This is where I admit that growing in holiness to become the person God wants me to be is a challenge.  Is it a full time job?  It can be, it is best when it is.  Is it hard?  Often.  Do I consistently make living my beliefs – 100% of every day?  Not at all.  Consistently, yes.  100%, no.   [To see how I deal with that, Go back to Part 1 of this series]  Is it worth it?  Totally.

I’m human, there are times I question and doubt, I fear and I fail my Lord.  I’m so glad my God is big enough to handle my questions, and so gentle and loving that he doesn’t immediately strike me dead for daring to question Him.  If He wasn’t like that, He wouldn’t be much of a God now would He?   God does not EVER turn away any sincerely seeking humble soul.   God is always faithful, He loves me no matter what.

I cannot hide from his love, it infinitely surrounds me. God promises He will never leave me nor forsake me.  He promises that if we seek Him, we will find Him.  That perfect love and true promises are what keeps me seeking God.  After all, we are in a love relationship.  I want to meet with God.  I want to obey God and follow His desires.  I want to fulfill the highest potential He has planned for my life.  And in turn, God always wants what is best for me.  He can take the bad stuff that just happens to anyone walking on this earth and He turns it around for my good. (When I let Him).

In reflection this season, I am also reminded that we are called “to live at peace with everyone – so far as it depends upon us”.  (Romans 12:18)  Here too we are challenged to draw upon our faith in God – for to live in peace often times means setting aside our personal comforts – our fears and our prejudices.  We need to go outside our comfort zones to grow, leave the past behind in order to avoid harming others – all the while standing firm in our core faith.  Not because we are faithful, but because GOD is faithful.  Not because we are better or think we are better than anyone else – for we are not.  We are simply forgiven sinners, striving to live in love.

That – the “live at peace” verse – God really means that.  It includes some extraordinarily difficult choices and actions.  Things such as: not compromising truth, not looking the other way at evil, not being silence in the presence of wickedness, and not being prejudice.  Instead, we are called to help the weakest among us, to help those who cannot help themselves, and to put into action plans that honor and glorify God.  We are called to be the very hands and feet of Christ on this earth – in the now, in the here, in our spheres of influence.  We are called to be a visible presence of God’s Kingdom on earth through our lives, our actions, our choices, and if absolutely necessary – our words.   Sometimes, I am greatly saddened when I think that Christians are more often know for what they are “against” than for whom they stand for.  Personally, I think it is a fabulous prayer to ask God to be more visible in my life actions than in my words.  Personally, I think if we can season our lives with more love and acceptance for people and share what God has done for us, we would be a much more attractive people of God, than we oft times are now.

I believe that God has the best ability to convict of sin and convince in love.  I believe that God – through the Holy Spirit – points all hearts to Christ.  Everyone on this earth will make a choice before they die.   (Rom 14:7-10)

When asked about my faith or current issues, will I speak answers, give my position and offer my reasoning.  I can share my testimony of what God means to me and what He has done in the past, and what He is doing in my life now.  But I am not called to judge your life.

For me, at least, I think the cliche to “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” is trite.  I believe it is impossible to live out without hypocrisy.  Maybe someone else could do it, but not me.  When I love someone I love them.  I accept them where they are now, just as Christ accepted me where I was then and where I am now.  God accepts me fully – just as I am.  He requests only honesty from us, from me.  It doesn’t mean God will leave me there.  For He wants to see me grow in knowledge and grace.  Over time – that growth can include: changes in lifestyle, reading and mentoring in the Bible, the very Word of God.

Here is how it works for me:  unless a person has given me permission to help you see your blind-spots, and only when I know you very well indeed  – and vice versa – I have been given you permission to point out my blind spots – only then do I think that it is helpful to share areas where another person cannot or does not have the ability to see how you (or me) can improve.  Only then, do I think it is acceptable for others to point out areas where anyone needs improvement and growth.  Mutual accountability.  Mutual accountability means mutual love, guaranteed acceptance and forgiveness. *I do have one exception*

Living out my faith, or as James (Jesus brother said) – “working out my own salvation with fear and trembling…” can mean being in accountability relationships, in love sharing our lives with others, not to put down, criticize or critique, but to share honestly our lives and “bleeding edges” in confidentiality with one another.  It can, and hopeful also does,  include corporate as well as private worship time.  It can mean meditation and study in the Bible to learn what God expects from us and of us.

God nurtures us to “ever grow”.   Kind of like an “evergreen” in nature.  Some periods have greater growth, some have lessor growth.  Unless there is a draught or uprooting, there should be growth. We, (I’m including me too) should not be the same people today that we were a year ago.  Along that time, we would be growing, budding, blooming and becoming more like Christ.

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So how are we to show one another the love of Christ?  Jesus told His disciples flat out – rule #1 – LOVE ONE ANOTHER. How can we do that?  Live in alignment with God, and fulfill His purpose for our lives?  One method I have been a part of in the past was being within a prayer community for several years that encouraged small accountability groups of 3 to 5 people to meet every week and answer the following 3 questions:

1.  What have you done to nourish your relationship with Christ this week?  (One of the reasons I included the mp3 song above is because I use music in my private worship to nourish my relationship with God – I have not tried this before, but I believe if you click on the notes, the track will play for you to enjoy.)

2.  How have you studied to improve your knowledge of God and of His creation?  (Including your fellowman)

3.  What actions have you taken to share Christ in your spheres of influence?

Let me tell you, participating in those groups (3 over the course of 20 years), was one of the best tools I have honestly ever been introduced to as a method for encouraging personal spiritual growth.  What was said in the group meeting – stayed confidential between only the participants.   This time was growing, fun, and fantastic fellowship.  It was gaining a foothold in a tough place with friends to help you along the way if you fell.  It was great.  I hope to find new prayer partners to meet with regularly very soon.  (Pray with me if you will for this to happen soon)

We are commanded to seek out and spend time with others of same faith.  The purpose is to help our spiritual growth.  God doesn’t expect us to have all the answers and be a “Lone Ranger” Christian.  Trust me, we don’t have all the answers.  Again, if we did, I would think God is too small.  I trust him and have faith – even when I don’t understand all that is happening in my life or the lives of those I love.

Instead, we are encouraged to learn from one another and to keep each other accountable to hold onto integrity, to avoid hypocrisy.  The Bible says:  “steel sharpens steel”…Reflections on this truth, also keep me seeking God as part of a local community of believers.  It is in fellowship with like minded people that we can gain wisdom to have others help us see our own blind spots and to gain strength from each other as we seek to serve the Lord together.

This is part of the beauty of Easter.  Living a resurrection life.  Jesus appeared after His resurrection to over 500 of His disciples (The book of Acts).  Why do you think He did this?  I think He did it to encourage them to stay together, to stand firm, to keep the faith, and to help them realize His resurrection was a REAL HISTORICAL EVENT.  An event that continues to this day.  Now that, my friends, THAT, is worth celebrating.

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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, Forgiveness, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 4

28 Mar

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Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgiveness, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 4  

Reflections on Christian Living is in part knowing that we have all sinned, we have fallen short of God’s standard of holiness.  This fact is true of ALL of humanity.  No one is exempt from failing to please God in our own efforts.   (Isaiah  64:6)  God is very clear that in our human efforts — without Christ – we can do nothing to measure up to His Holy expectations.  The Bible makes this profusely clear in an abundance of passages.  For us – this is NOT where the story needs to end.  We have a choice to make.

This Lent season, I challenged myself  to walk in faith again through a section of scripture which helped me to find God.  I wanted to reread and restudy these verses now to expand my spirituality, to grow, to extend my borders and to go outside my comfort zone by digging deeper.

I offer all of you the same opportunity – take a journey along a well paved and ancient Roman Road.  In the book of Romans, Paul tells people to realize that in this world there is some bad news – yet in the midst of bad news there is good news waiting to breakthrough into our lives.

By good news I mean God has always loved us, and continues to love us at our very darkest moments.   His word says, “That while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”   Jesus Christ did this knowing that not everyone would accept the gift He made in offering His life.  I honestly don’t believe any other human being could do that in total unconditional love.  Only Jesus walked in history as fully God and fully man.  Only He could make a way for us to be reconciled to God.

I am in awe, just think about this for a few moments:  Jesus Christ made a way for our reconciliation to God.  His resurrection brings us the possibility of new life in Christ.  Jesus died, but he did not stay dead.  He – as God – has the power over death.  This is the miraculous truth of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.  The suffering which came with that death and the willingness of God to make such a way is part of the reflections for me during this Lenten Season.

For anyone not familiar with a set of passages known as the Roman Road, they are listed below.  Let’s each read and ponder these deep truths in our hearts as we move forward toward the Easter season of joyful resurrection. All of these passages are found in the Holy Bible, in the book of Romans.

Romans 3:10-12

Romans 3:23

Romans 6:23

Romans 5:6, 8-11

Romans 10:9-10

Romans 10:13

Romans 5:1

Romans 8:1

Romans 8:38-39  This is great news and a wonderful promise.

If you want to go deeper:  Follow-up with these verses for dessert to ponder the questions — What now?  How shall I live?

2 Cor 5:17, Romans 12: 1-3, and Colossians 3:2

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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, 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.

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgivenss, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 1

25 Mar

1-john-1-9_Cartoon

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin – Part 1

Have you ever felt while everyone else is “springing forward” you are sliding back”?  This lent season is unusual for me.  My reflections have taken a turn.  I am in the midst of a struggle to “feel” close to Christ.  I feel distant.  I know who moved.  Me, not God.

I know that when I confess my sins, God is faithful and just to forgive my failings. (I John 1:9)  If you don’t know, the definition of “confessing” is to agree  with one’s accuser.  In the legal sense, it is confession that gains one a plea bargain and a lighter sentence.  In our God relationship, it is confession that agrees with God, and the result is possible earthly consequences or fall out, but no eternal punishment.  It is confessed, it is forgiven.

To tell God that I am aware of my short-fallings, my sins; Yes – that is confession.  Knowing and doing so are two different things.  Sometimes I just want to hang on a little longer to my rebellion, my way, my heart, my vision. Sometimes, I want to make a turn that is not in the road.  I want to refuse to go where I believe God is calling me, to do as I believe He wants.  I am sure I’m not alone in this.  My usual reason why?  Well, it’s silly really, but fear.  Fear of failure.  In this, I can identify with Moses.  “But Lord, I’m not qualified.” “Surely you don’t mean me.” “But that is so far beyond my comfort zone…..”Sin means turning my back on God and His desires and commandments.   Not a good option for any relationship.

If we seek to have ongoing daily relationship with the God of the Universe it means following His directions.  Obedience is a critical aspect of our Christian walk. Some Christian denominations have a prayer, which in part says: “I confess that I have sinned against You (meaning God), in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done, and by what I have left undone.”  I like that.  I need that, for in truth, I am much more apt to entertain an ungodly thought of NOT doing, rather than to act out by miss-doing.

I am very aware of that truth.  I am much more apt to leave something unattended than to commit a “visible offense”.  That doesn’t mean it is not wrong (sin).   Many are those of every faith that claim it of primary import – yet do not do what is called for action in obedient followers.  Each of us want to deny claim our short-fallings – because – well, “everybody does that”; or the classic “It’s not like I killed anyone” … “It is so drastic, people will think me a fool or worse, a wierdo”.

In case you are wondering — NO those are not acceptable excuses in God’s eyes.  I don’t know about you, but somehow I want to believe that partial commitment and partial obedience and partial following is OK.  It is not.  It is NOT what Jesus called His disciples to be.  In John 15 Jesus calls His disciples friends.  Each of those friends (except 2) died a cruel death for that friendship.  Yet I ponder in my weakness the harm of being unrepentant for a day or so.  I think Jesus friends who walked daily with Him during his earthly ministry had several things right.

I you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below.  Thanks for reading.  Part 2 soon.

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

Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Artist

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