Tag Archives: Disciples

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

BibleVerse_2Timoty2_11_13

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.

Bible-ScripturesRoses

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.

IBelong2theMaster_1Tim2_6

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

Jesus160_cross_as_bridge Picture_2PcsofWoodBridge  

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

GraceBridge

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

Bible_FindVerse_GiveMyHeart_ItisAllGodWantedd

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.

What Happens When a Person Choses to Believe Christ? (a partial list answer)

9 Nov
You call it religion, I call it a relationship.

You call it religion, I call it a relationship.

Ever wonder what happens when a person choses to believe Christ? When a person choses to believe and accept that Jesus died to reconcile them to God. For this post, I will be using 2 Corinthians 5 as a starting point for some of the many things that happen or begin to happen the instant one choses to believe personally in Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation. The only way to gain new life.

2Corinthians 5:17+18 in the ESV says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

First, the entire direction of one’s life changes. We were facing death and separation. We were setting (settling really) for what we believed to be the best purpose for our life, yet it was prioritized according to our limited human perspective. The direction of our life, did not consider what was best for us in the larger view of eternity.

Second, Once one choses Christ, we have not only a new direction in life but a new life purpose. Now, through prayer we have full access to God’s wisdom and direction. Now, we are free to seek God’s purpose for our personal lives. Now, our purposes become God-motivated and God-driven. Now, seeking God’s purpose for our lives is one reason to learn and study His Word the Bible. Now, we grow and put down roots and become disciples of Christ.

I don’t know about you, but knowing my life has a deeper meaning, an eternal purpose, gives me a hope beyond all the earthly hope I could muster up within my own limited human perspective. The NEW hope we gain as a gift of God is far beyond the scope of this earthly life. It is eternal. Our lives are now to be lived within an eternal perspective and purpose.

Third, another change is that we now have a new desire to leave behind the things in our lives that hold us down, pull us back, and tempt or cause us to revel in sinful things. We have a new desire to please God and to obey His Word. Jesus tells us in John that those who are His disciples show their love by obeying His commandments. The NEW self, is not interested in old things.

Yes, we are still human, so yes we fail. But when we do, 1 John 1:9 promises us that when we become aware that we have sinned again, we confess (agree with God), He is faithful and just to forgive us ALL our sins. Not just the ones we are aware of, not just the sins and failings of commission but also the failings of omission. And yes, even the sins of which we are unaware. One thing to remember is that as we make this spiritual journey and seek God, in our relationship of love toward God and His love toward us, we are intended to grow more and more like Christ and therefore overtime will fail and fall into sin less and less.

Personally, I have found that for me what has changed is how I fail God, and how I see it. For me, it’s been rather like cleaning house. I clean the living room first because that’s what visitors would see. Then I clean the kitchen because that is where much of family life revolves and is seen. Then I clean the bedrooms because relationships are grown there. Then I clean the bathrooms. Yep, it’s the dirty spots I don’t relish and don’t really want someone to see, but the cleaning must be often and thorough or both I and those I love can become ill. Lastly, I clean the closets. My point is this: There are the parts of our lives we don’t show to others. The thoughts we think, the inner life of quiet rebellion and sin. The places of ugliness where we can have dark thoughts of envy, jealousy, rivalry and gossip. When I picture God walking through the thoughts of my mind like rooms in a house, including my thought “closet”, I quickly realize I am far from perfect and need to confess my shortcomings. But I am grateful to God that I am not who I used to be. God has and continues to change me.

When we chose to believe in Christ and become Christ followers – disciples – sometimes we will need to change where we hangout, sometimes we will need to change friends. Sometimes we will need to change our language and learn to use of our tongue to lift up others rather than tear down. Sometimes jokes and filthy language must change.

This may sound hard and when we look at this idea through our “old non-spiritual” eyes – our “natural” way of looking at things – we are constrained. We cannot see God-empowered possibilities. Our old self finds it hard to believe it is truly possible to walk away from things that displease God, to walk away from evil. YET – in fact with the new life in us, the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, changing these things IS possible. Yes, requires discipline and love – but will not be as hard as satan wants us to think it is.

One thing I can say, from both my personal point of view and from things friends have shared with me over the years, is that God will chose an area of your life and ASK you to change. God will ask us in obedience to choose to change even if we don’t understand. Said another way, God asks us to abandon bad habits and failings in our past life and embrace the promises of God and all the potential of our NEW life in Christ. Few are courageous enough to take God at His word and fully believe the promises God offers His children.

Fourth, once saved from the penalty of death and sin (Rom 5:1+2), we begin instead to look more and more — at all of life — through NEW spiritual eyes. We find that our desires change and the desire to do the things that God wants of us will grow stronger and stronger in us and we will truly want to make changes.

Fifth, As we embrace more and more of our new life, we set down roots into our new life by joining into friendships with those who are like-minded to our NEW life. Find a place where learning in community is possible. In a larger group of believers, a place where one can worship God. Give God glory, receive from God and God’s Word. Learn from others that are further along on their spiritual journey. Find a place where you feel you can belong and become. Belong as you are now, where you are now. And hopefully in the same place, a place where you can become a fully functioning follower of Jesus Christ.

Sixth, As we dig deeper into the Bible, the Word of God, as we seek to become a disciple, God strengthens and enables us to be able to change as He asks. For more information on how to do this read the Book of John in the New Testament. Seek help from a Christian pastor or someone else that you know is a believer in Jesus Christ.

Another great place to begin is in a newer translation of the Bible, read Romans 12. Study it section by section. Find a Christian friend to study it with you. Find a local church sponsored Bible Study group or a church small group to learn and study more about God. Find resources on the internet; for example: check out “Living on the Edge” from Chip Ingram and his study on Romans 12. Start reading and studying how God wants us to live up to our faith in God. How to live up to a higher calling on our lives. Read from those strong in the faith who went before us. Read A.W. Tozer on Desiring God. Read Christian blogs, biographies, study guides, but most of all – READ THE BIBLE. It is a “Believer’s Instructions Before Leaving Earth”.

I have discovered in my own personal journey and believe, that God does not call us to be “Lone Ranger” Christians. Even as Jesus chose and sent out His disciples, He sent them out two by two. We are stronger and better enabled to follow Christ as we help one another.

Seventh, one may find that inwardly, there is a deep desire (an almost overwhelming desire) to share the joy and good news of Jesus Christ with others. That is entirely normal. Often we want our old friends to make the same decision to follow Christ that we have made. I will offer only 1 caution: while you want to share the best thing that has ever happened to you, be prepared for others to reject what you want to share. Your old friends may instead want you to give up Christ, and return to the old you. So I will offer you want was recommended to me. Never speak to your friend about Christ, until you have spoken to Christ about your friend. According to James, if we need wisdom, we are to ask God and He will help us. I take that to mean when we’re not sure how to do something that we believe God wants us to do – such as share our decision and new life with old friends — ask God and He will help us know what to do.

In closing, I just want to encourage anyone reading this to ask questions in the comments section. If you have also believed in Jesus as your Savior and can offer helpful suggestions and add items to the list of what we gain when we believe, add a comment. If you need help finding resources to help you grow, leave a comment. I probably can’t answer all questions, but hopefully, with God’s help, there will be ways we can support one another.

As always your comments and feedback are welcome.  It is my prayer that this blog is helpful to those that read it.

Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Artist

In Love Wth The Lord Poetry & Prose

Trying to live a life that is holy in an unholy world

attempting to make sense of insanity

White Room Theory

The grey area between reality and hypothesis.

The Daddy Blitz

Thank you for visiting my Blog! Please take a few moments to leave a comment and to sign my Guestbook. If I'm not already following you, message your Blog address to me.

citizen of nothing

occasionally veracious and often apoplectic thoughts

THE RIVER WALK

Daily Thoughts and Meditations as we journey together with our Lord.

Happily Hope

My name is Hope, and I love a little bit of everything

Reflections on Christian Living

Living a Christian life, Thoughts on Christian Living