Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How Christianity Should Look--Thoughts from Someone Saved by Grace

The past few years, I have thought a lot about my faith, and how I demonstrate my faith to others.  If you know me, you probably would know that I am not the kind of person to just walk up to someone and hit them over the head with my Study Bible or criticize people who fail to fall in line with exactly what I believe.  We were not called as Christians to do that, and yet, that is the impression many people have of Christianity.  Maybe this is why many in our society feel like Christians are hypocrites and that Christianity is irrelevant in modern society.

Jesus said to his disciples, "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35 NLT).  I think Jesus is bluntly trying to tell us that the world does not need another charity or social program.  The world needs Christians who are willing to roll their sleeves up and get to know people and get involved in the messy work of loving others who are not exactly like us.  God is love, and when we love others, we plant a seed and invite others to have a relationship with him. Then it is up to us to keep on loving and praying that seed will take root in that person's life.  We do this all while serving others out of love for them.  When we get to know others and serve them out of our love, we gain credibility as Christians.  This demonstrates God's love, and sharing that love is the heart of what Christianity is all about.  

One of my favorite passages is 1 Corinthians 13, which is known as the Love Chapter.    To me, the basic message is that our talents and gifts are useless, unless we use them in a loving way to help others.  Without love, our talents and words are just another annoying noise amid the chaos of life.  Our talents and skills will fail or become unnecessary, but love is always needed and is eternal.  The chapter goes on to say love never fails.

When we begin to understand how much God loves us, and what that love cost him, we will be willing to serve and sacrifice ourselves and possessions for others.  We will want others to have that same kind of relationship with God and will do whatever is necessary to steer others toward God.  I think this is the measuring stick that Jesus wants us to use to evaluate our lives..the way we love and how we comprehend God's love for us.  

Friday, November 30, 2012

My Gift

This Christmas, my heart is focused on the promise that Christmas brings.  Jesus is God with us.  He is the love of God embodied in a man.  It is the promise that God will not ever be separated from His children ever again, because of the sacrifice Jesus paid on the cross.  Jesus is our gift from God, but what do we give to him in return?

Jesus asked his disciples to "Follow me."  As I look at my life, there have been times I have tried to follow him, but many times, I have chosen to follow my own lead.  This Christmas, I want to follow Jesus more.  I want more of him and less of me through out the rest of this year, and the rest of my life.

What does this look like in a modern day life of a Christian?  I am not exactly sure...but I do know it involves getting to know the Savior up close and personal by reading and studying His word, letting him get into our business and letting him sort it all out.

If we truly followed him to the point of sacrifice, how would our lives, relationships, churches, cities, workplaces, and our world change?  If we were true reflections of who Jesus was on this earth, there would be fewer hungry, lost, lonely, broken people, because we would share His love with him through meeting their needs.   We can spout politics, our philosophies, and our opinions on things, but none of this will change our world.  The world needs to see Jesus's life walked out in the people who claim to love him. We are the hands and feet of Christ to our world.  What will we choose to do?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Taking Time


Life can get very busy very quickly.  An endless to-do list, appointments, and commitments can make life seem a little overwhelming at times.  If your life is like mine, there are so many times that it seems we do not have two seconds to stop and catch our breath before the next thing to do pops up on the radar...but such is life as we know it in the 21st century.

I think this makes it important to take time to evaluate what it is that we want to set as our major priority, our main thing, our passion,  that one thing that we want to leave as our legacy long after we are gone from this earth.  We need to take time to sit down and figure out what mark we want to leave on this earth, and set our course towards that task.  For me, I think that revolves around the relationships that God has blessed my life with.

A while back I read a book with a section on contentment.  The writer described how she was always looking forward to the next event or season in her life....wishing that certain life events would come to pass--and ultimately missing out on the good parts of the current season she was in.  I can totally relate to that.  When I was in school, I could not wait for graduation and to start college.  Once in college, I could not wait to begin my career.  When I was single, I could not wait to get married.  In doing this, my life seems like a total blur.  I know where I am...but for the life of me, I do not know how these seasons of my life passed before my life so quickly.  I wonder if "wishing our lives away" is a symptom of discontentment in our present set of circumstances. 

As a person who generally sees herself as content, I wonder why I am wishing my life away, instead of taking the time to savor all of the little moments that form the big picture of my life?  For me, I think it has to do with planning for what is ahead rather than taking the time to enjoy the moment before me.  It is easy to take those mundane moments for granted now, amid the housework, careers, and all of the obligations that we commit ourselves to do.  Maybe, we need to just take a quick moment during our quiet time with God to just be thankful for all of those mundane moments that are filled with so many blessings like good health, relationships that have enabled us to grow, the fact that we have enough and do not lack anything we need--because in reality, there are so many who would give anything for good health, healthy relationships with their family, a good job that they enjoy, or even a paycheck that provides for the needs of their family.  Maybe wishing the seasons of life away is more of a sign of a lack of gratitude in our lives than a season of discontent.  We enjoy where we are in life, but are too focused on the things that lie ahead than to thank God for the here and now.  Maybe we just need to take time with God and thank Him for all of the blessings He has placed in our lives.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Seeing Things Through a Different Lens

I love photography.  I think I love it because the camera sees things without a preconceived notion of how things should be, but shows them how they really are.  Many times, what I am used to seeing with my own two eyes, becomes extraordinary when I can pull out my camera and take the time to take the snapshot.  The camera notices details that my own eye and my brain block out.  Many times when I take a picture, I am oblivious to what is going on in the background, and only notice the "whole picture" when I see the picture from the screen of my digital camera or computer.

Many times, our lives are the very same way.  The Bible says, " There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." ~Proverbs 14:12 NIV  Things seem right to us, but only when we look through the lens of the Bible and prayer do we find that the way that we think is best is not always the way that God KNOWS is best.

It all boils down to our worldview.  Do we have the worldview of our culture, or do we have a biblical worldview of the things that are going on in our world today?  I think many times, try as we might, we allow our culture to taint our biblical worldview, and when that happens, what we see becomes skewed and we do not see things clearly as they truly are.

We have to guard what we allow into our lives so that we protect our worldview.  We should read and study the bible and spend time in prayer about the things going on in our world so that we can see things as God would have us to see them.  Only when we have a clear perspective can we make wise Godly decisions and live Godly lives.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Preparing the Way

 I just finished  reading a portion from the Bible where John the Baptist is preparing the way for Jesus to come into the picture to preach , serve, and heal the nation of Israel and the Gentiles.  As I thought about this, I began to run through a little list of people who prepared the way for me...preparing me to be the person that I am--and the person that God ultimately wants me to be.  I truly believe that all people come into our lives for a reason...either to prepare us for something, or for us to prepare them for something.  In essence, I believe that all of our relationships have a specific thing that God wants to provide for us--whether it is just some fun memories that will sustain us during the tough times, or wisdom to help us avoid life's pitfalls.  Either way--each relationship that we cultivate here leaves us a little different than we were before that relationship was established.
The first group of people that prepared the way for me was my family.  My mom taught me the importance of knowledge, reading, writing, and communicating to the rest of the world.  She instilled in me the desire for excellence, and a warped sense of humor that haunts my friends and family to this day.  The older I get--the more like my mom I become--and I appreciate that trait now more than I ever have.  My dad is a quiet man--maybe because he could not get a word in edgewise between mom and me.  He did not say much, but when he did, he meant exactly what he said.  Dad is a man of honesty and integrity.  He expects respect, and gets it because of how he treats others and the example that he sets in everything he does.  He is a humble man--and would do anything he could to help another person.  To have parents like this, I am truly blessed to have them preparing and showing me the way throughout my life.
My granny is also another person who prepared the way for me.  Granny Agnew was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was about 12 years old.  She is the one who taught me about having a stubborn faith in God when life gets tough.  Granny was a woman of great love and grace.  She loved her family with all of her heart, and in her last days, she used them to teach me more about life than I will ever be able to fully understand.  Granny loved to read, sing, and spend time with me.  She was the one person who knew how to make me feel like I was truly special.  I guess grandparents have a way of doing that.  Granny passed away when I was 15. I hope if she is looking down from Heaven that she is proud of who I am...and knows that I finally got a few of the faith lessons that she left me with in her last days.
Another wonderful lady who invested a great deal into my life was my High School English Teacher Mrs. Vastola.  She is the reason I decided to major in education.  She took time to talk with me and to get to know me during a really difficult time in my life.  She shared those ups and downs with me.  She encouraged me, and most of all, she did not accept my excuses or any pitty parties.  She was a great friend when my granny was in her final stages of cancer, and ironically, she passed away shortly after graduation from cancer herself.  She made me realize that a good teacher does more than just teach a subject.  A good teacher gets to know her students and inspires them to find their passion and chase after it in a way that makes the world a better place.  I wish I could thank Mrs. Vastola for that gift--and her investment that I take with me each day of my life.
The funny thing about this is that I am finding that recalling one person, leads me to another person--which leads to another in an endless chain of people who have given me wisdom, grace, the desire to seek knowledge and truth.   I am blessed to have had the opportunity to know these special people, and hope that I can pay that gift forward to the people that I encounter everyday.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Life's Mission

 I have one life, which will last only a limited number of years. The number of years and days that I have, I do not know, but I do know that during that time I have a  mission that I try to fulfill. Today, I chose to live my life to fulfill that purpose to the best of my ability. 

My mission in this life is to live my life in love.  My goal is to show love to my family in a way that when I die, there will be no doubt of my feelings toward them because I will have shouted my love for them through my actions and my words.  I choose to share that love with my friends.  I will do this by treating them the way I would like to be treated, regardless of how they choose to treat me.  I will do this by respecting their beliefs, views, and actions, even when I do not agree with them.  I will do this by investing my time and energy in them by trying to help and encourage whenever this is possible.  I choose to view everyone that I come in contact with as either friends or family.  This means that I will choose to show love and grace to each person, whether or not I feel they are worthy of that love and respect.  After all, that is how God has chosen to act toward me. 

Do I think that I will live up to this mission statement?  Of course not, because I am human.  I am selfish, and I am not perfect.  My hope is that by making this statement that I will somehow become more aware of my attitudes and behavior and that I will in return become a more loving and compassionate person. 

In my life, I have been shown much love.  And where much has been given, much is required.  I look forward to trying to accomplish my goal, even though I am doomed to fail because of my humanity.  This is my goal and the mission statement for my life. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Child of the King

"All those led by God's Spirit are God's sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, " Abba, Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God's children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him."
~Romans 8:14-17 HCSB

Being called a child of God is a powerful part of being a Christian.  Once we accept Christ, we are adopted by God to be his child forever.  The term adoption is the creation of the parent-child relationship between individuals who are not naturally related. The adopted child is to have the same rights, privileges as a natural born child and becomes an heir. There is nothing that can be done to earn this title, and nothing can ever strip this title from us. When we read this, it is easy to overlook some huge benefits that we have as a child of God.  Let’s take a close look at some of these benefits.

First of all, we are taken out of the slavery to sin.  We are no longer in bondage, because Jesus has purchased our freedom.  In that freedom, we have a hope that we have never had before.  We have traded our status as a slave to sin to an heir of God.  Imagine the implications of that one thing.  We are permanently released from the bondage of sin.  Once Jesus sets us free, we can walk away from a life of sin to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Second, we are forgiven of all sin--this means past, present, and future sins have been atoned for.  We are in a constant state of grace.  When God looks at us, he sees his child, not a mistake or our failures.  He sees his child that He dearly loves.

Third, we are called to abandon our fears.  Fear comes from insecurity.  If you are a child of God, there is no need for fear and insecurity because that is the most secure position that you can possibly be, in the arms of God the Father--whom you have the right to call Daddy.

We also have the Spirit testifying that we are the children of God.  Whenever you feel guilty or ashamed, just remember that the Holy Spirit testifies to the fact that you are a Child of God.  That is one witness that no one can dispute. When we feel guilty of past failures and confessed sin, it is Satan trying to work in our lives to create fear and insecurity.  Satan wants to discredit the work that God has done in you and to take your eyes off of God.  He wants to steal, kill and destroy what God is doing in you, and he wants to steal your joy.  Just stand firm in the knowledge of your place as God’s child, and know that you are secure as a child of God--because God chose you.

Finally we are co-heirs with Jesus.  That means that we are recognized as Jesus’ brothers and sisters and we share in the joys and sufferings just as a natural born child would share in a families joys and sorrows.  We know that in the end, God the Father will get the praise and glory for our lives lived out in accordance to his plan.

When I think about the privileges that come along with this title I am amazed at the mercy and grace that God gives to us.  When we were sinners, and his enemy, God made a plan to bring us into his family forever.  Once you are a child of God, you can never be taken out of that family or forfeit any of the privileges given to you as God’s child. We need to remember who we are as a child of God, and live a life according to the position that we have been given in His family.