Saturday, July 16, 2011

Only Visiting this Planet--Taking Your Faith Seriously

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The last few weeks, our Sunday School lessons have focused on the End of Time and Heaven.  To be honest, there is a lot that I do not understand about these two topics, and I don't know that we will ever fully understand them until after they take place.  What I do know, is that I focus way too much in what is happening here and now, that I lose perspective in the main thing...which is I was not created to live on this planet as it is now.

Every person is an individual created for eternity.  When God created Adam and Eve, his intention was that they and all people would have fellowship with Him and live in a perfect world. 

God in His loving nature, gave man free will and one simple guideline to follow--Do NOT eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Satan enters the garden, talks to Eve and entices her to eat the forbidden fruit, and then she gives it to her husband Adam--and life has been hard ever since.

God in his love, knew we would sin, and planned to send his son Jesus, to take away our sin through his horrific death on the cross--because sin requires a sacrifice.  Jesus, the sinless son of God, is tried, unjustly convicted and sentenced to death on a cross.  Because this sacrifice was offered, we can be made right with God and live in Heaven with him for eternity, if we accept the gift of His sacrifice and allow him to be Lord of our lives.

Knowing this truth, we can say that this world is not meant to satisfy us.  We live in a fallen world with suffering, sin, war, famine, injustice, and sickness.  Life here is hard and unfair.  We yearn for more, but struggle to find satisfaction in our lives, our careers, or our possessions...but something always seems to fall short.  These longings inside our heart is God's way of reminding us that we were not made for this world.  Our security and happiness will not be found here, but rather in Heaven--because that is where we were meant to be--in complete and total fellowship with Father God as our provider, our helper, our sustainer.

We know this, but yet we chase after this world as if it is the only thing that counts.  Sometimes I wish I could just get a glimpse of what Heaven will be like, so that I could totally understand that the present sufferings and sacrifices that we are making in this life are such petty offerings compared to the joy and wonder that we experience when we get to Heaven.

I think if we really knew this with our hearts instead of just our head, it would also change how we relate to the non-christians around us.  If we really believed that Heaven is the ultimate good place where we will fellowship with God forever without any more sin, strife, suffering or anxiety--and that Hell was real and that those who do not accept Jesus will spend eternity there--our walk and our testimony that we live out would be totally different.

Non-christians would  be drawn to us because we would reflect Christ's love to them.  We would do everything possible to make sure that our friends, family and the people we meet will be in Heaven with us for eternity instead of suffering eternal torment and separation from God.

This is something that I have been thinking about and has honestly slapped me between the eyes, and I don't think we as Christians can ignore this truth any longer.  If we do not take our eternal destiny seriously as christians, then how can we expect those outside of Christ to do any differently.  This is the cross that we should take up daily, and use every opportunity to live in a manner that shows the world who we are and what we stand for.  

This does not mean boycotts and picket lines, and telling people that they are going to Hell and God hates them--like the Westboro Baptist Church does.  What it means is sharing Jesus' love to each and every person we come in contact with, so that God can use that love to draw others into fellowship with him. 

It is time that we quit putting on and taking off our Christianity based on the situation and people we are around and trust God to help us live the life he wants us to live.  I want a life that honors God and speaks that I submit to his authority and leadership in my life.  I want a life that shows His love to each person that I meet.  I want a life that encourages others to seek God and find the eternal life and peace that only comes with a relationship with Jesus Christ.  I want the world to know that I am only visiting this planet, and I want to bring as many people "home" with me as I can.

I will never know all of the answers this side of Heaven, but I am so thankful that I will spend eternity with the one who does.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Greatest Gift

The greatest gift that you can give or get is love.  True love can't be earned, only given to the undeserving.  It has no expectations, and no limits.  It gives without bounds and seeks out others before self.  It looks on the good, noble and just things,  forgives and guides the areas that falls short of those standards.  Maybe this is why the Bible says love never fails, because it continues to see the potential of mankind, and refuses to abandon hope that one day it will realize that full potential.

I honestly believe that love is the highest potential that man can wish to obtain.  To love others without preconceived conditions, labels, standards, is difficult, if not downright impossible at times, but that is what real love is.  It loves in spite of what a person is, does, or how difficult a situation.  I think it takes a stubborn persistence to do this, but real love is putting others first, even when you don't feel like it or when the other person does not deserve it.  Love that is earned or deserved is not love, because love is a gift.  Love is the ultimate investment, because you invest your heart and soul into another without promise of any return.

I believe that true love is the ultimate revelation of who God is.  When I look at my marriage to my dear husband, I see a man who loves me regardless of my mood, looks, what I do.  He just loves.  There is no way that I could ever earn that kind of unselfish giving of himself, yet he demonstrates that love in words, actions, and his attitude to me.  There is a grand security in that fact, because his love is not dependent upon my actions and being earned. I have a security in that kind of love.  I have security because it has proven itself to me day after day for going on 6 1/2 years (5 years of marriage and a year and a half of dating), and remains unwavering.  And as a gift, it is mine to accept or reject--Love is totally dependent upon me to accept it, but that is all I have to do.

I think God created love in this manner, because he knew love was not something we could ever earn this side of Heaven, and also because He knew that we needed something to bring about a feeling of stability and security in this life.  There is nothing more secure that having the love and acceptance of another, and being able to live out your life as you are without having to live as another person deems you should live.  I am not saying that we should not hold ourselves to certain standards, or that there is not some standard of morality--I am saying that love does not hold those things over your head as a prerequisite for being the recipient of love.

Love takes us warts and all, and if we allow, transforms us into better people, and in doing so makes us more loving to others.  My prayer for you is that your cup overflow with love, so much so that it can't help but spill out to everyone around you!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Thirteenth Juror

I know a lot of people have been following the Casey Anthony trial.  Even days after the verdict, the buzz is still there. People are crying out because they feel justice was not served.  I have mixed emotions about the outcome.  I am confused.  I am outraged that an innocent life was cut short, and we do not know if it was murder or an accident.  More questions remain than the trial answered...and we need those answers to resolve this in our hearts.

 This trial has exposed deep anger and a lack of compassion that exists in our society.  Death threats have been issued for the judge, jurors,  Ms. Anthony and her parents.  I have seen facebook postings and heard quotes from the media saying that Ms. Anthony will spend eternity in hell for her actions.  We as a society have convicted her of 1st degree murder, even though a jury of 12 people unanimously said that sufficient evidence was not there to convict her.  In a way, public opinion plays the role of the 13th juror--because it is the public that will determine in a large way of how her life will be from this point forward.  We were outraged that a child's death was not avenged--and now we are taking it out by being as hateful as we possibly can towards her.

In that aspect, I truly feel sorry for her.  I know she is a self-proclaimed liar.  She was proven to be a party girl.  It is proven that in Ms. Anthony's short life so far she has made many mistakes that were life altering. It seems that she came from a dysfunctional family, and has continued the cycle that her parents passed along to her through their example.  She has been used and thrown away to live with those consequences alone.  When I look at her, I hope I see her as Jesus saw her--a sinner who is just doing what sinners do best, a sinner who needs help--and her only hope is Jesus.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and that God is in control of everything--even the Casey Anthony trial.  She received a second chance from the jury--just like we have received a second chance when we received Christ as our Savior.  The Bible tells us that we should not judge others, unless we want to be judged on those same standards.  Jesus said that we should cast stones only if we are sinless, when he was facing a mob ready to stone a woman who was caught red handed in adultery.  Although he was sinless, He even chose not to pick the stones and hurl them at her  (and He was the only one there with the qualifications to do so, but he didn't).  Jesus met people with grace and mercy--even though their actions cried out for punishment and condemnation.  Maybe, we should try to reach out to others the way Jesus did--and if we do, maybe we will see a miracle--a lost sinful soul accept Jesus.  That is the transaction that can turn lives around.

Instead, so many Christians have lashed out in hate and judgement, maybe we should hit our knees for a moment and pray that this young lady will somehow be led to Christ and that she would allow him to transform her life.  After all, transforming lives is what Jesus does best, and I am living proof of that.

I think that the outcome of this trial exposed a weakness that many Christians have in their lives--the ability to forgive and offer mercy to someone who does not deserve it.  We forget that we were once offered mercy when we least expected it, and because of that, God expects the same of us when we experience a sinner with that same, desperate need.  We encounter these people all of the time.  The world is filled with fallen people, who are without hope and need Jesus and a little of his mercy and grace in their lives.  How will you react the next time you encounter them?

You are the 13th juror--what are you going to choose to do?  How will you react.  Will you offer mercy and grace or condemnation....the choice is yours, so choose wisely.