Posted in Christian Living, Faith

Never Too Busy For Us

Jesus is my Superhero

Spring is a whirlwind of activity in my other life, the one where I go to health food industry conventions and visit manufacturing facilities. I get back from one trip just in time to head out for another one.  As March fades into May, my house increasingly reflects the chaos of my mind and body. Dishes pile up in the sink, cat toys lay strewn where they’ve been batted by furry paws, my carpets bear the marks of heavy living without their regular vacuuming.

My travels take an equal toll on my body. My diet, always a challenge, flies out the window in the midst of the stress and upset routine of travel. My sugar intake skyrockets. I give in with increasing consistency to my comfort foods: chicken fried steak coated in creamy gravy, baked potatoes swimming in butter and sour cream, Tex-Mex enchiladas, and tortilla chips, and salsa. My usual, six-day workouts dwindle to catch-as-catch-can.

My mind struggles to function with my travel schedule and my poor habits. Stress, my forever friend, comes for a sleepover and sticks around like three-day-old fish. I find it hard to relax or to calm my mind, so that my thoughts run over and over, making it difficult for me to fall asleep or rest.

Most importantly, if I do not work at staying close to God, my spiritual house can become as untidy as my physical and mental houses. This year, my usual steadfast habit of Bible reading and study each morning has given way to last-minute catch-up items, oversleeping, and generally running out of time to do it. I have no valid excuse for this failure. God should always come first. But, I am supremely human, thankful for mercy, and wholly dependent on grace, and my inadequacy only underscores my abject need for God.

I remember one night this Spring lying in bed and realizing something powerful. No matter how bad things have gotten in my life, I’ve always made it through the bad times because God is there with me. Why, then, do I waste so much time being afraid about what might happen or is even likely to happen? As I embraced the idea that I can always call on Jesus and He will never be too busy to hear me, I felt such a sense of empowerment and peace.

But epiphanies that happen in the middle of the night can quickly fade in the harsh light of day, especially when you don’t make concerted efforts to build on your relationship with God and nurture your faith. Too often this Spring, my anxiety has won out over my faith. Instead of focusing on Jesus, I’ve focused on deadlines and bills, on health issues and work routines.

How grateful I am that God, the Creator of all things, is never too busy for me, even when I fall into the bad habits that make me “too busy” for Him. How do I know this? Jesus tells us: “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7).  Paul assures Timothy, “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). No matter that we use His name in vain, that we mock Him in word and deed, that we ignore Him on a daily basis, God is always waiting patiently for us to believe.

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Jesus asks us (Matthew 6:27). When I truly embrace the truth that God is always with me, that when I call out to Him, He allows me to feel His presence, I understand the truth of that question. Jesus is like the ultimate superhero in my pocket. What do I have to fear?

As Summer fast approaches, I am glad to put paid to another busy Spring. I will spend this Summer getting back into my regular reading of the Word. I will make God an active participant in my daily life by seeking Him often, not just when I feel desperate or totally alone, but when I am happy as well as sad, when things are going well along with when they seem to be falling apart.

Sometimes a busy life is just busy. But making God the center of your life, that’s the kind of powerful stuff that leads to prosperous living no matter how busy or inactive you may be.

In Christ,
Ramona

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Posted in Christian Living, Faith

For Such A Time As This

For such a time as this

I love the story of Esther and Mordecai. Every time I read it, I learn something new that I can apply to my life. This week, the lesson that stood out most for me was Mordecai’s argument with his niece, then the queen, as he convinced her to risk her life for the sake of the greater good.

Esther’s life was never easy. She was an orphaned Jewish girl, living far from her people’s homeland, along with all the other exiles. Her uncle, Mordecai, takes her in to raise her. She grows up learning the lessons about boundaries and injustice that plague all defeated nationalities.

Imagine her surprise when she is asked to come to the palace to compete for the position of queen! Even this “blessing” is not as wonderful as it seems.  Because her people are foreigners in the land of their conquerors, she doesn’t tell anyone who doesn’t already know that she is a Jew. Instead of having free access to the outside world and childhood friends around her, Esther must get used to a household staff led by eunuchs as she is shielded during her preparation for the big day, her one and only chance to make a good impression on King Xerxes.

Sure, Esther gets special beauty treatments, has servants, and eats a special diet while she’s in the palace. But, she’s taken from the only home she has ever known, objectified for almost an entire year without even meeting the king, and must perpetually worry about what will happen whether or not the king chooses her. After all, the queen Esther might be replacing was cut off by the king just because she didn’t feel like going to dance in front of a group of drunk royalty at the snap of the king’s inebriated fingers.

At the point in Esther’s story when Mordecai uses his lesson-giving argument, she is finally queen, but the Jewish people are in even more serious trouble than the usual. The Persian king has allowed one of his minions to declare a day for the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai wants his niece to go to the king unannounced and beg for a reprieve from the death sentence.

Esther hesitates. Nobody in the palace knows that she is even a Jew. She hasn’t been called to the king in a month as it is, so could the king even be interested in seeing her? And, here’s the kicker: if she walks into the room where the king is unbidden and he doesn’t reach out his scepter to her, Esther faces an immediate penalty of death.

My absolute favorite lesson in this story is Mordecai’s argument to Esther that she should take the chance for her people because how does she not know that God made her queen for “such a time as this.” But, this week when I was reading the story again, another aspect of Mordecai’s argument with Esther at this critical moment stood out for me.

Mordecai assures Esther that God will save the Jews one way or another, with or without her. Didn’t Esther want to be a part of God’s plan? He tells her:

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

Mordecai’s unwavering assurance that God’s will always will be done reminds me of all the times I don’t give God enough credit as I go through each day. Because I know that bad things happen in a fallen world, I sometimes get into the mindset of forgetting that God still has His hand on everything, often by helping to create something good out of the bad that is happening all around us.

How inspiring is it to understand that God will love, will provide whether we are an instrument of that provision or not? It gives us not only encouragement but actual courage to know that God is not limited by our human capacity or even the necessary parameters of a fallen world. I need that courage, especially when living my faith means doing things that are way outside my comfort zone, like interacting in large groups or going to places I’m unfamiliar with in order to be of service to someone.

What happens next in Esther’s story is also an important reminder. Before going before the king and risking her life, Esther fasts for three days and asks that the rest of her people join her in the fast. She wants to be sure that she is honoring God, following His will, and walking in assurance that He is with her. We must be sure we are walking in God’s will if we want to be able to lean into the assurance of His help in our endeavors.

We Christians long to do the will of God always and in all ways. Remembering that He accomplishes His will whether we serve as an instrument of His design or not is sometimes vital to stepping forward in faith. No one who loves God wants to fail Him. Esther’s faith in God saves not only the Jews, but also teaches us that walking in faith helps us to fulfill the times like this that God places us on this earth for in the first place.

 

Posted in Christian Living, Christianity

GOD is NOT a Capitalist

Give God your best

It’s that time of year again at our church, the time when the church leaders are trying to finalize the current budget and get the congregation’s commitments for the tithe.

The tithe, that ten percent of my net worth that should be given to God, usually makes me think in terms of dollar signs. But the church, and most especially God, is not primarily concerned with me opening my wallet. Yes, in our modern world, there are the practical concerns for a church like having electricity and paying support staff, but the idea of the tithe has never been, or ever was, just about money–in so many ways.

Abraham gave a tenth of all he had to pay homage to the Lord. God told the Israelites, “You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God” (Ex. 23:19). The Levitical law declared: “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord” (Lev. 27:30). The Proverbs remind us to “honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops” (3:9).

As important as it is to offer to God the first fruits of our labors, which in our economy equates to dollars and cents, the tithe should be a time to also remind ourselves how important it is to God that we honor Him with, not a specific percentage of our worldly goods, but with the best of us, the best of all that we are. 

How often do I give God not the best of me, not the part of me that rolls out of my warm bed mostly ready to face, and maybe even conquer, the world each morning, but rather the what’s left of me, the worn, half-asleep me that has faced the world and found myself wanting? How often do I come to Him only after I have exhausted all my personal resources, as if I have control over anything at all?

Why should it surprise me that God wants the very best of me when He gave me the very best of Himself? Not only did Christ come to earth as man in order to die for my sins, He left behind the Holy Spirit to function inside of me as a believer in the One and Only. Shouldn’t God expect me to begin and end not only my day, but my each breath, with thoughts of praise, with thankfulness for His power in my life, a power I am supposed to be acknowledging instead of trying to take on the world all by myself?

Giving God the first parts of me, the best parts of me, means praying often, especially when I least feel like it, humbling myself to admit that my problems are truly God’s problems, that I cannot worry myself out of any situation but that God can see me through all the things bound to happen to me in a fallen world.

When I was very young and admittedly not too bright, I took my favorite teddy bear, the one smooshed from being held by me through many a long night, and laid him on a makeshift slab bench in our back yard. My uncle, a young man, was dying from cancer not even a year after my grandfather had died. In the shade of our fruitless mulberry tree, I prayed that God would take my teddy bear and make my uncle better.

Since I didn’t have access to matches, I guess I expected my teddy bear to be struck by lightening or simply disappear. In my childish mind, giving up one of my favorite things seemed like a decent trade. But nothing happened, and a few months later, my uncle died anyway.

I didn’t understand then that Jesus had already made the ultimate sacrifice for the only thing that truly mattered, my eternal soul, my uncle’s eternal soul. As A. E. Houseman proclaims, “life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose.” It’s taken me almost four decades to truly understand how important it is that I offer myself to God, not objects, but my whole self no longer tied to the objects on this earth, in order to be close to Him, in order to walk a more Christ-like walk.

Sometimes, I think it’s easier to give God money than concentrate on the things He really wants, like our lives free from sin, our humbleness, our gratitude.  But giving to God means being our best selves in light of our need for our Holy Father. I thank Him for His patience with us. I love Him because He forgives me when I often stumble. And I give Him money from my wallet because my firstfruits include all of me, even the dollars in my bank account.

Posted in Christian Living, Christianity

Here, Ignorance Is Not Bliss

Know the Word of God and Heed It

Why are we surprised when armchair theology leads us to believe that all decent people somehow wind up in a good place when they die? We’ve raised several generations now of children who have been taught that to participate, even if that participation means wearing the jersey and watching the birds fly overhead in the outfield all season, means being awarded. In an effort to make all children feel good about themselves, we’ve managed to decimate all standards, leaving open to a loosey-goosey interpretation the ideal of perfection.

When did it become wrong to declare that something is slipshod, especially when it comes to human behavior? Do we really think that God would suddenly change His mind about thousands of years of teaching on morality and virtue, He who valued His standards of virtue so much that He was willing to die on a cross, laid bare and humiliated, in order to provide a means for imperfect humans to be in relationship with perfection?

Getting trophies all the time just because you breathe air must make it difficult to realize there are places and times when you actually have to work on being your best self in order to thrive. When the authority figures in your life have always lauded you, no matter how little effort you put into something, it must be even more difficult to visualize a Creator God who might actually see boundaries and strict guidelines as for your greater good, rather than just being angry and mean.

In a world that is grossly unfair, how hard it must be to enter adult life after being buffered against the pitfalls of reality with false accolades to realize that you actually don’t always get what you want, to learn the hard lessons of knowing the difference between needing and wanting. Because you have rarely been called to account for your actions, or lack thereof, you most likely fail to see that the problem resides in your own attitudes. You either turn from God because He seems like a cruel taskmaster that doesn’t line up with your reality of authority figures who are always willing to say good job even when you know something was not your best effort, or you re-create God into an image of yourself, a guy who, if he does exist, surely understands your struggles and cuts you the slack you crave.

But, because God is very real and so very much more than any of us can imagine, we are wise to heed His definitions of what is right and good, to follow His road map to an afterlife spent in His presence instead of wallowing in the misery of hell. In Luke 16, Christ tells the story of a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus which illustrates the importance of heeding God’s Word rather than making up your own, feel-good theology.

The poor man, Lazarus, hovels just outside the gate of the rich man, living a life of half-starved misery, so miserable, in fact, that his only medical attention comes from the dogs who lick at his oozing sores. The rich man, enjoying his great wealth, his friends, his lavish lifestyle, does nothing to comfort the poor man just outside his gates. When they die, Lazarus is brought into the bosom of his ancestor Abraham to enjoy all the peace and luxury he was denied during his earthly life. The rich man, on the other hand, wallows in misery in hell, looking up to heaven to see Lazarus, whom he recognizes, living the life the rich man now longs for.

When the rich man complains, he’s reminded of the luxuries he experienced in his earthly life, but more importantly, he is reminded of the words of Moses and the prophets that the rich man never heeded. When the rich man begs to have a ghost return to the living to warn his brothers against their fate if they do not change their ways, God assures the rich man that the words of Moses and the prophets should be enough for his brothers, just as it should have sufficed for the rich man.

 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them,” Jesus tells us, “and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me” (John 6:44-45). God speaks to us through His Word, which, contrary to popular belief, does not teach that all good people go to heaven. “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you,” James admonishes (1:21).  That Word teaches that we all sin and fall short of God’s glory, but that the blood of Christ can redeem us.

Christianity is not a license to do bad things. It is the freedom to know that when we stumble, God is ready, willing and able to forgive us instead of condemning us. But Christian freedom does not include living as if sin doesn’t matter. Get rid of moral filth and evil, the Word says. Be humble.

These lessons are so in contrast to our trophy-loving world. I pray that Christians young and old embrace the Word of God, applying its lessons of love and peace, fellowship and humility, so that none of us, like the rich man, enjoy the pleasures of this life without looking toward the treasures we should be storing in the heavens.

God is good, and in His goodness and greatness He alone understands why we must have boundaries to our behaviors, why being a pretty decent fellow isn’t enough to escape the eternal damnation of a non-existent relationship with our loving Creator. Only by accepting Christ as your Savior, by taking on His much lighter yoke of a life lived no longer as a slave to the sinful nature, will any of us hope to see Abraham on the other side of those pearly gates.

I want to be Lazarus, even if it means great suffering in this life. I want to know that when I finally face God, I have the hope of hearing those words which are the greatest trophy of all, WELL DONE.

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Christian Living

I Want a Jesus Kind of Love: GOD Doesn’t Have To Be Liked, Part Two

Shine His Light

The kind of love that wants what is best for you, God’s kind of love, is sometimes hard for mere humans to understand. Because God sees all and knows all, including the future and our deepest flaws, His love sometimes requires discipline that we need even though we don’t want it. Love whose primary goal is to make us into our best selves will of necessity include boundaries.

As we discussed in part one of this series, humans want to make God into a like-able deity who lets them do whatever they feel like. But, the very nature of God’s love means that God doesn’t need to be liked by us. Our worship of Him is not dependent upon how He treats us but on the pure awesomeness and perfection of the very nature of God, the Creator of the universe.

Unfortunately, the perception many people have of God’s love only comes from their interactions with mere mortals. We Christians try to love like Jesus loves, but we mostly fail miserably.  When He walked among us, Jesus, who had every right to judge, instead offered a kind of love to people around Him that somehow inspired them to become their best selves.

What does a love that stands in truth yet does not condemn look like? How is it that that kind of love manages to foster a stricter following of the rules instead of the licentious free-for-all one might expect from such a response to sin?

A Jesus kind of love:

  1. Looks past the outer appearance and into the heart of a person.
  2. Asks the kind of questions you are compelled to answer truthfully, because He has your best interest at the core of any interaction with you and nothing about Himself to prove.
  3. Shows you the beauty of a life lived in the Spirit but gives you the freedom to grasp that kind of living. He won’t force you to do anything. You choose.
  4. Thinks nothing of Himself in the moment, but everything about the soul standing in front of Him. He never compares Himself to others and only offers the example of His life well-lived as a part of the teaching He gives to those who by choice seek His instruction.
  5. Jesus only sees the world through a perspective that keeps in mind God’s view of things first and foremost.

 

Jesus sees the real person

If you are looking for proof that Jesus sees past the outer appearance into the very heart of a person, you need look no further than His choice of disciples. Among these men of God we find some of the most lowly men in the world of their time. Simon Peter was a fisherman, Mark a cursed tax collector. Only a God who could see past the outer shell would have chosen Saul, a persecutor of Christians, to bring the word of God to the Gentiles.

As humans, we may lack the ability to perceive the heart of a man in the same way that an all-knowing God perceives, but we can certainly learn the lesson of waiting to draw conclusions about others until we have a chance to really know them. That means avoiding judging people based on the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, or even the jobs they do. Instead, we should wait to know people based on the words they say and the actions they take.

This waiting fosters a respect in us for other human beings, and respect honestly given is a hard thing to turn away. No wonder when Jesus said to Peter, Follow Me, the fisherman did not hesitate to become a fisher of men.

Jesus asks the kind of questions a person has to answer truthfully

If you ask a question totally confident that you already know the answer, the person you are interrogating can sense your attitude. They know you are trying to paint them into a corner or make a judgment against them. That immediately puts them on the defensive.

When Jesus asked questions of people, He did it in such a way as to reflect His real interest in their answers. His questions were not challenging, but obviously curious. Jesus wasn’t trying to make a judgment of the person He was questioning, but was always trying to lead them to the ultimate truth.

Examples of Jesus’ ability to draw the truth from people abound. He tells the adulterous woman He will not condemn her after challenging her would-be judges, and then admonishes her to go and sin no more (John 7:53-8:11). He asks the Samaritan woman about her husband in such a way that she feels comfortable admitting that she has no husband since the man she is currently with is her fifth “partner” (John 4:3-42). “He told me everything I ever did,” the Samaritan woman tells her fellow townspeople. They invite Jesus to stick around, and many are converted, at first because of the woman’s testimony and then because of Jesus’ words to them.

The questions Jesus asks of His listeners and modern-day readers are likewise direct and simple, hitting straight onto the core of the matter. You can review a list of 135 of these questions here.

Jesus' words make others believe

Gives you the freedom to choose

At the core of God’s love for us is His decision to allow us the freedom to choose to believe and follow Him. God demands respect, but He doesn’t force us to bow down to Him.

This freedom makes our love for Him that much more powerful. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” Jesus says (John 14:15). The prophet Jeremiah promised, “You will seek me (God) and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (29:13).

Realizing that God wants us to have this freedom to choose should color our interactions with others. We cannot force another person to believe as we believe, but can only present by our kind words and living example the message of what we believe, allowing Jesus and the Holy Spirit to do their work in the souls of those for whom we pray.

Jesus puts the welfare of others before Himself

Perhaps another great key to Jesus’ success as a communicator is the way He puts the needs of others before His own needs. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us not only that we shouldn’t do to other people the kinds of things we wouldn’t enjoy being done to us, but also to treat others as we treat ourselves and long to be treated. “Greater love has no one than this,” He tells His disciples, “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

As the perfect lamb of God, Christ chose to become like man in order to die for all mankind. This ultimate sacrifice makes Jesus’ love for us perfect, just as His actions on this earth were blameless. When we carry the Holy Spirit in our hearts once we accept Christ as our Savior, we begin the life-long work of perfecting our hearts to project the same kind of love Christ holds for us to the people around us.

When Jesus asks us to be salt and light to the world, loving and communicating like our Savior is at the top of the list of the tasks we should undertake to help bring Jesus to a land struggling in darkness.

Jesus keeps a God-perspective always

Because Jesus’ treasures are stored in heaven, His life on earth always had a godly perspective. How else would He endure the vagaries of being condemned despite being innocent, of being spat upon and ridiculed, of dying on the cross for sins He never even committed?

Even Jesus, Himself a part of the god-head, sought to know God’s will always. He prayed perpetually and most famously on the night before His crucifixion, asking God to take away the cup of the cross but promising to do God’s will alone.

When others question Him or ridicule Him, Jesus takes the taunts in stride. He empathizes with those who challenge Him, turning their own reasoning against them. When He is accused of throwing out demons by the power of the devil, He calmly explains that this wouldn’t be the case since that would mean a house divided against itself.

In fact, the only time Jesus seems to get really angry is when offenses too great are made against God. He sacks the temple when it is being misused for commerce instead of worship. He tells us that any sin may be forgiven except the sin of mocking the Holy Spirit.

Pulling it together

So, what does all this mean for those of us striving to be Christ-like in this modern world? I think about the people who stand outside Planned Parenthood, for example, and wonder if that is how Jesus would have handled the situation. I rather think He would somehow be inside the clinic, asking frightened girls questions about themselves, about how they feel and why they feel that way, trying to help them see the path through all their charged emotions to an ultimate truth.

And what would Jesus say to a culture that embraces sexual freedoms, so that the boundaries that once strictly defined family and respect and community are all blurred into a free-for-all that has left us with so many young people who have no sense of self-respect or even, it seems, right and wrong? I know Jesus would not tell a young man who felt he was gay that he was less-than, that somehow Jesus would make the young man understand there was a way out of condemnation to a path free from sin.

Not being one with the power to condemn or save, I also know that my job is simply to explain what Jesus’ love means for these lives of ours that are tainted by a sinful nature and then to allow that seed once planted to be fertilized further by the workings of our mighty God, Whose ways are well beyond my limited ability to know.

 

God loves unconditionally and with the earnest intent to make us into our best selves. That kind of love means His ways won’t always be popular. Sometimes, the perseverance required to grow makes us even question God’s love. But despite our limited perspective, God is able to do all things, especially in the lives of those who believe. Loving God and loving like God are two of the most important things any Christian can do. I hope these thoughts will help me and others do a better job of showing the world how great Jesus’ love truly is.

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Christian Living

GOD Doesn’t Have To Be Liked: Part One

The heart is deceitful and an unreliable guide for life

“I thought spirituality was all about what makes you feel good,” the character on the popular television show, Glee, reasoned, succinctly relating mainstream culture’s definition of God, the feel-good deity of Hollywood and your Facebook feed who desperately desires your friendship. He wants you to live the life you feel in your heart you have been put on the earth to live regardless of any fallout from your choices. He wants you to love and be loved in all its forms with no limits. He wants you to let yourself off the hook for the things you mess up on without taking much time to think about your actions or consequences because He is the “feel-good” God.

The problem with going along with mainstream culture’s definition of God is that the consequences of pursuing what makes you feel good are generally winding up on a never-ending treadmill of reaching for a sense of joy that is ultimately fleeting. When the foundation of your sense of worth is based solely on what you feel, you are subject to the vagaries of the human heart, to the pitfalls of listening to the wrong voices, to believing the negative talk you hear from others and from yourself, negative talk that has no basis in truth. Truth itself is fluid if you base your sense of God on what you feel.

Despite our feelings that the world is continually going downhill, really not much changes. In Biblical times, people also pursued the feel-good gods. Despite the one Lord’s admonition to love Him only, the people also worshipped the wooden idols who promised better crops and emotional pleasure. Ultimately, the result of these actions was that God punished them for that attitude. People in Biblical times who went with the flow of everyone else around them participated in activities that God clearly denounced as wrong. But because most everyone else around them was doing it, most people were content to go with the flow and still think they could rightfully claim they followed GOD.

Even though God loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins so that we might be saved, God does not require that we actually like Him. In fact, love and worship are a far cry different from like. Think of your family members, for example. You love them because you share the common bonds of blood and childhood memories, but you don’t necessarily like your family all the time. In the same way, God loves us unconditionally, even though most of the time we act in ways He totally dislikes.

Even though God knew I would be judgmental, prone to gossip, a glutton, and an avid television watcher, among so many other sins, even though He knew every act in my life He was going to dislike, Jesus still died on the cross for my sins. He gave His unblemished life so that I could have eternal peace with God.

God’s love has the unique goal of truly longing for our best selves from the perspective of His heavenly, omnipotent knowing. Just as the parent of a teenager has to lay down rules that aren’t popular, God, who sees the biggest picture of all, loves us enough to give us the boundaries required to achieve a heavenly perspective.

Even though these boundaries are clearly defined in the Bible, we humans manage to argue the point, especially when we confuse God’s love for us with a human need to worship a likeable God. God isn’t very likeable when He tells us not to have sex outside the bounds of marriage or when He insists that marriage should be an unbreakable vow between a woman and a man.  He isn’t likeable when He proclaims His right to be the one and only God in our lives so that we should not make idols of other people, like movie stars, or earthly things, such as our possessions.

But God’s love for us trumps any need to like or be liked. Knowing the true God requires us to strip away the layers of our cultural influences, to seek Him in quiet places and learn to listen for His voice. We have to know His Word, all of it, and not just the parts of it that we tend to agree with. If we diligently seek Him, we will be less prone to being led astray by the popular thinking that swirls around us, by the pressures of society to just get along no matter the cost to God’s truth.

It’s wise to regularly take an inventory of your perspective of our awesome God. Are you standing in the truth of God’s love, which encompasses His discipline as well as His compassion, or are you accepting popular culture’s feel-good description of a likeable God? Your growth as a Christian depends on you knowing the difference.

There’s another important component to this concept of a likeable versus a loving God, and that is how we humans fumble through trying to love like Jesus loves. Too often, we only manage to project a condemning and judgmental God who ostracizes instead of encompasses. This alienating approach to making people understand our loving God does Him a great disservice and keeps so many from really hearing the message of God’s true Word.

Next time, let’s look more closely at what it really means to love like God loves, including why God’s love, like any true love, includes boundaries that are for the ultimate good of these souls who are perpetually reaching for the perfection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

How Do You Cope? : Turn Your Mind to Jesus

A mind focused on Jesus learns to cope

God is awesome. He deserves our love and our praise. If we are wise, He also deserves the courtesy of our fear. Do you doubt it?

Sitting in the comfort of a home this week that kept the unending rain at bay, I thought about the mightiness of our LORD, how the strength of terrible weather, which I think goes part and parcel with a fallen world, reflects the awesome power of our Creator.

But God’s greater strength showed itself through His people, who reached out from all over Houston and this country to help those who have lost everything, washed away like so much refuse as the rain continued to pour.

Long after the news cameras tire of stories about boat rescues and flooded highways, people in Houston and across the Texas coast will be doing the most important work of all, which is learning to cope with the challenges that will continue for months and even years to come. God will show His strength in helping people cope, too.

Coping is a skill I’ve been honing the last several years. My grandmother, father-in-law and brother-in-law have all died, the latter within days of each other. My mother is battling ALS. Had I not learned to cope, I wouldn’t get out of bed.

Christ is the avenue to our best coping skills. When your mind begins to wander into worries you can do nothing about, think on Him. Draw your mind to Christ by thanking Him for the things around you, for the blessings you are most grateful for. Before you know it, He will bring your mind to a place of peace that pushes away the worry. He may give you the next step to take. He may send you to a scripture that expresses just how you feel. He may simply help you to just be still.

Time with the Trinity is more important than anything. Spending time in God’s word is the only way to learn just who He is. If you know your Bible, you know if the messages you feel are truly in alignment with that word or just the murmurs of your own heart’s desires. When you truly bend your will to God, you learn to accept the times when what you want is not what God says you need.

In Houston, there is a religious venue for every 1,000 people. This is a big city with a big heart for God. I like to think this belief plays a large role in our reactions to natural disasters. In these last few days, images of neighbor helping neighbor reflect the kind of things that happen when we take the love Christ has for us and pay it forward.

A mind set on the things of this world is subject to worry and angst. A mind set on our awesome God is destined to calm and peace. I know which mindset best serves me in times of ease and conflict. I hope you also prize your time with God so that no matter how the rains and winds blow, your mind is at heavenly peace.

In Christ,
Ramona