Posted in Christian Living

This Debt I Owe

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I have a confession to make.  Despite knowing that vengeance belongs to God, I love a good movie where the hero systematically eradicates all the villians.  Even in a story like Eastwood’s Unforgiven, I’m glad to see him take out his enemies because, even though Eastwood has given them every chance to back off, they just won’t give up.  Eastwood may have ultimately lost a bit more of his soul in shooting it out with the bad guys, but as a movie-goer, I am really glad the bad guys bit the dust.

How different are the realities of a world where people live according to the belief that God has the only right to vengeance.  In our modern age, I’m not sure how many of those communities actually exist, but in the pages of my Bible, I find a history of God’s people asking for guidance in dealing with their enemies and giving full credit to God for any victories that they attain.  When the Israelites are on top of their faithfulness with God, no force in the world can beat them.  Vengeance is God’s.

I’ve been reading the Psalms this week.  In David’s Psalms, he repeatedly acknowledges his own sinful state and how little he deserves God’s help.  But, David also acknowledges how he can do nothing without God, how great God is all the time, how willing David is to accept God’s will, whatever that may be.  For David, whatever happens is the will of God, and God is good all the time–even when what God decides to do makes David hurt.

When you read that attitude coming from a man who lives under the weight of sin, you understand more and more just how much David had a heart like God’s.  What I mean is this: in David’s time, there was no such thing as grace.  In order to renew one’s relationship with God, you had to perpetually offer blood sacrifices to make right what you inevitably had done wrong in the sight of God.  Even as David pours his heart out to God in the Psalms, he knows that the only man on earth that can most closely speak to the Maker is the High Priest one day each year when the Holy of Holies is entered after much sacrifice and even more sacrifices are made in the very presence of God.  During that ceremony, tradition holds that the people would tie a rope to the High Priest in which to drag him back out of the Holy of Holies in case God did not find favor with him.

Because Christ died for our sins once and for all, we Christians in this modern world are living every day, truly, in a state of grace that it can be so easy to take for granted.  David, who was persecuted by Saul, lived a life of war, lost children, and had children rebel against him, could always remember that God is good and worthy of praise. David knew he himself had no right to be proud, even though he was a great king in the eyes of men, because he only ruled by the will of God.  David knew that at any minute he could die in a state of sin that separated him from the God he loved so much.

You and I have been given the gift of starting each day and ending it in relationship with God.  The Holy Spirit dwells in us at the point that we accept Christ as our Savior.  We owe such a debt to Christ for His sacrifice, and yet He presents it to us as a gift, lovingly given.  We do nothing to earn our salvation except to accept that gift and submit to Christ’s will.

If David, living under the threat of unforgiven sin, could devote so much of himself in praising his God for the love and protection and mercy God gave him, how much more should we who have been given the gift of relationship with our God be daily loving, praising, believing, and submitting to His will?  Even though we cannot earn our salvation, do we not owe so much more of a debt to our God that He was willing to die for us, once and for all?

Make no mistake, Christianity does not equal inaction.  As James puts it, “faith without works is a dead faith.”  Reading the Psalms of David reminds us of the debt we all owe to our loving God, who gave His whole self for us.

Thank You, Jesus, for the indwelling of the Spirit that allows me to know that when I cry out to You, You always hear me.  And so often, You are my one and only source of comfort.  My job is learning to lean into this awesome debt I lovingly owe.

Our God is truly an awesome God.

Posted in Christian Fiction, Christian Living, Christianity

Thoughts on Receiving

The old saying, “give as good as you get,” isn’t exactly a Christian one.  It implies taking retribution into our own hands, not allowing God to be the one who metes out justice.  Secondly, it is the complete opposite of the Golden Rule, totally denying the thing that matters most, which is love.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love,” Paul tells us.  “But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

But I was reminded recently not only of the importance of giving love to others, but of being a good receiver of love as well.  For some of us, it is harder to be a receiver than a giver.  Whether we are like Martha, so caught up in the details of the thing that we forget the main reason we gathered in the first place, or are just so addicted to control that we don’t think anything can be done right unless we are on top of it, we fail to open our arms and release that control long enough to receive the help or encouragement or compliments that other people are trying to give us.

My most recent reminders about the blessing of receiving have come in the form of well wishes from those who know me well and have heard about my recent troubles with my oldest cat.  Unfortunately, I had to take her to her last vet visit a week ago.  That, if you haven’t already experienced a similar situation, is a rough thing to do.

Fortunately for me, I am surrounded by understanding people who have sympathized with my sorrow.  One of my friends even got me a beautiful flower arrangement!  Feeling God’s love through the kindness of these people has been a real blessing that makes me want to reach out to others as well.

Another reminder about being open to God’s love and the love of others came in the form of taking  the time to actually stick around after my exercise class to talk to the other people who had come to class.  Before class, I had had an up and down day.  By the time class came around, I was mostly on the down side of things.  When class was over, I was my usual tired, sweaty self.  But, then the magic began to happen.

First, I saw a person who used to be on the same workout schedule as me but that I had not seen for some time.  When she asked how I had been, I decided to share a little more than just the usual, “OK.”  Then, another classmate took up the conversation with me and asked me to sit down.  I started to listen more than talk as this person filled me in on some of the challenges she had faced throughout her life, recurring dental problems that were really crazy.  As I continued to listen more than I talked, I was impressed by her upbeat attitude despite her extraordinary challenges.  By the time I left the workout center, I was feeling more upbeat just because I had had the chance to listen to what this woman had had to say and how positive she was about the challenges she was facing.

The only thing I wish I had done was take a moment to thank my workout “friend” for sharing.  I hope that she received as much from giving as I did from receiving.

God has so much He is willing to give to us.  How often do we fail to receive, even from Him?  David is a perfect example of one who understood the importance of being a good receiver.  Over and over in his psalms, he implores God to bless him with forgiveness, escape from his enemies, or just peace.  He thanks God in advance for the gifts David is sure God will give, even to those who don’t deserve it, especially since none of us deserve it.  And David is bountiful in his praise of God, exhalting God’s goodness and power and love for us.

If we could only see ourselves through God’s eyes, the bare truth of all our sin and all the love He has for us anyway, how much better would we be at extending love to everyone else around us?  None of us are free of mistakes.  We all deserve the same chance to repent, to build our faith, to give and receive love that we give ourselves all the time.  Why can’t we just extend it to everyone else?

Maybe it begins with being more open to receiving the love that is offered to us, especially the love that God offers.  The better we are at receiving, the better we’re going to get at giving love, not just to God, but especially to those around us.  What a wonderful way to shine His light!

And speaking of shining His light, I found out yesterday that the two novels I donated to my local library finally finished the review process and are on the shelves!  One of them was even checked out.  Since I am trying to write the kind of fiction that helps readers build a stronger relationship with God, I am so excited that I was able to make my books available to people in this way.  Now, God can do the work He intends to do with my writing, whether it be a lot or a little, in people’s lives.

Thank YOU so much for taking the time to read my blog and help me in my quest to share God’s love with others.  It is so much better to be writing to a live audience than feeling like the tree falling in an empty forest, wondering if it makes a sound.

Posted in Christianity, Faith, Love

Giving thanks through thankful giving

What seems like just a simple play on words could actually be a fundamental shift in one’s life. Giving thanks can be done without much effort. Some of us have said the same prayer over a meal so many times that it has become more of a mantra than a communication with God. There are also daily situations in which we say “thanks” with as much thought as we give to the standard “hello,” or “how are you doing”–not expecting or even listening to the responses we actually get, which are usually equally perfunctory or non-existent.
But just making the attempt to really mean what we say when we give thanks just doesn’t seem like enough in a world where so many bad things happen. If we have the guts to turn on the news, we are bombarded by images of war or protests or economic hardship. The tent cities that most of us have only read about in textbook sections on the Depression have sprung up in our own backyards, haunting reminders of what we too might become but for the grace of God.
If we give of ourselves thankfully, as God intended, we give with intention and love, not to rid ourselves of guilt over having too much, but because we truly care about others and are happy that we have been put in a position where we can be of help.
“No good deed goes unpunished” gives thankful giving a bad name. Even if I suffer a bit because I choose to help, I will never truly suffer if I approach all that I do with the thankfulness of my ability to give that I should have.
As a recovering over-achiever, I find just now that writing about this concept helps me realize that when I think that I am failing just because I haven’t made myself a “big wig” in the present world, driven by capitalism, I should instead be thankful for the opportunities I have had to use the talents God has given me to share and hopefully help others, even if those others count only in a handful, not a multitude. Remember the parable where the shepherd leaves the safe flock to save the one lost sheep? When I am not thankful for what I am able to give–forget about what I achieve from the “real world’s” point of view–I do a disservice to myself and, more importantly, to the gifts that God has given me to share with others, not hoard. I thank Him most when I give away what I have been given, not just bow my head and say “thanks.”
I hope my actions during this holiday season can be those of thankful giving, especially when I am tempted to become too tired or too busy to think about others. And I hope I can give the gift to myself of being thankful for what I am able to do each day instead of getting discouraged or bored with what is required or needed from me.