Posted in Christianity, Faith

This Easter, Learn the Difference When You Live What You Believe

He is risen indeed

One of the discount department stores is running an ad about their sales for the weekend, emphasizing great prices on dresses and dress clothes for the annual Easter Sunday church visit.

I wonder about those of us who only see the inside of church on these special occasions. We put on the cloak of Christianity like a garment we can choose to wear or discard as the feelings move us. We call out to God in times of distress as if He should overlook all the times He hasn’t heard from us, not even a simple thank you for our daily kindnesses and blessings.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the greatest gift God ever gave us—the potential to return to a healed relationship with Him through the salvation provided by Christ’s sacrifice for us when He died on the cross despite being blameless so that our many sins will not condemn us. But, we can’t maintain a healthy relationship that allows us to grasp the full potential of God’s blessings if we only work on that relationship every once-in-a-while.

Sometimes, I wonder if people who condemn those of us who believe in our mighty God really understand what it is they are rejecting. What seems like a fairy tale of a by-gone age to them is to me the spiritual and logical conclusion of a series of events that go back to the beginning of time.

God made a perfect world. He populated it with flora and fauna. He even made man in His own image to enjoy the fruits of His labor. Man, setting the example of a pattern of behavior that dominates to this day , didn’t waste much time ruining the gift of the paradise God created for them. Walking with God without shame, conversing with Him as if He were the kind neighbor from down the street and not the Creator of all things, just wasn’t enough for Adam and Eve. They wanted to know what God knows. They grasped the knowledge of good and evil as if the human heart, though made in the image of God, could yet somehow be god-like.

But, humans who know evil and good will inevitably sink to the level of evil because the human heart is not to be trusted. It cannot know evil without falling victim to the weakness of giving in to that evil. And when we commit sin, we cannot go forward in a relationship with the God-head as if nothing bad has happened. So, God gave man instructions on the kinds of sacrifices He required to bring a person back into relationship with Him whenever a person stumbles.

Why most sacrifices require the shedding of blood can be a hard concept to grasp if you have grown up in a world where you get trophies just for participating, where everybody is a winner. But, for me at least, the idea that I only truly understand the depth of my sin if I see the extent of the sacrifice to make me right again with God seems to be perfectly logical. I can’t trust my heart to tell me when I am in the wrong. My heart is quick to make excuses for me and an expert at giving me the benefit of the doubt. But the blood on the altar of an animal that had nothing to do with my sin is a definite wake up call for my need to straighten up my act. Having in me the genetic memory of first man’s close contact with our sovereign God, I long to return to that place of perfect peace where we walk in the garden, and I am not afraid.

No troubled hearts for those who believe

Do you like the humanist stand on morality better than the strict guidelines that unconditional love requires? I wonder why. If God does not exist, as the humanists proclaim, then what is the point of these randomly sequenced molecules that are the only explanation left in a world where no master Creator spoke the world into being? The closest thing I can find to one is Darwin’s idea of the survival of the fittest. And if that is our point, to be the strongest, the one to survive so that our genes continue to thrive, then what happens to kindness or thoughtfulness or love? We humans have proven how quickly and deeply we can fall into the depths of darkness.  We torture and maim, watch as children starve,  enslave each other. Auschwitz. Hiroshima. The human heart never leans toward the light, not when it does not acknowledge a God exists who has the power and desire to fill that heart with love and light.

When Christ sacrificed Himself, spilled His own blood because of my sin—He had no sin of His own—He tore the curtain that separated the unholy from the Holiest once and for all. When I believe Christ died for me, when I bow my head and acknowledge my own sinfulness, my wicked heart, and say, You are my savior, I invite the light and love of God into my heart. I allow Him to transform the heart from that which is only able to look out for number one to a loving light that knows the power of Christ’s gift of grace and can’t help but find ways to share the good news about that love with others.

In this world God created, those who survive best are often the weakest, the most humble. Survival is defined by staying in close relationship with God, in taking steps to love other people like we want to be loved. We walk in the perfect garden and are not afraid.

I like a world that is more concerned about what I am becoming for the next life than concentrating on making the most of this world because it is the only one we’ve got. When you celebrate Easter this Sunday, do it in full knowledge of the enormity of the gift Christ gave when He put your salvation before His survival.  You are no longer condemned, but bathed in the Spirit of Truth that will compel you to live according to what pleases God instead of trying to please other people or yourself.

I am so thankful God tore away the barrier that separated His holiness from my humanness. When I call, He hears me. When I make choices based on His teachings, I know peace.

And isn’t that what I am really seeking when I put on that new Spring dress Easter Sunday, my curls pulled back with a bright bow, and step into the sanctuary where the voices of those who believe swell in the still air like even the angels are singing?

In Christ,
Ramona

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Posted in Poetry

Mesquite Bend: Reverend Nunnelly

30 days poetry

 

Easter Sunday

He is up hours before dawn come Sundays,
searching for that silent place
where anyone who is willing
can find God.  The Holy Spirit

moves in and out from him,
especially on those days that begin
with calls from Mrs. Stiles,
who has her own thoughts
about his sermons, the Ladies’ Tea Club,
the meal committee, even the young
Youth Minister whose pencil moustache
is somehow the first step to evil.

But this first day of the week
belongs to Reverend Nunnelly,
whose job it is to reflect
the One and Only for a congregation
of sheep one misstep from wandering.

As he stares out into faces
he has known since childhood,
the weight of his obligation to lead
pushes down on him, pushes out
the One who really leads them,

leaving him on his knees
early Sundays, praying to be emptied
and filled with the only thing
that matters.

From his pulpit, looking in the eyes
of his forty-five-year bride, he longs
to feel for all of them the love
of a Savior who showed strength
through a willingness to die.

Ramona Levacy
April 5, 2015

Posted in Christianity, Faith

Reliable Mercy

Mustard seed faith

I have never been a parent, unless you want to count my cat.  He is a true tomcat who prefers to watch you from a good five-foot distance.  He does not want my bids for affection unless they involve some fish-flavored kibble or tuna flakes.  Despite the claw and tooth scars I have to prove his need for independence, I continue to try to figure out ways to cuddle him and still respect his “space.”  He has trained me to turn the tub faucet on at his command.  I have learned to “punish” him with unwanted hugs even when I might want to knock him across the room instead.

If I, being human, can go through all of this for a furry “child,” how much more must my parents feel for me, how much more any parent must feel for his/her child, no matter how rebellious that child sometimes becomes.  Even when a child goes against what his parents want him to do, I can understand how much the parent must long for the child to return to the roots of his raising again, or themselves struggle with trying to understand the world from their child’s perspective to find a place of restorative peace.

This Sunday, we are geared up to celebrate the most merciful “parent” of all time–our living God!  His mercy is always present, always available, and always ours alone to lose because He has given us the free will to choose the gift of His grace which was His sacrifice on the Cross to bring us back into relationship with Him.

You will read a lot of Scripture from the New Testament this week if you are studying about Easter, but I want you to consider a passage from the Old Testament instead: the story of Jonah.  When the reluctant prophet decides to do the job he didn’t want to take from God, the LORD doesn’t immediately destroy the people who don’t want to listen to Jonah’s message from God.

So, Jonah does what any of us humans would do at times like this.  He pouts.  He goes and sits at a distance from the town of Nineveh and waits for God to drop down the punishment God made Jonah go talk about.  Instead of destroying the city, however, God has a plant grow over Jonah, offering the pouting prophet shade from the unrelenting sun.  However, almost as quickly as it grew, the plant gets infected by a worm, withers and dies, leaving Jonah exposed to the elements again and ready to himself die:

 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”

“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”

Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” (Jonah 4:9-11)

You might be tempted to read the Old Testament and think that God is a judgmental, even brutal, Creator.  But, the Old Testament is as full of His merciful attitude as the New.  Think about all the times that the people God talks to often argue with Him.  There is more than one instance when a prophet will repetitively ask God, will you save the city if you can find 50 good people? 40 people? 20 people? 10?  God patiently agrees each time.  He tolerates a created thing that deigns to argue with its Creator!  He wants to save not only the people of Nineveh, but the animals as well.

Don’t be surprised, then, when you discover that the God whose shoulders are big enough to take every complaint you have to hurl in His direction still loves you enough to die for you.  He wants a relationship with YOU.  And He is patient about waiting for you.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

I can’t rely on my cat for anything except his desire to be fed on a regular basis.  Even my husband of twenty years sometimes gets angry with me.  But God is the only ONE in my life who is reliably merciful.  Read His word from beginning to end, forwards and backwards, and what you will discover is a God just waiting to show His love for you.

As you celebrate the risen Christ this Easter, don’t forget to celebrate His reliable mercy as well.  He is waiting and much more ready to show you love than the anger we all deserve.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Posted in Christianity, Faith

How It’s Easter Every Day

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Tomorrow is the day the secular world takes a moment to at least inadvertently acknowledge the TRUTH that we Christians celebrate every day: HE’S ALIVE.

The history of humankind is this–we were created by a loving God in full grace, we fell from that grace, and we were doomed to stay out of grace because no matter how many sacrifices we made, we humans would always fall into sin.  And sin separates us from God.

But then, God came to earth in the form of man, His Son Jesus, lived that life as a human and without sin, and then allowed Himself to be sacrificed for the sins of all of us, once and for all.

When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we step into what Paul explains as

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Galatians 2:20)

And that life, fully lived in faith and the Spirit, bears a fruit that is

 love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

As we Christians attempt to bear the fruit of the Spirit, waking up every day knowing that Christ rose again and is alive in us is what gives us the impetus to want to do the often hard work of walking the “narrow path that leads to eternal life” (Matthew 7:14).

Of course, we do not earn our salvation through what we do (beyond admitting to Christ that we are sinners and need Him as our savior), but when we truly accept Christ as our Savior, then we are filled with the desire to want to be what Jesus asked us to be–“perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

So, move over bunny rabbits and colored eggs.  And may those who take the time tomorrow to hunt for hidden treasures take more than a moment to realize that the real reason for the holiday is a life-changing decision that is actually the greatest treasure of all:

Christ Lives