Posted in Christian Living, Christianity

Why We Remember

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Memory is a tricky thing.  We all have a tendency to remember events in such a way that makes us look the best.  Sometimes, or in some areas, we remember events so that we can see ourselves in our worst possible light, feeding our own insecurities or personal issues.  The inability of we humans to remember accurately is part of what makes eye witnesses so unreliable.

Having created us, God knows our faults.  He knows that we will have to consciously make the effort to remember our own fallacies in order to maintain our healthy fear of Him, the fear that is the knowledge of His awesomeness and makes us want to worship Him and do what is right.  On their trek through the desert once they escaped Egypt, even though God perpetually saved the Israelites from their own follies, they seem to fail to remember.  They complain, they want to return to Egypt, they doubt God will keep His promises, they worship other gods.

Because God’s memory never fails, He remembers His promises.  As He has Moses prepare the Israelites to finally enter the promised land, He has Moses implore them:

“Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.  And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.  And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.  Repeat them again and again to your children.  Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.  Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”  (Deut. 6:4-9 NLT)

God intends to keep His promises to make Israel a great nation, but He expects them to remember His instructions.  (At one point late in the 40-year journey through the desert, God is ready to wipe out the entire bunch and begin again until Moses talks Him out of that plan because God is so disgusted by the Israelites perpetual forgetfulness and thanklessness.)  And why was the remembering of God and His promises so vital for the Israelites?  They were about to embark on the final length of their journey, into a promised land that was filled with pagan peoples who might easily tempt the Israelites into forgetting that God was the one and only, thus allowing them to slip into actions detestable to God, like making idols or touching unclean things.

But the most important reason for remembering is this:  For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands the LORD our God has given us (Deut. 5:25 NLT)  In the New Testament, Grace makes a difference about our source of righteousness:  I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; Paul writes, rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.  For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. (Philippians 3:9 NLT)

Faith versus works does not lower the bar of our commitment to remembering God.  In fact, it raises it.  Paul explains:

But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. . . .I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3: 12-14  NLT)

Remembering God means forgetting the wrongs or perceived wrongs done to us by others, putting God’s wants before our own, and even forgetting what good we may have done so as not to rest on our laurels and fail to achieve all that we might through the Holy Spirit working in us.  When we remember how much God has done for us, it makes us love God even more, and it should make us love others, no matter what perceived hurts they cause us.

Remembering God also means pouring out our thankfulness to Him.  God wants to hear our gratitude and our acknowledgement that all we have and all we are, we owe to Him.  Paul implores us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).

Christ instructs us to pray with this attitude of gratefulness:  Our Father, who art in heaven, Christ tells us to begin, hallowed be thy name.  In acknowledging our relationship to God as Father, we are reminded that He who made everything wants to have a relationship with us.  In acknowledging His holiness, we realize how grateful we should be to have a relationship with God, to know His love for us because of grace.

When you are faced with the challenges of life, whether you are having physical problems, mental problems, work problems, family problems, or financial problems, it can be so easy to just whine to God or be mad at Him and ignore Him (as if that somehow hurts God instead of us!).  But when we are in times of peril it is even more important to remember first to be thankful, to acknowledge what God has done for us through the grace of Christ.

Finally, when we remember to be thankful, I think it makes it easier for us to be the love of Christ to those who do not yet believe, to shine His light as Christians are supposed to do.  In his book,  Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life, Abbot Christopher Jamison describes Christian patience this way:

“Patience is more subtle: it is the attempt to live out in a positive frame of mind the difficulties that come from trying to obey and love other people”

It is so easy to forget.  But a successfully run race with Christ can only be accomplished when first we remember.

 

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Posted in Christian Living, Faith, Love

God Doesn’t Need To Be Politically Correct

I AM

When Abraham asked God, Who are you?, the Maker of the Universe answered, Is. 

In the prophecy of the final days, He describes Himself: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8).

How would you describe yourself?  Would you do it by your occupation?  Your age?  Your physical description?  Your personality traits?  By the company you keep?  By the things you have or have not accomplished during your time on this planet?

God knows how to describe you.  As the Creator of everything, He is the only One who can see straight to our true hearts.  The Psalmist says it this way: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?  and why art thou disquieted within me?  hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Ps. 43:5).

In one of the famous lines from the TV classic, The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby tells his television son, Theo, “I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out.”  God could do that.  In fact, there are countless examples in the Old Testament where God’s patience wore thin and His vengeance was wrought against a people who had been given every chance to believe and still persisted in worshiping other gods, in sinning, in denying God’s omnipotence.  Think Sodom and Gomorrah.

Paul assures us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Jesus warns us to remove the moat from our own eyes before worrying about the speck in others’ (Matthew 7:3).  We are all guilty of something.

So, what do you plan to do about it?

Jesus held the world to a standard of perfection because He Himself was perfect.  He threw the money changers out of the temple, but He also allowed Himself to be flogged and crucified by the authorities as a sacrifice for my sake as well as yours.  Jesus said things that were true and cut to the heart, but He said them with love, and He promised peace.  All He required was our surrender to Him.

So, what do you plan to do about it?

In today’s world, what if we tried speaking God’s truth in love with an end goal of peace in mind?  What if we didn’t worry about what other people thought about us as long as we knew that God was at the core of our actions?  What if we could be sure that our pride had nothing to do with what we had to say, in other words, that our eyes were clear of moats?

Paul describes Jesus,

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience: And patience, experience: and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (Romans 5:2-5).

In a world that grows increasingly hostile to truths based on God’s word and not modern, “enlightened”  ideas, where what feels good seems more popular than what is good, I am convinced that Christians need to strive to wear the armor of God.  Barbara Mandrell had a song when I was a kid–I Was Country, When Country Wasn’t Cool.  In America today, we are facing an environment where being Christian is no longer cool.  Our children are encouraged to do more than dress in certain clothes, and expressing an opinion on the wrong side of the political landscape could literally lead to dire consequences.

So, what do you plan to do about it?

The peace of God, a peace that transcends understanding, is the kind of peace that can whisper in a whirlwind and be heard.  To follow the example of Christ is not to condemn with hatred in our hearts, but to love others enough to gently lead them in the narrow way to God.  But first, we have to be sure that our own walk is being made as Christ holds our hands.  And that means prayer, introspection, fellowship, and study in His word.

In the coming days, your faith may be tested.  You may no longer have the luxury of practicing your faith in a bubble.  You may have to step out and say things that don’t make you popular with people but keep you on the narrow path that is the walk with God to eternal life.  It is God’s place to judge, but it is our place to spread the good Word of the grace that can mean salvation for anyone who is willing to believe.

So, what do you plan to do about it?

God doesn’t need to be politically correct.  He IS.  In God, there are no politics, only a kind of truth that sees the heart and does not waver.  The Bible speaks of peace as the blessing of God.  This peace is our ultimate gift on this earth, not happiness or shiny cars or pretty jewelry or the right clothes.  This peace does not waver in the face of opposition or hardship.  It is constant because it relies solely on God, and He never wavers.

So, what do you plan to do about it?

Go in peace and love that only God provides, and know what you plan to do about a world full of darkness for which you have been chosen to shine His light.

Posted in Christian Living

The Necessity of Light

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In the next week or so, the twinkling lights that have dazzled our ever earlier night sky, the darkness of the deepest time of winter, will slowly fade as people pack up the Christmas decorations and begin preparing for the challenges of a New Year.

But, the need for shining of light is actually just as important on the longest summer day as it is during the month of December.

Notice how brilliant the Eiffel Tower appears in this night-time photo captured by my mother-in-law during her first trip to Europe recently. Even with just her iPhone and the basic knowledge of point-and-click, she managed to capture quite a few photos that reveal the true beauty of several national landmarks and treasures.

Even her pictures of the tower during the day, however, are nothing compared to the beauty of the shots taken at night, when the height and breadth of this amazing structure are outlined against the blackness like a thousand brilliant stars.

For a world living in darkness, Jesus calls us to be such a light. Our words and actions should be such that we display the glory of the gift of God’s love for us to all. We are the window to the soul of God, not just on Sunday mornings or during Christmas, but every day and in every way throughout the year.

As you search yourself for resolutions in the coming days for January 1, remember to put shining the light of Jesus at the top of your list. It may be as simple as asking one person to come with you to church one Sunday, taking food to a neighbor whose family member is in the hospital, or holding the door for somebody as you enter a building. If you are practicing the discipline of love, the Holy Spirit in you will be sure to guide you.

Shine His light in 2014. The Eiffel Tower in all its glory has nothing on the glory of the One and Only whom we serve in full knowledge of our own humble status and undeserved acceptance.