Friday, April 25, 2014

If the Bible Is True...

In our community group, we have been watching a video series by Timothy Keller called The Reason for God. It has led to some interesting discussions about objections people have to the Bible and Christianity. Through the series an interesting question was posed. Do some people really object to the accuracy and validity of the Bible itself or do they object to the Bible because admitting it's truth would mean a need to change parts of their lives?

I definitely think some people don't want to have to change parts of their lifestyles that conflict with things God says and Jesus taught. I still struggle with things in the Bible - what I understand it to say constantly challenges things I think and do (or don't do). 

I also know how daunting it is to see how short my life and efforts fall compared to what how the Bible is calling me to live. I have spent years trying and failing. Only recently have I more fully grasped the true meaning of grace. I now understand that *I* can't change my selfish, sinful nature. Only with God working in me through the Holy Spirit do I have any hope of living a life that loves others well and brings glory to God.

That's why I need Jesus. Jesus is the one who lived the perfect life, died for my sins and conquered death so that I can be reconciled to God. Without Jesus, I am stuck in my sin and all of my efforts at doing good are in vain. With Jesus, he is my righteousness that makes me right with God. Praise God for his great love for me (and us)!
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Living Love

I have been thinking a lot about what should characterize someone who loves Jesus (because that's how I would like to be known). With minimal digging it is fairly obvious. In John 13:34-35 Jesus says,"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Jesus was pretty straight forward. Proof of our love for God and Jesus is a life of love.

It sounds easy, but it's obviously not. I am often focused on what's going on in my life which tends to eliminate (or causes me to miss) opportunities to care for and love others. Selfishness seems to me to be the greatest barrier to really loving others.

Jesus told us to love others like he loved us. Let's just think about that. Jesus took time to listen to those who needed an ear and provide physical healing to others. He looked at their heart to their true need and spoke to it. He did not look to see how others could benefit or serve him. He did not consider any task below his station. He gave freely of his time, energy and abilities. He did not retaliate when others mocked him and abused him. He continued to love people and even sought forgiveness on their behalf. And then he gave his life for those who loved him and those who despised him. He was the physical example for everything he asks us to be willing to do in the name of love.

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command." John 15:13-14

I think that if everyone focused their efforts on loving others, we would be so consumed with this task that there would be no room for anything else - no room for gossip, falsehood, betrayal or any other form of evil. I wonder what that would be like.

Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37-40

I have decided (realized) that my life's work should be accomplishing the above two commandments. I think if I can make headway into loving God with all I have and also loving others as I want to be loved I will probably manage to cover any other exhortation in the Bible. I may also actually begin to look a little more like someone who truly loves Jesus.
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Do you think that it is easy to love God and others? Are there obstacles you face to truly loving those in your life?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

God's Reassurance

I have eczema (also called dermatitis) that affects some of the skin on my hands and face. It comes and goes depending on the weather, and seems to be more prevalent right now (probably due to all of the weather swings we've been experiencing). I am somewhat self-conscious about the dry skin on my face because it's noticed the most (obviously). It has caused me to question my attractiveness as I don't find the condition very pretty. This morning I was feeling particularly vulnerable to these thoughts and wanted to talk about it with my husband because he is good about reassuring me when I need it. Of course, today is the day he will be gone all day and I will not see him before I go to bed.

I was praying about all of this and asked why it seems that whenever I am in need of some sort of reassurance it coincides with the unavailability of my spouse. I had a thought and voiced it to God. "Are you trying to tell me that you want me to come to you for reassurance and comfort? Am I to seek my value and worth from you?" Well, duh, right? I know that God loves me, has a purpose for me, created me the way I am, and finds me very valuable. I struggle sometimes with claiming these truths and seeking peace and reassurance from my Creator. 

So I spent some time looking through the Bible to remind myself of what God values and finds beautiful. I first read 1 Samuel 16:7 to remind myself that God looks at my heart. The most encouraging verses were found in 1 Peter 3:3-6, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment...Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and DO NOT GIVE WAY TO FEAR."
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I have noticed lately that the enemy has been trying to use fear to immobilize me and break down my relationships. Perhaps I should spend some time reminding myself of all of God's do not fear proclamations in Scripture.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Do you turn to God first for comfort and reassurance? Do you have a verse that encourages you to keep going when you are feeling discouraged?