Tag Archives: Christ

Uncomfortable Questions

This post was inspired by two conversations I had on Sunday–one with a nurse who spoke of how family members of certain patients were wanting the hospital to do everything they could to save their patient when it was clear they needed to start letting go and another conversation with someone about death. And it got me to wondering–why are Christians so afraid of death? I wouldn’t think there would be any reason to be afraid of death. Those of us who believe are going to our eternal home with our Lord and Savior. There should be no reason to be afraid.

But, some Christians are afraid so I wondered why they might be afraid of death. Is it the unknown? Is it a fear of being alone? Is it….because they’re just not sure? And those are the questions I want to explore today. Some people might be afraid that when they get to the other side, God won’t be there. I’ll be honest. I admit I have entertained those thoughts. Where has God been through all of my husband’s illnesses? Through all of our attempts to gain stability? Through all of our attempts to provide for ourselves and to give money to the church? To do all the things the church teaches that we’re supposed to do as Christians? I don’t understand. I have seen people at church who seem much more successful than we have ever been or ever hope to be. Have we not been the Christians God has wanted us to be. How does all this work?

I type these questions and realize I’m asking the wrong questions. It’s not what the church teaches us. It’s what Jesus teaches us. They get all mixed up sometimes which is why I get mixed up. We put all these rules on ourselves which Jesus didn’t do. And sometimes, the people who serve in our churches don’t speak the words God would have them speak or they speak the words others want them to speak. They’re not perfect just like we’re not perfect, and that is something we and I need to remember. That is why I need to study the Scriptures for myself and know what they say for myself and not just depend on what someone else tells me. Maybe, if more of us did that, we wouldn’t have as many problems in our churches.

Then, there are the family members of the people who are dying. They are scared to let their family member go because they’re afraid of being without them. They’re afraid of being alone. I’ve talked before about how the church doesn’t really know what to do with the person who is alone in church, who is without a family. And I believe that has contributed to why people want to explore every possibility of keeping their family member alive before letting them go or letting them die with dignity.

These are hard questions, and there are no easy answers, but it’s important we talk about them. Talk about what we want. That’s what I did Sunday night with my husband. I told him that when the time came, I wanted him to let me go, to let me go and see Jesus. Because that is what I want with all my heart. To be with my Lord and Savior in my eternal home in praise and worship forever.

I’m so grateful that God doesn’t mind if we ask uncomfortable questions. I’m grateful that He has been there through everything we have been through. He wants to talk with all of us and have a relationship with us even if we have what we think are uncomfortable questions. I pray that all of us would have the courage to ask God the questions we need to ask even if they are uncomfortable questions.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

In My Father’s Arms

I’m trying something a little different today. Recently, I’ve taken to putting earphones on in the morning and listening to Christian music once my husband has left for work and before my sons wake up. This way I don’t disturb anyone (We live in an apartment), but I can still listen to God speaking to me through the music and lyrics of the songs. It’s a win-win for me and for those who still want to sleep.

So, anyway, I was listening to one of those songs this morning, and I realized something. I’ve been depending too much on other people with this mess my family is going through. God wants me to look at Him for my peace, my comfort, and my security. He is our Provider and the One who is always there. I listened to the lyrics again making a point of letting them flow over me, and there was a peace, a peace that passes understanding like I had climbed up in my Daddy’s lap, and He was comforting me. That is the way God wants us to see Him, but too many of us make rules up or have a background where someone made up rules that prevent us from seeing Him in that way. I know this is something I struggle with. But, I want to be better. I want to feel His presence in my life in a way I’ve never felt it before. One of my favorite songs gave me a good start so I thought I would share the lyrics with you. It is the song “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns.

“Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won’t let go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held (stop holding on and just be held)
Just be held, just be held, just be held, just be held”

Thank you, God, for always having your arms available to hold onto me through the storms of life and I pray you will hold onto those who ask for your help!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

God Will Never Leave Us

When I woke up this morning, I was slightly discouraged because I had not heard from one of my Christian friends who I had contacted yesterday to get some counsel. Life has been doing its best to overwhelm me recently, and I didn’t think I was doing the best job of handling it. I’m not the kind of person who tries to contact ten or more people at a time so when I didn’t hear from that one person, I wasn’t sure how to feel or react. Before I could say or type words that might have been damaging, God spoke to me.

First, I should say that I generally start every weekday morning with writing in my journal. It gets me in the frame of mind to write and gives me a pulse on whatever’s going on in my life. Have you ever seen this quote from Pat Conroy about writing? “Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.” That’s me in a nutshell. Sometimes, the only way I have to understand things that happen in my life is to write them down.

Anyway, back to the journal. I was writing and writing and writing. I turned the page and noticed the Bible verses that were printed on that page and the facing page. The first one I read was Hebrews 13:5. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.'” Whoa! That was one I needed to read. God put it in my path at just the right moment. Even if no one else is there for me, He will always be there.

The second set of verses was just as profound. Isaiah 49:15-16 says, “I will not forget you. I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” God doesn’t forget us. He doesn’t forget me. Even if my Christian brothers and sisters abandon me, God will never leave me. I needed to read those verses too.

That was all it took. My heart and my load lightened. I finished writing in my journal and had the idea for this blog post. There were more verses than I could count when I employed the search function of my Bible app. I liked this one from Deuteronomy 31:8. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

I also liked this one from Psalm 55:22. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

My favorite though was from Matthew 24:35. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

I’m so grateful that God put these words in my path at just the right moment. They have sustained and strengthened me and reminded me of who needs to be first in my life. Now, if I could only figure out how to stay willing to live in community when my Christian brothers and sisters let me down. But, I think that might be another post. 🙂

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Temptation

As defined by Wikipedia, temptation is an “immediate, pleasurable urge and/or impulse that disrupts an individual’s ability to wait for the long-term goals which the individual hopes to attain.” It can also mean “the state of being attracted and enticed” like when you want to eat a piece of chocolate cake, but know that you shouldn’t. Since this is a Christian blog though, the definition of temptation I will be referring to is the “inclination to sin”.

It’s not that the other definitions don’t matter. I think in some instances, they can be intertwined. For example, that piece of chocolate cake. In most instances, having it wouldn’t affect us in the long-term. But, what about the person who struggles with taking care of their body like God says they should? What about the person who buys themselves an indulgence? Some people can stop at only one, but others would keep going on and on and wouldn’t be spending their money the way God wants them to.

So, everyone has been tempted and can be tempted. Even Jesus was tempted. My church is doing a year-long series of sermons about keeping our eyes on Jesus, and the topic of temptation was brought up recently. I’m thinking most of us are familiar with that story in the Bible–where Jesus was tempted after forty days and nights of fasting. Satan tempted Him on three occasions. Matthew 4:3-4 says, “The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.””

The other two occasions had Satan telling Jesus to throw Himself off the highest point in the temple because the angels would save Him if He did and offering Him all the kingdoms of the world if He would only worship him. Verse 10 of Matthew 4 says, “Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.””

I have a head understanding of these verses and of what God wants from us. Doesn’t prevent me from getting tempted though. In fact, the other week God reminded me of my own brokenness. I talked to someone who freely admitted to having been in jail. I was astonished because that has never happened to me before. I did a pretty good job of not showing my astonishment. (Actually, that was because God was giving me very strong urges to keep my mouth shut for the questions that would normally be asked on such an admission.) Afterwards, I thought about the encounter and how I had done well enough to never be arrested in my years of living. God knocked me down pretty fast. He pointed out that though I had never murdered anyone, I had lied. I’ve never stolen anything either, but I’ve judged those who have. I’ve not made a golden idol to worship, but I’ve considered other things more important than God. I’ve been jealous of people who have more than I do, and I haven’t rested on the Sabbath. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. We’ve all sinned. Some sins are just more noticeable than others.

I say all this about temptation today because of the other part of what was stated in the verses I quoted. Jesus had been fasting when He encountered Satan. He had been doing without food and water. This is not something I encounter often in the western world. Especially for forty days and forty nights. Western Christians aren’t big on depriving themselves of anything, and it is not a concept I’ve been able to apply well to my own life. But, last week I decided to take a dare. We have been talking about fasting at church on Wednesday nights this month, and my older son got to attend one of the classes last week while he was home from college. Our pastor spoke of how he had given up coffee until Easter and encouraged us to fast from whatever was preventing us from getting closer to Jesus. We got home from church, and my son said there was no way I could give up coffee. Oh, the wisdom of a college student. 🙂 I took the dare and made the promise. No way was I going to let my son hold one over on me.

I am now at five days without coffee, and I can tell this is going to be one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I use coffee to wake up in the mornings, and it’s been hard to be without it. But, I’m going to honor my promise to God and to my son for two reasons. One, I’m stubborn and don’t want to hear about my failure forever, and two, most importantly, because I want to honor my Lord and Savior.

I also know I’m not alone in this endeavor. God is with me as it states in I Corinthians 10:13. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I think this sums it up.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The Courage to Cry

This is an entry for the Writing Contest: You Deserve to be Inspired. Hosted by Positive Writer. http://positivewriter.com/writing-contest-you-deserve-to-be-inspired/

Most of us have the tendency to not want to cry in public.  Crying is seen as weak and not at all like how we want to be seen by the public around us. People who have it all together or who seem to have it all together are more respected in our society. There is also the actual issue of control that limits our ability to cry. I want to argue that crying or expressing emotion takes more courage than those who try to “maintain shields in public.”

It’s almost been a year since my husband was in the hospital for possible heart issues. He had experienced chest pain like he had experienced the previous year when he had also been in the hospital for a night. Every test that was run during both hospital stays had shown that things with his heart were normal. But, there was no explanation for why he was having chest pain or why he was so exhausted all of the time. He was at the end of his endurance as was I, the only difference being that it was okay for him to express it and not okay for me. I needed to be strong so I could take care of him and give him the encouragement he needed. This was not like his previous health issues. For those issues, there was a clear diagnosis and path to take care of whatever the issue was. It was not like that this time.

He was released from the hospital, and I was a tumble of emotions trying to handle his care, our household, and homeschooling our then 16-year old son. I didn’t know where to turn, and I felt lost, but didn’t feel like I could express it. On Saturday, I took our son to a youth event which would last overnight and came back home. I had been praying this whole time for healing for my husband, for clear answers, for something that would turn all of this around. (Oh, by the way, did I mention that my husband was the sole support of our family?) God had something else in mind though.

I woke up Sunday morning on edge and not certain whether I should leave my husband or not though I was going to have to go up to church to get our son by the time service was over. My husband was frustrated which increased my frustration. He wanted to go to church himself, but wasn’t in the shape to do so. I wanted to yell and scream and hurl insults at God for putting us through this. There had been no end to the pain and suffering over the past couple of years, and I wanted it to be over. I wanted, no, I needed to break, but didn’t know if I could. I was worried about what people would think of me.

I ended up deciding to go to our worship service and hide in the back so no one would see me. It was on the opposite side of the auditorium from where I usually sat.  But, even though I didn’t see very many people I knew, God still saw me. He spoke to me through the words of the songs and through the people who spoke to me. He also spoke to me through the sermon. I know the words came from God because my pastor had no idea what was going on. During the final prayer, tears started spilling from my eyes. I couldn’t hold them back any longer. When the congregation started singing Never Once by Matt Redman, I knew that was God’s signal. It was time to face my fear of rejection by being emotional in public.  I was weeping so much I could barely see as I made my way towards the front. I choked out words to my pastor. “Please pray for me. I can’t take this pain anymore.”

There were other words too, lost in the jumble.  He prayed, and people surrounded me, many more people than I had expected. I cried and shook from the relief of releasing the pain and stress. Once he finished the prayer, people hugged me and said it was ok. Their words were so encouraging, and I was blessed. I wondered why I had ever had any fear of breaking down. The relief I felt was palpable, and I felt strength come over me that I had not felt earlier in the morning. I was inspired to keep going.

Being a caregiver is not for the faint of heart. There are many stresses and pressures. Couple that with the fear of being judged for expressing emotion which had been programmed in me from childhood and it could have been a recipe for disaster. It wasn’t though. I was still loved even though I had cried. I figured out there was a reason God had given us tear ducts, and it wasn’t just to cry in private. I also wrote about it in my journal. These lessons helped me then and have helped me many times in the year since. Having the courage to cry is more beneficial to all of us physically, mentally, and emotionally than trying to hide our emotions. God knew what He was doing that day in my life by blessing me with this knowledge which is why I shared this post today. Blessings to all who read it.

The Muck and the Mire

One of my more unusual titles, I think, and it got you to look which was the point. 🙂 While we’re still living in this world and not in heaven with God, we’re going to spend time in the muck and the mire, some, more than others. It started me wondering yesterday, and thinking of questions which I thought I would share with you this afternoon.

What does it mean to be Jesus’ hands and feet? My relationship with God has come to the forefront over the last few years, and I consider it more of a priority than I did before we moved here. I pray, study, go to church, and consider what God wants me to do in situations that come up. I’m not trying to brag, far from it. I know I am still a broken human being, but God has become more real to me than He has ever been.

So, back to my question. What does it really mean to be Jesus’ hands and feet? Does it mean going on mission trips or participating in church activities? Does it mean being kind and loving towards everyone you come in contact with? Does it mean having a particular political bent? Ugh, don’t get me started on politics. 🙂

What about paying for someone’s cup of coffee or meal which is the latest “do-good” thing? How about paying for someone’s groceries? Or talking to a cashier who seems sad? Or giving money to the homeless man at the intersection?

What about taking on extra work for someone at your job who is dealing with an illness? What about going to visit someone at the hospital? What about pulling over when someone has car trouble and waiting with them until help comes? Or pulling over at the scene of an accident and waiting with the people until help comes?

Yes, I believe these are all examples of being Jesus’ hands and feet, but why is it such a big deal when someone does something like this? Why don’t more of us who are professed Christians display these helping acts as part of their lifestyle? I think there are several reasons. One, we are selfish. We don’t want to come out of our comfort zones to help people. Two, we are afraid for our safety. Three, we don’t have the training to help like I was thinking with my car repair or accident examples. I could have stopped in those examples though and provided comfort, but I didn’t.

Where does this leave us? Does God just want us to do the best we can and forget the rest? I know He doesn’t want us to do things in exchange for our salvation. That’s where grace comes in like the cover verses for this blog state. But, if He has truly changed our hearts, shouldn’t we want to do some of these things? Shouldn’t we want to give money and share our talents with the church body? Shouldn’t we want to be Jesus’ hands and feet and not say this is a job for the church staff or elders? Has Jesus really changed our hearts if we don’t want to show the love of our Lord and Savior?

There’s one more question to consider. Do we still help someone if their life hasn’t changed after the first encounter? Someone who has gone back to their old sins? Someone whose point in asking for help was to take advantage? I don’t know. Actually, my first thought is to say no because I was taken advantage of. I judge, and I condemn because of the sin committed towards me. I might even point out there are no examples in Scripture of someone coming to Jesus a second time. Did they? We don’t know. Maybe we don’t know because the writers of Scripture inspired by God didn’t want our natural and sinful judgmental tendencies to come out. I think the answer might be yes though. A second time, a third time, whatever it takes to change their lives though I resist because I want to judge as many of you would.

As I get to the end of this post, I realize I have created more questions than answers. I want to get past my sin nature of judging and condemning someone for their sins. I want to be Jesus’ hands and feet to the world around me. I guess the best answer I can give is to listen to the whisper of God when faced with a possible helping situation. May we all listen to God’s whisper.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

 

God Can Use Anything or Anyone

I came up with this title yesterday when I was writing in my journal and thought I’d see what I could do with it today. The elements of my post may seem disparate, but they are tied together by this title–God can use anything or anyone!

You might be aware of a movie which premiered last weekend–The Shack–based on the book of the same name. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I did read the book last year. It was a good read, and I enjoyed it. Some Christians have problems with it because of how God is portrayed or because of theological questions. I don’t, and here’s why. I believe God can use anything as we make our journeys in this life. He created us with an imagination, with creative spirits, and with the ability to ask questions and to express doubts. We don’t know what He looks like, and we won’t know until we get to heaven. So, if this new movie gets people to ask about God and wonder about their relationship with Him, that’s a good thing. Therefore, we, as committed Christians, need to be willing to talk about God and show people what He says in His Scriptures about a relationship with Him. Christians need to be willing to show the love of Jesus to those who are asking questions and not give long speeches on why they think the movie is wrong. Many people already think of Christianity as the religion of “no” so we need to consider any questions non-believers have with an open heart and an open mind.

My thoughts about this movie started forming the idea for this blog post. I truly believe God can use anything. It doesn’t have to be overtly Christian. In fact, it might be better if it wasn’t. Why, you ask? Let me explain. Many of the Christian movies being made today are being made with the health and wealth gospel in mind. This says that everything in our lives will be just fine if we love God enough, pray hard enough, and do everything He tells us to. Life doesn’t work that way, and I think it’s a huge shame there are so many Christian leaders in the west who promote this way of thinking. Bad things are gonna happen. They’ve happened to me plenty so that’s how I know.

The way Christian movies portray it though,  lives are supposed to be fixed by the end of the movie. So, my life should be fixed, but it’s not. According to the people who ascribe to this philosophy, my life and faith should be a failure, but it’s not. Jesus is still in my heart even though its broken and even though my life is broken. Praise God!

I think we forget sometimes who God used in the Bible. They weren’t perfect, not by a long shot. People like Abraham, Moses, Rahab, David, Bathsheba, Job, Jonah, Peter, and Paul. I know there are many more. They all did things that were wrong, that are sins, but God used them anyway. I think I would rather be in this class of people than in a group of modern-day Christians who insist you put up shields and never admit to doubts, questions, or wrong-doing. I’m pretty sure Jesus would have been in the first group anyway. 🙂

As I conclude this post, my prayer for all of us is that we remember God wants us to build relationships with Him and with each other based on His love and grace and to remember that He can use anything or anyone to accomplish this!

God’s blessings on all of you today!