Tag Archives: christianity

Don’t Forget to Do Good

What turbulent times we’re living in!

Wars, natural disasters, terrorists, nuclear threats.

Disturbing. Sad. Even frightening.

The challenge today for followers of Jesus is to keep from getting swept along in the mayhem. But how do we keep from getting distracted?  I’ve heard it said simply:  keep your eyes on Jesus.

As a follower of Jesus, we want to obey Him, obey His word and His teachings. We want to “remain in Him” and to have His words “remain in us.” There are so many instructions in the Bible – for those who read it, I’m sure you’ve noticed this. So how do we pick and choose which ones to follow and which are not necessarily key to right living?

Some say we don’t get to pick and choose.  And for the most part, I’d agree. But those same people are usually the ones who try to prove their righteousness, or religiosity, by obeying the law – God’s law and the laws of society.

But didn’t Jesus really turn all of that on its head?

He said there are really only two commandments:  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, AND Love your neighbour as you love yourself. According to Jesus, these two things encompass all of the law and the commandments.

That brings me to something that has really gotten under my skin today.

As the people of God, we are to love, love, love.  Love each other.  Love God.  Love our enemies. (I’m not going to quote the multitudes of scriptures that I’ve referred to and will continue to refer to; that’s not the point today.)

Also, as God’s people (and here I mean those who love God and have given their lives to Him, just to clarify) we are to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.  We are to rescue those who are being swept away by injustice.  We’re to care for the widows and orphans, and I think what’s really meant by that is Handthose who are suffering and in need. We are to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.”

How does any of that lead anyone to think that we are to stand idly by (or even worse, cheering) while human beings, those made in the image of the God we love and serve, are mistreated, humiliated, enslaved, or made to suffer needlessly?  And do that in the name of “obeying the Word of God.”

My dear brothers and sisters (those of you who say you love Jesus),  do not think for a moment that you are living as God intends if you keep silent while whole people-groups are labelled as evil intruders.  When “authorities” who were supposedly put into power by God began oppressing, and then murdering, entire categories of people, the “church” kept silent. But the outraged, and I don’t know how many did or did not believe in or follow God, went to work tirelessly doing everything they could to defeat and foil the plans and actions of the so-called ruling government.

Throughout the ages, there have been people who have stood up against oppressive rulers, many giving their lives in the process, because they recognised evil when they encountered it.

Wake up!

Even now the deck is being stacked and the steps are being taken to silence any opposition.

Pray for our leaders; yes, of course. But at the same time, LOVE your neighbour (the stranger you encounter who is in need).  Show your love for God by standing up and speaking out against evil.  No matter who the perpetrator is.

Who Are You Really?

I’ve recently been forced to come to the realization that I’ve been finding my iMaskdentity in my accomplishments and the qualities that I think I possess.

I allowed myself to “become” my various titles:  I’m a mother, therefore, I am nurturing, encouraging, and loving.  I’m a missionary, so I am passionate for God and people.  I’m a manager, so I am a servant-leader, mentor, organizer, and driving force.  Hah!

Wrong!  I am not those things.  I never have been.  I can put on each persona, like a hat, but that doesn’t make me any different.

Those are roles I fulfill, but they are not me, and who I am.  And I was wrong to derive my sense of self from the various roles I perform.  I can be all of those things without confusing myself with my title, but I didn’t.  The sad part is that at one time, I knew better.

I thought I had learned to be only who God says I am.  I would speak, out loud, over myself the Bible verses that talk about my identity as God’s child and follower of Jesus.

But somewhere along the way, I allowed myself to believe the myth that “we are what we do,” and “we’re only as good as our latest achievement.”  As if my performance somehow added value to me as a person.

With the discovery that I’m not who I thought, the image I had of myself crumbled around me.  What I thought were my abilities, and, therefore, my sense who I am and what I’m capable of, dissolved,  like a ripple-effect fade-out in a cheesy movie.  But instead of switching to a different scene, what was left was a confused, blurry image of a person who was no longer sure of herself, what she’s meant to do, or what she’s able to do.

Over the past weeks, I’ve felt worthless and very confused.  I am so thankful for my dear family! They have been so loving and supportive.  I have been more than reassured that they love me unconditionally, and that they are not swayed by any outer facade.  They have helped to remind me of my innate worth as a person made in the image of God.

As unpleasant as this time has been, it has led me to not only re-examine where I derive my self-image from, but to also sift through the rubble and find the foundation.  I thought my foundation was built on God’s unchanging love, but somewhere along the way, I began to build on the shifting sands of society’s standards, which by their very nature change over time.

Am I worth less because I don’t succeed, accomplish, or perform to an arbitrary standard? Not according to God, who has said I’m worth more to Him than the birds of the air or the flowers of the field.  He has numbered the hairs of my head and caught all of my tears. A re-reading of Psalm 139 is a good reminder of the intimacy with which God knows and loves us.

It’s been good for me to have this ‘false self’ stripped away.  Brennan Manning called it the Impostor.  It’s the mask we create for ourselves to hide behind, and supposedly fool others into believing that’s what we’re really like.  Only we also think we’re hiding from God, either never knowing or forgetting that God sees the ‘real’ person all along, and still loves us unrepentantly.

“God is relentlessly tender and compassionate toward us just as we are – not in spite of our sins and faults (that would not be total acceptance), but with them.” [Abba’s Child by Manning]

Thank the Lord for His reminder that I am His beloved child.

It’s not about what I do, or what I accomplish.   That’s not who I am.

I am a sinner saved by the outrageous grace of an infinitely loving God.  I am someone who makes mistakes.  But because of God’s mercy, they aren’t fatal.

“But God loves who we really are – whether we like it or not.” [ibid.]

If you’d like to read Psalm 139, I’m including it here:

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 139:17 Or How amazing are your thoughts concerning me

No Judgment!

I was recently asked to write a few words based on a specific Bible passage as part of a shared blog during Lent.  For those unfamiliar with Lent, it is the 40 day period leading up to Good Friday and Easter.  It has traditionally been considered part of the Catholic tradition, and has, unfortunately, been ignored by most non-Catholic followers of Jesus.  But for some, it has become a meaningful time of meditating on Jesus’ journey to the cross, and it is in that light that I now approach this season.

With that explanation, here is my contribution.  If you would like to continue to read through the daily blogs written by the folks who are a part of the Mosaic Edinburgh community, here is the link: http://journey-mosaic.blogspot.co.uk/

John 3:16-21

New Living Translation (NLT)

16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.[a]

Footnotes:

  1. 3:21 Or can see God at work in what he is doing.

How amazingly blessed are we?!! “There is NO JUDGMENT against anyone who BELIEVES in Him.”

What a beautifully simple plan God has put into place for us:  Believe and escape judgment.  Believe and have eternal life.

Believe in the One who left heaven for us.  Believe in His humanity.  Believe in His divinity. Believe in His sacrifice in our place.  Believe that He died.  Believe that He conquered death, because He rose from the dead.  Believe that He is seated at the right-hand of the Father in heaven.  Believe that He intercedes for us.  Believe that we get to be with Him forever.  And believe that love for us was the motivation for it all:  this wonderfully simple plan of God.

Sometimes it seems that so little is required of us in this plan of God’s.  Until we realise that it requires everything from us.

If we believe, we give up everything to Him and for Him, because He gave up everything for us.

We give up our unbelief, because if we hold on to that, as these verses tell us, we’ll be judged, and who would want that when we can escape judgment if we will only believe?

We give up living in darkness and holding onto our evil deeds, because His light has come, so we no longer live in darkness.  Our evil deeds are gone, because of His sacrifice in our place, so we don’t have any fear that they’ll be exposed.  We have given up hopelessness, fear, dread, and all those other slimy creatures that lurk in the darkness, because we now live in His light.

There are things that are more difficult for us to give up, even though we know that Jesus sacrificed those things as well.  Dignity might be one of them.  Rights and entitlement might be others.  We know that Jesus gave up His rights.  He could have held on to the entitlement due to the King of Heaven’s Armies (one of His names in the book of Psalms), but He didn’t.  Even so, we sometimes struggle to surrender those things.

There’s no judgment for us now, which means that we also give up judgment.  How can we judge others, when we know we will not be judged.  That’s another of the things Jesus gave up that we struggle to let go of.

What about control?  He surrendered His control, evidenced in the prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, and yet we definitely struggle to give up our control.  Until of course we come to the realisation that it’s only an illusion any way, and we’re not really in control at all.

How about self-determination?  But Jesus gave His life away.  He could have had life goals that didn’t include being led like a lamb to the slaughter.  He could have had ambitions for Himself.  He chose, instead, to make winning us His ambition.

What about ‘stuff’?  This world offers a lot of good ‘stuff.’  When it was offered to Him, He turned it down, even all the kingdoms of the world.  Few of us will ever have to give up anything like the wealth and power that Jesus was offered, but rejected.

Even when we struggle to give up some of these things, Jesus doesn’t judge us.  These verses of scripture assure us that He didn’t come to judge us.  “God sent His son into the world not to judge the world…” and again, “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

In the face of such overwhelming, sacrificial, merciful love, is there really anything we would rather hold on to?