Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

God and the Earthquakes

March 1, 2010

Yesterday our pastor asked if we were “clapping for God”.  In other words, were we worshipful, appreciative, and grateful to God.  My first thought was all the questions people would ask about the recent earthquakes.  If we clap for God’s goodness and His beautiful creation, what can we say about the earthquakes?

Earthquakes can mean at least three things.  First, what if God is not completely good, at least as far as we can see?  Second, what if God is not all powerful?  Third, what if there is an evil power which God, for whatever reason, allows to exist?

Jesus taught there was indeed an evil power, in fact, an evil being.  He taught this evil  had definite limits put upon it; this evil  would eventually be defeated,  and we would be personally victorious over the evil power through the greater power of God.  Jesus taught that God is all good and all powerful, but lets evil live among the good, because there are purposes being worked which benefit the good.  Read his parable about the weeds and the wheat for a very profound picture of great eternal truth.

The end of the story has already been revealed.  God wins.  The outcome is already determined.  Yet, like being in the middle part of a three-part trilogy, we don’t yet see exactly how the end is all going to be accomplished.  Yet today, even living in the choke hold of the evil one, this earth still shows more than just a glimpse of the original beauty and power of the creator.  We can certainly worship God for what we do see in creation, even if it has been spoiled by the evil enemy, called Satan.

The climax of the story already occurred.  It happened 2000 years ago on a hill called Calvary where the price to be paid for restoration was paid by God Himself.  The price to redeem the universe from evil was determined in the counsels of the heavenlies, and the second person of the divinity stepped forward to pay it.  He became a human named Jesus and died the most horrendous death anyone can imagine, all for love.  I imagine the shock and surprise of  Satan, who never thought Jesus would go through with it to the death, and never thought God would love His world so much.

The verdict has been announced.  Satan is a defeated enemy.  But, we are still in that middle book of the trilogy, and the implementing of the verdict is still being carried out.  Even after the judicial imposition of a fine, an award or a sentence, the verdict must be carried out.  That is still happening in our universe.   The completion of the story, and the victory are in the third book of the trilogy.  Its been written, and God knows what is in it, for He is the author.  It is yet to be published for humankind.

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Spiritual Blahs

March 1, 2010

In this season of Lent, we take time for introspection.  Just as we take stock of our relationships and our financial condition, we should also take stock of our relationship with the Lord.  If we find, as many of us do, that we have been taking this relationship for granted, then it needs work in the same way a marriage needs work.  Our primary, close relationships fail for lack of intimacy.  We have quit talking to each other, and soon realize we no longer know what is going on with the other person.  Unlike our human relationships, God always knows what is going on with us.  God always loves us unconditionally, and we can hardly expect that of another human being.  However, there is a price to pay for lack of intimacy with God.  I call it the spiritual blahs. 

Have you ever felt that God was far away, and there was no one really listening when you prayed?  Have you felt uninspired, mildly depressed and just, well, dull?  God never changes, but people change.  We change.  Staying too busy for God leaves our souls in the same condition as a plant that has been left in the darkness too long.

What to do?  Well, the cure for human distance is to start talking , and also start listening.  We can, thankfully, go to God anytime  and apologize for putting too many things on our agenda ahead of our time with Him.  We need to take some time to thank Him for all the good things He has been doing in our lives and the lives of those around us.  Then we need to tell Him, openly, honestly, and thoroughly, what is going on in our world and in our head.  He already knows, of course, but He loves to hear us open our hearts to Him.  Then we need to listen.  Sometimes we will  hear some answers in our minds and hearts.  We just “know” its Him.  We just “know”, because its in line with what we have always known about Him, and it is also in line with our best, most Christlike self.  It doesn’t stroke or appeal to our small self– the selfish, cowardly, prideful self.

The other way to listen is to  read scripture till we begin to see a picture of what He is trying to say to us.  Reading the actual words of Jesus is particularly helpful to me, but so is reading psalms and epistles.  Often I will stop and ask, “Jesus, what are you saying to me, and how do you want me to apply this to my life?”  Then being quiet, the thoughts come again.  When I pray like this, I often find things happening in my circumstances, almost as if He created a special opportunity for me to do the thing He is drawing me to do.

When I take time to pray and listen like this, the blahs disappear, and there’s an excitement in day to day living that should be normal for us, and so often is not.

Dogs and Heaven

February 20, 2010

If you have ever owned a dog, you have probably experienced one of two rather disgusting episodes.  Either your dog tangled with a skunk, or it rolled in something so sickening you gagged as you had to bathe it.  Did you ever think of all the theological implications of this situation in relation to God and his humans?

People often ask “Why doesn’t God just let everyone into heaven?”  We could logically ask why we don’t just let all our reeking dogs into the house.  Humans all have a stench called sin, and we have to be cleaned and deodorized before we can be let into God’s house.

People often say “I’m a pretty good person, not like most people”.  Would we go around smelling skunk-sprayed dogs to try to determine which smelled better than the others?  They all stink too much to be let inside.

Some people say “I would never go to church–there are too many hypocrites there.”  Should one smelly dog refuse to go to the groomers salon because its full of other smelly dogs?

God does provide a way for us to be cleaned.  All it requires is for us to ask his forgiveness and we are completely deodorized, because of the price Jesus paid to have it done.  However, like some dogs, we may come when we are called, or we may run away and keep on running until we become lost forever.

We don’t get into the master’s house because we’ve been good enough, or do great tricks or look adorable–we get in because He loves us, calls us and cleans us up.  Humans have a problem called pride.  We don’t want to ask God’s forgiveness.  We would rather try to earn our way in.  We don’t want to admit we’re all beggars, completely dependent on God from start to finish.  In this case, we would do well to be more like our dogs.  They aren’t ashamed to beg.

Homecoming

February 20, 2010

I watched a scene at the airport where a father greeted his daughter.  They smiled and hugged and laughed.  They couldn’t wait to go home and see everyone.  Is this what it will be like when you come for your loved ones, Jesus?  I know you said you’d come to us when all is ready, to take us where you are.  I always thought your eyes would be kind.  What never occurred to me is that we might run toward each other, laughing and hugging, and racing for home because we can’t wait for me to see everyone.  And yet, why shouldn’t it be this way ?  If we humans, sinful as we are, feel so much joy in seeing our favorite people, surely you do, too.  The father of the prodigal son, after all, is a picture of you.  Lord, that you should be glad to see me, is just more than I can comprehend.  It brings tears to my eyes.

Re-reading Literature

February 17, 2010

Now that I have a bit more time than I used to have, I decided to read some American literature.  Its a subject that has always fascinated me.  I think, however prejudicially, that America is a pretty special place, and I wanted to dig into the American psyche a bit more.

I went to the library and checked out some college textbooks on American Literature.  Now, I’m not totally illiterate on the subject.  I read a great deal of good American fiction when I was younger, and have continued reading it through life, although at a slower pace when I was busier.  I understood the elements of a story to be: the main character or hero faces a conflict.  The conflict could be a person, situation, or internal crisis.  The conflict gets resolved, and the story ends either with the problem overcome, or the hero learning something vital, which allows the reader to determine how he will then act on his new knowledge.  However, what I read in the Literature texts, almost exclusively, was something else.  What I read seemed to go like this: the main character is in despair, the book explores dark elements of the human psyche, the main character is searching for meaning or happiness or love, and the climax is discovering it doesn’t exist.  The story ends either explicitly with the character’s death, or implicitly, with the character’s disappointment in his or her quest.  It was all pretty dark, depressing material.  It was amazing that I didn’t remember reading very much of this kind of literature in my youth.  Then it hit upon me that perhaps the selection of literature in these texts is biased toward this very negative kind of story.

Searching farther, I read an article explaining the difference between popular fiction and literature.  I expected to find out that popular fiction was lacking description, had shallow, underveloped characters or the like.  Instead, the difference is that popular fiction has the plot I described above, with a conflict resolution and (according to the author of the article) a “happy ending”.  According to this auth0r, true literature described the human condition as it is, with all its “angst”, and lack of answers.  In other words, real life has no happy endings, and no answers, so to write stories that have either of these is to succumb to the lure of writing popular fiction (with the inferior motive of making money) instead of literature.  Another author stated it was impossible for any Christian fiction to ever be considered literature, because a Christian’s unique belief system precludes any “angst” or despair.

Well, all I can say is I wonder if the requirement to study American Literature in one’s first two years of college  is a good thing.  What if it leads those young, mostly teenage students to believe that life is nothing but despair and meaninglessness?  No wonder there are so many college students on antidepressants!  Their beliefs about life have been shattered.  This is totally unnecessary in my judgment, because there are quite a lot of very happy people in the world: people solving their problems and creating good and beautiful things for their families and their posterity.  The intellectual crowd may be the ones out of synch with the “human condition”.  They are staring in despair at a glass thats all but empty, sure there are no answers to their thirst.  The rest of humanity is out to find the faucet.

Knowing my Ministry

February 17, 2010

When I wonder what is my calling, I have to remember that it may change over time.  I am first of all a servant of Jesus.  Whenever I see needs in the lives of the people around me, or needs in the ministries I support, I am receiving a cue from Jesus.  In filling these needs I have noticed, I will be walking in the ministry He has prepared for me.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Eph 2:10

How to Get into Heaven

February 17, 2010

“Unless you become as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

Once there were two little boys who lived near the best theme part in their part of the country.  More than anything in the world, they would have loved to spend a day there.  Their parents, however, were far too poor to be able to afford the almost $40 ticket.  Well, the boys decided they would earn their way inside.  One thing they knew how to do was to sell candy.  So they pooled their allowances and bought a supersize bag of mints, and at the beginning of the summer they began selling their mints at 2 cents each.

On the last day before school was to start, they were standing outside the gates of the park, counting their profits, to see if they could buy tickets inside.  What a disappointment!  Their total profit for the whole summer was $2.40, not enough for even one of them to be anywhere close to getting in.  Slowly, they started to walk away, when they came face to face with a kindly old gentleman who offered to let them in.  “How can you let us in, when we don’t have tickets?” they asked.  “I own the place” replied the man.  “Can we give you our $2.40? ” they asked.  “Of course not”, said the man, “Use that for something when you get inside.”

Can you imagine the boys refusing to accept the old gentleman’s offer?  Can you imagine their being so proud, they would insist they couldn’t possibly accept charity, even though paying their own way was never going to happen?  Little children don’t have that kind of foolish pride.

None of us can ever earn our way into heaven.  It cost more than any human will ever hope to be able to pay.  Whatever good things we do are gifts of love and gratitude to Jesus, who has already prepaid our way in.  Why do we still find ourselves wondering if we are good enough to get in, counting our deeds, and afraid we will be embarrassed at how little we have to offer at the gates?

The Candy Cane

February 17, 2010

What if the candy cane isn’t a cane at all, but the letter J, upside down? Legend has it that a J is what it originally was.  J stands for Jesus, “God with us”, whose birthday we celebrate December 25.  God missed us so much that He came to be with us, being born and living as a human, so that He could have a relationship with us and we humans could understand what God is really like.

The red stripes on the J represent the great love of God, who would rather die than lose a single one of us.  It did turn out that way.  He died defeating the evil one who was holding us, intent on eventually destroying us.

The white stripes on the J represent eternal life–our heavenly  home.  Anyone who has ever lost a child, and any child who has become lost from their parent knows the anguish felt until they can be reunited again and the child is safe at home.  God feels that way about us, and leans on the window of heaven day by day, watching and waiting for us.  HE can hardly wait until we are home with Him for good.

A Life of Meaning and Worth

February 14, 2010

Dear Liz,

I can’t stop thinking about the story you were telling me yesterday, about your sister-in-law and how successful she is in her career and about how she also has children and seems so well put together.  You seemed to be saying that she sees you as somehow inferior to her because you don’t have a career.  This really struck a chord with me because I have fought this feeling in myself so many times.  I have never had a career and it has really never been convenient for my family for me to have a career.  I’m not unhappy with my life, but I struggle with feelings that nothing I do is very noteworthy.

Strangely enough, yesterday morning I had a unique experience.  Before I tell you about it, I want to tell you that I am all right and in good health.  Yesterday morning I went for a routine mammogram.  The technician took the first set of films, then took a second set and then a third set .  She told me she wasn’t sure about what she saw.  Finally, she asked me to wait about 30 minutes for the radiologist to come and read the films before I went home.  Well, I had 30 minutes alone with my thoughts.  I didn’t panic.  I felt that God was with me and had His hand in whatever happened.  But I was overwhelmed with the idea that if my life were going to be shorter than I thought, then what were the most important things to do with the time I had left.

I decided that first of all, I wanted to know Jesus better.  If He were going to come for me, I wanted to recognize the person I wuld spend forever with, and not be afraid of Him in His glory because He was a stranger to me.  Then, I decided I wanted my family to have a legacy of love, joy and beauty to remember me by.  I wanted them to know they were loved, that they were valuable, that life is forever and God is good, so that they could be courageous in facing whatever their lives brought them.  I wanted them to remember precious things I’d said to them, or small loving things I’d done for them, and that these memories would give them strength.  I wanted to give all the love I could every day to the people in my life.  All of a sudden it seemed important that whatever I did should be done for love.  I decided that when I met Jesus, it wouldn’t matter that I brought a resume of accomplishments, but that I had a heart full of love, because thats what seems to matter most.  It says in the bible that love is the only thing that is eternal, and that our relationships with God and others are all that we can take with us into forever.  Well, in 30 minutes, I seemed to have answered a lot of my own questions about whether my achievements are valuable, and decided it was the quality of my life that mattered–more depth, rather than more “success”.  Then the 30 minutes were up, I was given a clean bill of health and went home.

It was so strange that 2 hours later, the same questions, more or less, came up again when you talked about your sister-in-law.  I didn’t know what to say at the time, but hope to share my after thoughts with you now.  Liz, you are so valuable.  Its so obvious in the very short time I have known you, that you love your family, you are devoted to them, and that they are happy.  You have a wonderful, warm, down to earth personality, too, and people feel very comfortable in your presence.  At the end of your sister-in-law’s life it won’t matter if she was the governor’s right hand woman.  A few years after she is gone, no one will remember that.  All she’ll carry into the other side is love and relationships.

I hope these thoughts make you feel good.  I’m not a very good writer, but I hope you can understand what I mean to say.

Your friend,

xxxx  aka Nonni

How can God allow evil?

February 14, 2010

We wonder sometimes why God allows evil, and the theologians promise us it is for a greater good.  But I always wondered how God feels when He allows that evil thing into the life of  His beloved child, even though it indeed results in greater and deeper good.  He reminds me of two episodes in my own life that reveal a parent’s heart.

When my son was seven, a specialist told us that without surgery, he would most likely lose much of his hearing.  Yet upon teling our son this news, he became terribly upset and asked me the piercing question “You can’t let them hurt me.  Don’t you love me?”  Years later another medical procedure, this time on an infant granddaughter, had me in tears in the hallway.  Each time the child’s pain and terror was for the greater good: preservation of hearing in the one case and possible preservation of life in the other.  The greater good for these children still broke my heart, as I identified with their suffering.  Might not God feel the same way?  He does.

History records that when His friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept.  (Its the shortest sentence in the bible–Jesus wept).  Jesus wasn’t weeping for his own loss.  He had already told his disciples they would see a miracle that day.  He knew He would shortly raise Lazarus from the dead.  No, He wept at the distress of Lazarus’ two sisters, Martha and Mary.  Their sorrow broke Jesus’ heart.  He knows, He cares, He identifies with us in suffering, He loves us, and ultimately He makes it up to us.