What is “A Good Christian?”

Have you wondered this? I’ve heard so many people say that they are a “bad Christian” meaning they curse or don’t go to church or don’t read their Bible. But do these things define our faith and salvation? Are these the things that make us a “Christ-follower?”

We are all works in progress (Philippians 1:6).

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I tend to have higher expectations for Christians. I feel that since they claim to know Jesus Christ, they should naturally love people. They should minister to others. They should not be afraid or ashamed to share the Gospel. They should apologize. They should forgive. They should not judge but be merciful. They should keep their word. They should be selfless not selfish.

Do my standards describe who I am?

Nope.

We all fall short of the glory of God and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24). Christians and non-Christians fall short because we all sin. Although Christians have accepted the gift of grace from God and have asked God to rein over their lives, it won’t always look like it. Thank God that we are saved by grace not deeds.

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.–Titus 3:5-7

We will all be held accountable to God (Romans 3:19). I need to stop looking at the “plank” in everyone else’s life and focus on the “log” in mine–the only life I have the free will to change. Which means to try to love people in the way that Jesus does – without condition. I hope to forgive even before that other person apologizes (which he/she may never do). Forgiving on the basis of a sincere apology is placing conditions on our relationships. Loving only those who love us back is conditional. Giving grace to only those who deserve it is conditional.

I encourage you to live as Jesus lived – a life without conditions and high expectations but rather a life filled with so much love, there will be room for nothing else.

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The Unmerciful Servant

Matthew 18: Jesus talks about forgiveness in the parable of the unmerciful servant. There is a servant who owes a king the equivalent of millions of dollars. The king is going to sell this servant and his family to repay this debt. The servant drops to his knees and begs the king to have mercy on him. With pity, the king pardons the man and cancels all of his debt. – Amazing!

Afterward, that same servant found one of his own servants who owed him a few dollars but showed him no mercy. He then had this servant thrown in prison for the few dollars he owed him.

I understand that the king in the parable is Jesus and we are the servant whose debt is pardoned. I know that we should also love others, forgive others, and extend mercy like we have been shown.

I recently got my feelings hurt by a friend. In my response, I thought to myself, “I don’t want to go out of my way for this person anymore. I don’t want to make an effort to be friends. Why bother when all the nice things I do are not reciprocated?” I have watched people use members of my family countless times. I decided long ago not to waste time or emotions on relationships that were going to be more parasitic than mutual.

Over time, I never considered how un-Christlike this attitude was. I just thought it was basic survival skills in the world. You know, common sense. When asked what Jesus would do in my situation, I was slowly convicted. Of course Jesus would love and pursue people forever. His driving force? Love. Mine? Selfishness.

I am the unmerciful servant. I am one who accepts the best gift in the world and then stumbles to be a good steward of that gift. Lord, I need help loving people even when I feel they dont deserve it.

Grace isn’t grace unless it is underserved

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It’s like holding the door open for a stranger who doesn’t say thank you or make eye contact. I typically get a little annoyed. But if my action has roots or motivations that rely on the response of the recipient, there is a condition attached to it. And this is not love from Christ.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 8:38

Nothing can separate us from unconditional love. I need to practice loving without conditions. I need to learn to love unkind people and those who do not call me unless they need something. Suppose loving individuals regardless of how they treat me, is the only Christ they will ever experience. In hope of opening pathways to salvation, I have decided that I will gladly suffer.

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” –Proverbs 19:11

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Awake My Soul

“How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know
My weakness I feel I must finally show” -Mumford & Sons

This song may be talking about something entirely different but I feel like I can relate to the first verse: that my heart is fickle and my eyes do not see things clearly (as God sees them). I am looking for truth in the world, but I need to be looking to Jesus for the ultimate truth. And life is a confusing journey where I get sidetracked from God because of the lies of the world – since my heart and my eyes are not dependable. And my weakness prevails because I was never meant to live this life alone. I need Christ. I need Jesus to guide me in the way of truth and freedom. How appropriate to name the song “Awake My Soul.”


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Carpe Diem

Sieze the day!

I have heard this phrase throughout my life. We all know it is good to enjoy each and every moment, but do we live this way?

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” –James 1:17

I always strive to view my current situation as a gift. No matter how unpleasant the circumstances, I know it is good for my soul to reflect upon the blessings from the Lord. I have health. I have family and friends who love me. I have a warm place to live. I have nutritious food to eat. Clothes to wear. A church in which to freely worship. I recently read about a man who had surgery on his nose. The operation failed and now he has to wear a long brace on his nose just to breathe. How grateful I am to have breath! Unlabored, effortless breathing. Praise the Lord! Something that I have never thought to be thankful for!

Yet, the sinner in me desires more. The words don’t want to be written but I know they occupy themselves deep within my heart. I want more. More things over the abundant blessings I already have: more than Jesus. Sometimes I wish we had the money to eat out more often, to travel more, and to have a house. Sometimes, I wish we lived closer to family. The lie in this attitude is that, “You don’t need more of Jesus, you need more stuff. More money. More time. And then you’ll be happy.”

I know, not too long ago, I couldn’t wait to be married. I wanted to have a place of my own. And here I am, with thoughts of wanting more than I have right now when this is the life, I yearned for so recently. Silly silly.

I believe we think we desire more than God but we settle our desire for far far less. C.S. Lewis says it best:

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I remember looking for my first nursing job. I prayed hard for a job. Any job. And then I got a job. I was praising the Lord for an answered prayer and then I started to think: “Eh, not the best job though.” And I began to long for the time of looking for a job instead of working the one was in! My heart weeps for those missed opportunities because I was too busy wishing for something else to happen.

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God wants us to enjoy the moments. And to live open hearted to hearing the Lord in our circumstances. To trust the Lord in each moment. To choose to love rather than to place importance in saving time and money. To not waste our lives.

I am sure I could have used more of my time to glorify God and to be joyful regardless of what I am doing. Why? Because I have the ultimate gift! Jesus died for our sins so that God looks at us and sees us as pure beings. We have been redeemed. Instead of the sinner that I am He sees me as a precious child of God worthy of all His love and Completeness.   God loves us so deeply, there is nothing we can ever do to lose His love and faith in us. God’s love does not rely on our works. I have a best friend – Jesus Christ who created the universe! He understands my past, my hurt, my sinful nature, my inner struggles, and he takes all of that and makes me blameless and says I am beautiful. I am a daughter of the Highest King. Praise be to the Lord!

Let my life be a thank offering unto You Lord. Amen.

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Did we compromise love for making time?

For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. –Romans 8:13

I have been reflecting lately about how the world wants to make us believe that we don’t have enough time. For example, in terms of what we eat, companies have pre-made versions of everything and fast food restaurants are on every corner for convenience.  Last week, I found a package of cookies on clearance at the grocery story and I was looking forward to “making them” for Andrew. When I got home, I discovered that they were already precut and decorated with pictures. So all I had to do was break them off one another and put them on the cookie tray to bake. It was a huge disappointment because there was no effort. Baking cookies nowadays is not as meaningful as it used to be if you can do it in ten minutes. Technology is also a way where we are tricked into believing that the latest phone or tablet will save us time in one way or another. Emails versus snail mail. Text messages versus calling. But which would mean more to you? Drive-thru ATMs or getting to know your local bank tellers. Self-check outs at the grocery store. Or those ZAAZ machines at the mall that say something like “10 minutes= 1 hour at the gym” where it jiggles your body to work out. These things are not necessarily bad, but I feel that we are becoming less real only to save time. But what are we really saving it for if not to spend more time with our beloved family and friends? Because it doesn’t seem like we are able to see our families more with all of these “time-saving solutions”. We will continue to find other ways to save time while improperly expending it as if it were infinite.

I feel that the biggest problem with time is not really with time itself, but how we choose to spend it. As humans, we are prone to sin. So rather than choosing what is right or a good way of spending time, sometimes we would rather nap, eat, sit and be entertained. I feel that this is sin for some (such as myself) in times when we know we not choosing to spend our time the way the Lord wants us to. In times when we would rather please ourselves than please God.  I’ve been wrapped up in enough TV shows or pointless app store games that gain me nothing in the realm of relationships and eternity or in my spiritual walk with the Lord. The sad part is, I think that I am benefiting from spending time in the way I want but I am most likely missing out on God-given opportunities to serve and grow closer to the Lord.

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The other day, Andrew was telling me about the book The Last Lecture, a true story by Randy Pausch. Pausch was a college professor who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (terminal) and his book describes the last lecture topics that he gave in his last real public lecture. He focuses on teaching to the important lessons in life, that one may not typically learn in school. Pausch talks more of life rather than death. It has been a long time since I have read it but it made me think about my life. There are many things which I waste my time (and money) in. I am attempting to view the moments in my life as limited and that which can be filled with purpose and blessing. I desire to spend my down time praying for others instead of fiddling with my phone. it doesn’t take spinal surgery to place me into the position of caring for others.

Caleb Chapman wrote this song which resonates with this topic so well:

Too many songs to be sung,
Too many words to be spoken.
Too many tales to be told
So many hearts to be broken

Where did we go wrong?
Where did we fall off track?
Did we compromise love for making time?

Too many wars to be fought
So raise up your flag and surrender
Too many days to forget
So fall off your feet and remember

Where did we go wrong?
Where did we fall off track?
Did we compromise love for making time?

Where did we forget?
How could we forfeit all we have said and done to play God with our lives?

Slow down and see
Look and believe
What you have found, not what’s missing.

Where did we go wrong?
Where did we fall off track?
Did we compromise love for making time?

When did we forget?
How could we forfeit all we have said and done to play God with our lives?

Our time is limited and precious. Let’s not forget that we have the choice in how we spend our time. I am continually laying my sinful desires or “dying” to the self to seek life in Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. –Galations 2:20

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Praise the Lord

I was reading the book of Psalms tonight and I realized how quickly I skim over the words “Praise the Lord.” It is frightful to discover that my heart barely feels when I see this phrase.

It is disheartening to find myself desensitized to the stories in the Bible. Sure, Jonah was in the belly of a fish for three days. But do I sit and reflect on this amazing fact that this actually happened? Or do I just think that these sort of things only occur in Bible times and miss the beauty of God working miraculously then just as He does today? I seem to read from an outsider’s perspective minimizing the relationship that I have with the people in the Bible. These people were once real servants of the Lord who are not perfect, just like me.

I am missing the meaning in the Psalms that proclaim line after line that the Lord should be praised.

The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The Lord watches over all who love him, but the wicked he will destroy. –Psalm 145:17-20

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 I recently learned the acronym ACTS as a guide to prayer in Bible study. Adoration, Confessions, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. First, we begin praying by praising the Lord for who He is. This is where I can tell God that I love Him for His being and not just for the gifts that He provides for me. Unfortunately, this was my most difficult part of this type of prayer. It’s like I don’t quite know what to say or how to verbally praise God. I am best at asking things of God.

I want to love God for God. I want to love Him as my Father and have a relationship with Him regardless of what He does or gives. He loves me regardless of how far away I stray or if I fail a million times. His love for me is not dependent on what I do. Can I ever wrap my mind and heart around such mercy and abounding unconditional love? And then go on to be an example of that?

God, please help me not to grow cold to your majesty. I pray that my desire for anything other than you will melt away. I know I can only be fully filled by You Lord. I want to fall more in love with You. 

Let my life be a way of worshiping and praising You Lord. Amen.

 

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Selfishness

I was thinking about how ironic selfishness is. It is self-seeking, yet it is actually hurting the self more than helping. And somehow we find ways to justify our selfishness. Maybe we don’t see it for what it actually is.

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