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Why God’s Love Is Better Than Boys’ Love

Women today, through the explosive impact of highly sexualized messages of romance in the media, have been led to believe that our love-hungry hearts will find ultimate satisfaction in modern Prince Charming. Hardly a twelve-year-old girl exists today that does not secretly believe her worth and value lay in her ability to get a boyfriend and nary a forty-year-old woman has not found herself profoundly disappointed by Prince Charming’s feet of clay.  Yet that same woman continues throughout her life to search for that loving feeling in the ubiquitous romance novel.

I’d like to offer a response through an excerpt from a book by Rebecca Manley Pippert about lifestyle evangelism:

“What drew me to [my man] was my desperate need to be loved.  He does love me, yet it feels like sand being poured through a sieve.  My heart has this unslaked thirst for love that can’t ever seem to be filled,” she said sadly.

“[Girl],” I responded, “romantic love can be real and deep, but only if it is not asked to be what it isn’t.  It is not within [your man’s] power to give you a sense of being and purpose.  No human can fill every inner crevice of our longings.”

“So it’s all a sick joke, right?” she replied.  “Why do we carry such a hunger when it can never be met?  I told him that I thought our love would give ultimate purpose and meaning to my life.  I banked all my need for love in him.  He’s already told me that he feels an unbearable pressure to be all that I need.  And it’s odd, but even knowing that he loves me, my heart is still restless and unfulfilled.  Can this immense wish to be loved ever be gratified?”

“[Girl], your longing for love is very valid.  But human love, for all its wonders, will never be able to handle the immensity of the task.  It can go away or die or fail us at the precise moment we need it most.  And if it is to meet our needs and longings, love must have a base.”

“But what base is there that is big enough and stable enough to build our lives upon?” she asked.

“The only base we can really count on is God’s love.  That’s what Jesus saw in the Samaritan woman.  He recognized a woman who was thirsting for a love that would truly satisfy her and never leave her.  So he directed her toward himself.  Jesus knew that what the soul longs for is a safe home, a place where we are loved and known perfectly – and that can only be found in God.”

[The Girl] sat for a long time, taking in what I had said.  Finally I broke the silence and said, “[Girl], would you like to come home now?  Would you like to ask Christ to come into your life?”

“Yes.  But what do I bring to the equation?”  she asked.

“All you bring to God is your faith and your willingness to let him be at the center of your life…” **

Questions?  Comment below or use the contact page for alternative ways to reach me.  Want to ask Christ to come into your life?  Pray (talk to God) something like this:

“God, I admit that I am a sinner.  I want to put my faith in Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross paid for all my sins.  I believe that you raised him from the dead and that by believing in my heart and confessing with my mouth that Jesus is Lord, I will be saved.  Jesus, save me and be the Lord of my life.  Let me know the love of God for me.  Amen.”

Now go and tell a Christian you know and trust that you have just prayed to become a Christian.  And tell me! May God richly bless you with the knowledge of the width and length and depth and height of the love of Christ which surpasses human understanding that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18-19).

** Pippert, Rebecca Manley.  Out of the Salt Shaker & into the World: Evangelism as a Way of Life.  Second Edition.  Pages 41-42.  InterVarsity Press.  Downers Grove, Illinois:1999.  First Edition 1979.  Second Edition 1999.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2011 in Adventures in Christ

 

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Quiet Times In God’s Presence

Jeremiah 29:11-14a:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and will bring you back from captivity.

God clearly calls us to His presence and assures us that if we seek Him wholeheartedly we will find Him.  In His presence, we find security, our needs met, our future assured, and we are freed to hope.  In His presence bonds are broken and we are brought back from captivity.  In His presence we, with tired spirits and burdened souls, come home.

Like the hymn says,

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”*

What prevents you from purposefully spending time in the Lord’s presence?**  Busyness?  Debt?  Conflict?  Not enough hours in the day?  Something else?

Excuses.

What keeps us from coming into God’s presence is not a lack of time – we all have the same 24 hours in each day.  It is not long working hours, crying children, or a myriad of errands to be run.  No, the problem is not external circumstances.  The problem is even greater than our mixed up priorities.  We have met the enemy and he is us.***  The problems lies within the coldness of our hearts toward God.  It is not the habit of the sin nature to seek God.  It turns away from God, supposing it has better things to do.  But God says,

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with one another, so that you do not do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law” (Galatians 5:16-18).

In other words, we who are in Christ are no longer held captive by our old selves, but are free to obey the Spirit of God who indwells us. The Holy Spirit transforms us from self-centeredness to God-centeredness.  We respond in faith, lifting the pitcher of cool, clear water to our parched lips and opening our throats to receive its pouring.  God says,

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

God calls us, draws us, and enables us in Christ to find Him.  Living in His presence, habitually spending time with our heavenly Father, is less a choice than a matter of faith and obedience.  And God says we will find Him, we will enter His presence, and we will find rest for our souls when we seek Him with ALL of our heart.


* Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, Helen H. Lemmel, 1922: Public Domain

**The Practice Of The Presence Of God, Brother Lawrence, 17th C.

***By Pogo, a comic character created by Walt Kelly, 1970.

 

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Has Your Life Turned Out As You Expected?

How many of you can say your life has turned out exactly as you thought it would?  From an early age, we form a picture in our mind’s eye of what life will be like.  What we imagine often evolves from vague dreams stemming from a natural desire to feel significant and valuable. Maybe you mostly dreamt of being a hero, like a fireman who pulls frightened families from burning buildings, a nurse who expertly and compassionately cares for the sick and injured, a missionary who brings the good news of Jesus Christ in foreign fields, or a photojournalist capturing truth for the world to see during times of violence and mass confusion.

What shall you be when you grow up?

Whatever you dreamt, it probably centered around a desire to live a life of purpose and meaning.  When I was 13, I wanted to be a model because I believed no one could call me ugly if I had the world’s stamp of approval.  Later I wanted to be involved in the most important thing on earth.  At the time, I thought it meant finding a cure for cancer.  As a baby Christian, I wanted to evangelize everybody because things eternal always beat things temporal.  And now as a maturing Christian, I want to worship God by doing His will in Christ.

Of what kind of life did you dream?  I doubt your plans had much to do with wiling away the hours in a bland cubicle, crossing T’s and dotting I’s on paperwork that never ends. Your dreams probably weren’t all about working in retail, laying carpet, waiting at tables, collecting cash at a tollbooth, bagging groceries, or working for someone else’s dream. And I highly doubt you ever aspired to a future of  homelessness, prostitution, or poverty.

So what did you dream?  What did you want to be when you grew up?  Has your life turned out as you hoped it would?  Is this a measure of success or failure in life?  Why or why not?

What do you think the following words of wisdom mean?

Proverbs 16:3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

This is not a treatise on the world’s view of success.  I don’t believe we can be anything we want through willpower alone.  Not everyone is capable of being a brain surgeon.  And because of your own or someone else’s sin, life can land you in places you never thought you’d find yourself.  It doesn’t stop there, however, because God can bring good out of the most horrific circumstances.  The key is Christ who died on the cross in order to bring us into a right relationship with God.  God has a plan for each of us that includes both success and failure as He molds and shapes us into a vessel for noble purpose.  True success is the natural outflow of our relationship to God in Christ because it is nothing less than living life His way, on His terms.  He is, after all, God.  In other words, by following after the Lord in faith and obedience, you may live a far different life from what you once imagined, but you’ll never live more perfectly.

This life satisfies our hungry hearts like nothing else because we were designed to find true satisfaction only in God.   Our greatest longing, whether we recognize it or not, is for God Himself.  It is His will to give us the desire of our hearts – Himself.  Sin has spiritually separated us from God, but the good news is that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the debt of our sins and we have only to avail ourselves of His free forgiveness in Christ.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

It is our choice to receive Him or not.  In the end, we get what we have sought after in life – eternal fellowship with God or separation from Him forever.

Romans 10:9-10 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Do you agree with God that you, like everyone, are a sinner in need of forgiveness?  Pray something like this:

“God, I know that I am a sinner.  I want to be reconciled to you.  I believe that Jesus’s death on the cross fully paid for my sins and that you raised him from the dead.  I want to live for you.  Put your desire into my heart.  Be my Savior and Lord.  Amen.”

If you prayed this prayer, please tell a Christian you trust or get in touch with me (see contact page).  It is important to grow in your faith alongside other Christians, learning to trust God for true success and satisfaction in your life and beyond.  Welcome to the family of God.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2011 in Adventures in Bible Study

 

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A Book that Changed My Life

Bible Study 2

Hands down, the only book that ever really changed my life is the Bible.  In the end, it is the only book that matters because it is the complete revelation of God Himself.  There is nothing more important on this earth than that we come to know God by the power of the Holy Spirit in the person of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  God says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).   Powered by Plinky

 
 

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Speaking The Truth In Love

 

Bird of Paradise

Loving my neighbor is not the thing at which I excel. Case in point: I’ve found myself responding in kind to some recent online bickering over the true meaning of Christmas.  Silly, isn’t it?

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: We who are Christians are being idiotic when we expect non-Christians to think and act like Christians.  Selah.

Jesus put another way, “Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”   Matthew 15:14.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for our neighbor is to speak the truth in love.  But read carefully here: the key element of that conversation is love.  Are you speaking to stir up a response of faith or are you just trying to stir up trouble?  I’d like to say that my responses were strictly meant to be helpful, but the truth is that I really wanted to slap them upside the head for being purposefully dense about Christ.  It irritated me and I responded in kind.  At the heart of my response was not love for Christ, but love for me.

I’m not sorry I spoke the truth – I’m glad I did – but I wish my heart had been right because then I might have used words that drew them toward Christ instead of pushing them further away.  Remember, it is Christ’s love, forgiveness, and acceptance that draws us to Him, not condemnation.

God is just as concerned with our hearts as our doings.  Let me ask you this:  What is in your heart when you are speaking the truth to a non-Christian?  Is it love or is it condemnation?  Is what you say designed to draw them to Christ or is it merely a posture of defense against those who do not believe?

I’m going to continue to speak the truth, but by love, because I want to be a fragrant flower that draws people to our glorious Savior.  How about you?

Lord Jesus, help us to speak words that bring people closer to You.  Check our motives, Lord, and teach us to differentiate between our own selfish desires and love of Christ. Let us truly be about your business.  Give us courage to speak the truth in love to those who do not yet know you, that they might be led out of the darkness and into your marvelous light.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

 
 

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The Sure Thing

Ever wonder why our daily lives seem so, well, daily?  Same stuff, different day.  Same old tired argument, same old bickering, same old knee-jerk reaction.  You look ahead to the years before you and wonder if things will ever change, if you’ll ever change.  And a change of heart comes so ssssssssssssslowly.

Steady as she goes ...

Sometimes I feel trapped by circumstances.  I think I know where I want to go, but it’s taking forever to get there.

I have this great vision of how my life should be.  I should be an in-demand Christian women’s speaker and teacher, traveling to and fro, bringing the light of the Word to a motivated and hungry world.  Wherever I go, ministry happens.  Women are comforted, encouraged, and grow strong in the Lord. People everywhere turn to Christ.   I should have a book or two tucked under my belt and a lively, well-trodden blog through which I interact with scads of other Jesus freaks and true seekers.  I should have my perfect, pretty little house to come home to and wonderful clothes to wear on my slim, trim, healthy, & strong body.  I’d be properly plugged into my local church serving alongside women who love Christ and one of them would be my best friend.    I’d have plenty of time and energy for hiking and reading and just messing around.  All my bills would be paid on time and in-full, especially my credit card.  There would always be more than enough money to go around and I could give furiously and extravagantly.   My family and friends and, well, just everyone, would love me.  My whole being would honor and glorify God all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Amen.

My real life is nothing like that.  My real life is so daily: making uncomplicated meals for my mom who has Alzheimer’s, helping her dress appropriately at least a few times a day, and generally keeping her entertained so she doesn’t start in with “Where’s the baby?”, “I have to go to work,”or her latest, “It’s time to go home” scenario.  And all the while trying to time everything so she’ll go to bed without a fight that evening.  Arguing with my mom is fruitless.  I’m getting better and better at taming my tongue, but there’s still a lot of habit to break in that domain.  Taking care of my mom is mentally exhausting.  Sometimes I want to tune her out.  I spend a lot of time confessing, but only some of the time actually repenting.  Most of the time, I just want to sit in my recliner all day lazily sipping coffee, reading, writing, and playing on the computer.  There doesn’t seem to be much energy leftover for exercise, get-togethers, and the like.  Of course, this is actually the easy part of caring for my mom.  Things will only get worse as time goes by.  She’ll progressively require greater physical care as more and more of her brain’s ability is usurped by Alzheimer’s.  

That’s when I wonder if this is what my life is all about.  Am I going to spend these years caring for Ma and then just collapse and die afterward never having done the things I want to do?  Is this all the daily bread there is for me?

I cannot know the future, but this I know.  God has called me to this season for purposes of His own.  I have a pretty good idea that these years are essential to the work He is completing in me.  It’s my job to take my eyes off the circumstance and stop asking, “What’s in it for me?”

And that, my friends, is what this season is all about.  It’s an opportunity to obey His call to live for the sake of another.  It’s about humility, considering my mom better than myself.  Not for a crown or reward, but for love of Christ.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”      -Philippians 2:3-8

These are not wasted days.  This is prime time.  My dream is a nice one, albeit a bit magnified.  But given the choice – and we are, my friends, we are – I choose God’s plan, His dream for me.  What about you?  God’s plan is always so much bigger and better than our limited imagination.  And better yet, it’s a sure thing.

 
 

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How Sweet Is Your Fruit?

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with one another, so that you do not do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.’

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.’

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”  (Galatians 5:16-25, NIV).

The fruit of spiritual growth is fullness, the completeness of Christ’s image stamped upon our inmost being. It is spiritual maturity, from the inside out, so that others may see Christ glorified.  It begins when we first believe and receive Christ as our Savior and Lord, and it continues throughout our life all the way to its ripening on the day of Christ Jesus.  And this we can trust to be for our highest good.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

The spiritual growth process is incomplete this side of eternity because it involves a daily dying to self.  It is not a one-time deal in which we hand our hearts over to God and then everything’s hunky-dory.  I remember those first couple of days after I was saved.  I thought to myself, “Great!  My life is like a blank slate now.  I can start afresh.  In fact, I’ll never sin again!”  Well, of course, before the week was out, I’d sinned.  Being born again may be a one-time instance, but maturing in our faith is a lifelong process and never easy.  It is a daily struggle to hand over our will and our way to God, for He will do with it as He pleases.  Selah.

This letting go and letting God is the very heart and challenge of the Christian walk.  It is not about what He can do for us, but what He will do in us and through us.  This is what it means to be Christ-centered. It means we give up our very selves to God who promises to change us into something we, on our own, can never be, that is, the image and likeness of Jesus Christ:

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8).

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Are these fruits in abundance throughout your daily life?  How sweet is your fruit?

Sometimes I feel I’ll never mature.  I find myself struggling with the same issues again and again.  It’s a good thing faith is not a feeling, because the truth is that while I may tire and grow discouraged at times, the Holy Spirit does not.  He is ever at home in my heart, transforming and perfecting me according to God’s plan.

The process of spiritual maturity is like hiking.  Being born again is liking starting at the trailhead while being on the mountaintop at the same time.  It’s a case of the now and the not yet.  Your sins are forgiven and when God looks at you, He sees Christ.  It’s so exciting!  And yet you are a baby Christian, with a long growth and development process ahead of you.  You have to learn to sit up, crawl, stand, and then walk.

You take your first steps up the trail.  As you put one foot in front of the other, you begin to realize it is a long, long way to the top.  Your backpack is heavy and the trail is so steep and hard.  You wonder what on God’s green earth you’ve gotten yourself into.  Anxiety strikes and your breath comes faster and harder.  You worry that you’ll never make it to the first rest-stop, much less the mountaintop!  Yet only a short time later, the uphill climb doesn’t seem quite as rough.  You make it to that first rest-stop, albeit huffing and puffing, but you make it.  After a while you get up and start hiking again.  The backpack doesn’t seem so extraordinarily heavy; the trail not so steep.  Thereafter, every leg of the journey is a little easier even though you’re sweating and breathing hard.  You start to notice some interesting flora and fauna around you.  Once in a while you find a low view to appreciate.  Pretty soon you don’t even need to sit down to rest; you just stand for a few minutes leaning on the top of your staff with the pack, now quite manageable, on your back.  The hike is not easy by any means, but you are stronger than before.  Steeper climbs, scree slopes, and icy waterfalls take greater energy, balance, and care, but you’ve found the rhythm of the hike and the knowledge that you are closer to the top spurs you on.  Eventually, through twists and turns, switchbacks, roots and rocks, you hike your way to the top, above marmots and boulders, where the view and sense of victory are incomparable.  It is worth the struggle.  Later on, when your boots are off and your feet are up, you think back over the hike.  No part of it seemed so difficult than carrying that heavy pack up those first few steps.  Even the miles of trail up and down humpback ridges were easier than those beginning steps.  And no hike is more difficult than the first hike of the season.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV).

For those who are born again, God assures us that He will lead us up the mountain to its peak. We may stumble, slip, or fall, but He has us safe in His hands.  We can be certain that God will continue to mold and mature us into the sweet fruit of the image of his Son:

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Megan, Matt, & Me in the High Country, 9/2000

That is like God saying, “You will reach the top.”  You respond, “Throw me the rope”.  Be encouraged.

“And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.  For the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:5).

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

 

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