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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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God’s Girls Warrior Princess Party!

Princess Di

I don’t know about you, but I love parties – food, fun, & fellowship – I’m all about it.  The crazier the theme, the greater the fun!  Because I like to celebrate so much, I don’t wait for a reason to party to fall into my proverbial lap.  Instead, I put my genius to the test and create one.

That’s actually the easiest part.  Most of us can think of at least one reason to party:  Somebody is getting married.  Having a baby or a 50th Wedding Anniversary.  There are many, many reasons to whoop it up.  Some of you are well-versed in these.  First-times are great reasons to party-hearty. First birthday, first tooth, first haircut. Then there are traditional celebrations such as birthdays, dedications, graduations, and coming of age.  But surely there are more good reasons to celebrate.  And a seemingly infinite way to celebrate each one.

I’ve celebrated some crazy things in my life, like the twinkling of sunlight on the morning dew or a new haircut.  I’ve celebrated not getting my hair cut.  Ma and I make merry on grocery shopping day.  I’ve even celebrated when my kitty peed on the waterproof pad instead of the chair.

Sometimes I celebrate clearing off my desk or cleaning the house.  I always celebrate a new purse, clothes that fit, and a day away from home.  No matter what I’m celebrating, hands down, the best celebration is with family and friends.  Food, fun, and fellowship.

More than anything else, we have the greatest reason of all to party:  Jesus.  Remember that song?  “Celebrate Jesus! Celebrate!  He is risen.  He is risen.  And He lives forevermore.”

So here’s a reason to party:  The first day of a new Bible study.  Oh yeah!  What a great tradition of celebration!  Next week we are going to party, party, party.  We shall be studying the book of Ephesians in the New Testament.  God has so much to reveal to us!  It is going to be a great study.

And what’s a party without a playful theme?  We’re having a God’s Girls Warrior Princess Party.  Oh yeah.  You read it right.  I’m making the coolest Jesus princess hats (or should I say, helmets), swords, and shields.  Not too sure where to find a couple of mighty steeds (my budget is zero), but I do have several old broomsticks and a bit of yarn.  Then again, folks might think we’re playing witches and that won’t do.  Any ideas?

Groucho Mama

Swords and shields.  Hmmm.  Better buy some aluminum foil.  Need cardboard too.  No palm tree this time around.  Perhaps a jungle vine.

I’m torn between wearing a ball gown (with my waistline, that’s probably a very bad idea) or dressing in some kind of an all-black panther-like outfit. Maybe with a colorful toga over it. What does a princess wear under her warrior gear?  What do you think?

No, I do not make everybody else dress up!  Fortunately, I recognize that it is possible to party without all the accoutrements.  Dignity aside, dressing the part is like a visual portrait of the Bible message.  And it’s just plain fun.  After all, “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  Okay, that was slightly out of context.  How about this:

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4, 5).  How’s that for a reason to celebrate?

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2011 in Adventures in Christ

 

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A Matter Of Perspective

Ever since we brought her home, Shelby has been the focus of my mom’s attention.  Ma talks and sings little songs of love to the baby, telling her over and over how beautiful she is.   Shelby smiles joyfully back the whole time.

“You’re so sweet and pretty and clean.  I love to kiss you.  I love you.  La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.”  Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss.

One by one, our cats have had to give way to this blue-eyed, brown-haired smiling baby girl and they’re not happy about it.  “Gramma’s lap is supposed to be our territory!  Who does this interloper think she is, anyway?”  Archie the elder isn’t quite as concerned as the younger kitties.  A lap is a lap is a lap.  He just climbs up and settles down for a long afternoon nap.  The others watch from across the room, murmuring amongst themselves.  Ma pays no attention to their grumblings.  Her focus is completely on baby Shelby.

“You’re such a pretty girl.  So sweet.  La, la, la, la, la, la, la.  My dolly is such a little dolly.  You look a little scared.  Don’t be scared.  Gramma is not gonna let anything happen to you.  I wanna give you kissies on your cheeks.  You’re my dolly.  My sweet little girl.  I’ve got a little girl.  She is mine, all the time,” whispers my mom in her sing-song voice.

 

Shelby gets kissies from my mom

When Shelby first arrived, I was a little surprised at how quickly and how deeply my mom became attached to her.  She fell in love with her at first sight and has only grown more in love each day.  I wasn’t sure how she’d feel about a baby, but I was willing to take a chance.  I desperately needed an answer to Ma’s perpetual question, “Where’s the baby?” Now I simply fetch Shelby from whatever place she reposes and present her to my mom, saying, “Here.  Here’s the baby.”  Now we’re both happy.

Shelby is a true blessing.  My mom needed someone of her own to hug and hold and love, and I needed some practical help with my mom.  Shelby meets our needs.  You see, it’s all a matter of perspective.

My mom has Alzheimer’s Disease.  She is generally confused, disoriented, and unable to process more than the simplest information.  Her attention span is very short.  Yet she needs someone to love just as you and I do.  The difference is that she is no longer able to maintain responsibility for those she loves.

This is where Shelby comes in.  Shelby is a doll.  We brought her home from the online Alzheimer’s Store (www.alzstore.com) in time for Christmas.  My mom knows that Shelby is a doll.  She is not crazy.  But she loves her as though she is real. Doll therapy provides comfort, focus, and a great deal of simple pleasure for my mom.  Every time my mom looks into Shelby’s lifelike eyes, she sees love reflected there.  That’s the gift of God. That’s the blessing.  And that’s real.  It’s just a matter of perspective.

One Happy Momma

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2011 in Adventures in Alzheimer's

 

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Out With Old, In With The New Year Goals

Just before the close of each year, I like to spend a little time reviewing it according to the vision, goals, and objectives set the previous January.  This year, I’m happy to report that I met most of my goals.  There are several reasons for my success.  First of all, I tossed out the whole idea of new year resolutions a long time ago.  Surely I understand by now that there is nothing worthwhile I can accomplish in my own power, no matter how sincerely I may resolve to do so, yet, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV).  God empowers us to do His will, therefore the place at which to begin is with God himself.  With that in mind, I changed my entire approach:

  1. I spent time with God in prayer and petition, seeking His will;
  2. I formed goals based on the principles of His Word, not on a self-centered wish-list or worldly idea of perfection;
  3. I refrained from merely creating a depressing list of my faults, and
  4. I focused on goals and measurable objectives that were challenging, but not impossible.

The question to ask before committing your goals to paper is not, “What do I want?”, but, “What do You want?”  I found that by putting God first, the goals He set were not burdensome.  “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29:30, NIV).  This can also be summarized by Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”

Unsure how to recognize God’s voice?  Make your goal this coming year to know Him better.  The more intimately acquainted you are with God, the better you will discern between His voice and your own or that of the enemy.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10:4).

Keep in mind that the spiritual maturing process won’t be over any time soon: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).  Develop goals that you are actually able to meet in a single year.  Instead of saying you’ll lose 50 pounds and never eat cake again, why don’t you start with something a bit more realistic, like asking God to use this year to help you understand what is behind your overeating and under-exercising.

Finally, focus on the growth God wants to bring about.  Matthew 21:22 says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” This is because you are asking according to His will, not your own.  More than that, it is because in offering yourself fully to God as a living sacrifice your mind is renewed.  You – and your will – are transformed (Romans 12:1-2) into the image of Christ.  Remain watchful, therefore, for your answer will come … in God’s timing, according to His ways.  After all, whom do you really desire to be the lord of your life – yourself or God?

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:19-21).

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2010 in Adventures in Christ

 

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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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