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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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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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Two Souls, One Survivor

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).

In this passage in the book of Mark, Jesus addresses His words to everybody present, believers and unbelievers alike.  He describes two kinds of people: those who want to live life according to God’s terms and those who want to live life on their own terms.  There is no neutrality; no middle fence.  A person is either with Him or against Him.  Look at the contrast between the two types:  Those who would live on God’s terms must deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Christ.  They will surely lose their lives through this surrender, but by so doing will end up saving it.  They will lose the world, yet their souls will be saved.  True followers are not ashamed of Jesus Christ or His gospel.  Those who acknowledge Christ will be acknowledged by Him upon His return.

The others, those who want to live life on their own terms,  want to preserve it as such. They are unwilling to surrender to God and instead, reject His terms.  This present world and it’s offerings, however temporal, is their desire.  So they gain the world, but in the end, they will lose their soul.  Why?  It boils down to this:  God is God and He will accept no other place in our lives.  Let everyone understand this:  We will all bow before God; either now willingly, or later, on the judgment day, unwillingly.  In the end, God will give us what we want: we will either enjoy eternity with Him or suffer the torment of eternal separation.  The choice is ours.

Jesus asks, “Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” It is a rhetorical question.  The answer is, of course, nothing. Sinful man can never redeem his own soul. God’s requirement for redemption is a perfect sacrifice.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).   Jesus is the only one who lived a perfectly sinless life and as such, became the perfect sacrifice.  He is the only one who could ever save us. We, in turn, can only receive like a child what is given.  It is only by God’s grace, through the faith He gives us, that our lives are redeemed and we become part of God’s family.

Jesus made it clear in these words that the life surrendered to God is not an easy one. Following Jesus means daily self-denial, bearing burdens, and sometimes, great sacrifice.  It is living as God desires, not as we want.  This life is one of bold, courageous love that extends grace and forgiveness without partiality, just as we ourselves received grace from God who loves us all.  Surrendering ourselves to God means exchanging our will for His will.  Instead of the pattern of my life being “all about me,” it becomes all about Him. Sound tough?  Difficult?  Impossible?  You’re right, it is … in our own strength.  We ourselves cannot live holy lives without help.  God sent us a Helper – the Holy Spirit.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Rely on God.

No, it is not easy to follow Christ, and we will stumble many times.  That is where confession, repentance, and faith come in.  It is a daily challenge.  In difficult times, I like to encourage myself to persevere by looking forward to someday hearing these great words of Jesus in Matthew 25:23: “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of your Master.”  

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2010 in Adventures in Bible Study

 

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If Wishes Were Horses, We’d Be Out Of Debt

I wish I’d known from early on how to properly handle money.  I wished I’d know how to develop a budget and to spend and save accordingly.   I wished I’d had, but I hadn’t.

I remember starting off at 17 in my first apartment with a spanking new checkbook and the assumption that the bank couldn’t know about any checks I might write because they would not be present when I wrote them.  I was very silly in those days.  For a brief moment, I fantasized about all the things I could buy without anyone being the wiser.  I was clueless.  I had no idea that all checks make it back to the bank.  Fortunately, I was wise enough to know that if it were so easy, everyone would be doing it.  Somehow the bank knows.

I remember also the mathematical circumstances of my first student loan.  Having followed the directions on the application to determine the amount of interest over the life of the loan, I immediately convinced myself I was mistaken, math not being my strong suit.  The interest amount was so shockingly high I was sure it couldn’t possibly be allowed.  So I went ahead and borrowed … every semester of every year I was in school.

I wish I’d possessed basic knowledge (and maturity) about credit and interest rates and the horrors of debt collection.  Growing up we never had money so I learned nothing about it except its lack.  We mostly lived in hand-me-downs and shopped for school clothes once a year at places like Jamesway and the Big N (on par with K and Wal-mart).  We never ate out.  Our breakfast cereals were primarily Wheaties or Raisin Bran.  Ma figured they’d last longer if we didn’t like them.  True.   Super Sugar Smacks were a step up and we got them some of the time, but cereals like Trix and Booberry were way out of our league.  When money was especially tight, we ate meals of rice, milk, sugar, and cinnamon.  We should have been grateful that we always had food on the table (remember those starving people in China?), but hey, we were kids and most kids aren’t grateful.

It’s not as though my mom didn’t try to educate us about the value of a dollar.  For a short time I had a nickel allowance.  Eventually, I graduated to a whole quarter, even fifty cents.  That was an exciting time, because we could still buy penny candy at the gas station.  But then Ma couldn’t afford allowances anymore and so we got nothing.  As far back as I can remember, when we kids asked for something that cost money the answer was almost always “No” because as Ma said, “If I do it for one I’ll have to do it for all six.”  There were six kids in our family.  That’s why we never got Booberry – that little box would not have survived six kids chowing down two or three bowlfuls each.

As a teenager, I never went to the mall.  There was no point in doing so.  I didn’t even know that teens hung out there.   Even as a young adult I didn’t care for the mall.  It was too overwhelming.  Everything I saw I wanted, yet I could afford nothing.  It seemed like everyone in the world was there buying things except me.  Why did they have money and not me?  After college, I had money in my pocket for the first time.  The mall became a fun place.  Shopping made me feel happy and hopeful, like I could become that person I always dreamt of being.  The self-confident, popular people I met all dressed stylishly and went places and did things that cost money.  I wanted to live like them, be like them.  It appeared as though money could and did bring love and good times and I wanted it.  Oh, how I wanted it.  So I spent every available penny I had on buying a little chunk of that heaven.  Even though I paid my bills paid on-time, I saved nothing, but spent it all.  And then I discovered the wonderful world of credit.  The more money I made, the more I spent.  It was never enough.  Eventually it all landed on the card.  And what a ride it was!  Month after month I paid the minimum amount without understanding what that meant.  By the time I learned the truth about credit, the habit was firmly entrenched and my debt was in the thousands.

After getting saved, I began to learn about God’s perspective on money and debt through many avenues such as Bible study, Christian Financial Concepts, and a wide variety of secular money management lessons.  Yet even with education, debt does not disappear magically.  I learned a lot over the years, but practiced little.  Budgeting gave me a great deal of hope until some unanticipated bill messed it up and I had to rob Peter to pay Paul.  Getting back on track was nearly impossible because unexpected bills came in the mail on a fairly regular basis.  If I’d not had credit card debt, I could have paid these bills immediately and without difficulty.  If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

“Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their victim” (Habbakkuk 2:7).

I’ve struggled with consumer debt most of my life.  Even though I’ve tithed since the beginning, practicing self-control has not come so easily.  Letting go of greed and gluttony is far easier said than done.  Our culture waxes on self-indulgence, indeed our very economy is based on it.  I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it.  I certainly did not want to deny myself.  You know what really stinks about it all?  God enabled me several times in those years to completely pay off my credit cards only to find me a year or two later, to my shame, even more deeply in debt.  Isn’t that pathetic?

A few years ago, I paid off my cards yet again.  Grabbing my scissors, I cut them into pieces, all but one, that ridiculously ill-named “emergency credit card”.   There has never been an emergency for which it was required, but I am, once again, thousands of dollars in debt.  This time, however, I’m certain I’ve learned my lesson.  Actually, I learnt it years ago.  I just didn’t follow its advice.

But I’ve been praying for God’s help.  I have confessed my sin of greed, self-indulgence, and a total lack of discipline and self-control.  I’m repenting.  It has been 2 months since I last pulled that emergency card out of my wallet.  Today, I put it through the shredder.

I want to live free, not only of consumer debt, but of the mold and shape and size the world says I must be in order to be accepted.  My significance is in God.  I am a Christian; the world will never accept me.  Selah.

But God says I am His beloved and He is mine.   He tells me to not worry for He will provide for me (Matthew 6:25-34) .  I have fixed my eyes on Jesus and am running the race in such a way as to get the true prize, a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

What about you?  Where do you go when you are sad, bored, lonely, or hurting?  Do you, like so many of us, spend money to feel better about yourself?  I’ve heard it said that the way we handle money speaks volumes about our spiritual maturity.  Feeling convicted?  Get help.  Go to God in prayer.  Confess and repent.  Determine in your heart to walk that way no longer.  And may the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

I have decided to follow Jesus.  I have decided to follow Jesus.  I have decided to follow Jesus.   No turning back, no turning back.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2010 in Adventures in Christ

 

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