Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Get Rid of "IT" !!

"....And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched." Mark 9:43-48.  

This is one of those tough, no pussy-footin' around statements that Jesus made, one that we'd prefer hadn't been recorded. Mark Twain said it well in this quote, "It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."  There's no denying what Jesus meant, and he didn't want anyone to misinterpret him.  Put even more plainly, if there is something in your life that is offensive to God, get rid off "IT".  Perhaps it's an addiction of some sort, or behavior, but actually it can be anything that has a hold of you, and keeps you from a complete relationship with your Creator.  These things wind themselves into our hearts, minds  and beings like an insidious cancer.  Sometimes we notice the destruction they wreak in our lives, but often we become so used to them that their side effects become natural and accepted.  We've all known how that feels, be honest.  It's easier to see it in others, but God wants us to look into his mirror and see for ourselves, so that, with his help, it can be eradicated.  

Recently I had a conversation with someone who said that God could never forgive them for their particular "it", so they felt that they must carry this burden around forever, even into Hell.  I set before them the "good news", God can, and will forgive even the most heinous sin.  The enemy doesn't want us to know, or believe that, but it's the truth.  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9.   Don't get the wrong idea about forgiveness, it also includes repentance and a sincere desire to stay away from your "IT" forever.  If it tries to sneak back, and it will, call on God and he'll supply you with the way to escape its hold.  "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." 1 Corinthians 10:13.  Sin is like a gangrenous limb, it becomes a part of us, but it's a part that threatens to  take your life and, worse yet, your eternal life.  GET RID OF IT!!!  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Cool Christianity

I have a mental list of things that I never expect to see in my life: snow in the middle of an Illinois summer; the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series; Doctors declaring hot fudge to be the healthiest food on earth, and the Pope making the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. I usually expect some current music sensation, or controversial individual to grace the cover of this less than holy periodical, so you can imagine my shock when I retrieved my husband's latest issue from the mailbox.  Instead of the Beatles, or any of the aforementioned personalities, there was the new Pope, Francis, waving and smiling back at me! Not known for their favorable articles on Christianity, or faith in general, I could only imagine that Rolling Stone was either dissing his Holiness, or worse yet, they liked him!!

 The article began with the author highlighting the humility of the new Vicar of Christ, and his devotion and empathy to the poor people of the world. No one can find fault with those wonderful qualities. As the story continues, the writer makes a comparison between Francis and his predecessor, Benedict on the topic of Judgement Day.  The now retired Benedict had this to say: "Today we are used to thinking: 'What is sin?  God is great, he understands us, so sin does not count; in the end God will be good to all.' It's a nice hope.  But there is justice, and there is real blame." Francis, on the other hand, is quoted as saying that we shouldn't be afraid, that on that day it will be something to look forward to, like attending a wedding where Jesus and all the saints in Heaven will be waiting there for us with open arms.  He implores the masses to go forth without fear, avanti senza paura.   Two very different pictures, and if I was the author, who I'm guessing is not a born again believer, I'd like the second scenario, too.  In fact he likes it so much that he basically calls the old Pope stodgy, and a dour academic, and dubs Francis as the "Cool Pope".

I got to thinking about that title.  Do I want to be known as a cool Christian?  Sure it sounds good, and may draw folks in, but if it means taking away from the veracity of scripture, you can keep calling me stodgy.  I have no fear about that upcoming event, because I am certain of my relationship with Christ and his promise to me concerning it. The fact is, there is a judgment for all mankind, and there is an outstanding debt to be paid, unless you have Paid in Full written on your personal account.

I'm convinced that most people, whether they identify with Christ or not, believe in God.  And it's much easier to believe in a God that grants entrance to paradise to everyone, than one who expects something of you. If you read further, a reporter attempting to pin the Pope down on gay marriage and abortion, received this answer: " My position is that of the Church. I'm a son of the Church."  Without verbalizing it, he stands with the teachings of Christ, but Rolling Stone made him sound wishy washy....personally, I don't think he is .
 We all want to hear the good, happy, warm and fuzzy news about getting to Heaven, not the rather unpleasant truth, but the truth is what we must hear. Scripture tells us this," For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions."  2 Timothy 4:3. We all have "itchy ears", when it comes to knowing the truths about God, don't be fooled into allowing the world to scratch them....only the authentic word will truly, and permanently, relieve that irritation.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Adoration or Obligation?

I know I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating, what is your motivation for attending a church service? The answers will vary, I'm sure; force of habit, peer/parent pressure, companionship, and hopefully, a desire to worship makes the list.

It's my opinion we've replaced joyful Adoration of the Living God with lifeless obligation. Some will argue that filling a pew trumps not attending at all, but does it?  Imagine you invite someone you love to your home for a visit.  You prepare special food, tidy up and put on their favorite music.  When they arrive they plop in a chair, pick at the goodies, converse only when it's necessary, and keep a watchful eye on the clock through it all.  After an agonizing hour, they excuse themselves and head for the door, and freedom.  Heartbreaking, isn't it?

Let's be honest, we've all been that rude individual at one time or another, especially when it comes to spending time with God. I've heard may folks remark that they like to "go to church" on Saturday so they have it done, and are free to do what they want the rest of the weekend.  Just like the host who had prepared his home so lovingly, only to be crushed by the guest's indifference, God isn't pleased with an obligatory visit from us either.

 True adoration can only be achieved by knowing your host in a personal, intimate way. "How can I achieve such closeness with God, you might well ask.  Like any human relationship it takes time.  Time spent getting to truly know him, on your own, independent of what parents, or church leaders tell you, you must do.  No one can make you love God, no more than they can force you to love another person.  It must develop between the two parties.

 Do you feel like going to church is more of an obligation than precious time spent with the one you love?  Fear not, you're not alone, I was there once myself.  Find your Bible and start reading it.  If you're not sure you understand it, good, ask him for understanding,  find a study/prayer group,  and pray, pray, pray!  No friendship matures immediately, so give it time, and I guarantee, that when you sincerely seek him, you will switch from obligation to pure, free-flowing adoration! Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Salvation Riddle

Here's a riddle for you to begin the week.  What can't be bought, earned, or traded for, you can't inherit or steal it from another, yet it's the most precious thing in the universe?  Give up?  It's salvation.  This priceless gift is just that, a gift, for those who put their trust in Christ.

So what exactly is salvation, why is it so great, and how can you be sure you have it?  Let's look at what salvation  isn't , to begin with. As the riddle states, a person can not obtain it by using external means.  For example, no amount of giving, whether it be financially, or by doing good works, can secure it.  If it were that simple, everyone would be saved, because it doesn't involve making a personal decision on the veracity of Christ's claims. You could merely buy your salvation on the installment plan.  Or how about inheriting it from your parents, or the church?  Again, it ain't gonna happen.  Just because your Mom and Dad, or church have a relationship with God, doesn't mean they can pass it along to you in their wills. Salvation only is obtained by making a personal commitment to Jesus.  The information on his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension are available to all, but we must seek it out and study it carefully.  Think about how much time you put into researching the purchase of a new car, refrigerator or camera, Jesus deserves at least that much effort.

When we truly come to that "ah ha" moment, when we know, and totally accept Jesus for who he says he is, confess ours sins and ask him to forgive us, God graciously writes us in his book of life, securing our place in Heaven. Don't be fooled, it can be found in no other place, name or action.  In the earliest days of the church, a Holy Spirit-filled Peter said this to the Sanhedrin, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved."acts 4:12. Please don't take this subject lightly, salvation doesn't come in little paper cups at Sam's, and it isn't a riddle. If you're not certain you have it, don't waste another day trying to gain it by human effort, assure yourself by going directly to the gift giver himself!