Category: Christianity


How much time, energy, and effort am I wasting trying to keep my failures, and short-comings secret from the one who already knows everything. Not only what I have already done but what I will do.

Love that makes no sense

The God who created everything knows not just my past which is bad enough, but also knows my failures to come.  And yet I can not really fathom this, God still chooses to love me.  He chooses to love you, faults and all.  Not because either of us deserve it, or can even hope to earn it.  I can’t, and I see so many trying.  As if that kind of love could ever be earned, deserved or purchased.  Would it even be called love if you earned it?
I don’t think so, I’m not sure what you would call it.  Maybe admiration but definitely not love.  Love real love can only be given and received freely.  Is it conditional?  It seems so at least in that we have to accept it, and why God chooses to love us.

Letting myself be loved when I don’t feel worthy

On the one hand “God so loved the world” however to experience God’s love at it’s fullest, as God desires to love us, we have to stop fighting against it.  Easier said than done.  I want it on my terms, trying to define what is really best for me.  But history clearly shows that for the lie it is.  I have made and continue to make a mess of it.  Yet all I have to do is submit.  Not a pretty word now a days, but what I need to do non the less.  Not easy, but what is really best for me.
Hard?  Yes, not because of God, because of me.  Even though I know that God wants only the best for me, and for you, I let all my junk get in the way.

Here is to submitting on more time.

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“But God commandeth his love for us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

God commands his love for us.  Not suggests, not hopes for or wishes, but commands his love for us.  Unshakable, unmovable, unchangeable.  His love for us can not go away.  His love for you, for me is immutable.  It doesn’t diminish when we put on a few pounds, or 50. It doesn’t fade when our hair turns to grey, or falls out.  And his love doesn’t turn to another if I become wrinkled, feeble, lose my job, or any other thing you ca do or even imagine.
And when did God love us?  When we were yet sinners. Our God, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, the God of Jacob doesn’t demand that we stop sinning and then He will love us.  God does not say to you or I “Be perfect, get your act together, and THEN I will love you and care for you.”  No, No, No.  He says to you and I come to me all you who are weary, carrying a load that is too much to carry and I will give you rest.
He could have said, Russ once you do X then I will care for you, then I will love you.  God could have said show me you love me, then I will love and care for you.  But instead God says to mankind, I will love you no matter what.  I will love you day or night, summer or winter, when you do right or when you do wrong.

God’s love for you is not dependent on your past

I can hear you now, “But Russ you don’t know what I have done.  If you only knew the inside, if you could see my thoughts, my heart.  My own family won’t have anything to do with me.  My marriage is in shambles.  I can’t find my way out of the bottle.”
Your right I don’t know you.  I don’t know what you’ve done.  I don’t know your faults, your failings, your foibles.  I don’t and maybe if I did I wouldn’t like you much.  But God knows.  God knows each and every lie you have ever told.  God knows every porn movie you’ve ever watched, every curse word that has come out of your mouth even when no one was around.  And every wicked thought that you have ever had.  And in response God says- “I love you.”
I love you when you don’t deserve it, when you haven’t earned it, even when you have abused it.  For you see God says “my grace is sufficient for you.”
Grace: Gods unearned favor, blessing, love.  The gift of Gods grace can not be earned, it can not be bought at any price, for any amount.  You and I can never do enough good things to earn or deserve it.
So you say “I don’t deserve it, God would never give it to me.” So who does God give His grace to?  Who are the heroes and saints God poured out his grace on.
Genesis 6:8- “but Noah found grace in the eyes of The Lord.”- Noah a drunk
Genesis 19:19Lot says “behold now thy servant hath found grace in thy sight.”  Lot a man who less than 48 hours earlier was ready to turn over his daughters to be gang raped by a mob outside his home.
Exodus “For thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know you by name.”  Who is God speaking to?  A hot-headed, spoiled, murderer by the name of Moses
Or Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour upon the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplication.”   David war-monger, adulterer murderer.  David who had a loyal soldier murdered because David had seduced his wife while he was risking his life in battle for his king, David.

So what is it again that you think is so bad that God’s grace is for others but not for you?

God’s grace is a gift given freely from God to anyone who asks.  Not something you can earn and certainly not what you deserve.  But just because it is free does not mean it is cheap.
Romans 3:4 “Let God be true, and every man a liar.”  So what does God say?  Romans 6:23 “the wages of sin IS death.”  Justice requires death, someone must die.  Justice was satisfied by death, just not your death.  God came in the form of man as Jesus. He paid that price so that God the Father can give you and I grace.
This isn’t just going to Macy’s with the credit card to pick up a bunch of Christmas gifts.  These aren’t a few trinkets purchased at the Dollar Store.  This is the biggest gift, this is the most costly gift of all.  This is the gift to end all gifts.  The gift of grace is free but is not cheap.  Make no mistake it cost the giver dearly.  And grace alone, God’s grace alone is enough.

God’s grace is sufficient, no matter what.  And best of all it is your’s for the asking.

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English: Penn Jillette at Rio Las Vegas

English: Penn Jillette at Rio Las Vegas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Abraham was instructed to sacrifice Issac to God.  But what if God never intends to accept or allow this sacrifice to take place?  If God is all knowing then the plan and the outcome are already known by God.  If on the other hand God does not know what Abraham will do and what’s going to happen then God is not God, but god.

So which is it?

“If god(however you perceive him/her/it) told you to kill your child- would you do it” …….”if your answer is yes, please reconsider.” Penn Jillette
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only [son] from me.” Genesis 22:12

Is God different?

What if instead this is looked at in the context of what was unfortunately all to common place in the region at the time.  We know child sacrifice was not uncommon.  What if instead of Abraham being asked to be like those around him, God was showing him that Yaweh was nothing like what others thought of  as God.  “I will provide the sacrifice” says God.  And your children are not what I desire.  If you are going to take a portion of the narrative of what is going on then don’t you have to take it in full.  The account does not give the option that part is true and the rest is not, the sacrifice is required, and the type is stipulated.  Do others make human sacrifice?  Does God ever accept it? Or does he make it clear time and again that those that do as much bring his wrath down on their own heads?
Do we really think that God who is unchangable, has changed his mind?  Or is it any wonder that God no longer blesses a country that sacrifices her children by the millions on the alter of convenience?
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The wrong perspective

I sometimes find myself judging a book by its cover.  I live in a little town and like most little towns, we may not all know each other, but you see everyone.  I can’t speak for all little towns, but he there are a handful of, shall we say, less than attractive, at least by modern standards, people.

When I lived in a city of over 100,000 I didn’t notice, or perhaps because I didn’t go to “that” side of town, I don’t know.  But it reminds me of something Jim Rohn used to say “You can say people shouldn’t judge you by how you look.  But here’s a hint, They Do.”
On the other hand God judges people by how they look, the difference is that God looks at the soul.  He loves all of His creation, but he sees the horror and repulsiveness of the soul that is wrapped in sin.  God looks at these souls kind of like a dentist looking at a decaying tooth, and doesn’t think tear it out.  He loves with a depth that I can not begin to comprehend.  A love that is overwhelming in its depth, breadth, and intensity.  And God sees? Beauty? Potential?

Worthy of Love, and needing it

So how can I not see the soul of the person in front of me at the grocery store?  How can I not look at the heart, perhaps scared, torn beat-down, and not simultaneously ache & see the beauty of one formed by God.  One who Is loved so much by the Creator, that God’s desire is to hold, heal, help.  How can I not see the beauty God has created in someone?  I struggle, but none the less I try to see the beauty thru the eyes of the Creator.  What’s more I need to not just try to see the soul loved by God, but to also feel and act as the one who created them does.
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Amish family riding in a traditional Amish bug...

Amish family riding in a traditional Amish buggy in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wonder if the Amish are on to something?  Are they right to send the young men out into the world.  By forcing them to make their beliefs system their own, nobody can then take it away from them.  What they claim to believe isn’t just because of what their parents, friends, or family believe, but they are forced to make a choice.  To either accept or reject the beliefs that they have been raised with.

Or is someone else’s belief enough?

Contrast that with the following survey from the UK http://richarddawkinsfoundation.org/
“Asked why they had been recorded as Christian in the 2011 Census, only three in ten (31%) said it was because they genuinely try to follow the Christian religion, with four in ten (41%) saying it was because they try to be a good person and associate that with Christianity.”
Can what you believe be handed to you like a family heirloom?  For me I left the family beliefs behind.  I searched and looked and tried so many things.  Only to have a sense of emptiness that nothing could fill.
Oh I tried and trust me I worked really hard to make all kinds of things fill me up, make me feel complete.  Inside of me was what I now know was a God shaped hole.  But then I tried to make other religions fill that.  When that didn’t work I then looked at anything, everything else.  Other people, especially women, trying to make them fit that shape.

Until it is your own it will not fit.

I would put someone else in that place, and for a time it would kind of sort of work.  Imagine trying to make three pounds fill a twenty pound bag.  There is something there, and it doesn’t feel as empty.  But sooner or later you realize that there is still something missing.  A life that isn’t full, isn’t complete.
The only thing big enough is God.  And now, well those other things just don’t seem that important.  Actually not important at all.  I enjoy the company of friends and time with family.  And although some of them are women I don’t use them to fill me up.  In fact being involved, dating, even the idea of marriage doesn’t really fit, at least for now.

Unlike Jerry McGuire the only thing that completes me is God.

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Isn’t there more?

Being what some would define as moral does not mean your kind.  But as a Christian we are to be kind, gentle, humble.  And what’s more to love our enemies.

I don’t know of anyone who is seen as simply moral, who also loves their enemy.  Marcus Aurelious was known as a moral leader, his writings about stoicism are still read, studied, and followed.  Often by those looking for a moral guide to life.  Yet this was a man who had no problem persecuting Christians of his day, because they were the other.
We are called to more than just a moral life.  We are called to be more.  Christian ethics mean to be not just good people, but to be a reflection of our Creator.
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“We hold this truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”

Is it any wonder so many atheists would have this country fundamentally changed.  The very essence of our founding is anathema to their core beliefs.  No atheists could have, would have ever written the words above.

Neither could an evolutionist worth his salt who would dare to be honest about the implications of his beliefs.  If we have evolved from the primordial ooze, how could we be endowed with anything?  Where is the intrinsic value of man, or even nature if it is simply the result of chance+matter+time?
However what if man is created.  If we are instead the result of the actions of a supreme being, then man has been endowed with that worth.  And nature, all of creation is of value.
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But neither will I.

When it comes to God’s grace and mercy, you can’t earn it, I don’t deserve it.  That is the point.  If we could be good enough to earn God’s forgiveness and mercy, then I wouldn’t need Jesus.

I was having a conversation with the pastor at church and we were talking about the roles of grace and the law.  How do we explain Christian ethics and lifestyle and what it means to live a Christian life.  The conundrum is the balance and conflict between the two.  I can’t earn forgiveness, and Paul talks time and again how the law brings death.  Yet I know that the law is God’s standard.  So what do I do with that?

Obeying the law won’t save me, it won’t earn me salvation or forgiveness.  For if I could keep the law I would not need forgiveness.  Without a doubt there is the danger of falling into legalism.  It is way to easy to fall into looking at how I am keeping this law or that precept, and how you are not.  Then next thing you know I start looking down my nose and judging you, because although you may be great at keeping laws 1-2-3, they’re not the ones I think you should be focused on keeping.

At the same time how do you encourage people to keep the law, not for what it does for them but because of whose laws they are?  So I’m wondering if this makes sense?  We should strive to keep the law, knowing we are going to fail.  But still strive to keep the law because the law is God’s standard, shows the attributes of God, and pleases him.  Not because God wants to be a wet blanket, but rather than the law is how the universe works.

Would you want someone you love to suffer for you?

So if we love God, wouldn’t we want, try, even strive to keep the law?  1- because it is God’s standard. 2-because it pleases God. 3- Because of all He has done for us.  4- my sin Jesus took on himself on Calvary, suffering for my sin, why would I want to make Him suffer more?

After all God does not need us to “behave” to bring him joy, although our obedience and worship brings him joy.  We can’t earn God’s mercy, so why keep trying?  It’s not about trying to earn Mercy from God we already have mercy as much as we will ever need.

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To be a Christian is to be a follower, a disciple of Christ.  

 

But let’s be blunt and completely honest.  To live a perfect life for me is impossible. Why?  Because God isn’t able to make me perfect?  Of course not, but because I am not able to let him.

Know perhaps you’re saying “What kind of faith is that?  You say you’re a follower of Christ and yet you don’t do what he says.”  True I don’t I fail to live up to the Christian Ethic.  With no excuse for my own short-comings let me give you a for instance.

Unintentional failure is still failure

A man joins the Air Force.  He’s patriotic, loves his country and wants to serve. One day while walking across the base or standing around talking with some of his buddies a superior officer walks by, but our airman doesn’t notice and doesn’t salute. Is he no longer a patriot?  Of course not, but I fail to salute my king, my commanding officer a lot more than on one occasion.

 

Now our Airman is given a set of guidelines to live by just as you or I am.  The difference being that the closer I get to God the more aware I become of how far from perfect I really am.  Don’t mis-understand,  I am someone who loves God, and is loved by God. But I find being a Christian an ever-evolving process.  The closer I move to God the more aware of my short comings I become.

 

What was obvious to me as sin in my life when I first swore allegiance to Jesus is now easy to avoid.  Now as those things have become non-issues, other deeper things have become noticeable to me as a problem, as a sin that blocks or at least hinders God’s impact and presence in my life.  And if the time comes where, with God’s help, I conquer these things my guess is God will say to me, “That’s great but what about X”

 

Now before you get all “aren’t you trusting in works, or Christ made us free from the law” on  me let me be clear.  Doing anything on my own will never save me or earn God’s mercy, otherwise it would not be mercy.  Likewise I don’t strive to live up to God’s standards as expressed in the Law, because I have to.  Rather I want to because this is what God says is the standard.  His standard is perfect because God is perfect.  I know I will fail, but that does not mean I shouldn’t try.

 

So if you define being a Christian as being Christ-like, then I am destined to fail.  But I am going to fail greatly.

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At least a little part of it..

This is not about some pie in the sky lets all hold hands a create some workers paradise.  Or heaven on earth or any of these completely unrealistic expectations.  After all, “You will always have the poor” Jesus of Nazareth

Let’s just get past that we are not going to get rid of poverty and its impact.  Can we reduce it? Of course and should we as individuals look for ways to ease the suffering around us.  But how do we do that?   Our ethics as Christians mandate that we love our neighbor as ourselves.  Our Christian ethics expect, I would say even demand that we be involved.

What are some, if not easy, at least not hugly painful steps?

I would suggest that the first step is to get our thinking right about what are the causes and then workable solutions, not just throwing money at the problem.
I believe that there are two beliefs that we, yes even those of us in the church have bought into that are not just false assertions, but counter productive to impacting the issue of poverty.  First that work is some sort of curse and that to care for the poor is to care for the need instead of providing a way for people to provide for their own needs.
Let’s look at the first, work is a curse.  If your mind set is that work is a curse, where did that come from.  In recent years finding ones purpose has become a bit af a mantra.  But what does that mean?  The purpose of man is to work, to create to provide, for himself his family and community.  Paul in his letter to the church at Thessalonica made it pretty clear “If a man will not work he shall not eat”. Each of us has abilities and skills.  Maybe the ability to program a computer, or fix a car, or maybe just to make change, count money, or load groceries.  If your skills don’t provide the opportunity that you want then perhaps using the skills you do have to finance the training to develop the skills you want is where you should be looking.  But Russ what about the unwed mother, the man born blind, the cripple or the mentally handicapped?  Are you really going to tell me you haven’t heard of Helen Keller, Chris Gardner, or any of the other thousands if not millions who have come to this country unable to speak the language, with no connection, little or no education, etc and have by working, turned into successes?  Are there those that cann not do for themselves?  Of course, and I am not for an instant suggesting we as the Church should ignore or despise those.  But there are far to many that either will not work in which case see above, or those that don’t for lack of opportunity.
So what about the way?  Should we as a society just give those without, a hand out?  I would say no.  Leviticus 19:10 speaks clearly to what those who have should do for those that are in need.  And it’s not a handout.  It’s giving them an opportunity to learn a skill, to make their own way.
This is not a zero sum game.  Look around you wealth and abundance are everywhere and they are there for the earning.  Will you become rich or wealthy?  Well I am a firm believer that in this country it’s still possible for anybody willing to do the work to become if not rich at least comfortable.
Economics and the spiritual must focus on both in order to help reduce poverty and to allow a path that provides a way for those who will to move out of poverty and then able to provide and show the path out.
To see some much deeper thoughts and ideas on this read some of Father Sirico of The Acton Institute .
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