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,LLWhere are you headed? As humans, our default position is sin, and if we keep heading the way we’re inclined, we’ll end up in eternal separation from God–that’s what Hell really is. We don’t like to talk about this, or even think about it, but it’s true and denying it won’t change anything.
There is a remedy for this sorry state of affairs, and it involves repentance. In a previous post, I told you that in Greek the word repent actually means to turn your insides around; if you choose to think of it in military terms, it would be doing an about face; turning away to head in the opposite direction.
The apostle, Peter describes how God works through repentance this way:
“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” Acts 3:19-21
Sounds pretty good to me. Forgiveness, basking in God’s presence, receiving a Savior, the eventual restoration of all things vs. guilt, alienation, trying to save myself and remaining in the miserable mess I’ve created.
I have this saying up on my living room wall and I was looking at it this morning and thought I’d share a bit. I used to say “Why Me?” when things happened in my life, but someone came back to me and said “Why not you?”. I didn’t have an answer to that.
I’ve had a lot of things happen to me. In fact, I would think that I’ve been in the rain more than most people. (My counselor agrees!) I’ve been a caregiver almost all my life starting when my father had a heart attack and my brother had a bad car accident and my mom and sister-in-law had to go to work to keep the family afloat. I came home from school and took care of my niece and nephew, made dinner for everybody and put the kids to bed. I was 15 at the time. It goes on throughout my life. One need after another. My father, my mother, my husband….
I look back at all that I’ve done (and struggled through) and wonder how I even made it through in one piece. With all the changes in my life, some made within hours, I’ve learned to Dance in the Rain. Now I know that my Lord Jesus has always been with me and He guided me through all my past changes. As a result, I’ve grown stronger in my faith and in life in general.
While on vacation, I read this book which I had picked up at the local thrift store. It follows a family through several generations of women suffering from mental illness. Saffee, the final heroine, suffers from growing up in a household with a mother who behaves in bizarre ways and a father who denies that anything is wrong. Isolation and anxiety are the result. Saffee becomes afraid to have friends over, cautious of confiding in others and uneasy about her own future. However, as a young teenager, Saffee hears God’s voice (not audibly, but internally) telling her “Watch….Listen…Learn. Your life will be different.”
She holds onto those comforting words as she grows up, meets and marries a young man and moves into her first home. Through her husband, friends and a growing relationship with God and the church, Saffee learns to honor the good things about her mother and appreciate her father’s steadfast loyalty. She gradually becomes comfortable in revealing her true self to others. Her life is different from her mother’s ….because of God.
Having grown up with similar family issues, I could identify and appreciate this fictional story. All of us have “baggage” but we don’t have to keep holding onto it. We can choose to trust God and let him change us.
“Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you.” Psalm 55:22
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb. 13:8).
To be honest, I needed to hear that lately. Because, as often happens in life things are changing. I’ve noticed to if we are lucky enough to have a ‘routine’ we really ought to savor the peace and stability that it gives us.
More than that though we need to appreciate, and learn to truly value the relationships (albeit short as some may be) that have been set before us through whatever path we’re on at the time. And I do believe that God put certain people in our paths good and bad to teach and test us.
Change certainly does test us, it tests our responses and our attitudes. This last month for me has been a bit of a whirlwind of change. My son is hitting a big milestone in age and showing signs of maturity, my school is going through some major changes (Cutting the program I’m enrolled in), and physically it’s more and more obvious that I’m not ever gonna be that star athlete.
Now, while all of that can be depressing for anybody, everybody reacts to things like that in different ways. Some may panic, (I’ve resolved to only panic inwardly) and some might give up, or get angry and start blaming others. Maybe they’d be right in assigning blame, and maybe they’d have a darn good excuse for getting angry; but what practical use does that have? None, there can be no satisfaction in pouting and it isn’t at all constructive.
We all need to eventually look up and take note. There will always be a challenge. There will always be something that rocks us awake from our cozy routine. How will we deal with it? Gracefully, or with all the tact of a two year old? Welcome to adulthood, and thank God for Jesus Christ our Savior.
Kate’s post yesterday reminded me of some verses our Bible Study group was discussing in the book of Luke yesterday. Jesus makes this statement after a Pharisee criticizes Him for failing to perform the ritual washing before a meal:
“Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools!…For you tithe mint and rue and every herb and neglect justice and the love of God.” Luke 11:39-42
The Scribes and Pharisees were concerned with outer appearances. They wanted to look good by following all the religious rules, while inside they were selfish and unchanged. In another place Jesus calls them whitewashed tombs: looking good superficially, but spiritually dead. Their faith was useless to them and to others.
Here’s how the apostle James describes a living faith:
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27
It’s an easy trap to fall into. We may go to church, tithe, attend Bible Study and serve at every church event, but have we allowed God to change us on the inside? Do we feel compassion for the least of the least–or do we blame them for their situation? Do we give sacrificially to the needy? Or would we rather save our resources for our own benefit? Do we feel true anguish for souls who are being lost? Or do we secretly believe they are only getting what they deserve? Like most people, I struggle with these issues every day.
I’ve been told that the actual meaning of the Greek word for repent is to “turn your guts around.” That’s a real inner change, not an intellectual exercise or acceptance. As Kate said, at the gates of heaven, God won’t ask you how good you looked on the outside. He’ll want to know your heart.
“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7