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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
The topic of this month reminds me of something that I change more than anything else in my life: my diet. As many thirty-something woman know, the quest to remain thin, pretty, and ‘young’ often pervades our minds to the point of obsession. We no longer have that long-missed metabolism that allows us to eat double hamburgers and coke without the thought of weight gain. As a result, I have tried almost every diet possible to obtain my previously thin frame. I have been a Cross Fit athlete, ate nothing but protein bars and chicken, been vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and almost everything else in between. It is practically a running joke with my family. At every visit, they have to inquire as to what my current ‘taboo’ foods are. Well, on my last visit, my family and I discussed a passage from 1 Peter, Chapter Three:
3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
Although perhaps not directly related to dieting, this scripture does make me think of the sins of vanity and pride. I am a happily married woman, healthy, and able-bodied. Focusing on outward appearances is not what God wants from us. God wants for us to believe in his word, follow his commandments, and above all, to be in service to others through him. This verse reminds to pay attention to the important things in my life. Time on a scale could be better spent calling up a neighbor to check on them. An hour fixing my hair and make-up would be better spent communing with friends and family. As stated by a Facebook Meme that I once read: Mother Theresa was not worried about the size of her thighs- she had things to do! With this in mind, I work daily to improve myself in the way that God would want, not in the way that my sinful self seeks. After all, when I stand at the gates of heaven, I don’t expect to be asked to weigh in! :))
Joan’s post reminded me of a song “Abba, Father” that, as a christian musician, I have played for years. This song is an acknowledgement that God is the creator and guidance for our lives. Just as parents try to raise their children, God is trying to “raise” us, to make us into adult children. God wants us to trust and follow Him just as children will trust and follow their parents.
This song can have so much impact. I’m sorry that the video (link below) can not capture that. As you listen, imagine this song sung by 100+ people, full of power and the glory of the Lord. When I’m playing this song on my guitar for a group that large, I forget my instrument. I find I miss chords, stop playing; I’m so riveted in the music surrounding me. When you’re leading the song this could be a bad thing, but no one has ever mentioned it.
As parents, we all try to mold our children in different ways. We provide them with learning experiences such as music or swimming lessons. We teach them to socialize by making play dates with others, or taking them to nursery school. We may send them to camp or take them to different places on vacation. We expose them to libraries and restaurants and museums and concerts. We set rules for living well and let them suffer the consequences when they break those rules. Our ultimate goal is to help them live a productive and contented life.
Well, God is our Father, and He is interested in molding us as well. Listen to these verses from Jeremiah 18:1-5:
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at the wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
Then the word of the Lord came to me: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as the potter has done?'”
Everything that happens in our lives is sent by our Father to change us into the vessel he wants us to be. Some of the things that change us are really good; others are challenging; and yet others seem to break us open completely. The Bible tells us that:
“For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
God, our Father, wants the best for us. The good things we receive from His hand are cause for gratitude; the painful things are too, for they are all part of the individual learning experience God has tailored for every one of us.
What will you learn from what God sends you today?