“Christian” Is Not a Dirty Word

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In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.   Matthew 5:16

There is a popular saying, here in America, which I find to be more relevant with each passing day. In case you have never heard it, it goes like this: “Sitting in church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.”

I found myself repeating that phrase several days ago when a woman, whom I had just met, unexpectedly opened-up to me about her many emotional pains, most of which were caused by years of mistreatment and neglect. Regrettably, most of her tormentors, she said, were self-proclaimed Christians. “I’ll tell you one thing,” she stated caustically, “The people in the bars (taverns) are a whole lot nicer than most Christians.”

This was definitely one of those times when listening was far more important than speaking, but I was very quick to point-out that not everyone who claims to be a Christian truly is. To be a Christian, I explained, is to be Christ-like; showing-forth the character of Jesus Christ in word, action, lifestyle and every other way. True Christians, I told her, hold firm to their convictions, but they are patient, loving and kind.

While it is true that the title of “Christian” has been so distorted and convoluted over time that it has taken on an entirely new meaning, especially here in America, it is still an absolute fact that true Christians live their lives so that Jesus Christ is honored and glorified in every way.

Today, there will be those who read this message who are Christian, and those who aren’t. To those of you who aren’t, may I exhort you to judge Christianity by those who truly live it, and not by mean-spirited, carnal people that don’t. The Bible warns that there will be many (ungodly) wolves out there wearing sheep’s clothing, or in other words, people who claim to be Christian but certainly are not –people that give Christianity a bad name and bring harm and destruction to Christians and non-Christians alike! How can you know the difference? The bible instructs that you will know us by our fruit. Simply stated, if our fruit is rotten, then we are not Christ-like, therefore, we are not true Christians.

For my fellow Christians, I encourage you to remember that “Christian” is not a dirty word. I know so many Christians who no longer care for the title, nor claim it for themselves, because its once enduring legacy has become so very ambiguous and unclear —distasteful even. However, you’ll remember that the designation of “Christian” was meant to be derogatory when it was first coined in Antioch in the first century as well. “You follow Christ!” they accused, and so dubbed the Christ-followers as “Christian.” Thus, the title Christian is nothing to be ashamed of, no matter how vigorously others try to defame it. It is time that we Christians stand proud and  restore its honor!

As a wise man once said, “Christians do not need to change their name; they simply need to live up to the one they already have.”

Do You Measure Up?

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“The only man who behaved sensibly was my tailor; he took my measurement anew every time he saw me, while all the rest went on with their old measurements and expected them to fit.”    ~George Bernard Shaw

 

We read that King David was a man after God’s own heart. But according to Scripture, there were many people, even amongst his own countrymen, that did not believe David measured up to his role as king, let alone as a child of God. King David’s critics probably couldn’t let go of his past failures and mistakes, which is understandable because even David struggled with them occasionally.

I very much doubt that you and I will ever be exempt from that kind of scrutiny either. As long as there is breath in our bodies, someone is bound to question whether or not we measure up in one way or another.  Truthfully, dear reader, as long as God considers you to be a man or woman after His own heart, it doesn’t matter in the least what anyone else thinks  —and here’s the kicker; that includes you!

Most of us need to learn to forgive ourselves a little more readily.  Why is it so easy to forget others’ mistakes and failures, but cling to our own like some unshakeable disease, when the Lord promised: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).  Furthermore, Scripture informs us, He takes our iniquities and casts them into depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).

Thus, the next time you are tempted to dredge up your own past failures, remember that you don’t even know where God’s sea of forgotten iniquity is, so you couldn’t possibly going fishing in it even if you wanted to. Besides, there’s nothing in there worth retrieving anyway.

The next time an enemy throws your past in your face just smile and hand him a mirror.  Oops, scratch that –I was just thinking out loud; I’m sure you can think of something a little more spiritual.

Finally, every time the enemy tries to bring condemnation by reminding you of your past, simply remind him of his future.

None of us are perfect, but if we remain faithful to the Lord and His instruction, we will measure up in the end; He will see to that!

He That Answereth a Matter

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So what’s on my mind today? The words of Stephen R. Covey: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Yesterday I was involved in a back-and-forth email discussion. My own submission would, I knew, challenge a few people, but I also felt it was okay to share. The discussion was going well enough until I checked on today’s responses to see how the conversation had progressed. Not surprisingly, a few folks decided to offer their rebuke both in the group discussion and by private email as well.

Show of hands, how many of you have had a similar experience? I see that hand, God bless you.

The sad thing is that those who chose to rebuff me had not actually taken the time to check their facts. I had been examining the topic in the article I shared for well over a year and am quite certain the information is valid; they, on the other hand, simply went to one of those  “Ask a Question” websites and found an opposing answer from someone who was hardly qualified to give it, someone who was clearly not knowledgeable about the subject; then proceeded to copy it and paste it into the discussion thread to “prove” that I had presented heresy.

Am I angry? No, at least not any more. As the old saying goes, “Let the ignorant be ignorant still.” (which by the way, is a saying that is rooted in I Corinthians).

However, the incident was a timely reminder to myself to heed, and to practice, the words of Proverbs 18:13: He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

Dear reader, if you didn’t raise your hand earlier, you will almost certainly have occasion to do so at some point. How will you react? You and I cannot stop others from rebuffing us unjustly, but we certainly have control over how we engage with others. Thus, we have the responsibility to not only choose our own words wisely, but also to dismiss the words of a scoffer like water off a duck’s back — I ask you, how often have you seen a disgruntled duck?

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Watching the Wasps

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But godliness with contentment is great gain.
1 Timothy 6:6

Today I saw several wasps and they were utterly engaging. I watched, with awe, as they industriously visited each trumpet flower in search of sweet nectar. And surprisingly, I marveled at how beautiful they were, in their own way. This may seem quite insignificant, yet you would be impressed if only you knew how much I detested wasps in the not-so-distant past. Granted, I generally love all of God’s creation, but there are certain creatures, wasps, for instance, that cause me consternation rather than pleasure. In all fairness, my wasp phobia was the direct result of being allergic to their stings, but that understanding did little to improve my attitude.

Why the sudden change?

As I have previously shared, the last several months have been quite difficult for me. My health had been in decline for quite a while, when a week-and-half ago, I landed in the emergency room with a  new, daunting challenge –one that will take a bit to overcome. As a result, I find that my physical senses are dulled. However, the opposite may be said of my spiritual and emotional senses —they have only been heightened.

My experience riding home from the doctors’ office was much like that of watching the wasps. I have always tried to be content living here, in the flatlands of the Midwest where God has placed me, but my heart has always dreamt of living in a cabin near cool mountain streams and flowered meadows, of hiking  through scenic mountain trails. Sometimes, if I close my eyes and shut out the sights and sounds of the city, I can almost smell the evergreens. This only deepens my longing. But today, much to my amazement, I looked  upon  this old, familiar scenery in a whole new way; it never looked as pleasant or as beautiful, nor have I ever appreciated it as much.

Physical challenges seem to have a way of changing our perspective, but why must it take something like this, I wondered, to allow me to fully enjoy certain things. I promptly repented for all the times I grumbled about my dull and unappealing surroundings. Yes, my heart will continue to dream of all the beautiful places that I would love to visit, but I have determined  to be more like the Apostle Paul who said, “I have learned to be content in whatever situation I am in.” (Philippians 4:11).

There is, after all,  great peace in contentedness.

Like A Flood

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Where have I been for the last few months, you might ask? Truthfully, I have been battling a rather serious health issue; one that has knocked me down more than once, but rest assured, I’m not down for the count. In fact, I plan to resume blogging now, despite my weakened condition. But first, I want to share a post from my archives because it seemed very appropriate amid the physical and emotional storms that so many are facing. I will share this post both here, and on my Rays of Light page, but check back soon because no matter what, God’s mercies are too great to keep silent and I will, Lord willing, be adding new posts to both sites very soon.

Today, as I gazed upon the brightest, most beautiful sky that I have seen in weeks, I couldn’t help but think of those living in flood-ravaged areas; and right now, there are plenty of those. I also wept for a few dear friends who are going through some very devastating storms in their personal lives. It seems that so many of us are going through heavy storms of one type or another. Don’t give up, friends, even when those storms seem to come against you………..

LIKE A FLOOD

Sometimes God calms the storm. Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child.

This past weekend, the weather here was horrendous. We were hit with the whole gamut of storm threats, including tornadoes, hail and flooding. In fact the hail stone pictured –or should I say hail boulder- was one of many that pounded this region. There was quite a bit of property loss in our area, but praise the LORD, there were no serious injuries.

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I thought of the second half of Isaiah 59:19: When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. However, the ancient Hebrew texts did not have commas, or paragraphs for that matter, so instead of reading:

When the enemy shall come in like a flood —the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him

the verse could just as easily read

When the enemy shall come in —like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.

What’s the difference? The difference is where you place the emphasis. Dear reader, when you are bombarded with the storms of life, do you focus more on the storm, or on the one who can calm it?

It is only natural to feel completely overwhelmed at times. Undoubtedly, many of the folks here that lost their homes in the tornadoes felt that way. I’m sure they could relate to the words of King David did when he penned the following:

My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.
Psalm 55:4-8 NIV

But David didn’t stop there, allowing his situation to flood him with despair. Instead, he confidently proclaimed, “As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me” (verse 16).

Dear reader, I leave you with these encouraging words from the same Psalm; may they flood you with peace during your roughest storms.

“Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved (verse 22).

(Like a Flood originally posted April 2012)

Depths of Despair

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“Can’t you even imagine you’re in the depths of despair?” Anne (of Green Gables) asked. “No I cannot,” was the reply. “To despair is to turn your back on God.”

Although I see Mirilla’s point, I don’t entirely agree. The Lord God understands all of our human frailty and our pain, even when we slip into the “depths of despair”  and I am very grateful that he does. Even though I am a person of faith, I felt pretty far down in those depths recently, because the last month has been an extremely difficult one; filled with an overwhelming amount of emotional pain.

Thankfully, the Lord never forsakes us in our time of need. While I sat in the therapeutic massage chair at my chiropractor’s office, feeling the wonderful relief of muscles relaxing, I enjoyed the soothing instrumental music. Aside from the sweet presence of the Lord, I was alone in the room at the time and therefore felt comfortable quietly singing the lyrics  to myself:

“… My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”

Very gently, the Lord spoke to my heart and reminded me to nail my burdens to the cross and bear them no more. As a Christian, I know to do that, but sometimes, I get so distracted with pain and such, I simply don’t relax in the promises of the Lord; promises for peace and comfort. Can you relate?

Today, I am reminded of the thirtieth chapter of I Samuel. When King David and his men returned to their city and found it burned, and all the women [and children] carried away captive, David was “greatly distressed” yet he “encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”

Dear reader, we are only human; we will experience pain, and sometimes we might even feel that we are in the “depths of despair.” Surely, the apostle Paul felt this way at times, but he too encouraged himself in the Lord. I’m sure he never denied feeling despair, but he boldly denied its right to remain. We can certainly learn from his example. He encouraged others by reminding them, as I now remind you:

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed…” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

<< To read the incredible account of  why   “It is Well with my Soul”  was written,  click here: IN THE MIDST OF PAIN, GOD! >>

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On My Knees

Cleaning: Getting More Soapy Water

Some day, I plan to buy a steam cleaner for my kitchen and bathroom floors. But I have to admit, there are times when I actually enjoy getting on my hands and knees and scrubbing them the old-fashioned way. Of course, I do have a mop and bucket, but once-in-a-while I just get that toothbrush-to-the-nooks-and-crannies, kind of urge to do some deeper cleaning.

Last week, while I was on my knees scrubbing away, it occurred to me that some of the most rewarding things in my life are done on my knees —playing with children, cleaning, gardening, and praying, to name a few.

If only I could get up and down like I used to!

Since I can’t, I find the time on my knees is becoming less and less frequent. And for that reason, I don’t even pray on my knees as much as I used to. This has never really concerned me though, since our Lord hears our prayers despite our physical position. Many times, the luxury of praying on bended knee is not afforded us. In fact, it was reported of General Stonewall Jackson, “While the battle was raging and the bullets were flying, Jackson rode by, calm as if he were at home, but his head was raised toward heaven, and his lips were moving evidently in prayer.”¹

Still, there is just something special about those times spent on our knees in prayer. Scripture informs us that even Jesus prayed this way at times. Thus, I leave you with the following words from the apostle Paul:

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21).

¹ America’s God and Country, William J. Federer, p.27

In Memory of…

In loving tribute to my dear friend, Barbara “Hugs” Hammond, who crossed into eternity January 7, 2015

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Everyone needs to have some “hugs” in their life. I am so grateful that Barbara was mine for so many years. 

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The following  is a re-post (edited slightly) from several years ago, but Barbara, being the blessing that she was, inspired me to write this one in the first place, so I thought it only fitting to share again.

click on this link →   FRIED WORMS

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“I Just Gotta Eat!”

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Ah, the simplistic honesty of children. Years ago, when our oldest son was three, we had asked him to pray over the evening meal. He bowed his head and exhaled deeply. Then, with great intensity, he said these exact words: “Dear God, I JUST GOTTA EAT!”

Those words have echoed through my thoughts many times over the years. Seldom in regards to physical food, though. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Yet I find that there are times in my life, like now, when it seems the more spiritual food I eat, the hungrier I get.

To be honest, there have been times when I was spiritually hungry because I skipped a few meals. But this isn’t one of those times. I hope that everyone senses what I do. I truly believe we are on the brink of a very special move of God. Our world is in distress and times are getting darker, but the beautiful, sweet presence of God is moving over the face of the earth to bring comfort and joy to all who will receive it.

I also sense a fresh awakening of God’s people. It seems that so many have been drowsy for too long. Content to live on fast food, spiritually speaking, we have become sluggish and unhealthy. All the while, God has offered us a well-balanced banquet and bids us to come eat.

Partaking of spiritual food parallels the physical. The more spiritual manna we partake of, the healthier and stronger we become. In turn, we find ourselves becoming more energetic and active again. Rather than being couch potatoes, we find ourselves being about the Father’s business all the more. And this increased level of activity, creates more hunger in our hearts.

Obviously, I’m not the only one who is getting hungrier. All across this nation, people are crying out to God for more- more of His presence, more of His power. And God is faithfully answering because He never turns away the hungry.

It is truly my heart’s desire that everyone- those who know God and those who do not, will begin to feel such hunger pains that we more fervently seek our heavenly Father and cry out to Him, “Dear God, I JUST GOTTA EAT.”