My Seemingly Ridiculous, Backwards, Illogical, Inside-out Obsession

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I might be obsessed. Actually, if I’m going to be honest, I know I’m obsessed, but he is a wonderful obsession. And if anything, I want to be even more obsessed with him in 2016.

People often struggle with their view of God. I know I have!

Who is He? What is He like? What does He want from us? Sometimes we see Him as angry, or distant, or full of punishment. We think He expects certain behaviors from us and is disappointed in our failures. We see Him waving a list of rules to follow.

Do you want to know what God is like? Take a close look at someone who is called “the exact image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) Oh my goodness! He is ridiculous, and amazing, and crazy, and wonderful! And the more I get to know Him and the more I learn about Him, the more I fall in love and the more obsessed I become.

His name is Jesus

  • Sometimes we see God as distant and aloof, but Jesus came as a baby and lived with His creation for 30 years before beginning His years of ministry. He was right here with us, doing all the things we do, God quietly living with mankind.
  • God definitely doesn’t play favorites. He chose nobodies from a nothing town to be His earthly parents when He could have come to royalty, He had angels announce His Presence to the outcasts of society (shepherds) and then no one else on the night of His birth. His followers were a bunch of uneducated fisherman and a hated tax collector, and He spent most of His time with “country folk” in Galilee.
  • I used to think that God cared about rules and performance. But, the only people Jesus “yelled at” when He was here on earth were the guys making and following all the rules, the religious ones who were so caught up in themselves that they missed the God they were supposedly serving.
  • I used to think that God withdrew from me and was disappointed in me when I sinned, but every sinner that Jesus encountered, felt His love, His grace, and His forgiveness. Yes, He told them to leave their sin, but He wasn’t harsh or judgmental. (And as God, He had every right to be.)
  • Jesus hung out with children, women, (neither were valued much in those days) and obvious sinners. And he repeatedly said that these were the people who would make up His kingdom. How is that for the most Powerful Being in the Universe?
  • And then, Jesus accepted His purpose, allowed Himself to be ridiculed, tortured, and brutally murdered because He wanted us back and He knew it was the only way. What kind of a God is this?

I could go on and on…but I will leave you with this.

If you are struggling with how to view God, either because of a church, or other Christians in your life, or your family, or whatever, look at Jesus. Read the gospels. Soak in His words. Dig into the history and the customs of the time so that you can really appreciate Him. Step into His ridiculous, illogical, backwards, inside-out kingdom…where the weak are strong, wisdom is foolishness, death brings life, and you can get everything for nothing. Let Jesus blow your mind, and quiet your heart. Let Him love you for no other reason than because He does. Cry because you are happy. And then…

Realize this, He. is. God.

Anything that you believe about God that doesn’t match up with Jesus, is a lie. Let it go.

Finding Hope this Christmas

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The lights seemed to twinkle. I sat in the quiet morning, the only one awake, staring at my Christmas tree. My Bible was in my lap; a cup of coffee in my hand. I should have been feeling peace and contentment, delighting in this special season, right? Yeah, not so much. Instead, I was very aware of the wrongness in the world, and I was feeling depressed, dissatisfied, and hopeless.

“Why, God? Why don’t you stop it? Why don’t you fix it? The world is so screwed up! When are you going to do something?”

“Two thousand years ago”

It always surprises me when God actually answers me, not out loud, but in my heart. (Although, out loud would be surprising too!)

I was out of time at the moment, kids to wake up and get out the door. So I couldn’t keep contemplating God’s answer. A couple hours later, I was alone driving in the car and my thoughts went something like this…

Yup, the world is a mess; it’s broken. Christmastime can make us even more aware of that brokenness. This deceptive holiday pretending it should be a time of warmth, smiles, and tingly feelings, but often more a time of stress, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and frustration. Humph! But, what am I supposed to be celebrating? Jesus. The hope of the world. Baby Jesus. This story is too familiar. God, let me see it new!

Jesus coming to earth. This is where everything really changed. Before Jesus: laws, and rules, and animal sacrifices, reminding us that we couldn’t be perfect, that we were separated from God. There were promises of hope, vague prophecies yet to be fulfilled, stories that pointed to something coming, but it wasn’t clear. And then, something crazy happened, something hinted at, but never guessed. The Creator became one of His creations. God quietly slipped into the world. Coming as a baby. The Savior was here. Hope was born.

I found myself crying and smiling at the same time.

The world hasn’t changed. It’s still a broken mess. But, Jesus… Jesus brings hope.

I would encourage you these next few weeks to find a quiet chunk of time where you can really contemplate what it meant for Jesus to come to Earth. Let it sink in and be reminded of the hope we have because of Him!

 

Stay tuned! I’ve got more to say about Jesus. 🙂 Up next, how Jesus destroys our false views of God!

 

 

 

Islam is Not the Enemy

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Warning: This is a rant. You might get offended.

Refuges, gun control, Muslims, Islam…hot topics in the last few weeks. Facebook is full of it: articles, memes, statuses, etc. Everyone has an opinion. People calling themselves Christians have opinions. And now I am going to get blunt. Some of their posts and the things they share are downright ignorant and offensive. Christians, this post is for you, those of you who claim to believe in Jesus as your Savior, I’m going to remind you of a couple of things and inform you of some others. Here we go! 🙂

Islam is not the enemy. Muslims are not the enemy, not even radical ones who commit acts of terrorism.

  • Did you know that a Muslim can never be certain if they are going to heaven or not? That they just have to hope in the mercy of Allah, hope that in the end their good deeds will outweigh their bad ones?
  • Did you know that most prayers in Islam are simply a repeated ritual and that Allah is not portrayed as a personal god to be known?
  • Did you know that the Quran cannot be read “in context” because the verses don’t always go together with the next verse? It was compiled after Muhammad’s death by men who had listened to him and memorized what he said. The first complete manuscript on record is dated 200 years after Muhammad’s death.
  • Did you know that in order to understand the Quran, Muslims rely on hadith, Muhammad’s words and actions recorded in tradition, kind of like biographies? Different types of Muslims rely on different authors because they don’t always agree.
  • Did you know that while Islam teaches that Jesus was a historical character, even a prophet, he was NOT the Son of God, he did NOT die on the cross, and he was NOT raised to life?

Islam is not the enemy. Just reading over these few points reminds me who the real enemy is – someone who not only hates God but also hates the people He created. Someone who is really good at telling lies and spinning half-truths. Someone whose main goals are to steal, kill, and destroy. The enemy is Satan. Muslims are just lost children of God.

And these precious people are never going to find the truth about Jesus if the only Christians they encounter are so filled with fear and worry that all they can do is hate. They will never find Jesus if the Christians they meet don’t know their Bible, because devout Muslims not only know the Quran and the hadith, they also know the Bible. These lost children will never meet Jesus if they don’t meet Christians who know Him, who have an active relationship with Him.

So, Christians, stop it! Stop being afraid of what you don’t understand. Get educated. Stop expecting this world to be comfortable and satisfying. Stop being shocked and horrified when bad things happen. This is not our home! We were made for more! Stop living for yourself. Use your short vapor of a life to share Jesus because it’s gonna be over really soon. Stop fearing death or the unknown! Be bold, be confident, be fearless because you have the God of the Universe living inside of you, closer than your next breath. Stop believing lies! Start trusting in the truth.

These things that consume our thoughts, and the news, and our Facebook wall…none of them really matter. This world that seems to be falling apart just a little bit more every day…who cares? Let it fall! Because…

Two thousand years ago, a baby quietly slipped into our world. In a tiny town, in a tiny country, looking like an unplanned pregnancy with an unwed mother. Announced not to celebrities, but to a few despised shepherds. Laid not in a cradle, but in a stone feeding trough. Seemingly insignificant, but changing history. A baby, God. Choosing to live humbly among His people. Born to die. The One who spoke the world into existence dependent on His creation for nourishment. The backwards, inside-out, incomprehensible Kingdom had begun. The Promise fulfilled. God with man once again. Restoration. Hope. Peace. Life. Future!

Do you believe this? Do you? Then let’s live it! Let’s go all in! Let’s read God’s Word. Let’s believe it and live it! Let’s love Him and love people! Let’s get to know Him and follow Him. Let’s give Jesus our lives, let Him live through us, let Him change us! Let’s do this! Are you with me?

 

 

IMG_3645If you are interested in getting better informed about Islam, and better understanding Muslims, I just read a fabulous book called “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity” by Nabeel Qureshi. Wow! Such a powerful story! Not only does it help to explain Islam, it also provides strong supports for Christianity. It might be my new favorite book and is available at Christian books stores for $17.99 or on Amazon for $13.99.

 

 

Chased by Grace – How God’s Word Changed a Life

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I love hearing stories (testimonies) about people finding Jesus, so I am going to be sharing a few of my favorites with you! You can find them under the “And Then I Met Jesus” category.

This first story is from my husband’s great-uncle Jim. The italicized words are my summary and the regular words are Uncle Jim’s. I hope you enjoy this account of the relentless pursuit of Jesus and the power of His living Word.

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Jim was raised in a loving, Christian home, exposed to the Bible, and taught the difference between right and wrong. He even married a wonderful, Christian girl who tried to keep him grounded and encouraged him to go to church, but he wasn’t interested.

“I suppose when it comes right down to it, I was completely without excuse. Like many, I ran away from the very thing needed for a fulfilled life; I ran away from God. I spent the first fifty-four years of my life without any desire for God. I was such a beach person and ocean enthusiast; I use to think I enjoyed that recreation because I had evolved from an ocean creature and was just returning to my origins. Perhaps I was an atheist or an agnostic, who knows, all I know is that my life had moved away from God and any plan he had for me. But, God has his ways.”

Through a course of events, Jim lost his job on the East Coast and was reassigned to an office in Southern California. Nothing went smoothly, and because their house wouldn’t sell, he ended up packing his car and driving across the country by himself. Jim was looking forward to the 4-5 day drive:  the freedom to choose his route, enjoy good restaurants, and listen to great music all by himself. God had other plans.

“Within the first hour, things changed. I realized there wasn’t going to be any music coming from my radio since it was on the fritz. Unless I had cassette music, which I didn’t, it would be 4-5 days of total silence. Shortly after beginning my journey west, I pulled off the freeway to get a cup of coffee. As I pulled into the parking spot, I noticed a lady just opening up her bookstore. I went in and started to look around. Long story short, I walked out ten minutes later having purchased a set of Bible cassette tapes Old and New Testament.

Just weeks before this, Jim had been in another bookstore in Canada and purchased a book on Bible prophecy. God was beginning to move in his heart. So, what made him decide to buy the Bible cassettes?

“Regarding the cassette tapes, I remember thinking it would be a good opportunity to take a close look at what the Bible was all about, since I really hadn’t paid much attention to it before. Besides, I didn’t have much else to do for the next 4-5 days and it would be a good chance for me to check it out and see if it was true. I got back on the freeway and was a few hours into Genesis when I remembered that I hadn’t gotten my cup of coffee. That was the reason I had pulled off the freeway in the first place! It seemed a bit odd, I thought. I pulled off again and got an extra large cup to keep me going.

After several days of continuous listening to the Bible, I was getting so engrossed that I would not even get out of the car to have lunch at a restaurant. Instead, I would search for a fast food drive thru so that I could keep the tapes playing. I even felt annoyed when I had to interrupt the cassette to order my food.”

Jim found himself feeling frustrated with the Jewish people. They were so stubborn and rebellious, but God just kept loving them. It seemed clear to Jim what God wanted from the Israelites, but they were always going off in their own direction. He was intrigued when God punished them, but then forgave them, and started dealing with them in love all over again.

“I had the sense that God really loved these Jewish people more than anyone else. In fact, I think I was jealous. I remember thinking that maybe I should call my mother when I got into my motel room that night to see if we had any Jewish blood in our family somewhere. Sort of silly now that I think of it, but it just pointed out how clear the Bible was about God’s love for these people. I grew up in a Christian family, so I knew enough about the Bible to know that God had a plan for all people, not just the Jews. About the time I entered California, my Bible cassettes were getting into the New Testament. That picture of God’s love for all people became clear, but I was not ready to believe it, not yet.”

At, the end of the fifth day, Jim made it to Long Beach, CA where he had an extended-stay hotel room waiting for him near his new job. Instead of going to his hotel though, Jim continued to drive around the local area because he didn’t want to stop listening to the New Testament. It finally dawned on him that he could purchase a portable cassette player and finish the Bible in his room. It was the weekend and Jim had a few days before his new job started so he was able to finish his audio Bible.

“I found a church close by that first Sunday and picked up a few Christian books to read that discussed various aspects of Christian theology. The next few weeks were a challenge for me. First, my new job was on the very fringe of my skill set. Second, I was getting frustrated with my time examining what the Bible was all about and who this God was. This was mostly due to my drinking habits.

Alcohol had become a part of Jim’s lifestyle as he spent years entertaining clients and enjoying first class flights and free drinks. After a long day at his new job, he would head back to the hotel and have a glass or two of wine as he read his new Christian books. Problem was, he would fall asleep and when he woke up the next morning everything he read was a blur. In frustration, Jim would pour the remaining wine down the sink. This became a pattern: buy a bottle of wine to enjoy with Christian books, fall asleep, wake up frustrated, and pour out the rest of the wine. Finally, he’d had enough! Jim realized that he needed Jesus.

“It was clear that God loves each one of his creations and had this wonderful plan for their lives. Every morning, I would resolve to take wine out of my life so I could understand more clearly what his plan was. One morning, after again not being able to remember clearly what I had read, I got down on my knees and cried and asked God to take away my urge for alcohol. I told him I could not do it on my own. I asked him to be a real part of my life and to take control. It was an emotional time for me. I was never an emotional type, but I understood my needs and my weaknesses.”

Jim saw his weakness and sin and understood his need. He believed in Jesus as his own Savior (John 3:16-18) and he found eternal life. The Spirit of Jesus Christ came into Jim and began to change him just as He has promised.

“Several weeks later, as I finished one of my books and was making notes in the margin, I realized it had been a few days since I’d had a glass of wine. It seemed strange that I did not notice it sooner. I can’t recall how many days of struggle I continued in before the grip had been broken. All I know is that I was spending more time reading Christian literature and waking up clear-minded in the morning remembering what I had read. God works in his own timing.

God has certainly changed my life and brought new meaning and purpose. It’s been twenty years now and I cannot thank him enough for his grace and forgiveness. My favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28. After I gave my life to Christ, I immediately felt I had wasted my earlier years. I had spent 54 years serving my shallow desires and worldly lifestyle. But Romans 8:28 suggested to me that all things, including my early years, work for good to those that love the Lord and are called according to his purpose. That verse helped me put my life in perspective. And indeed, God’s word is powerful. I’ve often said that the Bible should have a warning stamped on the front cover: “Caution, read at your own risk. This book will change your life!”

Isn’t this an amazing story of God’s grace and persistence in pursuing us? I love it! I hope you have been encouraged too. The Word of God is so powerful and His love is unstoppable!