Monday, January 4, 2010

What do you believe?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been stuck on John 20 recently in my bible reading. Today I read the following verses:

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 So the other disciples were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."
26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."
27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing."
28 Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
29 Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."

John 20:24-29

Why is it so hard to believe in something that we haven't seen? I know there have been times where I thought it would be so much easier if I had lived when Jesus lived and witnessed first hand His Majesty. But would I have been one of the scoffers, or one of the believers? I hope that I would have been one of the believers, and fear that I would have been one of the multitude yelling, "Crucify Him!"

However, when I make a choice to sin instead of following Christ, or believe the lies that throw me into a self-pitying pool of depression, is that not me yelling, "Crucify Him!"? Even now, God is stripping my and exposing my sins one by one. But even through this, Christ is taking me and saying, "you are Mine!" and scouring each of the sins from my life. I use the word scouring, because He is not just removing the sins that I have embraced for so long, but He is removing them and refining me with fire.

I think the reason that I doubt sometimes as mentioned in my previous post is that I see the other possibly real Christians around me that look like they are not walking through the fires at all. They have everything that we judge to be the perfect Christian life: the kids, the home, the car, the attitude, the missionary work, the homeschool, etc... The list goes on and on.

And then I look at my life thinking here I am trying to trust in God, believing that His work will be done, loving my children wishing I could be at home with them as a good Christian mother would do... but then slowly, I am realizing am I not coveting my neighbor's life? There I go breaking the tenth commandment.

So what should I believe? That I can have my best life now? Or that if I endure, and wait patiently on God, that He will finish the work He has started in me until at last I can stand before Him and hear Him say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." I don't think I have a choice in what I believe anymore. I have to believe in Jesus Christ and the promise that He has made that "whosoever should believe in Him [Jesus Christ] should not perish but have eternal life" John 3:16. Not because it is the right thing to do, or because some preacher told me it's how I can get into heaven.

No, it is only because God told me that by trusting in Him and believing the promise of His Son, that I am His and it doesn't matter how much scouring or fire I have to endure, it is no more that I deserve from a just and merciful God who sent His Son to bear the wrath for my sins all the while hearing me joyfully proclaim, "Crucify Him!"...

What do you believe?

The art of living a Christian life

Care of Grace Gems

(J. R. Miller, "How to Live a Beautiful Christian Life" 1880)

"Whoever claims to live in Him--must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6

We have only successfully acquired the art of living a Christian life--when we have learned to apply the principles of true religion, and enjoy its help and comfort in our daily life.

It is easy to join in devotional exercises, to quote Bible promises, to extol the beauty of the Scriptures. But there are many who do these things--whose religion utterly fails them in the very places and at the very times--when it ought to prove their staff and stay!

All of us must go out from the sweet services of the Sunday--into a week of very real and very commonplace life. We must mingle with people who are not angels! We must pass through experiences, that will naturally worry and vex us. Those about us, either wittingly or unwittingly, annoy and try us! We will meet many troubles and worries in ordinary week-day life. There are continual irritations and annoyances!

The problem is to live a beautiful Christian life--in the face of all these hindrances! How can we get through the tangled briers which grow along our path--without having our hands and feet torn by them? How can we live sweetly--amid the vexing and irritating things, and the multitude of little worries and frets which infest our way, and which we cannot evade?

It is not enough merely to 'get along in any sort of way', to drag to the close of each long, wearisome day--happy when night comes to end the strife. Life should be a joy--and not a burden. We should live victoriously, ever master of our experiences, and not tossed by them like a leaf on the dashing waves. Every earnest Christian wants to live a truly beautiful life, whatever the circumstances may be.

A little child, when asked 'what it was to be a Christian,' replied, "For me, to be a Christian is to live as Jesus would live--and behave as Jesus would behave--if He were a little girl and lived at our house."

No better definition of the Christian life could be given. Each one of us is to live just as Jesus would--if He were living out our little life in the midst of its actual environment, mingling with the same people with whom we must mingle, and exposed to the very annoyances, trials and provocations to which we are exposed. We want to live a life that will please God, and that will bear witness to the genuineness of our piety.

"Leaving you an example--so that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

Sunday, January 3, 2010

One cannot have an omelet--without breaking eggs!

Care of Grace Gems

The goal of noble living, is to gather new virtue and grace--from all life's struggles, cares and sorrows.

A mark of a all noble character--is its desire to do hard things!

The man who seeks only easy things--will never make much of his life.

One who is afraid of hard work--will never achieve anything worth while.

In an art gallery, before a lovely masterpiece, a young artist said to Ruskin, "Ah! If only I could put such a dream on canvas!" "Dream on canvas!" growled the old master. "It will take ten thousand touches of the brush on the canvas--to put your dream there!" No doubt, many beautiful dreams die in the brains and hearts of people--for lack of effort to make them realities.
In all departments of life--this indolent, easy-going way of getting on in life--is working its mischief. People do only what is easy--and never grapple with anything that is hard.

Indolence is the bane of countless lives! They do not rise--because they have not the courage and persistence to climb!

There are too many people who try to shirk the hard things. They want to get along as easily as possible. They have ambition of a certain sort--but it is ambition to have the 'victory' without the battle; to 'get the gold' without digging for it. They would like to be learned and wise--but they do not care to toil in study, and "burn the midnight oil," as they must do--if they would realize their desire. They may have a certain longing to be noble and Christlike, with a character that will command respect and confidence--but they have not the spirit of self-denial and of earnest moral purpose, which alone can produce such a character.

They may want to be godly and to grow into worthy manhood--but lack that passionate earnestness which alone will yield vigorous piety, and manly virtue, and the heroic qualities of true Christlikeness. Mere "holy dreaming" will yield nothing better than spiritual effeminacy! No religion is worthy--which does not seek to attain the best things; and the best can be won only by the bravest struggle and the most persistent striving!

We should not forget, that no one ever did anything of great value in this world--without cost. A quaint old proverb says, "One cannot have an omelet--without breaking eggs!" If we would do anything really worth while, that will be a blessing in the world--we must put into it, not merely . . . easy efforts, languid sympathies, conventional good wishes, and courtesies that cost nothing!

We must put into it . . . thought, time, patience, self-denial, sleepless nights, exhausting toil.

There is a legend of an artist who had found the secret of a wonderful 'red' which no other artist could imitate. The secret of his 'color' died with him. But after his death an old wound was discovered over his heart. This revealed the source of the matchless hue in his pictures. The lesson of the legend is . . . no great achievement can be made, no lofty attainment can be reached, nothing of much value to the world can be done--except at the cost of heart's blood!

"I labor--struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me!" Colossians 1:29

(J. R. Miller, "Choosing to Do Hard Things" 1902)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Outward Appearance

A comment was left in chinese on one of my posts that was removed because it contained a link to an inappropriate site. However, I thought the comment itself was interesting (after translating it). The individual stated that the way something appears is not always consistent with the facts themselves and people are easily deceived by the superficial facade.

It's interesting, because I have been thinking a lot about this lately. The fact that there are so many people who claim to be Christian, even in the current movement toward evangelism, etc., who may not truly be Christian. I have to admit there are times I have my doubts even about myself, especially when stumbling through the trials that I am facing.

I think I stated in a previous post that it is so difficult to stay in the middle of the pendulum between liberalism and legalism. Lately I have been struggling with the pendulum being stuck too close to legalism and have almost become cynical about anything that I don't believe shows a true conversion. Yet who am I to judge? I know that I shouldn't, but since my flesh is weak, I find that there are times where I do judge someone who isn't acting or living the way that I think that they should if they are a true Christian. Instead of loving the person and hoping that they are saved or attempting to covert them, I get frustrated with them and scrutinize every word that comes out of their mouth.

Unfortunately, this has carried over to my church and I no longer like going. I go in order to help my husband with the Children's praise band and sometimes listen to the Children's Minister's biblical lesson. However, that is the extent that I have been involved at church lately.

The reason I am posting this struggle is that I have learned through this, that I must always be on guard against cynicism and judgementalism. Even if I don't think someone is Christian doesn't mean that God isn't working in or on them. Who am I to come along and crush the seed that has been planted or the tender sprout by my hyper-legalism? Unfortunately, I think that there have been too many times where I have done this.

Even Samuel in the Old Testament did this in a way when choosing the new king:

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

"This is a lesson the church needs to learn today. When
we look for leaders, we often seek those who possess certain characteristics
that we think spell success and ability. We look for people of influence,
power, intelligence and means. God, however, looks for people of integrity
and character. He wants people who are faithful and holy. What a
contrast! God is not nearly as impressed with people’s achievements as we
are. He is not concerned about the beauty of our outward man. He is
caught up in the condition of our heart!

"As God looks at your life, what does He see? Does He
see a handsome face, a pleasing physical appearance and a well-kept,
well-dressed body? No, He sees your heart. He sees the real
you! But, here is the real question: Does God see a heart that He can
use? Or, does He say about your life the same thing He said about Eliab,
“I have refused him?” What does God see in your heart?

"By the way, often we judge people by what they are.
God, on the other hand, looks at what they can become. Thank God He judges
us on the basis of amazing grace, not what the eye can see."

--Alan Carr, Sermon Notes