In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Doubts of Faith - Hell

Fist off I want to make it clear that I absolutely believe in the existence of Hell. I just don't like it. It doesn't seem reasonable, fair, loving or kind to me. I'm not comfortable with it.

The thing I like best about Christianity is Jesus. When Jesus began His earthly ministry he spoke of His mission to bring the good news of healing and freedom, He was compassionate, He spent time with people who weren't popular, He was merciful, He had time for children. Jesus was tempted and didn't sin, and He died on the cross for me. Yes, I really adore Jesus. But you know what? Jesus had a lot to say about Hell.

Jesus described Hell as a place of torment and agony, a place where both a person's body and soul would be destroyed, a place where the fire is not quenched, and a place of darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus taught that people end up either in heaven or hell based on if they accept His sacrifice on their behalf and follow after Him, or not. So Hell is one of those Bible truths that I referred to in my preamble when I said I don't like it, but choose to believe in it because it is clearly taught in the Bible.

A small incident that occurred recently, underscores what seems all wrong to me about Hell. I watched a 2010 rendition of the Diary of Anne Frank on TV. As is typical, I wept in the ending where it showed the Franks and their attic mates being found and taken by the Nazis. Following that scene, this rendition went on to print out how each of them died, accounting how Anne died in a concentration camp. Later when I was talking with my husband John the thought came to both he and myself that it was possible that both Anne and Hitler ended up in Hell. Boy does that seem totally unreasonable! Hitler in hell seems just, but one of his victims- my heart says that's not fair! Now John went on to think it through and say that Anne may still have been a child and not at the "age of reason", also that God looks at the heart so we do not really know where Anne or anyone else ends up. While John's thoughts are true, they don't really address the larger issue that looms for me - there are lots and lots of wonderful people who have not accepted Christ as their savior and Lord and the Bible says they are all going to Hell. I hate that. Of course, the Bible does say that God's heart is that He loves mankind and so sent Jesus so that humanity could have a path to Him and avoid Hell.

Issues like Hell, are doubts of faith for me because they are Bible truths that I do not like or that do not seem right to me. When faced with this, I choose to be honest about how I feel, and still trust God. I often quote a phrase from a Steven Curtis Chapman song that says "God is God and I am not". I like how Michelle said in her comment on my my preamble, with regard to doubts in general, that she has faith but that it may be little. I have little faith too. I'm sure grateful that God takes my little faith and still chooses to bless and use me.

What about you, are you comfortable with the Bible teaching concerning Hell?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Terrific Tuesday with Bomi Jolly from Jolly Notes

Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is Bomi who writes at Jolly Notes. I was so pleased when I stumbled across Bomi's site because she shares slices from her very normal, day to day, life with Christ. Bomi is someone with whom it is easy for me to relate.

Bomi shares that her vision is that her site will be a source of positive inspiration for others. To encourage others in the life of faith that can lead to a joy that is ours no matter what our circumstances.

Here's a favorite post from Jolly Notes:

~ Secret Place ~

Hi everyone! Hope your week is going well so far! So, I have a confession to make :| .. I have a secret stash of Kitkat and other munchies hidden away downstairs. I am not a big chocolate or candy person.. but I absolutely love Kitkat. That delicious crunchy wafer bar just does it for me… aaaah..lol. And I promise you, this is not the reason for last’s week’s big bummed post. LOL. That one is purely a genetic thing, ask my sisters – we’re all wonderfully blessed like that :D !

So anyway… every once in a while, I’ll buy a pack of mini kitkat bars plus some other snacks with yummy crunchy nuts, you know, the itsy bitsy ones… and store them away. That way I don’t even remember they exist. And then all of a sudden, out of the blue, I’ll remember one day, smile to myself, head downstairs to my secret place and have a little treat. I will often hide and finish my bar before the kids can find out what’s going on lol, and other times I will bring some up and give them a little treat….always being very careful not to reveal my source;)! We always have a ton of fruits in the fridge, and whenever anyone of us gets hungry for a snack, the typical thing to do is to open up the fridge and grab a fruit. You can imagine what would happen if the kids found out about my hiding place…lol. Hubby knows I have a hiding place but he could care less lol, he’s not into munchies. And that’s just fine by me :D !

One evening, A little while ago, I had gone downstairs to treat myself. I sat on the bed in the guest room, happily munching away…. I then turned and saw my Bible on the bed, along with my favorite blanket. I was instantly reminded of how much fun I have had curled up on that bed, under that blanket, reading the Bible. The whole experience, me enjoying my kitkat and then seeing those items, just reminded me again how wonderfully delicious God, God’s presence, and God’s word is…

God speaks to us through his word and his word is waaay better than KitKat or any other yummy snack. We don’t have to take “mini bites” and “mini bars” every once in a while because we want to stay healthy and fit. Quite the contrary – “eating” God’s word makes us healthy! It strengthens, refreshes, nourishes, uplifts, teaches, corrects, motivates, encourages and inspires us… and helps us grow stronger everyday. The more time we spend in God’s presence, the more we get to know him and the more in love with him we become:)!

This morning, I woke up singing this song (by Maranatha singers) –

To keep your lovely face, ever before my eyes
This is my prayer, Make it my strong desire
That in my secret heart…. No other love competes,
No rival throne survives, and I serve only you…

…. Amen! I pray that our hearts will always be turned to God. May we all get to know him better and better every day. I pray that our deepest, strongest desire – whether in secret or out in the open, will always be toward God. That we will always be excited about, and continue to gain lasting strength, joy and peace from God, His presence and His word. (Please click here to see more about Getting to Know God).

Here’s the verse/thought of the day:
Psalm 119:162I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.” (NRSV)

And here’s another great scripture to remember (Thanks Toyin!):
Psalm 91:1 “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. ” (KJV)

(See More Great Verses)

Have a wonderful rest of the week! Enjoy your munchies, Enjoy your fruits, and Pleeeease, Enjoy God:)!!!

Much Love & Blessings,

Bomi Jolly

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stuff I don't like about Christianity - Doubts of Faith

I love God. I'm grateful beyond anything words can ever express that He gave me the faith to believe in Him, that I have a relationship with the creator of the universe, that He cares for me, and that He has good plans for my life.

But to be totally transparent, there are things that I do not like in the Bible, things that actually seem wrong to me. There are also things I don't like about the way we do things as Christians. But none of these things changes my belief in God, or even my choice to accept those things that I can not seem to get around in the Bible as Truth, even if I do not like them.

One of the things that I've adored about the blogosphere has been encountering other Christians who seem to have some of the same questions and struggles as I. I've adored the honesty I've been gifted to experience through other people's writing. One of my favorites was when Matt, over at the Church of No People, had his Doubt Month recently where he posted about these types of things. I've also really enjoyed posts by Larry at Photogr Thinks and David at Fire and Grace where they've shared their struggles. I'm not as organized as Matt, so I won't have a month, or specific day of the week, when I post on these things. But I have decided to periodically use this opportunity to journal here and gain feedback concerning these issues of doubt, disgruntlement and frustration with which I struggle; I'm calling these my "doubts of faith".

They are doubts of faith because I still believe. I still choose to accept the Bible when I don't like what it has to say. I also choose to join together with others of faith, even when I am not happy with the way everything is done in the church, or with specific aspects of Christian culture. Mostly because I've tasted and seen how wonderful God is and want to keep living my life with Him in the drivers seat.

OK, so now that I've given this long preamble to set the stage for this and future posts, I can start periodically posting on my doubts of faith and get your feedback on these issues.

But, even before I start, I'm curious - do you have doubts of faith of your own? How do you handle them? Do you find other Christians open, loving and willing to discourse concerning your doubts? Or, have you had negative experiences when you've opened up and shared your struggles?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is where the next supreme court justice stands on abortion important?

As I read a news article this morning regarding President Obama's nominations for the Supreme Court, I was thinking about what vastly differently perspectives are held by "pro life" and "pro choice" individuals.

Our President used the popular language of the day when he was quoted as saying:

"I think part of what our constitutional values promote is the notion that individuals have protection in their privacy, and their bodily integrity, and women are not exempt from that,"

Translation = Women can have abortions if they choose since it's their bodies, and they have a right to privacy concerning this matter. Supreme Court nominees have a right to privacy as to their opinions concerning abortion as well.

I have no issues whatsoever with the concept of women who have had abortions having privacy. HIPAA laws ensure privacy regarding all medical records. However, I believe that where Supreme Court nominees stand on issues that are important to many Americans is another issue.

President Obama's comment "But I will say that I want somebody who will be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights. And that includes women's rights", leaves little doubt in my mind as to what kind of nominee he's really looking for even if he is claiming to not have a litmus test regarding abortion. Yet he wants to sound as if he'll choose the most qualified candidate to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens and that where this person stands on this issue will not matter. Of course it will matter.

How important do you think it is where the supreme court nominee stands regarding abortion? Who would you most like to see nominated? (Top Five picks discussed here)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Terrific Tuesday with May from Day & Night Devotions

Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is May Frank who writes at Day & Night Devotions.

May Frank is a spiritual mentor on a mission to join others in studying and spreading God’s word. She is married and the mother of two. In this post she wrote for today,
May stands ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be:

Can God forgive us of our sinful acts? 1 John 1:19 tells us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

We all have done some sort of sinful act against one another at one time or another in our life. As a result, many of us carry guilt and hurt. Only God can rid and heal us from of those burdens. God is a generous forgiver, stand ready to forgive us the very moment we sinned. He has promise his children if we confess He will forgive us. His ways are not like ways. Sometimes we have a hard time forgiving each other, but never God.

Throughout the Bible, God demonstrates acts of forgiveness to some of the most dreadful sins; David’s adultery with Bathsheba, and the blasphemy and persecution of Paul. If he could forgive them, he can and will forgive us.

God and only God can forgive us of our sins. Once He forgives us He purposely will not remember our sins anymore. God doesn’t hold a grudge nor does he keep a record of our sins. Our forgiveness is total and complete by the Grace of God. God know that our forgiveness of sins is our greatest need.


Ouch

Ever heard that expression "the Truth hurts"?

Well one of the hurtful self truths I've been dealing with lately is self absorption-I'm seeing more and more what a problem it is in my life. Pete Wilson posted this quote from A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God that I read this morning and it totally nailed me:

There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always possess. It covets “things” with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns “my” and “mine” look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant…

They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one root lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.



As I'm here thinking about my daily times with God, they are all too focused on me and my needs and what I want (even when what I'm wanting is for others). I recognize that it's been awhile since I just basked in His presence and sang songs of adoration to Him, focused on His Wonderfulness and praised Him.

I'm sure grateful for the Holy Spirit's conviction and the power He gives me to change.

What about you, do you ever fall into the me-me-me trap?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Trusting in what I don't see helps me deal with what I do see

God's been bringing me back to this truth repeatedly lately. That I need to choose to put my trust in God unconditionally. No matter what happens, even if things do not turn out at all as I'd like them, when I trust Him, I can move forward in life with peace, joy and gratitude.

As I've mentioned, I've been studying in Esther. I am inspired by Esther's words recorded in Esther 4:16 (NIV):

"Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish."

As I read this I see a woman trusting in the God she can't see. She's choosing to do what she believes God wants, even though it will most likely mean she will die. It was against the law to come before the King without being summoned and the penalty was death; the only way there could be a reprieve was if the King chose to extend his scepter toward the person who'd come before him without being summoned. Esther's choice to trust God and do what she believed to be right, regardless of consequences, encourages me to do the same.

I found this comment of Beth Moore's interesting

"Ironically, a person is never less aware of divine intervention than when he or she has been chosen to render it. Sometimes God's hand is so close that it covers the eyes.
"

This seems true to me; sometimes in the midst of things, it's too difficult to see clearly what is really going on. Sometimes God is using me, or protecting me, but I am not even aware until I look back later on the situation.

I've noticed that it's as if once I have settled in my heart and mind that I will do what I believe is right and stop trying to manipulate the outcomes, I'm then free to go ahead and live without being so stressed about how things are going to go. The truth is that I have very little control over how things are going to go anyway; I can only do what I believe to be right and then things are going to happen as they will. When I live with this attitude I find that I'm more free to enjoy the good stuff that is in life every day and live with an attitude of gratitude.

What about you, is trusting God easy or difficult for you? What has God been teaching you about trusting Him?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What do you do when tough stuff happens?

Both Larry from Photogr Thinks and Victor from Time for Reflections have been talking this week about the same thing that's been on my heart for quite a while lately - how to respond when bad things, unfair things, happen. Interestingly enough, the pastor at my church just started a sermon series on Easter Sunday on a related theme, how to be on solid ground during shaky times.

I'm grateful that as I'm dealing with my own difficult circumstances, God is faithful to provide encouragment through His Word and other Believers.

As I've been studying in the book of Esther during my quiet times I've really been pondering Esther 4:14B (NIV):

And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"

For me unfair life difficulties seem like an aberration, a glitch in the scheme of things. But Mordecai's words to Esther puts things into perspective - God knew before all creation that these events (in the case of Esther the events were that Haman had convinced King Xerxes that he should put all the Jews in the land to death) would take place, God knew that Esther would be there when these events occurred, and God had elevated Esther to the position of Queen so she could use her influence on Xerxes to resend the decision.

So I've been pondering the difficult situations in my life right now and asking God what is it that He wants from me in these situations? It's OK that I'm not too thrilled about these things - but what is the purpose that I'm supposed to be fulfilling?

To be totally transparent, I haven't received the answer yet. But I'm still choosing to trust God.

What about you, have you encountered difficult situations where you just knew God had put you, and you understood why He had you there?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Terrific Tuesday with Victor from Time for Reflections

Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is Victor Moubarak who writes at Time for Reflections which he describes as a little Christian whisper in the vast expanse which is the World Wide Web.

Victor has written a Christian fiction book "Visions" about the apparition of Christ in a small English town, featuring the amiable Father Ignatius. His Blog consists of short stories featuring Father Ignatius, as well as short articles to help us reflect on our Christian Faith. You can learn more about the book and Fr Ignatius on Victor's Blog.

Here's an article he has written especially for us to help us in our reflections:

WHEN THINGS GO WRONG

The world is frequently in turmoil; earthquakes, floods, droughts, famines and wars are often on our TV screens. As well as many more localised tragedies that occur near us, to us or to our loved ones; such as disasters, accidents, sudden serious illnesses and so on.

The usual knee-jerk reaction is to blame God. "Why did He let this happen? Does He not care?" are words often uttered or cross our minds when things go wrong.

I believe that God allows bad things to happen. He does not make them happen.

"Why?"

God allows these things to happen to serve His own purpose in His own time and in His own way. We really do not know why He allows them to happen; but we must trust Him. Difficult as it may be under the circumstances; we must trust Him.

When bad things happen, it is important to remember that God is still in control.

He is not hiding behind the sofa whimpering and trembling in fear.

He knows what has happened, how it affects people close to the event, and even people far away and totally detached from it. He never loses control of the situation.

Our reaction to these events is therefore vital. Our human nature will take over and all our emotions will come to the fore - shock, fear, denial, anger and so on.

However, when we have calmed down a little, we should turn to God and praise and thank Him.

"What did you just say? Praise Him?"

We are praising and thanking Him for still being in control of the situation - not because He allowed the bad thing to happen.

Our praise acknowledges His supreme power over the whole universe. We are in effect saying that we accept that He allowed the bad things to happen, yet we still trust Him, and trust that His will be done.

So let's Praise Him always - through gritted teeth even!

When we acknowledge, in such terrible situations, that His will is still paramount; we open a channel, in certain circumstances, for God to turn the situation to the good.

I have seen this happen several times.

Good will result from any bad situation as we praise God and acknowledge His will above all else.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Healing Tears

Tears can bring healing.

Yet so many of us were thoroughly steeped in the tradition of being strong, hearing that we either needed to "take it like a man", or that "big girls don't cry". That somehow our grief was wrong.

I can remember for years how I sublimated my pain and grief; how I only let it come out when I was reading a book or watching a movie. Then, while alone and reading, or in that dark movie theater, I would let myself vicariously experience the pain of someone else, and cry. That was my relief valve.

Through the years God has shown me the value of grieving, morning, and shedding tears. I've learned that it's an easier pain to just go with it for a time, to allow myself to feel the hurt. I've found that the pain will not consume me to such an extent that I will never be able to function again. That I can just let it out and receive God's comfort. I've experienced feeling through the pain to the other side when I can move on in life, past the pain.

Just recently, for a reason about which I am unclear, God is bringing me back to teaching about tears. As I'm studying the book Captivating by Stasi Eldridge with some friends, I've been reminded of a long ago favorite Bible passage from Psalm 56:8-10 (NLT):

8 You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.

9 My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
This I know: God is on my side!
10 I praise God for what he has promised;
Yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised.

Sometimes life just hurts. We all know it.

I'm so grateful that we have a God who is moved by our sorrow, for whom we are so important that He who created the universe takes note of each tear. I adore this quote from St. Augustine in his Confessions:

"The tears...streamed down, and I let them flow as freely as they would, making them a pillow for my heart. On them it rested."

Grief, tears, expressions of mourning - they all are a form of validation. They say that the hurt mattered. I'm grateful to know that the hurts matter to God as well.

What's something God's taught you about tears?

Monday, April 5, 2010

So everybody doesn't know what Easter is all about?

Yesterday during church the pastor showed a very short video that he'd made that has still got me to thinking.

He'd gone down to a local outdoor shopping mall called Victoria Gardens that is very popular in this area. He'd randomly talked to various people whom he encounered at this shopping center and asked them what Easter meant to them, why do we celebrate Easter. The people he questioned were various ages, ethnic gorups, genders, and looked extremely typical; people I would meet on the street. Out of those few people he questioned, not a single one appeared to know the Christian message of the risen savior. Two people appeared to know that it was about Jesus, and I'm not kidding, they said it was celebrating Jesus' birth. One hemmed and hawed and said that he used to know but just couldn't remember (this particular person was not old). The rest basically alluded to the cultural aspects such as family celebrations, easter eggs, bunnies, etc.

As I watched this short clip something in my spirit sank. I kept asking - how can people be so unaware of the message of Jesus? Have we as Christians become so insulated from the rest of the world that no one has any idea what we believe? I couldn't help but feel like somehow, as a group, we're failing....more importantly, I began questioning what can I do different. How can I have more impact on the people around me?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Grateful



On this good Friday I'm thinking about how grateful I am for what Jesus did for me.

Isaiah 53(MSG)

1 Who believes what we've heard and seen? Who would have thought God's saving power would look like this?
2-6The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong,
on him, on him.
7-9He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn't say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he'd never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn't true.
10Still, it's what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he'd see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God's plan will deeply prosper through him.
11-12Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he'll see that it's worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many "righteous ones,"
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I'll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn't flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What keeps you from giving your best?

I know that Sunday was Palm Sunday. But today, as I'm continuing to prepare my heart in anticipation of Easter, I wanted to back up a bit and go over again what happened to Jesus the day before Palm Sunday. So I was reading in John 12:1-8; the account of when Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anointed Jesus' feet with costly perfume and wiped His feet with her hair.

This has long been one of my favorite Bible accounts.

I'm moved by Mary's humility. Mary was the sister of Lazarus, the man at whose home Jesus had come to for dinner. My understanding is that it was a slave's job to wash the guests feet. I've read that no woman in that day would be seen with her hair uncovered and down. But here I see Mary not only uncovering her head, but taking on the role of a servant to wash Jesus' feet and then use her hair to dry them. She risked the ridicule of those around her to give to her Savior her very best.

I'm moved by Mary's generosity. I've repeatedly read that the perfume that Mary used was very expensive—worth about a year's wages. Some commentators think that it may have been bought as an investment … possibly to be included in her dowry. This was her most prized possession, the best she had to give. Not only was Mary's gift expensive, but it was costly to her reputation. The disciples all rebuked her for giving her gift to Jesus. Judas said, "This should have been sold and the money given to the poor!"

As I think on this account I find myself asking if there are any opinions of people, criticism or careless comments that may be keeping me from giving my best?

As I think about giving my best, I realize that my best is really my everything. That any one act or gift just symbolizes the whole.
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