Tag Archives: Christian Lifestyle

Light Within

Luke 11:35-36

 

Luke 11:35-36

See to it that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your body is full of light and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp is upon you.

I spent this summer having eye surgery. I did not get much writing done because my eyes got tired very easily. However, I never lost the ability to see well enough to read music and play piano except for the actual recovery time. For you see, I had developed a cataract in my right eye so thick and opaque light was no longer able to get into the eye. As soon as that was removed, and even before the eye healed, the amount of light that was suddenly flowing through the eye nearly restored my vision to my mid twenty’s level.

I began to have a new idea about the ‘light’ scriptures. This particular one talks about our whole life being lit if Christ’s light is in our life. Another scripture speaks of the eyes being the source of light for the whole body, referring to our soul being lit with Christ’s light results in our whole life being filled with light.

My doctor promised color would come alive again, and indeed it has. “Great vision is ahead for you!” I hardly believed him. But I could begin to believe as the light streaming into my eye for the first time in years became tolerable and vision cleared through healing. Most of that had happened even before I had surgery on the second eye.  

The lessons God has reminded me of start with the fact of my unawareness of what was happening. Quite a while ago, I was informed that cataracts were beginning to form, but it would be decades before I would even know they were there.  It has not been decades, but even at that I could not tell I was losing my awareness of bright colors. Just in the last two years have I gotten worried about my vision. Still I could not believe a cataract of such severe nature snuck up on me.

And the faith lesson is obvious. We drift away from God, really quite unaware our spiritual awareness has dimmed. Then something happens and we turn, hands out and blindly feel for God. Darkness has crept into our lives as we compromise with the darkness around us. What that looks like for each of us is different.  Sometimes we have sunken so low we can no longer believe change is possible. We can’t get a grip on God’s love, presence, and constant forgiving grace. Sometimes we even quit believing.

The light of life is gone.

I had not realized how tentative my life had become as I automatically adjusted to limitations. I no longer enjoyed driving and getting out by myself. I, unthinking, turned down opportunities to play piano because confidence faltered. I assumed it was all stress and the need for rest as my life’s situation had changed. That was partly true, but now I see, I just could not read music fast enough to keep up. God did use that to force me to get very much-needed rest, but once I could see better, confidence returned.

And, as we put out blind hands and encounter God, life slowly returns. Then, one day, full life is again possible. Christ’s light comes back into our souls, and once again we have light to shine onto those around us who look to us for illumination.

Of course, the answer to that is always be aware of and take care of things as they come into our lives. I had indeed taken steps to keep cataract development slow. I addressed the sugar thing that was heading toward diabetes and other physical things that are known to foster eye problems, yet I wasn’t quick enough. And as humans, we get sidetracked, by even good things, so easily. May God help us to identify those distractions as they are beginning to get the upper hand instead of waiting until we have lost the light from our spiritual eyes.

 

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Review of People of Faith In A Changing World

Review People of Faith in a Changing World

By David Ramous

https://offsetinnocence.wordpress.com/author/offsetinnocence

I love devotionals (hence why I’m writing a whole series of them). A good devotional is like ahealthy snack The author has to really understand what they want to say and then communicate the truth in a short, digestible means – one that is also powerful and true.

This book does that extremely well.

Now, this book is not a short one. It’s300+ pages with literally hundreds of devotions ranging across all of Scripture. The author writes clearly, and I felt recharges as I brought this book with me on my recent trip to Georgia.

The book contains both honesty and variety. I never got bored, and there was a nice mix of stories, poetry, deep theology and much more.

Anyone looking for a large anthology of devotions should definitely check this book out.

Thank you to David Ramos for the kind words. I have been following David’s blog and he has written a book of devotionals called Climbing with Abraham. I have ordered it and read most of it. See a review on my page ‘Book I read’.  It is worth your time.

Something Is Wrong In Here (In Two Parts)

Something Is Wrong In Here

Part One

Judges 9:8-15

One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’ But the olive tree answered, “Should I give up my olive oil? It’s used to honor gods and people alike. Should I give up just to rule over the trees?'”

I’ve read two very different scriptures in one day: The first is Jotham’s Parable in Judges Chapter nine. The second John three. They go together in an oddly striking way.

Part One:

The parable starts like this: The trees looked for a ruler. They went to the olive trees Will you rule over us? What? And give up producing the most needed olive to rule over you? No! It is not worth it.

Next they went to the fig tree. Will you rule over us? What? The fig tree laughed at the other trees. And give up producing this lovely fruit to rule over you? No way! It’s not worth it!

Then, getting desperate I suppose, they go the grapevine. Shall I give up making this wonderful wine? To rule over you? It laughed. “No!” And waxed eloquent in its refusal, I would imagine.

Not being wise enough to get the message the trees approached the thrornbush. And the thornbush, being already somewhat envious of the trees, and also remaining true to its nature said: “Me rule over you? Me rule over the mighty trees? Why, it would be my pleasure!”

In the English Standard Version, verse 15 reads “Do you really want to anoint me as king over you? If you do, come and rest in my shade. But if you do not, I will destroy you!”

The Jotham parable was warning the ancient people against unwise choices of leaders, and choose to follow him over God. They assumed every new idol or religion they encountered was the new answer. And they followed anyone who consented to rule over them.

Jotham’s parable to us today would go like this: Christians wanted a king they could understand, so they went to the good things God has created and asked, “Will you become our central theology and ruling doctrines. But the good things from God reply to our question, “What? Me be your king and queen? We’re too busy creating more good!”

And we go to good works who says: “What? I’m just too busy. I can’t take time for administration of the law.”

And meditation says: “It is merely my place to advise.”

And so we run to all the good things God has allowed us: Technology says, “No, but I’ll help you organize and share it.” Service to others paused, really wanting to rule, then stayed true to its nature and said: “The right thing for the wrong reason does not last.”

We go on till we find passion, obsession, reason or enlightenment, who look at each other in delight. “Oh yes! We will rule. Gladly we will drive you and coax you, and tell you how to live.”

And we say, “Finally, someone to take charge.”

God sighs. And the evil one is delighted.

So I pray: God, Help me make you Lord and ruler in my life and not substitute ease and touchability for the harder work of following you.

There’s Something Wrong In Here

Part Two

John 3: 21 (ESV)

But anyone who lives by the truth comes into the light. He does this so that is will be easy to see what he has done with God’s help.

We repent of our faulty choices. We start anew. Things go along well. We are driven to be and do good.  We see some good things happen, and hope for the best. But in the end we realize it’s not enough.

Our choices haven’t changed. We return to our selfish need to have things all laid out in front of us and follow the path of less resistance. Somewhere in the middle of the next mess we find ourselves in, we put our hand to our chest and admit, “Something is wrong in here.”

Ah, enter John chapter three: those universal words of love given by the creator whose very nature is love and is expressed in constant giving. And when we respond to …God so loved ….he gave… we not only rediscover eternal life, we find the One God who will not turn into a faulty ruler.

God, as king provides the framework for us to hang the good things he gives us, the tools he provides, and the work he calls us to. In the end God is much more a king who we allow to become director, a mentor, a person whose kingship is one of love rather than the self-centered rule of a thornbush king.

So I pray: God, help me remember your kingship is based on love for all those you created and care for. Help me never forget others who would be my king are driven by their need to be in control.

So, Remind Me, Why Do I Need God?

 

Psalm 107: 26b-29
…In their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunkards: they were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, And he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were made calm.
Romans 8:26
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

“Life is so complicated today people snap.” I’ve said that many times when I have heard some of the awful things people who, otherwise seem normal, have done to each other.
Coping is something we have become masters at. We smile and say we are fine when our families are quietly falling apart. We tell ourselves ‘it doesn’t matter’ when whatever it was matters a great deal. And we go on to the next thing in life without acknowledging, confronting, giving it to God and solving whatever the conflict or hurt or pain was.

Often it’s just life that piles up on us. We don’t feel overwhelmed as we go but and we just let things pile up, accumulating baggage. We continue that way, coping without resolution, until we suddenly find ourselves at wits’ end.  Some people ‘snap,’ some fall into addiction, some become clinically depressed, and sometimes mental instability sets in. Others retreat from reality to lose themselves in music, writing, and other arts. Sometimes we even use service to God and others as coping mechanisms.

However, there are other times when sorrows and life’s problems suddenly overwhelm us. One minute we are coping and the next the phone rings or cars crash and our whole life is never the same.
Either way, the gradual accumulation of baggage or instant sorrow, we end up reeling and staggering under the load at our wits’ end. Simply put, we burn out.

When we come to the end of our wits we most often draw from our own wisdom and strength to gather ourselves as problem solvers. Yet there is a time when we come even to the end of our wisdom.
We need God because everyone eventually comes to the end of our wits and wisdom.

Yes, we like to deny it. Yes, we keep coping, slogging through life, reading self-help books, not sleeping and worrying. And all the time we are complaining about small things, and afraid to address the real cause. We need help.
And the God, who knows us inside and out, who loves us and cares about us, has not left us while we were trying to do it all on our own. When we have tried everything, done everything, said everything, and we don’t even know how to pray, or where to start, the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, tells God what we need and God goes into action.

What God would really like us to do is turn to him and unburden ourselves as we go, working through the pain on a daily basis. Then when the phone call comes or things crash, we don’t waste emotional and spiritual time blindly staggering around, crying “God, where are you? Are you there?”   We can immediately breath a prayer and God stills the storm to a whisper and makes the waves of the sea of distress calm.

Why do I need God? Because life is full of crashing storms and wild seas.

And so I pray:
God, I want to be so close to you I can just breathe a sigh of a prayer and have given the problems and hurts to you as I encounter them. I realize I am not there. Help me renew my relationship with you every day so it grows to the place my first reaction will be to ask for your help first. Then, with a quiet soul, I can face each new storm.

Seeking and Accepting

Acts 17:26-28 NIRV

                    From one man he made all the people of the world. Now they live all over the earth. He decided exactly when they should live. And he decided exactly where they should live. God did this so that people would seek him. Then perhaps they would reach out for him and find him. They would find him even though he is not far from any of us.  ‘In him we live and move and exist.’ As some of your own poets have also said, ‘We are his children.’

 

  • So again I prayed, desperately seeking God’s presence. And in today’s language that is the accepted language and thought pattern. It implies digging through, creating a path, tossing out distractions, and extreme, concentrated effort. So, I approach God that way – as if it is a painful, birth process.

In Acts 17, Paul lists what all God does just to get us to seek him. Somewhere in my reading I came across this idea:

                        Maybe seeking is not just my responsibility alone

                        What if I have taken on a responsibility

                        That is not totally mine to work out?

                        What if seeking is not such hard work?

                        What if seeking God is as easy as turning my face (attention) towards him?

And perhaps the desperate seeking could end when I realize God is seeking me with the same concern I am seeking him. Perhaps I don’t need to seek out the perfect meeting place, find the perfect attitude or create the perfect atmosphere.

Perhaps grace is not so much sought as much as it is applied.

                        Perhaps it’s not so much about desperately searching for God’s will

                        As it is learning to understand our gifts,

                        See the opening doors, and recognize opportunities presented

                        As invitations to fulfill God’s will.

                        Perhaps living a Christian life is about accepting Christ first,

                        Then spending our lives learning to see God at work.

                        Perhaps I do not grow because I do not see where God’s work needs my gifts.

So today I stopped working at seeking and turned my face towards God. And found God looking me straight in the eyes.

“Ah.” He gestured toward the waiting table laden with bread and drink.

“You’re here. Have a seat.

“What’s on your mind?

“Would you like a drink of living water?”

A New Dictionary

I sometimes struggle with the basic religious language in today’s way of thinking. I hear it in secular productions – books too – the terminology of worship. But the ‘one’ they worship turns out to be men, ‘false gods’ or cultic.

As a result, I sometimes struggle with terms like surrender, giving oneself up for God, giving everything to God, live for the glory of God, and righteous. They are often presented as unreasonable demands of false gods.

I realize these terms have been taken from the Christian dictionary. But I’m afraid when I talk about them I end up sounding like the fantasy/magical culture of today. And the non-religious already have trouble understanding our intent.

I ask God help to find new ways to express the concepts to kids and people who see the fantasy, and lead them to the God of all gods. I feel like I’m starting all over. Perhaps we are back to the many gods culture of Paul’s time.

In my own personal relationship with God, I realize I cannot avoid these concepts for myself. I find myself stepping back before I remember they borrowed our dictionary, I didn’t borrow theirs. They are valid concepts for me.

There is a difference I need to remember: magic/fanciful false gods end up being selfish, with self-serving motives. People end up being mere tools for accomplishing goals. In the end, all the pretty words are harmful.

On the other hand, the end results of God’s words, are aimed at redemption. Of preserving and transforming me into my best, and helping others find their path to God. Not making everyone into ‘little gods,’ but people who know God.

The way our secular thought uses worship is giving one’s self up for God. But its tone is negative…. The person is gone…. Really gone. But in the Christian’s experience, there’s something mysterious about it.

The self we offer in worship takes a risk because of trust, and is not lost, but returned to us as a transformed, beautified person.

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Adult Children

Romans 8:12-17
So, then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh – 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die: but if by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are Children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs with Christ – if in fact we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified.

I John 3:1
3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

 

As we celebrate mothers one month and father’s day the next we often study the scriptures Paul writes about us being God’s children.

God is father, and adopts us into the community of the children of God, and joint heirs with Jesus. And if we can grasp that, it changes our approach to God and life. We use terms like Christian confidence and boldness in approaching God and life. And that is good.

We also speak of being like children in trusting implicitly, without reservations, in God’s love. And that is good.

I don’t know about you, but when I was younger, when I was around my parents I sometimes reverted to feeling like a child. And I think that is natural. But as I grew up, my relationship with them changed. And as an adult, the element of friendship entered. I still was their child, I still trusted them, loved them, cared deeply for them, but my maturity was reflected in the relationship.

As I read this scripture, I wondered if our relationship shouldn’t change as we mature as a Christian. And this is not how we normally like to think. We want to remain as youngsters in Christ. That simple trust. That totally true or totally untrue world we live in as a child. And that was good. We don’t want to think about our relationship. We just want to feel. And we set about our lives based on what makes us feel good.

We choose our church, our activities, and service according to what fits our needs to feel fulfilled. As lay people we tend not to ask God to show is where he wants us to serve. That is an adult this to do. Learning to love as God taught us…others come first.

As youngsters, our love is based on what parents do for us, and we gradually begin to understand love is the basis of their actions. We all have seen the conflicts that results when either the parent or child fail to have a healthy view of the love interaction. It is a sign of maturity when we begin to respect who our parents are and learn to love them for who they are.

But in all of this, we remain their children.

As a young person, we are first drawn to Christ because of the things he does for us. As we begin to mature in Christ, we learn to love God because of who God is.

But in all of this we remain God’s children. We just become God’s adult children. But the emphasis the relationship changes. It is no longer primarily about what God does for us. It becomes about the fellowship, the joys of life, and the courage to persevere. And we come to see God at work even when he doesn’t do things our way.

Obviously the child parent illustration breaks down at some point due to age, but no matter the dynamics, we still remain our parents’ children.

And we remain God’s children. While retaining the childlike trust and wonder at the depth of God’s love, we should become the adult Children of God.

 

 

Compassion

God, I drove through what some cities call ‘the district,’

And saw the homeless, the down and out, the dirty,

Standing in doors of bars and cafes, looking out at something I couldn’t see.

And I thought to myself

These are your creations too

You love them as you love me.

When I drove through the rougher neighborhoods

With their little kept houses, motorcycles and souped up cars,

Where people drink and fight at home.

And I thought with an ache in my heart,

God, these are your people too.

As your church we – I – need to be reaching them.

As I walk through my territory

I look at the streets, apartment complexes,

Small homes … family places.

And I think to myself,

Here, too, they love and fight, sometimes in quiet desperation;

Many not knowing they too are your people.

Give me wisdom to know how to put love into action,

To what groups to give financial support,

In what causes to get involved.

I cannot reach everyone personally,

But I can give out pieces of your living Spirit

To anyone, everyone, with whom I come in contact.

Help me not to withdraw into my business like a shell,

When dealing with those different than I,

But always share your warmth and acceptance.

ON THE WAY

Matthew 9:18 – 22 (NIV)

18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.”19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

 

On his way to another healing Jesus was interrupted.

On his way to helping someone, another asked for help.

His thoughts were focused ahead to the one at his destination

But as he went he stopped and helped the woman in front of him.

 

Some became impatient.

Some were puzzled.

Very few knew what was happening.

But she did – and so did Jesus.

 

Some also have suggested the scriptures at the end of the gospels

That say go ye to all the world….

Are better understood as saying

As you go to all the world, take the good news with you.

 

On the way to work or play, or eat out or meet your accountant,

One the way to funerals, or weddings, or births, or the hairdresser,

One the way to your desk, or worship, to serve or be served,

Stop and see the person in front of you.

 

See the person whose stress shows.

See the person who just needs a listener.

See the person who faces a challenge.

See the person who needs something you can supply.

 

A smile, shared laugh, a pen, a few extra dollars, a word of appreciation,

Your jacket, the ability to pick up a dropped item, a hand to open a door.

A push so someone’s shopping cart, a word of encouragement,

Better yet, recognize the person brimming over with good news – celebrate with them!

 

As you go along your way,

Take the good news of God’s presence in the world with you.

Scatter blessings and be the reminder things can be different

Remind people all is not negative, cold or impersonal by being personal, warm and positive.

 

The conversation between Jesus and the woman he healed on his way to another healing

Took but a few minutes – perhaps he had stopped to let someone pass,

Or got slowed down by the traffic and she took advantage of the moment to touch him,

But her courage and his response changed her life and leaves us with this reminder.

 

As you go,

On the way to the next thing, when you get slowed down,

Don’t forget to respond to the person in front of you.

When they are in need, or reach out – reach back.

 

Additional reference:

Matthew 28:19

New International Version (NIV)

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, 

baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

 

 

New Thoughts on the Afterlife

I know I made a rather strong statement about heaven and hell.
I have made it before, and when I said it again today I stopped and considered it.
“My relationship with God is so real,
If there were no heaven,
It would be okay.”

Now, I believe in heaven, and hell for that matter.
But I find neither the glory of heaven
Nor the fear of hell
Are the reasons I put God first in my life.
I find it is the relationship itself that I value.

These have been my thoughts when I made the statement.
And I ask myself
After all that happens everyday in our lives,
And the way the world is today,
Is that enough?

Well, let’s see…
When I gave my life to God, I accepted a new way of life.
My motivation has been changed from self-satisfaction
To service-centered satisfaction.
I find satisfaction in building up instead of tearing down.

God became a constant companion,
Who listens to my rants, raves, anger, hurts, celebrations, joys, and laughter.
We enter every day together.
And I see what God allows into my life
Through the eyes of being among friends instead of alone.

I seek religion and ways to make my world better because of this relationship,
Not to prove I am worthy to qualify for the relationship.
God is my strength and song
And has become my salvation.
Step by step, day/week/year God has become the core of my life.

My bent is towards artistic melancholy and,
Only God knows what all he has saved me from.
But I Figure life would not be pretty
Or joyful. Or peaceful. Or healthy. Or giving
And it would be one crises after another.

So, I say I believe my relationship is so important for my life
Even if heaven as we think of it
Is totally different from reality,
It is okay…I don’t need a mansion or streets of gold…
I have a relationship with God.

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