Sunday, June 27, 2010

What Are You Saying? by Tami Gilman

When my husband and I were building our home, we needed a subcontractor for drywall and paint. The gentleman who was hired for the job had a Jesus fish on his business card and spoke of his strong faith. He seemed to be an honest upstanding man just trying to make a living. I will call him Steve. Every time we saw him, Steve was quoting scriptures. The crew that completed the drywall did a good job so we felt comfortable letting him paint the interior of the home as well. Our exterior doors were wood grain fiberglass which were to be stained and I heard my husband explain to Steve that we would stain them ourselves.

My husband, Kevin was in Kenya when I stopped by the house to check the progress. Much to my surprise, the doors were painted in a high gloss oil based white paint. I immediately called Steve to ask why and he told me the doors were to be painted white. The interior doors were to be white, not all doors. Clearly there was a miscommunication that I could not verify being that Kevin was unreachable. I explained that the wood grain doors were to be stained and asked him to have his crew strip the paint from the doors before it cured. It didn’t occur to me he wouldn’t.

After a few days, I returned to check on the house the doors were as white and shiny as before. I called Steve again to ask about the doors and he claimed they tried to strip them, but there was no evidence to show even a subtle attempt.

I waited until Kevin returned from Kenya because clearly Steve was not responding to my requests and now he was lying. Kevin spoke with him about the conversation they had about how we would be staining the wood grain doors. He asked Steve to have his crew strip the paint. Again he didn’t.

Aggravated, I started to remove the paint myself. Steve showed up at the house one night while I was doing my best to get the paint off the door and his solution to the problem was to start quoting scripture. I recall him saying, “Well the Bible says that all things work to the good of the Lord”. At that point I think I could have easily killed him with my bare hands. Not literally, but his Jesus fish and scriptures were not offering a solution to the situation at hand. The paint had cured and it took me 2 weeks to remove it completely.

This is a cautionary tale to illustrate that there is a time and a place to quote scripture. Using his reference as an excuse to not right a wrong is not appropriate. Luckily for me I was already a Christian because I can easily see how I would not be interested in serving the same God he did. I believe we can often do more harm than good when we say one thing but do another. It speaks of our character. We are all certainly responsible for our own relationship with God and shouldn’t allow others to affect it, however for a non believer what is their motivation to have a relationship with God? If the Christians are conducting business in a way that is questionable and constantly professing their “faith”, what is the incentive to learn more about Jesus Christ? They can lie, deceive and behave how they want without the bother of developing a relationship with God.

In the workplace, school and the community, Christians are watched by non believers and even other Christians. What are they seeing and hearing from us?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Can a Simple Misunderstanding Keep You From Heaven? by Gail Purath

“My mother is free from sin!” the woman said angrily. She wanted these strangers to leave the hospital room so her eighty-two year old mother could die in peace.

Two of my friends and I were the unwanted strangers. We were in the hospital that day praying for people, and this woman had invited us to pray for her sick mother.

After praying, we visited with the old woman for a while and I had an opportunity to share the Gospel. When I told her that all of us are sinners in need of Christ’s salvation, she acknowledged her sin and said she’d like to pray to receive Christ.

That’s when her daughter interrupted me, insisting her mother was free from sin.

I was surprised by the daughter’s outburst, and I wondered what her mother would do. Would she change her mind? Would she ask us to leave her room? The next few seconds ticked by painfully slow.

In a culture that so often blames parents for more than their share of problems, this daughter’s view of her mother was unique. But the Bible tells us that no one is free from sin “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Maybe what the daughter was trying to say was that her mother had lived an unselfish life, serving and helping others. Perhaps she thought her mother’s goodness had cancelled her sins. But the Bible says that “salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it” (Eph. 2:9, NLT). A lifetime of unselfish acts can’t cancel a single sin.

Perhaps this old woman’s daughter thought her mother was sinless because she had always been “religious.” The Pharisees were some of the most religious people who ever lived. They carefully tithed, fasted, gave to the poor, prayed, and participated in every religious activity. Yet, Christ said “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Religion doesn’t cancel any of our sins, and neither does knowledge. This old woman might have heard the Gospel many times. She may have known that whoever believes in Christ and His redemption has eternal life. But that wouldn’t have saved her. The Bible says that salvation comes through believing with our hearts (Romans 10:10), not simply knowing about Christ.

As I stood at this woman’s bedside, I remembered my own past misunderstandings about the Gospel. I had grown up hearing the Gospel and trying to be “good.” I even made a public profession of my faith in Christ and was baptized. But I wasn’t a genuine believer.

We use so many religious phrases to describe becoming a Christian—“committing our lives to Christ,” “asking Christ into our hearts,” “receiving Christ.” But we still may not understand that becoming a Christian means trusting Christ not only with our salvation, but trusting Him with our life. Becoming a Christian is life-changing and mind-altering, and it’s the beginning of an eternal journey.

When I finally committed my life to Christ, everything began to change. I had a hunger for God’s Word and the Holy Spirit began to convict me of sin.

Sometimes my relationship with Christ has led me to do things that make me uncomfortable. For example, I was nervous and fearful about sharing Christ with this complete stranger in her hospital room. When the woman’s daughter became annoyed, I was even more uncomfortable. I would have liked to be anywhere else at that moment.

But I knew what we were doing was important. This woman was very likely dying and she would go to hell if she didn’t trust Christ. I’m sure God (who wants all men to be saved*) had designed this final divine appointment for her.

What would she decide? My companions and I prayed silently as the seconds ticked by. Then the daughter spoke again. “I’m not going to pray that prayer!” she said in one last attempt to dissuade her mother.

I’m sure the old woman was feeling weak and vulnerable, and her daughter’s objections were strong.

But belief had permeated her heart, and it gave her the strength to overcome these hindrances. She knew she was making the most important decision of her 82 years of life. When we left her bedside, there were choirs of angels rejoicing in heaven over the soul who was, for the first time, “sinless” through the work of Christ.

* 1Tim. 2:4

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New Eyes by Joann Lampe

Let me look at you with new eyes
With eyes not jaded by the world
But with eyes wide open to see beyond

The scars inflicted upon you
Cause me to look only upon
The outside wall

Who knows what lies beyond that wall?
What’s behind the barriers put in place
By man & you

Let me look at you with new eyes
LORD, wipe the film from my eyes
Allow me clarity
To see the real you – the real me

What royalty awaits behind those doors
The doors locked in place by
Disappointment in another’s actions
Critical thoughts and words
Refusal to look beyond the scars
Put in place by the world of man

Let me look at you with new eyes
Encourage instead of discourage
Build up not tear down
Look beyond the obvious to the hidden

Hidden talents
Hidden compassion
Hidden love
Hidden royalty

LORD, let me see with new eyes
Help me to bridge the gap
To connect
Hope to the hopeless
Love to the unloved
The lost to the found
Pauper to king

LORD, let me see with new eyes

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” These are two phrases I heard over and over again as I grew up. My dad used to quote them all the time so that I wouldn’t feel so bad when someone called me a name or made fun of me in some way. It happened often, so I heard them a lot. The names may not have hurt me physically, but they sure hurt. And because I was judged by my “cover,” no one saw the real me, and neither did I, because I chose to believe that I was the “cover.”

Have you done that – been judged by outside appearances? I believe we all have at one time or another. I have and still do and each time I do, I ask God to forgive me, because I know that I am limiting the potential. The potential for understanding, the potential for compassion, the potential for a possible friendship, and the potential for providing hope and encouragement. We not only limit ourselves when we don’t look beyond, we limit the other person, because our thoughts and/or words cause a “ding” in the book; they can change chapter and verse. The next time you start to judge “a book by its cover,” or a person for some action they’ve taken, ask God to give you “new eyes.”

Romans 13:8-10 says: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

“Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.” When we look at each other with clear eyes and go beyond the cover we can “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

JoAnn Lampe
June 2, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Passion Calls...Are You Listening by Serena Haneline

For 33 years I’ve been searching for my passion in life. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “passion” as “an object of desire or deep interest.” I’ve read many books over the years that said if you could only find your passion in life, you’d find your purpose. And for 33 years – okay, maybe only about 20 years – I’ve never really thought I had any passions.

When I was a teenager, I used to love to write poetry and short stories. And of course, as a teenager, I had a lot more time to sit around and write. Then I went to school and studied journalism, mostly because writing was all I knew I liked and was good at.

For the last few years, I’ve felt a block when it comes to writing. Maybe it was because I had not yet identified my passions. However, in the last few months, it seems one passion has come to my attention, and quite unexpectedly.

In the midst of a conversation with a friend, that passion arose. I got excited and animated when I spoke about the subject. I believe it’s the same passion that rose up in Jesus when the Pharisees and Sadducees confronted him in their self-righteousness. A passion that sees the chains “religion” puts on people…chains of endless rules that choke out life and freedom.

A song I’ve heard on the radio called “More Like Falling in Love” by Jason Gray captures my thoughts on religion. He says that following Jesus is more than something to believe in; more than something to pledge our allegiance to. Instead it’s like falling in love. And religion is like a stone tied to our feet, not setting us free.
I grew up in the heart of “religion,” thinking that every time I sinned, I had to go get “saved” again. I grew up thinking of God as an angry taskmaster, expecting me to be perfect. I grew up believing that God always looked on me in disappointment and disgust. I carried those thoughts into adulthood. It’s taken me years to begin to see the Truth.

Then a few years ago, I was confronted with the ugly face of religion in a relationship with a man who believed that the law was the heart of Christianity. I found out in a short amount of time that the law brings only hate and a feeling of despair rather than what Jesus taught, which is love and hope.

It’s really all about having a relationship with a living, breathing God who wants to speak to us every day; who wants to work in our lives every day. He wants to do the miraculous and the supernatural in our lives. In my life. Every day.

I believe that God has given me an assignment and frankly it scares me. It’s to use my talent of writing and my passion against standard religion. It’s to write a book. He gave me the title, which is not something that I usually get first. Titles have never been my strong suit. The title is: “Steeped in Religion or Soaked in the Supernatural.”

I see this book as a book of stories and Truth—as God sees it, not as we perceive it. It will contain stories of people coming out of the deadness of religion and into the life of the supernatural, and stories of people still stuck in the pit of religion. I see it as a call to help those who have the spirit of the Pharisees—those who thought they had it all together and winded up missing the point of it all.

The message being that it’s never been about what WE can do to get to God. It’s always been what HE has done to get us to Him. It’s never been about hate, but about love. And it’s never been about religion, but the supernatural. God’s Spirit working through His creation to spread His message through all the earth.

I heard someone say this on TV the other night: “You can make all the plans you want. But God has made His and He doesn’t feel the need to check in with you.” God has made his plans for me…and for you. Even before we were born, He put passions inside of each us. Now if only we will let the Holy Spirit breathe on us, he will ignite that passion. All for His glory, not ours. And all for His purpose and not to satisfy a list of rules.

So yes, it seems I have found a passion and therefore, a purpose. It’s time to write.