Are You A Fake Christian? Part 1, 1 John 4:20-21

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Most of us dog owners love to dress up our dogs. Sometimes it’s gratuitous, like Buddy’s Hawaiian shirt, or at times, like the above, it’s necessary to keep him warm or dry in inclement weather conditions. Buddy tolerates the coats and neck scarves but hates to wear anything on his head.

It’s sad when people claim to be Christians but really aren’t. They give God a bad name. It’s even sadder when the person believes they know Christ but don’t. They are presenting a false image to the public, wearing fake clothing.

Now I cannot look into a person’s heart and know if they are saved or not–only God truly knows who His sheep are and will reveal them on Judgment Day, when He separates His sheep from the goats (Matthew 13:25-30). But it deeply grieves me when someone claims to know Christ but puts down and criticizes their brothers and sisters, particularly publicly to nonbelievers and doubters.

“If someone says, ‘I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.'”–1 John 4:20-21

Many times recently I’ve heard people who claim to know Christ say they don’t like to go to church or hang around other Christians because they aren’t sophisticated enough, or educated enough, or just enough of something or other. They don’t meet this particular person’s standards.

“Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.”–Apostle Paul, Romans 12:16

Apparently, it escapes their notice that they don’t have a right to judge their brothers and sisters because NO ONE measures up to God’s standards. As Christians, we are only acceptable to God because Christ died for our sins and attributes His righteousness to us. Otherwise, this holy God could not tolerate the presence of unholy people. That means all of us.

Not only that, but everything we have and are as persons is a gift from God: our talent, our IQ, our physical abilities, our level of beauty, is from God. We cannot brag about being smarter than others, because God is the one who gave us our intelligence. We cannot brag about being more handsome or beautiful than someone else, because our bodies were designed by God. Probably most people would like to be smarter or have more talent or skill, but everyone was designed to please God and serve His purpose. If anyone has a right to brag or put someone down, it’s God: our perfectly holy, omniscient and omnipotent God could easily squash any of us in a few words, but He doesn’t. He encourages, uplifts, heals, exhorts and strengthens us instead.

Rather than shun us, He chose to love and find a way to fellowship with unholy and far less intelligent and talented and creative people than He is.

Who invented color? Or thought up the concepts of rocks, grass, trees, and dirt? Or birds and fish and feathers and scales and skin? Who designed dinosaurs and worms and bacteria? Who flung the stars and planets across the galaxy and spun gold in the depths of the earth? Who invented air and water (the most miraculous of substances) and wove DNA?

There really is no more humbling philosophy than Christianity, because no one earns their way to Heaven by being good enough or smart enough or wise enough (Gnosticism). We all enter the same way, regardless of race, age, sex, health, beauty, talent or experience: By humbling our pride, acknowledging that we are sinners and require God’s forgiveness and guidance to understand right from wrong. We all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”–Jesus, John 13:34-35

“There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes…”–Proverbs 6:16-17a

Listed #1 as the thing that God hates (strong word) is haughtiness. Thinking you’re better than someone else, instead of being humble and serving others.

Even Jesus washed the dirty feet of His disciples. The great God stooped down and washed the feet of his quarreling, imperfect followers (John 13:4-16).

Do you love your fellow believers in Christ? If not, please ask yourself why.

We love you. Dawn and Buddy

PS. No apologies for creating blog titles designed to get your attention!

 

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Are You Waiting For Something Good to Happen? Psalm 27:13-14

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Buddy was jumping up on me the other night, begging me to take him for a walk.

“Buddy, it’s too hot.  You have to wait. We’ll go later when it cools down a bit.”

Then it suddenly hit me: I’m like Buddy.

Many hundreds of times the past years I’ve cried out to God to answer two particular prayers which seemingly go unanswered. I feel like Buddy in this picture: tied to a post and not able to escape. I want my circumstances to change, to improve, but for some reason God is keeping me “stuck” in place.

When I get frustrated, I try to do three things:

  1. Recall my blessings;
  2. Remind myself of times I didn’t trust God’s timing, forged ahead and regretted it; and
  3. Remind myself of who God is.

The first two don’t need any further explanation. But regarding #3:

I have to remind myself that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. He knows the future and I don’t. His plans for me are good (Jeremiah 29:11) and I have to trust that He’s making me wait because I’m either not ready for the blessing at this time or He’s still arranging the circumstances in my favor. (God normally works His will through the natural realm of things and not with a spectacular miracle.)

Additionally, there may be people He wants me to influence or help where I’m at currently. Or the experiences I’m enduring now, or have yet to encounter, will bring glory to Him and help others. It’s not always about me and what I want, but what God wants to do in the lives of others around me, too.

It could also be that I need to grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and the only way for God to encourage me to become a better person is to make me endure some suffering or hardship.

This is one of my favorite verses, which I quote when I feel discouraged and stuck:

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”–Psalm 27:13

It doesn’t build your faith when everything goes your way. Only when things seemingly go awry or our plans are frustrated or we’re opposed in some manner in reaching our goals do we need to rely on God’s promises detailed in the Bible.

It’s hard to trust when you can’t see an invisible God at work in the background. God knows waiting is really hard.

“Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”–Psalm 27:14

God never promised us an easy path in this life (Jesus, John 16:33).

In Psalm 27, the Psalmist David reminds himself why we can wait upon God with confidence:

vs. 1, 5: We don’t need to fear because He’s our light and salvation and our defense. He will light our path and rescue us.

vs. 2-4: Evil people WILL oppose us. But we can be confident that God will cause them to stumble and fall.

vs. 8-9: God promises to answer us when we seek Him.

vs. 10: Even our family may abandon us, but God never will forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5-6)

vs. 12-13: Evil people may rise against us, outnumber us, lie about us, slander us, threaten us, but God will arise to our aid if we are

WILLING TO WAIT.

And I tell you what: Waiting is HARD, HARD, HARD!!!

Eventually, when it cooled down, Buddy got his walkie.

***

Experts claim that memorizing poems is good for you. I decided to memorize some Biblical psalms because it is not only good for my brain, but also my soul. So many times I’ve felt distressed and felt better after reciting a psalm to myself or praying through it aloud to God. Please give it a try. Psalm 100 or 23 are good poems to start with as they are fairly short. But Psalm 27 is also a very good one to memorize too.

God bless you from Dawn and Buddy

 

 

 

How Do You Handle Insulting People? Matthew 5:11

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Buddy, like many dogs, is loving and sweet-natured. He’s slowly learning not to stand so close to my heels because I tend to be klutzy and accidentally drop things on him. He doesn’t retaliate, by growling or biting me on the shin, but he will step back a few feet further away.

But, for most people, it’s very difficult not to “return evil for evil, or insult for insult” (1 Peter 3:9, Apostle Peter). It’s my first instinct to want to retaliate when people treat me poorly. Fortunately, the longer I’m a Christian, and the more I learn about how loving God truly is, I’m becoming more self-controlled.

When I was in high school, and before I was a Christian, a guy walked up to me and said, “You’re ugly.” His clique of friends were observing him. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he had hurt me, so I replied, “So what?” He was so taken aback, that he was speechless and his face showed utter astonishment. After he had recovered himself, and apparently to salvage some dignity in front of his friends, he pronounced, “You’re weird” and walked back to join his group. It didn’t feel good to be insulted, but I had the satisfaction of knowing that I didn’t take his bait.

Jesus, also, taught not to let people bait us. But how do we accomplish this? Even with “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), it’s usually our first instinct to retaliate with unkind words (unless you’re one of those unusual, easy-going people whom are never rattled by anything).

What we have to do is change our focus: keep it on Christ and the future and not on the present trouble.

Jesus endured the torments of the Cross by setting his focus “on the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2); He looked beyond His pending death and kept his focus, instead, on the millions of people who would be drawn into a personal relationship with Him for eternity because He suffered the punishment for their sins.

Peter successfully walked on water when he kept his focus on Jesus; when he began to look at the wild waves and the wind roaring around him, he began to sink. (Matthew 14:28-30).

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me (Jesus). Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.”–Matthew 5:11

So this is my plan when someone yells at me, or criticizes me, because I hold a Biblically-based opinion and not a worldly one:

“Thank you very much for blessing me. Jesus says that when you insult me because of my belief in Him and His Word, I’ve got a big reward in Heaven. So thanks very much.”

I guarantee you that is absolutely NOT the reaction they are expecting. They want to provoke a fight. Don’t let them have their way.

Give it a try and see how they react. And let me know if you try it. I’d love to hear your story.

Thanks for reading. Have a great week. God bless from Dawn and Buddy.

***

Late last year someone insulted me because my politics differed from theirs. Mindful that I was a guest in someone’s home, just as they were, I calmly responded that I still loved them and gave them a kiss on the cheek. It totally diffused the situation. I give the Holy Spirit credit for that one.

But how do you have the Holy Spirit at work in your life, helping you to react in ways that are more godly? By humbling yourself and admitting that you need His leading and guidance in your life. Jesus had to die for our sins because God demands perfection to enter His presence. None of us can ever be perfect. But because God loves us and desires a relationship with us, Jesus took the punishment for God’s wrath against sin so that we can draw near to God. Once you admit you’re a sinner and invite God into your life to guide you away from evil and to walk in His ways (as detailed in the Bible), the Holy Spirit comes to indwell you and guide you into all righteousness.

It’s not an instantaneous process. You don’t suddenly become perfectly good. It’s a lifelong journey. As you well know, Christians often fail but God helps them to dust themselves off and resume their journey toward Heaven.

Dear Lord, I admit that I cannot come into relationship with You and enter the Kingdom of Heaven by trying to be good. I can never reach perfection or ever be good enough. I admit that I’m a sinner and have fallen short of Your standards of goodness. Please forgive my sins. I acknowledge that Jesus Christ, God in the Flesh (Matthew 1:23), became human and died for my sin. I ask the Holy Spirit to enter my life and lead me and “guide me into the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).

If you said this prayer, welcome to the family of God. Please find a Bible-based church where you can fellowship with other believers and grow in a knowledge of Who God is.

 

How to Fight Evil, Ephesians 6:10-18

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As much as we love our pets, they are not made in the image of God, as we are.

Buddy does provide me with unconditional love, his companionship, and another listening ear to keep me from feeling afraid at night when I’m alone. He would risk his life to protect me from someone far bigger and stronger than he is.

But Buddy cannot protect me from supernatural danger.

Based upon the story of the prophet Balaam and his donkey, it’s possible that the animals are able to see spiritual entities more easily than we can. (Numbers 22:21-33) But this is speculation on my part.

“Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day…”–Ephesians 6:10-12

So what is this armor? The summary is: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God). (versus 14-17)

And how do we do that? Pray (vs 18) at all times and “be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might” (vs 10).

Please note: HIS MIGHT, HIS STRENGTH. And we access His power and might through prayer, reading and memorizing the Word of God (Holy Bible), and believing what the Bible says (faith) and acting according to its instructions (obedience).

Faith in the Word of God: trusting in the hard times that God is faithful, loves us, and will keep His promises to us. Obeying and acting according to God’s ways, although sometimes it FEELS better to do something else. But we cannot know what those promises or instructions are if we aren’t reading the Bible, the source document for those promises.

The Word of God is our only offensive weapon against evil. It’s really important, in these difficult and deceptive times, to meditate upon the word of God day and night (Psalm 1:2). Its our filter to recognize lies.

Jesus gave the example of how to defeat the devil and his deception, by quoting from the Old Testament, and relying upon the Word of God when Lucifer came to tempt him after his 40-day fast. After successfully passing the three temptations, Christ began his earthly ministry (Matthew 4:1-11).

And it’s vitally important to pray that the Holy Spirit guide us before we begin reading a Bible passage. It is spiritually discerned, requiring His guidance. (I Corinthians 2:13)

The world offers lots of distractions: movies, video games, YouTube, Facebook, the Internet (blogs–EEK!), cable news, etc. that can keep us from taking some time to read the Bible.

I’m planning to blog more on these verses, but please note that in these trying times, when we see so much fake news and anti-Christian bias (and anti-Semitism) increasing in the USA, to remind ourselves not to be angry or hateful toward those who who are in bondage to untruth.

For instance, I just read this verse recently:

Apostle Paul adjures us to be “in no way alarmed by your opponents, which is a sign of destruction for them…”–Philippians 1:28

I really needed to be reminded of this admonition. When I hear the news, it’s easy for me to be alarmed. The Holy Spirit has to check my thoughts frequently some days as I get frustrated with deceived, or deliberately deceptive, people who spread lies and seem to get far more media attention than the good people trying to protect our laws and Constitution. I have to remind myself that it’s a sign of their ultimate destruction, their pending separation from God forever, and to feel sorry for them, rather than be angry, and pray for them to repent and escape judgment.

By praying for someone else in spiritual bondage, I am blessing not only the other person, but also myself: My spirit calms down and someone is getting prayed for who really needs it. Following God’s instruction is better for my health, because I’m not stressing my spirit with anger. Also, I am reminding myself, when I pray for those I feel frustrated toward, that I too was once deceived and separated from God and His life-giving Spirit, and needed mercy, before I finally believed that Jesus was Immanuel, God in the flesh (Matthew 1:23), Who died for my sins and was resurrected to give me everlasting life through the power of the Holy Spirit. It helps to humble me and not “virtue signal” or feel superior to someone else.

God bless you.

Please stay cool in these hot times.

Dawn and Buddy

PS. I do believe animals go to heaven. I’ll blog on that one day. (Revelations 5:13) And once again, where I was intending to go with this posting, I meandered elsewhere. But I pray what I should blog about before writing one word. I have to trust that this is what someone who reads this posting needs to “hear” right now.

Can You Understand Who God is? John 14:7-10

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For some reason this year Buddy has decided to watch me when I vacuum or wash the floors. I don’t know what he finds so endlessly fascinating about observing me clean the house, but I enjoy his company. However, sometimes he gets in the way and I keep asking him to: “Buddy, please move.” He doesn’t move out of the way. So I say more emphatically, because I don’t want to hit him with the vacuum cleaner or sponge, “Buddy, move!” And he doesn’t move, so I gently nudge him out of the way.

It suddenly occurred to me this week that maybe Buddy doesn’t understand what I’m saying. He might just hear, “Buddy…yada yada yada yada,” and is thinking to himself, “You’re calling me. I’m here.” He might just think I’m asking him to be near me, not that I want him to move out of the way.

People often say, and I believe quite wrongly, that the Old Testament God is a very angry and unkind God, different from the New Testament God. But the New and Old Testament Gods are the same Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit):

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’…God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.)–Genesis 1:26-27

“Us” refers to the triune nature of God.

So how does that relate to the Buddy story?

When you look at the natural world, it’s broken. There’s earthquakes, floods and famines. Nature is cruel and arbitrary. Animals hunt down and kill each other. Cats torment and play with mice. Good people suffer terribly and die young while evil people live long and do great harm to others. It would seem that God is cruel. When we look into outer space or at grand mountain peaks, we can understand that God is magnificent or very powerful, but how can we understand that He loves us and wants a love relationship with us? That God is love? (1 John 4:8)

Jesus didn’t mince words. He wasn’t always lovey-dovey. His first sermon was to call people to “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). He warned about Hell. But also He healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, drove demons out of people who were tormented by evil, provided wine at a wedding (His first miracle) to save a family from embarrassment when they were running out of the beverage, fed thousands and healed the lame. He also eased people’s conscience’s by forgiving their sins (Mark 2:1-12).

Yet, even the apostles often didn’t get who Jesus was after all the miracles and the great patience He continually showed to them, even when they acted petty and boastful. And their needs were always met during the three plus years they spent following Him.

Jesus said to His disciples after the Lord’s supper, shortly before His Crucifixion:

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”

“Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.”–John 14:7-10

It was so difficult to comprehend that the Father loves people so much that He sent His Son to dwell amongst us, that even after His resurrection, some still weren’t getting it:

“When they saw Him, they worshipped Him, but some were doubtful.”–Matthew 28:17

Jesus walked amongst us to demonstrate that He loves us and wants to fellowship with us. Imagine, this Almighty God Who created the vast universe and our planet, knows every thought and action we’ve ever had or will have, notes every sparrow that falls and even knows how many hairs are on our heads (Matthew 10:29-30) wants to be in relationship with us and show His love to us on a personal level. He showed how valuable we are to Him by taking on human flesh and dwelling with us.

This great and awesome God took on human flesh! This all powerful, omniscient God.

So that we could understand what He’s been saying for thousands of years to humankind: I love you. And I love you individually.

***

If you’d like to be in relationship with this loving God, please say this prayer: “Lord, I want to get to know You. You are holy and perfect and I am not. So please forgive me of my sins and enter into my life. Show me how much You love me. Please help me get my life straightened out. And help me learn to love and follow You in the “paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3) as my loving, all-powerful Shepherd.”

Congratulations on joining the biggest family ever: believers throughout history and throughout the earth. Please find a Bible-believing church to fellowship with Christian believers. Also, get a Bible and begin to read it, starting with the book of Matthew, so that you can begin to understand Who this God is Who loves you.

 

 

The Most Powerful God, 1 Samuel 5:1-6

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Buddy depends upon me to take are of him. It would be foolish for him to run off and take his chances on moving into a stranger’s home. The stranger doesn’t love him and hasn’t sacrificed for him over the years like I, who love him dearly, has.

One of my favorite stories from the Old Testament (Tanak) is from the time period before kings ruled over ancient Israel, when the nation was ruled by a series of judges appointed by God. When Samuel the prophet was a youth, the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant of the Lord and brought this holy seat of God Almighty into the house of their god, Dagon. Dagon was considered the “Lord of Many Cities” according to Wikipedia, or a god over many gods. Some archeologists believe it was a fish-god, or Merman, or, most likely, an agricultural god of grain.

By capturing the ark, the Philistines thought that their god, Dagon, had defeated the god of the Hebrews. But they  quickly discovered that they were very wrong.

“When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and set him in his place again. But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him…Now the hand of the Lord was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and their territories. When the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, ‘The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is severe on us and on Dagon our god.'”–1 Samuel 5:1-6

The Philistines thought they had defeated the God of Israel because they had defeated His people. But God had permitted it, one reason being, because the sons of the head priest, Eli, had taken the ark into battle and they had disgraced themselves with ungodly conduct as God’s representatives. God Almighty demonstrated which god had the real power.

This actually wasn’t my original point in writing this blog, but there are some who think that because Christians fail, morally or intellectually or in some other personal habit, that means that God Himself is flawed or not real. Nonbelievers judge God Almighty by the behavior of imperfect persons. No, it means that a mighty God has chosen to love and appoint as His ambassadors people who are totally incapable of meeting or living up to His holy standards 24/7. Just because God’s people are defeated doesn’t mean that God is any less totally holy or omnipotent. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

What amazes me is that God Almighty, the Lord of Hosts, who created the universe and exists outside of time, space and His creation, would even bother with us. Yet, He extends His grace and mercy to every person every day. He sustains life on the planet and allows people the freedom to choose Him or not to. Every breath is a gift from Him. And everything we use in our daily lives originates from this planet that we did not create, but He created and allows us to rule over and utilize its resources.

I could go on but you get the point.

The failure of God’s people doesn’t mean God has failed; it means that God chooses to call Christians His children and extend His love to people who are totally unworthy of it, people totally incapable of being as holy, good and kind as He is.

God bless you. Dawn and Buddy

***

Jesus provided a way for unholy people to approach a holy God. He is the “merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17) who intercedes for us with the Father. Because God cannot tolerate evil and must punish it, yet loves us, Jesus took on human form and accepted humankind’s punishment for our sin. All we have to do is admit we’re sinners who require Christ’s sin sacrifice to pay for our sinfulness and ask Him to govern our lives. When we give our lives to God, the Holy Spirit enters into us, which makes us “born again”. We become new creations by the presence of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17) and our trespasses are no longer counted against us (2 Corinthians 5:19). God is so holy that we can never meet his standard of perfection to be granted eternal life. (Matthew 5:47). It’s totally impossible. We cannot work for our salvation or earn the right to enter God’s presence.

If you haven’t, please invite Him into your life.

And if you do know Christ, please remember that you are also imperfect before you’re tempted to judge someone harshly. I also have to remind myself to be kind because I also fall short of God’s standards every day and need His grace too.