God’s Compassion, Ezekiel 18:32

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Anyone who knows me knows that I adore my little Silky terrier, Buddy. He has a unique and spunky personality and I’d miss him terribly if anything ever happened to him. I don’t love him because he’s perfect, but because he’s my pal.

Do you ever consider that God would miss you terribly if you didn’t go to Heaven after you died?

There is a mistaken idea that the New Testament God is kind and compassionate, but that the Old Testament God is cruel and uncaring. But that’s not true.

“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.”–Ezekiel 18:32 (Old Testament)

Because God is perfectly holy and cannot tolerate evil, He won’t permit us to enter Heaven because we’ll mess it up, just as we’ve messed up earth. Just listen to the news every day: Do you want that in Heaven?

However, He found a way to fellowship with unholy people by sending Jesus to die for our sins.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”–John 3:16-17 (New Testament)

God the Father has no desire to see us perish eternally. He wants us to be with Him. If we are willing to humble ourselves–forsake our pride and admit that we have fallen short of His holy standards–He covers our sin with the blood of Jesus and no longer sees it.

“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”–Psalm 103:12 (Old Testament)

God the Father loves you. And so does Jesus. He suffered a terrible death to pay for your sins. And the Holy Spirit loves you too and will live within you and help “guide (you) in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.”–Psalm 23:3b

All you have to do is believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, admit you’re a sinner and cannot meet God’s righteous standards, and ask Him to forgive you and enter into your heart.

And He’ll do it immediately because He loves you and wants you to be with him–for eternity.

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God’s Mysterious Ways, Proverbs 3:5-6

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My family had been without a dog for 1.5 years and it felt like something was missing: Nobody to joyously greet me when I returned from a stressful day at work, nobody to cuddle when I felt lonely or cold, and no one forcing me to take a walk in the rain. It was time for a dog but my heart had been set upon rescuing a Silky terrier since my beloved dog who had died, Buster, was a Silky. I’d been searching the Silky terrier rescue site for a year but no dog had been posted for Washington state. I was getting discouraged.

But after returning from an extended vacation and in a state of near exhaustion, I was using my iPad (now ancient) and accidentally hit the bookmark for the Silky terrier website. I hadn’t intended to surf to that site but it popped up.

And there was Buddy, a three-year-old rescue in Washington State. I immediately contacted them and made arrangements to meet Buddy the following weekend at the dog show at the fairgrounds up north.

An accident? Or was God answering my prayers.

I’ve recently read, (and don’t recall where), that we usually misname Divine Providence as miracles, meaning that a miracle is when God intervenes in a supernatural way that isn’t a normal and natural process, such as Jesus walking on the water or turning water into wine. Versus Divine Providence, which is God intervening and answering our prayers but through the natural processes of the world.

I believe my accidentally hitting that bookmark was God directing me, because I likely wouldn’t have my sweet little fellow if I had delayed.

I don’t know about you, but most of the time I don’t see God working in my life. He was preparing Buddy in answer to my prayers but I couldn’t see Him working. So I was getting discouraged.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”–Proverbs 3:5-6

I usually want to lean on my own understanding and try to figure out what God is doing and how He is doing it. Or when something goes wrong, I figure He’s teaching me a lesson.

But maybe He’s really working on a blessing that takes time to arrange all of the difference aspects of the problem in a natural way and I need to trust that He’s working it out for my benefit although I see nothing happening.

Several years ago my car was leaking oil but the auto repair shop couldn’t get it to stop. I didn’t want to buy a new car, but I was starting to funnel too much money into a twelve-year-old car, so it was time to call it quits. (Another $600+ dollars and still leaking.)

Little did I know that the following summer I would be driving downtown Seattle, early on a Saturday morning, and a homeless man would walk out from in front of a moving garbage truck right before me in the middle of a street. I couldn’t see him coming, nor did I expect a pedestrian to stroll out from the front of a giant behemoth of a public vehicle in motion. Since I had a new Toyota, I was able to brake and turn quickly to the right to avoid him. If I’d had my old car with its truck-like steering and slow brakes (little did I know till I got my new car how suckie they were), I’m pretty sure I would’ve hit him. I still get scared thinking about it. (I won’t mention the car-maker of the older car as as it did serve me well many years.)

(And talk about God protecting the homeless guy, who jaywalked across the middle of a street in front of a garbage truck and automobile and didn’t get hit. He looked to be pretty hung over or still in alcohol’s iron grip of insobriety. I’m assuming the garbage truck driver nearly had a coronary too as he obviously couldn’t stop.)

“And we KNOW that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”–Roman 8:28

I thought having to spend money for a new car was a bad thing, but God was letting my car continue to leak oil and not be repaired to protect both me and the homeless guy. I have to remind myself of God’s promises when I start getting discouraged and focus on what I KNOW about God from His Word and not listen to my feelings, which can be erratic or manipulated.

So next time something suckie happens, trust that God will somehow bring good out of it. After all, the Bible often promises to deliver us from trouble, not to prevent us from getting into trouble. We cannot see the power of God operating in our lives if there are no situations to deliver us from.

“My eyes are continually toward the Lord, For He will pluck my feet out of the net.”–David, Psalm 25:15

***

If you’re realizing you’re trapped in a net of your own devising, that you don’t have any power to deliver yourself from your own behavior, congratulations. There’s hope in Jesus for anyone humble enough to admit they need His help. Please say the below prayer:

Dear Father, I cannot meet your perfect standard of righteousness and earn my way to Heaven. Righteousness is a gift from You. Thank you for sending Jesus, Emmanuel, God in the Flesh (Matthew 1:23) to live a perfectly pleasing life and to take the punishment for my sin on His Cross. I believe He died and rose bodily, an acceptable sin sacrifice on my behalf. I invite You to come into my heart and help me to follow You. I want to change and be a better person. I trust You to answer my prayer because You love me. Thank you.

If you said this prayer, God bless you. You’re in the family of God. Please find a local, Bible-based church to fellowship with and grow as a believer. We’re in this together.

 

***

Sadly, I avoid visiting Seattle as much as possible. I no longer am a season ticket holder or attend meetings like I used to. I have spoken to many persons who are telling me the same thing. If you visit Seattle as a tourist, be very watchful if you’re driving and be sure not to drive too fast. It only takes a moment for a bike to zip in front of you or a pedestrian with their nose stuck to their cellphone to step off the curb unexpectedly when you have a green light. If you don’t need to travel outside downtown, I recommend not driving yourself around and using alternative transportation, like a cab.

 

God Is Love, 1 John 4:16

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One reason I love this photo is because I love Buddy. He is great company, particularly when I’m alone in the house at night. And because I love him, I don’t think about the bad boy things he has done: I see him as perfect and totally lovable.

The Apostle John, who laid his head against Christ’s breast when Jesus walked the earth, declared that “God is love,”–1 John 4:16

When most people think of Heaven, they think of angels on clouds and green meadows full of flowers and meeting their loved ones again, looking young and healthy. They usually don’t think of it as a place where God dwells.

Since God is love and dwells in Heaven, guess what Hell could be defined as? Not as a place of fire and brimstone, but a place where God does not dwell, a place totally absent of love.

Please think about that. Hell is a place with no mercy, no kindness, no laughter, no joy, no peace, no faithfulness, no goodness, no patience, no freedom…(Galatians 5:22) I’m sure you can think of many others.

I think most people, if mentally healthy, would prefer to go to Heaven and not Hell, but they have a misunderstanding about how to get there. This will shock most people: IT’S NOT BY BEING GOOD! or , like pictured in an Egyptian papyrus painting, I have, “IT’S NOT BY HAVING YOUR GOOD DEEDS OUTWEIGHING YOUR BAD.”

To address the latter firstly: If you think it’s by having your good deeds outweighing the bad, how do you define your good and your bad deeds? God is perfect. His definition of “bad” is far broader than ours is. The longer I’m a Christian, the more I realize how bad I really am, because I become more familiar with what God’s standards really are. When someone asked Jesus what he must do to “inherit eternal life”, Jesus responded, “No one is good except God alone.”–Luke 18:18

This seems to me a really iffy program to place my hope on to obtain eternal life in Heaven. How do you really know when your good deeds outweigh your bad? How many points does gossip get versus donating a toy to Toys for Tots? That method would keep me awake at night.

Most people don’t understand the gospel (which means “good news”). It’s not good news to tell me that I need to work really hard to be good and hope that maybe I did well enough to pass muster on Judgment Day. God cannot tolerate evil, i.e. sin. He demands perfection. In the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus declared, “You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”–Matthew 5:48  I blew that one a long time ago.

That’s why Jesus had to die. Only He was good enough, being God in the flesh, to live a perfect life and take our punishment for God’s wrath against sin. We don’t do anything to earn Heaven except humble ourselves and admit we’re sinners and need Jesus’ blood to cover our sin for us. And because He rose from the dead, proving Himself to be God and His sacrifice acceptable, ask Him to empower us by giving us the Holy Spirit to live His life through us.

Then God sees us as perfect and totally lovable, just like I love my Buddy.

“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”–Psalm 103:12

And that’s good news, not working for my eternal life but accepting that Jesus already did it for me.

Sadly, admitting they’re not perfect is just too difficult for most people.

PS. If someone says this is wrong, it’s not by faith in Christ but good works, then ask them, “Why did Jesus have to die?”

***

If you agree with me, “Hey, I’d like to go to Heaven and live with this loving God for eternity, and I know I’m not perfect, I’ve missed the mark,” please pray:

Dear Father, I’m sorry I’ve screwed up and fallen far short of your standards. I know I’m far from perfect but I believe you love me and want me to spend eternity with you. I believe that Jesus was God in the flesh and died for my sins. That He lived the perfect life I couldn’t live. Please forgive me and grant me Your Holy Spirit to lead and guide me. Amen.

 

You fool! Matthew 5:22b

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No matter how rotten or rascally Buddy acts, I never curse him out. Why? Because I love him.

However, it’s much more difficult when dealing with human beings. Unlike my faithful dog, they can inflict great hurt or act hatefully. I am particularly sensitive to people who are supporting political movements that are damaging the freedom, and threatening the liberty, of this great country I grew up in. I wonder if future generations are going to enjoy the freedom and prosperity that I have, and hope to continue to have, during my lifetime. But I have to remind myself of Jesus’ warning during His well-known Sermon On The Mount speech:

“But I say to you…whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”–Jesus, Matthew 5:22b

Because we’re all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), God demands that we treat each other with respect. God showers His love on all humankind through what is called “common grace,” meaning that He gives good things to all people through what He has provided on earth: food from the ground, rain for crops, air to breathe, etc.

But it’s really easy for me to forget that when I’m feeling passionate about a topic or frustrated because someone isn’t acting the way I think they should. I have to remind myself that one of God’s greatest gifts to us is free will: The choice to love and obey God freely or to choose not to. God, being all powerful, could force us to obey Him or zap us whenever we do what displeases him. Jesus could easily have struck the Roman soldiers dead who beat and flogged him before forcing him to walk to His crucifixion. But He didn’t. Instead, hanging naked and beaten to a pulp from the Cross, He said, “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing.”–Luke 23:34

Since I’m a follower of Christ, He expects me to glorify Him in this hurting world, to be light and salt, to stand out, to draw people into relationship with Him.

It’s a challenge for me because we’re not supposed to be cowards, standing idly by while people destroy themselves with sin or promote evil, but are exhorted to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). But I often find it difficult to figure out how to be honest yet not be condemning. I don’t feel like I have many roles models to pattern myself after. Which forces me to rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

And some people seem to be naturally easy-going: nothing much fazes them. That’s not me. I have the passionate, artistic personality–that’s the way God made me. Emotions are not evil, but how we express them can be, when we hurt, injure, or mistreat others instead of loving, inspiring and gently exhorting them.

I guess what I’m saying is, it’s a lot easier to be patient with Buddy, not only because I love him but because I do have more control over his behavior than I do people. I cannot make people love or be grateful or work hard or do good. I work at obeying God–to love others as I love myself (Matthew 22:39–and have to learn to let go and trust Him to work out His will in the lives of others, this country, and the world. Creation and humanity was His plan and He’s ultimately in control, not me.

***

If you’re not born-again, you will discover that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot improve yourself. Only God can change your soul and make you into the loving person you’d like to be. He made you with a purpose and loves you very much. If you’re tired of continually failing, please say this prayer:

Lord Jesus, I’m sorry that I’ve sinned and offended You. Please forgive me. I’m tired of trying to be a better person in my own strength. Please come into my life and help me to become the person You created me to be and to fulfill your will and purpose for my life.

If you’ve said this prayer, God bless you. You have eternal life and are starting a wonderful journey. Please find a local, Biblically-based church or Bible study where you can becomes friends with, and be grow in your faith, other believers. It helps you to stand strong when you don’t feel alone.

 

Where Is Your Faith? Luke 8:22-25a

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It’s Seahawks football season again. Last year Buddy hid in the master bathtub because the neighborhood shoots off booms and bangs every time the Hawks score a touchdown. He also runs off when a family member claps their hands to cheer a good play.

Christians, including myself, are not immune to fear. As a result, we don’t always move forward in faith when we should. Yet, sometimes Jesus pushes us into fearful situations to increase our faith and trust in Him.

“Now on one of those days Jesus and HIs disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, ‘Let us go over to the other side of the lake.’ So they launched out.

But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger.

They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm.

And He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?'”–Luke 8:22-25a

Sometimes I get frustrated with my fellow Christians. Maybe that is wrong. But here is the reason: According to the US Government Census page, our USA population is slowly approaching 326 million people. 40% of the population claims to be born-again, or 130 million, 400 thousand people. I assume they are all old enough to make the claim. When I was discussing this with a friend recently, they claimed that only about 10% of the 40% is sincere. OK, so that’s 13 million and 40 thousand people.

For several years I’ve been listening to the Christian community claim that it’s all over for America. Really?

After receiving the power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, 12 apostles and five thousand new converts turned the known world upside down, starting a spiritual, and ultimately a cultural, revolution that has lasted for over 2 thousand years. So I ask my fellow 13 million plus fellow American believers: Where is your faith?

“And He (Jesus) could do no miracles there except that He laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief.”–Mark 6:5-6

Perhaps the problem in America with it’s increasingly debauched culture isn’t that God has given up on America, but that we have given up on praying to God for spiritual renewal. It’s really easy to get busy with family or recreation or business and not leave time to pray. Or exhaust ourselves with guilt and worry and anger and not have the energy to pray.

Or, simply, not ask God for spiritual renewal and hunger in America because of simple unbelief. Not asking because we don’t believe it’s possible. We’re looking at the waves surging around us of cultural rot and animosity toward Christianity and the Bible and tossing our hands up in the air in despair, instead of getting on our knees and praying.

As Dr. Charles Stanley says, “The battle is won on our knees.”

I’m not satisfied in watching souls die without the Lord and hope.

I’m going to start spending more time in prayer that God raise up godly evangelists, particularly among the new generation becoming adults. And for spiritual renewal in America. Please pray with me.

Until Jesus returns, we’re to be salt (a preservative) and light. We’re all here at this time for a reason. Have faith, my friends!

Hurting People, James 4:11-12

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When I first adopted Buddy from Silky Terrier Rescue, he was terrified of me and my family. He didn’t utter one sound for several days, not even a sniff. We thought his voice box had been damaged by abuse but it turned out he was just too frightened to make noise. When he barked at the neighbor’s dog and was praised for making a sound, he realized it was ok to make noise. Now he’s our most talkative dog ever.

For years, however, whenever I reached toward him, he would duck as if I wanted to hit him. He doesn’t do it as often now, but he still does duck occasionally and it hurts my feelings because I have no desire to harm Buddy. I don’t know the details of his previous life and can only speculate. Only God knows, but now Buddy has a family who loves and cherishes him. He gets treats and walks and hugs and personal care.

Considering this, I realize that people often act like Buddy. There might be abuse in their past or adverse circumstances that I don’t know anything about that might be causing them to act the way they do. Sometimes people act nasty or fearful because of original sin, but sometimes there are other mitigating factors.

“Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law…There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”–James 4:11-12

When the check-out clerk who is scanning my grocery items looks sullen or is unfriendly, I try to remind myself not to react unkindly. I know how many things I conceal from people that I have far more contact with. The clerk may have been forced to come to work to save their job but may not be feeling well, their dog may have run off or been killed that morning, their kid may have just entered drug rehab, or a customer earlier that day was very rude and they haven’t been able to shrug it off yet. I just don’t know what may have happened ten minutes or ten hours ago in that person’s life. Only God knows.

Similarly, a coworker may be acting like a butt because they were told bad news about a relative or had an ugly family fight that morning. Or they may just feel cranky from lack of sleep and it’s an aberration and I need to be patient while they work it out of their system.

I’m not saying that people should make excuses for acting badly toward others, but we are all human and I am certainly not Miss Sunshine 24/7 myself and need others to forgive and be patient with me, too. “Love is patient, love is kind…” (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Now there are indeed times to judge because we are told to “Open your mouth, judge righteously…” (Proverbs 31:9)  We’re not supposed to remain silent and let evil triumph. “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well, is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” (Proverbs 25:26)

But in most circumstances of life, I need to remind myself to be patient, be kind, and not judge. Not to be reactive or defensive, but to be proactively loving. I’m still learning because I have my “hot buttons” but I think I’m doing better than I used to because of God’s life in me.

God bless you this week.

***

Without the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in our lives, it’s difficult to be the person we want to be. God gives us a new heart, a new spirit, and the mind of Christ when we admit we’re sinners and give our hearts to Him. Becoming born-again isn’t just about escaping Hell and going to Heaven; it’s about entering into a close relationship with God and becoming a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:7). If you aren’t a believer in Jesus Christ, He invites you to enter into relationship with Him. Please pray: “Lord, I admit that I have offended You and done what is wrong in Your sight. Please forgive me of my sins and enter into my heart and my life. Make me a new creation by the power of Your Holy Spirit.” If you prayed this prayer, please find a Bible-based church to fellowship with other believers and grow in the knowledge of God. As a fellow believer in Christ, I love you and so does the Lord.

Simplifying Idolatry, Exodus 20:4-5

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Buddy is sticking out his tongue because he’s uncomfortable with having his picture taken. (I’m disappointed in my new phone’s camera but wasn’t willing to pay $700+ for a new phone when a $200 phone does everything I need–except take great photos!)

I sometimes feel uncomfortable with some discussions in the Christian community. In my opinion, at times well-meaning Christians make Christianity too difficult and discourage sincere people. The latest focus in sermons and articles appears to be idolatry. It seems, basically, anything a person really likes is being defined as idolatry. As a result, I think people–including myself–are becoming too preoccupied with self-examination and sin-focused, rather than being Christ-focused and rejoicing in His goodness. It’s hard to be a happy, joyful Christian who attracts miserable unbelievers to your religion when you’re gloomy and self-obsessesed, perpetually worrying if this or that activity, object, pet, or person is an idol.

Now, I have no desire to deny the seriousness of sin. God takes idolatry very seriously.

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God,…”–Exodus 20:4-5a

But I believe the following is a much simpler and workable definition of idolatry:

Anything that, or anyone who, causes you to disobey God.

For example, a pop singer takes heroine so young people start taking drugs because it’s cool. No. God says our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and is a gift, being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). That singer has become an idol.

Your boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance asks you to have sex with them and you say OK, knowing that God forbids extramarital sex (Hebrews 13:4). That person has become an idol to you.

You purchase a sporty red convertible, taking on enormous monthly payments and new debt, potentially straining your marriage and reducing your ability to tithe or give to those in need, knowing that your current automobile works just fine and you could live with it, but you lusted after a new car. You have made that car (or your desire for status) your idol.

A friend lures you into gossiping about a coworker or slandering someone because you care more about the opinion of that friend rather than about the potential harm you’re doing to the person you are slandering or gossiping about. You’ve made that relationship an idol.

You don’t compliment people at work or nominate them for awards because you don’t want them to look good to management and potentially jeopardize your own chance for a promotion. Your job, or your own ego, has become an idol because you aren’t trusting God to provide for your needs or to elevate you in His proper timing.

You watch an awards show because it showcases your favorite performer, knowing that there will be overtly sexual performances and profane lyrics–you’ve made entertainment an idol.

I’m pretty sure you’ve gotten the idea that I’m trying to get across. I believe this definition of idolatry as “anything that, or anyone who, causes you to disobey God” is easy to understand and takes less self-indulgent introspection to identify.

Most of God’s commands are pretty clear in the Bible.

I hope this helps simplify your Christian walk.

God bless you.