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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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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.

 

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.

 

 

We’re of Infinite Value, Matthew 1:23

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I like to dress Buddy up in little sweaters and for Christmas, a Santa outfit. He wasn’t too happy this Christmas morning, as you can see.

What is amazing is that the 2nd part of the eternal and omnipotent God, Jesus Christ, came down and put on human flesh and dwelt amongst us (John 1:14). The Almighty God who created all things, the Heavens and the earth (Colossians 1:15-16), who existed outside of time and space and the material world, humbled Himself to take on human form, lived in a human womb for 9 months to subsequently enter in our world. By doing this, He could personally interact with us and demonstrate to us who God is (John 14:8-10).

“‘Behold, the virgin shall be with Child and shall bear a Son and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, God with us.'”–Matthew 1:23

But there is another aspect of this incarnation that is truly wonderful. By taking on human flesh, God declared that human beings were of infinite value.

Catholic philosopher Dr. Robert P. George theorizes that modern culture is promoting the ancient Greek heresy of Gnosticism (neo-Gnosticism), the idea that only the spirit is sacred and the flesh is not, that the mind is inferior to the body and is a breakable unity; that the human personality/mind is distinct from the physical body it inhabits. “That the mental, the spiritual, is what ultimately matters.” That it was the philosopher René Descartes who introduced this distinction into our modern civilization. Whereas Christianity teaches that we are whole beings, spirit and flesh. We cannot separate the two.

God declared that the flesh is of infinite value by taking on human form Himself. He didn’t come down as a spirit being only or die on the Cross as a spirit being only or rise as a spirit being only. He was born of a virgin female, lived and worked and preached as a human male, died on the Cross in the flesh and rose bodily in the flesh.

The human form is important to God, the culmination of His Creation (Genesis 1:27). We are made in HIS IMAGE. He declared His creation “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

You are of infinite value. You are NOT an accident of the universe, a random result of natural selection.

God designed you and foreknew you (Psalm 139:13). All of you. Your mind and your physical body.

So valuable that God Himself died for you on the Cross for your sin, taking the punishment you deserved. And when you accept His death for your sin, He gives you eternal life by regenerating your spirit, making it alive.

The miracle of Christmas is not just that God came down to dwell amongst us, but that He loves and values us so much.

And one day, if you are born-again by the Spirit of God, you will be resurrected in a perfected body.

A fleshly body, a healthy body, a beautiful body.

God loves you.

Love and Merry Christmas from Dawn and Buddy.

***

PS. They nearly doubled my workload in my day job. I was exhausted for at time but hope to be rejuvenated during the holiday season to get back to a weekly posting.

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.

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.