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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

Self-Righteousness, Jonah 3:10-4:1

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I love Buddy, not because he’s always a good boy, but because he’s my pal and my responsibility. I enjoy his company and am concerned for his welfare.

When Christians become self-righteous, it’s not usually because they’re bad people but because they don’t understand what salvation is. We don’t become born-again because our works are so wonderful that we’re worthy of Heaven: we are saved despite our flaws.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”–Romans 3:23

Our works are pleasing to God when we’re in a right relationship with Him (born-again), not vice versa. No one deserves to go to Heaven. We are so wicked, compared to God’s perfect holiness and love, that no one can boast about their goodness and earn Heaven. It’s His mercy and great love for us that causes Him to convict us of our sin and bring us back into fellowship with Him.

What’s this got to do with Jonah?

Jonah hated the ancient Ninevites for good reason: They were a very warlike, cruel and vicious race of people. Everyone was afraid of them. Yet, God loved them and wanted to bring them into relationship with Himself. He chose to send the Jewish prophet Jonah to Nineveh to preach to them to repent. But Jonah hated the Ninevites and didn’t want them to repent–he wanted God to judge and punish them.

You cannot thwart God. Jonah took a ship “to flee to Tarshish” (Jonah 1:3) but God stirred up a mighty storm. The boat crew realized that a god was responsible for their troubles and discovered that Jonah was the source. Though they were pagans, they didn’t want to harm Jonah but eventually were forced to toss him overboard, at Jonah’s suggestion, to calm the stormy waters.

Jonah would rather die than go preach to people he hated and see them be blessed by God. He forgot that he didn’t deserve to be loved by a holy God either.

Everyone has heard the story of how Jonah was swallowed by a whale, and when Jonah had finally given in to God’s will to go to Nineveh to preach the gospel of repentance, the whale vomited him up on shore.

Deliberately disobeying God is never pleasant. Not only that, God hates pride and self-righteousness. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) I cannot emphasize this enough: NO ONE is good enough to go to Heaven.

Half-heartedly Jonah walked among the Ninevites, preaching the lamest sermon ever. But since a changed heart depends upon God’s power and not our greatness, a mighty revival broke out and the city repented of their sins.

“When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes.” (Jonah 3:6) The king declared that everyone, even the beasts and flocks of birds, were to fast and be covered with sackcloth, signifying repentance. “Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw his burning anger so that we will not perish.”

“When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.”–Jonah 3:10-4:1

God was not pleased by Jonah’s self-righteous, hard-heartedness.

Jonah didn’t have a right to be angry. He had forgotten that he was also a sinner in comparison to a holy God. Maybe he didn’t sacrifice his children to demonic gods or cut off hands and noses or spread people’s skins, but compared to a kind and loving and merciful God, he fell far short.

God loves everyone. People every day spit in His face, deny His existence, curse His name, and deliberately ignore his pleas for them to do good, yet He gives them life, wealth, children, food, pets, vacations, lovely sunrises and many pleasing and wonderful gifts. Jesus was spit upon, beaten, and flogged by the Romans before He was crucified, yet He never cursed them or zapped them, although, as God In The Flesh (Immanuel–Matthew 1:23), He had the power to do so.

I’m certainly not perfect in this area. I have to remind myself continually to “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return…for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” (Luke 6:28, 35)

God’s mercy is available to anyone who wants to forsake their pride and repent of their sin and enter into a love relationship with Him. “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”–Luke 11:13

You have to ask to receive. God bless you.

Falling Short of Expectations, Ephesians 2:8-10

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Do you ever feel like Buddy in this photo: There are good things in life you could enjoy if you’d just make the effort to grab onto it?

Sometimes I get discouraged when I read about the great heroes of the Bible: Job, Esther, Daniel, Nehemiah, Noah and Joseph. They seem so perfect, so heroic. Job who suffered so greatly yet would not curse God nor lose his faith in God’s goodness; Esther, who was willing to sacrifice her life to save the Jewish people; Daniel, who was such a good person that his enemies could find nothing to accuse him of to get him into trouble with the king; Nehemiah, who had the wisdom to pray on the spot for God’s help in a precarious moment and to ask the king to assist him in a great and mighty task; Noah, who spent over a hundred years building a boat with absolutely no evidence there would be a flood yet believed God anyway; and Joseph, who didn’t grumble and complain no matter how unfairly he had been treated and maintained his faith in God, despite his adverse circumstances.

Sometimes I feel that being of use to God in furthering His kingdom is just beyond my grasp. I want to pick up that bone and run with it and be faithful and a good Christian. But I grumble and complain when work sucks or life doesn’t go my way; I get discouraged when I don’t see God answering my prayers; I forget to pray when under stress; and people could easily find fault with me. Despite my best efforts to serve God, I feel like I fall short every day.

Way, way short of God’s standards of how I should behave.

And then, when I start to look upward and not at myself, I remember what God says in Ephesians 2:10:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are HIS WORKMANSHIP, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we would walk in them.” (NASB, CAPS my emphasis)

  1. God didn’t choose to save me because he thought I was so wonderful. But I am HIS creation. He chose to make me and save me because He loves me. And He is the one who accepted me. He’s totally 100% good and kind, yet He chose this sinful person to be in communion with Him and His Holy Spirit indwells me.
  2. “There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.”–Romans 8:1 God knows I cannot live up to His righteous standards. That’s why Christ had to die and take the penalty for my sin, because there’s no way I can earn God’s favor. He freely chooses to love me, despite my faults, flaws and failures.
  3. Because I’m so flawed, I can boast in a good and loving God.
  4. God loves variety. I’m different from other people because God designed me that way. I’m unique and my job to do on this earth is, therefore, unique to me.
  5. God chose what works I am supposed to accomplish in my lifetime. His plan for me is not the same as the pastor’s or my friends or my fellow Christian believers. “He who began a good work in (me) will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”–Philippians 1:6  I can trust that God, as my good Shepherd Who leads me in the paths of righteousness for His namesake” (Psalm 23:3) will guide Me into accomplishing the deeds/works He wants me to accomplish.

Sometimes we feel bad because we don’t have the gifts or the accomplishments that other “Super Christians” seem to have and we don’t win those great battles. Yet one man led Billie Graham to Christ and because of that one man’s faithfulness, Mr. Graham accomplished great things for God. (I was saved through Billie Graham’s TV ministry in 1989.)

As my dad has often told me, “There’ll always be someone greater or lesser than yourself.” If I compare myself to the superstars, I’ll feel discouraged.

I have to remind myself that my relationship with God is a personal relationship and that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a); God didn’t make a mistake when He made me and chose me.

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”–Psalm 46:10

So I need to stop striving and trust that God will accomplish His good purposes in my life, and when I’ve completed my God-assigned tasks, He’ll call me home to eternal joy.

God bless you, my dear reader.

***PS. If you follow my site regularly, thank you. I try to follow your site back, but sometimes I have trouble finding the follow button.

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If you aren’t born-again, you’re missing out on a wonderful love relationship. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that life becomes gravy street, but God will give you strength to face life. You’ll no longer be alone. You were born with a piece of your inner life puzzle missing, and only He can complete it. Please say this prayer below to begin your faith journey.

“Lord, I’ve offended you by my sin and fallen short of your standards. I accept that I can never be good enough to atone for my sins so that Jesus was punished on the Cross on my behalf. Please forgive me and save me from myself. Change me by sending the Holy Spirit to live Your life through Me.”

“Your heavenly Father (will) give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him”–Luke 11:13

Congratulations, brother or sister on becoming born-again. Please begin to read your Bible and pray that God will lead you to a Bible-based church where you can grow and fellowship with other believers. God bless you richly. Love you, my fellow believer, Dawn

 

 

 

Great Creator: Psalm 36:7

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I love my Buddy; when he’s good or when he’s bad, he’s still my little pal. I do much prefer it when he’s good and obedient, but I’d never toss him aside or give him away because he’s misbehaving.

In my women’s Bible Study we’re learning about the names of God. God and Lord in the Scriptures actually have more exact names in the original languages.

A few weeks ago we studied about Elohim, The Creator.

I often identify with God more as The Creator than His other names because, being made in His image (Genesis 1:27), I also like to use my imagination creatively. I’m not like God, able to speak things into being from nothingness and can only recreate from what already exists, but I really enjoy making up stories and drawing cartoons.

I struggled with my image of a loving God because I know He’s so holy and I’m so imperfect. But one day it finally clicked: I love my cartoon characters from my Cattle Capers(tm) world, both the good ones and the bad ones. Why? Because I created them.

They’re not real, yet I have an emotional attachment to them, as their creator.

The name Elohim is used in Psalm 36:7, but translated as God, per Strong’s Number 430: “How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God (Elohim). People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.”

God loves us because He created us. He fashioned us in the womb and is intimately interested in us. His attention is always on us. (Psalm 139) We exist because He wanted us to.

Lenny the Rat is one of my favorite characters, but he’s far from perfect.

Just as I am, just as you are. But God loves us anyway.

You don’t have to be perfect to be lovable.

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Mr. Darcy and Christmas: Genesis 3:9

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My beloved Buddy is wearing his Christmas holiday bowtie and collar. He wasn’t too happy about it and is looking rather miffed. Yet, he is naturally a very sweet dog and makes good company. If someone were to judge him solely by this photo, they would get a very wrong impression of Buddy’s personality.

During the Thanksgiving holiday season I watched one of my favorite movies, “Pride & Prejudice,” with the lovely Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. I particularly enjoy Donald Sutherland’s version of Mr. Bennet.

As many who love the story know, the hero, Mr. Darcy, makes an error in judging the character of Jane Bennet, Elizabeth’s sister. Because Jane is so shy, she doesn’t make her interest in Mr. Darcy’s friend clear as to whether she loves him as a man or just a friend. So Mr. Darcy separates his friend from Jane to protect his feelings.

Elizabeth is quite angry that her sister’s heart was broken. She considers Mr. Darcy cold and snobbish. Mr. Darcy proves his love to Elizabeth by rescuing the Bennet family from a foolish choice by one of her sisters that could ruin the family’s reputation and standing in the community. Elizabeth learns, through Mr. Darcy’s actions, that he is actually a good man and is also rather shy in revealing his true feelings and nature to those he doesn’t know well. And falls in love with him.

Only because Mr. Darcy is willing to risk being rejected a second time by proposing again to Elizabeth (after she rejected him for being a snob for his poorly worded first proposal), does Elizabeth find great happiness in marriage.

When contemplating how the author, Jane Austen, put the plot and characters together, I realized that Mr. Darcy is a sort of Christ figure. Despite his rejection by Elizabeth, he continued to do good for her family, with a great financial gift to rescue her sister from ruin, to prove his love for her. Love motivated him to continue to pursue Elizabeth and risk rejection.

“Where are you?”–Genesis 3:9

When I finally realized the true meaning of God calling out for Adam and Eve in the Garden, it broke my heart.

God is also misunderstood and rejected by billions of his beloved humanity. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve didn’t trust God’s love for them and listened to Satan instead, thinking God was holding out on them so they disobeyed. They didn’t believe that God truly loved them.

When God called out, “Where are you?”, He knew where Adam and Eve were physically. But they became spiritually separated from Him. At one time, they were in perfect union and fellowship with God. Sin/disobedience separated them spiritually so that they no longer felt His great love for them in their spirits. Their spirits died.

We were created to be triune beings, like God: soul, body and spirt. When the human race rejected fellowship with God, the Holy Spirit left the human race. As a result, each one of us is born missing the Life of God within us. We are all born with a God-shaped hole within our being.

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”–Jesus, John 10:10

Every human being feels that emptiness inside. They try to fill it with things that can never fill it: food, sex, entertainment, parties, alcohol, travel, drugs, shopping, etc. We can never get enough of what we’re trying to fill that emptiness with. These attempts to fill the hole never work because we were created to be filled with the Life of Christ.

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing;”–John 6:63

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), …so that in the ages to come He might show the surprising riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”–Ephesians 2:4-7

Because we don’t trust that God is good, we don’t come to Him. Yet, He continues to pursue each one of us because of His great love for us. He wants to give us, not only eternal life with Him, but His life by giving us the Holy Spirit, making us whole once again. This is what the term “born again” means: the Holy Spirit coming to live within you when you repent of your sin, admitting that you need God to be in charge of your life, accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Your spirit is united with the Spirit of Christ and you become spiritually alive.

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and confess in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”–Romans 10:9

Lord, meaning, “Immanuel, God with us.”–Matthew 1:23

Christmas is about God pursuing us, sending His son to live among us so that we can understand and believe that He is good and that He truly loves us.

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; …And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”–Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas from Dawn and Buddy

God bless you. Thank you for reading my Buddy blog.

 

When An Evil Man Dies: Ezekiel 18:32

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Discussing the topic of death, I didn’t want to utilize a picture of my beloved Buddy. This photo is of the moon peering through our cloudy, Northwest sky.

It’s ironic that an anti-capitalist Marxist, Fidel Castro, died on Black Friday, the biggest sales day of a capitalist country, one pundit commented yesterday. Understandably, the Cuban community in exile in Miami celebrated. I pray that Raul Castro will allow, not only economic freedom to continue to expand, but also personal freedom. He is permitting Christians to worship more freely (so I’ve heard earlier this summer), which is wonderful.

But how does God feel about the death of an evil man, such as Fidel Castro?

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

“God is love.”–1 John 4: 8b

Once a person dies, they no longer have the option of repenting of their sins and entering into a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. Because God is loving, He doesn’t rejoice when someone dies without having a relationship with Him. He isn’t happy when someone is separated from Him for eternity. No one knows us as well as He does and loves as deeply and sincerely as He does.

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”–Jesus, Matthew 6:44, 48

All of us are considered sinners in God’s eyes before we repent, for “There is none righteous, not even one;” (Romans 3:10). He alone is perfect; we cannot consider that we’re more worthy of God’s love than any other person. Once we declare our need for Jesus to cover our sin and advise us how to live, then we’re covered by Christ’s righteousness. We’re considered holy by God only because we’ve received the Holy Spirit and our hearts have been circumcised by faith. It’s not our righteousness, but that of Jesus, that God sees when He looks at saved Christians.

In other words, no one has the right to strut about, thinking they’re so much more wonderful than anyone else. In God’s eyes, we’re either saved or not.

“Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.”–Provers 25:26

I’m not saying we’re supposed to rejoice when a wicked person rules or passively accept evil behavior. But to avoid self-righteousness, thinking we deserve salvation and someone else doesn’t. Because we don’t earn it: It’s an undeserved gift from God of His mercy.

I pray that the Cuban people may experience increased freedom now that Fidel Castro is gone.