Why I Love God so Much

img_0415I love the Lord Jesus Christ because He first loved me and He has delivered me from many situations. God is concerned about everything that concerns us, despite the size of the problem. I have fallen victim to many situations, but the Lord has delivered me out of them all. Every situation serves to make me stronger in my faith and more dependent on Jesus. I hope the following testimony will bless your heart. It may seem trivial, but it was no trivial matter for me. God never ceases to amaze me about His love.

Four years ago this month, I was very ill due to a serious but easily treatable disorder that often afflicts people much older than I was. The ongoing treatment, taken once a month for the rest of my life, caused my brain chemistry to change. I suddenly found myself behaving and thinking in a manner that was significantly different from my usual behavior. Some of the behaviors I initially welcomed. None of the behaviors were negative unless committed in excess; however, I began to engage in obsessive behaviors. Specifically, I began to shop excessively and attend performing arts programs excessively. The first year was especially difficult. I had to pray myself out of shopping obsessively (shoes & perfume). After the first year, I still however, continued to attend many cultural events. The problem persisted because I loved the theater, film, and dance. Like an addict, I attended a film or a performing arts show every week. Not only was I spending an excessive amount of money ( I rationalized it because I received significant discounts), but I had little time for other things that I also enjoyed (baking, reading, etc.). Because of my addiction, I was rarely available to go out with friends (I attended about 75% of my activities solo). I knew it was excessive, but I lacked the wherewithal to stop myself.  By the third year, I wanted to get off of this treadmill because the velocity was too great, and my behavior too negligent.  As the beginning of the fifth year was approaching, one of my friends prayed for me. My time suddenly became extremely limited and I had little time for my compulsive activities. I did not renew many subscriptions, and I suddenly became less than interested in all of these activities. When New Years Eve 2016 came, I felt as if I wanted to spend more time reading, cooking, baking, and going out with friends. For one month, I have done all of these activities and more. I’m busy doing more of what I love. I still love the performing arts, but now my interest is tempered. I no longer feel as if I am missing out on something, but that I am gaining an abundant life.

As a result of this experience, I understand how someone can become entangled with something that may be detrimental to one’s life, but with prayer God can work everything out. Some things are lawful, but not everything is beneficial (Romans 12:2). I know that God commands us to cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). The Bible also says that this light affliction is working for us a far more eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). If we are called by God and according to His purpose, then we know that ALL things work together for our good (Romans 8:28).img_0416

Let’s pray: In the name of Jesus I pray. I thank you for your love and mercy and for your hand upon my life. I ask that you will help us to abide in you and in your word. Please fill us to overflowing capacity with your Spirit. Help us to put you first by praying and spending time in your word. Help us to turn toward you and away from anything that seeks to hinder our relationship with you. I ask all of these blessings in Jesus’ name I pray with thanksgiving always. Amen.

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Standing on the Promises of God: Faith and Love

img_0311A favorite gospel song of mine from my childhood is “Standing on the Promises of God” (see lyrics at the end of this post). In The Bible, God has given us so many great and precious promises (2 Peter 2:4) that await us, yet some of us never attain these promises because of a lack of faith. Because God is a loving father, He is patient with us and wants the best for His children. He says in His word that He will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly before Him (Psalm 84:11). Developing faith in Jesus and becoming like Him are the ultimate goals of serving Christ. Knowing that His word is true and acting upon this truth can take us places far and wide within our service to Christ. Faith is never achieved overnight. Looking like Him takes both commitment and endurance. They both require spending time in His word and in prayer. We must also make ourselves available for His use. Once we yield ourselves to Him, he begins painstaking surgery. God is the potter and we are the clay (Jeremiah 18). Seeing all of the lumps and the impurities in our lives, He desires to remove them so that we can resemble Him and have faith. By allowing vulnerability, the Holy Spirit can begin His work, the circumcision of our hearts, (Romans 2:29) so that we can have the mind of Christ and have faith in Him.

Firstly, God wants us to have a heart after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). That may be achieved by knowing that love, mercy, compassion, patience, and kindness are all contained within His heart. For some of us, these behaviors may not come easily. For some of us, they are extremely difficult. For us to have the heart of Christ, we must be willing to allow ourselves to be placed in situations that foster the development of Christ-like behaviors and attitudes. For example, we may have to work with people who are difficult to either like or love. We may even have family who have mistreated and hurt us terribly. In these situations, Psalm 121 says to “Look unto the hills from whence cometh [our] help, knowing that “our help cometh from the Lord.” Furthermore,”He will not slumber nor sleep.” He will be with us forever more. As we mature in Christ, the situations in which we find ourselves will grow in intensity because we are continually going through refinement so that we can look more like Him. God takes us from “glory to glory.” He wants us to look past the imperfections of others in the same manner as he continues to do for us. The Bible says that He will continue to perform the work that He started in us (Philippians 1:6). He is just looking for willing vessels.

Secondly, we have to learn total dependence on Christ. Many of us are either accustomed to depending on ourselves or on someone else. We rely on our regular paychecks. When we are in a grave situation, we ask our closest friends or family to help us. If we want the Lord to use us in an increasing manner, we have to learn to rely exclusively on Him. Maybe, the Lord will allow circumstances to develop so that faith and total dependency can be achieved. We may have unemployment, illness, or children living contrary to the teachings of Christ. Our Lord wants us to know that our deliverance comes from Him not from our own strength or power. It comes from the Spirit of the Lord (Zechariah 4:6).

Lastly, to have faith in Christ and to resemble Him, we must ask the Holy Spirit to help us trust Him more. Faith operates through trust. God asks us in Psalm 3:5 to “Trust in [Him] with all of our hearts and lean not to our own understanding, but in all [our] ways acknowledge Him and He will direct [our] paths.” We must keep an account of all the blessings of God that have been bestowed upon us. The Bible in James 1:17 says that “Every good and perfect gift is coming down from God our father.” We must never forget these blessings. If He has helped us once, He will help us again. Believe the report of the Lord (Isaiah 51:1)!

We are all in the process of refinement as pure gold. If we allow Him to work in our lives, we will have faith to move mountains (Matthew 27:21) and we will have love for one another (John 23:34). Let’s allow His living water to well up inside our hearts so that we can “Shout and sing/ Standing on the Promises of God.”

Lyrics:
Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let his praises ring;
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.
[Refrain]

For Christian development read Hebrews 12. May God richly bless you in your service to Him.

My Reflection

Looking in the mirror I see my reflection

Casting an eye back at me

What is it that I see in you

As I gaze gently warmly softly

 

I see the beauty that is within

The love that burgeons forth

Waiting desiring to be loved

Accepted by others

 

I see a candle burning brightly

Lighting up the world

Being and shining forth

Illuminating and enlightening

 

One day that reflection will go forth

And others will see the beauty within

My eyes my  heart my being

And embrace God’s light within me.

 

 

Standing For Something and Not Falling for Anything

Over the last few weeks (really my entire life), I have heard a plethora of negative comments about Christianity as well as seen too few people taking a positive stand for Christianity within the mainstream media (although a few prominent people in the media like Kathy Lee Gifford (click here_____) have made bold and powerful statements). Christians are often misunderstood and, therefore, mocked. Christians espousing morality are often afraid to share their faith because of potential ridicule. Within the media, Christians are sometimes disdained and misrepresented.  In the September 3, 2016 edition of the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof (I disclose that I regularly read his column which most often is about helping out the needy and disadvantaged people of the world) respectfully writes an article, “What Religion Would Jesus Belong To?” (For article Click here_.) He comments on Brian D. McLaren’s new book, The Great Spiritual Migration. (I have not yet read the book). Kristof, says that founders of religion “Are typically bold and charismatic visionaries who inspire with their moral imagination, while their teachings sometimes evolve into ingrown, risk -averse bureaucracies obsessed with money and power.” He says that tension between the two is most “pronounced with Christianity.” McLaren, a former pastor says that Jesus “Often comes across as anti-poor, anti-gay, anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant and anti-science.” Kristof also sites Stephen Prothero’s Religious Literacy,” in which he says that only half of American Christians can name the four gospels and only forty-one percent are familiar with Job. McLaren, ultimately, according to Kristof, asks if Christians could “Migrate from defining their faith as a system of beliefs to expressing it as a loving way of life?” Kristof does acknowledge the altruistic attributes of many Christians, and that some “Pompous hypocrites get the headlines and often shape public attitudes about religion.” We should be measuring a person’s Christianity by what he does, not by what he says. Christianity should never be about wealth and power. A Christian should be measured against biblical beliefs, yet knowing that God is continually perfecting His people (Philippians 1: 6).

Essential Tenets of Christianity

  • Belief that Jesus is the Messiah (the second part of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit);
  • Jesus was crucified and on the third day He rose;
  • If you accept Jesus as your savior, you will have eternal life;
  • Everyone will have to give an account of their actions when Jesus returns;
  • Those who have not accepted Christ will be condemned to the Lake of Fire;
  • Jesus lives within the hearts of His people;
  • Christians are commanded to love everyone as Christ loves the church;
  • Christians are commanded to look after the unfortunate (the poor, the needy, orphans, widows, etc);
  • Practice the Golden Rule (Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.);
  • Study the Word of God;
  • Pray in Jesus’ name and
  • Get baptized

Christian Character

Within Christianity there are carnal Christians and Christians who have a relationship with Christ. Carnal Christians focus more on worldly matters (wealth and the pride of life) instead of on Christ. They operate more from their flesh than from Christ’s spirit. Christianity is much more than a set of rules; it’s about having a relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s not about judging people; it’s about spreading the good news of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:7 and John 28:18-20). The Bible is a Christian’s lifeline. Christians pray and love! Sometimes our message gets clouded in  anti-abortion and anti-gay rhetoric, but love should be our strongest message. We should never hate anyone! We ourselves were once in a perpetual lifestyle of sin. Unfortunately, some of us still are sinning  perpetually because we have not fully yielded our lives to Christ (it is a process).

Many Christians do focus on moral imperatives; however, we should love everyone as Christ loves the church (believers in Christ). There should be a balance of speaking against immorality, while still loving the sinner. Christ loves everyone, yet He points out our wrongdoing. Within Christianity there are hypocrites; they, however, should never speak for the whole. Yes, there are Christians speaking out against the very sin in which they are entangled. Nevertheless, Christianity is about the Spirit of Christ. It is about ministering to sinners, to the sick, and to the needy. Jesus pointed out their sin while still loving them.

There are plenty of Christian organizations that embody Christ’s values of helping out those in need while promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the most prominent is Samaritan’s Purse, run by Franklin Graham. His organization helps meet the needs of people all over the world (James 2:14). Their organization epitomizes faith in action. No where in the Bible does it say to migrate away from our doctrine and focus solely on love. We are taught to show our faith through our love-filled actions. We are taught to lay aside besetting sins and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

We are commanded to present the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth so that others can receive salvation (Acts 1:7). We are to give an answer (with gentleness and respect) to anyone who asks for the reason for the hope that lies within us (1 Peter 3:15-16). The gospel should be presented with love. No one should accept Christ out of fear of Hell, but out of love. Jesus says perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). No one is born into Christianity. Each person must accept Christ for himself. Christian influence is not enough. A Christian must believe that Christ is Lord! Christianity loves! Read the Bible; it’s the template for matters of the heart!

For further reflection and encouragement, read the Gospel of John and the book of James.

Finding Intimacy in Christ

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Intimacy is defined as closeness or friendship with another; it is a state of familiarity. When we value another’s friendship, we desire intimacy with him or her as we share our lives, hopes, disappointments, and dreams. When we call someone a friend, we spend time getting to know him; we talk to our friends often. Moreover, we cry with our friends during both good and bad times. My closest friend is Jesus; we talk and listen to each other daily. He has seen me through some of the most challenging times in my life, while never condemning me for the mistakes that I have made (Romans 8:1). As I get to know Him, my Christianity matures and it causes me to love others the way He has loved me. My goal is to emulate him. Without intimacy with Him, I can never hope to become like Him. Although I have not arrived at perfection, I nevertheless press on to win the prize for which God has apprehended me (Philippians 3:14).

My friendship with Him did not develop overnight. It continues to develop as the years pass. When I began to understand that He wanted a relationship with me, I realized that I did not know how to get started. But, I soon realized that because He is a friend, I could talk to Him in as I would any of my other friends. My conversations first took the form of formal prayer. I then realized that my conversations could be informal. Currently I often talk to Him about my life and about His expectations for me. One of the greatest parts of our friendship is that He listens to me and is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He says that He even knows my thoughts from afar (Psalm 139:2). And He says that He is acquainted with me in every way (Psalm 139:3). God even knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:16; Jeremiah 1:5). How could I call Him my friend, if I never spent time with Him? I get to know Him through His word, the Bible, and through prayer (intimate conversations with Him). I also write in my journal as a form of communing with Him.

Jesus wants us to commune with Him, to dine at His table. If we just open our mouths to talk to Him, we will show Jesus how much we love Him, and He will show us His abundant mercy and grace. If we abide in Him and allow Him to abide in us, we will produce fruit that will remain (John 15:5). He is waiting patiently for us to become His friend, for this glorifies Him! He “Searches the entire earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him .”(2 Chronicles 16:9)

I daily ask Christ to “Search me and know my heart. Try me and know my anxieties, and if there is any wicked way in me, lead me in the way everlasting.” He is faithful to answer my request (Psalm 139:23-24).

For personal reflection read Psalm 139.

 

The Sweet Love of Jesus

Wrap us in your daily love to behold

Shout to us it’s limitless width and breadth

Jesus show your love’s worth more than pure gold

And keeps us from fearing our earthly death

 

Your love’s from everlasting to everlasting

We experience it through your great grace

You show sweet love through our prayer and fasting

When you answer we look upon your face

 

Prompting us to tell about your sweetness

Showing that in you there is no weakness

 

Hiding in the Light: A Review

Rifqa Bary’s memoir Hiding in the Light (a New York Times Bestseller) chronicles her teenage conversion to Christianity from Islam. It’s a poignant tribute to the power of God and to the power of Christian testimony. Bary, as a young child, emigrated from Sri Lanka to the United States with her family. Before leaving Sri Lanka, Bary suffered a permanent loss of vision in one eye. Furthermore, in her memoir she details the impact of sexual abuse from a relative. After losing her vision and her “honor” because of the sexual abuse, she felt little love from her family. When she and her family moved to New York City, she developed a curiosity about Christian prayer and the use of the word “Amen.” From a young age, she sensed the presence of God in her life, knowing that He was always there. After 9/11, practicing Islam was not easy in New York City. Her family then located to Ohio, near Columbus. While in middle school, she was introduced to Christianity. She began to have a relationship  with Jesus Christ, later accepting Him as her savior. She was baptized years later, unbeknownst to her family. After hiding her conversion for many years, her family was informed of her Christian activities. Bary states that her father threatened to kill her (“honor killing”) if she did not renounce Christianity. Renunciation was not an option. While running away during the night, Bary with the help of Christian acquaintances absconded to Florida. Weeks later, a media frenzy surrounded her escape as the alleged threat to kill her became known. Her dependency/ criminal case (it’s against the law for a minor to run away) as well as her illegal immigration status received international coverage that pitted Christians against Muslims. Bary, seventeen years of age, was placed in foster care and moved from home to home for security reasons. In the end,  when Bary turned eighteen, she was allowed to become free from her parents. She received her Green Card, allowing her to legally stay in the United States (she is currently on the path to citizenship by her twenty-third birthday next month). At no time did Bary’s family admit any of the allegations against them.

Bary’s courage in the face of both adversity and danger is deeply moving. Although she was afraid, fear did not immobilize her. Bary desired to know the love of God and His providence in spite of the danger of turning toward Christianity. Through every step of her relationship with Christ, God led her to safety. Meeting all the God ordained people helped Bary survive crisis after crisis. She never lost her faith in Jesus. Prayer  and Bible study became the most effective tools to get her through all of the difficulties that lay ahead. The hand of God was upon her from the beginning of her questioning of Islam and throughout her conversion and later ordeal. She realized that the Lord orders the steps of a righteous man or woman (Psalm 37:23). Moreover, God did not give her a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).image

This memoir is respectful to Muslims and it appears to be authentic. Bary never maligns Muslims; she, however, boldly states her position about the potency of Christ. From my own personal relationship with the Lord, I know that God works everything out according to the counsel of His own will ( Ephesians 1:11). Some agnostics or atheists may question the authenticity of this memoir, but my visceral response says it’s true. God loves His children, and he sometimes takes us to the brink before deliverance comes. Why would someone risk her life for a lie? Why would someone give up her family and her culture for a lie?

This memoir brought tears to my eyes. Seeing a steadfast Christian woman who made a life changing decision knowing the longterm consequences of family alienation makes me have a stronger commitment to Christ. Many of us come from a country in which we have religious freedom. We suffer little if any Christian persecution, yet we are afraid to share our faith. Most of us never will endure trauma and adversity like that of Bary’s. This memoir makes me desire a greater prayer life, and to be used to a greater degree.

Currently, Bary is in hiding, and has no contact with her biological family. She has forgiven her family, and continues to allow God to use her. God has restored her in manifold ways. She truly knows no weapon formed against her shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17). I pray that you read her book, and that it will have an impact on your life. Amen!!

For Personal Study: Read Romans 10. God bless you.