Tag Archives: love

What is Christianity? Simple language.

So at the beginning of time, this all-powerful being we call God spoke everything we have into existence:  light, darkness, sky, the earth, stars, plants, fish, birds, animals, and humankind. The first people didn’t obey him, so he let them be able to die. Over time, more and more people filled the land, and he chose one man to be the father of a group of people he would pay close attention to, the Israelites, or Jews. God gave them a piece of land and said it would be theirs. But they were not happy with God, and they didn’t obey him. So God allowed them to go through a lot of hard stuff including slavery, being lost in the desert for a long time, sickness, and lots of wars.

God was mad with them. He punished them by letting other groups of people drag them away from their land three times, and then letting them go back after a while. But he always kept them together and did not let them all die.

They didn’t obey God. Even when they tried, they messed everything up. Today, they are still a group of people, and they still have their land, Israel, but they struggle with invading people, and are the center of warfare in the Middle East. They still don’t obey God.

About 2000 years ago, God’s chosen group of people were in their land, but being ruled by another group of people, the Romans. God wanted to enter the picture as a human, instead of a deity that feels far away and unrelatable. So he searched his group of people, and found a willing woman who loved him and had a good heart, and she was the mother of his son. This man grew up in a little rural village as a carpenter, and studied the history of God with his group of people. He learned to obey God, and made it his life’s goal to obey God. He became a “rabbi”, which is like a preacher, and which made him upper-class.

When he was 30 he started giving speeches about God in the local churches. The church leaders did not like these speeches because he challenged their traditional way of doing things. He pointed out what they were doing wrong and where they were not obeying God, which made them mad at him. They didn’t care about obeying God, but wanted to make the lower classes think they were perfect. This man ignored the social rules that put him in a position above women, people of other races, and less educated people. Some of these people were considered “bad people.” He cared about them, because they cared about obeying God more than looking good. They were his fans and loved his speeches. He spent more of his time with them than with the leaders.

This man also is known for doing crazy things like changing water into wine for wedding guests so the party could go on, and walking on water, and healing people, even bringing them back to life.

He knew what he was talking about, and it showed. People really liked him. Crowds followed him everywhere, so he gave his rebellious talks out in rural areas to groups of thousands of people, and in houses full of people. A lot of the crowd wanted him to become king and lead a rebellion to break their nation free from subjugation to the Roman people, but that wasn’t his plan. He kept ticking off the people in charge. so they had him tortured and killed a short 3 years after he started. The people were disappointed. Then God judged him in the afterlife, and loved him. God declared that this man had always obeyed him. He said that this man could stand as a representative of all humans who had ever lived or who would be born after him. Because this man obeyed God, then God will be happy with us if we try to obey him and his son, no matter how much we mess up.

So now, God says we can all become part of God’s family, as brothers and sisters of God’s son. He also says that when we die, we are not dead forever but God will bring us back to life when he comes back with his son for the final judgment of all people. Then, he will send away people who didn’t obey him to die forever, and keep people who did obey him, or tried to. We will then live forever in a perfect world (no tears, pain, sadness, or sickness) with him forever.

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I kind of hate God right now. He’s shoving me all over the place and I don’t know why.

Helen Keller would have been mad at the world when she was a child. She couldn’t hear or see, so she would be surprised and scared when her mom tried to hug her, or she was pushed, or ran into things. She probably ran into a ton of chairs and walls and tables and rocks, or had to live restrained. She couldn’t hear her parents’ voices, so she lived ignorant most of what was going on. All she had was her senses of touch and taste. If her parents had tried to keep her safe by tying her up so she would not run around and hurt herself on accident, she would not have developed the skills she used to explore and navigate the world. Keller became famous for learning a hand-touch language and then learning speak again.

Here, we are bound up in the shackles of flesh. All we can see is the matter around us, and all we can hear are the other flesh bodies and vibrations in the air. We are deaf to God’s word and blind to his love and power. The whole spiritual realm is invisible, insensible to us. (incense-able?) Very slowly, as we are allowed to run around and get hurt, we learn. Painfully slowly, we can get the feeling that God is trying to tell us something, but we don’t know what. We hear others tell us in our language that he loves us and works for our good, but that’s no better than explaining the beauty of a fire at night to someone who is blind. Yet we learn to get around. Sometimes it is a very slow, gradual process, and sometimes there’s a burst of inspiration and we can suddenly understand something, seeing the world in a new way. In time, we can sing the songs of angels. But as long as we are here, we will never sound fluent. We need our sight restored and ears opened. This begins with the heart being set upon God.

Lord, I pray that those perusing the internet will learn to hear and see you and your love for them. Let it become real to them, Father God, and let them know, Father God, that they are your children through your holy Son, Jesus Christ. I pray that you, Lord, would seek us out as we stumble away from you, when you seem to hurt us. Father God, I just want them to know you and to seek you, Father God, that they would let you take them in your arms and welcome them home to where they belong. In the name of the one through whom all things move and breathe and have their being, in Jesus Christ, Amen.

We should give gays / LGBT the right to marry, because doing good is more than preventing evil.

I’ve finally made my decision: yes to gay marriage.

We should give homosexuals the right to marry. Not because it is morally right or wrong, but because they have been oppressed. Justice and mercy demand for forgiveness and love for them. How many times does Jesus remark to the pharisees that they should learn what it means to love mercy and seek justice?

Kindness dictates giving people of all sexualities freedom to marry if they so choose. They are God’s children, and to isolate them from the billion other sinful groups (alcoholics, pornography addicts, liars, thieves, the arrogant, people who don’t observe the sabbath, adulterers) is stupid –  it’s scapegoating society’s problems onto them, and judging them. They’re no more fallen than the rest of us. It is not their burden to bear. They are often victims. Instead of trying to legalize the gayness out of them, maybe we can turn to focus on the poor, the orphan, the widow, the prisoner, and the stranger, and help those instead. Doing good is more than preventing evil. At a certain point, you just have to let it go, and America is past that point.

If my parents aren’t in heaven, then I don’t want to go, either.

Most people can name someone close to them that they know is not going to heaven, maybe a parent, friend, spouse, or child. But they’re good people! you say. Why would a good God send them to hell? And why would you ever want to go where they are not? You can’t say you love them if you can leave them in hell while you relax in the luxury of heaven. That’s like walking right by him or her homeless on the street while you are on your way to your mansion, and leaving them there. It’s selfish! You can’t just help yourself.

The work that God does is to save sinners, not to reward good people. God sees that all of us are wicked and it would be just for God to throw us all into hell. We are a miserable lot, full of cheaters, liars, murderers, adulterers, gosspers, rapists, and disobedient fools. If one of us were perfectly good, then he would be perfectly obedient to God, as Jesus was, because God is perfectly good and God gives all of us commands. It often seems vindictive and cruel to me that someone who tries his best to be good is still subject to God’s wrath. But that strain of being “good enough” for God is truly too much for any person. Jesus tells a parable about a poor man who owes several million dollars to another man. If the poor man worked as hard as he could for the rest of his life, he could never pay off the debt. Every evil act that we do incurs a debt on our account to God. Somehow, the best that God can do is to forgive our debt through the sacrifice of himself in the person of Jesus. When we accept that payment we go free. Heaven is not a reward for good people, but a place for the people of God, who know God and serve him on earth.

Indeed, C.S. Lewis contends that people who God sends to hell are given what they ask him for – separation from him. For why would anyone who does not even try to get to know God on earth want to spend an eternity with him in heaven?

I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside. – The Problem of Pain (C.S. Lewis)

If you love the person who will go to hell, they probably love you and want what’s best for you. Your parents were happy to watch you playing around in the ball-pit at McDonalds when you were little, and didn’t crave having you sit with them and eat. You could be separate. If they love you, they would rather see you take that vacation while they sit at home working. They want you to be happy, and they know you are happy because they know you’re in heaven. Perhaps they can find some solace that they cannot find you in hell.

A father in prison is happy to see his son go free, even though they’re separated, and he is very sad to see him put into prison, even though they are now together.

But you would rather be in prison and whatever came with it in order to be with your parent, spouse, child, or loved one, if that was the only way to be with them. This is why it is written:

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-27)

If you would reject God because of his judgment on another person (or because of his mercy towards another person, see Jonah), then you are not fit to follow him. A true follower of Christ will follow Jesus even when he leads them away from their family. If God calls you to heaven, you go. But he does not want your family to be left behind. God craves everyone you know to be in heaven with him, too. If you believe in heaven, and your loved ones are not Christian, God asks that you work for their salvation. Paul explains from prison why he lives the way he does so boldly, proclaiming the gospel:

10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.  (2 Timothy 2:10)

God intends to save all of his “elect.” If you are a Christian, you are one of these elect, and you are also one of the people God wants to use to save more of his elect. You can bring your loved ones before God in prayer and plead for their salvation, ask for them to be included in God’s heaven, and share God’s word with them. He calls us to spread his word to everyone.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Your Father in heaven loves you more than does anyone on earth. He let his son die so that he could get to know you, your loved ones, and everyone else.

16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

Right now, you are the focus of God’s immense love as if you were the only person on earth. God loves you, and he desperately wants you to love him and be with him. But he will not force you to be near him because that is an unlovely action. He will not force you to go against your will to stay away, although it pains him deeply. (Yes, you can cause God pain.) If you experience this kind of love in heaven, you will be joyful and peaceful, even if your loved ones are not there.

Is there someone you love of whose final destination you are unsure? Pray for them now.

And remember, God loves you.

 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-27)

Suicide: and would you give up your birthright for this?

We laugh at Esau the fool who gave up his birthright, the inheritance from his father and the God-given blessing through his father to bless is family, for a bowl of soup when he was hungry.

29 Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.[a]) 31 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:29-34)

He is a fool! He gave up something great and valuable, even his place in the history of God’s people, for momentary comfort. He was hungry again the next day, but disinherited for the rest of his life, with impact on all of his descendants.

What can we learn from his story?

Esau asked for food, and Jacob took advantage of the situation. But Esau was desperate. In our lives, the devil is looking for a way in. He knows when we are desperate and weak. His goal is to make us give up what we rightly deserve. He cannot take it if we don’t let him, so he must trick us to “despise” it.

When we are in desperate situations, might we sometimes act foolishly? I know I do. They say you should never shop on an empty stomach, because you will want to buy everything that’s bad for you.

Those who commit suicide make the same error as Esau. (I am not trying to belittle the depths of depression and the reality of the pain that comes with it, but to illuminate the reality with God’s word.) As meager as it sounds to someone experiencing the kind of pain and lostness that leads to suicide, God has promised that there is no temptation too strong for you when you rely on him.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Those who commit suicide are so desperate to escape pain and discomfort that they give up their God-given birthright to life. It’s like cutting off a finger to get rid of a splinter. It’s not that the splinter isn’t incredibly painful and annoying, but that the finger is so great and useful that it’s worth having even though it brings the splinter with it. And how many splinters and hangnails and ingrown fingernails would you need before you cut off your finger? It is only because of a false perception of the value of life that someone will say it is not worth living.

When they die on their own schedule, they give up their God-given birthright to life and they write themselves out of history. They lose the part of our salvation from God that takes place as we live and grow in relationship with him and become our truer selves. For what do we give up our birthright? For what do we give up our lives?

When I considered suicide, I felt it would be justified if I died as a hero, for some cause. Like when a man jumps onto the train tracks to push someone else away from the train, when a boyfriend shields his girlfriend from the bullets of the murderer, when the monk gives his life in self-immolation or hunger to make his cause known, when Batman dies to save Gotham. Those are good deaths, in my eyes. If in some way my death could be the death of a hero, my inclination to die and find rest would be forgiven or recast as a heroic “sacrificial” bent. Even Jesus gave up his life (to take it up again). But his action fulfilled the purpose of his life, and so his death was his highest and holiest calling. God has not called me to die (though I’ve asked), so the best possible death I could die, in his plan, is worse than the occasionally miserable life I have now. Is your calling to death?

Peter was given this call.

(Jesus to Peter) 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:17-19)

Many of Jesus’ disciples are called to die – but never at their own hands: as martyrs. To follow Christ is to become a source that accepts the hatred of the world, absorbing it instead of running away or fighting back, in order to remove it from the world. In death you give up your power to heal the world as Jesus did, and lose your right as a child of God, beloved of God, to act in God’s plan for the salvation of the world and of yourself.

For what would you give up your life?

To protect the flock

Jesus is my inspiration. He says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” (Matthew 23:37). I love that picture of safe comfort under the Lord’s wings. I could not deny that to anyone. Have you ever noticed that the English language uses the same word for a group of birds as for sheep: a flock. Let the flock that he shepherds also be the flock under his wings. Come to Jesus, and Jesus, come!

I have just been surfing blogs and there are so many stories out there. There are so many people who are working, who are suffering, trying to live, to follow God. When I think “How would I like to be treated if I were in their shoes? How can I love this person today with what I have?” I am overwhelmed! I want to get to know everyone. I want to spend time with them, teach them, learn from them, live life with them. I want to jump in front of them on their way through life and stop our messy world from hurting them ever again. And I get tired just thinking about it, even before I do anything, and I so often give up. What impact can a drop of water make in the bone-dry desert? Yet, It’s frustrating I just don’t have time to care for everybody, though I so badly want to make everybody smile. In this, I have to give up my will to God, and trust that He will do as He has promised, and love everybody. His hands can reach further than mine and pull up the broken, embrace the hurt, tidy up someone who’s stumbled, and give direction to someone who’s confused about the next stage of their life. He can do all things. And I trust that he will direct me to where my love will work with his plan.

As silly as it is, I know a lot about grammar. So when reading blogs one of my usual thoughts is, “if only you let me edit that before you published it. I could have fixed it and it would be better, more perfect.” And then I see that I want to fix people. I want to make them perfect. Do I then love them? As much as I can, a flawed love when it’s not in God’s hands.

Lord, I thank you for the internet. Tonight I pray that you would alleviate my discomfort at being powerless to help. I ask that you would reveal to me your hand in the lives of people around me, and give me rest from my worry for them. Help me let go of my need to “fix” them and any pride I feed with that feeling, but let me love them with the love of your perfect son. In His name I pray, Amen.

And when I can, I try to find inspiration from this little boy.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

God loves me.

God loves me. God loves me. God loves me. Praise God, for God loves me.

What more truth do we need?

God – the highest being in the universe and outside it. God is greater that we can ever be, stronger than everything we are, smarter than we can understand, with the kind of power that makes us scared of the dark, scared to offend and inspire him to wrath. If I were to understand the extent of God’s power, I would be crippled with fear. Look at the mountains. God is bigger. Look at the sky. God goes further than the inky blackness ascending to nothing, past the furthest sight of our greatest telescopes. God mocks our guns, our war; he laughs at our weak nuclear weapons. Our ambitions to be as “powerful” as president don’t make sense to him. Our drive to “the top”, to “success” is a game to him. We are dust under his great majesty. We can compare to nothing that He is. Look at our art. God is more beautiful. Our greatest acts of love? Darkest sin compared to God’s pure and holy goodness. God created us. God made Leonardo da Vinci. He made Steve Jobs. He made Barack Obama. He made me. He designed life itself! God is God.

And this God loves. My puppy greets me every day, tail wagging, and follows me everywhere. She forgives me easily when I forget to feed her. She loves me every day with games and attention and licks and cuddles. God loves me more. A mother works two jobs to support her family, spending every waking moment looking after her children. She exhausts herself at work, and then cooks for them, comforts them when they’re scared, and cares for them with everything she is. God loves them more. A soldier loves his country enough to die fighting for its safety. God loves us more. And His love never ends. He loves us even though he knows us perfectly. This mighty God so loved us that He gave up his power and died at our hands to give us healing from every sickness and freedom to live true life. We didn’t deserve it.

God loves me. Of all of the things that he created, God loves me. He calls the bright, shining stars “good”, he calls the oceans and beaches “good”, he calls my puppy “good”, he calls all of the wonder that is around us “good”. But he calls me “very good.” He calls you “very good.” You and I are his focus, and he loves us.

Lord, reveal to me your love for me, that I may love you more in return. Awaken my heart to seek thee.

If my heart has one ambition
If my soul one goal to seek
This my solitary vision
‘Til I only dwell in Thee
That I only dwell in Thee
‘Til I only dwell in Thee
-Brook Fraser

God loves me, and with this I am content. His love is the beacon leading me onward through my life. Unsteady though the storms of life may be, I can rest secure in His guiding light. Every day it satisfies my soul more, and I await the day that it overcomes what I have been and I am transformed into a new creation, born to seek God’s face alone. Lord, hasten that day! I praise your good and holy name. Amen.