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The Power of a Grateful Heart–The Witness Factor

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We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. – CS Lewis (from ‘The Weight of Glory’)

The depiction of people of faith in television programming usually goes one or two ways. Either they are simple minded and bigoted or they are on fire for The Lord only to turn out to be phonies or crooks. Neither depiction leaves anything to be admired. People out in the world view Christians with suspicion, believing all that talk about forgiveness, giving your heart to Jesus, and living a joyful life to be malarky. By adulthood non-Christians have sought out for ridicule or condemnation enough examples of “Christianity” that the genuine offer of everlasting life, forgiveness, love, and grace cannot even be fathomed. Having a personal relationship with a loving all powerful God sounds like a fantasy and believe me non-Christians are quick to question WHY does God allow this or that, if He is all powerful and if He loves us.

One thing Christians err about when it comes to non-Christians happens when they assume they all must be miserable. We have been conditioned to think that way, but often they are pretty ordinary people, many are really good moral people. They may not be content with their lives as they are, but they are chasing their dreams and they don’t want some holier than thou Christian implying there is something better, something infinitely more satisfying. They are as C.S. Lewis said content with making mud pies rather than enjoying a holiday at the beach.

Jesus said we who are Christians should be salt and light in the world. We are to be genuine especially with non-Christians because they hone in on any phoniness. Know what happens when the lid comes off the salt shaker and it dumps into the stew…it becomes inedible. Same is true for shining a bright light directly in someone’s eyes…Ouch! Jesus dined with sinners, he sprinkled his speech with stories, he treated prostitutes and tax collectors and women with respect, and yet, he did not back down when religious folks lorded it over “sinners”.

I have really stewed over witnessing and how to be salt and light. I still struggle but I am thankful that God put people in my life when I was skeptical of “the established church”, who modeled love and grace to me without badgering. What they did was make me hungry to know more. So that when a crisis came in my life, I was willing to turn to God.

And yet still I wonder, how often have I, do I, settle for the way things are, skeptical of anything that looks too good to be true. I think my prayer for others and for myself is that Matthew 5:3 would be a reality every day.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”

I am thankful for a God who picked me out of the mud hole and took me to the seashore even when I kept looking back at the mud hole with longing. Help me help others see all God has planned for those who love him.image

Free Indeed

Just me, Saturday, no makeup, etc.
Just me, Saturday, no makeup, etc.
Galatians 5:1, 13, 14, 16-26

In this world freedom will always be limited.

In the United States of America (USA) the Constitution outlines freedoms of speech, assembly, religion, bearing of arms, and from self-incrimination, rights that have been analyzed, studied, explained, amended, and yes, given boundaries.  In a sense, established civil laws  direct how these rights can operate and benefit all in a “free” society.  It is clear to me in scripture that God ordains the establishment of governments in this world for that express purpose.  Jesus is not the anarchist some would like to believe him to be.  And so, wherever we live, our freedom is governed by civil law.  God makes our purpose as Christians clear, where civil law falls in line with God’s law, we are to obey.  When it does not, we pray.  When it threatens life or freedoms of others or ourselves, then we act as the Spirit of God directs…but respectfully, consider Daniel asking for a separate diet to avoid the unclean food of Babylon, or praying 3 times a day knowing he would have to submit to an encounter with the lions.  

But Christians essentially carry two passports.

One defines citizenship in this temporal world, the country of our birth or adoption.  The other defines our citizenship as the redeemed, adopted children of God, our citizenship in the Kingdom of God, both here and in heaven.  When we enter into God’s Kingdom, He sets us free.  But he doesn’t do it by giving us a fresh change of clothes, a few bucks, and a pat on the back.  God enters our being and the Holy Spirit never leaves us alone after that…I mean that in both the yippee! way and the “stop prodding me” way.  

God knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows with our new freedom there is a chance we may use it to sanctify our sin.  Hey, Jesus saved me!  He also knows our tendency to run back to the cover of the law and start telling him all the good things we’ve done or letting Satan remind us of all the bad things we’ve done.  He knows if we ever get the freedom concept right, he has to be with us 24/7, reminding us who we are and whose we are.  The Holy Spirit enables us to stand strong, convicts us when we don’t, drives us to our knees and then helps us up to move forward.  Freedom as a citizen in the Kingdom of God operates with one law, according to the text in Galatians:  “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 

The Qualities produced by God’s Freedom lived out in the world are unlimited.

You and I cannot have too much love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  All the destructive freedom inhibiting behaviors of our past, before Christ, have been nailed to the cross.  Why would we choose to go back to our selfishness and evil actions?  Why would we treat others with anything less than the love Christ has shown us?

My freedom in Christ thrives and grows
with the measure of Love I bestow
when my cup full of joy overflows
And peace dwells not just within but to all
And I wait on The Lord, without stomping my feet
Or wiggling round in my chair.

My freedom in Christ thrives and grows
with the measure of Love I bestow
when kindness is more than a show
and the goodness of God dwells within and to all
And I keep all my promises, am true to my word
And really and truly am there.

My freedom in Christ thrives and grows
With the measure of Love I bestow
with a gentle touch and gentle glow
Adding self-control as the Spirit directs my call
without fear of law or of men, freedom to be
All God calls me to be…TO LIVE FREE!

I have spent a lot of time today considering this scripture and composing my thoughts. It truly is hard to understand God’s freedom, especially knowing many Christians face increasingly hostile restrictions of their freedoms. Some face death and imprisonment. Some of us only face having our words distorted and made to look like “hate” when we intend “love”. Living free as Christ calls us like following Christ anywhere requires taking up our cross and doing it anyway.

Blessings.Carolyn

Before and After–The View from Right Now 1 Peter 4:1-11

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“It seems so much smaller than I remember it.”  How did the yard, I played in as a child, with its enormous expanse shrink just as the house never large miniaturized.  The distances between home and school, between home and downtown shortened.  I recall my surprise as an adult revisiting old haunts, amazed that I remembered it so MUCH larger.  How could this be?  I was an adult 18 years old when I went away to college and it is true I never really lived there again.  No, I met my man, moved to the big city and only went back for short visits. Those short visits became farther between after my parents moved to be near us, consisting of a few highschool reunions.  Each visit, my hometown dimished in size.

The 1 Peter scripture looks backward and forward at the life of a believer.  After reading it, on my first morning walk with the dogs, I considered the shock–and yes, that best describes my reaction–when I revisited my hometown for my 15th class reunion.  In my memories I had imagined it so much bigger than the reality.  In most cases our pasts, including the actual places, diminish with time, but not so the rememberance of our sins.  NO, those memories revisited inflate into monsters.  Oh, as Christians, The Lord has forgiven us, removed our sins as far as the east is from the west, yet still I find them, mull over them, let them grow larger in my head, give them control they should not have and for HEAVENS SAKE!  It is time to stop.  Time to stop feeling guilty.  Time to let those memories shrivel and shrink, become minatures just like the old home place. So we can live in the Spirit as God lives.

It really doesn’t matter when the end of time or my end of time comes.  What matters is living freely in Christ into the New Future He has for you and me.

The Lord says, “Forget what happened before, and do not think about the past. Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening. Don’t you see it? I will make a road in the desert and rivers in the dry land. (Isaiah 43:18, 19 NCV)

So 1 Peter 4: 1-11 sums up how our response to Jesus should be.  Stay close to God, Pray, LOVE, Be open, Show hospitality, Speak as God directs, Serve as He enables….all this builds the Kingdom of God in Enemy territory…and do it all to the Praise and Glory of God.

If I keep my head clear
If I keep my mind set
My prayers will target God’s will

If I love deeply
If I love without fear
Forgiveness will blanket much sin

If I open my home
If I show hospitality
Grace will be manifested to all

If I speak God’s word
If I serve with God’s strength
In all I am. In all I do

God, the Father, God, the Son and God, the Holy Spirit WILL BE PRAISED!

Carolyn

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P.S. All grammatical, spelling, etc. are my own due to my poor skills as a proof reader.

A Christian Expatriate

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Expatriate: Living outside your native country [noun, adjective, and verb]  Origin 18th Century, as a verb from the Medieval Latin: expatriat–gone out from one’s country.

As a person born in the lower third of the Great Plains of the United States, one who has lived her entire life in the United States and only visited The Bahamas, Mexico, and Canada, you would think I have very little knowledge of what it means to be an expatriate, to live as a non-native even in English speaking, industrialized, democratic nations requires adaptation that stretches even the most flexible individuals.

Consider these verses from 1 Peter 2 [NET and MSG versions]

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. (1 Peter 2:11-12 MSG)

Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to keep away from fleshly desires that do battle against the soul, and maintain good conduct among the non-Christians, so that though they now malign you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God when he appears. (1 Peter 2:11-12 NET)

Furthermore as a Christian, living smack dab in the United States of America, expired passport in a drawer, the passage of scripture from the I Peter Study with http://shereadstruth.com/ I find I am reminded again that I am an expatriate.  On this earth I hold citizenship by birth in the United States, but in the universal sense, I am a citizen of God’s Kingdom.  Can I represent Christ, while living among the natives here? Can I do it?

I have known people, I know people who live in countries other than their own.  My Father and Mother-in-law lived in Trinidad and then Egypt for several years in the 1970’s.  We have missionary friends who have lived in various parts of the world and one who lives in Kenya today. I have listened intently to the stories and tried to picture life as a foreigner in a culture other than my own [not that the United States is ONE culture].  Nevertheless, I wonder could I do it?

Sarah Turnbull in ALMOST FRENCH:  LOVE AND A NEW LIFE IN PARIS says this:

“Such is the nature of an expatriate life. Stripped of romance, perhaps that’s what being an expat is all about: a sense of not wholly belonging. […] The insider-outsider dichotomy gives life a degree of tension. Not of a needling, negative variety but rather a keep-on-your-toes sort of tension that can plunge or peak with sudden rushes of love or anger. Learning to recognize and interpret cultural behavior is a vital step forward for expats anywhere, but it doesn’t mean that you grow to appreciate all the differences.” 

As Christians living in this world, we represent The Kingdom of God, so not only are we foreign, we are ambassadors.   We don’t live in an embassy, but we seek the fellowship of other Christians to hold us true to our mission. We will never fit in and that does cause tension in any relationship we have with non-Christians.  Our intention is to exemplify Christ, but the reality is that our efforts will have peaks and valleys.

 As Sarah Turnbull says, “it doesn’t mean that you grow to appreciate all the differences.” nor do we break completely free of longing to belong.  

I suppose that means, Folks, that if I get too comfortable with the way the culture is, with the shifts in morality, and I just go along to get along, then I had better be hitting the Word and hanging out with Jesus and other believers more.  I gotta love the NATIVES, but I do not have to MIMIC their lifestyle or accept their worldview.

IN FACT, I should be living the kind of life that makes them want to obtain citizenship in the Kingdom of God!

References
-http://shereadstruth.com
― Sarah Turnbull, Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris

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