Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thoughts concerning Hell and God's love for us.

This week I had the opportunity to teach English literature to a high school class.  The reading for the day was an excerpt from Jonathan Edward's sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God".  First of all I was surprised to see a religious sermon in a public classroom textbook even if it was put there as a fine literary example.  Next it was a challenge to teach such material in a public classroom.  How do I honor the material as I should without becoming "preachy"?  Still, I found some of the writing very interesting and strangely uplifting.  It was a classic "hellfire and brimstone" sermon such as which we try to stay away from these days.  We don't want anyone to think of our God as angry.  Yet if one paid close attention to the sermon there was also great hope and comfort for those who chose to be born again, convert and follow Christ.  He noted that no amount of goodness and right behavior will save us but we must be a part of Christ's body because it is only Christ's blood which saves us.  Wow!  This is what I believe but for some reason this sermon resonated with me that day.  I don't think I take Hell seriously enough and so I don't feel enough of an urgency to tell others of Christ.  I want to help my friends and others outside of Christ to understand His love for us but I wonder if we don't grasp the depth of that love unless we understand the severity of Hell.  God does not want us to spend eternity in Hell even though because of our sin we deserve it.  There is no way we can be good enough in our earthly bodies to stand in the presence of our Holy God.  It is through His great love and mercy that He sent Jesus to live among us and suffer a horrendous death so that we could choose to follow Him and therefore spend eternity in His presence. 

We don't want to picture our God as angry and as a disciplinarian because we are afraid that people will not understand the depth of His love.  Let me ask.  When you see a parent discipline a child because they are about to run into the street or do something that will harm them, do we see that parent as angry and uncaring?  No!  We see that the parent loves that child enough to discipline and correct.  Say the child continues to try running into the street even after being warned.  Will not the parent become "angry" and increase the level of discipline or correction in an effort to turn the child from doing something that can take their life?  Of course they would.  Why then do we become so afraid to suggest that God will do all he can to keep us from Hell (in this analogy the street full of cars that can take our child's life).  Why do we not give warnings about the existence and severity of Hell? 

Jonathan Edward's dipiction of mankind as dangling over Hell as a spider in danger of falling into the firey pit might seem a bit extreme but he comes back to pointing out how Christ comes and rescues us from the firey pit by his grace.  God loves us so much but we cannot understand that love unless we understand the danger we face without Him.  We may think we are good but it is by the grace of God that we are saved from Hell.  Satan wants us there.  God does not.

May you feel the warmth of God wrapping around you today as you look to Him in love.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Baptism

Yesterday I was privileged to witness the baptism of a young man who has become a part of the student center we work with.  This was a planned time and he had invited Facebook friends and the entire congregation with whom we worship and other friends of his.  He had chosen 2 pm on Saturday as the time of his new birth into Christ.  I'll admit I was tired and not wanting to get out much but because of how special he has become to us and the student center I was not going to miss such a life-changing time for him.  It was amazing to witness someone who has chosen us to fellowship with and to make the decision to put Christ on in baptism.  He did not grow up in the Churches of Christ as so many who I have seen baptized have done.  His was a conscious choice made from study and research.  As I reflected on the events of the day in the wee hours of the next morning I began to feel uncomfortable with some of the events.  Not the baptism by any means but of the people who were not there.  He had invited those from the community that do not usually attend a Church of Christ to come.  They came.  He had invited a friend who lives in Lubbock.  She came.  Several came from within the congregation - not many but some.  I will refrain from naming or describing those who were not there but their absense has caused me to think about myself and those around me that I worship with.

We, as in those within the Churches of Christ, have become so accustomed to seeing our own children who have grown up within the church be baptized that I fear we have forgotten the excitement and importance of supporting those who choose to follow Christ and put him on in baptism at a later age who did not grow up "in the church".  Why were more people not there when they had been invited?  Granted the Christian walk does not end at baptism, it is a beginning but it is a very important beginning.  Had he been getting married then I am sure more would have come.  He did get married in a way as he became a part of the church that is called the bride of Christ.  I am disappointed at the absense of some but so thankful that I was able to be there.  In the future, I pray that if I am invited to the baptism of someone that I don't know very well that I will join in their joy.  We will be family on that day and I want to be there to witness their new birth as they become my brother or sister in Christ.  I pray we all will.  Let's not miss these opportunities to encourage and bless each other with love especially when invited to witness a new birth.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Renewed

I start this post with a thank you to one of my Facebook friends who is also my friend in real life, Rachel McCarty. She shared a blog called "Hands Free Mama" which I read with delight.  I then went to the original site and read more.  What an encouragement!  It led me to consider my own blog.  I started this blog as a way to share devotional thoughts from God's Word which I still will do from time to time.  I did not want to make it very personal or share too many personal stories but after reading the blog mentioned above I plan to change my focus.  I have many joys in my life and do not focus on them enough.  Many of those joys I want to share.  They don't all involve my family.  My husband is a director of a student center for the students attending the university where we live.  There are many joyful times with the students.  I am a substitute teacher and volunteer at my daughter's school when I am not teaching.  I find much to be joyful of there as well.  I also see things that are a concern and wish I could help more.  My hope is as I write that I may encourage women to look at all the joy in their lives even if it is just one little thing that day.  I must go for now as I have an assignment to teach this afternoon.  Watch for more as the days and weeks go by and I pray this blog will be a blessing as we go.  If you wish to read more from the blog that encouraged me you can find it at www.handsfreemama.com.    Blessings to you today. Susan

Monday, July 15, 2013

Weakness

Today I was reading 2 Corinthians 12.  I especially noticed verses 9 and 10.  Paul has a weakness, a thorn in the flesh.  He has asked the Lord to remove it but the answer is no.  The Lord said to Paul "My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness."  I often feel I have many weaknesses whether they be physical or spiritual.  I wish I could be stronger in whatever area I am bothered by at the time.  I have never considered being thankful for my weakness.  That would be like giving in to the weakness.  Or would it?  Paul continues in verse 9 "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."  He goes on to say he is content with weaknesses among other things.  Now we have no real idea what Paul's weakness was.  He is not specific but what can we learn from Paul?  I want to be a better mother to my daughter by being more consistent each day and to have more energy and clarity of mind to keep up.  I often feel that I am not as strong emotionally as I want to be.  Maybe I should be rejoicing that I don't feel as strong because when I feel really weak is when I turn to God and ask for him to give me strength.  If I was always consistent and strong then I would never feel the need to turn to God.  What about my spiritual life?  If I am always on the mountain top than I will never ask the questions of doubt that then can serve to increase my knowledge of God and deepen my faith.  God provides for me in my weakness and doubt.  I pray often that God will give my the energy I need for the day and the clarity of mind to accomplish the tasks at hand for that day.  Will you join me today to ask our Lord for the strength you and I need to get through this day and rejoice in our weaknesses that send us to God? 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Confidence and Service

John 13 tells the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.  Many of us have read that passage many times.  I know I have.  One of the verses caught my eye in a way it never has before the other day.  Verses 3 and 4 read “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.”  Something about verse 3 struck me this time.  Jesus knew all things were under his power yet he took on the dirty task of washing feet because he knew who he was, where he had come from, and where he was going.  Now that is confidence.  Yet, it was not a confidence in himself.  His confidence came straight from God, his Father.

I can imagine the disciples as they watched their master.  This man that they looked up to and believed to be God’s son and their Savior got down on his knees to take care of them.  Their feet would have been really dirty and maybe even stinky.  I know how dirty my daughter’s feet get when she wears sandals or goes barefoot.  They don’t tend to stink but they sure are dirty.  The master of the house never would wash feet.  That job was left for the servants.

Jesus showed us how to really care for others.  We put their needs above our position in life, our phobias (dirty feet, ugh!), or our own needs.  Yet Jesus knew how to place limits as well.  Peter did not need a full bath.  He only needed his feet washed.  Jesus set the limits to what was really needed.  Can we serve too much?  Maybe so, but we must never say no because we don’t want to serve.   We must only say no when the service is not really needed.  My daughter might as for ice cream right before sitting down at the supper table.  I am not serving her needs correctly if I give it to her right then.  I am serving her well when I feed her healthy food first. 

Let us follow our Master’s example and serve as we should regardless of who we are and how we feel.  Let us find our confidence in whose we are and where we are going when Jesus comes again.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Snow White

I just read a review of the new Snow White movie.  It is a sad commentary on our world today.  The Disney version of Snow White many years ago had an aura of innocence.  The new version appears to be much more dark and violent.  It is even rated PG-13.  It is certainly not fare for a 5 year old - or a 50 year old for that matter.  There is enough violence in this world without watching this stuff.  I want to escape from the violence every once in a while not watch more of it.  The Apostle Paul tells us to think on lovely things in the letter to the Philippians.  The Bible teaches us that what we think in our heart is how we will act.  If we fill our heart and mind with evil images even in the name of good winning over evil we will live the evil as well.  Sure there are some that will see the good and try to emulate that.  Many others see the evil and follow that instead.  I want to follow the goodness of my Lord.  Won't you join with me and see the lovely things and watch the lovely things instead of the evil that Hollywood is feeding us?  Have a blessed day today.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Jesus and the soldiers

Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him.  They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head.  They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him.  "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said.  They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.  After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him.  Then they led him away to crucify him.  Matthew 27:27-31 (NIV)

As I read this the other day there were several things that stood out for me.  In my last post I noted how Jesus showed compassion even in his time of pain toward the servant whose ear was cut off.  First I want to focus on the soldiers in this story.  Most of these had probably heard of Jesus but because they were not of Jewish decent they did not have any emotional or spiritual ties to who he really was.  As far as they were concerned he was just a man who the Jews did not like and who they could make fun of.  They had no real morals as to how to treat people.  They must not have ever heard Jesus tell the story of the good Samaritan and who their neighbor really was.  Their king was Caesar.  Even the chief priests told Pilate that they had no king but Caesar as told in the gospel of John.  How could they be so cruel?  Are we ever that cruel to people?  Do we ever make fun of someone because we don't understand them or because other people don't like them?  Again, how could they be so mean?

At this time I want to focus on Jesus.  We have already noticed Jesus' compassion.  He had told his diciples that His Father could at once put at his disposal more then twelve legions of angels if He called out to Him.  He knew what he had to do.  Jesus loves us very much and wants all of us to come to know him.  I can imagine as he was led into the room and his clothes were changed how sad he must have been.  He knew the hearts of the soldiers.  He knew their understanding of how things were.  As they put the crown of thorns on his head and the robe on his shoulders I picture tears falling down his cheeks not only from the physical pain but because of his love and concern for the soldiers in front of him.  Have you ever been hurt by someone and cried not as much from the physical or emotional pain but because you wish they understood just how much you do love them?  I am sure there are parents who have cried many tears because their child turns away and just does not comprehend the love they have  for them.  Again I want to point out Jesus' self-control.  He could have said "Enough." but he dealt with the pain and humiliation because he knew that his death was the only way we would have hope of being with him forever.  He loves us that much.

I want to return to the soldiers a few days later.  Were any of the soldiers that had mocked Jesus also at the tomb on that glorious Sunday?  Did any of the company of soldiers that mocked Jesus stand at the cross and see the darkened sky and the bodies of the saints rise from the dead remember what they had just done and wonder if they had been wrong?  Did any of them listen to Peter on Pentecost and repent and follow Jesus?  We don't know but I pray that some did.  How could they see the events of the next few days and not be touched?  Did they instead believe the lie that was told and figure they were in the right?  How hard was their heart?

I pray that we can respond to the love of Jesus.  I pray that we will open our heart to his message and the hope that he gave us.  Let's not let the tears that fell mean nothing to us.  Respond to him today and decide that you will do all you can to share his love with those who are hurting and do not understand.  Pray that all who mock Jesus will see the power of what his death and resurrection means for us that their heart will be softened and they will repent and join into Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection by obedience to his will for us to be baptized and follow him as a disciple.  We must make sure we never mock Jesus by the way we live.