Chili Powder in the Pears

Discovering spirituality and God through the parenting process

You are what you eat! (So is your baby, and so is your soul …) July 30, 2013

How I longed for feta cheese (and nameless other soft, French cheeses)! Cheese was just one of a host of food and drinks that had to be shelved during my pregnancies. While I was nursing, some foods had to be tempered to only a modest consumption. However, what I put in my body directly affected the baby whom I was growing or feeding, and that responsibility made me relish, rather than resent, the required self-discipline. This new awareness not only affected what I ate, it also influenced the beauty products I used while pregnant. Becoming more “green” or “clean” was so much more important once my choices were no longer affecting just me but also my children.

cheese

Nowadays, our society is much better informed about the type of foods we need to eat to be healthy.  We know how much exercise we need to maintain a healthy weight, and we know our bodies reflect the fuel we feed them. However, our “all natural, organic, green, work out daily for 2 hours at the gym” society still turns a blind eye to the fact that our lives (our speech, actions, and thoughts) reflect what we feed our soul. The Bible tells us, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45. It baffles me why we (and I include myself in this “we”) lack the self-discipline to act on this knowledge. “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.” Romans 7:14-16.

 

Do you feel somewhere deep within your soul a longing to know your Creator, to grasp who God is with your mind and heart, and to be secure in the knowledge that you will be okay in the next life? We don’t like to talk about these issues because they make us uncomfortable, but they are nevertheless even more important than how we treat our physical bodies. Unfortunately, we push these thought-provoking questions out of our mind and replace them with more palatable daydreams, with schedules and to-do lists, and with diversions of every kind. Instead of filling our souls with God’s Word and replenishing our thirsty hearts with the Living Water, we attempt to satisfy our parched souls with the dust of lust or the sand of keeping up with the Joneses.  We settle for worthless idols and end up falling short of the wonderful plan God has for us.

 

If you are what you eat, then your body is affected by everything you consume; if my baby’s development was similarly influenced when I was enceinte and if the milk I feed my baby reflects what I have eaten, then it is vital that I eat the purest foods possible.  In the same way, your life reflects what is in your heart, so if you are surrounding yourself with bad company, watching trash television, reading books that aren’t pleasing to God, or spending all of your time on selfish pursuits, then you shouldn’t be surprised when your life is superficial, tainted by sin, and unfulfilling. If you become numb and desensitized to the sin around you and in your heart, then you will not be able to guard your children from it and properly teach them right from wrong.

carrots

The Bible warns us repeatedly to be on guard. Jesus preached, “Be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Luke 12:1. He also taught, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15. Peter wrote, “dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:17-18.

 

Therefore, let us educate ourselves on what we feed our bodies and souls so we know if these things will produce good or evil in our lives. With some things, it is obvious; however, there are many gray areas where we are not immediately sure if the thing offered to us is good or bad.  In those cases, we must closely examine that with which and those with whom we surround ourselves, using God’s Word as a litmus test.  “[E]very good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  . . .  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”  Matthew 7:17-20.

orange

Let us pray about those gray areas and be open to the Holy Spirit’s conviction. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:6-7. Let us actively, rather than passively, pursue God to gain the physical and spiritual self-discipline and self-control we so desperately need. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” Psalm 42:1.

 

Does Conviction always bring Change? August 8, 2013

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”  she wails from the corner of the room, tears streaming from her green eyes.  She wants to be released from time-out, but we’ve been in the throes of tantrums with our strong-willed preschooler so many times this week, I am hesitant to believe this brief time-out will be sufficient to snap her back to attention and obedience.  (Usually she is a delightful four year-old, but she has a harder time controlling her emotions on the days she skips napping).  She dramatically begs for forgiveness, I hug her, we briefly discuss what she did and how she could do better next time; yet not even 10 minutes later, she is off committing the same exact infraction again!  Now I know young children have short memories and attention spans, but I also have to be consistent in disciplining and reminding her to stay in her seat during mealtime, to not hurt her little brother, or to speak respectfully to adults.

 

Of course, this is just one of the many tests of parenting . . . a test of endurance, patience, forgiveness.  Some days I pass, some days I fail.  But what struck me today was the look on her face of true conviction and sadness when she didn’t want to be punished and didn’t want to stay in the corner.  Yet as soon as she was liberated, she disobeyed again.  So what happened?  Was she truly repentant or just sorry she was finally caught and had to face the consequences?

sulking boy

This started me thinking about how many times we probably do this to our Heavenly Father.  We sit in church, listening to a sermon and feeling convicted by the message.  Afterwards we discuss with our preacher, friends and family about how convicting the service was, as though this is the highest compliment we could offer the pastor.  Nowadays, its not good enough to thank the preacher for “a good sermon” or even “a thought-provoking sermon”; we have upped the ante to “convicting”!  Do you ever find yourself patting yourself on the back for feeling guilty as you leave church, as though guilt is the end, in and of itself, rather than just a means to an end?  Do you find yourself going back to living the exact same sinful lifestyle in direct contradiction to the convicting message you just heard?

 

“Guilt, guilt, its pious expression alone is in fact today’s great absolution.  Just say the guilt prayer, ‘I feel guilty,’ and hey presto, that’s the punishment.  The guilt is the punishment.  So punished, and therefore cleansed, one can continue with the crime.”  Josephine Hart, Damage.  We try to make it that easy, but confession without change is like putting a pacifier in a hungry baby’s mouth; it may quiet and soothe the baby’s crying for a little while, but it does not remove or cure the baby’s hunger problem.  Do not fool yourself into believing that feeling bad about the sin is enough to placate Holy God for a little while longer so you can continue to indulge in your selfish desires.

baby pout

“That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds.”  Ephesians 4:21-23.  We must be careful not to equate conviction with repentance.  Of course, God loves a humble spirit and a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17), but He does not want us to just stop there.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to break the chains of sinful habits.  God wants us to turn away from our sins!

 

Therefore, we should make every effort to apply what we are learning at church, in Bible Study, and in studying God’s Word in our own quiet time.  “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”  James 1:22.  When the Holy Spirit convicts us of a particular sin or stirs our heart to give more or do more for God’s kingdom, then NOW is the time to change!  Let’s not act like stubborn preschooler who is only sorry when caught and punished.  Let’s strive for spiritual maturity by turning away from our old way of life and applying God’s truth in our lives.

 

(Images from www.reusableart.com).

 

 

Whose time is it anyway? January 9, 2013

clock     Happy New Year!  It’s that time of year when we reflect on what we learned in 2012 and form resolutions for 2013.  As I look back on the past year, I realized I have learned a lot about time management.  As the mother of two young children, I have struggled with the lack of free time in my life.  Even before marriage and children, I’ ve always been one of those personalities who like to be busy and always have a to-do list, so I suppose I’ve never had a lot of free time.  However, the to-do list and priorities usually centered on what I needed to do or what I wanted to do.  Having children completely rocked my world because I rarely accomplish anything on my to-do list or get even a brief moment to re-charge my batteries because my little ones never seem to sleep at the same time.  My 2012 schedule consisted of racing home from work to eat a quick lunch while at least one child was hanging on my leg, then immediately trying to get one down for a nap just in time for the other to wake up and need mama’s undivided attention.   I was exhausted by late afternoon, especially when I was cooking dinner with one baby on my hip and the other hanging on my leg (again), and my goal was just to survive until bedtime.

     Have you ever felt that way?  Or maybe for you it is the frustration of being stuck in traffic and losing valuable time, or having a project at work dropped on you at the last minute requiring you to cancel your weekend plans, or a chatty friend or relative who pulls you into a long telephone conversation right as you’re headed out the door.   It’s easy to end up frustrated by losing valuable time because maintaining control over the day is impossible.  Unfortunately, this frustration robs of us of our joy, and we fail to appreciate the fleeting moments with our children, we fail to notice our Creator’s beautiful earth because we’re focused on a traffic jam, or we fail to be thankful for having a job in the first place.  But the truth is, life is unpredictable!  Time pressures and unpredictability can arise in a job, volunteer work, family needs, and a spiritual life, and I came to realize I needed more than time management, I needed an attitude adjustment.

     You see, I was approaching the day all wrong.  I was going in with the assumption that the day was mine and the hours were mine to order and direct.  Sure, I would pray for the Lord’s direction and leading, especially on big decisions and time commitments.  But somewhere deep down, I was operating under the belief that if I gave a part of my day to prayer and to the Lord, part of my day to my family, part of my day to other obligations, then what was left belonged to me to do with as I wished.  Do you ever treat your obligations like an imposing tax and consider your volunteer commitments as a generous donation?  It is only natural because isn’t that what the world teaches?  The world tells us, “Put yourself first, and everything else will fall into place.”  “You deserve a break.”  “You’re a better mom when you make time for yourself first.”  We’ve all heard these words, and while there may be some truth in them, the truth is ineffective because they are couched in the lie that our time is our own.

     In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis poignantly wrote, “Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury.  And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied.  The more claims on life [man] can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered.  . . . [N]othing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him.  . . . They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.”

     I read those words and was immediately convicted.  How often have I allowed my mood to nose dive when one of my children woke too early from a nap?  And was it just the other week that I was volunteered by someone else without my permission, and I went about the task begrudgingly because it interfered with my other plans?  Now, I’m not advocating we should be doormats or never say “no”.  I also know we all need time to rest (and the Lord knows this too, hence the reason he made Sabbath rest one of the Ten Commandments).  However, we should approach the day with the realization that each day is a gift from the Lord, not our “own personal birthright.”  (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters).  As Lewis says, “The humans are always putting up claims to ownership which sound equally funny in Heaven and in Hell. . . .  And all the time the joke is that the word ‘Mine’ in its fully possessive sense cannot be uttered by a human being about anything.”

     Therefore, I am challenging myself this year to make God’s priorities my priorities, His goals for my life my New Year’s resolutions.  I challenge you to do the same.  His plan for my day may change hour to hour, but since I am in His service, the unpredictability should not rattle my expectations because I am not entitled to expectations.  Any presumption that time is my own is just prideful and leads to disappointment and disillusionment.  In the same way money and possessions are not my own, I am simply the Lord’s steward.  My children are not my own, they belong to the Lord, and He has generously allowed me to be their earthly caretaker.  This same principle carries over into every facet of life, not just time. 

     Thankfully, Jesus provides us with a good example of how to approach matters in life over which we humans try to stake a claim:  he prayed “yet not my will but yours be done.”  Luke 22:42.  Therefore, rather than chasing after time or things to call your own, may you remember to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:33.

 

 

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy:  http://www.graphicsfairy-diy.com/2012/06/time-for-beautiful-mantel.html

 

Missing Out November 28, 2012

Filed under: Discipleship,God's Purpose,Obedience — chilipowderinthepears @ 12:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

     Our darling three year old is going through a stage right now, testing her boundaries, forging her independence, and challenging our rules. Let’s just say, it’s an exhausting stage because she says she is grown up enough to skip her nap but apparently not mature enough to consistently go #2 in the potty.

     Usually this new assertiveness and testing arise when we tell her it’s time to do something like get dressed, eat lunch, or go to the potty before we leave the house.  Her response is typically to run to a different room to hide and continue doing what she wants to do. When we follow her, we are met by a string of rationalizations:  “I need to finish playing with my beads before I get dressed”, “I can’t eat lunch because my tummy hurts, and I think it needs ice cream to make it better”, “My pig [favorite stuffed animal who might as well be her imaginary friend] told me I can’t go to the potty until we finish our tea party.”

     We’ve become more creative in our disciplining to try to address this new style of disobedience. Right now, the most effective is telling her if she doesn’t obey immediately, we won’t go wherever it is we were planning on taking her (a friend’s birthday party, the amusement park, etc.).  In order to get out the door on time, we have to be willing to follow through on denying her the promised excursion if she doesn’t obey.   Though we do not want her to miss out on a fun activity, we know it is more important to teach her to obedience while she is still young.

     Sometimes in the midst of my frustration with my preoccupied preschooler, the Lord, in his infinite grace and wisdom, reminds me  there are plenty of times I’ve given Him the same lame excuses for doing things my way and for telling I’m too busy with my own hectic schedule to have time to obey Him.  Do you ever feel convicted the same way?  I know furthering my own goals and kingdom should never take precedence over the assignment He has given me to “go and make disciples of all nations”  (Matthew 28:19), but I confess, my actions sometimes speak otherwise.

     It’s easy to assume God will wait around patiently for us to finish school, finish pursuing our career goals, finish rearing children, or whatever the task may be before we get around to having time for a daily devotional, serving Him in a particular ministry, being involved in a Bible study, or discipling  those younger than us.  However, God has a kingdom to build, and He can do it with or without us.  If we disobey and delay, we may miss out on His blessings!

     Do you remember why the Israelites had to wander in the desert for forty years and an entire generation missed out on the Promised Land?  The Israelites continuously failed to obey and trust the God who had brought them out of slavery in Egypt:  they had complained about the miraculous manna, they regretted leaving their enslavement in Egypt due to the uncertainty associated with their new-found freedom, and they impatiently built a golden calf idol to worship when Moses didn’t return as soon as they had hoped.  They frequently angered God by insisting on their own way rather than obeying God, but Moses repeatedly interceded on their behalf; then God relented graciously from destroying His chosen (albeit rebellious) people.  “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.  Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.”  Numbers 14:17-18.

     The Israelites finally pushed God to His tipping point when they grumbled against Moses and Aaron after the spies who had explored Canaan, the Promised Land, came back with a report that the people there were strong and powerful enemies.  (Numbers 14).  They lost their faith that the Lord would defeat these enemies for them, and they planned a mutiny against Moses.  The Lord did not destroy them, though their sin deserved it, but He did vow that those who had disobeyed Him would never see the Promised Land.  Only those under twenty years old and those who had not grumbled against the Lord (including Aaron and Caleb) would live to enter the promised land; those who had disobeyed God would die during the forty years of wandering in the desert.  God delayed bringing His people into the Promised Land because of the their sin.

     Wow, this is intense!  Have I ever missed out on God’s plan for a certain stage of my life because I didn’t trust that He is faithful to bring it to fruition?  Has He ever denied or delayed a blessing to teach me a lesson?  How many enemies does He have to defeat, seas must He part, and miraculous food and water must He produce for us to believe?  Granted, my story is not the same as the Israelites’ story, but God has brought me out of my own slavery to sin into a life of freedom to serve Him.  Yet I still struggle with rebellion against God, in the same way my child is just beginning to learn the same battle of the flesh.

     To instill obedience and submission in my child, I am willing to follow through on threatened punishment, even if it means missing out on a fun activity.  God does the same for His own children, not because He is mean or spiteful but rather because He is more interested in making us holy than making us happy.  God loves us more than we know, and He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”  Ephesians 3:20.  However, we need to continuously examine ourselves to determine whether we are walking with Him in faith, trust and obedience so we don’t miss out (inadvertently or rebelliously) on His plan to use us in spreading His kingdom.

     Though I am busy juggling many responsibilities (and even busier during the holiday season), I am attempting, with God’s grace, to not miss out on obeying God’s calling, whatever it may be.  I don’t want to be so wrapped up in my own affairs that I fail to notice someone in need as I rush around in the grocery store; I don’t want to be so consumed with my own agenda that I fail to hear God calling me to serve in a different ministry.  “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  Proverbs 19:21.  It is apparent God is furthering His kingdom on this earth, and He has invited us to participate.  Are we going to make our own plans and go our own way, or are we going to take advantage of the opportunity to further the Lord’s purposes?  If you have volunteered for community service in the past, you already know that you often feel more blessed than those you were serving.  In the same way, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  Luke 11:28.

 

Packing for Vacation is no Vacation July 12, 2012

     Summertime is in full swing:  popsicles are melting on sticky fingers, the dog is panting and whimpering to come inside, the scent of sunscreen is wafting through the air, and we are emptying our beach bags of last year’s dust and sand to make room for towels and swimsuits.  It is time for a trip to the beach!

     Though we love our summer vacation and look forward to it all year long, I can’t say the same thing about all the packing associated with the trip.  Packing for vacation is like a two day Olympic event rather than a simple task.  Every year my checklist grows, from numerous wardrobe changes (all in smocked or appliqued beach theme, of course!), diapers, wipes, stuffed animals, sand toys, water toys, and every medicine approved for children (just in case!), to portable high chairs, disposable placemats (for restaurants), travel games, sippy cups, baby spoons, bottles, and snacks.  You name it, I’ve probably packed it.

     The packing and unpacking of all of this STUFF is just shameful.  It makes me realize how we have gone about acquiring more and more stuff to make our lives more comfortable, but in essence, we are really just making our lives more complicated, creating more reasons to become aggravated (because stuff can get lost or broken), and taking up more precious time and space.  Though the American dream has taught us to work hard, pursue our dreams, and build wealth so we can acquire more material comforts, we instead are drowning under our stuff, and it is not comfortable at all!

     Maybe God, in his grace and mercy, allows me to get to this point of frustration so He can remind me that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  (Matthew 11:30).  Comfort from material abundance does not translate into spiritual contentment, and we only grasp the eternal by disentangling ourselves from the temporal.  That is why God calls Christians to “sell your possessions and give to the poor.  Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”  Luke 12:32-33.

     Yes, there are costs to following Christ.  He warns, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  Matthew 8:20.  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  Mark 8:35.   However, the eternal reward far outweighs the temporary material sacrifice.  “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”  Mark 8:36-37.

     Lately, I’ve been wrestling with the question, “How does my life need to change to be a true disciple of Jesus?”  Part of the answer lies in the need to simplify my life so I can focus on God’s calling.  I am like Martha in the Bible, distracted by all the preparations to be made and wondering why I’ve been left to do all the work myself.  Muffled through the chaos of packing for vacation, I can hear Jesus’s calm voice, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her”  Luke 10:41-42.  Like Martha, I need to focus on what is better . . . my relationship with God through salvation from Jesus.

     I may not be able to go to an extreme Walden-esque style in simplifying my life, but I do know that organizing, clearing out, down-sizing, and re-focusing are all in store.  In the words of missionary martyr Jim Elliott, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

     Ask the Lord today what areas in your life need simplifying.

 

The Strength from Without rather than from Within May 23, 2012

Filed under: Reliance on God,Spiritual Growth & Maturity — chilipowderinthepears @ 11:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Do you ever have days as a parent where, at the end of the day (or sometimes even by 10 a.m.), you feel like you have nothing left to give because you are so exhausted?  I have two very young and active children, but I can only imagine how parents with additional children feel, and I empathize even more with single parents!  Though I never run out of love for my children (I adore them!), I do run out of energy and patience sometimes.

My schedule has been especially grueling when I’ve had an intense day at work, then I come home at lunch to relieve the babysitter and put one of my two children down for a nap.  When baby boy was still napping three times a day, he would be waking up about the time my two year-old was going down for a nap, and then he would be getting tired again about the time she was waking up from a nap.  There were many days I found myself praying hourly for God to give me the strength and grace just to make it to the next hour.  It’s not that I didn’t cherish the one-on-one time with each child, it’s that I craved and needed some down time to re-charge my own batteries, but that time never came.  Oh, and then there was always the inevitable nap cut short due to a noisy lawnmower or an unexpected visitor at the door causing the dog to bark like we were under a major attack.  (I became that crazy person who puts notes on the doorbell to please not ring it.  Aahh! I never thought I’d digress to this, but I have come to understand it!).  After the children were tucked in bed in the evening, I would catch up on housework or my husband would need me to help him with something, but I was physically and mentally spent.  I didn’t resent my family, but I did feel like I had been fulfilling others’ needs all day and my cup was empty.  I had nothing left to give . . .

but I refuse to give in to complaining and to an attitude of weltschmerz.  Covers over my head, not wanting to crawl out of bed and start all over again with this day identical to the last, I peek out and remember Jesus.  If anyone can commiserate with a worn out mother, it is Jesus.  He was constantly sought after by people in need of his healing touch.  For example, after Jesus learned John the Baptist had been martyred, he withdrew to a solitary place to get some privacy while he mourned.  (Matthew 13:14).  But the crowds heard about this and followed him on foot from their towns.  (Isn’t this just what our children do?  A mom tries to sneak away to the bathroom or shower for a little privacy, but her little ones are at her heels, one sitting on her lap while she’s on the toilet and the other flushing the toilet repeatedly, or tugging on the shower curtain while Mama is in the shower, or knocking on the door crying “Mama”!).

(courtesy of http://www.lostseed.com)

How did Jesus respond to these types of situations?  He “saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”  (Matthew 14:14).  Jesus saw the need, his heart reflected his unselfish attitude of love towards those in need, and out of that love he was able to meet their needs.  Wow!

Another even more profound example is when Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho and heading to Jerusalem where Jesus knew his betrayal, arrest, and death were imminent.  Though his mind was likely preoccupied by his own troubles as he was voluntarily walking directly into the lions’ den, he did not turn away the two blind men who stopped him and asked for healing; instead, “he had compassion on them and touched their eyes.  Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”  Matthew 20:34.  Jesus knew his end was near, but the love and compassion in his heart enabled him to not give up until his work was finished.

Honestly, I feel a mixture of guilt and encouragement from these passages.  I am striving to be more like Jesus, and if I want to love my family like Jesus loved people, then I need to model his behavior and attitudes.  Sometimes this means I need to take some time away to rest and pray like Jesus did.  Taking a break is not selfish, it is critical to being able to fulfill our responsibilities.  (See my other blogs about Rest).  However, I am working also on how I respond in my heart to the cheeps of my baby birds or the requests from my husband.  Sometimes I need an attitude adjustment to enjoy, rather than endure, my responsibilities as a wife and mother.  When I have nothing left out of my own strength, I must rely on God’s grace and joy.  “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10. 

What does that verse mean?  In the Old Testament context, Nehemiah penned these words to encourage the Jews after they had returned from captivity, were rebuilding the temple, and were reading God’s law.  When they heard God’s law, they mourned because they knew His commands did not match how they had been behaving (hence the reason they had been in captivity), but Nehemiah encouraged them not to remain in a state of self-condemnation.  God’s laws are perfect, but He also knows we are imperfect so He is more than willing to forgive us if we repent.  Nehemiah called on the people to find strength in the joy of God’s grace and forgiveness so that they would follow His law from that point on with a heart of thankfulness rather than from a standpoint of obligation.

Therefore, if I am going to rely on God’s joy as the source of my strength, I can tap into that powerful source by having a thankful heart.  And I have so much to be thankful for . . .

“The Lord is my strength and my defense.  He has become my salvation.  He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”  Exodus 15:2.

 

The Androgynous Baby – Is that why she always wears pink? April 5, 2012

     There is no denying it, babies are so cute!  My first little one was a butter ball of chubby cheeks, bald head, and the cutest gummy smile.  She was such a pretty baby, but she definitely went through a few months where she looked a bit androgynous, as many babies do, especially when they lack hair.  When we would run errands together, people occasionally would say, “Hey little guy; what a cute baby boy!”  I would stand there a bit confused, looking at them and thinking, “Seriously?  She has on a pink smocked dress … seriously?”  But it serves no purpose to correct strangers who have good intentions, so I would just thank them and keep moving.  I would tell my chubby baby girl that it wouldn’t be long before there would be no mistaking that she was a girl; and I was right, because now she has long, wavy hair that can only be tamed with a hair bow, and her mannerisms are decidedly feminine.

     Have you ever been mistaken someone for someone or something you are not, or have you ever made a judgment about someone else based on a first impression which turned out to be inaccurate?  All of these episodes with confusing my daughter for a boy made me wonder if people have ever mistaken me for someone I am not.  I don’t mean in the physical sense of androgyny but rather in the spiritual sense.  Is there such a thing as an “androgynous Christian”?  I think so!  I believe one of the reasons people believe the Church and Christians nowadays are irrelevant is because we look so much like the world rather than like Jesus.  We have become so complacent in our walk with the Lord because we are confident of our own salvation and do not want to be burdened with our need for spiritual growth.  We like our “get out of hell free” card, but we do not want the responsibility with discipling others who are lost and do not know Christ.  Of course, I use the term “we” very loosely, for there are many Christians and many churches which are thriving and growing because they have been disciples who “deny themselves and take up their cross daily” to follow Jesus.  Luke 9:23.

     Just as babies tend to sport pink or blue as symbols of their gender, we must ask ourselves what symbols do we wear as the Church to accurately portray Jesus to the world?  We all know putting a bumper sticker on your car about Jesus doesn’t make you a Christian, so how would people know we are Christians from our actions and words?  Jesus tells us, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:35.  Love is the most important commandment in the Word of God:  ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”  Matthew 22:37-39; Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18.

     When we, as Christian individuals and representatives of the Church as a whole, are more concerned with our own needs and desires rather than unselfishly taking care of others as a way of demonstrating Christ’s love, then we fail at loving others.  When someone commits unrepented sins which are unbecoming to the Lord, he must examine the authenticity of his faith, for “a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  Matthew 7:18-19.  When Christians act like a chameleons, trying to blend in with non-Christians because they are ashamed of speaking God’s truth for fear they’ll be called a “Jesus freak” or “Bible banger”, then “the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”  Luke 9:26.  When churches become more concerned with their member numbers, budgets, building size and status rather than evangelizing to those in need, then they have lost their focus.  “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”  Luke 9:25.

     Have you ever considered how our country and our world would be different if the Church held true to its initial calling to love?  Would we even be faced with the current Social Security and healthcare reform issues if the Church had been doing its job in the private sector of taking care of the poor, the sick, the needy so that it would never become public issues subject to governmental intervention or meddling (pick your word of choice, depending on your political persuasion).

     I know I am not the poster child for how to accurately represent Christ in my daily walk, but I am thankful that God is working on my heart every day to mold me into who he wants me to be.  “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6.  My prayer for myself and for the Church is that God in His grace and mercy will make and mold me to be a light in the darkness, bringing hope to the hopeless, rather than a chameleon blending in with the selfish pursuits of this world.

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.