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Sunday, October 19, 2014, 1:52 PM
Why would someone choose to be a Christian?
You must really make this choice for yourself. It is deliberate
and no one can do it for you. No one "inherits" Christianity.
It cannot be passed down like money, property, or heirlooms.
You may inherit the practice of certain Christian traditions, but
you cannot inherit the status of Christian. As someone has said,
"God has no grandchildren, only children."
You should be able to look back to a place and time in your own life
where you made a conscious choice to turn over
the reigns of your life to God, a time when you admitted you had
a sin problem you could not solve, a time when you asked God to
solve it for you. In most cases and barring certain illnesses,
we remember major events of our lives: finishing school,
getting that first job or joining military service, marriage,
buying that first home or renting that first apartment.
It's perfectly reasonable that we remember turning over control
of our lives to God, the most important decision we will ever make.
Becoming a Christian isn't the same as joining a church or getting baptized.
Those can be positive experiences, but they do not substitute for salvation
because salvation is a totally personal "you and God" experience. Perhaps
you were baptized as an infant, in which case that baptism wasn't your choice.
Perhaps you joined a church because you were lonely, or liked certain social
activities the church offered, or because a spouse or parent belonged to that
church. Those aren't necessarily bad reasons to join a church, but those
reasons don't address your relationship with God.
Some have been told to become a Christian because Christianity assures
prosperity, health, and what the world generally calls "success."
Trust me, it's not true because Scripture doesn't teach this and
history disproves it.
Some have been told to become a Christian to avoid Hell. Maybe you will
avoid Hell (which, by the way, I believe is a real place), but fear never
motivated anyone to consistent goodness or greatness. If Hell, or avoiding it,
is your focus, you have missed the entire reason why people have sought
a relationship with Jesus for over 2,000 years.
Some have been told become a Christian because Christians are "better" than other people and, of course, you want to be among "the best." Jesus
constantly taught against pride, judgment of others, and haughtiness.
He never invited anyone to follow Him based on feeling superior to others.
In fact, during His time here, He often sought out and embraced those
who were on the outskirts of society: the poor, the rejected,
the weak and the lonely.He had wealthy followers as
well---and still does--but they are not "better" followers
because of their material advantages.
Hopefully, you have chosen or will choose to become a Christian because
you have received a glimpse of this truth: "Jesus, you are all compassion,
pure and wondrous love you are."
Only someone like this is worthy of your unconditional
allegiance and faith.
It is only to someone like this should you hand over the reigns of your life.
Only God is powerful enough to be "all compassion" and only God is
generous enough to express to us "pure and wondrous love." Whoever you are, and in whatever condition you find yourself, Jesus waits to express these things to you and will wait for you as long as you live and will
never withdraw His offer of compassion and love.
That is the reason to become a Christian.
(c) Deborah Evans 2014
Friday, September 19, 2014, 1:25 PM
Why would anyone pray for someone who despitefully uses them?
You would do it because that prayer is your guarantee against the permanent soul damage that may result from the user's actions.
How does this work?
1) When you pray for that person, your mind and spirit free themselves from responsibility for that person's hostile actions and hostile energy. You have turned that person, and their state of mind, over to God. You no longer try to adjust your behavior to "fix" them and to "keep them happy."
2) When you pray for that person, you place yourself under God's protection. Your decision to obey this very challenging command is an affirmation of faith in God's judgment of how difficult people are to be handled. Your prayer is an affirmation of your obedience.
That affirmation of obedience directs your focus away from the "user" and back to God. Your thoughts are no longer tied to "what they did." Your thoughts are focused on "what God will do." Instead of uselessly expecting someone to "make things right", you look to God. This looking to God cancels disappointment. This opens your mind to faith and hope, and to new possibilities.
How many times have you heard speakers and teachers say "Energy follows focus"?
Ironically, when you pray for the despiteful user, your focus moves away from them.
3) Praying for someone who did not treat you well is your personal expression of freedom. You cannot hold the hurt and pain while you pray for them. At first, this will not "feel right." Stick with it! As you continue, you will notice you don't cry anymore when you think about them. Your fists don't ball up. You don't feel that tension in your shoulders. You remember facts, but you are no longer poisoned by negative energy.
If someone is abusing you and placing you in danger, you must take carefully planned steps to get away from them. Praying is not a substitute for rational action when your safety is at risk. Please see my post on the topic of "Why Do So Many Churches Tell Women To Stay In Abusive Marriages?"
Regardless of where you are physically located, you can pray for that person. You can begin the process of healing yourself. As is often the case, prayer is not about making a different outcome. Prayer is about making you a different person who is free and capable of creating God-willed outcomes.
The command to "pray for those who despitefully use you" is definitely one of Jesus' "hard sayings." This saying seems counter-intuitive. As you practice this prayer, something happens in you, something you could not have anticipated or expected. It is called a miracle.
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans
Friday, August 8, 2014, 3:10 PM
"Once upon a time, a visitor came to the monastery looking for the purpose and meaning of life.
The Teacher said to the visitor, 'If what you seek is Truth, there is one thing you must have above all else.'
'I know', said the visitor. 'To find Truth, I must have an overwhelming passion for it.'
'No", said the Teacher. 'In order to find Truth, you must have an unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong.' "
photo from Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement
Why was it so difficult for the southern, white church to acknowledge segregation was wrong?
For some, this question may pose another question: why was it so difficult for southern white culture to acknowledge segregation was wrong?
My original question is based upon the assumption that the church does not accept without question or challenge the values and mores of the larger society. In this case, the church obviously did accept those values and mores. The few who spoke out for what was right were often labeled "enemy." Did the church lose its testimony because it refused to visibly and vocally challenge the violence that was needed to enforce segregation?
Was the southern church co-opted culturally by the larger society in which it lived and functioned? For the record, many elements in what was then called the southern Negro church did not support civil rights during its earliest days. Many conservative African-Americans feared the disruption and retribution that would come with a push for civil rights. Based on their (well-founded) fear, they also sat on the sidelines, or accused the civil rights workers of being trouble-makers and rabble-rousers.
Why was the southern white church also so afraid of change that those who spoke out for the righteousness of civil rights were excluded and ostracized?
How was it possible that southern white Christians did not see a brotherhood and sisterhood of faith in their African-American neighbors? Why was it so much easier to speak about "personal salvation in Jesus Christ" and "holiness and sanctification" that it was to say that all Americans should be treated as citizens? Who were "the least of these"
in this situation? How many sermons on the Good Samaritan
were preached in churches where African-Americans were not welcomed or even permitted?
How many ministers said "those people won't come to our churches anyway?" How many laypersons felt it was permissible to eat food and wear clothes prepared by women with whom they refused to worship? How many times did ministers preach on Lazarus and the Rich Man
without considering how their actions appeared to an unredeemed world?
Why was so much pseudo-science accepted as reasonable explanations for legally and forcibly separating
people who worshiped the same God, read from the same Bible, and looked forward to the same Heaven?
I suppose arguments could be made regarding social comfort and traditional practices. Still, I wonder how many of those outside of the church watched in wonder or mockery as church leaders and laypersons affirmed the right of the government to separate people based on race. I wonder how many atheists mocked the Gospel as so-called Christians remained silent while churches were bombed, busses were bombed, and peaceful demonstrators were set upon by police dogs and high powered fire hoses.
Why was it so difficult for the church to admit legal segregation was wrong? Can a testimony lost ever be regained?
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans
Thursday, July 3, 2014, 4:24 PM
Ladies, when you look in the mirror, what do you see?
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, your answer can be “I see a beautiful reflection of God when I look in the mirror.”
Why is it so difficult for so many of us to easily and honestly give that answer?
Perhaps no one has ever told us we are beautiful reflections of God.
Reflections of God must be nothing less than beautiful, if we believe God to be beautiful. If our God is beautiful, surely we must share at least a sliver of that beauty in our physical selves. We can see it every day and acknowledge it with gratitude and grace.
Do we let the world tell us what is beautiful? Did some of us get mixed up and lost at that point?
Basically, the world tells all of us that only a very tiny number of us are (or ever can be) truly beautiful and the rest of us must spend some of our spare time imitating, adoring, watching, and obsessing over “the beautiful.” When we are finished with the obsessing and the adoring, we are (directly and indirectly) instructed to head off to the stores and sites to buy something to bring us to a near approximation of beauty. We are offered no guarantees we will actually arrive at “the beauty destination.” We are, however, told we can never give up trying. Trying, by the way, often seems to involve spending lots of money and experimenting with lots of products and waiting in lines in salons, spas, gyms, and the like.
I am all for enhancing physical appearance. Of course, we all want to look our best. Healthy enhancement, however, begins from a place of self-acceptance, not a place of self-denial.
God tells us we are beautiful because we are His children. I like that approach to beauty. It’s possible for everyone to qualify to be beautiful in God’s approach.
How often have you watched family and friends smile over a newborn, certain the child will grow up to be beautiful because both parents are “good looking”?
Can any less be true for the children of God?
Recently, someone posted this quote on my facebook: “Do not fall in love with what’s on the outside. Fall in love with what’s on the inside, because that is what you will live with.”
I decided to memorize that statement because it is an ongoing reminder to me of how easily so many of us are seduced by good looks, of how easy it is to believe if someone is physically attractive they must also be good in the ways that really count and really matter.
Like many of you, I followed with interest and excitement this year’s media coverage of the Academy Award winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o. Her stunning expression of confidence in her own beauty (based on character and skill and preparation and courage, along with genes!) seemed to convince many that beauty had no single look. I hope that belief lives on.
Too many of us believe if we have dark skin, tightly curled hair, and full lips, we cannot be beautiful in anyone’s eyes, including our own. That belief is a spiritual problem, because that type of thinking elevates the legacy of colonialism and slavery over God’s permanent declaration of the goodness and beauty of His people.
Too many of us believe if we have fair skin and straight hair, we need to be “fixed” with tanning and (chemically caustic) perms. That belief is a spiritual problem, because these processes are known to damage the health of the physical bodies we need to continue living on the Earth.
Too many of us believe if our bodies do not match a certain size or number, we have no right to be seen in public, and certainly no right to go to swim at the beach or in a public pool, or to wear bright, happy colors. That belief is a spiritual problem, because God does not wait for us to reach a certain size before He expresses His love for us and sends His Holy Spirit to live in us.
Too many of us believe if we have reached a certain age, the best is behind us and we can never achieve any new heights because we are too old to be accepted or appreciated. That belief is a spiritual problem, because all of the life experience God has allowed you to have can guide and bless someone who waits to meet you around the bend on life’s road.
Beauty is a gift from God, and must always exist in whatever form He has chosen to create us. If that’s too difficult to believe, I invite you to spend more time listening to God
and reading His word, and less time listening to those who aren’t in “the family of God.”
Beauty was not created for some of us to generate envy or jealousy from the rest of us. Beauty exists at all because it is God’s expression of self, and must be good and can live always within and upon anyone who is His, who is in “the family”, who looks to Him for everything worth knowing and having.
P.S. “Family” membership is open to any and all, at no cost, and upon request. No sponsor is required for this membership. You can nominate yourself. That’s “the good news”, aka The Gospel.
(c)2014 Deborah Evans
Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 4:00 PM
Even Before Pentecost: Seeking and Finding Meaning in the Ascension
Ascension Sunday has fallen into obscurity and neglect in many denominations. I’ve posted about this previously, but I am still saddened by the trend.
I am beginning to create a small, at-home worship ritual celebrating the Ascension and based on meditative readings of Acts chapter one and Revelation chapters one and twenty-two.
The Ascension is important because it answers an important question: what happened to Jesus after his resurrection?
The answer matters.
The passage from Acts explains many things. One of them is this: Jesus is a supernatural person who arrived in an extraordinary manner and left in an extraordinary manner. Jesus will return in the same, extraordinary manner in which he left.
Also, Jesus told his disciples to wait before rushing off into “the next great thing.” He told them some things were not for them to know at that moment. Jesus did, however, give them a glimpse of their futures.
Jesus told his disciples they would receive power after the promised Holy Spirit came upon them and into them. Jesus told the disciples they would be his witnesses locally and, eventually, out and into the ends of the earth.
What is interesting is that Jesus did not tell his disciples what they asked him to tell them. Isn’t this the same Jesus who once said “ask, seek, and knock?” He didn’t tell them what they asked, but he did tell them what they needed to know. In the deepest way, he answered the question the disciples didn’t have the insight to ask.
He told them they would do something larger and more expansive than they’d imagined.
The disciples wanted to know if Jesus was ready to liberate Israel from Roman control and restore the nation to its historical independence.
Jesus responded by telling the disciples they would receive power—as opposed to waiting for him to do something in the earth. They would be his witnesses to people who had never heard of him.
In response to the disciples’ questioning of what Jesus would do next, Jesus tells them what they would do next. Then he leaves. He left them to do something bigger than they’d expected. In fact, he left them to do something no one had ever done, something
no one was expecting, and something many people we not ready to accept. He knew they needed supernatural empowerment.
I love this account of Jesus’ final “in person” words to his disciples because he reverses their question while at the same time telling them what they really wanted to know.
They wanted to know this: “what’s next”? That’s the question we often ask after a mountaintop experience.
Jesus’ answer to them—and to us—was, and is, this: 1) Wait to become empowered through God, and 2) After becoming empowered through God, think and act more expansively than you ever have!
Living as an authentic witness of God’s power and presence is the most important thing a Christian can do.
As we leave the details of the time, the place, and the circumstance of our witnessing up to God, we are enabled and prepared to do more than we had imagined. Witnessing means showing and telling what we have experienced in a way to points directly to the goodness of God, not to our own skills, willpower, or abilities. That type of witnessing cannot be done apart from the Holy Spirit’s leading, guidance, and empowerment.
This is the promise and the meaning of the Ascension.
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans