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“It is idle to say that men are of equal value. If value is taken in a worldly sense—if we mean that all men are equally useful or beautiful or good or entertaining—then it is nonsense. If it means that all are of equal value as immortal souls, then I think it conceals a dangerous error. The infinite value of each human soul is not a Christian doctrine. God did not die for man because of some value He perceived in him. The value of each human soul considered simply in itself, out of relation to God, is zero. As St. Paul writes, to have died for valuable men would have been not divine but merely heroic; but God died for sinners. He loved us not because we were lovable, but because He is Love. It may be that He loves all equally—He certainly loved all to the death—and I am not certain what the expression means. If there is equality, it is in His love, not in us.   

—from “Membership” (The Weight of Glory) by C.S Lewis
What holds you captive?  Strange question, perhaps, but a reasonable one. Looking at the people around me I can see a lot of things that they could be captive to:  work, Facebook status, approval of others, even their own dreams.  If we look at the world in relation to something and make our choices based on that thing then really we have become captive to it.
I have been contemplating how some people base who they are on their relationships (or lack thereof in the single world) and I think this is a dangerous thing.  Relationships change, they wax and wane, they grow, they fade, they’re ever changing.  If you’ve longed for a relationship for a long time and finally find one, the danger to you if you base who you are on that relationship is that if anything changes in that relationship your self esteem and even your sense of self could be damaged.
Sometimes even our relationship with God can be affected by this.  If we base who we are on our Christian practices, like the fact that we go to church every Sunday, pray every night before bed and go to Bible study faithfully, then it is possible that these practices might be holding us captive.  Don’t misunderstand me, these are very good things but we should ask ourselves, ‘Why do I do these things?’  To look better in the eyes of others?  If so, you’re captive to the approval of others.  To earn God’s love for you?  Then you’re captive to pride (‘me do, me do!’).
As the above CS Lewis quote says, we make an error if we think that we are anything in the eyes of God because of ourselves.  It is entirely because of who He is that we can come into His presence.  If we base our life on becoming worthy of God’s love, not only have we missed the point but we’ll be wasting our time. Even worse, if we are held back from His freedom because we are captive by a sense of unworthiness we will miss out entirely on His plan for us.  We must come to the place of freedom in Christ.  Part of this freedom is relinquishing our captivity in feeling that we earned or are earning His love.  Coming to the place of truly accepting God’s infinite grace even though we can’t understand it is freedom like no other. This is why John 8:36 says,  so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (NIV)
I challenge you this week to honestly answer these questions to yourself–What am I captive to?  What can I do to change my focus to freedom in Christ?  And I hope you become free indeed!
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Lies Singles Tell Themselves…

SingleBcSo I found this new blog, The Single Woman, by Mandy Hale.  I’ve been keeping tabs on it over the last few months and am quite excited about it.  Mandy speaks from the heart with obvious concern for and understanding of her fellow Christian singles.

A recent post really caught my eye–Lies Singles Tell Themselves.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=289e1f78a90b57cfc0160d723&id=9756b3fa08&e=68c6e11a4b

The above picture is from the Single Woman blog post above.

I Am Not Pregnant

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1144/1485778585_f6ef2fb3f3_z.jpg?zz=1

Your world view? Or someone else’s?

I have been away from blogging for a while (since I for some inexplicable reason have nothing useful to say right now!) but I have come across something today that really deserves to be brought to attention.

My friend, Mandie (my source of media gems), sent me a link today from the Huffington Post.  It is a post by Jennifer Aniston in which she echoes some of my own sentiments about the disconnect about how the world thinks we should view ourselves and how we should actually view ourselves.

Is marriage or children or having a beautiful body or looking a certain way what’s most important?  And does it matter what people say about me, their comments on what I should or shouldn’t do, their opinion of my life choices?

Please read this blog by Jennifer Aniston and let me know what you think.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/for-the-record_us_57855586e4b03fc3ee4e626f

Is there a happy ending for me other than getting married or having children or looking a certain way?  Quite frankly, yes, there is.  God has much more planned for you than you can ever imagine!  Call on Him for your sense of your worth, for how you should view yourself, for your happy ending.  And ignore those influences around you that really have no place in deciding who you are or who you will be.  The One who created you is all you need.

(PS Really we should call it a ‘happy continuing’ because your life doesn’t end when you’ve found your purpose.  Rather, you continue on in your life with new focus, new life and new joy!).

Happy or Holy?

So I was talking with a friend yesterday and he said something quite singular.  He told me that if someone had enough faith that they would not have any medical problems.  He thought that this is what “overcoming” meant–that the problem would disappear.  When I asked why he thought this, he said that God is a good God and all He wants is for us to be happy.cherubim with harp

Now, I have already talked about health in a couple of blogs last year (Christians and illness, Parts I and II–found in the ‘Misconceptions’ category) so I won’t go into that again.  What I do want to discuss is the idea that the main thing God wants is for us to be happy.

Yes, I realize that some may raise their eyebrows at what I’m going to say next but here it is:  God’s goal for us is not for us to be happy, but rather for us to be holy.

This is a very important distinction.  This defines God’s purpose in our lives.  Let me explain.

If above all else God wants us to be happy, then why can’t we just live our lives the way we want to?  Why can’t we just do as we please?  Why does He interfere with our lives by telling us to “love our neighbours as ourselves?” (Mark 12:31).

Do you really think that Abraham was happier leaving his home to travel to a land that he’d never seen before (Genesis 12)?  Don’t you think Joseph would have been happier to skip out on being sold into slavery and ending up in prison in Egypt (Genesis 37, 39 – 46)?  Would Moses not have been happier living as a prince in Egypt instead of wandering in the desert for 40 years (Exodus)?

For that matter, would not Christ have been happier staying in heaven and reigning as the Son of God than living on earth and dying on the cross?  If all God wanted was for His children to be happy he would likely not have sent Christ to this earth at all.

So why did God let these things happen to these His children?  Because He wants much more for us than to be “happy.”  He wants us to grow, to mature, to aspire to holiness, to become more than we even imagined that we could!  Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.  2 Corinthians 7:1b NIV

Imagine Esther’s surprise at being picked by the great King Xerxes as his wife in place of Vashti!  But do you think that she was made queen so that she would be happy?  When the Israelites came under attack, even though it would put her life at risk, Mordecai, her uncle, encouraged her to petition the King.  He said to her, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NIV

And what are we told about Christ?  “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”  Hebrews 5:8,9 NIV

We hear Christ say that “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NKJV

So it would seem that as the children of God we can expect hardship and difficulties.  We can expect suffering that tests our faith.  This does NOT sound very nice or encouraging. It’s actually rather disheartening.  But listen to this encouragement…

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Romans 5:3,4 NIV

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2 – 4 NIV

So, it kind of sounds like we should not only expect suffering, that we should look forward to it because God uses it to mold and mature us!   To help us to become holy like Himself.  I don’t know about you, but this process doesn’t make me overly happy. In the end, however, we will earn more than a little happiness–we will have pure joy!

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh. 22
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.
Luke 6:20 – 23

Now that it has become clear that we will suffer as Christians, we need to realize that our hardships are for a higher purpose, not only to build us into stronger and better people but often to improve things for those around us.  Consider what Joseph said to his brothers after they had sold him into slavery and finally found him in Egypt as the second in command to Pharoah:  “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” Genesis 45:6 NIV

And from Paul:  “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.  Philippians 1:12 – 15 NIV

But do not lose heart.  We don’t have to do this on our own strength.  Christ said in Matthew 28:20b, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  NIV

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  NIV

We may not always be happy, but we will be working on holiness with every hardship we persevere through, with every illness we overcome, with every obstacle that we navigate through.  So it is not because you lack faith that these things come your way; it is to help you gain faith!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 NIV

Holy is much better than happy! 😀

His Mercy is Our Song

Music by Mary!

Music by Mary!

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.  Psalm 100 KJV

As do millions of other humans planet-wide, I love music.  We used to sing the above Psalm at Bible camp and therefore the words are still firmly wedged in my mind.  Music can get a hold of you in a way that no other medium can.  Why else would radio stations still exist in this world of high-flying technology and digital video players?  We like to crank our favourite songs and A).  dance wildly, B).  cry our eyes out, or C).  write a blog…

BUT is music of God? Should we be so involved in it as Christians?

OF COURSE (see the above Psalm).  How do I know this…

Music, as mentioned in the Bible, goes quite a ways back in history.  Many of the Psalms written by David starts out with a note “for the director of music” which logically suggests that he anticipated that his writings would be put to music and sung.

By David’s time there was even a designated group of Levites who were set aside for the praise and worship team.  31 These are the men David put in charge of the music in the house of the Lord after the ark came to rest there. 32 They ministered with music before the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, until Solomon built the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. They performed their duties according to the regulations laid down for them. 1 Chronicles 6: 31, 32 NIV

We find this worship team mentioned many times throughout 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah.

12 All the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. 13 The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang:
“He is good;    
his love endures forever.”
Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud,14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.
2 Chronicles 5:12 – 14 NIV

“…for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God”…and aren’t we God’s temple?

We find mention of music and singing continuing on into New Testament times as well.  After Jesus ate the Last Supper with his disciples they sang a hymn.  When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  Matthew 26:30 NIV

OK, time for the big debate–AS CHRISTIANS, WHAT TYPE OF MUSIC SHOULD WE SING or PLAY?

What does God say?

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:18b – 20 NIV

Let the peace of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another wth all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your in your heart to God. Colossians 3:16 NIV 84

We are to sing “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (songs from the Spirit)” which kind of covers it all, from the Bible’s Psalm 100, to the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness, to the chorus Blessed Be the Name, to Manafest’s Human.  Do you notice, though, that it is not the type of song we sing that seems to be the most important thing, but rather that we sing with the right attitude–thanksgiving and gratitude to God.

It is good to praise the Lord
and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.

For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
How great are your works, Lord,
how profound your thoughts!
But you, Lord, are forever exalted.  Psalm 92:1 – 5, 8 NIV

So, there is a reason why music touches our souls–God designed us this way!  Our souls long to sing praises to our God, to share His incredible love for us, as Group1Crew writes in their song His Kind of Love:

There are no words, no phrase I could create
There is no melody that I could make
How do you sing about the love so deep
Without feeling like you missed something
I could try but I could not explain

His kind of love 
Is reckless for us
His kind of love it will never give up
‘Til the whole world knows how far He went to show
His kind of love

This is our God
He is strong and His mercy is our song
He won’t stop chasing us
That’s just His kind of love

God sings to us through bird song, whispering winds, the voices of our loved ones, through music.  He has given us so much and loves us with a depth that we can’t even imagine.  We learn in Luke 19:37 – 40 from Jesus that if His disciples didn’t cry out in song, the rocks would!

Do we want to leave the rocks to cry out the blessings of the Lord?  No, this is our job.

Therefore, sing and make music to the Lord!  Lift up your voice in song!  Sing of our God in a mighty voice as a fragrant offering to our God!  Try to explain in words how amazing is the grace of our God!  May He feel our thanks and our gratitude and may others feel His mercy and grace!

Christ-coloured Glassess

Rose-coloured glasses

Rose-coloured glasses

Sometimes I can’t quite understand how a God that is perfect, all-powerful and holy can look at us, at me, at all.  Let alone not strike me down in my place.  One day I was thinking about this and I started thinking that God has to see us through rose-coloured glasses…no, through Christ-coloured glasses…and the following poem was born.

Christ-Coloured Glasses

When we see the world
Through rose-coloured glasses,
The world takes on a rosy hue—
The people, the events
That we inevitably see
Appear better, brighter in this view.

I wish I could see through
Rose-coloured glasses!
I see evil, sadness, wrong-doing and pain.
I wish I could see past
The darkness veiling
To see truth and hope, without a stain.

Christ saw the world
Through rose-coloured glasses;
He saw straight through to the heart.
He looked past the outer
Shell of a man
To the soul—the hidden part.

And now

God sees us through
Christ-coloured glasses
Christ’s obedience and holiness to veil
All of our dark and ungodly things—
Invisible, even when we fail.

I want to see the world
Through Christ-coloured glasses,
To see God’s fingerprint on man.
I want to see deeper,
Past the façade
To God working, with His mighty hand.

God!  Please see me
Through Christ-coloured glasses—
All of my waywardness to hide.
May I take on the
Characteristics of Christ
And one day walk by Your side!

mec   20 July 2008

Purity 3: How can we become sexually pure?

Purity

Purity

So.  We’ve investigated purity and talked about the importance of sexual purity for both singles and marrieds.  The question now becomes–how can we become pure?

Firstly, (and keep in mind this is professional opinion and not from the Bible) you have to WANT to be pure.  Very much like quitting smoking, losing weight, becoming good at a sport—one must WANT to do it.  I see a lot of people come in saying, “My wife wants me to quit smoking” or “my mom says I should lose weight”.  These people will not be successful in the goal until it becomes their goal.  Similarly, if you think in your head, “Mary says I should be pure” but haven’t bought into it yourself, it won’t happen.

Secondly, as I mentioned in Purity 2, remember, sexual impurity begins in the mind.  You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ (Exodus 20:14) But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  Matthew 5:27,28  NIV  It is hard to avoid sexual impurity these days.  Everywhere we look, everything we read or listen to, seems to advertise sex in some way.  My friend lives in Korea and says that everywhere you go where she lives you are confronted with pornography attacking you from every visual angle.  It will be hard to keep your mind pure but it is very important. …[E]ach person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.  James 1:14,15 NIV

Thirdly, What does God say about being pure?

1).  We need to immerse ourselves in His Word instead of that of the world.

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.  Psalm 119:9,11

2).  We need to offer ourselves completely to God, mind and body.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:1, 2  NIV

3).  We need to ask God for His help.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:10 – 12 NKJV

4).  We need to follow God where he leads us.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

This part is the simplest part to write but, I fear, the hardest to actually do.  But if we truly want to be pure before God we need to put our hearts and minds to it.  Find yourself a group of friends and enlist them to help keep you accountable in this goal.  Do not dispair if you fall down or fail.  God is the God of second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances (read Matthew 18:22).  If you have been sexually impure in the past, or impure in any way, talk to God.  Confess.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NIV  Then, move on.  We are not perfect, but Christ is and He will walk with us through our struggles.  If God calls us to purity, He will help us to get there.  Remember, He will never give up on you. Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NIV

So, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.             2 Corinthians 7:1 NIV