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Faith is a Crutch for the Weak

1 Corinthians 1:18-28 (excerpts – NLT) –  I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds.  God saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom.  This foolish plan of God is far wiser that the wisest of human plans.  God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise.  God chose things despised by the world and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

Christianity is a crutch for the weak.  Only people who can’t think for themselves believe that nonsense.  Have you heard these statements?

Jesus’ teachings don’t always seem logical.  The Bible says God can best use us when we are weak.  When we give our lives to Him, we receive a more abundant life.  You can’t understand these truths until you actually experience them.  No, it doesn’t make sense.  It’s faith.  People who operate completely by worldly wisdom don’t get it.

This world thrives on recognition, admiration and importance.  A person who believes the Bible is considered a weakling in need of a religious crutch to cope with life.  While meant as an insult, it’s actually quite true.  Believers recognize their inability to help themselves and lean on Christ to give them strength.  We admit we are not God.

God is not looking for great and impressive people, but for weak, humble servants who know they need Him – for whom Jesus alone is their strength and wisdom.

Upside Down

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)
 
Sometimes Jesus doesn’t make sense.  Not only do His ideas directly contradict worldly values, they seem completely illogical.  Turn the other cheek.  Bless those who curse you.  You are stronger when you are weak.  Jesus’ instructions don’t make sense because we can’t experience the benefits of living His way until we step out in faith and actually do it.  Only then do we understand God’s logic (which, by the way, is higher than ours). 
 
The world told me, and for years I believed, that successful people were in control and could take care of themselves.  Only weak people needed help.  Pride told me I didn’t need counseling or medication.  Pride kept my past mistakes and ongoing suffering hidden.  I wore the mask of a strong, capable, self-reliant, model church lady.  And I was secretly miserable.
 
It was only when, with a shaky voice and pounding heart, I opened up to some trusted friends that I began to see the logic in Jesus’ teachings.  My friendships deepened because I was truly known (and still loved!).  Humbling myself was terrifying and risky, but I felt the immense freedom of authenticity.  Doesn’t Scripture say the truth will set you free. 
 
That was an enormous turning point in my faith journey.  Being honest with my friends enabled me to be real with God.  I am a mess.  I need Him every day.  And when I am humble before God, He fills my life with more strength and joy than I can describe.  Who would guess?  I am strong because I am weak.
 
May you also experience God’s upside-down wisdom.

Are You Stuck?

Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Do not conform to the pattern of this
world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
In my
last post, I described the Kingdom of God as a way of life in the here and now,
not just our experience in the afterlife. 
Every time we pray ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth…’ we ask
God to make His way known among us right now. 
The
Kingdom of God is far from worldly:
·        
The world elevates the
self.  Jesus tells us to humbly serve
others.
·        
The survival of the
fittest mentality conflicts with Jesus’ self-sacrificial love.
·        
The world says we
deserve a safe, comfortable life while Jesus guarantees suffering as we take up
our cross.
·        
The world preaches
self-sufficiency.  God tells us to depend
on Him alone.
Are you
a camel trying to shimmy your way through the eye of a needle?  Are you pursuing the things of this world,
but feeling stuck?  Perhaps you need to
rest in the arms of a God who loves you and can set you free.  Flip your worldly thinking upside down and be
transformed by Jesus.

Camels in Heaven

Mark 10:25 (NLT)
In fact, it is easier for a camel to go
through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!
Jesus’
message in this conversation must have made an impact because Matthew, Mark and
Luke all include this teaching in their writing.  It probably ruffled some feathers in a culture
that believed wealth indicated God’s blessing.
A few
explanations are needed.  First, the
Kingdom of God is not simply what we describe as heaven or the afterlife.  It can also mean living a life on earth that
embodies God’s values – heaven on earth, so to speak.  Jesus often said of himself, the Kingdom of
God is near, meaning He was the perfect example of living God’s kingdom on
earth. 
Second,
different translations expand the idea of a rich person to someone who ‘has it
all’ or one who places their sense of safety in riches.  We could probably say the rich person leads a
comfortable life.
So I
asked my confirmation students ‘Why?’ 
Why is it hard for a person who ‘has it all’ to live the life God
desires?  Why are those who hit rock
bottom more easily transformed by Jesus?
Don’t
lose hope or be discouraged by this devotion. 
It’s good food for thought.  In
the very next sentence Jesus says the
words you have certainly heard many times – “With man this is impossible, but
not with God; all things are possible with God.”

All Done!

Image courtesy of Photobucket.com
Luke 16:15 (NLT)
Then [Jesus] said to them, “You like to
appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts.”
In my
mind I think “Well, I’m not as bad as so-in-so.”  But God doesn’t grade on the curve and deem
me good or bad based on others’ performance. 
God’s standard is Jesus.
I think
I have a pretty good reputation for following Jesus.  But God doesn’t care about my reputation.  He cares about what’s in my heart and He sees
every nook and cranny.  While I truly love
God and love others, it would be scary to connect a projector to my brain and
broadcast every thought.  You’d see judgment,
envy, impatience, selfishness, self righteousness, disgust, and hypocrisy.  You get the point.  I’m no Jesus.
Standing
in God’s presence demands perfection and that’s impossible.  While I’m not that bad, I’m far from
perfect.  So why try to be good?  If I’m doomed from the start, why not just
give up?  That’s the whole point of the
cross! My efforts don’t matter one
bit.  Jesus died in my place so His blood
already washed away my sin and pre-qualified
me to stand in God’s presence.  Jesus has
done it.  The only appropriate response
to this gift is to love and forgive others. 
Bonus scripture:  1 John 4:19 – We
love each other because He loved us first.
All I
have to do is humble myself, admit I need saving and believe that Jesus has
already done it.

Above the Curve

Romans 3:22-24 (NLT)
We are made right with God by placing our
faith in Jesus Christ.  And this is true
for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.  For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of
God’s glorious standard.  Yet God, with
undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous.  He did this through Christ Jesus when he
freed us from the penalty for our sins.
Are you
a good person?  Come on.  Admit it, you think you’re OK.  I do too. 
I may have done some things I regret but most of the time I keep to the
straight and narrow.  I’m no Mother
Theresa, but I’m no Whitey Bulger either. 
If God is grading on the curve, I’m getting pretty high marks.
So do I
need a Savior?  Do you?
Recently
I wrote about years of doubting whether or not I had been good enough to pay
for the wild period of my life.  It can’t
be done.  I can neither make up for my
sin, nor can I earn God’s love.  His love
and forgiveness are freely given to undeserving me.
How
about now that you and I are scoring above the curve?  Do we need a Savior?
The
catch is that God doesn’t grade on the curve. 
God’s standard is Jesus and we all fall short.  The thing about God’s grace (free, undeserved
forgiveness) is that we have to admit we need it.

In Sync

Psalm 143:8 (NLT)
Let me hear of your unfailing love each
morning, for I am trusting you.  Show me
where to walk, for I give myself to you.
How?  How do we trust God to direct our path?  How does this trust actually work in
day-to-day life?
My
trust increases as I feel more connected to Him.  When I pay attention to my relationship with
God, I see His hand in my life which results in increasing certainty that He is
directing me.  Staying tuned in to God
through prayer and scripture gives me an opportunity to hear a small voice in
the form of a fleeting thought.  When I
follow through on the thought, not always, but sometimes I see why God put the
thought in my head and realize that God used me for His purpose.  The thrill of being used by God makes me more
apt to follow the next small voice I hear. 
And so trust increases. When I nurture my relationship, I feel in sync
with Him and filled with the Holy Spirit.
Did you
notice the first small bit of trust starts when I make myself available to God
through prayer and scripture? 
Intentional.  God-centered.  Connected. 
Life gets busy and this doesn’t always happen.  But when it does my life is richer.
Make no
mistake, He is guiding you – or trying to. 
It is up to you to have eyes to see and ears to hear which way He wants
you to go.  Be intentional in centering
your life around God.

Already Exhausted!

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
This means that anyone who belongs to
Christ has become a new person.  The old
life is gone; a new life has begun!
Happy
New Year!  The media has reviewed all
aspects of 2013.  People continue to make
resolutions for 2014.  Several Christian
websites even got in on the newness by using this scripture to ring in the New
Year.  Wipe the old away.  Get a second chance, a clean slate.  Become a new person.  Change. 
Improve.
I’m
right with the pack making plans for change in 2014:  projects I want to accomplish, ways I want to
improve my life and health, relationships that need work.  The list in my head keeps growing and I don’t
know where to begin.  I am exhausted just
thinking about it and feeling a bit panicked.
So this
morning I was intentional about trying to calm my heart and thoughts.  Deep breath in.  Then exhale. 
I sat with my eyes closed literally trying to slow my heartbeat.  In doing so I allowed God to be a part of my
planning – to help direct my focus.  What
does God have planned for me in 2014? 
Where does God want me to spend my energy?
Which of your plans for 2014 are from God?

Peace For Your Soul

John 16:33 (NLT)
I have told you all this so that you may
have peace in me.  Here on earth you will
have many trials and sorrows.  But take
heart, because I have overcome the world.
We
certainly know from experience that following Jesus isn’t a ticket to the easy
life.  In today’s scripture it seems
Jesus is giving us a coping mechanism for surviving the ups and downs of life
in this world.  I was curious what Jesus
meant by ‘I have told you all this’, so I looked at His words to the disciples
leading up to this verse.
John 16:5-7 (NLT)
But now I am going away to the one who sent
me, and not one of you is asking where I am going.  Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told
you.  But in fact, it is best for you
that I go away.
Ah, it’s
just before Judas betrays Jesus.  The
disciples are bummed and Jesus tells them they’re being short sighted – not seeing
the bigger picture that’s to their advantage. 
The disciples can’t see past their immediate pain to see how God can
turn it into good. 
That
helps me paraphrase today’s scripture:  Even
through tough times, trust that God is in control and Good will win.  Let this hope bring peace and contentment to
your soul.

Am I In?

John 14:1-3 (NLT)
Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father’s
home.  If this were not so, would I have
told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  When everything is ready, I will come and get
you, so that you will always be with me where I am.
Am I in? 
Even
though I believed in Jesus, was involved in my church community and taking
Bible study, I still wondered if I had done enough or been good enough to get
in to heaven.  If I died today would I go
to heaven?  I wasn’t sure.  In fact, I was afraid.  I was trying to live the life God would want.  But was it enough to make up for those really
ugly years?  Doubt was a cloud hanging
over my head.
I can’t
point to one day when the cloud blew away. 
It was more a gentle breeze of continued study, deeper relationship and an
openness to see that God is still active in the world.  He is real. 
His promises are true.  Gradually,
I believed, accepted and felt God’s love. 
I also forgave myself.
Grace,
by definition, is undeserved and God knows I don’t deserve His love.  I cannot earn it.  Nor can I lose it no matter what.  God loves
you.  Believe and accept His
unconditional love.  Don’t let your heart
wonder if you’re ‘in’.  Trust Him.  There is room for everyone who trusts.

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Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts.  If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.
Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts. If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.

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