The Ignorant Battle Cry of Christians

shutterstock_148970525Recently, people of faith all over the world celebrated the resurrection of their Lord and Savior.  They celebrated the God who loved us all so much that He was willing to take on a human body, suffer more than anyone has ever suffered, and die the most horrible, unspeakable death for us because He loved us and wanted us to be free.   You’d think this would inspire these same people of faith to try to live more closely to the teachings of the One in which they have put their faith, but that doesn’t always happen.

Recently, I listened to a member of the clergy speak publicly with such venom and hatred for people who were different, believed differently, or God forbid, were “them old sinners.”  When it started, it was almost humorous, because it seemed almost like a caricature of what the media portrays Christians to be.  But as I continued to listen, humor turned to surprise, then to disappointment and finally to disgust.  All I wanted to do was to shout out, “You are the problem!”  Because the truth is that God loves ALL the world and every single person in it.  He loves those we would classify as “good” as well as those we would say are “bad” (eg. Hitler, Bin Laden, Manson, etc.).  It makes no difference who you are, because in God’s eyes we are all the same.  No matter what we do or engage in, or how we choose to live our lives, He loves us with everything He has.  In John 3:16, we are told that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that WHOSOEVER believes in Him, will not die, but have everlasting life.”  And then it also tells us that  “God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8).  He loved everyone while we were still rejecting Him.  He loves  us before we are “cleaned up.”  He loves us so much that He died for us WHILE we were rejecting Him.  That’s pretty amazing!

In today’s society, there seem to be more attacks on Christianity, but the truth is we bring much of that on ourselves.  If we weren’t so bitter and mean, maybe it would be a little different.  If we discussed our beliefs from a heart of love and lived the way Christ wants us to live, maybe so many people wouldn’t be so angry.  Make no mistake, Jesus told His followers that the world hated Him and as a result, they would also be hated at times.  (John 15:18-25).  So rest assured there will always be opposition to Christ and those who follow His teachings, but my point is that Jesus was about inclusion, not exclusion.  Jesus was about love not hate.  He never spoke with venom.  He never screamed at people.  He wasn’t about pride;  He was about humility.  He wasn’t about condemnation.  He wasn’t about prejudice of any kind.  He was about love.  shutterstock_247287523And yet I sat there listening to this clergyman shouting loudly and passionately how proud he was that he was raised knowing that abortion is sin and that “homosexuality is an “abomination!”  (Yes, that is a quote!)  He shouted about how we all need to “hold fast to the doctrines of our fathers!”  And inside, I was screaming, “NO, we don’t!!”  What we need to do is to hold fast to the truth of God’s word, not simply what our fathers or grandfathers taught us, or even what we have heard out of the mouths of pastors.  We are to hold fast, true and strong to the truth of God’s word, not man’s.  God has promised that if you seek the truth, you will find it, and you may even do so without a preacher.  I know that statement will be considered heretical to some people, but it is God who reveals the truth to you.  A preacher (or anyone else) can only share scripture and live an example before others, but if you are seeking the truth and you ask God to reveal to you what His word means, then He will.  We must study His word to gain knowledge, but the wisdom and revelation associated with it is a gift.   “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach.”  (James 1:5)

Every person’s relationship is between that person, God and no one else.  Do our spiritual relationships affect other people?  They most certainly do, and to hear such passionate ignorance delivered in such an unloving attitude – and  to hear people actually cheer out loud – was one of the most disturbing things I have ever witnessed.  God is love, and to sit there listening to someone who claims to be one of His representatives shout in ways that declared certain types of sinners were less holy than him, made me sick to my stomach.  We are ALL sinners and equally guilty and I kept thinking of the story in the Bible (Luke 18:9-14) of a very religious man that was similar.  In a nutshell, this religious, faithful, church-going man prayed out loud so everyone could hear him, “Oh thank you God that I’m not like these other people!  I thank you that I’m faithful.  I thank you that I follow you.  I thank you I’m not like these robbers, evildoers or other terrible people like this man over here!”  The other man he referred to had been standing a distance away by himself and wouldn’t even lift his head and look up toward Heaven.  He beat on his chest and cried out, “Oh God be merciful to me because I’m a sinner!”   Jesus said it was the SECOND man that was justified and honored.  It was the terrible sinner (in the eyes of the religious man) who GOD recognized and honored.   Every time I hear a Christian speaking from a place of prejudice and anger or hate, I think, “How is it possible that people can’t see why their churches are dying?”  People wonder what’s wrong and wonder what they can do or what program they can start to get people to come.  We try all kinds of things.  We keep trying to make people want to come and worship with us, and the biggest thing we are missing in all of it is love.

shutterstock_63532855Why are our churches dying?  They are dying because of US!  They are dying because we don’t love and forgive as God loves and forgives.  They are dying because of men like this who stand up and scream against one particular sin or another.   They’re quick to shout about homosexuality, abortion, drunkenness or drugs, but they don’t shout about gluttony or selfishness.  They don’t shout about the person who overeats or is a workaholic.   They don’t shout about the person that gossips, which to me is one of the most divisive and damaging sins of all.  They  only shout about the things they haven’t done as if that somehow makes them holier than those who have done them.  And then they look down on those people as if to say, “If you will come crawling over broken glass and hot coals to Christ, then you can be saved,  but you’ll never be as good as me.”  Like the mob in the Disney movie, the battle cry of many Christians is, “Kill the beast!” when our battle cry should be, “Love them to death.  Love them above all.  Prefer them above all.  Love as God loved!”

We hear all the time, “Hate the sin but love the sinner,” but God does not give us permission to hate anything or anyone.  We are supposed to forgive the sin and love the sinner.  THAT is what Christ does.   As people of faith, there are certainly things and behaviors we should not engage in, but there isn’t one perfect person on this earth.  And the moment you start thinking more highly of yourself than you ought (Romans 12:3), you will fall.   If someone is engaged in something that is wrong or harmful, then it is our duty to talk with them to help them understand God’s word and the forgiveness in it, but not out of condemnation.  We are to do it (and everything else) out of genuine love.   I can think of nothing more wonderful than a church where everyone is truly welcome.  We need places where anyone and everyone are welcome to come and learn the truth of God’s word.  We need places steeped in neither legalism nor emotionalism, but steeped in truth – truth spoken from the most loving hearts.   Apathy is not killing our churches, hate is.  Apathy is not what is causing former Christians to turn away and say they want no more of church as an organized religion.  It is hate and meanness that is causing it, because no one has experienced more Christian hatred than those sitting in the very same pews of the very same churches.

As I sat in that room recently, listening to hatred and condemnation being spewed, I saw in my mind’s eye, picket signs, megaphones and people shouting “Onward Christian soldiers marching to war!”  When what I really longed for was a very different battle cry – one that says, “Come to me.  Love your neighbor.  Love as I have loved you.  Forgive as I’ve forgiven you.”  We must remember the battle is not between people of faith and atheists.   It is not a war between good people and bad people.  It is not a war between us and “them old sinners,” because you see, WE are “them old sinners.”  It is a war between me and myself.  It is a war between who we are and who we should be.  We must stop spending so much time crucifying everyone who is different or those who may disagree with us.  shutterstock_235743286We must start tending our own garden and pulling our own weeds instead of mowing down crops we don’t think should exist.  We need to simply turn our own hearts to God instead of trying to turn someone else’s, because we CAN’T turn someone else’s heart to God.  Only GOD can do that.  All I can do is to live my life the way Christ would have me to live, and that means to love and forgive above all else.  It means to stand firm on the truth of His word and not just what my parents taught me or what preachers have said from the pulpit.  I must stand on what God himself has revealed to me through prayer and study, by verifying for myself those things that someone else has said.

There is a Christian battle cry today and it is ignorant and idiotic.  It is bitter, hurtful and mean.  It is condemning, and Jesus was never any of those things.  We need to start loving more.  We need to stop hating the sin but loving the sinner.  It is time to forgive the sin and love the sinner.  That’s what we are called to do.  That should be our true battle cry.

I pray that all of us, especially people of faith, will have our eyes and hearts opened to the truth that love builds bridges.  Love tears down walls.  Love allows people to listen and softens them so it is easier for that “still, small voice” to touch them.  I pray that we will finally stop trying to scream the truth and just simply start living it.

Blessings!

Love Is Not Grey

In this season when so many people are celebrating love, I can’t help but think of how far we have strayed in our society from the true meaning of it.  I’m not just referring to all the attention being given this weekend to a very different twist on affection, but in the general materialistic way in which people have come to approach love and what it means.  I have always been a “lover not a fighter,” and have always loved with my whole being.  I don’t know how to love any other way.  The love God placed in me for the people around me is so big that it is difficult to contain – and that struggle for containment has plagued me for most of my life.  A love that is genuine and pure is something that seems to be more and more lacking in our world.  We’ve drifted so far from the truth of what love is that we don’t just have shades of grey, but a grey fog of misunderstanding.

Corinthians 13So what is true love?  It is something that has become almost unrecognizable today, however, the Bible gives us the definition in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.  The interesting thing about it is that nowhere does it mention a warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you are attracted to someone.  It is all about commitment and action, and involves things that often do not come naturally to us.  It isn’t about chocolates and flowers, or special dinners and romance.  Are all those things wonderful?  Yes.  Do they sometimes come out of true love?  Of course!  But if we use these things as our indicator of whether or not someone truly loves us, then we will find ourselves often disappointed.  If we depend on big displays of affection to keep us convinced we are loved, then we are going to spend our lives searching for the next “sign.”  If we really want to understand love, then we must look to God’s word for the very base of it.  If we do, then we will begin to see what love really means, and the contrast it provides to the superficial nature of what the world has created it to be.  We are to love as HE loved.  That isn’t always easy, but just because it is difficult doesn’t mean we can tweak it and change it to fit what we think it should be.  God IS love, and I’m positive He knows exactly what He is talking about when it comes to the subject.  He gives us a complete picture and explanation of it; and He didn’t need 50 shades of anything to get His point across.  He, instead, used only 15.

 15 Shades of Love

  1. Love is long-suffering.  We don’t use this term much anymore, but it means to have (and show) patience in spite of troubles.  It means to endure without complaining.  Obviously, this is not something that comes naturally to us.  As a matter of fact, we say things like “Don’t pray for patience because you’ll just get trouble in order to teach you!”   Patience isn’t just the ability to wait for something, it is the ability to endure provocation, annoyance, trouble or suffering without complaint, irritation or loss of temper.  How often can you say you have truly been long-suffering or patient with someone in your life?  Oh, we endure things, but we certainly don’t act the way love would in the same situation.  Love doesn’t complain.  It is simply steady and even-tempered.
  2. Love is kind. Most of us know what it means to be kind.  Being kind means we have a desire to help others that comes from a place in our heart of goodwill.  It isn’t about being nice so that people will think highly of us, but rather being good to others even when they do not deserve it.
  3. Love doesn’t envy. How many times have you seen someone with something that you wanted and it made you feel upset or angry?  What about when it’s something you’ve desired and even prayed for over the course of a long time?  Do you resent the fact that someone else got it?   Are you able to feel truly happy for someone who has been blessed – whether it is materially, in a relationship or on the job – or do you sit back and think about how much you DON’T have?  Envy cuts to our heart and leaves us feeling discontent with regard to someone else’s advantages, successes or possessions.  Love will never be resentful, but will genuinely be glad for someone else’s blessings.
  4. Love isn’t inflated with pride. It isn’t constantly saying, “Look how great I am!”  When you love someone, you don’t do it so that other people will think you are wonderful.  True love doesn’t worry about getting accolades for what it does.  It simply does them.
  5. Love doesn’t act inappropriately. Love isn’t rude or doesn’t act in ways that are insensitive to others.  It is well-mannered.  So the next time you start to do be rude to someone you claim to love, you might want to step back and think.
  6. Love doesn’t seek itself or its own desires. It doesn’t insist on having its own way.  Do you have a spouse, significant other, family member or friend that you say you love?  Do you ever find yourself insisting on doing things your way?  It doesn’t have to be an overt or even external push for what you want over what someone else wants.  It can also be the tactics we sometimes use to get our way.  Maybe it’s the silent treatment or maybe its tears, but it comes from a place of simply wanting what we want.  It isn’t easy to look at it that way, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
  7. Love isn’t easily provoked. How quickly do you find yourself wearing your emotions on your sleeve?  Are you touchy?  Love is not reactionary.  It isn’t easily annoyed or flares up at the slightest irritation.
  8. Love thinks no evil.  Love doesn’t keep track of the evil done to it.  It pays no attention to the times when it is mistreated or taken for granted.  It doesn’t keep a list of all the things the other person has done so that you can use it in an argument later on.
  9. Love doesn’t rejoice at injustice or wrong-doing. This sounds like an easy one to say we don’t do, but what about when injustice or wrong-doing happens to someone after they’ve been mean to us?  We want people to “get what’s coming to them,” and often rationalize the fact we are happy about the hurt they are experiencing because “they deserved it.”  Love never celebrates wrong-doing, no matter how karmic it may feel.
  10. Love rejoices when truth prevails. Again, this one sounds simple on the surface.  Of course love rejoices when truth prevails!  Ok, so how about if the truth is painful?  Have you ever had someone you love accurately point out one your faults (gently or otherwise)?  Did you rejoice over the fact your weaknesses were suddenly out there in the open, or did you get angry and start pointing out their faults?  Love rejoices not only when the truth WE want to be revealed is revealed (or wins), but it rejoices when the truth revealed is inconvenient or painful to us.
  11. Love bears all things. It holds up under all things that come.  Bearing something means to carry it.  Love is strong!  No matter what happens, genuine love remains steady and carries the weight.  When someone we love is hurt or sick, love gives us the strength to take care of them.  It holds up under the pains of life that come to all of us.  It also bears the weight of the hurt we feel when we are not loved the way we think we should be.  It continues to stand strong through hurt feelings or terrible circumstances.
  12. Love believes all things. This doesn’t mean love is stupid.  It means it is ever ready to believe the best in someone.  Love isn’t cynical.  Love chooses to always look for the best in a person, to believe the good things in them because every person has redeeming qualities.  Love looks for the redemption and not the condemnation in a person.  Love doesn’t listen to gossip and it doesn’t take part in tearing someone else down.  Love continually works to build people up.  It points out what is right with them instead of what is wrong with them.  Instead of constantly looking at all the ways someone we love lets us down, it searches for the things he/she does FOR us.  It believes the best in someone always.
  13. Love hopes all things. In other words, its hope never fades – even under the worst circumstances.  This kind of goes hand in hand with believing all things.  Hope is an expectation, not a wish.  Love expects things to turn out for the best.  It looks forward to the future with desire and reasonable confidence that it is going to be not only okay, but good!  It doesn’t look ahead in time and start looking at all the ways things are going to come apart.  It doesn’t say things like, “That just won’t work,” or “there’s no way to do that.”  Love is an optimist!  Love is not depressed.  It looks ahead with great confidence that everything is going to be well, no matter what the current circumstances may look or feel like.
  14. Love endures all things. It does so without weakening.  Love is steady and enduring, no matter how the storm rages or the wind blows.  Love doesn’t run the moment things get difficult.  It will continue to stand through disagreements and hurt feelings.  It will continue to stand when things go wrong.  When there is illness, financial loss, material loss, it still holds up under it.  When the people around you let you down, it still stands.  When you’ve been hurt, it’s still there.
  15. Love never fails. It doesn’t give up.  No matter what happens in life, genuine love never gives up, because it can’t!  It is something that weaves its way into our spiritual dna and is impossible to remove.  If you truly have love for another person, it never fades or goes away.  Because we are human, hurts will happen.  We hurt others and they hurt us.  Sometimes we will encounter situations where we must remove ourselves from a situation that has become unhealthy for us, but that doesn’t mean we stop loving the person…because love isn’t about feelings.  Love continues to do all the things listed above – even when we are no longer able to be with someone in any type of earthly relationship.  Love desires reconciliation, but knows how to continue without it.  We may never enjoy close fellowship with them again, but it doesn’t mean we walk away internally.  I know this sounds controversial and maybe even abusive to say love never lets go, but it is the truth.  Love – a true and pure divine love for another person – transcends everything on this earth, including our own comprehension.  It reaches beyond our reasoning and allows us to continue loving, in spite of how we have been treated.  It stays.

This is how God loves us!  Love is so much deeper than what most people consider it to be.  When you read the aspects of what true love is, you finally understand that love is not a feeling!  Love requires action.  It requires sacrifice.  It requires commitment and most of the time we all fail to live and love as God loves because we continue to prefer the grey over the white light of the truth.

shutterstock_211224607Truth isn’t always easy.  It reveals us as we are and that sometimes reveals shortcomings we’d rather not face.  When it comes to love, there is another aspect we seldom discuss.  God tells us in His word that we are to love our enemies.  Say what?!  Not only are we, as people of faith, instructed to love our enemies, but He goes on to emphasize the point in Matthew 5:43-48 and says “So what if you love people who love you and treat you well.  That’s nothing special.  Even the most corrupt people in society do that.”  I love that God doesn’t pull any punches and just calls it as it is.  But how in the world is that even possible?  How can I love someone I don’t like or doesn’t deserve it?  We can do it by remembering first what love is and then how God loves US that way even though WE don’t deserve it.   When you realize that love isn’t about what you feel, but what you decide, things become much clearer.  Knowing what love is, frees us to live in ways that can change the world.  It empowers us to love more deeply because we can choose to do so in spite of our feelings.

So the next time we say we love someone, maybe we need to stop and think about what that really means.  Before we make that promise by saying the words out loud, we need to be sure we are willing to actually get out of the grey and truly live in the light of love’s truth..

Blessings!

There Has To Be More…

What in the world is wrong with Christians?  As a person of faith, that may seem like an odd question for me to be asking, but it is one I have been considering for a while.  First of all, the term “Christian” brings up all kinds of different images, experiences and feelings depending on the person who is hearing the word.  For the most part, it is not a positive term, because it is so often filled with hypocrisy and perceived oppression.  I do not call myself a Christian, because although I have been redeemed and saved through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, I do not always live the way He lived or abide by the loving principles He gave us.  So I call myself a believer or a person of faith because I am those things.  But I digress.

My own view of Christianity and spirituality has certainly deepened over the course of my life but the deeper I go, the more I realize how much is still out there.  I was raised in churches that most today would consider very conservative.  There were (as there are in most religions) many man-made traditions that had to be followed in regards to the way services were conducted and how things were taught.  There was no shouting for joy in our churches.  That was reserved for those crazy charismatic people.  There was no teaching about the true POWER of the Holy Spirit, but instead a clinical and sterile teaching about what I would consider the most high-level functions of the Spirit.  shutterstock_222016312We learned that once we accept Christ as our Savior, His Spirit comes to live within us.  We learned God knows everything we do or think.  We learned that He loves us, but we never really talked about that love as a literal, day-to-day LOVE.  It was clinical and sterile because it seemed to me that no one really walked out of the church and actually felt God’s presence with them.  I learned scripture.  I learned the books of the Bible.  I learned principles of God’s word.  I am SO incredibly thankful for my upbringing and the many teachers and pastors I had along the way, because it gave me a foundation upon which I have built a life that has been blessed beyond measure.  Many of you who know me personally or read my blog regularly know that I have felt called to study and share God’s word since I was quite young.  So my life has been filled with searching things out on my own instead of just taking someone else’s word for it.  But there’s something about those experiences in established churches that is both a blessing and yet confining.  Yes, I realize it is just my perspective and I’m not saying anyone else has to share it.  I just feel it is time to share mine.

I have struggled with many things over the course of my life.  There have been eating disorders, suicidal impulses, brain chemistry issues, and many other fears and struggles that we all deal with as we go through each day.  I’ve prayed about these things.  I’ve sought God’s help with them and yet often find myself much like the apostle Paul who prayed repeatedly for his “thorn in the flesh” to be removed but the answer was no.  The answer was that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.  So I took that as truth and tried to just power through whatever came instead of realizing God was in it with me. It was (and has continued to be at times) difficult.  Did I know God cares and that He wants to not only be my Savior, but also my friend?  Sure.  I could give you verse after verse that talks about all the ways He loves and cares for us.  I know all the right words…but something was missing.  It is the intimacy of God and the true strength of His power.  After all, if you start talking about these things…wait, if you start actually LIVING these things, you must be some “holy-roller” fanatic that has lost sight of the truth.  So maybe I shouldn’t ask “What is wrong with Christians,” but rather, “What is wrong with ME?”

I am blessed to have been taught by some of the most amazing teachers over the past 20 years of my life.  Some were within the churches I have attended and some have been outside those churches.  GASP!  I know that shocks the traditionalists but maybe there needs to be a little more shocking going on. Maybe we need to listen more to others and pay attention to what they say.  Maybe we need to spend more time determining the message’s validity based on God’s word instead of determining its validity based on the moniker under which it is said. Of course, that requires an openness many of us were taught to avoid and to listen only to people of the same denomination. shutterstock_123443956 What I have found so interesting over the years is how we can teach and learn the truth of God’s word, and even apply it to our lives in most ways, but do it in that same sterile and clinical manner in which many of us have been raised.  It isn’t simply that I don’t want this kind of sterile spiritual life; It’s that I don’t believe GOD wants us to have a sterile kind of spiritual life either.  He desires for us to be in a real relationship with Him, not just a spiritual one.  He wants us to not just know He is with us, but to feel Him with us.  He wants us to understand that He wants nothing more than for us to share ourselves with Him just as we would the people we are closest to here on this earth.  He wants to be a factor in everything we do, not because He wants to control us, but because He wants to help us.

Having a relationship with another human being means there is interaction.   There is give and take.  There is a desire to be near and talk with each other.  And when you truly love someone (purely, not in a romantic sense), there is nothing better than the closeness it brings.  You are part of each other.  Relationship isn’t just about knowledge of the other person; it is being IN IT with them.  We know this and yet we continue to act as though God is somehow removed from us even though we teach that He isn’t.  We are so afraid of talking about our relationship with God in terms we would use to describe our relationships with others, because we somehow think it is sacrilegious to assign human attributes to our Heavenly Father.   I get how some people are so careful to keep their discussion and perspective of God as “holy,” but holy isn’t some magical word!  It means to be set apart by (or for) God.  It isn’t some mysterious thing filled with such seriousness that it wrings the joy out of it.  shutterstock_214295497And on top of that, God used parables in the Bible continually to make things real and understandable to those around Him.  A parable uses the known to reveal the unknown.  So why do we shrink away from the fact that God gives us earthly experiences and relationships so that we can understand more what it means to be in a relationship with Him?  Because some of us have been taught, whether through words or actions, that we somehow degrade Him when we bring Him down to our level.  Imagine that!  I’m pretty sure the God who actually CHOSE to come down to our level and die for us is fine with staying down on our level and communing with us so that we can then rise up to His.

I’m tired of conservative Christianity.  I’m not saying I’m tired of one religion or another; I’m saying I’m tired of all of them.  I’m tired of having this great knowledge and God-given ability to discern His word that has to be put into some box of expression that fits the expectations of men!  I’m not saying I want to run off the rails and live on emotions alone, but there is nothing more “on track” about a relationship with God than the fact a real one will certainly stir emotions!  Relationships are personal.  Each one is different.  We need to all get over the rigid view we have of the truth and embrace it openly, fervently with everything in us.  Only then will we fully begin to experience the true power of His Spirit within us.  Only then will we begin to truly understand the freedom in His word.  If it is true that “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” then the truth is the only real relationship we ever have with God is the one most of us are afraid to embrace.  Because anything short of that kind of intimacy with Him is nothing more than simply keeping up appearances.

Blessings!

Life From Death

shutterstock_156553007I watched a video recently from the Smithsonian Channel that was showing how plants have their own version of nerves and electrical impulses (video link posted below).   Although this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone since they are living organisms, it still made me stop and think about a few things.  Just stay with me for a few moments on this.  First of all, after seeing the video, I joked about the fact that this creates a very difficult position for people who don’t eat meat because they claim they don’t want to “kill” something.  I am mostly vegetarian for health reasons but it’s always interesting to listen to those who see themselves as more holy, compassionate, enlightened or evolved than others because they claim to be treating all living things as equal.  I’ve always said that everything we eat was alive at some point (if you exclude the processed crap that is out there).  If you say you refuse to eat anything that has life, then you will most likely starve.  Even most dirt contains particles from things that were once living.

Call me a “hippie” if you want, but I’ve always been aware of the fact that the things we eat have given their life for ours, regardless of what it is.  We are sustained by consuming plants and/or animals that had to die so we could live.  If we stop to think about that truth, it should cause us to be more grateful and respectful toward the things we eat.  Eating should be an honorable endeavor.  Quite frankly, it should make us a little more humble and a little less arrogant about the life around us.  Just because we must eat to survive doesn’t mean we should do it without thought or appreciation for the sacrifice.

shutterstock_133769489This is Easter weekend.   People of faith around the world are commemorating the death, burial and resurrection of their Lord and Savior…and I am certainly one of them.   As I thought about this whole thing with food, I found a striking similarity for those of us who identify ourselves as “believers.”    I have been redeemed and changed by the fact that Jesus died on a cross for my sins.  I am forgiven.  I am spiritually alive.  I am alive because God promised me I am alive.   John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  And the reason I have everlasting life is because Jesus  (who is God Himself)  was willing to lay down His life and sacrifice it for mine.  He endured the most terribly painful, humiliating and horrific torture and death…and He endured it all for ME.  He endured it for YOU.  He did it because He loves us with a love that we can’t completely understand.  He did it before we loved Him.  He gave His life for mine, and just as I should respect and honor the sacrifice of the living things that died so I can eat and be nourished, I should even more so honor and respect the sacrifice the God of the universe made so that I can live eternally.

shutterstock_177898622You see, nothing comes without some kind of sacrifice.  There are no free rides in life.  Somewhere, somehow, someone or something paid (or will pay) the price.  How amazing it is that God knew I had a debt that I could never repay so He humbled Himself and confined Himself to an earthly body so that He could live among mankind and redeem me by taking my place on the cross.  He took my beatings.  He took the ugliness of the torture and the betrayal of His friends.  God, the creator of the universe,who could have called ten thousand angels to kill everyone involved, let them spit on Him for my sake.  He allowed them to nail Him to a tree and mock Him as He hung there.  And then, when it was time, He said “It is finished,” and dismissed His spirit.  They didn’t take His life from Him, He dismissed it Himself.  He willingly gave it up…and He did it for me.

But that wasn’t the end.  Praise God that wasn’t the end!  Because on Easter morning, the stone was rolled away from the tomb and Jesus came out alive!  It isn’t just His death that gives me life, it is His resurrection!  That is why people of faith around the world celebrate this holiday.  That is why we gather in churches across the world with fellow believers and sing praises to the One who didn’t just die for me, but He ROSE for me!  He conquered death and hell and as a result, has both the ability and authority to set me free forever!  I cannot help but sing out the words to that song…”My chains are gone!  I’ve been set free!  My God, my Savior has ransomed me.  And like a flood, His mercy reigns…unending love, amazing grace.”

shutterstock_74847238So this Easter season, I pray we are all filled with the assurance that we are loved beyond comprehension by the One who has the power to redeem us not only for eternity, but for every day and every moment.  I pray we pause to consider His sacrifice and honor it by spending more time living a life filled with genuine love, not judgment, for others.  We are all just sinners saved by His grace, and the sooner we realize the only reason we live is because He died, the sooner our arrogance and pride will fade into a humble gratitude for the unspeakable gift He gave.

Blessings!

Click here to watch “Do Plants Respond To Pain?”

I Still Believe…

Every year I get out my Christmas decorations and put them up the weekend after Thanksgiving.  In the midst of my decorations each year sits a framed letter I wrote to Santa when I was only nine years old.  I don’t always stop to re-read it but this year I took a few extra moments to do so and decided to share it with all of you.

photo 2As cute as I find that letter, it strikes me how much I can see my adult self in that little girl’s note.   I loved Christmas…and still do.  Even though I was starting to get older, I still chose to hold to the truth there was a Santa Claus out there who spread love and joy around the world.  I had a wonderful childhood and it wasn’t that I was trying to live in some fantasy world, but I just loved Santa and what he represented. I’ve often said I was not a normal kid and it’s so true!  I remember writing that letter and truly believing everything I said.  First of all, I knew that I could always be a better person.  I didn’t care about material gifts but gifts of the heart.  To me, love was the greatest gift you could give or receive.  Love also meant you were honest, which is why I couldn’t even get through my letter to Santa without correcting my opening statement that I had been “good.”   I felt like I didn’t deserve anything not because I was so terrible, but because I felt like I hadn’t done enough to help others.  I wanted “stuff” for other people (or animals)! Yeah…I was a sappy child.  All I wanted was for Santa to know that he was important to me and that I loved him.  And if there was something he could bring me, I didn’t want stuff because it didn’t matter to me at all.  More than anything, I just wanted him to know that I was grateful and that I cared about him and loved him with all my heart.  It’s interesting to me that what I said or asked for in my letter is still reflective of the way I think today.   Material things still don’t matter to me.  Sure, they are nice to have, but what really matters is the connections and relationships we have with the people around us.  What matters is love.  THAT is the true magic of Christmas.

So in this season of overspending and over-committing to activities, let us remember to stop and show our love to the people in our lives…not with gifts we can buy but with the gift of ourselves and our time.  In a season where the world tries to distract us from the true reason why there IS a Christmas, let us be thankful to our Father who IS love.

And may my grown up Christmas letter always be filled with the same sentiment it had when I was nine. Blessings!