Sunday, June 18, 2017

#PraiseGod


 Bless the LORD, 
O my soul,and forget not all his benefits,
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
Psalm 103:2,13


A friend recently received the great news that a spot on her thyroid was benign. At the end of her Facebook post, she added the hashtag #PraiseGod.   One of the neat things about hashtags is that you can search all the references with the same tag.   I loved the idea of grouping my activities under "Praise God" tag. 

I have been studying "blessings" in the Bible. I noticed that the Hebrew word that means “bless” was often translated "praise" in the NIV while the same word is translated "bless" in the KJV and ESV .    

Here’s an example from Psalm 103.  This is a beautiful Psalm that starts in verses 1&2 with praising and blessing God, the next 18 verses remind us why we should praise and bless him.  The chapter wraps up in verses 20-22 with the reminder that all of the creation should praise and bless him.  

Here are some verses to illustrate this. 


Psalm 103:1-5 (ESV)
Of David.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagles. 
  
Here is the NIV version. Psa 103:1-5
Of David. Praise the LORD, my soul; 
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul, 
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins 
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit 
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things 
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I love the idea that when we praise God- we are blessing God.  Everything we have is a gift from God, so to bless Him back all we have to do is acknowledge the gifts and blessings that He has given us.  

This Psalm is a beautiful reminder us of the many blessings we have; God's love for us reaches to the heavens (vs 11), God has removed our transgressions as far as the east is from the west (vs 12), and the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him as a father shows compassion to his children. (vs 13.) 

Psalm   103:20-22 wraps up with this reminder-
"Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word.
Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!"

Take a minute to bless the Lord and praise Him for the great things he has done.  He is worthy of your praise. #PraiseGod

Saturday, June 10, 2017

How Do You Love God?


How do we love God? In my previous blog, I wrote about loving God through obedience and worship: since then, I've been pondering the refrain from a popular song, "What is love".   As the refrain went over and over in my mind- I thought about applying a well known passage of scripture about love to loving God. 

            If I love God- I will be patient when things don’t happen when I want them to. I will trust His timing and His understanding of things that are outside my knowledge and experience.
           If I love God- I will be kind in my words and heart toward Him, His creation and His glory.  If it is not kind, I will not say it about myself or others.  I will not think unkind thoughts about my attributes or the way He has created someone because all people are created in His image.
          If I love God, I will not be envious of the gifts that He has given others, I will not wonder if He loves them more or doubt His goodness to me, my family members and friends.  
          If I love God, I will not boast or take glory in the things I own, have accomplished or achieved because everything I have – every relationship, experience, ability, opportunity, and asset is His. I have been entrusted with my kids, finances, writing ability, health, friends and everything else that I might boast about. I am like a steward was given five talents of gold and trusted to use it as the Master would have invested it.
          If I love God, I will not be arrogant in my interactions with His Word and His commands.  He is God and I am not- Why would I think it would be okay to ignore or make up what I believe rather than obeying what He says?
         If I love God, I will not be rude and act in an unbecoming way toward God and others that dishonors Him and His name, that treats Him and His Creation with disrespect.
         If I love God, I will not insist on my own way. I will trust that the Creator of this Universe and every cell in my body has a plan that is better than my short sighted and selfish plan. I will trust that God‘s way is better even if it doesn’t make sense to me.
         If I love God, I will not irritable or resentful when things don’t go my way, when He blesses other people and I seem to be suffering, when He takes forever to change horrible situations, when He seems to ignore injustice.
         If I love God, I will not rejoice at wrongdoing or getting away with something.  I will trust that He is not rejoicing at the wrong doing in our world but that His heart breaks for the sin and suffering that covers every inch of our world.
        If I love God, I will rejoice with the truth. I will take great joy in sharing the amazing Truth of Jesus Christ and rejoice as others share the truth.  I will trust that God is true and faithful, that He will do what He says, I will experience joy over and over as truth is experienced in every part of my life.
         If I love God, I will see how His Love bears all things, there was nothing that was too much for Him.  I will have confidence that His grace is sufficient in my weakness. He can carry every burden.
        If I love God, I will believe all of His Words and act on them. "All things are possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23 
        If I love God, my hope will be in Him -  I will not put my hope in people, in the government, money or even myself.
        If I love God, I will see how much He endured for me and for every other person in the world. His love is steadfast and unfailing. It is dependable and strong.
       If I love God, my love for Him will never end.  It will not be contingent on what He does for me, my attitude, other people’s foolishness and I will trust that because His Love never ends, I will be with Him in eternity, embraced in the purest, Most Perfect Love for all eternity.

Let me know how you would rewrite this passage to show your love for God in the comments-  I can't wait to read it.  Thanks for sharing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7



Saturday, June 3, 2017

You are Invited!

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. Romans 8:38 NLT


Recently, I had a few minutes to catch up with one of my most out-going friends. She fits the definition of extrovert. She's a super fun, welcoming and always thoughtful.  One thing I really admire about her is she never leaves anyone out.  When she hosts a party, she will invite everyone she knows to a party just so that no one feels excluded. As she shared her Catholic, Baptist and Non-denominational family history, I realized as I was talking with her that she mostly viewed religion as something that divides people and she didn't want to pick sides.  Choosing a religion meant that someone would be left out, kinda like hosting a party and excluding some people or in an even worse scenario,like choosing which parent to live with after a divorce. 

As I thought about her perspective, it reminded me of a chart my sister sent me a chart from Pew Research that showed people who identified religiously as "none" is a growing demographic. 
If inclusiveness is a goal of our society - why would one chose to exclude others just for their belief?  After talking to my friend, I realized that choosing "None" as your religious affiliation may be about not wanting to exclude anyone and avoiding conflict.  Religious beliefs, often, have this sense that "my way is best" which has led to horrible atrocities through history.  It is obvious that choosing a religion can lead to persecution- there have been horrible murders of Coptic Christians in Egypt including bombing of churches on Palm Sunday, on-going conflict in the Middle East boils down to a religious battle between Sunni's and Shiite Muslims, 276 Christian girls were kidnapped from their school by Muslim extremists in Nigeria, and students of history are appalled at the millions of people killed during the Holocaust just because they were Jewish. Why would anyone chose a religion?  Horrible situations like these show that choosing "none" can make a lot of sense; while you are not in the "Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Methodist, Baptist, Sunni or Shiite Muslim club," you are also not alienating anyone and you are not being judged by the antics and failings of anyone else in the "club" either. 

So then why would anyone choose to believe in Jesus?  One of the key characteristics of Christianity is free will.  No one is born a Christian. Every person has the choice to choose to follow Jesus.  In contrast, people are born Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist.  I am not saying that you can't become any of these religions even if you aren't born one or leave those religions as an adult, just that no one is born a Christian. You may even be born into a Christian family but that doesn't make you a Christian. Every one of us has to make our own choice to believe.   

Over the years, I have answered the question, "Why believe in Jesus? for myself and others in different ways. In my youth, it boiled down to basic math. Believing in Jesus = eternal life, Choosing not to believe in Jesus = eternal hell. I was basically playing the odds.  As I explained to my 5th grade Hindu friend Indira, "What do you have to lose by believing in Jesus? If you are right, we will all be reincarnated and get another chance. If I am right, I'll go to heaven and you won't. Why risk it?"  

As I have gotten older, my view has morphed into being less about heaven and hell and more about living the abundant life here and now, as I wrote about in my blog Know Jesus Know Peace.  Accepting Jesus means greater purpose and understanding of our value.  So many people are searching for more. They desperately seek to find peace and contentment. They are overwhelmed and really struggling.  My heart's desire for everyone is not to just join the "Christian club" but to personally know Jesus.  Rather than identifying with a religion, I want them to know that they are deeply and passionately loved, that there is nothing they could do that could ever earn God's love and nothing they could do that could separate them from God's love.  

Have you ever gotten an evite to an event where the guest list is hidden? They always make me a little skeptical. It is way more fun to accept an invitation when you realize your best friends will all be at the party. While religion can have an "us versus them" perspective, Jesus has issued an invitation to the whole world, he doesn't want to exclude anyone, all you have to do is click accept. Here's how the writer Paul explains accepting the invite, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9  I have accepted the invite, I can't wait to see you there too! 

How would you answer the question, "Why do you believe in Jesus?" or "Why don't you believe in Jesus?" Take a minute to share your thoughts.  Thanks.