Christianity From a Fresh Perspective

 

NEW SERIES, WEEK ONE OF FIVE

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I’m one of those Christians who used to focus all my efforts on, “To be a ‘good Christian’ there are certain things I must regularly check off my list to please God”.

I know I was saved by the blood of Christ because of God’s amazing grace, and so didn’t earn my salvation. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Jesus, so I serve him daily, motivated by love and gratitude. Yet for too long, I thought my service was that which either garnered God’s greatest love, or in those moments I failed, his disaporoval. I never considered He’d throw me out of heaven, mind you. Jesus paid for my salvation. But because I didn’t realize the depth of love that drew me, nor the power Christ holds to keep me, I believed the lie that I had to perform to please.

My “necessary” list wasn’t long, and not “legalistic” in my mind. After all, my list included only those things Jesus said I needed to do. “I must have a quiet time; I must pray; I should share my faith regularly. I need to go to church; I need to love my neighbor.” I generally enjoy these activities very much, but when I failed to do them – GUILT attacked because I lived under a false perception of God.

There is truth to my basic assumptions, as God does state clearly many times in his Word “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) He also states that we are to set our minds on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:2) Yet, as I grow in my relationship with Jesus, I’m learning the key to my richest life in Christ comes when my focus shifts from what I devote to him to who he is and what he’s done.

I’m discovering the greatest joy in my walk with Christ comes as I grow in intimacy with him. My obedience then flows out of doing those things that allow me the greatest opportunity to know him fully, rather than coming from my fear of displeasing him.

This seems like a small shift in perspective, only mincing words, but I’m finding the reality, played out, leads to quite a dramatic change in the outcome.

As I look at the moral crisis in America, along with the decline in many aspects of the church in America, I’m confident if that seemingly small shift in perception were corrected and acted upon, the church would meet that crisis head on and make a dramatic difference.

Over the next 5 weeks, I’d like to take the opportunity to look at various aspects of the Christian walk from a fresh perspective in the hopes that, as believers who love and follow Jesus, we will come away with renewed hope that the church can and will change the world. Will you join me?

September 6: “A Fresh Look at Jesus”

September 13: “A Fresh Look at My Relationship With Jesus”

September 20: “A Fresh Look at Daily Devotion”

September 27: “A Fresh Look at Worship”

I’d like to end by introducing a song I recently heard for the first time, entitled “The Gospel” by Ryan Stevenson. The cry of my heart in this series is for God’s people to be reintroduced to the Lover of Their Souls, and the Power that raises the dead and makes blind eyes see. Please join me, for I believe the gospel of Jesus proclaimed through His church is still the only answer. It’s the only remedy to the crisis we find ourselves in.

With greatest hope because of the Gospel,

Robin <3

 

 

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For the Glory of God

I need to remember for whose glory I write.

A couple of months ago, as I finished a particular post, I was impressed to close with a scripture verse regarding sin’s consequences.  My instantaneous response was “Ending the post so ‘negatively’ may not go over very well”. So, to my shame, I quickly ignored the prompt and hit “post” without the scripture verse. Immediately I was strongly convicted. So much so, I knew I had to quickly retrieve the post and add the scripture. Unfortunately, by the time I did so, only seconds long, 2 people had read it.  I was saddened that my disobedience had cost them not reading what I felt strongly God had intended.

We as Christian bloggers write surrounded by conflagration. The enemy of the cross of Christ, the enemy of all mankind, Satan, fights against every inclination to write for God’s glory and mankind’s restoration.

Two of Satan’s greatest tactics in our modern culture are “acceptance” and “tolerance”. Jesus didn’t always accept or tolerate what was deemed “right” in his culture. He drove out money changers from the temple with whips because they insulted his Father’s house (John 2:13-17). And ate with flagrant “sinners and tax collectors”, while ignoring the insults and jibes of religious leaders and politically elite who couldn’t see their own sin (Luke 7:20-50) .  His heartbeat was his Father’s will and mankind’s restoration, rather than the nods of those who thought they knew best.  This too must be our heartbeat. Unfortunately, one of my greatest shortcomings is wanting praise from men. Wanting to be noticed and embraced.

Every Christian blogger’s heartbeat must be our Father’s glory rather than the nods of men.

A third tactic of our enemy is discouragement.  I have played to his mellow tune too long the last 2 weeks, sobbing along with the lyrics! So, today, rather than responding to “the tune”, I will remind myself of what is true. I choose, today, to sing a new melody loudly and passionately, as an offering to the One above every name who has given us an amazing story to tell.  And I will sing it to whomever will listen!

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NIV)

[So,]

Shout to the Lord, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy! Psalm 98:4 (NLT)

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:9 (NLT)

[Therefore,]

Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. John 12:25 (NLT)

Lord, this day, I rededicate my hands, my heart, my mind, my words – to you.  Use me as you wish, not as I deem “personally beneficial for my advancement”.  Forgive me for too often looking at numbers rather than at all you’ve done for me.  For wanting my writing to be appreciated by men, rather than solely for the purpose of advancing your kingdom and your call to all men.  For yours is the kingdom, power, and glory forever.  May your kingdom come, not mine.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

With love and prayers,

Robin <3

You may also wish to read the previous 3 posts: “Encouragement for a Weary Christian Blogger“; “Write for an Audience of One“; and “Patiently Grow

Patiently Grow

Someone once said, “I never want how I write to interfere with the message God has given me to write.”

So true.

When Norman began cancer treatments in 2006, a friend introduced me to “CaringBridge“, an amazing site designed for families to keep friends and relatives informed through times of severe illness.  I found my near daily writings, and the comments received to be cathartic.  I could relate my thoughts and emotions as well as updates on Norman’s health to those I loved without the discomfort of being face to face. Those who read my posts often commented how much they appreciated being able to stay informed without having to ask me face to face and risk causing pain.  When we’d meet, they already knew, and so we could have “normal” conversation. CaringBridge was an amazing gift.

I carried on writing to my small following for about a year after Norman’s death, then had my site printed into a book, which I cherish to this day.  I don’t read it often, but in the back of my mind, I know it’s there, waiting should I wish to remember all God did during those months.  During this time, many commented on how much they enjoyed my writing, and encouraged me to pursue writing my story.

I wrongly thought when I finally began writing, because I was gifted, I was ready.

Babies are infused with all that is needed to grow and become adults, but it takes time and a lot of hard work to prepare them for what they were born to do – become fully functioning adults. I look back over my earlier blog posts and notice many imperfection. Mistakes today I try to avoid.

I’m growing.  Growing takes time.  For all of us.

I’m grateful for the many professional bloggers who share what they know through webinars and training material, giving me the ability to grow as a writer.

Jonathan Milligan, “Blogging Your Passion” (I find his material outstanding.)

Ruth Soukup “Elite Blog Academy” (A blogging friend highly recommends her material.)

Both offer free webinar training from time to time, as well as courses you can purchase to take you from beginning blogger to one who is able to monetize (have an income through blogging). Also, you may wish to look at the book I recommend in “Resources”.

Compel Training” by Proverbs 31 ministries is an online Christian writer’s guild, with a monthly fee to participate. I highly recommend them, as I gained immensely from my time as a member. They have a closed, limited membership with open enrollments throughout the year. They do this in order to maintain quality of service among their members. The fee for membership is about 25.00 a month, and covers member forums, weekly training in all aspects of writing, as well as opportunities to hear from published authors on a variety of topics. I went to the site recently, and they currently offer a free download, “Winning the Battle of Discouragement, 31 Lessons from Writers” for adding your name and email to their waiting list.

I chuckled when I read the title.

Write, and write, and learn from others.  Journal, write letters, blog – even when you are discouraged. Learn and grow. Never assume You’ve arrived.

And remember, God will use even babes, with all of their mistakes, as long as they are yielding to his process.

God has given us a gift and a calling as writers, but we must be willing to take the time needed to grow up.

While growing, we must also trust the God who called us to write will also complete the work he’s begun – bringing us to the place he has for us as writers.

My job is to persevere and not give up.  His way, his time.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

With love and prayers,

Robin <3

p.s. You may also wish to read the first two posts in this series:

“Encouragement for a Weary Christian Blogger” and “Write for an Audience of One”

 

Write For An Audience of One

In many of the blogging training sessions I’ve listened through, professional bloggers state to write well, you must picture your audience as you write. This tip has helped me immensely in honing my craft.

As Christian bloggers, we each have our own story, and therefore will each have a different audience. Yet, as I ponder my own life as a blogger, I realize underlying this niche of society I write for, I first and foremost write for an audience of one.

If no one were to ever read a single word I pen (and many do), as long as I write the words God has placed on my heart, for his pleasure above my own, and for the building up of his kingdom, I’ve already been successful, because I have done what I was called to do.  I then must trust that he will direct those words to those for whom he intended them.

I must trust that if God has given me the words to write, he has also given others the desire to read them.  In his timing.

I’ve heard of missionaries sharing the gospel for years, even decades, before seeing any change. “Do not grow weary in doing good….” (Galatians 6:9)

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Colossians 3:23 (NLT)

I am amazed when I see people reading my blog from China, or Russia, or India – many parts of the world where hearing about the love of Jesus is rare, or non existent. Only in this age of technology, can I write and have people from all over the world read.

In my moments of discouragement, I try to remember God is fully in charge, and will direct my words to those who need them.

I must also remember, those who read, will share with those whom God has prepared them to share.  Their lives and words, altered by what I wrote, change the lives of those around them.

Lives being changed by what I write, yet never having reading a word.

Take heart, discouraged one.  Only eternity will tell the impact of the words now burning in your heart.

 

With love and prayers,

Robin <3

p.s. You may also wish to read yesterday’s post, “Encouragement for a Weary Christian Blogger“.

 

Encouragement For A Weary Christian Blogger

When we who love writing decide to venture into the blogging world for the first time, we may dream of the day our hits run into the hundreds, and our comment sections bulge because people thought our words worth reading. However, in growing as a blogger, I find that achieving these goals comes at the price of extremely hard work, sacrifice, and great patience.  Nothing is free.

When I began blogging, I had big dreams, and I still do.  But I’ve also had so much to learn.  Coming from an era where writers either wrote using a typewriter or a pencil; blogging has been an experience in learning a whole new language.  I had to figure out what “hashtag” and “widget” were, and for the longest time couldn’t explain the difference between a “category” and a “tag”.  I’m grateful for those who are a bit younger, and have very willingly taught me.

I’ve also had to grow as a modern writer.  Always writing in full sentences?  Nah! And overflowing wordiness… is… just… plain… too… time… consuming… in… our… 3… second… soundbite… world….

I still have a long way to go.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve found discouragement settling in. I often struggle with formulating titles, and had felt like I’d made a huge blunder with one of the “Grief” blogs’ titles a couple of weeks ago.  Also, later in the week, a friend who had read some of my blogs made a comment, setting up a whole series of questions in my mind and heart as to my ability as a writer…. Have you been there?

I love blogging, and I’m not winging in the least – so please forgive me if it sounds like I am.  Sometimes I just need to step back and re-evaluate my “Why”.

Something deep inside compels me to share God’s love story through written language. If I don’t write, the words swirling around inside my head and heart would burn until I “penned” them. I believe I have something important to say in a way no one else can.  These are the words God has given me.  He has given others words as well, but not these words, not this way.  This is my story.

I’ve read more than once recently, by both “Christian” and “Secular” writers that writing is a lonely occupation – and I find it to be very true.  Rarely do the masses of writers out there ever realize the numbers of those blessed by what they write.

I heard a Christian author state only in eternity will we truly know the full scope of our audience and how God used us in their lives.

I’m always so grateful for those who tell me they’ve read a post and how it effected them.

But aren’t these concerns really a microcosmic picture of life?  We often doubt our gifting, abilities, and even our calling by God.  We often forget in the middle of discouragement why we made certain choices to follow God’s leading in the first place. And we rarely fully realize the full scope of those we influence for good or bad along the way.

And how often do I let others know the myriads of ways in which I’m grateful for them?

Makes me want to be a bit more careful as to how I conduct my life, and to more often tell someone else “You mean so much to me”!

Because I’ve spent some time working through my own discouragement as a weary blogger in the last couple of weeks, I’d like to take the opportunity to share what I’ve pondered.  I hope in some way this series reminds you of your “why”.

I also hope you will join me with your thoughts and comments as I always love a good conversation!

With love and prayers,

Robin <3

p.s. If you find yourself discouraged, please jot me a note below – I’d love to be able to pray with you, and maybe we can encourage one another!

Also, if you want to read from other Christian bloggers, I’ve linked this post with #livefreethursday with the topic:  Summer Of Permission


Live Free Thursday

5 Verses and Prayers To Comfort The Grieving

Sometimes, my own words aren’t enough, and I know I need a perspective I can’t drum up on my own.  I want to understand God’s ways, but I can’t.  Praying scripture helps.

Below you will find 5 Bible passages that pertain to grief and sorrow.  I encourage you to read each one, and then pray the prayers below, (or your own prayers).  God wants us to come to him in our grief.  He would rather we come to him, even if we are angry, than to run from him.  He made us for relationship with him – in the good and bad.

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. Psalm 31:9 (NIV)

God, I don’t even understand your ways right now.  I don’t get why this happened and I can’t see where your mercy is in all of this. You say you are merciful and show compassion – please help me to see it.  I am worn out with grief, and I can’t stop crying.

Yet it was our grief he bore, our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, for his own sins! But he was wounded and bruised for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace; he was lashed—and we were healed! We—every one of us—have strayed away like sheep! We, who left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of every one of us! Isaiah 53:4-6 (TLB) (An Old Testament prophesy about Jesus)

Jesus, the Bible says you were weighed down by my sorrow; and carried my grief.  It says that you were wounded, beaten, and lashed for my healing.  Yet, it is so easy for me to run from you rather than to you, like a frightened lamb.  Forgive me.  Give me the ability to run to you, to accept all you’ve done, and stop trying to carry this immense weight of grief on my own.

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;… Isaiah 42:3 (NIV)

God, I feel so bruised and broken inside.  I feel like I can barely make it sometimes, and can’t see how things will ever be right again.  Please help me. Please strengthen me.  Please take this mess and turn it around.  I need you.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago.

They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations. Isaiah 61:1-4 (NLT) (An Old Testament Prophesy about Jesus)

Jesus, the Bible says you came to bring good news.  I sure could use some good news right now. It says you came to comfort the brokenhearted.  My heart is so busted up I can barely breath – please comfort me.  In my grief and sadness, I need to know that you want to give me favor, that you care.  Please take this pain and turn it around.  I need to once again see beauty, rather than such sadness.  I want to be able to be able to speak of the wonderful things you have done, instead of feeling this constant despair.  Strengthen me like a mighty oak tree for your honor.  Please rebuild my life and family. Rebuild what has been destroyed. Revive my life, even though I currently feel like one whose been deserted.

The young women will dance for joy, and the men—old and young—will join in the celebration. I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing. Jeremiah 31:13 (NLT) (Written when Israel was in slavery because of their sin.  God wanted them to remember his promises; that he would one day return them to their land in freedom.)

God, right now, there is no way I could dance or celebrate – I’m too sad.  I can’t even see a day ahead where I will once again be happy.  Would you please, in your time, do for me what I’m unable to do for myself?  Would you please give me your joy instead of such grief? Would you please comfort my heart and mind? Please, one day, would you allow me to be able to celebrate again?  Please help me to trust you to do this.  To make me whole.  I don’t see how it can happen.  I so desperately need your help.

God is above all of us, but amazingly longs for us to talk to him.  To cry out to him.  To unburden ourselves to him.  He wants us to know him.  That’s why he sent Jesus.  Prayer doesn’t have to be flowery, or fancy.  It just needs to be sincere, and from the heart.

And in talking to God, he wants us to believe he will hear and answer.  If you aren’t certain of that – tell him so. Ask him to work, even if you aren’t certain he exists or cares. I don’t believe he’s offended by our honesty.  Besides, it gives him the opportunity to show himself!

With love and prayers,

Robin <3

p.s. Once again, if this series has been a struggle and you want someone to talk or pray with, I’m a pretty good listener.  I would gladly pray as well.  The form below is for your confidentiality.

Who’s Big Enough To Handle ….This?

When life gets bigger than me, and struggles loom much larger than my landscape, what I want more than anything, is to know there is:

  • Someone powerful enough to make certain I don’t crumble underneath the weight
  • Someone who is bigger than my struggle
  • Someone wiser than I am
  • Someone who can protect me
  • Someone capable of making certain, in the end, all will truly be well

Honestly, I don’t know of a single human who can tick off each of these boxes.  I can’t.  To insist upon it, would be a weight weightier than any of us could carry.

Yet, how often do we actually take the time to make such inquiries?  How often, when things are going well, do we even want to consider that life may not hold such goodness forever, prompting us to ask ourselves the questions, “Who in our world will be there for me when the bottom drops out?”  “And if there is such a one, are they able to handle it all?”  And, “Will they even care enough about me to assist?”

When life is good, we often forget we need a Savior.  We got it.

When life is easy, and the skies are blue, we can convince ourselves that our jobs are enough, our partner is enough, our children are enough, our accomplishments are enough, our activities are enough, and we are enough.

But when the skies crack open and our worlds’ collide out of control  – the gods we’ve made in our image, the things we’ve collected around us, the agents we utilize to numb our senses, everything we call upon to protect and feed our egos and cravings to the full, suddenly aren’t enough.

When our worlds begin to collide, then isn’t the time to try and figure out who is really big enough to rescue me.

Who is able enough?

Who is powerful enough?

And if there is such a one – do they even care enough to help me?

Because, at the moment of collision, all our cravings, collections, and contraband will crumble and fall into dust, becoming no more than gaudy baubles and cheap trinkets to be thrown to the wind.  Unable to assist.  Powerless to save.  Mocking that we needed so much more.

None of us want to plan for such moments.  But unless we do, we may find ourselves one day (or we may already have found ourselves) panicking, as we flail in the quagmire of debris.

These questions, today, are more than pure thought for me.  They are real, and the urgency of asking them great, as this week my church family will bury our beloved senior Pastor, “Pops”, after a long, painful bout with bladder cancer.  I know who carries us, but do you?

We all fashion gods in one form or another.  Careers, people, things, ourselves.  What we are willing to give our lives to pursue, become the gods we fashion.  Yet, we rarely consider if our gods are enough, until they fail.  And they will fail, eventually.

Handmade gods can rescue no one. But the God who created man can rescue anyone.

Throughout this blog, I will always try to answer the questions – Is there a God who made me?  If so, does he care about me enough to listen?  If he cares, is he able to answer?  Does he have the power to rescue?

I know there is such a God.  He has revealed himself through this intricately formed creation he has made – too vast and amazing to have come by accident.

He has also revealed himself through his living word – Jesus Christ, as found in the Bible.

And he has revealed himself to me, through a lifetime of discovering his interaction and intervention in my world.

AND THIS GOD,

Cares enough to listen.

And has the power to answer.

This week, I’d like to continue discussing this God’s power.  When worlds collide, it would be nice to know how powerful he is, because Superman is only a story, and I don’t want to do it alone.

Will you join me?

With love and prayers,

Robin <3