The Wrong One?

Have you ever grabbed an item off the store shelf, thinking you had one thing, but only to discover after you arrived back home you had some entirely different? I have. Once I grabbed a jar of pickles from the store, only to get home and realize what I bought wasn’t dill pickles, but dill pickles with jalapeno pieces that were very spicy. The jars looked the same, but in small print were the words “with jalapenos”.

Yesterday, a similar thing happened when I stumbled into my kitchen to make my breakfast, I opened the cupboard and surveyed the boxes of cereal. Hmmm. Pumpkin Spice Special K, sounds good, and without thinking much about it, I grabbed the box and a bowl from the cupboard. I began to pour out the cereal into the bowl and in my morning foggy brain, realized that someone had switched the cereal in the box, because what I was pouring into the bowl was not flakes; it was little ring shaped cheerios. “Who would do that?” But, wait… no, I turned the box around to face me and discovered nope, no cereal substitution, just the box of honey nut cheerios. I had grabbed the wrong one. From the side, both boxes had a brownish color. Both boxes were of the same size. Both were side by side on the shelf. I grabbed for what I thought was Special K, but my hand actually picked up the cheerios.

I only realized my mistake when I tried to use the cereal, that is poured it out. I thought I knew what I had in my grasp. Appearances can be deceiving as they say. It made me think about my faith and about my faith journey. Is it possible to grab at faith, thinking we have the “right” one? Is there really any difference? Without getting into a full blown apologetic discussion about other religions today, let’s consider: Are there really different faiths within the Christian faith? Sadly, there are a few, just as there were in the early days of Christianity. Its not just about what music styles or versions of the Bible are used, but real differences in the Gospels presented.

Peter warned early Christians about false teachers in his second letter (2Peter 2:1), and in his letter to the Galatia church, Paul suggested that many spies had infiltrated the church, trying to disrupt the faith (Galatians 2:4). In his second letter to the Corinthian church he warned of false apostles (2 Cor. 11:13). Even Jesus warned His disciples that many false prophets would arise (Matthew 24:11). These are just a few examples, there are many more, so they should be expected.

So, are there different gospels too? You may have heard of a few, such as the prosperity gospel that promises blessing for asking God for it and if you expect it you can have it all- sports cars, health, wealth, mansions, fame, etc. And most people can see through all the false claims made by this gospel, but are there others? How do you know if you have heard and chosen the right gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.

The easiest answer I have is this;

1.) Does it line up with what the Bible has to say? Does it line up with the entire bigger picture of the Bible, that is both the Old and New Testaments? Some churches have eliminated the Old Testament in favor of just the New. Is it an addition to the original accepted canon of Scripture or is it something written later on by a self- proclaimed prophet or writer who added their own personal thoughts without proper scholarly research? Watch out for what is presented as a gospel not found in a scholarly version of the Bible. Compare verses of the Bible from “word for word” translations with “thought for thought” translations of the Bible, which while easier to read, often fall short of the actual meaning of a verse and can confuse the reader- leading to a misunderstanding of the gospel.

2.) Does it add any requirements of what must be done to be in right standing with God? Such a gospel might look the same, like my boxes of cereal, but no one can earn or keep a spot in Heaven. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.”(Ephesians 2:8-9) and “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9). “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28) “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”(Romans 3:28).

3.) Does it require a personal commitment? Many people have been mislead that joining a church, being confirmed, or because their parents attended a church, that they are in right standing with God. That is, they are automatically considered a Christian. But, the Bible says we are all sinners in need of a savior and we must recognize it is our personal standing before God that will be judged when we die, not on whether we were sprinkled as an infant, confirmed as a child, or because we gave money or volunteered with the nursery. “And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“, (Romans 3:22-23)We must recognize and admit we are not able to have fellowship with God, that we are the ones who have broken His commandments, and must admit it. We need to realize we cannot fix it in ourselves. We need Jesus as our savior. Our personal savior. For our sins. To die for us. To justify us before God.

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:10)

Have you grabbed the right one? -God Bless Nancy

Beautiful People

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”- Paul, Romans 10:15

Have you ever met any beautiful people? No, I’m not talking about the good looks of some people, or of “the beautiful people” of privilege, or status, or of wealth, fame and education- but, the really beautiful people. Those whose heart’s are open, kind, loving and beautiful.

My grandmother was a beautiful person, full of kindness and of love. I remember her as always smiling. She seemed genuinely glad to see me when I visited. She would come sit beside me on my grandparents over sized couch and talk with me. She also made the most delicious meals and made it look so easy. She was giving and generous towards others and shared her love of painting and art with others as she taught me how to paint and other how to create their own works of art from clay.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that she was perfect. She and my grandfather fought sometimes and she never liked to visit my mom- her daughter- at her home. But, despite her imperfections, she was beautiful. See, its not being perfect all the time or looking perfect all the time that makes a person beautiful; it is something from within that makes us beautiful or ugly.

If someone would have seen my grandmother arguing with my grandad, they would have probably judged her as unkind and even mean. But they would have been wrong. Too often we judge from the outside and miss the beauty within. The beauty of a diamond is the result of intense pressure and of cutting to reveal the sparkling facets. Beauty is often only revealed after the pain suffered. I’m not sure of the reason for my grandmother’s beauty or if she had experienced pain or suffering- I never thought about it much until now to be honest, but I’m sure there was a story. We all have pain in this life that can leave us bitter or better. Beautiful or ugly.

Last time I shared the need to embrace our pain and move forward anyway. Our pain can help others in providing hope of getting through some of the same things we have experienced. I recently watched another beautiful person who had gone through so much share her incredible story of hope. She calls herself nightbirde, in case you’d like to read her story. She did not sugar coat her life, but laid it out for all to hear and to read. She could be bitter, but she chose to be better- to question God about what she was dealt, but realized she discovered the beauty of God in the midst of pain and suffering. The story she told through music was of good news, of hope, despite the odds stacked against her.

It is this message of hope, of Good News, that is so beautiful. We are lowly instruments that get bruised, battered and torn apart because of this life, yet we carry this message of hope; of life; of the beauty and goodness of God. We can share this message, or choose to keep it to ourselves. We can look at the world around us with contempt, or we can embrace it and share God’s love. We have this choice to be beautiful on the inside and reflect God, or remain bitter at life’s unfairness; it is a choice. Our choice. -God Bless Nancy