Relative?

“What is truth?” – Pontius Pilate( John 18:38)

Can you answer that question? Or do you struggle as Pilate did when Jesus mentioned the word?   Ask anyone today what is truth and you’re bound to get several different answers. Ask about religious truth and you’re bound to get even a few dozen more. But, does it really matter what you believe, so long as you believe something? This question is one that has been circulating for decades. Yes, it does matter.

Let me put it this way, when you pull up to the gas pump to fill your car’s gas tank, does it matter how to you how much you pay per gallon? Well, for some of you perhaps not, but  I know for others of you, it becomes a mathematical science of figuring out which station has the right price, how much you need, what your gas mileage is, etc. But, imagine if you will that each station had its own definition of what a gallon of gas is. For example if one station calls half a gallon a gallon, would you still fill up your tank there? So, does the truth in measurement matter? Yes. There are certain regulatory laws in place to protect the consumer against frauds, such as weights and measures. So why should we fail to accept absolute truth in other areas? Are there any laws to protect against frauds of belief? Is there any standard by which morals can judged be against?

Now, I realize this is a simplistic argument for truth and some of you might argue that in other countries they use liters or imperial gallons for measurement, I get that, but my aim here is to just get you to think; What if there is only one truth. The truth Jesus was talking about? if we can agree that there are laws protecting the measurements of gas to protect the consumer, could there possibly be other moral laws built into this world to protect the people of it? Are all religions equal? Is it okay to take bits and pieces from different ones until you find what is true for you? That would be equal to filling your car up at multiple sights across town just so you will have a full tank in the end. Sounds kind of crazy to me. All religions cannot all be true because in order to do so they would have to contradict themselves. Cars require gas or (electricity) to run properly and we expect to get what we pay for in terms of gas or electric charges, so should we not expect that for life to run well, there must be something we need, something that is truth? We might look different on the outside, but we are al really the same on the inside. We all want to be loved and accepted. We all want to find something to do that we love and someone to love and share life with. We really aren’t that different, no matter what culture we are from. So, why do we question truth about beliefs? We need truth in our lives, not different truths, but truth that will actually fill the needs I just mentioned before. Truth that doesn’t change with the times or with whichever political party is in charge. Truth that sustains when life seems out of control. Truth that is true for all not just for the individual.

 

Real (estate)

It was the perfect time of day. The day time sky had not quite given in to the blackness and darkness of the night sky, but was holding on for just a bit to its reflection of blue. It was a soft blue, almost purple, but you could tell it had been a brilliant blue in the brightness of daytime. The sun had set and was casting a loving glow upon the wispy clouds. The clouds were not big and puffy, but just small and wispy, like the contrails of a jet. They as well seemed to be trying to hold on to the last bit of day as they shown in a soft pink color. Some call this time the golden hour.

The sky view was blocked slightly by the house. But the house itself did not seem dwarfed by the sky as it was larger and grander than most. Someone had turned the lights on inside already anticipating the coming nightfall. In fact, each room had the glow of a soft yellow light and because the curtains had not yet been closed, you could see a hint of the room inside. Each window was symmetrical with the large door in the center. I had studied some architecture in college so I knew this would fall into the category of Georgian style. It looked so amazing at this perfect time of night. Almost magical and surreal. So perfect. Almost unbelievable.

And it was. You see it was a real estate listing I was staring at on my phone this morning. No, I’m not looking for a house, it just was one of those social media pop ups, probably because of a word suggestion made earlier by one of my sons. You see both my sons are photographers and videographers who work in real estate. So I am very familiar with how real estate photo shoots are done. When someone is ready to sell their home they typically call an agent to list their home. The agent calls my son and a time slot is given to shoot the home. My son edits the photos to some degree and then they are sent to another editor to finalize the pictures. I have heard from them just how far some home owners want them to edit the photos. Thankfully, my sons will not edit out something that would misrepresent the home- such as a door or window. But gaining in popularity with home sellers is the twilight shot. I have to give my sons quite a bit of credit here as they actually will go out at the golden hour and photograph a home. However some home sellers want an ideal picture with the purplish sky and pink clouds that are not real. The colorization is so intense that it is like a dream sequence, not reality. I’m not sure what people think who actually see the homes in person, but at least it gets them to visit the home.

We all know about air brushed photos of models on magazine covers, but have you ever thought that we too airbrush and edit our lives to look good for others? Let me be even more specific, have you ever thought about the church doing this? If you haven’t then let me assure you it does. I know because I am the church. We all are. If you call yourself a Christian than you are part of the body, the church. And I have been so guilty of this at times. But what if we could just be real with each other and stop showing up on Sunday mornings all edited and air bushed to perfection. Please I am not talking about showing up in our pajamas and without makeup. Makeup is okay as is hair coloring, and tattoos and piercings. Just be yourself and be transparent. Don’t try to hide your struggles and imperfections from each other. If you were perfect than you wouldn’t need God or a Savior.

And for all who read this who think they can’t visit church until their life is all cleaned up and edited, please come as you are. Believe me the church is full of many hurting people with problems that are willing to help you tackle yours. I know some church people are really judgemental, I get that and I have fallen for the lie that I have to act and or dress a certain way to be accepted. We all want acceptance and affirmation. But, we can’t really get that completely from people, we will only find that in God. And not in any god or religion, but THE God, who doesn’t ask us to clean up and edit ourselves first to look good on the outside, but the God who came down to earth as a lowly human, felt pain and hurt and rejection by others. He wants the real us so He can heal us. Not in a superficial way that only looks good on the outside, but in a real and personal way. he knows you and your struggles. If you do visit a church this week or seek out a pastor for help and you get the judgemental, air brushed version of church, keep looking, we are not all bad. we are just imperfect so keep looking and visiting until you find the one that welcomes you without the editing.

Pray

Today I have a simple question to ask of you… Do you pray?  If your answer is yes, then let me ask another follow up question…. When?  Maybe your first thought about this answer was a particular time of day, like first thing in the morning or the last thing at night. There is really no set time that is better than others. However, praying first thing in the morning kind of gets the day started off in a better direction. Do you pray alone? Or with your spouse? Or with your kids before bed time? I remember praying with my kids at night while I sat on the edge of their beds. My husband and I began praying together both in the morning and at night a few years ago. My favorite time to pray is when I have the whole house to myself and can just have this awesome conversation with God, pouring my heart out to Him. Or in the car- I promise I do not close my eyes when driving!

Maybe you can’t remember the last time you prayed- I mean really poured your heart out to God with thanksgiving and also with your concerns. Maybe you save prayer for the big stuff- like health scares or financial stresses. Or maybe only when that child or spouse that just needs to change- in your opinion. Or maybe you just get busy and slowly prayer becomes something you’ll get to later in your already busy over scheduled day. Yes, we can get lazy about prayer. It can be like that well intended diet we started. As soon as the desserts show up our diet is gone and our good intentions are lost.

Some people like to schedule their time with God for reading His Word and for prayer. This I do recommend to keep from falling away- like that well intended diet plan. But, if you blow it and miss a day don’t worry, just get back at it. It helps to remember why we pray in the first place. Its all about communication. Jesus even gave His disciples – and us- an idea of how we should pray in the Lord’s prayer. No, we do not have to follow it word for word like a memorized prayer. But, He gave us ideas of how to pray- to communicate- with God- the Creator of the universe.  If you’re unfamiliar with what’s called the Lord’s Prayer you can find it in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.

The most important item to take away from Jesus’ model He gave His disciples, was that He prayed to His father. If Jesus prayed, shouldn’t we also? Jesus is part of the Trinity- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Did He need to pray? Wouldn’t that be like talking to yourself? Well, that’s a deeper question to think about now, but what we should realize is that Jesus communicated with God the father regularly. And that is what He wants us to do as well.  It doesn’t matter the formula, time of day, or words- God knows us- He wants to be in a communicating relationship with us. He wants our praise, our thanksgiving, our petitions, requests, our worries and stresses- all the messy stuff of life- He cares. He accepts and does not reject those that call upon Him to be saved (Romans 10:13). He hears us (1 John 5:14), He will not forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6), He loves us (John 3:16). He wants to hear from us, so why not at the end of reading this, you just stop and pray. No excuses, just do it. Not sure what to say? Just tell Him whatever is on your heart. He’s waiting for you to make the first move.

-God Bless

– Nancy

 

Giving Good Gifts

So, how’s that Christmas shopping going? How many times have you heard that question this year? It seems like it is a common question this time of year as we approach Christmas, a time to celebrate Christ’s birth by exchanging gifts with our families and friends. But maybe the real question should be; how are you at picking out gifts? I find that the people who procrastinate at their Christmas shopping are the same ones who struggle to figure out what a good gift might be. They fear giving the wrong gift, so they put off their shopping.

Thankfully, God knows how to give the best gifts. of course the first and best is His Son Jesus, but also there’s the spiritual gifts that He gives to believers. There are many self tests out there to help you discover your spiritual gift. 1 Corinthians 12 gives a good list of these gifts as does Ephesians 4. These good gifts are for the benefit of the church, to grow it and build it up. But, there are other gifts that God gives. Our natural abilities and talents that helps us to do our vocations and hobbies.

Recently I was reading an article that suggested parents should not recognize or celebrate their children’s natural gifts and talents. Instead it was suggested that parents should encourage their children to work hard and excel at everything. All it takes is a little self determination and everything is possible. Well, I  believe that God creates each person individually, I mean look at your fingerprint- there isn’t another one like it. Our natural talents are meant for us and is a part of who God made us to be and should be celebrated. We as human beings are unique and specially created by God. We are not cookie cutter.

Sometimes, I think we can forget this. We try to be or do something we are not. We are trying to use a gift that doesn’t fit, because, well, we don’t have that gift. It is a fake it till you make it philosophy, but it’s not long and we can become frustrated trying to do something we were never meant to do in the first place. We should always operate in what we have been gifted in. It is the right gift. The right fit. The good gift from the ultimate gift giver.

I was reminded of this today. I am responsible to use the gifts I have been given, not try to use someone else’s gift. It is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn’t fit and it’s a struggle to figure out how to make it fit. In the end, it’s a choice to select to do what I am gifted to do and not try to do everything.God Bless -Nancy

 

Be Like Him

I’m a little bit late on writing this blog this week. I am one of those affected by an oncoming hurricane on the east coast. I have been thinking about the subject I would write about this week and I think I’ve found a topic; being transformed into the image of Christ and what that might look like in our daily lives. Two verses came to mind this week; the first is from the Book of Matthew; “When He saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because  they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a Shepherd” (Mt. 9:36, NIV). In this context Jesus had been visiting towns and teaching the good news and healing many and yet He was met with opposition from the religious Pharisees. The point I would like to point to is the compassion of Jesus. Few would argue with Jesus being compassionate. In fact, even those who aren’t Christians some times refer to Jesus as a compassionate person, a good role model to others and offering practical moral teaching. Those of us who are believers, know Him as more as we have felt His compassion upon us.

The second passage that comes to mind is from the Book of Nehemiah. “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of Heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4, NIV) Why was Nehemiah weeping? Well he had asked  the news from Jerusalem, his home town. The report was bad. Everything had been destroyed when the people had been forced into exile into Babylon. Reports were coming in from those who had stayed in Israel and had not been a part of the mass exile.The wall surrounding the city was destroyed. It affected Nehemiah greatly. He took it personally although he was miles away, living in Babylon and serving as cup bearer for the king Artexerxes.

So, here we can see two examples of compassion for others that we can follow today. With many natural disasters and man made tragedies such as attacks and shootings, we have the opportunity to have compassion on others. Others need to know we care about them particularly when they have had disaster or tragedy strike them. What can we do? Nehemiah prayed and Nehemiah informed the King of the disaster of his home country.  The result? The king allowed Nehemiah to return home and provided the funds and supplies to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  We can do the same. We can pray, we can tell others and we can offer to supply aid. What we don’t want to do as we grow and move forward in out walk of faith is to fail to develop compassion on others. To grow hardened to tragedies or scoff others’ concern or worries. Sometimes we do that. There are so many tragic stories in the news and easy access to stories and news both fake and real on social media, I think we have become too good at dismissing the misfortune of others. Jesus had compassion on others. Nehemiah wept and prayed and fasted. He had a good job in a royal household, he didn’t really need to concern himself with the problems miles away. Yet he did. He took it personal. He made it personal. So did Jesus. He left Heaven and took on human form with all its limitations. He loved us. He had compassion on us. As we have opportunity let us do the same towards others. -God Bless -Nancy

Lighthouses and Labor Day, So What’s the Connection?

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me explain the connection. Is there really any connection? Probably not. But both provided for me a great reflection of the church in America. First of all, please don’t bash me for my opinion of churches. It’s merely my observation and how God has been speaking to me about the subject.  Yesterday was the first Monday of September when Labor Day is celebrated as a national holiday in the United States. It recognizes the labors and hard work of the American Worker and provides a day off from their labors. Banks are closed, no postal deliveries are made, schools are closed. Most people are off work, so they take in those last minute summer pastimes, like going to the lake, camping, picnicking and beach going. My husband was off work as well, so we decided to visit one of the beaches nearby. Of course, so did everyone else in the four surrounding states! Needless to say, we kept driving along the beach road, looking for a parking spot. This beach in particular has strict rules for where you can and can’t park. Believe me we know now, after receiving the gift of a parking ticket the first year we visited. So, we drove and drove and kept on driving, much farther than we had anticipated, until the road suddenly ended at a convenient turn around spot with a gated road. No, this was not a gated community, which had sprung up and taken the best beach access, but it was the beginning of a road to access a light house. There was a parking spot free along the roadside, so we decided to stop and walk to the lighthouse.

We were familiar with this lighthouse having spotting it from another beach along the coast, but we were never sure of how to access it. Well, let me explain, there actually is no way to access the lighthouse without swimming to it. It basically sits in the middle of the water probably a half mile or so off the beach. But…. it didn’t always. At one time it sat on the land and could be accessed by car. So, what happened? Erosion. Over time the land eroded and storm after storm probably aided in that erosion. There are multiple efforts to save and preserve the lighthouse and money boxes for donations are found as you pass the gates, that now prevent car traffic. It is eery to walk on the road and come up to an empty parking lot. There were plenty of people there yesterday enjoying the beach, after walking their way in, but sadly no way to really get close to the lighthouse. My husband and I have visited other lighthouses up and down the coast of the United States and even one in Cozumel, Mexico. All were accessible, and if you are in great shape you can climb up to the top.

So, what does this have to do with church? Well, I was thinking about what to write today to share with you about rest, Labor Day, etc. and the verse that came to  mind is from the Book of Matthew,“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28, NIV). These are Jesus’ own words as He was talking to the crowd gathered. Some of you might have heard this before. It sounds great, Jesus wants me to rest, take it easy, you know not got worried about stuff. Maybe it will motivate me when I’ve feeling stressed out or over- worked. Well, kinda, but not exactly. See what Jesus was talking about is resting from religious burdens.  The Pharisees were like church managers in those days, and they were hung up about everyone following the Laws of God perfectly, that they sought to come up with 600 more to add to the originals. Yes, 600 just to clarify what a person could do on their Sabbath Day, which was the day God had given them for rest. Today, Christians rest on Sunday. But, do they? Recently I attended a gathering of believers and as I sat there, I began to sense an uneasiness. As I looked around, everything seemed okay, perfect even. But, that’s when I realized that was the problem. I have seen it in other get- togethers  in Christian circles. We all look perfect. From the outside anyway. We all look the same. Wait a minute, aren’t we supposed to be reaching the lost, you know the ones who aren’t in Christian circles and attendees in church services. Jesus, met people where they were and their lives were changed. Not on the outside, but the inside. You see, we who are believers are supposed to be changed into the image of Christ, but I don’t believe that means outside. Urban renewal has been popular for several years. Often the word “gentrification” comes up when talking about the renewal of old neighborhoods. It’s great to see old buildings reclaimed and houses fixed, but sadly, many of the original neighbors, can’t afford to live in these new homes. It’s out of their price range. Sadly, I see the same thing happening in the Western church culture. We try to fit people in to the church mold, remodeling the outside, but not really promoting inward change. We have created a hidden set of Sabbath day rules in regards to what we wear, how we should talk, how we should worship. But God looks at our hearts, not our outside appearances. Let me be clear though, I am only talking about church customs, not the Bible. We are to adhere to God’s Word. What I mean to say is we are called to shine the light of Christ, like that lighthouse I visited. But, have we walled ourselves off too much? Are we throwing money into the church to save it? But yet it still remains inaccessible to those who need it the most. Those who are being thrown by the storms of life and are drowning in despair? The church needs to consider whether our hidden customs are keeping people out. Are dresses and suits more holy than ripped jeans? Are Sunday services more anointed than Saturday night services? Is the King James Bible the only real Bible? Are men the only ones God calls? I know all these issues have been addressed before, but I just wanted to share what is on my heart. Jesus labored on the cross for all. We can enter His rest when we put our trust in Him as Savior. We do not need to make keeping the religious laws an entrance exams for those who want to trust Him too. Especially when there are just about customs and culture.Jesus is our rest from trying to be good enough or look good enough in church circles. As someone has once said, Jesus died to give us a relationship, not a religion. God Bless- Nancy