3 Reasons to Love Others

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In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  1 John 4:9-11

When I describe the love of my Mama and Daddy, I talk about Mama sewing beautiful dresses for me while I was growing up. I tell of the time that Daddy stayed up with me into the early morning hours working on an essay I was having trouble with. I tell of their hard work to make the money last through the month, so that we were comfortable.

I know their love for their children when I remember their actions … their self-sacrifices for us. Through their love, I learned what love looks like and how to love others. Continue reading 3 Reasons to Love Others

Authentic Christianity Begins …

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In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:1-8

For 52 years, King Uzziah ruled Israel, and the people loved him.
“And as long as he [King Uzziah] sought the Lord, God made him to prosper” (II Chronicles 26:5).
Who could fill the throne as well as King Uzziah? What would become of the nation?
An empty throne. A failing Northern Kingdom. Confusion and despair.
In a time of hopelessness, Isaiah sees the Lord of Hosts on the throne. Holy. Exalted. Worshipped.
I love the song, “I Can Only Imagine.” “Will I sing ‘Hallelujah’? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine.”
Isaiah’s response was different. When he saw the holiness of God, he realized his depravity.
He was unable to remove his guilt and his sin, but when the altar’s burning coal touched his lips, he was cleansed.
Then, the call to an authentic walk with God.
“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
“Here am I. Send me!”
And the Lord sent him to warn the people to turn from their sin.
Most of us don’t have a dramatic encounter with God like Isaiah did. However, we have glimpses of God’s glory in each day’s sunrise and sunset, the unfolding of a rose, or the birth of a baby.
We have a love letter from God, the Bible, that shows us God’s nature, and we have the Holy Spirit to teach us.
God is at work in us, and we may recognize it in the small things: a prompting to pray for a friend – later, you find out that the friend was just diagnosed with cancer, a “yes” to a prayer, a door closed and a better opportunity opened.
Authentic Christianity begins with the recognition of God’s holiness and our depravity.
As we think about God’s nature, His holiness, His love for us, our initial response is “Woe is me! I am unclean.”
The altar’s burning coal, Jesus’s death on the cross, cleanses us. Jesus paid the price for our sin, and He conquered death by rising from the dead three days after His crucifixion.
After the burning coal’s touch, Isaiah never said “Woe is me! I am unclean.” He went where God sent him, and he served the Lord and the Lord’s people.
An authentic Christian’s response to glimpses of the majesty of the Lord God Almighty is “Send me.”
God equips.
We go.
We serve.
Remaining authentic is the key.

My prayer:

Lord God Almighty, we are humbled that You would share glimpses of Your holiness and exalted nature with us. Great are You, Lord. Holy, Holy, Holy are You, Lord God Almighty. We praise You and give You honor. Bless Your people as we study Your Word and learn how to follow You authentically. Amen.
Let’s study authenticity together in a series of posts.
Please share your insights or questions about the authentic Christian
in the comment section.

The Gospel of Happiness, a review

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In The Gospel of Happiness, Christopher Kaczor writes, “I hoped to write a book that would be helpful for Christians by providing a glimpse into an exciting new development called positive psychology which can significantly enrich their lives and provide surprising new justifications for practices recommended by Jesus himself.”

In 1998, Martin Seligman, president-elect of the American Psychological Association, launched a new movement called “positive psychology.” Instead of focusing upon people’s problems, Seligman sought to focus upon what makes people happy and more resilient. For example, scientists have discovered that those who practice religion experience less depression.

Kaczor explores the principles of “positive psychology” that parallel Catholic practices and Scripture. In addition, he discusses empirical studies that support the teachings of Jesus.

  • A Stanford University study found that flyers detailing the consequences of binge drinking were less effective than flyers that identified those who binge drank with a group of students who were “social lepers.” The dormitory where the identity-based flyers were displayed (naming the group of “social lepers”) experienced 50% less drinking than the dormitory that featured the flyers detailing the consequences.
  • Kaczor relates the outcomes of this study to Jesus identifying types of people in His parables: “Lazarus and the rich man, the tax collector and the Pharisee, the persistent widow and the unjust judge.” The Good Samaritan parable is used elsewhere in the book.

Although Kaczor acknowledges that God can bring growth from negative experiences and the fact that there are unhappy Christians, he emphasizes that happiness is a natural outcome of Christian practice and that “positive psychology” can provide powerful techniques.

Kaczor points out that perfect happiness is the result of a perfect relationship with God and only possible in heaven.

Interestingly, Kaczor does not discuss the Beatitudes, Jesus’ teaching to His disciples on blessedness or happiness.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:3-12

Jesus was a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” Isaiah 53:3, and yet, Jesus endured temporary unhappiness for the joy set before Him Hebrews 12:2.

Kaczor has written a practical book that blends portions of psychology with the principles of the Christian walk, and “… many of the findings of positive psychology can aid a Christian in living a Christian life by suggesting new empirically tested ways to practice forgiveness and gratitude, by providing empirically tested ways to increase happiness by forgiving those who have trespassed against us, by exploring the power of prayer, and by helping to strengthen willpower.”

First, the Gospel of Salvation, a Gospel defined as “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: And that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; 1 Corinthians 15:3-6a. Then flows the happiness or blessedness that Kaczor describes.

My prayer

Thank You, Jesus, for dying on the cross for our sins and for conquering death through Your resurrection. Through Your pain and sorrow, through Your great sacrifice, we experience Your true love and blessedness. You have shown us that through all our efforts, we cannot achieve ultimate happiness. You alone give it to those who are called Your followers. Thank You for Dr. Kaczor and the practical helps he has provided. Fill him with Your perfect wisdom and guide him as he teaches others Your principles.

I received a complimentary copy of The Gospel of Happiness from Blogging for Books for my honest review.

Grace race or rat race?

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Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

What if we were to approach our Christian walk as an athlete? Would we lose some weight, get some lighter running shoes, schedule hours each day to work on our technique and form? Christians are athletes to a certain extent. Some of us are balance beam experts. We have one foot on the world’s beam and one in the air towards heaven.

I don’t know about you, but my technique needs some work. I’m running the race, but sometimes, it’s the rat-race instead of the grace race.

Keith and I are going through the Your Sacred Yes Workbook and DVD by Susie Larson, and I’m learning to get rid of the weights that aren’t on God’s plan for me. It’s difficult, but as an athlete adjusts her diet, focuses upon the end result, the medal or prize, I am trying to look towards Jesus and the prize, eternal life with Him, the joy set before me.

Jesus focused on the joy that was set before Him, looking at the cross and shame to His place seated at the right hand of the throne of God. That joy was χαρά, gladness, calm delight, blessedness.

Matthew Henry writes of the joy of Jesus:

He had something in view under all his sufferings, which was pleasant to him; he rejoiced to see that by his sufferings he should make satisfaction to the injured justice of God and give security to his honour and government, that he should make peace between God and man, that he should seal the covenant of grace and be the Mediator of it, that he should open a way of salvation to the chief of sinners, and that he should effectually save all those whom the Father had given him, and himself be the first-born among many brethren. This was the joy that was set before him.

Suffering was part of the race of Jesus. Although He prayed that there was another way to accomplish the joy that was set before Him, there was no other way, and he accepted the pain of the cross, the shame, the isolation for an eternal moment. He knew what was waiting for Him, and it was worth it. It was joy unspeakable.

Imagine, the Author and Finisher of our faith, our Creator, our Comforter, our Savior, loved us so much that He set aside His glory, and suffered pain, shame and His Father turning away from Him for an eternal moment, all for us!

Let’s rid ourselves of anything that holds us back from the race that God has planned for us, and let’s train like we’ve never trained before. We have the joy of the Lord set before us.

My prayer

Jesus, thank You for Your great love, for Your endurance, for Your focus upon the joy that was set before You. Teach us how to be so focused that we will run the race You have given us with endurance, looking to You and the joy set before us. We love You, Jesus.

Tell us about your grace race