Sunday, December 27, 2015

Why I Could Never Be an Atheist!

            “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”  (Psalm 14:1)

             “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  (Romans 1:20)

            I have gone through some hard times recently.  Long, dry spiritual times, the kind that could leave you wondering if you only convinced yourself all along that there is a God.  He has been so silent, so distant.  My soul has ached for more than what He is giving right now.  I cry out but hear nothing.  I pray and pray about certain things.  And . . . nothing happens.  I want to feel like I matter to Him, and I guess maybe I expect Him to do what I am asking as a way to show me that He cares, that I matter.  But it doesn’t happen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Which One?

            Religion says I am . . . Broken, Imperfect, Sinful, Stupid, Helpless, Worthless
            Science says I am . . . Filled with Potential, Full of Wonder, Intelligent, Capable, Beautiful, Headed for Greatness
            Which one of these is more harmful?

            I saw a picture of a little girl holding up a sign like this, with a great big smile on her face.  Yet, she was clearly too young to understand what the sign meant.  It was her parents who wrote it.  And as I looked at the list and the little girl’s smiling face, I felt sorry for the parents.  Either they have been really hurt  by “religion” before or else they misunderstand it terribly.     Actually, what I should say is that there are “religions” out there that are very damaging.  I have no doubt that people have been scarred by the mean things that some religions teach or by the way some people try to force their religious beliefs on others.  So I don’t know what “religion” they are referring to. 
            But thankfully, Christianity is not a “religion.”  Religion is about rules created by an institution to work our way to God.  But Christianity is about a relationship with God, about admitting that we can’t work our way to God but that He is leaning down to draw near to us.  We can’t work out way to heaven, but we don’t have to.  Because He made a way through Jesus’ death on the cross.  He is holding out His hand and all we have to do it grasp it, in faith.  So while her list might be about “religion,” it is a gross misrepresentation of Christianity. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Gay Marriage

What should a Christian do about the new gay-marriage laws? 
 
1.  For starters, don’t panic!
            “The Lord answered Moses, ‘Is the Lord’s arm too short?’”  (Numbers 11: 23)
            “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.”  (Habakkuk 2:20)
            God has not lost control.  He is still on the throne.  Nor has anyone changed His laws and truths.  It bothers me when I hear Christians freaking out and saying, “Man is changing God’s laws!  Man is changing God’s laws!”  No, we aren’t.  Call it what they want, it still doesn’t change the fact that God decided that marriage is between one man and one woman.  And God’s laws still stand.   
            Just because society redefines "marriage" doesn't mean that God has.  Just because some churches are going against the Bible and claiming that now certain lifestyles are acceptable doesn't mean that God has. 
            We who hold to the clear teaching of Scripture do not need to be terrified of or confused about the "changes" that society makes.  Because it doesn't really change anything in God’s eyes.  We do not need to panic or freak out, acting like the sky is falling and like it’s our responsibility to hold it up, and acting like mere people can actually change His abiding truths.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Anti-"Prosperity Gospel"

            Noah “found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”  (Gen 6:8)  And this favor earned him 120 years of hard work building an ark by hand, most likely facing ridicule the whole time from those around him.  And then, he was closed up in a box for almost a year while everyone around him died off.  And then, he got to work the ground from scratch in order to keep his family alive. 
            Abraham was childless for 100 years, and he had to wait for 25 years before God fulfilled His promise to give him a son.
            Joseph was favored by God, but it sure seemed like God had a funny way of showing it at first.  When Joseph worked for Potiphar after being sold into slavery by his brothers, God poured out blessings on “the household of [Potiphar] because of Joseph.”  (Gen 39:5)  Someone else got the “blessings” because of Joseph’s faithfulness to God.  And Joseph got slavery.  And God showed favor to Joseph while he was unjustly imprisoned on false charges.  (Gen 39-40)  But even with this favor, he still spent at least two years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
            Daniel was taken into captivity as a young man and lived as a captive for decades.  And his faithfulness to the Lord could have cost him his life when the king threw him into the lion’s den for praying to God. 
            Samuel was raised not in the warmth and care of his home, by his godly mother, but in a temple by a priest who couldn’t even raise his own children up in a godly way.
            John was banished to the island of Patmos.  
            Paul asked three times to have a thorn removed from his side, and he was denied by the Lord.
            And many believers today have to live with chronic illness, fruitless job searches, and broken homes and hearts.  Many watch their children die of illness or starvation.  Many willingly face the horrors of Ebola in order to help those who are suffering and in need.  Many are losing their homes and lives and heads for their faith. 

            But, hey, forget all that! 
            Here in America, we have God’s promise that we will be rich and healthy and have an abundance of stuff, whatever we want. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

It's Time to be Horrified

            As our society seems to be going to “hell in a hand-basket,” do you ever wonder where God is in all of this? 
            The economy sucks. 
            Our religious rights are being trimmed away. 
            Schools are focusing less on academics and more on creating an anti-God worldview and the “morality” and social characteristics that they want. 
            Laws are being made which are having detrimental impacts on people, families, businesses, and economics. 
            Morality and modesty are “old-fashioned” concepts.  Flagrant sexuality is rampant, and society encourages it as being “open-minded, progressive, and free from oppressive restraints.” 
            You can’t say “Merry Christmas” or “God bless you” anymore without someone crying foul.  (Oh yeah, well, I’m going to say it . . . “Merry Christmas . . . Merry Christmas . . . Merry Christmas . . . God bless you . . . God bless you . . . God bless you.”) 
            Lobbyists have done a great job making sure that they protect their interests and the interests of big business and government, at the expense of the people. 
            Lawsuits are shaping our country for the worse because no one can bear to be offended or have someone raise their eyebrows at them. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

My Favorite Verse: Joshua 24:15

            Joshua 24:15:  “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” 
            This has got to be one of my all-time favorite verses.  And one of the most timely verses for our country today.  Our country is getting more and more polarized when it comes to the Bible, God, morals, etc.  Our entertainment has gotten shockingly ungodly and immoral.  Our schools have become more than just educational centers; they have become battlegrounds for the minds and souls of children.  Laws are being created to weed God out of everything.  Atheism, New Age, “tolerance,” homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion, and other such issues are causing sharp contrasts and divisions among people, even among various Christian denominations.  It seems as though today – more so than any other generation – we are being challenged to “choose whom we will serve.”

Most Important Question!

            “[Jesus] asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’
            They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’
            ‘But what about you?’ he asked.  ‘Who do you say I am?’  (Matthew 16:13-15)
           
            “Who do you say I am?”
            This is the most important question we will ever consider.  The most important question we will ever answer.  And we are all asked it.  We all have to answer it.  And it will determine our eternity.
            Who do you say Jesus is?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Why Would Anyone Choose Jesus?

            As I was listening to a Christian radio station, they interviewed a random woman on the street who said, “I think the writers of the Bible just made it up to get people to follow them.”
            And I laughed out loud at the thought of that.  I wanted to ask her if she ever read the Bible, if she knew what it teaches.  Because if she did, she would have to wonder why anyone would make up some of the things we find in the Bible, thinking it would make people go, "Oh yeah, that sounds great to me!" 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

An August 2015 Update: Wrestling with God

            It is August 20, 2015 right now, early in the morning before all the kids wake up.  It’s quiet and peaceful as I sit here on the stairs by the window, looking out on the reblooming lilac that has exactly one blossom left, typing this update.  It is my favorite kind of morning.  Last night, some very chilly air blew in, pushing out the hot and humid days we have been having.  And when I took my coffee, my homemade chocolate-chip breakfast scones, and my Bible outside to the backyard swing this morning, I had to wear a jacket.  I love that!  I love jacket weather.  I love it that the sky is dark and cloudy and it looks like a storm is on the way.  This kind of weather makes me feel alive!
            We have actually been quite blessed this year with the weather.  The spring was really long, with many, many cool, rainy days, right up into June.  And there have been very few really hot days.  And now, fall has come early.  The weather has been so mild that my fall mums started blooming in mid-July.  All the plants are confused.
            Anyway, I decided to write an update about this year’s gardening experience, about life.  Life can be interesting. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

ISI 22: Gray Areas

[This Bible study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:  
            If you had three wishes to use for yourself on frivolous stuff, what would you wish for?  What if you had three wishes for serious stuff?  (And not things like world peace, curing world hunger, and salvation for all.  Because of course, we would all choose these.)

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
            Over the years, I’m sure we’ve all run across various issues that are “gray areas” in Scripture.  These are the things that Scripture doesn’t talk about specifically, but that each Christian needs to decide for themselves.  Ideally, we would all make up our minds about these things and not worry about what someone else decides about them.  But the problem is that many times, these issues can cause conflict and divisions between Christians.  And that’s not good.
            But let’s take some time to explore various “gray areas” (or are they really more black-and-white?) and to consider what Scripture says about how to make decisions for how we live.  Not everyone will come to the same conclusions about these, but talk about the ones that interest you and challenge each other to figure out your positions on them.  (But do not let it turn into fights.  Skip any topic that may lead to that, or that might stumble another believer.  But it is my assumption that you are all mature Christians and can handle hearing different points of view on gray areas.) 

ISI 21: The End Times

[This Bible study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question: 
            What are some of your more embarrassing or humorous moments?  (Come on, we’re all friends here.)

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            No study on the “less clear” things of Scripture would be complete without a look into the End Times.  There are many different ideas about how the world will end.  Of course, most Christians believe that it will end when Christ returns and God makes all things new.  But what isn’t clear is the timing of everything.  And the biggest “unclear” thing: Will there be a rapture?  Will it come before, during, or after the tribulation?
            I have studied this really intensely at different times over the years.  Reading every book on the topic that I could find, studying the Bible, checking the original Greek meaning of the words, etc.   To me, it is a huge, complex, wonderfully-frustrating puzzle.  And I could never really understand it . . . until this last time that I studied it.  And I was finally able to settle this issue in my mind once and for all. 
            Yes, I do believe that there is going to be a rapture before the tribulation (trib) starts.  And I am thoroughly convinced of it. 

ISI 20: Atheism and World Religions

[This Bible study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question: 
            How is life different than you thought it would be?  How is it the same?  Has anything surprised you so far, in good ways or not-so-good ways?  

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            In this lesson, I combined parts of several posts from myimpressionisticlife.blogspot.com.  This lesson in not really an academic “study” of atheism and world religions, but it’s a very personal account of why I could never give up my faith in Jesus, why those other options are not for me, and how I would explain salvation and faith in Jesus to a non-believer. 

ISI 19: Modern-Day Pharisee

[This Bible study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
            What are three little things that always make you smile?  What are three things you are a little bit afraid of or phobic about?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Matthew 12:7
            “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:20

            There’s an older couple in our area.  They are a nice enough couple, but the wife is the kind of person who likes to comment on everyone else’s business.  On which plants you should get out of your yard, on how you should keep your outside lights on for safety, on which neighbors voted and which didn’t, and on how you shouldn’t be up that high on a ladder. 
            But her favorite past-time is noticing every time someone else’s lawn gets too high.  That’s pretty much what they do all summer . . . mow their lawn every three days and watch everyone else’s grass grow.  Lawn height seems to be one of their biggest concerns. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

ISI 18: Expectations and Contentment (Happiness vs Joy)

[This Bible study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
What is your favorite season, and what do you love so much about it?  And what are your favorite things about each of the other three seasons?  Least favorite things?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
            Philippians 4:12:  “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” 
            1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:  “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

            Contentment and Joy.  Aren’t these two things that we are always looking for?  Actually, what I should say is that we are usually looking for happiness when we should be looking for joy.  And we are not usually content with the way life is because we have too many expectations about what it should be.  Isn’t this more like it for most of us?
            So what is the difference between joy and happiness? 

ISI 17: Is Depression a Sin?

[This Bible study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
When have you laughed the hardest in your life?  Is there anything that never fails to make you laugh?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            Originally, I didn’t have this one in the Bible study.  But over the past few years (and more), I have really struggled with depression.  (If you read the introduction to the Bible study, you can get a sense why, although there are other reasons, too.)  And on-line and in real life, I have found a lot of other people who are struggling with it, too, even Christians. 
            And the sad thing is, not only do they already feel guilty and alone . . . but then other Christians make them feel like “bad Christians” and like they should be ashamed of themselves for having depression or taking medication.  They condemn and judge the hurting person, instead of extending compassion and grace and help.  And that gets me mad!  Freakin’ boiling mad!!!  (Oh, it gets me so mad!)
            And so I decided to combine parts from a couple posts that I recently wrote over at myimpressionisticlife.blogspot.com and add them as part of this Bible study.  I wrote it for the hurting, depressed person who is ashamed of themselves for hurting, who is afraid to speak up about it for fear of being condemned, and who feels alone in their struggles and like there must be something wrong with them. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

ISI 16: Righteous Living and Idolatry/Temptation

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]
 
Icebreaker Question:
Do you have any recurring dreams or nightmares?  What do you normally daydream about?
 
Open With Prayer
 
Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
            Matthew 6:33:  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
 
            We all know that we are supposed to be seeking righteousness and God’s Kingdom.  But are we actually doing it?  And do we really even know what that means? 
            The reason I ask is because our country is getting so lukewarm and relativistic about spiritual things.  Whole denominations are drifting away from biblical Christianity and becoming social clubs where the speakers tickle the ears of the congregation and make them feel warm and cozy and comfortable.  But that is so not what Jesus did and what the Bible is about! 

Monday, May 11, 2015

ISI 15: Supernatural Stuff and the Armor of God


[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]
 

Icebreaker Question:
Is there ever a time that you think you encountered an angel or an angel in disguise, strongly felt the presence of evil or of the Lord, or experienced a miracle?
 
Open With Prayer
 
Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
 
Light as a Feather
            I don’t expect anyone to believe me, but I’m going to share my story.  It’s my story about how I came to fully trust in Jesus’ name and to passionately cling to Him, to never be able to doubt the existence of a spirit would, to place such a high priority on prayer and God’s Word, and to always remember my need for spiritual armor.  And once again, you don’t have to believe me.  (But don’t say I never warned you.  And if you are a skeptic and get nothing from this whole section, just remember this: “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave.”  In case you ever need it.)
            My first real experience with the unseen world was when I was a pre-teen.  I was at my ex-step-dad’s house for the weekend.  My younger half-brother, his step-sister, and I were bored and wanted something to do.  So we decided to play the classic game “Light as a feather, stiff as a board.” 
            Silly stuff . . . right?!? 

ISI 14: Radical Obedience

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
If they made a movie of your life, who should play you (and your spouse, if you are married)?  What kind of movie would it be, what should it be called, and what would be the main themes? 

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
            I would have to say that of all the things a Christian is called to do, this has got to be one of the most important.  (If any one of them can be considered more important than the others.)  And I’m not saying this like God necessarily needs our obedience or else He’ll be at a helpless loss.  But because obedience says the most about our relationship with God.  Obedience tells us if we are able to hear Him, if we trust Him enough and are willing enough to do what He says, if we have humbled ourselves before Him, and if we love Him and have really made Him God of our lives. 
            Let’s take a moment to explore some of what the Bible says about obedience:

ISI 13: Prayer

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]
 
Icebreaker Question:

What are three little indulgences that you like to treat yourself to (doesn’t have to be just food)?  What are three guilty pleasures of yours (things you don't readily admit that you like or that people wouldn’t guess about you)? 


Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            As Christians, we know that the Bible talks a lot about the importance of prayer.  But I have to ask, as I did about God’s Word, do we live like it’s really important?  Do we live like it matters?
            I am going to guess that if we don’t, it’s because we don’t really understand it.  Because once you come to really understand prayer, you cannot help but cling to it with all you’ve got and accept it as a solemn responsibility.  You cannot help but know that there is power in it and that the way you live has an effect on it.  Prayer matters! 

ISI 12: God's Word

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]
 
Icebreaker Question:
What are some of your favorite songs?  Ones that make you want to turn up the music and dance, sing out loud, or that make you cry?  Any songs you can’t stand? 

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            Okay, I am assuming here that we have all been Christians for a long time and that we all know the importance of God’s Word.  Now then, raise your hand if you live like the Bible is “extra-credit”?  Or do you live like you really believe that the Bible is crucial to your day, your life, your walk with the Lord?  
            I fear that in our day and age of being too familiar and comfortable with God and His Word (in America), we have lost the sense of awe and fear of Him and His Word.  It’s too familiar, and we are too comfortable.  We have heard the Bible stories again and again.  We pick them apart as objects of study, to be looked at closely under a microscope.  It is educational and academic.  Or we pick them apart so that we can piece them back together again in a way we like better.  We twist them for our own ends.  Or we just shrug our shoulders and yawn and ignore it. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

ISI 11: Be Still

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
When you were young, what were some things that you wanted to be when you grew up?
 
Open With Prayer

Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
            Psalm 46: 10:  “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

            That is one of my favorite verses.  And it’s funny because when I was in high school, I went to a Christian retreat where that was the key verse for the week . . . and all I could think was, How boring!  What a boring verse to pick to inspire, challenge, and “activate” the teens for Christ.  Be still?  Blah!
            But now, this verse has become so dear to me.  It is one of my top five.  So I guess I’ve come full circle.  To me, this verse is all about humility.  A humble person is one who has learned to trust in God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness so much that - despite the storms that rage around - they can “be still” because God is God!  A humble person desperately desires to be near the Lord and to bask in His presence, and so they have learned the importance of being physically and mentally still with the Lord at regular times.  And a humble person also knows that everything is about God’s glory!  He will be exalted!!!
            Oh, I love this verse!!!

ISI 10: Understanding God's Will

[This Bible study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
If you could invite any five people (living or dead) to a dinner party at your house, who would you invite?  Why?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson: 
            (This is a huge topic to explore.  And if you want to get deep into this topic, I recommend that you read the “Understanding God’s Will” series that I posted on both my blogs – myimpressionisticlife.blogspot.com and sweetlybrokengirl.blogspot.com.  It will take a while, but it will give you a lot to think and talk about.  And then you can get together and discuss those posts and the following questions.  But if you do not want to do that much, I have given a much shorter overview of it here.  FYI: Those posts do included other things that we look at in this Bible study, too.  So some stuff will be familiar.)

            “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (Romans 12:1-2)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

ISI 9: Predestination vs Free Will

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]


Icebreaker Question:
What are three things most people don’t know about you?  And what are three “quirky” things about you?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
             (Oh, this is gonna be fun!)  I know that this is a “hot button” topic, and it can get people really worked up.  So let’s not let this issue become divisive.  Scholars and theologians through the centuries have not come to an agreement on this topic, and I do not think that we will be able to figure it all out either.  But let’s at least explore it and try to figure out what we believe, why we believe it, and why it matters. 
            I am going to present to you my view on this issue, but it doesn’t mean that I am necessarily right.  I am giving it to you as a starting point and as food-for-thought, to give you things to consider and talk about and disagree with.  I am not a Bible teacher or scholar, so remember that this is just my opinion.  If you disagree, discuss with others why you disagree and what you think Scripture really says.