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Quote of the Day: 1/22/11 January 22, 2011

Posted by orualundone in Compassion, Forgiveness, Grace, Marriage, Quote of the Day.
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In a word, live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive. Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Brief Reflection: White as Snow January 21, 2011

Posted by orualundone in Forgiveness, Nature of God, Peace, Sin.
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I haven’t seen bare ground yet this year. Since the big blizzard just after Christmas the ground has been snow covered. Every time it starts to melt, we get another few inches. This would be normal if I lived in Maine or Colorado, but it’s nearly unheard of in New Jersey. We had another 4 inches last night. I’m kind of loving it, although I do wish it would confine itself to times that don’t throw my bike commuting plans into disarray.

The great thing about snow is how clean it makes the world look. It seems so fresh and white and perfect after a new snowfall. Of course it doesn’t stay white for long, especially around here. In less than two days most of it is messed up, slushy, brown or yellow, and entirely disgusting. That’s part of the reason I’ve enjoyed the frequency of the snow fall. It makes everything look clean again before it gets too gross.

But of course, snow doesn’t actually clean anything. It just covers it up so you can’t see it. The dirt and parking lots and sad looking winter grass are still there, they just aren’t visible at the moment. Thankful, that’s not what happens when we get God’s forgiveness for our sins:

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.”

Isaiah 1:18

The Bible doesn’t say “your sins will be covered over with snow”. Snow just hides things, and only temporarily. Snow melts. No, God tells us he will make our sins as white as the snow. He won’t just hide or ignore our dirty spots. He will make them completely pure and spotless, like the snow fall.

That’s a warming, snow day thought in my book.

Quote of the day: 1/20/11 January 20, 2011

Posted by orualundone in Church, Quote of the Day.
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Christians are like manure: spread them out and they help everything grow better, but keep them in one big pile and they stink horribly.

Francis Chan

Wednesday Links – 1/19/11 January 19, 2011

Posted by orualundone in Finances, Growth, Interfaith, Links, Politics, Salvation, Social Justice.
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At least, I think it’s Wednesday. Weeks that start with a holiday Monday always throw me into confusion about what day of the week it actually is. To me Mondays are days I have to go back towork. If I don’t have to work, then it’s not a Monday. Anyways….

Humbling: Following brutal attacks on a Christian church in Egypt on New Year’s Eve that killed 23 worshipers, moderate Muslims offered themselves as human shields to protect Coptic Christians at their Christmas Eve services. How many American Christians would do that for Muslims if roles were reversed, I wonder (Veterans Today)

Challenging: One pastor speaks up about how his church rejected the American dream and the trendy mega-church, bigger is better model to serve the poor in a radical way (CNN.com Belief Blog).

Convicting: The difference between an attempt at salvation through self-justification and God’s way of salvation where the only “self” is in “self-renunciation” (A Time to Think).

Inspiring: While not strictly a faith issue, I love Gretchen Rubin’s idea of choosing a word you want to define your year instead of traditional New Year’s resolutions. I think I’m going with “dare”, because fear keeps me from so many things and I want to dare to trust God completely, to share my faith, and to follow his dream for my life when it seems the most risky (The Happiness Project).

Advice I Wish We’d Had 7 Years Ago: Wise words on student loan debt and getting out of college with the minimum amount  possible. Sometimes it’s a necessary evil, but it’s still evil and important to gauge how much debt is really worth that degree (Christian Personal Finance).

Quote of the Day: 1/17/11 January 17, 2011

Posted by orualundone in Infinite, Longing, Sin.
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The yearning to know what cannot be known, to comprehend the incomprehensible, to touch and taste the unapproachable, arises from the image of God in the nature of man. Deep calleth unto deep, and though polluted and landlocked by the mighty disaster theologians call the Fall, the soul senses its origin and longs to return to its source.

A.W. Tozer

Psalm 103: A Song of Salvation January 17, 2011

Posted by orualundone in Compassion, Faith Journey, Grace, Growth, Healing, Heaven, Nature of God, Repentance, Salvation, Sin.
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David was a man who knew about God’s grace in an intensely real and personal way. What’s more astounding, is that he lived hundreds of years before Christ and yet possessed an understand of God’s salvation, grace, and redemption in a way that not only transcended the law-based religion of the time but also echoes through ages to speak relevantly to us today, almost 3,000 years later.

We like to think we have it all figured out, that as modern Christians we have a better perspective on Christ, on God, on salvation than previous generations, and certainly better than the primitive Jews of long ago. And yet we often reduce salvation down to a one-dimensional thing, a binary system. Are you in or out? Are you saved or not? Did you ask Jesus into your heart to forgive your sins? If yes, you get a check mark and get to go to heaven. If no, then a big red X and… well, you know.

Pray the prayer, get your free pass and you’re done. Sure, Christian growth is important, but salvation in our current terminology means just that moment when you say the magic words and receive your ticket for the bus to to the better place.

Don’t get me wrong, that moment when we turn to God for the first time and accept him into our hearts and ask him to forgive us is vital. But it’s not the end of salvation. It’s only the first step. This is what David knew that we forget. Salvation is a process. Once we allow God to work in us, we are continually being saved in a way which is never done, never finished or over or stagnant. Look:

Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s

Psalm 103:2-5

This psalm, from beginning to end, is a song of praise to God for his salvation, his forgiveness of sins in an all-encompassing way. It is one of the most beautiful and sweeping descriptions of complete forgiveness and grace in all of scripture. And yet, David wanted us to know that God’s forgiveness was only the beginning, not the end, of our salvation. Salvation, in his views, was a process with several steps.

It start with forgiveness, because without that we can’t have access to he who is holy. It always has to start there. But then we move on to healing. Sins leave scars, whether your own sin or someone else’s sin against you. God offers to heal those wounds, and all our other diseases of the heart, be they addictions, or bitternesses, or disappointments.

Then he redeems (or delivers) us from the pit. This is the act of rescuing us from situations that we cannot hope to escape on our own. A pit may be one you’ve dug yourself with your own actions and mistakes, or it may be a situation that has been imposed on you from the outside. It may be a web of lies you’ve spun to hide your mistakes that is now coming unraveled, or a sudden crisis such as a medical emergency or the loss of a job over which you have no control. It can be spiritual, metaphorical, or quite literal. But it is something that we cannot climb out of on our own. We need to be rescued.

Once we are rescued, he “crowns us with love and compassion”. Only when we have been forgiven, healed, and rescued can we truly begin to take on the traits that God himself possesses: love, compassion, forgiveness, and extend them to others. Finally, he satisfies our desires (which are no longer the petty, materialistic desires of a sinful heart but godly desires) with himself, and he makes us new again. He renews us, returns our hearts to a state of youth and innocence, as they were before sin entered the world.

It’s a beautiful progression, and it’s one we will all likely repeat over and over again. This is not Six Steps to a Secure Salvation Experience. This is an endless process for our whole lives until we are finally perfected in him. No matter how mature we are, we will sin again. We will acquire new wounds, fall into new pits. One moment we may think we’re in a state of being totally cleansed and soaring like an eagle, and then something will happen. We’ll slip up. Someone will betray us. And we will tumble back down again, needing more salvation, more healing, more grace. Sometimes we may feel great on some of the counts, no open wounds or blatant sin, but be frustrated and unsatisfied in our desires because we’re not wanting what God wants for us.

This is what I love about God, about salvation. Although it is so simple to come to Christ and accept his salvation, it’s not just one and done. If we allow him to go beyond simple forgiveness, into grace and redemption, salvation becomes a never-ending, constantly unfolding journey that continually takes us deeper and deeper into the heart of God. And we in turn overflow with this kind of saving grace and spill over on others, to become agents of salvation and healing in those around us.

Quote of the Day – 1/1/11 January 1, 2011

Posted by orualundone in Grace, Music, Quote of the Day.
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Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.

Victor Hugo

January 1 is Meaningless December 31, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Attitude, Change, Growth, Heart Condition, Holy Spirit.
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I was just thinking today, as I imagine most people are, about the new year that is coming in just a few hours. As usual I have various plans and resolutions for 2011,  some of which I’ve made before and failed at and some of which are totally new. But part of what I was thinking is that tomorrow is actually no different than any other day. It has no significance whatsoever other than that we’ve culturally decided that tonight at midnight is the moment that the old year ends and the new one begins. Although necessary for time- and calendar-keeping, it is a totally arbitrary date that doesn’t even have any particularly astronomical, seasonal, or religious meaning to it (unless you count the Feast of the Circumcision, which is a pretty strange day to start a year on) . It’s just a day, kind of in the middle of winter, just like any other.

And yet we hang such importance on it. January 1 is the day we’re going to start that diet, change our lives, be a better person. We make resolutions and promises. We start regimens. We think that somehow the new year will magically empower us to be different than we have always been, than we were on December 31st. We can put all the things that happened in the past 365 days behind us and start over. I do it too, as much if not more than anybody else. New Year’s, the first of the month, my birthday, and arbitrary Mondays – I see them as a chance for a new start, to get the week or month or year right this time. I imbue starts of things with mystical powers that I think will help me be more organized, or more self-controlled, or happier. It’s a very human thing to do.

The trouble is, it doesn’t work. Most of my well-intentioned self-improvement plans come to nothing after a week, a day, or a few hours. And the dates on the calendar are just numbers. There is no difference between Monday and Friday, between January 1 and June 12th, between my birthday and President’s day in terms of my likelihood of keeping a single resolution in the long term. I know that sounds depressing, but we all know it to be true. But I am not feeling depressed right now, because I have realized something.

All those dates that don’t mean anything? They don’t mean anything to God either. Through Christ and through his grace, he is constantly making things new. Take a look:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come.”
2 Corinthians 5:17

It is Christ that makes us a new thing, not our own efforts, not some random calendar change. The moment we accept Christ into our heart we are a new creature. We don’t have to wait around for a particular date to arrive. It doesn’t mean his work on us is done, but the start of a relationship with him is the new beginning we should look to, not a day of the year.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
1 Peter 1:3

We have a new birthday, a new day to celebrate as the start of our new lives. And although we have to be willing to let God change us, it is not up to us to affect the change. We don’t have to rely on our own willpower, our own strength, our own ideas of who we should be or what we should be doing to change. We need to be malleable, but it is God who will make the true changes in us, not our own list of 11 Things to Change in 2011 .

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command.”
Ezekiel 36:25-27

Instead of our own laundry list of resolutions, changes, goals, and things we want, God will, if we let him, put his living Spirit within us to guide our desires and make the changes in us that he has designed us for, not the changes that we think we need to be happy, or to make others happy, or even to make God happy. Sometimes we feel frustrated because we don’t feel that we aren’t changing the right way, or changing fast enough. The questions I need to ask myself in those times are first, am I seeking the change the God wants or the one that I think that God wants for my life? And, second, am I worried about my time, or God’s time?

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11

God’s time is not our time, and his plans are not ours. He has a time for everything and a purpose for everything. Sometimes my frustration may come because what I’m striving for is not good for me, or not what I need to be placing importance on. But sometimes it may come from knowing what the right thing is and feeling like it’s taking too long. But God will make me beautiful in his time as well.

So this New Year, if I make any resolution at all it will be to open myself up to the possibilities God has given me to be made new. I don’t often feel like a new creation, holy and blameless with a new heart. But that is because I close myself off from it, I still try to do things on my own. The truth is, the only thing keeping me from being a new, vital, pure creation in God is…me. But the very best thing to realize is that however many times I find myself failing to do something in my own strength, I can never miss my chance with God. He doesn’t allow us to be new in him once a year, or even just once when we first accept him and then it’s gone. No, with Christ every day, every moment is a chance for him to make us new, to give us more grace, and to move us closer to being perfected in him. And no matter how far we’ve wandered from a good relationship with him, no matter how many times we’ve tried to wrest control of our own destinies our of his hands, every single day is a new chance to return and let him start work on us again.

“The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
Lamentations 3:22-24

Quote of the Day: December 29th December 29, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Grace, Healing, Prayer, Quote of the Day, Solitude.
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We enter into solitude first of all to meet our Lord and to be with Him and Him alone. Only in the context of grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds; only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our own true nature. Solitude is a place where Christ remodels us in his own image and frees us from the victimizing compulsions of the world.

Henri Nouwen

A Prayer for the Coming Year December 28, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Attitude, Prayer, Words.
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Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

This has been on my heart lately as I think about what I want for this upcoming year. My words are often not what they should be. I complain a lot. I gossip. I use sarcasm, sometimes in a way that is not as welcome as I thought it would be. And I tell lies, mostly white ones, usually when I find it socially convenient to do so. And even when there is nothing particularly wrong with my words, they usually aren’t actively honoring to God or praiseful either.

The meditations of my heart are often trivial and unflattering. I spend a lot of time reading or watching useless entertainment, and thus that is what I think about. I don’t spend vast amounts of time plotting evil, and I know not every thought I have needs to be deep and prayerful, but the majority of my thought life is given over to completely worthless subjects.

I want to start regarding my thoughts and words as a much an important part of my Christian walk as my devotional time and church time. Not just my conscious thoughts and words when I’m actively discussing God, praying, or thinking about a sermon but my casual, haphazard speech and my unbidden thoughts. I want to learn to keep a guard on them and ask myself if what I am saying and thinking are pleasing to God. Because thoughts become words and words become actions. If my thoughts are shallow and useless, I become ineffective. And if my thoughts are bitter and resentful, then my actions will shortly follow.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
James 1:26