A Dream that Reaches Deep

During my sleep the other night this brief, powerful dream brought me front and center with God’s love.  In the dream my husband, Gary, is having a stream of trouble regarding his health. I awaken while hearing myself speak these words to him, “No matter what the circumstances I am here with you, loving you.”

Instantly, the dream changes:  I see sheep — a lot of sheep — then I hear what I know to be the voice of God, saying, “This is my message to my sheep:  “No matter what the circumstances I am here with you, loving you, leading you!”

The dream portrayed the great love I have for Gary; I felt the compassion that flows from me to him while seeing him plagued day by day with the limitations and difficulties that come from having cancer. As I awakened, I was enriched through vividly feeling that love. Yet, I was struck even more deeply through realizing this dream also reveals God’s great love for us.  He leads us as a beloved flock.

The dream allowed me to experience an apex of human love while, at the same time, showing me how much greater, deeper and wider–is God’s love for us  . . . His empathy and compassion! He is with us in our sufferings!

The New Testament extends various analogies that show God’s love for us — even to include Christ calling us “His bride.”

 

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What are you ashamed of?

Consider this: Shame can be false. False shame is entirely different from true shame. True shame comes when we are guilty of doing something we know is wrong. False shame can come from feeling defaced, or changed, as a result of another person sinning against us. A good example of this is when shame is felt after bing victimized by another person. One example comes through sexual or spousal abuse or rape. Another example is seen when one verbally abuses and berates another person. Being wounded in these ways may well cause a felt sense of false shame.

When it comes to true guilt, this is what God says about our sin (failures and harm done to self and others): God has compassion on us and “will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquity into the depths of the sea (Micah 18-19).” It is our heavenly Father’s love–and Jesus’ intercessions for us– that brings this amazing mercy to our souls.

If you are carrying shame, this is not God’s will for you. He has carried it for you through Jesus. When the shame strikes your heart, simply lift it up and in your mind’s eye see the cross as a reminder that God has taken it. Breath it away and thank Jesus, your Savior. Give him praise for lifting your burden.

When we commit ourselves to the mercy and love of God, He shelters us, forming, shaping, and empowering us. As we read Scripture and learn more about this great Creator, who brought us into life, we learn how to live more and more surely by the following four principles. As these are premises that we know in our hearts to be right:

1. Respect for autonomy: This is the principle that a rational individual should be free in personal decision-making, without undue outside coercion.

2. Justice: The requirement for fair, moral, and impartial treatment of all persons.

3. Beneficence: The mandate to treat others in their best interest.

4. Nonmaleficence: “first do no harm” (as in the Hippocratic Oath).

These ethical principles have been–and ever are–honored in most instances by people throughout history regardless of the fact we hold varied religious beliefs and have widely different world views. It lies within our conscience to adhere to these four ethical principles. And when we cross them our conscience allows us to feel a pinch. I believe this speaks of the truth that we are “made in the likeness and image of God.” God is ever speaking to us, gently and quietly within our souls, wanting us to live by these high principles– wanting us to have love, respect, peace, and joy as the fulcrum of our lives. It is obvious within both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible that God does not want us to live with shame, guilt, and self sorrow. Praise be to His name. For He has great goodness in store for all who seek truth and wisdom.

(A longer article on this subject may be found on my website, click HERE.)

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How Do We Lose Our Souls?

People chose evil due to doubting God and thinking their way is better–not caring what God would want or even caring what the conscience is saying. The conscience can be burned away through constantly choosing to ignore it. Eventually, it quits talking.
There is an enemy of our souls. He works through our lusts and cravings telling us we are entitled to have what we want and to do as we please. It is not that we lose our souls through making wrong choices. The Lord is our Shepherd. He has a hold on us, even when we make horrible choices. The danger of losing one’s soul comes when we determine that God has no place in our lives and that we will live it just as we wish. Given enough time on that path, common sense gets lost and love for others bleeds off. Many have reversed that course by turning to God and asking for forgiveness. This is what it means to say “the soul is saved.”

Murderers, rapists, drunkards, robbers and addicts who persist have in their ways give over their souls to one who is out to kill and destroy. A person may hardly notice they are cooperating with the schemes of the devil who hates God’s people. It is a gradual process. At any point they can turn to God.

The story of Genesis portrays God extending beautiful intimacy with the humans He created. All was well until Satan got Eve, and then Adam, to doubt that God knows best. Once that lie was accepted, these two took the next step: believing that God was keeping something good and blessed from them. Firmly planted, this lie took hold and resulted in a great loss for them–even the loss of eternal life.

God’s intention was for them to live forever in the beautiful place He created for them. This was lost, as they could not live forever. Now, they would know death. Meanwhile, everything would not be given to them; they had to earn their bread through hard labor. What joy comes through seeing the full truth! An amazing part of the story of Adam and Eve is that God still has them firmly in the grasp of his love, even after bad choices cost them so much.
Sorrowfully, their intimacy with God was cut short. The light of God which surrounded and enfolded them was gone, replaced by the darkness their disobedience brought. They now stood naked before God. Love prevailed, as God makes coverings for Adam and Eve. God’s mercy causes Him to slay animals so their skins can clothe His loved ones.
This is a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ who would come to the earth, in due time, to lay down His life for all humanity. Through His teachings and his actions, Jesus portrayed the heart of His Father to us and showed us God’s will. The core of Christian truth is that Jesus sacrificed His life for us, and that His very own blood was shed to cover our sins.
All of us will encounter countless temptations in this life. We can yield, if we want, as God has given us the great gift of free will. Or, we can surrender our lusts and our cravings–our prideful desires for amassing wealth or having power and control over others. Another choice is to keep our hearts ensconced in Scripture and bath our lives in prayer, seeking God’s will for our lives. In this way, God, our Creator, will be at the center of our souls. We can walk clean knowing that through Christ’s offering of His blood to cover and redeem us from our sins, we are lifted out of our failures. It is through our trust in Him that we can be whole, free from the entrapments the enemy of our soul weaves around our feet. (James 4:7 instructs us well: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”)
It is astounding, even hard to grasp, once we know that Jesus chose to die for us. The whole scene could have been different. For when the Roman soldiers came to arrest the Lord, Peter decided to help Him escape. Jesus quickly stopped Peter, saying, “Put your sword back in its place. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:52-53) In view of so great a sacrifice make for our eternal benefit, is it so hard to study Scripture in order to truly know–and hold in mind–what He has taught? Doing so will see us resisting pride-driven desires and selfish reasoning.
Knowing that God loves us against all reason, gives us the power to resist the temptations that perpetually come our way. This creates a longing in us to follow God’s will. This very longing is initiated within us by God–through the Holy Spirit.
It is a fact that when we read the teachings of Jesus Christ day-by-day, loving and serving the Lord becomes our foremost desire. And, as we continually yield to God, His will is portrayed through our lives. It is certain that once we have set our will to belong to Him, God will not let go of us. Our souls are safe.

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Why People See God as Being Angry and Punishing

Easter 2012 Chaplain Joy L. Smith

 

 

As a chaplain, I encounter people who are unable to get close to God. They feel God wants to control them. They think of God as angry and punishing. I believe this often comes through poor preaching that they heard at some point. A healthy reverence of God is gained by reading Scripture carefully while praying for God’s Holy Spirit to reveal the character–the nature of God–and what God wants of us as His people. The character of God shines through each book as the Holy Spirit is our teacher.

Many only know a little bit about the Old Testament; they have not read each book within it, which is the only way to glean the essence of what these 39 books are revealing. The Old Testament holds an overall message along with many hundreds of inspirational passages that bring clarity to what God is about and what God desires for His people. Respecting and honoring God– following His guidance–brings benefits. These benefits are sprinkled throughout these sacred books. These are benefits that every living person truly wants. (See a list of such benefits at www.healing-with-Joy.com within the link titled “Quick Aids.”)

During the past few months I spent one to two hours each day reading the Old Testament through, from beginning to end. Midway, I mentioned this to one of my friend. He asked, “Why are you doing this?” I said, “I am watching for places where the Lord speaks directly to individuals, noticing what is said, and how the people respond–or don’t respond.” I told him, “This as an effort to seek a better understanding of the character of God.”

It is amazing how many people within the Old Testament heard God speak directly to them. Through my reading of the Old Testament it is clear that above all else, God is loving and merciful. God accepts the mortal state and fallibility we bear as humans (Genesis 6:3). He is always drawing us forward, calling us to do better, referring us back to His divine guidance. However, in that same passage of Genesis 6:3, God states that He “will not always strive with man.” That works for us as well as for the Israelites. After 500 or so years of dealing with this segment of humanity called “the Israelites,” it became obvious that most of them refused to revere and obey God. Still, God called this nation “His people” and kept His promise to bless all nations through them.

Numerous books of the Old Testament are hard to read as they are full of dire warnings given by the prophets who pled with the people to change their ways. Multiple times, during these early years, the prophets called their countrymen to forsake the practices of “the heathens” who worshiped false gods–and even sacrificed their children to these graven objects.

God patiently worked with His people. He came to their aid over and over again when they cried for His help. However, when their respect for God bottomed out, new drastic measures came into place. God allowed the lot of them to be taken into captivity by the Babylonian army. Jerusalem with its grand temple was destroyed. They suffered heavy duty chastisement through their captivity in this foreign nation. Within the 70 years of their captivity, God watched after them, using their trials to draw them into a greater understanding of how He wanted them to live. Consequently, the Israelites came to reckon with the fact that God meant business with them. Through it all, God’s people gained a reverent awe of God. Scripture calls this “the fear of the Lord.”

Why did God specifically choose a certain segment of humanity to serve Him and to represent His principles on earth, during those ancient times? He was unfolding a plan for people of all nations. He was setting the stage, shaping a people who would bring Christ, the Anointed One to us–Jesus–called “the Lamb of God.” This is the One who would become the last sacrifice offered for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ blood was poured out on behalf of all people as he endured the cross on which He was crucified. Prophecies within the Old Testament foretold of this Messiah would come to carry away the sins of humanity. He would be the One who would bring a new revelation of God’s love and have the power to heal our souls.

I write this on the eve of Easter, a day on which we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the grave. I rejoice in knowing that God has always been about loving us and longing for all to enter into a loving relationship with Him, our Creator.

This prophecy from Isaiah shows the benefits Jesus’ life and death brings to His followers:
Cross Isaiah

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Ponderings – What’s Next?

How many of us have wondered about the passages in the Bible that speak of a great fire to take place before “that day” when the new heaven and earth come to be?  Sometimes I find the courage to ask God a question, then I wait for an answer. Last week I asked, what will happen to us when everything we know here changes? What will it be like for us if indeed the Earth as we know it passes through fire and the new heaven and earth comes to be, of which scripture speaks?

This is the answer that came as fast as I could write it down:

“My daughter, what I can tell you is that you will feel nothing at that great change. For it will happen in the twinkling of an eye. One moment you will be in the old and the next moment you will be in the new heavens, the new earth. That is if you are still here when this happens. Meanwhile, if you die before that great change, please know that your passing from this earth experience into my presence will also take place in the twinkling of an eye. As your last breath goes out you will be with me. We will have a great time of celebration and our union will be complete. Until then, I want you to enjoy the level of union we currently have, letting it unfold slowly as the opening of a rose. You worry about mistakes and failures of the past. That is not what  I see.”

As I closed my journal, I recalled the message from the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, “Come now, let us reason together . . . . Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool ( Isaiah 1:18).

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Treasure One Another

What is most important in our lives? As I write this, the East Coast is threatened by Hurricane Irene–while the earthquakes of Japan and Haiti are not far from our minds. We have accomplished a lot as human beings. Look at all we have achieved and built! Yet, we can’t change the fact that we live in a dangerous world. For sure, there are things over which we have no control. Within every family uncertainties face us; we handle these one by one. For the most part, we work through each happenstance as separate, little units. It is when storms, earthquakes, floods, and tsunami hit this globe that something different sweeps over us. There is a sense that we are all in this together. The earth itself creates a sense of unity . . . we know more than ever that there is a vital connection between us all. Not even Mother Nature can tear asunder God’s intention –“love thy neighbor.”

Treasure one another–loving one another to the max–links us with the eternal and builds us. Here is something that no storm can take down. No flood or tsunami can drown, and no earthquake can tear apart. Think about it: The only thing on this globe that is eternal is each other.

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