Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What Motivates You?

As a kid, I practiced the violin for hours. Not because I liked practicing, but because I loved perfecting a song. I still love to put on a CD of an orchestra and play along. When I worked on piano, I practiced scales and other technique, not because it was fun, but because it made me a better pianist.
Some people say no to chocolate because they want to be healthier. Some people walk to work because they want to protect the environment. Some people get rid of their TV because they want to spend better quality time with their family.

What motivates you to live your life the way you do?

As Christians, we are called to live a life that is pleasing to God. He has called us to do certain things and not do other things.

Why do you do what you do? (No, this isn't a rehash of this post). I mean, what motivates you? You get up each day and make choices. Why do you make the choices you do?

Pastor was preaching on Sunday evening from Luke 18 and 19. I've been reading the gospels in my devotions recently (finished Mark today). I've been reflecting on all Christ has done for us. He left Heaven, where He was respected and had everything to come to earth, where He had nothing and was cursed, spit on, and treated worse than a servant. He came to earth to serve, when He was used to being served and worshipped in heaven. Not only that, He travelled for 3.5 years teaching, preaching, doing miracles, and sharing the love of God, knowing that He and His message would be rejected. If that wasn't enough, He suffered horribly and was ultimately killed. Why? Well, because the religious leaders didn't like His message and were threatened by Him. But was that the real reason? They didn't take His life. He gave it up. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Creator of the Universe, Ruler of Heaven, gave up His life.

For me.

For you.

Because He loved us. And wanted us to have the chance to live eternally with Him.

Wrap your mind around that, if you can. 

What a great God we serve. We as Christians have the opportunity to give our lives to God. In fact, Romans 12:1 says that we should "present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our

REASONABLE service".

It just makes sense to give Him our lives.

That was a really long introduction. I'm sorry. It's late and I'm rambling. But I promised someone I'd write this tonight. So I'm writing.

We as Christians are motivated to serve God by basically 1 of 2 things: grace or guilt.

We can look at all Christ has done for us, and make it all about Him. Because of His sacrifice, because of all He has done for me, I can give Him my life. He allows me to serve Him, and I am blessed with so much, it just makes sense to give it all back to Him. That's grace.

Guilt says "I've messed up. I know I've been saved, but I've done a lot of bad things and I want God to love me so I'm going to work really hard to be a 'good Christian'." We know we're saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and not through works, but often we don't live like it. Or maybe it's just me. I don't live like it. I spend a lot of time feeling like I've made mistakes and I have to fix them. I have to work to earn forgiveness somehow. We know God is "faithful and just to forgive us" (I John 1:9). So why do we live like we've messed up 1 to many times and He may not forgive us if we make another mistake? To say (or think) that God can't forgive us is saying (or thinking) that the cross was a waste of Jesus' time. Am I wrong?

I don't know how to define being motivated by guilt. I would say that a sign is "consistently feeling like a failure". Thinking "I keep messing up and I fail at life". Feeling like you have to earn forgiveness. Giving up. Telling yourself "I'll never succeed, so why keep trying?".

If you've read my blog much at all, you know Peter is one of  my favorite Bible characters. Mostly because I can understand his whole impulsive thing and a lot of his other character traits. Remember when he denied Jesus 3 times before the crucifixion? Not a high point in his life, I'm sure. The Bible tells us that he went out and "wept bitterly". After Jesus died, Peter went fishing. Earlier in the gospels, 3.5 years earlier, Peter had left everything and followed Jesus. He gave up fishing to spread the story of the Kingdom of Heaven with the world. He vowed he would never leave Jesus. Then he messed up.

Big time. 

He majorly failed. He denied Jesus--the one who, not long before, Peter had declared as "the Christ, the Son of the Living God". He failed, and left it all and went back to fishing (John 21).

I'm going to speculate a little. This isn't in the Bible. This is just me thinking the way I usually think (coming from the frame of reference of one who is motivated by guilt and failure all too often).

Peter knew fishing. He knew the fish and the sea. He was confident in his fishing skills there, and the fish wouldn't care if he cursed or denied them. He couldn't hurt anyone the way he had when he was following Jesus. When Peter was being motivated by guilt, he gave up. He couldn't serve God the way God planned.

When Jesus showed the depth of God's forgiveness to Peter on the beach, and when Peter really grasped the concept of the unfathomable grace of God, his motivation changed. Suddenly, it wasn't, "I have to do this because if I mess up again God will never forgive me." For Peter, it became "God has given me so much and I want to serve Him with my life!"

Peter's life changed. God's grace changed Him. And it has changed my life. As a Christian, everything I do should be for God's glory. Not because I'm scared of punishment or need to earn forgiveness. I can't earn forgiveness. But God gave it (and continues to give it) to me anyway. And I can never lose His love, no matter what I do.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Give Thanks...

Have you ever had "one of those days"? Those days where you really should've just not even bothered?
Today was one of those days. I should've just stayed in bed and not even tried. I had no patience with my kids, and their noise level was higher than normal. Way higher. Which was bad news for my migraine. Most of them weren't bad (most....), they were just hyper. And it seems that the days they are the most energetic, I'm the least willing to put up with their fun. I'm not as likely to be able to match their energy level on these days.
Anyway. I don't know why I wrote all that. But I Thess. 5:18 tells to give thanks in everything.
And this week has "100 day" at school. So in the spirit of "100 day", I decided to make a list of 100 things I'm thankful for. But once I started counting my blessings, I realized I couldn't stop at 100. So, in no particular order, here are 150 things I am thankful for.

  1. Friends
  2. My job (this is second because I wasn't feeling thankful for it at the moment)
  3. Oversized, ginormous, comfy hoodies
  4. Brownies
  5. Starbucks Frappucinos
  6. My students (again, wasn't feeling thankful, but decided I love them anyway)
  7. Jeans
  8. Hiking
  9. Family
  10. Travelling
  11. Promises of God
  12. My salvation
  13. Webcasts
  14. My college education
  15. Sunshine
  16. Snow
  17. Fuzzy PJ pants
  18. Keds
  19. Summer break
  20. Reading
  21. Music
  22. Musical instruments
  23. Sour gummy worms
  24. The Ocean
  25. Facebook/Social Media
  26. Facebook Messanger
  27. My fellow teachers
  28. One-pot, easy-to-make, recipes
  29. Maxi skirts
  30. Bed time
  31. Netflix
  32. Technology
  33. When my school day ends
  34. #2 pencils
  35. iPod
  36. Art
  37. Skiing
  38. Weekends
  39. People I can trust
  40. Airplanes
  41. Chinese food (Specifically, Sweet and Sour Chicken)
  42. Smooth, inky, pens (no idea what they're called. I just like them)
  43. Clean water
  44. My Apartment
  45. Heels
  46. Sticky tack
  47. Second chances
  48. Glitter
  49. Yellow
  50. Crayons
  51. Finger paint
  52. OCD-ness
  53. Board games
  54. Forgiveness
  55. Security
  56. Health 
  57. Laughter
  58. Change
  59. Time with friends
  60. Alone time
  61. Cadbury Cream eggs
  62. Kettle corn
  63. Candles
  64. Fireworks
  65. Drivers license
  66. Choices
  67. Smiles
  68. That single message that makes your day (or possibly your week)
  69. Christmas
  70. Dreams
  71. God's word--in my language
  72. Hugs
  73. Memories
  74. Google
  75. iTunes
  76. Writing
  77. 86,400 brand new seconds every day
  78. New days, new chances, new opportunities
  79. Compassion 
  80. Teachers I've had
  81. Chips and Dip
  82. Emails
  83. Ping Pong
  84. White boards
  85. Grace
  86. Scrapbooks
  87. Hurt
  88. Poutine
  89. eBooks
  90. Canada
  91. Christmas lights
  92. Rules
  93. Communication
  94. Joy
  95. Working appliances
  96. Good times
  97. Bad Times
  98. The resurrection
  99. Notebooks
  100. Being able to be thankful
  101. A God that loves to give good things
  102. Eternal Security
  103. Mountain Dew
  104. Hebrews 13:5
  105. BJU
  106. Uniqueness
  107. Heaven
  108. Seat belts
  109. Jeremiah 33:3
  110. Wi-fi in airports
  111. Bacon
  112. Movies
  113. TV series
  114. Friday night chats/movies with my friend
  115. People who take time to talk to me. Even when i'm being annoying and obnoxious.
  116. Air condition
  117. Clothes
  118. Bonfires
  119. And marshmallows
  120. Winter
  121. Flip flops
  122. Wifi
  123. Growing up in a place where I know what freedom is
  124. Fresh-baked stuff
  125. Public libraries
  126. Peanut Butter
  127. Rain
  128. Post-it notes
  129. Caramel/chocolate
  130. Opportunities
  131. Goals
  132. Ice cream
  133. Musicals
  134. Cheesy Garlic Bread
  135. Walmart
  136. Thrift stores
  137. Nail polish
  138. Opinions
  139. Opinions different from mine
  140. Fuzzy blankets
  141. Sweater weather
  142. Delivery food
  143. Pinterest
  144. Good grammar
  145. Proofing papers
  146. and spell check
  147. Blanket forts and movies
  148. Gingerbread houses
  149. Checklists
  150. Second chances. 

What should I add? What are you thankful for? In everything, good times and bad, no matter what it is, give thanks. 

P.S. I'm also thankful for snooze buttons and days when I don't have to wake up early :D

Friday, January 9, 2015

Job, the Hurting Human

Haven't written on this blog for too long. I've missed writing. I've missed thinking through stuff by writing. Which is what I'm doing here again. I know I don't have everything right--but I was so excited about what I was reading, I wanted to think through it.

Also, I know the title is lame. If you've got a better idea, let me know.

Lately, I've been reading the book of Job for my devotions. Job is a powerful story of a humble man who was willing to give God everything, and ended up doing almost that. He lost everything he owned and even his children. His own wife told him to "curse God and die". But in everything that happened, he trusted God through all his trials.

Job has a faith that I dream of having--that I pray for, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to get there. Through everything that happened to him, he never gave up on God.

His wife says to him in Job 2:9, "Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die". I was thinking (hence, I'm blogging again...) There are different responses to trials. I had never considered this before, but Job's wife was in (almost) as much pain as Job was. Everything he had lost, she had also lost. Her children were also killed in a tragic "accident". Everything they owned, everything that they depended on, was taken from them. She didn't know what was happening anymore than Job did. They couldn't see the heavenly conversations between God and Satan that we can read. They didn't know what God was doing, because God didn't choose to show them. (Actually, the bible never says that God revealed to Job why He had done what He did, but that's another blog post for another day). Through out all the pain, Job continued to trust God. He retained his integrity. He looked at what was going on and said "My God is bigger than this, and I can trust Him. I know He is still good. He is still my God. He still loves me. And I can trust Him."

Mrs. Job did not. She looked at the same situation, the same pain, and she reached the conclusion that God could not be trusted--that He was out to get her. Basically, the whole "Why do bad things happen to good people?" argument. We don't know much about her--there aren't details pertaining to her character. But she was married to Job, a man God described as "a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil" (Job 1:8). And she knew of His integrity. They had 7 adult children--they'd been married for a while. She had seen his response over and over again, and knew that He loved His God. But when this, the biggest trial they could imagine happened, she decided that God could not be trusted--she had been hurt too much. There came a point where she could no longer see God for who He really is--good, loving, close, and just. She saw vindictive, hurtful, and unreachable. And she couldn't serve a God like that.

When we do not see God for who He really is, of course we aren't going to want to trust Him. People who view God as a dictator, distant, or "out-to-get-me" don't trust Him. They fear Him. I can trust my God because I know that He loves me, He cares about me, He wants a relationship with me, and He wants what's best for me. Even if "best" hurts, I know I can rest in the fact that He sees everything that is going on. I, like Job, have a limited viewpoint--I only see right now. I don't see what God is doing. When I loose sight of that, I start to get angry at God. When I forget Romans 8:28 (We know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose), I'm afraid of what God might do and fear the pain of what He allows into my life. Job did not lose sight of God's character. He had experience God's faithfulness in the past, and knew that, even though he did not understand what God was doing, He knew God was still in control. Job could continue to trust God. Mrs. Job could not, because she forgot what she knew about God. Job was focused on his God. Mrs. Job was focused on her pain and what she had lost.

However, I was also thinking about something else. When we think of amazing, perfect examples of people who loved God in the Bible, Job is one of them (along with probably David, Daniel, and Joseph). And yes, Job is an amazing example of responding to trials, of integrity, and of faithfulness to God.

But Job was human. And he's hurting. Maybe I'm reading into the text, and I shouldn't. But what he says sounds to me like he is in incredible pain. He asks "Why was I born?" (Job 3:10) He was questioning, struggling, and hurt. It didn't help that his own wife was telling him to curse God and die, and that all his friends were telling him that everything that happened was somehow his fault. He knew this wasn't his fault. He knew he hadn't done anything to somehow cause God to take everything from him, including his children. But he didn't know what God was doing. I read through what he says, and how he talks--he's confused and hurting. He doesn't understand what God is doing. He cannot see, and his faith is being tested in a way he never imagined.

But Job kept trusting. 

He kept looking to his God. He couldn't see through the darkness of the pain around him, so he looked to the God who created light. Instead of looking around at all the hurt, he looked up to the Savior who promised to always be with him.

So often, when something goes "wrong", and I can't see what God is doing, I want to fix everything and make it better. I hate waiting. Patience is not something I'm great at. I need to work on that, I know. Because in pain, God is still with me. When something happens I don't like or understand, my God is still good. He is still my God. He still loves me. and I can rest in that.

One final thought, then I'll stop. I have heard people say that Christians shouldn't struggle. They should let God take the hurt and go on through life with hurt. I've been told "You shouldn't struggle with ________. Let God handle it and go on with your life." I've been told that hurting is sin. Because I know God works things together for good, so I need to let Him take control and not worry about anything. I need to let go of hurt and pain and let God take control. I need to shut up and let go of the pain. Because real Christians don't hurt or struggle.

May I respectfully say that is not only unscriptural, it is very damaging to someone going through a trial? Jesus Christ himself was in pain. He struggled, He wept. We are called to be like Him. There is nothing wrong with pain. Often through pain, we are brought closer to God--we see Him shining brighter in our darkness and hurt. God uses trials in our lives to draw us towards Him. He wants us to be like Job (not Mrs. Job). Trust in God through the trials. Respond rightly. It's ok to ask "why", as long as you're willing to listen to the answer and apply what you learn. As long as you're actually trying to understand what God is doing.

"Come to Jesus"
Chris Rice

(Verse 5)
Sometimes the way is lonely, 
And steep and filled with pain.
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain,

Then cry to Jesus, 

Cry to Jesus,
Cry to Jesus and live.