Posted by: Kimberly | Sat Feb 16, 2019

Relationship or Religion

As Christians we are supposed to spread the gospel, not point out the sins and errors of others. What is the gospel? It is the good news, the hope for a better life, the positive things that make others want to become Christians. No, we aren’t selling anything, but Yes, we are promoting a better way of life. We aren’t selling religion or promulgating a false utopia. We are sharing what it means to live in perfect love and perfect peace, a way of life that transcends a life without Christ and the Holy Spirit. Life in Christ is a better life, when submitted to the Holy Spirit, it brings about peace and love. We cannot attain it through religion or any achievement that we do. It is a free gift given to us by God. Religion should not be our identity. Our identity should come from Christ. When someone asks if we are Christians, our answer should not be we are this or that brand of religion, because that is not Christ-centered. If that comes first, we’re putting more emphasis on the religion than on our walk with Jesus, because religion doesn’t have the ability to transform, but the Holy Spirit does.

I’m not against religion, don’t get me wrong, but I am against putting religion before God. I’m also against bashing religions and those who constantly point to religions that aren’t of their choosing. I think we can learn from many different religions, but we must have a personal relationship with Jesus. When we do, then we are true Christians, not just a CINO (Christian in name only). True Christianity is led by the Spirit. When we study the scriptures, the Spirit reveals to us the deeper meanings of the word. 1 Corinthians 2:10-12 & 1 John 2:6 To me it is better to live as a true Christian, than as those who are masquerading as ones. We are to live a life that points others to Jesus Christ, but when we point our fingers to the faux Christians and heretics, we are only bringing attention to the problems in religion, not Christianity. For me to serve Christ is to be able to impact the souls of the world, for me to follow religion and the traditions of man, is to lose my own soul, because Christ is not first. To follow any religion, no matter its creed, its leader, its origin, I’m not following the only example that is pure, which is Jesus Christ. Sure, Jesus scolded the Pharisees for profiting from following religion and the traditions of man in Matthew 15:1-9, but he did it when he was face to face with them, not in a message to the masses.

 

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I would imagine if Jesus constantly spoke on the problems in the churches of his day, he never would have had the time to preach the gospel. He couldn’t have reminded them of the prophecies that showed he was the Messiah, even though many rejected that. Those reminders did give them a sign after he was resurrected. He wouldn’t have had time to heal the sick. He never would have been able to be the loving example we have to follow today. There are plenty of wrong things happening to point out in religion and plenty of sins done by parishioners in Jesus’ time and today. If all he was doing was pointing to this heretic or that sinner, how would we know to be saved? How would we learn to love each other? How would we have an example to follow?

I choose to spend my life sharing the example of Christ, by being the best example I can be of him and sharing his love. Sure, I fall short, because I’m not him. I’m not neglecting that there is sin and evil in this world, but I’m loving those who are in the churches of heretical teachings, those who are sinners, because that is what Jesus did. The Holy Spirit is there to convict and to bring others to repentance. Jesus gave us a new commandment, to Love others as he loved us, in John 13:34-35. Loving others, to me is the crux of the gospel. I believe, if we don’t, we’ve missed it. Jesus said, that the world will know we are his followers by our ability to love those who are enemies and those who persecute us in Matthew 5:43-45. When we point out the fallacies of other religions, we point at their sin — Jesus didn’t point at their sin, except in instances of one on one, but he did say “Repent & Follow me.” ‘Put the world behind and follow me.’

If I choose to attack what others are doing wrong or what’s wrong in their religion, then I am alienating them by trashing what they identify with, and I look like another pseudo Christian. But if I love them, I win them over and then I may be able to show them individually how to repent if the Spirit gives me the opportunity. There is an abundance of humility that comes with living a spirit filled life, it is the meekness spoken of in the Bible, meekness is not weakness, it is restrained strength and humility. It is being able to know when to speak and only speaking in those circumstances. It is a controlled strength, having knowledge and using it wisely. The mass trashing of a group that I’ll never meet personally is not only not meekness, it has no effect, because spreading hate towards others and their religion doesn’t win anyone over. It only paints me as an angry person, whether I am or not, I come across as having righteous indignation. But seeing the wrong in another religion and keeping my mouth shut until a person in that group asks my opinion or personally comes to me with a question, is using restraint and meekness. Then I am acting as an example of Christ. I choose to follow Christ in love, instead of alienating all my religious friends by pointing out that their leaders or teachers are in error. Instead, we should just love them and share what Christ means to us. If our lives show that we have peace, instead of constant fraction against one entity or another; then we have something they might desire in their lives also. You see, I feel when we attack a group that we don’t have direct contact to effect, we alienate anyone affiliated with that group. And when we alienate, we lose our audience, but when we love, we have mass appeal. The beatitudes come into play here. Matthew 5:1-11

The example we have to follow is that when Jesus was speaking to the masses, he preached a general message of “Repent and follow me. Love everyone.” When Jesus had a personal audience, he often had a personal reprimand, but he did so in love. He didn’t call out to the masses what the Sadducees and Pharisees were doing wrong, nor did he call out to the masses what the woman at the well was doing, but in person, he pointed out to each of them their individual sins and gave them the opportunity to repent.

Will we follow his example? Will we learn to be wise or will we have righteous indignation? Whose example are we following? Is it our own, a leader who is every bit as fallible as we are, or are we following the only perfect example in Jesus? Are we trashing religion and thereby making Christianity irrelevant or are we living a Christ centered life and making Christianity more appealing?

Posted by: Kimberly | Tue Dec 18, 2018

Investing Time and Honor

As I recently painted the Christmas story, I thought how the wise men heard of Jesus’ birth and desired to seek him out and honor him with gifts. Then they not only honored him, they protected him from Herod, by not telling Herod where he was, because they realized Herod wanted to harm him. They knew Jesus was to be honored. Even though I feel there were more than three wise men, I depicted three of them bearing the gifts of worth, which were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These were lavish gifts bestowed upon a king of all ages. I want to focus on the fact that they put great effort and traveled many miles to witness that this ruler had been born. They invested time as well as luxurious gifts. They saw that a child had been born that wouldn’t be a typical man, he had a purpose to fulfill. His purpose was far above any purpose you or I have and he drew crowds everywhere he went as he grew older.

But in that same vein, how often do we overlook others in this world that we come in contact with each day and ignore their purpose in life? How many times do we wish we didn’t have to deal with lines in the stores or the person we have to call to arrange some event, reservation, or to buy something? How much time do we give others? Sometimes a simple sentence of encouragement is all a person needs to hang onto to make it through the day. Sadly, a negative phrase or sentence can have the reverse and harsher effects. Or perhaps there’s a family member who we don’t accept? But that person or those people also have a purpose in life, just like Jesus did, and just like we do. It isn’t just to service our needs or be a thorn in our side, God put them on this earth with a destiny. Are we helping them fulfill their destiny by honoring them as an individual? What gifts do we bring to them? I’m not talking physical gifts, I’m speaking of charitable gifts. The gifts we freely give to our friends. It’s easy to engage with our friends, to offer kindness, to fix a cool drink for them or offer food they like. It’s easy to converse, because we have things in common, but what about people we don’t know or haven’t taken the time to become acquainted? Do we leave them with words of encouragement? Or do we leave them wishing they’d never been born? Do we treat them with honor or impatience? We can make or break others. Words can uplift or they can destroy.

Proverbs 18:21 The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.

What about our family? Are we esteeming them or do we bring them words of derision? Do we act happy to see family members we haven’t seen in a while, or do we act like they’re a burden? Is it their character flaw that we see, or is it our own shortcoming that gets brought out when we’re around them and makes us feel exposed? I’ve been around people like this and I had to reassess myself and make adjustments in my own attitude because there was nothing wrong with them, it was their shining example that shone on my lousy attitude. Once I corrected, things were so much better. I was able to see that my outlook was the culprit in the relationship and they’d done nothing wrong. I was just offended that they had exposed my weakness.

Another weakness some of us have is in giving and receiving. When and if we buy gifts for family birthdays or for Christmas; do we purchase the first thing we see, or do we put thought behind it and buy things to honor the recipient? Because a gift given without love, is a gift without life. It would be better to offer love, and be empty-handed than to offer a gift given without love. It’s equally bad to give a gift only in recompense for a gift they’ve given. People know when gifts are sincere and when they are not. They also know when strings are attached, neither are correct. We should give expecting nothing in return and we should give from the heart, not out of duty! When we rush out at the last minute to compensate for another person’s gift, it isn’t heartfelt. I personally would rather leave empty handed and be genuinely thanked for a gift I’ve given than to be given a gift that I don’t need or won’t use, because there was no forethought by the giver.

Can you imagine the wise men buying things along the way or in a rush for Jesus? Or can you imagine them coming back to remind him one day about the gifts they gave and asking him for a favor or some compensation? Yet how many times do people do this? No, their gifts were given from a pure heart, with respect and honor. They were offering and worshipping a baby who had never given anything to them, but they knew the relationship they invested in would give them great rewards. Think about that for a minute… the wise men were investing. How many of us invest these days? Whether it be time, love, kindness, sincerity, or honesty; what do we truly and freely give?

We only get out of a relationship what we put into it. If we dismiss a person as insignificant then they will be insignificant in our lives. But if we see them as valuable and worthy, they become valuable and worthy, even if only to us. You only get what you expect, nothing less. And sometimes it has nothing to do with the other person and more to do with our perception and acceptance of them. Jesus can only be Savior to those who accept him as Savior. But the clerk at our local grocer or our family member will never be cherished if we don’t value them. Let’s try to at least offer kindness, acceptance, honor, and humility to those we come in contact with each day. And in this season of giving, with family members around, let’s go out of our way with them by putting their needs above ours. Give gifts of love, honor, and respect. Show them they’re of value and have a purpose. If we are following the Holy Spirit, this should come easy by evaluating them through Christ. He didn’t hold any sins against them and neither should we.

2 Corinthians 5:16-20 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

Posted by: Kimberly | Wed Nov 21, 2018

The Spirit of Christmas

What is being in the Christmas Spirit? Is it being geared up to shop or decorate? Is it having an attitude of cheerfulness and wonder? Is it being merry and festive? While the attitude is nice, those things are sometimes just put on by people because they feel that it is expected of them to be cheerful during “the season.” The decorating and the shopping are the ‘fluff’ of the season. But what is the true spirit of Christmas? The word Christmas literally means the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. So if we are celebrating his birth, then why? Who is Jesus to us and what impact has he had on our lives? 

Unto you

For me, Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas, but it shouldn’t only be an annual celebration, it should be an ongoing year round jubilee. Without Jesus, we wouldn’t have eternal life or life more abundantly.  Jesus IS Life and Love. He came to produce life, and extinguish death. He died on the cross so that we (everyone) has a chance to have Eternal Life! And we do this simply by asking him to be our Savior and committing our lives to follow him. Jesus Lived and Loved as he walked on this earth and he is Living through us today, if we have accepted him. That alone should give us cause to celebrate! Anyone who has accepted Jesus as their Savior, carries the Spirit of the Living God within them. We are carrying Christmas, we are carrying the season wherever we go. But how many of us act like it? 

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10

The True Spirit of Christmas has nothing to do with the peripheral things of shopping, decorating, or putting on an attitude. We add those by the traditions of man. The true Spirit of Christmas has everything to do with being in an attitude of loving, giving, showing mercy and grace, and reaching out to others. When we share love to our fellow man, when we carry the example of peace, and bring others to the Kingdom, then we are IN the Spirit of Christmas Every day of Our Lives. You can carry it and so can I. We should go out and greet others in that peace and love each day and then we are IN the Spirit of Christmas all year long, living the life more abundantly. 

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