COMMANDMENTS


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Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And, “Love your neighbor as yourself.

For centuries we have been reading and quoting these two ‘commandments’ and that is fine. One should, above all else, love God first and foremost. One should also love their neighbor— ‘neighbor’ being one’s fellow man—no matter who that might be. There is also a third part to these ‘commandments’, which is grossly overlooked. This third part is the last two words. “…as yourself.”

We talk about the love God has for us and how this should be reciprocated. We talk about how we should love the sinner (which is anyone and everyone) but hate the sin. We talk about loving our enemies, even if we don’t like them, which almost seems like an oxymoron. We talk about showing the love of God, letting God’s love flow through us, being an example of God’s love to others, and countless other Christian clichés about loving others, but we, and those who instruct us, forget one tiny detail. If we don’t love ourselves, how can we love others?

The “normal” answer for this is – once we accept Jesus as our personal Savior and truly love God with all we are, then that love will permeate our being and flow out of us to others. That still doesn’t account for the fact that we find everything about ourselves to be hideous and repugnant. We still need to find some way to forgive ourselves for what we may have done in the past and accept the person we have, or will, become. That is the one thing that is not taught in our churches. “If God can forgive me, why can’t I?”

Yes, there are scriptures to help with this, such as, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1) But that is taken out of context. The condemnation referred to here is man being condemned by God for sin. Once the gift of salvation is accepted, God grants a ‘pardon’ for our sins and wipes the slate clean of any record of sin. The sin stain is gone and we now appear before God as ‘spotless.’ But, when we look in the mirror, we still see the same person with all of our character flaws, past sins, evil desires and so on.

We can run to the altar and tearfully throw ourselves down in sincere repentance, asking for God’s forgiveness until every one of our sins are recounted, relinquished and removed from God’s sight, but, when we are alone with ourselves, we still feel disgust, or even a loathing, for ourselves. So we are back the next week, repenting and sobbing, trying to get the love, forgiveness and acceptance we already have from God, when we are the only ones holding out on us. We know that He knows who we are and what we’ve done, but so do we. And therein lies the rub.

Usually, it is at this point that the Apostle Paul comes to mind saying, “I die daily,” meaning that little by little we are to take off the old man and put on the new. Some, like Paul himself, make an over night transformation, but for the rest of us it is a lifelong process.

Does that mean that we all have to become Christian Clones? At times it seems that way when you talk to some groups of believers. They all act the same, talk the same, and begin to look the same after a short time of being around them. If they are content to be the Stepford believers, then that is fine for them.

But it is our uniqueness that God likes. He created each of us individually, to be individuals, for our individual purpose. The only one we have to try to be like is Jesus, and that doesn’t mean we have to run around with an angelic face, spreading love and joy and peace all the time. We can have a personality of our own. We do have a personality of our own. That personality is what makes you you and God loves you for being you, just as he made you.   And all of your past experiences have shaped and molded that personality into who you are today.

So where does all of that leave us on loving ourselves so we can love our neighbors? Let me take a scripture totally out of context and say, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) If God can forgive and accept us and love us for who we are, then why can’t we? Or better yet, why shouldn’t we? Are we greater than God? Is there any other standard higher than God’s? If we are good enough for God, we ought to be good enough for us!! Realizing that this is not going to be easy for some, if not most, there is just one more thing to say, meant as nicely as possible – Get over yourself. You are who you are and will be whom God created you to be if you quit trying to tell yourself you’re not good enough. If you’re waiting until you’ve arrived, you’re never going to get there. Never stop trying to improve, but realize that there was only one sinless, regretless, perfect man. Chances are that probably isn’t you, but it is a goal to strive for. In the mean time, just relax and know that everyone else was and is a sinner saved by grace.   You are the same as everyone else in that respect. Accept yourself for who you are and it will make it easier to accept—and love – others. You are unique, just like everybody.

©  Simply Consider This, 2014.

HOPE


wings“How are you?’
“Doin’ great.  Nobody’s told me any different so far.”

When I was younger, I thought I could do just about anything I set my mind to do.  I didn’t think I was invincible, but I thought the possibilities were endless.  More importantly, I wasn’t afraid to try new things.  I had to learn about my limitations the hard way–through experience–and no one could talk me out of trying.  Just because they couldn’t do it didn’t mean I couldn’t get it done.  If they said it was impossible, it became a challenge not an obstacle.  What happens to that “I can do this” attitude as we get older?
I am reminded of the movie, Finding Nemo, when Nemo’s father tells him, “You think you can do these things, but you can’t.”  How many times do we let everyone around us dictate what our capabilities are?
I had a high school guidance counselor tell me that I would never amount to anything and I would definitely never get into college. That statement just made me more determined to show him that he was wrong.  I did go to college and did finish a degree.  It took me twenty-five years but I got it done.  That may have been what his goal was in telling me that, but he wasn’t alone in his statement.  Throughout my early years I had several influential people telling me basically the same thing.  My mom was the best at it.  It really wasn’t her fault.  She couldn’t picture herself doing something, so how could I?  Then I had to go out and prove that I could do it just to show her that one of us could get it done.
But now I am older and I have learned my limitations.  It is easier for me to believe that there are things I can not do.  Of course, there are things I would not try to do at my age.  One thing I have always wanted to do was to run up to the side of a building, take two or three steps up the wall and execute a back flip, landing on my feet.  I may have to skip that one, but I still consider it from time to time.  Like Clint Eastwood’s line from Magnum Force, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
It all comes down to believing.

Mark 9:23 Jesus said to him, If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.

Luke 1:37 For with God nothing will be impossible.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Now I know that these particular scriptures are so over quoted that they are nearly thread bare, but simply consider this:

To have hope you must believe in something.  Believing builds your faith.  If YOU believe, it is possible.  It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

Without hope it is impossible to believe.  Without believing it is impossible to have faith.  Without faith you have no hope and nothing to believe in.

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.

WAITING


deskIsaiah 40:31
those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

For this computer and microwave world we live in, one of the most difficult things for all of us to do is to wait.  At work, when my computer is experiencing latency, I feel compelled to apologize to the customer on the phone for having to wait on the system to pull up their account.  Waiting on an important phone call seems like a never ending, unbearable, void in the time space continuum. I feel like I must have fallen into a black hole somehow and now I am unreachable.  I want to pick up the phone and dial information just to see if the phone is working.
Maybe something has happened to the other person and they are unable to make a call. They must have been in an accident or stricken with a sudden, serious illness.  Maybe I have offended them in some way and they never want to speak to me again.  There has got to be a logical explanation for why they haven’t tried to contact me by now.  Its been more than a reasonable amount of time for them to respond.  Now they’re just avoiding me.
Most of us have the same feelings when we pray expecting and get no immediate results.  In the context of Isaiah 40:31 it is written (KJV), “those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”   The NIV says, “Those who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength.”  So which is correct?  Do we wait or do we hope?  Lets just say we do both.
It has been said that God is the God of “just in time.” That doesn’t mean that God is a procrastinator.  He doesn’t wait until the last minute to get things done.  It simply means that God sometimes waits until we are done trying everything we can do to make the situation happen so he can get the glory for the outcome.  Once we get out of the way and let God take over, then He can do what He does best.  He can bring about a miraculous change that, in the natural, seemed impossible, but in the spiritual would have already been done if we had just given Him the authority to do it and quit trying to meddle in His business.
Ask in faith believing.  Then give it to God.  Its kind of like calling in to a radio talk show.  “This is what I got to say, God.  I know you’re going to do it.  I’ll hang up and listen.”  Then wait for the reply.  Don’t invent trouble and worry.  Just hang up and listen.

 ©  Simply Consider This, 2013.

DISTRACTION


distDistract– from Webster’s Dictionary
archaic : insane, mad
a : to turn aside : divert <refused to be distracted from her purpose> b : to draw or direct (as one’s attention) to a different object or in different directions at the same time <was distracted by a sudden noise> 2 : to stir up or confuse with conflicting emotions or motives
Medical Definition of DISTRACTION
1a : diversion of the attention b : mental derangement

I sat down in front of my computer to write.  I needed to get my laundry done.  I needed to take out the trash. I needed to figure out what I was going to wear to work today.  I needed to check my bank account online and make sure nothing was happening that wasn’t supposed to.  I wanted to look at Facebook and check my emails to see if there was anything there that needed my attention. I wanted to look for jobs in case there was something better out there that I could qualify for.  I needed to give the dog a bath. I wanted to go downstairs to look at the weather on TV.  I still needed to get something to eat and take a shower before I left for work.
I went and sat out on the front porch to collect my thoughts and organize my day.  With everything I thought I wanted and needed to do, I was exhausted.  I didn’t have enough time to get it all done. I went back upstairs, turned off the computer and laid down for a nap.  There was always tomorrow to write.  I was too busy today.
How many times has this happened to you?  You set out to do one thing and two hundred others come up or come to mind.  Unless you are one of those who can “multitask,” pretty soon everything overwhelms you and you end up getting nothing done.
My wife is one of those who can multitask quite well.  She calls it multitasking, I call it watching a squirrel on crack.  She  can start cleaning in one room and walk into another, see something that needs to be done, start on that, walk into another room and do the same thing.  Soon she has six or seven things going (half done) and somehow can manage to finish them all sometime that day..  I usually leave the house or go upstairs just to get out of the “confusion.”
Usually, if I cant finish a project within an allotted amount of time, I don’t start.  I want to devote my full attention to something or not at all.  One thing at a time.  If I start a house cleaning project it is one room at a time, or one task like vacuuming. Once that is completed then it is on to the next. I suffer from OSAD (Organizational Simplicity Attention Disorder). If I start thinking about something else, its over.  Too many thoughts and I retreat to my nothing box. Once I start worrying about something, I give it my full attention and the original task never gets completed.
Matthew 6:25-34
[ Do Not Worry ] “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
I find it interesting that one of the definitions of distract and distraction is insanity.  If you don’t keep to the project at hand, getting sidetracked and derailed with the least little thing, sooner or later it will make you feel like you cant get anything done.  Worrying about things is just a distraction, a supplant of the evil one to stir up or confuse with conflicting emotions or motives. It can make you goofy.

SHIPWRECKED


shipDoes anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours? — from “The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot 1976.

Day 35
My passengers are surprisingly calm.  We haven’t seen the sunshine for days. It  has been raining for over a month.  I’ve never seen anything like it. Just one more week and we can all get off this ride.  I know its going to be tough when we land.  We wont know anyone–there probably wont be anyone to know.  We will just have our family to rely on, and to be quite honest, they are getting pretty edgy.  At least I know that God is with us or we wouldn’t be here now.
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I got on the boat heading the opposite direction from where I knew I was supposed to go.  Everything was going good until the storm came up and then the crew started getting all superstitious about why they were getting pummeled by the storm.  I knew it was my fault they were in this fix, so I told them to throw me overboard.  I don’t think I’ll ever eat fish again.

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I new I was supposed to get on that boat.  Everything in me said, “Get there at all costs.”  Now this big storm comes up and the crew is terrified.  I knew that even if the ship collapsed, everyone on the ship would be safe, or at least live through it.  I kept telling them that, and when the ship did capsize, every one ended up on the shore.  A little worse for the wear, but alive and well.

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We all knew he was tired.  I mean, c’mon. The guy had been teaching and healing for days on end.  It seemed like he could go forever, but we all knew that sooner or later he would need some rest.  We were just headed across the lake.  A quick trip for us seasoned fishermen.  Then came the biggest storm we had seen in a long time.  It just seemed to come out of nowhere.  We were all sure we were going to drown, and we didn’t want him to drown in his sleep, so we tried to wake him up.  My goodness, he was tired.  I thought at that point he could sleep through anything.  Finally, he woke up and told the wind and waves to be still.  I don’t know what we were worried about with him in the boat.

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No matter what storms come against the boat you are in, God is still there to protect you and set your feet on solid ground.

GET OVER YOURSELF


skier2We all have problems.  Whether it is something as simple as juggling a schedule to get the kids picked up after school or a life threatening disease, there will always be obstacles to overcome.  It is how we approach them and how we relate to them that will make the difference in whether we let them take over our lives or make a difference in someone else’s life.

I watched a story on the news about a skier who had a paralyzing fall and learned to ski sitting down.  She didn’t just sit down on the couch and give up.  She learned about a way that she could still pursue her love of skiing even with her disability.  Now she is making a difference in other people’s lives by promoting skier safety while pursuing her passion.  We see these human interest stories all the time, but, when something happens to most of us, we park ourselves in the mully grubs and sometimes never come out.

Sometimes these circumstances are of our own making and sometimes they are not.  If we have done something stupid (human) which caused the problem, we beat ourselves up even more.  Lets say you spent your life as a professional stunt man and, now that you are older, every joint in your body hurts.  Or maybe it was overeating, over spending, working in a high stress occupation, lack of ambition, procrastination, or just plain laziness.   There are a million and one reasons to regret and feel sorry for yourself.

King David had done some pretty stupid (human) things.  He committed adultery, brought the woman’s husband home from battle to try to cover up the fact that he (David) had gotten her pregnant, then, when that didn’t work out, had the man sent to the front lines to a certain death.  His punishment was, among other things, that the child born of this relationship would die.  When the child was struck with illness, and for seven days, David fasted, wept and prayed.  But when the child died, David got up, cleaned up and worshiped the Lord.  There was nothing more he could do, so it was time to get up and go on.  Yes, I am sure he was upset.  He most likely blamed himself for the child’s death.  He knew he had done wrong.  But it was now time to get up and get over himself.

Each of us has that choice to make every day.  We can sit and wallow in our self-pity or get up, wash our faces, and get on with it.  I know that there are those with seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against them.  Lives can be one step up and two steps back until you wind up in a hole you can not climb out of on your own.  David didn’t go it alone either.  The first thing he did was to worship (2 Samuel 12).  He got out of himself and turned to the one who could help him.  He didn’t go whining to God about how bad life treated him, he praised Him.  He worshiped the Lord.

Maybe if we spend less time looking in and more time looking out, the circumstances wouldn’t seem so huge that they can’t be overcome.  I realize and know from my own personal experience that the circumstances can be overwhelming at times.  Three years ago, I had neck surgery which was supposed to fix a problem, but instead left me paralyzed in my right arm.  When the doctors said there would be no more healing, that is when I began to get the use of my arm back.  I was rarely positive throughout the eighteen months it took to recover, but I did learn about faith and grace.  Sometimes the lessons take longer than we expect or hope for.

If God be for us, who can be against us.