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.

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THE SACRIFICE


sacrificeHe came to give his sacrifice. But he had nothing to offer.

“Lord,” he said, “I have nothing to offer you.  Not even a sparrow.  How can I be forgiven without a sacrifice?”  He  sat at the temple gates weeping. With no grain, meal, wine or not even a quadran– a quarter of a farthing– to buy even a half a sparrow to offer to his Lord.

“Lord,” he cried out once more in his anguish, “ I am a peasant.  I have nothing to offer you.  My life is meaningless. I barely have enough to keep me from starving from day to day. I am not a beggar but I am not a rich man.  What  can I give you, Lord, that would be worthy of your love?”

“Do you think I need bulls, or rams, or even sparrows to prove your love for me?  Those things are mine anyway.  That was just my way of having the people atone for their sins because they don’t really understand my love for them.  Ask and it will be given. Seek and you will find.”

“Ask what , Lord.  Seek after what? I just don’t understand.  What am I to do to please you?”

“You just have to give of yourself.  Give yourself to me and I will pour out my love on you so much you cannot contain it. Seek me and righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. Trust in me. You have already shown your willingness to please me and your humility in your attitude. Go and your sins are forgiven.”

The man looked around.  He was  physically alone and knew that he heard from God himself. He left the temple area not laughing at the others for their lack  of faith and understanding, but smiling knowing that his God was pleased with him and that he was loved for who he was.

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.

THE QUANDARY


questionsWhat does it matter?
Does anyone really care?
Are there any real answers?

Why do I have to read a history book?
Why do I have to talk to an unseen spirit?
How can I be sure the answers are not just my imagination?

If only I could believe in the unseen.
If only I could learn to trust the voice I hear.
If only I could understand that this is real.

He is The Way, The Truth and The Life.
I must believe it all The Way.
I must trust that what I believe is Truth.
I must understand that His Way is The Truth for my Life.

Do I want to continue on with what I am doing?
Do I want to continue on with unanswered questions?
Do I want to continue on with the helplessness I am feeling?

Am I willing to accept the forgiveness?
Am I willing to accept the acceptance?
Am I willing to accept the freedom?

Am I willing to listen to, understand, accept, believe in, trust in, and follow His direction?

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.

ACCEPTANCE


My Dad was in the military, so we moved around a lot when I was a kid.  I learned how to make friends pretty easy.  Of course, a lot of those friends were military kids too, so they were in the same boat.  You make a friend and soon your Dad, or theirs, would get reassigned.  I never got too close to anyone because I knew it wasn’t going to last.  Between 9th and 10th grade, Dad retired and we moved to a small town in Missouri.  There I found groups of kids that had known each other for several years some had known each other since kindergarten.  It was quite a culture shock.

Not only did they know each other all their lives, but they had formed groups that were  almost impossible to join.  It went beyond the jocks and the music department, the theatre group and the farmers, the hippies and the rednecks.  That was the type of groups I was used to seeing in San Antonio where I spent my freshman year.  Those were groups that banded together with a common interest.  Some of it was still there, but it wasn’t as well-defined.  Groups were based on friendships in this little hick town and it took a long time be accepted.  I just decided to try to be myself, mostly to be by myself.  It was easier that way.

All my life I wanted to be accepted.  I wasn’t an outcast but I wasn’t part of the “IN” crowd.  I wasn’t even on the fringe. In high school everyone seemed to know who I was, but no one wanted to get to know me.  Now, as an adult,  I keep trying to be accepted by different groups of people but never really fit in.

A good example of not fitting in came in an email from a potential employer at a job that I felt I was born to do.  It read, ”We have already engaged some other applicants that we feel would have been a better fit.”  Once again, I don’t fit in.  I seem to be the square peg and the world is a round hole.

No matter who you are, how old or young you are, well-educated or not, outgoing or shy, everyone is born with a need to be accepted. Children want to be accepted by their parents and are constantly saying, “Look what I can do,” to get their approval.  As we get older we might tell ourselves and others that we don’t care what others think of us, but deep down we want to be accepted.

Jesus wanted to be accepted by all people, but he knew he wouldn’t be because most were so caught up in doing things their way and being a part of their “groups” that his simple message of love was rejected by those who thought they had it all together.  Who would appreciate someone who accepts them without question more than those who have been rejected most of their lives?  The simple, the sinners, the ones who were considered to be less than ideal citizens, were the ones who came to Jesus most readily.  Why was that?  It is the same today as it was then.  It comes down to acceptance.

Jesus accepts you where you are.  No matter who you are.  It doesn’t matter to him what you’ve done or what you’re involved in now.  He accepts us without conditions.  His only request is that we believe in him because he believes in us.  In fact, he believes in us so much that he gave his life for us.  He suffered and died on the cross to pay for our sins.  When he rose from the grave he had conquered death, hell and the grave.  It was sin that caused death for man in the beginning and caused a separation between man and God. By believing in Jesus and accepting him as our savior and redeemer, we can overcome any sin, be forgiven for that sin, and spend eternity with him.

We all have sinned and we all have to make choices on a daily basis.   Sometimes we don’t make the right choices and other people will condemn us for it, but Jesus loves us anyway.  He doesn’t expect us to be perfect when we accept him as our savior.  Jesus will forgive us if we ask him.  He loves the murderer and thief as much as he loves Billy Graham.  More importantly, he accepts us as we are.

If you’re waiting until you’re good enough for Jesus to accept you,  your wait is over.  You’ll never be any better in his eyes than you are right now.
Today is the day of decision. Acceptance from a loving God, or rejection from the world and an eternity without knowing or ever having experienced that love and acceptance.  Accept Jesus.  He has already accepted you just as you are.

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.

HIDDEN BEHIND A MASK


masks

Oh how sad it has come to be
Hidden behind a mask are we
Unable to reveal our identity
Stuck away where no other can see
Is the unique personality
Self preservation has taken place
Because of the past we change our face
Afraid of rejection, judgment or scorn
Before the world a mask is worn

Crying out from underneath
The soul is yearning to be free
Free of wearing another face
For this mask has taken its place
In the quiet of the night
Tears fall because of it’s plight

In secret places solace is found
There true self is finally unbound
Free to be just who you are
Without fear or alarm
Flying, the soul dances again
Wishing this time would never end
Treasuring the moment for we know
This glorious time soon must go
When once more we will conceal
Behind a mask just how we feel

Isn’t it true God made us to be
Who we are individually
Why can’t we accept each other
That we are different one from another
Yet we keep the world at bay
Knowing there’s no other way
For revealing who we really are
Can, and has led to many scars

Forgive us Father for being so cruel
And for breaking a golden rule
That speaks of loving one another
Accepting our sisters and our brothers
Not for who we think they should be
But for their God-given individuality
Judging isn’t what we’re called to do
For Jesus, that is up to you
Let the mask fall from our face
Replaced by God’s tender grace
In our eyes let others see
God’s love for unique personalities

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.

THE PACHYDERM IN THE VESTIBULE-revisited


elephantHe kind of snuck in when I wasn’t looking.
At first I didn’t even notice.
He was small, unassuming and quiet.
Most people ignored him when they came over
thinking he was ornamental.

But then he grew.
Fewer and fewer people came over
They were uncomfortable
with him in the room
I just worked around him as I passed by.

One day I had a hard time
getting out of my own house.
He seemed to block my way
So I went to the back door
And that seemed to work.

When he blocked
the entrance to the stairs
And I could no longer
get to my bed to sleep
I knew something had to be done.

I asked him to leave
but I could see that politeness
would not work.
I begged, then demanded and yet
he stood quietly in the vestibule.

Finally, in desperation,
I knocked down the wall
to the outside
When he saw the world outside
He went running to freedom.

The pachyderm is gone
But his memory lives on
I don’t miss him
He really messed up my house
Be watchful of the pachyderm

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.

This is a repost. Not something I would ordinarily do, but I thought some would enjoy seeing this who might have missed it the first go around.   Little things that we let into our lives can grow to be quite large if we let them.  Sometimes we are the last to see it and no one is willing to tell us that we have a problem.

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.