Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stories of redemption

Our church is starting a new series on the Gospel of John. We might not realize it, but even this Gospel is a story of redemption.

Read the story, and John is full of pride. He messes up by falling asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. He's a young guy with a lot to learn and doesn't always realize it.

The pastor talked about how the Bible is full of stories of redemption, making us realize just how great a God we have. I haven't really thought about it in that way before, but just about every story in the Bible is a story of redemption. God gets glory by telling the stories of his grace, mercy and power.

After Adam and Eve sinned, God forgave them and gave them a continued life instead of stopping humanity in its tracks. Moses killed a man, but God gave him the job of leading the Israelites out of Egypt. David was redeemed from his affair with Bathsheba. Israel was redeemed many, many times in the Old Testament. The Gospels are stories of how we can be redeemed. Even Revelation is predicting the redemption of the world from Satan in the end.

Why would God tell all these stories of redemption?

Redemption is defined as deliverance or rescue, deliverance from sin in theology.

Think about it, and the main point of Christianity is redemption. We become Christians when we accept Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and are redeemed from our sins. The point of our lives then becomes serving God. We can only serve God, because we can have a relationship with him only because of his redemptive nature. Without God's forgiveness and mercy, we would have no hope at all. One mistake and we'd be lost forever.

Let's show a little excitement for this fact that we have a redeemer and that he lives. This discussion just reminded me of the worship song, "My Redeemer Lives."
My redeemer lives

"I know he rescued my soul.
His blood has covered my sins.
I believe, I believe.

"My shame he's taken away.
My pain is healed in his name.
I believe, I believe.

"I'll raise a banner, cause my Lord
has conquered the grave."

"My redeemer lives, my redeemer lives.
My redeemer lives, my redeemer lives.

"You lift my burden; I'll rise with you.
I'm dancing on this mountain top,
to see your kingdom come.

"My redeemer lives, my redeemer lives.
My redeemer lives, my redeemer lives."


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Contented day

Don't you just love it when amidst life's crazy times you just have a moment to feel perfectly content and at peace?

Life has been crazy the past couple months - wedding plans, buying a car, getting the puppy spayed, babies being born, showers, a wedding and visiting friends and family. It seems I have been on the go for quite a while.

But yesterday, Nate and I both had a night off. We decided to take a walk at a local park we haven't been to and mosied along a trail by the water. Novie got a little wet and obviously had a good time, and she also discovered sand on the playground - which she wanted to eat. It was really funny.

When we were walking back to the car, a flood of thankfulness spread over me.

"I love our family," I told Nate.

We have a small family emerging, just the two of us and our dog. However, to me, it's absolutely perfect. We have a strong love and all the little things we need.

Even today, that aura of perfect contentedness has stayed with me. I have plenty to do, but I have Nate, and I don't need anything else.

Make sure to take some time for yourself. In my opinion, life has to be slow enough for you to appreciate it and all that it offers.

Monday, April 23, 2012

MTV's "Cribs": Wasting our wealth

What a different world this could be if people weren’t selfish.

There’s a lot of ways to take this, but in particular, I was watching MTV’s “Cribs.” It was a countdown of the most expensive homes featured on the show.

One home had silk walls in the dining room. Another had crystal banisters on the stairs. Yet another had a red Lamborghini parked outside.

The most expensive home though wasn’t a home - it was an island with a home/prive getaway built on it. This billionaire bought the island for $300,000 and has made millions of dollars worth of improvements to it, so it is now worth $150 million.

I understand when you have a lot of money that you can use it the way you want to. I even know that although I don’t make much, a lot of what I spend is on selfish endeavors. But really, $80,000 on a chandelier? How about $8 million on a rocky pool? A marble toilet with a gold seat?

That money that people are spending on homes that they actually live in very little, on cars that they don’t have anywhere to drive and on furniture they don’t sit on, is ridiculous. They could very easily give that money to someone who is less fortunate, a missionary that’s trying to make a difference, an orphanage that is feeding little children.

We’re so sheltered here in our wealthy country, that even those of us who don’t make “much” are often actually extremely rich. We have no idea what we have and how big of a difference we could make.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Silver refining

I got this email forward today and really liked it.

"Malachi 3:3 says: 'He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.'

"This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.

"One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.

"That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

"As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

"The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: ' He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.'

"She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time.

"The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

"The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, 'How do you know when the silver is fully refined?'

"He smiled at her and answered, ' Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it.'"

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tragic death

Recently, a 14-year-old in a local community that we cover in our newspaper died.

It wasn’t until I Googled the death that I found out that apparently the youth committed suicide after coming out of the closet and being bullied to the point that he couldn’t take it anymore.

We hear about this a lot — a lot compared to what it used to be — in the national media. Here, we don’t really cover stories about suicide. And to be honest, I wouldn’t even know how to go about covering this story. You can get one side — the family and devastated friends of this child. You can’t get the other side though. No one who bullied him is going to step forward in defense of themselves. It would most likely end up being an anger berating of the people who were mean to this kid instead of an unbiased story.

Homosexuality has become a heated topic in today’s culture. I can stand up and say that the Bible does speak out against homosexuality. And with that statement, many people will hate me immediately. However, the Bible also says not to lie, not to have premarital sex, not to get jealous, not to worry. We all struggle with sin, no matter what it is. By saying that God is not OK with homosexuality is not me condemning anyone who is homosexual, because I know people who are, and I try to show them the same love that I show everyone else.

The second issue at play here is the hot topic of bullying. Even documentaries have been made recently about bullying and its damaging effects on people. Whether it’s for having a big nose, being fat or being gay, many people have been bullied.

In elementary school, I still remember when a girl made fun of me for the clamdigger capris I was wearing. I was mean enough that friends and I caused a girl to leave our school. I wouldn’t call it bullying, because we didn’t really make fun of her. We just refused to be friends with her, would tell her to meet us on the playground and then ignore her, things like that. Whatever you call it, it was awful, and I’m thankful I had the chance to apologize to her in later years.

I’m sure the death of this teenager had a lot of factors playing into it. However, it is a good time to step back and think about how we deal with things we aren’t used to or things we disagree with. I hate that this happened and that’s it’s happening in many places right now. These situations are just the evidence of sin in our world, of Satan and his demons running rampant and screwing things up for everyone.

I guess everyone can take something different away from this situation. I just think it bears consideration.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's Not About You

It's all about me!

Just kidding.

Well, as we are supposed to learn in marriage counseling, life is not all about me. Life is supposed to be about my new spouse, and later, my children.

Single life prepares us for selfishness. Although I've been dating Nate for a long time, we have really lived life for the most past going our own way, buying our own stuff, living how where we wanted, in our own time.

Marriage is about putting the other person first. It's about doing his laundry before we go on a trip, when he has to work. It's about getting up early to greet him when he comes home. It's about moving to the place that will make his dreams come true. It's about doing the dishes, because I know he hates it as much as I do.

Most of these things make me want to grumble and act in the way I want. However I have to learn life is not about me.

I think my brother and sister-in-lawyer are learning about that with their new baby too.

Life really should never be about us anyway. We were put here to serve God, and that means putting others' needs first. Marriage is just the prime example and the one we face every day, or at least I will soon.

Affairs you will remember

A writer for Fox News' iMag, Dr. Shoshana Bennett, wrote: "Before marriage and life experience, I used to think if my man ever had an affair we'd be finished. Period. Everything was black and white and simple. I now know from both personal and professional experience that an affair can be the best thing for a relationship, but usually when the spouse (even if it's you) doesn't know everything. Unless the result was a child or a communicable disease, there's usually no need for him or her to know.

"Of course, if you're going to work on the relationship, the affair must have stopped completely. It's impossible to put 100% into the marriage when some of the emotional energy is being spent elsewhere."

Read more:

Her main premise is that telling your spouse you had an affair is selfish because it brings nothing but heartache. Although I don't agree, I understand.

However, this part that I copied was one of the worst, most ridiculous pieces of opinion I have ever read. An affair can be the best thing for a relationship? Not!

She might think that people need an affair every now and then to spice up life, to get out of a rut. That healing from an affair can bring a couple closer together.

Cheating on your spouse is never a good idea, never. The moment you break your vows to God and to each other, you have stepped into a place that you can never come back from. If your spouse knows, they will never trust you 100 percent again. If they don't, you will have a guilt to live with every moment for the rest of your life. That is not counting other complications or God's disappointment in your actions.

I was flabbergasted that someone could condone an occasional affair. Marriage is for life, not just when you feel like it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A 19-year-old's battle with cancer

I wish that I had a video of the Easter service at church on Sunday.

Instead of the typical resurrection story - which was incorporated into the day through the theme of "Comeback Stories" - the pastor told about different comeback through time, comebacks similar to Jesus' story although not anywhere near as great.

I have to say though, the main part of the sermon that touched me was an interview with a beautiful young woman who came forward to tell her story about coming back from cancer.

The 19-year-old had on a colorful maxi dress and sported a cute, short haircut, which before you hear she had cancer just looks like a trendy style.

She said that she had a form of leukemia that took away her sophomore year of college as she struggled, almost coming to the edge of dying one night. However, when her mom asked if she had enough - even though she doesn't remember this - she responded "No. I haven't won yet."

She talked about how close she has become to God through the struggle and how she hopes she can inspire people and their faith through her story. She even said she wouldn't have changed the battle if she could, because good came out of it.

I don't even know the girl, and I teared up as I listened to her passionate story and her cheerful voice telling about how God got her through. I am happy that God spared this girl, and I hope that she makes a big difference in his kingdom with her story.

As I write, this I wonder - she said that she wouldn't have changed this battle with cancer if she could, but what if she wasn't going to make it. What if, instead of beating cancer, the 19-year-old knew that she was days away from dying. Would she still say that she wouldn't change anything? Would her lessons still be strong enough that she would die for them?

Either way, I'm impressed by her youthful, positive outlook on even the most dire of situations. I hope that we all have a positive outlook on life like this.

Monday, April 9, 2012

God's little miracle

I hope everyone had a beautiful Easter weekend. I sure did, with plenty of family and especially because of meeting my niece - Ella! Here are just a few pictures to hopefully brighten your day. Even if you don't know her, it's amazing to see beautiful newborn babies. Ella is just a peanut, but you look into her eyes and know a miracle occurred when she was created. In the words of one of her grandmas, "How can you look at her and not believe in God?"

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

We're insane!


I'm sweating as I lay here on the couch and write this, my legs feel like they're shaking and I'm not even doing anything.

That's because I just finished with today's Insanity workout.

If you haven't heard of it, it's a 60-day workout series on DVD that uses military-like drills to get you in great cardio shape without using anything except your body.

It's quite a commitment considering it's at least 40 minutes a day for 60 days, but Nate and I decided to do it before the wedding. We just started on Monday, and it's quite difficult I must say.

We tried going to the gym together at the end of last year, and that didn't last too long. I've also set other things that I would do and haven't followed through, but I really hope we hold each other accountable and finish this up, even on busy days and weekends.

Hey, a little commitment never hurt anyone, right?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The marriage covenant

Comedian Daniel Tosh does a little sketch where he says, "Who'd have ever thought Jesse James wouldn't take vows to the Lord seriously?"

He was making fun of how people were shocked that Jesse James cheated on Sandra Bullock when they were married.

I brought this up at premarital counseling tonight, talking about how I realized yesterday just how important marriage vows are, because it's not just a promise between two people but it's a covenant with God.

Our pastor also brought up the difference between covenant and contract. He said that contracts are deals between two people where both parties mutually benefit, and those contracts can be ended when one party is no longer satisfied. Even though ending a contract can have consequences, they can be ended.

Marriage, however, is a covenant. That means that Nate and I are going to be making a promise to God that we will stay together, even if the situation is not beneficial for us or if we aren't feeling satisfied. It's a vow to the Lord.

When I give up stuff for Lent, it's a promise to God that I will give something up for a certain period of time. I often have desires to cheat, until I think about my promise to God. I know that God takes promises much more seriously than we do.

Our pastor talked about hardships in his marriage and how he has always thought back to the time in his wedding ceremony when he made a covenant with his wife, and with God. Marriage is much more serious than many people realize, because God is the most important witness there and he expects us to keep our promise to each other, and more importantly, to him.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A little music to brighten my day

I had a long day at work, plus an extremely boring and long city council meeting tonight. I was just feeling crabby on the ride home, but then I started to listen some of my favorite old Christian groups on Pandora, danced a little in the car and perked up.