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God’s Sufficiency

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

— Psalm 34:18, New American Standard Bible

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Photo by Lukas Rychvalsky on Pexels.com

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Separation from GOD

This morning, I started my day by reading the biblical book of Habakkuk.  It’s a short book with an odd-sounding name by today’s standards, and it’s message is absolutely poignant.  I highly encourage you to read it; as I said, it’s short and to the point.

habakkuk

The message of Habakkuk got me thinking about the world we live in today.  I found myself pondering Romans 1:28: “Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done” (New Living Translation).  This one statement summarizes the condition of modern humanity.  People have chosen their way over God’s way, and many have chosen to reject the very existence of God.  Don’t think so?  Let’s read on:

Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.  They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful.  They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy.  They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.  (Romans 1:29-32, NLT)

Sound familiar?  This type of behavior has been displayed for decades, and it doesn’t take a biblical scholar to see that the choices people are making are, indeed, getting worse.  This begs the question, “Why?”  Why have our sinful choices caused God to abandon us to our own demise?  Actions breed consequences.  Too simple, you say?  I disagree, and here is why:

  1. God exists and the Bible is true; therefore, the biblical description of God is also true.
  2. We have free will (a.k.a. freedom of choice) and have chosen against God, rather than for God.
  3. These choices have separated us from God; hence, God has allowed us to live with the consequences of our actions.

God exists and the Bible is true.  Romans 1:20 reads, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God” (NLT).  (For further in-depth research, do an internet search for Lee Strobel.)  I believe God exists, that he created the world, and that one day those he calls his children will reside with him in heaven for eternity (Genesis 1, John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10).   Additionally, I believe that the bible is true: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16, NLT).

We have free will and have chosen against God, rather than for God.  When we continually choose to live according to our own desires instead of permitting God to guide our lives, he allows us to be consumed by our own appetites.  This condition of humanity is described not only in the book of Habakkuk and in Romans 1:29-32, but throughout Scripture.  Here are just a few examples:

So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen” (Romans 1:24-25, NLT).

“So I let them follow their own stubborn desires, living according to their own ideas” (Psalm 81:12, NLT).

“Let the one who is doing harm continue to do harm; let the one who is vile continue to be vile; let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy” (Revelation 22:11, NLT).

These choices have separated us from God.  Sin creates a chasm between us and God.  “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore” (Isaiah 59:2, NLT).  Adam and Eve committed sin when they ate the “forbidden fruit” in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3).  Prior to that moment, they walked and talked with God in perfect, serene fellowship.  Because of their choice, they suffered the consequences; the main one was the breaking of that intimacy with their Creator (Genesis 3:23).  The chasm that began in the garden is growing larger today.

God has allowed us to live with the consequences of our actions.  Going back to “God exists,” many would argue that there is no God.  I’ve heard it said that because of the pain and suffering in this world, there can not be a God.  Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said, “It seemed as impossible to conceive of Auschwitz with God as to conceive of Auschwitz without God. Therefore, everything had to be reassessed because everything had changed” (The Nobel Peace Prize speech, 1986).  We cannot address the atrocities in this world without bringing God into the conversation, yet I would challenge you to leave him out of it.  In fact, as those who oppose the authenticity of God do, let’s say there is no God.  If there is no God:

  • Mankind lives for its own pleasure, sometimes ethically, sometimes not
  • People behave as though there are no consequences for their actions
  • Humans abuse the very earth they live upon until it negatively affects them
  • Innocent people are harmed due to a blatant disregard for human life
  • Diseases run rampant due to everything from pollution to food additives
  • People admit they have nobody to blame but themselves for these consequences

On the other side, if God is real and the Bible is true, then he created a perfect world – a world that was GOOD (Genesis 1:31) – without disease or destruction.  If people choose to reject God, their sins have cut them off from God (Isaiah 59:2).  Therefore, we are living in a world filled with individuals who are separated from God and relishing in their own choices.  So what does this world look like?

  • Mankind lives for its own pleasure, sometimes ethically, sometimes not
  • People behave as though there are no consequences for their actions
  • Humans abuse the very earth they live upon until it negatively affects them
  • Innocent people are harmed due to a blatant disregard for human life
  • Diseases run rampant due to everything from pollution to food additives
  • People blame God for evil in this world

My friends, if we are going to live as if there is no God, then we must accept the responsibility and the consequences of our actions.  God is not going to take away our free will.  He did not create a species of robots; he wants us to choose a relationship, fellowship, and life with him.  Without this relationship made possible through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, there might as well be no God for those who do not know God.  Yet the day will come when this choice serves its greatest consequence: eternal separation from God.

And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus.  They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, NLT)

There will be a day when the choice will be made for us: everyone will know without a doubt that Jesus Christ is Lord!

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.  Though he was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.  Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, NLT, emphasis mine)  

If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior – the free gift from God for salvation from eternal damnation/separation from him – then we must “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19, NLT).  In this world of turmoil, our only hope is found in Jesus.  He can and He will restore our relationship with God, our heavenly Father.

hugging Jesus

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NLT).

 

Body Image

The following is taken from my critique of The Gift of Sex: A Guide to Sexual Fulfillment by Clifford and Joyce Penner.

The Physical Dimension

Summary

The physical dimension of sexuality describes the human bodies, their sexual functions, and body image.  According to the Penners (2003), many people do not spend time exploring their bodies and getting to know what makes them tick, so to speak.  God created our bodies with an intricate, perfect design, as explained in the Old Testament: “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it” (Psalm 139:13-14, NLT).  In order to better relate sexually, one must understand and explore this workmanship of the Creator, and then share those findings between spouses.

Furthermore, bringing up children to understand their bodies without shame gives those children a greater chance of developing healthy sexuality when they are adults.  Parents teach their children to respect and love their bodies – including the genitals – or to think of them as dirty, naughty, or simply bad.  There is a difference between innocent touching and exploration of their bodies and sexual perversion.  Although it is a personal, private matter, parents can nurture a healthy sexual attitude within their children by guiding them rather than condemning them for their curiosity.

A healthy sexual attitude includes body image.  The Penners (2003) write, “How we feel about ourselves affects how we relate to another person, particularly sexually” (p. 35).  Body image is the attitude toward the body, notably regarding appearance.  Body size, shape, and weight, as well as specifics regarding the breasts for women and the penis for men are all under one’s own personal scrutiny.  These items can been viewed with too much negativity or too much positivity; if an individual’s self-esteem is based solely on having the apparent perfect body, this is just as unhealthy as being too critical.  Body image is developed via three factors: the sensory experiences from childhood, the feedback received from others during maturity to adulthood, and the models with which people compare themselves (Penner, 2003).  Moreover, there are also three steps that can be applied in order to resolve challenges with body image.  First, a person must examine his or her view of self and gain helpful feedback from trusted others.  Second, cultivate ways to perhaps change things about one’s body.  Lastly, an individual should evaluate those models of comparison and realize that actors, models, and others in the media spotlight are not always what they seem.  The model for our lives should always be Jesus.  The bible clearly states that, “The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them.  People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b, NLT).

Critique

Once again, Clifford and Joyce Penner provide expert guidance on the technical aspects of anatomy and functionality, as well as beneficial knowledge on body image.  In exploring the aspect of body image, Cohen and Blaszczynski (2015) take a specific look at topic of using others to determine a positive or negative self-image.  The Penners (2003) mention the distorted images from the media; one must understand that cameras, airbrushing, and other techniques are used to create so-called perfect faces and bodies.  In fact, body image distortion (BID) is nothing new, especially among women of all ages.  BID is “the negative evaluations of one’s physical body, shape and weight” (Cohen & Blaszczynski, 2015, p. 1).  There is a direct correlation between exposure to the media’s physical appearance ideal and BID.

According to recent studies, college-aged individuals are utilizing social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram as their social resource more so than traditional means such as television or magazines (Cohen & Blaszczynski, 2015).  Not only are people turning more to social networking sites, but growing sources reveal the addictive properties of these sites.  Whereas it is believed that most people do understand that images on the television and magazine are altered to create a certain ideal, the perception that people on Facebook or other sites are genuine, since most of them are peers.  Therefore, the relationship between appearance comparison and BID becomes a greater battle; women believe they do not measure up to other real women, rather than professional models.  Interestingly enough, studies of social networking sites have steadily revealed that users “strategically manipulate their profiles in accordance with societal ideals of attractiveness” (Cohen & Blaszczynski, 2015, p. 2).  Nobody posts an unflattering photo of oneself on Facebook.

Along with the physical images on social networking sites, BID is associated with the conversations that take place.  Unlike conventional media, there is feedback on sites like Facebook; this includes posts regarding food, exercise, health habits, weight, and optimal body size (Cohen & Blaszczynski, 2015).  According to Cohen & Blaszczynski (2015), a recent study indicated the following:

70.2% of profiles of American undergraduate students referenced exercise and 12.3%, eating habits … Of 600 Facebook users aged 16 to 40, 50% reported that Facebook content made them more body-conscious; 31% feeling “sad” as a result of comparing photos of themselves to those of Facebook friends, and 44% reported desiring the same body or weight as Facebook friends (p. 2).

The conclusion is that as society becomes more addicted to social networking sites, the relationship between appearance comparison and BID will continue to grow.  Sites such as Facebook are at a minimum on the same level as traditional media regarding negative effects on body image.

Body image from a biblical point of view points to very beginning, where it is written, “So God created human beings in his own image.  In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27, NLT).  Granted, what people do with their bodies can be physically damaging.  However, to be created in the image of the Creator reveals a deeper beauty than could ever be portrayed on any movie screen, in any magazine, or on any social networking “selfie”.  Because of sin in this world, there will be wounds that alter an individual’s self-perception, including body image.  Yet God promises to heal the broken, as in Isaiah 61:3: “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair” (NLT).  God is able to take pain and produce glory in every aspect of human life, including body image.

References

Cohen, R., & Blaszczynski, A. (2015). Comparative effects of Facebook and conventional media on body image dissatisfaction. Journal of Eating Disorders, 3(23), 1-11. DOI:

10.1186/s40337-015-0061-3

Penner, C., & Penner, J. (2003). The gift of sex: A guide to sexual fulfillment. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson

Putting the Basket in the Water: Trusting God in the Next Phase of Your Child’s Life

In the Christian faith, Easter is the crescendo of our year.  It’s our Super Bowl.  The day that makes it all worth it.  It’s the time that marks the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The day He burst forth from the tomb and conquered death.  But this past spring, as I sat in church after Easter yet still meditating on those days of old, a thought entered my mind:  It’s over now.  Jesus had been reunited with the Father.  The disciples were on their own.  The Bible gives us an account of what the disciples were thinking and doing after Jesus ascended into heaven, but what was the Lord thinking?  Was he watching over them, wondering, ‘Was it enough?  Did they get it?  Did I teach them everything they needed to know to do this on their own?’  As these thoughts continued to run through my mind…

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2016 Reflections

As I sit here on NYE awaiting the arrival of the new year, I realize that much like this year’s presidential election, I may not be exactly “for” 2017 so much as I’m “anti” 2016.  My word, it’s been a rough one in just about every way, shape and form.  The media has focused upon the numerous deaths of celebrities; I admit, it’s been easy as a child of the 80’s to get caught up in the “what the heck?!” feeling that for some reason, 2016 set out to attack my teenage memories.

Celebrities weren’t the only ones who met tragedy over the past year.  2016 was bathed in conflict, controversy, and sadness: racial tension, police officers and criminals, natural disasters, religious doctrines, sex-trafficking, ISIS, battles over human rights.  I couldn’t listen to the radio or check out social media without discovering another tug-of-war within humanity.  Often times, it was too much to stomach.  (We won’t even go into the hatred spewed during this year’s election.)  What was happening to this world?!  Is this how God created people to be?!

Toss into mix my own family trials that knocked the wind right out of us in 2016.  My mother suffered a stroke in late August and is still in rehabilitation.  This prompted an unexpected trip to visit her in September, during which my husband underwent an emergency appendectomy while my daughter and I were traveling back to GA from PA.  (He arrived home with the help from a friend about the time I walked through our kitchen door.)  My husband had other bouts in the ER throughout the year.  My sister-in-law had a cancer scare and thyroid surgery.  And me?  Well, I received the gift of the beginnings of menopause in January and was recently diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  In March, I had a traumatic flashback from childhood that caused my depression to spiral.  (I am not ready to journey down that blogger’s road by sharing the deep darkness of my past, although I am sure that day is coming.)  As my depression worsened, my physician decided medication was the best route.  It would be easy to bitterly, with tongue in cheek, exclaim a sarcastic, “Thank YOU, 2016!” and insert a few Fred Flintstone grumbles in place of cussing out the whole year.

Yet it will do me no good to yell and scream obscenities as Auld Lang Syne plays somewhere in the distance.  The more I struggled personally, the louder God’s voice became as He guided me to one particular verse: “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last” (Job 19:25, New Living Translation).  I had to hold on to His promise in the midst of this tumultuous year.  I’ve learned in my counseling courses that although a complete dichotomy stands between the evil in this world and the goodness that is God, making it impossible at times to believe that there can be one AND the other … both do indeed exist.  God is good, He has always been good, He will always be good.  Satan may have his sway on this earth now, but eternity sees him bound in hell while my God reigns forevermore.  I am reminded that while suffering takes place, it – and all of this life for that matter – is temporary.  My husband and I were discussing getting older and losing loved ones, and he brought up a good point.  When we were very young, we thought that 40 was old.  Now we are in our 40s, and we realize a lifetime has passed in the blink of an eye.  Soon, Lord willing, we will be in our 60s and eventually 80s, and it, too, will fly by just as quickly as this half of our lives.  Thank GOD for eternity, or what would be the point of this short little life?

So goodbye to 2016, a year of painful lessons – some visible, others, not so much.  I have to hold on to my faith in God and His promise that no tears are wasted.  He has a purpose for each and every one, and I praise Him for the day when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4, NLT).

Welcome, 2017.  And come, Lord Jesus, come.

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