Thirsty For Christ Thursday

Redeeming Love

Thursday

Have you ever read a book that just CHANGED YOUR LIFE?!?! Getting to know the Lord more fully through Scripture is utterly life-changing, and certainly has proven so for my life, but in the past several months, I read another book that really got to me.

So much so that I began recommending it to every person God put on my heart. You may know how much I LOVE Goodwill shopping and I began praying before all of my shopping expeditions for the Lord to place a copy of this book on the shelf so that I could share it with more people. (And He provided!!)

I talked about my LOVE of the Book of Hosea yesterday, and this book is actually a version of that piece of Scripture, rewritten in a more modern setting.

You may, or may not, know this, but Hosea is a short book in the Old Testament about a prophet, by the same name, who God asks to marry a prostitute…and to continue loving and pursuing the prostitute – his wife – no matter what she does or how unfaithful she is…no matter that she has (at least) one child while they are married by another man…no matter that he ends up having to pay to purchase her out of slavery…no matter what.

And as you may have drawn by your own conclusions, the account of Hosea and his unending pursuit and relentless love for his unfaithful wife, is ALSO a picture of the way God loves us.

Think about that.

How many times have I run in the opposite direction at full-speed away from God? How many times have I prayed for forgiveness, only to make the same mistakes over and over and over again? How utterly LOST have I been that I couldn’t find my way back to Him, and yet, He purchased me out of slavery when no one else would have?

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Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

That is amazing grace. His truly redeeming love does not ask us to be the finished product to win Him over. No. He pursues us just as we are, and molds us into His creation.

Read this book. Read Hosea in the Bible. Discover the unrelenting love He has for each one of us, no matter how far we have strayed or how unfaithful we have been.

God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs (Psalm 103:8-10 TM).

I — yes, I alone — will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again (Isaiah 43:25 NIV)

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son… (John 3:16)

His love, my friends, is so unsurpassing we cannot even begin to wrap our little minds around it.

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Thirsty For Christ Thursday

Don’t Water It Down

Thursday

My childhood as an Army Brat is one I wouldn’t trade for anything. We lived all over the world, and my brother and I were lucky enough to spend two years in school at Hawaii Baptist Academy in Honolulu. While I certainly fell away from my faith late in high school and in college, I credit many of my teachers and one of my Bible classes at HBA with my excitement in studying Scripture and learning about God.

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If you want the very best for your children, send them to a Bible-believing Christian school for K-12 – Yes, nowhere is perfect. Yes, the sports/activities may be lacking (or not!). But instilling a love for Christ and the Bible at an early age is such an amazing gift. One that, even if it is thrown aside during adolescence and/or college, can be picked back up with fervor later in life.

All this to say that this morning, on my way to work, I was thinking about my 8th grade Bible class. Hawaii’s population is, if not primarily, largely Buddhist – and this was the case even at a Baptist private school. Bible classes were mandatory, however, and Jesus was a little part of every course, so if the Gospel didn’t manage to touch you in some way, it was only because you were intentionally stuffing your ears full of cotton.

Our Bible teacher that year was phenomenal. In fact, many of the faculty from my years there are memorable. Most of them had traveled to Hawaii to teach at this school as missionaries, and while this may seem like a glamorous calling…Trust me… Hawaii without air conditioning for a Southerner is not even close to glamorous. As Craig can attest since we spent our anniversary trip via ‘true Hawaiian style’, it is HOT.

Hawaiians: Y’all need A/C.

I remember it like it was yesterday…our teacher, originally from Alabama, which made me feel right at home, assigned us to read the book of Genesis and the entire room of eighth graders, characteristically tactless, groaned audibly.

“Now, hold on,” she told us. “The Bible, and Genesis in particular, is quite the soap opera. You won’t find yourself bored at all…As a matter of fact, I dare you to compare some of the events in Genesis to something that could be on the Jerry Springer Show!”

We were shocked! Jerry Springer?!?! Now that was juicy!! And as we read how Eve deceived her husband, Cain killed his own brother, Lot’s daughters getting him drunk…WHOA! How the heck was this stuff in the BIBLE?!?!

The truth is…the Bible is probably the one completely honest piece of literature ever written. Most books gloss over their ‘hero’s’ faults and mistakes…The Bible is quite upfront about David’s indiscretions, Abraham’s initial lack of faith, Peter’s denial…even Jesus asked if there was any way crucifixion could be taken from Him. When we read Scripture, we are reading the living Word of God and that is beyond powerful!

Certainly, there is nothing ‘boring’ about the Bible. You just may need to find a translation that’s easy for you to read. While the King James Version was written in the vernacular of the day, The Message and the New Living Translation and the English Standard Version are more akin to modern language and therefore, easier to delve into and allow God to speak through.

I’m currently reading the first book in a trilogy of Christian fiction…I made the wrong assumption it would be heady and holier than thou, and I have been more than pleasantly surprised. This book is captivating and real and a fascinating portrayal of what the early Christians endured. It is filled with a picture of the ancient cultures of Rome and Ephesus…A society that lacked morality completely and tolerated anything…Anything except Christianity. In fact, Christians were burned as torches for a ‘circus’ the Roman emperor, Nero, held. It is a description of a society that sounds all too (increasingly) familiar…

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And if you don’t believe me… Read this, this, this and this. An Amazon review of the trilogy mentions it is very graphic for Christian fiction…and I wonder…Has this woman read the Bible?!?! It is an honest, if graphic, portrayal of the world early Christians lived in and what they endured for their faith.

And it is important to read in these frightening times.

As Christians, we don’t need to water down what is going on around us…and we certainly don’t need to water down and dress up the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Jesus never claimed His Way was easy. In fact, He tells us the world will hate us and that we will be outcasts when we truly live for Him. His Way is the only way, however and making Christianity into a pretty, neat little package that fits into your particular box is a dangerous path…

The video below provides a great analogy about what palatable packing does to the message of Jesus Christ. {Click the image to play the video.}

Until tomorrow…

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